Friday, March 25, 2011

Rare Finds: Or Jenny's excuse to carry anything that strikes her fancy . . .

Dear Reader -  I had a guest stop in yesterday who proclaimed "rare finds!" upon his entry. I laughed and said, "that's my excuse to carry anything that strikes my fancy!" To which he replied, "It's actually a great umbrella," supplying the necessary hand gestures to encompass the assemblage of biblion's contents.

What he didn't know was that our newest addition was sitting in the yet-to-be-opened cartons at his feet. And in the words of Sesame Street, it was a "one of these things is not like the others" kinda item.

You see, dear Reader, at the request of many of our friends, Miss C and I are now the Lewes source for Colonial Candles' Classic Dinner Candles:
It all came about at a Taste the Fruit of the Vine meeting a month or so back. Libby and Sue and Sue all told me how they were at a loss for these awesome dripless, smokeless candles that Wildflowers (who closed their doors in January) used to carry. They joked, saying "You can carry those, Jen!" Which, of course, seemed a little goofy for a bookstore; but, of course, we're not your usual bookstore, a la that "rare finds" gig.

So I looked around the shop in my little mind and realized that we had the perfect spot to tuck them in: high up on some bookshelves that're inaccessible for anything else. Then I told the ladies that I'd be happy to carry them, so that they wouldn't have to drive down to The Wooden Indian in Reho (which still has the best selection for various colors, etc. in the area) or to hit the Internet.

I ordered a few different neutral and Spring-ish colors in the 10" variety, thinkin' they'd be sorta fun for Easter, etc. But the lion's share of what I got were 10" and 12" white and off-white, 'cause we kinda dig the classic here at biblion.

And speaking of classic, I was a little thrown when I was perusing the Colonial Candles website to see a "sock monkey" link; but, yes, the same Midwestern folks who make these awesome candles also sell hand-knit sock monkeys. Go figure.

Rare find? Prob'ly not really, but I don't care, they're just too darn cute:

I mean, look at him: he's already sporting his biblion colors! I'll double-check my friends down at Kids' Ketch (our stellar local toy store, which deserves a blog post of its own), just to make sure that it's not an item they already carry. If not, we're gettin' a couple the next time we order up some candles.

Hurry up Libby, Sue, and Sue! Come get some of these candles so we can get us some monkeys!

And to tide us over 'till the monkeys arrive, let's enjoy Miss C's favorite track from the awesome anthological Los Lobos 2-disc set, Just a Band from East L.A., I Wanna Be Just Like You:

Blissfully burnin' those pretty candles at both ends!  - Jenny

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cafe Azafran, featuring Miss C's steak and The Wiggles . . .

Hey! It’s Miss C. For this blog entry I’ve decided that I will talk about the meal I had at Café Azafran the other day. Café Azafran is a restaurant in Lewes that is very close to our own shop:

I go there pretty often on Sundays when I’m at the shop, and I need lunch (I love them – they are my favorite restaurant in Lewes). The other day my mom and I went there after closing our shop, and I got: 1. the calamari 2. the bistro steak and 3. a couple of scallops from a tapas that this lady (that my mom knows [her name is Grace, per Mom]) gave to me because she couldn’t finish them.

The scallops were good but the cream base made them a little heavy for how nice and warm the day was. The sear on them was good and the texture was not as disgusting as it is possible for scallops to be. Note that if you do get a chance to try the scallops it will be only on a Friday, because I am fairly sure that they are only on the ‘Seafood Friday Special’ menu for the Tapas.

I have loved calamari for as long as I remember, and I am pretty sure that I have tried calamari at every single restaurant that I have ever been to and that has had it on their menu. I must admit that I was fairly disappointed when it came out of the kitchen with a big glob of some kind of sauce. I’ve never liked a single sauce that has ever been served with my calamari and this sauce was sitting on a lot of the pieces, but I gave those to my mom. It was topped with chunks of pepper, which I pushed to the side. I am sure that some people might like to have that on it, but I do not. The squid had a very good texture, because very often calamari is chewy, or stringy, but this one was very good. The breading on the meat was perfect, if I do say so myself. It wasn’t greasy, which you have to watch out for with the breading, and it had just enough salt that I every bight you had a wonderful little kick. The calamari is in the Tapas section of the menu.

I love steak even more than calamari. It is the best thing on the face of the planet. The steak was a bit too thick in taste for an early Spring meal, it seemed like it would fit much better in January. They had a nice sear on the outside, but it was still nice and juicy on the inside, just how I like it. It was served with two brocolinnis which I though were a bit over seasoned. They also had mashed potatoes laced with herbs. Personally I like the sharp taste of plain potatoes, but it was good, though you might not think so when you first saw the visual texture. It had small chunks of potato and seemed crusty, yet not crusty. But once it’s in your mouth it’s creamier than most restaurant-made mashed potatoes.

After all that I was way too full to have anything else, and so I was unable to enjoy a desert. Overall the meal was delicious, but it did seem a little heavy for what a nice day it was outside – but they didn’t have much warning because of all the cold days that had come before it. As for atmosphere, Café Azafran like a café in Venice (at least what I imagine a café in Venice would be like), and the servers are casual, which makes for a friendly ambiance.

I suggest going to Café Azafran if you’re ever in downtown Lewes and looking for a great dining experience.

And now, for your listening pleasure, The Wiggles sing about digestion:

[P.S. from Mom, who wants to chime in here just a tad, at the risk of diminishing your Wiggles experience: While Miss C and I really like many of the restaurants in Lewes, we love Azafran. The food, as she mentions, is terrific (creative, fresh, well-executed, and accessibly priced); but what makes me truly-ruly love them is their community-mindedness. Azafran's the place that everyone seems to go to connect (can't tell you how many mini-committee meetings I've had there), and you're always bound to run into folks that you love when you open their door (we sat next to three St. Peter's grande dames on Friday night, saw a retired friend from the bishop's office that I hadn't seen in a couple years, and made new friends with a visiting couple from NJ who was at the table next to ours). What a blessing to have a hometown joint like this in our midst! Look for them on the block of Market between Second and Front Streets.  - J]

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Silly Jenny! Children's books are for kids!

Dear Reader -  Yesterday saw a striking number of adults - young and old'uns alike - buying children's books at biblion.

Now, part of the attraction, I'm sure, is that Miss C intentionally prices our kids' books very accessibly, making sure that when a kid comes in, he or she can walk out with a book without their mom or dad having to think twice about it. And we've seen that scenario play out time and time again. We've also had our own fair share of grandmothers and teachers who've stopped in and cherry-picked our stacks. But yesterday had a different air to it, as many of these folks were just buying the kid's books for themselves.

And I can relate.

You see, dear Reader, I adore children's books. I love the depth of story-telling that one can find - storytelling that so transcends the trite, syrupy fare that so many adults produce for kids, thinking that's all they're up for. And I love the art.

It was my mother who first taught me about the power of children's stories for all ages.

As I mentioned in my Grandma Moses post, theater and the arts were at the center of Mom's life in little Augusta, Kansas (I'll tell you all about mom and her family some other day - there's some juicy bits there that it'd be more fun to linger over when we're not in the midst of talkin' 'bout kids' books). And one of the things that Mom did on a regular basis was readings.

Mom had a spectacular reading voice. Something magic just seemed to happen whenever she read aloud.

And one of the sometimes traditions at the little Methodist church where we settled for most of my growing up years was for Mom to read The Littlest Angel as the sermon on the Sunday before Christmas:

Now the original building that housed the August United Methodist Church was this big (to my little eye), square-ish brick thing down on the corner of 6th and School. Its shape was relevant, 'cause the sanctuary mirrored it as well, and the two-storey seating was arranged in a horse-shoe shape. We always sat upstairs on the southwest side, which turned out to be a perfect vantage point for me to entertain myself with people-watching for the hour or so that we sat in services each week.

This is all germain 'cause I remember the first time I ever watched my Mom read this story and how the faces of my neighbors - all of them, young and old alike - responded to the tale. I remember seeing folks start to choke up when Mom got to the part where the littlest angel adds his own, simple gift to pile of splendid offerings for baby Jesus:

And then how some folks'd just up and cry when the humble gift became the star.

I saw first hand how the books that I thought were for just me and my kind held power and wonder for  grown-ups, too.

Years later, in 1989, my mom and dad visited one fall when I lived in New Canaan, Connecticut - we did the obligatory leaf peeping, and we made our way into New York for a day of sight-seeing and shopping. One of our finds that day was a just-published English translation of of Ophelia's Shadow Theatre by Michael Ende (some of you may remember him as the author of The Neverending Story):

Mom and I were initially attracted by Friedrich Hechelmann's stunning illustrations:

But when we pulled it out after dinner at home and Mom set to reading it out loud, Ende's gorgeously-written, tender story left us both verklemmt. It was one of those wonderful, emotionally-connected moments that has stayed with me for life. And every time I pick up the story to read it for my own child or for the kids who escape to the graveyard with me to read during the sermons in the summer at our little church, I feel her there with us.

Some years after that night, I went to find a copy of Ophelia for a friend and learned that the book was out of print. It had never occurred to me that something so wonderful would ever not be printed. But, alas, that is the fate of many books. And I came to find out, once  the Internet became a tool for locating titles, that procuring another was possible but would run me considerably more than my little $14.95 volume.

In fact, as I've been researching biblion's books, I've found that out-of-print children's books in particular tend to be valued disproportionally high. And I think there are two reasons for this. First, it's really hard to find children's books in good condition. They simply often get loved to death. And second, the emotional connections that people experience with children's stories - whether due to the emotional impact of the stories themselves or those with whom they've shared them - serve as powerful ties.

So while all of these adults were enjoying our children's books, it was a fun coincidence that I'd been busying myself with children's books the last couple of days as well, culling out the collectible ones from the boxes that Sue (Queen o' Goo Gone) had de-stickered for me. And, man, did I find some doozies.

I'm afraid that I've gone on here for quite long enough without launching into a series of lengthy expositions of my finds, but let me just give you a little taste. Here on this first day of Spring, let's take a quick peek at Kit Williams' book without a title, where the four seasons engage in a surreal battle amidst their changes, while Ambrose the beekeeper unwittingly participates:

Here, mid-story, Ambrose wakes to Summer:

"A thin shaft of sunlight stood absolutely still as it pierced the silent dimness of a cottage bedroom.
"As the earth revolved, the cottage moved and so too the bedroom until the thin white beam lit up the edge of a wooden bed. Slowly, imperceptibly, the world rotated and inch by inch the many contours of the counterpane were illuminated. Tiny specks of dust sparkled in the sunbeam as it gently penetrated the dreams of the sleeping man. Ambrose woke up, yawned and stretched, then, swinging his legs out of bed, he sat up and slipped his feet into a pair of worn carpet slippers. He slowly crossed the room, half knelt on a chair and opened the curtains.
 " The first day of Summer flooded into the room all ablaze with glorious colour and heavy with the scent of countless blooms. Ripples of birdsong broke the silence and Ambrose, filling his lungs with the eager breath of the morning, all but burst with excitement. He flung on his clothes and clattered down the stairs."
As must I, dear Reader. Blissfully content as a seller of out-of-print books  - Jenny

Monday, March 14, 2011

Blog . . . Redefined

Dear Reader -  One of the most fun parts of my job is listening to guests crack up at our cards. It never fails to happen every single day. And it inevitably seems to have a certain infectious effect, particularly if the "laugher" is in a sociable frame of mind.

Well, today I was working on ordering cards for the spring holidays (like Passover, Easter, and Mother's Day) as well as re-ordering a few (an awesome "problem" to have after being open less than a month!), and in the course of looking up the model numbers I realized that two of our most popular card lines also sport magnets. And after watching how much folks've enjoyed those cards, I just knew they'd love the magnets, too.

Miss C's favorite card line is called Redefined. They take a word and then come up with a new, clever definition. And while their cards are fun, the magnets are even "funner," as they have an immediate gratification factor that having to open a card doesn't allow. All that funny's just right there for us to giggle over. And for "word nerds" like me and Miss C, the Redefined magnets turned out to be a certain slice of heaven.

So I set about choosing enough to fill the display. The problem is that I kept cracking up - which turned out to be a little distracting to the husband and wife who'd happened into biblion at the time. Luckily, they were good sports about it and allowed me to share some of the choicer bits.

The first I shared with the husband, as he happened to be in closer proximity to me and my laptop and was also an unwitting subject: "testosterone, noun. A hormone that makes it impossible for men to cry, enjoy figure skating or buy the right g__d___ duvet cover."

Then, I stumbled upon the most perfect for my nubile blogger self, and I lost all self control and had to share it with the wife (who subsequently chuckled as I shared my card with her, letting her know that I was keeping a blog for the shop):

Ah, dear Reader, it's a good day when you can be humbled by your own (soon-to-be) merchandise.

Bloggingly yours  - Jen

P.S. Two new CDs arrived for the shop today. One is _Satch Plays Fats_, Armstrong's tribute to Waller. It's a treasure, as this sweet duet with Velma Middleton demonstrates:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In Search Of . . .

Dear Reader -  As I told you in Steinbeck's birthday greeting, I loved me some television back in the day. And one of my favorite shows to catch when snuggled up in Dad's big brown chair was In Search Of . . . :

Who could help but love the way that Nimoy and the producers turned up the theatrical volume on the questions that they raised? Ah! The drama! I loved watching it with the lights turned low, amping the creep-factor as much as my wee imagination would allow. The titillation was always worth another 30 minutes of sittin' still, even when those Kansas skies were cornflower blue.

Well, dear Reader, I'm on an "in search of" adventure myself these days. And, frankly, it's turning out to be much more of mystery than I ever anticipated.

It all begins with the Brits. They're planning another wedding, and folks are thinkin' that it'll hold the same fairytale factor that this one did:

Now my little practical, Kansas-girl self has never really "gotten" the hoopla over weddings - and I find that not just my head but my hands and arms, as well, all start a vigorous shake of "no" whenever I think of the money folks pour into these affairs. But our little town of Lewes is planning to celebrate on the wedding day, with businesses offering British- and wedding-related specials and enticements. And, of course, we want to be part of the fun.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned to you, yet, that readings are definitely in the vision for little biblion. The space, though small, has an openness to it that lends itself to such an experience. And I've been visited by a few scholars and poets who've expressed an interest in just that.

So, of course, when I heard about this event, I immediately thought of offering a lecture (or two!) on royal unions - one that was replete, I hoped, with all sorts of juicy, fun bits to chew. And I set off to connect with some of my retired professor buddies to find a lively, former English history professor (or one serious amateur history buff) to pull a fun one together.

Dear Reader, I have failed. Each rabbit hole I go down leads to nothing, nothing at all - just one dead end after another. And I can't believe that this isn't possible - with all of the wonderful waves of retirees that've made there way here to the beach, there just has to be a gifted professor among them, right?!

So I, like Leonard and his producers, am taking to the airways, if digital, to seek my answer.

Dear Reader, can you help me? Do you know a really cool English history professor who might have fun playing with us? Or, better yet, are you one yourself?!

Seeking  - Jenny

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Mother's (quick/limted/ain't gonna happen all the live-long day) Indulgence

Dear Reader -  Please let me start by admitting that posts like the one to follow could quickly devolve into one of those oh-dear-heavens-Jenny's-gonna-start-doing-mind-numbing-stuff-like-showing-us-endless-pictures-of-her-kid-or-her-last-trip-to-Poughkeepsie kind of scenarios:

But I promise you that I ain't gonna let it get to that.

You see, Miss C likes to write. She started songwriting in second grade, then she moved on to chapter books a year or so later, and she's currently dedicated to her latest novel. She also discovered that she's kinda fond of poetry over the last two or three years. (Confession: One of my prime motivations for opening biblion is to add to Miss C's literary world - giving her more opportunities to steep her reader/writer self, giving her more platforms and tools for exploring what this part of her is all about.)

I became a major fan of her imagery when she put up a series of "love is like" statements on the fridge with our magnetic poetry in fifth grade. My favorite was "Love is like . . . a moment seeing only beauty."

In addition to her school work, Miss C does a correspondence course for her writing. She digs it, and she wrote some cool stuff for her assignments last semester - I was, once again, a fan. I mean, who could help but find the relations and politics of kindergartners compelling with a passage like this from her story A Cookie?
"The other kids turned to me, sulking next to the Pepto-Bismol pink plastic table, my brown eyes dark with sadness; their faces wore expressions of disgust. You see, we kindergartners had an honor code, sort of, so whenever one of the kindergartners hurt someone else, everyone shunned them, which was exactly what happened to me right then. Everyone turned away and went back to what they were doing before Jena and I had caused the distraction, which was mostly eating up their own plates of cookies. Some looked back and stuck out their tongues, most just walked away with their noses in the air, like the pompous brats they were. I sat down in a plastic chair and put my head in my hands."
And one of my favorites was how she kicked off her poem, The First Snow of Winter. I, in my I-know-I-don't-got-no-objectivity kind of way, loved these images, too; and - particularly as I'm hoping that our most recent snow was our last - I thought you might enjoy reading it here as we step toward Spring together:

The First Snow of Winter
A silvery-white disk,
Cold as the lips of the dead,
Drifts down,
From the graying sky,
To land,
On the outstretched branch,
Of a birch’s skeleton,
A frozen rain,
The dead land,
The never ending white,
That covers the landscape,
Like a newly cleaned sheet,
Full of the sorrows and woes,
Of Mother Nature herself,
It causes,
All of the tired,
And helpless beings,
Of the world,
To crawl back,
To their lairs,
To the flickering light,
Of a dying fire,
The starched sheets,
Of a four poster bed,
Then come the marks,
The small holes,
That are born into the world,
Destroying the soft perfection,
Of the white landscape,
The next step,
Of its destruction shall be,
The brown slush,
And slick ice,
The woes,
Of many a weary traveler,
Then our nurturing Mother Nature,
Shall restart the cycle,
But never shall it be,
Remotely close,
To the caliber,
Of the first snow,
Of winter.

Copyright 2011, Miss C

Oh! And speaking of 2011 copyrights, our pre-ordered Collapse into Now was waiting inside our mail slot yesterday. This is significant relative to Miss C, 'cause she discovered when I got her some REM two Christmases ago that she kinda loves them - a lot - particularly Bill Berry (sorry, folks, we still miss Bill Berry here at Casa J&C). Anyhow, I'm digging the new tunage so far. I love that we've taken a turn back to rock, and I particularly love that we're back to largely unintelligible lyrics (or intelligible ones that leave us looking quizzical and scratchin' our heads). Enjoy (note: the graphic says it's "Oh My Heart," but it's a live version of "That Someone is You" - happy!)!  - Jenny

P.S. Thanks for your indulgence of mine, dear Reader.  - J
P.S.S. Darn Youtube: Somehow or another the video of "Oh My Heart" that I'd linked here got switched out to a really cruddy recording of an earlier REM fave. We've rectified the situation with another lovely live recording with a little "interview" with Michael at the beginning. Sweet.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Miss C on _The Hunger Games_

Dear Reader -  Miss C (who has hereby expressed her displeasure at being known in this way in Blogland, despite the fact that I call her Miss C_____ in corporeal life every single day [she told me on the way to school the other day that she'd prefer to be known as "Steak" - though she's chosen a single, non-meat-related image to be her signature here]) has decided that she's going to contribute some thoughts about books from time to time. Enjoy!  - Jen

Hey! I’m ‘Miss C’ (my mother chose it without my consent  : ( ) and from now on I will be writing reviews of books in the preteen-young adult area. For my first review, I will be writing about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

This book could be described as dystopian, drama, action, romance, fantasyish, sci-fi, and probably a lot of other things, but personally I think it’s one of the most amazing fantasy-like books that I have ever read. It all starts with Katniss, living in her minuscule house in the coal-black district of 12 in Panem, the future of America.
If you have been born in the poor District 12, then you most likely won’t get out by the time you die, but Katniss breaks free when she takes her younger sister's place in a “game” organized by the government, where one boy and one girl from twelve to eighteen from each district (Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12) are thrown into an arena where they have to fight for their lives. Last one standing wins.
Once Katniss enters the capitol (the center of Panem, where all the rich people live), she is thrown into a whirlwind of political strife, heavily muscled teens with swords and spears, and a love interest, since apparently every teen book needs some complication involving love.
This story is good for both boys and girls, and can be introduced at any age, really, though I suggest not before the age of nine, but it also depends on what you, or you child, or your grandchild, like in a book. I guess this wasn’t really a review; but a person can’t really review a book and tell someone about it, unless that someone is themselves, because everyone has different tastes in books, so it would be hard for a book to appeal to every single person, so that’s my take on it.
The song that girl sings below is a song that Katniss sings to a friend of hers while said friend is dying from a spear in the stomach. It’s not really sung by Katniss, though, because Katniss isn’t real, and they haven’t made a movie…yet.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kismet's a beautiful thing (or how I met the town blacksmith and his apprentice)

Dear Reader -  Three weekends back, we'd tidied up enough to take the paper off the door:
And brave folks started making their way in, having fun poking around the books and cards, picking up a few favorites in the process.

The coolest thing that happened, though, was what became of my broken, Chinese-made (I'm pretty sure, since virtually everything's Chinese-made) bookmark display:

See how it has two tiers? Well, the bottom tier spins right around like a dream, but the top one couldn't spin for it's life - we tried WD-40, various positions and angles, and good ol' spit, but nothin' seemed to work. So when I walked by it on Saturday morning, I was thinking, "Man, I need to figure out something to do to fix this poor thing, 'cause I don't think it makes any sense to send it back to China."

And then, later in the day, who does one of our brave visitors turn out to be? William, the blacksmith's apprentice. Kismet:

Of course, it's cool as heck that William just happened to stop in when we needed him most, but it's even cooler that we even live in a town that has it's very own blacksmith (his name is John) with his very own apprentice.

A day later, William brought back the the spinner, with both levels working in that dream-like fashion. And while I still need to stop by R&L next door to see what the beverage of choice is for the local blacksmiths, so that I can thank them properly, I did get a chance to stop by their shop at Third and Chestnut to say hello and snap a few pictures.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, dear Reader, but it wasn't this. The blacksmith's shop was a veritable candy store, with beauty and wonder in every corner, and I couldn't stop snapping pictures (while William knew well enough to chuckle at me, I think John thought I was a mite touched):

John's been at this since 1983, starting the construction of his Preservation Forge building in 1984, moving in in 1990:

He keeps these pictures of the construction process on the wall to remind the older folks who swear they knew the building and played on the stone bench as children that it didn't exist back then:

John's an artist. He'd originally envisioned the upper level of his building as a gallery, filled with his sculpture, but after he sold the one piece he had up for his grand opening, he's stayed steadily busy, selling every other piece before it's complete. John's never had to promote himself or his work, folks from all over just seem to come to him.

But just because there isn't a gallery doesn't mean that there's not art to see. Dear reader, every wall, every nook and crannie of his shop is art. Just look at this wall:

Or these pitch forks arranged above our heads (John's got a mighty big bellows there behind them, too, huh?):

Or these nozzles (who'da ever thought of nozzles being so lovely?):

Absolutely everywhere I turned, there was a delight for the eyes. He's also collected some cool larger pieces over time, like this giant pulley and this bell and this supremely awesome square thingamabob, whatever the heck it is:

But the best was yet to come, dear Reader, for if I wasn't in love with John and William for their artistic prowess already, I soon found that they were both lovers of books. John ambled back into another room and emerged with this rare piece - a seldom-seen early book on early engines:


And William loves him some rare WWII volumes:

It was the end of a long day of hard work for them, so I thought I'd best skedaddle. John and William are currently working on Fish #15 (John said that since he started making fish he doesn't think he's ever gonna be able to make anything else - he just keeps getting order after order for fishes):

If you're interested in Fish #16, stop by when the sign's out, John and William will welcome you in:

Enamored  - Jenny

P.S. I'm a fan of the polka band, Brave Combo - an awesome group of guys from Denton, Texas, who play a mean polka, as well as an eclectic blend of Latin and rock tunage. Here's a rougher, live version of one of my faves for William and John:
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