Archive for December, 2009

The Queen sang the first verse of a carol at our candlelit service tonight. I hope you enjoy her singing. Thankfully I managed to edit out the second verse which had her mother joining in.

Incidentally, how does anyone record decent videos in the dark? I couldn’t see a thing through the viewfinder, so apologies for the shocking camera angles and especially for chopping her head off for half the recording.

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I saw this for the first time today and thought it might bring some cheer as you contemplate the shopping/baking/wrapping/tidying/sermon prep or whatever it is that looms large in your house at the moment.

Pooching about on Youtube I see that there are other versions of this which start right at the beginning but this one seems the most fun somehow.

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This Thursday evening we are hosting the staff and governors of our church school here at the Vicarage for ‘mulled wine and mince pies’. That’s what our invite said, anyway. But as many of the staff have to drive home, we will also be serving a wonderful non-alcoholic alternative, given to me by another Vicar’s-wife-in-training, when the Vicar was at theological college. Her original name for it was spiced cider, but that is not very helpful, as it really is non-alcoholic, so I’ve renamed it Spiced Cranapple. It is mulled winey in flavour and not too sweet, as some non-alcoholic punches can be. Serve it at your carol service or at the Vicarage and enjoy!

Enjoy the warmth

1l cranberry juice
1l apple juice
250ml (1 cup) orange juice
5 cloves
3-4 cinnamon sticks
2 tbspns sugar
1 orange, halved and sliced into rounds

Combine all the ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow spices to infuse. Can also bring to boil and transfer straight to thermos pots and leave to infuse that way for church events (and keep leftovers warm for Vicarage use the rest of the week…mmmmm).

Anyway. Best get on with the pastry now. Not sure how many mince pies I’ll need for Thursday but I definitely need to start making them today.

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No, this isn’t a review of the new movie, released in the UK today. The film has had a pretty mixed reaction and took a good while to reach this country after its US release. So I reckon you’re far better off just watching the Joker reciting the whole of the book, with dramatic actions (I particularly like ‘rolled their terrible eyes’) and a wavering Black Country accent. Some of you may have seen this before (all good bloggers recycle material, don’t they?).

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Last night I suddenly realised that today would be 1st December and I was rather unprepared. So the Queen and I had to delve into our cellar to retrieve an old Celebrations chocolate tin and stomp about the garden for a good twig. Then we had to track down a suitable buckety receptacle and scrabble in our gravel to fill said receptacle. Yes, it’s Jesse Tree time in the Vicarage.

A smart and organised Jesse Tree

If you’re not familiar with the Jesse Tree tradition, I’d like to heartily commend it as a great way to keep Advent Christ centred. A good Advent calendar with bible verses is a start, but using a Jesse Tree helps us to focus as a family on the coming of the King. The tradition is to hang an ornament on our bare twig every day of Advent and have a bible reading and questions about bible passages which point to the coming of Christ. The ornament reminds us of the bible passage or a person who heralded Christ in the Old Testament. A Jesse Tree is a visual bible overview and helps us all to remember God’s great plan of salvation which led to the birth of Jesus.

Originally I used an activity book which had suggested readings and ideas for making the symbols to hang on the tree for each of the 25 days of December leading up to Christmas Day. Then I also read about the Jesse Tree in the excellent book by Kent and Barbara Hughes ‘Disciplines of a Godly Family’. And if you Google ‘Jesse Tree’ you can find a huge variety of suggestions for how to make your tree and which bible readings and symbols to use. We made our decorations over a couple of years. When the kids were very young, we only had about half of them. I fondly remember a wet weekend the first Christmas of the Vicar’s curacy when my parents joined in construction of the missing ornaments in our steamy kitchen. We also have a few ready made decorations in the tin. The simplest option is to find some images to print out, and use blutack to fix your symbols to a picture of a tree. An American magazine seems to have done this.

In the end I ended up compiling our own Jesse tree list and readings, with symbols, readings and suggested questions. I also listed out the single verse readings on a sheet of paper using the NIrV, but I’ll not post that because I suspect I might be breaching copywrite. Last year the Queen and the Joker were able to take turns in reading from the sheet of verses. This year I’m intending to get the kids to find the bible passages in their bibles (International Children’s Bible for the Joker, NIV for the Queen) and then read. The Engineer might even be able to read out a few. If not, he can read out the questions.

It’s not too late to join us in making a Jesse Tree this Advent. Or keep it up your sleeve for next year. And just for you, dear readers, here is a sneak preview of this year’s Vicarage Jesse Tree. The eagle eyed among you will spot a few doubles (spreading around the hanging-up-the-ornament joy), a triple and the absence of David’s sling. I’m sure I’ve seen it since we moved but it may take some tracking down. Or we could make a new one. In fact, maybe we should ensure that each child has a complete set to take with them when they leave home. I foresee a project for coming Advents…

If I spot a twiggier branch tomorrow I might make a swap

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