Tag Archives: Christmas

Ready for some Christmas ringing?

Stello Hall

Stello Peformance Hall, in Warde Hall at Mount Mercy University, seen from the balcony. A rehearsal on the last day of November was the first time I had evern been there.

For once, I won’t wait until too late to note a hand bell concert. Details are here, but if you want to hear some Christmas music, including some hand bell ringing, come to Stello Hall at Mount Mercy University Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m.

For this concert, we’ll be in the balcony of Stello Hall, a place I’ve never been before in my decade at MMU. Earlier this week, on Wednesday, I helped set up the bells in the balcony and then practiced ringing while the choir sang.

I need more practice. Are you kidding me? Three notes on one beat? What the heck is that? A sixth note? Come here, composer, I want you to hear my bell loud and clear.


It will be a thrilling concert. At one point, I’m supposed to count 34 measures of rest before playing.

Ha ha. So fun.

Anyway, despite some honest trepidation, I’m looking forward to this concert. A university choir usually provides the best Christmas music there is (unless they decide to sing “Little Drummer Boy,” but I’ll just grin and bear it if they do). This will be the first time I’ll hear the newly formed MMU band, which will be interesting.

And the first time I’ve played in the balcony of Stello Hall. It’s pretty high up there.

Enjoy the view …. this video shows all of the pictures I took in the balcony of Stello Hall on Wednesday.


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Christmas 2010 Snow Scenes


I didn't get the framing right, but was lucky to catch the focus and I still like this image.

As noted before, there’s no need to dream of a White Christmas in 2010 in Iowa.

While Audrey took a quick nap, I went outside to try to capture some snow photos. This picture post is the result.  I’m not sure it worked all that well–it’s hard to photograph snow and the biggest problem I have with my digital minicam is that it doesn’t let me control the focus.  Still, although it was hard to get it to focus on the head of a coneflower, I think I got some nice snow pictures, but you can comment and let me know if you agree.

Lilac in snow

This is one of the few "inside" shots out the office window in my home--snow on a lilac bush. Background is backyard snow. I like the plain view this photo shows.

Why does ice seem so pretty when it’s mixed with dust and puffed with air to form delicate six-sided crystals? I got a bit chilly taking these and worried a bit about keeping my Kodak dry, but all in all, I think it worked out.  Click on an image to see it bigger, and then click “back” to see more, I’ll finish this post with dozens of snow photo, a total of 20 images, just to celebrate the beauty of snow on this fine Christmas day!

Once again, Merry Christmas from snowy Iowa.

Lilac on chimney

One of my favs in this big group. Lilac with chimney stones as background.

Lilac and snow

Again, a nice lilac image. Can't have too many flower photos! Even when the flowers are long gone.


Next series is crabapples--like the contrast of red and white snow. Squirrel has not managed to reach them all yet ...


An even better one, I think. Crabapple in backyard.

Maple bark

Now, a more abstract phase--snow on maple bark


Clothesline in back with snow "waves"


Clothesline again, looking west instead of east


I like the way the aging wood of the fence contrast with snow, and the way the snow overhangs the top of the fence

Plant hook and fence

One of our plant hooks and the top of the fence

Fence again

Final fence post--closeup of snow wave

Plant hook

OK, the fence is still h ere, but I think this is a photo of the hook ...


We meant to take this swing down before winter, did not get done ...

Road Crud

Looks like an interesting mineral--is really just road snow crud crusted in a van wheel well


Woods in snow

Woods and stream bed south of our back fence (looking over fence, actually)


Fern in front in snow

Dogwood leaves

Dogwood leaves with snow--first of a few dogwood photos

Dogwood leaf

Dogwood leaf--took some time to get the camera to focus ...

Dogwood again

Dogwood leaves buried in snow


And the final photo--number 20--again a coneflower, better framing

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No Need For Dreaming

The white Christmas is here with a vengeance. More than 8 inches of snow have blanketed our neighborhood, making travel this Christmas Eve a bit dicey, but pretty for those of us who stayed home.

Inspired me, for no particular reason, so make this brief bird video as snow fell Christmas Eve morning:

I also shot a few photos of birds coping with the white stuff. The planters appear largely empty, but I did give them a full load of birdseed later, after shooting the movie and the photos.

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Finally, I’m more religious than this Australian singer, but still the song below is a powerful one about family, and seems a nice sunny counterpoint to the Iowa white Christmas.  It made me think of a granddaughter and daughter in the UK and a son in Seattle and another daugther in Omaha–we’re away for the day, but always here, and we’ll be thinking of you.

Hope you enjoy and can sip white wine with your family, whether you are in the sun or in the snow. Merry Christmas.

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Christmas Week in Full Swing

Nikayla and dragon

Brigid places a dragon on Nikayla, who doesn't mind as long as there are gifts to upwrap!

Sometimes, Christmas can become a bit of an ordeal, particularly in families where multiple branches must be visited in a few days, so that the day itself becomes less of a quiet family holiday and more like a carefully choreographed campaign—leave house at 0900, grandmas at 1030 to 1130, Uncle Eddy’s from 1200 to 1330, other grandma and grandpa from 1645 to 1750 ….


Although being a professor is not as relaxed a gig as outsiders sometimes seem to assume—just ask most profs how they feel near finals week when the hours per week seem to exceed 60—but it does definitely have its advantages. Time off around Christmas is one of them. And a perk of advancing years is for our home to become a destination, so that we live in the place that’s over the river, through the woods and down I-380, where people’s Toyotas know the way through the white and drifting snow.

Today, we hosted the Sheller family get together. Sadly, Anne was unable to travel this far, and Toni had to work, but 5 of us were there. A few from the next generation and the one after made it, too—it was fun to have some bumbling toddlers around. We had a 16 to 14 player game of “Scum” going for a while, and that was fun, too.

It’s nice to have the holiday get together be informally and fairly relaxed. It seems that Christmas for me has almost expanded into a weeklong series of events, but that’s OK, since the events seem pretty low key. Toni will be over Christmas day and we’ll see Katy and Wyatt and Brandon and Theresa in the next few days—and we got to Skype Amanda this morning, and hope that she enjoys her Christmas trip in the UK.

Tuesday, I played with the Mount Mercy University bell ensemble at the annual staff Christmas party, and that party is something I always look forward too. It’s always a treat to hear Carolyn play the pipe organ in Stello Hall, and the meal afterwards is a relaxing time to chat and eat cookies.

Sledding group

Katy, Nikayla, me and Tristan

Tuesday afternoon, when I got home, Tristan and Nikayla were over, sledding in the back yard.

I’ve always thought a pristine field of snow, while it can be pretty, is not as cozy as a stretch of snow with angels, sled tracks, a fox and goose course, half destroyed snow forts amidst spent snow ammo, snow people and all other messy evidence of snow play. It’s good that the grandkids are already learning that snow is not something you curse or avoid—it’s something you take advantage of and play in. May that be their lifelong attitude.

Anyway, Toni, Anne, we missed you and thought of you—and of all the many others in the next generations. Everyone, family and friends, may your Christmas be merry and bright. Even if not all of your Christmases are white.

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Lil’ Drummer Boi

Amanda's illustration

My sister Cate suggested "Jesus in a Panic" would be a good band name ...

Not exactly a “wordless” Monday–but few words. How can you improve on great art? My daughter Amanda Moscou creates a runner-up in a Hallmark on-line art contest, illustrating the insanity of “Carol of of Drum” (Carol must be the name of the drummer, like Carol O’Conner).

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It was the Best of Music, the Worst of Music

Lessons & Carols logo

Logo done by MMU for Lessons & Carols

But, mostly, I think, it was pretty darn good. Surprisingly so, from my point of view.

Last night was “Lessons & Carols,” an annual concert by the Mount Mercy University Choir and Jazz Connection—the MMU vocal music groups—and the Handbell Ensemble, which includes an incompetent boob on the high G and A in the bass clef.

I’m the boob. The boob has had some rough rehearsals this fall—the music has been harder this year, and I’m far from a musical expert. (Actually, I’m right next to some musical experts, I’m just not personally much of one).

But last night, I think, we sounded pretty darn good. Even I didn’t do badly, and that’s a small Christmas miracle, as well as a testament to the angelic patience of our director, Carolyn Sternowski.

It’s also, I think, a testament to the quality of the MMU vocal groups. Being in Stello Hall, a very nice venue, and performing with a great pianist like Tony Nickle and some great voices directed by Dr. Daniel Kleinknecht—well, it puts a bell ringer on his best behavior.

I titled this blog “best and worst” partly because the program included songs that I wrote about last Christmas because they are among my most and least favorite Christmas tunes in “The Horrible Holiday Sounds.”

This concert included some of my favorites. Beca Orvella’s soprano voice practically lifted us all up to heaven as she belted out “O Holy Night.” Among the best.

Opening with a very familiar, but very good, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” set the right mood for the evening. Later, Ben Wood’s tenor voice sounded great on “O Jesus So Gentle.”

And hearing “Mary, Did You Know” is like watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you’re not a little choked up by that song, you may need to see the doctor to find out if you’ve got “Tin Man” disease and need a heart.

Then, there were other songs. They were sung well, but two of my least favorites were on the program The choir sang “Do You Hear What I Hear?” which remains on my least favorite list for it’s odd portrayal of wind talking to lambs talking to shepherds talking to kings, it’s improbable metaphors (how is a song the size of a sea?) and its non-Biblical conclusion. The king in his palace warm is a bad guy in the Bible.

Stone Drum

A stone drum, © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

Then, there is the “Carol of the Drum.” Last year, I called it by its common title “Little Drummer Boy.” I think I named it the worst Christmas song ever.

Well, I’ve reconsidered. It’s probably not the worst Christmas song ever, it’s merely just a bad song. In hindsight, invention of new characters who didn’t appear in the Biblical story isn’t a terrible thing—think “Ben Hur”—but the song still sounds stupid. Bah Rum Pum Hum Bug.

Still, MMU choir, insipid song sung well. Kudos.

Enough complaining—the evening was grand. The effect of the combination of music and readings is a bit of Christmas magic. I’m glad being in bells brought me there, and shame on me for not making time for this concert every year. It’s a great way to get in the holiday frame of mind—pass the eggnog and fruitcake, I’m ready for everything Christmas.


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