Finds and Fancies

So many wonderful things for bibliophiles…

Top picture: A theater converted into a bookstore. Someone is BRILLIANT. Can I live there? Marry there? Be buried there?
Left: Perfume that smells like books. Oh swoon. Now if they could just bottle wood smoke as a cologne…
Center: Harry Potter-themed candles. For Harry, it’s pumpkin juice, butterbeer, and broomsticks. Delightful.
Right: Jeannette Walls’ beautifully raw memoir The Glass Castle is being made into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. Isn’t it lovely when two wonderful things come together?

Postscript: What fun and bookish things have you discovered lately?

The Day Between

I followed Jesus wherever He went. I’ve always been shy and fearful—meek, my mother said. It made me obedient and submissive, like a good Jewish woman should be. But it also made me wilt in the face of trials. The day they crucified my Messiah, I did nothing. Admitted nothing. And I should have.

He was the one who gave me strength. He was the one who said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The meek? Did that mean me? It made no sense–so much of what He said and did made no sense. He wasn’t the grand King we’d imagined, He didn’t arrive majestically like we thought He would. But I saw His miracles, heard His teaching, felt His tenderness. And instead of saying, Yes, this is my Lord, I said nothing.

We’ve gone into hiding after His death yesterday. Crammed in the tight room with us is Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples. He denied Christ, just as Jesus predicted He would. For one, terrible, selfish moment, I thought, At least I didn’t deny knowing our Lord. But I’m not responsible for Peter’s actions; I’m responsible for mine.

I tell myself that nothing I did would have made a difference; I am merely a woman. Who would listen to me or care what I thought? But Jesus did. He treated all of us with dignity and love. He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” I’m so tired of being afraid. Forgive me, Yahweh. Help me.

Mary Magdalene was the one who brought the news: Jesus had risen! It seemed incomprehensible, but it was so beautifully true, just as the prophets foretold. He showed us His hands. The scars made me weep, but I was reminded of His earlier words: “Take heart; I have overcome the world.”

He was with us for forty days before ascending to heaven. He was lifted up, out of sight, and my whole body trembled. But I wasn’t afraid. He had saved us! And He will return for us. Oh, what a glorious day!

The Value of Writing Prompts

Image via Pinterest. Again.

Image via Pinterest. Again.

Prompt: “What happens in your story when concentrated emotions are sold by the bottle?”

Is this not one of the greatest writing prompts ever? I’m highly intrigued. Maybe I’ll write a dystopian book based on this concept, and that book will become a best-selling series, and that series will become a blockbuster movie franchise…

I suppose I should write the books before picking out my gown for the premiere.

What do you think of writing prompts in general? Do you find them helpful? Inspiring? Do you write better with strict guidelines or with loose objective? Do your writing prompts appear in larger portions of text? Or do they distract you from larger projects? What are some of the best prompts you’ve come across? Worst?

Once Upon a Villain

Oh, Loki. Image via Pinterest.

Oh, Loki. Image via Pinterest.

We love our villains. From Hook in Once Upon a Time to Anakin in Star Wars to Loki in Thor, we’re oddly fascinated by the so-called villains. Is it because they’re complex? Intriguing? Attractive and/or British?

Our literature and film culture does seem to be shifting toward the perspective of the antagonist. As productions like Wicked or movies like Maleficent show, we’re reexamining stories from the “other side.” Our beloved Frozen took the chilling story of “The Snow Queen” and made her friendly, understandable. Relatable.

By returning to these tales as old as time, we see that the villains aren’t so different from us. We begin to comprehend their motives, emotions, fears. We see that everyone, hero or villain, is capable of good and bad.

But what differentiates the heroes from the villains, no matter their motivation, are their actions. Their choice of good over bad in big and small things.

Tom Hiddleston, who brilliantly portrays Loki in The Avengers movies, astutely said, “Every villain is a hero in his own mind.” We are all accountable to a moral baseline, a standard of right and wrong that exists whether or not we acknowledge it. We may think we’re in the right, we are the hero, but do our actions reflect that? Are we truly living rightly?

Postscript: What do you think about our transition from “hero worship” to “antagonist adoration”? What books/movies portray it well? Is empathy for the villain edifying? Or dangerous? (In all fairness, I should admit that I, too, am a fan of Hook and Loki.)

Spring Break at Hogwarts

Believe it or not, ours actually turned out like the picture. Minus the wand. And casual-but-stylish staging. Image via Pinterest.

Believe it or not, ours actually turned out like the picture. Minus the wand. And casual-but-stylish staging. Image via Pinterest.

We’ve not big travelers in our family, for various reasons. Finances, schedules, unhealthy attachment to our own beds, etc. We enjoy being at home, watching movies or playing games. “Staycations,” if you will. I love them.

My brother and I decided to have a “Harry Potter Staycation” over spring break. Well, he said, “Let’s watch Harry Potter.” I’m the one who’s been slowly brainwashed by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter commercials and suggested we make butterbeer.

The Food Network recipe for “Aunt Sandy’s Butterbeer” seemed easy enough. Only four inexpensive ingredients, all in easy measurements, which my math-impaired-self appreciates:

¼ cup sweetened condensed milk (Don’t be deceived by the small can—you’ll have LOTS left over. I put our leftovers in a Ziploc container, running the risk that someone will accidentally eat it.)

¼ cup butterscotch topping (We liked the Smucker’s brand.)

2 tbsp. whipped butter, room temp (We thought we could whip our own. It’s possible, but only after Googling “How to whip butter,” and calculating that 4 tbsp. of butter with 1 tbsp. of milk is the correct proportion to whip with your sassy mix master. Next time, we’ll just buy it.)

1 ½ cups cream soda (We used A&W brand. I’m all giggly now.)

The steps are simple, too. While my brother graciously whipped the butter into a frenzy, I combined the sweetened condensed milk and butterscotch, then added the butter, and heated the mixture in the microwave for 1 minute. (Or, if your microwave is elderly like ours, 2+ minutes.) When you remove it (it’ll be foamy at first), stir thoroughly to make sure all that butter is friendly with the butterscotch and milk.

While the separate cream soda heats for 1 minute and 30 seconds (or so), divide the warm butterscotch mixture between two festive mugs. We used our Irish Coffee mugs, which have never hosted a drop of Irish Coffee, since this is a temperance household. However, the mugs looked quite svelte with the toasty golden liquid. Add the cream soda (don’t feel bad if it dribbles everywhere—stickiness is part of the experience, or so I told myself) and stir well.

Food Network suggests garnishing the mugs with old-fashioned butterscotch sticks, and I believe in Harry Potter the foam was sprinkled with cinnamon, but we chose guzzling over garnishing. Sweet and smooth, our butterbeer tasted like contentment and warmth and a dash of mischief. The recipe only made enough for two servings, which I thought wouldn’t stretch that far, but it’s actually the perfect amount—it is basically liquefied sugar, after all.

I won’t admit how many mugs and bowls and utensils we dirtied. Thank goodness for our faithful house elf—The Dishwasher.

Postscript: I know there are lots of fabulous butterbeer recipes out there. Which one is your favorite? And, while we’re on the subject, what wonderfully nerdy things have you done in honor of your favorite book?

Which Divergent Faction Are You?

Too funny not to share. Image via Pinterest.

Too funny not to share. Image via Pinterest.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s been taking multiple “Which Faction Would You Choose?” quizzes.

The first time I took the quiz in the back of the Divergent book, I was a tie between Amity and Abnegation. (I think that quiz was being nice to me.)

The second time, my score was equally divided between Abnegation, Erudite, and Candor. (Could the quiz not mediate between my scores?)

The third time, I was solidly Dauntless. (Somebody goofed.)

So… Does this mean I’m Divergent? Factionless? Really bad at these quizzes? (Though given my Erudite-esque academic fervor, I’m not a bad test taker.)

I suppose that’s the whole point of the book: none of us can be categorized so easily. We should instead seek to meld the best of all these qualities. Selflessness. Peacefulness. Honesty. Bravery. Intelligence.

But by the same turn, we’re not equal parts of anything. I am much more inclined toward Amity and Erudite than Dauntless. Moreover, “selfless,” “honest,” “brave,” and the like are blanket terms—each attribute is far more nuanced than the faction titles imply. We see the same phenomenon in Harry Potter, where a Gryffindor isn’t just brave, a Slytherin isn’t only cunning. We categorize ourselves in similar ways, like in high school when we group the jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, bookworms, etc.

We do ourselves a disservice.

We are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Complex, multi-faceted. When we define ourselves strictly by our strengths, or focus only on our weaknesses, we stunt our growth in both areas.

Does this mean I’m going to hang glide or climb a Ferris wheel? A resounding no. (Unless Four is there.) But in my own experiences, my own “faction,” I’m going to try to act bravely. Kindly. Wisely. Honestly. Selflessly. I’ll fail—I already have. But obedience is what God asks of me, not perfection. So I’ll keep trying, and He’ll keep strengthening me.

Postscript: Just for kicks, which faction would you choose? :)