by Brian H

Album or Playlist?  That is the question when deciding what music to listen to.

I tend to explore artists that are new to me by listening to their full albums. I give all the tracks a fighting chance. But inevitably certain tracks win out over others. These favorite tracks work their way into a playlist.


The beauty of a playlist is that it can take any number of directions and can connect songs and artists in creative and clever ways. The possibilities are endless.

There are the ubiquitous workout/exercise playlists. But also playlists to pickup your mood, playlists to calm and relax, playlist from a favorite artist. You name it. A playlist for just about anything (any reason to listen to music) is a good playlist in my book. Checkout AllMusic’s blog for playlist ideas.



I created this playlist of duets.  If these songs don’t do it for you, use any number of online generators, like, to come up with playlist of duets more to your liking.


Find these duets and more in the library catalog. Use this list to get you started.

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DIY Beer…And Pretzels!

by Liz

Spring is my favorite time of year. The days are noticeably longer, the birds are extra chirpy, and all the shades of green just make me happy! And I just discovered new holidays celebrating two more of my favorite things…Beer and pretzels!

This past Sunday, April 23rd, marked German Beer Day. You may have celebrated without even knowing it! Now most of us take the easy way out for procuring our cold beverages (a trip to the local convenience store), but have you ever thought about making your own beer? Home brewing has grown in popularity in the past few years, and the library has quite a few resources for those looking to take the plunge.


Researching this post, I am not sure I would make the best home brewer, but I would be happy to grow the ingredients for you! (I also learned that legal home brewing and I are the same age…Who knew?!) Have you ever seen a hops vine in person? The flowers are delicately beautiful and the vines make excellent arbors. I plan on planting a rhizome or two very soon!



Now to go with all this beer drinking, we are going to need some snacks. Just so happens today is Pretzel Day. Go figure! Soft and warm, I love a big pretzel. So much to say that big pretzels could easily make my Top 5 Comfort Foods list. Like beer, these have always been a purchased item for me, but with a much quicker turn around time, I think I can make the switch to homemade easy enough. Topped with Andrea Slonecker’s horseradish-parsley butter, big pretzels may just knock my beloved quesadilla out of its number one spot!

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Shakespeare, Modernized

by Marina

Today we celebrate Shakespeare!

April 23rd is Talk Like Shakespeare Day and we celebrate both his birth and death on that day.

I’m a fan of Shakespeare. Of his plays, at least. The comedies more than the tragedies. I guess I don’t really know much about the man himself. Besides what might be true in Shakespeare in Love. Which is probably very little.

But that’s not the point of this. I’m here to share some of my favorite retellings of classic Shakespeare. Modernizations, if you will. (Apparently spellcheck is telling me “modernizations” isn’t a word. But, in this case, I’m making it a word. Like Shakespeare.)

Now, back to my list.

My number one go-to for a modern Shakespeare fix is the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, based on The Taming of the Shrew. Is it the fact it’s set in Seattle? The zany and amusing characters? Heath Ledger? Whatever the reason, I went so far as to convince my mom go with me to the high school in Tacoma where they filmed a lot of the movie. (No, that was not my blog post in the link. But I do have pictures of my visit. Somewhere.) (To be fair, I believe we were also visiting the Washington State History Museum at the time. So it wasn’t really as obsessive at it might seem. Really!)

The next title I’d like to highlight, E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. Now, I’ve never seen (or read) King Lear but Lockhart’s tale of a modern family featuring a controlling patriarch with three daughters does appear to reflect aspects of the play. Plus, there’s an unexpected ending, which is the best part. Sorry, no spoilers, you’ll have to read it to find out.

Romeo and Juliet defined the term “star-crossed lovers” in Shakespeare’s play of the same name. (Yet another term coined by Shakespeare. He was PROLIFIC in adding to our lexicon.) Allyson and Willem might not meet such a tragic end but they definitely have their difficulties in Gayle Forman’s duology Just One Day and Just One Year (plus the e-novella epilogue Just One Night). Plus Willem is part of an underground troupe of Shakespeare actors that perform interactive theater. I guess it might be an actual thing? Only in California.

One of my favorite Shakespeare plays is Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Which brings me to my guiltiest of guilty pleasures, She’s the Man. Modern day Viola dresses up as her brother Sebastian in order to take his place at a school where she can play on a soccer team after the funding for girls’ team at her school is cut. A series of hijinks and mistaken identities ensues. Plus a shirtless Channing Tatum.

How about you?

Do you have a favorite modernization of Shakespeare? Or how about just your favorite Shakespeare? I try to indulge my Shakespeare fix every summer by attending one of the several free, outdoor performances put on by local theater groups.



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Prince: One Year Later

by KP

“I guess he’s better off than he was before, a whole lot better off than the fools he left here.”Prince, “Sometimes It Snows In April”

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Prince’s death. Equally mysterious, an enigma, and a prodigy, Prince changed the face of music. He continues to influence musicians, artists, and writers well beyond his untimely passing.

The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince by Mayte Garcia


I’ve been anticipating this book for months! Released just in time for the one-year anniversary, Garcia’s memoir offers a one-of-a-kind glimpse into Prince’s private and professional life. Mayte shares what it was like being Prince’s wife, the challenges of their relationship, and the tragedy that drove them apart. Truly a touching, candid, and eye-opening memoir.

Prince: Purple Reign by Mick Wall


A “casual” biography, complete with transcripts of Prince’s last moments. Wall’s book is a fast read and solid general biography for readers new to Prince. For me, it was a nice refresher to Prince’s life and offered some context into the circumstances, rumors, and reactions surrounding his death.





I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon by Touré


I devoured Touré’s eclectic portrait of Prince as musician, composer, and pop star who is part “hypersexual trickster” part “bada## [pop music] preacher.” Focusing less as a standard Prince biography and more on how Prince’s music merges the spiritual with the profane, Touré shapes Prince’s struggles, persona, and obsession within the greater context of Generation X’s own social ideas, conflicts and disillusionment, and redemption.






What better way to experience Prince than through his music? Stream it directly through Hoopla. As a fan, one of my favorite things to do is to take a Prince musical journey. I start with his first album, For You and listen through each of his progressive albums to hear how his style shifts (sometimes dramatically) from album to album.

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Something from Nothing: Upcycling and Salvage Crafts

by Emily Z.

Using salvaged materials means rescuing something old and giving it new purpose. Close cousin to salvage, upcycling is the art of reinventing something you have (or have found) and turning it into something you love/need/want via modification or re-purposing. It’s upgrading and recycling smashed lovingly together and it can be a rewarding practice when it results in something truly useful if not also beautiful.

Some examples:

  • A lonely candle holder and some plates combine, much like Voltron, into a cake stand (source: Trash to Treasure p. 72)
  • A super simple can planter (source: my house)
  • A worn but foxy sweater turned cozy throw pillow (source: my house)
  • An industrial-style shoe rack: rummage sale pipe pieces+shelves from a broken bookcase
    (source: also my house)


As upcycling is such a broad and open-ended endeavor, it is tricky to entirely encapsulate in books. Realistically, these titles and their projects aim to offer ideas and advice. The success of a re-purposing project will usually come down to the materials and tools you actually have on hand and your own ingenuity.

At its heart, upcycling is all about inspiration, discovery, and experimentation, but if you’re feeling paralyzed by all that freedom, remember that your salvage-upcycling-found-object-reinvention adventure can start with something small like turning a t-shirt into a tote bag or finally doing something with your hoard of bottle caps.
You can work your way up to remodeling an entire room later.

Starting Small:
If there’s only time for a crafty afternoon

Beer Crafts by Shawn Gascoyne-Bowman
This is the premier craft book for the brew-enthusiast who finds simply recycling bottles and cans too ho-hum. From the practical (wallets and fishing tackles) to the flat-out fantastical (bottle cap curtains and beer can tiaras), you will be amazed by Mr. Gascoyne-Bowman’s ingenuity.





Wise Craft by Blair Stocker
If you’re not looking to make something entirely from scratch, this book is ideal. Stocker has a crush on embellishment in a big way. Patches, embroidery, decals, painting, printing and accessorizing are the name of game. She also has seasonal suggestions, some spooky and some sparkly, for those special times of year.






Paper Made! By Kayte Terry
Green Crafts for Children by Emma Hardy
Trash to Treasure by Pam Scheunemann

More Serious Salvaging:
“I woke up this morning and I just hated everything”—”Lara Croft”
[from the film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider]

Salvage Secrets by Joanna Palmisano
This book is serious business. Palmisano is all about seamlessly incorporating vintage, recycled, and otherwise previously used materials into real, elegant homes where adults live. Arranging the book into chapters based on a basic building component—wood, glass, metal, stone, etc—she makes the process of seeking out and reclaiming materials to make a home truly unique less daunting and more fascinating. She also works to address some of the challenges that can come from using non-new materials, like changes in building codes. Her follow up book, Salvage Secrets Design & Decor, offers a look at even more salvage-based residences as well as commercial properties like salons, hotels, restaurants, and retail spaces.


Upcycling by Max McMurdo
Featuring a rustic, industrial aesthetic, McMurdo’s projects are made of any wood or metal he can find. Tin jelly moulds are now lampshades. A skateboard becomes a shelf. Pallet wood is everything else. He also discusses essential hand tools, useful power tools, hardware, sources for supplies, and some fixatives and finishes.




Salvage-Style Projects by Amy R. Hughes
These projects are largely of the stand-alone variety, but still fairly ambitious and intended to last: pot racks, planters, a fountain, shelves, headboards, and some storage ideas. In other words, most are renter-friendly salvage rather than full-on home-renovation.  Though a few components are a tad exotic (I never realized how much I wanted a Victorian chimney pot until now), keeping an eye peeled for a good deal on something unusual is part of the adventure.




1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse
by Garth Johnson
DIY Rustic Modern Metal Crafts by Laura Putnam
Salvage Secrets Design & Decor by Joann Palmisano


Do you have any upcycling or salvage achievements you’re particularly proud of? Any dream projects you’re dying to try?

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Revealing the Inner Eye: Psychics in Fiction

by Jocelyn

Having psychic powers would be so cool! Doesn’t matter what kind of psychic powers – telepathy, telekinesis, empathy, foretelling the future, seeing the dead, having the ability to heal – to me, they’re all amazing. My fascination with these mental abilities began in childhood, so it’s no surprise that I’m always on the lookout for books featuring psychic characters.

When I was in sixth grade I discovered the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley. While Bradley’s more famous for the Mists of Avalon (about the women of King Arthur’s court), I devoured this series about a society where telepaths rule. Start with Darkover Landfall or The Heritage of Hastur. Then I found the futuristic science fantasy Tower and Hive series, where interstellar travel depends on the powerful psychics of the Federal Telepath & Teleport network. Each novel follows these psychics as they work and live, and repel an alien invasion. Start this series with The Rowan.

More recently, I found the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh. This urban fantasy/paranormal romance series introduces three races – humans, changelings (shapeshifters), and Psy (a race with immense mental abilities). The series opens as the Psy are 100 years into conditioning all emotion out of their children. They believe they rule the world, but the changelings and humans have other ideas. Begin with Slave to Sensation.

Cozy mystery series like the Psychic Eye series and Harper Connelly mysteries are also great fun. Abby Cooper from the Psychic Eye series is a psychic intuitive and Harper Connelly can find dead bodies, and see how they died. Of course they use their powers to find clues and solve the mysteries they find themselves involved in.

And a series I can’t help but mention, since it’s one of my all-time favorites – the Bishop Special Crimes Unit series. These romantic suspense novels feature FBI agents with psychic powers. The agents use their abilities as well as their investigative skills to solve crimes, all while falling in love. (Sidenote: it’s fun to see what relationship issues you might have should you fall in love with a psychic.) Start with Stealing Shadows.

Now that I’ve shared some of my suggestions for novels with psychic characters, it’s your turn. Do you have any recommendations?

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19 Years ago there was a man …

By Grant

March 6th marked the 19th anniversary of the release of one of the greatest films ever made. The Big Lebowski was not much of a success at the box office, not even cracking 20 million, even with my $8.50. However, the movie has since become a cult favorite, spawning giant festivals, it’s own religion (true story, I was married by someone ordained by the Church of the Latter Day Dude) and offering endless quotes applicable to any situation. For those unfamiliar, the movie was written and directed by the Coen Brothers and stars Jeff Bridges as the Dude, academy award winner Julianne Moore, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, should I go on? … Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Elliott … more? … musicians Aimee Mannand Flea … Flea is in this movie playing a nihilist who appropriately believes in nothing. The story could be described as Chinatown meets Slacker, with a little Duck Soup on the side? While it is a truly unique film, here is a list of some adjacent movies, some spiritual forebears and successors to an all time great.

Chinatown – Both films are set in LA, both main characters have something bad happen to their faces.

SlackerRichard Linklater’s first major release, is full of characters who like the Dude, refuse to participate.

Duck Soup – Marx Brothers at their absurd best.

Bottle Rocket – Inept criminals populate both films.  Wes Anderson’s debut.

O Brother ,Where Art Thou? – Loosely based on the Odyssey, this film was also made by the Coen brothers, and has a similar inept lead.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Both movies are propelled by a case of mistaken identity.  Also both in LA.

Inherent Vice – Based on the fantastic novel by Thomas Pynchon, Paul Thomas Anderson directs this bizarre film.

The Nice Guys – Two hilarious inept private eyes get in way over their heads.

The dude abides.

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Pour Yourself a Glass of Pop and Open a Midwestern Book

By Kaley

Like a lot of the people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the Pacific Northwest, I’m a transplant from the Midwest​. Around this time of year I’m usually thinking of my family and pals back home. Mostly because of the tumultuous weather they are toughing through during the transition of winter to spring. That tough weather is worth it to see miles of corn fields and grassy plains waving at you in the summer after the lightning bugs return. I’m thankful for making it through a milder winter and spring out here, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t the perfect weather to stay inside with a warm drink and a book while thinking of your roots.

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Photograph by Spencer Black

I love sharing my former home with people who’re raised in different places and discovering stories from others who grew up in similar regions. If you’ve got a soft spot for the Midwest, too, I’ve got a few books set in the Midwest that you might want to browse.

One for SorrowOne for Sorrow by Chris Barzak. Adam McCormik’s life has already spiraled out of control after a drunk driver hit and paralyzed his mother, but now he struck up a friendship with the ghost of a classmate.


StonerStoner by John Edward Williams. William Stoner has found true love and happiness in English literature after his dirt poor Missouri upbringing. However, after embracing life as a scholar he continuously finds heartbreak around each corner and must find a way to heal.


God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Or, Pearls Before SwineGod Bless you, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut. I couldn’t resist Vonnegut’s lure, here! This is a tale of Eliot Rosewater: volunteer fireman and heir to a fortune. He’s strange, and his behavior is constantly questioned by the people of his town as they wonder what he will do with his Sum of Money. Satire comes with a Vonnegut novel, though, so as long as you enjoy some tongue in cheek critical interpretations of humanity, you’ll dig this, too.

There’s even more in the book list below! Do you have a favorite book that’s set in the Midwest? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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Connecting with Neko Case and Laura Veirs

by David

One of the best albums I heard last year was “case/lang/veirs” by Neko Case, k. d. lang, and Laura Veirs (hence the catchy title). It seemed to fly under the radar; I never saw any reviews. Still as I said, one of the best of last year. What was fun for me was following all the connections. For instance, “Spectacle” (Season Two), Elvis Costello’s music/interview show, featured Neko Case on an episode featuring the late Jesse Winchester, and the tear on Neko’s face as Jesse finished his song “Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding” is priceless.

An earlier album “July Flame” by Laura Veirs includes an ode to session musician “Carol Kaye”, who is featured in the DVD “The Wrecking Crew!” about the session musicians who played on everything (yes, everything!) recorded in the late ’60s.

And to top it all off, Laura Veir’s children’s album “Tumble Bee” includes a cover of the song “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-me-o” that I mentioned in one of my blog postings!

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Animals in Graphic Novels

by Lindsey

Recently I devoured the graphic novel series Love by Frédéric Brrémaud and Federico Bertolucci. Each book tells a story entirely without narration or dialogue. The stunning illustrations speak for themselves, telling complete tales as they follow animals – including a tiger, a fox, a lion, and a dinosaur – through their lives. Reading one of these books is like watching a nature documentary. As a life-long animal lover and a fan of David Attenborough documentaries, this is my catnip.

Love got me thinking about other graphic novels with animal protagonists. If you love animals and want to protect them at all costs, these books can be difficult to read. Many of them are intense, graphic in nature, and very sad. General speaking, I’m willing to deal with painful themes for the sake of a great story. Here are a couple more of my favorites!

Laika by Nick Abadzis

This is one of my favorite graphic novels. It tells the story of three lives intertwined by the Soviet space program. Korolev is a former gulag prisoner who went on to design Sputnik. Yelena is the lab technician responsible for the research dogs. Laika is the stray mutt destined to become the first animal to orbit the Earth. Laika’s life ended tragically when Sputnik 2 overheated, so I’m afraid this story is a tearjerker. It made me “ugly cry” but it is well worth reading.

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan

Vaughan, one of my favorite writers, wrote an incredibly moving graphic novel about lions. After an American bombing raid, a pride of lions escapes from the Baghdad Zoo. This story follows them as they struggle to survive on the streets of war-torn Iraq. It’s as tough as one might imagine, but I found the book incredibly meaningful and memorable.

I created a list with additional graphic novels about animals and I hope you will find it helpful!

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