Bedtime Stories: Clariel

clairelClariel: the Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix.

Post by Mark T. Locker.

If you are a fan of the Old Kingdom Trilogy, you have probably been awaiting this novel with much anticipation and maybe a little bit of fear. After all, new additions to much-loved and long-completed series often promise much and deliver little. If you don’t know what the Old Kingdom it, now is a great time to find out. The original series, written by Australian fantasy/sci-fi author Garth Nix, was started in 1995 with the novel Sabriel. In this novel, and its subsequent two follow-ups, we are introduced to the world of the Old Kingdom, an ancient land of magic, necromancy, and a world still in a semi-Medieval feudal system. Across the Wall to the South, there are cars, phones, conventional weapons. Magic is mostly unheard of.  None of this works beyond the Wall, which is why horseback, sword and arrow are still the norm. The kingdom is ordered around the Charter, which is a magical system which keeps order and structure. Think of it like the light side of the Force. There is also a dark side, the Free Magic used by rogue magicians and necromancers. The Abhorsen is the Charter’s answer to Free Magic. Like royalty, it is passed on in the bloodline. When an Abhorsen comes of age, he or she will wear the spelled bells and keep the dead from rising again. Creepy stuff, but important.

Clariel is set several hundred years before Sabriel. She is a fierce and fiercely independent young heir to both the Abhorsen and the royal bloodlines who wants nothing more than to live in the woods, protecting the woods and the wilderness. She is the very definition of a reluctant hero, as she and her family move to the capitol city of Belisaire in order to further her mother’s career. This book does not fail to deliver. It never tries to ride on the coattails of the previous books to carry itself and works as the first book in the series, or as a prequel to read after. Great fantasy for adults or middle-school aged kids and up.

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Holiday Décor Inspiration for Your Bedroom

Post by Tracy Kaler.

Do you decorate your bedroom for Christmas? I tend to add a few small embellishments to my bedroom because I like my whole apartment to feel seasonal and in the spirit.

During this most wonderful time of the year when all things seem merrier and brighter, why not try introducing holiday décor into your bedroom? There are plenty of decorating opportunities even in the tiniest quarters, and a little bit of red and green, silver, or gold will go a long way.

Let these four festive spaces inspire you to decorate your bedroom this holiday season.

A suite with seasonal pillows, evergreen wreaths, and poinsettias in the master bath would put anyone in the mood for Christmas. The year-round sage green wall color and ruby red lampshade only add to the holiday feel.

Touches might be subtle in this all-white bedroom, but by the looks of things, Santa is on his way. A simple strand with red stockings in different shapes and sizes hangs from the footboard, while a small red accent pillow enlivens this otherwise neutral room and readies the space for December 25.

If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace in your bedroom, the mantle is the ideal place to start your holiday decorating. I like the combination of grapevine garland, red and silver balls, and greenery here. The wreath, white lights, and candles finish off this fireplace nicely.

Oh, how I want this room to be mine. I adore the chartreuse lampshades, the green accents, and the mostly black and white color scheme. The pinecones and evergreens look like they belong all year long. A modest “joy” accent pillow is all this bed needs to welcome Christmas.

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Breakfast in Bed – Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Butter

Post by Alison Hein.

Before we let go of autumn and plunge into winter’s chilly arms, why don’t we briefly revisit the harvest with some old-fashioned, homey Pumpkin Butter? A jar of this sweet spread is a time capsule that will bring you back to days past as you enjoy its cozy, pumpkin pie flavors. Make your own flavorful purée by roasting or steaming fresh pumpkins, or use a pre-packaged can for a quick, easy delight.

Pumpkin Butter

It’s “butter” only in the sense that it is spreadable. Pumpkin purée, brown sugar and pie spices thicken up and colors darken as they cook into a “shmearable” substance, just right for a slice of hearty toasted bread. Or, try a spoonful of Pumpkin Butter stirred into some hot oatmeal for a delicious diversion. You may also like it scooped on top of some freshly baked waffles, or even mixed into a dish of plain yogurt. Packed neatly into a glass mason jar, pumpkin butter makes a lovely gift as well.

Years ago, many families prepared and canned their own pumpkin butter. In recent years, however, the USDA warns against canning pumpkin (and other squash varieties) due to the low acid content of the vegetable. While some people still preserve pumpkin butter, adding lemon juice or vinegar to raise the acidity levels, I think it best we follow the guidance of the USDA and simply eat it immediately – spread, scooped or stirred – for an old-fashioned, homey breakfast in bed.

Pumpkin Butter

Ingredients

1 15-ounce can (or 2 cups fresh) pumpkin purée
½ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pumpkin Butter

Preparation

Combine pumpkin purée, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and vanilla in small heavy saucepan. Bring to a slow simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, then cook until thickened and flavors are melded, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool, and place in jar. Use immediately, freeze, or refrigerate and use within one week.

Pumpkin Butter

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Movies in Bed: Guardians of the Galaxy

GOTG-posterPost by Mark T. Locker.

In a world where every superhero gets a movie, or a movie franchise, it’s hard not to feel a little bit jaded or at least completely overwhelmed by the flood of choices. It seems like there are new movies every week. So when a movie like “Guardians of the Galaxy” shows up, it’s hard not to be totally skeptical. For one thing: ANOTHER movie from the endless reservoir of Marvel characters. And another: a giant tree man and a talking raccoon make up part of this team. But all that concern falls away when you watch the movie.

Good news: this movie is enjoyable! It’s funny, it’s clever, it’s not a lot of things it could have been. Here’s the premise: Peter Quill is an Earthling who was taken from his home in 1988 and has been raised by a race of blue-skinned thieves. In a tussle to claim a mysterious orb, he and his opponent are arrested and taken to a space prison. Here he meets a giant tree man named Groot, a brilliant but bad-tempered name Rocket, and Drax, a big meaty very literal guy. This motley crew, along with Gamora, the one who fought Quill for the orb, they form an alliance when they discover they have a common enemy in Ronin, who seeks the orb.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is peppered with funny one-liners, top-shelf cast, and plenty of action and special effects to keep viewers entertained. There is a great deal of fighting and killing but none of it is graphic or bloody. Good exciting movie for grown-ups and older children. And I bet you anything you will have “Hooked on a Feeling” in your head for days afterward.

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Chic Chandeliers: Make a Lighting Statement in Your Bedroom

Post by Tracy Kaler.

Bedroom lighting is often an afterthought but should be part of the design plan from the beginning. While ambiance is a key component in a sleep space, task lighting for reading is equally important. That being said, beyond bedside lamps, sconces, and recessed lights, chandeliers portray elegance when chosen for a bedroom, and these are some exquisite examples to inspire.

This serene bedroom contains all of the design elements needed for a tranquil place to rest and relax. The large circular pendant/chandelier draws the eye upward and accentuates the crisp crown moldings.

This room boasts another pendant-type fixture but this one resembles an oversized lampshade. Suspended at just the right height, the style of light is ideal for the room and works well with the sloped ceiling.

Terrific in turquoise, the L-O-V-E-ly bedroom boasts a touch of whimsy, particularly in the accessories. The feminine crystal chandelier is the perfect choice for the theme of this cheery room.

Although I’d like to see a little more color in this super neutral bedroom, I adore the chandelier. I’m sure the designer made a conscious choice to not install shades but rather let the shape of the fixture take center stage. This light is a modern version of a classic.

Far from your ordinary chandelier, this oversized light joins the bed in becoming a focal point in the room. This fixture not only sufficiently lights the space but adds a decorative element that dresses up an otherwise fairly simple mountain house bedroom.

How do you feel about using a chandelier in your bedroom?

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