Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What I Learned From NaBloPoMo (And Pistachio Rosewater Ice Cream)

Well, it's been quite an adventure. It may not have been the best month to do commit to posting every day, given that I spent the first few days of July away from the internet, and then was stricken down by the Bubonic Plague for a few days in the middle, but despite that, I managed to crank out a post during the rest of the days in July. I'm proud of myself.

And because it's almost the season for those "What I Did This Summer" essays (remember those? ugh...), here is my version of the genre ... a top ten What I Learned From NaBloPoMo:
  1. I have more versatility as a writer than I thought I did. More than once since the inception of this blog I have banged my head against a virtual wall and talked myself into believing I have nothing to say, or convinced myself that I could only write about food or yoga or parenting. I've gone weeks (well, maybe no more than a week) without posting. But apparently, if I read enough elsewhere, I can come up with other things to talk about, and -- this was the biggest surprise to me -- people actually read what I've written and think it's worth commenting on, even if it's NOT about food or yoga or parenting. Either I'm better at this than I thought, or I have some very kind followers. Well, maybe a little of both.
  2. I don't have to post food every time I write. It's worked for me in the past, but it's not the end of the world if I change that formula every once in a while. People won't instantly stop reading my posts. And I may actually acquire new readers who are interested in the other things I write about. I may stretch my brain a little bit by trying something new.
  3. If you want to write, something has to give. Writing consistently requires reading, which sucks up time. And then writing itself requires more time, to draft, to edit. This month, I did practically zero hours in my consulting job. Which means that I gave up potential pay, small as it may have been, to do this project. There are a limited number of hours in the day, and giving up sleep will not get you more time to write. You need to decide what you are willing to sacrifice, if you're going to write.
  4. Sometimes you will write crap. There are posts I've done this month that I'm not particularly proud of. There are also posts that I think were pretty damn fabulous, if I do say so myself. There was probably more crap than fabulousness, but that's OK with me. Mostly, I had to write the crap in order to keep writing, and get to the good stuff.
  5. Which brings me to this: writing begets writing. If you sit down and write, you will write more. 'Nuff said.
  6. On the flip side: FB is a time suck. It is all too easy to scroll through pages of status updates looking for something interesting to spark your writing muse. You are probably safer going to read the NYTimes or the Huffington Post or the BBC or ... well, practically anything else.
  7. A list of prompts doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to write. You still have to come up with your take on the prompt, and sometimes a prompt simply won't resonate with you in a way that opens the floodgates to language. Writing prompts do, however, serve as a very useful guilt-inducing tool, especially if you know and respect the person who drafted the list.
  8. On a related note: writing in community makes a difference. Even if no one is writing about what you're writing about, and even if you're not really committing to reading or commenting on each others' work. Just knowing that you are supposed to produce for other writers, who are also producing something regularly, induces just enough stress that you may get off your duff and do it. And if you surround yourself by people who are writing intelligent, thoughtful things, you are also more likely to write intelligent, thoughtful things.

  9. If you are blogging often, and your writing invites comments from said community, you should build in time to respond to comments. See #2. Responding to comments creates better conversation, but it can feel overwhelming, especially if you're also reading and commenting on other blogs, as you really ought to do in order to be a good bloggy citizen.
  10. Committing to a writing project makes a difference. Having a goal, even if it's not a very lofty goal (post something every day! even if it's about your toenails!), can make you feel like a writer, and act like a writer. And thus? BE a writer.

SO: thank you, Kathy, for talking me into this ... thanks, jjiraffe and Kristin, for committing along with us ... congratulations to everyone who participated and finished (even if you didn't post every day) ... and thank you to my readers and commenters, who helped move me forward!  Cheers!  I'm saluting you all in Half Baked style: a bouquet of roses, for dessert.

There will be penance in August for the days I missed in July, because I was raised Catholic and that's how I roll, even if I am UU now, but you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ice cream. (And thanks for the great flavor suggestions ... I had the ingredients for this on hand today, but up next: cardamom, peach, sweet potato, and much more!)

Pistachio Rosewater Ice Cream

1/2 c. pistachios, chopped and roasted or toasted
2 c. whole milk
1 T. plus 1 t. cornstarch
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
scant 2/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. light corn syrup
1 T. + 1 t. rosewater
1 1/2 oz. (3 T.) cream cheese
1/8 t. kosher salt

Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.

In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup, pistachios, and rosewater. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves and the nuts flavor the milk, about 4 minutes. Strain through a sieve to remove the nuts and set the nuts aside. Return the milk mixture to the saucepan, and off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the salt. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.

Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions, adding the nuts during the last five minutes of freezing/processing. Pack the ice cream into a plastic container.

Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.
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  1. Great wrap up post! You are welcome and thank you for NaBloPoMoing with me too! It was so fun and interesting to participate with Kristin, Jjraffe and you.

    I really enjoyed reading your posts this month, as well as the Top Ten things you learned from NaBloPoMo.

    This is the post I wrote after I did NaBloPoMo the first time and you'll see we came to some of the same conclusions after writing daily for a month: http://bereavedandblessed.com/2011/11/what-ive-learned-from-nablopomo/

    I couldn't agree more about "writing begetting writing" and it was during NaBloPoMo last November that I realized for the first time that I am a writer right here, right now, that I don't have to be a published author (in the traditional sense) to make a difference in the lives of others with my words.

    I love this insight that you shared here:

    "Writing in community makes a difference...if you surround yourself by people who are writing intelligent, thoughtful things, you are also more likely to write intelligent, thoughtful things."

    I can't believe this time two days from now we will be together at BlogHer in NYC! Yay! See you soon!

  2. I've really enjoyed reading along with you and Kathy this month. I don't know how you guys do it. I often have trouble getting two posts up a week so I hear you when you say something has to give to write more. It seems to me you can write well about anything so I'm glad that this challenge has made you realized you have things to say outside of parenting, yoga and food.

  3. I've always liked this Richard Bausch comment: You don't have to be so terribly smart, or fast. You only have to be willing. You get smart going through it and through it after being open to what it is tending toward. Don't worry about what you will finally say; it will tell you.

    And I do think writing begets writing, and that you are very good at it. (And I DO think that FB is a most terrible timesuck).

  4. Love all the ice cream, oh and the picture of you on the sit-and-spin, seriously that is sooo awesome. I'm thinking future passport photo. I need to sign up for a writing prompt such as that but at best I can only muster about 5 sentences.

  5. Pistachio rosewater ice cream! Oh my! That is enough to make me go and buy an ice cream maker, right there!

    I have always thought you were an excellent writer, on any topic. I'd read anything you write. I am glad you enjoyed the NaBloPoMo.

    Now must go and catch up on all I've missed.

  6. What great take-aways from a valuable weekend. I found myself agreeing at each post you made. As I enter into the third year of my MFA program, I'm even more grateful I have a community of writers to bounce ideas off of. They have been a wonderful encouragement and support. But I know that once I graduate, I will continue to find people who inspire me (like you!) Thanks for sharing!


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