Monthly Archives: December 2013
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Big Appetites: tiny people in a world of big food by Christopher Boffoli.
My favorite, and also the most challenging part of the whole Christmas shopping thing is taking my 5.5-year-old out to pick out presents for his mom. It’s funny: he never wanted to go to the perfume counter or look at jewelry; I guess he knows his mother too well. He felt most inspired at the book store. Although I put the kibosh on the book of poetry supposedly written by a cat (it was even worse than you might imagine; this cat is not only not real, but a terrible poet to boot. Think of someone who is not a poet trying to sound poetic. And then filter that through the lens of a cat. You get the idea) his next selection was definitely worth a look.
Perhaps you have the the art of Christopher Boffoli. Microsculptures of all kinds of people doing all kinds of everyday activities placed in an environment of food. The cover depicts a tiny person “mowing” an enormous orange. Suddenly, such a pedestrian task as cutting a green bean becomes as big a job as cutting a fallen tree. Two lumberjacks toil over the bean. A little crawdad become a beast on the loose.Someone must have told the artist to add captions to the pictures, maybe to beef up the size of the book. Personally, I think these take away any open-ended interpretations of the images. I prefer to ignore them and let the pictures speak for themselves. Big Appetites is a funny and easy coffee table book.
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.