Help with Your Hobbies

A yellow cover features a photo of a bright scarlet tanager, with its black wings. The title is in dark red lettering above the photograph.

by Emily B.

May is Older Americans Month and is the perfect time to start a new hobby with a little help from HCLS! Check out these great resources you can access for free with your library card.

Looking to get artsy? We’ve got some great DVD series to help you start. Craftsy offers hands-on lessons in creative mediums such as knitting, watercolors, crochet, and sewing. Interested in painting? Follow along with Bob Ross as he guides you every step of the way toward creating your own masterpiece in his art video series.

Interested in building a family tree and learning about your family’s history? Check out, via our online research tools, Ancestry Library Edition (only available in library branches), HeritageQuest, and MyHeritage Library Edition for access to billions of records from all around the world – including census records, immigration records, and beyond!

Budding photographers can head over to LinkedIn Learning for comprehensive video tutorials on topics like mobile photography, taking portraits, photo composition, photo editing, and more! Simply login with your library card and pin number to begin.

Take a hike! Check out Hike Maryland: A Guide to the Scenic Trails of the Free State for some scenic walks to take as the weather warms. See any birds on your hike? Check out Birds of Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. to learn more about the birds you encounter.

Expand your linguistic horizons and study a new language. For those who prefer to learn in quick, fun, daily lessons, Mango is a great option. Just download the free mobile app, select the language you want to learn, and start learning! For more immersive learning, Rosetta Stone offers structured lessons in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

A white cover features white flat soup spoons, each filled with a different color spice.

Hoping to introduce some new recipes into your repertoire? Check out the Great Courses’ Everyday Gourmet DVD series. With courses on outdoor cooking, Mediterranean cooking, and cooking with vegetables, there’s something for every palate!

Emily is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and re-watching old seasons of Survivor.

A Tale of Two Real Housewives Books 

Light blue cover with gold type where the the O's have been replaced with fruit and a diamond.

by Emily B.

Over the past few years, Real Housewives of New York has become one of my go-to comfort shows. Is the premise of the show a bit shallow? Maybe it is, at least on the surface. Following a group of wealthy women who’ve been identified as “housewives” does sound vapid at first glance, but watch the show and you’ll realize there’s a lot more to it. We watch as the Housewives support and quarrel with each other, marriages dissolve, Housewives run into trouble with the law, Housewives embark on new business ventures. Once you dig deeper, Real Housewives provides an almost anthropological peek into the lives and relationships of women across the country – from Beverly Hills, CA to Potomac, MD.  

In 2021, fans of Bravo’s Real Housewives franchises were in luck – two insider accounts detailing the franchises’ histories were released. Only one of these books (Dave Quinn’s account) had the official blessing of Bravo executives, which led to a bit of drama, not unlike the shows!  

Dave Quinn’s Not All Diamonds and Rosé (also requestable as an ebook from Libby/OverDrive) is a fun and invigorating trip down memory lane for Housewives fans. It reads like one of the end-of-the-season reunions on the shows, when all the ladies gather to rehash big arguments and drama in hopes of resolving any unfinished business. Quinn dedicates a chapter to each franchise and guides us through the most memorable scenes. With constant commentary from the Housewives themselves, secrets are revealed and new perspectives are offered on some of the most iconic moments.  

Bright blue cover features simple illustrations of various characters from the show, with Andy Cohen sitting inside the O.

Brian Moylan’s The Housewives (also available in ebook and eaudiobook format from Libby/OverDrive) doesn’t offer quite as many juicy tidbits as Not All Diamonds and Rosé, but it’s no fault of Moylan’s. He wasn’t willing to bend to Bravo’s rules for the book and, thus, the Housewives were asked not to speak with him. This book, however, excels in its examinations of the fanbase and their perspectives. One of the most interesting chapters details a fan-attended Vicki Gunvalson weekend trip to Puerto Vallerta, where Moylan details his interactions with fellow super fans and Vicki herself. Moylan peppers in lists detailing essential episodes for first-time viewers as well as his ranking of Housewife-released dance singles.  

I highly recommend both of these books to any Real Housewives fan or to anyone curious to take a peek behind the scenes of a long-running reality franchise.  

Emily is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and re-watching old seasons of Survivor.  

Ernie Barnes: From Athlete to Artist

A painting by Ernie Barnes, The View, which showcases three African American women dressed in drapey formal dresses looking out at water and an urban skyline. The viewer only sees the women's elegant forms from behind as they are framed by red curtains. The palette is all golds and reds.
The View by Ernie Barnes

by Emily B.
Ernie Barnes was born in Durham, North Carolina in 1938, amidst harsh Jim Crow segregation laws. His love and appreciation for art was sparked at an early age. Young Barnes often accompanied his mother at work, where she oversaw the household of a prominent attorney. This early exposure to art proved to leave a lasting impact on Barnes.

Though art remained an important outlet throughout his early years, Barnes discovered a talent for football in high school. He attended college on an athletic scholarship (studying art, of course) and went on to play football professionally for five seasons. Much of his early work focused on his teammates. His athleticism had a marked influence on his art style, which was characterized by figures with closed eyes and elongated bodies. In an interview, Barnes recounted how a mentor told him “to pay attention to what my body felt like in movement. Within that elongation, there’s a feeling, an attitude and expression. I hate to think had I not played sports what my work would look like.”

After moving on from professional football, Barnes’ art became less sports-focused. He was often influenced and inspired by the communities and the people he interacted with most – ranging from depictions of Black Southern life (seen in pieces like Uptown Downtown and Each One, Teach One) to the Jewish community of Fairfax, California (seen in Sam & Sidney). Sugar Shack, far and away one of Barnes’ most popular paintings, has a storied history. The famous work, which depicts a jazz club packed with dancers, was painted in 1971 but reworked twice for famous clientele. First for use in the opening credits of Norman Lear’s Good Times and a second time to create a cover for Marvin Gaye’s album I Want You.

Though he passed in 2009, Barnes’ cultural impact lives on. His journey from a childhood in the Jim Crow-era south to becoming one of the first athletes with a celebrated career in art is impressive and inspiring. Several of Barnes’ paintings are available to borrow through the Art Education Collection at the Central and Glenwood Branches. Young readers may enjoy Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery by Sandra Neil Wallace.

Emily is a Customer Service Specialist at the Central Branch. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and re-watching old seasons of Survivor.