Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tidbits & Tidings--January, 2011

I thought that this month's topic had found me when I was gifted with a sixty year old magazine. I was going to begin with the subject of January, named for Janus who in Roman mythology was the god of portals, of beginnings and endings, and how this May, 1948 publication seemed to be serving that very function. I was going to expound upon what I learned regarding our society at that time via the articles, photos, and advertisements; what anyone could learn about us by simply reading a publication of a certain time. I spent two evenings immersed in the 184 page issue, half-expecting to wake up like Christopher Reeves in Somewhere in Time. Alas, it will have to wait because….
    This morning I read about a new project called culturomics. Harvard linguists and Google engineers have teamed up to build a database of more than 500 billion words gleaned from five million books published over the last four centuries. It's touted as a new and powerful tool to study cultural change; a beginning that I'm sure will expand to include other facets of our cultural DNA. In the meantime, it's www.culturomics.org, and we would appreciate your comments on this new site.
While looking through the local history section at the library, I found a new title, An Historic Resource Survey, Village of Fort Plain funded by a Preserve New York Grant awarded to the village of Fort Plain by the Preservation League of New York State and the New York State Council on the Arts. As stated in the introduction, this survey assesses the village's "historic resources in a consistent fashion and determines what steps might be taken to further their enhancement and preservation." All properties fifty years old or older are included in the assessment. Included are a description of existing conditions, an historical and architectural overview, a description of historic building styles, photographs of all properties older than 50 years, potential National Register eligibility for these properties, as well as conclusions and recommendations in regard to future planning and development of the area. Full of all kinds of intriguing facts, maps, and photographs, the Historic Resource Survey is available for your perusal and enjoyment during the long winter months ahead.
Looking back over 2010, our craft workshops ranged from redwork embroidery to beaded ornaments and boasted enthusiastic audiences. Looking ahead, potpourri, pin-broidery, pierced paper (typical of early German valentines), and the yo-yo quilt motif are some of the programs in the works for 2011. Meanwhile, in shelf space or cyberspace, the prose and poetry, rhyme and rhetoric contained within the Fort Plain Free Library silently awaits another New Year and the sound of patrons seeking the finest works humankind has to offer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Time Traveler

Imagine what our ancestors might have thought if someone told them that all they had to do to get to California was get in a huge aluminum cylinder with fixed wings and strap themselves in. No wagon train, no endless weeks on the trail, no horses or oxen…just noise and an invisible power propelling them down a cement runway until the earth seems to fall away and they are rising higher and higher…they level off and the plane seems to stop! I don't have to imagine this scenario. It's how I feel every time I have to fly. But we do what we have to do, in order to do what we need or want to do, in the time we have to do it in.
Now, returning to my home place and a lifestyle that straddles past and future, projects planned and books piled, I am ready to face winter. I would recommend a newer novel, New York, by Edward Rutherfurd and Fall of Giants by Ken Follett, and, though I haven't read it yet, The Autobiography of Mark Twain, edited by a team led by Harriet Elinor Smith. How fitting that this author with his extensive imagination would pen his autobiography with instructions that it wasn't to be published until a hundred years after his death. The first of three volumes is 700 pages and covers the years 1870 – 1906. What an end to our celebration of Mark Twain's visit to Fort Plain. Well, almost end….
On Wednesday, December 8th at 2:20 and again on Tuesday the 21st at 6:00, the Fort Plain Free Library will host a Gilded Gimcrack workshop. Each participant will create a beaded ornament cover reminiscent of The Gilded Age, a phrase coined by Mark Twain to describe a time and way of life. This program is free and open to the public. Each class is limited to ten participants so those who would like to be guaranteed a place may want to pre-register at the library. A refreshment featuring Mark Twain's favorite dessert will be served.
There are new offerings almost daily in the book sale as well as some remaining needlework books. In a tight economy, a gently used book would make a great Christmas gift as well as some handmade gift or baked offering. The library's collection will give you thousands of ideas.
For further information on any of these programs or publications, please call the library at (518) 993-4646.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Side Show

Hopefully, October will end drier than it began for all the Halloween trick-or-treaters. Nothing like a crisp, quiet, and dark evening to bring out the imagination! The bakers out there might want to peruse the recipe for Party Monsters on page 28 of the October/November issue of Taste of Home. These hilarious treats are from What's New Cupcake? by Alan Richardson and Karen Tack. For those who are into needlework, this month's American Spirit magazine has an article on a graveyard quilt. The library book sale has been given dozens of embroidery and craft magazines. It's time to plan some winter projects as well as to stock up on reading material for those cold days ahead.
The Glass Castle, a superbly written work by Jeannette Walls, provided a thought-provoking evening for the recent book discussion. I believe that we are all a memoir in the making to our family and friends and even unto ourselves; that we should allow this thought to gently guide us through our days. Most of the people I know have more purposeful lives than some of the "celebrities" that make the news.
I read that it is the fifty-fifth anniversary of the green bean casserole. This is also the fiftieth anniversary of the Thanksgiving that my mother (who was normally a wonderful cook) decided to experiment with the stuffing by adding a generous amount of garlic. The aroma and taste permeated the bird to its wingtips and leached into the gravy. The sides circulated the table and filled plates and stomachs. I decided it's time to add something new to our family's Thanksgiving this year. I perused the library shelves and found Sides by Melicia Phillips with offerings such as Glazed Onions (page 80) and Broiled Stuffed Mushroom Caps with Parmesan (page 96). While these two side-dish offerings sound good, I know that there are hundreds of other ones of the shelves and dozens of time-tested sides to be found in our library patrons' kitchens. To this end, we invite area cooks to bring in recipes for their new or old favorite side-dishes to share with others. Toward Thanksgiving, we will draw a recipe at random from the entries and present that person with a gift certificate from the Plain Food Coop. Please make sure your name and phone number is on the recipe.
On Sunday afternoon, October 17th, the library will host a book discussion on The Complete Stories of Dorothy Parker from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. Barbara Ungar will facilitate this discussion. Copies of the book are available for loan through the library; the title may also be acquired as a book on CD by placing a request either on line or at the library. In addition, a Flower Fairy Wreath workshop will be held on Tuesday evening, October 19th, from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. Supplies for this free program are furnished by the library, but seating is limited.
For further information on any of these programs or publications, please call the library at (518) 993-4646.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Remembrance of Things Past

    As I have often said, our lives are full of rites and traditions. Some of our childhood ones are tied to national celebrations. The new Easter bonnet, for instance. Others are more personal. Take our family pot cupboard cleaning. It usually occurred in late summer or early fall, though not every year. The adults calculated the timing for this chore, formulating a plan of action after the late news one evening and fine-tuning it the next day. Nearing the time (it always seemed to happen in the afternoon), the sky over distant New York City grew dark, the flag pointed ominously to the west, and the adults would send us to the pot cupboard. We no sooner lined up the roasters, pots, and bowls across the archway, than we heard the wind pick up. Then it arrived, the hurricane-driven rain slamming against the east-facing front of the house, attacking the windows right through the screens, driving the sheets of water on the tinned shed roof uphill, under the flashing and shingles, then down through the archway between house and what had once been an enclosed porch, now dining area, into the waiting pots and pans.

    Outside, our familiar valley was lost in rain, and wind, and eventually evening. We sat around the table, candles and flashlights readied, eating supper. With the passing of the outer edge of the hurricane, pots were emptied, rinsed, dried and returned to the readied cupboard. The family would turn in for the night, lulled into sleep by a now gentler rainfall on the tin roof outside the bedroom windows.

    The weather, like a good book, allows us to be one with our ancestors. Many of our seasonal rites are borne of an instinct for survival. For those of you who knit, the library has several books and publications with patterns for socks, scarves, and hats to keep you and yours warm during the rapidly approaching winter. For those preparing to hibernate, it's time to hit the used book room and choose your reasonably priced supply of winter reading.

    The zucchini recipe swap filled the folder with countless delicious recipes and cleared out many of our gently used cookbooks. Now that you've eaten, baked, and frozen enough zucchini to take you over the winter, you might want to peruse the library bookshelves for fall recipes.

    By all accounts, Twain Along the Mohawk provided a good meal and great entertainment for area families. While generations come and go, an author sometimes remains, his work often uplifting, inspiring, or even timeless. A man given to humor, Samuel Clemens would have enjoyed the evening and been humbled by the enduring popularity of his works. The Kanzashi program, too, was abloom with participants, all of whom took home a finished project. Watch the papers for news of our next craft program.

    Finally, the Fort Plain Free Library will host a discussion of Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle on Wednesday evening, September 29th, at 6:30 at the library with Jennifer Hill as facilitator. Copies of the book are available for loan through the library; the title may also be acquired as a book on CD by placing a request either on line or at the library. For further information, please call the library at (518) 993-4646.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Twain Along the Mohawk

On a hundred degree day in northeast New Jersey, in the summer between fifth and sixth grade, during the interval between tomboy and teenager, I took refuge in the cool, earthy dampness under the hedge in our front yard. There, I opened my book and rejoined my two companions Huck and Jim who were waiting for me, hiding in the tall grass of my imagination. It was the summer of Mark Twain, and two of his works, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. When the school year began, the books were returned to their space on the shelves that lined the staircase. Occasionally over the years, I would touch each in passing, knowing that Huck and Tom, Jim and the Mississippi were still there, unchanged and unspoiled, should I want to go back and visit them.

Now as promised in an earlier column, our special event for the summer is called Twain Along the Mohawk. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain's death. Something you might not have known is that Twain visited Fort Plain in 1868 during a lecture tour promotingInnocents Abroad. The August 14th program to be held in Haslett Park will start off at 4:30 with a short presentation about life in Fort Plain during that time period by Sandy Cronkhite, followed by a reenactment of Twain's 1868 speech The American Vandal Abroad, and a free community picnic sponsored by the library in cooperation with Manna House, after which Gary Van Slyke will present a concert featuring period song. So bring your blanket or lawn chair and spend an enjoyable evening in 1868. In the event of rain, all activities will take place at the Reformed Church.

Lest the Mississippi fade with summer, the Margaret Reaney Memorial Library in St. Johnsville will hold a discussion on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on October 9th at 10:00 am. Barbara Unger will be the guest facilitator. For more information, call Dawn Lamphere at 568-7822.

I am told that in some places cars are locked during this weather, for fear someone might leave zucchinis in the back seat. This vegetable has been a staple for thousands of years. It's a low calorie food with excellent levels of vitamins and minerals. In can be used in any of a hundred ways, and if you don't believe this, come in and peruse a cookbook. Speaking of cookbooks, anyone who brings in a zucchini recipe during the month of August will be treated to a free cookbook of his or her choice from our used cookbook stash.

We will travel halfway around the world for another program in August. On Wednesday, August 25th, at 6:00 pm, we will explore the technique of Kanzashi, a centuries old folded flower technique used to create Japanese hair ornaments. Utilizing Kanzashi in Bloom by Diane Gilleland, we will create a flower and view the various applications available to us today. For more information on any of our offerings, please call the library at (518) 993-4646 or visit the library blog at http://www.ftplib.blogspot.com/.
Submitted by Board of Trustee member Sally Taylor

Thursday, July 29, 2010

There’s No Place Like Home

I recently traveled to South Carolina, home of some of my descendants. I took along the novel A Thousand Country Roads by Robert James Waller. In this poignant epilogue to The Bridges of Madison County, Robert Kincaid takes to the road for a last trip, searching for something to give meaning to the rest of his life. On my return trip, during a marathon layover in Washington /Dulles Airport, I finished the book and still had time to ponder the following thoughts: Is an unfinished work more memorable or satisfying than one that comes full circle?
Don't we spend most of our life seeking those things that give meaning to the rest of our life, and what part does an early and continued exposure to books play in this?
And would Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep consider doing the sequel?
Finally airborne, we approached the vicinity of New York City at 30,000 feet. As always, I recalled a trip home several years ago, before our lives changed, when our pilot descended so low and banked so steeply around the top of the Empire State Building that I might have seen King Kong, had he not fallen off the building innumerable times during a marathon weekend of The Million Dollar Movie a half century ago, a weekend after which the top of the Empire State Building visible from my bedroom window took on a new meaning. But I digress.
We then headed north up the ribbon of the Hudson River as night encroached, a view I have never forgotten. This evening, too far removed from the land, I again drew on the thoughts of that distant evening. I thought about the many people who traveled west through New York State, via wagon, canal, or train on route to a new life. It is the stuff books are made of.
Upcoming events at the library include:
July 22 Annual Fort Plain Free Library Ice Cream Social during the County Line Rebels concert in the park beginning at 7:00
July 19, 26, Mondays with Monet. Summer Art Camp for children in
August 2, 9 grades 2 – 4 with Joanne Resch
July 27, 28, A Day in the Life….Summer Art Camp for children in
29 grades 4 – 6 with Joanne Resch
July 28 Science in the Summer. Science fair led by GE volunteers for grade school children and their families, 10:00 – 11:30
August 3 Canal sailing schooner Lois McClure docked at Lock 15 and available for public boarding, 11:00am – 7:00pm
August 11 Basics of Checking/Credit Cards 101 with Jenny Stasack from SEFCU, 1:00 – 2:30 at the library. Please register by Monday, August 9th, by calling the library at (518) 993-4646
August 14 Mark Twain will be dropping by Fort Plain. That's all I'm going to say about that now, but stay tuned….
For information about any of these summer offerings, drop by the library or call (518) 993-4646 during regular library hours.
Submitted by Board of Trustees member Sally-Jean Taylor

Monday, June 7, 2010

There's A Summer Place...

June is National Dairy Month and National Rivers Month. Residents of our area have a lot in common with these national observances. We live in a dairy farm area and on the beautiful Mohawk River!
The recent Redwork class was well-attended. Most of the handwork we do today bridges the ages. Lacework, knitting, crocheting, and the various forms of needle arts started when the world was a very different place. Among the Fort Plain Library’s new arrivals is a work that spans the decades…Thunderstruck by Erik Larson is the true story of two men, Hawley Crippen and Guglielmo Marconi, a nearly perfect crime, and an invention that changed the world. The Taste of Home Ultimate Five Ingredient Recipes Cookbook will not only take you through National Dairy Month with recipes such as Fourth of July Ice Cream Cake, but through the rest of the summer as well. With other offerings like Ball Park Baked Beans and Lazy Lasagna, the book combines a short shopping list of common ingredients with uncomplicated recipes that are sure to become a regular addition to your menu.
I wonder what Dr. Seuss would say about summer reading? Perhaps…
Read a book,
in the park, in the dark,
in your lair, in the air,
read a book most anywhere!
The Fort Plain Free Library 2010 Summer Reading Program, Make a Splash—Read!, will be held June 28th through August 13th. The basic program encourages children to read during the summer months and keep track of the titles completed. A free book will be given to each participant for every five books read and recorded on the online reading tracker at http://ny.evanced.info/fortplain/sr/homepage.asp. Activity sessions will be held weekly on Wednesdays beginning at 10:00 at the library and will include stories, crafts, and special presentations, many for the whole family. The program kick-off performance will be held Wednesday, July 7, at 1:30 at the Fort Plain High School and will feature musician Allen Hopkins with Songs of the Erie Canal.
It’s going to be a great summer at the Fort Plain Free Library! We look forward to seeing you here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Who Wrote the Book of Love?

A lot of people gave new homes to a lot of books during the Fort Plain Free Library’s Spring Market Book Sale. Some visitors were unaware that we even had a used book section. Books are added to this collection as donations are received and shelves are weeded. Consider this conundrum…No matter how many people have possessed a given book, the next reader will find the words as new as the day they were penned by the author and given life by the press. Moreover, the book’s content, whether educational or entertaining, will enrich every one of its readers at a different time and in a different way for the duration of its shelf life.
The same might be said for the focus of the holiday that has just passed, Mothers’ Day. Our mother’s love for each of her four works was new and individual. Inspired by a way of life she experienced long before we were born as well as an ongoing process of learning, the wisdom our “author” imparted to us was dedicated to helping us prepare our own life story. Moms or books, the classics remain with us long after the author has died and the copyright has expired.
On Wednesday, May 19th, at 6:00, the library will sponsor a program on Redwork, a type of decorative embroidery popular from the 1860’s to the depression, and so named because it was most often rendered with Turkey Red thread. Each participant will learn the history of Redwork and have an opportunity to create a Penny Square, a decorated piece of fabric that began to appear in the 1880’s and stayed popular for the next half century. This program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Refreshments will be served.
Submitted by Board of Trustee member Sally-Jean Taylor

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Person of Letters

I’m sure that the U.S. Postal Service did not have me in mind when they decided to sponsor National Card and Letter Writing Month in April, but, in fact, both the entity and the subject have played an important part in my life. Oh, the power of a piece of paper, envelope, and stamp! At one time, the letter was the mainstay of communication. Mail carriers delivered twice daily to homes in Fort Plain. People met through newspapers that had a section dedicated to that subject. Men on the frontier corresponded with women in the hopes of wooing them west. We all remember the movie Sarah, Plain and Tall, based on the Newbery Award winning book by Patricia MacLachlan that tells the story of a mail- order bride who comes to enrich the lives of a frontier family. Other good books based on letters include The Greatest Generation Speaks: Letters and Reflections by Tom Brokaw that includes the correspondence and reminiscences of ordinary citizens and gives us an intense and personal look at a momentous period in our history, and From A to X: A Story in Letters by John Berger, telling the story of the love that exists between a woman and her jailed lover, a political prisoner.
My sister and I have always corresponded. At Christmas, we each sent the other a Knowles collector’s plate, Norman Rockwell’s Reminiscing in the Quiet, depicting an elderly woman sitting in the attic with old letters on her lap, reflecting on the part they played in her life. Today our electronic correspondence is handy, and yet it reminds me of jet contrails, words in passing, defined only for a moment before fading into nothingness. In the spirit of the written greeting, the Fort Plain Free Library will host a card making workshop with instructor Loralee Whitlock on Thursday evening, April 22, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. While this workshop is free and open to the public, space is limited.
So how did the U.S. Postal Service affect my life? My husband was a letter carrier. Though not visibly given to sentiment, he was keenly aware of his part in delivering an anticipated letter to an anxious parent, a birthday card to an elderly grandparent. I like to think it was prompted by his personal experience…awaiting one of the two thousand letters we exchanged over the three years that we dated a half-century ago!
Submitted by Sally-Jean Taylor

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Erin Go Bragh!

The nice thing about living in this country is that at any given time an ethnic culture is being celebrated somewhere. Like many Americans, I can celebrate several—Scandinavian, English, and Irish. On March 17th, we will again celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not an expert on the Celtic culture. What I know is what I grew up with—The Quiet Man with Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne and Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney. When I moved to the Mohawk Valley, I learned the important role that the Irish played in building the Erie Canal. An interesting book on that subject is How the Irish Built the Erie by Harvey Chalmers, available for loan at the library. Later on, Frank McCourt again visited the Irish in America with his memoirs Angela’s Ashes, Tis, and Teacher Man.
In Celtic Art in Cross Stitch, author Barbara Hammett combines over 75 beautiful designs with a rich history of Celtic art. This style developed over centuries and reflects the varied influences from Mediterranean to Viking that the Celts came into contact with throughout their history. As a result of St. Patrick’s mission to Ireland in the fifth century, the country became a center of learning and scholarship. Monks decorated the four gospel books and carried this Book of Kells across Europe. Today, the Celtic style with its combination of abstract painting and satisfying shapes keeps it a perennial favorite all the world over.
A new offering, Apologize, apologize! by Elizabeth Kelly is available in book or unabridged compact disc. It tells the story of a wealthy Irish family living on Martha’s Vineyard. While I do not have the gift of hyper-articulate conversation so often attributed to the Irish and the characters in this coming of age novel, I can assure you that it is everything the book cover says and more!
Those interested in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, may stop by the library on March 17th for some Irish Soda Bread accompanied by a copy of my mother’s recipe.
Finally, we hope you will join us on Tuesday, March 23, from 1:30 to 2:30, as Beverly Schilling, Senior Consumer Fraud Representative from the Office of the Attorney General presents a Consumer Protection Forum intended to inform citizens about their rights as consumers and who to call when those rights have been violated. Schilling will also discuss scams to avoid and what to do if you fall victim. No registration is required for this free event that is open to any interested individual.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

February Tidbits & Tidings

I am told that the origin of St. Valentine’s Day is attributed to two Christian martyrs of that name. Thirteen centuries after their deaths, St. Valentine’s Day was declared an official holiday by Henry VIII who, I believe, had a wife or two who met the same end as the Valentines. Fortunately, after that era, things got better for this holiday. There was a time, in the youth of my marriage, that I had my “martyr moments.” During one of these, I complained to my husband that he never sent me flowers. A dozen roses from the florist soon arrived. They were then followed by a bill addressed to me! If by any chance there is a young bride out there who has a similar complaint, choose your words carefully. The difference between “send” and “buy” is about twenty-five dollars.
Words, spoken, written, or read, make us what we are. The Literacy Volunteers of Schoharie County is working in the area to recruit potential volunteers to serve as tutors in western Montgomery County. When these individuals are trained, Literacy Volunteers will then begin recruiting students. Potentials volunteers or other interested parties may call them at (518) 234-2576 or visit their website at www.lvasc.org.
For those of you who didn’t get roses, the library will hold a class on making a paper rose Wednesday evening, February 17, beginning at 6:30 pm. Participants will make a lovely red, crepe rose. The program is free and open to any interested adult. While registration is not required, space and supplies are limited.
By the way, February is also Library Lover’s Month. Have you hugged a special book lately?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January Tidbits & Tidings

By now, we are all in some stage of keeping or forgetting our New Year’s resolutions. For those who are dieting, I recommend Cooking Light magazine that is full of interesting recipes year-round. In addition, the library offers a number of cookbooks dedicated to the art of flavorful, yet light cooking including Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes (Apricot Glazed Pork Roast, p. 147) and Better Homes & Gardens Eating Light (Orange-Strawberry Sponge Cake, p.77).
For those who enjoyed our Victorian beaded ornament class but didn’t finish their work, an instructor will be on hand at the library on Tuesday, January 12th, at 12:30 and again at 6:00 to assist participants in completing their projects. New participants are welcome to try as time and space allow. On Wednesday, January 20th at 1:00, Craig Clark from Cornell Cooperative extension of Fulton and Montgomery Counties will offer an encore presentation of his program Save Energy, Save Dollars. Participants will learn low-cost, no cost energy conservation methods that will result in reducing their energy bills. Each participating household will also receive a free energy-saving tool kit. The program is free and open to all. For further information, please call Cooperative Extension at 762-3909 or the library at 993-4646.
I have found a way to make January and February virtually race by. Challenge yourself to clean every shelf, drawer, and closet in the house by the end of a chosen month. In forty years, I have never beaten the calendar and never given up! There are some good books available on the subject at the library—The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter and 10-minute Clutter Control among them. I’ve learned a few tricks from them, but ignore anything that would interfere with my winter tradition. You notice that I use the word “tradition.” Resolution meaning declaration, announcement, decree--too negative a word for me. Makes me feel as if I am being backed into a corner or pushed off a cliff. But you take tradition meaning custom, habit, or belief…solid, gentle words. Little building blocks for a good foundation. In the end, we all want to be healthier, smarter, richer, happier, better organized. You name the goal, improvement, or outcome you would like to see in your life, and a librarian can help you find a book on the subject. The rest is up to us!
Submitted by Board of Trustees member Sally-Jean Taylor