Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What's New at Trader Joe's?

This single sheet fluttered out of a cookbook I was putting in a pile for the Bottom Shelf. August 9th, 1986, 30 years ago—I lived in Glendale and TJ's consisted of 24 units. I shopped there at least once a week and loved discovering and trying the new and interesting products they would get in regularly. "What's New..." must have predated the Fearless Flyer. 

Now there are 453 Trader Joe's located all across the country. 

I saw a woman interviewed on the CBS Sunday morning show this weekend. She'd left the U.S. for Canada after Ronald Reagan was elected thinking she couldn't live in a country that would elect an actor as president. Apparently her life in Canada has been just fine but when asked what she missed most she said, "Trader Joe's".

Thematic Photographic 381: Please be seated!

This is the prompt called "Please be seated" for this week from the website 

I saw this chair in Ishafan, Iran in a mosque undergoing rehabilitation. The first things that caught my eye were the perfect footprints looking like they'd be left on purpose, by someone throwing a pursuer off his or her tracks. Or from someone, like me, intrigued by the image and daring to add something personal to the tableau. 

The hole in the back is the next place my eye moved. A sitter's shoulders would naturally rest in that spot. If this was a cheap detective story, the hole might be a bullet hole. 

The picked over arms are the saddest parts of the chair. I imagined two possibilities - an elderly man with a cardigan sweater buttoned up crookedly, sitting outside a house or store on the sidewalk, picking at the plastic, worrying about his children and grandchildren living someplace far from Iran. Or worse, someone tied to the chair in a dark, terrible place ripping the arms apart from horror and attempts to escape. I hope the latter was an imagining nearer the truth. 

The second chair is a beautiful one that sat in an all-bamboo house we rented in Bali a few years ago. The pieces that brace the chair are called "bamboo bones". The chairs were lovely as works of art and also for their gorgeous location looking out on the Balinese jungle. No footprints on these babies.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Small, little things that make up a day at The Bottom Shelf

“These big things, these terrible things, are not the important ones. If they were, how could one go on living? No, it is the small, little things that make up a day, that bring fullness and happiness to a life.” 
― Benedict FreedmanMrs. Mike
"I, like*, read this one book and it was, like, good, but then, it like, ended!"

I heard the young man talking to Debbie who had asked him what kind of book he was looking for. The older woman with the boy turned out to be his grandmother, proudly showing off the Bottom Shelf and our community library.

Debbie asks, "Ah—you want a story that goes on and on. Well then, have you read the Harry Potter books?"
"No," replies the young man who pauses for a moment and then adds "but, like, Marlee has!" He said this as if he should get some kind of credit because his friend read the book. 

I couldn't like follow the rest of the conversation as more customers came in but Debbie had the young fellow, like, fully engaged in stories of stories. She gave him short versions of various boy's books as she ran her hand over the young reader's section. He was hanging on her every word. I think he'll be back—if not to our library, then to the one in his own neighborhood. 

Enter a woman with five children in tow. They dive into the kid's books with gusto, shouting with happiness about this book or that book. They are fun to watch although the squeals are a bit high up the decibel scale for the small space. The littlest one, a blue-eyed blonde, with skin as soft and smooth as a china doll, brings her book over, looks up at me with shining eyes and tells me "I'm going to learn to COOK!" She's about three. She shows me the quarter clenched in her fist. 

Her brother, perhaps five, selects a child's book on astronomy and asks me if we have a bible he won't have to SHARE. I show him a kid's bible and he asks again if he'll have to SHARE it, as if the bible itself determines who reads it and how. In a family with a lot of kids, I guess sharing is a bad word. I can hear Debbie laughing from the back room and she comments to the mother that perhaps after he reads the bible, he'll recognize the irony of his reluctance to share the book. When the family finally gets everything together on the check-out counter and they all crowd around piling their quarters and pennies and rolled up bills to pay, one of them accidentally drops a bill into a slot/crack in the front of the desk. I ask how much it was and the kid, dismayed, tells me it was a five dollar bill. It has disappeared into the dark crack. I ask Debbie what to do and she tells me to just give the kid a five dollar bill, which I do, and the family all files out of the store into the library, the little girl with the shiny eyes clutching her treasured cookbook to her chest. I've fallen half in love with the child and the whole rambunctious family. 

Debbie gets the flashlight and peers into the crack. "There's a couple of thin books in there and a quarter and ah...there's the bill. But it looks like a one!" We open the drawers and peer behind them to see if there's access through there, but no...the crack is perfectly sealed off from the rest of the desk. What was the crack's purpose we wonder? Melinda gets the fly swatter (just the right length) and pulls a few items out. We cheer. We all suggest a stick with gum on the end for the remaining items. Debbie, on her knees poking at the artifacts, tired of hearing the same thing over and over asks,"Who even chews gum anymore?" The girls manage to get the one dollar bill out patiently using various ingenious fishing devices crafted out of objects we have in the work room - I see a clothes hanger, a ruler, double-sided tape. Now everyone is depressed. Were we had by this really charming family? Did they scam us, claiming they'd lost a five dollar bill, when it was only a one?** Then, someone wielding a stronger flashlight, spots another bill and exclaims—"It's a five!" Debbie and Melinda proceed to drag it up and out. A collective sigh of relief runs through us as we have our faith in human nature jacked back up to normal. 

The photo below has nothing to do with the day at the library. It's here to break up all the text. It was submitted to an Instagram challenge regarding literary cats. I can't determine who to credit. 

Literary cats on pinterest

A woman brings me a book called "Double Yuck Magic" by Kathleen Duey and tells me she's a local author. A prolific writer, I checked her out online—she's written over 80 books for the young adult market.

A man buys a huge book of medical illustrations for a dime. They weren't great illustrations—once you've seen DaVinci's, nothing compares. He's giving the book to his grand-nephew who is in medical school. The man goes on to tell me about his father, born in 1894, who was his town's dentist. After military service in WW1, his father became a doctor and practiced both medicine and dentistry in the town. Nobody could afford double degrees in these days of expensive education. 

DaVinci medical illustration. From

Richard's dentist told us recently that tuition at USC's dental school is $87,000 per year. I was aghast and looked it up when we got home. One entire year including all the indirect costs of housing etc. is estimated at $134,000 a year. A DDS at USC will cost $469,000. No wonder Richard's implant is going to be $4000.00! I also looked up the Simon Fraser School of dentistry in British Columbia as a matter of comparison and tuition is about $5200 per year—plus a little more if you're a foreign student. Could USC be that much better? This is a practical science— facts are facts, techniques are techniques, whether you learn them at USC or Simon Fraser. 

A customer came in and bought a copy of "Mrs. Mike." She and Diane discussed their love of this book when they were teenagers.The customer even named her daughter "Kathy" after the heroine. She buys copies wherever she finds them and gives them to friends and relatives. I'd never heard of the story, even though it's mostly about the Canadian wilderness. Here's a summary from Amazon: 

'Mrs. Mike' is a love story, a true story; the story of Katherine Mary O’Fallon, a sixteen year-old Irish girl from Boston, and Sergeant Mike Flannigan of the Canadian Mounted Police who meet at her uncle’s ranch in Alberta, Canada where she is sent to recover from pleurisy. They meet, they court, they marry and, following Mike’s orders, move to Hudson’s Hope far into the interior of Alberta.
But it is more than a love story between two people: it is also a love story of the land and animals, of the beavers and the ice, the northern lights and the fires, of whooping cough and whiskey running. It is a love story of the First Peoples and their struggles, the immigrants and their hopes and all the people who came and went through Mike and Kathy’s lives.

Here's a link to the obituary of one of the co-authors who himself has an interesting life story. Benedict Freedman. Below is a photo of the authors, who looked familiar to me—like typical customers of the Bottom Shelf. 

Nancy and Benedict Freedman, authorf of "Mrs. Mike.

We ended up the day with $209 in the cash register. All the revenue from the bookstore for a whole year wouldn't cover a year's tuition at USC's dental school. 

* I have no idea how to write the quotative "like" kids use as a conversation filler—the italic may or may not work.
** Too much TV news has turned us into cynics—skeptics about almost everything. Even that group of Olympic swimmers in Rio turned out to be idiots. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016


I've used this photo to death, but as the theme is hidden, what better image could I offer?

At the Zoroastrian temple Iran, I took this photo of the eternal flame. I thought I was hidden, but there I am.

And my neighbor's photo of another neighbor's dog they were baby sitting. Was Peabs hiding? Or showing off?
Photo credit to the MacKenzies. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sepia Saturday 342 August 2016 - Post #4: Frankie's Wedding

 Lorraine, Patti—my mother-in-law, Frankie, Herb, unknown best man.

This is the one formal glamorous wedding picture I have in my collection. The occasion is my husband's Aunt Frankie's wedding. The bride's dress is the exact opposite of the swirling, blowing dress in the prompt photo. Frankie's dress is a limpid pool of fabric, so smooth it looks as if they ironed it on the spot. The bridesmaids are her sisters, dressed similarly, but the dresses are subtly different.  The floral bouquets are definitely different, as were the three sisters from each other. 

Frankie was beloved by all...a treasure. Here's a beauty shot of her in her early twenties:

And here she is later in life with her husband and two children. She was beautiful until she died in her eighties. 

 And here is Frankie's grandaughter Jennifer, her husband Nick and her two boys, who are Frankie's great-grandchildren. Sadly, she didn't live to see them. I think Jennifer looks very much like her grandmother.

The dimple family.

Liam - Mr. Adorable with a toothsome monster. 

Not that Rowan is happy about his 4th birthday party!

Finally, one of favorite photos—my husband on his mother's lap. I've written of this particular afternoon in other blog posts. It was a weekday in the San Fernando valley, circa 1939, when the doorbell rang at my mother-in-law's home. The door-to-door photographer talked Patti into sitting for a portrait. A bit flustered about what to wear, she got into her bridesmaid's dress from Frankie's wedding above and tried to pose, but my husband, a toddler, was throwing fits. Finally, she sat him in her lap and the photographer got this great shot. My husband looks like he just won the lottery. Can an infant be smug? I certainly can see it.

This is my fourth and final Sepia Saturday post for the Love and Marriage prompt.
Hop over to Sepia Saturday for more interesting stories. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The ads for new buttermilk pancakes at Denny's kept popping up on my screen. We finally succumbed and tried them at the Temecula store. They're good, but a bit heavy on the vanilla in my opinion. I really don't know what they were trying to improve, but I do know when you run a special like this, the grill speed really suffers. If 4 or 5 orders for pancakes come in at once, people are going to be waiting (too long) for their orders. During the morning rush, I'm sure the wait staff will be pulling out their hair, trying to get orders to people in a decent interval. 

Traditionally, food cost on pancakes was extremely low but now Denny's is using fresh buttermilk and eggs in the batter. That shoots the food cost up and frankly, I didn't think the pancakes were that much better than the old add-water-only variety. 

None of the links listed on the menu to social media worked and I asked the waitress for help. A blank stare ensued after which she said, bustling away, "I don't do that electronic stuff."

When I got home, I went to the website to see about the social media advertising just out of curiosity. In keeping with the pancake promotion, there's a "pancake rejection simulator" game to play. Totally unappealing to me, which is probably a good thing as it likely was planned for millenials. As is Denny's new concept called "The Den." There are a dozen of them in operation, one of which is in San Diego. You can read about them here.

The millenial consumer is quite different from my generation. Volumes have been written about them because they're about 80 million strong—they're the largest and most educated generation ever. Short descriptors I've read of them include: special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, pressured, multi-tasking, entrepreneurial, nomadic, non-religious, connected, adventurous, civic-minded and above all tech savvy—and if you're selling to them, your tech stuff must work. I hope the franchisees get with the program and learn about their menu links. 

"The Den" menu is upscale from Denny's but it's still a three meal a day concept including the inimitable Grand Slam, which seems to have universal appeal. They offer some currently "in" foods that you see on bistro or brew pub menus, like fried green beans, hand smashed burgers, brioche buns, pork tacos, wraps and a veggie burger. 

A couple of the maxim's tucked away on the site: 

"If at first you don't succeed, try bacon"
"Punch hunger in the mouth"

I don't think we'll see these graceless homilies etched in stone anywhere and they do make me wonder about the challenges of marketing to this generation. 

Huffington Post
The final interesting note about Denny's is their unit in Las Vegas which will host your wedding in their chapel complete with a pancake puppie wedding cake. Here's an excerpt from the Huffington Post, 7/29/14. These wedding locations certainly fit into the millenial's needs for being special, confident, adventurous, non-religious and multi-tasking. Who in our generation would have thought about getting married while shopping???

"According to the in-store wedding coordinator, saying your “I do’s” at the famous diner costs as little as $199 and includes use of the wedding chapel, a photo booth, a champagne toast, two wedding-themed Denny’s T-shirts, a “Pancake Puppie” wedding cake, decorations, a bouquet, a boutonniere and a wedding certificate.
Though Denny’s may be one of the few large chains erecting a chapel to accommodate weddings, it’s not uncommon for couples with a zeal for a certain brand to choose to get married in a department store or fast food restaurant. Brides and grooms have pledged their lifelong devotion to one another in the shoe aisle of T.J. Maxx, the garden department of a Home Depot and under the florescent lights of an Illinois Taco Bell, USA Today reported in 2010."

Sepia Saturday 342: August 2016. Love and Marriage - Photo Art. Part 3.

While looking through the collection "Historic Glass Plate Photos from Romania", searching for wedding and marriage images, I found this piece of art which reminded me not only of the prompt this month but of the whole Sepia Saturday experience. 

We Sepians find old pictures in our collections or from other sources and tell a story about them, either with facts from our family histories if they're available or with our imaginations, if they are not. We use words to tell our stories. The Australian photographic artist, Jane Long, took old glass plate images by the Romanian war photographer Costica Ascinte and by use of Photoshop and her imagination she turned them into new images, making art out of them. She tells her stories using photoshop.

In 2013 the undamaged portion of Costica's 5000 film negatives on glass plates were digitized by the Costica Ascinte Archive to preserve them. From this collection, Long created her striking, often surreal photos. Here are two I liked and many more can be viewed on  the webpage of Jane Long.

Find more love and marriage photos and stories at Sepia Saturday.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sepia Saturday 342 August 2016: Love and Marriage. The Whole Nine-Yards. Part 2

The Sepia Saturday format has been changed on a trial basis to the use of one photo a month. We're invited to submit as many posts as we wish during that month. I'm already finding it an improvement because I usually end up with three or four ideas for each photo there's a place to use them. Last week I wrote about the wedding section of the NY Times.

While looking for sepia photos of wedding dresses, I went all over the web. As I looked at the elaborate creations I said to myself, "Wow, they used the whole nine-yards!" Seemed like a sepia-type expression to me. Was I surprised when I looked up the etymology of the term. As it turns out, the first record of this expression being used was in 1907 in southern Indiana. Wiki states that it's a variation on "the whole ball of wax", first record of which appeared in the 1880's. The guests at Cyril and Madge's wedding might have used "The whole nine-yards", but it wouldn't have been used when these nineteenth century brides (below) appeared in all their glory. Somehow I can't imagine anyone looking at these tremendous dresses and commenting on the "whole ball of wax".

Over the years I've heard many theories about the "nine-yards" origin including: The full contents of a cement mixer; the length of an ammunition belt; a full sail—three masts each with three yards, but the one I always liked best was, a full bolt of fabric. 

 Here's what Wiki has to say:

The whole nine yards or full nine yards is a colloquial American phrase meaning "everything, the whole lot" or, when used as an adjective, "all the way", as in, "The Army came out and gave us the whole nine yards on how they use space systems."[1] Its origin is unknown and has been described as "the most prominent etymological riddle of our time".[2]
The earliest known example of this phrase is from 1907 in southern Indiana. It is related to the expression "the whole six yards", used around the same time in Kentucky and South Carolina. Both phrases are variations on the whole ball of wax, first recorded in the 1880s.[3] They are part of a family of expressions in which an odd-sounding item, such asenchiladashooting matchshebang or hog, is substituted for "ball of wax".[3] The choice of the number nine may be related to the expression "to the nines" (to perfection).[nb 1]
The phrase was introduced to a national audience by Elaine Shepard in the Vietnam War novel The Doom Pussy(1967).[4] Use of the phrase became widespread in the 1980s and 1990s. Much of the interest in the phrase's etymology can be attributed to New York Times language columnist William Safire, who wrote extensively on this question. Baroness Christine von Linden circa 1857.No doubt here about the extravagance of fabric. French wedding dress, 1877. Whenever there's a long filmy train, there's a lot of fabric. 

When you consider all the gathers and ruching you can see how yards of fabric have been incorporated.
From the State Library of New South Wales, Mrs. Hare. 1874-1908. Freeman Studio, Sydney. Tintype of bride in the 1860's. All those ruffles gobble up fabric. There's easily nine yards in this little number.

As I googled the whole nine yards I ran across an interesting website full of wedding lore, such as—why the bride is always on the groom's left. The answer: Because he has to keep his sword arm free to ward off would-be thieves of the bride. Actually it wasn't always the bride the thieves were after, but rather, the dowry. Perhaps they kidnapped the bride in order to get the dowry as ransom? Or the bride-snatchers could have been those pesky ogres that show up in legends and fairy tales without any monetary motivation, just plain ogre-meaness. Imagine that a bride doesn't have enough to worry about without adding possible kidnap to her worry-list.

Many of the other customs had to do with protecting the bride: The groomsmen originally acted as body guards for the whole wedding party. The bridesmaids were dressed, sort of like brides, to confuse the bad guys—presumably the bad guys had poor eyesight and poor judgement if they actually confused the bridesmaids with the bride. Maybe in days of old the bride's attendants dressed exactly like the bride? 

Danger was everywhere in the good old days—even the guests were a potential threat. The tradition of the bride throwing her bouquet originated because otherwise the guests would tear off pieces of her dress for good luck. If the bride avoided kidnapping or ogrenapping, she could still have the-very-dress ripped off her back! No wonder we speak of the blushing bride—the blush was probably more accurately a flush of terror. If she survived the ceremony with all it's attendant dangers, then she faced the wedding night, often with somebody she'd never set eyes on before the wedding day.  

The lore goes on and on here. But how much of this is speculation?—it could be just a lot of malarkey. Malarkey???? I wonder where that word came from?

Get out of here to Sepia Saturday while you can—before you get attacked by a word-worm like I've been. Help..........

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Sepia Saturday 342, August 2016 : Love and Marriage

What a fabulous wedding photo we have for the prompt this month. Her gown floats like a cloud around her legs, yards and yards of diaphanous fabric swirl and swoop. Her lily bouquet sports extravagant foot-long stems. He is dashing with his top hat, cravat and morning coat. Women swoon over this kind of image—I doubt many men find it as pleasing. I have to confess one of my favorite sections of the New York Times is the "Weddings" section...partly because of the weddings (the dresses, the settings) but mostly because of the accompanying stories about how the bride and groom met, overcame obstacles etc., to get to the altar. My friend Nancy's daughter makes Super8 films of weddings and I got more interested in the nuts and bolts of weddings after I met her. Here's a link to her webpage:

Only 40 of the 200 or more couples who submit an application to the Times will actually make the pages so the ones that are printed are usually interesting. There are strict rules to follow when submitting an application, including the following.

"The Weddings/Celebrations pages typically publish formal portraits of couples and individual brides. Couples posing for pictures should arrange themselves with their eyebrows on the same level and with their heads fairly close together with plenty of space at the top and sides of the couple's heads. Pictures should be in color and in a horizontal format. Include the photographer’s name if professional credit is required. "
Clyde and Madge would have missed the Times Weddings section because they are just never, ever going to see eye to eye. What a pity! One of the easiest ways to make it into the Times Wedding section is to simply get married in the winter. Other routes that make you statistically more likely to make it are graduation from an elite university; being a congressional staffer; marrying someone of the same sex; being an elite lawyer or an investment banker.

Recently there was a wedding dress article in the Times and I remembered seeing this splendid dress designed by Manish Malhotra and worn by the bride, Komal Patel. Fortunately, the bride did a perfect swirl and got the fabric in motion for the photographer, Alain Martinez—a lucky moment for them both. The groom looks happy too. You can read about their wedding here.

We love the Patel name in the U.S. Maybe you've heard the term, a Patel Hotel or a Patel Motel? As many as fifty percent of mid-sized motel and hotel properties in the U.S. are owned by people of Indian origin and of these nearly one-third are owned by Patels.

Just before we went to India in March we watched a hilarious movie called "Meet the Patels"—you can watch the trailer here. You'll laugh!

This particular Patel family, in the Times wedding section, has nothing to do with the motel/hotel business (as far as I know) however I went down the rabbit-hole on Google and Wiki while writing this and you know how it goes. I start out sitting down for thirty minutes to write a blog and yikes—five hours later I look up in shock, my noggin stuffed full of momentarily interesting trivia. 

Indians throw the best weddings in the world in my opinion. Our driver during our last Indian visit had married off his daughter in 2015—two thousand guests attended. I can't imagine how he paid for it; families go into debt for years to pay for the extravaganzas. 

Greeks also throw great wedding parties. Now that I'm doing film clips, I'm throwing in this one. Nia Vardalos, the creator and star of this Canadian-American film, is from my hometown, Winnipeg in Canada. She based the story on her own experience —a Greek marrying a non-Greek. What a hit she had here! My Big Fat Greek Wedding held the record as the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time as of 2007, an old statistic, but the only one I could find. Her dress in the film has everything on it - lace, flowers lots of fluffy stuff. I can imagine it took a lot of thought to come up with something romantic and funny at the same time. 

Grab your top hat and stroll over to Sepia Saturday to read

more wedding stories.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Writing Lesson

A bit of writing exercise, from the writing workshop I'm taking with Kit-Bacon Gressit. I have a story I've been playing with, about Clara, a female still-life artist—in Antwerp. This short piece is about one of her rivals:

With his collar up and his hands shoved in his pockets, Paulo rushed along the icy walk to the studio. Late again! Osais would soon remind him that being late was inexcusable to the Dutch. A prodigy in his home city of Florence, Paulo kept his own hours. Here in Antwerp, he had yet to prove himself worthy of the praise that won him a coveted place in the finest still life studio in Holland.

As he approached the front door, he peered through the soot-streaked panes and saw the hated Clara, only twelve years old, perched on her stool, painting tiny hairs on the legs of a beetle with her finest brush. Many apprentices thought she must be a witch, for the child painted insects which looked alive and ready to fly off her canvas!
He turned away from the window and once again felt the fat green worms of jealousy burrowing into his guts. How did she do it? Like magic she’d flick her hand over the canvas, over her flat paintings of lilies and silver vases and they’d spring to life. It was incomprehensible to him. His face flushed with anger and humiliation. He looked back through the window at his own easel just past hers and saw that his work, lauded by the Italians, was mediocre by comparison. Trembling, he spat into the snow and once again wished she was dead.

Here's something I learned from Kit—when you use a strong metaphor you can unintentionally slow/stop the reader. In order to keep the flow, in the text just before the strong metaphor, one should use another weaker, but complimentary metaphor or a simile. What this does is prepare the reader for the big one to come. So I revised the highlighted sentence (the one with the strong metaphor) to read:

He turned away from the window, shoulders hunched like an old crone, and once again felt the fat green worms of jealousy burrowing into his guts.

Or I could have used:

He turned away from the window, jaws in a vise-like clench, and once again felt the fat green worms of jealousy burrowing into his guts.

To be continued.......

Wednesday, August 03, 2016


The choir I was watching on YouTube was terrible. I could hear the whole group drifting flat right before my ears. Or should I say ear. I don't hear in stereo any longer but I'm betting with two good ears, it wouldn't sound any better.

As an antidote to the bad sound I looked up my high school, Daniel Mac in Winnipeg, which always had great choirs. A search for YouTubes of their performances yielded this lovely piece, Butterfly, sung by "Absolute Zero" the jazz group (Grade 12) student choir.

The song was written by Mia Makaroff, a Finnish composer of immense talent about whom you can read here.

Rajaton, a Finnish group, also has a beautiful recording and a more sophisticated jazzy arrangement of this song. What diction!

On a hot summer day, nothing sounds better than "The Christmas Song" in Finnish. I love
the sound of this language. By the way, Rajaton means "Boundless." Appropriate as this
group of six has a repertoire ranging from Queen songs to Mozart.

A Kitchen Fable starring a soup tureen, a cowardly artichoke and Calvin Klein

Months ago, I splurged and bought a soup tureen in the Blue Mandarin pattern by Calvin Klein. Do I need a soup tureen for the two of us? I'd say I need a soup tureen like a hole in the head, but I'm trying to eliminate cliche from my writing. The tureen has languished in the cupboard.

On refrigerator clean-out day, we had a left-over Costco chicken carcass to use up, which automatically meant soup for dinner. A huge artichoke had hidden in the vegetable compartment under the salad greens, but I found it, chopped off it's head and readied it for cooking. As I simmered the chicken bones for stock, I threw the cowardly artichoke into the pot out of laziness—one less pot to wash. 

When the soup was done, I heard a garbled sound coming from the cupboard.  "Use me, use me please!" The voice sounded strangely like Calvin Klein sucking on helium. At first, I thought it was just my tinnitus playing tricks but when I opened the cupboard door, the sound got louder and I knew for sure the near-desperate tureen was crying for action. Once I filled it up with soup, it seemed calmer—perhaps the warmth? Still, it didn't seem completely satisfied until I plopped the simpering artichoke into the middle. When the artichoke hit the soup, it opened slowly like a flower blossom in slow mo. Wait ... was that more sound coming from the tureen? I swear I heard a muffled Calvin Klein burp. On second thought, it was probably just the soup settling down—surely a classy guy like Calvin has never burped. 

The artichoke turned out wonderfully—little bits of herb, chicken and vegetables found their way between the leaves; the overall flavor, from steeping in the chicken stock, was great. The plain-Jane soup even seemed improved by it's short marriage to the artichoke (glutamates) and their honeymoon in the tureen.   

Instead of the usual cheap swill we drink, I opened up a more expensive bottle of swill for the special occasion! 

Moral of the story: Always check the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for hidden artichokes. Secondary Moral: Always wear earplugs when making soup. 

Tureen and soup

Tureen, soup and artichoke

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Bottom Shelf News

Another day at the Bottom Shelf, another slice of Fallbrook life.

One customer wants to use American Express; another offers a hundred dollar bill; the kids come in with sweaty pennies. Many people use their pocket change and scrape it out of the bottom of their purses or pockets ... linty, sticky but still spendable. Some come in without any money and put the books on hold.

Many customers give us a quarter when they buy a book for a dime. The marketer inside of me screams, "Why not sell the books for a quarter each?" Four for a dollar? I don't believe people care if it's a dime or a quarter. The kids might, but most adults barely perceive the difference. If there's a bit of change involved in our transactions, many people put it in the jar on the counter - charitable contributions to the library which most of them love. What better charity—the money goes directly from the jar to the library coffers where it's spent on:

  • Library summer reading program
  • Special collection purchases
  • Friends-sponsored events
    • Monthly music series
    • Annual Community Read
    • Art exhibits
    • Author appearances

We sell books on-line—these are the "rarer" books. All non-fiction books are checked on the ISBN checker for value. The machine rings a little happy chime when it detects something of value. Those books are the ones sold on-line on various sites.

After a year and a half on the job (18 half-days—this is a slow process), I've gotten to know the "regulars." We have cookbook collectors and people who collect specific authors. There are a couple of on-line book dealers who cruise the inventory regularly. The best regulars are the little kids who burst in the door and run right over to "their" book section, looking for new titles. I love it when you get a little hand stretched up to put money on the counter, the hand is attached to some tiny tot, probably not yet reading, but loving picture books or choosing something a parent can read to them. Some children head straight for the little kid chairs and table, grab a book and sit down to thumb through it. Future readers of America. They're like a ray of sunshine in the bookstore and liven things up considerably.

We have a "free" box where we put damaged books or books which we judge to have little interest to buyers. The other day I saw a Jane Fonda Exercise Video languishing in the box. Shelf space is limited and we cannot offer everything for sale. I check it out whenever I'm in there, because once in a while, there's a jewel.

I think we could add "book reviews" to the book shelves—reviews from the volunteers or simply copied from the web. We could also post a list of the award-winning books (Pulitzers, Bookers, Nation Book Award, PEN/Faulkner award, James Beard Award, Rita Award) somewhere that customers could consult. The Rita Award is for Romance Fiction  a hot item at the store—pardon the pun.

Here are a few recent Rita award winners, at which serious readers scoff, but which have made the authors a lot of money. Some of these writers have impressive literary credentials—MFA's and the like, but find better money and better audience response in the romance business. Fans of romance are generally voracious readers and consume multiple books per week. Certainly, this is borne out at the Bottom Shelf, where customers buy these titles by the dozen.

My favorite title: No doubt as to what this book is about. 

The award winners could be marked with a sticky star or something to make them easy to spot on the shelves. Some people come in and want to browse; others want you to lead them directly to their selections. I wonder if anything we do other than the tried and true quarterly half-price sale would increase revenue significantly.

"Co-Editor" of the Bottom Shelf Volunteer Newsletter—a new job! Nancy and I have accepted the task of co-editing the publication, a job I'm thrilled to be doing. I haven't had a title in sooooo long and Co-Editor, even of the BS News, is something. We will edit, produce and distribute the letter for the Bottom Shelf volunteers, a limited but discerning audience to be sure. Woe to us if we overlook a typo or misplace a semicolon or misuse an ellipsis ... or further, to use an M-dash—instead of an N–dash*. I wonder if there's a style book? The newsletter contains useful information and reminders about procedures for the volunteers. Often, there's a bio of one of the volunteers. We're going to have to learn about Mail Chimp. What a challenge.

* Useful information learned at the writing workshop with Kit-Bacon. Note the correct use of these punctuation marks in the above text and forget about the 1300 blog posts I've written incorrectly. Knowledge is power.

Cousins and a Remodel

We've owned a condo in Oxnard at Channel Islands Marina for 40+ years. It was wonderful as a weekend getaway for many of those years; I lived in it for a while and it's been a rental for the past 25 years. The last tenants almost trashed it - what a mess. We decided the time was right to renovate and sell.

I found an excellent contractor up there, outlined the job and selected all the materials from Home Depot so he could pick them up and take them to the job. He worked straight through in order to get everything done before the summer is over and the market cools. He's the best contractor I've ever worked with...he actually does what he says he's going to do. What a concept. 

Kitchen before. Formica everything. Plastic covered fluorescent lights,

On the way up to Oxnard, we stopped in West Hills for a quick visit with our cousin once removed (who is Richard's cousin's daughter) and her boys - our cousins twice removed.
Jacarandas were in bloom all over the valley.
Liam, a two-year-old cousin twice removed. Dimple Dude TR. 

Liam has a cheerful personality and he follows instructions from his mother to the letter. A time-out is a true time-out. He sits quietly in the corner until mom allows him to return to his two-year-old agenda, which is very busy and takes him from here to there and back with lots of running and laughing involved. No terrible two's. He has a hilariously hearty laugh - no kiddie giggles.

Five-year-old cousin Rowan, twice removed, in his karate suit. We learned you cannot start Karate lessons until you're out of diapers. If you're in diapers, no Karate - something to remember as you age. 

Rowan and his legos.

Enjoying every minute, playing fire and firemen. I'm holding the fire and crying "Help! Help!" The boys are rescuing me.

Here's how the condo looks week's end, the" stager" will do her work, I'll take more photos and the property will be on the market.

New cabinet and tile floors and baseboards

Stainless steel farmhouse sink and granite counters.

New sliders.

Mirrored closet doors

Light grey paint, wood floor, new baseboards, new windows and sliders throughout.

Kitchen, after the remodel. Appliances arrive today. All new. What a difference.