Learn a Little, Live a Little

Do love learning? Do you dream of taking college classes, but the cost and the time is too much? Are you taking a high school or college class and struggling to understand the material?  Did you cut your cable, and can’t find anything decent to watch anymore?

Fear not! The Great Courses are here!

Cheshire Public Library has always had a handful of these delightful media, but through a generous donation, we’ve been able to greatly expand our holdings to more than 70 titles.

What are the Great Courses?  Professional college-level lectures on audiobook or DVD on a variety of topics, given by actual college professors and experts (like Neil DeGrasse Tyson!), that will give you the equivalent of an entire college class in the comfort of your car or living room. Some come with study guides and questions to think about, but you will never have a test or a grade at the end!

The Great Courses was the brainchild of Thomas M. Rollins, the former Chief Counsel of the US Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources (1985-89). Inspired by a 10-hour video lecture series he watched as a student at Harvard Law, he set about creating his own video series under the business label The Teaching Company. He recruited professors to record lectures on topics people were interested in learning about. Because the lectures were chosen by customers, they caught on quickly. There are currently more than 900 lectures available in a wide variety of topics. Some are short – four hours – while others (like the Civil War) can run to 14 discs.

Great Courses are expensive – that Civil War set is more than $500 to purchase yourself, but in 2016 the company began a $20/month streaming service, and then in 2021 rebranded itself under the name Wondrium. Wondrium not only offers more than 280 of the Great Courses, but also content from Magellan TV, Craftsy, and Kino Lorber, which carries art films, documentaries, world cinema, and classic films (silent films like Metropolis, Charlie Chaplin, and more).

If you don’t feel like yet another subscription to a streaming service, check out the library’s offerings downstairs in the adult department. We have more than 30 titles on DVD, and more than 35 on audiobook for learning on the go. As Fat Albert used to say, “If you’re not careful, you may learn something!”

Did you know that if you’ve already studied the material, you can often exempt a college class? It’s called the CLEP program – College Level Examination Program.  Basically, if you can pass the exit exam for a class, you can get college credit for that class. Not every school offers it, not every class is covered, but if a Great Courses lecture can help, you can save several hundred dollars!

Check out these great titles and more!

Some of our Audiobook titles:

Ancient Greek Civilization

Beethoven’s Sonatas

Books that Have Made History

Broadway Musicals

The New Testament

Italian Renaissance

Native People of North America

Rise and Fall of the British Empire

Some of our DVD titles:

The American Civil War

Einstein’s Relativity

Monet to Van Gogh

When Rome Ruled

Photography

The Louvre

Geology

Human Language

The Vikings

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in February

You’ll find history, crafts, music, and more on our Event Calendar this February – check out the full month of offerings and Save your spot for these programs!

February Art Show

A selection of oil paintings and paper cuttings by Cheshire artist Susan Fenaughty will be on display in the Mary Baldwin Room during the month of February.

Open Art Studio

Fridays, February 3, 10, 24, from 1-3pm

Bring your works in progress and supplies to this weekly drop-in art program. This is an opportunity to create in a collaborative environment with other artists. No formal instruction will be provided, but informal critiquing for those who want it is encouraged. Table covers will be provided. There is a sink in the room for basic cleanup (please do not bring turpentine).

Juggling and Comedy Show

Saturday, February 4, 2023, 11:00 – 11:45am

Join us for an afternoon of laughter with Bryson Lang in celebration of Take Your Child to the Library Day! Bryson’s show mixes comedy, audience participation, juggling, giant beach balls, improv, and more! For kids of all ages. Please register the number of children and teens attending.

Black Bears in Connecticut

Tuesday, February 7, 2023, 6:30 – 8:15pm

Master Wildlife Conservationist Paul Colburn will be here to teach us about our fascinating neighbors, Connecticut’s black bears. We’ll get to hear about their natural history, how to coexist with these creatures, and explore black bear artifacts. Registration is required.

Movie Matinees

  • Tuesday February 7: Philomena (2013)
  • Tuesday February 21: Hopscotch (1980)

Join us in the Library Loft for a movie on the big screen! Registration is not required and movies begin at 1pm.

Tories, Spies, & Traitors: Divided Loyalty in Revolutionary Connecticut

Wednesday, February 8, 2023, 6:30 – 8:00pm

In 1775, as the thirteen colonies began a rebellion against British rule, loyalty was not only a matter of words or opinion. For soldiers and civilians alike, loyalty could mean loss of fortune, of friends, and even of life. This presentation reveals stories— some well known, some obscure— of Nutmeggers who risked and sacrificed to support their chosen side during this “tumultuous jarring time of civil war.” Registration is required.

Craft Night: Embroider a Heart

Monday, February 13, 2023, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Learn three basic embroidery stitches to create a festive heart decoration you can display all year long. Patrons will receive personal instruction from Bristol instructor, Dawn Zillich – The Stitching Coach. Supplies will be provided, all you need to bring is creativity and love of fiber arts to the library. Space is limited for this adult program and registration is required.

Meh. : An Un-Valentine’s Day program (Teens, Grades 6-12)

Tuesday, February 14, 2023, 4:00 – 4:50pm

Are you tired of the cliché valentines day nonsense? Annoyed by all the cupids and candy hearts? This Un-Valentine’s day party is all about celebrating the non-romantic relationships in our lives- family, friends, and best of all self-love. Join us for crafts, snacks, and fun activities! For teens in grades 6-12, registration is required.

Explore New Worlds: Virtual Reality

Experience virtual reality with the library’s Oculus headsets. Choose from a wide selection of tours adventures and games all in an interactive virtual world. 30 minute spots available from 6:00 to 7:30. Register for the date you want, you will be contacted prior to the program to select your spot.

Adult Loft Knitters

Wednesday, February 15, 2023, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Come socialize, learn, and share your techniques with other knitters.  Experience the relaxing and calming effect of knitting. All levels of adult knitters are welcome. Please bring your own yarn and knitting needles (crocheters are also welcome!). This group meets monthly, please register in advance.

Weed-Free Gardening (ONLINE)

Wednesday, February 15, 2023, 7:00 – 8:15pm

Join us for a program on organic weed control prevention and control strategies that really work. Tasha Greer goes way beyond the usual suggestions for mulching and pulling weeds. In fact, she will explain why pulling weeds can actually be a bad idea and that mulching can cause problems when used with the wrong weeds. Please register in advance for this online program.

Cat Tales Writers Group

Thursday, February 16, 2023, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Join us for a monthly open writing group that can help answer your questions on writing, editing, grammar, and publishing. Read a selection of your work to the group for general constructive feedback, or discuss a book you’ve read that might help someone else. Registration is required.

Upcycled Sweater Party

Friday, February 17, 2023, 10:30am – 12:00pm

Give your old sweaters a second life by turning them into winter accessories, home decor, or even another piece of clothing! We’ll provide inspiration, directions, and help for a variety of sewing and no-sew projects. In the spirit of upcycling, please bring your own sweaters from home if possible. Registration is required.

Guide to Student-Athlete College Recruitment

Thursday, February 23, 2023, 6:30 – 8:00pm

s your child looking to play sports beyond high school? Hear a father share his child’s recruitment journey and lessons learned. Find out what to expect as you navigate your student-athlete’s recruitment process. Parents and teens are encouraged to attend. Please register in advance.

Concert: Silk’n Sounds

Saturday, February 25, 2023, 2:00 – 3:30pm

Silk’n Sounds is a women’s chorus based in the Greater New Haven area, bound together by their love of singing. The group has a broad repertoire of traditional and contemporary songs, including jazz standards, ballads, and rhythmic pop favorites from the Great American Songbook. This a cappella chorus is dedicated to excellence in the performance of four-part harmony in the barbershop tradition.

Café au Lit: Coffee and Book Pairings

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: hot drink season. When the weather turns cold, I stock my cabinet with dessert-flavored black teas and mocha mixes, and I chill sweet, chocolatey stouts and porters in my fridge. For many of us, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a favorite drink and a good book. (Or Netflix. No judgment.)

I’ve been doing my part to encourage this pastime with Books Over Coffee, a monthly book club where I tasked myself with pairing bags of ground coffee with whatever title we’re reading. It’s a little challenging and a whole lot of fun, and a coworker suggested I share the combinations I came up with. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed sampling the candidates.

Read: The Overstory by Richard Powers 

Drink: Birds & Beans Wood Thrush medium roast from Birds & Beans 

Bird-friendly coffee like Birds & Beans is grown under the shade of trees and doesn’t contribute to deforestation. It’s a fitting brew to sip while reading Richard Powers’ epic love letter to trees, which spans the lives of nine characters and about 23 hours of listening time for you fellow audiobook fans. Settle down, brew yourself a pot, and imagine you’re sitting at the base of your childhood tree as you start the narrative’s journey.

Read: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay 

Drink: Dark Magic dark roast from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters 

Dark Magic is a staple of Keurig machines everywhere – just like how demon possession is a long-running horror trope. And to horror nerds like me, there’s something magical about the meta-narrative on the genre that you’ll find within the pages of A Head Full of Ghosts. The story is creepy enough on its own, but the references to Shirley Jackson, H.P. Lovecraft, The Exorcist, and contemporary horror writers will raise your spirits like a strong, hot drink on a cold winter night. If you love darkness, you’ll enjoy this unholy matrimony of book and brew.

Read: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett 

Drink: Black and Tan from Eight O’Clock Coffee Company 

Angels and demons, good and evil, stark prophecy and satiric comedy are blended together in Good Omens, a collaboration from two prominent fantasy authors. It’s only fitting to accompany it with the bold and mild blend of Black and Tan. The laugh-out-loud jokes are delightful dollops of cream and sugar – and when you’ve drunk the last drop, you can have a second helping by watching the Amazon Prime miniseries.

Read: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay 

Drink: Veranda Blend blonde roast from Starbucks 

Like the aesthetics of those blonde, sun-kissed Californian twins in the Sweet Valley High books, books which Roxane Gay devoured as a teen and scrutinized with her cultural commentary as an adult author, I find light roasts bland, ubiquitous, and unsatisfying. (If I’m feeling especially contrarian, I might say the same about Starbucks as an institution.) My distaste for light roasts – and the marketing for this one nods to both unattainable beauty standards and classism! – makes it the perfect tag-along while Gay pokes holes in pop culture, politics, feminism, and other topics in this book of essays.

In all fairness to Veranda Blend, this month’s book club hasn’t met yet, so I haven’t tried it. The blend may throw me a major twist like the best thrillers, or offer me that cloying tannic quality euphemized as “fruitiness,” like a well-reviewed literary novel that falls short of expectations. What will you be sipping when you curl up with your next read? (Or Netflix. No judgment.)

A Cheesy Holiday

There are only 365 days in a year, but it seems as if there are a million “holidays” assigned to them, some of them bordering on ludicrous (National Ask Your Cat a Question day?). 

January 20 is National Cheese Lovers Day. January 2 was also National Swiss Cheese Day, which, all things considered, must make it a truly Holey Day.  (Yes, that was cheesy).

Swiss Cheese is actually a misnomer. Any cheese made in Switzerland is considered a Swiss Cheese. What Americans refer to as a “Swiss Cheese” is actually an Emmental cheese that contains “eyes” – trademark holes caused by gasses created during manufacture. The more holes, the more taste, with a curing time of 6-18 months to achieve its creamy flavor. An Emmental cheese without holes is sometimes called a “blind” cheese. Over the years, the holes in Swiss Cheese (as we know it) have gotten smaller, making manufacturers wonder if the holes aren’t caused by particulate matter getting in the cheese – tiny bits of hay or detritus that get in the milk, aiding in the production of gas. Modern sterile manufacturing eliminates those contaminants, not giving the gasses something to bond with. Emmental, Emmenthal, and Emmenthaler are all correct names for the cheese.

Many foreign foods are trademarked – Champagne is only Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France, otherwise it’s a sparkling wine. Roquefort Cheese can only come from Roquefort (or it’s a Blue Cheese). Bourbon can only come from Bourbon County, Tennessee, otherwise it’s just whiskey. Gruyere lost its trademark name in the US, with the courts deciding that Americans don’t know the location of the cheese, only the taste of that style, no matter the manufacturer. Thus, Swiss Cheese – er, Emmental – can be made anywhere, including Wisconsin. A good Swiss doesn’t have to come from Europe, which makes the price more palatable.

Have you ever thought of making your own cheese? Many of them are rather simple to make  (cottage cheese takes just three ingredients – milk, salt, and vinegar, which replaces the old-fashioned rennet from the cow’s stomach), and all of them will be fresh without chemical preservatives. It’s easier than you think! Unlike canning, mistakes aren’t likely to kill you. Try it as a winter project – you might just discover a new (and tasty!) hobby!

And just to prove that cheese makers aren’t as uptight as you might think, check out this study, where Swiss researchers exposed ageing cheeses to different forms of music (Hip Hop, Stairway to Heaven, and Mozart’s Magic Flute opera). They used mini transmitters to conduct the energy of the music directly into the cheese, so that no energy was lost. (No, I’m not making this up) The cheese was eventually blind-taste tested twice, with similar results each time. The hip-hop exposed cheese was decided to be markedly fruitier and with a stronger taste. The question arises, then, what happens to cheese if you use Swedish Death Metal, or perhaps Raffi?

Check out these instruction books for doing your own experiments with cheese. Your choice of music is up to you!

Grilled Cheese Please!

American Cheese

Artisan Cheese Making at Home

Home Cheese Making

The Whole Fromage

One Hour Cheese

Tasting Wine And Cheese

The Telling Room

Join our Winter Reading Challenge!

Kick off the new year with a Winter Reading Challenge! Kids and adults of all ages are invited to join this online reading program with chances to win prizes! 

From now until February 28, you’ll earn points for reading and completing special missions. Once you reach a certain number of points, you’ll get a completion prize and be entered into your age group’s grand prize raffle. 

Want to sign up? Visit our ReadSquared reading challenge website athttps://cheshirelibrary.readsquared.com, download the ReadSquared app, or visit the Library in-person. Grab your signup prize next time you’re in the Library, then log in to track your progress any time until the program ends on Tuesday, February 28. 

The Winter Reading Challenge is sponsored by the Friends of the Cheshire Public Library.