Finnish Prune Pinwheel Tartlets for Christmas

Food & Drink

I’ve talked about Finnish foods a bit before, for instance sour cream pie, liver sausage and blueberry soup. I don’t think I’ve done more than mention the joulutorttu, though, the baked Christmas dessert filled with plum jam.

Joulutorttu

Back in the day when you had to make the puff pastry from scratch they must’ve taken a good while to produce. These days, with store-bought puff pastry, they really are a cinch to make:

  • cut thawed puff pastry sheets into 9 evenly-sized squares
  • separately for each square, cut every corner in half as if you’re cutting a line diagonally from each corner to the center BUT leave about 1” in the center intact
  • fill centers with about a teaspoon of plum jam
  • make a pinwheel shapes by bringing every other half-corner together in the center
  • if desired, brush beaten egg on exposed puff pastry surfaces
  • bake about 10 minutes in a preheated oven (400 degrees F / 200 C or according to package) or until golden brown
  • let cool and dust with confectioners sugar

(These instructions fit U.S pastry sheets and measurements.)

Since I haven’t found plum jam in stores here, I’ve developed a super-duper easy way: I soak prunes in hot water until soft (approx. as long as the pastry takes to thaw) and use them to fill the tartlet, one prune per square. I also use toothpicks to skewer through both the pinwheel corners and prune in the center so that the tartlet won’t open while baking (the tips will burn easily if they do). And since I’m not terribly fond of confectioners sugar, I usually skip it.

While flipping through a back issue of Country Living magazine, I spotted the very same pastries except with a summery filling: jam and cream cheese.

Country Living 7-8-2016 Jam Pinwheels

Country Living July/August 2016, p. 20.

Country Living magazine gives credit for these jam and cream cheese versions to Kayley McCabe; visit the post at Handmade Charlotte for her writeup and tips.

They sound absolutely delicious – I’ll have to try some time!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

 

Online Finds: Colorful Blank Calendar for 2019

Arts & Crafts, Bits in Spaaace!, Colors

Time to find a monthly calendar for next year.

Printable Blank Calendar for 2019

This colorful calendar is by Lena at What Mommy Does. She designed it to be all blank on purpose; this way it’s useable every year.

Thanks for sharing, Lena!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Now on Etsy: Canvas Pouches

Ahem Ahem!, Arts & Crafts

I listed a few canvas pouches at the Playfully Grownup Home Etsy shop.

Canvas Pouches Collage

They’re made from a variety of prints and solids. I used up remnant canvas pieces to make them.

The light green one has a really great, understated but elegant floral pattern outlined in white. I added a coordinating green and white polka dot accent for the drawstring channel.

Canvas Pouch Green White Floral BB001a

For the blue and turquoise floral, I found two good accent color matches but couldn’t decide which I preferred, so I made two versions. Problem solved! 🙂 One has a turquoise-on-turquoise polka dot print…

Canvas Pouch Blues Turquoise BB002c

…and the second a solid bright blue cotton. The latter makes a nice, strong contrast.

Canvas Pouch Blues BB002a

Both colorways have a round bottom made from solid-colored canvas – pale mustard for the green and navy blue for the blue and turquoise bags.

Find them in the Playfully Grownup Home > Carry Me section. And as always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask!

Online Finds: Colorful Calendar for 2018

Arts & Crafts, Bits in Spaaace!, Colors

Time to find a monthly calendar for next year.

Printable Calendar for 2018

This floral calendar is by Ananda at A Piece of Rainbow. Each month has a different bouquet with a bit of space for notes. I think December is already my favorite. Very beautiful!

Thanks for sharing, Ananda!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Discoveries: Geeky Rendering on Blue & White China

Design & Designers, Stunt Double

The Things Could Be Worse mugs by Calamityware are an interesting take on traditional blue and white ceramics:

Calamityware Mugs Things Could Be Worse

Things Could Be Worse mugs by Calamityware.

Robots, pterodactyls, giant animals and hairy humanoids aplenty. LOL! 🙂

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Persuasion

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

The last but certainly not least in our Jane Austen rewatch, Persuasion is a novel of pressures, choices and second chances, posthumously published in 1817. The heroine, 27-year-old Anne Elliot, has never come to terms with her refusal to marry the great love of her life due to the prudent advice of a friend in loco parentis. The he returns to the neighborhood 8 years later…

Jane Austen Rewatch Persuasion

JASNA provides a map for tracking the physical locations of the story:

JASNA Persuasion Locations map-pers-1200

Map of locations in Persuasion. Jane Austen Society of Australia, via JASNA.

Like Mansfield Park, there aren’t terribly many screen versions of Persuasion. We rewatched the 2007 and 1995 movies, although apparently also a miniseries from 1971 is available.

The newer movie (from 2007, screenplay by Simon Burke, directed by Adrian Shergold) stars new-to-me Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot. Rupert Penry-Jones, whom I know from the British spy series MI-5, plays Captain Wentworth. Unfortunately, I find both performances listless and unenergetic, even though the script – bafflingly – has Anne indefatigably running all over the city of Bath after Captain Wentworth at the end of the movie.

Minor performances, for example by Anthony Head (Giles! from Buffy!) as Sir Walter Elliot, are ok. There are some other oddities in the writing, filming and music which diminish my enjoyment of the story, but it looks like they actually went to Bath, which is great.

The 1995 Persuasion, however, is excellent. The screenplay is by Nick Dear, and Roger Mitchell directed Amanda Root as Anne Elliot and Ciarán Hinds as Captain Wentworth. I really like Root’s understated and considerate version of Anne; Hinds works well enough even if a few scenes tend towards hammy.

Although the picture quality is grainy, the soundtrack is nice, and there are subtitles (not a given on older DVDs). The props, locations and costuming are also great. This is my favorite version so far – in an ideal world, of course, we would be due another adaptation.

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.

2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Emma

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Emma (1815) was the fourth and last of Austen’s works to be published during her lifetime. In it we follow the titular character’s growth from a good-intentioned meddler-in-romance to a more mature and self-aware young lady.

Jane Austen Rewatch Emma

Here, again, is a map provided by JASNA for tracking the physical locations of the story:

JASNA Emma Locations map-emma-large

Map of locations in Emma. Jane Austen Society of Australia, via JASNA.

Our rewatch included three versions: two movies and a miniseries. I’ve since discovered that there’s a version transposed to India (Aisha, 2010), which sounds interesting. Clueless I’ve no interest in, and I’ll skip the 1972 miniseries, too.

Extraordinarily, the year 1996 saw two movie releases based on Emma. Both are solid adaptations with decent plot arcs, very good acting, and wonderful locations and sets.

The first is written and directed by Douglas McGrath and stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma Woodhouse and Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley. Occasionally Paltrow delivers some of her lines in an overly whiny manner, but fortunately those are rare. I haven’t seen Northam in anything else, but his Mr. Knightley was quite good – efficient and proper but not as acerbic as Mark Strong’s Mr. Knightley.

A very neat tidbit is to see young Obi-Wan Kenobi Ewan McGregor singing – he has a fabulous voice! One thing I cannot stand in the McGrath movie, though, is Paltrow’s changing hairstyles – it seems like the production might have employed two different hair designers, one of whom wasn’t up to the job.

My favorite, incredibly dry line delivery:

Mr. Knightley [to Emma when they’re practicing archery]: “Try not to shoot my dogs.”

The other 1996 Emma is written by Andrew Davies, directed by Diarmuid Lawrence and features Kate Beckinsale as Emma Woodhouse and Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley. Overall, I’d say the casting is stronger in this version. The otherwise excellent Olivia Williams (elsewhere e.g. in Dollhouse) is a little wooden as Jane Fairfax, but I love the rest of the cast. Bernard Hepton’s Mr. Woodhouse is such a darling!

My favorite speech comes when the self-important Mrs. Elton discusses foppish young men:

Mrs Elton Scourge of Puppies

Mrs. Elton: “Ah! But you must know I can be very severe upon young men. I have a vast dislike of puppies, quite a horror of them. Had he turned out to be a puppy I might have said some very cutting things, you may be sure. I am a scourge of puppies, am I not, Mr. E.?”

My absolute favorite, though, is the Emma miniseries from 2009 (adapted by Sandy Welch, directed by Jim O’Hanlon). The version has several strengths, starting with excellent casting. Romola Garai stars as Emma Woodhouse, and – yay, again a treat for me! – Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley. His is by far the most enjoyable Mr. Knightley performance I’ve seen. Mr. Knightley is often played as rather curt and strict, which I find not just offputting but a mistake. The interpretations of Harriet Smith by Louise Dylan and Miss Bates by Tamsin Greig are also the most enjoyable I’ve seen.

All major characters are introduced at the beginning of episode 1, which helps people new to Austen. Moreover, this version does the epilogue clearly and succinctly, without massive infodumping. In addition, I immensely enjoy the music, the set dressing, costuming and propping, and other visuals.

It’s a thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable Emma. In fact, if the same team were to make other Austen adaptations, I’d go to great lenghts to see them. Finally, let’s face it: the longer form better fits the depth of Austen’s genius, and that’s that.

Enjoy this sneak peek from PBS:

MASTERPIECE Classic’s Emma begins Jan 24, 2010 | A Sneak Preview | PBS

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.

2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Mansfield Park

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Moving on with our grand Jane Austen rewatch. Mansfield Park (1814) was Jane Austen’s third published novel and her first to be conceived and written when she was an adult. The story follows the growth of poor Fanny Price, who is de facto adopted by her wealthy relatives and transported miles away from her family.

Jane Austen Rewatch Mansfield Park

Here is a map provided by JASNA for tracking the physical locations of the story:

JASNA Mansfield Park Locations map-mp-1200

Map of locations in Mansfield Park. Jane Austen Society of Australia, via JASNA.

We only had access to two movie versions: one from 1999 and the other from 2007. I’d also like eventually to see the 1983 miniseries, for I see several familiar names among the cast.

Unfortunately, both adaptations have some issues. The 2007 Mansfield Park (screenplay by Maggie Wadey, directed by Iain B. MacDonald) casts Billie Piper (Rose in Doctor Who) as Fanny Price, and she does a good job. However, I don’t like Blake Ritson, so this Edmund Bertram remains uninteresting to me. There are also some pacing issues and an odd scene or two.

If you like Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter, you might want to check this one out, though, for she’s very good – a believably lively and charming but wily Mary Crawford. The rich but simpleminded Mr. Rushworth is expertly played by Rory Kinnear (who also performed Tanner in the three latest Bond movies).

What I really like, though, are two supporting characters: first, Fanny’s dear brother William is included (which the 1999 movie doesn’t do); second, Jemma Redgrave’s interpretation of Lady Bertram makes it believable that someone would’ve wanted to marry her (whereas the 1999 Lady B. is almost implausibly lethargic).

The older of these two Mansfield Park movies (written and directed by Patricia Rozema) is based not just the novel but also some events gleaned from Austen’s letters. It’s an interesting choice, and had we a dozen or so adaptations I’d probably appreciate it more, but as Mansfield isn’t often filmed I think it creates more missed opportunities than not. Another miss is Fanny Price’s wardrobe – bleah.

This movie is a treat for me in other respects: one of my favorte actors, Jonny Lee Miller, plays Edmund Bertram. He’s more recently – and deservedly – starred as Sherlock Holmes in the series Elementary. Lead actress Frances O’Connor projects Fanny’s vulnerability beautifully. The rest of the cast are great, too. For example, Lindsay Duncan gives an excellent, excellent double performance as both Fanny’s mother Mrs. Price and aunt Lady Bertram (even though I disagree how the character was written), and Hugh Bonneville’s Mr. Rushworth thoroughly demonstrates the actor’s genious and range.

Favorite fleeting moment: Hugh Bonneville’s Mr. Rushworth wiggles his pinky in his ear (presumably) to clean it while walking outdoors with his new fiancée, Miss Bertram. You can see it in this official trailer:

Mansfield Park | Official Trailer (HD) – Frances O’Connor, Jonny Lee Miller | MIRAMAX

How… quaintly… charming (not!) of the character, and a simply brilliant piece of acting!

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.

2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Pride and Prejudice

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Pride and Prejudice (1813) followed Sense and Sensibility to become another commercial and critical success. It was also published anonymously (“by the author of ‘Sense and Sensibility’”). The focus of the story is witty Elizabeth Bennet, one of five young, unmarried Bennet sisters with little economic incentives to entice suitors.

Jane Austen Rewatch PandP

JASNA again provides a handy map for tracking the physical locations of the story:

JASNA Pride and Prejudice Locations map-pp-1466h

Map of locations in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen Society of Australia, via JASNA.

Just like Sense and Sensibility, there are several adaptations. We watched five: the 1995 P&P miniseries, the movie from 2005, modernized tales Lost in Austen and Bride and Prejudice plus the zombie action flick Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

I’m really not interested in most modernizations like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries or Bridget Jones’s Diary simply because P&P isn’t my favorite story. That’s also why I’ve decided to skip the 1980 miniseries. I confess, however, that I’m a little curious of the 1940(!) movie with Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy, but pretty much only for his sake. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen him perform.)

The Pride and Prejudice miniseries from 1995 (adapted by Andrew Davies, directed by Simon Langton) is my go-to version. This iteration stars Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and is well-known in part because of the (in)famous wet shirt scene:

The Lake Scene (Colin Firth Strips Off) – Pride and Prejudice – BBC

I don’t much care for the wet shirt myself. This added scene does, however, add weight to Elizabeth’s thinking that she had essentially walked in on the Darcy family when they expected privacy, and clearly feeling the inappropriateness of it.

This version does have my favorite ever Mr. Bennet, played wonderfully by Benjamin Whitrow. I’ve long dismissed Alison Steadman’s performance as Mrs. Bennet, quite wrongly as it turn out: I happened just recently to see her in a Miss Marple adaptation, and her range blew me away. I clearly need to re-rewatch and pay special attention to her alone!

Besides the acting, the music is lovely and the story flows on smoothly. If there’s something missing, it’s a clearer picture quality and subtitling on the DVD.

My favorite scene: After Wickham and Lydia’s marriage, Elizabeth politely but decisively shuts down another attempt by Mr. Wickham to turn her against Mr. Darcy.

There are many fun and funny details in the Lost in Austen miniseries (2008, adapted by Guy Andrews, directed by Dan Zeff). Unfortunately, I find the lead (Jemima Rooper as Amanda Price) unconvincing and spiritless. The rest of the cast is simply superb, though, and given a lot to play.

Hugh Bonneville excels at delivering Mr. Bennet’s restrained wit, expertly foiled by Alex Kingston’s easily-agitated Mrs. Bennet. Christina Cole (whose Mrs. Elton in the 2009 Emma is perhaps my favorite) does fantastic work as Caroline Bingley, as does Lindsay Duncan as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The latter I’ve long admired for her performances in the 1999 Mansfield Park and Doctor Who special episode “The Waters of Mars”. I like her Lady Catherine surprisingly much; this version is clearly sharp as a tack. Guy Henry delivers a both shoddy and sleazy Mr. Collins, who for some reason has gained three brothers in this version.

My favorite dialogue:

Mr. Bennet [introducing his wife to the Collins brothers]: “[…] and Mr. Cymbal Collins, enlivening a dull Tuesday evening with his amusing trousers.”

Mr. Cymbal Collins: “I trust, madam, you shall come to call me Tinkler.”

Mrs. Bennet: *speechless and flabbergasted*

Mr. Bennet: “Mrs. Bennet will dedicate herself to that end.”

Shriek! Snort! Guffaw!

The only recent movie-length version comes from 2005 (screenplay by Deborah Moggach, directed by Joe Wright). The adaptation has a lot to like: the lively ball scene in the beginning, a stunningly beautiful Jane (Rosamund Pike), a very realistic depiction of a family’s little everyday messes, Mr. and Miss Bingley that actually do look like siblings and sets dressed to perfection, among others. Too bad that Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew Mcfayden) don’t have any spark at all. (And Knightley’s pout is sulky rather than sexy.)

Where this particular P&P fails most is pacing. (Oh, time constraints, the foil of every Austen movie adaptation!) The beginning is slower, but especially towards the end director Wright basically just has to run through the plot.

My favorite scene:

Meryton ball scene in the beginning – it’s wonderful to see how much the people enjoy themselves!

P&P 2005 Movie Scene – Meryton Assembly (The Dance) via JV Rañopa

I’m not a fan of zombie stories in general, but I did want to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (written and directed by Burr Steers) when it first came out in 2016 and again for this rewatch.

I have mixed feelings. The movie does kick ass, and does so splendidly! However, there’s not much more than that there.

Jane Austen Rewatch PPZ

Lily James’s Elizabeth Bennet and Lena Headey’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh are ok, but most of the rest of the cast leaves me lukewarm. This Mr. Collins (Matt Smith of Doctor Who fame) didn’t have much of anything to do or say. The character of Mr. Darcy has never had much of an appeal to me; if I cared for him more, I might actively dislike Sam Riley’s version, although he probably did not have much to say on how the poor character was written. Mr. Bennet, however, is marvelous. His portayals tend always to be rather sarcastic, of course, but Charles Dance’s version takes it to an extreme: he is (to borrow Husband’s apt phrase) dry as the Sahara.

I guess PPZ really is a straightforward action movie with a side of Jane Austen, not a Jane Austen movie with a side of action – and the latter really is what I’d like it to be.

The 2004 Bollywood version, Bride and Prejudice (screenplay by Paul Mayeda Berges, directed by Gurinder Chadha) is a really fun take. The script omits many plot points and even characters – for example, there are only four “Bennet” sisters – but what is included makes a coherent whole. And the dances and colors! Wow!

Jane Austen Rewatch BandP

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is great as Lalita Bakshi (Elizabeth Bennet), but I’m seriously underwhelmed by Martin Henderson as William Darcy. Nitin Ganatra’s interpretation of Mr. Kohli (Mr. Collins), on the other hand, is as magnifient a performance as every other Mr. Collins I’ve seen.

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.