Lightfoot

I’m in the midst of a Gordon Lightfoot love affair. Well, okay, not with him personally, but with his music, life and times.

Awhile back, I placed a hold on the new book Lightfoot by Canadian music journalist Nicholas Jennings, and had to wait a bit as there were a number of people ahead of me. I guess there are lots of Gordon Lightfoot fans are out there! Finally, it was my turn.

Besides reading the book, I’m also listening to his music and watching some of his performances on YouTube. I feel I’m taking part in a Gordon Lightfoot-fest, a feast for the eyes and ears — and mind and heart as well.

In Lightfoot, Jennings traces the unlikely trajectory of a kid from Orillia, Ontario to international super star. It’s clear from reading Lightfoot — just in case you didn’t already know — how enormously talented this Canadian singer-songwriter is.

The book strikes a good balance between Lightfoot’s personal life and his music, though as a songwriter there is obviously considerable overlap between the two. Jennings gives a good, nuanced account of who the singer really is. Despite some personal demons (alcoholic excesses being pretty high up on the list), Lightfoot comes across as a decent guy with a lot of personal and musical integrity.

I have borrowed some CDs (WPL has a good selection) and can honestly say it has been a delight to rediscover his music. It’s so real, so genuine. I think my all-time favourite Gordon Lightfoot song has to be “If You Could Read my Mind.” Other greats are “Early Morning Rain,” “The Last Time I Saw Her,” “I Heard You Talking in Your Sleep” and oh, so many others. I love his rich, melodic voice.

Lightfoot is a great read but might I also suggest you check out some of his timeless music as well. Maybe start (or rediscover) your own love affair with Gordon Lightfoot.

BTW, Gordon Lightfoot is scheduled to appear at the Centre in the Square November 22, 2018. I have my ticket bought. I will be there.

— Penny D.

Men & Women of Our Past

Greetings from the Ellis Little Local History Room!

The Ellis Little Local History Room is located at WPL’s Main Library. The many threads of Waterloo’s history are woven together in our extensive collection of photos, documents, newspaper articles, books and more. One of the most unique and precious collections in the room is the Ellis Little Papers.

Ellis Little was a local historian and retired teacher who spent many hours at the Waterloo Public Library researching the history of Waterloo. When he passed away in 2004, all of his research papers (“The Ellis Little Papers”) were donated to the library. Often Little’s research notes were written on the backs of scrap paper, which adds an interesting flavour to the files. His papers have given many researchers (myself included) insight into those hard-to-find local history topics.

There are many intriguing files in the Ellis Little Papers, but one of the best is called Men and Women of Our Past. This file is a collection of handwritten biographies that Little wrote during his years of research. The biographies focus on people from Waterloo’s earliest days. Some cover the expected prominent figures, such as Abraham Erb who was the first permanent resident of Waterloo, but many more are about people who might sometimes be overlooked.

For example, did you know that there was a Waterloo doctor named Dr. William Sowers Bowers who married a woman named Hannah Flowers? Dr. Bowers trained at the University of North York, and had a medical practice in the house of John Hoffman on King Street South. The charming story of this rhyming family is just the beginning of what can be found in the Ellis Little Biographies.

Sometimes the biographies are only a few lines long, but no matter the length, each biography has a list of information sources at the end. The book Welcome to Waterloo by Marg Rowell, Ed Devitt and Pat McKegney must have been a favourite resource for Little as it often appears in the source section for the biographies. Little also used newspaper articles, local atlases, registries and Waterloo Historical Society articles as sources for the bios. These source lists now provide an excellent path for researchers to chase down primary documents and find even more information about the people Little wrote about.

The Ellis Little Biographies are definitely worth checking out if you want to know more about past Waterloo residents. The original paper versions are available in the Ellis Little Local History Room. With volunteer help, we are transcribing all of the Ellis Little Biographies and making them available through Our Ontario, which hosts WPL’s local history collection online. This is an ongoing digitization project but we already have 80 biographies uploaded and ready for you to enjoy.

Reading through these biographies is a great reminder that the past is made up of people who lived their daily lives and made decisions that would influence the future, just as we are doing today.

— Jenna H.

An autobiography from the heart

In the Christian community the name Steven Curtis Chapman is a familiar one. A popular musician in the contemporary genre, Steven is particularly known for his songwriting skills. His songs speak from the heart and resonate with his audience in powerful ways. If you’ve ever heard his song, Cinderella, you’ll know what I mean. If not, see it on YouTube before proceeding!

A staple on the concert circuit for many years, Chapman, along with his wife, Mary Beth, have become strong advocates for adoption. Initially urged to consider embracing a non-biological child by their then adolescent daughter Emily, they went on to adopt three girls from China and developed a passion for encouraging others to do the same, even creating an organization called Show Hope to provide financial support.

In the book Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story, Steven shares more of his personal journey. From his humble upbringing in Paducah, Kentucky, to his decision to pursue music as a career, to meeting Mary Beth and beginning a family, to the challenges they have faced as a couple, he holds nothing back. The reader walks with him through his mountaintop experiences, as well as through some of life’s deepest valleys. He admits a tendency to want to “fix” things; describes the challenges of married life; and pours out the anguish of losing a child.

Even if you weren’t a Steven Curtis Chapman fan in 2008, your heart couldn’t help but bleed for the family as news of the accident that killed his adopted daughter came to light. Nine years later, the hole left by five-year-old Maria Sue is still profound, and the family has found healing through their faith and purpose through charitable activities undertaken in her name.

I highly recommend Between Heaven and the Real World for fans of Steven Curtis, as well as for anyone interested in Christian memoir or autobiography. Though he would be the first to acknowledge he is far from perfect, the author’s story is incredibly inspiring and, ultimately, hopeful.

–Susan B.

Other autobiographies I have enjoyed from our collection include:

Choosing to See: a Journey of Struggle and Hope by Mary Beth Chapman (e-book)

marybeth

Grace Will Lead Me Home by Robin Givens

robingivens

It’s All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life by Denise Jackson (wife of country musician Alan Jackson)

denisejackson

This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith and Life by Gavin MacLeod

gavinmcleod

Against All Odds: My Story by Chuck Norris

chucknorris

Harry & Snowman

There’s a quote I once saw in a horse magazine. “Every rider has that one special horse which changes everything about them.” For horseman Harry deLeyer, Snowman was that horse. Their story was recently captured in the documentary Harry & Snowman.

deLeyer was born in Holland in 1927 into a hardworking farm family. During WWII, young Harry and his family aided the Resistance, saving human lives but also the lives of hundreds of starving horses, left behind by the Nazis as they fled following defeat.

Newly married, deLeyer and his young bride, Johanna, immigrated to the USA where he worked on a tobacco farm whilst dreaming of a life with horses. Opportunity came in 1954 when deLeyer was offered a job teaching riding at a prestigious private girls’ school in New York State, a position he ended up holding for 22 years.

In 1956 deLeyer went to a horse auction, searching for a solid horse, suitable for the beginners at the school. Due to car trouble, he arrived as the auction was wrapping up. He took a quick look around at the “leftover” horses which, depressingly, were destined for the slaughter horse. A flea-bitten grey, ex-plow horse caught his eye. As deLeyer looked up at the horse behind the stock trailer’s sides, the horse looked down at him with large, soft eyes. And, like in a classic romance novel, their gazes locked and a lifelong connection was made.

deLeyer offered $80 for the grey, including delivery to his farm, and a deal was quickly struck. “Snowman” had entered deLeyer’s life and would change it forever.

As someone who has been involved in the horse industry for close to 40 years, it was a given that I would borrow this movie from the library. But you really don’t need to be a horseperson to appreciate the story of deLeyer and Snowman.

Hearing Snowman’s story in deLeyer’s own words, paired with interviews with show jumping legends George Morris and Rodney Jenkins, is a treat. Snowman was retired when I was just a toddler, but I do remember seeing deLeyer competing in Canada in the early 1980s as “The Galloping Grandfather”. And deLeyer is still riding and coaching today, even as he closes in on his 90th birthday.

I actually usually avoid watching “horsey” films as the vast majority are disappointing, cheesy, inaccurate or truly cringe-worthy. This documentary of deLeyer, Snowman, and deLeyer’s eight children, offers insight into show jumping (and life) in the 1950s. It is at times humourous, definitely heart-warming and inspiring.

If you’d like to learn more about deLeyer and Snowman, borrow the bestselling book by Elizabeth Letts, The Eighty-Dollar Champion.

— Sandi H.

Voracious!

Food and storytelling go hand in hand. From The Very Hungry Caterpillar munching along to Winnie-the-Pooh and his beloved honey. Harry Potter’s shepherd’s pie with a foaming tankard of butter beer to the mouthwatering descriptions of chocolates in the aptly named Chocolat.  And judging by the number of “novels for foodies” lists online and the fact that culinary fiction is hugely popular, I’m obviously not the only one who noticed this.

Butcher and blogger, Cara Nicoletti, has always been a bookworm. In her world, from childhood forward, books and food have always been a focus. Whether the books were shared with her by a family member during a particularly challenging period in Nicoletti’s life and meant to give solace, or simply by a friend who couldn’t wait to share their latest favourite read, she was happily surrounded by books.

In her book, Voracious: a hungry reader cooks her way through great books, Nicoletti shares her favourite works of literature along with food memories connected to each book, and recipes which compliment the meals featured between the covers.

She kicks things off with her childhood favourites, which include breakfast sausage from Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and salted chocolate caramels from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The middle section, which covers her university years, includes clam chowder (“Moby Dick”) and chocolate eclairs (“Mrs Dalloway”). Brown butter crepes inspired by Gone Girl help cap off the final “adulthood” chapters of Voracious.

I was intrigued by the concept of Voracious and had high expectations. Voracious was a quick, light read and I did enjoy Nicoletti’s memories however I was a little disappointed in the recipes. I’d hoped to find a few to try but in the end I wasn’t inspired enough to note more than one (chocolate-covered digestive biscuits…I love digestive biscuits and always stock up on Marks & Spencer’s brand when overseas).

Reading Voracious did get me thinking about some of my favourite books featuring food. Excluding food-focused memoirs written by Peter Mayle, Frances Mayes, MFK Fisher and others, there are still a number with memorable scenes…scenes which will send you hurrying to the kitchen for a snack or to get cooking.

One of my favourite classics is Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott. I have lost count of the number of times I have read it over the years. Oddly enough, I never progressed on to the others in the series. “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boys” just didn’t not have the same magic as Little Women.

In Little Women, the pages overflow with mentions of fluffy popovers (which the March sisters long for during tough times), rich steak and kidney pies, asparagus fresh from the garden, homemade currant jelly on freshly baked bread, sugarplums, petit fours with lemonade, soothing blancmange, and more. Oh, and there are some fairly comical disasters in the kitchen as well, to which we all can relate.

Going along with the theme in Voracious, I will share my recipe for popovers, inspired by the Christmas breakfast shared by the March family in Little Women. I love these when served warm with blackcurrant sloe gin preserves, but any jam will do.

— Sandi H.

Popovers

2 eggs
1 c milk
3 tblsp oil (I use Becel)
1 c all purpose flour
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450F.

Beat eggs until frothy. Mix in milk and oil. Gradually add in flour and salt, gently stirring to combine.

Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin tins. Fill each cup ½ full. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.

Serve warm.

Only in Naples

What is it about Italy?  I am not Italian nor do I have any Italian blood in my ancestry but like millions of others, I enjoy preparing Italian dishes to savour, dream of visiting Italy (especially when shovelling the driveway again after the snow plow rumbles through), contemplate trying to learn the language online (free through Mango Languages with your library membership, by the way) and love to read about those travelling or relocating to Italia.

So, when I spied “Only in Naples” by Katherine Wilson on the new books display at the Main Library, it was a no brainer. Charming cover, combination foodie memoir and travelogue, set in ITALY.  Yes, this was a book for me.

American Katherine Wilson, a Princeton graduate from a privileged family, travelled to Italy on an unpaid internship. Through reaching out to a local contact, she meets Salvatore Avallone and his family. She quickly falls in love with one while being completely and warmly embraced by the other.

This memoir is light and humourous with Wilson sharing embarrassing moments and charming ones. And she also shares very important facts with her readers. For example, “Never eat the crust of a pizza first.” This is a major faux pas in Naples, the home of pizza.  Apparently pizza originally was a dish only enjoyed by the poor but soon became widely accepted, especially after the visit of Queen Margherita of Savoy. Yes, that Margherita pizza you enjoy at Famoso in UpTown Waterloo was first made in Naples.

Through the close relationship she forms with her future mother-in-law, Raffaella, Wilson learns about the culture and traditions of the Neapolitan people.  She is guided through the “do’s and don’ts” of her adopted homeland. She is also painstakingly taken through the careful preparation of dishes which Raffaella swears her Salvatore will not be able to live without!  Not that he’d have to since the newlyweds end up setting up house in the same apartment complex as the parents.  And, you guessed it, Raffaella sends some of her “famous” dishes (which Katherine struggles to duplicate exactly) to them daily via the elevator. Now that’s takeaway with a personal touch!

“Only in Naples” is a heartwarming book and I did enjoy it although I have to admit the smattering of Italian words and phrases started to feel a bit affected by halfway through the book.  Recipes are included but I wasn’t enticed enough to try them.  The descriptions of the food, the sauces, the cooking methods, will send you scurrying to Vincenzo’s for provisions as soon as you can!

I have been lucky enough to visit Italy and yes, it was a wonderful as I imagined, and yes, you should go if you ever have the opportunity. We visited northern Italy for an all-too-brief time, lingering in Milan and at Lake Como and having the most incredible and memorable meal of our lives.  (my husband still says the best pizza he ever had was in Innsbruck, Austria but that’s another story) Oh, and YES, we definitely plan to return to Italy and explore many other regions.

I don’t have a traditional, Neapolitan recipe to share from my own collection at this time so another favourite Italian recipe will simply have to do!

— Sandi H.

Chicken Marsala

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into 3 pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp butter
1 onion, chopped
15 cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tblsp minced garlic
1 c Marsala wine
3/4 c mascarpone cheese
2 tblsp Dijon mustard
2 tblsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
Fettucine or mashed potatoes

Instructions

Heat olive oil in heavy, large skillet.

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook until just brown, then remove to a plate and cool slightly

While the chicken cools, melt 2 tblsp of the butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 2 minutes or until tender.  Add mushrooms and garlic. Saute 12 minute or until mushroom juices evaporate. Add wine and simmer 4 minutes or until the sauce reduces by half. Stir in mascarpone and mustard.

Cut the chicken into 1/3″ thick slices. Return to the skillet and coat with sauce. Cook for 2 minutes over medium-low heat until chicken is completely cooked through. Stir in parsley. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with buttered fettucine noodles or mashed potatoes. Smells divine and tastes even better! If serving with potato, I recommend roasted carrots as a side dish.

Battle of the Confections

How often do you have two books you’ve placed on hold come in at the same time AND they both have a slightly unique word in the title?

Last week The Confectioner’s Tale (by Laura Madeleine) and Confections of a Closet Master Baker (by Gesine Bullock Prado) came in for me at the library. One fiction, the other non-fic. One new, one oldish. Both I’d looked forward to reading. Both had engaging covers…not that we ever judge a book by that!

After a very technical decision process (eenymeenyminymoe) I started with the novel, The Confectioner’s Tale. The book bounces between Paris in 1910 and Cambridge (England, not Ontario) in 1988. A reluctant student, Petra, discovers a mysterious photo of her beloved grandfather. Setting aside her studies, Petra sets out on a quest to learn the truth behind the old black and white.

The back story follows a young man, Gui, who is struggling to survive in Paris in the early days of the 20th century. He works long days, labouring for the railway, sending the majority of his pay home, while dreaming of a better life. This “better life” would be in the kitchen of one of the top patisseries in Paris, learning on the job to become a top if not master baker. A chance encounter with the owner’s daughter and a dramatic rescue during the devastating Paris floods, sets Gui on the path to the career (and the woman) of his dreams. But, as we all know, “be careful what you wish for” are words to heed.

While I found the story, particularly that focusing on Petra’s journey through her grandfather’s past, interesting, the book really didn’t hold my attention completely. I could put it down BUT I was curious enough to read it cover to cover and crave a freshly made raspberry macaron. Onto Confections of a Closet Master Baker.

I learned about Gesine Bullock-Prado through a friend. Yes, the author is Sandra Bullock’s sister but this book isn’t about stars, Hollywood or the movie industry. Those topics are touched upon lightly as Bullock-Prado previously worked as head of her famous sister’s production company. While she and her sister are very close, the Hollywood lifestyle was not for Bullock-Prado. Basically, she hated it.

Bullock-Prado and her husband, Ray, who is also in the movie industry, made the leap. They quit their jobs, moved to Montpelier, Vermont and open a small bakery/coffee shop. Throughout the book, family recipes are shared as are memories, the majority focusing on Bullock-Prado’s mother, a former opera singer.

The stories she shares are in turns humourous and touching. The recipes sound wonderful although some are most definitely not for beginners. I flew through the book, enjoyed each shared memory and made note of a fair number of recipes I definitely want to try.

So, the winner of the Battle of the Confections? Confections of a Closet Master Baker. I’m looking forward to reading her other biography/memoir, “My Life From Scratch.” which I have already placed an interlibrary loan request for as it is not part of the WPL collection. For a list of Bullock-Prado’s cookbooks, visit http://www.gbakes.com/p/books.html

In honour of Bullock-Prado generously sharing family recipes for her favourite baked goods, I will do the same, sharing my great-grandmother’s recipe for devil’s food cake. She first made it in the late 1930s/early 1940s and it has been THE birthday cake recipe in our family every since. Enjoy.

— Sandi H.

Devil’s Food Cake

½ c Fry’s cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
½ c. warm water
¾ c butter, softened
1 ¾ c. white sugar
¾ c sour milk*
2 eggs, room temperature
2 ½ c all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375F.

Grease 2 – 8” round baking tins. Set aside.

In medium bowl whisk together cocoa, soda, and warm water. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Stir in sour milk and eggs. Blend in flour and then the chocolate-soda mixture.

Divide batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cakes pass the tooth pick test. Let cool slightly in tins before removing the cakes to cool on racks. When completely cool, ice with your favourite frosting.

* for the sour milk, we measure out the ¾ c milk, add a little lemon juice, and letting stand for a few minutes

Glen Campbell

campbellI felt so many things watching this DVD which follows singer Glen Campbell in concert after he publicly announced he was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

I felt sadness at the sometimes lost, befuddled look in his eyes, great respect for his bravery to go public with the news, and a real sense of joy and celebration in hearing his music again. (As I write this I have a couple of his songs running through my head, specifically “Galveston” and “Rhinestone Cowboy.”) Oh, and I laughed a lot too. The pop/country singer and his family display a wonderful sense of humour as they struggle to cope with the disease.

Glen Campbell initially planned a farewell tour of 5 weeks. But such was it’s success, it was extended to 150 concerts over 1 1/2 years. Somehow, because music was so deeply a part of him, he remained highly functioning on stage, even as he struggled with day to day life. But by his last performance, the Alzheimer’s was becoming painfully obvious. The film is made up of concert footage, life on the road, interviews with his family and friends, and snippets of his home life. I would really recommend I’ll be Me.

I got this DVD title from a great list of newer documentaries that WPL staff put together awhile back and was posted in this blog here. I consult the list from time to time when I am looking for something interesting to watch. You should check out the list too.

And also, should the mood strike you, the library has a number of Glen Campbell CD’s.

– – Penny D.