Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Perfect Perogy! Programme details:


Welcome the participants and introduce the leaders

Provide any housekeeping details

Quickly adapt activities to match the age group

Summarize what is about to happen for the next hour. Ask for a show of hands if anyone has made perogys before? Record the number of hands for evaluation purposes.

Carry on with the program:

Define perogy

What is a perogy?

Who invented the perogy?

Any other perogy trivia

Perogy activities in the library

                i.     Playdough

Demonstrate what a perogy looks like using playdough, remind kids not to eat it. Pinching is the most important part. Good for fine motor skills. Get kids to practice pinching a playdough perogy

              ii.     Paper
Show paper perogys of different sizes and put out supplies, paper, glue, sizzors, cotton balls, to make a paper perogy.

             iii.     Book

Read a book about perogys or kids cooking: suggestions: Two old potatoes and me, talaya in the kitchen, anick and the bannock

             iv.     Games

Hot perogy. Two kids in the middle, perogy gets passed. One kid says go, the other stop. Their eyes are hid.


Move to the recreation complex for a cooking demonstration

1.     As the group leaves, assign someone to count heads

2.     Have kids wash their hands

3.     Demonstrate how to pinch a real perogy.

4.     Now the kids are allowed to make their own perogies

5.     Print names on their plates and call the kids up to collect them

6.     Give out three premade platkas and balls of filling

7.     Kids take their plate to their table to pinch the perogys.

8.     Kids line up at the concession counter with their plates.

9.     Helpers behind the counter have four boiling pots of water.

10. Boil in separate pots until the perogies float, about 3 minutes

11. Ladle out the perogies with a slotted spoon and add butter.

12. Return them to the proper kid. 

13. If you have enough supplies, make more.

14. For gluten free, try this with dumpling rice wrappers


Before the kids head out to play, gather them together

   Ask how the day went?

   Would they try to make perogies again one day on their own?

   Record the number of hands for evaluation purposes.

   Remind the kids about next week’s program, send them off

   Clean-up with the volunteers

Hints and suggestions

Gather volunteers early. Remember to give time for grocery shopping. Prep the platkys by making the dough and filling the night before and placing it in the fridge overnight. Place the platkys on towels sprinkled with flour and keep the dough from touching. The dough needs to be soft and sticky. Keep track of volunteer hours for evaluation and reporting.


While the platkys and filling were prepped, Nadia, Sharon’s mother, had brought four small pots of water to boil in the kitchen. So they could sample their own product, the perogies were cooked in separate pots of boiling water in an establishment with a food-handling permit. Through the concession window, each kid was returned a plate of the perogies they had made, to eat.




Rural Community Librarianship

TD Summer Reading Club

Family literacy

Cultural knowledge

Library programs

Thorsby's Perfect Perogy: A Summer Reading Programme Extraordinaire

Sharon Powlik sprinkles a handful of flour on the table outside the concession window, stretches off a chunk of dough and flattens out a circle with her hands. “I do this by feel,” she says, and loosely shifts it back and forth, then reaches for her heavy rolling pin. When the dough is thin and pliable, she presses and twists a soup can, washed out with the lid removed, and cuts out the platkys, then tosses the dough circles across the table to her mother-in-law, Sophie Powlik, and the rest of us who sit filling and sealing the crescents closed. Sharon’s heritage is Ukrainian, as are many from Thorsby area. Her contagious joie de’vivre reaches everyone at the table as we work contentedly, pinching perogies. Sharon volunteers her time and knowledge to help with Thorsby Library’s Summer Reading Club. Rural libraries host unique and stupendous summer reading club programs by drawing on trusted relationships with individuals, municipalities, organizations and businesses. Thorsby’s Perfect Perogy, is an example.

I hold reverence people who share practical tools for living. To provide such a program in a library setting went beyond my wildest dreams! If the library’s purpose is to make space for knowledge, information and stories, there could be no more life-effecting wisdom than to teach kids how to feed themselves by making food from scratch. Because it is not easy but worth it, I describe the program, including a detailed run down and helpful hints for adapting the idea for your library community in the next post: The Perfect Perogy! Programme details. Give it a try. Host your own unique program to promote literacy, build community, and transfer cultural knowledge.


Sharon and her team were at the venue early, prepping for the perogy making. While sitting with the ladies at a table, I asked about a recipe. “You have to ask Sharon,” said Sophie. “Everyone has their own way. Some use eggs, some don’t.” Sharon called out her recipe across the table and I jotted it down. Both babas nodded approvingly so I knew I was good to go. But that was just the dough. What about the filling? How do we make that? They weren’t able to tell me a recipe, everyone agreed, you just “make it as you like it” with mashed potatoes and cheese. Sharon had brought more helpers, her teenage neighbour, and the new RCMP recruit and his twelve-year-old daughter. He wanted to learn because the process reminded him of fond memories of making lefsa with his Norwegian grandmother. I learned enough to try it at home, successfully!


Sharon’s Dough Recipe

5 cups flour

½ cup oil

2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups water

Combine ingredients gently and set aside. Roll dough out with lots of flour on the counter, and use an empty soup can cleaned out, to cut the circles. Let rest, covered, on a t-towel until needed.


Cook potatoes, drain, and allow to dry.  Add cheddar and butter, salt and pepper to taste, (dill and chopped greens optional).


To cook, bring a pot of salted water to boil, add up to 6 perogies. Perogies are done when they rise to the top (about 3-5 minutes).


Melt butter and ladle over cooked perogies.

Serve with sour cream if desired.

To being the program, 50 drop-in participants gathered in the children’s section while Sharon led games and activities and demonstrated important principles in perogy pinching with a playdough perogy. She knows the subtleties of managing a group, how to draw in the shy folks and catch the eye of newcomers. Most of the participants were elementary aged school kids, excited to be attending a program taught by Mrs. Powlik, their preschool teacher, along with their parents or caregivers, who in some cases, are even more excited to learn this knowledge than their children. Sharon’s confidence and poise showed, and everyone was completely comfortable with her authority, and knowing they were in a safe place.

The close relationships in a small community served us well.  It doesn’t cost a lot…just a bag of flour, salt, potatoes, cheese and some butter will make enough perogies to feed a lot of people, if you know how. This program was possible with thanks thanks to all our partners, Sharon and Darcy Powlik, James (Pucks and Poutine Concession) who supervised the kitchen, ensuring safety, the Town of Thorsby for providing access to the Recreation Centre.


Nadia sent word that it was time: the games and activities were over, the children were coming to the concession area to build the real perogies. The kids were handed a plate with their name on, along with three platkys and three balls of filling, and told to pinch the perogies as they had been taught. Sharon headed into the concession to help boil, I took over handing out the supplies and before long the first kids stood at the counter, waiting their turn to get their perogies cooked. “You did it yourself!” exclaimed Sharon, and the kids laughed.


Thorsby's Perfect Perogy! A Summer Reading Programme Extraordinaire.  Braided essay/program in a box, was written by Gayle Sacuta, public library manager in Thorsby. Gayle has been the proud organizer of at least five summer reading programs.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Telephone Book Club

    Have you ever read a telephone book? There it sat, a permanent fixture on the counter in front of the clock radio, when I was little, wispy pages wrinkled and edge-torn by the time next year’s version was released. White pages at one end, yellow at the other, and a skinny blue section filled with public service information such as call before you dig, emergency phone numbers and standard first aid. All the phone numbers with the prefix (579) fit on only a few columns. Our community was so tiny we knew every family within. But today I’m writing about a different telephone book.

    The escalation of this Covid business means spending time in remote areas is for the fool hearty, risk takers, or those with no other option. The Covid virus has been taking its toll in our rural communities in more ways than we care to think about, making it harder to connect with loved ones living in special areas. A couple of months back, Mom, a senior over 80 years old, ended up in hospital for three weeks. She needed significant care on return to her condo, lest she be forced to transition to an assisted living situation. My siblings and I stayed night and day for 6 weeks until her confidence returned to be on her own again. We too needed to return to our daily routines. I was looking for a way to spend time together, but apart, especially the first few nights alone. I remembered an idea I had from the past but had never taken up and now seemed like a good time to take it for a drive—the telephone book club, for two. 

    I learned of this idea a few years back while living in Lethbridge with an elderly room mate, Dorine, who is vision impaired. I walked to work every day at the public library. Every night after dinner, Dorine would slip into the sitting room for a phone call from Atlanta, Georgia, from her son. They read a book together over the phone lines and I thought, what a good idea, and tucked it away. Now I’m doing the same thing. Every day Mom and I call in the morning and ask, do we want to read that night? If so, we set a time. In the evening, then I read to her for 15-30 minutes from a work of fiction. What happens during that time?  I feel close even though we are miles apart, Mom has my undivided attention for a full 30 minutes. I learn things about her that I never knew when we talk about the story and she helps me with vocabulary. It’s a moment of tenderness between mother and daughter who much of the time have diverse tastes and interests. It builds trust every day when we show up for the story. It can be hard to talk about such strong feelings as love and worry, but we know it when we feel close. Mom looks forward to hearing what happens. We get to know each other through story, a welcome activity, so needed at a time when other areas of life seem less hopeful. 

    Our telephone book is “The Pull of the Stars,” by Canadian author, Emma Donoghue. Set in a maternity ward in a hospital in 1918 during the flu epidemic and WWI, it is full of death, delirium, and highly relevant today. Language style and specifics from history give the opportunity to test each other on bits of trivia we can look up during the day on the Internet. I have the opportunity to put myself in the shoes of pregnant women from historical Ireland, who may have been my grandparents or great grandparents, and to vicariously share of that experience with women ancestors I will never know personally. I hope this story encourages you to try it, if you have a loved one from whom you are isolated. Ask them to read a telephone book with you! Set a date and time, find a good story, and get reading. 

Pull of the Stars

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Digitize a cassette tape with your husband’s gear

On January 1, 1976, my sister recorded cassette tapes of our grandmother talking. We never understood much of Grandma’s language. She came to an isolated farm in Alberta in 1934 from Poland. She rarely left the farm, and never learned to speak English, or to read or write in any language. She spoke a mixture of her mother-tongue, which we assume was a dialect of Polish, splattered with a few English words. In my memory, her voice was powerful and entertaining, and I always hoped that one day I would understand more than instructions and farm chores; that I would know the deepest reaches of her thoughts and feelings.

My sister always said she had the tapes, but I’d never seen them. So when, one day, she showed up with a tape recorder and two tapes in tow, I was very happy. She asked me to make a copy. Having such unique recordings is a treasure. As the cassettes are now over 40 years old, their quality is deteriorating. I want to preserve them and use them, to listen to them, and translate what my grandmother was saying.

I decided to make a learning project out of preserving the content of the tapes, and to share the process here in case others with old cassettes stuck away somewhere and can learn from my experience. Who knows where a project like this could lead?

April 7, 2018 __Session 1 details:

Get help!
I enlisted the help of my husband. He has recording equipment and experience. Although he had never done this kind of project before, he came to my rescue.

Use a practice cassette first
If you’re not sure, get professional assistance.

Gather the equipment
·      cassette player: you need a working cassette player with a line out
·      audio interface (we used a Scarlett 18i8). This piece of equipment allows the analogue signal to be adjusted and converted to a digital signal as it is transferred to a computer
·      digital audio workstation software (DAW) (we used Cubase for this project)
·      cords, computer, speakers, headphones, blank cd’s, practice cassette and screwdrivers

Troubles with tapes and tape decks
Tip 1:  Don’t throw away a working tape deck – your neighbour might need it one day. We tried four decks before we found one that was in good working order!

Tip 2: You don’t need to start listening at the beginning of the cassette, start anywhere. The more you rewind and fast-forward, the more you risk snapping the tape. Be careful about rewinding, especially right at the beginning or fast forwarding right to the end. If the tape breaks and slips away from reach, you might have to take the cassette apart to rethread it. 

Tip 3: If your tape breaks and you can see both ends, you can splice it with scotch tape. If your tape breaks and you can’t find the ends, you may have to open the case to join the ends and transfer it to another cassette if the cassette gets broken. Not all cassettes have screws, which was our problem. In that event, you may have to pry the body open with a screwdriver, being careful not to damage the tape, and transfer the tape to a new cassette frame. I know all this because it happened!

Tip 4: Practice the transfer with a blank tape before you use the good one. I can't stress this enough! It’s a skill to learn how to move the roll from the broken cassette to the new one. Make sure you pay attention to the way the cassette gets put together as you take it apart.

Set up
Plug the cassette player into the audio interface (see photos)
Open software

In Cubase
1.     Start a new project and configure it so that Cubase knows what’s going on.
2.     Name the project
3.     Make sure that the signals are working: The left and a right channel must go through the audio interface, aka the analogue to digital converter
4.     Tell Cubase how to find where the signal is coming from
5.     Play a bit and check the levels
6.     Rewind the tape back to the beginning, carefully
7.     Press record on the Cubase
8.     Press play on the tape deck

After recording
Export the recording into a wave file
Burn the wave file onto a cd 

This is what happened
The signal flow goes from the cassette player outputs, then travels through the inputs on the red thing (the Scarlett). Then the red thing processes the signal into digital information which goes out of the outputs via the USB cable, into the software on the computer, which manipulates the information and exports it into a wave file, and the information is then burnt onto the cd with Windows media player. 
Happy digitizing!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reading Picture Books Aloud

I love reading picture books (they may even have saved my life when my kids were short). As a children’s librarian I got to present a lot of story-times and I believe picture books are suitable for people of all ages. Recently, in trying to recall some of my favourite titles, they eluded me. So I went to the library catalogue, and then the library itself to do some research. There I was, crawling around on the floor, pulling out books wedged spine-side up into the tiny cubicles of the children’s section, trying to identify hard-to-find gems. My first 3 suggestions fit a ‘cloth and culture’ theme. No surprise, as I love textiles, and all things fibre, yarn, fabric, sew, quilt, spin, knit, weave or felt related. That’s a pretty broad net, but you have to start somewhere. To deliver a good story-time, it certainly helps to be inspired by the book choices. 

A Pattern for Pepper, Julie Kraulis, Tundra Books, 2017

In this teaching story, Pepper learns about a tailor’s trade while searching for a fabric for her new dress. She helps design the pattern and wears her dress on a most special day, for an afternoon party. Houndstooth and ikat, pinstripe, toile and other designs are introduced, and each time she rejects them until the perfect one is found. I enjoyed this book because of the quality illustrations, the subject of fabric and clothing design, and the story of how Pepper comes to get a new outfit. This book could be a read-aloud for kids in grades 2-4, for talking about cloth and culture, dressmaking and tailoring from a European perspective.

Tags: art and design, cloth and culture, dressmaking, tailoring, grades 2-4

The Cat and the Fiddle: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, Illustrated by Jackie Morris, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, London, 2011

A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes is illustrated with bright watercolour paintings full of whimsy and the fantastical. Longhaired damsels in dresses of fine fabrics and animal companions adorn the pages. You will find dogs and horses, polar bears, mice, bats and weasels, ships and castles, as well as the odd knave. There were many familiar rhymes and a few new-to-me including, Baby’s Bed’s a Silver Moon, Little Thomas Tittlemouse and A Swarm of Bees in May. This book would be useful as a companion book for a K-2 story-time. I enjoy sharing one or two nursery rhymes with the kids to accompany a main story, and discussing folklore and the practice of reading pictures.

Tags: picture books, nursery rhymes, author-illustrator, grades K-2, watercolour, fantasy, whimsy, animals

Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki, Kids Can Press, Toronto, 2003.

On the first day of school Suki wants to wear her kimono. Her sisters do not think it is a good idea because she might get teased. She wears it anyway and enjoys the attention she gets for performing a circle dance she learned from her Obachan. The book genre is realistic fiction and it would work for grades 1-2.
Tags: Japanese American culture, circle dancing, kimonos, cloth and culture, schools, peer pressure, grades 1-2