Category Archives: humor

Princeless

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Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists or about the African American experience. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.

As a Youth Services Specialist, one of my favorite areas to highlight to resistant readers is the Carnegie Library’s Children and Teen Graphic Novel collections. It has long been acknowledged that graphic novels are a great way to ignite a life-long love of reading in kids, teens and even adults who have either fallen behind their peers in literacy skills, or who just haven’t found anything to interest them.

In the last 20 years the graphic novel genre has grown and morphed, radically changing its reach and public perception. Graphic novels can be fiction or non-fiction, they can cover topics that can interest anyone and everyone, regardless of race, age or gender.

AsOne of my favorite graphic novels to hand to kids is Princeless, written by Jeremy Whitley and illustrated by M. Goodwin. Princeless is an amazing story and a strong representation of a woman of color who isn’t just a side character or, even worse, a damsel in distress.

Princeless follows Princess Adrienne, who has been locked in a tower by her parents. They are looking for a husband for her and have set up a test for potential suitors that requires them to slay a dragon. Adrienne is not cool with this and after freeing herself, recruiting the dragon to her side, and joining forces with a blacksmith named Bedelia, she sets off to find and free her sisters, who have been locked in their own towers.

The last “tween” I handed this book to came bounding back to the library the next day asking for more Princeless stories. It’s a strong story from a female point of view that kids can relate to. It shows kids that there is more to people, if you are willing to look.

-Natalie

 

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Cooking Tips from the Tasteless

We are  more than halfway through January, so it may be a little late in the game to talk about New Years Resolutions … buuuuut I feel like I am actually succeeding for once, so I want to share my winningness with you, dear readers!

This year, instead of cut and dry, do or die resolutions having to do with my weight (a favorite for me and every other person in America according to current TV commercials), I made a promise to myself to work on some more general things.

  1. I will yell at my kids less (already failed spectacularly, but hey it’s an every day battle)
  2. I will get back to crafting (I have made 6 batches of goats milk soap and cannot wait to make more while also boring everyone to death with details about soap making. Look out, that post is coming soon, dear readers … i.e., captive audience)
  3. Learn some new recipes…

…I am a mediocre cook (and that is being nice). Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat delicious food and I appreciate that cooking is an art form … mama just don’t have time for all that nonsense. For years the only “spice” in my cabinet was salt and my usual goal is to have a protein, vegetable, and starch on the plate in under 30 minutes. Edible is what I aim for, adjectives like “tasty” and “flavorful” are out of my reach. But recently my husband and my oldest daughter have been voicing their … let’s say concerns … over my recipe repertoire. So this year I decided to try something new. I checked out a few cookbooks from the Library, found recipes to try, and then (this is where it gets interesting) … I read them. I didn’t just glance at the ingredients, substituting half of them with what I had on hand.  I made lists, I purchased things and I followed the directions. And do you know, it worked? So far I have made three different meals from three cookbooks that my husband and kids ate, and then … ASKED FOR MORE. Not for something else, mind you, but for more of the thing I cooked.  It. Was. Amazing.

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The Best 30 Minute Recipe (suggested by my boss Ian!)
From this cookbook, I made a skillet version of shepherds pie. Even with peeling and photomashing the potatoes myself (my kids had a field day with the peels, creating “witches stew”) this really did only take 30 minutes and it was delicious. (Sadly this was also the only meal I remembered to photograph.) I plan on making several more recipes from this book. I may even go out and buy my own copy, and that is saying something.


bookcover.phpI Didn’t Know My Slow Cooker Could Do That

This one I just pulled off the shelf on a whim. I love my slow cooker and the few passable things I do make are made in the slow cooker, where all I have to do is dump the ingredients in and walk away. I have tried to find different slow cooker recipes before but generally get annoyed because they mostly seem like variations on the same 10 to 15 recipes. This book had a couple new things I have never tried before and the beef and broccoli recipe that I made was great.

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One Pan, Two Plates
This was another one I found on the shelf. I really like the idea of those “4 or 5 or whatever random number of ingredients” recipe books, but when I’ve flipped through them I don’t really see anything interesting. I picked this one up hoping it would be similar in theme given that the recipes were limited to one pan and meant for weeknights. But that it would offer more flare; and while the recipes were a little more involved, I liked that the directions were simple and ingredients were kept to a minimum. Also, technically I have four plates I need to fill nightly, but my seven-year-old eats like a bird and the toddler can only put away so much before passing out in a food coma, so it worked for us. I made Hungarian beef goulash, mainly because I have always wanted to try goulash; it’s a great, fun word to say. I will admit I may have liked this more than my husband and kids, but I don’t care. It was yummy. A lot of the recipes in this book seem like things outside my ability level, but they also sound delicious, so I am going to try and stretch myself by making a few more recipes. If things go well this might be another title I actually go out and buy for keeps.

I am going to try and keep this resolution. There is a certain amount of pride I felt making things that my family liked instead of  something that just met their basic dietary requirements. If you have any suggestions for other recipes or cookbooks I should, try leave them in the comments, and I will report back any triumphs, and failures, from your suggestions.

-Natalie

 

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Take A Hike

If we had just met and you asked me those funny ‘get to know you’ questions (“What is your favorite XXX?”) I would be able to answer most without thinking; Movie? Clue. Music? Any and all Christmas Music. Fictional world? Hogwarts. Car? VW ’68 bay window bus. Book? …

bookcover…this is where I would stumble. There have been lots over the years, books that meant different things at different times in my life. Eventually though, after a brief but intense internal struggle, I would probably land on A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I was always a fast, strong reader but it wasn’t until college that I became an avid reader; mostly because I was never really interested in the books that were meant for little, tween, and teenager girls. You will never find me squealing over a vintage Babysitters Club book.

Things changed when I picked up A Walk in the Woods on the (very astute) recommendation of my freshman composition professor. In Bryson I found an author whose voice mirrored the voice in my own head; the voice I have never been able to sufficiently put to paper. Bryson effortlessly writes, wittily yet profoundly, in a way that makes any amateur writer envious. I devoured everything Bryson had written; I searched for collections of his news columns, re-read my favorites, immediately grabbed anything new, searched for read-a-likes, and recommended A Walk in the Woods to anyone who had any interest in humor, camping, hiking, England, bears…I would find a way to make it applicable to any situation.

After living and working in England for two decades, writer Bill Bryson returns to America, with his English wife and children in tow. Bryson is amazed at how things have changed and yet retain that familiar feeling we associate with “home.” Bryson decides to embark on a journey to rediscover his old, new home by hiking the Appalachian Trail. But due to his physical state, (out of shape writer) and experience level (none) Bill looks for a hiking partner to accompany him and decides on an old friend he hasn’t seen in years, a friend who had been with him on his first travel excursion to Europe decades before. Together, with wit and sentiment, this odd couple tackles one of America’s most beloved trail systems.

So the other day when I was sitting on my mom’s couch watching her TV and eating her chips (I swear I am a responsible adult, just not all the time) and a trailer for A Walk in the Woods starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte came on, I pretty much had a fan girl melt down of epic proportions. This is one of those times where I am excited but also… So. Very. Anxious. This book is held in such high esteem in my own mind that I can’t handle the possibility that the movie might not live up to the humor inherent in the story. Bryson’s American-raised, British-influenced internal banter is so specific that I worry about Robert Redford being able to do it justice, you read that right, I am worried that ROBERT REDFORD won’t be good enough to play Bill Bryson.

The movie comes out Labor Day Weekend, and if you plan on seeing it, promise me, for the love of all that is good and right in this world, you will read the book too, just in case. And remember…Bears LOVE Snickers.

-Natalie

#takeahike

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