Alison Gillmor

  • Catalogue of culture

    IKEA is always looking ahead. In fact, the Swedish furnishing giant is already living in 2015, as you might have noticed if you’re among the 6.5 million Canadians slated to get copies of the new IKEA catalogue dropped into their mailboxes starting this week.  IKEA began as a mail-order business, and its annual catalogue is still its key corporate statement. This compendium of Lack tables and Malm dressers goes beyond mere marketing to become a form of missionary work, spreading the gospel of Scandi-modern design. The 326-page 2015 edition is expected to reach 217 million people in 27 languages. In recent years more copies of the catalogue have been printed than the Bible.
  • Vampires revamped

    The Strain, the new vampire series on FX Canada, is a bit like the swoopy wig of its main character, Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather (played by the usually bald Corey Stoll). Eph's hairpiece, which has become a media talking point, is fake, funny, bizarre. It's also curiously compelling. I can't take my eyes off that crazy hair -- or the fabulously repulsive, ridiculous vampire action swirling around it. Since The Strain's July debut, Guillermo del Toro (along with co-creators Chuck Hogan and Carlton Cuse) has been getting credit for revamping vamps. Forget those defanged existential brooders who've been moping around the pop-culture universe. Del Toro, an acclaimed film director and professional fanboy, has made vampires into monsters again. The Strain's lead leech is less of a romantic Byronic antihero and more of a fast-moving three-metre tapeworm.
  • Angel food takes flight

    First of all, a belated thank you to Bea Rands, Luba Finney and Linda Snider for their recipes for rhubarb relish, which Recipe Swap covered last week. Last month, I sent out a request for angel food cake recipes. I got a terrific response, and I'm starting this week with a recipe from Christie Macdonald, who relies on the chocolate angel food cake from The Cake Bible by baking maven Rosy Levy Beranbaum. (You can find many recipes, and a lot of sound advice, at Beranbaum's website, www.realbakingwithrose.com.) As Christie writes, Beranbaum is known for her obsessive accuracy and detailed directions. (Along with volume measurements, Beranbaum supplies weight measurements, which offer the most accuracy in baking.) And confession time for me: I've never actually made an angel food cake, so the comprehensive recipe was really helpful. It uses a whopping amount of egg whites -- 16! -- but the results go far beyond the store-bought variety of angel food cake.
  • ScarJo finds perfect fit for opaque persona

    Scarlett Johansson is clearly a woman. In fact, going by the lad-magazine headlines, the voluptuous, honey-voiced star could be described as "all woman."  
  • Art film chugs into your living room

    I watched Snowpiercer this week, and I'm conflicted. Not about the movie, which is a singular, stunning, deranged post-apocalyptic dream, but about the way I watched it. Snowpiercer, after doing bang-up business in director Bong Joon-ho's native South Korea, was given a limited North American theatrical opening on June 27, followed up -- only two weeks later -- with a video-on-demand (VOD) release. I paid $7.99 to download the film from iTunes and watch it in my living room.
  • No-churn ice cream gives you all the creamy taste with none of the hassle

    Everyone loves homemade ice cream. But not everyone loves ice cream makers. So what should you do if you want to make your own summer desserts but you don't want to take on a specialized, space-hogging appliance? It's true that many recipes formulated for automatic ice cream makers offer a kind of afterthought alternative for folks who don't have a machine. This is usually a time-consuming, pain-in-the-neck process that involves a lot of repeated freezing and beating, freezing and beating. And the results can be unpredictable, with ice creams and sorbets often ending up as icy, rock-hard blocks.
  • Going ape over motion capture

    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes seems to have ignited a primal feud. On one side, there are calls for Andy Serkis to get an Oscar for his astonishing work as the simian statesman Caesar. On the other side, there's an anxious sense that Serkis's motion-capture-based performance is monkeying around with the threatening possibilities of "post-human" filmmaking. Homo sapiens are undeniably on the run in Dawn's bleak storyline. Human survivors of a global plague are barely hanging on in the ruined grandeur of San Francisco. Meanwhile, in the nearby Muir Woods, intelligent apes are constructing a rising city state. They've mastered the alphabet, architecture and ethics. Some hairy form of classical democracy can't be far off.
  • Subtle lavender scones, Tea Cozy's muffin recipe

    A recent Recipe Swap look at the Tea Cozy's ginger cake drew a huge reader response. Former Winnipegger Michael Gros, who worked at that popular Osborne Village restaurant as a day cook many years ago, offers a recipe for the Tea Cozy's bran muffins. And in response to a request for scone recipes, Joan Honsberger-Siemens sent in a version that adds the subtle flavour and fragrance of lavender. The recipe comes from an increasingly common source for food ideas -- murder mysteries that involve cooking, baking, catering or gardening themes. In this case, the scone recipe comes from A Dilly of a Death, a "herbal mystery" by Susan Wittig Albert.
  • Transforming into confusion

    The Transformers movies, based on a line of Hasbro toys in which mechanical aliens change into cars, may seem like eight-year-old-boy dreams projected onto a big screen. But as the old Transformers' tagline suggests, there's "more than meets the eye" to this box-office-crushing franchise. For critics who bother to apply ideological analysis to the work of director Michael Bay, the Transformers flicks have been viewed as a glorification of militarism, an affirmation of American triumphalism, a celebration of capitalist consumerism and an assertion of masculine power. But could all this cinematic certainty be unravelling? In the series' fourth outing, Transformers: Age of Extinction, serial blower-upper Bay seems beset by confusion, and not just the usual narrative kind. (Just remind us why the cab of an 18-wheeler is inside an old movie theatre. And why nobody seems surprised.) Underneath the constant barrage of exploding metal and glass, there's a sense that something else is falling apart.
  • Winnipeg's food trucks deliver stellar street eats

    In the recent movie Chef, Jon Favreau plays Carl, the star talent at a pricey Los Angeles restaurant. He loses his job but ends up finding his soul when he buys a broken-down food truck. Slinging cheap and cheerful eats from his mobile kitchen, Favreau's Carl joins a list of lovable food-truck-operating movie characters, including Jason Segel in The Five-Year Engagement, Michael Ealy in Think Like a Man and Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford in What To Expect When You're Expecting. Hollywood uses food trucks as shorthand for authenticity and down-to-earth values, for following your passion and grounding your life in something meaningful.
  • Bottom line wipes out weirdness

    Dov Charney, the founder of fashion retailer American Apparel, is out. His 10-year up-and-down saga suggests sex sells. Until it doesn't. The 45-year-old Canadian-born Charney was notorious for his pants-optional management style and knowingly pervy ad campaigns. He was considered "eccentric," "creative," "controversial" -- as long as he was making money. But as AA was beset by tanking shares and rising debt, that perception started to shift. On June 18, the AA board voted to terminate Charney "with cause," citing unspecified misconduct.
  • The joke could soon be on ClickHole

    The men and women at the Onion are a funny gang. They're going to need all the funny they can get for ClickHole, a new standalone project that satirizes viral media. With the tagline, "Because all content deserves to go viral," this spoof of "the online social experience" has already grabbed a lot of attention. But does ClickHole actually work? As they say on the Internet, The Answer May Surprise You.
  • Sometimes, we just need a good cry

    As I sat watching The Fault in Our Stars, in a state of quiet, constant sniffling that occasionally gave way to gusts of outright weeping, I had to ask myself: Why do we go to the movies to cry? Of course, most of the time we don't go to the movies to cry. Judging by box-office stats, we go for uncomplicated entertainment. We don't go to watch bad things happen to good people, which we can see easily enough in real life. We're looking for Hollywood endings, as we call them, where everything wraps up nicely, neatly and happily. Very happily.
  • No dozing under Jolie's spell

    Maleficent is a muddled, murky, fatally mediocre movie. But as the titular villainess/heroine/misunderstood baby-curser in this revisionist Sleeping Beauty tale, Angelina Jolie casts an unbreakable spell. I couldn't take my eyes off her. I'm not the only one. In its opening weekend, Maleficent pulled in $70 million at the North American box office, along with $100 million overseas. This is a triumph of female star power and a much-needed corrective to the entrenched Hollywood belief that women can't open movies.
  • Refresher course: How to make the perfect iced tea

    Iced tea is a perfect summer refresher. But the canned stuff you pick up at the supermarket is packed with sugar, and the fancy kind you buy at the upscale coffee shop is ridiculously expensive. Making your own iced tea allows you to consume a lot less sugar and spend a lot less money. It also means you can experiment with all sorts of subtle and varied flavours. It's easy to freestyle with the wide array of teas available, from old-school orange pekoe to delicate tisanes. You can add fruit infusions or accent with fresh herbs such as lavender or mint.
  • Sharing your shelfie

    It's no surprise that by the time the Oxford Dictionaries declared "selfie" the 2013 word of the year, the kids had already moved on. The new selfie seems to be the shelfie, which involves images of exquisitely curated objects. Forget about using social media to show the world your pouting duckface or your raised eyebrow: You can now express yourself through your collection of ironic Victorian taxidermy.
  • Where office marriages burn on

    For most of Mad Men's seventh season, Don and Peggy have been at odds with each other. As a professional critic-type person, I should have been able to read that as dramatic tension, but somehow I took it personally. It felt more like listening to mommy and daddy fight. My TV trauma was probably rooted in the fact that Don and Peggy are usually the only functional couple in sight. Thankfully, the pair reconciled last week, in what is widely seen as the strongest episode of the year. It's impossible to watch Mad Men without a down-deep taste for misery, but even the most masochistic viewer needs a little respite. Finally, Peggy and Don were working overtime again, firing off ideas and slow-dancing to Frank Sinatra. I hate to sound like their boss Lou, a man who can make cardigans look sinister, but all I can say is, "It's nice to see family happiness again."
  • Mediterranean medleys

    Last month, Kathleen Hughes was looking for a recipe for a dish called gypsy pear soup, which used to be served at the Bistro Bohemia. We managed to hunt down and adapt a recipe for this dish, which traces back to the Roma of northern Spain. Terri Cherniack was hoping someone might have a recipe for the vegetarian lentil soup served at Baraka Pita Bakery and Mediterranean Deli on Main Street, or maybe for a version that is just as good. Gloria Dueck sent in a recipe for Egyptian lentil soup that she got from her friend Minel in Cairo. With summer finally coming, we're looking for potato salad recipes that use a vinaigrette rather than a mayo-based dressing (sometimes called French potato salad). If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request, or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to recipeswap@freepress.mb.ca, fax it to 204-697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.
  • She is clone, hear her roar

    Orphan Black, the sneaky-smart Canadian sci-fi series, debuted fairly quietly last March as "that show about clones." Then it started getting buzz as "the hottest new show you're not watching." Now that the second season is underway, with added media hype and big North American and British audiences, Orphan Black has stealthily developed into "the most subversively feminist show on television."
  • Playmobil -- a mother's best friend

    Two big events are overlapping this week, at least in my life. This Sunday is Mother's Day. And this year marks the 40th anniversary of Playmobil. My absolute favourite children's toy, it made motherhood even more fun. I didn't get to grow up with Playmobil, but I made up for that later. If either of my kids unwisely complained that he or she was bored, that child would immediately be offered Playmobil as an antidote. This was partly because boredom was frowned upon in our household, but it was mostly because I wanted an excuse to get out the Playmobil bin and get down on the floor.
  • It takes some time, but you can play ketchup with Heinz

    I recently went on a homemade condiment kick, writing a food feature about DIY horseradish and mustard. I closed by saying I was thinking about trying homemade ketchup. Thanks to kind reader Christie Macdonald, who picked up on my request and sent in a ketchup-making video from Chef John, who offers very funny and helpful cooking videos at his website foodwishes.blogspot.com. (I love Chef John.) I've adapted the recipe below from his video method and printed ingredients. I've also included a bit of a cheat recipe -- and we all need a few cheats -- that starts with store-bought ketchup but spices things up for a semi-customized condiment. And since grilling season has finally -- finally! -- started, I'd love to get some recipes for your best-ever barbecue sauce.
  • Can't we just wish them well?

    According to Miss Manners, a rather stern arbiter of correct behaviour, one does not congratulate a bride-to-be, because that could suggest that she is to be applauded for somehow managing to snag a husband. You congratulate the bridegroom, states Miss Manners, while offering the bride your best wishes. If the headlines surrounding the recently announced engagement of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin are anything to go by, members of the tabloid press are a very rude bunch. Alamuddin, a Beirut-born, London-based lawyer, is clearly being congratulated for having trapped, snared, or otherwise lured the famously single Clooney into lifetime captivity. The Daily Mail published a picture of Alamuddin alongside this rather ungallant header: "Look that says 'I've hooked the man who hates commitment.' Glamorous British barrister is the woman to finally tame George Clooney."
  • Ads toy with women's emotions

    Dove recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of an upbeat, all-girls-together advertising campaign that aims to celebrate real beauty. Or as Dove puts it, Real Beauty, which is sort of like the trademarked version of being Size 10 and looking a little tired. The message is supposed to be that Dove loves real women. Except that recent videos suggest that Dove also loves tricking real women. And maybe making them cry. You know that moment when a woman brings her hands up to her mouth and weeps happy-sad tears? Dove seems to live for that moment.
  • Concocting your own condiments

    It all started with the horseradish root sitting in my refrigerator, looking like a big dinosaur bone. I'd used a small piece of it the week before, and now I had the rest of this giant, rough, primordial plant just sitting and lurking in my fridge, hogging my crisper and acting as a reproachful reminder of food waste. So I did the only thing you can do with that much horseradish root: I decided to make homemade prepared horseradish.
  • Two pastries with sweetness, crumble of shortbread

    Last month, a reader named Annette was looking for a recipe to replicate the crust used in the strawberry pie at My Place Pie Place, a West End restaurant on Portage Avenue that is now closed. She loved its shortbread-like taste and texture. While we don't have that exact recipe, we do have two recipes for pie crusts that are buttery, sweet and a little crumbly, like shortbread. I adapted a recipe from The Smitten Kitchen for the first version. Thanks to Linda Snider from Glenboro for the second. If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request, or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to recipeswap@freepress.mb.ca, fax it to 697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave. Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.

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