of publix, soup, & chocolate…

We had a new Publix grocery store open, recently. Everyone in Clemson knew it was coming, of course, because they ripped up and reformed a whole section of land in a hole-in-the-wall section of Tiger Boulevard. Some were aware because of the construction traffic, others because their bank informed them they would be moving to the new plaza. And then, eventually, the ads came in the paper for the Opening Day.

The last time I was at a Grand Opening for a grocery store, I was in Australia, and took my kiddos there twice in one day, and they got balloons and were oh-so-excited about it. I tried to block out this memory enough that it wouldn’t bother me much, when I got to the new Publix. If you break down in tears, in the middle of a store, people will think you’re nuts!DSC_0475

I waited a few days, and then went to see what it looked like. Fortunately, I remembered in time that they were probably still going overboard with their “We’ve Just Opened!” friendliness, so I braced myself. Sure enough, a line of managers were greeting everyone at the door, along with someone dressed up in a dinosaur costume. If I was a little kid, I would’ve been horrified by the costumed greeter, instead of enthralled. As it was, I hurried past the greeting committee, hoping to stay unnoticed while I wandered.

Fat chance. It seemed that in every aisle I went down, someone in a dress shirt and tie would greet me and ask to help me, and I managed to smile and say “no”, when I wanted to tell them to go away. Come on, I just want to wander and think and be left alone! I’ll ask you if I need help! You may think I’m a crank, but seriously, the cheerfulness can be taken too far, and how can you ever see anything if people are constantly stopping you? No, I can’t find anything, because you won’t let me look!DSC_0483

And then, I came to a halt in the International Food section, staring at a small section of shelves, loaded with what was mostly British treats and sweets. But among other things, I found Mars bars and chocolate-covered Turkish Delight. I became excited, and even hoped to find Vegemite, but no, all they had was a small container of Marmite (British version of Vegemite).

I waffled over what to get, after wandering the whole store, and eventually came back for the chocolate candy. That was after I had ascertained that they had every imaginable thing in the frozen food section, like pot pies and pizzas, but not a meat pie to be seen. It was a sad sight. After getting the chocolate, I remembered one other thing that I had run across earlier.

My shopping expeditions do not usually have me looking closely at anything that’s labeled “organic”, but I accidentally came across the organic soups. And after staring for a moment, the butternut squash soup finally caught my attention. Once the wheels began to turn, I realized that this was probably the only “pumpkin” soup that I would ever find in an American grocery store. Because our squash is Aussie pumpkin, and I still haven’t figured out what their green pumpkin is, in the United States. But butternut “pumpkin” soup? I had to take it home and try it, even if it was organic and more expensive than it should be.DSC_0480

Once I got home, I tried out the candy, cutting up the Turkish Delight so that my brother could try it. I saved some pieces for my parents, too. It isn’t that I loved Turkish Delight, whether covered in chocolate or not, but I remembered it especially. When I first found it in Australia, I had always wondered what it was like, after reading about it in the Narnia books (and then seeing it in the movie). My first try of plain Turkish Delight was dreadful (it tasted like floral soap), but for some reason, Aussies really like Turkish Delight in their chocolate. Cadbury puts it in some of their chocolate bars.

Mostly, my family wasn’t a big fan of it, but I hadn’t really expected them to be. I just wanted them to have a chance at trying it. It’s not something I could bring home in my suitcase, because it would have melted. And the texture of “jelly” is different than many of our gummy or jelly candies. It’s a bit thicker than a gum drop but softer than a gummy bear. I wanted them to have one small experience that I had, while I was away.

The Mars bar… I’ve never been sure, but I think it’s somewhere between a 3 Musketeers bar and a Milky Way. No, I didn’t look it up online, so I’m exactly sure of the difference. But it was just something that I had pretty often, when I was overseas. A memory triggered by taste.DSC_0485

The soup was wonderful. It doesn’t really look like much in the pictures, but to someone who got to eat it regularly for an entire year in AUS, this tasted fantastic. When there was a variety of brands to choose from, in Emerald, I eventually figured out which were the best-tasting of the canned ones, though the best type was really homemade. I should probably get a recipe from my Aussie friends and make it myself. Americans don’t know what they’re missing. I think they’re just put off at the idea of eating squash, because it’s a vegetable that not everyone is a fan of.

After escaping any number of Publix employees and managers, I took my few items to the register, and the bagger ( who had to be ten years younger than me) called me “hon”, several times. I’m not a fan of being called pet names, unless you’re close to me, or you’re a waitress in a diner (then, I put up with it). But then he offered to carry my bags out to the car for me, which told me that the managers had INSISTED that they offer this service to everyone. “Don’t take no for an answer!”, is what I can just imagine them saying.DSC_0484

Now, remember, I had two bags that probably weighed less than my Nikon camera. I told him I’d be fine, I could take them out myself. And then he tried again, a little more insistently. I almost got snappish with him (almost), and practically had to snatch my grocery bags from him.

And before anyone decides to be silly and suggest he was being sexist, don’t think it. I’ve met managers like those that were probably drilling the “Don’t take no for an answer!” into their heads. He probably had it written into his contract to do that with everyone. I hope that if ANY person with a huge load of groceries came through, he would offer to help THEM, and not waste his time with my bags. My grocery bags had “heavy” things in them, like tweezers, cards, and soup. It took some muscles, but I managed.  : )

So, there you have it. The new Publix is open, everyone in there is excessively friendly and helpful, and they have some soup that I will have to go back and try again. I’ll avoid the chocolate, after this, because buying them is not good for my waistline or for my wallet.DSC_0487

i almost started a style, once…

When my friends think of style, they don’t think of me. Which isn’t to say I look like a frump, but I don’t follow trends, and I lean more towards comfort than looking cool. Besides, cool is more of an attitude. I have friends and cousins who look fabulous in whatever they throw on, and it’s all because of how they wear it, not because of what they wear.

Nevertheless, once upon a time, I received several compliments on the coolness of my watch. They wanted to know where I had gotten it, because maybe they were thinking about whether they could get a trendy one for themselves. Probably in a more feminine style than the big clonking watches that I usually wear. But for a moment or two, I felt the thrill of how a trend could start. Of course, it being me, it didn’t.

You’ve heard me talk about the type of watches I like to wear. You’ve seen the pictures. At the moment, I’m back to wearing my orange Casio, which I’ve probably been wearing for somewhere between 6-8 years, not including this past year when the band was broken, and I couldn’t afford a new one. Since I bought this one, I’ve had the entire watch replaced once, at no charge except shipping, and the watch band replaced twice. So, yeah, I put some mileage into these timepieces.

I’m narrowing down when I had another watch… maybe it was back in ’06. Instead of a rubber watch band, it was metal. Of course, it was big and clonky. No, not clunky. I clonk them into things, all the time, and they make a noise when they hit, because my watches are never small. So, my watch was big, clonky, water-proof, and shock-proof. But after some time, I found that it wasn’t corrosion-proof.

Between the watch band (which was replaceable) and the watch face, right under the pins, the sweat from my hand and run-ins with cleaning supplies had started to corrode the metal. In order to get these big guy-watches that are impossible to break or bust, I usually pay more than a minimal cost, so I rarely want to pay money to replace one. But what to do, when this part of the watch couldn’t be replaced?

If there’s a solution to a problem, in a cheaper fashion, I will find it. Whether it’s hammering a nail into a wall with a rock, using pieces of cardboard to balance a table, or using black duct tape to cover sharp edges on a counter top, I’ll figure it out. Of course, I have worked for people with little common sense who think I’m brilliant, but rather than get a swelled head, I just figure that common sense is an excellent thing. And being low-maintenance isn’t bad, either.

I took some cheap bandanas, you know, the navy and white (or red and white) varieties, and cut them up into a small “H” shape, but with a wide piece for the middle of the “H”. Wide enough to fit under the watch face, and long enough on the “legs” to wrap around each side of the watch. Then, using a combination of miniature safety pins, knots, and/or super glue (which works fabulously on fabric), I tied those bits of bandana onto the underside of my watch.

And, of course, over time, the edges frayed, and began to give my watch a really cool look. When the first fix-it job fell off, I replaced it with a different color bandana, and those edges began to fray, as well. My friends wanted to know where I got such a funky looking watch. Being the helpful person I am, I explained the delightful aspect that corrosion and sweat had played in the creation of this phenomenal style, and caused all my friends to laugh.

I don’t think any of them ever tried the bandana wraps on their own watches, but since most of my girl pals wear pretty little delicate watches that don’t hold up to anything, I suppose it doesn’t matter. I almost caused people to think about following my “trend”, for once in my life, and that was enough for me. Eventually, I did have to give up on my old watch, but I don’t remember if it was because I ran out of bandanas, or because the battery died again.

If I’m lucky, my Casio watch will last me for another ten years. I give it a break, on Sundays, I promise! I wear a proper, sparkly watch bracelet, which I bought for my Bahamas cruise. I really do know how to dress up. And don’t misunderstand! I’m a girl that loves to dress up, and I even wear jewelry with my work clothes (have to get over that awful work shirt, somehow). But I will still prefer a watch that can stand up to the beatings I give it. I’d waste a lot of money, otherwise.

out with the old glasses, in with the new…

There was an actual point to my day with the aviators, remember? I had to have my eyes checked and dilated. Of course, nothing was wrong with them, and my prescription hadn’t changed much. But I still needed a new prescription, in order to get more contacts. That’s why I haven’t worn them much, lately, because I was saving my last pair.DSC_0911

My old glasses aren’t in very bad shape, but they had picked up a handful of annoying scratches, over the last five or six years. And some of the purple paint is coming off. So, I was ready for something new. Here, you can see one of my recent self-portraits, with the old ones. Also, I was reveling in feeling pretty, all dressed up for church. I don’t get to feel that every day, at work.  : )  And the great thing about self-portraits is you can make as many ridiculous faces as you want, in order to get a good one. There’s no one on the opposite end of the camera to tell you how ridiculous you look. Or to tell you to hurry up, for that matter. DSC_0902

The new glasses arrived, and I’m still getting used to the new look. As you can see, they’re quite a noticeable blue… at least I think so. I have yet to have a single college student say anything, but I figure it’s because they’re either unobservant or afraid they’re wrong about them being new. Ever commented on someone’s “new” hair style, and then found they’d had it for two months? Yeah, that. Such a fun feeling.IMG_8822

IMG_8820But while I was at the eye doctor’s, before my eye dilation reached complete blindness, I really liked how this one pair looked, compared to the others. The others were either “blah” or just like the old ones. And I didn’t even touch the bigger frames or the see-through ones. I like different frames that make you look like you’re wearing them. If I want my glasses to be invisible, then I just wear contacts.  : )  I think (or at least hope) that these frames make my eyes “pop”. DSC_1000

DSC_1002What do you think? These pictures didn’t completely satisfy me, just taken by the natural light coming through my window on an almost-snowy day. I hope to take some better ones, soon, but the closeups were necessary to show off the funky frames. DSC_1003-001

P.S. Now, here I am on the following Sunday (a week after the first set of Sunday pictures). The sky is a clear blue which makes for great natural lighting, except the glare can wash you out and reflect off the new glasses. So, how to take advantage of the beautiful day AND still get a fairly decent picture? Try out every piece of shade in the front yard that doesn’t have a backdrop covered in spiderwebs. You know, the brick wall on the front porch, the wooden arbor, or the one strip of shade under the oak tree. DSC_1025

I couldn’t completely cut out the glare in every photo, but I like how our flag is reflecting off my glasses in the first picture. The rose arbor (minus any roses, at present) makes for some more interesting patches of sunlight, trying to catch you unawares. And once I was out in the open, under the oak tree, the wind began to pick up, causing some strange reflections of my hair, off the camera and onto the glasses (I think). Those aren’t shown here. I looked like I had spider legs for my lower eyelashes, which is a very creepy effect.DSC_1027

Overall, I think I think I’m satisfied with how these look, and that you can really see the glasses. Because of how they’re dark blue on the front and light blue on the inside, I find that sometimes, they look dark enough to be black. And then I step into the outdoors, and they light up. It’s very strange and fun, at the same time. DSC_1029

it’s definitely a tiger town…

It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, and as usual, I had no plans. Or should I say, no good excuses. So, I drove onto the Clemson campus, parked behind Sikes Hall, and headed for the downtown. I admit it, I was seriously tempted by all the activities happening on Bowman, but I do NOT play Ultimate in jeans. Either I overheat until my head explodes, or the absence of a belt prevents any running. Actually, last time I played Ultimate in jeans, my Aussie friends and I went swimming in the ocean… during their “winter”. DSC_0859

Besides, I had set myself a goal of going into the downtown to take photos, and I couldn’t allow myself to be sidetracked. Even for Frisbee. You may now “Ooh” and “Aah” over my self-sacrifice.  : )  The weekend before, I had intended to go downtown, but the sunny skies were only above my house. By the time I was finished with lunch, the clouds were everywhere and a few flakes of snow were even falling.DSC_0858

And so, as you already saw, I passed Mell Hall and took notice of the statue in front of that building, before waiting for the light to change. Of course, during the whole walk past Bowman, I was debating what angle to take my initial photographs from. How to capture the Subway corner? Or Mr. Knickerbocker, on the other side? There are always cars streaming through the lights, and the best location to take a photo would probably be in the middle of the road. Since I’m not interested in dying for the art of photography, I had to take the next best option.DSC_0860

I didn’t end up taking a picture of the Subway corner until later, since I didn’t like my angle from in front of Mell Hall, with all the cars driving past. Once I’d crossed over, I paid more attention to Mr. Knickerbocker and the Zen Den. No, I don’t actually know what the Zen Den is, though I seem to remember seeing a sign with more details. It’s one of the “newer” places that I’ve never been into.DSC_0861

Mr. Knickerbocker, of course, is one of the many places you can get Clemson clothing and paraphernalia. You know, one of the places I never go into, because the only Clemson item that I own is the tiger paw decal on my car. : ) Which I might have bought at the grocery store, several years ago. Unlike friends of mine, who own nothing but Clemson clothing. Absolutely nothing. I’m always shocked when they wear clothes that aren’t orange or purple, because my dear friends TRULY bleed orange.DSC_0862

As I walked past the Loose Change eatery/restaurant, I wasn’t keen on taking pictures of it, because they have open windows with people sitting in them. I try to not take closeups of anyone, while on photo explorations like this. Instead, I took a picture of all the Clemson gear for sale, out in front of their next-door neighbor… and I’ve forgotten what place that was.

Below the Zen Den, you’ll find Hair South, which is a hair salon that’s been there for eons. Or at least, as long as I can remember. My mom and I used to go there to have our hair done (I had a lot of highlights put in, in my early twenties), and knew all the hairdressers, and at one point, I cleaned the place for them. You know, back when I had my own cleaning business, and shocked people by working in shorts, in the winter. And I mean the winters when it was actually a bit cold outside. Sometimes we don’t even have those.DSC_0863

If you had any idea how HOT people keep their homes and businesses, you would understand why I wore those shorts! It wasn’t because I was going through a phase like I did in middle school, when I really did wear shorts to school, all year-round. I never forgot the time I got sick and my dad picked me up from school on the motorcycle. Now, THAT was cold.

But anyway, that was several renovations ago for Hair South, and my favorite hairdresser isn’t there anymore. Ok, I visited her about once a year, but she’d known me for quite a few years!DSC_0865

The Tiger Sports Shop… I always think it looks like a movie theater. Tigertown Graphics… I think that’s been there for a while, but I’m betting they’ve remodeled a few times, too. And, then there’s the Tiger Town Tavern. I’m trying to remember, but I think when I was in my mid-twenties, I went in there to give my brother his keys. And ran right back out again. No, I don’t frequent the bar scene in Clemson, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Not only does the taste of alcohol not thrill my soul, but there are too many strangers for me to handle in these places.DSC_0866

Judge Keller’s Store. I had to go look a few things up on the ClemsonWiki, as I wasn’t sure of the details. Most Clemson residents or students will just tell you that it’s been there forever. Apparently, back in 1899, the first Keller opened the store across the street from the present location, but in 1936, they built the present brick building. Three generations of Kellers have run the store, with the original selling cadet uniforms, and the present Keller selling Clemson clothing and other Clemson gear.DSC_0868

Across from Judge Keller’s is the Student Book Store, but since they sell stuff that only interests students, even a bookworm like myself doesn’t go in there. I haven’t been inside it since 1998 or some such year.DSC_0869

At this point, I crossed the street, and walked back up to Mr. Knickerbocker, looking for a better shot of the Subway corner. As I did so, I was reminded of the crosswalk rules all over Clemson (it’s probably state law) which gives pedestrians the right of way. You have to be careful that no student walks out in front of you, if you aren’t paying attention. But when I used to go to Bob Jones University to visit my cousin, I had to remember that cars had right of way. That’s why when I would stop and let them cross the road, the BJU students would look at you like you were either crazy or a miracle. It always struck me as incredibly funny.DSC_0870

Now that I’ve taken the photos of the Subway on the corner, with all the brick buildings that may have been there since Judge Keller’s was built (I can’t be sure of that), it occurred to me that there are other restaurants on that corner. I only glimpsed some kind of oyster bar, the other day, but I didn’t look too closely. So, even after this whole post, there are still places in the downtown that I know nothing about.DSC_0871

Back down the street towards the Tiger Town Tavern, and you can see across to the Pita Pit and Firehouse Subs, which are relatively new. I remember when Moe Joe’s Coffee used to be where Firehouse Subs is, and I haven’t figured out where Moe Joe’s moved to, as I think it’s still in Clemson. Somewhere. But you can see where the “high-rise” starts, which was built a few years ago, and includes the Downtown Parking Garage. I think they had to change some city laws to allow it to be built that high. Yes, two stories used to be as high as it went, I’m pretty sure.DSC_0872

The Burger Joint is just up from the Hallmark, which are just down the hill from All In Coffee and McClure’s Book Shop, if you remember them from my previous post about the downtown. I had just paid some bills, so I decided against visiting the coffee shop, though I was sorely tempted. The Burger Joint is relatively new (I think), while any student knows that the Campus Copy Shop has “always been there”.DSC_0873

The First Baptist Church, followed by Fort Hill Presbyterian, was built on the location that housed a Real Estate Agency for most of my childhood. It was in a shack, as I recall, and they held out for a huge asking price, being the last hold-outs before the big downtown fixer-ups.DSC_0875

And after a bit more of a walk, I finally reached the Astro III. It looks so dilapidated and abandoned. Since I have four brothers and taking five kids to the movies isn’t cheap, we spent quite a few hours there, when we were growing up. Sometimes, I would take my baby brother to see a kids’ movie while the older boys went to an action movie (hey, I like action movies, too, don’t freak out on me). When the shorter movie ended, we would go play on the playground, next door, until the other one ended.DSC_0876

I crossed the street and checked out the shops behind the ‘Stro, but The White Rabbit was no longer there. That was a fun little shop that used to be owned by acquaintances of ours, but I guess things didn’t work out. The little clothing place that is there now, it was nice, but much too trendy for me.DSC_0877

DSC_0878After passing the Astro again, I wanted to know what had happened to the old playground. Did it used to be named Jaycee Park? I don’t remember. What I do know is that it used to be about five times the size of the thumbprint playground that’s there now. No, I’m not exaggerating. When they fixed up that whole section, they moved the road, and put in some sort of amphitheater and fountain walk on the other side of the road, while leaving the teeniest playground.DSC_0881

DSC_0879Of course, with no Astro anymore, maybe it’s useless, but I’m still miffed about it. We used to play on the swings, the jungle gym, several other playground mainstays, and even in the creek. There was plenty of room to run around and a number of picnic tables for me to sit at, with a book, if I didn’t feel like chasing after my cousins/brothers, at the time. The present Jaycee Park is not the park that we grew up with.DSC_0882

DSC_0883I should’ve crossed back over to see that new Palmetto Shades place, next to the Campus Copy Shop, but by then, the sun was really beating down and giving me a headache. Can’t wear my sunglasses until I get my new stash of contacts to wear. And yes, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit leery about wearing my Akubra into Clemson. It would definitely stand out, and I don’t like to be stared at, especially when I have something else to concentrate on (like taking photos).DSC_0884

DSC_0885When I reached the parking garage, I headed up the hill to take a look around. I found another church behind it, too, and began to wonder how many churches we have packed into the downtown of Clemson. I mean, I know that we have them everywhere in the South, but I didn’t know the downtown had ROOM for 4 or 5 full-size churches. And I mean in the DOWNTOWN, not just somewhere around the campus, to serve the students. Maybe my definition of what the downtown consist of is incorrect. I suppose it could go all the way down to the Mellow Mushroom, across from Fike, but I really thought it stopped at the Subway corner.DSC_0886

DSC_0887While shading my eyes from the sun, and squinting hard, trying to make out the Bronze Tiger and Sassy’s, a mini-van pulled up next to me. The passenger asked me if I knew where Spill the Beans was, but I wasn’t any help. Another coffee shop? Had I missed it somewhere? When I emerged from behind the Pita Pit, I veered around the Student Book Store, curious to see if the bike shop was still there, as well as a magazine/book store. Yes to the first, no to the second. And I found Spill the Beans, while I was at it.DSC_0888

DSC_0889I watched a sturdy toddler climb the steps determinedly, with her mother following her, and wished I could find that mini-van again, and correct my directions to them. Instead, I went and attempted to take some artistic photos of the fun-looking yellow fire hydrant (why is it yellow, instead of red?). When I walked back around the corner, the mini-van passed me again, and I directed them to the proper location. I’ll have to go there sometime and try out both the coffee and the ice cream. Preferably when I have some money.  : )

DSC_0890As I looked up the road, towards the Subway corner and Bowman Field, I remembered that there used to be a barber’s shop with their striped candycane-looking pole inside one of those doorways. I think it’s somewhere behind Judge Keller’s, now.DSC_0891

DSC_0892When I was waiting for the light to change again, I finally noticed one of the restaurants that is next to Subway. I have never been into TD’s and have no idea what they serve. My older brother would know, of course. He knows everyone and where everything is, in Clemson. But what fun is getting a tour, especially from someone who would find it a drag? It’s much more fun to look around and discover things on your own. Or with a friend, if you have one that is interested in such things.DSC_0893

DSC_0894And as I walked past Bowman, again, I noticed again the blue, blue sky (that picture is untouched, except for the vignette around it). Guess what else I saw? Future Clemson students, running after that soccer ball.DSC_0895DSC_0896

withered pages from another world…

My original intent in going to the antique stores was to look through the books, and hope that I would luck out, coming across a book or two by Elfrida Vipont. Having just finished reading The Family at Dowbiggins, I felt that I needed to pay more intention to the tomes scattered around the antique establishments. Of course, I had forgotten how much patience is required to look through all of them, because they’re all in similar colors, barely any of them have dust jackets (disintegrated long ago, I’m sure), and there are many repeats.

Do not misunderstand me, I like to look at books in any format, old or new. But the next time you complain about having to pay a huge price for that out-of-print book that you bid on, off of eBay, think again. Some of those books, the sellers may have come across by accident. But if they know of a book that’s selling like hotcakes, and near-to-impossible to find, then they must be digging through all the used books that are available to them.

So, I looked at all the shelves of books, but I found myself taking in one whole shelf at a glance, because they all seemed to blend together. Finding another Dowbiggins book would be a miracle. But occasionally, I noticed something interesting and took a closer look. Like this book of stories about famous or great women. I was curious to see who would be listed in the table of contents, anybody besides who’s on the cover? And I found a very lovely inscription, written a LONG time ago by someone’s grandmother. Who still remembers the times when you received a new book, with a note from the person who gave it, inside it? Not many of us.

My wandering eye did begin to take note of the other fun items in the stores. This Asian dragon monstrosity, for example, as it sat right next to a child’s rocking-cow (as opposed to a rocking-horse). I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or run away screaming. But the Noah’s Ark! Now, I’m not a collector of Noah’s Ark designs, like some people I know, and I had no desire to collect this one. It was like no other that I’ve seen before. I thought it was very whimsical, with the bears in hammocks, the pigs helping Noah out, and the raccoons assisting Mrs. Noah. The elephants, too, were being helpful by passing hay from top to bottom. Some of the small details really made me smile.

Once I left Mountain Made, I was again grateful that I had worn my Akubra, for the sun was beating down unmercifully. I felt sorry for everyone that didn’t have a hat like mine to wear, and received at least one compliment, in passing. And then I walked into two stores, in a row, that had no air conditioning. Sure, they had tons of fans blowing, but I wasn’t certain if I’d survive to get out of the first one, because the fans just circulated lots of hot air. The poor man working in there should’ve gone and bought himself an AC unit, no matter how much the cost.

My final stop was in a store that could come somewhere between a junk store and an antique store. Everything’s old, so I guess it makes them all antiques, but the sheer amount of stuff that I could only classify as junk! But then, some will call treasure what I call trash, I suppose. There was an AC unit built right into a shelf, amidst all the antiques, and it looked ancient, too, minus a For Sale tag on it. It blew around cool, but a musty old smell, which would leave you in no doubt of your location, even if you were blind.

Once I stepped down into the back room, I really had some fun, though. The giraffe amongst the pottery was interesting, the old bug sign on the shelf was funny, and I immediately coveted the card catalog row of drawers. I’ve always loved the look of a card catalog, so I really want one, someday, with those “poles” down the middle of the drawers removed. Such a place to store things!

If you’ve ever wondered where the wooden blocks of your childhood or the microscopes from middle school went, then I found them for you. Also, old wooden clothes pins, strange gears and racks of things, and beat up harpsichords. I know some people that would go all Martha Stewart and Pinterest designing with some of the items. I like to look and see if there’s an odd use I can get out of something, but not always in a design fashion. And I love old furniture, especially the desks with teeny little drawers in the back (if it’s in good condition, of course).

And so, my book expedition really ended up being an exploration of a number of things. I even passed the small Farmer’s Market that takes place in Pendleton, some days of the week, but didn’t stop to look. I was afraid I might cave in and buy something, since the jars of honey, jam, and all sorts of baked goods and fresh fruit looked too scrumptious for words.

i hate lightbulbs…

You know, I like Lowe’s. That’s not a slam against Home Depot, I actually enjoy most hardware stores, especially if they have even more than just tools in there. Nor am I knocking tools. I get a kick out of owning my own tools. When I lived alone, it was MY tape measure, not one that I had borrowed from my neighbor. And I had TWO hammers to choose from, for crying out loud! Along with the rest of my complete tool set that my mom bought me.

Of course, my house projects usually included hanging pictures, and leaving extra holes in the wall if I didn’t get it lined up properly, the first time. But the day that I hung three framed as-tall-as-I-am posters on the wall, spaced them properly, and did all the measuring and lifting on my own… that was a special day. Nobody needed to know that it took fifteen tries to get my Lord of the Rings poster (or was it Star Wars?) on that teeny hook. And they were all level with each other, by golly!

Anyway, when I got to Lowe’s, all I wanted was a multiple outlet strip and, possibly, a light bulb. Can I just tell you, if I’d gone in there for JUST a light bulb, it would have ruined my day. I’m already completely nauseated by the fact that our government has outlawed the good old Thomas Edison bulb, so it didn’t help to see a few light bulbs that looked NORMAL being sold as “vintage”, while they were more expensive. After that, the new bulbs don’t seem brighter than the old ones, at first, but I find them blinding. If you have a ceiling fan with 3 or 4 bulbs in it, forget being able to look towards the ceiling again.

Without even mentioning the possible dangers involved with breaking one, I then have to look at all the wattage amounts and somehow figure out that a 60 watt normal bulb converts into a new bulb 23 watt (or something like that). And that’s before you add in the screw-on bulbs and the ones with… metal bolt doohickeys on them.

By the time I left the bulbs behind, I think I had a permanently confused/peeved expression on my face, which is why the next two store employees asked if I needed help finding something. But no, I like wandering, so I went through the appliances and the storage/shelving section, before looking for extension cords. Shelves mean places to put books (or a handy-dandy place to keep something my 2nd amendment protects). I could spend a long time looking at shelves, if I had money to spend on them.

I did have to ask for help to find the surge protectors, because they were hiding them in plain sight, on the end of one of the aisles. What happened to putting extras on display at the end, but keeping them in the regular section, too? I don’t think that’s quite fair. Like many people before me, I felt a bit idiotic for having missed them. But at least I was in the right place.

My brief foray into the beating hot sun complete, I returned home to see if my light bulbs would fit into onto my ceiling fan, and hoping I’d picked a dim enough one. It’s bad enough I can only use 2 of the 3 sockets, because three is way too bright. Turns out, they work just fine, I can’t look at the bulbs at all, because they’re brilliant. And I happened to get those ones that are supposed to look like “daylight”, which left my brain confused over how it could look like the sun was out, when the shades were closes. Oh, well. Light bulbs just won’t let me win.

the joys of brick and mortar…

The day that the last Barnes & Noble book store closes will be a sad, sad day. I pray that this day never comes, but with the closing of Borders and other stores, it could possibly be in our future. Don’t get me wrong, I love small bookstores, antique book stores, and used book stores. If they sell books, then they have my love, pretty much guaranteed. But there’s nothing like getting a coffee and wandering through a huge store full of NEW books. I love the smell, the variety of subject matter, the array of color, and even the sections full of journals, games, music, and stationery. It just makes me happy!

Of course, this is coming from the owner of a Kindle Fire, and now that I own one, I don’t think I’ll ever be without one. But I see it as an addition to owning books, full of all the gimmicks you’d get on an iPad (apps for FB, e-mail, Angry Birds, etc.), but without the necessity of going over to the iEverything crowd. I shop on Amazon, download music from them, and (in general), dislike the layout of iTunes. So, the Kindle Fire fits my needs, and I can satisfy some of my book buying urges by downloading endless amounts of free books.

When I drove my brother to the airport, my plan for the evening was to visit the Barnes & Noble. I hadn’t been in a while, and I needed my actual-paper-book and coffee fix. And even when you aren’t treating yourself to Starbucks mochas and lattes, you can get a regular coffee, and add enough nutmeg and cinnamon to make it seem special. So, I nursed my wonderful cup of coffee, and began to peruse the merchandise.

You’ve probably heard this before, but yes, I always start at the front, making my way through the new stuff and the bestsellers, looking to see if I’ve missed anything, when looking online. Then, I steadily progress past all the wooden tables on the center aisle, stopping to look at items of interest, chuckling over stuffed Spiderman dolls that are offered with all the movie gear, and feeling sorry for some of the school kids, when I see the school reading table.

I hated everything they ever made us read in school, but I noticed that some Tolkien and other books of interest were included in the collection… which made me wonder which awesome school let you read The Lord of the Rings for English Literature. Then again, if they follow the normal rules of English classes, is it possible to make a class HATE Tolkien, because they generally succeed in making kids hate everything else that they study? I still shudder at the sight of Lord of the Flies, Jacob Have I Loved, 1984, and The Call of the Wild. I always have a slight feeling that I shouldn’t hate a book that won a Newbery Medal, but 8th or 9th grade ruined Jacob Have I Loved for me. And with Jack London being a classic American author, and considering I like the movie White Fang, I have an idea that I should give his books another chance. But I never do, because with all the other things to read out there, why would you go back to something you absolutely abhorred?

Since I find the Paranormal Romance section to be a laugh, I skirted the Young Adult Fiction, this time around, figuring that I’d give it a better look some other time. I know there’s some good stuff buried in there somewhere, but at the moment, it’s hidden by all the vampires, werewolves, mermaids, demons, and I don’t remember what else.

Instead, I started in the Politics & Current Events shelves, found that they had nothing I hadn’t seen (or wasn’t reading already). Having just finished Jonah Goldberg’s newest book, I’ve continued on to Jason Mattera’s Hollywood Hypocrites, with plans to finally read Goldberg’s previous book, Liberal Fascism, sometime soon. And if you’re waiting for me to commentate on these books, you’ll have to be patient. I like to write up several books at once, so aside from telling you that I loved The Tyranny of Clichés, you can just continue to be patient.

I really wanted to look at Military History, until I got stumped by it. You see, my recent reading of Rilla of Ingleside gave me an extreme interest in World War I history, but the bulk of military history books are about World War II. Nothing wrong with that, and a book store will sell what is most popular. But I found myself glaring at HALF of one shelf, with the only WWI histories they carried. Which book on the Great War would I pick?

Then, I cheated. Sort of. Yes, I was in Barnes & Noble, but I had my Kindle with me, so I turned it on, and went to the B&N website. It still wasn’t finding what I wanted, so I committed the cardinal sin of looking up what I wanted on Amazon. While in a Barnes & Noble. I know, you’re shocked. But I finally started getting some reviews on the handful of books I was staring at. The World Crisis: 1911-1918, by Winston Churchill, i supposed to be a phenomenal history, but not recommended for first time readers of the subject. Likewise with the other 4-5 general histories they had. It’s been suggested that A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918, is the place to start. Of course, you can’t look up WWI without coming across Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Guns of August. So, there’s much to take in, and too much can be overwhelming.

I decided to settle for less than a history, for now. But if you’ve ever read Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, to get a good view of the battle of Gettysburg, then you may see why I picked up Jeff Shaara’s To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War. You may find my interest in this subject to be odd, but as terrible as World War II was, the people that went into The Great War had no recent memories of what war was even like. The Civil War was only a memory to the elderly of that time, and the young people of Canada and America looked at this fighting across the ocean to be a place to find glory. It wasn’t right up in their face, like during the Civil War. But in World War II, the fighters of The Great War watched their children go to fight, and some of those children may have known (from their fathers) that war was not glorious.

Anyway… my meanderings brought me to Christian Fiction, where I picked up a new one of the A.D. Chronicles, by Bodie & Brock Thoene. I don’t read all of their books, but I really love this closer look into what it was like during the time of Christ. Some of the most well-known stories in the Bible get a second look, seeing what it might have been like to really see Christ and walk with Him.

Into the Children’s books, and after I managed to get past all the books about Brave, I was pleased by the huge selection that B&N carried. There’s a huge display of beautifully illustrated books, but I was captured by some of the ones that I read as a child. Nothing can beat Blueberries for Sal, Corduroy, and The Little Engine That Could (with the original illustrations). As I turned the pages of these books, I remembered what it was like to be a child, entranced by the pictures, while my mom read me the story. My memories of some of the words are more vague, but even when I was too young to read, I would look at the pictures endlessly. Watching the dolls and toys on the train, as they begged the passing train engines to help them get over the hill. Following Corduroy as he wandered around that dark mall, searching for another button for his overalls. These pictures are imprinted in my mind!

Amongst the books for older children, I continued to resist the newest book by Trenton Lee Stewart, because I want to get The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict after it comes to paperback. Something about the cover of The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, by Jeanne Birdsall, caught my attention. I think it’s a recent publication, but it reminded me of older books like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and others. Would it be as classic as those, or did it just look that way? The Water Seeker, by Kimberly Willis Holt, also looked to be a good read, as it follows the story of a boy, gifted with the ability to find water, on his journey across The Oregon Trail.

I wanted to find the sequel to The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling, by Maryrose Wood, but I couldn’t find even the first one. You may wonder why I don’t just pick these up on Kindle, but I don’t WANT to own everything on Kindle, now that I’m back in the U.S., and don’t need to save space. It’s more satisfying to turn pages and be able to see where the bookmark is, no matter how handy reading e-books might be. Besides, I have the first book in paperback, and I want a matched set.

While in the mystery section, which I don’t usually pay any attention to, I was looking to see if there were any new Georgette Heyers. That’s really the only reason I go into the Romance or Mystery sections, because just the covers of the romances make me feel slightly dirty when I come out again. Besides, someone might SEE me in there!  : )   But they didn’t have any new Heyers, so I stopped to examine some books by Tasha Alexander and P. J. Alderman.

Haunting Jordan (Alderman) seemed to have two mysteries, old and new, wrapped up in a tale of fixing up an old house that was home to some garrulous ghosts. I’m not usually into ghost stories, but just the term “garrulous ghosts” made me want to have a look. And I was curious about And Only to Deceive, from Alexander’s Lady Emily series. It seems to be tied up with an arranged marriage, a young widow, and the letters of her deceased husband, set in Victorian times. I think we’ll have to see if our local library carries any of these books.

Passing by the sales tables, on the way to the checkout, always leaves me with the desire to buy the brand new Calvin & Hobbes comic books. I want my own copies, but I also want to send a set to my Aussie girls. I can’t imagine growing up without the hilarity of Calvin & Hobbes, but they’re just not as popular over there. Using soft soap in public restrooms always reminds me of the one where Calvin tells his mom that he’s been saving up his boogers to donate, and then finds out that people don’t need them donated. Soft pump soap (as opposed to foaming soap) is slimy and gross, and I think that Calvin’s boogers may well have gone into the making of it.

And so, that finishes my book ramblings for the day. Now that I’ve finished reading Twelfth Prophecy, by Bodie & Brock Thoene, I have to figure out what else I want to read next. I’ll probably pick out another fiction story to rotate with Jason Mattera’s books. Enjoy your own summer readings, and let me know if there’s anything good that I need to look into!

just down the street from america’s mall…

Everyone says that if you’re going to visit Minneapolis, then you should go to see the Mall of America. Well, I’m about 20-30 minutes from it, so on Saturday, I reviewed the directions and drove thataway. There are millions of other places to shop, on the way, so I had to stop at a 2-story Kohl’s to see if they had anything new and interesting. I especially liked the size of their home furnishings section, which had some fun odds and ends. But with only a bedroom to my name, at present, I only browsed.

You can’t miss the Mall of America, unless you’re trying, because there are lit up signs for it, which probably shine brightly at night. Now that I think on it, I do remember seeing it when I was driving to Shakopee, almost two weeks ago. Considering all the wrong turns I’ve made (either because of signs that weren’t obvious, or I wasn’t paying attention) since I got here, the Mall has lots of really good signs, because they want all shoppers to get there, not stop elsewhere.

I had reviewed the layout of the Mall, on their website, so I headed for the East parking lot, because that was near to Barnes & Noble. Hey, I figured if the place was overwhelming, I’d go cool off in my favorite store. Besides, their B&N might be colossally bigger than any other… who knows? The Mall is situated right next to the airport, so from high up in the parking garage (the parking garages are bigger than some malls!), I could see planes coming in to land, right close by. I felt like I could almost wave at the passengers.

On the way inside, there were some huge sun shades pulled down over the glass walkway, but I crouched down to see out the bottom, and get a look at the parking garage itself. It’s about seven stories, though I suppose the ceilings aren’t as high as in the Mall, because it didn’t LOOK taller than the Mall. Who knows? At first, I thought there was a parking garage for each corner, but it turns out there are only two. Which is more than enough.

My immediate terror was that I might forget where I parked, and never, ever find my car… so I took a picture of the level and row numbers. What better way to check back, than review your photos? But knowing that I was in the Tennessee section, and directly across from the doors, wasn’t hard to remember. So, I paid attention to what restaurants (bars, actually) were right where I came in. Then, I unabashedly stared around at everything, and took pictures of the mall maps.

At first, I was a bit flabbergasted at the size of the stores, not the size of the Mall itself. The entrance decor to some of them was so much bigger than I’d seen in other versions of those stores. As the Mall is roughly in the shape of a square, with department stores on each corner, it was a bit daunting to see how big the department stores were. But as I didn’t really have any money to spend, I didn’t actually go into Nordstrom, Sears, Macy’s, or Bloomingdale’s. So, I can’t give you a complete description of the inside of them.

The power bill on this mall would be astronomical, but they deal with some of it for the main areas by having immense skylights light the whole area. Of course, when it gets dark out, they must have another light source, but I don’t remember what it is. I also read (on Wikipedia) that during the winter, aside from the entrances, the main areas aren’t heated, because the lights and the people create tons of heat. Individual stores have their own heat, but it even suggested that some areas have to run the air, because it can get uncomfortably hot where there are so many people. I’m still working that out in my head, how the people can create enough heat to defeat subzero outdoor temperatures, with no main indoor heating system.

Remembering that I read that every four out of ten guests to the Mall of America are tourists, I didn’t worry too much about taking pictures or peering over railings, to look down to the three floors below (I came in on the fourth floor section, on the East side). The Mall of America is the biggest mall in the United States, when you count the retail stores, but not the area (which is something like 96 acres). I still haven’t figured out which mall is bigger in area, though the company that owns it also owns the biggest mall in North America (that’s in Edmonton, Alberta).

Immediately after coming down the first escalator, I found a good view of the amusement park in the center of the Mall. It was very odd to see a water ride, several roller coasters, a swing ride, and a bunch of other stuff inside this building, lit by a million skylights. And from there, I started to walk through the food court, and discovered how dangerous a place this would be, if I wasn’t eating right. Endless fast food, mondo amounts of dessert places (gelato? chocolate? doughnuts? popcorn?), and then there’s the regular restaurants. Later, I would walk through the restaurant level, and wished I could try the burgers and everything else, at every one I passed.

Speaking of the restaurant row, it occurred to me that the Mall would be a really fun place to go on a date. No, don’t cringe, guys. You can meander along, being ignored by the crowds, pick up a super pretzel at Auntie Anne’s, ride a couple of roller coasters, get a coffee, peruse the books at B&N, and when you’re tired of wandering, sit down in a REALLY nice restaurant for dinner. Some were really high class looking eateries, and others were fun looking burger and wings places. The constant buzz of people gives you that feeling that you’re actually alone (like at an amusement park), because no one’s paying attention to you, amidst the crowd.

The Mall of America constantly exudes the feeling that you only get at Christmastime, in other malls. At those times of year, the world is out to shop til they drop, and you either join ’em, or do all your shopping online. But at this Mall, that feeling is common, minus the Christmas decorations. The crowd of people never lets up in the Disney Store, as the children explore all the fun toys and costumes. I would’ve loved that Merida (from Brave) costume, when I was little. And just approach the LEGO store, and you wonder if you’ll be able to get in. The huge LEGO statues above the store, the wall of LEGOs behind the registers, and the fun displays of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars toys… the fun never ends. But while you’re enjoying yourself, someone else is waiting their turn to see what you’re looking at, so you move on, and make your shopping decision while you walk.

If you get tired of all the “shoppingness”, you can always take the escalator downstairs to see the Aquarium. I only saw the signs for it, I didn’t go close enough to see it. But I’m sure there are plenty of people who only came to see the fish, so streams of people descended into the aquatic area. What other interesting venues does this mall hide? I’m sure there are more, but I didn’t notice them. And, of course, they’re working on Phase II of the Mall project, planning to build an ice skating rink, hotels, and a water park in the big open area outside of the Mall, just past the garages. I saw the open area, awaiting it’s future use, and read about the future of the Mall of America online.

After wandering around, looking inside a store, now and then, I took a break at the Barnes & Noble, which is actually no bigger than any other one I’ve been in. But their cafe definitely had a wider food selection, with quiche and soup, as well as all the coffee and desserts. I sighed inwardly, and got a regular coffee… and then made it more interesting by adding cinnamon and nutmeg.  : )  After getting my second wind (ok, I was only at the Mall for 2-3 hours), I headed back out for another look-see.

On my second round, I found myself no longer intimidated by the size of the Mall. In fact, It think my mind had pictured it as being even bigger. But I think part of the problem is that your mind can only take in one “wing” of the building at a time. So, you can’t comprehend the entire Mall into your view, but just one section at a time. And all the escalators and walkways that criss-cross each area, they make the place look smaller, I think. I had somehow pictured the openness of an atrium going straight up, with nothing crossing it, for the length of the Mall. Or at least, something like that was in my head. You know, picture the outside of two hotels, right up next to each other, they don’t have walkways between them, and they look immensely huge. That kind of look.

I don’t remember which part of the Mall it was in, but I saw lots of decorative glass pieces, hanging on long strands, and they would hang down for three stories. I was wondering how strong the wires had to be, and how they put it up there, without it getting tangled. Did they wire them one at a time, or carry it down a walkway, with a crane, and then have to untangle the whole mess?

All in all, I think I did manage to walk around at least two levels, entirely, and not all of it was on purpose. At one point, I thought I was on the fourth floor, and couldn’t figure out where to exit. When I finally realized I was on the third floor, I mentally slapped myself, and cruised on out the door.

So, if anyone comes to visit me, I will enjoy wandering the Mall with you, if you want, but there’s no harm if you aren’t interested. But I’m also not one of those shoppers that has to go into every store. I’d rather wander, just looking, and go into one, once in a blue moon. And just think of all the food there is to try! Ok, I think that’s the best part. You could go there every weekend for years on end, and eat somewhere different every time.

Now, I need to go back to straightening up my room. I trashed my bed in order to get my suitcase into my closet. It needs fixing, now. Oh, and I still have to finish reading Rilla of Ingleside. I’m so close to finishing, but I can’t stay up terribly late, when I get up at 5:45am. Just can’t be done. If you don’t hear from me sooner, have a marvelous Fourth of July!

my day for whatever…

When I was little, whenever I said “whatever” in response to someone, my parents told me I sounded like Miss Piggy. I didn’t really know what they were talking about, because I barely recalled her actually saying those words. Though now I realize that she DOES say that now and then. Perhaps I did pick it up from her, that noncommittal answer that expresses annoyance/frustration/confusion and a number of other things. But it doesn’t answer the question.

In this case, I’m using that word for the idea of this day being for whatever I want to do, not just a nonsensical or unnecessary response. Having finished my first week of work, I’m enjoying the freedom. Since I haven’t met anyone in town, yet, though I plan to meet lots of people at church, tomorrow, I can’t make a date with anyone. Can’t go to meet anyone for coffee. I don’t have rush anywhere (though if I could meet Imogen at Bogey’s, in Emerald, right this second, I would). Also, I really need to eat lunch before I leave the house, so I have a little over an hour before I’ll head anywhere.

At that point, I’m thinking of heading to the Mall of America, seeing as it’s only half an hour from here. I’ve reviewed the directions, it looks quite simple, and I’ve read that if I take ten minutes in every store, it’ll take me about eighty-two hours to finish looking in every shop. So, in that case, there’s no pressure. I’m not a serious shopper, more of a wanderer, so I can wander where I please, gawk all I want to, just soak up the insanity of how big that place is supposed to be… and then head back to Shakopee. No need to see it all, I have a year to do that, if I want to. I can do whatever I want to, today.

Meanwhile, I’ve promised myself that I’ll read some more of my book, which I’ve had very little time for, this week. A few minutes over my morning coffee (before I start working), and a few minutes in the evening, between checking everything online. Some days, my brain has been so out of it, I haven’t been able to concentrate on a book.

But a few days back, I started reading my favorite of the Anne series, Rilla of Ingleside, and since it’s been several years since I read it last, I’ve found my viewpoint has changed quite a bit. Perhaps it’s because I’m reading it on my Kindle instead of the actual book, but I’m reading bits that I’ve skimmed, in times past, and things are striking me differently than ever before.

Those of you that love Anne of Green Gables (and rightfully so), but have never read beyond it, you have no idea what you’re missing. Yes, I harp on this subject, regularly. The rest of the Anne books follow Anne and Gilbert’s courtship, engagement, separation while he’s in school and she’s teaching, and then their early years of marriage. New characters that are dear and wonderful arrive on the scene. What would life be like without the man-hater, Cornelia Bryant, (“that’s just like a man”) but who is still a part of “the race that knows Joseph”? Susan Baker becomes a treasured part of the household, though she is never a servant, and loves her “Mrs. Doctor dear”. Captain Jim brings his wisdom and storytelling to the scene and the mystery of the beautiful Leslie Moore must be solved.

Rainbow Valley changes the focus of the tale, introducing us to Anne’s children. L.M. Montgomery certainly knew what children were like, and the tales of Jem, Walter, Nan, Di, Shirley, and Rilla are already precious and entertaining. But not stopping there, onto the scene comes the children of the new pastor, motherless children who are often forgotten by their absentminded, yet wonderful, father. Demons for mischief, but they never mean any harm by it! To crown the scene of childhood adventures, the arrival of the orphaned, runaway Mary Vance shows the difference between harmless mischief and really, truly trouble. Perhaps someone will finally join in to exert some control over these wonderful, needy children?

This brings us to Rilla of Ingleside. The youngest of Gilbert and Anne’s children is Rilla Blythe, who is just about fifteen years old. Life is exciting to her, she has no ambitions beyond her first dance, and dearly as she loves her siblings, she doesn’t want to follow any of them to college. A trifle spoiled, one of the most beautiful of the Glen girls, she’s ready for life to continue to be a beautiful song, for years to come.

But hovering on the horizon is that specter called World War I, which they knew as the Great War. On the eve of Rilla’s first dance, England declares war on Germany. The young men of town are excited and thrilled, ready to volunteer and go to the aid of the mother country. The girls do not understand why this would be exciting, and why it should interrupt their lives. The young men are looking for the glory of it all. And young Walter Blythe, who has always had a keen eye for the beauty and the ugliness in everything, sees what this war could become, and trembles at the thought.

Not being that far into the book yet, I’m only just rereading the part where in the face of his friends and brothers’ volunteering in the armed forces, Walter confesses to his youngest sister, Rilla, that he is afraid of joining. He is hiding behind needing to get over the aftereffects of having typhoid, but in truth, he is completely well. Rilla does not understand why he should need to go, not understanding what the effects of this war will be.

During this time, the women of Glen St. Mary are just beginning to rally behind their boys, organize a Red Cross, and keep a steady, smiling face for their departing loved ones. Anne and Gilbert go about, being as brave as can be, but their smiles do not always reach their eyes. Anne is facing what only a mother can understand, sending her son to war, with a smile on her face. And during the rest of the book, we read along as Rilla goes from a flighty, slightly self-centered young girl to a woman, with a knowledge of true love and true loss. And though I’ve read this book many times, my heart continues to break for those who have lost their boys. Because these characters are written so that they’re real to me. It may be only a book, but I still tell you, if you’ve never read it (or any other Montgomery book besides Anne of Green Gables), you have led a deprived life. Rilla of Ingleside is one for the ages.

In real life, we should never forget the sacrifices of “our boys” from the war that’s happening now, to the wars of long ago. What we have in every country that is free is a direct result of their commitment and dedication, their sacrifice for their families and the country they love.

the ‘shock’ of the neighborhood…

I tell you, there’s nothing like checking your WP account, and your views have shot up to an average of 323 an hour… so you think, I’ve been Freshly Pressed! But wait a minute, last time that happened, they told me, and I knew about it first thing in the morning. So, I went looking for a notice about it, and didn’t find anything. Started searching the Stats and found that my “lullaby the baby to old broadway” post had received 1,500 views. Or so I thought. Further looking finally told me that I had received that many “views” because of… Burl Ives.

Yes, you heard that right. The singer who is probably best known (among my generation) for playing the Snowman in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. You know, the one that sang “Silver and Gold”, “A Holly Jolly Christmas”, and he was also the narrator for the stop-motion animated TV special. I put a picture of Sam the Snowman in that blog post, and that one got picked up on Yahoo, and eventually, 2,500 people had to look at it. But did one of them even go further than the picture? Not as far as I can tell, as I had no extra comments, “likes”, or follows, as a result. And that wasn’t even the main mention in the whole blog post? Can you just spell out chagrin and disappointment? I still haven’t figured out why the sudden interest, as it isn’t his birthday, nor the anniversary of his death. Also, he died about seventeen years ago, I think… so I have no idea what set that off.

Sorry, I had to let off some steam. That was not the original point of my post, but I hope you’ll forgive me. I just finished my second official day as a Minnesota nanny, I’m feeling a little more in control of things, and I’m not too tired at the moment. But if I want to blog, I have to do it NOW, because bedtime comes early when you have to get up at 5:45am.

You’ve heard plenty about the difference in words and pronunciation between Americans and Australians. Well, I’ve already dived headfirst into this subject, here in the state of Minnesota. For the last month or more, I was in talks with a family in Shakopee. During that entire time, our phone conversations never mentioned the name of the town, because we both knew it. When I talked to a friend of mine from MN, we spoke on Facebook or by text. So, yesterday, for the very first time, I discovered that I was pronouncing Shakopee incorrectly.

Actually, I thought my lady boss was teasing me, when she stopped me, mid-conversation. She needed to tell me that Shakopee is not pronounced “Shuh-KOH-pee”. The correct way to say it is “SHOCK-uh-pee”. For all my knowledge of American Indian names and places, because you’ll find them all over the place in the U.S., that one had never even occurred to me. Of course, I didn’t know it was an American Indian name, either. I think it’s an even more surprising pronunciation than “moe-kuh” and “mock-uh” ever were. By the way, I’m still having trouble pronouncing mocha and scone like the rest of America does, since I’ve been home. Australia had an effect on me.

Another adjustment to living in the Minneapolis area is that there’s shopping everywhere! Don’t laugh, I’m not suggesting that it’s torture or anything. But even when I was living in SC, there weren’t numerous Kohl’s, Pier 1’s, and Targets within an hour’s drive. I went for a drive today, to locate the Walmart and see what else is there. If I hadn’t missed my turn, I’d have been buying my chicken and broccoli within a few minutes. Instead, I got to get onto several highways, before I could manage to turn around.

That’s a disadvantage to a newbie in this area, not being able to turn around and come back, immediately, when you miss your turn. Thankfully, I have a fairly good sense of direction and a decent memory, so I can usually remember how to backtrack. Before anyone asks, I have not been to the Mall of America yet. If you really think I’m going to drive there for an hour and then come back, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I’ll save it for a Saturday when I’ve actually got some energy to spare. Just for walking! I know the place is huge!

I’ve already heard that we’re within an exit or two of Valleyfair, an amusement park that’s sister (or maybe brother) to Cedar Point, in Ohio. Maybe that will be an inducement to getting my brothers or cousins to come visit me, because when we used to visit our cousins in Michigan, we almost always went there. Roller-coasters and water rides, anyone? Come to see me!

While I was wandering around the Pier 1, before heading to Walmart, as always, I sighed over some of the awesome odds and ends. I don’t want a house completely decorated in items from there, but I sure wouldn’t mind having some accent marks, here and there, including their furniture. No, I’m not a huge fan of their fancy metal wall decorations or candle stands (mostly). But those soft throw blankets and pillows that Dani confiscates whenever she visits me, those come from there. And I’m not a pillow person. They have to be comfortable enough to lean on, not decorated so that they’re painful to the touch.

I also noticed several sets of fireplace irons (or whatever you call them), and for a moment, I was surprised that Pier 1 had them. And then I thought, oh yeah, we don’t need them in South Carolina. Of course they’d have some decorative ones up here. You know, I’ve been told it isn’t called “Minne-snow-ta” for nothing.

Walmart was slightly bewildering, as the food section is all out of order, compared to both PA and SC, and I was debating whether it was bigger, or if the aisles are just larger. If so, why? It’s not like they need to plow the aisles of the grocery store, right? And after Pennsylvania, where you have to get beer or malt coolers from a liquor store, I expected MN to be the same. But no, that changes from state to state, not just because you’re in the north. There were definitely alcoholic beverages in this store. And in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t like beer, but I do like some malt coolers.

Yesterday, we went to the local park, which has quite a plethora of slides and lots of fun attachments to the whole setup. You know, steering wheels on corners, down on the ground, so the kids never run out of options to play with. My buddy, Egan, and I had it to ourselves, so we went over the whole thing. The upper levels of slides even have small slides to connect each section. So, E goes up them, no problem. Me, they’re big enough for an adult, but not big enough to crawl up on your knees. I ended up going up on my back, using my arms to pull and my legs to brace myself. But it was mostly my arms. That’s a workout that I wasn’t expecting. I’ll have to tell you more about it, later, when I get some pictures, too.

I know, I know, you’re really wishing I had some more interesting pictures to show you, but I haven’t taken any pics of the area yet. The flowers will have to hold you over for now. My camera has barely left my room (first time, five minutes ago), though I’m sure I’ll start remembering it more often, eventually. When people are involved, it takes a little while for me to warm up to taking pictures. If you doubt me, think about the fact that I take the most pictures of people at conferences that I go to, year in and year out. And obviously, I had a year to take pictures of my girls in AUS. Speaking of which, I read my girls so many Mr. Men books that I associate them with my time there, so here’s a pic of my Aussie wombat and some new Mr. Men buckets that I found at Target. I also got some Mr. Men stickers, but I haven’t decided what to do with them yet.

I feel like this whole post has been a bit of a jumble, but I’m sure I’ll get the wrinkles out soon. Don’t forget, I’ve only been here for… almost three whole days. For some reason, it feels like longer, but I think that’s just because I’m adding the days of travel. But it’s barely been even a week since I left home!

And just so you know I’m settling in, here’s how my dresser looks right now. I picked up some frames when I was at Kohl’s, finally, in order to be able to see the pictures of my darling Bubby. Now, don’t get up in arms for my other girls. I have pictures of them, I just haven’t had them printed since I got back. My last batch of prints got cut up for the collage. Next up, getting copies made of an assortment of my Australia pictures, for my other bulletin board. I need to display some pictures of all my girls, their family, and my Aussie friends. It’ll make them all seem a little closer… especially when I miss them so much.