Bedtime Stories: Boy + Bot

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.

Looking for something simple and adorable to read? I’ve just stumbled across this cute little story by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino. I recently refurbished my e-reader to make it more functional than it was (which was not very) and have been borrowing digital picture books from the library. The selection is somewhat limited (though I expect it will grow) so I’m likely to read every picture book available. This is one that I would go borrow a paper copy of, it’s so durn adorable.

A boy meets a robot and they become instant friends. Unfortunately, while rolling down a hill the bot’s off switch is pressed. The boy carries him home and tries to make him better the only ways he knows how: applesauce, stories, and so on but nothing works. While the boy sleeps the parents accidentally hit the on switch. Robot sees the boy is off so he does the same for the boy: takes him home, reads him instruction manuals, gives him oil. Luckily the inventor intervenes and explains that they have a BOY not a bot. Don’t worry: everything turns out okay in the end. The last several pages are cute-as-can-be pictures of the boy and the bot playing together. It’s a great picture book for kids of all ages. Seriously. Go get it. Or download it from your local library’s e-book collection!

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Breakfast in Bed: Benne Wafers

Post by Alison Hein.

Now that we’ve gotten all the Super Bowl hoopla out of our systems, it’s time to focus on more important things – like African American History Month. Historian Carter G. Woodson initiated focus on African American history back in 1926 when he decreed that the second week in February become “Negro History Week.” Woodson chose the month of February, when both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass celebrated their birthdays.

It wasn’t until 1976 that the US government officially expanded Woodson’s initiative to become “Black History Month.” President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Our country’s food history, too, owes a lot to our African American forbears. Popular soul food, like collard greens, johnnycakes and chitlins, stems from African roots. Benne (the Bantu word for sesame) was brought from Africa to this country during the slave trade era. Benne Wafers are still very popular in the south, and are considered a specialty of Charleston, South Carolina.

Sometime this month, I urge you to make these nutty little wafers. Pack some up and head out to a local park or museum for an event honoring African Americans. Here are some links to get you started:

http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/

http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/black-history-month.htm

http://www.nycgovparks.org/events/black_history_month

http://americanfood.about.com/od/resourcesadditionalinfo/a/Soul-Food-History-And-Definition.htm

Ingredients
½ cup benne (sesame) seeds
¾ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350°. To toast seeds, place them on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, stirring once or twice, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Mix in egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in flour and baking powder to form stiff batter. Drop batter by rounded ½ teaspoons onto prepared sheet, leaving about 1½ inches between wafers. Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes.

Makes 5½ to 6 dozen wafers.

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Bedtime Stories: Dad, are you the tooth fairy?

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Dad, are You the Tooth Fairy? By Jason Alexander.

My son lost his first tooth the other day. They grow up so quickly! The next day, he brought home this book from the school library. It’s all about a kid losing teeth and the tooth fairy. How appropriate! Right? Wrong! If you want to instill a sense of skepticism early in your child’s life, this is the book for you. It basically spells out for the children that perhaps all of those childhood beliefs are bogus. Hence the child asking the dad if he is the Tooth Fairy. It’s a terrible book. It’s basically one man’s attempt to cover up, in a really lame way, that his son discovered the truth. His answer? Well, yes, technically, I put the note and the coin under your pillow. But it’s the fairy speaking through me! But it will only work if you believe in the face of all the proof to the contrary. It never crossed my little boy’s mind that I had cleverly folded that dollar bill into a butterfly. Until Jason Alexander (yes, that’s “George” from Seinfeld) decided to write this book. Don’t read it to your children unless they are already fully skeptical of the presence of magic and wonder in the world.

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Movies in Bed: Frozen


Post by Mark T. Locker.

It’s not often that I get to take my kid to the movies. His great-aunts are gracious enough to usually suffer through those base, slapstick-laden cringefests, providing Mom and my with a couple hours of quiet time. But when Mom is nowhere to be found and kid is LITERALLY bouncing off the walls, heigh-ho! Heigh-ho! It’s off to the local cinema we go! Today we are “enjoying” the Disney movie “Frozen”. It’s about a girl, a princess (naturally) named Elsa. She has a magical ability to create snow and ice. But when a playtime escapade with her little sister Anna ends in near-disaster, Elsa is forced to keep it all in. And she can’t. So she is forced into isolation. ANYWAYS fast forward, she loses it and plunges the whole place into eternal winter. Whoopsy! Interestingly, the marketing for this movie carefully avoids letting on that this is a movie about sisters and their relationship and lots of singing. My boy is not bothered by that and I don’t think the term “girl movie” crossed his mind. It’s got a silly magical snowman and the music is actually kind of catchy. (I’m going to look up this one song as soon as I finish this.) It’s based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale “The Snow Queen” so you can’t go wrong!

You can’t actually watch it in bed YET. It comes out on DVD in March. But if you have a kid, boy or girl, then you will probably end up watching this with them sooner or later.

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Things We Like: Renovating Realities

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

Here on the Charles Rogers Blog, we often talk about remodeling and renovating projects. Following my own advice, I recently began a project to renovate the en suite bathroom in my loft. While this isn’t a bedroom renovation, to me, an en suite is a central element to any luxurious bedroom.

Having watched countless home improvement television shows throughout my life, I never fully appreciated the Hollywood-magic going on behind the scenes of these projects. On TV, renovations are deceptively easy, even if there are some unexpected hiccups along the way; this is not the case in real life. I’m quickly realizing that even relatively simple home improvement projects take a lot of time and coordination — even if the actual work runs smoothly. While I’m still not finished with the project, heck, it hasn’t really even started yet; I want to share with you some of my early experiences to give you a better idea of the process. I will post future updates as the project progresses.

Phase 1: Brainstorming
The brainstorming session for my renovation began with a couple hours browsing through the bathroom galleries on Houzz, which really is a great resource for gathering design inspiration. Armed with my idea book of modern bathrooms that I would like to have for myself, I started looking for an interior designer to help me develop a cohesive plan for my specific space. In fact, it turns out that the designer even recommended putting together an idea book as a starting point to give them a better idea of what I am looking to accomplish. Let’s not jump too far ahead though. Before you can start working with a designer, you have to find and hire one.

Phase 2: Finding A Designer
My initial thought was to hire an interior design student. I figured this would allow me to get more work for my money as a student would be much more motivated than a professional to knock it out of the park. What the student lacked in experience would be offset by the additional time they spent on the project and their motivation to start building a real portfolio. A short email conversation with my alma mater’s design school quickly put an end to that plan. However, I did get a couple of recommendations for graduates in the area who do freelance projects. Ultimately, my plan did pay off.

Phase 3: Meeting With The Designer
Having checked out several of the recommendations, I settled on an interior designer that I thought would be a good fit for my project. After several conversations discussing price and process, he came to my home for the initial consultation/estimate about a week later. About a week after our meeting, I was presented with a design package, complete with the elevations for a custom vanity, recommended fixtures, and an overall scope for the project. This couldn’t have gone any smoother, but it still took a couple weeks just to get a plan.

Phase 4: Finding A Contractor
Having discussed the plan and budget with the designer, we both agreed that it would be more cost effective to manage the project myself and break it out into smaller parts. Without having to pay the extra overhead for a general contractor, I hope to keep the overall cost of the renovations down. The problem is that in Fort Worth, many contractors don’t have a web presence. And since I don’t know of anyone who has done renovations in the past, I had no base for referrals. After a bit of research, however, I was able to come up with a list of companies that I thought would be a good match for what I am trying to do.

For my project I needed to find: (1) a tile layer/plumber; (2) a cabinet marker; (3) someone to build and install a barn door; and (4) a general carpenter/handyman who can handle everything else, including installing recessed lighting and relocating an overhead fixture.

The problem is that many of these companies seemed reluctant to just send out sales associates to estimate projects. Understandably, it costs them time and money to give these estimates, so they have to exercise some discretion. I solved this problem by visiting a couple companies in-person to discuss my plans and set up an appointment that way. While this really isn’t that big of a deal, it does add more time to the project. Further delaying the project is that once the contractor comes to the site, it takes them about another week to draw up an estimate for the project. I anticipate further delays in fitting my project into their existing schedules.

Next time you’re watching a home improvement show, notice how on TV all the plans are drawn up almost instantly, and there seems to be a whole construction company waiting for the green light. This is not the case in real life.

Moving Forward
Still waiting on a couple bids back from contractors, no real work has started yet. Once approved, the custom cabinets will take approximately 5 weeks to build, which I anticipate to be the biggest delay in the project. While I wish that things were moving along quicker, the extra time has given me the opportunity to refine the scope of my renovation. I’m always sure to ask for input from everyone who comes out to estimate the project; just to be sure nothing goes overlooked.

Even though I’m not making any major structural changes to my small en suite bathroom, the costs add up quickly. A couple fixtures, new cabinets, tile, labor, and a drain pan and frameless door for the shower are much more expensive than I anticipated. Hopefully this work will pay off, and I will keep you updated about the progress of this project as it unfolds.

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