Thematic food for your 2014 Oscar party

The below are suggestions for thematic food to serve while watching the Academy Awards on Sunday, March 2. All are inspired by the nine movies nominated for Best Picture, and I’ve linked to recipes where possibly needed. Why? Because brainstorming party food based on pop culture themes is one of my favourite things to do.

When possible, I’ve taken food right out of the movies (in 12 Years, Solomon uses a twig and blackberry juice to write a letter to his family; in Her, Samantha leads Theodore to a slice of cheese pizza at the fair, etc.). Other times, I’ve chosen things that encapsulate the spirit of the movie (floating fruit for Gravity; gold coins for The Wolf of Wall Street). And when neither of those are possible, I’ve suggested cuisine inspired by the setting of the movie (samosas/sambusa from Somalia for Captain Phillips; fondue from the seventies for American Hustle, etc.)

Enjoy! And check out the rest of the nominees here.

(If you use any of my suggestions, please let me know! It would make me so happy.)

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE

Hug a pen today.

Starters/snacks
Crisps with goat cheese, blackberries and honey* – 12 Years a Slave
Sambusas (also known as “samosas”) — Captain Phillips

Mains
Cheese pizza — Her
Tex-Mex (e.g. nachos, fajitas, quesadillas) – Dallas Buyers Club
Fondue — American Hustle

70show-fondue

Just wait until it cools a bit.

Desserts
Jello mould with floating fruitGravity
Chocolate gold coins** — The Wolf of Wall Street

The strawberries are Sandra Bullock. The kiwis are George Clooney.

The strawberries are Sandra Bullock. The kiwis are George Clooney.

Drinks
Guinness — Philomena
More/any alcohol — Nebraska

*When I make this, I’ll probably replace the crisps with much simpler baguette slices.
**I realize this is a Canadian thing. I don’t know if people in other countries have anything similar. Jelly bean dollar bills? I just don’t know.

Travelbots? Droid Guides? Virtu-Travel?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about taking a trip (it’s been a while), but I’m not sure where to go that would be within my budget and still be adventurous. This morning on my way to work, I was thinking how great it would be to pay Nature a visit. Grand vistas. Tall mountains. Majestic rivers. And then I remembered that it’s winter for everyone above Florida, and also how I hate camping and inclines and stuff.

So, wouldn’t it be lovely if I could experience the majesty of travelling through the Rockies via some kind of android surrogate? It would be exactly like being there — I could breathe in the cool, fresh air, and reach down and feel the shrubbery (shrubbery? I have no idea what the Rockies are like), without any of the hassle of actually going there.

That’s me in the middle.

Of course, this would require a very sophisticated android set-up, and some kind of sensory deprivation tank to sit inside… Plus, I guess the same could be accomplished by a VR simulation. Or a really good IMAX movie. And I know it wouldn’t be exactly the same as being there, but at the very least, it’d be a cool promotional tool for travel agents, no?

Maybe I’ll just file this away for a possible future short story.

Also: PATENT PENDING.

Taking stock

This is what’s getting me through today:

I was perusing this public list of people’s bucket list items, and I gradually realized that I’d done a lot of them. Like, a lot. It’s remarkable how a few bad months can make you feel like you’ve never done anything good your whole life. Or, like all the exciting, novel experiences and adventures in your life happened so long ago, on the other side of some awful schism in your life, that they may as well have happened to someone else. 

As I scrolled through them, I realized how lucky I am to have done a lot of these things, and it’s really interesting to see what things people hold on to as life goals or dreams. For some, the items are so small that it made me take stock of how many of the things I take for granted (ex. laughing until I cry) are actually really valuable experiences.

Aside

I guess it wasn’t the worst year ever

My 2013 wasn’t as good as some other people’s, but it did have its ups in between the downs. And, while I toasted to 2014 by drinking sparkling wine and saying “Good fucking riddance” to 2013, I should probably acknowledge that I did, in fact, accomplish some stuff…I guess.

Things I did in 2013:

  • Joined a writing group. I love meeting with my writing group. It’s a blissful hour that happens at the library every other week when I get to discuss writing and characters and stories and sci-fi with people who just get it, you know? It might be the only time I forget about all the other shit going on. Plus, it forces me to produce new material on a regular basis, and I think receiving and incorporating feedback (especially when it’s hard to hear) has really helped my writing.
  • Finally wrote some stuff I don’t hate. I didn’t publish anything (though I’m on track to do that in 2014), but I did finish some stuff and finishing all on its own feels pretty damn good.
  • Disembarked from a bad relationship. Related: started a new, much healthier relationship with a great therapist.
  • Got to be the Best Maid in my best friend’s wedding. It involved a surprising amount of crafting, a whole bunch of tears, and the best party I’ve ever been to and it was amazing.
  • Started a (hopefully long-term) volunteer gig that I totally dig. It’s at Story Planet and it’s spectacular.
  • Moved downtown. I finally live somewhere so cool I don’t even care that my ceilings are too low for upright bookcases.
  • Got a new job that fits my life a bit better.
  • Adopted my first pet. He’s a hamster named Doc who refuses to pose for photos, sorry.
  • …bought a PS3?

Okay, the accomplishments are kind of dwindling now so I’ll stop. My regrets include not writing more/faster/better (I think that will be a regret of mine every year), spending more time brooding and crying than enjoying life, falling back into unhealthy habits and not travelling more. Which actually creates a good starting place for what my 2014 is going to look like:

2014-make-it-so

  • I am going to write more/faster/better, and also remember that I do it because it’s fun.
  • Every time I start feeling sad, I’m just going to stop being sad and be awesome instead.
  • Exercise more and eat better.
  • Travel SOMEWHERE.

Giddy up.

Grit

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” - Babe Ruth

I know how terribly obvious this sounds, so just consider this a preface: It’s so easy to get disheartened when you see people achieving more than you.

I’ve wanted to write novels since I was a tyke, but I only really started writing seriously about two or so years ago when I realized journalism wasn’t going to be enough for me. Since then, I’ve hated almost everything I’ve written. And, on days that end in “y,” I poor salt in my wounds by comparing myself to people who are out there, writing stories and sharing them with the world at a skill level and speed that I can’t seem to keep pace with.

During my last couple of years as a writer-in-training, I’ve tried out and discarded dozens of ideas, eventually landing on a premise for a novel about time travel that I felt was decent. I wrote about 30,000 words that I eventually threw out. (Though I remain committed to making that premise work in some way, some day…maybe tomorrow, actually, now that I think about it.) Over the last 10 months, I’ve taken a break from novel-writing to take a crack at writing a short story. And last night, I finished it. (I’ve come to love that word. Finished. Mmmmmm.) And, amazingly, despite its problems, I actually like it. Callooh callay! (Of course, now it’s time for the heartache of rejection, but I’ll cross that bridge when I have all of the wine.) (Am I over-using parentheses?)

I’m writing all this out because it’s important to remind myself once in a while that I’m making progress, even if it is painstakingly slow. And progress is so important, because it means I’m sticking to my goals even though I’ve barely left the starting line of this exhausting marathon. And that, according to my new favourite TED Talk, is how you succeed.

I don’t know if I’ve got talent. I don’t know if the world wants to read what I’m peddling. But if grit really is a key indicator of success, I think I may stand a chance, because it sounds like having grit is a choice. Every day, I can sit at my computer and choose to keep plucking away. I can choose to be gritty by simply refusing to give up. While I hope this perseverance leads to my eventual success (however I’m defining that on a particular day), it also serves a more short-term goal: it makes me feel like I have some control over this ridiculous, largely luck-based pursuit of mine, and that gives me something to hold onto on those days when I feel as though I’m typing nonsense into the abyss.

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The Day of the Doctor Who Anniversary Fete

I love the whimsy of Doctor Who. And the hijinks. And the gravitas and the wonder and the possibility. What imagination! What joy!

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I also happen to enjoy thematic party food, so when I invited some friends over to watch the 50th Anniversary Special tonight, I decided to have some fun:

Bowtie pasta in Dalek takeaway boxes:

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TARDISale (gingerale with blue food colouring):

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Jelly babies! (hooray for the candy shop near my apartment that sells British sweets):

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Cakes with ball bearings and Weeping Angel grilled cheese sandwiches (thanks to my WarpZone cookie cutter):

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And, Geronimo! (Also featuring the Sherlock and Watson cookies my friend brought over.)

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Now that the party is over and the special has been watched, I can’t wait to read about all the shout-outs to previous generations of Doctors I missed in the episode. I also really want to give John Hurt a hug, but I don’t know if that’s plausible.

(I’ve been using the word “fete” a lot lately because I’m reading Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog. Please accept my apologies. These things just seep in, you know?)

Video

Stop trying to make me freak out, TEDTalks

There is a lot of valid advice in this video about not wasting your 20′s. Clinical psychologist Meg Jay, who specializes in twentysomethings, says the decade is a ‘developmental sweet spot’ when you should be taking advantage of opportunities to invest in yourself through work, education and fruitful relationships, so when you hit your 30′s you’re ready for that big career move or settling down with a partner.

That being said, the video is a bit alarmist, especially if you’re nearing the end of your 20′s or past it. With so many people experiencing quarter-life crises and worrying about lagging behind other people/society’s standards in terms of personal and professional development, the common reaction to this video is probably: Oh no, I think I’ve wasted my 20′s.

Just to mitigate the inevitable panic of anyone over the age of, say, 27 or so: It may feel like we’ve wasted our 20′s now, but we probably haven’t. Whatever experiences and work you’ve accumulated since turning 20 may seem aimless or unproductive now, but it’s all investment in yourself. Which is Jay’s point.

“I’m not discounting twentysomething exploration here,” she says. “I’m discounting exploration that’s not supposed to count. Which, by the way, isn’t exploration. That’s procrastination.”

So before you (or I) jump to the conclusion that we’ve wasted our 20′s because that’s what our sad inner voices are telling us, let’s consider the possibility that we’ve done exactly what she’s advising in this talk. Then we can pass along this sage advice to a new twentysomething as someone who’s been there and done that, and not as a cautionary tale.