Monitor picks

Five things we think you'll really like.

Leave the garage

If you sing in the shower or regularly turn your silverware into drumsticks, Making Music is for you. Aimed at the recreational musician, the bimonthly magazine includes things like tips on overcoming butterflies when playing in public, and how to keep your flute sounding its best. Subscribe at making musicmag.com/concir, and don't forget to mention the Monitor for a discount.

A toast to life

How good a food writer is Nigel Slater? In Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger he can turn the most horrendous meal - and we're talking 1960s British cooking here - into a pageturner. His childhood memoir, now out in paperback, celebrates jam tarts, milky rice pudding, and the eponymous breakfast bread. Pull up a chair and enjoy!

A logical choice

During a recent Coldplay show in Boston, frontman Chris Martin unexpectedly leaped off stage and sprinted an entire lap around a venue of 19,000 people. (Security officials, off guard, were unable to catch up.) The agile singer parted waves of adoring crowds with a Moses touch and just made it back in time to finish singing "In My Place." It's an example of how the band has matured as a live act. See Coldplay.com for dates of the second leg of their Twisted Logic tour, starting January.

Reach a human (really)

Retail sales spike in December. So does the most vexing customer-service experience of all: entering the touch-tone maze of a company's "help line." Real help in reaching an actual person at 100 major firms comes from blogger Paul English, a software engineer in Arlington, Mass. His cheat sheet, at paulenglish.com, tells dialers when to ignore prompts, punch an extra digit, or bark "live agent!" Our hero.

Krall's yuletide bonhomie

Diana Krall's Christmas Songs includes tunes as romantic as a kiss under mistletoe ("Christmas Time is Here") and as playful as Prancer ("We'll frolic and play, the Canadian way," ad libs the British Columbia-born singer in "Winter Wonderland"). Her take on "Jingle Bells" swings, too.

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