Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Gemma Doyle is a typical teenage girl in some respects. Frustrated at the lack of personal control over her life, irritated with her mother over minor things, annoyed she has to remain in Bombay while her brother and father are in exciting Victorian London. But while out on her sixteenth birthday, her mother is relayed a mysterious message about someone named Circe and sends Gemma home. Next thing she knows, Gemma is having a vision of her mother committing suicide, which, though unlikely, turns out to be true. Gemma is flung into a strange new world of visions, magic, and grief. When she returns to London, she learns she is to attend Spence Academy for Young Ladies, a finishing school near London. In grief, Gemma’s father has turned to laudanum and cannot care for Gemma.
At the Academy, which her mother had also attended, Gemma begins to learn more about her mother and about herself. Her mother was apparently a priestess in The Order, an ancient group dedicated to preserving the order of magic in the world. Along with her new friends Felicity Worthington, Pippa Cross and Ann Bradshaw, Gemma learns that she has her own unique powers, such as the ability to travel into The Realms, a magical land between life and death. It is a beautiful and dangerous place where your dreams may be realized but your nightmares can too.
Not an easy book to summarize! This is just the tip of the iceberg. Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray has done a fantastic job writing in a proper Victorian young lady’s voice, with all the snarky little asides one might expect from a teenager trying, not always successfully, to be a proper young lady. There are three books in the series so if you like magic, intrigue, and historical fiction, this will keep you entertained for a while.
Post by Mark T. Locker
Ever since my son saw the trailer for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day he has been obsessed with the idea of watching it. He has been alone in that camp, I’m afraid. But when I saw it on the reshelving cart at the library, I couldn’t leave it there. So the weekend was mostly spent with him asking if we could watch it yet.
In my mind, what better way to get some extra sleep than to let him watch it when he got up at the crack of dawn on a holiday? Only, he gets so excited that he has to share every little thing that cracks him up. So, when the baby did some funny thing or another, he comes bursting into the room to tell me all about it. So I figured, okay. I’ll sort of watch with him and spare Mom from being constantly disrupted. And so we watched this together, about 7 a.m. on a day off.
Despite my condition, I didn’t hate it as much as I could have. It was totally harmless, family-friendly and silly as can be. I guess the premise is that Alexander has a terrible day (the one discussed in the picture book by Judith Vorst) and his birthday wish is that his family have a terrible day so they can understand that it sucks. Well he gets his wish and the the movie is full of bad things happening to everyone. In the end, I suppose they learn about the value of family and of not giving up.
There are a few well-known actors in this, namely: Steve Carell; Jennifer Garner; and Dick Van Dyke. If you are keen on slapstick and the kind of movie where everything goes wrong and you can handle lots of cringe-worthy moments, it’s a good cuddle-up-and-watch kind of movie.
Post by Tracy Kaler.
Looking to redecorate your bedroom, and feeling unusually creative? If you’re crafty, you might consider painting a scene, object, or pattern on part or all of a wall. Murals add life and color to the dullest space, and could be a fun project for you and a friend, or you and your family.
Try using stencils if freehand sketching isn’t your strength. Select a design that works well with the age and architecture of your room, have a vision, and draw a few ideas on paper before you lift the brush. If you’re not so arty or adventurous, you can hire a faux painter to take on the task instead.
The sky’s the limit as to what you can paint. Have a look at these four different murals for inspiration in your bedroom.
This room exudes sophistication. The mural adds the right amount of architectural detail to this mostly neutral space. The magenta chairs lend a modern edge and a splash of color to the interior.
Once an ordinary room, there’s nothing ordinary about this bedroom now. It’s amazing what some pattern will do to an otherwise lackluster space. The floral mural on the bed wall makes this room feel happy and almost whimsical. The simple furnishings practically disappear because your eye is on that painted wall.
This mural is an awesome design for an avid traveler’s home. Again, notice the unfussy furnishings that leave space for the colorful mapped wall in this West Village loft.
This One Central Park bedroom in Sydney takes on a Midcentury Modern feel. The leafless tree branch mural sets the tone for the entire space, giving it a calm, relaxing, and luxurious feel.
Post by Alison Hein.
Here are the two most difficult steps of baking a quiche: 1) making pastry dough; and 2) waiting for the quiche to be done while trying to ignore the tantalizing aromas emanating from the oven.
The first step is easily overcome by purchasing a pre-made pie shell, or making your own in advance (try this easy recipe for pie crust) and placing in the freezer until ready to use. For the second step, sadly, there is no known solution…
Quiches of all varieties are enticing, but I’m particularly fond of Quiche Lorraine – salty, smoky slab bacon baked with sultry Swiss cheeses. Slab bacon is quite easy to find these days. I picked some up at my local grocer, but you can just as easily ask your butcher for some. As far as the cheese goes, I recommend Gruyere or Swiss, but what I really like to do is blend the two together for even greater intensity.
Hope you have enough patience to bake and wait for this tantalizing breakfast in bed!
1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
4 to 6 ounces slab bacon
1 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese
1 cup half and half
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Dash of nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350°. Place pie crust into glass or ceramic pie dish. Cover bottom with parchment paper and set pie weights (or dried beans) on top of paper. Bake for about 10 t0 12 minutes, just to set. Remove from oven, discard paper, and set aside.
Chop bacon into small cubes. Cook in a heavy pan over medium heat until lightly cooked and fat is rendered, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels for a few minutes. Spread cooked bacon evenly in bottom of pie crust. Layer cheese evenly on top of bacon.
Break eggs into large bowl. Add cream and whisk until frothy, about 2 minutes. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Pour egg mixture on top of bacon and cheese, filling to the top so that just the pie crust rim remains visible.
Place quiche on a baking tray and then in oven. Bake for around 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and quiche is puffed up and golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve hot, with fresh fruit or a salad on the side.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.
We just don’t read as many children’s picture books as we used to. My son constantly has his nose in a book these days so our reading together time has dwindled and is mostly limited to our bedtime chapter book reading. I was recommended this book and am glad I was. Beekle is downright adorable. He is a blobby, white little guy with a gold crown. He is an imaginary friend. Only, he hasn’t been imagined by anyone. All his friends that live in the imaginary friend land get imagined and sent to their new friends. But not Beekle. So he does the unimaginable: he takes matters into his own hands and heads out to find his match.
I love this book. I love a unique story that is lovingly illustrated (author and illustrator Dan Santat was an illustrator of other children’s books before writing his own). This one was awarded the Caldecott Medal, which is America’s highest honor for an American children’s picture book. One look and you will know why. Lots of richly colored and fun to look at pictures make the book a delight to read for kids 3-6 and discriminating adults as well.