Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Science and Christianity

I know, I wasn't planning on writing much this summer, but this is a topic that has been weighing on my mind, and I was so excited, I just had to write down what I was thinking. 

We were very excited to have Ken Ham speaking at a church in our area one recent Sunday, and I was very stirred by his message. It clarified what I had been pondering over the past few months, and gave me renewed determination and courage to stand for what I believe.

For those who might not have heard of Ken Ham, he is a Christian scientist who believes in a 6-day creation period and an earth that's about 6,000 years old. He founded Answers in Genesis, an apologetics ministry to help equip Christians to defend our faith and share the gospel effectively. His ministry built the Creation Museum (which I still haven't visited yet) and their latest project is building a full-size reproduction of the Ark. Yes, Noah's Ark.

Why is Genesis so important? See, our society currently is pushing "scientific" things like an earth that's millions or billions of years old, and evolution as a "fact." The sad thing is, that so many Christians think that we can just fit that in with the Bible. We feel pressured to, because as Ken Ham pointed out, if you do not accept the current scientific beliefs as true, you will be ridiculed, mocked, scorned, called names like "anti-intellectual" and worse. We have our pride. No one wants to experience all those unpleasant consequences for nothing. So we've begun to wonder, why is the Genesis account of creation so important, anyway?

Well, answering that question was basically Ken Ham's entire message, and I'm not going to try to replicate all of it in a blog post. The part that really grabbed my attention most was his extremely popular castle illustration. I've seen it before, but this time it fit so perfectly with what I'd been mulling over, it was a light-bulb sort of moment!

Notice that the cannonballs aren't aimed at our little "Christian" flag. Satan doesn't care if we call ourselves "Christians" as long as our faith in God (and His word) isn't thriving. As a matter of fact, I think one of the deceptive places Satan likes to have people is smugly thinking that they are Christians when they actually aren't, so they can ignore the gospel message and arrogantly believe whatever they want in the name of Christ. Look at the little Christian guy in the diagram firing his cannon at the castle's foundation. That's what Satan can trick fake Christians, or even just weak Christians into doing. It's a stealthy attack on Christianity.

Really, I don't think it actually a very sneaky attack, we're just not doing a very good job being "wise as serpents" (Matt. 10:16)  If you think about it, it's obvious that the attack on Genesis doesn't stop with Genesis, the attack is on Biblical authority versus modern "scientific" authority. Current science says the earth is really old, the Bible says the earth is relatively young. If we fit in the millions of years, what's to stop them from convincing us to reinterpret other things with a modern secular science viewpoint?

It's already happening, just look at the churches in our country: homosexuality is spreading quickly, and becoming acceptable even among Christians. The Bible says homosexuality is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22), dishonorable and debased (Romans 1:26-28), but "science" and modern society claim that people are born homosexual, and that their unnatural behavior should be accepted as good. Pedophilia and bestiality are on the way, folks. Don't even get me started on transsexuals.

How far will we let them go? As Christians, we have a faith that is founded on and surrounded by things that cannot and should not be explained scientifically. For example, my family has been studying Genesis 17-21 lately, and how the birth of Isaac was pointing toward the miraculous birth of Jesus. Sarah was 90 years old (Gen 17:17), she was past menopause (18:11) and she had been barren her entire life. How scientifically possible is it that she could bear a child?! But nothing is impossible with God. (Matt. 19:26) How scientifically possible is it that a virgin could conceive our Savior? And yet it was prophesied (Isaiah 7:14) and fulfilled in Jesus (Luke 1:34-35).

If we reinterpret everything in the Bible so that it fits with science, we end up with a Savior who was "just a good man." He couldn't have been fully man and fully God, because that's not scientific. He couldn't have healed the lame, sick, and blind, raised the dead or cast out demons (I don't think demons are even scientific in the first place) with just a word, a touch. He couldn't have taken our sins upon himself, he couldn't have died and then ROSE from the dead! That doesn't happen scientifically!

Romans 4:16-25 says:

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness[c] of Sarah's womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (emphasis mine)

So ultimately, the question isn't actually "how important is Genesis?" but rather: "who will you choose to believe?" Do you believe God, or science? Where is your faith? Is your faith in God's word, or man's explanation? Friends, we must be strong in faith, and able to defend and believe the Bible above science. If we don't, our foundation will crumble, and we'll lose our faith. Science can only be as knowledgeable as the men who study it, but we have the word of God, He who created everything, and who has supernatural power outside of human constraints. Which do you choose?

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. - John 15:18-19

Jesus warned us that the world would hate us. We can't be true Christians and fit in with the world.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. - 1 Corinthians 1:18 

They will call us many horrible names, and say terrible things about us. That's just light persecution. Someday we might be tortured and killed for our beliefs. Are you ready to take some verbal abuse? In Acts 5, the apostles were beaten for telling people about Jesus. Verse 41 says that they left after their beating "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." For the name of our Savior. 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:9

Monday, June 9, 2014

I'm Alive!

Yes, I haven't posted since April! If there is anyone still following me, here's a little, rambling update on my life... and an explanation of why I probably won't be posting much for the rest of this summer...

Enjoying the beautiful outdoors with my cat, Twila.
In May, I had my 4th annual Spring piano recital with almost all of my students! This was the second year that my students have been too numerous for a recital in my living room, so we were at a local piano store playing on a beautiful Steinway! I so enjoy being a piano teacher, and all my wonderful students! 

Then I took a break from teaching for the last week of May so that we could paint. We painted our porch railing in one day. Then we did the living room. It took us about 4 days of painting to do the living room, we painted the ceiling, and the walls, and the trim. 

Painting the ceiling, or painting these little spindles... both were hard.

After! Still need a new picture for over the mantle.

I'm very happy with the stairs because they've been scuffed and smudged ever since we moved in, and finally they look nice!

Exciting family events include the high school graduation of my 19-year-old brother, my "baby" brother turning 17, my sister turning 21, and me becoming an official old maid (by Lydia Bennet standards) by turning three-and-twenty. 

Strawberry frozen yogurt and chocolate "ice cream" cake for my little brother's birthday.

My summer plans include: 

-Continuing to teach piano lessons to all my students who take lessons during the summer (which is most of them, yay! I think summer piano lessons are a good idea for most students), the count is at 21 summer students, right now.

-A part-time nanny job taking care of an adorable two-and-a-half-year-old boy, and sometimes his two older siblings 2 mornings a week.

-Volunteering as a kid-pusher (I get to lead cute little girls to their spots for their races) at my youngest brother's swim meets this summer, and cheering him on in the sweltering heat on Tuesday nights. He's a very fast swimmer, and one of the oldest guys on the team, now. Next summer will be his last summer of swim meets, and I'm going to savor every one!

-Practicing piano and studying with my teacher... we're hoping to work up a full recital program for me to perform soon! I'm trying to memorize a whole Beethoven concerto, and learn all three movements of a Schubert sonata, plus some Chopin and more!

-Learning to tune pianos through a correspondence course I ordered. Now that I see how busy I will be this summer, maybe starting a tuning course right now wasn't a good time, but I really want to be able to tune my own piano, as I've gotten pretty picky, and it's been going out of tune faster than I'd like due to our crazy weather here!

-Spending time with friends doing some fun things, like going contra dancing, movie marathons, maybe some day trips... this weekend I get to see my sister perform in the stage musical version of Pride and Prejudice, and also Pirates of Penzance! (Yes, her crazy theatre group is doing P&P on Friday night, and Pirates on Saturday night! And she is in both shows!)

-Reading Little Dorrit by Dickens and trying to catch some sunlight (and Vitamin D!) at the pool whenever I can find some spare time.

Just reading all that, even I think I'm crazy. So I'm sure you'll all forgive blogging not being on my list... I do have some health-oriented post ideas swirling around in my brain, and I'm sure some more food attempts and just maybe, perhaps, a finished Regency gown will eventually appear, but for now, I wish you a happy summer!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Mud" (2012) vs. "The Way, Way Back" (2013)

Two movies that are remarkably similar in basic plot: somewhat shy, socially awkward boy on the threshold of growing up, with no good father-figure, navigating life and trying to find his place, searching for meaning, finally meets a man that he can emulate, look up to and admire. Why did I love one and hate the other? Why is one a 5/5 stars, and the other 1 star (or, actually, 0, if that's allowed...) What did one get so right that the other got so wrong? Let me count the ways...

Allow me to introduce our young stars: as I already mentioned, our 14-year-old heroes are both a little shy and awkward. They are quiet, serious, intelligent, sensitive and deep-thinkers. 

Here's Liam James, as Duncan from The Way, Way Back and Tye Sheridan as Ellis from Mud

At the beginning of The Way, Way Back we see Duncan in the very back of his mother's new boyfriend's station wagon. The boyfriend, Trent, played by Steve Carrell, asks Duncan to rate himself on a scale of 1 to 10.. Duncan eventually answers with "6" to which Trent counters with "3." He then prompts him to improve on that number while he stays at the beach house that summer while Duncan shoves his ear-buds back in to escape.

At the beginning of Mud we meet Ellis, driving around and selling fish with his dad, who seems to be a bit gruff and callous. After selling the fish, Ellis goes with his best friend, Neckbone, to scout out an old boat that was deposited on an island in the upper branches of a tree by a flood a long time ago. I didn't connect with Ellis as well as Duncan because it took almost the whole movie for me to begin to understand him. I felt for Duncan and had a connection with him in the first 5 minutes. None of the characters from Mud really resonated with me at all. That's 1.

Note: Spoilers ahead! If you haven't seen either of these movies, and you're interested in seeing them, I suggest that you not read on. Here are my sister's spoiler-free reviews for Mud and The Way, Way Back from her blog, How To Watch A Movie.

Enter the new father-figure/role model/mentor. Duncan in The Way, Way Back gets Sam Rockwell in the form of irresponsible water-park manager Owen. He's goofy and a bit immature, but sees that Duncan needs him  and needs an escape from his "family," so he gives him a job for the summer. His acceptance and encouragement helps Duncan grow, and escape his despondency. Owen also matures through the movie, and by the end has become a bit more mature and responsible. Whatever his flaws, he truly cares about Duncan, and was a good influence.

Ellis in Mud isn't quite so fortunate in his father-figure/role model/mentor. Matthew McConaughey plays Mud, a murderer and a fugitive from the law, living in the boat up in the trees. He seems nice enough, the murder was for the sake of his girlfriend, anyway, and he convinces Ellis and Neckbone to help him by promising to give them the abandoned boat once he leaves. As Ellis discovers later in the movie, Mud was just using them as messengers and for supplies, he didn't really care about them. He comes to care for them later, but so far as I see it, his influence on Ellis was only bad. He made him a thief, a liar, and guilty of harboring a fugitive. And he even broke his promise about the boat. That's 2.

Duncan and Susanna at the water park.
Both boys and both men have their own love interests. In The Way, Way Back, Owen has Caitlin, his assistant manager at the water-park. She's a bit frustrated at his continued immaturity and irresponsibility, but loves him anyway and tries to motivate him to be better. Duncan is attracted to the beautiful Susanna, and she is consistently nice to him in spite of his awkwardness, which also helps him come out of his shell. I found both relationships to be sweet, and being a die-hard romantic, I'm happy that neither relationship really ended, they are left with the potential for an eventual happily-ever-after. More so in the case of the adults than the teens, but still a cute ending.

May Pearl and Ellis on their first "date."
In Mud, the adult relationship is Mud and his girlfriend, Juniper, the girlfriend that he was willing to murder someone for. Juniper is revealed to be unfaithful, she leaves Mud for other guys, but then comes back to him, and over and over again, he takes her back. Mud set up this rendezvous point, intending to take her with him when he escapes the law. Ellis, apparently a hopeless romantic, tries to help reunite them. He also has his first romantic experience with older girl May Pearl. She encourages and strings him along, and then turns on him, dumps him and makes fun of him in front of her friends. Juniper also leaves Mud again for another guy. That's 3.

Cold, selfish, annoying and conflicted Juniper from Mud.
 From all this, you could see why a romantic like myself would find Mud tragic and unpalatable, with an unfortunately pessimistic viewpoint about true love, but that's not all. Besides unhappy endings in Mud, and the poor character that Mud is, and how unsuitable he is to be a role model for Ellis, and the fact that I didn't connect with any of the characters in Mud, I think the absolute worst part is the lack of change and character growth in Ellis. Perhaps the whole reason I didn't like him is because he doesn't seem to change over the movie, or if anything, he gets a little worse. (After all, he started off an honest kid, and Mud turned him into a thief and liar.) At the end of the movie, Ellis is at the new apartment that he and his mom have just moved to after his parents separated, and he sees some older girls going into an apartment across the street, and smiles. Really, Ellis? You didn't learn your lesson about older girls?

Ultimately, I think that Mud sends the message that life is hard, true love doesn't exist, and no one is really a good person. I can agree that life is sometimes hard, and no one is really a good person (without Christ), but I don't like to watch depressing entertainment and I definitely disagree on the point that true love doesn't exist. The hard parts of life and bad characters can serve to sweeten the good characters and happy parts of life, so I'm not saying that they don't have a place in a movie, but when there are no good characters, and no cheerful sides to the story, I'm not going to enjoy it. Mud had no redeeming aspects for me, and I didn't enjoy it at all. Watching it was about as enjoyable as sitting and staring at real mud. That's 4.

Sweet special moment as Owen comforts and encourages Duncan.
The Way, Way Back, in contrast, is a great story about a boy growing up, with some hard times, painful moments and bad characters, but the contrast is there - Duncan also has sweet moments, encounters good characters, and in the end, is improved by the experience. He grows, and changes, and by the end of the movie, you feel that Duncan is going to be just fine. The messages I get are that there is hope for love, there are some jerks in the world, but there are also kind people, and life may be hard, but hard times can strengthen you, if you'll let them.

I look for hope, real love, and Christ-likeness in every movie. The Way, Way Back has its flaws, to be sure, but I found in it what I like to see. After seeing The Way, Way Back, I found Mud to be a waste of my time. I'd rather just watch The Way, Way Back again, instead.

Have you seen either or both of these movies, or maybe you just read the spoilers? What do you think? Agree or disagree with my analysis?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Genuine - 2014

I've heard of picking a word for the year, or a Scripture verse for the year, and while it always seemed like a nice idea, until recently I have only been able to pick a word or verse in retrospect - "well, that word would have fit, or this verse would have been good..." It may have taken me around 4 months into the year, but I finally have a word for this year: genuine.


Genuine - adj. \ˈjen-yə-wən
:  actual, real, or true : not false or fake
:  free from hypocrisy or pretense :  sincere and honest

Several years ago, I think I was pretty genuine. I would say what I meant, I wasn't afraid of confrontation or friends disagreeing with me. Then I spoke up about something, honestly thinking that almost everyone would actually agree with me, and instead, I incurred the disapproval of many adults, and alienated a few of my closest friends. It was a big change, and a turning point in my life, I think.

Even though it was painful, I can see that it was a good thing that I learned who they truly were. I was deceived about what kind of friends I had, and now I know they weren't truly my friends, or the kind of people I'd want for close friends, anyway. Seeing through their artificiality made me more determined to be myself, although I haven't been putting it into practice very well for the past few years. It's a little scary to realize that you can so quickly be rejected by those you thought were your friends, but isn't better to have real friends who truly know you, and love you anyway?

I'm tired of feeling like a fake, tired of wondering if the people I'm around actually know me. I'm not going to try to be who others want me to be, or try to be the kind of girl that attracts friends. This year, I intend to be the person that one person, the most important person, wants me to be; I'm going to strive to be who God wants me to be. 

I think I was on the right track before, but I let the disapproval and loss of my former friends derail me. I started to doubt myself, and doubt my stance on certain issues. Then I let bitterness and self-pity take over my heart. But finally, I forgive. I've let go. I'm ready to get back on track. I want to follow God, and say whatever He leads me to say, no matter what the response might be.

If I'm just chatting with people, I want to be natural and not self-conscious. I may sometimes be a little silly, or say something dumb, but I don't want to be afraid to speak up. Likewise, in important issues, a person of genuine character wouldn't keep quiet in the face of lies and deception. I want to have the courage to speak the truth, and be a genuine follower of my Lord.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. - 1 Peter 1:3-9

Because of the wonderful mercy of God, those of us who are born again through our resurrected Savior have a glorious inheritance in heaven. We can rejoice in that, even though our short lives may be filled with trials. Those trials are to test the genuineness of our faith! And that genuine faith is for the praise, glory and honor of Jesus. May my faith be found genuine by the testing.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. - Romans 12:9-13

This is the passage that I have chosen for my scripture of the year. This a very concise set of instructions that gives me a great starting place in being genuine. I'm excited and inspired, and after a few years of the bondage to what other people think of me, I feel so free and relieved! I'm looking forward to who God will lead me to be, and living genuinely the rest of my life.

Do you have a word for 2014? Or a special scripture verse for the year? 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

We were studying John in our Sunday morning Bible study class recently, and something stuck out that I had never caught before. Of course, I've heard the story of Jesus and read the book of John many times, but I never understood this part before, and now that I do, I'm amazed!

To begin, one must have an understanding of how crucifixion works. The position of the arms when someone is being crucified makes it very difficult to breathe. The person had to push up on their nailed feet to draw a partial breath, and the strain caused the lungs to fill with fluid, until finally, death comes by suffocation, sometimes many days later, which is why they broke the legs of the thieves to speed up the process. I had heard this before too, but still missed the important point.

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. - John 19:30

From this verse, it's easier to think that Jesus may have been killed by crucifixion. That's what I used to think, that Jesus had allowed the cross to take His life. But for further detail, look at the verses about His death in Mark: 

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” - Mark 15:33-39

If Jesus was about to die as the result of crucifixion, He would not have been able to cry out "with a loud voice" or "utter a loud cry" right before He breathed His last. As our study leader explained, when someone died by crucifixion, the last sound was usually a gurgling as the lungs completely filled with fluid. That is why the centurion, who watched Him die, was convinced the He was the Son of God, the centurion knew He could have lived much longer if He still had breath enough to cry out so loudly.

"For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father." - John 10:17-18

These verses from John make it clear, that He was given the power by God the Father to die at exactly the moment He chose. He allowed Himself to be spit upon, tortured, mocked, beaten, scourged and crucified, but ultimately, "NO ONE" took His life from Him. The cross didn't kill Him, humans didn't murder Him (although they tried), He voluntarily sacrificed His life for us. What amazing power! Truly, He is the Son of God. He laid down His life at exactly the right time to be our eternal Passover Lamb.

Greater than that, though, is that He rose from the dead. He was given power to lay down His life, AND to take it up again! We have been given new life through His resurrection. Because He died, we are dead to sin, and because He lives, we are alive with Him!

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. - Colossians 2:13-15

Hallelujah, He is risen! Have a wonderful Resurrection weekend, everyone!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Raw Chocolate Recipe

I don't know if I'd want to eat healthy if it meant I'd have to give up chocolate... thankfully, that's not necesssary! Chocolate can actually be good for you, with the right ingredients. The cacao bean itself is very healthful, what makes your typical chocolate bar so bad for you are the other ingredients, like white sugar, milk fat, emulsifiers like soy lecithin (probably GMO), artificial flavorings and others.

REAL chocolate, on the other hand, is much simpler, and very healthy, even better if you make it raw. I've made raw chocolate with cacao butter and cacao powder before. I can't find the original recipe anymore, but it goes as follows (I've memorized it):

100g raw Cacao butter
6 TBS of raw Cacao powder
3-4 TBS of raw honey
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
pinch of salt

When I found raw Cacao liquor here, I decided it might be an even better way to make my own chocolate because liquor is actually even less processed than the cacao butter and cacao powder, because the two aren't separated. In cacao liquor, the cacao bean is liquefied. It's also sometimes called cacao paste.

I couldn't find any recipes for plain raw chocolate using cacao liquor, so I just "winged it" and my first attempts turned out a little thick and clumpy, I couldn't figure out why. I thought adding the honey might be causing it to seize, but honey in the other recipe didn't cause it to seize. Finally, I found a recipe for some kind of chocolate bark and even though I didn't want to try the exact recipe (it had nuts and seeds and other additional things that I didn't want) it gave me the idea to use cacao liquor AND cacao butter. I realized that the ratio of cacao butter to cacao powder in my original recipe was probably a lot higher than 1 to 1, and cacao liquor is supposed to be about 50%/50%, so I decided to add cacao butter to my cacao liquor.

It turned out so smooth and glorious, I thought I could hear angel choruses singing in delight. Unfortunately, I didn't measure (just kind of estimated...) the cacao liquor and cacao butter, so I didn't know exactly how to recreate it (I know, shame on me. My dad has given me that lecture enough times, I should know better.) and since I was afraid it might turn out thick again, I decided not to put the vanilla extract or salt, and just sweeten it with a little honey. It was very bittersweet, but still enjoyable. This chocolate stays solid even at room temperature (unlike chocolate made with coconut oil, which is still yummy and good for you... and also cheaper to make) and is great for chocolate chips.

I tried to recreate what I had done, but measuring it so I would have a recipe to follow... but I also decided to add the vanilla extract, and make it a little sweeter. It didn't turn out quite as smooth once it chilled, although it still looked as smooth when it was all melted and I was pouring it into the mold. I think the honey crystallized a little when it cooled. Anyway, here is the working recipe right now, if anyone wants to try it and share any tricks and tips they might discover, I'd love to hear!

~250g of raw cacao liquor
~50g of raw cacao butter 
6 TBS of raw honey
1 tsp of vanilla extract
generous pinch of sea salt

Combine coarsely chopped cacao liquor and cacao butter in a double boiler over low heat. Do not let the water in the double boiler actually reach a boil. Keep the heat low and slowly melt to preserve the raw benefits. Once melted, stir in the honey, vanilla and salt thoroughly. Remove from heat, and avoid getting any steam or water droplets mixed with the chocolate. Pour into candy molds, or just a parchment-lined baking pan. Allow to cool (I like to speed the process by refrigerating or freezing) and enjoy! It will stay solid at room temperature, but if you make chocolate chips for baking, I find that cold chips keep their shape better as they're mixed into cookie dough, so I keep the chocolate chips in the fridge.

-As you can see, I'm tripling the grams of total chocolate base from my original recipe, but not the amount of honey, as I don't want it quite as sweet, but you can definitely add more honey to taste... just be warned that it might alter the consistency. You could also try stevia... not a sweetener my family enjoys, but it has the benefit of not altering the consistency as much, particularly if you use liquid stevia.

-Next time, I plan to try 200g of cacao liquor, and 100g of cacao butter.

Here's the GAPS approved chocolate chip cookies I made with the yummy chocolate chips. Recipe was found at MommyPotamus as a guest post from Gutsy. I added an egg, and I'm glad I did because our almond flour (I grind it myself) has a much less fine ground, as you can see. The egg helped the cookies hold together, and I also added about 2 tablespoons of coconut flour to counter the extra wetness. My youngest brother said they were "very good!" and my family sat there and stared in shock for a few seconds at such high praise.

Cheers for yummy, HEALTHY treats!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thoughts on romantic relationships, inspired by Frozen.

Because I can't even write a completely unrelated post without Jane Austen quotes, here's a quote from Mansfield Park (watched recently) regarding illusions of character: 
"All of this leads me to believe that the person I've been so apt to dwell on for many months has been a figure of my own imagination, not you, Miss Crawford. I do not know you, and I'm sorry to say, I have no wish to." -Edmund Bertram. 

Warning: spoilers for Frozen below! Don't read if you haven't seen the movie yet! Go see it first, it's worth it, and then come back, read this post and share your thoughts!

We have two romantic relationships to contrast in this movie: Anna and Hans, vs. Anna and Kristoff.

“This is awkward. Not you’re awkward, but just ‘cause we’re–I’m awkward. You’re gorgeous. Wait, what?” – Anna
First, Anna and Hans meet in typical Disney-princess style, except the ridiculousness of their love-at-first sight is intentionally amplified. They're both dumb-struck at their first meeting (does dumb-struck mean suddenly hit with nearly with incomprehensible stupidity?) and when they meet again at the ball, sing one really cute duet before he proposes, and she accepts. WHAT?!?

When Anna goes off to search for Elsa, and first meets Kristoff, there are no immediate sparks. If anything, they get on each others nerves a little. He's a little gruff and rude, then she rather annoyingly demands and bribes him into taking her up the mountain, and clobbers him with the gear she purchased for him; he makes fun of her impulsive engagement after knowing Hans only ONE DAY. They start off with a bit of friction and some controversy, and he only continues helping her not because she'll die on her own, but because she promised to replace his sled for him - at least, that's the reason he claims.

"Carrots. Carrots!" - Kristoff  Yeah, is that how you say, "excuse me, please"??
Back at Arendell, Hans seems to be showing signs of kindness, maturity, clear thinking and calm leadership skills. Anna may not have known more about him than that he's a prince, gorgeous, likes sandwiches, has 12 older brothers and dreamy eyes, but he does seem to have character. Anyone can fake character, how long can faking last? Obviously, almost anyone could keep it up for the small amount of time that Hans did before Anna accepted him, but from what they showed us of his behavior while Anna was gone, I am impressed with his faking abilities. Perhaps there's a warning here about how good a fake can be? (I mean, think about poor Edmund in Mansfield Park!)

Meanwhile, Anna and Kristoff go through some character-revealing trials together, like running away from a monster snow man. Once Anna's heart is frozen and she starts to freeze, Kristoff does everything he can for her and takes her to his troll "family" in hopes that they can heal her. After a silly song where the trolls try to marry them almost as impulsively as Anna agreed to marry Hans, the grandfather troll finally tells Kristoff that only an act of true love can save Anna, so he takes her back to Hans, her "true love," as fast as possible.

Question: Why does Kristoff's sacrificially giving Anna up for what he believes to be her good NOT count as an act of true love?
Answer: That would not answer the feminist and anti-romance message this movie is slamming over our heads.

At this point, Hans has found Elsa, saved her from recklessly murdering two bad guys, and takes her safely back to Arendelle, where, albeit, he locks her in a dungeon and tries to contain her powers. That makes sense to me, however, and there's no evidence of him treating her badly otherwise. Through the entire movie up to this point, his character is solidly good, if a little bland. He's acts more mature that Kristoff, he's more considerate, and seems to have a better grasp of the importance and purpose of deodorant.

Then we discover that Hans is a fake after all, he refuses to kiss Anna (arguably not necessarily an act of true love anyway, as Anna seems merely desperate to save her own life) and leaves her to freeze while he goes to kill Elsa and take the kingdom for himself. This annoys me just because there were no hints that he might be a bad guy until it looks like he's going in to kiss Anna, and then pulls away. I guess that's how surprised and betrayed we feel when our fantasies are shattered by the real person that was hiding behind our wishful imaginations and the fronts they put up. But I just didn't want Hans to be that bad. Plus, with "hindsight is 20/20," a few little hints that he was going to turn out bad would have been nice. I have now seen Frozen three times, and each time I looked very carefully for hints, and there really wasn't a single one.

So, Kristoff finally snaps out of it and realizes he has to go back for Anna, and he comes racing across the fjord on Sven to give her that "true love's kiss" (we can only assume, anyway) but Anna decides to protect Elsa from Hans rather than saving herself, and her sacrificial act of love is what saves her AND Elsa. Finally, everything is put right, and Anna and Kristoff have a cute ending where she gives him a replacement sled (and guitar-thingy) and he asks her permission before kissing her. Respectful, sweet, endearing. But does she really know that much more about Kristoff? What makes him the right man for her?

Is the lack of love-at-first-sight? (Must immediate attraction never go along with a relationship that might develop into something real?)

Is it the rockiness of their beginning together? (Would comfortable interaction early in the relationship be a sign of doom?)

Is it the difficulties they weather together? (If so, how many trials must a couple go through together before they can be sure that the other isn't a fake?)

Is it his lack of perfection? Does the guy you marry have to get spit in your face because he cares about his sled (car) more than you, eat his boogers, and have many other flaws, like being a little smelly or socially impaired? 

Does he have to be willing to give you up and walk away at some point in the relationship before he comes back?

How many days did Anna know Kristoff anyway? And did they even get married, or did they just live together forever because you can never really be 100% positive and absolutely certain about another person? Or maybe they ended up breaking up. After all, they didn't sing a song together, you know!

Or maybe that's one of the requirements for finding your true love, you absolutely cannot sing adorable duets together. Because that would be too fun and romantic to be true love... 

I don't know if the makers of this movie ever really decided exactly what message they were trying to send. I'm confused, and the more I think about it, the more confused I get about what the whole point was anyway. I'm liking Frozen less and less the more I contemplate. I wish I could stop thinking about it, but for some reason my brain just can't Let It Go. (Yes, I'm reduced to cheesy puns.) I'm starting to feel like the message was: Don't ever trust nice guys, because if a guy really seems nice, he's just too good to be true. Be sure to settle for a guy with several flaws, but pick a guy with flaws that don't really bother you.

I do really like a lot of the soundtrack though, and before I end, can I just say, I don't care if Hans ends up a bad guy, I really think it'd be awesome to marry a guy who would do things like this with me one day:

Stinking cute song, adorable fun couple.