Monday, December 29, 2014

"Persuasion" and Sherlock Holmes

Just a couple of quick reminders, in case you haven't noticed the buttons in my sidebar.  Heidi's read-along of Jane Austen's Persuasion begins one week from today!  Go here to learn more :-)

Coming in January at a friend's blog 

And I'm throwing a birthday blog party for Sherlock Holmes on January 6th on my book blog, The Edge of the Precipice.  Go here for more info.  You can definitely join up even if you've never read any of the canon and are just a fan of some filmed version or other -- all Holmes fans are welcome!  It'll be like a shorter version of my Tolkien Blog Party that I throw every September -- a little questionnaire you can fill out on your own blog, a link-up for participants, a giveaway.  It begins the 6th, but you'll have a whole week to participate and enter the giveaway, so don't panic if you miss out on the 6th.

Coming Soon

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Chocolate Movie Tag

Joanna at The Squirrel's Diary started this variation on Chocolate Book Tag and tagged me weeks ago.  Thanks a lot, Joanna!  Now I have to think about movies AND chocolate at the same time!!!  Torture, I tell you.  Absolute torture ;-)

I'm going to answer this with all movies that I love.

Dark Chocolate (a movie that covers a dark topic):  42 (2013).  It's the story of how a determined team owner (Harrison Ford) hired Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) as the first black player in major league baseball.  Lots of grappling with racism, but an uplifting movie overall.

White Chocolate (a light and humorous watch):  You've Got Mail (1998)  Two email pen pals (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan) interact with each other in real life without knowing they know each other online too.  It's sweet and charming and happy, though there's one scene that does make me tear up a bit.

Caramel-filled chocolate (a movie that makes you feel all gooey inside):  Chocolat (2000).  You knew this had to be here somewhere, right?  I love this tale of a single mother (Juliette Binoche) who brings chocolate and joy to a small French town and falls for a gypsy (Johnny Depp).  I don't get tired of this movie or its soundtrack.

Milk Chocolate (a movie with a lot of hype that you're dying to watch):  Avengers:  Age of Ultron (2015).  Nothing else to say, other than that I'm madly excited.

Wafer-less Kit-Kat (a movie that surprised you):  The Count of Monte Cristo (2002).  I refused to see this for 12 years because I didn't like the changes I'd heard they'd made to the story .  This is my second-favorite novel, and while I'm not usually a purist, I was afraid they'd screwed it up.  But two friends kept insisting it was awesome, so I finally watched it.  And I liked it so well that I asked for it for Christmas.  And got it.  So I watched it a second time last night and wow, I liked it even better the second time through.  Totally a fan now.

Snickers (a movie you're going nuts about):  I can't wait to see The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) again.  I've been wandering around in its aftermath in my imagination for a week now and loving it.  

Hot Chocolate with Mini Marshmallows (a movie you turn to for comfort):  I don't have just one.  I definitely put on a western if I'm in need of solace, though.  

A Box of Chocolates (a franchise you feel has something for everyone):  Um... I can't think of one.  If you're not into superheroes, you won't like the Avengers or X-Men movies.  If you're not into fantasy, you're not going to like The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit or Harry Potter.  If you're not into sci-fi, you're not going to want to watch Star Wars.  I don't think there's any franchise I would universally recommend.

I'm not going to tag anyone with this, but if you think it looks fun and wanna play, please do!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, my blogging friends!  This is a video created by my alma mater, featuring their chapel, where I attended services five days a week for four years.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"While You Were Sleeping" (1995)

I saw this in the theater when I was fifteen, the first movie I'd seen in the theater since I was eight.  It ignited my passion for seeing movies on the big screen, and I've been seeing movies in the theater whenever I can ever since.  Until then, I just didn't realize what the difference would be like.  I thought it would be bigger, but I didn't realize that the combination of a massive picture with darkness and few distractions would create a magical realm, almost a different reality.

But anyway, if you haven't seen this movie, I'll tell you what it's about (some spoilage ahead, but not of how it all turns out).  Lucy (Sandra Bullock) works for Chicago's elevated train system.  Her dad died a year ago, her mom died when she was really little, and she has no siblings.  She lives with her cat in a small apartment.  Her only friends are the person who works in the other half of her fee-collecting booth, her boss, her landlord, and her landlord's son who keeps hitting on her.  She is as lonely as possible.

A handsome guy named Peter (Peter Gallagher) starts going through her ticket booth every morning.  She imagines what it would be like if one day, he said 'hi' to her.  She imagines what it would be like if she said 'hi' back and they fell in love and got married.

Lucy works on Christmas because she has no family to spend Christmas with anyway.  Peter comes through her booth and says "Merry Christmas."  Then he gets mugged, falls on the train tracks, and is rendered unconscious.

Lucy rescues Peter.  She accompanies him to the hospital.  She says, "I was gonna marry him!" out loud.  A nurse hears that, thinks she's serious, and tells everyone Lucy is his fiancee.  His family believes this.  Peter is in a coma and can't straighten things out.  Before Lucy can figure out how to tell them the truth, the family invites her to their Christmas gathering and basically adopts her.  Suddenly she has a family, friends, people who care about her and who she cares about.

And she hasn't even met Jack (Bill Pullman) yet.  Jack, who alone of all the family is skeptical of her being Peter's fiancee.

And I'm totally not telling you any more about this movie because if you haven't seen it yet, what ARE you waiting for?  This is an adorable movie.  I love it.  My mom loves it.  My dad loves it.  YOU might as well love it!

(Also, my article in the last issue of Femnista was all about it.)

I realized a few months ago that of all the movie and book and TV show characters I have ever encountered, I identify with Lucy the most.  If I was in her situation, family-less, basically friend-less, I would behave the way she does.  I'd have a cat, I'd put up a Christmas tree just for me and the cat, I'd obligingly work on Christmas so people with families don't have to, I'd give a Christmas present to my landlord.  I'd even wear my dad's old coat and sweaters just to feel connected to him.

And if I ever met up with a guy like Jack... actually, I did meet up with a guy like Jack.  Solid, grounded, unselfish, kind, gentlemanly, funny, and thoughtful.  I just call him Cowboy instead of Jack.

So anyway, a lot of this movie takes place around Christmas, and I put it on my list of Ten Favorite Christmas Movies, and also my Ten Favorite Romantic Comedies.  In fact, this is probably one of my top twenty favorite movies ever.  Now would be a great time to watch or rewatch this!  I'm just sayin'.

Is this movie family-friendly?  It does have a couple of bad words, a couple instances of God's name taken in vain, a mention of 900 numbers, a short discussion of black underwear, and a misunderstanding where someone thinks Lucy is pregnant and she tells someone she's not because she hasn't had sex.  Only for little kids if they're with an adult who's seen it before who knows what they do and don't deem appropriate.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Weekend in Williamsburg: Wreaths

And I've finally found time to post my last set of photos from our Thanksgiving weekend!  There are only a few of them, and they're all wreaths used to decorate various buildings around the colonial section of town.  

While we were there, we heard that back when the whole Colonial Williamsburg foundation was first starting up, they only owned a handful of buildings, and all the rest were privately owned.  Some of the owners weren't real keen on adhering to the spirit of the Colonial era and wanted to put up modern Christmas decorations.  Someone very smart came up with the idea of having a contest to see who could display the best wreath using only natural materials found back in that era, and soon all the houses were decorating with lovely, old-fashioned wreaths and greenery.  Even though now only one of the houses in that part of town is privately owned, they still keep up the tradition of displaying interesting wreaths.  

So anyway, I'll begin with the wreath on the door of the court house and jail, which is decorated with pomegranates:

And here are a few one some of the private residences.  Although the Williamsburg Foundation owns these houses, many of them are the homes of people who work for the foundation.  And they're reportedly Very Expensive to rent, as you might imagine.

This is a wreath on one of the houses you can rent for just a night or two and stay in to get a taste of colonial furnishings and so on:

I thought this wreath from inside Shield's Tavern was cool, with its rope-wrapped upper half and then... are those artichokes in amongst the flowers and greenery?

Check out how the wreath outside Chowning's Tavern uses oyster and scallop shells, with sponges to look like foam coming out of tin beer mugs:

And this is the hat outside the Mary Dickinson shop, where we bought the girls hats:

Finally, they had the lamp posts decorated too, as you can see here:

 Although I find the wreaths beautiful, I think I prefer the greenery garlands like above the doors and windows of the Cheese Shop.  I'm trying to figure out a way to get this look to work by our front door now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cleaning My House as an Advent Exercise

I hate cleaning.  It feels so pointless, because everything gets dirty again in about twenty minutes anyway.  I sweep the floor, and it needs to be swept again.  I wash the dishes, and we use them again and need to wash them again.  Someone scatters toys on the floor as soon as I've left the room.

But it needs to be done, because otherwise we'd be living in chaos and filth.  So I sweep the floors, unload and reload the dishwasher, wipe off the table and counters, sort and wash and dry and fold the laundry.  Because if I don't, we won't be able to find anything, eat anything, wear anything, do anything.

This year, thanks to the family reunion in Williamsburg over Thanksgiving, my house is making me quote the fish in The Cat in the Hat a lot:  "This mess is so big and so deep and so tall, we cannot clean it up, there is no way at all."  I've barely got any Christmas decorations up yet because first I have to clean the places where they go!  In fact, everything is such a disaster that I have been inspired to weed out a lot of our things, to sort them into boxes for giving to the thrift store or selling at our next yard sale.  I've started packing away toys and books the kids have outgrown too.

What does this have to do with Advent?  Well, Advent is that season in the church year when we Christians anticipate celebrating Christ's birth at Christmas and also look forward to his Second Coming, when the world will end and we'll go to our heavenly home to live with him forever.  It's a good time for personal reflection, for looking at our lives and hearts and seeing what changes need to be made.  What needs cleaning up?  Have we been lax about spending personal time in the Word every day (guilty!) or about praying without ceasing (guilty!).  Have we been impatient (guilty!) or unkind (guilty!) or focused on prep work for Christmas instead of the miracle we'll be celebrating (guilty!)?  We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but as redeemed, loved children of God, we get to do our very best to live our lives to his glory out of gratitude for his mercy and love toward him and our fellow people.

Tir Asleen hasn't been 100% clean since we moved in here three years ago.  I will never be a perfect person.  But I can clean my house as best I can, and I can focus on God's love and mercy, on the reason for the season.  If I clear some of the clutter out of my home and out of my heart, doing both of those will be a lot easier.

I'm linking up today with the Advent Link-Up Party on Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife.  Click here to find lots of other great posts about Advent!

Monday, December 08, 2014

A Weekend in Williamsburg: Gardens

You know from my posts this spring and summer that I like to garden.  But right now you're shaking your head at me and saying, "Um, Hamlette... it's the wrong season for gardening.  It's pretty much winter.  I know you live in Virginia, but...."  And you're right, it's not exactly prime gardening season.  But remember that over Thanksgiving weekend, it got up into the 60s in Williamsburg, so the gardens were still interesting!  As you can see.

First some shots of the garden beside the gunsmith:

A ginormous rosemary bush

How ginormous?  That's Sam, my 7-year-old.
Cabbages, IIRC

A butterfly landed on the broccoli blooms.
I'd never seen a broccoli going to seed before -- their flowers are so dainty!
Um... no idea what this is.  My brain says "bachelor's buttons," but I think it's making that up.
Next are just a couple shots from the Colonial Garden along Duke of Gloucester Street where you can buy gardening supplies, produce, seeds, and so on.  I bought a big straw gardening hat there once.  And when Sam was really little, he got to help water plants there.

I love wattle fences like that.  And look, mini green houses over some of the plants!
These are from some gardens behind the weaving and spinning shop, I think:

I kind of have a thing for white picket fences and gates, so here are just a few other shots I grabbed at random:

One post left, the one devoted to Christmas wreaths :-D  Soon!

Friday, December 05, 2014

A Weekend in Williamsburg: The Governor's Palace

Finally!  I've got time to share more pictures from our Colonial Williamsburg adventures.  Today, I'm focusing on the Governor's Palace.  This was where the royal governor lived, the guy appointed by the British king to rule the richest and most populated American colony, Virginia.  The original building burned down, was rebuilt, and burned down again -- in fact, this restoration has stood longer than both of the original buildings combined.  It's based on detailed floor plans drawn up by Thomas Jefferson, plans that included exact dimensions, where furniture was placed, and so on.  Very thoughtful of him to make those, huh?  

Anyway, I feel like this place is as close to the homes of rich people in English novels as I'm likely to get, at least for a long, long time.  It makes me imagine a little of what Pemberley might have been like inside.

As you can see, they were decorating inside and out for Christmas while we were there.  These are the front gates:

Those white statues on the pillars are of a lion and a unicorn.
Our guide told us what they symbolized, but I've forgotten.
Because it was Christmas time, they gave us a slightly different tour than usual.  We only got to see one bedroom instead of several, though it was very nice.  It belonged to the governor's daughters an the 1760s.  I managed to snap a shot of their bed:

Then we went on through to a room used by the governor's wife to receive guests.  The walls were covered in a deep red fabric, though it looks pink here:

And during the era they were portraying, the family had a fairly new baby, which the governor's wife would put in this display crib to show off to visitors:

That was all we saw of the family's private quarters because they wanted us to see what a someone would have seen if they were invited to Christmas festivities there.  So we spent lots of time in the ball room:

I can't remember if that's a harpsichord or a piano-forte.  Don't you love the carpet and the wall color?

One of the cut-glass chandeliers in the ball room.
Then we progressed to the Supper Room, which was adjacent to the ball room.  This is where they would have served various refreshments to their party guests throughout the evening and into the night.

Again with the bright carpet and walls!

Detail of the molding on the chair rail and around the door.

The Christmas decorations were very simple, mostly just greenery draped over the doorways and windows.
Some of it had pine cones, and some didn't.  Christmas trees weren't a thing yet.

A special coal-burning stove to keep the supper room warm.
The ball room would have been plenty warm from all the dancing bodies and didn't need heating.

Some of the display food they had set out in the supper room.
Don't you love the molding around the window?
From the supper room, we exited out into the gardens.  They had formal gardens directly behind the house, surrounded by a brick wall with several gates.

The rear of the house as seen from the gardens.

A nifty tree.

An arbor walkway ran down each side of the gardens.

Outside an arbor, looking back toward the palace.

Gates at the end of the formal garden leading out into other parts of the grounds.

Part of the wall.

Looking back at the palace from outside the wall.

Isn't that an alluring gate, standing half open and leading into the mysterious woods?

A bench under a very Christmasy holly tree :-)
I grabbed a few more shots of the grounds as I walked back around the palace to the front entrance again.

A mounting block to help people mount horses.

Walkway to a little side garden area.

The little garden to one side of the house.

And I grabbed a couple shots of the "servants" while were inside, just for fun :-)

That's all for today, folks!  Hope you enjoyed your tiny tour :-)