Bedtime Stories: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Post by Mark T. Locker.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

Once in a while, there is a book, one of those that completely transports you and immerses you in another world. One of those books that keeps you nervously glancing at the clock to see how much past your bedtime you have stayed up. I guess for most people this wouldn’t be that book because it’s only 150 pages long. But, I read slowly and it still took me a few evenings to finish.

The story starts out fairly normal, with the author heading to his childhood town for a funeral. When he finds himself at the old Hempstock farm, whose daughter he had vaguely known as a child, things begin to change. He begins to remember little details, like the duck pond behind the barn that Lettie Hempstock had referred to as “the ocean”. And when he remembers the name she had for the pond, he begins to remember everything from that spring when he was seven years old.

It turns out the Hempstock family was not your ordinary family. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but the women of the farm were much more than they appears. Magical, ancient, otherworldly. The young narrator is unwittingly drawn into a fierce conflict when Lettie brings him with her to bind an ancient power (Old Mrs. Hempstock dismissingly refers to it as a “flea”) causing trouble in the village. When the creature hitches a ride into the real world inside the boy’s foot, great trouble ensues.

Almost a children’s book if it wasn’t for some very scary imagery, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a wonderful quick read for a rainy afternoon. And we will have plenty of those soon enough.

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Movies in Bed: Planes

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Nothing like staying home with a kid who is technically sick but bursting with energy. Thank goodness for second-run movie theaters, especially the kinds that serve pizza and beer. On a Thursday afternoon, you can stroll in with a pretty reasonable expectation to be the only people in the theater, on the teensy off-chance that the kid is still contagious (he wasn’t). I must admit, I was not only dubious of the Disney talking plane movie Planes; I was downright dreading it. I couldn’t make it through more than twenty minutes of Cars, that merchandising darling of the Disney empire. You know what? It wasn’t that great. On the other hand, it wasn’t that bad. From a three-minute trailer, or from watching the first five minutes, you can accurately predict every aspect of the movie. And the stereotype attributed to the planes of different genders and ethnicities was definitely cringe-worthy. But in the end, I was not in physical pain watching this, which is saying a lot considering what some children’s programming is like. I’m not going to run out and buy it when it comes out on DVD (November 19th!). But it’s a good way to kill two hours with a sick kid.

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Things We Like: Fresh Juice in the Mornings

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

Over the past couple of months, one of the things I’ve really come to look forward to in the mornings is fresh juice. So much so that it has quickly become part of my morning ritual. As we’ve looked at in past articles, motivational morning rituals can help you look forward to getting out of bed and starting your day the right way. In the past, a good cup coffee did it for me; however, fresh juice has proven to be even more satisfying.

Health Benefits of Juicing

One of the problems many people have with their diet is that they don’t eat enough vegetables. The good news is that adding fresh juice to your diet quickly solves this. Proponents of drinking fresh juice tout that it can reduce your risk of cancer, boost your immune system, help detoxify your body, aid in digestion, and even help you lose weight. In fact, there is a very specific juice regiment known as the Gerson Therapy that has shown positive results.

The one thing you don’t get from drinking juice vs. eating whole fruits and vegetables is the fiber. Your body also misses out on some of nutritional content from the produce; however, you can consume a lot more fruit and vegetable in juice form than you could eating them whole. Proponents view the lack of fiber as a good thing, giving your body less matter to have to process.

Whatever the studies show, I find that juice is a very clean form of energy. Unlike anything else I’ve ever ate or drank. It gets me going on the morning, and makes me feel great. The one downside about juice is that when the energy runs out, you really hit empty. It’s kind of like a sugar crash, and the empty pit in your stomach will tell you its time to eat something solid. That said, I’ve found that eating eggs or some other form of protein with the juice gives you more lasting energy.

Choosing A Juicer

There are a lot of different types of juicers you can chose from, and I spent a lot of time researching the one I thought would be best. The two broad categories of juicers to choose from are centrifugal and masticating.

Centrifugal juicers are the ones you’re most likely to find at a health store or juice bar. They extract juice from fruits and vegetables very quickly, but are not as good with leafy greats like Kale or Wheatgrass. They are also harder to clean, and can have expensive parts that you’ll need to replace over its life.

The other type of juicer, and the one I ultimately went with, is a masticating juicer. Instead of extracting the juice through centrifugal force, an auger slowly grinds up your fruits and vegetables to extract their nutritional goodness. It takes a little more time to chop up the produce small enough to fit in the juicer, but they are much easier to clean. I’m better with a knife than I am with washing dishes, so this was a big selling point for me. Masticating juicers are also better with leafy greens. They also process the produce at a lower speed, which many believe results in a more nutritional juice.

Juice recipes to get you started

If you’ve decided to take the plunge into the world of juice, which I strongly recommend you try, you’ll have a lot of time to perfect your own favorite recipes. To help get you on the right track, below is my every day juice recipe, which makes enough juice for 2-3 people. You can easily cut the recipe in half if you’re juicing for one.

  • 4 Granny Smith Apples

  • 6-8 Carrots, depending on how you’re feeling

  • 2 inch cut of fresh Ginger

  • 1 Lemon

  • 1 Lime

  • 1 Cucumber

  • 1 handful of fresh Kale

When blueberries are in season, I also like to make what I call an antioxidant booster once per week. This recipe calls for:

  • 2 pints of Blueberries

  • 1 container of Pomegranate seeds

  • 2 Oranges

  • 1 Lime

Again, the above recipe makes enough for 2 people and can be halved for one.

So there you have it, just about everything you need to know to get started juicing. It is probably the best lifestyle change I’ve made for myself, and a number of my friends who’ve jumped on the juice wagon agree. Juicing is also inexpensive out here in California where fresh produce is abundant. On average, we spend $10-$20/week on produce which makes enough juice for 2 people 5 days per week. It’s a relatively low cost considering how good you feel drinking it. And once you make the initial investment in a good juicer, the per cup cost is quite low compared to what you’d pay at a juice bar.

Until next week, cheers to your health!

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Breakfast in Bed: Irish Potato Cakes with Smoked Salmon

Post by Alison Hein.

Irish food tends to get a bad rap. I don’t get it. We had wonderful meals when we visited Ireland, and particularly enjoyed the various homemade breads, fabulously fresh seafood, and just-picked seasonal vegetables. Fresh, simple food that is deeply satisfying.

Since our trip, I’ve been experimenting with different Irish recipes. I picked up a lovely cookbook – “The Food & Cooking of Ireland” by Biddy White Lennon and Georgina Campbell. This highly addictive Potato Cake recipe was adapted from one of their luscious recipes.

Use golden potatoes for a sweet, mellow flavor, and cook them a bit longer than you might for simple mashed potatoes. Serve them warm, for real potato comfort, and to enhance the buttery, nutty taste. Smoked salmon is amazing atop these little cakes, but you should also try various toppings (or just gobble them up plain as I did while cooking them for the first time) – different fishes, meats or even cheeses. Make it easy on yourself and cook them up the day before, then in the morning, simply heat and assemble for a deeply satisfying breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
1 pound golden potatoes, cooked and mashed
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus an additional 2 to 3 tablespoons for cooking
2 green onions
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dash of nutmeg
1 cup flour
¼ cup crème fraîche, or substitute sour cream
4 ounces smoked salmon
A handful of fresh chives, for garnish

Preparation

Peel, wash and dice potatoes. Place in a heavy pot and add water to cover and a dash of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, return to pot and mash, ensuring potatoes are smooth and without lumps.

Crack eggs into a small bowl and whisk. Stir whisked eggs, melted butter and green onions into the mashed potatoes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in flour and mix thoroughly to form a stiff dough. With lightly floured hands, shape potato mixture into 12 small cakes (approximately 2 to 2 ½ inches in diameter).

Melt the remaining butter in a heavy pan over medium heat and cook the potato cakes for four to 6 minutes, until browned on both sides, turning once.

To assemble, place a small piece of smoked salmon on top of each potato cake. Top with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream and garnish with chives. Serve warm.

NOTE: If you like, make the potato cakes the day before and refrigerate until ready to use. Reheat them in a 350°oven for 15 minutes before assembling and serving.

Makes 12 potato cakes.

Adapted from The Food & Cooking of Ireland by Biddy White Lennon and Georgina Campbell

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Bedtime Stories: Okay For Now

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt

I love young adult and teen fiction, but I don’t normally go for the harder, darker, more realistic stories. I prefer to read to escape reality. So I was surprised when I picked up Okay For Now and just kept on going. Even when you realize that the dad is a horrible person and that the brother is almost as bad. And most of the teachers are rotten too. Maybe I kept going because I could see the glimmer of hope through the terrible events in his present.

Because although Douglas Swie­teck is up against a great deal of adversity and wrangling with a lot of preconceived notions from adults in his new school in Marysville, New York, there are a couple people who know he is not a thug just because his brother is, and maybe he is acting out because his life is rotten. Most important among those who help guide Douglas out of the fog is Mr. Powell, the elderly librarian who recognizes Douglas’s fascination with the Audubon book at the library and encourages him to try drawing the birds himself. Ultimately Douglas discovers a healing through art.

Although it’s difficult to believe the breadth and depth of the story, it doesn’t take away from the beauty of the tale. A lovely, at times dark, story of redemption and discovery.

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