Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
Unless you’re an Eskimo, you’ve probably never considered the idea of sleeping on a bed of ice – at least not seriously. Why would you? An ice bed is only inviting backache, and frostbite – I’ll take my warm, down filled nest of a bed any day.
Despite the perceived pitfalls of sleeping on an ice bed, many travelers (perhaps gluttons for self-punishment) trek to the northernmost regions of our world to experience exactly what mankind has worked so hard to remove ourselves from: the unloving cold. However, modern man enjoys the cold a bit more luxuriously. Allow me to introduce you to the world of ice hotels.
Starting in December, dozens of “ice hotels” around the world open their doors for business. Since these hotels melt during the warm summer months, they must be entirely rebuilt every year in what is described as “one of the world’s most extreme building projects.” While there are several ice hotels to choose from, the most famous, and largest, of these ice hotels is none other than ICEHOTEL located in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden (don’t ask me how to pronounce that).
The ICEHOTEL first opened in 1990, and has operated every year since from December to April. While sections of the hotel are open starting in December, it takes a full month before the hotel is complete. It’s built from over 9,000 tons of ice and can accommodate about 100 guests at full capacity. Each suite is a work of art of its own, as they are individually sculpted from renowned ice artists. If you watch the Discovery Channel or NatGeo, you may have already learned about the ICEHOTEL from one of several documentaries showcasing it.
While you do have to pack appropriately for your visit to the ICEHOTEL (think subzero temperatures), the stay can’t be too bad given that crowds of visitors wait patiently for the opportunity to stay at what has become one of the most extreme destination hotels on the planet. If you aren’t as eager to sleep on a blog of ice, but want to have an Iced Tea or other cold beverage at the ICEHOTEL’s ICEBAR there are “warm” accommodations available nearby.
Accommodations at the ICEHOTEL start at about $400/night (on top of getting there). So while it’s not exactly cheap (though it’s considerably less expensive than some of the Underwater Hotels), it’s one of those bedtime stories you’re sure to remember for the rest of your life.
Do you have any exotic destinations where you’d like to rest your head? Share your travel plans in the comments below.
Post by Alison Hein.
Enter autumn, with a cornucopia of glorious bounty. Kick off your fall with these lightly sweet, aromatic buckwheat waffles. Top them with homemade apple compote, and you’ll want to curl up with a good book in front of the fire. Well, after breakfast anyway. 😉
Despite its name, buckwheat is gluten-free and unrelated to wheat. Rather, it’s a herbaceous plant related to sorrel, knotweed, and rhubarb. Its name derives from the German “Buchweizen,” meaning beech-wheat, because buckwheat’s unusual triangular seed resembles the much larger seeds of the beech tree.
Some of the world’s most richly satisfying dishes – galettes from Brittany, Japanese soba, and Russian blinis – are made with buckwheat. In this recipe, rich, smooth batter almost glides across a hot waffle iron, and toasts up in minutes to a hardy crisp. Sweet, seasonal apple compote makes a simple complement to the burnished buckwheat for a glorious, bountiful breakfast in bed.
Buckwheat Honey Waffles
2 ½ cups buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups milk
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup vegetable oil, or butter, melted and slightly cooled
½ cup sour cream
1 apple (tart varieties such as Granny Smith work well)
¼ cup of water (add more for a thinner topping
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup slivered almonds (optional)
Dollop of sour cream
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. In separate bowl, add milk, eggs, honey and vanilla and beat until frothy. Pour oil or melted butter into liquid mixture and stir well. Using a wooden spoon or hand mixer, gradually add liquid mixture to dry ingredients until batter is smooth. Stir in sour cream.
Spray waffle iron with cooking spray and heat to high. Pour ½ cup to ¾ cup batter into center of iron, making sure you have enough batter to evenly spread across the surface of your waffle iron. Cook until golden brown and crisp and waffle pulls away easily from iron, about 3 minutes. Serve warm with apple compote. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of mint.
Makes approximately 6 waffles.
To make compote, pare, slice and finely chop apple. Place in small, heavy pot and add water, honey, golden raisins, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir in slivered almonds, if you like. Bring apple mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer until apples are cooked through but still hold their shape, about 15 minutes.
Makes approximately 1 cup apple compote.
Post by Laura Cheng.
The last time I had a TV in my bedroom, I was in middle school. It was 13” and I was the cool kid not only because I had this special privilege, but because I could watch 90210 and Melrose Place on it. Since then, not counting my travels when the TV is designed into the hotel bedroom, I have gone without a TV in the bedroom for the past 20 years. My fear of accidentally watching Keeping up with the Kardashians is too great. Besides that, my attention span is so short and my daily life events so full, even if I had one, I would just view it as noise pollution in my home.
However, there are times when I fully understand the convenience of having a TV in the bedroom. And whenever that thought occurs, I wonder where I would be able to put one without it affecting the tranquility of my bedroom. Taking a TV out of the box and propping it onto the dresser is just too intrusive. The idea of surrounding my TV with large framed photos so that it naturally blends is an appealing option. Since most TVs these days come with an SD slot, an unsightly flat screen could even be converted to a giant photo frame.
I really prefer my furniture to be versatile, but I wouldn’t mind this beautiful customized cabinet. It is a nice integration of rustic woodwork and today’s technology. With custom country paneling, a bedroom remains as serene as my favorite bed and breakfast spot in Napa, even with a TV as the centerpiece. In fact, even an outdated 1990s tube TV would look stunning in this space.
I recently inherited a stunning Restoration Hardware armoire. I considered doing as the French and using it to store a TV in the bedroom, but it just occupied too much space physically and visually. As an alternative, and if my Manolo Blahnik shoe collection will allow, taking advantage of closet space may be a better alternative. Sliding doors allow for easy access to items within and conceal the TV when it is not in use.
Post by Mark T. Locker
Happy October! We begin the countdown to Halloween and to kick it off, here are two books about everyone’s favorite bolt-necked, sewn up, misnamed monster, Frankenstein(’s monster)!
Frankenstein and the Bride had a child, inexplicably. Even more inexplicably, he seems totally normal. So on his first day of school, all the other monsters are unfriendly and dismissive. But little Franke has a couple scary tricks up his sleeve. He can horrify with the best of them, howl like a proper beast, and draw some grotesque creatures. Needless to say, all the monsters suddenly approve of and like him. Although the story is primarily about prejudgement it is not really discussed. In my opinion, this book has nothing to offer. It’s not very clever, it’s not well-written or well-illustrated, it’s not worth picking up and reading. Though it may bore you or your child to sleep.
This one’s a little bit better. Frankenstein is a bit shy but lovable. Dracula, his friend and neighbor, is more outgoing and kind of a jerk. When Frankenstein decides to throw a Halloween party, Dracula decides to throw one too, stealing all the invitations from Frankenstein’s mailbox so no one would go to his. But while Dracula’s big bash is in full swing, he sees sad Frankenstein alone at his party. The bloodsucker, in a rare moment of guilt, takes the party to Frank. A little subtle humor and some funny illustrations save this book from the dud list.
Post by Josh Zinn.
Back when I was in high school, the school district thought it appropriate to bring in the occasional motivational speaker to come and regale students with metaphorical stories of success that might inspire them to find newfound meaning and purpose to the daily machinations of their public education. Though speeches from firefighters and sweaty, rotund local councilmen were the de rigueur for these assemblages of student body, one day in late October television talk-show host Montel Williams came by to pay us a visit.
A C-list celebrity attempting to coax A’s out of D-list small town, Montel shone like a 25-watt bulb, illuminating students on the dangers of staying in the scholastic dark. If nothing else, his words of wisdom got me out of P.E. and the first fifteen minutes of my dreaded Algebra class. If the purpose of Montel’s visit had been to brighten our day, in my eyes he was an unqualified success.
The girls attending Miss Cackle’s Academy of Witches know too the excitement and allure of having “sinspirational” speakers come before them. After all, while it’s certain that Powders & Potions class can be intoxicating and bubbling over with excitement, there is nothing quite so effervescent as when the Grand Wizard comes to pay the school a visit—especially when the Grand Wizard is played by Tim Curry.
Based upon Jill Murphy’s series of books of the same name, “The Worst Witch” is not just a Halloween special; it is THE Halloween special by which all other Halloween specials should be judged. Existing in that rarified realm where quality of production is superseded by the charm of intent, this tale of a clumsy witch-in-training named Mildred Hubble has little to offer in the way of production value or Tom Stoppard-esque dialogue. Instead, what it does is magically transport the viewer to a time in the mid-80’s when the trials and tribulations of adolescent sorcery were best-conveyed using bad off-off-Broadway songs and the special effects team from the latest A Flock of Seagulls video. Needless to say, Harry Potter she ain’t.
While “The Worst Witch” may be lacking in the whiz-bang of its recent kid-with-a-wand brethren, where else can one find Charlotte Rae, everyone’s favorite housemother (Mrs. Garrett) from “The Facts of Life,” playing dual roles as both a good and bad witch? Or, for that matter, a young Fairuza Balk, before “The Craft” had cast its patent leather spell of Nine Inch Nails gothic fashion upon her? And let us not forget the Grand Wizard himself, Tim Curry, whose Halloween visit sends the entire school the entire school into a tizzy and helps teach a little girl the importance of believing in herself through the use of songs crafted from the finest in rhyming dictionaries. Bewitching.
It’s not for naught that Montel and “The Worst Witch” remain such important pieces of my adolescent experience. Seemingly unrelated, they are curios of a time when the lowered expectations of my youth kept boredom at bay. Twenty years later, however, Montel is no longer on the air while “The Worst Witch” remains a Halloween favorite. Had Montel found his own way to rhyme tambourine with “Begin the Beguine,” perhaps he’d be singing a different song.