For the Love of Tea Tasting

camellia SinensisThank you to everyone who attended the program, “For the Love of Tea.” Congratulations to our winners of extra loose leaf tea: the Black Tea table!

We sat at six tables of four. Each table was named after a “class” or “type” of tea, namely Black, Green, Yellow, Oolong, White, and Puehr These are the major groups of teas that all come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis (pictured left).  We tasted six black teas: Two from China, where tea originated (Yunnan (Ancient forest, where the oldest tea trees are known to exist) and Keemum (an extremely popular tea)), two from northern India (Darjeeling  (the “champagne of teas”) and Assam (extremely common in breakfast teas, known for being robust), and two from the sub-continent (Nilgiri, India (where the mountains are blue, because of the flowers) and Sri Lanka (which used to be called Ceylon).  All of these black teas that we tasted, and all black teas that we didn’t taste, are black because they are oxidized. Oxidized teas have the most caffeine.

We watched as the “agony of the leaves” (leaves opening as the water penetrates them) took place, and the liquor turned a reddish hue (in China, they call black tea red tea). Then, carefully following directions for correct timing, we sniffed, we swirled, and we slurped.  We neglected to spit.

We briefly discussed the history of tea, how a leaf supposedly fell into the hot water of Shen Yung, the emperor, in 2737 BC), and how it’s use spread because the Buddhist monks found it helpful in keeping them awake during mediation.

Then we had a cut-throat contest for extra tea, to see which table got the most from the information. Oolong and Yellow tables (if memory serves me), made excellent showings, with 8 or 9 points each, but in the end, Black took it with 10 points.

  1. Is the Ancient Forest Yunnan from one garden? Where is it from? – YUNNAN PROVINCE, yes from one location.  They don’t have estates in China, that is associated more with India and Ceylon.
  3. When teas are advertised as having a fruit flavor also, How is that obtained? Do they add dried fruit itself, or do they add flavoring? (I know that Silvertip’s berry teas have the berries in them, but is that true for all flavors? What about companies that bag teas? FRUITY TONES IN VARIETALS ARE NATURALLY DERIVED, SIMILAR TO WINES WHEN THEY ARE DESCRIBED AS FRUITY.  FOR FLAVORED TEAS, FRUITY FLAVORS ARE ADDED, E.G., RASPBERRY, PEACH ETC.

Thank you again for coming, please make sure you are signed up for the next tasting (March 18, 4pm) before it fills up: Go Irish! Go Green!

Comments below are most welcome!




African American Directors!

Yes, awards season is upon us, as my colleague Karen mentioned below. So is African-American history month. So, to celebrate, I’d like to share some films in our collection: not just the famous ones like Selma (directed by Ava DuVernay) and 12 Years a Slave (directed by Steve McQueen) or Do the Right Thing (directed by Spike Lee). Here are a few more! You may know some of these movies already. If not, why not come in and borrow one or two?

Malcolm D. Lee directed this comedy about a group of friends who have to do damage control; the best man has written a tell-all book that tells some things that shouldn’t be told.

best man

Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust is a family story set among the Gullah people of the Sea Islands of the coast of Georgia and South Carolina. Now the family must leave their home. Remarkable script and cinematography; a truly ground-breaking film by an African-American woman.


Continue reading “African American Directors!”

Wanna buy a Burchfield?

It was great to see so many of you tonight in our art class on Charles Burchfield. 

He really resonated with a lot of you, and the conversation about his work and style was quite spirited, with fantastic observations on his evocative style and varied images. 

Like the great Italian glass artists Pino Signoretto, Lino Tagliapietro, and Livio Seguso, Burchfield pushed his medium (watercolor) in a way that hadn’t been done before.

Many of you loved his use of tone and color, while others of you were enamored with his beautiful skies, often so moody and cloud filled, reminiscent a bit of Turner & maybe calling to mind a touch of Canaletto. His loose brush strokes evoke movement and comparisons to the Impressionists in general and Van Gogh in particular. 

Burchfield’s early work designing wallpaper in a sense parallels Grant Wood’s forays into textile design, and we can wonder at his influence on later artists (perhaps Hockney’s images of rural England and his Grand Canyon series…)

Some of you were quite taken with Burchfield’s extensive journals. He wrote notes on what he saw on location as well as writing on how inspiration took him while he worked. Whether he was working in watercolor, gouache or even the occasional oil, (all of which we will discuss at the start of next week’s class), he brought an emotional depth to his work that touches each of us in a different manner.  How can you not be impressed by an artist who surrendered himself so much to his painting that at one point he 

wrote that “the picture took the lead and I had to follow as best I could”?

An artist who explored many styles before truly finding his voice, Burchfield was quite prolific, leaving a treasure trove of thousands upon thousands of drawings, numerous journals, and nuanced watercolors behind. 

Once he signed with Rehn Galleries in New York in 1929, he was off and running. I thought you might be interested in one of the paintings the Rehn sold in 1960, and that passed down by descent 

until the last owners decided  to sell it at auction in May of 2018.  Dated “1917-45” with a note that the original study, made over ninety years ago May 22, 1917, was “incorporated in picture”, this painting,  CHERRY BLOSSOM SNOW, is definitely a much kinder and gentler snow than we had here last weekend. 

With lovely brush strokes invoking the wind, blowing spring’s white blossoms off the tree, and bending the heads of dandelions down below, CHERRY BLOSSOM SNOW has that beguiling

contrasting sky in the background. It’s no wonder that this work surpassed Christie’s pre-auction estimate of  one million dollars to sell for $1,812,500.

It was great to see so many of you this evening and I’m glad that the work of Charles Burchfield really struck a chord with you so much. I hope you can join us next week when we look at the differences between watercolor, gouache and oil, before continuing our look at the works of Charles Burchfield, his friend and colleague Edward Hopper, and the self proclaimed “least Pop of the Pop artists” Robert Indiana.

If you like, we are showing another great film this Friday, FACES PLACES, starring French New Wave film director Agnes Varda & muralist JR.

It’s an interesting road movie as the seemingly unlikely duo hit the pavement, creating portraits & images of the people they meet. 

See you next time! 


Books to Movies in 2019

books-being-made-movies-2019I posted Books to Movies 2018 in March last year so I feel like I’m ahead of the game this year although we are already half way through January!  There are at least 20 books slated to become movies this year according to the Popsugar article I am quoting here.

A Dog’s Way Home by W. Bruce Cameron is already in the theaters starring Ashley Judd, Jonah Hauer-King and Edward James Olmos.  I don’t know about the rest of the movie but the puppy is just adorable!  And apparently this movie will be followed up in May by another W. Bruce Cameron adaptation, A Dog’s Journey starring Dennis Quaid.

February 22nd will see the release of The Rhythm Section based on the book of the same name by Mark Burnell.  The thriller will star Blake Lively and Jude Law and involves a plane crash and a revenge mission!  Another thriller scheduled for release on March 1st is Chaos Walking based on the novel The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, a young adult science fiction fantasy about a world inhabited only by men and they have  the ability to hear each other’s thoughts.  It sounds more like the stuff of comedy to me but the description is quite dark.

In late March things lighten up with the comedy/drama Where’d You Go Bernadette? the 2012 runaway bestseller by Maria Semple.  This one stars Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, and Kristen Wiig.  It pains me to say that I listened to this one on audio a few years back and I really – let’s go with – disliked it.  But that should not discourage you from reading it or seeing the movie.  I think it was a book I should have read rather than listened to.  Lots of family discord and it just seemed that every time I turned it on someone was yelling!  I hope the movie is a bit less contentious. Continue reading “Books to Movies in 2019”

High School Resources

A list of what’s available for free or as a North Castle Library taxpayer, if you go through the library website to find it. 

Many require a library card.

Always look for the word “Register” to gain access from home, possibly.

You will not have access to everything at home. You will need a library card. If your library doesn’t have a great digital library, you likely can visit one that does, and borrow a guest pass to use their system.


Baylor University Research Paper: Timeline

Fast, Furious and Fine Tuned: Google Searching

Citation Machine: Great tool, but it doesn’t always work. Double check it.

Metro Referral Card: These are card that give access to specific materials unavailable in your library, and allows you to use the material in the library itself. The material may be checked out when you want it. You are not likely to get access to online sources. Metro cards are good for 2 weeks, and allow you to use it one time.

10 Study Skills That Lead to Success

Academic Support

Khan Academy: you probably know this, so, just reminding you of it here. From Princeton Review: Online tutoring, homework help. Coming very soon (today???) to Westchester Libraries


Don’t hesitate to go down to a middle school when you look at encyclopedias. You probably just want to use them to see if a topic is interesting, then use articles and books for your report.

WikipediaUnedited, often repetitive, inefficiently written by any number of authors. Use for Sources listed, or when you can’t find your library card.

Encyclopedia Britannica Options (from )

  • Britannica Academic – Delivers fast and easy access to high-quality, comprehensive information. The rich combination of the venerable Encyclopædia Britannica plus Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, magazines and periodicals, and many other research tools provides the variety of reliable sources that students need to consult when conducting thorough collegiate research.
  • Britannica High – Encylopedia Britannica for high school students. Helps students get quick facts and in-depth information on a wide variety of subjects. Start research projects with multiple resources in one place and find multimedia to use in projects and presentations.
  • Britannica Middle – Encyclopedia Britannica for middle school students. Helps students find fast answers and get homework help, explore videos and articles on famous people and places as well as discover maps, photos, and illustrations for school projects.


How do you find a book? 

Literary Criticism 

Gale Literary Sources : Criticism, biographies, overviews, pirmary sources, etc..(Register for full access)

Salem Press Literary criticism, history, current events.(Register for full access)

History and Current Event Articles

JSTOR Journals, primary sources, and books. (Register for full access)

Salem Press Literary criticism, history, current events. (Register for full access)

From Westchester Libraries:

Academic OneFile – The premier source for peer-reviewed, full-text articles from the world’s leading journals and reference sources. Extensive coverage of the sciences, technology, medicine, the arts, theology, literature and other subjects.

Infotrac Newsstand (Gale) – Full-text newspaper database has several NY newspapers, including the NY Times from 1985-Present, as well as over fifty national and international newspapers. Click here for a title list. (Full-text)


Academic OneFile – The premier source for peer-reviewed, full-text articles from the world’s leading journals and reference sources. Extensive coverage of the sciences, technology, medicine, the arts, theology, literature and other subjects.

American Physical Society Journals – The American Physical Society is the world’s second largest organization of physicists and publishes more than a dozen scientific journals including the prestigious Physical Review and Physical Review Letters

Directory of Open Access Journals – A service that covers free, full-text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals. – provides comprehensive information about vitamin, herbal and other supplements, and nutritional products. Includes’s independent product evaluations, test results for selected products and Approved Products from’s Quality Certification Program, product recalls, and safety warnings. A science-based encyclopedia of natural products is also provided, including a drug-interaction database. Note: This database is only accessible in the library at Home

Health Reference Center Academic – Multi-source database provides access to the full text of nursing and allied health journals, plus the wide variety of personal health information sources in InfoTrac’s award-winning Health Reference Center.

The Merck Manuals – Offering both the Professional and Consumer versions, The Merck Manuals are one of the world’s most widely used medical information resources. The Manuals have committed to making the best current medical information accessible by up to 3 billion health care professionals and patients on every continent by 2020.

X-Plain Patient Education Health Tutorials – More than 1400 educational videos with basic health information about illnesses or conditions, medical tests and procedures. Versiones en español de este contenido también están disponibles aquí

Secrets of the Sequences: Video series on the Life Sciences – With initial funding from the Pfizer Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences, VCU has assembled 50 of the best videos from the public television series, “Secrets of the Sequence” to assist teachers in the application of genetic research across the biology curriculum. Funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute has allowed for the creation of additional videos, which are also included on this site.

Developing a Skill Set or Take an Online Course 

Learning Express Library: To learn Microsoft software (Word, Powerpoint, Excel,  etc) How to do fun things like put a video into a Powerpoint presentation, and also learn study skills and a slew of other things, like computer programing, management tips, financial management, etc…etc… Go through your library’s website to get it for free.

Gale Courses: Courses that are mostly aimed for technical rather than college, but could be very useful for anyone- like grammar, photography, basic legal training, along with LSAT test prep, etc…

The Great Courses Courses. Register through your library with RB digital, and get this from home: “The courses range from a myriad of subjects and includes: History — Study ancient and biblical times, medieval Europe, Eastern and Western civilizations, as well as how these historical periods still impact society. Health — Dive into courses on meditation, nutrition, natural healing and brain fitness. Science — Learn from America’s leading scientists in numerous areas of study ranging from biology, astronomy & space, engineering & technology and beyond. Language Arts — learning leadership, thinking and communication skills in both professional and personal lives are essential to get a head. And Much More!”

Khan Academy online academic classes. 


Hoopla for travel!

Today, I got asked a really smart question. “I know I can watch streaming movies from the library,” a patron said. “But can I download a movie to my phone or iPad so I can watch it on the plane?”

Yes, you can! Here’s how:


If you don’t already have it, just go to your app store and download hoopla for your device. It looks like this. Once it’s downloaded, open it.

At this point, you can sign up with your library card and PIN and choose your own username and password.

Once you’re in, you can start looking for movies and TV shows.

Continue reading “Hoopla for travel!”

Happy Birthday, Madeleine!

This American author was born 100 years ago today. She is, of course, most famous for this,

wrinkle book


Though modern audiences may be more familiar with this version of the story.

wrinkle movie

Whether you prefer the classic text or the updated movie, we have both in the library! Madeleine L’Engle famously struggled to get this challenging book before readers. It blends astrophysics, family story, and theology with a thrilling coming-of-age tale. And its young heroine was one of the first female protagonists in a science fiction novel.

A Wrinkle in Time was initially published for young adults 12 and up, and L’Engle is most famous for her works for children and teens. But she also wrote for adults. Here are a couple of books from her nonfiction “Crosswicks” series.

two-part invention

In Two-Part Invention: the Story of a Marriage, L’Engle details her life with actor Hugh Franklin, including their running a general store in a rural village in Connecticut and his struggle with cancer.

great grandmother

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother movingly depicts L’Engle’s mother’s battle with dementia. Here is the first paragraph:

This is the summer of the great-grandmother, more her summer than any other summer. This is the summer after her ninetieth birthday, the summer of the swift descent. (page 3, paperback edition)

L’Engle also wrote poetry, novels for adults, and essays. If you enjoy her work, you’ll find plenty to explore in the library system. Enjoy!