Work Hard, Play Harder

Laura and I have started a new project. We are taking the script of #Santa and turning it into a novel — probably Chick Lit if you need a genre classification. And we decided the story arc won’t be focused on Christmas. It’s the wacky characters that will keep the story going.

Anyway, we spent three days last week figuring out what we wanted to do. We took the script, which is essentially dialogue, thought about where scenes needed to be added, and how we wanted to expand characters. A novel gives us so much room to explore inside characters’ brains.

The challenge is to put in the details that novelization requires. In a movie script you give some broad strokes and the director and his staff make the decisions about what a room looks like or the kinds of clothes a character wears. Now we have to make those decisions and write the descriptions. I actually like this process since when I’m writing I’m watching a movie playing in my head. I just have to write down what I see. And both Laura and I have learned that what’s really important is to get something written. You can tweak, rearrange, or delete later, but getting the ideas down on “paper”, even if you think what you’re writing sucks, is what you have to do.

We made enough progress that we will be able to meet for lunch this week and assign scenes we will each write. Our process is that we then pass them back to one another and overwrite. Because our writing styles are quiet similar, this makes for a fairly seamless product. I don’t think readers can tell who wrote what. When the first draft is completed we’ll start moving things around. Sometimes you just have to read the whole thing to see where the problems are.

At noon on the third day we finished what we had set out to do and decided to play. We went to lunch and then explored consignment shops and antique stores. Laura was ready to buy a pair of love seats for her house and asked the price. “They’re sold,” she was told. She thought they were kidding until two big guys walked in and walked the love seats out of the shop. If we’d been there an hour earlier, they might have been hers.

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We had fun trying on shoes, hats and clothes. It’s the kind of thing our husbands don’t like to do, but was a perfect guilty pleasure for a couple of gals on a ramble after doing some creative work. Don’t you just love this hat.  I’d love to know its backstory. Who the heck wore this and where? Hmmm…that could be the beginning of another novel.

 

 

‘Tis the Season

I grew up with a Norwegian mother (second generation in the US) and a German father (the Schippers had been here longer). Because immigrants back then were intent on assimilating, neither my mother nor my father grew up speaking Norwegian or German. A lost opportunity. I don’t recall any specific ethnic traditions in our household. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t create my own.

One Christmas season my brother, Ross, made a kransekake – a Norwegian wreath cake which consists of eighteen sequentially smaller rings stacked one upon the other. I was impressed so I got the recipe and tried it. Trying to figure out the sizes of those rings was interesting and I don’t have a photo of that first attempt. It was a very wonky tower, but the rings were quite tasty.

A few Christmases later my brother and his wife, Linda, gave me a set of kransekake pans. Now the rings would be exactly the right size. However the ground almond, confectioners sugar and egg white mixture that is the recipe needed tweaking. I was grinding my almonds in my food processor and the dough puffed up too much. However, by that time I had involved my Montana granddaughters in baking a kransekake when we did a Montana Christmas. Those girls are all grown up now, but have requested baking a kransekake when we visit at Christmas this year. It’s become a tradition.

Ross told me he ground his blanched almonds in a coffee grinder. I went on line to YouTube for more instructions, then ordered a coffee grinder on Amazon. I had it (free shipping) in two days. I love Amazon Prime.

Yesterday I was ready. One of my yogi friends, Diane French, came to help. We discovered we needed to start the grinding process in the food processor to make the almonds into smaller pieces. Almonds are bigger than coffee beans! Duh. Then we decided to put the ground almonds through a sieve to make sure all the leftover almond bits were taken out and put through the grinder again. We made the dough and let it rest according to the recipe.

We rolled the dough into ropes the size of a pinkie finger and began filling the rings in the pans.

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The rings are baked at 396 degrees for 12 minutes. We learned that they needed to be cooled completely before we took them out of the non-stick pans.

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Next came the job of stacking the rings. They are quite close in size so there is probably a method, but we eyeballed it. White frosting is put on each ring and the next smaller size is laid on top. The frosting acts as a glue.

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We used white frosting in one of those spray cans. Here is the completed cake. It is a little wonky from one angle, but this is it’s best side. A turntable would have helped. I’ll get cans of red and  green frosting and decorate the cake with holly. It will be even more festive when that is done. Traditionally it might have had Norwegian flags on it or Christmas crackers. This cake is also served at Norwegian weddings.

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I have to say that grinding the almonds in the coffee grinder made a difference. This is the best and prettiest kranskake I’ve made. However, those first couple done with the grand-girls are the ones I’ll really remember and the fact that there is now a Norwegian tradition in our family. For those who are wondering, the kake is served from the bottom ring up. Several bottom rings are removed and each ring is cut into pieces. In this way, the rest of the kake remains in the shape of a Christmas tree.

This holiday treat is going to the Woman’s Club on St. Michaels on Wednesday. Laura Ambler and I are the program for the December meeting. We’ll be talking about how we turned our Christmas memory book, The Santa Diaries, into a produced Christmas play of the same name. ‘Tis the season of memories and making traditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was It Just A Dream?

Update on Romance in the Meadow…

Last Friday I came by the tiny house. Pumpkin sconces had replaced the lights next to the front door and there was a very large, scary spider web on the house. Saturday was Halloween so Sunday morning I got in the car and drove up to take a picture that I could share. The pumpkin sconces were gone and so was the spider web. Damn. That was fast. Does anyone have that photo?

Then yesterday when I went past the tiny house was gone. WHAT?

Later that day a friend sent me this photo. Thanks, Sandi.

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The guy is once again sitting on the fence reading. Maybe it was just a dream.

Designated Driver

This was a post that I started on September 14th. Now that we have a new thing to celebrate – being quarter finalists in the Final Draft Big Break Contest – we’ll have to do it again. Hopefully Laura’s husband can join us.

9/14/14: Laura, my husband and I had dinner last night at Scossa’s in Easton. Her husband was on a flight. We offered to pick Laura up so she could have that last glass of after-dinner grappa. Two glasses of wine is my limit, so I was the designated driver.

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It was a celebration dinner. We had just heard that one of our scripts, Loverly, is being considered by Richard Saperstein. Loverly is about how My Fair Lady made it to Broadway – a story so bizarre we couldn’t have made it up.

We finished the #Santa script, and – most importantly – Laura’s company, East Coast Flight got  a contract award for Domestic Charter Airlift Services which allows them to bid on lots of projects. She’s been working on this for several years, so it was a HUGE accomplishment!

We weren’t always so good about celebrating, but are doing better. We’ve realized that even if we don’t always get to the goal, we need to celebrate the milestones along the way.

 

 

 

Log Lines and Stale Sandwiches

Log lines don’t really have anything to do with stale sandwiches except in my universe. On her way to my house to work, Laura stopped by the local convenience store and got a sandwich and chips for lunch. She booted up the computer she leaves at my house and while we waited, she opened her ham and cheese on white bread. She said she’d really wanted a tuna salad sandwich, but there weren’t any.

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I’d have to be starving before I’d eat tuna salad from a convenience store, but she never seems to get sick. However, today the bread and cheese were dried out and she deconstructed her sandwich as we settled in to work on a log line for our latest Christmas movie script titled #Santa. (She ought to just ask me to make her some tuna salad. It would have vegan mayo in it, but I get terrific tuna in oil at Trader Joes. However, she’d have to bring her own bread ’cause we don’t eat gluten and never have bread in the house. Maybe that’s why she goes to the convenience store.)

It seems like writing log lines should be easy. We’d finished the script so we knew the story, but the process of telling it in a few words was painful. Two and a half hours later we had something we liked: A cynical “reputation manager,” with a roster of crazy celebrities and a staff of social media savants, is arrested and sentenced to community service answering letters to Santa – or go to jail.

We’ll sleep on it and see how it looks in a couple of days.

p.s. It’s now two days later and it still seems pretty good.