Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Great Cookie Marathon of 2009

At 7:00 a.m. I finished my last batch of Christmas cookies. Over the last 2 weeks I've baked 8 different varieties of cookies, producing a total of 43 dozen cookies.

Lest you think I'm crazy, let me just say that I love to bake. And, given my ever increasing girth, and the fact that there are just 2 of us in this house, my opportunities for baking are limited. Thus, I always look forward to any chance to get out my cookie sheets.

Two such occasions are happening this week. Tonight, our Adult Book Discussion is completing its discussion of the novels of Jane Austen with my personal favorite, Persuasion. Since tomorrow is the anniversary of Austen's birth, we decided to close with an English Tea Party. My colleague Cheryl is providing scones and shortbread, and I'm making cookies.

Then, tomorrow, the staff of the library is bringing in cookies to share with our patrons, as a thank you for their support through the year.

Thus, two great excuses to indulge my baking obsession. Here's a breakdown of the cookies I made:
Swirled Peppermint - 10 dozen (they're quite small)
Spritz - 5 dozen (didn't turn out quite as well as I would have liked, but they're still tasty)
Pumpkin Oatmeal Bites - 7 dozen (also quite small)
Snowballs - 4 dozen
Snickerdoodles - 5 dozen
Lemon Ricotta Cookies - 3 dozen (my new favorite)
Lady Grey Cookies - 4 dozen ( A new recipe - Lady Grey tea is an ingredient - actually quite tasty)
Yankee Noodle Dandies - 2 dozen
Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies - 3 dozen

Now that my cookie marathon is over, I can now focus on my goal to read 100 books this year. Only 7 left.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sense and Sensibility

One of my jobs at my library is to coordinate and facilitate the monthly book discussion group for adults. My co-coordinator is the Director of the Adult Education program at the high school. Shortly after beginning this job we discovered that we both loved Jane Austen, and talked about how much fun it would be to spend time focusing on Austen's novels.

Well, we finally worked it out, and this fall will discuss 4 of Austen's novels: Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (our personal favorite). We didn't do Pride and Prejudice as we discussed that a couple of years ago, and time precluded us from doing Emma. The discussion of Persuasion in December will be held n time for Jane's birthday, so we're planning an English Tea party as a special treat that month.

When we planned this we were hoping that the regular book discussion participants would not mind us doing this, and that a few more people might join us for this special program. Incredibly, the response has been overwhelming! We decided beforehand that we would limit attendance to 20, since a larger group would make it difficult for everyone to participate. Between the regulars who were excited about the proposition and those who found out right away, we got our 20 participants within a week of announcing the program. The waiting list started to grow, so we decided to add an additional evening to handle the overflow.

So now, I'll be facilitating a discussion of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings this week! We are both thrilled that there is such an interest in books that we have loved for years.

My introduction to Jane Austen began when I was 15 years old, in my sophomore English class back in Nebraska. Our teacher had an incredible struggle controlling the class, and in an effort to bring some semblance of order had the boys read one book (Huckleberry Finn I think) and the girls another, Sense and Sensibility.

I think I was probably one of the few girls who actually finished the book, as class time was total chaos. I don't recall much about my opinion of the book at the time, but I suspect that I was far more sympathetic to Marianne than I was this time around. I've probably read it a couple of times since then, but reading it in preparation to lead a discussion gave me a new perspective. I've always loved Austen, but until now have never truly appreciated her wicked sense of humor and her turns of phrases. For example, when Willoughby leaves Marianne to go to London, she spends her days mourning his absence: "and this nourishment of grief was every day applied." What a great phrase! When the Miss Steeles first come to Barton park "they were prevailed on to stay nearly two months at the park, and to assist in the due celebration of that festival which requires a more than ordinary share of private balls and large dinners to proclaim its importance." I would never think to refer to the Christmas holiday in this way.

All this has given me a brand new appreciation of Austen, and I can't wait to hear what others in our group(s!) have to say about her. Some will be old friends, and some are now reading her for the first time, and I'm hoping for a lively discussion.

Here are a couple of websites that might be of interest to Austen fans. The first is a podcast from Penguin books on the enduring popularity of Austen. The second is a fan site dedicated to all things Austen:


Friday, July 31, 2009

Retro Girl

The book discussion group I help faciliate at my library is in the midst of a series on "Working." The books and discussion focus on the concept of work and what that means to many Americans. Last month's book was Working by Studs Terkel. It was a densely written, long book that was a compilation of Terkel's interviews with a wide cross-section of Americans and how they felt about their jobs. It was a tough book to get through, and I was worried about leading the group, but the discussion was excellent; one of the best I've attended.

This month's book is Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy. Written in 1963, Ogilvy, the founder of Ogilvy and Mather, one of the country's leading advertising agencies and the creator of many ads, including the Hathaway shirt man, gives advice on how to be successful in the advertising game. It was a pretty quick read, and interesting to consider how things have changed over the past 40 years.

Of course it was impossible to read this book without thinking about the AMC series, Madmen. One of the things I like about the series is how it shows a segment of society in the post-war, pre-Kennedy assassination years.

This was my early childhood, and the look and feel of the show brings back those early memories. Recently I've found a way to propel myself back into that time. The first is on the Ma
dmen website,
http://www.amctv.com/originals/madmen/ whe
re it's possible to "Madmen" yourself. Another site is a Facebook application where you can "yearbook" yourself into the past. So, here's me as a Madmen character, and my "1962 yearbook photo."

Monday, July 06, 2009

In Which I Hit a Snag

Earlier this year I wrote about my goal to read 100 books this year. At the time I was flying along and it was looking that I would possibly surpass this goal. Well, I kind of hit a snag, in the form of Working by Studs Terkel. The book discussion group at the library is reading this as part of a series on "Working in America" sponsored by the Maine Humanities Council. My co-facilitator and I are taking turns with this series, and it fell to me to lead Terkel's book.

Coming in at 589 pages, it is a dense tome, full of individual interviews with people about their jobs. First published in 1972, the book was a best-seller, and was even turned into a musical (really!). I didn't read it back then, and reading it now, it definitely feels somewhat dated. It would actually be interesting to find out what happened to the people interviewed, and how their lives turned out.

One of the things I picked up from the book is that most people are dissatisfied with their jobs, the exceptions being those who have some control over what they do. I think that control is important, but also is the ability to leave ones job behind at the end of the day and have a wide variety of interests and experiences that don't relate to ones work.

Anyway, now that Working is out of the way I'm hoping to get back up to speed on my reading list. I've already finished Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith, the latest in the No. 1 Lady's Detective Agency series, and I'm nearly done with The Time Thief by Linda Buckley-Archer, the 2nd in her trilogy.

So, as of July 6th, I've read 28 adult books and 26 Children/YA books, for a total of 54 in 2009.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Lilacs are probably my favorite flower. I've loved them since I was a kid and we had a huge lilac bush in front of our house. I love the color and the scent, and the fact that they mean I've survived the winter.

When we moved into our house 2 years ago one of the best surprises was the lilac bush right outside our bedroom window. If the weather is warm enough we can open the windows at night and have the subtle scent of lilacs wafting in.

Well, the lilacs have finally bloomed, but unfortunately it is a bit too cold to have the windows open at night, so I brought a few in and put them on my coffee table. It may prove to be a bit much, but I plan to enjoy them as much as possible.

Friday, May 08, 2009

100 Books in 2009

Since 2003 I have been keeping a list of Children's and Young Adult Books I read. There are no annotations, just title, author, and an asterisk if I really liked the book. No picture books, just novels and non-fiction. In 2003 and 2004 I read 107 books each. The number decreased to 86 in 2005, 54 in 2006, and 63 in 2007. Last year was an abysmal 44. I realized that part of that was due to the fact that in my new job I also need to read a lot of adult books since I do Readers' Advisory for all ages, plus I'm in charge of the Adult Book Discussion group. When I thought back of the adult books I read, I realized there were at least 40, bringing my 2008 total up to 84.

So, I decided that I would also keep track of all Adult Books I read, also. In addition I set a goal for myself to read 100 books this year.

As of today, I've read 22 Adult Books and 23 Children/YA books, for a total of 45 book so far in 2009.

Here are a couple of highlights:
Ron McLarty - The Memory of Running and Art in America
McLarty is an actor and frequent Books on Tape narrator. The Memory of Running was the first book produced as an audiobook before being published. Both novels are incredible stories of human interaction with rich characterization. McLarty also has a novel entitled Traveler, which I read last year. I highly recommend him, and if possible suggest you get the audiobooks. They are true treasures.

Linda Buckley-Archer - Gideon the Cutpurse (also published in America as The Time Travelers)
I'll be the first to admit I'm not a big fan of fantasy, and time-travel books just confuse me way too much (I only made it through the first 50 pages of The Time-Traveler's Wife). But Buckely-Archer's novel of 2 preteens, Peter and Kate who find themselves in 1763 London due to an accident at the lab where Kate's physicist Dad works, is a page-turner. There are 2 stories here - Peter and Kate's adventures in London, where they must find the mysterious Tar Man who has stolen their time machine, and their parent's in London who are trying to discover where their kids are. Peter and Kate are assisted by Gideon, a reformed thief who now works for a wealthy family. Not only must Peter and Kate find the Tar Man, but the must be sure not to say too much about themselves or the future, or risk changing the future. Their parents, on the other hand must deal with a police detective who is trying to learn the truth. Oh, and the kids also discover that they can "blur" themselves, meaning they disappear from the past and return to the present in ghostly form. It's all greatly exciting, and since it's part of a trilogy you will eagerly look forward to the next book, which I am currently reading. The second book is called The Time Thief, and the 3rd book is due this fall.

There have been other gems this year, and I'm glad I set this goal. It's helped to focus my reading and I hope will make me a better librarian.