Sunday, 30 March 2008

March 30th, 2008 The Art of Letter Writing

Do you enjoy writing letters? I love to, but I think I’m part of a dying breed. People find it easier to just hop on the computer and send a quick email. The message gets there instantly and there is no postage fee. Email serves its purpose, but it doesn’t come close to the enjoyment I feel when I sit down to write a letter. It’s almost like an art. First you choose the paper and the envelope, an appropriate sticker to seal it (I have a sticker for almost every occasion) and then an attractive stamp. I enjoy receiving letters as much as I enjoy sending them. I like to know what family and friends are up to and to hear their innermost thoughts. It’'s a chance to connect with people overseas as well as right here in your hometown. Here’s to the lost art of writing letters.

The Art Of The Handwritten Note: A Guide To Reclaiming Civilized Communication by Margaret Shepherd

If you enjoy receiving letters, you may also enjoy writing them. This book offers advice on penmanship, keeping a straight margin and choosing appropriate stationery that fits your style. A book review I read about it described my feelings about letter writing perfectly –you no doubt recognize the importance of the note that comes in a unique envelope with distinct handwriting and possibly a decoration or two. We don’t carry this title but we can borrow it for you from out of town, through our Interlibrary Loan service.

Just A Note To Say…: The Perfect Words For Every Occasion by Florence Isaacs

This book has letter suggestions for a wide range of situations. It covers everything from adoption to how to write a get well note to a cancer patient. There’s advice on how to enhance a card or letter using special quotations, photographs, or a newspaper clipping, such as this article. There’s also a chapter on selecting stationery and writing instruments.

Great Personal Letters For Busy People: 501 Ready-To-Use Letters For Every Occasion by Dianna Daniels Booher

This book features sample letters that can be easily adapted to your own use. It covers a wide range of topics such as births, engagements, divorces, thank you notes, apologies and consumer concerns. We don’t carry this title, but we can borrow it for you from out of town.


I don’t think you can ever have too much stationery. There are companies out there creating something for everyone. There’s paper to celebrate your hobbies or the seasons. My favourite manufacturer is the Lang company from Wisconsin. I have to admit I have a bit of a fetish for their note paper, cards and sticky note pads. You can find
the perfect stationery for almost any situation. Visit them at
If you like beautiful envelopes you can’t beat Leanin’Tree. Take a look at the greeting cards on their website at I know of a certain postman in England who looks forward to seeing mail from me, just to see the envelopes.


As well as a pretty envelope and sticker, the right postage stamp can dress up your letter even more. The stamps of today are miniature works of art featuring everything from flowers, Canadian vistas or a smiling Queen Elizabeth. There is a new line of celebration stamps featuring fireworks, which I think are perfect for special occasions such as a birthday or anniversary. You can also create a stamp of your own, perfect for adding to a wedding invitation or baby announcement. If you’re looking for a sneak peek at what stamps are coming out next, subscribe to Canada Post’s Details magazine or check the posters at a Canada Post outlet. Source:

If you weren'’t a letter writer when you started reading this I hope I might have interested you in taking it up. It’'s fun, relaxing, you can do it anywhere and it’s nice to add your own brand of beauty to the world. It’s worth it just to make someone smile.

Karen Craib, Library Technician

Sunday, 23 March 2008

March 23rd, 2008 Las Vegas

In 1980 we took our first trip to Las Vegas and what I remember the most, was feeling very young compared to the other tourists. Things have changed over the years, we're much older and most of the undeveloped areas now contain casinos or malls. Many of the old casinos are gone, only to be replaced by bigger and flashier ones. Some things don't change - days are still sunny, a drive in the dessert still captivates me and it's always exciting to be there.


If you've ever flown in or out of Las Vegas after dark, you know that it really is the city of lights. If you're in downtown Vegas, visit the Neon Museum for a tour of historic neon signs. They have a website at For more history on the neon lights of Vegas, there is an interesting chapter in the book Las Vegas An Unconventional History by Michelle Ferrari. One of the reasons neon became so big there was due to the fact that they could obtain cheap electricity from the nearby Hoover Dam. Here's my personal tip, to those of you who wear glasses. Next time you're looking out of your hotel room in Vegas, try taking your glasses off. The lights are amazing. You can actually do the same thing every December, with your own Christmas tree.


According to Fodor's Las Vegas 2006, buffets first began with the El Rancho's Midnight Chuck Wagon Buffet. The cost was one dollar, a far cry from today's buffets. With celebrity chefs popping up, food on the strip is changing. However if you get away from the strip, you can still find great deals. If you’re looking for dining ideas before you go, check the Where To Dine section of the Frommer’s travel guide, Las Vegas by Mary Herczog. For restaurant reviews by people like you, go to the Trip Advisor website and do a search under Las Vegas restaurants. You can discover wonderful little places like the barbeque dinner at Ellis Island. Mmm! Source:


Las Vegas still draws celebrities, but this too has evolved. Rat Pack members Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra have been replaced by newer brat pack members Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Being frequented by celebrities is a big draw for new casinos, such as the Palms. If you’re a fan of Sinatra or Hilton, we carry books such as Sinatra: TheLife by Anthony Summers and Confessions Of An Heiress by Paris Hilton.


I can work the topic of coffee into almost any article. Vegas is known for providing free alcohol to gamblers, but they’ve made some healthier changes in the past few years. Today many of the casinos include a Starbucks or Seattle’s Best. I find this refreshing. Instead of gambling you can have a coffee, read a book and relax. It’'s almost like being at home. If you’ve never tried it, you can search for coffee shop locations in Google. Just click on Maps, then Find Businesses and type coffee houses in the What box and Las Vegas in the Where box. You’ll find names and addresses as well as a map. Source:


If show prices are getting out of your range, there are plenty of free attractions. If you enjoy flowers visit the atrium at the Bellagio. This breathtaking display which is changed five times a year, features approximately 40 trees, 1,500 shrubs and 10,000 blooming plants. It takes a team of 100 people working around the clock, about a week to set up each new display. It'’s well worth it. If you’re in Sam’s Town Casino and hear the howl of a wolf, you know the Sunset Stampede is about to begin. The show chronicles the Western pioneers and features music, laser lights and shooting fountains. It’s held in a beautiful indoor park complete with falls, trees, animatronic birds and animals and plenty of wooden benches. Source:

I hope you enjoyed this column and to quote Elvis, Thank you. Thank you very much. Happy Easter everyone. Karen has left the building.

Karen Craib, Library Technician

Sunday, 16 March 2008

March 16th, 2008 The Afterlife

Do you believe in an afterlife? What do you think it is like? I like to think there is something more after we leave this life and I enjoy reading about what possibly lies ahead. I read the first book listed below in two days and it inspired me to write this column.

by Gabrielle Zevin

I absolutely loved this book and found the afterlife concept fascinating. It's classified as a young adult book, but anyone who is young at heart would enjoy it. Fifteen year old Liz Hall is killed by a hit and run driver. She awakens to find herself on a ship of newly deceased people, headed for a place called Elsewhere. Here she meets her grandmother who died before she was born. On Elsewhere you begin at the age of your time of death, then age backwards. When you’'re seven days old you return to earth to be reborn as a baby. Elsewhere has observation decks, from which you can view family and friends on earth. New arrivals spend a lot of time there. There's also a place forbidden to go to from which you can actually communicate with the living. The story was a mixture of happiness and sorrow.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Susie Salmon is a fourteen year old victim of rape and murder. If you can get over the initial shock of that, it’'s a wonderful book. The story is told by Susie as she watches over family, friends and even the man who killed her. In the 10 years following her death, she watches as her siblings grow up and her parents struggle to come to terms with her murder. She witnesses her mother's withdrawal and her father's obsession with finding her killer. Like her family Susie has to learn to accept her death, while she inhabits a Heaven that's composed of all the things she enjoys. If you're a local book club member keep in mind that this title is also available in a book club bag. There are plans to release The Lovely Bones as a motion picture in 2009.

What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson

I haven't read this book, but I recall the impact the motion picture had on me. It follows the afterlife of Chris Nielson, an author who survives a car accident, only to die at the hospital. Even after viewing his funeral, Chris finds it hard to believe he is dead. He is given a spirit guide, a deceased family member named Albert. He finds that Heaven is what you make it. One of my favourite parts is when Chris was reunited with their family dog, Katie. When last seen Katie was a sixteen year old dog that was dying. Now she's young and full of energy. When his wife Ann commits suicide, she is sent somewhere else. Chris gets Albert to lead him through lower regions to find her soul living in darkness in a run down version of their family home. His guide explains that hell is a personal purgatory for those who can't forgive themselves. Will Chris choose to spend eternity there with her?

Peony In Love by Lisa See

A new novel by the author of Snowflower And The Secret Fan. This is the story of Peony, a cloistered young girl living in Seventeenth Century China. While attending an opera performance of The Peony Pavilion, she meets and falls in love with a young poet. Although she is already promised in marriage, she secretly meets with him. Knowing they can never be together, Peony emulating the main character in the opera starves herself. On her deathbed she discovers that the poet she loves is actually the man she was betrothed to. After her death Peony becomes trapped in the afterworld to wander as a tortured soul. She haunts the poet and manages to infiltrate his future marriages. It'’s a love story with a glimpse of the Chinese afterlife.

I hope you’ve found a book you might be interested in reading. Enjoy the rest of the weekend and Happy St. Urho’s Day!

Karen Craib, Library Technician

Sunday, 9 March 2008

March 9th, 2008 Take Ten!

Has reality set in leaving you with less desire to maintain that New Year's resolution to exercise regularly 2008? Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in your decreased desire to get out of bed or take the time after work to fit in your fitness workout! This is usually the time of year when we can find ourselves reflecting on how realistic those resolutions really were! The scholars of time management have repeatedly revealed to us in history that although we're a species with the greatest of intentions, we do have a tendency to set unrealistic goals at times.

Time seems continually to play a vital factor in actually fulfilling our desire to get in to the healthy habit of exercising regularly. Taking the time out of our already work and activity filled days can leave us feeling like it's almost impossible to fit anything else in to them! There is light at the end of this struggle as recent research strongly proves that shortened periods of exercise are very helpful in maintaining health and fitness. One of the greatest barriers for people wanting to maintain a healthy fitness program is their perception of the time needed to invest in it. Another factor in deterring people from committing to an exercise routine is they're not able to leave their home for long periods of time. Although there are a number of great club and gym facilities in Thunder Bay with very reasonable membership rates, some people just find it too difficult to get out regularly to enjoy these facilities. Having a newborn baby, running a home based business or caring for an elderly parent in one's residence can result in individuals spending more time at home.

Until recently, research suggested that a person was required to perform cardiovascular exercise for at least fifteen minutes three times a week to elevate the heart rate in order to acquire any health benefits. Today, health and fitness researchers worldwide have been promoting fitting shorter periods of exercise in to daily activities of living. The overall goal is to help people realize that fitting in a few short periods of exercise for five to ten minutes at a time is very beneficial to our overall health. For example, walking several flights of stairs instead of taking an elevator every day, which takes approximately seven minutes, lowers the risk of developing heart disease by sixty percent. Recent studies have proven that putting up bright informative signs at a shopping mall to encourage using stairs instead of elevators has increased the amount of people actually using the stairs by six percent!

If we were able to dedicate even 10 minutes a day to exercise, think of how drastically that would reduce our percentages of developing sedentary related physical ailments. By simply walking around the block for 10 minutes at lunchtime you could proudly say I've started an exercise program! If you haven't been exercising for a long period of time, and of course if you're starting something quite different than your body is used to, it is always strongly recommended to consult your medical doctor prior to initiating a new fitness regime. This is very important for people that have previously diagnosed medical conditions requiring regular check-ups.

So, instead of feeling overwhelmed about where to start with exercise, remember you can always fit 10 minutes in to your day to get started. For those that want to try a ten minute work-out plan at home, the Thunder Bay Public Library abounds with resources to assist you in doing so. If you would like to try a work-out DVD, consider some of the following all produced by Anchor Bay Entertainment: 10 Minute Solution Yoga, 10 Minute Solution Fitness Ball Workout, and 10 Minute Solution Blast Off Belly Fat. Each of these DVDss consists of five 10 minute workouts that you can individualize to your personal needs. If you're interested in reading about the benefits of short periods of exercise, try these titles: The 10-Minute Rejuvenation plan: T5T, the revolutionary exercise program that restores your body and mind by Carolinda Witt. Another great book we have on this topic is a brand new release called 10 Minutes in the Morning: The 28-day yoga & Diet Plan by Barbara Currie. These are just a handful of the resources that the library has to help you get started on a home exercise plan! So have fun, and remember all you need to do to get started is TAKE TEN!

Raegan Rocco, Library Assistant

Sunday, 2 March 2008

March 2nd, 2008 Cookbooks

Whatever happened to celery sticks with Cheez Whiz? When I was growing up this was something you would serve company. Today’'s appetizers and dishes are much more elaborate, probably due to the influence of cooking shows. I actually don’t enjoy cooking but my Mom was a good cook. I remember the smell of bread baking. I can almost taste it, hot from the oven. If you’re looking for ideas here’s just a little taste of the cookbooks we carry.

A Man, A Can, A Plan, A Second Helping: 50 Fast Meals To Satisfy Your Healthy Appetite
by David Joachim. This is the cookbook for the man in a hurry, featuring simple recipes with few ingredients. You’'d be surprised what you can make. For example chicken plus cans of mushrooms, chicken broth and a can of sour cream and onion chip dip can be turned in chicken stroganoff. There’s also a cold salad using canned mandarin oranges and water chestnuts, sesame ginger salad dressing, Ramen noodles plus a few other ingredients. This book is designed with hard cardboard pages so it can stand up and be easily be wiped off should you splatter on it. It’s even shaped like a can and
was the inspiration for this column.

Cooking For 1 Or 2 by Barbara Kyte and Katherine Greenberg. Cooking for one or two people may not feel as gratifying as cooking for a crowd. Some people may even think why bother I’ll just pick up a frozen dinner. This book has recipes for single servings of soups such as Manhattan Clam Chowder. For an entrĂ©e try Summer Squash Casserole or Cornish Game Hens With Orange Nut Stuffing. Just find something delicious to make, then take the good dishes out of the china cabinet and enjoy.

Ken Kostick’s 3 Easy Steps To Great Meals by Ken Kostick is written by one of the co-hosts of the CBC television show What’s For Dinner? Each recipe has only 3 simple steps to follow. You’ll be making things like Poached Pear & Apple Salad With Gorgonzola Cheese. If you like to make your own salad dressings, the Exotic Mango Dressing , featuring
peppers, honey and orange juice sounds delicious. For your main course there’s a recipe for Turkey & Apple Saute With Cinnamon.

Dinner & A Movie Cookbook by Claud Mann. Dinner & A Movie airs on Friday nights. While watching a movie, you cook a themed dinner. The cookbook features 100 favourite recipes from past shows, along with trivia about each movie. While watching When Harry Met Sally, you can dine on What Am I, Chopped Liver? a dish made with chicken livers. I prefer what I call the When Harry Met Sally salad at our local Cronos restaurant, it’s delicious. That’s not the real name, but you can ask for it by that. If you’re curious it’s a rotini pasta salad with pesto vinaigrette. While watching Star Wars, try the Obi-Wan Cannoli. Did you know that Sissy Spacek was originally considered to play Princess Leia? If you ever played hooky, you can watch Ferris Beuller’s Day Off while dining on Can’t Go To School, I Falafel. Last year I had my first falafel and was hooked from the first bite. Life doesn’t get much better than chickpeas and garlic.

Church Suppers: 722 Favorite Recipes From Our Church Communities
edited by Barbara Greeman. Are you looking for something to bring to your next church supper, or a potluck dinner with friends? This book features recipes solicited from churches across the United States. The recipes serve an average family, but you can increase the amount for large gatherings. There’s a big selection of salads including a potluck standard the dreaded molded salad. There’'s a Christmas Cranberry Salad that’s molded and one especially for children – the pretzel salad. If you’re searching for a new dessert try the Earthquake Cake or the Impossible Pie, it makes its own crust.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found something you’d like to sink your teeth into. Have fun cooking.

Karen Craib Library Technician