Monday, November 29, 2010

Sock Crazy

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her entire article the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

I seem to have been born with needles in my hands. This might sound a bit creepy like Edward Scissorhands so please let me explain.

As a very young child I remember my mother teaching me how to cross stitch on gingham fabric. Gingham is a checkerboard fabric not in use as much today but it’s those patterned squares that make sewing small x-shaped stitches, or cross stitching, easy. The two of us churned out Christmas presents of potholders and aprons for a number of aunts and cousins, all the cross stitching done by me.

My most memorable Christmas ever was the year when I was eight. My mother presented me with a box of scraps of fabric, tiny snaps, hooks and eyes, little buttons and assorted lengths of trim from the William Wright Company. This was the 1960s and most Depression-Era mothers were amazing creatures who pinched pennies and stretched them even further. Therefore, many of the scraps of fabric and rickrack and lace were from relatives and family friends, contributed from their own handiwork caches.

Within months, I learned to turn the contents of this wondrous box into sheaths and blouses for my blonde, tiny-hipped and bubble-haired Barbie doll.

A few years later I was making my entire school wardrobe. In 1973 I designed and handcrafted my own wedding dress using that same1951 Featherweight Singer sewing machine I had learned to sew on.

My mother had lovingly taught me a skill that I would use again and again over the years. It was one of my mother’s friends who taught me how to make my first knitting stitches. Years later in my teens my grandmother taught me to crochet. With these two skills I made sweaters and afghans for family members and blankets for babies.

Later I took up Bargello, needlepoint and counted cross stitch and when I was raising my children I spent years practicing the art of quilting. I lived by the motto of some anonymous author: “I cannot count my day complete 'til needle, thread and fabric meet.”

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or the eyesight these days to enjoy much needlework. I am, however, one of those lucky librarians who order the new handcrafting books for the library. I wistfully watch those fresh new books come into the library and then, with amazing speed, leave in the hands of some lucky knitter or quilter.

It seems, in my years of absence from the art, that the world of knitting has gotten crazy about socks. I’m here to tell you that it has and we have at least a dozen new books to prove it.

Socks are colorful. Socks are comfortable. And they make great gifts. “The Sock Knitter's Workshop: Everything Knitters Need to Knit Socks Beautifully” by Ewa Jostes is filled with hundreds of illustrations and instructions for beginners and experts. Betsy McCarthy, the author of “Knit Socks!: 17 Classic Patterns for Cozy Feet” might claim that your very first knitting project could be socks.

A great thing about socks as knitting projects is the transportability. Have sock patterns, wool and needles? You will travel. “Around the World in Knitted Socks: 26 Inspired Designs” is by German knitter, Stephanie van der Linden. The best parts of this book are the designs and techniques from Turkey, Japan, Belgium, Scotland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Austria AND America. It is truly a colorful around-the-world tour but it might not be for the novice knitter. Turning a heel, as they say in the sock-knitting circles, is not always easy.

For the more expert sock knitters who like to think as they knit there is “Knit. Sock. Love.” by Laura Kicey who teaches “intense design workshops. The book is filled with complex patterns of “mind-boggling columns, tessellations and diagonals.” “Think Outside the Sox: 60+ Winning Designs from the Knitter's Magazine Contest” by Elaine Rowley has instructions for mind-boggling socks with cables and braids.

“Toe-Up Socks for Every Body: Adventurous Lace, Cables, and Colorwork from Wendy Knits” by Wendy D. Johnson includes patterns for turning your favorite ankle length socks to knee highs or thigh highs while “Country Weekend Socks: 25 Classic Patterns to Knit” by Madeline Weston can teach to you to knit “long socks, short socks and those for every occasion.”

Does one sock fit all? Not necessarily in every case, of course and most sock patterns, in general, are written for one size. “Sock Club: Join the Knitting Adventure” by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott includes a large, important section on the different ways to adjust the sock patterns for size.

One sock takes very little yarn. Two takes only twice that. Yarns can be mixed and matched. “Socks a la Carte: Pick and Choose patterns to Knit Socks Your Way” by Jonelle Raffino helps you experiment with patterns and all different types of yarn.

And what if you’ve gone a little sock crazy and find too much yarn on your hands? “Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders: 101 Patterns That Go Way Beyond Socks” edited by Judith Durant. Turn that yarn into mittens, baby knits or dog clothes.

What’s not to love about socks? They’re colorful, creative, fashionable and fun. What’s not to love about your library? We’ve got the books to prove it!

For help searching for these titles visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Countless Ways to Give Thanks

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her entire article in this week's Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Full text:

Early this year I began an unusual personal project. I committed to writing 365 thank you notes in 365 days. My self-imposed rule dictated that each of these thank yous had to be written in 365 words or less.

Additionally (my rule, again) the notes of appreciation had to be snail-mailed. Yes, each with a signature, envelope, and return address and stamp.

Sadly, this ambitious project ended very far from its goal. Too quickly I was bogged down by a lack of time and I abandoned my whimsical project after the first 30 days.

Let me explain my failure.

First, gratitude comes from a deep place within and heartfelt writing takes time to construct. I found that I just didn’t have the time each and every day to spend on the process.

Simply put, reflection got in the way. It sometimes took more than a day to recover from the feelings conjured up by past memories brought about by my gratitude.

Second, early in the project I realized that many of the people I wanted to thank are now entirely gone. All of my grandparents, my parents, my aunts and uncles have passed on. My girlhood teachers, the parents of most of my childhood friends and many of my mentors are also no longer with us.

Others who had deeply affected my life have retired and moved away. Even with Google and other online resources some people were nearly impossible to find. I found myself spending time I didn't have to search the Internet for a college professor, one of my daughter’s teachers and an elementary school principal.

Happily, however, I can report that on the flipside my futile endeavor was an achievement for many reasons.

I did actually manage to find several handfuls of people from my past and some rather interesting people from the present. Delightfully, some actually wrote back to me to thank me for thanking them. They were pleasantly surprised and touched by my gratitude.

The 365-word length rule was purely a fanciful challenge. Some letters had to be cut to the bone with much left unsaid. This was frustrating for me but was also a wonderful exercise. This is called “tight writing” or “taking the out the fat.” I practiced this process of tight writing and learned immensely from it.

Each Monday I wondered who I would thank that week. I often added one, two, three or sometimes ten new people to my list. Crossing them off the list once I had written the thank you was incredibly satisfying. More gratifying, however, was knowing there were so many people who had touched my life over many years.

Now that the project has been abandoned my new goal is to try to thank at least one person a day in an email, a phone call or in person. Just two simple words. Thank you.

And so, in this column to be published on Thanksgiving Day 2010, it seems particularly appropriate to thank some of the people important to our library.

Many non-profit organizations could not make exist without private donations and volunteers and the Morrill Memorial Library is no exception. I want to thank each and every donor, each and every Friend and library volunteer.

The Friends of the Morrill Memorial Library work tirelessly to give every penny they raise back to the library community in some way. The Friends provide funds for the programming that the library offers on a weekly basis. The Friends provide the funds to purchase equipment, furnishings, museum passes and audiovisual materials for the library.

Where there is a need, our Friends answer it. Thank you, Friends.

They shall remain nameless here but there are many library volunteers who come to the library on a regular schedule to perform some of the most critical but repetitive tasks for us. Many shelve books. Some simply adhere stickers to DVDs, books and other materials. Some rearrange and tidy our bookshelves.

Others are young people who give many hours to the children’s librarians to free their time to do other things. Still others are wonderful volunteers who deliver books for our Outreach Department. Many more become trained tutors in our Literacy Department.

Thousands of hours per year are spent by loyal volunteers. Thank you, volunteers.

The library receives both anonymous and targeted donations every day. We use these funds to purchase materials and supplies. Thank you, donors.

Visit our website,, or call the director to learn about volunteer opportunities. While many of our opportunities are filled at the moment, we will be more than happy to speak to you about how you might help us in the future. Please consider joining the Friends of the Library. Your financial support or your help with the Book Sale and other Friends’ events helps the library in countless ways.

Thank you, Norwood, for your support in all ways of the Morrill Memorial Library.

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Forever Fifty and Other Stories

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her entire article in this week's Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

It’s been a week since my stepdaughter’s wedding (the first of two daughters' weddings this year.) We’ve been instantly and amazingly blessed with hundreds of photographs of the beautiful event. Many of these digital memories focus on the bridal couple. Many more chronicle the smiles and tears of the rest of us.

Here is digital proof of the exact placement of the bride’s delicate pearls, those handed down by her late mother. There is her father who cherished every poignant moment of walking his daughter down the aisle.

What an amazing world we live in to see these memories instantly posted by Smartphones or uploaded within hours of the event. These photographs are posted on blogs and on Facebook and they broadcast through email links. A delicate touch here. A loving glance there.

A wrinkle, a crease.


Yes, among the pixel-by-pixel perfect smiles are a few flaws that exist in real time. These are my middle-aged moments captured in all their glory.

I feel bad about my neck.

I should feel worse, though, about the fact that I’ve just stolen that line from Nora Ephron who actually wrote the book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman” several years ago.

Ephron is the writer and producer of hilarious romantic comedies like “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle” and other more wonderful films such as “Julie and Julia” and “Silkwood.”

She was married once to Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame and wrote about that ill-fated marriage in “Heartburn.” It was followed by the popular movie of the same title. Ephron was brilliant in “Heartburn.” Her ex-husband Bernstein had had an affair with their mutual friend. Ah, the power of a woman scorned.

But back to my neck. I first read one of the fifteen essays in Ephron’s book in my hair salon. Apparently one wise woman gave everyone she knew copies of the book for Christmas in 2006 right after the book was published and my stylist was one of them. I brought that book with me that day through color, wash, cut and dry and chuckled for several hours.

It seemed the appropriate place to read this book, after all. Where else do we spend many hours looking into very big mirrors under harsh bright lights noticing our aging necks? In fact, where else do we allow others to see us look so bad in order to look good?

Ephron’s books, like all of her films, are pointed and poignant. The short essays in “I Feel Bad About My Neck” chronicle her slow acceptance of aging. She shares the humor in her worsening eyesight, deepening facial creases, a bikini-allergic body and some brand new teeth. The laughter is enough to make one cry.

And now Ephron has written one more.

“I Remember Nothing and other Reflections” was published just this month. It is another cry-as-you-read book of very-close-to-home essays filled with many more “senior moments” to laugh about. One chapter lists the things Ephron doesn’t care enough about to learn more about. “Tweeting,” Mojitos, soccer and the Kardashians made her list. More honestly, she admits that she can always Google them if she needs to pretend that she knows.

Humorous writing by women is not new, of course. Erma Bombeck wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns and many books for my mother’s generation. Erma wrote until her death in 1996. She was paid $3 for each of her first weekly columns in the local Kettering-Oakwood Times. Those columns were the basis for her first book, “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank” published in 1976. Her fifth book, “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits” brought a million-dollar publishing contract. Erma, literally, was laughing all the way to the bank and brought us along for the ride. One of Bombeck’s last books was “When You Look Like Your Passport Photo It’s Time to Go Home.” Oh, my.

Elizabeth Berg wrote “The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation” in 2008. Her collection of stories offers authentic situations that all women face. Her book might be called comfort food for many of us.

Judith Viorst is the writer of the popular children’s books “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” and the “Tenth Good Thing About Barney.” She also began chronicling her life’s comedies and tragedies through poetry for adults in 1968. “It's Hard to Be Hip Over 30 & Other Tragedies of Married Life” has been followed up every decade with another book. “I’m Too Young to Be Seventy and Other Delusions” was written when she was nearing 75. Her latest, “Unexpectedly Eighty and Other Adaptations” was published last month right before she turns eighty years old next year.

Erma Bombeck said that “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” That’s very true for most of us who are being brought into the Golden Years kicking and screaming. We need to find the laughter among the pain, the comedic moments among the hurt.

Another great screenwriter and producer, Mel Brooks, wrote “Humor is just another defense against the universe.” For help searching for some of these titles to get you through life, visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website,

Friday, November 12, 2010

1960 Plus 50

Margot Sullivan is a retired Adult Services Librarian who still works part-time as a Reference Librarian and leads two popular book discussion groups.

Read Margot Sullivan's entire column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


I just had my Needham High School 50th class reunion and it was a whirlwind evening with everyone trying to recognize many classmates they had not seen for fifty years! For all of us those high school years came flooding back. What is it about High School? – the bonds many of us make and the strong memories we have of teachers, proms, Thanksgiving football games, root beer floats at Brigham’s, the “Twist” with Chubby Checker, “The Catcher in the Rye” , Elvis, Jimmy Dean, Ike and so much more! We were the young teens of the “fifties”! We just received in the mail an amazing photo of 109 of us looking up at the photographer who was on a balcony landing. Even with a magnifying glass I honestly could not recognize some of the faces in spite of checking in my rather musty 1960 yearbook! Already several people have asked for a “crib sheet”. The evening was memorable, nostalgic, and fun!

Monday, November 1, 2010

This Old House

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her entire article in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


I purchased many homes during the several decades my family and I moved around the United States. One of them was ground-up construction and I made hundreds of agonizing choices. I spent months sweating over the details – the style of roof, paint colors, faucets and fireplace brick.

A few years later as a single woman I became the hardy owner of an “old house”. It was a post-Civil War home perched on a mill pond in a picturesque New Hampshire town. There I battled frost-heaved brick staircases. weather-beaten paint and crooked wall and floors.

Surviving that experience I thought that I had become an expert on finding contractors and navigating electrical and plumbing vocabulary. When I moved from New Hampshire to Massachusetts I bravely purchased a forlorn and neglected Victorian home. I laughed the pundits off. Of course I hadn’t made a mistake!

The joke, it seemed, was on me.