Author Archives: charlesprogers
Post by Mark T. Locker
I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I rarely find the time to watch movies anymore. Once the boy is asleep, I feel pressured to maximize the two hours I have until my own bedtime and I rarely want to commit a full two hours to a movie. A couple 22-minute television shows seems much more within my grasp in the evenings.
I was recently introduced to this show, which I think is only available on Hulu. “The Booth at the End” features Xander Berkeley, who is one of those actors you see everywhere but can’t quite put a finger on. In that respect, he is the perfect character for this tantalizing and unusual show. His character, who is never named, sits all day, every day in a diner in the—you guessed it—booth at the end. People learn one way or another about this man and come to visit him, each with a wish. He can make whatever they want happen but it always comes at a certain cost: they must first do something for him. A nun wants to hear the voice of God like she used to. The man looks in his notebook and says that to hear God again, she must become pregnant. An old woman wants her husband to come back from Alzheimer’s. The notebook says she must plant a bomb in a crowded place to accomplish this. The characters are complex and as tortured as you might hope they would be. Some do what they are asked, some are forced to weigh the value of one life against another.
It’s easy to get sucked into this incredible show. It’s easy to get angry, or relieved, when watching these people weigh their options. A definite must-watch.
Post by Alison Hein.
Once upon a time, long before Google search, people had to work very hard to obtain special recipes. Finding just the right one might involve a trek to the library and a search through hundreds of cookbooks; tricking friends and neighbors into giving up their family secrets; or hours and hours of trial and error and a messy, messy kitchen. Vannilekipferl was just that hard won.
Every Christmas a friend’s mother would whip up batches of these melt-in-your-mouth holiday specialties. Year after year I begged her for the recipe. After about three years, she agreed that I could help her bake. The following year she finally relented and gifted me her hand-written, cherished instructions. Next obstacle – translate the directions from German to English, and convert the quantities from metric to US measurements (my friend’s mother was Austrian). Again, an easy task today with Google translate and a multitude of online converters. But back in the day, it took time and a little fudging to get it just right. I have made these sweet, nutty crescents annually ever since, and they continue to be the favorite cookie on our holiday plate.
Make sure you chill the dough thoroughly before you begin the fussy shaping process. With no eggs in the batter, the dough can be a little finicky. Same holds true when you remove them from the oven. Fragile when hot, they can break easily, so be gentle and give them lots of support when transferring to a cooling rack and rolling them in sugar. If you break a few, by all means, indulge immediately. If you can hold out, save some for a hard won, special breakfast in bed.
As they say in Austria, Frohe Weihnachten!
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup finely ground walnuts or pecans
1¾ cups flour
Beat butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with electric mixer until fluffy. Add nuts and mix until blended. Gradually mix in flour until just blended. Wrap dough and chill until firm enough to handle, at least 2 hours. Heat oven to 325°. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. On lightly floured board, form each piece into a ½-inch thick rope, then cut into approximately 1½-inch lengths. Bend into crescent shapes, tapering ends slightly. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until light golden and firm. While warm, roll in confectioner’s sugar to coat. Let cool on racks. Recoat with confectioner’s sugar. Store in waxed paper-lined tins for up to 3 weeks.
Yield: 8 to 9 dozen.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Lockwood & Co., book one: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud.
Happy Christmas Eve, Everyone! I know that maybe I should be reading heartwarming books of sharing, caring, and snow. But I ain’t. I’m afraid that the last book I read was NOT about Holiday warmth, or family, or gift-giving. It was a young adult novel about scary ghosts and the children who fight them.
London, some time in the future. The Problem first arose a few decades ago. Ghosts began appearing in huge numbers. And unlike the wispy specters of days gone by, these ghosts are dangerous; just a little ectoplasmic caress and you’ve been “ghost touched” which can be fatal. Interestingly, children are more sensitive to these spectral forces; adults cannot see or hear them. So it is children who work as ghost hunters.
The story surrounds Lucy Carlyle, who has joined the team of Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins. Unlike most teams, they have no adult supervisor which makes them sometimes a little careless but always exciting. When a wealthy iron worker hires them to rid the most haunted house in England of spirits, they are in way over their heads but eager to prove their worth.
Totally scary and very engaging, this is a great read for older kids or childish adult who enjoy a good shiver. It just occurred to me: A Christmas Carol is totally a ghost story and it’s seasonally appropriate, so maybe I’m not totally off-base on this! Merry Christmas!
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Well folks, it’s that time of year again! Late December. For those who celebrate Christmas, it’s nearly Christmas. Since Thanksgiving I’m sure loads of people have been unpacking their puff-painted snowman sweaters, setting up their miniature Christmas villages complete with twinkling lights and real live sprinkles of mirth, and dusting off the old holiday movie collection. I’ve actually never seen Miracle on 34th Street or White Christmas and I’ve only seen It’s a Wonderful Life in bits and pieces. I just don’t come from that kind of family.
We were, however, the kind of family that watched A Christmas Story every year. I probably still watch it every year. I know—I’m not special. A whole lot of people watch it. Doesn’t TNT or TBN or some T channel play it on repeat on Christmas day? I’m not crazy; I’m going to watch it just once. This year, we will try and get the kid to watch it too. Not sure if he will. I like the movie. I’m not a rabid fan; I’m not going to get a leg lamp or anything like that. Also, the whiny cry all the children do is nails on a chalkboard to me.
Anyway, you all probably know this movie already. It’s funny, it’s nostalgic, it’s something a lot of us can relate to in one way or another. It’s going to be on every channel in a couple days so you may as well watch it.
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
Whether you’re getting your home ready to sell, collecting before and after photos of your next design project, or are just having fun we all want our photos to come out as best they can. To help you with this, I’ve put together a list of five tips to help ensure your interior photos come out looking great.
1. Preparation is Key
Before you snap the first photo (unless you want to show a before and after comparison), you will need to prepare your room for the shoot. Start by getting rid of clutter, and do a bit of cleaning. When going through your space, keep in mind that everything in the photo should have a purpose. If something is not adding to the composition, feel, or effect of the photo then you need to get rid of it. This is also a good time to start envisioning how you want to capture your room.
2. Staging for success
Most of those gorgeous interiors you see online are staged, meaning the rooms are dressed up specifically for the occasion. If you’ve never staged a room before, it’s easiest to start off in the bedroom. Since the focal point of any bedroom is the bed, you’ll want to make it appear luxurious and inviting. A bed made with a matching set of sheets will help you create a more coordinated look. Mirrors are also great for bringing in more light into the bedroom, and can help make smaller rooms appear more open. Remember that since one corner of the room will always be out of the photograph you don’t need to furnish the entire room — you only need to create the illusion that it is. Let the viewer’s imagination fill in the rest.
3. Learn how to use your camera
Unless you take a lot of pictures, you should probably spend some time learning about the features of your camera. Automatic settings can do in a pinch, but ultimately limit the creative control you have over the picture. Manual settings like aperture, iso, and shutter speed can be intimidating, but are easy to become familiar with, especially using digital film. And with a plethora of online resources available to you, there’s no reason not to utilize some of the more advanced features of your camera.
4. Wide Angle Lens
To capture as much of the room as possible, you’ll need to use a wide-angle lens (which has a similar effect of zooming out on a point and shoot camera). The sweet spot for interior photography is generally somewhere between 16mm and 24mm; however, some people prefer a longer lens as they feel the wide-angle perspective distorts the room. If you don’t have a wide-angle lens, you can always rent or borrow one from a friend.
Something to be aware of is that most entry-level DSLRs have a crop sensor, which multiplies the focal length of the lens by 1.5 for Nikon cameras and 1.6 for Canon cameras. This means that to create a focal length of 16mm with a crop sensor camera, you’ll need to use a 10mm lens.
5. Have fun!
The most important part of taking great interior photos is to have fun! The more fun you have, the better your pictures are likely to turn out. Great photos can help you show off the beauty of your space and capture the imagination of the viewer. A weekend session can be a great excuse to spruce up your home and hone your interior photography skills.