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Riverside Rumble in Spruce Pine

Spruce Pine is a little town in the mountains in North Carolina.

They have Oak St, which is the main street.

But off of Oak St is Low Street, which is just what its name implies, lower down the mountain slope.

And even lower than Low Street is the Riverside Park.

We were there in Riverside Park on a Friday, and stumbled upon a drum circle. I guess they were inspired by the famous one in Asheville. I have seen the Asheville one once, years ago, but I didn’t really like it, actually. It was super crowded and loud and it was quite late at night. At least, this is true if the big commotion I saw actually was the drum circle, and not some other frantic conclave that Asheville likes to do.

The Spruce Pine version, on the other hand, is just a group of people, sitting on wooden beams, in a gentle park, on sunny afternoons, and tapping out rhythms. Everyone brings their own drum; or actually, some people brings lots of drums, so they have extras to share if passersby want to join in.

Everyone just drums to their own beat, but it still sounded really nice! I think their ears are all attuned to listening to each other, and they seem to moderate and speed up all as a unit.

They call themselves the Riverside Rumble, and they asked me to share my photos on social media. So here I am!

Riverside Rumble in Spruce Pine
Riverside Rumble in Spruce Pine

Riverside Park in general is very nice. There’s a very high thin bridge over it — you climb a giant staircase to get to it, and then it takes you across the valley with the river and the railroad station, and when you get to the other side, you are “high” enough to be on level with “Low” Street 🙂

The bridge is quite romantic. But we also thought that maybe it could benefit from some of Biden’s infrastructure funds.

The railroad in Riverside Park, Spruce Pine. If only there was a train station also so you could take the train there!

Old mill in North Carolina mountains

We went to the Dellinger Mill. It’s “in the middle of nowhere” but nowhere is very beautiful, very lovely. It’s in the North Carolina mountains close to Tennessee; it’s on a long winding road and nestled in trees. And it’s been there since 1867.

The man who owns it, Jack Dellinger, is 94 years old and was standing in pride of place at the very spot where corn meal pours out from a chute, explaining all about it. He held onto the wood beams around him as he stood there and reminisced.

Corn flour in a wisp falling out of the grinding stones of Dellinger Mill

I always thought that a mill would be a huge enterprise, but no, this one is so small and simple. And it’s the exact same structure, the exact same tools as when the mill was first built by Jack’s granddaddy Reuben in 1867. Or was it great-granddaddy? Mr. Jack pointed out to us a beam running under the platform — it was huge, and it came from an American chestnut tree — a species that’s now extinct. He said that once, a man showed up and offered 140,000 dollars for that beam, but Mr. Jack wouldn’t part with it. It would ruin the mill.

The mill uses still the same grinding stones as it did in 1867; and the same wheel; and the same belts to pull the wheel. The water is diverted from the Cane River, slipping through a wooden path built over our heads like an elevated avenue. It’s really cute, like a little roller coaster track, or like a secret tunnel (except we can all see it) where Cinderella’s mice go scurrying in the night. The mill wheel — which is really big — just needs a little bit of water in order to turn it, so the avenue for the mice is not watertight — underneath the chute it goes drip-drip-drip all along in rivulets.

Mr. Jack said that his great-granddaddy Reuben was married to Mary Jane. There’s an entry in the diary of Reuben’s brother, who lived just next-door, dated from 1869. It goes, “Mary Jane was smashed flat.” What happened was, the millers’ wives all had to help their husbands with the work, and as Mary Jane was working, her long skirts got caught in the grinding stones and she couldn’t get loose. She was only 31 😦 What an awful end.

Mr. Jack himself was always good in math at school, but he didn’t pursue that right after he finished with high school. Instead, he joined the army. They sent him to Alaska, where they could see Siberia upon take-off or landing of the Air Force plans (this part reminded me a bit of something Sarah Palin once said) and from there they sent him to Japan. This was during the Korean War.

When he was out of the army, he went to NC State to study electrical engineering on the GI Bill. And when he was done, I think he maybe went back to work in the army. But the army was paying 110 dollars a month, whereas an industry engineering job got you 5000 a year — and some engineers, depending on which company they worked for, got over twice that. He got an interview to be part of a submarine outfit, but he realized he didn’t fancy being in a tiny cabin underwater. So he passed on that, and it was lucky, because the next place he got an interview at was IBM. They told him, “we like your record, but we don’t have an opening for an electrical engineer. How would you like to be a computer software engineer instead?”

Jack said, “what’s that?” But he got the job anyways. This was 1958.

A few months later, he found himself up in Poughkeepsie, New York, freezing cold through the winters, working for IBM. His first assignment was working for a spy outfit. He needed a top level security clearance for that, so the FBI showed up in the NC mountains and interviewed everyone that Mr. Jack had ever known. They didn’t say why they were asking nosy questions about him, so everyone assumed he must be in trouble. We knew he’d come to no good.

Back in Poughkeepsie, Mr. Jack kept talking about how much he missed the South. His bosses didn’t understand what anyone would miss about the South, but to placate him, they finally transferred him to the Maryland office (that was the furthest south they could imagine anything being).

Maryland was not much better, though, with the cold winter, and the DC traffic was a nightmare. He kept asking his supervisor about an opening even further South, and finally, one day, a notice went up. It said, “volunteers wanted.” Usually when they asked for volunteers, that wasn’t good, but in this case, it said that IBM had won a 25 million dollar contract to help NASA land people on the moon (it was 1961 or 1963.) And they wanted people to go to Huntsville, Alabama, in order to work on that. Mr. Jack ran into his supervisor’s office right away, and right away, he was put on the team. He ended up on a team of seven engineers, and they wrote the computer program for the spacecraft that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon. According to Mr. Jack, after it was all said and done, he had four Sprites with Neil Armstrong (it wasn’t actually Sprite, I’m just sanitizing.)

So that is the story of the Dellinger Mill in the North Carolina mountains.

Walking to the NC Botanical Gardens from UNC

The official botanical gardens for the whole state of North Carolina are attached to UNC Chapel Hill. Isn’t that special?

These gardens are a cluster of flowers and woodlands, and the offices and gift shop are sustainably built, and everything is so aggressively progressive and fresh, that it makes me guilty to think of driving a car there.

Luckily, as long as it’s not the weekend, you can take several of the famous free Chapel Hill/Carrboro buses there.

Or, you can walk or bike! Now, if you go onto the Garden’s website, they suggest you hike the connecting path from the University through the Coker Pinetum. Now first, why did they ever call it a ‘Pinetum’. I’m sure I never heard that word before.

Second, I’ve been on the Coker Pinetum before. At least, I think I was on it. We were stumbling through some sort of scraggly, unromantic, dark, surly, sullen clump of trees near a raging highway, and after several consultations trying to figure out if we were lost or not, we finally were spit out sort of near the Gardens.

I suggest a much better pathway if you want to walk to the Gardens. Go on Laurel Hill Road.

Now watch out, because if you look for the route on google maps, the very first option they give you is the Coker Pinetum scrabble.

You know how they also try to fool you? They not only try to entice you with the Coker Pinetum, but then they also tell you that it runs right by the ‘Meeting of the waters’ creek (seen in the map above). Who doesn’t want to go to a creek called Meeting of the Waters? But I don’t even remember seeing any such creek on my one sojourn to the Coker Pinetum.

So ask Google Maps instead for the Laurel Hill Road option.

Actually, the version you see above is not what Google Maps will give you initially. I tweaked it a little. My version is a little longer than the Google Maps version — but my version will let you walk the entirety of Laurel Hill Road. And you don’t want to miss it 🙂 It’s like stepping into a fairytale — flowers everywhere, a woodsy path with lots of twists and bends you can’t see much beyond — and when you get to it, there’s more woods and flowers and slopes. It’s not a road that serves you by being straight. It’s a road that goes where it wants to go, and you go along with it.

Just before you turn on it, you see this fine sight:

Judy Blume movie in Concord

Union Street is the main street of Concord, North Carolina. It’s been partly closed off the past few months because they’re doing construction. But on Sunday, both sides of the street were blocked from traffic. So towards sunset, we set off to see what the occasion was. Maybe some kind of street festival, now that COVID is (hopefully) waning? I dropped my books off at the library, and then we walked further down the street. The street was indeed closed off — jammed up as it was with old cars.

‘Look!’ I said. ‘Maybe they’re going to a have a parade.’

It looked like a large outdoors museum. We were about to nestle ourselves among the cars and get a close look, when some men, heady with their authority and yet not as alert as they ought to have been, noticed we’d gone further than what was allowed.

‘Excuse us, you can’t go any further, you have to remain behind there, this is all closed off.’

‘What for?’

‘A movie set.’

I nearly rolled my eyes. I supposed it was some rinky-dink group of high schoolers, or maybe a college project, filming with their cell phones, and because their dad was friends with the mayor, they’d managed to get downtown blocked for their own private uses.

But then we found out it was a famous book — a Judy Blume book — and with famous actors — like Oscar-level actors — Kathy Bates and Rachel McAdams. You know, the girl from the Notebook and from Mean Girls, everyone kept telling as, just in case you didn’t know who Rachel McAdams was.

Here in downtown Concord???!!!

We crossed to the other side of the road, and behind some orange cones, there were about 15 or 20 people. Kids, parents, everyone.

I asked a nice-looking older lady, wearing a mask (and I was also wearing a mask!) if she’d seen anything, been there a while? She pointed at two teenagers or young twenty-somethings and said, they’ve been here since 7:30. In the morning. (It was 8:20 pm by this time!). So they were able to tell us everything. First, who the actors were (Rachel McAdams, you know the Mean Girls girl), and they had decided to film here because they wanted to re-create New York City in the 1970s.

Imagine that! Downtown Concord being chosen as a fair copycat of New York City.

How, out of all the towns and cities in America, was Concord even on the radar of the movie people? I wondered out-loud.

No one knew, but then they told me that a few days ago, the movie had gone filming at the Moose Drugs in Mt. Pleasant. Ahahahahahahahahahaha — Mt. Pleasant — and Moose Drugs — is going to end up on movie screens around the country???? It’s literally a pigs-can-fly scenario. Granted, Moose Drugs does have a very old-timey feel — I’m sure it’s going to be perfect. But how in the world did Mt. Pleasant get on anyone’s radar for anything? Except if it’s Trump rallies, of course.

Any case, then they told me what they’d see throughout the day. First, the producers show up; then the extras come; and last come the main actors. So yes, they had seen Kathy Bates and Rachel McAdams and everyone, and the little girl who is starring as Margaret (“she was in the Antman”).

“They were filming the scene where they are moving out from their apartment in New York City, you know, that part in the book,” said the mom.

I nodded, though I’ve never read this book. (Though I’m planning on it now!)

“They spent five hours just filming the part where the Dad is closing the trunk of the car after they’ve packed everything up,” said the teen boy.

He said that they’d watched all of that happening, and then the actors had all retreated into another of the stores, one with a green awning or something, which was set up as a ‘green room’ (is that a real term or did I mis-hear) and that’s where the actors could recharge during the filming downtime. They were supposedly all in there at that very moment, as the sun was setting behind us.

The teen boy had on a hat with the logo A24 on it. He explained that it’s the parent company or something of Lionsgate — it’s Lionsgate that’s producing the film (that’s the one that also did Twilight and the Hunger Games). And that it was his dream to meet the producer who is the head of A24, who was also on set.

‘Did you see him?’ I asked.

‘I did see him,’ he said. ‘He was walking past and he came within this much of me,’ pointing at a spot 5 feet away.

And the mom added that at the end of the day, when the filming is all done, there’s a chance the actors and producers and everyone will come to to the little crowd avidly watching every move behind the orange cones, and that the guy with the hat was hoping to get it signed by the producer at that point!

Apparently, this all has been in the works for a while, because all week they had been transforming the look of Union Street to match with 1970s New York City. The sign for the ‘The Bistro’ is gone, replaced with a pizza parlor, and a blue phone booth as been installed. The teen girl showed me the picture she’d taken, earlier in the week, from when she’d gotten into the set as it was still being constructed and snapped a photo of herself in the phone booth.

You can just barely see the top of the phone booth above the shiny copper van. And the yellow-and-blue umbrella is not normally there! The Pizzeria and Village Meats signs are both foreign, as is whatever sign is behind the tree. And the very farthest sign that I can’t really read.

I don’t know if they’ll be filming again in downtown Concord, but according to this casting call site, they will be filming somewhere else in Concord this coming Thursday.

And the family I was speaking to said that sometime in June, they’ll be filming in Southpark Mall.

You don’t pay taxes in two states the same year

I made a lot of mistakes with taxes this year, so just in case you’re as unaware as I am: you don’t pay taxes in more than 1 state.

I was very confused about this. See, my job is in one state, but I’ve been in North Carolina because of the pandemic.

This happened to me once before: I was working (and living) in Maryland. I thought that was simple enough. I wasn’t living in NC at all, so I didn’t even file a tax return here. But a few years later, I got angry letters from the North Carolina tax office. It was because my car had still been registered in NC while I lived in Maryland (at least at first!) So they thought I’d been living here and were demanding several thousand in unpaid taxes (plus interest).

But I just had to fill out some forms showing I’d paid taxes in Maryland, and all was forgiven.

And that all made sense, because of course, I was actually living in Maryland all that time, why would I pay NC taxes?

But then this year, I thought: well, I have been living in NC, practically the whole year. So obviously, I’ve been benefiting from NC services and the NC life, obviously I must owe taxes here even though no NC taxes had been withheld, given that I was getting my paycheck from another state.

And indeed, I did my tax forms, and yes, I had to pay a whole bunch of taxes to NC, on top of the taxes taken out by the state where the job is. I didn’t mind paying the taxes to NC; but it felt a little unfair that the state with the job, where I hadn’t even stepped foot, was grabbing their fill.

See, I had even read the instructions, and the instructions said: even if you don’t live in the state, you must still pay taxes on income received from the state. So that seemed to be the law.

I believe in stoicism when it comes to these matters, so I wasn’t going to complain; but then I mentioned it outloud, just as a sort of a joke, oh, look, I have to pay all this extra money to North Carolina now …

And the person I was with said, no you don’t! You don’t pay taxes in two different states.

And I actually argued with them: yes, I do have to, I read all about it, I’m sure, and besides, how can I not pay taxes in North Carolina when I’ve been living here this whole time?

And they said, noooo, you don’t, check again.

So I did check again, and I found the special North Carolina tax form where you list how much taxes you already paid in a different state, and then claim that as a credit, thereby lowering the amount you also need to pay to North Carolina. Well, it lowered the amount I needed to pay by 80%. So I celebrated after that, I was pretty pleased.

I still needed to pay NC a bit more tax; and I even needed to pay more tax to the state with the job, which I didn’t understand — why hadn’t they withheld enough tax from each paycheck in the first place, and for crying out loud, I hadn’t even been there the whole year, and yet they want more taxes? But the amounts were so low compared to what I’d thought I needed to pay originally, I didn’t linger over that.

But I still thought, well, poor North Carolina, I lived here all this time, and they just got a few paltry sums from me?

My friend said: don’t worry, they’ll go nab all the taxes from the state with the job where you didn’t even set foot, they’ll make them hand it over.

Alright then.

Then, my my mood both improved by this turn of events, and my tax-form-filling confidence way diminished, it occurred to me that maybe I had after all made some other mistakes in the forms. After all, why did the state where I hadn’t ever been want more taxes from me? I decided to see if I could crunch all my numbers through one of those tax-filing online accounts, just to see if they got to the same results I had. Just to double-check. I figured the software would make me pay at some point, so I planned to just use it as far as I could. I had used HR Block in the past, so that’s the one I went back to.

And while I was entering in all the information for the W2 forms, I noticed something very interesting. The state listed on my W2 form was not the state where the job is located. The state was North Carolina. It took me a while to fully understand what was going on, but according to HR Block, I didn’t owe any taxes at all to the state with the job (and I’d been planning to send them a check for more!) More than that, I hadn’t been paying taxes to that state this whole time, as I’d fondly believed. Instead, apparently I’ve been paying taxes to North Carolina all along. I guess my job set this up to make it easier for me, to save me from filing with multiple states and doing all the math myself (which I did anyways, until HR Block set me straight.)

And not just that, but North Carolina owes me a refund — whereas I had been getting ready to send both NC and the state with the job a check.

And the kicker is, after I figured all that out, HR Block let me file for free after all — even though they’re not even listed on the IRS website as being a freefile partner this year. Maybe there was just a bug in the system that let me through!

So I filled out a whole bunch of forms for nothing — well, not for nothing. I learned some about tax law along the way. Just what I always wanted. So this was great.

Another thing I found out I was doing wrong (and apparently have been paying extra tax on for years): North Carolina does not take out state taxes on interest you’re earning in the bank. Remember how NC sent me a letter saying, hey, you should have been paying taxes while you lived in Maryland, you owe us? Well, then never ever have sent me a letter saying, hey, you shouldn’t have paid us taxes on the bank interest, here’s some money back.

I wonder … I just wonder … if North Carolina would have said anything if I’d done and sent them an extra check, when hopefully their own tax paraphernalia and devices should — at least one hopes — register that they owe me a refund. I just wonder.

And I wonder what the state with the job would have said if I had after all went and sent them a tax return with a check attached. Would it have registered with them, no, you don’t owe us any taxes at all? Or would they have pocketed the money, no questions asked?

Any case, I am very much in favor of fair taxes that fully fund schools, healthcare, and people living in poverty, so this is not a complaint about any of that. It’s just in case anyone else is about to try to pay the same amount of taxes in one state as they do in the other.

How old is Anne of Green Gables in each book?

It’s simple enough for the first few books, because it’s mentioned, and the passage of her birthdays is commemorated.

But then, there’s a little hiccup that occurs in the timing right around book #4! And past book 5, her age isn’t really mentioned, until book 8, and at that point, the accounting is all wrong and inconsistent.

So, let’s do the math ourselves:

*Keep in mind, Anne’s birthday is in March.

Anne of Green Gables

She’s 11 when she shows up at Green Gables, and the first book ends when she’s 16 and a half.

Anne of Avonlea

She’s 16 and a half when the second book opens, and she spends two years in that book as a teacher.

Anne of the Island

Book three: it’s when Anne goes to college. She’s 18 at the start, she’s 22 at the end. Midway through, when Anne is 20, it mentions for the first time what Marilla’s age is. She was 60 at that time, so she is exactly 40 years older than Anne. This is important for later!!

Anne of Windy Poplars

Book four: this takes place right after book #3, chronologically … and the book lasts for 3 years as Anne works as a principal in Summerside … so it goes from age 22 to age 25 … so far, so good … but wait for the next part …

Anne’s House of Dreams

Book five: this is where it gets tricky! In the beginning of this book, it’s mentioned that Anne is 25, but what always messed me up is that it also says: “It’s been 3 years since we last saw her” (it says this in the first chapter). I took that to mean that possibly Anne was in fact 28! She’s 25 when we last saw her in Book 4, so add 3 more years. However, “three years since we last saw her” actually refers to book 3, when Anne was 22 at the end. Book five was in fact written like 2 decades BEFORE book 4! Book 4 wasn’t thought of when Book 5 was being written. That’s why it says, ‘it’s been three years’ (since Book 3) but it’s actually been no time at all since Book 4 ended.

And how old is Anne throughout Book 5? The book starts with  her wedding to Gilbert in August, and the two of them moving to Four Winds harbor, and Anne is 25. The following June, Anne gives birth to little Joy, who dies within a day. Anne would have turned 26 the preceding March. The following summer (it doesn’t mention exactly what month; but it is stated that Little Joy would have been over a year old), Anne gives birth to Jem. So she is 27 at that point. In the fall of that year – maybe October – Anne and Gilbert and Jem (and don’t forget Susan Baker) move out of the House of Dreams and into their new home in the village. And by the way, it is hinted that Anne is already pregnant (with a boy that turns out to be Walter) as they’re moving out. That’s where the book ends … so Anne is still 27; around 27 and a half.

Anne of Ingleside

Book 6: At the start of this book, baby Jem, who was just 2 to 4 months old at the end of Book 5, is around 6 years old and has started going to school – has been going for almost a full year. It is not the start of the school-year, but rather the following spring — so in March, Anne would have her 34th birthday. Within a few months of the start of the book, she gives birth, in July, for the seventh time! This last baby is called Rilla (short for Bertha Marilla). By the end of the book, Rilla has just turned six. So Book 6 encompasses 6 years of material, and Anne would be 40 at the end. The book ends in August or September.

Rainbow Valley

Book 7: picks up in May of the next year, and Rilla is still six – almost seven in July. We know that Rilla is six because she is referred to as six during the open scene, plus about two weeks later, when Mary Vance chases her with codfish through the village, her six-year-old pride is referred to. Anne’s March birthday has passed, so she is now 41. The twins, Nan and Di (I always hated their nicknames), are 10, and Jem is 13 (will turn 14 in the summer). It’s also been 13 years since Miss Cornelia got married, which happened at the end of Book 5, right around when Jem was born. Book 7 lasts 2 years and a few months (it ends in September). Anne grows from age 41 to age 43. Also, Marilla’s age is mentioned once again. She is 85 at the start of the book. BUT! Something’s wrong with the accounting here. If Marilla is 85, then Anne ought to be 45 (as per the notes from Anne of the Island). But she was exactly 27 and a few spare months when she gave birth to Jem, who is now 13 – but close enough to 14 that Anne has already celebrated her March birthday. 27 + 14 is just 41. So I believe that in fact, Marilla ought to now have been only 81. Now, before moving on to the last book, let’s also account for the ages of the Meredith kids, since the book really focuses more on them than Anne’s children, plus they remain important for Book #8. At the start of Rainbow Valley, when Jem is 13, the Merediths are introduced with Jerry being 12, Faith being 11, Una 10, and Carl 9 (their ages go up like the steps on a staircase, says Miss Cornelia.)

Rilla of Ingleside

Book 8: the last book 😦 And it centers around the last child, Rilla. At the very start of the book, Rilla is now 14 – a few weeks from turning 15 in July (July 1914). Since Anne had already had her 34th birthday in March of the year when she gave birth to Rilla, then she would be 49 at this point. Also, Jem is stated to be 21 years old. However, Jem’s birthday is also in July or summer-time (see Anne’s House of Dreams) and he must be turning 22 right along as Rilla turns 15. That’s the only way it works out, because Jem and Rilla are seven years apart. Anne gave birth to Jem at age 27, so adding 22 gives you 49. Remember, Anne’s birthday is in March, so she’s going to turn 49 even while Jem is still 21.

But here we run into a problem! Because, in the second year of the book — we know it’s February 1916, because it happens just after the Parliament buildings in Ottawa were burned — this girl called Miranda gets married. Anne gives Miranda her own old wedding veil to wear for the wedding, and says, ‘It is twenty-four years since I was a bride at old Green Gables.’ Well, if you refer back to Anne’s House of Dreams, Anne gets married in August, and she is 25 years old. So this is implying, therefore, that Anne is 49 (25+24) in February 1916 (and presumably about to turn 50 in March?) Right? Wrong! See, we know that Rilla turned 15 in July 1914, and when Rilla was born in 1899, Jem had already attended school as a six-year-old for a whole year and was turning seven himself (this is at the start of Anne of Ingleside); we know, from Rainbow Valley, that when Jem was 13, Rilla was 6. Those two are seven years apart. Since we know from Book 5 that Jem was born two years after Anne got married at age 25, and she was therefore 27 at Jem’s birth, we therefore also know that Anne was 34 when she gave birth to Rilla (seven years older), and so therefore, in fact, since Rilla is sixteen years old in February 1916, that pegs Jem at 23 years of age, and so THEREFORE … at this point, it’s been 25 years since Anne was a bride. Anne is therefore 50 already at this point, and about to turn 51 in fact, because she was already 49 during the first year of the war. The accounting of the ages that author does at this point is simply wrong.

A few other things are wrong with the accounting of the dates and ages. When the book has progressed as far as spring 1917, Bruce Meredith is established as being 9 years of age, almost 10. Bruce is the child of John Meredith and Rosemary West, whose romance is narrated in the previous book. Well, there’s something wrong. If Bruce turns 10 in spring or summer 1917, that means he was born in spring/summer 1907. So let’s work backwards a bit. Since Rilla turned 15 in July 1914, we know she was born in July, 1899. In spring/summer 1907, therefore, Rilla would have been still 7 years of age — about to turn 8. The book ‘Rainbow Valley’ begins in the spring during which Rilla is 6 — so it would have been the year before, 1906. Well …. Rainbow Valley spans over two years, and John Meredith and Rosemary West don’t get engaged until the very end, with the double wedding (since Rosemary’s sister Ellen was also getting married) scheduled for September — that would be September 1908. Do you hear that, Rosemary and John Meredith were just getting married in September 1908, and you know with saintly Reverend Meredith, there would have been no child out of wedlock. The earliest their son Bruce Meredith could have been born was, roughly, summer 1909. Therefore, in spring 1917, when it is said of Bruce Meredith that he is about to turn 10, the oldest he actually could be turning was 8!

Continuing on like this (and this next one is HUGE problem), in the opening chapters of this book we also learn that Shirley — Anne’s child who is mentioned least of them all — is 16. To reiterate, this is summer 1914. In the third year of the book (spring 1917), Shirley announces that since he just turned 18 last Monday, he now wants to enlist in the army like his older brothers. Now, this is obviously wrong. Many things in life have ambiguity, and very little is ever black-and-white, but this is one such case: you simply cannot already be 16 in summer 1914, and then not turn 18 until spring 1917. But let’s to simplify things assume that the second age-marker is correct, i.e., Shirley turns 18 in spring 1917. If that’s the case, then he turned 16 in spring 1915, and therefore he turned 15 in spring 1914, and therefore … are you spotting the problem? Because Rilla turns 15 in herself in July 1914! Rilla turns 15 just 3-4 months after Shirley does? First of all, this is another unambiguous part of life: it’s impossible. Any two consecutive children that the same mom gives birth to have to be nine months apart at least, am I right or am I right? Unless the first kid was premature and in that case, the parents have bigger problems on their hands than having a second kid right away. Second of all, we know that Anne was very sick after Shirley was born and say in bed for weeks and weeks; so even the 9-month scenario isn’t plausible, because there’s no way Anne got pregnant with Rilla right after giving birth to Shirley. This is all just plain wrong. I think that the truth is that Shirley was indeed 16 at the start of the book (June 1914); and let’s say he really does enlist in spring 1917; well, he hasn’t ‘just turned’ 18 when he does so, that is all. He’s actually turned 19 (or way more realistically, he’s been 19 for a while) and you know, because Walter had died, and because Jem was already in the trenches, for the sake of him mom, he didn’t enlist immediately upon coming of age.

We also learn in the opening chapters of Rilla of Ingleside that Walter is 20; and Faith is 19. This kind of checks out, because that makes Faith two years younger than Jem, which checks out with the hierarchy in Rainbow Valley — except Jem is turning 22, so Faith needs to hurry up and have her birthday so that things remain in sync. Although it’s not explicitly mentioned, the twins Nan and Di should be 18 at the beginning. In the second year of the war, it is mentioned that Carl Meredith has just turned 18. At that point, Rilla is 16, so it checks out — in Rainbow Valley, Carl is 9 while Rilla is about to turn 7. They are just two years apart. The book opens on June 28, 1914. It last till the war ends in November, 1918, when Anne was 53. But the book continues as soldiers are returning home, months after the war ended. So she might even have turned 54 by the time the book closes.

Anne is born in 1865?

And this last book is also what clues us into the years when the Anne of Green Gables book take place. Book 8 starts in 1914 – on the very day, in fact, the news of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is being reported (June 28, 1914). This is the only point in the whole book series, I believe, in which a date from the real world is included, cluing us in to when the action occurs (well, except that after this point, so many real-world events are included — Italy declared war! Sinking of the Lusitania. Battle of the Marne and so on — that you can exactly figure out what month and year it is). Rilla’s fifteenth birthday was in July, 1914, so she was born in 1899. If Anne was 34 at that point, then Anne herself was born in 1865. Oh, wow, the end of the Civil War. If Anne was 11 when she first meets Marilla and Matthew in Green Gables, then Book #1 starts in 1876. Incidentally, Lucy Maud Montgomery herself was born two years before that! So she ended up being 9 years younger than her most famous character.

Though I suspect originally Anne and Lucy Maud Montgomery maybe were vaguely supposed to be the same age (Anne is sort of based off the author, per the biography Gift of Wings). L.M. Montgomery started writing the books and had already published two or three of them before World War 1 ever started. When that War started, and she decided it would form part of the arc of the book series, that is when Anne’s age had to be adjusted backwards to accommodate the new time span.

Ordering from Nordic Nest

Nordic Nest is an (on-line only?) store in Sweden. You can get all sorts of stuff from Sweden on it. The site seemed very legitimate, so one day, I thought, what the heck, and placed an order.

As soon as I press ‘pay’, however, I got a notice from my credit card — they wanted me to enter an extra security code. I did that, not too alarmed — I figured they have to check extra if it’s an international purchase.

Well, I don’t remember what led me that way, but a while later found me on all these sites in which Nordic Nest was proclaimed as — not quite a scam — just not entirely trustworthy. Whatever that means! And then I found all these complaint sites where entry after entry claimed to have made orders from Nordic Nest that never arrived — or arrived after 3 months or something. I thought, oh dear, let me not depend on this stuff reaching its destination.

Lucky me, though — it all arrived perfectly, on time, and with no problems. Let me explain exactly how it worked, at least for me:

(Note: I am of course in the USA. A lot of the complaints were from British people. So this experience might be location-specific.)

First, I placed the order on March 12. A confirmation email from Nordic Nest arrived just a few minutes afterward. I bought five items. When I was picking them out, the wool blanket had a warning attached to it: not currently in stock, expect a 3-4 week delay. The idea was that the blanket by itself would ship separately and later. So I was prepared for that delay, but instead, a mere week later, I got a second email from Nordic Nest, saying that all five items had been shipped! So I guess they had the blanket in stock after all.

Nordic Nest has a page where they describe how long it takes to ship things. They talk about their ‘warehouse’, and that you can expect deliver about 7-14 days after items have been dispatched. I therefore assumed the warehouse was in the USA, maybe New York or something. But that’s not the case. The warehouse is in Germany. I know that now because the second email from Nordic Nest came with a DHL tracking number. The DHL site reveals the items originate in Hamburg, Germany, and after a few days, they end up in Frankfurt (Frankfurt is where Heidi — the character in the book — spends the winter! Frankfurt is also where Anne Frank was born.)

Based on that last entry from March 23, I assumed that my package must have made its way hopefully onto a cargo ship bound for the US. However, I soon had doubts again, because I searched for ‘IPZ Frankfurt’, trying to figure out what IPZ stands for. Again, I stumbled on all sorts of complaint sites that claimed IPZ Frankfurt is a giant delivery center. There’s no monitoring, no tracking, and packages get swallowed into a black hole. One person specifically claimed that a bunch of the packages get stolen out the back door. Another said that upon delivering packages to IPZ Frankfurt, German Post no longer claims responsibility for it; in their eyes, they have already passed the package on to the US Postal Service, even though the package is still in Germany.

So again I thought, I guess I’ll just never see this package. But maybe I assumed that too soon — the complained about the German Post — but I don’t think German Post handles Nordic Nest packages. I think it is DHL all the way.

Well, I spent a few days refreshing the Tracking Page, hoping something new would show up, but it seemed a futile, and I left it alone for a while. I was expecting, maybe in two months something will budge? Instead, though, it was a mere seven or eight days.

So it came less than a month after I ordered on March 12. The package told me ‘Welcome Home’.

Yes, you are very welcome home, darlings. This is after I had tossed things out and aside, but it was immaculate on the inside — everything arranged perfectly. Those Sealed Air bags with the green text I believe can be recycled in the bins for plastic bag recycling outside most grocery stores.

And the bubble wrap was for this delight…

This is now my new favorite cup. Nordic Nest has other cups and mugs with Astrid Lindgren characters. Actually, there’s only like two more — so sad! If only there were more. I am going to hopefully collect the others. To find them, just go to the site and search for ‘Astrid Lindgren’.

And this was the wool blanket that wasn’t going to be in stock for another three or four weeks:

I haven’t taken it out of its bag yet, but it seems perfectly fine. For a wool blanket, it actually feels very light. You can see the full blanket here — isn’t it beautiful? Oh, and you’ll notice on the site that the ‘3-4 week delay’ warning is no longer there — now they can ship it from their warehouse within 2-5 days.

Finally, I got some kitchen towels:

These surprised me a bit — I think of kitchen towels as the furry, terrycloth variety. These kind of feel like silk. You can see the individual threads, so they look like tapestries, not like towels.

For example, if you look at the small picture of the summer flowers towel on the site, then you can’t see any threads — though if you click to zoom in, then you do.

So any case, everything came just as it was supposed to.

The only other thing to say is that on the DHL tracking page, it told me the weight was 1.814. That was it, no units given. I knew enough to assume this at least was 1.814 kilograms, not pounds. But 1.814 kilograms didn’t sound heavy enough for the five things I’d bought — I’d assumed the wool blanket by itself was at 10 pounds. I hoped this was a mistake — or maybe that Germany has its own measuring system where 1.8 actually means 18, or something. My fear was that after all, Nordic Nest was a scam and they were shipping miniature items, sized right for dolls.

But no, the package arrived and the weight is listed right on the address label — 1.8 kg. I just looked it up, and 1.8 kg is about 4 pounds. Well, the package seems like more than 4 pounds to me, but whatever, it has not affected the contents I had ordered.

So that’s it for the Nordic Nest experience. Worth it just to get something that’s got words like this printed on it:

Don’t order from Amazon

Amazon seems too icky of a company, and therefore using it makes us all caught up in the ickiness.

And beyond that, I’m not even sure what the point is. I bought this nice sushi-making kit for someone’s present. It’s a very nice kit. It comes with all the cooking utensils you need, plus all the ingredients — the rice, the sauces, etc, etc. The only thing it doesn’t have is the fish, cause obviously that would spoil if you shipped it in a box. All the other sushi-making kits had just the cooking utensils and maybe one or two of the food necessities, so what’s the fun in that? When you receive it, you still have to shop more.

Plus, the company had free shipping; the package arrived within like three days even though this was in two weeks before Christmas amidst the shipping frenzy; and as far as I can tell, it’s a locally-owned business. It cost $45 (and it seems to be discounted to $40 now).

Now, I also found this product on Amazon … here’s the link … and yes, it’s like double the price! In fact, I found it on Amazon first. I thought, this is perfect … but I don’t want to buy it from them. Not just that, I think Amazon’s site even said that it couldn’t be delivered until after Christmas or something like (with two weeks to go!) So I just searched for the company website and lo and behold … they could ship it on time, and for half the price.

So what’s the POINT of Amazon??

I bought pillowcases the other day. Similar thing … they were on Amazon, but I searched for the company website, and found the same pillowcases there. And the pillowcases are $10, and you know Amazon won’t give you free shipping for $10. But the company did.

One more thing you might be tempted to buy from Amazon. I really like Kinder chocolate bars. And you can’t usually find them in regular grocery stores. You might see Amazon as your only recourse. But no … you can get them at your Arabic food grocery store — you can get a whole box of 20 bars! — and I’ll bet you can get them at Chinese, and Korean, and Malaysian stores — well, I’m not totally sure cause I haven’t really been, but I’m guessing you can find Kinder bars at many of those foreign flavor groceries.

All my stationary for letter-writing

I used to write letters to people on plain notebook paper. Plain notebook paper is fine and all, but suddenly, when you are thinking about your recipient opening it from the envelope — and seeing the dirty-white color that tints to pea-green in certain lights, and the clash of the blue lines with the red vertical stripe — it always turned my stomach somewhat. A letter is like a gift — and you’ve already put so much time into writing it, and it is such a thoughtful gesture, it seems such a shame to spoil it with ugly paper. So I now have quite the stationary collection, and this is how I use them:

Number 1: Wishful thinking

This is my regular workhorse. This is pretty; but also mass-produced and somewhat commonplace. So I can send it both to friends, or just acquaintances, or anyone. Also, it came with 60 pages! So it’s always there to lend a hand when I need it. I’ve had it for 4 years, I believe, and I only have like 8 pages left. It’s just been my go-to. If I ever needed to write a letter to anyone, then this was usually the first sheet to grab. By the way, the green sheet gets separated from the pink Wish List. I got this for maybe $5 from Student Stores in Chapel Hill — back when it was still independently owned 😦 But I have seen this particular set in several stationary and office supply stores since.

Number 2: Botanicals

Now that my previous workhorse is near its end, I got a new one! I’m talking about the lined sheets on the right of this image. Again, very pretty, but still quite sensible and practical and straight-forward. There’s like 100 of those sheets, but I can fit less words on them. So this is now my new go-to. I got this for 75% off — maybe $2 or $3 — from the already low price at Half-Price Books in Rice Village in Houston (on the sad occasion of the closing of the store).

Number 3: Poinsettias

I do have one more go-to, though, but only during a specific season. If I’m going to write someone a long letter during the holidays, say between mid-Nov and New Year’s (as opposed to sending them a holiday card), then I’ll use this. I got this from a little printing store. It was 25 sheets for maybe $10 or so. I still have a lot of these left.

Number 4: Wedding flowers

I never like to send the same stationary paper to the same person twice. So, after I’ve sent someone a letter using the “Wishful thinking” paper, often I would use this. This paper also fits an awful lot of words on it, so it’s good for writing nice, long letters. The only issue is, it’s so sort of romantic, that I can’t send it to just everyone without it seeming odd. But mostly it was fine. I got this for around $1 in Amman, Jordan, a few years ago, and it came with 20 or 25 sheets. It was a little tumble-down shop under a bridge in the heart of the city. The paper is, however, actually printed in China. So even in Jordan, their things are made in China. Alas, I only have like a single sheet left!

Number 5: Blue paisley

The fates truly favored me, because after a few years of stationary-hunting, I became friends with someone who paints and prints stationary herself! She made this set above, which I really think is the most delicate and pretty stationary I ever saw. Honestly, the picture here doesn’t do it justice. All the strokes are so soft and fine, the colors are so dreamy, the design and dots tiptoe like lovely flower-shadows across the page. So, after I’ve written to someone with the Wishful Thinking and Botanicals and Wedding flowers, then I use this. Because if I’m writing them my third or fourth letter, then it’s obviously a very special friend, so I try to save that for this. The exception is, that this paper is so pretty, it can also be used as a “thank you” note — even if it’s more of a formal acquaintance. Also, I know from who I can buy new packets, so I can replenish!

Number 6: Hogwarts parchment

I got this also a few years ago from the Scribbulus shop in Harry Potter World. It was an exciting find — but I also hesitated to buy it, because I wondered how well ink would show up when you’re trying to write on something that’s already so dark. And indeed, my hesitations proved correct — I do often have to really smash the pen against the surface to make it dark enough to see. I always worried, are my friends going to strain their eyes reading this? I stopped, for example, using this to write letters to old people, I just felt it wasn’t fair. Also, although I was a Harry Potter fan, this stationary is just not that pretty! I even fell into a situation where I bemoaned that it contained a whopping 25 sheets of parchment — would I ever be through with them? I remember after having used it a few times, thinking perhaps I was over halfway done, I decided to count what was left, and I counted 17 more sheets. 17 more sheets that had to be written on! When I bought this, I still hadn’t bought “Wishful thinking” or “Blue paisley” or many of the other stationaries that you see here. I think the only one I had was the wedding flowers one, and that one is just too “I love you”-ish to be sending out all the time. So I bought this somewhat out of desperation — it was so hard, in those early days of stationary hunting, to find any stationary at all in the stores. However, today, there has been progress and I only have like 5 sheets of this left. I wrote on it to many of my friends my own age, especially those who I knew also liked Harry Potter. It was $13 when I bought it (I’m sure there’s been inflation since) but I wouldn’t repeat the purchase due to the aforementioned reasons and because JK Rowling seems to have gone off her rocker.

Number 7: Florentine

This is another stationary with a delicate design that is so pretty — and it comes with a matching envelop as you can see. It only came, though, with 10 sheets! So this is certainly not a “workhorse”, rather, this is a fleeting-moment-in-time sort of paper that I use for people who have already received 4 or 5 letters from me. I’ve already used 6 of the sheets. This was $13 from Payn’s Stationary Store in Berkeley.

Number 8: Too pink

This one is too pink, indeed; but it was priced at 49 cents at a dusty second-hand store, and I thought, who else is going to buy it? At least I know I’ll make use of it. And it did indeed come in handy, because like I said, I don’t like sending someone the same stationary twice; and some people I’ve sent like 7 letters to, or more. So in a pinch, if I’m rummaging through my drawer and have used all the other varieties, then I can use this. I only got it last year, and I’ve already used 7 of the 10 sheets it came with. It has matching too-pink envelopes. And even though I got it from a second-hand story, it was actually still wrapped in the original plastic wrapping (at least I think). So really it was new.

Number 9: Minnie Mouse

This I didn’t pay for at all, but found in a box of someone’s old stuff. It’s 30 or 35 years old, haha. And there’s still plenty of paper in this pad. I have used it to write to some kids; and for people who have reached the end of the tether of my stationary paper — and who are close friends — ok, and probably not any men — I will use this, too.

Number 10: Sweetest beginnings

This comes from a little shop called “Sweetest Beginnings” nearby. These are small pages, just a bit smaller than my hand, so you can’t write a whole lot without using several of the pages. This is good for writing short quicker letters. It was $5.50 for 25 sheets, and I have used 40% of them.

Number 11: too hard to write on

Someone gave this to me. It’s very pretty, but unfortunately, the paper is bad quality and it doesn’t really soak up ink or something. It’s hard to write on. So I use it like this: if I’ve written a letter on the stationaries above, and I just need to write one or two more paragraphs and I don’t want to use a whole new sheet, I just finish the thoughts on this.

Number 12: Rose garden

I don’t need to tell you how pretty this is! This is not strictly sheets of stationary, it’s more like cards, both where it concerns the shape and size, and the firmness of the material. I can use it as a thank you card. And, if it’s someone I’ve sent lots of letters to, and just want to send them a quick hello, I can use this. This was $14 for 10 cards and matching envelops from the same place where I bought the Florentine above. I still have a lot of these, mostly because I couldn’t resist and bought two packs!

Number 13: Rose semi-colon

My same friend who made the Blue Paisley made this. She had some spare sheets and gave them to me. The rose semi-colon is very pretty. Since I only have 5 or 6 of these, they are very special, I haven’t used any of them yet, and they’ll go to people who are on their 10th letter or something.

Number 14: The blue goose

I got this when I was seven years old, before I had any interest in writing letters. Also, I thought the blue goose was ugly and rather looked askance at the whole conception. It was only in later years that I thought it so cute and sweet and quaint. I didn’t pick it out myself (obviously, since I didn’t even like it), my parents did, and I think they picked it out because according to the price tag that’s still there, it cost 92 cents. Also, even though it was “for me”, by the time I rediscovered it years after the purchase, there were only like 15 sheets (out of 36) left. I maybe used it once in my childhood, so I don’t know what happened to the rest — especially since I think it physically reside among my possessions the whole time. Well, I came across it again in the early days when I’d started writing letters to people, so I thought its appearance providential and used it — until sentimental promptings took greater sway and I could no longer bear to part with it except for very special circumstances. You would probably have to be dying at this point for me to send you this 😦

Number 15: laser cut prettiness

When I was at UNC, I decided I wanted to learn all the cool stuff in the Makerspace, so I got pretty pieces of firmer paper — not quite cardstock, but still stiff and firm — so that I could practice with the laser cutter on them. But you see here that some of these paper sheets have lovely blank gaps in the middle where you can write; so I have used these as letter paper, too. It’s fun. You can’t write a whole lot; but sometimes the letter is less about what you have to say, than about sending something that is really pretty and dreamy and maybe a bit odd or whimsical. The problem with these is that I have never found envelopes that are big enough to fit them without needing to fold the cards — unless you get giant ugly envelopes. No, I take that back. There’s a stationary store in Rice Village in Houston where I found the right size. But after spending about 10 seconds in the store, it was obvious the family that owns it, and all their workers, are nasty disgusting revolting racists, so I didn’t want to give them my money. And although I have scoured stationary stores without obvious racists since then — and before then — I still cannot find the right envelop size.

Crossnore

One day I was riding around in the mountains, and we passed a sign for “Crossnore, 5 miles.” I sat and thought, Crossnore, Crossnore … where have I heard that before?

The only thing I could think of was reading the book “The Suitcases” in middle school, which I had really, really loved, and re-read many times. But I don’t think I’ve re-read it now for many years. It’s the story of three girls who are half-orphans. Then their father abandons them in the middle of the Great Depression, and they have to make their own way after that.

I loved that book so much that I wanted to have three dolls, or three girls, or three something, that I could also name Betty, Anne, and Caroline.

Any case, in the book, the girl Anne ends up going to a boarding school for orphans. Except I couldn’t exactly remember if this was truly the case, because I remembered for sure that the three girls finally end up with a good and protective foster mother … and if that was the case, why would Anne have left and gone off to a boarding school? Plus, I was getting confused because there’s another book I’ve read, long ago — also re-read many times — which also involves some sort of neglected girl and she ends up at a college in Kentucky — I’m pretty sure it’s Berea College. And OMG — I can’t even remember what the name of this book is at the moment! Any case, I was certain that Berea College had figured in stories about neglected girls — so was there room for another at Crossnore?

We ended up driving through Crossnore and what gave it away was the big sign saying “school and children’s home.” I also later looked it up and yes, indeed — Crossnore was where Anne went to boarding school. I couldn’t believe it. It was a book I’d loved so much, and here I was seeing the place where Anne spent a few years of her girlhood (Anne is a real person).

And I saw not just the school …

but also the church …

and this beautiful set of statues of children:

It’s a really cute village. They have art installations, apparently, and a bookstore and coffee shop and a second-hand store, and I would have gone into them all but for COVID.

There is one intersection in the town, and then the school is set up the hills behind. In the middle of the intersection is a stone fountain and a bench. Isn’t it sweet?