Christmas Comfort Classics

A library patron recently recommended a cookbook to me that brought back memories of Christmases past (without the ghosts!)

The  book is  Christmas Comfort Classics: A festive collection of warm and cozy comfort foods plus sweet ideas for sharing with family & friends.

A spiral-bound book with chapters titled with feel-good labels such as “Frosty Morning Breakfasts” and “Cozy Meals for Busy Days”, this cookbook delivers up such treats as Apricot-Almond Coffee Cake, Wonderful Winter Chowder, and Apple-Cranberry Bake. I got hungry just reading the titles. Each recipe is prefaced with a short tale from the contributor, reminiscing about a past holiday or family gathering and is followed by a holiday tip such as how to add holiday fragrance to a room or how to make your own tree ornaments.

There is one recipe, Connecticut Supper, that, being a Connecticut resident, immediately caught my eye. Ground beef, potatoes, and cheddar cheese plus cream of mushroom soup. It immediately conjured a kitchen warm with good scents, keeping the cold and dark winter night at bay.

It’s not all plain cooking, though!  You can find recipes for Sour Cream Spaghetti,  Warm Cranberry-Honey Brie, Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms, Port Wine Cranberry Dressing and more. Who says cozy can’t be special?

I’m not someone who adores cooking but this book has me interested in trying some of these recipes this winter. So thank you, dear library patron, for your recommendation. It’s going to make my holiday season.

No matter which holiday you celebrate, we have many holiday and cozy cookbooks on our shelves that can give you some great new ideas for your own celebration. Take a look:

Holiday Cookbooks

Comfort Food

The New Riverdale & the Old Archie Comics

Whenever anyone asked me which fantasy world I’d like to live in, I always replied, “Riverdale.”

Of course, I was speaking of the traditional Riverdale of the comic books of my childhood. However, a new Riverdale has appeared, and it’s not the same old place.

 Riverdale debuted this past January on the CW and Netflix, and the second season begins in October. Set in a modern-day Riverdale, Archie and his friends find themselves involved in a  murder. Jason Blossom (brother of the infamous Cheryl Blossom, a well known figure in the Archie universe) is dead and Archie and his friends are in the middle of the mystery.

These are not traditional Archie characters.  (IMDb describes it as “a subversive take on Archie and his friends, exploring small town life, the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade.”) Veronica is the new girl in town and her father is in jail for embezzlement. Betty’s mother is a hyper-controlling perfectionist,  and Jughead is Archie’s ex-best friend and the son of the leader of a motorcycle gang!

There are many other changes in this most recent Archie re-boot. If you watch in the expectation of seeing familiar characters in familiar situations, you’ll be in for a few (all right, many) surprises. This is a new story line that may take it’s origin from Archie Comics but then remolds the characters and spins them in an entirely different direction.

I have to admit that I am an Archie purist. I have followed the many Archie remakes. I remember the old cartoon on television and the attempts at live action shows. I also eagerly read the Archie Get Married series. Most of these left me longing for the traditional Archie of the comic books I grew up with.

 

And speaking of comic books, you can also download the newest comic book version of Archie’s story from hoopla. This new series is written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Fiona Staples and it re-imagines Archie and his friends in a very modern, edgier way.

Set in Connecticut: Fiction about the Nutmeg State

You might think a small state like Connecticut might not find itself as the setting for very many stories, but that’s not true! There are dozens of tales set in the Nutmeg State. You can begin with the fictional town of  Briar Creek, Connecticut where the Library Lovers mystery series by Jenn McKinley takes place and then move on to the strangely named Frog Ledge, Connecticut, home to the characters in Liz Mugavero’s Kneading To Die the first book in the Pawsitively Organic mystery series.

Some other recommendations if you want to indulge in a little fictional Connecticut scenery:

 Last Night at the Lobster: A Novel by Stewart O’Nan
Managing a failed seafood restaurant in a run-down Connecticut mall just before Christmas, Manny DeLeon coordinates a challenging final shift of mutinous staff members, an effort that is complicated by his love for a waitress, a pregnant girlfriend, and an elusive holiday gift.

This book was named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Entertainment Weekly and was a Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

 Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb
Back in his fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his readers straight into the halls of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School — where young  Felix Funicello learns the meaning of French kissing, cultural misunderstanding, and tableaux vivants. Wishin‘ and Hopin‘ barrels toward one outrageous Christmas. A vivid slice of 1960s life, a wise and witty holiday tale that celebrates where we’ve been — and how far we’ve come.

 Dune Road by Jane Green
Set in the beach community of a tiny Connecticut town, the heroine is a single mom who works for a famous–and famously reclusive–novelist. When she stumbles on a secret that the great man has kept hidden for years, she knows that there are plenty of women in town who would love to get their hands on it–including some who fancy the writer for themselves.

 

 The Land of Steady Habits: A Novel by Ted Thompson
For Anders Hill, long ensconced in “the land of steady habits”-the affluent, morally strict hamlets of Connecticut that dot the commuter rail line-it’s finally time to reap the rewards of a sensible life. Into his sixties and newly retired, Anders finds the contentment he’s been promised is still just out of reach. So he decides he’s had enough of steady habits: he leaves his wife, buys a condo, and waits for freedom to transform him. But as the cheery charade of Christmas approaches, Anders starts to wonder if maybe parachuting from his life was not the most prudent choice.

 Our Little Racket by Angelica Baker
In the aftermath of the collapse of Weiss & Partners investment bank, CEO Bob D’Amico’s daughter Madison, her mother, her best friend, her nanny, and a family friend begin to question their shifting roles in the insular, moneyed world of Greenwich, Connecticut. All these women have witnessed more than they’ve disclosed and must ask themselves: where is the line between willful ignorance and unspoken complicity?

 Housebreaking: A Novel by Dan Pope
When Benjamin’s wife kicks him out, he returns to his childhood home in Connecticut to live with his widowed father. Lost, lonely, and doubting everything he felt he knew about marriage and love, Benjamin is trying to put his life back together when he recognizes someone: his high school crush, the untouchable Audrey Martin. Audrey has just moved to the neighborhood with her lawyer husband and their daughter, Emily. As it turns out, Audrey isn’t so untouchable anymore, and she and Benjamin begin to discover, in each other’s company, answers to many of their own deepest longings.

 The Beach at Painter’s Cove by Shelley Noble
The Whitaker family Connecticut mansion, Muses by the Sea, has always been a haven for artists, a hotbed of creativity, extravagances, and the occasional scandal. Now, after being estranged for years, four generations of Whitaker women find themselves once again at The Muses. Leo, the Whitaker matriarch, lives in the rambling mansion crammed with artwork and junk. Her sister-in-law Fae is desperate to keep a secret she has been hiding for years. Jillian, Leo’s daughter, is an actress down on her luck. She thinks selling The Muses will not only make life easier for Leo and Fae, it will bring her the funds to get herself back on top. Issy, Jillian’s daughter, wants to restore the mansion and catalogue the massive art collection. Can these four generations of erratic, dramatic women find a way to save the Muses and reunite their family?

Prefer ebooks? Click here for a list of fiction ebooks that take place in Connecticut.

Downloadable Audiobooks your thing? Try these.

Dealing with Toxic People at Home and at Work

In a previous Blog Post, I discussed the prevalence of bullies in workplace culture (How to Spot a Bully in the Workplace and What to Do About It). My recommended reading list included The No Asshole Rule with the comment “A gem. I may write another post just about this book.”

Here it is.

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert Sutton, PhD

The summary of this book says it is, “a business handbook on preventing and curing a negative work environment that explains how to restore civility to the workplace by weeding out problem employees in order to increase profit and productivity.”

But, oh, it is so much more.

How bad can working with, living with, and  having  toxic jerks in your life be? Consider some of these stats from the book:

Studies show that having just one chronic jerk in a workplace can diminish performance of the entire staff by a whopping 30%-40% .

Negative interactions affect mood fives times stronger than positive interactions.

25% of bullying targets and 20% of witnesses to bullying leave their jobs.

Working with toxic people can increase you risk of heart attack  20%-40%.

While this book was written with workplaces in mind, The No Asshole Rule can be applied to all areas of life. The author originally published his idea in the Harvard Business Review with the title: “More Trouble than They’re Worth”. And that basically sums up the No Asshole Rule. Some people, whether in your personal life or your business life, are simply more trouble than they’re worth.

The No Asshole Rule can help you:

1. Distinguish between  people who are having a bad day (temporary assholes) and those who are persistently nasty and destructive.

2. Spot the most common actions that toxic people use against others.

3. Discover how to assess the actual cost of having a toxic person in your workplace or life. (Yes, you can add up the money spent dealing with destructive, mean people. Think of such things as hourly salaries of managers and the human resources department. Think of sick time taken by the people who are targeted by the jerks. Think of the costs of counseling and lawyers. Think of stress-related illnesses and medications. Think of the loss of quality of life.)

4. Discover how to set up a No Asshole Rule and enforce it.

5. Learn how not to be an asshole. (Reigning in your inner jerk, avoiding asshole-poisoning, and a self-test to see if you often behave like a jackass.)

6. Tips for surviving an asshole-infested workplace.

7. The virtues of assholes (Yes!) with the warning that being a jerk all the time won’t work.

8. How a few demeaning creeps can overwhelm a horde of nice people.

The bottom line is that toxic personalities, whether at work or home, demean and de-energize those around them. They cost everyone in many ways: money, time, health, confidence, etc, etc. The advice of this book is clear: Expel rotten apples as fast as possible. There is a reason, Sutton asserts, that there is a delete button on the cover of the book.

I give this book Five Stars. It’s not just a valuable tool for the workplace, it is important for those who want to free themselves from anyone toxic in their lives.

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What Kind of Services Can You Find at the Library? (You might be surprised.)

Most people know that libraries provide books, magazines, movies, music, audiobooks and ebooks. What many may not realize are all the other ways libraries support their communities. Here’s a sample from the librarians of the Cheshire Public Library.

“An appreciative patron had these flowers delivered to me for helping her on the computer & with her gmail to locate and print some important personal documents. It made my day!”

“A woman came in this afternoon and wanted to print some coupons from her email. English was not her first language, she did not have computer skills, and she did not know her email provider or her password! Our technology coordinator saved the day and was able to help the woman print her coupons. The really nice thing: it was the woman’s birthday and the coupons were for free coffee and other things that she could enjoy on her special day.”

“A senior who wanted to learn how to add minutes to her flip phone came to tech help yesterday. When she left, she noted that this is the only place in town to get answers to these types of questions and that her kids yell at her when she asks for them for tech help. She said she’s going to tell all of her friends to start coming here because they also have grouchy kids/grandkids…”

“An older man approached me a few weeks ago to say how glad he was to have our library. He comes in most days to read the papers and to visit with other regulars. He said it makes him feel more connected with the community.”

Email from patron: I just saw the Positive Discipline class recently on the events calendar and am super excited about it. I’ve read some of the Positive Discipline books and would love to do a better job actually incorporating it into our lives. I’ve looked into workshops before, and it just wasn’t realistic for us financially. I already have it on my calendar to sign up when it opens.

“I had a patron come to the circ desk this week saying the last two books her book club (not associated with the library) read were duds. Since they buy their books, she wanted to be sure to pick a good book this time. I brought her over to the Reader’s Advisory bulletin board and let her peruse the content. She happily found four titles, and all were on the shelf for her to check out. She was so happy and commented that she wished she had come to the library sooner.”

“A patron whose husband recently passed away came to drop-in today. She wanted to know how to use email so she could email people in a support group she’s been attending. She never used her husband’s laptop before, and English is not her first language, so she was nervous about coming in today for help. I got her all set up, and she’s going to come back next week and report how it’s going. She was very appreciative that we’re providing this service.”

“A few weeks ago, a woman was looking for tutoring help for seven children from two families newly arrived from Saudi Arabia.  Our teen librarian had a contact in the high school for a teacher who arranges peer tutoring, so I got the teacher’s email and contacted her. She emailed to let us know that she has arranged peer tutoring for the 5 younger children (in the library!) and is arranging help for the older ones. It was great that the needed resources exist in our community. I was especially touched by the fact that the woman who made the initial contact thought of the library as a place to go for help. Yay us!”

Want to know more about the Cheshire Public library? Click here for our website.