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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Memorial teachers know what nerds love

Special to The New Hampshire Union Leader

February 10. 2013 9:02PM

Apparently, I still do not understand what anime is. I thought it was Japanese animation, but if the description of Saturday's Queen City Kamikaze anime convention is any indicator, it is much more than cartoon characters with spiky hair and ginormous eyes.

If I learned anything by scouring the website and Facebook page, it's that you really should show up to the event in costume as your favorite anime, comic book, video game or movie character. And the more elaborate your costume, the better. "Cosplay," which stands for costume play, is a big part of conventions like these and attendees put a lot of planning and work into what they wear.

Queen City Kamikaze creators Jeff Normandin and Jason Paige, who reached out to The Scene last week, promise this one will have "everything that nerds are into," celebrating anime, video games and pop culture in general.

It takes place at Memorial High School, where Normandin and Paige are teachers. From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., a $10 ticket provides access to local artists, vendors, raffles, costume contests, game shows, workshops, discussions, and even a dance club.

I am really impressed by the commitment Normandin, who teaches English, and Paige, a social studies teacher, have to their students and Memorial High School. In addition to providing space for a number of student organizations to raise money, they also donate much of the proceeds back to the school and various student organizations.

The track team, special education department and junior and senior classes have all benefited from Queen City Kamikaze, as well as the anime and video game clubs. The teachers have also purchased new televisions, data projectors, tablets, and tables for the school and this year plan on replacing a couple more of the 1970s TVs as well as sprucing up parts of the building itself with a little paint and other improvements.

You can read a very amusing post on the event website that explains how to prepare for an anime convention. You can see a picture of Chester the Squirrel, the official convention mascot. I'm told he likes to run around Manchester in his short shorts and sweatbands. While Normandin and Paige do not plan on dressing up themselves, you may see one of them running around the venue in a Chester the Squirrel mask.

It certainly sounds like an exciting experience for people who are into that sort of thing. I would go dressed as my favorite comic character, but how could I possibly find a Sally Forth costume with this short notice?

Have you seen my panda?

For those of you following the adventures of my "Traveling Panda" painting, I hear she is on the move. She went from Double Midnight Comics to the wall of Child Guidance Early Learning Center and now I don't know where she is. If you have seen the sad-looking panda, please email me her location at You can also follow her adventures at the Traveling Panda's Facebook page or by following on Twitter @sadpandanh. Everyone who hosts the "Traveling Panda" is donating money to the Union Leader Santa Fund - a small price to pay for a moment with this amazing work of art.

Naturally delicious

I have a new addiction. Last Monday I was taking boot camp class at Fortitude Health and Training when a delivery of NH Naturals bars came in. I had seen them for sale, but my experience with "healthy" granola and protein bars has always been blah. And they are usually filled with ingredients I can't pronounce.

But on Monday I was really hungry with no time for lunch. I bought two bars and they were so good I stuffed both in my face before I even pulled into my driveway just a few blocks away. I jumped online to find out about the company and was pleased to learn these delicious bars really are healthy and made in the kitchen of Bedford resident Christine Stoll.

Stoll shared her amazing story of how she came to open Sweet Tooth Bakehouse last year. She started baking after nearly losing her life in a car accident at age 19. She received so much help and encouragement from the community after her accident, that she wanted to do likewise.

"After I recovered, I would bake for everyone. I baked for friends, neighbors, local fire departments, police departments and I always heard the same thing... 'you should open a bakery,'" the mother of two wrote in an email to The Scene.

Stoll decided she didn't want Sweet Tooth Bakehouse to be limited to sweets. She decided to try to make a bar that could actually make people healthier. She researched nutrients and the chemical reactions that happen in the body when it digests them.

After many failed attempts, she perfected the recipes that I and many others can not seem to get enough of and the NH Naturals bars were born. Stoll works alone in her board-of-health approved and certified kitchen and then she delivers the bars herself like some kind of granola bar fairy. It was like Christmas when my order mysteriously appeared on my porch early Thursday morning.

The website offers dozens of bars packed with Omega 3 fatty acids, berries, nuts and other ingredients that Stoll says help improve or ward off a long list of ailments, from heart disease and high blood pressure to migraines.

Like the local honey she uses, Stoll said her bars contain mostly one-word ingredients. She never uses sugars, butters or harmful oils. And while she doesn't claim the bars are a cure for any ailments, she has heard from many customers about how much better they feel, especially migraine sufferers.

Stoll sells a dozen of her bars for $18, which includes free delivery in Bedford, Merrimack and Manchester. Everything is made-to-order so if you are a hater of raisins or allergic to gluten she can accommodate. She said she is working with Kim Dorval of Nutrition in Motion in Bedford to design a bar for all you Paleo nuts out there. (If you are wondering what Paleo is, it's basically a diet that includes only things a caveman would eat. You do not have to chase down your own food, but you may need to be hit over the head with a club to try it.)

Stoll said she is grateful to husband, Eric Stoll, for his support and the many people who have promoted her small business, especially fitness professionals.

"Although I made a business out of it, I still do very much enjoy baking and making the bars. When I sit alone early in the morning sipping my coffee, I think to myself these bars have come full circle for me. I have finally found a way to help others," Stoll wrote.

Manchester firefighters are 'red' hot

I ran into Manchester Fire Lt. Dave Flurey and his beautiful family at Shorty's in Manchester a couple of weeks ago. I won't say what I was doing there, but Lt. Flurey gave me a great tip ... for my column.

Sadly, it wasn't that Manchester firefighters are producing one of those racy "Firefighter of the Month" calendars. This tip was about what members of the department are putting on, rather than taking off, but it's just as exciting.

Manchester firefighters have begun wearing red shirts on Fridays to show support for the military. He said many departments around the country have been doing this for years as part of the Red Shirt Fridays movement with the motto, "They Bleed Red So We Wear Red."

"We feel it is important to show our support of the military at all times and not just in times of war, " Flurey said in an email, explaining that the local firefighter union started the initiative with the blessing of Manchester Fire Chief James Burkush.

"This is a little gesture just to show our military both active and retired that we appreciate the freedoms they provide us all each and every day," Flurey wrote. You can read more about the Red Shirt Fridays movement at

You can still help Hillside

Don't worry. You didn't miss Hillside Middle School's First Benefit Auction for Science and Technology that was supposed to take place at the Derryfield Country Club last Friday. It was postponed to Friday, March 8, in anticipation of the snow storm. If you have a ticket, just save it for the new date. If you have not bought a ticket, what are you waiting for? The evening will include silent and live auctions, live music, appetizers, desserts, a special tribute and more. To purchase your $25 ticket or make a tax-deductible donation, contact Maureen Hamel at or Lisa Walsh at

NH365.ORG Event of the Week

One of my favorite musicals, "Jesus Christ Superstar," is being performed by The Derryfield School Players this weekend. This Broadway rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice retells the Gospels' account of the last week of Jesus' life. It will be presented in the school's Performing Arts Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12. For more information on this and other terrific things to do in and around the Queen City, visit

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