Free Books for Kindle

We have been helping many  library patrons download e-books to their Kindle from the library's web site. It is a wonderful benefit of being a library member.  You can even download kindle books without a Kindle.  Here's how :

2.     Click on the Download Audiobooks & eBooks button to the left of the screen.
3.    Next page tells you that your library is Libraries of Middlesex Automation Consortium. You  need to know your library card number, pin, Amazon Login and you need your Kindle WiFi turned on .
4.     Click on Download link to enter ListenNJ.
         Once in ListenNJ login to your Digital Media Account.
5.     We suggest using the Advanced Search option. Set search to ‘Format - Kindle,  Subject - of your choosing and then click on the  Copies Available box if you do not want to wait.
6.     Choose a Kindle Book from the search results and add to cart.
7.     Proceed to check out, confirm and ‘Get Kindle Book’.
8.     Log in to your Amazon Account with email and password when prompted.
9.     Click on ‘My Library Book’ and select kindle name or kindle app.
10.   The ListenNJ book should then appear on the Kindle or Kindle app. You may have to click on menu to see the list.
11.  All ListenNJ/Overdrive kindle checkouts are managed on your Amazon account by clicking on ‘Manage My Kindle’.
      12. Books titles are deleted from the Kindle itself from the title list. Highlight the title, click on the    left directional arrow (delete command will appear) and then click on the center OK 

To get help with this please contact the Information Desk.

Mary Donne, Head of Information Services

Thanksgiving in Paradise

In one of my previous blogs on travel, I shared our dilemma about where to take a November vacation.  Well, we just returned from Aruba, where we spent Thanksgiving week, and I can tell you that we made a great choice!  Aruba advertises itself as "one happy island" and that is certainly true.  The natives enjoy a high standard of living from the influx of tourist dollars which results in a happy population who are welcoming, friendly and helpful.

Brown Pelican
 Aruba is a vacation paradise that caters to the American tourist.  The country accepts American currency - in fact, the first and sometimes only prices given are the prices in US dollars - no money changing or conversions necessary!  And the food ranges from American standards such as T.G.I. Fridays and Tony Romas to Brazilian, Dutch, Belgian, Caribbean, French, Japanese, Chinese and other interesting cuisines from around the world.  There are too many good restaurants that you can't try them all!  The best meal we had was in a restaurant at our resort called Le Petite Cafe which featured hot stone cooking at the table.  Basically, they deliver the food raw, sitting on a (very) hot stone.  The food is starting to cook (seer) as it arrives and the rest is up to you to heat to your desired doneness as you cut each bite.  You get your meal prepared just the way you like it.

 The daily temperature tops out at around 89 degrees but there is almost always a breeze which makes being outdoors - sunbathing, shopping, dining or just walking around - more than tolerable.  It is, however, only 12 degrees north of the equator (and 15 miles from Venezuela) so even on cloudy days, don't be fooled into thinking that the sun is other than strong, strong, strong!  You really need to wear sunscreen (at least 30) at all times as you can get a burn even in the shade (and I can personally attest to that!)   We did experience a few brief rain showers that cooled things off and kept the island lush and green but the showers quickly gave way to sun.  We were told by the natives that the weather patterns over the past four to five years have changed enough to negate the adage that "it never rains in Aruba" - apparently there have even been whole months in the past few years where it has rained all day, every day for weeks at a time causing flooding and a lot of disgruntled vacationers.  The "rainy" season is probably November, December and maybe a few weeks into January but there is really no difference between summer and winter or day and night for that matter.

The island has really only been developed for tourism since the last Venezuelan oil refinery closed in 1985, so most of the hotels and tourist areas are new and upscale and construction of new resorts is continuing at a moderate rate.  Aruba, as well as other Caribbean islands, has definitely felt the effects of the recession in the US.  There are many vacant stores and some over ambitious Venezuelan construction projects have been abandoned.  It is the only blight that I saw on an otherwise beautiful island.

There are three main areas on the western side of the island where all of the "action" is located.  The oldest "tourist" area is in the capital city, Oranjestad, near the marina where the cruise ships dock.  The second area just to the north is called the low-rise hotel area which is located on Eagle Beach.  The newest area is the high-rise hotel area on Palm Beach, to the north of Eagle Beach.  To go between these areas, you should take a taxi, which are plentiful and inexpensive.  There is a safe bus system that tourists use, but the bus stops everywhere making the journey long and tedious.  However, once you are in one of the tourist areas, everything is in waking distance.  And every area has a full selection of everything you need - restaurants, shopping, entertainment, casinos, night clubs, recreation opportunities, water sports, land tours, grocery shopping (and even Wendy's and McDonald's) - everything you need for a family vacation or a romantic get-away.

Most of the hotels are full resorts including access to the beach, pools, restaurants, a casino, a spa, gym, and activities for children, teens and adults.  Many are timeshare properties that "rent" vacant units to guests.  We stayed at the Playa Linda Beach Resort which is a timeshare property with one and two bedroom units with full kitchens and balconies all with an ocean view.  There were many owners at this resort who have clearly been coming for years and know each other and the regular staff.  The resort advertises itself as "your home away from home" and it certainly felt comfortable and safe. 

 Water sports (snorkeling, fishing, scuba diving, parasailing, kite surfing, banana boat, tube and water skiing to name a few) and land adventures (horseback riding, trekking in three and four wheel ATVs, hiking) abound, but you can also just relax on the beach under a thatched "chickee" hut or beside the pool and catch up on your reading and napping, which is what we did almost every day.  Watch out for lizards large (iguanas) and small (gecko like lizards of every shape and color) warming themselves on every rock and enjoy the beauty of the many exotic flowers and birds that are all around.  We saw Brown Pelicans plunging head first into the sea to catch a tasty fish, watched Magnificent Frigatebirds soar high in the sky and enjoyed the song of the friendly Bananaquit as they visited the many tropical flowers in bloom everywhere and our table looking for juice or fruit.

Magnificent Frigatebird
 At the newest mall (not quite done), there is a new bowling alley that features glow-in-the-dark nighttime bowling, popular with the teens and there is a surf simulator to give you the thrill of surfing of the safety of land.  There are even cinemas that feature all the latest releases.  We saw Johnny English with the ever zany Rowan Atkinson which was a scream and we saw it at half price on two-for-one Tuesday.

All-in-all, Aruba was everything that people say that it is...a great vacation spot...guaranteed.

Backpacker: Santa Ana, Cagayan

Previously on Souljacker

Fourth Part: The Beach

The fiery orb continues to march unopposed across the sky, as the swollen, rain-clad clouds quietly assembles where the mountains break the plains. Thunder claps in the distance. Despite the putsch of a late-afternoon shower spoiling my quickie getaway, the landscape basks in some faint semblance of summer. It's like it never rained the whole week. 

Cirrus patches scatter over the heavens forming a thin veil concealing the azure horizon, while below, the blue expanse invites sun worshippers to take a dip. It's been five years since I set foot in the beach and as my feet felt the grainy brown sands of Santa Ana's empty coastline, I was seduced to the open waters like a nymph was calling my name.

Slowly, I disappeared beneath the waves. Crushed corals lining the shore scrape the soles of my feet. I would like to walk further, to the place where even the tip of my toes would never touch the soft ground. But strong currents of the Babuyan Channel and the thought of a runaway jellyfish stinging me to unconsciousness kept me from closing the distance. 

Instead, I stood at a spot where the water sloshes slightly below my chest. A person watching at the gazebo could have mistaken me for a monk in meditation. Slightly bent, with my eyes gazing at the emptiness, I would rather be seen as a sentry at a post. For what is unseen is my hand yanking clumsily underwater, like it was arming a cannon trying to fire at miniature submarines. But it cannot do so, because everything is just in my head. 

It didn't matter if there were teen boys summersaulting nearby. They won't see and they were not the object of my fantasy. For my mind was lost elsewhere, assaulting the dirty demons who were suggesting lustful images since I arrived in paradise. Had I been a little younger, one would see me at the beach, building sand castles only to crumble as the foamy waves trample its feeble walls. Had I been with a tropa perhaps, one would see us racing across the water. 

Had I been with my partner. Well... A shooting war would be happening elsewhere, not definitely at the beach.

None were available so I had to improvise.

I was in that crouched position for an hour or so, but the cannon won't shoot. Maybe there wasn't an ammo to begin with, or I had already emptied myself long before I thought of repeating the deed. What snapped me back to reality was my excuse at home. I would be hard-pressed to explain why on earth did I get sunburned in Isabela, unless I was half-naked the whole time while inspecting the fields.  

Strong waves continue to pound my back, inching me closer and closer towards the shore. Sensing defeat, (the cannon not only refuses to fire, it had gone wimp) it was time to get out of the water.

After taking a long, hot shower, I returned to the bar-slash-restaurant with a coffee shop ambiance. As I send my tweet updates on my laptop and asking the receptionists for leads as to where I could find a public transpo leaving Santa Ana before noon,

a thought occurred to me.

Cagayan Sunshine

This is how short my stay is. In less than a day after I've arrived, here I am making arrangements for my hasty exit back to the city.

And the only reason for returning to the town center is not to take a stroll - it is to say goodbye.

- tobecontinued -

To Quote

"May mga hinahanap ako na basic lang na hahanapin ng isang babae sa isang boyfriend, sa isang lalaki. Pero, masakit man sabihin, hindi ako yun. Siguro nag-fail din ako dahil hindi ako yung kailangan niya sa buhay niya. Or hindi ako yung hinahanap niya sa buhay niya. And hindi, hindi ko mabigay sa kanya yung kailangan niya."

KC Concepcion
The Buzz

Ito ang dahilan kung bakit kahit napakadali sa akin ang tumanso ng babae, at paulit-ulit, taon-taon ay sinasabi sa akin ng mga tropang lalaki (straight) na kaya akong remedyuhan at gawing heterosexual muli ay ni-minsan hindi ko binalak tumawid ng bakod at magkunwaring attracted pa rin sa babae.

They say it is for your own survival. Para hindi ka nag-iisa sa pagtanda. Yung iba naman, to mask your hidden preference, upang walang mag-hihinala na burat at tamod rin pala ang hanap mo. It's my stand, but rather than become someone's source of misery, I'd rather be out in the open, or better yet, suspend all my pretensions of opposite sexual attraction to cover up

the real me.

ACCESSORY DESIGN: strange fruit

amethyst ring: my design

This is the ring from my previous post, as I stated before it is of my own design. For a while I couldn't decide whether I thought it was ugly-scary or scary-beautiful. With the help of Joe's father (teaching me how to use a soldering iron) I constructed it in about thirty minutes on Thanksgiving night. If you guys would like, I'll post a tutorial on how you can make your very own. It is actually super easy to do if you can get your hands on the right materials; which in my opinion are very obtainable.

Warp and Weft

In a big city often covered in thick smog, there was once a family who owned a very large junkyard. The junkyard is full of rusted cars and trucks that were thrown away when their owners bought new automobiles. These cars will be then sold for scraps.

Alas! A time came when the junkyard hardly makes any money. The old cars that used to pile up in the vacant lot now directly goes to the factories that assembled them. Nobody wants to buy the land because of the ugliness of the place.

One day, Alfred, the owner of the junk yard called his 2 sons to talk.

“I am getting very old and weak.” Alfred said. “And the only treasure I will leave behind is this piece of land.” He paused, before looking at the dull landscape outside the window.

“I want you to tell me what do you plan to do with this junkyard when I’m gone?”

“Lets sell it,” Donnie, the older of Alfred’s two sons suggested. “And then when I get the money, I will start my own business!”

Donny is the older between the two brothers. He dreams of becoming a businessman someday. Since he was kid, he wanted to turn the junkyard into a toy factory.

“How about we plant trees instead, and let this junkyard turn into a small forest?” Miko said, shyly.

“Are you out of your mind?” Donny stared at Miko. “Selling this land means more money!”

“Look around you big brother.  When was the last time you saw a bird fly, or butterflies come to this place?” Alfred seemed to agree with his younger son. 

“I would like people to remember dad not as a junkyard man but someone who is friends with trees.” Donny laughed at his brother’s idea as if to mock him. Meanwhile, Alfred thought of dividing the land at once into two equal parts to keep the brothers from fighting it over.

“Have it your way Miko, but don’t come to me begging for money.” Donny said before storming out of the room.

The next week, Miko went to the mountains to buy saplings of trees that used to grow in his father’s land - before it became a junkyard. After all the remaining old cars were carted away, he planted Mahogany saplings, hoping it would grow despite the land being polluted with chemicals.

On some days, Alfred would watch as his younger son spend the whole day tending his growing garden, and smile. He can’t help but feel proud of his accomplishment. As a teacher, Miko would sometimes bring his students along to teach them the importance of taking care of the environment. 

The students would also bring tree saplings with them. Some even set free small birds and frogs they caught in other parts of the city. Though they were not sure if the animals would stay, they pressed on making sure the land becomes home to these small creatures.

Meanwhile, Donny’s business isn’t growing. The factory he built stayed small, and the children didn’t like the toys he made. He would sometimes look at the window and see a caterpillar crawling at the sill. He would brush aside what Miko told him when they were young boys, but his little brother’s words stayed inside his head.

“When was the last time you saw a bird fly, or butterflies come to this place?”

Years went by and the patch of greens finally got a life of its own. Butterflies and dragonflies flutter over some wild grass, while frogs leap on some small pond filled with rainwater. Children would sometimes sneak past the gate to pick flowers while old men, breathe fresh air - something they can’t even enjoy in their own homes.

“You were right all along, little brother.” Donny’s hair has now turned grey. His toy factory long abandoned, even the trees had taken over his part of the old junkyard.

“And I’m glad you returned.” Miko said smiling. His face now creased with age. “You should meet my grandson one of these days.”

The two brothers spent the whole morning sharing stories about their father, while outside, a flock of Cattle Egrets decided to stop by before their long journey heading to their new nesting grounds in the south.

Task: Tells of a family who planted trees and allowed ecological succession to take its natural course

Personal Notes: I just can't get over with my previous children's article that I had to write a rejoinder. It aims to uplift the somber mood pervading in that story. Like many struggling writers, my well of ideas get empty, and I find it difficult to treat a specific topic as well. To counter this malaise, (and to keep myself challenged) I started writing articles of different subjects set on a single setting.

Unfortunately, the Grade One kids won't get to read the Smog rejoinder. This article is meant for the batch ahead of them.

OUTFIT: leather dress I designed for myself

dress & amethyst ring: my design, shoes: bakers

Designed this dress about a year ago. Found it in the closet today and am so glad to have an excuse to wear it. Now that its fall, I don't look too much like a fool in a full leather ensemble, in Atlanta no less. The ring is my own design as well, I bought the amethysts a while back from a rock and mineral show and used a soldering iron to station it onto an existing metal ring base. I know these photos don't do it justice so I'll take more shots of the ring alone later. Happy Thanksgiving!

A Sad Children's Story

“Wake up my fledglings!” Eden said. 

The graceful Cattle Egret stood up from her moist nest not far from a rice field to gather around her three babies. 

The young Cattle Egrets had just learned to fly.

“Today we will go on a vacation.” The young birds started jumping upon hearing the news. It was the last day of November, and the breeze has become colder. 

“Where are we going mom?” Tony, the eldest of the baby Egrets asked.

“As you know, these mornings have become colder.”


“And its hard for us to find food.”

“Uh huh,” Bruno, the youngest of the birds nodded. 

“So we will fly south to build a new nest.” The little birds looked surprised. Their wings are not used to flying great distances.

“Don’t be scared, we will make it.” Eden smiled nervously. “But first, you must listen.”

It was very cold that morning and warm air from the sun turns water vapor into liquid before it touches the ground. The birds, including Eden have no name for it, but humans call it fog.  

The very low clouds make flying difficult because the Cattle Egrets could not see very far. 

But if there’s something Eden and her chicks should avoid, it is flying over the big city to get to their new nesting ground.

“Remember what Uncle Fifi told you about the low clouds in the city?”

“The one he flew over and then he coughed so bad, he almost dove to the ground?”


“Other birds have told me the low clouds got worse.” 

Eden was talking about a kind of fog that covers the city in a curtain of brown clouds. When water vapor get mixed with dust and very small particles, it becomes a smog. It makes flying across very hard because the birds could not only see, they also cannot breathe.

“Your grandma once told me those clouds were not there when she was still a fledgling.” The three young Cattle Egrets panted while flapping their wings to climb a mountain.

“It is when people started burning black wood, and rode metal boxes with wheels did the brown cloud appear.”

The birds may not know about burning coal or black smoke from cars, but they can see that it makes people unwell, including the children whose parents drive those cars or burn those coals in their factories.  

Sadly, unlike the Cattle Egrets who avoid flying over the city, the people simply wore masks when the smoke and fog got very bad.

“I feel sorry for them,” Mandy, the middle chick mumbled.

Eden and her three fledglings got past the big city covered in thick smog. It was hard for them to breathe, but it was the only way to get to their new nest. Below, there were no children in the playground, the windows in all the houses were closed, and only few people walked outside. The trees had shed their brown leaves, while in the distance, black smoke billows from big chimneys. 

Task: Describes how smog forms and why it occurs more often during the cold months. Tells about the dangers of smog.

Personal Note: Some stories, no matter the reader must be told in a bleak manner to deliver the message. It was meant for Grade 1 children. 

The story would be revised.

Children's Book Flash Video On iPad from SBPL

The South Brunswick Library website has  two great online children's video book services that use flash video.  They are Bookflix and Trueflix. 

Bookflix is for grades K-3.  It offers unlimited access to classic children's video storybooks that a child can read along with again and again.

TrueFlix™ is the only online resource that leverages the award-winning True Books content to help students hone literacy skills, build knowledge of subject-area content, and cultivate 21st Century skills through the inquiry process. It's intended audience is grades 3 thru 6.

To make a long story short for a long time we could not use these services on our iPad. South Brunswick  school librarians were especially disappointed since the iPad  is being used more and more in today's classroom.

The library recently demonstrated library apps on mobile devices.  Jim Colquist attended this demonstration and  he offered to explore ways we might be able to use Bookflix and Trueflix on an iPad.  

Jim is now our most recent library hero.  He emailed us to say that the browser Photon, available from the App Store for a small fee, allows users to view flash videos including Bookflix and Trueflix. 

Here is what he shared :

- download Photon browser from the app store
- navigate to South Brunswick Library's database link  from photon
- BEFORE clicking Bookflix or Trueflix links....hit the lightning bolt icon on photon browser to put you in flash mode.    This will reload the page. You need to do this on the database link, otherwise you will not be directed properly to the "TrueFlix (outside library) " "BookFlix (outside library)" when you click them.
- log in with library code and you will be able to use either site. 

There are some minor limitations:
- paging down on the database link page is a little slow in flash takes a second to move down to the Trueflix link.
- the video can't be displayed full screen like most iPad video. But it does work and the audio plays.

Try this fix and start enjoying free, quality children's book videos from your library today on your iPad.

For more information on this article contact : Mary Donne Head of Information Services


Seasonal Spackling or: My First and Only College Thanksgiving

There have been only two instances in my life when I have not been at home with my extended family for Thanksgiving. Two years ago, I made the grievous mistake of attending Thanksgiving dinner at my then-girlfriend’s stepfather’s home in Concord, New Hampshire. It was a bad drive topped by one of the more uncomfortably confrontational family dinners I’ve ever been a party to, in which a slice of pumpkin pie was, I kid you not, thrown at someone’s face. That was the last straw for several situations, including that particular relationship, but most of all, it reaffirmed that the only place I really wanted to be on Thanksgiving was upstate with my family, as much as the idea of staying home and doing some freelance NYC handyman work to make some extra dough allures me.

Indeed, the only other time I ever abstained from my annual November trip upstate was my junior year of college, which I have surpassingly fond memories of. Not of the food, mind you: the turkey came out drier than plywood, the mashed potatoes were served as a type of soup essentially, and the stuffing was like gobbling down a plate of salad croutons. The preparation for the meal is what I remember, especially since it put me in contact with a lifelong friend, currently a general contractor for a NYC handyman outfit out of Jackson Heights.

By preparation, I mean less the strewning of festive colored paper and cardboard turkey cutouts, and more the repairs to this particular apartment. See, the apartment we decided to hold it in was very tiny and we had a lot of people who were staying at college, due largely to the clash between slim college-kid budgets and somewhat unreasonable travel costs. So, we had to get a larger table into a living room about the size of a dorm bedroom, and also had to move around furniture. This may have been an easy task if the group of men responsible for this, my NYC handyman friend and myself included, weren’t stone-cold drunk at the time we performed this miraculous move around. 

As you may expect, there were more than a few holes in the drywall by the time we were done wedging the long dinner table, which we had borrowed from a friend of a friend who worked as part of the janitorial staff in the compute science building. The relief that we would indeed be able to feed all 20-odd people was immediately replaced by the burden of having to convincingly repair these holes. We may have been able to wait a few days to make repairs but the girl whose apartment we were using had what might kindly be referred to as a hissy fit. To be fair, she was a few glasses of dirt-cheap white wine in as well but still, her complaints rang louder and more routinely than even those god-forsaken college fire alarms.

So, we walked across campus to my NYC handyman friend’s dorm and picked up some extra spackle he had brought home from the studio, and newspaper for the bigger holes. It turned out to be a simple fix when we returned: most of the holes needed only a little spackle, followed by some sanding a day or two later, and only one of the holes required a layer of newspaper to fill it. What I have a very vivid and happy memory of is the rest of our friends, happy enough to crack a few more beers and relax while we did the work, commentating on our job as if they were announcers for the NFL. Until you have a drunk philosophy major remark that you have “stepped up [your] spackling game since last season” and “must have really worked on [your] sanding during the off season”, you really haven’t lived.

But as much as I have fond memories of these days, this year I’m thankful to be getting home for a few days and getting a breather from city life. I imagine my short time spent at Penn Station tomorrow will be a hell not worth remembering, but it’s worth it in the long run. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.  

Saving Grace

I was about to cross the street when I passed by an old lady selling garlands of Sampaguita at the corner of Kalentong and Shaw Boulevard. It's already past eleven and from the way she lumbered close to the sidewalk barrier, there's no denial that she's been selling flowers since that morning.

It was easy to close one's eyes and pretend not to see. Deluded by my own troubles, I could brush off the sight as one of the truths of everyday life. But a whisper in one's ear urged me look at the lady for a second glance. Instead of seeing a tired, exhausted woman, what I saw was my mom's gentle face. 

In a flip of a switch, my compassion was ignited.

I won't deny the state of flux. I've been withdrawn from most people. I get easily annoyed by tiny mistakes, and the recent brawl between the lesbian driver and the helper has raised tensions at home. The house is always messy. I failed to return to the university. I still have to renew my membership at the gym and the bills keep on piling.

There's a talk of the maid being forced to leave before the year ends, which I somehow object (but the maid is pushing everyone to throw her out) and the sister has been nagging me to find her a sideline when I'm struggling to keep mine. There are so many things running in my head, without anyone, not even the closest ones knowing (for I choose to spare them from my own mess) and at times I am pushed in a corner, even I still question the way my life is going.

Like I said, it would have been easy to mind my own business rather than see the misery of others. But in drawing my wallet from my back pocket and pulling a twenty peso bill - to give to the old lady, I found my salvation.

"Pandagdag niyo po sa kita." I said in a hushed voice.

The old lady was astonished and when I left the scene after buying a stick of Marlboro Black, I caught her smiling at me. In leaving, I was taught two valuable lessons in humanity: That the world still cares, and that, despite my personal strife, I have not sunk yet.


Hippy Dippy or: My Trip to the Communal Boiler

The idea of communal living was always something that interested me until I saw it first hand. Coming out of high school, I found myself accepted into a Dramatic Writing conservatory at SUNY Purchase, one of the more left-leaning campuses in the SUNY system. It was there that I came face-to-face with communal living, radical politics (on both ends, oddly enough), and an invigorating culture of craftsman (some of whom eventually became NYC handymen friends of mine) and artists who believed steadfast in the do-it-yourself approach. For most, money was tight, used mainly for booze, gas, and a monthly trip into the city, but materials were plentiful and there was a spirit of invention that still attracts me to this day.

This was not the same sort of spirit I encountered when I found myself giving a ride to a NYC plumber friend early this year while her truck was in the shop.  A call had come in from a house all the way out in Bay Ridge, an area I remembered largely as a community of firemen, police officers, construction workers and other various day laborers. I had lived in an adjacent neighborhood, Sunset Park, for a few years after college and was shocked to find that there was a large house (12 bedrooms!) that served as a sort of commune for a pack of Brooklyn college graduates in the middle of the Ridge.

What was not so much of a surprise was that none of them knew anything about boilers and what exactly they do, though, to be perfectly frank, neither did I until a different NYC plumber friend of mine gave me a shot-in-the-arm tutorial about the whole shindig. We arrived at the house and my friend immediately followed the ringleader of the outfit to the basement, where their gas boiler was clearly malfunctioning. The house itself was freezing and at every corner of the house, I could see a blanket or a quilt being used as a heating alternative, either being wrapped around some being or being pinned up to cover a window. In fact, there was a young woman wrapped in a quilt, working on knitting another quilt.

My friend came up and informed me that it was a simple blown fuse and that we would be done within the hour. Seeing as it was frigid outside, I graciously took up an offer to hang out with other members of the household as my friend did her work. It turns out that most boiler problems go back to tripped circuit breakers, blown fuses, an unlit pilot light or, in rarer cases, a problem with the thermostat. A blown fuse is, in fact, something that should be left to a professional. The others are easy enough to learn, but are hugely dependent on brands and models, thus why I must sadly decline a quick tutorial.

Anyway, as I was saying, my memories of living with metal and wood workers at SUNY Purchase was not exactly matched by the group of people (most of them were about three years my junior) I came into contact with at this house. There was a silence to the house that not even the seemingly on-loop recordings of Bob Dylan and Fleet Foxes that echoed through the rooms seemed to help. I attribute this to the fact that many artists, especially writers and graphic artists, do their work online and it is not my intention to say that this band of communal believers aren’t as ambitious and unique as the people I knew, who are now, as I said, NYC handymen, plumbers, stagehands, furniture makers or old-fashioned artists. I guess I miss the sound of activity, which has been replaced with the tapping of keyboards, for better or worse. (If I’m being totally honest, it’s probably for the better.)

Soon enough, me and my friend left and I dropped her back off at her shop in Dumbo. I told my girlfriend at the time about the house and similar ideas as the ones I have expressed here and she, perhaps rightly, figured me as an “old fuddy duddy.” It’s not as if I’m expecting everyone to go out there and learn how to perfectly maintain a boiler or hot water heaters or anything else of the sort, though I hardly see the harm in that being an ambition. My business, and others, might suffer but I can hardly contain a grin when my younger cousin tells me that he learned how to relight a pilot light or reset a thermostat on his own.       

I Found a Farm at the Library

In these unstable economic times around the world a young American author named Jenna Woginrich is inspiring readers of her books, tweets, and blog posts to take charge.  To learn to be more self-sufficient while being environmentally conscious. Jenna is no whiner. She is on her feet trying, making mistakes, and learning. You can occupy Wall Street if you want.  No offense to the occupiers, but I admire someone like Jenna. She is truly a doer!

I discovered Jenna's first book while looking for recipes in the 640 section of the Library shelves.   I happened to notice the title Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life. This  immediately got my attention because anything about "handmade" is impressive to me.  It means that someone has slowed down, taken time to be creative and clever, broke a sweat, taught themself something, saved money, and even helped the planet to boot.  What's not to love?! 

 In her book she talks about how she started off as a young, single woman with a desk job and a city apartment who wanted to build a more self-sufficient lifestyle by learning homesteading skills. She didn't own land or have much practical experience beyond a few forays into knitting and soap-making.  She did have a strong desire to opt out of what she saw as a consumer-driven culture. After moving to a rented farmhouse, she learned to raise chickens and bees, and to grow her own food. All the while supporting herself with a full-time job as a graphic artist. 

Along the way, she learned that an abundance of enthusiasm and a willingness to experiment could make up for a lack of knowledge, and that reaching out to others for mentoring and guidance could help her reconnect with her community.

In the book I found simple sewing patterns and simplified recipes for pancakes, quiche, and bread among other ideas.

Made from Scratch shares the deep satisfaction Jenna found by learning to provide for herself. Her youthful (she is in her mid-20s) outlook is positive and humorous as she shares stories of her ups and downs with her two sled dogs (yes, she even taught herself how to drive a sled team!).  In addition she talks about lessons learned to knit a sweater, play a guitar, make jam, even raise baby chicks.

Her voice is inspirational and encouraging as she goads readers to take small steps toward self-reliance as she does.  For Jenna, it's about learning the simple skills most of us have forgotten, and finding joy in the process.

Since the printing of that first book, Jenna bought a small farm in upstate New York and continues to learn new things, such as training a pony to pull and playing a banjo. She is writing her fourth book now about how she has managed her first year as a property owner, part-time new farmer, and still full-time graphic artist. 

Her story is less unique than you might think. Raised garden beds in Brooklyn backyards has taken on a kind of movement (search videos on You Tube). Upstate New Yorker farmers Josh and Brent of Beekman Farm have a book and now weekly TV show about their "conversion" from working for others to self-reliance on the farm.

One way Jenna has helped herself survive is by inviting readers of her blog to paid workshops in her home, where she shares her hard-won knowledge on a variety of topics.  In March I am looking forward to attending her workshop on Urban Farming, a course for suburbanites like myself who want to be better backyard gardeners and canners for benefit of health and wallet.  
To learn more about Jenna Woginrich and her homestead on Cold Antler Farm, just search in Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger, and of course, on the 640 shelf at your local library.


Joe and I turned four years yesterday. I know that sounds like a long time (it sounds like a long time to me too) but it seriously just flew by. I don't think I could ask for better- I lucked up and got the cream of the crop the first time around.


It was one of those early mornings when you're obsessed over some job assignment that not a single soul can take you away from your occupation. 

Especially the people you have grown to brush off.


Spell d-e-a-d a-i-r?

punta ka lantern parade? 

One of those classic situations where persistence rewards the stubborn.

labo eh may work ako on that day 

kelan tayo kulitan? 

dunno work muna ako cecile 

suplada hmmpp byeeee 

Must gloss over your wicked, wicked nature.

pasensya na 

Apparently, she is gifted with boundless forgiveness.

hi hi hi 

joke lang 

sige work ka na para may pang gatas si junior natin 

mwa ha hahahaha 

Now mugen, back to what you're doing...

A few hours later...


oy mugs matulog ka na at dito matutulog na gud am :) 

im at work sabi ko nga sayo diba? :D

Swear, she's getting on my nerves. Angkulit!

wala na akong crush/love interest 

ung pinagtatyagaan ko landiin dito sa fb ayoko na effort-in hmmpp 

sleep na me byeeeee :) 

The barrage of replies would have resulted in a written altercation. But there and then, a flashback prevented me from sending a stabbing encore. A scene from my past life - when - I would confide to a best friend with a tinge of hesitation why a girl-friend would pay so much attention, (and sometimes sweetness) that it becomes a fodder for the ever-hungry campus-wide rumour mill.

"Hindi kaya..."

The male confidant would just smirk. Same unspeakable hunch that often leads to an awkward confrontation much, much later with the girl.

And then with a snap, I was back to the present, with my long lost self echoing the same reason.

"I'm really sorry..."

Wanting to extend my apology for the insensitivity, I sent a reply hoping it would suffice for the heartbreak I caused.

goodnight cecille. :D

But the damage has been done, and chances are, she would never speak to me again. Guilty of my transgressions, for not seeing what it was really all about, I deserve to recieve no reply.


My partner had to go to the airport to catch the 4pm flight to Bacolod. His dear lolo passed away, and he booked a plane ticket on the very day the news broke out. As the boyfriend who doesn't know what to do with his rest day, I decided to go with him to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. 

Our stop was Terminal 3.

What started as a simple drop-off ended up as a grand tour of the airport. You see, all I ever wanted was to find the exit to the main road, but the guard on-duty said that in order to get out, one must get in. 

Inside the ash-grey building.

NAIA Terminal 3

So there I was, rubbing elbows with the passengers in the departure hall. It helped that I bought my big backpack with me (for I was going to the gym after seeing that JC had already boarded the plane) because it was my convenient excuse to linger inside the terminal.

The problem with Terminal 3 is that there are no connecting stairs from the departure loading bay to the arrival area a few decks below. It is what separates T3 from T1 and the Centennial Terminal. A cheapskate like me would rather walk for miles to find a jeep than pay a hefty sum for a cab going back to the city. The airport designers might not have foreseen this, and it worked well in my favor.

I could easily, so easily, use the stairs so I could leave and see the Newport Mall instead. But like a stray cat in a new house, I could never let the chance to experience what it feels like to stay inside an international airport terminal slip by. 

After all, I have never been into one.

Delta Columns

First thing I noticed was the cavernous interior. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the designers of T3 did well in using natural light instead of using too many lightbulbs to illuminate large sections of the building. The lack of chairs may have forced many to sit (and lie down) on the floor, but I won't find it a hassle as long as the airport provides free, fast and reliable Wi-Fi service.  

JC told me that despite being the largest of the three NAIA terminals, putting all the international flights from the old terminal will only lead to chaos. This was evident when I saw Cebu Pacific and AirPhil Express already occupy half the space set for leaving passengers. 

The frenzy I've seen - from people trying to check-in before the gate closes, to passengers whose flights were delayed, or those who came early to book their international trips surely double during days of long vacations, Imagine the stress of being there when everyone tries to flee the city. 

Shops and restaurants - the mainstays of local malls also operate there. They are all bundled on the third floor of the glass-and-aluminum encased building. There's a Mister Donuts and Yellow Cab Pizza. I also passed by Pancake House on my way to a Mini-Stop Store where I bought my Cobra Energy Drink. I don't know if the other two terminals have these conveniences, but I'm glad the airport authorities have set aside a commercial space for the bored, weary and hungry to rest their feet. 

Despite the pricey items, it makes you feel less abandoned.

The Marketplace: CebuPac Check-In Counter

There are two ways of seeing the NAIA Terminal 3 and it all depends on your point of view. If you are for maximum security - like turning our airports into fortresses than hubs for travel, you will find the guards too relaxed and scanty. Even the bomb-sniffing dog - the only one I've seen in the terminal showed off its other talents to the amusement of passengers

instead of checking personal belongings. 

You can even use your camera to take pictures. No one would stop you from pointing your camera on sensitive places. It's a discovery that caught me by surprise knowing that I could be taken custody for my actions.

But there I was, exploring and weaving a story with photos.

The allure of natural light

I have never been to other airports other than NAIA. Fransisco Bangoy in Davao has been lost to memory and the old domestic terminal along Airport Road could be likened more to a bus station than a gateway to air travel.

So it would be unfair to judge a place without any comparison. T3 might be new and promising but improvements could still be added to make it truly world class.

A jetsetter exhausted

For starters, more benches, in bright colors mean less people sitting on cold floors. While the idea of having a sort of picnic at the airport grounds appear unconventional, authorities still have to put potted plants inside the departure hall. The place is literally dead if not fleeting. Besides, what use is the sunlight filtering through the overhead glass windows if it won't nourish any life?

Sources also tell that there is WiFi available but one has to pay for its use. Isn't it possible for airline companies to shoulder this burden, since passengers only get to use it when flights get delayed? Also, while it benefits only a selected few, having free and reliable access to the web means our airport is business friendly. At a time when work can be done even away from the office, a wired airport is essential.

broken escalators = bad service

Terminal 3 has its flaws. The broken escalators are glaring, and so are the dark unused spaces, which could have been used to accommodate stranded passengers.

Faults may be pointed and so are the praises. The people running the airport - from the security personnel to the maintenance workers are friendly and helpful. Even the bomb-sniffing, playing dead Black Retriever, gives warmth to a usually dull and monotonous edifice. The toilets are clean. There are even plants on the sink with a disclaimer that says "I'm real, don't pinch."

Visitors' Gallery

Sandwiched between the departure and arrival areas is a sub-level with a door that opens to a narrow passage. Hardly noticeable to visitors, the viewing gallery is where well-wishers and welcoming parties catch the first glimpse of arriving loved ones.

It is also where parting couples say their whispered goodbyes.

Standing there, alone in an almost meditative gaze, I checked below to spot if my partner was among the people standing in line. He was not there. Instead, what caught my attention were the throngs of arriving people, waiting for their bags to appear at the baggage carousel.

Airport Chapel

My tour was about to end for I have already covered the entire length of the gallery. On my way to the exit, I saw an overhead sign that says Airport Chapel.

"How nice," I mused.

If I were a pious passenger feeling some jitters about my plane ride, a trip to this small room would ease my doubts. So is the effect for those left behind by the passengers.

And so I went inside to say a little prayer. Upon leaving the room, my phone vibrated.

"Boo dito nako sa erplen.. I'll text u as soon as we land. Hope you're enjoying your airport tour hehehe. Thanks for accompanying me..."

With a faint smile, I pressed the call drop key and slid the phone back in my pocket.

Its time to leave as well.

NOVELTY: lace-ups

I think these babies are just darling. Got them on a visit to the mall, don't go there often but had no intention of buying anything. Happen to end up there while on a walk with the BF. Walked into backers just to make fun of the Knock-off merchandise. My smiles and snickers stopped when I saw these on the sale rack.  For less then my last manicure, you bet these bad-boys came home with me.

The Lamp Lady or: The Virtues of CFL and LED Bulbs

Sometimes, you can’t help but be amazed by the unique idiosyncrasies of people, especially when you’re in a business that involves visiting homes often. The holidays are coming up so heating and electric bills have been on my mind these last few weeks and it led me to think about one of the better projects I came across in September, when this blog was just starting. I’m not a NYC electrician but some of my friends are and one of them asked me to be a second pair of eyes for him on a design project for an elderly woman living in Tarrytown.

When we arrived, she showed us in and I was stunned: Lamps! In the living room alone, there were eight (that I counted) lamps on various surfaces, each with a unique style; one was in the shape of a lighthouse, another one had the bulb coming out of an elephant’s trunk. It was like being in the best antique store in the world but the problem was also plainly there: We needed to consolidate her energy use. She told my NYC electrician friend that she usually had three or four of these lamps on as soon as it turned dark, as well as one or two in the dining room and an overhead light in the kitchen. What’s worse? They were all old-school, incandescent bulbs, from a stockpile she had in her basement.

Incandescent bulbs are energy killers, plain and simple, and with the energy bills rising these days, I told her that she should not only cut down on the amount of lamps but toss out most, if not all of her incandescent bulbs. It took some convincing, over two cups of the strongest Russian tea I’ve ever had in my life, but she finally agreed and me any my friend got to work. Over the next week or so, we helped design a system of recessed lights in her living room, dining room and bedroom (which had at least five lamps, including one in the bathroom) and ran new electric lines and dimmer switches in all three rooms. We also ran a line and a new dimmer switch in her kitchen.

The biggest change-up was that we installed CFL bulbs in all the fixtures, including the lamps that she decided to keep out. (It’s worth noting that she agreed to sell me one lamp I particularly liked, the base of which was a suited man who looked a lot like Peter Lorre.) CFL bulbs are commonplace for most people but I feel the need to remind people of them constantly. They are the simplest of all energy savers and most NYC electricians will be the first to sing their praises; there are also LED lamps and lights, which are essentially Christmas lights but used in new designs and compacted to boost the concentrated light emitted. In fact, the drive back to Queens consisted of a long talk about the burdens of hanging exterior Christmas lights, though ultimately, this year, I have something bigger to dread: Hauling a tree up three flights of stairs. Does Santa know a good chiropractor?     

Chocolate Frosting and Food Snobs

Chocolate Frosting and Food Snobs

Me? A food snob? Not really…I’ll admit, I do love the heirloom tomatoes and the baby white turnips and everything from the organic farm, but I’m not above using a cake mix in a pinch. But puh-lease do not use frosting from a can?  Ever. It’s just not worth it – the calories, the effort, anything! It tastes artificial, grainy and bad, and furthermore, it’s too soft to decorate with too.

This week I made three desserts for staff birthdays. One was the Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake from The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn – just devil’s food cake mix, 21 oz. cherry pie filling, 2 eggs and ½ teaspoon of almond extract. Mix as usual and bake. I happen to have a 12 inch round cake pan (because I made my own wedding cake – I know, what was I thinking), so I made it in that instead of a 13 x 9 pan because I thought it would look more festive.

But the frosting, ahh the frosting…it was delicious. It was from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes. Rich, chocolatey, and decadent, but definitely not lo-cal and yes, a little time consuming. After all, it’s Martha, what do you expect?

Here follows two good chocolate frosting recipes: the aforementioned one from Martha, and the other from the America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook. The ATK recipe my daughter made for me for my birthday (I'm trying to lose a few pounds, especially before the holidays!), and it was really delicious, and, as she says, “insanely easy” and “more like 3 minutes”.

Five Minute Lowfat Chocolate Frosting, adapted from the America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

3 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder – preferably Dutch processed*
7 Tablespoons 1 percent lowfat milk
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate (microwave it)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a food processor, pulse the sugar and cocoa together until mixed. Add everything else. Process until smooth.
(130 calories per 2 Tablespoons.)

* Note: Dutch processed cocoa tastes better and blends better than regular cocoa powder – you can buy Dutch processed Rademaker unsweetened cocoa at Wegman’s, or Droste or Lindt from a gourmet store; failing that, use Hershey’s regular unsweetened cocoa powder.

And now for the full fat version:

Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting, adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

8 oz. (2 cups) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder – Dutch processed (see note above)
¼ teaspoons salt
6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (temp is very important here)
¾ stick (6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temp
9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted in a double boiler, and cooled for 20 minutes
¾ cup sour cream, room temperature

Sift together the dry ingredients – sugar, cocoa and salt.

Beat cream cheese and butter together at medium high speed in a mixer until pale and fluffy. On low speed, add the sugar mixture and mix thoroughly. Then add the cooled chocolate and the sour cream and beat on high until smooth.   (Enjoy in moderation - ha!)

It’s hard not to like a chocolate cake with a great frosting.  Be sure to err on the side of underbaking with a chocolate cake, though:  3 - 5 minutes less will do.  A chocolate cake should not be dry.

 And just between you and me - don’t tell anyone it’s from a mix!

(All of the above mentioned books are available in our Library.)

Diane Whitman
Reference Librarian
Little White Liar