Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi.
I have been trying for ages to get my seven-year-old to embrace chapter books. Finding something that has short chapters, pleasantly distracting pictures and an exciting—but not too exciting—plot has been a challenge. For a while I had suspected that the children’s fantasy series The Spiderwick Chronicles would appeal to his love of magical creatures as well as his short attention span. When I finally remembered to put a hold on one of the books, I felt hopeful. We read the first couple chapters of The Field Guide together, hoping if I could get him interested in the first of the five novels that the rest would follow on its own. And it worked! Although he complained a couple times during his required reading time, those complaints became fewer and fewer. He is now on the third book and he read well beyond the 20 minutes and didn’t once ask how much time had elapse.
This was a huge victory, but I’ll never let him know. A quick summary of the first book:
Due to their mother’s financial problems, nine-year-old twins Jared and Simon and their thirteen-year-old-sister Mallory are forced to move into an old abandoned family estate in Maine called Spiderwick Estate. When he climbs in the old dumbwaiter, Jared discovers a secret library on the second floor with a poem loaded with clues which eventually lead him to a field guide to fantastical creatures. They discover that a whole world of faerie folk, brownies, sprites, goblins, exist and in their hands is the secret to finding and understanding them.
Great bedtime read for kids. Exciting without getting scary, clever and interesting, and written by two fantastic children’s/young adult authors.
Post by Tracy Kaler.
Arctic air has invaded New York City. Even though summer is months away, I’m desperately trying to steer my thoughts towards warmer weather. Since so many New Yorkers book beach vacations in January and February, there’s no time like the present to dream of a trip to the tropics.
Even if you aren’t in a position to jet away for a week of sun and sand, you can escape the cold mentally through a look at these stylish bedrooms with a tropical island theme.
This Caribbean twin bedroom by Gary McBournie boasts a happy feel with its orange and yellow color scheme. A natural-fiber rug and the mosquito nets complete this charming escape.
Colors of the sea decorate this large coastal bedroom in Tampa, Florida. Shades of blue and green keep the space feeling calm yet chic.
Inspired by the Bahamas, this room exudes cheeriness but with a Caribbean feel. Can’t you just see yourself sipping a Pina Colada while relaxing on that bed?
I don’t miss bold colors in this bedroom because the white scheme and dark wood are attractive, giving the space a West Indies feel. An accent pillow and a few books introduce a touch of color to the otherwise neutral space.
Have you ever been to Barbados? This luxurious room in the Coral Reef Club looks like the ultimate spot to spend an extended weekend. Subtle Caribbean influences in the material choices and furniture make the suite feel welcoming and stylish. When do I leave?
Post by: Alison Hein.
What, you never heard of a BLP? Well it stands for “Bacon Loves Pineapple”. It’s true! All you have to do is take a look on Pinterest and you’ll see what I mean: there are bacon-wrapped pineapple skewers, some with shrimp, or jalapeño peppers or sriracha; bacon pineapple cheeseballs, made with cream cheese, walnuts or red onion; bacon pineapple pizzas strewn with mozzarella, cilantro, or chicken (this might be overkill); and even bacon pineapple upside down cakes and bacon pineapple doughnuts! Sure as day, these two ingredients are downright in love with each other.
My BLP is simple – just place some crispy bacon, a slice of Swiss cheese and some fresh pineapple on an English muffin. Pop it in the oven (or toaster oven) to warm, them broil it for just a minute, until the pineapple lightly chars and the cheese browns and crisps. Serve this morning treat hot from the oven over a bed of tangy baby arugula, breakfast in bed-style, and someone may just fall in love with you.
2 slices thick-cut or Canadian Bacon
1 English muffin
2 slices Swiss cheese
½ cup fresh pineapple
½ cup baby arugula
Preheat oven to 350°. Cook bacon in a heavy frying pan over medium low heat until crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Separate English muffin into two halves. Place half of the bacon on each muffin half, cutting to fit if necessary. Place a slice of Swiss cheese over the bacon on each muffin. Top each muffin with half of the pineapple, making sure the fruit is flat.
Place the prepared muffin halves on a baking tray and bake until muffins are warmed and cheese is melted. Turn on broiler and broil muffins, about 4 to 5 inches from heat, until pineapple and cheese start to crisp and brown, about 1 minute. Remove from oven, place on a bed of baby arugula, and serve immediately.
Makes 1 BLP Sandwich.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy.
14-year-old Janie Scott has grown up in Hollywood, California all her life. But her parents are staunch believers in the idea that those with more should help those with less. As this is the height of McCarthyism, they are labeled as Communists and risk prosecution if they don’t sell out their friends. So Janie and her family pull up roots and move to London where they are forced to start all over again. Janie quickly makes the acquaintance of a young boy named Benjamin, whose father runs the local apothecary.
But suddenly, Benjamin’s father goes missing and as the children begin digging to figure out what happened, they realize there is a lot more going on than it seems. Benjamin’s father has left a book called Pharmacopoeia in his care. It turns out to be full of potions that can be created using fairly common plants. Invisibility, transformation into a bird, these are just a couple of the spells they find. And the Apothecary has gotten into trouble. Working with others around the globe, they are looking for a magical solution to a real-world problem: the Cold War and the proliferation of nuclear testing. Now Janie and Benjamin are in way over their heads. Their only hope is to find his dad and hope the Pharmacopoeia can help them on the way.
This was a fun and exciting book that would be good to read aloud or for a middle school-aged child to read alone. There were a few plot points that were never clearly explained and some incidents that seemed highly implausible. Also, it was easy to tell pretty much immediately who was going to be good and who was bad. It’s possible a child wouldn’t notice or think twice about these things and this is a book for children so I’ll let it slide. Overall, The Apothecary is a harmless, fun, exciting book for fans of magic and adventure.
Post by Tracy Kaler.
We’ve all been hit with a last-minute house guest at some point in our adult lives, but what happens when Aunt Marie decides on Thursday that she’s coming to town for a visit on Friday? First of all, don’t panic! You got this, I promise. Here are six practical tips to help you turn your kid’s room into a temporary guest room in no time.
Put away the toys.
If you have a small child, you’ll want to make an attempt to eliminate the youthfulness in the room. Put away stuffed animals, dolls, and toys. Store in a trunk or neatly on a shelf in the closet. You’ll be amazed at how much less cluttered the space will feel immediately.
Change the bedding.
If the bedding has a “Paw Patrol” or “Despicable Me” theme, it’s best to change it to a more neutral design, or a pattern with a grown-up motif. That could be a white duvet cover or a solid-colored coverlet and crisp white sheets, or something basic like a check or stripe. Even a whimsical floral might work.
Create hanging space in the closet.
Temporarily, move some of your child’s clothing into your room, but leave some hangers. If the closet is large, you can simply push the garments to one side, leaving enough room for Auntie’s clothes.
Clear a drawer.
Clean out one drawer for personal items. Your guest might not unpack if it’s a short visit, but it sure will be nice for him or her to have the option and feel at home during the stay.
Add some adult amenities.
After the toys are gone, you should have a little space to add a few adult amenities. Bring in several books and magazines, as well as a small houseplant or vase with flowers. Have a notepad and pen by the bed or on a desk if there’s one in the room. Add a luggage rack or small bench if you have one handy, so your guest can have a proper place for a suitcase.