Sunday, 21 December 2008

Sunday December 21st, 2008 Christmas Food

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat. Are you ready for Christmas? It's almost here. When I think of Christmas I think of the aromas, such as a turkey roasting and mulled cider simmering. There are so many foods I associate with it like boxed chocolates, mixed nuts, mandarin oranges and mincemeat tarts, yum. Here is a little
taste of what's to come over the next few days.


I've mentioned my love of chocolate before, but it's impossible to say too much about it. If you're looking for delicious new recipes try I'm Dreaming Of A Chocolate Christmas by Marcel Desaulniers. Christmas seems to be the time of the year to eat chocolate, but then so does Easter and Valentine's Day and pretty much any day of the week that ends in the word day. I associate Christmas with receiving a Terry's Chocolate orange from my Mom. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association offers all sorts of information on chocolate. For example the largest box of chocolates ever made contained 90,090 individual chocolates. It was created by Marshall Field's in Chicago on November 14, 2002. For this and other fun facts on chocolate visit:

Christmas cake

Unlike most people one of my favourite things about Christmas is the fruitcake. One of my fondest memories is the smell of the rum soaked fruit aging in a big pot. As a child I thought everyone had cake like this. I've never found a cake to compare with my Mom's. Over the years the Christmas fruitcake has become the source of many jokes. Johnny Carson once said There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other. If you happen to visit Manitou Springs, Colorado any January you may get to witness their annual Great Fruitcake Toss. There are many events involving throwing, catapults and mechanical devices. They also hold a most beautiful fruitcake competition. For more information visit and click on events. In Independence, California this December they held the fourth annual Independence Fruitcake Festival, complete with various contests from the nuttiest fruitcake to the one that travelled the farthest to get there. Their website, which you can visit at has a great selection of fruitcake recipes. For more ideas check out The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook. There's a recipe for the backhouse family fruitcake. That sounds a little odd, but the recipe comes from the Backhouse family.


This Christmas staple is best enjoyed in moderation, and maybe cut with skim milk. Did you know that one cup of eggnog contains 343 calories? For a breakfast treat try making eggnog pancakes, they're delicious. To find a recipe, just visit and type eggnog pancakes in the search box. The Cozy Book Of Winter Drinks by Susann Geiskoph-Hadler has a recipe for a Yule Latte, that you make with eggnog. Sounds like a great drink
for the holidays.


What would Christmas be without turkey? I love eating turkey, I just don't like touching the cold bumpy skin. So at our house we buy the frozen stuffed turkeys, which are actually surprisingly good. If you've never made a turkey before there are plenty of recipes and advice on the e-how website. You can find it at
The Essential Canadian Christmas Cookbook by Lovoni Walker has a delicious sounding roast turkey recipe. It's called herb butter turkey and features a stuffing complete with apricots and pine nuts. Oh, if you're still looking for fruitcake recipes, there's one in this book that's made using condensed milk. Did you notice how I slipped that in there?

Candy canes

Did you know that candy canes used to be solid white? They didn't have a red stripe or peppermint flavouring until the Twentieth Century. In the 1950s Gregory Keller invented a machine to automate candy cane production. For information on how candy canes are manufactured visit
If you'd like to try your hand at making homemade candy canes visit

I wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season. I hope you enjoy the various foods we associate with Christmas, but remember not to overdue it. Best wishes for 2009.

Karen Craib, Library Technician

Monday, 15 December 2008

Sunday December 14th, 2008 Celebrate the Winter Solstice

Every December as the hours of daylight become shorter, I anxiously await the shortest day of the year. I know from that day forward there will be a slow but sure return to the longer days of sunlight and warmth. The solstice is a time of rebirth that leads towards the hopefulness of spring . Next Sunday, December 21 , will be the Winter Solstice, it takes place at 8:46 a.m. E.S.T. Take this week to reflect on the change of seasons and to plant your own hopes for the seasons to come.

How did ancient cultures celebrate the Winter Solstice?

Neolithic Peoples began to erect ceremonial structures to celebrate the changing seasons. On a ridge, twenty-eight miles north of Dublin stands a chamber composed of glacial boulders. Each year for a week before and after the winter solstice the light from the rising sun passes through a boxed slot above the doorway. For about seventeen minutes the chamber is softly lit, illuminating a stone basin and intricate carvings. This prehistoric structure called Newgrange reminds us that this season has long been an important one for the human race. To learn more, read Celebrate the Solstice by Richard Heinberg. To see a video of the 2007 solstice at Newgrange go to

What were earlier celebrations of the Winter Solstice called?

There are a number of earlier celebrations that took place near the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Scandinavians celebrated Yule tide to commemorate the resurrection of the sun as giver of light and warmth. The Romans celebrated Saturnalia, dedicated to the god of agriculture and the renewed power of the sun. Persians brought Mithraism and the celebration of Natalis Solis Invicti in honour of Mithras. The early Christian Church did not celebrate Christmas, but by 336 A.D. the church instituted the birth of Jesus as bringing “the light of the world.” In Weird Christmas: A Collection of Curious and Crazy Customs and Coincidences Concerning Christmas by Joey Green, you will find the history of the season and much more seasonal trivia.

How do they celebrate the Winter Solstice in Japan?

Toji is the Japanese celebration which lasts for a few weeks around the solstice. The Japanese celebrated by taking citrus baths, eating pumpkins for good luck, making offerings to one’s ancestors and giving workers a holiday. Large bonfires are made at shrines to encourage the early coming of spring. Learning more about how common holidays are celebrated around the world can help each of us to become aware of the wealth of cultural practices. Look up your favorite celebration in The Folklore of World Holidays, edited by Margaret Read MacDonald .

Is there a fable that we can read aloud about the winter solstice?

From the wonderful Keepers of the Earth series by Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchac comes the tale, Spring Defeats Winter. The story begins with a white-haired old man who wanders the earth and everywhere he steps the ground grows hard as stone. He is confronted by a young man who is unafraid of his powers, and brings forth the flowers and the warmth of the sun. The book has interesting activities for children to help them to understand the changes of the seasons.

Are there any fiction titles that have solstice celebrations in them?

Try Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. On this shortest day, a tragedy brings together five people in a neglected estate house near the Scottish fishing town of Creagan. Their meeting will change their lives forever. Solstice Wood by Patricia McKillip, takes you to upstate New York where a group of women knit and weave to keep closed the paths between ours and a more evil world. Drawn into this world, Sylvia Lynn searches for her kidnapped cousin in a magical and haunting realm. For a lighter touch try, A Holly, Jolly Murder by Joan Hess. Bookselller –Sleuth Claire Malloy is invited to a winter solstice celebration at the Sacred Grove. When one of the members is murdered, Claire is on the case. This is a just-right antidote to holiday busy-ness or anytime blahs.

Roberta Casella, Librarian at the Brodie Resource Library

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Sunday December 7th, 2008 Candy

Remember when penny candy was actually a penny? I recall the excitement of making my selection at the candy counter in Walz's store, in Rosslyn Village. You could fit a lot of candy into that little brown bag. I think my favourites were the licorice pipes and the marshmallow strawberries. Candy today is much more spectacular; it fizzes, explodes or paints your tongue a bright colour. Here's to all things candy. Sweet!!!!!

Candyfreak: A Journey Through The Chocolate Underbelly Of America by Steve Almond.

This author loves candy, I mean he really loves candy. Who else keeps a hidden case of a defunct chocolate bar in an undisclosed warehouse? Follow him on a road trip as he visits the smaller manufacturers of candy such as Twin Bing and Goo Goo Clusters (I have a friend who would have loved to take that trip). His seductive descriptions of candy will have you salivating like Pavlov's dog. A deliciously sweet read.

Candy Cane Murder by Joanne Fluke.

This is a sweet treat for mystery lovers. It features 3 novellas plus holiday recipes. In Candy Cane Murder by Joanne Fluke, bakery owner Hannah Swensen hunts for the killer of a local department store owner, after a trail of candy canes leads to his body in a snow bank. In The Dangers of Candy Canes by Laura Levine, freelance writer Jaine Austen solves the murder of a wealthy suburbanite who fell off his roof while installing a giant candy cane. In Candy Canes Of Christmas Past by Leslie Meier, Lucy Stone delves into a murder that happened 20 years ago. The victim was the mother of town librarian, Miss Tilly and the only clue was a smashed glass candy cane, found by her body.

The Candy Darlings by Christine Walde.

The death of her mother and a move to another city turns a young girl into the new girl at school. Her chances of popularity are dashed when she becomes friends with an outcast, Megan Chalmers. Megan has a big candy addiction and she and the new girl become targets of a group of girls who rule the school. Megan urges the new girl to start eating candy, to cope with her pain. It's a theme reminiscent of Mean Girls, but follows life in the real world as well as the fantasy world that candy craving Megan creates.

Sweet!: The Delicious Story Of Candy by Ann Love and Jane Drake.

This children's book has an excellent history of all things sweet. It's full of interesting facts, for instance the Gummi Worm debuted in the 1980s, but gummi candy dates back to Germany in 1922. I was surprised to learn that one of my favourites the Marshmallow Peep has been around since 1954. Here's something to chew on, in the early 1900s Wrigleys was the first to advertise gum on billboards. Last year I started buying the new 5 gum in the United States. Today some of the flavours are available here, but not the cinnamon one (Flare). It's delicious and seems to get hotter as you chew it. I guess you could say I'm chewing bootleg gum. See their website at : The oldest brand in the Wrigley family is Juicy Fruit, which was launched in 1893. The Wrigley website has a history of all their brands as well as photos showing how their packaging has changed over the years.

If you're looking for places to buy retro candy such as Black Jack or Beeman's gum, Pixy Stix or Sen Sen try searching in Google under "hard to find candy". You'll find many sites such as They feature grab bags and samplers of candies from the 50’s and 60’s, sounds like the perfect gift for anyone having a big birthday.

I hope this article has stimulated your sweet tooth and your appetite to read. The next time you stop by the library pick up one of these titles. Then grab yourself something sugary, sit back and enjoy.

Karen Craib is a Library Technician

Monday, 1 December 2008

Sunday November 30th, 2008 Christmas Movies

Christmas is a great time for movies. It seems to me that people go to the movies more at Christmas than at other time of the year that’s why most of the Oscar-nominated films are released during the Christmas season. People give movies as gifts, and therefore many movies are watched at home after Christmas day. Just the fact that the kids are home from school drives up the movie viewing!

Many family Christmas traditions include the watching of classic Christmas films as the “big day” approaches. My sister-in-law must see “A White Christmas”. I on the other hand, have to get a Grinch and Charlie Brown fix in before I officially say the Christmas season has begun. And of course, the networks show all the classic Christmas flicks starting usually around now and running through all of the Christmas season. ABC began its Christmas movie season on Nov 16 with Santa Baby.

It has become my habit to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” late on Christmas eve as it is invariably playing on some channel at some point. I will admit that I hadn’t seen that movie in it’s entirety until a few years ago, having always divided my time between watching it and attempting to construct some toy to put under the tree – a toy that came with instructions that said “some assembly required”! I wouldn’t class 3 hours to construct a Fisher-Price Castle as some assembly – I’d say that was a lot! Watching Jimmy Stewart’s hardships helped to ease my construction frustration!

I thought it would be helpful to list some of the “best” Christmas films. “Best” is a very subjective term, so of course, there is much debate over the best. Here are two lists that I located. Perhaps a merging of the two will help you in your quest for your Christmas flick this year, or at least validate your all time favourite.

According to a 2005 (Internet Movie Database) survey of their members, the 2005 top ten is as follows:
  1. Christmas Story, 1983 The heart-warming tale of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker and his childhood Christmas in the 1940s.
  2. It's a Wonderful Life, 1943 An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would had been like if he never existed.
  3. Die Hard, 1988/Die Hard 2, 1990 Off-duty cop John McClane overcomes terrorists and saves lives - all in time for Christmas.
  4. Christmas Vacation, 1989 The Grizwold family's perfect Christmas crumbles around their ears, with a helping hand from hapless dad Clark (Chevy Chase).
  5. Love Actually, 2003 The inter-twining love lives of eight very different couples come to a head during a dramatic Christmas in London.
  6. The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993 Tim Burton's mystical and ghoulish animated horror. The perfect antidote to an overload of festive sentimentality.
  7. Home Alone, 1990Macaulay Culkin is left at home at Christmas and has to defend his home against a pair of persistent burglars.
  8. Bad Santa, 2003 A miserable conman and his pint size partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. Billy Bob Thornton is hilarious as the wicked Santa.
  9. Scrooged, 1988 Fantastic take on the Charles Dickens tale, with Bill Murray playing a selfish TV executive who is haunted by three spirits bearing moral lessons on Christmas Eve.
  10. The Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992 Jim Henson's animated heroes turn Dickens multi-coloured, with a little help from Sir Michael Caine as Scrooge. has it’s own list.
  1. It’s a Wonderful Life
  2. Miracle on 34th Street
  3. A Christmas Story
  4. Gremlins
  5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  6. Nightmare Before Christmas
  7. The Santa Claus
  8. Muppets Christmas Carol
Most of these titles are available at the library as well as some classic titles that I think were missed such as Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas – granted, these both are TV specials - Holiday Inn, A White Christmas, and Little Women. All of these great Christmas films are also available to help welcome in the Christmas season. Enjoy and all the best for a happy and healthy Holiday Season however you chose to celebrate it.

Barb Philp, Head of Adult Services