Tag Archives: Children
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Have you ever wondered what exactly happens once pet owners leave for the day? Well, I can’t say for sure but The Secret Life of Pets which came out on DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital release in December has some theories. The story follows the lives of a number of pets in some Manhattan apartments. The main character, Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) is a doted-on single dog whose life is turned upside-down when his owner brings home a big shaggy shelter dog named Duke. Their personal dislike of each other takes a serious turn when the two of them get caught by animal control thanks to a neglectful dog-walker. When they are unexpectedly rescued by a rogue team of abandoned pets (a pig, a dog, a lizard and a surprisingly fierce bunny) they have to pretend to be abandoned as well. Meanwhile, the tiny fluffy dog named Gidget (Jenny Slate) who loves Max realizes something is amiss and pull together a band of pets to go and rescue them.
In a world of so many remakes, reboots, spinoffs and adaptations, it’s refreshing to find some unique content. My favorite parts were really at the beginning as we got to know the animals in the building, from the fat disinterested cat to the guinea pig who has been lost in the ducts for weeks trying to remember where his owner lives. It’s a fun and exciting story with enough humor to keep the grown-ups engaged and enough silliness and adventure for the little ones. Great movie to watch under a heaping pile of blankets as winter trudges on.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Bedtime Stories: The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
For most, the story of the Nutcracker is a beloved holiday tradition. Dress up fancy and go to the performing arts center or school to watch the popular ballet, whose music from Tchaikovsky is pretty much synonymous with the holidays. For many, hearing the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy will evoke images of Christmasy scenes.
But did you know that it was first a short story by 19th
century author E.T.A. Hoffmann? Written in 1816, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” is the littleknown origin of the Nutcracker ballet. Hoffmann was a fan of the traditional German fairy tales, and their influence is obvious in the story.
On Christmas Eve, Marie and her brother are playing with their new nutcracker toy which becomes accidentally broken. She attempts to fix it and stays up late keeping it company. Suddenly, an army of mice appear. All the wooden toys then come to life and battle the mice. The next day Marie tells her godfather, Drosselmeyer, about the event and he tells her the story of the nutcracker and how he came to be. There are lots of unusual fairy tale goings-on, such as the need to have a princess eat a nut which must be cracked and handed to her by a man who had never been shaved nor worn boots since birth, and who must, without opening his eyes hand her the kernel and take seven steps backwards without stumbling.
In the Hoffmann story, none of this is a dream. The little girl sees it all with her own eyes and even though most adults don’t believe her, it’s a true story. My favorite version of this story is illustrated by Maurice Sendak, known best for his book Where the Wild Things Are. Richly illustrated, the story is both beautiful to look at and to read.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Happy long weekend! If your geography is anything like mine, Memorial Day weekend means guaranteed rain. So if the sky opens up and the coal on your grill are hissing from the raindrops, maybe you can run inside, take cover under your blankets, and watch a movie with the kids. And if your kids are fans of scary things that aren’t actually scary (like my kid) you can load up Goosebumps the movie! Goosebumps is an homage to author R.L. Stine and to the menagerie of monsters he’s created over the many years of writing scary books for children. And the premise is pretty weird for this one. Zach has recently moved to a new town. R.L. Stine (Jack Black) is the creepy and reclusive new neighbor, though he is only known as Mr. Shivers. Despite warnings to stay away, Zach can’t help himself, mostly because of Stine’s alluring daughter, Hannah.
So Zach learns the true identity of Stine, who also reveals that his monsters came to life and he had to trap them in their books. Guess what happens? Yup, a creature gets unlocked. And then Slappy the evil living ventriloquist’s dummy, gets out and he releases all the evil on the small Delaware town.
Although filled with CGI monsters and other odd baddies, the movie is not particularly scary. Action, comedy, rampaging creatures are what fill the time. It’s a harmless and entertaining movie and Jack Black usually brings a fun element to movies. Available streaming, Goosebumps is a good family movie to while away the rainy spring evening.
Post by Alison Hein.
Many of us cannot imagine facing the day without a tall cup of thick, strong coffee. It’s a ritual, a kick-start, and a requirement. But perhaps you can imagine infusing fluffy breakfast pancakes with the same deep, dark and mysterious flavors as your favorite cup of Joe.
Fiddling with this recipe is as easy as brewing up some hazelnut coffee, or vanilla, or mint… A dash of cocoa powder in the batter, or a sprinkle on top after griddling, and you’ve got café mocha. Instead of maple syrup, make a coffee-flavored simple syrup –simply swap out ½ cup of water for ½ cup of brewed coffee.
No need to beat the egg whites if you’re in a desperate hurry for your morning coffee pancakes – they will be slightly more dense but just as delicious. Don’t forget to freeze some for when you just can’t wait another minute to dive into what will soon become your favorite required ritual, a dark and mysterious breakfast in bed.
2½ cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup strong coffee, cooled
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, separated
4 ounces (one half stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus additional for cooking
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Gradually whisk in the cooled coffee, milk, vinegar and vanilla. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add melted butter to batter. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and gently fold them into the batter. The batter should be thick, smooth and creamy.
Place a pan or griddle on the stove over medium to medium low heat. Melt a small amount of butter in the pan for the first pancake. Ladle batter into pan and cook until small bubbles appear throughout pancake, about 1 minute. Flip once with spatula and continue cooking until golden brown, another minute or so. Adjust heat as necessary while cooking. Serve hot with real maple syrup.
Makes 10 to 12 4-inch pancakes.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
I know we have all been waiting for so long, and the third installment in the Night at the Museum series has FINALLY been released for home viewing! One of those special evenings after too much activity in the day and everyone is worn out, what better way to wind the evening down than with a movie, all cuddled together on the couch? Or on the bed, which is even better because you can just drift right off.
Which you might do when you watch this movie unless you’re a kid. It’s a perfectly fine movie but has become something of a tired instrument by this point. I like the first one; I thought it was genuinely unique and funny and interesting. The premise, if you’ve missed the series, is Larry Daley is the new night watchman at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. What he doesn’t know is that everything in the museum comes to life at night. His posse includes Theodore Roosevelt, played by Robin Williams (rest in peace) along with Sacagawea, a tiny Wild West cowboy and his buddy a tiny Roman centurion. Plus a cheeky monkey and Genghis Khan. In this movie, the magic tablet that brings them to life is failing and they must bring it to the British Museum to speak with the Egyptian Pharaoh who made it to discover the secret of the tablet.
My son thought it was a great bit of fun. It wasn’t awful but as is the case with so many movies like this, the original remains the best. But if you’re looking for something harmless and funny, full of pratfalls and silly characters, you could do worse. Word of warning: there is a little bit of sad stuff that happens and there was a moment that my boy was in tears. But it all ends up okay in the end. Spoiler alert.