Articles by " Melanie DeStefano"
25 May

Am I A Geek? Hell Yeah!


Noun. A knowledgeable and obsessive enthusiast.

Verb. Be or become extremely excited or enthusiastic about a subject, typically one of specialist or minority interest.

Do geeks really need another reason to get excited? Probably not. It's kind of what we're known for. However, Geek Pride Day is May 25, and it is kind of everything. Started in 2008 by a blogger in Spain, this international day to celebrate everything geeky has gained rapid steam. So, members of the united geekdom, time to take your geek pride to a whole new level.

It's a lot of pressure to figure out the best way to celebrate. I've already been trying to decide what to wear for a week now. Do I go with my Pokemon trainer muscle shirt? My Game of Thrones direwolf T-shirt? Go full Trekkie with a uniform? Or stay low-key with punny tee?

Maybe I should just rotate my shirt by the hour.

Luckily, I'm working on Geek Pride Day, which when you work in the geekiest store in Pittsburgh is pretty ideal. I can say things like 'pew-pew' and 'Lexx is one of the most underrated sci-fi series of the 20th century' and it's totally acceptable. Do any of my coworkers know what Lexx is? No. Will I sing the Brunnen-G battle hymn for them anyway? Yes. And they will appreciate it because they, too, are geeks.

This is the gist of Lexx, one of the greatest sci-fi shows to ever exist.

What I love about the geekdom in general is how you can be a geek over just about anything, as long as you're really into it. Beat the latest Zelda in one sitting? Awesome! Can't start your day without finishing the New York Times crossword? So cool. Whether you spend every Sunday reading a new book without interacting with a single soul, or you taught yourself programming in your spare time, kudos. You know what you're all about.

What this means is that it's really easy to celebrate Geek Pride Day. Do what you love, and share your passion.

Side note: Do you know what I learned today because I'm a geek? In Ancient Greece, the word symposium meant 'drinking party.' Take that boring work conference that calls itself a symposium just to make it sound more fancy.

Did you see that? I geeked out for a second and it was really cool because we all learned something new (unless you already knew that, in which case, hats off to you).

If you're really at a loss how to best celebrate Geek Pride Day, you can always fall back on a gimme. Carry around your towel! Geek Pride Day coincides with Towel Day, in honor of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. A galactic traveler such as yourself really never should leave the house without a towel, anyway.

Happy geeking :)

11 Apr

Boost your basket: Easter done right

This one Easter, I got a note from Mr. Easter Bunny himself inside my Easter basket. Hand-drawn in pictures (because I guess he doesn't know how to write? It makes sense, he is a rabbit.), the picture-note signaled that I would be receiving a half dozen baby chicks for Easter. I did, in fact, receive chickens a few days later. They lived long, healthy lives, and provided eggs for the entire neighborhood. But this is not their story.

My point is, Easter baskets are wonderful. Nothing beat racing my brother to see who found their basket first, and then rummaging through the goods and trading candy. Other than that one year, our baskets were always pretty standard, but it never took away from the excitement of Easter morning.

So, if you don't feel like going the baby chicken route, there are still plenty of ways to boost your baskets for Easter morning. May we suggest some of the following?

Kards has just about any cuddly stuffed animal you could want. Daughter's favorite animal a skunk? Got it. Son love unicorns? So many unicorns here. And, yes, we have bunnies galore, plus chicks and their mamas.

We have light up, color-changing eggs. I may be tempted to buy them all and zen out to the slow parade of colors. But I won't. I'll leave some for you, our loyal customers. Kids will wonder at these small marvels--they're a nice way to brighten a dark bedroom--but parents will get a kick out of them, too.

Do I really need to say anything about this one? Everyone loves stickers. Just trust me, get some stickers.

A time-honored tradition, an Easter basket just isn't an Easter basket without candy. Instead of, or in addition to, standard jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, add a little excitement with themed candy from a favorite movie, video game, or wherever Hello Kitty is from. Add a game of chance with Bean Boozled. Will the jelly bean you've chosen be delicious or one of the box's trick flavors?

Toys and games for the car ride to church, outdoor picnic, or rainy day inside, we have something fun no matter what Easter day has in store.

Here's a peek at some of the basket stuffers we have to offer, but stop in 9-9 Monday through Friday or 12-5 Sundays for even more options. We'll be open Easter day for that last-minute shopping, as well. Hoppy Easter!

18 Mar

You Are Special To Me: Happy Birthday, Mr. Rogers!

An Ode to Mr. Rogers

March 20 is Won't You Be My Neighbor Day, in honor of the one, the only Mr. Rogers's birthday! Generations of children grew up listening to the soothing voice of Fred Rogers on his public broadcasting television program, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001. For millions of children like me, Fred Rogers was much like Mom and Dad; he had no first name. To suggest he was more than Mr. Rogers, the cardigan-wearing, goldfish-feeding friend I visited almost every day, would be blasphemous. But as I have learned since moving to Pittsburgh, Mr. Rogers' actual neighborhood, he was much more than the man I knew.

Born Fred McFeely Rogers (yes, as in Mr. McFeely, from the Speedy Delivery Service!), Mr. Rogers had a bachelor's degree in music composition, was an ordained Presbyterian minister, and attended University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development. He also held 40 honorary degrees from colleges and universities across the country. Not one. Not two. FORTY. In 2002, President George W. Bush presented Mr. Rogers with the highest civilian honor in the country, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for a career encouraging the well-being of children through lessons of kindness, compassion, and learning. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 74, leaving behind his wife, Joanne, of more than 50 years, two sons, and millions of children whose childhoods wouldn't have been as magical without him.

If for any reason you might want to visit Mr. Rogers' "imaginary" friends, including Daniel Striped Tiger and King Friday the Thirteenth (and 'by any reason' I mean 'why wouldn't you?'), they are housed in Pittsburgh's Children's Museum alongside one of his iconic sweaters (which his mother knitted), and his sneakers.

Mr. Rogers, thank you for being our neighbor, our mentor, our friend. Happy birthday, with love.

At Home With Mr. Rogers

Pittsburghers, nostalgia should be hitting you right in the feels, now, and you're probably thinking 'Man, I miss Mr. Rogers.' He may not be around town anymore in person, but his spirit is still alive. It's always a little thrilling when a customer catches sight of one of Kards Unlimited's Mr. Rogers products and begins to regale me with a tale of meeting, dining, or actually being a neighbor of the Rogers family.

For the rest of us, we can keep Mr. Rogers alive in our own households with officially licensed Mr. Rogers gear. My favorite? Mister Rogers Sweater Changing Mug. Featuring all of his most heartwarming quotes, add a warm beverage of choice, and his sweater changes between an iconic blue cardigan and yellow cardigan. Some days, it's the little things that make a person feel good, and this touch of magic is a great way to start off the day on the right foot.

Sometimes the world can seem like a scary place. Mr. Rogers always had a way of making his viewers feel a little more courageous. He taught  us how to be gracious for what we have. He knew exactly what to say to make life a little easier. Day to day, I wish there were more people like him, ready to give me a one-liner to help me through a challenge, but he's still there for me. When I need a boost of confidence before a meeting, I can pull out my Encouragemints. The unbeatable combo of fresh breath and an encouraging "Why? Because I like you!" calms the nerves. When I'm facing a deadline at school, nothing helps me take notes better than Mister Rogers' Neighborhood sticky notes.

But the greatest gift we have from Mister Fred Rogers will always be the words he left for us. When life gets a little complicated, turn to any one of three volumes of Mister Rogers wisdom: Life's Journey According to Mister Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers, and Many Ways to Say I Love You. These books prove that, though Mister Rogers may be gone, he will always be our friend.


18 Feb

A [Star]Fleet of Fun on Flirting Day

Why thank you Neil deGrasse Tyson, you are out of this world, too.

Why thank you Neil deGrasse Tyson, you are out of this world, too.

Here at KU, the staff isn't shy of flirting. We flirt with customers, with each other, and even with ourselves (OK, I can't speak to the rest of the staff on that last one, but all I'm saying is that if you've never looked yourself in the mirror and said aloud 'my, my, someone's looking adorably nerdy/damn sexy/pleasurably pleasant today,' then you're missing out. Makes the soul feel good.) So Flirting Day on February 18 should probably be one of Kards' official holidays, behind May the Fourth Be With You Day, Pierogi and Taco Days, and, you know, actual holidays.

Flirting Day, or, alternatively, Flirting Week if one needs more time for the flirtage, takes place each year in the third week of February as part of a post-Valentine's week dedicated to celebrating singlehood. Other days include Singles Awareness Day and Perfume Day. There's not a whole lot of background for this holiday, but it's pretty self-explanatory. Find a person and have a good-natured, friendly, and most importantly, not creepy flirt session.

Don't know how to flirt? It's cool, me neither. (Have I brought up the fact that I'm a crazy cat lady way too many times while trying to woo a stranger? Yes. Yes, I have. And I will again and again and again because, well, you can't teach an old cat new tricks.) However, thanks to the interweb, I have compiled a list of some of the best nerdy pickup lines to help you get your foot in the door. Once wooing is initiated with these flawless lines,* you are free to flirt on, my friends.


For the science nerd:

Are you made of copper and tellurium? Because you are CuTe.

Do you like science? Because I've got my ion you.

Do you have 11 protons? Because you are Sodium fine!

For the music nerd:

I bet you and I could get into some serious treble together.

You must be a choir director, because you make my heart sing.

You had me at cello.

 For the literary nerd:

Charles Dickens may have given you Great Expectations, but I can meet them.

I believe in The Importance of Being Earnest, so I'm just going to say it: I'm Wilde about you.

I like books, you like books, why don't we start writing the story of us?

If it was 1984, and I was Big Brother, I'd only watch you.

For the computer nerd:

You must be wi-fi, because I feel a connection here.

Is your name Google? 'Cause you're everything I've been searching for.

Roses are #ff0000, violets are #0000ff, all my base are belong to you.

For the video game nerd:

Are you wearing Pegasus Boots? Because you've been running through my mind all day. (Zelda)

Are you a pikachu? Because you are shockingly beautiful. (Pokemon)

I think something is wrong with my auto-aim. I can't take my eyes off you. (Halo)

Will you be my Final Fantasy? (Not explaining this one. If you don't get it, you probably shouldn't use it.)

For the fandom nerd:

I've fallen harder for you than Bran Stark. (Game of Thrones)

You're the Obi-Wan for me. (Star Wars)

The fires of Mount Doom aren't nearly as hot as you. (Lord of the Rings)

Your phaser's on kill, but you're stunning me. (Star Trek)

You must play Quidditch. I know a Keeper when I see one. (Harry Potter)

You must be an angel because your beauty is blinding. (Supernatural)

Are you a weeping angel? Because I can't take my eyes off you. (Dr. Who)


All right, you are ready to head out on your flirting adventure. Happy Flirting Day!

*Pickup lines have not been personally tested on humans, only my cat, who seemed to appreciate them. Or maybe she was purring at the bowl of food in my hand. Either way, results not guaranteed.

10 Feb

Get Lit This Valentine’s: 10 Literary Gifts For Your Book Nerd!

It's almost Valentine's Day and flowers would be a great gift if your Valentine didn't prefer the smell of a new book over a fresh rose. This Valentine's Day, make an evening of the things your favorite book nerd loves most with a literary-themed night in. Here are some of the romantic, funny, and fun bookish gifts available at Kards Unlimited to help you plan the night!

1. Out of Print T-Shirts

Set the tone for the evening with literary shirts from Out of Print! Throw on matching Where the Wild Things Are tees before showing off your wild sides (ahem). The Alice in Wonderland design (pictured) will lead the way down the rabbit hole of love (ahem). Comfortable enough for sleepwear, trendy enough for daywear, your Valentine won't be able to get enough of their shirt.

2. Bookish Jewelry

Gift the one you love (or really really like) book-themed accessories to finish the look. Voz cuffs and pendants are perfect for a Valentine-on-a-budget. Designed for pop culture and literary buffs, designs range from the bold ("Books are sexy") to the romantic ("You have bewitched me body and soul").

Kathy Bransfield Necklaces are hand-stamped necklaces will sweep your sweet off her feet. Made of sterling silver with gold-plated brass overlays, romantic themes include Tennyson's iconic quote, "If I had a flower for every time I thought of you I could walk through my garden forever." Cue the swoon. Here are some others, including for your bestie; don't forget Galentine's Day is the Monday before Valentine's Day!

3. Get Cookin'

Once you're both dressed for the occasion, warm things up in the kitchen with dinner from a lit-inspired cookbook. From the playful 50 Shades of Chicken to cookbooks inspired by the Outlander and True Blood series, we've got plenty of cheeky, sexy, and delicious options to choose from. Make the meal solo or turn it into a team adventure; sometimes two cooks are more fun than one!

4. Harry Potter Games

Ron and Hermione. Harry and Ginny. Always. Anyone who says the Harry Potter series isn't romantic is a dirty filthy liar. While the 32nd shade of chicken is in the oven, have some lighthearted game time with Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit, Hogwarts Battle, or Harry Potter Clue. I'm sure there are ways to make it sexy, if that's your kind of thing. Remember, Gryffindors, this is Valentine's Day, you don't have to win.

5. Temporary Tattoos

Now that you're all romantic over HP, you've probably realized you're soulmates. But before you go get matching Always tattoos on your first Valentine's together, try something a little less permanent. Go the sensible, romantic route with a set of Jane Austen tattoos, or the dark but just as fun Edgar Allen Poe set. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is kind of Valentines-y, right? I mean, it's got a heart.

6. Coloring Books

All right, the Ravenclaw won Trivial Pursuit in five minutes flat and temporary tattoos are now plastered over arms, legs, faces, and the dog, but there are still fifteen minutes before dinner is ready. What to do? Let your love relax and color pictures from their favorite books while you set the table. Whether coloring sizzling scenes from Outlander and Game of Thrones, or re-living childhood with The Little Prince, Little House on the Prairie, or Harry Potter, coloring books are all the rage right now for a reason.

7. Poetry

What's sweeter than dessert? Poetry. All right, don't skip dessert. That would be a bad choice on Valentine's, but certainly add to the sweetness with some poetry recitation. Not a poet? We have you covered. Love poems are always a great choice, but if you’re looking for something for year-round, we also offer themed books of poetry covering just about everything, including pets and animals, music and the blues, marriage, parenthood, solitude, and even a book of erotic poems. Take your pick, it's hard to go wrong.

8. North Ave Candles

Time to get cozy before the evening's main event: reading! (What's better?) Pull out the plushest blankets and add some ambiance with a North Ave Candle. Heat things up with a Fahrenheit 451 inspired candle, which smells of smoked pine and parchment, or play some jazz and light a gin, juniper, and daisy Great Gatsby candle. Offering more than a dozen book-inspired scents, North Ave Candles are made right in Pittsburgh!


9. Tea

Almost ready to cuddle and read, but don't forget the best friend of book nerds: tea! Tea Forte's heart-shaped gift sets will warm your Valentine's heart, but any of the samplers are strong choices. Chocolate tea will satiate the sweet tooth, while teas for the heart will show you care. The Tea Forte Noir flavors are especially fun for after dark. Don’t know where to start? Our staff happens to love tea, and we love to talk, so feel free to askfor recommendations.

10. Books

Now the best part of the evening, it’s time to read! We may be called Kards Unlimited, but we also have a pretty awesome selection of books. Better yet, we've compiled a special section with our favorite love and romance books to make shopping for your Valentine even easier. From Pride and Prejudice to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and tear-jerker Me Before You to Aziz Ansari’s comedic Modern Romance, there’s something for every taste and romance level.

Come on in to Kards Unlimited for more great ideas to make your Valentine's Day one for the history books. And don't forget your Valentine's Day card while you're here!