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.

Down East Readers’ Choice Awards 2019 Voting Open

If you know Dave, you know what I mean when I say that he keeps me on the ball. From the newest book releases to the best British TV series, he’s always keeping me up to date. Now, he wants to make sure we all know that the voting is open in the Down East Readers’ Choice Awards.

Once again, you have the chance to help the rest of our state learn how you feel about your wonderful library by voting it Best of Maine. There are two ways to vote: an original ballot (photocopies are not accepted) from the April volume of Down East magazine or you can go online to and vote online. You do not need to fill in every blank in order for your ballot to be counted. Voting closes May 3, 2019 so don’t delay. Remember, your favorite library is Topsham Public Library! (There’s no shame in unabashedly seeking your votes, right?)

Topsham Garden Club Celebrates 85 Years

Topsham Garden Club was founded in 1934 and it is still going strong. On the second Wednesday of the month from 12-2:30pm the club meets at Topsham Public Library where members gather to hear guest speakers, socialize, eat, and talk all things green.

The public is always welcome to attend. Bring a brown bag lunch and join members for dessert and coffee after the presentation. All are welcome at the brief Business Meeting following the refreshments and socializing.

Topsham Garden Club has been involved in various town activities throughout the years from planting and maintaining various gardens throughout the community (including a Victory Garden in 1943) to working with schoolchildren in a Junior Nature Club and even hosting an Annual Flower Show.  At the holidays, the club decorated the Whitten Library on Pleasant Street and now provides monthly floral arrangements for the new library facility on Foreside Road.  More recently, activities include prize-winning exhibits at the Topsham Fair and making holiday gifts for the residents of local nursing homes.

The Topsham Garden Club is an active member of the Garden Club Federation of Maine, hosting Medomak District meetings on a rotating basis with other clubs in the region, and sending delegates to the statewide meetings.

This month’s presenter is Kerry Ann Mendez of Perennially Yours and the topic is High Impact, Low Maintenance Perennials, Flowering Shrubs and Annuals. The meeting is tomorrow, March 13 here at Topsham Public Library at noon.

Meet Liz!

You may have noticed a new face at Topsham Public Library. Liz Snowden has been with us for a few months now and works at the circulation desk. Though she has only been with us such a little while, she comes with much experience as she also works at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine.

Liz is a Topsham native, growing up here and graduating from Mt. Ararat High School. After high school, she took her studies across the bridge where she attended Bowdoin College. She graduated with a double major in English and Visual Arts and a concentration in Creative Writing. One of the things that drew her to Bowdoin was the fact that they have a radio station. Her mom was a DJ when she was in college, and because of her fun stories, Liz wanted to do that, too, and she did. Liz hosted The 80s Hour with Liz for WBOR, so next time you participate in Trivia Night at your favorite local hang out, you might want Liz on your team to handle the music trivia questions.

When she is not working, Liz enjoys taking long walks, bookmaking, print making, and baking. She is a cat lover and has four cats herself. One of the pleasant surprises she has experienced since working here is the number of library patrons she sees out and about town. It’s just proof of how important Topsham Public Library is to the community.

Some fun facts about Liz: she’s a night owl, not an early bird, prefers Star Trek over Star Wars, favorite Starburst flavor is lemon, prefers mystery over fantasy, non-fiction over literature, and graphic novels over manga.

If  Liz was not a library aide, she would be a barista at some fun coffee shop making delicious beverages with the right blend of flavors to delight the palate. Interacting with the public is what she relishes and what draws her to positions such as library aide and coffeehouse barista.  If you haven’t met her yet, you will quickly see that her friendliness, knowledge, and willingness to help are wonderful assets that add to the atmosphere here at Topsham Public Library.