Best Picture Baking Project: Cavalcade


It was finally cool enough this past weekend to turn on the oven without wanting to die, so I took that opportunity to dive back in to my list of Best Pictures. Next on my list was Cavalcade, which won in 1932/33. It’s about an English family living through the first decades of the twentieth century. So I made a “Turn of the Century” Devil’s Food cake, which was the first tiered cake I’ve ever made, and I think it turned out pretty well. But first, the movie:

Had I seen this one before?

Nope. I hadn’t heard of it.

Top 3 observations on this viewing?

  1. I was explaining to my dad last night, that I chose to go through these movies alphabetically because I didn’t want to “get stuck in the ’30s,” because really old movies can be great, but they are often interesting messes. People were still trying to figure out what movies were and how they worked. This definitely falls into that category. You can tell it was a play, and the actors are stage actors trying to figure out what film acting is supposed to look like. In the case of the lead actress, Diana Wynward, you can see her learn how not to stare into middle distance throughout the film.


2. This is basically the original Downton Abbey (or Upstairs, Downstairs, or Titanic, etc.). Which makes it both fun and a little predictable plot wise. It’s obviously not this movie’s fault that we know what happens to the boy who swears to his sweetheart that the war is almost over, but it does get in the way of enjoying this as a modern viewer.

3. There were a few remarkably modern touches though. Especially the treatment of Fanny, the servants’ child who makes a name for herself as a dancer/jazz singer. You think she’s going to be the tragically ruined lower class girl, but she’s actually a practical woman who can take care of herself. And she gets to sing the most Noel Coward song ever:

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

My personal Oscar would go to 42nd Street,  I see why the Academy would see Cavalcade as more ambitious at the time.

Bechdel Test Pass?

Yes! There are at least 5 women I can think of with names (though “Cook” shouldn’t really count I suppose.) And they often talk to each other. Many of their conversations concern men, but there’s a couple of moments between the central wife/mother character Jane and her best friend Margaret about going out an enjoying life without men around. Including trips to the zoo.


They also talk a lot about how much they love Queen Victoria.

Turn of the Century Minted Devil’s Food Layer Cake

Ingredients for Cake

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • a couple handfuls of semisweet chocolate chips

Ingredients for Icing 

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate broken up
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • fresh mint leaves for garnish


  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Butter 2 9 in cake pans and line them with parchment paper, also buttered and floured
  • Bring water to simmer in a sauce pan
  • Place cocoa in a small bowl
  • Gradually whisk in hot water
  • Whisk in buttermilk and peppermint
  • In another bowl mix flower and baking powder
  • Using an electric mixer [I got to use my mom’s KitchenAid which is a wonder machine] beat the butter until it is fluffy
  • Gradually add the brown sugar until it’s light
  • Add eggs, beating well after each one
  • Add dry ingredients and cocoa-buttermilk mixture in 2 batches each beating until just combined
  • Divide batter between two cake pans
  • Sprinkle chocolate chips over each pan
  • Bake until tester comes out with moist crumbs (about 20-30 min)
  • Cool cakes in pans on racks for 15 min
  • Run knife around outside of cakes to loosen
  • Turn out cakes onto racks
  • Let cakes cool completely while preparing the icing
  • Bring whipping cream and corn syrup to a simmer in a large saucepan
  • Turn heat to low
  • Add chocolate
  • Stir until smooth and melted
  • Add peppermint extract and remove from heat
  • Let cool completely and then place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours
  • Remove icing from fridge
  • Place one cake layer on platter
  • Spread icing over bottom layer then place other tier on top
  • Spread remaining icing over top and around sides of cake
  • Garnish with mint leaves



Back to School…I mean…Back to Blogging

I’m not going to start yet another post with an apology for the gaps in updating. I clearly needed a break from blogging so I took one. (I’ve been doing this since February of 2012!) But this past weekend I’ve been itching to get back to some of my on-going series. (Stay tuned for a new Best Picture recipe once it has cooled down enough for me to turn on the oven.) For today though, I’m going to ease back in with some music.  Here’s a list that goes back a few months (the page in my notebook it started on is opposite my notes on Sing Street) so I guess this is a collection of songs that stuck with me throughout the spring and summer, just in time to welcome fall.

Ring Them Bells – Joe Cocker

I had actually written down the Bob Dylan original of this, but while I was looking for the original, I found this Joe Cocker version and, you may remember how I feel about Joe. (Though this video is a little cheesy for my tastes, I just love his voice so much…)


Oh What a World – Rufus Wainwright 

To Find You – Sing Street 

Portugal – Walk The Moon 

Freedom – Wham! 

Thank TBTL for this one. We all remember Freedom ’90, at least you do if you read this blog, but this earlier song is great to. And the intro to this video is an interesting time capsule.

Love Yourself – Justin Beiber 

I hate how much I love this song.

Lower Your Expectations – Bo Burnham 

I watched this special awhile ago and frankly don’t really remember much of it, but this song is pretty great.

Gagarin – Public Service Broadcasting 

My fellow interns at the Tenement Museum and I went to see these guys live on the USS Intrepid this summer, and I totally fell in love with them.


Plus Hillary and I got to meet one (and his mum) and we were totally smooth about it…

Everybody Knows – Dixie Chicks 

Weekly Adventure: An American in Paris


My friend and fellow intern Hillary won the An American in Paris ticket lottery yesterday, and I was lucky enough to be brought me along. We got cheap tickets in the second row, which means we were up close and personal with the dancers – and that’s what really matters, because though I love a Gershwin song and they manged to craft a cohesive and at times moving story out of the muddle of a film. But just like in the movie, the star here is Chris WheeldonChris Wheeldon‘s choreography (he also directed). And it is danced brilliantly by Leanne Cope as Lise and Garen Scribner stepping into Gene Kelly’s part. Which, honestly must be one of the most daunting things as a dancer, but he has Kelly’s charm & ease (and athletic ability) – not to mention he was not hard to look at from the second row.


Speaking of beauty, the costumes and sets (both by Bob Crowley) were gorgeous, which makes sense given the importance of design to the plot.


The supporting cast was also great, including Max Von Essen (above) and Brandon Uranowitz as Adam the jazz pianist/composer whose role is greatly expanded from the film. He sings “But Not For Me,” which is (because of Four Weddings and a Funeral) one of my all time favorite songs and he belted it out perfectly.


It can feel weird to blog about things like musicals while the world is in such awful turmoil, but I’m not sure what I have to offer the important conversation our country needs to have about racism and violence and hatred. But, this show tries to make the argument for bringing more beauty into the world in the face of destruction, and that resonated for me last night. So maybe that’s what I’ve got…

Oops, I’ve Been Bad at Blogging Lately…

I know I already said in my last post that I needed to readjust to working and blogging, but I clearly haven’t actually tried to do that. I have however written “blog post: I’m the worst at blogging” into my planner many times over the past few weeks and then squiggled it out the next day after it had failed to shame me into actually updating my blog.

At this point, once again, I’ve had too many adventures to do any of them justice in one post. (Including winning the Fun Home lottery – which I really should have written about, because that show is amazing and I feel bad that I let too much time pass and didn’t get my reactions in writing. Short version: Michael Cerveris is fantastic. As is Judy Kuhn. And the whole time I was either laughing hysterically or sobbing.)

Anyway, here are a bunch of pictures with minimal commentary:


Mini-mermaid at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade


Lindy West and Hari Kondabolu at the Strand


My brother at our family lake cottage


Prospect Park is pretty


House of Balenciaga Evening Dress, part of the ManusXMachina exhibit at the Met’s Costume Institute


Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park



4th of July with Hanna in Queens (we did not coordinate outfits I promise) 


Our view was actually pretty good…


But it was even prettier from the park

I’m going to really try to be better guys…

Award Show Round Up: Tonys 2016

As long time readers know, the Tony Awards are very important to me, as they combine two of my main loves: theater and award shows. Theater, musical theater in particular, is almost therapeutically important to me. So, though a night of celebration may have been tough for a lot of people in shock and mourning about the horrific events in Orlando this weekend, I (and a lot of other people on Twitter), really needed a night of connecting to the amazingly creative, positive, and loving part of human nature. OK, slightly preachy preamble over. Here are my highlights (I tried to keep it to 5, so I have 9):

James Corden was a delightful host, and you could tell he’s just a big theater nerd like the rest of us:

I really love the “Rose’s Turn” breakdown. I have a weird soft spot for that song…

All of my favorite winners were from Hamilton, of course. But I mean…




(One time, he favorited two of my Tweets in one day. This was months ago, I still buzz a bit when I think about it.)

And of course, Lin, summing everything up:

And on that note, Frank Langella’s speech was pretty amazing too:

Also, non-Hamilton shows I want to see now include, Waitress:

and The Color Purple:

James Corden’s best bit of the night brought in one of my other pop culture loves, Law & Order

And, while I loved the opportunity to see “The Battle of Yorktown” play out, my favorite performance of the night was saved for last, “The Schuyler Sisters” in street clothes:

I love how they knew they would win, so they just said, stay on stage at the end and sing.

There were also pretty dresses:


Adrienne Warren in Alberta Ferretti


Heather Headley in Badgley Mischka


Saorise Ronan in Stella McCartney


Michelle Williams in Louis Vuitton


Sara Bareilles in my new dream wedding dress designed by Gomez-Garcia


Lupita Nyong’o in Boss




Weekly Adventures: First Week in NYC

I meant to write like 3 separate posts this week, but it’s been 2 years since I’ve worked 9-5 and remembered to blog. Most nights by the time I’m home I have the energy to lie down in front of my fan and watch clips of John Oliver (and The Bachelorette – and my British soaps). But that’s because I’ve been having so much fun exploring the city. I’ve been visiting New York since I was in middle school, but in the past few years I haven’t been here as much and I’ve never been here for longer than a couple of days at a time before. So, I took advantage of that full force in my first week. (And caught up with a couple of my favorite people who are here now too!)

Highlights include:

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Catching the final day of the Poetry Project’s Beats and Beyond poetry festival, including a reading from Michael McClure, who was one of the other poets to read the night that Allen Ginsberg first read Howl.


It was pretty awesome.

On Friday my fellow Tenement Museum summer interns used our free entry to museums to visit the Whitney. Their new building is beautiful, and right now they have a great exhibit of portraits from their permanent collection spanning two floors. It includes traditional painted portraits and street photography (my favorite), and more experimental pieces, like this one:


Called Standing Julian, by Urs Fischer, this piece is actually a gigantic candle, that burns all day (it’s extinguished at night), and allowed to melt down.


There was also a exhibit dedicated to Stuart Davis , whom I had never heard of before (because my art history knowledge is completely selective), but I really loved. Especially his use of color.



Super Table – Stuart Davis (1924)

Afterwards we got tacos at Chelsea Market and walked the Highline, which was both super touristy and very pretty.

For my other main adventure of the week, I went with Hanna and a few of her Princeton friends to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, which was the best. Although, we missed the peak flowering season for a lot of the sections, the Rockefeller Rose Garden was spectacular:




You can see a lot more pictures I took at my flower-centric Instagram @Itaketoomanypicsofflowers

Then on the way home, I happened upon the Hare Krishna Festival in Washington Square Park, which was so vibrant it was overwhelming.


Also, I’ve lost the Hamilton lottery a bunch of times.

An Adventure Filled Month

I just realized that it’s been a month since my last post! And what a month it has been: I graduated from UT, drove across the country in a minivan with my parents…and all of my furniture, read a lot of books hanging out at both my parents’ house in New Haven and our lake cottage in the (fictional sounding I know, but very charming) village of Higganum. (Hilariously, spell check wants me to change that to Michigan.) As usual when I have a crazy long hiatus, I’m not going to do a full play by play of my May. Instead…photos:


Going away party in ATX. One last round of probably too drunk for photos photo shoots at our hidden wine bar on Rainey.


Feeling official right before convocation with my parents (and the couple in the background who is in every single one of our pictures.) (And yes, I know I look like my mom.)


Post ceremony we met the Cassetta women to watch Joe (on the right here) and his crazy good blues band Matthew Robinson and the Jelly Kings at Antone’s


Day after graduation, rolling out, with tons of extra space

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This country is pretty I guess (I think this was Virginia, but honestly it all sort of runs together in my brain)


Words of wisdom from Amy Poehler


Connecticut is particularly pretty (but I may be a bit biased)


Salt always looks upset in pictures I take of him. But, he likes me, I swear


Parental planning session at the lake




More back porch reading


Oh, yeah…I live in New York now

Thing I Love: Sing Street


Full disclosure to start, Irish director John Carney‘s previous musicals (especially Oncebut also the underrated Begin Again) are in my personal pantheon of pop culture that I love so much I find it hard to write about. (Also in there? Say Anything, Our TownTwin Peaks“, and George Michael.) So, when I first heard about Sing Streethis new one about a group of Irish teenagers starting a New Wave band to escape the dreariness of being at a Christian Brothers school in Dublin in 1985, I bought my ticket at Alamo before even watching the trailer.

And, while it doesn’t have the star power of Begin Again or or the (heart wrenching) emotional realism of Once. It has the soul I’ve come to expect from Carney, and it taps into the joy (and confusion) of being a teenager with a dream, when you’re still too young to know any better. It reminded me a lot of The Commitments  with a genre swap. (One of the original Committmentettes – Maria Doyle Kennedy – plays the main boy Conor’s (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) mom!)

What I love about this (beyond the fact that its an Irish musical, which means I’m pretty much automatically all in), is the ways that is comes close to cliches and then surpasses them. Like Jack Reynor as the older brother/musical sage, he could have been simply goofy comic relief, but Reynor plays him with so much sadness just under the surface that he broke my heart.


And Raphina (Lucy Boynton) – the model that inspires not just the music but the band itself – could just be a manic pixie dream girl, but Carney wrote her as a real human, who is just as lost and confused as the other kids.


Also, thank you casting people, this is what teenagers look like.

And the songs are great, but they sound like something kids (especially insightful kids I’ll grant), would actually write:

Look, this movie just made me, really happy (even though it is steeped in that quintessentially Irish theme of leaving and being left behind.) And like Carney’s previous movies, really made me wish I was a musician. Because I love the montages of them writing songs (a classic Carney trope at this point) and the grin on bassist Eamon’s (Mark McKenna) face when Conor comes to the door and asks him if he wants to write a song is the most irresistible thing I’ve seen in a while. (The answer is, “Always.”)


A Mixed Bag of Music

I usually at least try to manufacture a theme to tie together these music posts. But, looking down at the list I’ve been building in my notebook over the last month or so, there’s just nothing that all these songs have in common. Which may say a lot about my state of mind right now (I’ll be done with grad school in under a month, and less than a month after that I’ll be moving up to New York City!)

Yeah, I slipped the biggest update I’ve had in awhile into parentheses…it still doesn’t quite feel real yet, but I promise I’ll write an actual post about all that stuff at some point. But for now…music, enjoy the eclectic mix:

This Is How It Starts – Tacoma Narrows

These guys followed me on Twitter awhile back, and I was flattered so I followed them back, and I’m glad I did, because they are awesome. (Though hard to Google.)

Basket Case – Sara Bareilles

The Right Profile– The Clash

You can thank You Must Remember This for this one. It’s a good song, but mostly, it’s an excuse to Google Image Search Montgomery Clift again…


Not that I need one…

Left Hand Kisses – Andrew Bird feat. Fiona Apple 

His new album is pretty great. Groundbreaking criticism, I know, but he’s a genius there isn’t much to say beyond that.

Snake Eyes– The Milk Carton Kids

I don’t remember if I shared this video of these guys making Marcus Mumford cry after I went to their show in December, but it’s worth sharing again even if I did.

Bread & Roses – Joan Baez & Mimi Farina 

Speaking of crying…

Marilyn Monroe– Nicki Minaj

(Told you this was a mixed bag…and this is another YMRT find.

Dairy Queen– Pwr Bttm

I wish I could say I was cool enough to have discovered these guys at SXSW, but actually I first heard them in the credits of an episode of The Outs and then went down a YouTube rabbit hole and fell in love. They are delightfully strange.

The Schuyler Sisters – the cast of Hamilton 

Because, let’s be real, I’ve been listening to this album near constantly for like 9 months. And pretty soon I’ll be waiting in lotto lines again!

We Shall Overcome – everyone at Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Concert 

I went down a real Pete Seeger YouTube rabbit hole a couple of Saturday’s ago. It gave me a much needed dose of optimism about this country. I highly recommend it.

Thing I Love: You Must Remember This


It’s been awhile since I wrote about a podcast, though I have many that have become ‘must-listen,’ over the past few years (mostly anything in the “Filmspotting family of podcasts” & Serial). But I haven’t fallen in love with one as quickly and completely as I have with You Must Remember This,  hosted by Karina Longworth, in a long time (maybe only TBTL has captured my attention so completely.)

Described as a work of creative non-fiction (a term I like, but always makes me laugh because I can imagine  my Dad rolling his eyes even as I type). YMRT covers “the secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood’s first century.” Which means it was basically created for me. But, I don’t think you have to be a film nerd or fangirl/boy to get into this show. Much like Anne Helen Petersen’s Scandals of Classic Hollywood it is also a fascinating deep dive into American cultural history. (Petersen guests on at least one episode of YMRT.)

Although it’s mostly a one woman show. (Marlon Brando’s archivist – dream job by the way – is the only other interview guest I can think of.) But there’s still a ton of variety. The topics covered are wide ranging both in terms of era – within the first 20 episodes she covered silent era ‘vamp’ Theda Bara and 1990s era Isabella Rosselini – and in terms of theme. Emphasis is (obviously) placed on the control exerrted by the sudio system (and the industry that followed its demise), but everything from gender to Communism to paparazzi to 1960s drug culture comes up. Each episode or series (the current one following the McCarthy-era Blacklist) has a titular subject, but you can never tell from that where it’s going to go. (Just listen to the episode “Liz❤ Monty” to prove my point and fall in love with Montgomery Clift.)


Kath❤ Monty as well

Longworth has a distinctive rhythm that I find myself falling into. It’s almost lulling at times, but in a comforting rather than sleep inducing way. I feel like I’m in good hands with her, I mean how else would I have gotten through the 11 episode series on Charles Manson’s Hollywood – chilling but fascinating – though it did make me hate Dennis Hopper.

Go listen!