I used to enjoy cooking and baking once, but life happened (as it does), and over the years it evolved from a fun hobby into a chore. I’ve bounced back from my low point of lockdown-era frozen buffalo chicken strips, but cooking is still not something that brings me joy. Even when I try new recipes. No, especially when I try new recipes. There’s too much thinking, too many variables, not enough autopilot. I groan whenever my produce subscription boxes send me yet another unidentifiable root vegetable that requires a consultation with the internet. And if a new recipe starts going sideways – I’m looking at you, butternut squash gnocchi that I made for Christmas – I tend to season the cooking process with a heaping spoonful of expletives.
Luckily, my attempts at culinary novelty usually turn out pretty good. But I still prefer to fall back on my tried-and-true recipes: the ones I could do in my sleep, without sounding like I’m performing a read-aloud from the recipe section of Bad Manners. I applaud the home cooks who enjoy tackling new kitchen adventures. And I especially applaud those who can do it with little ones running around. If you need to clear some table space for creativity, or if you’re just trying to cook off this week’s mystery veg without introducing young ears to – ahem – new vocabulary, why not keep your kids safely occupied with a book? These fun and engaging stories cover some of our favorite foods, from nachos to chocolate chip cookies. They might even inspire your kids to go beyond the role of Brownie Batter Bowl Licker and move up to Chef-in-Training… even if the position is only open on low-stress dinner nights where the only duty is arranging the frozen buffalo chicken strips (or more likely, dinosaur chicken nuggets) on a baking sheet.
Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando. Every day, Ando Momofuku would retire to his lab–a little shed in his backyard. For years, he’d dreamed about making a new kind of ramen noodle soup that was quick, convenient, and tasty to feed the hungry people he’d seen in line for a bowl on the black market following World War II. “Peace follows from a full stomach,” he believed. With persistence, creativity, and a little inspiration, Ando prevailed. This is the true story behind one of the world’s most popular foods.
Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix. For Chef Roy Choi, food means love. It also means culture, not only of Korea where he was born, but the many cultures that make up the streets of Los Angeles, where he was raised. So remixing food from the streets, just like good music—and serving it up from a truck—is true to L.A. food culture. People smiled and talked as they waited in line. Won’t you join him as he makes good food smiles?
The Hole Story of the Doughnut. In 1843, 14-year old Hanson Gregory left his family home in Rockport, Maine and set sail as a cabin boy on the schooner Achorn, looking for high stakes adventure on the high seas. Little did he know that a boat load of hungry sailors, coupled with his knack for creative problem-solving, would yield one of the world’s most prized pastries.
And because my editor would be very unhappy if I got this far without mentioning at least one cookbook, here’s our newest titles to help your Chef-in-Training build their skills:
The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook. Each recipe is totally foolproof and easy to follow, with color photos and tips to help beginners get excited about cooking. The book includes recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert — all from the trusted chefs in Food Network’s test kitchen.
Kitchen Explorers! 60+ Recipes, Experiments, and Games for Young Chefs. What makes fizzy drinks fizzy? Can you create beautiful art using salt? Or prove the power of smell with jelly beans? Kitchen Explorers brings the kitchen alive with kid-tested and kid-approved recipes, fun science experiments, hands-on activities, plus puzzles, word games, and more.
Grandma and Me in the Kitchen. This cookbook, made just for Grandma and her little chefs, is full of foods they will both love to cook together! Along with recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts are tips for creating traditions and finding ways to celebrate the everyday wonderfulness of just being together.
We have tons more cookbooks in the children’s and adults sections of the library. What are you planning to cook up in 2021?
Were you glued to your screen on Feb. 18, 2021, when NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover made its final descent to the Mars? This is the first rover mission designed to seek signs of past microbial life. Earlier rovers first focused on and confirmed that Mars once had habitable conditions. The goals of this mission are:
Determine whether life ever existed on Mars
Characterize the Climate of Mars
Characterize the Geology of Mars
Prepare for Human Exploration
If you’re caught a touch of Martian Fever, or just wondered what it might be like to be on Mars yourself, we’ve got a reading list for you:
The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm. Bell has spent his whole life – all eleven years of it – on Mars. When a virus breaks out and the grown-ups all fall ill, Bell and the other children are the only ones who can help.
We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey. After a year on Mars, a young boy and his family migrate to the planet Choom, but the inhabitants of Choom, who look like giant mosquitoes, don’t really like humans and it is up to the boy and his family to change their minds if they hope to survive.
Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson. While waiting to leave Mars before it burns up just like the Earth before it, Liam and his friend Phoebe discover some facts about time and space and realize that the human race is just one of the races trying to survive in space.
In the Red by Christopher Swiedler. When a massive solar flare hits their Mars colony, friends Michael and Lilith are stranded with no protection from the sun, a quickly dwindling supply of air, food, and water, and little hope for rescue.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown. A tale set in a bleak future society torn by class divisions follows the experiences of secret revolutionary Darrow, who after witnessing his wife’s execution by an oppressive government joins a revolutionary cell and attempts to infiltrate an elite military academy.
The Martian by Andy Weir. Stranded on Mars by a dust-storm that compromised his space suit and forced his crew to leave him behind, astronaut Mark Watney struggles to survive in spite of minimal supplies and environmental challenges that test his ingenuity.
The Sky So Big and Black by John Barnes. Accompanying her eco-prospector father on a tour through the Martian wilderness, Terry finds herself having to guide the trip’s young survivors back home after a terrible accident.
Mars Life by Ben Bova. Discovering proof that intelligent life had existed on Mars millions of years earlier, scientists Jamie Waterman and Carter Carleton struggle to protect Mars funding in the face of ultra-conservatives who fear the discovery will compromise their religious beliefs.
We’re Marching on (yes, we did go there) with a month of engaging, enriching, and entertaining virtual programs. Mark your calendars and sign up while there are still spots open!
March Teen Volunteering Challenges
Earn community service hours by submitting a photo, video, or other content that may be added to CPL’s social media pages! Each submission will be awarded 2 community service hours. March’s challenges include:
Art: Will March come in like a lion and go out like a lamb? Draw your favorite animal.
Writing: Write a story, poem, or essay about luck. It could be good, bad, or a bit of both!
Food: March 10th is National Oreo Cookie Day, so bake or make something awesome with Oreos!
Reading: Pick a book you’ve read and loved, and make a bookmark inspired by it.
More Reading: For Women’s History Month, read a nonfiction book about an accomplished woman you’ve never heard of.
Even More Reading: Think about your favorite book character- and choose a book you think that character would like to read!
If you participate in the challenges, earn community service credit by submitting your creations so we can share them on our social media pages
Book Buzz Teen Book Club: The Radium Girls
All month long
This month we are going to read The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. Register starting March 2 to pick up your copy of the book in the Children’s Room, then join us on our Google Classroom page to share and hear our different points of view about the book! (This book discussion group will be available all month -and beyond- and you can interact with us and post your thoughts any time that’s convenient for you.) For grades 6-12.
Make something at your own pace this week with a Take + Make kit! We have kits for kids in every age group this month, and registration is required to pick up a kit in the Children’s Room each week. We have a limited number of materials and the kits get reserved very quickly, so please register early and limit to one kit per child.
Join a Registered Dietitian from Food Explorers to make ChocolateCheesecake Egg Rolls and Loaded Veggie Tot Nachos! Ingredients are listed on our Event Calender. For kids ages 6-12. Please register for these virtual events and you will receive a link to the Zoom meeting 1 hour prior to the start of the program.
Tuesdays, March 9 – April 6, 2021, 10:00 – 11:00am
A virtual storytime for preschoolers (and their grown-ups!) to learn through talking, singing, reading, writing,and playing! Best for children ages 3-5. Younger and older siblings are welcome. Registration required. This program meets five times: March 9, 16, 23, & 30 and April 6. Register once to attend all five sessions. Registered participants will receive a Zoom link 1 hour before the beginning of each session.
Connecticut in Motion
Tuesday, March 9, 2021, 2:00pm – 3:30pm
This overview of 400 years of transportation developments in Connecticut, from the colonial era through the present day, focuses on the privately owned railroads and trollies of the nineteenth century and the publicly operated interstate and express highways of the twentieth. Please register for this virtual event and you will receive a link to the Zoom meeting 1 hour prior to the start of the program.
College Admissions in the Time of COVID-19
Wednesday, March 10, 2021, 6:45 – 7:45pm
Learn how COVID-19 is changing the college admissions landscape and how it will affect Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors. This program covers how admissions officers are handling the current situation and how students can position themselves to develop a compelling narrative to increase their chances for admission. Please register for this virtual event and you will receive a link to the Zoom meeting 1 hour prior to the start of the program.
Thursdays, March 11 – April 8, 2021, 10:00 – 10:30am
A virtual storytime for toddlers and their caregivers, with interactive songs, stories, and other fun activities. Best for children ages 1-3. Younger and older siblings are welcome. This program meets five times: March 11, 18, 25, and April 1 and 8. Registration required. Register once to attend all sessions. You will receive a Zoom link one hour before the beginning of each program.
Cat Tales Writers Group
Monday, March 15, 2021, 6:00 – 7:30pm
We’re back! Join us virtually for an 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. Join us once, join us every month! Please register for this virtual event and you will receive a link to the Zoom meeting 1 hour prior to the start of the program.
Family Trivia Night
Monday, March 15, 2021, 6:30pm – 7:15pm
Looking for something that you can do as a whole family? Team up for this virtual trivia challenge! Trivia questions will cover a variety of topics and will be appropriate for children of all ages. Each family will need a device (or devices) to participate in Zoom and answer trivia questions. Registration is required–please register once per family participating. You will receive a link via email for the Zoom meeting prior to the event.
Jammin’ with Jeffrey
Wednesday, March 17, 2021, 10:00 – 10:30am
Join Early Childhood Music specialist Michele Urban and her silly puppet friend, Jeffrey, as they make music together! Best for ages 0-5 but all ages welcome. Please register for these virtual events to receive a link to the Zoom meeting 1 hour prior to the start of the program.
Ten Trends in Landscape and Land Care
Wednesday, March 17, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30pm
Presenter Kathy Connolly takes us on a brief visit to the world of landscape professionals. Listen as professional landscapers and garden center owners describe what they see for the future, and what common beliefs and practices they wish would change. Be prepared for some laughs and perhaps a bit of controversy. Please register for this virtual event and you will receive a link to the Zoom meeting 1 hour prior to the start of the program.
What to Grow in My Medicinal Herb Garden?
Wednesday, March 24, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30pm
The right herbal “superstars” can help treat common ailments like colds and flu, inflammation, pain, anxiety, poor digestion, and insomnia. But where should you begin? How do you even start a medicinal herb garden? It’s a question many people ask, and we’ll help take the mystery out of starting a medicinal herb garden. Please register for this virtual event and you will receive a link to the Zoom meeting 1 hour prior to the start of the program.
Clear Lip Gloss with Gemstones (Teen Take & Make tutorial)
Wednesday, March 24, 2021, 6:00pm – 6:45pm
Pick up a Take + Make kit with supplies for the craft any time the library is open during the week of March 15. Then join us on Zoom March 24 to learn how to make your own lip gloss at home with lovely gemstones and no beeswax or petroleum jelly! Please register for this virtual event to receive a link to the Zoom meeting 1 hour prior to the start of the program.
Comics Club: Stargazing
Thursday, March 25, 2021, 4:00 – 4:45pm
This month we’ll make instruments in addition to discussing the book, Stargazing by Jen Wang. Please read the book before attending this virtual event. Copies of the book and craft materials are available at the children’s information desk starting on Feb 22. For kids in grades 3-5. You must register for each child in order to pick up a copy of the book and craft supplies. Registered participants will receive a link to the Zoom meeting 1 hour prior to the event start time.
Books Over Coffee: The Woman Who Stole Vermeer
Wednesday, March 31, 2021, 12:00 – 1:30pm
Want to engage in great discussions about books? Meet new people? Join us for an adult monthly book club program called Books Over Coffee. We will meet over Zoom. This month’s book is The Woman Who Stole Vermeer by Anthony Amore. Please register for this virtual event and you will receive a link to the Zoom meeting 1 hour prior to the start of the program.
You have a show-tune playlist. You have a program or Playbill from every show you’ve seen. You break out into accents in the middle of conversations. You own every season of Glee (and all the High School Musicals – admit it). You are a theater geek – embrace it, celebrate it! Read about it! The theater plays a leading role in these YA books:
1. Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg. Emme, Sophie, Ethan, and Carter are seniors at a performing arts high school in New York City, preparing for the senior recital and feeling the pressure to perform well.
2. Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth. 15-year-old Emma is acting as stage manager for her school’s production of Hamlet when she finds herself transported to the original staging of Hamlet in Shakespearean England.
3. Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Designing sets for her middle school’s play, Callie tries to overcome limited carpentry skills, low ticket sales, squabbling crew members, and the arrival of two cute brothers.
4. Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka. A contemporary romance inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet follows the efforts of a plucky but lovelorn teen theater director who is unexpectedly cast in a leading role at the same time she begins receiving relationship advice from a playwright friend
5. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen by Dyan Sheldon. Mary Elizabeth Cep, (though she calls herself “Lola,”) sets her sights on the lead in the annual drama production, and finds herself in conflict with the most popular girl in school.
6. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan. The tale of a pair of teens who meet by chance on a Chicago street corner and discover that they share a name and intertwining destinies involving an epic production of a high school musical.
7. Like It Never Happened by Emily Adrian. Gaining instant popularity after landing the lead in the school play, Rebecca breaks a pact with her new friends by dating a fellow cast member until backstage drama escalates into a life-changing accusation.
8. Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley. Seventeen-year-old Max, struggling to come to terms with his mother’s death, is cast as the ghost in “Hamlet” and finds strength in his new theater friends.
9. Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills. Claudia agrees to coach actors in her high school’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” leading to new friendships–and maybe even new love.
10. Noteworthy by Riley Redgate. After learning that her deep voice is keeping her from being cast in plays at her exclusive performing arts school, Jordan disguises herself as a boy to gain entry into a competitive, all-male a cappella group that is looking for a singer with her vocal range.
Ancestry Library Edition is the library version of Ancestry.com and is available free to Cheshire Library cardholders. Originally available only inside the library, access was expanded to include home use when the Covid-19 pandemic closed libraries down in the spring of 2020. Ancestry has continued to allow expanded access during these times of social distancing. CPL staffer Lauren took full advantage of Ancestry’s resources to research some old photos she came across:
When my grandmother cleaned out her house, I inherited a collection of old photos, documents, and books. Many items were of unknown origins, collected by a long-dead relative and placed in a series of boxes and bags, which in turn was tucked into a closet until it emerged one Sunday afternoon. I was fascinated. I spent hours going through the pages of the books and turning over the photos to see the names. I grew to recognize them, even if I couldn’t exactly connect them to me. Here in this local history book is a Balliet: the name I carried for most of my life. This photo, a Bloss. Here’s a Schneider, a Kern. But nothing haunted me quite like the handwritten inscription that prefaced a photo album: “Presented to Kate E. Haines by her Affectionate Mother, July 18, 1866.”
There were two such photo albums, small, sturdy, and so elegant they seemed out of place. Inside the albums, the trading card-sized cartes de visite showed women in dark corseted dresses and bearded men in somber coats, all sitting or standing in professional studio settings. Unlike the faces in the black-backed scrapbook, framed in glossy three-by-fives and looking out candidly from lawns and stoops, I found no familiar features in these posed men and women. They were a complete mystery. Who were they? Who was Kate? And how did my family come to possess the remnants of her life?
Lillie, my second-great-grandmother, as a young woman in the 1890s
There are no Haineses in my family. At least, not according to the hefty History of the Counties of Lehigh and Carbon in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It’s one of the books in my collection, published in 1884, and it sits on a shelf with the first and third volumes of the 1914 History of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, and a Genealogical and Biographical Record of Its Families. Inside their pages I traced my sixth-great-grandfather, Paulus Balliet, from his 1717 birth in Alsace-Lorraine, to his 1738 arrival in Philadelphia and his quick rise to small-town gentry in Lehigh County. The Balliet branch of my family is heavy with documents and stories. The Bloss branch isn’t as full, but I know it by its physical pieces. I have photos of my second-great-grandmother, wearing tiny wire-framed glasses and the hint of a smile. Her name was Lillie. We shared birthdays, first initials, imperfect eyesight. She married a Balliet. I have a composition book full of her handwritten recipes. The black-backed scrapbook has photos from her father’s slate quarries, captioned by her son. I put those objects in one archival box, and the Haines albums went into a separate box of photos with unknown subjects.
Another tintype probably from Kate.
Once, I removed the cartes de visite from the Haines albums. I flipped them over one by one, turning up three handwritten notes with unfamiliar, untraceable names. I tried pinpointing the time period by looking at their clothing. I googled “Kate E Haines,” hoping for the same luck I’d had with the Balliets in my family. I even documented which studios took each photo, hoping that the series of names, addresses, designs, index numbers would somehow suddenly open up a revelation. But, like the single mirrored daguerreotype in my collection of photos, Haines was a ghost.
Portrait of an unknown woman, probably from the mid-1800s. This daguerreotype’s reflective qualities distinguish it from the more common ambrotypes and tintypes.
Last spring, as covid kept us in our homes, I needed a project to occupy myself. It was announced that the genealogy database Ancestry.com was expanding access to Ancestry Library Edition. I knew from my past life as a reference librarian that Ancestry Library Edition was a trove of genealogical information that can normally be used only at local libraries. But for the foreseeable future, researchers could access the database from home. I immediately took an early lunch and grabbed my archival boxes and a fresh notebook. For the first time, I had unfettered access to vital records, grave markers, and the research that other genealogists had completed. I began to fill in the bare branches. It didn’t take me long to see how the names connected, how they flowed down to me. And, curiously, how they flowed back from Lillie. A name I recognized from an 1833 birth certificate turned out to be her grandmother, my fourth-great-grandmother. More names appeared that matched the scrawled labels on the backs of photographs. Lillie had been curiously absent from those lineups of Bloss women on front porches. But it started to make sense. Someone had been holding the camera, focusing the lens, calling the relatives to attention. Someone put those photos in the black-backed scrapbook. Someone had held onto the history books. Not a Balliet, as I’d first suspected. A Bloss. Lillie was one of my collectors.
Once I made those connections, it didn’t take me long to move on to Kate E. Haines. Google had turned up nothing a year ago. This time, though, I had the full range of records from Ancestry Library Edition. I typed in “Haines, Kate E.” A few hits, but nothing that looked right. “Haines, Kate E,” and I expanded the search to look for similar names. I got thousands of hits. I gave her a birth date between 1840 and 1855, assuming that the 1866 photo album was a teenage birthday gift, or a marriage gift. I set her location to Pennsylvania. Too many results from Philadelphia, so I refined it to Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
And then I found the death certificate for Mrs. Catherine Balliet, informed by Lillie Balliet.
1880 Census record for Ballietsville Village, North Whitewall Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
Vital records tell a story, if you know how to read them. In a census, the sudden appearance of a household member sixty years younger than the head can indicate a recently widowed daughter or son moving back with their parents, their child in tow. Inconsistent spellings of last names can point to either illiteracy or, in the case of my overwhelmingly German ancestors,* that the bearer moves between two languages. Kate’s death certificate told me that she had no remaining blood relatives.
The other records on Ancestry Library Edition confirmed my suspicion. The census entries and family trees showed her birth in 1849, and her mother’s marriage to a second husband when Kate was six years old. Her father, presumably, had died. I found a child of hers who died in infancy, a husband who died a year later. A later census places her as the wife in the household of my third-great-granduncle, a Balliet man almost forty years her senior. She is younger than the stepchildren she lives with. Before she reaches the age of 45, she will lose her mother, her second husband, her remaining daughter. She spends the rest of her years living with her unmarried, childless sisters until they, too, die. When she herself passes in 1924, it’s not her stepchildren who recount the details of her life. It’s Lillie, her niece by marriage. Lillie was only a girl when Kate was widowed a second time and her ties to the Balliet family, at least on paper, were severed.
Portrait of a young woman, possibly Kate Haines’ daughter, encased in a heart with embroidered flowers. The back reads “Handle with care – Miss Mamie Emery.”
I have no explanation for how Lillie came to know Kate, her aunt-in-law, well enough to recount her information to a medical examiner. But she did. I can imagine Lillie cleaning out Kate’s room after her death. She sees the photo album that contains the cartes de visite from decades of friends and family. She opens it up, recognizing a face here and there. She spots the second album. There’s more photos: tintypes, a daguerreotype, small keepsake hearts. She moves about the room and silently gathers them up until she holds the last traces of Kate Haines in her hands. She takes one final look around, then closes the door on the dark, still room.
Looking at the people who entered her life and left too soon, I think I understand why Kate collected so many photos. It’s why my second-great-grandmother Lillie took her albums and placed them alongside her family’s history books. She was keeping house.
The Bloss Family in the early 1900s. Lillie is at the top left.
These women that I’ve come to know through their objects and my research – women who were teachers and gifted students and descendants of prominent locals – when they married, the totality of their lives was diminished over and over again to a single line on the census: “keeping house.” And they kept house in the fullest sense of the word. Not only did they physically maintain the members of their families, their children and husbands and mothers, but they also maintained the intangible threads that held them together. They remembered the names, the stories, the histories. They kept the photos and the history books. They kept their fathers’ geography textbooks and their aunts’ albums and their grandmothers’ tiny crochet hooks and the commencement programs that listed their mothers-in-law as school valedictorians.
And I see it happening today. In my family and in so many others, the women are arranging baby showers and funerals, grocery shopping for barbecues and get-togethers, reminding everyone about upcoming birthdays and anniversaries, writing messages in cards, buying pages for scrapbooks and frames for photos, and placing their children’s school projects in a box in their closet. When the day is done, some of them are sitting down in front of computer screens and typing names of their relatives and their husbands’ relatives into genealogical databases. We all know our family histories because of the women who are keeping house. And many of us will do the same, holding our histories and passing them on to our own granddaughters and grandsons, and hoping they, in turn, will continue to keep their house.
I intend to do my part.
* When I tell non-Pennsylvanians that I’m Pennsylvania Dutch, I often get strange looks, as if they’re wondering about my Amish rumspringa. But Pennsylvania Dutch, or Pennsylvania German, refers to all German-speaking Protestants who came to Pennsylvania from the Rhineland in the 17th and 18th century. They assimilated and became farmers and wives and business owners and statesmen, and their descendants continued to speak their German dialect for hundreds of years. Insular communities like the Amish and Mennonites still speak it today, but the vast majority of PA Dutch descendants today have little to no knowledge of the dialect. My grandfather spoke it, but my grandmother knows only English, though she speaks with a strong accent. My only linguistic trace of the region is my fondness for the word “rutsch,” a verb used to describe the barely-contained energy of small children who have been sitting in one place for too long. I have yet to find a satisfying equivalent in standard English.