Unmasking Superfoods

April 9, 2014 | Cathy | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Image courtesy of

While Gwyneth Paltrow was recently in the news for her "Conscious Uncoupling", aka her separation from hubby Chris Martin, longtime fans have followed the actress through her lifestyle website, goop.   I am not a fan, longtime or otherwise, but was recently directed there by a friend who was on a 'cleansing detox.'  Really, I should know better, having a degree in nutrition, but it just seemed so easy to eat and feel better and maybe, even lose weight, by 'detoxing'.  

I thought my pantry was well-stocked, but apparently not-- all the trendy superfoods-- stevia, coconut nectar, quinoa (okay, I do have quinoa), kale and hemp hearts, listed in the recipes meant a shopping trip would have to happen before any cleansing or detoxing. 

But I am cheap and my logical, skeptical, scientific side finally kicked in.  Some of these ingredients are expensive ... more important, do they really work?  Fortunately, we can get the lowdown from Jennifer Sygo, the nutrition columnist for National Post and a registered dietitian, to boot.  (Please note that anyone can call themselves a 'nutritionist.') Jennifer has been writing about these superfoods in her columns and has just published a book, Unmasking Superfoods: The Truth & Hype about Acai, Quinoa, Chia, Blueberries and More.


     Unmasking Superfoods: ebook

Join Jennifer at North York Central Library, on Thursday April 17, at 7 pm to learn which superfoods, if any, we should be picking up at the supermarket.  Copies of her new book will be available for purchase and signing.

Non-toxic spring cleaning, Longbourn style

March 28, 2014 | Maureen | Comments (5) Facebook Twitter More...

LongbournAfter reading the novel Longbourn, by Jo Baker, I decided to put an intriguing cleaning method used by Sarah, the novel’s main character, to the test. Just to be clear, Longbourn is not a novel about cleaning, although a great deal of cleaning happens in it, including laborious hand-scrubbing of petticoats which have dragged through dirt, scraping mud from boots, and even the emptying of chamber pots (which are taken to the charmingly named “necessary house”, a small building set back from the main house.) This is because the novel tells the stories of the servants employed by the Bennet family in the  Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice. These folk are no more than fleeting presences in Austen’s novel, where they have no existence outside of bringing tea, serving meals, and delivering letters. Jo Baker gives them hearts and minds, which she fills with dreams and secret sorrows as intensely felt as any experienced by the genteel Bennets.

Reading Longbourn was a treat. I learned that sugar once came in loafs. I came across wonderful words like tatterdemalion, lickspittle, syllabub and flump. You won’t need a dictionary to read this book – such words are sprinkled sparingly through it, like judiciously used spices. And I was reminded that the seemingly perfect world of the upper classes was paid for by servants like Sarah, with blisters and exhaustion. As if all of that weren’t enough, Sarah taught me an old school sweeping method.

Jar_0207_25In the book, Sarah saves used tea leaves in a jar. Before sweeping, she sprinkles tea leaves on the floor. I suppose the idea is that dust sticks to the damp tea leaves, and is swept up along with them. I imagine this method would minimize the amount of dust stirred up and inhaled.

After a couple of days of saving used tea bags, I had more than enough tea leaves to give Longbourn style sweeping a try. I waited for a sun beam, and then liberally sprinkled damp tea leaves all around. Then I swept. I did see dust motes floating around in the sun beam as I worked, so not all the dust was caught by the moist tea leaves. 

I’m not sure how much more dust I captured using this method, but I’m going to continue using it. I’m sure I inhaled less dust than I do when I dry sweep. Besides, the tea had a nice, subtle scent. And I liked that I was practicing two of the "three Rs" of environmental sustainablity: reuse and recycle. (When I was finished, I tossed my dust infused tea leaves onto the compost heap.)

The timing is perfect for learning environmentally friendly cleaning methods. Earth Hour is on Saturday March 29. Millions of people all around the world will turn off their lights for one hour, at 8:30 p.m., as a declaration of their commitment to the health of this planet. Earth Day is on April 22. And it is spring, a time for the traditional thorough cleaning of our homes.

Sarah's sweeping with tea leaves made me see a connection between the world of Longbourn and the world of today. Someone had to pay the price for the lifestyles of the rich and idle like Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley in Longbourn. (Something far worse than Sarah's painful chilblains is hinted at in the book: Charles Bingley's fortune depends on the slave labour of sugar plantations.) Likewise, a price will have to be paid for the way we live now, too often putting the health of the earth at the bottom of the priority list. Who will pay the bill? Our children? Our granchildren?

Spring cleaning can be done in an earth friendly way, with non-toxic ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, olive oil and lemon. Here's a simple recipe for furniture oil from Ellen Sandbeck's Organic housekeeping book:

Mix one part lemon juice and two parts olive oil. Mix in a blender or shake vigorously in a tightly lidded jar. Apply sparingly to furniture. If the mixture begins to separate, shake it up again before applying. Let the mixture soak into the wood for a few minutes, then wipe dry with a clean, soft cloth.

Here’s a non-toxic method for removing soap scum build up on shower doors, from Jill Potvin Schoff’s Green-up your cleanup.

Removing mild buildup of soap scum on shower doors:

White vinegar

A spray bottle

A nonabrasive sponge

Spray the surface heavily with undiluted vinegar. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then scrub it using a nonabrasive sponge.

For heavier build up, try using a paste of baking soda and water.

Try one of these books for more green cleaning ideas. Happy spring cleaning!

  Green cleaning for dummies   Greening your cleaning   House works   Clean home
Green cleaning for dummies Greening your cleaning

House works: how to live clean,green and organized at home

Clean home, green home:the complete illustrated guide to eco-friendly homekeeping

  A guide to natural housekeeping   Soaps_bubbles_scrubs   Ecoholic home   Naturally clean home
A guide to natural housekeeping : recipes and solutions for a cleaner, greener home  Soaps, bubbles & scrubs natural products to make for your body and home   Ecoholic home The Naturally Clean Home

Author Visit: Darren Shan

March 17, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Please join us in the library on March 25th from 7-8 P.M. for the British Authors exclusive Toronto visit:


Happy St. Paddy's Day! Don't Let the Clover Knock You Over!

March 16, 2014 | Ann | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Events on Saint Patrick's Day



Are you proudly showing off your Irish greens today?

If you are not Irish by birth (but fully Irish in spirit), the first thing to learn is the correct Irish greeting to use.  Marcus Campbell offers up a wee bit o' advice to assist you: 

It's Paddy, not Patty. Ever.

Saint Patrick’s Day? Grand.

Paddy’s Day? Sure, dead-on.

St. Pat’s? Aye, if ye must.

St. Patty? No, ye goat!

Paddy is derived from the Irish, Pádraig, hence those mysterious, emerald double-Ds.

Patty is the diminutive of Patricia, or a burger, and just not something you call a fella.

There is not a sinner in Ireland that would refer to a Patrick as “Patty”. It’s as simple as that.


  • Paddy
  • Pat
  • Packie
  • Podge
  • Pád
  • Pod


(Excerpt taken from

Knowing the appropriate greeting is a good start.  Learning a few Irish sayings could bump you up in popularity by an extra foot. has a list of the Top 50 Irish Sayings to share with the company of others.  A personal favourite of mine is Saying #22: 


May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks.

May your heart be as light as a song.

May each day bring you bright, happy hours that stay with you

all the year long.

Definition of Clover from EOL

St. Patrick's Day is a time of fun celebrations to welcome the coming of warm green weather.  The St. Patrick's Parade Society of Toronto is a good place to connect to all events Irish. 

Link to Toronto Saint Patrick's Parade Society website


This day also celebrates people of Irish descent and the achievements made in history.  North York Central Library offers a selection of titles for you to peruse at your leisure:

All Standing on Strong Bow on
Why do people kiss the Blarney Stone on
The Republic on
Everybody matters on The origins of the Irish on The graves are walking on The famine plot on


We offer titles on Irish folktales.  These gems are rare, ye see, like the tiny leprechauns they are.  If ye get a chance, nab 'em! Sneak up quietly towards the shelf or click "Hold" and have them within yer grasp.

A Celtic Reader on A Tangle-Coated Horse and Other Tales on Irish Wonders on Myths and Folklore of Ireland on
Irish Food and Folklore at The Penguin guide to the superstitions of Britain and Ireland on The Matchmaker of Kenmare at Ancient legends of Ireland on

Enjoy this day!  May yer day fill with green beer, much cheer, and a Spring in yer step to carry ye through the year.

Author Visit: Angela Misri and Natalie Corbett Sampson

March 12, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Please join us in the library for an author event featuring two authors from Fierce Ink Press, who will be discussing the ins and outs of writing for youth.



Author Visit: Cecil Castellucci

February 20, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...


Want to borrow the book?

Freedom to read week - Alanna Mitchell Talk!

February 10, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Alannamitchell 2

How Black History Month Became A Canadian Tradition

February 6, 2014 | Ann | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Link to biography of Carter G. Woodson on
Photo Credit:

This month of February celebrates Black History Month.  The inception of this historical custom involved the idea of one person and the support of many people to bring this to fruition. 

In 1926, Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950), shown above, was the first American historian to recognize the need to commemorate Black History and the contributions Black People made in shaping North America.  Woodson initiated Black History Week in February coinciding with the birthdays of two historical figures he respected: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.  For the next fifty years, every second week in February, Americans celebrated Black History. 

In 1969, residing in Kent State University, an association called, The Black United Students petitioned the government for Black History Week to be celebrated for the full month of February.  This request was fulfilled in an official ceremony in 1976, when Gerald R. Ford made the announcement to the nation. 

In Canada, a parallel evolution occurred.   Historica Canada provides a detailed account of how this tradition began here:

In Canada, this idea was first celebrated in Toronto by railroad porters within the Black community by 1950; the porters had learned of it on their travels in the United States. The Canadian Negro Women’s Association also hosted a few celebrations. It was not until the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) was founded in 1978, and petitioned the City of Toronto by 1979 to have February proclaimed Black History Month that the celebration started to trickle into the entire community. The OBHS has successfully lobbied the federal government to have February declared as Black History Month. In December 1995, the Parliament of Canada officially recognized February as Black History Month, following a motion introduced by the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine, MP of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.  (Historica Canada: Black History Canada)

Even though Black History Month may have taken almost two decades longer to achieve in Canada, the credit for its success depended on the support of Black communities and the Ontario Black History Society.  Today, all of North America recognizes Black History Month.


If you are interested in participating in Black History Month events, the Toronto Public Library offers Programs, Classes, and Exhibits available at libraries across the city.

Black History Month Programs at TPL


Here are more Canadian Black History events and websites worth perusing:

Holeing a cane-piece, on Weatherell's Estate
Photo Credit: The City of Toronto website
  • The National Film Board of Canada has a selection of NFB Films for Black History Month which are immediately available for viewing--with the click of a mouse or a single touch on your cellphone, you will be enjoying some artistic Black heritage.  Shown below is a 7-minute animated movie called, The Magic Lion.


  •  The Virtual Reference Library has more recommended links available on Black Studies.

Virtual Reference Library Recommended Websites


Here are some titles available for more information on the history of Black Canadians and Black Americans.

Black History on The Journey From Tollgate to Parkway on Black History in Early Ontario on The Nova Scotia Black Experience on
Black Inventors on Living Black History on How Blacks Created Canada on

The Blacks in Canada on


Here is a link to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day blog posted in January.  Martin Luther King, Jr. plays an important role in Black History and is worth a second mention.

Martin Luther King, Jr Blog


For those who enjoy music, Bob Marley's Redemption Song - The Canadian Connection blog provides entertaining information on Black history, art, and music culture.

Enjoy this month's celebrations and events to reflect on how far Black Canadians and Americans have strived and achieved through the pages of history. 

Marissa Meyer: Author Visit!

February 1, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...


Recommended by you

January 31, 2014 | Maureen | Comments (7) Facebook Twitter More...

Question: what do a 1980s science fiction book, a comical Swedish picaresque tale, an Italian novel steeped in sadness, a tough guy thriller, a history of the native peoples of North America, a teen romance, a true story about a deadly trip into the Alaskan wilderness, a vegan cook book, and a ghost story from that questionably coined category "chick lit" have in common? The answer is that all of these radically different books were recommended to me by library patrons.

People often ask librarians for book recommendations, which we happily provide. But the relationship works the other way around too -- library patrons enthusiastically suggest books to library staff. If you encounter a librarian who jots the title you tell her about on a little scrap of paper and shoves it in her back pocket, that's me. When these scraps start to resemble an indoor snow storm I add them to my will-never-finish-it-in-a-lifetime-but-will-have-a-great-time-trying reading list.


Below, I offer a sampling of the books I've read based on the recommendations of library patrons. Why these books in particular? I guess it's because they remind me of a surprise package -- remember those mysterious paper bags filled with treats that you blew your allowance on when you were a kid? Sometimes you'd get something really delicious, a tasty treasure. Then there were the items that were new and strange to you, that you bit down on curiously, open to the new experience. And once in a while there was something you really didn't like, but you ate it anyway.

There's a fiction book on this list that I loved. And a non-fiction book that got into my dreams. And, to be honest, there were a couple of books I didn't like, but I finished anyway. Thank you for all your recommendations. I like to explore outside the borders of my reading comfort zone once in a while, even if I don't always like what I find there. Sometimes I stumble across treasure that way. What's really interesting to me is that all of these books are treasure to someone. It just goes to show, we are not all the same. Vive la différence! Please keep the recommendations coming!



Downbelow station A huge thank you to the man who recommended this -- I loved it! Downbelow station won the Hugo award (for science fiction) in 1982. It's impossible to give an adequate description of this big novel in so small a space, so I'll just give you some keywords: extraterrestrial colonization, trade, interstellar war, ambition, political intrigue, assassination, desperation, hairy aliens, and a big, fascinating cast of characters. The novel suggests that when humanity begins to colonize other worlds, we won't just bring the better part of our nature with us -- our demons will be along for the ride too.
  American holocaust American holocast: Columbus and the conquest of the New World is about the catastrophic impact Europeans had on the indigenous population of the Americas beginning in 1492. According to the author, ninety-five percent of the Native American population  perished as a result of contact with Europeans, not only because of exposure to disease the indigenous peoples were defenceless against but also because of “purposeful genocide.” Though disturbing to read at times, this is an important piece of scholarship written in crystal clear prose.


  Into the wild The true account of a young man, Christopher McCandless, who sets out to ramble through America right after graduating from college. He leaves behind family, car, cash – all the trappings of a conventional life – and disappears into the wilderness of Alaska. Into the wild was a fascinating, compelling read. I liked it so much, I plan to read it again one day. An excellent recommendation from a young man.
Thanks to the teenager who recommended The fault in our stars, a heart wrenching book about two very sick teenagers who fall in love. Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters are delightful characters to spend some of your precious life with (and reading this book will remind you of just how precious it is.) Green's description of how difficult the simple act of breathing without machine support is for Hazel is so well done that for the longest time after I read this book I felt a sense of great fortune when I took a deep, unimpeded breath.   The fault in our stars
  Isa does it~ The library patron who recommended this book to me was so enthusiastic about it, she got it from the shelf and put it in my hands. I haven't read it -- it's a cookbook, after all -- but I've turned every page, oggled the pictures, and made note of recipes to try. (The black bean burgers look heavenly.) Thanks for recommending this beautiful new cook book, Isa does it: amazingly easy, wildly delicious vegan recipes for every day of the week.
  The solitude of prime numbers

“Giordano's deeply touching debut novel immediately thrusts the reader into the lives of two individuals, at the moment when each of their young lives takes a sharp turn toward painful solitude: Alice has been crippled in a childhood skiing accident, Mattia is consumed by guilt after playing an unintended but key role in his twin sister's disappearance. Upon meeting in their early teens, they develop a frequently uncomfortable yet enveloping friendship.” (Book List Review.) Physicist Paolo Giordano's The solitude of prime numbers won the Premio Strega, Italy’s most prestigious literary award. A wonderful recommendation – I enjoyed this melancholy, beautiful book.


  Gone tomorrow
A fast paced thriller that grabbed my attention from the first page. Lee Child’s thirteenth Jack Reacher novel, Gone tomorrow,  starts with a bang – our hero finds himself riding the New York subway with a woman who is a perfect match for the Israeli counterintelligence profile of a suicide bomber. The knife fight between Reacher and two women, one old, and the other young, stunningly beautiful and possessing mad knife skills, was ridiculous, (Reacher is very tall and muscular) but aside from that it was a good page turner-type read.
  The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared

The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared. One day Allan Karlsson climbs out the window of his nursing home, steals a suitcase full of cash from a young thug in a bus station, and accumulates a set of colourful friends while he flees from criminals who want their money back. His past is as interesting as his present – mostly due to his talent with explosives, he gets involved with some of the key figures of the twentieth century -- Mao, Winston Churchill and Stalin, to name a few. I didn’t find this popular book quite as hilarious as many people did, but it had some good lines. My favourite: “People could do what they wanted, but Allan considered that in general it was quite unnecessary to be grumpy if you had the chance not to.” Words to live by.


  Twenties girl

Lara Lington, a young woman in her twenties, is haunted (but not in a scary way) by the ghost of her great aunt Sadie, who was a young woman in the 1920s. Sadie is a demanding pest of a ghost who alternates between sulking and shouting in people’s ears to manipulate them. I was rooting for Lara to hire a ghost exorcist to banish Sadie from the earthly realm forever. Not my cup of tea -- but some readers find Twenties Girl fun, breezy and funny. A light, confection of a ghost story with lots of references to the roaring 1920s.


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