Tag Archives: holidays

Take It to the Fridge!

Or, rather, take it out of the fridge: today is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. Only a select few holidays can legitimately claim the word “national,” but anyone with a fun idea and an internet connection–or a reason to sell something— can give the rest of us a temporary day-brightener. This is a good thing, because I know my fridge could probably use a pre-company scrub-down, and I’m guessing yours could too.

No judgement here. Just useful resources.
(This sign actually hangs in my kitchen.)

My gift to you, on this auspicious occasion, is a quick and dirty list of books and resources on getting clean and staying safe.

Kitchen Basics

Because not everybody is Martha Stewart.

The Organized Kitchen, Brett McWhorter Semper

The Germ Survival Guide, Kenneth A. Bock, et. al.

Joey Green’s Kitchen Magic, Joey Green.

Can Your Kitchen Pass the Food Storage Test?,  Paula Kurtzweil. Also available online.

Green Housekeeping

All of the clean, none of the toxins.

Squeaky Green, Eric Ryan.

Green Housekeeping, Ellen Sandbeck. [I eventually bought this one after checking it out multiple times–definitely a keeper!]

Green-up Your Cleanup, Jill Potvin Schoff.

Clean Naturally, Sandy Maine.

Food Safety

Because the five-second rule will only take you so far.

The Safe Food Handbook, Heli Perrett.

Nutrition and Food Safety, Terry L. Smith.

Just the Facts: Food Safety, a Learning ZoneXpress production.

Emergency Measures

Food safety for doomsday preppers:

Emergency preparedness fact sheets from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Food and Water Safety Tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Food and Water Sanitation Tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And, on a more practical note, storage times for the refrigerator and freezer, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If that doesn’t inspire you to crank up the tunes, pour yourself a refreshing beverage, and get to scrubbing, I don’t know what will. But, whether you choose to observe this whimsical “holiday” or not, rest assured that, even if you don’t feel like doing it right now, you’ll always have the data you need to make informed decisions about whether or not those gummy bears you threw in the freezer last summer are still viable.

Leigh Anne

too tired/happy from last night’s Neil Gaiman lecture to discuss anything overly serious.


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Winter Retreat

I set the professional achievement bar way too high for myself most of the time, and then I get extra-wacky during the holiday season trying to create the perfect Christmas while simultaneously trying to be the perfect librarian.  This is why I save a chunk of my vacation time for December and spend the greater portion of a week in my pajamas, selfishly ignoring everybody’s needs but my own.  At some point I’m considering experimenting with this “moderation” concept I’ve heard about, but today will not be that day.  Tomorrow’s not looking good either.

On the bright side, I took the suggestion many commenters offered on a previous post and ordered myself a copy of Shantaram. Reading this novel has been like falling into the deep blue sea; I find myself swimming around Lin’s world, agog with wonder at the sights and smells of India, rejoicing and sorrowing with the hero as he walks the fine line between sunshine and shadow. A man with a past, trying to forgive himself and build a future, is the perfect kind of hero for the darkest nights of the year; experiencing Lin’s journey makes my own seem easier, even though my own is decidedly plebeian, by comparison.

So I hope you’ll pardon me if, just this one time, I don’t answer your comments in a timely fashion.  I’m going to spend some time alone, absorbed in a good book, lowering my holiday expectations, and soaking up the lessons long nights of darkness can teach. May your own journey back to balance and wholeness be as quiet and calm.

–Leigh Anne

who wishes you the happiest of whatever holidays you celebrate


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Holiday Fun from Uncle Sam

Surprisingly, government documents aren’t the first thing to come to mind when most people think of the holidays.  And yet– government documents librarians in all kinds of libraries are probably thinking just that.  And did you know that CLP is a Federal Depository Library? We’re happy to help you find all kinds of government resources, but here are a few that might get you in the holiday spirit:

President Truman accepting a menorah from David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel, in 1951. Photo from the National Archives.

The National Archive’s photo stream on flickr: Of course the National Archives is the go-to place for older images of the holidays, and their flickr collection is a great way to browse through some of their sizeable collection from the comfort of your home (or the library!)  Their holiday set of photos isn’t limited to Christmas pictures; you’ll find photographs, fliers, and other images that relate to many different holidays.  (Added bonus: the collection is listed as having “no known copyright restrictions, which means you can feel free to use the photographs as long as you credit the National Archives.)

Christmas in the Field- Through the Years: This collection of photographs from the U.S. Army’s Center for Military History features images from the holidays during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq/Afganistan War (2004).  Although it’s a relatively small collection, the images are poignant.

American Memory from the Library of Congress: You’ll find lots of holiday images, texts, songs, and films here!  Just search the site for “Christmas (or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate) and you’ll find a list of what’s in this collection.  A few things that caught my eye in this archive were a collection of writings from Minnesota pioneers about ways of celebrating the winter holidays; fiddler Henry Reed playing Christmas songs; and an article from a 1905 edition of the Cleveland Journal titled Holiday Meditations about race issues. 

A poster from the Office of Emergency Management, Office of War Information, 1941-1945. Photo from the National Archives.


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Make it yourself.

Since some of my beliefs have, shall we say, diverged somewhat from those of my upbringing, holidays with the family can be a little tense sometimes. My approach as a teenager was to try my hardest to undermine the tyranny of oppressive and irritating traditions like carols and December cable TV staples. As it turned out, though, mocking the capitalist subtext of Miracle on 34th Street didn’t actually make it any more fun for me to watch.

Dolce the cat sitting on Santa's lap

No kids for your greeting cards? No problem!

Since my charming adolescence, I’ve developed a more productive approach to thriving during the holidays. Instead of sabotaging everyone’s sacred rituals with sarcasm, I find inclusive ways to honor parts of the season I find meaningful. Lecture on the evils of slaughterhouses at the table? No. Bring a vegetarian dish everyone can enjoy? Much better. Bombard Grandma with child-free politics when she asks about great-grandchildren? Bad idea. Send greeting cards with my cat sitting on Santa’s lap instead? Perfect! (Okay, that was actually my sister, and its wisdom is debatable, but it’s still the better option.)

One of the most difficult cultural demands to resist this time of year is gift-giving. I appreciate the symbolism of showing my affection in the form of presents, but I don’t want to buy into the Black Friday frenzy of diamonds, electronics, toys and tools. Instead, I’ve come up with gifts I can make for people that they’ll enjoy. I get to be creative, and they get a gift they’ll use. Making gifts takes a little more planning than a mad dash to the mall, but the result is often more meaningful, because I spent time thinking about the recipient and crafting them something special. Here are some of the gifts I’ve made or plan to make, with some handy books and guides.

  • Mp3 Player/Cell Phone/eReader SnuggieThe big-ass book of crafts / by Mark Montano ; photographs by Auxy Espinoza.

Almost everyone carries some kind of electronic device. Make someone a little winter coat protector for theirs! These can be knitted, sewn or crocheted in any size. For examples, see The Big-Ass Book of Crafts.

  • T-shirt Quilt Generation T : beyond fashion : 120 new ways to transform a T-shirt / Megan Nicolay.

What’s cozier than a t-shirt? A whole blanket made of cozy t-shirts heartwarmingly stitched by someone who loves you! The Generation T series includes crafts for those handy with a sewing machine and those who can’t thread a needle.  The t-shirt quilt project is in Generation T: Beyond Fashion: 120 New Ways to Transform a T-shirt.

  • Personalized Recipe Book

Take advantage of the library’s enormous cookbook collection by selecting recipes for a personalized recipe box. Just pick out a handful of appetizing recipes, copy them onto notecards and put them in a decorated box.

  • Calendar

A calendar is a gift that’s useful all year, and it’s easy to customize the artwork. You can make a collage for every month, or choose photos from all of the Kodak moments on your friends’ Facebook pages. Lots of websites and copy shops also offer inexpensive packages to turn photos into calendars.

  • JewelryMaking mixed media art charms & jewelry : keepsakes, swappables, trinkets / Peggy Krzyzewski & Christine Hansen.

Pasta necklaces probably won’t fly unless you’re under the age of 10, but there are lots of lovely jewelry-making techniques accessible to a range of skill levels. You can also craft a handmade jewelry holder out of some screen and a picture frame.

  • Survival Kit 101 things you should know about 2012 : Countdown to Armageddon...or a better world? / 2011.

Does your cousin think 2012 is the year the world ends? Put her at ease with the gift of a cute little survival kit made from an Altoids tin. Who knows? It might even come in handy for holiday survival.

Not to cue an orchestral rendition of “Silver Bells” or anything, but taking time to honor the people we love is meaningful and powerful no matter what our spirituality or politics are. I hope you find ways to enjoy this hectic month with the people you care about in rewarding, fulfilling and fun ways!



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Drafting Your Holiday Survival Plans

Maybe yesterday whetted your appetite for holiday cuisine.

Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden: 150 Festive Recipes for Bringing Family and Friends Together by Bradley Ogden

Or maybe you ate too much, and you’ve sworn a vow of moderation.

The Frugal Cook: Buy Cleverly, Waste Less, Eat Well by Fiona Beckett

Maybe you’re getting ready to go out for Black Friday, but you want to  shop wisely.

Consumer Reports magazine (image via Gizmodo)

Maybe you don’t have a lot of money for presents.

Crafting With Cat Hair by Kaori Tsutaya

Maybe it’s the relatives that stress you out.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Maybe you can’t wait to see them, but you have no idea what you’re all going to do.

Moon Handbooks: Pittsburgh

And what if you just want to hide out until it’s all over?

Daria: The Complete Animated Series

No matter what your situation is this holiday season, may you find something in the library that’s perfect for you.



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The Holidays Are Murder!

Picture of a meat cleaver


I know, I know. You’re all going to start thinking that I hate the holidays, since my last post talked about how depressing they could be, and this one is about death and mayhem during the season. But I swear, it’s not true. I love the holidays with their colorful decorations, tasty food, friends and family gathered together, present-opening and the snow. (Yes, I even like snow!) But a blogger does need a topic to write about, and since I love mysteries, especially the cozy ones, this topic seems to fit. 

So here is a list of newish holiday themed mysteries the library owns. If you can barely keep from murdering your family during the holidays, maybe you’d like to read about someone else’s demise at the hands of another.

Busy Body by M.C. BeatonBusy Body: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by  M.C. Beaton. A new town officer shows up and bans holiday decorations. Agatha Raisin is called upon to find his killer when he is murdered. That will teach you to be a Scrooge!


Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne FlukeGingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine and Leslie Meier. A trio of gingerbread themed cozies. First, someone is found murdered next to a box of cookies. Second, the lead in a local theatre production dies in the final scene. Lastly, a young boy disappears and the race  is on to find him. Wow, cookies really are bad for you. Recipes included! 


Forbidden Fruit by Kerry GreenwoodForbidden Fruit: A Corinna Chapman Mystery by Kerry Greenwood. Two runaway teens (one about to give birth), a rosewater muffin loving donkey, scorching Australian summer in December and a gaggle of carol singing vegans. What more could you want from a holiday mystery?


Christmas Mourning by Margaret MaronChristmas Mourning by Margaret Maron. Teenagers in town are dying, first in car crashes and then by murder. Turns out there are connections to a crime from years ago. Will the mystery be solved before more people’s holidays are ruined?


Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop, edited by Otto PenzlerChristmas at the Mysterious Bookshop: ‘Tis the Season to Be Deadly: Stories of Mistletoe and Mayhem from 17 Masters of Suspense edited by Otto Penzler. Some of the biggest names in mystery and suspense contribute stories to an annual tradition at Penzler’s famous Mysterious Bookstore in Manhattan. Each year, Penzler asks a writer to set a short story in his shop and gives the piece out to his customers as a holiday gift. This is the first published compilation of those stories.

A Christmas Odyssey by Anne PerryA Christmas Odyssey: A Novel by Anne Perry. Mathematician Henry Rathbone enlists help in locating the son of a friend. Before long they realize the missing young man works for people who belong on Santa’s naughty list and Rathbone and company have to help him get out.

Now go out and enjoy those holidays! I mean it!

-Melissa M.

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‘Tis the Season

We are fast approaching one of the most emotionally difficult times of the year.  Maybe you have family you’d rather not interact with, but are forced to. Or you don’t have the family that you wish you had or used to have. Or you are more alone than you’d like to be. Any and all of these situations are difficult on an everyday basis, but become magnified during the holiday season when every store clerk, commercial, and television show tells you that you should be having a “happy holiday.”

So rather than doing yourself, or someone else, unnecessary bodily harm, why not check out one of these, and make yourself feel a bit better.

Escapist Travel Adventures
Don’t Look Behind You: A Safari Guide’s Encounters with Ravenous Lions, Stampeding Elephants, and Lovesick Rhinos
by Peter Allison

To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism
by Chuck Thompson

Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation (Or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid)
by J. Maarten Troost

Naked in Eden: My Adventure and Awakening in the Australian Rainforest
by Robin Easton

The Raven’s Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman, and Their Remarkable Journey Through the Siberian Wilderness
by Jon Turk

The Spice Necklace: My Adventures in Caribbean Cooking, Eating and Island Life
by Ann Vanderhoof

The Things You Find on the Appalachian Trail: A Memoir of Discovery, Endurance, and a Lazy Dog
by Kevin Runolfson

Self-Help Information
Enough!: A Buddhist Approach to Finding Release from Addictive Patterns
by Chonyi Taylor

Getting Past OK: The Self-Help Book for People Who Don’t Need Help
by Richard Brodie

Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone
by Beth Lisick

The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need: Repress Your Anger, Think Negatively, Be a Good Blamer, and Throttle Your Inner Child
by Paul Pearsall

Once Upon a Cow: Eliminating Excuses and Settling for Nothing But Success
by Camilo Cruz

The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship
by David Whyte

Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life
by Gail Blanke

Well Being: The Five Essential Elements
by Tom Rath & Jim Harter

My Family Sucks Too Tales
The Bill from My Father
by Bernard Cooper

Dead End Gene Pool
by Wendy Burden

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
by David Sedaris

I’m Down
by Mishna Wolff

Home for the Holidays (DVD)

Never Tell Our Business to Strangers
by Jennifer Mascia

Why Not Say What Happened
by Ivana Lowell

You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas
by Augusten Burroughs

Here’s hoping that you and yours survive the holiday season with your psyches intact!

-Melissa M.


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On Administrative Professionals

Today is the last day of  Administrative Professionals Week (formerly Secretary’s Week), a period which recognizes the secretaries, executive assistants, clerks, and other office workers who support and/or share in the management of office-related operations.   Societal changes precipitated the need for a large number of office workers.    This need presaged the rise of the occupation.   Annual recognition of the workers, beginning with National Secretaries Week in 1952, is a culmination of the work of the Department of Commerce, “various office supply and equipment manufacturers,” and advertising publicist, Harry F. Klemfuss.   Today more than 18 million persons comprise this group of professionals.  Information about the  prospects of administration professionals is available online in the Occupational Outlook Handbook and in other media such as  Opportunities in Administrative Assistant Careers and  Business Management and Administration at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh .


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SOLD! To the Highest Bidder . . .

roulette wheelCarnegie Library of Pittsburgh announces that as of today, Thursday, April 1, 2010, the Library’s name has been changed to Three Rivers at the Point Casino Carnegie Library. The Library is pleased to partner with Three Rivers at the Point Casino and will continue to provide the same great services you have come to know, love, and expect. 

The decision to change the Library’s name is based on many factors, but the most important is money. The Library needs more money to operate at current service levels. Three Rivers at the Point Casino will provide revenue in exchange for a few small concessions, the first being a name change. Selling naming rights is commonplace. Everybody’s doing it, so why shouldn’t we? Pittsburgh has PNC Park, Heinz Field, Consol Energy Center, and the First Niagara Pavilion, which used to be the Post Gazette Pavilion and before that Coca-Cola Starlake Amphitheatre. People are even selling naming rights to themselves. Remember the woman who sold her forehead for $10,000?  

Another new Library practice, inspired our partnership with the Casino, is the Book Hold Roulette. When you add your name to the waiting list for a book, you’ll never know when you’re going to get it. Each morning, Library staff will spin the wheel and luck will determine who gets the book!  Makes the book hold process a lot more exciting, doesn’t it?

Also beginning today, when you sign on to use the Library’s computers, slot machine you’ll pull a slot machine handle on the side of the computer to enter your  barcode number, and if you get 3 cherries, you’ll be allowed to use the computer!  If not, you’ll have to keep trying until you come up with a winning combination.

Now when you find the book you are looking for on our shelves, as your reward you’ll hear the tinkling sound of change falling into a slot machine tray. You won! You found the book! Congratulations!

I hope you realized by now that today is April Fool’s Day, and this scenario is fiction, not fact.  But, dear reader, potentially reprehensible circumstances could become real if the Library does not find sources of consistent, sustainable revenue. The state budget promises once again to reduce Library funding levels. Financial support from the RAD is always tied to income generated by the extra 1% sales tax in Allegheny County, and therefore cannot be guaranteed to increase or even remain the same from year to year. The Library needs your assistance. Please visit CLP’s web page to find out how you can help

Happy April Fool’s Day!



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Funny Funny Ladies

At this time of year, I am often reminded of how much we need laughter in our lives.  All the stress of the holidays (much of it self-inflicted, naturally) piles up with the baking, cooking, shopping, holiday cards, package mailing, present wrapping, decorating, cleaning–and I haven’t even gotten to the family visits yet!

To help combat some of the stress I have been feeling, I chose to read humorous books this season.  I decided to focus on women who write non-fiction, memoir-style comedies.  Here are a few I read that made me laugh, and one or two classics you might recall and want to re-read…

If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? by Erma Bombeck – Ms. Bombeck is the classic female master of this genre.  When I was growing up, she was a household name.  This is just one of her many, many titles, each one as good as the next.

God Save the Sweet Potato QueensGod Save the Sweet Potato Queens by Jill Conner Browne – “If you haven’t met the Sweet Potato Queens yet, this is the introduction you’ve been waiting for.”  You might want to give this book to your preteen daughter to prepare her for what’s to come in the world of dating and marriage. But then again, maybe you might not…

The Risks of Sunbathing Topless: And Other Funny Stories from the Road edited by Kate Chynoweth – This collection of travel-gone-wrong stories covers the entire globe.  If you have ever had a bad travel experience, these tales will make you feel better, either because you can laugh and commiserate, or because there’s no way your incident was worse than the ones these gals had. 

13 Is the New 1813 Is the New 18: And Other Things my Children Taught Me while I was Having a Nervous Breakdown Being Their Mother by Beth J. Harpaz – Harried and heartsick mother stories are a whole sub-genre of this group.  Ms. Harpaz is trying to raise, and understand, her teenage son in this hilarious and completely current set of stories.  Come along with her as she makes her way through the world of MySpace, enormous cell phone bills, and the ever-present teenage slang.

Tales of Graceful Aging from the Planet Denial by Nicole Hollander – No topic is sacred, from inappropriate dressing to sex on airplanes to hormone replacement therapy.  This is an outrageous look at growing older, and hopefully, but not always, wiser.  Plus, I love the little cartoon drawings scattered throughout the book.

We Thought You Would Be PrettierWe Thought You Would Be Prettier: True Tales of the Dorkiest Girl Alive by Laurie Notaro – Ms. Notaro is fast becoming one of the most popular women in this genre.  Her observations of life are those that we usually think but would never have the nerve to say out loud.  Thankfully, she does, and we can read and laugh along with her.

Not Tonight HoneyNot Tonight, Honey: Wait ‘Til I’m a Size 6 by Susan Reinhardt – Ah, the perils of married life!  Follow along as we navigate these treacherous waters with wit, wisdom, and  a little bit of wantonness. 


You Can't Drink All DayYou Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning by Celia Rivenbark – OK, I admit it.  I picked up this book because of the title.  Wouldn’t you?  It completely fit how I feel about this time of year.  And I wasn’t disappointed by what was inside.  This is a great example of the southern belle version of this category.  With utmost honesty and a little bit of potty mouth, Ms. Rivenbark takes us through a view of life below the Mason-Dixon line.  Bless her heart!


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