Sunday, 27 December 2009

All that Remains

As hard as it is to believe Christmas was just two short days ago and I’m sure I’m not the only one with leftovers in my fridge. We’ve reached decision time: should I just reheat them as they are or make them in to a whole new meal? I usually make a turkey pot pie out of my leftovers, but sometimes I get a craving for something different.

Where do you find recipes for leftovers? Often they seem to be passed down through families rather than recorded which can make them difficult to find. I searched the library catalogue and found a couple of titles to share. I also did a search on the Internet and have some websites to share with you. We’ll start with the books and then move to the Internet resources.

First up is Recipes for Leftovers by Jean Pare, this title can also be found in Meals in No Time (a 3-in-1 Cookbook Collection). It’s part of the Company’s Coming series and includes such mouthwatering recipes as: Turkey Strata, Asian Turkey Noodle Salad, and Potato and Cheese Scones. I willingly admit to scanning for recipes that contained my most likely leftovers.

The second book I found is checked out so I haven’t had the opportunity to flip through its pages. Based on the reviews Cooking from the Hip: Fast, Easy, Phenomenal Meals by Cat Cora looks fabulous. Recipes are divided in to four sections those mentioned in the title (fast, easy, and phenomenal) plus fun! I took at the index (available on the website) and found some interesting recipes. The beef, chicken, and vegetable stock recipes each have the choice of easy or phenomenal. This intrigues me because sometimes you really just want quick and easy stock, but at other times you have the luxury of taking your time to make a more interesting stock.

After searching our catalogue I decided to jump in to an internet search. I love recipe sites, so I had some places I already knew I wanted to start. The first one is the BBC’s (British Broadcasting Corporation) Food site. Once there I searched for leftovers and found the recipe I will probably make Boxing Day: Conchiglie al forno (baked pasta shells in a cheese and Christmas leftovers sauce) sounds like the perfect way to use up leftover turkey and stuffing. It’s essentially a pasta casserole with the main pieces of the Christmas dinner baked in!

The next website I visited was one of the first recipe sites I was introduced to by my high school English teacher – Epicurious. I did another keyword search for leftovers and found Stuffed Rolled Tortillas. The recipe author suggests that tortillas are a great way to make any leftovers interesting and I think she might be on to something there. Another recipe that came up was fried rice, you can use both your leftover rice and meat from a previous meal to make something new.

The final website I visited in this quest was Allrecipes. Like Epicurious, it is associated with cooking magazines, but it also has a lot of recipes provided by its community. So if you want to share your grandmother’s best pie recipes this is likely the best place to do so. When I searched for leftovers on Allrecipes I got by far and away the most results. I then tend to order them by rankings to see which people liked the best. Turkey salad, chicken enchiladas, and white cheese chicken lasagna all came up as highly rated recipes using leftovers. There’s a lot to explore on all these websites and in the cookbooks, so enjoy your leftovers this year!

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas, Children's and Youth Services Librarian at the Brodie Resource Library –

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Sunday December 20th Holiday Gift Giving

With Christmas almost upon us, now is the time for panic to set in about those last few gifts to purchase and the unexpected gifts for people who somehow fell off the original list. Are you feeling the pressure? While walking around the mall recently, I was noticing how most people had far fewer parcels and loads of purchases than what I would expect for this time of year. This reminder of the difficult economic year we’ve had started me thinking of the solution I used in order to make the holidays merry for everyone on my list while sticking to a budget. The answer was simple: home-made gifts. You don’t have to be a crafter to pull this off, just be creative. Here are some suggestions from the shelves of the Thunder Bay Public Library. Whether you are the type to plan out gift making strategies ahead of time, or wait until the last minute to throw something together, hopefully the following suggestions will provide some inspiration.

For those of you who are crafters, there is a wide variety of items to make and give. Knit and crochet accessories seem to be really popular this year. For ideas and patterns on making your own socks, toques, mitts, and many other personal and home accessories check out KNITTING A KISS IN EVERY STITCH: CREATING GIFTS FOR THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE by Nicky Epstein. This book also provides some new and unique ideas for holiday gifts and group knitting projects. But if you’re not into yarn and still want to be crafty you could make your own cards (ULTIMATE CARDMAKING: A COLLECTION OF OVER 100 TECHNIQUES AND 50 INSPIRATIONAL PROJECTS by Sarah Beaman), get creative with gift wrapping (GIFT WRAPPING AND GREETING CARDS: CREATIVE IDEAS FOR PERSONALIZING GIFTS AND CARDS by Lydia Darbyshire), or use your skills with a digital camera to create lasting memories for a loved one (99 DIGITAL PHOTO ART IDEAS by Annabel Williams).

To ease the strain on the environment this Christmas, why not strive to have a green holiday this year? The Library has many resources with ideas for environmentally friendly gift giving – such as THE BIG GREEN BOOK OF RECYCLED CRAFTS by Susan Sullivan or I’M DREAMING OF A GREEN CHRISTMAS by Anna Getty.

My personal favorite for home-made gifts however, is baked goods. Go digging through your recipe box for old favorites or come by the Library to browse our cook book selection for inspiration from HOLIDAY FUN: RECIPES TO MAKE YOUR OWN GIFTS and other titles. You might even find a new family favourite!

This holiday season remember that it’s the thought that counts, not how much went into the purchase. And with that in mind, where better to get a good deal than your local branch of the Thunder Bay Public Library, where ideas and inspiration are free all year round!

Jesse Roberts, Head of Reference Services

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Sunday December 13th, 2009 Snow

Snow. Sometimes you love it; sometimes you hate it; sometimes you create sculptures out of it and sometimes it hits you in the head. I like it best when it falls soft and white and lazily, lacing the tree branches with white and brightening up the woods and streets alike. Perhaps we all have a bit of a love/hate relationship with snow here in the north. For certain, most Canadians have a proper respect for it, for we’ve all seen what it can do at times – downing power lines, stranding cars, covering everything in its path in an avalanche. So today’s column is humbly dedicated to snow. What do we really know about it?

Is snow truly pure as in the phrase “pure as the driven snow”?

You might not want to stick out your tongue to catch the snowflakes when you consider what David Philips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada has to say about the composition of snow. “Snow begins with a nucleus, which can be a speck of dust, or salt or spore, or a bit of pollution. Then water vapour in the air condenses onto that speck and grows.” And before you scoop up a handful of snow to eat, don’t forget about the little snow fleas which thrive in snow which is on the ground.


Are there really no two snowflakes which are exactly alike?

Considering that billions and billions of snowflakes fall during a single storm, it is probably safer to say that no person has ever observed two identical snowflakes up until this time. Snowflakes do come in a variety of shapes and sizes which scientists have classified into seven basic shapes- stellar (or star), irregular, hexagonal, spatial, columns and needles.

Source: Snow by John Bianchi and Frank B. Edwards

Why do snowmen have brooms?

Bob Eckstein, aka the Snowman expert, answers this in his book. There doesn’t seem to be any special meaning or symbolism in this choice except to say that children found a broom could easily be stuck into the snowman’s torso. The earliest engravings of snowmen in the late 1790s showed snowman decorated with objects found around a farm – baskets or buckets for hats and canes, sticks or broom stuck in their body.

Source: The History of the Snowman by Bob Eckstein

When did Frosty the Snowman come into existence?

I can’t imagine a Christmas without a reference to the magical Frosty, but he only “came to life one day” during the 1950 Christmas season when he was introduced in a song written by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins. “Frosty the Snowman” was an instant, international hit and he became even more popular when a Golden Book by Annie North Bedford was published in 1951.

Source: Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America. Edited by Sara and Tom Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Vol. 3: 1940s-1950s.

When did Bonhomme first appear?

For nearly half a century, Bonhomme , the chubby and happy snowman has been a beloved mascot for the Carnival winter festival in Quebec. He wears the traditional red hat and belt and lives in an ice palace erected for the festivities. Bonhomme was created in 1954 and since 1955, the date of the first annual Carnival, he has personified the "joie de vivre" associated with this winter celebration.

Source: “Festivals” L’encyclopedia. 2002

What causes snow blindness?

Also known as photoheratitis or niphablepsia, snow blindness happens when the intense sunlight of the springtime in the Arctic reflects off snow and temporarily (but painfully) blinds the viewer. To prevent this, the Inuit created snow goggles. These were fashioned out of wood or antler to fit the contours of the face snugly and only allowed light to enter through narrow viewing slits. Even today, they are quite superior to sunglasses for preventing this affliction.

Source: The Inuit Thought of It by Alootook Ipellie and David MacDonald

What is snud?

Well, it’s not snow and it’s not mud – it’s that dirty, sloppy accumulation of snow which builds up behind your car tires – it’s snud! My brother recalls Arthur Black describing this word when he lived here in Thunder Bay, and describing the national Canadian pastime of kicking snud off your tires and watching the satisfying plop or thud of the snud falling away. Whether the word originated with Black or not, it’s a great word to describe this ubiquitous but seldom mentioned phenomenon.


So kick that snud off your tires and head to your nearest branch of the public library where you can learn much, much more about snow. Or make a cup of hot chocolate and settle down by your computer and search the information databases for more snow facts at

This article was written by Angela Meady, Head of Children’s & Youth Services

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Sunday December 6th, 2009 Christmas Novels

The months leading up to Christmas are a busy time for everyone. Be sure to make time to just relax, maybe pour yourself a bubble bath and read a good book. As December 25 nears I find myself wanting to read novels about Christmas. It’s just one more thing that helps you get into the spirit of it and can leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. A nice cup of cocoa also helps. Here are a few books that I’ve enjoyed, I hope you will too.

A Redbird Christmas: A Novel by Fannie Flagg

When 52 year old Oswald T. Campbell is told he has less than a year to live he escapes Chicago to spend what will likely be his last Christmas in the small Alabama town of Lost River. This sleepy little community located on a lazy river, welcomes him into their fold. Oswald spends his days visiting the grocery store, waiting for the postman to come by boat and accepting dinner invitations from a wealth of single older women. Here he meets Jack, the resident cardinal or redbird as the locals call it. It’s a delightful story about a Christmas miracle so amazing that witnesses have never forgotten it. A Redbird Christmas is also available as an e-book, which is accessible from the OverDrive database in our Virtual Collection.

Shepherds Abiding: A Mitford Christmas Story by Jan Karon

I’m a fan of Father Tim and all the residents of Mitford, and I have to say it doesn’t get much better than Christmas and Mitford all in one book. When Father Tim finds a battered nativity set in his friend’s antique shop, he sets out to restore it as a Christmas gift for his wife Cynthia. Inspired by memories of a manger from his childhood, Tim takes on the challenge of repainting every piece and even giving one of the wise men a new nose. This retirement project gives Tim a chance to learn to work with his hands, and the thought of Cynthia’s face when she sees the manger, is all the inspiration he needs. Publishers Weekly said – Written in light, breezy prose that shimmers with faith and good hope, Karon’s story goes down like hot cocoa by the fireplace.

A Christmas Star by Thomas Kinkade

This title is part of the Cape Light series by American artist, Thomas Kinkade. Cape Light is a small New England town, similar to Mitford. Perhaps that’s why I’ve enjoyed this series. This volume finds Sam and Jessica Morgan facing a sad holiday season after they lose their home to fire. With no home of their own, they find themselves relying on the kindness of others to house them. Meanwhile Julie Newton and her young daughter are in need of a place to stay when their car breaks down and they have nowhere to go. Grieving widower, Jack Sawyer, comes to their rescue, but is he ready to let someone new into his life. A delightful tale and a perfect Christmas read.

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere

This book is based on a chance encounter between two people out Christmas shopping. Robert Layton, a successful lawyer, is so wrapped up in his career that he’s about to lose his family. Meanwhile, eight year old Nathan Andrews is losing his beloved mother, Maggie, to cancer. Nathan wants to buy his mom a pair of shoes as a going away present. When he realizes that Nathan doesn’t have enough money, Robert helps him purchase the shoes. What follows is a heartwarming tale that will have you reaching for a hankie. This title is also available on DVD. So, if you don’t have time to sit and read, you could just sit and watch and maybe even wrap a few gifts while you’re doing it.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your holiday preparations, take a deep breath and grab a good book. This should give you a start to capture that wonderful Christmas feeling that only comes once a year. And since it is only 19 sleeps away I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a wonderful holiday season. See you next year.

Karen Craib is a Library Technician

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sunday November 29th, 2009 Saturday Night Live

Live from New York, it's Saturday night. With these words, on October 11, 1975, Saturday Night Live was launched and it is still part of the prime time lineup. Filmed live each week with a guest host and a featured musical group, it is known for its satire. The original cast included Jane Curtin, Chevy Chase, John Belushi and others. The show has spawned many cast members such as Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Dennis Miller and Thunder Bay's own Paul Shaffer. Here are some, but by all means not all of my favourite cast members.

Chevy Chase 1975-76

He was hired as a writer for the show, but also appeared before the camera, most notably as an anchor for the Weekend Update news segment. He left the show after only one year, for a career on the big screen. Of all his movies, my favourite would be a tossup between Caddyshack and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The library carries both of these movies, something to keep in mind if you're ever in need of a laugh.

Steve Martin

Although he was a guest 25 times and has hosted 14 times, he wasn't an actual cast member. He is probably best known for the skits he did with Dan Akroyd as two wild and crazy guys. The library carries several Steve Martin movies, such as Planes, Trains And Automobiles, in which he starred with John Candy. We also carry books he has written - Cruel Shoes, The Pleasure Of My Company and Shopgirl. I bet you didn't know he was an author.

Will Ferrell 1995-2002

Will played a host of characters such as George W. Bush, Alex Trebek and Craig, the Spartan Cheerleader. One of my favourite skits was Janet Reno's dance party, with Will in a blue dress, as Janet Reno. On her last day of office the real Janet Reno appeared as herself in a skit with Will. Will left in 2002 to pursue a film career. We carry movies starring Will such as Land Of The Lost and Talledega Nights.

Gilda Radner 1975-80

Gilda was one of the original cast members. She played many characters such as Lisa Loopner, Baba Wawa and Emily Litella.

Her struggle with cancer and death at an early age is chronicled in her book It's Always Something. She handled her illness with the same sense of humour, she used every day.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus 1982-85
Before she spent nine seasons as Elaine Benes on Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was a cast member of SNL. She was the first female cast member to come back as a host.

The library carries some of the episodes of Seinfeld on dvd.

Mike Myers 1989-1995

One of many Canadians to star on Saturday Night Live was Mike Myers. While on SNL, he was known for skits such as Coffee Talk with Linda Richman. I get verklempt just thinking about it. He and Dana Carvey played the hosts of the local cable tv show, Wayne's World, which later spawned a motion picture. Mike is also the voice of my favourite ogre, Shrek. The library carries Shrek, Austin Powers, Wayne's World and other movies featuring Mike.

The show still keeps turning out great cast members that go on to movies or other television series, such as recent alumni Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. After all these years I still enjoy watching it, but sometimes I tape it and watch it the next day. I look forward to watching the next 35 seasons. Let’s see – that would make me…

Some of the information in this article was found in our own Virtual Collection in the Biography Resource Center. It's a good place to find information on SNL alumni, or anyone else for that matter. Remember the Virtual Collection is available to you 24 hours a day. The following sources were also used.

Source - Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller.

Source - The Internet Movie Database

Source - Saturday Night Live Web Site

Source –

Karen Craib is a Library Technicia

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sunday November 22nd, 2009 A Lean, Green Christmas

Christmas is right around the corner, but not everyone is looking forward to it. The upcoming festive season is going to be a lean one for a lot of people. It’s also going to be a “green” one for many, as concern for our environment is growing. Your Library can help make your lean, green holiday season as magical as ever!

What can I give someone for a present if I have no money?

Give them the gift of your time. Your Library offers a wide variety of free programs for children and adults. Make a gift certificate with a promise to take a child to see a puppet show, story time or concert. Many people would welcome an invitation from a friend to attend an internet class or book club meeting together. The Library’s next newsletter, with listings of programs for January, February and March, will be delivered to all homes in the City during the week of December 13th. The Library’s Web site ( has a calendar of events under “What’s On”. You could also create a gift certificate to bring someone to the Library a few times a month, and help them find books, movies or music they enjoy.

Can you help me make some gifts?

The Christmas Lovers Handbook by Lasley F. Gober includes a very helpful chapter called “Making Merry: Handcrafting a Merry Christmas.” As Gober notes: “You don’t have to be an artist, a highly-skilled craftsman, or even a graduate of a six-week night course to know how to create something yourself, something you might even be proud of.” This book includes step-by-step instructions for sculptures, candle-making, papier-mache and much more.

Do you have any tips for wrapping presents?

Wrap giant-size gifts in a paper Christmas tablecloth. It’s less expensive and easier to work with than several sheets of wrapping paper. A flat bed sheet can also be used. Use old maps, calendars, photos from magazines, as a substitute for holiday wrap. Plain brown paper with a raffia ribbon and sprig of a fir tree looks nice as well. (source: Christmas Short-Cuts by Adeline Rosemire)

Does the Library have any Christmas movies?

YES! We have all your Christmas favourites on DVD, and even some on VHS. My personal favourite, A Christmas Story, tells the tale of nine year old Ralphie, whose hearts desire is a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot, Range Model Air Rifle. This movie is a heartwarming glimpse in to family life in the 1940s. Other perennial favourites we have include It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooge (both the 1935 version and the Muppets’ version!), Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th Street and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Save money by borrowing videos from the Library instead of renting them – at Christmas and throughout the year.

Kick of your lean, green holiday season by attending the free Jim n’ I concert at the Mary J.L. Black Library at 2:30 pm on Saturday December 5th.

Joanna Aegard, Head of Virtual Library Services

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sunday November 15th, 2009 Misleading Statements

Misleading statements are frequently made. A strongly worded statement in a crowded room will often be accepted as truth, even when the speaker may not be sure of his facts. We all are guilty of saying things that are misleading, incorrect, or flawed. Here are some commonly told myth-leading phrases, that you may have said yourself.

“Everyone has to stay out of poison ivy.”

Poison ivy isn’t a poison or an ivy. It is an allergen that affects some people causing severe itching and swelling. Roughly half of the world’s population is allergic to poison ivy. Poison ivy is not a true ivy, it is a member of the cashew family. To learn more, read Magill’s Encyclopedia of Science: Plant Life.

“Beware of toxic chemicals.”

By itself, this is a meaningless phrase. Many chemicals are both safe and toxic, it is dependent on the quantity, strength and how that chemical combines with others. Take aspirin for example. In small doses, it can be used to treat a heart attack, but an overdose in a child can cause death. Does this make it a toxic chemical or a valuable medicine? Read more about chemicals and health in An Apple a Day by Joe Schwarcz.

Neil Armstrong when he stepped out onto the moon surface said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

This quote is missing one small word which was erased by the static of the transmission, one word that changes the meaning of the quote. Armstrong insisted that he had said “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Newspapers of the time printed the correction, but he is misquoted to this day. For other misquotes, check out They Never Said It by Paul Boller and John George.

“Canadians are better at saving money than Americans.”

While this may once have been true, as Canadians have become wealthier, they have developed an instinct to spend. According to Canadian statistics, since 2007 Canadians are saving less money than the Americans. We can no longer think of ourselves as the more frugal country. To study more on Canadian- American relations, read American Myths: What Canadians think they know about the United States edited by Rudyard Griffiths.

“The human brain is fixed by age 3.”

While it is true that babies’ brains make synapses at a furious rate until about age 10 months, the brain actually grows and changes thoughout life. During the teen years and early 20’s, a crucial part of the process is pruning those synapses to make them work faster. This is the stage in life when humans begin to think in high-level abstractions and systems. So keep learning and growing your brain, search in our Virtual Collection through articles on neurology such as “7 Brain Myths” from Toronto Star writer Alanna Mitchell.

“Have you heard that bananas imported from the Caribbean are contaminated with necrotizing faciitis, a bacteria that consumes human flesh?”

If you have, don’t repeat it, because you will be passing along another urban legend. These stories can be humourous, intriguing, bizarre or disgusting, they surface from time to time and are repeated endlessly. Read The Baby on the Car Roof and The Cat in the Dryer both by Thomas J. Craughwell, you will chuckle at your own gullibility!

“Sebastian Cabot was the first explorer to reach Hudson’s Bay in the search for the Northwest Passage."

The truth of this statement is still under question. Sebastian’s father, John Cabot, made a voyage to North America in 1497 and claimed the whole continent for England. By the mid 1550s any record of John Cabot’s travels or writings had disappeared. Similarly, when Sebastian Cabot traveled in 1508, he left no original documents, there are only fragments of the account in seventeen documents. These are third or fourth hand accounts of his travels. Some people believe that Sebastian’s accounts of his journey are totally fictional and that he never left England at all. To learn more about the history of the discoverers, read Great Exploration Hoaxes by David Roberts.

This week’s column is submitted by Roberta Casella, Librarian

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Sunday November 8th, 2009 Mythical Creatures

Do you ever think about mythical creatures? Ever wonder what’s real or not real? Have you ever seen a mermaid, a silkie, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny? I know the bunny leaves tracks some times. Here are a few novels that feature these characters.

Tooth Fairy

Remember the Tooth Fairy? Why does she stop coming after you reach a certain age? You’d think the older you get the more value each lost tooth would have. In The Tooth Fairy by Joyce Graham, Sam and his friends were enjoying childhood in a small town in England. One night after putting a tooth under his pillow, Sam awoke cold and stiff to an open window and a strange smell in his room. Feeling fearful he sat up in bed only to see a figure crouched behind a chair. It was the Tooth Fairy and this one was complete with beady eyes, sharp teeth and a potty mouth. Was she real? Sam was the only one that could see or hear her. Over the years she became a fixture in his life, and could be male or female, cuddly or cruel. This book won a British Fantasy Award for best novel. After reading it you might be glad the Tooth Fairy no longer visits you. Or does she?


Alice Hoffman has written an enchanting tale about mermaids, titled Aquamarine. On the brink of being teenagers, Claire and Hailey have one last summer together before Claire moves to Florida. Following a summer storm, they go to the Capri Beach Club the next morning to find the swimming pool filled with jellyfish and seaweed. But there’s an even bigger surprise lurking in the pool, it’s a mermaid. Her name is Aquamarine and she’s not happy to be there. And as always happens with mermaids, she falls for the handsome boy who runs the gift shop. As she grows weaker in the burning sun the girls strive to save her. In exchange for just one evening with the gift shop boy, she promises to go back to sea. The girls dress her in a long dress and take her in a wheelchair to meet him. By the next morning she is in love. Will she go back to sea before it’s too late? This story is aimed at a 10 to 14 year old audience, but that doesn’t mean you might not enjoy it too.

Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny was always a favourite of mine. Sadly the bunny stopped coming the year I turned 40 and my father passed away. Cue The Easter Bunny by Liz Evans sounds like a British version of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. Private eye work is slow for Grace Smith and out of desperation she takes a job with the local tourist board. Dressed as the Easter Bunny she hands out promotional items. Then things start hopping (notice the pun) and she ends up with two cases. One client is receiving death threats and the other is a cold case involving the disappearance of a 14 year old girl. Featuring a cast of colourful characters it sounds like a fun novel. It’s the sixth in a series featuring Grace Smith. Previous titles may be available through our Interlibrary Loan department.


Water Steps by A. LaFaye is the story of an 11 year old girl named Kyna, who was orphaned at the age of 3 when her family drowned in a boating mishap during a storm. She was rescued by an Irish couple named Mem and Pep. This water loving pair adopted her and tried to help her overcome her fear of drowning. One summer they rented a cabin on Lake Champlain. Here Kyna and a new friend sought out the mythical silkies that he believed lived in the lake. A silkie is a shape-shifting seal that comes to the aid of people in trouble in the water. That summer reveals more than she could imagine. If you would like to read this book you can request it through our inter-library loan service.

Well that’s a few books to help stimulate your fertile imagination. I hope you enjoy reading them. As to whether or not the characters are real – you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Karen Craib is a Library Technician

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Sunday November 1st, 2009 Pumpkins

Pumpkins! As sometimes happens, I found myself scrambling for a topic for this column when suddenly it struck me, pumpkins were clearly the answer. Whether carving them for jack-o’-lanterns or baking them in pies pumpkins are an integral part of autumn. Their rich orange colour and the changing leaves on the trees let us know summer is over and winter is on its way.

I searched our library catalogue for books about pumpkins and the range was fantastic. There are lots of children’s books (as one would expect), but also cookbooks, books on pumpkin carving, and even a novel with the word pumpkin in the title. Today being the day after Hallowe’en I thought it was a good time to look at pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns.

I turned to our Virtual Collection as a starting point and there I found reference to the story of Jack. Did you know that the story of Jack is that of a man who was denied entry to both Heaven and Hell? He was a disreputable fellow who tricked the devil out of his soul, but because of his character was not allowed entry to Heaven. Pumpkins were not traditionally used in the carved lanterns, but they are much easier to carve. The culinary aspects can be traced to the festival of Samhain celebrated by the Celtic peoples of the British Isles and Northern France. Samhain is a traditional feast day celebrating the Fall Harvest. Not surprisingly, the foods harvested at this time of year play a central role in the celebration. Bonfires are also integral as they provide light and warmth as we transition to the darkest time of year.

Cookbooks specifically focused on pumpkins in our library collection are:

Pumpkin: A Super Food For all 12 Months of the Year by DeeDee Stovel

Pumpkin & Squash by Elaine Elliot

Pumpkin Companion by Elizabeth Brabb

Pumpkins & Squashes by Caroline Boisset

Would you believe that at this time of year I couldn’t get my hands on any of these books? It seems everyone is out cooking with pumpkins and luckily I can turn to online resources for ideas. Lately I’ve been tempted by the idea of pumpkin risotto as friends rave about it and I want to try more savoury pumpkin dishes.

And if you’re more interested in carving jack-o’-lanterns than cooking pumpkins check out:

Extreme Pumpkin Carving: 20 Designs from Frightful to Fabulous by Vic Hood and Jack A. Williams

Pumpkin Carving by Ed Palmer

How to Carve Pumpkins for Great Results: 20 Traditional and Contemporary Designs for Pumpkin Carving

Extreme Pumpkins II: Take Back Hallowe’en and Freak out a Few More Neighbors by Tom Nardone

I had “Extreme Pumpkin Carving” sitting on my desk inspiring me whilst writing this article and some of the carvings are truly artistic. They look more like woodcarvings than vegetables! This book covers some of the history of All Hallow’s Day (November 1st) and Samhain. The carving of pumpkins comes from the Samhain tradition of carving gourds and turnips and lighting them with candles or coals to guide deceased loved ones. It also tells the story of Jack in more detail and has information on pumpkin selection.

In addition we have many children’s books about pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns. Some staff favourites include:

Perfect Pumpkin Pie by Denys Cazet

Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper

Jeb Scarecrow’s Pumpkin Patch by Jana Dillon

This is Not a Pumpkin by Bob Staake

I admit to being partial to books about cooked pumpkins, because they’re so good to eat! I hope these selections have piqued your interest and lead you to our bountiful collection. I wish you all a very happy Samhain!

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas, Children's and Youth Services Librarian

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sundary October 25th, 2009 Ghosts

At Halloween the ghouls, goblins and trick or treaters will be out looking for snacks to score, but do you believe in ghosts? Evidence is what separates belief from non-belief, but they are really two sides of the same coin. A believer needs little (or no) evidence and a non-believer needs scads of evidence (and even then might doubt).

A believer might read Premonitions and Psychic Warnings: Real Stories of Haunting Predictions by Edrick Thay (2005), a collection of personal accounts of omens, signs and premonitions and be quite satisfied. A non-believer might cast such a book aside as hogwash. Likewise for The Paranormal Caught on Film: Amazing Photographs of Ghosts, Poltergeists and Other Strange Phenomena by Dr. Melvyn Willin (2008). While the photographic evidence may seem dubious to skeptic, it is asserted that the photographs in this book have been examined by qualified experts such as Dr. Vernon Harrison, a specialist in forgery detection.

For both believers and non-believers, The Ghost Files by Jeff Belanger (2007) would be a good read. Belanger argues for not being rigid in your belief system, whether that system allows for ghosts or vehemently denies the possibility. To simply dismiss without evidence is unscientific, and to believe without evidence can lead to gullibility and superstition.

That being said, what evidence is there for ghosts and the paranormal? Truthfully, a lot. Since the rise of empiricism it is often thought that there has been a resultant fall in superstition, mysticism, and paranormal occurrences, but this is not quite true. Within the last few years, there have been many publications citing up-to-date and intriguing research into ghosts and psychic phenomenon. It seems that ghosts and psychic phenomenon are perhaps related, like electro-magnetism and quantum entanglement.

Like paranormal phenomena, psychic phenomena are split into camps of believers and non-believers, investigators and skeptics. Some bona fide scientific researchers, however, like Gary Schwartz, PhD leave the question of PSI phenomena open ended. The results of his research are incredibly exciting. In his book The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death, increasingly stringent controls were applied to psychic readings. For some trials the subject wasn’t even allowed to speak to the psychic, and yet the results of accurate readings were upwards of 90%, well beyond chance or guessing.
Interestingly, while watching a DVD called The Brain, directed by Richard Vagg (2008), Schwartz and his experimental results were reported on in a segment on ESP. Other segments in The Brain focused how knowledge of the brain is applied in sports psychology and Navy SEALS training. To have Schwartz’s investigation into psychic readings included amongst such pragmatic avenues of thought might leave you wondering, What capabilities exist on the peripheries of consciousness?

This is where psychic phenomenon and paranormal phenomenon seem to overlap, although there is still doubt to the veracity of psychic ability and the paranormal. Richard Wiseman, PhD, for instance, in his book Deception & Self-Deception: Investigating Psychics (1997), states that evidence for authentic paranormal activity is lacking. He leaves the door open to the possibility of PSI, but says he has yet to find decisive proof. I wonder how he might regard Psychic Warrior: Inside the Stargate Program: the True Story of a Soldier’s Espionage and Awakening by David Morehouse (1996). Would he consider the evidence amassed by the CIA and the Stanford Research Institute in remote viewing (telepathic espionage) as decisive proof? Or does a skeptic need to personally experience ghosts, goblins, and separate realities before he or she believes?

If you want to do some of your own research into the science of psychic phenomena, check out the virtual library collection (it’s okay, don’t be scared!).

Chris Waite, Public Services Assistant

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Sunday October 18th, 2009 Healthy Lifestyles

Learning how to have a healthy lifestyle is a preoccupation of many in this day and age of fast food, job losses, and hi-tech gadgetry that promotes sedentary living. We are fast realizing that we need to become more responsible for our own health and that what we do about it today will have an impact on our health in the future. With this responsibility comes a willingness to try different things.

Alternative medicines, practices and therapies have become more mainstream, health food and nutrition stores more commonplace. There is a renewed interest in the folk medicines of past generations. The library has much to offer those wanting more information on alternative medicines and therapies. I have highlighted some find titles of interest.

Don’t forget to check out the Health category of our virtual collection. There you can search 9 online databases specifically on health related topics. For those of you who like a more hands on approach, join Teresa Magiskan of Anishnabwe-Mushkiki on October 2, at 7 pm at the Waverley Library auditorium for The Medicine Wheel and Sacred Medicines. Learn about the four colours of the wheel and the seven directions, and the traditional healing methods of First Nations cultures.

The library collection has many titles to help you on your journey to wellness through both traditional non-traditional methods. Here are just a few samples of the titles you will find – and don’t forget to check out our e-book titles off of our website.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Natural Remedies, 2009. “Put away the ice pack! This book will help you find a better way to treat all kinds of health issues – from high blood pressure to poison ivy. You get simple explanations of many common symptoms and their possible causes; research-based information on vitamins and minerals, healing herbs, acupuncture, aromatherapy and other alternative therapies; proactive disease-prevention strategies you can easily incorporate into your life.”

Indian Herbalogy of North America, 1973. “For more than twenty years this pioneering work has served as a bible for herbalists throughout the world. It is an illustrated encyclopedic guide to more than two hundred medicinal plants found in North America, with descriptions of each plant’s appearance and uses, and directions for methods of use and dosage. Native American traditions are compared with traditional uses of the same plants among other cultures where the science of herbs has flourished, particularly in Russia and China.”

For more up-to-the-hour information, check out our online databases such as those listed below. Find them on our website at and click on Virtual Collection.

ALT HealthWatch. This is an online resource on alternative and complimentary health care treatments such as Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Herbal Remedies, Homeopathy, Massage, Reiki, and Yoga. It searches such journals and magazines as Total Health, Alternative Medicine Review, and Natural Health.

Health Source: Consumer Edition. Geared for the non-professional reader, this source provides information on many health topics including good science and nutrition, childcare, sports medicine and general health. Magazines covered include Good Health, Shape, and Natural Health.

If none of the resources I’ve listed has piqued your interest in alternative therapies, then at least come and borrow one of our pedometers and go for a walk. Let the library help you towards a more healthy lifestyle!

Barbara Philp, Head of Adult Services

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Sunday October 11th John Hughes Movies

As I drove to work one morning last August, National Public Radio announced that director John Hughes had passed away. I knew his name, but little more than that. As they listed his movies I thought – wow, that’s a Library Detective column right there. I was surprised at how many entertaining movies of his I had enjoyed: here are a few.

Home Alone

Written by Hughes, it is described as his greatest commercial success. It introduced Macaulay Culkin as an 8 year old boy who finds himself accidently left home alone when his family leaves on vacation. After his initial joy at realizing he has the house to himself he has to use every trick up his sleeve to outwit a pair of bumbling burglars, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. A hilarious time ensues as we watch him booby trap his home to defend it. The movie spurred three sequels, but I think the original was the best. We carry it on dvd and vhs.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

23 years later I still think about this movie, written and directed by Hughes. It’s a sheer delight and I recall seeing it in the theatre and wishing I was Ferris. Not many students fake an illness, gather a couple of companions, borrow a parent’s Ferrari and set off to explore Chicago. They take in a baseball game, visit the Sears Tower, and more and even take part in a parade (one of my favourite parts of the movie). You can’t help but feel good watching Ferris riding on a float lip synching to the Beatles song Twist and Shout. Who wouldn’t want a day off like the one he had? It’s available on dvd.

Planes, Trains And Automobiles

Available on dvd, it’s a hilarious cross country trip featuring two of my favourite comics. Businessman Neal Page, played by Steve Martin is trying to get home for Thanksgiving. His trip is complicated when he meets traveling shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith, played by John Candy. Everything seems to go wrong for Neal and he just can’t seem to shake non-stop talker Del. Hmm – it would be like a road trip with me. As irritating as Del is, he’s a big man with a big heart. The scene I remember the most is when Neal accidently dries his face with a large pair of Del’s underwear. According to The Internet Movie Database, Steve Martin says this one is his favourite movie that he starred in.

Pretty In Pink

In the 1980’s a John Hughes teen movie meant Molly Ringwald. She also starred in Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. In this movie she played an outcast girl from the poorer side of town. When she’s asked on a date by a preppy boy, their friends start taking sides and disapprove. After being snubbed by his friends at a party she has to decide if he is worth dating. It featured a cast of young actors such as James Spader, Andrew McCarthy and Jon Cryer, who now stars on Two And A Half Men. It’s worth watching just to see Jon in an eighties hair style. It’s available on dvd.

Maid In Manhattan

Available on dvd and vhs this romantic comedy stars Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes. Hughes wrote it under the pseudonym of Edmond Dantes, a name taken from The Count Of Monte Cristo. A chance first meeting results when Fienne’s character finds a hotel maid dressed up in a hotel guest’s clothing. He believes her to be a socialite and she has trouble coming clean (a little pun). He comes to love this independent single mom. It co-stars Stanley Tucci and the late Natasha Richardson. We also have the soundtrack.

That’s just a few of his many movies; there are 38 to his credit. He also wrote one of my favourite movies, Christmas Vacation. Sadly we don’t carry it. We do have two other movies, Uncle Buck and Beethoven. Stop by and pick up your evening’s entertainment. We’ll supply the movie and you supply the popcorn. Enjoy!

Karen Craib is a Library Technician

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Sunday October 4th Giller Nominees

Working at the library, the most common question you are asked is “What’s a good book to read?” I can wax for hours on the books, authors and genres that I love, but finding something that someone else may love as well, can be quite challenging. Depending on someone’s interests and experiences, their tastes might be diametrically opposite to mine, so asking a few well placed questions about previous books and what the reader actually liked or didn’t like will tell someone doing Reader’s Advisory a great deal about what they may enjoy. Some of my favourite new authors have come from patron recommendations, and surprisingly many of them are Canadian.

Like most of us, I was introduced to Canadian novels in high school and hated them, well to be truthful, I did like Stephen Leacock but, I still handle any book by Margaret Atwood as though it is something that has been sitting in the back of the fridge for a month. Telling a 14 year old girl that all Canadian novels are about death and isolation pretty well killed any interest in further exploration and actually the pickings for Canadian novels in the 1970’s were slim. Skip ahead to this year and the world of Canadian writing could not be more interesting and varied. The long-list of the 2009 Giller Prize novels was released last week and there is really something for everyone.

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood is a natural disaster has occurred that alters the Earth as we know it, destroying most human life. The story follows two very different women, Ren and Toby who have survived.

The Incident Report by Martha Baillie is both a mystery and a love story, in the novel set in Toronto, notes begin appearing by someone who believes himself to be Rigoletto, the jester from Verdi’s opera, promising he will protect the young librarian, Miriam.

The Disappeared by Kim Echlin is set against the killing fields of the Pol Pot’s Cambodia, the story centers around a passionate love affair between a Canadian woman and her Cambodian lover.

The Heart Specialist by Claire Holden Rothman is based on a true story, this is a historical novel of an ambitious woman who dreams of pursuing medicine during the dawn of the twentieth century.

The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles follows a former slave and a young Quaker,suffering hardships during the taming of the West in the years following the Civil War.

Factory Voice by Jeanette Lynes is a mystery and coming of age story of four women working at the military aircraft factory in Fort William in 1941.

The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon is a debut novel set in the ancient world involving Aristotle and the boy who you grow up to be Alexander the Great.

The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre explores the life of Father Duncan MacAskill as he struggles between human wants and his desire for spiritual peace.

Fall by Colin McAdam centers around two boys in an elite boarding school and Fall, the girl they both want.

The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels begins in Egypt in 1964, when a newly-married Canadian couple settle into a houseboat on the Nile and life tests both their love and their beliefs.

Valmiki’s Daughter by Shani Mootoo deals with the struggle of both a father and a daughter as they seek to repress their feelings and their sexuality.

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger is a historical novel concerning the life and loves of a maid to a Victorian novelist and world at the end of the nineteenth century.

Lori Kauzlarick, Public Services Assistant

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Sunday September 27th Howard Norman, The Almost Canadian

Sometimes a gift can come to you completely out of the blue and change your life forever. I’m sure the cantankerous senior librarian I once worked with was quite oblivious to the fact that he had given me something truly and absolutely wonderful one day through the simple recommendation of a book. This book was The Museum Guard by Howard Norman. From here, I zealously ploughed my way through his entire fiction repertoire without looking back.

It’s hard to actually pinpoint what it is about Norman that makes him so readable, but confirmation came to me, one day, that I’m not alone in my admiration. I was in a quiet little book store in Hobart, Tasmania, in search of a copy of The Bird Artist for my own collection, and the store owner shared with me how he had enjoyed reading it so much that he refused to read any of Norman’s other titles. He just wanted to keep that one book in isolation from anything else and not risk being disappointed. I know for a fact that he wouldn’t have been, but as an established fan, I knew exactly where he was coming from.

When I first started reading Norman’s novels I assumed he was Canadian, an easy mistake to make as his novels are all set in Canada. He is so at ease with the Canadian landscape and its people that it’s difficult to remember sometimes that he is, in fact, an American. Norman’s lengthy periods living here, though, have rewarded him with a profound empathy for the very essence of Canada.

Basically, there would be three reasons why I enjoy Norman’s writing so much. First would be his fascination with Aboriginal culture. After working with a number of Cree in Manitoba on a fire crew, he set about to change the direction of his life. This resulted in a devotion to Aboriginal languages and the translation of an array of poems and folktales. TBPL has two of these: one in our non-fiction collection, Northern Tales: Traditional Stories of Eskimo and Indian Peoples; and the other in our children’s collection, Trickster and the Fainting Birds. We also have Who-Paddled-Backward-With-Trout, which is an original children’s story. These all have beautiful illustrations and present the stories in a wonderful format for both children and adults.

Norman refers to the Aboriginal culture and way of life extensively in his earlier novels as well. In Fond Remembrance of Me is interesting in that it explores the stories of Noah’s Ark from the perspective of the Inuit culture, a somewhat different and entertaining approach to the traditional telling.

His first book, The Northern Lights is set initially in Northern Manitoba amongst the Cree and then concludes in Toronto. Whenever I’m walking on College Street in Toronto, I can’t help but be reminded of this story, as it revolves around a fictitious movie theatre located on this street.

My second reason would be a shared interest in ornithology. Howard has an extensive knowledge of Canadian birdlife and they are used as a literary tool in a number of his writings. Devotion draws a subtle correlation between a bevy of swans and the protagonists of the novel, depicting similarities and distinctions between their lives and behaviours. The Bird Artist, too, focuses largely on a young man, Fabian Vas, and the ongoing development of his talent as a bird artist. And similarly, in My Famous Evening, Nova Scotia Sojourns, Diaries and Preoccupations, a personalized travel guide of sorts, Norman gently weaves his extensive knowledge of bird life into the dialogue along the way.

The third reason would be Norman’s characters. Mildly odd and eccentric they are immediately intriguing. With a craftsman’s ease, Norman intertwines their idiosyncrasies into seemingly ordinary, even mundane, lives. But it is through this normality that Norman sustains an authenticity about his characters – a believable balance. They are simultaneously extraordinary and credible, and the reader is easily compelled by their foibles, habits, and complex relationships.

If you’re interested in trying Norman’s novels, I would recommend The Bird Artist, The Museum Guard, or The Northern Lights first. For a review of the first two, visit TBPL’s Best of the Backlist blog.

Rosemary Melville, Library Technician