Bedtime Stories: I am the Messenger

messengerPost by Mark T. Locker.

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak.

Sometimes, the book you are after is unavailable so you grab whatever would be next to it on the shelf, just because. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a critically-acclaimed, award-winning novel that was also made into a movie. I don’t know what it’s about because it was not available. What was available, however, was a novel he wrote a few years earlier called I am the Messenger. It was a Printz Honor book which means it should probably not be terrible. I borrowed it.

I am the Messenger is an unusual story of a young Australian named Ed Kennedy, an 19-year-old who drives a cab and in his free time hangs out with his friends playing cards and drinking beer, or drinking coffee with his dog named The Doorman. But all that changes after Ed accidentally foils a bank robbery. For a little while he is hailed as a hero. After things quiet down, he anonymously receives a playing card in the mail, the Ace of Diamonds. On the back are a list of addresses and times. Ed realizes that he is being placed in the middle of peoples’ lives as a messenger. Each time he fulfills the tasks, which he must figure out on his own, he receives another card in the mail.

There is a woman who is abused by her husband. There is an old woman who is lonely. There is a young girl who is strong but lacks confidence.

In the process of fulfilling these tasks, Ed finds new meaning for his own life. Instead of muddling through the days, he discovers that he can affect other peoples’ lives in positive ways. Something as little as buying an ice cream for somebody can have a powerful effect.

What makes the book work is the narrator, Ed. He’s cheeky and funny but also has a secret poetic side and can be disarmingly insightful at times. A truly interesting read for teens and adults about how sometimes you need a kick in the pants to move you in the right direction.

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Bedroom Design: 5 Casual Bedrooms to Love

Post by Tracy Kaler.

Over the years, I’ve learned that a casual room can be just as stylish as a fancy one. Silk tapestries and crystal chandeliers can look impossibly chic, but so can painted floors and an eclectic mix of furnishings. Here are five bedrooms that show how casual spaces can exude as much style as their dressier peers.

I’d call this bedroom Bohemian chic. The interesting mix of textiles and colors almost looks haphazard, yet all of the elements pull together nicely to complete the design.

This shabby-chic room exudes a casual elegance with the white floors and bed frames, not to mention the antique brick wall and blue and white wallpaper. If you guess the locale as New Orleans, you would be correct. This lovely space is in the French Quarter.

Most beach cottages boast a casual feel, and this Fish Camp beach house on the Florida panhandle is no different. The colored trim, quilted coverlet, white café curtains, and overall aesthetic of the room are uber casual, yet beachy and undeniably fashionable.

A Texas farmhouse bedroom takes on a casual feel even though some of its individual components are more formal. The four-poster bed. The floor length curtains. The gold textured art above the bed. All seem dressier in their own right, but when married with the other aspects of this room, they contribute to the overall casual style.

Exposed, rustic beams, wicker furniture, and loads of texture make this room ultra casual but still well thought-out. The designer utilized the space well, despite the funky layout.

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Movies in Bed: You, Me, and the Apocalypse

you mePost by Mark T. Locker.

We don’t keep a television in the bedroom, but I love to fall asleep on the couch. Sometimes the voices and music of TV shows is easier to fall asleep to than just about anything. But sometimes you find a show that instead keeps you wide awake and engaged, even if you were half-asleep moments earlier.

You, Me, and the Apocalypse is one of those shows. It’s got so many moving parts and so many interesting characters that you can’t stop watching for fear of missing something.

One day in the near future, scientists discover a comet eight miles wide is headed on a crash course for Earth. By all accounts, extinction will hit the planet in a matter of weeks. We learn in the intro that a number of characters will be in an underground bunker watching the end of the world on a television. What we are watching is how they got there. I couldn’t possibly try and explain all the characters and simultaneous plots without getting very tedious, but the main points are these:

Jamie is a bank manager in Slough, England who discovers that not only is the world ending but that he has a secret twin, he is adopted, and his vanished wife may not be vanished. He and his friend head off to uncover the truth.

Ariel is Jamie’s secret twin, a hacker and all-around bad guy. He’s only out to save his own skin.

Rhonda is a librarian taking the fall for her hacker son’s activities. She is broken out of prison amid the chaos and finds herself on the lam with a white supremacist named Leanne.

Father Jude is a chain-smoking priest (played by Rob Lowe) who has been hired by the Vatican to fulfill the newly-reopened role as Devil’s Advocate, who seeks to confirm miracles. He is joined by the very pious Sister Celine.

There are lots more characters and they are all starting to intertwine. What’s great is that none of it has gotten confusing. It’s just getting more fascinating as you try to figure out what’s going to connect and how it will all lead to the bunker. Great new show that is worth staying awake to watch.

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Tips & Tricks: Tips to Ready Your Bedroom for Spring

Post by Tracy Kaler.

Spring officially begins this Sunday, March 20, so it’s time to emerge from your cocoon and ready your home for warmer weather. For me, once temperatures reach the 60s, I’m almost automatically in a better mood and have more energy to tackle those tasks that aren’t my favorites –– such as organizing and cleaning.

Here are a few tips to get your bedroom in tip-top shape this spring.

Change the bedding.
If you’re like most people, you probably use heavier blankets and maybe even flannel sheets during the colder months. Well, it’s time to bid farewell to your winter wares, at least until the next freeze. Bring out the lighter linens and cottons for a more spring-like feel and comfy sleeping.

Hit the shelves
If you have bookshelves, you know they tend to get messy. Go through your books and donate any you don’t intend to read, or have read and won’t read again (except the classics or DIY, which no one wants to part with). Organize your magazines into attractive holders rather than stacking. Any mag that’s more than two years old, you might want to toss it.

Move on to the closet
Of course, your closet needs to get organized, but you’ll also want to move your winter clothing, shoes, and accessories to storage, or at least to an out-of-reach area so your spring/summer wardrobe is front and center. Use cedar or fresh herbs such as rosemary and lavender to keep garments fresh and bugs at bay. And, don’t be sloppy when storing. You’ll regret it next season.

Buy something new.
Every room gets tired after a while, so if you’re bored with your bedroom, you’re not alone. Now that you’re organized, allow yourself to splurge on one new item –– be it an area rug, mirror, piece of art, or throw pillow –– and you’ll be back in love with your bedroom in no time.

Sorry to be the bearer of this news, but now that you’re organized, it’s time to clean. Spring-cleaning is a must every year, so get to it!

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Breakfast in Bed – Potato Farls

Potato Farls 12

Post by Alison Hein.

You never know just how important St. Patrick’s Day is until you marry an Irishman. J With Kevin’s encouragement (um, nagging?), I’ve had fun posting an array of Irish recipes suitable for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations during the past few years: St. Patrick’s Day Soda Bread, Irish Wheaten Bread, and Mrs. O’Callaghan’s Irish Scones. Oh my, I almost forgot Aunt Frannie’s Irish Coffee! (Just proves how un-Irish I am.)

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I love Irish cooking for its deep simplicity, and for the focus that captures a food’s essence. Take potatoes, for instance. In this easy (and simply devourable!) Potato Farl Recipe, only four ingredients are used – potatoes, butter, flour and salt. Mashed potatoes are mixed with a little butter and just enough flour to make them pliable. Add an egg, or a little baking soda, for an extra lift if you like, or remain pure and traditional without.

A “farl” is anything that is cut into a quarter round. Potato farls are often called potato cakes or potato bread. If you like them savory, top them with fresh chives or ground black pepper. If you like them sweet, sprinkle a little cinnamon and brown sugar on them. If you’re like me, pick them up directly from the hot pan, douse with salt, and eat them immediately while trying not to burn your tongue.

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I used golden potatoes because I love their sweet, mellow flavor and their sunny hue. But any kind of potato that is mashable (uh, I think that’s all of them) – reds, russets, fingerlings – will work well here for a devourable St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in bed.

Ingredients

1½ pounds potatoes
2 tablespoons butter, plus an additional 2 to 3 tablespoons for frying
1 cup flour
Salt, to taste

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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 along with 2 tablespoons of butter. Mash, ensuring potatoes are smooth and without lumps. Allow potatoes to cool.

When cool, add flour and salt to the potatoes and mix well. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for a minute or so, until mixture is smooth and somewhat elastic. Split dough in half and shape each half into a round, approximately 6 inches in diameter and ½ inch thick.

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Melt a tablespoon of the remaining butter in a heavy pan over medium heat. Cook the potato cakes until golden brown, turning once, about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve warm.

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

Makes 8 potato farls.

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