29 December 2009

Happy holidays! And other tales of adventure

I hope everyone has had a fantastic holiday season so far! We have had a pretty good Christmas, with some interesting adventures along the way. As usual, our family spent Christmas in Florida along with my grandparents and cousins. Getting there was quite eventful.
As everyone knows by now, the DC metro area was hit with the biggest blizzard ever this December. With a record breaking 16.4" officially, the "Blisaster" really crippled the nation's capital. The snow started falling Friday the 18th, late at night. It snowed and snowed all day Saturday. We kept the news on all day in the background as we packed and cleaned in preparation for our flight Sunday. [On a side note, isn't it amazing how every year we say that we'll be more prepared for the last week of school before winter break, but every year we seem to be less prepared? Really, must work on that for next year.] Luckily, T and I dragged our sleep-deprived selves around Friday afternoon and evening to get all possible errands done. So we could enjoy the beauty of the snow falling and pack in the warmth of our apartment.
By Sunday, the major roads like the Toll Road and the beltway were cleared, the semi-large arteries like 123 and route 7 had seen a few plows, but no chemicals or salt. The smaller roads were lucky to have seen a plow. Fortunately, our apartment complex had plowed a few times, enough that we were able to get out and onto the Toll Road with little difficulty. We got stuck turning onto Mom and Dad's street, which had not been plowed except by brave (or dumb) SUVs. We "parked" in the street, picked up my grandparents and headed to Reston Town Center to wait for everyone else to make it out in the Navigator.

Arriving at the airport, we were greeted by the effects of a full day's worth of grounded planes; hordes of people. Joining the United Premiere line that looked like a regular day's economy line, we decided to split up. T and I left with my gps to get through the enormous security line to the gate. With 15 minutes to the scheduled take off time, we made it to the gate listed on the ticket only to find that the gate had been changed. We scrambled to find the new gate, in a different midfield terminal, while everyone else was still waiting in line to check bags! By the time we arrived at the correct gate, 5 minutes after the scheduled departure time, Dad was calling to say they were not being allowed to check any bags because the plane had left. We saw no plane at the jetway, but saw an entire flight crew crowded around the gate desk. I talked to a man who turned out to be our pilot and discovered that the plane was not there because the ground crew was trying to clear the jetway, but the snow plow was stuck. The plane would be delayed at least 45 minutes. Fantastic! That should be enough time for Mom, Dad and company to get bags checked, through security and to the right gate! But the data at the front desk listed the plane as already departed. A few phone calls later, including a personal call (which may or may not have helped) from our pilot, Dad calls to say they're on their way. The snow plow is towed away, the plane is delayed another half hour or so, but all 5 bags get checked in, and all 9 of us people get on the plane (gps even get an upgrade to first class!).

A little over 2 hours later, we land in Florida and proceed to the baggage claim area. We split up again, some of us sitting with the carry-on luggage while others go to claim bags. Half an hour later, the bag claimers return with only 1 suitcase. The rest seem to still be in DC. Oh well, United says they'll put the bags on the next flight down and will deliver them to us. Our group of 9 happily proceeds to the Hertz Gold area to find 1 Camry where there should be 2. Nine people, 5 seat belts. Dad goes to inquire. A mistake; the agent thought it was a double booking, would we like a Caddy instead? Sure! And we're off on our way to Naples. Another half hour later, we pay a toll to go to Miami. Miami? Toll? We've never paid a toll before. 20 miles later, we make a giant U turn at the only exit on this one way highway to Miami. At 7:30pm, we finally reach our destination, 11 hours after T and I left our apartment that morning.

And our luggage? It arrived 4 days later, by way of snowy Chicago and who knows where else. But it arrived in time for Christmas, and really, who needs clothes (and tooth brushes) when you have family?

03 December 2009

Homemade knifty knitter!

I just made a Knifty Knitter! Basically an easy to use knitting loom, Knifty Knitters are a great fine motor and concentration activity for children (and adults, too!). Ever since I saw this post on Craftzine, I've been thinking of ways to make knitted wrist warmers with my Lunch Bunchers at school.

Whenever it rains, I bring an indoor project for us to do together. It's gotten to the point that the children actually hope it will rain, and rejoice when it does, so we can do another project together. I will have to post some photos of our past activities. One of the first things we did was finger knitting. Only involving yarn (I chose some variegated acrylic to make things more interesting) and your fingers! The children loved the project, though they only made "bracelets." Since then, they occasionally ask me if I will teach them "real" knitting. I only have an hour in which to teach them a project, start to finish, including clean up time. So, I'm not sure we're quite at the point where I can teach them knitting with real needles. But Knifty Knitter, or loom knitting, we can do! I bought a GIANT skein of fun coloured, variegated yarn and am going to split it into equal balls so the children can make little wrist warmers for themselves. I'm more than halfway into my first one, and could barely stop to write this post! I think they will really enjoy this! Best of all, including the fantastic yarn, this project will cost only $1.25 per child. If you'd like to make your own knitting loom, here's a basic tutorial. I will post photos when I make the rest for the children.
Make your own Knifty Knitter
(for child size wrist warmers)

Materials (to make one loom):
5 Low temp glue gun sticks (the oval kind, about 5" long)
1 pvc pipe "hub" (hunt around at your hardware store, it's with all the elbow shaped sections, only this piece has no screw threads, mine 2.5" in diameter and about 1.5" tall)
duct tape (coloured would be fun!)
Glue dots (optional, but quite helpful)

Here's what you do:
  1. Cut the glue sticks in half so you have 10 sticks, each about 2.5" long.
  2. If you are using glue dots, evenly space 10 of them along one edge of the pipe. This will be the "top" of your loom.
  3. Stick one glue stick half to each of your glue dots, leaving about 0.5" space at the bottom, so that about 0.75" sticks up beyond the top of your loom. These are the pegs around which you will wrap your yarn, so don't make them too short or your knitting will easily slide off. Of course, don't make them too long either or it will be difficult to actually knit.
  4. Once the sticks are held in place by the glue dots, use the duct tape to hold them on tightly. I pressed in the edges to really prevent any wiggling. Align the edge of the tape with the top edge of the loom. You will only have about 0.5" to wrap under the bottom edge.
  5. Wrap a second piece of duct tape around, this time aligning the edge with the bottom of the glue sticks. This will generate about 2" of tape hanging off of the bottom of your loom. Cut slits in this tape to allow it to fold nicely into the inside of the loom. Stick down each of these "flaps."
  6. Make sure the tape is all stuck down so it won't catch on any of your yarn, and you're DONE!
If you make a loom, I'd love to see it and photos of what you make!

21 November 2009

Busy, busy, busy

T and I have been quite the busy bees lately. Since we got back from our short break, we've been constantly working on stuff! We are preparing for my upcoming craft fair, the Downtown Holiday Market, which is in 3 weeks. Crafting has been going at a fairly steady pace, though it will be slowed significantly when we leave for our Thanksgiving vacation on Tuesday. Meanwhile, I have to prepare for my upcoming Montessori weekend seminar, and T has class all day, every day this weekend. Of course, I've also been working on lessons for the classroom and have plans for little "love leaves" as Thanksgiving goodies for the children.

This week, I created 2 new lessons for the children. A corn painting lesson is on the shelves until Thanksgiving break, and I prepared a special rainy day activity for the Lunch Bunchers on Thursday.
Corn painting involves a printout of a corn image, (with individual kernels), qtips cut in half, a green coloured pencil and a yellow stamp pad. The children use the qtip to stamp little yellow circles into each of the kernels. Then they colour the leaves green. If desired, they can cut out the whole corn shape, which can then be posted on our landscape bulletin boards as though it's growing out of the ground.

For our rainy day activity, I made cinnamon clay for the children to make an aromatic garland for the classroom. I brought letter and leaf shaped cookie cutters and we spelled out "give thanks" with a few leaves for spacers. The children loved the activity (since we no longer have play dough out on the shelves) and it made the classroom smell delicious. Of course, the children took home the extra clay.

Cinnamon Clay Recipe

2 bottles ground cinnamon
1 bottle white school glue
1 cup applesauce
1 cup flour

In a large bowl, mix the applesauce and as much of the glue as you can dump out of the bottle. In a separate, smaller bowl, combine one and a half bottles of cinnamon with about half the cup of flour. This will help make it easier to mix into the applesauce/glue mixture. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. The cinnamon will cause billowing dusty clouds if you add too much at once. When all the dry ingredients have been mixed in, if it is still sticky, add more flour. Flour a clean surface well and knead the dough. It should be approximately the same consistency as Crayola Model Magic, only heavier. Separate dough into balls for distribution to children and pat flat with the palm of your hand. Use cookie cutters to make shapes.

I made a test batch of letters which were slightly less than 0.25" thick. They were a little brittle, so with the children, we made our shapes 0.25" thick. They are drying over the weekend, hopefully they'll be done by Monday so we can string them up!

13 November 2009

Bethany under water

Originally uploaded by Gwen @ Silver Lining

T and I are spending a long weekend in Bethany thanks to Parent Teacher conferences happening at school. Being on the coast, we are getting an exciting first hand view of tropical storm Ida. Many roads are closed due to flooding, including the major highway, Route 1. Many shops are not open, but there were still quite a few people driving around taking pictures. I couldn't resist the massive lake-like puddles, so we joined in the fun. We attempted to drive to Rehoboth, but found we couldn't due to high water. We observed a man trying to fix a "road closed" sign, nearly up to his waist in water; on the highway!

11 November 2009

Aha! moments

This is my first post from my phone! Fingers crossed that it works well. My little friends and I made some breakthroughs in learning today. There really is nothing better than being part of a child's aha! moments. Well, maybe getting a spontaneous hug and kiss on the cheek from a 4 year old.

This message was sent using the Picture and Video Messaging service from Verizon Wireless!

07 November 2009

A great day!

That's what T and I enjoyed for dinner tonight. Real Southern sweet tea, fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits and potato salad! We figured that since we're in the South, we should enjoy as much real Southern food as we can. We haven't had good, smell-it-from-a-mile-away fried chicken since we visited Charlottesville last.

We're in Raleigh because today was the Handmade Market. I have to say it was one of the most well-run fairs I've been in, which made it easy for us to do well. The Handmaidens did a wonderful job of making everything as easy as possible. Also, the fair was held indoors, at the Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh so there was a lot of traffic. They must do a fantastic job of marketing, because the people who showed up were also all prepared to buy! They were prepared with cash, too! A very nice Montessori teacher came by my booth and immediately picked up a Cording Star Kit and suggested that I try to get into a conference or catalogue. When I told her I'm currently a Montessori intern, she said she hoped to see me at the Boston conference. How extra exciting to meet a fellow Montessorian!

Raleigh itself is not a bad place to be either. It's about a 5 hour drive from home, but it didn't seem that bad. Our hotel is fantastically nice, and we were upgraded to stay on the Club Level. The area even has quite a nice number of consignment stores with men's and women's clothing! T and I are already looking forward to applying for the Spring Handmade Market. :)

28 October 2009

Halloween Crafting

A peek at what I've been working on this week. Last night, Nicole came over and we worked on making 50 of the little Sculpey pumpkins you see in the dish at the far left. They're actually little pencil toppers, waiting to be popped onto cute Halloween pencils. Those will be our little gifts to the students in the art class we teach together. In the middle are pins backs, waiting to be hot glued to the backs of the wooden pumpkins in the bowl at the right. It was quite difficult to track down enough of those wooden pumpkin shapes at 7 different Michael's stores! I spray painted them orange first, then drew faces and details with paint pens and then finished them off with a coat of (supposedly) reflective spray paint. My hope is that the children in my class will be able to wear them pinned to their costumes for extra visibility and safer trick-or-treating. I've packaged them in little cello bags tied with twine and a tag explaining their purpose.

Also, a quick thank you to my goody goblins (Mom and Sneetch!) for delivering the goody gourds to GHS early this morning. I hear they were received well and enjoyed!

25 October 2009

Goody Gourds

I have been missing my friends (big and small) over at GHS, but haven't had a chance to talk to most of them. So, I decided to make a basket of goody gourds to be surreptitiously delivered to the kitchen as a surprise for all my big friends. Each little goody gourd includes a handmade felt "kind soul" ghostie pin, a packet of sweet tarts and a packet of kisses. T helped enormously in creating the gourds. He did the actual assembly of the entire patch!

Goody Gourds Tutorial
You will need:
Orange cocktail napkins (tissue paper would work also, but rips more easily)
Green pipe cleaners
Goodies for stuffing the pumpkins
Green paper for cutting out leaf tags and hole punch (optional)

To make the pumpkins:
  1. Open up a napkin into a square.
  2. Place your goodies in the center. Pull up the edges and gather them at the top, creating a little sack.
  3. Wrap a green pipe cleaner around the "stem" twice, leaving the ends unwound.
  4. Cut out a green leaf tag, punch a hole in the top and thread it onto the pipe cleaner.
  5. Using a pencil, wrap the loose ends of the pipe cleaner around to create a vine curl on each end.
  6. Distribute to your friends!

19 October 2009

School bag

Quick post to share my latest creation (I have a couple to share actually). I made this bag, cut to finish, all tonight. I started at 7 and just finished, so 4 hours. Not too bad for a perfect, custom-made messenger bag! I didn't even go out and get new fabric. Everything I used was either from previous projects or stuff I bought on a whim. I pretty much followed this tutorial, with ideas taken from all over, plus my own additions (adjustable strap, vinyl bottom).

Here were my criteria:
Washable (although now I'm not sure with the vinyl bottom)
Big enough to fit my laptop
Lots of pockets for all my small things
Pocket for books (for spontaneous story time at school)
Adjustable strap
Wet/yucky stuff proof bottom
Able to stand up on it's own

I actually managed to fulfill all of my own criteria on the very first try!

05 October 2009


I got in! I got in to the Handmade Market. It's a huge craft fair held in Raleigh, NC, twice per year. I'll be in the one this fall, on Saturday the 7th of November. I'm so excited! I have probably enough inventory at this point to take down there, but I am hoping it will be a really successful fair, so I will try to build up more inventory. I was also accepted to the Downtown Holiday Market which will be in December, so I need to get cracking! I hope to have some Montessori materials there as well!

04 October 2009

That's exactly how I feel

Exhausted and on the edge where comfortable meets uncomfortable. This weekend was our first seminar of the school year. That means we had to turn in an album, original lessons, and a paper as well as take a practical exam on Saturday and we had class all day today. This time around it was our Practical Life album, original lessons and paper. I think mine all turned out well. I wasn't unhappy with any of them as we turned them in. Some time I will upload photos of my original lessons. The practical exam was for Sensorial, which also went well. I didn't have to retake either portion!

Our next seminar and due date is in December, so we have some time to breathe. However, I am hoping to have one craft fair in between and I am already signed up for a craft fair the weekend after the seminar. So I will need to plan my afternoons carefully. Besides all that, I have holiday crafting to do! Halloween is approaching fast and I have plans for goodies for the children...

16 September 2009

This is the way we wash our hands...

That's my view about 40% of the time I'm at work. Sometimes it's the boys' bathroom, which is right next door. Because this is my unofficial post, I do a lot of bathrooming related reminding; remember to wash your hands, please turn off the water while you rub your hands, let's sing a hand washing song.

We ask the children to sing a song to themselves while they wash their hands to make sure they are washing their hands for a reasonable amount of time to get most of the germs off. The suggested song has been Happy Birthday, but I think it may confuse the birthday issue, so I prefer this one, sung to the tune of "This is the Way We Wash Our Clothes":

This is the way we wash our hands,
Wash our hands,
Wash our hands,
This is the way we wash our hands,
So they're nice and clean!

In general, the time I do spend in the classroom has been alright. The class is definitely not normalized, which is to be expected. What I didn't expect was how tired I would be! Of course, everyone warns that the first month and possibly first 6 weeks will be tiring as the foundations are set with each individual child and then the group as a whole. The integration of the new children is a slow process, but the reward of a normalized classroom will be well worth the work and wait. I thought that managing my own classroom of 19+ children who were all 3 or 4 years old would have adequately prepared me for this. Was I ever wrong. Maybe the difference is that this year, the room is not "mine" in the sense that I am not the lead teacher. It is not up to me to set the ground rules or organization of the space, physical or interpersonal.

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by it all really. Being a very sensory person, I think I am more easily over stimulated, by sounds, sights, touches. In an as yet non-normalized Montessori classroom, those things abound. With no breaks in the day, barely a chance to get a sip of tea or run walk quickly to the bathroom, at times I wonder what I'm doing. Besides, I am always thinking about my classes, homework and upcoming exams in the back of my mind. To be honest, I relish those frequent trips to the bathroom hallway for the quiet and time for me to stand still for a few minutes.

10 September 2009


I feel like I have officially changed schools. I received a pair of keys to get in to MSM yesterday. In honour of the occasion (and also because we have to carry our keys around all the time), I made the key holder pictured. It was pretty simple to make and after testing it today, I think it's also good at serving its purpose. The idea was for a key holder that would be easily accessible even when my hands are fairly full and could be worn unnoticeably even if I don't have pockets. The holder is attached to a belt loop with the snap strap on the back. The keys are attached to a hair tie which is anchored to the holder by being sewn into the seam and also by the little felt stopper at the back. Finally, the holder is lined with felt to silence the keys while they're not in use.

08 September 2009

Here we go!

I guess I took an unannounced vacation from blogging for the summer. I didn't intend to, and it's certainly not because nothing interesting was happening. In fact I think the cause was too much happening and me being too caught up in all the studying, learning, worrying and relaxing.

But now, I'm back. The real world that is the school year is back and I'm stuck with it, even though I don't feel ready. Tomorrow is our first day of school with children (we worked on classrooms all last week and today). Fortunately, McLean only has returning children starting school this week. We don't get all the little newbies until Monday. So for this week, the children will all know more about what is supposed to be happening than me. That's ok; children can be the best teachers.

Many people have been asking me about nerves or if I am feeling anxious. Strangely, I feel less anxious than I expected. In keeping with the theme of unfortunate happenings, my lead teacher is not here for the start of the school year, so I am a bit worried about having to deal with parents' and children's questions. Mostly though, I am concerned about the children liking me and my liking the children. I really loved "my babies" at GHS, and I am afraid I won't be able to feel the same way for these new children. I know this is silly and I am sure that the children will like me and I will like them back. But that's my top worry; not the lessons I'm supposed to be able to give, not the new routine which I barely know anything about, not the fact that I don't know how to give lessons on half the materials in the room. I guess we'll just have to see how I am feeling tomorrow afternoon!
In the meantime, I have been spending evenings trying to motivate myself to work on my Practical Life binder and exam which are due in 3 weeks. I've also been working on things for the classroom. I made fabric murals for our three bulletin boards again. I will have to try to get a photo of it. I've made a number of things for the room to personalise things for the children. I decided the room theme for the year will be bumble bees, so each child has a named bee hanging on the bulletin boards until they do some artwork to put up instead. I'm quite proud of my little bee design.

01 July 2009

Long time no post... sorry!

Sorry for the lack of posting. My Montessori training classes started the Monday right after graduation at GHS.

Quick overview of some interesting happenings over the past... month!
  • Strawberry picking (2x) - not so great because the weather has been abnormally rainy which is apparently bad for strawberries.
  • Interesting happenings at GHS - Unfortunate happenings really. Fortunately, I don't look back with any regrets and I don't think I will.
  • Yard sale of junk from Mom and Dad's house - Everyone except T, Flea and I were at the beach house. So we held a yard sale on our own. It rained poured almost all morning... We did manage to give away some clothes to 2 very nice ladies and their respective families.
  • Blueberry picking (this past weekend) - AMAZING! It rained Friday night, so when we arrived at 8:30am on Saturday, the bellies were perfectly washed and bug free for us. The bushes were FULL of bellies too! We picked for just over an hour and got almost 14lbs ($31) off of 1 giant bush - though it wasn't totally picked clean.
  • My Montessori training course has started!
Classes have been going super swimmingly! I’m really enjoying them. I’ve met some wonderful new friends and am learning so much. It’s really fun to find out the reasoning behind the materials – especially the ones I remember from when I was little.

Thus far, we have studied Montessori philosophy, the practical life lessons and we are finishing up our week of sensorial lessons.

Tomorrow evening, T and I are driving out to the beach to meet up with everyone for a mini family reunion. I’m hoping to get in a lot of sun, knitting and general relaxation!

31 May 2009

If you want to be somebody else,

change your mind. It was that kind of a weekend.

On Wednesday, I was told that there is essentially no position for me (to do my internship) at GHS next year. While I've had a hunch that this was the case for months now, it was still a bit of a shock. After taking an afternoon and evening to be angry, hurt and otherwise in a less-than good mood, I started my search for The Silver Lining.

This turn of events has opened the door for me to move to another school guilt free. It comes at a reasonable time in the schedule of my life since I am beginning my Montessori certification. Fortunately, I did go ahead and work out an option for myself whilst believing there would be a spot for me at GHS. That work has paid off with a paid internship position at a school which specializes in Montessori. In fact, this other school has had many interns over the years and has an obvious 'path' for me to follow.

It's less likely that this new school will consume my life, so I will have more opportunities to craft, too. So get ready for some more projects and creations! I'll have more time to prepare for dinners also, so hopefully I'll find some more good recipes to try out. Over the weekend, I had to get some of these sugar snap peas. Other people around the blogosphere have mentioned peas which need to be hulled. I don't think these require hulling, but they look delicious!

27 May 2009

Biting the bullet

This past weekend was a big one for our apartment (affectionately known as TuziLand). Three days of big changes, new developments and big spending.

First, the apartment is back together. Everything (minus all the stuff we recycled, threw away or donated) is unpacked and in its original home or a better home. It was a daunting task, but we managed our way through it and mostly thanks to a lot of work by T, we have a much better living space now. At least we humans think so. Tuz is less than enthusiastic about the new floors. He has ventured out onto the "ice" a couple times, but has only managed to successfully strand himself on another area rug. We've ordered some nice, long runners to put in the hallways which should help.

Second, we made our first GIANT purchase. We bought a car. I think it's a fairly modest car. We can certainly handle it financially, even if it does feel like a big decision.

Third, we finally have some job news. T started his summer job yesterday, which he is already enjoying. They ended their first day with a 2 hour soccer scrimmage! I got some positive news about an internship position for next year, and am anxiously awaiting firm answer.

Looks like things are finally starting to fall into place for the summer and year ahead. There are still some loose threads to tie up, but at least we're on our way! Phewf!

20 May 2009


Amidst all the things that have not been going quite the way we'd like (T's car generating burning smells, kitchen faucet breaking and flooding the kitchen, AC not working on the one 90 degree day...) the flooring project is going swimmingly well! It looks like they may even be totally finished today! As promised, here are some photos of the progress:
A before picture of our living room. This isn't even a real before photo, because at this point we've already packed up the books from the shelves and sold the papsan chairs which were in the corners on either side of the window.
First, they ripped out all of the deadly carpet, what was left of the padding and pulled up all the carpet tacks.
Then, they had to level the floor. Apparently it is common for older buildings/homes to require this step. Our floors are concrete (fire and sound barrier) so the leveling was fairly easy. There turned out to be more spots to level than they originally anticipated, but that didn't bother them at all. The grey is the wet concrete.
Finally, they laid down an "underlayment" which is an optional layer of padding to give some cushion to the floor. It acts as another sound barrier and also keeps the floors from feeling as cold as if they were laid directly on the concrete. Once the underlayment is in place, they could go ahead and lay the wood. We chose eco-friendly engineered Brazilian cherry in cinnamon. Because it is engineered, they not only use the wood more efficiently to make the planks, but there is also no need for glues or adhesives. The planks are measured, cut and "click" into place which will also allow for more give.

19 May 2009

I'm baaack!

Sorry for the lack of posting. T and I have been working on getting our place all packed up for the new floors. He spent all of last week packing while I was at work and this past weekend we finished up what was left. Sunday we moved into a nearby hotel. We even brought Tuz! He has managed the move very nicely. He didn't stomp once! In fact, he seems as excited as we are, even though we have to confine him to his house (cage) when we are out. That photo up there is of him being happy and binking in the hotel room. I took some photos of the progress in the apt, which I'll upload tonight.

08 May 2009

Rainy days = yummy soup!

The weather around here has been kind of funky. The old "April showers bring May flowers" seems to have extended a week beyond. Besides the weather, we've had a few cases of closed up, sore throat, sniffly nosed blahs. In an attempt to remedy both of these, I decided to make T and myself some French Onion Soup. I read numerous recipes before deciding on my own mash-up way to go about concocting some soup. Fortunately, my research paid off and T even commented that my version was "just like you get in restaurants!"

French Onion Soup Recipe:

You'll need:
1 32oz box beef broth (low sodium is fine)
1 package shredded mozzarella cheese
1 baguette (day old is fine)
1.5-2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 T dried thyme
Worcestershire sauce (phewf that was fun to spell!)
4 oven-safe bowls for serving

How to make it:
1) Chop the onions into 1/4" strips. We bought some great little ones at the Farmer's Market 5 in a ziplock bag for $1.
2) In a medium sized pot, melt the butter and add the thyme to season it as it melts.
3) Set your oven shelf to the lower/middle level and preheat the broiler to low.
4) Add the onion pieces to the pot, stirring regularly until the onions are just about translucent. Meanwhile, slice the baguette into 1/2" slices.
5) Pour in the red wine, a splash of the Worcestershire sauce and the crumbs from the baguette.
6) Add the entire box of beef broth to the onions and let simmer for 20 minutes (a little longer is ok), stir regularly to keep the onions from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
7) Cover a cookie sheet with a SilPat or tinfoil and arrange your four bowls on top.
8) Evenly ladle soup into the bowls. Arrange slices of baguette on top, in one layer. Do not push the slices into the soup to soak them; this will happen in the oven.
9) Sprinkle mozzarella over the bread (and off the sides of the bowls, if you like).
10) Place the whole cookie sheet with bowls on top in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the pieces on the bowl edges are browned.
11) Serve and enjoy - but be careful - the bowls are super hot!

*Photo from: http://www.displayit-info.com/food/dinner2.html

More Montessori goodness

I've been getting increasingly excited about my Montessori training program. Classes start in just about one month! I preparation, I've already bought (and started reading) my books. I've also been thinking about lessons and doing a little making. As part of my cleaning and packing up my crafting room process, I've decided that I need to make some things to use up those awkward pieces of fabric. You know, those pieces that you *can't* throw away, but aren't big enough for what you really want to make? I have a lot of those. Many I have already 'gifted' on to other crafty friends. Here are two projects I made recently for my friend Allison's Montessori classroom.
The first is a fabric matching lesson. I found four fabrics of different textures and colours. I cut out small rectangles from each (traced a box of chalk as a pattern). Then, I cut out rectangles of a tan twill fabric and sewed them together by edging with some twill tape. There are 4 pairs of little matching rectangles which can be placed with the tan side up for a simple matching activity.
The second is a plant watering apron. The idea came from Montessori By Hand; a wonderful blog full of Montessori ideas. Her apron is beautiful, but I was concerned it was a little 'girly' for the boys' taste. So mine is hopefully more gender neutral, though it uses the same basic ideas. Each morning, the teacher uses the blue flowers to mark plants who need watering. The flowers have a loop of elastic on the back to fasten them to the green straw 'stems.' When a child chooses the plant watering activity, they put on the apron, (which has velcro closures at both the neck and waist straps) and fill the watering can (not pictured). The apron has slots at the top for red "I've been watered" flowers. When the child has finished watering a plant with a blue flower, he can replace the blue flower with a red one. The blue flower can be placed back in the slot on the front of the apron to leave both hands available for carrying the watering can.

03 May 2009

Montessori magic?

I just finished watching this video about a cute little boy named Edison. It's a half hour "day in the life" clip showing how the Montessori method can be used in the home to facilitate and promote independence. Emphasis is placed on incorporating the child into the family routine, as the father states, "not around him."

30 April 2009

Sweater woes...

I have been loving open front cardigans lately. Anthro had a nice array of them, just in time for the indecisive weather we've been having. You can never be sure how the temperature might change while out, and then what the temperature will be like inside wherever you will be. These are great because they are warm, but not too warm, can be worn over almost anything, and are easily stashed away in a purse.
Last week, I found this pattern. Since I have already spent money on buying a few from Anthro, I decided to try my hand at making one. They seem simple enough, right? I bought some wonderful yarn from KnitPicks - a pima cotton and modal blend. Perfect texture and weight for spring/summer. I got the yarn and cast on this past Saturday and had the whole back piece of a size small finished by Tuesday! Yesterday, I started on the left front piece and... DOOM! The pattern all of a sudden gets confusing; lots of "AT THE SAME TIME"s and weird stuff that doesn't seem to match up. So I drew out the instructions, row by row and what do you know? The math doesn't add up. Fortunately, I do have the back piece to use as a guide and I was smart enough to record exactly how many rows I did, where I made increase and decreases. New plan; use the back to make the fronts. Do you think it'll work?

29 April 2009

Rain, rain, wash the pollen away!

Our summer days have been temporarily replaced by rainy, somewhat drear-some weather. The silver lining is a great one; the rain is going to relieve us of the 1600+ ppi pollen count. Phewf! In celebration of the hot weather yesterday (and knowing the forecast for today), T and I decided to have our old favourite summery dinner. We came up with the recipe for this delicious and nutritious tuna pasta in college. It's the perfect, light, cool summer meal; especially when followed by some slices of yummy watermelon. Here's the recipe:

Tuna Pasta (college style)
Makes 6 large servings

1 box whole wheat twirly pasta (or some other shape that will hold the sauce well)
2 cans tuna, drained and rinsed
1 large bell pepper (any colour) diced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 T dijon mustard
3 T French mustard (the kind that comes in the yellow squeeze bottles)
1/4 c Italian dressing

To Make:
1) Cook the pasta according to box instructions.
2) Meanwhile, drain and rinse the tuna, and dice the pepper.
3) In a large bowl (enough to hold all the ingredientes), mix the 2 mustards with the dressing.
4) Drain and rinse the pasta in cold water, then add all of it to the dressing bowl.
5) Toss to coat and then add the pepper pieces and peas.
6) Serve at room temperature, or chilled. Enjoy!

27 April 2009

Is it summer already?

Not quite, but it certainly feels like it! We had record highs this weekend, and it was great! My "babies" got an extra half hour outside on the playground today, so they are tuckered out. I hope this weather keeps up so that they can keep getting extra play time.

T and I spent a very nice weekend together, getting a lot of errands done in preparation for the Big Project (the new floors - yay!). We checked out a nice, little, year-round farmer's market in Oakton. We got some yummy, local, organic sausage for us, Virginia wine and a head of hydroponically grown lettuce for our shed-ful friend. In fact, I'm hoping to use this tutorial to see if I can keep the lettuce growing!

Yesterday, we packed away our winter clothes, purged some and took a load of items over to our local thrift store. It felt great to pack the car full of things we no longer need! One of the things was T's old stereo from high school. It was great until the volume dial ceased to understand how to lower the volume. We also listed more than 50 books on Amazon. Many of the books are good summer reads - we've already sold 12!

The warmer weather is certainly a nice change. It's starting to spark my creative juices; so be on the look out for some new projects coming soon.

22 April 2009

Spring is shedding season

Sometimes after a difficult day, the best thing to do is to just go home and pet the bunny. Bunnies are good at giving their humans fresh perspective and the petting is really very therapeutic. This evening, Tuzi reminded me that Spring is shedding season. That means he's getting rid of his old coat and getting a shorter, softer, new one. He wants me to get rid of my old, heavy winter worries and move on to sunnier, happier new thoughts. Don't focus on the unknowns and potentially bads, think about all the wonderful things this new season will bring!

Spring is also the season for cleaning, and T and I have begun preparations for a massive, overhaul-style cleaning of our apartment. We got the go-ahead for replacing all of our wall to wall carpeting, throughout the whole place, with beautiful new hardwood flooring! Not only will it be great for my newly developed (and hopefully soon to be going away) asthma and allergies, but it will also vastly increase the attractiveness of our apartment. Sure, the week our apartment is turned upside down and packed away will be crazy (especially since I'll be working still), but it will be SO wonderful to be on the road to long-term continued healthiness. Just in time for summer!

16 April 2009

Little things

Sometimes, when the weather is dreary, you have to focus on the little things to keep away the grouchies. Take this photo for example. This orange thing is a little piece of plastic that you pull off of an ink cartridge before you put it in the printer. Doesn't it look so happy? It's like a little orange guy, so happy to have a function in life; even though he'll probably get tossed in the recycling bin.

In other news, I've started to feel like my crafty mojo is coming back. It got pretty "quashed" for a while there when other things were occupying my time (and mind). Even though the past few days have been rainy, it's been good for crafty ideas. Besides that, T and I bought some really wonderfully scented candles at Anthro over the weekend which have been making our house smell like spring.
Anyway, here's one of the fruits of my newfound craftiness. Sorry for the less than lovely photos; it's naptime so I'm working with less than lovely photographing conditions. A little bunny pouch for storing goodies and keeping bags tidy. I borrowed the tail idea from this great pattern. I made one of those pencil pouches for Madre's birthday last week. It turned out quite well. Unfortunately, the lining of the pouch is pretty small so it doesn't hold a whole lot of pencils. I made another one last night for my friend Emily, and I tried to fix that a little. I made the ears little pockets, with opeinings at the top for storing all important chapstick. :) You get a sneak peek of something else I'm working on too; see it up there in the top right corner? Any guesses?

I made a new ironing board cover for myself last night also. The old one was pretty yucky. Somehow it acquired brown stains which would occasionally transfer themselves to whatever was being ironed. Besides that, the padding was pitifully thin causing the grid underneath to show through with vigorous ironing. The new cover is made completely with thrifted materials; pretty (partially sun faded or bleached?) pink print decorator's fabric and some kind of cotton string. I'll have to get a photo of it tonight.

Finally, as promised many moons ago, here's a link to our photos from Disney. I'm working on grabbing the professional PhotoPass ones from the Disney site.

07 April 2009

I'm so excited!

I received an acceptance letter from the Montessori certification school I applied to for this summer! I didn't send in my final piece - the dreaded Personal Statement - until the Weds. we left for Disney World. But I got a call from the Center Director last Monday hinting that my packet would be in the mail soon. Thursday night, T brought up the mail with my packet in it! I've already ordered all of my books, minus one that is out of print which I am considering just borrowing.
So, I have another full school year of getting "love letters" (and drawings) from little friends! I can't wait to get started making my original lessons and reading everything about Maria Montessori and her genius program. These days, since I've been back to my regular schedule of being with the children in the afternoons, I realise how much I did miss them. Some of them can be a handful at times, but we haven't had any major outbursts (yet... I hope I haven't just jinxed us) and it's so relaxing to watch them napping. The best part is waking them up one by one and seeing each one wake up with a big smile; refreshed and ready to play the afternoon away!

31 March 2009

Sunshine and earthworms

The weather has been quite kind these first couple days back to school. Nice weather always puts the children in a better mood. The big thing on the playground is earthworms. We received a lovely new layer of mulch over the break which holds moisture in its lower layers well; the perfect digging grounds for small hands in search of fat worms. One of our little friends even brought in a tub of worms he'd found at home. I tried to get a picture of a worm in a little hand, but the camera card is still full of Disney photos!

I'm uploading them as we speak, so there will be a nice link to an album full of photos for you at the bottom of the post. In the meantime, tomorrow is already hump day, and I have decided to go back to my Hump Day Goodies making ways. Tomorrow's goody is kettle corn. Ever since I first smelled the delicious salty, buttery popcorn in Disney World, I've been itching to make kettle corn. In fact, I had even planned to make some before our trip for snacking on the plane. Anyway, a nice big bowl is already made and cooling for tomorrow. Tuzi, who seems to dislike the smell of oil and the sound of corn popping is not impressed and even carried his carrot (an offering from the offending MamaTuzi) away to his room. The photo is from before we left. He has taken to napping in a little towel tent on T's office chair, and I managed to capture a few photos. Such the inventive little bun!

30 March 2009

Aaaaand we're back!

We started our last day off right with a Character Breakfast at the Garden Grove in the Swan hotel. The food was delicious as expected and we got to meet Pluto and Goofy, too. After a short rest for digestion, we headed off to the Magic Kingdom to finish off our day and vacation.

My favourite park did not disappoint. We managed to get on every ride we wanted, watched the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade and the castle stage show. We even stayed long enough to catch the SpectroMagic parade again. I definitely can't wait to go back!

For now, the magic has been put on hold as we return to our routine. We were sad to go, but the weather helped usher us out. It stormed overnight on our last night, complete with hail, and didn't let up until sometime just before we took off. Landing at Dulles wasn't too bad since the weather here was a balmy 77F.

Tonight I will spend some time uploading all the photos we took as well as some of the professional PhotoPass ones. I'll link them here when they're all done.

27 March 2009

Every Person Comes Out Tired

Today was EPCOT day. We got up earlier this morning and headed over to the park by ferry. One of the advantages of staying at the Dolphin is the ferry transport to EPCOT and Animal Kingdom. But the ferry to EPCOT is even better because it drops you off at an alternate entrance at the back of the park. So, rather than having to fight the crowds through the main gate, we leisurely entered just between France and Great Britain in the World Showcase.

We headed straight for Test Track, another ride T had never done. The wait was already over an hour (the park had only been open for an hour!) but we got our Fast Passes for later. It seemed everyone was rushing to Test Track and Soarin', so demand wasn't quite as high for Mission: Space. That ride has 2 options; the Green, less intense team training or the Orange more intense training. The Orange line had a wait time of over an hour, so we jumped in the Green line for a 10 minute wait. It was well worth it, and I doubt we missed out on much (other than intense spinning, according to others we spoke with).

Lunch was at "The Land" building which houses Soarin' and some other less in-demand rides. The line for Soarin' was still beyond what we wanted to wait, and Fast Passes were being handed out for the afternoon when we hoped to be at the pool. Since we both had the chance to ride Soarin' in DisneyLand (where it started) we didn't feel the need to ride again, even though it would have been great.
Test Track was a great time. Admittedly, it was slightly less cool than my memory hyped it up to be, but still the Disney genius was on full display. Throughout the wait in line, you walk by exhibits and scenes to get you super excited. They really try to make the wait half the fun.

After being whipped around and generally treated like crash test dummies, we headed "home" for some relaxation by the pool. We were not impressed with the service today, especially compared to yesterday when a waitress asked us almost immediately if she could get us anything. But still, it was nice to take a nap and do some reading while we rested our legs for tonight's Extra Magic Hours.

Future visitors note; it really does pay to stay on Disney property. We've bought goodies in the parks and had them delivered to our hotel; items arrive by 1:00pm the following day. You can get your park ticket "attached" to your hotel key card to reduce the number of little things you have to carry. Transport to and from the parks as well as the other resorts is complimentary and constant. Finally, the Extra Magic Hours are provided exclusively for guests of the Disney resorts. These happen before the parks open and after the parks close to the public. Once the EMH begin, guests are required to show their resort IDs to gain entrance into rides; with little to no wait whatsoever!

26 March 2009

Lions, rhinos and giraffes!

We started our first full day in Animal Kingdom. Needing a good night's rest after yesterday, we slept in a little longer than we liked and ended up hitting the park around 10am instead of 8am. Again, our tardiness didn't seem to have any ill effects. We headed straight for Kilimanjaro Safari to grab some Fast Passes to evade the lines later (the wait was already up to an hour!). Fast Passes in hand, we crossed the park to get to It's Tough to Be a Bug. I'd seen it before, but T had never been. It's a 3D spectacular show with lots of surprising effects. That was a great way to get a jump start on the day and instantly wipe away any lingering sleepiness!

By the time we got out of Flik's ant hill, we were ready to head back in the direction of Kilimanjaro. We stopped for some delicious corn dog nuggets on the way and got a wonderful photo of the tree. (That's on the camera, so I'll have to upload when I get home.) Kilimanjaro is just as good, maybe even better than everyone says it is! We saw real lions, rhinos, giraffes and all kinds of other animals too! We could have ridden over an over if there weren't a wait!

We also rode the Dinosaur ride. A lot scarier than I thought it was going to be! It's one of the rides where they take a photo of you at some point along the way. When we saw the photo of our car, my head is buried in T's shoulder, I obviously don't have my eyes open and I'm looking down anyway. Not recommended for littler friends. Phew!

We managed to get back to the hotel for a nice relaxing nap in the afternoon. We were greeted by a deliciously large fresh fruit plate and Pellegrino in our room when we returned! Thanks Daddy! After a long, exciting morning in the park the fruit was just what we wanted. We saw this cool (magical?) whale cloud while relaxing in the unfortunately rather uncomfortable chairs at the Dolphin Pool.

Finally, we finished up our day at the Magic Kingdom. We went over to see SpectroMagic which had 2 magical showings tonight flanking the nightly Wishes Come True fireworks spectacular. I'm so glad we got to see them both. We also got to sneak in a round at the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. This is definitely a must see! Probably using the same technology as Turtle Talk with Crush, this is an interactive show. The monsters perform an adlib comedy show and incorporate real people from the audience. As we were getting prepped for the show and transfer into Monstropolis, I was starting to have doubts about the hilarity level. But that was quickly resolved as they snapped shots of people as we were filing into our seats and added captions. We're hoping to get to do that one again on Saturday!

25 March 2009

Lights, Motors, Action!

We spent our first day in Disney World at Hollywood Studios (you may know it by its old name, MGM Studios; we haven't discovered why the name was changed yet). We were a little late getting to Dulles, my fault, I never feel like I'm totally ready. We got there about 45 minutes before our flight was due to take off. Luckily, being in the morning in the middle of the week, there weren't many people around. The nice thing was that we didn't have to wait anywhere!

Watched Bugs' Life on the plane; T got it from iTunes since he'd never seen it. It was the perfect length to while away the time. I have to say I quite like JetBlue! It was the first time I'd flown with them. No charge for luggage (unless each passenger has more than one) and they had so many options for snacks and beverages - and also no charge!

Back to the park, T and I were both dragging a little despite all the excitement that comes along with a trip to The Greatest Place on Earth. We didn't sleep much last night getting packed and all. The highlight of the day was "Lights, Motors, Action!" as you may have guessed from the title. Real stunt men perform awesome car stunts twice a day. Though there are claims that park attendance is down 20-30% this year, the stadium was packed. If you think car chases, pyrotechnics and general speed-infused action are cool, you should definitely see this show.

Another highlight of the day was our lunch. We ate at a 50's style restaurant in the park. In true Disney detail, the place was like walking into a 50's house, but with a bar. When your party is called to be seated, the hostess calls you like she's your mom. The delicious food tastes like mom's cooking (if mom made super juicy, deliciously flavourful fried chicken). We both ordered fun drinks - I got a cool Mickey's BeBop, which is basically a Shirley Temple served in a souvenir glittery plastic cup and topped off with an LCD glowing ice cube!

Tomorrow, we're off to Animal Kingdom in the morning. Hopefully we'll be able to pull ourselves away for some pool time in the afternoon and then off to Magic Kingdom in the evening for SpectroMagic!

20 March 2009

5 days!

Today is the last day of Spring Break Camp. Sorry I've been MIA a long time, while the auction took over the world. Let's just say it was rather intense there for at least a week. I had a week to catch up on sleep and get my health back in order before Camp started. A week to plan the camp, which I had only half-planned during the onslaught of auction tasks. But now, on the last day, I'm feeling quite good about it. I had the good sense way back in January to plan for an outside group to come in to entertain the children. After some struggles with my first choice, I found a suitable alternative, which as turned out amazingly well.

We've had a lovely lady come in each morning to entertain the children with hands-on Mad Science. She teaches them real science while keeping them involved and engaged via really cool projects and activities. This is just the way children should be introduced to an academic subject, I think. She has the children so interested in learning, the camp has actually become educational! While she runs her program in the morning, I have plenty of time to get myself organized for the afternoon.

I can't help but want to have equally cool (if not as educational) fun projects for the children on my end. We started the week with a pillow case decorating project. This is the second year I've done this same activity, but learned from last year. Last year I made throw pillow style cases for each of the children, out of very nice (but not see-through) Osnaburg fabric. I bought many, many colours of Sharpies and fabric markers and expected the kids to go wild drawing and decorating their 20" square blank canvases. The whole project took them about 20 minutes. Many of the children just scribbled colours (and these were not our youngest ones!) and declared themselves done.

This year, I made regular, bed style muslin pillowcases and by accident (my fabric wasn't wide enough) had to add on a strip of green quilter's cotton. The green was a lucky, perfectly sized remanant which fairly accurately matches our school's shade of green and the main fabric is the cheapest muslin available. The benefit of the cheap-o muslin is that it's see-through. So I printed simple, generic pictures of animals, dragons (our school mascot) and other child-tracing-friendly images. The children slid the drawings into their pillows and coloured them in, some traced the images first, others just coloured. Both ways, they turned out beautifully. The younger children drew free-hand, their imaginations uninhibited. The oldest children chose more intricate images to trace carefully and then colour in, sometimes complete with shading! The first day, I gave them 20 minutes to work on their pillows which turned out to be way too short. They've been working on them during down time all week long!

What is the purpose of the pillows? Each day, we have "rest & relaxation" time while they watch a movie. The youngest children really need this time because they are keeping up with the older ones all day long. We set out gym mats on the floor, let them take off their shoes and lie down to watch. The pillows provide an obvious boundary so they don't crowd each other, can be sat upon, rested on or used for a clandestine nap.