But a very sweet mess, as you can see!
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
I have gotten more daring with cooking. I'll vary up and experiment all over the place when it comes to meats and sauces, casseroles and stir fries, spices etc. But baking I have always considered a much more precise art (which it is), and I cling to my recipes for guidance (and after the fiasco of the lemon poppy seed cake as seen here, you may understand why).
This last weekend, however, I invented my very first cookie recipe:
These were a valiant attempt to recreate my husband's childhood. Or at least, a small part of it. He told me that he particularly enjoyed Sunday school at one of the churches he attended as a little'un because they always served Almond-Chocolate Shortbread. I thought, "Hey, I can do that!"
Turns out I couldn't. These don't taste anything like what Rohan remembers from childhood Sunday school. Nevertheless, he has declared them "Inspired!" and they are his new favorite.
I thought, since this is the first time I have invented my own cookie recipe, that I would share it with all of you! If you make, let me know how it turns out.
Here are the ingredients you'll need:
3 cups flour
6 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter (room temperature)
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons ice water
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
For chocolate glaze:
16 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
2-3 Tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
First, combine your flour, sugar, and salt. With two forks, cut in your room temperature butter until it looks like corn meal. (Basically, I cut until it looks about right, and then cut a little bit more! It's important that all of your flour is coated with butter so that it will bind properly.)
When you've finished cutting in the butter, mix your egg yolks and ice water in a small bowl. Add to your flour/butter mixture and stir until dough forms a ball.
Press your dough into your bar pan. (I don't actually own a bar pan, so I put wax paper on a cookie sheet and used that instead.) Press flat. (Too get it as flat as I wanted, I put a sheet of wax paper over the dough and rolled it out with my rolling pin. Didn't flour the pin or the dough because you don't want to add more flour at this point.)
Once your dough is nice and flat, press the almonds down on the surface until they stick properly.
Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 20-25 minutes until dough is golden brown around the edges. (I have a gas oven which heats up very fast, so keep that in mind. If you have electric, you might need to let it go a bit longer.) Let cool completely.
While cookies are cooling, melt chocolate and 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, stirring until smooth. Start with two tablespoons. If your chocolate starts to look "grainy," add the third. (I used 8 oz. Ghirardelli bittersweet baking bars, but realized it wasn't enough and added another 8 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate morsels I had on hand. The result was very yummy.)
Pour chocolate over cooled cookie bars. Let set for at least fifteen minutes before cutting. Chocolate will still be VERY gooey at this point! Wait until chocolate hardens before serving. I cut them into little squares and then refrigerated them for a couple of hours.
I liked them particularly well cold, but they are awesome at room temperature as well. Too rich while the chocolate is still hot, I thought.
Another variation I plan to try will be substituting craisins for the almonds and maybe adding a dash of cranberry juice to the chocolate mix!
Let me know if you end up trying this recipe! This is our current favorite cookie recipe, and I hope you'll enjoy it too!
It means a chance at more free books, so you know . . . why not? :)
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
or "Ummu-Hubur who formed all things"
Tiamat is not actually known for certain to be a dragon as such. She considered a "chaos monster" or a primordial goddess of the ocean from ancient Babylonian texts. The Enûma Eliš, the Babylonian epic of creation, lists her as the mother of gods and goddesses as well as the mother of dragons and serpents. But she's not necessarily a dragon herself, though later Babylonian art depicts her as such:
She is most famous for her battle with another Babylonian god, Marduk. Marduk, the god of thunderbolts, determined to establish himself as the head of the pantheon of gods, killed Kingu, whom Tiamat had put in charge of the Tablets of Destiny. Infuriated, Tiamat, who had loved Kingu, went to battle against Marduk. And she lost.
Marduk took the dead body of Tiamat, and from her ribs, crafted heavens, turned her weeping eyes into the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates, and spread her tail across the sky to form the Milky Way:
It is interesting to note that this story of Marduk and Tiamat is not one that deals with ethics or morality. Neither Marduk nor Tiamat is considered good or bad. Though Tiamat is an agent of destruction, she is not considered wicked. As the author of British Dragons says:
"The issues involved (in the Enûma Eliš) are not ethical, but cosmic; these myths are concerned with the creative process that shaped the universe and restored order after a threat of chaos, or of grave deficiences in the natural order" (p. 24).
The story of Tiamat and Marduk has had a profound effect on dragon lore. We see it reiterated in many dragon-slayer tales, particularly the "storm god fighting the sea serpent" aspect. Tiamat, as a goddess of primordial oceans, is often depicted as a sea serpent. The tale is retold in the form of Thor (another thunder god) battling Jörmungandr (another sea serpent). Also Zeus (yet another thunder god) battling Typhon (a many-headed dragon) is similar to the tale.
So whether or not Tiamat was intended from the beginning to be a dragon, she has effected dragon mythology throughout the ages!
Sadly, that effect did make its way into cartoon world:
Oh dear, yes. She has been immortalized forever as a many-headed dragon queen pitted against six spunky teens and pre-teens in the Dungeons andDragons TV series.
("I liked that one!" my husband says. "We are no longer speaking," says I.)
Poor Tiamat. How are the mighty fallen!
Tiamat on a scale of 1-10
Saturday, November 19, 2011
I see it happen all the time. I struggle with the issue regularly. After all, we are just trying to tell a "fun story," aren't we? We certainly don't want to come across as moralizing or legalistic! I know I don't, and I know I struggle with falling into that trap.
But there's a flip-side to every coin. How often, for the sake of "just telling a story," do we find ourselves writing things that don't reflect our actual beliefs?
Here's a classic example of what I'm talking about: How often do we say (both in secular and Christian fiction) that it's the inside of a person that counts, not the superficial exterior? Pretty often. But how often is that what we actually write?
While there are exceptions to the rule, almost every romance novel I have read depends on the extraordinary hotness of the heroine and the incredible muscle-tone of the hero to create the romance. To create the tension. Even to define the character. (Can he even be a hero without toned abs? Can she be an interesting character without a stunning figure and violet eyes?) We write them as super-models, movie stars, demigods, and yet we expect people to believe that it's the inside that counts.
Oh, I've heard people say that "attraction matters" and that's why they spend so much time describing the hotness of their various characters in order to create a "realistic" romance. Now, I'm not going to argue that point! Absolutely, attraction matters. I think my husband is adorable, and I enjoy his good looks!
But is he a movie star? Does he look like (Insert Your Favorite Romantic Lead: here)? He is very attractive to me, but was it body-builder muscle tone that drew me to him?
It all comes down to writing what you believe. And what most people believe is that attraction is important, but that attraction can stem from a lot of sources and is highly subjective. After all, plain people are just as capable of passionate romance as the superstars! Don't you think it's possible a man might be romantic even if he has skinny shoulders and is a bit soft around the middle? Can't a girl with crooked teeth and a bit of weight on her be someone's dream come true?
I don't write romance books, so this has not been an issue for me at this point. (The heroine of my last novel is a goblin. So yeah. We kind of have to love who she is and not what she looks like.) But I have found myself running into other situations where I could write what I don't believe for the sake of easy storytelling.
Best personal example: I once outlined and planned out in detail a novel in which the main character earned forgiveness by a noble act. I planned to have this character, who was pretty messed up, atone for his own sin.
But I don't believe that.
I don’t believe that a good deed cancels out a bad deed. I don't believe in karma, and I don't believe that if we do something wrong, we can then do something right to make it all better. Some wounds we inflict cannot be fixed, no matter how many "good deeds" we might do to make up for it. Forgiveness is not something that can be earned by our merit. Forgiveness is something that must be offered without our deserving it. Forgiveness is an act of ultimate grace.
So I scrapped that story idea, and wrote what I truly believed. I wrote a story in which the hero strives to fix his mistakes but realizes that he cannot. It was a harder story to write. And it was a true story that reflected what I believed.
But I could have just as easily written my fun adventure story, let my hero earn his own forgiveness, and said, "Hey! I'm not trying to mean anything here! It's just a fun story!"
The problem is, stories often take on a message or meaning whether you intend it or not. And we Christian writers have to be SO careful that when we are writing, we are reflecting what we hold true. That we are bathing every project in prayer, seeking God's glory and not our own. Yes, we are just telling a "good story," and it is meant for entertainment. But as soon as you take the label "Christian," your writing comes under a much closer scrutiny.
Let me finish by saying that I don't believe every book written by a Christian needs to have a "good Christian moral" tagged onto it. I think every book needs to have something to say, or it's only so much babble. But what you are trying to say doesn't need to be summarized in a little moral message, and not every little twist of your tale needs to have some deep, allegorical significance.
At its heart, however, a novel must reveal what an author believes, be that author Christian or non-Christian. Fiction is about entertainment, yes. But it's also about communication. What are you communicating through your work?
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Vollys is the creation of notable children's book writer Gail Carson Levine, a character in her second novel, The Two Princesses of Bamarre.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Original name: Fuchur, der Glücksdrache
Also called: Falcor
Falkor is the loveable luckdragon from Michael Ende's strange and beautiful The Neverending Story. He is a denizen of Phantásien (or Fantastica as it is translated into English), and he is just as strange and beautiful as the story in which he dwells.
We first meet Falkor in dire straits, caught in the web of a monstrous spider who is creepy enough to give the famous Shelob a run for her money: Ygramul the Many.
But Falkor is not giving up without a fight! He battles the giant spider . . . but whenever he bites her, his jaws close upon a void! It is then we discover that Ygramul is no mere giant spider . . . she is made up of innumerable blue insects that swarm to take different shapes, including that of the giant spider! Thus her title, "the Many."
Falkor is no ordinary dragon himself. As the author says, "Luckdragons are among the strangest animals in Fantastica. They bear no resemblance to ordinary dragons, which look like loathsome snakes and live in deep caves, diffusing a noxious stench and guarding some real or imaginary treasure" (p. 64).
Falkor, instead, is a creature of "air, warmth, and pure joy." He has a luxuriant mane, a pearly, pink-and-white body, vicious fangs, and ruby-red eyes. He flies without the need of wings, because he is light as a cloud! They swim through the air, and they sing in golden, bell-like voices, a song that makes the hearer glad to remember to their dying day.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Dear Book Lovers,
2011 WAS ANOTHER great year for readers. So many fabulous books were published! We reviewed more than 250 books in each issue of RT BOOK REVIEWS—more than 3,000 titles for the entire year. Our ace reviewers and have scoured 12 months’ worth of reviews to compile the best of the best for the annual RT BOOK Career Achievement and Reviewers’ Choice Awards. For the Reviewers’ Choice nominees, our star team selected only those novels that deeply resonated with them. The Career Achievement nominees have continuously crafted superior books throughout their careers in each category.
Winners will be announced in the May issue of RT, just prior to our 29th annual Booklovers Convention in Chicago, April 11 -April 15, 2012. Winners will be honored at a ceremony on April 13, and awards will be presented to the authors in attendance. We hope you will be there to celebrate with your favorites!
So excited! Many thanks to those responsible for Veiled Rose's nomination!
For those of you curious, I'm including a list of all the Inspirational nominees according to category.
THE GIRL IN THE GATEHOUSE
Bethany House (Jan.)
Jill Eileen Smith
David C. Cook (Jun.)
THE INCONVENIENT MARRIAGE OF CHARLOTTE BECK
Ann H. Gabhart
MINE IS THE NIGHT
Liz Curtis Higgs
WHO IS MY SHELTER?
Thomas Nelson (Mar.)
THERE YOU’LL FIND ME
Jenny B. Jones
Thomas Nelson (Oct.)
Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Bethany House (Jul.)
THE HEART OF MEMORY
THE BAKER’S WIFE
Thomas Nelson (Oct.)
BOOK OF DAYS
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour fourth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world."
(Psalm 19: 1-4)