Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Photo Diary: 2013

Farewell, 2013. Here's a peek at 13 of my favorite blessed moments.

Hello, to a beautiful, healthy, blessed, and happy NEW YEAR!

With Love and God Bless,

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Photo an Hour

7 AM

8 AM

9 AM

10 AM

11 AM

12 PM

1 PM

2 PM

3 PM

4 PM

5 PM

6 PM

7 PM

8 PM

9 PM

10 PM

I hope everyone had a very blessed, safe, and merry Christmas. Celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Laughing with loved ones. Visiting family and friends. Tearing open pretty paper and enjoying every minute of it.

I was happy, happy, happy.

Here's a snap-shot view of my Sunday, sharing this special season with family.

With Love and God Bless,

Sunday, December 22, 2013

CHRISTmas Sunday Inspirational

It's so close to Christmas I can taste it. It tastes like hard candy, cookies, and hot cocoa.

It smells like Christmas trees and cinnamon. It sounds like "'Twas the night before Christmas...," bells ringing, "Silent Night," and Merry Christmas well-wishes.

It feels like big hugs, warm blankets, Grandma kisses, and cozy fireplaces. It looks like twinkling lights, pretty paper, and rows of Christmas cards.

What it does not look like: WHITE.

Where is all of my snow?! We just had a ton of snow and freezing temperatures, and now it's rain, Flash Flood warnings, and 60 degrees?! Mr. Green Christmas, feel free to move on at anytime now--and quickly. Christmas is in 3 days. Mama told me the saying goes, "if you have a white Thanksgiving then you have a green Christmas." Phooey. (Side note: I told my friend this and she said "I'm sure your mom is a wonderful person, but she's wrong." Haha. Here's hoping Mama is wrong, but the odds appear to be in her favor. However, there has been too many green Thanksgivings AND Christmases.)

On this Green Sunday Before Christmas, we're celebrating Christmas with my family, so Merry Christmas! Enjoy this beautiful Christmas carol, "Mary, Did You Know?" by Rascal Flatts...arguably my favorite version.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. --Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)

And, of course, my favorite song this season :)

With Love and God Bless,

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Apple Snickerdoodles

I have a special place in my heart for snickerdoodles.

It was the first cookie recipe I ever made on my own as a young one in the kitchen, making a mess, sneaking bites of cookie dough, sampling multiple burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth-fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies.

Ahhh, the many memories of family and a dirty and well-loved kitchen.

And my snickerdoodles, well I love the soft, chewy, and puffy kind. Not the hard, crumbly type. But we all have our favorite recipes with the little tricks and secret ingredients that make our cookies juuuust right.

Give this delicious recipe, a twist on the classic snickerdoodle, a try. I mean who doesn't love melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon-sugar toast? It tastes just like that. With a side of apple butter ;)

Apple Snickerdoodles
*recipe inspired by my friend's cookies (and adapted family recipe)

yields: about 5 dozen

1 c butter (or ingredient that measures like butter....)
1 1/2 c vanilla sugar <---- secret snickerdoodle ingredient
2 flax eggs
1 T vanilla extract (or almond works well)
1 c flour
1 3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice for a little added holiday flavor)
2 T almond milk (or try adding my homemade apple butter)
1 cup dried apples, chopped
For rolling: 2 T sugar, 1 t cinnamon, 1 t pumpkin pie spice

Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until very smooth and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and blend until combined. Sift together flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add mixture to wet ingredients. Mix until dough comes together. Fold in chopped apples. If needed, add in milk, 1 T at a time, until dough comes together. Chill dough for 30 minutes. In a bowl combine rolling ingredients (sugar, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice). Preheat oven 375 degrees. Remove dough from fridge and roll into 1-inch balls. Dip in cinnamon-pie-sugar mixture and place on baking sheet. Lightly press down to flatten dough slightly. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yes, I'm a Children's Librarian

It's almost Christmas! (And, yes, I'm starting to panic because Mr. B seems to have nothing under our tree.) To celebrate I'm gifting all of you with another post featuring what I do all day as a Youth Services Librarian.

You can read previous posts here, here, and here.

11:30- 1:30 p.m. Upon arrival, again, I'm busy answering emails, organizing my day (and desk), checking voice mails...all the fun stuff required to start my day. On this day I had to send out a quick email to the teen librarian at the main library asking her to immediately put the life-size Jenga set in inter-department deliveries. My yoga program is the next evening and if I don't have "Yoga Jenga" the kids might not come back. Also, since it was a Monday my inbox included a weekly department update, program information for the week, and reminders consisting of my change of location on Saturday, that we have our youth services department's Christmas lunch on Thursday (yay), and the deadline for Spring programming is quickly approaching. What?! I'm still in Christmas mode, but I have less than a month to decide what programs I plan to have through May 2014. (Wow, 2014...)

A few other co-workers and I were selected to take an online Early Literacy and Books course which begins in January. However, this course requires prep work (Intro to Moodle) that must be done before then, so I spent some time finishing the week's readings and assignments. Also, last week I attended a 2014 Summer Reading Program workshop at Kent State University (this summer we're all about Fizz, Boom, Read!) and I needed to fill out the appropriate evaluations.

And even though my story times and toddler tales are on a three-week break (a little longer than usual due to the holiday season) I still have to plan the ones for January. Those themes include Royal Readers, Winter White, Arctic Animal Friends, and Teeny Tiny Things, and I have the first three. I'm all about winter, penguins, and polar bears right now. I can't wait to share with the kids The Reader by Amy Hest. It's all about finding the perfect place to share a book in winter. Love it.

1:30-3:00 p.m. I spent the next few hours organizing the office, creating some space to breathe. We finished up quite a few programs over the last couple of weeks, including my Grinch movie program, story times, and craft night, and the office is quite crowded. I cleaned off some carts and packed away the unused Christmas decor and Grinch materials.

Then I began prepping for my Yogi Kids program, which is tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. My routine, games, and craft were all planned, I just needed to get it all together...and provide a craft sample. Tomorrow night's craft is a gingerbread man (or woman), so I set out finding some paper, making a few gingerbread people as templates for the kids to trace onto paper, and cutting it out and gluing it to a background. I ran to the basement, a.k.a. craft storage heaven, grabbed some fun materials (including sprinkles and ground cinnamon so the gingerbread person would smell nice), and finished off my little guy.

I'm ready to go!

Update: On Tuesday, every single parent, but one (out of 10), called to say their kid was sick and wouldn't make yoga. Sadly, I had to call that lone parent and cancel the program. I was sad but I am still healthy.

3:00-4:00 p.m. I allowed myself one hour to peruse some of the new books cluttering my desk, included were a few Halloween books that didn't quite make it in on time. Tsk.

4:00-5:00 p.m. Now that I have a little bit of downtime, which I don't but I have to squeeze this in somewhere, I'm weeding through my juvenile fiction collection. For the past six months my circulation staff complained about the lack of space on the shelves and the constant need for shifting the books (to try and create more space, which we don't have). I'm fully aware of the space issue in the "J" books. I'm fully aware of the space issue concerning the music CDs, the audio books, and the picture books...which I weeded 10 months ago. I'm aware that I need more space for everything!

To start the weeding process, I have to go into our catalog database, Sierra, and create a weeding list. After narrowing it down, this list consists of every single "J" book at my location and listing for each item: author, title, bar code, call number, date created, last circulation date, total number of circulations, and total number of circulations this year. Then I export the list into Microsoft Excel, where I tidy it up and make it pretty for minimal printing. (This is also where I bug ask Amanda about Excel questions before she hurries out the door for the day.)

I have well over 200 pages of books to weed through.

5:00-5:30 p.m.

Before the weeding begins, I take my lunch, enjoying my tasty Potato, Broccoli and Coriander Soup (leftover from Sunday's Baking Extravaganza...details soon). Also, I have no idea why I brought in a platter of cookies...clearly our patrons have the whole homemade cookie thing under control. Yikes, looks like I'll be enjoying my lunch in my office over the next few days, that way I'm not in constant view of these goodies. Good thing I'm not a huge cookie fan...now brownies are a whole other thing.

5:30-7:30 p.m.

Before the fun weeding, a patron who borrowed some of our Life-Size Candy Land pieces returned them and I had to put them back in their proper place in the basement. We will be needing these come January when we have Candy Land at another branch. Thankfully, it's not here this year. It gets crazy.

Ahhh, weeding.

Making a list and checking it twice, withdrawing the unloved and damaged.

Actually, I LOVE weeding through collections. It gives me a chance to view what is going and not going out on my shelves, which says a lot about the community I serve. It allows me to do some shelf-reading (making sure the books are in order so we can find them), tidying up, and finding areas to spend money on replacements. Plus, my-OCD-A-type-personality kicks in. It soothes me.

Weeding a collection also requires a lot more of an analysis per say. I have quite a few details to consider before withdrawing a book from my shelves. The most obvious ones are circulation and condition. Has the book left my shelf within two years? (For "J" books the shelf-life is around two to three years, but since I need the space I'm weeding aggressively and narrowing it to two years.) Is the book in decent shape or is it damaged in some way? If yes to both I'm pulling it.

However, if it's only damaged I have to look at the circulation and how long it's been with the library to see if I need to replace the book with a newer edition. Is it damaged because it's so well-loved? And if I'm pulling it because it hasn't circulated in two years, is it because the cover or topic is outdated? Can I/ Do I need to replace it with something else? Is it an award winner or honor and I have to keep it on my shelf?

Now I have to pay attention to all of the other books....the ones that aren't a definite "yes" to my obvious criteria. Are any of these books some-what damaged? Are they circulating but still look outdated? Are there more current versions of the classics? Take for instance the award-winning Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. I have two copies on the shelf, both are damaged enough I want to weed them; both have circulated this year. This is a classic and decently popular title. It has to stay on the shelf. So, I'm weeding the most damaged one, while leaving the other on the shelf until I can replace it with a recent edition. But then there are the series, the dreaded smaller populated series. What if all six books in the series have circulated this year, except two? Do I weed those books for space? Do any of the other library locations have this series in case a kid wants the one I weeded? And if a book is not on my shelf, is it because it's currently circulating, in the wrong place, or missing? Do I need to replace it? Why are there books on my shelf that aren't on my list? And, yes, the questions and considerations go on and on....but this isn't library school.

While it's sad to pitch the books (most will go into the library's book sale), I dislike giving children battered and outdated books, and look at all the space I'm making for our new book friends! :)

Speaking of sad, I came across a few titles that have never left the shelves. The one above was purchased in 2007 and has never been outside the library. :(

Into the book sale she goes, and hopefully to a good home.

I had about two hours for weeding, and managed to make it through A and B authors. I had a lot of kids coming in working on last minute school assignments since this Wednesday is their last day until the new year...a couple of grammar and animal questions, and a ton of biography inquiries.

7:30-8:00 p.m. I try, try to spend this last half hour cleaning up the children's department. This means I clear all the books off the tables (and try to re-shelve them if there's time), clean up the play area, do a final walk-through to make sure the shelves look decent...no books randomly stacked on an endcap, etc..., and sometimes I help at the circulation desk, you know, when it's five 'til and all the regulars can't believe they forgot we close at 8 p.m. and are rushing to check out. More often than not, I'm rushing to clean up my program mess and am flying through the department doing a rough once-over. Kind of like when you have company coming over and you throw everything in a closet, telling yourself you'll get to it later. My desk is my closet at the end of the night. My later is tomorrow morning.

That was my Monday in a nutshell. I hope you enjoyed!

Starting with the "C" authors tomorrow.

With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Weekend {Christmas} Adventure

It's Fankenmuth time! (Or it was over a month ago....cheers to an already I-don't-know-how-because-I-started-much-earlier-this-year busy holiday season!)

Last year, Mama and I went to Frankenmuth, you can read all about that here, hoping to turn it into a family tradition every Christmas season. Welp, I kept the tradition going this year along with Mr. B. (Mama had another big trip planned, you can read about that here.) I was stoked to be heading back to the beautiful and BIG store where they celebrate Christmas every day of the year.

If you've never been, you must add it to your bucket list. Frankenmuth is absolutely wonderful, and it's a perfect spot for a mini family vacation.

I know Mr. B and I went to Vegas this year, by plane and we usually prefer car vacations, so it had been a while since an actual "road trip," but you would have thought it was our first time. We didn't start out as early as we envisioned. We were behind on picking up the rental car. (I know it's only a five-hour one-way trip, but a rental adds to the fun. And, you know, we do what we want.) That put us behind on our traditional breakfast...which, for Mr. B, consists of a McDonald's Big Breakfast. We rarely eat out, and even more rare is fast food, but his Big Breakfast is a vacation tradition. It's the only time he ever eats it, and he always looks forward to it. When we realized we were getting on the turnpike, we decided to grab breakfast once we were on it, at one of those side plaza stop thingys. Yeah, ummm no. None featured a McDonald's. And by the time we would have come across one, they would have stopped serving breakfast. Mr. B was not happy. We settled for a bagel. Well, I was happy with my power bagel (peanut butter and cream cheese) and coffee.

This bagel sent me down memory lane, reminiscing about the good ol' college days when my bestie/roomie and I would meet for an Einstein Bros. bagel and rush off to class. Ahh, it's been a while, Einstein's.

And then, you know, we crossed into that ridiculous state up north. Yes, broke out in hives, again.

We made a mandatory stop in Dundee, MI so I could show the hubby the huge Cabela's store. Last year with Mama, I found him a great winter coat, the cheap price was baffling. And again, what do you know, he discovered another awesome coat he wanted at another awesome discounted price. Cabela's, my friends, is the place for men's coats. Plus, I scored this cute shirt. I adore plaid. And flannel.

Of course, I had to pick up my jerky. Mr. B couldn't believe the price of jerky, which is costly anywhere, but it's vacation. And I want the jerky to go with my plaid shirt. Deal.

LOVE IT. It's gone before you know it. And guess who ate most of it? His name starts with Mr.

After checking into our hotel, and finding a way around all of the construction, we finally made it to Frankenmuth. We were starved, but the restaurant we wanted to try was packed, so much that the line outside went down the block and was about a three-hour wait. Ummm no. (Mama and I ate at The Brewery last year, which was still a two-hour wait.) We decided to head into Bronner's instead and pick up something small at their snack bar while we perused the many, many ornaments. Two hours later we emerged with multiple bags and a slightly lighter wallet.

*Apparently, I like to take pictures of my husband's back side. I am one happy wife ;)

After Bronner's I took him over to the Silent Night Chapel, where he signed our names in the guest book, and then we went back to Zehnder's where the wait was now only a half hour...much more manageable and inside. Then we did a little shopping in the various little stores lining downtown, picking up a few Christmas gifts here and there. And one day I will spend the money and take a horse-drawn carriage ride!!

Psst...check out his new Cabela's coat.

Sunday morning found us back at all the quaint little shops in the Plaza that we didn't get to the night before. Mr. B is not quite the shopping enthusiast Mama is...nor does he make me take random pictures with strangers in costumes. So needless to say, he was not enthralled with my wanting to go into every store. Nor was he delighted by the cold, windy morning. Nor did he find the price of fudge and toffee reasonable. But, he was amused while listening to the college-aged girls in front of us asking the college-aged boy behind the counter of the little coffee shop what every.single.coffee.drink.included.and.what.it.tasted.like. A half hour later, finally I had my Americano in hand. Mr. B concluded there is no way that kid is there because he likes coffee. "He's only there to meet chicks." Thank you, Mr. B.

Yes, that was the last stop. My hubby was all shopped out and ready to head home, and there was a 49ers game on TV, cough, cough.

On the road again.

Road trip love.

With Love and God Bless,

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thanksgiving Dinner Review

Now that Thanksgiving is over, we're all settled into the cookie-baking-and-Christmas-shopping thing (thankfully we decorated the house and tree at the beginning of November...yes, I put my tree up before Thanksgiving, and yes, I'm thankful because I get to enjoy it longer...), which means I am finding a little free time to share with you all.

Here's a peek at what Thanksgiving looked like over here.

Mama's cheeseboard was the prettiest and tastiest star of the show. She and my aunt recently returned from a trip up to Wisconsin and, of course, they brought back various cheeses to sample. Sidebar: why were they in Wisconsin, you ask? Well....my aunt (and my grandmother) is a HUGE Green Bay Packers fan. Mama (and my grandfather) is a HUGE Minnesota Vikings fan. (My uncle is a HUGE Browns fan...we're all HUGE fans of various teams over here; Sundays are fantastic.) My aunt, Joann, turned 40 a few weeks ago, and to celebrate she and my mother went to a Vikings-Packers game in Green Bay. You know, the one that recently ended in a tie. Daddy laughed and asked me what were the chances that two sisters, each liking a different team, would drive eight + hours to the game, and it actually end in a tie?! I guess the good Lord knew how uncomfortable that looong ride home would have been.

Anyhoo...Mama brought back a few types of cheese, along with some pear-peach chutney, to snack on while we waited for the holiday dinner. Cheese, chutney, crackers, nuts, and fruit? I don't even need the meal. I was in heaven. Mama, my aunt, and I were the only ones that actually appreciated the cheeseboard; everyone else just casually snacked. We were all, "Oh my gosh, you have to try the hard goat cheese one, with the pita cracker, spread on a little chutney, and top it with a nut, but it has to be the pistachio, that's the best one."

Ahh, never a dull moment over here.

It was a very odd Thanksgiving. I actually preferred the turkey this year WITH the gravy (I'm usually just a sides kind of girl). I enjoyed second helpings of Brussels sprouts, quinoa salad, and cornbread stuffing. Usually, I can't get enough of the mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, cough, cough.....also, I didn't partake in any bread. Hmmm, interasante.

The dessert bar (on Mama's new coffee bar, wonder where she got the idea....wink, wink) consisted of pecan pie, pumpkin pie, these pumpkin and honey cookies, and Mama's infamous hot fudge cheesecake. I'm not a pie fan unless it involves fruit, and even then I prefer a cobbler, but I indulged in my cheesecake :P

Also, a few weeks ago Mama found a tasty recipe on Pinterest and asked if I'd make this quinoa for a healthier side dish for Thanksgiving. I did. The pistachios are fan-freaking-tastic, and the sun-dried tomatoes (which Mama and I both kind of do not like on their own) were actually quite decent in this quinoa dish. Lightly tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, and agave, it was refreshing, and very much welcomed alongside the stuffing and mashed potatoes. The only changes I made to the recipe: more lemon (+ zest) and more pepper. We're huge lemon fans.

I enjoyed it. She enjoyed it, so much as she took what little leftovers there were and portioned it out for her lunch for the week. I, on the other hand, ate my teensy portion the next day. And then I was sad because Mama and I no longer (and have not for the better half of a decade now) share the same household, nor the same refrigerator. Therefore, I was unable to eat her making-it-last-as-long-as-she-possibly-can portion. Hey, you do what you have to do.

This Lemon Quinoa Salad might be a new must-have at our Thanksgiving table, and a new favorite work lunch. It's too, too easy to make, and will immediately be doubled forever more. And I'll still not share. Probably.

Oh, and I was a little crafty over here at the library, where the kiddos and I enjoyed a Holiday Crafty Kids session. Check out my cute hand print turkey.

I hope everyone had a fantastic and fun Thanksgiving holiday!

With Love and God Bless,