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Bending Minds: The Architecture of Frank Gehry

August 26, 2016 | Maureen | Comments (0)

Please join us at North York Central Library on Thursday, September 29, for a talk on world renowned architect Frank Gehry. The talk begins at 7:00 p.m. and will be given by Larry Wayne Richards, Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto.

Frank Gehry's roots are in Toronto. He was born here in 1929, and spent his formative years in Toronto's Jewish ghetto, before his family immigrated to Los Angeles in 1947. His grandmother bought fish for the Sabbath meal at Kensington Market. He played in Grange Park, not far from the Art Gallery of Ontario, which he would one day transform. He developed a love of working with his hands helping out in his grandfather's hardware store on Queen Street West, laying a foundation for his future: "That nurtured it: learning to work with pipe, to cut pipe, put the threads on it, to cut glass...I used to love opening those boxes of bolts and looking at them, and making stuff with them." (Frank Gehry: Toronto). The little boy who created cities out of scraps of wood grew up to design bold, unconventional, buildings that got people talking about architecture in a way they hadn't for many years. Gehry was never interested in making more of the ubiquitous concrete boxes that dominate modern city sky lines. This statement by Gehry gets to the heart of his work: "I approach each building as a sculptural object." (Contemporary Architects).

Gehry's audacious architectural designs are characterized by free flowing, sensuous curves, undulating lines, swooping sheets of metal that billow like sails on a boat. In an essay written to celebrate Gehry's winning the prestigous Pritzker Architecture Prize, Ada Louise Huxtable wrote, "Delight breaks through constantly; there are no gloomy Gehry buildings. One cannot think of anything he has done that doesn’t make one smile." 

Take a look at these innovative buildings, designed by Gehry:

Dancing House, Prague

Nationale-Nederlanden building, Prague. (Architects: Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry)

Photo by Dino Quinzani, Wikimedia Commons


Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Frederick Weisman Museum of Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Photo by Mulad, Wikimedia Commons

Lou Ruvo Center

  Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Las Vegas

Photo by Cygnusloop99, Wikimedia Commons


Experience Music Project

Experience Music Project, Seattle, Washington

Photo by Cacophony, Wikimedia Common

Gehry's design for the EMP museum (which celebrates pop culture) was inspired by shattered electric guitars. Gehry bought some electric guitars, cut them up, and used the pieces to create an early model of the museum. 

  Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain

 Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain

Photo by MykReeve, Wikimedia Commons

Renowned architect Philip Johnson traveled to Spain in 1998 at the age of 91 to see the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, just after it was finished. It brought him to tears. He later pronounced it to be "the greatest building of our time." Paul Goldberger, author of Why architecture matters, said the building was "truly a signal moment in the architectural culture." Here's a detail of the Guggenheim Museum:  

Guggenheim Bilbao detail


 Photo by E. Goergen, Wikimedia Commons


Art Gallery of Ontario


Art Gallery of Ontario after Frank Gehry's redesign

Photo: John Joh, Wikimedia Commons

Pick up a MAP pass to see Frank Gehry's stunning redesign of the Art Gallery of Ontario from the inside. With a valid adult Toronto Public Library card, you can get a pass to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario for free from any library branch. The Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass (MAP) lets you and your family explore the best of Toronto's arts and cultural treasures for free. Call your local branch for more details about how to get a pass.

The library has copies of Sketches of Frank Gehry, a documentary about the architect directed by his longtime friend, Sydney Pollock:

Sketches of Frank Gehry


 Here are some books you can borrow on Frank Gehry:

Conversations with Frank Gehry Frank Gehry


Frank Gehry -- the houses Frank Gehry, architect


Frank O. Gehry -- selected works 1969 to today Symphony -- Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall


Building Art -- the life and work of Frank Gehry


A Roof of One's Own

August 19, 2016 | Carolyn | Comments (0)

Tiny Houses, Hatteras, North Carolina
Tiny Houses, Hatteras, North Carolina. Image by Bill Dickinson; shared via Creative Commons license


You can't open a newspaper these days without seeing articles about the Canadian housing market. Pointing out the growing gap between incomes and house prices, predicting the inevitable correction, or perhaps a soft landing, they can make for pretty confusing reading. So wouldn't it be reasonable to think that renting is the better strategy in the current housing market? Well the situation for renters isn't much better; according to a 2015 report from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, a shortage of rental housing stock means that "one in five renters pays more than 50 per cent of their income on housing". 

So what are the options if you're looking for alternatives to Toronto's current sky-high rents and record real estate prices? 

You could look into alternate housing models. Here are some examples:

  • shared ownership: In this model you buy and live in a home with friends, sharing the costs of home ownership. Read more about the shared ownership model here.
  • co-operative housing: Housing co-ops are non-profit organizations which provide secure housing to members at lower than average cost. Learn about the co-operative housing movement in Canada here.
  • co-housing: Co-housing is an ownership model in which residents own their homes and also have access to a common space with shared amenities. Pooling and sharing resources can lower costs. Toronto's first co-housing project is in the planning stages. Learn more about the co-housing model here.


You could also investigate these smaller, more affordable housing options:

  • laneway housing: Laneways can provide "small-scale housing options that can help address the affordability gap". Toronto has over 25000 laneways; while some cities are allowing the construction of new laneway housing, Toronto currently considers applications on a case-by-case basis. 
  • garden suites: A garden suite is a self-contained housing unit built on a lot with an existing single-family home, usually occupied by people related to the homeowner. It is especially suited to seniors or people with disabilities, but there is increasing awareness that garden suites can help meet the housing affordability gap. In 2011 the Ontario government changed the Planning Act to make garden suites a more attractive housing option. Learn more about those changes here.
  • shipping containers: Using modular components helps reduce construction costs.  Shipping containers are being re-purposed for everything from pop-up shops to living spaces. Pallet homes reuse wooden shipping pallets as an affordable building material for small living spaces.


Here are some library resources with more information on this subject:


Shipping Container Homes: how to build a shipping container home for cheap and live mortgage-free for life. eBook

War Posters From 102 Years Ago Today

July 29, 2016 | Ann | Comments (2)

Images from The Archives New Zealand on Flickr
Photo Courtesy of The Archives of New Zealand under licence CC 2.0

August 1, 2016 is a great day to relax and spend away from the office to bask in the sun before the colder temperatures return. In contrast to this fine day of comfort, warmth, and leisure, on August 1, 1914, a different scenario was taking place -- hostile events culminated in starting the first day of World War I in Britain. Recruitment posters began appearing in distant locations around the world requesting young men to join in the fight. The poster of this August lion was publicized in New Zealand. More historical posters from that continent are available through the NZ History website.


On the American Front, James Montgomery Flagg created "the most famous wartime poster in the world." This recruitment poster was published in July 1916 and became a permanent fixture in American folklore. Also worth noting is the fact that the Uncle Sam character resembles James M. Flagg himself.


"I Want You" poster: The Price of Freedom: Americans at War
This image is a work of a US military or Department of Defense employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the US federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Similarly, on the British Front, another personality promoted military recruitment. This fictitious personality portrays a boisterous wealthy English farmer by the name of John Bull. The name of the artist for this poster is unknown but it was printed by Andrew Reid & Company Limited. The history of this character goes back to the 1700s and was created by a British mathematician and author, John Arbuthnot as noted in his original (1712) title, The History of John Bull.

Other World War One posters available at
This artistic work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain.

With the Union Flag emblazoned across his full belly, the slogan asked, "Who's Absent? Is it You?" Behind him a line of soldiers reveals gaps where soldiers would be and burning buildings behind the gaps that need addressing. This poster shows a subtle approach to the dire need for men in comparison to Uncle Sam's big furrowing brows, no-nonsense frown, steely gaze, in-your-face pointing finger, and the directive, "I Want You for the US Army." 


Canada has also offered assistance to the Great War through recruitment and by purchasing Victory Bonds to help fund the soldiers in the fight overseas. 

They Serve France.  How can I serve Canada?  Buy Victory Bonds
Image courtesy of the Toronto Public Library

More patriotic posters are available through our Toronto Public Library Archive


Finally, what better way to support our soldiers than to entertain them and lift their spirits through a donation of books to your local library for the soldiers abroad: 

The American Library Association through the University of Illinois has also put together a digital archive of historic posters worth glancing through.


Also, here are some titles on propaganda, art and how the fancy slogans are created to draw the men and women to join in the Great War.

Propaganda and censorship during Canada's Great War Secret warriors: key scientists, code breakers and propagandists of the Great War For home and country: World War I propaganda on the home front
Picture this: World War I posters and visual culture Art or memorial?: the forgotten history of Canada's war art Art at the service of war: Canada, art, and the Great War

Also have a look at The Toronto Public Library’s Pinterest Board with a selection of World War 1 Posters as well as the following blog posts from the past:

Enjoy the long weekend filled with fun and exciting events. Contemplate how this time was spent over a century ago. The war preparations, the posters beckoning recruitment, and the ongoing carnage and bravery have remained permanently embedded in our world history.

Breaking the Grass Laws, Loving the Weed

July 29, 2016 | Maureen | Comments (4)

Take a look at the lawns on the covers of these books:

John Deere landscaping & lawn care - the complete guide to a beautiful yard year-round Ortho's all about lawns The complete guide to a better lawn - how to plant, maintain & improve your yard & lawn

And these lawns, on the covers of organic lawn care books:

Organic lawn care - growing grass the natural way The organic lawn care manual - a natural, low-maintenance system for a beautiful, safe lawn Lawns for Canada - natural and organic

I see a lawn like this and think, I bet I'd have to use a coaster in that house. And sit up very straight in an expensive white chair. Woe to the dandelion that dares to raise its sunny face on these battlefields, where man and nature clash all summer long. But if grass with a buzz cut is your idea of beauty, click on the books pictured here to reserve one of these lawn care instruction books. 

I prefer a lawn that looks like nature is at least putting up a fight. These lawns are more my style:

Natural gardening in small spaces The American meadow garden - creating a natural alternative to the traditional lawn The living landscape

But way beyond my capabilities. I'm one of those kill-everything-she-touches type gardeners, so I don't touch. I let nature have her way with my bit of sod. I have no book recommendations for you on this laissez-faire landscaping style -- you don't need any. It's real easy. Sprinkle a few wildflower seeds if you want, or not, then just wait to see what grows. But get ready to harvest a bumper crop of stink eye from your neighbours when the weeds reach your belly button! Look what grew on my lawn without any help from me! I especially like the thistle thingy.


Thistle small

At this point, I'm guessing I've alienated those of you who have lawns that look like they belong to Nurse Ratched in One flew over the cuckoo's nest. And if you're thinking that I'm breaking some kind of rule, well, right you are! Municipal Code Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds states, "The owner or occupant of private land shall cut the grass and weeds on their land...whenever the growth of grass and weeds exceeds 20 centimetres in height." Some of my most spectacular weeds are four times that high!

Here's what Chapter 489 of the Municipal Code means by weeds:

(1) All noxious weeds and local weeds designated under the Weed Control Act; and

(2) Any other vegetation growth that does not form part of a natural garden that has been deliberately implemented to produce ground cover...consistent with a managed and natural landscape other than regularly mown grass.

I think that means I'm on the right side of the law if I say that my botanical chaos/gnome kingdom is a "natural garden" which I "deliberately implemented." OK, let's go with that, I did it on purpose. But we natural gardeners are not so easily let off the Chapter 489 hook. To fend off busy-body complaint filing neighbours, we'd need to apply for a Natural Garden Exemption. And we'd have to get the city horticulturalist to inspect our urban jungle and, hopefully, recommend approval of the exemption. And it might be a good idea to consult the list of noxious weeds in Ontario before the friendly horticulturalist comes calling, to check for trouble makers like giant hogweed (the sap can cause skin to burn), poison hemlock (can cause respiratory failure in humans when ingested), or ragweed (can cause hay fever).

There are some real bad-ass weeds out there -- poisonous, tough, fast-growing, invasive, manifest destiny practicing bullies, that choke out native plants. But it's not fair to demonize all weeds. Where one person sees a weed, another might see a lovely wild flower, or nutritious salad greens, a nice cup of tea, herbal medicine, a spring tonic, or an insect habitat. Here are some books that look at weeds with a sympathetic eye:

The wild wisdom of weeds -13 essential plants for human survival Weeds - in defense of nature's most unloved plants Weeds
Adventures in edible plant foraging - finding, identifying, harvesting, and preparing native and invasive, wild plants Backyard foraging - 65 familiar plants you didn't know you could eat Wild edibles - a practical guide to foraging, with easy identification of 60 edible plants and 67 recipes

Take the common dandelion for instance. Every part of this scorned weed can be eaten. Dandelion greens can be used in salads, the roasted roots can be consumed as a caffeine-free coffee substitute, and the flowers can be used to make dandelion wine. Which brings to mind a quote from one of my favourite Ray Bradbury books, Dandelion wine (a perfect summer read, by the way): "Dandelion wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered."

Dandelion wine"Twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding knows Green Town, Illinois, is as vast and deep as the whole wide world that lies beyond the city limits. It is a pair of brand-new tennis shoes, the first harvest of dandelions for Grandfather's renowned intoxicant, the distant clang of the trolley's bell on a hazy afternoon. But as Douglas is about to discover, summer can be more than the repetition of established rituals whose mystical power holds time at bay. It can be a best friend moving away, a human time machine who can transport you back to the Civil War, or a sideshow automaton able to glimpse the bittersweet future."

Are you feeling a little friendlier towards the common weed? No? Maybe this random collection of books with dandelions in the title will sway you:

The dandelion years - Erica James Dandelion summer - Lisa Wingate
The dandelion field - Kathryn Springer Dandelion - memoir of a free spirt, by Catherine James


Welcome to the Business, Science and Technology Department

July 22, 2016 | Carolyn | Comments (2)

If you're a regular visitor to the North York Central Library you've probably noticed some recent changes. The Library is undergoing a major renovation, a project that will be completed over the next few years. One change which has already taken place is the merger of the Business Department with the Science and Technology Department. The new Business, Science and Technology Department is located on the 4th Floor. When the renovation is complete, the department will provide more meeting and study space, including a designated work and meeting area for business start-ups.

Coming from the former Science and Technology Department, I've spent the past several weeks learning about the Business Department's great collections and online resources. Here are a few highlights:



  • the Careers collection has books about jobs and careers, job searching, resumes, cover letters and job interviews
  • the Directories collection has publications with information about industries, businesses and organizations

I've also been impressed with the range and depth of the Business collection in areas such as law, management and investing.


Online resources

  • CARDonline: Canadian advertising rates and media planning information for advertising, marketing, public relations and communications professionals. 
  • CPA Canada Handbook - Accounting & Assurance: accounting and auditing service guidelines
  • LawSource: Canadian legislation, case law and commentaries
  • MarketLine: industry trends, product development, international company and industry information


Here are some recent additions to the Business collection that have caught my eye:




July 18 is Mandela Day

July 18, 2016 | Carrie | Comments (0)

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 and would be celebrating his 98th birthday today if he was still alive (he passed away in 2013). To honour his legacy and to promote community service worldwide, July 18 was declared Nelson Mandela International Day (or 'Mandela Day') by the United Nations in 2009. In recognition of one of the world's most inspiring anti-apartheid leaders and symbols of freedom and equality, here are six books to help celebrate 'Mandela Day.'

Long walk to freedom              Young Mandela                                   Prisoner in the Garden (2)                                 

The Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela

 Young Mandela: The Revolutionary Years by David James Smith

 A Prisoner in the Garden by Nelson Mandela


Playing the enemy

              Conversations with Myself                              

    Notes to the future 

 Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation by John Carlin

 Conversations with Myself By Nelson Mandela

Notes to the Future By Nelson Mandela              

The Nelson Mandela Foundation asks people to give up 67 minutes on Mandela Day -- one minute for every year of Mandela's public service -- to take action and inspire change. The objective is to "inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better and in so doing, to build a global movement for good."

Some of the suggested activities include:

  • Make a new friend. Get to know someone from a different cultural background.
  • Read to someone who can’t.
  • Help someone get a job. Put together and print a CV for them, or help them with their interview skills.
  • Offer to take an elderly neighbour who can't drive to do their shopping/chores.
  • Donate your skills!




Sunny Summer Cinema

July 15, 2016 | Muriel | Comments (4)

Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; 
to me those have always been the two 
most beautiful words in the English language.
~Henry James (1843 to 1916)

I have noticed that free outdoor screenings of movies in Toronto have been opening up like wildflowers in the sun! From Mel Lastman Square to Yonge-Dundas Square to St. James Park to Harbourfront to Sugar Beach and more locations, these screenings have reminded me about some wonderful films with gorgeous sunny summer scenery.


Italy comes to my mind right away as a glorious setting for sunny summer cinema. La Dolce Vita stars the handsome and inimitable Marcello Mastroianni as a journalist looking for love and happiness, over seven days and nights, in Rome. Jep, an aging socialite, is also looking for meaning in the summer in Rome in The Great Beauty. In Mid-August Lunch, Gianni still lives with his elderly mother in Rome. He ends up taking care of several other mothers, in addition to his own, on the August 15 Ferragosto Roman holiday.

La Dolce Vita      The Great Beauty      Mid-August Lunch

Leaving her cheating husband behind in the United States, Diane Lane stars as Frances Mayes in Under the Tuscan Sun. Frances buys a rural Tuscan villa and struggles to start her life over again. Probably my favourite film of all time is A Room with a View, which is based on the novel by EM Forster. It stars Helena Bonham Carter as an Edwardian woman with a chaperone in Florence, who falls in love there with a passionate, free-spirited Englishman. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is a wonderful comedy starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni as three different Italian couples in Naples, Milan and Rome.

Under the Tuscan Sun      A Room with a View      Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

One of the most delightful films I have seen which is set in Paris is How to Steal a Million, with Audrey Hepburn starring as an art forger's daughter. She hires a cat burglar to steal back from a museum her father's reproduced sculpture before it is too late. In Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, aspiring novelist Gil tours Paris on his own, late at night, meeting Jazz Age cultural heroes and becoming more dissatisfied with his present life. In To Catch a Thief, Cary Grant is a retired cat burglar living on the French Riviera. Grace Kelly plays beautiful heiress Francie, whose jewels are stolen, and when the cat burglar becomes a suspect, he must catch the real thief and clear his own name.

How to Steal a Million      Midnight in Paris      To Catch a Thief

The sun actually shines in England in Sense and Sensibility! Emma Thompson plays Elinor Dashwood and Kate Winslet, her sister, and both strive for love despite reduced circumstances due to the death of their father (Sense and Sensibility will be screened outdoors at Harbourfront on August 24). In the beloved musical My Fair Lady, pompous phonetics professor Henry Higgins, played by Rex Harrison, is sure that he can transform a Cockney working-class girl (played by Audrey Hepburn) into someone who can pass for a cultured member of high society. One of my favourite actresses, Brenda Blethyn, stars as Grace Trevethen in Saving Grace. When Grace's late husband leaves her a manor on the Cornish coast with a massive debt, she gets an outrageous idea to raise money.

Sense and Sensibility My Fair Lady Saving Grace

Another sunny film comes from Mexico, Like Water for Chocolate.  A young girl named Tita longs her entire life to marry her lover, Pedro, but cannot since she is the youngest daughter and must care for her mother until the day she dies. In The Seven Year Itch, a faithful husband is tempted during a New York heatwave by a beautiful neighbour, played by Marilyn Monroe.  

From Australia comes The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, about two drag queens, and a transgender woman played by Terence Stamp, as they journey across the Australian outback in a tour bus they have named "Priscilla." 

Like Water for Chocolate      The Seven Year Itch      The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Back home in Canada, in The Grand Seduction, the residents of a small fishing community in Newfoundland try to charm a doctor into staying there. In My American Cousin, a 12-year-old British Columbia girl's American cousin introduces her to rock music and makes her swoon; and in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, the younger son of a working-class Jewish family in Montreal yearns to make a name for himself in society.

The Grand Seduction      My American Cousin      The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Come and join us for films and programs on related topics, and keep cool on hot days, at Toronto Public Library.

La bibliothèque York Woods vous invite à profiter d'un bon film, Starbuck, lundi le 15 août de 18 h à 20 h.  Le film sera suivi d'une discussion. Pour trouver plus d'informations, s'il vous plaît appelez-nous au 416-395-5980.

Hockey Players Clobber Artists

June 30, 2016 | Maureen | Comments (8)

How many hockey players does it take to make you feel dumb about Canadian art? If you said three, good guess. A recent poll showed that Canadians had no trouble coming up with the names of hockey players -- 97 percent of those polled could name three or more. I came up with ten, and I don't even care about hockey. Hey, put away those pitchforks and torches -- I promise, I WILL be a fan during the last game of the playoffs, if the Leafs ever make it that far. Or the Habs. Or ANY Canadian team.

The fact that Canadians -- even the least athletic or sporty among us, know the names of hockey players, is no big shocker. Canadians exhale Zamboni fumes. Baby Canadians drink in the names of hockey stars with their mother's milk. The more unsettling revelation that came from this poll is that 54 percent of Canadians couldn't come up with the name of a single Canadian visual artist, living or dead. And those that could, picked the usual (albeit incredibly talented and venerated) suspects: Emily Carr, Tom Thomson and two members of the Group of Seven, A. Y. Jackson, and Lawren Harris.

Emily Carr collected A treasury of Tom Thomson
A. Y. Jackson - the life of a landscape painter Lawren Stewart Harris - a painter's progress

If there was a Conn Smythe Trophy for most valuable player in the visual arts, these four painters would surely have won it. Their impressions of the Canadian landscape are as much a part of the Canadian psyche as Paul Henderson's game winning goal with only 34 seconds left to play in the 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series. When I think of Ontario's north, I swear, I see it like this:

  The west wind

The west wind, Tom Thomson - with permission from the Art Gallery of Ontario

In celebration of Canada Day, let's take a moment to consider some other Canadian visual artists. The hockey season is over. The winter Olympics are more than two years off. Light filled summer days are perfect for looking at these art books.

David Altmejd
David Altmejd, sculptor


The women of Beaver Hall - Canadian modernist painters
The Beaver Hall Group


Manufactured landscapes
Edward Burtynsky, photographer


Alex Colville, painter


Kurelek country - the art of William Kurelek
William Kurelek, painter


A fool in paradise - an artist's early life
Doris McCarthy, artist specializing in abstracted landscapes


David Milne - watercolours
David Milne, painter, printmaker


Norval Morrisseau - Return To The House Of Invention
Norval Morrisseau, artist


Odjig - the art of Daphne Odjig, 1960-2000
Daphne Odjig, artist


Christopher Pratt - the places I go

Christopher Pratt, painter, printmaker


Mary Pratt
Mary Pratt, painter


Jeff Wall, photographer


Steve Martin, the American comedian/actor/musician/author/art collector -- let's just say, all round genius -- was so taken with the work of Lawren Harris, he curated an exhibition of his work. The idea of north: the paintings of Lawren Harris will be at the Art Gallery of Ontario from July 1 to September 18. Pick up a Sun Life Financial Museum and Arts Pass at your local Toronto Public Library branch, and you can go to the Art Gallery of Ontario for free. You can borrow the beautiful book The idea of north: the paintings of Lawren Harris from the Toronto Public Library.

The idea of North - the paintings of Lawren Harris


National Post article, June 20, 2016: Over 50 per cent of Canadians can't name a Canadian painter; 97 per cent can name multiple hockey players


Al Fresco: Summer Meals in the Great Outdoors

June 24, 2016 | Carolyn | Comments (0)

From food trucks to patios, a sure sign that summer has arrived in the city is the return of outdoor dining. So during this first weekend of summer, may I put in a good word for my favourite outdoor meal - the picnic?

I have fond memories of childhood picnics. There were no wicker baskets, baguettes or blankets spread on manicured lawns. Instead, we sat at sticky picnic tables at roadside rest stops and washed down our soggy sandwiches with warm drinks because the ice in the cooler had long since melted. Our "picnics" were quick pit stops on a long annual road trip and they've become part of our family lore; experiences I look back on with affection despite their shortcomings.

Maybe that's why I've idealized picnics in the years since. I now have a wicker basket, and a few times every summer I pack a meal to be shared in a beautiful outdoor setting. I've taken it to beaches and on canoe trips; once I even packed it in my luggage and used it almost daily on a driving trip through France.

A nobleman with his entourage enjoying a picnic. Illustration from a French edition of Le Livre de chasse de Gaston Phébus ("The Hunting Book of Gaston Phebus"), 15th century.  Bibliothèque National, Paris.
From "Le Livre de chasse de Gaston Phébus". Public domain image.

Food historians trace the origins of picnics to medieval hunting feasts, and say that for centuries dining outdoors was an activity for the wealthy.

Today most of us think of picnics as simple meals eaten at a beach or in a park rather than banquets that just happen to be served outdoors.

Whatever the location or menu, following a few simple rules will ensure that you enjoy your picnic safely. 




Food Safety for Picnics

Summer temperatures can make outdoor food handling and storage a challenge. Follow these food safety rules to ensure a safe picnic:

  • use a cooler and ice packs to keep cold foods cold (below 4 degrees C or 40 degrees F)
  • keep the cooler out of direct sunlight and try not to open it any more than necessary
  • don't leave food out for more than one hour in hot weather
  • wash your hands, utensils and work surfaces to prevent cross-contamination


For more information about how to ensure your picnic is safe, have a look at the following:


It's Good for You

Whether you pack an elaborate meal in a basket or just take your brown-bag lunch outside for a change, I suggest you enjoy some picnics this summer. Studies show spending time outdoors improves health and many people also believe that food tastes better when eaten outdoors - the theory being that all of our senses are heightened when we're outside.


We have books to help you plan and prepare the perfect picnic:


Here Comes the Summer Solstice!

June 20, 2016 | Ann | Comments (0)

Mandala titles for your reading interest!
Photo courtesy of Bart Everson on Flickr under cc Generic 2.0 licence.

While temperatures soared above the 30 degree Celsius mark after Victoria Day on May 23rd, summer officially begins at 6:34 pm today. As the commuter traffic dwindles, the Summer Solstice pours through the City hurling us into hot and humid weather. Today starts the season of swimming pools, bug bites and scorching sunburns.

Here are some historically hot topics for you to glance through on your patio:

Indian summer: the secret history of the end of an empire Empire of the summer moon: Quanah Parker and the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history The long summer: how climate changed civilization Martian summer: robot arms, cowboy spacemen, and my 90 days with the Phoenix Mars Mission
Freedom summer: the savage summer that made Mississippi burn and made America a democracy Summer of '68: the season that changed baseball-- and America-- forever The summer of beer and whiskey: how brewers, barkeeps, rowdies, immigrants, and a wild pennant fight made baseball America's game Red heat: conspiracy, murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean


Today also celebrates the longest day of the year. From this day forward, daylight hours gradually shorten over time. Six months from today, on Wednesday, December 21st at 5:44 pm, the Winter Solstice will mark the shortest day of the year. From that day forward, daylight hours with increase again until the next Summer Solstice arrives to complete the cycle. In contrast, the Spring and Fall Equinox mark the period when daylight balances evenly with the nighttime hours because the sun is directly over the Earth's equator. Paige Williams' (2013) article provides a detailed understanding on how seasons occur as a result of how our planet is tilted. 


As the Earth tilts favourably towards the Sun at different areas of the world, people gather to celebrate this day with food and festivities. Here are four articles on Summer Solstice celebrations from around the world:

  1. Top 10 Summer Solstice Celebrations Around the World by Huffpost Travel
  2. 5 summer solstice celebrations from around the world by
  3. 5 Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice Around the World by
  4. 15 Summer Holiday Traditions from Around the World by Becky Ferreira

Or, you can create your very own Summer Solstice festivity from WikiHow.


Enjoy these previous TPL blogs as the summer moves forward:

  1. Summer Awakens the Wandering Traveler
  2. UFO or Weather Balloon
  3. Elizabeth Posthuma Simcoe, 1762-1850
  4. Let's Go to the EX!


While planning your fun in the City, have a look at the following websites:

  1. Toronto Hogspot Activities/Events/Fun
  2. City of Toronto - Special Events
  3. Toronto festivals and events calendar


Summer would not be complete without some amazing activities for the children and family across the City. Thursday, June 30, 2016, the TD Summer Reading Club registration begins and the book reporting starts on Monday, July 4, 2016! The program runs all summer long and ends on Saturday, September 3, 2016. Children are encouraged to sign up, read books, join in on some amazing activities, and spend the best part of the summer learning and having fun.

Summer Reading Club 2016

Enjoy this day and every sun-drenched day that is available for the next three months. The weather can only get better from this point forward. No matter where you reside, the Summer Solstice arrives to bring joy and celebration all around.

Welcome to North York Central Library. We're one of the City's most welcoming spaces, open to all for study, research, relaxation and fun.

Our extensive digital and print collections, programs and services are yours to use, borrow and explore. Expert staff are always on hand to help. Meet us in person or join us online.