Tag Archives: fall

That Dreaded Time of Year…

When someone tells me “you’re from Pittsburgh, you should be used to the winter by now” I cringe.  I hate cold weather.  I hate snow.  I hate short days, little sunshine, trees with no leaves, tough morning commutes, long sleeves, coats, and being cooped up.  I always have.  I always will, there’s no getting used to it.  I’ve never been a fan of fall either, it just means things are dying and the winter is coming.  Although self-diagnosed, I’d venture to say that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This year I’m going to try to embrace the season, or at least the season’s cooking, indoor activities, and maybe even some outdoor activities too.

Not that it’s all I like about summer, but summer food certainly has helped sway my preference towards that season.  Fresh tomatoes, bbq, watermelon, salads, plums, peaches, apricots, basil, cilantro, and ice cream all have very special places in my heart.  Fall and winter flavors, although I certainly enjoy them, to me, don’t equal summer. I’m not one of those people who can’t wait for pumpkin spice to come back.  This year, though, I’m going to give it a go and embrace the fall and winters, and the flavors they bring.  I’ve already made pumpkin pancakes, although this hardly counts as using seasonal ingredients because the pumpkin I used came from a can.  This is just the beginning though.

My garden does have fall veggies that I planted in August (many of the seeds I got from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Main’s First Floor seed bank).  I didn’t plant pumpkin or squash, but I have beans, leeks, green onions, lettuce, celery, and several herbs.  I also have a rosemary plant that I brought inside for the winter, as rosemary has the same climate preferences as me.  I’ll also need to buy many of the fall flavors and ingredients from the grocery store (or farm, as we’ll be visiting local farms this fall, more on that later).   But where do I start with putting fall and winter ingredients together in a fall and winter kind of way?  Where do I start with anything I want to do, with books from the library of course!

My selections to start with:

Autumn nights, winter mornings : a collection of cold weather comfort foods – Barbara Scott-Goodman

Winter food : seasonal recipes for the colder months   Jill Norman

The Winter Harvest Cookbook by Lane Morgan

Of course part of embracing the fall and winter will be enjoying the traditional celebration foods of those months, and the celebrations themselves.  Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cookies, and all of the casseroles that various family members prepare this time of year are excellent, not to mention the celebrations that they’re served at.  That’s another element of embracing the season, to focus on all of the festivities and traditions that happen this time of year.  I love any excuse to spend time with my family, which luckily for me live nearby.  Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, and New Years are all holidays that we celebrate together.  My oldest daughter’s birthday is in November too.  There are plenty of reasons to be around friends and family.  But what about going to the dreaded outdoors in the cold, the rain, the snow, the wind?

Again, I’m going to try to be at one with even that aspect of these seasons.  Luckily, here in Pittsburgh there are lots of great farms with fall festivals.  There are 2 that are within a 15 minute drive of our house.  We’ll be doing the pumpkin patch, hayrides, and buying apples and apple cider (fresh apples are an excellent part of the fall). Here is a list of local fall festivals to enjoy!

Now, being outdoors in the fall is one thing, but in the winter is quite another.  But, then again, I do have 2 daughters who will be happy to get out and play in the snow.  My goal is to take them out to play in the snow a bit more this year than last year.  I’m going to be realistic, it will be cold and uncomfortable, but seeing their faces as they make snowmen or throw snowballs should make up for the temperature.  Plus we’ll get to enjoy hot soup, tea, chocolate, and coffee when we come inside.  Well, okay, the coffee is for me, not the kids, but you get the idea.  We’ll be building some fun family traditions and memories.

While I read all year round, winter is a great time to settle in with your preferred warm beverage and enjoy a good book.  I already have one holiday favorite, I’d love to learn about some new ones,seeing that I’m trying to change my attitude about this time of year.  Please share some of your favorite seasonal or holiday books, and I’ll be sure to check them out!

I’m also choosing seasonal and holiday books for my children, in an effort to help them better enjoy the festive season.  Making seasonal and holiday reading a part of their holiday tradition will certainly make this time of year more special for them!  Please visit your local Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh location where the children’s staff will be more than happy to recommend some great seasonal, age appropriate books for your kids!

You know what, with all this stuff, the fall and winter actually seem like something to look forward to.  Spending time with loved ones, different flavors and ingredients, and some great activities and traditions!  I don’t know, it might actually be downright tolerable.  Cheers!

-Scott M.


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Plenty to Celebrate

It seems that a lot of people are mourning the loss of summer right now.  I’ve never been a fan of the excessive heat and humidity, but I can understand the reluctance to let go of activities we traditionally associate with warm weather.  So rather than packing away your gear with a heavy heart, why not find ways of extending your favorite hobbies into the colder months?

For example, even though you may be scrambling to collect the last of your harvest right now, your gardening days don’t have to be over when you run out of zucchini.

Fallscaping: Extending Your Garden Season Into Autumn by Nancy Ondra

A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons by Philip Harnden.

Speaking of which, those of us who enjoy cooking (and eating!) local, seasonal foods have been looking forward to that harvest.  In addition, dropping temperatures signal the return of baking season.

The Taste of the Season: Inspired Recipes for Fall and Winter by Diane Worthington

Autumn: From the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch

The Fearless Baker: Scrumptious Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, Cookies, and Quick Breads That You Can Make to Impress Your Friends and Yourself by Emily Luchetti

And people who love the outdoors know there’s no reason to head inside yet.  Hiking, birdwatching, and many other activities can become fresh again with the change of seasons.  (In fact, depending on your sport, the ability to wear more protective gear and clothing can be a plus!)

Fall Color and Woodland Harvests: a Guide to the More Colorful Fall Leaves and Fruits of the Eastern Forests by C. Ritchie Bell

The Bumper Book of Nature: A User’s Guide to the Outdoors by Stephen Moss

Backyard Bird Secrets for Every Season: Attract a Variety of Nesting, Feeding, and Singing Birds Year-Round by Sally Roth.

So even though summer’s days are numbered, autumn gives us plenty to celebrate.


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Something To Look Forward To

Excuse for me getting amped perhaps a little early, dear readers, but fall is back! It’s that too short a time of year in Pittsburgh where hot coffee makes a glorious return, we bust out the flannels and boots again (I’m assuming you all dress like me), and grow our beards long (I assume everyone can grow a beard or really wants to). But mostly, it’s the time for the best books of the year to start showing up on the shelves. In library lingo, that means get up on the holds list for these books now! Here’s what I’m looking forward to reading in the park while checking out some foliage, thinking of my Halloween costume, and eating a crisp apple with a cup of hot cider.

Haruki Murakami1Q84

Ah, Murakami with a title that just rolls of the tongue. No one ever said being a fan of his was easy, and that may be especially so after his sub-par efforts recently, the too straight forward After Dark and then the running biography no one asked for, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (still a great title, though). Here’s hoping for a return to form, for me that would be to Kafka on the Shore, my personal favorite of his. I like dreaming, the idea of talking cats, and the concept of multiple lives. Therefore, I like Murakami. And if this little interview is any indication, then yeah, he’s bringing back some of the weird.

Jeffrey EugenidesThe Marriage Plot

It’s been a long time since Middlesex (nine years, although I thought it was even longer), so fans have had to sit and twiddle their thumbs for a while now, but for those who read his work the wait is tolerable, armed with the knowledge that it was probably the finest work of fiction in those nine years. Eugenides is pulling a Franzen with the waiting game, but will he also live up to the pressure? I’m thinking yes.

Nicholson BakerHouse of Holes: A Book of Raunch

When I first read The Anthologist, I couldn’t have a conversation with anyone without mentioning this book, which had been recommended to me in a similar fashion by a voice I trust. Baker, to put it simply, is an absolute delight to read. Super intelligent without ever seeming difficult or “elitist,” he waxes poetic on everything imaginable, my personal favorite being an essay on the difficulty of getting into video games. And how can I not be a little intrigued by that title?

Tom Perrotta The Leftovers

I know Little Children is his masterpiece, but it’s successor The Abstinence Teacher is the one that really stuck with me. With that, I am convinced that Perrotta is getting better with each novel.  He is a sneaky author, being as I continually forget his existence, but am always delighted by the memories when they come flooding back. This book’s release date will not sneak by me (note: it already happened, as I’m writing this). Perhaps, I should leave the best words to Uncle Stevie himself.

Aravind AdigaLast Man in Tower

The White Tiger was a stunning read (others agreed, it won the Man Booker). It takes all of a day to push through it, slim enough to not be daunting, but large enough to get lost in. I don’t describe many books as ones “I couldn’t put down,” because I tend to be pretty flighty and distracted by other media and friends (e.g. watching Nic Cage movies), but this book was just that. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

That’s about it for now, dear readers. What have I forgotten? What should I know about, friends? Leave a comment below for interactive fun!

– Tony


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Leaves, and pages, turning.

Fall sets back the clocks one hour, and as the evening turns dark at some unruly hour, we can also be reminded as if by the seasons itself of the most perfect time of the year to sit down and read. I like to sit outside until it just gets too dark (or too cold), just to enjoy the weather, the trees, and most of all, the page. Here’s what I’ve been knocking back recently, as well as a few to look forward to on those nights where staying in with a blanket and a cup of tea seems like a more pleasant night than anything else.

Frederick ExleyA Fan’s Notes
Frederick Exley has been on my radar for a long time now, I chose to put this book off, simplifying it as one of those ‘rite of passage’ books that everyone tells you to read and can’t explain why. Well, at least now having gotten into it, I know why it’s difficult to put into words, Exley is a delight but also a mess.  Notes is referred to as a fictional memoir, but the events are all very real – he drank to excess, obsessed over the New York Giants, and eventually spent time in mental institutions as a result – yet it is in just how Exley captures these events that made this book very worth the read.  A quick sidenote: the best word I can think of this phenomenon is serendipity, but that just makes me think of John Cusack now, but does anyone else get the feeling you are being haunted by what you read? I’m reading this book, finally, and while looking up other books to read, they ALL reference this title. There’s Brock Clarke’s Exley (obviously) which is about a narrator obsessing over the author. Then, there is Beg, Borrow, Steal which has a blurb on the cover comparing it to A Fan’s Notes. Finally, Judd Apatow’s new collection I Found This Funny has a foreword mentioning how this book influenced his reintroduction into the hobby of reading. None of these three titles have much to do with one another, but I happened to pick up all three within days of each other.  I feel haunted, yet justified in how I’m reading, by my ghostly coincidences.

Roland BarthesMourning Diary
Barthes was so deeply affected by the loss of his mother that he kept a regular journal for two years, compiled in small postcards, that are both deeply moving and thoughtful. For anyone who has experienced loss, and the mourning that follows, Barthes puts his personal pain into words beautifully. I am a sucker for reading the diaries of those I admire, even if I think the intrusion is too personal, I can’t help myself but be curious. Barthes, even at his most intimate, is an intriguing mind worth exploring.

James SchuylerOther Flowers
One must have poetry. I’ve devoured many of Schuyler’s books since only recently discovering him in this review in the NY Review of Books (where have I been all my life?) This collection is more recent, compiled of poems not yet before collected in other titles. Perhaps because he so fresh to me, but as far as the “New York Poets” go, Schuyler gets the edge (at least presently) over Ashbery and O’Hara.  

Karen Tei YamashitaI Hotel
I’ve never heard of this novel before she was nominated for the National Book Award, but am so delighted to have such a talent in my scope now. I have only begun to peck through I Hotel, as it has already becoming a book I’m savoring to read while I still am able to enjoy it for the first time. I Hotel is the by-product of years of writing and research, the book is divided into ten stories, each compiling a year in time starting at 1968. I may go on and on about first time novelists from time to time, but the meticulous nature of a pro still gains my awed praise.  The book spreads its influences wide, incorporating meticulous research and work into various voices, with different ideologies, struggling to be heard against one another at a trying time for our country, and Yamashita pulls no punches. I can’t wait to read this book and watch the seasons change.

– Tony


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The Smell of Fall

This past weekend I noticed a new yet familiar and comforting smell on the wind, one that occurs every year.  It’s the smell of leaves and crisp air, and it can only mean one thing:  fall is just around the corner.

The beginning of fall constitutes a few things.  For one, football season begins, and many of us spend Sunday rooting for our favorite team (go Steelers!).  We slowly exchange our short-sleeved shirts and sundresses for warmer attire.  We begin to think about pumpkins and butternut squash.  We wait for shorter days and longer nights.  For many of us, the fall season marks a transition between summer and winter.

As we anticipate (or dread) this transition, we can celebrate the season.  Here are some books and websites for fun fall thoughts.


The Miracle of Fall

A project of the University of Illinois Extension, this site aggregates fall festivals, fall foliage webcams, and much more.

The Foliage Network

Twice a week, from September through November, you can visit the network and get updated information on leaf color changes nationwide.


Fall is an excellent time to work on cooking skills!  Here are some cookbooks that incoroporate seasonal foods.

Autumn: From the Heart of the Home, Susan Branch.

Fall, Family and Friends, Gooseberry Patch.

Fall Notebook, Carolyne Roehm.

In Celebration of Autumn, Helen Thompson.

Adult Fiction

If fiction is your thing, here are some novels set in autumn that deal with life issues, love, and family.

Autumn Leaves, Victor McGlothin.

Cloud Nine, Luanne Rice.

Grace in Autumn, Lori Copeland.

The Lay of the Land, Richard Ford.

Speak of the Devil, Richard Hawke.

Children’s Books

Who doesn’t love children’s books?  Here are some items useful for teaching children all about the season.

Are You Ready For Fall?, Sheila Anderson.

By the Light of the Harvest Moon, Harriet Ziefert.

Leaf Trouble, Jonathan Emmett.

Now It’s Fall!, Jeanie Lee.

For fall fun outside the library, don’t forget about Fort Ligonier Days, The Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, The Three Rivers Film Festival, and RADical Days. These are just some of the many events that occur during the special three months known as fall.

–Melissa H.

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Pennsylvania’s Photosynthetic Powerhouse

The equation of warm days plus cool nights results in the spectacle of color we see every fall.  This past weekend while driving north on route 79, I nearly forgot how I take Western Pennsylvania’s photosynthesis for granted.  For this area, the peak of the folige season is in mid-October, making this weekend a great time to take a walk and admire what nature has to offer.  I stumbled upon an article in the Post-Gazette where foliage enthusiasts point out that the colors of foliage shouldn’t be reducing to a single day, but rather seen as a “continuum of color.”  Interesting to think of leaf watching as an art.

This site, managed by the State’s Department of Community and Economic Development has a lot of useful suggestions about where to go for day trips as well as a traveler photo gallery.

Leaves of fall by dawe2k5.

There are a ton of great spots in Western PA to marvel at the leaves.  If you can’t make it out of the city, there are webcams planted throughout the state!  As always, the library has books about fall foliage too. 

– Lisa

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Happy Fall!

 Yesterday was the Autumnal Equinox, so HAPPY FALL, everyone!

Autumn turns Western PA into one of the most gorgeous places on the planet, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate the season, from special events related to Pittsburgh’s 250th birthday to statewide annual fesivals.

If you’re a gardener, you’re probably already harvesting tomatoes, other veggies and herbs and figuring out yummy ways to prepare, dry or preserve them.  Or maybe your garden is just getting started on its second wind.  Either way, if you’re lucky enough to have a surplus of sustenance, consider sharing the harvest by donating or getting involved with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  September is, after all, Hunger Action Month.

 If your engagement with autumn leans more towards the creative side, there are lots of crafty ways to honor fall.  You could create a seasonal journal, collage or craft with bright fall leaves or other natural materials, or photograph foliage on long walks in the newly cooled weather.  If you want to be both practical and fun, stop by Carnegie Knits and Reads for some rollicking, book-talking company while you knit or crochet yourself a fancy warm hat or scarf.

If none of these ideas ring your bell, you can always resort to the tried and true “curl-up-with-a-good-book-and-hot-cup-of-tea” approach to enjoying pretty much any weather.  We can help with the “good book” part (and, actually, the tea part, too).

However you decide to observe the new tilt of the earthly axis, I hope you enjoy it!


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