Archive for the ‘twelve christmas days’ Category

An Experiment With Drama & Cinematography for the Horton family

Below is the link to our family rendition of this carol which we hope to make an annual tradition.  What we like best:  the fake windy rain and cool cross over transitions.  Our favorite bloopers:  King Wenceslas getting tangled in a dramatic flourish of his robed arm, six different guitar audio clips, some played simultaneously (dedicated to the ire of impeccably rhythmic musicians like Wade Jenkins).  Below the link is a summary of this venerable martyr’s life written by Josiah with links below that for you to investigate more on your own.



Good Martyr Wenceslas


Josiah Horton


Have you ever wondered who “Good King Wenceslas” was?  John Neale, a British minister, wrote this carol  in 1853.  In real life, Wenceslas wasn’t a king, but a duke, and his name wasn’t Wencelas, but Vaclav.  He was a duke in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in the tenth century.  He was a faithful Christian as were his grandparents and father.  When Vaclav was thirteen, his father died and his mother took the dukedom.  She utterly opposed Christianity and persecuted Christians.  Fearing that Vaclav and his Christian grandmother would conspire against her, she even had Vaclav’s grandmother strangled one night.  Though young, Vaclav banished his mother from Bohemia and assumed rule.  Unlike his mother, Vaclav was a gentle Christian.  He was gracious to German missionaries and helped build churches.  He was especially known for his generosity to orphans, widows, and the poor.  Even so, his jealous younger brother despised him for this and assassinated Vaclav one day while he was walking to church. He died, a martyr, on the steps of the church on September 20, 929 A.D.


Online Sources:






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S T A R   of   D A V I D   P R E T Z E L S

(not pictured. so sorry. we ate them all.  maybe another batch later.)

Here’s a fantastic recipe for homemade pretzels.  It’s easy enough that the older boys can make these on their own.  We like the traditional pretzel shape, which is supposedly a person’s arms folded in prayer.  But, Elijah experimented with several other shapes this year and settled on a favorite, a Star of David .  Once you have your eight equal pieces, roll them in long ropes.  Each rope will make one star.  Divide that one long rope into two equal halves and form the two, ideally, equilateral triangles by weaving alternately over and under the other equilateral triangle. Make the last join secure on the underside.



H O M E M A D E   S O F T   P R E T Z E L S,   R E C I P E

1 cup plus 2 Tbl. water (70-80 degrees)

3 c. all purpose flour (We use home-ground spelt or wheat and it works like a charm)

3 Tbl. brown sugar (We use Rapunzel/Rapidura)

1  1/2 tsp active dry yeast

(Later you’ll need 1/2 cup of baking soda added to a pot of 2 quarts of water .)

Knead the first four ingredients in a bread machine, processor, or by hand.  You may need to add 1-2 Tbl. of water or flour to get drier or wetter so the dough is nicely workable.  Divide dough into eight pieces and roll each into a star or pretzel shape.   Add baking soda to 2 quarts of water and bring it to a bubbly (beware) boil. Drop pretzels into the boiling water with a slotted spoon, two at a time, and let them boil for 10-15 seconds. (We turned them over halfway).  Remove them with slotted spoon and set them on a clean dry towel to ‘drip dry’ a bit. After all pretzels are boiled, take them off the towel, place them on a baking stone or pan, Sprinkle kosher salt (or cinnamon sugar for sweet pretzels).  Bake at 425 for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. ( If you forgot to add salt or spice before baking, mist them with water after baking before sprinkling so the grains will adhere)   Yield: 8 yummy pretzels.  And, oh, the creative possibilities:  snowflakes, stars, snowmen, hearts, spell names or words…

(I don’t recommend doubling this recipe as it is harder to work the dough, particularly for kids.  BTW You can freeze these pretzels after they are boiled and blotted on the towel, or you can bake them first, then freeze.)




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[g r o o v y]

B O T T L E   C A P   M A G N E T S   or   G I F T   T A G S   or   O R N A M E N T S

A bottle cap ornament, Eden

Martha Stewart’s book Good Things (1997) inspired this one, but my “shiny object” compulsion took it in some new directions.  Collect some bottle caps (I prefer silver or black caps).  Collect some of those photos where half the family were looking in the wrong direction or shut their eyes.  Crop out a photo about the size of a nickel and press it inside the bottle cap. Or, print a favorite verse, poem snippet, or quote that makes you smile and cut it to size.  If the photo’s too small or loose, put a dab of glue on the back to secure it to the bottle cap.   If you’re  making a magnet, use a glue gun to adhere a magnet to the back of the bottle cap. Or, if you want to make an ornament or Christmas gift tag, before inserting the photo, pierce a hole in the cap, make a loop with wire and twist tie the ends in the back.  For ornaments, insert an ornament hook in your loop or in your pierced hole (hopefully you can find the cute S-shape ornament hooks I found at Walmart).  For gift tags, run ribbon through your loop and tie it around your Christmas gifts.

Well, then, this project morphed into several others.  I started having leftover cropped pictures from the Juice Can Lid Ornaments and so I made some bottle cap magnets and then stuck these photo magnets onto blank metal juice lid ornaments.  Maybe it started looking a little wilder and little crazier.  But I liked the cheery whimsey of it all.  So it stayed.

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J U I C E   C A N   L I D   O R N A M E N T S   or    G I F T   T A G S

Ornament with photo of Grandma Dorothy

I like touches of silver in my decorating.  So, somehow the juice caps off the concentrated juice cans were too irresistibly round and shiny and I couldn’t help but to save them for several years.  I put them in a ziploc bag in my craft box and for a time considered having the boys make a knight chain mail breastplate by piercing the top with a nail and somehow sewing them or gluing them together.  (If anybody does this, I’d love to see how you do it).

So that was when we were studying the Medieval period… and time passed…not quite centuries…but a great many days…and the juice tops themselves became a part of history, an archaeological mound in my craft closet. Then they were resurrected one fine spring cleaning day, and, still being quite primitive in my tastes for round, shiny objects, I still could not part with this mesmerizing junk.  So, came the birth of this project.  Again, it’s probably self-explanatory but I will provide some tips:

Use a pointy nail (I considered the mason nails that have a primitive look themselves, but the square puncture wasn’t as lovely).  I found the endearing curvy S-shaped ornament hooks at Christmas last year  at Walmart for $1.50 and truly they played a part in the inspiration of this project.  They came in copper and silver.  I preferred silver and bought as many as I could of them, but had to resort to copper for some.  They are terribly tangly.  So, I recommend making them orderly with wire twisty ties as soon as you open the package.  If you don’t take this bit of merciful advice, don’t blame me if you suffer haunting visions later of me pointing and laughing and dancing about you, reviling: “I told you so. I told you so…” I couldn’t find any of those hooks at Walmart this year, by the way.  If you can’t either, you could use the ordinary kind of ornament hangers (maybe try to reshape them) or twist plain crafting wire into a simple S-shape.

I chose favorite photos of family and friends.  I dragged them into our printing program and added them to a postcard template that had a 1 1/2 inch circle photo frame.  I used the settings on the computer to make the photos black and white so that the colors on clothes and backgrounds wouldn’t be too distracting to the whole Christmas tree. Or, I would adjust the black and white settings so it had a faint touch of color, which gave it a sumptuous vintage look that I love (like it was hand colored).  I cut, glued, and added the hook. Wah-lah.  Loved it.  It just added the perfect personal, homey touch to the tree this year.

Deborah, my sister, & Rusty

"Uncle"Ryan McAllen & Elijah

Grandma Gail Taggart & Eden

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As the Christmas season comes to a close, I snapped some pics of some of the simple project ideas that we did this year that you and yours might enjoy next year.

A  C H R I S T M A S   C A R D   C L O T H E S L I N E

I loved the many Christmas photo postcards that merrily hailed this season to be jolly.  I strung two clothes lines across two walls with some bright red and white scarves, hats, booties, and even some holey red-toed wool socks (until we needed them).  I thought of clothes-pinning holly there, too, but forgot.  In the boys’ room I’ve put three similar clotheslines in a rows to display their artistic creations or favorite verses, poems, or photos.  Each clothesline is two mason nails with a sway of jute/sisal/packaging string in between.



S W I R L I N G    S N O W F L A K E S :   O U R   W I N T E R   W O N D E R L A N D

If you don’t already know how, search online to find out how to fold and cut out paper snowflakes.  If you glue aluminum foil to the paper first (both sides, preferably) you can made shiny, silvery, sparkly ones. Ooooh-la-la. We hung them on fishing line/ beading nylon string so the string is almost invisible.


A  “M E R R Y   C H R I S T M A S”   B A N N E R

We used Apple’s Cloister font in a maroon/brown/cayenne color, caps only. If you want the message on both sides, glue the appropriate letters together.  Hole punch. Tie a string around (essential for proper positioning, they’ll otherwise face the wrong direction). Thread onto a long piece of jute string.  In autumn, “when every leaf becomes a flower”, we instead have the banner: “Give Thanks”.  And instead of snowflakes hanging as a doorway curtain, we tie colorful pressed autumn leaves to simulate the swirl of autumn color outside.


R U S T I C   S T A R S

Stars or UFO's on the Chandelier

This one is pretty simple and although one aunty didn’t recognize they were stars hanging from our chandelier, and one friend said it kind of reminded him of The Village, ALAS, I still like these rustic stars.  The boys created these a couple of years ago and it’s a pretty easy project for little fingers.  You need wire and sticks of similar size.  I think the rest is self-explanatory.  If not, I lay before you an exciting challenge to your critical thinking skills.

The Rustic Star

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For the colder side of our family–you brave ones who reside in the Great White North–here are some of the songs the kids have been playing for the season.  Little Eden (1 1/2 years) makes her musical debut with a chime rattle in this sparkling family rendition of jingle bells.   Many thanks to Great-grandmother Watson for the much enjoyed Christmas gift, the vibraslap, a percussion instrument played by Nathanael.  Elijah is playing the bass; Josiah and Matthias are at handbells; and some impromptu interpretive dance is provided mid-song by Matthias in the background, who concludes the song by knocking his head on the table.  Gotta love home movies.  Hope it puts you in the Christmas mood (there are still four more days of Christmas, recall).

A humble version of “Sussex Carol”.  Chris on guitar, Rachel on whistle, boys on handbells:

Elijah “Joy to the World” on our out-of-tune piano (apologies to the perfect pitched people!)

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Today is the eighth day of the twelve days of Christmas.  My Christmas present to “you and all my kin” is the commencement of this blog.  I do hope it is the perfect Christmas present. The perfect size. The perfect shape. Your favorite color.  We had to name it, like a new pet.  I hope it’s less maintenance.  And I hope it behaves.  So here you are, its first installment:

“For Kith and Kingdom”

Its aspirations are simple: to keep in touch with friends and family and church and to encourage the kingdom of Christ in the small spot where I’ve been planted.  My very sporadic tradition in years past has been to send a year-at-a-glance newsletter, essentially a photo and calendar collage of the year. I considered beginning this blog by continuing this tradition, just to get me over the hump of starting out (:.  But, alas I have decided, contrariwise, to simply go forward.  Well, with maybe a few recent looks back to Christmas.  After all, this is your Christmas present.  And perhaps in the future, it will be a place to neatly (or not so neatly) sort, hang, and tuck some of the other presents God has strewn like flowers along my path–books, thoughts, memories, tips, music, recipes, poetry, photographs, and all the various wonderfully quirky un-sortables of life– in a tidy spot where you, my friends, can pick up these favorite niceties and savor them as well.

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