Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas – A.D. 2013

“While he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (emphasis mine)
Matt. 1:20-21 

Christ came incarnate to save us His people–calling those who were no people to be a people. He delighted to do so–and He delights in and over us! Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sugar Spice Cookie Recipe

I've been playing around with this recipe for a couple weeks and am quite pleased with the final outcome. Easy drop cookies–they have a subtle eggnog flavor with a yummy chewy texture. On the nutmeg: fresh grated nutmeg makes a tremendous flavor difference, but if you only have it in a jar that works fine, too. (You might just want to add a little extra.) Also, these cookies keep well in a tin and can be frozen.

1 cup butter
1 2/3 cups white sugar (I use raw organic cane sugar)
2 eggs
1 Tbs. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Big pinch of sea salt (or regular if that's what you have)
¼ tsp. cloves
A generous grating of fresh nutmeg (about a ½ tsp.)

Preheat oven to 375ยบ. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Mix in the sugar, then beat in the egg and vanilla. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a separate bowl then add them to the butter mixture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the mixture onto the sheet and bake for 13 minutes or until they're barely turning a golden brown. The idea is to bake them just long enough so they are still delightfully chewy. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for a couple minutes before removing to a plate or wire rack. Enjoy!

Note: For an even spicier variation, you can add 1 rounded tsp. allspice to the cloves and nutmeg.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

God's Good Gifts

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” which is translated, 
“God with us.” 
Matthew 1:23

We're into the second week of Advent and I've decided—over the course of the last few weeks—that I can't imagine anything less gnostic than Christmas. In fact, anti-gnostic is actually the word that keeps springing to mind.

In the beginning God declared all of His creation “good.” The dark soil and almond trees; the pungent smell of fresh garlic and the clean smell of grass; the checkerboard pattern of giraffes and the stripes on zebras. Man (His image-bearer) was called to tend and rule all of it. We know what happened. Adam (and ultimately, us in him) took that which had not yet been given and we—the very image-bearers of God—were cut off, bound in sin, broken, dead, and defiled. And with our fall all of the glorious creation was plunged into bondage.

Over the successive generations God graciously kept a people for Himself—showing His goodness and pouring forth His forgiveness again and again. Then some 4,000 years after the fall, in a concrete year when Quirinius was governing Syria and Augustus Caesar sat in Rome considering himself a god and lord of the world—our God, our Creator God whose image we bear—supreme in majesty, awesome in power, perfect in goodness, beauty, and holiness—actually humbled Himself to take on our human form—this dusty, earthy, problematic matter. Born in a feeding trough He lived every tangible, touchable day through all the dust and dirt and difficulties. And then He went to the cross and was broken in pieces for the life of the world. What kind of a God is this?

And more than that—He didn't do it grudgingly.

Our good God, manifesting His gracious glory, has given us Christ—His faithful image-bearer—God-with-us. How shall He not with Him freely give us all things? Counsel—assurance—the ability to look at the earth and obey Him in faith, stepping out against giants—even the power and strength to rejoice in Him when it's so hard and all we want to do is curl up in our own little cocoon and never smile again, let alone serve anyone else.

God sent His son physically into the physical world. Mary physically labored to have a real, physical, hungry baby. He lived and died and was resurrected physically—tangibly—bodily—inviting his disciple to reach his hand into His side and feel—standing among His people and chewing honeycomb, feasting on God's sweet gifts.

Christ upholds all things by the word of His power and in Him we have been made alive—declared good, clean, and holy. He has made all things new—and as He rejoices over His good work He invites us to the inestimable privilege of sharing in His joy.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Movie Review: Elizabeth Gaskell's North & South – BBC 1975

When I first discovered this on Amazon last summer, my near initial reaction was “What!!!??? Another North and South??? How can there be? What in the world do they think they're doing?” (Never mind, of course, that it was done thirty years before you-know-what. Entirely beside the point.) All most unsettling–very.

But on the other hand, if there was another (decent) version of N&S, how could we not watch it? The whole idea had a kind of dreadful fascination...and then there's all that about having an open mind.

The cost when it was released was quite prohibitive, so in the end–still with highly mixed feelings–I placed a purchase request for it at the library. They agreed to get it and we were #1 on a hold list that promptly shot to almost 10. So far so good. We settled down and began waiting...and waiting...and waiting...and waiting some more. Weeks passed. Then–guess what happened? The week, the very week before our big trip, it arrived. Of course, there was no possible way to fit an almost four hour movie into our last long/short/busy/final week at home, so we had to send it back unwatched. An agonizing experience.

But–we thought–at least it will give us something to look forward to after coming home. By this time–due to studying the movie case firsthand, watching the trailer, etc.–our mixed feelings were rapidly dissipating and we were eager to see it. Fortunately in the end, it more than fulfilled our expectations. :-) So now for my review...

First off there were a number of familiar faces:

Robin Bailey as Mr. Hale (appeared several times in the 
b/w Robin Hood tv series with Richard Green)

Kathleen Byron as Mrs. Hale 
(Miss Lavender in the 1975 BBC Anne of Avonlea mini-series)

Tim Pigott-Smith as Frederick 
(Mr. Hale in the 2004 BBC North and South)

Shirley Cain as wife-of-the-new-vicar-of-Helstone 
(Mrs. Phillips in the 1985 BBC P&P)

Secondly–sets and so forth: The sets are well done, while the costumes and hairstyles are really quite good and not too dated. We were a little worried in the first scene, but that concern quickly ironed itself out. (While I'm on the subject–Margaret has a particularly gorgeous, gold-colored, wide-sleeved jacket during the riot scene. ;-)) All in all everything feels very true to period. Higgins and Bessy are well played, pretty much straight out of the book–as are Mr. and Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Thornton, and Fanny.

And now for what you're all really wondering about...

Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale

Patrick Stewart is of course famous for his role in Star Trek (which I have not seen), and I think he does an excellent job as Thornton. I fully entered into Margaret's initial misunderstanding and dislike of him. He was loud, quick, and imperious, but he could smile unexpectedly, too–even laugh. And yes–he has an accent!

Rosalind Shanks did a wonderful job as Margaret. Very gentle and soft-spoken she does an outstanding job carrying the weight of the changes Margaret goes through–reflecting both the sorrow and quiet joy. She has very speaking eyes, the sweetest smile, and is a true lady throughout.

Together, Thornton and Margaret were very good. The errors and need for growth on both sides comes across clearly and the romantic element is very present. Sparks fly and there are definitely strong undercurrents from the get-go. *Warning (bit of a spoiler here): the riot happens and–then bang! there it is–and between them there's no going back. :-) And then they show afterward–I mean, how she gets up to the sitting room while in a faint. ;-) Okay, end of spoiler.* I didn't do too badly, did I? Anyhow, lest that make you nervous, there are no even remotely indecent scenes–or even scenes where you feel it possibly could go odd.

~Some miscellaneous points: Boucher has far more brains here and orchestrates the riot–which works fine. ~ The first part of the story goes pretty much point by point and the second part moves faster, condensing a bit of the development–personal development on both sides and also as regarding the mill failure. ~ There were some gentle, yet quite humorous moments–two that spring to mind being the duty-bent constables and Lennox's anecdote about Tennyson (which was hilarious if you've read any Tennyson). ~ And finally, the whole film has much of the direct religious language and influence of the book.

The biggest divergence was that they left out the whole Leonards/Margaret/lying episode. More on this another time (as looking at how it's played out in the book). At the moment I'll just say I view it as a crucial point in her personal character development as well as encapsulating the different themes of the story, raising the stakes, and highlighting all the misunderstandings and misinterpretations. That being said, they do stick to and capture the broader themes involved and they do have Thornton trying to protect Margaret's reputation, along with Mrs. Thornton's involvement, etc.–which is all good and well done.

Some things are more out in the open than they are in the book (or in the '04) and near the beginning particularly I think Margaret comes across as more decided. For instance, after returning home to Helstone she speaks of the “veneer” of fashionable London society and of how she wants a “useful” life–which I believe she actually comes to desire over the course of the story itself and fully realizes when she returns to London near the end. But that's not a make-it-or-break-it issue as far as being able to enjoy the film. Part of the reason I like Margaret's character is that she is sometimes uncertain and still acts, even when she can't make sense of all that is going on in her life. Thinking about it again though, I think she actually does become less decided as the story progresses, so perhaps they were trying to bring out how she goes from that attitude of “having everything figured out and knowing exactly where she's going” to that state of utter dependence upon God's will, mercy, and goodness that all of us should be striving for.

Going into it, I was initially nervous that it would change my perception of the story in the sense of, “Is this true? Is this really the story? Have I been misreading it all this time?” (I've had that experience before with something else.) But it didn't. It was just a different take on it. And as far as the films go I think you can like both versions (I do at least) without viewing one or the other as “better”. Both are faithful to the book, diverging about the same amount–just in different areas.

My final verdict? Is that I thoroughly enjoyed it–still find it thought-provoking–would like to see it again–and am thrilled to be able to recommend it without reservation!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Trip Pictures!!!

This turned out to be a verrrry long post...but I did cut down on it. I actually did. ;-) We saw a lot of countryside and the fall colors were amazing. :-) Enjoy!

In the garden before leaving home - Licorice & Marigolds

The Denver skyline - on the way to shopping at the Asian market

One of my favorite spots ;-)

Wyoming - the sky cleared and turned...absolutely gorgeous


Utah again

Idaho - mountain stream and pines

Stream and cabin

A beautifully restored steam traction engine

Heading west - morning in eastern Washington 

Fields to the sky - central Washington State

Overlooking the mighty Columbia...

Barn with wind turbines in the background (and a bit of car window reflection - actually a rather neat effect in this particular picture)

Up in the mountains that first formed my idea of mountains way back when. (The photo on the bottom half of my "Ellen" cover was taken up near here, but that's another story. ;-))

And...fall colors

At...the...zoo!!!! :-)

It was fairly misty, so a little tricky to get many animal pictures, but the foliage ones turned out great


There's an elephant... ;-)

Northern wolves

Our cows have this very expression when they want something. (This cow elk was watching us eat our lunch.)

Brown bear

After walking all over and back again he finally got tired


New Short-Clawed Otters - the size of puppies they were too cute!

In and out of the water

And...the red panda did not want his picture taken - much too busy


So I settled for the sign

And then...the event :-)

Wedding roses!

Aren't they gorgeous?

Dahlias at the lovely (and delicious) rehearsal dinner

Fun shoes!

Back in Idaho

Good pizza

The pizzeria building used to be a garage

Gelato! (I'd read about it, but never actually seen it in person.)

This was hanging on the wall and reminded me of-well, you know-a certain costume drama :-)

Tamarack pines against blue sky

Some festive creatures with whom we formed an acquaintance

Snow in the mountains - heading east

Site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. You can see the monument at the top of the hill - distant center

And of my favorite shots of the entire trip ;-)

Wyoming...lots and lots of pictures - story atmosphere!!!!!

And...finally...home again, home again-safe and sound :-)

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