Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

Movie: The Princess and the Frog
Like/Don't Like: Like

This was old school Disney and I liked it. Sometimes I get bored with Pixar - it just looks too real and I think it takes some of the fun out of animation. But this was hand drawn with catchy songs and talking animals and a prince and a princess and it just felt right.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Special Occasion Orange French Toast

Recipe: Special Occasion Orange French Toast
Like/Don't Like: Yum.

I make something called Special Occasion French Toast. I call it that because you should only make it if you have something spectacular to celebrate or you're about to run a marathon. It's a bit on the decadent side. It involves layering slices of french bread and a cream cheese mixture and then pouring eggs and heavy cream all over it and then letting it sit over night and then before baking the whole thing you dump butter and brown sugar and nuts over the top. Better make that two marathons.

But it was a special occasion on Saturday and I needed something to feed a lot of people so I decided to make it. Only I wanted to do it a little differently so I found a recipe and behold: Special Occasion Orange French Toast.

It was divine. And it actually baked up nicer than the original Special Occasion French Toast. I made a few changes to the recipe though. They are:

1.) I only put in half the sugar it asked for in the egg mixture. I thought 1 cup sounded excessive.
2.) Instead of the mandarin oranges I used the zest and juice of two oranges because chunks of baked oranges sounded gross.
3.) It says to mix equal parts of the orange butter sauce with maple syrup to serve on top but that just sounded like a diabetic coma waiting to happen. I served both on the side and some people mixed and others didn't. I didn't and I thought the sauce alone was heavenly. Those who did mix said it was great too.
4.) I added a dash of salt with the dash of nutmeg.

Changes I'm planning on making:

1.) I'm going to try it with one less egg in both the egg mixture and the filling. It didn't taste eggy but the texture was a little too custardy for my taste.
2.) It was a subtle orange flavor and I want it to be a little more pronounced so I may throw in some marmalade to the filling.

I hope you like jogging because you're going to need to after you eat this.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Book: The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Author: Muriel Barbery
Like/Don't Like: Lovely

My friend Teresa said to me one day last week, "Have you read The Elegance of the Hedgehog? It's like The Solace of Leaving Early only slightly less philosophical." And that got me hooked because The Solace of Leaving Early was, hands-down, my favorite read of 2009, even with all that Christian philosophy that I only barely grasped and all those really big words that I couldn't find in my dictionary. The next night I was over at her house and she lent it to me and by the next day I didn't want to put it down. Dear Teresa, I owe you cookies. Or would you rather a skein of yarn? Love, Rachel.

The story is set in a swanky Paris apartment building and the narration switches between Renee, the landlady, and Paloma, a 12 year old resident. Renee is a self-taught intellectual who loves Tolstoy and Japanese films. She hides behind the stereotype of her humble position, never letting on to the ultra-rich residents of the building that she is more than what she seems. Paloma is a smart kid who has decided to light the building on fire and then commit suicide on her 13 birthday because she has yet to find a good enough reason to live. She's not depressed, but every example of adulthood that she seems only reinforces her idea that growing up is pointless.

Their stories don't join up until about halfway through when a Japanese business man moves into the building and recognizes that both of them are hiding their true selves from everyone around them. It is beautiful how these three people find each other, despite their cultural and social differences.

It is translated from French, which means that there are some phrases, especially the slang that Paloma uses, that get a bit lost. And I recommended this book to a friend who then told me that she started reading it but stopped because she couldn't get past all the philosophy and the back and forth narration in the beginning but to that I say, "KEEP GOING!" because it mellows out pretty quickly. You start to see the parallel lives that Renee and Paloma are leading and the similar thoughts that they are having and you just hope that they'll meet up. It's lovely when they finally do.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Movie: Invictus
Like/Don't Like: Liked

So this is the year for Rugby movies. And I still don't understand the purpose of the scrum.

But no worries because this isn't a movie about rugby. I know that the ads make you think that it is but it's not. It's a movie about Nelson Mandela trying to get South Africa to come together after the end of apartheid. The Rugby World Cup was a means of doing that. The South African team was revered by the whites and hated by the blacks and everyone assumed that when Mandela came into power he would at the very least change their name and colors to reflect the new democracy. Instead he made it a priority during his first year in office to get the whole country, blacks and whites, to rally behind them rather than rally against each other. The rugby matches come near the end and by that point you're so caught up in the story that you don't really care that you have no idea how the game is played.

I think the biggest compliment I can give this movie is that it had tremendous restraint. Movies that deal with these sorts of themes (underdog sports teams, racism, great leaders) tend to be played with a heavy hand. You know, lots of tears and heart wrenching moments with violins in the background. But there wasn't too much of that in this film. In times when it could have justifiably gone over the top it pulled back and let the story speak for itself. And I can't tell you how much I appreciated that. I'm a HUGE crier (Here I will confess, once again, that I cried during Encino Man, which should illustrate just how low my crying point is.) and considering the last Clint Eastwood film I saw (Million Dollar Baby, where I cried even more then I did during Steel Magnolias. You didn't think that was possible, right?) I was afraid that I would shrivel up like a prune from extreme dehydration. But I didn't cry once. Nor did I feel cheated out of any emotions. It was just right.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Blind Side

Movie: The Blind Side
Like/Don't Like: Like

I like sports movies. And I like Sandra Bullock. And I was practically in a turkey-induced coma when I saw it. These were all contributing factors to me liking this film about a homeless black kid being taken in by a rich white family and eventually making it into the NFL. Everything is heartwarming and predictable but enjoyable to watch.

What was not so enjoyable was Tim McGraw's hair. I'm not sure what he had on top of his head - toupee? hair plugs? heaven forbid his actual hair?- but I think we can all agree that he should never be without a hat.