don’t judge a book by it’s cover

We all do it, let’s be honest.

The colours or pictures on a book cover jump out at us, shouting: “Pick me!”

Sometimes the book is better than the cover, sometimes we’re disappointed and the initial attraction doesn’t lead to any deeper love.

And sometimes a treasure can be found under an unlikely cover. You might even find yourself passing it on to a friend, asking them not to judge the book by it’s cover.

So with this in mind, I’ve created a display for my library that challenges readers to pick a book, sight unseen. “It’s like Christmas!” I had one student proclaim as they unwrapped the book they chose so we could check it out to them. Considering they came back for another unknown book and brought a friend with them, I’d say the display is a success.

It was easy to put together and could be used during any season — both qualities are a perk for this busy librarian!

don't judge 1

I am spoiled by having a laminator at my disposal and often will laminate parts of my displays — this makes re-using elements easier and the colours don’t fade. Actually, I have a filing system for all the letters that I use. There is a large manila envelope for each letter of the alphabet and all the colors and font styles and sizes per letter go in the envelopes, which go into a hanging file system. I like mix-and-match lettering … you don’t have to worry about lining things up when they’re uneven on purpose!

For this display I used laminated circles cut from discarded books as a graphic backdrop for the title.

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I chose a selection of books that I would consider page-turners and would most likely be enjoyed by either guy or girl readers. I wrapped them in old newspapers– simply because they were handy and large enough to fit around a book and don’t cost anything! If I had large sheets of solid paper or non-Christmasy wrapping paper on hand, I would have used that. The secret to quick, easy, and cost efficient displays is being creative with what you have.

I also added bright colourful signs to the front of the wrapped books, encouraging students to grab them off the display. I made the signs in a Word document that was landscape orientation and divided into two columns, so that 2 signs could be made per printed page. You could also make smaller signs and fit four per page. I printed off more than I needed for the original display so that I’d have them ready to go when I needed to replace books that had been checked out.

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If you try this out, I’d love to hear your students’ reactions and how this idea worked for your library or classroom space!

roasted peppers purée

If you opened up my freezer, you will always find a Ziploc bag of ice-cube sized portions of roasted peppers purée. I add roasted peppers purée to all sorts of recipes: soups, stirfry, panini sandwiches, sauces, the list goes on and on. It acts as a great substitute for tomato in a lot of recipes; I find that I am often sensitive to tomatoes and can only have them very infrequently and only certain ways.

So, on an evening or weekend when you find yourself content at home, try this out and enjoy the flavourful benefits in your baking over the next month or two.

All the ingredients you need are peppers — red, orange, yellow, green, any will do — you can often buy bags of them at the local produce market that are quite ripe and needing to be used in cooked dishes vs. eaten raw. Take advantage of that deal, those peppers are perfect for our purposes!


Cut and seed all the peppers and wedge them into a baking dish (or two) and cover with tinfoil. While you’re doing this, preheat your oven to around 350°F. I use a Pyrex dish and have never added oil or liquid, and the peppers have never stuck.

Roast them until they are limp and thoroughly cooked. Remove them from the oven and let them cool.

As soon as you are able to touch them without scalding off your fingerprints, peel off the skin from each piece of pepper; the skin is like cellophane. Place the peeled peppers and the juices from roasting into a blender or food processor — purée.


Use a small spoon to scoop the purée into ice cube trays and place them in your freezer. Within the next day or so, pop them out of the trays and into a Freezer Ziploc bag; they last a couple of months. However, I think you will find that you use them up before you have a problem with freezer burn.


Now you have a secret stash of goodness that will add flavourful and nutritional dimension to whatever you are cooking.


sesame snap crackle pop

I felt like having a little something sweet with my tea tonight.

These take just a few minutes to make and hit the spot — the Sesame Snap Crackle Pop treats taste like Halva, or Sesame Snaps.




4 tbsp. butter

8 tbsp. tahini

6 cups mini marshmallows

10 cups Rice Krispies cereal


Grab a large pot and add the butter and tahini. Tahini is a sesame paste/butter that you should be able to find in your grocery store down the isle with organic items, along with cashew or almond butter (which would also work great with this recipe!). Heat these two ingredients over medium heat until they melt, stirring occasionally.

Add the mini marshmallows and keep stirring. It takes about 2 minutes for the marshmallows to melt.

Remove the pot from the element. Dump in the Rice Krispies cereal and fold through the marshmallow and tahini mixture until it’s one giant sticky mess.

Scoop the mixture into a 9×9 pan and pat it down. I find that running a little cold water over your hands every couple of pats helps keep the warm sticky treat from sticking to your fingers.

Let the pan sit for about 5 minutes and then place it upside down on a cutting mat. The treat is still warm and will pop out of the pan. Let it sit until it cools (if you can wait that long) and then cut it into little squares. Grab a cup of tea, and enjoy.

Warning: These are downright addictive!

my big fat greek muffins

… otherwise known as Apple Orange Bran Muffins.

If you’re thinking what do apples and oranges have to do with Greek muffins? Then just pause for a moment to watch the clip below (the wedding speech near the end of the movie: My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

and so … there you go!

Time to start cooking — Grab a mixing bowl and a spoon, and the following ingredients:

1 Dixie cup of unsweetened apple sauce (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 Cups Bran
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder

Empty the Dixie cup of applesauce — you know, the kind that’s the perfect size for packing in lunches (about 1/3 of a cup) — into the mixing bowl. Add the 1 1/2 cups of bran, and then the orange juice and milk. I used Roger’s 100% Natural Wheat Bran, Tropicana No Pulp Orange Juice and 1% milk. Mix all these ingredients together until the bran is well coated.

While the bran is absorbing the liquid, pull out the rest of the ingredients and pop the muffin liners into the muffin tin. Preheat the oven to 375°F

Add about 1/3 cup of brown sugar. This is the part where I admit I don’t really use my measuring cups for measuring, more as scoops. Sometimes I even just shake the brown sugar into the bowl directly from the bag; the precise scientific method. If you like sweeter muffins, pack the brown sugar in the 1/3 cup measure, or add a little more. Mix the brown sugar into the wet batter.

Next, add the tsp. of vanilla and 1 large egg — I always buy Omega3 eggs, because extra Omega’s are recommended for people with Crohn’s, and I figure every little bit helps! Mix well.

Finally, add the cup of flour, 1 tsp. of both baking soda and baking powder, and then stir all 3 dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Just mix the batter well enough to combine the ingredients.

The oven should beep that it’s preheated and ready to go as you are dividing the muffin batter into the 12 muffin liners.

The muffins will take 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. Once they are done, remove them from the oven and let them sit in the pan for a couple minutes, while you pull out a cooling rack, clean up the ingredients, etc. and then remove them from the muffin tin and place them on the cooling rack.


appleorangebran3Enjoy them while they’re warm from the oven or save them and eat them for breakfast throughout the week while you’re on your way to work.

I make these muffins, or variations of, at least once a week and have never had a batch flop!

happy new beginnings

One of the aspects of my job (as Library Tech. in a Secondary library) that I love, is the creative freedom to promote our books and services. I have a not-so-secret stash of prepped bulletin board and display ideas organized by month, that I will often re-use from year to year. This month, as we’re kicking off a new year, I felt like creating a new bulletin board — perhaps something interactive.

So, after some pondering and a little bit of Pinterest perusing, I decided to display the first lines of a handful of books, for the first month of the year. The title is: Happy New Beginnings — with the directions: Can you guess the books these beginning sentences belong to? I printed out various quotes and glued them onto the front of file folders; the author and title of the book were glued inside the file.

I have seen many staff and students pausing to look at the display, and flip open the folders to reveal who said what, and have heard students talking about the quotes as they enter the library. Mission accomplished — they’re noticing and pausing and discussing and coming in!

For those of you who are also library-types, or are simply curious about what first lines of books were used, here is the list (in no particular order):

  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller — “It was love at first sight.”
  • Incarceron by Catherine Fisher — “Finn had been flung on his face and chained to the stone slabs of the transitway.”
  • The Kill Order by James Dashner — “Teresa looked at her best friend and wondered what it would be like to forget him.”
  • The Guardian Dukeby Jamie Carie — “Heaven could be found in music.”
  • Safely Home by Randy Alcorn — “Three men watched intently as peculiar events occurred, one right after the other, on opposite sides of the globe.”
  • Words by Ginny L. Yttrup — “I collect words.”
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld — “The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.”
  • The Chair by James L. Rubart — “On Tuesday afternoon at five thirty, an elderly lady strode into Corin’s antiques store as if she owned it and said, ‘The next two months of your life will be either heaven or hell.”
  • Too Far To Say Far Enough by Nancy Rue — “Every Monday morning I quit.”
  • Certain Jeopardy by Captain Jeff Struecker with Alton Gansky — “Sgt. Major Eric Moyer hated goats.”
  • Waking Hours by Lis Wiehl with Pete Nelson — “Tommy Gunderson woke in the middle of the night to the howling of the wind and the siren of his home’s security system.”
  • Double Blind by Brandilyn Collins — “Desperate people make desperate choices.”
  • To Darkness Fled by Jill Williamson — “What do you mean she’s gone?”
  • Megan’s Hero by Sharon Gillenwater — “She’d thought things couldn’t get any worse.”
  • Sunsets by Robin Jones Gunn — “’Coffee,’ Alissa muttered, pushing herself away from her cluttered desk, ‘a tall café mocha, and I need it now.’”
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — “I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.”
  • Chosen by Ted Dekker — “Our story begins in a world totally like our own, yet completely different.”
  • So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld — “We are all around you.”
  • After The Leaves Fall by Nicole Baart — “Waiting is a complicated longing.”
  • The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead — “Had he but known that before the day was over he would discover the hidden dimensions of the universe, Kit might have been better prepared.”

banana yogurt oatmeal muffins

The title says it all.
I had some Greek yogurt that I needed to use up before it expired and a ripe banana — that’s all the inspiration I needed  to grab a mixing bowl — add a little of this, and a little of that, and presto … muffins.
They only took about 10 minutes to make, and about 22-25 min. to bake. So, within about half an hour my house smells wonderful and I am all set for breakfast this week.


1 ripe banana
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (a generous 1/2 cup, even 2/3 would be fine)
1/2 cup milk (with a squirt or two of lemon juice)
1 cup oatmeal
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. JELL-O Instant Vanilla Pudding powder (*optional)

You could use 2 mixing bowls, one for wet and one for dry ingredients, but I’m a big fan of simplifying where possible and for this recipe it makes no difference, so I just used 1 bowl.

Peel the banana and thinly slice it into the bowl, thoroughly mashing it with a fork.

Next, measure in a cup or so of Quaker Oats Quick Oats and then pour in the 1/2 cup of milk with a couple of squirts of lemon juice, and a generous 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt. Mix the ingredients all together so that the oatmeal is coated.

Leave the oatmeal to soak up the liquid and soften, while getting the rest of your ingredients out of your cupboards. Place a dozen muffin liners in the muffin pan and turn the oven on to preheat (380°F).

Time to finish the muffin batter.

Add 1/3 cup of brown sugar and 1 egg and combine thoroughly. Don’t worry about over-stirring.

Finally, add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder all at once. Also, if you choose, the JELL-O Instant Vanilla Pudding powder (I find this helps the muffins stay moister longer). Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until combined. Once there are no more dry patches, stop stirring.

Next, scoop the batter into the 12 muffin cups. I use the ladle that came with my cutlery set; one ladle full is the perfect amount to get 12 equal sized muffins.

The oven will have just finished preheating. Put the muffins in the oven and set the timer for 22-25 minutes depending on your oven.

I must admit that I was curious about how my little banana yogurt concoction would turn out, and the smell was hard to resist; I scarfed one while they were still hot. The muffins have a very spongy, moist texture and are not very sweet with a subtle banana flavor and a touch of a tang from the Greek yogurt. Once they have cooled, and over the next couple of days, I’m sure the banana flavour will become stronger.

Chocolate chips and nuts could also be tossed in if this makes you happy. About a year ago I was diagnosed with Crohn’s and both of those additions are now ingredients I avoid.

I think another time I might try replacing the milk with orange juice (my favorite is Tropicana No Pulp). Mango juice would probably be a really good swap as well.

If you give these a go, I’d love to hear how they turned out for you!