Red Carpet Watch: ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ Round-up

It is nearly time for Catching Fire! (I loved it. And it has made one of my fav films of the year so far.) When The Hunger Games came out we hadn’t started this dear old blog so there was no RCW for that (sadly cos there were some a-mayzing dresses and suits for the promotional tour), but we’re here now and so here comes the promotional tour photos:

London Premiere

Hunger Games World Premiere

Sam Claflin (Finnick Odair) wearing Burberry. Claflin is one of the new actors to the cast and he cements his place on the red carpet with this unusual suit. Beginning his own personal trend for double-breasted suits with a patterned scarf in place of a tie we have a noticeably different look to the more classic styles of Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. The whole look works really well from the colour of the suit, to the pocket square to the brown loafers. A very British look…

'Hunger Games' World Premiere

Willow Shields (Primrose Everdeen) wearing Emilia Wickstead. Shields has definitely gone for a younger look to match her age but that doesn’t mean that her dress is babyish. The colour (apparently much brighter in the flesh) works well against her complexion and her hair and the white wedges add to the youth.

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Premiere

Jena Malone (Johanna Mason) wearing Monique Lhuillier. Malone is another of the new actors and has to compete with Elizabeth Banks and Jennifer Lawrence on the red carpet – no easy task. The dress has been a grower on me. I’m predisposed to love it just cos it’s red but I also love the detailing. The fringing and Art Deco inspired geometry of the sequins reminds me of the ’20s but then this is combined with sheer fabric and overlayed with flowery embroidery. The dress isn’t particularly revealing but no one can say that it isn’t a sexy dress.

Hunger Games World Premiere

Banks (Effie Trinket) wearing Jason Wu. I have to admit that I’m not a total fan of this dress. I love the shape, and the weight the fabric gives to the train… The cut outs are a nice touch… I have no issue with the yellow but I just don’t LOVE it.

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' World premiere

Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne) wearing Alexander McQueen, Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) wearing Christian Dior Couture and Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark) wearing Emporio Armani. Both men have gone for a more classic suit look for the World Premiere. You can’t really fault it but there’s nothing necessarily to shout about – although Hemsworth’s barbed wire tie is a nice sharp touch and slight reference to the film. As Lawrence is the face of Dior handbags it comes as no surprise that all of her premiere dresses were Dior and this is the first. There have been some criticisms of this dress but I really like it. The drape of it reminds me of Vionnet in the ’30s but then we have a highly embellished front panel to bring it up to date. Maybe the panel could have hit a more flattering angle but the lowered nature just reflects the vintage inspiration even more.

Hunger Games World Premiere

Berlin Premiere

GERMANY-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-PREMIER-HUNGER GAMES

Hemsworth wearing Hugo Boss, Banks wearing Elie Saab Couture, Lawrence wearing Christian Dior and Hutcherson wearing Billy Reid. We know I love a tie pin/tie clip and a non-black suit so Hemsworth is winning here. But, Hutcherson has another non-black suit and this one’s a three-piece… I prefer Hutcherson’s shoes but I think Hemsworth just pulls off that suit really well. Banks is wearing a beautiful dress (of course, it’s Elie Saab) that I can fully support and I really like Lawrence’s Dior coat/dress too. Very weather appropriate and you’ve got to applaud that. Plus, the tailoring behind it is exquisite and it has some great detailing on the skirt of the coat – wonderful texture to just add to the flare.

Madrid Photo Call

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Madrid Photocall

Lawrence wearing Alexander McQueen. Bright blue, the mid-driff trend in a much more subdued way plus some edge with those shoes and the detailing on the top and skirt. I’m a fan.

Madrid Premiere

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' - Madrid Premiere

Hemsworth wearing Dolce & Gabbana , Lawrence wearing Christian Dior and Hutcherson wearing Calvin Klein. Hemsworth’s suit is another great choice with more of the slimline silhouette. Depending on photos, the blue of Lawrence’s dress and Hutcherson’s suit are a touch brighter than they appear here… Hutcherson’s suit has a nicer tone and overall look in other photos – the navy of the suit works really well with the colour for the shirt and tie. Lawrence’s dress looks closer in tone to Hutcherson’s suit as well. I really like the cut of the dress and the colour…apart from the sheer panel. I just don’t care for its asymmetry or flow.

Rome Photo Call

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Photocall - The 8th Rome Film Festival

Lawrence wearing Proenza Schouler. This is a great dress for a photocall. It isn’t too fussy and overdressed, nor is it overly simple and boring. The stripe of yellow focuses attention and draws your eyes to the turnlocks on the front of the dress. A perfect feature for this dress.

Rome Premiere

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Premiere - The 8th Rome Film Festival

Hemsworth wearing Dolce & Gabbana, Lawrence wearing Christian Dior Couture and Hutcherson wearing Dolce & Gabbana. Hemsworth looks flawless. This is the most “dressed up” any of the actors have appeared and it works. Although Hutcherson’s suit does have many fitting issues – visible more in solo photos.  Both actors have gone for slim cut suits but unfortunately only Hemsworth’s has the right fit. But Lawrence has stepped up the glamour stakes and reminds us how beautiful she looked in that Oscar dress. The dress is the star here so once again Lawrence has stayed clear on accessories.

Paris Premiere

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Paris Premiere At Le Grand Rex

Banks wearing Alexander McQueen, Hemsworth wearing Dior Homme, Lawrence wearing Christian Dior Couture and Hutcherson wearing Dolce & Gabbana. Banks has returned to add more glamour to the proceedings. The McQueen dress is quirky but understated and gives a great difference from Effie’s McQueen costumes in Catching Fire. Hemsworth is wearing the first of his Dior Homme suits of the tour and we have another slimline suit – this time complete with tie clip. Lawrence has taken a sharp step away from some of her prettier dresses for this distinctly vampy dress. I’m not sure it fully works for me. I love the skirt with the gathering and flow of the fabric but it’s the top where it seems so…unstructured for Lawrence’s figure. It’s daring and unusual but not an all and out winner for me. Hutcherson once again has a good fitting suit, a tie clip and it’s a great purple. His best suit?

Oslo Premiere

Premiere The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Banks wearing Elie Saab Couture and Malone wearing Reem Acra. The girls win here. Hands down. Banks looks amazing in another stunning Elie Saab. And I even like the shoes. Then Malone is playing up the vamp again but as with the red dress in London, actually “revealing” very little. Just great style. But Claflin’s outfit just doesn’t work for me as a whole. I like the top half, but the trousers just don’t look right to me. But they could work with a different jacket… I think it’s to do with the colours. Still the double-breasted “Claflin” trend though.

Los Angeles Premiere

elizabeth-banks-jena-malone-catching-fire-la-premiere-08

Shields wearing Katie Ermilio. I really like the print of this dress and the shape. Of the skirt at least. The bodice is a bit boxy for me but you can’t deny that she looks great and has chosen the best way to wear the dress – cleanly.

elizabeth-banks-jena-malone-catching-fire-la-premiere-03

Malone wearing Nicholas Oakwell Couture. This dress reminds me way too much of Jaime Alexander’s Thor: The Dark World premiere dress. And that’s not good. Unfortunately my brain can’t unmake the connection so I’m not a fan.

sam-claflin-zoe-kravitz-catching-fire-la-premiere-01

Claflin wearing Alexander McQueen. Double-breasted, patterned scarf, “Claflin”. I prefer this outfit much more than the last one.

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Banks wearing Versace, Hemsworth wearing Dior Homme, Lawrence wearing Christian Dior Couture and Hutcherson wearing Dolce & Gabbana. Banks wins. That is all. A slightly wider cut suit for Hemsworth, great cut, and I love the tie. I’m not a total fan of Lawrence’s sheer dress. It’s the underwear bit I don’t like. If there had been an underskirt I think I’d prefer it. I like the pattern and the shape of the dress, the bustier feature (from the waist up), the great belt and I love the shoes. Hutcherson’s suit, although three-piece, is a bit too shiny shiny for me. That just distracts me from everything else about it.

Toronto Premiere

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Malone wearing Dora Abodi. Claflin’s got the patterned scarf, but this time the beginnings of a single-breasted three-piece suit. It’s another unusual look for the actor but I’m a fan. I really want to like Malone’s dress but I can’t warm to the clashing patterns of the flounce. It reminds me too much of a curtain valance. I’m clearly an old person at heart. I like the dress minus the flounce. I like the shape, the fabric, the print.

New York Premiere

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" New York Special Screening - Inside Arrivals

Claflin wearing Prada. My favourite Claflin look. He hasn’t fully matched his suit (that would be too boring) but it is still a sharp look – more so possibly. The wool trousers are a great fit with a great weight and colour and I love the velvet jacket. Plus, tie slide.

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" New York Special Screening - Inside Arrivals

Hemsworth wearing Dior Homme. My favourite Hemsworth look. It’s not all black. It’s still the slimline that he loves so and the whole thing works perfectly. Maybe it’s a Dior Homme thing.

New York Special Screening of "The Hunger Games Catching Fire"

Banks wearing Jenny Packham, Lawrence wearing Christian Dior and Malone wearing Valentino. Banks is no stranger to more daring red carpet outfits and this is definitely unusual. But it works. The detailed embellishment along the legs, the bodice and even with peplums add a great deal of femininity to the jumpsuit. I like Lawrence’s dress (actually more of a tuxedo jacket that makes me want to love it more than I do) but it doesn’t quite have the pizzaz of some of her other dresses, or of Banks’ jumpsuit. The low neckline with the bright yellow and black lace insert make it more interesting but even then nothing screams out about it. In a good or bad way. Malone’s dress…it’s just a bit boring. Especially compared to her other red carpet looks

S x

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Saturday Special: Low Sugar Almond Pear Upside Down Cake

A clunky title for a clunky cake. I’m kidding, it’s not a clunky cake – yummy, almond-y and surprisingly sweet (due to the delicious pears) would be a better way of describing it.

I spend a great deal of time on Pinterest looking at health-related topics, and did something that I reckon at least 80% of Pinners don’t ever do – I went back over my boards. Yes, I looked at the things I’d already pinned instead of allowing them to just sit there, waiting for their advice to be taken.  I found an info-graphic about healthy substitutions in baking, one of which was replacing some of the sugar in the recipe with pure vanilla extract.  According to the guide, replacing 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1/2 a teaspoon can cut 400 calories from a recipe, and it got me thinking; how many times could you use this technique in a recipe? Because let’s face it, 2 tablespoons equal roughly an ounce, and I’ve never made a cake with just one ounce of anything! I wondered if you could make a cake with no sugar at all – not talking about replacing the sugar with things like Splenda or Stevia, but just taking sugar out of the equation.

Honestly? You need the sugar. Not as much, mind. The key is being smart about what else you include in the recipe; by using fruit, you get the natural flavours and sweetness from the juices, and it really makes a difference!  My recipe, which serves up 10 slices at 197 calories each, is tasty without all the sugar.  Check out my recipe below for an idea of how to get started….

I couldn't get a picture of the whole cake because it went so quickly!

I couldn’t get a picture of the whole cake because it went so quickly!

What you’ll need:

6oz self raising flour

2 tbsps caster sugar

A pinch of salt.

6oz unsalted butter (you can use light options too)

2 – 3 eggs

2 – 4 tbsps milk (approximately)

2 tbsps almond extract

1lb pears (I used Bosc, they are great for desserts), peeled and chopped

1 tbsp brown sugar

To make the cake:

1.  Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/375 degrees. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and add the caster sugar.

2. Add the butter, and mix together.

3. Crack the eggs in one at a time and stir thoroughly.

4. You might find the mixture is a little bit too thick at this stage, so add a little milk between each egg (use your judgement) until you get a nice consistency.

5. Add in the almond essence – 2 tablespoons might seem like more than you would usually put into a pan this size, but we’re compensating for the lack of sugar here. Set the mixture to one side for a moment.

6. Line a round 9 inch baking tin with grease-proof paper.  Sprinkle the brown sugar over the bottom of the pan.

7. Take the slices of pear and arrange them across the pan.  Now, roll each piece of pear over in place so that it gets covered in the brown sugar on both sides and ends up the same way up as it as when you put it in the pan. You can make a pattern if you want, because you’ll be turning the cake over once it is done – therefore the pears will be on top!

8. Carefully pour in the cake mix.

– I sprinkled a little bit of brown sugar over the top of the mix just before putting it in the over, but that’s totally optional –

9. Bake in the over for approximately 35-40 minutes.

10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before turning the cake out onto a plate or wire rack (you might have more like with a plate, as my cake was very moist and a little bit of it fell apart.

And that’s it!  Go forth and eat cake….

‘The Great Gatsby’: Costume Adaptation Fidelity – 1974 Vs. 2013

This should be the last post on The Great Gatsby (we’re all glad about that), but I thought it was worth looking at the costumes from Jack Clayton’s 1974 adaptation against Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation (out on DVD and Blu-Ray today yesterday); particularly regarding costume descriptions in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel.

There are not that many references to costumes throughout the novel but when they are mentioned there is a feeling that a lot is being told to you via that little description. Looking at Theoni V. Aldredge’s costumes next to Catherine Martin’s is very interesting because you can actually see a closeness – sometimes when the costumes are widely different from their descriptions.

Tom Buchanan

his riding clothes… he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing (p. 24)

Tom

Here I have to confess to having no knowledge of riding clothes, modern or historical. It is worth noting that both Tom’s (Bruce Dern and Joel Edgerton) have similar colours. This is one of the few occasions where the 1974 version has a brighter colour than that in the 2013 – but only with the jersey.

Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker

they were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering (p. 25)

as cool as their white dresses (p. 28)

White Dresses

Daisy and Jordan tend to be pictured in white a lot. There is no other colour that displays wealth like white. These people don’t do anything that would endanger the pristine white of their clothing. Mia Farrow and Lois Chiles are almost camouflaged against the white furniture and set. But for Carey Mulligan and Elizabeth Debicki the white tones are much closer to cream. The production design (also designed by Catherine Martin) is much more sumptuous and the cream costumes fit perfectly with the mood and the setting. White would have been too sharp and mismatched against the rest of the aesthetic.

Jordan

One interesting change from the description that is found in both films is that Jordan is wearing trousers. This is perfectly fitting for Jordan’s character (with Debicki playing with a golf club to reinforce the sports woman image) and the flow of the trousers and top still provide ‘rippling and fluttering’.

three-cornered lavender hat (p. 85)

Daisy

This barely deserves inclusion but it is worth noting that both Farrow and Mulligan are dressed in purple, although the 1974 version is very muted. The only description of Daisy in this scene regards the hat (swiftly removed anyway) but both designers seemed to have followed that through for the dress. Unless Farrow’s costumes are so much in memory…

white dresses (p. 109)

White Dresses2

Here we have Martin being more “faithful” to the description. Or, as much as she was earlier. Mulligan and Debicki are both in cream dresses whereas Chiles is in light blue. This is quite a change and marks her out from Daisy quite sharply – also her tone of blue seems to be a little too close to Gatsby’s tie…

Myrtle Wilson

a spotted dress of dark blue crepe-de-chine (p. 38)

Myrtle1

Myrtle was the one character that remained completely different from description in both adaptations. Both versions had a much more brash version – although Luhrmann takes brash to a whole new level. One thing I noticed when comparing Karen Black with Isla Fisher was that their first dresses have the same silhouette. The angled flounces down the front of the dress highlight a sexier shape than was desired in the ’20s. Fisher’s definitely looks more modern from the flow of the fabric alone, let alone the colours and pattern.

She had changed her dress to a brown figured muslin, which stretched tight over her rather wide hips (p. 39)

Neither adaptations had Myrtle change from her “dowdy” clothes into city clothes. There was no need. Myrtle was never pretending to be anything for George Wilson so she had no need to separate her life from Mrs Wilson to Tom Buchanan’s mistress.

elaborate afternoon dress of cream-coloured chiffon (p. 42)

Myrtle2

Once again, the colours in 2013 are much more saturated than those in 1974. The flounces from Myrtle’s first dress are here again but to a more extreme cleavage bearing extent. Nothing about Fisher’s dress says restraint and the bright colours could not be more different from the whites and creams of Daisy. Black’s dress is softer in tones but those orange feathers let you know instantly that this isn’t Daisy and couldn’t be a serious replacement for her.

Nick Carraway

dressed up in white flannels (p. 51)

Nick

Maybe white flannel was more period accurate for Fitzgerald but for both 1974 and 2013 party scenes it would both be too much and underdressed. Nick is underdressed in both settings (in remarkably similar suits) when compared to Gatsby in a tuxedo, but a white flannel suit would also stand out too much. Visually Nick cannot outshine Gatsby and it would make no sense for him to dress that way. Without making all the other costumes work against Nick’s.

Dancing Girls

two girls in twin yellow dresses (p. 52)

Yellow Girls

Because I couldn’t not include this comparison. I know which pair are my favourite…

Jay Gatsby

caramel-colored suit (p. 69)

Gatsby Caramel

Gatsby has the most costume descriptions and this are mostly adhered to – especially in the iconic scenes. This isn’t one of those scenes. Leonardo DiCaprio’s suit is the closest to caramel whereas Robert Redford’s is confidently brown. Redford’s suits as Gatsby have a much different feel to DiCaprio’s. A lot of this is down to the double-breasted nature of his jackets and/or waistcoats. Nowadays double-breasted waistcoats and jackets tend to give a more villainous feel – think of gangsters. In Luhrmann’s film both Tom and Meyer Wolfsheim wear double-breasted suits. Our hero is Gatsby and he couldn’t be seen wearing anything to besmirch his honour. But in Clayton’s? Only Gatsby is seen wearing double-breasted suits. They are his specific style detail. Much like a pink suit.

in a white flannel suit, silver shirt, and gold-coloured tie (p. 84)

Gatsby White

Both white suits. Gold-coloured tie, just about. Silver shirt? No. Both have gone for a light blue. A light blue that doesn’t look unlike silver in the right light. The main costume interest between the two costumes is their cut. Everything about Redford’s suit is wider – the tie, the lapels, the double-breasted waistcoat, even the jacket length. The slimline of DiCaprio’s suit and accessories fits with the modernisation of the ’20s silhouette. And the mustard coloured waistcoat allows Gatsby to wear a three-piece suit without being overpowering in white – especially when stood against all those flowers.

He wears a pink suit (p. 115)

luminosity of his pink suit (p. 132)

his gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of colour against the white steps (p. 141)

Gatsby Pink

THE pink suit. Both three-pieces. The wide v. slimcut debate reigns on. The important notes are with the accessories. Redford’s shirt is almost as ostentatious as the suit itself – a white collar against a light blue shirt. Then there’s the light purple tie. Add in the white shoes and the white buttons on the waistcoat and you’ve got a bright, light-reflecting costume. DiCaprio’s pink suit has a wide pinstripe that breaks up the pink a little bit and then his burgundy pocket square and striped tie help to level the costume. Also, he doesn’t wear white shoes so the whole costume seems more wearable and, let’s say it together, more modern.

S x

(Quotations taken from Wordsworth Classics Edition, printed in 1993.)

Saturday Special: Food Porn

Dim the lights, play a little mood music and light some candles because we’re getting sexy up in here – food wise, that is!

A few weeks ago I came across a Facebook page called ‘Food Porn’ (which can be drooled over here) which is basically a barrage of photos of some of the most delicious and wacky dishes I’ve ever seen.

So if looking at pictures of food gets your motor running, I’ve picked out a few samples. And, oh yeah, there’s plenty more where this came from!

Nutella Cinnamon Scrolls

Image

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownie Bombs

chocolate chip cookie dough brownie bombs

Pulled Pork Waffle Stack With Bourbon Maple Syrup

pulled pork waffle stack with bourbon maple syrup

Chilli Wings

chilli wings

Pretzel Pizza Rolls

pretzel pizza rolls

And for the er…ahem – big finish:

COOKIE PIZZA…

cookie pizza

…and STRAWBERRY CHIPOTLE BEEF RIBS!

strawberry chipotle beef ribs

Awesome, right? How was it for you?

Hannah

He Could Get It…Lee Pace

lee hcgi

WHY? We’ve had the delightfully ghoulish with the excellent series of HCGIs for Halloweek (The Gentlemen being my personal favourite), but now its back to perving over more heavenly creatures.

I have seen Lee Pace in the flesh. Not close up sadly but we were in the same room breathing the same air and so we’re technically married. He really knows how to sit on a chair, you guys. He sat the hell out of that chair.

He’s like a real life Disney prince but with a personality and minus the horse-drawn carriage. And at 6′ 3 Lee’s height game is on lock, so he can do cool stuff like…like reach top shelves and…and bend slightly when he walks in your room. Yeah, that stuff.

I’ll be seeing The Desolation of Smaug mostly for him, now. If you’re going to kneel to one formidable, otherworldly king this year, forget Loki – make it Thranduil and his insane swordplay.

@thatmissdeen

52 Books in 2013 – October Update

Almost a week late with this post, apologies to the none of you who read these challenge updates. I keep forgetting I’m behind on my pace, but ahhhhh it’s fine, I’ll catch up – here’s what I did this month…

Book 39: Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

aurbachWhen someone on my Twitter posted a link to Flavorwire’s 50 Scariest Books of All Time article, I scoured the list and tried to find as many of them as possible (while totting up how many of them I’d actually read).  After finding some of them immediately – I’m sure I don’t need to go into how I did that, yaaarrrrr – I settled for the one that I felt most drawn to, Penpal by Dathan Auerbach.  With the background for the book described as having originated from a reddit thread, I wasn’t sure how this one would play out; I actually really like the simplicity of the terror/horror stories that are contributed by users to sites such as Creepypasta, but I had my doubts about whether this would go over well as a novel.

In a series of flashbacks, we learn about the narrator’s childhood with his mother and best friend, and the things they get up to.  The woods behind his house play a role in the scary things that happen, which involve him waking up in the woods in the middle of the night (with startling clarity of thought for a six year old, very unrealistic); he is stalked by a stranger who is obsessed with him, seemingly from the innocent school task of releasing balloons in the hope of getting a penpal.  Photographs are sent to his house, his cat goes missing, his friend is also stalked; all the typical things that happen in those urban legend stories you tell at sleepovers that happened to ‘a friend of a friend’.  This was creepy enough in terms of the content, but the writing itself is lacking in any distinctive style, and the structure is confusing and messy.  The chapters bounce between different ages and years, and sure, at the start the narrator states that he is just remembering these things or learning about them now, which is why they are unordered, but that’s a cop-out in my opinion – the chapters seem patched together without any editing, just collecting the shorter stories and giving them chapter names as if that constitutes bringing together a book.  It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t as brilliant as some of the reviews it has been given would suggest.

Book 40: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

the_road.largeA trip to my local library to find another of this month’s books led me to pick up this one instead.  It’s one of those books that I’d seen plenty of times at work and felt like buying, but never got round to it, though I’m wishing I had read it earlier now.  The Road focuses on a man and his son (no names given throughout the book), who are journeying to the sea following an unexplained event which has rendered the earth barren and destroyed the majority of animals and humans.  As they scavenge for food and shelter, the man’s main priority is always the safety of his son, although he knows that the likelihood of them surviving is slim.  On their way they suffer a few setbacks; their shopping cart of belongings is ransacked, they are almost caught by cannibals (in one of the scariest bits of the book) and the ever-looming threat of starvation or illness.

It would ruin the story to give away any more specifics in the book, and I would recommend it to anyone.  To call the writing style simplistic would be the understatement of the year; the language is coarse, blunt and dark, a reflection of the content and landscape of the story.  It makes the more emotional moments even more heartbreaking, and the plaintive style gives the reader a realistic position from which to witness the events. Loved it. You MUST read it.

Book 41: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

margaret_atwood_the_handmaids_taleI am kicking myself for having never read anything by Margaret Atwood until now.  This book was fantastic!  I think it may have been on the GCSE curriculum at one point although not for me, and I’m sure if I had read it then I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much as I do having only read it aged 25.

Our narrator, Offred, is a ‘Handmaid’ in the Republic of Gilead, a reformed version of the United States of America wherein women have had most of their rights taken away, and their only real function is to breed. We only learn how this change came about toward the end of the book, which gives us time to get as acquainted as we can with the life she leads now, though the book is littered with references and flashbacks to her life before these changes happened.  Handmaids are assigned to households in which the wife is infertile – there is no such thing as an infertile man, it is always the woman’s fault if she cannot bear a child.  The society is frigid, women must walk in pairs to carry out errands with coupons instead of money, and ‘Gender Traitors’ (homosexuals) are hung on ‘The Wall’ to die for all to see.  Other crimes are punished by either public hanging or being sent out to ‘The Colonies’, the nature of which is revealed far into the book.

This was SO good; the vision of this twisted future is so completely imagined, there aren’t really any holes in the idea which makes it scary, because it sort of seems like this kind of thing could be entirely possible – particularly these days when so much of our information is digital (you’ll see when you read the book).  There is a conflict within the narrator; she remembers her life before she became a Handmaid and longs for it, yet she often finds herself thinking and acting as prudishly and piously as a good little Handmaid is supposed to.  So much of this book is horrific, but not in the gory sense – you don’t want to think about what it would be like to live that life, yet you are compelled to find out what happens to Offred and whether or not she will ever get what she wants.

Book 42: Beowulf by Seamus Heaney

heaney-beowulfLastly for October was the latest book club choice, Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.  I’ll admit, the first I’d ever heard of Beowulf was that creepy looking CGI film with Ray Winstone, so I wasn’t really that bothered about reading the story.  But with Heaney’s recent passing, a member of the book club suggested we read this and I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a go, as I recall Heaney’s poetry being quite honestly thrilling to read at school; his and Robert Frost’s works were to me what poetry was supposed to be. That rhymed, which makes me awesome.

So Beowulf, then. There’s so much of history and legends that I just don’t know about, so all of the names in this poem were entirely new to me, and at first I found it hard to follow, so I found the recording of Heaney reading the entire thing (although some parts were left out for some reason) and it helped immensely.  Who better than the poet to recite it?  He spoke every line with attention to every word, and with a rhythm that really moved the whole thing along.  The story itself was interesting; Beowulf brings his men to help Hrothgar, a king whose men are being routinely savaged by a monster named Grendel. Having slain Grendel and his mother, the king of the Danes presents Beuwolf with treasures, and the hero returns home and eventually becomes King of the Geats.  He later battles against a dragon and is fatally wounded, and dies having proven his merit as a man.  It’s pretty straightforward, and at the heart of it is a noble warrior whose strength cannot be matched, even by legendary beasts.  It does kind of make me want to read some more of this Scandinavian mythology stuff where this type of thing happens, but I don’t know whether any other writers will have the same master of words that Heaney had.

Saturday Special: Cinnamon Rolls (No yeast, no eggs)

Riddle me this – what can you make with the following ingredients?

1 1/2 cup self-raising flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons softened butter

1/2 cup milk

A bitchin’ dough, that’s what.  But hold up, what’s this – you’ve also got:

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Well why didn’t you say so?  You can make some freakin’ awesome cinnamon rolls.

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So preheat the oven at gas mark 5 and let’s do this thing.

THE DOUGH

1. Mix together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl.

2. Add the 1 1/2 tablespoons softened butter and combine (use your hands, it’s easier)

3. Stir the milk, this will form a dough – if it’s too sticky, add some more flour.

4. Set this aside.

THE FILLING

5. Combine the 2 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar and cinnamon, until you get a crumbly sort of spreadable mixture.

6. Cover the bottom of the pan with a little (say, about 1/4) of this mixture.

ALL TOGETHER NOW…

7. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface, into a sort of rectangular shape.

8. Cover one side of the rectangle with the cinnamon/sugar/butter mixture.

9. Roll the rectangle so that you have one long roll (or you can do it the other way for just a few really really big rolls)

10.  Slice the roll into small discs (thickness depends on what you want)

11. Place them in the pan, with spaces between each one (you might have an overspill, like I did, just use another pan)

12. Bake for about 20 minutes.

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I always have varied results with these bloody cinnamon rolls, sometimes they’re super fluffy, other times they’re more biscuity. Either way, they’re cinnamon-y and delicious, and they taste even better with a cheeky glaze:

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 teaspoon butter

1/4 cup milk

Add the sugar and butter, combine them thoroughly and then add the milk.  So tasty.