November 1st is National Authors’ Day! An author is to book lovers what a great chef is to gourmands, what an oasis is to dehydrated desert travelers, and what a favorite teddy bear is to children. American writers, from Hawthorne to McCarthy, from Poe to Hemingway, have isolated, distilled, described, and defined America, what it is to live here, and what it is that makes Americans who we are.
It’s pretty much impossible for me to pick a favorite American writer, so I’m going to give you my top 5!
5. George R. R. Martin! — Not necessarily part of what you’d call classic American literature, but my fantasy obsession runs too deep for me to mention favorite American writers and not include him. If you love the TV series (i.e., if you have a pulse), give the series that the show is based on, A Song of Ice and Fire, a try! They’re pretty great!
4. Edna St. Vincent Millay! — Since she’s not a novelist, she’s again someone you might not think of as a classic American author, but Millay is my mother’s favorite poet and she is therefore a big part of my literary history. Her work is deeply affecting; a true emotional roller coaster. If you’re not familiar with Millay’s poetry, read The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver. It will make you cry, though, so just be advised.
3. Mary Robison! — Her postmodern novel Why Did I Ever is probably my favorite book that I ever read for a class. Reportedly written over the course of several years with each separate snippet/section/vignette on a separate index card, the book is hilarious and touching and the easiest read of any great book ever. Get on it.
2. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr! — To any person who reads English, this man needs no introduction. Cat’s Cradle is one of the best books ever. That is all.
1. Donna Tartt! — Full disclosure, I have not found time to read The Goldfinch yet. I am, however, completely in love with The Secret History. For a person whose other favorite books are LotR and Pride and Prejudice and The Count of Monte Cristo, I never really knew that I could find a (relatively) contemporary, non-historical, non-fantastic piece of literature that I would love as much as I love those other books. But I found it in The Secret History. That book rules.
Super adorable Hello Kitty was born on November first! Let’s celebrate the star of our favorite elementary school stationery sets ( for our important childhood correspondences) with a list of FUN FACTS about Miss Hello Kitty!
- Hello Kitty’s full name is Kitty White. Much catchier than her original name in Japan, “the white kitten with no name”.
- She weighs 3 apples and is 5 apples tall! How does that even work?!
- She has a twin sister named Mimmy. Please don’t get them confused– it’s so easy to tell them apart! Hello Kitty wears a red bow on her left ear and Mimmy has a yellow bow on her right ear!
- Though she was created in Japan, Hello Kitty is from the London suburbs. How chic!
- She was named after Alice (of Wonderland)‘s cat, also named Kitty.
- Hello Kitty was introduce in 1974, but is eternally a fourth grader!
- Hello Kitty has two pets, one is a hamster named Sugar and the other.… well we’ll get to her later!!
- Her first modeling gig was for a vinyl coin purse.
- She caused a commotion recently when reports surfaced that she wasn’t really a cat! She is, it’s just that shes more of a Goofy than a Pluto.
- Which brings us to our final Fun Fact. Are you Sitting down?! Good, then you are ready to know that Hello Kitty HAS A PET CAT!!!!! Whaaaaaaaat! Her name is Charmmy Kitty (????) x (infinity).
Everyone knows that the perfect hat is integral to any good costume. Hats make winners or losers. The hat is the king of Halloween. With that in mind, a few customers helped us employees show you some of the best ones. Enjoy!
So. Maybe it’s her love of pencils. Maybe, it’s when she said “Here’s $1500 to never crap on me or anyone ever!” (I’m going to let you figure out that context. Hint: Take it literally. Hintx2: This is just a shadow of what we discuss openly.) Maybe it’s how she speaks in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS ALWAYS, or maybe it’s because she’s the only other human I’ve ever met EVER that uses hyperbole as much as I do about EVERYTHING EVER because EVERYTHING IS THE BEST THING EVER ALL THE THINGS OMGGGGGPFFFFFF. Maybe it’s because we understand each other when we say “can you do that thing because of things”. Maybe it is her load (hehe) of adorable catch phrases and colloquialisms that make my heart ‘swell three sizes that day’ like the Grinch. I’m going to run with the whole Grinch thing here not only because she loves Christmas (don’t ever call it x-mas) but because it’s sort of a brilliant segue…
The thing is, I was the Grinch for a while there. It was one of the darkest times in my life, and I’m 33 so I can say “one of” and mean it, as opposed to those people who are 17 and write autobiographies. I lost myself for almost a year, but thanks to a handful of people who loved me, I didn’t lose touch completely. My boss, my friend; she gave me little doses of her light every so often, and she waited. She waited for me to fall in love with life again. She waited for me to remember how to laugh again. She gave me reasons to laugh. She reminded me that you get to decide who your family is; she reminded me that I’ll always have a family at Kards Unlimited.
Happy Boss’s Day to you, Kristen. I raise my glass to you, even though it’s filled with champagne AND I HATE CHAMPAGNE.
P.s. I will now explain/admit that I totally used the game of thrones pic to lure people here. Not at all because IT’S THE BEST SHOW EVER OF ALL TIME.
Brian Boitano. I’m out.
I think I’ve delineated my feelings about children’s television pretty clearly on this blog. The short version is that I am in love with PBS and all it delightfully educational and adorable programming. And one of the powerhouses in both adorability and educationality is Sesame Street. Seriously, is there a better way to teach children to count than with a purple vampire-type guy with a sweet Eastern European accent? I submit that there is not.
That’s why today, October 9th, is so important! It’s the birthday of Count von Count! Aka The Count! Ah ah ah! The Count was always one of my favorite characters on Sesame Street as a kid. For one thing, he had a cape, which obviously enhanced his awesomeness. Plus, he had a sweet accent! What’s not to love?
I still love all those things about the Count, plus I also love that all his songs have this great Roma vibe that is totally rockin’. Basically the Count is a guy to celebrate. So make sure you keep careful count of your celebratory drinks in his honor tonight! (Thirteen! Thirteen shots! Ah ah ah!)
My family is Polish, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s pierogies. They are the main staple to family holiday meals. We always have a variety of pierogi choices on hand, and there isn’t ever any leftovers to be had. We’re pretty serious about our pierogies. Which is why today is a great freaking day. It’s National Pierogi Day! A day in which to celebrate the glorious, wonderful, scrumptious pierogi!
For those of you who don’t really know, a pierogi is basically a dumpling stuffed with an endless variety of fillings. Fillings can range anywhere from sweet to savory, anything your little heart desires. The current running favorite fillings in my family are sauerkraut and pork, cottage cheese, spinach and lamb, and the classic potato. You can have them boiled, baked, or fried. My family boils them, then fries them so they get all crispy golden in butter. YUM!
One thing that I really like about Pittsburgh is the fact that it loves its pierogies too! If you’ve ever been to a Pirates baseball game, you know what I’m talking about. Each game there’s a Pierogi Race. Pittsburgh loves pierogies so much that it has 5 costumed mascots race around the field… just because! They even have an official page on the Pirates website. They all have names and stats of how many races they’ve won. Crazy! Pittsburgh even has it’s own Pierogi Food Truck. I’ve had them, and they were delish.
So, I’ve just realized that I’ve been saying ‘pierogies’ as plural of ‘pierogi’. Here’s a fun fact: the word pierogi is actually already plural in the Polish language. It’s the original ‘betcha can’t eat just one’! Also, there are many MANY different spelling of the word pierogi: perogi, pierogy, perogy, pierógi, pyrohy, pirogi, pyrogie, pyrogy, and even Pierożki. Whoa, where did that ‘Z’ come from? Oh, us silly Polski’s gotta stick them in everything!
But seriously, do you want to know why October 8th is National Pierogi Day? It was the day in 1952 when Ted Twardzik Sr. founded Mrs. T’s Pierogies and produced the first samples for a local grocery store. Mrs. T’s, by the way, is the largest producer of pierogi in the US. USA! USA!
Wanna know something else that’s cool? Pierogies have their own patron saint! Oh yeah, Saint Hyacinth! There’s a Polish saying, “Święty Jacek z pierogami!”, (St. Hyacinth and his pierogi!) which is an old expression of surprise, roughly equivalent to the American “good grief” or “holy smokes!” Looks like I just found my new favorite saying.
Wanna know how much I love pierogies? I really REALLY wish I had written this Ode to Pierogi.
So today, get out there and track down the nearest polish grandma (cause we all know that only gramma’s make them the best) and stuff your face with little pockets of goodness! You know I will!
Once upon a time, there was a nice boy named Duncan who lived in in a nice town with his nice family. One day while walking home from school, Duncan decided to take a shortcut through the woods. ” What could go wrong” he thought as he skipped through the spooky, spindly trees. Suddenly, Duncan came upon two strangers in an angry confrontation. ”
What did you just say ?!?!” The man in the cowboy hat shouted to the man in the clown suit. “I…I.. I said TWO DIMES FOR A NICKEL” boomed the clown, blowing defiantly into a kazoo.
Well, that just enraged the cowboy even more, and their fight became even louder and more intense.
Duncan was startled to say the least and hurried home to tell his mother about the strange fight he witnessed on his way home from school.
“HEY, MOM!!!” Duncan shouted to his mother, who was putting away dishes in the sunlit kitchen. “MOM, the WEIRDEST THING JUST HAPPENED.…” Duncan rushed to tell his Mother the whole story, and she listened patiently if a bit absentmindedly. Just as Mom was making mental note to remind Duncan not to go through the woods on his way home from school, she heard him say a horrible terrible thing. “…two dimes for a nickel..”
“WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!” Duncan’s Mom immediately freaked out, dropping all the plates she was holding, barely registering when they shattered on the kitchen floor.
“I CERTAINLY DID NOT RAISE MY SON TO SAY SUCH THINGS” she screeched, literally clutching her pearls.
“But.…but, Mom” Sputtered a startled Duncan, “I don’t even KNOW what… I’ve never even HEARD.…”
But Duncan’s Mother just would not listen “Go straight to your room! Just wait til your Father gets home!!”
Duncan sat in his room nervously waiting for his dad to come home. Duncan felt terrible for upsetting his mother so, but at the same time, he felt electrified by the intensity that this phrase, which he had never before heard, inspired. He knew based on his mother’s ballistic reaction that he would be in trouble when his father got home, but he hoped that his father could at least explain what two dimes for a nickel meant.
Later that night Duncan heard the front door open with a click. His heart started pounding as he strained to hear his mother’s heated retelling of that afternoon’s events. Soon the voices downstairs quieted and Duncan heard his father’s heavy footsteps clomping up the steps.
“Ok, Son,” his father said with a sigh, “tell me exactly what happened.” Duncan told his story, the walk home, the shortcut through the woods, the fight, the yelling of “two dimes for .….”
“STOP” Commanded his father with a queasy look on his face. “I didn’t want to believe it was true, but I heard it with my own ears…” Duncan tried again to protest “I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT TWO DIMES FOR A NICKEL MEANS, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS GOING ON.…”
Before he knew it, Duncan was being thrown out of his house like DJ Jazzy Jeff’s character Jazz on the best sitcom ever The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire. “We simply can’t have you corrupting little Mary-Beth” they cried at the front door.
Now Duncan was just plain mad! He didn’t have his backpack or homework and would now have to spend the night in the school playground. “And besides” thought Duncan, “Mary-Beth is just our dumb housecat.” Settling in on top of the Monkey Bars, Duncan decided to just let it go and never say those stupid words again and maybe soon his parents would forgive him.
The next day in school, Duncan was a total mess he was wearing an old t shirt that read IT IS TUESDAY even though it was Wednesday, he had forgotten all of his assignments, and he could barely keep himself awake during class. At the end of the day a friendly, hip teacher pulled him aside to ask what was wrong. Duncan was so tired that he retold the whole terrible story to his teacher. You can probably guess what happened next, Duncan was taken directly to the principal’s office and the principal immediately called the police.
As he was being sentenced to ten years in jail, the judge droning on and on about how he had” never in all his years heard such unspeakable language from a boy as seemingly nice as Duncan”, Duncan realized that he may never know what two dimes for a nickel meant, and to be honest he didn’t really care, he just wanted to forget the whole thing and move on.
Ten years later, Duncan is indeed ready to move on with his life. As he walks down the streets of his old town for the first time in a decade, he takes a deep breath and really notices his surroundings . As he gazes across the street, he sees a billboard with huge letters spelling out TWO DIMES. Duncan gasped, the rest of the billboard was covered up by a bus waiting at a red light. Soon the traffic began to creep along and Duncan saw more and more of the billboard TWO…DIMES… FOR.… A …NIC .…
Duncan saw the phase that had destroyed his life and couldn’t keep the old curiosity from bubbling up inside. Maybe now he would know why the phrase held so much power. And as he crossed the street to get a closer look, Duncan was hit by a bus.
Isn’t this the best/worst story ever!!! I told this story many times as a camp counselor and heard it many more times as a camper. It’s great because a good storyteller can stretch out the saga in a number of imaginative ways to keep the listeners on the edge of their seats …or you know their patch of grass around a campfire. It’s also super fun to tell the story and see everyones anger about the way it ends.
Try it out this weekend for National Storytelling Weekend! Or you know… you could tell a better story, I don’t know! It’s up to you! That’s the thing about great storytellers whether they are harnessing their Larry David angst to punch up a story about a Starbucks run or creating something new they keep their listeners fully engaged. Three cheers for storytelling!
I don’t know about you, but as soon as the weather begins to get chilly, I get the urge to cook my little heart out. It’s the only time of year that I get tired of making the same old thing over and over again, and I begin to wonder what else I could add to my repertoire. I’ll admit, cookbooks used to frighten me. I’d read a recipe and think “Yeah, THAT’S never going to happen.” Then one day, I said to hell with it and used a recipe out of a cookbook. The end result didn’t look anything like the picture in the book (it never does), but you know what? It was pretty damn good! I overcame my fear of screwing up a recipe and now have a pretty good collection of cookbooks.
October is National Cookbook Month, and boy, do we have all different kinds of cookbooks here at KU! Our cookbook section is a bonanza of mouthwatering treats ranging from classic to the obscure. It’s pretty great!
We carry authors like Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, The Barefoot Contessa, Martha Stewart, Racheal Ray, etc. We love the food, all the food! We have classics like “The Joy of Cooking” and the wonderfully strange like “The Sriracha Cookbook”. We have books for those on a budget, books for those who are just starting to cook, books for those who want to impress their friends. We have Pittsburgh cookbooks, meat-centric cookbooks, and vegetarian cookbooks. Anyone else’s tummy growling?
So, this month, pick up your favorite cookbook, or come and get a new one, and get cooking! You know I will.