Learning About Lapland

Image source: Orange Smile

The first time I posted about Lapland was when my daughter Morgan contributed animation to a very cool six-and-a-half-minute video. Available on Vimeo, “Santa is a Psychedelic Mushroom” explores Laplandic folklore surrounding the origin of Santa.

Another daughter, who is currently studying abroad, spent the weekend in Lapland. She flew from Madrid to Helsinki and from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, with the goal of seeing the Northern Lights. She and her friends crossed into the Arctic Circle by riding on a giant sled pulled by a snowmobile! Fun!

Cool Lapland Facts:

  • Arctic Circle “The Arctic Circle is a circle of latitude that runs 66°33′45.9″ north of the Equator. It marks the southernmost latitude where the sun can stay continuously below or above the horizon for 24 hours–these phenomena are known as the Midnight Sun in the summer and the Polar Night (“Kaamos”) in the winter.” https://www.visitrovaniemi.fi/love/arctic-circle/
  • Midnight Sun “Because almost all of Lapland lies above the Arctic Circle, summer means that the sun (or more accurately daylight) doesn’t go away for between two and four months, depending on how north you venture. In northernmost Finland, the sun just circles in the sky all day and all night. Farther south, the sun may dip behind the fells or trees, but the sky remains bright.” https://www.lapland.fi/visit/only-in-lapland/land-of-the-midnight-sun/

  • Polar Night “Polar night happens only in the far north and south, and only during the magnificent Arctic winter. Sometime around late November, the northernmost reaches of Lapland get their first taste of polar night when the sun struggles more and more every day to rise. Until one day it doesn’t. Instead, the horizon simply glows for a few hours at midday. Virtually all of Lapland sees polar night by the solstice, December 21. As the snow piles up, January and February offer stunning polar night and polar twilight vistas, as the blank white landscape reflects the deep warm colors of midday. In late January, the sun finally returns for a few minutes above the northern border, marking the end of true polar night in Lapland.” https://www.lapland.fi/visit/only-in-lapland/polar-night-colors-magical-time/

Unfortunately, there was too much cloud cover so my daughter didn’t see the Northern Lights. Maybe another time. And maybe I can come!

Hon, have you seen the Northern Lights? Where did you travel?

Traveling to see the Northern Lights on a giant sled pulled by a snowmobile.

Campfire in the Arctic Circle.

Dogs Bugging Out

Lucy wonders what I'm holding.
Lucy thinks, what is Mommy holding?

Lucy says, "How does it smell?"
Lucy thinks, how does it smell?

“When are the cicadas coming out?” I wondered.

“I can’t wait to see them,” replied a daughter. “There’s been so much hype.”

She doesn’t remember when they emerged in 2013, but will our dog Lucy? Her eyes–ummm–bugged out when she sniffed and inspected Little Miss Cicada (the one I bonded with–lol). Hubby mentioned (at dinner!) that a friend in VA shared what happened when her dog ingested a bunch of the bugs. Let’s say the digestion process did not go smoothly! Yuck! Today, I’m re-posting “Cicada City Part II,” my impressions–or should I say Lucy’s impressions?– when the cicadas were everywhere.

2013 might be the Chinese Year of the Snake, but at Bmore Energy it’s the Week of the Puppy.

Lucy “guest blogged” “Fluffy Father’s Day” and, in honor of her turning two, I’m featuring my furry sweetheart again.

In my recent post, Cicada City Part I, you met Little Miss Cicada.  What I didn’t say was how Lucy reacted to her first encounter with the large buzzing bug.  Before Lucy met Little Miss Cicada, several dog owners told me that their dogs were feasting on the cicadas. One told me she didn’t even need to give her dog kibble because he was eating so much.

Teenage Daughter #2 babysat for a family who warned her to keep their dog, Molly, inside because Molly was eating the cicadas then throwing them up.  But when Teenage Daughter #2 opened the door to let the kids in, Molly ran out and, you guessed it, ate a cicada.  Teenage Daughter #2 reported, “Molly started acting really weird.  She was twitching and gagging.  I think the cicada was still alive in her stomach!  I was just praying she wasn’t going to throw up!”

Teenage Daughter #1, who babysat for the same family, replied, “I’m afraid of throw up!  Literally, afraid.  And I couldn’t even walk on their grass because of the cicadas.  It was like step, cicada, step, cicada!  They’re disgusting!”

Cicada shells clustered in the grass.
Cicada shells clustered in the grass.

Back to Lucy.  Hon, the photos and 45 second video say it all!

Lucy's not sure she likes this big bug!
Lucy’s not sure she likes this big bug!

Lucy, the Snow “Bunny,” a Joyful Video

Lucy looking for her ball in the snow.
Lucy looking for her ball in the snow.

Some”bunny” loves the snow!

Whenever it snows, I tell Lucy, “You should live in Alaska!” Though ice crystals form on the tips of her fur, she self-insulates. Her puffed up fur keeps her body warm and making her paws look three times their normal size. She hops in the snow, herds anyone who sleds, and “helps” us shovel.

Want to see pure joy? Click “Snow Puppy” or hit the play button below.

Thanks for watching, hon!

 

Happy On a Hill, Short Video

Me and Lucy.

Me and Morgan.

Me and Hannah.

Welcoming Winter!

“I have this theory that people make an implicit decision as to whether they’re going to stay young and curious and interesting and interested, or whether they’re just going to let themselves age.”*

Living on a hill has its advantages and disadvantages. Disadvantages? Balls roll away, mud and ice makes it especially slippery, the garden’s on a slope, and climbing back up the hill in snow is a workout. Advantage? Being “the sledding house!”

I created this video after a blizzard in 2015, and it always make me smile.

Click link to to watch the one-minute video:  Snow Day/Blizzard 2015 

* Quote by Mitch Rothschild, Chief Executive of Vitals, a website that connects patients and doctors, from a 1/25/15 article in The New York Times.

**music on video, Paul Hardcastle-The Jazzmasters “See You in July”

Music Video: mxmtoon’s almost home

mxmtoon, photo courtesy of You Tube

As the creative director for mxmtoon, my daughter Morgan directed the singer’s two latest music videos. “almost home” is the last track of the “dawn” EP and “bon iver” (tomorrow’s post)is the first track on the “dusk” EP, and the two videos transition from dawn to dusk in lighting and atmosphere. Check out the cool animation that accentuates movement and mood.
Marked by clear singing and mxmtoon’s ukulele and guitar melodies, dawn offers diverse sounding songs that cover depths both pleasing and surprising. The result is a treasure that exudes positivity and satisfies the need for good news in this time.   New Noise
Want to know more about mxmtoon, whose name is Maia? Click here to read about her background. Want to know more about her music? Click here to read about the concepts behind her albums and songs.

Thanks for watching, hon!

Ghosted, Emotional Live Action & Animated Short Film, Part 2

2020 Maryland International Film Festival – Official Selection
Live action and animation blend fluidly to illustrate heartbreak in an emotional and beautiful work of art.

Morgan discussed the inspiration behind her newest short film GHOSTED, which premiered online as a Vimeo Staff Pick, a featured video on Film Shortage, and is a 2020 Maryland International Film Festival Official Selection.  “A Broken Leg & a Broken Heart Challenges a Woman’s Sanity in Morgan Gruer’s Beautifully Crafted Short ‘GHOSTED’,” is an insightful interview conducted by Serafima Serafimova for Directors Notes. The full interview and a link to watch the video are below.

Thanks for reading and watching, hon!

Ghosted is a story about a girl in love, but it’s not a love story. It’s a story about the pain of fluctuating between early hope and ultimate despair, the intoxicating revelation of love and the slow, crushing realisation that it’s not reciprocated. Based on her personal experience, Morgan Gruer’s Ghosted follows Grace, a twenty-something who has to deal with a broken leg and a broken heart. Perfectly performed, simultaneously serious and light, the short mixes live action and animation to find just the right scale and tone, never trivialising nor overstating the delicate feelings it explores. The result is a compelling and nuanced work of art. We were delighted to chat with Morgan about her inspiration, process and plenty more.

Was there a specific story or experience that sparked the idea for the film?

Ghosted was quite personal! After an unfortunate cliff diving accident (a story for another time…), I found myself on bed rest at my parents’ house recovering from hip surgery. Within the first week of recovery, I was ghosted by the man I loved. His sudden and uncharacteristic disappearance led me down a path of overthinking that escalated as the months dragged slowly on. Ghosted expands on this, as Grace’s circumstances slowly test her sanity and her well-being.

The animation brings the story to life by adding fun flourishes throughout, and that rotoscoped scene at the end is superb! Why did you decide to blend live action and animation, and how did you land on that particular style and design?

Animation has the ability to express a story in a way that is not possible with film, as it can show the way our minds ‘think’ and ‘feel’. Actions can be hyperbolized without the plausibility being questioned. As the film progresses, Grace’s isolation drives her to the deepest, darkest corners of her mind. We wanted to visually show this retreat as a place that felt far from reality, and animation felt like the perfect way to do this.

The animated phone language was actually decided just a few days before the shoot. While our Cinematographer Dustin Supenchek and I were drafting a shot list, we concluded that there was simply no artful way to film an iPhone. Dustin came up with the idea to execute the texts in hand-drawn animation, which ended up being the perfect precursor to the animated scene.

Animation has the ability to express a story in a way that is not possible with film.

Memory sequences are often too cheesy and overdone (a rather off-putting combo!), but you’ve cut together a dreamy montage which feels fresh, sensual and authentic. How did you go about shooting and editing these scenes?

The goal was to visually dissect the accumulation of different memories when our brains overthink. When describing the tone of this scene to our Editor Chad Sarahina I referenced the childhood game of “broken telephone”. If you’re not familiar with the game, you gather a group of people around in a circle and try to whisper the same sentence from ear to ear. The first person may start with “my ear hurts”, but the second person hears “my beer spurts”. The next person hears something different, and by the end, the final sentence is so unrecognizable that you’re not sure how you got there. This seemed like the perfect analogy to over-thinking.

Memories have the ability to bend toward our preferences, unconsciously but selectively choosing what we want to hear or believe. When diving into my memories, I realized that all of the signs of the situation were, in fact, there – I had just chosen to ignore the parts I did not want to hear. The goal with the montage was to peel away the layers of Grace’s selective consciousness and explore what lay underneath.

Grace could be seen as weak and even anti-feminist, yet her vulnerability makes her disarmingly charming and compelling. How did you shape her character to achieve that balance?

We didn’t want to portray Grace as a saint and Nick as a villain. Despite Grace’s affliction over being ignored, she subsequently does the same thing to the people in her life who care about her. After all, life is not black and white; people are not just good or bad. I am more interested in exploring the in-between moments, the grey zone that makes us human.

Our culture often tells us that “strong women don’t need a man”. While capable women don’t necessarily ‘need’ a man, is it anti-feminist for a woman to simply ‘want’ a man? One can be strong and independent but still crave companionship and connection. I don’t think it should be perceived as weak to admit that.

Grace deals with the physical pain of her broken leg as well as the psychological pain of being broken up with, and there are common threads tying the two (feeling trapped, angry, frustrated) into the ultimate parcel of misery. Why did you want to explore this?

During my recovery, I learned that the longer my body was sedentary, the more hyperactive my mind became. It’s ironic, almost – with a physical injury, one is prescribed clean plans of action for recovery. However, when the pain is psychological, there are no doctor’s orders of how to heal; there are no heartbreak pills or routine check-ups. It is harder to admit when you’re hurting, and even harder to learn how to move past it.

I am more interested in exploring the in-between moments, the grey zone that makes us human.

I wanted to explore the relationship between physical and psychological pain as I found it fascinating that their correlation has the ability to work both directly and inversely. I think this relationship is something to keep in mind during our self-isolation amidst the pandemic and remind ourselves that we need to treat our mental wounds the same way we tend to physical ones.

What’s next for you?

I recently completed another short film called Da Sola, that I plan to release in the coming months (a fully animated one!). In the meantime, I’m keeping busy with freelance work, building out my creative studio, and enjoying quarantine with my current man, who has previewed the film and wouldn’t dare ghost me 😉.Thanks for watching, hon!   Serafima Serafimova for Directors Notes. 4/28/20

Ghosted, Emotional Live Action & Animated Short Film, Part 1

2020 Maryland International Film Festival – Official Selection
Live action and animation blend fluidly to illustrate heartbreak in an emotional and beautiful work of art.
GHOSTED, the newest short film my daughter Morgan conceived of and directed, premiered online as a Vimeo Staff Pick and as a featured video on Film Shortage. Her friend since kindergarten, actor Ariel Mortman, plays the main character in this based-on-true-experience story. Interviews with Morgan coming up…

When Grace (Ariel Mortman) is “ghosted” at the same time as recovering from an injury, she drives herself mad waiting for a call. Grace must confront reality in her sedentary state in order to heal both mentally and physically.

Thanks for watching, hon!

Peace in Waves, “The Sea To Me – The Lewis Sisters”

2020 is brand new and I already need sorbet for my mind. The onslaught of bad news domestically and internationally leaves me searching for peacefulness. I came across “The Sea To Me – The Lewis Sisters,” a short video on Vimeo with lovely images and music, which speaks to my love of the beach and ocean.

I hope it gives you a moment’s peace, too.

Happy watching, hon.

Vimeo’s description of the video:

Three sisters, born and raised in Cornwall, Lottie, Monica and Bryony each enjoy their own connection with the water; writing about it, surfing on it, and swimming beneath it. They have travelled far and wide to feed their deep personal relationships with the sea and together, they continue push each other to take on ever greater challenges.

Click here to watch the video. 

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The Sea To Me – The Lewis Sisters (Subtitled Version) from Finisterre on Vimeo.

BOYZ II MENORAH VIDEO, Fresh, Funny and Filled with Holiday References!

Hon, if you haven’t seen the new “boy band,” BOYZ II MENORAH, check them out! So funny!

MTV.com’s  wrote about this season’s hottest Chanukah song.

CHARLIE PUTH, JOSH PECK, AND ZACH BRAFF COLLABED ON THIS SEASON’S HOTTEST HANUKKAH SONG

THE TRACK? ‘A WEEK AND A DAY.’ THE BAND? BOYZ II MENORAH. YOU’RE WELCOME.

When it comes to Hanukkah songs, well, there aren’t many. But thanks to a hilarious new boyband formed by none other than late night host James Corden, we now have a Jewish boyband called — wait for it — Boyz II Menorah. Furthermore, the group — which consists of Charlie Puth, Josh Peck, Zach Braff, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and yes, Corden himself — just dropped the hottest Hanukkah track maybe ever. Sorry, Adam Sandler.

The song, titled “A Week and a Day” premiered on last night’s (December 19) episode of The Late Late Show with James Corden. And along with it came an epic music video that celebrates the joyous holiday in all of its eight-night, latke-filled, gift-giving, dreidel-spinning glory. “Girl, it’s that special time of year, the Festival of Lights,” James begins in a soft R&B whisper. “But ain’t no light shine brighter than the one in your eyes.”

It wasn’t long before the rest of the guys chimed in, wearing matching all-white outfits reminiscent of some our our all-time favorite ’90s boybands. “Got a week and a day of love for you this Hanukkah, girl,” Peck sings. Then, the Superbad actor takes over. “Got a week and a day to show you how much I care,” he croons. And of course, there’s nothing quite like hearing Puth’s silky smooth voice singing about how the girl that he’s into “shines brighter than any menorah.”

The rest of the video is full of a variety of other references to Hanukkah (and even Judaism, in general), including bagels and lox, Manischewitz kosher wine, checks written out for $18 (the numerical value of the Hebrew word “chai,” which means “life”), and even a shoutout to Judah Maccabee from the original Hanukkah story.

The bridge is arguably the best part, though, when each boyband member puts their own twist on the traditional Hanukkah blessing.

Thanksgiving Menu: Pass the Apple Pie! Recipe and Video

 

Baking Apple Pie?

Like my Pumpkin Pie recipe, this is another always-good Perennial Favorite! If you want to watch my how-to video, click on Apple Pie with a Basket Weave Crust.

 Happy baking, hon.  

APPLE PIE RECIPE

Basic Pie Crust:  Double Crust

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable shortening

1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water

Food Processor Directions:  Insert steel blade in food processor.  Mix flour and salt, then place the mixture in the food processor.  Add shortening and process until mixture resembles cornmeal (about 5 seconds).  Slowly pour ice water through feed tube and process until dough forms a ball (about 5 to 10 seconds).  Chill dough for easier handling.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Filling:

6 cups apple slices (I use a combination of Granny Smith and other varieties)

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

approximately 1 Tablespoon flour

dash salt

1 egg, beaten (used to brush on top of crust before baking)

Combine apples, sugar, lemon juice, salt and spices.  This mixture will give off a lot of liquid so use a slotted spoon when spooning into pie crust, allowing you to spoon the apple mixture without the excess liquid.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Split dough in half, form two dough balls and roll out each half into a circle.  Line a 9-inch pie dish with the bottom crust.  Spoon apple filling into the crust and smooth apples into an even layer. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of flour on top of filling mixture.

Basket Weave:  To form the basket weave, cuts the dough into 8 strips.  First lay 4 strips across the filling.  Secondly, carefully weave remaining strips through the dough strips already laying across the filling.  Then press top and bottom crust edges together and flute edges.

Egg Wash:  Without brushing fluted edges, brush top of pie with beaten egg.

Bake the pie at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F  and bake for another 40 – 45 minutes.  Pie is done when top crust is lightly browned, the apple filling is bubbling, and the apples are tender when tested with a sharp knife.

Extra Dough Rolling Tips c/o friend, writer, musician, painter and fellow pie-baker, Ilana Katz Katz:

1) Flour a silicone pastry mat and roll dough on mat.

2) A pastry scraper will help get pastry dough off of the pastry mat if it’s stuck.

3) If getting the pastry dough off the mat proves challenging, put the silicone mat with rolled dough on it into the fridge. Once the dough’s cooled down, it should be easier to peel off.

*This pie freezes well.  Let pie cool completely before wrapping in saran wrap and aluminum foil.  A couple of days before serving, defrost at room temperature.

Serving options:

Serve warm–after removing from oven, let cool about 20 minutes.

Serve room temperature–cool completely.

Rewarm defrosted pie– warm in a preheated 250- 275 degrees F oven, uncovered, until desired temperature.