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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Things We Like: Renting Out Your Unused Bedroom For Cash

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

Ever thought of operating your very own mini-hotel? It may be easier than you think.

Many of us have an extra bedroom or two in our homes that go unused throughout most of the year. The extra space is certainly nice to have when your family or other guests come to visit, but what about the other 80 percent of the time? What if you could make money from your extra bedroom or guesthouse, all while meeting new travelers along the way.

The idea of renting your second home or extra bedroom to travelers looking for alternative lodging isn’t anything new. I can’t help but think this is how the first Bed & Breakfasts got started. While operating a formal B&B often requires special licensing and permits under state hospitality laws, there are a number of companies that specifically cater to the part-time hotel/landlord market, namely Airbnb (though, there are others like 9flats, HomeAway, and Travelmob — to name a few). However, you should check with your state laws before renting your space, as a New York Judge recently declared that short-term rentals violate its state hospitality laws if the owner isn’t present. Other cities, such as New Orleans, have similar laws.

What is Airbnb?

“Whether you have a spare bedroom, own a second property, have a treehouse, or just want to rent your place and pay for your travels, you can list it on Airbnb.”

In a nutshell, Airbnb is a directory/listing platform that connects homeowners with travelers. In addition to helping you find a guest for your underused space, Airbnb also manages payments and deposits. It even comes with a guarantee, covering you for up to $1,000,000 for loss or damage caused by theft or vandalism.

While it the idea of Airbnb may be a bit too novel for many would-be hotel managers/guests, it’s actually pretty easy. I’ve personally used Airbnb on a number of occasions when visiting cities for a couple days, and have nothing but great things to say about my experiences. Most recently, I used Airbnb to find a cheap apartment to stay at for a wedding trip. Not only did I save hundreds of dollars over staying in a hotel, I also got to experience the city more like a local.

How much do people actually make renting their empty beds? Well, that depends on your home and location. That said, one entrepreneur amassed over $30,000 renting out her bedroom and sofa on Airbnb, which she used as seed money to start a business. That’s way more than I’ve ever found between the sofa cushions!

What would you do with a little extra rental income? Would you ever consider listing your space as a short-term suite? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Breakfast in Bed: Brown Sugar Scones

Post by Alison Hein.

Last Friday I was at my sister’s house, waiting for a washer and dryer delivery. You know the drill, right? An automated message the night before provides a 4-hour delivery window. You completely rearrange your next-day schedule, report for duty at the appropriate time, then twiddle your thumbs for three to four hours. Finally, your truck arrives.

I’m wise to this schtick, so I scouted for something to occupy my wait time. I poked around in Janet’s cabinets, shelves, and refrigerator. In search of?: a project with simple ingredients and a short, hot bake time. My quick inventory yielded the perfect answer – scones!

After searching for cinnamon for 20 minutes, I decided not to use any. Instead, I upped the amount of dark brown sugar to infuse the scones with a deep, caramel sweetness. I like to pre-score my scones before baking, to make them easy to separate without crumbling. A sugar and egg wash crisps the tops, and leaves behind a textured, crystallized taste with each bite.

18 minutes later, I took the bubbling hot scones from the oven, smeared them with lightly salted butter, and  with the last of my cooling coffee, I indulged.  Still only one hour into my wait time…

Don’t worry, Jan. I only ate one scone. Plenty left for you and your family to have a sleepy Saturday morning and a sugary breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
2¼ cups flour
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (one half stick) cold butter
¾ cup milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 eggs

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425°. In large bowl, mix together flour, 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut butter into small pieces and cut into dry ingredients.

Combine milk, vinegar and one egg in separate small bowl. Mix well, then add all at once to dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed in.

Turn batter out onto lightly floured board. Divide into eight equal pieces and shape into balls. Press each ball into a flat round, and place scones on lightly greased cookie sheet. Cut crosses in the top of each scone, but do not cut all the way through.

Lightly beat remaining egg, and brush on top of scones. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar. Place in oven and bake for about 18 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm with butter.

Makes 8 scones.

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Bedtime Stories: Delicious, Mouthwatering Weather

Post by Mark T. Locker

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett; illustrated by Ronald Barrett.

My Grandpa bought me this book when I was a kid and I was fascinated with it on so many levels. I brought it home from the library for my own kid this week. I’m not sure if he will obsess over it the way I did, but he definitely loves it. Apparently a movie of this book was released a few years ago…I’m just going to pretend that never happened and keep my memories preserved in the print version.

If you haven’t read this before, I’ll give you a quick synopsis. One morning Grandpa comes over and makes pancakes for the kids. A mishap leads to a pancake landing on a child’s head. Inspired by the incident he tells them a story that night about the land of Chewandswallow. In that land, nobody has to cook their own food. Instead, the food comes in in the weather systems. It might rain orange juice in the morning, mashed potato clouds might roll in for lunch and a roast beef front may come through in the evening. All is well and good until the weather starts to go haywire. Overcooked broccoli three days in a row. Giant doughnuts rolling down Main Street. Apparently that’s a problem but I don’t see why.

It’s a fun, creative and unusual book from the author/illustrator couple who also brought us Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing (which is also great fun). Now go, read, and dream of hamburgers raining down.

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Movies in Bed: NOVA science NOW

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Neil deGrasse Tyson or David Pogue? Sorry, David, but Neil has a rock star appeal you’d be hard-pressed to live up to. This question only makes sense if you are a regular watcher of the PBS show which makes science approachable to the masses, NOVA science NOW.

In our home, if we are all going to watch something together, we try to make it as pleasant as possible for we the grown-ups. Luckily for us, our kid likes some pretty fantastic programming. Most recently, we turned him on to this show. We watched an episode called, “How Smart are Animals?” which discusses, as you doubtless guessed, the intelligence of animals. We all love to watch it. It’s approachable enough that a 4 3/4-year-old enjoys it and takes something away from it. And, IT’s FASCINATING. Dolphins are SO smart! They can coordinate all new tricks together, like a new synchronous twirly flip without EVER having done it! Even dogs are apparently smart; it’s not just dog peoples’ bias. I like the older episodes because of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s aforementioned appeal. But David Pogue is actually quite entertaining. A little grating to me but he definitely gets the 4 3/4-year-old crowd.

They have a bunch available online and on Netflix. It’s entertaining and you get to feel good about yourself for watching it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_jt5OIQqbc

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