Category Archives: Spare time – Culture

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!

Vacation update

I’m absolutely exhausted tonight, having had more exercise today than I have since I broke my foot in December, so just a quick update on our vacation…

Dinner at the Local Table was excellent.  We enjoyed two beers that we had never heard of before (one each, thank you, we’re not lushes) and the best burgers either of us has had in a long time.  And not too horribly expensive, either.

We fit in our once-yearly visit to a mall, this year to the Pheasant Lane Mall, with two goals: to buy Jim a new charger cord plug thing for his iPod, and to visit Newbury Comics.  Check and check, and then we got the heck out of mall-land.

We made a trip all the way to Stoughton to visit IKEA – they have the best towels around, and we needed new ones.  But unfortunately, they were SOOO busy that we couldn’t even get a spot in their parking lot or garage, and ended up driving back north and having lunch at the Colonial Inn.  Yummy food, and I love that back bar room at the Inn.  Then a little walk around Concord center, with stops at our two favorite bookstores (Barrow Books and Concord Bookshop).

Tuesday’s outing was a trip to Lexington center, based mostly on my dental appointment.  We had lunch at Panera Bread, which made us feel quite urban (the decor there is amazing for a sandwich shop), and the food was delicious.  Then a little trip to Sweet Beads of Lexington to get me my bead fix…and quid pro quo for Jim, we drove to Minor Chord of Littleton for Jim’s guitar fix.

And then today we ventured up to the Peabody Essex Museum, where we enjoyed an excellent lunch at their cafe before seeing the Yin Yu Tang house for the first time.  Then a quick tour of their other galleries and a very very quick trip into the gift shop (it was the first day of their big sale, members only, and it was pretty cutthroat in there).  After leaving the museum, we drove up to Beverly and walked on the beach a bit – Jim walked more than I did – so that Jim could check out Baker’s Island through the binoculars.  And I got some nice beach glass.

And now we’re home and tired and planning the rest of our week off!


First day of vacation – woo-hoo!

Jim and I have lots of fun things planned for this stay-cation; I’ll try to find time to post updates over the next week.  And absolutely NONE of those updates will be work related – that’s a promise!

Today’s plan is to take care of boring errands like buying TurboTax (Jim’s vacation starts tomorrow, so he is at work today), have a pancake lunch with my dad (I make the meanest pancake around), and to feel very happy that Ophy’s most recent health issue (huge weight loss) seems to be due to hyperthyroidism.  And then dinner tonight at the Local Table!  Happy vacation to us!

Grand disappointment

Alright, you Downton Abbey fans…you might want to stop reading right now.  I’m not going to provide “spoilers,” but I am going to talk about my grand disappointment in the conclusion of season 3 of the show.

I’ll wait while the die hard fans close their browsers…

Jim and I don’t have cable now, and never have; we get our television from rabbit ears and an older t.v.  So we are big watchers and supporters of WGBH, since the best free t.v. comes from ‘GBH – and if we’re not paying for cable, then I’m very happy to donate money to ‘GBH.  My most recent donation yielded the complete three disc set of season 3 of Downton Abbey, meaning that I’ve been able to view the episodes at my leisure, and ahead of the general public in the U.S.

Last night I watched all of disc three (Jim had a gig).  Three hours of Downton, Downton, and more Downton.  And, frankly, I’m angry, annoyed, and disappointed.  I’m not disappointed in what happened at the end of the season, since anyone familiar with entertainment gossip should have been able to figure that out on their own, but rather I’m disappointed in how it happened.  There are creative and interesting ways to bring a plot to a certain resolution, and then there ways that are predictable and maudlin and absolute cop-outs.  Season 3 of Downton ends in just about the worst plot cop-out I have ever seen.

Without giving too much away (although a quick Google search for any character’s name will provide all plot spoilers, since season 3 has already aired in England), I will tell you this:  the whole final three hours of the show are filled with ridiculous dialogue between two of the main characters that is the most obvious foreshadowing I have ever witnessed.  Blech.  And I was able to predict the exact plot trajectory with total accuracy a good two hours before it occurred on screen.  As the final scene unfolded, I thought to myself, “They’re really going to do it that way?  Seriously?  How totally stupid and predictable.  Yup, ok, here it comes – they seriously did that, didn’t they.  How absolutely disappointing.”  And [spoiler here], though I should have been sad and weepy at that last scene, my eyes were completely dry.  Not a drop of mascara ran.  Not a speck of tissue needed.

And I don’t think I’ll bother watching season 4 when it comes out.

Ah, vacation…

We had a great vacation – relaxing, refreshing, and fun.  Here are a few highlights:

End of Summer Exhaustion and Vacation

Between finishing up the summer reading program and Ophy’s ongoing health issues, this has been a loooooong two weeks.  I went in to the library yesterday to inventory and put away all of the summer reading prizes, and when I got home I sat on the couch to watch the news (Jim had band practice last night).  Next thing I knew, I was wakened by the phone ringing an hour and a half later.  It’s not my style to fall asleep on the couch in the middle of the afternoon or early evening (or ever, really), so I think it’s safe to assume that I was absolutely tuckered out.  Exhausted.  Worn down.  However you want to put it, I was tired.

I worked today, and managed to finish up everything that might potentially haunt me during my vacation week; this included submitting my statistics to the state for the summer reading program.  And even though I planned the summer and knew full well what was going on all summer, I was blown away by our statistics:  we ran 58 programs (including hired performers, storytimes, book groups, and other library-run programs) and our attendance at those 58 programs was just shy of 1,900 adults and kids.  Wow.  Wow.  No wonder I fell asleep yesterday!

So goodbye to summer reading 2012 – it was a good summer, and we all enjoyed it and got lots of reading done.  (The kids read for over 5,200 hours this summer!)  And hello to Abby’s vacation 2012 – a stay-cation, of course.  I’m looking forward to sleeping in and making a full pot of tea every morning (and drinking the whole pot, too) and reading lots of books and going on adventures with Jim and repainting the exterior of our house and helping Ophy to recover.   Woo-hoo!

Study break

I’ve been working hard all day at more book ordering, this time making my way through issues of School Library Journal.  It’s fantastically fun, really, though maybe not my first choice of a way to spend my Sunday [yes, yes, yes, it’s off the clock…I do that a lot!].  Fun because I love seeing which series have a new title – sometimes it will be several years from one entry in a book series to the publication of the next, sometimes it will only be months – and which of my favorite authors have come out with a new book.  And I also love seeing what unusual nonfiction topics have now been addressed in a children’s book.  Sometimes those nonfiction books aren’t worth buying, but lately there have been a ton of great nonfiction children’s books on cool topics.

And I’ve enjoyed ordering today because it’s given me a chance to spend some quality time with Ophy as she (hopefully) recovers.  I’m sitting in the middle of the couch with my laptop and the review journals, and Ophy alternates between napping curled up to my left leg and then my right leg – with water drinking breaks in between.

Study break is over, though – I still have more ordering to do, and I suppose it might be wise to eat some dinner, too.  My goal is to go on my vacation next week having absolutely no loose ends at work, and I think I can achieve the tying of those loose ends this evening.  Yahoo!!!

Man in the Moon

Last Sunday, to assuage my guilt at wasting time watching the Olympics, I decided to multitask and make a necklace while observing other people being active (which always makes me feel woefully chubby and out of shape).  The necklace is one I’ve been wanting to make for a long time – not a design of my own, but a combination of two projects (handmade chain and a single earring, used as a pendant) from Jodi Bombadier’s book Weave, Wrap, Coil.

I LOVE this necklace, and I’ve been wearing it all week.  It’s just so bright and shiny, and looks great with a scoop neck black shirt.  I had dinner with my dad last night, and showed it off to him.  As he examined it, he kindly remarked that it looked professionally done (aw, gee, shucks), and then asked me if it was the Man in the Moon.  What an absolutely perfect name.  I love it.

I’ve put a photo of my new favorite Man in the Moon necklace below, as well as some photos that transferred from my camera to my computer automatically when I retrieved the necklace photo.  Not being much of a photo bug, there are some old-new photos that I just rediscovered, and I included three of my favorites below: two of the Concord Independent Battery horses in the Patriots’ Day parade – look carefully at the brown horse; a photo of my sweet little Ophy cat, who currently isn’t feeling too great – hopefully she’ll get better soon; and a picture of the sun lighting up one of our glass doorknobs.

Storytime progress

It’s been slow – rather tedious – and at times torturous – but I’ve made significant progress on my goal to add new storytime lesson plans to my repertoire.  I realized recently that my goal for this fiscal year stated that I would add sixteen lesson plans to reach a total of sixty-seven in my storytime bank…but that actually I would be adding twenty-three new lesson plans, not sixteen, to reach that total of sixty-seven.  Silly me, I forgot that I had made files for some lesson plans that I had not yet created; so I thought that I had fifty plans already on file, but really some of those plans did not yet exist.  But I’m committed to reaching sixty-seven total, and I’m ALMOST THERE!  Only five left!!

Tomorrow’s storytime is on Sickness and Health, with two fun featured stories:  Llama, Llama, Home with Mama by Anna Dewdney and Guess Who, Baby Duck! by Amy Hest.  None of the books I pulled for this week would work in a feltboard format (feltboard stories can’t be forced, I’ve learned), so I’ve decided instead to have a bear puppet come visit storytime.  The poor little bear isn’t feeling well – he has the sniffles and the sneezes and his throat is sore – so we’ll tuck him up in bed (an Ikea plastic bin with a pillowcase folded to be a pillow and another pillowcase as a blanket), feel his forehead to see if he has a fever, and put a box of tissues by his side.  Then we’ll distract the sick bear puppet with some fingerplays and stories and see if he feels better by the end of storytime.

And, meanwhile, just to add verisimilitude, I’m fighting a cold of my own.  Bah humbug.  Lots of echinacea today!  And hopefully a very fun storytime tomorrow…

New lesson plans update

I’ve been completely and totally neglecting my blog lately, but for good reason:  one of my four work goals for this fiscal year was to create new lesson plans for the Storytime for 2’s & 3’s.  Here is my official goal, as submitted at the beginning of the fiscal year:

Create 16 more lesson plans to add to the curriculum for Storytime for 2’s and 3’s.  Lesson plan creation includes selecting 20 to 30 book titles for each theme, creating weekly handouts, choosing fingerplays, rhymes, and songs, and creating feltboard materials (which is done at home on my own time).  This will bring the total number of lesson plans up to 67, which is enough to get through two full years (including summers) with repetition only occurring a few times in those two years (Halloween/Fall, Winter, Spring, Valentine’s Day, Summer, etc.).  Though two and three year olds actually love repetition, parents are never as keen on it, so it is important to  have enough lesson plans to cover the entire period that a child is registered for this storytime.

I knew that this goal, along with my usual reading-done-at-home for the five book groups that meet each month, would seriously impact my ability to write blog posts.  But I didn’t anticipate that it would mean no blog posts for a huge span of time!  But, I am very pleased with how these new storytime lesson plans are turning out, and very happy that I will have enough plans to cover two full years; good for me as the presenter, good for the folks who attend.

One reason these plans have been taking longer than expected is that I have moved beyond my original source for plans, Storytimes for Two Year Olds by Judy Nichols, and am creating everything from scratch.  In her book Nichols provides fifty themes, with suggested book titles for each theme, as well as suggested fingerplays and songs, follow-up activities, craft activities, suggestions on which books to turn into feltboard stories, and so on.  While I’ve always viewed Nichols’ book as a starting point for me, since I am my own person and like to put my creative stamp on my storytimes, having that starting point was absolutely invaluable.  I’ve been totally on my own for these new lesson plans, and thus bring much of the planning work home (in addition to the feltboard work), since creating from scratch takes soooooooo much longer than using someone else’s template.  And my theme ideas haven’t always worked out, meaning that I’ve had to regroup many times…

I’ve had to trash several ideas for themes that seemed good when I chose them, but turned out to have insufficient books available for this age group.  I gave up on “Dragons and Unicorns” after spending a great deal of time searching for and reading picturebooks on these two mythical creatures; fewer picturebooks exist on them than I thought, and those that I found were far too complex and long for my target age group.

Another theme that I thought would be terrific, but didn’t work out at all, was “Royalty.”  Queens, kings, princesses, princes, knights – surely that would be a great topic, right?  Not so much.  I found a few books, but ultimately gave up and completely nixed the theme after deciding that the books I had found (both in my library and other libraries) were either too long or too dull or both.

And “Snakes.”  Great idea, especially since we have a couple of terrific snake puppets that I’ve been dying to use.  But a total washout in terms of books that are available.  I finally had the great idea to take the snake idea and broaden it out to “Pets.”  The snake puppets still got used, and I found a tremendous number of great books.

Why so many books, you ask?  Partly to include in the weekly handout, which I know many parents use as a source for age-appropriate books for their children.  Partly so that there is a stack of books available for checkout by the kids and their parents on the day of the storytime (which many families love).  And partly so that there are thirty or so books on display in a ring around the carpet squares in the room; these books are there for the Quiet Time section of the storytime, as recommended by Nichols.  I’ve grown quite fond of the Quiet Time section, and love seeing the caregivers each reading to their children – it’s a terrific way to take the reading skills learned during the storytime and bring them back to their everyday one-on-one at home usage.

And on that note, I think that I had better get to work on the handout and lesson plan for Monday’s storytime, theme of Spring…wish me luck!