Movies in Bed: Monster House

monster housePost by Mark T. Locker.

With Halloween just around the corner, I have to up my game trying to find a movie that is “scary” but isn’t so scary that my seven-year-old can’t watch it. Basically, he has to be assured that everything will be okay in the end. I know, I know, the kid’s got too much empathy. Well, we watched Monster House this past weekend and managed to fit the bill nicely.

Thirteen-year-old DJ lives across the street from a crabby old man, the classic “Get off my lawn!” type, the kind of guy who takes your ball if it lands in your yard and won’t give it back. Well one day while DJ and his friend Chowder are playing ball, the basketball lands in Old Man Nebbercracker’s yard but this time DJ decides to get it back. The resulting confrontation leads the old man to have a heart attack  and to be taken off in an ambulance.

With the old man gone, strange things begin to happen. The house eats the basketball. The house eats an obnoxious teenager after luring him in with a kite he lost there as a child. Since no reasonable adult would believe them, DJ, Chowder, and their new friend Jenny take it upon themselves to take out the house. But what they discover inside changes their whole perception of what is happening.

Kind of scary, kind of funny, and full of action, this is a great movie for sensitive kids who insist they want something “scary” to watch this Halloween. The characters are fine, there’s nothing too offensive going on and it’s just scary enough to give a couple good scares without the risk of nightmares.

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Bedroom Design: Polka-Dotted Decor in a Bedroom

Post by Tracy Kaler.

When we talk about décor, polka dots usually sound juvenile. But in all honesty, they can be as mature and sophisticated as you need them to be. Polka dots work well on walls, as a fabric print, and even in area rugs. As a fan of dots myself, I’m fond of the following bedrooms, each of which has been graced with polka dots.

This polka-dotted ceiling looks like wall covering, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. The renter of this California apartment placed gold polka dot removable decals on three sides of the ceiling. That’s a more practical option than a permanent wallpaper.

This otherwise plain bedroom gets a punch of pattern with polka dots on pillows. If you’ll notice, a small piece of dotted art hangs above the nightstand as well.

This colorful bedroom uses dots on Roman shades, a large bolster pillow, and the vibrant area rug. The space should be overkill but the varying sizes of polka dots –– small on the windows, medium on the pillow, and large on the floor –– work nicely.

This space screams sophistication. Large black dots decorate the walls of the London bedroom, which feels like a luxury hotel suite. Modern photography and the right amount of texture complete the upscale design.

This handsome Austin bedroom comes with a small dose of polka dots on the accent throw at the foot of the bed. The color palette, use of pattern, and furniture selections give the bedroom a retro look.

Would you consider using polka dots in your bedroom?

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Breakfast in Bed – Barm Brack

Barm Brack 10

Post by Alison Hein.

Well Brian B, this is your cake!

Since I couldn’t think of anything new, I fell back to something old – Barm Brack – a colorful fruit-filled yeast cake traditionally baked at Halloween. It is customary to hide small metal charms in the brack. A coin means wealth in the coming year; a ring foretells upcoming nuptials; a thimble signifies spinsterhood; and a piece of cloth indicates poverty.  If you plan to bake anything into your cake (I did not), be sure to wrap the tokens in large pieces of foil, forewarn anyone having a slice, and do not serve to young children or people with dental problems!

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The word “brack” stems from the Irish “breac”, or speckled, due to the dried fruit strewn throughout the cake. The word “barm” means yeast.

Most barm brack recipes call for candied fruit peel in addition to dried fruit, but in this version I used a combination of currants, dark and golden raisins, and dried sweet cherries. Some people also like to soak the dried fruit in tea, cider or whiskey overnight before baking for intense flavors and to add moisture to the cake.

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So feel free to experiment. Bake your brack the night before, then slice, toast and butter it for a Halloween morn breakfast in bed.

I wish you good fortune in the year ahead…

Ingredients

1½ cups milk
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 packet yeast
4 – 5 cups flour
¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups mixed dried fruit (such as currants, raisins, golden raisins, dried cherries)
Grated rind of one lemon (or substitute orange)

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Preparation

Add milk to small, heavy saucepan and place on stove over medium heat. Allow to heat, without stirring, until tiny ripples begin to form across the surface of the milk (scalded milk). Remove milk from heat and add butter, brown sugar and salt. Pour milk mixture into food processer. Allow to cool until tepid, then sprinkle yeast lightly and evenly across surface.

Let yeast rest about 10 minutes, until it begins to activate and resembles wet sand. Add 1 cup of flour, spices, and most of beaten eggs, retaining about 1 tablespoon of eggs to glaze the cake before baking. Gently pulse the food processer, adding flour about 1 cup at a time, until dough is compressed and begins to pull away from side of bowl. Stir in the dried fruit and lemon rind. Transfer to a well-greased 8-inch round cake pan. Cover with a light tea towel and set in warm, non-drafty place to rise. Let dough rise for about one hour, until doubled in size.

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Fifteen minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 400°. Brush the top of the barm brack with remaining beaten egg. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm with butter.

NOTE: If adding charms, wrap them in foil and push them into the dough after mixing in fruit, but before dough is set to rise.

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Bedtime Stories: Something Wicked This Way Comes

something-wicked1Post by Mark T. Locker.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

Halloween is just a few days away! I don’t have much time left to share fabulous spooky stories with you! This one is something of a classic, though if you’re anything like me you have only been exposed to the movie version, starring Jonathan Price and some other non-Jonathan Price people. Oh, and Pam Grier. Pam Grier is in it!

Well, the movie is fantastic and is a staple of my Halloween viewing schedule. But recently I began reading Ray Bradbury’s short stories, as beautifully written as they are at times bizarre. Something Wicked This Way Comes was written in 1962 and takes on all the styles Bradbury does best: eliciting the feelings of childhood with eerie accuracy; taking on themes of darkness and creepy things; and talking about the autumn.

Jim Nightshade and William Halloway are best friends barely thirteen years old. When a mysterious carnival comes into town in the dark of night, letting fly an eerie whistle, the boys are excited and scared. There is something wrong about this carnival and cautious Will is worried but won’t let that stop him from following devil-may-care Jim to whatever lays ahead. Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Show, as the carnival is called, holds dark secrets that will test the boys as they discover what these attractions are doing to the unwitting adults of the town.

Gorgeously written and both scary and moving, this story of children growing into adulthood and dark and mysterious forces is a must-read any time of year, but especially at Halloween, which I’m pretty sure was Bradbury’s favorite time of year.

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Movies in Bed: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

IchabodposterPost by Mark T. Locker.

As a lover of the season of Halloween, our family is always on the hunt for fun, spooky movies. The problem is they have to be bearable for an easily frightened (but VERY arbitrarily frightened) seven-year-old. So we decided to dust off our copy of the 1949 Disney classic interpretation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. Inexplicably, Disney packaged it with “The Adventures of Mr. Toad” which is based on The Wind in the Willows which is rather un-spooky.

So the first forty minutes of this movie I was begging my kid to let me skip ahead. But he wouldn’t relent. It wasn’t awful; it just wasn’t what I had come here to watch. My kid loved it. Mr. Toad gets himself into some trouble and his sprawling estate is given over to the criminal weasel gang and Mr. Toad is imprisoned. Conspiracies are uncovered and Toad and his friends fight to right the wrongs done to him. Somehow all of this must relate to the ride at Disneyland, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. What that relationship is, I do not know.

Then, quite suddenly, we are transported from 1908 England to upstate New York in 1790. We all know Ichabod Crane: the gangly, food-obsessed new schoolteacher in Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod is in love with the lovely Katrina. So is Brom. After many thwarted attempts to garner her attention away from Ichabod, Brom hatches a plan. Knowing that Ichabod is a highly superstitious man, he tells a terrifying story about the legend of the Headless Horseman who roams the land searching for his head. Ichabod is frightened and on his way home sees shapes and hears eerie sounds in everything. Suddenly, a figure on a horse rears up before him! It’s the Headless Horseman! A frightening chase ensues. The next day, all they find is a smashed pumpkin and Ichabod’s hat. He is never seen in Sleepy Hollow again.

Pretty darned harmless cartoon, only about 2o minutes long, this Halloween classic is sure to provide chills to kids without much worry for nightmares. They can watch it while the grown-ups finish the half-gutted pumpkins!

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