Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Two for the Road...and Cake!

Jane and Michael Stern are something else. After receiving their MFA’s from Yale and deciding they didn't want jobs remotely related to their degrees, they racked their brains for ideas about what to do with their lives and managed to come up with a career no one had ever heard of before: professional roadfood critic. For over 30 years they have been taking the back roads hither and yon across the United States in search of sublime local eats.  They now report back to a drooling herd of foodies who visit their well-maintained website,, and listen to Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s NPR program The Splendid Table, where they have a regular segment.

Their book Two for the Road: Our Love Affair with American Food details the highs and lows of their time on the road together. They would eat as many as twelve meals a day before passing out in a low-budget hotel room to nurse their indigestion. Talk about devotion. 

At the end of each chapter they share a recipe or two gleaned from their travels. I had the bright idea of making their “Pepsi-Cola Cake with Broiled Peanut Butter Frosting” and sharing it with volunteers and staff here at the library. My husband watched me disbelievingly as I made it late at night, mixing butter with coke and mini-marshmallows. When I handed it around the next day, it disappeared into mouths that were at first doubtfully nibbling but in no time at all were avidly munching. Here it is. Only attempt it if you have plenty of people to share it with so you don’t end up eating it all yourself! 

Pepsi-Cola Cake with Broiled Peanut Butter Frosting 

2 cups flour 
2 cups sugar 
2 sticks butter, melted 
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa 
1 cup Pepsi-Cola (with fizz) 
1/2 cup buttermilk 
2 eggs, beaten 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows 

6 tablespoons butter 
1 cup dark brown sugar 
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter 
1/4 cup milk 
2/3 cup chopped peanuts 

Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 x 2-inch sheet cake pan. Combine flour and sugar in a large bowl. Combine melted butter, cocoa, and Pepsi and pour over flour and sugar mixture. Stir until well-blended. Add buttermilk, beaten eggs, soda, and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in marshmallows. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 40 minutes. Remove cake from oven and frost while still barely warm. 

Frosting: Cream butter, sugar, and peanut butter. Beat in milk. Fold in nuts. Spread over cake. Place frosted cake under broiler about 4 inches from heat source. Broil just a few seconds, or until topping starts to bubble. Watch constantly and be careful not to scorch frosting! Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Reptile Man Returns

Turtles and lizards and snakes, oh my! The Reptile Man returns to Literacy Park this Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. His perennially popular show focuses on the science of herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles, and is perfect for this year’s summer reading science theme, Fizz! Boom! Read!

Richard Ritchey has been the Reptile Man for over 20 years. He brings unique insights, observations and a great sense of humor to his science based shows which are always highly entertaining and educational. Some of the snakes and lizards he’ll bring with him are a king cobra, rattlesnake, monitor lizard and, perhaps, an alligator snapping tortoise along with many more. My personal favorite is the deadly coral snake which he handles with skill and verve. His amazing creatures can be seen on his website.

Video of the Reptileman in action is on YouTube.

Friday, July 25, 2014

"The Human Factor" has been rescheduled

The Newport Public Library has rescheduled the film The Human Factor, which will be shown on Tuesday, July 29 at 6:30 p.m.

The Human Factor is a 1979 film based on Graham Greene's 1978 novel of the same name. Adapted for the screen by Tom Stoppard, the film is set during the Cold War. High ranking members of the British foreign intelligence service (Richard Attenborough, Robert Morley, and John Gielgud) suspect desk clerk Castle (Nicol Williamson) of leaking information to the Russians because his wife (Iman) was smuggled out of Apartheid-era South African by a Communist friend.

Suspicion also falls on Castle’s playboy office partner, Davis (Derek Jacobi). Whoever the mole is must be quietly killed. Directed by Otto Preminger, this was his 38th and final film.

This movie will be shown at no charge in the McEntee Meeting Room.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mad Scientist Madame Chaos at Literacy Park

Fizz, Boom, Read! summer reading programs continues the science theme this week in Literacy Park. Madame Chaos, a member of Portland’s Mad Science team, whips up experiments and fun this Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. All children and families are invited to attend this free program.

“The purpose of what we do is to show kids that learning about science is fun,” Madame Chaos says. “In fact, it is the most fun subject that anyone can even imagine.”

 Madame Chaos has been with the Portland franchise of Mad Science for about five years. “My background, you ask? I have a degree in psychology, which helps in this line of work - but my first love is science. Loving science, loving the kids, and having fun, is what it's all about.”

This summer program is sponsored in part by Ready to Read grant funds from the Oregon State Library and the Sylvia Beach Hotel.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Homebrewing at the Library!

Interested in making your own brew but don’t know where to start? Need some tips on creating new recipes? Head over to the library on July 22 at 6:30 p.m. so Randy Reid, head of The Good Heathens brew club, can show us what’s what. Reid will talk about the necessary equipment, ingredients, and the basic steps of the brewing process, as well as give advice to seasoned homebrewers. 

This how-to session is part of Newport Public Library’s 2014 Adult SummerReading Program. The theme this year is “Literary Elements,” combining science and literature in a variety of events sure to pique your interest. All programs are free of charge. For more information, call the library at 541-265-2153 or check out our website at

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In the absence of civilization

With aching arms, Malorie rows two small children down an unseen river. All are tightly blindfolded, straining their ears for the slightest sound, knowing that they may be surrounded by unseen dangers, but that their eyes must stay shut if they are to have any chance of survival.

From this strange beginning spins a tale told with alternating chapters of the frightening and bizarre present and the even stranger past that carried Malorie to this point. From the initial sparse outbreak of inexplicable suicides, to a population dwindling to tiny pockets of terrified people hiding behind blackened windows and barricaded doors, theories abound about the cause; but solving the mystery is not the heart of the book. Survival is. The persistence of life. The meaning that people have for each other. The strength in facing the truth about what needs to be done, and doing it, even in the midst of deepest grief.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman is a literary apocalyptic horror novel, mesmerizing and even beautiful, despite some truly ugly and bone-deep scary scenes. In the absence of civilization, like the darkest of nights, we can see more clearly the light of our souls, cast by our words and actions. And perhaps the shadows thrown by our own weaknesses are clearer too. In Malerman’s book, it’s the human characters whose cruelty and madness haunt me, far more than the supposed monsters.

Monday, July 14, 2014

World Traveling Storytellers come to Newport

Here come the storytellers!  This Wednesday, July 16, the Whitman Story Sampler performs at 1:00 p.m. in Literacy park for this week's edition of our Fizz!  Boom! Read! Summer Reading Program. Jen and Nat Whitman have been performing tandem (two storytellers sharing the telling of the same story), audience participation folktales as the Whitman Story Sampler for the past fifteen years.

They currently teach at the International School in Bangkok, Thailand where they use storytelling to teach creative dramatics and literacy skills. They have also taught and told stories in Hong Kong, China, Germany, Singapore and throughout the United States.  The Whitman’s draw on their travels and their backgrounds in musical theater to weave rhythm, music and motion into their performances.

I first met Jen and Nat when they came to Newport's former storytelling festival, Stories by the Sea, in 1999.  They came with Jen's mom, the inimitable folklorist/storyteller/author Margaret Read MacDonald, and quickly showed that she wasn't the only family member with storytelling skills. They continue to refine their performances and include lots of music, audience participation and humor along with marvelously told tandem tales

One of their more recent collaborations with MacDonald resulted in the book, Teaching with Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling. I think that they hit the curve on this one as storytelling becomes widely recognized as a vital component in early literacy for young children. More information about this entertaining pair is available on their website.

The Whitman's show is sponsored by Ready to Read grant funds from the Oregon State Library, Ross and Janis Neigebauer, Jeanette Hofer and Newport's Umpqua Bank.

Friday, July 11, 2014

From Aardvarks to Zygotes

When I was a 5th grader living in Seattle, I took part in the local library’s summer reading program. One of their requirements was that we read books on different topics, so among my choices were books about ants and atoms. (I’m not sure if I started at the A’s in the subject card catalog, but those are the two I remember.) I loved learning about new subjects, and loved knowing that libraries could satisfy my curiosity on almost any topic.

Libraries continue to support both young readers and life-long learners, and we’ve recently added an amazing collection of titles to our Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL). The following are possible topics to research with a sample of the results from the GVRL for each.

My son wants to learn about robots.
- “How Robots Move,” Robots
- “Robot Toys,” Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics
- “Robotics,” The Gale Encyclopedia of Science 

Last month was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which is considered the spark that ignited World War I. I’d like to know more about him.
- “Archduke Franz Ferdinand, assassination of,” The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Terrorism
- “Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria,” Encyclopedia of World Biography
- “Franz Ferdinand,” World War I Reference Library

I’ve been hearing about the decline in coral reefs, and want to learn more.
- “Coral and Coral Reef,” The Gale Encyclopedia of Science
- “Coral Reef Ecosystems,” Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia : Extinction
- “Coral Reefs and Corals,” Climate Change : In Context

Over 3,000 reference titles are now in the GVRL, on topics including Art, Biography, Business, Education, Environment, History, Law, Medicine, Nation and World, Religion, Science, and Social Sciences.  You can access all of them from home; just go to our database page and log in with your Newport library card and PIN. Maybe you’ll learn something new this summer about ants or atoms ..... or even Aztecs!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Science of the Sea

Our Fizz, Boom, Read! summer reading programs are all about science this summer. That makes it even more important for the young ones in our community to learn as much as they can about the science of the sea. Who better to teach this than the education staff at the Oregon Coast Aquarium? So, this week, that's exactly who will be in Literacy Park at 1:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

We have such an incredible and generous resource in Oregon Coast Aquarium. It’s been four years since we’ve had an ocean science program with the Aquarium so the children are really looking forward to learning from its outstanding educators. There will be hands-on learning as well as the Aquarium staff's usual lively presentation.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium website has more information about the many wondrous things families can do there. To find out more about the Aquarium show or other summer reading presentations, please check out our summer schedules.