Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-it-yourself Designs to Amuse your Friends and Scare your Neighbors by Tom Nardone
We are less than two weeks from Halloween now! We picked out our pumpkins a couple weeks ago and my son has been rarin’ to cut into his ever since. For my part, I’m always hurting for inspiration when it comes to most crafty concepts. I came across this out-of-box book at the library. It’s full of amusing and sometimes a little disturbing ideas. On the cover is a mean pumpkin face chewing an understandably surprised-looking littler pumpkin. On the back is a pumpkin who has vomited its insides all over the table. Yuck! Unless you are a six-year-old boy, in which case: awesome!
Have you ever wanted to make a Darth Vader helmet pumpkin? How about using toothpicks as scary sharp teeth? What about a pumpkin puking guacamole? Whatever your weird desires, this book probably has some ideas for you.
Note: I did not do any of the pumpkins in this book in the end. I probably should have, as mine looks like a disaster. My kid’s looks extremely abstract and my wife’s is a fantastic nerd reference.
Post by Tracy Kaler.
Bedrooms commonly come decorated in light neutrals and happy colors such as yellow, soft greens, and pale blues. Often, furnishings might be slim or curvy in line rather than bold and geometric. Design elements like these tend to make a room feel more dainty and feminine. But if you add in darker hues, less pattern, more texture, and furnishings with a modern sensibility, suddenly the space feels more masculine.
Believe it or not, manly-looking rooms aren’t only attractive to men. Some ladies prefer a simpler, contemporary retreat with clean lines, neutrals, or richer colors. We can plainly see how both sexes would feel elegant in these four dreamy bedrooms with masculine décor.
This otherwise sleek sleep space gets its warmth from the deep-colored paneled walls. The navy blue comforter provides contrast, and the throw pillow brings the outside in. A white chair, sconces, and sheets brighten things, while the runner ties the scheme together.
Loaded with texture, this bedroom by Jeffers Design Group proves that neutrals need not be humdrum. The varying shades of grey and brown work beautifully and the space is soothing and inviting.
This relaxed Spanish bedroom lacks a headboard but certainly not style. The shag rug, striped shams, unstructured bedding and side panels, no-fuss pendant lamps, and modern furnishings contribute to the masculinity.
This tailored space contains more color than the above choices, but still feels substantial and far from girly. The simple upholstered headboard, touch of paisley, black and white photo above the bed and the Oriental rug, give this “undecorated” room a masculine vibe. Male or female, who wouldn’t love to sleep here?
Post by Alison Hein
The term “au gratin” translates literally from the French as “with the gratings” or “with the scrapings,” and refers to a cooking technique that requires covering a dish with breadcrumbs or cheese and baking or broiling until a golden crust is formed.
Something wonderful happens during that time in the oven – flavors are converged and merged, blended and deepened, harmonized and crisped. This habit-forming recipe results in a mélange of rich cream sauce, tangy cheddar, and softly baked eggs. The conclusion? A decadent morning mac & cheese, where the eggs play the role of pasta.
Once you’re hooked, try some of these (or your own) modifications:
- Place a layer of meat or fish (ham, cooked bacon, or smoked salmon) at the bottom of the dish before baking.
- Try some vegetables as a base – caramelized onions, wilted spinach, or roasted red peppers.
- Experiment with different cheeses (a parmesan / mozzarella combo, or a spicy jalapeño jack)
- Use a bigger baking dish, double or triple the recipe amounts, and serve this up for company (you may need to lengthen the cooking time for more eggs)
- Or, best of all, skinny it down by cutting the recipe in half. Make it just for yourself in a personal-sized ramekin for a decadent, mac & cheesy breakfast in bed.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Italian parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a small oven-proof dish (just large enough to comfortably hold 4 cracked eggs in an even layer) with cooking spray.
To make white sauce, melt butter in small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth, thick paste forms. Whisk in milk and cook until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Set aside and keep warm.
Pour half of the white sauce into the baking dish, then top with half the cheddar cheese. Carefully crack each egg into the dish. Cover the eggs completely with the remaining white sauce, then top with the remaining cheese. Dust the top with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until cheese is melted, egg whites are fully cooked, and yolks are still soft. Cook eggs a little longer if you’d like the yolks to be cooked through, or cook under the broiler for the last minute or so for a browned crust. Garnish eggs with parsley and serve hot with buttered toast, if you like.
Makes 2 servings.
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
In case you didn’t know, it’s October, the scariest month of the year. It’s actually MID-October now, which is pretty scary in its own way. Well, there’s nothing I like more as the days grow shorter, the leaves turn to flame and the mists descend upon us, than to curl up with a nice creepy story. A while back I wrote a review of Lockwood & Co. Part I by Jonathan Stroud. With a subtitle like The Screaming Staircase, there was really no way it could be bad, and it didn’t disappoint. With much anticipation on my part, the sequel was finally (and in a timely fashion, just in time for fall!) released. The Whispering Skull picks up where the last installment leaves off, with our protagonist ghost hunter Lucy Carlyle discovering that she can hear the voice of a haunted skull her colleague has in a jar. How’s that for a spooky intro?
In this story, Lockwood, George, and Lucy, a team of freelance ghost hunters, are hired to look into a mysterious grave found in a nearby cemetery. What they discover in the tomb is a relic so deadly and powerful it threatens to destroy anyone who comes near. And with the discovery of this relic, the haunted skull suddenly becomes very talkative. Is it connected to the tomb somehow? And how much of what it says is truth, how much is lies to manipulate and divide the team?
Spooky fun reading for a brave kid or young adult or, in this case, regular adult.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Doomsday Preppers National Geographic Channel
I’m not a fan of most reality television shows; usually there is too much petty interpersonal drama, too much focus on people who seem to be terrible human beings. There are a couple exceptions to this rule, however. One of which has been survival shows like Dual Survival which offers a look at survival skills put to the test in a variety of environments. This is sort of the flip side of that coin.
Doomsday Preppers looks into the lives of people who are very serious in their attempts to prepare for the end of days. It’s a fascinating show. There seem to be two kinds of preppers: those who want to have the skills and resources to survive off the grid for extended periods of times and those who are mostly arming themselves for the inevitable marauders coming for their supplies (or, as I see it, people in need of help). I think some of these people have been watching too much Walking Dead. On the other hand, it’s pretty reasonable to want to be prepared for a major natural disaster. I’m going to stop short of creating homemade explosives to keep out unwanted people.
Each featured individual or family has a different predicted end of times, from massive climate change to global pandemics, to governmental collapse, which inspires them to prepare. Each also has a unique focus to their skill set, from raising massive amounts of rabbits to sophisticated communication systems. Very interesting watching.