Category Archives: holidays

Holiday Highlights

Well, the holidays are just about over, and we are still in the thick of celebration. Our holidays started over Thanksgiving when we spent the week with our son and daughter in law.  Daughter arrived on the 26th. My best friend is due today, and we will have  feast on New Year’s Eve with her and daughter’s best friend. Then everyone heads back to Minneapolis, and we are left with the remains of the feast. I think I will be ready to face the new year.

What have been the highlights of your holidays? What have been some of the most memorable of your holidays?

Christmas Treasures

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown.

I happened to come upon an article online this week titled “This is What It Means When You See a Bird’s Nest Ornament on a Christmas Tree.” According the German company Inge Glas in a 2005 ornament description: “The [bird’s nests] represent the love, commitment, and effort it takes to build a happy home. Bird nests are also good-luck symbols. Legend has it that prosperity will come to any home that finds a bird’s nest nestled among the branches of the family Christmas tree.” My nesting bird is not on a tree – it’s on the upper shelf of my buffet – but I still remember how I was attracted to it in the shop where I bought it.

Other ornaments that have meaning for me are a few remaining spherical glass balls made by Shiny Brite – the striped ones especially, thought there are lots of different vintage designs pictured here:  

I can remember, at maybe four years of age, standing on tip-toe to see my reflection in them. They’ve apparently become so popular they’re back in production.

Do you have a meaningful Christmas ornament or decoration in possession, or in memory?

What are you doing this week to celebrate the holidays?

The Ministry of Silly Warnings

I opened a bag of flour yesterday as I was finishing some batches of Lebkuchen and Ginger Spekulatius,  when I saw the silliest warning on the bag.

I never imagined that some people would sit down to a nice bowl of flour, unaware that you only eat it if it is cooked in something else.

I am a firm believer in natural consequences.  You eat raw flour, you don’t feel so good. What ever happened to the dignity of risk?  Why do we need all these warnings?

What silly warnings have you encountered lately?

Cookie Mathematics

Wednesday night I made a second attempt at Schwarzweiss, German checkerboard cookies.  The ones from my first attempt  tasted good but I just didn’t get the process by which they miraculously look like checkerboards. They looked like mutated chocolate and vanilla strips.  I found another recipe with better instructions, and they actually turned out.

I never liked math very much. I really disliked geometry. The process to make checkerboard cookies is mathematical and geometrical, requiring the ability to visualize the process (which I could sort of see) and the patience to carry it out (which I really lack). I had to stack the two different colored layers, cut the stacks in half lengthwise, cut them again in half lengthwise, stack them again,  cut the stacks  in four slices lengthwise, stack them again, then slice the stacks into cookies.

It was intriguing to see a recipe that used three different colored doughs, as that seemed to make the process easier with fewer cuts and stacks. I am sure there is a mathematical explanation for that, but it makes my brain hurt to try to figure it out.

What are your feelings toward and experiences with mathematics? What makes for a good mathematics teacher? Is algebra or geometry easier for you?


Walking to my car after running an errand, I passed a woman who was putting a huge stuffed unicorn toy into the back of her van. I asked her where in the house she could hide that so prying eyes wouldn’t see it.  She laughed and said that she hid all the gifts at this time of year at her next-door neighbors.   This triggered a memory so I told her about occasionally hiding gifts meant for my dad at our next-door neighbor’s home.

My dad could ferret out gifts for him practically anywhere. In my high school house there weren’t any locks on any of the bedrooms doors, so that was out.  He found things in the basement; he found things in the garage; he even found things hidden in the living room fireplace, which we never used.

When I was little I had inherited this trait. I dug into closets, under beds, any place I thought I might find a stash.  One year at the holidays, when I was about 8, I knew every single gift that I had received before I even opened it.  That was the last year I went looking.  It was no fun at all to open gifts that I already knew about and then having to feign surprise.

Ever since then I wait, letting the anticipation build. Sometimes this backfires. Once my folks brought me a gift from their travels in Russia, instructing me to wait until my birthday, a full 3 weeks away.  The gift sat on the piano bench for those 3 weeks and when I excitedly opened it, it was one of those big fur hats that are popular in Russia.  I can’t do fur, even if it’s a wonderful thought from someone who loves you, so I called my folks to tell them I couldn’t keep it.  Even though this time it turned out badly, I’m still committed to waiting until the right moment!

How do you keep from snooping? Or do you just go ahead and peek?

Playing Carnegie Hall

A couple of weeks ago our church office received an email from an event coordinator who works for Carnegie Hall. She had been searching out bell choirs online, found ours, and asked if we would be interested in playing at The Great Christmas Ring  next year.  We would perform with about 250 other ringers in early December at Carnegie Hall after several days of rehearsals with an eminent bell choir conductor and composer.  They will provide the bells and equipment, and we just pay for everything else.

Six of us have expressed interest, and will submit our applications this week.  Participation is on a first come-first serve basis, so we hope we get in.  I think it will be pretty exciting.  It will not be the first time I played Carnegie Hall, however.

When I was 18 I auditioned for and played in a concert band comprised of high school students from all over the US. We played a concert in Carnegie Hall prior to a European tour.  It was quite an experience.  I didn’t really appreciate my surrounding s when I was 18, so if we get to play bells in New York next December I will pay much closer attention.

If you could perform anything, anywhere, even in the past, where would you perform and with whom would you perform? What famous concerts do you wish you could have attended? 

Just the Right Space

Last night Husband and I attended the local college Christmas concert featuring the band, choruses, community Choral Union,  and a small string group from Bismarck.  The highlight of the concert was Handel’s Messiah. It was wonderful.

Our college music department had a good reputation but fell on hard times a few years ago. They have repopulated the faculty with some really fine teachers. We also have a strong city music community,  and are blessed with very fine community vocalists and musicians.

The concert was not held in the cavernous college auditorium, but in a terrific space with to-die-for acoustics.  I refer to the Abbey Church connected to a Benedictine Abbey 20 miles to the east of us.  You can see part of the ceiling in the header photo. The church was built in 1906-1910 in the Bavarian Romanesque style.  They have a new pipe organ.

The sound was especially gorgeous for O magnum mysterium, a choral piece published in 1572 by Tomas Luis de Victoria.  The church provided just the right acoustic space that the piece was written for.  Look at the header photo and imagine how the sound goes up, fills the church, and then circles back to listeners’ ears from those round ceiling sections.

I remember when I was in the Concordia College concert band we had to play inside an enormous, concrete, sugar beet warehouse for the warehouse dedication in Moorhead, MN.  We played a Sousa march, and the place echoed so much that we had to play every note staccato. I can still hear the horrible echoes. Tonight was a delight.

What are your experiences with acoustics and sounds? What are good and not so good sound spaces you have encountered?