Monthly Archives: May 2015
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Happy May 11! Today has been “officially” dubbed as Sabriel Day by Garth Nix, author of the wonderful young adult fantasy series. Twenty years ago today, Sabriel was published. I was wrapping up high school. I didn’t discover Sabriel, and the companion books in the trilogy, Lirael and Abhorsen, for many more years but they have stayed with me ever since. I have read the whole series (including his most recent companion, Clariel at least twice, and I’ve also listened to them all on audio, the first three read by the unparalleled Tim Curry!
The story of Sabriel is wonderfully unique and yet familiar. She is a young woman, still in school, south of the Wall, where magic has no grip. Her father lives north of the Wall, in the Old Kingdom. He is the Abhorsen, a necromancer whose job is to keep the dead dead and to walk them through past the Ninth Gate into death. You know how it goes. So when Sabriel receives a messenger from Death, carrying her father’s sword and necromancer’s bells, she knows there is trouble. Thus begins her journey learning about herself, about who her father is, and about life in the Old Kingdom where magic and monsters are part of everyday life.
This series has topped my list of favorite YA novels since I first picked it up. It’s fantasy that doesn’t feel like fantasy. There are no clearly made up magical names, no elves and goblins, and blessedly, no dragons. I don’t know why, but dragons is where I draw the line. If you’ve never read this series, this, the 20th anniversary, is the perfect time to pick it up. Celebrate Sabriel Day and see what you’ve been missing out on!
Post by Tracy Kaler.
Natural materials and earth tones create a calming effect in most any space. In bedrooms, we welcome serene elements and colors to encourage relaxation, preparing us for a good night’s sleep or a lazy afternoon nap.
These four bedrooms inspire us to go back to basics with neutral colors, rough-hewn woods, and linens and cottons, while also focusing on what lies beyond the windows as much as what’s in the bedroom itself.
A Big Fork Montana bedroom boasts a lofty tree house feel. Nature surrounds, and the space resembles a screened porch with its wide windows and scenic view. Yellow on the bed seems to be the near-perfect color to contrast the amount of green outside. This room takes on a modern yet rustic aesthetic.
Driftwood attached to the wall, suspended oyster shells, and linen on the bed complete this shabby-chic bedroom. The earthy combination of materials takes us back to nature in the best way possible in this beachy yet primitive room. What an innovative design!
Natural materials are the basis for this eclectic Montreal bedroom. From the pine bed to the metal tableside lamp to the Africa headdress as artwork, this room is not only earthy but also interesting. With so much to look at, this space proves that neutral colors never need be boring.
Zen-like with a mid-century, Japanese design, this bedroom sports an unusually low bed with an asymmetrical bed wall. Somehow, all of the components work well together, including the garden stool as an accent piece. This home is located in Orange County, CA, which is no surprise to me. I feel relaxed just looking at the photo.
Post by Alison Hein.
Ever since I perused my mother’s old cookbooks and cooked up a thick, savory Wicklow Pancake last week, I’ve had Irish food on my mind: thoughts of Irish food + Irish whiskey = Irish Whiskey Cake! Anything but savory, this boozy cake is a real palate pleaser.
Use a high quality, unsalted Irish butter, and a generous hand when pouring out the whiskey. This is no cake for the faint-hearted – the deep, smooth feel of Jameson (or other Irish whiskey) lingers on the tongue, and the finished texture has the quality of flowing amber.
You will need to use a bit of sugar, and a significant citrus flavor for balance. Here I’ve used a whole lemon, but an orange would be just as nice, leading the palate in a slightly different direction. If you like candied rind or fruit, feel free to toss some in the batter before baking. Or, decorate your cake with some thin-sliced lemon or orange.
Let the finished cake rest a bit before removing from the pan. When ready, invert it onto a pretty serving plate and dust it with powdered sugar. Then, brew some strong Irish tea, and please your palate with this sweet and boozy breakfast in bed.
1 stick butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup milk
¼ cup Irish whiskey
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
Juice and rind of 1 lemon (approximately 1 teaspoon grated rind, 3 tablespoons juice)
1 teaspoon lemon oil (optional)
Powdered sugar, to sprinkle on top of cake
Preheat oven to 325°. Generously grease a tube pan and set aside.
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 small bowl and stir in Irish whiskey. Mix flour and baking soda together. Alternately add whiskey mixture and flour mixture into batter, stirring thoroughly after each addition. Stir in lemon juice, grated rind, and lemon oil if using.
Spoon batter into tube pan, smoothing surface with spatula. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on rack for 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan and invert onto serving plate. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar.
Makes 1 cake, 16 to 20 slices.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Lexicon by Max Barry
If you’re into non-stop action and sci-fi-y stories, but also appreciate a well-written novel, you ought to check out Lexicon by Max Barry. Two stories, set at two different points in time, dance around each other before slowly converging.
One plot line is about an Australian carpenter named Wil Park who has found himself caught up in some very unbelievable circumstances. A bunch of people are after him and he doesn’t know who they are or what they want. The ones who are trying to protect him seem as unpleasant as those trying to intercept him. A woman, barely alive, utters a series of strange words and instructs one of the men to kill himself. And he does. That’s when Wil realizes something serious is happening. And it all points back to a secret locked inside Wil’s brain.
Emily is a clever street kid in San Francisco. Her knack for persuasion has caught the interest of an unusual organization. After proving herself worthy, if just barely, she is taken to an academy to learn a secret science of persuasion. She learns there are certain words that drop peoples’ defenses and open them up to obeying the commands of others. Those who have mastered this skill are called Poets (because of their mastery of language) and take on a poet’s name.
While this method of storytelling can fall flat (I always get irritated when I have to shift gears like that) Barry pulls it off with ease. It’s a difficult story to summarize but a fun and interesting book to read. It’s interesting, constantly moving, and totally unique.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a sequel to a movie that was adapted from a picture book that I used to love as a child. There were a whole lot of reasons I anticipated a terrible movie; for one, it was so many degrees removed from that beloved childhood book that the spirit of the original would surely be lost. I was right about that, but was wrong about what that would do to the movie. I actually enjoyed it, and perhaps that was partly because it was so far removed from the original that it was its own story altogether.
In the land of Swallow Falls, an inventor by the name of Flint Lockwood developed a device which made food rain down from the sky. Something must have gone wrong, because everyone fled. I think the food became enormous. That’s why they left in the book, at least. This is where the sequel picks up. Flint is contacted by a celebrated inventor named Chester V, who tells him that the giant food has become sentient! Flint and his crew head back to Swallow Falls to investigate.
The living food creatures vary from cute to vicious but not at all scary. (My son’s favorite is Tacodile…SUPREME!) Flint and his team discover that these creatures are not monsters at all. But as soon as they decide not to “clean up” the town, the inventor Chester V reveals his true nature; he is no kind inventor. He steals other peoples’ ideas and makes them his own. He will do whatever it takes to get his way. Including murder. Will he get away with this? How could he possibly?
This animated movie is silly, exciting, and geared perfectly towards young children. Adults will get a chuckle or two from the silly puns. Watch it in bed and it’s totally okay if you doze off a bit. 🙂