Have Books, Will Travel: From Fable to Table

Booklovers, rejoice! The holidays are just around the bend, which means meals. Plain and simple. Family and friends will gather around tables far and wide to partake in all manner of meats, potatoes, peas and pies. Nanas, grannies and great aunts will break out the recipes that have no exact measurements whatsoever and we’ll all salivate at the mere thought of seconds…okay, thirds…and an extra slice of cake. That’s right, as much as the holidays remind us of what it means to take a moment to be thankful for those near and dear, they also allow us to pig out. And in honor of that tradition, we bring you a list of Aesop’s fables made famous for their mention of food. Also, foxes. Aesop had a thing for foxes. Let’s dig in!

The Fox and the Crow

The Fox and The Crow

Our first mention of the fox finds the mischievous creature creeping up on a crow who had the good fortune of finding a piece of cheese. Never one to let a delectable morsel get away, the fox resorts to flattery as a means of coaxing the crow out of its snack. Sure enough, the shenanigans work, and the crow ends up dropping the cheese smack-dab into the snout of the enemy. Tsk tsk tsk. Keep a keen eye on those who shower you with empty acclaim.

Moral of the story:The flatterer lives at the expense of those who will listen to him.”

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Fictional Feasts

Last autumn, I had the pleasure of visiting family in England and staying with my cousin and her husband in their cozy 16th century home in a tiny East Sussex village not far from the town of Lewes.

On a chilly, clear evening after a full day of walking and exploring the area, my cousin prepared us a warm, delicious meal of daube and homemade bread accompanied by a glass of hearty red wine. Our dinner conversation started with “What is daube?” – a classic Provençal beef stew – and “Where did you get the recipe?” – from French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David. By the way, Virginia Woolf (who had a weekend home in Lewes and sadly drowned in the nearby River Ouse) wrote about ‘Boeuf en Daube’ in her 1927 novel To the Lighthouse.

“… an exquisite scent of olives and oil and juice rose from the great brown dish as Marthe, with a little flourish, took the cover off. The cook had spent three days over that dish. And she must take great care, Mrs. Ramsay thought, diving into the soft mass, to choose a specially tender piece for William Bankes. And she peered into the dish, with its shiny walls and its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats and its bay leaves and its wine …” Continue reading

Books I Am Thankful For

I love books, but there are certain books that have had such an impact on my life that I couldn’t imagine the world without them.  Here is a list of five books for which I am truly thankful and the reasons why.

c67cf2f90ca165077b59c29f2c9ef7f5A Dog Called Kitty by Bill Wallace
I first read this book when I was in third grade. The book is about a young boy who is afraid of dogs until he meets a dog who answers to nothing but the word “kitty.”  A Dog Called Kitty is the first book that made me both laugh and cry.  I proceeded to loan it to all my friends.  I even read a portion of it over the phone to try to get one of them interested in reading it.  Now that I have a nephew in fourth grade, I have given him a copy to read and can only hope that he will love it as much as I did.

0446310786To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
No one will find it surprising that I first read this book for my high school freshman English class.  When we started reading it, I had just finished The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss. So when Scout’s teacher comments that she doesn’t understand how Hitler could treat Jews the way he does because they are such nice people, all the while the town she lives in is condemning Tom Robinson for a crime they know he didn’t commit just because he’s black, I became so upset with that character I threw the book across my room. Thus, To Kill a Mockingbird became the first book in which I acted out one of my favorite Dorothy Parker quotes, “This isn’t a book to be tossed aside lightly. It must be thrown with great force.”  It was the first book that I was forced to read in school that I actually enjoyed. Continue reading

Turkey Time on the Tube: Classic TV Thanksgiving Episodes for Which We Give Thanks

One of the best parts of watching a TV series is developing closeness and connection to the characters: laughing with their comedic moments, rejoicing in their triumphs, crying in their sad times. Just as the holidays bring out the best (and sometimes, worst) in each of us, TV characters go through very similar situations. As Turkey Day approaches, I thought I’d give thanks for some of the best television episodes with a Thanksgiving theme:

Cheers: Thanksgiving Orphans (1986: Season 5, Episode 9)
This memorable Cheers episode culminates in one heck of a Thanksgiving food fight. Carla hosts, while Frasier is grumpy, Norm has turkey issues, and Diane is, well, Diane. Dressed as a Pilgrim, no less. It’s a true classic.

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Will & Grace: Moveable Feast (2001: Season 4, Episode 9)
Will & Grace tackled Thanksgiving several times, but this one’s my personal favorite. A “progressive” Thanksgiving dinner, so to speak, has Will, Grace, Jack and Karen schlepping from one house to another with only an hour at each home.

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The West Wing: Shibboleth (2000: Season 2, Episode 8)
From light-hearted moments such as pardoning a turkey to a deeper message regarding the freedom of religion, this West Wing episode truly shines, topped with a poignant scene in which the President gives Charlie a gift.

Dexter: Hungry Man (2009: Season 4, Episode 9)
Dexter fans will likely agree that this is one of the series’ true high points. While not a traditionally happy Thanksgiving episode, the performances given by each member of the unfortunate Mitchell family are unforgettable.

And last but not least…

Friends (All of them!)
No Thanksgiving TV list would be complete without Friends. From “The One With the Rumor” (and Brad Pitt!) to “The One With All the Thanksgivings,” nobody quite did Thanksgiving like the Friends. And we’re thankful for that.

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There are so many Thanksgiving-themed TV episodes that it was hard to list just a few. What do you think? What are your favorites?

Jason is Email Marketing Coordinator at Half Price Books Corporate.

You can follow him on Twitter at @jasonapermenter.

Another Thanksgiving Tradition — Family Games & Puzzles

It’s THAT week again, and if your table isn’t set and ready to go, I am here to assure you, you still have plenty of time. Dig into the inner reaches of your closets and playrooms and dig up all the fixin’s…for November 18-21 is National Games and Puzzles Week! Oh, you thought I meant that other thing that is happening this week?

 I know, everyone is thinking about turkey and pie and early morning trips to your favorite retailer for Black Friday deals, but the folks at The Million Minute Family Challenge encourage, nay, beg you to spend a few precious moments playing this week!

If your family growing up was anything like mine, a few minutes of play often ended in intense challenges, plotting, scheming, team-picking and utter ridiculousness with the likes of: all-ages charades, a 42 dominoes tournament, a dining room table-turned jigsaw puzzle station- all non-digital, no technology necessary and memories 100% guaranteed to last a lifetime. Why, it seemed like the food and stress of the holiday was all but forgotten. 

 

Need some suggestions? Check out some of the great selections in the puzzles and games section at your dear ol’ Half Price Books! Go forth, choose a few games or puzzles you love, old and new, and GET PLAYING!

Are you a jigsaw junkie? Here’s a record of one personal jigsaw journey which keeps me laughing to this day:

 
 

So which game or puzzle is your family’s favorite? — Becky

Becky is Marketing Communications Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @Bexican75.

5 Holiday Movies to Rev Up Your Holiday Cheer

Thanksgiving is only days away and that means the start of the holiday season– and with that, holiday movies! This is a great time for movies; some of the big Oscar contenders will be hitting the theaters and there are always a list of holiday favorites that just need to be watched. Without fail, each year, we break out a stack of holiday DVDs to get in the spirit. Here are my house’s Top 5 Holiday Movies:

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

How can this not be at the top of everyone’s list? Frank Capra has created a timeless holiday classic starring James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore. This classic takes a look at a business man who, while contemplating suicide, is visited by an angel who shows him what a difference he has made for his family and those around him. A very heart warming holiday classic! And if you don’t own it on DVD, you can count on NBC to air it on TV after the Thanksgiving Day parade.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

It’s good to have a little off-beat fun for the holidays. Bridget Jones’s Diary is very funny with a well written script that will have you laughing the entire time. Renee Zellwegger plays Bridget Jones, who has started keeping a diary and promised herself to always tell the complete truth. Things get interesting when she starts dating her disreputable boss, played by Hugh Grant. Enter Academy Award winner Colin Firth as the mild mannered, engaged-to-be-married Mark Darcy, who starts falling for one time neighbor Ms. Jones. If you have never seen this laugh-a-minute movie, I suggest you put it on your holiday movie list.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Holiday movies include Thanksgiving, and this is THE Thanksgiving movie. Family man Neal Page, played by Steve Martin,  just wants to get home for Thanksgiving. After his flight is canceled, he meets Del Griffith, played by John Candy. Going the same direction, they decide to take the trek together to get home for Thanksgiving by what ever means necessary. Of course they are polar opposites, as Del is never short on conversation and bad jokes– so you can imagine the hilarity that ensues between these two great comedians! A must see classic for turkey day!

Home Alone (1990)

This is the film that made kid star Macauley Culkin. Kevin has been accidentally left at home while his family is off to spend the holidays in France. He milks having the house to himself for all it’s worth, ordering pizza, jumping on the bed . . . every kid’s dream. Discovering that there are two burglars trying to rob the supposedly empty home, he rigs the house with makeshift booby-traps to fend them off. This  fun holiday movie was directed by Chris Columbus (Mrs Doudtfire, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and written by legend John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.) Note: This 90s classic is now available on Blu-Ray.

A Christmas Story (1983)

Ok, this one is worth watching, even if you are tired of the 24 hour Christmas Story marathons on Christmas Day. This is a fun story about Ralphie, who wants  only one thing for Christmas: an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle! There is something everyone can relate to in this film, whether it is awkward gifts, bullies at school, Christmas dinner or using profanity for the first time. This is a great holiday movie for the entire family!

What is your family’s holiday movie tradition? Your favorite holiday flick?

— Jim