Monthly Archives: September 2013
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Doll Bones by Holly Black.
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book for older kids. Now that school has begun, some (retail stores, especially) consider this the kick-off of fall and the Halloween season. If you are into creepy stuff, and especially if you are into creepy old dolls whose glass eyes seem to follow you, this is a wonderful read.
Doll Bones is an interesting book, because it is a ghost story with substance. Partly, this story is about three adolescents, Poppy, Alice, and Zach. They are alway playing make-believe adventures, with long elaborate plots, all of which leads back to the Queen, a creepy old doll that Poppy’s mother keeps locked in a glass case. But it’s also about adolescence, about growing older and changing. It’s about that age where friends begin to grow apart, and where social pressures affect who you interact with and how you interact with them.
Part coming-of-age, part ghost story, part timeless adventure tale, Doll Bones is a finely crafted spooky story from Holly Black, the mind that brought the world The Spiderwick Chronicles. A definite must-read for lovers of scary stories and good young adult literature.
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
Sleep is one of those unavoidable, mission critical facets of life that we cannot avoid. However, many people treat sleep as a mere inconvenience, and spend their whole lives trying to shortcut the process. Whether your bad relationship with sleep is intentional or otherwise, improving your sleep is one thing you have complete control over that can make one of the biggest impacts on your quality of life.
To help get you on your way (or remind you of what you already know), we’ve put together a list of ten habits to help you sleep better.
5 things to do for better sleep
Exercise is a great way to use up excess energy. In addition to helping you sleep better, exercising is good for your overall health. Instead of worrying about the time of day you exercise or making excuses, just get out there and do it.
2. Eat Healthy
Cut out the fast food and freezer dinners, and reach for fruits and vegetables. It may take some time to notice the change, but eating healthy will not only help you sleep better; it will help you feel better and more energized throughout the rest of your day.
3. Stay Hydrated
The human body is mostly water, and needs to stay hydrated. While the amount of water you need to drink depends on the individual, chances are you aren’t drinking enough. If you’re thirsty, it means you’re dehydrated. Drink enough water throughout the day to where your body doesn’t have to tell you it needs more.
Meditation helps put your mind at ease before falling asleep. I’ve been getting back into it the past couple weeks, and it’s helped a lot. If you’re just beginning, try focusing on your breaths: count one each time you inhale, and when you get to 10 count back down each time you exhale. I usually don’t even make it back down to zero before dozing off.
5. Establish a routine, and stick to it
People are creatures of habit, and one of the best ways to sleep better is to make it a routine. If you wake up for work at the same time every day, then you know what time you need to go to sleep to get enough of it. Many people who establish a sleeping routine don’t even need an alarm clock after a while. Instead, their bodies have learned what to expect and the mind serves as its own clock.
5 things to avoid for better sleep
1. Stay Away From Big Meals Before Bed
While a light snack (peanut butter on celery sticks) can actually help you sleep better through the night, a large meal will not. If you eat a lot before bed, your body will continue to digest the food while you’re trying to sleep. It’s a tug of war that you’re never going to win. Instead, try to eat dinner a couple hours before going to bed to make sure you’re body has had enough time to digest.
2. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and excessive liquids before bed
Caffeine and alcohol are two of the prime culprits of a bad night’s sleep, though too much water before bed can also wake you from your slumber in search of a bathroom. Caffeine can affect you up to 12 hours after drinking it, so you may even need to cut back on lunchtime coffees. And while alcohol may seem like it helps you fall asleep, it actually causes midnight restlessness.
3. Turn Off The Lights
You need to make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. One obvious change would be to turn off the lights or television set before you go to bed. If you’ve turned everything off and your room is still brighter than you’d like, consider investing in some blackout curtains. You’ll never be able to reach your full sleep potential in a bright room.
4. Don’t oversleep
Oversleeping can be as bad for your health as not sleeping enough. The average adult needs around 8 hours of sleep, and can vary by a couple hours depending on the individual. In addition to heart disease, depression, and diabetes, oversleeping will leave you feeling more tired when you wake up than you did before.
5. Don’t sleep in an uncomfortable bed
If you don’t have a comfortable bed, then you won’t ever look forward to using it. If you wake up with a sore neck or stiff back in the morning, it may be time in invest in a new mattress or some new pillows. If you’re too hot at night, you can turn down the air conditioning, turn on a fan, or try some new cotton sheets that breathe better. The bottom line is that an uncomfortable bed will ruin what would otherwise be a great night’s sleep. Start here first.
Remember: When forming new habits or breaking old ones, the trick is to go slow. Instead of trying to change everything at once, focus on one thing at a time. This will help ensure that your new habits stick, and permanently become part of who you are.
Post by Alison Hein.
I was planning on making muffins, and had picked up some local fragrant, ripe peaches for the job. While preparing my mise en place, I realized there was no milk in the fridge. Hmmm. What to do? And then I thought, vodka! After all, the most searched and viewed recipe on my food blog MixerUpper is Peach-Infused Vodka (http://mixerupper.com/2012/07/08/homemade-peach-infused-vodka/). And so I followed one of my favorite bits of cooking wisdom – when in doubt, use booze. 😉
Even though you can’t taste the vodka in the baked muffins, I like to think it added a deep smoothness to the batter. Be advised that one pound of fresh, juicy peaches is a lot, so the muffins will be slightly dense and moist at the base. If you like, sprinkle the muffin tops with cinnamon sugar before baking for a sweeter, spiced adaptation. Just don’t omit the vodka in your boozy, summery breakfast in bed.
4 to 5 ripe peaches, about 1 pound
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons vodka
1¾ cups white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sour cream
Peel, slice, and chop peaches*. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and vodka and mix well.
In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Combine dry ingredients with butter mixture. Stir in sour cream and mix gently until just smooth. Fold in peaches. Spoon into lined muffin tin and bake at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool slightly on rack before removing muffins from tin.
* To easily peel peaches, cut a small “x” in the bottom of the fruit. Carefully drop into boiling water and blanch for up to one minute. Remove peaches from pot and immerse in ice water. Peel off peach skin starting at the “x’. Slice peach by cutting lengthwise to the pit, and pulling slices away from pit. Chop slices into smaller pieces.
Makes 12 muffins.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Pete & Pickles by Berkeley Breathed.
Pete is a perfectly practical pig. He likes to have everything just so. He keeps everything in quiet order, follows the same routine every day, keeps his wife’s grave tidy. When he awakes one night to find an elephant hiding in his home, desperate for escape from the circus, Pete wastes no time returning him to the circus.
But somehow, he finds himself going for a longer walk than usual. And somehow, he finds himself passing the poor elephant, whose name is Pickles, on the circus grounds. And inexplicably, he sets her free and takes her home with him. Thus begins Pete’s journey to live again, to do spontaneous and silly activities. Their new life is not without its problems and Pete nearly sends Pickles packing.
Berkeley Breathed, best known for the much-loved Bloom County comic, has written a couple books for kids. He certainly doesn’t pull any punches when addressing some pretty profound ideas. In Mars Needs Moms! the boy’s mom is willing to sacrifice herself to keep her son alive, even though he was being a total pain. In Pete & Pickles the elephant risks drowning to keep the pig she loves alive. It’s pretty heart-wrenching, but there is more than enough silly adventuring going on around it to keep it feeling lighthearted in the end. A good book for kids 4-6.