Bedtime Stories: The Adventures of Awesome Man!

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon.

It is pretty awesome being a superhero. You get to shoot positronic lasers out of your eyes, and wear an awersom red cape and black mask. You get to have special Awesome powers and save the world! But it can be pretty exhausting work too. When you’re so busy shooting lasers and fighting Flaming Eyeball, you can forget to slow down and remember to eat. But who is Awesome Man? What could be his secret identity?

The clever writing of this book gives you clues. Like when he says “All this evil-fighting can make a superhero really tired. Pooped. (I love saying ‘pooped.’)” and, “I’m going to tell my mo—I mean, I’m going to use my beams to make a positronic force shield!”

I’ve never known Michael Chabon to write children’s books before. But his skills in writing come through nicely in a picture-book format. It’s funny, it’s got lots of big bright colors. Definitely worth a look, and more suited to little kids than The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.

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Movies in Bed: Oz the Great and Powerful

Post by Mark T. Locker.

So, this isn’t out on DVD or streaming yet, but according to the Internet, it will be on June 11, so just consider this something to plan ahead for. IN TEN DAYSTIME…get out the pillows, pull the cushions off the couch and bust out the spare sheets. It’s time to build a fort, watch a movie, and fall asleep right there on the floor!

We went and saw Oz the Great and Powerful at one of those second-run pizza and beer theaters that are so prevalent here in Portland. I was at best not terribly interested in the movie and went for the sake of my kid. But I gotta tell you, this is actually a pretty good, entertaining movie! Now, I don’t know if this has any relation to any of the L. Frank Baum books or is entirely unique, but it fits so perfectly into the back story of the Wizard of Oz. How did Oz get there? How did an admitted charlatan attain Wizard status? Although bits of it are kind of intense, and some parts are scary, I think Felix is more frightened be the mean trees in the original than the flying baboons in this installation. Me too.

The main criticisms I’ve heard are ones that try to compare it to The Wizard of Oz. It will never be a classic in that sense, but for a Disney movie with appeal to both kids and adults, you could definitely do worse. A fun way to spend a lazy evening together.

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Things We Like: “Brick’d-Out” Bedroom Design

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

In the past, exposed interior brick was traditionally associated with more masculine spaces; reserved for offices, bachelor pads, and “man-caves.” Today, however, designers and homeowners are finding that brick is a great touch for any room, including spaces with a more feminine feel. Combined with the popularity of loft condos and other repurposed living spaces, exposed brick has quickly cemented its place among a short-list of “must-have” design features for many homeowners.

Whether you’re living in an old warehouse with exposed brick walls, or want to build a brick wall inside a new room (either real brick or a faux finish), the use of brick in your bedroom provides an organic, industrial chic feel to your design that you can’t achieve otherwise.

Perhaps the coolest thing about using brick as an interior design element is that you can use it to compliment any number of looks. Whether you’re going for an industrial, vintage, rustic, modern, contemporary, eclectic, or bohemian look in your bedroom, brick can look right at home in all of the above. With brick, anything is possible; you only need a little bit of creativity.

If you’re considering incorporating brick into your bedroom’s design, below are some helpful tips and considerations to keep in mind so you can brick-your-bedroom with style.

Exposed Brick vs. Finished Brick

The first decision to make when incorporating brick into your bedroom’s design is whether to leave it exposed (as it is) or finish it (usually with paint).

Exposed brick tends to work best in a modern, rustic, or traditional space. The rich earth tones and the rough texture work well with a number of design styles, and can be enhanced with proper accents. Finished brick, on the other hand, is usually used in more refined spaces. Finished brick walls are often painted, either in a solid color of light white wash to allow some of the natural color to still show through. Finished brick may provide better insulation and less maintenance, but comes at the cost of losing out on some of the natural charm inherent with brick.

Ultimately, the choice of whether to go with exposed or finished brick walls is a personal one and depends on the overall design of your space.

Faux Brick vs. Real Brick

While nothing replaces a real brick wall, there are a number of faux finishes that come very close. Many of these real brick alternatives are installed as a sort of veneer, using panels covered with slices of real brick to perfect the look. Even upon close inspection (save drilling into the wall), it can be very hard to tell whether you have an actual brick wall or a faux finish.

The type of building you live in, cost, and the amount of maintenance you’re willing to put up with are also contributing factors to whether you chose to go with real or faux brick finish in your design.

General Considerations

Many buildings have brick walls that were built during the original construction of the building. As such, they may be old and in disrepair. If you’re planning to use old brick, it’s worthwhile to have a professional come out and inspect the brick and recommend whether you should undergo a restoration or whether it’s even worthwhile. Bad brick can be a nightmare to live with, littering your place with dusty crumbles whilst leaking air through gaps in the mortar.

Incorporating brick into the design of your bedroom can be as involved of a decision or as simple of a one, particularly if you live in a space that already has exposed brick walls. If you’re looking for some design inspiration, there are a number of brick bedroom galleries online for your viewing pleasure. Houzz has an excellent brick bedroom gallery, and you can find additional galleries on shelterness, DigsDigs, and Home Design Lover.

Have you lived with brick walls? Do you wish you could? Let us know what you think about incorporating brick walls into your bedroom design in the comments below.

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Breakfast in Bed: Irish Wheaten Bread

Post by Alison Hein.

Irish wheaten bread, or brown bread, is one of the most simple and satisfying loaves you can make. And eat, of course. As a soda bread that requires no yeast (thus no messy kneading or lengthy rising time), this recipe takes little more than the 45 minutes required for baking.

Wheaten bread is one component of the large and complicated traditional Irish breakfast, which also may include bacon, sausage, eggs, black pudding, toast, fried tomato, sautéed mushrooms and baked beans! Maybe we’ll try that someday, but I prefer my wheaten bread all on its own. A thick slice of pure, earthy bread, lightly toasted and smeared with Irish butter, is enough breakfast for me.

The outer crust becomes thick and crusty in the hot oven, leaving the wheaten bread’s innards soft and tender – a lovely contrast and perfect first bite. With so few ingredients, the hearty wheat flavor shines through. Use stoneground organic wheat flour if you can find it. Then, try it out on your fussiest eaters. You may be surprised at how much they enjoy this simple, satisfying non-traditional Irish breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
3 cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup unbleached white flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1½ cups milk (or use buttermilk instead of the milk and vinegar)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425°. Pour whole wheat flour into a large bowl. Sift in unbleached white flour, salt and baking soda and stir to mix. Pour milk and vinegar into flour mixture and stir to make a soft dough. Mix just enough so that dough holds together – overmixing will cause the bread to become tough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board. Shape dough into one large mounded round and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Cut a thin cross in the top of the loaf, just enough so the loaf opens a little on top while baking.

Place wheaten loaf in oven and bake for about 45 minutes. When done, the bread will have a hollow sound when lightly tapped. Remove bread from oven and cool, wrapped in a light tea towel, for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf of bread.

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Bedtime Stories: Pop-Up Moby Dick!

Post by Mark T. Locker.

I have a number of books that are very appealing to children that I would never allow children to get their hands on. One is my collection of first/early editions of John Bellairs books, illustrated by Edward Gorey. Another is my artfully crafted pop-up version of Moby-Dick, as interpreted by paper engineer Sam Ita.

My boy has no interest in Gothic horror for middle readers. And it’s my fault that I was reading my Moby-Dick within sight of my boy. It’s got so many lovely moving parts and a giant pop-up 19th-century whaling ship, who could resist? And what cold-hearted soul would tell a little boy “no” to that?

Books like this are a fantastic introduction to the classics; it is obviously abridged; I can’t imagine what an unabridged pop-up of Moby-Dick would be like! So the story is short and more to the point, there are lots of fun interactive tabs to pull, whirlpools to whirl, and spyglasses to peer through. Sam Ita, creator of this rendition, has also made a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Odyssey. Personally, I’m tempted to buy 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea right this instant. Heartily recommended for children and adults of all ages.

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