Ok I know I am a slacker…

I know, I know. You all probably thought I dropped off the face of the earth. Truth be told I haven’t been able to even look at my blogs for two weeks.  I haven’t written anything in two weeks…well that is not true. I wrote two sides of a piece of loose leaf paper while I was at work the other night because something moved me to, but that’s it. This 30-day Challenge burned me out. In my defense I actually took on 3 30-day challenges at once and in retrospect it was too much. But as they say, excuses are like armpits–we all have them and they all stink.

I could have tried harder.

I am so ashamed. I set my self a goal and I did not reach it, and then out of no where this week sneaked up on me and I have been cleaning like a mad woman and cooking like a mad woman in preparation for my End of an Era Dinner Party on Thursday.   I promise, starting on Friday,  I will get back into the normal swing of things.

Thank you all for your devotion to reading the blog over the 30-day Challenge. There is always next year.

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Day 20: HP7 Party Update-8 pieces of 7, The End of an Era

So I have decided to throw a Harry Potter Party after all…

Here  is the menu, what does everyone think?

Happy Hour- 6:00-7:00 pm
In honor of our valiant hero trio we will be enjoying Ménage Trois wines throughout the evening.

…Gillyweed Salad (Seaweed Salad)
with toasted sesame seeds and orange slices-V

Dragon Rolls (sushi)

Rosé and Lake Water (Green) Tea

First Course 7-7:30 pm
Pumpkin Soup with roasted sage and garlic-V

Main Course- 7:45 pm
Bangers and Mash
with roasted onion gravy and baked beans

Rumbledthumps-V
Potatoes, cabbage, leeks, cheese, cream, chives

Dragon Tofu-V*
Zucchini, tofu, yellow squash, garlic, spinach, peanuts, cashews
This dish is spicy.

Red and White Proprietary Blends

Dessert- 9:00 pm
Pumpkin Pasties

Treacle Tart

Butterbeer
Cream soda, butterscotch schnapps, vanilla ice cream

English Tea

V= Vegetarian
V*=Vegan

I am actually pretty stoked about it! I got my ticket the other day, to the 12:05 am show, and I ordered formal invitations that are going out Wednesday…this is going to be awesome!!! I just hope I am not in over my head…

I know, I know, I am a mega nerd…I don’t care. 🙂

Day 19: Happy Father's Day!

To all of you dads out there I would like to wish you a very Happy Father’s Day!

Dear Lord.. The gods have been good to me. For the first time in my life, everything is absolutely perfect just the way it is. So here’s the deal: You freeze everything the way it is, and I won’t ask for anything more. If that is OK, please give me absolutely no sign. OK, deal.

~Homer Simpson

Enjoy your Sunday Daddy and Hubby!

Day 18: Wedding trip to Johnstown, PA

This weekend I am in Johnstown, PA for a wedding… Today is the wedding, yesterday the rehearsal.  To sum it up, lots of sweat, not enough time, terrible directions, great food and fabulous shoes!

Shoes and Facinator for today...

For more on my adventures in Johnstown, PA visit www.backyardbumpkin.com

Day 17: Weekend Read

When I decided to do weekend reads I had said they would be easy reads…well, this week it would b e a lie to say my pick is easy. It’s small, if that counts for anything, and most of you have probably had to read it before, so it should be familiar, but even as I reread it now, I am realizing what a complex book it is. This week’s weekend read is:

1984

by George Orwell

I know, I know. Heavy. But here is the thing, this is a GREAT book, and now more than ever is it important for us to read and heed this book. “Big Brother” is every where and they are watching you. From government controlled lunches in Chicago to 7th graders being questioned about their Facebook posts, you are all being watched, and it is getting easier and easier for them to do it. Hell, if some sicko can install a program on your computer and watch you and photograph you then what is to stop Big Brother from doing the same?

For those of you not familiar with 1984, it is the dystopian story of “protagonist Winston Smith… a civil servant responsible for perpetuating the Party’s propaganda by revising historical records to render the Party omniscient and always correct, yet his meager existence disillusions him to the point of seeking rebellion against Big Brother.”* And this is what we are waiting for…the sh*t to rain down! And I warn you, it is coming my friends. Viva la revolution!

Ahem…anyway… read or reread this book. The message is hefty, but the writing is profound and eerie, and inspiring, and definitely worth giving a read, particularly now, with your adult eyes. Let them open, my friends, let them open and see.


*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four

Day 16: Happy Bloomsday!

Today is Bloomsday! Get out and celebrate! What? You don’t know of Bloomsday?

Bloomsday is a commemoration observed annually on June 16th in Dublin and elsewhere to celebrate the life of Irish writer James Joyce and relive the events in his novel Ulysses, all of which took place on the same day in Dublin in 1904. Joyce chose the date because his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle happened on that day, when they walked to the Dublin urban village of Ringsend. The name derives from Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloomsday

 

Of most of the people I know, I stand alone in my love for this book. As a matter of fact, I think I may stand alone in my love for James Joyce. Paralleling Odysseus by Homer, Joyce walks us through one day, June 16th, of the main character, Leopold Bloom, his wife, and his friend Stephen Dedalus (Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.) Originally, and understandably so, published in serial form in 1918-1921 in the The Little Review,  it was then published in its entirety in 1922.  The serial version was put to a stop due to its profane nature, at with point it was compile and published as a whole.

I love this book because of what it does for literature–not only for its deep roots in Homer, but for the wholeness of the story. We often sit and discuss our days over dinner–at least Jason and I do, and we touch on the main points leaving out all of the details. Ulysses covers one interesting day in the life of Leopold Bloom completely, from the big events of the day to the minutia. It is real, and rough, and raw. It is about compassion, love, desire, and grief; about a need for family; about sex. It is about lives of the 3 central characters and how they intersect and intertwine, and effect them all. It is truly a novel about life and deserves to be celebrated.

So pour yourself a Guinness or a glass of whiskey and raise a glass to Mr. James Joyce and the novel Ulysses!  To Mr. Joyce, Happy Bloomsday–and happy anniversary of your first date!

(P.S., you are going to need a few more pints of the black stuff to get you through it too,  because at 512 pages, it is quite the work of fiction.)

P.S.S. In NYC today they are celebrating with Bloomsday on Broadway , which will be celebrating its own 30th anniversary of the James Joyce/Ulysses marathon at Symphony Space. If you are not in the NYC area, which I am not, you can watch a live stream on Facebook.

Day 15: Half way there!

Well it is half over, and might I say, thank goodness…3 30-day-blog-challenges were a bit big to take on at once. At the moment I am a bit burned out, and there for that will be all for today.

Thank you, and good night…

Day 14: Awesome Books

If you find yourself in the Bloomfield/Garfield/Friendship section of Penn Avenue, you will no doubt see this sign looming outside a small shop next to SPAK BROS. PizzaIf you have not seen the sign, you can’t miss the spot where this little artist owned bookstore, Awesome Books, is hiding. Nestled between two of Penn Avenue’s brightest attractions this new little gem is not to be missed. With scads and scads of used books on site, and a thousand more in storage, Awesome Books is everything that the modern book industry is missing.

As I have said before, I work for Borders, and I just about died when I got the job, I was so excited. I remember when I interviewed, the manager that I met with told me the pay–$6.25/hour to start, as a cashier, and I was crushed. I wasn’t going to leave a $16+/hour job as a waitress to work for $6/ hour as a cashier. I had a degree! I had retail experience! I was a manager damn it! (Lucky for me I put that out there and got hired at a bit higher of a rate, as a supervisor.) But I really wanted to work in a bookstore. Something she said to me when she told me my wage has stuck with me for all of these years and although I still find it as pretentious now as I did that day, it still rings true–to some extent. She said to me, “People don’t work here for the money; they work here because they love books.” And that is true. The pay sucks, the benefits suck, and often your discount sucks, BUT the people who work there love books.

Now I am sure you have all seen the news spewing the terror that is besetting Borders Inc. It often makes me sad to think that the company is in such dire straights and there is the looming risk of closure. But in toady’s reader market, small business is where the money is. More often than not our store is treated more like a restaurant, a library, a school, a concert hall, and a phone booth than it is a bookstore. People don’t buy any more. Thousands of titles sit on the shelves to be skimmed over, spilled on, spines broken, and pages folded never to be purchased because online venues can sell it to them cheaper or they can downloaded it for practically free. Places like Borders are used by the masses to get out of the house for the night and get a cup of coffee for $1.85.

However, since the money problems really started to show at Borders, I have been telling my co-workers that their saving grace is going to be stock reduction and specialization. Focus on what is really selling in your area, reduce the quantities of stock that is not selling, and get rid of the music, movies, and cafe. Do what you are there to do–sell books. And that, my friends is what Awesome Books is doing.

You can see Gillian, the attendant that helped me today, working on a mosaic in the back.

When you walk into Awesome Books it feels like you are walking into someone’s home library. You can smell the paper, and the cloth, and the dust, and the wood of the floors, not burnt coffee and Chlorox. It is quiet, like a bookshop should be and warm. The homeyness is amplified by the cats  playing in the corner and under your feet, and the single employee sitting on the couch working on some art project or another.

The selection is small, but comprehensive, and everything is used. They have new and old titles alike in everything from falling apart to like new condition. And like any corporate books store out there, they can get you anything you want, if you are willing to wait a bit. Quick story. A few weeks back I went in with a list of books I needed for my book club and began to hit the shelves. They had none of them, and I was surprised, because many of them were popular or classic titles. That day Laura Jean McLaughlin, one of the owners, was working, and I began to ask her about some of the titles. She was so kind. She took down the titles and authors that I was looking for and took my number and told me she would give me a call if any of them came in. I wrote it off as never going to happen and began looking elsewhere for the titles. Wouldn’t you know it, just under a week later, she called me back to tell me she had two of them in stock! I couldn’t get it from Amazon that fast! And what struck me was that she remembered and actually called back. In a big corporate bookstore, even with computers reminding us everyday of who needs a phone call, we are lucky if we can remember to email. And here this woman was offering me personal service for a used book, from a list she had written down on some scrap of paper.

This is what is missing from chain stores, and it is something that they will never have…heart. The employees have it, but the store never will, because there are a thousand clones of it all around the world. And with the pressures of big business, and contracted coffee shops, and political correctness, and looming foreclosures, all the book loving people in the country could work in your storefront and you won’t have the warmth you feel at a small privately owned shop.This is where the business needs to move to, they need to de-evolve. Borders, you have taken on too much, and you need to step down. Let go of what is not selling and stick to what you are good at–selling BOOKS.

Here is a quick tour of Awesome Books, on Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh:

Window seat one,

Windows seat two. Oh, and that is poetry hiding on that little bookshelf.

Fiction, Bios and new arrivals (the rolling cart and top shelf boxes down the center aisle)

Art, Children's , Poli-Sci and others...

Psychology and Sociology there on the right and that little shelf had VERY OLD books on it along with music titles and an portrait of Walt Whitman on the wall.

Ms. McLaughlin's studio in the back

The cats.

I want to say I am not completely knocking where I work…I really do love that place, but in this day and age, when so many people are clinging to their e-books, those of us who need the touch, the taste, the smell, the heart of a real, live book–and it truly is a need–we need a place like Awesome Books. We crave a place where our friends, enemies, lovers, and muses can live, and thrive and have their adventures in a place that is just for them. No music, no movies, no download kiosks and no coffee shops. If you want coffee, buy a book at Awesome Books. You get a free cup from Oh Yeah! Ice Cream with every purchase.

Go mooch off them for a place to hang out.

Day 13: Perks revisited…

This will be a quick one, as I have a ton of work to do today.

Here are some pictures of the building where they were shooting Perks a few weeks ago. Enjoy! (warning…these are boring, but I thought it might be nice to have a reference point when you are watching the movie 🙂 )

 

Oh how did that get in there?? 🙂

Isn’t he a cutie 😉

 

Day 12: A still unhappy boy

We are still very unhappy, but we are easily entertained.

A few weeks back I had bought Benji the first disk in the WhistleFritz series Vamos a Jugar and I think Maria is his new best friend. 

This DVD is great. It is a total immersion program–the only English you see is the credits, and you hear none. It is kind of Blue’s Clues-esque in its style and the songs are familiar (head and shoulders–er… cabesa y hombros.) Ben likes it so much that we just ordered another one.

Needless to say, he has been so cranky that I plan to let him watch it all day if that is what it takes…I’m pooped.

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