Gift Thyself

November 24th, 2010

“Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free..,” goes that familiar old Shaker tune…and many of us long for those elusive gifts—especially during the holidays.  We long for the simple pleasures of home-cooked meals, handmade treasures, familiar songs, and plates full of grandma’s cookies.  But we all know how much time those simple things can eat up…not to mention money.

Thanksgiving just arrived and colored lights and inflatable snowmen have been turning up in neighbors’ yards already.  It seems we start working toward “the best holiday ever!” earlier each year, and every year I still manage to have shopping and wrapping to do on Christmas Eve.   Judging by the crowds and traffic that I battle in those last minutes, I’ve got a feeling I’m not the only one.

Before you get swept up in the whirlwind of holiday preparation, treat yourself to an afternoon or evening of honest-to-goodness music by Simple Gifts.  These State College-based folk musicians return to the Cecil County Public Library to present two concerts on Thursday, December 2, 2010.  They will play at 3:00 p.m. at the Perryville Branch Library, and at 7:00 p.m. at the Elkton Central Library.

If you weren’t in the audience two years ago, click on for a sneak preview of the dynamic duo of Linda Littleton and Karen Hirshon.  The organic sounds of their dozen or so acoustic instruments, rich voices, and lively but laid back stage presence will transport you to other times and other villages.  These women are technically proficient on a beautiful array of fiddles, banjos, recorders, guitar, mandolin, hammered dulcimer, bowed psaltery (ever heard of that one??) and miscellaneous percussion instruments.   They also know a whole lot about traditional music from all over the world, and they’ll sneak in some generous lessons between the mesmerizing tunes, jigs, reels, polkas, waltzes, and ballads.

So why don’t you add one more thing to your to do list, and then put it in your pocket on December 2 and forget about it while you relax (or dance) your cares away with Simple Gifts.  Or better yet, invite your favorite music aficionados to come along and cross those  names off the list…for free!

If you can’t make it, you can check out the music of Simple Gifts @ your library with their CDs Time and Again and Crossing Borders.

What simple pleasures are you looking forward to this holiday season?

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The Library Helped Me Find True Love

November 17th, 2010

“After all, it’s the librarian’s sworn purpose to bring books together with their one true reader.” – The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.

It’s easy to get stuck in a reading rut, choosing the same authors and genres over and over.  You come in, looking to see if your favorite author has something new, going to the same section every time, and well, you get bored.  You browse the new shelf and turn over a few titles, but there’s no spark and you leave, empty-handed.

Finding myself in such a literary lonely spell, I realized that I needed a matchmaker.  An Emma .  A set-up.  Cecil County Public Library’s Book Mate offered just such a service, and after a quick survey about my likes and dislikes, the expert librarians made several suggestions.

I will admit that I was cynical at first.  As a gluttonous reader, I thought I knew my own tastes best and this was like going on a blind date with books.  Their recommendations surprised me, but as with matters of the heart, what we think we want and what we really want are not always the same!  Their picks were different but refreshing, introducing me to some extraordinary new reads:

MATCH 1: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I love historical fiction and epic reads, so the librarian recommended this series. At first I balked because Outlander is often lumped in with romance, a genre that I never read.  Nevertheless, I fell completely, ridiculously in love and credit Gabaldon with teaching me more about history than I ever learned in school.  The dynamic characters and adventures, witty dialogue and genuine romance made me swoon.  We’ve since entered into a long-term relationship that includes regular re-readings, each sweeter than the first.  Interested?  Click here to read more about the latest book in the series.

MATCH 2: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Again, I wasn’t sure about this book because I seldom read non-fiction.  I’ve never been so glad to be wrong.  Gladwell’s amusing and vivid writing defies classification.  I am forever grateful to the librarian for introducing us and have since devoured all his other books and plug his writing to everyone I know. It’s difficult to summarize a Gladwell book into a single sentence, but if you like learning about quirky topics or watching odd shows on the Discovery Channel, you’ll fall for him too.  Click here to read more about Outliers.

MATCH 3: Caught by Harlan Coben
I was also looking for something fast-paced.  A reading fling.  Yet when the librarian offered this, I hesitated because I never read thrillers.  I decided to read a few pages before bed, and a few hours and hundreds of pages later, I was addicted.  Tempted?  Click here to read more about Caught.

What books have you fallen in love with lately?  If the answer is none, maybe you just need some new suggestions.  Take the Book Mate survey and get matched up with books you’ll love.

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