Category Archives: Spare time – Culture

Summer update

This has been the CRAZIEST summer reading program I have ever seen at the library – constantly busy, every day, with almost no down time – and considering that this is my ninth summer at the library, that’s saying something.  Mind you, a crazy busy summer at the library is a very good problem to have!

So this is just a very quick update on my summer, all aspects (with, of course, some cat photos!):

Great programs so far this summer at the library, including the annual Ice Cream Social, a concert with the Toe Jam Puppet Band, stories with Mark Binder, hula hooping with Pinto Bella Hoops, a Historical Sword Demonstration with Jeff Goodhind and Jeff Lord, four book group meetings, and storytimes.  And lots and lots and lots of kids doing huge amounts of reading (and collecting prizes and working towards their summer reading bookplates).

Home improvement projects are continuing as we can find time to do them.  We priced out buying new kitchen cabinets from Home Depot, and realized that it would be cheaper for Jim to build our new cabinets – so that is Jim’s current project.  The quote from the electrician for the necessary work in the kitchen should be coming in soon, hopefully low enough that we can afford it, and then we need to figure out our timeline and finally finish off that kitchen.

Needless to say, this summer’s vacation week will be a staycation yet again, both because we need to fund the home improvement projects, and also because we need some time to do them!  And Jim is picking up quite a few gigs this summer, including one during our summer vacation.  (Acton Boxborough Farmer’s Market, Sunday, August 24.)

And the cats are doing very well.  No longer kittens, they are still not adults, and exhibit some rather annoying behaviors still (such as chewing power cords), but they are wonderful little buggers and we love them very much.  Moses is absolutely huge now, probably well over fifteen pounds, and the girls, Millie and Moxie, are adorably normal-sized.  (See photos below.)  We still feed Mommy Cat every day, and I’m trying to see if I can make friends with her, though her continued skittishness makes me think that she truly is feral.

And that’s it!  The quick summer update!


Currently reading

There’s a large stack of books next to my favorite chair, waiting to be read.  Most are for upcoming book groups, but I’m also starting to accumulate some “fun reading” books in anticipation of the June break from book groups (and then the August and September break from book groups, which allows me a lot of time to read other things!).

Here are the books that are piled next to me:

  • The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (5th grade book group)
  • Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (6th grade book group)
  • The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan (Teen book group)
  • The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown (Teen book group)
  • Years of Dust by Albert Marrin (Teen book group)
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
  • The Outcasts by John Flanagan
  • Marmee & Louisa by Eve LaPlante
  • My Heart is Boundless edited by Eve LaPlante
  • The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
  • Curtain by Agatha Christie
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • And assorted magazines, long neglected by me:  The Atlantic, many New Yorkers, and Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country.

Any other must-read suggestions for me for my upcoming season of fun reading?


The other night I had the weirdest dream…a library dream, of course.

I dreamt that a library patron called the children’s room and asked me to pull a large selection of DVDS – chosen according to some odd guidelines dictated to me over the phone – and then, once I’d pulled everything for her, that I deliver them to her house.

So I pulled  a large stack of what were now CDs (who knows why it switched from DVDS), and proceeded to open each CD case and take all the CDs out.  As each disk came out of its case, it turned into an ordinary green pea.  Logically, I put all of the peas into a bowl, then went to eat dinner with my family.  I might even have eaten a couple of the peas/CDs…that part is a little fuzzy.

A few minutes into eating dinner, my mother turned to me and said, “Don’t you need to deliver those CDs to that lady?”  Panic set in, and I rushed over to the bowl of peas and realized that before I could deliver anything, I needed to get the peas back into the CD cases.  But the peas were just green garden peas, and weren’t labelled like the CDs had been, so how was I to know which pea went into which case?

I contemplated eating the peas to figure out what they each were, but realized that would be counterproductive, so then I thought about gently tasting each one to determine what music was on each.  And I considered just jamming random peas into CD cases and delivering them that way.

When I woke up from this very very long dream, I still hadn’t figured out a solution.  Somewhere in my dream world, there are still green peas that need to be converted back into CDs and put into their cases and delivered to an imaginary library patron…

Analog clocks

I’m worried that analog clocks, which I personally prefer to digital, will be going the way of the dinosaurs.

The computer sign-in sheet for the children’s room computers is on the end of the librarian’s desk; I have thoughtfully provided a pencil and an analog clock for kids to log the time when they sign in.  Thoughtfully, because I like to encourage kids to practice their clock reading skills.  But I do get a lot of grief from kids about this clock, and they frequently ask me what time it is.  For the younger ones, I talk them through how to tell the time on the clock.  Sometimes I talk the older kids through, too, but most often I encourage them to think about it for a minute and they usually get it.

Yesterday, an eighth grade girl (a regular in the children’s room) was signing in for the computer, and she casually asked me “What time is it?”

With a smile, I replied, “The clock is right there…”

“I know, but…”  [heavy, heavy sigh]

Me:  “Well, think about what time you get out of school, since you just got out, and see if that helps you figure it out.”

Another heavy sigh.

And then the boy next to her whispered, “It’s 2:26.”

I may lose this clock battle, and, more importantly, the analog clock might lose – sooner than we think.

Mommy Cat

There’s been an awful lot of cat action in and around our home lately, from the arrival of Moses to trying to find a new home for my dad’s cat Tabby to the discovery of Mommy Cat and her kittens in our neighbor’s barn.

I’ve been feeding Mommy Cat, who presumably is Moses’ mommy, twice a day on our deck.  She gobbles down two cans of Fancy Feast morning and evening, warily eyeing me through the sliding glass door as she eats.  It’s not clear whether she is feral or a stray, but what I do know is that I think Mommy Cat is beautiful.   Not flashy beautiful, but rather subtly beautiful; I’ve started calling her Mona in honor of her sleek subtle beauty (like the Mona Lisa, get it?).  She doesn’t have that hint of a smile, but she does have the most gorgeous golden eyes.

After a week of trying to connect with the wrong no-kill cat shelter, my vet referred me to the cat shelter who rescued Ophy all those years ago, Guardian Angels Cat Rescue.  I spoke to a woman from the shelter last night, and she’s working on finding someone who can help us capture Mona and her babies.  Perhaps a second one of those babies will come to live with us to keep Moses company (and to give Pippa a little peace); we’ll see.

I’ve gotten used to Mona’s twice daily visits to our deck to chow down, and this morning I felt almost a little sad when I thought she might not be coming around anymore.  Almost, but not really, because I’d like this little family to be saved and placed into loving homes.  I was happy, though, when I was able to get a couple of photos of Mona: one as she left the deck and her breakfast, the other as she headed back through our yard to her clan.  I think she’s gorgeous; I hope you do, too.

Procrastination…the fine art of

I turned on the computer to work on the library tour that I’ll be giving to the elementary school students this week, starting with two third grade classes tomorrow.

“Why don’t you get your work done now, in the morning, so that we can enjoy the rest of the day?” said my wonderful and wise husband before heading outside to work on installing the cedar decking on our new back steps.

That was about an hour ago.  In that hour, I’ve checked Facebook (both my account and Pepper B. Collie’s account), checked my email, read something my sister sent me, checked my work email, looked at a shirt on Garnet Hill, drunk two cups of tea, sent an email to my friend, turned on a McAfee scan on the computer, and now logged in to write a blog post.  And my flashdrive and the hard copy of the library tour that I printed out on Friday are both sitting next to me on the chair, unused so far today.


Screen Time

Yes, I know, I have been terribly remiss about posting on my blog lately.  It’s all about screen time:  I spend about nine hours a day at work staring at a computer screen, and when I get home, I hate to spend too much more time in front of a computer screen.

Ok, so it’s about screen time AND self-control:  I should be able to just turn on my laptop for fifteen minutes to write a blog post, but it’s so tempting to just check Facebook (which I actually hate) and then just check my email (far too much work to actually answer any emails, though) and then just check my work email (as if I hadn’t just left work) and then just check the Garnet Hill sale of the day…and then the entire evening is gone and I feel like I’ve wasted my life.  And, more often than not, I never got around to writing that blog post after all.

I see this pattern with the kids who come to the library after school.  They all race here to be the first on the computer (each user gets a half hour on the computer before being bumped for people on the waitlist) and then they slump down in front of the computer and mindlessly play computer games.  Yes, I slump too.  Yes, my web surfing is just as mindless as the computer game playing.  The difference is that I’m a bit older and I grew up without computers – and I am beginning to feel more than a bit mortal and don’t want to waste what’s left of my outside-of-work life in front of the computer.

So I made a goal for myself around the time I broke my foot, mostly because it’s hard to balance a laptop on your lap when you have to keep your foot elevated (which I had to do for eight weeks).  The goal, which I have achieved, was to spend more time reading in the evenings.  It’s been absolutely wonderful – I’ve had time to read books other than the books I need to read for book groups.  I’ve rediscovered Agatha Christie, and now I’m ready to rediscover some of my favorite authors: Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne.

But it’s time for me to add a new goal to this goal of reading; it’s time for me to spend fifteen minutes a night writing on my blog…and then to exercise that thing called self-restraint and Turn Off The Bloody Computer so that I can read.

What do you think? Can I do it?

Sunday Field Trip

Jim and I have decided we need to explore our local world more, so today’s field trip was to the Fitchburg Art Museum.  We’d been there once (or maybe twice?) before, but it’s been several years since we last visited, and we were very pleasantly surprised by the changes.  We were obviously the only visitors in the museum when we first arrived, and we were greeted enthusiastically by an older woman at the desk who informed us that the museum has a new director who has made significant – and good – changes to the museum.  And it’s clear that the director is on to something, because every security guard in the museum was happy and friendly and helpful and welcoming.  I’ve never seen such a great bunch of security guards; usually they seem to be wishing they were someplace else more exciting, but not this crew.

It’s a small museum, but they have two awesome special exhibits at the moment, one of paintings from the Hudson River School, and the other (my favorite) of photographs from the museum’s “world-class collection.”  (See the museum’s website for more information on each of these exhibits – scroll down a bit on the home page and view the six page cycling banner.)  I’m not a photography expert, but I think they had some pretty awesome photographs in that exhibit…photos by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Berenice Abbott, and many many more.

We also enjoyed the other exhibits we visited: the Egyptian gallery, the gallery of Eastern art, and the African masks.  The enthusiasm of the guard in the Egyptian gallery knew no bounds, and his enthusiasm encouraged us to explore that gallery in far more depth than we otherwise would have.  I even took the time to look at the mummy of the cat, and moved from being grossed out by it to intrigued by it.  And the mummy of the tiny crocodile was fascinating.

We were happy to see other museum visitors arriving as we concluded our visit, and hopefully the energy of the museum’s new director will bring many more people to this small but vibrant cultural gem.  As for us, we will definitely be back, sooner rather than later (upcoming field trip with Dad to see the photography exhibit).

And next week’s Sunday field trip is to meet our new nephew!!

Shelburne Falls

Yesterday we (ok, Jim – I was just the passenger) drove out to Shelburne Falls for a day trip.  Our original plan was to go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, but then the night before I remembered our failed visit to IKEA on Monday – it stinks when you make a longish drive to get somewhere and then can’t even get parking because it’s school vacation week, so you have to turn around and come home without achieving vacation happiness.  So Shelburne Falls seemed like a much better alternative.

It’s definitely mid-winter – the dead of winter.  The views along the highway were rather desolate…leafless trees, dirty snow, bleak sky.  And Shelburne Falls was very different from when we’ve visited in the summer time.  Not many people around, and those who were in town were obviously locals.  The town had a bit of the feel of Nantucket in February (a trip we often make): cold, a bit sad, empty.  But a couple of excellent used bookstores were open, and we each got a book:  Victorian Fairy Tales edited by Jack Zipes for me, and The Lowell Canal System for Jim.  Then a walk up to view the glacial potholes, an excellent and cheap lunch in a small restaurant, a visit to an art gallery/store where there was some cool art glass (loved the glass octopi – too bad they were $250), and then a bit of wandering around to take some photos and get some air.

All in all, a very nice day.  And now we settle in for the last two days of our vacation, which will include much loving attention to sick Ophy, game night with friends tonight, and then another weekend snowstorm.  It will be hard to go back to work on Monday!