Monthly Archives: December 2012
Post by Josh Zinn.
Hi folks! We’ve got a special treat for you all today. Direct from some vague Midwestern town where children frequently suffer from bouts of depression and apathy, child star Charlie Brown is here to tell us all about his timeless and beloved holiday special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas!” Let’s take it away!
Josh Zinn: Hi there, Chuck. Can I call you Chuck?
Charlie Brown: I guess. I mean, it’s kind of overplayed and all, but do what you like.
JZ: Wow. I never knew you were so, what’s the word?
JZ: No, I was going to say sarcastic. Huh. I guess I just never suspected someone with such a big head and such a dour look on life would dare be prickly. It’s not like you have a lot of friends to begin with.
CB: What’s your point? Why does this even matter? Aren’t we here to talk about my “timeless” special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas?”
JZ: Sure, but I…
CB: But what? Oh, let me guess, you must just LOVE the song “Christmastime is Here,” huh?
JZ: Yeah, it’s very nice. Sure, they play it too many times at Starbucks, but it is pretty.
CB: Yeah, ooooh: “Christmastime is here/happiness and cheer.” Wow, what a lyrical powerhouse! You and every other hipster that’s out there have such unique taste. Let me guess, it sounds better on vinyl, right?
JZ: I think we’re getting off on the wrong foot here.
CB: Sorry. Look, I just… This special brings up some really bad memories for me, okay?
JZ: Why? Because you spend most of the special pondering your worth via the existential ennui that often sets in for people around the holidays?
JZ: And it becomes evident early in that all of your chums from school have zero respect for you, both as a peer and as a human being.
JZ: Heck, even your dog boos you at one point when you’re trying to direct the Christmas pageant.
CB: Yeah, that stung a bit. Stupid dog.
JZ: Oh, and let’s not forget the tree. I mean, I get that it’s supposed to be touching because you basically rescue this imperfect thing that’s dying in a sea of plastic artificiality, but couldn’t you tell when you saw it that everyone was going to hate you for buying it?
CB: I guess you could look at it…
JZ: Or did you just not care cause everyone hates you already? In that case, was this some fit of rebellion on your part? Did you think that by purchasing the crummy invalid tree you’d be making a bold statement about your own perceived lack of worth? Isn’t that basically just making the entire tree-buying scenario into something self-serving rather than something that is meant to serve the play? Has anyone ever called you a narcissist?
CB: Jeez, you are reading far too much into this! I just bought it because I felt bad for it, okay? Wouldn’t you feel bad if you saw something that you knew no one would probably ever want, but you knew had some kind of worth to it? Wouldn’t you want to give it a home?
JZ: Sure, but I don’t think you’re understanding what I’m trying to say here Chuck…
JZ: Okay, Charlie. What I’m trying to convey here is that, yes, I get why you bought the tree on a very surface “Christmas is a time of redemption” level, but I want to know if you have given much thought as to how the tree’s journey mirrors your own desire to be seen as someone who is worthwhile? I mean, all the kids do come to love it and don’t you want to be loved too?
CB: Yeah, they come to love it, but that’s only after Linus makes another one of his grandiose sermonizing speeches that are meant to be heartfelt, but make him come across as some kind of creepy and weird know-it-all. And yeah, I want to be loved. Doesn’t everybody? Hey, why aren’t you asking me any questions about what’s wrong with all the other kids in the special? It’s not as if Lucy comes across as all that put-together either. Plus, her ego is ten times the size of mine.
JZ: Sure, but the show isn’t called “A Lucy Christmas,” is it?
CB: Not my fault.
JZ: Regardless of whether it’s your fault or not, the onus is on you Chu… Charlie.
CB: Yeah, I get that. That’s why I told you that this whole thing brings up bad memories for me. Fine. Yes, I wanted to be loved just like the tree. Yes, I bought it because it reminded me of me. Yes, I am lonely. Yes, my dog hates me. Yes, I seek out emotional gratification by attempting to please others but oftentimes I shoot myself in the foot because I get angry that I have to resort to such pathetic maneuvering. The tree is me. THE TREE IS ME Are you happy?
JZ: I think that’s a question you should probably be asking yourself, Chuck. Anyway, Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!
CB: Good grief.
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
Once you’ve selected a mattress, the second most important decision you have to make in regards to your bedding is which pillow to use. There are a ton of options, each with different pros and cons depending on the type of sleeper you are. Constantly searching for the ultimate night’s sleep, I’ve been through more pillows than I care to admit; finding the right one can be an arduous task—especially if your shopping on a budget. To help you in your decision-making, I’ve put together a quick list of a couple different types of pillow selections, and why you may prefer one over the other.
Synthetic, Organic, or Down Pillows
The first decision you need to make when buying a pillow is what type of filler material it’s made out of. There a lot of different choices, especially if you start looking into some of the more specialty pillows, but there are three broad options to choose from: synthetic, organic, or down.
Synthetic pillows can be made of either polyester or a memory foam material. Polyester pillows are made to resemble the feel of down, but without the allergies and often for a fraction of the cost. Interestingly, I am somewhat allergic to polyester bedding – particularly sheets – and I find the feel of polyester to be less satisfactory having slept with down pillows for much of my life. People who suffer from asthma are often more inclined to purchase synthetic pillows as there is a belief that down pillows contain and collect more allergens such as dust mites. Interestingly, a study conducted by alergyasthmacenter.com found that many of these claims are not entirely based in science.
Organic pillows are made of anything other than synthetic materials or down. One of our writers, Laura Cheng, wrote about her experiences with Japanese Buckwheat pillows, which a popular alternative to synthetic or down pillows. I haven’t tried them myself, but I imagine they feel like a larger (and more natural) version of the neck pillows you see people traveling with on the airplane. Since I cannot testify to their comfort first hand, I will leave my evaluation of them as a good alternative for sleepers who cannot have down pillows (due to allergies or ethical reasons), but don’t want synthetic either.
My personal favorite type of pillow is the down filled variety. Down pillows are made from one of several different types of feathers and down, including: chicken, goose, and duck. Goose down is often thought of as the higher-end filler since ducks are more abundant throughout the world, and marketers have done a good job convincing us that Goose is better. That said, there is probably little actual difference between a comparably made pillow of either duck or goose. Chicken feather pillows are less common, and make up the lower end of pillow stuffing. Feathers aren’t nearly as soft, not do they have the insulating characteristics of down and used mostly for support. I actually sleep with a pillow stuffed with chicken feathers that my girlfriend’s grandmother made for her back in Italy. It is one of my favorite “base pillows” as it provides a stable base to put a more plush goose down pillow on top of.
Firm, Medium, or Soft Pillows
Once you’ve narrowed down you pillow preference in terms of the filling materials, the next set of choices (and perhaps the more difficult) is whether to get a firm, medium or soft pillow. The firmness of the pillow is largely a factor of the fill-count (e.g., how many feathers are stuffed inside the pillow); however, the actual feel of the pillow varies significantly between manufacturers. Generally, softer pillows, which use less filling, are less expensive than firm pillows.
Your choice between a soft, medium, or firm pillow largely has to do with how you sleep. Soft pillows are ideal for stomach sleepers, or sleepers who move a lot during the night since they are much more pliable than their firmer counterparts. Medium pillows are ideal for back sleepers, and firm pillows are best for side sleepers. As I mentioned above, the actual firmness of the pillow has more to do with the manufacture than the label attached to the pillow, so you’ll want to do your pillow shopping in person so you can feel the difference. I generally err on the side of more firm, since down tends to soften with time.
The type of pillow you choose ultimately depends on your sleeping habits, and personal preferences. If I had my druthers, I’d get a soft, medium, and firm pillow because I like to have choices and find that some nights I’m looking for something different.
What type of pillow do you use? Do you have any recommendations for readers currently in the market for a new pillow? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Post by Alison Hein.
I just read an article by the Natural Resources Defense Council about food waste in the US (http://www.nrdc.org/food/files/wasted-food-IP.pdf). Did you know that 40 percent of food in our country is wasted annually? Estimates indicate this is equivalent to approximately $165 billion per year! Kind of hard to believe, considering that one in six Americans currently lacks a steady food supply.
Most of the time, I’m pretty good about consuming all the groceries we buy. I’ve got lots of neat tricks for using celery leaves and aging vegetables to make nourishing soups and stocks. You will also find me freezing leftovers, or carting care packages to friends and family. When I fall short, though, is during holiday season – I always overestimate the amount of baking that actually occurs.
Take Thanksgiving, for example. I baked two apple pies and two pumpkin pies, yet I still have four cans of pumpkin in my pantry! Anyway, a long serious spiel to get to the point of providing you with an excellent remedy for holiday overstocking – Pumpkin Spice Bread.
This is a simple recipe that warms your home with pumpkin pie scents, and neatly rounds out a breakfast or brunch menu. Rich and filling pumpkin creates a moist, dense bread that works well when lightly warmed and topped off with a schmear of whipped cream cheese. Stash a slice or two in your children’s lunch boxes, or treat yourself to a spicy, pumpkin breakfast in bed.
Then come join me in donating some of my overstocked pantry to our local food bank. 🙂
4 tablespoons butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs until smooth. Add pumpkin and mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Add dry ingredients all at once to pumpkin mixture, stirring to combine. Spread batter evenly in a well-greased loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 50 to 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack at least 1 hour before slicing.
Makes one loaf of pumpkin bread.
Post by Laura Cheng.
The holidays are here and so are the out of town friends and family. (To the tune of It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas”) My home is beginning to look alot like a bed and breakfast. That means the guest bedroom is getting its fair share of use. And so are the sheets. As a hostess, it may be impossible to maintain as sanitary a home as I like during the holidays, but golly, those sheets sure will be comfortable! Having a lovely, inviting bed is important to me, so let’s talk sheets! Here are my current top 3 contenders currently making their rounds in my guest bedroom.
I have a set of Raymond Waites bedding and it sets the par for comfort. There is some truth to a higher thread count, but I haven’t bought into the hype. A magnificent number (usually followed by a magnificent price tag) does not always indicate comfort for me. At 300 thread count, it is the perfect set not only to lay out for guests, but also for everyday use. I find the designs to be neutral enough for any guest bedroom without being boring. I love the fact that it can be reasonably and easily purchased. A quick trip to Bed Bath and Beyond or Bloomingdale’s and score!
Also on my top 3 list is Land’s End No Iron Supima Sateen Sheets. The use of the phrase “no iron” is enough for me to embrace these sheet sets faster than a frozen turkey can explode in a deep fryer. With cooking, cleaning, and entertaining on my mind, the last thing I need to add on to the list is ironing. Any company can market that term, but these sheets really stand up to the test. Land’s End also gets an additional plus in my book because they sell sheets in hard to find Twin-XL size.
For any discerning guest who favors elegance and luxury, I lay out Charles P. Rogers’s 400 Thread Count Prima Cotton Sheets. It’s not easy for dark colors to make it out of a washing machine alive, alive and vibrant, but I have these in the sesame color and they really shine, wash after wash. These sheets are extra roomy. With other sheet sets, I find it harder to get my bed dressed than my toddler. And the bed doesn’t squirm or talk back! Not so with this sheet set. Even on my pillow-topped mattresses, there is ample room still left. Where other pillowcases squish the stuffing in my king sized pillows into shape, theses allow them float and drift happily. And this makes me a happy hostess.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Let’s be honest: concept books are almost always SUPER boring to read. These are the ABC books, the 1,2,3 books, the “this is a dodecahedron” books. Yes, lots of them have choppy rhyme schemes in an attempt to make it less boring, and sometimes you get to count monkeys! Or sheep! Or yaks! But regardless, they continue to be boring. If you were asked to choose between counting yaks or counting fish, which would you choose? Easy. The answer is: NEITHER.
This new abecedarian manages to weave in the story of an overeager moose who just can’t wait till his turn. All the other letter representations, the apple, the bear, etc. are patiently waiting in line. Moose, in his excitement, tramps across several scenes in an attempt to get to “M”. But when Zebra decides last minute to use the mouse for M, Moose loses it and begins to deface the other letters. “R is for Ring” is crossed out in angry black pen, replaced with “R is for MOOSE”
If your kid (or yourself) has a decent grasp of the alphabet, this is a good choice. It’s more amusing than it is educational. And they are sure to get a laugh out of hearing: O is for Moose!