Day 358: Christmas Eve Tea with Nutella

Christmas tea

What a beautiful Christmas Eve day! I finished my shopping, just in time, and purchased food for tomorrow evening’s Christmas dinner. After working on gifts, which turned out wonderfully I must say, and wrapping presents, it was time for a well deserved break.

I enjoyed the comforting ritual of fixing my afternoon tea. I used Mimi Leta’s Thistle pattern tea cup and saucer. Greg bought me a selection of delectable cookies that are perfect for tea time. And today, for my first, I tried a product that I’ve seen around for a very long time but have never tasted. I almost hate to admit it, because some of my friends are crazy about Nutella, but I’ve never tried it, until today.

Nutella is an Italian hazelnut-chocolate spread, similar to peanut butter, but sweeter. It was first introduced to the market back in 1964, by the Italian company Ferrero. It was an instant success and remains widely popular today. I was a kid back in 1964. I’ve heard of Nutella all my life and I’m not sure why I’m just now getting around to sampling some. It’s never too late, though, is it? I bought the Nutella & Go package, complete with little bread sticks, which made an easy and great addition to my tea time.

Christmas tea nutella

And, I like Nutella. I’m not a big fan of chocolate, so I think I still prefer peanut butter, but for tea time, it was perfect. I know there are all kinds of recipes using this hazelnut-chocolate spread and all kinds of food to spread Nutella on. I’ll have to do my research.

This year, on May 14, the Italian post office issued a 50th anniversary Nutella commemorative stamp. Ferrero celebrated the anniversary on the 17th and 18th of May. There is even a World Nutella Day, which is February 5 each year. Who knew?  I do now, and I’ll enjoy adding Nutella occasionally to afternoon tea.

I enjoyed the new treat today. Most of all, I enjoyed a quiet time of reflecting on the blessings of the day and this time of year, as I sipped my hot tea. There was more gift wrapping after my break and a happy visit to three of my grandchildren, whom I will not get to see tomorrow. Ready for bed in colorful pjs, their bright faces and warm hugs were a wonderful reminder of all that is right with the world. My visit was brief, so they could get tucked into bed. I left with their cheerful Merry Christmases ringing in my ears and their love surrounding my heart. And I returned home under a gorgeous, clear, star filled sky. Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright.

Christmas tea starry night

Day 357: A Series of Fun Firsts

spread the joy

Today was a busy day full of travel and family and fun. Rather than focus on one first, I experienced a series of firsts, and just allowed the day to unfold. This was a “roll with it” kind of day, full of joy.

I got an early start on the day by taking my daughter and her friend to the NW Arkansas Airport this morning to catch a plane…ultimate destination Georgia. After hugs goodbye and wishes for safe journeys, Greg and I used the GPS to locate the nearest Barnes & Noble Bookstore. I wanted to pick up a few gifts and I just plain enjoy browsing among the shelves and shelves of books. Joplin doesn’t have a Barnes & Noble. I have to go to Springfield if I want to shop in this amazing store. This was my first visit to the Rogers, AR, store and Greg and I spent a pleasant hour looking and shopping.

barnes and noble

After lunch with Greg’s dad and an afternoon of chatting, we headed back to Joplin. We picked up grandson Dayan and shopped for essentials at Walmart to make Christmas surprises for the family. Dayan and I used to shop together for store bought gifts, however the last four years we have created gifts together. We have fun and well, now it’s a tradition! With everyone’s busy schedules it was coming down to the wire but this evening, we made it happen. We grabbed Subway sandwiches on the way out of the store and in keeping with new experiences, I had a meatball marinara sub for the first time. Delicious.

Subway meatball sandwich

Dayan and I combined gift making with watching a couple of episodes of Dr. Who, the 9th Doctor. These stories are all new to me, and Dayan is enjoying watching the older seasons again with me. “Empty Child” was, as Dayan promised, one of the creepiest episodes. In 1941 war time London, a four year old child, wearing a gas mask, wanders the streets of the city, crying for his mum. He makes phones ring and toys turn on and radios blare just by his presence. And anyone who touches him, becomes like him, not quite dead and not quite alive. As the episode wound down I was wondering how they were going to conclude the story….and discovered it was a two part episode! Dayan is so good to watch movies or TV with….he never gives anything away! He laughed when I said, “Nooooo….”. We will catch part two very soon. I must know what happens!

dr who empty child

Dayan and I had fun creating the gifts he will give away and what we made was a first also. However, to do as well as Dayan does at not giving away surprises, I will just say, it’s a great gift and he did a fantastic job! Dayan is so thoughtful and I love working with him in creating surprises. With four younger grandchildren, this will be a tradition that I will continue with them.

The day was full of joy. Before I left the house this morning, I was reminded that the more joy I share, the more joy returns to me. Yes, these days can be hectic and stressful and overwhelming, if that’s the way I choose to see them. I don’t. It’s my choice, and since I am 100% responsible for what I am experiencing, I choose to see them as fun, interesting and full of joy. And, that’s exactly the kind of day I had. Joy to the world….and joy to me!

christmas surprise

Day 356: Have a Coke on Me

Have a coke 2

Today, three days before Christmas, Joplin streets were congested with heavy traffic and stores were filled with holiday shoppers and busy clerks. I spent a good part of the day participating in the bustle, almost completing my holiday shopping and enjoying some time with Aubrey at her favorite hang out spot, Chick Fil A on Range Line.

After Aubrey headed home, I finished up my day, making several stops. Along the way I decided today was a good day to do a first I’ve had on my list for a while, a pay it forward that offered an anonymous treat for someone, perhaps a tired shopper or a worker who needed a little break.

I dropped eight quarters into a clear plastic bag and included a note that encouraged the one who found the bag to enjoy a Coke on me. I taped the little package to a coke vending machine at a busy retail center. Because we’ve had drizzly rain all day, I chose a vending machine in a spot that offered protection from the weather and was well lit.

I loved doing this pay it forward this evening. I didn’t stay around to see how quickly the change was discovered and who the recipient was, although that might have been fun. I taped the baggie to the bright red vending machine and left, with a grin on my face. I hope someone who needed a bit of a pick me up found the quarters and used them. And I hope they opened the note card. Inside I simply printed, “Pay it Forward!”

Have a coke e

 

Day 355: Winter Solstice & Look on the Bright Side Day

Look on the Bright Side Day Winter Solstice

It’s no coincidence that these two celebrations share the same date. This day marks the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. It is not only the beginning of winter, but it is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Look on the Bright Side Day encourages us to look for the light today, and find optimism on what could be a dark and gloomy day.

That is certainly true in Missouri today. It was very overcast, chilly and breezy. We’ve had a lot of overcast days lately, which is typical for December in the Ozarks. It sure makes me appreciate the occasional sunbeam that punches through the mass of grey. I tilt my face upwards, like a flower seeking the light, and let the warmth and brightness wash over me. Today, not even a feeble ray of sunshine made it through the heavy clouds. I decided to be aware of both events by seeking the light and holding on to optimism and this evening by lighting candles inside and outside the house.

The seasons are marked by equinoxes and solstices, which relate to the tilt of the Earth. The equinoxes herald the beginning of spring and fall and the days and nights are about equal in duration. The solstices for winter and summer mark the points at which the Earth’s poles are most tilted away from or toward the sun. During summer solstice the day is long and the night short, just the opposite of winter solstice. This year, the precise moment of the winter solstice occurred at 6:03 pm. At that moment, the north pole was tipped the farthest from the sun.

I couldn’t think of a better way to combat a gloomy afternoon than to meet my cousins, Mindy, Jeff and Harry, at the Neosho Cinema 6 to watch, what else, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. This was another first, as I have never been to this theater before. And it was Mindy’s first viewing of the movie. I was looking forward to watching the film together.

Look on the Bright Side Day

I had a funny incident at the theater, involving the word of the day: Light. Mindy thought the movie started at 12:30 and we had planned to meet at 12:15 at the theater. I arrived in the parking lot, having driven south from Joplin, at 12:14. As I got out of the car and snapped a pic of the theater, I saw that the marquee had the time for the movie listed as 12:15. I spotted my cousin’s small blue car in the parking lot and rushed inside to purchase my ticket. The kind person behind the counter assured me that the previews had started but I had time to get to the correct auditorium before the movie started. The only problem was, the lights were already dimmed and it was very dark in the auditorium, even with the preview playing. I paused to allow my eyes to adjust but I still couldn’t see well enough to make out who was who. I quietly crept up and down the aisles, trying to scan faces in the gloom. I thought about calling out my cousin’s name but didn’t want to bother people any more than I already was! Finally I stood still, toward the front row of seats, and thought, “I need more light.” At that exact moment, a very bright scene appeared on the big screen, during a new preview, and for a moment, I could see the entire auditorium clearly. My cousins weren’t there! I had beat them to the theater. Apparently, that was NOT my cousin’s car in the parking lot. I was grateful that I had refrained from yelling out Mindy’s name. I sat on the back row and was able to see my cousins as they arrived.

This evening, darkness gathered by late afternoon. I lit eight candles on my front porch, to send beams of light into the darkness. Inside, I lit candles in every room, their tiny flames creating pockets of warmth and light. It is homey….and beautiful. Tonight, before I head to bed, I will spend some quiet time reflecting on all the Brightness in my life. It is not hard for me to find the bright side in situations, although expressing gratitude is vital. More amazing for me, is that the darkness of this long night will not bring a chill of fear into my heart. Beyond the light of overhead fixtures and lamps and lit candles, is the Light around me and within me that leaves no room for darkness or for fear. That glow shines brightly, even when the candles are snuffed out and I’ve flipped off the lights, as long as I keep my heart open and cleared of the clutter that can, unchecked, block or distort the light and invite darkness. May my light shine, a pure and brilliant radiance, on this, the shortest day and the longest night of the year. And tomorrow I celebrate, for the days are growing longer again.

Look on the Bright Side Day candles

Day 354: Happy Birthday Oliver

Olivers birthday slide

Today my family celebrated Oliver and his 7th birthday! We gathered at the House of Bounce, located on North Main Street in Joplin. Ollie’s mom and my son married recently, making Oliver an official grandson, but I’ve thought of him as one for quite some time. It was a pleasure to watch him have fun this evening and join with him in eating birthday cookie.

The House of Bounce is a cool place for birthday parties. Megan and Nate rented it out tonight so that the kids could bounce and run and play freely. The large inflatable slides, houses and the new wrecking ball arena are continually filled with flowing air and provide a safe environment for jumping, flipping, sliding and somersaulting. There are ample picnic style tables in the middle of the huge room so the adults can comfortably sit and watch.

Olivers birthday house of bounce

Except the younger adults in the family, the parents of the kids, seem to enjoy House of Bounce almost as much as the children. It was hilarious to watch them battle it out in the Wrecking Ball Arena, struggling to keep their balance on the inflated perches while dodging the weighted, air filled wrecking ball. They good naturedly allowed the kids to join in and all had a great time. Adriel discovered that it was fun and a little scary to go down the slide while sitting up facing backward and we laughed as other adults tried it. The kids got pink faces from running from activity to activity, laughing and calling out to each other. In the center of it all, having a marvelous time, was the birthday boy.

Olivers birthday big kids

Oliver is Megan’s younger son. And in their newly blended family, he became the middle child. He is not daunted by having an older brother and a younger sister. Ever one to walk his own path, he will surely find his way through life, in his own charming way. Because Oliver is a charmer! With big brown eyes and a beautiful mop of straight brown hair, he only has to flash me a smile to melt my heart. He’s determined and focused and not afraid to go after what he wants. When he decided recently to grow his hair out, from short to shaggy, he didn’t let anyone or anything deter him. He likes his hair longish and I think he looks adorable. More importantly, I love that he knows what he wants and goes after it.

Olivers birthday lighting candles

Ollie is at the age where he wants others to notice what he does and appreciate it. At many gatherings  I’ve attended, he’s asked me to time him while he runs, rides his scooter or bike, or does some other physical feat. Tonight, when I walked into House of Bounce and spied him, he immediately called out “Yaya” and asked me to come with him to one of the big bouncy slides. “Watch me,” he shouted as he scooted up the steps and appeared at the top of the slide and flipped onto his back, preparing to come down the slide upside down. I documented his descent with my iPhone camera and cheered his efforts. Several times. And then off he scrambled to the other slide, where I watched him whoosh down in several interesting ways. It is so important for kids, and all of us really, to know we are seen and appreciated. It does Oliver’s heart good that his parents and grandparents pay attention to all that he accomplishes. This handsome boy is blessed in having family who does just that….applauds his endeavors.

Olivers birthday gifts

I’m thrilled to be Oliver’s Yaya and I love the smiles, hugs and artwork I receive from him. He is affectionate, musical, smart and possesses high energy. There are big things ahead for this boy and he has the energy and determination to reach for them. I will enjoy journeying with him as he finds his path through life. Happy Birthday, Oliver! I love you!

Olivers birthday opening gifts

Day 352.5 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies movie

It is my pleasure to post a second time to my blog today, a first itself, so that I can do a full review of this amazing conclusion to the Hobbit Trilogy….and the Middle-Earth Saga. I watched the movie for the second time this evening, in the company of my daughter Elissa, grandson Dayan, sister Linda and my mom. We were a merry little troop that settled in to watch this epic film together. I handed out tissues before the previews rolled and the lights dimmed.

No spoilers in the review below.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (TBOTFA) has a huge cast which includes Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Hugo Weaving, Evangeline Lilly, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Christopher Lee, Ryan Gage, Benedict Cumberbatch and a host of others. The fantasy adventure is directed by Peter Jackson. It is rated PG-13, for intense battle scenes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 24 minutes.

Beginning exactly where The Desolation of Smaug ends, The Battle of the Five Armies opens with the angry dragon, Smaug (voiced by Cumberbatch), closing in on Laketown, intent on bringing fire and death to the inhabitants there. As the townspeople flee, Smaug breathes out his wrath and flames, laying waste to the town. Bard the Bowman (Evans) has an opportunity to redeem his ancestor, who 60 years before loosened a scale on the thick-skinned dragon but failed to kill him. The survivors of Laketown, led by Bard, seek shelter in the ruined city of Dale, which lies before the gates of Erebor, where Thorin (Armitage) and Company have holed up.

Bard seeks a share of the gold horded within the dwarven fortress, as promised by Thorin Oakenshield, now King Under the Mountain. But dragon fever has taken Thorin and he refuses to honor his promises. King Thranduil (Pace), high elf of the Woodland Realm, also seeks to regain a portion of the treasure that he considers rightfully his. He is not as patient as Bard and he is quite willing to use force to take what is his.

Gandalf (McKellen), last seen hanging from a cage in Dol Guldur, is near death. He hears in his mind, “You are not alone.” The White Council…Elrond (Weaving), Saruman (Lee) and the Lady Galadriel (Blanchett)…arrives to drive back the darkness and free Gandalf. He appears in Dale to warn all that there is an evil and ferocious army of orcs on the march, intent on destroying men, elves and dwarves. Bilbo (Freeman) makes a desperate attempt to stave off war over the treasure of Erebor, but Thorin is not in a cooperative mood. Deep in gold lust, he would rather have war, than peace. Just as it appears that the elves and men will battle the dwarves, including Thorin’s kin from the Iron Mountains, the dark army, led by the pale orc, Azog, launches its attack.

The titular battle unfolds. The woodland elves, Legolas (Bloom) and Tauriel (Lilly) are present as well, performing courageous and spectacular feats of battle as they defend their allies. Thorin’s company of dwarves remains walled in their fortress, in spite of protests by his kin and followers. Thorin’s nephews, Kili (Turner) and Fili (O’Gorman) long to join the raging war outside their halls, feeling dishonorable in allowing others to fight their battles. All rests on the new king, whose greatest battle is within himself.

Tonight’s viewing was my second in four days. First viewings for me are about getting an overview of the movie. Sequential viewings allow me to see the details and note the things I missed the first time around. This is a BIG movie, with a great deal of action and several storylines that converge before the great walls of Erebor. And there were quite a few details that I missed! I find that each time I watch a movie, no matter how many times I’ve seen it before, I learned something new or see something I missed before.

Peter Jackson concluded his long and wonderful journey through Middle-Earth with a film that delivers powerful scenes and an emotional punch. I sat with a full audience tonight. As a group, we laughed….and we cried. The teary eyes started even earlier for me this time around, if that was possible. There is something very vulnerable and noble about Bard the Bowman. I love the way he is a quiet protector, of his children, and of his neighbors. Bard’s determined stance against the dragon , atop the highest tower in Laketown, brings redemption for him and cleanses away the blot against his family. Alfrid (Gage), the sniveling sidekick of the dishonest Master of the Town, provides sharp contrast to Bard, while also providing most the film’s comedic moments.

There is just so much to love about TBOTFA. The brief, but extremely powerful scene involving the freeing of Gandalf by the White Council is cheer worthy. I loved seeing the strength these keepers of the peace have when it comes to defending the light against the darkness. Thranduil also reveals more of his strength in this movie. We finally get a glimpse into his heart, and who he really is. I liked him so much better in this final film. Tauriel proves herself and caused the tears to flow as she goes to the defense of the dwarf that she loves. One of the most memorable lines in the movie is between her and Thranduil when she asks why love hurts so much, and he replies, with deep sadness and understanding….”because it’s real”.

Martin Freeman is brilliant as the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins. He has transformed during the three movies until by the final scenes, he is truly courageous. His friendship with Thorin is critical to all that unfolds. The mannerisms and signature sniffle that Freeman incorporated into the character have made Bilbo the lovable Hobbit that he is. I was very moved by a scene in which he shows Thorin an acorn that he picked up in Beorn’s garden. Bilbo intends to plant it when he gets home, so that every time he sees the tree, he will remember all that happened on his journey…the good and the bad.

This film’s major story centers around Thorin, son of Thrain, King Under the Mountain, and his descent into madness….and ascent again into who he truly is. Richard Armitage does a magnificent job of portraying the mercurial Thorin. I can feel his performance in my chest, it so impacts me. Gandalf admonishes Thorin by telling him he is not making a very good showing at being king. And he’s right! His kinsman, Dwalin, with tears in his eyes, tells Thorin “You sit here with a crown on your head and you are less than you have ever been.” When Thorin rages, “I AM YOUR KING” Dwalin tells him quietly, “You have always been my king. You used to know that.” What a contrast to the man who, a short time later, leads the charge against the enemy, free from his madness and his heavy crown. His kinsfolk cry out, “To the King. To the King.” And he is, finally, king, perhaps for the first time fully embracing all that he is, and his men rally to him.

I also loved the references to the Lord of the Rings that are contained in this film. There is much foreshadowing about what is to come, and in a sense, the story comes full circle, this final movie ending precisely where the Fellowship of the Ring begins. It is so fitting. Fitting too is the final song, The Last Goodbye, sung by Billy Boyd, Pippen from LOTR. The credits are worth sitting through, as the song plays, for there are beautifully done drawings of the characters and locations to appreciate. Tonight, even the song brought a fresh round of tears.

Thorin’s words to Bilbo, during a very touching scene, are tucked away in my heart. He says, “If more of us valued home above gold, it would be a merrier world.” Home is where we create it. We are sheltered, nurtured, loved, and cared for there. We are in an environment that allows us to learn and grow. The love of gold can separate us from each other, and from the truest part of ourselves. Home, and hospitality such as Bilbo offers to the dwarves as he departs, invites and refreshes, comforts and restores. No matter where that home is. For me, I’d love my home to be in Middle-Earth. Or perhaps, a very Middle-Earth type setting that I create.

I am very grateful for the cast and crew, writers and producers, and most of all, for Peter Jackson for this amazing journey these past 13 years. I am changed because of these stories. I have grown as surely as the characters did. Thank you, PJ, for inviting me to journey with you.

Peter Jackson

Day 352: Egg Nog Ice Cream

egg nog ice cream

I needed a quick first today, and because I had not eaten much since yesterday’s chili incident, ice cream sounded good. In honor of new experiences and the holiday season, I opted to scout out Baskin Robbins and their 31 flavors and find a seasonal treat I had not tried before.

I was hoping for egg nog flavored ice cream, and that’s exactly what I found! There were several other seasonal ice creams that looked tempting, yet I stayed with my first choice. I don’t think I’ve ever drank real egg nog, the kind with alcohol in it. That could be another first! I do remember a non-alcoholic egg nog that my mom used to serve when I was a kid. At least, I think it was non-alcoholic. Maybe I should ask Mom!

The ice cream today, a single scoop in a small waffle cone, tasted exactly like the egg nog I remembered from my childhood. And the rich, creamy cold confection didn’t upset my stomach. It was quite satisfying, actually. I’m glad I tried it.

My second “first” for today is to do a second blog, a Day 352.5, something I have not done this entire year. It is my opportunity to do a full review for the movie, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, which I enjoyed again this evening. Check my blog to catch this additional post.

Day 351: Chamomile and Fennel Tea

chamomile and fennel tea

Today’s first combines several firsts, actually. And like so many of my experiences this year, it came to me. This time, it was not exactly in a way I would have chosen. I had lunch today at a favorite restaurant, and ate chili that I have eaten several times before. Today, however, the chili DID NOT agree with me. As the afternoon progressed, I felt worse and worse….nauseated and light headed. My granddaughter Aubrey and I were at Chick Fil A when I decided I needed to be at home. She was agreeable, precious little nurturer that she is.

When I feel nauseated, which is rare, the discomfort is made worse by the fact that I don’t throw up. In my whole life I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually vomited, and 3 of those times were connected to morning sickness during pregnancy. Even when I KNOW I’d feel better emptying my stomach, I can’t seem to. So the nausea turns to pain and acid backs up my esophagus, closing off my throat. As I tried to play with Aubrey I became miserable. I attempted to soothe the upset with antacids, which didn’t help. And then Pepto Bismal, which helped a little. Poor Aubrey, I wasn’t a very good companion this afternoon. She played and entertained me and we watched Peter Pan together….and I fought down the waves of discomfort that would rise into my throat.

After Aubrey left, I had an idea. I have dried herbs, some recently prepared from my own garden, and I decided to create, for the first time, a hot tea from a combination of herbs that could soothe my digestive system. From my book Home Herbal, I found a recipe I could adapt slightly. I had most of the herbs. It was time to bring healing to myself.

chamomile and fennel tea 2

The tea is a combination of chamomile and fennel, plus marshmallow root, yarrow and lemongrass. The lemongrass was from my apothecary garden, and the first time I’ve made a tea using my own home grown herbs. I scooped a teaspoon of each dried herb, using my recently acquired wooden teaspoon (another first) and placed the herbal mixture in a metal ball. Dropping the metal ball into my white porcelain teapot, I covered it with boiling water and let the herbs steep for about 10 minutes. The tea was light in color and tasted great.

The chamomile soothes stomach irritation and upset, and relaxes the body. Fennel aids in digestion and adds a subtle licorice taste to the tea. Marshmallow root improves digestion. Yarrow, which is an ancient herb used for medicine, is good for indigestion and improves liver, pancreas and gall bladder function. Lemongrass is a great general health herb, easing aches and pains and soothing infection.

I passed on dinner tonight and had a couple of cups of hot, flavorful tea. I felt better almost immediately. Whether it was the power of the herbs or the power of my mind, or both, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, the relief was very welcomed. And I now  have a tested recipe to use should I battle nausea again. I’d much rather sip a cup of tea than down antacids or sip on the bright pink stuff! I am grateful to feel good again.

chamomile and fennel tea 3

Day 350: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

national chocolate on everything day

What a fun day to celebrate, especially during the holiday season! While I’m not a chocoholic, preferring other flavors over chocolate, I don’t turn my nose up at it either. My grandson Dayan and I had already planned an event for the afternoon. This “holiday” provided the perfect excuse to stock up on chocolate covered snacks.

I picked Dayan up after school and we bought an assortment of goodies including chocolate covered donuts, chocolate covered peanut butter rice krispy treats and white chocolate covered Christmas tree shaped pretzels! Dayan went all out and got chocolate covered milk….otherwise known as chocolate milk…as well. With our stash, we settled into my daughter’s living room, to watch….The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, extended edition.

I can hear the groans. The Hobbit again? Didn’t I just do a Hobbit movie marathon yesterday? Haven’t I watched this movie enough? Yes….yes….and no. I never tire of the Middle-Earth films. As often as I watch, I learn something new, see something I haven’t seen before, hear a truth that escaped me before. In ways that are difficult for me to explain to anyone else, movies speak to me. They impart truth and knowledge and guidance. They reveal patterns and fuel my passion and creativity. Much like those who read the same book over and over again, I watch the same movie over and over to keep learning from it, and simply because I enjoy it.

I love watching movies with my grandchildren. Dayan, at 15, has been a long time movie companion. Our whole family took him to see his first movie when he was 8 months old. He sat in rapt attention during Toy Story, occasionally looking at me with his wise brown eyes before continuing to watch the story unfolding on the big screen. We’ve been to countless movies since.

We had a plan, Dayan and I, that we couldn’t execute until this week when the The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies released. We wanted to watch all six Middle Earth films, in chronological order. We began today with the first Hobbit movie, and after we watch the newest Hobbit movie, we will progress through the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the extended editions. In this way, we will get to see the whole story, told through film.

Not only did we enjoy our movie, and our chocolate covered treats, we had great discussions about the films, Tolkien and Peter Jackson. I got to share with Dayan about how foreshadowing in this movie hints at what’s to come in the later films. And we tuned in to Howard Shore’s amazing soundtrack which subtly supports and enhances the movie. Dayan has a great ear for music and quickly learned to distinguish the different themes throughout the film. There is the Hobbit theme, Rivendell theme, Dwarves theme and many, many more. Each race and place has a musical theme that accompanies them and signals the arrival of key moments. When Gandalf speaks to Galadriel about the courage of Hobbits, the Hobbit theme plays softly in the background for a few bars. Even the eagles in the movie have a theme. We enjoyed connecting the information together that is woven throughout the films, creating an intricate, beautiful tapestry that tells such an amazing story. I joyfully anticipate watching each Middle-Earth movie again with Dayan and hearing his input.

This afternoon we laughed and talked and watched and wondered and snacked. It was a great celebration of all things Hobbit and of Chocolate Covered Anything Day and of life.

national chocolate covered anything day

Day 349: The Hobbit Movie Marathon

Hobbit Marathon

All year, I’ve been anticipating the release of the final movie in the Hobbit Trilogy, and the conclusion of the Middle-Earth Saga that began more than 13 years ago. The release date is Wednesday, December 17. I had plans to attend! A month or so ago, I started seeing teasers for a Hobbit Movie Marathon, playing in selected theaters. The first two Hobbit movies would be presented back to back and lead to a sneak peek of the final movie, two days ahead of the release date.

I thought it would be so cool to spend a day at the movie theater….one of my favorite places to hang out for a few hours. I didn’t expect that my Joplin theater, Regal, would be one of the selected venues for the marathon…so I hadn’t really checked on it. Last Thursday, while with my granddaughter at one of her favorite places, Chick Fil A, I was casually browsing the Regal Theater’s upcoming releases. I looked at Wednesday and smiled over the many scheduled showings of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (henceforth in this blog post TBOTFA). I backed up a day, and there were Tuesday evening showings. Wow, I thought, I might go a day early. I mistakenly thought the marathon was scheduled for Tuesday and since I didn’t see it listed that day, I didn’t think Joplin was hosting the event. Something made me back up one more day….and there it was, the Hobbit Movie Marathon. I bought my ticket an hour later.

Today, for my first, I attended the marathon, a nine hour event starting at 1:00. I was there by noon, and picked out a great seat. Knowing I’d be sitting for a long time today, I got a seat on the back wall where there is more leg room. My one concern today was that my legs would get restless. Sitting where I did, I could stretch my legs out without bumping the seat in front of me.

This was a very special time for me. No other series of movies has impacted me as much as the Middle-Earth stories have. Many life lessons appeared for me from Lord of the Rings and then the Hobbit, which I expected less from, taught me more. JRR Tolkien was an amazing story teller. And Peter Jackson so brilliantly adapted these rich stories into unforgettable films. I was thrilled to be sharing space today with 40-50 other fans who take the movies as seriously as I do. My cousin’s son, Harry, and his friend drove to Joplin to attend as well and sat next to me.

As many times as I’ve seen the first two Hobbit films, I still enjoyed seeing them both again on the big screen. The first movie is so light-hearted. I had the opportunity to fall in love with the characters when An Unexpected Journey released, and figure out which dwarf was which. Desolation of Smaug is much darker, and the characters flesh out and deepen. Thorin’s fanatical side begins to appear, and Bilbo finds the One Ring….and his courage….in this film.

I have looked forward to and dreaded the third film. I have read The Hobbit book several times, so I am very familiar with the story and how it ends. That ending created my sense of dread. A part of me didn’t want to see this story play out, and I didn’t want to see the saga come to an end. Peter Jackson has already said there can be no other Tolkien films. The family owns the rights to Tolkien’s other works and they aren’t willing at this time to release them.

I will do a full review of TBOTFA later this week, as a bonus blog post. It deserves a full posting. The movie was beautifully done, full of action right from the opening scene, and full of angst. This is Thorin’s story, really, more than Bilbo’s. I watched all of the characters complete their journeys. It was Thorin Oakenshield whose journey was the most difficult as it was primarily an inward one. Just when it appears that this new king under the mountain is destined to share the same fate as his grandfather, he reaches deep within to find his true heart. I love stories about transformation and overcoming, and this last Hobbit movie is a powerful portrayal of lives that are changed.

I watched the conclusion, being unable to stop it! As much as I would have liked a different ending to the story, Peter Jackson was faithful to Tolkien’s depiction and it was very well done. Yes….I cried. I actually teared up early in the film, several times, and felt that didn’t bode well for how I would handle the ending. But, tears are cleansing and as Gandalf himself says, in LOTR: ROTK “I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.” In this case, they were honoring as well. One of the characters, weeping, asks King Thranduil, “If this is love, why does it hurt so much?”. “Because it was real,” he answers, from a place within his heart that has known loss. And I know…these characters aren’t real. But the emotions, the joy and the sorrow, are.

As the third movie ended and the credits rolled, Billy Boyd who played Pippen in LOTR, sings a moving song called appropriately “The Last Goodbye”. The audience, who after nine hours together felt like my friends and family, sat silently together, joined by our shared experience. There were soft sighs and a few sniffles and a reluctance to break the bond. At last we slowly stood and quietly left the theater.

I am so glad I got to see these three movies presented as the single story that they are. Before the third movie started, there was a short clip from Peter Jackson. He acknowledged that some of his greatest fans were present for this event, willingly devoting nine hours out of their day to see this marathon. Then he suggested putting all six Middle-Earth movies together for a mega marathon at selected theaters. “That’s for another day,” he promised. I hope that becomes a reality. If so, I’m there!

Hobbit Marathon TBOTFA