Sunday, December 28, 2014

The 4th Day of Christmas: Holy Innocents

The Massacre of the Innocents, Giotto
image via Wikipedia

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
(Matthew 2:16-18)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Tomorrow shall be my dancing day"

Nativity by Fra Filippo Lippi (detail)
via Wikimedia Commons

This traditional English carol was apparently part of a medieval mystery play and has eleven verses  of Christ himself telling the whole story of his birth, life, suffering and death, and ascension, but most recordings, like the one below, only use the first four verses.  This is John Gardner's delightful arrangement.

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;


Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance.


In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Between an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.


Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard I from above,
To call my true love to my dance.


Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance;
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love's dance.


The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance.


For thirty pence Judas me sold,
His covetousness for to advance:
Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold!
The same is he shall lead the dance.


Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
Where Barabbas had deliverance;
They scourged me and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance.


Then on the cross hanged I was,
Where a spear my heart did glance;
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance.


Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love's deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance.


Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Sleepers Awake: Bach's Cantata "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," BWV 140

This is a beautiful recording of the full cantata Bach wrote for Phillip Nicolai's hymn, "Sleepers Awake."

Enjoy!  And I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tutorial: How to fold paper to make a snowflake

These photographs were taken by a man named Wilson Bentley, who was born in 1865. He took his first photo of a snowflake in 1885 and went on to take over 5000 more before his death in 1931.

Images via Wikipedia

As you can see, real snowflakes have six points.  Making snowflakes out of paper is a great activity, but it's pretty hard to manage six points.

This is a doily, not a snowflake.

This is pretty in its way, but it's not a snowflake.

To make a six-sided flake, you have to start with a six-sided piece of paper.  Getting there is kind of tricky, so I'm going to show you the way my daddy taught me do it.

This isn't a snowflake yet, but it will be.

First, you need a square piece of paper.
  • Fold the short edge of the paper diagonally across to the long edge, forming a right triangle. 
  • Cut off the part that extends past the triangle.
  • [I do this by folding the extra part and then cutting along the line.]

Fold, fold, open and cut.

Make your hexagon.

First fold: Fold the square in half, making a rectangle.

Second fold: The second fold begins about 5/8" to the left of the center of the folded edge.

Take the upper right corner and fold it at the left-of-center mark,making sure that the corner touches the bottom edge of the paper.


Third fold: Take the left side of the paper, and fold it across to the other side,

so it looks like this:

Fourth fold:  Fold paper in half.

Now you have to cut off all those weird corners sticking out of the end so it will have the right shape.  Turn it over so that the folded edge is down and the point is to the left, like this:

and cut it along this line:

If you open it up, it should look like this:

Now, fold it back up and again and cut the edges to make your snowflake. Just be sure NOT to cut off the point. A real snowflake is formed around a grain of pollen or a speck of dust, so it always has a solid center.

If you cut it like this

you'll get this shape.

Cutting it like this

will make this shape,

which isn't a scientifically accurate snowflake, but it's pretty and it DOES have six points.  Also it's quick and easy.

Have fun!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Now I know why people make video tutorials

Writing one out is really hard!

I'm almost done putting together the one on folding the paper for a proper six-sided snowflake, but I can't tell if the instructions are clear.  It's all running together in my head! 

I'll try to get it up tonight, but in the mean time, here's a fun website -- Make-a-Flake.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Paper handicrafts for Christmas, and more Sleepers Awake 2: Snowflakes edition

I love making paper snowflakes, but mine always tend to come out looking more like doilies than like snowflakes.

I made the tiny ones in the upper left of this photo. They DO have six sides, but they're not really snowflakey, are they?

Advent 2006
Where did the time go!?!

But last week I ran across this link showing how to make scientifically accurate snowflakes. I want those magazines, but I missed the Kickstarter by just a few days.

Anyway, we've been looking at the drawings posted there as we're making snowflakes this year.

Mostly made by Violin Daughter

Is creativity always this messy, or is it just me?

You should have seen it before I cleaned up the glue that leaked out during the night
and went down that crack and onto the floor.

Still making points for my Moravian star.  I found this beautiful paper at Hobby Lobby.  I'm in love.

When making paper snowflakes the most important thing is folding the paper so you end up with a six-sided shape and not an eight-sided shape.  I've looked all over the internet and can't find any clear instructions on this, so tomorrow I'm going to make a tutorial will post it as soon as I can.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I'm having a terrible time finding a good recording of the hymn Sleepers Awake -- most of the quality recordings are of an arrangement that's meant for performance rather than for congregational singing -- but this one's pretty good (the singing starts at 1:00).

Wake, awake, for night is flying:
The watchmen on the heights are crying,
     Awake, Jerusalem, arise!
Midnight's solemn hour is tolling,
His chariot wheels are nearer rolling,
     He comes; prepare ye virgins wise.
Rise up, with willing feet
Go forth, the Bridegroom meet:
Bear through the night
Your well-trimmed light,
Speed forth to join the marriage rite.

Sion hears the watchmen singing,
Her heart with deep delight is springing,
     She wakes, she rises from her gloom:
Forth her Bridegroom comes, all glorious,
In grace arrayed, by truth victorious;
     Her star is ris'n, her light is come!
All hail, Incarnate Lord,
Our crown, and our reward!
We haste along,
In pomp of song,
And gladsome join the marriage throng.

Lamb of God, the heav'ns adore thee,
And men and angels sing before thee,
     With harp and cymbal's clearest tone.
By the pearly gates in wonder
We stand, and swell the voice of thunder
     That echos round thy dazzling throne.
No vision ever brought,
No ear hath ever caught
          Such rejoicing:
We raise the song,
We swell the throng,
To praise thee ages all along.

(Tr. Catherine Windworth, 1858, alt., 1940 Episcopal Hymnal version)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Paper handicrafts for Christmas, and more Sleepers Awake

Last week Professor Carol wrote about Moravian Stars and included a link to a site that gives instructions in making something similar by folding and weaving long strips of paper.

Here are a few we made today:

I used legal-sized (8 1/2" x 14") copier paper for all the stars.  The size of the stars is determined by the width of the strips, and the strips must be at least 24 times as long as they are wide.  For the small ones, I used 1/2" x 14" strips.  For the medium one I used 3/4" by 28" strips (that's two 14" long strips taped end-to-end) and for the large one I used 1" x 28".  The larger ones were a lot easier to work with.

One of the ladies at the Ambleside Online Forum shared a link showing how to make a Moravian Star tree topper.  You start with a polygon for a base and then add cones to each face of it to make the star.  I've done the base so far, but this is a lot harder than the woven stars.

Base and template for points

That base is an icosahedron, which means that it has twenty sides.  Each face has three edges, so the points will be made of three-sided cones.

This thing sounds suspiciously like a geometry lesson, and in fact, the stars were orgininally created by a geometry teacher.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Here's a lovely rendition of Sleepers Awake played on the guitar.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sleepers Awake on the king of instruments

Today's offering is a performance on the pipe organ, my favorite instrument. I'm pretty sure God Himself invented it, and the only people capable of playing it are Wizards -- who else would be able to use their hands and feet at the same time to make these earth-shatteringly beautiful sounds? The organist is Rodney Gehrke (whom I don't know from Adam's off ox, but he's amazing) because I don't have a recording of my favorite organist, the Wizardess whom I am proud to call Mommy. (I'm just a Squib, in case you're wondering.)

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

[I posted this a few minutes ago but there was a typo in the title, which Blogger uses for the post's URL and I just couldn't stand looking at it, so that one's been deleted. Sorry for the confusion!]

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wednesdays with Words: Tsundoku

Remember what I said last week about all those books I'd bought and never read?  The Japanese, Lord bless them, have a word for that.

Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books

How cool is that?

There's more lovely words where that one came from at Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Catalog of Beautiful Untranslatable Words from Around the World .  Many thanks to Magistratium for linking it on Facebook today.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~


I don't actually have any tsundoku to show you because I recently bought a new bookcase and some baskets to put into a corner where I was sure a bookcase wouldn't fit, then filled it with the board and picture books we keep on hand for young visitors, which freed up a lot of room on the shelves.

Elaienar says there's always room for more books.
And bookcases.

How the corner normally* looks.
Except for the candles. I lit the candles for the picture

And that bookcase was made to fit after I'd already put a set in the hall because there simply wasn't room for any more bookcases anywhere else in the house.

In the crooked hall of our crooked house --
mostly children's lit plus odds and ends I don't know what else to do with.

* Well, I said "How the corner normally looks," but what I meant by "normally" is "now that we've rearranged the room to fit the Tree in."  That bookcase is crammed into a different corner when there's no tree dominating the room.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

C.S. Lewis's father had a lot of books piled up, but they weren't necessarily tsundoku.

My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not.

~Surprised by Joy

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sleepers Awake

Sleepers Awake (also known as Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645) is a chorale cantata J.S. Bach composed in 1731 for the 27th Sunday after Trinity, which fell on the 25th of November that year.  That was a year when Easter came unusually early, because it's not often the calendar has twenty-seven Sundays after Trinity, so thankfully this piece has become a popular part of Advent.

Many hymnals have a version of it. The the 1940 Episcopal hymnal, the OPC's Trinity Hymnal, the LCMS's Lutheran Worship, and the UMC's 1989 hymnal all share Catherine Winkworth's 1858 translation, called "Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying."

The Cyber Hymnal provides an 1864 translation by Frances E. Cox called "'Sleepers, Wake!' The Watch Cry Pealeth," and in 1982 Carl P. Daw, Jr, translated it anew, calling it "'Sleepers, Wake!' A Voice Astounds Us," for the hymnal that was published that year.

I had always assumed that the cantata was written first and the hymn was taken from it, but it turns out that it's exactly the other way around!

Philipp Nicolai was a Lutheran minister and hymnwriter who lived through an outbreak of the plague in the late 1500s.  He lost 170 of his parishioners in one week alone, and in 1598, to comfort those who remained, he wrote a series of meditations called  The Mirror of Joy, which contained this hymn.

I believe this is the original version of it:

Image source:,_ruft_uns_die_Stimme_%28Nicolai,_Philipp%29

I've been all over YouTube the last couple of days listening to dozens of lovely renditions of this hymn and of the cantata -- far too many to put into one blog post -- so I will post a few more of my favorites as the week goes on.  In the meantime I'll leave you with this, a congration singing it in Lituanian to the melody as originally composed by Philipp Nicolai.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Phos hilaron

O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What are your reading plans for 2015?

I'm always in the middle of several books, but right now I'm in the middle of so many it's not even funny.

The two I've been reading from the most lately:
  • The Right Side of Normal: Understanding and Honoring the Natural Learning Path for Right-Brained Children, by Cindy Gaddis, which is very interesting and not too heavy
  • Only a Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen, by Jane Aiken Hodge, ditto

Other things I've been dipping into regularly:
  • Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition, by Karen Glass, ditto
  • Children's Mathematics: Cognitively Guided Instruction, by Thomas Carpenter et al, ditto


I'm seeing a theme emerge here.

Books I was working steadily through until hibernation-brain made it nearly impossible to continue:
  • A History of Mathematics, Carl Boyer and Uta Merzbach
  • Arithmetic, Nicomachus of Gerasa
  • The Story of Pi, Pietr Beckman
  • Beauty for Truth's Sake and Beauty in the Word, Stratford Caldecott

Books I haven't picked up in so long that I'll probably have to start from the beginning when I get back to them:
  • Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, Liping Ma
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
  • Onward and Upward in the Garden, Katharine S. White
  • Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English, John McWhorter
  • Realm of Numbers, Isaac Asimov
  • The Mind of the Maker, Dorothy Sayers

Books that sat for so long in my TBR stack that I finally shelved them (maybe 2015 will be the year!):
  • Toward a Truly Free Market, John Medaille
  • An Essay on the Restoration of Property, Hillaire Belloc (actually, this one might belong in the previous list)
  • Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered, Woody Tasch
  • The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, Karl Polanyi
  • Rallying the Really Human Things, Vigen Guroian
  • Modern Fascism, Gene Edward Veith
  • Saving the Appearances, Owen Barfield
  • An Introduction to Philosophy, Jacques Maritain
  • Begin Here, Jacques Barzun
  • Truth in the Flesh: Introducing Apologetics to the Local Church, John Hartung
  • The Allegory of Love, C. S. Lewis
  • Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky

Recent acquisitions:
  • The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter, C. FitzSimmons Allison
  • History of English Literature, H. A. Taine (written in 1864, tr. from the French in 1872 by Henri Van Laun, there's no date in my copy, but it says "Complete in One Volume" so hopefully it's not the 1900 abridgement!)

Some of the stuff I've gotten free (or for under $1) on my Kindle in the last few months:
  • The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins (I've recently finished The Woman in White, so hopefully I can start this one before too long)
  • The Philip K. Dick Megapack: 15 Classic Science Fiction Stories
  • The Complete Collection of E. M. Bounds on Prayer
  • Homilies of St. John Chrysostum on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans 
  • The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, E.T.A. Hoffmann (ooh!  I'd forgotten I had this one -- need to read it to the kids, as soon as we finish Sir Gawain and the Green Knight)
  • Lots of P.G. Wodehouse

Obviously there's a lot of stuff I need to finish before I start anything new, and I need to intersperse all that heavy reading with fiction of a lighter nature.  I haven't read any Jane Austen in over a year, so I'll probably reread one or two of those at least.  I had hoped that after my concentration this year in mathematics I'd be able to pick up all those books on economics, but right now I think I'd rather read the educational/philosophical ones -- Guroian, Barzun, Sayers -- and they'd be more practical at this point in my life than more political economy.

How about you? Do you have reading plans for next year?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Classical education and philosophy turn up in such interesting places

Some day I hope to have time to read a bit of Confucius.  Having read a bit of Plato and a lot of Lewis, I'm discovering that Confucius ought to be part of the Classical tradition.  I wonder if Asian Christians read him like we read Plato and Aristotle?

Last night the two oldest girls and I watched the Korean film "The Fateful Encouter," starring Hyun Bin as King Jeongjo.  If you have any familiarity with K-drama at all you'll know who that is, but for those of you who don't I'll give a bit of background info.

King Jeongjo of Joseon

Jeongjo became king in 1776 on the death of his grandfather, King Yeongjo, who had been forced by one political faction to put his own son, Crown Prince Sado (Jeongjo's father), to death for siding with the other political faction.  So it was a mess he inherited, and it is said that on the day he took the throne, he sat there and said to everyone in the court, "I am the son of the late Crown Prince Sado," which was practically a declaration of war against the faction that had had his father put to death.

The movie covers the 20-hour period leading up to an assassination attempt the year after Jeongjo became king.  I'm not sure whether the event is actually historical, but it's a wonderful piece of storytelling, beautifully filmed, well-acted, and I'm going to show this one on our next family movie night.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Well, I said all that to say this -- a few minutes into the film, Jeongjo quotes a passage from Confucius' book The Doctrine of the Mean:

What Heaven confers is called Nature.
Accordance with this Nature is called the Way.
Cultivating the Way is called Education.

Isn't that perfect?

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

The literal title is "The King's Wrath,"
which I like much better than the one under which
it was marketed to English speaking audiences.

This isn't a movie review, but I thought I'd mention to anyone who's interested in watching it that it would probably be a PG-13 on account of lots of blood during the assassination attempt, plus some blood and implied cruelty of a horrific nature when one person is accused of treason and is "questioned," and a few scenes involving cruel treatment of slaves.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Preparing for the Season of Preparation

This week we brought the box of Advent decorations down from attic.  It's full of Chrismons we made last year and opening the box filled the air with the fragrance of apples and cinnamon -- beautiful!

Here's the recipe we used to make the ornaments. It's a good project to do with your children. One year we invited another family with small children over to make them with us, which was a lot of fun.  That link has lots of lovely ideas for using the ornaments as gifts, and as decorations all year.

This doesn't look like much . . .

. . . but when I add fresh greenery and candles it'll be our Advent wreath.

Here's what it looked like a few years ago:

A year or two after we moved here a friend gave me a set of candles in the traditional colors -- three purple and one rose -- and I used that color for three or four years, but since white was our family's traditional color, some of the children were upset at this innovation (you know what rigid traditionalists children are!) and we've reverted to white the last few years.  But yesterday one of the children asked for the purple and rose candles, so I ordered a set from Cokesbury

And here's a great idea I found in the course of my research -- on Christmas Eve you can take out all the Advent-colored candles and put in white ones instead, then burn those for the twelve days of Christmas. 

I don't know why I never thought of that myself.  Isn't the internet a wonderful thing?

Here's an earlier incarnation of our Advent wreath.  It's a styrofoam wreath form with artificial greenery poked into it.  I didn't use candle holders, I just worked the candles into the styrofoam.  This wreath lasted about five years before it started falling apart.

I'm also working on a missal for us to use when lighting the candles during Evening Prayers on Sunday nights.  The Advent wreath is a German tradition and as far as I can tell there isn't any particularly Anglican tradition surrounding it so each year I use the Daily Office in the Prayer Book for Scripture readings, but I also search the internet for ideas.

Much, much easier is putting together a missal for Thanksgiving since it's just Morning Prayers with the Litany of Thanksgiving.  I made a Scribd document in 2011 that you can download and print if you're looking for something to use with your family.

If you'd like to know more about Advent, this article by Dennis Bracher was the most helpful to me when I first started learning about myself.  The article concludes with a long list of Advent hymns, so be sure to check it out.

Advent centerpiece

What about y'all?  Are you planning anything special for Advent?  Do you have any resources you'd like to share?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

How to write

This morning I read this excellent little article on writing successfully (which is different from writing well, as the author points out), and because I'm also reading Karen Glass's wonderful book, Consider This, in which is stated more than once that knowing something and doing it are two different things, and that knowing and doing the right thing is the definition of virtue, and virtue, of course, is the point of a classical education, and because this is National Novel Writing Month and, though I've participated two or three times I've never come close to finishing anything, I decided to follow the advice in the article, which can be boiled down to "Just write."

His article is much more helpful and practical than that, of course, and you really ought to read it.  It won't take more than five minutes and he's funny.

I am determined to do this exercise every day this month, so just for fun, here is today's effort.  And I promise I won't post any more of these.