National Library Week!

Yes, it’s that time when we celebrate libraries and all they do. Here’s a celebratory little jingle. Enjoy! Library song by Cursor Miner

It’s also a great time to get a library card, if you don’t have one already. Libraries are terrific for kids and families, of course! But there are also things adults will love, including our free museum passes for all adult North Castle Patrons in good standing, our new seed library, our programs for adults, and streaming movies, TV, and music. We’ve got free e-books and audiobooks, too, as well as lots of databases from local history to career prep.

Here’s a link where you can apply for a library card!

And every resident of New York state can apply for a card from the New York Public Library, too. Get yours here!


The Benefits of Tea: Make Tea not War

April 17, 2019 at 2pm in the Gallery, we discussed the benefits of tea, and experiencing the benefits first hand by tasting them. Teas we tasted were from, namely:  Rooi Relief, Serengeti, Ginseng Boost, and White Sparkling Berry.  Serengeti was the favorite, but many people were torn between that and Sparkling Berry. One participant pointed out that different teas would be good for different moods or times of day.  

Before you throw away your heart medication or your child’s epipen, check with a health professional.  Tea and herbs definitely do have an effect on people and it may or may not be the effect you need, especially if you are on medication.

CIS:E.349-2003Make Tea Not War

“Make Tea not War” says the sign in front Hayfield’s coffee shop in North Salem. If love can prevent war, why not tea? Tea, and it’s sisters, tisanes (herbal infusions that we usually call tea) seems to be able to prevent all kinds of bad things, and fix things that aren’t working right. But most of the studies are on rats, not people, and most of what we call “proof” is anecdotal.  What makes the purveyor of the coffee shop think that tea can replace war? What sort of benefits does this “elixir of life” (in the words of a 6th century Buddhist philosopher, Lao-Tzu) have in store for us today?

Tea’s Medicinal Beginnings

Anecdotal proof was enough for the Buddhist monks, who spread the use of tea from the camellia sinensis tree to monasteries throughout Asia for its medicinal value. They processed the tea differently, and so they had a much more bitter version, form the 3rd century BC to the 6th century AD.

Read on to learn what the healthy qualities are that live inside your delicious cup today. Continue reading “The Benefits of Tea: Make Tea not War”

Go Green! Tea Tasting for St. Paddy’s Day!

This month’s tea tasting featured 4 teas, 3 green teas and one Oolong known as Green Jade or Jade Cloud), and Da Hong Pao. All of them from China. Green Mint Jasmine was unanimously selected as the favorite, with Da Hong Pao next in line, and the small sampling of just 9 people attending. However, all the teas were deemed delicious. One of the participants noted that she did not agree with the suggested steeping times of some teas, which is 2-3 minutes for green tea.

My opinion is that no one can tell you what you taste. It is entirely up to the individual. So, it’s up to you to decide how you like your tea.

The nice things about all the teas we tried on March 18 is that all of them are good for multiple steeping. So, while the price tag may sometimes seem high, it is a gift to yourself all day long.  As we noted in the presentation, green tea especially took hold of Buddhist countries because of the humility- it can be enjoyed by the rich as well as the poor, and coincides nicely especially with the teachings of Buddhist philosopher Lao Tzu.

“Tea is the elixir of life”- Lao Tzu

The Mint Jasmine tea is made with Gunpowder Green tea. Gunpowder is the English name for the tea, given back in the 19th century by the British, who thought that the rolled grayish green pellets resembled the stuff they put in the earlier versions of weapons (not actually powder by modern standards). It seems appropriate to me that Gunpowder green tea would have a high level of caffeine in it. And, I recently read that it will keep much longer than the usual green tea (2 years versus up to 10 years!). However, once you put those nice herbs, jasmine and mint, you can count on the staying power to diminish, so don’t count on it lasting too long).

Green Dew Organic from the Hubei Province of China. This tea has a smooth, light body that stays nicely on the tongue that has an interesting combination of savory to start, then finishes sweet. If you’re looking for a green tea and want to expand your palate a little, this would be an excellent choice.

Finally, we tasted the Oolong. Da Hong Pao is the name of a small tea garden of about 25 trees. Original Da Hong Pao tea is the most expensive tea in the world, and given only to special visitors. Our Da Hong Pao is more likely to be a cutting from those original trees. One notices first that the leaves are huge, unruly things, difficult to measure and to put into a tea bag. The body is light, and smooth. It is a perfect afternoon tea, IMHO. Which is why I chose to finish the tasting with my personal favorite.

Due to time and equipment deficits, we didn’t get a chance to taste Japanese teas. Perhaps next St. Paddy’s Day!

A question came up during the program regarding proper tea preparation. Here are some guidelines:

  • Heat the pot and the cup with hot water before you begin.
  • Water for white and green teas should generally be between 170 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Oolong should be brewed between 180 and 190. And black and herbal teas should be brewed between 208 and 212 degrees.
  • Vendors usually provide the correct steeping time on the teas themselves.

The Chinese have another way to determining temperature, based on the look of the water:

  • Tiny bubbles that resemble “shrimp eyes” are good for delicate Japanese green teas. The temperature is roughly 160 at this point.
  • Slightly larger bubbles resembling “crab eyes,” with steam beginning to rise for Chinese green teas, white teas, and oolong teas. The temperature is roughly 175 Fahrenheit at this point.
  • When the bubbles look like “a string of pearls, then the temperature should be about 200 degrees, which is perfect for dark oolongs, black teas, or Darjeelings.
  • Finally, if you are making puehr tea, you want the water to be really hot, resembling a “raging torrent,” boiling violently. According to the Chinese, this is too hot for other teas because you run the risk of de-oxygenating the water.

Another time, we will go into why I think supporting fair trade is important. For now, let’s just get to the basics. Tea needs room to expand. Do not use the little ball infusers. Make sure you have plenty of space for your tea to unfurl. Otherwise, you’re cheating yourself of the aromas and flavors. I love the Finum brand large tea filters, which are biodegradable, unbleached, and without glue.

Where you sip your tea, and with whom you sip, will likely influence your taste of the tea. So, please keep coming back to sample more teas.

The next tasting is Wednesday, April 17 at 2pm. We will sample 4 teas and discuss the science behind claims of health benefits of tea.

See you there!


Do two swallows make a spring?

Did those swallows come back to San Juan Campistrano, the way they’re supposed to every March 19? It seems they did! It may be pretty cold still, but it’s true–the birds are coming back, even to the Northeast. Here are a few books and videos about these remarkable creatures. We’ll start  with one you may have seen, but it’s worth seeing twice!

winged migration

This classic follows birds on the wing as they migrate, in some cases thousands of miles, from their summer breeding grounds to their winter homes and back again. Amazing photography!

Continue reading “Do two swallows make a spring?”

Another Milestone for the Westchester Library System!

This week, the Westchester Library System is introducing a new and improved online catalog system. It’s easier to use and provides better search results.  It will also eventually be possible for patrons and librarians to find a book using one search engine, instead of having to look in several different places for print, ebooks, and audiobooks.   We will be seeing many additional benefits of the new Evergreen system in the months ahead.

2019 also marks the 60th anniversary of our cooperative library system.


Happy 60th WLS —   You’re not just getting older.  You’re getting better!

Over the last 60 years, there have been many important milestones in the life of WLS. Here are a few:

1959: 32 libraries in Westchester County established a cooperative system that enabled Westchester residents to borrow books from most of the other public libraries in the county.  Six libraries decided not to become part of the system, citing concern that opening their stacks to non-residents would cause serious depletion of books for their own patrons.  All six eventually joined WLS.

computer1988: Westlynx, a computerized catalog that gave librarians access to a list of titles that were available throughout the county, was introduced. Several well-known Westchester residents participated in radio and poster announcements that promoted the new system including tennis star Arthur Ashe, actors Michael Douglas and Mary Beth Hurt, and director Paul Schrader.

1997: WLS signed an agreement with EBSCO, which gave patrons access to magazines, Facts on File, encyclopedias, and other online databases. Today, there is a whole host of research tools that are available online.

homecomputer31999: The Dynix system made it possible for patrons to search for, and order, books and other materials from their home computers.  This led to huge increase in the number of materials that were requested, and a need for more vans to deliver the materials back and forth.


Since 2000:  Sharing has allowed every library in the system, no matter how small, to offer patrons the same materials that used to be available only in larger libraries .In fact, the availability of a wider array of materials through sharing may be one factor in the ongoing vitality of local Westchester libraries, many of which have renovated, expanded. or rebuilt their facilities in recent years.

(The phrase “You’re not getting older.  You’re getting better.” was originally used in a 1970s Clairol campaign)

Mao Zhen Tea

I’m a sucker for a bargain, for organic products, for helping women, and for helping kids. Definitely not in that order.

This tea, Mao Zhen, is on clearance for $4.00 for 4 oz. of loose leaf tea, normally about $12 at Silvertips is a business that I can feel good about purchasing from, because I know they follow good practices, their prices are reasonable to start, and they are local (Elmsford, to be exact). Additionally, you can steep it 3 times, and it still has a nice flavor.

This tea very, very likely to have been hand-picked by women. Women have smaller hands, and the process of harvesting is very particular (a bud and two leaves) if you want high quality.  I know that pesticides can be particularly hard on women, especially if they happen to be pregnant, and to children. Therefore, if there’s one thing I like to buy organic, it’s tea.

This tea is a wonderful alternative, if you have a good thermos, to sending kids to school with water, as long as you don’t let it steep too long (keep it to 2 min, or else it tastes bitter).

Here are some effects that I’ve observed:

  • smoother skin
  • no more red blotches on middle aged skin
  • helps with teenage acne
  • improved concentration
  • improved energy
  • healthy feeling

These are just the benefits that I’ve personally observed. Stay tuned for more on the health benefits of tea…. that’s another post that I will write eventually.

Unfortunately, the only thing I can find so far about this tea is what is on the silvertips website. It’s organic. It’s from China. It’s on clearance.  I will let you know what the Armonk tea tasters think of it after my  next tea tasting.


Queens of Mystery!

We’re celebrating women, and it’s a good time of year to cuddle up with a cozy mystery. Did you know some of the greatest authors of Britain’s Golden Age of Mystery were women? Everyone’s heard of Agatha Christie, of course, but she’s well worth reading, or rereading, for all us fans of cozy mysteries.

Murder at the Vicarage

“Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,”declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, “would be doing the world at large a favor!”

It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later—when the Colonel is found shot dead in the clergyman’s study. But as Miss Marple soon discovers, the whole village seems to have had a motive to kill Colonel Protheroe. (from This is Miss Marple’s first case, and the world’s introduction to a most unusual detective.


light thickens

New Zealand-born Marsh herself directed the infamous “Scottish Play” twice, and her description here of a production haunted by nastiness–and finally by murder–is gripping. And a murderer’s son is in the cast–

strong poison

A clever and beautifully-written mystery that’s also the beginning of a love story. Lord Peter Wimsey, detective-about-town in 1930s London, is attending the trial of a young woman accused of poisoning her lover. It seems an open-and-shut case, but Lord Peter becomes convinced Harriet is innocent. When there is a mistrial, he has only one month to find the real murderer and save Harriet’s life. We have the DVD, too, and it’s great!

Franchise Affair

In a small town in 1950’s England, soliciter Robert Blair receives a plea for help. Marion Sharpe, who lives alone with her mother in a house called the Franchise, has been accused of kidnapping and abusing a teenage girl. Marion insists the girl has never even entered the house, and Blair believes her. But things look very black when the teenager, Betty Kane, gives an exact description of their house and the room she was held in, down to the luggage in their boxroom. Can Marion and her mother really be innocent?

These are just a few of the classic mysteries you can find in the library! Do you have any favorite cozy mysteries or golden age classics you’d like to recommend?