When History Splashes Off the Page

You may recall I gave myself a list of reading challenges for 2014. They are all self-imposed and they all just randomly fell out of my brain one day in a burst of madness inspiration. Whether this is the first you’re hearing of my reading resolutions or you just want to review, here is the list of my reading inspirations:

  1. Read something a library patron recommends
  2. Read this year’s Everett Reads! book 
  3. Read something difficult, either due to subject matter or writing style
  4. Read an award-winning book
  5. Read something that is super-popular (see below)
  6. Read a book that was the basis for a TV series or movie
  7. Read a classic work of literature
  8. Read an annotated classic work of literature
  9. Read something that will help me plan for the future
  10. Read something that will help me reconcile the past
  11. Read a graphic novel 
  12. Read an entire series that is new to me

Up until now I thought of this list as only a clever way for me to have some ready-made books to blog about. However, I really didn’t expect anything mind-blowing to result. Then I decided to tackle number five, the super-popular designation. And guys, I finished reading this book three weeks ago. Three weeks ago. I have been unable to pick up another book since. This book broke me. I am stuck in a rut, afraid to pick up another book because it’s really not fair to that book to have to follow behind one so good as this one.

The boys in the boatUnless you’ve been living under a rock, or just not in the Pacific Northwest, everyone has been buzzing about The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. The library first bought the book last June and I don’t think we’ve ever been successful at keeping a single copy on the shelf. As of this writing there are still twenty-two outstanding holds across all formats. I was lucky enough to snag an eBook copy. Pro tip: if you need a popular book quickly, the holds queues for eBooks tend to be far shorter than physical print copies.

So there I was: sitting curled up on the couch, Saturday morning, fresh-brewed coffee in hand. This was back before that big summer heat wave hit Seattle. It was just me and the title screen on my Kindle. I had no idea what was about to happen, how truly involved in this story I would become. I ended up creating countless highlights in my eBook of passages I thought embodied a person, idea, or event. I didn’t count on how difficult it would be to retrieve said highlights later. So you’ll have to keep with me as I try to put into words how incredibly magnificent this book was, and still is.

Joe Rantz was born in Spokane in 1914. His childhood and early adulthood are detailed throughout the book, juxtaposed with great inventions of the time, and a healthy dose of local, federal, and world history. His father invented as a hobby, but it was never enough to pay the bills. When Joe was still quite young his mother died. His father, heartbroken and searching for work, moved all over the Northwest. Sometimes he took Joe; sometimes he left Joe behind; sometimes he shipped Joe out to a relative’s house. As a result, Joe had a severely unstable childhood but also became extremely self-reliant. Being left behind in a half-built house in the wilderness outside of Sequim, while your father packs up his new family and leaves for parts unknown will do that to you.

By the time he got to the University of Washington in 1933, Joe was always second-guessing his worth. Despite working hard, and during the Great Depression no less, to not only scrape together tuition money but also find a place to live, Joe never really saw his strengths. Joe was used to hard work, but he thought he would finally feel like he fit in with like-minded people in college. Instead his threadbare clothes and deep poverty made him feel like an outcast from the very start of his college career.

Eventually, Joe managed to work his way onto the UW crew team. Despite his aptitude, dedication, and stamina, he saw that his place on the team was not permanent and never guaranteed. Coaches swapped students around on different boats, trying to find the right combination of rowers. This boat-swapping, coupled with his childhood of abandonment put Joe constantly on edge, fearful that he would be let go from the team just when he was starting to feel at home. Knowing that staying on the crew team was his only chance to stay in college, and have a shot at a good future, Joe was constantly worried but always striving to be better.

Over his freshman and sophomore years, his boat had its ups and downs in competitions and teammate personality conflicts. But it wasn’t until his junior year that his teammates became as close as family. In 1932 UW’s west coast rowing rivals, UC “Cal” Berkeley, had won Olympic gold. Entering the 1935 rowing season, everyone at both UW and Cal knew that their coach would be pushing them to fight for the chance at the gold medal at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. And any team competing against Germany on their home turf during an oppressive time would, if they could win it…well, do I need to go on?

The Dust Bowl. Nazis. The Great Depression. Hitler’s rise to power. All of this is set against our group of farm boys, working hard on the waters of Lake Washington. This is a true underdog story, one made more inspirational because every word of it is true. Pay special attention to the quotes from George Yeoman Pocock at the start of each chapter. He handcrafted all the racing shells at UW during Joe’s tenure, and he was wise beyond his years. I would love to read more about him and his equally humble beginnings and incredible life.

I really did not think I would like The Boys in the Boat, but was curious how a book about rowing could become so popular. I told my dentist I was going to read this book. He, an avid fisherman and happiest, I suspect, when he’s on the open water, said that it was also on his list to read this summer. I feel like I did us both proud. Look at me, reading a book about sports! But it’s so much more than that. If you, too, decide to give it a chance, prepare to be swept away at forty-five strokes per minute. Now that I’ve written this review I hope it releases me from the spell cast by Daniel James Brown. I’m going to crack open a new book tonight and test my theory.

In case you’re wondering, and lest us always remember, the boys in the boat:
Left to right: Don Hume, Joe Rantz, George “Shorty” Hunt, Jim “Stub” McMillin, John “Johnny” White Jr., Gordon “Gordy” Adam, Chuck Day, Roger Morris. Kneeling: Bobby Moch

1936 UW Varsity Crew Team

Must Reads for Summer 2014

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There are good and bad things about working in a library. The good: all of the great books that you discover and get to read. The bad: all of the great books that you don’t have time to read. We all have excuses and these are mine: full-time work and a toddler who just turned two years old and a baby who is ten months old. Oh yeah, and a house and garden and that guy I married 33 years ago. So, I often feel like that funny old bird the pelican whose beak holds more than his belly can. I have a beak full of great reads these days which may interest you if you’re participating in the summer reading program at the Everett Public Library or if you’re lucky enough to be planning a vacation and need a good book to take along. This list has a little bit of everything so there may be just the right book for you. Let’s start with non-fiction.

indexCA1ADCTLFlash Boys: a Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis is on my list since I read Boomerang and I thought that it was the bomb. This guy also wrote Moneyball and The Blind Side and other excellent books. It reads like a John Grisham novel, but it’s a true story about stock exchanges, high frequency traders, and dark pools. The author is great at explaining complicated technical subjects and telling a good story around them. I want to read it!

indexCA63IMS4Leonardo and the Last Supper has been by my bedside for a few weeks now. It’s excellent! I was an art history major in college and I’ve learned so much more from this book about the creation of this Renaissance masterpiece. Mr. King has managed to focus on a particular theme and give the reader as much information as needed to really understand it. Another of his earlier books accomplished the same thing, Brunelleschi’s Dome, which I can also recommend.

indexCAAEEVC8The President and the Assassin: McKinley, terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century is a great book (obvious from the first chapter) by Seattle author, Scott Miller. He creates a portrait of turn of the century America going back and forth between an under-appreciated president, William McKinley and his anarchist assassin, Leon Czolgosz. This was a time when the powerful were growing more powerful and desperate men turned to terrorism. Sound familiar?

And now for some fiction:

index (16)I have to read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie because my daughter heard her give a talk recently in Copenhagen and apparently it’s wonderful. The author takes on immigration, race, and what it means to leave home and to return, all wrapped up in a love story. Adichie has also written Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus. The first chapter alone is marvelous. Let’s all get with it and read this one.

indexCAZNZBA7The Care of Wooden Floors by Will WIles was recommended to me by two co-workers so I checked it out and my husband read it while we were on vacation. Even though I couldn’t read it, he confirmed that it is funny and interesting and a good book.  It’s an odd couple story of a fellow who house sits for a composer friend. He accidentally spills wine on the apartment’s priceless wooden floor and endures a disastrous week of perfectionist repair and maintenance.

index (1)Delicious! is by Ruth Reichl. I’ve read all of her memoirs from Garlic and Sapphires to Tender at the Bone. This is her first attempt at fiction and she certainly writes about what she knows: the heroine is a woman who works for a venerable food magazine that suddenly ceases publication. It looks like a pretty fun and fast read, and if you’re looking for a souffle-type novel, you could do worse! Plus, the cover is lovely.

indexBroken Harbor is Tana French’s new ‘Dublin Murder Squad’ crime novel and it’s supposed to be every bit as brilliant as her three earlier books featuring that tough cop, Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy. This is a murder story which seems easy to solve at first until the details don’t add up. Read this one to get the atmosphere of an Ireland hit hard by the recession, an idea of police procedure and to become engrossed in a well written who dunnit.

index (1)The Possibilities is written by Kaui Hart Hemmings who also wrote The Descendants. You’ll remember that movie with George Clooney. This new book follows a similar theme of family and loss and is set in the paradise of Breckenridge, Colorado. A single mom is grieving the loss of her son, Cully, in an avalanche when a strange girl shows up with a secret from Cully’s past.

indexThe Vacationers by Emma Straub  will take you all the way to the beaches of Spain, where a family’s dramas are set against the beautiful background of a lush vacation. It will leave you feeling like you were just on a family trip — laughing, exhausted and filled with love.

So, check out one of these books to take on your next vacation or simply read one for a great ‘staycation’. Either way, enjoy!

Ghosts in the Shelf

Voodoo Hoodoo SpellbookAs librarians, we love it when our patrons get excited about the materials we purchase for them. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a title we’ve ordered fly off the shelf and accumulate holds; it’s a good sign that we’re on the right track to knowing what our readers want. Occasionally there’s a downside to success: when we can’t keep a title on the shelf because people don’t want to return it. When titles go unreturned we charge the guilty party and replace the books right away, either with copies of the same book, or with something more updated. We often order multiple copies of replacement books to accommodate the obviously high level of interest. Over time, the librarians who buy books in different areas of our collection have come to notice specific titles and topics that go A.W.O.L. more frequently than others. Some may not be too shocking to some, while others may be a bit of a surprise. Here’s what our book selectors have to say about what some readers just can’t get enough of at the EPL:

Essential Bicycle Maintainance & RepairAccording to Richard, bicycle repair manuals often ride off into the sunset, and sex instruction books frequently go undercover.

Pat reports that books on growing and cultivating marijuana go up in smoke.

Alan frequently has to reorder rock star memoirs on addiction recovery.

Game of ThronesAndrea says that in the young adults section, books by Ellen Hopkins are frequent offenders. One disappearing nonfiction title that gave her a chuckle had something to do with being an ethical hacker.

In Zac’s area, he has to replace a lot of graphic novels. Some eternally-popular titles include Sin City Vol. 1, The Eye of the World, The Game of Thrones, Y: The Last Man, The Lucifer series, and Batman:The City of Owls.

Cover image from Numerology for your FamilyFor my part, books in the occult and new age areas (reading crystals, casting spells, astrology, etc.) can be an issue. Bibles, bible study books, and devotionals are often not returned. My favorite not returned title was a self-help book on impulse control. My guess is that the borrower really needed it.

Other problem areas include automotive repair, true crime, diet and medical advice, gardening and homesteading, herbalism, foraging, computers and technology how-tos, cookbooks, tattoo design, crafting, test prep, and home projects.

For the most part it seems like the materials that most frequently go unreturned at the EPL are items that people might need at their side for quick reference. There are a lot of manuals (hands-on or spiritual) for getting through day-to-day problems, or self-improvement. Occasionally these books make their way back to our shelves after long absences. One can only hope that this means the borrowers finally fixed whatever issues were plaguing them.

While we may find some humor in the variety of materials that our patrons can become overly-attached to, missing items can be a serious problem if left unchecked. Library staff constantly work at following up on long-overdue items to make sure that materials are where they need to be when our readers want to check them out. So to our loyal readers, if you happen to be sitting on a cache of late materials, be kind and get them back a.s.a.p so that someone else can enjoy them.

A Blogger’s Life for Me

I’ve made it to the middle! We’re halfway through the year and I’m also halfway through my reading resolutions. Let’s review what I’ve gotten myself into:

  1. Read something a library patron recommends
  2. Read this year’s Everett Reads! book 
  3. Read something difficult, either due to subject matter or writing style
  4. Read an award-winning book
  5. Read something that is super-popular
  6. Read a book that was the basis for a TV series or movie
  7. Read a classic work of literature
  8. Read an annotated classic work of literature
  9. Read something that will help me plan for the future (see below)
  10. Read something that will help me reconcile the past
  11. Read a graphic novel 
  12. Read an entire series that is new to me

The future: a scary, unknown, slightly intimidating place where I will definitely have more wrinkles but I will hopefully have more time to focus on hobbies. I enjoy writing for this blog, and I love that you take time out of your busy schedule to read it. We have some very talented writers on staff here, and we’re all lucky that blogging is just another part of that mysterious “other duties as assigned” line in our job descriptions. We try to make posts fresh and relevant to your interests with the goal of promoting the library through its programs, services, and materials.

That’s all a nice way of saying I like writing here, but I’d love to do more and on my own terms. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting my own blog, and maybe start laying the groundwork for either a steady hobby or, if all goes brilliantly, a second career.

BlogIncBlog Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Cho is the book that lit my creative fire. Joy, who has been a professional blogger since 2005, is a trusted voice in the blogosphere. Her book condenses down her best tips and tricks for developing your own writing voice and taking it online. I found guidelines for setting up both a content strategy and a marketing plan, both main ingredients in a successful blogger’s toolkit. Mixed in with these nuggets of wisdom are interviews with other professional bloggers. I find it fascinating how some people got their “big break” and what other things these bloggers do when they’re not online. Some run small businesses; others are full-time parents. But everyone shares a passion for blogging, one that I would love to channel into my very own blog.

But I didn’t stop there. I checked out a ton of books on blogging from the library, and found an excellent balance between how to plan good content and a ton of technical help (think layout and coding cool features). Books like ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett, Building a WordPress Blog People Want to Read by Scott McNulty, and Blogging for Bliss: Crafting Your Own Online Journal by Tara Frey build on the foundation Blog Inc. gave me. For those who don’t like to start any new venture without a Dummies reference, check out Blogging All-In-One for Dummies. I found information on everything from planning content, selecting a host, and using social media to share my posts.

After digesting all this information, including how to make money from blogging (can we say dream job?), I looked into other ways I could monetize my life. Everyone else is selling out, so why shouldn’t I? That’s where How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity by Patricia Carlin comes into play. I figure with three cats, all of whom are completely insane, there’s got to be an entertainment gold mine in there somewhere. This book is obviously a parody of, well, I guess the entire Internet. But I won’t let that slow me down. There are tons of sure-fire ways to turn your feline friend into the next Grumpy Cat. If nothing else I could always fall back on these ideas if my blog gets a little low on fresh content.

Gypsy

TonksTheDude

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on my recent reading and pinning activities, I’m on the verge of taking the blogging plunge. Maybe if I get started now and get a dedicated following, get myself used to a structure and schedule, and figure out how to maybe get paid for my hard work, I’ll have in place a second career. But I’m not totally delusional: I’m still buying lottery tickets.

Tackling Mixology

Summer is fast approaching, and the social calendar is already filling up. One of the things my husband and I enjoy most is hosting groups of friends at our place for dinners and parties. When we host get-togethers, I always gravitate towards the kitchen, while Dan plays mixologist. There’s something about mixing cocktails that has always spooked me by seeming a bit too precise. In order to get over this fear, I decided to hunt down some accessible books on how to make the perfect drink for the perfect party. Here’s my short list:

Cover image of DIY CocktailsDIY Cocktails: a Simple Guide to Creating your Own Signature Drink by Marcia Simmons and Jonas Halpren. This is one recipe book where it’s in your best interest to start at the beginning and read on through. I tend to pick up cookbooks and dive right into the middle, skipping all the intro materials, but the beginning of this book is extremely helpful in explaining the nature of cocktail recipes, the tools and measurements used, and how you can improvise. From there, the authors provide you with recipes for many classic and obscure drinks, as well as creative ways to personalize them to make them your own. This appeals to me because I tend to ‘riff’ on the dishes I like according to what I happen to have in the kitchen at the time; this book allows you to do the same with your liquor cabinet.

Cover image for The Punch BowlThe Punch Bowl: 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry by Dan Searing. I was first attracted to this title because punch seems to work well when entertaining large groups of people. Upon closer inspection, I found that this book was actually 2 parts alcohol, 1 part history: a perfect ratio for a historian hostess. Early sections of this book are devoted to the history of punch, how old recipes are modernized, and information about antique punch-serving equipment. Liberally sprinkled through the book are lovely photos of punch bowls, service sets, goblets, and well-garnished drinks. The recipes themselves are a mix of very accessible drinks with common ingredients and impossible beverages with ingredient lists that seem unlikely to be filled unless you live in a major city or have a lot of time on your hands. I guess that’s understandable when you take into account the fact that the author includes beverages that were en vogue hundreds of years ago. Thankfully the former outweighs the latter and makes this book a worthwhile read.

Cover image for Cocktails for a CrowdCocktails for a Crowd by Kara Newman. This is essentially the light version of The Punch Bowl. Most of the cocktails listed in this book are designed to be served in pitchers or bowls to make life easier for hosts. Absent are the random obscure ingredients, unless they are simple items that you could make at home to enhance your recipe. In the front part of the book there is ample information about preparing garnishes, as well as infused bitters and syrups. This seems like an excellent pick for beginner mixologists who aren’t in the mood for a history lesson.

Cover image for Beer CocktailsBeer Cocktails by Howard and Ashley Stelzer. For those of you who haven’t been introduced to the world of beer cocktails, this a game-changer for casual get-togethers. The recipes in this book are a far cry from the beermosas and makeshift micheladas my friends and I would whip together using car camping ingredients on groggy Sunday mornings. Beer Cocktails is helpfully arranged by style of beer, so that you can start your experimenting with beers that already appeal to you.

Happy mixing – enjoy responsibly!

Books That Started as Blogs

If you’re like me, and I hope you are, you follow a blog or two just because it’s fun. Of course I read this very blog because my smart and hip co-workers contribute valuable stuff to it. Hey, you’re reading it right now! You must be just like me.

Did you know that there are a lot of great books which have been spawned from blogs? Let’s explore some recent titles which had their starts as blogs. I’ll start with the visual ones:

indexCake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong by Jen Yates is so funny! Yates has been entertaining us with the worst cakes ever, including the ugly, silly, creepy, sad, and suggestive on her blog since 2008. It currently features photos of awful graduation cakes. Have your cake and laugh at it, too. With witty commentary and behind-the-scenes tidbits, Cake Wrecks will ensure that you never look at a cake the same way again.

index (1)There, I Fixed It! No, You Didn’t by Cheez Burger is part of the ubiquitous Cheezburger Network of blogs and is another hilarious visual feast full of epic fails which show human ingenuity at its worst. My favorite ‘chapter’ features quick fixes with duct tape.

index (14)How To Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You is based on the blog, The Oatmeal, a hugely popular website. It is a brilliant 136 page offering of cat comics, facts, and instructions to help you enjoy, love, and survive your cat. The book is a #1 NY Times best seller and sold over a half million copies in its first three months in print. Check it out from the library for free. Even I laughed, and I hate cats.

index (3)I do love dogs and fortunately for me there’s Dog Shaming by Pascale Lemire, based on the blog with the same name. This book features the most hilarious, shameful, and never-before-seen doggie misdeeds. It reminds me of the evening we were sitting around with friends having a nice conversation, when we discovered that our friend’s dog had chewed apart another friend’s shoe. We didn’t think to take a photo, but these folks have taken some pretty funny ones.

index (13)And what blog-book list would be complete without an awkward family photo selection? I’ll include Awkward Family Pet Photos which came from the Awkward Family Photos blog. These books are always so weird, yet funny. Just look at this fellow hugging his dog on the cover. The photos with monkeys, possums, and chickens are especially hilarious. And now on to the blog-books which have more text than photos.

index (4)Let’s Pretend This Never Happened:  (A Mostly True Memoir) is written by Jenny Lawson, the “Bloggess”. She’s ‘like Mother Theresa, only better.’ She writes this about her book: “You should probably go buy it right now, because it’s filled with awesomeness. And cocaine. But only if you hollow it out and fill it with your own cocaine. I’m not buying you cocaine. Because I love you.” I thought it was hilarious when I read it and you may also, since you’re just like me!

index (5)Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas who writes dispatches on McSweeney’s. Scott Douglas works for a smallish public library nestled cozily between Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm in Orange County, California. This is where most of his observations occur, although sometimes he goes to other libraries. This book is super funny because it could have taken place at our very own local library. Read it and see for yourself.

index (6)The Happiest Mom by Meagan Francis who writes the Happiest Home blog online. The author also writes for Parenting magazine and is the mother of five children, so she presumably knows her stuff and spells it out in ten simple rules that are delivered with humor. This book has gorgeous graphics and the main idea is that you can be a mom (or grandparent) and still be happy. As I’ve always said, if Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

These blog-books are sure to make you happy.  Check them out at your local library!

Knitters Unite, Together they Stitch

knittedtree (3)They’re out there and they are coming to a location near you! Wielding and working their needles, knitting communities worldwide have been gathering annually on the second Saturday in June since 2005. The occasion has been dubbed World Wide Knit in Public Day. Unaware of this phenomena and taken quite by surprise,I shot the photo above while on a trip to Richmond VA.

spud and chloeThis happening event has sparked staff at the library: from the hands that brought you the knitted Royal Family, Everett Public Library knitters have been at it again.Their inspiration primarily comes from library books such as Spud and Chloe at the Farm and Knitted Nursery Rhymes. This  industrious group of knitters has been stitching away for months on break time and after work hours. Cute characters and creatures are shaping up to make their debut in June at both locations. In addition, to commemorate World Wide Knit in Public Day, the Evergreen Branch will host a gathering “Drop everything and knit”, at 6:00 pm on June 18th.

Not a knitter myself, I thought it might be interesting to learn a bit about the knitters behind the needles. I posed the question to a few staff knitters, “How long have you been knitting and what got you started?” I’ve enjoyed each response and thought you might as well.

Linda told me it was the Vietnam War that got her started. She explained that during the war her mother had generously opened up their home, inviting her friend and family to stay with them while her husband served overseas — in effect their household size doubled. Linda in turn sought out tranquility and became friends with an elderly neighbor who welcomed her company and taught Linda how to both knit and crochet. This lifetime skill has led to placing her work and winning awards at the Evergreen State Fair For the past 7 years Linda has volunteered several evenings a month at the Evergreen Branch where she leads a Crochet and Knit group.  ‘Spud and Chloe at the farm’, currently on display at the Evergreen Branch, gives tribute to her talent and most recent work.

Kim shares that around the time she finished college and started her first “real” job at the Everett Public Library 25 years ago, she began to knit. Considering knitting to be a fun hobby, but with no experience, Kim began taking classes at Great Yarns just north of 41st on Rucker Avenue. The instructor was pleased with Kim’s lack of knowledge and told Kim “You won’t have to unlearn anything.” I found it interesting to learn that Kim uses the Continental style of knitting which means in knitting language she is a picker not a thrower. In this method one holds the yarn in the left hand compared to the majority who hold the yarn in their rightSince her early years at the library, Kim has always managed to connect with other knitters and is the person behind the collaborative display that will be in the children’s display case at the Main Library.

veryhungrycaterpillarNalmes grandmother’s enthusiasm for knitting, not shared by her own mother, got passed down to her. Influenced by her grandmother she learned basic technique; terminology would come later since she was just 9 years old. After a decade or so Nalmes picked knitting back up last year inspired by the many knitting books here at the library. Today she is self-taught. Between how-to-books and YouTube videos she feels confident and believes she can pretty much do anything she puts her knit and crochet needles to. Recently she made a Seahawk scarf as a birthday gift and a newborn sleeper designed to look like the Very Hungry Caterpillar. You can see her contribution to the knit display at the Evergreen Branch Library.

knittingstitchesJulie wanted to try something no one else in her family had mastered, so at the resourceful age of 12 she visited her local library and borrowed a children’s picture book on knitting. Through trial and error, mostly error, Julie taught herself. The most challenging project Julie has taken up was the knitting of a fisherman sweater.The process took a months time and involved managing multiple needles, converting a pattern to do ‘in the round’ and an additional four months to knit. If you are up for the challenge Knitting Stitches Visual Encyclopedia is good  resource. Subsequently, Julie has successfully taught her mom to knit dishcloths and has helped out many others along the way. She confides the process of knitting is more rewarding than the final product. Currently she has been working on features that will be on display at the Evergreen Branch library as well as dishcloths as a wedding gift for her cousin’s wedding.

Chris says she has been knitting for as long as she remembers, at least 45 years. It was so long ago she cannot recall the learning of it but remembers a mustard-colored yarn, strange as that sounds. She credits her mom who taught Chris at 8 years old how to sew along with her two sisters. Consequently, her mom had to create a schedule so the girls wouldn’t fight over who got to use the sewing machine while making back-to-school clothes. You can see her contribution to the Knitted Nursery on display at the Main Library.

Leslie admits she hasn’t had much time to knit lately. She was about eight when her god mother bought her some blue plastic needles and some furry black and white yarn. She made a scarf and has been knitting ever since. She typically knits more in the winter months than the summer. Leslie is currently working on Christmas stockings for her granddaughters.

toystoknitEven though I don’t know one needle from another or the difference between crochet and knitting, I must say that the books on this subject seem endless. I browsed over a few that looked inviting. Learn to Knit Love to Knit is by Anna Wilkinson who is a leading designer among a new wave of young knitters. She offers basic illustrations and instructions for the beginner. The book then dedicates the last half to serious skilled knitters with beautiful designs. If you would like to try something along the lines of what library knitters are creating, you might find some ideas in Toys to Knit, by Tracy Chapman or Amigurume: Make Cute Crochet People, by Allison Hoffman.

These are just a small sampling of the many books available on crochet and knitting at the Everett Public Library. Who knows, I may start stitching myself one of these days. 

The Facts of Summer

Just in case you haven’t noticed, the summer reading season is upon us. In addition to great programs at EPL encouraging people to read this summer, there are many summer reading lists from which to choose. Any list, however, has to grapple with an interesting conundrum: what exactly is a summer read? Some recommend escapist ‘light’ fiction while others promote the most popular titles that they claim everyone will be reading. While the idea that the season should dictate the type of book you read does seem a bit dubious, I have found that I tend to reach for non-fiction titles when the sun comes out.  Maybe it is just the extra hours of daylight that encourages me to delve into these often longer titles. In any case, here are two excellent non-fiction titles I’ve just read and a list of interesting ones that are on my ‘to read’ list.

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
sixthextinctionThe core topic of this book, the scientific evidence that the rise of the human species has coincided with a huge loss of flora and fauna on par with other mass extinctions, is admittedly a bit disturbing. The amazing thing is that Kolbert presents the topic in a fascinating and, dare I say, entertaining way. She goes out into the field with biologists, geologists and other scientists to examine the demise of present and past species and the resulting evolutionary fallout. Each chapter is a separate story complete with an intriguing cast of characters, both animal and human, adding another piece to the puzzle. This is scientific writing at its best. It also helps to give our rather ego-centric species a rare gift: perspective.

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
fivedaysatmemorialThis is the harrowing tale of life and death at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. As the floodwaters continued to rise, the doctors, nurses and medical staff had to make desperate decisions concerning which of their patients would be evacuated and the even more troubling quandary of what to do with those left behind. Fink uses all her journalistic talents to present the events of those five days after the hurricane as well as the extensive legal battles and moral judgments that came afterwards. The central question of whether there is a separate standard of right and wrong during ‘extreme emergencies’ is wisely left for the reader to decide.

Next is a sampling from my long list of non-fiction titles that I have been meaning to read. While I can’t vouch for them yet, they seem intriguing and just might be worth your summer reading time as well.

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Carsick by John Waters
The concept alone, the infamous director hitchhiking across America and recording his encounters, is impossible to resist. The audiobook, which the author will narrate, should be a standout.

The Devil’s Cormorant: A Natural History by Richard King
I’ve always thought of cormorants as simply cool birds. Apparently there is a long history of mistrust and demonization when it comes to human/cormorant relations. Time to find out more.

The Answer to the Riddle is Me by David MacLean
A memoir of amnesia, induced by malaria medications no less, and the author’s attempt to rediscover not only his memories, but who he is. Sounds like a mind bender, but in a good way.

Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval
Most of us spend a large amount of time in ‘designed workspaces’. How did that happen? Hopefully this book will have a few answers.

danceofthereptileslostartoffindingourwayhistoryofbourbonyesitshotinhere

Dance of the Reptiles by Carl Hiaasen
A new selection of the author’s articles from the Miami Herald. While Hiaasen’s fiction can sometimes be hit or miss, his exposés concerning the beauty and corruption of Florida have always been entertaining.

Lost Art of Finding Our Way by John Huth
A curious look at the ways we found our bearings before the recent advent of MapQuest and Google Earth. Maybe this will finally decide the dreaded car argument of whether to consult the smart phone or the map.

Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit by Dane Huckelbridge
A colorful history of bourbon sounds like just the ticket for warm summer nights. As a plus maybe I’ll finally be able to identify all those bottles they are pouring from in Justified.

Yes It’s Hot in Here by A.J. Mass
A cultural history of the team mascot by a former ‘Mr. Met’ that is just too weird a topic to pass up. It has got to be a surreal experience being inside the suit.

Clearly, you have many choices for summer non-fiction titles. So many in fact, that you just might want to extend your ‘summer reading’ well into fall and winter.

Tie on Your Big Girl Shoes and Run

Motivation

Motivation

Though it often comes as a surprise to friends, family, and even total strangers, I enjoy running. If I were ever to take on a triathlon, the organizers would politely put me in the Athena or Clydesdale category. I, on the other hand, embrace the term fathlete. As you’ve seen from previous posts, I like to eat, but I like being active just as much. While these two things don’t seem to be at odds to me and others I’ve met with similar habits, some ‘healthier’ people can have a hard time not judging a book by its cover. An example: I recently had a yoga instructor at a retreat ask me if I did any physical activity at all when I told her I rarely practiced yoga. Her reaction when I told her I played ice hockey a couple times a week and was training for my third half marathon was worth the sting of her initial derision. Namaste.

This kind of ‘fitter than thou’ attitude is pretty prevalent in fitness literature. For folks like me, it’s hard to find resources that encourage a healthy lifestyle and at the same time don’t tell you how horrible it is to be in your body. So, to throw a bone to all my larger-than-life-fitties out there, I’ve compiled a list of non-judgmental helpful books to help you reach your goals.

Unapologetic Fat Girl's Guide to Exercise coverThe Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise by Hanne Blank is a body-positive manifesto. Though the early chapters are aimed at motivating individuals who aren’t currently active, there are some nuggets of wisdom that everyone could use. I especially like her points on intent. Many people are active out of a vague sense of guilt that they should be doing something to improve themselves. Blank urges readers to move because they genuinely enjoy the activity, not because they feel it’s expected of them. There’s loads of other info in here about choosing the right activities, partnering up for success, selecting the best gear for your needs, and more.

The Runner’s Field Manual: A Tactical (and Practical) Survival Guide by Mark Remy is a great place to start if you’re interested in getting into running. This guide gives you advice on everything from knowing proper path etiquette, to how to run up an incline, to the proper way to run past roadkill without gagging. I appreciate that the authors and editors took the time to mix useful advice with a heavy dose of humor. The only thing that was lacking was information about proper nutrition while training – thankfully there were two other books ready to swoop in and answer all my questions.

Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance coverSomewhere in the back of my head there is a vague awareness that what you eat and when you eat it has a major impact on performance and progress. My lack of clarity on this topic probably explains why I actually gained weight while training for my last half marathon  instead of slimming down (here’s a hint: it wasn’t muscle building – it was the large pizzas I’d crave after training runs). Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes is a moderately-technical book that gets into the different nutrients found in foods, which ones you need to aid your performance and recovery, and what foods would be the best ones to consume. Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance takes things a step further and helps you figure out how much of what foods you need to consume before, during, and after different activities. My apologies upfront to anyone who dreads math – to use this book you’re going to have to crunch some numbers to figure out what plans are best for your build. I also appreciate the helpful meal plan examples at the end of the book to make things even easier.

Here’s a bonus book for those of you who are gluten-free and head-scratching at all these carb-heavy meal plans. The Gluten-Free Edge provides alternatives to the usual pre-event pasta dinners to help you on your way. Readers are also treated to a whole chapter of gluten-free recipes at the end to help put in practice all that you learn.

Healthy Tipping Point coverLastly, if you’re just looking to make some lifestyle changes to add more activity and a better sense of well-being to your life, Healthy Tipping Point has some really useful tips. While the main purpose of the book is to get the reader to make healthier choices for his or her own good, the author urges them to accept that thin and lean may not be the healthiest body type for each individual. More emphasis is placed on finding each individual’s healthy weight and physique, rather than trying to shoehorn people into the current popular perception of health and beauty.

Confessions of a Cookbook Enthusiast

Cookbooks fly in and out of the library, sailing across the circulation desk. Their glossy covers tantalize my imagination and whet my appetite with seductive photos and suggestive recipes. I’m lured, tempted, and enticed to experiment! Of all the genres, it’s the culinary arts that push my buttons and get me motivated. Whether I try a recipe or just read up on techniques and trends, the Everett Public Librarys motto to INSPIRE, INFORM, and ENTERTAIN feeds my cookbook enthusiast passion.

dahliabakerycookbookLocal restaurateur legend, Tom Douglas and co-author Shelly Lance, have won me over in compiling The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook. I’ve raved about this cookbook, checked it out numerous times and recently became the owner of said cookbook thanks to my sister. I’m in heaven! The old-fashioned molasses cookie recipe with fresh ginger is what turned on my taste buds (see recipe below). They are delicate, chewy, and slightly crisp around the perimeter. These versatile cookies go well with a cup of tea or pair wonderfully with a chilled glass of Jones Late Harvest Riesling. If you like this recipe you may also enjoy the cranberry apricot oatmeal cookies, at 4 inches in diameter these cookies impress!

Personally I’m a bit intimidated when it comes to ‘baking’, more science than art and not my strong subject. Tom concurs that baking requires skill and gives credit to Shelly who is the head Pastry Chef at the Dahlia Bakery establishment on 4th Avenue in Seattle. As a side note several of Chef Douglas’s restaurants are near the bakery. One is Lola’s where my husband and I dined during Restaurant week. The chocolate dessert I had was otherworldly!

Currently, I have on loan two alluring cookbooks: Le Pain Quotidien and One Good Dish and both look a bit exotic. Borrowing cookbooks from the library sometimes leads to adding a well-loved cookbook to my home collection. The Food Matters Cookbook, by Mark Bittman is one such book. I use Bittman’s recipes on a regular basis because a lot of them offer healthy options with substitutions (If you don’t have this you can substitute using this). My confidence is growing as I try new recipes and mix things up expressing my creativity. I encourage you to come in and checkout one of the many excellent cookbooks at the library. There is something for everyone’s palate. Bon Appetite!

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Old-Fashioned Molasses Cookies with fresh ginger

makes makes 4 1/2 dozen small cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar, plus about 1/2 cup more for rolling
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1. preheat oven to 350

2.In the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, molasses, and ginger mix to combine. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour before shaping the cookies.

3. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup sugar on a plate. Form 3/4-inch balls of dough and roll balls in the sugar before placing them on parchment-lined baking sheets. Press the balls of dough flat with the palm of your hand. The cookies should be spaced 2 or 3 inches apart after they are flattened.

4. Bake until golden brown and set around the edges but still slightly soft in the center, 7 to 8 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. If you have two pans of cookies in the oven at the same time also switch them between the racks. Remove from the oven allow cookies to cool before removing them with a metal spatula.