The Library Life

This blog details some of my experiences with Library materials. You can also check out my Staff Picks reviews or take a look at the books I've set out on the Staff Picks Shelf at the Library. Some of the items I review on this blog are also pinned on Pinterest.  - Sara,  Electronic Services Librarian

Try Something New

I was walking by the non-fiction new books display when the striking cover on Acrylic Solutions caught my eye.   I checked it out just to look at the color combinations and, unexpectedly, was able to use it to finish a project at home.


Last summer I had purchased “Mice and Mystics” to play with my niece and nephews.  The small figures that come with the game – mice, rats, roaches, a spider, and centipede – were a plain, tan resin color.  Though I have little-to-no artistic talent and zero experience with painting anything other than walls, I decided to paint them so it was easier to tell apart the mouse characters.  I also just wanted to try something new.

 un-painted figures from Mice & Mystics

When I came upon Acrylic Solutions on the shelf, I had already primed the figures and had only gone so far as painting the bases.   Just looking at the photographs of blending and applying colors gave me great, new ideas for painting the figures; I know they turned out far better than they would have otherwise.


painted centipede from Mice & MysticsI saved the mice figures for last with the notion that, by then, I would have improved and learned a lot from painting the others.  However, by that time I just wanted to be done,  and  the mice had so many tiny details I knew I would only make a mess of them.  I decided to paint each mouse entirely with different, blended, mousey shades.  After that, I focused color on only select aspects  – typically a large piece of clothing and the weapon.  This way there was enough paint to help differentiate the figures by color.  I also didn’t end up with completely laughable, smudged figures.


Check out the New Books shelving area during these cold winter months for inspiration to try your hand at something new or even just to learn about something that lies outside your regular reading interests.

Sword Workout

Forza, the samurai sword workout by Ilaria Montagnani

I have already testified my love of Ilaria Montagnani’s kickboxing DVDs.  When my coworker told me a patron requested we purchase her “Forza” samurai sword workout this summer, I was very happy because for years I had wanted to try it.   


This DVD has become another of my favorites.  Though there’s not much cardio effect, it’s really great for the arms and is quite enjoyable and definitely unique.  Since I don’t have a sword, I use a longer, spare hatchet handle (a friend said a sawed-off broom handle worked well for her).  You’ll need to concentrate on using both arms equally each time you move the sword, and to maintain proper body alignment and form. Ilaria gives instructions before the workout and also offers cues and reminders during the workout to help you with this.  If you pay attention to maintaining correct form, you will get a really good arm and abdominal workout.

Video clip


Bread Baking

Pane al Latte con Pane all Cioccolata (p.191)

I started baking bread somewhat regularly when I was given the first edition of Carol Field’s The Italian Baker.  Since then I have learned a lot about bread making and highly recommend the following books to those who would like to learn strong fundamentals or to improve their existing technique.

The Italian Baker: the classic tastes of the Italian countryside -- its breads, pizza, focaccia, cakes, pastries, and cookies (revised ed.), by Carol Field

Each recipe includes instructions for making the dough by Hand, by Mixer, and by Processor, and is prefixed with a description of the bread’s origins and characteristics.  Measurements are provided in both volume and weight (oz/g).  Some have starters/bigas while others are straight bread recipes.  Over the course of more than a decade and a half I have made a very large number of the recipes.

The Ciabatta (p.79) turns out wonderfully, but the dough is VERY wet: you will want to mix and knead it in a wide bowl rather than trying to turn it out on a counter.  When making the Rosemary bread (p.141), I place the salt in a mortar with the dried rosemary and grind both together rather than incorporating the rosemary whole.  The Ricciarelli are phenomenal (p.378: soft almond paste cookies from Siena).  Most recently I made Pane all Cioccolata (p.191)  and Pane al Latte (p.192), sandwiching the dough from the latter to make Milk and Chocolate bread (p.194; pictured above). The resulting loaf was barely sweet, but still quite good – particularly when it came warm from the oven or was lightly toasted and buttered.

All the recipes call for active dry yeast or fresh, compressed yeast, and include a yeast-activation step, unlike the next two books that call for instant yeast and a straight incorporation.

Bread: a baker’s book of techniques and recipes, by Jeffrey Hamelman. This and the next book really changed the way I bake bread, teaching me to understand dough development rather than just follow a recipe.  My loaves became much better as a result of what I learned.  I started being able to trouble-shoot problems very successfully when friends and family asked me for baking advice, and to rescue my own loaves when dough just didn’t feel right.

Crust and Crumb: master formulas for serious bread bakers, by Peter Reinhart. These really are serious recipes that can take a lot of time. The book also discusses technique.  Peter Reinhart is a huge authority in the bread-baking community.

King Arthur Flour online recipesI love King Arthur Flour’s recipes. Their Sourdough Pizza Crust is my favorite crust recipe, and allows me to use the discard dough from my sourdough starter.  Dinner guests rave about this crust, and often request the recipe. Since it requires sourdough starter, I sometimes simply gift frozen pizza dough balls to them.  Recipes from the King Arthur website also have the bonus of baker’s reviews and notes on alterations that can’t be obtained from a cookbook. However, King Arthur Flour also has recipe books that are available through InfoSoup, including The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

CAUTION:  Once you start making your own bread, you may no longer be able to eat loaves from the store.

Low & No-Sugar Jams

Preserving with Pomona's pectin : the revolutionary low-sugar, high-flavor method for crafting and canning jams, jellies, conserves, and more
Pomona's Universal Pectin

Late this winter while ordering books for the Library, I selected Preserving with Pomona's pectin: the revolutionary low-sugar, high-flavor method for crafting and canning jams, jellies, conserves, and more. I had not heard of it, but apparently this pectin has been around for a couple decades. In contrast to typical pectins that require a ton of sugar to set up, Pomona combines pectin made from citrus peels with calcium powder to create the gel. Consequently, you can use very low or even no sugar in your jams and preserves.


I am finally low enough on my stock-pile of freezer jam to consider berry picking and jamming again this summer, so I intended to get this book again and purchase some pectin so I could write a review of the process in this blog. However, the hold list for this title, understandably, has been going strong and I haven't been able to get my hands on it. I just ordered another copy for the Library, so when that arrives it should speed up turnover on the hold list. Even though I couldn't do a personal review and evaluation, since we are in the jamming season I wanted to promote the book as an option for those who enjoy trying new jam recipes (I remember a bunch of them sounded really good!) and also for those who are interested in very low sugar options.


The pectin is quite expensive. However, I remember the book said a package makes quite a bit and the calcium water can be kept covered in the refrigerator for quite a long time. Even though it is pricey, if you figure in the cost of sure-jell and tons of bags of sugar for the traditional method (even with the low-sugar sure-jell), it probably comes out pretty even in comparison. If you get on the hold list for the book, it may be a while before it comes in for you; however, you can get a preview of the information on the Pomona's Universal Pectin website.

Rushfit 8 week program

George St. Pierre's 'Rushfit' program

I am more than half way through MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre’s 8 week Rushfit program.  I love it, especially how quickly I see gains in strength without injuries or soreness.  (I should add that I am only doing the workout portion and never even read all the way through the nutrition aspect of it.)


When this first arrived at the Library I checked it out and quickly realized I liked the workouts enough to buy the set.  I wear grappling kneepads for two of the videos, but you really can get by with just hand weights and, for some exercises if you are working on a hard floor, a couple of Pilates mats piled on top of each other.


When I first started following the Beginner schedule, I wondered if my 5 pound weights would be too much; by the end of the second week they were already way too light.  If you watch any of the preview trailers on the Rushfit website, you can get the false impression that they are loud, frenetic workouts. Georges St. Pierre’s trainer, Erik Owings, is actually very calm and speaks quietly and presents a very enjoyable and challenging workout. I really like his approach to functional fitness and his stress on moving with the correct form and listening to your body while pushing on.  In the Beginner schedule there is one day a week where you just do some kind of cardio for 20 or 30 minutes (I usually do my Kung Fu Kickboxing video) and then another day where you do some cardio plus one of the Rushfit videos.  There is at least one rest day each week.


The set consists of the following titles


One of my favorites is “The Fight Conditioning Workout”; there are a lot of fast combinations with shoots and sprawls as well as some grappling movements on the floor.  "Full Body Strength and Conditioning" is another favorite. Most workouts consist of the same 10 min warm-up followed by a 30 min workout and then the same 6 minute cool-down.