Monday, October 08, 2012

One Day Off, Three Craft Projects Completed

This is Columbus Day weekend.  Or if you're Canadian, it's Thanksgiving Day. Either way, I got a three-day weekend out of it.  So, on Saturday, I focused on cleaning the house and doing laundry - the typical weekend things.  I also made it to the annual Craft Sale sponsored by the Friends of the Library.  They're a great group of people, and so supportive of what we do at the library, so I wanted to support them. And I picked up a couple of things while I was at it.

On Sunday, Steve and I planned a trip to Vermont. The original plan was that we would leave Sunday morning, then come back on Monday. Well, while we had a great time there, we decided that we'd rather come back on Sunday, so we'd have all day Monday to relax and get ready for the week ahead.

So, that means today was a bonus day.  After a
 morning walk I decided to use the time to do a couple of craft projects.  For the first project, I was going to make a football blanket for my grandson.  I saw it on Pinterest, and  since his parents are avid football fans, I thought it would be fun for him to lie on while mom and dad are cheering on the Broncos (his mom), and the Bears (his dad).

This meant a trip to the fabric store.  While there I also picked up a project sheet for a table runner made out of blackboard fabric.  I thought that would be perfect for potlucks, so bought the necessary supplies for that.  

For my third project I was making a journal cover for a class we're doing at the library this week on telling your family stories through writing and art.  I got the idea for my cover from this site, which I found on Pinterest. 

All three projects turned out okay; not perfect, but certainly usable.  Steve helped me with the pattern for the football blanket, and he did a great job.  Sewing the binding on the blackboard fabric went pretty well, but the corners were a bit tricky.  And the moleskin journal got a bit warped with the ModPodge and paint.  As a result, the "G" didn't stick down too well, and the paint kind of seeped in. 

But, it was  a great feeling of accomplishment. Now it's back to work - I only hope I can be as productive there as I was at home this weekend.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Two Book Reviews

Thanks to NetGalley I recently read two books on my nook that have given me a lot to think about.

The first, What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? is by Martin Thielen, a Methodist pastor from Tennessee. Thielen sets out to answer the question posed to him from an atheist friend. In part 1 he lists 10 things that Christians do not have to believe, in other words, they are things that many Christians do believe, but one can still be a Christian if he does not accept these ideas. In Part 2 he then lists 10 things that are absolutely necessary for the Christian faith. These are the bottom-line things that matter most - Jesus, his life, death and resurrection.

Thielen discusses each of these ideas clearly, thoughtfully, and succinctly. He refers to Scripture to make his points, and acknowledges that there are good, thoughtful Christians who may not agree with all of his arguments, but what really matters is that they accept the bottom-line beliefs expressed in part 2.

What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian would be a good book for church groups to study in order to help focus their conversations with non-believers, and would be a good book to give to a non-believing friend who wants to better understand Christianity.

After finishing Thielen's book I immediately began Revelation for Everyone by N.T. Wright. Wow! Revelation is probably one of the most difficult and often controversial books of the Bible. I've read it before and just kind of shrugged my shoulders, finding it often incomprehensible. Which is why when I come across someone who claims to understand it I'm often skeptical.

What I appreciate about Wright's interpretation is that he is open about not having the final say on Revelation. At one point he says, "This is a book designed to make you ponder and pray, not one designed to answer everything to your satisfaction." And ponder and pray, I did. I found myself writing down several quotes from this book to think about later.

Wright goes through each chapter of Revelation and gives his interpretation based on previous scripture and the context of when and where it was written. At one point he says "We are not dealing in Revelation with a single sequence of events...What we are dealing with is several different angles of vision on the one single reality."

To me, the main idea I took away from this book is that I don't really need to worry about what will happen in the future. As Wright says, "When God's mystery is complete, it will be the fulfillment of creation, not its abolition." In other words, the return of Christ will happen, and how it happens is a mystery to us now. What's important for me is to live my life in a spirit of worship and repentance, with a sense of expectation.

Wright presents his ideas clearly, but because there is so much to the book of Revelation, I feel that this is a book that requires more than just a single reading; it's something to re-read and really study.

Both of these books are published by Westminster John Knox Press.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Boxcar Children: Beginning

"One warm night four children stood in front of a bakery.  No one knew them.  No one knew where they had come from." So begins The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.  I first heard this story in second grade when my teacher, Mrs. Harris read it to our class.  I was enthralled by the story of the orphaned Alden children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny and the home they made in an abandoned boxcar, furnished with items found in the dump.

Though their parents are dead, the children are not entirely without family. Grandfather Alden, their father's father, is still alive, but due to a falling out with their father years ago, they have never met the man.  Well, the story ends (spoiler alert) with the Grandfather turning out to be a kindly, wealthy man who takes them in and raises them, moving their boxcar into his large backyard.

Chandler wrote this and 18 more stories about the Boxcar children.  At her death, the publisher, Albert Whitman continued the series with several different authors.  First published in 1942, they are still popular today.  

Now well-known children's author Patricia MacLachlan (Sarah, Plain and Tall) has written a prequel to the series.  The Boxcar Children: Beginning establishes the Alden children on a farm with their loving parents Kate and Ben.  It's the Depression and times are tough, but the Aldens are a loving and generous family, sharing what they have with any strangers who wander by. When a family on its way to move in with relatives has car trouble right in front of the Alden's farm, they wind up staying for several weeks, becoming close friends with the Aldens. 

The  estrangement from Grandfather Alden is explained by the fact that Ben decided to live on  Kate's family farm rather than going into business with his father.  When Ben and Kate are killed in a car accident the children are faced with the choice of going to an orphanage, going to live with their mean grandfather, or heading out on their own.  The story leaves with them setting out for parts unknown, eventually arriving in front of the bakery.

Basically, MacLachlan does a good job of telling the story.  Written with a vocabulary and style suitable to the early chapter-book readers who have read the original story, she establishes the background of the Alden children in a style similar to Warner's, albeit a tad more saccharine in spots.  My major issue is that the death of the parents seems almost anti-climactic, and the children's reaction is almost too stoic.  I understand that the story is for younger readers, and there might be concern about traumatizing them, but I think a little stronger reaction to their death might have been okay.  Overall, I felt this was a good story about a loving family, and a good way to explain how the Boxcar Children their start.  I would suggest that children still read the original stories first.

I read this as an Advance Reader copy on my ereader from Net Galley, so by the time the final edition comes out in September there may be changes in content and style.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Overdressed: Elizabeth Cline's blog

For those interested in learning more about Elizabeth Cline's research into the fashion industry and suggestions of how to avoid fast fashion, I've just discovered her blog:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

You wouldn't know this by looking at me, but I love fashion.  From Barbie dolls in my childhood to Seventeen magazine as a teen, and more recently, my Project Runway" obsession, I've always loved looking at clothing and imaging having a fantastic wardrobe.  Fortunately, I had a grandmother who was an expert seamstress, so many of my clothes came from her, then as I got older, I was able to make many of my own clothes.  

Over the past few years, however, I haven't had as much time for sewing, so most of my clothes have been purchased ready-made.  Being budget-conscious, I always try to buy my clothes on sale.  There have been many times when I've been excited about the "steals" on got on my shopping trips.

Elizabeth Cline was also a budget shopper.  In Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Clothing she describes spotting canvas shoes at K-Mart.  Marked down from $15 to $7, she couldn't resist, and wound up buying 7 pairs.  Of course, within a few weeks, they had basically disintegrated, and two pairs wound up never being worn because she got tired of them.

This led her to look a bit more carefully at the clothes we buy.  The cost of clothing has dropped tremendously in the past few years, and there is more of it. Companies such as Old Navy, H & M, and Forever 21 constantly change their inventories, enticing the consumer to shop more frequently to see "what's new."  And because it's so cheap, we don't feel bad about carrying home armloads of new clothes, only to wind up not wearing very much of it.  As a result, each year tons of clothing are discarded, much of it going to landfills.  

The drain on limited resources is astounding.  Most clothing now is made from polyester, an oil-based chemical.  Then, the clothing is made in factories, almost all of which are outside the United States, under working conditions that are less than ideal, to say the least.

Cline thoroughly examines each of these different facets of fashion by spending time with fashion bloggers who post videos of their clothing "hauls," talking to fashion industry executives in the Garment District of New York,  and visiting factories in China and Bangladesh.  She also takes a look at what happens to our clothes when we get tired of them by touring a Goodwill facility and a clothes recycling business.

Cline calls this trend of cheap fashion "fast fashion," and compares it to the past, when we made our clothes last as long as possible.  She looks at some alternatives to fast fashion, and visits some clothing companies that are placing an emphasis on environmentally-friendly, high-quality clothes.  She also spent time with a young woman who has made the decision to make all of her own clothes.  Cline went so far as to learn to sew herself, an activity she eventually found to be quite satisfactory.

I have to say that I found this book to be informative, thought-provoking, and inspiring. I'm looking at my clothes differently, and it's encouraged me to start sewing more of my clothes again.  I know that I'll definitely be more thoughtful in my clothing purchases, looking at the fabrics used, and the conditions under which they were created.  I'm also going to try to be satisfied with fewer clothes of higher quality.

 Reviewers have compared it to Michael Pollan, the writer largely responsible for changing the ways we look at food, and I would have to agree.  I'm strongly suggesting that all my fashion-loving (and bargain-loving) friends read it.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pioneer Beans

Back in the 70s  when we were hosting a family dinner at our house my mom served a new side dish that she called "Pioneer Beans."  I imagine the recipe came from one of the magazines to which she subscribed.  Anyway, everyone loved them, and the dish has been a staple at almost every family gathering for nearly 40 years now.

I don't make them too often because it's just the two of us, and my husband doesn't like them., but two weekends ago I was in Iowa for my niece's high school graduation, and my sister had a big batch of them for the party.  Delicious - especially with the pulled pork my brother-in-law had prepared for the event.

So, this past weekend when our church was having a potluck cookout I decided to bring them.  I had several requests for the recipe, so here's my mom Etta's recipe for Pioneer Beans:

Etta's Pioneer Beans
1/2 lb. hamburger
1/2 lb. bacon
1 small onion, chopped
1 (16 oz) can Lima Beans
1 (16 oz) can kidney beans
1 (16 oz) can white beans
1 (16 oz) can pork and beans
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. ketchup
1/4 c. mustard

Brown hamburger, bacon and onion together.  Drain.  Add remaining ingredients.  Stir together.  Bake one hour at 345. Or, you can do what I do and cook it on high in the crockpot for a couple of hours, or until heated through.

A couple of notes - instead of cooking the bacon with the hamburger and onion, I baked the bacon in the oven at 425 on top of a baking rack in a foil lined cookie sheet for about 15 minutes. (This method was given to me by my sister Lori, who learned it from watching The Barefoot Contessa.  It's the only way I make bacon now.)  After it cooled I chopped it up and added it to the rest of the ingredients.

So that's it.  Super easy, filling, and a good side dish for large gatherings and summer barbeques - especially if you use the crockpot.  One word of warning - when my husband and I got married my mom was having the families over to our house afterwards.  She put the beans in the crockpot, then went to the church.  When they got back home, the beans had overflowed and were all over.  So just make sure you don't overfill the crockpot.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Lately it seems that I've been doing a lot of juggling.  For 5 months I juggled being a Children's Librarian and Library Director.  Now, I'm down to just one job (thank heavens), but there's still a lot of juggling going on.  In addition to my job, church, and household duties, there are also sewing projects, books I want/need to read, and now that it's spring, gardening.

So while feeling a bit stressed, I really thought I had it all together.  Until last night.  I had to work late because I needed to attend a selectmen's meeting.  I'm driving home at about 8:00 and am about 2 miles from home when I start thinking about the program the library's doing tomorrow night to celebrate the opening of the movie "The Hunger Games."  Then it hits me - I was going to make 2 backpacks for our "reaping."  And the fabric was still up in my sewing room, not only unsewn, but uncut.  As a matter of fact, it was still in the bag.  I had planned to whip them up last weekend, but as the beautiful Sunday afternoon beckoned me outside, all sewing plans when out of my head, as well as any thoughts of the backpacks.  I had plenty of time to do it on Monday evening, but they were no longer in any part of my brain at that point.

So, I rushed in the house and tore upstairs to make two backpacks.  My long-suffering husband truly deserves sainthood as he watched me once more in full panic mode.

I had only intended to make simple drawstring bags with grommets so they could go on your back, so I got them done in about an hour, but realized that I didn't purchase enough of the cording for the second backpack. So, it's off to Walmart to find a suitable replacement (why, oh why did they take the fabric departments out of Walmart?).

It was my first time using a grommet pliers, and a couple of the grommets aren't too perfect, but I hope they'll do.

And my lesson learned is that I really need to start keeping thorough to-do lists.  On paper, and not just in my head.

Here are the backpacks:

Monday, January 02, 2012

Reading List, 2011

Here it is, the list of books I read in 2011.  It wasn't a great year in terms of quantity, but there are some really good books on this list.  Looking it over, I realized that my favorite books this year were non-fiction -  A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz, The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure, and At Home by Bill Bryson. It was also a year of audiobooks; I'm not really an auditory person, but the 1/2 hour drive to work is a good opportunity to get more books read.  

Another addition to my reading formats was my nook., which I received  for Christmas last year.  It wasn't so much that I really wanted it, but knew that in my job it was going to be an important element and wanted to make sure I was on top of things.  I was surprised by how much I enjoy reading on it; I don't event really notice much of a difference.  The only issue is in books with several full color illustrations; in that case print (or a color nook) would be better.

Another thing is that for the first year, the number of adult books and juvenile/young adult books is about equal.  After 20 years as a children's librarian, I'm now moving on as a library director.  What this means for my job is that most of my reading will be for our adult book discussion group, which I will still be co-leading.  I'll still try to keep up with juvenile/young adult literature because I enjoy it, but it won't be the main focus of my reading. Unless I manage to establish that  Young Adult/Adult Book Discussion Group.

So, here's the list.  If you've read any of these, let me know your opinions; if you see something you think you might like to read, feel free to ask my opinion. 

Books Read 2011
Adult Books:
1.    Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout
2.    Catherine of Aragon – Giles Tremlett
3.    I Remember Nothing – Nora Ephron (audiobook)
4.    In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks – Adam Carolla (nook)
5.    Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
6.    Girls in Trucks – Katie Crouch (nook)
7.    Uptight and in Your Face – Nina Brown
8.    A Red Herring without Mustard – Alan Bradley
9.    The Wilder Life – Wendy McClure (nook)
10.  Death of a Chimney Sweep  - M.C. Beaton
11.  Friendship Bread – Darien Gee
12.  The Street of a Thousand Blossoms – Gail Tsukiyama (audiobook)
13.  A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan (audiobook)
14.  This Life Is in Your Hands – Melissa Coleman
15.  The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t –Robert Sutton
16.  Bossypants – Tina Fey (audiobook)
17.  A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
18.  Every Last One – Anna Quindlen (audiobook)
19.  A Tiny Bit Marvellous – Dawn French
20.  This Is Where I Leave You – Jonathan Troper
21.  Wheat Belly – William Davis (nook – advance reading copy)
22.  The Mistress of Nothing – Kate Pullinger
23.  The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace – Gary Chapman (nook – advance reading copy)
24.  A Jane Austen Education – William Deresiewicz
25.  The Greatest Generation – Tom Brokaw
26.  The Wives of Henry Oades – Johanna Moran
27.  The Paris Wife – Paula McLain (audiobook)
28.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safron Foer
29.  The Magicians – Lev Grossman
30.  Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian – Scott Douglass
31.  The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus – Sonya Sones
32.  The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party – Alexander McCall Smith
33.  The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
34.  Rules of Civility – Amor Towles
35.  At Home – Bill Bryson (nook)
36.  Life Itself –Roger Ebert (audiobook)
37.  Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Helen Simonson
38.  I Am Half Sick of Shadows – Alan Bradley
39.  Then Came You – Jennifer Weiner (audiobook)
40.  Sun Stand Still – Steven Furtick

Adults Books re-read for Adult Book Discussion Group:
1.    The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
2.    The Help – Katherine Stockett

Juvenile and Young Adult Books:
1.    Around the World in 100 Days Gary Blackwood
2.    Finn – Matthew Olshan (nook)
3.    The Cardturner – Louis Sachar (nook)
4.    My Fair Godmother – Janette Rallison (nook)
5.    Spaceheadz – Jon Scieszka
6.    The Talent Show – Dan Gutman
7.    Magic Below Stairs – Caroline Stevermear
8.    Finally – Wendy Mass
9.    The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis – Barbara O’Connor
10.  Masters of Disaster  - Gary Paulsen
11.  Eggs over Evie – Allison Jackson
12.  Saving the Baghdad Zoo – Kelly Halls, Major William Summer
13.  Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters –p Natalie Standiford
14.  Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? Louise Rennison
15.  A Long Walk to Water – Linda Sue Park
16.  A Tale Dark and Grimm – Adam Gidwitz
17.  Moon over Manifest – Clare Vanderpool (nook)
18.  Hero – Mike Lupica (nook)
19.  The Brixton Brothers: The Ghostwriter Secret – Mac Barnett
20.  The Talented Clementine – Sara Pannypacker
21.  Penny Dreadful – Laurel Snyder
22.  Clementine and the Family Meeting – Sara Pennypacker (nook Advance Reader Copy)
23.  The Romeo and Juliet Code – Phoebe Stone
24.  Mr. Popper’s Penguins – Richard and Florence Atwater
25.  Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares – Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
26.  Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart – Candace Fleming
27.  Beauty Queens – Libba Bray
28.  Cloaked – Alex Flinn (nook)
29.  Then I Met My Sister – Christine Hurley Deriso
30.  Yours Truly, Lucy B. Parker: Sealed with a Kiss – Robin Palmer
31.  Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School: Fear Itself – Andrew Clements
32.  Hidden – Helen Frost
33.  The Strange Case of Origami Yoda – Tom Angleberger
34.  Matched  - Ally Condie
35.  The Girl who Was on Fire – Leah Wilson, ed.
36.  Troublemaker – Andrew Clements (audiobook
37.  Junonia – Kevin Henkes (audiobook)
38.  Touch Blue – Cynthia Lord  (audiobook)
39.  Wonderstruck – Brian Selznick
40.  Lexie –Audrey Couloumb is
41.  Trapped – Marc Aronson
42.  From Willa with Love – Coleen Murtaugh Paratore
43.  A Plague Year –Edward Bloor
44.  Nerd Camp – Elissa Brent Weissman
45.  Tangled – Carolyn Mackler

Juvenile Books re-read for Child-Adult Book Discussion Group:
1.    Shiloh – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
2.    Because of Winn-Dixie – Kate diCamillo
3.    No More Dead Dogs – Gordon Korman
4.    Love That Dog – Sharon Creech
5.    The Trolls – Polly Horvath 
6.The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (read for Adult Book Discussion Group)