Author Archives: charlesprogers
Hedgie’s Surprise by Jan Brett.
What you need to know about this story is that there is a tomten in it. The main antagonist, the one causing all the trouble, is a tomten. There are not a lot of children’s books out there that require me to look up one of the first words in the story! Perhaps this just speaks to my poor Scandinavian folklore education. Apparently (according to Wikipedia) a tomten, or tomte, is a “humanoid mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore.” In this story, the tomten is a very small, troublesome little scamp who resembles an elf. And a rotten, selfish little elf-thing at that. Every day he barges into Henny’s coop and steals her eggs. She begrudgingly tolerates this until she realizes that if she could keep the eggs she could have baby chicks! But despite her best efforts, she cannot keep that tomten away.
Happily, Henny’s friend Hedgie the hedgehog (I know, these names are not up to Jan Brett’s usual standards) helps devise a cunning plan by hiding the eggs and replacing them with various other edibles, until at last Hedgie hides and gives that tomten a prickly surprise! This is not the book Jan Brett is best known for; it’s a perfectly good read and the images, as always, are lovely. Great for kids 4-6.
Post by Mark T. Locker
Orange is the New Black
As many of you know, Netflix has been pushing a lot of original programming, from the new season of Arrested Development to House of Cards. They’ve been doing quite a good job of drumming up lots of excitement and interest in these endeavors. Most recently, lots of folks have been chatting about Orange is the New Black. The series is based on an autobiographical account about a young woman named Piper who unexpectedly finds herself sentenced to 15 months in prison for transporting a suitcase of drug money years ago.
Piper’s whole life has changed since she made that decision. She has a startup homemade soap company, does things like go on juice cleanses, and has become engaged. Needless to say, the transition to prison is startling to her. I’ve never been incarcerated but I get the feeling that the way prison life is depicted in this series is more accurate than most depictions. It’s a funny and dramatic show. It is decidedly not for kids but if you enjoy edgy real-life drama/comedy, definitely give it a try.
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
With summer winding down, many of us are looking forward to everything that fall brings. One of the things about fall that I most look forward to is the cooler weather. Here in California, the weather is quite pleasant year round; however, September usually brings a couple weeks of almost unbearable heat (relatively speaking). And while the September heat is perfect for getting in a few finals days at the beach, living without air conditioning it can be most unpleasant for sleeping. If only we had a sleeping porch to take in the cool night air. Sigh.
For those of you who are likewise trying to beat the heat without the help of AC, I’ve put together a list of helpful tips and tricks to stay cool while you sleep. Even if you do have air conditioning, you can use these tricks to save a bit on your electricity bill without sacrificing too much in the way of comfort.
1. Use Fans and Ice To Circulate Cool Air
Fans have been our saving grace the past couple weeks. Ceiling fans, air filters, and box fans are all great to keep the air moving inside the house, but you may need to take more drastic measures to pull cool air into your home — especially at night. We’ve been leaving box fans on by the screen door (locked of course) and windows at night to get the most out of the cooler nights. It’s not perfect, but it helps.
On really hot days we even put a shallow tray of ice cubes in front of the fans to chill the air even more. While it’s no substitute for air conditioning, every bit of cool air helps. Did you see the Great Gatsby? The ole’ ice-in-front-of-the-fan-trick seems to be a long time favorite for staying cool. Be careful though, dogs like ice. And if you share your home with a four-legged friend, you may later discover a puddle of melted ice somewhere in your living room. Don’t be mad though, they’re just trying to stay cool too!
2. Pull the sheets back
Even the most breathable cotton sheets can trap hot air and make you uncomfortable in bed. If this is the case, try peeling the sheets back from your torso so they just cover your lower half. Alternatively, you can sleep with one leg (or your whole body) on top of the sheets. Again, not ideal but it helps.
3. Take A Cold Shower Before Bed
If your body is feeling stubborn and won’t cool down, a cold shower will feel great. And instead of drying off quickly with a towel, try air-drying for a bit. As the cool water evaporates, it will take a little extra heat off your skin with it.
4. Put Some Cold Towels On The Back Your Neck
A lot of blood flows through your neck, and placing a cold towel on the back of your neck can help you feel cooler quickly. This trick takes a bit of planning, as you’ll need to put a couple damp rags in the freezer for at least a couple hours before you need them. Your body also exchanges a great deal of heat through the hands and feet, and cold socks can likewise be used to help you cool down.
Thankfully, cooler weather is just around the corner. Until then, the above tricks should help out.
Post by Alison Hein.
How we got “succotash” from the Narragansett word “msickquatash” is still a mystery. What we do know, is that this succulent corn and lima bean-based vegetable dish originated with native Americans who harvested indigenous crops from the eastern woodlands.
Popularity of succotash has waxed and waned. It experienced a mini-revival during the Great Depression when meat was scarce, and is a wonderful way to showcase end-of-summer sweet corn, The variability of this dish is extensive. Onions, peppers, and squash make lovely additions. Use fragrant herbs for a refined side dish, or spice it up with some hot cayenne. You can bake it, boil it, broil it, or encase it in a piecrust.
In this simple recipe, I replaced the traditional limas with perky and popular edamame (green soy beans), adding a punch of color and healthy protein. I also decided to add a little lean meat – thus the “hash” AND a rhyming recipe. J Feel free to omit the Canadian bacon for a perfectly satisfying vegetarian option.
It only takes about 15 minutes to prepare this bountiful dish. When topped with a crispy fried egg, even the biggest carnivores will be delighted with this colorful cornucopia of veggies and a Narragansett-inspired breakfast in bed.
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 slice Canadian bacon, chopped into small pieces
2 green onions, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
1 cup sweet corn kernels
1 cup edamame (or use traditional lima beans)
½ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
½ cup vegetable broth or water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
Heat about half the olive oil in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, Canadian bacon and green onions and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, or until garlic is golden but not yet browned. Add corn kernels, edamame, cherry tomatoes and vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly bubbling, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until most liquid has evaporated.
In the meantime, add remaining olive oil to a large heavy frying pan. Crack eggs into the pan one at a time, making sure to leave enough space between the eggs so the whites don’t run together. Season with salt and pepper. Cook each egg until white is solid, but yolk is still soft, about 2 to 2½ minutes.
Place half the succotash hash in each of two dishes. Top each with a fried egg. Garnish with fresh parsley, if you like, and serve hot.
Makes 2 servings.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Doll Bones by Holly Black.
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book for older kids. Now that school has begun, some (retail stores, especially) consider this the kick-off of fall and the Halloween season. If you are into creepy stuff, and especially if you are into creepy old dolls whose glass eyes seem to follow you, this is a wonderful read.
Doll Bones is an interesting book, because it is a ghost story with substance. Partly, this story is about three adolescents, Poppy, Alice, and Zach. They are alway playing make-believe adventures, with long elaborate plots, all of which leads back to the Queen, a creepy old doll that Poppy’s mother keeps locked in a glass case. But it’s also about adolescence, about growing older and changing. It’s about that age where friends begin to grow apart, and where social pressures affect who you interact with and how you interact with them.
Part coming-of-age, part ghost story, part timeless adventure tale, Doll Bones is a finely crafted spooky story from Holly Black, the mind that brought the world The Spiderwick Chronicles. A definite must-read for lovers of scary stories and good young adult literature.