Bedtime Stories: Bats at the Library

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies.

If you have never read Bats at the Beach, no need to worry. There is nothing in the sequel, Bats at the Library, that will be confusing if you skipped the first one. As you may guess, Bats at the Beach was about a bunch of bats at the beach. Playing bat games, eating bat snacks. Any guesses what Bats at the Library is about? That’s right: it’s about the same troupe (flock? herd? murder?) of bats visiting their local library. It seems a careless (or possibly thoughtful) librarian has left a window ajar, just enough that the bats can cruise in after hours. The librarian in me is torn between horror and delight that the bats are inside. I can only hope they are toilet trained!

It turns out they are a very respectful bunch and use the library just as one would hope they would: reading stories, shadow puppet theater, storytelling. Who knew bats were so thoughtful? The illustrations are fun, and if you have a keen eye, you can spot some homages to children’s literature: Dorothy and her friends in bat form, the kind policeman from Make Way for Ducklings, and many more. A good read for kids in preschool or kindergarten.

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Movies in Bed: Beastmaster

Post by Mark T. Locker

A quiet evening at home with friends. Nothing much to do. Full of food and looking for something—ANYthing—to watch. Oh, the anticipation as someone, in a fit of inspiration, rummages through his bag and pulls out a mystery DVD. Within moments you know exactly what kind of movie this is going to be: part Conan the Barbarian part Krull. Enter the Beastmaster, 1982. Via vague mystical means the baby Dar is taken from his mother’s womb and given birth to by a cow. Naturally, he develops a unique ability to communicate with animals. Even the—what are those?—giant bat people things have a deep respect for him. On his journey to…do whatever he is doing, he meets a lot of people with single-syllable names: Maax, Seth. Tal, Zed, and acquires a menagerie of helpful animal friends.

If you like lots of stone structures, lots of dust and fire, then this is the movie for you. If you like saying, “What the heck is going on???”, if you like movies that keep going long after you think it should have ended: Beastmaster. If you like loincloths, fighting with big sticks and sad tigers dyed black, I have your Friday night entertainment right here.

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Breakfast in Bed: Dutch Apple Babies


Post by Alison Hein.

You may recall from my last post about Mulled Cider that I recently bought, uh, a few apples. I couldn’t fathom how to use them all. Then I remembered a wonderful recipe my friend Tricia gave me years ago for Dutch Baby Pancakes. Tricia’s version doesn’t call for apples, but this oven-baked gem resiliently allows for lots of fiddling – varied fruits, for starters.

I prepared the apples pie-like, sweetening them with sugar, spicing with cinnamon, and sautéing in butter. Before popping my Dutch Baby in a hot oven, I spread the lightly caramelized apples in the bottom of the frying pan, then poured the crêpe-like batter on top.

Twenty minutes later I pulled my giant baby out of the oven, all puffed up, golden brown and ready to eat. Don’t forget to use potholders and handle the fiery-hot pan with care. The pancake will fall after a minute or two, but don’t fret – there is no change to the scrumptious layers that await. Be sure that with each bite you fork up a bit of buttery crisp bottom, soft eggy middle, and sugary sweet top. Oh, and don’t forget to snag a few apple slices, too, for a wonderful, oven-baked breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
2 large apples
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter
3 eggs
¾ cup milk
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt

Preparation
Place a 12–inch diameter cast iron frying pan, or other oven-proof pan, in oven and preheat to 425°.

Peel, core and slice apples. Place apple slices in a large bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of sugar and cinnamon until evenly mixed. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan, add apples and sauté until soft and lightly caramelized, about 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.

Crack eggs and add to a blender or food processor. Mix until thickened and frothy, about 1 minute. Turn blender or food processor to low speed. With blender or food processor running, gradually pour in milk until mixed, then gradually add flour and salt until well mixed.

Remove heated frying pan from oven. Add remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. When melted, spread apple slices evenly across bottom of pan. Pour blended batter over apples and return to the oven. Bake pancake until puffy and well-browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle top with remaining sugar and serve immediately.

Makes 1 large Dutch Apple Baby; or 2 to 4 servings.

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Bedtime Stories: Shades of Grey (NOT Fifty!)

Post by Mark T. Locker

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde.

First of all, I know what you are thinking. No, it’s not THAT book. Shades of Grey predates that OTHER book by a full two years and, from what I know of 50 Shades, is utterly unlike it in any way.

Jasper Fforde is a British mystery novelist who has written a number of clever and entertaining series of novels. This unusual dystopian novel revolves around a young man named Eddie Russett. In this far-off future, people are broken into classes determined by what color they perceive. Eddie is a Red, which is the lowest end of the spectrum. Violets are the top dogs. Greys are nearly worthless. It is a strange and highly regimented world, all built on the rather odd laws of a man named Munsell. One of the most intrusive laws is the outlawing of spoon production, which makes spoons highly sought-after. Also, one must never, EVER marry a complimentary color. Imagine the scandal!

Eddie and his father are sent from their urban home to the far-off town of East Carmine, where Eddie is to perform a chair senseless as a punishment for “lack of humility”. When he meets a fiery Grey named Jane, his life slowly is turned upside-down as he begins to look at society in a new way.

What’s most interesting is that the first thing we learn is that Jane has pushed Eddie into a giant man-eating Yataveo tree, which will slowly digest him. He is narrating from inside the tree. I enjoyed this book quite a bit; I like Jasper Fforde and his tongue-in-cheek style, the classic understated British humorist.

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Things We Like: Creative Problem Solving While You Sleep

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

Have you ever been faced with a difficult decision and responded with, “Let me sleep on it”? While that response certainly a great way to delay an important decision, it also turns out that there is some science behind it too.

In a study conducted at the University of California, San Diego a few years back, researchers found that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep — the dream stage of sleep — helps foster the formation of associative networks in the brain more than any other wake or sleep state.  According to the lead researcher, Dr. Mednick, “For creative problems that you’ve already been working on — the passage of time is enough to find solutions. However, for new problems, only REM sleep enhances creativity.” Note the difference between new and existing problems.

To put this into numbers, REM sleep was found to boost creative problem solving by almost 40 percent as compared to the participants who only had either quiet rest or non-REM sleep. This boost in creative problem solving is associated with the brain’s ability to create new nerve connections, uninterrupted by outside influences that we are subject to during non-REM sleep or while we’re awake. If you let it, your brain will wire itself to solve problems for you — the human equivalent of autopilot.

You can read the full text of the study here.

In past articles I’ve introduced you to the idea of taking an afternoon siesta, or power nap, to boost performance and energy levels throughout the day. However, the study cited above is the first to look specifically at how the stages of sleep impact your performance. While resting can boost your energy levels, you really need to hit a deep sleep to gain the most benefit. On average, it takes about 90 minutes after falling asleep to hit the REM stage (stage 5). Plan accordingly.

So next time you have a difficult and new decision to make or problem to solve, try sleeping on it. You may be surprised with what you come up with in the morning.

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