Blogs

France’s various media outlets have developed free, fun, and accessible language learning resources. While they are generally designed to help immigrants in France, they are also a boon for those of us working on our French from far away!

For video lessons, check out Apprendre le français avec TV5MONDE. There you will find French lessons divided into four levels. Each lesson has recent news video with a series of questions or grammar exercises. Examples of recent video topics: Le lycée c'est fini!Les Tatars de Crimée, and L'histoire de la moutarde. Learn about culture, travel, news and more while improving your French!

Prefer audio lessons? Take a look at Radio France International’s Langue Français page, which has a huge array of lessons, many of them downloadable. If you like podcasts be sure to look for the link for Journal en français facile (iTunes), a daily news broadcast in simple French. The broadcasters speak slowly, provide context, and often have an explanation of an idiom. Even if you find yourself struggling to understand it is invaluable to hear the accent and the rhythm of the language without being completely overwhelmed.

And remember, at the library we have CDs & downloadable audio to help you learn French, and check out Mango!

Looking for more language learning resources? Ask us, we can help!

Ben Franklin spent his life asking questions, discovering answers, learning new things, and enjoying time with friends and family.

 

During his lifetime he was a printer, a writer, an inventor, a postmaster, a diplomat and is one of the best known Founding Fathers of America.

As a young man he opened his own print shop in Philadelphia. He printed many things, among them his own newspaper the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richards Almanac.

 

Using the pen name Richard Saunders, Ben wrote and published Poor Richard's Almanack from 1733 to 1758. 
The most popular part of the almanacs were sayings and advice such as "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."
 
 
As Postmaster General he improved delivery times and was able to send all of his own mail for free.
 
Many of his inventions are still used today.
 
Without Ben's work as a diplomat to France, the United States may not have won the Revolutionary War. He spent a year negotiating with the French for arms, ammunition, and soldiers.
 
Ben played a vital role in the birth of our country. He helped write the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. He is the only person who signed all four of the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance, Amity, and Commerce with France (1778), the Treaty of Peace between England, France, and the United States (1782), and the U.S. Constitution.
 
If you want to know more about Ben Franklin, and have lots of time, watch the PBS documentary on his life and times. You can also contact a librarian.

What is my car worth now if I want to sell it?

I want to buy a used pickup truck. How can I find out what a fair price is?

What is the safest car for my teen to drive?

 

All of these questions and more can be answered with these online resources:

  • The Kelley Blue Book Online gives you timely and accurate prices on new and used cOld Red Truckars based on geography and condition. For most vehicles you can get a good idea of prices for buying a new or used car from a dealer or private seller and also what you can expect to sell one for to a dealer or private buyer.
  • The Car and Driver buyers' guide covers automobiles manufactured in the last two years and can be searched by manufacturer, vehicle type, price range and more.
  • Click and Clack, the comedic brothers from Car Talk, use down-to-earth humor to give you actual car information on buying, selling, and owning a car.
  • CarInfo features car information provided by consumer advocate & auto expert Mark Eskeldson. It includes car buying and leasing secrets, as well as information on used cars, car loans, and insurance.
  • Edmunds Automobile Buyer's Guide has used car prices back to 2000, safety information, and updates on new vehicles.
  • The US EPA Fuel Economy website allows you to compare gas mileage (MPG), greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution ratings, and safety information for new and used cars and trucks. There are also gas mileage tips, a page to search for the cheapest gas in your area, and a page of links to other sites about automobiles, safety, and the environment.
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute provides accident facts, results of crash tests, child safety and teen driving brochures, and news releases about safety for cars, drivers, and pedestrians.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a website dedicated to safety. This resource has  information about recalls, crash tests, car seats, drunk driving, and pedestrian safety.
 

In addition to these online resources, the library also has the most current NADA Guides and Kelley Blue Book Guides in print at the information desk in each library location.  The Science and Business Desk at the Central Library even has the Kelley Blue Book guides going back to 1999 so you can see what your vehicle was worth in years past.

For a round up of car repair resources available at your library, see the blog post: Get Your Motor Running: This car isn’t going to fix itself.

Buying or selling an automobile can be a complicated process!  If you do not see the resource you need here to answer your questions, please Ask a Librarian.  We will help you connect to the information you seek!  

 

 

Terry Baxter, Archivist, Multnomah County Archives (photo by Giles Clement)Our guest blogger is Terry. Terry has worked as an archivist for 28 years, the last 15 with the Multnomah County Archives, and currently serves on the Society of American Archivists Council. He is also a proud card-carrying library user who empties the system of poetry and cookbooks on a regular basis.

Multnomah County is going to be 160 years old this year.  While no one is old enough (as far as we know, anyway) to remember those sixteen decades of history, there is a place where those stories are kept. The Multnomah County Archives, in the shadow of Mt. Hood and nestled between a gravel pit and a landfill, has been collecting, preserving, and providing access to the archives of Multnomah County government for 12 years.

Archives are the official records, usually unique and created to document actions and not as a purposeful historical narrative, of an organization preserved indefinitely because of their long-term research value.   In the case of the County Archives, this means records of the activities of Multnomah County’s government agencies. “How boring is THAT?” I can hear you saying right now.  

Map of the Multnomah County Poor Farm, 1938Well, maybe you’d like to see and read about the origins of McMenamins Edgefield as the County Poor Farm. Or watch a film of the 1948 flood that destroyed the second largest city in Oregon, Vanport.  Or see the plans for a professional baseball and football stadium in Delta Park. These and thousands of other records, documenting all aspects of the county and its interactions with its residents from 1854 on, are preserved by archivists for anyone to view and use. Archives have all sorts of tales to tell us about our individual and common pasts, about each other, and about ourselves.

1948 flood that destroyed Vanport, OregonArchivists love to connect people with these stories. Stereotypical views depict archivists as introverted Jocasta Nu’s, hiding in basements, hoarding piles of dusty files. If this was ever accurate, it certainly isn’t now (except the basement part!). Archivists are deeply concerned about context and connection. They locate and describe records and how they relate to the organizations that created them and then work to make those records as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. An archivist’s happiest moment comes when a person’s face lights up after finding something deeply meaningful in the archives.

Proposed stadium in Delta Park in the early 1960sArchivists are also collaborators who know they usually don’t have all the information in their archives that a person needs. There are a number of archives in Multnomah County (and across the rest of the world).  Many residents of Multnomah County are familiar with downtown Portland’s “History Row. ” Located within a short walk of each other on the south park blocks are the Oregon Historical Society, the Portland State University Archives, the Portland Archives and Records Center, and “Portland’s Crown Jewel” – Central Library and its wondrous John Wilson Special Collections.

So come visit, meet an archivist, and let the stories you find connect you to the voices, past and present, of others who have inhabited our county.

Contact:

Terry Baxter, archivist
Multnomah County Archives
1620 SE 190th Avenue
Portland, OR 97233
503.988.3741

Located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present-day Iraq, the cultures of ancient Mesopotamia made remarkable achievements in writing, art, and agriculture. Image of ziggurat

This National Geographic video provides a short introduction. For older students, here’s a John Green Crash Course video with more details. You may also like this interactive map, which shows how Mesopotamian culture developed.

The University of Chicago has an amazing collection of artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, and at their website, you can examine them in depth, learn about what daily life was like, listen to interviews with archaeologists, or even go on a virtual archaeological dig.

At the British Museum’s Mesopotamia site, you can find maps and information about the writing, mythology, buildings, and astronomers from various Mesopotamian cultures.

Ancient Mesopotamia covers geography, religion, economics, clothing, and the achievements of Mesopotamian cultures.

Several different empires existed in region of Mesopotamia, including the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians. The Sumerians were known for inventing cuneiform writing. You can see what your monogram would look like in this writing system. They also wrote the first superhero story, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and played board games. One Babylonian ruler is famous for creating Hammurabi’s Code, a collection of laws. Ziggurats, large step pyramids like the one shown in the photo, were built by the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians.

If you didn’t find the information that you need, please contact a librarian for more assistance.

Triple Package book jacketSome of the publicity I’d read about The Triple Package by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld made me wonder if it would be like The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, which aimed to prove that there is a racial difference in intelligence. The Triple Package is not a book about racial differences, but about cultural similarities. The Triple Package is a narrative about ethnic and religious minorities in America meant to explain what three factors make them successful. The traits are: a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control (or self-discipline). These are characteristics that any individual can possess and aren’t exclusive to any race, ethnicity, or culture.

As a reader, I felt drawn to the stories shared about the immigrant experience and the complicated relationships immigrant parents have with their children. I thought some of the anecdotes felt true to my experience and I could imagine seeing myself and people I knew in these stories. I could also think of other figures and books I admire and imagine how their stories could fit within this schema. Before they were cited, Jhumpa Lahiri's work and Sonia Sotomayor, both popped into my head as “Triple Package” examples.

Although I found issues with The Triple Package, I found it to be a quick and straightforward read. The Triple Package addresses an incredibly controversial subject and raised many questions for me. I recommend this book for anyone who loves reading statistics and scientific studies. I especially recommend this book for those who are interested in pondering the meaning of the American Dream and America’s comeback in a recovering economy.

‘Tis a good thing that I canceled my Spring Break trip to Crimea because, whether hosting the Olympics amid conflict over human rights, racing to police Pussy Riot's random protests, or facing the tense scrutiny in the fight for Crimean annexation, Russia hasn't been this magnified since Reagan and Gorbachev sat through numerous photo-ops pretending to like each other. With all the negativity surrounding this great kingdom as of late, I was reminded of my first memorable images and introduction to Russian culture...skewed as it may have been. 

For someone whose formative years were sculpted in the late '70's through the 1980's, the image of Russia, other than my grandmother reading me sinister Baba Yaga tales, was discovered mainly through the synaptic helmet that was the burgeoning American media scene.  Initially, it was James Bond films, Robin Williams's discovery of true freedom in Moscow on the Hudson, or Yakov Smirnoff's anti-Cold War comic "therapy."  

Suddenly, the image became more ominous, a threat to the milk and honey U.S. zeitgeist. It was always "Us vs. Them," through the simplest, primordial lens of good vs. evil and everything was securely color-related. Anything referenced to Soviet life or Cold War politics was unscrupulously "red," moreso than any of the malingering effects of the McCarthy "Red Menace" years, and it seeped into American culture via John LeCarre and Tom Clancy books or the Hollywood films Red Dawn, Red Heat, and WarGames. You had  to choose or risk becoming ostracized: Yanks or Commies. Wolverines vs. Russkies. MI6 vs. KGB. Rocky vs. Drago.  

Once in high school, it was my trusty English teacher who introduced me to the more respectable literary and cinematic windows of Mother Russia. Not only did I devour classic films and books such as Ivan the Terrible  or every single frame available on Rasputin, but I learned that Russia had so much more to offer than Dr. Zhivago, Turgenev, and Tolstoy. Sure, I read the assigned Crime and Punishment  and Fathers and Sons, and I connected with Dostoyevsky while my classmates groaned, yet through college I learned that not all Russian literature was depression, oppression, and long brutal winters. There, slumbering comedic enlightenment came in the guise of The Master and Margarita, Gogol, and Viktor Pelevin with characters, stories, and political musings that I never knew existed outside of the omniscient, censoring hand of the Iron Editors (I assume in red  pen, naturally).  

The Russian legacy continues to innovate and astound into the 21st century as well, with genre fiction such as Sergei Lukyanenko's pseudo-Angelic Watch  series or stories from the hilarious pen of ex-pat Gary Shteyngart. Whatever your personal desires in Russian literature or culture, they can all be accommodated down at your local library should you seek more than blizzards, "If I Were A Rich Man," or the former governor of California's Oscar-snubbed role as a KGB agent. For in this expansive landscape of history and determination, Behemoth is not just a subversive, vodka-swilling black feline but a rich, thunderous bibliography of a resilient nation. Pazhalsta!

Photo of Asmat people in dug out canoesIt turns out that headhunting isn’t such a simple barbaric act as one would think.  It’s strategic, spiritual and essential to maintain the equilibrium of the universe. At least it was for the Asmat of New Guinea when they encountered Michael Rockefeller swimming towards shore on the morning of November 20, 1961.

Michael Rockefeller was living his dream, collecting primitive art for his father’s new museum, when his makeshift catamaran capsized and he vanished off the coast of New Guinea. After a search-and-rescue effort came up empty handed, it was determined that Michael Rockefeller drowned before reaching shore that fateful day.

Savage Harvest: A Tale Of Cannibals, Colonialism, And Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest For Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman presents a very different story. Balanced and exhaustively researched, Hoffman pieces together a picture of a divided island with a tense colonial history, a fierce cannibalistic warrior society stripped powerless by outsiders, and a privileged young man, unaccustomed to confronting barriers, and so passionate in his pursuit of art, that he cannot recognize the real danger he is in.Photo of book jacket: Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman

While perhaps not for the faint of heart, I found Savage Harvest to be a fascinating, one of a kind read for armchair anthropologists such as myself. It’s also the ultimate real-life whodunit for mystery fans. Books like this perfectly exemplify why I love reading non-fiction; stories like this simply can not be made up! 

If after finishing Savage Harvest, you find you can't easily let go of this story, check out items on this list to explore different aspects of the Rockefeller disappearance.

Ah the stories of King Arthur and his knights, the cute thatched cottages, the banquets, the country life, and the bustle of growing cities!  What’s not to like about the Middle Ages and Medieval period in history?  Well, the smell for one.  And let’s not forget the plague. Get all the dirt on what life was really like in Europe during this time.

picture of knightsStart at the Annenberg Learner Middle Ages site for loads of info on everyday life in medieval times including the feudal system, religion, clothes, the arts and more.  This includes movies and other cool interactive stuff.  After you click on the link, scroll to the right to get the content!

 Click on the different people in the street in the Camelot International Village to learn more about their craft or trade and how they lived in the Middle Ages. Find out about entertainers, peasants, traders, thieves, knights, church and religion, women, and lords of the manor.

For a funny and informative video series about the Middle Ages, watch Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives.  Each 30 minute episode examines a different type of person important during the time period like kings, knights, monks and damsels.picture of a king's seal

For a video and interactive introduction to medieval life, watch Everyday Life in the Middle Ages and see if you could survive way back in the day!

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is super boring to look at, but amazing in its amount of primary source material (letters, legal texts, religious documents etc.).  It’s a comprehensive collection of online texts from the entire medieval era, organized by topic and chronologically.

Now that you’ve learned a lot about the Middle Ages, test your knowledge here.

As much as I love to cook, love to shop for ingredients, love to put a tasty meal together, sometimes I am a bit confused. And the nutritional labels on cans and packages? Forget about it. The print is small and often I am too hungry or tired to care. Sometimes I give up all together. Isn’t it easier to just go out to eat? Or throw some frozen thing in the microwave? If only I had the time to figure it all out.

Luckily for me and other confused eaters, the authors of Eat This Not That by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding have more than figured it out. They have written a series of books that are so simple and easy to use that you could easily take one along with you to the grocery store to help you make the right choices about what to feed yourself and your family. Plainly put: the left side shows what you should eat, the right side shows what you shouldn’t eat. There are bullet points that give you tasty tidbits about nutrition and eating right.  Each volume in the series also has a section of straightforward delicious recipes and menus. The books themselves are small enough to fit into your coat pocket or purse or to lend to a friend. Their idea is not that their recipes or suggestions are low cal or carb or fat. Rather, they show you how to make the best choice based on what packs the most flavor and ease of preparation for the most nutrition. The Eat This Not That Restaurant Guide has a helpful section that covers the best fast food choices.

There are also price comparisons. Stay tuned for the next in the series: Eat It to Beat it!

Lately, educators have been talking about grit as a character trait that can predict success. I have always associated the term with girls, thanks to Charles Portis's original book, a title that was remarkable for its time. In the late 60s and 70s, there weren't a lot of stories about young women with gumption. Sure, there was Nancy Drew, but she so often relied on 'the boys' when the going got rough; There was also Pippi Longstocking, but she was for  younger readers. When the most recent movie came out, I was glad to see that the Coen brothers were true to the original Mattie and her enterprising spirit. Truly, she was the hero in the book, and not Rooster Cogburn, as the 1969 John Wayne film version suggested.

Ree Dolly, the tenacious teenager from the movie Winter's Bone is cut from the same cloth as Mattie Ross. The movie follows follows the mostly falling fortunes of 17 year old Ree as she discovers that her meth-cooking father is on the lam, having put the family house up for bond. If he doesn't show up in court, the family - 2 kids and a mentally absent mother - will lose everything. She sets out to find him among all the hard luck people living in her corner of the Ozarks and gains some unwanted attention from those who wish her father to stay hidden. The book is based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, an author whose works have been called "country noir".

Another novel featuring a woman who finds herself in an untenable situation is the award-winning Outlander by the poet, Gil Adamson. In the winter of 1903, Mary has lost her baby son to sickness and is frequently beaten by her abusive husband. She takes desperate measures, killing her husband and fleeing west. She is pursued by her husband's vengeful twin brothers, a pair of single-minded, characters who could easily have stepped out of a Cormac McCarthy novel. Along the way she falls into the company of a group of eccentrics in a hard-scrabble mining town. 

All of these stories share an unforgiving landscape, a sense of lawlessness, and a determined underdog on a quest. And there are more of these than you might think: Molly Gloss's story of eastern Oregon, The Hearts of Horses, the somewhat obscure and spoofy Caprice by George Bowering, and Away by Amy Bloom. All of these stories feature strong female characters who move the action along. If that's your cup of tea, then happy reading and watching.

If you're in the middle of one, the phrase "healthy breakup" may sound like some kind of sad joke. But whether you're breaking things off or you've just been broken up with, you can make the breakup more bearable.

If you feel like your relationship is unhealthy and you're trying to decide whether to break up, check out Love Is Respect's "Should We Break Up?"

Rookie Magazine has some great advice: "Making A Clean Breakup" makes the point that "breaking up with someone can be just as painful, if not more so, than being the one who’s left behind." "Cures for Love" explains how to "beast through the aching immobility of heartbreak by conducting specific rituals, exercises, and experiments."

Oakland artist Jess Wheelock drew a comic that helps explain what the brain goes through during a breakup.

And there's no subsitute for connecting with others who've been through the same thing, so register for the first annual Healthy Breakup Summit, which will be:

Thursday April 24th, 2014
5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
5135 NE Columbia Blvd Portland, OR 97218
 
 
·         Dynamics of break ups and tools to build healthy relationships
·         Specialized activities for youth of all ages (0-24), parents/guardians and Elders
·         Two-Spirit and LGBTQ Perspectives of break-ups/relationships
·         Building communication skills to navigate relationships
 
For more information please contact:
Brighton, Native American Youth & Family Center: brightonk@nayapdx.org; Office 503-288-8177 x220
Erin, Native American Youth & Family Center: erinh@nayapdx.org; Office 503-288-8177 x316
Lesley, VOA HomeFree: lramos@voaor.org; Office (503) 988-6475, Cell (503) 473-7396
 

Whatever Needs to Be Done

Picture of Sachiko Vidourek

by Mindy Moreland

“Quietly doing tremendous good” is a fitting description of Library Outreach Services, which brings library service to our community’s homebound, homeless, and incarcerated populations. Sachiko Vidourek is one of many volunteers helping this department to thrive; her dedication and flexibility have made her a valued part of the LOS team. Sachiko works with the adult literacy coordinator and the library outreach specialists, with a job description that could read  “whatever needs to be done.” Each week she performs tasks ranging from data entry and preparing materials for citizenship classes to shelving materials and labeling shelves. Sachiko also helps the staff with more abstract problems, brainstorming issues of process, organization, and programming. “Sometimes I might suggest something ridiculous, but it gives a different perspective,” Sachiko says with a warm smile. “When someone has an idea, even if it’s the wrong idea it helps give clarity to the problem.”

 

"If I was a librarian, I'd want to work for LOS."

Sachiko has been drawn to libraries since she was a child. Growing up in Ohio, she used to walk three and a half blocks (an epic journey at the time, she recalls) to visit the local library, where she participated in Summer Reading and was fascinated by the pre-digital checkout machines. As an art history student in college she loved spending time in the cozy art and architecture library, and even considered a career as a librarian. Today she manages the gourmet chocolate shop Cacao, and enjoys the serenity of her volunteer hours in the Library Outreach as a respite from her bustling customer service job. She takes great satisfaction, she says, in the balance of the concrete progress and philosophical problem-solving that volunteering at the library affords. Perhaps most importantly, she adores working with the LOS team, who she describes as quirky, fun, and deeply dedicated to the amazing work they quietly do. “I feel really appreciated there,” she says fondly. “If I was a librarian, I’d want to work for LOS.”

 

A Few Facts About Sachiko

Home library: Hillsdale Library

Currently reading: Technically I'm in between books. I just finished The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. A good friend gave me Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane for Christmas, and I think that's next. But I also have in-hand-and-waiting Lost Japan (Alex Kerr) and the start of the latest series by Jacquline Carey. I find that my list of books to explore grows faster than I can read, and I often get sidetracked on my way to a particular book.

Most influential book: Books by Alistair MacLean shaped me the most growing up in middle school. Also influential was Setting the Table (Danny Meyers) which sounds like a cooking book but is really about hospitality. Others titles include Lessons in Service from Charlie Trotter (Edmund Lawler) and Joy of Cooking (Irma Rombauer et al.).

Favorite book from childhood: Only one?! I loved Dr. Seuss, Encyclopedia Brown (Donald J. Sobol), and Key to the Treasure (Peggy Parrish), but what I still have on my shelves as an adult are The King and His Friends (Jose Aruego), Max (Rachel Isadora), and A Pair of Red Clogs (Masako Matsuno). Just couldn't give 'em up.

A book that made you laugh or cry: Press Here (Herve Tullet), The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie) and Dog Heaven (Cynthia Rylant)

Favorite section of the library: Usually Young Adult

E-reader or paper book? Paper, paper, paper! (But I might say e-reader later when I need bigger fonts and my glasses aren't enough.)

Favorite guilty reading pleasure: Jacqueline Carey & fantasy in general

Favorite place to read: On the couch with the dog!

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

I blame the library. The first time my four-year-old daughter, who I’ll call Thing One, saw a Disney book at the library, she became obsessed, and soon, her babysitter told her there were movies, too. It wasn’t long before she was wearing nothing but pink and purple, and insisting on wearing tiaras to the supermarket. She wanted new princess books all the time. I didn't mind her fashion choices, but I wanted her to value things like bravery, loyalty, brains, individuality, and diversity, and to see that a woman’s main job in life was not to be pretty, well-dressed, and passive. Princesses with the enormous eyes and tiny waists were getting too much power over my child's imagination. It was time to fight back...With research.

I found a number of picture books and several collections of folk tales that celebrate female strength. I especially like Jane Yolen’s Not One Damsel in Distress, a collection of stories featuring strong, clever girls. And some of them are actually princesses! The young women in these stories defeat serpents, outsmart sultans, discover underground caves full of treasure and steal ships to sail away from the controlling men who want to trap them in marriage against their will. Jane Yolen’s writing is engaging and suspenseful enough to charm any princess wannabe between the ages of, say, four and eight.

Here’s a list of more good books for princess loving girls, or boys, that will make their feminist parents happy. Feel free to let us know in the comments if you have other titles that should be included in this list!

cover image of the feast nearbyThe Feast Nearby contains all the things I like in a memoir: a woman in the midst of some major life crises (her husband asked her for a divorce and she lost her job all in the same week), an element of budgeting and simple living by necessity, and recipes! She did lose a bit of credibility when she went on about "retreating to her small Michigan cabin."  Really, how bad could it be if you've got a little cabin all squared away for retirement I wondered?  But I digress...She imposes a strict limit on her grocery budget of just $40 a week and tries to have as much of it as possible be locally sourced, but not necessarily organic.

Forty dollars a week is a stretch no matter what you do these days, so reading about her method and reasoning seemed fantastic. Having shunned the freezer for a number of years, I have only just come round to the idea that the freezer is your friend and can save you not only time, but a little dosh as well. Of course it will save you nothing without the planning and preparation, so that is what I found most helpful about this book. Ms. Mather goes through the year in seasons and has some simple pleasing recipes to use the foods now as well as preserving them for future use. She shows that it is indeed possible to live the good life while enjoying the bounty of nature on a budget.

The ancient Egyptians get all the credit for pyramids, but they weren't the only ones building these massive structures. Not only did pyramids appear in neighboring areas of Africa, but halfway around the world, the Maya and Aztecs, along with the Toltecs, built stepped pyramids. These pyramids of Mexico and Central America were often used as foundations for temples. This meant they usually had flat tops instead of the pointy Egyptian style. Built at different times thousands of miles from each other, the pyramids of the Old and New Worlds still have some similarites.

infographic of Egyptian and Latin American pyramids

Check out this New Book of Knowledge article for more information about pyramids or try some of the books below. If you want or need any more help, ask a librarian!

Sometimes one finds sparkle in the most unexpected places.  As a proper Portlander, I try to take public transit to and from work whenever possible.  To work, this involves a walk up a big hill (yay, exercise!), a bus ride, and another short walk. I try to walk home at the end of the day. Not bad, right?

Well, it's been one of those weeks. You know the ones, everything conspiring against me.  Not on top of my game, so to speak. This morning, the internal argument went like this:

Healthy Me:  Get on up that hill and catch the bus!

Whiny Me:  I don't wanna!

Healthy Me wins, and I truck on up the hill. Attitude in need of major adjusting, I wait for the bus in the dark.

It arrives, my regular driver in his seat, and when I board, lo and behold, the bus has been transformed into a sparkly wonderland!

Garland, flowers, twirly things, it looked like some sort of new club - the Bus Club!  I was smiling before I even sat down.  And on the short ride to work, I watched as everyone who boarded the bus smiled as well. 

When I quizzed the bus driver, he told me it was a surprise for his 34th anniversary with the company.  34 years!  He seemed a bit embarrassed about having to accept so many well wishes from his riders.  Congratulations, I say!
 
The morning commute, often not the most pleasant of tasks, turned out on this day to be just the pick me up I needed. I was reminded that sparkle can be found almost anywhere, even in the least sparkle-worthy places. Today and onward I shall try to remember to keep an eye out for it.  
 
Another place to search for sparkle?  Your local library!  Why not hop on some public transit and visit us.  One never knows what beauty will be found on the bus, and I am certain that we can help you find some sparkle at the library.  See you when you get here!

Cover image of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb PerlmanWhen I first stumbled upon Deb Perlman's food blog Smitten Kitchen, I was home with a small toddler and on a mad Google quest for homemade cracker recipes. Goldfish crackers specifically. My sister had recently exposed my son to the highly seductive, cheesy toddler staple and I wasn’t having it. I was on a passionate whole grain, non-boxed snack mission, and I approached it with the fervor that only a well-meaning and admittedly obsessive new mother can know.   

While it was Perlman’s labor intensive goldfish snack cracker recipe that reeled me in (I know..), I quickly found that while she would indulge my whim for scratch baked versions of boxed favorites, the vast majority of her recipes are much less demanding. Her specialty is simple, uncomplicated food that tastes delicious and leaves the impression that you’re a much better cook than you really are (I may only be speaking for myself here). 

Perlman makes her creations in a teeny tiny Manhattan apartment kitchen that doesn’t allow for huge productions.  Me in my teeny tiny Portland ranch kitchen can appreciate that kind of efficiency and I've learned to trust that if a Smitten Kitchen recipe takes more than 30 minutes to make or 3 bowls to mix in, it’s because that’s the way it has to be, because it will be worth it.  While I still visit the blog fairly regularly, when The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook came out, I quickly made space on my crowded kitchen shelf.

If you invite me to a potluck, it’s a fair bet that I’ll be bringing some variety of baked dish from this book.  The caramelized onion and butternut squash galette is a fool-proof crowd pleaser and when I breeze in twenty minutes late, with play clay stuck to my pants and Legos in my coat pocket, 'galette' just makes more of an impact than 'casserole.'

Ah, the allure of the three handed woman.  What, you aren't familiar with this particular woman?  I am betting you are, but this was a new term for me, too.  Last night I was enjoying my favorite jazz show, and the host played a song with this very title by Louis Prima and Keely Smith. The lyrics were so delightful and wicked:

'She's a three handed woman, a three handed woman
She's right-handed, and left-handed, and under-handed too
She's a three handed woman and she knows just what to do
She's a three handed woman and she ain't no good for you'

What a fabulous turn of phrase!  It immediately conjures up images of a femme fatale, a con woman, a woman no man can resist.  I don't know about you, but I have certainly daydreamed about living a life of crime, taking advantage of worldly, handsome, and, of course, rich men, while every hair remains in place and the line up the back of my stockings never goes crooked.  You know, like this:  pulp cover 

How fierce is she?

If you would like to indulge your inner three handed woman, the library has many choices, whether you prefer books or movies.  Take a look at the list to give some a try. You might discover a few hidden talents that you didn't know you had, and it's all perfectly legal in your imagination!

 

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Troy the Musical! put on by the Odyssey Program at PPS’s Hayhurst School. There were laughs aplenty as we were taken through a musical romp starting with the tale of that trickster Eris, goddess of strife, and the Apple of Discord through to demise of Troy with that pesky Trojan Horse. It was a much livelier version than the somber, yet stunning, 1971 classic The Trojan Women.

Though it had plenty of romance, a little less heated than the the 1956 Helen of Troy.

My curiosity piqued I had to some more digging (pun included) with the great archeology information found at University of Cincinnati's Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites and the Troia Projekt of the University of Tübingen, Germany. Most of our written history about siege of Troy comes from Homer’s The Illiad, but that often reads more as fiction with the Grecian Gods often stepping in and taking an active role. The Greeks were often at war, but for the Trojans thia war was epic, and historians tell us how it lasted for over ten years.

The students at Odyssey should be very proud of themselves, for their great singing, comedic timing, and the ability to dance in flippers. Thanks for the glitter, laughs and bringing Homer’s story to life.

 

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