Articles by " Adam"
17 Sep
2014

The Best Week of the Year is Back!

hobbit

Oh, Mar­t­in Free­man. You are so Hob­bit-y.

That’s right, friends, Sep­tem­ber 21–27 is Tolkien Week!  (It’s also the best because it’s Banned Books Week, but Jes­si will get to that lat­er.)  There are plen­ty of amaz­ing writ­ers in the world.  And some day in the future I would love to start Neil Gaiman Week or Robin McKin­ley Week or some­thing.  But one of the only ones (if not the only one) who has his own week of cel­e­bra­tion is J.R.R. Tolkien.  And it is well deserved.

Man, books used to look so awesome.

Man, books used to look so awe­some.

I’ve talked plen­ty on this blog about what makes Tolkien such an impor­tant author and I don’t want to bore you, so here’s the Spar­kNotes ver­sion:

  • Though the fan­ta­sy gen­re has exist­ed pret­ty much since the dawn of fic­tion (espe­cial­ly if you con­sid­er ancient epics like The Epic of Gil­gamesh and Beowulf to be fan­ta­sy), Tolkien’s works of the ear­ly to mid 20th cen­tu­ry gave mete­oric rise to the genre’s pop­u­lar­i­ty and inar­guably made pos­si­ble the pub­li­ca­tion of lit­er­al­ly all pop­u­lar fan­ta­sy works since.  Seri­ous­ly, there is not a sin­gle writer in fan­ta­sy today who doesn’t owe a huge debt to Tolkien.
  • Tolkien’s works not only defined a gen­re, but they also exem­pli­fy one of the most dif­fi­cult and impor­tant aspects of fic­tion: world cre­ation.  The com­plete­ness of Mid­dle-earth and its inhab­i­tants, down to such details as his­to­ries that have no direct bear­ing on the plots of the major nov­els, so speci­fic that Tolkien’s lan­guages are equipped with all the trap­pings of lin­guis­tic mat­u­ra­tion includ­ing ety­molo­gies and even dead lan­guages.
  • Tolkien’s works and he him­self were large­ly con­cerned with mythol­o­gy.  Because of this, his work is not not mere­ly telling a sto­ry for its own sake, but rec­og­niz­ing and cel­e­brat­ing a story’s sig­nif­i­cance to the peo­ple who told it.
  • This list could lit­er­al­ly be infinite, so I’m going to leave it at that for now.

This Tolkien Week, we’ll be hav­ing our usu­al Tolkien Quiz con­test!  Come in and take the quiz!  The high­est scor­er will win a fab­u­lous Tolkien-relat­ed prize and every­one who takes the quiz will be entered in a raf­fle for a $20.00 KU Gift Cer­tifi­cate!  So even if you know noth­ing about Tolkien, you could still win big!

TolkienWeek-TakeTheQuiz

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8 Sep
2014

To boldly go where no man has gone before…

enterprise

Hap­py anniver­sary to one of the most pop­u­lar and influ­en­tial sci-fi icons of all time!  On Sep­tem­ber 8th, 1966, the orig­i­nal Star Trek series pre­miered on NBC.  Though its ini­tial low rat­ings caused it to be can­celed after only three sea­sons (on June 3, 1969), Star Trek’s endur­ing cult pop­u­lar­i­ty even­tu­al­ly led to syn­di­ca­tion and a ton of spin-off mate­ri­al includ­ing books, games, five addi­tion­al TV series and 12 fea­ture films.

the boys

Star Trek’s endur­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty can late­ly be attrib­ut­ed to the awe­some spe­cial effects, ster­ling act­ing, and excel­lent writ­ing that have graced the two most recent Star Trek films.  Those things were not real­ly a part of the orig­i­nal series, but it gar­nered and main­tained pop­u­lar­i­ty nonethe­less.  Which brings us to Star Trek’s sin­gle great­est attrib­ute: it was sci­ence fic­tion that actu­al­ly was about sci­ence.  Sure, the orig­i­nal series may have been laugh­ably over­act­ed.  Sure it was incred­i­bly corny.  Yes, it lit­er­al­ly used the same set every week to por­tray var­i­ous alien plan­ets.  But none of that mat­ters, because Star Trek’s great sav­ing grace was that it was real­ly all about humanity’s insa­tiable curios­i­ty.  Star Trek taught us that even in three hun­dred years when human­i­ty is trav­el­ing through space with no more incon­ve­nience than what we fly with now, there will still be things to dis­cov­er.  There will still be chal­lenges to over­come.  In short, there will still be a search for mean­ing.  Gene Rod­den­ber­ry was a freak­in’ genius.

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2 Sep
2014

September is National Honey Month! An Appreciation of Baklava

 

Look at all that delicious honey comb.

Look at all that deli­cious hon­ey comb.

Hon­ey is one of the old­est sweet­en­ers known to man.  There is evi­dence of humans gath­er­ing hon­ey to eat as far in the past as 8,000 years ago (as com­pared to com­mon table sug­ar, which, at the ear­li­est, may have been dis­cov­ered and used around 800 B.C.)  Sug­ar only began to rival hon­ey as a sweet­en­ing agent after the Cru­sades, and it remained a lux­u­ry item until the 19th cen­tu­ry when it final­ly com­plet­ed its trans­for­ma­tion to basic human neces­si­ty.  So hon­ey has been a pret­ty big deal for most of human his­to­ry.

Mmmmm, baklava.

Mmm­mm, baklava.

And baklava is pret­ty much the best thing you can make with hon­ey.  (Although hon­ey is also great in a vari­ety of bev­er­ages like tea and lemon­ade!)  If you’ve nev­er had baklava, let me break it down for you.  Baklava is a pas­try from the for­mer Ottoman Empire (though vari­a­tions exist in many of the sur­round­ing cul­tures and most peo­ple think baklava orig­i­nat­ed in Greece!) and it is made by lay­er­ing filo, chopped nuts, but­ter, and a syrup made with hon­ey.  And it is damned delec­table.

Ahh!  Beeeeeeeeeees!  Bees are awesome, actually.

Ahh! Beeeeeeeeeees! Bees are awe­some, actu­al­ly.

But Nation­al Hon­ey Mon­th isn’t all about the amaz­ing treats one can make with hon­ey.  Any dis­cus­sion of hon­ey must include bees, which a) are total­ly cool, and b) are in decline.  Which sucks, both because the cause of the bees’ decline remains unknown and because the loss of hon­ey­bee pop­u­la­tions would have severe­ly adverse effects on agri­cul­ture.  (And the amount of hon­ey that might be avail­able for use in baklava and oth­er recipes in the future.)

So make sure you get you some hon­ey this mon­th and make deli­cious treats with it.  And appre­ci­ate the bees!  They may not be around forever!

And!  As an added bonus, here’s the baklava recipe that I use!  I gen­er­al­ly use pecans or wal­nuts for my baklava, though pis­ta­chios are tra­di­tion­al and I read some­thing recent­ly about using hazel­nuts, so I’m prob­a­bly def­i­nite­ly going to try that some time soon. Enjoy!

1 (16 ounce) pack­age phyl­lo dough
1 pound chopped nuts
1 cup but­ter
1 tea­spoon ground cin­na­mon
1 cup water
1 cup white sug­ar
1 tea­spoon vanil­la extract
1/2 cup hon­ey

Direc­tions
1. Pre­heat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). But­ter the bot­toms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.
2. Chop nuts and toss with cin­na­mon. Set aside. Unroll phyl­lo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cov­er phyl­lo with a damp­ened cloth to keep from dry­ing out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, but­ter thor­ough­ly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets lay­ered. Sprin­kle 2 — 3 table­spoons of nut mix­ture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, but­ter, nuts, lay­er­ing as you go. The top lay­er should be about 6 — 8 sheets deep.
3. Using a sharp knife cut into dia­mond or square shapes all the way to the bot­tom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diag­o­nal cuts. Bake for about 50 min­utes until baklava is gold­en and crisp.
4. Make sauce while baklava is bak­ing. Boil sug­ar and water until sug­ar is melt­ed. Add vanil­la and hon­ey. Sim­mer for about 20 min­utes.
5. Remove baklava from oven and imme­di­ate­ly spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cup­cake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncov­ered as it gets sog­gy if it is wrapped up.

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1 Sep
2014

Kards Unlimited Calendar of Events: September!

september

Mmmm, yes.

Oh man, you guys.  I love Sep­tem­ber so much.  It’s my favorite mon­th.  And yes, my birth­day is in Sep­tem­ber, but I love it for so many more rea­sons than that!  Sep­tem­ber has some of the best weath­er of the year: still warm enough for shorts and tees, but not stu­pid hot, Sep­tem­ber is back to school time, which is get­ting more and more nos­tal­gic the longer I’m away from school, and Sep­tem­ber has a whole bunch of great events too!  Click READ MORE to find out what’s up!

Read more »

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27 Aug
2014

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

herbs2

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

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

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.

Duftkräuter

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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2 Aug
2014

No, it’s not a Market where you buy Farmers. Or, why corn on the cob is the best ever.

snow cone

Yum­m­m­m­m­mm.

It’s Nation­al Farmer’s Mar­ket Week, city slick­ers!  When I was a kid, my mom used to take us to the Farmer’s Mar­ket in the park­ing lot of the Pitts­burgh Zoo and it was one of the best parts of the sum­mer.  I didn’t real­ly appre­ci­ate the local pro­duce then, but man did I love the sno-cones.  There was this great ven­dor with one of those total­ly bitch­in’ ice shav­ing machi­nes and all the­se great fla­vored syrups like Piña Colada and man­go and stuff.  It ruled.

There’s no FM in the zoo park­ing lot any­more, but there are plen­ty of them around Pitts­burgh dur­ing the spring/summer/fall, and the FM is the very best place to get fruits, veg­eta­bles, and a bunch of oth­er deli­cious food­stuffs.  My favorites to get recent­ly are fresh baked breads, whole bar­be­cued chick­ens, and there’s this berry farmer who makes the­se fan­tas­tic berry-fla­vored syrups that go great in lemon­ade and on ice cream and stuff.

cornssssssss

Sno-cones, breads, and syrups, though, all pale in com­par­ison to fresh­ly picked corn on the cob.  There may indeed be no bet­ter sum­mer food than fresh corn.  It’s great just shucked and boiled, it’s fan­tas­tic grilled, and it’s amaz­ing cut off the cob and cooked with olive oil and fresh Poblano pep­pers.  (Also avail­able at FMs!)

Pret­ty much what I’m say­ing here is that the Farmer’s Mar­ket is absolute­ly the place to go for fresh sum­mer foods.  There’s at least one some­where in Pitts­burgh every day except Sat­ur­day for the rest of the sum­mer and into the fall.  Find out exact­ly where/when here!  I’ll see you there!

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31 Jul
2014

Kards Unlimited Calendar of Events: August!

sidewalksalebitches!

Yes, we are real­ly this excit­ed for the Side­walk Sale. It’s awe­some, ok?!

Well, friends, we got through the hec­tic, crazy fun that was July and now it’s time to set­tle in for the long, hot haul that is August.  Just kid­ding, it’s still sum­mer and that means more fun!  Sure, it feels like you’re swim­ming through molten lava each time you walk out­side, but that’s part of summer’s charm!  Or what­ev­er.  Any­way, there’s plen­ty of great stuff hap­pen­ing at KU dur­ing August, so click READ MORE to find out what!

Read more »

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26 Jul
2014

If Peter Rabbit is wrong, I don’t want to be right. An appreciation of Beatrix Potter.

peterrab

Peter Rab­bit, as you may know, is the most famous char­ac­ter of the won­der­ful children’s author Beat­rix Pot­ter.  (Whose birth­day is July 28th!)  When I was a kid, there were sev­er­al film adap­ta­tions of Beat­rix Potter’s works that I loved to watch over and over and over.  They, along with the Dis­ney movie Dum­bo and the car­toon Charlotte’s Web, were a huge­ly for­ma­tive part of my child­hood.  They were instru­men­tal in giv­ing me a love of nature and ani­mals that endures to this day.

Peter Rab­bit was a rebel.  His mom was all, “Don’t go in Mr. McGregor’s gar­den or he will lit­er­al­ly eat you like some sort of fairy tale mon­ster only he’s real.”  But Peter was like, “Yeah, what­ev­er!”  And he raid­ed that gar­den right­eous­ly.  It was so met­al.  Then he had to escape the gar­den when Mr. McGre­gor hap­pened to see and chase him and he bare­ly got away!  AND, hav­ing lost his waist­coat (a rab­bit in a waist­coat?!) and shoes and con­tract­ed a cold from hid­ing in a water­ing can, Peter was sent to bed with no sup­per and just a dose of Chamomile tea. Whew.

So yes, Peter prob­a­bly could have avoid­ed all that unpleas­ant­ness by sim­ply lis­ten­ing to his moth­er, but some­times you just have to let peo­ple make their own mis­takes.  And eat deli­cious car­rots.

beatrix_potter_hill_top

Beat­rix Pot­ter was pret­ty rad too.  She was a shrewd busi­ness­wom­an, patent­ing a Peter Rab­bit doll short­ly after the book became such a huge hit and buy­ing a ton of farm­land in the north of Eng­land over the course of her life (which she donat­ed to the Nation­al Trust and lat­er much of it became the Lake Dis­trict Nation­al Park) and just gen­er­al­ly being a boss.  Plus her name was Beat­rix which rules.  So hap­py birth­day, Beat­rix!  <3!

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