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Bedtime Stories: Moonlight the Halloween Cat

moonlightPost by Mark T. Locker.

Moonlight the Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant.

The other day I was sitting with my boy who somehow has already turned eight. We were discussing this and that and the subject came around to some of his older picture books. I went looking for one in particular, the one with a character that was the namesake for our lovably dumb semi-feral cat, Dandio. I was unable to find that book (it’s a Toot & Puddle book, if you’re wondering) but I found myself looking through a bunch of his other now neglected but still much-loved (for nostalgia) books. One of the books I brought back to the table was Moonlight the Halloween Cat. When he was two, or three, we would read this book at least once a week. Probably daily. He still has a stuffed Halloween kitty he named Moonlight. I would lie on my stomach, propped on my elbows, and he would drape himself across my back, reading over my shoulder. He’s too big to do that now!

Sniff!

Well, we read the book and it’s just as sweet as I recall. Filled with naive art and simple text, the book tells us about Moonlight, the black cat who likes Halloween best of all. We follow Moonlight as she watches trick-or-treaters from the shadows, and sits in the laps of scarecrows and snacks on fallen pieces of candy. It’s a cute and simple book about an outsider who loves this human holiday. We get to tag along and see what Moonlight sees. Sometimes, there’s an owl!

I know some of you may think it’s a little early for Halloween books. But put this one on your list if you have a little one.

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Movies in Bed: Gods of Egypt.

Gods_of_Egypt_posterPost by Mark T. Locker.

Gods of Egypt has finished its brief run in theaters and is now available to watch in the comfort of your own bedroom. Set in ancient Egypt, at a time when the gods walked among the men, larger than life and powerful. All is well and at peace until the banished god Set comes back with an army and usurps the throne and blinds his brother Horus, who was to take the throne. The fate of the kingdom of Egypt falls into the unlikely hands of a young thief, whose only reason for fighting is to get his girlfriend back. He uses his amazing thieving skills to recover one of Horus’s eyes. Horus in turn agrees to help fight Set for the throne.

This is not what I would call a “good” movie; it’s full of too much CGI, lots of Europeans and Australians posing as Egyptians, and weak dialog. It’s difficult not to think of Liz Taylor’s famously overbudget Cleopatra when watching this movie. Loads of money spent on what was meant to be some kind of epic, but just wasn’t. That said, it’s a very entertaining movie. It’s a movie that is easy to just relax and enjoy in all its ridiculousness. Plus, who doesn’t like to see fleshed-out ideas of what Egypt would have looked like in its heyday? Even if those interpretations might make Egyptologists (like my wife) cringe just a little. (Though I must say, the bit in the Underworld with the awesome jackal-headed Anubis is pretty cool to watch.)

This movie is a fun way to end a busy week. If you want something with lots of action that lets you just turn off your brain and immerse yourself in a fantasy world of gods and monsters, this is the movie for you.

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Breakfast in Bed – Carrot Soufflé

Carrot Soufflé 13

Post by Alison Hein.

I was in the mood for something different on a recent morning, when I remembered a bunch of lovely organic, spring carrots I had picked up at the market. But carrots for breakfast? How does that work? Eureka! A carrot soufflé!

I decided on the sweet, rather than savory, route for these little treats. A touch of sugar and a sprinkling of aromatic spices creates a pie-like mood, and the lighter than air consistency melts on your tongue. So lovely to look at as well – fresh from the oven, puffed up and golden.

Carrot Soufflé 1

Make no mistake – your soufflés will fall. The trick (and hope) is to get them to the table (or the breakfast tray) before they do so. Carrot purée makes these a little denser than other types of soufflés, so you’ll have to be extra quick.

If you like, remove the sugar and spices and add some fresh thyme instead for a delightful dinner side. Or, do what we did and enjoy a breakfast in bed that’s just the right amount of different.

Ingredients

3 medium carrots
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
4 eggs, separated

Carrot Soufflé 3

Equipment

6 4-inch ramekins

Preparation

Peel and chop carrots. Place in small, heavy pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until carrots are completely soft and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Use a food processor hand masher to purée carrots. Set aside and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly spray each ramekin with cooking spray.

Carrot Soufflé 8

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. Remove from heat. Beat in egg yolks one at a time. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Add carrot purée and stir to mix thoroughly.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into egg batter. Fill each of the ramekins with batter – they should be about ¾ full. Tap the bottoms of the ramekins lightly on the work surface so batter fills the bottom, then smooth the top with a butter knife or offset spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until soufflés are puffed up and lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Carrot Soufflé 10

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Bedtime Stories: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy_with_a_Chance_of_Meatballs_(book)Post by Mark T. Locker.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett.

There are a surprising number of picture books that have been adapted into movies, with varying levels of success. We’ve seen a few Dr. Seuss books: The Lorax; Cat in the Hat; How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There is the unlikely adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. And we got not one, but two Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs movies. (Full disclosure: I’ve only seen the second one.) And from what I saw of it, it wasn’t that bad. But nothing will touch the original book of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs with its sparingly colored pen-and-ink images of massive doughnuts and orange juice rain.

I got this book from my grandfather when I was little and it instantly became a favorite. The story revolves around a wacky grandfather (not too unlike my own) telling the kids the story of the land of Chewandswallow where food falls from the sky. What a wonderful place it was! Spaghetti rains down for dinner, doughnuts roll in in the morning. But something goes awry. First the food is gross, overcooked, and bad. Then it becomes downright dangerous. Pancakes the size of a city block! Scary!

The pictures are forever emblazoned on my brain. Especially the pale faced kids eating their weight in cream cheese and jelly sandwiches.

This is a fun book and just writing the review makes me eager to go reread it to my son. It makes me a little hungry too.

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Movies in Bed: Into the Woods

into the woodsPost by Mark T. Locker.

I am a big fan of fairy tales. The original 19th-century German tales, as recounted by the brothers Grimm, hold a lot of value to me. To be honest, I never knew that Into the Woods was a musical by Stephen Sondheim until the movie was released. I was intrigued as to what a fairy tale-themed musical might be like.

With an A-list cast including Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, and James Cordon to name a few, it showed a lot of promise. The story contains mix of several fairy tales that will be familiar to viewers: Cinderella; Jack and the Beanstalk; Little Red Riding Hood; and Rapunzel. Their stories merge as a poor childless baker and his wife make a deal with a witch. In exchange for several items, she will give them a child. Those items happen to include a golden slipper and a red robe. Each character finds him/herself headed into the woods for each individual purpose. And one by one they find each other and create a new story altogether.

I enjoyed this movie. It’s a good family-friendly sing-along-able movie with a mix of old stories and new. I only wish the movie had ended at what I assume was the intermission. I felt that everything was resolved nicely and that the second part only served to muddle the story. I found myself asking: why did that character do that? Why did that just happen? When did songs turn into people just singing what seems like regular dialogue?

Aside from that, I would watch it again. I’d probably turn it off at intermission. But that’s just me. If you are looking for a family-friendly musical that’s got a mix of humor, adventure, and tales we all know and love, take a trip Into the Woods.

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