Monthly Archives: June 2015
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Graveyard Book, vols. 1&2 by Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by P. Craig Russel. The Graveyard Book is a fantastic, if creepy, children’s book by world-renowned author Neil Gaiman, known for such cult classics as The Sandman comics and Coraline. His stories are so full of fun images and notions that it’s only natural they be reimagined as graphic novels. The Graveyard Book translates beautifully into a visual genre, illustrated by P. Craig Russell who has done graphic versions on Neil Gaiman’s work in the past. The beginning of the story is awfully dark, but don’t let it put you off; the premise leads to a wonderful, magical story. A killer on the loose takes the lives of a family but misses the baby who has escaped his crib and is exploring. The baby ends up in an old abandoned graveyard. The ghosts who inhabit the graveyard convene and decide to care for the boy and raise him. He is granted “freedom of the graveyard” which allows him to pass through solid objects in the cemetary. Mr. and Mrs. Owens adopt him and name him Nobody Owens. The only non-ghost entity in the graveyard is Silas, who agrees to be his guardian. As the only one who can leave the premises, he is the only one who can fetch food and supplies for Nobody.
So that is how this story begins. Nobody Owens is a human, living child who is raised by kindly ghosts and Silas, who may or may not be a vampire. It’s technically a young adult book but it will appeal to older readers as well. And, alluring as it is to younger readers, the visuals on the opening pages of what happens to Nobody’s family are disturbing. But after that grim premise, a truly fun, creepy and lovely story emerges in a way that only Neil Gaiman could pull off. It’s divided into two volumes to keep you from reading it all in one go.
Post by Mark T. Locker
Are you looking for a good family-friendly movie that isn’t riddled with product placement and CGI and won’t have you obsessively checking how many minutes are left in the film? Check out the adorable animated movie Ernest and Celestine and rejoice. Based on a series of French-language picture books by Gabrielle Vincent, the movie tells of the relationship between Celestine, a tiny mouse who just doesn’t fit in with her mouse kin, and Ernest, a misfit bear.
In the French and Belgian tradition, mice are the ones who find children’s teeth and replace them with gifts. Such is little Celestine’s lot in life, a life she is not well suited to. Ernest, meanwhile, performs music for money but is told that it’s not allowed. Due to desperation, he finds himself at odds with the law. When he finds Celestine trapped in a trash can, he nearly eats her but she convinces him to let her live. However, colluding with the outlaw bear has brought Celestine into trouble as well. Despite being brought up to fear bears as vicious killers, Celestine learns that Ernest has a kind and warm heart. Two lost souls who never knew they needed each other are brought together in the most unlikely way and together they learn to love themselves for who they are.
It’s a refreshing movie with charmingly simple animation and a sweet story it would be hard to dislike. Good for all ages.
Post by Tracy Kaler.
With summer finally here, many of us will inevitably spend a weekend or two, and possibly more at the beach. I’ve stayed on the Long Island Sound over the past few weeks, and although I love the sun and sand, I can’t help but think about how I’d redecorate the house’s not-so-beachy bedroom.
When I went browsing for bedroom ideas, I found the rooms below, each beachy and summery in their own fashion.
I was attracted to the ship blueprint photos the moment I saw this photo. This compact bedroom boasts the aesthetic of a coastal retreat with its white walls and bedding, not to mention the blue accents. The rope lamps add a nautical touch.
I can’t help but admire the paint color on the bedside table/cabinet in this cute coastal room. Simple white paneling sets the tone for this beach bedroom, while yellow lends punch and complements the aqua and white color scheme.
Although designed as a child’s bedroom, if you remove the toys and stuffed animals, this space could easily convert to a comfy even somewhat sophisticated grownup bedroom. The furniture is simple and modern, as is the bedding with a gray and white awning stripe. The art above the bed is completely coastal, don’t you think?
Traditional with elegance, this graceful bedroom overlooking the sea would make an ideal guest quarters. The chunky, upholstered bed is a good match, but the Alexandria Bed from Charles P. Rogers would do nicely in the room too.
Post by Alison Hein.
Years ago you could only find grits, or ground corn cooked porridge-like, in the southern United States. Luckily for us northerners, this delectable, creamy dish has become more prominent in our area. To me, grits tastes like a heavenly cross between polenta and popcorn. When cooked slowly with milk instead of water, it makes a perfect bed upon which to place your favorite breakfast food.
As with other grains, cooking grits takes a bit of patience. You must bring the milk (or water) to a boil, then find the perfect simmering temperature to bring your grits to a creamy (not burnt) finish. I strongly recommend looking for traditional stone-ground grits with no additives. It may take a few minutes longer to prepare, but the natural flavors are extraordinary. Try ordering online if you can’t find these locally. My favorite purveyor is Palmetto Farms, a family-owned South Carolina tradition since the 1930s.
Grits have long been considered a homey breakfast dish, but can be enjoyed for dinner, too – serve them as a simple side with a pat of butter, or spruce them up by stirring in chicken stock, cheese, fried onions, or bacon. Try the Carolina classic shrimp and grits – a mournful of creamy corn grits, topped with plump seasoned and sautéed shellfish – astoundingly easy to prepare, yet deep and rich in flavor.
In this breakfast recipe, I add spunky grated cheddar to the grits as they cease simmering. Then I fry up a couple of crispy eggs to place on top, and complete with some fresh, green parsley sprigs for color and punch in my heavenly breakfast in bed.
2 cups milk
½ cup grits
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh parsley, for garnish
Pour milk into a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in grits and a dash of salt. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until grits are thick and creamy. Stir in grated cheddar cheese and keep warm until ready to serve.
To make eggs, heat olive oil in large, heavy frying pan over medium low heat. Crack eggs into pan one at a time, making sure to leave enough space between the eggs so the whites don’t run together. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook each egg until white is solid, edges are beginning to crisp and yolk is still soft, about 4 minutes.
Spoon cheese grits into two bowls. Top each serving with a fried egg. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
Makes 2 servings
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Kraken by China Miéville
Happy Cephalopod Week! Let us celebrate the wise and mysterious octopus, squid, and cuttlefish with some tales of my favorite tentacled monster: the giant squid.
As an avid audiobook listener, sometimes I’ll branch out and try out a book based solely on the narrator. One of my favorites is a rich-voiced Englishman named John Lee. He’s got a fantastic repertoire of voices and does gritty crime novels and humor with equal adeptness. I’ll listen to just about anything he reads. I’m pretty sure I never would have happened upon this book had it not been read by John Lee. I’d seen the name China Miéville in bookstores but never picked one up. I was surprised to discover that China is a burly bald British dude. Not that makes a difference.
Kraken is a bizarre story of a man named Billy Harrow, who works for the Darwin Centre at the British Museum of Natural History. His particular specialty is the giant squid, Architeuthis dux, which he lovingly preserved himself. When the squid goes inexplicably missing, Billy is drawn into a strange underground world of a squid-worshipping cult known as the Church of Kraken Almighty. In their literature, the body of their god going missing is a harbinger of dark times, possibly the end of the world. Riddled with strange gods and magical creatures, weird unearthly villains and cops with special extra senses, this novel is super weird but oddly tantalizing. If you have a taste for the strange, or are, like me, a fan of the giant squid, give this book a whirl. Better yet, listen to John Lee’s reading and let his rich voice lull you into dreams of squid gods.