Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Institute Library in New Haven, CT - Guest Post on The Emerald City Book Review

The Institute Library, New Haven, CT (Chris Wolak - WildmooBooks)

Lory of The Emerald City Book Review asked me to write a guest post on a New England library for her year long Reading New England challenge.

Please HEAD OVER TO HER BLOG to check out my contribution featuring The Institute Library of New Haven, CT, a subscription library that was founded in 1826.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Author Home: Herman Melville's Arrowhead

Yesterday I took the day off and headed north to to visit Arrowhead, Herman Melville's home in Pittsfield, MA. It was the last day of the season for tours at the historic home. They were closed the day before due to a storm that dropped about 12 inches of snow.

Arrowhead Herman Melville Home (
Melville lived at Arrowhead from 1850-1863, his most prolific years as a writer. His study is on the second floor, front right. His mother-in-law wanted the room for her bedroom but he claimed it for his study. The main house was built in 1784 and Melville added the side porch and the outbuildings.

Arrowhead - Herman Melville's Study (
Melville's study where he wrote Moby Dick and much more.
Even on a cloudy day the study gets great light and has a real warmth to it. The table pictured above  is similar to the one on which he wrote. Melville positioned the table against the window, which looks out toward Mount Greylock. The room just visible to the left is a small bedroom that Melville set up for his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne who spent a total of four nights there. Melville initially didn't let anyone else sleep there.

Mount Greylock in the distance as viewed from the parking lot.
The snow-filled clouds obscured much of Mount Greylock and my little iPhone was certainly no match for the landscape. Lore has it that a snow covered Mt. Greylock was Melville's inspiration for a white whale. Peter, my tour guide, said that in the mornings when there's better visibility it does look like a whale. The wispy fog that often hugs the mountain in the morning looks like sea foam, adding to the whale mirage.

Arrowhead - Herman Melville's Study (
Another view of Melville's study.
Just below Melville's study on the lower level is the parlor where guests would be received. Photography is not allowed inside Arrowhead, other than in Melville's study, so you'll just have to take my word for it that the walls are painted a pale green and the trim--ALL the trim--is painted hot pink which was THE new paint color in 1851 when Mrs. Melville made the color choice. Lest you think she was unhappy with the color combination, the Melville's also had special wallpaper made for their bedroom--a green and hot pink thistle pattern hand stamped on a creamy yellow background.

Arrowhead - Herman Melville's Study - Art Work (
This decorative tile that Melville purchased in Constantinople hangs in his study.

Arrowhead Herman Melville Home (
The back of the house.
The section of the back of the house, on the right with the three windows on the first floor, is the dinning room and above that are bedrooms. On the opposite side of the dining room, at the front of the house, is the family parlor.
Arrowhead Herman Melville Home (
Winter has arrived in the Berkshires!
Arrowhead opens again for regular tours in May and I highly recommend a visit. There are four special Candlelight and Chocolate tours of Arrowhead coming up in Nov & Dec if you're in the area. There's also The Melville Trail self-guided tour of 12 sites in Berkshire County related to Melville and his writing. And Edith Wharton's home, The Mount, is just a few minutes down the road as is the W.E.B. DuBois National Historic Site, which is a work in progress.

Tourism is up in the Berkshires this year due to J.K. Rowling setting Ilvermorny, the North American School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, on Mount Greylock. Here's an article on Mount Greylock's influence on the literary imagination.

780 Holmes Road
Pittsfield, MA 01201
(413) 442-1793         <---- Lots of great info on Arrowhead's website

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Dude Diet: Clean(ish) Food for People Who Like to Eat Dirty

The Dude Diet by Serena Wolf (WildmooBooks)

I'm not much of a cook. Neither is my wife. We have some fancier recipes in our repertoire, but for the most part we like pizza, mac & cheese, dogs in blankets, etc. We're both 50 year old women, but eat like we're teenagers and it shows on the waistline. Hence, my interest in this book.

When I was a bookseller one of the sections that I tried to avoid was food and cooking. For one thing, the books are usually oversized and heavy (spend a couple hours organizing such a section to see what I mean by heavy). The section was also chronically overflowing with new titles and newfangled subsections regularly popped up to complicate matters. It was a bitch to keep organized.

Then one day a coworker told me that her bedtime reading was cookbooks. Yes, she actually read cookbooks in bed at bedtime. I thought that was weird (and still do), but it made me see cookbooks as more approachable. Now, after spending time looking through The Dude Diet, I kind of get it. I was actually in bed last night looking through it to choose something to make this weekend, which made me remember my coworker.

Serena Wolf (WildmooBooks)
Wolf studied at Le Cordon Blue Paris
The recipes in The Dude Diet are familiar dishes with standard, non-frightening ingredients. The book starts out with some backstory on how The Dude Diet was born and offers basic nutritional information and guidance. There's a helpful chapter on pantry essentials--from oils and spices to suggestions on actual cookware and tools. After that the food begins:
  • Badass Breakfasts
  • The Classics (Mac & Cheese, Burgers, Lasagna, etc)
  • Game Day Eats (Buffalo Chicken Tenders, Tacos, Quesadillas, Dogs, etc)
  • On the Grill
  • Serious Salads
  • Take-out Favorites (Lettuce Wraps, Sesame-Orange Chicken, Pad Thai, Pizza, etc)
  • Sexy Sides
  • Back-pocket Recipes (Easy and reliable recipes like Idiotproof Chicken Breasts)
  • Chronic Cocktails
  • Sweetness (Desserts! I will be making the Dark Chocolate Power Bark asap)
The textbook size and quality of this book is appealing (not too big, not too small, and seems like it'll hold up well from heavy use) and I really like the photography by Matt Armendariz. He makes the food look real, tasty, and unpretentious.

I had planned on making a few of these recipes and including pretty (or disastrous) action photos with this post, but last month's unexpected arrival of Buddy Fitzwilliam, our new 50 pound puppy, derailed my kitchen plans (I blame everything on Buddy these days). But I do have post-it notes on multiple pages and plan on doing more cooking this winter, so you might actually start seeing foodish photos on this blog in the future.

Title: The Dude Diet: Clean(ish) Food for People Who Like to Eat Dirty
Author: Serena Wolf
Publisher: HarperCollins 2016
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

Bottom line: Serena Wolf is a chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Her simple recipes with standard ingredients make this a great cookbook for beginners or for busy folks looking to cook healthier yet tasty versions of fast food favorites.

TLC Book Tours Host (WildmooBooks)

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