Articles by " Adam"
9 Oct

Happy 1,832,668th Birthday to Count von Count!


He's the happiest, friendliest vampire ever.

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.

Plus he has pet bats named Grisha, Misha, Sasha, and Tattiana. Yes.

Plus he has pet bats named Grisha, Misha, Sasha, and Tattiana. Yes.


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!)

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29 Sep

Notes from Our September Book Club Meeting!


We had a really great discussion about Aimee Bender's "The Girl in the Flammable Skirt."  Even though the book left many of us feeling confused and slightly let down, there was a lot to love in Bender's writing style and the book definitely made us ask a ton of questions about gender roles, the ways different people deal with difficult emotions, and what the heck was going on with the guy who lost his lips.

It was really cool to add such a staunchly post-modern short story collection to our Club's repertoire, and I for one will certainly be pursuing a few more Bender books in the future, if for no other reason than to find out if she's always so frickin' weird.  Some of the stories almost everyone liked were Marzipan, about a family dealing with the deaths of loved ones in very strange ways, The Healer, a tale of two mutant girls who grow up in a small town, and The Ring, about a woman, her lover/fiance/thief, and their quest for really great presents.

We decided uncharacteristically quickly that our next book will be Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which is one that at least a few of us have been meaning to read for a long time.  Its dystopian world will hopefully sate October's appetite for the macabre and weird, and it's definitely a classic, so we'll be expecting a big turnout and a spirited discussion!


One last point of order: the lovely KU couch will be taking its winter vacation starting today, so our next meeting will be held on October 19th at 6 p.m. at the Shadyside Coffee Tree Roasters (right next door to KU!) and we'll be sending out our usual email reminder with particulars closer to that date!  Hope to see all our favorite book clubbers (that's all of you!) then and there! <3!

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17 Sep

The Best Week of the Year is Back!


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!


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8 Sep

To boldly go where no man has gone before…


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

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

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

Kards Unlimited Calendar of Events: 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!


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27 Aug

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


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.


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?


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.


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

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

snow cone


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.


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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