Rediscovering My Sound System

There is a renaissance of sound in our home.  Or, she reflects, perhaps a Middle Age. An acoustic Enlightenment.

In an effort to manage my time better, I’ve been disconnecting myself from the computer. And—I won’t lie—it’s been hard. The computer’s tentacles are long and many. It is too too easy to just “check my email” or Google one factoid and end up saying hasta la vista to a sizable chunk of time. 

You know what works best for me? Turn it off at night and don’t turn it back on until x, y, and z are completed.

But, she sputters, I need my music! Yes, dear. [I talk to myself all the time.] I have an iPod and an iHome in my bedroom, but the volume doesn’t make it to the kitchen; the quality of sound doesn’t cut it.

So it’s back to CDs—discs in their cases. I can play them in our brand new BluRay player. One at a time. On good speakers with an amplifier. And my home is filled with warm, soaring, nourishing, luminous music. It’s a glorious thing. Stupendous! I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to hear my home full of good sounds.

It gives me pause. I feel like I have cheated myself for, oh, five or more years. 

There are correlations with the Kindle/real book debate. I love my Kindle for many reasons, but it will nevah [hear Winston Churchill’s voice] replace my library of books. I love my digital music for its portability and availability. But oh! the glories of an amplifier and good speakers.  And I know that it reveals my age, but I really prefer to have hard copies of my music.


I often do a long post with my favorite Advent/Christmas music, but today I will highlight one CD: Chanticleer’s Our Favorite Carols*. Talk about irony: I discovered this CD from Pandora. On the computer.    It came up on my Liz Story (Holiday) channel and I loved everything I heard. On a whim I purchased this CD in January. It has been in the shrink-wrap until Sunday (beginning of Advent). And I am smitten.  There isn’t a preview available on Amazon, but there is on iTunes.

The tone is mid-to-high brow. A capella vocal ensemble. All guys but it some of them sound like girls. Seventeen resplendent carols. No jangles. Some Billings, Tallis, and Holst, for you music majors. There’s not one track that I want to fast-forward, and that itself makes it a winner.

In the Bleak Midwinter arrangement has some dazzling and unexpected key changes. Gabriel’s Message and Huron Carol are  gems.  For some reason I feel like I own Thomas Tallis’ Third Mode Melody (the tune Vaughn Williams based his Fantasia on, also heard on the movie Master and Commander); it possesses me, however, and when it popped up on this CD there was the flush of recognition. There are two tunes for Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day.

This CD is doing some heavy lifting on keeping my Yuletide sound and serene. Here is Huron Carol:

* Be sure you listen to Our Favorite Carols. Chanticleer has several Christmas albums, but this is my favorite.



Advent Wreath for the Craft Challenged


This is three weeks late, but it would be ridiculous of me to pretend I’m on time for anything. And, you know, it’s really not too late to begin this year. Because you can have this up and running in about 3 minutes.

I know, I know there aren’t the traditional 3 purple+1 pink tapers. But I’m all for starting somewhere and taking joy in where you are. And it is a lovely tradition to light the candles (only one the first week of Advent, adding one candle a week, lighting the red one on Christmas day) before we sit down for dinner. A lovely tradition noted in its absence this week, while we hosted a virus and never sat down at table.

So here it is: four white pillar candles, one red pillar, something to elevate the red candle (I used a footed glass candy dish), some cranberry garland, a tray or wide plate to put under it.

In the words of my friend Steph, Don’t miss the hush.

The Best Crescent Rolls



Decades ago my neighbor called me up.
“I have extra rolls, would you like them with your dinner?”
Yep. She’s some kind of wonderful.

They. were. stupendous.

I prayed that this wasn’t a secret family recipe.
I think she dictated directions over the phone.
As you can see, my recipe card has survived a Niagra of spills.

This is a vintage recipe.
Given before the days of KitchenAid mixers in every kitchen.
So half the time you use a hand-mixer,
then you shift to mixing by hand.

The good old days of mixing and kneading by hand.

Rhonda’s Rolls

1/2 cup canned milk
1 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 pkg yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2 t salt
2 eggs
5 1/2 cups flour

In large mixing bowl add yeast to water.
Add canned milk, oil, sugar, salt and eggs.
Mix well.
Add half the flour; using mixer, mix well for 3 minutes.
Add the rest of the flour cup by cup,
mixing with wooden spoon.
Knead dough for 10 minutes.

Wash out bowl and coat bottom with oil.
Place dough in pan and rise until doubled.
Punch down and cut in half.
Roll dough into a circle shape.
Cut like a pizza.
Roll up and place on cookie sheet.
Let rise until double.
Bake 400° for 6-8 minutes.



Above: Baked in my nifty Demarle Flexipan.
Below: Baked on a pizza stone.



I always double this recipe. The family demands it.
I use whole milk instead of canned.
I buy yeast in bulk. 1 package = 1 scant Tablespoon
I used to brush melted butter over the tops.
Now I spray olive oil cooking spray.

Oh yes. I make the entire recipe, kneading and all,
in a Kitchen Aid or Bosch mixer.


My New Favorite Christmas CD



Stephanie Seefeldt’s Cradle & Cross is the best antidote for the jangling, jarring, holly-jolliness blaring through the speakers at the mall.  Seefeldt’s dulcet tones sooth and calm; they focus on Emmanuel, God with us. Her music invites us to come and worship.

Picture snow falling, soup simmering, bread rising, candles flickering. Cradle & Cross is the soundtrack for the sacred season of Advent. When you feel frazzled and fragmented, hostage to your To Do list, put this album on.  Stephanie’s music is an infusion of peace; it will orient you towards high thanksgivings and unwearied praises. 

Here are a few of my favorite tracks:

Of the Father’s Love Begotten :: This ancient hymn is rich in incarnational truth. Stephanie’s phrasing of the medieval plainsong is exquisite.

Emmanuel, God is With Us ::  The essence of Christmas wrapped in a simple tune that a three-year old could master. Sing your kids to sleep; sing a loved one into eternity. 

Emmanuel, God is with us.
Emmanuel, we’re not alone.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
We love you, Emmanuel.

Lay Them Down :: A challenge to imitate the humility of Christ. The lyrics based on Philippians 2 call us to give away—to lay down—our rights. 

In the First Light :: Stephanie’s arrangement of Bob Kauflin’s modern classic blends her voice, a viola, and a cello. Minimal, unadorned, glorious.

Quelle est Cette Odeur Agreable/Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming medley ::   Evocative, sensitive piano solo that pairs two traditional carols.

Angels from the Realms of Glory :: Have you ever gone to the wedding of a flibbertigibbet bride? And then been shocked when a serene beauty walked down the aisle? It’s amazing what a dress can do. When this traditional carol, that formerly galloped and sometimes screeched, is clothed with a new dress the beauty and radiance of the lyrics shine. Familiar words become fresh. Stephanie’s melody brings dignity and grace to an old standard. 

You can listen to samples and purchase MP3 downloads at Amazon  and iTunes. There is no better purpose for $0.99 than to buy Angels from the Realms of Glory. If you like Fernando Ortega, George Winston, or Liz Story, you will like Stephanie Seefeldt. You can purchase CDs at

So What’s the Point of Christmas?

Once there was an older boy who was wondering to himself about Christmas: I wonder why we make such a big deal about the birth of Jesus when his birth really doesn’t save anyone?

The question was not going away, so he approached the theologian of his family, his father. Dad, since the birth of Jesus doesn’t really save anyone, why do we make such a big deal about it?

His father was very pleased with such a question, and he began to think of a helpful illustration. So he asked his son: Whenever you play a game of baseball, what do you need?

His son began listing all the components he could think of. A baseball, a bat, a glove, a playing field, four bases, 17 more players, and an umpire. He looked questioningly at his father.

You also need to know the history of the game, the rules, and baseball strategy. You need the skills to hit, throw, and field the ball. You need a scorekeeper, base coaches, a line-up, grandstands, a crowd, hot dogs, and coke. The father stopped there and looked at his son.

So, what’s your point? The boy asked. His father smiled–he loved that question most of all. If you only had a baseball, could you play the game?

Of course not, said the boy.

The father’s anticipation grew as he asked the clincher. If you had everything else, but no baseball, could you play the game?

The father stared at his son. He wanted him to figure this one out on his own. The boy was thinking hard.

Oh, I get it. If you had the whole plan of salvation without the birth of the Savior, you would not have any salvation!

Shazam! the father exclaimed.

Just like you need a baseball to play the game, the birth of Jesus is required for the salvation of the world.

So, when you look at the baseball sitting on your shelf, you automatically make connections–you hear the count, you see base hits, stolen bases, and strike outs, and you smell the snack shack.

When you see a nativity scene sitting on the coffee table, you should automatically hear Isaiah’s predictions of the Messiah, you should see Jesus living a sinless life, dying as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, rising from the dead in complete victory, and ascending to the right hand of the throne of God, ruling over the nations until all his enemies are made his footstool.

Christmas is therefore a crucial part of salvation’s story. Without Christmas there would be no salvation. Just like without a baseball there can be no game.


No, the father said, it’s better than cool. The Incarnation is part of a perfect, no-hitter, shut-out game. It’s one inning of an absolute blowout. And we get to stand in the 7th inning stretch and sing the Doxology.

~ Curt Bakker, December 18, 2005

Tidings of Almonds and Joy (God Rest Ye Merry Musketeers)


God rest ye merry Musketeers Yule time is your Payday.

Remember Christ our Savior redeemed the Milky Way.

Oh Henry’s Baby Ruth rejoiced with Christmas on its way.

Singing, Tidings of Almonds and Joy, Almonds and Joy.

Singing, Tidings of Almonds and Joy.


From God our heavenly Father, Goodbar the angel came.

The shepherds stopped their Snickering, Kit Kats and Doves were tamed.

Big Hunks of earth and Clifs of rock shook loose in Jesus’ name.

Oh, tidings of Almonds and Joy, Almonds and Joy.

Oh, tidings of Almonds and Joy.


100 Grand angelic voices Thundered all around.

Nestlè, the strongest shepherd Crunched his staff upon the ground.

Hershey, his Bar-friend was be-Twixt, Butter-Fingered at the sound.

Oh, tidings of Almonds and Joy, Almonds and Joy.

Oh, tidings of Almonds and Joy.


The shepherds went Nutrageous, they climbed o’er hills and Mounds.

And Fast Breaked up 5Th Avenue through Bethlehem the town.

A fire Krackeled near the barn, Messiah they had found.

Oh, tidings of Almonds and Joy, Almonds and Joy.

Oh, tidings of Almonds and Joy.

(my husband entered a contest at work to make a Christmas Carol with Candy Bars.  He won People’s Choice.  He also made the wooden letters in the picture this year.  One side says Believe!; the other Rejoice!)

My NEW favorite Christmas CD

My new favorite Christmas CD.
I don’t know how famous violinist Geoffrey Castle is.
He is well-known in the Seattle are.

Go here to hear the complete track of Ukrainian Bell Carol
and an excerpt of the Coventry Carol.
As far as I can tell, that site is the only place to buy the CD.

I’m obsessive with this one.
Which means my family gets to hear it..again…and again…
and again…and again…and again.

Think the synthesized sound of Mannheim Steamroller
(Castle isn’t synthesized, but he plays an electric violin),
the introspection of George Winston
with Joshua Bell thrown in.
That’s not quite the recipe, but I’m reaching for artists
you might be familiar with.

Perfect for a quiet evening.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

We learned a new Advent hymn today.  The words are by St. Ambrose (397) and the music was written in 1524.  The tune is easy to learn without being facile, really very singable.  The harmony, rich in interior movement, is luscious.  Of course it is — J.S. Bach wrote it. 

Savior of the nations, come;
Virgin’s Son, here make Thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood;
By the Spirit of our God
Was the Word of God made flesh,
Woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child
Of the virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned,
Still to be in heaven enthroned.

From the Father forth He came
And returneth to the same,
Captive leading death and hell
High the song of triumph swell!

Thou, the Father’s only Son,
Hast over sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we its glories see?

Brightly doth Thy manger shine,
Glorious is its light divine.
Let not sin overcloud this light;
Ever be our faith thus bright.

Praise to God the Father sing,
Praise to God the Son, our King,
Praise to God the Spirit be
Ever and eternally.

If you go to Youtube (type Savior of the Nations Come in the search engine) you can see many renditions of this ancient Advent hymn which is new to me today!

The Final Christmas Card

Her name is Precious. 

When I was 13, she hired me to clean her house on Saturdays.  She was getting a break from vacuuming and dusting, but in reality she was giving me relief from the confusion and tension of my family life.  The highlight was eating lunch together.  She introduced me to oyster crackers while she told me the secret of her long marriage was growing up with her husband. She was 15 when she married Roy.  After two years as a Saturday maid, I took a “real” job at a store. 

When I got married, of course I invited Precious to my wedding, unaware that she had changed churches and no longer mixed with most of the folks attending.  She was so glad to be included.  Her wedding gift – a Presto Pressure Cooker – is a gift I continue to use 31 years later.

On one of their jaunts around the country, Roy and Precious visited us in Klamath Falls, Oregon.  Always radiant, she woke early and cleaned up my kitchen before showing me her daily floor exercises.  A stickler for good posture, she would urge me to “look up at the third story, Carol, and keep your shoulders back!”

Every year I look forward to receiving a Christmas card recycled into a postcard from Precious.  When I read her unwavering handwriting, I can hear her voice.  She let me know of Roy’s death, of her move to Mississippi, all with her own special grace.  And as she has aged, I always wonder while I wait, if I will hear from her this year.  In the funny way of friendships, we have no one else in common, no other link to each other.* 

This is the card I received this year:

“Merry Christmas” Carol and Curt & Family
and a Blessed New Years.
Since I was 89 on 9/11 old age is evident,
but the Lord meets every need.
Looking forward to Eternity w/ old friends
& am not sending cards in the future-
will see you in Heaven in God’s timing.
Rejoicing in Jesus,

* I reconnected with another friend from that era; after reading this, she emailed me to say she is also a Precious friend.