Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Such a thing as Gluten Free Onion Rings

If you've been following my Instagram, you've probably noticed that in addition to sewing, home decor, and my husband, lots of gluten free items have been showing up. That's because I finally dived into The Healthy Gluten Free Life by Tammy Credicott, stocked up on various GF flours, and got to cooking. And it's been awesome.

Last night I decided to try making onion rings. I had low expectations, as they seemed like they'd be very hard to do, but other than being time consuming and involving a lot of coconut oil, they were pretty straightforwards. Plus, yummy! My husband, who ordinarily dislikes onion rings, declared them "amazing!" And if you know my husband, you know he means what he says, no buttering up the cook here!

The corndogs (also pictured above) could have used some finer ground cornmeal and some honey in the batter, but they also worked well. Not pictured (but over on instagram) is the loaf of orange olive oil bread I tested out today. Strange sounding, but it's really a delicious sweetbread (you can't taste the olive oil).

I also tried making biscuits, but didn't have flax seed or applesauce, which meant that the baking powder didn't activate. If you know the science of cooking, you'll guess that the biscuits came out pretty dense and heavy. They tasted good though, so I'm looking forwards to giving them another try.

Anyhow, I'm not about to turn this into a cooking blog, but I just had to rave about this cook book. It's fantastic.

Also, sidebar. Check out Udi's new tortillas. They are AMAZING. I can't believe it's not gluten!

Monday, April 28, 2014

"A Curious Thing" happens on Once Upon a Time 3.19


New Costumes! I rave about them over here.

OUAT kind of has a thing about slumping in the middle, only to pick up with unbelievable gusto in the final act. Season 3 doesn't disappoint, as we learn some very curious things in episode 3.19.

WELL we start off with the reappearance of AURORA and PHILLIP. Where have you guys been? Guess we wont' find out for awhile, because OOPS flying monkeys that may or may not be the same monkeys killed in the boathouse battle.

Weird thought I had. Zelena showing up and being all "Watch out cuz I'm gonna take your baby!" made me think of Maleficient. For half a moment (er, episode) I thought maybe Aurora was actually Snow and Charming's baby. Time travel being a thing in this season and all, y'know. But of course Zelena can't be Maleficient because we already met (and defeated!) Maleficient in season 1. So, that theory thrown out.

Back to scanning the skies for a pregnant flying monkey.

Next up is a beautiful make-out scene with Regina and Robin Hood - stumbled upon by Henry! Cuteness goes to "awkward". Thankfully this scene is nicely bookended by another scene at the end, in which Henry is thrilled to find out his maybe-future-father is ROBIN HOOD.

Fans have been waiting quite a long time to see some sweet Regina and Henry scenes, and this episode delivers, starting with the fact that it was Regina's kiss required to return everyone's memories, not Emma's. Then of course Henry's cry of "Mom!" when seeing Regina. He's forgiven her, all is right with them again. And Emma can see it without feeling threatened. Huzzah!

Snow and Charming have been suffering a bit more in this episode. I couldn't believe they actually had Snow cast the curse, and for several minutes I honestly believed that Charming was dead, and Storybrooke-Charming was some cunning imitation of Zelena's. Thankfully that wasn't true, and if Snow's cry of "my heart is enough for us both!" was a little cheesy, well, it's a fairy tale after all.

But perhaps the best revelation of the episode was the fact that it was Bae/Neal who realized that the only person who could save them from forgetting was Hook, safely outside of the curse's radius. He knew, more than anyone, that Hook would do anything to save Emma, and therefore was his best chance.

Now. Memories are back. Snow's in labor. Glinda's given them the key.

Operation Cobra is Back On.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Once Upon a Time Snow White's Mother Had Issues

Guys, OUAT has picked back up with latest episode "Bleeding Through" (3.18). Hold on because past, present and future are about to get muddled - and spoilerific!

Last season we learned that Snow White's mother was a bit of a witch with a b - and in last night's episode we saw her as more than a spoiled brat, but a girl who would destroy another woman's life to get what she wanted.

And that woman happened to be Cora, now forced to give up her own child as a result of Eva's tattling, and therefore embarking on a life of revenge that would cause their daughters to - well, travel to a whole 'nother universe.

That's the short story, but the long story is still more interesting. Cora appears not as a saint herself, she's scheming and willing to lie, but chances are that if she'd gone ahead, married Leopold, and raised Zelena, things would have turned out okay. For her and Zelena.

Of course, nearly every character we know on the show would either not exist or be totally different, so the stakes are really upped now that Belle has discovered Zelena's true purpose - to cast a time travel spell and change history, with an earlier murder of Princess Eva, Snow's mother.

While I felt the Zelena scenes in this episode were weak, nearly everything with Regina or Cora was strong, especially the scenes with Regina and Belle, and Regina and Snow. Oh man, Regina and Snow - that was a long time coming but so beautiful. What a relationship arc there!

Another relationship just exploded into reality - we finally got a Regina/Robin kiss and boy was it passionate! Can't wait to see where that leads! The scene where Regina forgave Robin, saying that nothing was worth the death of a child, truly shows what a path Regina has come down and how far she's changed.

Emma wasn't doing much this week, but her little spurt of gleeful magic practice was pretty cute.

Hook of course is taking advantage of another chance to be extra brooding. He didn't seem too keen to have Cora show up again, as I'm pretty sure he kicked the table on purpose. Which seems a bit silly as he should want Zelena defeated as much (or more!) than anyone.

As might be expected, I was also pretty excited by the appearance of some new dresses. Check out my excitement over OUAT's obsession with beads.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Telephone Pictionary is Weird

You know the party game, where one person writes a phrase, pass to the next person, they draw a picture of the phrase, pass it to the next person, they write what they see in the picture and so on and so forth? 

We played this at Nathan's party and one set started and ended about as opposite as you can get.

I wrote this.

Nathan drew this.

Message translated so far!!!

Creepy dead guy.

...and then this happened.

Remember how we started? Yeah. Cool.

Let's talk about Agent Grant Ward.

Agents of SHIELD gets a bad rap for poor character development. And it's true that the show has done far less than it could. But we now know why they haven't been able to do more with Agent Grant Ward without giving a LOT away.


Ward has been the boring straight man. We've liked him when he's protective of Skye, we got annoyed when he slept with May, and while we have been looking to get to know more about him, honestly it's been so dry for so long that there's no longer any curiosity.

Until this Tuesday, when suddenly Agent Grant Ward became someone very scary.

Last week we saw him murder Hand, but there was room for speculation. Was he working for Garrett, or was it a double bluff, working with Coulson?

This week made it pretty clear that Ward is bad through and through. Oh, there's a window, through his affection for Skye, for eventual redemption. But his coldhearted explanation to Raina of his infiltration of Coulson's team was downright bone-chilling.

Were there clues we missed? Could they have planted more without giving away "Winter Soldier"? Could we have seen more of his past without uncovering this treachery? I don't know. But it's clear why we didn't get beneath Ward's facade earlier - they wanted to keep this as secret as possible. So that we feel as betrayed as Coulson's team is about to.

I found it truly scary to see how Ward methodically wormed his way into the heart of the team, becoming totally trusted and accepted, without anyone so much as guessing his real motives. His utter lack of regret was really hard for me to watch, as I think would be true for anyone who has been betrayed by someone they trusted.

At this point, it's less about Garrett being the big bad, but rather Ward himself. I do think he'll redeem himself eventually, but predict he'll die doing so, probably in Skye's arms.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ode to a Pair of Boots

As I put on my boots today, I realized that they've really done extraordinary well for a pair of footwear that I only paid $25 for.

You see, I bought these boots 6 or 7 years ago, back when I worked for JCPenneys and had the employee discount. And there was a sale. And I ended up getting this pair that I never would have been able to afford at their usual price. (Meaning what JCPenney's usually sold them for at the time, not the "crossed out" high price they put on everything in the old days.)

When I bought them I expected them to last about three years, tops. Instead I'm still wearing them 6 (or 7) years later, quite regularly. They are a little scuffed (I need to polish them) but otherwise in remarkably good shape. And I still love them.

They've been through a lot with me. Fall. Winter. Spring. The March for Life. Cosplaying as X-Men and Steampunk. Going on dates with Nathan. Giving me good support and garnering lots of compliments. Comfortable, functional and stylish.

I've tried, at various times, to find other pairs of boots. Different styles, different colors... but I have been unable to find something with a flat sole in my price range. So what a blessing it is that these boots have lasted so long and so well!

Have you ever had something that exceeded expectations like this?

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Trouble With Surprising Husbands

My husband's birthday is this weekend and I decided a couple of weeks ago "what the heck, I'm going to throw him a surprise party!" Trouble is, Nathan and I tell each other everything. So if I check a text message in his presence and I don't immediately tell him the gist of it, he knows something is up.

Okay, so he knew something was up. But he didn't know exactly what so I decided to make the party as awesome as possible. I'm not terribly into zombies (at. all.) but Nathan loves zombie stories so I decided we'd play zombie capture the flag. I got several of our friends and his coworkers involved and everyone got really into it. A friend of mine offered to host the party at her house, and everyone brought food to contribute.

Now because Nathan knew something was up, I knew there wasn't a good way to get him to my friend's house without him guessing that it was for his party (he affirmed this later). So I decided to plant a message in his car, telling him there was a zombie apocalypse and we needed his help and giving him the address. I also tucked in a t-shirt his sister and brother-in-law had given him last fall that seemed appropriate for the event...

And you know what? Nathan was surprised. When he walked in and saw all the people (especially his coworkers who had left work early to make it in time) he was genuinely surprised.

I'd been a little nervous about setting up the game because Nathan and his coworkers design games for a living (and they helped tweak a few things) but over all it worked out very well and everyone had a blast! (Including me. Even though it was zombies and running around and throwing things at people.)

Then there was food and custard and some other fun party games and lots of laughter.

I love throwing surprise parties. I love surprising people in general, with gifts or nice meals or anything really that will cause their face to light up. But man, keeping a secret this big from my husband was hard. Worth it, but I don't think I'll be doing it again for awhile! I like being able to share everything with him!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Writing in Historic Library Nooks

The library I am sitting in is so old, there are cracks around the window frames allowing cold air to get in.

Well, not so very cold, since it is after all nearly 70 degrees today. Who said there wasn't spring in Minnesota, or history?

I've been writing here for a couple of hours and getting more done than I expected. In the past the libraries I've tried to write at have been modern and not very inspiring. Well, perhaps having grass on the roof is inspiring for some people but big open sunny places where everyone can see you is not very inspiring for me.

Since getting married and moving closer to the cities, and also since getting a phone with GPS, I've been inspired and able to do exploring. Today I decided to check out a historic library and try to do some writing there. We're trying to be economical so I can't go to the coffee shop too often.

To my surprise, I really do like writing here. I've found a little nook to work in, (see photos here) with a comfy chair and space to spread my papers out. There's a couple of elderly gentlemen reading across the room, but otherwise this area is quite silent and free from curious eyes wondering "what is she writing? What is she thinking? What is she reading?" There's a medieval feel to the architecture that works perfectly with the setting I'm writing "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" in.

(M&U isn't medieval, but it takes place in Paris and there's so much medieval architecture in Paris, it's ridiculous).

Monday, April 7, 2014

OUAT fails to inspire this week.

I still love "Once Upon a Time" but I'm not as motivated to write weekly reviews. I don't know if that's because of anything the show has done, or because I've just written a ton of them already!

Part of it could be that I'm just not terribly enthusiastic about the Zelena plot. It's just taking up time from the characters I know and love, and it's unraveling fairly predictably. Actually, the most surprising thing at this point will be if someone other than Rumple is Zelena's father.

They basically killed Bae/Neal to make more room for Hook (and this week's episode milked that for all it was worth). Emma isn't doing much, neither is Snow, Regina remains awesome but honestly if I'm just watching the show for Regina and Robin Hood, that's problematic!

Next week is supposed to take a slightly different track, although it's going to be Hook centric. Hopefully we'll get a more fleshed out Ariel though.

What I would really like is a Belle-Centric episode. Last week's installment really did not count, as she barely did more in that episode than she's done in any other episode this season. It was far more of a Neal episode than a Belle episode. (I loved the Neal/Belle dynamic. It was just great. And now it's gone.)

Oh well, at least we got Tink back, being our little shipper fangirl.

I will say this, however "meh" I find the Zelena plot, I have to say that Rebecca Mader does a fantastic job as the Wicked Witch of the West. I'll continue to put up with the plot just because I'm fascinated by her skills.

We'd better get Rumple back soon, however. Him as Zelena's lapdog does not make for entertaining television at all.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Jane Austen in any other time

Guys, I love a well done parody. Or transposition. Or mash-up. I adore "Bride and Prejudice" and "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" and "From Prada to Nada." I'm fascinated by seeing the story and characters I love transposed to a different time.

(On the other hand, I wasn't thrilled with "Lost in Austen" because it felt to me like it missed the point).

However, when you move one of Austen's stories out of the time they were written, you have to change the characters and motivations, because modern women simply don't have to marry for money.

We lose sight of that today, but 200 years ago, it was absolutely crucial. If a woman did not marry, she would spend her life living off of her relatives, and hopefully she would have prosperous brothers (as Austen herself did). This is why, although Austen's books are love stories, they are love stories and social-economic commentaries. Austen is called the mother of chick-lit, but she's concerned with examining many issues that today's chick lit doesn't even notice. Today's chick lit is about 'girl meets guy, girl and guy get separated, girl and guy get back together.' And that's the primary focus of the book. Everything else is stage dressing.

Not so in Austen. "Sense and Sensibility" is about romance vs. practicality, it's about loyalty and honor, concepts that our society doesn't care much about these days. It's hard to translate the dire straits of the Dashwoods into the modern day, because today girls can just go get jobs. And we have no similar situation to the Lucy/Edward scenario. Today, if you fall out of love, you break up (even if you're married). We have to be told that in Austen's day, once a man made a proposal, he couldn't get out of it. It would be dishonorable. Only the woman could break it.

"The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" did a pretty good job of changing points to fit the times (best example being what they did with Charlotte Lucas). But that changed the story. The greatest truths and delights of the characters are still there, but it has a life of it's own.

Personally I think "Emma" and "Northanger Abbey" are the easiest to transpose to modern day, mostly because their central plots have almost nothing to do with matrimony as an economic necessity. That's why "Clueless" did so well... although I'm still waiting for someone to do a modern day "Northanger Abbey" with Catherine Morland as a Twilight-Obsessed teenager.

And it's a struggle to make "Mansfield Park" enjoyable even in it's proper period without drastically changing it. Although, perhaps that would make it a prime canidate for a time period switch. We are so far removed from that era that we can't understand what makes Fanny who she is. Our culture has no respect for her sweetness and loyalty, which to us often makes her appear "meek and boring." What would Fanny look like today? What would a person of her ideals come across as to us, raised in our modern culture? In a way this could be the most interesting transposition of all, although almost certainly the least likely to ever appear.

"Persuasion" has the same issues of money and honorable engagements as S&S, but also deals with class in a way almost no other Austen book does (except for Lady Catherine de Borough, of course!). Since America sees itself as a nearly "classless" society, it would be hard to properly set it up in a way that we'd understand without minimizing the situation of the day. I did read one modern version in which Anne was a wealthy Southern Heiress, and Wentworth started off as a gardener's helper - enough for her godmother to send him packing!

What do you think? What are the flaws and strengths of transposition? What are your favorite modern adaptations?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

HIMYM Finale (Thoughts and SPOILERS)

The "How I Met Your Mother" finale is such a big thing right now, that it'd be kind of silly not to write something about it, even though I've never talked about it on this blog before.

Mostly that's because I know I still have plenty of readers who are young enough that I could not in good conscience recommend a show with this level of innuendo to them. Still, since getting into it two years ago I have utterly loved it. Late on the bandwagon, but no less passionate about the characters.

Still, I can't imagine what it would be like to watch the show for nine years and get that ending. Here comes the SPOILER ALERT. (Good for you if you've remained spoiler free thus far, I only barely made it).

I loved the Mother. I think it's kind of a beautiful thing how much the majority of the fans adore her and are ticked off about the ending for her sake. She was an awesome person and we loved her with Ted.

Did the show make her out to be "just a uterus"? No. And yes. Despite the last scene, despite the fact that Ted/Robin has, apparently, been end game all along, nonetheless I think it's clear how very, very much Ted loved Tracy. Take out the last two scenes and there wouldn't be a doubt in our minds. Just because those two scenes were put in because of an endgame decided on nine years ago, doesn't take away the beautiful acting and writing that happened before that.

I was sad about Barney and Robin, and felt that given all the build-up, it was really lame to have them break up. But at the same time I could accept  it, in a way I wouldn't have believed possible if you'd told me ahead of time. It actually felt true to their characters.

What isn't true to the character is what Barney did next. I think he let Robin out of the marriage because he could tell she wasn't happy, but he really loved her and went  on his playboy spree to cover the pain. And then I think this headcanon rocks.

The thing that a lot of us can't accept is Robin and Ted being happy together, in the end, after all that has happened. I think we could have bought it if we'd seen them together at all after Ted married Tracy. But we don't. All we see is that he is trying again for a flame that he let go of fifteen years previously. And I can't buy it, and neither can a lot of fans. Far better if the show had ended two scenes previously, leaving Ted's romantic future open-ended. I think we could have accepted Tracy's death, and found it really poignant and touching, and the Robin/Ted fans could have envisioned them together in the future, and the rest of us could imagine Ted dedicating buildings to Tracy for the rest of his life and being an awesome Dad (and eventually granddad).

Oh well. At least Marshall and Lily lived happily ever after.