Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beast and the Beauty

Movies are often cited as great resources for fiction writers. Kids movies deal with strong emotions and universal themes. Fairy tales have survived because they are so relatable. Better still for the writer, they are a story stripped to it's essentials.

Maisey Yates has a new post about Disney's Beauty and the Beast. She talks about the Beast as  a vulnerable alpha hero. I always thought that B&B was remarkable for the character of Belle. She's lovely and likable, but she is not perfect. She is has emotions and she isn't always kind and forgiving. Although at the beginning of the movie Belle isn't fooled by Gaston's pretty face, she does learn over the arc of the story to see past the Beast's appearance to see the man underneath. A man who becomes a better man for her.

Ariel and Aurora are flawless ideals. Belle is a person and she opened the door for other Disney heroines that break the princess model like Mulan and Giselle. Mulan pretends to be a boy. If you haven't seen Enchanted, I'll clue you in: Giselle isn't very bright. These are the characters that my kids loved the best. In truth, we don't love a character in spite of their flaws; we love them because of their shortcomings.

Friday, December 24, 2010

our gingerbread house

Last weekend, we went and saw a gingerbread house building demonstration. The chef's house was amazing.

So we incorporated some of her ideas into our house this year. Although, I didn't back the gingerbread with chocolate, much to my family's dismay.

The trick is to let the walls dry for 24 hours before adding the roof pieces.

Then the fun part: the decorating. The kids took pastry bags and candies and made a project of it this afternoon.

Here's the final product. Tomorrow, we get to eat it!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Last night my family and I drove to a small holiday party. We exchanged gifts with family we won't be able to see again before Christmas. It was a gray and rainy day. The sun didn't peek out once. The drive home was amazingly foggy, a very unusual evening. If we do have fog, it tends to occur in the early morning and quickly burn off once the sun has risen. It's really beautiful driving past all the lakes where wisps of fog pool next to trees covered in Spanish Moss. My new driver daughter, Prudence,drove home behind me, her first ever drive in the fog. She had her dad as copilot which enabled me to relax. She did well, but I don't think she's anxious to repeat the experience.

Even the city skyline was obscured by fog.

Today, another gray day, we went to a nearby hotel for a gingerbread house building demonstration. We used to make one every year, and, now that I'm not working, we're going to do one again. They had a gingerbread house large enough to stand in on display in the lobby. It even had a chimney with cinnamon scented 'smoke'. A chef came out and decorated several small gingerbread houses.

I got some great tips from that pastry chef. In years past, I just made a big house and bought a ton of candies and cereals. I made some royal icing and let the kids decorate it as they pleased. One of the best things I learned was that the candies are great, but you can do a lot with just the icing and a pastry bag. I now know how to make icicles on the roof that won't break off!!! Our house will be smaller this year, but I think it will be the prettiest yet.

We even got to have roast chestnuts and hot cocoa. While the girls drank their cocoas, we sat by the three-story tree and watched all the people arriving from out of town. Babies in velvet dresses, kids who'd clearly been permitted to dress themselves and kids in shorts and coats.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Christmas Wish

Last month for NaNoWriMo, I got a lot of support from online friends, people I've never met and might never meet in real life. It's a wonderful thing to be a part of a community of people who are all sharing the same experience. And it was really inspiring to be struggling right next to some lovely published authors on the eHarlequin forums. As an added encouragement, the writers with the highest weekly totals won a copy of  a book donated by those generous authors. I was doubly lucky when I won the first week: I wasn't even close to the word counts in later weeks and I won a copy of an anthology of Christmas stories from Donna Alward entitled Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses.

Donna's contribution is a lovely story, "A Bride for Rocking H Ranch", about a woman struggling to make a perfect Christmas for her family. The trouble is Kelly needs help and isn't used to asking for it. This is a subject near and dear to my heart.

I am awful at asking someone to help me. I'll suffer and toil and grouse, but I won't simply ask. It's worse than that even. When my friends sit around and complain about how much they do, I am happy to join the chorus. But when the talk turns to ungrateful husbands I fall silent.

I am married to that rare kind of man who when I leave the dishes to take a phone call, just does the dishes. Without being asked. If the dryer buzzes while I'm reading a book, he'll fold the laundry because it needs to be done. If I am tired or busy or stressed, he looks at me and asks, "What can I do to help?"

And do I accept that help with good grace? Or ask him for help he would so willingly give? Almost never. I tell him I'm good. I'll manage. I'll do it myself, all alone. It drives my husband crazy. I am so stupid, I know.

That just made me enjoy Kelly's struggles so much more. Accepting help, letting someone love you, these things make us vulnerable. You have to open yourself up. It's scary sometimes how much of my heart is walking around with other people. And still, to be happy, you have to find a way to give away a little bit more.

Thanks again for the great read Donna!