Things We Like: New Year’s Resolutions For A Better Night’s Sleep

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

I hope that you all had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! It seems like 2013 flew by towards the end there, and now we’re on to 2014: a new year filled with boundless possibilities and opportunities. That is, of course, until 2015…

Given that the tradition of making resolutions is as old as celebrating the New Year itself, I wanted to share with you a handful of my favorite tips that you can use towards fulfilling a resolution to get a better night’s sleep.

  • Exercise. Probably the most popular New Year’s resolution is to exercise — even if the effort rarely lasts through February. In addition to exercising for a fitness goal this year, try exercising for better sleep. You’ll still have a chance at fitting in that favorite pair of jeans you wore back in college, and will definitely sleep better.

  • Color-shift your computer screen. I’ve written in the past about the benefits of color-shifting your computer screen using a free and lightweight program called f.lux. Without going into too much detail, color-shifting turns your screen from a bright white to a warm red as the sun goes down. The warmer light is easier on your eyes, and also helps prepare you for sleep (light is a stimulus that tells your brain to stay awake). I’ve been using the program for a couple years now and can’t imagine life without it.

  • Eat a light snack before bed. While you don’t want to eat a large meal and immediately go to sleep (it would be bad for your digestion), a light snack about an hour before bed can help you sleep soundly through the night. The best snacks are those with a mix of tryptophan (the amino acid found in turkey that we blame for Thanksgiving drowsiness) and complex carbs. A great sleep snack that’s easy to make is peanut butter and crackers. The carbs from the crackers mixed with the tryptophan found in peanut butter helps your brain create serotonin, which helps you feel more relaxed and ready to sleep.

  • Get in a routine. Setting a regular bedtime routine can help you sleep better. Easier said than done, I know. In addition to the time you go to bed, there are other nightly rituals that can also help prepare you for sleep. For example, some people find that taking a hot shower or meditating right before bed helps them sleep better. When developing a sleep routine, don’t neglect the other half, i.e., waking up, which is just as important as your bedtime.

  • Make your bedroom your sanctuary. The Charles P Rogers blog is filled with tips and tricks for making your bedroom the sanctuary of your dreams. So if you’re looking for design inspiration, don’t be shy about browsing through the archives. Whatever your style, however, a luxurious bed is critical to getting a good night’s sleep and looks great in any décor. Without one you’ll always be missing something in the sleep department. 2014 is a perfect excuse to treat yourself to the comfortable bed you’ve always wanted.

While you may not have thought to make your New Year’s resolution “getting a better night’s sleep,” the above tips are general enough that you may have already resolved to do one of them. Now you have yet another reason to stick to your goals and make 2014 the best year yet!

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Breakfast in Bed: Eggnog French Toast

Post by Alison Hein.

Please forgive me! I purchased too much eggnog this holiday season. Last year, we went through it like water so I wanted to be prepared. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely adore eggnog (see the recent Eggnog Waffles post. The trouble is, with too much eggnog on hand and not enough milk, I was forced to concoct another once-a-year holiday breakfast treat – Eggnog French Toast.

Rich and golden, eggy and sweet, it only takes a few minutes to prepare enough for your whole family. This thick, yellow batter works best with stale bread – allow it to sit for a few minutes to fully absorb the pure eggnog flavors. If you like, sprinkle in a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg, for holiday cookie-like flair. Cook the bread somewhat slowly (medium-low heat) and you’ll achieve an all-over golden brown glow on your French toast. Start off the new year right and let the kids help on this one – it’s super easy and almost foolproof. Your children will delight in creating this egg-a-licious meal.

So, if you didn’t try the recent waffle recipe, and find yourself (like me) with an overabundance of eggnog in your fridge, perhaps you might whip up a batch of Eggnog French toast for a lazy New Year’s Day breakfast in bed.

Happy New Year!

Ingredients
1 cup eggnog
2 eggs
Dash of cinnamon (optional)
8 slices day-old bread
2 to 4 tablespoons butter

Preparation

In large, shallow bowl, whisk together eggnog and eggs. Stir in cinnamon. Dip bread slices into the eggnog mixture, turning once to completely saturate. If bread is very hard, let it soak in the eggnog mixture for a few minutes until softened. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in heavy skillet. Add soaked bread slices and cook over medium to medium-low heat, turning once, until golden and cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add more butter as needed. Remove from pan and serve warm with real maple syrup.

Makes 4 servings.

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Bedtime Stories: Big Appetites

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Big Appetites: tiny people in a world of big food by Christopher Boffoli.

My favorite, and also the most challenging part of the whole Christmas shopping thing is taking my 5.5-year-old out to pick out presents for his mom. It’s funny: he never wanted to go to the perfume counter or look at jewelry; I guess he knows his mother too well. He felt most inspired at the book store. Although I put the kibosh on the book of poetry supposedly written by a cat (it was even worse than you might imagine; this cat is not only not real, but a terrible poet to boot. Think of someone who is not a poet trying to sound poetic. And then filter that through the lens of a cat. You get the idea) his next selection was definitely worth a look.

Perhaps you have the the art of Christopher Boffoli. Microsculptures of all kinds of people doing all kinds of everyday activities placed in an environment of food. The cover depicts a tiny person “mowing” an enormous orange. Suddenly, such a pedestrian task as cutting a green bean becomes as big a job as cutting a fallen tree. Two lumberjacks toil over the bean. A little crawdad become a beast on the loose.Someone must have told the artist to add captions to the pictures, maybe to beef up the size of the book. Personally, I think these take away any open-ended interpretations of the images. I prefer to ignore them and let the pictures speak for themselves. Big Appetites is a funny and easy coffee table book.

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Movies in Bed: The Booth at the End

Post by Mark T. Locker

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I rarely find the time to watch movies anymore. Once the boy is asleep, I feel pressured to maximize the two hours I have until my own bedtime and I rarely want to commit a full two hours to a movie. A couple 22-minute television shows seems much more within my grasp in the evenings.

I was recently introduced to this show, which I think is only available on Hulu. “The Booth at the End” features Xander Berkeley, who is one of those actors you see everywhere but can’t quite put a finger on. In that respect, he is the perfect character for this tantalizing and unusual show. His character, who is never named, sits all day, every day in a diner in the—you guessed it—booth at the end. People learn one way or another about this man and come to visit him, each with a wish. He can make whatever they want happen but it always comes at a certain cost: they must first do something for him. A nun wants to hear the voice of God like she used to. The man looks in his notebook and says that to hear God again, she must become pregnant. An old woman wants her husband to come back from Alzheimer’s. The notebook says she must plant a bomb in a crowded place to accomplish this. The characters are complex and as tortured as you might hope they would be. Some do what they are asked, some are forced to weigh the value of one life against another.

It’s easy to get sucked into this incredible show. It’s easy to get angry, or relieved, when watching these people weigh their options. A definite must-watch.

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Breakfast in Bed: Vannilekipferl

Post by Alison Hein.

Once upon a time, long before Google search, people had to work very hard to obtain special recipes. Finding just the right one might involve a trek to the library and a search through hundreds of cookbooks; tricking friends and neighbors into giving up their family secrets; or hours and hours of trial and error and a messy, messy kitchen. Vannilekipferl was just that hard won.

Every Christmas a friend’s mother would whip up batches of these melt-in-your-mouth holiday specialties. Year after year I begged her for the recipe. After about three years, she agreed that I could help her bake. The following year she finally relented and gifted me her hand-written, cherished instructions. Next obstacle – translate the directions from German to English, and convert the quantities from metric to US measurements (my friend’s mother was Austrian). Again, an easy task today with Google translate and a multitude of online converters. But back in the day, it took time and a little fudging to get it just right. I have made these sweet, nutty crescents annually ever since, and they continue to be the favorite cookie on our holiday plate.

Make sure you chill the dough thoroughly before you begin the fussy shaping process. With no eggs in the batter, the dough can be a little finicky. Same holds true when you remove them from the oven. Fragile when hot, they can break easily, so be gentle and give them lots of support when transferring to a cooling rack and rolling them in sugar. If you break a few, by all means, indulge immediately. If you can hold out, save some for a hard won, special breakfast in bed.

As they say in Austria, Frohe Weihnachten!

Ingredients
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup finely ground walnuts or pecans
1¾ cups flour

Preparation
Beat butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with electric mixer until fluffy. Add nuts and mix until blended. Gradually mix in flour until just blended. Wrap dough and chill until firm enough to handle, at least 2 hours. Heat oven to 325°. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. On lightly floured board, form each piece into a ½-inch thick rope, then cut into approximately 1½-inch lengths. Bend into crescent shapes, tapering ends slightly. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until light golden and firm. While warm, roll in confectioner’s sugar to coat. Let cool on racks. Recoat with confectioner’s sugar. Store in waxed paper-lined tins for up to 3 weeks.

Yield: 8 to 9 dozen.

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