WFMW — MP3 Downloads

A couple of weeks ago we learned a new praise chorus in church. Written by Chris Tomlin, it is a simple, melodic song that, as we sang it in worship to God, reached a crescendo that touched my soul. I hummed it (off-tune, of course) all the way home. When I walked in the door, I immediately sat down and looked it up in Amazon’s MP3 Store. Sure enough, the song was entitled Praise the Father, Praise the Son, and was downloadable instantly for $0.99. I bought it on the spot, and was listening to it 60 seconds later. It turned out to be much better than my tuneless humming.

All this was done even before I had lunch, which just goes to show that there are more important things than Sunday lunch.

sarah, rachel and jenny

Rachel’s good friends joined us for church on Sunday.

When I was a surly young teenager, there weren’t very many voices in the Contemporary Christian Music scene. There were the Praise Maranatha Singers, Amy Grant, Keith Green, DeGarmo and Key, Petra, and somewhat later, that Johnny-come-lately, Michael W. Smith.

My parents had some deep misgivings about the godliness of this so-called ‘Christian’ rock music, and so I had to listen on headphones, or deep in the bowels of my basement bedroom. I remember feeling vaguely resentful about that, and using their seemingly-unreasonable stance against contemporary Christian music to justify (in my own mind, at least) my rebelliousness in listening to secular rock on the sly. (As is the case with many teenagers, I exercised no monopoly on logic.)

Now I have a teenager of my own, and two younger ones who seem to think they are teenagers. As a Christian parent, I am determined to encourage my children in godliness, and not to allow Satan a foothold in the area of music. For this reason, I permit, and even encourage my kids to develop their own tastes in the area of music styles, but I insist that they listen to music that has godly lyrics and is performed by people who love and follow Jesus. I don’t see any benefit that secular music would provide to my children, and so far nobody has argued that point with me.

sarah sweetie pie

Sarah doesn’t want to argue with her daddy, no sir!

In the old days, we would sign up for some CD-of-the-month club (like Sound and Spirit) and buy whole albums featuring our favorite artists. Or maybe we would go to a Christian book store and listen to some of their demo albums. Either way, we’d end up buying a whole CD. Then we would cull through those songs and find the one or two songs on the CD that we could stand, and add them to our playlist on the computer.

In this modern age of wonder, we can listen to each song in advance and we buy only the ones we like, at a competitive price, albeit in digital form.

For Kathy’s birthday, I made a list of all the songs I had heard recently, that I actually liked. (Kathy and I have similar, but not entirely congruent, tastes in music – but, hey, if I liked ‘em, she probably would, too. Either way, there would be music around that I like.)

I listened to our local Christian radio station for days, making notes every time I heard them play a good song. I searched the web for new songs by artists we have enjoyed in the past, and spent hours listening to their albums. Eventually, I had a list of 25 songs or so, and I spent an hour one evening buying them all. I loaded them on a flash drive, and wrapped it up for her so she could have something tangible to unwrap.

Amazon makes it really easy for you – once you’ve installed the download manager plug-in for your browser, you simply click to buy, and the song appears magically in the “Recently Added” section of Windows’ Media Player.

Now, when I want to reward one of my children, I buy them a song on Amazon. “Have a song on me,” I tell the fortunate child. They usually spend half an hour or so browsing around until they find a song they like. Then we download it onto my computer, and copy it to the laptop or the kitchen computer so we can play it from anywhere. If any of the kids really like it, they’ll put it on their mp3 player.

let's start a band!

Which one of these kids is gonna grow up to be a rock star?

It hasn’t always been peaches and cream. The kids don’t all have the same tastes in music, and deciding whose playlist we listen to in the kitchen or family room has been the cause of some considerable strife in our family.

Ask me about the Strategic Music Compromise we have, dated and signed, on our bulletin board.

Still, I think when all is said and done, we’ll continue to glorify God in the music we play in our home, and (I hope) my children will not be tempted into rebellion in the area of music.


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Harvest Time

One of my favorite lines in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is spoken by Ebenezer Scrooge, confiding his avaricious glee to his clerk, Bob Cratchit:

Christmas is a very busy time for us, Mr. Cratchit. People preparing feasts, giving parties, spending the mortgage money on frivolities. One might say that December is the foreclosure season. ‘Harvest time’ for the money-lenders.

(I’m not sure if that quote appears in the original — it appears in one version of the movie, among at least five that I own. I’m too lazy to check the book.)

Michael Caine as Scrooge
Michael Caine makes a very believable Scrooge.

The way Scrooge rubs his hands together as he rolls the R’s in the word ‘Harvest’, sends a chill down my spine, as I contemplate the harvest he is about to reap at the hands of the three spirits.

Today I had to admit that the tomato growing season is pretty much over. We’ve had a couple of gentle frosts, and the tomatoes are rotting on the vine. When it rains, the tomatoes split and get moldy, and even the ones that don’t spoil have lost that sweet, sun-warmed flavor of August.

Now what do we do with all these tomatoes?” I asked Kathy, rather petulantly. Even though many of the vines are yellowed and have dropped most of their fruit, there still remain hundreds of tomatoes on the 50-odd plants I tended so happily through the summer months.

Tomato Warrior
The kids were having a war in the backyard with various friends, so I drafted some of ‘em as migrant workers.

I paused a moment to reflect on the change in my attitude about these little red globes. I remember when each of them was like a precious child, long awaited and enjoyed with great glee. Now, when half the crop falls neglected to the ground, I’m tired of tomatoes, and haven’t been out to pick any for a week. It has been several days since I even ate a tomato.

Maybe next Spring I’ll exercise some moderation in my planting?

Tomato Cannery
Either that, or get one of these bad boys to help me process my crop …

Kathy Googled™ for the answer, and found that we could save tomatoes for use in winter stews. “You”ll freeze ‘em,” she assured me, rather breezily.

“Sounds good,” I agreed. “What do we do, chop ‘em in half and toss ‘em in a freezer bag?”

Kathy read further down the page and laughed. “No, they all say you have to skin the tomatoes, first.”

I blanched. Literally.

(OK, that was a dumb cooking pun. Blanching is apparently what happens when you expose a fruit or vegetable to boiling water for a short time. Not, in this context, what happens when all the blood runs out of your face in terror.)

Excess tomatoes
Fifteen minutes’ harvest.

I checked it out — sure enough, every source we could find agreed that you had to remove the skins. So I got out a big pot and boiled some water. Beside it, I prepared a bowl of ice water. Then I put a dozen tomatoes in the boiling water for 45 seconds or so, and then plopped ‘em into the ice water. As advertised, the skins came right off, along with a fair bit of the tomato.

Kathy nearly suffered an infarction. “I can’t believe you’re actually doing some of the work,” she chortled.

It was a gooey job, and I quit after bagging only two quart bags of tomatoes. At this rate, I’ll have all the tomatoes ready for freezing by the time next year’s crop is on the vine.

“I’m leaving the rest of the tomato processing as an exercise for the student,” I told Kathy, waving my hand grandly at the remaining trays of tomatoes, as I scampered out of the kitchen.

Now we just need to find a tomato student. Any takers?

Project 366, Day 299

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The Children Return

The blog is having an identity crisis. I’ve got blogger’s block. I’m not sure what to write, when to write it, and just plain what the focus of the blog should be. Last night I lay in bed thinking of a story called The Little Blog that Could. That train of thought led me down the path to a whole new world of children’s fiction. A special collection came to mind …

Good Night, Little Blog
Curious Blog
Where the Wild Blogs Are
The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Blog
Goldilocks and the Three Blogs

I could go on.

Maybe not.

Emma, Sarah and Eli

This daring duo is coming for a visit this weekend. They look like trouble to me, but I think Sarah will be safe with them.

Tim’s parents took the children, all five, home with them on Sunday afternoon. They didn’t bring them back until this afternoon.

Reflect on that for just a moment. All five children off with the grandparents. In the middle of the month. No holiday or vacation planned, just a little break for the teacher.

I like to think of it as preventive care for your mom,” Tim told the children. “You know, so we don’t have to check her into the Whispering Pines Home for Homeschooling Mothers.”

time for some calvin and hobbes

Calvin surely drove his mother crazy over the years.

I must admit, it was glorious! Sunday was busy with small group, but Monday was quiet and relaxing. Tim worked from home while I sat nearby finishing up my Bible study, reading online, and not taking care of any children. By the time 2 pm rolled around I had successfully wasted a good portion of the day. Tim took me to Starbucks and treated me to a coffee. That’s surely a date in my book! In the afternoon I went to yoga at the Y. Afterward I decided to be a complete rebel and SKIP Bible study to spend the evening with my husband.


My plan was to use some of the time over these days praying about priorities and general life focus; the blog in particular has been on my mind.

Tuesday, however, I was completely overwhelmed with the urge to clean the house. Before I knew it, I had spent nearly the entire day cleaning. I couldn’t help it. The sun was shining and Tim was off working. No children, responsibilities or husband to distract me. I worked and worked. It was as wonderful to accomplish things around the house on Tuesday as it was to NOT do anything on Monday.

There’s only so much relaxing a girl can handle. Just being alone was a gift.

It all ended this afternoon.

brother love

We’re Home! We’re Home!

Swoosh, in one big rush the kids returned, complete with suitcases, dirty laundry, school books, and lots of energy. After some lunch, snacks, school work, and dinner, the house was restored to its previous messy glory.

Frankly, life was a little boring without all these sweet little ones (and not so little) that I love.

Welcome home, guys!

P.S. I never did spend any time in deep thought or prayer over the blog so the identity crisis rages on.

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Happy Birthday Joshua

My baby is 15 years old. Let’s not talk about how old that makes me.

what could this be?

This gift came all the way from Norway.

Nothing speaks love to a fifteen year old young man like food, so we had a tremendous breakfast to celebrate Joshua’s birthday. French toast casserole (made with day old bagels and a hint of caramel sauce), two sausage/bacon/egg casseroles (one with cubed bread, the other shredded hash browns) and fresh apple cider.

it's Norway!

Look, it’s Pulpit Rock or Preikestolen. Joshua climbed to the top during his trip to Norway this past May. Awesome!

I can’t believe we didn’t take a single picture. I used the china dishes given to me by my grandmother, crystal goblets from our wedding, and beautiful Williamsburg table decorations from my mother-in-law.

You’ll just have to take my word for it, the table looked lovely.

daniel's triumph

Daniel and Tim put together a special present for Joshua.

We opened presents throughout the day, relaxed, played a game of Alhambra, listened to Joshua’s new LOTR sound track, watched Joshua play his new Battle for Middle Earth computer game, and some of us (okay just I, or is it me?) went for a walk.

trebuchet or catapult

Joshua might have a hard time knocking down castle walls with this, but he can always try.

Rachel left in the afternoon to babysit for the evening and Joshua went off to a youth group outing at the corn field/hay maze. We had an unexpected visitor stop by for good conversation and a very casual dinner. After Carl left, Tim took the younger two children out shopping for Joshua’s birthday (nothing like some last minute presents to round out the day).

How nice to have your birthday fall on a Saturday. No school to worry about, chores to complete, or co-op classes to attend.

Happy Birthday, Joshua! We love you.


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Black Forest Cake

My mother-in-law is a baker extraordinaire. She worked for several years as a caterer’s assistant and is talented and creative. Her cakes are stunning confectionery creations.

I am not that baker.

One of Tim’s favorite desserts is his mom’s Black Forest cake. I’m not particularly fond of cherries myself so it isn’t a recipe I have ever tried. This, however, not being my birthday I decided to make Tim a special treat. I began an extensive search online and ended up at the Taste of Home website. My goodness, pages of delicious recipes, most complete with gorgeous pictures. As a faithful subscriber (I’ve gotten Taste of Home and Simple & Delicious for years and years) I have access to the website’s collection of recipes.

I spent almost as long looking at pictures and recipes as I did in making the actual cake. Of course, looking at the pictures of my creation and the Taste of Home’s original, one might suggest I spend a little more time working and less dreaming.

Here’s the cake I was striving for:

taste of home

Not my actual cake.

Really, how hard could it be to make a ‘little’ chocolate cake?

Here’s a shot of my work in progress:

what happened here?

Yes, the cake slid, slipped and took some sort of a nose dive during the chilling portion. True, I tweaked the recipe along the way, but I didn’t see any warnings about potential cake earthquakes.

Ah, it reminds me once again that I will never be a truly excellent chef. I’m afraid I don’t have patience for the details. I used a cake mix rather than making the cake from scratch. I relied on canned cherry pie filling instead of mixing my own. While I was cutting the cake into layers I had a child help me hold it. Sadly, the knife didn’t cut evenly and we ended up with a nice, jagged tear in the top half. The recipe called for cherry filling only in the bottom layer (look closely at the Taste of Home picture and you’ll see what I mean), but I put the filling on two of the four layers.

I’m just a rebel that way.

I tried to follow the directions for the cream and chocolate fillings; here are the ingredients and assembly instructions:

6 tablespoons butter (no substitutes), softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 to 5 tablespoons half-and-half cream

1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, beat cream filling ingredients; cover and refrigerate. In a mixing bowl, beat cream, syrup and vanilla until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate.

To assemble, split each cake into two horizontal layers. Place bottom layer on a serving plate; top with 1/2 cup cream filling. Place 1 cup cream filling in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag; cut a 1/2-in. triangle in one corner of bag. Make a rim of filling 3/4 in. high around outer edge of cake.

Make a second rim 2 in. from edge. Spoon cherry filling between rings. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Spread chocolate filling over second cake layer; place over cherry filling. Spread remaining cream filling over third layer; place over chocolate filling. Top with fourth layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Garnish with chocolate curls, cherries and mint. Store in the refrigerator.

It’s okay. My family ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ over the cake. Tim was touched that I would take the time and effort to make one of his birthday favorites. I may never win any culinary awards, but I have a solid fan-base here at home.

one of my biggest fans

If you are a Taste of Home subscriber, I heartily recommend popping over to their website and browsing through their recipes. Yum and double yum.

For other Works for Me Wednesday posts, stop by Rocks in My Dryer.


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