Preschool Pirating

Have we all gone stir crazy yet?

Imagine if you were on a 17th century ship, with nothing around you but ocean for three months – or six months. Sure, you didn’t have bored kids fighting over whose turn it is with the TV, or a toddler screaming that Tickle Me Elmo is out of batteries again, but eventually that parrot is going to look pretty tasty when all you’ve had to eat is wormy hardtack and stale beer. If you’ve ever been to the Charles P. Morgan at Mystic Seaport, or the Mayflower up in Plymouth, Mass, or Old Ironsides in Boston proper, you know that those ships are pretty tiny on a ten minute walk-through. Now cram them with fifty people for three months, and suddenly your 1500 square foot house doesn’t seem so bad. At least you’re not seasick.

Pirates, whether illegal or privateers working for King and Country, were often violent men – and a few women – who were not very nice. But legends and lore get romanticized, and pirates – whether Captain Hook, Jack Sparrow, Long John Silver, or Blackbeard himself, and kids are attracted to each other the way ants love sugar. Fancy hats, eye patches, wooden legs, cannons, swords, boats, and treasure – how cool is that?

When a new dog-proof garbage can arrived in a box larger than my three year old, it became her favorite toy of the month, and for one of the weeks we turned it into a pirate ship. Anything that keeps a bored three year old busy for a week deserves to be bronzed. We hung a garden flag from a broom handle for a sail, used a brass fastener to make a spinning wheel, dug out costumes from the older kids, watched a lot of preschool pirate videos and read a lot of pirate books. I drew a simple outline map of our living room and taught her to read maps by placing candy in various places as treasure, and marking X on the map. By the third candy, she was proficient on her own. Then we built our finale.

Using balloons, some Cheshire Herald strips, and a little watered down Elmer’s Glue, we made some cannon balls, and then painted them the next day. Then we built our cannon. The cannon balls were about 5 ½ inches, too big for a standard paper tube. But they worked just perfectly for a paint can! So we scavanged a paint can from the garage, which, thankfully, had only an inch of dried paint in the bottom. And these new-fangled plastic paint cans? The paint doesn’t stick! A few taps and peels, and all that dead paint came falling right out. A quick rinse, and we were good. I cut the bottom off with my Ginsu knife (a product that has lived up to every claim ever made on it – thirty years later it still cuts fences AND tomatoes, and plastic paint cans). I strung a piece of waistband elastic across the hole, held tight by Gorilla Tape, and we had our cannon. It was tricky getting the right angle, but pull the elastic back far enough with the cannon ball sitting on it, and we could get the ball to shoot four or five feet, which is plenty inside a house.

We won Preschool Zoom that week.

So scrounge your house, and see what you can come up with! With warmer weather, try staking out a ship outside with lawn chairs or wooden pallets.  Anything that keeps a kid busy and sparks some interest is a good thing – and they just might learn something.  And by the way, Saturday September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day – check out these awesome stories to get you in the pirate mindset:

Pirate’s Perfect Pet        Pirates Go to School               Peter Pan   

Pirates Past Noon           Pinkalicious and the Pirates

Pirates Don’t Take Baths        No Pirates Allowed, Said Library Lou

Pirates Don’t Change Diapers        Sea Queens:  Women Pirates Around the World

  Treasure Island      Pirates of the Caribbean     Jake and the Never Land Pirates 

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in March

You know what they say about March, it comes in like a lion & goes out like a lamb. No matter the weather, you might say we’ve got a “menagerie” of programs to entertain, educate, and inspire you this month!

Author Talk: The Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner

Tuesday, March 3, 2020, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Cheshire resident, John White, will discuss his book, The Pledge of Allegiance & the Star-Spangled Banner: A Patriot’s Primer on the American Spirit and a Citizen’s Guide to Restoring the Republic, which deals with the essence of America—its principles, ideals and values, its history, its future. Registration is required.

New Movie Thursday – Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

Thursday, March 5, 2020, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers in a timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. After a jaded magazine writer is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about kindness, love and forgiveness from America’s most beloved neighbor. Rated PG. Registration appreciated for this adult program.

Abilities Without Boundaries All Star Band

Saturday, March 7, 2020, 2:00 – 3:00pm

Join us for this open house concert with Abilities Without Boundaries All Star Band. Cheshire musician John Ingrassia will lead the All Star Band for their debut performance. John hosts his music therapy class “Music Matters” for Abilities Without Boundaries and has assembled an all star band to perform around the area. No registration required.

From Jazz to Soul with Rhonda Denet and her trio

Sunday, March 8, 2020, 2:00 – 3:15pm

Rhonda Denet and her trio were the most popular concert we had last year, so we are bringing them back for  “part 2” of From Jazz to Soul!  They will perform jazz and soul standards from the 1930s through the 1960s, paying tribute to song stylists from Ella Fitzgerald to Aretha Franklin. No registration required.

Ogham Celtic Alphabet

Tuesday, March 10, 2020, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Colleen Conway, co-owner and artist of Ogham Art in Southington, will discuss “The Ogham Alphabet: Past & Present”. Represented as a series of perpendicular and intersecting lines, Ogham is the earliest written form of primitive Irish and the oldest of the Gaelic languages. It is thought to be influenced by the Latin alphabet using 20 characters. Registration is required.

Introduction to Gmail

Wednesday, March 11, 2020, 11:00am – 12:00pm

Learn the fundamentals of Gmail; set up an account,learn to compose and send an email. Must be familiar with basic computer knowledge. Registration is required.

Starting Plants from Seed

Saturday, March 14, 2020, 2:00 – 4:00pm

This event, geared to the home gardener, includes: unique method of pre-sprouting large seeds; making pots from newspapers; using found materials for plant markers and mini greenhouses to start small seeds; proper watering and fertilizing; hardening off of plants; and catalogs where heirloom, rare or exotic seeds can be found. Registration is required.

Irish Music with Deirdre McMorrow and Paul Pender

Sunday, March 15, 2020, 2:00 – 3:00pm

Enchanting traditional Irish fiddler, Deirdre McMorrow, and guitarist/songwriter, Paul Pender, will energize every Irish native—and those who turn Irish for St. Patrick’s Day– in a concert of traditional and original Celtic songs. No registration required.

Intro to Meditation Workshop

Monday, March 16, 2020, 2:00 – 3:30pm

Presenter Tia Mandrozos will explain what meditation is and its positive effects—the many ways that meditating bestows  benefits on those who practice it regularly.  Tia will also lead a 15 minute guided meditation. Registration is required.

Irish Dancing Through the Ages

Wednesday, March 18, 2020, 4:00 – 5:00pm

A program on “Irish Dancing Through the Ages” will be presented by Irene Horgan, Ph.D., Director of Cheshire’s Horgan Academy of Irish Dance. Geared for all ages, the program will include demonstations by Horgan Academy dancers. All attendees will be invited to learn a popular Irish dance step! No registration required.

Nature as Mentor

Wednesday, March 18, 2020, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Learn the magnificent language of nature in this powerful workshop with Marlow Shami, M.S., who will present an informative talk enhanced by beautiful illustrations, a compelling activity, and a deep relaxing guided meditation. No meditation experience necessary. Registration is required.

Spring Canal Walk @ Lock 12 Park

Thursday, March 19, 2020, 4:00 – 4:45pm

Celebrate the first day of spring with a story and a stroll along the Farmington Canal Trail here in town! We’ll meet at Lock 12 Historical Park, 487 North Brooksvale Road, and explore the changing seasons on foot. Best for ages 5 and up. Registration is appreciated.

Sound Healing Bath

Wednesday, March 25, 2020, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Join Donatella Moltisanti, internationally renown Sound Healer, for an evening of transformational Soul Healing! Donatella will discuss how music can heal the body and take us to new levels of awareness and peace, then guide participants through an hour-long sound healing journey. Registration is required.

Poetry in Song: A Cheshire High School Choral Concert

Friday, March 27, 2020, 12:00 – 1:00pm

The Cheshire High School chorus is going on the road !  Please join us for this special noon-time concert featuring the Cheshire High School chorus.  The chorus will be performing choral works by Lauridsen, Stroope, Lauridsen, Whitacre and more, featuring poetry by James Agee,  Robert Burns, Robert Frost, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling and others. No registration required.

 

 

Susan’s Best Reads of 2019

I don’t read as much as I wish I could; I just don’t have time at the moment. It doesn’t help that I wind up with sometimes 600 page books in my hands, and those take longer.  I never know what I’ll read next, and I read a bunch of good ones last year. Here are some of my favorites:

One of the two best books I read this year, I’ve already blogged about: Creativity, Inc, by Ed Catmull, was amazing. Not just a history of Pixar films, it’s also the best darned, most entertaining book on business and employee management you will read. Pixar is a 5-star company for a reason.

The second of my Best Reads this year is The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James.  From approximately 1898 to 1912, a serial killer traversed the US by train – coming through New Haven’s Union Station on the way – with an MO of bludgeoning his victims with the back of an axe. Because of communications at the time, few people were able to connect the murders. James painstakingly, with the utmost detail, traces the dozens of murders and examines them, deciding if they were likely by the same killer or not, and why. He traces the paths through the states and the seasons, chasing the trail to a man who was most likely the killer. By the time he’s done, you are convinced and amazed. I could not stop reading this book. I read it while waiting for the school bus. I read it while cooking. I would have read it in the shower if I could have. If you love a mystery, if you love history, if you love crime stories, this book is a must.

I’m only 30 years late in reading Neuromancer, the Hugo-winning cyberpunk novel by William Gibson. I can see why it is held as one of the greatest novels of our time. Gibson predicts and writes about today’s modern computers and internet and gaming – long before they existed. The scenarios he describes are both familiar and futuristic at the same time. While not only visionary, it’s written in  a flawless style and with realistic, interesting characters. If you loved Ready Player One or The Matrix (which has to have been influenced by this book), you will love Neuromancer.

If you’re aware of social and racial issues, I strongly recommend Survival Math, by Mitchell S. Jackson. A professor of writing, in achingly beautiful prose worthy of Martin Luther King Jr., with the voice of a preacher without being preachy, Johnson breaks down the issues faced in his own family, examining how he came to where he is, how racism played into it without even being visible, and how despite all the odds, it’s possible to thrive. He covers harsh topics without flinching. The book is brilliant, spellbinding, and a superb read from a voice that soars with truth.

Far more than I expected, I loved Total Recall, an older door-stop of a biography on Arnold Schwarzenegger. From his birth in a tiny town in Austria (which still has only 2500 people) to his divorce from Maria Shriver, Arnold is witty and candid and down to Earth. No matter what you think of his politics or his movies or his personal life, this book may be older, but it was highly entertaining. His best friend just died in September of this year.

Not my favorite, but worth mentioning because of its local importance, is Frog Hollow  by Susan Campbell. Campbell, a former reporter with the Hartford Courant, digs into the history of the notorious Frog Hollow section of Hartford, and through tireless research shows the former glory of the neighborhood as not only an important area in Colonial times, but once a major manufacturing center (in 1898, Pope automotive made half the cars in the US). I was hoping for a deep sociologic dissection of the issues, but instead Campbell gives us an upbeat view from street level about the good aspects of Hartford and the people who live there, not just the doom and gloom of ad-selling news clips.

Last but not least, I’ll throw in a kid’s series you probably missed; with 18 years between my last two kids, I certainly did, but my youngest is so hooked on the British easy reader series Urgency Emergency! by Dosh Archer, I wound up buying most of them. The series is so witty and enjoyable you don’t mind reading them over and over again. Doctor Glenda, Nurse Percy, and the Pengamedics, in predictable melodrama, assist the maladies of Humpty Dumpty, The Big Bad Wolf, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, and many more. They are a delight. The library has several of the stories; be sure to read them all!

Sci-Fi at the Movies

Harold our sci-fi-guy is going to the movies in today’s blog post!

Science fiction is an extremely popular film and video genre and the Library has a sizeable collection of sci-fi movies, videos, and television programs.

If the Force is with you, you can check out a film from the most successful film series of all times: George Lucas’ Star Wars. The library has every Star Wars movie on DVD.  My favorite is: Episode V, The Empire Strikes BackThe library also has a collection of Star Wars novels that have spun off from the films.

You can share in the voyages of the Starship Enterprise with Star Trek.  The library has many of the Star Trek movies and television shows in their catalog including one of the most acclaimed Star Trek films: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  I enjoy all of them, but one of my favorites is Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The library also has the complete first season of the new Star Trek Discovery Series along with a great collection of Star Trek books that span all the Star Trek television series and movies.

If more contemporary science fiction movies are more your style, there are some great ones on the shelves at the Cheshire Public Library. Some favorites:

Arrival debuted in 2016. It stars Amy Adams as a linguistic professor recruited by the U.S. Army to figure out how to communicate with intelligent aliens who have landed on earth. It is based on the 1998 short story Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang that is available from the Library as a downloadable audio book. His book of short stories, Exhalation, is also well worth reading.

Ex Machina is a 2014 British science fiction film. IMDB.com says that it is about “A young programmer [who] is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a highly advanced humanoid A.I.”

Gravity – This 2013 critically acclaimed film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as American astronauts who are stranded in space because of a Shuttle accident and their attempt to return to Earth. It received 10 Oscar nominations and the Golden Globe Award for Best Director along with the 2013 Ray Bradbury Award.

The Martian – This 2015 film one of my favorites. Directed by Ridley Scott, it is a modern-day Robinson Crusoe story about an astronaut, played by Matt Damon, who is stranded on Mars and his efforts to survive. It is based on the book by Andy Weir that is also and available in print and as an audiobook at the library.

Here are some other great science fiction movies that are available at the CPL:

If you have some favorites that I have missed that are in the library’s collection, let me know and I will add them to a future blog.

 

10 Comedies That’ll Make You Cry

Oh, they’ll sneak up on you. You’ll be chuckling along with a funny movie when suddenly – hey, what’s that lump in your throat all about? They get you when your guard is down, those comedies with little bits of sadness tucked in. If you’re looking for a movie that’ll make you laugh AND tug at your heartstrings, I’ve got just the list for you:

Planes, Trains , and Automobiles. This Steve Martin/John Candy movie could be called an anti-buddy-comedy. Forced by circumstances to travel together (via planes, trains… you can guess the rest) from New York to Chicago at Thanksgiving time, Neal (Martin) can’t wait to be rid of the over-exuberant Del (Candy), but then softens when he learns more of Del’s story.

Big . Tom Hanks plays a boy who wakes up in the body of a grown man. Hanks is adorable as the suddenly “big” Josh trying to navigate in the adult world. Watch out for the ending, though, have tissues ready!

Sideways. Melancholy Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes his more gregarious friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church)  through wine country on a buddy-trip before Jack ties the knot. Lots of wine and hi-jinks ensue, revealing much about the lead characters. Miles can be a real “Debby Downer”, which is played to comedic effect, but some of the realizations on this boy’s trip are a little more melancholy.

The Bucket List. Ok, with a title like this you could probably guess that something sad might be on the horizon. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman mine the situation laughs, though, as a billionaire and a mechanic who share a hospital room after being diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Working on a list of things they want to do before they die becomes a healing exercise for both.

Click. Wait, this is an Adam Sandler movie. There’s no crying in Adam Sandler movies! Well, get ready to be proven wrong. In this movie Sandler plays a workaholic husband and father who finds a remote control device that lets him pause, fast-forward, and rewind events in his life.  Of course, he comes to many realizations, mainly that the things that he thought were important in his life, aren’t.

In Bruges. This comedy about a suicidal hit man is admittedly pretty dark, but the writing and performances in this film really pull you in, and the scenes between the hit man Ray (Colin Farrell) and his partner (Brendon Gleeson) can be particularly affecting.

Little Miss Sunshine. Dysfunctional family road trip! Everyone is this family has issues, but they all pile into a barely-working van to drive young Olive (wonderfully played by Abigail Breslin) to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine contest. Funny moments are peppered with poignant ones, and you’re bound to tear up at least once along the way.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Another road trip movie. Why are road trips the perfect vehicle for sad comedies? In this one, an unstoppable asteroid is hurtling toward Earth and certain annihilation. What to do in the days you have left? One man (Steve Carrell) decides to drive off and find his high school sweetheart before the world ends. He’s joined on his quest by his quirky neighbor (Keira Knightly), and hilarity ensues. But there’s still that asteroid out there…

WALL-E. In this animated movie from Pixar, WALL-E is a trash-collecting robot on a deserted and ravaged planet Earth. After years alone on the planet, another robot suddenly appears,  giving WALL-E a new purpose. Funny and endearing, you’ll root for the little guy as he tries to interact with his environment and save the future of the planet.

Up. All right, Pixar, enough with the heartstring-pulling! A retired balloon salesman rigs up his house with thousands of balloons, and he (and his house) sail off into the sunset. Except he has a stowaway, an eight-year-old Wilderness Explorer Scout named Russell. The unlikely duo have many adventures along the way, and of course learn many valuable lessons about life and love.