Tis the Season . . . For Great Movies!

I love the end of each year for so many reasons revolving around the holidays, but one reason that might be a little less expected is the fantastic blockbuster movies that come out around this season. I’m talking about the kind that have been advertised for sometimes close to a year, teasing us with so many brilliant trailers that eventually we can’t possibly imagine where we’d be on opening night other than in a theater seat, ready to go with our extra-butter-popcorn, soda, and Junior Mints.

While some have already debuted in a theater near you, some of the best are still yet to come. Here is my list of movies I can’t WAIT to see (or have already seen and would recommend):

1. Skyfall

Skyfall (rated PG-13), the new James Bond movie, of course stars the dashing Daniel Craig and classic Judy Dench. If you love James Bond, you know the formula: a handsome MI6 agent goes on a dangerous, impossible mission that’s exciting, beautiful, disasterous, and victorious. In Skyfall, M and Bond are accused of being too old and antiquated in their ways for the current dangers in the world, but of course they are out to prove that wrong. It opens with Adele’s enchanting voice singing “Skyfall”, appropriately. Released in the U.S. on November 9th, it’s still in theaters. In fact, it was second in the Box Office Thanksgiving weekend. Go see it!

2. Lincoln

Lincoln (rated PG-13) is the new Steven Spielberg movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and a whole host of actors you’re sure to recognize. It’s the story of how the emancipation bill was finally passed during the final years of the Civil War, making slavery in America illegal. It was widely released in the U.S. on November 16th and was third in the Box Office over the holiday weekend. Stay tuned this week for my review on this film. Until then, make plans to go see it!

3. Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas (rated R) seems to be a little less known this season, but I think it’s worth mentioning. It was written and directed by the Wachowski’s who did the Matrix trilogy, and features Tom Hanks, among some other seasoned and great actors. It’s rumored to be a part of a series; this one alone is nearly three hours long. The kind of movie that makes you think, it’s about how a person and his/her actions have a ripple effect over past, present and future. “Everything is connected” is the tagline. It was released in theaters in the U.S. at the end of October, but if you hurry, you can still catch it.

4. The Impossible

The Impossible (rated PG-13) will be released in theaters on December 21st, and when I saw this trailer recently, I admit I was moved to tears. It’s based on a true story, and looks like something that will be a moving account of what happened during the Indonesian tsunami in 2004. It follows a couple and their three young sons on vacation in Thailand when the tsunami hit, how they were separated, and how the family miraculously re-united. Starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, I definitely have high hopes for this one.

5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (not yet rated) is of course arguably one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Another Peter Jackson film to follow The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the film is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit, about Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman) who embarks on a dangerous and adventurous quest along with a group of dwarves to reclaim a dwarf kingdom from a dragon called Smaug. Lots of our favorite actors from the triolgy will be back for this one and it promises to be every bit as epic as our beloved Lord of the Rings. This one comes out December 14th.

6. Les Miserables

Les Miserables (rated PG-13) is also another highly anticipated movie this year, and I’m hardly able to stand the wait any longer! In theaters Christmas Day, this is the classic story set in 19th-century France based on the book by Victor Hugo about an ex-convict, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who turns his life around and tries to do nothing but good for his community, but is under constant pursuit by inspector Javer (Russell Crowe). Fantine is played by Anne Hathaway, whose song you’ve surely heard in the trailer brings many to tears, Cosette is played by Amanda Seyfried, twenty-two year old Samantha Barks and her Broadway quality voice is seen playing Eponine, and Eddie Redmayne plays Marius. This film was shot with all the singing done live instead of pre-recorded, which will bring a level of emotion to the actors’ performances likely never seen before in a modern musical film. Get your tickets early. This one’s sure to sell out.

Of course there are plenty of other films coming to theaters soon that look great that I didn’t mention (yes, I’m aware the above doesn’t include the new Twilight movie). It just depends on your taste. Make sure to visit www.imdb.com and look in the “Coming Soon” section, watch the trailers, and make sure you don’t miss any of it!

Skyfall Photo
Lincoln Photo
Cloud Atlas Photo
The Impossible
The Hobbit Photo
Les Miserables Photo

Posted in Movies, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How I Learned to Host

Hostess Book

My husband and I have moved across the country and back during our ten-year marriage, which means that we now have friends scattered throughout the world. It’s not ideal; we wish we saw or at least spoke to most of our friends more often. Our situation isn’t unusual in this mobile age, but I do envy people who manage to settle near where they grew up, and who keep a tight circle of lifelong friends within close proximity.

Our life wasn’t always like this. There was a time, back when we first started dating, when the majority of our friends could be found within the New York Metropolitan area. My husband (then boyfriend) lived and worked in the Connecticut suburbs, and I lived and worked in Manhattan. He was from California and I was from Virginia, so we did have family and friends elsewhere, but a high percentage of our friends from work, church, and college lived within the five boroughs or their environs. Nobody was married yet, no kids had entered upon the scene. It was as close to Friends as we’ll ever get (but with worse hair and crummier apartments).

It was in this setting of youthful urban freedom that my husband taught me how to be a hostess.

A year after we’d started dating, Erick said, “How about we throw a holiday dinner for our friends?” Since most of our friends still went “home” for the holidays, we decided on a date between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Erick was living with a couple other guys in a “real” house with a “real” kitchen that was an easy train commute from Manhattan, so we decided to have the dinner at his place. This was in the early days of Evite (which gives you an idea of how ancient I am), when you could thrillingly invite anybody with an email account to an event for free; no postage required, just the click of a key! So we decided to invite EVERYONE.

All of this was completely outside of my comfort zone, my range of expertise, my natural instincts.

Growing up in my childhood home, events were EVENTS. My mother is an outstanding hostess, but not of the “laid back” variety. Dinner parties at our house were Emily Post-worthy soirees — every “i” dotted, every “t” crossed, the best linen and china brought out. My mother treats everybody who walks through her door like the Queen of England, and she’s invested hours of effort to make them feel that way.

I am lazier than my mother, so entertaining didn’t look very appealing from where I sat.

Erick, on the other hand, is the very essence of “laid back.” He thinks nothing of cooking for a group of forty, and paper plates are just fine with him. I put together a detailed book of  holiday recipes for that first dinner (which I still use); I’ve rarely seen Erick consult a recipe — if he does glance at one, it’s “to get ideas.” His style is to take a 20-lb cut of beef or a turkey, load it up with random seasonings, and roast it. The result is always the highlight of the meal.

If my memory and recipe book are accurate, for that first holiday meal we served baked brie, a variety of snacks, steamed clams, turkey, prime rib, rice stuffing, pan gravy, cranberry-pear relish, asparagus, brown sugar-glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes. We did all the shopping the night before, and all the cooking the day of. We didn’t ask anybody to bring anything, with the exception of one friend who was a pastry chef. She provided the dessert, obviously.

This is the kind of thing that would usually transform me into an obsessive, nervous wreck. But that didn’t happen, and it didn’t happen because I had Erick for a guide. He genuinely loves entertaining, and he showed me that it was possible to enjoy the whole process, from planning to shopping to preparation, without letting stress enter into things. Stress wasn’t necessary because the final product wasn’t THE POINT. Sure, we’d put food on the table and it would probably be decent. But THE POINT wasn’t a perfect meal or fine china; THE POINT was loving our friends.

The meal was delicious, despite my tiny error of putting food in plastic serving dishes back into the oven to keep it warm (which just shows how out of my element I was). But when I looked around the house that night (which was far from spotless, inhabited as it was by three twenty-something men), I saw about forty of the people who meant most to us in the world. We’d brought together investment bankers and teachers, pastry chefs and doctors, church friends and atheists, and they were all meeting each other, enjoying each others’ company and the pleasure of a warm meal on a cold night.

So, that was THE POINT: we’d gathered these people to say, in essence, “We love you. Thank you for being in our lives.” We hosted several more big holiday meals, and we’ve entertained countless times since, and I still feel a bit out of my element when hostessing. But, especially during the holidays, I think back to that first meal and remind myself of THE POINT. And I thank Erick for showing me.

Photo via.

Posted in Being a Woman, Family, Food & Drink, Relationships | 1 Comment

Thanksgiving: A Celebration of Neediness

I went through a little bit of an anti-American phase, like a lot young people, where I liked to think of myself as enlightened and daring enough to believe in some abstract way that I would have rather been born in another culture or time. As I’ve gotten older and have actually spent time in the Third World, am married, and have two little boys, this has all changed. There are romanticized ideas of what it would have been like to live a more primitive life still rooted inside of me, but the reality is that I was fortunate enough, by no merit of my own, to be born into a society where freedom exists, opportunity is accessible, education is mandatory, and the mortality rate is low. External provisions abound, however, there are also many internal challenges our culture can perpetuate. While I consider myself lucky, I also place a lot of pressure upon myself to stay thankful.

If we are so undeniably blessed, why is it so difficult to maintain gratitude? We think about the practicalities of our lives and we can get so irritated with our inability to maintain thankfulness. Instead of satisfaction and contentment, we have an insatiable appetite for everything—materials, experiences, emotions. Building a culture of gratitude in our hearts and our homes is an act that directly confronts most of what lies outside of the heart and home. It is a never ending war.

Here’s the truth: We have been wasting our time trying to discipline ourselves in gratitude because we have not really understood why we are so needy.

This world cannot satisfy our souls. It is true what C.S. Lewis said: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Though the curtain was torn, and a way was made for us to come to God, we will never be satisfied until the day that we are actually with Him. It does not matter how much we are given, there will still always be more that we long for—our God. All that this world holds before us to quench our thirst for love and value can only crumble in the wake of what He has accomplished for us.

Left to myself, I am depraved. My flesh is grass. If I can stop getting so frustrated with myself for not being thankful, and instead see my neediness as the evidence that I am longing for something my soul was designed to long for, the yearning takes a new meaning. Instead of trying to perform gratitude, I understand more deeply what I need and the grace of God is so much more visible in my life. A working component of the Gospel is my dependence upon a Savior. I can recite my blessings every day for as long as I live, but unless I understand that this hunger inside of me that I am trying to fill has a purpose, it is only a hunger, and I will try and fill it with whatever my world tells me I need.

This Thanksgiving, celebrate your neediness. Isn’t it beautiful that we need our Savior? The Gospel is the fulfillment of that longing, and the constant working out of our faith in coming to understand the man, Jesus Christ. We can thank God for the longing inside of us because it is the force that drives us into what He is doing and what He has to share with us. A lack of gratitude may be a lack of understanding in our lives.

We are hungry, and there is only One who can feed us. Thank God.

Photo via.

Posted in Theology & Philosophy | 1 Comment

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

My husband loves to create soups. He came up with this one a few weeks ago and I can’t stop thinking about how flavorful it was with the roasted squash. Be careful not to overcook the garlic and you can enjoy this fallish soup too!

ingredients
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 cups milk ((used 2%))
3-4 cup vegetable stock
grated cheddar cheese + red pepper  ((as desired)) flakes for garnish/flavor

directions
>>> roast butternut squash  in preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 min ((or until soft and slightly caramelized on the outside))
>>> puree butternut squash using blender in batches with milk
>>> in large stock pot, combine coconut oil and onion. cook until translucent.
>>> add garlic to stock pot and cook until fragrant
>>> pour broth to stock pot and heat through
>>> add butternut squash puree to broth mixture and combine to heat thoroughly
>>> garnish with grated sharp cheddar and red pepper flakes ((or whatever you prefer))

Posted in Food & Drink, Recipes | 1 Comment

Affirmation

Words of affirmation. It’s one of those “Love Languages” that I had the hardest time with for so long. I figured it was just because I didn’t need affirmation really, so it didn’t cross my mind to give it. Then I found out my husband really needed it, and, being committed to trying to love him the best I possibly can, I set to work to be the most phenomenal affirmer my man has ever seen. That lasted about five minutes, and then my affirming mind went blank. Why? Not because Wyley has a short list of ways he’s wonderful, but because . . . well, read on.

I discovered as I sat at my desk tapping my pen on a prized Papyrus card that was meant to be filled with fantastic truths about my husband that I had an aversion to this whole affirmation thing. It took me months to unpack that, and I found some pretty icky and wrong perceptions that I’d been holding on to that kept me from embracing this way of showing (and receiving!) love. Maybe you can relate to some of these:

1. I didn’t believe affirmations I received were true. It may have started with my mom. She affirmed me SO MUCH growing up that somewhere along the way I didn’t think her affirmations were genuine — that it was just what she had to say because she was my mom. (Of course that wasn’t true, and now that I’m an adult I understand that. She meant every single word, every single time.) But it didn’t stop there. I would think, “Oh, So-And-So complimented me because it’s a best-friend requirement, not because it was true.” I allowed what was meant to build me up to tear me down. Talk about a work of the enemy.

2. I also started to fear that encouragement or affirmation would puff up my pride. We all know that pride becomes before a fall, and since I’m not a fan of falling, I had to stay away from pride at all costs. So instead of receiving a compliment, I would respond with something like, “Well, that picture of me was only pretty because it’s obviously been Photoshopped,” or something horribly degrading to myself and I would actually believe it, because if I (God forbid) saw myself as genuinely pretty — that would be prideful.

3. As I got older, I realized that my inability to give affirmation, especially to other women, was partly out of insecurity. Oh I cringe admitting it, but it’s true! Why it made sense to me that by complimenting another woman I was putting myself down I will never know, but somehow, buried deep in that subconscious of mine, I couldn’t get myself to compliment someone who was prettier than me, or “better” than me in any way. Ok, so now we have an issue of comparison on our hands. Sheesh. This just keeps getting uglier.

One day I met a woman (who is now a dear friend) who is a professional affirmation giver. At least that’s what I think. She is genuine, secure, deliberate, timely, and helped me to be able to receive her encouragements and compliments. She even caught me blowing off one of her encouragements and said, “Lyndsay, don’t even tell me what I just said about you isn’t true. It is and you know it.” It was kind of a big deal for me (I don’t think she even knows! I should affirm her in this . . .). It’s not to say that her example broke me free of all the above issues that I’ve dealt with, but it modeled a healthy, effective way of affirming that I was actually able to receive. And then I got to dissect all of the things that have stood in my way of giving it out.

So let’s quickly break this down:

Yes, your beauty, strength, talents, etc. have been given to you by God. All glory to Him. He’s proud of you and pleased with you. It’s okay if others are too, and it’s also okay for them to recognize all that God-given awesomeness. Here’s a shocker: the Bible actually says to encourage and build one another up (1 Thess 5:11)! I think He knows we need that. He’s so smart.

If your mind automatically tells you all the ways the person who is giving you a compliment is wrong, the enemy is trying to steal from you something that is God-given. And we know only good and perfect gifts come from God (James 1:17)! Let’s recognize God’s goodness in us. He’s a creative, brilliant, beautiful God and He portrays that through our uniqueness and giftings. Don’t belittle it or Him.

Comparison is it’s own beast, and there is a fantastic OTW article by Rachel Naramore that addresses this specifically. But don’t let your insecurity about someone else being better than you keep them from receiving a deserved compliment from you. I dare you to give the woman next to you a compliment. She could probably use it, and it will be good practice for you. Because it’s not about you. It’s about her, and recognizing God’s amazingness in her.

I am still not a professional affirmer like my friend, but I’m learning to be better at it, and I’m also learning how much I need it, and getting better at receiving it. By God’s grace, He continues to work on me. I pray He will do the same in you, too.

Photo Via

Posted in Relationships, Self Esteem | 6 Comments