Monthly Archives: October 2013

Of Kraken and Curry

The last two books I read are quite different from each other, but I can’t recall liking two books more in quite a while.


In full disclosure, I’m the kind of person who reads cookbooks. I love them. I also love books about culture. That’s where my first book intersects. One of the best thing about Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham is that, while there are recipes, the book is so much more than cookbook. Collingham does an amazing job of tracing some of the culinary history of an amazingly complex culture and society. Her discussion of the post-Raj diaspora and the culinary and cultural ramifications of that experience are fascinating. The Indian experience through a culinary lens in Britain and the United States are certainly discussed. The history of the British experience through colonial imperialism, the subsequent reality of “empire coming home” is discussed with care and scholarship. It is an important, and a fascinating exploration. That said, curry in Mexico? Curry in Uganda? Curry in Fiji? These, and other instances, are also discussed. Collingham has a remarkably approachable style that allows the reader to really get into what she is uncovering, while maintaining a scholarship and care that should be applauded. The book is broken into chapters that each deal with a particular culinary experience, be it a particular kind of dish, or even tea and the Indian experience with the British obsession with that beverage. At the end of each chapter, the book does contain recipes that deal with the preceding material. (In fact, this book inspired me to branch out from the recipes listed and make a cracking brown rice biryani.)   I have to say, I was absolutely floored by how great this book was. I cannot recommend it enough!


The second book I recently finished that I am really excited about is China Mieville’s Kraken: An Anatomy. Mieville is part of the so-called New Weird school of authors who deal in a fantasy-horror-alt-reality. The subject matter of Mieville’s work is always a bit off kilter and makes for a very interesting read. As an example, please check out his tumblr. This book is at once gripping, engrossing, strange, funny, weird and fantastic. I savored this book. I didn’t read it quickly (partially because I was reading a bunch of other stuff at the same time), but also because I wanted to make it last. The story is a winding, weird romp through an apocalyptic London that features a group of people who can “read” the feel of the city called Londonmancers, a giant squid cult, a special para-normal wing of the London police, and an industrial action with a disembodied labor leader who jumps from statue to statue organizing the familiars and other magical animals of London to go on strike. These FANTASTIC elements of the story only scratch the surface. There are many other twists of plot that make the reading interesting, entertaining and engaging. I loved it. Check it out.

There you have it, dear Eleventh Stack reader! Two very different, but excellent books to get you into the winter months. Curl up with a Kraken and a Curry!

-Eric (who is currently navigating the worlds of giant squid, and lower sodium vegan curry)


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It’s Pumpkin Season!

pumpkinsI know, I know. It’s actually been pumpkin season for at least a month now. As soon as Starbucks rolls out their pumpkin spice latte, people go crazy thinking it’s fall. They want to start raking leaves, wearing sweaters and craving other autumnal activities, even if it is still 75 degrees outside.

There is at least one person at my house who goes bonkers for anything pumpkin flavored. It certainly doesn’t hurt that his birthday is on October 31st. So while planning his Pumpkin-Themed Birthday Extravaganza, I began to wonder what kind of pumpkin books we had in the collection. Turns out that we have quite a bit, even besides the expected children’s items. Here are a few that stood out to me…

Carving Pumpkins:
Carving the Perfect Pumpkin [DVD]
Extreme Pumpkin Carving by Vic Hood
Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-It-Yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends and Scare Your Neighbors by Tom Nardone
Carving Pumpkins by Dana Meachen Rau
How to Carve Freakishly Cool Pumpkins by Sarah L. Schuette

Holiday Pumpkins by Georgeanne Brennan
Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito – (Yes, pumpkin is one of the 10!)
Pumpkins: Over 75 Farm-Fresh Recipes
Pumpkin: A Super Food for All 12 Months of the Year by DeeDee Stovel

Growing the Biggest Pumpkin:
Lords of the Gourd: The Pursuit of Excellence[DVD]
Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren

Picture Books for Kids:
Ready for Pumpkins by Kate Duke
The Perfect Pumpkin Hunt by Gail Herman
How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? by Wendell Minor
It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff
Night of the Pumpkinheads by Michael J. Rosen; pumpkin carvings by Hugh McMahon

Other Items that I’m Sure Have Nothing to Do with Actual Pumpkins:
Pumpkin Teeth: Stories by Tom Cardamone
The Pumpkin Man by John Everson
The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field by Mike Michalowicz
The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer
Pumpkin Scissors: The Complete Series [DVD]

Happy Autumn!
-Melissa M.

P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, the Pumpkin-Themed Birthday Extravaganza will begin with pumpkin French toast bake and pumpkin pie smoothies for breakfast. Pumpkin mac-n-cheese will be the lunch special. Then, there will be pumpkin-shrimp bruschetta, pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin, arugula and dried cherry salad and pumpkin ravioli with sage browned butter for dinner. We’ll finish up with pumpkin tiramisu and a side of pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies for dessert. I also have recipes for a few pumpkin cocktails! ;)


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Chills Abound With Horror Favorites

Since we’re two days out from Halloween, I thought it might be fun to talk up some of my personal favorite books of horror and ghost stories.

Books_BloodClive Barker (1952 – ) remains a modern master of horror and fantasy.  Mr. Barker blends modern themes, esoteric strangeness, and a dash of gore into a potent, fear-induing mixture that will keep you up at night.  While the general public might know him best for films like Hellraiser, I would point folks to his Books Of Blood for some truly chilling reading.

Casting_runes_covMontague Rhodes James (1862 – 1936) innovated the concept of the English ghost story by using antiquarian protagonists and narrators, and then placing them in situations where their seemingly mundane lives strayed into the worlds of the strange and the supernatural.  If you have to grab one M. R. James collection, go for Casting The Runes And Other Ghost Stories.  This copy features a wonderful intro from Michael Chabon.  I would argue that M. R. James helped set the stage for the next name on this short list of luminaries.

cthulhuH. P. Lovecraft (1890 – 1937) simply must be included on any list of horror writers that I assemble.  His creation of the Cthulhu Mythos inspired generations of horror writers and film makers. While his career abruptly ended as the result of a tragic suicide, his influence continues to this day.  The Call Of Cthulhu And Other Weird Stories will serve as an excellent introduction to anyone seeking the essential flavor of Mr. Lovecraft’s remarkable body of work.

Salem_lotKing, Stephen (1947- ) has earned mention from me before on this blog.  His work inhabits a special place in the collective minds of most horror fans.  While Mr. King’s long career and diligent work habits have graced his fans with plenty to choose from when it comes to horror favorites, Salem’s Lot stands as my personal number one.

So there you have my own short list of favorites.  Now let’s read about some of yours in the comments section!



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Somewhat Obsessed With Canada

I think about Canada a lot. Not constantly, mind you, but more often than on those occasions when somebody gets upset about something that’s happened in U.S. politics/culture and threatens to move there.  It stymies me that Canada simply isn’t on most Americans’ radar. I mean, it’s right there, but it hardly ever crosses our minds. Nor do we learn about it in school. At least, I didn’t. Kudos to you and your teachers if you spent longer than one day in social studies pondering a Canadian curriculum. All I know about Canada is that it has trees, maple syrup, and hockey and that Margaret Atwood‘s visions of the future are Somewhat Bleak. I can also name a handful of random celebrities who hail from there, but this doesn’t exactly make me Jeopardy champion material.

Clearly, this ignorance will not do, especially since Alice Munro recently won the Nobel Prize in Literature, thus forcing me, you, and every red-blooded American citizen with even a drop of conscience to learn a thing or two about our neighbors to the immediate north. Let’s get cracking!

Quick Facts

Make the Government of Canada portal your first stop, to get information directly from the folks who live and govern there. Contains sections on culture and the arts, individual provinces and territories, history/genealogy and much more.

The CIA World Factbook is a nifty website to know about if you need fast, credible data on a specific country. Did you know that Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867, has an area of 9,984,670 square kilometers (making it the world’s largest country that only borders one country) and maintains 3.2 hospital beds and 2.069 physicians for every 1,000 people (last measured in 2010)? Très intéressant!*

Canadian Geographic, a publication of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, is a great all-purpose journal for initial leisure reading/research about Canada. For other national publications, as well as province-specific journals, click here.


For a quick peek at the Carnegie Library’s research holdings, grab your library card and search for Canada in our digital general reference resources. The Gale Virtual Reference Library, in particular, is a smashing way to learn more about a given topic without leaving the comfort of your home (which is key for getting smart in spite of snowfall). If you can make it in for a visit, search Reference Universe, too, which will allow you to search inside all those books on the shelves and only open the ones that will be truly useful to you. Kids (and parents!) should test-drive the Grolier encyclopedias, as well as the World Book Almanac for Kids.

If you’d rather take something home, you’ll be happy to know that Main library alone holds over 2,600 books on Canada. Here are a few collection highlights:

folkloreFolklore of Canada, Edith Fowke. You can tell a lot about a nation from its mythologies, fairy tales, customs, and other folkways. Fowke’s collection includes tales from tribal/aboriginal cultures, as well as those of French and British origin.

A History of Canadian Culture, Jonathan Franklin William Vance. Vance’s work, which won the Lela Common Award culturefor Canadian History, covers quite a bit of ground, from Inuit clothing design to the Barenaked Ladies. That’s a lot to swallow, but Vance also explores themes and concerns common across eras: what does it mean to be Canadian, how should the arts be funded, what role does/should copyright and other forms of artist recognition/compensation play? A roller-coaster romp of a history book.

illustratedThe Illustrated History of Canada, Craig Brown, ed. A popular book that has been released in several editions, Brown’s work includes engravings, lithographs, cartoons, maps and posters, as well as photographs, taking this text to the full extent of what “illustrated” can mean. Though it only contains six chapters, each one is written by a prominent historian or geographer, which efficiently augments your knowledge of, say, native cultures or the history of U.S./Canadian relations.

Canada’s Fifty Years in Space, G.G. Shepherd. Wait, what? If, like me, you did not know Canada had a space program, pick spaceup this volume and prepare to be amazed. Just one of the many niche history books you’ll find in our collection, Shepherd’s chronicle tells the story of the Canadian Space Agency, the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), Canada’s involvement with the NASA Phoenix mission, the ISIS-II satellite and much more. What does that mean? It means science, my friends. Loads of space-tastic science. A keen read for space geeks.


Want to read books by Canadian authors? Here are some writers and titles you should try on for size, recommended by actual Canadians!**

Robertson Davies. One of Canada’s best known and most popular authors, and a distinguished man of letters known for his work as a playwright, journalist and critic, to boot. Start with The Depford Trilogy, then take a side trip into criticism to ponder The Merry Heart: Reflections on Reading, Writing, and the World of Books.

Will Ferguson. Best known for his witty observations on Canadian history and culture, Ferguson frequently takes on an outsider’s point of view to paint a more robust picture of his subjects. Try Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw.

Margaret Lawrence. Not only one of Canada’s most prominent novelists/short story creators, but also a founder of the Writers’ Trust of Canada. Make sure to seek out The Stone Angel and The Diviners.

Stuart McLean. This host of CBC Radio‘s “Vinyl Cafe” has been described as “the Canadian Garrison Keilor.”  Although he has written serious pieces as well, he’s best known for his humor. Take a gander at Secrets From the Vinyl Cafe.

Louise Penny. If you’ve met Armand Gamache, well, then, you already know. If you haven’t completely fallen in love with the man–or with the bucolic town of Three Pines–start with Still Life.

Gordon Korman. This Canadian-American author writes for children and young adults. The first book in his well-liked “Bruno and Boots” series, This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall, grew out of an assignment written for English class when he was just twelve (!) and was published in 1978, when Korman was only fourteen (!!). Since then he has written over 75 books, so you’d best get started with “Bruno and Boots” right now!

Tanya Huff. A sci-fi / fantasy author with seven series under her belt,  a handful of stand-alone novels and a solid handful of short story collections as well. Because it was adapted for television, some people may be familiar with the Blood Books series, which pairs private detective Vicki Nelson with vampire/author Henry Fitzroy for crime-solving shenanigans. Start with Blood Price.

There: I feel somewhat smarter already. Obviously there’s more to learn, and I’m sure plenty of you could take me to school on the subject. So, spill: what should I know about Canada? What do you know about Canada?

–Leigh Anne

currently jamming to Moxy Früvous

* Very interesting. French is one of Canada’s official languages, and is spoken primarily in Quebec, with a smattering of usage in New Brunswick, Ontario, and in smaller indigenous communities throughout the country. Click here for details.

**Many thanks to my Canadian Facebook contingent, who graciously contributed authors and titles to this blog post!


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Louie Bluie

I came upon this one day:


Now, I’m equally passionate about roots music and root vegetables, and it’s not every day that I run across an album with a painting of vegetables having a hoedown on the cover. I figured that if the music was any good, it would be a bonus.

What a bonus it turned out to be! I managed to stumble upon Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong, who, at the time of this recording were considered to be the last African American string band playing. Carl Martin, Ted Bogan, and Howard Armstrong played together in various string bands in the 1920’s and 30’s. After struggling to make a living by busking, playing dances, and working in touring medicine shows, the players eventually parted ways to join the army, work in manufacturing jobs, get married, have kids, get divorced, etc. Like many early blues musicians whose recordings faded into obscurity in the 40’s and 50’s, these guys’ recordings (as the Four Aces and the Tennessee Chocolate Drops) caught the attention of folkies in the 1970’s who “rediscovered” the members of the group and booked shows at cafes and college campuses for them. It was during this time that they made a couple of LPs, including the one I picked up.

I know all of this because Howard Armstrong, the fiddle player (and the artist responsible for the anthropomorphic vegetables on the album cover) was also the subject of a Terry Zwigoff film called Louie Bluie, which the Library has on DVD.

Advisory: This clip has a couple of swears in it. It would probably get a PG rating.

By the time Zwigoff filmed this in the mid-80’s, Carl Martin had passed away, but Armstrong was still playing with Ted Bogan and a handful for other musicians who, although each well into his 70’s, still could play an amazing array of music for an eager young audience. Even if you don’t have much of an interest in folk music, you should watch this movie. Armstrong is a fascinating character, and his musical repertoire includes blues, country, gospel, show tunes, pop standards, and, perhaps most incredibly, folk songs in Italian, German, and Slovak, to name a few. (In addition to playing violin, uke, and mandolin, and painting and drawing beautifully, Howard evidently picks up languages quickly.)

In the 30’s, these musicians would often “pull doors,” or go into bars and clubs to play for tips (if they weren’t kicked out immediately). In the highly segregated industrial cities that they played in, immigrant workers typically hung out in ethnic clubs and bars, and African American musicians were typically not welcome to perform. But Armstrong’s gift for language paid off; because his group could play popular folk songs and he could sing in a number of European languages, doors were opened that would otherwise have been shut tight.

It’s a great image, isn’t it? A Polish bar in the shadow of the J&L Works on the South Side, a group of workers signing a folk song that makes them feel at home, led by an all African American string band whose fiddle player sings along in perfect Polish, perhaps with a slight Tennessee accent.

The Library has a compilation of African American fiddle recordings including two of Armstrong’s — Vine Street Rag (with the Tennessee Chocolate Drops) and Ted’s Stomp (as Louie Bluie with Ted Bogan)  — called Violin, Sing the Blues for Me.

There’s another CD on which Vine Street Rag is compiled called Before the Blues, and it includes some other tunes that provide a great snapshot of this great old time music.

And finally you can, nay must, listen to the Louie Bluie soundtrack. Follow this link, click American Song, and enter your library card number to stream it.

-Dan, who hopes to someday have “raconteur” included in his list of occupations on Wikipedia.

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Unusual Monsters


Watch out for monsters! Image from:

I’d be willing to argue that almost all good horror movies are metaphors (with the added caveat that not all horror movies are good). While I realize that some folks may not be fans of the genre, I wish it were given a little more respect. Although there are plenty of goofy and campy monster movies, there are also quite a few that deal with more serious issues. As with other fringe genres, horror movies have the freedom to deal with weighty social matters—race, gender, and social inequality—through metaphor.

americannightmareThe recent documentary The American Nightmare makes this argument by mostly focusing on the horror movie renaissance during the 1960s and 70s, its main thesis being that during this time of great social unrest, many issues were being worked out through horror movies. Pittsburgh’s own George Romero is featured in the film, and admits that Night of the Living Dead was partially inspired by the violence he witnessed during the civil rights movement; and famed make-up artist Tom Savini found working on special effects to be a cathartic experience after the horrors he witnessed in the Vietnam War.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to take all the fun out of the horror genre (I can appreciate a good, campy horror movie with the best of them), I’m just trying to make the case that there’s a lot more to this most lowly of genres than gory effects and spooky noises. Here are my picks for a few intelligent and original contemporary horror movies:


Monsters was shot on a meager budget with non-famous actors, but is a solid monster/alien movie. After aliens land in Mexico, the central part of the country is quarantined. An American tourist trapped south of the quarantine line attempts to travel through the “infected zone” with the help of a local journalist. What starts as disaster-monster-road movie morphs into a love story about the horrors of xenophobia.


This movie does something kind of impressive—it makes you feel sympathy for the Mexican cannibal family at the center of the film. After all, they don’t want to eat people—it’s just what they’ve always done.  We Are What We Are  starts with the passing of the father of said cannibal family, and then examines the dysfunctional dynamics of the clan as they try to “provide for the family” after the death of a parent. [Side note: this movie was just remade in the United States, and has been getting mostly glowing reviews.]


Ghosts are spooky, but do you know what’s even more terrifying? Grief.  After moving to a creepy old house in Seattle, George C. Scott is trying to get over the death of his wife and daughter—but a malevolent ghost won’t leave him alone. The Changeling is neither gory nor violent, but earns its ‘R’ rating by being just plain scary. Technically, it’s not a contemporary horror film, but it only recently became available on DVD. If you like haunted house movies, this one’s for you.


This horror-comedy definitely subverted all my expectations. We all know the set-up: college kids on vacation at a lake encounter scary looking backwoods boys. Except in Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil the heroes are the two hillbillies, who are a couple of nice guys just out to enjoy a quiet vacation in the woods. The misunderstanding between the college kids & the two lovable rubes reaches a comic, and grisly, conclusion. Warning: this movie does contain a good deal of gore, but is also smart and very funny.


Who knew that Michael Cera could play such a creeper? Picture being trapped and isolated in a foreign country with one of the most obnoxious travel companions you can imagine. That pretty much sums up Magic Magic, in which the protagonist slowly starts to unravel after not being able to sleep and not understanding the local language or customs in rural Chile. This is an unsettling movie, and not recommended for anyone who has ever dealt with the horrors of insomnia.

What scary movies are you watching this Halloween season?



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I was just joking.

My 3-year old son is starting to learn about humor.  Babies laugh when they’re delighted, and toddlers have a wonderful sense of the absurd, but as he grows into childhood, I can see my son’s sense of humor developing into something slightly more sophisticated.  Not too sophisticated yet, though: the other day he asked me, “Do you want to hear a joke?  The elephant drove on the sidewalk!” and then laughed uproariously.  He’s also fond of throwing a fit when he can’t find a favorite toy, and when he sees it (usually sitting right next to him), saying, “Oh yeah, I was just joking.”  Putting his underwear on his head is another favorite.

CLP has a lot of books and DVDs that might tickle you, and are even funnier than putting your underwear on your head.  We have things like:

The Comedian Memoir:  Tina Fey’s BossypantsIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling, Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinkingand anything by David Sedaris all fall in this category (as well as scads of other great books).  If you like reading autobiographies that will make you laugh so loud you embarrass yourself in public, these are probably for you.

Joke books:  When I was 8 years old or so, my parents made the mistake of getting me a book of knock knock jokes.  I was into that book for like a year before it mysteriously went missing. We’ve got a great selection of joke books, if you’re looking to brush up on your dinosaur/knock knock/animal jokes.

Stand Up Comedy DVDs: Humor, like poetry, is often at its best live.  I was fortunate enough to see George Carlin about a year before his death, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard.  His books are funny, but some things are meant to be out loud.  We’ve got comedy DVDs from lots of great comedians, from Carlin to Jerry Seinfeld to Louis CK.

Sketch Comedy DVDs: Since having kids, I have to admit that I haven’t been able to stay up late enough to catch Saturday Night Live.  Fortunately for me, we’ve got lots of SNL on DVD here at the library.  We also have (among others) Kids in the Hall,  The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, Mr. Show, and my personal favorite, The State.

I’m terrible at remembering jokes, but I always love hearing them.  What’s your favorite joke?



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Fairytales and Footnotes

I get caught up in kids books like some people get caught up in Facebook posts. I get angry and flustered, I sympathize and obsess. It can be intense and I should probably see someone about this issue.  Right now I am stuck on The Sisters’ Grimm. Two bookcoveryoung, seemingly orphaned sisters are sent to live with a supposedly dead grandmother they have never met in a town in upstate New York populated by fairy tale characters. If that run-on sentence didn’t pique your interest in these books, I don’t know what would.

Written for elementary school readers, the books cover the basics: introducing new words, handling sibling squabbles, crushes and rivalries. But like the actual Grimm tales they also help readers navigate some of the darker themes we find in humanity; jealousy, feelings of not belonging, fear and even death.

These books got me wondering about the resurgence we have seen of fairytales in general and the Grimm legacy specifically1. I may or may not have spent an entire two days glued to the tv watching the first season of Grimm, tossing cereal and hot dogs at my starving family. I am patiently waiting (my family not so much) for the library to send me my hold on season two, but now I wanted to know about the actual men.

bookcoverSome of the biographies and histories I found were a little dated but gave a good understanding of the history of the Grimms, but my favorite has to be Clever  Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales. Our own cultural understanding of Jacob and Wilhelm, as Clever Maids author Valerie Paradiz points out, is displayed in movies like Ever After and The Brothers Grimm. Two adventurous men roaming the countryside in order to collect folk tales from peasants and commoners.

Turns out, not so much2. Most of the brothers’ tales were supplied to them by the friends of their sister and several other women in their own circle of the educated middle class. Many were stories the women had heard as girls, lessons on how to be a good woman and respectful wives, told to them by their elders and household maids and the nannies who raised them3. During a time of war and French occupation the intellectual and learned men of Prussia and the German states were looking to idealize the history of the volk as a way to create a sense of unity.4 Many of these stories were collected and transcribed by Jacob and Wilhelm as a tribute to the sensible, pious, hard-working German way of life, regardless of where the stories actually came from. Clever Maids gives us insight to the collection of what we know as Grimm’s Fairytales through their origins and history as well as insight on to the very human trait of needing a shared history. So pick up some books about kid detectives, histories on folktales or a supernatural TV series this week, you might be surprised by what you find!


1. At this point I have a whole scatterbrained (My husband’s term for most of my ideas, and yes this is a parenthetical in a footnote, so what?) theory about how the political atmosphere in the collection of German states at the time mirrors our own political atmosphere, a society looking for something to pull us together, yearning for simpler times hoping to influence the future and politics with that national pride…look I said scatterbrained, okay! Why are you reading a footnote in a blog anyway?

2. Believe me this killed the Margaret Mead wanna-be in me. As a student of Anthropology there is nothing I wanted more than to cling to the romantic idea that Jacob and Wilhelm traveled through the black forest, pen and ink bottle in hand, to collect stories from withered widows smoking pipes outside little thatch roofed cottages.

3. Read Clever Maids. Seriously, you suddenly realize how the fairytales you thought you knew had different meaning in a different time and place.

4. I know, right? I would have never guessed that Napoleon had anything to do with Little Red Riding Hood.


October 22, 2013 · 8:12 am

Pittsburgh, a Newcomer’s Perspective

It has been a little over three years now since I moved to Pittsburgh. I’m happy to report that my homesickness is abating, enough for me to recognize and appreciate some things I’ve come to like* about living in this city.


View from Grandview Avenue, Mount Washington

  • WQED, FM 89.3. Twenty four hours of classical music; the station back home is classical only during the day.

  • The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Yes, I work here but even if I didn’t, I’d still be using it all the time for free books, ebooks, and music, not to mention free music performances and lectures.

  • The somewhat more temperate climate and longer growing season; I come from the Great Lakes state, and it’s much colder there longer.

  • The walkability of life in a big city; I love that I can take public transit or walk downtown, which is less than 3 miles away from where I live…

  • In Chatham Village on Mount Washington, an historic garden cooperative that is like living in a park.


Chatham Village, Mount Washington

  • The lower cost of living, from food to housing to car insurance.

  • It’s only two hours to Lake Erie, which I visit every year for my Great Lakes’ fix.


Lake Erie

  • Since Pennsylvania was one of the original thirteen colonies, it’s in the heart of many historic sites in American history, a joy for this history lover.
  • Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, a professional ballet company; I’ve been attending their wonderful performances since I moved here.


*There are a few hassles: expensive annual car inspections are required; you’re not permitted to buy alcohol in drugstores or supermarkets or even by mail; and initial driver’s license & car registration applications are done in two different locations. But, hey, no place is perfect, right?


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Altogether Ookey Halloween Party

My daughter’s birthday is on October 22, so birthday parties for her are really Halloween parties. She likes it like that. I try to make it fun for her and mix things up a little bit every year. One year the theme was bats – she wore a bat costume and the house was full of bat decorations. Another year the theme was dragons. This year, it’s more of a generic all-things-Halloween using lots of handmade ornamentation. We are going to have special Halloween-y food and party games too.

The library has a lot of resources for party planning of all types, but here is a little survey of Halloween from all over the Main Library, whether you are a very crafty DIY-er, or an “I can cut out a predetermined pattern from paper” type.

Kids’ Craft Books

Halloween Fun for Everyone by Ferida Wolff.  Kids can make their own costumes, decorations, and party treats. There are party game and carnival game ideas, with jokes and Halloween trivia throughout.


tricks FamilyFun Tricks and Treats edited by Deanna F. Cook. This turned out to be my favorite! Uncomplicated decorations, simple but great looking costumes, and plans for a haunted house party. Kids and grown-ups can have fun using this book together.


Teen Crafts

teenWitch Craft: Wicked Accessories, Creepy-cute Toys, Magical Treats, and More! by Margaret McGuire. More advanced technique instructions for good, clean, teen fun. Knitted, crocheted, and cross-stitched goodness with other witchy tidbits, including really cool beaded spider earrings.


Adult Craft Books

allAll You Frightfully Fun Halloween Handbook by Carole Nicksin. Very simple decoration and costume designs using things like paint, paper, and glue. It also contains easy recipes for Halloween parties.


artfulArtful Halloween: 31 Frightfully Elegant Projects by Susan Wasinger. There is a Victorian feel to these decorations. The craft techniques range from simple to semi-advanced and include interesting uses of old photographs. Classier than mass-produced store-bought decorations.


folkBethany Lowe’s Folk Art Halloween. Handcrafted decorations with a homey, old-fashioned feeling to them using fairly advanced crafting techniques. Taking ideas from this book or the one above will help pull together a cohesive look for your haunted house.


marthaHalloween: The Best of Martha Stewart Living. I happen to love Martha Stewart. Well-designed and elegant ideas for carving pumpkins, making costumes, using makeup, and witchy menus, all using easy to follow instructions. My second favorite.


creativeCreative Costumes & Halloween Décor: 50 Projects to Craft & Sew. If you are handy with a sewing machine, this one is for you. Pleasingly spooky projects with patterns and step-by- step instructions.



Did you know that the Main Library has a huge section of cookbooks on the First Floor?

zombieA Zombie Ate My Cupcake!: 25 Deliciously Weird Cupcake Recipes by Lily Vanilli. This one is for the seasoned baker. Gory and grotesque, but oddly yummy looking cupcake recipes. Would you eat something that looks like glass or severed fingers? My favorite is the “bleeding heart” that looks like a real human heart with cherry blood sauce. The recipes were a little complex for me, but real bakers will get a kick out of it.


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