Monthly Archives: October 2014
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
In case you didn’t know, it’s October, the scariest month of the year. It’s actually MID-October now, which is pretty scary in its own way. Well, there’s nothing I like more as the days grow shorter, the leaves turn to flame and the mists descend upon us, than to curl up with a nice creepy story. A while back I wrote a review of Lockwood & Co. Part I by Jonathan Stroud. With a subtitle like The Screaming Staircase, there was really no way it could be bad, and it didn’t disappoint. With much anticipation on my part, the sequel was finally (and in a timely fashion, just in time for fall!) released. The Whispering Skull picks up where the last installment leaves off, with our protagonist ghost hunter Lucy Carlyle discovering that she can hear the voice of a haunted skull her colleague has in a jar. How’s that for a spooky intro?
In this story, Lockwood, George, and Lucy, a team of freelance ghost hunters, are hired to look into a mysterious grave found in a nearby cemetery. What they discover in the tomb is a relic so deadly and powerful it threatens to destroy anyone who comes near. And with the discovery of this relic, the haunted skull suddenly becomes very talkative. Is it connected to the tomb somehow? And how much of what it says is truth, how much is lies to manipulate and divide the team?
Spooky fun reading for a brave kid or young adult or, in this case, regular adult.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Doomsday Preppers National Geographic Channel
I’m not a fan of most reality television shows; usually there is too much petty interpersonal drama, too much focus on people who seem to be terrible human beings. There are a couple exceptions to this rule, however. One of which has been survival shows like Dual Survival which offers a look at survival skills put to the test in a variety of environments. This is sort of the flip side of that coin.
Doomsday Preppers looks into the lives of people who are very serious in their attempts to prepare for the end of days. It’s a fascinating show. There seem to be two kinds of preppers: those who want to have the skills and resources to survive off the grid for extended periods of times and those who are mostly arming themselves for the inevitable marauders coming for their supplies (or, as I see it, people in need of help). I think some of these people have been watching too much Walking Dead. On the other hand, it’s pretty reasonable to want to be prepared for a major natural disaster. I’m going to stop short of creating homemade explosives to keep out unwanted people.
Each featured individual or family has a different predicted end of times, from massive climate change to global pandemics, to governmental collapse, which inspires them to prepare. Each also has a unique focus to their skill set, from raising massive amounts of rabbits to sophisticated communication systems. Very interesting watching.
Post by Tracy Kaler.
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Post by Alison Hein.
The bad news is that summer is completely and entirely over. The good news is that autumn harvest vegetables are completely and entirely at their peak. Butternut squash, with its rich, buttery sweetness, is one of my all-time favorites.
You can dish a little bit of October flavor onto your breakfast plate with this Butternut Hash recipe. Best results come from fresh, not frozen, squash. Either steal a few pieces of a whole butternut when making soup (try my recipe for Butternut Squash Soup!), or use a handful of pre-cut pieces you can find in most groceries these days.
Broiling the butternut squash first makes finishing this hash a snap – do it the day before if you like to speed things even more. I like to roast the squash with a generous sprinkling of hot cayenne, infusing some heat as a counterpoint to its naturally sweet flavor. Stop here, if you like, and serve up the roasted butternut as a side dish for any meal of the day.
If you keep going, you will love the colorful array of vegetables tossed in the pan – deep orangey-gold squash, sprightly green celery, burnt auburn bacon, and rich red onion make this hash as pretty and autumnal as a mountainside of Eastern trees decked out in peak foliage.
Cook up some eggs as a go-with, if you like. Fried or scrambled are good alongside; perching some poached atop the hash is also lovely. A bite of tender yolk completely and entirely enhances the rich, crispy, flavorful bed of vegetables beneath, for a delectable harvest breakfast in bed.
1 cup butternut squash, chopped finely into 1/8-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dash of cayenne pepper
2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh thyme, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Toss butternut squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and cayenne and spread out onto baking sheet. Bake until cooked through and lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon, celery, red onion and butternut squash to pan. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisped and vegetables are cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic and sauté. for 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until garlic is golden but not yet browned. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with fresh thyme.
Serve hot, with a side of eggs of your choice.
Makes 2 servings.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. Pictures by Oliver Jeffers.
One of the best things about the new school year is that means new surprise books on library day. Last year I learned just how many different Lego and Star Wars-themed easy readers were being cranked out by unscrupulous children’s publishers. Goodness knows what this new year will bring, though I must say it’s off to an auspicious start. My boy was very excited to show off his new library book, and will good reason. The Day the Crayons Quit is a highly entertaining and original story.
When Duncan opens his box of crayons, he finds instead a series of letters to him, each penned—er, crayoned—by a different color. Yellow and orange write contradictory letters arguing over which is the REAL color of the sun. Pink feels snubbed because Duncan thinks it’s a “girl” color. Peach is mortified because Duncan peeled all his paper off and now Peach is naked! You can bet that gets a lot of laughs in our home!
I am not familiar with Drew Daywalt but Oliver Jeffers is well-known and well-loved in our home. Great book for kids 4-6.