Monthly Archives: February 2013

Apparently I know how to bake now?

I did something SO INSANE over the weekend. You’re not even going to believe it. Unless you read the title of this post, in which case you’ve probably already figured it out.

So what I did was, I baked a batch of gluten-free cookies. This is totally crazy because not only have I never baked anything using gluten-free ingredients before, I’ve never baked…anything before. Ever. I’ve never even helped my mom bake anything. I don’t know what was going on when I was a kid, because my sister somehow learned to bake all kinds of stuff, and now she’s a 23-year-old with a KitchenAid mixer, which I actually think is super weird?

Anyway, I never had an interest, so I just didn’t do it. But since I stopped eating gluten, I’ve occasionally craved baked goods. Not that much, to be honest, but occasionally I would like to binge eat Oreos or something. I’ve been hesitant to buy baked stuff, even of the specifically gluten-free variety, because a lot of that stuff is still bad for you, and I’ve noticed that when I eat things with random unknown crap in them, I end up feeling sick. (And yet, I can’t stop eating movie popcorn every few weeks. I seriously can’t help it; it’s my greatest weakness.)

Since this was my first baking venture, I went with the simplest recipe I could find online for chocolate chip cookies. Of course I didn’t have any of the ingredients – like, I literally didn’t own baking soda – so I had to buy pretty much everything except butter and eggs. It turns out most of this stuff, like almond flour and coconut sugar is pretty expensive, so that’s a bummer. But hopefully I’ll attempt to bake something else at some point, and then it’ll come in handy. Oh, and then I realized at the last minute that I didn’t even own measuring cups or spoons, and while I did think about trying to eyeball everything for a quick second, I immediately realized what a horrendous idea that was, and went to the Dollar Store instead.

Cookie supplies!

Cookie supplies!

Once I got started, it went not too bad, actually. Most of the problems I encountered were just stupid things because I don’t really have common sense, and I don’t know basic things like what the wet ingredients are supposed to look like before you mix them with the dry ingredients. I don’t know! I was finding it hard to smoosh (yes, smoosh is the technical term) the butter, and I was paranoid I was doing something wrong. Here, I’m just going to share my ridiculous Google searches during this process so you can comprehend the depths of my ignorance:

  • are chocolate chips wet or dry ingredients
  • how much is a stick of butter
  • what should a mix of eggs and butter look like
  • is it ok for parchment paper to touch oven rack
  • how do you know when cookies are done
Wet and dry, together at last.

Wet and dry, together at last.

Yeah, I clearly did not know what the eff I was doing. Fortunately the Internet was reasonably helpful about most of my dumb questions, and I got through it! I definitely should have made the cookies a bit smaller, and I should have cooked them for a minute or two less, but when they were finished, they were actually not bad. I really don’t think you’d even know they were gluten-free. I gave some to my parents, and they seemed to like them…or at least they said they did. Mostly they were just taken aback that I baked something. Did I mention this was out of character?

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Real live cookies!

Anyway, I’m proud of this amazing accomplishment that no one else has ever achieved in the history of all time (I bet). Maybe next time I’ll get super crazy and make gluten-free banana bread! Oh, and in case you’re interested in a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe so easy that even could make it, you can find it here. I did not use that specific kind of almond flour, but whatever I used seemed to be fine. I did everything else exactly the same, because I assumed any changes would lead to a disaster (I was probably right). My transformation into Martha Stewart is complete! It’s a good thing.

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Super accurate Oscar prediction time

I have some important information, everyone. I don’t think the Oscars are necessarily an accurate prediction of which movies are actually, like, the best. I mean, now that they’re nominating up to 10 films for Best Picture, basically anything that is a movie can be nominated. Last year two of the nominees were The Help and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which…well, I know The Help solved racism or something (no) but I think we can all admit that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was awful. Right!? It was sentimental schlock that capitalized on 9-11, just like all the worst movies do. See also: that one with Robert Pattinson. Oh wait, that’s a surprise 9-11 movie, so if you haven’t seen it, I just ruined an unnamed Robert Pattinson film. OH WAIT AGAIN it was called Remember Me. Haha, I forgot the name of a movie called Remember Me and then I spoiled it. I’m the worst. Sorry I’m not sorry!

So, the Oscars are pretty dumb and this year they’re being hosted by the perpetually smug Seth MacFarlane, which means they’re going to be smug AND irrelevant. I mean, I don’t really think any of these awards shows mean much of anything, but at least at the Golden Globes everyone is drunk. Basically no one is visibly drunk at the Oscars, and it’s a total bummer. Despite all of that junk, I will obviously be watching the 85th annual Academy Awards from start to finish when they air on Sunday. Why? I don’t know. I watch it every year, and there’s always the very tiny chance Anne Hathaway will lose and she will rip off her skin and it will turn out she was Rachel Berry from Glee all along (not Lea Michele – Rachel Berry) and no one will be very surprised.

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Anyway, the point of this pointless preamble about this pointless awards show is that I’ve decided to make some pointless predictions based on poor information! I have seen all the Best Picture nominees besides Amour, but I don’t actually, like, know what I’m talking about. On the bright side, I think I can find a way to use these guesses to create a solo drinking game! Alex of the Future is going to be so relieved I did this.

Cinematography. Cinematography is such a weird award. It’s literally just about which film looks the best. I am definitely picking Life of Pi. Did you see Life of Pi? It looked amazing. I even liked the 3D and I really hate 3D.

Costume Design. I have a bad feeling that they could throw this one to one of those terrible Snow White movies, but I can’t decide which one, so I’m just going to guess Anna Karenina (which I didn’t see, but the costumes looked nice in the previews) instead.

Documentary Feature. I haven’t seen any of these, but I have HEARD of Searching for Sugar Man, so I will pick that one. What informed decisions I’m making!

Documentary Short. Damn, I haven’t even heard of one of these, so I will guess Mondays at Racine for literally no reason.

Film Editing. You know, I thought Argo was edited well in that it had basically no boring scenes, which…is that what good editing is? I think so, maybe!

Foreign Language Film. I don’t really think Amour is going to win Best Picture (again, keep in mind I have not seen it) so I think it’s going to win this award instead.

Makeup and Hairstyling. I mean, The Hobbit had to make humans look like mythical creatures, so shouldn’t it automatically win this one? It certainly shouldn’t win anything else, but let’s give it Makeup and Hairstyling at least.

Music – Original Score. Well, I still remember the music from Life of Pi, so  therefore it must have been pretty good, probably.

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Music – Original Song. Adele had better win for Skyfall because she will give a super cute acceptance speech, and also I actually like that song!

Production Design. Is this like, how the sets look and junk? I don’t know. I’m just going to guess Life of Pi.

Short Film – Animated. I mean, I saw that Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” thing, but I thought it was just OK, so I will guess Paperman, which sounds intriguing! 

Short Film – Live Action. Never heard of these. Buzkashi Boys? Sounds…sexy.

Sound Editing. I assumed Les Mis would be nominated for all sound-related awards, and I was going to guess that even though I hated that movie, but apparently I was wrong. Um…Skyfall? I felt like the sounds in that film sounded like sounds or whatever.

Sound Mixing. I literally don’t understand what this is at all. What is sound mixing? How do you judge which film mixed sounds the best? I’ll just pick Les Mis. I really hated Les Mis, by the way, have I mentioned that?

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Visual Effects. I’m once again guessing Life of Pi. Can you tell I liked how that movie looked? I really, really did.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay. Silver Linings Playbook, I hope! I feel like this might also go to Argo though, I’m just not sure.

Writing – Original Screenplay. I personally think Moonrise Kingdom should win, but I don’t think that will happen. So my prediction is…Zero Dark Thirty.

Directing. David O. Russell should win for Silver Linings Playbook. I don’t know if he will, but he should.

Animated Feature Film. I think Pirates! Band of Misfits should definitely win this one, because it had the greatest animation and plot of them all. It just did. Brave was OK, but not even close to Pixar’s best, I found Frankenweenie and ParaNorman disappointing (although most people seemed to love ParaNorman) and Wreck-It Ralph was great, but not as great as Pirates.

Actor in a Supporting Role. I didn’t especially love or even really like The Master, but I have to admit that Philip Seymour Hoffman was absolutely amazing in it, so I have to guess him.

Actress in a Supporting Role. I mean, Anne Hathaway is going to win this. She just is. It’s going to be super duper annoying.

Actor in a Leading Role. I don’t see how Daniel Day Lewis could not win this. I was totally bored by Lincoln, but I did think Lewis was excellent in it, so he probably deserves it.

Actress in a Leading Role. I think Jennifer Lawrence totally deserves it, but I don’t know…I feel like Jessica Chastain might win it. Which would be fine I guess, she was good…but Jennifer Lawrence was better.

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Best Picture. My personal vote is absolutely for Silver Linings Playbook, which I think was by far the best film of the whole year. It was definitely my favourite, in any case. I just don’t know, though. I have a feeling it could go to Argo. Honestly, as long as Les Mis doesn’t win, I’ll immediately get over it and move on. I really just can’t wait until a few months from now when we can all forget Les Mis ever existed. Yep. The not-so-distant future is gonna be the best.

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Tegan and Sara

So, I’m not really a “music person.” I’m definitely a TV person, and I’m working on being a better movie person. I’ll watch pretty much anything, and I tend to know things like which low-rated shows are in danger of getting cancelled and which movies have been in post-production for a really long time and other stupid junk. I’m just interested in it, for whatever reason.

But with music, I’m more selective and, I guess, disinterested. I’m not one of those people who claims to like “everything except country.” Ugh. Those people are the worst. Really? Do you love Inuit throat singing and death metal and crunkcore and every other totally obscure musical genre that exists? AND IF SO, WHY ARE YOU EXCLUDING COUNTRY? Dummy. Anyway, no, I’m not like that at all. I mean, I listen to music, obviously, it’s not like I don’t have a soul. I just know what I like, and what I like tends to be indie pop and folk (or maybe indie folk that’s kind of poppy). Also, my tastes haven’t expanded much in the last few years. I listen to new albums by artists I already know I like, but I don’t seek out as much new stuff as I used to. Like, if I had to listen to one band for the rest of my life, it would probably be the now defunct Rilo Kiley, who I probably discovered around 2004, and I just think they’re completely perfect.

But anyway, this isn’t about Rilo Kiley (although they did recently announce they’re releasing a new album with previously unreleased songs, which is super exciting). This is about one of my other favourites, Tegan and Sara, who recently released their new album, Heartthrob. For the last few weeks, it’s pretty much all I’ve listened to. I’ve loved them for quite a while…probably since I heard the song Walking with a Ghost on the album So Jealous and then listened to the whole thing and was like, ahhh. I love that they keep things pretty straightforward with their music, and just create really nice songs with heartfelt lyrics. When their next album, The Con came out, I was completely hooked. I loved every single song on that album, and to me, it’s the one that does the best job of telling a cohesive story, which is something I really appreciate in an album. I saw them in concert in Halifax shortly after that album was released, and they were so cute and funny and talented. They seemed so cool and laid back, and I liked them even more.

Then came Sainthood, which was more of a miss for me. I don’t mind admitting that I have pretty simple tastes, and I like a good catchy song that’s easy to sing along with. For whatever reason, there weren’t a lot of tracks that really grabbed me. I did see them again in concert when they were touring for that album – this time in Fredericton – and once again they were really excellent live.

And now they have ANOTHER new album and I guess some people think it’s too poppy and that they’ve abandoned their folky roots, but I just totally disagree because it’s such a great album! It’s upbeat and dancey and some of the lyrics are still about sad situations, but the songs still sound fun and positive and catchy. Yep, my love for Tegan and Sara hasn’t died down at all; if anything it’s only gotten stronger. It’s like they know what I’m going to want to listen to and then they release it. Look at how much fun they’re having in this video! Don’t you want to be friends with them? I want to be friends with them. Also this song is fantastic.

So yes, I am way into the Quin sisters. And this year is a big year for the music I’m actually interested in, because the Yeah Yeah Yeahs also have a new album coming out! And The National is supposed to have a new album at some point this year I think! That is a lot for me, I seriously listen to like 10 bands. Basically 2013 will be the year of Alex’s music and it’s gonna be awesome.

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Why aren’t you watching Enlightened?

You’re not watching Enlightened. I know you aren’t, because basically no one is. Seriously, I checked the ratings for the latest episode, and I don’t understand ratings, but 0.217 million Americans watched it and, considering an episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo that aired the same night had 1.804 million viewers, I think that’s pretty bad. I also think it’s a good indicator that you probably didn’t watch it.

To be fair, there’s a reasonably good chance you haven’t even heard of this incredible TV show, even though it airs on HBO right after Girls, which literally no one can stop talking about because Lena Dunham’s boobs are the most divisive character to ever appear on a television screen. Based on some in-depth research (I told a bunch of my friends to watch it, and they were like, what even is that?) basically no one has heard of Enlightened. Even didn’t know about it right away, and TV is basically my only hobby. Fortunately my friend Peter told me about it when the first season was almost over, and I immediately devoured every episode. Now it’s in the midst of the second season, and it just gets better and better all the time.

OK, so I should probably explain why I think Enlightened is one of the best shows that’s currently airing. It started with Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern) having a total breakdown over an office affair gone mad. Amy was filled with rage and hate, but after a stint in a Hawaiian rehabilitation centre type place, she finds inner peace. She comes home a changed woman.

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Except, not really. Amy wants to change; she certainly thinks she has changed. But as she moves in with her mother, Helen (Diane Ladd), tries to help her addict ex-husband, Levi (Luke Wilson) and befriends her coworker, Tyler (Mike White) it becomes clear she’s still incredibly self-involved. Amy does get rehired by Abaddonn, the company she worked for before her breakdown, but she’s relegated to a shitty data processing position. She strives for some kind of meaning in her life, and finds it when she learns that Abaddonn is up to some practices that could be described as ethically unsound. Of course, this is a giant corporation, and that news comes as a surprise to no one…except Amy.

Amy can be a very unlikable and difficult character. Her intentions are good, mostly, but she obliviously uses the people in her life to get the things she wants. She sees them as pawns or accessories in the whistle blowing drama she’s created. Sometimes her lack of knowledge of how the world works, combined with her often abrasive approach to social interactions, can be off-putting, to say the least. But there’s also something admirable about Amy’s desire to reinvent herself and to affect real change in the world. She’s naive, and probably more than a little crazy, but she’s trying to be better, she really is.

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Enlightened is interesting because it feels so intimate – it lets us into Amy’s often distorted worldview, slowly revealing more about her past, and why she is the way she is. It’s also done an excellent job of fleshing out the supporting characters – one of the best episodes from the first season focused completely on Helen, and this season has included episodes from Levi and Tyler’s perspectives. The most recent one was the Tyler episode, and it was one of my favourites, showing the rich inner life of a lonely introvert who didn’t think he was capable of opening himself to human contact.

This might seem like a weird compliment, but Enlightened feels more cohesive than almost any other show I’ve ever seen. This is probably because, in addition to co-starring, Mike White has written every episode, and also directs some of them. This makes all the characters feel so real, with relatable flaws and strengths. And of course, the acting is superb. The whole thing is just a joy to watch, and it’s by far the show I look forward to watching the most every week. Yes, even more so than Girls, which I also really love.

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The thing is, Enlightened is unlike any other show on television, and I guess I have to admit that MAYBE it isn’t for everyone. But I do think everyone should give it a shot and watch the first three or four episodes. It’s quiet and weird, but I swear it’s also incredibly compelling. I think at some point, perhaps long after it’s been cancelled, Enlightened is going to gain a much bigger following, and people are going to wonder how they never heard of it before. So jump on the bandwagon now, is what I’m saying, so you can smugly announce you’ve been watching it all along.

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How to survive a blizzard

I live on the East Coast of Canada and that means it’s pretty much always winter and it’s always cold and there’s a lot of snow all the time. I mostly just ignore snow or blizzard or wind chill or freezing rain warnings and assume everything will be fine or whatever. You know, since there’s always snow anyway. Also, I have no common sense or survival skills or anything like that, so I’m ill-prepared for pretty much any unexpected situation ever. Usually this is fine, because nothing ever happens except that the roads are terrible for a couple days.

This past week, though, everyone was FREAKING OUT more than usual about the blizzard that was hitting us on Saturday. I did nothing to prepare. In fact, I made a hair appointment for Saturday, convinced the whole thing was being overhyped. In the end, it was just medium bad. We got a bunch of snow, but not even close to the 30+ centimetres they were predicting. Mostly there was just a lot of wind. The most annoying thing was that a water main broke and I lost my water Saturday morning briefly, but then it came back almost immediately and now most of the city is on a boil order. Fortunately I didn’t lose power or anything, because honestly I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do if that happens.

Anyway, as a recent blizzard survivor, I have some helpful tips! With my guide to storm survival, you too can make it through a totally inconvenient winter storm.

Stock up on food. The day before the blizzard, I went to the grocery store and stocked up on all kinds of perishable items – cheese, salmon, eggs – oh, and Diet Coke! I bought an entire case of Diet Coke while people around me were running around looking slightly panicked and buying a bunch of canned goods. Canned goods wouldn’t do me any good anyway because I am incapable of using a regular can opener, and an electric can opener won’t work if the power goes out…I think. Right? Whatever, I have a limited understanding of how electricity works.

Stock up on drinking water. I mean, I THOUGHT about buying bottled water, but then I was like, ugh, do I really want to carry an entire flat of water alllll the way to the elevator that leads to my apartment? (No. Definitely no.) And then before I went to bed that night I looked at my Brita, which probably had about one glass worth of water in it and thought, I should totally fill this thing! But then I didn’t instead. When I found out about the boil order, my first inclination was to just drink Diet Coke all day, but I’m not really great at handling caffeine, and I feared that excessive Diet Coke intake could lead to a psychotic break. I also tried actually boiling water, but it was a super weird colour, and I didn’t want to ingest it, boiled or not. So instead, I bundled up and went to the nearby Dollar Store – one of the only stores in the area that was actually open – and purchased four bottles of Dasani.

All bundled up to face the great outdoors, duh.

All ready to face the great outdoors, duh.

Practise living like a pioneer. The best way to be prepared for a lack of regular utilities is to do some important research in advance. I did not do this, and therefore, when I woke up without water, I totally panicked. Do I immediately need water in order to survive? This is not a situation I have dealt with before. So I called my mom (duh). It went like this:

Mom: Well, it’s not that big of a deal. You have bottled water, right?

Me: Uhhhh…no.

Mom: Oh. Well, did you fill your tub with water last night so you can flush the toilet.

Me: THAT’S A THING? What do you do, you put the water in the toilet tank?

Mom: Wow.

Fortunately the water was back pretty quickly, and everything was fine. Don’t worry everyone, I survived for a whole half-hour without running water. And if the power HAD gone out, I would have been totally prepared – I have five tiny, vanilla-scented candles and no flashlight. Good for me!

Be productive. Since my hair appointment was cancelled and I was stuck in my apartment all day, I needed something to do. My apartment could have used a good cleaning, but I felt like I was being forced to clean, which made me feel resentful, and you know what they say – never clean out of resentment. I guess I could have at least read a book or something, but after the mental and physical energy I put into leaving the house for 10 minutes to buy water, that seemed like a lot of work. Instead, I caught up on my TV shows, watched a couple movies, and started 35 Facebook Scrabble games (seriously, I just counted…I currently have 35 active games and it’s out of control).

It could be worse. I mean, I have Netflix and cable and an iPad and the Internet in general and nail polish and food and, you know, an apartment, so a storm is really just an inconvenient first world problem. Still, I’m going to buy a flashlight. Probably. One of these days. Soon.

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For the love of skiing

I went skiing this past weekend, and I kind of have some FEELINGS about it, and now I’m going to write about them, so this is might be a sort of cheesy post. You have been warned.

My dad has been a skier his whole life, and he’s really good. Like, he’s not an Olympic skier, but he can handle any terrain, he’s fast and he just really loves the sport. It’s pretty much his only hobby, but it’s one he’s really invested in. He taught me and my sister to ski when we were little kids. I think I started learning when I was four or five, and I got to be pretty good. Not as good as my dad, who grew up in Quebec City, and went skiing literally every weekend of every winter throughout his childhood and adolescence, but pretty good. I never liked taking as many risks as my father and sister, who tend to speed through glades and moguls, but I was still capable of making my way down any double black diamond trail I encountered.

And then I finished high school, and I just stopped. I didn’t go on my family’s annual ski trip after I turned 16 for a number of reasons, and I don’t really have any friends who are particularly into skiing, so I haven’t so much as put on a pair of skis since I was 16 – literally a decade ago. This past fall, my dad kind of joked that I should go on a trip with him, and he was pretty shocked when I told him I thought it sounded like a good idea.

We meant to get someone to photograph us together wearing skis, but then we forgot.

We meant to get someone to photograph us together wearing skis, but then we forgot.

So, I ended up taking a couple days off work last week and we drove down to Sunday River in Maine for two days of skiing. Honestly, I had no idea if I would even be able to do it. I wasn’t sure if that whole riding a bike metaphor applied to skis. It turns out it totally does! As soon as I snapped my boots into my bindings, the whole thing immediately came back to me. It felt more natural than almost anything else in my life, to be honest. Definitely more natural than waking up before 10 a.m. or making small talk with strangers about the weather or cooking a well-balanced meal. The whole time I was gliding down the slopes, I just felt like, this is what I was meant to do.

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Oh hey, just stopping for a casual photo op.

I’m not saying I plan to quit my job and pursue a full-time career as a professional skier. I’m still just medium OK – though I did manage to not fall once all weekend and I (mostly) kept up with my dad! I’m just saying that I’m not going to go another 10 years without skiing again. If anything, I’d like to try a more challenging hill, because by the end of the two days I was getting a little bored of Sunday River’s super groomed trails. My dad and I might try to go somewhere else later in the winter/early spring this year. We’ll see. I’m just glad I finally got back out there, and it turned out to be a reasonably painless experience. Well, OK, my legs hurt like a bitch the day after, but now I know it’s nothing I can’t handle.

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I did it, y’all!

I should also mention that this weekend took place over the Groundhog Day weekend, a very significant time of year for my family, since my dad always insisted upon celebrating the holiday by eating KFC and drawing pictures of groundhogs. Yep, just some regular holiday traditions. I admit that we didn’t eat any fried chicken this year on Feb. 2, but we did end the day by watching the movie Groundhog Day. Somehow my dad had never seen it before! We definitely had ourselves a very merry Groundhog Day.

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