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Now You're Cooking
Betty Lazarus, a librarian at the Gates of Prayer Synagogue in Metairie, was concerned about the cookbooks and family recipes Jewish families lost to the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina, so she appealed to the Association of Jewish Libraries for replacements. Her request made its way to a Jewish congregation in upstate New York that had just published Divine Kosher Cuisine Cookbook, a collection of recipes in both traditional and innovative forms by award-winning As You Like It Kosher Catering.

In cooperation with its publisher, Wimmer Cookbooks of Memphis, Tenn., the Congregation Agudat Achim of Niskayuna, N.Y., donated 2,000 copies of the cookbook to families along the flood-ravaged Gulf Coast. The cookbook originally was a project to benefit educational programs at Congregation Agudat Achim.

The book contains more than 400 traditional and contemporary Jewish recipes spanning tastes from America, Europe, Asia, Mexico and the Middle East. It also includes 200 color photographs, instructional diagrams and tips for party planning. There's even a chapter on home entertaining that includes buffet and seated menus for parties of 10 to 60 guests, guidelines for figuring out quantities of food, alcohol and paper goods needed for any size party, and instructions for how to create multiple-level displays for your food table.

The hardcover book has an inside spiral that allows it to lay flat when opened to a recipes. Dishes range from turkey rack soup to Tex-Mex latkes to pinwheel Mandelbrot with lots in between.

It is available to everyone. It costs $32.95, with discounts available for orders of six or more. To purchase, log onto www.divinekosher.com, call (518) 344-1190 or email divinekosher@nycap.rr.com.

Bring Back the Birds
Hurricane Katrina scared away many birds before she hit -- a phenomenon mentioned by people from Garland Robinette to comedienne Ellen Degeneres to those interviewed for Douglas Brinkley's book, The Great Deluge. The destruction the storm wreaked on the city, the downing of innumerable trees and the inhospitable condition of neighborhoods in the wake of the hurricane seem to have kept the birds from returning in their previous numbers.

A Nashville, Tenn., artist and gallery owner wants to change all that with a project aimed at restoring bird habitats by replanting trees in New Orleans. Michelle Herbert, co-owner of Shimai Pottery and Gifts in Nashville, has started a Bring Back the Birds project with New Orleans gallery owner Gina Campo-Brannan of Art for the Soul (818 Howard Ave., Suite 101, 558-7770) in which Herbert has enticed artists from Nashville to make and donate ceramic birds, tea cups, plates and paintings of birds, with proceeds from their sale benefiting New Orleans' recovery efforts. She started the project in March, and her goal is to gather 1,000 bird artworks in all.

"The birds are to be sold in order to purchase or plant trees that have been lost in that area so the wildlife has a place to return to," Herbert says. "It's something small, but I think the town will be happier if there are birds and squirrels and wildlife there."

Some of the items are being sold in Nashville and some at Art for the Soul, so locals can buy a ceramic bird for $25 here and the proceeds will go toward buying and replacing trees.

Herbert says she's not sure what sparked her inspiration for the program, but she knew it was something she was supposed to do. Since April, she has been sending Campo-Brannan artworks with bird imagery to sell at Art for the Soul.

"The idea was deposited into my head as a whole," Herbert says. "The little phrase 'A thousand birds' just went through my head. The next morning I woke up and (realized it meant) a thousand birds to New Orleans." Although she just opened her gallery with business partner Becca Ganick in October, Herbert has worked tirelessly to interest people in the program.

"I've had people bringing me bird images and decorated birds, and customers have even asked me to give them clay so they can make birds," she says. Herbert, who also teaches a kid's clay camp, says she has interested some of the youngsters in making clay birds, with an option of donating some for a show and sale that will be held at her gallery this week. "I'll exhibit the kids' work, and mainly the birds so I can tell the story of what we're doing. ... A couple of girls (in the class) who in a very heartfelt way wanted to be my extra set of hands helped," she says. "The two little girls made 41 birds.

"I didn't really think out how long it would take to get a thousand birds or how many hands it would take for me to make them." She has been gratified by the reception her idea has had in Nashville and the outpouring of help from artists and the public. "We're having a good time with it and it creates a nice sense of community," she says. "Everybody who hears about it wants to help in some way. It makes us feel New Orleans is not that far from here, and it makes us hope that if something like [Katrina] happens here, the rest of the world will not forget about us."

Save Big
United Tile (5600 Jefferson Hwy. W-1, Suite 164, Harahan, 520-8390) is holding a weeklong grand-opening celebration Saturday, June 24 through Friday, June 30, featuring savings on everything in its large showroom and selected specials every day.

Shoppers can receive a 20 percent discount on all in-stock items Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday. For every 100 square feet of floor tile purchased on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, shoppers will receive a free bag of grout and a free bag of thin set.

In addition, visitors every day will receive complimentary refreshments and a chance to win a door prize of up to 200 square feet of any in-stock, plus free installation. Radio station 106.7 will entertain customers who visit the store between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The new United Tile store, located on Evans Road between Jefferson Hwy. and River Road, offers more than 1,500 square feet of porcelain and ceramic tile, natural stone, custom stone countertops, glass tiles, hardwood floors and installation products and includes 500,000 square feet of material in stock. It is a wholesaler and retailer that caters not only to contractors and builders but also the general public. Store hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Go Green
Global Green USA this month opened its New Orleans Resource Center (841 Carondelet St.; www.globalgreen.org) to provide local residents expertise concerning green building free of charge.

The center will provide information about environmentally friendly building materials, free design advice and strategies for building, remodeling and repairing homes in an environmentally conscious way. The center also will provide publications about green building and healthy homes, a directory of local design and construction professionals who have expertise in green building, technical information for design and construction professionals and information about financial incentives and rebates for energy conserving appliances and products. In addition, the center will provide educational workshops dealing with green-building topics.

Global Green USA is the American affiliate of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's Green Cross International and is dedicated to green building for affordable and healthy housing, schools and communities. The New Orleans resource center is open to homeowners, renters, property owners, design and building professionals.

As part of its New Orleans reconstruction project, Global Green is hosting a sustainable design competition sponsored by actor Brad Pitt as part of its "Healthy Homes, Smart Neighborhoods" initiative. More information on that project is available on the group's Web site.

Happy Renovators
A landlord who had a rental shotgun damaged by 2 to 3 feet of Katrina's floodwaters will discuss how he is taking the opportunity to make upgrades while he repairs the structure during a Renovators' Happy Hour sponsored by the Preservation Resource Center's Operation Comeback at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 21.

Participants can take self-guided tours of the shotgun, which is in the process of being renovated with upgrades such as central heat and air and Internet hookups, at 220-22 S. Prieur St. The tour will be followed by a talk by Smith, who owns three other rental properties in the block, at 6 p.m. Smith and Operation Comeback representatives also will supply information about how to obtain blighted property and work with lenders and more.

Admission to the program is $5. Wine and refreshments will be served.



Help for the Park
City Park and it's Botanical Garden has long been an inspiration for residents and visitors who go there to enjoy the 1,300 acres of flora and learn about native plants and garden plants. Hurricane Katrina struck a crippling blow to the park, covering it with 4 feet of water, damaging 1,000 trees, tearing up the garden and disabling the park's irrigation system.

Brickman, the country's largest commercial landscaping firm, came to the park's rescue last month by dispatching three experts to repair the irrigation system as its philanthropic contribution to the city's rebuilding efforts.

Tim Taylor, a New Orleanian now living in Texas, led the three-man team, which had to create a map of the underground system to make the repairs. "The City Park's irrigation system was in really bad shape," Taylor says. "None of the valves were working, the low-voltage wires were cut in several places, and we couldn't trace all the lines at first. Fortunately, we ... ultimately succeeded in getting the irrigation system running again. The project was really rewarding."

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