August 19th, 2014

A “Berry” Sweet End to Summer

blackberries 2

“Blackberry” has a certain connotation these days – a small hand-held device used for constant communication, right?

Well, at our house, instead of technology, we think of plump, dark, juicy berries, hanging in heavy clusters off riotous berry canes along a homemade fence. After planting a few bushes last fall, we were rewarded with a bumper crop of the most delicious blackberries we’ve ever eaten. We have blueberries and raspberries, too.

We’ve been picking daily for weeks, and started counting our bounty in gallons, not pints. We’ve eaten fresh berries to our heart’s content; we’ve frozen them for smoothies and made berry muffins. But now what?

My cousin told me about a curious fruit drink called a shrubthat you can make to create a home-made soda. Instead of making a simple syrup with berries and sugar, you add cider vinegar, too, to give it a more savory, sophisticated flavor when added to plain seltzer water. You can use your choice of berries.

CCPL has hosted local canning expert and author, J.R. Coffey, for a number of programs over the summer, including on Wednesday, August 20 at the Perryville Branch.

If you haven’t or can’t make his delicious and informative programs, check out this great list of canning and preserving resourcesand have you checked out CCPL’s Pinterest canning page?

I’ve also been getting ideas for using my berries from a variety of cooking magazines that CCPL offers via Zinio, which are digital magazines that I can download and keep on my home computer, or even my blackberry!

What are your favorite ways to preserve the taste of summer?

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June 17th, 2014

On the Road Again

roadtripsSummer is here and my girls have signed up for CCPL’s Summer Reading and Learning Program. It’s open to kids, adults and teens. Are you registered to read for rewards?

Summer is also the season of road trips in my family – but there’s one big problem – my girls can get car sick before we’ve come to the end of our lane. How do we survive a six-hour trip when reading, video games, coloring, journaling and DVD-watching are all destined to create emergency roadside stops?

Audiobooks! “Hands free reading” isn’t just for adults.  It’s a great way to make the hours go by and listening to audiobooks counts toward the summer reading program!

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I’ve tried to share my childhood delight in Little House on the Prairie with my daughters, but they’re not particularly interested. They tell me the “prairie” was so long ago it’s boring. But if you lend voices, experiences, emotions and adventures to those dates and people… you’ve happened upon what I call “entertainment learning.”

On our road trips and many excursions north and south along 213 we’ve listened to Harry Potter and the Warriors series. But here’s where I got “mom sneaky” – I started playing the Dear America series. These historical fiction books are based on real girls and young women who kept journals during important times in our history such as the Colonial settlements, Oregon Trail, Civil War and World War II. The heroines describe everyday life and how they were affected by these moments in history. There’s humor and adventure, but also stark description of sacrifice, sorrow and hardship. The resulting conversations with my daughters have been fascinating. The books end with historical notes about what happened to the girls and their families after the story ends.

While traveling I-95, we’ve discussed big topics like slavery and the Holocaust.  We’ve talked about what it was like to be a woman in different times in history, as well as the bravery and conviction of the American spirit. We’ve also discussed how many conveniences we take for granted in our modern life, such as plumbing, electricity, freedom.

When we travel to visit Massachusetts this summer, I plan to borrow Dear America: A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower 1620. For Royal enthusiasts, there’s a great series called The Royal Diaries that features princesses from around the world and from many time periods throughout history.

And if you have young men in your car, there are plenty of titles written from boys’ perspectives, too. Try The Watsons Go to Birmingham on CD or Dear America: My Name is America in print. And don’t forget to check our eBook and eAudiobook collections for downloadable options.

How do you keep your kids entertained (and learning) in the car?

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