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So much more than a treehouse.

by Beth on April 26th, 2013
So much more than a treehouse. Cover Image

Close your eyes for a second and imagine the most wonderful treehouse you can think of.  If you’re like me, what comes to mind is probably something out of Swiss Family Robinson.   My real-world experience with treehouses is very limited.  Trees we had.  Tree swings even.  But not a treehouse.

The people at Black & Decker and have come up with the most amazing DIY guide to treehouses I’ve ever seen.   You want your kids or grand kids to have their own Swiss Family Robinson adventures, or if you’d like to have them yourself,  The Complete Guide to Treehouses is for you.

Although it does assume some previous familiarity with tools and basic construction methods, as you’d expect from Black & Decker, there are step by step instructions full of photos and diagrams to lead you through the process.  Well written and easy to follow, the book is laid out in four sequential sections, each building on the previous.

Treehouse Basics deals with all the things to consider before you build:  Choosing the right tree or trees, Planning and Design considerations, including local laws or ordinances;  and Treehouse Safety.

Treehouse Building Techniques is the largest section of the book (as you’d expect from Black & Decker) and includes the how-to information for each of the basic components of a treehouse: the platform, walls, doors, windows, roof.  They include  proper building and safety considerations for each step. From anchor bolts, joist hangers, knee braces, framing walls, doors and windows it’s all here. And it’s presented in a way that even a novice builder can follow.

Plans for 6 different treehouses are included at the back of the book, if you’d rather follow a pre-designed plan.  But beware – one flip through this book and you’ll want to building your own treehouse!!




by Beth on March 15th, 2013
Bzzzzzzz Cover Image

For the last few years Honey Bees have been in the news a lot due to Colony Collapse Disorder, and the potential effects on farming and crops in the US.

In my north side Iowa City neighborhood it seemed exactly the opposite last year.  People were seeing amazing numbers of bees in their gardens. At one point they were chasing away the hummingbirds!

Late in the summer we discovered why  when a large natural honey bee hive was discovered in on one of the big Norfolk Pines at the edge of Oakland Cemetery. (click on the image to see the crack in the tree full of bees).  It was amazing sitting on the porch and watching the bees on the Rose of Sharon hedge all fly off in the same direction.   It made me wonder about putting a hive in my own back yard. There are three new books at ICPL on bees!

Homegrown Honey Bees: An Absolute Beginners Guide to Beekeeping – Your First Year, from hiving to Honey Harvest by Althea Morrison and Mars Vilaubi.  Full of amazing close-up photography, this is a great book for new-bees. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)  From planning for and acquiring your supplies and setting up your hive, to understand the bee life cycle and behavior, it’s all here.   The authors share what they went through their first year as beekeepers.  From replacing a dying queen bee and keeping their hive alive during a hard winter to their first honey harvest.  It’s a fun read, but gave me a LOT to think about.

Building Beehives for Dummies by Howland Blackiston.   If you’re like me, you think beehive and you think a medium sized stack of white boxes.  That’s a good description of a Langstroth hive – but there are 5 other types of hives popular around the world.  Blackiston’s book also includes discussions of the benefits and uses of each type of hive.  But be warned, this book is actually the sequel to his “Beekeeping for Dummies” book written a few years ago, and this one is designed for the experienced beekeeper who is also a DIYer who is experienced working with wood and reading cutting lists and plans, although he does a pretty good explanation of everything involved.

Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture – revised and expanded edition by Ross Conrad. Originally published in 2007 just as Colony Collapse became big news, this 285 page updated guide to organic beekeeping contains 12 chapters that cover just about everything you need to consider to raise bees organically, harvest honey, and market your finished product.  From hive management, to dealing with parasites and pests, and hive diseases it’s all here.  At the end of the book you’ll find notes divided by chapter, a glossary, a list of resources, and a thorough index.

New crafty books

by Beth on February 19th, 2013
New crafty books Cover Image

Little Stitches: 100+ Sweet Embroidery Designs by Aneela Hoey.

This 150 page book is packed full of fun little designs to add to all sorts of things.  Starting with a 33 page introduction to embroidery and 11 of the most common stitches and how to use them, Hoey gives you all the information you need to create some  really cute embroidery.  From small to large, simple to not quite so simple she leads you through not just the embroidery but all the other steps you need to make 12 different projects.  From snails and sail boats to people on bikes, there are more than 100 embroidery patterns included.


Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe

Quilts by eighteen of today’s most popular quilt bloggers are showcased in collection of modern quilts.  Each project has a  beautiful full color photograph and well written, easy to follow instructions.  A personal biography written by each blogger is included, making this is a fun read as well as a great source for ideas – both for quilts and new blogs to follow.

NOTE:  Most quilting books start with an introduction to quilting methods, supplies, and techniques, but this section was intentionally left out of this book.  The information is available on the publishers website and the link is provided at the end of the book’s introduction.

CRAFT Techniques & Projects

In the mood to do something crafty but not quite sure what?   Well this is the perfect book for you!   From  DK Publishing, this is over 300 pages of all things crafty, broken down into 6 main sections: textile crafts, papercrafts, jewelry, ceramics & glass, candles & soap, and eco crafts!  With more than 50 different crafting techniques, there will definitely be something here to get you crafting.

Each main section begins with a photo colage and one page description of the crafts included, followed by six or more pages of Tools & Materials needed for each.  Then you get easy to follow, full color photo instructions for each technique with suggestions on how to turn your finished piece into a project – some simple and some moderately advanced.

The final 20 pages include project templates, information on the 17 authors’ websites or blogs, a list of craft supply web sites, and a very thorough index.   From dip-dying fabric, lino printing, working with polymer clay and precious metal clay, to creating mosaics, the inspiration goes on and on!  This is definitely a book I want to add to my collection!

Hey Movie fans!

by Beth on January 6th, 2013
Hey Movie fans! Cover Image

Do you ever find yourself standing in front of the DVD collection completely unable to find something “good” to watch?  You’re in the mood for a movie, but just can’t think of a particular title, and nothing seems to pique your interest?

Well according to Rob Christopher’s new book “Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie” finding a good movie spontaneously is really a crap shoot.   Just like most other things in life, it takes a bit of thought or planning to find a good movie – if “good” is really what you’re in the mood for.

This book is by no means a “Best List.”   Christopher and his 10 guest contributors (including comedian Julia Sweeney, author Barry Gifford, and jazz musician Ken Vandermark)  have come up with 24 themed lists that will hopefully help you create your own list of movies you want to watch – your own personal queue.

What do Psycho (1960), The Thin Man (1934) and Die Hard (1988) have in common?

Psycho and Other Surprising Christmastime Movies

How about: Seven Samurai (1954), Mad Max (1979) and Outland (1981) ?

“Nine Westerns That Aren’t Westerns”

Or  Reefer Madness (1938), Logan’s Run (1976) and Showgirls (1995) ?

“Ten Movies So Bad They’re Good”

The lists in this book just might surprise you: “Better Than the Book”,  “Movies Guaranteed To Make you Cry,”  “Flops That Actually Aren’t Half Bad” and my two favorites “Bettter Than The Book!” and “Favorite Late-Night Spooky Films.”   This book is definitely worth getting in the queue for.






Calling all artists and crafters

by Beth on October 20th, 2012
Calling all artists and crafters Cover Image

Do you enjoy making arts and crafts?

Do you knit, sew, work with paper, clay, wood or glass?

Would you be willing to donate some of your handmade creations to support the Iowa City Public Library?

Then we have an opportunity for you!

ICPL’s first annual Fundraising Arts & Crafts Bazaar will be held on December 8, and we’re looking for a variety of donated arts and crafts to sell.  Just about anything is welcome and can be donated for this sale.  More details can be found at the bottom of this post.

And to get you in the mood to craft, here are some of the new crafting books available at ICPL:

A Bounty of Bead & Wire Bracelets by Nathalie Mornu.  Nathalie Mornu has collected 50 wonderful bracelet designs  from 37 leading jewelry artists.  She begins with a well written and easy to follow 10 page section called “Basics” that explains bead sizes, wire gauges, findings, chains,  tools and various techniques used to create the pieces in the book.  Each of the projects is identified by name and artist.  Each has a full-color close up photograph, a materials and tools needed list, and easy to follow step by step instructions. Some projects include notes and suggestions from the designer as well.  The projects run from basic to advanced, from fast to time consuming.  Each piece is a beautiful work of art that you can make for yourself.

Mod Podge Rocks!: decoupage your world, by Amy Anderson. Amy Anderson, creator and moderator of the popular blog by the same name ( has collected 40 fun projects that run the gamut of decoupage craft – from wearable art to home decore and holiday gifts. Starting with a multi-page introduction to the various formulas of Mod Podge and their many uses, Anderson takes you step by step though each project. A simple supply list and lots of full color photos are provided.

Shrink! Shrank! Shrunk!  Making stylish shrink plastic jewelry, by Kathy Sheldon. If you’re a child of the 70’s you may have fond memories of the Shrinky-Dink ™ craze. Well it’s back with a new twist. Sheldon’s book starts with a great 10-page introduction to the fun of working with the different types of shrink plastics available and the types of artists media used with each. Step by step instructions for more than 30 projects follow, with great color photographs, and 14 pages of templates.

T Shirt Quilts Made Easy, by Martha Deleonardis.  T shirt quilts are a fun way to hold on to memories.  They mean a lot to the person who owned the shirts, but can be rather boring to others.  Deleonardis’ new book takes tshirt quilts up a notch or two.  Using bright colors and wild patterns, she adds pieced sashing and borders to create some amazing quilts that just happen to include tshirt squares.  beginning with ten pages of hints on working with tshirts is followed by eleven separate projects and a gallery of tshirt quilts made by others.  The bold color photgraphs, well written and easy to follow instructions make this a must have if you’re a tshirt collector.

Bazaar Details:

Arts and crafts items donated for the bazaar can be dropped off at the Library from Nov. 26 to Dec. 6.  The public is invited to attend the sale, which starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8.  The sale will last until it’s all gone or 4 p.m., whichever comes first.  Proceeds will benefit the Library’s Friends Foundation. For more information on the Arts & Crafts Bazaar click here.

New Quilting books

by Beth on September 20th, 2012
New Quilting books Cover Image

Personally, giving quilts as gifts is a much fun as making them.  There is a lot to choose from if you’re looking for quilts for babies or young children, but finding ideas for quilts that would appeal to tweens or teens can be a challenge.  They love the bright colors, but don’t want “babyish” quilts.  Two new titles in our collection have some great ideas!

Let’s Pretend: Whimsical Quilts for Kids by Cynthia Tomaszewski, published by That Patchwork Place.  Combining applique with traditional piecing, Tomaszewski has created seven wonderfully bright and cheery quilts for older children or pre-tweens.  A ten page introduction to bot quilting and hand applique is followed by well written and easy-to-follow instructions for each project.  With bright illustrations, full size templates and full page color photographs of each project make each of these quilts look as much fun to make as to give.


Cherished Quilts for Babies and Kids – From Baby & Kid Projects to High School Graduation Gifts, from the editors at American Patchwork & Quilting.  This huge, spiral bound collection of 30 fun and colorful projects is sure to contain something for everyone!  It is divided into three sections: babies, kids, and teens. Easy to follow cutting guide and step by step piecing directions are enhanced with clear illustrations and photos.  There are a few non-quilt projects mixed in to each section as well.  Note though that this book assumes some experience with both machine and needle-turn applique, although at the back of the book there are simple instructions for how to do both, as well as how to bind your finished project.


SCAT by Carl Hiaasen

by Beth on August 6th, 2012
SCAT by Carl Hiaasen Cover Image

One of the best parts about working at ICPL is getting to talk to patrons about books.  Recently I had a conversation with a patron who had just listened to a great audio book.  He liked not only the story but how the book was read.

Last weekend I took a road trip, and remembering his recommendation I checked out a copy of SCAT by Carl Hiaasen.  As I hit the road and started the first disc I was surprised to hear none other than Ed Asner reading to me.

SCAT, by Carl Hiaasen, is a mystery for young teens set in Florida.  When Mrs. Starch, the most feared Biology teacher at The Truman School takes her class on a field trip to the Black Vine Swamp in the Everglades, the kids expect nothing more than a day swatting mosquitoes.  But then a grass fire breaks out, and as everyone is herded along the boardwalk back to the buses, Mrs Starch heads back into the smoke to retrieve a student’s dropped inhaler.

The next day the Headmaster announces that Mrs. Start has taken an indefinite leave of absence due to a family emergency. But two of her students, Nick and Marta, don’t believe it.  No one has seen Mrs. Starch since she headed back into the smoke, and as far as anyone knows she has no family.  Nick is positive he heard the cry of an endangered Florida Panter as they were being rushed out of the swamp.  Nick and Marta intend to find out what’s going on, and if the kid at their school named “Smoke” had anything to do with the fire.

Hiaasen has written four great books for young adults: Hoot, Flush, Scat, and Chomp, and all are available at at the Iowa City Public Library.


Hummingbirds & Butterflies

by Beth on April 17th, 2012
Hummingbirds & Butterflies Cover Image

Spring has come very early this year, and with it so have a few of my favorite visitors – Hummingbirds and Butterflies!

My neighbors are very into birds.  They have all sorts of feeders out, including Hummingbird feeders, but the big draw in their yard is the big orange Trumpet vine and the bight red Mandevalia vines growing between their house and mine.  Its not uncommon for us to sit on their big front porch in the summer and watch the territorial wars going on between the hummers.  But for now we have the feeders out.

One of my favorite websites to check each spring is the  Spring Ruby-throated Hummingbird Migration Map (here)  on  What makes this map so neat is that people report their first spring sighting of Ruby-throated hummingbirds, and when they are all  put together on a map you can watch the spring migration unfold.

We have a great new book in the ICPL collection right now about Hummers too:  Hummingbirds and Butterflies, by Bill Thompson III and Connie Toops.

Really two books in one, this well written and organized guide is half Hummer and half Butterfly, organized the same way in both halves.  Starting with a 40 page introduction to all things Hummingbird, including anatomy, identification and behavior.  Followed by a discussion of how, where and when to use feeders vs plantings to attract Hummers – including how to keep dominant birds too busy to run other birds off, and where and why rotting fruit is a great feeding choice.  The first half of the book concludes with chapters on flowering plants and garden plans and species profiles for for the 15 most common Hummingbird species in North America -which include descriptions, field markers, sounds, behaviors,  life-size color photos and habitat maps.

The second Butterfly half of the book is laid out in pretty much the same order, only with much longer sections on Gardening to attract Butterflies and Species Identification (with 40 species profiled).

Definitely a book I’m adding to my collection!


by Beth on April 6th, 2012
Herbs Cover Image

Recently ICPL and Project GREEN co-hosted the last Sunday garden forum for the winter. The guest speaker was Susan Appleget Hurst, and she gave a great program on growing herbs in Iowa.   If you missed the program,  you’ll soon be able to check out the DVD from the Library’s circulating collection, catch a rebroadcast on The Library Channel (cable channel 10) or find it on the ICPL’s streaming server.  It was a really great program.

Just in time for spring planting, ICPL has a great crop of new Herb books, and three of them are great for beginners:

Herb Gardening for Dummies by Karen Davis Cutler.  As with the rest of the “For Dummies” series, this is a well written, simply organized guide to the basics of Herb.   From deciding what herbs to plant, to planning, planting and caring for your herbs, this book will lead you step by step to a great garden.  It also includes an index of almost 70 common herbs.  The usual “For Dummies” tips, warnings, things to remember, and heads up make sure you don’t miss anything.

The Beginner’s Guide to Edible Herbs : 26 herbs everyone should grow & enjoy. By Charles W.G. Smith and Edward Smith c2010.   This small book not only talks about choosing, planting and growing herbs, but contains some fun recipes for trying each of the 26 common and not-so-common herbs.  I can’t wait to try making my own flavored salts and sugars!  Nice photographs throughout.

Herb Gardening From The Ground Up:  everything you need to know about growing your favorite herbs By  Sal Gilbertie, c 2012.  A much more in depth herb gardening book, leads you through the first three years of growing perennial herbs.  The best part is that there are garden plans for different types of Herb Gardens – I’m seriously thinking of putting in a Tex-Mex herb garden!


Other new herb titles:

Homegrown herbs: a complete guide to growing, using and enjoying more than 100 herbs, by Tammi  Hartung, c 2011.

Jekka’s Herb Coobook by Jekka McVicar, c 2011

The Herbal kitchen : 50 easy-to-find herbs and over 250 recipes to bring lasting health to you and your family.  By Kami McBride, c 2010.

The Complete Guide to Growing Healing and Medicinal Herbs: everything you need to know explained simply.  By  Wendy M. Vincent, c2011.

The Essential Herbal for Natural Health: how to transform easy-to-find herbs into healing remedies for the whole family. By Holly Bellebuono, c 2012.

National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: the world’s most effective healing plants. By Rebecca L. Johnson, c2012.

And here’s your little plus for reading this far.  Do you know what the difference is between Herbs and Spices?  I do now!   Herbs are the leaves of plants, used either fresh or dried, and Spices are dried roots, stems, fruits or seeds of the plants.  And some plants, like Dill or Cilantro/Coriander are both!

New Gardening Books

by Beth on March 16th, 2012
New Gardening Books Cover Image

We gardeners are a strange breed. The sight of bare ground appearing as the snow melts makes us itch to sink our hands into the soil and get things growing.  Most of us have to remind ourselves rather sternly that spring is still weeks away.

Many gardeners start planning their gardens while the snow is still flying. Especially vegetable gardeners, since most of what they plant grows, produces, and dies all in one year, and they get to start new every spring.  For some of us, before we can start thinking of plants, we think of garden beds.

In my case, raised beds.  My yard is home to not only vegetables and flowers, but a very large dog.  Raised beds were the easiest way to get him to stay out of my veggie gardens.  I built my first raised beds eight years ago, and last spring I promised myself that it would be the last time I shored up the sides with stakes. This year I have to start over.

This time I’m doing it right. I’m going to build raised beds that drain better and are varmint resistant – no more free dinners for moles. I’m not building a raised bed in the soupiest part of the yard this time either. In that spot I’m going to try creating a rain garden to let Mother Nature deal with her bounty.

Thankfully, the Iowa City Public Library has a great collection of gardening books – from planning guides to plant care and everything in between. Two of the new books that are helping me with my planning as I wait for spring:

The vegetable gardener’s book of building projects: raised beds, cold frames, compost bins, planters, plant supports, trellises, harvesting and storage aids, by Cindy Littelfield and Kevin Ayer, c2010. For a gardener with a bit of DIY experience and a few power tools, the 39 projects in this book can help you transform your yard and gardens.

Rain gardens: sustainable landscaping for a beautiful yard and a healthy world by Lynn M. Steiner and Robert W. Domm, c2012. This well written and easy to follow guide to rain gardens starts with a thorough introduction to storm water and rain gardens,  and follows with chapters on planning, building, planting and maintaining your garden. Plant suggestions are given throughout, and a large plant index of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees follows. Features lots of color photographs and illustrations throughout.

Other new gardening books for the spring:

The Complete Guide to Greenhouses & Garden Projects: greenhouses, cold frames, compost bins, trellises, planting beds, potting benches & more created by the editors of Creative Publishing in cooperation with Black & Decker, c2011.


The essential guide to creating rain gardens: capturing rain for your own water-efficient garden by Cleo Woelfle-Erskine and Apryl Uncapher, c2012.

Backyard Harvest: a year-round guide to growing fruits and vegetables by Jo Whittingham c 2011.

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour, c2012.

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Own Food by Monte Burch, c2011.

The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Heirloom Vegetables: the 100 easiest-to-grow, tastiest vegetables for your garden by Marie Iannotti, c2011.

About Beth

Where you might find me in the Library:
At the Help or Reference Desk, at a Library program, or someplace near 746.46.
Interesting facts:
I have an entire room in my house full of fabric and sewing machines.
I have a "prairie in progress" in my back yard, and it is actually possible to lose a 130 pound dog there.
On weekends I go trolling through junk shops looking for strange garden art.
I own more board games than anyone I know.
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