10 Oct

Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy! Happy National Field Trip Month!

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:

-Laurel Caverns:
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.

-Kentuck Knob:

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.

-Everyone knows about the Carnegie Science Center and the Carnegie Art and Natural History Museums, but they’re still great field trip locations.  

phippsPhipps 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!

6 Oct

“In This Style 10/6″…are you Mad as a Hatter?

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?

from ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by John Tenniel. Macmillan and Co, London, 1898.

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.

Right you are Alice!

Right you are Alice!

 Manufacturing felt hats began in 17th century France and spread to England by the end of the century.  Mercuric

Danbury hatmakers

Danbury hatmakers

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.”  


Baby's hats...contaminated with high levels of mercury...I'm sure that worked out well for those babies later in life.

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.  

We sell this!

We sell this!

I know this is posted a bit later than 10/6, but honestly, you can be silly any day of the year!!!

3 Oct

What’s Your Story Morning Glory?

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

Doesn't that microphone look inviting....

Doesn't that microphone look inviting....

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 MaryBMartinStorytellingHall_Esto-513x302lives 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!

27 Sep

Who Loves Banned Books? We Love Banned Books!

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)

25 Sep

The Karaoke Bars are calling because it’s One Hit Wonder Day!

The sweetest revenge.

The sweetest revenge.

One Hit Wonder Day was established by music journalist Steve Rosen in 1990 to pay tribute to those who technically didn’t even have their five minutes of fame, because most one hit wonders are less time than that.  Celebrate by listening to an artist that contributed one enormously successful song, and not much else, to humanity. Or go to a karaoke bar and show your love by singing a painfully heartfelt rendition of “I Touch Myself.”  People will either sing along with you, or leave.  Good luck!  

Everyone knows what song this happened to!

Everyone knows what song this happened to!

I totally thought I was up on my one hit wonder knowledge.  I thought I would know all the bands and songs.  As it turns out...I do not.  I failed miserably, aside from the few songs on mix CD’s expertly curated by my brother in the early 2000s.  I played those CD’s from middle school well into my high school days on my Sony Walkman and it baffles me that I have to look up the artists, but I remember the song lyrics by heart.  Because they are just that catchy and memorable.  

Oh yes...this was the one.   So sleek.

Oh yes...this was the one. So sleek.

And all those arguments about whether or not ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ was sung by Bob Marley can finally be put to rest; it wasn’t.  And did you know that Chumbawamba was originally an anarchist band?  They were actually quite good before they sold out.  Seriously check out “Timebomb,” their talent was wasted on early 1990’s ravers, so sad.  They fed into the system they wanted so deeply to change.  It’s the nature of the beast.  But let’s not be angsty, we love all music!!!!  So let’s celebrate all the bands, decades, and one hit wonders to grace us with their presence, however fleeting.  

Yep, that's a pretty anarchist song title.

Yep, that's a pretty anarchist song title.

And here's a list of One Hit Wonders!  Enjoy!


-Los Del Rio--’Macarena’  (Calling all 90's kids!  Watch this!)
-Lou Bega--’Mambo #5’
-Soft Cell--’Tainted Love’
-Sir Mix A Lot--’I like big butts’
-Vanilla Ice--’Ice Ice Baby’
-Blind Melon--’No Rain’
-Tag Team--’Whoomp! (There it is)’
-4 Non Blondes--’What’s Up?’
-Eddy Grant--'Electric Avenue'
-Aqua--’Barbie Girl’
-Billy Ray Cyrus--’Achy Breaky Heart’
-The Waitresses--’I Know What Boys Like’
-House of Pain--’Jump Around’
-Minnie Ripperton--’Lovin’ You’
-The Weather Girls--’It’s Raining Men’
-Falco--’Rock Me Amadeus’
-The Cardigans--’Lovefool’
-Frankie Goes to Hollywood--’Relax’
-The Verve--’Bittersweet Symphony’
-Modern English--’I Melt with You’
-Meredith Brooks--’Bitch’
-Starland Vocal Band--’Afternoon Delight’
-Buster Poindexter--’Hot Hot Hot’
-Devo--’Whip it’
-Wild Cherry--’Play that Funky Music’
-Sugarhill Gang--’Rapper’s Delight’
-Deee-Lite--’Groove is in the Heart’
-Lita Ford--’Kiss Me Deadly’
-Norman Greenbaum--’Spirit in the Sky’
-Baha Men--’Who Let the Dogs Out?’
-Men Without Hats--’The Safety Dance’
-The Knack--’My Sharona’
-DiVinyls--’I Touch Myself’
-Psy--’Gangam Style’
-Bobby McFerrin--’Don’t Worry Be Happy’
-LEN--’Steal My Sunshine’
-Wheatus--’Teenage Dirtbag’
-The Buggles--’Video Killed the Radio Star’
-Afroman--’Because I Got High’
-The Vapors--’Turning Japanese’
-Lipps Inc--’Funkytown’
-Bobby Day--’Rockin’ Robin’
-Nena--’99 Luftballoons’
-Toni Basil--’Mickey’
-The Archies--’Sugar, Sugar’
-Dexys Midnight Runners--’Come on Eileen’
-Right Said Fred--’I’m Too Sexy’

22 Sep

Dear Diary…..

September 22, 2015

Dear Diary,

Today I want to tell everyone about Dear Diary Day!  Each year, I tell myself that I am going to keep a written diary, and each year I fail.  Well, not this year!  I have plenty of journals and they’re going to feel the wrath of my pen pretty damn soon.  So, to celebrate Dear Diary Day, here are four quick and easy steps to follow:

1. Acquire a journal (or a stack of loosely stapled together papers flipped upside down and backwards...the principle is the same though.)
dear-diary-300x2682. Acquire a pen (or a pencil, if you’re one of those people.)
MjAxMy02Y2Q5NWZkYTg4ODEyNDJj3. START WRITING (believe it or not this is the trickiest part, probably because in America we’re bred to consume, not to create...it’s sad really.)
images4. Stay the hell away from your social media profiles!!!!  (A journal helps you be more yourself.  You explore who you are.  Ruminate, if you will.  Social media will NOT help with this.  What do you want to leave behind for your kids?  A social media profile that’s almost as well groomed as a Victoria’s Secret model, or a diary/journal/stack of crumpled napkins that truly show who you are, or were, at a specific time.  We all change so much year to year.  I guarantee your future descendants will want it, they will want it more than most things you could leave behind.)

20 Sep

National Dog Week!! Puppies Everywhere!

Basket_Of_PuppiesGuys. National Dog week is happening. Specifically, it's happening September 20-26.

I love dogs. In my mind, all dogs are puppies. People get upset with me sometimes because I say something about puppies, and they're all like, OMG, newborn baby dogs?!? And I'm like..... No. Just regular dogs. but I call them puppies.

I think it's because people get really extra excited about the idea of hanging out with a goofy, wiggly, fur and kisses machine. But see, I get that excited about ALL dogs. They are all wiggly and wonderful and GAH! so much love.

0aedf75071a7461549442fb532fec1bfSo, I'm going to be working a bunch during National Dog Week, and my hope is to see as MANY puppies (dogs) as possible!

Shadyside is very puppy friendly. You can go into most of the store with your furry friend, ours included! And for National Dog Week, we will have treats for any puppy that stops in to say hello. (or woof.)

We will also be collecting pictures of puppies in our store! Do you have a puppy that loves Kards Unlimited? Send us a picture of your snugly pooch and we'll make them famous! (Well, as famous as they can get by having their picture shared on our social medias.)

Happy National Dog Week! We wish you lots of snuggles. <3

12 Sep

Roald Dahl Day is September 13!

For being remembered as the greatest children’s storyteller of all time, Roald Dahl had a somewhat tragic existence.  His childhood was permeated by loss (a sister and a father), as was his adult life.  He spent his childhood away at boarding school where he suffered abuse.  He was in WWII and rumored to be a James Bond type spy. Despite a somewhat troubling life, it was filled with love.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here.  This is to have succeeded.”  Well, Mr. Dahl, you have succeeded.  More than most people, you have succeeded.


Thirteen Facts to Celebrate Roald Dahl’s Life and Birthday on September 13th:


  1. A high ranking church official once said that although Dahl’s young daughter who passed away was in Paradise, her beloved dog Rowley was not.  Dahl stated, “I wanted to ask him how he could be so completely sure that other creatures did not get the same special treatment as us.  I sat there wondering if this great and famous churchman really knew what he was talking about and whether he knew anything at all about God or heaven, and if he didn’t, then who in the world did?”

    Okay cranky church man, we all know all dogs go to heaven!

    Okay cranky church man, we all know all dogs go to heaven!



  2. Dahl acquired a traditional Romanichal gypsy wagon in the 1960s, and used it as a playhouse for his children.  Later, he used it as a writing room.  Um cool and magical, just like he was!!!!

    Well doesn't that look magical!

    Well doesn't that look magical!



  3. In the 1960’s he wrote screenplays.  He even began adapting his novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Much like all artists, he failed to meet deadlines and someone else was given his project.  He eventually disowned the film entirely stating that the movie put far too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie.  He was infuriated with the plot deviations.  I wonder how he would feel about the Tim Burton version.
  4. Dahl’s mother, Sophie, used to tell him tales of trolls and other mythical Norwegian creatures.  His novels were inspired by his childhood.  He was an avid reader, loving ghost stories and tales of heroism and triumph.  He said of his mother, "She was a great teller of tales. Her memory was prodigious and nothing that ever happened to her in her life was forgotten."
  5. His autobiography Boy: Tales of Childhood detailed the abuse he suffered in boarding school.  Is there anyone that ever had a decent boarding school experience?  Judging by memoirs, I’d say no.  
  6. In 1960, his four month old son, Theo, was severely injured when his pram was hit by a taxi.  Theo suffered from hydrocephalus.  Subsequently, Dahl involved himself in the development of the “Wade-Dahl-Till” (WDT) Valve.  This WDT Valve was a device to alleviate this condition.  It was successfully used on thousands of children worldwide.  
  7. In 1962, his daughter Olivia died of Measles and encephalitis at age seven.  He was wracked with guilt over her death.  He felt as though her death was avoidable and became a proponent of immunization. (Hear that anti-vaxxers?...Roald Dahl HATES YOU!!!!!)
  8. His grave is at St. Peter and Paul’s Church in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England, where children continue to leave toys and flowers.
  9. He served in the RAF during WWII.  During one flight, he couldn’t find an airstrip and attempted a landing in the desert.  The undercarriage hit a boulder and he crashed.  He fractured his skull and was temporarily blind.  Luckily he dragged himself out of the wreckage before the plane burst into flames.  His first published work is about this crash.
    Roald Dahl and Ernest Hemingway...29 May 1944, London, England, UK --- War Correspondent Waits for Invasion. London, England: Ernest Hemingway (right) walks a London street in the company of an RAF officer. Hemingway is in England and awaiting the opening of the second front. The luxurious foliage decorating his jaw is there on his doctor's orders. He has been forbidden to shave it off for two months. --- Image by  Bettmann/CORBIS 


  10. In 1920, Dahl’s older sister died of pneumonia, followed weeks later by his father who died whilst on a fishing trip in the Antarctic.
  11. In 1983, Dahl reviewed Tony Clifton’s God Cried, a picture book about the 1982 Lebanon War.  It depicted Israelis killing thousands of Beirut inhabitants by bombing civilians.  Dahl's review stated that the book would make readers "violently anti-Israeli", writing, "I am not anti-Semitic. I am anti-Israel."
  12. He was named after Roald Amundsen, a polar explorer and national hero in Norway.  
  13. Dahl’s writing influenced film director Tim Burton who was impressed by his "mixture of light and darkness, and not speaking down to kids, and the kind of politically incorrect humour that kids get."

Thank you Roald Dahl.  Thank you for the beautiful stories I love to rediscover.  Thank you for not talking down to me.  Thank you for the macabre, and your dark sense of humor.  Many people don’t think children can handle real life issues, so they shield them from death, despair, and tragedy, but honestly, these people aren’t doing their kids any favors.   Kids are perceptive and can handle more than people think.