This blog details some of my experiences with Library materials. You can also check out my Staff Picks reviews or take a look at the books I've set out on the Staff Picks Shelf at the Library. Some of the items I review on this blog are also pinned on Pinterest. - Sara, Electronic Services Librarian
Sat, Nov 9, 2013
I have already testified my love of Ilaria Montagnani’s kickboxing DVDs. When my coworker told me a patron requested we purchase her “Forza” samurai sword workout this summer, I was very happy because for years I had wanted to try it.
This DVD has become another of my favorites. Though there’s not much cardio effect, it’s really great for the arms and is quite enjoyable and definitely unique. Since I don’t have a sword, I use a longer, spare hatchet handle (a friend said a sawed-off broom handle worked well for her). You’ll need to concentrate on using both arms equally each time you move the sword, and to maintain proper body alignment and form. Ilaria gives instructions before the workout and also offers cues and reminders during the workout to help you with this. If you pay attention to maintaining correct form, you will get a really good arm and abdominal workout.
Tue, Aug 20, 2013
I started baking bread somewhat regularly when I was given the first edition of Carol Field’s The Italian Baker. Since then I have learned a lot about bread making and highly recommend the following books to those who would like to learn strong fundamentals or to improve their existing technique.
Each recipe includes instructions for making the dough by Hand, by Mixer, and by Processor, and is prefixed with a description of the bread’s origins and characteristics. Measurements are provided in both volume and weight (oz/g). Some have starters/bigas while others are straight bread recipes. Over the course of more than a decade and a half I have made a very large number of the recipes.
The Ciabatta (p.79) turns out wonderfully, but the dough is VERY wet: you will want to mix and knead it in a wide bowl rather than trying to turn it out on a counter. When making the Rosemary bread (p.141), I place the salt in a mortar with the dried rosemary and grind both together rather than incorporating the rosemary whole. The Ricciarelli are phenomenal (p.378: soft almond paste cookies from Siena). Most recently I made Pane all Cioccolata (p.191) and Pane al Latte (p.192), sandwiching the dough from the latter to make Milk and Chocolate bread (p.194; pictured above). The resulting loaf was barely sweet, but still quite good – particularly when it came warm from the oven or was lightly toasted and buttered.
All the recipes call for active dry yeast or fresh, compressed yeast, and include a yeast-activation step, unlike the next two books that call for instant yeast and a straight incorporation.
Bread: a baker’s book of techniques and recipes, by Jeffrey Hamelman. This and the next book really changed the way I bake bread, teaching me to understand dough development rather than just follow a recipe. My loaves became much better as a result of what I learned. I started being able to trouble-shoot problems very successfully when friends and family asked me for baking advice, and to rescue my own loaves when dough just didn’t feel right.
Crust and Crumb: master formulas for serious bread bakers, by Peter Reinhart. These really are serious recipes that can take a lot of time. The book also discusses technique. Peter Reinhart is a huge authority in the bread-baking community.
King Arthur Flour online recipes. I love King Arthur Flour’s recipes. Their Sourdough Pizza Crust is my favorite crust recipe, and allows me to use the discard dough from my sourdough starter. Dinner guests rave about this crust, and often request the recipe. Since it requires sourdough starter, I sometimes simply gift frozen pizza dough balls to them. Recipes from the King Arthur website also have the bonus of baker’s reviews and notes on alterations that can’t be obtained from a cookbook. However, King Arthur Flour also has recipe books that are available through InfoSoup, including The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion
CAUTION: Once you start making your own bread, you may no longer be able to eat loaves from the store.
Tue, Jul 2, 2013
Late this winter while ordering books for the Library, I selected Preserving with Pomona's pectin: the revolutionary low-sugar, high-flavor method for crafting and canning jams, jellies, conserves, and more. I had not heard of it, but apparently this pectin has been around for a couple decades. In contrast to typical pectins that require a ton of sugar to set up, Pomona combines pectin made from citrus peels with calcium powder to create the gel. Consequently, you can use very low or even no sugar in your jams and preserves.
I am finally low enough on my stock-pile of freezer jam to consider berry picking and jamming again this summer, so I intended to get this book again and purchase some pectin so I could write a review of the process in this blog. However, the hold list for this title, understandably, has been going strong and I haven't been able to get my hands on it. I just ordered another copy for the Library, so when that arrives it should speed up turnover on the hold list. Even though I couldn't do a personal review and evaluation, since we are in the jamming season I wanted to promote the book as an option for those who enjoy trying new jam recipes (I remember a bunch of them sounded really good!) and also for those who are interested in very low sugar options.
The pectin is quite expensive. However, I remember the book said a package makes quite a bit and the calcium water can be kept covered in the refrigerator for quite a long time. Even though it is pricey, if you figure in the cost of sure-jell and tons of bags of sugar for the traditional method (even with the low-sugar sure-jell), it probably comes out pretty even in comparison. If you get on the hold list for the book, it may be a while before it comes in for you; however, you can get a preview of the information on the Pomona's Universal Pectin website.
Mon, Apr 29, 2013
I am more than half way through MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre’s 8 week Rushfit program. I love it, especially how quickly I see gains in strength without injuries or soreness. (I should add that I am only doing the workout portion and never even read all the way through the nutrition aspect of it.)
When this first arrived at the Library I checked it out and quickly realized I liked the workouts enough to buy the set. I wear grappling kneepads for two of the videos, but you really can get by with just hand weights and, for some exercises if you are working on a hard floor, a couple of Pilates mats piled on top of each other.
When I first started following the Beginner schedule, I wondered if my 5 pound weights would be too much; by the end of the second week they were already way too light. If you watch any of the preview trailers on the Rushfit website, you can get the false impression that they are loud, frenetic workouts. Georges St. Pierre’s trainer, Erik Owings, is actually very calm and speaks quietly and presents a very enjoyable and challenging workout. I really like his approach to functional fitness and his stress on moving with the correct form and listening to your body while pushing on. In the Beginner schedule there is one day a week where you just do some kind of cardio for 20 or 30 minutes (I usually do my Kung Fu Kickboxing video) and then another day where you do some cardio plus one of the Rushfit videos. There is at least one rest day each week.
The set consists of the following titles
One of my favorites is “The Fight Conditioning Workout”; there are a lot of fast combinations with shoots and sprawls as well as some grappling movements on the floor. "Full Body Strength and Conditioning" is another favorite. Most workouts consist of the same 10 min warm-up followed by a 30 min workout and then the same 6 minute cool-down.
Fri, Mar 22, 2013
(The bold links go to the InfoSoup Library catalog.)
Kickboxing is probably my absolute favorite workout. I have tried several different instructors, and my favorite, far and away, is Ilaria Montagnani. She is very no-nonsense but not at all grumpy. Her Powerstrike series is a full-body kickboxing workout, whereas the Bodystrikes series utilizes kickboxing moves to focus entirely on legs and glutes.
If you want to try Powerstrike, I highly recommend that you go through the introduction where she describes the proper form and technique for different kicks, blocks, and punches. You want to be sure you are working from your core and not just moving your arms and legs. I own all the Powerstrike DVDs except #7 -- #6 is my favorite (preview #6). I don’t plan to purchase #7, her newest release (preview #7): the workout is good, but the music is way too overpowering & off-rhythm with the combinations, and the location changed from a pretty, airy workout room to a cheesy, brick-walled set. I won’t be purchasing the recently released BodyStrikes #3 for the same reason, though it’s a great workout. #1 and #2 are fantastic (preview #1; preview #2).
My other favorite kickboxing DVD is The Kung Fu Kickboxing Workout by Chinese martial arts champions -- and siblings -- Tiffany and Max Chen. This one is incredibly enjoyable; the workouts are only 20 minutes, versus 50 minutes. I would recommend getting accustomed to kickboxing through Ilaria Montagnani’s videos before attempting this one; it is not a beginner workout even if you start with The Basics. Incredibly effective, you can choose from three different workouts or do all of them in a row if you are feeling really strong and ambitious. Workout 1: The Basics consists of five, three-minute rounds of combat-oriented exercises. Workout 2: The Kicker is a series of 30-second standing and floor calisthenics. Workout 3: The Killer consists of multiple exercises in repeating cycles: an exercise in the cycle is done for 10 reps and then you proceed to the next exercise for 10 reps, etc., until all the exercises are done. You then repeat the whole cycle again, this time for 8 reps each, then the whole thing with 6 reps each, 4 reps each, 2 reps each, and finally 1 rep of each exercise in the cycle (this preview contains parts of The Killer at the 4 rep stage, whereas this preview contains combinations from all three of the workouts).
If you enjoy a tough workout without instructor-perkiness, kickboxing DVDs from the Library might be for you, too. If you are just getting started with kickboxing, a good starter video is Kickbox: Core Cross Train with Patricia Moreno (preview). This is a lightweight but good introduction to kickboxing with a lot of rest time built in to help you get through it. She talks a lot throughout the workout, but only to give good direction and keep you going.
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