Sunday, 30 August 2009

Sunday August 30th, 2009 Dream Demons

I had that dream again last night, you know, the one where despite having finished school umpteen years ago, you’re supposed to be in a maths class but you can’t find the classroom; or it’s the end of the school year and you just haven’t done any of the work yet. I’ve had this dream countless times, and it’s completely disturbing, because I know it must be due to some sort of fear or guilt about my school life. Admittedly, I did, on occasion, write essays at 4 o’clock in the morning the day they were due, and I may well have feigned death just to get out of French. Time and time again, though, I’ve awakened from this dream in the middle of the night and sat up in bed, shaking my head, telling myself not to be so stupid, to just move on.

Well, I decided it was about time I faced my inner demons and found out what this dream and several other persistent ones mean. I quite often dream about frantically trying to pack all my belongings because of an imminent disaster, but I can never seem to get it all together. Then there’s the big house with the many, many rooms dream. I walk through one room and then, bingo, there’s another one I didn’t know about. I dreamt the other night that I actually had my own supermarket in my house, which was kind of cool, but it also meant that I had a stack of pesky neighbours feeling entitled to use it. As a kid I would dream of being chased, but my legs would go dead and I could barely even drag them along the ground. To solve this problem I would start flying through the air. This was fine until the sensation of falling fast from a great height would be so frightening I would wake up.

So, the logical way to deal with my dream demons was to consult the Thunder Bay Public Library’s catalogue to see if there were any dream interpretation books available. I’d much rather be dreaming about something totally and utterly delicious than fretting over things that should be well and truly buried by now. Give me something I don’t want to wake up from, or that makes me smile like a total goof the next day.

The beauty of dreaming is that potentially, anything goes. Dreams can be our ticket to however or whoever we want to be. They can help us solve problems, release tension, and realise our full potential – bold claims indeed, but as our dream guides explain, it’s all about control and building the skills to do so. As Penney Peirce explains in the Dream Dictionary For Dummies: dreams really are, in the truest sense, a door-way to greater self-awareness, knowledge, success, and the possibility of a rich full life.

This book is the newest edition in TBPL’s dream collection, and although most of our other titles are of an earlier vintage, their content is still valid. For example, All About Dreams: Everything You Need To Know About Why We Have Them, What They Mean, And How To Put Them To Work For You, by Gayle Delaney is a well worn, tattered and dog-eared book, but in my opinion, this means it has to be a most excellent read. Both this and Peirce’s guide also provide tips on how to remember dreams, something I personally grapple with. You can wake up feeling that you’ve dreamt something really important or interesting, but the moment you try to recall it, it’s snatched irretrievably away from you. There are ways to master this kind of dream theft, though, and although it may involve lots of practice, it’s well worth it.

So if you dream something totally weird and want to know what the heck it means, or if you need to exorcise some dream demons, a little investigation may lead you to some very useful information. For instance, did you know that dreaming about eating raisins means conflict with a neighbour, or if you’re eating celery, you can look forward to promising romantic experiences? Go figure!

Rosemary - Library Technician

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Sunday August 23rd Is Laziness Next to Godliness?

I find that there is a certain stigma associated with term lazy: slothful, unproductive, couch potato and so on. But, does that always mean the case when being thought of as lazy? I would have to say no. Myself, I have no problem whatsoever being called lazy. That is because I can be truly lazy at times. As my family and friends are well aware of, I can sometimes lie on the couch reading while occasionally channel surfing for an entire day and night (and sometimes day again, depending on how lazy I feel). I call this my mental health time to recharge the batteries. There are times where I feel like turning the brain off and basically vegetating (my friends say they can actually see the growing layers of dust on me). Is this wrong? Some might find this absolutely deplorable and a waste of a day while others might relate. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing things like golfing, fishing, traveling and kayaking in the company of others. I also find time to contribute around the house, complete school work and work (yikes, sounds as if I am trying to defend myself). Well this article is not about me, it’s about the library helping out the sometimes lazy person who still needs to get things done.

Cooking can also be quite the nuisance, especially when getting off work and the prospects of takeout start appealing more and more. Instead of piling up on the takeout bills, slow cooking might be the answer. For tips and advice on having that home cooked meal ready and waiting for you with almost no work check out some of the library’s slow cooking books like Lazy Day Cookin': Slow Cooker Meals that Simmer to Perfection While You Work, Play or Sleep by Phyllis Pellman Good.

There is nothing like a good garden in the summer. Although, I do not have my own garden per say, both my parents and the in-laws have excellent gardens to raid. Many out there love having a beautiful garden but would rather spend their summer pursuing more relaxing and leisurely activities. If you can relate, you might want to try the book Tips for the Lazy Gardener by Linda Tilgner. She details the art of manifesting a garden with less work.

Perhaps my favourite tool found at the library or accessed from the comfort of one’s own home through the library’s website is the Virtual Collection. This extensive selection of electronic databases offers library users a wide spectrum of informational services (for a great fitness article, search the General Reference Centre Gold database for The Beer Drinking, TV watching workout). The NetLibrary database is a great example of a tool that offers library users 24/7 access to numerous electronic books (E-books) and audiobooks, both fiction and nonfiction. With a laptop with Wifi setup at home, all this information can be accessed without even leaving the couch, comfortable chair or even outside while soaking up the sun with a margarita within close range. Well, even with a desktop computer, I’m sure the truly skilled could be able to MacGyver something up to not get off the couch and still browse the databases.

These are only a few of many resources aimed at assisting those who just really would rather do something else than the so called important stuff. I mean, is it so very wrong to try to con your mother in-law into walking the dog in order to garner more couch time? I mean, isn’t that what mother in-laws are for? Just kidding Marge. By the way, can you walk the dog tonight?

Derek Gradner, Library Assistant

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Sunday August 9th, 2009 Blueberries

Those tiny, perfect fruits of summer are just beginning to ripen. Blueberries are my one of my favorite fruits, and I just can’t resist the chance to go and pick them. My husband dreads my declaration that it is time to go picking, but he is still the most productive picker in the family. With his help, I collect many quarts of berries to wash and package. A stash of these tiny treats in the freezer will last the winter long, and the muffins, pies, breads and sauces will be welcome on those cold days of winter. Take time this year to scour the bush for these little blue gems, or purchase some of the commercial varieties, just to enjoy one of the best flavors of summer.

Why should we eat blueberries?

Here are five good reasons: blueberries protect against ovarian cancer and colon cancer, blueberries lower cholesterol and promote gastrointestinal health, they are a high source of vitamin C and fibre, they are a low glycemic index carbohydrate and blueberries help to fight aging with their antioxidants. Ongoing research points to a possible relationship between blueberries and healthy brain function. In a USDA study, a diet rich in blueberries reversed some loss of balance and coordination and improved short-term memory in aging rats Subsequent studies on mice with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, demonstrated that blueberry supplementation caused signal transmission between brain cells to approach normal activity. In the future we may learn just how valuable these little berries can be to our health. For more facts visit the Blueberry Council Web site.

When do we celebrate Blueberry month in Canada?

Blueberry month is July in the U.S. and August in Canada, due to our later ripening season. There are many ways to celebrate. Besides making delicious blueberry desserts, you might decorate your table with sprigs of the plant. Use blue candles, tablecloths and napkins. Put out bowls of fresh blueberries, they will be a welcome snack perfect for little fingers. To get your children involved, there are terrific printable activity sheets available from the British Columbia Blueberry Council. They include quizzes, math, social studies and
language activity sheets. Look them here.

How large is the Canadian blueberry crop?

Blueberries now rank as Canada’s largest fruit crop by area, netting some $323 million in exports in 2007. Major provincial producers are British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Quebec. There are at least 40 varieties of blueberries grown by commercial and hobby growers. The new varieties are more prolific and easier to pick standing, Many are more than four feet tall, however, the king in terms of flavor is the native northern variety lowbush wild blueberries, vacinnium augustafolium. For delicious recipes and more information about the varieties of blueberries, borrow a copy of the magazine Harrowsmith Country Life for August 2009 and read the article Blueberries: Easy Growing, Good Eating.

Why do blueberries sometimes turn green when cooked in pancakes and muffins?

Blueberries contain re-purple anthocyanins, which are sensitive to changes in pH. The anthocyanins changes colour in acidic or alkaline conditions. Baking soda which is alkaline, usually causes the colour change. To solve the problem, add your baking soda as late as possible or balance the alkaline with a bit of acid by using buttermilk or milk with a squeeze of lemon. To learn more about food plant peculiarities read Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the Worlds Food Plants.

Can you suggest some Canadian blueberry recipes?

For a fun and interesting collection of blueberry recipes, many made at the finest Canadian restaurants, look at Blueberries: Recipes from Canada’s Best Chefs. It includes a four ingredient Easy Blueberry Crème Brulee, an attractive Iced Blueberry Soup and Amherst Shore Chicken with Blueberry Sauce. There are many Canadian standards, lemon blueberry muffins, blueberry melon smoothies, and blueberry granola bars. For a delicious range of healthy blueberry recipes, check out 12 Best Foods Cookbook. Blueberries, walnuts, tomatoes, chocolate and eight more superfoods are used to create interesting and tasty foods.

Roberta Casella, Librarian

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Sunday August 2nd, 2009 Historical Fiction

History was possibly my least favourite subject. When it came time for an exam or test I would try to memorize as many facts as possible and hope for the best. Once the test was over I promptly forgot everything. Unfortunately, this method of learning did not leave me with a good knowledge base of world history. It wasn’t until many years later that I stumbled upon a unique and enjoyable way to learn about the world’s past through the genre of writing known as historical fiction. While authors of historical fiction may take liberties with certain details, the basis of these novels often contain enough relevant information to give the reader a good understanding of a particular time period or event.

A recent reference to a television special on the Halifax harbour explosion of 1917 brought to mind an excellent novel written by Canadian author Hugh McLennan titled Barometer Rising. A munitions ship sailing into the harbour collides with another ship setting off a tremendous explosion. The novel is a detailed description of the impact the explosion had on the city and its inhabitants. A deft storyteller, McLennan’s characters are compelling making us care about what happens to them. At the same time we are given insight into one of Canada’s worst disasters which played a major role in our history.

Much historical fiction has been written about the monarchy, from the colourful life of Henry VIII to Mary, Queen of Scots. Author Philippa Gregory gives life to many of the lesser known royals and their roles within the monarchy. The Boleyn Inheritance chronicles the lives of the women of Henry VIII’s court. Sharing the narration is Anne of Cleves, his fourth wife, Katherine Howard, his fifth, and the Lady Rochford or Jane Boleyn. As narrators, they draw the reader into their daily lives, filled with the political intrigue and madness that shaped one of the most notorious reigns of the monarchy.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is a look at the intimate lives of two women in nineteenth century China. What makes this book fascinating is the recounting of the practice of foot binding. While I was aware this practice existed I had no idea of what the process entailed and found this section riveting. In seclusion for foot binding, a young girl is paired with another girl she has not yet met, for eternal friendship known in China as laotong. They communicate back and forth in a secret language written on a fan. The novel follows their lives from their early friendship, through marriage, childbirth and their survival during the Taiping Revolution.

Warfare and conflict are featured frequently in works of fiction. Sharpe’s Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell provides the reader with a fairly comprehensive history of the controversial Waterloo campaign of 1815. Richard Sharpe, breaking a promise to his lover to fight no more, returns to the battlefield. He joins the staff of William, Prince of Orange who has been given command of a large portion of the allied forces. As the battle unfolds Sharpe is witness to the military incompetencies of William. This novel is an engaging look into a period of Napoleonic history. For a different twist, try it out in our new playaway audio format.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill tells the story Animato who was kidnapped by British slave holders in the mid 1700’s at the age of eleven. Years later she is able to forge her way to freedom and register her name with the historic book of Negroes. An actual book, it provides a short record of the freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for settlement in Nova Scotia. The book takes you through her childhood in Africa, the indignities of slavery, resettlement, and her work as abolitionist.

So, if you have a yearnin’ for learnin’ and like to be entertained, give historical fiction a try-you might be surprised!

Michelle Paziuk, Library Technician, Thunder Bay Public Library