Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas in Curaçao

Eliza Priest, circulation assistant, is from Curaçao and did a fantastic job of giving us an insight into her world. The theme was Christmas in Curaçao and she made a brightly colored chicken and potato salad with mashed beets. Talk about pink salad. Curaçao is primarily a tourist economy with some agriculture. Cruise ships are a regular event in this island country off of Venezuela. It is primarily Roman Catholic because of the Spanish roots, but it is a Dutch island. Eliza made a spicy rice dish with tomato gravy sauce. She made little pastries of ground beef in a dough to be fried and a peanut butter cookie shaped like an “S” for Santa. The freshly fried plantains were a crowd favorite. There were smiles on everyone’s faces by the end of the hour. One of us even looked up the meaning of the yellow stripe on the Curaçao flag. It stands for the sun!

And later that day, her seventh grandchild was born, a young man named Liam! Congratulations, Eliza.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Giving Green

Reference Librarians Tracy Williams and Dorrie Scott showed us how to create upcycled gifts using household items. You won't be able to look at a glass bottle or a roll of duct tape without seeing the potential for a beautiful homemade item!

Here are some of the ideas they demonstrated and recommended:

Tracy made this by cutting wine corks in half and gluing them onto a wooden letter. You can dip the halves in red wine to give them all the same color scheme.
Dorrie made this by drilling a hole 3/4 of the way into a cork, filling with a tiny bit of soil, and then adding a small, live plant. She glued a magnet on the back, and adds a drop of water once a week.

Tracy created this jewelry holder with some sticks from her backyard, twine to tie the sticks together, and copper wire to hang the earrings. Be sure to sand the sticks to smooth them down.
Tracy made this by printing out a page of piano sheet music, painting it with tea to give it a yellowed look, and then using mod podge to glue it to a canvas. She printed and cut out the “W”, glued it to the canvas, and then painted over it when it dried.

  • Dorrie recommended turning glass bottles or mason jars into beautiful decorations or organizers with paint or by wrapping them with rope. Make sure to run a strip of rope along the bottle first to give the rope coils something to grip onto.
  • Ever got those advertisement magnets in the mail? Cover them in scrapbook paper to jazz them up, or tape two to a strip of patterned duct tape to make a magnetic bookmark.
  • Paint natural wooden frames to freshen up the color. You can give them a distressed look by removing the glass and hitting them with a hammer before painting.
  • Dorrie swears by chalkboard paint for any objects--flower pots, bottles, cans, mirrors...
  • You can also mod podge a bunch of photos onto a canvas to create your own inexpensive photo collage.
  • Create flowered pens by wrapping them in patterned duct tape.
Some of our audience members had some wonderfully crafty ideas, too!
  • Create bracelets out of ribbon or tape spools, just wrap them in some pretty paper or fabric.
  • Cover bottles in flat glass stones and put a small string of battery powered lights inside to make a beautiful light.
For more great ideas, check out the library's Pinterest page:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Show and Tell

Today at LIFE we did something different. We asked our LIFErs to come prepared to share a passion, craft, idea or just something interesting with the group. We couldn't believe how many diverse interests we had. Annie shared a Dead Sea Foam carved pipe which was white and beautiful. Ken remembered a former program and shared one aspect of this: TRUTH. It’s a way to think before you speak: T- Is it true? R – is it relevant? U – Is it useful? T- Is it timely? H – Is it hurtful? He had a funny way of saying that he needs to think about what he says more than most J Diana shared her passion for crocheting and learning what other passions she might have. Stephen knows a lot about a lot and can do lots, like craft giant aluminum sculptures such as a dragon and a Viking ship which he did as gifts to his daughter and son respectively. Pauline gave us Sudoku lessons. Arvis gave us glimpse into her family’s genealogy with a marriage certificate from the 1800s. Jennifer and Carolyn didn’t come with a plan, but Jennifer enlightened us on the benefits of foster care of which she is a success story. And Carolyn will cook us up a German cookie at the Dec. 6 program on green crafts. We loved welcoming Leyel Hudson and her ASL students who practice on us. We even got a short ASL lesson. Jennifer stopped by the Ref Desk to tell me that her son decided to take ASL as a result of her telling about this class. Serendipity! Usha gave a wonderful live demo of how to make a spicy, layered dip called Chaat (literaly to lick) and Jill gave us tasty sweets from Vietnam. Claire raffled off her cook book and her book, LIFE in the Library.

Many thanks to our creative and talented LIFErs!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

JazzRoots or Kickin' Up Classics?

LIFE had a true treat today when Dr. John Wolfskill came to give us a preview of two upcoming shows, Jazz Roots tonight and Kickin’ Up the Classics on Thursday Nov. 21, both at 7:30. John started us out singing a form of doo wop with his jazzy lead. John read the lyrics of the song The Impossible Dream which evoked for him a quest. He is concerned about the state of the country and how our students may be lost. But, after this serious interlude, he introduced Professor Alan Johnson who not only teaches for the college, but also is a professional violinist. His violin is a beauty made around 1720 by the Klotz family in the Tyrolean Alps of Austria. He has had it for 41 years! His students made up our string quartet:

Olivia Alexandre on cello
Cameron Dempster on violin
Jessica Vance on viola
Annie Blackwell on violin

We heard selections from Handel’s Water Music which was created as music for the barge. The Largo was played as well. We learned a little about Antonio Vivaldi who originally entered the priesthood, but was drawn to teaching. He taught school girls of the upper class but who had questionable legitimacy. This fabulous quartet along with their director also played Spring concerto from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. And what quartet would not be complete without Mozart? Apparently Mozart had an IQ of about 178 and was not only prolific, but also extremely innovative. We enjoyed the Quarto in G major (first movement). Such talent we have at Lone Star College – CyFair.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Philosophy Study Abroad

Professor Mark Thorsby regaled our LIFErs today with stories from his study abroad class with Professor Maria Sanders to the United Kingdom. This was a philosophy and logic class which challenged their students to examine their lives and find out what makes them tick. Mark highly recommends Aristotle’s Ethics. We took a virtual tour via Google Street View to Oxford University in England and stood on the steps of the Bodleian Library questioning why we want an education. It is not only to improve our lifestyle, but also to further knowledge. Mark spoke about the Dark Ages when our society collapsed and records were not kept. It was the monks who founded Oxford University and to this day the students and faculty wear robes during exam time to commemorate the renaissance of knowledge and history. Christ Church School’s cathedral was the model for the Harry Potter dining room in Hogwarts School. The pubs of Oxford are places where community meet to discuss life, not just drink beer.

On we went to Edinburgh, Scotland and saw the beauty of a city not destroyed by bombs of the world wars. The architecture is rich and varied and David Hume, the famous philosopher, gave much of his wealth to create a beautiful public park. Lewis Carroll also wrote in Edinburgh and used the daughter of the dean of Christ Church, Oxford as a role model for Alice in Wonderland. His tailor had a funny hat and he turned out to be the Mad Hatter. Not to mention a big fat cat.

On to Belfast they went to question war and how the seeds of war and strife were sown over 500 years ago. The students were exposed to this culture of the United Kingdom and came home with an expanded life view full of depth and nuances.

We were especially struck by the study abroad program's wilderness training. It took the students' complicated lives, stripped them of paraphernalia, and allowed them to appreciate the simplicity of an unencumbered life: what matters is the character on the inside, not the window dressing of material goods.

Mark says that LIFE should take a trip abroad!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Time Travel to the Bayou City, 1913

Reliving the Early 20th Century of Houston! An appreciative crowd of 41 adults experienced the burgeoning Bayou City of the 1910 and beyond during today's LIFE Workshop with guest speaker, Mike Vance! Issues such as mass transit, clean water, education, and city infrastructure were as popular then as they are today! More on Houston Arts and Media, Vance's non-profit history organization at Pictured with Vance are Sharon Samson and Roxanne Beck. Thanks to all who attended this informative presentation.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Healthful Hummus Snacks

Librarian Valerie Davis let us enter into her world of the new four food groups: fruit, vegetables, grains and beans. Valerie's family has thrived for years on their vegegarianism which includes eggs and dairy. We saw two of Valerie's six children, Luke and Eric, who are fine examples of young vegetarians.

We got to taste and see how to make four delicious examples of hummus which include traditional chick pea dip, but also some interesting variations on a theme such as black beans, white beans, and spicy jalapenos. Lovely vegetables and yummy pita chips rounded out the tasting experience. Valerie even showed us how to peel a fine tuber called jicama which was crunchy and flavorful. The Vitamix blender is super high powered, but a regular blender would do the trick if you want to try this at home. Tips: roll your lemons and limes before juicing to get the most juice, crush your garlic before peeling, and cut up those broccoli stems for great soup fillers or elegant crudités.

Hummus Recipes

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Skeletons in My Closet

Forensic sculptor, Amanda Danning, gave a tour de force presentation today at LIFE. Amanda does facial reconstruction geared toward archeology, not criminology. Her sense of history, artistic ability, and love of science make for a unique career and specialty. Her passion, talent, knowledge, and creativity are evident in this thoughtful, fascinating, and unusual presentation. Amanda has the ability of a trained professor to engage the audience, asking questions, probing for thoughtful answers, and involving the audience in live demonstrations of skull damage with Bowie knives and such. Reconstructing faces from skulls seems like an impossible task, but Amanda explained it so well that even the lay mind can get an inkling of her techniques. One super interesting dig involved the skeleton of a human male and a young female which dated back ten thousand years. This was a ritual burial with symbols, riches, forethought, and time – not something you think of in Paleolithic man. And these were not the race of our “native Americans.” This skeleton named Sam was facially reconstructed by Amanda and truly changes mankind’s view of history. 

Want to learn more? Here are some books Amanda recommends:
Written in Bone by Douglas Owsley and Karin Bruwelheide
No Bone Unturned by Jeff Benedict
Faces From the Past by James Deem
The Kennewick Papers by Douglas Owsley (coming soon perhaps early 2014)

And visit Amanda Danning’s website:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Are You Out There?

Dr. Daniel Kainer, Director of the Biotechnology Institute of LSC-Montgomery opened our minds to the possibility of life outside our planet and the ways in which great thinkers have approached that topic. Are we alone in the universe? This question has been asked throughout history and Daniel led us through the timeline of the human concept of the universe. We've gone from the geocentric theory where it was believed that Earth was the center of the universe, to the heliocentric theory, which placed our sun at the center, to everything we are currently learning about how our tiny planet fits into the universe. Astrobiology is a multi-disciplinary approach that asks questions about the existence of life in the universe. The Fermi paradox questions the existence of other life by asking, if there is intelligent life in the universe, why haven't we had any contact with it (that we know of)? Of course, this is a very simplified description of the contradiction. Daniel also introduced us to the Drake Equation as a way of estimating the number of planets upon which intelligent life could actually exist, and of those, how many develop a way to communicate with other life. Thank you to Daniel for expanding our horizons in the most astronomical way!

You can find the video that Daniel mentioned, Cosmography of the Local Universe, here.

Our group had an interesting discussion about signs of extraterrestrial life at the beginning of the program, and Mick showed us a web site he had come across that details UFO sightings. If you'd like to check it out, it's at under Non-military records: Project Blue Book - UFO Investigations.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Vernon Henry got everyone moving as he introduced us to Flexercise, a routine that combines stretches and cardiovascular exercises to strength and tone.  Vernon is an adjunct professor here at LSC-CyFair who teaches kinesiology. This morning he led us through a series of stretches to increase flexibility and improve balance, ending the session with a series of breathing techniques to slow the heart rate and focus the mind. Our group ended the session feeling refreshed and energized, though I'm sure our sore muscles tomorrow will remind us of how hard we worked!

Vernon will be leading his last weekly Flexercise class next Tuesday, October 8, at 5:30 p.m. in the Conference Center.

For more information about Flexercise or to order DVDs or books:

Monday, September 30, 2013

Islamic Calligraphy

 Fahim Somani, a self-taught calligrapher and artist, shared information about Islamic Calligraphy, a beautiful form of script used in manuscripts, paintings, ceramics, architecture, and other decorative arts. Fahim introduced attendees to the six primary script styles with a bit of history and examples of use for each style. He often uses a reed pen that he either purchases or makes himself, although for larger works of art he often has to create his own tools in order to properly make the unique strokes required for calligraphy. Fahim shared many examples of his beautiful art making use of calligraphic elements, color, textures and layers.

You can find more information about Fahim and his art on his website and social media outlets:

Instagram: Fahim Somani

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Exploring Tejano Heritage

We were joined this week by Martha Sanchez Haydel to discuss the many contributions made by people of Spanish heritage to Texas and its history. Among many other organizations, Martha is a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and can trace her heritage back to a group of settlers from the Canary Islands who established the first civil government in Texas, in San Antonio. Martha walked us through the many explorers who "discovered" regions of North and Latin America and how they influenced the settling of the nation and of Texas in particular. In her genealogical research, Martha also discovered that two of her direct ancestors, a mother and her infant son, were survivors of the Battle of the Alamo. Thanks to Martha for an enlightening look at how Tejanos helped to form our great state!

By the way, did you know that the Canary Islands weren't named for canaries but for canines, as there were a large number of dogs on the islands?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Old Grant Wilson Had a Farm

Grant Wilson of Gramen Farms near Tomball gave a lively and frank presentation on how to eat locally with foods that are real and what our ancestors ate before there were chemicals and compounds. He explained that the body recognizes two things: food and poison. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t have advanced chemical degrees and so if it ingests a chemically altered substance, it won’t recognize it as either food or poison so it stores it as fat. Grant further explained the benefits of probiotics in milk and the healthfulness of grass-fed animal meat (if cows and chickens eat processed feed, their meat is compromised in its health benefits). There are no pesticides, chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics on Gramen Farm. Grant and his wife and two children live on the farm and it has grown from a customer base of about 200 to about 2000 in about three years.

Beware the microwave! It alters the chemical structure of food (and water) so your body doesn’t use the food to your advantage. We all tasted some real raw milk and kefir. Thanks to Grant and Gramen Farms for this interesting and edifying presentation. Next time we want all his war stories as a lobbyist back east!

Contact Information for Gramen Farms:

20158 Bauer Hockley Road
Tomball, Texas 77377
Telephone. (832) 287-0140

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Macedonian Cuisine

Macedonian native, polyglot, and library Reference Assistant Zana Kadriu introduced us to the Macedonian culture through its varied cuisine. Zana provided some background on her country and showed a video to give us an idea of what daily life is like in Macedonia. Macedonia became a republic in 1991 but its history and traditions go back to early civilizations. It is a unique blend of the historic and the modern, and reflects the influence of many countries, cultures and religions. This is demonstrated in Macedonian food, which combines a wide range of flavors to create unique and delicious dishes. Zana prepared a feast for us that included Sarma, Earth Pot, Mantia, Greek Salad, Baklava, and Rice Pudding. Thanks to one of our favorite presenters for this wonderful introduction to Macedonia through its cuisine!

The recipes for today's dishes are posted here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Are Happy People Just Naive?

Our very own Claire Gunnels spoke to a packed house about practical ways to zap our pessimism gene and increase happiness. Skeptical? For many of us, our concept of happiness is backwards--we don't achieve happiness by working hard and being successful, rather, if we are happy, we will work hard and increase our chances of success. Studies show us that happy people are better able to learn, create and see opportunities than those who perceive things negatively. Claire was inspired by The Happiness Advantage, a book by Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor, who has spent his career studying the habits of happy individuals. As his research shows us, even if genetics predisposes you to pessimism, you can take steps to reprogram your brain to think more positively. Here are the proven techniques that Claire shared with us:
  1. 3 Gratitudes- Write down or tell someone about three specific things that occurred in the past 24 hours for which you are grateful.
  2. Journaling about Positive Experiences- Take two minutes to write down the details of a positive experience you had in the last 24 hours.
  3. Fitness Fun 15- Even just 15 minutes of exercise daily can release endorphins and improve your mood.
  4. Meditation- In the middle of a hectic day or stressful situation, take a few moments to focus on your breathing and slow it down. Asking your brain to focus only on a single, simple task helps it to regain focus and work more efficiently.
  5. Conscious Acts of Kindness- Every day for 21 days, take a moment to email a friend or acquaintance to praise or thank them.
If you begin to do one of the above techniques daily for 21 days you can create a habit and rewire your brain to look for the positive. A lot of these things may seem like common sense, but how many of us consciously put these techniques into practice? Thanks to Claire for the great insight into the science of positive thinking!

Check out Shawn Achor's TED talk:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What Do You Really Know about Medicare?


Toni King brought  in the crowds today at LIFE with an information-packed program as she explained that what you don’t know about Medicare will hurt you. Toni’s knowledge, passion and good humor were apparent as she tackled a difficult topic with aplomb. We just had an hour, so many of the attendees will opt to go to a more in-depth free program on Wednesday, August 28--see details below. As door prizes we gave away two copies of her book, The Medicare Survival Guide. And stay tuned, the Academy for Lifelong Learning at LSC-CyFair has invited her back. 

Toni is holding a free workshop next Wednesday at The Abbey:
Wednesday, August 28, 5:30-7:30 pm
The Abbey at Westminster Plaza
2865 Westminster Plaza Dr.
Houston, TX 77082
RSVP at 832-800-4674

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dirty Tricks, Mudslinging, and October Surprises

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress Prints & Photographs
Professor Alex Smith joined us today to share all the details from some of the dirtiest presidential election campaigns in U.S. history. First off was the election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, a pair who started out as best friends but whose friendship was spoiled by their campaigns in 1796 and the results. Until 1804, the candidate with the highest number of votes would be President, and the candidate with the second highest number of votes would become Vice President. So runner-up Thomas Jefferson had to serve as Vice President to his opposition John Adams for four years. People from both parties made outrageous claims about the opposition for the rematch in 1800--the Federalists even went so far as to claim that Thomas Jefferson had died, so a vote for him would be waste. Despite it all, Jefferson won the Presidency.

A few other interesting items:

  • In 1828, supporters of of John Quincy Adams tried to discredit Andrew Jackson by claiming he was illiterate (he did once spell Europe "Urope"). But Jackson, who is famous for saying "It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word," managed to win the election anyway. 
  • The 1876 race between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes was so close that neither party would concede. An electoral commission had to be formed and big surprise, the group of 15 men, 8 Republicans and 7 Democrats, determined Republican Rutherford B. Hayes to be the winner.
  • In the election between Grover Cleveland and James G. Blaine in 1884, despite the news of Cleveland's supposed illegitimate child, James G. Blaine lost the election due to the unfortunate events of a single day in October. He had failed to denounce the words of a preacher that spoke before him, so it was published that Republicans thought of Democrats only as "rum, Romanism, and rebellion."
  • In the 1908 race between William Jennings Bryan and William Howard Taft, Taft spent most of his time playing golf while the current President, Teddy Roosevelt, campaigned for him.

If you'd like to read up on Presidential elections, check out the library's books on the subject. Thanks so much to Alex Smith for a fascinating and colorful look at past campaigns.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Seriously Sushi

Today at LIFE we had a real treat. A genuine sushi chef, BK,  from Simply Wonderful Sushi (our Kroger store sushi at Barker Cypress and 529 among others) came and did a dynamite sushi demonstration. Natasha was his sous chef and she gave us a brief history of sushi with some etiquette tips. Don’t point your chop sticks and don’t place them in your rice perpendicularly (this is Japanese symbol for death). When eating nigiri (a ball of rice topped by fish), dip it fish side down in the soy sauce or the rice will all break apart. Place the fish side down on your tongue so it is the first thing you taste. BK made California rolls (crab, avocado and cucumber strips) and a dragon roll (green avocado on the outside). Then he took some pre-made California rolls and dressed them up to create totally new creations. Everyone got to taste these wonderful little bites from the sea and from the mountain. Did you know sushi means rice in Japanese? We asked Natasha why sushi tends to be such big bites. She agreed that if you slice them thinner, they are easier to eat. Ask your sushi chef to slice each roll into ten or twelve pieces for easier to eat sushi. Sashimi is just the fish without the rice. BK showed himself to be quite the artist as the sushi was both a feast for the eye and for the palate.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Butterflies or Flutter-bies

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly
Photo courtesy of Megan McCarty,
Butterfly enthusiast Farrar Stockton joined us today to share some fascinating details about many of the butterflies and moths that frequent our area. Here are some fun facts we learned from today's program:
  • Caterpillars usually have some kind of camouflage design on them to keep them safe from predators; for example, the Swallowtail Caterpillar looks like a bird dropping.
  • Butterflies have slender bodies, brilliant colors, fly during the day, and normally rest with their wings folded up.
  • Moths have large furry bodies, furry antennae, fly at night, and normally rest with their wings open flat.
  • The Luna Moth lays up to 150 eggs, but many times only one will survive.
  • The color on a butterfly's wing is made up of tiny scales.
  • When butterflies and moths first emerge from the chrysalis or cocoon, they have large bodies or small wings. Veins pump fluid out of the body into the wings to make them larger.
  • 5% of caterpillars are poisonous.
  • Monarch butterflies migrate from Canada to forests in the mountains of Mexico.
Also, the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is a great place to check out tropical butterflies--one of the best in the country!

Thanks to Farrar, and also to Raymond Wells for bringing in a collection of butterflies and moths and giving us a chance to see some of these amazing creatures up close!

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
Photo courtesy of Michael Hodge,
Luna Moth
Photo courtesy of Geoff Gallice,
For more information, check out the Butterfly Enthusiasts of Southeast Texas: or the North American Butterfly Association:  The library also has some great field guides on butterflies and moths.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Henna's History

The library's very own Usha Dontharaju detailed the history of Henna or Mehandi tattoos and demonstrated this beautiful art on our audience members today. The practice of creating temporary tattoos using dye prepared from the henna plant is believed to have originated in Egypt over 5000 years ago, when it was painted on pharaohs after death so they could be easily identified in the afterlife. Henna has been popular in many cultures since, both for its cooling properties and as body art. Did you know that a paste made from henna powder can also be used to condition and dye hair? Henna is also a very important part of weddings in India--usually a whole day is dedicated to the application of henna to the bride and other ladies in the wedding.

To create a paste for body art, crushed henna powder is mixed with water and a small amount of vegetable oil and then put into a cone (or even a plastic bag with the corner cut off) for application. You can create any number of designs on hands, feet or ankles. The dye dries for 2-4 hours, and once it has come off, you have a beautiful work of art in a reddish-brown color that should stay on the skin for about two weeks. Check out some of the beautiful designs below. Thanks to our wonderful artists, Usha, Krissy, and Linda!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Birding Our Area

Birdwatcher Jeff Mohamed joined us today to describe some of the birds that can be found in our own backyard. Texas has a lot of birds - 680 species, with the United States having about 985. Our Lone Star-CyFair campus alone has spotted 169 species. People come from all over the world to Texas just to see the birds. It's a big industry here in Texas. And we have so many habitats: prairie, piney woods, marshes, beaches, and urban spaces for our feathered friends. We also are so close to Mexico and on migration paths "fly ways" of birds up from South America and down from Canada and Alaska.

Jeff explained that we have some birds we see year round and others are migrants who come and go. He showed us a slide show of local birds that he actually saw and photographed. His favorite haunts to spot birds here in Harris County are as follows: Kleb Woods Park, Katie Prairie, Paul Rushing Chain-of-Lakes Park, Warren Ranch Lake, Bear Creek Park, the Brazos Bend State Park (alligators, too), the Baytown Nature Center, Carpenter's Bayou, Sheldon Lake Environmental Center, Rookery at Smith Oaks and the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. The college pylons and buildings are also homes to many local birds.

Did you know the bald eagle is so lazy that he steals his fish if he can? Benjamin Franklin didn't like this character trait and preferred the industrious wild turkey for our national bird. But the mighty bald eagle won out.

Check out Jeff's wonderful birding blog:  
And learn more information about birds in our area at the Audubon Society:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Vintage Quilts of the Second World War

Quilter extraordinaire Patricia Plunk joined us today, along with her sisters Anne and Glenda, to share some family quilts and her experience in restoring these incredible heirlooms.

Patricia, Glenda, and Anne shared several beautiful quilts as well as the stories behind them, and even showed us a work in progress where pieces are being salvaged from a deteriorating quilt and will be used to make a new one. Thanks to our presenters and audience for some lovely and funny stories about quilt experiences, and for sharing with us how meaningful and precious these works of art can be.

The first quilt that Patricia shared is one that their grandmother had made during World War II. Patricia spent over a year repairing the pieces and attaching a back, which she hand-quilted in order to maintain the integrity of the vintage quilt.

Anne shared with us how she took her father's military uniform and created three teddy bears out of the material for each of his daughters. With the pieces remaining, she created three quilt squares, each with pieces of the hat, tie, pockets and patches as reminders of their father's service during the war.

Patricia also showed us the top of a quilt that their mother had pieced together before her marriage in 1940. The pieces were made from fabric from her own dresses and those of her mother's, and Patricia's next project will be to finish this quilt and add a back to it.

If you're interested in joining a guild, West Houston Quilter's Guild meets the third Wednesday of the month from 6:30-9:00 pm at Bear Creek Community Center. Learn more at

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Red, White, and Blue Eating

LIFE celebrated Independence Day with some patriotic foods in colors of red, white, and blue. Tracy Williams made a divine lemon sorbet in her Cuisinart ice cream maker. The sorbet was garnished with blueberries and strawberries. Dorrie Scott created two delicious drinks. One drink was a layered one with cranberry juice on the bottom, coconut juice in the middle and blue (blueberry pomegranate) gatorade on the top. She said you can vary the colors for different occasions such as Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day. You also have to have dramatically different sugar counts especially with the first and second layer. Then she created a drink with red, white, and blue fruit topped with Sprite. Lindsey Bartlett created a fruit pizza! Sugar cookie dough is sliced and placed on a pizza pan to form the crust. It is baked at 375 for about 14 minutes so it’s golden brown. Then a mixture of cream cheese and sugar to taste is spread on the completely cooled crust. Then you can decorate with colorful fruit. Lindsey used strawberries, peaches, blueberries and kiwi.  It looked as good as it tasted.  All in all it was a super fun and delicious celebration.  Happy Independence Day!

You can find the recipes for today's food here: Fab Food for the 4th 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dance Salad Festival

Performance of In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated

Jackie Alfred from Dance Salad gave an informative look at the 2012 eclectic dance extravaganza from around the world. We saw amazing performances from Brazil, Rome, London, and Germany. Jackie narrated the dance numbers showing the audience some nuances of these fine performances. One Russian trained duo performed a duet called In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, which is considered transformative in the dance world. Who knew the human body could move in such ways! Beautiful dancers all, we enjoyed the variety, pacing, and superb quality all chosen by Director Nancy Henderek.

The Dance Salad Festival is put on by the Houston International Dance Coalition. For more details, check here:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Relive Your Past Life

We were joined today by the fascinating Stephen Ruback, who introduced us to past life regression as a way of making a conscious connection with one's inner self. The process of connecting with past lives can help to promote personal awareness and healing. After providing some background on spiritual reality and Piscean and Aquarian energies, Stephen led the group through a meditative session to help connect with a past life and gain more understanding of our inner selves. Thank you for an enlightening program!
To learn more about Stephen and past life regression, check out his website:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sizzling Summer Reads

The engaging Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop kick-started our summer by sharing some of her favorite recently-published books. Valerie has a way of whetting one's appetite with her book talks, and I know we've all added to our "to read" lists today. Here are the titles she shared with us:

  • The Mapmaker's War by Ronlyn Domingue: A fantasy tale of a mapmaker journeying into uncharted lands.
  • The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro: A mystery about an art forger hired to make a forgery of a stolen painting.
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: The tale of a girl born in England in 1910 where each chapter is a portion of her life presented if something had happened differently.
  • Life After Life by Jill McCorkle: A very different book by the same name, this one a story about a quirky cast of characters at a retirement home.
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman: Valerie's favorite from last year, this is a story of a young couple who discover a baby near their lighthouse.
  • Me Before You by JoJo Moyes: The story of a woman from a small village in England hired to be a companion to a wealthy couple's quadrapalegic son.
  • Guns At Last Light by Rick Atkinson: A well-written and detailed non-fiction account of World War II.
  • The Lost Husband by Katherine Center: A fun Texas romance from a local author.
  • The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black: A mystery set in Galveston.
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: An immigrant story from Afghanistan to the United States.
  • Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman: A thriller about a retired female FBI agent.
  • Unflinching Courage by Kay Bailey Hutchinson: A series of true stories about the women who shaped Texas.
  • Suitors by Cecile David-Weille: A light, funny story of two wealthy sisters trying to find husbands.
  • Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra: The story of three different Chechnyan families affected by war.
  • Son by Phillip Meyer: An epic tale of one Texas family--a must-read for fans of Lonesome Dove.
  • The Ability by M.A. Vaughan: A fun read for children and teens about a band of kids who save the world, of course.
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: A young adult novel told from the point of view of a captured British spy. (This also happens to be your blogger's favorite book of the year!)
  • A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash: Another favorite of Valerie's, this novel is told by three characters in a small evangelical church in the North Carolina hills.
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed: The true account of a woman's journey hiking the Pacific Coast Trail.
  • Quiet by Susan Cain: A fascinating look at introverts and how they've been approached by parents and educators.

For more information about Blue Willow Bookshop or to contact Valerie for reading recommendations, check out their website:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Where to Go in Vietnam

This week we were joined by our very own, Rosemarie Visconti, Children's Librarian, and Jill Vu, Reference Assistant, who took us on a tour of Vietnam with beautiful pictures, fascinating stories, and delicious treats. Rosemarie recounted her recent trip to Vietnam, with stops in Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and Hanoi, where she painted the picture of a beautiful country filled with welcoming people, bustling cities, serene countrysides, and vivid colors. Photos of palaces, pagodas, state buildings and markets gave us a feel for the architecture and allowed us to see the Chinese and French influences throughout the country. Jill made our experience even richer with samples of food and coffee from Vietnam. Thank you to our wonderful tour guides!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Military Records for Genealogy

Looking for new ways to research the histories of your family members and ancestors? Library Director Mick Stafford showed us the wealth of genealogical information available through U.S. military records. If you have a family member who served in the military, you can request their service records from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA has over 55 million military records, some of which date back to the Spanish-American War. The documents available include separation records, which contain information on rank, discharge, military occupation specialty, and medals, and pension applications which can even include letters and pictures. Mick also demonstrated several other online resources for locating military records including Fold3, Heritage Quest, and Ancestry. Find links and access information below.

Also, many thanks to LIFE attendee and author, Gordon Rottman, who shared some of his expertise in searching military records!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Apps with Abraham

We were joined by CyFair's very own Reference Librarian, Abraham Korah, to show us some of the best apps for iPhones, iPads and Android devices. With so many out there to choose from, Abraham narrowed them down to the most functional apps to make life easier and more exciting. The apps introduced today are listed below. All are free, though some also have paid upgraded versions.

  • Paper
  • Google Translate
  • Tripomatic
  • AirBnB
  • Hotel Tonight
  • Field Trip
  • Dinner Spinner
  • Your Kitchen Inspiration
  • HealthTap
  • Touch Surgery
  • Duolingo
  • NASA App
  • MyFitnessPal
  • Flesky
  • Google Now
  • Chrome

See the list with a description and which devices they are available for here:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Feng Shui for Wealth

Our programs are following a "healthy, wealthy and wise" trend lately. Katherine Ashby of Feng Shui Houston joined us for the wealthy segment to demonstrate how we can encourage abundance in all areas of our life with principles of Feng Shui. Today's discussion was based in the ideas of Western Feng Shui, which doesn't rely on a compass, but rather on the layout and location of the front door of a building. Katherine showed us how to apply the Three Door Ba-Gua to our home by lining up the front of the grid with the same wall that contains the front door. Once you've located it, you can activate it and improve your luck in the wealth area by adding purple paint or other elements, as well as symbols of abundance, such as plants, water,or coins. It's also important to eliminate clutter in order to allow chi, or life force energy to flow freely throughout your home.

To learn more about Feng Shui, visit Katherine's website: and check out some of the books that the library has on the subject.