Home & Garden

The Family Dinner by Laurie David

In The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time, Laurie David offers some startling statistics about the importance – and scarcity – of the family dinner. Only “half of modern families eat together more than three to five times a week” and that time is usually spent in front of the television. The six o’clock family dinner of healthy, homecooked food enjoyed together over leisurely conversation seems to be a swiftly vanishing occurrence…and yet statistics have proven that the family dinner is a vital tool for improving grades and helping to fight obesity and drug abuse. Luckily, this book offers you a roadmap to family-dinner bliss, providing all the recipes and conversation topics you need to get started or enhance your current routine.

Recipes, authored by Kirstin Uhrenholdt, are grouped into “Fast Recipes,” “Cook it Together at the Table,” “Souper Dinners,” “Take it Slow,” “Meatless Mondays,” and “Kids in the Kitchen.” There are recipes here to appeal to all palates. I can’t wait to try “Soy Good Maple-Glazed Salmon with Edamame Succotash” and “Savory Sausage and White Bean Stew.” I can imagine the kids gobbling up the homemade “Mac n’ Cheese Please” or the “Thai Chicken Wraps.” Helpful recipes for vinaigrettes to dress your salad will have you eschewing bottled sauce forever. And don't forget to try one of the simple sweets in "Play with Your Dessert."

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball

I don’t know about you, but I’m always drawn to accounts of people who forgo traditional lives to pursue the unknown. Some make the move to remote locations; others choose to follow unusual career paths. In The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love, author Kristin Kimball leaves behind what many might label an enviable existence as a freelance writer in New York City to stake a claim on a 500-acre, ramshackle farm.

Kristin’s been assigned to write an article about Mark, who’s making a name for himself in the ever-changing world of farming. Rather than being able to interview her subject—who remains on a constant treadmill of chores—she finds herself hoeing broccoli and slaughtering pigs…all in her urban finest. The next day brings her no closer to Mark as she’s assigned to work the tomato fields. With time running out and only a few scribbles recorded, Kristin implores Mark to answer her questions. Their brief encounter will lead to a major life change for them both.

Why Not Start Canning?

Canning book

With the arrival of summer, there is an abundance of produce all around us.  Some of us may be garden-savvy and are already receiving the fruits of our labor from our backyards.  All around us the farms and the Farmer's Markets are bursting with great, fresh produce that is locally grown.  Why not buy some extra and try canning and preserving some of this goodness?  Not only will you be helping out the local farmers, but you will also get the satisfaction of something that you have preserved, and you know exactly what you put into it.

Like any new venture, you do want to read about it and have the proper equipment.  The good news is that the equipment is relatively cheap and is abundantly available at local retailers or stores online.  Plus your library carries many books on this topic. 

Ready, Set, Grow! Quick and Easy Gardening Projects by DK Publishing

Ready, Set, Grow!

Sometimes you want to do more than just dig in the dirt, and a targeted gardening project is an excellent way to develop green thumbs. DK’s new gardening book for kids, Ready, Set, Grow! Quick and Easy Gardening Projects, offers some creative and colorful projects that won’t break the bank or send you all around town looking for obscure ingredients. Like all DK books, this one offers wonderful photographs and cheery art, making it a visual feast for the eyes as well. I loved the decorations that we can make out of foil containers, the garden buddy made out of recycled materials, and the “strawberry boot,” made from a pair of old rain boots.

There is also lots of gardening information here, such as a list of quick-to-grow plants that offer quick gratification when growing from seed (try marigolds, nasturtiums, and clary sage). There is a handy list of top microgreens, and how to grow salad greens in a succession to ensure you always have a salad handy. There are a few recipes along the way for Asian stir-fry, sun tea, nasturtium salad, and more. I loved the step-by-step instructions to make a floral tepee from morning glory seeds and branches. We will be creating ours right after Mother’s Day, and by summer’s end we’ll have a magical play area that we created ourselves.

The Collector’s Garden: Designing With Extraordinary Plants by Ken Druse

One of the gardening goals I find most elusive is to create a garden that is more than just a collection of plants but actually a cohesive whole. The Collector’s Garden: Designing With Extraordinary Plants by Ken Druse demonstrates that even obsessed collectors can also create gardens that are beautifully designed.

Druse, a noted garden writer and photographer, takes a look at the various kinds of plant collectors: aesthetes, specialists, missionaries and hunters, as he styles them. Some specialize in old roses, others in trilliums or desert plants, others in finding plants new to commerce by traveling to Asia or South America and bringing back specimens.  An overview of the gardens and gardeners is accompanied by gorgeous photos, including many close-ups of plants as well as the sweeps and drifts of a successfully designed garden. The gardens are as extraordinary as the obsessed gardeners. I was particularly struck by three of them.