Tag Archives: bookstore

Religion, Resolutions, Raccoons, Rutabagas, and Red Tablecloths…

When I last posted, December 21st (sigh), I was deep in the holidaze.  Now that the fog has cleared somewhat (or as much as it ever does for a woman of my advanced years), I decided to post an update with some of the highlights of my last couple of weeks:

Religion:

There’s an Anglican church near Hope’s school that Jim drives by every day when he drops off the kids.  The minister seems to put great thought into the messages he puts on the display board.  This is one of his latest offerings:

Prayers just aren't what they used to be...photo by Jim

I haven’t met the minister, but I think I might like him!

Resolutions:

New Year’s Day has come and gone.  Jim and I hung out at home with the kids on New Year’s Eve…the most exciting thing we did was play Just Dance 3 on the Wii (which I suck at…Jim has a video which he’s keeping if he ever needs to blackmail me!).  I was laughing so hard at my own incompetence, I almost peed my pants (although Jim’s attempt was pretty funny too!).

I don’t do resolutions…I figure there’s no point in deliberately setting oneself up for failure.  Before Christmas, I decided to give up eating chips, and I’m happy to report that I haven’t had any since (I have had cookies, cake, pie, fudge, caramel popcorn, nuts, and candy, though…the weight is falling off at such a speed, you can hardly see it!).

Raccoons:

We’ve had fun the last couple of months watching a local family of raccoons which enjoys helping itself to Jim’s birdseed smorgasbord on the back deck.  The babies love tormenting our dog, Jake, by walking right up to the back door and peering through the glass at him.  Jake goes ballistic, barking frantically, and all three raccoons continue gazing wide-eyed at the crazed canine as if they were touring the Schnoodle exhibit at the museum.

The mother scares me a little.  She’s big, and not nearly as cute as her kids!  Jim and I often fall asleep at night holding hands…one night I dreamed about the mama raccoon.  She was trying to bite me, and I was holding her mouth shut!  Jim woke me up because I was squeezing his hand so hard!

Here’s a picture Anna took of a raccoon last fall:

One of our nightly visitors...photo by Anna Matheson.

Rutabagas:

Last year, I grew rutabagas in my garden…I love them.  Of course this year, the deer chewed the tops of the rutabaga plants…they don’t do well without leaves, so I harvested none.  I was thrilled to see a nice 5 lb. bag of rutabagas at Giant Tiger earlier this week (most stores around here have just turnip, which isn’t the same!).  I bought it immediately.  I had some nice stewing beef in the freezer…I made a gigormous beef stew and told Jim to invite his parents over to help us eat it, because fridge space over the holidays was still at a premium!  If I do say so myself, the stew was delicious, and people seemed to enjoy the homemade rolls and pumpkin pie for dessert too (the pumpkin pie I’d served at Christmas dinner got eaten before I had any)!  I’ve got leftovers for my lunch today…yummy!

Red Tablecloths:

Since my job at the Saint John City Market ended on November 30th, I haven’t been overwhelmed with job offers, so I made a proposal to my dad: I would start setting up at the Market with books full-time.   I would pay the rent, but keep whatever profits I made.  I would finally start taking a salary from the bookstore after almost twelve years of sweat equity!  It would give us more exposure (our location is a little off the beaten path), and allow us to get rid of some excess inventory.  Much to my surprise, Dad agreed with my idea!

I’ve spent this week assembling and packing books to take, and looking for red vinyl tablecloths for my bench…not an easy thing to find right after Christmas (I’m trying to keep with the colour scheme at the Market – benches are painted red)!  Each week, I’m featuring a different theme…next week’s is The Movies.

If you’re in the Market, please stop by and see me.  Even if they don’t buy anything, I’ll be depending on the kindness of friends for my bathroom breaks!

 

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Filed under books, family, food, satire

Statistics, Sewage, Slippers, Sales and Shepherd’s Pie…NEW POST!

It’s Monday morning, and I have the day off from my job at the Saint John City Market…here’s a wrapup of my week:

1. Statistics.  I’ve worked very hard since I started my blog in March of 2010 to build up my readership to a pretty good level.  Since I started my new job on June 8th, I’ve been running about a week behind on my reading of other people’s blogs…consequently, my stats are in the toilet (if I knew how to do a sad face emoticon right now, I almost might do it!).  I thought that running archive posts would help fill in the gaps and keep people coming back, but I was wrong!  I really wish there were 48 hours in the day, so that I could keep up with my reading!

2. Sewage.  The new septic field saga continues: Our landlord came over to get the rent on Tuesday night, and was horrified to see the mess that the contractors had made of our back yard!  He could not believe that they had left the fence down on two sides (he also has first-hand experience with deer in his garden), or that they hadn’t started the landscaping yet.  He was leaving on vacation on Friday, but promised to send someone over to remedy the situation immediately.  When we got home on Thursday, someone had made a half-assed attempt to put my bent and broken fence (what was left of it) back up, but the yard was still open.  There was also a pile of topsoil in the side yard.

Later that evening, Anna was having a shower and the toilet in that bathroom started bubbling and overflowing.  I plunged it and plunged it, but couldn’t get anything to go down!  The toilet in the other downstairs bathroom would not drain either, and Dad said he had heard it bubbling that morning while I was in the shower upstairs.  We called the landlord again, and explained the problem.  He got the guys who’d installed the septic field to come right over.  They dug with shovels down into the ground to check the new system…they snaked it 60 feet to the house and didn’t find any blockage.  Then they went down into the basement to check the pipes down there.  Unfortunately, they were not equipped to open the main drainpipe (didn’t have the right wrench), but advised that they’d get the landlord to call a plumber for us.  By 8:30, there was no sign of a plumber, and we called the landlord again.  He told us that the guy would be there first thing in the morning.  We all packed up our stuff and headed over to Jim’s parents’ house for the night…Jim would come home in the morning to let the plumber in.  Anna was happy to be able to finish her shower, and rinse the shampoo out of her hair!

The next day, I was at work when Jim called to report the plumber’s findings: tampons being flushed down the toilet (not by me!) had completely blocked the pipe.  Problem solved!

3. Slippers.  I was so tired one day last week that I almost left my house for work in the morning wearing my slippers…luckily, I noticed before I got to the car, and changed into sandals!  Earlier in the week, I had attempted to call my boss…realized that the number I’d dialled was my other line after it rang in my office!  It’s a good thing I work solo!

4. Sales.  Dad had an excellent day in the bookstore on Saturday while I was at work…a couple came in and bought over $1000 worth of books (even after a 20% discount)!  Unfortunately, they also left the shelves in a major upheaval, something I will have to remedy today (after I photograph five boxes of books, and put them away along with six more boxes!).

5. Shepherd’s Pie.   Kaylee, Scott and Elise came over yesterday for supper…I was happy to see my “Puddin’ Pop” after not seeing her for three weeks!  I made a huge Shepherd’s Pie (forgot to take a picture), and served the first green salad of the season from my garden (supplemented with baby spinach – didn’t have quite enough leaves).  I gave Elise the new shoes I’d picked up for her at the Quispamsis Yard Sale a few weeks ago, as well as a sweet little dress that called to me in Zellers, and a Canada Day T-shirt I got at Superstore yesterday.  Elise calls Jake now when she drops something for him, and tried to share her snack crackers with her new “best buddy.”  I think he’s liking her better now.

Elise with a big rock she found in my back yard...photo by Anna...

 

Anna had planned to make a berry trifle for dessert, but the kids arrived just as we got back from the grocery store, and Anna preferred to spend her time playing with Elise instead of cooking!  It might get made today…

6. Bonus.  I am no longer a “Twitter virgin”…I tweeted twice on Saturday for events going on at the Market.  It was pouring outside, and I encouraged people to come in out of the rain and meet their friends!  I don’t know if I’ll do Twitter for the bookstore or personally…I find there’s a lot of useless stuff being posted!

I hope everybody has an excellent week…will post a couple more from the archives, and then be back with a new post either Sunday or Monday.  Happy Canada Day, eh!

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Filed under blogging, books, family, food

Things I’ve Learned Since Last Tuesday…NEW POST!

As most of my readers know, I started a new temporary job last week…I am the Acting Production Manager for the Saint John City Market for the next seven weeks. The job is going to allow me to use my skills in administration, communications, public relations and marketing. The past few days have been one big learning curve! I thought it would be fun to put some of the things I’ve been doing into the context of what they’ve taught me…hope you enjoy it!

1. Sometimes “be-backers” actually come back.  We have people we call “be-backers” come into the bookstore all the time: the ones who take a long time to look at everything, and then leave without buying anything.  They always say as they’re going out the door, “I’ll be back!” (none of them look the least bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger!).  We never see them again…usually.  Last Tuesday, the first cruise ship of the season was in port.  We had two couples come in from the ship.  While they were there, we learned that one of the couples lived in Wooster, Ohio, which is near where my dad went to Theological School in Defiance.  The men were in the U.S. military, and one was quite interested in a Canadian Army training manual we had.  He didn’t buy it, but said that they would go to lunch and think about it.  Two hours later, they all came back with their parents in tow!  He bought the book…

2.  If one is going to attend a two-hour concert at a church, bring a cushion.  My dad sings bass with the Saint John Men’s Chorus, which had its annual spring concert at Portland United Church on Tuesday evening.  Jim, his mom and I went to the show (Jim’s dad wasn’t feeling well).  We all enjoyed it, but were reminded once again of how hard church pews can be!  On a sidenote, there was group of women singers called Still Waters which also performed at the concert.  They sang a Carpenters song which I quite enjoyed, but never knew that it was called “Superstar” (my mom loved The Carpenters, and we often had their albums playing in the 70s).

3. I have very few suitable work clothes that still fit me (or they all shrunk).  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to wear anything more than jeans to work (I usually wear a top, too…cuts down on the staring and pointing!).  I find myself having to buy new clothes, which is rather frustrating when:

a) one is fatter than she wants to be

b) one has very little money to spend

c) one hates shopping for anything besides books and earrings

4. One should start to peel a banana from the bottom.  This handy tip comes from a friend – apparently, that’s how monkeys peel bananas!

How to peel a banana...these are not my hairy hands - photo from videogamevictory.blogspot.com

5. I have too many blog subscriptions, and I’m way behind on reading.  I don’t subscribe to anyone who doesn’t write well, but trying to keep up with everyone’s posts is challenging my sanity!  I feel a bit like I’m trying to choose my favourite children when I open up my e-mail at night!  If I haven’t been around to visit you lately, it’s not because I don’t love you any more…”It’s not you, it’s me!”  I hope to get caught up eventually.

6. The food at Cora’s restaurant is outstanding, and the service goes above and beyond.  On Friday, Jim took me to lunch at Cora’s in Parkway Mall to celebrate the new job.  I ordered Chicken and Swiss Panini-Crepe, with no peppers.  The waitress asked if I wanted the Soup of the Day or tomato juice…since I hate tomato juice (it’s a texture thing), I asked what the soup was.  “Squash and Honey,” was the reply.  I ignored Jim’s stricken look (he’s not a squash fan!) and ordered the soup.  It was delicious!  When the waitress came back, I mentioned that I should learn how to make it because I grew squash in my garden.  A couple of minutes later, she came back with a piece of paper and handed it to me.  Imagine my surprise when I found the soup recipe printed on the back of a Cora’s colouring page!  The recipe was for 48 portions, so I may have to play with it a little…

Soon, the waitress came back with our lunch.  Jim had ordered the “Construction Plate” which is essentially a “He-Man’s Breakfast”: bacon, toast, home fries, eggs, and a tiny bit of fruit.  I was putting the dressing on my salad when the girl told me she’d just been informed that there were peppers on my sandwich:  “Just to be clear, is it an allergy?” she asked, as she picked it up to took it away.

“No,” I answered.  “I just don’t really like green peppers.”

A “pepper-free” Panini soon appeared, and was excellent: like Philly Cheese Steak, only with chicken and Swiss…the Spanish onions were cooked to sweet perfection!  Instead of bread, the sandwich was actually wrapped in a crepe.

As Jim paid for our lunch, we helped ourselves to the complimentary brown sugar fudge at the desk…a perfect ending to our meal!

This is the beef version of my sandwich (I picked the radishes out of my salad)...photo from Cora website

7. I’m not the type of person people remember.  Several times this week, I’ve been (re-)introduced to people I’ve met, and they don’t remember me at first.  I try not to take that personally…I’ve been one of those “beige” people ever since I was a kid…not very exciting!  I’m doing my darnedest to remember all the new people I’ve met so far.

8. The vendors at the Saint John City Market are some of the friendliest folks on the planet.  They interact with many different customers every day: locals, tourists, young people, seniors, and eccentrics…they take it all in stride, and still have smiles on their faces at the end of the day!  Although some of them are distressed (even tearful!) that the woman I’m replacing is leaving, they’ve been nice to me so far!

9. June 11th is too late to buy vegetable plants for the garden.  Remember those seedlings I put in a couple weeks ago while they were ripping up my back yard?  Most of them aren’t doing very well, especially the cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.  I managed to pick up some tomato and pepper plants at Co-Op yesterday, but a trip to Brunswick Nurseries to find others was fruitless.  Jim came back with 16 cauliflower seedlings from Superstore last night, which I will plant later today.  I’m hoping that the rest of my plants will rally.  The seeds I planted are coming along nicely, except for the lima beans (only three plants came up) and the sugar snap peas (none of which came up).  Our back yard is still a big hole…

10. A pressure washer is very handy when one lives in an old house.  Jim bought a new toy while I was at work on Friday: he’s been using it to clean all the bird seed debris off the back deck.  We were surprised yesterday after an afternoon of spraying to learn that our house is actually white!  We can see through the windows too!  Years of dirt and other crap has been blasted off my white plastic lawn furniture.  Jim also picked up a new porch glider yesterday…we’ll set it up once the deck is clean.

I’ll be running more pieces from the archives this week, and hope to have another brand-new post next Sunday…have a great week!

 

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Filed under blogging, family, food, gardening, self-discovery

Reading = Breathing

Photo of boy reading that we use to promote our bookstore...

When the young woman came into my bookstore yesterday, I greeted her, and knowing it was her first time in the store, asked what kind of books she liked.  “Journals,” she said.

Assuming that she was looking for a book she could write a journal in, I answered, “We only sell old books…I tell people a new book in our store is about my age, and I’ll be 50 in July!”

She laughed, and explained that she was actually looking for stories from other people’s journals…now we were getting somewhere!

I checked our database, and made some suggestions.  As I showed them to her, she revealed a stunning fact to me: she loved books, but had a lot of difficulty with reading, writing, and spelling.

As she told me her story, I choked back tears: she was dyslexic as a child, and no one in the school system caught it.  She was also left-handed, and the teachers used to try to make her use her right hand (and actually punished her for using her left one!).  She never told her parents what was happening.  She talked about having trouble with a job she’d had at WalMart where she had to match barcodes to items…she couldn’t do it!  It hurt to hear her describe herself as “lazy.”

The woman then pulled a laminated placemat out of her bag and showed it to me…it had the alphabet on it, with dotted lines and arrows showing how to trace over them…I’d bought similar mats for my children when they were learning to print at age 3 or so.  I was almost speechless…this woman was about 30!

She expressed an interest in history: “I wonder if Cleopatra ever wrote about her life?”  Pointing to Samuel Pepys’ Diary, she asked who he was: “I see this book a lot.”  I told her the limited amount I knew about Pepys.  The woman also liked royalty, referring to Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth.  “I looked all over Coles for a biography of the Queen, and they didn’t have it!” she said.

I spent the next half hour scanning the shelves, looking for books which would be relatively easy to read, and interesting but not too juvenile.  It was tough!  She was enthusiastic about the thick boys’ historical fiction books I showed her by G.A. Henty: “Now that’s a book,” she’d say, hefting them in her hand.  She liked the colourful bindings too.

Eventually, she settled on Eric Williams’ The Wooden Horse: it was historical (the true story of a daring escape from a German prison camp during World War II) and written in fairly straightforward short words.  I mentioned that I’d seen the movie when I was a kid, and never forgotten it.  We also had the followup book, The Tunnel.  As she was paying for the book, I asked if she was getting help with improving her literacy.

“No,” she answered.  I urged her to go to the Saint John Learning Exchange, which is right around the corner from our store, and provides free literacy training.  I have a couple of friends who work there.

“It’s free, they’re really nice, and they will help you,” I said emphatically.  The woman thanked me as she left.  I hope she goes to see them.  Sadly, she is one of many people who have literacy issues in our country.

After she was gone, I couldn’t stop thinking about the things I wouldn’t have in my life if I couldn’t read and write: my children (I met Kaylee and Anna’s father in college while studying Broadcast Journalism, and Hope’s father while ghostwriting a book for him and another guy); Jim (we met on Plenty of Fish three years ago); the bookstore I co-own with my dad; the Book Club I belong to; and this blog, which has been one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve ever had!  I think of the thousands of books I’ve read over nearly 50 years, and all the things I’ve learned from them!  I would be a totally different person if I hadn’t learned to read and write!

How would your life have been different if you hadn’t learned to read?

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Flax, Fishing, Flickr, Flatulence, and Frustrations…But the Alliteration Stops Here…

It’s been another “can’t get out of my own way” week…here are some of the highlights:

1. Flax.  Spurred by my friend Suzanne’s success with homemade bagels,  I decided to give them a try.  I make bread a lot, but have only tried to make bagels one other time (with disappointing results!).  I eat a bagel (with jam) every morning for breakfast…my favourite flavour is “Sunflower Flax,” so I looked for a recipe for Flax Bagels online (thank you, Kristin!).  The recipe I used recommended dividing the dough into small balls before forming the bagels by sticking your thumb through the ball and stretching the hole a bit.  The boiling time was also quite a bit longer than Suzanne recommended: 5 minutes (I compromised with about three minutes).  One thing I learned is that I should have loosened the bagels from the cookie sheet right after I took them out of the oven…as they cooled, the sugar water stuck them to the tray like glue (even though I oiled the pan first).  Here are six of my 18 “beauties”:

Flax Bagels...they tasted as good as they look!

2. Fishing.  One of Jim’s work colleagues invited him to visit his ice-fishing hut this past weekend (we wanted to go, but were too busy ferrying kids around – maybe next weekend!).  I’ve loved to fish since I was a kid in Rednersville in Prince Edward County, Ontario…the best part of fishing is digging for the worms!  My younger brother and I would buy fish hooks at our neighbourhood store (2 for 5 cents), and take our rods down to the Bay of Quinte.  Mostly, we caught sunfish, perch, and large and small-mouthed bass…we always threw them back (the only fish we ate then came in stick form, and the Bay was known for its mercury contamination).  One day, I caught a big catfish. Unfortunately, it had swallowed my hook…I tried and tried to get it out (I even went home and got Dad’s needle-nosed pliers!).  After an hour-and-a-half, I reluctantly cut the line, knowing that the fish would probably die…what a decision for an eleven-year-old!  I was a guilty mess for the rest of the day!

The last time I was fishing was about seven years ago, when Hope was five…we took the kids to a Fish Farm, where they had a pond stocked with speckled trout.  You could catch as many as three fish, and pay, based on the weight of what you caught.  Hope has a rather short attention span…she was done in about three minutes.  I took over her pole (Anna stuck with it!).  We got our three fish, and took them home.  Once they were cleaned and filleted (a part of fishing I refuse to do), I stuffed them with fresh mushrooms and baked them in the oven…yummy!

Jim and I got fishing licenses the first summer we lived at Hammond River, but never ended up going fishing…maybe this summer!

3. Flickr.  Anna got a spiffy new camera on the weekend, the Nikon D3100.  The plan is for her to start building her portfolio for her post-secondary education (she graduates in 2012).  She’s been borrowing Jim’s zoom lens and taking photos of our back porch wildlife.  Anna has a new account on Flickr if you want to see more (link also under “Photos” at right).

One of our kamikaze squirrels...someone should tell them that plastic isn't good to eat! (Photo by Anna Matheson)

 

4. Flatulence.  The other day, I was having a spirited conversation with a customer at the bookstore about the beauty of structural details in old buildings.  We were standing in front of the “Technical” section…I heard a series of small explosions as he stepped quickly away from me, excusing himself.  Whoo-eee!  I don’t know what the man had for breakfast, but my money’s on beans!  I bit my lip, trying hard not to laugh…it doesn’t take much to get me going…I wonder sometimes if I was a 10-year-old boy in another life!

5. Frustrations.  We had another snowstorm yesterday, which dropped another foot on us, and gave the kids another snow day, their fifth one this winter (it came at the end of the high schoolers’ exams, and two “turn-around” days, so the older kids had a whole week off!).  Since Jim had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, his boss suggested he work from home in the morning.  I decided to take a “snow day” too.  I stayed in my jammies all day, stepping away from the computer every once in a while to break up arguments in the family room (and load the dishwasher with millions of cups and bowls!). 

Jim left for the doctor’s office around two…the snow was a blizzard by then!  He texted me to let me know he’d made it to the office, and then called once he was finished with his appointment.  He advised that he was going to pick up a prescription and then return home.  My dad called at 4:00 from the bookstore to say that he was planning to close early and come home…he wanted to know how the driveway was.  I told him our plow guy hadn’t come yet, but he’d probably make it in if he hurried!  Fifteen minutes later, Jim called to tell me the transmission on the car had died a mile down the road…he was waiting for a tow truck, and directing people around the car, which was still in the roadway.  Luckily, our neighbour who lives in the house near where he broke down invited Jim in to get warm while he waited…he usually wears several layers of clothing (he once went to work with two pairs of pyjama pants under his jeans), but had left the house in a hurry in the afternoon (at least there was a toque and gloves in the car!).  He finally got home about 5:15…the tow truck driver had kindly dropped him off (for just over $140, it was the least he could do!).  So our Toyota is sitting at the transmission repair place in Saint John waiting for parts, in line behind several other vehicles whose parts were delayed by the snowstorm.  Did I mention we just had our van towed to the garage on Monday to have the problems with the power steering and the blower fixed (tally for that is over $1000 so far – they found some rusty lines)?  Thankfully, Jim’s parents will lend us a car until we have at least one of our vehicles back!

I got to bed late last night after a long distance phone call to a dear friend who’s going through a big crisis in her life.  Apparently, I neglected to set my alarm, and woke up an hour late this morning (and spent ten minutes looking for Anna’s cheerleading shorts, and then her coat).  I’m hoping people won’t notice that I haven’t had a shower…

At least I’m not farting…

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Filed under books, cooking, family, memories, nature, self-discovery

‘Salt’y Tears…The Jolie Bids Adieu…

This is the final installment in a 3-part series chronicling The Jolie‘s visit to Saint John, New Brunswick.  I would like to thank my friend, Omawarisan, for his crazy idea ingenius plan that seems to have brought so much joy to my readers…this series was also incredibly fun to write!  Thanks again to Jim for driving all over town and putting up with rude stares as he photographically recorded The Jolie’s tour (he did all the touristy shots and labelled them too – he’s a lover, not a speller!).

If you haven’t read the first two parts, please take a few minutes and catch up…read quickly…The Jolie is anxious to be on her way!

Part 1

Part 2

Here’s the disclaimer (again):  This piece is purely for entertainment purposes and has no basis in fact (all Saint John tourist information is correct).  Any resemblance to living people (except my family) is coincidental. 

We left off Part 2 with The Jolie terrorizing exploring the Saint John City Market.  The Jolie did have an unpleasant encounter with the proprietor of one of the local fishmongers…for fun, I told her that “swimming with the lobsters” was a tradition in New Brunswick, kind of like swimming with the dolphins (a total lie!).  Well, The Jolie was bound and determined she was going to do it!  When she saw the lobster tank at the Market, she demanded to speak to the Manager.  The guy came out from behind the counter, and extended his hand to The Jolie…she ignored it. “I want to swim with the lobsters!  I came a long way to do that!”  The manager calmly explained that she might have some germs on her that could make the live lobsters ill.  “Do you think I don’t shower?” The Jolie asked indignantly.  While assuring her that everyone has germs, even movie stars, he offered to pack up a couple of big lobsters for her to take home.  The Jolie grudgingly agreed, “Well, I suppose…they probably taste better than Cambodian cockroaches.  Can you send the lobsters to Nunavut?  That’s where I’m headed after this.”  The manager wrote down the address, and promised to ship the crustaceans to the Far North right away.

Our next stop was King’s Square, which is across the street from the Market’s Charlotte St. entrance.  Until the mid-19th century, the Square was pretty primitive…people came to draw water from public wells, to view criminals in the pillory, or to celebrate special occasions with an ox roast.  The militia used it for training, and the butchers in town slaughtered their cattle there.  In 1844, city officials decided to make the Square more like an English country garden…a plan was made that included paths coming out from a central octagon, shrubbery, trees, and flowers.  Some work was started, but destroyed in the Great Fire of 1877.  The majority of the development at the Square was completed after that (in fact, most of the oldest buildings in the Uptown date to 1878).  The current bandstand was built in 1908 (restored in 1987), a memorial to King Edward VII.  The Jolie posed in front of it:

The Jolie and the King's Square Bandstand...the trees lining the paths were planted in the late 1880's...

The Jolie got a lot of stares from passersby as we walked through the Square…Saint Johners weren’t being their usual friendly selves:

The Jolie didn't get the attention she expected...

I overheard the following conversation between two old biddies:

“Imagine…goin’ out in the middle of winter in a tank top!  How come she’s not wearing a coat?” the first asked her companion.

The answer: “Maybe her money keeps her warm…she sure doesn’t have any body fat!”

Body fat must have been on The Jolie’s mind too, because the minute we arrived at our bookstore, Dave Shoots, Bookseller, she jumped on the scale to see if she’d gained any weight from the Timbits she’d eaten!

The Jolie tips the scales...

The Jolie proudly declared herself “weightless” (kind of like her performance in “Beyond Borders”).  At least her upcoming trip to Nunavut won’t cost much…maybe I should buy her a “fanny pack.”

While she was in the bookstore, The Jolie was photographed with a “local boy” who left Saint John and got famous (sadly, that’s usually how it happens!):

The Jolie and Stompin' Tom Connors...Prince Edward Island claims him, but he was born in Saint John...

Other famous people with Saint John roots include: film mogul Louis B. Mayer (born in Russia, but grew up here), actor Donald Sutherland (Kiefer’s dad, for you young whippersnappers!), actor Walter Pidgeon, and inventor Dr. Abraham Gesner (kerosene).  The infamous Benedict Arnold spent six years in Saint John after the American Revolution, but Saint Johners don’t like to talk about it!

The Jolie explored the bookshelves looking for reading material:

The Jolie checks out our fiction...

“Where’s your Danielle Steele section?” The Jolie demanded.

“Down the street, at the bookstore we don’t own,” I replied.

“What kind of bookstore is this?” she whined.

I smiled.  “A discerning one.”

The Jolie then asked to borrow a dictionary…I think she needed to look something up…

The Jolie consults a dictionary...

After returning the dictionary to its place, the Jolie headed for the children’s section…she wanted to send some books home for the Nanny to read to the kids.  I found her absorbed a few minutes later:

"Now I know my ABC's...next time won't you sing with me!"

Soon, I declared it was time to get packed up for the next leg of The Jolie’s tour.  She allowed me to wrap her in bubble wrap, and only whimpered a little when I put the packing tape over her mouth…for the first time since she arrived, The Jolie was speechless!

“Good luck in Nunavut, Dear!  Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out!”

*No action figures were harmed in the writing of this piece (I left airholes in the box).  The Jolie will next appear in Iqaluit, Nunavut in I’ll Have Nunavut.  I hope she’s not allergic to cats!

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Mercury is Messin’ This Mother Up…

I found out on Friday that Mercury was in retrograde, according to my friend at Hippie Cahier.  Apparently, this is a bad thing.  I’ve decided to blame everything that’s happened to me this week on that messed-up planet…

1. “Goodbye, Red Meat…I loved you well.”  Kaylee, Scott and Elise came over for supper on Sunday night.  I served a beef and barley stew (with rutabaga and carrots from the garden).  Everybody loved it…I would have thrown in a few more vegetables and a bit more barley if I’d known how much they would love it!  Monday morning, the beef caught up with me…I gave up pork several years ago due to difficulty digesting it (I don’t have a problem with cured meat like ham and bacon, thank goodness!), and have lately started having trouble with beef.  I did not go to the bookstore on Monday.

2. Computer/Internet Issues.   Those started on Tuesday when I got back to the bookstore.  Every time I’d try to leave a comment on somebody’s blog, I’d have to do it two or three times because I would get booted off the Internet…it’s been like that all week!  I’ve had trouble with Hotmail too.

3. Modelling Clay Emergency.  We got home late on Tuesday night, due to Anna having cheerleading, Devin having an orthodontist appointment, and Hope’s cheerleading practice being changed from Wednesday to Tuesday.  Thankfully, Jim’s parents picked up Devin and Hope for us since it was impossible for us to get there in time!  After supper, Hope announced that she had to have modelling clay for a project at school…too exhausted to go out again, I suggested we make it.  She also told me she had a couple of other homework assignments…aargh!  Hope printed a modelling clay recipe from the Internet, and I got out the flour, salt and water.  She wanted four colours of clay…I spent the next hour trying to incorporate food colouring into the rather stiff dough (I really want to thank whichever child lost the lid for the blue food colouring…my hands were blue for three days!).  The colours came out very muddy-looking.  Meanwhile, Hope was busy in the dining room.  After a while, she came out and chucked the clay in the garbage: “I can’t get it to stick!” she said.  “I told you we should have bought it!”  I wrote a note to the teacher to explain why the homework didn’t get done…sigh…

4. Modelling Clay…Take #2.  We brought home massive amounts of dollar store modelling clay for Hope’s project on Wednesday night.  We also got Christmas cards, wrapping paper, and candy canes (for hot chocolate, of course – one of Anna’s “emergencies”).  Hope got right to work with the “good clay” and constructed her cheerleading stunt group.  She told me that the legs kept falling off, so she decided to leave them off.  There is also no “front” in the stunt group (the “back” is hidden behind the “flyer”):

Hope's Cheerleading Stunt Group

5.  Revenge of the Orca Beans.  Jim made supper, but I didn’t eat much because I wasn’t feeling very well.  I had made chili on the weekend with orca and romano beans from our garden, and had put some in my lunch on Wednesday.  Some of the family had eaten it Monday night, but I was still recovering from my “red meat episode” so had opted for cereal instead.  Jim had mentioned a bit of stomach distress after having it for his lunch on Tuesday, but I blamed that on the massive amount of chili powder he’d added to it.  By 6:30 Wednesday night, I was in agony…I spent the next 4 hours in close proximity to the commode and eating the Costco version of Imodium like M & M’s.  In the midst of my misery, I remembered that I had sent some of the killer chili home with Kaylee (Scott won’t eat beans, so she doesn’t make chili), and decided I’d better give her a heads-up.  I dialled her number.  “Hi…you know that chili I gave you?  Did you eat it yet?”  Kaylee told me that she’d planned on having it for lunch the next day.  “Throw it out!” I told her.  “I’m dying here…”

6.  “Expedited” apparently means “Whenever you feel like it.”  I felt like a dishrag on Thursday when I woke up…I opted to skip work again (lucky I can do that!).  Jim didn’t feel well either, so we stayed home together.  Dad phoned me from the store to let me know we had gotten an e-mail about a book I’d ordered for a friend on November 25th.  I had requested “expedited shipping”…according to the e-mail, it was sent on the 29th…it took them four days to get it out of the building!  They also stated that it would take up to 14 business days to arrive!  If time wasn’t of the essence, I wouldn’t have bothered paying the extra for shipping!

7.  Farewell to a dear friend.  Friday was a sad day…members of our book club gathered at a local restaurant for dinner to send a good friend, S., on her way out of the province.  She is moving 2000 miles away with her new man, who we met, and approve of…very nice fellow!  Dad and I gave S. a book about Emily Carr, an artist we knew she liked…S. was moved by the Celtic blessing I wrote in the front.  I had a glass of wine, and a beautiful spinach salad before bidding S. “Adieu”…I know we’ll see her again…she is a Maritimer, and they always come home!

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Frequently Asked Questions About Our Bookstore…

This post is in response to requests from commenters Chase and Lisa to hear more about the day-to-day operation of our bookstore (sparked by the poll for my 150th post).  For those who are unaware, for the past ten years, my dad and I have co-owned a bookstore which specializes in antiquarian and used hardcovers.  Here are some of the questions we hear quite often, with answers (some actually spoken, some just thought in our heads as we think “You moron!”).

1. Where do you get your books?  My dad goes out and mugs little old ladies!  Most of the books are brought into the store, every day, 3 or 4 times a day: people die and their family doesn’t want their books, or empty-nesters are downsizing to move to a smaller place.  We also have a fair number of “street people”, who pick up books in their travels and then sell them to us.  We go to local book sales, and the big Sussex Flea Market, and occasionally, church and yard sales.  Very few of our books are donated to us…we buy them!

2. What’s your oldest book?  I don’t know…let me check the database!  We are constantly adding to our stock, and that information could be totally different today than it was yesterday.  It’s probably something from the 18th century, although we have had a couple from the 17th century.

3. Is all your stock listed online?  No.  We have some 15,000 books including 3 or 4 thousand waiting to be listed in storage…we only list the rarer, higher-priced books online (currently about 4000) because of the time involved.  To give you an idea of how long it takes, we upload about 50-75 new listings a week. 

4. I’ve got this really old book, but it’s been chewed by squirrels, run over by a bulldozer, and immersed in a mud puddle…do you want to buy it?  Only if they were three-toed Siberian squirrels. NO!  Throw it out! 

5. Do you have any [pause] novels?  I take the “customer” to the large double-sided shelves which house some 3000 works of fiction.  The customer still has a puzzled look on his/her face.  No, I mean NOVELS!  At this point, it occurs to me that the customer is looking for paperbacks, at which point I direct them to the store down the street.

6. Do you get a lot of customers from the cruise ships?  No…they don’t make it up the street without being roped into the shore excursions…we call the handful who do come in “the escapees.”  There are also very few readers on cruise ships…cruisers are usually “mall people” far more interested in souvenir T-shirts than good books (this is a generalization, I admit, but it’s based on ten years of observation!).  We average 2-3 visitors for every 3000-passenger cruise ship.

7. I remember this book from when I was a kid…it was blue, about a cat, and about so big [gesturing with hands].  Do you have it?  Not sure…was the cat long or short-haired?  I’m going to need a title or an author’s name (at the very least) to find that elusive book from your childhood.

8. I’ve got a copy of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and it’s really old…I think it’s a first edition and it’s even signed!  How much to you want to give me for it?  Nothing.  Dickens’ work was pirated by the Americans to the point that he refused to do readings in North America…there are literally thousands of copies of each of his books out there…the odds of the average Joe having a first edition is extremely low!  Many of them have what is known as a “facsimile signature” on them…this is a copy of the author’s signature printed in the book by the publisher…he didn’t actually write it!  I have three boxes of Dickens books in my back room!  Ditto for Kipling, Scott, and Stevenson books… 

9. You’ve got a lot of books…have you read them allYes, every last one, except for the golf ones…I hate golf!  No.  I have other things to do with my time: evaluating, listing, photographing and shelving those books.

10. I paid $40 for this book at [insert name of new book store here] last month.  Why don’t you want to give me $25 for it?  Because new books are a lot like new cars…worthless once you drive them off the lot.  I can probably buy 300 copies of your $40 book online for a buck apiece!

11. Is this a libary?  No.  All of our books are for sale.  The “libary” is down the street.

12. How much are your books?  They’re priced according to size: thin ones are $10, but really thick ones cost $150!  Our book prices range from $6 to $2000, depending on rarity and condition.  Prices are marked in pencil inside the front covers. 

13. What do you do with books you don’t want?  We donate them to the local library or book sales held by local charities.

14. [phone inquiry] I’m moving next week, and I’ve got a whole bunch of books.  How much do you pay for them?  I don’t know…I haven’t seen what you have!  Bring them in, and if we want them, we’ll make you an offer!     

15. Do you like working here?  Yes.  I’ve met lots of interesting people from around the world, including a few famous ones.  I learn something new every day, and I am surrounded by beautiful old books in a gorgeous old building.  It’d be even better if I made money!

Independent used bookstores are disappearing every day…we need readers to survive!  Please go into your local store and buy a book (or two) today!  Thank you!

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Today’s Post is Brought to You by the Letter P…

Since the letter P seems to have popped up a lot around our place in the last week, I decided it would be pleasurable to post about it:

1. Last Saturday, Jim, Anna and I went blackberry picking at my private patch on the West Side (Hope preferred to purchase packages at McAllister Place instead).  Jim ploughed purposefully through the prickles, blazing new paths.  We picked a full plastic peanut pail of blackberries in about an hour-and-a-half.  Anna was perfectly fine until she was pursuing a particularly perfect bunch of berries, lost her balance, and pitched into the prickly purgatory.  She suffered painful scratches which we later applied Polysporin to.  I pointed out that I had perspiration pouring down my posterior – Anna said that was a piece of information she’d prefer not to have been privy to.  After picking up Hope, we stopped at Jim’s parents’ to pick up a ladder.  Jim wanted to put up the new ceiling fan we’d purchased at the yard sale in St. Martins.

2. This week, I took my persnickety pupils to finish up shopping for school supplies.  Hope got purple wedge heels (Anna bought them for her), which later caused her to fall and tear a hole in her pants.  It’s a pity that it is no longer prevalent to patch jeans!  Hope also got purple sneakers (she protested when I prevailed on her to purchase size 10 – said she didn’t want to have “clown feet!”).  Jim got Hope a purple plaid bookbag, and purple plaid sneakers for Brianna at Payless.

Hope's precarious purple sandals...

Hope's purple sneakers...Size 10!

 

Hope's purple plaid bookbag...

3. Jake, our poodle/schnauzer got a haircut this week.  The job was somewhat patchy, as the guard kept falling off the trimmer.  He made me laugh yesterday when I caught our pooch perched on the arm of the chair perusing the kids who were playing outside on the trampoline.  His back legs were sticking straight out…I tried to photograph him, but he defeated my purpose by turning around to look at me!

Look at Jake's side just in front of his back leg...that's where the guard fell off...

4. We’ve been snacking on foods that start with the letter P this week.  Jim and I both like peanuts (Jim eats barbecue, I prefer honey-roasted).  Jim got a big bag of mixed chips – he doesn’t like pretzels, so he leaves them for the Pretzel Princess (that would be me).  I also love glasses of pineapple juice over ice.

Jim's bag of barbecued peanuts and my jar of honey roasted...

Jim's rejected pretzels...

 

5. Wednesday afternoon, I stopped at the post office to pick up postage stamps.  I had to pass the Big Brothers/Big Sisters book sale, so I purchased another pile of books.  We have a customer named Phil who likes all things outdoors…several of the books made me think of him.  As I passed through the City Market, I actually ran into Phil, and told him I bought books for him.  He put aside several as he was waiting for a payment to pass at the bank.  He plans to order a pricey publication on fishing when his check clears.  

6. On Wednesday, I pissed off a passionate patriotic person with something I posted.  I pouted for a couple of days…my proclivity to post was temporarily paralyzed.  I am partial to the person I perturbed, so we both apologized profusely for provoking each other and the precarious predicament has passed.  Everything is peachy! 

7. On Friday, we called the plumber because we had a leaking pipe in the kids’ bathroom.  When I talked to him on the phone, he proposed that sometimes pinholes in the pipe cause leaks.  I proclaimed that the problem was probably bigger than a pinhole, as Jim had seen quite a puddle of water in our basement.  The plumber made a big hole in the wall, and replaced the tap.  He didn’t have the right part to make it possible to have a shower.

Plumber's handiwork so far...

8. On Friday evening, I was in the garden when I perceived a couple of pink poppies peeking out amongst the profusion of plants:  these were the third and fourth ones I have seen (the first one was in Dad’s pea patch).  I did not plant poppies this year (although I purchased seeds for them).  I had been pulling perplexing weeds that I couldn’t identify in any listing of pervasive plants prevalent in our province (after poring over some publications on plant identification, I became privy to the name of another pretty weed we have: purslane).  Upon examining the leaves of these poppies, I realized they were my mystery weed!

Pink poppy in the pumpkin patch...

The plentiful purslane...

 

9. Remember the pumpkin that was growing on the fence?  Well, it’s even more portly now!  The biggest ones are starting to turn orange.  Our beans continue to be prolific, particularly the Blue Jay, Mennonite Purple Stripe, and Royal Burgundy beans, which all have purple on them.  It’s doubtful whether our peppers will ever produce.  We’re still waiting for the purple Brussels sprouts too.

Pumpkin on the fence...

Big pumpkin...

Purple blossoms on the Blue Jay beans...my most prolific producer...

A Mennonite Purple Stripe bean run amok...this one's about 7" long...

This Royal Burgundy bean is more purple than burgundy (turns green when cooked)...

Still waiting for the peppers to blossom...

Still no signs of sprouts on the Purple Brussels Sprouts...

10. We’re having people over for supper tonight, my little Puddin’ Pop, Elise, and her parents.  I’m looking forward to seeing her…it’s been at least three weeks!  I had planned to have pork in the Crock Pot, and mashed potatoes, but got a beef roast out of the freezer instead…I must have been preoccupied! 

Me and my Puddin' Pop, the last time I saw her on August 5th...

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Of Broccoli, Baby Showers, Book Sales, and Back-To-School Shopping…

1. Broccoli. On Saturday night, I harvested our very first broccoli from the garden.  I made a tasty broccoli/cheese frittata with it for supper, along with a salad made with our lettuce and tomatoes, and cucumbers (from the store).

Fresh Organic Broccoli...

Broccoli/Cheese Frittata...

Saturday's tomato harvest before I cut them up for salad...

Other firsts from the garden this weekend were carrot and rutabaga…we had them tonight.  I love rutabaga – it’s a mild flavour, especially good with butter and salt and pepper…it’s my new favourite vegetable.

Our first Scarlet Nantes carrot...

This Gilfeather rutabaga tasted a lot better than it looks!

2. Baby Shower.  On Sunday, the girls and I went to my oldest daughter’s best friend’s baby shower.  One of the games Kaylee came up with for her friend’s shower was melting chocolate bars in the microwave, and then inserting them into numbered disposable diapers.  The shower guests were then asked to pass them around, examine them, smell them, and even taste them (!) and try to determine which chocolate bar was in each diaper…I don’t think I’ll be eating “Crispy Crunch” again any time soon…

My middle daughter, Anna, won that game, and also two other prizes because she got the “marked” plate and the marked cup!  The macaroni salad she and Hope made got rave reviews too!

3. Book sales.  This morning when I got to the store, I totalled up my haul from the Sussex Flea Market – I spent $53 Canadian, and got just over $575 U.S. worth of books.  I went to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Book Sale at Brunswick Square today, and spent $25 Canadian, and came away with almost $340 U.S. in treasures (and I saw “Witchy-Poo” before she saw me, and escaped!).  I put $100 on one book I bought – if it had the Andy Warhol-designed dustjacket, it would have been worth at least $250! 

The books continue to come into the store faster than we can get to them…four more banana boxes came in while I was at the book sale this morning (these were added to the nine boxes we already had from last week).  I jokingly complained to the guy that brought the four boxes that I’d just stopped having to do hurdles to get to my desk (Dad took the extra books to our new bigger storage space before the Open House).  I also have four boxes of books to photograph for the Internet…coming back from vacation is tough!

4. Back to School Shopping.  This afternoon, Anna and I went to the mall to pick up some school supplies (and a new pair of flats for her).  Hope skipped the trip, preferring to hang out with her friend.  Our bus ride to the mall was not fun: some teenager sat behind us playing his music without headphones, and singing badly along with it (the same song, over and over).  In between, he was on his phone, telling everybody who would listen about getting beaten up last night:  “They cracked my head open, I got a concussion, the inside of my mouth is all messed up, and I’ve got four bruised ribs,” he bragged.  I was ready to add to his injuries by the time I’d heard the story for the third time!

We got to the mall, and Anna found a pair of shoes (not flats) that she liked and that fit within the first half hour (it’s a miracle!).  We also bought Hope a Justin Bieber T-shirt that Anna claimed she would “love” (when Hope opened the bag, she announced it was just like the one she just bought, except for the colour – FAIL!).  We went to Zellers for school supplies…the first thing we saw was lined paper for $2.99 for 400 sheets.  That sounded pretty good to me…I loaded four packs into the cart (one for each kid).  We picked up mechanical pencils, whiteout, highlighters, Sharpies, dividers, and some notebooks, and then continued to another section of the store where signs told us there were more school supplies.  That’s where I spotted the display of lined paper that was $.39 for 150 sheets.  I ditched the other paper (I admit that I just put it with the cheap paper instead of where it was!), and picked up a dozen of the smaller packs (three for each kid).  Anna picked out expensive scissors, impossibly-priced erasers (“But they’re so cute, Mom!”), and a zebra-print pencil case that cost $6!  We found a couple of binders for Hope (Anna still had hers from last year)…they were purple, so I figured she would like them (wrong again! – “Mom, I can’t have hard binders!”).  We managed to tick off almost everything on the list except the 10 duotangs that Hope needed, and the bag that Anna wanted (none of them was the “right size,” which translated means “not expensive enough”).  I also picked up some Charmin toilet paper on sale (I’m usually not a brand-name girl, but Charmin rocks), some red Twizzlers (one of my favourite snacks) and a couple of things for Elise’s first birthday next month…

We went to the checkout, and emptied our cart…I had predicted it would be $150, and Anna said $200…we were both wrong: it was only $119!  The next shopping trip will be with Hope to get her pants and shoes for gym…

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