Yearly Archives: 2014
Post by Mark T. Locker
Five Creepy Creatures by Judith Bauer Stamper.
Monday afternoons are such fun. I look forward to seeing my son’s picks from the school library almost as much as he looks forward to the big reveal. It’s become a big, built up event now. He loves to sneak it out of his bag and hold it behind his back until I’m ready to see experience the unveiling. I also love how totally unpredictable his choices are.
Last week he brought this silly reader which features five not-so-spooky stories from the LAND OF THE UNDEAD! All of them end in ridiculous puns. (I am very proud of him for choosing a book filled with puns.) For example, in one story a boy and girl are followed out of the creepy graveyard by a coffin. The coffin follows them all the way home. The boy is terrified but the girl calmly pulls out a cough drop and gives it to the coffin. “That will stop this coffin [coughin]!” Yuk yuk.
There are also a bunch of terrible knock-knock jokes. But really, are there any other kind? He read those to us about fifty times. They just get better with every reading! So if you have a kid who is just getting the hang of reading and likes creepy funny stories, this one is something s/he may enjoy. You might want to leave the room, however.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! That’s pretty much the mantra in the deliriously happy LEGO world our hero Emmet lives in. What he doesn’t realize is that he is living in a totalitarian society ruled by the ruthless President/Lord Business. You must build all your sets according to the rules. Do not diverge from the rules. Why would you? Everything is awesome! Tacos on Tuesdays! But then one day, quite by accident, he finds himself immersed in a new world. After tumbling down a hole and becoming fused with a mysterious object, he becomes the prophesied “Special” whose job is to defeat Lord Business, who means to glue all pieces together.
Emmet is hilariously not ready for this role. He’s a super happy-go-lucky guy who has never questioned anything ever. Filled with all your favorite LEGO minifigures from Batman (who is an egomaniac) to 80s space guy with the crack in his helmet that I remember so well from my own childhood, this movie is surprisingly entertaining and peppered with enough subtle jokes for the grown-ups to keep everyone happy. My favorite character is Unikitty, the happy unicorn/kitty hybrid whose repressed rage is just WAITING to be unleashed! And when it does, you’d better watch out!
This movie just came out on DVD so pick up a copy and have an awesome night in with the family.
Post by Alison Hein.
Fleeting things are special – the rosy, amber hues of the setting sun; long, balmy summer days; and puffed-up, golden soufflés, just waiting to be devoured.
Soufflés are a little tricky, but perhaps not as complicated as you think. Try to follow these rules when making them:
- Be gentle when folding the beaten egg whites into the batter. The aerated whites are what give you the rise. Just go slowly – lift and fold, lift and fold – and suddenly your batter will be mixed and light.
- Do not open the oven door to peek at your soufflés until they have been baking for at least 20 minutes. The sudden change in temperature may cause them to drop.
- Have everyone ready and waiting at the table with spoons in hand. When finished baking, the soufflés will only stay puffed up (and super impressive) for a few minutes. This is the part you want everyone to experience (and admire).
Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, soufflés are immeasurably variable – sweet or savory, spicy or mild. Try using different cheeses for a quick change. I used a quattro fromaggio blend which gave the soufflés a little kick. Swiss provides a lovely mellow flavor, and tangy cheddar turns a beautiful orangey gold.
Whip some up. Indulge in the pleasures of a fleeting (and impressive) breakfast in bed.
2 tablespoons unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 eggs, separated
¼ cup grated cheese
6 4-inch ramekins
Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly spray each ramekin with cooking spray. Sprinkle breadcrumbs in ramekins, tapping and turning to lightly cover bottom and sides, discarding any excess.
Melt butter in small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth, thick paste forms. Whisk in milk and cook until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper. Beat in egg yolks one at a time.
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into egg batter, then fold in grated cheese. Fill each of the ramekins with batter – they should be about ¾ full. Tap the bottoms of the ramekins lightly on the work surface so batter fills the bottom, then smooth the top with a butter knife.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until soufflés are puffed up and lightly browned. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.
This week, we’re talking a book for the grown-ups! A couple weeks back, I shared with you part of a series for young adults by Jasper Fforde, a book all about magicians and magical creatures. But before he launched into YA fiction, Jasper Fforde wrote several offbeat mystery novels for adults. The first of these novels, often described as “metafiction” was The Eyre Affair. It’s not easy to summarize the unusual world created by Fforde, but suffice it to say that literature and literary figures are so lauded that there is a special branch of operatives who deal specifically with crimes of a literary nature. Often that is little more that fake original manuscripts or “lost” poems of great writers. But when the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit is stolen under inexplicable circumstances, things get much more serious. When a minor character from the novel suddenly disappears from the book, and his body is found in modern-day London, the mystery becomes deadly serious. And Lit Tec operative Thursday Next may be the only one who can get to the bottom of it all.
I’ll admit this book is totally weird. I also can’t wait to go on and read the other books in this series. This one focuses, as you might suspect, on the Brontë novel Jane Eyre. I believe that there is some Hamlet in the next one! And who knows what else in the others? So if you think you’d enjoy metafiction (fiction about fiction) this one is great to read as a bedtime story to yourself.
Post by: Alison Hein.
Profiteroles (aka cream puffs) are a divine bite of sweet something encased in an airy puff of a shell. Filled with the delight of your choice (ice cream, fruit, whipped cream, etc.), they make an impressive dessert, and sometimes an exceedingly decadent, melt-in-your-mouth breakfast in bed.
In this recipe, the airy, crêpe-like shells are filled with homemade Vanilla Pudding and topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream. Tiny lids are propped upon the cream and dusted with a fine powder of confectioner’s sugar. Tangy, colorful raspberries and blueberries balance and garnish the dish.
½ cup water
¼ cup butter
½ cup flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
Add water and butter to small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Mix in flour all at once. Stir continuously, until mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball, about 1 minute. Let cool for 5 minutes.
Beat eggs into flour mixture one at a time. Continue to mix until batter is thick and smooth. Drop onto prepared sheet into 12 equal portions. Bake until puffed up and golden, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.
To assemble, gently slice profiteroles in half. Spoon some Vanilla Pudding (see recipe below) on top of one half. Cover with a spoonful of whipped cream. Place the top of the profiterole on the whipped cream. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with fresh berries, if you like.
Makes 12 profiteroles.
½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour (or 2 tablespoons cornstarch)
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt
1 cup heavy cream (optional)
Combine sugar and flour in a heavy saucepan. Add milk, and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes, until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk about one half of the milk mixture into the beaten eggs, stirring constantly. Return egg mixture to the saucepan. Bring again to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, and cook for a few minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla and salt. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours.
If you like, whip heavy cream, sweeten, and place on top of Profiteroles when ready to serve.