Thursday, August 28, 2008

From Dog Days to Used Book Sales

The weather has continued to be fantastic. I wish this weather wouldn't end. However, we all know the dog days of summer are gone and fall is around the corner. A little trivia for you--the term dog days of summer originated from ancient lore when Sirus, the dog star, used to rise and set with the sun during the hottest days of summer, hence the name. People in those days supposedly thought the star was causing the heat.

In spring we are excited to see the first robin and everything turning countless shades of green. As fall gets closer, we are kind of sad when we see that first leaf change color--not because of beautiful autumn but because of what follows. Well, let's live in the present and enjoy what we have now which looks like a wonderful last fling of summer, Labor Day weekend.

One thing that has become a fall tradition with us are several local used book sales. Now we need more books like we need another chipmunk hole in our yard, yet there is something about the lure of a book--the smell of the aged pages, the thrill of the hunt for one by your favorite author or a nonfiction one that covers a topic that interests you. We often look for books that we think family members might also enjoy.

We now have a routine going to four book sales in the fall. We don't assume that it is luck that they are on different weekends. The first one is the biggest and the best if you are looking for a particular book. All the sales we go to are good at categorizing the books (and by the way, there are often video tapes, audio tapes, Cds, DVDs and puzzles and games too).

Through our experiences we have learned to go the last day of the sale. Each of the sales that we go to charge per bag at that point. They just want to get rid of them. One place actually gave them away for free, just put a donation in the jar.

We have been disappointed when we see people who are obviously dealers, come in and just take all the books on one subject. They don't even look at each title and browse like we do. They have their cars backed up near the door to load box after box. Then there are ones with some kind of hand held scanner that they look up something about the book. I try not to watch the others too much but concentrate on my task of weeding through the titles to find one that catches my eye. The other "weeders" may hear you mention to your co-hunter that you found a book by "so and so" and then if they see one by that author, they may point it out to you. It's a nice camaraderie when someone else realizes the joy of finding just the right book. Some people are just focused on their own hunt. We usually like the leisurely pace except for the one year when we were quite focused with list in hand of titles and authors that our teacher daughter wanted for her classroom.

The first sale is the biggest--75,000 books! It is also the most expensive at the per bag price, but even that is a bargain (around $8.00). The following week is much smaller at only 10,000 books (and cheaper price). Then we have the medium size one that usually practically gives them away. A couple of weeks later we finish it up with a little fair combined with a little book sale. That one is so small that it is hard to find a book to buy. The other ones, I force myself to stuff a bag. We have become proficient at packing paper bags with books of various sizes to the max. It's kind of like Tetris--to get the max potential of your paper bag, some books lay flat, but others need to go vertical. Sometimes you may want to dump them out and start again to achieve the ultimate maximum capacity. Then the only problem is carrying the bag without ripping it.

If there just isn't enough books of interest to completely fill the bag, I "top it off" with books to bring to the book swap at my little post office (shh...don't tell anyone). I have a tiny community corner which includes a book swap. It has gone over well.

So, besides the wonderful New England autumn to look forward to in all its beauty and fresh breezes and smell of apple orchards, we will be looking forward to our favorite used book sales. Now, I know I did not name the sales or locations. I want to make you aware of a wonderful website for anyone in the United States to find local used book sales. It is You simply click on your state and you will receive a wealth of information regarding book sales--more than you ever knew existed.

I hope that you will have the time to settle down with a good book (or a bag full) this autumn.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Part Seven of A Few Days Away

A picture is worth 1,000 words. Simply I'll say that all of these were taken at Harkness Memorial Park in New London. It's a beautiful mansion on the ocean with gorgeous gardens. You can't tour the mansion(though we got a sneak peak inside). It is mostly rented out for weddings downstairs, so all the furniture has been moved out. I understand the upstairs is furnished. We happen to know someone who will be going to a wedding there next year.

There are picnic tables and a walkway to the beach. Next door is Camp Harkness which is for handicapped people to enjoy the ocean.

When we went to Harkness Memorial many years ago, I remember seeing blue hydrangeas for the first time, but this time there were only pink ones. All the flowers are gorgeous and I don't even know if we saw all of the gardens. They go on and on.

Well, I'll just let my pictures do the rest of the talking. I hope you've enjoyed my sharing of our few days away.

Part Six of A Few Days Away

Here are some shots of the USS Nautilus submarine in Groton. The museum and tour of the Nautilus is actually free--imagine that. I went in the sub and I can't imagine how those servicemen can put up with working in a submarine. I would get so claustrophobic not to mention panic attacks thinking about being under the water. I don't know how they do it.

The rest of the museum has nice exhibits and a movie.

One little bonus as we were leaving, we observed this guy painting a flag pole. I give him a lot of credit too. My job is looking better.

Well, believe it or not, I think there is only one more installment of A Few Days Away. Imagine if we went for a week!

Part Five of A Few Days Away

Leaving Block Island. I fussed with the picture with the American Flag from the ferry. As I've said before, please click on the pictures to get the full beauty of them (if I do say so myself). Just remember to use the back arrow to come back or you'll be bumped off the blog.

The three sunny pictures are as we were leaving Block Island. The dramatic cloudy pictures were when we landed at Point Judith and rushed to our car before a down pour. Now, they aren't in order, but the top one of the last three in the left column was taken from the car. If you click on it and look real, real carefully, you will see a rainbow. I tried to capture it in all it's glory, but I had to retrieve the camera and wait for the car to be aligned perfectly again (all the while supposed to be helping George read road signs and of course, I missed one...but how often do you see a rainbow?).

So, are you ready for part six? Talk about stretching out three days! I just don't know how else to break down the pictures, sorry.

Part Four of A Few Days Away

Well, the walk to the lighthouse was 90% uphill, or so it seemed. Thank goodness for the sights along the way to coax us on. We were getting pretty weary when we saw the lighthouse peaking up ahead of us the top of the hill in this picture. How encouraging that was, knowing the goal was in sight. Well, as we got to the top of the hill, it was almost like a mirage. It was there all right, but there was no straight way to it. From that point the road wound around and we were pushing, but eventually we made it. We reached the goal!

The other picture is a view from the lighthouse. Now we knew that around a few more corners there was the gorgeous Mohegan Bluffs which we had seen before. We just did not have it in us. So after enjoying the view, we continued our journey back down.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Part Three of A Few Days Away

We finally got to go back to Block Island. We priced the new high speed ferry from New London and it was $86. for two people. We opted to drive a little further to Point Judith in Rhode Island. They also had a high speed ferry, but we chose the cheaper $35. round trip for two, 55 minute ride. Besides, I think the ferry ride is part of the adventure and enjoyment--I never thought I'd ever feel that way. I have respect and fear of the deep, deep ocean. I always am aware of where the life jackets are and don't go near the edge of the ferry.

We had a nice day. In years past when we have gone, we have rented bicycles. Due to medical issues, we knew we couldn't do that this year. We toyed with the idea of mopeds, but they scared me a bit because I have never been on one and George wanted us to share one. I could just see us going around the corner and me leaning too much and us tipping. It is a flashback to 100 years ago (well, really about 34 years ago) when I was with this guy riding a snowmobile. He talked me into driving. Well, we went on these windy, hilly paths in the woods. I was having a wonderful time. Then we came out into this huge field. In the huge field, I took a turn too sharp and we tipped over on the hard crusty snow. I have never been so black and blue all over my body in my life!--And sore! I remember going home and soaking in a tub. So, I fear history will repeat itself.

So, we decided it was a nice day for a walk. We knew we wouldn't get to the other side of the island where it looks like what we imagine Ireland or Scotland looks like, but I convinced George to walk to one of the lighthouses that we had been to before. We knew it was an uphill climb, but we were game.

Now walking you do get to see somethings that you might otherwise miss. The top picture is just someone's yard with a pirate standing guard. The next beautiful fountain is in the yard of what I believe was a Bed and Breakfast place. The next three pictures are of this Suburban Artist. Quite interesting work, we thought.

I am told after the fact, that we must have walked right past a place owned by Christopher Walken, the actor. Also, because we were walking, a resident in his yard saw George's Vietnam Vet hat and stopped us to talk. Turns out he was at Pleiku too but a couple of years away from George's dates.

We were passed out by many bikes, a few cars and some mopeds and a couple of walkers. We also saw other people huffing and puffing and others walking their bikes, which we actually did the first time we rented them and went up that hill. Funny how your memory plays tricks on you. The hill just didn't seem that long.

The ocean pictures were the ferry ride to the island.

I don't know how to put pictures closer to the text, so I am going to have to continue this to part four to keep you in suspense as to whether we really made it to the lighthouse or not.

Part Two of A Few Days Away

These pictures were taken at Ocean Beach Park. This was one of those days when chance of storms threatened. You can see the ominous clouds. I have found the various storm clouds lately fascinating.

I used to go to Ocean Beach Park as a kid--mostly to the penny arcade. I don't remember much else and of course, everything is changed. I don't think the boardwalk was there and certainly not the waterslide. Still it is beautiful just to be by the ocean. There was a little nature walk area where ocean and fresh water meet, but the thunder made us think twice about pursuing that, but I did get to see some kind of crane type bird before we left. Click on the storm cloud picture up above and you will see him in the water and his reflection. Clicking on the pictures gives you a much better view, but use the back button or you will log off the blog.

We made it to the arcade just before some torrential rains. We were forced to play a few games to kill the time--to be honest, I love some arcade games. I like Dave and Busters, which is a grown up arcade/restaurant combined. We've only been to the one in Pennsylvania. Good thing there isn't one here or I'd want to go. George is not big on the games, but did do a couple. He likes the skill type more so, like skee ball or hitting gophers on the head with a mallet. We cashed in our ticket winnings for penny candy.

Speaking of arcades, if anyone remembers Savin Rock (long gone)--another amusement place by the shore with rides and games, there is a museum dedicated to it that we went to last year. I very much enjoyed watching the movie about it and looking at the exhibits. I remember it was one of our favorite places. They had these arcade type machines that had the crane. It was filled with all kinds of loose penny candy (and it only cost a penny to play!) The crane would come down and you easily got a handful of various little candies. My Mom used to bring a small brown paper bag to put our winnings in.

Well, I've really digressed this time. I think a lot of our days away were about memories too.

We spent the night at a Days Inn in Mystic. For those of you who don't know, when you are on the road, go to any tourist stops and pick up a Room Saver booklet. These are filled with just discount coupons for lodging. They offer great savings, however, many times the motels have told us that their quota for those rooms are gone for the night. We lucked out this time and were able to stay for $67. a night. I cringed when I heard another person come in and ask for the same type room and had to pay $139. a night. He even said, "Sounds good to me." I guess what he doesn't know...I just double checked and sure enough, you can even get these coupons on line at

Down in that part of the state we kept seeing this restaurant chain called Tim Hortons. George was determined to try it and we did one day. He was secretly hoping for a closer replacement for his beloved Bob Evans which is not located in CT. We were shocked when we went inside and it is just basically a sandwich/donut shop. We did try it and it was okay, but now we know.

We also went to Old Mystic Village--not the seaport. This is a neat collection of little shops from sports memorabilia, to Munsons chocolates, to a general store, to an army navy--but all small and quaint and in a beautiful setting with walkways and a little pond with ducks. It was fun just to walk around.

Stay tuned for part three with many more pictures as we leave CT.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Part One of A Few Days Away

I just had almost two weeks vacation. I haven't had that long a vacation in I can't remember when. Most of the time was spent at home tackling projects that there are never enough hours for during normal life--how sad that is "normal". Why can't normal be vacation? I was dreaming of a day at the water, having lunch and reading a book. The day I attempted that, I ended up there just as the thunder came. I defiantly ate my sandwich and safely looked at the water from my car watching the three families left there, letting their kids play in the water--no respect for nature.

Almost every day of my vacation threatened storms and usually followed through with that--some very torrential rains--got hailed on one day while loading groceries in the car. I was in awe, though, of some of the most dramatic clouds in the sky. I kept promising myself to put my camera in my pocketbook.

Well, we did get away and I wanted to share some photos with you. I just spent about two hours trying to remember how to put pictures on the blog. I keep trying to write down the steps, but I swear my computer keeps changing the rules on me.

Anyway, on our way to the Connecticut shore one pretty morning, we stopped in Norwich. We had been by this spot many times but never really paid notice. I forgot why we decided to stop. This was a beautiful little landing with very friendly geese and swans to greet us. There was a group of retired gentlemen having their morning coffee around one of the tables.

At another table (look how neat they are with the game board painted on them, ready for chess or checkers) another man was reading a paper with his coffee. George loves to talk to strangers (guess his mother never taught him any better). He always likes to prove to me that most times people are very willing to engage in a conversation. This man pointed out all the new features of this little park--so quaint. He also told us that you could see the fireworks (I think from the casinos), and across the way were restaurants that had entertainment that you could hear in the evenings. He said people stay in that park until 2 am. He said it is well police patrolled because of previous problems with drug dealers and it had nice night lighting. It made George quite envious that we did not live near such a spot to go hang out.

As we were leaving a young couple were arriving with their child to watch the geese. Glad to see people appreciate that place.

Well, that was on our way to our few days of recreation. Stay tuned for the rest soon and the pictures get even better. By the way, you can click on the pictures to enlarge them and they look so much better when you do.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Who Am I To Critique, but...

I wouldn't want to be a theatre critic because I don't like to say anything bad about anyone. Also, if I like the play or movie, I don't know if I can always express what I like about it. That being said, I am going to add my critique here of a play I saw last night--just because I don't have a huge audience and it probably won't get back to the guilty parties.

First of all, "The Tempest" is a Shakespearean play, so for me, that means it has to "go the extra mile" to be good. While I try to train my ear to accustom itself to the "foreign" speech, I also rely a lot on actions and expressions of the players.

Well, the lead put new meaning to the term MONOlogue--meaning a speech, given with monotone qualities, no inflection of voice or actions. Even when he was speaking with other performers, he did not raise or lower his voice or show excitement, disappointment, anger, whatever. I rely on these emotions to help me understand what is going on. My daughter, an English teacher, who was with me, told me in Shakespeare's day, they would have booed such an actor. Okay, enough about that poor fellow.

Now that I've hung myself by speaking badly of someone who has more guts than me to get up in front of a crowd, spent hours and hours memorizing all those strange words, and who gave up so much time to try and bring enjoyment to others, I will go on to the brighter side of last night. I realize that three certain characters in the play had more animated and comical roles and therefore, they were more entertaining to begin with, but I would think that the rest of the cast members would have taken note that the only extra applause (applause given at times other than end of first act and end of play) was after these three characters were done each time. They were very good.

I am even going to name a couple of names. My favorite was Bryan Gregor. He played a deformed slave/savage. He got into the part and gave it his all--a tint of evil, but also soliciting pity--a job very well done. The other one was Nicholas Maraia who played a jester. His facial expressions were terrific and reflected good comedic talent. He was not afraid to hold back and perhaps, overact as a jester would do. These two parts were well matched. The drunken maid by Dawn Anstett also played well off of them.

I was glad for those three. Had it not been for them, I would have felt cheated out of $10 (in advance, $15 at the door--cringe) and of my time. They made it worth my while. I love to see local talent that may be taking flight to bigger and better things, or not. Even if they just want to share that with us locally, I thank them. I wish there were more opportunities for them locally.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Reflection

Someone recently asked me for a recipe for something I made. I had gotten the recipe from a dear friend and little does the person who asked for the recipe know, that I am going to give them the following with the recipe. I always remember this friend when I make her dishes and I like to share what a special person she was.

I first knew Mrs. Bjorbekk as Edwin’s mother. Edwin was my elementary school and Sunday school classmate. He and I were confirmed together in a small class of six.
Mrs. Bjorbekk always had a warm smile and friendly blue eyes. She was proud of her Norwegian heritage and was the only person I ever knew who truly seemed to care about everyone she met.

During my high school years, I stopped going to that church and Edwin and I were no longer in classes together. It wasn’t until more than ten years later that Mrs. Bjorbekk, or Evelyn, as she became to me, reentered my life. I had applied for a job as a part time postal clerk in the small post office of the town that I grew up in. I didn’t know that Evelyn was the clerk there. When she saw me her face lit up and I know it was her good word with the postmaster that got me the job. It’s so hard to believe that was over twenty-five years ago now.

Evelyn was such a wonderful, gentle spirited person and endured many tragedies in her life. She had lost her husband, her house to a fire, and she was later predeceased by a brother and sister and a son who was a young husband and father. Through all the hardships and sorrows in her life, she remained a woman of strong faith.

I have heard many preachers and teachers explain how we should act as Christians, however, no lesson taught me so well as the living example of Evelyn. Working side by side, I saw a true Christian walking the talk. I will always remember one incident when an irate customer came into the office and spewed out all their anger on her. As I was in the background, I could feel my anger growing and I couldn’t believe Evelyn never raised her voice and calmly tried to talk to the person. They kept on ranting. I was thinking of all the things she could be saying to this “horrible” person. I couldn’t believe how mean the customer was to her.

After the customer left, she turned and said, “I feel sorry for him. He must have something terrible going on in his life.” Then, as I had seen her do at work at other times, she closed her eyes and said a brief silent prayer for the person. I was immediately humbled thinking of my own response to the situation. Here I saw the living example of “what would Jesus do?” So many people, like this one, never knew they were blessed by Evelyn’s prayers. She was a reflection of Jesus’ love and I will always remember her for that. She was truly a blessing to all who knew her.

I am glad that I had written Evelyn notes letting her know how I felt about her example. Her daughter later told me that she had saved all the letters that everyone had written her.

A short while after her death, her daughters gave me her Postal clerk bear. They thought she would like me to have it. At that moment we named her Evelyn and I put her on display in the back of the post office keeping an eye on everything. I keep her as a reminder of “what would Evelyn do” which was the shiniest reflection of Jesus love on earth that I have ever seen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Chicken Update

The chicken did get to its rightful owner and she was very pleased. She had six of them and this was the last one. Someone had said there was a fisher in the area. Whatever, something got them. She said this chicken was so tame that he would sit in her lap.--See I told you he was friendly.

I told her there was a list of people who wanted him. She said that she was going to move and couldn't have him and her roosters where she was going, so to give them her name. She loved her birds and wanted to give them a good home. So, I called the people on the list and I will be interested to see who adopts them.

Now see, people just don't know everything a postmaster's job entails--rescuing pets and then running an adoption agency. After 28 years, I could write a very interesting resume of the varies duties that I have performed.

I have a postmaster friend who is also a wildlife animal specialist and she can be seen in her office feeding baby birds with an eye dropper. She is a wonderful animal lover who helps wild animals in crisis for no monetary compensation. I go to her for all my animal advice before contacting a vet and she has always been accurate and has saved me a vet bill at times.

Oh, yeah, we sort mail too. In fact, don't get me going on all the duties a postmaster does on a regular basis when we are not saving birds. They have never come up with a job description for all the duties because it is ever changing and ever expanding. My friend and I are ever-tired. We've tried to make a list, but have never felt it complete because we always think of something else later. And anyway, what are we going to do with the list except step back and say, "we do all that." And just when you think your list is done, a chicken crosses the road.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Why'd the Chicken Cross the Road?

It's obvious that I lead a simple life by the things that I enjoy or find interesting. This morning before I opened up the post office, I was in the back room unloading and I heard someone come to the back door. It was a customer that I knew and I figured he wanted some mail favor, however, that was not the case. He wanted me to look at this bird across the street that was laying on the grass in front of the school. He said he never saw anything like it before. (This picture is almost accurate, though the one we saw had a much prettier white head and it was all white and not so much red).

He said he was going to go home and look in a bird book to see what kind it was. I told him we had a bird book there (one employee bought it for the office when we had another bird that bird lovers from all over were coming to see because they seemed to be nesting only in Hartland). He looked and looked in the book while I was unloading the mail and also watching the bird who had now decided to cross the road (why I don't know, but I think it was to come and see us.)

He was smart enough to speed it up when there was a car. He wandered by the mail collection box out front and slowly made his way to us. He squawked at us a little. It became evident that it was not a wild bird but belonged to someone. Another customer said it was a Polish Chicken. The first customer and I did not know if he was pulling our leg and that it was some kind of joke. After searching the Internet, I learned that it was true.

Well, I never thought I'd ever find a chicken cute, but this one was cute and kind of personable. He obviously wanted something to eat. He would have come into the post office in a second had I left the door open. I called the animal control officer, who I know would treat him well and try to find his home. Someone thought they knew the owner and that a fox had gotten into their coop last night and perhaps he had run this way. I'll have to find out if he got to his owner okay--if not there is a list of three people who want him! No, I'm not one. He was cute, but I like animals that you can pet.

So, why'd the chicken cross the road? To meet the wonderful people across the street...or to find something to eat. Or, just maybe, he was applying for a job to replace the eagle as the post office's new mascot. You think?