Author Archives: charlesprogers
Bedtime Stories: The Universe of Douglas Adams
Post by Mark T. Locker.
When I was a nerdy 12-year-old boy, my single greatest discovery was the four books that comprised the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. By the time I was fourteen, that trilogy had grown to five books, arguably the longest trilogy ever written. I have been revisiting the series for the first time in many years; so long, in fact, that I had forgotten the entire plots of the final two novels.
If you are unfamiliar with the series, the quick and dirty summary is this: Arthur Dent, earthling, awakes one day to discover bulldozers in his yard, preparing to raze his home to make space for a new highway. But before they can get going on demolishing his home, the planet is suddenly surrounded by a fleet of alien ships, Vogons, to be precise, who are preparing to demolish the planet to make space for a new hyperspatial express route. Luckily for but unbeknownst to Arthur, his best friend Ford Prefect happens to be an alien from Betelgeuse researching the Earth for the reference guide The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He hitches a ride for himself and Arthur on one of the Vogon ships and into relative safety.
The five books follow Ford, Arthur, Ford’s friend Zaphod Beeblebrox, two-headed ex-president of the galaxy, earthling Trillion, and the hopelessly depressed Marvin the android. We learn who really first populated the Earth, what the true purpose of the planet was, and who our secret overlords were all along.
If you or a loved one love absurd yet engaging stories, I cannot recommend this enough. Even if science fiction isn’t your bag, you are likely to enjoy these stories. They are much more than a space drama. Recommended for nerdy adolescents.
Tips and Tricks: Sleeping with dogs
Post by Tracy Kaler.
Is It a Good Idea to Sleep with Your Dog?
Are canine snuggles on the rise? Let’s be honest. It’s hard to refuse the sweet, loving faces of our four-legged furry friends, especially when it comes to saying goodnight and crawling under the covers. And Americans aren’t refusing. According to the American Pet Products Association, almost half of all dogs sleep with their owners.
As a dog mom myself, I admit –– the absurd thought has crossed my mind (especially when hubby is out of town), but getting a full night of beauty sleep is far more important than snuggling with my almost 80-pound Labrador Retriever. Admittedly, I do, on occasion, allow him to come on the bed for a quick snuggle, but he returns to his dog bed on command.
As sweet as it sounds, it’s probably not a healthy idea to sleep with your pup, even if he or she promises never to snore. Read on for four reasons why it’s not a good idea to sleep with your dog.
1. Sleep interruption.
Your dog might kick or sprawl, taking over most of the bed and leaving you with the edge, if any space at all. You could be woken up and not get a full night’s sleep, or a good, restful night’s sleep. Sleep is essential to our existence, and lack of it will affect your performance at work, as well as your mood and overall health.
2. Fleas and ticks, and disease
You can catch roundworm or hookworm, and other diseases from your dog. If you keep your dog on a preventative, you can probably avoid fleas and ticks, but there’s always the chance of a stray making its way into your bedding. Would you really want bugs where you sleep?
Unless you have a hypoallergenic breed or one that doesn’t shed, dog hair in the bed could cause an allergy flare-up. It’s also not exactly good hygiene to be snoozing among piles of dog fur.
4. It’s a hard habit to break.
Once you start allowing your pup to share the bed, you’ll have a tough time getting him to leave. Would you want to move from a soft, comfy mattress with 400-thread-count sheets and a down comforter to a dog bed on the floor? Didn’t think so.
Breakfast in Bed – Milk Toast
Post by Alison Hein.
Milk Toast is a dish that was popularized around the turn of the last century. In 1887, one of the first recipes appeared in print in Maria Parloa’s The Appledore Cook Book: Containing Practical Receipts for Plain and Rich Cooking:
Put one quart of milk in a tin or basin, and set into a kettle of boiling water. When it comes to a boil stir in two spoonfuls of flour, mixed with half a cup of milk, one spoonful of butter, and salt to taste; let this boil ten minutes, and then put in the bread, which must be toasted brown. Cook five minutes longer and serve.
Simply toasted bread, served in a warm, lightly sweetened milk bath, makes an easily digested meal. Some made it as a way to use up excess milk in the days before refrigeration. It soon became a popular breakfast for young children and the infirm.
In 1924, cartoonist H.T. Webster, inspired by the bland nature of milk toast, created the wimpy character Caspar Milquetoast. Mr. Milquetoast was featured in Webster’s comic strip The Timid Soul for nearly 30 years, until the early 1950s.
But don’t let all this ancient history and spineless connotation prevent you from trying milk toast. It turns out that milk toast is delicious! If you have a way to steam the milk (like a cappuccino machine) mix the sugar and vanilla into the milk first and use this method. You can also try adding some fresh berries or dried fruit. Experiment with different types of bread, if you like, or chop the toast into easily edible cubes before serving.
Pretty soon all the little Milquetoasts in the house will be crying out for a Milk Toast breakfast in bed.
2 slices thick bread
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of cinnamon
Place bread slices in toaster and toast to a golden brown. Spread each slice evenly with butter.
In the meantime, pour milk into a heavy saucepan. Stir in sugar and vanilla and heat over medium heat, without stirring, until milk begins to simmer around the edges, about 5 minutes.
Place toast on a serving plate. Pour steaming milk on top of toast, sprinkle with cinnamon, and serve immediately.
Makes one serving.
Bedroom Design: Sleeping Lofts
Post by Tracy Kaler.
Designers often create loft bedrooms as space-savers in tiny apartments or homes. Ceiling heights tend to be high –– think 12 or 15 feet, and sometimes higher –– allowing enough room for a lofted bed space above the primary living quarters. The downfall of these spaces is that they often require a ladder to enter and exit. Some, however, have enough floor space to create stairs, making them more practical for everyday living arrangements.
Let’s take a peek at five sleeping lofts ––whether they use a ladder or stairs –– that appear to be comfortable and work well within each interior.
Complete with a house cat, this open floor plan of a converted garage comes with a tiny kitchenette and a loft for sleeping. This space boasts an industrial feel, and was featured in the New York Times. The beautiful photo was taken by Ira Lippke.
This colorful, contemporary family room in Phoenix was carefully planned. The sleeping loft sits above the bath, so as to not take any space away from the main room. Orange barn doors and an over-scaled pattern on the area rug warm up the cool, concrete floors.
This home demonstrates the beauty, simplicity, and elegance of white. Stairs lead to lofty twin bedrooms, each with privacy curtains. Located in Tybee Island, just outside Savannah, this cottage is a dream beach house, in my opinion.
Climb a few wooden stairs and you can escape to this bedroom hideaway. Uncluttered with a modern aesthetic, the space is more than sufficient for guests.
A rustic treehouse with a log cabin feel, the San Francisco guesthouse boasts mismatched textiles, actual tree trunks, and a knotty wood finish on the loft, all of which add to its charm.
Breakfast in Bed – Pistachio Biscotti
Post by Alison Hein.
We had some friends over for a barbecue last week, so I bought some pistachio nuts for people to pick on while dinner was being grilled. The pistachios were already roasted, salted and shelled – my kind of nut! Sadly, they weren’t very good. The flavor was there, but the nuts were mushy. Almost as if they needed more roasting. Thinking about roasting, then re-roasting the pistachios made me think of biscotti – the traditional Italian twice-baked cookie. Could a twice-roasted pistachio be revitalized in a twice-baked cookie?
Biscotti, literally “twice-baked” in Latin, were first made centuries ago, and are said to have been a staple food of the Roman Legions. Very dry bread products can be stored and last a long time – good for travel and war. Antonio Mattei, a pastry chef from Prato, “rediscovered” biscotti in the latter part of the nineteenth century. His variation, now considered the traditional biscotti recipe, is still made today. Ingredients include only flour, sugar, eggs, almonds and pine nuts.
Unlike the traditional version, my recipe includes butter, baking powder, and of course, pistachio nuts. Your version, if you feel like experimenting, can include anything from lemon peel to chocolate chips.
It took some time to make the biscotti, baking them twice with a cool down period in between. The end result? A crisp, sweetish cookie with a hint of pistachio flavor and a satisfying nutty crunch. Eureka! Yet another biscotti rediscovery and an accidental poem:
Brew some coffee,
Steep some tea,
Then feel free
To dip your (breakfast in bed) biscotti!
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pistachio nuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly each time. Mix in vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and pistachio nuts. Dough should be thick and moldable.
Wet or flour hands, split dough in half, and shape into two long, mounded loaves (approximately 8 inches long by 3½ inches wide). Place loaves on prepared baking sheets and bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to wire racks and let cool at least 15 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, slice loaves into roughly ¾-inch slices. Place slices cut-side down on parchment paper and bake for another 30 minutes or so, turning biscotti once during baking, until golden brown. Remove to wire rack and cool.
Makes about 20 to 25 biscotti.