Tag Archives: Saint John City Market

Things I’ve Learned in the Past Three Weeks…

As my regular readers know, I’ve been set up in the Saint John City Market for the past three weeks selling books from our bookstore…this isn’t my first time selling at the Market, but it is the first attempt at being a full-time vendor.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Nothing is predictable.  You can have an amazing sales day on Monday, but your sales on Tuesday might suck!  There is no rhyme or reason to it…it completely depends on who walks into the Market that day with money in their pocket and a desire to buy a book.  There was a raging snowstorm outside on one of my best sales days ever…I thought people would be holed up in their houses!  Hopefully, it all evens out at the end of the week (or month!).

2. Listen to other people’s suggestions, within reason.  My friend, Scott, (who is also a Market vendor) suggested I change my display to a U-shape with individual books highlighted in the center instead of two straight rows.  He was right…it looked much more inviting, and gave the illusion of having more books.  Another Market vendor suggested I stick a price tag on the books so people wouldn’t have to look for the price (inside the front cover in pencil)…no way…stickers are death on books!

3. Change is good.  I change my display daily, and bring a new box of stock from the store every morning.  The theme changes weekly.  I learned this from a very successful Market vendor (and good friend), Becky.  There are a bunch of people who go through the Market every day (it’s part of a pedway system)…I want them looking at my stuff when they pass through.

4. Word travels fast.  I mentioned to a couple of other vendors that we used tomato boxes to store our books, and pop flats to mail them in.  Now cardboard and boxes magically appear under my bench!

5. The public can be a little too friendly sometimes.  One day last week, I felt someone looking over my shoulder, turned away from my computer and was nose-to-nose with a little old lady who was staring intently at our bookstore logo on the screen, and giggling like a little girl.  It is cute, but she was certainly old enough to have a sense of other people’s personal space!

Our bookstore logo...guaranteed to make you say "Awww..."

6. Customers usually fit in one of three categories.  The first, buyer, is my favourite!  The second, be-backer, may or may not come back, despite what he or she says (although I have been surprised more than once!).  The third, bugger, will talk your ear off for fifteen minutes and leave without buying anything…if you’re going to tell me about your Great Aunt Martha’s hip surgery, at least reward me for the torture I’ve endured by buying a book!

7. Regulars are the best.  My best customer so far bought seven books the first week, two the second, and one this week (he gets 20% off since he’s bought five books from us).  He walked by my bench at a fast clip on Wednesday muttering, “Stop tempting me…stop tempting me…stop tempting me!”  I got a laugh out of it!

8. My bladder is stronger than I thought.  I’m at the Market from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  I work alone, and the bench across from me is vacant most of the week.  I depend on the kindness of my friends (and fellow vendors) to make pit stops.  My record for “holding my water” so far is seven hours (I usually don’t drink anything during the day, and wait until I get home at night to have tea).  I’m hoping that I get a “neighbour” soon!

9. People are procrastinators.  If I had a nickel for every customer I’ve talked to who’s said, “I’ve seen your store, but I haven’t gone in yet,” I’d have a lot of nickels!  It’s been twelve years, people!  It’s time!

10. Boys will be boys, no matter how old they are.  Last week, a fight nearly broke out in front of my bench because one guy failed to move to one side so that a man coming toward him could get past.  Ridiculous!  Luckily, a woman travelling with one of the men was able to talk him out of his idiocy.

I’m having fun at the Market…I’ve met some interesting people.  I’m going to keep it up as long as I can make a bit of money…

I miss Blogland, but it’s really hard to read and write when one is being constantly interrupted…and I do have to eat.  I’ll try to visit my blogging buddies once in a while, and post when I have a few minutes…

 

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Filed under books, family, friends, rants, satire

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

Herbivore Havoc, Holy Crap, and Hamlet…NEW POST!

Herbivore Havoc

"We'll just wait here until she goes in the house!" (photo by Anna)

I’m really starting to hate Bambi and his relatives…because of them, I’m not going to have any produce to put in the freezer for the winter this year.  They have feasted on all the plants from my $130 worth of organic seeds, and the seedlings that I bought to replace plants that weren’t doing very well.  The arugula and the leeks are the only things they haven’t eaten.  My total harvest so far has been three or four salads, a few meals of spinach/beet greens (before the deer got in the first time), one zucchini, and three meals of green beans/peas (I put away some 40 bags of green beans last year!).  I have fewer than 10 green tomatoes (of various sizes and varieties) that they have not discovered and devoured.  The root vegetables have virtually no leaves on them…I had hoped my rutabaga, beets, and carrots would be spared…I was wrong!

Leafless, fruitless zucchini...

Leafless pole beans...

Leafless bush beans among the weeds...they're the stick-like green and purple things...

Chewed off tomato plant...

Munched beet greens/Swiss chard...

Holy Crap

About a week-and-a-half ago, one of my Market vendors asked me to put a new product they were carrying on our website: it was billed as “The world’s most amazing breakfast cereal” and was called Holy Crap.  The cereal had been featured on CBC’s Dragon’s Den (a program where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to experts) last fall.  I read the literature, and decided to [gulp] pay the hefty $13 bag price tag (8 oz. or 225 grams) to try some.  The cereal is a mix of three organic grains and seeds: chia, hulled hemp seeds, and buckwheat, and three organic fruits: raisins, dried cranberries and apple.  It is gluten and lactose-free.  Every morning since last Saturday, I have stirred a tablespoon of Holy Crap into a container of yogurt, let it sit for five minutes, and eaten it for a mid-morning snack.  I’ve been bringing half my bag lunch home with me…I haven’t been hungry enough to eat it all.  In the evening, instead of sitting down with a bowl of chips, I’ve been eating more Holy Crap with yogurt.  Here’s the best part: I’ve been watching my considerable “muffin top” get smaller and smaller all week.  My clothes fit better!  The first bag of cereal lasted nine days.  I’m going to keep using it, and try to get Jim on to it when he gets back as well.  If I can lose weight just by eating a certain food, I’m going to keep doing it!

Holy Crap (photo from holycrap.ca)

Hamlet

Last night, Dad and I stayed in town after work to see a performance of Hamlet – one of our friends had a lead role (Claudius).  The play was being performed in a tent behind the Saint John Theatre Company’s new building on Princess Street (billed as “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot”).  We paid our money and took our seats in folding chairs.  As we waited for the performance to start, we noticed music and loud voices coming from a party in the courtyard of the building next door.  Unfortunately, it continued, getting louder and louder throughout the first act of the play.  Shakespeare is hard enough to follow when one isn’t being distracted, but actors trying to perform while competing with beer-swilling yahoos and top hits of the 1970’s was more than either of us could take.  We made our exit, vowing to contact the theatre company to see if we could come back and see the whole show without disturbance (at no cost) next week.  The acting was wonderful, especially the man playing Hamlet – he showed how loopy the Danish prince truly was!

I sent a message on Facebook to the director of the play, and she is graciously providing free tickets for the Tuesday night performance…there’s an 80% chance of rain that night…perhaps that will keep the partiers indoors!  I look forward to seeing Act 1 again, and Act 2 for the first time!

Jim and the kids are back Tuesday from their vacation adventure…looking forward to seeing their pictures!

Have a good week…I hope to read some of your blog posts in my spare time…

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Filed under food, gardening, nature, rants, 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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Blossoms, Babies, Bell-Ringers, Breakfast, and BBQ…NEW POST!

This is going to be another roundup post of some of the things that have happened this past week…I’m home on my first day off in six days, trying to catch up on laundry and cleaning up around the house.

1. Blossoms.  Summer has finally come to Hammond River, after a May in which it rained almost every day.  I was happy to see our tiny rhododendron bush is finally blooming:

Rhododendron Blossom...

A few days later, the blossom was open:

Open Rhododendrons...

Our wild rose bush was also blooming:

Wild Rose...

2. Babies.  Remember the baby groundhog I was talking about seeing, and the sixteen cauliflower plants Jim brought home from Superstore last week?  Well, the critter has been busy munching in the garden, and I now have only two cauliflower plants which still have leaves on them.  I had the “brilliant” idea of putting hot sauce on the leaves of my remaining beans and cruciferous vegetables (NOT! – it burned the leaves).  It’s not looking good garden-wise this year.  The deer have also been in the yard, because the peony buds were chewed off the top of one of the bushes!  I was putting the hose away after watering one night, and found these babies:  

Baby spiders shortly after hatching...

To give you some idea how tiny they were, the big green thing at the side of the photo is my garden hose…it was neat to see the babies coming out of their nest.

3. Bell-Ringers.  This week has been a busy time at the Saint John City Market…I’ve been working solo since Tuesday afternoon.  It is a very big learning curve, but I should be all right…lots of different people and personalities to interact with!  On Saturday, a local man came up to my office and introduced me to a family visiting from Germany.  He asked if the two little boys could ring the market bell.  I opened the window of my office (which gives me a view of the whole market), and grabbed the bell-pull and handed it to the first blond boy…he was about six.  He pulled it twice, wearing a huge grin.  Then it was his little brother’s turn.  I hope that was one of the things those kids will remember about their trip to Saint John!

4. Breakfast.  Sunday was Father’s Day, and Anna and Brianna made breakfast in bed for Jim (Hope was visiting her dad and Devin was fast asleep)…I was elected to go back up and tell Jim he had to stay upstairs until it was ready.  It was definitely worth waiting for…the girls used eggs, cheese, potato patties, bacon and sausage to create this guy (the shirt, tie and flower are made of paper napkins): 

Jim's Father's Day Breakfast...photo by Anna

5. BBQ.  We were invited to Jim’s parents for a Father’s Day barbecue…Kaylee and Scott couldn’t make it (hopefully we’ll get to see them next week).  Jim’s mom and dad provided the meat (chicken, sausages, hot dogs, and hamburgers) and potato salad.  Jim’s sister, Kim, brought a veggie/dip tray, and his other sister, Tracy, made a delicious berry trifle for dessert.  I made a broccoli/pasta salad with bow tie pasta, broccoli florets, carrots, mayo and lemon juice (it also has almonds in it, but I brought those separately because of Jim’s allergy to them):

Broccoli Pasta Salad...

We all ate so much that we were stuffed…I went right to bed when we got home!

Well, I’m off to fold some more laundry, and perhaps get caught up on some blog-reading…I’m about a week behind!  I’ll be filling in this week with some more archive posts, and hope to have another new post for you next week!

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Filed under family, food, gardening, nature, photos

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

Yes, We Have No Wine, and Other Random Things…

Welcome to another chapter in my oh-so-exciting existence! We’ve got lots to cover…the transitions will be abrupt, so please keep a firm hold on your tea, lest it spill as we careen around corners!

1. Monday morning was sunny…I hated to have to work, but came into the bookstore anyway…I had three boxes of books to photograph, and 90 pages of our database to print off!  Hope was off school that day, so she came into town with me and helped take the pictures (it’s much easier for a 12-year-old to get up and down off the floor than it is for me!).  Anna and Brianna went to the mall…Anna used the money I gave her for jeans to buy shorts (because apparently 47 pairs aren’t enough!).  Brianna got some nail polish which is the perfect colour for my toes…maybe she’ll let me borrow it!

Anna and Brianna goofing around with the webcam last fall...

2. My friend, Dale, surprised me by dropping into the bookstore…I first met him in 1980 when we worked in two neighbouring stores in the Quinte Mall in Belleville, Ontario (I worked in a camera store, and he worked in the record store next door). I used to go into the record store and buy all kinds of albums (that was before I had kids to spend my money for me!). The following year, my boss decided to move his store to another strip mall in town, and Dale and I lost touch. Fast forward to the early 2000’s: I was receiving correspondence about an upcoming reunion of some of my buddies from Loyalist College, and saw a familiar name on the e-mail list. I e-mailed the guy and asked “Are you the same Dale who used to work in the record store?” Sure enough…turns out Dale went to Loyalist about the same time I did, and used to hang out with the radio guys I knew! We were reunited at the reunion, and have been in touch ever since…coincidentally, Dale now lives in Moncton, New Brunswick, which is only a little over an hour’s drive from where I live now. We chatted for quite a while, and then Dale left to get to a business meeting, promising to return soon to add to his “classics” collection.  We’re planning to meet up with some more friends from school this fall at the Gregg Allman show at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton in September.  I’m looking forward to seeing them all!

3. When we got home in the afternoon, Hope checked her e-mail, and excitedly called me over to the computer.  “Look at this, Mom!”  There was an e-mail from the Marketing Coordinator for Market Square…on the weekend, Hope and Gabrielle had sent her a clip of them singing “O Canada” and had asked if they could sing the national anthem at the Canada Day celebrations on July 1st.  The reply said that she would like to have the girls sing, and would be in touch soon to arrange the details!  Hope called Gabrielle right away to tell her the good news!  We were really proud of her for taking the chance to do something like that!

Gabrielle and Hope singing at a Talent Show last fall...photo by Jim

4. Monday night (after writing my Easter blog post), I remembered that Tuesday was our long-awaited book club meeting…we hadn’t gotten together since bidding our friend, Selina, “Adieu” in December when she moved to Winnipeg. We usually bring food of some sort for book club. Our book was “Secret Daughter” by Shilpi Somaya Gowder, which is set mainly in India.  What I know about East Indian food would fit neatly on the head of a pin (and I don’t eat much spicy food), so I Googled a local store where I might find something to bring to the meeting.  Upon reaching the website, I was confronted with the name of the product, a photo, and the price…no description whatsoever.  Back to Google…Nanak Gajar Halwa: “carrot fudge”? That sounds disgusting!  Nanak Rasmalai: “Soft Cheese Patty in thickened milk and sugar sauce”.  My lactose-intolerant stomach actually did a somersault after reading that!  I decided to go with something a little safer…I had a bag of Ganong Chocolate Marshmallow Eggs I’d bought on the weekend…everybody likes chocolate in our book club (and these are made in St. Stephen, New Brunswick)!

5. Tuesday morning was rainy, but at least I didn’t have a lot of work waiting for me at the store when I got there…I took the opportunity to catch up on the 40-50 blog posts I hadn’t had a chance to read over the long weekend!  It took me a long time, but there weren’t many customers wandering in to disturb me, so I was able to get it done!  I bought a Meditteranean Chicken Salad from Sagratti’s in the City Market for supper, and brought it back to the store to eat (I picked out the black olives…yuck!).   I hoped the family would save me some of Jim’s famous Turkey Soup…

Jim's soup and homemade biscuits...yummy!

6. I was the first to arrive at our Succulent Bookworms meeting (as usual – I don’t like to be late!).  I chatted with our hostess, and one of her three cats soon curled up on my lap, where it stayed for the rest of the night (if only I hadn’t been wearing black…oh well…that’s why they invented lint brushes!).  My friend called to me from the kitchen and offered me a drink, apologizing that she didn’t have any wine on hand, but that one of the other girls would probably bring some.  I declined…book club is the only time I get to indulge in red wine…I would wait until it arrived!  When she came back, she extended a ceramic plate towards me with little brown things on it.  “Oooooh…what’s this?” I squealed, thinking these must be some of those unidentifiable Indian delicacies I’d seen on that website.

“They’re the marshmallow eggs that you brought!” she prompted.  “Don’t you remember?”

I’m sure I turned about three shades of red before muttering, “Oh, yeah…” (damn peri-menopausal mushbrain!).  The chocolates looked a lot classier on that plate than they did in the compostable bag they came in!

The other girls trickled in over the next hour-and-a-half…nobody brought wine, but we did have a nice selection of food to choose from by the time everyone arrived!  There were two kinds of naan bread with mango chutney and guram masala for dipping, some pita chips with yogurt dip, some mini caramel muffins, and some decadent squares which were purely Western but awesome anyway!  We had some delicious mango juice to drink, which I’m planning to seek out next time I’m at Costco!  The hostess’ 3-year-old daughter demonstrated some of her ballet moves for us before her dad took her up to bed (he was mumbling something about getting her away from us before we corrupted her…another Bookworm man thinks we’re “witches”)…

We chatted about the book for a while (everybody liked it – excellent choice for a book club read), and then got off on our usual tangent…that was the first Worms meeting I’d ever attended where no one was drinking!  It was weird, but good…I can’t wait for the next meeting!

I was happy to get home to bed soon after 10:30…it had been a long day…

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‘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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The Jolie Tour, Part 2…Eat, Drink and Be Bitchy…

This is the second installment of a series begun yesterday…please read Part One here to get up to speed…[The Jolie says to "Make it snappy!"...she's hungry].

It’s against the law here not to “go to Tim Hortons for coffee” (you don’t actually have to drink coffee…”going for coffee” is an activity).  Tim Hortons is a Canadian institution started by a hockey player as a “summer job” back in the 1960’s before athletes were paid millions of dollars to play.  Unfortunately, Tim was killed in a car accident in 1974, and didn’t get to see the huge success his little coffee shop is today (at the time of his death, there were 40 franchises).  Today, many Canadian cities have multiple Tims locations …when I lived there a few years ago, Moncton, New Brunswick, had more Tims per capita than any other city!  Every spring, Tims has a popular contest called “Roll Up the Rim to Win” where you look for a prize under the rim of your paper cup…they give away cars, TV’s, and free coffee and donuts (the last two things are all I’ve ever won!).

Since The Jolie’s little tummy was growling, we took her to the Lansdowne Tims location…after telling us what they wanted, Anna and Brianna escaped to the safety of the Shoppers Drug Mart, preferring to shop for shampoo instead of being seen in public with The Jolie and their Action Figure Tourist Guide parents (we’d dropped Hope off on the West Side at her dad’s, and Devin stayed home because there wasn’t room in the car for everybody…what a generous gesture!).  Before going in, we asked The Jolie what she wanted.  “I’ll have an Espresso Macchiato with a quarter inch of milk foam and chocolate sprinkles on the top!” she ordered.

“Whoa, baby,” I said.  “Back up the truck!  This isn’t a fancy L.A. coffee place…the people who work here wear hairnets and sturdy shoes, and usually aren’t third-rate actresses!  They call everybody, ‘Dear’.  You can have coffee or tea or hot chocolate…if you’re good, I’ll get them to put a French Vanilla flavour shot in your coffee!  What do you want to eat?”

The Jolie thought for a minute before answering, “Get me a smoked salmon on rye, sliced very thin with the crusts cut off, and just a couple of capers on top.”  Her face fell when she saw the look on mine.  “Really…they don’t have that either?”

“When you’re in the Maritimes, Dear, ‘Capers’ are people who hail from a part of Nova Scotia called Cape Breton.  They get mad if you try to spread them on a sandwich, or criticize their funny accents.”  I took pity on The Jolie: “How about a nice Chicken Club on a whole wheat baguette?”  I hoped that throwing a French word in there made it sound fancier (I also hoped I wouldn’t have this trouble again).  It worked.

“I suppose that’s all right,” The Jolie pouted.  I dropped her in my purse, and we went in and ordered our food.  I paid with my Tims card (yay…I had more left on it than I thought!), and we carried the plastic tray to the table.  Jim glanced surreptitiously around before I pulled The Jolie out of her hiding place and set her on the table.

The Jolie engages in the great Canadian pastime...coffee at Tims...

In between bites of her sandwich, The Jolie found it amusing to yell “Barista!” repeatedly.  The girls behind the counter kept ducking to escape her wrath (I heard one of them ask another, “Is that Spanish for double-double?”)!  We explained to The Jolie that there is no “table service” at Tims…if she wanted something, she’d have to go up and ask for it!  She passed.

We’d gotten The Jolie a couple of Timbits for dessert.  Timbits are donut holes…Tims makes a fortune selling them for 15 cents each.  The Jolie demanded to know why we were feeding her “leftovers.”  She changed her tune once that Honey Dip hit her lips…

After lunch, we gathered up the girls and continued our tour.  The next stop was the Saint John City Market, which has been in operation in its current location since 1876.  When the Market was built in the late nineteenth century, Saint John was one of the world’s leading shipbuilding centers, and the roof of the Market is modelled after an upside-down ship’s keel.  The kids made themselves scarce again while we took our photos.

The Jolie looks down over the City Market...

The Market is open year-round every day but Sundays.  The day starts at 7:30 a.m. with the ringing of a large bell at one end, and finishes the same way at 6 p.m., except on Saturdays when the Market closes at five.  In addition to fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses and baked goods, the Market is a cornucopia of items ranging from local crafts, giftware and souvenirs to ethnic food from various locales.  There is also entertainment on the weekends, although we got there too late in the afternoon to see it.  The Jolie offered to do “a reading” but they didn’t have a mike stand short enough for her (which is a good thing, because not a lot of people would be interested in hearing an excerpt from her upcoming book, Pezed Off…The Jolie World Tour!).

Dulse from Grand Manan is something a lot of tourists take home with them when they visit New Brunswick:

The Jolie in the dulse bin...

Apparently, The Jolie was confused about what you’re supposed to do with dulse (and also has trouble reading upside down), because before I could stop her, she was doing this:

The Jolie exploring the benefits of dulse...

“What do you mean, you eat it?  I thought it was a beauty treatment!” she sputtered, as I hauled The Jolie out of the bag.  “We pay big bucks for seaweed at my spa in L.A.!”  She spent the next hour removing bits of purple vegetation from her hair…

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of The Jolie’s visit to Saint John, New Brunswick!

*Disclaimer: This post is entertainment and any resemblance to living people (except Jim and I and our kids) is purely coincidental.  I also didn’t eat the blue pill!

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They Call Me “Typhoid Wendy”…

It’s the story of my life…just when I get to love something, it gets taken away…I’m the kiss of death!

This weekend, one of my favourite live music venues is closing after eight years: The Blue Olive in Saint John, New Brunswick.  The owners have decided to put a new restaurant in the space.  We loved going to shows there because there are very few places for people like us in the city…when I say “people like us,” I mean folks who like to be home by 11 after enjoying a fine evening of entertainment accompanied by a couple of drinks (maximum).  I also enjoy exiting with most of my hearing, unlike other venues populated by somewhat younger patrons, where the thumping of the bass remains in your head like a piledriver until the next morning.  The entertainers who performed at Blue Olive were high-quality acts and reasonably-priced for those of us who have hungry teenagers to feed.  The Blue Olive helped fill the void left by the closures of venues such as Tapps, Melvin’s and Sessions Café, other places I used to hang out in before…it’s all my fault!

Jim and I had one of our first dates there...we saw Lenny Gallant...

Bands have broken up shortly after I’ve discovered them: Madrigal, Modabo, and Vetch…all fine regional acts from the late 90’s and early 2000’s which are now defunct, thanks to my adoration!

Oh, Modabo...Where are you now?

I’ve also been the cause of many restaurant closures in Saint John…sometimes the restaurant didn’t close…they just took my favourite thing off their menu!  Do you remember Wendy’s beautiful thick Chicken Wraps from the late ’90’s?  Gone.  I must have bounced too many chunks of chicken off of Hope’s head as she slept in her Snuggli while I ate lunch there on Saturdays!  Also gone from Wendy’s are their wonderful Spinach Salad and the Mandarin Chicken Salad…why?  I liked them…it’s all my fault!  When was the last time you saw the Mushroom Swiss Burger on their menu?  I killed that one too!  You’d think I’d get special consideration since they named the restaurant after me (sorry…that’s a lie…but Dave Thomas, the guy who started Wendy’s, is a fellow Ohioan)!  I dare not try their Natural-Cut Fries with Sea Salt…

My restaurant let me down...

Every Tuesday at the Saint John City Market, I used to go to Yogel’s for vegetable pie.  One day, they told me they didn’t make it any more…”not enough demand.”  Apparently, a customer travelling on a bus every week from the West Side to get their pie wasn’t enough.  I never ate there again, and sure enough, they closed within six months! 

Other eatery demises I caused were Keystone Kelly’s (club sandwich with sweet potato fries), Boilerworks (California pizza), Café Soha (Flipwiches), D’Amico (spinach salad, thin crust pizza and amaretto chocolate mousse cakes), Ming’s (Chinese food), and Barton’s (chicken burger platter).  I hope nobody finds out I like the spinach salad at Urban Deli or the chicken pesto pizza at Pomodori!  Oh, no…now I’ve done it!

I love their chicken pesto pizza...I mean, it's okay...

 

It happens with TV programs too!  I’ve lost track of the number of sitcoms I’ve killed.  Jenna Elfman rebounded from the end of Dharma and Greg to star in Accidentally on Purpose (cancelled after one season).  David Hyde Pierce of Frasier was a cast member on The Powers That Be, a satire about the First Family in the early ’90’s which had only a 20-episode run.  Before he hit it big in Modern Family, Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell) was in a smart, funny sitcom called The Class, another one-season wonder.  His “sister” in Modern Family, Julie Bowen, appeared in Ed, one of my favourite defunct dramedies.  [whispering] I love Modern Family!

Jesse and Julie in a scene from "Modern Family"...re-enacting a childhood ice skating routine...

They’ve cancelled dramas I love from every setting…Cop shows: The Commish, The DistrictThird Watch  and Hill Street Blues…War shows: China Beach and Tour of Duty…Hospital shows: Chicago Hope, St. Elsewhere…School shows: The Education of Max Bickford, and Boston Public.  Even my favourite soap opera, Another World, was cancelled!  I love Kyle Chandler…he’s survived two dramas I loved: Homefront, and Early Edition.  I’m afraid to watch him in Friday Night Lights!

Kyle Chandler...I hope he doesn't strike out a third time...

So, to all the fans of the above places, bands, foods, and TV shows, I extend my humble apologies…maybe if I pretend not to care, the things I like will stick around a little longer!

DisclaimerThis is a satirical piece.  I’m pretty sure I’m not responsible for any of these things disappearing.  But I would be really happy to have some of them back!

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