Homemade Bread Day is nationally celebrated on November 17. To celebrate, I’m going to run you through a quick natural history of bread! For thousands of years, baking fresh bread was part of people’s daily routines. Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods dating back to the Neolithic era.
The Neolithic era was when people switched from nomadic hunter-gatherers and pastoralists to farmers. This greatly encouraged settlement growth, increasing the need to tend crops, which required localized dwellings that led to farming towns, larger cities, and domesticated animals. By living in permanent or seasonally inhabited settlements, they produced surplus crops. These extra crops could be stored for use during lean seasons or traded for luxury items.
Agrarian societies proved successful. Societies were able to expand their territories. Farming was limited to a narrow range of plants such as wheat, millet, and spelt. This was a significant shift from a varied diet to reliance on starch and plant protein. Did you know colloquially bread is known as the “staff of life?” Well it is! Which just proves how important bread has been in cultural progress.
Let’s jump forward 30,000 years….
…to 1961 when the Chorleywood bread process was developed. This process involves an intense mechanical working of the dough to dramatically reduce the fermentation period and the time taken to make a loaf. Normally, this is what factories use to mass produce bread. Cheap and quick, just like Americans like. I mean, we can’t be bothered to make our own bread….
…Enter the breadmaking machine. Breadmakers were invented in 1986 in Japan and the popularity caught on worldwide. Breadmakers and appliances have taken almost all the effort out of baking, yet no one makes their own bread. It’s truly a shame. Home baked bread is not only healthier, the smell of baking bread is magical, and the quality is undisputed. It is higher in fiber, lower in salt and additives, and all recipes can be modified to suit one’s preferences.
So go forth! Bake some bread!
Are you bored by nonfiction? Yes? Well, The Devil in the White City will change your mind about nonfiction. Seriously, I read one of Erik Larson’s books and was ready to venture to the Smithsonian in D.C. for a book signing (but I didn’t because tickets sold out in five minutes…bummer…).
For some reason, reading about serial killers has always been great fun for me. I started reading about the essential serial killers: Jack the Ripper, Charlie Manson, etc. However, this book isn’t just about serial killer, madman, and general scammer H.H. Holmes; it’s also about the head architect responsible for creating the Chicago World’s Fair in the 1800’s.
H.H. Holmes creeps me out more than most serial killers. Yes, Charlie Manson got people to kill for him and Jack the Ripper had that whole carving up lady bits thing going for him, but H.H. Holmes built a maze-like MURDER MANSION! He was a true vulture, picking out young and naïve women new to the city to tempt and trap in his crazy murder mansion.
I have a much deeper respect and admiration for architects after reading this book. After all, the World’s Fair was a marvel of construction. I doubt the quality and beauty (there are pictures in the book…I know you wanna know!) of the Chicago World’s Fair could be echoed today. I’m kind of sad that they deconstructed it instead of trying to maintain it, but when they shut it down homeless people began living there and the White City was no more (Interesting tidbit: many of the people who helped build the so-called White City were unemployed when they finished construction, thus many of the former workers began living there).
International Magic Week is each year from October 25–31. It is a week to celebrate the world of magic and magicians. Magic Week ends on 10/31, the anniversary of Harry Houdini’s death. Harry Houdini was the greatest magician and escapist of them all.
Did you know the Harry Houdini Museum is located in Scranton, Pennsylvania? It’s quite possibly the only thing in Scranton worth seeing. The museum is open to the public on Sundays from 1 PM-4:30 PM and by appointment. They show films relating to Houdini and offer a magic show to guests. On Halloween every year, the museum has a seance and psychic evening. The famous Halloween Houdini Seance was originally performed by Houdini’s wife, then passed on to his biographer, then passed to magician Dorothy Dietrich.
There are many ways to celebrate Magic Week. Watch the miniseries Houdini on Netflix, take a trip to the Houdini Museum, grab some tricks to learn from a magic shop (do those exist anymore?), have your own seance using our Suprnatural Ouija Board, learn to do tarot readings, or learn how to pull a quarter from behind someone’s ear. However, escaping whilst in chains from a large tank of water is not recommended, for obvious reasons.
We also have Harry Potter magic wands, if you’re into that kind of magic (you know you are)! Cast some spells!
I love field trips and this month is National Field Trip Month! If you’re a nanny, teacher, mother, father, aunt, uncle, teacher, grandparent or any person with legal access to a child, plan your special little munchkin a trip. These are memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t slack off, it’s time you’ll never get back. This holiday isn’t just for kids, if you’re a college student enjoying Pittsburgh for the first time you should try to get out there this month before the weather goes ka-blewy again. As Miss Frizzle says, “Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy.”
Hands on activities engage students who would otherwise be disengaged. Learning is cool, but everyone absorbs information differently, just like paper towel brands (Sparkle is clearly the village idiot of paper towels). The weather is glorious, the leaves are changing, it’s a beautiful time of year to be out and about. There’s no age limit on learning. Get out there and learn something new!
Pittsburgh has no shortage of fantastic field trip locations! So here are my recommendations, in case you hate google or something:
Are you an adventure junky? Does crawling through an underground cave system sound delightful? Then spelunking is for you! No worries, there are two tours, an advanced tour where you get deep in it, as the youths say, or an easier tour. They also have mini golf; the only mini golf ever made in a cave. If mini golf and spelunking are too adventurous for you, they also have gemstone panning. There is a guided tour that’s handicap accessible! Yay! Plus, it’s located in the strikingly beautiful Laurel Highlands.
Fallingwater is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Laurel Caverns. They do an early morning nature hike on select weekends to explore the grounds around Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece. Wright was all about fusing natural landscapes with architecture.
This is another Frank Lloyd Wright house. Tours are open from 9 AM until 4 PM, except Wednesdays when they open at noon. You must schedule a tour in advance. Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.” There is a modern sculpture collection on the grounds.
Phipps has a variety of cool exhibits and events. Whether you like wine, fairy tales, or the African Congo, Phipps has something for everyone to enjoy.
And don’t forget to record your experiences in a new journal from Kards Unlimited!
Mad Hatter Day is every October 6th. Why, you may ask. In Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter’s hat (illustrated by John Tenniel) has a slip on it that reads “In this style 10/6.” This means the hat cost 10 shillings and sixpence. In 1986, some seriously bored computer people in Boulder, Colorado celebrated a day of silliness. The Mad Hatter character is known for being silly, but did you know that he probably just had mercury poisoning?
Mad Hatter Disease/Syndrome is chronic mercury poisoning among hatmakers whose work involved prolonged exposure to mercury vapors. The neurotoxic effects included tremor, pathological shyness, and irritability.
Manufacturing felt hats began in 17th century France and spread to England by the end of the century. Mercuric
nitrate was used to treat the fur of small animals for hats. By the Victorian era, hatters’ condition had become proverbial and popular expressions arose like “mad as a hatter,” “hatters’ shakes,” and “Danbury shakes.” In America, this terrible practice continued until 1941 when mercury poisoning in the hatmaking industries of Danbury, Connecticut was exposed.
Yes, this holiday has dark roots. But now it’s fun! So those computer people I spoke of, well they announced their day of silliness on computer networks and Mad Hatter Day became more popular. In 1988, it was first recognized as a “holiday.”
At Kards Unlimited, we have tons of silly stuff so you can celebrate being silly (and that oh so silly mercury poisoning) in style. We have Mad Hatter hats, jewelry, even passports to Wonderland. And for the purest, we have The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland with original illustrations by John Tenniel.
I know this is posted a bit later than 10/6, but honestly, you can be silly any day of the year!!!
In 1973, a journalism teacher and a few neighbors from Jonesborough, Tennessee rolled an old farm wagon into Courthouse Square and told stories around the wagon. This modest festival changed Jonesborough forever. It has been recognized as the first public event devoted to storytelling. In 1975, the International Storytelling Center was founded and a growing cultural movement began.
Stories are the foundation of culture. They can entertain, share history, spread knowledge, persuade, advance a cause, teach, or impart a dream of a better future. People need stories to make sense of the world. Storytelling is a
powerful tool for effective communication.
In 2002, a new center campus opened. It is the first facility devoted exclusively to storytelling. Each year, Storyteller’s Weekend is free and open to the public. The mission of the International Storytelling Center is to enrich lives through storytelling, whether by capturing and telling their stories, listening to others, or using it to produce positive change in the world. They desire to build a better world, healthier communities, more effective workplaces, and better schools.
Though Jonesborough is the storytelling capital of the world, it is not the only devoted storytelling entity. Ted Talks and The Moth are both organizations that regularly give talks in Pittsburgh, so you don’t have to go all the way to Tennessee to hear some good stories. Before television we read books, and before we read books we told stories aloud. It is high time we get back to our roots and tell decent, meaningful stories.
Celebrate Storyteller’s Weekend this month by sitting around a fire pit telling stories among friends and roasting marshmallows!
My deep love of baking began in my grandmother’s kitchen long ago. Certain smells still trigger vivid memories of happy days gone by, lost in the monotony of my daily life. Walter Bishop has saved the world numerous times because of his memories tied to food. You don’t know who Walter Bishop is? You aren’t in the cool club, sorry. There’s no better way to celebrate National Baking Month, then by getting crafty in the kitchen.
Did you know Buffy Summers…I mean Sarah Michelle Gellar, loves to cook! She even has her own startup business revolving around cooking and family values. Just think, twenty years ago Buffy could barely put together a Thanksgiving feast without Xander getting Syphilis. Now she is co-founder and chief mom at Foodstirs where she states, “We believe the heart and stomach of every family can be found in the kitchen. Our mission is to offer real and tasty baking products that provide a convenient and better way for you to unplug, connect, and create memorable experiences together. Our premium baking mixes and foodcrafting kids inspire creativity and curiosity, while emphasizing the importance of a healthier lifestyle.” You go Sarah Michelle! I’m all about making memories in the kitchen (even sexy memories *wink*wink*). It’s those memories you’ll cherish forever…you know, if you have a soul.
October is the perfect month for National Baking Month! All the freshly picked pumpkins and apples and squash! Plus apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and harvest festivals are in full swing! What a great time of year! The time of year when the trees shed their skin leaving crunchy rust colored shells that only the young at heart still zealously stomp.
So take advantage of the farms that let you pick-your-own produce. Make lasting memories using seasonal ingredients. This year CREATE! It is a scientific fact that we humans feel best when we make things with our hands. It creates a sense of pride you just can’t get from watching Netflix or posting a self loathing Facebook status. Plus it is also National Field Trip Month, so go to the damn pumpkin patch already! You know you want to!
We love baking here at Kards Unlimited! We have tons of cookbooks to suite your needs. And if you need an apron, we’ve got it! Ever wanted to cook dressed like Rainbow Dash or Wonder Woman? Well, we can make that happen. See you soon, baking fools! And be sure to check out Athena’s “Cooking with Kards” blog posts.
Here’s a fabulous recipe for pumpkin muffins:
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
½ cup coconut oil (liquid form…heat if solid)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line muffin tray with paper liners.
Measure out all dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut oil, pumpkin puree, and vanilla.
Pour the wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir together. DO NOT OVER MIX.
Evenly distribute batter into muffin tray using a large spoon.
Bake for 20–25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
Summer is unfortunately coming to an end, but you know what that means: Banned Books Week is upon us!!! This year, you can celebrate the freedom to read from September 27 until October 3, 2015. Libraries, bookstores, and schools throughout the country observe this magical week that draws attention to censorship. Not only does it teach us the importance of our first amendment rights, it also highlights the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.
And banned books week isn’t just for Americans; Amnesty International celebrates by highlighting individuals who have been persecuted because of writings they produce, read, or circulate. They draw attention to human rights violations and the price people pay for expressing controversial or antisocial views.
This year the American Library Association is focusing on Young Adult books. According to Judith Platt, the chair of the Banned Books Week National Committee, “Young Adult books are challenged more frequently than any other type of book. These are the books that speak most immediately to young people, dealing with many of the difficult issues that arise in their own lives, or in the lives of their friends. These are the books that give young readers the ability to safely explore the sometimes scary real world. This Banned Books Week is a call to action, to remind everyone that young people need to be allowed the freedom to read widely, to read books that are relevant for them, and to be able to make their own reading choices.”
It’s a week that celebrates autonomy and freedom of expression (some of my favorite things)! You can celebrate by going to your favorite bookstore (Kards Unlimited, obviously!), or library; or participate in a “read out” by reading passages from your favorite banned book. There are tons of ways to celebrate! Come to Kards Unlimited and we’ll recommend our favorite banned books. We also have bookmarks and bracelets with a banned books theme.
Did you know that the dictionary is banned in certain US states because of inappropriate words like “penis” and “oral sex”? Seriously? They banned the dictionary? That kind of censorship and youth babying is atrocious. Here are some quotes about censorship by some free-thinking masters:
“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.”-Mark Twain
“It’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”-Judy Blume
“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.”-Ben Franklin
“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”-Joseph Brodsky
“If librarianship is the connecting of people to ideas…it is crucial to remember that we must keep and make available, not just good ideas and noble ideas, but bad ideas, silly ideas, and yes, even dangerous or wicked ideas.”-Graceanne A. Decandidio
“Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost.”-Alfred Whitney Griswold
“Yes, books are dangerous. They should be dangerous — they contain ideas.”-Pete Hautman
And…Dave Pilkey, the author of Captain Underpants, has some things to say about censorship.
Here are some, though definitely not all, of the banned and challenged books Kards Unlimited carries:
Lolita-Banned in South Africa, France, UK, Argentina, and New Zealand for being obscene. (Banned in 1955)
1984-Almost banned by UK and USA in the 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis; banned by Soviet Union in 1950, as Stalin thought it was a satire of his leadership
Lady Chaterley’s Lover-Temporarily banned in US and UK for violating obscenity laws (Banned in 1929)
Frankenstein-Banned in apartheid South Africa for obscene and indecent material (Banned in 1955)
50 Shades of Grey series-Banned in Malaysia for containing sadistic material deemed a “threat to morality.” (2015)
Diary Of a Young Girl-Banned in Lebanon for portraying Jews, Israel, and Zionism favorably
Catch-22-Banned in several US states. (currently)
Brave New World-Banned in Ireland and Australia because of references to sexual promiscuity (Banned in 1932)
Animal Farm-Although it was completed in 1943, no publisher would print it due to its criticism of USSR (an important ally of Britain during WWII). Also banned in communist countries and USSR. (Finally published in 1945)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-Banned in province of Hunan, China for portraying anthropomorphized animals acting as humans. The censor General Ho Chien believed attributing human language to animals was an insult to humans. (Banned in 1931)