Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Inspiration Everywhere

I keep up with reading the blog of Dean Wesley Smith. He writes about writing, and about the business of writing. I try my best to learn by absorbing.

One of the things that he emphasizes is that you can apply lessons from other areas to writing. Specifically, he often cites NBC's The Voice as a way for writers to learn. Now, I haven't watched The Voice, because my husband can't stand singing shows. (He doesn't like musicals either. I blame whatever teacher told him when he was young that he couldn't sing.) But I do try to keep an eye out for lessons elsewhere.

And, the other day, I found an interview with a director and actress about a movie that was filmed in one take. No gimmicks, no tricks - 138 minutes in a single take.

Of course they practiced, rehearsed, blocked and planned. But the final cut is the uncut length of a single run through. The director, Sebastian Schipper, had this to say:
I think one of the least important things you need for making a film whether you’re an an actor or director is your brain. One of the most important things is your intuition and to get into the flow and really understand. That’s what makes a film radiate. Your brain can get in the way so that you’re controlling everything and eliminate mistakes, so that all of a sudden your job as a director is to always make everything clean.
And when I read that paragraph, I thought of Dean. This director, this creator, in my mind, rephrased one of Dean's frequent admonishments to writers about not letting critical voice take over your writing.

Beyond that, the idea of filming in one continuous take is akin, though not exactly similar, to writing into the dark. Even though they practiced this film, they didn't rewrite the final take. Its final form was defined as it was created. No editing. No oversight committee.

There is inspiration everywhere, if you just take the time to notice.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

If You Want Something Done...

You should probably do it yourself.

That's what I decided after my disastrous hunt for strawberry sorbet last week. I've never made sorbet before, which is actually surprising considering how much I love eating it. Fruit as a snack was almost a vice for me in high school. Sure, I ate candy bars, but I'd feel guilty about it afterwards. But a quart of strawberries? A pint of blueberries? I could make them disappear and only suffer a mild stomach ache from the quantity of fiber I'd ingested.

I searched the internet for strawberry sorbet recipes and found that the process was extremely simple. Take strawberries, puree, add sugar, freeze.

Most of the recipes did recommend using an ice cream maker to get the frozen texture just right, but I don't have one and didn't want to invest. An alternate solution was to put the frozen chunks back in the blender, and that's what I planned on doing.

On Saturday, my husband and I went to the farm stand on Broadway near the Shopko. I acquired a quart of strawberries. Their sweet scent teased me on the car ride home. Some of the recipes advocated for freezing the strawberries before pureeing them, but I wasn't that patient. I removed the green tops and dumped them into the Cuisinart.

Berries became puree in short order. I added half a cup of sugar and blended again. Then, just because I'd read it on several recipes, I added a splash of lemon juice and a bit of salt. One more blend and then I poured the heavenly smelling mixture into a glass baking dish. Into the freezer and the waiting game began.

Every hour or so, I scraped down the sides and stirred the mixture that became steadily more solid as time wore on. To be honest, I could probably have eaten it right out of the blender. Even a mere three hours gave a nice soft serve type texture. But I held out.

After five hours, I deemed it fit to eat and served out portions to myself and my husband. The rest was place in a plastic container for later consumption.

And I find that I must thank Haagen Dasz for discontinuing their strawberry sorbet. Mine is far superior.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Cruelty of the Internet, or All I Wanted Was a Strawberry Sorbet

I remember the flavor of Haagen-Dazs strawberry sorbet with the kind of fondness that can only be attached to a food item that you haven't eaten for a long time. Every time we go to the grocery store, I look for it, check and see if maybe this time it's in stock. When it isn't, I put that down the our store. No store has the capacity for carrying everything after all.

So when we occasionally go to some other place, to pick up prescriptions or get some item that we can't get at our regular store, I check the ice cream aisle for the elusive strawberry sorbet. And when it isn't there, I blame the region. Perhaps, here in Boise, that flavor just isn't popular. Something about the climate or the region or some obscure buying habits metric that excludes the strawberry sorbet from being stocked.

I really wanted some yesterday for my birthday, but since my husband and I went out for sushi we only checked one grocery store before calling it a night. But today, the craving became irresistible. I wanted it.

I went out on my bicycle to the one place I figured would definitely carry it: Whole Foods. Whole Foods hasn't been in Boise long, but it was definitely a go-to place for me in Santa Fe when it came to specialty foods.

But, it turns out, there wasn't any Haagen-Dazs at all at Whole Foods. I did find these things called sorbet pops, and they came in strawberry, but the only flavor in stock was raspberry. I would have bought them, on the off chance that they might taste like I remember. But they were not and I did not.

I checked Walgreens. I checked Albertsons. And then I checked my phone. This is where it got painful.

The mobile site gave me this horrible, horrible tease:

There - right there - the strawberry sorbet of my dreams! 

But when you click on that link, it leads you to the main sorbet page, which lists only four flavors: Mango, Orchard Peach, Zesty Lemon and Raspberry. 

I was torn between crying and emulating this video: 

All I wanted was a strawberry sorbet!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Worth of Birdseed

One of the expenses that my husband and I occasionally argue about is bird seed. He, at times, buys more bird seed than I think is reasonable. And at those times, I usually can convince him to cut back.

But I never convince him, nor do I want to convince him, to cut it out completely.

We live in a studio apartment. Yes, it has high ceilings, and that's nice, but it is a single room plus a bathroom. It is a small space for two people to live, though not as small as the tents we use for backpacking. The front door looks out onto a concrete patio with other doors and metal stairs leading up to the second floor apartments that ring when someone runs up them.

I'm always a little amazed that this place rates a back door, but it does. We have one outside wall, two windows and a windowed door leading to a small concrete patio, sheltered overhead by a balcony, looking out on a grass ditch and a white fence that separates the apartment property from the sidewalk and the road. Across the street is a parking lot, more apartment complexes, some offices and a small creek. There's a park with a pond beyond that creek, and, across another street is the Boise River.

All that water makes for good homes for ducks and geese. And it turns out that while I grew up giving stale bread to ducks, they really like birdseed. And when they find a reliable source of birdseed, word spreads, quacks perhaps. And they come.

And they keep coming.

They quack and squeak and grumble. They peck each other for access to food. They are nearly impossible to count, because they move and flow, sometimes jumping or flapping their wings to reposition themselves. They are fascinating and wild.

In a way, these ducks are the closest we have to pets. We feed them and they provide us with entertainment. A glimpse at the wild life we like to immerse ourselves in when we backpack. A reminder of what we're missing when we're at home. And a mystery when, as one, they fly off without warning.