January 31, 2011

Montessori in a 2 year old's house

Happy Monday, All.  It's time for another installment of "What the heck type of Montessori methods has T.J. been doing lately?"

Well, we bought that cat.  That lovely $4.11 cat who takes baths with and sleeps next to Bear.  He (named Ghouly- don't you love it, J ?!) came from our recent foray to a consignment shop and Bear payed for it with his own money... in a way.

Bear got a wallet from Santa for Christmas.  We have started talking about money and saving and spending etc. (which you, dear reader, already know).  When Bear fills his chart, one of the ways we celebrate is by going to a store for a special little sometime and so this weekend was a perfect opportunity to practice using his wallet. He doesn't have an allowance at this point, but we do encourage him to cough up chip in money toward any of his purchases so that he can begin to connect money with purchasing power. In this case he payed all of 11 cents towards the cat, but the point is that he PAID.

We've incorporated "grace bunny" and the dictionary into our daily meals and Bear is the boss of them both.  After he sets the table, he places the bunny at one plate and the dictionary at another.  Once we are seated, whoever had the "grace bunny" bell gets to ring it and start off Grace for the meal.  We join hands, saying what we are thankful for and showing gratefulness to God for our food.

As for the dictionary, whoever has that gets to crack it open to whatever page they choose, read a word and it's definition and then, if the person feels jumpy, he or she can use the word in a sentence.

Oh, how I love words!!!

 When I taught kindergarten, we had "Morning Meetings" each day.  They were a great way for me to check in with the students, for students to check in with each other and for all those little peanuts of my classroom to learn about leadership, understanding and negotiation.  

Now I am not Mormon, but I love reading Nienie's blog and when I learned about Family Home Evening it totally jived with me!  We just had our first meeting at the beginning of January and I envision it being more of a monthly thing, but even so, it fit in perfectly!  We talked about a few things (the headliner being God, of course!) including our 2011 family motto: ALL ONE! Gotta keep it easy for the 2 year old, right?!  And anyway, I do believe we are all one on this big 'ol planet.

 Another thing from kindergarten?  The AMAZING feeling I would get when I realized that the children were actually learning their sounds and stepping on to the literacy path.  Imagine how I'm feeling right about now as my very own son is setting forth on that path?!!

We've begun to talk about sounds, use our sandpaper letters and to trace letters in all kinds of materials- including wheat germ.  Yes, wheat germ (I have a lot of it and it holds tracings nicely).  This is a pretty basic Montessori trait right here: use sandpaper letters to trace the shapes and then generate by hand.  Use those same letters to introduce the sounds.  To date, I don't tell Bear too much about the letter names, but we focus a heck of a lot on the SOUND that each letter makes.

I really really really love the sandpaper letters we have.  I got them on Etsy from Polliwog Learning Products and I think I'm going to get Bear the numbers set for Valentine's Day.  Well, that and "Ollie's Ski Trip" by Elsa Belskow for my sports maniac of a son.

Yes, yes comments are still closed, but sometime soon I will be opening them up for your thoughts as I begin to revamp this here blog.  Til then, be cheerful as you are all kinds of updated on the Montessori going ons in my life!  And I'll be cheerful for all these reasons PLUS the fact that recently I've had a lovely handful of MEN sign on to this blog.

YAY!  I love me a well rounded ground of Follower friends!  Welcome aboard and I look forward to checking out all of your sites soon.

January 28, 2011

Old Puppy Love

Sterling is old.

15 72 old with bad teeth and a wise, knowing look.  She's the age where Kennel Cough is a fun thing to say and treat, but which most likely isn't the problem.  Sterling is also at the age where I'm not sure I have the funding or the stamina to ever find out what the likely problem IS.

So, instead we carry on with the present moment; pretending that her sudden display of overt affection toward me or her just as sudden vomiting attacks are the typical hum-drum moments that have made up our life together over the years.

We have a quiet deal going down and while paw and hand have never shook on it, we both just know.

Only rarely do we step away from this arrangement and when we do, it's gotta be for something good.  Sterling would agree with me that watching our neighbor's puppy each wintry weekend brings on a good occasion to pause and reflect rather than continually soldiering forward.

I'm grateful I'm old enough to know this and have a bit of Sterling's wisdom to appreciate it because even that puppy is wiser than me.  I see her playing with her slightly older brother and it brings me right back to the first days, months, years with Sterling.

I remember fighting nail and tooth to prove to the Humane Society that I, at 19 and living in a house full of college girls, was a fit candidate for adoption and I remember the glorious day I finally won that battle.  As we snuggled down that first night, and for each night thereafter, I sang Sterling Moss her own private lullaby.

I remember the day she ate a bag of Oreos and the spring in her step when gallivanting with any number of the canines I would dogsit.  She served as our college track mascot for a while and had a great party trick, even at 6 months, to limp on command. Where she learned to do that I have no idea.

On and on I watch these memories, each washing back to right here with the flick of this puppy's tail.

The present moment really is a fine place to be and, painful or not, I cradle the acuteness of my relationship with my eldest dog.  Most days are good, some are not and this is how it is at the end of a well-lived life.

I wish Sterling each new day's sun for as long as she can receive it.  Mostly, if this is the song of her final lullaby, I want her to know every word by heart. 

January 27, 2011

You Capture: Happy

I'm happy being able to finally, CONSISTENTLY participate in "You Capture" again- even if some weeks (like this one) my, um, photography attempts are a little weak.

I'm happy to take this weekend to tidy up this here blog and go explore the blogs of my new friends over there on the sidebar.  *Hello New Followers!!!*

And I'm happy that trying to eat a Whoopie Pie (specially delivered from Maine by some super generous friends!) the size of his head...

brought Bear the kind of happiness that one can usually only dream about.

Because honestly...

Who isn't happy when eating a whoopie pie?  And who doesn't make someone else happy when SHARING a gigantic whoopie pie (which Bear eventually did.  good boy.).

Heck, who doesn't giggle when saying "whoopie pie"?


Wow.  OK,  It's best you go now.  Head over to I Should Be Folding Laundry as clearly I'm getting a little out of control here.

January 25, 2011


My three 


came to Vermont this weekend for a wintery visit.  Besides trying out all the sports our backyard has to offer: sledding, skating, skiing and yes, even swinging, the girls also explored all things Italian.

They are homeschooled and since this week they were studying Italy, it all culminated with a fun fest at our house.

I thought you, dear reader, might be interested in the panettone I made for the occasion.  Because it's delicious.  And scrumtious.  And this will only be a beginner level course on pantettone so have no fear!

Ok, so Panettone is the classic Italian sweet bread.  Most say it developed in Milan and many say it is served for Christmas (which it is), but I'm Italian and I grew up having it on a bunch of other occasions too and in a bunch of different forms.  My recipe below is very much a short cut version, but it did the trick for the weekend and I had no problem enjoying the results with my tea ( it's really so much better with coffee or espresso, but do I really need to complain again of how I'm trying to drink tea 90% of the time?  Yeah, thought I heard you calling me whiny!)

Winter Weekend Pantettone  
 1 egg                                             1/4 C toasted chopped pine nuts
2 egg yolks                                      1/2 C raisins, citron, dried fruit etc mix
1/2C cooled melted butter                       3C flour
1t lemon peel                                        2t baking soda 
1t anise seed                                     1/2 t salt
1t anise extract
1t fiori di scilia (or 1/4t each lemon, orange, vanilla and almond extract)
1C milk
1 paper bag

Beat the egg, yolks and sugar together until thick and yellow.  Beat in the melted butter and add lemon peel, anise seed, extracts, pine nuts and fruit.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Alternately add dry ingredients and milk to the batter until all is mixed in.

Preheat oven to 325*.   Take the bag you are going to use and fold it down to the size you'd prefer- go for somewhere near 2-2 3/4" folded cuff.  Traditionally it would have around 3 1/2 x 6" in the bottom.  Butter the inside of the bag generously (I found brushing on melted butter works perfectly) and place on a cookie sheet.

Pour batter in bag and bake for about 1 hour and 45 minutes or until bread is well browned.  When baked, you can serve it hot by tearing off the paper bag and slicing into it, but it's really best when allowed to sit.  Fold down the bag then wrap it in a cloth.  THEN wrap the whole thing in foil and allow it to cool so the flavors can mellow.  I sometimes let it sit for 2 days before opening.  When you are ready, peel away all the layers and MANGIA!!!

field notes: I made this loaf during a snow storm and we were out of all but 1/2 C white flour so I had to go heavy with the spelt flour.  It still tasted great, but as you can see- didn't rise too well.  I chopped up the candied fruit and citron into tiny pieces and I also used the large King Arthur bag to bake it in so the bread was more of a loaf form rather than a puffy circle shape.

 Hmm, hold on a minute, there's something not quite right here...

 Ahh, better.  Now if only you could SMELL how heavenly this is!!!!

January 22, 2011

You Capture:Circles

Ok, just so you know I didn't intentionally mean to ignore you all week!

Sometimes I just can't quite catch a bloggy break and this particular time, my computer battery charger decided to die which then caused my computer to call it a day.

I'm almost ashamed to admit it was a difficult week dealing with NO Internet access for anything.  SHEESH!!

Currently, I am borrowing a battery charger from a friend, so lets celebrate the moment and talk about the "You Capture I missed.  We NEED to talk about it because I"LL BE DARNED if I'm going to miss posting pictures after I spent a bit of my week taking photos for it!!!!

At this point, I'm not editing or even cropping these because it's already Saturday and the point is moot.  So here they are, raw and ready, SOOC shots for the You Capture challenge this week: "Circles".

 Mmmmm, some rolls I made for dinner

Circles found in my continued attempt to drink tea (not coffee) 90% of the time

and the sweetest circular spots on our neighbor dog, Brody, who was up for the weekend. 

Yeah, thrilling post, I know, but I had to get it up for posterity's sake!  Thanks for bearing with me and keep your fingers crossed that I will be "seeing" you next week, oh and as usual, head on over to I Should Be Folding Laundry for more circular shots.

Enjoy the Weekend everyone!

January 14, 2011

Is "All Wrapped Up In Love" too cliche a title?!

This guy right here

has me wrapped around his little finger. And it's not even because of how handsome he is with his button down flannels and itty bitty dimple in his chin, or how he now sings "Baby Beluga" TO ME  in a hushed whisper when he thinks I need comforting.  It's not even because his culinary skills recently promoted him to an official prep chef in my kitchen.


It's actually because of this

  and this

and all the other heart fluttering moments I experienced on a recent morning when my dear, dear boy on his own angelic free will (I mean I seriously heard angels sing)

asked me to help him get a sling on so that he could carry his stuffed pup, Clifford, close to him. 

I marked the day in his baby book.  Right next to his tooth chart and his first smile picture.  This day was that important.

January 13, 2011

You Capture: Doorways

I can hardly believe it.

Me?  back for “You Capture”?


Well at least for this week, but I’ll take it.  Plus, the theme for this week is “Doorways” and that’s kinda apropos for me right now.

red door

(see my fun, red back door?)

I took these pictures earlier this week. You know, before we got SLAMMED on Wednesday with lots of gorgeous snow.  Good thing too, cuz had I taken them any time beyond Tuesday, there would have been no visible doorways to speak of!

side deck
(that watering can comes in really handy in... JANUARY!!)

There you have it; my exciting, if flat, reentry into my photography journey.  Want more?  Head on over to Beth’s at “I Should Be Folding Laundry”. 

PS: It’s true, my comments are closed for the time being.  I love you all, you know I do, I just need to simplify my blog life and eliminating the guilt to respond to everyone has helped.  Don’t hesitate to drop me an e-mail whenever you wish, though!!!

January 10, 2011

Everyone and their mother can "make you banana pancakes…"

Do you know the banana pancake song? 

banana pancakes_filtered

It’s good, right?  Jack Johnson is awesome and talented and it’s sad really that I never knew of him until Bear came along.

I know what you are all thinking- oh right, right the “Curious George” soundtrack, but NO we came to know of Jack Johnson’s talents in another way.

One Sunday afternoon when Bear was very small, the family was in the car and Bear was very upset.  We really didn’t know how to please him and then...

“If I Had Eyes” came on the radio and Bear clammed up like that.  The song ended, and well, it was a long drive.

The following Sunday found us purchasing “Sleep Through The Static” so that we could play “If I Had Eyes” whenever we needed to.  Let me tell you all, I’m shocked that the CD did not wear out long ago from us playing it over and over and over again when Bear was younger.

Anyway, back to the pancakes.  My friend G makes the best pancakes in the world: hands down.  I can’t share his secret recipe with you, but I can share this adapted recipe for banana pancakes.  They are not usual, or icky.  They are scrumptious.

I’m usually all for substitutions in recipes, but this time around, I offer no guarantees.  These pancakes are so perfect and well rounded (ha, get it?!) that I’d be hard pressed to change it one iota, but you can; just don’t tell me you did.

yum yum_filtered

Banana Pancakes

(with this kind of deliciousness and healthiness, they’re not just for breakfast anymore!)

1 1/4 all purpose flour

1/4C ground oats

1/4 C ground wheat berries

3T baking powder

1/2t salt

3T canola oil

3T barley malt

1 1/2 C milk (or a little less depending on consistency of bananas)

2 eggs

1T lemon juice

3 old bananas

1/4 (or more) chopped walnuts

1/4 chocolate chips

Mix up your dry ingredients and set aside.  In another bowl, stir up the eggs.  Add in the oil, barley malt and lemon juice.  Mash up one banana and add it it, follow with the milk.

Add to dry ingredients, stir up and add walnuts.  Slice up remaining bananas.  Proceed to make pancakes as usual, sprinkling a few chocolate chips and banana bits onto each pancake as you make it.

Enjoy every bite!  With the nice size batch this makes, they taste spectacular the next day, toasted.  

*comments closed* (also, the orange text?  Looong story, but I'm not changing it now!)

January 06, 2011

Boxing Day, Delayed!

When I was younger, I was always baffled by "Boxing Day".

What a strange name for a holiday and did people in other countries really box each other on that day?

As Boxing Day isn't a common holiday in the US, I never fully understood it, so a few years ago I decided to delve into it's  mysterious to me history.

I was surprised to find out that it had a lot to do with the origin of the piggy bank and nothing at all to do with Mohamed Ali.

Boxing Day's roots are honorable, no matter which version you prefer.  Some say it developed from the alms boxes of long ago, but my favorite theory involves St. Stephen who was stoned to death for teaching about Jesus. 

During his life, St. Stephen had worked to ensure meals were provided to the poor of England.  After his death, a remembrance of sorts occurred; this passage from one of our church bulletins explains it well:

"In remembrance of Stephen's work for the needy, the British people used to collect money throughout the year in little clay boxes.  On the Feast of St Stephen or "Boxing Day"(usually December 26th) these boxes were broken and the money distributed to the poor.  This is the origin of the piggy bank."
Cool, right?   Altruistic and meaningful.  A NECESSARY holiday for me to begin in my household and this year, oh yes this year, we started it!  I found a piggy bank at the thrift shop and a few weeks ago Bear began adding a penny here, a dollar there in to his bank. 

He would hunt for spare change in the couch and grin broadly when a kind stranger would pat a quarter into his palm (is this common?  I'm always amazed when people we don't even know give him money!).  This year we kept it simple: collect up spare change over a period of a month and then pick between two familiar, well deserving organizations to donate it to.

On the day we celebrated Boxing Day (waaaaaay after the 26th), Bear made his donation decision and we filled in the blank.

We gathered up some piggy bank smashing tools

and some safety gear, said a prayer to St. Stephen and then...


It was like a ceramic pinata when it burst open and Bear was clearly delighted with the results!

As the years go on, we will expand upon this theme.  Bear will learn to save, spend and even invest, but I think (and secretly hope) that his favorite use of money will be to donate- especially if it means he will get to smash a porcelain piggy before doing so.

Have a great weekend, All!
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