Last Week of July

I can’t believe how fast this summer is going!  First, the railroad rail has been fixed, albiet not correctly according to railroad person, but at least it’s fixed:

The bolts are supposed to be staggered, not all on one side like they are here:

Then the antique car show at Sylvan Beach:

Cute T-Bird!

Saw lots of Mustangs of all vintages – nice!



Saw lots of ducks:

Listened to Jack Henke talk about his Sylvan Beach/Oneida Lake books here:

And got a parking ticket for a spot that was CLEARLY not marked as a parking spot that needed to be paid for, and on a Sunday, no less:


Which required me to have to go work off some excess energy by swimming in the lake in the dark.


Susan Wittig Albert’s Blog Tour

Susan Wittig Albert is stopping by my blog tomorrow on her blog tour for her latest book, Wormwood.


Please be sure to visit her blog Lifescapes tomorrow so you can find out the details of what’s going on! And good luck!  I can’t wait to hear who wins the book contest!

Wormwood, by Susan Wittig Albert

When Susan Wittig Albert asked some of us if we would like an advance copy of her latest China book Wormwood (due out April 7th), I said “yes please!”  It arrived in the mail on Friday, and I started reading it right away.


Having worked both Sat. & Sun. I haven’t had much chance to read more than a couple of chapters, but I immediately saw this was going to be among one of my favorite China books.  Well, okay, they’re all my favorites!  The first chapter (which you can read on Susan’s About Thyme website) starts with China and her friends (and introduces everyone to those who are picking this book up as their first China book).  Now get this – the second chapter goes to the Shaker Village at Mt. Zion, Kentucky in 1912.    Chapter Three is back to the present with China.  Chapter Four is a History of the Shakers.  Chapter Five is back at Mt. Zion, Kentucky in 1912.  Chapter Six is back to the present with China.  Is this intriguing or what?  I’m intrigued with this on several levels.  The obvious – how Susan is going to tie everything together.

When I was studying to become a Master Herbologist, one of the many tangents I took was to study everything I could get my hands on about the Shakers.  So I feel like I’m visiting old friends, and while I haven’t visited the Shaker Village in Mt. Zion, Kentucky, the Shaker villages that I have visited pop into my head while reading Susan’s descriptions.

Before the advent of modern medicine, herbs were what people used to help with their ailments.  The Shakers were the main source of these herbs in the U.S.

I also grew the herb Wormwood in my garden a few years ago, and it’s one of those plants that don’t allow other things to grow near it, as I found out the hard way.  It will be interesting to find out how Susan uses the herb wormwood in her book.

I’m looking forward to getting done with my housework today, so I can sit down and read more of Wormwood!

Prime Thyme Mysteries 2, by Susan Wittig Albert

Many thanks to Pam for hosting me today. This blog tour celebrates the launch of Nightshade, the sixteenth China Bayles mystery. China (for those who haven’t read this mystery series) is a former criminal defense attorney who has opted for a quieter life as the owner of an herb shop in Pecan Springs TX. Life in the slow lane isn’t nearly as peaceful as she expected, however, and in spite of China’s best intentions, she keeps turning up mysteries. In this post, I’d like to tell you something about the herbs in three more of her adventures, Books 4, 5, and 6 in the series. (For posts on other books, check out the tour calendar.)

Rosemary Remembered: “For you, there’s rosemary and rue.”—Shakespeare

In China’s fourth mystery, I tried giving the series an even sharper herbal flavor by including bits of herb information and lore at the beginning of every chapter. The signature herb was rosemary (“Here’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance”). I wrote this book while we were all ensnared by the trial of OJ Simpson, and I couldn’t help thinking that the media focus was on the criminal, when it should have been on the victims. So Rosemary Remembered is about remembering the victims of crime.We know rosemary as a culinary herb and treasure it for its fresh, sharply resinous taste. But it has seen a wide variety of uses. The Egyptians used it in the preservation of mummies. The Greeks used it to help preserve meat–lamb, mostly, which is why our Easter lamb dishes are flavored with rosemary. The Romans thought that it helped to stimulate and preserve mental processes, so Roman scholars wore rosemary garlands. By association, it represented unfading love, and was carried by brides and used with funeral flowers. By Shakespeare’s day, everybody knew that rosemary symbolized remembering. And recently, research in Germany suggests that rosemary actually does help preserve memory in the brain, and might be used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

For more about rosemary, you can listen to my podcast, check out a few recipes, and explore links to more pages about this wonderful herb.

Rueful Death

In her fifth mystery, China goes on retreat to a nearby monastery, where the sisters grow garlic for a living. But the peaceful harmony of St. Theresa’s is threatened by arson fires and a rash of nasty poison-pen letters. As she solves the mysteries and identifies the guilty, China learns about forgiveness and mercy, and discovers some hard truths about her own limitations.

While there’s a lot of information about garlic in Rueful Death, rue is the herb that gives this mystery its title. Rue isn’t a popular modern herb, but in previous centuries, it was an important medicinal. The Romans used rue as an eyewash and included it in amulets they wore to protect themselves from contagious illness. It was also thought to repel evil, so medieval priests used the plant as a brush to shake holy water as they gave the blessing—hence the name, “herb of grace.” In Shakespeare’s day, pots of rue were set in front of judges in the courtroom to protect them from any plague that might be carried by prisoners. The plant was also associated with the idea of repentance, or “ruefulness,” and hence with mercy and forgiveness.

Up through the nineteenth century, one of the most important uses of rue was as an abortifacient: an herb that causes an abortion. (Other popular abortifacients were thyme and parsley.) Rue was also thought to be an anti-aphrodisiac, suppressing sexual desire. It was used in food served in monasteries.

There’s some interesting information about rue here. For a serious discussion of rue’s powerful medicinal properties, go here.

Love Lies Bleeding

The folk names of herbs have always fascinated me. Love-lies-bleeding is the folk name for Amaranthus caudatus. Its name inspired the plot of China’s sixth adventure, in which McQuaid (China’s lover) is shot and almost dies. In Love Lies Bleeding, China has to learn some difficult truths about heroes who don’t live up to their reputations. Even good cops can be corrupted by cocaine, heroin, and marijuana—the three biggest herbal cash crops in the world.

Love Lies BleedingLove-lies-bleeding, prized for its rope-like, blood-red blossoms, has been used since ancient times to stanch bleeding and treat internal hemorrhage. It was worn by knights in the Middle Ages to symbolize purity and truth. During the Renaissance (when it was used to treat venereal disease) the herb became a symbol of corruption.

To find out why the Aztecs called this plant (and its other amaranth relatives) the “grain of the gods,” go here. To learn about its nutritional values, check out this Wikipedia page. To find out how to grow it (it’s easy!), go here. But do be careful—all amaranths are notorious self-sowers. You may wind up with more than you bargained for!

And that brings this post to a close. Thanks again, Pam, for hosting me. And thanks to everybody who has dropped in to read and comment! I’ll be around today and for the next couple of days to answer questions.

UPDATE:  March 27, 2009 Wormwood Book Drawing!


To enter the book drawing for Susan’s latest book, please click here on March 27th!

Wordless Wednesday

Entrance to Cutler Union, now part of the Memorial Art Gallery. I’m posting this just cuz I think it’s a cool entrance.

And coming this Friday watch for Susan Wittig Albert’s post on my blog!
Check out her Nightshade blog tour here!

Nightshade, by Susan Wittig Albert

Remember Susan Albert’s blog tour for The Tale of Hawthorne House, the latest book in her Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter mystery series? She posted about Beatrix Potter’s Lake District on my blog here. I thought you would. Well, Susan is doing another blog tour for the 16th book in her China Bayles mystery series. Nightshade is coming out on April 1st and my blog will be on her tour once again. More details later!

Today in the mail I received an advance copy of Susan’s book Nightshade signed by Susan! How awesome is this?


I should have taken the photo before starting to read it so the cover would have stayed flat!

I’ve seen advance copies on other people’s blogs, I’ve drooled over the thoughts of reading a book by a favorite author before it actually hits the stores, and now I don’t have to drool any longer, and I don’t have to wait (impatiently) until April 1st to read Nightshade! I’m on Chapter 3 and you know what I’ll be doing for the rest of the night! Susan totally made my day!

My Digitization Tips

Jill Hurst-Wahl asked me in a comment here for any digitization tips I would like to share based on my experience. I met Jill Hurst-Wahl at a digitization seminar she gave at the RRLC a couple of years ago and she got me more excited about digitization. This was pre-blog so I didn’t write about it. I also attended a seminar at the RRLC in Nov 2006 given by Toya Dubin of Hudson Microimaging, Inc. which I wrote about here.

My digitization experience is as follows:

I have digitized contemporary and old books using Kirtas Technologies’ scanners and proprietary software.

I have digitized contemporary and old photos using an HP scanner and Photoshop.

Here’s my list of tips. Some things may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised what I’ve had to suggest to people to do and what not to do.

Maintain the integrity of the original. Do NOT use scotch tape or any tape on any tears. OMG I saw this happen over and over and I had a cow every time someone put tape on an old book. That’s what the conservation people are for.

The digitized image should be as close to the original as possible.

If photos / illustrations / artwork are in color, digitize them in color.

Tweak grayscale and colors until you get them as close to the original as possible.

Make sure text is not blurry or too light.

Do not presume to know what is / is not important to future readers / viewers.

Given the previous point, do not cut off anything especially in photos / illustrations / artwork / maps. If anything gets cut off, it will be exactly what a future reader / viewer will be looking for. You’d be surprised the details that are in the edges of maps / photos that are important.

Old books are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. You have to be really careful with making sure all of the pages are scanned. Page numbers are really messy in old books. If you think there are missing pages in a book, read from before where you think pages are missing to after where you think pages are missing to make sure the text flows to see if pages are really missing or not.

On the same note, some page numbers are duplicated. This does *not* always mean text is duplicated in the book. You have to read the pages to make sure the text is not duplicated.

Old photos are also not perfect. Most are not square at the corners. To follow what I suggested above, do not cut off any of the details even if it leaves white or black at some of the edges. Don’t worry about those edges.

270 - Blk 107 - H A Hyde - 1886 - 300dpi
From the collections of the Onondaga Historical Association.
Here’s a really good example of edges that I left in.
I could have rotated this image counterclockwise a bit,
but then the top and bottom would have had edges
that I would have created on purpose. I would
rather have the edges that are in the original photo showing.

Old photos (and some text in old books) have different levels of lighting. Do the best you can to make it look as good as possible and move on.

Old photos (and some text in old books) have clear places and blurry places. Again, do the best you can to make it look as good as possible and move on.

I’m going to put in a request to all of the digitizers out there. When digitizing old newspapers, please take into consideration the user would love to see the photos in much greater detail than what I’ve seen at The Post-Standard Newspaper archive. Okay, I love this archive, I subscribe to this archive, but I really wish they would have considered the photos, not just the text!

From The Post-Standard, ‘Enrico’s Is Gone,’ Thursday, September 29, 1994, Page A-11

If you have any digitization tips you can add, please let me know!

P.S. I wanted to add more photos, but Flickr is having a “massage” right now.

Charles Dickens in Syracuse, March 1868

While searching and for old Syracuse books one day, I came across old books about Charles Dickens’ stay in Syracuse, and was quite surprised at his take on his hotel room, the food, and the wine. I guess I always think about hotel rooms and food being better and more comfortable in the old days, but I guess this is not always the case. I’m not sure which hotel he stayed in, some sources say he stayed at the new Vanderbilt House, some sources say the old Syracuse House.



From Early Landmarks of Syracuse:

The Vanderbilt House was opened March 18, 1868, Cook & Sons being the proprietors. It was the first hotel in the city [Syracuse] to be furnished with parlor mantels and grate fires. Charles Dickens was the first guest. When he came to Syracuse March 9, 1868, to give his readings of “The Christmas Carol” and the Bardell-Pickwick trial, at the Wieting Hall, he was allowed to take a corner room directly over the parlor in order that he might have a grate fire in his room, even though the hotel was not ready for its guests.

407 - weiting opera house - 300dpi
Wieting Opera House, corner of S. Salina & Water Streets
From the collections at Onondaga Historical Association
This can be purchased from OHA from their online photograph store

The following is written by George Dolby from his book Charles Dickens as I Knew Him: The Story of the Reading Tours in Great Britain and America

A heavy snowstorm with a terrific gale of wind had been raging all the week, and as all of the trains were some hours, and some of them a day, late in their arrival, we determined on starting a day earlier than originally arranged on our journey to the North-West, so as to avoid the chance of being delayed by being “snowed up;” and after a most unpleasant journey we arrived on Saturday evening, March 7th, in the city of Syracuse (breaking our journey at Albany). The circumstances under which Syracuse was visited were perhaps not the most favorable. A thaw had set in, rendering walking almost an impossibility, but a walk was taken later in the day to view the city, and the conclusion Mr. Dickens arrived at with regard to Syracuse was that it was a most out-of-the-way place, and looked as if it had “begun to be built yesterday, and was going to be imperfectly knocked together with a nail or two the day after to-morrow.” There were no people to be seen in the streets, and it was a matter of surprise to us that Mr. Osgood had contrived to sell all the tickets for the Reading on the following night; but as this was Sunday it occurred to us that the population were all in church. The hotel was unbearable, and the bedrooms so bad that we were afraid to go to them at night. So we sat up playing cribbage and whist (double dummy) until, as Mr. Dickens wrote to Fields, “neither of us could bear to speak to the other any more.” In the same letter he described his waking moments on the morning after his arrival: “The awakening to consciousness this morning on a lopsided bedstead, facing nowhere, in a room holding nothing but sour dust, was more terrible than the being afraid to go to bed at night.” The bill of fare (the printed carte de jour) was curiosity in itself, as was also the Irish waiter told of for our service. The bill of fare included such delicacies as “Fowl de poulet,” “Paettie de Shay,” “Celary,” and a “Murange with cream.” On my asking the Irish waiter what a “Paettie de Shay” was he said he would go and inquire, and came back with the startling intelligence that “it was the Frinch name the steward gave to the oyster patties!” The wine list was also curious, and included such vintages as “Mooseux,” “Abasinthe,” “Curacce,” “Maraschine,” “Annisse,” and “Table Madeira.” A bottle of the former had been tried on the evening of our arrival, to wash down some buffalo which had been prepared for our supper, and was described by Mr. Dickens at the time as a “tough old nightmare;” but as the wine displayed an utter absence of grape we resolved on leaving that in the future, and flew in desperation to the “Table Madeira” (which would have done discredit to good honest British wine of the ginger or cowslip species). Then we tried the “Margeaux,” which, if we had persevered with it, would have terminated in colic. The only good feature in the wines was the price, for there was nothing under three dollars a bottle, and as the brandy (“Jersey lightning”) was impossible, we had to fall back on our own flasks and small traveling stock for our stay in Syracuse.

The following morning Mr. Dickens’s arrival in the city had become known, and the depression of the previous day and the badness of the hotel were forgotten in the geniality of the inhabitants of Syracuse, who all seemed desirous of contributing something to his pleasure and amusement, during the short time he had to pass there. Although there were no people to be seen in the streets on the Sunday of our arrival, there were plenty at the Reading at night, and a most delightful and appreciative audience too, taking all the points of the Reading and its delicate touches as well as had the audiences in the other cities. The receipts were quite on an average with the more pretentious places.

The [Syracuse] Standard carried lengthy accounts of Dickens’ reading and reported it to be a sellout. People came from all over. The Standard reported:

At precisely eight o’clock a lithe, energetic man of medium figure came upon the platform at a brisk gait. We think the generality of people were rather disappointed in the size of the great novelist. We had thought of him as a large man. But you see at once the humor, the pathos, the intellectuality, the _road humanity of the man traced in his features. A moment only of disappointment and then you are satisfied with the appearance of the great novelist.

Mr. Dickens wasted no time in preliminaries. He made the announcement briefly and immediately commenced the “Christmas Carol.”

“Marley was dead to begin with,” came in a rather rapid, careless tone, and then followed the reading of that wonderful story. . . . . His face in repose, we have endeavored to describe. It is a thoroughly good face – a face that you would trust on a dark night, miles away from any habitation. In action, it is a face you cannot help loving. It is a laughing face. It is a lightsome face. Mr. Dickens is a superb actor. He is entirely sympathetic with his audience. He seems in love with his own genius, and we don’t blame him. The presence of Charles Dickens in Syracuse is an event long to be remembered by all our citizens.

And in case you’re dying to read more about Charles Dickens’ visit, here’s another article:

1953-09-13-PS-D-7-Charles Dickens Visit Made Impression on Bellboy Here
From Syracuse Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY, Sunday, September 13, 1953

784 - CliSq-SE-13892C - 300dpi
The Syracuse House (near the Erie Canal which used to run through Syracuse)
From the collections at Onondaga Historical Association
This can be purchased from OHA from their online photograph store



Charles Dickens as I Knew Him: The Story of the Reading Tours in Great Britain and America, by George Dolby, T. Fisher Unwin, Londong, 1887, pp. 276-279

Early Landmarks of Syracuse, by Gurney S. Strong, Printed by the Times Pub Co. (1894), pg. 37

The Post Standard, Syracuse, NY, Dickens Failed To Appreciate Salt City of ’68, Sunday, September 13, 1953

The Post Standard, Syracuse, NY, Charles Dickens’ Visit Made Impression on Bellboy Here, Sunday, September 13, 1953


‘Pillars of the Earth’ and ‘World Without End’ by Ken Follett

I could not believe it when I saw ‘Pillars of the Earth’ by one of my favorite intrigue authors Ken Follett is now part of Oprah’s Book Club. I read this book years ago and was recommending it to everyone at that time. In fact, here’s a photo of the cover of my copy, copyright 1989.


I picked this up on a bargain table at a bookstore in the mall in anticipation of a long road trip to Manistee, Michigan and back. Here’s the cover the way it looks now:


So why am I bringing this up besides the fact that I’m still recommending this book? Because Ken Follett has written another book ‘World Without End‘ as a follow-up to ‘Pillars of the Earth.’ Even though it is the second book, it can stand by itself. I’m about 3/4 of the way through and I am once again recommending this latest book to anyone who likes to read historical fiction.  I won’t take the time to give any book details here, as you can read them on Oprah’s website and


Hopefully it won’t take this one as long to make it on Oprah’s Book Club list as ‘Pillars of the Earth’ did.

Book Cover Meme

I saw this book cover meme on Jen’s blog A Passion for Nature and I had to play along. To play along, go to’s advanced search and type your first name into the title. Look through the results for the most interesting book cover and post it on your blog.

So I typed in “Pam” and you can imagine the dreck that came up for Pamela Anderson and her fake girls – blech. I was getting discouraged, but found a set of cool books on page two.

Bugs Bugs Bugs 51OMMD-m-gL._SS500_

Book Description
From “Baby Bumblebee” to “The Ants Go Marching”, children will sing, dance, and learn with these songs about the insects they encounter in their own backyard. The CD is accompanied by a book with over 250 activities that teach children about colors, counting, growing things, friendship, and of course, bugs. Each of the eight CD/book combinations will provide hours of learning fun. 128 pages plus CD.

About the Author
Pam Schiller’s career spans nearly every aspect of the early childhood profession. Pam has authored or co-authored over 30 books on topics ranging from curriculum development to the management of childcare centers to the use of current brain research in the classroom.

How appropos to where I’m working now, huh?

And when I saw the bug on the nose of the child on the cover, I immediately thought of one of my blogging friends. Hmmmm, can you think of *who* I thought of?

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