Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sunday November 28th, 2010 Winter Wonderland?

I have a confession to make, I don't like winter. While I definitely can see the stark beauty of snow encrusted branches highlighted in the cloudless blue of a January afternoon and the memories and wonders of each Christmas do warm my heart, I simply don't like winter. Somehow the joys of being cold, walking through slush, and shoveling have eluded me. Winter is a necessary evil like going to the dentist, if you're patient and concentrate on something else, it will eventually be over. Winter, though, can be the best excuse to stay home reading and, oddly, novels set in winter can be some of the best.

There is something about the season, perhaps it's seeing nature at its harshest or the darkening of the sky at such an early hour that brings out the primeval urge to huddle near the fire, seeking heat and companionship. It was probably in these darkest days of the year that storytelling began. So whether it's a winter love story to warm the heart, a winter ghost story to chill the bones, a winter adventure where man challenges the deadliest forces of the elements in order to survive, or a winter mystery to sharpen your wits, they're all here at the library. If you are looking for a reading suggestion you can find me in the book stacks, wearing a warm sweater, humming a calypso tune and waiting for spring.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Sometimes the winter weather outside is reflected by a winter of the heart. On the death of their beloved father; sisters Meredith and Nina return home to the Pacific Northwest to care for their reserved mother, Anya, who seems to be suffering from the first signs of dementia. It is through the uncovering of their mother’s tragic past during WWII Leningrad that the girls reform the bonds within their family and learn to understand her and themselves.

Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

It is the winter of 1928 and Freddie Watson, who lost both family and his sanity during the Great War, is travelling through the French Pyrenees mountains. When an unexpected snowstorm hits, his car spins off the mountain road, leaving him struggling through a wood in order to find help. Finding a small village, Freddie meets Fabrissa and by the time that dawn breaks, the two lost souls find the courage to survive a tragic mystery.

Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher

Pilcher brings together characters in a heartwarming novel set in Scotland in the dead of winter, who each must learn to live with their losses in order to eventually find happiness. Former actress Elfrida Phipps is the hub of the story which includes tragic and penniless widower Oscar, who has been forced to return to his family home, Corrydale. Corrydale is now a hotel. Seeking asylum at the hotel for the Christmas season is Carrie Sutton, nursing a broken heart and her 14-year old niece Lucy. Lucy, a difficult child, was neglected by her mother and grandmother, and depends on Carrie’s loving care. An expected snowstorm strands handsome Sam Howard, a man hiding a secret, and the group forms a bond that changes each of them.

Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons

It has been 40 years since the tragic summer of his eleventh year, when Dale Stewart lost his best friend Duane. Suffering from the aftermath of a suicide attempt following the loss of his family and career, Dale is forced to return home during the darkest days of winter to the dilapidated family farm in Elm Haven, Illinois, where Duane was murdered. The story begins with a sense of unease and moves into spine-tingling terror as mysterious occurrences cause Dale and his neighbours to question his sanity. Dale must rely on them to confront an ancient evil that feeds and grows in Elm Haven.

Winter Vault by Anne Michaels

Set in Canada and Egypt, the Winter Vault is a love story about how the effects of humans on their physical world cause changes, sometimes subtle and sometimes profound, on who they are. Jean and Avery Escher met during the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and spent the early life of their marriage on the Aswam dam project on the Nile. By the time they return to Toronto, the couple has grown apart. Avery has return to the world of academia and Jean to Lucjan, a Polish artist who fascinates her with haunting tales of occupied Warsaw.

Lori Kauzlarick, Public Services Assistant

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sunday November 21st, 2010 Consumer Reports

Unfortunately, I am not the greatest decision maker in the product purchasing department. I tend to just grab and go with no thought of exactly what or what brand I am buying, anything to get out of the store as quick as possible. Of course, after a time I will find out that I have purchased complete garbage or have vastly overpaid which results in ridicule from my family and friends as the laughing stock of shopping.

When faced with the decision to purchase a product, do you usually just fly by the seat of your pants and make decisions with your gut with little factual knowledge about a product or do you like to make an informed decision by conducting research and gathering information from unbiased sources? If you are the latter or have desires to be like that than I have a great resource for you: Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization which provides readers with detailed reviews, rates and comparisons of a wide range of consumer products, from very large ticket items to everyday household goods. Thunder Bay Public Library has a number of Consumer Report publications for library users, from yearly buying guides and specialty publications to a monthly periodical. In addition, one can access every magazine article since 1985 electronically through the TBPL website.

To better assist you in making those informed choices on which protein drink to buy or if I look better with or without my amazing beard (HA!), each month Consumer Reports comes out with informative articles on virtually every type of product. Also, the magazine has a Canada Extra section in the middle of each month’s issue; this section includes Canadian pricing and availability information concerning the products showcased within.

Now, my absolute favourite Consumer Report resources are found within the TBPL Virtual Collection. The Virtual Collection is a series of electronic databases which house an astonishing amount of information available either at the library or from the comfort of your own home (provided you have minor things like internet access, a computer, a library card and fantastic posture….well maybe not fantastic posture in this instance). A great database to use is MasterFILE Premier. Once inside, you can choose the publication tab and type in Consumer Reports. You will then be shown four separate Consumer Reports publications all available digitally: Consumer Reports, Consumer Reports Buying Guide, Consumer Reports on Health and Consumer Reports Travel Letter. After choosing one of the four Consumer reports publications, you can easily browse through each individual issue or you can search within all or some of the issues for a specific type of product. Articles are shown in PDF format, complete with photographs and charts, and can be read, printed, saved and/or emailed.

The yearly buying guide issued by Consumer Reports can also be found in print at your library branches along with other item specific publications. Individual report publications centering around subjects such as electronics, health, diet, child rearing and vehicles are all available for loan.

Now, equipped with all this information and resources, you can rest assured that my rotten friends and family members will have no choice but to cease making fun of my buying powers and focus on other things in life, like making fun of my golf swing or my fishing technique or the way I walk……….Jeesh!

Derek Gradner, Library Technician

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Sunday November 14th, 2010 Quirky

I often talk about the Circle of Life. If you wait long enough everything comes full circle. My first Library Detective column dealt with the fact that I’ve been called quirky and covered various quirky subjects. Almost four years later I’m ready to revisit quirky.

An Uncommon History Of Common Things by Bethanne Patrick

This book refers to itself as a quirky compendium. It has amazing stories about everyday objects and customs. If you’ve ever wondered - Who invented underwear? Why do we say gesundheit when someone sneezes? Where can I go to see actual items from Julia Child’s kitchen? –this is the book for you. Here’s a sampling of what you can find:

TV Dinners

It all began in 1953 when Swanson and Sons found themselves left with an abundance of frozen turkey. Staff member Gerry Thomas had been experimenting with aluminum trays and came up with the 3 compartment design, which happened to look like a television set. He filled it with turkey and trimmings and the rest is a quick, yet tasty, history.

Vacuum Cleaners

In 1908, James Murray Spangler, a department store janitor from Ohio, obtained a patent for the first vacuum cleaner. His previous experiments in the design included a fan motor, a soapbox and a broom handle. He sold one of his first finished products to his cousin, William H. Hoover. The name Hoover is so connected to vacuum cleaners, that in the United Kingdom, people such as my friend Doreen often include hoovering in their household chores.

And in answer to the first three questions – men’s briefs were first produced in 1935 by Coopers Inc. , gesundheit is a German word for healthiness or good health; and you can find Julia Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived by Allan Lazar

Through the years we’ve been influenced by characters from television, movies and legends. This book contains a few of the big influences that I’ve had in my life, including Barbie, Santa Claus and Bambi. I’m still surprised to see that real deer are on the move when it snows; in Bambi they stay in the thicket. Someone keeps reminding me that Bambi wasn’t a real deer. Here are a couple of the interesting characters in the book.


Between 1954 and 1995 Godzilla starred in 30 movies and helped to revitalize the Japanese movie industry. These low budget films, known for their overacting and silly dialogue, were bad enough to become cult hits. I prefer the original movies over the ones produced in the nineties. They influenced me enough that in 1987 we called our new puppy Godzilla. At the time we thought it was funny, but naming your dog Godzilla is just asking for trouble. It’s akin to the name Marley.

Kermit the frog

Born in a swamp in Georgia, this little green frog has touched the lives of people around the world. In his quest to be accepted, he teaches children about being an individual and accepting you heritage. His interspecies relationship with Miss Piggy is to be admired and is a message for us all about tolerance, especially since she is described as a lady-pig with an attitude. If you’re ever at the Smithsonian to visit Julia Child’s kitchen, stop by to see Kermit. He’s been on display in the Legacies collection since 1994.

Why Do Violets Shrink? By Caroline Holmes

This book contains answers to 280 questions about the plant world. Here are a couple of examples.

Do dandelions make you wet the bed?
They can if you eat their leaves, since they are a diuretic. The roots however are great for your liver.

Why should you plant fennel by a kennel?
The smell of fennel is said to deter fleas.

How can Abyssinian kale help you at the supermarket checkout?
The oil from it acts as a slip agent, to help open supermarket bags. Too bad the kale couldn’t help carry the bags into the house.

Well that’s enough quirky facts for today. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Karen Craib is a Library Technician

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Sunday November 7th, 2010 Staying Healthy at Work

Do you find yourself sore and achy after sitting at your desk all day? Are you relying on coffee to give you energy from nine to five? Is the stress of work causing you to lose sleep? If so, then come to the Thunder Bay Public Library and learn how you can stay healthy at work. We have a variety of books and resources with information on exercise, nutrition, and stress management to help you feel better throughout the day.

Finding time to exercise at work might not be that easy for some people. But just by doing some simple stretches can help relieve tension, improve circulation, and reduce stress. These two books by Bob Anderson, Stretching in the Office and Stretching at your Computer or Desk have easy to follow diagrams on how to stretch different areas of your body. Plus, these exercises can be done anywhere in the office.

Office Yoga by Darrin Zeer provides stretching and breathing exercises for all hours of the day. Learn how to stay relaxed in all situations such as when you’re stuck in traffic or crammed in an elevator with twenty other people. For more stretching ideas and information on staying safe in the workplace, take a look at Office Ergonomics Safety Guide from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Eating a healthy lunch benefits both your mind and body. For healthy lunch recipes, take a look at The Brown Bag Lunch Cookbook by Miriam Jacobs, with over 160 quick and easy recipes that will keep you energized all day. The Natural Lunchbox by Judy Brown is full of natural, vegetarian lunch ideas. And for new sandwich ideas, try one of the 135 quick and easy sandwich recipes in Skinny Sandwiches by Desiree Witkowski.

Learning how to reduce stress is another way to stay healthy. Wellness at Work: Building Resilience to Job Stress by Valerie O’Hara, gives you the tools to manage workplace stressors. Overcoming Stress and Thriving in the Workplace by Bob Losyk explains how to cope with stress and bring balance to your life. And Surviving the Toxic Workplace by Linnda Durre will teach you how to work with negative people.

If you’re looking for a different way of enhancing your work experience, try Feng Shui, the practice of arranging your surroundings so they are in harmony and balance with nature. Feng Shui at Work by Kirsten M. Lagatree looks at how arranging your office space can help improve your performance at work. For example, placing a plant on your desk can draw positive energy to your work area.

Finally, if you can’t get away from your computer, go to and check out one of our online databases (found in "My Giant Search" in the Research section) such as the Health and Wellness Resource Center. You’ll find lots of information on a variety of topics to help you create a healthy lifestyle.

Lindsey Long, Reference Librarian