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Category Archives: Books

A Gift Shop Dog Day Summer Saturday

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I realize I’m far more interested in USPS stamp releases than the vast majority so I’d committed awhile back not to write about new postage stamp art (much).  It’s been some time so please indulge me for this post.

Earlier this month the USPS made available the following booklet of 20 Pets stamps.PetsThis morning, one of the two local writers groups we host every other Saturday is busily working on their critiques of one another’s work and I’m feverishly trying to plan our end of year book signings. (Why? Because the best gift is always a book and our great local writers get booked early during the holiday season.)

Because I’ve fallen prey to the ‘you must multi task in order to succeed’ mantra, my thoughts jump to my next to-do on my dog-day-summer Saturday list.  It is to review our favorite local publishers’ lists of children’s books because I know there are new goodies that we’re not stocking. I’ve already had shoppers looking for their grandson’s or granddaughter’s favorite author’s newest book.  (Yes, it’s mid-August and people are already talking Christmas gift giving.)

Those jumbled thoughts lead me to acknowledge that one of the Pets stamps is a hermit crab  which has been written about by two of my favorite locals (Anita Elco and Katherine Stelmach)  in Who’s in That Shell? for kids.  One of the other Pets is a corn snake which reminds me of Conrad Storad’s Rattlesnake Rules, another kid favorite.  Plus, parakeets and parrots are featured stamps, reminiscent of a book for the youngest readers that we love, GQ, GQ Where Are You? by Sharon I Ritt.

Dang it,  those multi-tasking “skills” have resulted in one more item on my Saturday work list:  identify additional children’s books about featured Pets written by Arizonans.  If you are aware of any candidates especially books about dogs, cats, horses, fish, mice, gerbils, please share and lighten my dog-day-summer-Saturday to-do list. In turn, I’ll happily  add to my end of year book-signing schedule to promRattote new local writers. Enjoy the weekend!


Why I’m Inspired To Write Today

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Why I’m Inspired To Write Today

After a long dry season, for no good reason other than there’s always something more urgent to take care of when growing a small business, Gifts To Go will host a local author’s book signing this coming Saturday.  The author, Brenda Whiteside, has visited with us before and shared her ‘Love and Murder’ series of romance novels with our shoppers and shippers.

The scheduling and promotion of this event differs from my previous approach.  Different in the sense that I’ve had to relinquish control of the process in order to get it done rather than it just being another incomplete item on my To Do List.

Because I’ve wanted to re-energize our book signings, the AA (Anti-Adverb) Writer’s Critique Group has volunteered to plan and schedule book signings.  Further they will be writing reviews of the upcoming featured authors book(s).  Our goal for these reviews is to get more readers knowledgable about the  scheduled writer and his/her genre and style.  We hope that publishing these reviews will create a bit of local buzz about the new book, the signing event and the author in general.  We believe this will offer some real promotion for the author and the event.

As the plan to add zest to the process is new, we’ve had some ups and downs with everyone trying to do the best thing for the authors and for their host Gifts To Go.  So, we’re breaking this routine in during the slow summer season with a goal of having a robust, well executed schedule of book signings for local authors when our winter visitors return to the Valley of the Sun next November.

When the electronic copy of Brenda Whiteside’s “Legacy of Love and Murder” was hard for the assigned reviewer to locate, I jumped at the chance to read it online.

I’ve always liked Brenda’s style and her shining personality comes through in her words.  This book does not disappoint. But there’s more as today I’ve found myself gravitating toward both general reading and writing and  am actually excited to get on with the fall book signing schedule.  Brenda’s book motivated me in an unexpected way.   I truly enjoyed it and keep in mind I don’t usually read romance novels.  If not reading non-fiction my go-to author is Lee Child.

Today, I committed to attend WordPress’ Blogging U classes and I’m carving out time each day to also re-energize the shop’s blog.  So, I offer sincere thanks to Brenda Whiteside, the AA Writers’ critique Group as I look forward to the upcoming season.



Musings Of A Shopper

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Musings Of A Shopper

Did you ever consider the word SHOPPING?  How about the SHOPPING EXPERIENCE? 

Every so often I find myself in a situation where I need to find a gift for someone: a niece graduating from high school, a coworker retiring, a grandson’s wedding, a baby shower for the neighbor’s daughter, a Christmas gift for Aunt Mary, a hostess gift for a dinner party, and on and on.  My guess is that you’ve all been there.

When I was younger I would talk to the clerk in a brick and mortar store if I didn’t have a clue, and I often didn’t, about what to get for this occasion or that.  Times changed and the World Wide Web, later the Internet, became accessible through my desk top computer.  It became possible to buy things without leaving the comfort of home.  Pretty neat, but I still had to figure out what to buy.  As time passed the “on line” stores began to carry a wider selection of goods, and it became easier to find a gift.

The problem I experienced was that I couldn’t hold the item in my hand, or see if it was well made or flimsy, until after I bought it and it was shipped and received.  It was impossible to know if the lavender sachet was too strong, or barely scented, until after I bought it.  I’m sure it has happened to someone you know as well.

Technology had given me convenience and variety, but in many ways I was still on my own and taking a risk when I was shopping on-line.

I stopped in a gift shop the other day to pick up some stamps.  I had seen the Post office sign when I stopped to eat in the restaurant at the other end of the block.  After lunch I decided to buy some stamps.

I heard a customer asking about a book for a grandchild and a store employee ask polite questions about the child and make suggestions.  The two of them ended up laughing together about one of the books.

The employee that sold me my stamps asked if I  had seen the new stamp designs that had just come out.  I bought some of both and was glad that I had been shown and offered the choice.

After I pocketed my stamps I asked about a CD Album that was laying on another counter.  The helpful employee took time to tell me about the artist and the theme of the disc.  She also told me it had just been put on sale, 50% off, and hadn’t been marked down yet.

As I turned to leave a display of figurines caught my eye and I spent a moment or two browsing and accidentally listening to another customer thanking a different employee for helping her find a book of poetry.  She talked about how pleased her father had been when she gave him the book.  She said he had really enjoyed it because it reminded him of the farm he grew up on.

As I put my stamps away at home the time I had spent in the store replayed in my head.  The store had given me a sense of comfort.  The employees had all been helpful and friendly.  There was a lot of variety.  I could pick things up and ask questions.  I realized I had just had one of the best shopping experiences of my life.

I’ll be shopping at Gifts To Go again, and if you would like a wonderful shopping experience as well, I’ll be looking for you there too.

Ken B, Surprise, AZ

Editor’s Note:  We at Gifts To Go appreciate our customers and visitors and strive to create a fun, easy-going environment that makes people want to come back and spend time with us.  We take great pride in moving our postal customers through their transactions quickly and correctly and take great joy in spending time chatting with those who aren’t in a rush.  So, receiving Ken B’s letter (above) was an immense treat that we will cherish and are thankful to Ken for sharing his thoughts.

And as in all of life’s endeavors, timing is everything.  We received this note on the first day of Small Business Week 2016.  So, if there is a small business you appreciate for their skills, location, ambience, community focus or… please take a moment this week and let them know.  And, please remember artists, authors and musicians are small businesses, too.

Press Release: Small Business Saturday Book Fest & Toy Drive Launch

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SURPRISE, Arizona (November 11,2014) Gifts To Go, located on the Bell Mar Plaza, announces a Small Business Saturday Book Fest and the launch of their annual toy drive to benefit the El Mirage Firefighter Charities on Saturday, November 29, 2014.

The Book Fest features discussions and autograph sessions with local authors, raffles and discounts. “Reading is fun,” says shop owner Tammy Fraser, “and it is going to be a fun day for everyone. We have great authors scheduled and will offer out-of-the-ordinary specials including discounts hidden inside books” she shared.

John L Ketchum, author of the popular John Bodie Detective Series (Vengeance in Vallejo, Karaoke Killer and Where’s the I in I and J’s?) and Aubrey Finley Patriot Series (2020 Patriots Revenge and soon to be released, 2021 The Search) will discuss his nine published novels ($15.00), along with his military and investigative careers from 9am to 11am. Mr. Ketchum, a retired Army Lt. Colonel and recipient of prestigious military awards including two Purple Hearts, also coordinates three writers groups and is an active participant in others.

During the 10am to noon time period, Laura C Browne will be available. Readers throughout the country may recognize Ms. Browne for her work as a business coach, corporate trainer, speaker and non-fiction author helping others achieve greater career success. She will focus on Annie Clark and the Pearls of Wisdom ($8.95), her delightful novel for girls ages 9-13 which has been praised by Publishers Weekly. Ms. Clark will donate a personalized copy of the book to the winner of a raffle held on November 29. The free copy will substitute a pre-teen’s first and last names in the role of Annie Clark in the title and throughout the novel. Additional personalized copies can be purchased for $49.95 and must be ordered in advance. Raffle tickets can be obtained by visiting Gifts To Go now through the Book Fest.

Multi-award winning time travel writer Ann Goldfarb will visit from noon to 2pm. Ms. Goldfarb, a former teacher, staff developer and school principal, is the author of seven mysteries for the teen to adult audience. Her books, including the recent The Time Borrowers ($11.95 to $12.95) are rich with science and history and include valuable study guides making them great selections for home and classroom reading.

Romance writer, Brenda Whiteside, will share the story behind the story of her six romance stories ($13.95 – $16.95) from 1pm to 4pm. In addition to novels Ms. Whiteside’s pens a frequent blog for her fans. Her works include Sleeping with the Lights On, Amanda in the Summer, The Morning After, Honey on White Bread and an anthology of short stories, “Warm Christmas Wishes”.

From 3pm to 5pm, Rev. Susan Henley, will share her spiritual expertise and books, Sara Beyond the Veil, A Spiritual Look at Dementia ($12.99) and Because of Sean, The Story of a Mother’s Courage ($13.99). Rev. Sue is an ordained Spiritual Peace Minister, counselor and Reiki Master. She can be found around the valley performing weddings, baptisms, funerals and helping her clients achieve a state of well-being.

The El Mirage Firefighter Charities have again partnered with Barnaby Street Shoppes, the retail incubator where Gifts To Go and the USPS Contract Postal Unit is located, to collect donations of new, unwrapped toys and books for local children’s holiday celebrations. Gifts To Go will provide an entry ticket to Laura C Browne’s raffle of a free, personalized copy of Annie Clark and the Pearls of Wisdom to persons who bring in toys and books for the Firefighter Charities.

Barnaby Street Shoppes and Gifts To Go/USPS Contract Postal Unit are found next to the 5 & Diner Delux at 11340 W Bell Road, Suite 128, Surprise, AZ. They are normally open Monday – Saturday from 9am to 5pm but have added Sundays from 10am to 1pm on November 30 and Dec 7, 14 and 21. Please direct questions to Tammy at 602 -403-0646.


Can’t make it to our Small Business Saturday Book Fest?  No worries, we’re adding all these great reads to our website so you can browse and purchase online. And, as you know our USPS Contract Postal Unit will get your online purchases out to you the day your order is placed!

“Will The Truth Destroy Lacy and Chance or Will it Be The Answer That Frees Them?

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Author Brenda Whiteside poses that question to romance novel readers on the cover of her latest novel “The Art of Love and Murder?” and it was enough to pique our interest in hosting her for a book signing this month. Take a peek at our press release below for all the details.


SURPRISE, Arizona (August 29, 2014) Brenda Whiteside, a romance writer from northern Arizona will appear at Gifts To Go on Saturday, September 20, 2014 from 10:00am to 1:00pm for the northwest valley debut of her newest novel, The Art of Love and Murder.

Ms Whiteside, a prolific author, has penned six romance novels, is a regular blogger and communicates with her fans quarterly through a newsletter. Her earlier works include Sleeping with the Lights On, Amanda in the Summer, The Morning After, and Honey on White Bread.

“We’re particularly excited about Brenda Whiteside’s appearance because she’s our first romance writer and The Art of Love and Murder is an intricate web of love and trouble” says owner Tammy Fraser. “Plus she’s a native Arizonan with roots right in our community.”

Excerpts of Ms Whiteside’s books are available at along with her blog posts and a link to subscribe to her newsletter. Her books will be available for purchase at the event.

Gifts To Go’s gift shop and contract USPS post office operate inside the Barnaby Street Shoppes, adjacent to the 5 & Diner Delux at 11340 W Bell Road, Suite 128, Surprise, AZ . Gifts To Go is open Monday – Saturday from 9am to 5pm. For more information, please call 602 -403-0646.

Kiddos Summer Boredom Stressing You Out? Register for Not All Monsters Are Bad Storytelling & Painting Event

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NEWS from Gifts To Go



SURPRISE, Arizona (July 7, 2014) Conrad Storad, acclaimed Arizona author of more than 50 children’s science and nature books will debut his newest release, Monster in the Rocks, in the west valley on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at a children’s event.

The event will start at 1pm at the Barnaby Street Shoppes on the Bell Mar Plaza at 11340 W Bell Road, Suite 128, Surprise, Arizona. Described as a C.U.R.E (creative, unique, relaxing and educational) for summer boredom, this event is the collaboration of Gifts To Go and Painting 4 Fun, both resident businesses of Barnaby Street Shoppes.

Monster in the Rocks educates children about desert creatures, particularly the Gila monster, and reinforces the importance of staying safe by obeying moms and dads. The book also challenges stereotypes as the real troublemaker in this entertaining tale isn’t the Gila monster after all.

Mr. Storad will read to participating children at 1pm then sign a copy of the book for each child to take home. Children will then join an instructor led stroke-by-stroke class to create an acrylic painting of their own Gila monster on an 8” x 10” canvas.

Parents and guardians of children aged 4 and older are welcome to register for the event while seats are still available. The $25 cost of the event includes the educational storytelling with Conrad Storad, an autographed soft cover copy of Monster in the Rocks, painting instruction and the child’s Gila monster painting ready for hanging or display.

For more details or to register visit either the Gifts To Go or Painting 4 Fun Facebook pages. The Events section on these pages includes a Find Tickets link that provides the details. Alternatively, call Tammy Fraser at 602-403-0646 or Dianne Gibson at 623-889-4439 for more information.


Passport To Bell Mar Plaza – Small Business Saturday 2013

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SURPRISE, Arizona (November 18, 2013)   Bell Mar Plaza businesses (Bell Road and 114th Avenue) invite the community to  Passport to Bell Mar beginning Small Business Saturday (November 30, 2013).  The Saturday after Thanksgiving was dubbed Small Business Saturday by American Express.  

Event is sponsored by 5’n Diner Delux, Hurricane Grill and Wings, Bite Me Breads and Cookies, Imagine Spa and Salon, Son City Insurance, Son Glow Boutique and Barnaby Street Shoppes.  Arrowhead Health Center’s Surprise office, adjacent to the plaza, is also a sponsor. 

Starting Saturday, November 23, visitors can get a Passport To Bell Mar.  They are encouraged to visit each storefront before December 14 to collect a ‘passport stamp’ from each.  Completed passports can be entered into a drawing to win a $100 Visa gift card.  No purchase is required at any business. The winning entry will be drawn on Saturday, December 14.  Winner need not be present to win. 

Throughout the plaza, businesses will offer promotions and attractions to draw attention to the role small independently owned businesses play in local communities and economies. “We want everyone who stops by to enjoy the day, the season and every visit they make to Bell Mar” commented Gary Arnold, plaza spokesman.  

Santa will be onsite from 11am to 3pm and available for free picture taking inside Barnaby Street Shoppes from noon to 1pm and 2pm – 3pm.  Kids can enter a holiday coloring contest and mail letters to the North Pole from the post office. Bite Me Breads and Cookies will provide additional coloring contest seating as needed.  Also at Barnaby Street Shoppes, donations of new toys and pet supplies are being collected for El Mirage Firefighter Charities and Sun Valley Animal and 4 Paws shelters.  

On November 23, Arrowhead Health Center offers free safe skin and skin cancer screenings on November 23 along with fifty $15 cash flu shots.  On November 30, Arrowhead Health again offers fifty $15 cash flu shots.  On both Saturdays, they will conduct free consultations for osteoarthritis and neuropathy pain and provide tours of their facility.  An additional supply of flu shots will be available each day for $25 cash. 

Terrie Maxine Frankel, bestselling author and ghost writer of “Nicole Brown Simpson – The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted” and Don Rasmussen, founder of ESPN will be available to event attendees.  They will be joined by several other local authors, Local First Arizona (non-profit organization supporting local businesses) and a variety of area independent businesses. Animals 4 God, a guide dog organization, and K9-Games will make appearances throughout the day. 

For more information regarding Passport to Bell Mar Plaza, please call Tammy Fraser at 602 403 0646.