Movies make things get done

I feel like I have watched a zillion movies lately, and by coincidence, I also feel like I've been getting a lot done. I can only conclude that movies are good for productivity.

My bread-making has been improving - look at the crumb on this loaf of 60% whole wheat!

Hoping to get the next loaf a little higher. And that's home-made strawberry jam in the background too. Had the good fortune to stumble upon the last of the strawberries I froze last summer, just as I ran out of jam.

Have also been knitting - trying again to make socks:

Self-striping yarn to make them look interesting without being difficult. Will have to learn to do an afterthought heel. Also, this scarf, seen here a few days after I started it last week:

is now complete! I left it to soak this morning, and will block tonight. And today I am wearing a shirt...

that I sewed up on the weekend from fabric I cut a zillion years ago, literally. I'm quite pleased.

All this courtesy of a bunch of old films, from Idiot's Delight to Grand Hotel to Of Human Bondage to Some Like It Hot. They don't make 'em like they used to!


More Easter baking

A long weekend is the perfect excuse to work on baking and projects!

I am finally thisclose to finishing my work on the bedroom. Walls are painted, shelves are built, pictures are hung. I finally finished the trim on the window box seat, although looking at this photo makes me think it could use another coat of paint. Other than that though, I am pretty pleased with my peaceful little corner - a perfect place to sit with a good book and a pot of coffee to watch the rain.

For Easter dinner, we decided on duck - easy and festive. I like this recipe from Epicurious. Super simple.

Served with spring asparagus, braised red cabbage, a potato gratin, and homemade bread.

For dessert I wanted something light and springlike after a rich main course - and Ontario rhubarb is already in the shops! So I opted for a classic rhubarb custard cake. I found a number of variations on the same recipe online - funny sometimes you see things on blogs with beautiful photos and recipes that don't quite make sense. It is so obvious that the pictures are borrowed because the blogger has no idea what they are talking about! In this case, the miscreant in question suggested you could turn this gooey-bottomed, fluffy-fruity-topped cake out onto a rack, and then flip it right side up again. Sounds like disaster to me! Others made it in a square pan and served directly from the pan; I wanted to be a smidge less casual, so I used a springform. Worked perfectly.

Rhubarb Custard Cake

1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs water
4 eggs, separated, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted, room temperature
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk, room temperature

Simmer rhurarb, 2 tbs sugar, and water over medium heat until rhubarb starts to soften. Drain and set aside.

Beat egg whites will stiff peaks. I like to use a copper bowl for this.

In another bowl, beat yolks with 3/4 cup sugar till thick and lemon-yellow. Whisk in vanilla and melted butter.

Whisk in flour and milk alternately. It will be very runny.

Fold in egg whites gently.

Pour into a very well-buttered 9" springform pan. Spoon the rhubard over top, gently, so as not to crush the egg whites.

Bake at 325f for 60-70 minutes, or until it doesn't wobble terribly when you jostle the pan.

Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the spring form pan, then allow to cool completely befre serving.

Best served with whipped cream!


Hot crossed buns! Again!

For Easter, thought I'd post my recipe, since I've tweaked it a bit from the origina one I used, including changing the measurements from metric to imperial!

Combine: 1 1/4 cup warm milk 1/4 cup white sugar 4 tsp yeast

Let that sit while you sift together: 3 cups flour 1 tsp salt 1 tsp allspice 1/2 tsp nutmeg 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Then rub in as though you were making pastry: 1/4 cup butter (cut into bits)

Add milk/yeast to flour mixture, along with: 2 eggs, beaten 1/2 cup raisins 1/2 cup candied orange peel, chopped

Knead 5 min, cover, and let double (45 min)

Punch down, cut in 12 pieces, roll into balls, and arrange in greased 9"x13" pan. Cover and let rise 15 min.

Combine: 1/2 cup flour 1/4+ cup water

Add more water as necessary to make a fairly thick paste, but not too thick to pipe.

Pipe crosses on the buns (I don't do it individually, it's basically a big grid that crosses all of them)

Bake 10 min at 400f, then drop the temperature to 350 and bake 15 min more.

Now, back to my regularly-scheduled room redecoration project.


What I've been up to

Another long break, but it's not because I've been doing nothing.

First off, I spent the winter divided between being deathly ill (pneumonia, pleurisy), taking care of a sick kid, and filming on location in different parts of the province. Oh, the glamour of getting up at 5 o'clock in the morning to drive to Belleville! It hit me too late, "Oh yeah, this is why I stopped working in production," it's just too stressful.

Anyway, I did manage to accomplish a few things in the interim.

I built shelves!

Basically done here, although they still need a final coat of paint. As do the walls, obviously.

I have the paint and rollers and all ready to go, just as soon as I find the time...

I got yarn in my xmas stocking - what a clever Santa, bringing cashmere! - and knit a sweater:

Focussing a camera is not my strong suit. Also returned to a project I'd set aside before, a pair of gloves...

... to match a hat. Also did some baking. No photos of Mary Berry's Cherry Cake from Great British Bake-Off, even though I made it twice (once under-baked, once over-baked), or the Honey Cake from the Mile End Cookbook, but I did manage a blurry snap of the gateau St-Honoré I made for Valentine's Day - a small one, just for the kiddo and me.

And today, I knocked two long-half-finished projects off of the to-do list. I finished recovering the cushions on the porch chair...

... so it matches these porch chairs.

And finally, I finished off a pair of pyjamas. The Fenelon Fair has a category for "Ladies' Sleep Pants" which has unfortunately led to me having three half-pairs of pyjamas waiting for the tops to get done. The bottoms for these were done in 2014! Ah well, better late than never.


Don't kid yourself, Caesar...

Oh, Coen brothers. I have loved so many of your movies. I think that Hail, Caesar! is getting more criticism than it would have had the release not come on the heels of #OscarsSoWhite.

But neither of these facts gives you a pass on your obtuse comments as reported in the Daily Beast.

It's easy to say Oscars don't matter when you already have several. For an objective answer, how about comparing the salaries of Oscar winners to nominees, or those who have never been nominated? For men, there's a big bonus. Male actors experience an 81% bump in salary after nabbing an Oscar according to Forbes in 2013. Women just see their salaries drop as they age, but that's a rant for another day.

Setting aside the straight-up offensiveness of comparing "black or Chinese or Martians" there are two main responses I have to the Coens' assertions about "how things get made."

Diversity isn't about saying "I’m going to write a story that involves four black people, three Jews, and a dog." It's about letting go of the assumption that blacks, Jews, etc. must be a certain kind of character acting in a certain kind of way. When you sent out sides to casting agents - did they include "white" as a qualifier? Or is that just assumed? Do you look at all capable actors when casting or just those that "have the right look"? And why is "black" not the right look for a chemistry teacher, a judge, a neighbour?

Why can't people of colour just be people, without everything they do having to be an expression of their racialized state? Jodie Foster is famous for getting her agent to send her out for roles that were written as male, when the sex of the character is irrelevant to the plot. She can do that – because she's an established white Oscar-winner! (maybe Oscars do matter!) It doesn't generally work so well when black actors try to audition for "white" roles – although white people seem to have no trouble getting cast as everything from Cleopatra to Michael Jackson to Aang from The Last Airbender.

Now, I know how the argument goes, colourblind casting may work for, say, a modern cop drama, but with a period piece set in a time of segregation, you can't just randomly cast people of colour without rewriting the story to address how they would have been treated at the time. Obviously, if you're setting a movie in Hollywood’s "golden age" race was not a neutral factor at that time. Sure. The only stories that occur to you are those about people who look like yourself and the people you spend most of your time with.

But the next question is, who is paying for this? Out of all the ideas that get pitched to studios, how come the ones that get the money, distribution, and marketing support are all coincidentally about white people?

Having seen what goes on behind the scenes in casting, I know firsthand it's not pretty.

My experience here is more television than movie, but considering how intertwined the industries are, I doubt the system is very different for the big screen.

Ok, so casting. You send out sides. Agents send in head shots. They call to pitch their favourites. Some people get called for auditions, some (most) don't. But let's say you've got a great actor who happens to be black, and a determined agent who gets her an audition, a director who thinks she's the perfect fit, and a producer who is willing to listen to an assistant talking about how a show set in a very multi-cultural city should look like the city where it's set.

But it doesn't stop there. The producers – all those people who traded some coin for an executive producer credit so they could enjoy the power of holding sway over someone's career – they all get to air their feelings about whether the actor "looks right." But the real horrors happen when distribution gets involved. What does she look like? When you say black, you mean mulatta? What is her hair like? Can we see a photo? Oh! When you said mulatta, we thought you meant cubana, not black! (not making this up, seriously) we can't sell this in foreign markets with an afro. Can she straighten her hair?

And no, in the end, she did not get the part. The part went to a blonde woman. In fact, all the women cast in the series that year were blonde. The returning lead, a redhead, had her hair dyed blonde too. Diversity!

Yes, the Oscars are important. And no, the lack of diversity in Hollywood is not due solely to auteurs being true to their artistic vision. Maybe in the hallowed circles in which the Coens move, far above the fray, it's possible to believe that. For everyone in the real world, not so much.

So please, Coens, keep your mouths shut. Drop the silly "I don't understand the question" shtick. You're making yourselves look not just dumb, but selfish. Keep quiet so we can enjoy your movies without the bitter taste of racism to ruin it all.


busy! busy! busy!

this weekend i...

finished the greninja ex pokemon costume
carved a pumpkin
baked cookies
baked squares (why yes, we are having a bake sale tomorrow! tonight i am baking bbq pork buns)
misc other things like sunday service and swimming classes for the kid and and and...

this photo is pretty terrible (my camera is pretty terrible!) but it's all i've got until we find some daylight time for a re-take!

also took some photos during the sewing-of, which i will post eventually, for anyone who is looking for pokemon costume tips and tricks.


almost there!

so near yet so far. will it get done in time for the weekend?

i hope so!