Pickling Pittsburghers

Pickle-loving Pittsburghers came in droves to the Rachel Carson Bridge this past July to celebrate all things pickle, pickled and soon-to-be pickled. Produced by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Picklesburgh included demonstrations on how to pickle various veggies, pickle-juice drinking competitions, and live music to boot! Favorites included Quick Pickled Dilly Green Tomatoes with Ryan from Whole Foods and the Vietnamese Pickled Veggies.

The only downside was that some of the demos ran out of their pickled delights before I could get my pickled mitts on them. To find out more about our own Pickled Piper (John Heinz-who gave over 1 million pickle pins out at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair) and all things pickle, make sure to pick up some of these library resources: Just try not to drink too much pickle juice while you do….

"Untitled," by Nancy Merkel. All rights reserved. Click through for artist's webpage.

“Untitled,” by Nancy Merkle. All rights reserved. Click through for artist’s webpage.

H. J. Heinz : A BiographyQuentin R. Skrabec. A great intro to H.J. Heinz and his Heinzenormous success as a businessman. This book is a quick read, but goes to great lengths to distinguish a man who has been over overshadowed by his contemporaries (Mellon, Fritz, and Carnegie). Unlike his contemporaries, Heinz was known to be a considerate employer, treating both his employees and suppliers with respect. A good introduction to a Pittsburgh’s famous son.

Pickled: From Curing Lemons to Fermenting Cabbage, the Gourmand’s Ultimate Guide to the World of Pickling, Kelly Carrolata. There are four parts to this book: Part I covers “How to Pickle”, Part II gets into the nitty gritty by giving the reader “Recipes for Pickling.” In the carrolattasecond half of the book, Part III covers “Meals with Pickles,” while Part IV deals not with food, but “Drinks with Pickles.” This book is an excellent how-go guide with a dash of pickling history . Lots of great pickle recipes if you’re the DIY type who wants a beginner’s guide to this process.

The Pickled Pantry, Andrea Chesman. Chesman is the author of over 20 cookbooks on Chesmanvarious topics. This book provides a pickle primer, with various pickling methods and techniques discussed. Examples include fermented, hot pack canned pickles, and refrigerator pickles. These are further examined with recipes and a quick history of pickles. Excellent for those of that love a challenge.

The Art of Fermentation : an In-depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around the World, Sandor Ellix Katz. Winner of the 2013 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference and Scholarship, this is a slightly more comprehensive and in-Katzdepth guide to fermentation. The author covers every imaginable food and beverage and gives the beginner and the foodie something both can appreciate: an extensive explanation of the concepts behind fermentation and how it applies to everything from agriculture to art (well, one more than the other). This book remains firmly entrenched in practicalities though and has information on effective preservation and safety techniques.

What’s your position on pickles? Let us know in the comments section!

–Whitney Z.

 

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Spizzerinctum!

I have a not-really-secret fondness for outdated teen romance novels – the older and cheesier, the better. My most recent find, dredged up with the help of NoveList, is Wedding in the Family by Rosumand du Jardin. Since I’m pretty sure that you’ve never heard of her either, here’s a little background information from Contemporary Authors.

Although author Rosamond du Jardin wrote several novels for adults, she was best known for her novels for teenagers, all of which have gone through numerous printings. Critics consistently praised her ability to write about the teenage years with humor and understanding. Most of her books have been published in other countries, including Japan, Italy, Holland, and Sweden.

Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2009. (accessed 08/24/15)

cover

Will darling Midge ever find true love? Well, probably.

In addition to her teen fiction, she wrote short stories for women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan, Red Book, and Good Housekeeping, and contributed to a variety of radio serials. She attended public school in Chicago, married a bookstore owner, had three children, “played gold and bridge, bowled, and liked to read and hew.” (Well, that’s what Contemporary Authors says. I’m hoping there are some typos in there.)

Anyway, let’s explore the world of Rosamund Du Jardin. It’s a magical place where all skillets are copper-clad, all curtains are crisp and white, no one worries about skin cancer, and young people are full of spizzerinctum.

The book starts off with a bang, with the wedding of Midge’s sister Tobey. Here’s what happens when Midge is introduced to best man Johnnie Randall, a southern charmer who apparently doesn’t care that Midge is only fifteen, while he’s like, at least 23. Reading it just makes you feel icky (page 48).

Randall

I think I need to take a shower now.

Don’t worry too much – with the help of her wise older sister, Midge realizes that Johnnie isn’t the man for her (whew), Learns A Valuable Lesson, and Grows Up A Little.

The morning before the wedding, the bridal party sets out to decorate the soon-to-be newlyweds’ car. But they have to find it first, because newlywed-car-hiding is apparently a thing in Midge’s hometown. Good thing they have spizzerinctum (page 70) and hamburgers to keep them going. (And yes, they find the car.)

Spizzerinctum! And check out the names - Suz, Brose, Jim, Denny, George, Sox, Midge, and Ellen!

Suz! Sox! Brose!

The wedding goes off perfectly (it’s super romantic, and we learn that All Good Boys Want To Get Married), but the book’s only half over. Fortunately, that’s just enough time to take a family vacation!

Midge and company set out for a month at the lake, where (surprise) Midge is confronted by two vastly different suitors. But after the aborted Johnnie Randall affair, has Midge finally learned her lesson about love?

Well, duh. Of course she has. This book was written in 1958, after all.

Overall, Wedding in the Family is an unintentionally amusing and fairly (but not painfully) monotonous read. If nothing else, it’s a great romp through the world of 1950s teenager cliches. You’ll see:

  • double dates
  • a soda fountain
  • fashion and hairstyles galore
  • repeated use of the word “golly”
  • punches thrown in defense of a lady
  • a lad with a lawn mowing business
  • an utterance of the phrase “ever so much”
  • a family vacation
  • summer romance
  • a distressing lack of telephones
  • excessive tanning
  • dishonestly bleached hair
  • a midsummer dance
  • and more!

Keep your ponytails high and bouncy,

– Amy

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Getting Down To Business At CLP

D-B_front While I spent many years at our gorgeous Main library location in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, I now work at our Downtown & Business location amidst the hustle and bustle of the city’s busy business corridor. We do all of the things you might normally associate with a busy urban public library–circulating thousands of items per day, providing computer access, and acting as an impromptu welcome center for newly arrived travelers. We also do business. I mean Business with a capital “B.” Our location performs as a regional hub for the dissemination of business and economic information to any library user in our region who needs it. I thought it might be fun to provide a quick primer on our role in the amazing machine that is the CLP system. Indeed you can get a great start on any business project at any of our nineteen city locations, but once you’ve done your initial research, you will likely find yourself wanting to access the specialized resources and expertise the staff at D&B can afford you.

We assist patrons with access to powerful databases like AtoZ Databases, Mergent Intellect, and Value Line Online. With these and numerous other electronic products, we perform both mediated searches and library instruction catering to users of all ability levels. 

We select, maintain, and manage a large collection of print and audio-visual resources related to business, small business, and career development. Our business planning resources stand second to none in Western PA, and our online Business Plans & Profiles Index will tell you exactly what you can expect to find when you arrive on site. Can’t make it Downtown? We’ll send most material to any location in our system for you. We also offer business and other programs in our on site meeting room.

Through Book a Librarian we work directly with our patrons during extended sessions to get the most out of these DB resources and meet their various business research needs. Doing mediated searches for entrepreneurs in products like Kompass or Mergent Intellect requires a facility with those products that comes with experience, and that’s where our trained and expert staff step in. Recent examples of questions requiring our unique expertise include:

  • Providing a list of U.S. companies who export to India
  • Finding Chilean companies who do business in the U.S.
  • Guiding a recently arrived entrepreneur in developing a plan to open a bicycle shop in the South Hills

Assisting entrepreneurs and small business owners start or grow their businesses helps CLP fulfill its focus on Workforce Development. That’s a fancy way of saying that we play a pivotal role in priming the twin engines of entrepreneurship and innovation in our community. That’s a lot to take on, and we don’t do it alone. Our partners in the Job And Career Education Center at Main Library provide focused career services and instruction, and they’ve zealously embraced the maker movement here in Pittsburgh. 

If you want to learn more about how CLP gets down to business, ask a librarian, or come by 612 Smithfield Street in Downtown Pittsburgh and check it out for yourself!

–Scott P.

 

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Summering in Wildwood

This summer, I read the first trilogy I’ve finished since The Hunger Games, and I loved every minute of it. Unlike a lot of recent popular YA series, The Wildwood Chronicles* isn’t a romance, nor a dystopian thriller, it’s the story of an adventurous young girl (and a whole host of secondary characters), set in a magical wilderness in the heart of Portland where multiple interrelated storylines run together to tell one epic tale.  I realize that makes it sound like the perfect book for precocious tweens,(and it pretty much is), but, as an adult reader, I loved it too.

What's this pipe-smoking, eye-patch-wearing wolf up to? You'll have to read Under Wildwood to find out.

What’s this pipe-smoking, eye patch-wearing wolf up to? You’ll have to read Under Wildwood to find out.

Colin Meloy, also known as lead singer and song-writer for English-major favs, The Decemberists, wrote the series, and it features milieus that will be familiar to any Decemberists fan including (but not limited to): bandits, pirates, revenge, crime and punishment, shape-shifting woodland creatures, sea shanties, lost love, dying children, pacts with evil/supernatural forces, political uprisings, nature imagery, orphans, tragic heroes, and magic spells.

If that wasn’t enough for you, here’s a list of  things I loved about this series:

  • Fast-paced, plot-driven story.
  • Imaginative, richly descriptive writing.
  • A focus on friendship, cunning, and courage (Sound familiar, fans of another series?)
  • Humor (Lots of asides for adult readers to pick up on; For example, I loved the nods to Portland’s well-known hipster culture –  in one of the first scenes, our main character Prue rides her bike to shop for vinyl and nosh on veggie tacos.)
  • Beautiful illustrations by Carson Ellis, including several full-color plates in each book (Despite generally being a big fan of audiobooks and ebooks, I think the illustrations make a pretty good case for reading this in traditional print format).
  • One of the heroes is a talking circus bear with hooks for hands.

If you decide to spend some time in Wildwood, I hope you find it as whimsical and gratifying as I did.

-Ginny

*The order of the series is:

  1. Wildwood
  2. Under Wildwood
  3. Wildwood Imperium 

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Take A Hike

If we had just met and you asked me those funny ‘get to know you’ questions (“What is your favorite XXX?”) I would be able to answer most without thinking; Movie? Clue. Music? Any and all Christmas Music. Fictional world? Hogwarts. Car? VW ’68 bay window bus. Book? …

bookcover…this is where I would stumble. There have been lots over the years, books that meant different things at different times in my life. Eventually though, after a brief but intense internal struggle, I would probably land on A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I was always a fast, strong reader but it wasn’t until college that I became an avid reader; mostly because I was never really interested in the books that were meant for little, tween, and teenager girls. You will never find me squealing over a vintage Babysitters Club book.

Things changed when I picked up A Walk in the Woods on the (very astute) recommendation of my freshman composition professor. In Bryson I found an author whose voice mirrored the voice in my own head; the voice I have never been able to sufficiently put to paper. Bryson effortlessly writes, wittily yet profoundly, in a way that makes any amateur writer envious. I devoured everything Bryson had written; I searched for collections of his news columns, re-read my favorites, immediately grabbed anything new, searched for read-a-likes, and recommended A Walk in the Woods to anyone who had any interest in humor, camping, hiking, England, bears…I would find a way to make it applicable to any situation.

After living and working in England for two decades, writer Bill Bryson returns to America, with his English wife and children in tow. Bryson is amazed at how things have changed and yet retain that familiar feeling we associate with “home.” Bryson decides to embark on a journey to rediscover his old, new home by hiking the Appalachian Trail. But due to his physical state, (out of shape writer) and experience level (none) Bill looks for a hiking partner to accompany him and decides on an old friend he hasn’t seen in years, a friend who had been with him on his first travel excursion to Europe decades before. Together, with wit and sentiment, this odd couple tackles one of America’s most beloved trail systems.

So the other day when I was sitting on my mom’s couch watching her TV and eating her chips (I swear I am a responsible adult, just not all the time) and a trailer for A Walk in the Woods starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte came on, I pretty much had a fan girl melt down of epic proportions. This is one of those times where I am excited but also… So. Very. Anxious. This book is held in such high esteem in my own mind that I can’t handle the possibility that the movie might not live up to the humor inherent in the story. Bryson’s American-raised, British-influenced internal banter is so specific that I worry about Robert Redford being able to do it justice, you read that right, I am worried that ROBERT REDFORD won’t be good enough to play Bill Bryson.

The movie comes out Labor Day Weekend, and if you plan on seeing it, promise me, for the love of all that is good and right in this world, you will read the book too, just in case. And remember…Bears LOVE Snickers.

-Natalie

#takeahike

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Yes We Can

One cooking project I’ve been scared to tackle is canning and preserving. A  year or two ago, I asked for a set of canning supplies for Christmas, received them, and promptly relegated them into the closet in my house where things go to be ignored, nestled cozily alongside an accordion binder of old tax returns and paperwork from the vet.

I did it!

I decided to get over my fear of messing up and give it a shot, and guess what? It’s not so difficult, after all.  I made some quick garlic pickles and a batch of strawberry jalapeno jam, and now I’m ready for more. Of course, I turned to some trusty library resources to show me the way:

Dare to Cook – Canning Basics (DVD) – Chef Tom doesn’t have the on-screen charisma of your favorite Food Network star, but what he lacks in panache he makes up for in know-how.  Watching this DVD is what finally convinced me that I could do this, and that my fear of giving all my loved ones botulism was unfounded, as long as I followed the clear and simple instructions.

Canning for a New Generation: Bold Fresh Flavors for a Modern Pantry – Almost every review you read of this book says something along the lines of: “If you think caning is just for oldsters, think again!”  It’s true that this book includes lots of contemporary twists on classic recipes and quite a few things you won’t find in other canning books, but it also has good practical advice and recipes for ideas on how to use the jams, sauces, relishes, and condiments you’ll be preserving.

The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving – I loved that this had a large number and variety of recipes, and small batch is just right for a beginner like me. It helped me feel like even if I messed something up, I wasn’t wasting a ton of ingredients.  There are lots of recipes in this book for sauces and jams that you don’t have to process and can, so if you are scared of pectin and want to get those skills down pat first, try this one out.

Strawberry Jam Print. Click through for the artist's portfolio.

Strawberry Jam Print. Click through for the artist’s portfolio.

More Canning & Preserving Resources:

-Ginny

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Reel Redundant

As I’m not a fourteen-year-old girl and it’s not 2009, I wouldn’t call myself a Taylor Lautner fan. Granted, I haven’t seen everything in his filmography, but he’s a relatively competent actor in everything I have seen him in. When I learned about his latest film Tracers, I was intrigued that the premise sounded so similar to 2012’s Premium Rush, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Shannon. Both feature bike messengers, some vague Asian mafia, crooked federal employees and also act as how-to guides of what not to do when you’re biking around a city.

Tracers distances itself from Premium Rush by adding parkour into the mix. I thought they were going to build up to the parkour, but no, they drop it in without much explanation. Are there really gangs of at-risk youth doing parkour in New York City? If so, I need to buy myself a pair of American Eagle jeans and move there ASAP.

While both are fairly decent action movies, I gotta give the edge to Premium Rush. It opens with “Baba O’riley”, features the band Sleigh Bells and Michael Shannon’s gambling addict antagonist reaches Nicolas Cage levels of hilarious overacting. Still, Tracers is pretty solid. Neither are Citizen Kane, though.

Citizen Chain, on the other hand ...

Citizen Chain, on the other hand …
© Citizen Chain Cyclery

Anyway, watching Tracers got me thinking of other movies with similar premises. Often these movies get released within a few months of each other and can give audience members a case of déjà vu. Blame it on some kind of filmmaking multiple discovery theory, competing studios or Hollywood’s broken down originality machine.

We’ll experience such repetitive redundancy in 2016 with Jon Favreau’s remake of Disney’s musical version of The Jungle Book followed by Andy Serkis’ directorial debut of the horribly titled Jungle Book: Origins in 2017. It’s supposed to be a closer adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s original stories–no songs or kingly orangutans. Favreau’s cast boasts Bill Murray as Baloo, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera and Scarlett Johansson as Kaa. Serkis, on the other hand, will be playing Baloo and has Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett portraying the other roles, respectively. This is one of the only times when I’m actually interested in both versions; the two casts are enough to get my butt in the cinema.

Here are some other movies from the last few years with similar premises. You be the judge on which one was better.

The Illusionist (September 2006) vs The Prestige (October 2006)

The_Illusionist_Poster

Prestige_poster

Released about a month apart, both feature magicians magicking stuff up, but only one has Michael Caine. I’ve always wanted to but have not yet seen The IllusionistThe Prestige, however, is my favorite movie from Christopher Nolan and one that reveals something new with each subsequent viewing. With a box office gross $14 million more than The Illusionist, it seems like audiences liked The Prestige too.

Happy Feet (November 2006) vs Surf’s Up (June 2007)

Happy_Feet_Poster

Surfs_upmp

Both are computer animated. One features the voice of Robin Williams. The other features the voice of Shia Labeouf. Both are about penguins doing stuff that penguins don’t do, like winning the Stanley Cup more than three times. Oh snap! What do you put on a freezer burn? Because, you know, ice … This is why I don’t write about sports. Happy Feet made over three times as much as Surf’s Up, perhaps indicative that audience fatigue with penguins reached its peak that started in 2005 with March of the Penguins.

No Strings Attached (January 2011) vs Friends with Benefits (July 2011)

No_Strings_Attached_PosterFriends_with_benefits_posterBeautiful people don’t want feelings to get in the way of all the beautiful-people sex they have. Spoiler alert: feelings get in the way. It seems like by the time Friends with Benefits came out, audiences were tired of seeing physically perfect specimens on display; it made about $15 million less than No Strings Attached. Still, it probably made more than it would have if it had starred a pair like John Goodman and Roseanne Barr.

Mirror Mirror (March 2012) vs Snow White and the Huntsman (June 2012)

Mirror_Mirror_FilmPoster Snow_White_and_the_Huntsman_PosterOne features actual little people playing the seven dwarves, the other is a veritable who’s who of English actors portraying the dwarves with camera trickery. Both were largely forgettable and although Snow White and the Huntsman made more than twice as much at the box office as Mirror Mirror, it still came about $15 million short of making back its budget. Currently, there are no plans for Disney to remake its own version (yet).

Olympus Has Fallen (March 2013) vs White House Down (June 2013)

Olympus_Has_Fallen_poster White_House_Down_poster_with_billing_blockThe White House is under attack and only a beefy guy can save the president. Olympus Has Fallen not only made back its $70 million budget, but also out-grossed White House Down by a whopping near-$26 million. Kim Jong Un got upset about The Interview but these two films came out within just three months and featured wanton destruction of our nation’s capital and no one batted an eye. There’s some kind of commentary to be made about that, but I’m not the one to make it.

Do you find different films with similar concepts redundant or does it not bother you at all? Let us know in the comments below!

–Ross

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