Thursday, November 29, 2012

Children's Book Signings for the Holidays!

Dear Reader -  While the rest of us can all get more than a little swept up in the holiday spirit, the kids're the ones who really sit at the center of our Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations. There's really nothing like the joy that special traditions and, of course, gifts can evoke in the wee ones.

That's why we're so delighted here at biblion to host two children's book signings over the next two weekends.

This coming Saturday, December 1, Lewes author and illustrator Caryl Ekirch Williams will be at the shop from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. to sign her imaginative book The Words:

Caryl is a retired educator (who still teaches in her retirement at the Lifelong Learning Center here in town), and that's evident in her book. The Words encourages children to play and engage with language, getting them to think about the power that they hold in their own hands.

In the end, though, the illustrations are the stars of the book. Each word has its own personality, and they "speak up" as the story progresses. Caryl studied fine art at Skidmore, and it's clear that she's a gifted artist:

So come on down and say hi to her between home tour stops, after grabbing a bowl of yummy soup at St. Peter's, or before you line up for the parade!

Next Saturday, December 8, Mirabelle will be here in all her canine glory, along with her friend Michael (a.k.a. Mr. Muller of Details fame):

While biblion guests know Mirabelle from her adventuresome cards (including her exploits in Lewes), she's coming to sign her three new, darling board books, featuring adventures with Mr. Muller, a bouncy red ball, a butterfly, and a healthy walk:

They're starting the day over at Proud Bookstore in Rehoboth, and then they'll make their way to Lewes to be with us from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

I'll write a little more about them next week, but I wanted you to get a chance to put her on your agenda.

Can't wait to see you here!  - Jen

P.S. Jingle Bell dogs, of course:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Wilds of Hospitality, or Cream Puff?

Dear Reader -  I first learned of Hospitality Night in legendary terms in advance of last year's event. You'd think that inviting our regular guests, as well as our friends and neighbors here in Lewes in for a little touch of something at the holidays'd result in a heapin' helpin' of that sweet, small-town-Americana-run-amok-ish-ness that we've all come to love here. The kind that's exemplified in this beatific photo from the Cape Gazette of my fellow shopkeeper Maureen down at Aquamarine:

But my colleagues on Second Street terrorized me with tales of gauche, greedy, often thieving hordes (literally hordes and hordes of people). I have to admit that I was kinda unnerved by the prospect. For instance, one shopkeeper had a tradition of serving homemade meatballs each year, 'til someone showed up in the crowd with a Tupperware container and proceeded to fill it. Another told of how they'd been robbed blind the first year they did it, so they've since learned to remove their valuable merchandise from the floor.

Trampling and breaking and spilling, oh my

This image from the bonfire tradition in Lewes, England somehow seemed more apt:

But rather than running willy-nilly into the streets, wailing and decrying tradition, this, dear Reader, is when my penchant for control issues came in handy. I quickly stepped back and realized that we are a bookshop - we sell things made of paper. Paper does not do well with liquid, so we decided not to serve any. I also recognized that self-service is for gas stations and buffet restaurants, so our offering would be individually served.

Then the question was, what to offer? I remembered my days as a development director at Yale and the horror that was the mini-spanakopita. Good heavens! They served that most socially inept of all noshes at every darn cocktail hour in the 90s:
The mini-spanakopita had multiple problem points:
  1. Garlic. Way too much of it for polite company.
  2. Spinach. Cooked down so as to make it ideal for lodging between teeth.
  3. The relativity of "mini." Mini-spanakopita are, granted, smaller than the traditional ones that I've ordered at many a Greek diner. However, mini-spanakopita are still too darn big to eat in one bite.
  4. Phyllo dough. Phyllo dough is the world's most crumbly substance. I know this 'cause I've witnessed it at near nigh a million cocktail parties. You cannot bite into something made of phyllo dough without having it rain down on whatever you're wearing. If you're all decked out in a little black number for said cocktail party, well, you get the picture. (And don't get me started on how it sticks to your lips ['specially lipsticked ones] and sorta spits off in little puffs as you start to try to say something cocktail-party-worthy after your last bite.)
  5. The net effect is the most socially awkward cocktail gnosh known to humankind.
I could not inflict anything remotely mini-spanakopita-ish on biblion's guests - hordes or no hordes - it just wouldn't be cool. So I regaled Ingrid with my spanakopita exploits at Yale, and she had the perfect solution - the mini-cream puff:

The mini-cream puff is a lovely food. It's a perfect bite. It's sweet, but not over-sweet. It has an appealing blend of textures and temperatures. And it's socially simple, since (nearly*) everyone knows what a cream puff is all about.

So we put Ingrid just inside our front door, greeting each guest with a friendly offer of, "Cream puff?"

Once inside the guests were delightful, as our guests typically are. They had a blast giggling together over our cards and gifts, finding fun things for many of their friends and family members. And we had a blast with them. It was a lovely, evening, and we're looking forward to it again this week on Thursday night from 6 to 9.

So come down, enjoy the music-filled streets, sit down with Santa, visit our nice array shops, and stop by for a little cream puff on us!

Festively  - Jenny

* We did have one guest who was a little baffled by the puff. She shyly asked Ingrid what was in it. "Cream," Ingrid smiled in reply.

P.S. We've gotta have some tunage to go with this. Speaking of the 90s, let's go with Aaron Neville's Christmas album from that vintage:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Dear Reader -  'Tis the season, and we have much to be thankful for here at little biblion:
  1. We are continually stunned and humbled by how engaged and loyal our biblion guests are. Whether you're year-round Lewes folks, weekenders, friends from wider-Delmarva, or once-a-year visitors here, you have been unflaggingly supportive of our shop, and we know that we couldn't be doing this without you. I mean, heck, what other shoppers'd be the kind of people who send thank you notes for their time with us?!
  2. We love (love, love) the people who fill our shop with wonderful things - those who bring their beloved books in to trade, those gifted local authors and artists who are "rare finds," indeed, and those who bring us fun and functional gifts and cards from all over America. It's because of you that we can offer our guests playful and thoughtful shopping experiences.
  3. Our family here is truly top rate - Ingrid, Linda, Grace, and Zac provide small town hospitality and sophisticated insights and expertise to our guests. Plus, they're each super-cool in their own way.
  4. We love Ted and Joe, who provide us with a lovely, well-maintained building to live in - and who're among those faithful guests mentioned above.
  5. We're also grateful for all those who help to get the word out about what we're doing here.
  6. And we love Lewes.
Thank you, dear Reader, for being part of the biblion experience!

Gratefully, Jen and Miss C (and Nellie, too!)

P.S. My friend Anne introduced me to Louie Schwartzberg's work. I'm thinkin' that his film, Gratitude, is perfect for today:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A little helpin' of small-town-life-is-just-too-darn-sweet

Dear Reader -  Two or three weeks back the sweetest-little-Lewes-ish thing happened: Carolyn and Matt, two of our regulars, stopped in to ask if they could have some of their engagement photos taken here, saying biblion was just one of their favorite places. Of course I said, "yes," and much clicking of shutters and giggling ensued:

Their photographer, Kate Callahan, was just as charming as they are. My poor iPhone photo pales in comparison to the spread that she took of the blissful couple which she popped up on her blog here [late-breaking editorial addition: gotta say that the combo platter of looking at the pics while listening to Landon Pigg's song - below - is about as perfect as it gets]. Aren't they fantastic? Both the photos and Matt & Carolyn?!

Go love!  - Jenny

P.S. They're looking for a really cool, old, big dictionary (but not too big like the massive Websters that I have up on my upper shelf) to use at their wedding. If you have one that you think might work for the cause, please let me know - thanks!

P.S.S. We gotta have a love song, too - we're not a coffee shop, but we're close enough for horseshoes or engagement photo shoots, and, heck, Landon Pigg's lovely voice sets the perfect tone:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Celebrate Veterans Day

Dear Reader -  We're marking Veterans Day this weekend with two book signings by local authors, and we hope that you'll stop by to support them.

We've carried Vincent dePaul Gisriel's book Hearts Away, Bombs Away for some time, but this'll be our first chance to have him in for a signing. We're thrilled, since every guest who finds his books walks away delighted - it's a real treasure:

After his father's death, Vince was inspired to learn more about his dad's experience in World War II. As part of his research, Vince poured through his parents' correspondence from those years. And while he learned a lot about what the war was like on the front lines as well as the home front, the real story that emerged was the love story between his mom and dad.

Vince will be here on Veterans Day, Sunday the 11th, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Terri Clifton's book A Random Soldier is likewise about war in real-life: a young Marine's experience of the Iraq War and how his family and friends lived it with him and then lived together through his death:

Terri comes by biblion from time to time, and she never fails to move our guests. She'll be here on Saturday the 10th from Noon to 2:00 p.m.

Whatever you're doing this weekend, please be sure to take a moment to honor our veterans in a way that feels meaningful to you.

Truly  - Jen

P.S. The Andrews Sisters, of course:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

God's Opening Flower: Marianne of Molokai

Dear Reader -  Today is All Saints’ Day. For those of us in America, it’s not a big deal unless we’re part of a liturgical church (and, heck, even then it’s lost its luster as a feast in some circles). But I remember back when I lived in a more traditionally Roman Catholic country: the whole world shut down to mark the occasion.

Since I’m sitting here in Lewes, my shop is open – and nobody’s stopped by to wish me a good one. Not surprising. But I’m finding myself feeling a little wistful this year.


As I told my church choir buddies a week ago at rehearsal, my mom’s Aunt Marianne (for whom I’d written a poem that our former director, George Bayley, set to music for us all to sing) was canonized at St. Peter’s Basilica on October 21 (the eleventh American to be named). So this is her first All Saints’ Day as an official saint.

Now, anybody who knew of her knew well that she didn’t need any official designation to deserve reverence and appreciation, but it still feels good to have her recognized.

Known as Mother Marianne of Molokai for most of her life, the work that gained her the most attention was with the leper colony on that remote Hawaiian island. But her work for those who were outcasts and social pariahs began long before that, as I learned in the books that my mom shared with me about her when I was growing up.

She opened and administered some of the first general hospitals in the United States in upstate New York. Her work was groundbreaking in two ways: she figured out that good hygiene was key, implementing practices that are still in place today, and she also refused to bend to the social barriers that kept many from medical care, including race. In particular, her willingness to care for alcoholics scandalized society.

As mother superior of her order in Syracuse, she answered the Hawaiian king’s plea for help with the leper colonies after 50 other religious orders from around the world had refused – and the sisters of her order volunteered in droves to help as well.

The conditions that the nuns encountered on the islands were horrific. Employing the same brand of practicality and determination, Mother Marianne transformed the hospitals into clean, functional institutions. She and her sisters had to exercise a lot of bravery as well, standing up to the royals and their government as well as the unscrupulous men who ran roughshod over the lepers, particularly in the colony on Molokai (an island which served as a natural prison).

After Father Damien (who has since been canonized for his groundbreaking work on Molokai) succumbed to the disease, Marianne and her sisters took on his responsibilities. In the course of their work, the women transformed the colony – not only making it a clean and sanitary home, but also adding beauty and joy to what was previously a bleak existence - planting gardens, making beautiful clothes, teaching the children, and sharing music. Not one of them ever contracted leprosy in the decades that they served.

Marianne’s love of music became the inspiration for the title of my poem: God’s Opening Flower. Her favorite song was Makalapua (The Opening Flower), which was sung at her beatification at St. Peter’s seven years ago. And the heart of the poem, the line “What I did I did for joy,” came from an astonishing and transformative moment that I shared with her in a meditation.

So, even though I can’t be part of any particular celebrations on her behalf this All Saints' Day, I figure I can celebrate with you here, dear Reader, and share my little poem. Thanks so much for indulging me!

Blessings  - Jen

God’s Opening Flower:
Blessed Mother Marianne of Molokai
 written in honor of her feast day on January 23, 2006, by Jen Mason

Who are the wretched and outcast among us?

Do we see them? Do we know them? Do we hold them as they are?

Or do we turn away, veiling our lives: setting a darkness and distance which calms our fears?

In our darkness a voice breaks through:
            What I did I did for joy
            My life filled up to brim and over
            Sharing in pure brightness the joys of living
            God has made me an Opening Flower

Lives that knew nothing but wretchedness and isolation: cast out and left to the wolves of lust and greed.

To these lives came our Opening Flower, revealing the beauty and dignity that dwelt there all along.

Lives that lived in another kind of prison: locked in the illusion of perceived superiority.

Our Flower gently lifted that veil of security, shielding the open souls from all danger and harm.

For in our darkness a voice breaks through:
            What I did I did for joy
            My life filled up to brim and over
            Sharing in pure brightness the joys of living
            God has made me an Opening Flower

Our Opening Flower knows the wretched and the outcast among us. She knows what is outcast within us, too.

She boldly, safely leads us through the trappings of our own shuttered minds and souls to the beauty and dignity that dwells with us today.

“The charity of good knows no creeds and is confined to no one place.”

We, too, must follow where joy and beauty lead.

For what we do we do for joy
Our lives filled up to brim and over
Sharing in pure brightness the joys of living
God will make of us Opening Flowers.

(And now, dear Reader, you can see what a talented fellow George Bayley is for figuring out a way to set this less-than lyrical poem to music - and how kind my fellow singers were for singing it with me!)

P.S. We gotta have music, right? I've listened along to Mr. Bruno Mars every now and then with Miss C on XM, but none of his songs have ever really stuck for me. That is, until now - I saw this new song of his performed on SNL a couple Saturdays ago. It's so darn happy (even talks about heaven [grin], and I figured it was performed pretty darn close to the same time as her canonization - so I'm thinking it's a good, if unorthodox, accompaniment to my musings about Aunt Marianne (hint: don't skip the ad, or you'll get taken to some odd place on youtube):

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