Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Mark T. Locker.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake.
I feel like I hardly need tell anyone what this novel is. Truly, this is one of the ultimate classics of Roald Dahl. I’d say it comes only second to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in terms of popularity. Matilda is a lovely book but far less adventurous than what James and his insect friends go through.
We started reading this last weeks. It’s great book for bedtime for many reasons. First of all, it’s full of all kinds of excitement, magic, adventure, and intrigue. There are all sorts of lovely things to feed a little one’s imagination and, possibly, lead them into wonderful magical dreams. Second of all, there’s nothing worse than agreeing to read just one more chapter (we negotiate that one on a near-nightly basis) only to realize that it’s past bedtime and there are still twenty pages left in the chapter! James and the Giant Peach has chapters which are usually only a few pages long. Not only does it keep the story moving along at a nice clip, but you can come out looking like a hero generously offering, “hey, why don’t we read FOUR chapters tonight?”
Once the horrors of his cruel aunts Spiker and Sponge are behind him, the adventure of James riding across the sea in a humongous peach with a number of giant talking bugs really takes off. And what a fun ride it is. If you haven’t read this one to your kid or yourself, do yourself a favor and pick it up.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Neverending Story. Classic fantasy film of the 80s. Kid alone in an attic reading a large, mysterious tome. In the story, a young man on a mission to save his world from annihilation. From the Nothing. Unwilling to go to class, he hides out in some weird darkened room full of old stuff and reads.And what an exciting book young Bastian has discovered. The magical world of Fantasia is exciting and scary! Luck Dragons! Pink furry ears and an eerie pink, scaly back. Giant rock eaters! Big naked Sphinxes with lazer beam eyes! And the most exciting/terrifying thing of all? Bastian is PART of the story! The characters feel his woes. His belief or lack thereof is all that stands between their world and obliteration.
We finally broke down and watched this with our so-close-to-six-we-should-just-call-him-six-year-old. I think the biggest worry was watching that poor horsey get sucked down into the Swamps of Sadness. Poor sad, drowned horsey! Well that didn’t seem to bother him in the least. I guess we had nothing to worry about, or we waited just the right amount of time. I’d forgotten how much I liked most of the movie. The funny pointy-eared old man and his wife. With their telescope, watching him try to best the Sphinx. And how Bastian gets to scare the pants of the bullies by chasing them down on the luck dragon.
Everyone is always crazy about retro stuff, especially stuff from the 80s. So if you are feeling ironic or whimsical, or if you have a kid or you don’t have a kid, The Neverending Story is still a fun and fantasy-filled adventure well worth revisiting.
Post by Tracy Kaler.
Everyone has a wish list when designing a bedroom. Some things may be for aesthetic purposes only, while others may be functional. Here is my lineup of must-haves that I can’t live without in my personal sleep space.
1. Nightstand with a drawer
As much as I adore bedside tables, I need a proper nightstand with at least a single drawer, if not double. I like to keep everyday items like eyeglasses, earplugs, tissues, hand lotion, lip balm, and more, tucked neatly away so these necessities are nearby when I need them.
2. Decorative throw
Whether I drape it over a chair or leave it at the foot of the bed, a throw has its place in my bedroom. I prefer a knitted or crocheted style, which adds texture and is ideal for snuggling.
3. Ceiling Fan
The sound of a fan soothes, the light, yet constant breeze cools, and the circular movement relaxes. Any bedroom I own or sleep in on a regular basis must have a ceiling fan.
Sleep specialists will profess that TV in a sleep space is a big no-no, but I find a big screen a necessity in my bedroom. I rarely watch while trying to fall asleep, but on occasion, reality television or late-night comedy clears my head and prepares me for the following day.
5. Window treatments
Even though I don’t feel relaxed in complete blackness, I prefer city lights at their dimmest setting when I crawl into bed. I also fancy sun in the morning, however, so blackout shades provide too much darkness. A lined roman shade and lined curtains on my oversized bedroom window control light in both morning and evening hours. This combination filters just the right amount of sunlight, and subdues the 24-hour brightness of Manhattan at night.
Post by Alison Hein.
My husband loves to host a big July 3rd party every summer. The tradition started several years back when Kevin came up with this brainstorm on July 1st – “Hey”, he said, “everyone we know is busy on the Fourth, but I’ll bet no one has any plans on the evening of July 3rd. Plus, they don’t have to get up early for work the next day.” Sure enough, he was right, and the 25 guests we invited all said yes, giving us two days to scramble to prepare.
These days, the party has grown to twice the size, but Kevin still insists that we cook everything ourselves for our “gourmet barbecue.” We have some annual standard fare like the McCafferty Family Secret Potato Salad and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Spicy Ribs. But we also like to try new ideas. This year, we decided to have an interactive Slider Bar as a starter. While Kevin was conducting practice rounds, perfecting his timing, shaping and spicing, I was fiddling with different topping alternatives, and how to display them. I finally settled on 6 toppings – caramelized onions, guacamole, bread & butter pickles, dill slices, blue cheese and bacon – which we then spooned into mason jars and labeled with homey tags.
How nice to get up the next morning (uh, afternoon) and have all these fun choices to dress up our omelets. How nice to have a Day of Independence and breakfast in bed.
2 strips bacon
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons caramelized onions (see preparation below)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons guacamole
2 tablespoons sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon sliced green onion
Cook bacon strips slowly over medium heat until browned and crispy, turning once. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. When cool enough to handle, break into 1-inch pieces and set aside.
Melt butter in small, heavy pan over high heat. Break eggs into small bowl and whisk until mixed. Add caramelized onions to beaten eggs, then pour into heated pan all at once and swirl to evenly cover the pan. Tilt pan slightly, and every few seconds, use a jerking motion to pull the pan towards you so the eggs move away as they begin to cook. When the eggs begin to set but are still very soft in the center, remove the pan from the heat for a few seconds.
Lightly spread the sour cream and avocado over the eggs and sprinkle with bacon. Retain a dollop of sour cream and guacamole for garnish, if you like. Return the pan to the stove, and continue the jerking motion, this time holding the pan at an even higher angle, until the omelet begins to flip over onto itself. Give the eggs a little push with a spoon or spatula if necessary. Turn the omelet out onto a plate, garnish with sour cream, guacamole, and green onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
Makes 1 serving.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 Vidalia (or other sweet type) onions, sliced thin
1 teaspoon sugar
Heat olive oil in large heavy pan over medium heat. Add sliced onion and sprinkle sugar on top. Stir and mix well to separate and coat with oil. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often, until onions become a deep golden brown color, about 30 minutes.
Post by Alison Hein.
Here’s a lovely recipe for those hot July days – no cooking required! Simply layer creamy Greek yogurt and crunchy cereal with fresh red strawberries, then top with tart, juicy blueberries. You’re in for an easy fix, and a red, white and blue breakfast that will delight kids and old folks alike this Independence Day.
Making your dish in lovely goblets is key to obtaining that “wow factor.” Stemmed wine glasses are just right, but you may have some equally elegant tall, thin clear glasses that would look amazing.
If you prefer to create an impressive dessert, simply swap out the Greek yogurt for vanilla ice cream (or salted caramel, yum!), replace the crunchy cereal with toasted walnuts or hazelnuts (or macadamias!), and finish with a dollop of whipped cream and a ruby red cherry.
And when it’s not July 4th, flavor (and color) variations are endless – black raspberry yogurt with blackberries and raspberries, lemon yogurt with pineapple and mango –well, you get the idea.
But for now, let’s stick with the red, white and blue, and help America celebrate her birthday with a patriotic breakfast in bed that’s almost as good as fireworks.
1½ cups fresh strawberries, cleaned and trimmed
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
½ cup granola (or other crunchy cereal)
½ cup blueberries
2 8-ounce clear glass goblets
Chop the cleaned strawberries. Place a layer of strawberries in each goblet. Top with a layer of yogurt, and then a thin layer of granola. Repeat a few times ending with a layer of yogurt on top. Artfully arrange blueberries on top of yogurt. Sprinkle on a bit of granola for garnish, if you like. Serve chilled.
Makes 2 parfaits.