Saturday, December 22, 2012

Guest Blogger | What Are You Reading? Part 1

Working the customer service desk at a public library gives me the opportunity to interact with readers of all ages.  I must admit it gives me a thrill to see young readers borrowing the same books that I loved as a child (and believe me, that was a few years ago).  Beverly Cleary's books really bring back memories, and I think anyone who has a younger sister will enjoy the Ramona series, even as an adult.

And then there are the adult readers who come to the desk in a panic stating, "I've finished reading all of the books written by my favorite authors and I need someone new, now!"  I can certainly sympathize.  There is nothing quite as horrifying as a reading drought.  

Since I read a lot of fiction, especially mystery/suspense and sci-fi/horror, I often make suggestions of authors who write in those genres.  I get a feel for who might be interested in lightweight or humorous mysteries, and who might be more into the darker, hardcore private eye type stories. 

There are also many different sub-genres within sci-fi/horror, so if a customer says they have been reading Stephen King, I might suggest Dean Koontz or F Paul Wilson.  But, if someone asks me for a new author of romantic vampire novels, they are out of luck.  Hey, vampires are supposed to be evil and bloodthirsty!

Feedback on these recommendations is mixed.  Sometimes a customer lets me know that an author I suggested didn't quite meet their expectations, but I know I've been successful when a familiar face pops up at the desk and asks, "What are you reading?"


Books On Film | How The Grinch Stole Christmas

How The Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss,  is a holiday favorite. Originally published in 1957, the book tells the story of a bitter creature who steals all the toys and trappings of Christmas from Whoville in an attempt to ruin the holiday. 

In the process, The Grinch learns the true meaning of the holiday, which is family and togetherness. The book was written as a critique of the commercialization of Christmas.

It has been adapted into film twice. The first, a 1966 animated movie which is still widely watched. The second, a 2000 live action film starring actor Jim Carrey.

The book has also been adapted into a stage play. The play has been performed by various local musical theater groups and as a Broadway production since 1994. The story was also incorporated into a 2010 Christmas episode of the musical television show Glee and was included on their first Christmas album.


One of the best things about How The Grinch Stole Christmas! is the famous You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch. Who doesn't love that song? Well, now it's time to test your knowledge. Do you know the missing words from the first verse of the song? 

You're a    1    one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a   2   .
You're as    3    as a cactus,
You're as charming as an    4  ,
Mr. Grinch.
You're a bad banana with a    5    black peel.

Find out if you were right by listening to the song (1966 cartoon version) or checking out the answers below! 

[source: youtube]

1. mean
2. heel
3. cuddly
4. eel
5. greasy

Covers Courtesy of LibraryThing
IMDB: Movies 1966/2000

Friday, December 21, 2012

Constant Curiosity | A Spot of Tea

Years and years ago, in almost another lifetime, I went to England with my mom and my sister.  We had afternoon tea at Harrod's, after a long, chilly tramp around London, and at the Pump Room in Bath, (and discovered that Bath buns referred to a type of roll and not a condition resulting in taking the baths...) and came home with a fascination for and an addiction to "having tea." This resulted in our having tea for any excuse whatsoever--Mother's Day, a new tea room to try, or just as an excuse to get out the bone china teacups.

 I've visited a lot of tea rooms, but tea at the Empress in Victoria, BC, sticks in my mind, because we visited during a very warm July, so...proper attire being required in the tea room, it looked sad for a moment until the hostess found an unoccupied dining area and the day was saved for my friend and me, as we had tea in lonely shorts-clad splendor. 

Afternoon Tea Victoria

Afternoon Tea in Victoria

Another memorable afternoon tea was at the Ritz Carlton San Francisco after the Bay to Breakers race (we walked...all 9+ miles over hill and dale and along Castro St., a story for another time.)  My friends and I were all cold (very foggy day,)  and starving and still in our walking clothes when I decided tea at the Ritz would be just the thing (I never said I didn't dream big) and although there was a fancy party going on, the very gracious hostess found us a table and we had a lovely tea.  Talk about hitting the spot! 

I have also been treated to a fabulous birthday tea at the Ritz in San Francisco; you may be surprised to learn that I was in my best bib and tucker that time.  One of my fondest dreams is to have tea at the London Ritz at Christmas time.         

There is something inherently comforting and oh, so cozy, about sitting around a fragrant, steaming pot of Earl Grey tea, (my fave, oil of bergamot adding that little extra,) milk and sugar at the ready, beautiful bone china cups and saucers arranged just so on a tray or tea table, silver spoons, lacey linens and a tier of scones, cucumber sandwiches, cake, tarts, lemon curd, strawberry preserves and Devon cream.  High tea, with more substantial fare, can be a fine meal all by itself. 

If you have just come in out of the cold, say, after tramping the moor, a good, strong cuppa can be as bracing as a shot of good Scotch whiskey.  Not that I'm a devotee of Scotch, but I have a good imagination and a gift for hyperbole.


If the tea table is near a fireplace with a crackling fire going, and one has friends to share the tea with, there's no better place on earth.  This is especially nice during the holidays, because unless you live in the southern hemisphere (not southern California,) December can be oh so dark and dreary. 

So, if you suffer from that mid-afternoon "sinking feeling" (as the Duchess of Bedford said) and you're interested in having your own tea party and not sure where to start, visit your local public library:

This blog is dedicated to my dear friend Laura, who is a brilliant tea companion and with whom I've murdered more than a few cups of tea.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Wanderlust Librarian | North Beach (Part 1)

I was born and raised a California girl. My parents had many friends in San Francisco and enjoyed visiting them at least twice a month. A majority of my City experience was next to Golden Gate Park in the Inner Richmond neighborhood. I spent many a Sunday exploring the park on foot, a borrowed bike and one (painful and clumsy) time with rollerblades. Thinking about it now... my parents must have figured I could take care of myself as a plucky, tomboyish 12 year old since they let me wander Golden Gate Park solo. Considering my own child, it's hard for me to let her wander around the mall alone...let alone a metropolis!

I passed North Beach many times: on the way to the Exploratorium, going towards the Presidio and on the way to Lombard Street... but never took time to really stop and see what I was missing. 

My friend lived her life around Northern California and spent a lot of time in San Francisco as well. The city was a wealth of happy memories for her and her family. Much of her time was spent on Columbus Street ; the anchor of North Beach; also known as "Little Italy". This neighborhood is vibrant and eclectic. She frequents this neighborhood at least once a month and invited me to take time out to explore next time I was enjoying the City.Recently, I had the opportunity to visit North Beach and I absolutely loved it.

I'm horrible at finding free parking spaces, so I used Yelp to find a parking garage in the vicinity. The North Beach Parking Garage is right across the street from the local police station so needless to say, I felt safe. I also got a little something extra when I parked: a fortune! Not the price for the hourly parking... a literal fortune! Check out the pictures below!

I have an affinity towards bookstores. Any bookstores. There's something special about books, living together in a communal space that really sends my heart into a happy whirl. Enter: City Lights. This bookstore's history goes back to 1953 and has published many authors that exemplified beat poetry and radical writing in the 60s. Authors like Allen Ginsberg and Charles Bukowsi still remain popular today. The bookstore is cozy. It has creaky wood floors and stacks of books comfortably cramped on endless shelves.  Above the shelves, it's as if time has stopped and the beat culture has taken hold. There are tons of pictures, signs and articles from the day. 

For as small as the store is, there is so much history that it's hard NOT to picture a poetry reading in the downstairs area, banned books being stashed behind the counter waiting to be sold and hoards of people in and out of the store purchasing books that only City Lights has published. 

My daughter (a worldly 14) was simply awestruck by the simplicity and the magnitude of the space.  I saw her rifling through the Banned Books display towards the front of the store and felt proud. This bookstore contributed to keeping books available to everyone; that everyone had a voice to be heard. 

My fortune's so bright, I gotta wear shades! 
Announce yourself, door! 

History is alive at City Lights
Where the Beat Poets meet! 

Book Bucket List | The Night Before Christmas

When I was a kid, one of our Christmas Eve traditions was that everyone would pick a book from our collection of children's Christmas books and read a story aloud while drinking hot chocolate.  Later, this tradition was interrupted by texting and other distractions as we got older, but it remains one of my favorite Christmas memories.

My dad would always pick The Night Before Christmas to read to us.  It was first published in 1823 anonymously and quickly became one of the most popular Christmas poems.  Later, it came out that it was written by Clement C. Moore.  What is also interesting about this poem, is that it generalized the description of Santa  Claus.  Before the poem, there were many different versions of Old Saint Nick, but the descriptions in The Night Before Christmas quickly caught on to create what Santa is now. 

The original, if by some small chance you've never heard or read it, is definitely a must read for this season.  My siblings and I are all in our twenties now, but our dad will probably be reading this to us on Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Learning | New Year Traditions

I never liked the tradition of making New Year's resolutions. When I was a kid, I used to try to make them, but I never seemed to stick to them for very long.  The most lasting changes I have made to habits have come from more spontaneous decisions. Sometimes I realize that I am either not doing something enough, or doing too much of something, and I would probably be happier if I changed that. I don't think I can get motivated simply because a certain day of the year demands that I improve myself.

My family enjoys the Southern traditional New Year's dish of Hoppin' John, a dish with black-eyed peas, greens and rice.  The peas represent coins; they are supposed to bring prosperity in the year to come. I've heard that eating "poor" on New Year's day ensures "eating fat" the rest of the year--and eating leftover Hoppin' John the day after the holiday is an especially frugal way of increasing one's luck. 

Whether Hoppin' John is lucky or not, it certainly is tasty, and healthy.  My eldest son usually asks me to make it whenever he comes home from college. 

There's a recipe for this black-eyed pea dish in the Winter 2012 issue of the children's cooking magazine, Chop Chop.

What's that you say? You didn't know the library carried a children's cooking magazine? Well, in fact we do, and it looks fun and informative.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

4 Kids | A Book a Week?
As each year comes to an end, it's easy to look ahead with excitement at what the New Year will bring. It's also really easy (as in, really, really easy) to make New Year's resolutions that are all about improving ourselves, breaking bad habits, etc., etc. I'm tired of making New Year's resolutions to change something I really don't want to change! No more! I'm not going to give up chocolate. Furthermore, I refuse to give up Taco Bell. For me, 2013 is going to be about enjoying life.....and that means books.
After very careful thought, I've come up with a resolution I'm rather excited about. I am going to read one book a week! Yes! One book a week. In all honesty, that's quite easy for me to do because, as you all know, I LOVE reading. But I'm going to read at least one great children's book that I find on the shelf of our wonderful Library.
I promise to share what I read with all of you on Tuesday mornings...right here...on the 4 Kids blog. I hope I'll entice you to read something new. Or old. Or funny. Or scary. Or adventurous. Or completely out of this world!
Since there are still a few days left of good old 2012, I'll finish the pile of books that sits on my nightstand:
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Kit's Wilderness by David Almond
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood (Book 1 of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series)
And please, dear readers, leave a comment below if you want to recommend a book you think I absolutely MUST read. I will read any and every book you recommend. I promise.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays to you and yours....and a very Happy New Year!!

See you in 2013!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Professor O | Comics That Do Not Flinch

Greetings fellow fans of the comic book format!

This is Professor O, coming to you live from the SSJCPL. In this installment, we will be looking at some tough as nails, battle tested war corresponding, told (surprisingly enough) through the comic book medium. These are not your feel good, war = fun, rah-rah, "Go our side!" comic books about war. This, fellow adventurer, is the real deal, unfiltered through the eyes of men who were there. In other words: grown folks comics.

The first of the comics is the seminal, Fax From Sarajevo by Joe Kubert. It is the story of Joe Kubert's own friend Ervin Rutsemagic, who along with his family, find themselves struggling to live amid the atrocities which occurred in the eighteen month siege of Sarajevo in 1992-1993. The family tries to keep a semblance of normalcy and sanity while retaining their dignity surrounded by the horrors of war. With nothing to rely on but a a shaky fax machine, Ervin communicated with his friend Joe through hundreds of faxes detailing the atrocities of war and the fears of a family caught in the crossfire. A staggering piece of war corresponding, Fax From Sarajevo towers as one of the most unflinching take on what is to be an innocent bystander trying to keep a semblance of a life within the hell that is war.

Second, we have a historical depiction of war. The Vietnam War: A Graphic History by Dwight Zimmerman, art by Wayne Vansant, gives us a front and center view of what it is to have fought in that war. The story is broken down into chapters, the first one titled Commitment, which takes us through the first stages of America's involvement in the war. This is more historical, retracing the steps that led into full involvement. The last of the chapters, and one of the most personal for the author, is Forgetting and Remembering, in which the author recounts the tragedies of his POW buddies, the pain of returning to a country divided by war, and the reconciliation and healing that came from visiting the Vietnam Memorial.

Two unyielding titles about two of the ugliest moments of history. War is not pretty, war is not glorious, and sometimes just reading a newspaper or watching the news does nothing for our understanding of those who are involved in or caught within a war. These two comics drive the horror home, but also shows the hope and resiliency that it takes for humans to reconcile after such traumatic events.

With this, Professor O wishes you, fellow adventurer, a peaceful goodbye!


Life & Style | Let Me Make You A Cup Of Tea

I love tea. I love making tea.

If you stop by my house, tea is the very first thing that I am going to serve you. 

I won't use tea bags to make you tea, I am going to make you tea the old fashioned way.

I am originally from Iran and we drink tea all day long and for every occasion.

In my family, we only drink black tea and we call it Chai. A good Persian tea has a beautiful cherry color. 

I usually serve tea in tiny glasses. So whenever I have a party, I end up going back to my kitchen several times to bring more tea in more tiny glasses.

To make a wonderful Persian tea, you need some water, a kettle, a teapot, some loose black tea leaves and a few cardamom pods.

Here are the steps to make Persian tea:
  • Boil water in a kettle.
  • While waiting for water to boil, add a few teaspoons of black tea leaves and a couple of cardamom pods in a small teapot.
  • Fill half of the teapot with boiling water.
  • Place the teapot on top of the kettle and wait about 5 minutes.
  • This allows the true flavor & color of the tea to emerge.
  • Fill a third of a tiny glass cup with this tea and fill the rest of the cup with hot water.
  • Your tea should be ruby colored.
  • Place a tiny sugar cube on your tongue and drink your tea over it.
  • Voila, that is how you make Persian style tea.

If you love tea and tea parties as much as I do, visit your Library to check out
books like these for your next party.

Having tea : recipes & table settings

Tea & cookies

Alice's Tea Cup  
signing off until next Monday-Panteha