Substitute teacher turns garden shed into used bookstore

Substitute teacher Kevin Stebner moonlights as the operator of a used book store — and you can find it in his backyard.

Situated in the Beltline and run out of a tiny green shack, the inside of Shed Books is illuminated by strings of lights and crammed with literature.

It also features old dishes and a lawn mower, because in spite of the books his patrons come to peruse, it remains a functioning shed for Stebner and his husband, Joe.

And though the space itself might seem quirky, Stebner came by the job honestly.

‘The used industry in Calgary is pretty slim, so there actually aren’t a lot of used bookstores anymore. So this is just a means to have a place to have those books find new homes,’ Stebner said. (Elizabeth Withey/CBC)

He previously worked at as a manager of a bookstore and missed it, Stebner said.

It was this history — and a penchant for book-buying — that would eventually lead to the creation of the little book store.

“I just have a tendency to hoard books in general — even just at home, my house is essentially a big library as well. So it got to a point where books were overflowing, and then I’d bring books to the shed labelled ‘shed books,'” Stebner said.

“But then my husband was like, ‘Well, why don’t you just take those books and flip them?'”

A place to pass books on

Described on its Facebook page as “specializing in curated and curious lit,” many of the titles found at Shed Books were sourced by Stebner himself, who hunts for a lot of his merchandise at thrift stores.

He said that customers also donate their own, because used book stores are increasingly hard to come by.

“A lot of people just bring them in, because they want … another place to pass books on,” Stebner said. 

“The used industry in Calgary is pretty slim, so there actually aren’t a lot of used bookstores anymore. So this is just a means to have a place to have those books find new homes.”

The book collection initially spanned one shelf, but eventually grew to overtake six, and runs a gamut of genres that include contemporary novels, poetry, philosophy, sci-fi, graphic novels, the arts and small-press Canadian literature.

Stebner estimates there are roughly 2,000 books on the shelves in his store for used books. (Elizabeth Withey/CBC)

“Robert Kroetsch is my favourite Albertan, so I always tend to try to put something like The Stud Horse Man into someone’s hand,” Stebner said. “It’s my favourite Alberta novel, at the very least.”

Currently, Stebner said he has a lot of Henry Miller that he is featuring on Instagram, but he regularly highlights different authors.

“I want to make sure that everything in there is good, something I could recommend, something that I know is worthwhile to read,” Stebner said.

As to whether or not he has read every volume himself, he chuckles.

“Of course not. There’s 

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The Seattle Japanese Garden turns 60 with fitting testaments to rebirth and resilience

THE SEATTLE JAPANESE GARDEN, a 3.5-acre public garden within Washington Park Arboretum, is celebrating a very special milestone: It’s turning 60. It takes 60 years to cycle through the Chinese zodiac calendar. In Japan, the occasion is called kanreki and is celebrated as a return to childhood, a rebirth. “This auspicious anniversary seems especially fitting for our garden, which is constantly renewing,” says Jessa Gardner, Seattle Japanese Garden Programs Manager.

Development of the garden, one of the most notable Japanese gardens outside Japan, was a collaborative effort between the Arboretum Foundation and Tokyo government officials in the 1950s. Working from site photos and a topographical map, plans emerged from a team of experienced Japanese designers for an Edo-style stroll garden — a landscape to be experienced from within. A storytelling garden with footsteps revealing a succession of landscape elements and views depicting nature, literature and art. The garden, which opened to the public on June 5, 1960, is managed in partnership by Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Arboretum Foundation.

The garden was designed and built around a traditional teahouse and roji (tea garden) donated to Seattle in 1959 by the people of Tokyo. The structure, which burned in 1973, was reconstructed in 1981 by a Hiroshima-born local craftsman hired to replicate the original teahouse. The new teahouse, named Shoseian (“Arbor of the Murmuring Pines”), opened that spring. Today, the Seattle Japanese Garden hosts one of the most robust tea ceremony programs in North America.

Due to COVID-19, a series of planned celebratory events marking this significant moment in the garden’s history has been rescheduled or shifted online, with rich historical content posting to the garden’s website (, blog and daily updates on various social media channels. As of mid-August, the garden was open to visitors on a timed ticketed entry system (reservations required); tea ceremonies are suspended until further notice.

In an especially fitting reference to rebirth and resilience, the garden has announced a new partnership with the Green Legacy Hiroshima (GLH) initiative. Created in 2011, the initiative is a global volunteer campaign created to focus attention on the peril of weapons of mass destruction and celebrate the resilience of nature by sharing seeds and saplings from trees that survived the bombing of Hiroshima.

Earlier this year, “peace tree” seeds arrived safely into the care of Ray Larson, Curator of Living Collections with UW Botanic Gardens, who is overseeing a team of professional and volunteer horticulturists who are carefully tending seedlings of Camelia, Celtis, Diospyros, Ginkgo and Ilex. Once the plants are large enough, they will be planted in the Seattle Japanese Garden near plaques describing their important history. “During the last 60 years, the garden has been a welcome source of respite and rejuvenation for the community,” says Jane Stonecipher, Arboretum Foundation executive director. “We hope that the Hiroshima seedlings will continue to serve as a reminder for peace and inspiration in the decades that follow.”

Join the Seattle Japanese Garden in celebrating the past, present

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World Trade Center landlord Silverstein Properties turns to ghost kitchen Zuul in bid to return workers

“Food is a major concern,” Vardi said. “People are uncomfortable going between the office and outside, and ordering food still requires going down to pick it up.”

The best way to resolve those concerns is by delivering food directly to tenants’ offices, he said. But that raises issues of security and health screenings of couriers entering the building, especially within the World Trade Center.
That has opened an opportunity for Zuul, which operates a commercial kitchen in SoHo where established city brands such as Naya Express, Sarge’s Deli and Stone Bridge Pizza prepare smaller versions of their menus for takeout only. The food is produced from a single commercial kitchen, disconnected from any dining room, typically referred to as a ghost kitchen or cloud kitchen.

Workers can order lunch from those restaurants using a custom app for tenants. Orders must be in by 10:30 a.m. to arrive by lunch hour.

Zuul said it will rely on a small group of couriers who have been preapproved by Silverstein to ride the buildings’ freight elevators. Meals are delivered all at once to each separate office, where they can be distributed by the tenant company. The program will be offered to workers at World Trade Center properties as well as Silverstein’s other office holdings, such as 120 Broadway, Vardi said.

Pre-pandemic, Vardi said, the areas outside of office buildings included a “tsunami” of delivery couriers waiting for someone to come grab their order.

There are no such tidal waves now, at any building, as offices throughout the city are still sitting mostly unoccupied.

Safe food delivery has become part of the pitch from landlords to change that. The program is included in Silverstein promotional materials, which also outline the company’s air-filtration systems and social-distancing plan.   

RXR Realty, a major city office landlord whose holdings include 75 Rockefeller Plaza, coordinates food orders to the building through its own RXWell app, which was developed with Microsoft. The app features options such as Chopt and Sweetgreen. Deliveries are processed by the building’s management and placed on stands in the lobby for contactless pickup, as described by an RXR spokesman.  

Covid-19 guidance from the Real Estate Board of New York recommends that landlords develop a system for handling deliveries that limits lobby access. The board also recommends that corporate cafeterias remain closed.

That’s why Zuul, which has raised $9 million this year from investors, has built a platform that landlords can tap into and integrate within tenant apps, the same as Silverstein. CEO Corey Manicone said Zuul is in discussions with several other city property managers to use its food-delivery app.

Zuul does not charge the property owners for the technology, instead recouping its costs through a fee on the sales.

“Landlords have two key objectives in navigating this environment: reduce lobby foot traffic and limit people in the elevators,” Manicone said.

Partnerships with landlords could offer a new line of business to struggling restaurants. Zuul collects a 10% fee from restaurants on meal sales, as well

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Indoor composter turns kitchen scraps into fertilizer

a woman standing in front of a box: Rubbermaid’s program addresses a gap left by recycling facilities that don’t take food-grade material.

© Provided by Ottawa Citizen
Rubbermaid’s program addresses a gap left by recycling facilities that don’t take food-grade material.

I know, I know, I know: This is the third time in the last 18 months I’ve written about reducing or redirecting kitchen waste.

Humour me please, because as an enthusiast home cook I’m evangelical on the topic. Righteously so, I think, given that the 2.2 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste created annually by Canadians is equivalent to 2.1 million cars on the road, according to Love Food Hate Waste Canada , an awareness campaign delivered by the National Zero Waste Council.

Love Food Hate Waste Canada has great tips for reducing food waste. But even the most careful cooks will have scraps. The good news is that products, programs and processes that lessen kitchen waste are coming to market.

a person standing in front of a stove:  The FoodCycler reduces the volume of kitchen food waste by up to 90 per cent.

© Supplied
The FoodCycler reduces the volume of kitchen food waste by up to 90 per cent.

I recently tested, for example, the FoodCycler FC-50 that Vitamix launched in July. It transforms kitchen waste into a nutrient-rich soil amendment (aka fertilizer) that can be used to enrich indoor or outdoor gardens, is free of pathogens, and can be stored pest-free for months.

Taking up about one cubic foot, the unit can live under a sink or on a countertop. The removable waste collection bucket has a snugly-fitting carbon-filter lid; I had no problems with odours from the basket or with pesky fruit flies.

The machine takes fruit cores, vegetable peels, dairy, chicken bones and more. The cycle is supposed to run between three and eight hours; it’s always been done in four or less with the loads I’ve made.

I first tried the FoodCycler ($500) in my home in the city. Feeding a family of four, with a diet that’s heavy on plant-based choices, I was filling it up every on average once a day.

While I found it useful and effective, I am also notoriously reluctant to give up counter or cupboard space. I’m also very happy with Toronto’s municipal green bin program, but I know that friends in condos and apartments don’t all have access to that service.

Indeed, one audience that’s given the unit rave reviews online is homeowners living in multi-residential urban settings where there may be no composting program, or where outdoor composting encourages varmints.

With that in mind, I took the FoodCycler with me for a three-week working stint at my cottage, where all waste has to go to a dump, and where there is no community composting program.

It’s a perfect fit. There’s less smell and fewer drippy messes inside — as food waste goes into the recycler rather than a garbage bag. There’s also less smell — and no pests so far — in the garbage container that stays out in a bunkie between dump runs, which I’ve also cut down on. I expect I will doubly appreciate fewer trips to the bunkie — and the dump — during cold and

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Bathroom retailer turns on the taps with investment and job creation

Bathroom retailer Victorian Plumbing is to invest in a 50,000 sq ft warehouse and create 80 jobs as it responds to an increase in orders.

The Formby-based business is benefitting from increased demand from customers for home improvements, as many people spend more time at home while missing out on summer holidays.

Stephnie Judge, who became managing director in March, said: “There has been an increased appetite for home renovations during lockdown and investing in a bathroom revamp has been a key project for many.”

The retailer already employs 400 people and generates £150m sales. Before lockdown it had been forecasting another big jump in sales, targetting £200m revenues.

It is now looking to hire across all areas of the business to support its growth, with a particular focus on logistics and customer service roles.

“Consumers are revamping their home for a number of reasons,” said Judge.

“For some, savings achieved during lockdown have meant they have the cash to invest in their homes. For others, lockdown gave them the additional time to work on such projects and reminded them of the benefits of DIY.

“We are seeing consumers realise the benefits of renovations such as a new bathroom or simply adding a downstairs toilet or separate shower to increase the appeal of their homes to potential buyers.”

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New Mario Kart Turns Your House Into Rainbow Road

Mario turns 35 this year, and Nintendo is celebrating the anniversary of its beloved Italian plumber/aspiring princess rescuer with a slew of new products. There’s a special edition retro Game & Watch device, a battle royale version of the original Super Mario Bros. for Switch, and remastered versions of 3D Mario games, which tend to be less celebrated than their 2D counterparts.

But the coolest new Mario product has to be Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, a blended experience that combines remote control cars, augmented reality, and the gameplay that made Mario Kart a classic.

Here’s how it works.

Using four “course gate markers,” you can set up a physical track in your house that a small, physical Mario Kart — both a Mario and a Luigi version are shown in the announcement video — can navigate. Each one has a camera that streams video back to your Nintendo Switch, making it possible to see where you’re going.

Classic Mario Kart items, virtual opponents, and track boundaries are overlaid on the Switch’s screen, and you play just like you would a normal Mario Kart game: targeting stars and coins, swerving to miss shells, and cursing the heavens when you get struck by lightning.

It all adds up to an experience that’s half physical and half digital, one that is definitely a gimmick but, like all good gimmicks, one that will be difficult to resist.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit will be released on October 16 for $99.

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An interior designer and former house flipper turns used RVs into stunning tiny homes on wheels

  • Trina Sholin is a self-taught interior designer, and her husband Steve has a background in construction.
  • Using those talents, the couple has flipped over a dozen houses together.
  • They started doing the same sort of renovations on RVs eight years ago as a hobby.
  • In 2019, they made it their full-time job and founded RV Fixer Upper, buying used RVs and turning them into stylish tiny homes to sell them for a profit.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

RVs are hotter than ever right now, with companies seeing huge spikes in sales and rentals.

While some of us are only just discovering the joys of travelling with our own bathroom and kitchen, Trina Sholin has been doing it for years.

Her only problem: RVs are ugly.

“The dark dated, drab interior — after many months, it was more than I could handle,” she told Insider.

So the interior designer decided to make a few tweaks to her RV to make it homier and more aesthetically pleasing.

“I couldn’t believe the difference it made and how much more it felt like a home after I completed the renovation,” she says on the website for RV Fixer Upper, the company Trina runs with her husband Steve, who has a background in construction.

Trina, who has flipped around 15 houses alongside Steve, decided to do the same with houses on wheels, and started buying them, renovating them, and selling them for a profit.

While this was a side hustle for almost eight years, around a year ago, she and her husband turned their hobby into a full-time job by creating RV Fixer Upper.

Trina Sholin and her husband Steve are originally from Alaska, where he works in road construction and has always needed to be mobile.

Because of the seasonal nature of Steve’s work, the pair were already living in an RV, splitting their time between Alaska and Arizona.

Trina says that no matter the brand RVs seem to have “awful” design and decor. The interior designer saw that as a challenge.

Their first full renovation was on a Keystone Montana fifth-wheel trailer around eight years ago, which she said they completely gutted.

Back then, however, they didn’t find much inspiration online.

“There still wasn’t much online. Instagram had virtually nothing to look at or to follow,” Trina said. “We just kind of figured it out along the way and had tons of people telling us that you can’t do this and you can’t do that – you can’t put a chandelier in an RV, you can’t put in tile.”

However, when she did put in a chandelier and used tile, her renovation went viral after posting it on Pinterest. Trina said that she still gets inquiries about that first renovation, though she and Steve sold the RV years ago.

Although they started out renovating RVs for themselves, Trina said it soon became a hobby, and then a business in 2019.

In terms of starting an RV renovation business, the Sholins are

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Somerville favorite Highland Kitchen temporarily turns into Highland Chicken

“We thought it would be fun to change it up and simplify things, and it could be a model for when the weather turns cold,” he says. And it’s not a huge stretch — the longtime neighborhood restaurant has always served fried chicken. (Romano also runs Highland Fried in Inman Square, where fried chicken is a starring attraction.)

Mark Romano, owner of Highland Chicken, in the newly constructed outdoor seating.
Mark Romano, owner of Highland Chicken, in the newly constructed outdoor seating. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

He’ll peddle poultry for a while longer, and then he might try something new, like pizza or tacos. As for when the restaurant will return to its old model, he’s not sure.

“We’ll come back whenever we can fully come back,” he says. Until then, walk up and order or snag an outdoor table on the small sidewalk patio.

What to eat: Fried chicken in sandwich, tender, or wing form. Definitely get the Korean-style fried chicken sandwich with pickled veggies; a healthy slather of sweetish kewpie mayo; and gochujang, the slightly salty, slightly tangy Korean chili paste. This sandwich is made with all-white breast meat, FYI; some might prefer the fattier, darker thigh meat. It’s lightly fried and not too heavy — a hungry human could possibly eat two. There’s also the classic fried chicken sandwich with shredded lettuce, pickles, and spicy buffalo sauce on the side (it’s really spicy, so watch out). Fries are thin, crispy, and salty. Pro tip: Order a side of pineapple sweet-and-sour sauce for dunking. Not the neon pink stuff you might find at the bottom of a greasy takeout container, this is a golden, syrupy concoction with real chunks of pineapple — imagine your Nana’s fruit cup mixed with something from McDonald’s. There are also pickle-brined tenders and wings, with your choice of sauce (barbecue, bleu cheese, honey mustard, ranch, sriracha mayo, and that delicious pineapple).

Grilled chicken club.
Grilled chicken club.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Healthier eaters can get grilled chicken sandwiches or tenders with a honey-lemon marinade; a black bean veggie burger with guacamole; and an array of salads. Try the shaved kale and Brussels sprouts with hazelnuts and pecorino in lemon vinaigrette — it’s tart and acidic enough to offset all that fried goodness. Most everything on the menu is under $10.

What to drink: Highland Kitchen and Highland Fried are known for their tiki drinks. Here, get cocktails to go (served in plastic takeout cups); my dining companion and I split a Mai Tai Dragon ($12) with orange curacao and a healthy splash of Orgeat syrup that easily — and tipsily — served two. Or just grab a $2, 12-ounce can of Budweiser or a $6 milkshake.

The takeaway: A tasty pivot, though it’s sad to see Highland Kitchen, with its only-in-Somerville bar scene and jukebox, temporarily dimmed. But in a chaotic world, there are worse things than eating takeout fried chicken.

Highland Chicken, 150 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-625-1131,

Kara Baskin can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.

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