Bedtime Stories: The Curse Workers: White Cat

curse workersPost by Mark T. Locker.

The Curse Workers, Book 1: White Cat by Holly Black.

Here’s an exciting series for teens who like something akin to down-to-earth magic. This series is about a family of curse workers living in New Jersey. Certain people are born with certain abilities. They are known as curse workers, or just workers. With a simple touch of a finger, they can manipulate someone’s emotions, dreams, memories, luck. Some can kill. Some can transform others. The interesting aspect of this is that whenever a worker “works” somebody, the worker is also affected. This is known as blowback. If you erase a memory, you lose a bit of your own. If you manipulate someone’s emotions, your own become unstable for a while. Nevertheless, the organized crime syndicate does not let this stop them. Not knowing who may or may not be a worker has created a world where everyone wears gloves, just in case.

Cassel Sharpe is a teenage boy who comes from a long line of workers. He himself is not a worker, but his grandfather is a death worker, his mother an emotion worker, and his brothers are memory workers. They are all deeply embedded in a crime family. Cassel has spent his life not feeling included because he lacked the skill of the rest. He has also been haunted by the memory of killing his best friend, a girl named Lila, daughter of a major crime boss. But one day, he starts having strange dreams. It would seem a dream worker is communicating with him. But why? He begins to dig and realized that even his own memories cannot be trusted and that everything he thought he knew about himself, and his family, is not what it seems.

This is a unique and intriguing series. It blends the supernatural with the very real angst of being a teenager. Cassel’s life is full of the social stress of high school, compounded with coming from a crime family and being a killer.

Good book for teenagers and adults.

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Bedroom Design: What to Do Before You Hire a Designer

Post by Tracy Kaler.

Don’t have a design direction for your bedroom? Maybe you have one of those rooms with too many doors and windows, and you don’t know where to place the bed. Or, maybe picking colors isn’t your strong suit, and you always turn to ho-hum beige. Hiring an interior designer to decorate your sleep space might be worth your time and money, but before you make a commitment to work with any decorator, here are a few things you should do first.

Create an inspiration file.
Use Pinterest or look through magazines and websites to create a file of bedrooms you like and would love to be yours. Doing research will establish a direction for you and the person you potentially hire.

Meet with several design pros.
Ask friends and look online to peruse portfolios and check references. Meet with at least three designers, and get a feel for how each would approach your project. Even if you have to pay a consultation fee, you’ll get practical advice, and chatting for an hour or two will get you one step closer to selecting the right person.

Know your budget.
Before you start your bedroom project, have a number in mind and communicate that to your would-be designer. Some decorators have minimums, so you might be expected to invest a hefty sum. Others will accept any project, and be happy to work with you, even if you’re scope is small and your budget smaller. By establishing a number in your mind, you’ll also know pretty quickly if you can afford to hire someone in the first place.

Be clear about what you like and don’t like.
Even in your initial meeting, be clear about what you like and don’t like, as well as your wish list. King bed? Upholstered headboard? Storage? A sitting area? Be sure that you’re on the same page as the person you might work with and your expectations are reasonable. Plus, establishing great communication from the get-go sets the tone for a working relationship with the interior designer you select.

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Breakfast in Bed – Spiced Apple Hand Pies

Spiced Apple Hand Pies 11

Post by Alison Hein.

Oh no! I cannot believe I forgot to do a Valentine’s Day post!

Well, as they say, better late than never, so here’s a sweet recipe you can either save until next year or surprise your beloved with an unexpected, heartwarming anytime breakfast in bed.

These little pies are deliciously spiced with an amalgam of exotic flavors, and tuck neatly into a small hand for nibbling on the go. If you like, use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out a heart in each half-moon. Then gently lay the little heart back over the filling before baking.

Spiced Apple Hand Pies 3

Ingredients

Pie Crust
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water
1/3 cup butter

Pie Filling
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon sugar, plus an additional 1 teaspoon for topping
½ teaspoon flour
¼ teaspoon cloves
A dash each of cardamom, ginger, mace and nutmeg
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Spiced Apple Hand Pies 4

Preparation

To make crust, sift together flour and salt. Remove half of the flour mixture and add to a separate small bowl. Add water to flour mixture and stir to make a paste. Cut butter into small cubes and cut into remaining flour mixture, using a pastry cutter or two forks. Mix all ingredients together until a smooth, uniform dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove dough from refrigerator and cut in half. Gently roll out one piece of dough on a lightly floured board, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Roll dough to form an approximate 12×12-inch shape. Cut 3 to 4 6-inch circles from the dough, using a large cookie cutter, a tin coffee can, or cutting around a small plate. If possible, re-roll any leftover dough to form an additional 6-inch circle. Set circles aside until ready to use.

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To make filling, peel and finely dice apples. Add to a large bowl and stir in cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of sugar, flour, cardamom ginger, mace and nutmeg. Place about 1½ teaspoons of filling on the lower half of each circle, leaving enough room to crimp dough ends together. Fold top half of dough circle over filling to create a moon shape. Crimp edges together with the tines of a fork. Repeat with remaining dough. Poke a few holes in the top of the pie for venting.

Place pies on lightly greased baking sheets. Brush with lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with remaining sugar.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Makes 6 to 8 hand pies.

Spiced Apple Hand Pies 13

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Bedtime Stories: Harry Potter!

harry potterPost by Mark T. Locker.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.

As a fancy librarian whose job used to entail finding the hottest up-and-coming books, I’d like to share with you something I’m almost sure you’ve never heard of. From an obscure debut author somewhere in England comes this charming new book about a young wizard named Harry Potter.

Of course, unless you are completely out of touch, you’ve heard of this book, possibly read it, possibly watched the movies. Honestly, you could watch the first movie and miss nothing from the book. The reason I’m discussing this book today is because last night my boy and I finished reading the first volume. He’d already seen the movie a billion times, which takes some of the fun out of it, but he’d never read the book. It’s still a pretty fun story. I have not read the series since it first came out, so it was fun to revisit. The boy is a devoted fan. Unfortunately after the first few books, it starts to get awfully dark and I’m not entirely sure he’s ready for the later ones. Also, after the first few books, it starts to get awfully wordy and I’m not sure I can read all that without destroying my vocal chords.

It’s interesting to revisit this after watching the movie so many times with the kid. The dialog in many parts is almost word for word taken from the book. It makes picking voices for the characters a cinch! It’s fun to have been able to share this with my son. Already preparing to read him the next volume. It’s big commitment, this series, but I’m sure we’ll be grateful when I finish the final volume in about eleven years!

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Movies in Bed: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse

pee_wee_playhouse

Post by Mark T. Locker.

We don’t have a TV in the bedroom. We just have the one, in the front room. But that doesn’t stop us from snuggling up on the couch under a bunch of blankets on Saturday mornings for cartoons. And now, our Saturday ritual is so much better, and nostalgic, thanks to the release of the complete Pee-wee’s Playhouse series on Netflix! Also on Blu-ray if that’s how you roll. I was the perfect age to watch this when I was a kid, if a little bit too old towards the end.

Pee-wee’s Playhouse is a joyful half hour full of talking animals and furniture, refrigerator drama, surprising celebrities, and the occasional morality lesson. Phil Hartman (rest his soul) and Laurence Fishburne were regulars. My son was an instant fan. He is always asking me who my favorite character is. That’s like choosing my favorite Chinese dish! I love most of them. But Terry (Pterry?) I guess is preferable to Chairry or Globey. It’s a wonderful new world that has opened up to my kid and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I had forgotten how utterly weird and silly the show is. I’d also forgotten about the little moral lessons, like when Randy tries to get Pee-wee to smoke. All in all, it’s the goofiest, most harmless show. Except for that intro song. That can hurt after hearing it a few times! 🙂

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