Monthly Archives: January 2014
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
Throughout history beds have been used as a symbol of wealth – the more ornate and grand the bed, the wealthier its owner. Early in the evolution of the bed, anything raised from the floor was thought to be luxurious enough. After all, it beat sleeping on the floor! In the 13th century, however, the idea of a bedchamber was becoming more popular, i.e., enclosing the sleeping area with fabrics. The earliest bedchambers suspended fabrics from the ceiling to create a private sleeping environment. This concept later evolved into a four-poster bed, thought to have first been used in Austria, which created a more luxurious look and feel. Featherbeds, woolen blankets, and silk sheets were also introduced around this time, which made the beds functional and beautiful.
As trade and craftsmanship continued to grow, so did the bed. No longer a raised assemblage of wooden planks, beds had become works of art intricately carved, gilded with gold, and adorned with fine fabrics and precious stones. Four-poster beds were also quite large, with the Great Bed of Ware (which can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum) measuring a full 11 feet square. A bed of that size will make you second-guess whether a California King is really big enough!
The traditional four-poster bed would have been made from thick oak posts (up to 18 inches in diameter in some of the grandest examples), attached to the floor (not the bed), and connected by a series of rails along the top. Today, the posts of four-poster beds are usually connected to the bed itself, and come in almost every style imaginable — limited only by your taste and budget.
If you’re considering a four-poster bed, Charles Rogers makes a couple different styles of canopy beds made out of iron that can be draped in fabrics to create a very luxurious look. You can also check out the Houzz gallery to see how other people have dressed up their four-poster beds.
Post by Alison Hein.
Finding myself with a plethora of mixed nuts on hand after the holidays, I decided to make a sweet, dense walnut bread. Dark brown sugar provides a lovely colored base and texture for the deep, nutty flavor. A couple of eggs and a healthy dollop of sour cream add the needed lift, and a dash of cinnamon infuses a faint, lingering spice after each bite.
I wanted to give some Walnut Bread to a couple of friends, so I used three mini-bread pans for baking. You can also use a muffin tin, if you like. Just be sure to check on and monitor your baking a little earlier in the process to avoid over-cooking. Other types of nuts such as pecans or hazelnuts can also work well here, of course depending on your preference. Or, halve the amount of nuts used and add an equal amount of raisins or dried cranberries.
It doesn’t take long to mix up and bake this batter, but be prepared to wait until your bread is completely cooled before slicing or you may find yourself with a handful of sweet crumbles instead of sweet, crumbly slices.
A little more cakey than bread, and definitely more bready than cake, Walnut Bread is delicious at tea time with a strong cup of English Breakfast tea. Or, if you prefer, save it for the morning, slice it up properly and enjoy a sweet, nutty breakfast in bed.
6 tablespoons butter, softened
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sour cream
1½ cups chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°, and lightly grease 1 large bread pan, or 3 mini bread pans.
In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until fully blended and slightly creamy. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Gradually add dry ingredients to the butter mixture, stirring until mixed to a light, sandy texture. Mix in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and sour cream until smooth batter forms. Fold in chopped walnuts. Spread batter in greased pan(s). Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack at least one hour before slicing.
Note: If using mini-pans, bake for 35 to 40 minutes, then test with toothpick.
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen.
I’ve heard a lot about Carl Hiaasen. Lots of monosyllabic titles. Darling of the state of Florida. Hoot, Flush, Chomp, Scat are among his children’s titles. I read Chomp because it was what happened to be available. The story tells of a boy by the name of Wahoo Cray. He and his father Mickey are professional animal wranglers. Since a head injury involving a dead iguana falling from a tree, Mickey has been unable to work and Wahoo has been taking up the slack. As you can imagine, animal wrangling is not a very financially stable career so when Derek Badger, the obnoxious, chubby star of a reality survival series shows up needing a gator and a snake to “encounter” Wahoo is more than happy to comply.
Although he has always faked the show, Derek’s encounter with the gator, in which he almost dies, is inspired to make this show for real and hires the two to lead him into the Everglades. Accompanied by Wahoo’s friend Tuna (their immediate bond is their unfortunate fish-related names) their short trip to the swamps turns into a real survival show, as well as a manhunt and much more.
Hiaasen is a pretty funny writer and clearly knows his home state, not to mention its flora and fauna, very well. I’m going to go read Flush next. I’ll let you know how it is.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
All of nerd-dom has been all a-twitter about the 50th—FIFTIETH!!—anniversary of that darling of Cardiff, or should I say of the planet Gallifrey, Doctor Who. Since 1963, this unique science-fiction show has been taking viewers around time and space in the telltale blue police box the quirky disguise for the spaceship/time machine the TARDIS. In 2005, BBC relaunched the show after a 16-year hiatus. One of the handy features of the Doctor, the last of the Timelords, is that he is eternal and also he takes on a new form—and with it a new personality—regularly! So it manages to stay fresh by replacing the main character every couple years while at the same time keeping the main character. We have just been introduced to the 12th Doctor. People have been geeking out about it for months.
The reason this show is front and center in my mind is that my son discovered it, quite by accident. I dropped a couple dollars on Lego man-sized figurines at the local comic shop. He was instantly taken with the two evil robots I unwrapped: a Dalek and a Cyberman. Eventually, they became his. He has since read through several Doctor Who books and learned more than I know about the show. Last week, during his winter break, he finally got to watch the first episode of the relaunch. About 2/3 of the show is simply too scary for him but he absolutely loves it. And no nightmares yet!
It has retained a bit of the hokiness of its early days, it’s a little bit silly and a little bit awesome. Fun to watch in the evenings.
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
I hope that you all had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! It seems like 2013 flew by towards the end there, and now we’re on to 2014: a new year filled with boundless possibilities and opportunities. That is, of course, until 2015…
Given that the tradition of making resolutions is as old as celebrating the New Year itself, I wanted to share with you a handful of my favorite tips that you can use towards fulfilling a resolution to get a better night’s sleep.
- Exercise. Probably the most popular New Year’s resolution is to exercise — even if the effort rarely lasts through February. In addition to exercising for a fitness goal this year, try exercising for better sleep. You’ll still have a chance at fitting in that favorite pair of jeans you wore back in college, and will definitely sleep better.
- Color-shift your computer screen. I’ve written in the past about the benefits of color-shifting your computer screen using a free and lightweight program called f.lux. Without going into too much detail, color-shifting turns your screen from a bright white to a warm red as the sun goes down. The warmer light is easier on your eyes, and also helps prepare you for sleep (light is a stimulus that tells your brain to stay awake). I’ve been using the program for a couple years now and can’t imagine life without it.
- Eat a light snack before bed. While you don’t want to eat a large meal and immediately go to sleep (it would be bad for your digestion), a light snack about an hour before bed can help you sleep soundly through the night. The best snacks are those with a mix of tryptophan (the amino acid found in turkey that we blame for Thanksgiving drowsiness) and complex carbs. A great sleep snack that’s easy to make is peanut butter and crackers. The carbs from the crackers mixed with the tryptophan found in peanut butter helps your brain create serotonin, which helps you feel more relaxed and ready to sleep.
- Get in a routine. Setting a regular bedtime routine can help you sleep better. Easier said than done, I know. In addition to the time you go to bed, there are other nightly rituals that can also help prepare you for sleep. For example, some people find that taking a hot shower or meditating right before bed helps them sleep better. When developing a sleep routine, don’t neglect the other half, i.e., waking up, which is just as important as your bedtime.
- Make your bedroom your sanctuary. The Charles P Rogers blog is filled with tips and tricks for making your bedroom the sanctuary of your dreams. So if you’re looking for design inspiration, don’t be shy about browsing through the archives. Whatever your style, however, a luxurious bed is critical to getting a good night’s sleep and looks great in any décor. Without one you’ll always be missing something in the sleep department. 2014 is a perfect excuse to treat yourself to the comfortable bed you’ve always wanted.
While you may not have thought to make your New Year’s resolution “getting a better night’s sleep,” the above tips are general enough that you may have already resolved to do one of them. Now you have yet another reason to stick to your goals and make 2014 the best year yet!