Reading

Weeding Takes Fortitude

Like pulling weeds from one’s garden, weeding a collection is often done to make space.  But unlike the in-the-dirt activity, weeding books is tough.  When you pull that volume off the shelf you are not simply ridding the lettuce patch of all those pesky maple whirly-birds that seem to have taken root over night.  Weeding books severs a tactile connection between the written word that once transported the reader to an imaginary realm or conveyed clear instruction or the creative content of any genre in between.  There is something special about the art of book collecting.  Removing titles is tough.  So difficult that librarians will procrastinate for years until bulging shelves, with no room for new purchases, demand attention.  So difficult that we dub the work, de-selection, since it requires as much (maybe more) discrimination then demonstrated at the time of acquisition.  

I have a small but growing collection of knitting books, a mix of instructional titles and pattern collections authored by well-respected designers.  For a number of years, they were stashed on the floor under a Hutton Sculpture bench in our TV room.  Not the best location but handy until the quantity outgrew the space available – but where to move them?  Our first thought was to buy more shelving but space is at a premium in our 96-year old house with less than 1,000 square feet which generated today’s task – weeding books.

We each contributed to the newly freed shelf space.  Gone are eight management titles that I will not re-read in retirement and nine, four-ring Porsche binders.  We sold our white 1987 Porsche 944S in 2003 but kept the repair manuals as a visual reminder of the time spent at driver education events when we focused on corner apexes, acceleration points, and tach readings.  Photos, trophies and the infrequent scent of brake dust will have to suffice.  We even created enough space for new acquisitions as the inches of items weeded exceeded the number of inches needed.  Happy reading!

Reading

Fond Memories of Nancy Drew

I am old enough that while working my first library job librarians were still debating the efficacy of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries.  At the time, there were two distinct camps:  Those that felt children should only read “quality” literature and those that believed that any reading was good.  This dichotomy played out in library selection meetings and at library conferences around the country as the debate waged over spending precious tax dollars for what, by some, were deemed titles just slightly above pulp fiction.  (Note:  The distinction that books by Carolyn Keene were not pulp was based solely on the hard covers of this series versus the paperbacks of such authors as Philip K. Dick or Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Remember – At the time, a similar debate waged over the merits of paperbacks, perceived as ephemeral and not worthy of being in a library collection, regardless of the author!)

I definitely fell into the latter category; after all, I had loved Nancy Drew mysteries.  My childhood friend, Julie B., introduced me to this strong female heroine and her two best friends and ever faithful sleuthing partners, Beth and George, when she lent me her copy of The Hidden Staircase.  I thought Julie was immensely lucky as she owned a wonderful collection of 10-13 titles which she began lending to me.  Her collection consisted of early titles in the series, so, with my allowance and every birthday and Christmas, I acquired the later books in the series.  Our goal was to own every Nancy Drew title, that by combining her early titles and my later ones, our collection would meet in the middle.

There are those avid readers who pride themselves on never re-reading a title and those that re-visit well loved books time and again.  On this topic I fall in the middle as I generally don’t re-read books simply because, in the words of Frank Zappa, “So many books, so little time.”  But I do remember the first book I ever re-read.  It was a sunny day during summer vacation and I read The Clue in the Old Stagecoach three times, cover-to-cover.  The magic of the words transported me into Nancy’s search for hidden treasure.  Having just re-read The Bookseller for The Directors’ Book Club, my list of re-read titles (not inlcuding library storytime favorites) is now a dozen plus a few: 

  • The Bookseller by Mark Pryor
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • The Clue in the Old Stagecoach by Carolyn Keene (Three times in one day!)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Harry Potter, #1-7 by J.K. Rowling (First as the titles were released & re-read before each movie premiere.)
  • His Dark Materials, #1-3 by Philip Pullman (For the summer science fiction book club.)
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Just because what is not to love about a time travel romance between Claire and Jamie aka Sam Heughan with his own blend of whisky.)
Other items of interest

Waffles + Mochi

Continuing her quest to encourage kids (and adults too) to explore and enjoy healthy food, Michelle Obama is launching a new adventure with her puppet friends Waffles + Mochi.  They will travel the world to find just the right ingredients and, along their way, meet new friends that viewers will certainly recognize — Chef José Andrés, Common, Jack Black and more.  Just a quick view of the promotional trailer will have you smiling and looking forward to meeting Waffles + Mochi on the March 16 Netflix debut. 

Art · Other items of interest

Missing Lunch

Pressed Leaf by K. Lindsay, 2020

February 20, a year ago, was the last time I had lunch with the friends I dub my Art Group.  We were in that in-between time.  Corona virus was already in our vocabulary.  We had made the definitional change from epidemic to pandemic.  We had friends or family in parts of the world or on either coast that we were worried about but, in our small corner of Minnesota, Covid-19 still felt distant.  We were still a month away from our first statewide lockdown.  That day, as always, the food and libations were delicious and the company even better but little did we know as we set a March date for our next Ladies Night Out Lunch that it would simply slip by in a flurry of social distancing, masks and sanitizing wipes.

Over the years, I have self-described as the voyeur among this talented group of women all of whom were or still are SEMVA artists.  Despite being the odd duck without any artistic training (although I did get A-s in my art appreciation college classes) I was always enthralled by the intriguing discussions about gouache and pastels, resists and French dyes, plein air and pallet knives.  When I was still working, it was such a treat not to talk about library politics and, believe me, librarianship can be filled with intrigue.  In my retirement world, lunch with my Art Group was always inspirational and nudged me to explore new fibers and different knitting patterns.  Plus, what is not to like (and certainly miss!) when people appreciate the newest project off my needles.

While missing my lunch companions, I enjoyed a touch of Covid humor shared by a friend. This math word-problem is a spot on description for the year just ending and how 2021 is shaping up:

If you’re going down a river at 2 MPH and your canoe loses a wheel, how much pancake mix would you need to re-shingle your roof?

Reading

Book Club with Hugo Marston & The Bookseller

balck and white book cover with Paris elaborate bridge over the Seine in the foreground and Eifel Tower in the background

A well written mystery, with a story that evolves from an interest in antique books, to the kidnapping of a bouquiniste (a bookseller with a stall along the Seine), plus historic WWII intrigue, and, of course, murder.  There is even a little love interest scribed by Mark Pryor in The Bookseller, the first title in the Hugo Marston series.

After enjoying our first book club title, The Directors – a library loving, book reading, wine drinking group of retired friends – moved literary settings from the English countryside to Paris for our second book club choice.  The Bookseller introduced us to Hugo Marston, a former FBI profiler now head of embassy security in Paris.  The tall Texan, who is fluent in French, loves well brewed coffee and walking Paris streets, possesses a strong sense of justice but will diplomatically step out of the limelight and let the French police claim the glory after catching the bad guys.  The Directors all agreed we will be exploring the other titles in Pryor’s Hugo Marston series.

Happy reading!

Art · Other items of interest

Caradori Kintsugi

A number of years ago, a friend described the Japanese art of Kintsugi in her opening words on a Sunday morning.  Amazing to think that in this all too quick to pitch, always buy new consumer world, there are those whose art focuses on the broken, carefully recreating that which was valuable and making it even more beautiful by re-assembling it with precious metals.

I am sure I must have passed ancient porcelain repaired with gold or platinum in the Asian Art collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) but nothing immediately comes to mind.  Although, to be honest, we frequently walk the long corridor dividing period rooms without careful study simply because it is the most direct route to our timed entrance to tour a featured exhibit.

One day, while visiting Caradori Pottery for bowls to give as wedding presents, I indulged my love of pottery and treated myself. Unlike a piece of pottery broken by use, this vibrant green glazed bowl had developed a small crack during firing.  Rather than reject this beauty, David, artfully filled the gap with 24K gold.

Reading

Earth Day – starting early

Photo by Markus Spiske from Prexels

Usually Earth Day arrives, as it does every April 22, and catches me unaware.  I go oops I should have [fill in the blank – read or investigated or donated or something] before now.  So this year, still living in these Covid times, I am starting early and Gum Trees and Galaxies provided just the right incentive.  The blog’s co-authors, who self describe as “…a couple of Australian empty nesters (not grey nomads, at least not yet), exploring, experimenting and recording life,” invite their readers to a nature reading challenge.  Yes, I am still exploring reading challenges for 2021.  They even provide a downloadable Gaia Book Bingo card to enhance your Gaia/Nature reading adventure.

Join me in reading and celebrating Earth Day 2021!  You can start early too.  Reduce.  Recycle.  Reuse.

Knitting · Reading

Knitting in the City

Knitting in the City © Penny Reid

When launched as a Covid coping tool, Knit+ Librarian was intended to highlight my current reading without being too book-reportish.  However, a quick review of recent posts reveals a dearth of titles and lest you think this librarian has given up on books – not to worry.  I have simply opted not to report each book title-by-title.  My Goodreads account is a finely-tuned tool that provides titles, dates and ratings on a five-star scale, as well as a list of what I am reading and an ever-growing want-to-read list. At the moment I have six titles open:

  • Ghosts of the Shadow Market by Cassandra Clare – a YA paranormal fantasy audio book for multitasking while I knit
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and A Good Time for the Truth, an anthology edited by Sun Yung Shin – for upcoming book discussions I am leading at church (reported on earlier)
  • The Bookseller by Mark Pryor – the first in the Hugo Marston murder series for the upcoming The Directors’ bookclub
  • The Art of the Wasted Day by St. Paul author Patricia Hampl – a recent gift from a friend
  • Knitlandia by Clara Parkes – another gift from a friend that I come back to chapter by chapter.

Let me recommend – – – For light reading with a knitting tie-in, author Penny Reid, provides the right combination of good things – character development, dialogue, humor, all set against a Chicago backdrop – in her Knitting in the City series.  I have finished Book 5:  Happily Ever Ninja and downloaded book 6 to my iPad.  These contemporary romances can be read as stand-alone titles but there is a nice flow between the books as we meet seven good friends who gather every Tuesday night to knit or crochet all the while enjoying adult beverages and offering great worldly advice.  As with every title within this genre, the expected occurs – girl meets boy, attraction, romance and love happen albeit with some challenges.  Unlike some series where the characters are so interchangeable so as to be cardboard cutouts from one title to the next, the women of Knitting in the City are as unique as any collection of your friends.  Reid uses knitting as a connecting thread week-to-week as the story and relationships develop sufficient to keep any fiber lover happy but without overwhelming the non-knitter.  Sometimes she even slips in references to Ravelry patterns.  And, for the really knit-nerdy, Reid offers a companion title that includes 27 patterns based on her characters’ knitting creations.

Happy reading!

Reading

Read & Celebrate Minnesota Authors

For over 20 years, the Minnesota Book Awards have celebrated Minnesota authors connecting readers and writers of all genres.  The 36 finalists for the 2021 award were just announced and include some favorite authors and new names too.  Check out the list for your reading pleasure and then check back April 29 when the winners will be announced.  Or, even better, join the free virtual festivities. 

Baking · Other items of interest

Clara’s Cashew Cookies

The recipe card reads Cashew Cookies but I always add the extra nomenclature in honor of the gracious hostess and great baker who, years ago, sent me on the road with a fresh batch of these sweet treats.  I don’t usually make them.  My cookie baking tends towards the quick, crunchy kind without the extra step of frosting.  Plus, this frosting calls for browned butter requiring extra vigilance since butter can go from nutty caramel to burnt in just those few seconds when you look away from the stove.

And, of course, there is a story with this recipe — In 1978, I had been invited to teach a summer storytelling class at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.  At the time, I was working as a school librarian and going to Library School at UW-Madison.  The chance to teach at the academic level, even if only for a week, would have been a great additional to my resume.  However, I was seriously considering declining the offer simply due to the math.  Even though I would be totally responsible for developing the curriculum, teaching unsupervised and managing all the required paperwork I would only receive an un-degreed TA (teaching assistant) stipend.  By the time I covered a week’s expenses – motel, meals, gas and maybe a glass of wine or two – I would be paying the university for the experience.  Then a friend connected me with a retired parish housekeeper who loved to host short term guests.  It was like a private B&B as Clara baked fresh pastries each morning and when I left at the end of the week she gave me a “care package” for the long (90 mile) journey from LaCrosse to Eau Claire.

And yes, those with a discerning eye will note it is a pistachio and not a cashew atop each cookie as I claim a baker’s prerogative to modify the recipe so these are made with chopped pistachios.