Monthly Archives: May 2011

Easy DIY Iced Coffee

If you’re like me, you like your coffee-making to be inefficient and time-consuming with not a single of thought of convenience. For almost all of my coffee addictions, I swear by the french press. I grind my beans for the morning pot, boil my water, stir the grounds in and wait the allotted time until it’s done steeping. Start to finish usually runs around 20 minutes. But, as the mornings gradually slip out of their grey winter gear and change into the greens and blues of spring and summer, I find myself wanting to drink hot coffee less and less. I want it iced. I want it cool. I want it refreshing. Most importantly, I don’t want to spend two dollars and fifty cents at the corner coffee shop every time I want one. But, how to make my morning coffee cold? How about Cold Press coffee?

Cold press coffee is the method of making coffee that is basically no method. Zen coffee. Cold press was out there practicing flawless No Mind while you were still taking Freshman Intro to Eastern Philosophy and having your mind blown by Fellini films. Simply put, you take the grinds and you put them in the water. Wait twelve hours. The coffee is done. Barring the use of the refrigerator and the grinder, you can actually make this coffee with zero electricity. (TOTALLY OFF THE GRID) While I do find that interesting, it’s not really the reason why I’ve been making it this way. The real reason is the lower acidity that cold brewing achieves. It’s the simplest, smoothest cup of iced coffee that you’ll ever drink. Add the concentrate to hot water and you’ll find you have a smooth cup of hot coffee and you don’t have to be a snob to make it.

The first time I tried this method, it didn’t work out too well for me. It wasn’t nearly as concentrated as I thought it would be and my coffee ended up watery. It wasn’t until my fourth try that I really got it right. So, be patient and don’t be intimidated.

THE STEPS

1. Grind your coffee for a medium coarseness. Somewhere between drip and french press. I usually grind a bit finer as I like the stronger flavor it produces.

2. Get yourself a jar. I’ve been re-using a 28 ounce spaghetti sauce jar. Any jar will do, but try to find a slightly larger one.

3. Put your grinds into the empty jar. As I’ve been using a jar that holds three cups of water, I mix in around ⅔ of a cup of coffee grinds. Again, this will be something you’ll have to test out.

4. Add the cold water. Now, I’ve read that you aren’t supposed to stir it at all. You add some water. Wait five minutes. Add more water and so on. I think that’s dumb. Fill up your jar with water half way, close the lid and shake it. That way, you’re getting the water in contact with all of the grinds. Open it back up and finsh filling it. At this point, you’ll notice that all of the grinds will be floating at the surface. Over the course of the next twelve hours, they will settle to the bottom.

5. Either on the counter top or in your refrigerator, let your coffee steep for twelve hours. I use the refrigerator as it leaves you with a cold end product.

6. Wait. Wait. Wait for twelve hours.

7. Depending on what you have around your house, figure out the best way to strain your grinds. I was pouring it over a paper towel stretched over a pitcher, which worked, albeit slowly. But, in a strike of pure genius, I realized how dumb I was and just poured it into my french press, plunged the screen down, poured out the coffee and was done. And now that I think about it, I can use the french press for the entire process.

8. If you brewed in the refrigerator, then you don’t have to wait for your coffee to get cold. Since you’re dealing with a coffee concentrate, you need to dilute it a little to get the flavor correct. Try using ⅓ coffee to ⅓ ice to ⅓ water. If you need it to be stronger, just add a little more coffee. I also add a little creamer (soy milk, actual creamer, almond milk and sometimes skim if I’m desperate enough) and a pinch of sugar. Stir vigorously and serve.

- Chris

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Too Many Nelsons

I’m not sure how it happened, but one afternoon I found myself staring at our catalog and wondering why there were so many Nelsons in it. Here are a few examples for you.

Nelson Algren – He’s the author of The Man With the Golden Arm. When I was a younger Amy, I always got this one confused with The Man With the Golden Gun. Please forgive me.
 

Manly Adventure awaits you!

Nelson DeMille – He’s the author of pretty much everything. He specializes in what I like to call “manly adventure.” One of his books, The General’s Daughter, was made into a movie starring John Travolta. I’m not sure how I feel about that. 

Nelson Mandela – Activist, former President of South Africa, looks a hell of a lot like Morgan Freeman. I knew that he was pretty old, but I didn’t realize (until I started writing this post) that he was born in the year that WW1 ended. Wow.
 
Nelson Muntz – Appears on The Simpsons, notable for his blue vest and distinctive laugh. Sometimes friends with Bart, sometimes dates Lisa.
 
Baby Face Nelson – Portrayed by Stephen Graham in the 2009 film Public Enemies, or as I like to call it, “The Movie in Which Christian Bale Wears the Most Unattractive Pants Ever.” I know that doesn’t teach you much about Baby Face Nelson, but this is my blog post and I’d rather talk about Christian Bale’s horrible pants.
 

What we really need is a paranormal historical girl cat detective.

Carole Nelson Douglas – I’ve never read her stuff, but apparently she writes about paranormal investigators, mystery solving cats, and historic girl detectives? Something for everyone, I guess. 

Horatio Nelson – Had one arm and one eye, died in the Battle of Trafalgar, played on boats, Brits like him. Pip pip cheerio.
 
Prince (Rogers Nelson) – Yes, Prince is his first name. And yes, I’m glad that we’re finally past the year 1999. And yes, that song is stuck in my head now.
 
Willie Nelson – Notable for both his braids and his tax troubles, and a rather prolific musician, too. He has also been spotted with Kermit the Frog.
 
I know there are many other Nelsons that I’ve neglected, so fee free to add your favorites in the comments!
 
- Amy

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Country Noir

What an absolute pleasant surprise Daniel Woodrell turned out to be.  A friend turned me onto him a year or so ago when they read about a film adaptation of his 2006 book. The friend, much like myself, likes to read the source material before they see the film version, if possible. They raved about it, and told me that it very much seemed like something that I would be interested in (and I am a sucker for recommendations). I took their words to heart and picked up Winter’s Bone.

At this point, I think it’s fair to say that most of the public is aware of just how good the movie turned out. Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay,  for leading actress Jennifer Lawrence, as well as Best Supporting Actor for John Hawkes, all of which are incredibly deserved and make a case for winning (although none of them did). I, having now read the book, was ready to believe the hype. The movie is spectacular, but it is Woodrell’s vision that gave it life. The Ozark mountain setting is so bleak it’s hard to imagine any life would inhabit its space, but he fills the scene with characters so vivid they must be real – they are downtrodden, beat down, rugged and emotional – there is blood pumping at their core and every action is necessary and vital.

Imagine my delight when I found out afterwards (and an embarassingly long time afterwards) that this wasn’t Woodrell’s first novel, as I suspected, but instead his seventh. This guy was an old pro, sneaking out novels right under my nose, but now I have made it my mission to catch up. Since, I have read Give Us a Kiss, which is so gritty that most of the passages I want to share aren’t fit to print. I’m considering saying that I enjoyed it even more than Winter’s Bone, but the two are different enough to not warrant comparison.

I also learned that this wasn’t even the first time Woodrell had been adapted into a movie. Ang Lee took Woodrell’s Woe to Live On and turned it into Ride With the Devil. This was my first experience with not totally enjoying Woodrell’s work, but I did begin to see how apt the comparisons to Cormac McCarthy are – while a book about the Civil War may not have hit the spot for me, the dude is a very seriously talented writer.

Next I’ll be sitting down with The Bayou Trilogy, Woodrell’s “Rene Shade” series comprising of his first three novels, Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, The Ones You Do. As always, dear readers, I will let you know what I think and pass it along to you, because nothing is better than a good recommendation.

- Tony

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Take Good Care of Your Teeth

I am able to think of little else this morning other than the dental appointment I have later today. I haven’t been to the dentist in years, and I must admit I’m a little nervous. I used to actually enjoy my yearly visits to the dentist as a kid—the new shiny toothbrush and travel sized toothpaste they would give you after your teeth were cleaned, along with a sticker, or a plastic toy, or (once, oddly) a ceramic turtle figurine.

There is no doubt in my mind that my teeth are likely a mess, and that I will not be receiving either a sticker or a turtle today and will probably instead be reminded of the importance of flossing and sent home with my tail between my legs.

To assuage my dental fears, I decided to see what kinds of books the library has on dentistry. Behold! We carry books on all manner of dentistry subjects—from the history of dentistry to dentistry dictionaries to dentistry songs and music. And of course, we also carry quite a few books about the importance of basic dental care.

Think it may be time to take your own trip to the dentist, but don’t have dental insurance? There is a handy list of dental services for the uninsured on the Be Well! Pittsburgh website.

Happy brushing (and flossing),

Tara

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Resume and Cover Letter Assistance

We’re proud to announce the return of Resume and Cover Letter Assistance in the Job & Career Education Center.  A qualified volunteer will be available on Wednesday nights from 6 – 8 pm.  Please call the JCEC at 412-622-3133 to schedule an appointment.

Obviously, nothing compares to one-on-one time with another human being.  But if you need help immediately, or you just can’t get to Oakland, we have other options.  I’ve already blogged about the library’s online resume software  – Resume Maker (when the next page pops up, just enter your library card number to gain access).  The JCEC also collects the most current resume and cover letter guides we can find, and you can request them to be sent to any library in Allegheny County.

And of course, if you have questions about any of these resources, or about your job search in general, don’t hesitate to give us a call, send an email, or stop by.

-Denise

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Special!

Last Wednesday evening I stepped off Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian onto the platform of Pittsburgh’s spartan Amtrak station. On the next track twin burgundy locomotives idled, coupled to three Pennsylvania Railroad cars. It was not hard to imagine myself tracking along on this gleaming private train.

The lead engine’s number was easy to remember. Did the 5711 belong to Heinz corporation??

When I was a kid family vacations included train museums, train excursions, counting train cars, and model railroad exhibits. Standing next to a working private train last week gave me a thrill, and may have pushed me from casual railfan to ferroequinologist, a term for “one who studies iron horses,” or—a train geek.

Photograph by Dan Davidson from the Akron Railroad Club Blog. "The Pennsy E units pass by MP 211 in Amherst, Ohio, on May 8, 2011, at 3:48 p.m."

I tugged on my railroad research cap. The 5711 locomotive, its twin, number 5809, and the three cars it pulls, are owned by a Philadelphia-area businessman. After overnighting in Pittsburgh, 5711 and company would continued choo-chooing to Chicago to celebrate National Train Day, Saturday, May 7. Officially, numbers 5711 and 5809 are Pennsylvania Railroad E8s traveling on this trip as an “Amtrak Special.” They would be featured in Chicago’s Union Station Train Day rail equipment display.

Manufactured for PRR in 1951 by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division, the locomotives were restored at the Juniata Locomotive Shops in Altoona, PA. One blogger wrote that they were “beautifully restored to full PRR livery, right down to their trainphone antennae.”

The PRR E8 5711 on this book cover!

A catalog search and a walk up the Library stairs to the Pennsylvania Department’s railroad section revealed a long train’s worth of history. Books that caught my eye include The Pennsylvania Railroad: A Pictorial History by Edwin P. Alexander, Pennsylvania Railroad by Mike Schafer and Brian Solomon, and Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broadway Limited by Joe Welsh.

A quick dip into the world of trainspotting (ferroequinology!) offers ample documentation of the PRR E8 5711/5809 recent Chicago journey. According to one spotter, this train last made a journey west in 2004. Last week it traveled in bright spring sunshine. Still photos and videos posted on various train-related web sites are glorious. They can’t compare, though, with standing next to it. Riding would be even better.

—Julie

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Templar Allure Casts Long Shadow

On this day in 1310 A.D., France burned 54 members of the Knights Templar at the stake.  Seeking to punish these holy warriors for sins both real and imagined, and to seize the considerable wealth the Templars had accumulated as de facto bankers in the Holy Land, Pope Clement V and his lieutenants in France forever cemented the order’s place in the lore of the Western world.

A lot of interesting books about the Templars and the history of that period exist; here’s a short list of some of them:

Dungeon, Fire And Sword : The Knights Templar In The Crusades / John J. Robinson

God’s Warriors : Crusaders, Saracens And The Battle For Jerusalem / Helen Nicholson and David Nicolle

The Knights Templar In The New World : How Henry Sinclair Brought The Grail To Acadia / William F. Mann

The Secret Scroll / Andrew Sinclair

The Templar Code For Dummies / by Christopher Hodapp and Alice von Kannon

Although not specifically about the Templars, Osprey publishes a wonderful treatise on the Third Crusade which sets up the conditions upon which the Order gained their temporal power in the Holy Land. The book is:

The Third Crusade 1191 : Richard The Lionheart, Saladin And The Struggle For Jerusalem / David Nicolle

Keep in mind that the Templars and the cottage industry that has grown up around their study constitute a scholarly “mine-field” of sensationalism and pseudo history.  Even so, the Templars and the books born from their study make for dynamite reading.

–Scott

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