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Composer Study: Beethoven

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Recommended Listening

Beethoven’s music is grouped into three periods, early, middle, and late.  

Note: You might wonder what “Op.” means – this stands for “Opus” and the numbers refer to the order in which a composer wrote his works. So, Op. 1 would mean the first piece he wrote. The higher the number, the later in his life the piece was composed.

Early Period

Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 - “Pathétique”

Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27 - “Moonlight”

Middle Period

Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 55 – “Eroica” (“Heroic”)  

This is a BBC documentary film which dramatizes the first performance of this symphony, with actual musicians playing period instruments. It gives a fantastic background on the time period and Beethoven himself, as well as a performance of the entire symphony.

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, Op. 61

Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 – “Fate”

This video features a fantastic young conductor who grew up in a poor family in Venezuela and was part of the youth symphony program there called “El Sistema”

Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 – “Pastoral”

Late Period

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 – “Choral” 

This, Beethoven’s last symphony, calls for a choir and four vocal soloists to join in for the final movement. The words that are sung in German are based on the poem “Ode to Joy” by Frederick Schiller. The final stanza reads:

Do you bow down before Him, you millions?
Do you sense your Creator, O world?
Seek Him above the canopy of stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.

Recommended Reading

Early Elementary

Late Elementary

Beethoven Lives Upstairs
Starring Neil Munro, Illya Woloshyn, Fiona Reid, Paul Soles, Albert Schultz

High School and Adults


Becoming Storyformed

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Be inspired by Sarah Clarkson Fink-Jensen as she discusses what it means to become Storyformed.

These are some of the books mentioned in the audio presentation.  For a full list of books with which to begin, see the button above.  

Sally's Tortellini Soup

This is one of those recipes where you can alter quantities and ingredients and still end up with a delicious soup.  Feel free to add more chicken stock and tomatoes to feed a larger crowd.  

Brown 1 pound Italian sausage.

Add about 1/4 cup olive oil and saute an onion and several cloves of garlic.

You can use sliced or ground sausage.  

You can use sliced or ground sausage.  

Simmering away!

Simmering away!

Add chopped  a few tablespoons fresh basil and Italian seasoning.

Add a can or two of diced fire-roasted tomatoes.

Add several cans of chicken or beef stock and simmer.

In the last few minutes, add a bag of dried tortellini and boil for time indicated on bag.


Serve with fresh, grated parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts if you'd like.

A "Different" Booklist

Have you read Sally and Nathan's book Different yet?  It is amazing.  Bravely choosing to listen to her motherly intuition rather than the loud voices of the world, Sally dared to believe that Nathan’s differences could be part of an intentional design from a loving Creator with a plan for his life. She trusted that the things that made him different were the very things that could make him great.  

In Different, Sally and Nathan share their stories from a personal perspective as mother and son. If you are in need of help and hope in your own journey with an outside-the-box child, or if you’re an adult trying to make sense of your differences, you’ll find deep insight, resonance, and encouragement in the pages of Different. 

Jaime Showmaker at Storyformed has gathered a list of books that will appeal to all your children but maybe your outside-the-box children can find themselves on the pages of these delightful stories.  

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos- Deborah Heiligman

This delightful book chronicles the story of world-famous mathematician Paul Erdos, who at age four could calculate the number of seconds one had been alive since birth, but was unable to perform such basic skills as buttering bread or tying his shoes. This book highlights asynchronous development in a way that celebrates strengths while gradually overcoming weaknesses and, ultimately, demonstrates how one person's uniqueness can change the world.


The Story of Ferdinand- Munro Leaf

A children's picture book classic, this is a sweet tale of a unique bull who would rather sit under his beloved cork tree and smell flowers than run, jump, or fight. The other bulls do not understand gentle Ferdinand's appreciation for and delight in beauty, and in an amusing set of circumstances, Ferdinand finds himself in an unlikely spot. This book quietly affirms that one can take delight in his/her own interests, even if they aren't always popular or understood.


The Little House (9 Volumes Set)
By Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie (and others)- Laura Ingalls Wilder

A well-known book series turned television show, the Little House Books chronicle the life of a pioneer family as they struggle to make their way in the 19th century midwest. Although the books demonstrate resourcefulness, diligence, and gritty triumph over adversity that would inspire anyone living with difficult circumstances, they also feature a character who loses her eyesight after an illness.

The Story of My Life
By Helen Keller

The Story of My Life- Helen Keller

The story of a young woman born both deaf and blind, this autobiography documents both overwhelming challenges and heartwarming triumphs as she learns to live with her handicaps.  This inspiring book would be helpful for anyone facing the challenge of physical disability.








Little Men (Puffin Classics)
By Louisa May Alcott

Little Men-Louisa May Alcott

Although this story doesn't feature main characters with obvious disabilities, I find this book particularly inspirational for celebrating and nourishing the individuality of each person. The sequel to Little Women, Little Men chronicles the lives of a small pack of rambunctious little boys under the care and tutelage of Professor and Mother Bhaer, who are particularly gifted at nurturing what makes each boy special.





The Wingfeather Saga- Andrew Peterson

One of my personal favorite book series, this quartet of novels tells the story of the Igiby family who lives in a quaint cottage above the cliffs of the Dark Sea of Darkness. The family soon finds itself thrust into an epic adventure as they evade the pursuit of evil invaders and discover their role in a much larger story. Brothers Janner and Tink, along with their crippled sister Leeli, must each accept their own limitations and unique callings as they battle all manner of creatures and discover all sorts of mysteries, including the mystery of their own family. I cannot overemphasize how beautifully redemptive this series is as it echoes the truth, beauty, and goodness in way that is rare in the modern novel.

(Have you listened to Sally's podcast with Andrew Peterson?  It's delightful!)



A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet)
By Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle In Time- Madeleine L'Engle

This well-known children's fantasy story tells the tale of a pair of special siblings, their intelligent mother, and their awkward friend. This triumphant story demonstrates the power of love to overcome evil in a way that highlights the unique capacity of each individual person. This book would be encouraging for anyone struggling to accept their own unique attributes or areas of giftedness. Caution: Some readers have expressed concern over the muddled use of certain theological symbols, references, and imagery. Although the book never endorses magic, witchcraft, or any particular theological position, it takes liberties common to the fantasy genre that concerned parents may want to discuss with their children. However, the classic tale of good over evil is spiritually inspiring and, with proper parental explanation, should be appropriate for mature teens.

Cheaper by the Dozen
By Frank B. Gilbreth, Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Cheaper By The Dozen-Frank B. Gilbreth

This laugh-out-loud story of the Gilbreth family, with a set of eccentric parents and their unique brood of a dozen children, celebrates family life and innovation in a way that is hilarious, heartwarming, and inspiring. Although the family looks different from other families at the time, their individuality is encouraged, cherished, and (ultimately) world-renowned. Caution: There is one instance of God's name being taken in vain.


Composer Study: Handel

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Recommended Listening

Royal Fireworks Music - Handel wrote this wonderful music to be performed in London as fireworks were displayed over the river. It must have been a spectacular sight to behold! This performance is with period instruments (replicas of the actual instruments of the baroque period.)

Organ Concerto, Op. 4, No. 4 — ‘Concerto’ refers to a piece of music for orchestra and one or more soloists. In this case the solo instrument is the organ. 

Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 1 — This time there are several solo instruments, hence the name Concerto Grosso, because this literally means ‘big concerto’.

Trio Sonata for 2 oboes and continuo in A Major — Handel wrote a lot of lovely chamber music as well!

Messiah (complete oratorio, high-definition video) - This performance was filmed in Cambridge, with a wonderful baroque orchestra. You can listen to all of it, or just your favorite parts!

Recommended Reading and Listening

Young Children

Older Children and Adults

All Ages

Handel's Messiah Family Advent Reader
By Frances Lenzo, Donna Payne

Sticky Toffee Pudding Recipe

Butter for greasing pan

2 ½ cups water

2 cups pitted dates, chopped very fine.  (I use about 30 largish dates.)

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons non-aluminum baking powder

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups dark brown sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups (1-pound package) unsalted butter

1 pint heavy cream

4 cups packed dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a large baking dish- mine is 9 x 13 inches.  Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and then add the dates and baking soda; set aside.  Whisk flour together with baking powder and set that aside as well.  With an electric mixer, beat ½ cup butter with sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla extract, and beat until blended.  Gradually add flour mixture.  Fold in soaked dates (with liquid).  Stir until blended.  Pour batter into prepared baking dish.  Bake until set and firm on top, approximately 40 minutes.


For the sauce, combine 2 cups butter with cream and dark brown sugar in a medium-heavy saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil gently over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes.


Preheat boiler.  Poke holes into the cake.  (I poke a lot of holes.  We want that sauce to get way in there!)  Pour about 1 ½ cups or so of sauce over the cake, spreading evenly.  Place under broiler until top is bubbly, 1-3 minutes.

Serve dessert warm with extra sauce drizzled over, with ice cream, or in a bath of heavy cream.

Makes at least 16 servings, depending on how you cut this very rich cake.

A Lifegiving Christmas Tea

The Lifegiving Christmas Tea webcast was live on Thursday, December 7th. To view a replay of the webcast, enter the following case-sensitive access code into the video below:


(You might notice the video freeze a few times while we are in the kitchen.  There was an internet issue during that section.  Thank you for your understanding.)

This is a FREE event for members of Cultivating Life with Sally.  Please don't share this registration information.  


Haydn: Father of the Symphony

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Suggested Listening

Here is an example of the Vienna Boys Choir that will give a flavor of what it might have been like for Haydn to sing in a boys choir. This video features the boys singing the famous “The Blue Danube” -- a folk song. The Danube is the second longest river in Europe and flows through Austria and Germany.  The following links are all pieces from Haydn.

String Quartet, Op. 73, No. 3 in C Major “Emperor”

(A string quartet is a piece of music written for 2 violins, viola, and cello. It usually has 4 movements, and the 2nd movement is the melody of the famous Austrian national anthem.)

Symphony No. 94 in G Major “Surprise”

There are 4 movements in almost every Classical symphony. This is the famous second movement, and you will definitely be surprised by the loud chord, even if you’re expecting it!

Symphony No. 45 in F# minor “Farewell”

This is the fourth movement of the symphony where the musicians leave the stage one at a time before the end, and these performers are having a good time with Haydn’s humor!

Piano Sonata in A flat Major

“The Heavens Are Telling” from Haydn’s Oratorio “The Creation”

This is just one movement from this beautiful multi-movement work for choir, soloists and orchestra.

Resources for Children

Great Composers (Dover History Coloring Book)
By John Green, Paul Negri, Coloring Books
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Haydn (Famous Children) by Ann Rachlin

This one might be a bit difficult to find as it is out of print.  Try interlibrary loan if your local library doesn't have it.

Papa Haydn's Surprise
Fun with Music Limited

Books for Older Children and Adults

A Booklist for Home and Hospitality

At the heart of the gospel is God’s generous hospitality. As Creator, He provides and cares for His creation; and as Redeemer, He welcomes sinners and strangers into His family by making us sons and daughters. Here are some stories that reflect and reveal the radical and generous hospitality of God in charming, and compelling ways-- from the care of animals to the nurture of children.  Try choosing one to read aloud with your family this month.

Little House on the Prairie - Easily one of my very favorite childhood books, the story of  Laura Ingalls Wilder, the little girl who grew up in homes across the prairie as her Pa kept moving on, is a story of finding a place to call home. The book makes clear what was necessary to survive in those hard days, and the character required of the settlers. But they are also rich in their portrayal of family, the hard-won comforts of home.

A Bear Called Paddington - First published by Michael Bond in 1958, the novel chronicles the adventure of a lovable bear, Paddington, who has traveled from darkest Peru. Paddington’s earnest intentions and humorous misadventures with the Brown family are endearing in his journey toward finding a new home in a foreign place.

A Bear Called Paddington
By Michael Bond

The Boxcar Children - Although it is a mystery story, I’ve been most captivated by the love and care between the four siblings Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. As they set up a temporary home in a boxcar, their space becomes a place where loyalty, humor, and curiosity make this book great fun to read.

All-of-a-Kind Family
By Sydney Taylor


All-of-a-Kind Family - I read this delightful tale for the first time as an adult with my kids. Set in New York City at the turn of the century, the book chronicles the adventures of a Jewish family with five lively daughters. The story highlights the rich culture of hospitality and celebration in their home, while also chronicling the adventures and affections of the sisters.








Baby Island
By Carol Ryrie Brink

Baby Island - I read this aloud to my seven year old daughter and it’s still one of her favorites! In this classic tale by Carol Ryrie Brink, a fierce storm hits sisters Mary and Jean’s ship, leaving them shipwrecked on a deserted island. The girls soon become aware they are not the only survivors, and find themselves caring for four babies. At once the girls set out to establish a home for their unexpected ‘family’.

Owls in the Family -  If you have a pet, you probably can’t imagine your family without him. In this exciting and comical story, written by Farley Mowat, a young boy continually brings more animals into his home, including crows, magpies, gophers, a dog, and two cranky owls. These two owls, Wol and Weep, become an integral part of their family, their home, and their entire town.

Owls in the Family
By Farley Mowat



Composer Study: Mozart

Join Sally and Terri Moon as they continue the inspiring study of composers for you and you children.

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{A note about the titles:  The meaning of the K numbers are that a person with a last name starting with K (Kochel) made a detailed catalog of all of Mozart’s music, starting with the first one he wrote, listed as No. 1, going up in chronological order. Mozart wrote about 600 compositions, so the closer you get to that number the later in his life he wrote it. }

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's earliest compositions at the age of 5. These are the first 5 completed pieces of music that the genius of Mozart ever wrote. Short pieces performed on the harpsichord.

The Magic Flute (opera) “Papageno / Papagena” duet

Here is the same duet, this time in the original language, see if you can follow the meaning after you have heard it in English! 

Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K 551 “Jupiter”

There are 4 movements in a Classical symphony. This is the last symphony that Mozart wrote.

Rondo in D Major, K 485, played on a historic Fortepiano

Sonata No. 16 in C Major, K 545, played on a modern piano 

There are 3 movements in a Classical sonata. This is a work for solo instrument, or another solo instrument with piano. 

Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K 581

There are 4 movements in this quintet, and the last one is a theme with variations. Mozart loved the sound of the clarinet!

Young Children

A fun way to explore music, this series has many cute illustrations that will keep your kids’ attention while they learn.

An award-winning biographer and illustrator team up to tell the story of the invention of the piano, which was during the time of Mozart.

Diane Stanley writes wonderful biographies with engaging illustrations.



Middle Grades

Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?
By Yona Zeldis McDonough

A fascinating biography with lots of illustrations, a timeline and historical background.

Composers: Classical & Romantic
United States Games Systems

This fun card game with 52 cards featuring 13 composers and their short biographies offers a great way to play a game and learn at the same time!


High School and Adults

Mozart: A Life
By Paul Johnson

Highly rated book that challenges some of the popular ideas about Mozart and his life. Drawing on good historical evidence, Paul Johnson makes a convincing case for how Mozart’s life may have unfolded and the factors that influenced his wonderful powers of composition.