Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Advent: Our Perfecter

November 30th, 2016

Let us … keep our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2

Have you noticed that Christmas seems to show up in stores earlier and earlier each year? I swear some stores had Christmas decorations on display since September, right next to the Halloween costumes and fall decorations. Starbucks were already selling gingerbread lattes when it was still 80 degrees outside. Why? Why is there this insane rush from one holiday to the next? Can’t we just enjoy it?

Did you know there’s actually a term for this holiday blending? Honestly. It’s called hallothanksmas. Isn’t that frightening? Can we all agree that our grandparents wouldn’t have approved of hallothanksmas? I don’t think many of us enjoy being rushed through the holidays.

So what’s the secret to stepping off this crazy train long enough to enjoy Christmas? Simply making the choice to focus on Christmas. Even though at this very moment stores are enticing us to focus on decorations, gifts, and holiday treats, let’s purposefully heed Paul’s advice and keep our eyes on Jesus.

Some of us have already gotten caught up in hallothanksmas, but that’s okay. It’s not too late to take back December. We can stop looking ahead to the next thing and fix our gaze on what is before us. There’s still time to take a deep breath and focus on the blessing of a baby born in a manger.

For the rest of this Christmas season, let’s move forward in joy, giving Christmas our full attention.

Sunday in New York

November 27th, 2016

Elmira, NY is regarded as the “Soaring Capital of America.” Who knew? The prominence of soaring in Elmira was established with thirteen national soaring contests, held here from 1930 to 1946. Wow, that must have been a sight!

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The facilities included the glider port, hangars, cabins for housing contest pilots and crews, even a youth camp. The field at which the national contests were held is still active with the runway directly in front of the museum. Sadly, due to weather conditions flights have ceased for the season.

This is as close as I'll get to soaring in a glider this year.

This is as close as I’ll get to soaring in a glider this year.

Harris Hill overlook

Harris Hill overlook

This are is central to the science, history, and sport of soaring. The Schweizer Aircraft Corporation produced over half of all American sailplanes built in the 20th century. At the outbreak of World War II, Elmira was the first site chosen to develop a glider program and train pilots for the war effort. During the 1930s, 40s, and 50s the SSA at times maintained its headquarters here.

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Let your heart soar as high as it will and your imagination play among the clouds.

Rules Don’t Apply

November 25th, 2016

Watching an unconventional love story of an aspiring actress, her determined driver, and the eccentric billionaire who they work for, was how I spent Thanksgiving afternoon. It was interesting.

Rumors of Warren Beatty making a Howard Hughes movie had bounced around for decades, and it appears he delivered on his promise. Beatty himself plays the billionaire, and the story mostly revolves around the later years when Hughes was most involved with Hollywood and the movie business. Much of the dialogue and the majority of the scenes involving Hughes emphasize the man’s idiosyncrasies that bordered on mental instability late in life. Beatty plays him as a mumbling goofball who dines on TV dinners in the dark and is frightened of children.

The best parts of the movie don’t involve Hughes, and instead feature the young upstarts trying to make their way in his convoluted organization. Lily Collins plays Marla Mabrey, a wanna-be starlet from Virginia committed to her staunch religious upbringing, who’s beliefs are incessantly reinforced by her distrusting mother (Annette Bening). Her driver is Frank Forbes played by Alden Ehrenreich (Hail Ceasar!), and his own agenda involves convincing Howard Hughes to invest in a real estate development project on Mulholland Drive. As expected, sparks fly between the young actress and the equally conservative young visionary, and we find ourselves engaged with them.

Frank and Marla have some nice screen chemistry that is frequently brought to a screeching halt by yet another cockamamie idea by Howard Hughes. These intrusions prevent any real flow to the film and actually bogged down the story for me. In fact, the disruptions caused me to spend more time “spotting the celeb” than caring about the characters. The list of familiar faces that pop up include: Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Oliver Platt, and even Candice Bergen (as Hughes’ secretary).

It’s easy to see the nostalgia and fond memories that Mr. Beatty has of this late 50’s and early 60’s era in Hollywood. It was all about glamour and the magic of what’s on screen. The real Howard Hughes story is at least as interesting, if not more so, than the history of Hollywood, but this isn’t The Aviator, or even Melvin and Howard.

These days, the Howard Hughes Hollywood legacy is barely a blip. Only a few recall Jane Russell’s close-up or the air battles of Hell’s Angels, while fewer know the RKO Studios story. There are some beautiful visuals and individual moments that can be seen be enjoyed, but if you’re looking for a Howard Hughes biopic, look elsewhere. Warren Beatty’s latest adds little to the legend with Rules.

Rules Don’t Apply can wait for a Red Box night.

Devotions from Baba’s Front Porch: Grocery Shopping

November 23rd, 2016

One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet. Proverbs 27:7

Grocery shopping can be a tricky thing during Thanksgiving. If you shop with an empty stomach, you’ll likely fill your cart with pumpkin cream cheese rolls, cheese balls and all matter of holiday ingredients. Items from every shelf will call your name, causing you to spend far more than you anticipated. When you unload everything at home you’ll realize that you don’t have the potatoes! That’s the danger of shopping while hungry – everything seems like a good idea.

It’s far easier to shop logically on a full belly with a list in hand. This way you know what you need and you aren’t tempted by the call of cupcakes in the bakery. You’re able to walk right by the eggnog without a second glance. Perhaps you still accept the sample of ham in the deli, but the point is that when you’re fully prepared you’re able to use better discretion when holiday shopping.

When we spend time in prayer with God, we are filled with the things of Him. We aren’t interested in things the world has to offer, no matter how tempting they may appear. But when we allow ourselves to get too busy to spend time with God, we wander out into the world with hungry hearts. Everything seems sweet and desirable.

We attempt to fill our emptiness with material possessions, the praise of others, and empty, mundane pursuits. Instead of feeling full and satisfied, we’re left with the bitter aftertaste of disappointment and discouragement. It’s a dangerous thing to go out into the world with a hunger inside. We must fill ourselves with His Word. Then we won’t find ourselves unloading our groceries with buyer’s remorse and Thanksgiving panic.

Yes, our Lord is the only thing that satisfies. Fill yourself with His Spirit and Truth so you don’t crave the things of this world. Happy Thanksgiving!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

November 20th, 2016

Magical. Mischievous. Wicked. Three little words I used to describe Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

You might have thought that after seven novels and eight films, JK Rowling had said everything she had to say about witchcraft and wizardry, but now it seems that Harry Potter’s schooldays were just the beginning. Fantastic Beasts is set in the same hocus-pocus universe as Harry’s adventures, but it shifts the action thousands of miles and dozens of years away from Hogwarts – all the way to New York in 1926.

As exhilarating as all the new sights and sounds are, they crammed so many characters and situations in that it was baffling at times. Rowling’s obviously has a superabundant imagination, but it doesn’t allow the film to pick up momentum with all the minor characters and special effect details in its path. Fantastic Beasts is beautiful to watch, it just didn’t pick up speed.

The film’s lead, Newt Scamander, is a bumbling British wizard who could be a distant relative of the Doctor. Wearing an overcoat, striped scarf and a bowtie, Newt visits New York with a Tardis-like suitcase containing all the weird, wonderful and fantastic beasts he gathers on his travels. Maybe that’s why he seems to be hiding behind his hair the whole movie.

But Newt’s monster hunt is only one of the many plots. There is so much else going on the viewer can forget about the fantastic beasts altogether. There are the meetings in the steampunk headquarters of the American equivalent of the Ministry of Magic, where the typewriters clack away by themselves and the elevators are operated by grouchy elves. There is the puritanical anti-witchcraft evangelist with the downtrodden son. There’s the tycoon’s heir with presidential ambitions. A seedy underground jazz club. And Percival, the wizard police chief who has way too much swagger for his name.

Don’t get me wrong, this was all charming Fantastic stuff. Every scene has something ingenious and beautifully designed for viewers to enjoy. But, it’s at the expense of engaging with the lead characters. It frustrated me that the film cut away from them to check on somebody else every two minutes.

The movie doesn’t know where to stop with all the special effects and minute details. Rowling has announced Fantastic Beasts is the first in a five-part series, and I’m sure it will be a series to savor. The sequences when they’re catching these creatures are all really fun to watch.

Go, see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for the imaginative and ornate visual special effects, not for a film that is richly satisfying in and of itself. Bear in mind this is a prequel and muggles will have to wait for more. 

Friday Funnies

November 18th, 2016

Q: What happens to a frog’s car when it breaks down? A: It gets toad away.

Q: What did the duck say when he bought lipstick? A: “Put it on my bill.”

Mr. and Mrs. Brown had two sons. One was named Mind Your Own Business & the other was named Trouble. One day the two boys decided to play hide and seek. Trouble hid while Mind Your Own Business counted to one hundred. Mind Your Own Business began looking for his brother behind garbage cans and bushes. Then he started looking in and under cars until a police man approached him and asked, “What are you doing?” “Playing a game,” the boy replied. “What is your name?” the officer questioned. “Mind Your Own Business.” Furious the policeman inquired, “Are you looking for trouble?!” The boy replied, “Why, yes.”

A blonde and a redhead have a ranch. They have just lost their bull. The women need to buy another, but only have $500. The redhead tells the blonde, “I will go to the market and see if I can find one for under that amount. If I can, I will send you a telegram.” She goes to the market and finds one for $499. Having only one dollar left, she goes to the telegraph office and finds out that it costs one dollar per word. She is stumped on how to tell the blonde to bring the truck and trailer. Finally, she tells the telegraph operator to send the word “comfortable.” Skeptical, the operator asks, “How will she know to come with the trailer from just that word?” The redhead replies, “She’s a blonde so she reads slow: ‘Come for ta bull.'”

Keep smiling friends!

Devotions from Baba’s Front Porch: Curb Appeal

November 16th, 2016

A happy heart makes the face cheerful. Proverbs 15:13

We all know it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover, but folks still do it. That same is true for a house. Whether you are buying or selling a home, curb appeal matters. Overgrown lawns do not sell homes. That gutter up in the tree may be an interesting conversation piece but Susie home buyer isn’t going to be impressed. If the outside of the home is unappealing, most potential buyers won’t be willing to step inside and give it a chance.

The same is true for more than just books and houses. Sometimes Christians are known more for what we’re against than anything else. We can be quick to speak the truth about something, but too often we forget to do it in love. We need to remember that our conversations are to be full of grace. As Christ followers we need to learn to be passionate without being off-putting. The solution can be as simple as a smile.

Have you ever passed someone in the grocery store and had them smile at you? When someone appears friendly, you’re more likely to want to get to know them. A cheerful face matters. Now, I’m not suggesting that you be phone or walk around with a goody grim all day, but try to display a friendly demeanor.

A cheerful face tells passersby that you’re approachable. And when you’re able to exude joy even in the midst of difficulties, it causes people to ponder the source of that joy. So, remember, your smile is your curb appeal. A smile tells people that there’s something inside worth checking out!

Sunday in New York

November 13th, 2016

This November marks the 10th Year for the Canandaigua Christkindl Market!  This event held on the lawn of the majestic Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum in a series of decorated, heated tents brings together over 130 regional artisans and unique food vendors. German food (it’s about the food) along with traditional fare, and a beverage called “Gideon’s Grog”, was available while holiday music filled the air. (FUN FACT: The oldest recorded Christkindl market dates to 1310 in Munich, Germany)

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The Christkindl Angel tradition started in Nuremberg in 1933 and is still the symbol of Christkindl markets today. A young girl is crowned as the Angel and reigns throughout the event. Young guests are able to meet the Christkindl Angel during the Christkindl Market weekend as well as Santa and Mrs. Claus who are waiting to greet them in Santa’s House. So much fun!

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The fun doesn’t stop there! There’s an Elf School taught by local elves and our Christkindl Angel offers fun activities for the little ones.  Elf School is open to all children at no cost. I may be short, but they still didn’t let me in.

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Instead I enjoyed the Granger Homestead’s Festival of Trees. For a small additional fee, I could see decorated trees, wreaths and other seasonal decorations donated by local businesses, groups and individuals. I am getting into the Christmas Spirit now.

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Bake sale on the back porch.

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The Granger Mansion is a three-story Federal style home built in 1815

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Veteran’s Day 2016

November 11th, 2016

The American flag still unfurls strong, unyielding and stunning thanks to the efforts and sacrifices made by our military. Today we set aside to salute those who have fought for our country’s freedom and peace.

When you see someone in a uniform, someone who serves us all, doing military duty, answering their country’s call,

Take a moment to thank them for protecting what you hold dear; tell them you are proud of them; make it very clear.

Just tap them on the shoulder, give a smile, and say, “Thanks for what you’re doing to keep us safe in the USA!”

They fought for freedom and for peace on strange and foreign shores; some lost new friends; some lost their lives in long and brutal wars.

So here’s to our country’s heroes; they’re a cut above the rest; let’s give the honor that is due to our country’s very best.

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Devotions from Baba’s Front Porch: Checking the Locks

November 9th, 2016

Don’t worry about anything. Philippians 4:6

It seems positively unthinkable in this day and age, but there was a time when folks didn’t lock their doors. Baba didn’t, and she slept with her windows open and enjoyed an evening breeze without a second thought. I used to be one of those carefree people, too. But last tonight, when I came home I had to unlock the door and promptly locked it behind me before entering my house. Now people don’t just lock their doors, they check the locks again before going to bed.

If you’re like me, occasionally after you’ve gone to bed, you’ll hear a noise and feel obligated to recheck everything. The media gives us plenty of things to be concerned about! With the news, full of stories of crimes both local and national, we’re convinced that there are things we should be worried about.

Only you know the specific worries that keep you up at night. Perhaps it’s a security issue that has you up checking the house. Maybe it’s a family issue or financial concern. No matter what you’re worrying about, one thing is always true: your worry falls under the category of “anything.”

The instruction in Scripture is “don’t worry about anything.” Family, finances, health, politics – it all falls under the same heading. We can trust God with our “anything” because He has promised to supply our every need in Philippians 4:19. Those worries are taken care of in the “every need” category. We don’t have to worry because God’s already got it covered.

So, lock your doors and go to sleep. Let God handle the night shift. He knows we worry because there are things out of our control, but nothing is out of His control. Trust in Him and rest your worried mind.

Sunday in New York

November 6th, 2016

What does it take to be named The Most Fun Small Town in America? I drove to Corning to find out…

Corning, longtime forerunner of all things glass, is a vibrant community with an attractive historical downtown with more than a hundred shops, studios, galleries, chic restaurants, as well as an abundance of unique and historic architecture. Corning has won numerous national awards including Glass fest being named as one of the “Top 100 Events in North America.”

Founded in 1951, the Corning Museum of Glass has been dedicated to telling the story of a single material: glass. How much can you say about glass? Actually, quite a lot! Glass is a versatile, ancient material that is still being explored and understood by artists, scientists, and historians. The story of glass is a story about art, history, culture, technology, science, craft and design.

I saw more than 3,500 years of history displayed starting with ancient Egyptian glass. I explored the concepts behind optics, vessels, and windows, and even watched a live glassmaking demonstration.

This piece was titled Fog

This piece was titled Fog

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In this area I learned about making glass for use in telescopes around the world.

In this area I learned about refractive lends for use in telescopes and light houses around the world.

Early Russian glass

Early Russian glass

A Tiffany window

A Tiffany window

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I never tire of Chihuly glass sculptures

I never tire of Chihuly glass sculptures

The tower is made of casserole dishes - clear at the bottom and opaque at the top to show how higher temps turn the glass into ceramic. The glass on the right is a periodic table!

The tower is made of casserole dishes – clear at the bottom and opaque at the top to show how higher temps turn the glass into ceramic. The glass on the right is a periodic table!

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Learning about early glass blowing

Learning about early glass blowing

A display using drinking glasses of various colors to show the deforestation to create glass which can be used indefinitely if recycled

A display using drinking glasses of various colors to show the deforestation to create glass which can be used indefinitely if recycled

You can learn the history and browse the collections here: http://www.cmog.org/about/history

A few blocks away, in the heart of Corning stands the Rockwell Museum, housed in the Gothic Romanesque style historic 1893 former city hall building. Their diverse art collections tell stories about the American experience. My favorite gallery housed a collection celebrating 100 years of the National Park Service filled with majestic Western landscapes.

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This piece captured my attention. Notice the father teaching the son old ways on a drum. The father with a traditional blanket and hair wrapped. The boy in contemporary clother, Western hair cut and fidgeting with his shirt while the father is focused on the drum.

This piece captured my attention. Notice the father teaching the son old ways on a drum. The father with a traditional blanket and hair wrapped. The boy in contemporary clothes, Western hair cut and fidgeting with his shirt while the father is focused on the drum.

Note the buffalo bursting from the building?

Note the buffalo bursting from the building?

To learn more about the Rockwell Museum: http://rockwellmuseum.org/exhibits-collections/current-exhibitions/national-parks-2016/

There are so many reasons why you should experience museums in your area as a family. The best is that it’s not only a great day-trip, but going to the museum will make you happier (and smarter!) in the long run. What are you waiting for?

Friday Funnies

November 4th, 2016

The Cubs shattered their 108-year championship drought in epic fashion Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians. One fan even held a sign: “Now I can die in peace.” The curse is ended, but the jokes and celebration is just beginning!

Q: What did the baseball glove say to the ball? A: “Catch ya later!”

Q: Why are some umpires fat? A: They always clean their plate!

Q: Which baseball player holds water? A: The pitcher.

Q: How do baseball players keep in touch? A:They touch base every once in a while.

Q: What has 18 legs and catches flies? A: A baseball team!

Now we can focus on football season. Yay, Go Giants!

 

Devotions from Baba’s Front Porch: Donuts

November 2nd, 2016

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

Some things are hard to comprehend. Donuts are a perfect example, since I’m eating one right now. Do you know what the hole in the center of a donut is called? I don’t know either and I wish I could ask Baba. I’ll bet she might know. I mean, I don’t get it. It should be called: wasted space where there should be more donut. True, most of us enjoy donuts just the way they are. I’m just saying that there’s room for more pumpkin donut.

Donuts aren’t the only source of confusion in this world. Every day we see things that we don’t understand. Hungry children and sick parents. Job losses. Friends who betray us and spouses that walk away. This world can be overwhelming at times.

So many things are beyond our comprehension. Our finite minds were not made to understand all the intricacies of God’s creation. Even Solomon, with all his wisdom, admitted that there was much that he didn’t understand.

Accepting that we cannot possibly understand everything is how we’re able to make it through certain seasons. When we look at a situation and cannot make sense of it at all, it would be terribly frustrating if we thought that we were seeing the whole picture. We can find comfort in knowing that much more is going on. In the midst of our confusion, we can know that God is up to something bigger, and we can trust Him completely to be in control.

We just need to trust Him.

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.