Help Us Celebrate 15 Years!

Hopefully, by now you are aware that Topsham Public Library is celebrating our 15th Anniversary at our Foreside Road location on Saturday, June 8 with events scheduled all day long. (For a schedule of events click here.) If you are unable to join us that day and you are looking for another way to celebrate our 15th Anniversary, we have the answer! Visit Topsham Public Library between June 1-15 and pick a selection from our Gift-a-Book display. For $15 you can select from one of the titles on display, or choose a genre card from our gift “tree” and let our librarians decide. This is an excellent way to boost our purchasing abilities and bring more selection to our shelves!

Each month, our librarians do their best to stretch our buying budget to purchase something for everyone, but they always have to slim down their lists. Last time we did this during our 10th Anniversary, our patrons added 60+ books to the collection! Join us in reaching our goal of 100 books or DVDs during our 15 year milestone.


Gelato Isn’t Supposed to Be Chewy

There is a Gelato Fiasco cookbook!! When I saw it, I knew I had to try it! But the folks at Gelato Fiasco can rest assured, I won’t be posing a threat to their success! Along the way, my gelato turned chewy, and believe me chewy gelato is yucky, but it was worth trying and I will try it again in the future.

Gelato Fiasco: Recipes and Stories from America’s Best Gelato Makers by Joshua Davis, Bruno Tropeano, and Cynthia Finnemore Simonds was released in September, 2018 by Down East Books, and the book is beautiful from the front cover to the final page.

You need to read the cookbook before beginning the gelato making process. The story of Gelato Fiasco’s beginning is fun and interesting, but more importantly, they discuss the process of gelato making and why certain ingredients matter. Gelato does take time to make due to the freezing process and the steps required in making the base and any flavors you want to add. I had to read through the recipes and directions a few times and I made sure I had all ingredients on hand. Running to the grocery store because I forgot something would have been catastrophic! The key to a successful gelato is the freezing process, and believe me, it’s important.

Every gelato begins with a base, and then you add ingredients depending on the flavor you desire. I made the Classic White Gelato Base with the Wild Maine Blueberry variegate (that’s the fancy term for fruit additions) to add to it. The key to a successful gelato is the freezing process, and believe me, it’s important.

Once I decided what flavor I wanted, I chose my base and gathered the ingredients. The base I made called for guar gum which I found at Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick. You can substitute eggs for the guar gum if you prefer not to use it, but I wanted to try it. The rest of the ingredients are pretty basic and easy to find. The key to a successful gelato is the freezing process, and believe me, it’s important

As I mentioned, the freezing process is vital to a good gelato. They suggest using an ice cream maker, but they do offer an option if you do not have one. There are also some other tools they prefer to use, but I used what I had. For instance they suggested a certain type of thermometer for the cooking step when making the base, but I used my candy thermometer and that seemed to work fine.

I followed the recipes exactly as they directed, so why did my gelato turn out chewy? Have I  mentioned that the key to a successful gelato is the freezing process? Everything seemed like it was progressing along well – it looked like gelato, it smelled like gelato, it tasted like gelato until I took it out of my ice cream maker. Unbeknownst to me, at some point my ice cream maker stopped churning on the inside, although everything looked fine from the outside, so the gelato on the bottom was frozen, but the gelato on top wasn’t quite so frozen. But I pressed on. I thought really, how much of a difference will it make? The key to a successful gelato is the freezing process, and believe me, it’s important. I folded in the blueberry variegate and put it in the freezer.

Gelato should not be chewy. Chewy gelato is yucky. Even though it looked like gelato, and it looked beautiful, it had a taste related to gelato but that was not gelato. Even if you do not want to try and make gelato, I suggest you read the cookbook anyway. The photos  are pieces of art all by themselves, and there are recipes for foods that are added to gelato that sound yummy even if you don’t make the gelato like the brownies and the peanut brittle.

Though my gelato was a failure, I enjoyed the process and next time I visit Gelato Fiasco whatever flavor I get will taste just a little bit sweeter.

Did Someone Say Summer Reading?!

You wouldn’t know it by the weather we’ve been experiencing, but summer is on its way and with summer comes Topsham Public Library’s summer reading programs.

The staff has been busy finalizing details and confirming programs and on June 1 we are launching A Universe of Stories.

If you are a regular patron, you know what’s coming. If you are new to our library, you  want to make sure you pick up your summer reading packet on or after June 1. There are challenges to complete (don’t worry – nothing complex – it’s summertime so relax and enjoy it) and prizes to be earned through reading and participating in our programs like free movies, crafting opportunities, and other programming all summer long. The summer reading program is for all ages and free for everyone.

Do we dare hope that by June 1 the skies will be sunny and the temps higher? We can hope, but no matter what, Topsham Public Library has something for you!

It’s Our Anniversary!

Can you believe it?! Next month Topsham Public Library is celebrating 15 years at our Foreside Road location! We are so thankful for the support from our community. It would not be possible without you!

Of course we are throwing a party! Saturday, June 8 is filled with activities and the schedule of events is as follows:

10am-12noon – Photo Booth – take home a free pic

10am-11:30am – Family Tye Dye – weather permitting, bring your own shirts, while supplies last

10am-11am – Team Scavenger Hunt – for all ages

11am – Live Music

11:30am – Library Mad Libs

12noon – Picnic – bring you own lunch and blanket, weather permitting

12:30pm – Cookie Decorating

12:30pm – Happy 15th Birthday – cake for everyone

1pm-3:30pm – Movie – Treasure Island (1990)

You do not want to miss this celebration! Bring your family and friends and have food and fun with your community!

Joy of the Lens

If you have not been in to see the Joy of the Lens exhibit, you need to do so.

Joy of the Lens is an annual photography show at Topsham Public Library that is sponsored by Friends of the Topsham Public Library.

Though every year is amazing, there is something about this year’s show that is inspiring.

On Saturday, May 4 at 11 am, Joy of the Lens Photographers Talk will take place. The winners of this year’s People’s Choice Award and the Friends’ Photo Lottery will be announced. The winning photographers in all categories will discuss their work. This event is free and open to the public.

Whether you can make it to the photographers talk or not, come alone or bring a friend and check out the Joy of the Lens exhibit. Hurry because after the talk on Saturday the show will be taken down. Our hours are Tuesday-Thursday 9am-8pm, Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday 9am-4pm.


Ruth Reichl Is Not My Niece’s Friend

My niece, Kelsee, loves to cook. She’s adventurous in the kitchen and up for anything. Though we live in different states now, there was a time when we lived together, so we have a small group of common friends and aquaintances. Anyway, long story short, she was telling me about a recipe for chocolate cake that she got from Ruth Reichl that I just had to try. After our conversation, I kept running Ruth’s name through my mind trying to remember which friend of Kelsee’s she was. Well, after a week or two, I wanted to make the cake, so I asked Kelsee for the recipe and she told me I could just google it. Ruth Reichl is not my niece’s friend.

Ruth Reichl is a famous food expert. A professional. Someone who really knows food.  Former restaurant owner, food critic, Gourmet magazine editor, James Beard Award winner multiple times, author of memoir, fiction, and cookbooks, Reichl has done it all when it comes to the world of food.

That chocolate cake was good. It wasn’t just good, it was the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted (well, except for the German Sweet Chocolate Cake that I make just so I can eat the frosting). This cake is moist and not too sweet and the frosting is smooth, creamy, chocolaty, velvety. The recipe is easy and the ingredients are basic and easy to find, and the result is delightful. Oh, and it’s BIG. It’s a layer cake, but the layers are made in 9×13 pans. Make sure you have a crowd to help you eat it, because if you don’t, you will eat it all by yourself.

Of course, once I was introduced to Reichl I had to find out more. I listened to her work of fiction, Delicious!, which is a fun read that takes us behind the foodie scene in New York with a World War II side plot that delves into food rationing and what people used for substitutions in their cooking. Her works of memoir are now on my To Read list. I also checked out a Gourmet Today cookbook that she edited.

The drawback to Gourmet Today is that there are absolutely NO PICTURES! It is a huge tome with over 1000 recipes, so it is quite dense, but I think pictures are so important in cookbooks, and I almost put the cookbook back on the shelf, but I persevered.

This cookbook is so much more than a collection of recipes from a variety of cooks and chefs. Reichl set out to include as many recipes as possible that could be made in 30 minutes or less. She also had the future of cooking in mind as far as using ingredients that are sustainable and environmentally friendly sourced. Some ingredients are unique and might be hard to find but she does include a source guide to help you find them. Each section begins with an introduction by Reichl and these are entertaining to read even if you don’t like cooking. In the back, she provides menus for eat in nights or for those nights you want to cook for friends. And of course tips and techniques are found throughout the book that help make the time you spend in your kitchen successful and enjoyable.

So, what did I make from Gourmet Today?

I made the Spiced Chicken (pg 397), Potato and Parmesan Gratin (pg 25), the Balsamic-Glazed Beets (pg 572), and Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies (pg 681). It was delicious! Everything! I will be making these recipes again I assure you! (In the picture you’ll notice carrots and broccoli stir-fried in a little peanut oil with a touch of soy sauce and freshly grated ginger that we make often. Also, forgive the paper plate – I forgot to put the dishwasher through before dinner…)

They were so easy to make. The most laborious were the potatoes but that was due to the peeling and slicing. The spice rub for the chicken I made the night before as well as the sauce for the beets. The beets I cooked the day before and heated them as directed in the recipe to serve. I will say, Reichl states she tried to find 30 minute recipes and they are there, but unless you are well-practiced in the kitchen I would allow a little more time.

All the ingredients were available at my local grocery store. The potatoes do call for parmigiano-reggiano cheese, but, I learned, that is cheese that’s made in a specific area of Italy. Parmesan cheese is the generic term for parmigiano-reggiano that is not made in the traditional geographic area of Italy, so I went with the fresh parmesan cheese I could find at the grocery store.

I did make a few minor adjustments. The chicken recipe called for skin on and bone in chicken breast, leg, or thigh. I used boneless, skinless chicken breast. (We received an air fryer as a gift and we cooked the chicken in the air fryer. Juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside!) To the potatoes I added some asiago and romano cheese as well as the parmesan. The beets I made as stated and didn’t change anything, but she suggests pure maple syrup or honey in the recipe and I used the maple syrup.

As I said, everything was delicious and I will be making these recipes again. We were all relieved with how the chicken turned out. The rub was a savory rub, but it had cinnamon in it and so we weren’t sure what that would taste like. The cinnamon was not overpowering and really added layers to the flavor. My sister tasted the maple syrup on the beets whereas I tasted more of the balsamic vinegar. The only thing I would do differently next time is pair these recipes with more subtle flavored foods. The beets and the chicken were so bold in flavor sometimes I thought they were fighting each other. The potatoes were a nice balance. The cookies finished off the meal, though I wasn’t sure they would last until then.

It is a large cookbook, and it doesn’t have any pictures, but there are recipes for everyone, and definitely worth a look.

P.S. Reichl just released another memoir Save Me the Plums which covers her time at Gourmet magazine. From the reports I’ve heard from patrons, it’s a great read.

Maine State Music Theater and Treasure Island

Do you know that the classic tale Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is also a musical? Maine State Music Theater’s summer lineup includes Treasure Island: A Musical Adventure which is being performed June 26 through July 13!

MSMT has partnered with six local libraries, Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Topsham Public Library, Wiscasset Public Library, Patten Free Library in Bath, Cundy’s Harbor Library, and Orr’s Island Library, to re-introduce people to Stevenson’s classic swash-buckling tale. Each library has a display and will be hosting Treasure Island inspired events through July 13 and you can find a schedule of those events here.

Next time you’re in, check out the display at Topsham Public Library where you can find information on the performances at MSMT, and where you can find Treasure Island in various forms: book, graphic novel, movie, and audiobook. There is also an opportunity for you to enter a chance to win two tickets to one of MSMT’s Treasure Island A Musical Adventure performances.


Big Truck Day and Other School Vacation Activities

With a string of activities lined up over the April school vacation, Topsham Public Library is the place for you and your family. Remember, all activities are free and open to the public.

To start the week off, Maine 3 Railers O-Gauge Model Railroad Club will set up a running model railroad display in our big meeting room. On Tuesday, April 16 from 10am-2pm come watch the trains and see how they work, and talk to club members.

Join us for a free viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on Wednesday, April 17 beginning at 4pm. Running time is 2.5 hours and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and language. In this installment of the Marvel Avengers universe, a new danger emerges that makes the future of Earth uncertain. Recommended ages 12 and up, but all are welcome. Popcorn will be provided.

On Thursday, April 18 at 2pm join us for our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math) event! Tables will be set up with various activities including a 3-D pen to try and Makey-Makey kit powering a banana piano!  You don’t want to miss it! Open to all ages. No registration needed.

The grand finale is the ever popular Big Truck Day on Friday, April 19 at 10am. Come see some BIG vehicles up close: fire trucks, ambulances, and heavy construction machinery. Children can enjoy sitting in and getting up close and personal with the cool vehicles. All ages are welcome and the event will take place rain or shine. Our parking lot will be full of BIG vehicles, so please park at the Topsham Recreation field and walk to our facility.

If you hang around after the Big Trucks leave, you can catch Mortal Engines at 1pm. This movie is a futuristic adventure fantasy movie with plenty of action. After an apocalyptic catastrophe a young woman, Hester, joins up with an unlikely group of heroes to save what remains of life on Earth. Rated PG-13. Popcorn will be provided.

With that line-up there’s no reason anyone should say, “I’m bored.” Come on over, and we’ll keep you busy.

New, But Familiar Face

There is another new face behind the circulation desk, but she is certainly familiar to many of you. Monique, though new to our staff, served as President of Friends of the Topsham Public Library for a few years. Monique was impressed by the fierce loyalty that members have toward Topsham Public Library and the desire to give back to an organization that means so much to them.

From southern Maine, Monique attended University of Southern Maine and majored in psychology. In her free time, she enjoys biking, walking, hiking and nature walks.

Monique’s love for the outdoors and all things nature expresses itself in a variety of ways. In the past, she has facilitated nature journaling workshops for the Topsham Public Library. She was a curriculum designer and blogger for Playful Learning, a provider of nature based curriculum for teachers and parents. Now, an author of her own blog Green Acorns, she shares her nature finds and provides nature-based activities.  Her efforts to connect children with nature have not gone unnoticed. In December, 2016, Monique received the Vitamin N Recognition Award from Richard Louv, a journalist and author who co-founded the Children & Nature Network.

If Monique could pick a superpower it would be to communicate with animals of all kinds. Her dream job would be to use nature therapy to help children in need. She reads more nonfiction than fiction, but recently discovered Barbara Kingsolver and enjoyed her writing. She prefers cake to pie, chocolate to vanilla, and ocean-side rather than lakeside.

We are so happy to welcome Monique on board! Be sure to say, hi!

Back to Basics: Mac-n-Cheese

I have a confession to make. I love boxed macaroni and cheese. Within 10 minutes I can enjoy a strangely orange with unnaturally small noodles goop. I’m not even picky about the brand – Kraft, Hannaford, Annie’s. I’ll eat them all. I’ll eat them all and enjoy it! I will however, from time to time, make homemade mac-n-cheese. I make a cheesy white sauce, I cook some noodles, I combine them and then it bakes for a half hour. It’s a bit time consuming, so I don’t make it often.

One night I was stuck. I had the chicken taken care of, and veggies all ready to stir fry, but being the carb lover that I am, I needed that one more thing. Cooking at Home with Bridget and Julia had just what I needed. The recipe was Stovetop Mac and Cheese, and it saved me.

Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison have years of cooking experience with America’s Test Kitchen and they both began working as test cooks at Cook’s Illustrated in the late 1990s and now they host the nationally aired America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country. Cooking at Home with Bridget and Julia includes 150 recipes that Bridget or Julia personally connect with. The cookbook has numerous pictures, clear instructions, and ingredients that are not difficult to find. I have found, with America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, that something about their cookbook presentation alleviates my fear of being in the kitchen.

(As an aside – I didn’t know anything about America’s Test Kitchen until I saw their Perfect Cake cookbook. So, in case you’re like me, America’s Test Kitchen is based in Boston and they produce podcasts, cooking magazines, cookbooks, and a TV show that airs nation wide on public television.)

I had all the ingredients on hand, so, I grated the cheese, put the chicken in the oven, made the stove top mac and cheese, and stir fried the veggies. The mac and cheese was a little soupy , but it thickened up quickly the last few minutes the chicken needed to bake. There was some mac n cheese left over and that baked up nicely the next day. This method was so much quicker, and the quality was as good as, perhaps even better, than my regular recipe. I will play with the spices a little more next time, but my high-schooler was happy, and he being my mac and cheese connoisseur, if he said it was good, I knew I had done it right.