Tote Bag Tuesday: 03.13.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

It’s Saturday and the children are with their grandparents for the weekend, which means I was able to wake up early with more time for myself. As a wife, mother, and one who likes to keep a clean house, I had many domestic options to choose from. Should I:

  • do the dishes?
  • do the laundry?
  • sweep the floors?
  • clean the bathrooms?
  • tidy my children’s rooms?
Yes, I have about five baskets of these. We're a family of four and one of us enjoys eating spaghetti while wearing a white shirt; the other runs and falls in the dirt---often.

Well, the obvious answer is, yes, of course I should. 

But, what did my book-loving-self decide to do?

(Ahem. ) * Zara coughs to conceal and appease her guilt.*

I drove to McDonald’s for a Sausage n’ Egg McMuffin Sandwich combo, wolfed that down, sat and had a hilarious “date” with my husband of 10 years (as I consider any time we have together without the kids, a date—and yes, McDonald’s counts!).

This is not a paid endorsement. This is love.
And of course, Chapters-Indigo. 

No, I’m not in the business of promoting a store. I just happen to have found myself standing outside their doors at 9:15 a.m. like an ophan kitten, Saturday morning. And when I say, “standing outside,” I mean peering into the windows with my nose stuck to the glass and my hands cupped in graceful anticipation.

Did I mention that this particular store opens at 9:30 a.m. on Saturdays? It does. And me and a few other book enthusiasts also waited outside. You can make best friends on these types of outings! I do. I love talking to people about books! And they talk back.
Fill in the bubble. I'm not one who likes putting words into other people's mouths---except for the characters in my stories.
The sales associate finally opened the doors and the wonderful feeling of finally gaining access to my favourite place in the world (third to my bed where I read my books and my home office where I write them out!). I’m getting giddy just reminiscing.

The red Clearance sign shouted out to me,

“Zara! Get over here! There’s a bunch of stuff you’re gonna want at 50-75% off! Hurry up before the other book-crazies fill their arms up. Hurry! Run!”


As a mature individual, one who at least believes in the decorum of propriety,  I did not run, but walked briskly. It’s one thing to be book-crazy. It’s another thing to show people that you are.

Oh! The silver rack of Clearance Heaven! Of stuff I love! Of stuff I love! (And yes, feel free to sing along with me.) I have many book store anthems.

But, I’m not just gaga over books themselves. I have a not-so-secret fetish for all things bookish. Here are my qualifying considerations:

  1. Is this item about books? About writing?
  2. Is it quirky and fun—and about books and/or writing?
  3. Will this item be useful to me on a daily basis?—and have something to do with books—and you guessed it—writing?
  4. Is this item on sale (so I don’t have to break the bank, sneak into my son’s RRSP savings, or steal my husband’s wallet)?
(You understand what I’m saying.)
So, here are the book fetish items I found:
My very own typewriter tote bag. (For anyone who doubts my passion and profession of choice.)


Typewriters are heavy. My father inherited my grandfather’s typewriter, so I know. I’m not extrapolating on the basis of an article I read on wikipedia like some people do. I can vouch for the typewriter’s weight. It’s the hunk of good things past. (Yes, you flat-screen-dexterous-finger-puppies—there was techonology before the iPad.)



The brilliant readers and authors used to bang their calloused fingers on them and out came potentially smudged manuscripts, but a sure-fire discipline in the art of spelling and typing like never before—or now.

Now, people use the abomination of Spellcheck rather than the cerebral gift God gave them. Now, people create ridiculous acronyms in place of a beautifully articulate and perfectly fine language that worked so hard in evolving from neanderthal grunts and chalk bearings. Now, people hide behind their flat screen toys preventing them the knowledge and art of face-to-face conversation.




But, I digress.

I obviously come from an older generation who believes in the tried and the true. I miss the vintage, though I must admit, I’m not that old. If I’m being honest, I came from the Donkey Kong generation of Pet Commodore and the excitement of Vic20.


Donkey Kong---the barrel-throwing gorilla.


Vic 20. The way it was.


Yeah, go ahead pups. Howl your heads off. My Pacman will chomp you right out of your Hadoukken pants!


Pacman from 1973


The question marks, snarls, or plain indifference the youth may have against its past should spit its Apple-iPad-chewing, minimalist elitism and honour its greats. We used to chew gum!


My grandmother had packs of these in her purse. I effectively stole them every time she visited me. I was four.


And before my generation, the poets of the Beats fought hard to change the (type)face of writing. And before them, there’s that famous guy who quilled poetry and plays in the brilliance of Iambic Pentameter. No, not IP…Shakespeare.


Billy, the most famous man in the literary world.


Yes, young aspiring writers and English majors still have to study him to have any hopes of snagging a BA or MA—or at least a little respect. I’m fine with the stylus, but I prefer the mess of the ink-stained quill. Or in my generation, a good, old HB pencil.


Sharpen your minds. Sharpen your pencils.


Don’t forget us while you float in your ambiguous Cloud and Klout and OMG’s. And don’t forget how to spell. Or write. My seven year-old son has better penmanship than the chicken scratch I’ve come across as an editor! And yes, separate is spelled with an “A,” not an “E.” (Sigh.)


Where did all this angst come from? I must miss the typewriter more than I realize. And because of its weight and lack of ribbon in the stores, I must resign to an image of it on my tote bag instead.

Bang! Bang!

Its keys remind me of an old authorship before the Starbucks craze confused literary talent with the flavour of its frappacino.


What else is in Zara’s tote bag?


Lap top desk from Chapters-Indigo.


 Okay, after my long-winded protest against this generation’s move away from the precious pen, I went ahead and bought myself a lap top desk. I confess I own a stand-alone computer, a laptop, and a Netbook. And as much time as I spend typing away at it, I also sit on an IKEA wooden chair, which by stylistic measure, is trendy, but ultimately uncomfortable if you happen to sit on it for more than an hour. I bought this in the hopes that I can still get some work done while sitting up in bed!
These punctuation stone paperweights are perfect for the writer in me.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may know that I enjoy throwing pieces of my working manuscript or edits to the floor. I tend to do this with drama, flourish, and a lack of precision. In order for my papers to no longer find themselves under a bed, stuck under a table, or lost in a corner of the room, or in the mouth of my very curious, Shih-Poo, Macqua, these punctuation stone paperweights should hold them down nicely.
Me and Macqua (Maki).
Black stone bookend


No, this is not my new pet rock.

My old pet rock was buried with the remains of my pet guinea pig named Bee.


Bee (guinea pig) and Macqua (Shih-Poo).



This is actually a black stone bookend to keep my ever-growing library of books in place. Because we all know they’re an unruly bunch. They push each other for more space, for more attention, and for the simple sake of pushing—and down they go. Toppling off my dresser, my desk, my countertop! It isn’t the end of the story until a bookend puts its back into it.

PUSH. There.

They’re all aligned now. Ready to be read!


Books I bought:

If you’re unaware, I happened to drop by at Chapters-Indigo on the day they’re still holding the Buy 3 and Get 1 Free deal. You can guess how many books I put in my tote bag!


THE DOVEKEEPERS by Alice Hoffman

I was ecstatic  to see The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman on sale for only $9.99! I actually said outloud, “Oh my God!!” and a fellow browser came over to my section of the table to see what I found. I gushed and blushed and almost “blew the house down” with my excitement. I almost bought three copies.

love this book. One of my favourite heroines of all time is its character, Shiloh. I had originally borrowed the book from the library and it’s only now that I have my very own copy. And at a great price!

Holy hog-diggity, Batman!
THE STORY SISTERS by Alice Hoffman
And because I loved The Dovekeepers so much, I went ahead and bought The Story Sisters by the same author. If you impress me once, I usually put my trust in you to impress me again. I have not yet had the pleasure of reading this book so it’s being added to my growing To Be Read/Reviewed pile.
THE WINTER VAULT by Anne Michaels


I have a love-hate relationship with Anne Michael’s work. Her highly acclaimed book titled, Fugitive Pieces has been sitting on my bookshelf since college. I’ve read “pieces” of it, but haven’t had the opportunity to finish it yet. It’s so long-winded. And yet poetic. Sometime too poetic, it makes you want to brush your teeth.


Work that's TOO poetic makes me want to brush my teeth.


But, I don’t like giving up on books so I thought why now start fresh and give Anne Michaels another chance? I picked The Winter Vault up to rectify my impatience and my inability to complete her first book. It was, after all, shortlisted for the Giller Prize in 2011. So, now, it’s mine. Bound, bought, and book-shelved. If I can get through this little number, I might just return to The Fugitive Pieces, too.




I am also an art lover, having studied a few years of art in school. And though my talent seems to be naturally restricted to monochromatic works of pencil or oil and all of portraits—I am enamoured with the art of Alex Gross, which is the title of the book I “stumbled upon” in the book store today—except I didn’t stumble. I fell, stunned. 

The Art of Alex Gross: Paintings and Other Works is a sensory feast for the eyes and an exquisitely and beautifully bound collection of his work. It is more than a “coffee table book.” To leave it there would be an injustice. As soon as I turned the front cover to peek at its contents, I was overwhelmed with Alex Gross’ supremacy as an artist. He’s got Talent with a capital T.

His paintings are powerfully rich, evocatively sad, and absurd, and yet, I can’t bear not to look at them.

They are beautiful and disturbing. His design is perfect, his juxtaposition is precise, and his work, intriguingly intelligent. Oh, and did I mention, beautiful, too? Oh, yes. I did. At least twice. I won’t even bother trying to analyze his work. Not for this posting anyway. I will simply be happy to slowly contemplate his art as my eyes drink the joy in.

Alex Gross is now my favourite artist. I implore you: please, please buy this book!

I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. That kind of praise does not come easily from me. I do not paste my “love” stars on anyone’s creative genius. I usually step back, share my interpretation, and leave the rest up to you. In this case, I encourage you to take a look at Alex Gross’ work. And at the very least, pick up a copy of this book. And another one for a friend.


Books I have won:

Note: These books were winnings over a span of a few months, not just the week of this post!


A signed copy of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.


I entered a writing contest called,  the “Ten Things Haruki Murakami Made Me Think of” Contest by Bluestone Bookshop and my entry was one of the 10 winners to receive a signed copy of 1Q84.

For the contest I created a food and drink list that re-worked the author’s book titles:

Haruki Murakami’s Top Ten Food & Drink List

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

  1. A Wild Sheep Base (Original: A Wild Sheep Chase)
  2. Norwegian Food (Original: Norwegian Food)
  3. After Dark Chocolate (Mousse) (Original: After Dark)
  4. Hard-Boiled Wonder Flan and the End of the Swirl (Original: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World)
  5. Kafka on the Rocks (Original: Kafka on the Shore)
  6. Butterball Turkey, 1973 (Original: Pinball, 1973)
  7. South of the Hoarder, Rest of the Bun (Original: South of the Border, West of the Sun)
  8. Aomame Green Bean Tea (Aomame is the name of a character in 1Q84)
  9. Sushikawa Sushi (Sushikawa is a character in 1Q84)
  10. Sputnik’s Sweet Tart (Original: Sputnick’s Sweetheart)
Huraki Murakami's signature!


There were fewer than 300 of these signed books produced and they feature different versions of the author’s autograph. This is the sacred autograph that I received!


THE TIGER'S WIFE by Téa Obreht


A special thanks to Gwenyth Love for my win of her RAK $15.00 Giveaway from The Book Depository Contest. My winner’s choice was The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht, which was featured as a Book Club read for Huffington Post. I have yet to read it, but have heard rave reviews and look forward to reading it soon.




I won The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker from Janet Joy Wilson for a Valentine’s Day tweet I had written. And The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy from a draw at Book Trib.

I have yet still to read these titles—but wow—what beautiful covers.


THE FAERIE RING by Kiki Hamilton, THE VAMPIRE SHRINK by Lynda Hilburn, and ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake.


I won these beautifully bloody books from Justin of Staffer’s Musings. I had a choice of up to five books from his book list and these were three of them. When I received the box, however, Justin had kindly sent me a total of seven books as a bonus! Be sure to visit him as he’s a generous book lover and blogger. Thank you, Justin!


I'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER by Sophie Kinsella, ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING by Sarah Rayner, and JULIA'S CHILD by Sarah Pinneo.


Thanks to Chelsea Phelan-Tran of Crack a Book for my win of I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella.

And One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner was sent to me in the mail as my win from Goodreads.

Julia’s Child by Sarah Pinneo was a prize won from Lindsay Gentles of Turning the Pages.

Thanks to all! Now, I have even MORE books to add to my TBR pile. It’s almost a mountain now.


BONE: QUEST FOR THE SPARK BOOK TWO by Tom Sniegoski and DRACULA EVERLASTING by Rhea Silvan & DeFilippis & Weir.


And you thought I was a literary snob.


Goes to show you.

I also enjoy a good graphic novel now and then. I don’t really read them, but I took an interest in college (because someone I had a “crush” on introduced me to it). Have you ever heard of the comic, Sandman? It’s dark, but I liked the art.

Thank you to @mountie9 of Rayment’s Readings, Rants, and Ramblings for the Bone: Quest for the Spark. I won a copy from her giveaway contest!

And another thank you to Justin of Staffer’s Musings for Dracula Everlasting. I haven’t taken a “bite” out of it yet, but I can’t wait. Ever since my son has started to enjoy graphic novels and comics, I’m enjoying them more. He was duly impressed with these two wins!

My son, Michael---the Book Worm (like Mommy).


The Moral of the Story:

  1. You can never have a big enough tote bag for all your books—so, buy two!
  2. Visit your local book store and don’t be ashamed to clean out the Clearance section.
  3. It pays to enter book giveaway contests! If you’re a book lover, it’s a niche that you can’t afford to ignore. If you don’t play, you CAN’T win!
  4. God said, “Go. Multiply and fill the earth.” It’s clear to me now, God was also referring to books. My books, anyway.


Happy reading!

And may your mailboxes and your tote bags burst at the seams!


12 thoughts on “Tote Bag Tuesday: 03.13.2012”

  1. Ahh Zara! You have such fun with your posts and I love how you write with so much enthusiasm and it shows you love to write! Including photos also adds visual interest! It clearly works! Wow you won so many great books! And that Chapters sale was dangerous I might add! Thank you for sharing and I will be back!

    1. Thanks Giselle! For stopping by and sharing your support. Yes, the shopping spree at Chapters-Indigo was clearly a splurge indeed. But, at least THERE was a sale! Imagine if there wasn’t? And the winnings weren’t just for this week, but a collection over a couple of months. That’s why I love giving away books, too! I know how wonderful it feels to win. I’ll be crossing my fingers for you, for the contests you enter. Come back soon! The Bibliotaphe’s Closet door is always open. 😀

  2. That was a fun post! You have won an impressive number of contests and giveaways!
    I really regret tossing my old manual typewriter. When I think of some of the stuff we packed and moved from place to place instead…!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment, Laurie. I love hearing from people. Yes, my book winnings have been vast, though I must admit the winnings are not from the past week, but rather a collection over the last couple of months! Sometimes Rafflecopter or randomOrg likes me. Other times it’s based on the merit of my writing for a writing contest.

      Oh! You had a typewriter? My father won’t give me his—it’s too sentimental to him. I’m still on the lookout for a working model that won’t cost me a fortune and one whose ribbon is available for purchase…somewhere!

      Please drop by again. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on my blog and my posts. Until then, happy, happy reading.

    1. Thanks Jennifer. I love that book and am so thrilled to finally have it in my personal library. And thanks for BONE. When I get through my reviewing list for this month, I’m going to peek at it alongside my son. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. Come back soon!

  3. Okay, I’ll try to make this short. Here are my thoughts all scrambling in my mind at the same time:
    1. I envy your typewriter tote bag.
    2. I support your love for typewriters because I started with one, doing writing assignments. At the time, because of my typewriter, I was pretty much ahead of my classmates.
    3. I support Juicy Fruit (and Double Mint) for it (they) is (are) my medicine for stage frights.
    4. I want to read Haruki’s 1Q84.
    5. I envy your book treasures.
    6. I admire your son.
    7. And yes, book addict as I am, the next time I go to a thrift book shop, I’ll bring tote bags, with an emphasis on the S.
    Great post!


    1. Wow, Nancy! You really put a lot of thought into your response to my post. Thanks!

      1. No need to envy my tote bag. It’s on sale at Chapters-Indigo for $10. You can buy TWO!
      2. I love that you had a typewriter AND used it. I still want one.
      3. You have stage fright? Me, too! We can share our Juicy Fruit.
      4. So do I. When I get a chance, I definitely will.
      5. I’m sure you have your own book treasures! Do share!
      6. I’ll tell my son. He doesn’t even realize that I post about him often. And thank you.
      7. SALE! SALE! SALE! Stock up!

      Thanks Nancy.

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