“There is no English equivalent for the French word flâneur. Cassell’s dictionary defines flâneur as a stroller, saunterer, drifter but none of these terms seems quite accurate. There is no English equivalent for the term, just as there is no Anglo-Saxon counterpart of that essentially Gallic individual, the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothing, including his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city.” (Cornelia Otis Skinner, Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals, 1962, Houghton Mifflin, New York)
Those who attended our most recent bookclub were privy to our latest scheme – becoming flâneurs. But in order to make our walk good, we need your input! For our May meeting, we are planning a stroll through the midtown area and we want each participant interested to contribute a spot to visit and a willingness to explain their love for that particular building, tree, mailbox – whatever. We’re limiting ourselves to the region between E and T, 10th to 28th. If you would like to add your spot to our route, please email me directly (email@example.com) by May 4th for inclusion. We’ll also be reading The Geography of Bliss that month – some killer travel writing about the “happiest places” on earth.
As a self-proclaimed craft nut, I could probably fill a room with the monstrosities I have created over the years. Inexpensive adhesive (Gutermann, anyone?) or not, some creations were just not meant to see the light of day. I’m sure I’ve made plenty of nice things, but when you start to get creative it can be easy to forget about conventional aesthetics. I still maintain that my lumpy ceramic glaze test/ashtray/catchall is a thing of beauty.
Fortunately, alt+librarian Lori was able to pass on some of her paper craft prowess to me and the Alt+Friends when we got together recently to whip up some book-themed crafts. As you can see, the Friends did a beautiful job iris folding and binding matchbook journals. We’ll be selling these goodies at Coffee Garden for Second Saturday (March 9th) from 6-9 pm, along with some great used books. We have lots of newer fiction and some lovely decorating books. Hope to see you there!
And fortunately for us at alt+library, Kristin deNeeve is GOOD. Newly arrived to Sacramento, she had the (mis)fortune of coming into my library where I discovered she is an artist, has talent, has worked with libraries before (see her NYU work) and was willing to work with us! She created this image for us – emblematic of some of the program offerings that alt+library tries to provide. Pretty sweet, huh? See some of you for Darling Jim tonight and the rest out and about!
If only I could get the Bow Wow Wow song “Aphrodisiac” to stop running through my head as I plan this program. But seriously, Food of Love is going to be the JAM!
Aphrodisiacs can be both truth and legend. Some foods have psychoactive properties, others arouse because they are psychologically suggestive, and some can actually increase the, uh, necessary blood flow. We’ll be discussing foods and meals rumored to have aphrodisiac properties, even sampling a few.
And everyone knows the Shakespeare quote from Twelfth Night:
If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
While we aren’t looking to gorge ourselves to cure a broken heart, we do support the “music be the food of love” theory – bring a favorite song/artist/playlist to share, something that inspires you toward seduction. My weaknesses include Portishead (sex music!) and Sharon Jones (for making a first move).
Thanks so much to everyone who came out to Teas Me! We very much enjoyed NOT pouring boiling water in your laps though the melted cups did come close. As promised, here are the recipes Lia used to make both the delicious cookies AND the ice cream.
Vanilla Rooibos Cookies
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons rooibos tea leaves (about 5 tea bags)
1 vanilla bean, whole, ends trimmed, cut into segments (just double extract instead?)
1 ¼ cup flour
¼ cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons milk
½ cup unsalted butter
1 ½ tablespoon turbinado sugar
Heat a small stainless steel pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, add rooibos leaves, and shake pan to distribute tea into a single layer. Toast for about 2 minutes, until tea is fragrant but not darkened. Depending on your leaves, this may happen much more quickly; watch it carefully. When leaves are fragrant, transfer them to a bowl and let cool for a couple minutes.
Combine the sugar, vanilla bean, and rooibos in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for about 2 minutes, until there are no chunks of bean left in the bowl. Add the powdered sugar, flour, and salt to the bowl and pulse a few times to combine. Then add the milk, vanilla, and butter and pulse several times, until a dough forms.
Turn dough onto a very lightly floured surface, gather it together, and roll it gently into a log 1.5-inches in diameter.
Sprinkle turbinado sugar on a plate or work surface, and roll cookie dough log in the sugar, making sure to cover the entire surface of the log with sugar. Wrap log in plastic or wax paper and transfer to the fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes to chill. (You can leave the log in the freezer and slice off cookies one by one, whenever the urge strikes.)
When ready to bake, turn on the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat.
Remove the log from fridge or freezer, and cut 1/3-inch slices off the log, rotating the log as you go to ensure that cookie slices stay round. Transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between each (they don’t really spread, but they need breathing room to crisp up). Bake for 12 minutes, until cookies are just starting to brown. Leave on the cookie sheet to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks.
Cookies will keep in an airtight container for several days.
Earl Grey Ice Cream
1 cup whole milk
2 cups half and half (or 1 cup heavy cream & 1 cup half and half)
¾ cup sugar
6 Earl Grey tea bags
5 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, warm the milk, half and half, and sugar over medium-heat, stirring occasionally. Once the milk is steaming (but not boiling), remove pan from heat. Place the tea bags into the pan, cover and steep at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove tea bags, then return to medium-heat.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla until frothy. Once the milk mixture is re-warmed, add 2 Tbsp. of the hot milk mixture to the eggs, and quickly whisk in until combined. Repeat 2-3 more times with more of the milk mixture, then gradually pour in the remainder of the milk mixture into the egg yolks and whisk quickly until combined.
Return the new milk/egg mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan constantly until the mixture thickens to a custard and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Immediately strain through a fine-mesh strainer, and then refrigerate until completely cooled (at least 6-8 hours). Then freeze with an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
The teas used for the ice creams were Jasmine Mint Green and Creme de la Earl Grey from Townshend’s Tea. See some of you tonight at alt+library book club! Next event – alt+fitness, every first Saturday at McKinley Library.
The perils of a “clever” name – I called our upcoming tea tasting program “Teas Me” thinking it would be cute and draw people in. What I hadn’t counted on was the aftermath. Every time someone RSVPs on meetup.com (thank you!), I get an email saying “Soandso is going to Teas Me!” This has happened maybe 20 or times and I blush each time. Absurd. Ridiculous title aside, this program is going to be (I can’t stop it, I’m sorry) tea-rrific. We’ll talk about different types of teas, origins, alternative uses, how to brew the “perfect” cup, make a craft and more! If you are a tea freak or a tea novice, chances are high you will enjoy coming to Teas Me. (See? Makes you a little squirmy, right?).
We really wanted to write “New Year, new book club”–but we have to be honest–the return of the alt+library book club will also see the return of one of our favorite reads, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson.
Since we first read this book back when alt+library was just a young thing, we thought it was time to revisit it now that we’re all so much older and wiser. Plus, there are about 14 copies of the book on the shelf at the library which means you can all get your mitts on a copy without too much hassle. Want discussion questions? Take a look here.
RSVP to attend the book club over at www.meetup.com/altlibrary
Last year’s resolution “if I buy a bag of salad–I eat a bag of salad” was moderately successful. Only a few withered leaves fed the compost bin in 2012. It helped that I started to grow lettuce instead.
This year I’m making some reading resolutions, including:
- Read some non-fiction about Napoleon. I’d like to know more about that guy (and his wars) from a perspective that doesn’t involve Sean Bean.
- Read some poetry. Try to appreciate it.
- Read a tear-jerker. I have vintage handkerchiefs I’ve never used.
- Read some fan-fiction. Yes, really. Is fan-fiction even still a thing? I haven’t read any since I was in love with Fox Mulder.
- Read the rest of A Clash of Kings so I can get to A Storm of Swords–I hit a wall with that book, but Game of Thrones will be back on eventually and I can’t handle any more gory surprises.
- Read some award winners. Librarians love to talk about award winners and I need chit-chat fodder.
Do you have any reading resolutions you’d like to share?
Oh, yeah, and Happy New Year’s! –Lori
Here’s a guest post from our very own alt+library Friends President, Meg.
2012 was the year I finally embraced Teen Fiction, and I’m never looking back. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is one of my favorites so far, written by two big names in the genre, David Levithan and John Green. It took me longer than I care to admit to realize the story followed two different characters, both teenagers named Will Grayson. Tiny Cooper is the real star, in my opinion, and he will charm your socks off. This book is funny and thought-provoking, and I would recommend it to teens and adults alike.
Honestly, I didn’t like this book at first read. After a couple months pondering and a second read through, I came around and now it’s among my favorites. The plot reads like a bad sci-fi flick—in an alternate present human clones are raised for organ harvesting—but the tone is far more subtle. Haunting doesn’t even begin to describe it, as you watch the characters struggling to comprehend their fates. If you’re a fan of Margaret Atwood, read this book. If you’re not a fan of Margaret Atwood, you should still read this book.
I found this list hard to compile because, unlike Jessica, I don’t keep a little black book full of all the books I read. I know it would just make me disappointed in myself—I don’t read so much, for a librarian. I’ve come to terms with the quality of my reading material (a little trashy) just not their quantity (meager). I started out the year well, I read a rasher of dystopian teen novels (most of these).
Then I read The Quarter-Acre Farm by Spring Warren. If you read it, be prepared to get some calluses–the book inspired me to dig up half my lawn and put in raised beds (I had help, by the way). I wound up spending a lot of time in the yard and only reading seed catalogs and gardening books for ages. Warren admits she isn’t the perfect gardener, which makes her book much more likeable than some of those written by “experts.”
Gardening is all about trial and error. My biggest lesson learned: don’t plant okra. Planting okra leads to growing okra, which leads to picking okra, which hurts (itchy burn-y skin). And then, after all that, you have to eat okra.
I checked out Food in Jars in August—when I was awash in tomatoes. McClellan makes canning so much easier than I thought it would be! Some day I’m sure I’ll even stop worrying about botulism every time I open one of the jars of tomato sauce I put up. Don’t you just love the phrase “putting up vegetables”? Makes me think of gingham and screened-in porches for some reason.
Now I’m using all those canned goods to make soups from my all-time favorite cookbook, Love Soup. Spending a lot of time with the Hearty Winter Soups chapter.
Okay, so yes, these books are not inherently “alt” but, believe me, most of the full-tilt urban-homesteading-canning types out “alt” most of us at alt+library.
What was the best book you read this year? Stay tuned for selections from Jess and the alt+library Friends.