review: the adventures of tintin

the kiddo and i just took in the adventures of tintin. whoa.

rule number one with 3d movies: arrive early so as to avoid getting stuck in the front row aisle seats. at times i was taking my glasses off to avoid a feeling of nausea, and things get distorted at that angle - more than once i wondered why captain haddock's nose had changed shape. and, the gratuitous 3d showoffery (like dust in a sunbeam, rain, etc.) was annoyingly in our laps.

the look of the thing was spectacular though. the opening credits set the mood with classic 2d drawings rendered in 3d, to the sound of an accordion. the level of detail in the tintin books was always part of their charm; a few years ago tg and i caught an exhibit of herge's notes and sketches from his travels (in peru with tintin at the musee du civilisation in quebec city), and were astounded at the level of detail and accuracy in his imagined cities. so it was wonderful to see that the film stayed true to the books in that sense.

of course, writer steven moffat certainly has earned his stripes in the reverent-treatment-of-favourite-childhood-adventure-heroes department, and peter jackson's tolkein stuff tells all you need to know about how much he cares about visuals, so it is unsurprising that the film had a gorgeously authentic look and feel, and a script full of the expected tintin-style jokes with thomson & thomson (simon pegg and nick frost, doing an excellent job of being funny without slipping into their usual roles), haddock, et al, and a few clever tricks on the way to solving the mystery. spielberg contributed one of his standard the look/the awe/the reveal moments of course.

the problem was that there was so much going on at such high speeds at some point that it was impossible to really see or appreciate what was going on (tg made the same complaint about a transformer movie which i never bothered to watch - so much going on that it turns into a blur, and you don't see any of it. there also seemed to be a fair amount of playing up the 3d by making some foreground and background elements soft-focus, like all of those cupcake photos on flickr. especially at the angle we were at, the difficulty in just actually seeing the film was enough to take me out of it at times. i kept hoping i'd settle into it, which has happened eventually with other 3d films, but the film wouldn't let that happen - it was too busy showing off it's hi-tech effects. (it was nice seeing the stitch-definition on the sailors' sweaters though. naturally i was thinking "which of these sweaters is the kid most likely to wear if i knit it for him" throughout much of the film - i think tintin's classic yellow cabled vest would not fly, but haddock's royal blue turtleneck with anchor might.)

i think it even put the boy off a bit. (that and having to go pee.) he never seemed to react emotionally the way he usually does in movies - not scared, not edge-of-his-seat, not cheering, not laughing. by the end, he was just getting bored. although he was highly engaged on our walk back to the car, by an led screen showing the lotto draw ("they got two 3s! a match! i saw it!"). no accounting for taste.

still, there were some nice performances throughout. and tintin himself, jamie bell (aka billy elliott), did a q&a after the screening and proved to be surprisingly articulate and passionate about the whole thing - the original books, herge's writing style, modern hollywood ("you can't make a movie without making three these days, they're like buses that way"), motion capture (or as he called it, "performance capture"). he out-charmed revolting "host" ben mulroney by about a million lumens.

overall? it was enjoyable, but i think i should have insisted tg go instead of me.



thought i'd make some of this for our upcoming holiday do. tossed it in the oven before dinner, and was in the middle of reading the kiddo a bedtime story when i caught a whiff of yum wafting upstairs. oh boy, can't wait. here's a pic of the ingredients in the braiser, before cooking:

i've also got cheese crackers ready to go, and plan to get some more cookie dough underway tonight, or maybe the artichoke dip, to freeze and bake next week. time goes too quickly!


what do you do

when you have projects that are on the go and almost finished and need to get finished?

buy more yarn!

i'm celebrating getting a new job, so i thought i'd treat myself to some eco to knit a hoodie for the kiddo. he is in a refusing-to-wear-long-sleeves phase, and the only two things he will happily wear with sleeves are hoodies, both of which are now too small. oh, and he'll also wear his sherwood sweater, which was knit of eco.

and i just love the size of the skein! yowza!

here's a cake of eco next to a ball of briggs & little country roving, for comparison:

so this morning i will cast on and enjoy a bit of day-off, and then back to work!


a birthday celebration

a potluck luncheon was organised for the birthdays of my father-in-law and his twin brother, and it was suggested that i might bring a birthday cake. of course, the father-in-law doesn't really care for sweets, and didn't have any solid ideas what his brother might like. "chocolate, probably. everyone likes chocolate, right?" all right, chocolate.

with a fair number of people expected to attend, i toyed with making two cakes, but then thought, what about one big cake, and then some truffles besides? for the cake, i was tempted by a praline cake in judith olney's entertainments, but wasn't sure i wanted meringue. but i really liked the idea of the praline buttercream filling, which used up the yolk components of all the egg whites used in the meringue. i investigated smitten kitchen, and was really loving the idea of the brown butter hazelnut cake. when i read the recipe, i thought, "hey, that's a financier, i've made a financier before." and a financier is another way to use up a ton of egg whites (or have a lot of yolks leftover for a rich buttercream). so i dug up my old financier recipe, and compared and contrasted the two so i could steal bits of each, and swapped out almonds/hazelnuts for pecans.

pecan financier with praline buttercream and bittersweet ganache

3/4 cup butter (i used 1/2 cup unsalted, 1/4 cup salted, because that's what i had)
1 vanilla bean
1 cup pecans, toasted and cooled.
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cake flour
8 egg whites

bring the egg whites to room temperature.

butter & flour a 10" springform pan, and line the bottom with greased & floured waxed paper.

melt the butter over medium heat. cut the vanilla bean in half, scrape the seeds into the butter, and add the pod as well. cook the butter until it foams and starts to brown. it will smell lovely. remove from heat and allow to cool.

put the pecans and 1 cup sugar in the food processor (you will have to go in batches if yours is as small as mine) and pulse until ground to a powder. combine with flour.

beat the egg whites until they start to form peaks. gradually add the remaining sugar as you continue beating till stiff peaks form. i always do this by hand in a copper bowl; if the whites are room temperature, they're surprisingly easy to do in a copper bowl, and it's easier to see exactly what stage they're at.

alternately fold the pecan mixture and butter into the egg whites, a bit at a time, beginning & ending with the pecan mixture.

pour into prepared pan, gently smoothing the top. bake at 350f for 50-60 minutes. cool 5 minutes before unmolding and cooling thoroughly on a rack.

once cold, slice horizontally into 2 layers, and spread each with a thin layer of ganache. spread the bottom layer with praline buttercream on top of the ganache, chill till manageable, then flip the top layer ganache-side-down onto the buttercream. chill well, then spread ganache over all.

praline buttercream
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
8 egg yolks
1 cup unsalted butter, soft

it's best to have the eggs and butter thoroughly at room temperature.

combine 1 cup sugar with the water over medium heat; cook without stirring into a deep amber. remove from heat, add the pecans, swirl to combine, and dump out on a greased cookie sheet. when completely cool (i stuck the pan in the freezer to speed things up), grind to a powder.

beat the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar together until thick and pale.

beat the butter separately until also thick and pale. then, beat the egg mixture into the butter, then stir in the praline.

1 lb dark chocolate
1 cup 35% cream

if you are using chocolate in block form, chop or grate it.

bring cream to a boil, pour over chocolate. stir gently till melted and consistent.

so that's the cake. as for the truffles, the dark are done, the white are being difficult.


spatchcock success!

this is my new best friend:

it's technically a braiser, but last night it was a paella pan, and tonight it served up an excellent spatchcock. it's just the right size to brown a spatchcocked chicken, and voila! tasty meal in an hour start to finish. yum. i was worried because our router is a bit kaput and who knows where the spatchcock instructions are (i know i printed them out for the cottage, but...) so i had to go by memory. and it was easy peasy! a bit of cutting, a bit of flattening, a bit of frying while i blended up a paste of tarragon, mustard powder, garlic, and olive oil to smear over top. and then it went straight into a hot oven with a few potatoes filling in around the edges. delish.

i have a secret dream where i use my braiser to make the biggest upside-down cake ever, but i don't think i have the strength to do the flipping!

it's xmas card season

i was hoping the kiddo could help me with these - stamps should be easy, right? not so much. i'm still hoping he can help me by making some snowflakes, since he loves nothing more than cutting things into little pieces with scissors. and i have lots of snowflakes to make - so far i have stamped and folded and inserted the inside greeting page for about 100 cards, but only one is actually done through the snowflake stage.

if you don't like cutting and glueing and stamping, these are available through cafe press - along with other cards i've made over the years!


yay bread

we have a dinner guest tonight, so i thought i'd try my hand at paella (not authentic i'm sure, but paella-ish enough to fill our tummies on a wednesday night), and then when i was debating whether to pick up a baguette at the bakery, i thought: maybe here's an opportunity to try my hand at gluten-free baguette as well! i used jeanne's recipe from the art of gluten-free baking, with a couple of tweaks: all brown rice instead of sorghum (because i don't happen to have sorghum), and brushed with egg instead of oil, because in my experience brushing with oil doesn't give a crispy crust. also i halved the recipe; might as well start with just one.

i was pleased when i was beating together the ingredients to see how much like "real" dough it looked, although very soft.

even better, it rose nicely like proper bread!

look at that! looks like the real thing!

and a good crumb too, not the dense stodge you get with some gf recipes. go jeanne! i will definitely be baking a couple of loaves for our xmas do.



what a crazy week it has been. too crazy/stressy to do anything interesting at all, except for start a massive cleanup of our storage room (goal: to turn it into a workspace of sorts). i also did a clean-up/re-org of the secret holiday shelf in my closet, and wrapped a bunch of presents for the kiddo, and one for our niece. so i feel pretty good about xmas, although our holiday party is coming up soon (eek! sending out invites this weekend!) and i'm not ready for that! i haven't even done a stitch of knitting, although i thought about it this morning, but couldn't find the portable project i was thinking of working on.

good news is, tg made a comment on something yesterday that made me think "yes, he will definitely love the secret xmas project," and part 3 of his gift finally arrived in the mail today! pretty thrilled about that. i think this xmas is going to be wonderful.



eek, two weeks since i've posted! i still have to get around to charting the sleeves for the sweater i'm working on, and i am still working on the bonkers-tiny-gauge cardi for myself, and and i am still waiting for a quite hour or two to make up the secret xmas surprise, and i've started a little crochet project.

but what's taken up a lot of time lately is this:

basically all stuff that was lying around the house (or in the case of the foam, lying in the street): felt, quilt batt, cardboard boxes and tubes, miscellaneous bits of fabric and trims. purchased items: styro balls, project glue that promised to stick to the styro balls, a can of silver spray paint (used up the entire thing, or i would have given him another coat), and one baseball cap which cost a dollar at goodwill.

there were a few "what are you?" comments, and a few "a dalek!!" exclamations, but the highlight of the evening was coming across - you guess it - a dalek jack o'lantern! here's a pic of the two daleks together. i think we made each other's night!