Friday, November 28, 2008

Sand Candles. When only an irregularly shaped lump of a gift will do.

This must be easy because I actually made one. OK it was in high school under adult supervision, but still. The basics: put sand into a box that you may want to line with plastic to prevent dripping. Because the sand has to be wet. Did I mention that? Then take your hand and make a hollow in the sand, whatever shape you want but leave enough sand at the base of the hollow to hold the shape. Melt wax – once again I refer you elsewhere for this. Pour the wax into the hole in the sand and let it cool. One method for inserting a wick is to wrap it around a dowel long enough to span your box, suspending some of the wick in the hot wax. But be careful! A hazmat suit may be in order. When you take the candle out of the sand, brush off any loose sand. Some sand will be melted into the candle, but that’s the decorative part! Another once-popular craft brought to you by yours truly. And more authoritatively by our actual craft books:

Candlemaking for the first time / Vanessa-Ann

Candle making / Cheryl Owen.

Graphic: Making Sand Candles

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

And a big thank you to Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor who badgered those in authority until Abraham Lincoln declared a Thanksgiving Day in 1863. Her letter-writing campaign spanned 40 years and we commend her persistence. All six libraries of the Des Moines Public Library are closed today for the Thanksgiving holiday. Have a lovely day, and we'll see you tomorrow!

Source: Mother of all Thanksgivings New Hampshire Business Review, 11/10/2006, Vol. 28 Issue 24, p3-3, 1/4p;

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kitschy Crafts - Frothy, but not the Snowman

So here's something my Dad used to do when I was little. He would take wax and melt it over the stove - I'm not sure how, I wasn't allowed near any of this process - then he would use an electric mixer to whip the wax. Next came the waxed-cardboard milk carton. He'd pour or spoon the frothy wax into the milk carton and let it cool. Then he'd just tear the milk carton off the cooled wax and voila! A candle was born. I'm not even sure we lit it but it was really cool. Actually I wanted to eat it, but that's another story. In this new-fangled age, frothy wax is being applied to existing candles. This appears to be called 'caking'. Very pretty as you can see from the example at right. Since I have no idea how to do this and I wouldn't want any one to get hurt with hot wax, I will refer interested parties to the experts for actual instructions.

Web Site: Let's Make Candles

Candle making in a weekend : inspirational ideas and practical projects

Creating candles / Luisa Sacchi

Graphic source: The Melting Pot

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kitschy Crafts - Nature's Sleigh?

There were years in my childhood when, in November, my mother would make one of her very few craft projects. In my house we did not sew, crochet, knit, do needlework, quilt, or weave. Mostly we read. It's OK, I don't feel deprived. But get this. Mom would take the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving and boil the heck out of the breast bones. These she would spray gold then place a little Santa figure in the cavity. She may have rigged up something for reindeer and reins, that part has slipped my mind. But the sleigh I remember fondly(!) as one of the harbingers of the holiday season. Even though it still looked like a turkey carcass. Can you believe I couldn't find a picture of one to illustrate this post? I can. Believe it, that is. Here are some fun books that might give you a little flavor of the times:

Retro style : the '50's look for today's home
Kitschy crafts : a celebration of overlooked 20th century crafts
I like you : hospitality under the influence / by Amy Sedaris.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kitschy Crafts Week - know when to fold

First of all, do you have any idea how hard it is to type Kitschy Crafts instead of Kitschy Krafts? I actually used the K and had to go back and change it. Here's a craft I remember from my youth: The Folded Page Centerpiece. Choose a paperback book and remove the front and back covers, or use a copy of Readers Digest. Fold the pages diagonally from the top right corner to the center of the book and then fold the rest of the page in half lengthwise. Once the pages are all done glue the last page to the first page to get a full circle of pages. When the glued pages are secured, spray paint the thing and decorate as you please.

Graphic Source: Book Rescue .org

Friday, November 21, 2008

Great Influenza in Des Moines

We're so used to the annual innoculation that the flu can seem ordinary. But there was a time when it was not only a killer - as it sometimes still is - but a raging epidemic that wiped out 675,000 Americans. (The photo at left is of "An Emergency Hospital for Influenza Patients." The Pandemic of 1918.

From Mike Leavitt Secretary of Health and Human Services, presented February 7, 2006: "On October 5th, 1918, the first cases of flu were reported in Des Moines, and on that same day, the Des Moines Tribune reported that local hospitals were refusing any more patients with the flu. After just 25 confirmed cases among civilians in Des Moines, the Surgeon General suggested the city close theaters and other public places to prevent a pandemic. It was already too late. Within one week, the Public Health Service reported that there were more than 8,100 new cases of the flu (civilian and military) and more than 70 deaths from it, and the number "appears to be increasing." The following week, more than 21,000 cases were reported." And that was just in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information -

The great influenza : the epic story of the deadliest plague in history / John M. Barry

Flu : the story of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 and the search for the virus that caused it / Gina Kolata.


Graphic: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cartoonist - Ready For Her Close-up

Jackie Ormes was the first female African-American cartoonist. Her popular strips 'Torchy' and 'Patty-Jo 'n Ginger' appeared in the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender. One of her passions was fashion and man, you can see that in the strips reproduced in the book. Torchy and Ginger have drop-dead gorgeous figures and wear nothing but couture. Of course this was back in the day when the comics featured some pretty slinky females. Ormes had paper dolls accompanying some of her strips, then a full-out Patty-Jo doll line with lots of different outfits. Eat your heart out, Barbie. Those Patty-Jo dolls are highly collectible now. Ormes was a fascinating artist and businesswoman and fashion plate herself. Check out her one-of-a-kind life.

Jackie Ormes by Nancy Goldstein

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Old Pyramid

It just floors me when they find a pyramid. Here you think everything has been discovered - at least everything as big as a pyramid - and they go ahead and find a new one. Apparently this one is especially cool as it is the tomb of Queen Sesheshet, a very powerful woman and the mother of Pharaoh Teti. Sitting there all these years under tons of sand. The National Geographic reports that they don't expect to find her mummy due to the activities of tomb robbers. But there should be a wealth of information in the inscriptions. Here are some great books on the construction of pyramids, to give you an inside look.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Romance To Swoon For

So you've read every Sandra Brown and Nora Roberts romance you can get your hot little hands on. We've got ideas. The Suggestions from Librarians section on our web site has lists of authors for people who like all kinds of stuff. How about a little Iris Johansen? She's written about 35 books, that should keep you entertained for a while. Romance writers tend to write lots of books, so once you've found an author you might be set for life. And when you're done with the romances, you can always move on to the War Fiction. No? Maybe the Nice Cozy Mystery Without All That Blood! list. It's worth it just for the name. Some of our romance writers, like Catherine Coulter, write thrillers as well. Another way to broaden your horizons.
Suggestions from Our Librarians

Monday, November 17, 2008

150 Best Sellers!

Those nice people at USA Today have compiled a list of the top 150(!) books of the last 15 years. Now, thank goodness, we don't have to. Some highlights: Surprise! The top ten includes all 7 Harry Potters. But Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution and The Da Vinci Code took the number 2 and 3 spots. Never understimate the American weight loss mania. Don't really have an answer for the 'Code' phenomenon. To Kill a Mockingbird came in at 22, yay! And A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle was 31. Didn't see that coming. A Child Called It and A Million Little Pieces were side-by-side at 51 and 52. Just sayin'. Take a look, it's a fun record of our cultural journey. Plus you can try to find how many Dr. Seuss books are listed. Check out the list, then check out our books.
USA TODAY's best-selling books of last 15 years

Friday, November 14, 2008

Recycling - it's not just for the other guy

Tomorrow is the 11th year of America Recycles Day! Whoohoo! Recycle like there's no tomorrow! Too true. We are lucky enough to have the enormous blue receptacle in which to plop our recyling. No sorting! Put in all the corrugated boxes you want! It's great, and we are definitely recycling more. Ever wonder what happens to all that stuff? The National Recycling Coalition, which sponsors America Recycles Day, has a nifty feature on its web site. Using the Conversionator you can get an idea of how many airplanes could be built with the aluminum cans we send to landfills. Oh, and library bonus: the Des Moines Public Library now offers 'recycling' bags, the kind you buy so as to accumulate fewer bags from stores. They're $2 each, or 2 for $3. We do our part.

National Recycling Coalition
America Recycles Day

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Eff-Bee-Eye

2008 marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the FBI. In and of itself, this may not generate too much excitement - but they have this really cool website! The FBI's Freedom of Information Act Reading Room. Sounds dull, doesn't it? But is has some weird stuff, man. Did you know Colonel Sanders asked for federal assistance to protect him from a death threat? Plus there is a copy of an invitation to the President to join Sanders in Texas for an 80th birthday celebration (scroll down to p. 5). LBJ declined. The Unidentified Flying Objects section is big. Looks like UFO witnesses had to provide answers for a 2-page 24-point questionnaire. Here is a link to one, scroll down to the second page for the questionnaire. Everything is just a photocopy of the original so they are slow to load. But that's cool because the documents include handwritten notes. Except for allllll the stuff that's blacked out. On the other hand, who else would publish their UFO research?

FBI Reading Room
Graphic Source: Best UFO Pictures

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

River of Darkness

Veterans have always suffered from the horrors of war. Vietnam veterans struggle desperately with post-traumatic-stress syndrome. The men who returned home from World War II were wracked with shell-shock. The hero of River of Darkness suffers from battle fatigue to such an extent that his superiors at Scotland Yard question his fitness for duty. But John Madden's terrible experiences in the trenches make him both uniquely qualified to solve the mystery of the slaughter of a family and more vulnerable to its horror. This is just a fascinating book, really awful acts couched in a time and place we think of as more genteel, when it was just as brutal as life can be now. Only with fewer forensic scientists. There's a sequel, The Blood-Dimmed Tide, but don't worry about being overwhelmed with a series. It took him six years to write this one. Both well worth the read.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Female Veterans Day Two - Pilots

The U.S. Air Transport Command formed the WAFS, Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron in 1942. These women remained civilians but flew military planes in the United States.

The WFTD, Women’s Flying Training Detachment was established to train pilots. These women were treated as military personnel, complete with morning reveille, but never actually became members of the military. Through this unit, 1,074 women were taught to fly.

Confused? Just wait. In August 1943 the WFTD and the WAFS were merged and became the WASPs, Women’s Air Force Service Pilots. Now they’re cooking with gas. The WASPs flew every airplane in the Air Force inventory. And get this. Male pilots were worried about flying the Superfortress, which had not performed problem-free in testing. So, two WASPs took one on a tour of air bases. Apparently the feeling was if the women would fly it the men would be convinced. It worked. WASPS flew 60 million miles during WWII and thirty-eight WASPs were killed in the line of duty. And I'd never heard of them.

Read More:
Centennial of Flight Commission: Women in the Military in World War II
Graphic Credit Conrad Wing Collection Online

Scrapbook owned by the library:
Women in the WAVES, SPARS, MARINES, WAFS and WASPS, 1942-1945 / Des Moines Public Library, comp.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veterans of the Female Kind - Part I

To commemorate tomorrow, let's talk veterans.
We're all familiar with WACS and WAVES, but there were several other capacities in which women served the military in World War II.

The Women’s Army Corps took form in 1943 when its predecessor, the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps was militarized. WAC’s held positions as radio operators, parachute riggers, mechanics. Then the Navy decided they could use women like that and in 1942 the WAVES (Women Appointed for Volunteer Emergency Service) was born. Some WAVES became air control operators, a first as women were considered unable to cope with the multi-tasking required. They did great once they managed to climb up the towers in their uniform skirts.

Then there were the Marines. General Thomas Holcomb was not excited about having women in the Marines, but once he accepted them he took it all the way. When asked what catchy acronym the unit would be named, in the 27 March 1944 issue of Life magazine General Holcomb stated: "They are Marines. They don't have a nickname and they don't need one. They get their basic training in a Marine atmosphere at a Marine post. They inherit the traditions of Marines.” End of discussion.

One last group for today -the US Coast Guard Women's Reserve (SPARs) was established in Novvember 1942. Most of the women performed clerical work, but some were in more specialized jobs. They worked as boatswains mates, coxswains, radiomen, ship's cooks, vehicle drivers, pharmacist's mates.

Read more:

SPARS: The Coast Guard & the Women's Reserve in World War II

U.S. Centennial of Flight Commision: Women in the Military in World War II

FREE A MARINE TO FIGHT: Women Marines in World War II by Colonel Mary V Stremlow, USMCR (Ret)

And a scrapbook belonging to the library:
Women in the WAVES, SPARS, MARINES, WAFS and WASPS, 1942-1945 / Des Moines Public Library, comp.

Friday, November 7, 2008


One of my east-coast buddies - in Davenport - has lots of young friends and they 'text' back and forth. Now I made 6 typos in the previous sentence and I'm using a full-sized keyboard. Chances of me communicating with my thumbs are next to nil. And I still don't get why you just don't talk. Isn't it easier? Yet people persist in slamming their largest digits over a teeny tiny beantsy telephone keypad. They love it! I can see why they use lots of shortcuts, and I have found a website that lists many of them, if you are curious. Some of them make no sense to me - 1337 means 'Elite? And others - URYY4M You Are Too Wise For Me - seem more like license plates. So great! Another new universe to learn! If you want to tackle it, here is a link to the website with the Text Message Shorthand. Be aware, it is a site for adults. Are you seeing the irony here?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Now for something very different - Why Warhol

I imagine most of us think of Andy Warhol as a man with more talent at self-promotion and befriending celebrities than as an actual artist. But he had an enormous effect on popular culture. Aside from astutely realizing everyone would have 15 minutes of fame - and this before the massive invasion of reality TV - his signature style of art is now iconic. Here is a web site that allows you to turn your photos into something resembling his garish yet arresting celebrity portraits: Warholizer. (Sample above. I did it all by myself!) And it makes my point. Andy Warhol was no Rembrandt, but his impact is universal.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's Over!

Were you, like my husband, glued to the television last night?
Well we did it - we voted and chose the next President of the United States! Pretty powerful, isn't it? Months and months and eons of campaigning have finally come to an end, and in the end ordinary people such as I had just as much say as people with two swimming pools. Congratulations, President-Elect Obama. After you take office January 20th, what will happen in the coming four years? See if you can't make it good. Better yet, shoot for wonderful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote vote vote

Pundits expect a record number of voters in this election. Let's indulge them and vote like maniacs. Don't know where to vote? Click here to Find Your Polling Place. Polls are open from 7 AM to 9 PM. You may be asked to show identification if:

You registered to vote by mail after January 1, 2003, and you have never voted in a primary or general election in your county;

Your voter registration is inactive;

You have moved from the address where you are registered to vote;

Your right to vote is challenged;

The precinct election officials do not know you.

A current photo ID will suffice, but there are other options. For more information, go to Voting on Election Day and click on 'Identification'. Ok, now you're prepared. Vote! Because you can.

Graphic Source: Library of Congress American Memories

Monday, November 3, 2008

Presidential Pastimes

As we prepare to choose a President, I thought I'd bring to your attention what's really important. The hobbies and/or sports chosen by those in highest office. Here's a few:

Indian Clubs - Coolidge

Townball - Lincoln According to World Wide Baseball Association this was rounders,a type of stick-ball.

Pitching Hay - Coolidge

Medicine Ball - Hoover Now there's a version called 'Hooverball'.

Jujitsu - Roosevelt, Teddy

Croquet - Hayes
I just chose the ones I thought were least likely to be chosen by contemporary presidents. Although Hooverball is making something of a comeback. Jujitsu, anyone?