2 points – Activity – DOCUMENTARIES

Laura – I don’t typically watch Documentaries (hey, I am a fiction buff), but I wanted to branch out and widen my viewing choices. So I picked three documentaries whose subject matter appealed to me: 306 Hollywood; Life, Animated; and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. According to the experts, there are certain elements that make a documentary worth watching. It must be compelling, giving you a glimpse into the heart and soul of people’s lives and reminding us that every life has many elements. It needs to share a fresh perspective or exclusive access, showing you people, places or ideas that are new to you. A documentary must have depth, and its story and message should linger with you for days. And finally, it must have creative elements: be visually imaginative and often use animation that is artful and playful.

Here’s how the three documentaries stood up:

Life, Animated. At the age of 3, Owen Suskind suddenly stopped speaking and was diagnosed with autism. Salvation came from an unlikely source: Disney animated movies. They helped him understand the world and taught him to read and eventually to speak. The film follows Owen’s childhood and brings him to present day, where he is now living on his own and making a contribution to helping others understand what it’s like to be autistic. Pros: This hit all the marks of a good documentary. Compelling story, exclusive access, creative storytelling and animation that showed Owen’s own stories. Cons: None for me. Really enjoyed this documentary and how it enriched my understanding of autism.

306 Hollywood. When their grandmother dies suddenly at age 93, siblings Elan and Jonathan Bogarin decide to “excavate” her house and its contents in the hopes of portraying her life. After all, the objects we leave behind can tell a story of how we spent our time, what we found important and what we loved. Pros: The photography and visual images were extremely creative and the true strength of this film. For days after, I thought about what my “stuff” would say about my life. Cons: I don’t want to sound harsh, but she wasn’t my grandmother so I really didn’t need to know that much about her. It was only 95 minutes but it felt much longer.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi. This is a film about the pursuit of perfection and the pleasures of mastering your craft. It showcases 85 year-old Jiro Ono, considered to be the world’s greatest sushi chef and whose Tokyo restaurant earned three Michelin stars. Food lovers will enjoy this documentary, while everyone, regardless of culinary skills, will benefit from the interesting viewpoints on Jiro’s philosophy: Pros: I gained a new perspective and exclusive access into a very specific culture. It made me think about the pros and cons of having a passion for what you do loom so large that everything else takes second place. Cons. I felt a bit removed from the film. Maybe it was because Jiro was a guarded personality.

2 points – Activity – DINNER DARE

Both of us are addicted to cookbooks. You would think that would mean that we both cook up a storm, right? Wrong! We each have a bookcase filled with cookbooks and overflowing with recipes we have ripped out of magazines to potentially make at a later date. Out of this insanity comes our Dinner Dare. We have dared ourselves to each month take one of our cookbooks and blindly choose a page. We can take either that page, the page before, or the page after and we have to cook one of those recipes. We will then rate from 1-5 the recipes on three criteria: taste, time, and ease.

Laura: Pasta with Baby Spinach, Herbs and Ricotta

Taste: 3.

Time: 4

Ease: 4

I would not make this again, but I might “reinvent it.” The dish was too bland, so I would add more veggies to the pasta and more seasoning than the recipe called for. But it did make me more aware of how I can use up leftover ricotta. I occasionally make a Healthy Lasagna Skillet dish and always have leftover ricotta and spinach. This dish calls for both so it might be worth my time to improvise.

Barbara: Crab Cakes with Tartar Sauce

Taste: 1.5

Time: 3

Ease: 5

This recipe fell short on the taste category. The cakes were mushy and needed something to punch up the taste. I discovered that crab is not my favorite seafood and we wasted a lot of money because no one in my household was interested in saving the leftovers. Not to be repeated.

2 points – Activity – DENTON

Barbara: Laura and I were planning on a day trip to Denton but it wasn’t meant to be. But I was able to squeeze in a last minute activity there – James Hood’s Mesmerica which showed at University of North Texas in Denton. Although the people with me did not enjoy it, I was mesmerized (which I guess was Hood’s intention given the name). I’ve always loved kaleidoscopes and this was like being in one. It was held in a planetarium setting so the audience leaned back and watched the images. Boy, if this was around in the 70s, my fellow college students would have packed the room!


We are still planning on returning to Denton to explore the town because it looked DELIGHTFUL.

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