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.  



8 Sep

Star Trek Day 2015!

SpockNimoyThis day is hereby dedicated to Star Trek.

If you are in anyway informed about Star Trek, you should know that this show isn't just about Science Fiction. It's about humanity, evolution, hope. Look guys, I know that you're maybe expecting a fun little ditty on how cool star trek is, but I'm going to get a little serious. Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek was, in its time and possibly even today, Far Before its Time.

Let me tell you this story that gives me chills every time I think about it: Once upon a time, Nichelle Nichols. who plays Lt. Uhura (in the original series), resigned from the show. A few days, she changed her mind (thank god) because she got a pep talk from an American Hero.  Martin Luther King, Jr. saw her at an event and told her he was a huge fan and why her role was so very important.  In an interview, she recounts, "he was telling me why I could not [resign]. He said I had the first non-stereotypical role, I had a role with honor, dignity and intelligence. He said, 'You simply cannot abdicate, this is an important role. This is why we are marching. We never thought we'd see this on TV.'"

gene-roddenberryGot goosebumps? I do. Luckily she took his word and went to Mr. Roddenberry the very next day to take up the role again. When explaining her reasons to him, she says, "He sat there and looked at me and said, 'God bless Dr. Martin Luther King. Somebody does understand me.'"

After Star Trek was canceled, Nichols volunteered  as a recruiter for NASA, successfully recruiting minorities into the space program. She helped get the first woman into space, as well as the first African American. And it was all because she was on this one Science Fiction show.

Look I don't care about whether you think that Star Trek is cheesy and campy. It kind of is. But it was also a movement.

Uhura_and_Kirk_kissStar Trek had the first interracial kiss on TV, between Shatner and Nichols. And they knew it was a big deal, so much so that they actively flubbed every scene filmed without the actual kiss so that they editors had no choice but to include the kiss on the show!

In season one, some of the men in the background wore skirts. Because Roddenberry and his team figured that was the most logical progression of equality between the sexes.

Roddenberry envisioned the first officer being played by a woman. That was a little too far for the executives, so they put the Alien, Spock got the role.

There are just a few ways that Roddenberry tried to change the world through the magic of Television. We should all demand such excellence from our modern TV shows!

On a lighter note, here is a fun fact that has nothing to do with changing the world: Neither Shatner nor Quinto could make their hand do the quintessential Spock gesture, the Vulcan salute. Shatner resorted to fishing wire, while Quinto had his fingers glued together.


6 Sep

Bee a darling and get me some honey!

honey1The time has come for visiting pumpkin and apple farms. It's like the best time of the year. The air is crisp and full of leaves. The sun is soft and the wind is slightly chilled. I just freaking love fall.

Any way, the actual point of this blog is to remind you that when you visit your local farmstead, like Tripple B or Trax Farm or Soergel Orchards,  to stock up on your pumpkins and apples and hay bales, make sure you don't forget to add local honey to your shopping list!

Local honey isn't just super yummy. It is also really good for you. Here's a story from personal experience about why I always buy local honey!

My brother has always had TERRIBLE allergies. Like for serious, his face would get all red, he couldn't breathe, eyes were all runny, and sometimes he even ended up in the hospital. All because he was allergic to everything in the air during fall and spring.

So when someone told us that the solution was simply to eat local honey, we were all kind of like, yeah, that's not going to work, because his allergies are too terrible for a simple folk remedy.

But! just on a whim, and mostly because we really love the taste of honey, my brother started eating local honey. Not like by the gallon or anything, just like in his morning tea and with cereal and stuff. And then fall rolled around, and we all braced for his imminent mucus explosion..... but he didn't explode. Sure, he was still a little itchy and watery, but his allergies were nowhere near as bad!



So, honey is the answer to allergies. It's actually the answer to a lot of things. For instance if someone asks you, "What is super sweet and yummy and something I should put in my mouth right now?" the answer is probably honey.

If I haven't convinced you yet, maybe this will: buying local honey gives money to local honey farmers, and therefore the local honey farmers will keep housing local bees. In case you're like living under a rock, you probably know that everyone is pretty worried about the diminished population of honey bees. There have been a million studies done, and some people say we're safe, and other people say that we're literally going to die without bees and it's happening tomorrow. Regardless, bees are really important for the environment. And they're so cute and fluffy! So support your local bees and buy local honey!

Happy Honey Day! 

1 Sep

Library Card Sign-up Month is here!

Back to school.  Back to school.  To prove to Dad that I’m not a fool.


It’s September, and that means it’s Library Card Sign-up Month!  One of the most important school supplies, and life supplies, is a library card.  Books are expensive, and there’s magic in the ritual of going to the library.  I know I was entranced by Roald Dahl’s character Matilda, who spent hours in the library delving deep into stories.  


When I was a child, my mother took me to the library regularly.  It was a ritual I will always associate with her.  I loved it.  The children’s section was in the basement and even though the elevator at my local library (don’t worry it wasn’t in Pittsburgh...go to the library!) smelled like pee, I always looked forward to my visits to the library.  It always felt like a special treat.  The adult section looked so grand in comparison to my dear little children’s area.  

My first library card.

My first library card.

When I got older I am ashamed to say I stopped going to the library.  I never went to the library at my university, mostly because it was a giant petri dish filled with coughing college students who still hadn’t learned to cover their mouths whilst sneezing.  That was a missed opportunity.  That library was gorgeous and had amazing resources.  Ahhh hindsight, you bitch.  This year I am determined to sign up for a library card!  


If you are interested in getting a card at any of the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh, there’s some things you should know.  To receive a card you must show a valid form of identification and proof of address.  You must also fill out an application  There’s plenty you can do with your new library card.  


I’m sure I’m not the only girl to fantasize about being Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  Belle with the beautiful library!!!  Which brings me to my next point, libraries are beautiful.



And have you heard of New Zealand’s teeny tiny libraries that connect isolated communities through a shared love of books?  It's pretty interesting...

2AD1F62A00000578-3174100-Puhoi_Town_Library_which_even_has_its_own_website_is_known_as_a_-a-13_1437796666176 p02yc8px


So get out there!  Go get that library card!  With a library card you can travel through space and time.  With the right story, you can go anywhere.


24 Aug

It’s Leslie Knope’s Favorite Holiday: Waffle Day


I hope you’re eating breakfast all day because it is Leslie Knope’s favorite holiday: National Waffle Day!!!  On August 24, 1869, Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York, patented the waffle iron (Patent number 94,043 for all of you out there who still think you’re going to win Jeopardy one day).   In 1953, Eggo frozen waffles were developed. Did you know that the Ancient Greeks were the first waffle makers?  They cooked flat cakes between two metal plates held over burning embers.

I don't know Leslie, I don't know...

I don't know Leslie, I don't know...

Now that you know the basic history of the waffle, here are some eggo-celent waffle quotes from the baddest bitch in Pawnee, Indiana.

We all like waffles, especially when we're in the hospital.

We all like waffles, especially when we're in the hospital.

“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work.  Or waffles, friends, work.  Doesn’t matter, but work is third.”


“Everyone should love waffles.  If they don’t they’re crazy.”

All waffles should be friendship wafles!

All waffles should be friendship wafles!

Leslie measures time in terms of waffles:  “Maria, I’m going to need two hours worth of waffles.”

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JJ: “Sure, anything for my favorite customer.”
Leslie: “I bet you say that to all the girls.”
JJ: “Oh no, no.  Actually you are my favorite.  You’ve spent over a thousand dollars last year on waffles alone.”

22 Aug

Vesuvius Day…reimagined!

 Explosive!  Fiery!

Explosive! Fiery!

In 2001 I was in sixth grade, and I wrote a short story about a girl who died in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD.  When I found out we celebrate Vesuvius Day at Kards Unlimited, I was inspired by my sixth grade self and knew I had to write a new story.  So here it is!  Enjoy!  And if you like historical fiction, Kit Harrington sexy-man extraordinaire is in a film aptly named Pompeii.  Clearly, he still plays someone who knows nothing because his character doesn’t leave Pompeii when a “mountain” i.e. super dangerous volcano, starts going all wibbly-wobbly.  

Steamy!  But is it best kiss material?

Steamy! But is it best kiss material?



10:00AM August 23, 79 AD
Dear Diary,
I am spending my summer in Pompeii and I’ve just arrived!  Mount Vesuvius is so green and beautiful I wish I could live here year round.  Pompeii may be the lushest and greenest place I’ve seen in all of Rome!  There are orchards and vineyards everywhere; just a testament to our favor in the eyes of the gods.  Although the villas, grand baths, and painted caryatids are lovely, I always prefer natural beauty.  The hustle and bustle of the working class has a beauty all its own; another reason I love vacationing here.  This city is a true melting pot.  I can walk next to slaves and freemen alike.  Like worker bees in a beehive, people move rhythmically, with purpose.  Merchants, manufacturers, and farmers all work together to make this wondrous city run smoothly. I admire the workers and the slaves.  My days are so unbearably mindless and boring.  Although I am “noble” and wealthy, my life seems so unimportant compared to theirs.  They live; I watch.  Even the prostitutes have a more glamorous life than I.  


I want more than anything to live.  I guess I’m only sixteen, so there’s plenty of time.  But isn’t that always what people say before something tragic happens?  “I thought I had more time.”  Even eighty year olds on the brink of death mumble about thinking they had more time.  It’s sad really.  I’m so tired of waiting for my life to start.  

I am going to a festival tonight with my best friend, Octavia!  She knows how to live!  Octavia has been our house servant for the past eight years. I cannot believe she has been a slave her whole life.  I look forward to spending my summers with her every year.  Last year, before I left to go back to Rome, I kissed her.  I don’t know what came over me.  It just felt right.  I never had a chance to talk with her about it.  Daddy saw and smacked me later.  He said that that sort of behavior is for whores and serving girls.  He says the only girls that do that are the ones who get paid.  It isn’t a thing proper girls should do.  I don’t like any of the boys in Rome.  I also don’t like that I will most likely be a bargaining chip for my father to gain more political power once he decides to marry me off.  With my luck it’ll be to a man just like him, but maybe even older.  


Daddy doesn’t want Octavia and I to have any sort of friendship.  He says that a politician’s daughter should not associate with people below her station.  Daddy is such a social climber, soon enough I won’t be able to associate with anyone.  Mother doesn’t care about my friendship with Octavia, as long as Mother’s wine glass is full, she doesn’t care about anything, least of all me.


8:00AM August 23, 79 AD
Dear Diary,
Today is the day Lucretia finally arrives for the summer!  This past year has been so trying, I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with my best friend.  I just hope her father isn’t too overbearing.  I’ll just make sure his wine goblet is overflowing at all times and he’s occupied with the appropriate kind of flesh.  I haven’t told Lucretia about her father’s lascivious ways.  I’m sure she has an idea; how could she not?  I’ve walked in on him with the stable boys more times than I can count.  Sometimes, I’ve even walked in on him with the horses.  His wife definitely knows; why else would she keep herself in a constant stupor?  I work in a house filled with secrets and balancing them so that no one is the wiser is my most important responsibility.  Lucretia’s father is the most controlling man I have ever met.  


They are decent enough people to work for though.  They never abuse me, like other slave owners have in the past, they feed me well, and, for the most part, they let me have a friendship with Lucretia.  Slaves have upward mobility, so one day I hope they decide to grant me my freedom.  I could also marry a freeman and declare a child before the magistrate, but marriage has never been something I want.  I may be a slave, but I have freedom.  I look at Lucretia’s life and it’s more controlled than mine is.  Sure, she’s protected from a lot of terrible things in this world, but she doesn’t have any real friends and rarely leaves her little protective bubble.


Tonight, Lucretia and I are going to the festival to appease the god Vulcan.  Vulcan is the god of metal workers and destruction.  I hope to show her a grand time!  She kissed me before she left last year.  I’ve been thinking about that kiss all year.  Lucretia has the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen, soft and cat-like.  That night on the dock, when she kissed me goodbye, her eyes seemed to glow like fireflies.  Lucretia’s parents are having a feast before the festival.  I will have to cook and serve, but they always get the highest quality food so I don’t mind. I’m expecting a feast of grapes, apples, figs, and fish.  Fish is a staple here in Pompeii.  Our shell middens are huge!  Anyway, I should probably get to cooking, if I’m going to be prepared for this feast. I want everything to be perfect!


Noon August 23, 79 AD
Dear Diary,
It’s another rumbly day in Pompeii.  Tremors are pretty common here, but they are more powerful this year.  Maybe it’s all in my head, but Vesuvius also looks larger and the sea level looks lower. I have never heard of a mountain growing in size, so it must be in my head.  Unless of course it’s a warning from the god Vulcan.  

Thanks NASA! Further proof that Vesuvius is a big ass ornery volcano.

Thanks NASA! Further proof that Vesuvius is a big ass ornery volcano.

In 62 AD, I was born.  My mother says that Vulcan was angry because I was stubborn and wouldn’t leave her belly, so he sent an earthquake to shake me out.  The ground shook and Mother’s water broke, then I came screaming out!  I wish mother would tell more stories like she used to.  Now she’s always staring into a goblet of wine.  She used to be so full of life; and now, she’s dead.  I think being married to my father killed her.  She’s a walking corpse, so far removed from reality she doesn’t even realize I’m here.  I try to take her on walks to the sea with me, but her hands shake like Vesuvius when she’s away from her wine.  


Anyway, strange signs have been occurring for days.  I hope the oracle predicts that Vulcan is pleased with Pompeii, but it doesn’t seem likely.  After the earthquake in 62 AD destroyed temples, homes, and altars, people rebuilt them bigger and grander than ever before.  This, of course, was in an effort to please Vulcan.  I don’t think the gods listen anymore.  A mountain that rumbles and grows in size and a shrinking sea can’t be good.  Maybe the first earthquake was to warn people to leave Pompeii for good.  I love it here, but I feel uneasy.  There’s an eeriness about that mountain.


10:20 AM July 23, 2015
Dear Diary,
I have never worked at such an important archaeological site!  I am documenting all of it!  I’m on my cookie break writing in you!  I am so fortunate to work at Pompeii!  My aunt is in charge of an excavation group here and I was lucky enough to join.  Ever since I was a young girl, Pompeii has fascinated me.  Pompeii is tomb and time capsule.  It shows how real ancient Romans lived, even the commoners.  No other sites show the commoners in such an illuminating light.  A trade hub filled with vacation homes, the people never knew they were living on an offshoot of a lava flow.  They never knew they lived inside the “death zone” around Vesuvius.  



In 1748, a farmer found traces of Pompeii beneath his vineyard.  Ever since, excavations have taken place.  I am a descendent of said farmer and so is my aunt.  I guess being fascinated by Pompeii is inherited!  Archaeologists have been digging through the massive pile of volcanic ash and mud for hundreds of years unearthing death poses, statues, altars, villas, mosaics, and, my personal favorite, the beautiful marble caryatids.  It’s funny to think we understand so much about their lives from their deaths.  


We have been excavating since early May and I found something that could be one of the most important finds to date.  Even more exciting than finding out that caryatids were painted!  I have found two diaries which may contain firsthand accounts of the eruption.  I believe they belonged to two girls who lived in a vacation villa.  We are excavating around two bodies in the lower section of the house now.  There are two shapes in the frigidarium, roughly the same size lying next to each other hugging.  It’s like they were trying to seek shelter in the coolest place imaginable.  They must have been burned terribly before they died together.  I don’t know if they were best friends, lovers, or two strangers united by their confrontation of a grim and terrifying death.  I can’t wait to get it translated.  The only firsthand account in existence is by Pliny the Younger and, no offense to Pliny, but the diaries of two teenage girls would be the find of the century!  


One things for sure, they were never going to escape a ten mile mushroom cloud of ash and pumice that erupted for twelve hours.  A giant cloud of hot ash and gas surged down Vesuvius, engulfing the city and burning or asphyxiating all the people who stayed in their cellars.  The lethal cloud was followed by a flood of volcanic mud and rock which buried the city.  The eruption lasted three days.  The only way to survive was to leave and many who tried didn’t make it out in time.  After the eruption, the sea retreated and a tsunami rolled in.  If the gods truly did favor certain cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum were not those cities.

Two lovers.

Two lovers.