Dec 30, 2012

Nice discoveries: The Piano Guys

It was the last week of the year, and I've been under the weather, storming a not-precisely fabulous combo of bronchitis/sinusitis... Not cool...  :(

The week had its highlights; for instance, it was a good chance to listen to one of my favorite CDs:
 
Yep, two of my utmost favorite artists put together - Bach and Yo-Yo Ma. I can listen to this for hours on end, and never get tired of it.   

Just a little parenthesis, to ponder - Bach stated that music is only for worshiping God; I sometimes wonder if we realize how important this was for him, and if that really has an effect in our hearts, particularly each time we listen to any of his compositions.

Anyway,  some other day of the week I followed a link of a video posted on FB.  Something caught my eye - one of the videos that appear on the left said something like Bach with 8 cellos... It was like two magic words that put together become an irresistible magnet, so I clicked on it and almost fell off my chair!!  

One of my favorite pieces played by this crazy, innovative cellist with so much enjoyment that... I am still short of words.  I can only tell you that I caught myself smiling and swaying with the melody.  So, here it is... Enjoy!




That irresistible magnet seemed to grow and kept pulling me to his other works (a.k.a. other videos).  That's when I discovered The Piano Guys, a talented group that amazed me with their craziness and creativity. After loosing a good part of the day watching their videos, smiling, enjoying and laughing, I visited their webpage and read about their belief in God and was also able to see the relevance family has in their identity - another wonderful discovery within this nice discovery... I hope you like what they do as well.





And just in case you were wondering about the name of this talented, outlandish group, here is the pianist:





I hope you enjoyed the last week of the year and are abundantly blessed in 2013!!

Dec 21, 2012

Real Life Real Miracles, by James L. Garlow and Keith Wall



A compilation of miraculous events, this book will prove to be a source of encouragement for anyone who is going through a difficult situation, particularly if similar to the ones described in the book.  It is an inspiring read that will remind us that God is continually acting in our lives, despite the obscure and difficult circumstances we have to face every day.


However, I must say that there is a lack of reference to the Bible.  As a result, a continuous emphasis on the supernatural is the main focus of the book.  If someone new to Christianity read this book, he/she won’t find any doctrine or fundamental instruction, and could be led to believe that a Christian life entails only the miraculous; even if this aspect of a spiritual, growing relationship with God should not be alien to a believer, it should never be the core of such relationship.


Having clarified that, I would recommend this book as a source of current examples of how God works in us all the time, even if we are not able to understand His ways.


I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers, in exchange for an honest review; this has not biased my opinion on the book, nor on the authors.

Dec 20, 2012

Finding God in The Hobbit, by Jim Ware



Dreams, fears, pleasures, laughter, God’s unexpected intervention, endurance, tried patience, kindness and dependence on God continually weave together to shape our lives; through them, we learn dependence on God - which should prevail despite any circumstances.  Bilbo’s adventure in Middle Earth is no exception, and his journey is Jim Ware’s illustration of the latter.


In the prologue, the author explains that this book is the result of his own reflections on “The Hobbit,” which eventually took him back to God, the one who has made his life meaningful by giving it a purpose, just as Bilbo’s life, through the fulfillment of his purpose, found its true meaning.


The chapters have a simple and straightforward format.  First, there is an extract from “The Hobbit,” which is followed by an analytical description of the approach and attitude towards God that can be found in several people in the Bible.  As a valuable token, each chapter is closed with a simple and deep statement that summarizes the spiritual lesson we can learn from Bilbo’s own path.  


Despite the simplicity of the format, the deep and transcendental insights of each chapter are worthy to be savored slowly, even more than once.  This is one of the few books that have stirred in me the wish to reread chapters and paragraphs, even sentences…  


Moreover, the richness of the words Mr. Ware uses is rarely found in today’s popular literature, making this a delightful read for anyone who appreciates the vast possibilities of a higher linguistic register.  Precisely because of this, I would definitely recommend this book as a teaching tool in any literature or applied theology class; it is well worth the experience. Besides this, his numerous end notes and bibliography will prove to be good references. I can also picture this book being used as a devotional, particularly by those who like Tolkien or this kind of stories.  


And just like the author himself states, this book describes a journey of spiritual discovery, but is not the decisive authority on the matter, very probably the reason why Bible quotes and principles are present throughout the book.  It is his way of writing about how the great Author of life is always shaping our path.


I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers, in exchange for an honest review.  This has not biased my opinion.

Dec 19, 2012

A Hallelujah Christmas







It's amazing how often we take things for granted. This time of the year is a celebration in honor of Christ the Lord, who came to Earth to die for us so that we can go to the Father.  "Hallelujah," praise God! Don't forget what Jesus has done for you!



I've heard about this baby boy
Who's come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
With every breath I'm singing Hallelujah
Hallelujah

A couple came to Bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn
To find a place for You were coming soon
There was no room for them to stay
So in a manger filled with hay
God's only Son was born, oh Hallelujah
Hallelujah

The shepherds left their flocks by night
To see this baby wrapped in light
A host of angels led them all to You
It was just as the angels said
You'll find Him in a manger bed
Immanuel and Savior, Hallelujah
Hallelujah

A star shown bright up in the east
To Bethlehem, the wisemen three
Came many miles and journeyed long for You
And to the place at which You were
Their frankincense and gold and myrrh
They gave to You and cried out Hallelujah
Hallelujah

I know You came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You
That rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Dec 5, 2012

Squares in my jello?



Yep, that's right, squares in your jello... Or square jello in the shape you want, or something like that :)



(Drum roll please) Gelatina de cuadritos, that's the name! Basically, it's fun jello made with a bunch of little squares that live happily inside a yummy white jello.  Typical in Mexican gatherings of many sorts, they are even sold in diposable plastic cups, ready to go.  

While verifying some facts for this post, I learned that it is also prepared in other countries, but it's generally called "mosaique jello."  Whatever the name, it's delicious and super pretty!  :)

When we were planning the Christmas party for kids in church, I thought this would be the ideal way of making a jello - it was one of the requests for dessert, so it just had to be made in a special way.

It was thanks to a dear friend that I finally got the best recipe for this dessert. I generally make it in two days, because you need the jello to set completely before making the final thing.  It's very easy to make (as long as you remember not to pull a "Yiya" and turn the heat off at the right time), but it does take time. After an awfully failed trial - and a sort of dark caramel stuck to the pan, I started playing with it, adding flavors and even tweaking it a bit to get the consistency I like.
But before we go to the experimental part, here is the original recipe, just as I got it:

INGREDIENTS
4  3 oz. packets of jello (different colors)
1 can of condensed milk
1 oz. of unflavored gelatin (1 box with 4 packets)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

1st day:
Prepare the jello with ¾ of the water needed. For example, I used jello packages that call for 4 cups of water, but I used only 3. Refrigerate overnight. In these pictures, you'll see only cherry and lime jello, because I made this particular one for the Children's Christmas party at church, but feel free to use the jello colors you like!


2nd day:
Take the jello out of the containers and cut it in cubes. Put them inside another container. Give it a little shake so that the colors combine.


 
Bring 1 liter of water to a boil; it's a bit more than a quart.  Take a look at my bilingual measuring cup:



  

Turn the heat off and dissolve the condensed milk in it.  Add vanilla extract and stir.  


While this mix cools, dissolve the gelatin in 1 cup of VERY cold water. Let sit for several minutes until the gelatin is spongy. You can actually start with this step on the second day, before working with the color jello, so that the gelatin gets the right texture while you work with the rest of the ingredients.



Once the milk/water mixture is lukewarm, add about 1 cup of the mixture to the dissolved gelatin little by little.  When the gelatin mixture is homogeneous and at about the same temperature of the milk/water, add it to the remaining mixture and stir. This might sound a bit tedious and slow, but if you don't do it, you'll end up with lumps of gelatin all over the place - not nice.

Don't forget to keep stirring so that the gelatine stays liquid - at least you can say you're multitasking (upper body resistance and cooking; just change hands every now and then). When the mixture is practically cooled down, pour slowly on top of the jell-o color cubes. Don't let the mixture get cold; otherwise the gelatin will set before you can pour it; it has to be cold enough so that the color jello is not dissolved by the mixture.




Refrigerate until firm.



FUZZY IDEAS:
  • Be creative!! Use cookie cutters for different shapes or use the color of jello that agrees with the event.  Now that Christmas is near, I can picture the color jello in the shape of stars, boots and trees. Also, a cherry/lime jello would look really cute at the table.
  • Use a bundt pan or another similar baking pan (like the ones used for cakes). The ones with non-stick surfaces work better, but you can also spray the inside of the pan with vegetable oil; just remember to wipe it down and leave very little oil on so that it doesn't mix with the jello.  The different shapes look gorgeous.
  • Use food coloring in the milk mixture to get a different look. How about some drops of red for a pink jello?
  • Use different extracts in the milk mixture, like coconut, almond or hazelnut.  Mom's favorite is lime jello in coconut-flavored milk jello.
  • Use the unsweetened or light versions to make a dessert for those who need to  watch their diet.
  • Prepare individual servings (using plastic cups or punch cups) – good for parties and you don't have to worry about the serving. Besides, it's like having a bunch of little mosaiques at your party, so it can even become a centerpiece!!
  • Kids like playing with the colors and the shapes; ask for their suggestions or recruit them for the stirring fun.  
  • Before the color jello sets completely, add chopped fruit or berries. You might even try to end up with one berry in each square... Why not?
  • Make the stirring work out easier by having a lot of iced water in a large bowl. Put the pot (or whatever you used) on top of it to cool it down faster - just be very careful because you could end up with some of the milk jello setting before you can think of it!
  • If you like extra firm jello, reduce the amount of water, but the color jello should always be firmer than the milk jello.  


Well, that's it!  Hope you try it - you won't regret it.  If you do, don't forget to share your experience or even your photos...  Just click on "Join this Site" in the right margin, and you'll be able to start sharing!

Do you have a different recipe or any more yummy ideas?  Just jot a comment and let's see what others have to say. Who knows! maybe we can end up with a cooking club  :) 

Enjoy and stay blessed!

Yiya


 Post-post:  Mosaic Jello - Take 2!
I prepared a mosaic jello for a sweet neighbor; this version has four colors and looks so beautiful!  Would you like to come over and see the new version?


 

Dec 3, 2012

DNA says "CHEESE"


Yep! That's right!  I was browsing the internet this morning, hoping to get a grasp of the latest news, and I got exhilarated when I read the following: DNA photographed for first time (McKinnon, Eli, DNA photographed for first time, Life's Little Mysteries, http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/3100-dna-direct-photo.html, 12-03-2012).





I actually had to slow down, take a moment and started clapping and smiling... I mean... Seriously?!?! Awesome!



And today I remember an assignment in Jr. High - we were supposed to build a model of a DNA molecule.  Well, for whatever reason, none of us in the team was able to find a decent picture from which to make the model, and used a long wood stick and styrofoam spheres to put together what we thought DNA looked like... complete failure, only saved by a good presentation. I look back at the moment when I proudly put that model on the teacher's desk, and started feeling that sinking sensation in the middle of my stomach when I saw her reaction.  Her mouth was open, and she couldn't understand how that sort of wobbly, pitiful "thang" was supposed to be a DNA model... 

Anyway! I'm so glad that the picture with the pillars sort of resembles what us, teenagers craving for a passing grade, were trying to accomplish... but pillars were never in our picture! Alas! DNA is there, and it has been pictured!

Moreover, I can't help but share my excitement at reminiscing a friend telling me about a conversation he had with Lambert Dolphin; he was in Mexico giving a series of lectures about the accuracy of the Bible. This startled me a bit, because I had known Mr. Dolphin was a Physicist and researcher for Standford University. Despite his strong christian convictions, Mr. Dolphin used to be an atheist.  In this particular conversation, David described the long-lasting effects that conversation had.  Mr. Dolphin was not married (I believe he is still not), but he was wearing a wedding band.  When David asked him about it, Mr. Dolphin touched the band and smiled.  He said that he tried to understand Physics and push the limits of knowledge so far, that he had dedicated numerous years to the study of the atom. At some point, he HAD to acknowledge that the enormous forces in an atom pointed to a Creator.  So he now wore a wedding band as a token of his commitment to God, the one he thought was non-existent, but revealed Himself through the beauty of atomic physics.

Isn't that exciting? And now, we can have a look at the wonder upon which life is built - the building block of a cell.  I just have to pause and rest in awe at the magnificence of our Father revealing Himself again from the tiniest point of view, at subatomic level.  What a wonderful way to find His trace in our lives! Creation DOES tell of the glory of our Creator!

Dec 2, 2012

Forgotten Christmas 2012



We watched this video today at church; I just had to share it with you guys.  It's so easy to get lost in what we are used to and tend to give things for granted.  However, Jesus is THE TRUE AND ONLY reason for the season!!  Let's share his love this Christmas and during the rest of the year!

Nov 28, 2012

The Fiddler, by Beverly Lewis


Amelia is a young and wonderful violinist whose life was always planned for her. Constant rehearsals, presentations, hours of daily practice and a strict father have made her the famous virtuoso, able to delight audiences from all over the world. Despite all her training, “The Fiddler” starts with Amelia fiddling as “Amy Lee” in a country music festival – nothing that would have ever been expected of her. After her performance, her manager is able to get a hold of her and lets her know that her father and he already have arrangements for her, for the next months. The unceasing rings of her cell phone remind her that even her fianc√©, another great musician, was expecting her to be with him on that day... 



Amelia finds herself lost in other people’s wishes, but she’s torn in between herself and not hurting those who are dearest to her. She loves music, but it seems that she has not been able to actually enjoy it. That same night, she starts driving back home, but she gets lost in a bad storm. Conveniently, her cell phone breaks when it falls down to the ground and gets soaked. Amelia then looks for assistance at a nearby cabin, where she meets Michael, an Amish young man who, very much like her, is looking for his own path, away from his roots. Michael and Amelia are surprised at how much in common they have, and both would like to spend more time together, particularly when Michael tells Amelia about his plans of talking to his father and letting him know about his own decision.



Michael asks for Amelia’s support, and both Amelia end up spending the weekend in Michael’s hometown, Amelia gets a little taste of freedom, but also finds some of the consideration and respect she’s been looking for. She’s welcomed by the community, but also frowned at when people learn about her music. Michael realizes he has to stay more than he had initially expected because his father has an accident; he is an honorable person that will not abandon his family in a time of need.



Both of them face challenges and have to deal with respecting their parents. They both realize that the last thing they want to do is offend them, but their control over their lives also has to stop. Besides that, the attraction between Michael and Amelia is obvious. However, they both decide to face the issue and not let themselves go for their mutual feelings.  Also, they will find that there are people who support them and encourage them to do the right thing before God.  Following the right path is never easy, but it is also what shapes Michael and Amelia for the times to come.



“The Fiddler” has all the “Beverly Lewis” features people have come to love; however, she has managed to capture another love story in such a way that it feels as if this was the first time I have ever read an Amish novel by her. In other words, do not think that this story will be innovative in that way. This does not make it   less captivating… I only wish it came in one installment!



I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. In no way has this influenced my opinion on the book or on the author.