Books on Bargains, Bunheads, Booze, Basil, and Broccoli


I love non-fiction books. They’re written with care about every subject imaginable, and there’s no end to what we can learn from them.

Anyone who doesn’t like Lara Spencer would kick a puppy. She’s warm, pretty, and smart, and even better, she knows how to find a bargain. She vows I BRAKE FOR YARD SALES, and she’s happy to help the rest of us find hidden treasure, too. A former host of “Antique Road Show,” Lara knows that there’s often value in other people’s discards. A woman of boundless energy, in addition to contributing to “Good Morning America,” and hosting “Good Afternoon America,” Spencer is also an antiques dealer and interior decorator. She learned from the best, her mom, who taught her the three R’s of bargain hunting: Rescue, Recycle, and Reinvent. Flea markets, auctions, thrift shops, and even the occasional dumpster are all fair game. The result is a set of four 1950’s armchairs, bought for $10- for all of them!- which Lara now uses in her kitchen; a gorgeous black leather bench, just $40; and an expensive looking Danish modern tall-backed chair, just $350. There are plenty of clues to finding good quality, beautiful photos, and Lara’s signature breezy style and good humor. You just can’t find a better buy than this book.

Have you had a chance to catch “Bunheads,” on ABC Family? There’s no better place to see BALLET BEAUTIFUL than this charming new show that stars two of my favorite actors, Sutton Foster and Kelly Bishop (opening photo). Former New York City ballet dancer Mary Helen Bowers, who worked with Natalie Portman for “Black Swan,” promises that we can achieve the toned body of a ballerina without the rigors of their grueling training schedule. Bowers feels strongly that a sustainable health regime is all about our bodies being flexible, and about the confidence we attain from following the three parts that comprise her routine: mindset, methods, and lifestyle. She advises us on how to set attainable goals, and provides detailed descriptions of the ballet moves which will help us target problem areas, and attain the strong core, elegant posture, and defined muscles of a dancer.

Marco Pasanella takes us to the sometimes insane and always fascinating world of the professional wine merchant in UNCORKED. Pasanella gave up a successful career as a designer of hotels and housewares to follow his dream of selling wine. A graduate of Yale, and former teacher at Parsons School of Design, Pasanella took a giant leap of faith and bought a five-floor historic waterfront building in Manhattan. He converted the top floor, complete with a breathtaking view of the Brooklyn Bridge, into a stunning home for himself, his wife, and his son. When no one wanted to rent the ground floor, he prepared for the opening of Pasanella & Son Vintners. Little did he know the world into which he had entered, which featured a  varied, and often bizarre, cast of characters, and a Byzantine set of rules.

As a member of the brown thumb club, I’m in awe of anyone who can successfully garden. Gayla Trail promises us EASY GROWING, concentrating on cultivating organic herbs and edible flowers in small spaces. Trail became intrigued with the idea of not only growing non-edible flowers on her small rooftop garden, but also producing food she could eat and enjoy.To encourage others to try our hand, Trail has included DYI projects, with scores of from one to five, depending on the degree of difficulty involved. There are more than two hundred varieties of herbs and edible flowers included, along with instructions on preservation, preparation, and even a few easy recipes. Inspiring for those of us who would love to have fresh basil for our tomatoes, as well as those who are accomplished and want to widen their knowledge.

RIPE, by Cheryl Sternman Rule, features one-hundred and fifty photographs by Paulette Phlipot that are so delicious, they could convert even the most adamant “meat and potatoes man.” This cookbook is so much more than just the seventy-five delightful recipes which are included. For one thing, it’s categorized by color. So, the purple and blue section features both eggplant and blueberries, two ingredients not usually grouped together. The writing is positively poetic, as befits the bounty of the fruits and vegetables that are included. For example, I love cauliflower, which many people find bland and boring. But Rule totally gets it, and waxes lyrical, calling it “Ivory and sophisticated.” She also includes some great tips, “Old turnips can turn bitter, so eat them on the fresher side.” An absolutely great addition to the gift closet.

As much as we love our romances, mysteries, and adventure novels, sometimes there’s just nothing like a terrific non-fiction book for an invigorating change of pace.

To purchase a featured book on Amazon click on the title in RED

Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist and an avowed bibliophile. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. Michall is a voting member of National Book Critics Circle. www.michalljeffers.com

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