Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Star Wars: the clone wars
Boy, if it isn’t all Star Wars all the time in my house these days. I knew that when my son started having library upon entering public school that all manner of books would be coming through our door. I was intensely curious to know what we would find in his backpack when we picked him up. Well, the answer is Star Wars. Every. Single. Week. It’s fine. It’s great. He’s really enjoying them. As a librarian, my job is to encourage a love of literacy and not to judge what people read just as long as they read.
So these books basically take the cartoon of the Clone Wars (which I reviewed a couple weeks ago) and turns episodes into small chapter books. It’s pretty clever, if you think about it. All the imagery is already there, the plot is there, you just need to write some words to accompany the pictures. Last week was all about Captain Rex. This week was yet another engagement with General Grievous, the robot-y leader of the Droid Army. He always gets away but his ship is always destroyed! Honestly, I don’t see why they keep him employed, given his track record.
But, the stories are fun and keep my son happy and engaged. There has to be an end to them, and then he can move on to Ninjago and we can deal with a barrage of product placement! Happy reading!
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Leave it to the BBC to do everything awesome in the awesomest way. Way back in 2010 the first episode of the modern spin on Sherlock Holmes aired. I was a little uneasy about how a modern spin might be interpreted. I mean, the year before introduced us to the Robert Downey, Jr. historical interpretation. My personal feeling was that this version was…not good. Then again, I come from a staunch Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce background. So I was wary of this new modern Sherlock. Maybe you all have seen it. I had never heard of Benedict Cumberbatch, though the awesomeness of his name could not be denied. His faithful sidekick Dr. Watson is portrayed by Martin Freeman. I didn’t realize who he was, but many now know him as Bilbo Baggins from the (inferior) remake of the Hobbit movie.
The creators of this show did an admirable job. Sherlock is brilliant, and has absolutely terrible social skills. He’s a bit of a self-centered jerk and it’s clear from the beginning that many think so. I also like that Dr. Watson is no fool and is not a little lap dog to Sherlock. He is among those who knows full well what a jerk Sherlock can be. That said, he’s not unlikable. You can’t blame him for being so darned smart that he has no idea how to interact with others.
Each episode is 90 minutes long, and at least the first six are available on various streaming services. It’s like six awesome mystery movies just waiting for you!
Post by Alison Hein.
My husband and I just took a trip to Washington, DC for a big family birthday celebration. Our party was Saturday night, and we planned to return home the next day, after a quick morning detour to see the flowering Yoshino cherry trees. Upon arriving, we realized the blossoms were mere days away from opening. My heart was set on photographing the flowery pink trees, so Kevin suggested I stay in DC a few days longer.
While the blossoms slowly opened, I took many lovely close-up shots of the airy rose-colored cherry blossoms – completing a slow circle around the Tidal Basin, pausing to capture the unique color and style of every tree. I’ve been home for a week now, and still see lush, pastel blooms every time I close my eyes. And so I was inspired to create luscious cherry pastries for this week’s post. They aren’t nearly as pretty, but they taste much better than the real deal (especially considering that the DC tree blossoms are edible only for birds).
So if you can’t get away this year to visit some cherry blossoms, enjoy some instead for a flowery springtime breakfast in bed.
2 puff pastry sheets (generally sold as 2 in a package)
1 egg, separated
4 ounces whipped cream cheese
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup cherry preserves
½ teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar for dusting flower tops
Thaw puff pastry sheets, per package instructions. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets and preheat oven to 350°. Lightly beat egg white and set aside. Whip together cream cheese and 2 tablespoons sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, flour, cherry preserves and vanilla to the cream cheese mixture and mix until smooth. Set aside.
Carefully unfold a pastry sheet onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll and trim each pastry sheet into a 16×8-inch rectangle. Cut into 8 equal 4 inch-squares. At each corner, ¼
inch from edge, cut a 1inch line in each direction, following the square edge of the corner. Repeat for the remaining three corners (see picture). Pick up each corner cut-away strip and bring to the center creating four loops. Pinch ends lightly to seal.
Spoon 1½ teaspoons of cherry cream cheese filling in the center of each pastry square. Place the pastries on the prepared baking sheet. Brush pastry crust with beaten egg white. Flip flat corners of each flower up to meet filling center and brush with more egg white to seal. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the blossoms are golden brown and filling is set. Transfer the pastries to a wire rack and let cool at least 10 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Makes 16 cherry blossoms.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Scaredy Squirrel by Mélane Watt.
If you have children and they haven’t introduced you to the Scaredy Squirrel series, well they probably will any minute now. It now boasts eight books in its collection, but we are here to talk about the one that started it all. Wayyyyyy back in 2006 the first of the Scaredy Squirrel books was released. We learn a lot about this utterly neurotic squirrel and his very particular routines.
As you may guess, he is the squirrel equivalent of a scaredy cat. What is he scared of? You name it! On his list are: Green Martians; killer bees; tarantulas; poison ivy; germs and sharks. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, to be sure (I can hear him now: “Icebergs! Where?! RUN“). This may be a neurotic little guy but he is not unprepared. He has four evacuation routes from his tree and contingency plans for each exit point just in case any of THOSE things are awaiting him.
Then, one day, the unthinkable happens and Scaredy Squirrel finds himself facing the things that have kept him from ever leaving his tree and the safety of his routine. What will happen? Will he be nabbed by aliens? Read it and find out! A funny book with lots of companion books for fans aged four and up!
Post by Mark T. Locker.
My kid has gone completely Star Wars crazy. It’s mostly my fault, though I didn’t realize just how absolutely bonkers he would go. It’s my fault because although he was aware of Star Wars and kind of liked some of it, I made the mistake of getting the LEGO Star Wars game for the Wii. Take two things lots of kids love and put them together in a video game?! Marketing genius and a surefire way to spend 5 days a week explaining that we only play it on the weekends (and then most hours of the weekend saying: not yet).
Scrolling through the Netflix collection recently, it was pointed out to me that I had just passed over some animated Star Wars show. Sure enough, I had totally skipped Star Wars: the Clone Wars, a CGI animated series which is apparently in its sixth season! It’s apparently set between the stories of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. I don’t remember the Clone movie, and never saw the third one, but this show is actually pretty enjoyable, even for an adult. Sometimes I’m shocked by this mostly not violent show because suddenly someone will get run through with a light saber or something. (In our video game, this isn’t a problem: all the people are LEGO! They just fall apart!) That aside, it’s kind of funny and well-written and aside from that horrific Jar Jar Binks, not a bad show at all. If you like Star Wars and have thirty hours to kill, I recommend you check this show out. Even if you just watch it for the droids. They are remarkably hilariously dumb.