October 14th, 2009

Forget the Books… What about the Food?

It’s book discussion time… everyone has their bookmarks and notes in place, with plenty of interesting ideas to contribute to the discussion.  Water for tea is boiling, the delicious smell of fresh coffee fills the air, and the best part, there are snacks!  October is National Reading Group Month, and we have book discussions (and snacks) on the brain.

We respect how you like to read and eat, so we’ve created many choices when it comes to book discussions (click here to see a list).  You can bring your lunch and talk about suspenseful reads at our “Brown Bag Mystery” book discussion, plus enjoy free dessert.  Our many adult book discussions feature the best fiction and non-fiction titles, along with delicious refreshments.  And, of course, our teen and kid book discussions always include yummy snacks.

In my experience, one discussion really stands out (for both the conversation and the cuisine).  My group read Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which is all about sustainable, local agriculture.  We had fresh, locally grown strawberries; they were right in season, tasted wonderful, and were the perfect complement to the discussion.  Some of the other librarians like to theme their snacks to the book and participants often volunteer to make treats.   Some past hits have been trail mix for A Walk in the Woods, devil’s food cake for the very creepy The Devil in the White City, and real fried green tomatoes for the book of the same name.  Having food that goes with the read can help spark conversation and set the tone, plus, it’s just tasty.

Tell us — what’s the best snack you’ve ever had at a book discussion group?  What’s your favorite book discussion read?

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October 7th, 2009

Adventures in Amateur Astronomy

Ahhh fall, my favorite time of the year! The cooler temperatures bring relief from summer’s humidity, the leaves change colors to give us a beautiful show, and the nights start getting longer. And for me it’s the most conducive season for one of my favorite pastimes: skywatching!

I’ve long been fascinated by astronomy, and in 2005 my darling hubby helped it become almost an obsession when he gave me a telescope for Christmas. I was thrilled! Ecstatic! Overwhelmed! He and one of his engineer brothers put it together while I read the instruction manual (yes I’m one of those nerds who does read it) and then I became fearful. What if I messed it up trying to collimate it? How the heck was I supposed to aim it and find something? Where did I start?

So I turned to my trusty old standby for research – the internet and CCPL’s wonderful website and catalog! I found a book that became my lifeline called Night Watch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson, written in normal people language and spiral-bound so it can lay flat while you’re gazing. Other helpful books were:

The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide
Discover the Moon
Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide
Turn Left At Orion

At this point the only problem I had was that I couldn’t find the planets to take a peek at them. Since they move independently and aren’t in a “fixed” location from our point of view like the constellations are, I was confused. Back to the internet! I found a really cool site with monthly sky maps that showed the location of everything, including comets, and they send me a monthly update via email. I was able to find Saturn pretty easily; however I had a real DUUH moment when I thought I was aiming at Saturn, but it was actually an airplane.

I then decided I needed a mentor. I was still afraid to collimate my scope – aligning the mirrors and eyepiece so you get the best image possible. So I again went to the internet to find local stargazing groups. The Astronomical League has a club locator, which led me to the Delaware Astronomical Society and the Harford County Astronomical Society. Through these clubs, I found a helpful mentor who was passionate about astronomy and sharing it with everyone.

Now that I know a little more about what I’m doing, I still use the resources here at CCPL. Every month I can find out the latest astronomical news with the Elkton branch’s subscription to Sky and Telescope magazine, and I still have my lifeline books listed above if I’m having trouble.

My adventures in astronomy are far from over, and I’m sure I’ll have many more forehead smacking DUUH moments; but I know I have excellent resources to turn to in the library!

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