Be You

Photo by Monique Marchilli-Barker

What a crazy few weeks it’s been. My activity level has dropped considerably, and yet, at the end of last week, I was so exhausted, and I realize it’s emotional exhaustion of so much change amongst so much uncertainty.

My youngest son is now home as his university closed. My daughter, a paramedic, is dealing with caring for others in a field already short of workers and having to increase her personal safety measures. My eldest is now concerned that he may not get his journeyman’s certification which he was just weeks away from receiving. My husband has worked from home for over five years now, so it hasn’t been much of a transition for him, although he’s dependent upon others for his work flow, and now that work flow is not quite so certain. And I am writing this blog from home because Topsham Public Library is closed for the foreseeable future.

So much change. Though your stage of life may be quite different from mine, the changes you are facing have been as much and possibly even more upending.

There are many out there who have advice on what to do at this time and how to handle the current situation. But what is important to remember is that we are all so different. What works for me may be totally wrong for you. Think about what works for you and your family and do it. Don’t get caught up in dos and don’ts.

I realized in thinking about why I was so exhausted that I was missing routine, so I’ve implemented routine back into my schedule, but you might thrive on lack of routine, or your routine will look different than my routine .

Take a walk. Or don’t take a walk.

Maintain healthy eating, but devour that bag of chips from time to time.

Stay up late binge watching old shows, or turn off your TV.

Clean your bedroom, or let the dust pile up as you nap on your couch.

Tackle your to-do list, or throw away that to-do list.

Right now things are not normal, so, make a new normal.

I do encourage you, however, as you implement your new normal, stay safe, watch out for one another and wash your hands!




Keith Spiro photo.

Surreal. It’s a word I keep going back to.

Merriam-Webster defines surreal asmarked by the intense irrational reality of a dream, alsounbelievablefantastic.”

Life has changed suddenly and drastically for us all. And, to me, it has the “reality of a dream” aspect to it. I know many of you are facing challenges that none of us thought imaginable. Topsham Public Library is trying to maintain a level of service to help you at this time.

One of the big issues for those now staying home is connectivity and internet access. Libraries provide computers and wi-fi that much of the public depends upon. If you know someone who needs internet, please let them know if they go to Topsham Public Library they can use the wi-fi from the parking lot. In order to access the wi-fi use the Topsham Public Library link (not the TPL link). Usually a password is needed, but while we remain closed the password is no longer necessary. Even if you have friends in other parts of the state who need internet, encourage them to try it at their public library as many libraries are trying to provide internet at this time.

Emma has been working hard to keep you all updated with resources and activities that you can access from home that may help keep you busy. Check out her stay at home mega list! Cyndi and Mariah have added items to Emma’s list for YA and children’s audiences as well. And Cyndi has started a page just for Teens to give them some easy craft ideas to do at home.

And to keep up with updates from Topsham Public Library check out this link.

For those who live in the MSAD 75 communities, all children 18 years old and younger qualify for a free meal. For more information check the MSAD 75 website or for the latest letter about the free meals click here.

Again, please don’t return items at this time. We have locked the drop slots, so just keep them home. Don’t worry about due dates or fines. Even if the item belongs to another library, just hold on to them for now. All fines will be waived once we are back in action.

The staff is working from home. We have staff meetings using Zoom, and we have our regular annual safety training that we are now doing online. Emma has purchased more ebooks and audiobooks for the CloudLibrary app. (What’s CloudLibrary, you ask? Check it out here!)  Mariah participated in an online meeting with other children’s librarians from around Maine in which they shared ways to stay connected and engaged with children. Linda and Emma are busy keeping the Topsham Public Library website updated. Cyndi, Dale and Julie are working to update records and keep technological systems running. Susan is working hard from home staying on top of best practices and latest developments and how that impacts us. The rest of us have online training and skill development we can work on from home.

For those concerned about the annual Joy of Lens contest sponsored by Friends of Topsham Public Library there is good news! The show is moving to an online forum. Check out the information here!

With the recent events, we are all facing challenges that are so unexpected. At Topsham Public Library, we are adapting in order to maintain a valuable level of service. We do love our community! In these surreal times, look out for one another, be safe, and wash your hands!

These Interesting Times

At noon on Monday, March 16, Topsham Public Library closed. We are aiming to re-open in two weeks, but please check our website for further updates.

This is a new experience for us, and we want to make sure you know that we will not be charging fines and you do not need to concern yourself about returning items while we remain closed. If you have something here that you requested earlier, it will be here when we re-open, but it is no longer possible to request items at this time. Once we re-open, things should be operational and back to normal.

Please, take care of yourself, and look out for one another. We so appreciate our community and wish you all well!

How libraries can nurture a love of nature

Are you a nature lover? Would you like to deepen your nature connection? Here are twenty ways the library can support your love of nature or help develop one in 2020:


Let’s start with the obvious. What may not be so obvious, though, are the different genres that can feed your nature-loving soul. Nature-based poetry or fiction, for example, can offer unique observations and insights. Books about natural history and conservation will offer information you may not have considered before. And books featuring nature crafts? Even adults should engage in some playful creativity and working with natural found objects is a wonderful sensory experience that will help you notice features you may not have before. So why not live on the wild side and check out a genre that you don’t typically read:

  • nature crafts
  • camping/outdoor adventures
  • field guides/topic specific
  • poetry
  • fiction
  • science (physics, biology, ecology, astronomy, etc.)
  • memoirs/biographies
  • natural history/conservation
  • personal connection/transformation/parenting


Documentaries offer stunning footage and educational, sometimes witty, narratives. They allow us a glimpse of life in other parts of the world we may never get to see otherwise. Here’s a look at some in our collection. And don’t rule out movies made for entertainment to get your nature fix–there are some gems if you just do a little searching. Do you love birds? Try The Big Year or A Birder’s Guide to Everything or how about movies like Wild or A River Runs Through It?


Did you know you can check out a pair of binoculars? Stop in and see us before your next adventure.


There’s always something interesting to see in the night sky, some of them better viewed with a telescope. For example, there will be a visible comet passing by this month that you may want to check out. Check out some astronomy books, too. We have a nice selection for kids and adults, like this one or this.


Fishing season will be here soon. Don’t have a pole? We do! You can also join us for our annual fishing rally this summer. It’s always a fun morning.

Visiting Organization Talks/Presentations

We partner with the Cathance River Education Alliance to present the CREA Community Nature Programs Lecture Series which are held once a month. We have also hosted other organizations like the Center for Wildlife and Chewonki. Check our calendar from time to time to see if there’s a topic that interests you.

Book Groups

Currently, there is a Nature Speaks book group running at the library that focuses on environmental issues and what can be done on a local level. They are currently reading Hidden World Revealed: Musings of a Maine Naturalist by local author, Tom Seymour. If you’d like to join, pop in for one of their get-togethers.

Gardens/Topsham Garden Club

The Topsham Garden Club presents monthly programs at the library which are open to the public. Guest speakers present programs on a variety of horticultural and environmental interests. The topic for March is “Ecology of a Garden”. Check our schedule for dates and topics of future presentations.

And of course, we have lovely gardens to stroll through. They are full of color and texture and scents for most of the year. You may even notice something of interest in the winter.

Art Exhibits

Did you see the wildlife art exhibit this past December? The paintings were stunning. But not to worry, artists are often inspired by nature (pieces in the recent Joy of Art was a perfect example) and there will surely be many upcoming exhibits in the Crooker Gallery featuring beautiful images of nature.

Museum Passes

Speaking of art, the Portland Museum of Art has wonderful collections and visiting exhibits and we have passes. Reserve one for a time that’s convenient for you.

River Path

Located behind the rear lawn of the library is the Eagle Path, a short trail that follows a ridge alongside the Androscoggin River. While less than a half-mile long, the trail provides views of the rivers and provides access to a lush wetland ecosystem. Keep your eyes out for ducks, herons and a variety of plant life.

Bird Watching

You can certainly do some bird watching down at the river path but you can also hang out near our gardens and enjoy the birds that visit the feeders. Volunteers make sure they are always full for our feathered friends. If you need some help identifying birds you see or would like to learn more about them, check out one of our field guides to bring along.

The best resource, however, comes from you. There is no better tool than your curiosity.

Until next time, stay curious and get outside to notice nature!

This Month Various Nature Topics Presented

We’ve almost made it through another Maine winter! Thoughts of spring and the awakening of trees, plants, gardens, and wildlife bring hope. Topsham Public Library is offering a variety of ways to learn more about the nature and wildlife around us.

On Monday, March 9 at 4pm, the Nature Speaks Book Discussion Group is hosting an author talk. Ed Robinson, author of Nature Notes From Maine: River Otters, Moose, Skunks and More, will be here for an informal chat about his book and why he chose the examples he featured in it. There will also be a question and answer period. This meeting is open to the public.

Topsham Historical Society presents The Maine Ice Trade on Tuesday, March 10 at 6:30pm. Maine Maritime Museum’s Assistant Curator Paul Fuller will share his insights on organizing the museum’s winter exhibit “Frozen Kingdom,” and reveal some of Maine’s most intriguing stories connected to Maine’s notoriously frigid winters. The lecture will discuss ice harvesting, some of the ice business’s biggest players, and what happened to the industry.

From ice to green gardens: The Topsham Garden Club will meet Wednesday, March 11 at noon and the guest speaker will be Barbara Murphy who will discuss the ecology of a garden. Each garden contains its own little ecosystem which is far more than simply beautiful flowers or fresh vegetables. The health of a garden and its produce depends on a healthy soil and everything that lives in and on it and interacts with the plants. Barbara is a sought after speaker who is very knowledgeable and has a delightful sense of humor. Bring a bag lunch to eat after the talk. Snacks, dessert, and beverages will be provided.

Every month, Nature Speaks Book Discussion led by Dana Cary, meets at Topsham Public Library. This month’s meeting on Thursday, March 12 at 4pm will discuss Hidden World Revealed: Musings of a Maine Naturalist by Tom Seymour. They will read the Winter and Spring sections. This book discussion group focuses on our environment and the wonders of nature. New members always welcome.

The ever-popular CREA will present a talk about turtles on Tuesday, March 24 at 6pm. Turtles have fascinated people for millennia and occupy special places in their respective cultures and ecosystems. They are also among the most threatened group of vertebrates globally. We will hear from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s lead biologist on reptile issues, Derek Yorks, who will speak about the seven species of Maine’s freshwater turtle including those which are threatened.

Cooking and Science

I enjoy it when patrons let me in on what they’re reading. Sometimes the book comes with a glowing recommendation, and other times it’s obvious the reader is not too keen on what they’ve read. As often as staff are asked for suggestions, many times the best suggestions come from the patrons.

This “cook book” is one of those suggested by a patron, and it is a wealth of material in regards to cooking and science. What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained by Robert L. Wolke is packed tighter than a can of sardines with information about what’s really going on with the ingredients that fill our cupboards.

Wolke, according to the bookcover, was a professor of chemistry and wrote the column Food 101 for the Washington Post.

What I particularly liked about this book is that you can pick it up and open it to any page and read. There are chapters, but those chapters are comprised of questions and answers covering the chapter topic. Wolke’s wit and ease with which he explains chemistry is entertaining and makes the book seem like easy reading, even though the knowledge is more than basic.

So what kind of questions are included, you ask? Everything. Here’s a sampling:

  • Please tell me about sea salt. Why are so many chefs and recipes using it these days? How is it better than regular salt?
  • The label on my baking powder can says it contains sodium aluminum sulfate. But isn’t aluminum dangerous to eat?
  • Some of the wines I buy have “corks” made of plastic. Is there a world cork shortage, or are there technical reasons for this?

And that’s just a small sampling. Wolke also delves into different kitchen appliances and equipment and what exactly the crisper in your refrigerator does.

The book contains a few recipes scattered throughout. I did not make any of them. In a small way I feel that I have failed, but, in my defense, there weren’t any pictures, and those pictures are inspiring, and without that little inspiration, I didn’t have enough motivation. Also, though it seems a chemistry professor should be able to make some fine tasting stuff, I kept thinking about high school chemistry with Mr. Miller and how my lab partners and I broke one of the last glass syringes that he entrusted to our group because we were so trustworthy. I know there really isn’t any correlation between Mr. Miller’s chemistry class and my failing to make one of Wolke’s recipes, but somehow it makes sense to me.

Seriously, though, Wolke’s book is definitely worth a read. And if you try one of his recipes, let me know!


February’s School Vacation at Topsham Public Library

Are you looking for some fun and free activities to do over the school vacation next week? Topsham Public Library has you covered!

First of all, just a reminder that on Monday, February 17 the library will be closed for President’s Day, but we will reopen and resume regular operating hours on Tuesday, February 18 at 9am.

On Wednesday, February 19 from 1pm-4pm, Topsham Public Library is hosting Cabin Fever Reliever. Bring your family, or come alone, and chase away the winter blues! There will be games, activities, and snacks. All ages are welcome.

Then on Thursday, February 20 from 12pm-3pm it’s Legos at the Library. Come build with our Lego collection! We have giant bins full of Legos for older kids, and Duplos available for younger kids upon request.

Maine 3 Railers at Topsham Public Library, February, 2019

And always a popular hit, on Friday, February 21 from 10am-2pm, the Maine 3 Railers O-Gauge Model Railroad Club will be running a model railroad display in our big meeting room! Come watch the trains, see how they work, and speak with club members.

And remember, if you cannot make it to our programs, our building is open to the public and we offer comfortable spaces for you to relax in for free. Your children driving you nuts? Bring them to Topsham Public Library and enjoy our children’s wing with trains and other age appropriate toys, and, of course, books.

Are you a teenager and looking for a place to hang out with your friends for free? Try our YA room. You can bring board games, or borrow one of ours, and play them with friends. The space has a table and chairs and there are grab bags with quick craft projects that are available as well. We have free wi-fi, too! Just get the password at the circulation desk.

Spring is on its way, but winter is still here, so if you need to get out of the house and rid yourself of the blues, we’ll be seeing you at Topsham Public Library!


Sweet Confections

Peanut brittle. I confess it’s not my favorite, but there are members of my household who would be tempted to sell their soul for that delight. I decided I would try to make this craved for sweet, so I scoured the Minerva catalog for candy making cookbooks. Some I will return to like Hand-Crafted Candy Bars: From Scratch, All Natural, Gloriously Grown-Up Confections by Susie Norris and Susan Heeger, but I settled on Chocolates and Confections: At Home With the Culinary Institute of America by Peter B. Greweling. And the Peanut Brittle was amazing although it almost didn’t turn out that way.

According to the book jacket, Peter P. Greweling is “the award-winning author of Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner and is a professor of baking and pastry arts at The Culinary Institute of America, a Certified Master Baker, and a Certified Hospitality Educator.”

The book is a wealth of candy making information. Beginning with the equipment you need and equipment you don’t need and the right ingredients and the wrong ingredients, the book gives you all the information to be successful. From chocolates, even molded ones, to jellies to lollipops to fudge, nougats, toffees and more – it’s all in there.

There are a number of photographs, but I would have liked a few more. The instructions are clear and the ingredients are given by weight and by “normal” measuring means like cups and tablespoons. Throughout the book are “What If” sections to help with any issues you might run into such as, “What if my marzipan is oily and cracks?” Each recipe has “Keys to Success” to help with the final touches, and for some of the recipes, like the Caramel Cream Filling it offers suggestions for other ways it can be used. As a novice, I felt comfortable and confident making the recipe and ambitious to try more.

I am not a candy making professional, but I do make English toffee every holiday season, so I was a little familiar with the process, but I was still hesitant. Candy making deals with high temperatures and you have to be aware and alert to the temperature of the concoction as it cooks. So I had all my equipment and ingredients ready and waiting. (I’m the type of cook that begins cooking and then scrambles to get the ingredients.)

Once I had all I needed on standby, the fun began. I followed the step by step instructions. I was a whole lot nervous when the instructions told me to bring the mixture to a boil and then cover and let boil for 4 minutes without mixing. Having learned that English toffee is like a controlled burning of butter and sugar and constant mixing is vitally important to its success, I was certain smoke would billow out of the pot, my neighbors would hear my smoke detector yet again, and that I’d be throwing out the first batch. But I did what Greweling said, and believe it or not, he was spot on.

I thought I was in the clear, and once I added the peanuts, I wasn’t as vigilant with my mixing. Do you know that peanuts burn at lower temperatures? Fortunately, I caught it before the whole batch was ruined, but I did scoop out a couple scorched peanuts. I didn’t tell anyone about it and when the final product was being devoured, no one asked, “Do I detect a slight burnt taste?”, so I think I did ok. When I made the second batch of Peanut Brittle, yes, it was so yummy, my friends and family demanded a second batch, I wasn’t as neglectful and no peanuts were harmed in my second attempt.

I even brought some to work for my co-workers and they loved it. (I’m so glad they enjoy being my guinea pigs.) So, get on that Minerva catalog and have fun searching for cookbooks and try something new! Even if you make a mistake or two, it makes you more brave for next time.




Staff Picks 2019, Part 3

Here it is. The final installment of Staff Picks 2019. May another year of great reading be ahead!



Linda leads the way:

Long Time Gone by J.A. Jance: This is the 17th book in this series featuring Seattle detective J.P. Beaumont. I had read the earlier ones years ago and somehow lost track of them. I had forgotten what good books they are. The stories are complete and complex as are her characters. This one is a page turner, full of twists and turns. It’s a very quick read. I finished it in a day. Her characters have grown and matured over the years and their relationships are deep. It might be good to read the first in the series to get a little background on them. Jance’s writing is so good, I was immersed in the setting and felt a part of the story, along for the ride, observing the chase. No, not observing, experiencing. It was a wild ride.

The Shaman’s Game by James D. Doss: With a full cast of complex and interesting characters, this book will immerse you in the culture and traditions of the Ute Nation in Colorado. Horace Antelope dies in the midst of a Dances Thirsty ritual, just as he taps into the power of The Great Mysterious One. He was old and dehydrated and exhausted from the demanding rite. His even older mother, Popeye Woman, dies of a heart attack from the shock. But there is much more here than meets the eye. Ute detective, Charlie Moon, spurred on by his own instincts and the spiritual insights of his Shaman Aunt Daisy, investigates what appears to be a death by natural causes. Suspects abound. Can Charlie Moon find the truth before anyone else dies?

Dave Slater series by P.F. Ford: I found this series free on Kindle and have enjoyed them very much. The author, apparently, went for years unable to get published and I don’t understand why. These are delightful, cozy British detective mysteries. They flow right along and are quick reads. I love the characters. They are quirky but intelligent and well suited to their jobs, and their relationships have humorous consequences even in the middle of their serious work. In each new volume, the plots get more complicated. So I recommend you go for a ride-along with DS Dave Slater and his partner, DS Norman Norman. (yes, really.) You won’t regret it. We are now carrying them in the library.

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves: This is the first installment of a new series written by the author of the Shetland and Vera Stanhope series. We meet Detective Matthew Venn as he stands in a church yard watching the funeral of his father. He is not welcome there. Little does he know he will soon be involved with his estranged family and church, soon enough. A body is found on the beach. The victim is recognized by a local young woman with Down’s Syndrome as someone who has befriended her on the bus. Then, a friend of hers goes missing from the same day center that she attends, the one managed by Venn’s husband, Jon. This girl is also the daughter of Venn’s mother’s friend, a member of the strict church that rejected him. Now it’s Venn’s job to put all the pieces together and solve this puzzle, hopefully before another body turns up. Ms. Cleeves’ great talents at creating characters, scenes, and complex plots, once again presents a compelling, suspenseful novel you won’t want to put down.

Shetland, Season 5 – DVD: This series, based on the books by Ann Cleeves has beautiful scenery, complex characters, and intense plots. The acting is top notch and the stories are riveting. This particular season delves into the subject of human trafficking, and tests the mettle of all our favorite characters. If you haven’t seen any of these, you may want to start at the beginning. The books are also wonderfully written. Try them too.


Emma is next:


In the Dream House: a memoir by Carmen Maria Machado




After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones




Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay




All Systems Red by Martha Wells




The Wicked + the Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie




Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir



Mariah’s top picks:


Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls by Dav Pilkey




The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant




Best Friends by Shannon Hale




The Power by Naomi Alderman




The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss




The Walking Dead – TV series




Stranger Things  – Netflix series




Center Point Road by Thomas Rhett – album



And Dale will finish things off:


Middlewest by Skottie Young




Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias




Joker – DVD



The Witcher – Netflix series




Geist by The Browning – album


Happy New Year and we wish you all an adventurous year of reading, watching, and listening! See you at Topsham Public Library!