Little Library on the Trail

littlefreelibrary2Take a book. Read a book. When I saw this message on a box posted on the Pinellas Trail in Dunedin, I had to stop and check it out. What I discovered was a Little Free Library. Of course, I opened the door and found nine new books waiting for someone to pluck them up and read. The titles were familiar. I’d read all of the children’s books in the box to my elementary students over the years. In addition, there were best sellers waiting for adult readers.

At the time I didn’t realize this was a recent addition, but the State Library of Florida posted a picture of the little library on their Facebook page with a link to an article in the Tampa Bay Times. I peeked in the book exchange box only three days after the Friends of the Dunedin Library unveiled it on April 30th…more than half of the original 26 books already in the hands of readers. According to the Times, this is the first of five Little Free Libraries planed for the community. Quite a commitment!littlefreelibrary

My curiosity led me to the homepage of an organization called Little Free Library which promotes literacy and the love of reading worldwide through book exchanges. With a goal of building 2,510 libraries, the Dunedin Little Free Library makes them one step closer. There’s even an official Little Free Library Pinterest board with pictures and stories about other book exchange boxes. Maybe Ocklawaha needs a Little Free Library!


Words of Wisdom – Dr. Seuss Style

This may look like cheating, but while looking for Dr. Seuss quotes I saw this posted and felt I really couldn’t do any better. It’s amazing that Dr. Seuss, like Mr. Rogers, always knows what to say in any situation.

While I think #24 on the list is absolutely indisputable: Teeth are always in style; my favorite: Step with care and great tact. And remember life’s a great balancing act.

What’s your favorite piece of advice from Dr. Seuss?

30 Dr. Seuss Quotes that Can Change Your Life

I’m glad I don’t write only in rhyme! What an undertaking! Thanks Mamiverse for great Dr. Suess quotes!

Congratulations, Captain Underpants!

captainunderpantsApril 14th – April 20th is celebrated as National Library Week and as part of the yearly celebration, the American Library Association announced on Monday the Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books for 2012. This year, Captain Underpants (the series) topped the list as the most challenged book. What an honor! It joins To Kill a Mockingbird, Kite Runner, Catcher in the Rye, and The Color Purple, other titles which perpetually appear on the annual list.

As an elementary teacher, Captain Underpants could be found in the desks of my students every week of the year. Students, especially boys,  in my class figured out how to circumvent the media center’s ability to reshelve the books so others could check them out by snatching them from the bin of returned books. Honestly, these are not my favorite books, and I tried to encourage students to read a variety of titles. I remember telling one student he couldn’t check out Captain Underpants every week. He’d need to alternate between one of Dav Pilkey’s books and something else. I suggested non-fiction books on snakes, cars, sports, and even books like Grossology and Animals Nobody Loves. However, I must admit, I was just relieved that he was reading and enjoying books.

One parent explains why many parents love Captain Underpants:

My boys used to hate reading until they started reading the “Captain Underpants” series. Those were the only books they read over and over laughing their little asses off . These books are meant for little boys with little boy humor. Farts, gas, diapers, boogers, and everything else that little boys love are in these books. Totally fun reading for my boys!

Thank you Dav Pilkey for the Captain Underpants’ series. Your books started by boys loving to read.

If you miss the Captain Underpants fun, maybe it’s time to head to the library and check out one of the books or better yet, check out one of the other books from the list of frequently challenged books. You’ll find some great titles! Happy reading!

Step Back in Time: “The Year of the Yearling”

IMG_0515“The Year of the Yearling” celebrates the 75th anniversary of  the publication of Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s story of a boy and his pet fawn set in rural Florida. What better way to recognize this event than to visit the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park?




The state park provides a great opportunity for visitors to step back in time as they tour the cracker style house and farm where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived and wrote her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Yearling as well eight other books and numerous short stories.

The home, located in Cross Creek, has been restored as it was when she lived there and our tour guide on a recent visit transported us back to 1930s and 40s as he told stories of how she worked, entertained, and protected her moonshine. Well worth the $3.00 charge.

From the Spring of 2013 to the Spring of 2014 events have been planned to celebrate “The Year of the Yearling”.  Read the book. Watch the movie. Visit the park. Step back in time!

Leave a Message After the Beep

answeringMachineThat was the challenge presented in the tenth round of Three-Minute Fiction competition. This short story contest from All Things Considered challenged listeners to write a piece of fiction of no more than 600 words in which their story would be in the form of a voice mail. That’s it…pretty simple.

If you love short stories make sure you check out the Three-Minute Fiction page on the npr website for fourteen of the entries. You’ll want to read not only the winning entry Sorry For Your Loss by Lisa Rubenson but the others as well. Make sure you click the link at the bottom of the page to go back to Older Stories so you can read my favorite A Call From the Cabin by Kevin Windorf.

According to the website, more than 4000 entries were received and Lisa Rubenson’s winning entry will be published in The Paris Review.

I’m looking forward to round 11.

What a Coincidence!

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
― Albert Einstein, The World as I See It

This week started with an amazing coincidence that sent chills down my spine. On Monday I posted a message to Meghan, Emily, and Sarah asking them to wear jewelry on Tuesday as a way to honor their granny who died on February 26th, 2010. I encouraged them to wear pearls, diamonds, necklaces, and rings because we all know how much Granny enjoyed her jewelry. Then on Tuesday, John received a call from the assisted living facility informing him they found a ring in their safe that belonged to his mother. The call came on the anniversary of her death, on the day I’d asked the girls to not only remember her, but to remember her by wearing jewelry. That call sent chills down my spine.

Well, it turns out the ring wasn’t actually hers. I’m sure they’re right that it was at one time in her possession, but she probably traded a piece of her jewelry for this ring or maybe just picked it up and wore it for awhile. Nevertheless, the coincidence of these events occurring can’t help but make you wonder how these things happen…and, they make for a great story.

Then yesterday on our drive to Palatka we heard an episode of the radio program, This American Life, called No Coincidence, No Story. What a coincidence!

Here’s an example of the type of stories included in the 60 minute episode:

Blind Man

About ten years ago, Jon Schmidt — who lives in Philadelphia — took a business trip to Boston, working out of his company’s new Boston office. One day, sitting at his desk, Jon noticed a piece of paper curling out from behind the vertical blinds.

“I got up and pulled the blinds closed and then flipped them to the reverse side,” says Jon. “There, cut into strips and pasted to the back of the blinds, was a very large photo of my identical twin.”

It turns out that years earlier, the company that Jon’s twin brother, Jeff, worked for had leased the same office space. As a prank, Jeff’s co-workers had planted his photo on the back of the vertical blinds, and no one had removed the picture when the company moved out. Jon was working in his twin brother’s same building, in the same office, at the same desk, with a life-sized picture of his brother on the back of the blinds.

You can read more coincidence stories at This American Life. Better yet, listen to the archive of the program at This American Life Archives. The stories of Esther’s dollar bill and the one about Stephen’s mother-in-law’s bombshell send that chill down your spine while the coins in the shower can only make you chuckle.

I love a good coincidence! Click the comment link if you’d like to share your own coincidence story.

 “Coincidences mean you’re on the right path.”
― Simon Van Booy, Love Begins in Winter: Five Stories


Celebrate Florida

magThe arrival of Florida Travel + Life magazine inspired lots of reading and reminiscing about previous travel throughout the state. This month’s edition focused on the 500th Anniversary of the founding of Florida and it motivated me to make plans to visit sites in the state that I’ve overlooked and revisit places I haven’t been for years.

What a great way to spend a cold, holiday weekend. We gathered all the Florida books we could find in the house…I was amazed at how many we own. Then we started reading. We recalled previous trips and started planning future ones.


The best find of the weekend was the WPA Guide to Florida. I haven’t read this book for years. It’s a Federal Writer’s Project Guide to Florida in the 1930s, but this is the revised, 1985 edition, with an introduction written by John’s dad. The first portion of the book provides information about Florida’s background with articles about the culture, history, and folklore of the state. Part two highlights the “principal” cities, but the real treasure lies in the final section called “The Florida Loop”. Detailed descriptions of twenty-two tours round out this final part of the book. Tours cross every region of the state and provide a terrific travel plan for exploring all of Florida.

Tour 6 starts in Thomasville, Georgia with stops in Monticello, Williston, Brooksville, Tarpon Springs, Clearwater, ending in St. Petersburg. While we would look at this as a single day’s drive, the tour provides details on must-see spots in each of the stops along the path. From the introduction:

The real heart of Florida, and thus the real heart of the guide, is in the countryside and the hundreds of little towns described in Part Three, “The Florida Loop”. Here is a series of tours  from town to town, crisscrossing the state following the old highway routes, many of which retrace Spanish and Indian trails.

Here in the innumerable asides, interruptions, verbal stopovers, side glances down silent, infrequently traveled roads, we hear whispers of adventures long forgotten, of mystery and magic, of earlier scandals and misdemeanors, or fears and hopes, and of minor tragedies and, sometimes, huge successes.

We are warned to watch out for redbugs, snakes, and gnats and not to eat poisonous plants. We are told of speed laws and somewhat reproachfully informed that some motorists habitually drive faster than the 45 mph than legally allowed. – John I. McCollum

wpaThe highlight for me, Tour 3, FernandinaBeach to Cedar Key. This tour plots the path we’ll take on our quest for seeing the sunrise over the Atlantic in the morning and the sunset over the Gulf in the evening. We’ll wake in Fernandina and then travel the route detailed through Baldwin, Starke, Gainesville, and finally to Cedar Key in time for the sunset. While I don’t anticipate encountering any cattle on the roadway which the book warns may be a problem near Baldwin, I do plan to look for landmarks and historical places outlined in the tour; and yes, we’ll take SR 13 and US 90 and US 301 as well as the other roads from the tour as we complete this 159.8 mile trek.

After reading this book over the weekend, I’m encouraged to drive many of “The Florida Loops”…looks like a good way to get reacquainted with Florida.

Thumbs Up for Next Issue

The Next Image icon
The Next Image icon

The alert on my calendar indicates that it’s time to make a decision about Next Issue. Three weeks ago I signed up for the free trial of the Next Issue app and since I entered my credit card information at the time, I set an alert to make sure I cancelled before being charged. Now, three weeks later, I’ve decided to keep this app. I’ve read more magazines in three weeks than I’ve read in three years.

The Basic Plan includes unlimited access to over 70 titles including one year of back issues for each title. Better yet, the print content is enhanced with digital features which make for a better reading experience.

I knew I’d read Real Simple, HGTV, and Southern Living, but I’ve also enjoyed Fitness and Health.  What I’ve found most surprising is how much I’ve enjoyed reading Fortune, Money, and Inc.

A few of the titles available on Next Issue
A few of the titles available on Next Issue

Occasionally, I pick up a magazine while waiting in the checkout line at Publix, but they don’t offer the selection; and I can’t remember the last time I drove to the bookstore to purchase a magazine.

The best surprise so far has been Inc. It’s a magazine I’d never read but have thoroughly enjoyed…reading three back issues. So the verdict’s in. I’m going to keep this app. The $9.99 monthly payment is less than the cost of any two magazines purchased at the newsstand, and I’m able to share it with my family since the subscription can be loaded on five devices.

This one earns a thumbs up!

Next Issue earns a thumbs up.
Next Issue earns a thumbs up.

Next Issue

The Next Image icon
The Next Image icon

Last weekend I downloaded a magazine app called Next Issue. They offer a one month free trial, and even though I had to enter my credit card information so it could be charged next month if I fail to cancel (something I usually refuse to do), I felt it looked like something I would enjoy. So, I downloaded, registered, and set an alert on my calendar to remind me in three weeks to cancel if I decide this isn’t a service I’ll use.

Next Issue offers unlimited access to digital editions of popular print magazines. Entertainment, craft and hobby, family and parenting, health and fitness, food and cooking, business and finance, and automotive are a few of the categories included in their collection. Money, Southern Living, Fitness, and Real Simple are among more than seventy-five titles available. And not only do you have access to the current issue, but to all back issues for the past twelve months.

I’ve read Southern Living, Fitness, Eating Well, Rachel Ray Every Day, Bride, and Real Simple since downloading. I know for sure I’ll never go back to print editions. I’ve always hated the way magazines stack up, but I have a difficult time throwing them out… which is no longer a problem. (I never would have purchased six magazines in one month!) But the best thing about the tablet editions it the extra content. Videos and interactive features make the digital format much better than the print.

A few of the titles available on Next Issue
A few of the titles available on Next Issue

Now for the bad news. The cost of monthly access is $9.99 for the basic plan – all of the magazines I’ve mentioned and a total of about fifty or $14.99 for the premium plan which includes additional weekly magazines like Sports Illustrated, Time, People, and The New Yorker. But despite the price, I think I’m going to continue the subscription. I’m currently paying for three magazine subscriptions at about $60 per year so if I use that toward Next Issue that pays for six months. As a bonus I won’t have magazines spread all over the house. And finally, the app can be downloaded to five mobile devices which means all members of my family will have access to all of the basic content. Now that makes the monthly price a bargain for me…especially because there’s no continuing commitment. I can cancel at any time. I’m looking forward to adding magazines to my reading list.

Weigh-in Wednesday – Week 3

So far, so good! All of the holiday eating pitfalls eliminated. Over a week of logging daily food intake. And best of all, I’m back to my pre-holiday weight. In fact, I’m a couple of pounds lighter than my pre-holiday weight!

The plan for week three may be a crazy one, but one worth trying since it’s so easy and painless. I recently saw a post regarding the benefits of starting the day by drinking ice water. That reminded me of the book, The 4-Hour Body, by Timothy Ferriss which I read a couple of years ago.

Ferriss’ book focuses on a variety of activities to make significant changes in your body. His plan for losing weight is based on odd combinations of food with only limited exercise. According to his weight loss plan, you need to start the day drinking 500ml (16oz) of ice water. This is to be done immediately after waking each morning with breakfast to follow 20-30 minutes later. The ice water stimulates your body’s metabolism since your body works to raise the temperature of the water and as a result burns calories. By simply drinking eight 8oz glasses of ice water, your body burns 70 calories. I know, that’s not many, but it’s easy so I’ll give it a try. One more simple step.