Author Archives: charlesprogers
Breakfast in Bed: Italian PaneToast
Post by Alison Hein.
My husband and I were just leaving our favorite local Italian restaurant recently when the owner stopped us. “Merry Christmas!”, Antoinette said, as she raced after us and thrust a jaunty red-packaged Panettone in our direction. I happily accepted the gift, as the holiday season would be incomplete without at least one of these airy, fruit-filled sweet breads added to my holiday larder.
Sadly, the abundance of homemade temptations during this season – from cookies to chocolate to cheesecake – is often so overwhelming that the poor panettone may be overlooked. In this case, I will make French toast, or what I like to call Italian PaneToast.
Panettone is tall (6 to 7 inches) and is typically shaped like a chef’s toque. Its airy, angel food cake-like consistency comes from the long and slow rising process of the dough which can last several days. Traditional varieties include both dark and golden raisins, candied orange, citron and lemon zest. Less common types may include chocolate, chestnuts, or other types of fruit.
Open the package and a spicy citrus-vanilla scent is released. The panettone is so flavor-filled that only egg and milk are needed for the toast. (Well, maybe just a drop of alcohol, too, as it’s traditional to serve panettone with a sweet cordial. ;-)) Cut the bread in thick wedges – the sweet bread’s dough is so light and airy that the custardy toast browns to perfection in mere minutes.
There are many intriguing legends about the origin of panettone, from a nobleman posing as a pastry chef for love of a baker’s daughter, to a young kitchen assistant inventing the sweet bread when the chief cook had no Christmas dessert to offer. Start your own intriguing legend, with a new holiday tradition of Italian PaneToast breakfast in bed.
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon Frangelico or Amaretto (optional)
8 wedge-slices Panettone
2 to 4 tablespoons butter
Confectioner’s sugar, for garnish
In large, shallow bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Add Frangelico or Amaretto if using. Dip panettone slices into the egg mixture, turning once to completely saturate. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in heavy skillet. Add panettone and cook over medium to medium-low heat, turning once, until golden and cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes, adding more butter as needed. Place two slices of Panetonne on each of 4 plates, sprinkle lightly with confectioner’s sugar if you like. Serve warm with maple syrup.
Makes 4 servings.
Bedroom Design: Begin Again
Post by Erin Sears.
Here it is, friends- 2013! Aren’t you excited? A new year is ahead of us and anything is possible! YAY!
Okay, that’s all the enthusiasm I can muster considering I woke up in a disaster of a bedroom this morning and my head hurts. The truth is that I’ve let things go around here. A few years ago, I completely redid my bedroom- new linens, bright rugs, awesome art. I deep cleaned and smudged the room with sage until the past was but a wisp of a memory. I vowed to keep the space looking tidy and lovely. However, the shine has worn off my once beautiful room and things have gotten messy. My grandmother would say that things are looking a little long in the tooth, so here we go! It’s time to begin again.
The New Year provides us with a fantastic opportunity to assess and evaluate our living spaces. Ask yourself the following questions about each room: Is it functional? Is it beautiful? Would I want others to see it? Do I like being here? Do I LOVE it?
Take those essential questions and take a good look around. Sprucing up your sleeping space can feel overwhelming at first, so here are four areas to consider when beginning:
- Clean your room! A little bit of cleaning and purging can go a long way. You’re not in college anymore. Futons and fiberboard “furniture” do not belong in your bedroom. Get rid of anything broken or ugly. Be honest. Let go.
- Color and Pattern: Adjust the palette of your room with new paint, new bedding or new curtains. Use your wardrobe to initiate color choices. What colors do you naturally gravitate toward in clothing? What looks good on you? You want to look gorgeous in your room. You want to go to bed feeling calm and wake up feeling good. Use color as your driving force. Pattern can work in the same way, but be careful not to go overboard. Just because you like flowers it doesn’t mean you want to sleep in a garden. With that said, a well-placed stripe or print can really bring your bedroom to life. Consider saving pattern for curtains, pillows or bedding.
Bed choice: Start here. This should be where you spend the bulk of your money. Choose a bed that inspires you and invest in a good mattress. It’s worth it. Do not buy furniture sets. They’re lazy decorating and rarely a true expression of self. If you inherit a bedroom set and you love it, select the best piece for the room. Repurpose, give away, or sell the rest. Really.
Nightstands: There are two ways to go with this- matching and not matching. Matching nightstands can provide a room with balance and symmetry. These are good things. If you have more eclectic taste, you can go with two different nightstands. My nightstands do not match. One is a round French café table that I fell in love with at garden shop. It’s large enough to hold a lamp and many books, but still in scale with the room. My other nightstand is an old telephone table that I bought used. It has wooden bead accents, a shelf, and two deep pockets on each side for magazines. I took a pillowcase in a just right color to the paint store and had them match it and then painted the table in that dreamy shade. LOVE.
Additional pieces: Dressers, vanities and other furniture pieces are space dependent. We’re all looking for smart storage solutions and these can make wonderful additions to spacious rooms.
4. Lighting: Lighting is an essential component of any room. In the bedroom, overhead lighting can make things look too harsh. To avoid this, I opt for bedside lamps. There are lots of ways to go with lighting and I’ll probably highlight them in another post, but like nightstands, your lamps can match or not. I use two different lamps made of the same material with similar shades. They coordinate, but are not identical.
Start by changing a few elements of your room and see where the changes take you. Remember, your room does not have to be finished all at once. Great rooms are designed, developed, and edited over time. The journey is part of the fun.
Happy New Year!
Bedtime Stories: Guess Again!
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Guess Again! by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Adam Rex.
The very talented and very silly duo Adam Rex and Mac Barnett have struck again. I cannot adequately describe this not-quite-as-expected rhyming guessing game book. Rightly titled Guess Again! each page features a silhouetted figure, and a rhyme which offers clues. In this book, the clues are designed to trick you into thinking the obvious. Here is an example:
He steals carrots from the neighbor’s yard.
His hair is soft, his teeth are hard.
His floppy ears are long and funny.
Can you guess who? That’s right! My
Each riddle is silly, misleading, and very funny. Even though it is best the first time round, my little one gets such a kick out of the ridiculous scenarios that we have been reading it twice a day at least, even though he totally knows the answers now. I love these guys and if they did a version of Quality improvement and shelf-life extension of fish filets from three aquaculture species (Ottowa, 2002) you can bet that it would be hilarious and enjoyable to all.
Movies in Bed: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Post by Josh Zinn.
Hello folks!! Now, truth be told, normally I don’t care much for pryin’ eyes having a gander at my personal business. But, seeing as Christmas is the time when you tell the truth (I learned that little morsel by watching “Love Actually”) I’ve decided to make y’all privy to a heated conversation that happened in my home recently while I was trying to do SERIOUS RESEARCH for your next movie review, “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”
Dan: Why are you watching “Home Alone 2” the day after Christmas? Isn’t the season over?
Josh: Tisk, tisk Mr. Scrooge. The season is never over if you keep it in your heart.
J: Sure. Plus, we never got around to watching this one.
D: That’s because we didn’t need to. It’s the exact same movie as the first one.
J: But he’s lost… in NEW YORK! Besides, I like this one better. Not only does Kevin have a myriad of wacky adventures in the big city, but he also gives the scary, homeless pigeon woman turtledoves at the end. Isn’t that wonderful? I mean, yeah, he doesn’t invite her in from the cold for a hot meal or anything, but by giving her an ornament that symbolizes their meaningful yet ultimately temporary friendship we all get to understand what the true meaning of Christmas is!
D: That’s a pretty awful message to send. An ornament?
J: Yeah, what’s wrong with that?
D: Well, it seems to me the true meaning of Christmas has something in its fine print about doing more for the homeless woman who saves your life than just giving her a chintzy ornament before you run back to the palatial, gift-filled, pastry-scented room your family is staying in at the Plaza Hotel. Hey Kevin, she doesn’t have a home and she’s alone! Try fixing that problem with your bag of jacks and firecrackers!
J: He doesn’t use jacks in this one.
D: Oh excuse me, I’m so sorry to have mistaken which pain-inducing toys are at play here.
J: Um, yeah… Anyhow, can we talk about the good parts of the movie now?
D: Catherine O’Hara.
J: Yeah, she’s great. It isn’t “Waiting For Guffman,” but…
D: Why aren’t you reviewing that instead?
J: Cause it’s not Christmas-related. Duh.
D: Was there some sort of unbreakable rule established by your best friend/editor that you had to write about Christmas movies? Need I remind you—AGAIN—that Christmas is over?
J: So, you liked Catherine O’Hara. Cool. Yeah, she’s always great as Kevin’s Mom. What else?
D: That’s it. God, I hate Joe Pesci.
J: That’s it? I mean, I totally understand the Pesci pessimism, but you seriously didn’t like anything else? Not even when Kevin magically transports himself to disparate regions of Manhattan in the time it takes for Darlene Love’s “All Alone on Christmas” to finish? Battery Park to The Cloisters in two minutes? Whodathunk!?
D: I think you’re grasping at things to write about here because A: you need to write a review since it’s due in a couple of hours and B: you may like “Home Alone 2” in some sort of “sentimental trip down nostalgia lane” kind of way, but you recognize deep down that it’s a pretty terrible movie and not worth writing a review about.
J: Hey now…
D: Am I right?
J: Well, sort of, but…
D: But what?
J: But the only things I’ve watched this week are marathons of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Django Unchained” and I don’t think either one of those are what the bed blog wants. “Home Alone 2” is pretty much the only family-friendly thing I could think of when I realized what day it was and that I needed to write my review really, really quick.
D: Desperate times call for desperate measures?
J: Yeah. But I really do like this one better than the first. It has Tim Curry in it!
D: God, you sound sad. Mark would be ashamed.
J: This coming from the person who wanted to watch “A Diva’s Christmas Carol” starring Vanessa Williams as Ebony Scrooge?
D: Well, at least Ebony learns by the end of her magical journey that the generosity of Christmas means more than just handing a homeless woman a stupid turtledove ornament then ditching her for hot chocolate and croissants.
J: Bah Humbug.
D: God bless us, everyone!
Things We Like: Balanced Bedroom Design
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
One of the most fundamental concepts of interior design is balance. Balance can be achieved in one of three ways: symmetrically, asymmetrically, or radially. Regardless of which type of balance you aim to create, the primary goal of balancing a room is to equally distribute the visual weight of the objects within the space. Size and shape aren’t the only factors that influence the weight of an object; shape, color, pattern, brightness, and texture also play important roles in achieving balance.
Symmetrical balance is typically used when designing formal spaces, where each side of the room is equally split and weighted with your chosen décor. To achieve symmetry, designers often use identical furnishings on both sides of the room, though not always. A bedroom with matching nightstands and table lamps on both sides of the bed is a common example of symmetrical balance. While symmetrical balance is usually easier to achieve, especially if you’re purchasing new furniture for a square or rectangular room, it can be difficult to create a room that is both symmetrically balanced and visually interesting at the same time.
Asymmetrical balance, which is often considered less formal than symmetrical balance, can be a little more involved to execute properly. Instead of the room being split into mirror images, asymmetrical balance uses different furnishings and décor that roughly equate in terms of their visual weights. For example, you may have a living room designed with a large sofa on the right and two smaller chairs across from it. In this example, the two smaller chairs are used to balance out the larger sofa. While individual tastes vary, I find that asymmetrical balance is the most visually interesting, albeit a bit harder to do right.
One of the hardest parts about creating an asymmetrically balanced bedroom (that looks great) is to make the design appear effortless. Asymmetrical design can require a lot more thought, but you don’t want the room to convey that extra work to its viewers. An example of asymmetrically balance in the bedroom would be where you use a side table on one side of the bed and a mirror on the other. The trick is to make it look right, and appear symmetrical at first glance. Asymmetry can also save you money, especially if you’re buying used furniture or antiques that might be difficult to buy in matching sets.
Radial balance is the third type of balance, and is achieved by arranging furnishings around a central focal point. A common example is a circular dining room table surrounded by chairs. Unless you have a custom-shaped mattress, radial balance isn’t commonly used in bedroom design, except maybe when arranging wall-hanging items or in bedrooms with a lot of space and a seating area. You may also aim to balance your bedroom radially, with how you arrange your larger bedroom furnishings, e.g., you wouldn’t want to put your dresser, chest of drawers, and bookcase all in the same corner of the room – you’d spread them out around the bed.
The best way to understand balance is to look at examples of what other people have done. Houzz has several excellent channels that feature designs utilizing these three types of balance. The following links are provided to show you examples of how other designers utilize symmetrical balance, asymmetrical balance, and radial balance in their space.
What do you think: Do you prefer perfect symmetry or an asymmetrical bedroom? Let us know in the comments below.