Monthly Archives: October 2014
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Well, today’s the big day! Happy Halloween, everyone! From the moment school begins, the witches and ghosts and skeletons come out. The black-dyed cheesecloth gets wrapped around old bones and bags of candy appear across from rows and rows of scythes. And many people enjoy watching scary, scary movies after darkness falls. I like watching scary, scary movies. They don’t tend to really scare me for the most part. I suppose I could still watch these movies, but now I’m a parent I have to wait until the kid is in bed and the likelihood of having enough energy to watch a whole movie on a weeknight is very, very slim. And my little boy is not a fan of scary movies. Not even kind of scary movies. The Dreamworks Halloween special “Night of the Living Carrots”, which is about carrots possessed by weird alien glowing stuff, was way too scary to watch. Mostly I think it’s because they turn people into zombie-like things. Zombies scare the bejeezus out of him.
So now for most of my Halloween fix has to come from such decidedly un-scary programming as Curious George’s Halloween Boo Fest! The SCARY bit is about a scarecrow named No Noggin who KICKS PEOPLES’ HATS OFF THEIR HEADS There is also a pumpkin contest. By the way, in case you are worried, No Noggin is not real. There is something else behind the hats going missing. Hint: it’s not scary and it’s totally implausible. So if you have a little kid, you can give this hour-long Curious George special a try. It’s probably available streaming via PBS for a couple more days.
Post by Tracy Kaler.
Kids like color too. Did you know that a bedroom with bright hues could affect your child’s happiness, health and behavior? Color plays a significant role in our lives, no matter our age. I adore these five colorful kids’ rooms and I think you will too.
Horizontal stripes with varying widths and bunk beds with mixed prints keep this room youthful yet stylish. The yellow, navy, orange and white color scheme is unisex –– which means both boys and girls will feel at ease in this cheerful space.
A clever design in a city apartment, this modern room for two children boasts a park theme. The column turned tree, tulip bedding, and birds-in-tree area rug are important components in the bohemian bedroom’s décor. Rubber resilient flooring and an integrated ladder to a bunk contribute to the clean feel of the space.
This Lego-inspired playroom also happens to have a mattress for sleeping. At first glance, however, the whimsical space feels nothing like a bedroom, which I assume is what the designer intended. Regardless, most children would love coming in to a room like this to sleep, play, or even do their homework.
A San Francisco children’s room combines traditional beds and a contemporary geometrical backdrop. Elephant bedding, the Eames-inspired sky blue “Eiffel” chairs, lamp, and stuffed animals keep the space youthful. But with a few minor edits, this room could transition into a sanctuary for a young adult.
Most likely a young girl’s bedroom (or a room for two sisters), the pretty lavender wall paint and hot pink bolsters give the space a feeling of sweetness and elegance. The black lampshade is a sophisticated touch for a child’s room, but it works, nonetheless. This is another example of a space with a youthful vibe that can adapt into an adult’s bedroom with a few minor changes. The personalized bedding is a lovely detail.
Post by: Alison Hein.
It is my joy to create an annual Halloween recipe. In 2011 (when I began writing for Charles P. Rogers) it was the fun and popular Crêpe Dracula – a little chocolate crêpe dressed up like the count himself. Following that, I shared my secrets for baking individual Smoky Pumpkin, Egg and Bacon Cauldrons, and last year, we enjoyed rich and colorful Pumpkin Cream Crêpes.
This time, I chose to explore an ancient and somewhat confusing tradition of Soul Cakes, which are linked to the Gaelic harvest festival of Samhain, the forbear of Halloween. It was a time of year when spirits and fairies could enter more easily into our world, and celebratory, seasonal foods were served. Soul Cakes were baked with exotic saffron, perhaps to represent the great harvest sun. Much later, Samhain evolved into a Christian holiday, and Soul Cakes were made to honor the dead. Many bakers pressed currants in the tops of their cakes in the shape of a cross.
Soul Cake recipes abound, ranging from quick breads to yeast breads, tiny muffins to giant cakes. They are sweetened and spiced, glazed and decorated. I decided to make sweet, individual golden orbs, swapping out currants for plump golden raisins – tiny little suns within the great harvest sun. Fall spices add a pie-like feel, and become mysterious and aromatic when warmed. Wrap one in a colorful napkin and give it as a gift, or hoard them and share with a special someone for a soulful breakfast in bed.
10 – 12 threads of saffron
1 tablespoon hot water
¼ pound (1 stick) butter, softened, plus an additional teaspoon for greasing pans
1 cup sugar
½ cup milk
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ cup golden raisins
Preheat oven to 325°. Generously grease two 4×2-inch round cake pans and set aside.
Place the saffron threads in a mortar and crush with the pestle until powdery. Cover with 1 tablespoon hot water and let sit for at least 20 minutes.
Add butter and sugar to a large bowl, and cream together until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, until batter is light and smooth. Pour milk into a measuring cup and stir in saffron “tea”. In a separate small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. Alternately add milk mixture and flour mixture into batter, stirring thoroughly after each addition. Gently stir in golden raisins.
Spoon batter equally into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with a spatula. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until cake is golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on rack for 30 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and serve warm, if you like.
Makes 2 4×2-inch cakes.
NOTE: If you are as fascinated as I am by convoluted food history, I recommend reading this engaging article and recipe from T. Susan Chang.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and Hell House by Richard Matheson.
Happy Halloween, everyone! Here are two similar but very distinct haunted house novels. Hill House and Hell House, besides having quite similar names, have similar premises (no pun intended!). Each features a scientifically-minded individual engaging in an empirical study of a well-known haunted house.
In Hell House, Dr. Lionel Barrett is invited by a wealthy eccentric to spend a week in a notoriously haunted—and dangerous—house with two mediums to gather definitive proof of the paranormal. In this case, the site is known as the Belasco house, named for the former owner, a horrifically depraved and evil man named Emeric Bellasco. Many lives were lost in the house and many angry spirits remain. Every attempt to reside in and study the house has ended in death. Dr. Barrett is convinced he can end the whole thing using technology. Florence Tanner, a spiritualist and mental medium, wants to connect with the spirits and put them to rest. Benjamin Franklin Fischer, a physical medium, visited the home as a teenager and hopes simply to get through the week alive.
The Haunting of Hill House is by Shirley Jackson, a well-known author, most notably of her chilling short story “The Lottery”. Like Hell House, this story is based around a science-minded professor spending time in a haunted house with a couple assistants hoping to gather concrete proof of the supernatural. This story is built more around the characters, especially Eleanor, one of the young women staying with Dr. John Montague. Unlike the Belasco house, there is no particular set of event that makes the house so awful, rather it seems the house itself is malevolent. Its forces get into the characters minds and exploit their weaknesses.
Both are spooky and enjoyable books, though Shirley Jackson’s superb writing style and brilliant subtlety of narrative flow through the novel make it seem creepier. You never see a chair fly across a room, which somehow makes the whole thing scarier. Matheson’s book, however, highlights the darker parts of the human soul and the icky depths some people descend to. Either one will make you shiver in your bed as you read.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
If you or a loved one is a fan of any or all of the Star Wars universe, chances are you have been following the events that have begun since Disney acquired the franchise in 2012. Of course, there are a whole bunch of new movies coming out which is a great way to make a zillion dollars for the company. Seriously, they could have a movie about Han and Leia enjoying a quiet domestic life and it would make $100 million. But now there is another addition to the Star Wars universe. The Disney Channel has begun airing a new series called Star Wars: Rebels which is a computer-animated cartoon series, reminiscent of the Clone Wars cartoons. This one is set after the Revenge of the Sith and before the original movies, A New Hope. The first episode is called Sparks of Rebellion. This series promises to tell the story of what happens between when the Empire takes over the galaxy, or universe, or whatever, and when the Rebel Alliance fights back.
You get to meet a bunch of new droids, aliens, and humanoids. I’ll bet you that there will be a whole mess of new toys coming out soon, probably just in time for Christmas. It airs at 9 pm, which is good as it is clearly aimed at older viewers. One character mentions kicking someone’s a—and there is no shortage of killing. It’s interesting to see these cartoons which are actually way more violent than the first three movies ever were; everything there was mostly theatrical. I think this cartoon shows promise and is definitely a good time-filler while we await the next Star Wars movie, but is definitely geared toward kids who are a bit older.