Tuesday, December 20, 2022

"The Beacons Are Lit!" Our DIY Tree of Gondor Menorah

Happy Tuesday and Happy Hanukkah, hobbits and friends! Whether you celebrate or not, I think you'll appreciate this quick Middle Earth DIY:

A White Tree of Gondor Menorah! (Gondorah? :D)

I originally had grand plans of sculpting the tree, but the menorah part stumped me. (Ooooh, unintentional pun! Best kind!) So instead I layered a paper tree over our existing menorah, which is MUCH easier and also turned out rather lovely.

The contrast of the shiny silver and chunky white glitter looks super cool in the light, and I like that the tree is a little more subtle.

SO HEY. Want to make your own?

All you'll need is some white poster board, glitter, and this menorah:

It also comes in gold, if you want more contrast against the white tree.

The hardest part is tweaking the White Tree to exactly fit - but not block - each of the candle tips. If you use the same menorah we have, though, then John's done all the work for you! Here's our template:

Right-click to embiggen, then save to your desktop. From there you can either print it as a template to hand-cut, or upload it to your cutting machine. This will not fit on standard paper, so if you're printing you'll need to tile it, and for cutting machines you'll need the longer mat.

Blogger sometimes resizes my files, so here are the exact cut measurements:

10.66 X 12.94

After cutting we used spray adhesive to add glitter, then sealed it with spray lacquer to (hopefully) prevent the glitter shedding everywhere.

So sparkly. (This was a test run; later we added the roots.)

Once your tree is cut and glittered, secure it to your menorah with a few pieces of poster tack/museum putty:

Gently bend the roots to follow the curve of the base, and secure with more poster tack.

And you're done!

The beacons are lit!

Sorry for not posting this earlier, but we only finished it just in time ourselves, heh. Hopefully this made you smile, though, and maybe inspires you for next year?

 John and I are new to Hanukkah, but as someone with Jewish ancestry I'm finding great meaning and beauty in the celebration. The Hebrew blessings are so pretty to sing each night, and John & I are enjoying finding readings about light and love, and taking time each night to focus on all we're grateful for. (If you're curious to learn more, there are lots of helpful videos on YouTube.)

As a newbie I'd love to hear your Hanukkah traditions: favorite recipes, songs, activities, etc. I keep reading about a special kind of donut - do we have to make those ourselves, or can we buy them? SPILL.


And one last thing, before you go: a quick Real Life update.

We've had a little health scare with John. He had to have a sudden surgery last Thursday, and is still recovering. Everything is OK now, and we're grateful that a routine screening caught the issue, and even more grateful that all the biopsies have come back clean. (I actually have some funny [in retrospect] stories to share, so maybe I'll tell those later, ha.)

I didn't want to worry you until we had all the results in, especially at the holidays, but it's also felt strange and false to carry on here as if we weren't facing scary things offline. It was a scramble getting the surgery so soon, and of course all the paperwork and insurance and waiting on tests has been a lot. Again, everything is OK now (huzzah!), but John did have a rare adverse reaction during surgery that knocked him flat. It's slowed us down at the most breakneck time of the year, which is frustrating John no end, but for me has been a valuable reminder about priorities.

See, I don't care about parties or projects or the endless to-do lists; I'm just glad my hubby is OK. I'm sad he's still kind of miserable, but so, so grateful I get to sit with him every night and watch Christmas movies. We're doing our best to take some moments in the madness to be still and be grateful, and my wish for you this week is that you can do the same.

Listen, people will forget your accomplishments, your gifts, and how clean your house was, but they'll never forget the way you make them feel. So please be extra kind to yourself as your spread kindness to others this season. Rest. Recharge. Remember it's people that matter - and those people include you.

Love you, so much. See ya back here Friday.



 If you like the crafts and templates I share here, and would like to help keep them free, then you can support me and John directly through Paypal! Whether it's a one-time tip or a monthly donation, every dollar is dearly appreciated, and lets us devote more of our time and energy to this community.

And hey, if you don't have cash to spare, no worries! Just your being here is more than enough, so thanks for sticking around. 


  1. e-hugs to you and John, so glad to hear he's ok! Really, yours is a great message for everyone - stop the madness, slow down, and enjoy, rather than rushing around trying to Do All The Things and Make All The Things and Give Everyone All the Gifts (and Perfectly), usually at great cost (in so many ways). So many people make themselves miserable doing all that, it's no wonder this has become more a season of suffering rather than light and love for far too many.

    1. Thank you for calling me out. Your words brought genuine tears to my eyes, because I've let this happen to me. I think I'm going to save this comment so that it can serve as a reminder in future years.

      I hope you have a very happy holiday season and a lovely new year Susan!

    2. Thank you Darcy, happy holidays to you as well! I used to be one of those types of people as well; I think the covid lockdowns forced me to change, which showed me that it wasn't necessary to live like that and I enjoyed a slower, smaller pace. What I enjoy most is spending time with people I enjoy, no pressure to give things or make the perfect meal etc, or fear of judgement about anything. I suspect many others feel the same :-) I still like to make things and give them spontaneously at other times, just for fun though!

  2. Glad to know John is okay, hope he'll feel better soon. Thank you for posting a Hanukkah craft, and thank you for showing your support for your Jewish fans (like me). It means a lot.

  3. Wishing John a speedy recovery! Glad everything is ok!

  4. I am so sorry about John, but moregrateful that the problem has been found & corrected. We all love you both very much. And I love the menorah \.

  5. Feel better soon John! I'm sending good vibes your way. Love you both! Have a lovely Christmas and Hanukkah!

  6. I'm so glad John is OK, and will pray for a quick recovery for him. <3 It's so good to remember that rest is productive! I'm preaching to myself right now, because my routine screening last week caught a mass in my breast and I'm trying desperately not to freak out while I wait weeks to get diagnostics done. Nothing I *do* can change anything right now, but I can be present with my family, and not worry about getting the dusting done. Non-awkward internet hugs to you and blessings for Hanukkah!

    1. I'm sending you lots of virtual hugs, too, Anonymous, I've been there and know exactly what you mean! I've found some respite in things that keep my mind focused on nice stuff, for others and myself. Hope this isn't unwelcome, but a couple of things I've found helpful: I never thought that meditation would be of any use, but during really stressful health problems I have found there are lots of nice guided visualisations on Youtube. I'm not saying that they heal the body, but they can make my mind feel better. So can reading uplifting works (and avoiding the dumpster fire that is most news). Best wishes, and maybe it will help to remember that modern medicine is pretty brilliant at treating and curing cancer <3

  7. I am so sorry for John's health scare and that you had to feel as if you were hiding things. You are allowed to have a private and personal life and we don't *have* to know everything. That being said, Thank you for sharing with us and trusting us with your personal lives! You are both deeply loved by so very many people both known to you IRL and those on your Virtual sites! Resting is sometimes the MOST important part of recovery from a health scare so remind John that even if he feels he's not "Doing" anything, He really is!! Be well soon!!

    On a different note.... THANK YOU!!! I have been trying to put together an Image for an LOTR inspired play on the 12 days of Christmas and have been unhappy with the images I can find... This Tree is the missing piece! Now to see if I can get it done before the end of the year.

  8. First, let me say that I'm glad John is healthy and recovering.
    I have always applauded and appreciated your efforts to make EPBOT a kind, caring, and inclusive spot on the internet. I love that your intentions are to always lead with kindness.


    I am deeply uncomfortable with idea of you as a non-Jewish person not only celebrating Hanukkah but also encouraging other non-Jewish people to celebrate Hanukkah. It is not your holiday. You aren't showing yourself to be an ally and/or inclusive by co-opting something intensely personal to millions of people around the world in the name of cool new crafts and yummy food. I'm upset by the idea that the Hanukkah blessings are simply "pretty and fun to sing" and ignore the spiritual meanings behind them.

    I'm sure there are people who are going to say, "My Jewish friend says it's okay for us to do this". To which I would say, if your Jewish friends invite you to celebrate Hanukkah with them, then by all means do so! And for every Jew who says this is fine with them, there are just as many who are hurt and offended. What you are doing is cultural appropriation- you're taking all of the "fun" and absolving yourself of any of the responsibilities and burdens of actually being Jewish.

    Hanukkah is the celebration of a people who would rather die than deny their faith.

    If you want to fight anti-semitism, then FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.
    This isn't it.

    PS- You didn't even tag this post as "Hanukkah" or anything remotely associated with Judaism. You tagged this under "Christmas". Badly done, Jen.

    1. I agree, this is a misstep. Thank you for writing that all out, anon.

    2. I'm not Jewish, so I don't think I can appropriately give an assessment on whether or not it's ok to learn about and celebrate a Jewish holiday. It seems like it's being done in an effort to appreciate and understand, but there may be nuances I'm not aware of. As a Christian, I don't mind people of other faiths celebrating Christmas or Easter, though I can see how it is different as they've long been appropriated and commercialized.

      I have seen a huge uptick in my Christian friends celebrating some Passover traditions as it is not only a huge part of our Biblical belief, but so closely tied into the story of Jesus Christ. I wonder if you have the same concern for people celebrating Passover. And that's not a criticism, but a sincere question.

      But mostly I just wanted to say that I see nothing wrong with educating and correcting, but meanness of words is never the right way to do it. Saying "badly done" to Jen who constantly does SO MUCH GOOD, breaks my heart. Perhaps a private message that's not publicly shaming her on the Internet would have been more tasteful.

    3. Heath, I’m not Jewish either and I’m here to tell you that we, as a majority, do not get to decide what is or is not appropriation. Christians celebrating Passover isn’t really a good look either, unless we’ve been invited. It’s not the same as the secularization of Christmas or Easter, because we are the cultural hegemony here.

    4. Thank you for sharing this comment. I saw the blog post earlier and had been trying to verbalize in my head all evening why it was bothering me.

      I echo most of Anonymous's sentiments - most importantly, that John's surgery went well and that the results are OK - family and health really are the core of everything. And I'm also certain that the idea for this came the very best of intentions, which I appreciate.
      But I also echo their critique.

      I'm sure you will find some Jews who are in favor of non-Jews celebrating Jewish holidays on their own (I'm assuming you asked some of your Jewish friends before doing this?), some who don't really care, and some whom it definitely rubs the wrong way. While I would have though that I'd fall into the middle category, this particular post seems to have drawn a "rub the wrong way" reaction, and my thoughts here are just reflective of my own personal opinion.

      In general, I consider myself a pretty secular/cultural Jew, and I'm always happy to share what I know about holidays and traditions if someone asks. And if someone wants to cook Jewish food, join a klezmer band, or learn Yiddish or Ladino - I welcome and encourage it!
      If a Jew has invited you to a holiday celebration or if you have an interfaith family - then I think it's great to join in the religious customs and prayers.

      To me, the menorah (however thematically creative it is!) feels like a usual token gesture, but that's something that I'm very much used to and not really bothered by.

      However, the paragraph starting with, "If you're interested in celebrating Hanukkah, it's not too late!" was really the reason I've been checking the comments to see if I'm just being weirdly oversensitive of if anyone else was bothered by it. I don't want to go overboard by dissecting every word, but to me, every single phrase in this paragraph makes me wince uncomfortably (apart from "enjoying finding readings about light and love, and taking time each night to focus on all we're grateful for", which I think is a nice take-away).


    5. I take all your critiques to heart, friends, and the first poster is absolutely right about my misstep in labeling this "Christmas." I'm so sorry about that, it was wrong and I clearly wasn't thinking.

      I mentioned last year that I was "exploring my Jewish roots" by celebrating Hanukkah for the first time, something I should have mentioned in this post. I do have Jewish ancestry through my mother and grandmother, I have been to Israel, and I have a deep love and respect for Judaism. As I wasn't raised in the Jewish faith, however, I don't feel comfortable calling myself Jewish. It's complicated. I genuinely didn't realize that would be an offense to others in my celebration of Hanukkah, though, and for that I am sorry. I am working out my beliefs as I go, and as this is not a religious blog, I didn't feel this was a place to discuss my faith journey. I just wanted to share a little joy.

      I am new to this and will for sure get more things wrong, but I appreciate those of you calling me out in love and trying to set me right. I will remove my encouragement for others to celebrate Hanukkah with us, and leave that call for others who know better.

      Thanks, friends.

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. Thanks for your thoughtful response, Jen ❤️ For me, clarifying in the blog that you're exploring your family's connection to Judaism really makes all the difference.

      I know you have some food ingredient limitations, so if it helps, my family always makes latkes with just potatoes and salt - no other ingredients! And while sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) are tasty, I've never had the motivation to make them myself :)


    8. Thanks for clarifying, Jen. IMO the family part isn’t as important as acknowledging that these traditions are part of a religious holiday, not just a fun thing for anyone to try. The new wording is much better.

  9. Wishing John a speedy recovery! It's always a huge relief when the biopsies come back clean! *HUGS* to both of you as I'm sure last week was more than stressful and nerve wracking.

    As frustrating as it is this time of year to have to be forced to stop and take a moment when you're trying to get everything done, you can't appreciate the beauty of everything if you don't take a moment to stop and enjoy it. Even if it is a forced stopped, there is always something magical that can come from it, enjoy those moments, look for the silver linings! :)

    Just a reminder to everyone when things get overwhelming it is OK if all you do is paint your toenails today!

  10. Feel better!! Rest and enjoy the season! Glad you are on the mend!!!❤️

  11. Thank goodness for good news on the biopsies! Feel better John. Take it easy Jen! Your wisdom is so true; be good to yourselves. I appreciate the light you shine back into this crazy world.

    Also love the glitter on the menorah. Great touch!

  12. Well, mileage varies, I guess. It doesn't offend or discomfort me personally on the score of my Jewish heritage, but I don't get to make the call for other people about what counts as cultural appropriation.

    As I understand it, a hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah) is not in itself a consecrated or consecrating object like a mezuzah (doorpost scroll). So even if it's a bridge too far for non-Jews to perform Jewish Hanukkah rituals such as lighting the candles with sung blessings, I don't think there's anything objectionable in non-Jews just displaying a hanukkiah for a message of inclusivity, as Jen says.

    And since hanukkiahs are manufactured with all sorts of secular decorative themes, Gondor-ifying the look of a hanukkiah seems okay too. (Unless you actually use it as a ritual object for Middle-earthian Valar veneration or some such, in which case I believe you run afoul of the official idolatry prohibitions.) Again, though, mileage varies! It is great to be ecumenical and inclusive, but one person's ecumenism is another person's cultural appropriation, so caution is warranted, I guess.


  13. I have no Jewish roots, as far as I know, but I had some comparative religion studies One Hundred Years Ago, and if I recall correctly, since Jen's Jewish roots seem to be through the female line, then she's Jewish. It's not even like a "lapsed Catholic" trying to get back to Catholicism. If your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish, whether you want to be or not. So yeah, totally appropriate for her.

    Granny Roberta

    1. That info wasn't there before, so folks didn't have it to react to. But now we know, and I agree, if you have Jewish ancestry, it's all good!

  14. Little Miss Maine Coon sends John many purrs to heal faster.

  15. I hope that John feels better soon. Be safe, relax, watch fun movies, listen to great music, and enjoy the holiday lights!

  16. Wishing you and John the best! <3

  17. Boo for having a surgery and complications, but hey, maybe it's a blessing in disguise more than just avoiding the problem getting worse! Maybe a restful holiday is exactly what you needed this year. Many prayers for further peace throughout the rest of the year! <3

  18. A lot of different opinions in these comments, so what the hey, guess I'll throw my tuppence worth in too!

    When I read this post, I thought it was a lovely idea. There's a lot of Christmas-y content out there at the moment, and I felt it was nice to see something about a different celebration. Even if you're not Jewish or don't have any Jewish roots, I personally would think it's a good thing for you to learn about other cultures and religions. I'd far rather have neighbours who have learned a bit about my culture and beliefs, as that tends to go hand in had with respect and finding things we have in common. A lot of prejudice comes from lack of understanding, and hence not seeing another group as being peoplevthe same as yourself (albeit doing some things a bit differently).

    If this post inspired someone to learn more about their Jewish neighbours, or even inspired a secular Jew to think more about the religious aspect of the celebration, I don't think that could bea bad thing.

    Besides, can those complaining about cultural appropriation honestly say they've never hummed along to a Christmas carol? Here in the UK, I know plenty of people who aren't Christian but still join in with part of the celebrations. It's not unusual to see a Christmas tree in a non-christian friend's house or to attend a Christmas party with friends from many religions. Most people wouldn't think twice about it, and if they did, they certainly wouldn't turn anyone away with accusations of cultural appropriation.

    Surely one of our strengths as human beings is the ability to find common ground and form communities with all sorts if people, from all walks of life? But we don't do that by barring doors and pointing fingers. We've all been strangers sometime, somewhere, so let's try to remember that, and welcome those who are interested in our cultures.

    Whatever, whenever and however you celebrate, I wish you all health and happiness (and maybe a few sweet treats, too)!

  19. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kat! I wanted to first say that I agree with a lot of what you said. Like you wrote, it's definitely a good thing for everyone to learn about other cultures and religions and find common ground with others, and efforts to do so should be celebrated!

    Also, you may have seen Jen's comment, but in case you hadn't - she graciously and thoughtfully amended what she had originally written, so the first several comments on this topic were based on her original phrasing.

    Just wanted to offer some food for thought in response to your comment on cultural appropriation. Personally, I think that there's a difference between singing Christmas or Passover songs or going to a holiday party, and someone deciding to engage in the practices of a religion they have no connection to or are not considering joining. As a flipped example, if a non-Christian decides to go to a Catholic mass and receive the Eucharist solely because it's a fun learning experience, I feel like that starts to get into a gray area.
    And while some Christians may be fine, or even welcome non-Christians engaging in Chrisitan religious practices, I think the other key pieces to consider are that Judaism is a minority religion, so it does again feel like a gray area if individuals from the religious majority start trying out the practices without having been invited to do so by a member of the minority. Additionally, Judaism, unlike Christianity or Islam, is non-proselytizing, so from a Jewish perspective, there's no underlying benefit that, well, maybe this would encourage more people to think about converting to Judaism.



Please be respectful when commenting; dissenting opinions are great, but personal attacks or hateful remarks will be removed. Also, including a link? Then here's your html cheat sheet: <a href="LINK ADDRESS">YOUR TEXT</a>