27 Aug
2014

It’s thyme for me to give you some sage advice!

herbs2 Its thyme for me to give you some sage advice! Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

Dem herbs, doe.

August 29th is More Herbs, Less Salt Day!  Herbs are fantastic, guys.  Herbs are what takes food from drab to fab, they’re the saving grace of such bland things as potatoes and quinoa, they are, in short, food’s reason for living.

herbchicken Its thyme for me to give you some sage advice! Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

Allllllllll the herbs!

Where would that healthy grilled chicken be without a little rub of rosemary?  Blahsville, that’s where.  And those cute little new potatoes?  Without some chives or some parsley, you may as well be eating balls of paste.  And of course, though it’s not quite universally loved, who can forget the culinary might of cilantro in a salsa or a chutney?

herbrice Its thyme for me to give you some sage advice! Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

Ah, herby goodness!

More Herbs, Less Salt Day is a day to remember both the risks of over-salting one’s food and the pleasures of using fresh herbs in one’s cooking (and eating.)  Seriously, is there anything that can make you feel more like a real chef than adding a pinch of fresh oregano to a simmering dish?  There is not.

herbs Its thyme for me to give you some sage advice! Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

Did you know that British people pronounce the ‘h’ in ‘herbs’? Did you also know that cilantro is the leafy portion of the coriander plant? The more you knoooooooow!

So for real, get you some herbs, make some food, and enjoy the delicious and complex flavors that only herbs can provide.  Salt is great, but in the end it just makes things salty.  Herbs are way more useful.

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22 Aug
2014

Pluto Demotion/Vesuvius Day- A Tragic Tale

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It looked kind of like this, but less ghost town-y.

It all began a long, long time ago. Like, a really long time ago. Enough that you can’t remember, and neither can your Grandpappy. The scene opens to Pompeii, in the Roman Empire circa 79 AD. The fair (and slightly slutty) people of Pompeii are walking around, minding their own business, talking about the God Jupiter and his rippling biceps. The Doctor and Donna Noble are currently battling some baddies hiding out in the local volcano and, amidst the the fight, start the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. As it turned out, the god Vulcan was in a fowl mood and decided that he was going to smite the little turds that crawled around his workshop. The volcano explodes as has never been seen before by man, with a huge column of smoke and ash shooting into the sky. Land slides are hurtling towards the city, and people are losing their shit (more literally for those caught unawares in the privy).

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Then later it looked a lot like this.

While the Doctor is rescuing his TARDIS, companions and future Doctor #12 Peter Capaldi, Mount Vesuvius gives a huge belch and shoots an enormous circular object into the sky, so hard and far that it goes into space. The velocity sends the object far out into the reaches of the solar system, until it flies by Neptune and thinks “This seems like a lovely place to stop and chill for awhile, LET’S ORBIT! ( Suddenly DUBSTEP starts playing in background as the object and its debris homies bust a move). As this huge object floats in space, it decides it wants to be a planet: “If those giant blueberry farts can be planets, so can I!” And so Pluto came into existence.

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Look at this adorable Pluto Demoted Day card we have with all the other planets being like, “Naw, Pluto, you gotta go, you little creep!”

For almost 2000 years, Pluto orbited the sun like that annoying guy who follows you around at a party. He would often try and get closer, trying to be best friends with the local planets and then getting into huge arguments with them over his size. This would ultimately send Pluto on an ovacular orbit, passing Neptune in an orbital resonance that let them not collide and be buddy buddy, and then would drift far away when things didn’t go his way. In the meantime, Pluto would talk smack about all of the other planets, telling all those he could about his wonder and splendor deep in space. He could often be heard “The Sun can’t touch this!”, as if the Sun didn’t have feelings. It didn’t help that Pluto would be discovered (or rediscovered, depending on who simultaneously survived the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and noticed the volcano cannonball Pluto into space) by an Earthen astronomer known as Clyde W. Tombaugh. This poor chap did not know what can of worms he was opening up by officially recognizing his discovery as a planet, for his discovery made Pluto an even bigger cocky turd, and also caused an argument that ran for decades on whether or not it was actually a planet.  On August 24th 2006, the International Astronomical Union met and decided that Pluto didn’t meet their criteria to continue as a regular planet, and was demoted to Dwarf Planet status. This also created the definition of Plutoid, as in other space objects relative in size to the planet formally known as Pluto. As you can imagine Pluto was bummed. But don’t fret! He is being kept company by a small host of newly discovered moons and is most certainly in good company. His ego has admittedly been deflated.

What did Vesuvius think of all of this? Well, he erupted a couple more times, most recently in 1906 and 1944. This was presumably in celebration of his little boo boo becoming a planet. To keep him wistfully sleeping away the years since, we celebrate Mt. Vesuvius Day. This is ironic because it simultaneously celebrates this awesome feat of nature’s, soothes the ego of a giant geographical pimple, as well as commemorate the death of thousands of poor unsuspecting residents of Pompeii back in 79. A.D. As for Pluto Demotion Day? Well…he had it coming.

20 Aug
2014

Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury!

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LOOKIT THAT ADORABUBS FACE!

The 22nd is the birthday of the man, the myth, the legend that is Ray Bradbury. Bradbury is in my list of Top 5 Favorite Authors EVER. That’s saying a lot. My copy of Dandelion Wine is dog-eared and tear stained… in other words, it is very well loved. The man knew how to write, he wrote every single day.  Throughout his life, he tried to write at least 1,000 words a day. “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” How true.

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You probably best know Ray Bradbury for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and for his science fiction novel The Martian Chronicles. But did you know that in addition to his many novels (The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, etc.) he also wrote many, MANY short stories? His short story collections are something to behold. While I enjoy his novels to no end, I do prefer his short stories. I have yet to come across another writer who touches my heart the way Bradbury does. His writing is pretty transcendent and extraordinary. “Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in.” Something so simple, yet so powerful.

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I hear you, Ray. I hear you.

Much of his work has been adapted for comics, radio, theatre, tv, and film. A handful of his short stories were adapted into episodes of The Twilight Zone (I Sing the Body Electric is a personal favorite), and there was even a television series hosted by Ray called The Ray Bradbury Theater. Fahrenheit 451 and The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit have been made into movies. The movie The Butterfly Effect takes inspiration from Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder. There was some controversy a few years back with Michael Moore. Ray was NOT happy that Michael appropriated Bradbury’s title for Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Ray also has many literary awards and even has a moon crater and an asteroid named in his honor. That’s pretty freaking spectacular.

There is one quote of Ray Bradbury’s that I love most of all, and that I think says a lot about the man. “I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows, or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.” Words to live by, my friend. Words to live by.

Happy Birthday, Ray, you wonderful, magnificent man.

 

 

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20 Aug
2014

Happy Birthday, Gene Kelly!

Don’t you wish movie stars still had to know how to sing and dance to be in the pictures? Wouldn’t you put up with James Franco’s shenanigans if he could tap dance like this?

0 Happy Birthday, Gene Kelly! Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

Yep, that’s Gene Kelly tap dancing on roller skates (!) like a champ in the movie It’s Always Fair Weather. I love the thing that always happens in his movies where he’s dancing and singing down the street in the rain or on roller skates and the random non-whimsical extras look at him like “SIR, WHY ON EARTH ARE YOU SINGING AND DANCING DOWN THE STREET WHILST WE’RE STROLLING ABOUT THE BLOCK” and he’s “who, me….I’m not doing anything unusual”…..

**LOOKS AROUND AND WHISTLES**

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**WAITS A MINUTE**

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**RESUMES EXCELLENT  TAP DANCING**

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How charming is that!?

And even better- Gene Kelly was born (on August 23rd, 1912) and raised in Highland Park! According to wikipedia (which I trust unreservedly) his childhood dream was to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates! In 1938 he became a choreographer for the Pittsburgh Playhouse before quickly moving to New York City to pursue the stage. In the same year he danced in Cole Porter’s Leave it to Me and in less than two years he was picked for  the staring role in Pal Joey.  Soon he won an MGM contract and began creating choreography for and staring in classic movies like Anchors Aweigh, An American in Paris, Singing in the Rain.  Kelly was a phenomenal, expressive dancer who studied everything from ballet to Spanish dance. Like any artistic BA, refused to categorize his craft. “I don’t have a name for my style of dancing…It’s certainly hybrid…I’ve borrowed from the modern dance, from the classical, and certainly from the American folk dance – tap-dancing, jitterbugging…But I have tried to develop a style which is indigenous to the environment in which I was reared.” Woo Pittsburgh! What a feather in our snazzy cap! 

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15 Aug
2014

Happy Birthday, Mr.Snuffleupagus!

It’s Snuffy’s Birthday August 19th!

In honor of one of the best muppets ever (and Big Bird’s bestie), I present to you a top ten list of Snuffelupagus Fun Facts:

10) Snuffleupugus is turning 4 on August 19th. He is perpetually 4 years old!

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<3 you Snuffy!!!!

9) His full name is Aloysius Snuffleupagus

8) Snuffy does not live on Sesame Street! He lives on 456 Snuffle Circle.

7) He lives there with his family; Mommy, Daddy, little sister Alice, Aunt Agnes, Granny Abigail, cousins Abigail and Sr.Snuffleupago and Uncle Abe Snuffleupagus!

Mommysnuffy Happy Birthday, Mr.Snuffleupagus! Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

Mommy and lil sis Alice

 

6) When he first appeared on Sesame Street, Snuffy was a little …. weird. During the first few seasons, Snuffleupagus had an Eeyore like pessimistic outlook and often answered questions nonsensically. Example conversation with pal Bird,

Big Bird “Where did you go?”

Snuffy “I Suppose so”

….ok

5) He also was originally terrifying.

300px Firstsnuffy Happy Birthday, Mr.Snuffleupagus! Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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Thats……better……I guess……

4) When Snuffy’s not working on set he hangs out in the rafters covered by a giant pink blanket!

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“I’ll be here if you guys need me…”

3) His shoe size is 65 triple G

2) Snuffy is also a great tap dancer who once danced with pros Maurice and Gregory Hines.

0 Happy Birthday, Mr.Snuffleupagus! Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

1) The adults of Sesame Street didn’t believe in Snuffleupagus!  At first they thought he was just an imaginary friend of Big Bird’s. Finally in 1985, Elmo caught Snuffy in Big Bird’s nest and Gordon and the gang had to apologize and say that from then on they would alway believe what Big Bird said.

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Sorry, Big Bird!

Happy Birthday, Buddy!!

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13 Aug
2014

Comedy is not pretty

Steve Martin is a great example of the American Dream. Seriously, look at this magnificent bastard

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What a hotty.

We’re going Crack’d style here. Here are 4 awesome things about Steve Martin.

4.He’s an Author

During one of his many different life ventures, Martin has written several books and plays, to much acclaim. His first venture as a playwright was called “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” His novels have included “Shop Girl”, “An Object of Beauty”, and his poignant memoir “Born Standing Up.”  Why is this awesome? Well keep reading, by the time you realize everything Steve Martin has done in his life, your brain will hurt.

shopgirl 205x300 Comedy is not pretty Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

 

3.He’s Also an Accomplished Movie Actor

There is not much to say that you don’t already know about Steve Martin the actor. He has been in every realm of film, from his breakout performance in “The Jerk” to the romantic comedy stylings of “Father of the Bride.” We cannot deny that Martin’s best movies are his comedies, most especially “Three Amigos” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

 

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Steve needs a car…right now…you know what happened

2. He’s a Fantastic Comedian

Steve Martin gained fame starting out as a world class comedian. He started by working with several different comedy groups, writing for various TV shows and performing at nightclubs to hone his skills. This led him to SNL, and ushered in the golden years of late night comedy. This launch in fame helped when he started touring the comedy circuit and released his first album, “Let’s Get Small.” The album went on to be a platinum smash hit, and Martin became a household name. Never before has a comedian took the world by storm, but Martin was one of the first in his field to perform in sold out theatres, a phenomenon at the time. He would release several other albums, all of which were huge of critical acclaim and success. His style was never seen before, being very random and sporadic but poignant and full of satirical wit.  He would also incorporate a banjo into his stand up with his other shtick, often performing songs he wrote for his audiences. Martin abruptly left the stand up world for good, wishing to pursue his real dream of being an actor.

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Seriously, look at that face.

1.He’s a Kick-Ass Musician

Oddly enough, Martin’s wild success as a comedian and then an actor couldn’t sate his desire to be awesome at more stuff. His next big venture was into the world of music as a banjo player. For those who have never heard Martin play banjo, youtube that shit right now. He is an incredible musician, writing a lot of his material and performing with other famous bluegrass musicians such as Earl Scruggs. He has released several albums containing both traditional and original banjo music with his band The Steep Canyon Rangers, the first of which won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.

Bonus fact!  Stece Martin’s birthday is August 14th!  So…

m1 Comedy is not pretty Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

Happy Birthday you boss.

 

 

 

 

11 Aug
2014

Vinyl Record Day

There is nothing quite like listening to the pops and crackles that are produced when the needle drops on a gen-u-ine vinyl record. I enjoy shopping for vinyl, and even just browsing through record stores, as I inevitably get into a conversation with someone at the store about music. Viola! Those are two of my favorite things right there: meeting people and talking about music. The record store provides a social experience, but it is also a deeply personal one as well. The victory of finding a record you’ve been searching for forever is oh, so sweet. (Not to mention the times you find a record you didn’t even know you needed…)

I must admit, I also love checking out the wild album art from years past. Yes, it gets wild…

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With the backup musicians he has this time, “what’s next” is really anybody’s guess.

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You CANNOT deny that he is wearing an amazing outfit.

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Tino, you HEARTBREAKER!

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Of course he’d be there…

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YEP

I think that I also miss an era (of which, because of my age, I guess I was never fully a part) when having to construct full albums (both sonically and conceptually) was a necessity for success in the music industry. Nowadays, hit singles and song downloads tend to determine, in a sense, who’s king. This of course is all because of the changes that have occurred in the medium in which music is packaged, marketed, and sold. We’ve gone from physical albums to bits of digital information.

One of my favorite artists, David Byrne, writes about this in his book How Music Works. In the introduction, he goes through the history of the different venues in which “music” has been known to “happen.” Sorry for the quotes there, I couldn’t really help myself. Basically, Byrne argues that our ideas of what music is, can be, and should be are the direct result of a combination of centuries of tackling the insane logistics that performing music demands, as well as historical happenstance.

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David Byrne in his 1986 film True Stories.

Another one of my favorite vinyl-related things is watching and listening to really skilled DJs work with vinyl… in front of a live audience. Watch a 15-year-old A-Trak spin, scratch, and guzzle it up during his winning set at the 1997 DMC World Championships:

**Note: Some of the lyrics in the beginning of this video are NSFW. (There is some repeated swearing.) If you want to miss it, just skip ahead to 0:28.**

0 Vinyl Record Day Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

In short, vinyl records have been the result of and have inspired creativity in numerous ways since their invention. And this is why we must celebrate them! Go listen to, share, and/or buy some vinyl today!

You can read more about the history of vinyl/sound-recording technologies here.

You can find a comprehensive list of the independent record stores in each state of the US here.

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10 Aug
2014

Resurrect Romance Week

August 10-16 is Resurrect Romance Week. This week is 6 months from Valentine’s Day and the point isn’t to give gifts and things, but to spend time with and actually pay attention to each other.

Sounds awesome to me!

So. If you’re looking to pamper your significant other this week, may I suggest a week of fun activities sans spending tons of money?

corny couple Resurrect Romance Week Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

You can have your shit together like these two if you play your cards right!

  • Massages. Feet hurt? Back hurt? Get some body oil or lotion and help each other out with your problem spots.
  • Write a love letter. Get sentimental and write down some stuff for your S/O. No one else will see it, so get personal!
  • Pay them many compliments. I once read that the ideal positive to negative comment ratio is 6 to 1. Meaning for people to feel good you need to say 6 nice things to every 1 negative thing. The negative things stick in the brain. So lay it on em! (Negative comments not required.)
  • Surprise meal! Maybe it’s breakfast in bed, or maybe it’s having dinner ready and on the table when they get home from work. Whatever will float their boat. Candles won’t hurt either. Maybe you can steal some flowers from your garden, too.
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Bad coordinating tattoos not recommended. Also, very costly.

  • Draw a bath for them. You could do this just for them or you could enjoy together if your tub will allow it. Baths are relaxing and warm and bubbly and a good time for relaxing. Did I mention they’re relaxing?
  • Movie night! Pick something you’ll both like, pop some popcorn, and snuggle up.
  • Reminisce. You know those photo albums you have lying around but never look at? Now would be a good time to flip through them together and re-live all of those memories. Ahh, memories.
  • Bake together. Brownies, chocolate chip cookies, cake… Whatever you two want.
  • Take a walk together. To nowhere. For nothing. Just be!
  • Welcome them home with sidewalk chalk. Cute messages recommended.
corny Resurrect Romance Week Pittsburgh Gifts Cards

Roaming around a corn field is free (if not trespassing). Bugs likely included.