Tag Archives: birthdays

Double Sweet Sixteen

Today is my birthday. I am 32. A double sweet sixteen, if you will.

I’m actually spending my birthday at the same location as my sixteenth, at Sandcastle. Only, in 1999, I was there as an employee – making cotton candy, dodging the bees that circled the sno-cone syrup, and trying not to burn my hand on the pretzel oven again. Oh, those hazy, sticky, green polo-shirted days of summers past …

In honor of the day, here are some of the items that apparently rocked our collective worlds that year. Walk with me, down memory lane.




– Jess, who is reading under an umbrella today


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It’s All In The Stars

I would like to say I don’t believe in all that silly horoscope stuff and dream interpretation and signs and omens and whatnot. But my zodiac sign is Pisces and my Chinese zodiac sign is the Snake:


OnlyAstrologyMy all-time favorite astrology book is The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need by Joanna Martine Woolfolk. I bought my first copy sometime in the early 90s, only to have it stolen by some strumpet my boyfriend was cheating on me with. I’ve long since gotten over him, but I’m still pretty bent about the book. Seriously, you can steal just about anything you want from me, but keep your mitts off of my books!

But I digress.

The Only Astrology Book now comes with an interactive CD that will actually make your birth chart for you. And it is NEATO. Also way less time-consuming than looking up all of the planetary placements yourself.

I’ve outed myself as a Pisces. A lot of people say, “You don’t seem like a typical Pisces,” by which I think they mean I’m not sappy, over-sensitive or super-emotional. I can be, but as a rule, I’m pretty balanced because my Moon in Libra. (Scales!) However, the dark side of the Moon makes me indecisive and frivolous. Like indecisive to the point that deciding what to have for lunch brings me to tears.

Knowing the basics of the zodiac helps with relationships, too.  Now I’m not saying that I knew Cancers responded to sincere compliments when I met my husband, but I sure did like his smile. I know Leos like to have their egos stroked and Scorpios are intense, but generous and loyal (sexy, too.) I should never date a Gemini because all they do is hurt my feelings and I shouldn’t marry a fellow Pisces (despite the physical attraction) because we’re both bad with money and will end up bankrupt. See? Look at all those things you just learned! Learn more with these books!

EverdayAstrologyGary Goldschneider’s Everyday Astrology : How to Make Astrology Work For You by Gary Goldschneider. Also available as an e-book. Gary Goldschneider is also the author of The Secret Language of Birthdays, which is another great astrology resource. Goldschneider is considered one of the experts on personology, the link between astrology as a science and astrology as an art. Everyday Astrology is a fun look at how to use the zodiac in your relationships, career and other facets of your life. Want to ask your Aries boss for a raise? Break up with Scorpio? Survive the holidays with Gemini parents? Then this is the book for you!

SunSignsLinda Goodman’s Sun Signs by Linda Goodman . Since its initial publication in 1968, Sun Signs has sold over 60 million copies. It also has the distinction of being the first astrology book to be a New York Times bestseller. As well it should be. Nearly 45 years later, the astrological insights from Goodman are still astonishing. When I read her description of my own sign, I’m amazed at not only her accuracy, but by the intuition behind her research. Interesting tidbit about Goodman: she would never reveal her own birth year. Only after her death in 1995 did the world find out (1925).

RockYourStarsRock  Your Stars: Your Astrological Guide to Getting it All by Holiday Mathis. Holiday Mathis writes a popular daily horoscope column, and Rock Your Stars is a compilation of her extensive astrological knowledge. Mathis encourages women to use astrology in their everyday life- as a form of meditation almost, like some of us do yoga or pray. What color should you paint your bedroom? Where should you go with your career? Is he the right one for you? Use Rock Your Stars to find your own path.

WhatYoruBirthdayRevelasWhat Your Birthday Reveals About You: 366 Days of Astonishingly Accurate Revelations About Your Future, Your Secrets, and Your Strengths by Phyllis Vega. This book is astonishingly accurate. It’s also a great coffee table book, simply for the conversation it will generate. Vega is the author of several very popular astrology books, including Erotic Astrology, which, sadly, the library does not own. It is fascinating to me that the day you are born predicts so much about your future weaknesses and strengths.

LobsterForLeosLobster for Leos, Cookies for Capricorns : An Astrology Lover’s Cookbook by Sabra Ricci. It makes me stupidly happy that astrology cookbooks exist. In Woolfolk’s book, she writes about what foods are best and worst for each sign (I should stay away from caffeine. REALLY?!?!?!? YOU THINK?!!) This cookbook takes it one step further and has recipes for that will help Aries focus, get a Scorpio talking, and countless aphrodisiacs, as well. If you are in the South Side, feel free to deliver astrologically accurate cookies to me.

Happy Predicting!

frivolous, yet compassionate, Pisces


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Claude Debussy Sesquicentennial

Note: Composer Claude Debussy’s 150th birthday was this year (August 22). And, while I can read music and play the flute, I am not a professional musician in the least! This is merely a short and unabashed tribute with music samples.

Claude Debussy (Photo source: Wikipedia)

In 199o, I saw the controversial NC-17 rated film Henry & June; in fact, I watched at least a dozen people walk out of my theater. While the movie was definitely provocative, it was the gorgeous soundtrack that sang to me. It was the first time I heard the lively and energetic “Petit Suite Ballet,” the exotic “Pour L’Egyptienne,” the romantic “La Plus que Lente,” and the haunting “Sonata for Violin and Piano.”

I was entranced.

For me, Debussy’s music always evokes images of nature, gardens, and the sea. In other words, dreamlike qualities. Indeed, he was part of an era in music called impressionism, although he himself disliked that affiliation. Just like the art period of the same name, Debussy lived in a world that also knew artist Claude Monet and composers Erik Satie, Maurice Ravel, and Gabriel Faure.

The library owns many recordings of Debussy’s works as well as sheet music and scores and books about his life and influence.

Who is your favorite classical composer? Why?

~Maria, who was dismayed to discover that Debussy’s music is very challenging for the flute!


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Birthday Week Staycation

Every year I always take an entire week off for my birthday. I’m one of those people who love birthdays and a week’s vacation is the perfect way to celebrate. It helps that my birthday falls in May, a very nice time of year weather-wise! I am also a big fan of staycations, partly because of the expense of traveling (I’m very frugal) and because I have an elderly cat that I don’t like to leave alone for long. And, since I’m also a newcomer to Pittsburgh (and I live in the city), I spent the week doing a variety of fun touristy things:

Morning from Mount Washington (author’s photo)

  • Scoped out the May Market
  • Spent a few nights in a rustic state park cabin on the river hiking and relaxing

Clarion River (author’s photo)

The Duchess approaches (author’s photo)

As you can see, I didn’t have to leave the state (or spend a lot of money) to have a nice vacation. How about you? Have you ever taken a staycation? Try it sometime and be a tourist in your hometown.

~Maria, who is extremely well-rested


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Happy birthday to them!

I can’t write a blog post about my child’s birthday, mainly because I don’t have any children. Instead I will celebrate the birthday of my cats! Today is (approximately) the ninth birthday of Ham and Eva, my matching cats.

Ham is on the left and Eva is on the right.

Ham and Eva were born to a beautiful longhaired calico who decided to raise her kittens in my parents’ backyard. The family spent their first summer living on the back porch, scampering about the yard, and learning important cat things like bird chasing and tree climbing (one day I stumbled upon a tree-climbing lesson and found mom and her five kittens in the same tree – true story).

Eventually, we nabbed the kittens and they all found homes. Their mother, who was too feral to come indoors, was spayed by a local cat colony management organization and spent the rest of her days living in a comfy cat-sized barn designed by my father (retired electricians will do some crazy things).

Ham and Eva are indoor only cats now, so their tree climbing days are safely behind them. Their current hobbies include napping, eating smelly tuna cat food, destroying furniture, running around madly for no apparent reason, staring into space, throwing up smelly tuna cat food, killing bugs, purring, and being adorable. Basic cat stuff, really. But still, I’m happy to share my home with them. Happy birthday, cats!

– Amy


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Another Happy Birthday to Him

So, another year has gone by and it’s time for another birthday. Amazingly enough, exactly one year later, it is again my turn to write the blog post on my son’s birthday. (He’s 12, OMG!)  I think I have the extra day from leap year to thank for this. 

Because I don’t think I can top my tribute post from last year and those sentiments still hold true, I’ve decided to dedicate today’s post to him and create a montage of photos from The Commons on Flickr that I think exemplify familial love and affection in all its forms.

Once again, Happy Birthday to my baby.

-Melissa M.

At the Vermont state fair, Rutland from the Library of Congress

Migrant Cotton Picker and Her Baby near Buckeye, Maricopa County, Arizona from the U.S. National Archives

U.S. Troops Surrounded by Holiday Mail during WWII from the Smithsonian Institution

This is Thomas Power and children (and dog) of Dungarvan, Waterford County, Ireland from the National Library of Ireland

Peter Bellman, Loretta "Lucky" Bellman, and Butch Levy, from the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest *

Pair of young Shrikes or Butcher-birds from OSU Special Collections & Archives

*Loretta (Lucky) Bellman escaped Nazi Germany in 1939 and settled in New York, where her father started a successful furniture business. Butch Levy met and fell in love with Lucky, marrying her in 1944. Peter Bellman, Lucky’s brother, had been sent to Britain on a children’s transport in 1938, and was finally reunited with the family in America 1939. He enlisted in the US Army in 1941, and died in the Battle of the Bulge. Peter, Lucky and Butch are shown together on a leave during the war. (Information from photo description on The Commons.)

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One of my wildly improbable long-term goals is to win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Given that, up to now, I’ve only written plays, I have some work to do before I’ll be able to cross this one off my to-do list. However, I already have the important part down pat:  the thank-yous. After repeat observations of past winners, I’ve mentally composed an acceptance speech that properly acknowledges all the people who helped me succeed as a writer, yet remains short enough that I’m not politely forced offstage. Really, after hammering that out, finishing a brilliant screenplay itself should be a piece of cake.

John Kralik would probably approve of my priorities.  His own gratitude journey, as detailed in the book 365 Thank-Yous, describes how Kralik devoted a year to consciously giving thanks by writing one note every day to someone who had been influential to him.  Brought to such a pass by desperation rather than inspiration, Kralik stumbled upon the idea for the practice during a walk in the woods, and stuck with it despite business difficulties, financial problems, and relationship struggles.  Mindfully practicing gratitude didn’t magically transform Kralik’s life into a sunny vista of unicorns and rainbows, but, more often than not, writing and sending the notes re-opened long-closed lines of communication and opened up new opportunities and adventures for him, which convinced him to make some changes to his attitude and lifestyle.

Reading Kralik’s book has inspired some of the library staff to start a similar project and see what happens.  I’m looking forward to making a trip downtown to Weldin’s to treat myself to some pretty notecards, but I will probably also make a fair number of them by hand as well. I’m brushing up on the art of writing letters, and mentally making my list of people who have changed my life for the better; the list is already fairly long, and includes family, friends, teachers and — no surprise here — librarians.

Other library titles on the practice of gratitude include:

Serendipitously, while writing this, I received a thank you note in library mail from a co-worker.  That was really sweet, entirely unexpected, and definitely day-making!  What are you most thankful for right now?  How could you best express it?  Whose day could you brighten just by being there?

–Leigh Anne
thirty-eight years young today, appreciating every second


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Happy Birthday to Him!

I hope you will allow me to indulge myself for one blog post. (Although, I guess you can argue that I do that for every blog post.) It just so happens that today, my regularly assigned posting day with no interventions, is my son’s 11th birthday. He doesn’t know that I am writing this (I’m not sure he knows that I write for a blog or even what a blog is), but I will certainly show it to him later today.

7 months old

We all have strong feelings for our children. Hopefully, they are more positive than negative. I don’t believe I could have a better child. He is smart as a whip. It’s mostly A’s on the report cards, if not all A’s.  He is extremely well behaved. I don’t have to ask him to do his homework, he just sits down and does it when he gets home from school. He loves our family cats and eagerly helps clean the litter box and put food in their dish. He not only eats his vegetables, he asks for them and this includes asparagus, lima beans, and brussel sprouts. He is zealous about his interests and I admire that focused, single-mindedness (at least up to a certain point). He is caring and kind-hearted. He doesn’t understand why other children will  go out of their way to treat someone else badly

He enjoys building Legos and is especially fascinated with the Lego people. He collects Pokémon cards and pretty rocks.  He is fond of history,

2 years old

especially the French and Indian War, US Civil War, and World War II. Basically, all wars fascinate him and he watches the Military Channel as religiously as his mother watches the Cooking Channel.  We do find common ground watching shows together such as Bizarre Foods, Iron Chef, Cash & Cari, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  He is my favorite sous chef and I now find cooking without him to be lonely.

Lately, I have been thinking quite a bit about what we have in common.  I am grateful he has developed into a young man with whom I can share my interests.  I’ve always encouraged his passions and we’ve had wonderful adventures experiencing them (we still have a yearly pilgrimage every fall to see the trains at Horseshoe Curve in Altoona), but it’s reached the point where he is old enough to actively participate in what I consider to be fun. We like to travel to new places, stay in fancy hotels, eat in nice restaurants, and enjoy doing more ‘grown-up’ things together. I love going to restaurants with him and watching him blow the waiters away when he orders tuna tartare.

Christmas 2004

We both don’t like a lot of noise and commotion in the morning. We are night owls. Every New Year’s Eve he makes it to the ball drop and beyond while his grandmother and/or father snooze on the couch. We share a similar temperament and prefer to please other people as opposed to having conflict with them. We are a lot alike, but different at the same time.  I treasure both the similarities and the differences.  He is a joy and my life’s work.

So Happy Birthday to my baby boy, who isn’t a baby anymore…

-Melissa M.


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Gifted: 29 Thank-Yous for Reading Eleventh Stack

Once a year, everybody in Allegheny County is invited to read and think about the same book, courtesy of the One Book, One Community initiative.  This year you’re invited to experience Cami Walker’s 29 Gifts: How A Month of Giving Can Change Your Life.  The official One Book website is filled with information that can enrich your reading experience via book club kits and discussion questions, related readings and resources on the themes of kindness and civility, and other ways to get involved, which will be updated as the official start date approaches.

The Eleventh Stack blog team has decided to participate in this countywide celebration of goodwill and bonhomie by giving away a gift every weekday for the next 29 days, starting tomorrow, February 1, 2o11.  At the end of each blog post, you will be prompted to leave a comment that reflects on that day’s essay.  A random winner will be chosen each day, and if it’s you, you’ll receive an e-mail with details on when/where to stop by and choose your prize.

Yes, I did say choose.  The blog team has assembled a prize closet of cool stuff for you to pick from, which includes:

  • copies of popular books, DVDs, and books on CD
  • $5.00 Crazy Mocha gift cards (good at any CM location)
  • $10.00 pre-paid fine cards (good at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations)
  • handmade items crafted by library workers and library supporters
  • fashionable black and gold “Pittsburgh Protect Your Library” tote bags
  • other whimsical surprises as we think of them

We’re even assembling a special prize package for the person who wins on day 29, just in case “the good stuff” is already gone. (It’s all good stuff, but who likes to choose last?  Nobody–that’s who.)

The only things we ask of you in return are:

  • Be an Allegheny County resident.  We love our expatriate readers, but postage is a wee bit dear these days.
  • Include your e-mail address with your blog comment. (Otherwise, how can we tell you you’re a winner?)
  • Add the e-mail address eleventhstack at carnegielibrary dot org to your list of approved senders. (So any mail from us doesn’t end up in your spam folder.)
  • Tell us what’s on your mind when you comment!  Responses like “Awesome, dude” make us feel warm and fuzzy, but don’t really help us become better writers.

On an even warmer, fuzzier note,  February 2011  marks the third full year the Eleventh Stack team has been blogging for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  When we started the project, we had no idea whether or not this method of communication would be a good way to reach out to our community.   Over 170,000 visits and 9,400 click-throughs to the catalog later–not to mention the lovely, thoughtful comments you’ve made–we can tell that you really, really like us.

 Of course, that makes us want to work even harder to demonstrate–via our sometimes serious, sometimes silly, but always heartfelt, essays–just how much the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has to offer.  Your attention to, and continued support of, CLP is a great gift.  Please stick around and allow us to continue to give back in our quirky, writerly fashion.

Leigh Anne
who would take you all out for milk and cookies, except that it’s been done


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They Say It’s Your Birthday!

Picture of a piece of birthday cake with a lit candle


Well, it’s my birthday too, yeah!  Actually, it’s not.  But if today is your birthday, you’re in good company.  How do I know?  Well, you see, we here at the Library have access to this marvelous book called Chase’s Calendar of Events.  It’s an annual publication that lists all major historic events, national this or that days, and famous people’s birthdays for every date of the year.  When we Eleventh Stack bloggers are stuck for a blog post topic (nahhhh, that never happens, right?), this is a great place for us to check for a timely, educational, and possibly entertaining subject.  I can honestly say that Chase’s is my favorite reference book of all time. 

So, back to today’s birthdays.  Here’s a list of just some of the famous (and infamous) people born today.  If any of them strike your fancy, you know the library has books and/or DVDs available about or by them.

Ethan Coen (9/21/1957- ) – Ethan, along with his brother Joel, form the duo known in the movie world as the Coen Brothers.  Now, I can’t say that I always ‘get’ their movies.  I found the ending of A Serious Man to be a little abrupt.  But Hollywood loves them, as evidenced by 4 Oscars and countless other awards and nominations.

Dave Coulier (9/21/1959- ) – You know him, he’s that guy who lived in the basement on Full House.  He was supposed to be funny.  And Alanis Morissette wrote that song about him, maybe…

Fannie Flagg (9/21/1944- ) – This comedian and author is best known for her book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and won an Academy Award for the movie screenplay she adapted from this.  She has a new book coming out in November 2010, so watch for it!

Larry Hagman (9/21/1931- ) – Who shot JR?  If you don’t know the answer to that, or even who JR is, you can check out our Dallas DVDs and other big and small screen productions in which Mr. Hagman has appeared.

Faith Hill (9/21/1967- ) – This multi-award winning American country singer is almost as famous for being married to Tim McGraw as she is for singing.

Chuck Jones (9/21/1912 – 2/22/2002) – You know him whether you think you do or not.  He’s the genius animator behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, etc.  The list of his characters goes on and on.  One of his works, What’s Opera Doc?, has even been inducted into the National Film Registry for being “among the most culturally, historically and aesthetically significant films of our time.” 

Stephen King (9/21/1947- ) – What do I even need to say about Mr. King?  If you haven’t heard of this horror author by now, I would say it’s time you came out from under the rock where you’ve been residing.  His latest novel, Under the Dome, comes in at a hefty 1074 pages and therefore can also be used as a step stool, car jack, or for crushing small animals and children.  (Not that I would ever advocate doing any of those things with a book!)

Ricki Lake (9/21/1968- ) – This actress and talk show host is usually best remembered for her numerous roles in John Waters films, most notably as Tracy in the 1988 adaptation of Hairspray.

Rob Morrow (9/21/1962- ) – I remember Rob from his days playing the doctor in the television show Northern Exposure.  (Which I personally think ‘jumped the shark’ during his final episode.)  But those of you who are younger probably best know him as the FBI agent brother on Numb3rs.

Bill Murray (9/21/1950- ) – “This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the masters champion … He’s on his final hole. He’s about 455 yards away, he’s gonna hit about a 2 iron I think … IT’S IN THE HOLE!”  OK, so he’s done more than Caddyshack for sure (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, etc), but who doesn’t love Caddyshack

Nicole Richie (9/21/1981- ) – Mostly known for being the best frenemy of Paris Hilton, she also has a famous father, Lionel Richie.  Fame in her own right has still eluded her…

H.G. Wells (9/21/1866 – 8/13/1946) – This is the well known Father of Science Fiction and author of the book War of the Worlds, which was famously turned into the radio broadcast by Orson Welles that caused widespread panic when it aired on Halloween night in 1938.  His novels and works of non-fiction spoke of a future that included robots, nuclear war, global warfare, and chemical weapons at a time when very few believed they were a real possibility. In the preface to the third edition (1941) of his book, War in the Air, Wells wrote “Again I ask the reader to note the warnings I gave in that year, twenty years ago. Is there anything to add to that preface now? Nothing except my epitaph. That, when the time comes, will manifestly have to be: ‘I told you so. You damned fools.’ ”  Enough said.

OK, so maybe you think a few of these people are not such good company, but you have to admit one thing about them all.  They have been entertaining at some point in time…

Oh, and Happy Birthday!

-Melissa M

P.S. Sorry if you hate that song and it’s now stuck in your head.  But I had to do it…


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