Freak Lunchbox

I’m visiting family in my hometown of Saint John, NB, and enjoying a few indulgences while I’m here. Last post I delved into Bob’s Corner Takeout. Today I want to show off another favorite spot in Saint John: the Freak Lunchbox.

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According to uptownsj.com, Freak Lunchbox is a family business that was founded in Halifax in 2001, “inspired by circus sideshows, roadside attractions and of course candy!”

The Freak Lunchbox location on King Street is tucked away across from Brunswick Square, near the harbour, in a small shop amidst historic buildings. The store is a claustrophobically colourful cave of sugar, novelties, and retro toys.

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The bulk candies are all named after memes and pop culture references- Unicorn Poop, I Like Turtles, Mom’s (Rainbow) Spaghetti, Nuka Cola bottles, and more. Visitors can grab a baggie or a takeout box and fill to their heart’s content, or choose from a variety of rare and imported candies, sodas, and chocolates that are individually wrapped.

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^I have a weakness for gummies, myself.

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^Check out the funky cereals and the giant raptor head!

While candy from the Freak Lunchbox is a bit pricier that what you might pay for sweets elsewhere, the place is still worth a visit for the wide variety and the kooky, kitschy atmosphere. I usually end up spending about $30- this time, for example, I left with a container full of gummies and nougat, 6 Cow Tails, a finger monster, and some plastic duck-feet.

 

 

 

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Bob’s

Right now my hubby and I are visiting my family in New Brunswick, and every time we get home for a visit we try to make it to Bob’s. We popped over today for lunch.

Bob’s Corner Takeout in West Saint John isn’t a flashy place- it’s what you’d lovingly refer to as a dive, a hole-in-the-wall, complete with worn picnic tables and an eclectic decor made up of an assortment of faded wall prints and taxidermied ducks. There is a cosy charm to the spot.

My family has been visiting Bob’s since I was a young kid- well, probably earlier than that, actually. According to this CBC article, Bob’s is a family business that has been going strong at this location since around since 1985, before I was born.

While you wait for your food, you can browse through stacks of magazines that will take you back a couple of decades or so.

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Alternately, you can play an arcade game in the corner, or get out your quarters for the crank machines.

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Most people, however, return to Bob’s time and time again for the authentic and laid-back feel of the place, and of course, the food. When you step into Bob’s you can immediately smell the oil, and hear it sizzling in the friers at the back. You can expect an affordable, satisfying meal.

The menu has barely changed since I was a little girl, if at all. I can’t help but get the whole clams every time. The clams, in their light, crunchy batter, dunked in a little tartar sauce, still taste just as I remember.

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Dustin got the hamburger today, so I got to try a bite of that too, and it was also amazingly good- a proper “smash burger” Dustin called it. Soft bun, gooey cheese, and simply a real grilled burger taste.

Bob and his family have many loyal and devoted customers. While for my family Bob’s is a rare treat, many people are regulars, and Bob’s is somewhat of a local landmark . When I posted my meal on Instagram, a family friend who lives in Alberta commented “I’d push [your father] down the stairs for some Bob’s.”

Yup, Bob’s is serious business.

Librarians, ghosts, mental-health & diverse characters: A Spoiler-Free Review of Archival Quality

Yesterday I was examining our library’s New Book display, as I am wont to do, and I noticed this book:

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Graphic novels are one of my passions, so poked through it and soon realized that this book was SO relevant to my interests that I had to read it immediately.

It’s a book featuring:

  • diverse characters
  • ghosts and creepiness
  • a librarian as the main character
  • reflections on mental health

So, I scarfed it down on my lunch break!

Weir and Steenz have created a compelling mystery buoyed along by a wonderfully morbid setting and interesting characters. The style of the graphic art is lovely, and for that alone I’d be glad to have this book on my shelf.

Capture33^A poignant observation from the beginning of the book: If I had to visualize it, I’d say it makes me think about the walls that protect beach towns from flooding. The water rises and then retracts, and the wall holds, but it leaves line marks. You can tell it’s been there. You know it’s coming back.

There were a few places that the story fell a bit flat (some plot points needed further explanation or illustration, and the ending felt a tad rushed to me) but overall I enjoyed this story.

I give it 4 glaring skulls out of 5!

Spoiler-Free Review/Squeefest: Black Butler- A Book of the Atlantic

I finally got around to watching the new Black Butler film, A Book of the Atlantic. It’s been a little while since I watched anything Black Butler, and this movie reminded me why I love the series so much. I’ve enjoyed all previous installments, and this one has all the bits I love about Kuroshitsuji: dark and mysterious plot, bloody and dramatic fight scenes with witty repartee, and understated but impactful sprinklings of humour and fanservice.

118369^ Hey look, it’s Inspector Gadget! I mean, Ronald Knox…

All aboard the Campania! The Campania is essentially the Titanic, but with 3 smokestacks instead of 4. It’s a luxury liner on which Ciel, Sebastian, and a smattering of other favorites, embark on yet another mystery- this time involving a secret society and medical mishaps involving reanimation of the dead! (Read: Zombies.)

Although Ciel leaves his loyal house-servants (minus Sebastian, of course) at the docks, many other fan-favorites make an appearance in the movie, including Elizabeth and her family, Grell Sutcliff, Ronald Knox, Undertaker, Snake, and a few other surprises.

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Snake always cracks me up (anyone who is familiar with the series will know why). I especially loved the character development of Elizabeth- let’s just say I’m much more fond of her now! Undertaker also really surprised and delighted with his newest development.

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The movie also gives viewers an intimate look into some unseen moments from the very beginnings of Ciel and Sebastian’s relationship, starting with the fateful deal that forms the basis of the entire series. As such, this movie is a treat for fans of Black Butler, but would also be enjoyable for people who have never seen previous episodes or spin-offs.

Highly recommended!

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Two Canadian Women Who Changed the Way I Spend & Save

My hubby and I went to Japan last year. It was the most amazing three weeks of my life, and I look back on it so fondly every single day. We spent a lot of money on the trip- a lot. It was our honeymoon, so we went all out.

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For the first time ever, after our trip to Japan, I had lingering credit card debt that I wasn’t able to pay off right away. Previously I would never carry a balance on my cards, always paying them off before interest could accrue, but in Japan it was easy to justify charging tons of purchases to my cards, or even using them to withdraw Japanese yen, since “heck, it’s not every day we’re in Ikebukuro!”

To be honest, I don’t regret relying on my cards on that trip and bringing some debt home with me. It was an unforgettable trip, filled with delicious food, shinkansen (bullet trains), museums, ryokan (traditional inns), theme cafes, onsen (hot springs), arcades, and shopping. I treasure every little souvenir and photo book from that trip.

What I did realize, though, was that, because of my regular spending habits, what should have been a relatively easy few thousand dollars to pay off became a hefty burden. Despite my efforts to get the balance down each month, paying huge chunks off with every paycheck, by the end of the month the balance had risen significantly again, mainly because of my regular habits of shopping online.

I can try to defend my online shopping in a lot of ways- we had recently moved, and so we had new rooms that were bare without furniture and other items. Our new place has garden beds, and I felt obligated to get some gardening supplies and try to maintain what the previous owners left behind. My artistic hobbies inspired me to try new mediums, so of course I needed those expensive markers and calligraphy nibs.

The truth is though, most of the time my shopping wasn’t driven by a need- I was browsing the deals on Amazon, chasing the high of new and shiny things. I’m a very privileged person, I am thankful to be able to say that I have all the material wealth I need. So why did I feel compelled to always buy more, more, more?

Disappointed in my apparent mess of a budget, I did what I always do- I turned to the library for answers. A few months ago I found this book called Worry Free Money by Shannon Lee Simmons.

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A lot of times in the past when I tried to read financial books, I lost interest partway through because a lot of the information didn’t apply to me, or wasn’t practical or realistic. Worry Free Money is the first financial book that I read from cover to cover. As soon as I was finished, I created my own financial plan following the simple guidelines in the book.

I can’t believe I had ever tried to make budgets in the past that allocated specific percentages for clothes, entertainment, food, and so on. Who spends like that?! What we spend our money on differs from month to month according to a lot of different factors, so it makes so much more sense to plan the way Simmons explains:

monthly income – fixed expenses – meaningful savings (RRSP, etc) – short-term savings = available spending money. Simple as that.

shannonleesimmons^Thanks, Shannon!

Yes, it’s so simple, but it was a game-changer for me in that it made budgeting approachable, set out an understandable plan I could actually stick to, and encouraged me to determine a set amount I wanted to save each month. I set up an RRSP and began actively contributing to my TFSA again (it had been gathering cobwebs for a while, largely ignored).

However, the problem remained that I had a compulsion to order things I didn’t need, mainly from Amazon. I wasn’t hitting my saving goals, and my credit card balance continued to fluctuate- despite having paid down the initial spending from Japan long ago, it was quickly replaced with a balance from my compulsive late night shopping binges.

Back to the library!

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I picked up The Year of Less, and was inspired by Cait’s decision to set a shopping ban for herself. Cait made a successful effort to stop seeking more material things and instead dedicate her money largely toward memorable and meaningful experiences like travel.

Ever since our trip to Japan, I’ve been dreaming of going back for another visit, but thinking it would be a long time before we could ever make an expensive vacation like that again. Cait’s book make me realize that travelling has been far more enriching for my life than the illusion of happiness provided by clicking “complete purchase” on a cart full of stuff.

cait^Thanks, Cait!

Thanks to these women, I now have a renewed focus on spending less and saving more. My willpower is bolstered by beautiful memories of Hyōgo, Kyoto, Gunma, Tokyo, Osaka, and imaginings of other places in Japan, and the world, that we have yet to visit. 20171015_232501

 

 

Detroit Become Human: A Spoiler-Free Review

I’d been waiting for this game to come out, but I didn’t realize it had finally been released  2 days ago until my hubby said “I bought you a present” and dropped it in front of me. So, I spent a good chunk of my weekend completing my first play-through.

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I am super impressed with this game. It far surpassed my expectations. I’ve always enjoyed these types of episodic, storytelling, quick-action games, and I am a huge fan of other Quantic Dream titles Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls. Detroit Become Human is right up there at the top of my list now.

This game is so engrossing that I think even people who don’t usually play video games should give it a shot if they have the chance. Anyone who has enjoyed stories like Ex Machina or I, Robot will surely love this game.

The plot of Detroit Become Human takes place 20 years from now, and revolves around the stories of three androids and the humans they encounter. Exploring the various detailed scenes of a futuristic (but still recognizable) world is a treat for the eyes. Some scenes are set in places so enchanting or lively that I don’t want to progress and leave, while others present a much more bleak or serious mood.

The various androids and humans in the game have interesting personalities, including the side-characters, and I found myself rooting for my favorites.

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^Who wouldn’t love Ralph?

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^and Luthor, the strong and quiet guardian.

The voice acting is, for the most part, really good. I especially love Clancy Brown as Inspector Hank Anderson. Clancy Brown is one of my favorite actors, so I was pretty excited when I saw him in the beginning of the game.

His deep, throaty voice works well with the grumpy, foulmouthed, but otherwise loveable character.

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The gameplay itself felt pretty solid for the most part once I got used to remembering the touch-sensitive pad (“playing” the piano is especially fun).

I played on experienced mode because I wanted my actions to really count, and sure enough I made a handful of oopsies throughout, especially near the end. I finished with what was probably one of the most tragic endings in the game. But, it was a wild ride and had me on the edge of my seat!

Did I mention yet? The graphics in this game are seriously amazing.

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Detroit Become Human addresses questions of humanity and identity. It surprised me with some of its more blatant allegories to the darkest parts of our real world history- these were definitely heavy-handed at times, but regardless, I still enjoyed the story very much.

There are tons of twists and turns, and I am certainly going to do at least one more play-through soon to see what different outcomes I could have gotten.

Overall, I loved this game, and I highly recommend it!

Edit: I forgot to mention that, as a Canadian, the role Canada plays in the game made me excited XD

 

 

 

The Shape of Water: A Spoiler-Free Review/Doug Jones Squee Fest

Just the other night I watched The Shape of Water. I got it from the library and began watching it having almost no idea what it was about, who directed it, anything- just that it (maybe?) was a romance between some kind of amphibious man and a beautiful dark-haired woman(?).

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I know, it had lots of Academy Awards buzz and whatnot, but I don’t have cable, I rarely go to the shoddily-maintained movie theatre in my small town, and apparently I live under a rock. I’ve been really busy ok! T-T

After just the first couple of scenes, I knew it would be my kind of movie. It was immediately apparent that I was in for a journey that would be a bit whimsical, artfully directed (those colour palettes, tho!), and not afraid to go places that were a little transgressive.

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I won’t go deeply into the plot, as this is a spoiler-free review, but I will say that when I learned that it was directed by Guillermo del Toro I was not surprised. I greatly admire del Toro’s work- I appreciate how he doesn’t underestimate his audience’s capacity for comprehension, doesn’t pander to the widest audience possible, and balances quiet, charming scenes with short but arrestingly graphic ones.

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Sometimes to enjoy del Toro’s vision, the viewer must permit herself to suspend disbelief and question where (or whether) a scene blurs from reality to something more poetic and conceptual.

When I discovered that the film was directed by del Toro, I wondered if Doug Jones was the actor who portrayed The Assett/The Creature, and sure enough, he was. I mean, to be fair, the creature in this movie does resemble Hellboy’s Abe Sapien (also played by Jones) more than a little bit- not that that’s a problem at all!

Doug Jones is a talented actor with a long and impressive filmography to his name, yet many people don’t know his face because his roles often involve full-body prosthetic. To any person who thinks that donning heavy prosthetics equals lazy acting, guess again. Doug brings characters brilliantly to life with his subtle, carefully executed physicality.

^he also undoubtedly sat patiently for countless hours while experts carefully pieced together all of these looks onto his body!

The Shape of Water tickled my fancy quite a bit, and so I drew a little picture with ink and dip pen.

And then this happened and it kinda blew my mind

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😮 #dougjones #actordougjones @actordougjones

A post shared by Shauna (@hidengoshauna) on

FJKRNGKJQAMKFAMDKLM!!! Whoops, I fangirled a little there.

So, if you haven’t seen it yet, go watch The Shape of Water! I’m certainly planning to add it to my personal film collection in the future.