Bedroom Design: Best Night Lights for Kids

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Ah, darkness. To the reasonable adult, it is a welcome thing, indicating that sweet sleep might be just around the corner. To a child, it is little more than cover for bone-crunching, blood-sucking monsters, just waiting to pounce on their unsuspecting prey. Thank goodness for night lights! My boy has a couple lights he uses. We have gone through many more during our years-long hunt for the perfect light. Here are a few of the more interesting lights I have seen. Spoiler alert: my favorite is the Ikea “Totoro” light.

This is the Spöka LED night light from Ikea. I love it. My son loves it. It reminds us a bit of Miyazaki’s Totoro. That is what my boy calls it. The best part about it is that is holds a charge which allows your kid to take it to bed if so desired. My kid so desires. It’s even kind of soft! Also, it changes color, from blue to green and everything in between.

I found this turtle light at the Goodwill and it put me back a whole $2.99. I was skeptical whether it would actually project stars on the ceiling but it really does. It’s pretty great. It stays lit for about half an hour and works like a charm.

Spider-Man’s decapitated head on a spring. I thought this would scare the bejeezus out of my son, but he actually likes it. Go figure.

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Bedtime Stories: Moon Over Manifest

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.

So, here’s the thing about Newbery Medal-winning books. Most of the time they are pretty good, but they also tend to follow a theme of kid on his/her own, seeking lost something, hardship, struggle, overcoming. Some of those books are groan-inducing, as least to a seasoned cynic such as myself; others are actually fantastic works of literature. If I had read Moon Over Manifest before it was awarded the 2011 Newbery Medal, I would certainly have pegged it as a contender. However, the story and the narrative voice are so wonderful that I don’t mind how “Newbery-y” it is. Anyways, here it is:

Abilene Tucker has roamed the country with her dad doing odd jobs her whole life. But suddenly, in the summer of 1936, the thirteen-year-old is sent by her father to his old home town of Manifest, Kansas to live with his old bootlegger friend Shady Howard. What unfolds in the aftermath is Abilene’s journey (yup, another personal journey!) to try to understand who her father is by learning about the town he came from. Through a box of old letters discovered in Shady’s house, and the stories told to her by the Hungarian diviner, Abilene learns about the history of the town, and yes, about herself and her father as well.

It’s a great story about a hot summer in the 1930’s at an age when you teeter on the line between carefree youth and the weight of understanding and learning about the world in which you live. Good stuff.

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Movies in Bed: Pitch Perfect

Post by Josh Zinn.

Good afternoon, dear readers!! Alas and alack, due to an intriguing offer to speak at an international conference on the correlations between the consumption of hibiscus flowers and the amazingly long lifespan of the pygmy population of central Africa, I am unable to write my weekly film review.

Fear not, however, as in my stead I have recruited my thirteen year-old niece Janie to regale you all with thoughts on one of her favorite films of recent memory, “Pitch Perfect.” Please be kind in your assessment of Janie’s writing abilities. In her defense, she’s a very enthusiastic tweeter.

On that note…

Pitch Perfect by Janie Swallowsbeigh

So, ohmygosh, you guys there is this really fun movie out called “Pitch Perfect” and it is soooooooo good. Seriously, I saw it at the mall last summer with my friends Brooke and Melissa and they were, like, totally in loves with it. You know how, like, when you see something sad on TV and it makes you want to give it a hug even though it can’t hug you back but that’s okay cause, like, you’re doing a good deed so you shouldn’t expect anything back? Yeah, this movie is kind of like that. It can’t hug you cause it’s a movie, but it totally makes you wish it could! It’s not sad, though, which makes it even better! You want it to hug you because it’s so OMG good.

I guess I should talk about the story in this part, right? Ok, so there’s this college that all these people go to and they’ve got, like, glee teams everywhere. I mean, I get that “Glee” has made singing really popular and stuff, but it’s weird cause you never even see any football teams or anything on the campus. Anyway, everyone wants to sing and this one girls team is like, so good but kinda boring. They all look like they work for an airline. But then their leader pukes on the audience and they become super hated and no one thinks they can do anything anymore, but guess what? They, like, totally bring it!

Do you guys remember that girlfriend of Bella’s in “Twilight” who goes to her school but is kind of a geek? Well, that girl (Josh’s note: the actress Janie is referring to is Anna Kendrick) is, like, the star of this movie and she is so good in this! She’s, like, a DJ or something but her dad is making her go to school, which is kind of lame. Anyway, she’s a really good singer and she joins the puke group and totally makes them better cause she adds, like, some banging beats and stuff. They even sing that Miley Cyrus song “Party In The U.S.A.” which, you have to admit, is a really good song even though Miley has gotten so gross and weird lately and it’s super embarrassing to admit that I used to have all her albums. ANYWAY!

So, the whole movie has the puke group fighting against these other teams and then there’s this super rude but hot boys team that they have to compete with and the “Twilight” girl totally has the hots for one of their members. I know, it sounds sort of dumb, but it’s super cute because he is so sensitive and totally wants to support her even though they’re supposed to be enemies. Plus, he is really hot. Yum!!

I don’t know if I’ve said too much about what happens in the movie, you guys, but you should definitely see this. There are so many good songs in it and there are so many funny parts. Like, that weird blonde roommate from “Bridesmaids” in this and everyone calls her “Fat Amy” cause she’s fat and her name is Amy. I know that sounds weird, but she’s so funny and she can sing super well, too. She’s probably my favorite part of the movie, especially when a burrito totally creams her. Gross!!

So, yeah, I totally think this is a good movie to watch. It’s so much like “Bring It On”, which feels kind of cheesy and no one I know watches “Glee” anymore, but that’s okay cause the singing in this is better anyway. I hope you liked my review. I usually HATE writing, but this was so much more fun to talk about than that stupid essay on Eleanor Roosevelt I had to write. BORING!!

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Things We Like: Clean Air In The Bedroom


Post by Kyle St. Romain.

I recently spent a small fortune on an arsenal of air purifiers for my apartment on account of the air quality being noticeably unhealthy. I don’t know how the air got so bad, but everyone who stays here, including myself, complains of something air/allergy related.

I did some research on indoor air quality, and learned about the immediate symptoms of poor air (eye irritation, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue) as well as some of the long-term side effects (respiratory disease, heart disease, or cancer). The EPA has conducted a number of studies on indoor air quality and offered suggestions on how to improve it. Since we spend a good third of our life in our beds, the quality of air we breathe while we sleep has the biggest potential impact (in terms of overall exposure) on our long-term health.

The main way to improve indoor air quality is to introduce cleaner air into the room, which can be done in one of two ways: opening a window and letting the crisp mountain air in, or turning on an air filter, which simulates the effect. Since my apartment is located directly above the train tracks and is surrounded by interstate highways, the outside air probably isn’t much cleaner than the dirtiest of my indoor air, so I had to go with option two.


Having conducted many hours of research on air purifiers, I want to share with you the results of my research­—especially now that I have had an opportunity to test a number of these units first-hand.

There are a couple basic things you can compare all air purifiers by:

Filter Type

Almost every air purifier you’re going to look at will come with a HEPA filter. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air, and just means the filter is able to trap very small air pollutants without causing too much strain on the motor. In addition to HEPA filters, some air purifiers come with activated carbon to remove smells, UV lights to kill viruses, mold, and bacteria floating in the air, and a variety of other pre-filters to help prolong the life of your HEPA filter (which is usually the most expensive one to replace). The type(s) of filter(s) you get depend on your needs; however, HEPA is usually sufficient for most applications.

Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR)

CADR tests are conducted by the Association of Home Appliance Manufactures, and measure a unit’s effectiveness for three different pollutants: tobacco smoke, dust, and pollen. Essentially, CADR measures how effective a particular air purifier is at cleaning the air of a given area (about 1,000 cubic feet) in terms of cubic feet per minute. All else equal, you want to aim to get a unit with a very high CADR.

Filter Replacement Cost

One of the biggest issues with air purifiers is the cost of filters. When comparing units, you want to judge both the price of the filter and the recommended time between changes. For example, Austin Air claims their filters can last up to 5 years, but cost $165/filter for the smaller ones. On the other hand, Blue Air filters for a similarly sized unit only cost $50 to replace, but only last up to one year. Also, the actual time between replacing your filters will depend on how hard the filter has to work to keep the air in your home clean.

Noise

Depending on where you’re planning to operate your air purifier, noise may be even more important to you than some of the other features a unit may have. It’s hard to know how noisy a unit is until you plug it into your own home, but a lot of manufacturers will let you know decibel levels associated with each setting. This is a factor that is especially important when considering a unit for your bedroom. While some people like a bit of background white noise, some people prefer absolute silence. If you’re the kind of person who likes to hear the sound of the fan spinning as you go to sleep, don’t worry about noise too much.

I purchased three different air filters to keep my apartment clean: the Austin Air Health Mate Jr, Honeywell 5250-S, and the Blue Air 203. For the money, I like the Honeywell even though it can be a bit loud on its highest setting, is the largest of the three units, and has a bright blue light which can affect sleeping if you like a dark room. Next would be the Austin Air since it is very small, very quiet, and seems to have the most robust filter. Interestingly, it is the air purifier choice of FEMA. Next is the Blue Air, which I think is overall the second best unit, but is much more expensive than the Honeywell.  I’ve also used the Alen Air T300, which is also a very good unit, but the filters are expensive to keep up with.

So there you have it, a quick run down of how (and why) to select an air purifier for your bedroom. I got three, so I can have them running throughout the whole house and couldn’t be happier. There really is a noticeable difference in how much better you sleep and feel in your home.

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Breakfast in Bed: Michele’s Star-Studded Eggs


Post by Alison Hein

We recently invited my cousin Vin and his girlfriend Michele to our home for dinner. We are just getting to know Michele, yet she seems to know me pretty well. She gave me the perfect gift. It was wrapped in dark brown paper, tied up with a jaunty ribbon, and adorned with a silver star cookie cutter.

Inside the wrappings I found A Jug of Wine, a cookbook written by Morrison Wood in 1949. Well- thumbed and lovingly stained, the binding was bulging from personal recipes tucked inside – Fresh Tomato Pudding, Chrissie’s Oven-Fried Chicken and Zucchini Soup. Michele had no idea that some of my favorite cookbooks are garage sale finds with hand-written notes in the margins advising me to “use less sugar”, “stir longer than suggested”, or even “awful. Skip this.”


A Jug of Wine calls for wine in every recipe, but I figured, what the heck. The alcohol cooks out and just leaves the flavor, right? Hard-boiled eggs filled with a mixture of sweet Madeira-flavored mushrooms, tangy green onions and fresh parsley sounded intriguing. Morrison suggests placing the filled eggs on toast rounds, but I decided to use Michele’s cookie cutter for an amazing, star-studded breakfast in bed.

Thanks, Michele!

Ingredients
2 eggs
2 mushrooms (about ½ cup chopped)
½ green onion (about 1 tablespoon chopped)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon Madeira wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons butter
½ teaspoon breadcrumbs
4 thin slices of bread, toasted and cut into stars, rounds, or other shape

Preparation
Place eggs in small heavy saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil on high heat and cook for one minute or so. Turn off heat, and let eggs remain in hot water for 10 minutes, until hard-boiled. Immerse in cold water and carefully peel eggs.


Slice eggs in half at the center, so yolk openings are round, rather than oblong. Carefully slice a little bit off the end of each egg half, just enough so the egg white can rest flat on a plate. Scoop out yolks, chop finely, and place in small bowl. Set yolk and prepared egg whites aside. Clean and finely chop mushrooms and onion. Add to chopped eggs. Add parsley, Madeira, salt and pepper to eggs as well, stirring in gently.

Melt 1½ teaspoons butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add egg mixture to pan and sauté over medium to medium-low until mushrooms and onion are soft, about 5 minutes. Stuff prepared egg whites with mushroom mixture, sprinkle them with breadcrumbs and dot with remaining butter. Place one stuffed egg on each toast round and put on baking tray. Broil 6 inches from heat until gently browned, about 30 seconds. Garnish with parsley and fresh fruit, if you like. Serve immediately.

NOTE: Eggs can also be served cold. Simply chill the eggs after stuffing and omit the breadcrumbs, butter and toast.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from Morrison Wood’s Mushroom Stuffed Eggs

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