Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ben’s Booklist: Brown Bear, Brown Bear

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I’ve been trying to get myself and Ben to the library about once a week lately. We are so blessed to have one absurdly close to our house, and I’m attempting to get in the routine of going weekly so that it will be an established habit when indoor activities are necessary this winter… plus it’s free… and it’s good to read.

Anyway, we’ve been checking out about 3 books at a time, one of which I base some activities on for the week for when he is “doing his work” in the morning. At first, the concept of having to bring the books back to the library was difficult, but he’s gotten the hang of it (I make a really big deal about putting the books in the library chute… it’s actually a little embarrassing but you gotta do what you gotta do).

Last week, we had Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin



Cognitive Skills: color recognition and pairing two non-identical objects

Ben loved this one, and I loved that he loved it. It’s low on the obnoxious scale, and if you’re not creeped out by the mother towards the end, it’s a great intro to picture books for toddlers, especially if they like animals.


We did two activities with this one, a coloring book and a matching game. Both printables are free (yay!) and available here thanks to Carisa at 1+1+1=1. You should also note that there are tons of other activities and printables for this book, but I stuck with the two simplest ones that I knew Ben could complete by himself while still being a little challenging.





The coloring book was a big hit, and I’m kind of ashamed to say that I was shocked when we got every color right without prompting. I shouldn’t have been surprised because he is really into colors right now.









And then there was the white dog…


When Ben finished all of the pages, he was so proud! He insisted on bringing it to his grandmother’s house to show her.






The matching game was also great for us. Up until now, he’s been playing a regular matching game (with pieces from a memory card game). Those are obviously cards with two identical images, so this was a great step into pairing two non-identical objects together.









This was also the “work” that I left on the shelf for him, and he came back to it a number of times throughout the week.







So that’s that! We were at the library again this morning, so I have a whole new group to work with. I’m going to keep posting our “preschool” books under Ben’s Booklist in the Montessori at Home section, so be sure to check back in!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our Intro to Montessori and DIY Place Setting Mat

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I’ve often beat myself up about not having a super specific focus for this here blog, but here’s the thing:

I don’t have just one specific focus in life.

And since this is really about things that we do and mostly things I make in my life, there is bound to be a huge variety of topics. Not just that, but as our famiphoto 5ly life evolves, so too will my posts and the projects I share within them.

Which brings me to Ben’s preschooling.

He is two and half. We’re not quite ready for “real” preschool (he nor I), but anyone who has had a two year old knows that this time can’t be taken for granted. He’s a sponge, I tell you. He is learning to explore and do things by himself, and without trying to sound too much like the overly-mushy mom, it’s really fun to witness.

While I’ve adopted more of a Montessori method for awhile now in how his learning toys and play space have been organized as well as how we treat our belongings and our approach to toys and learning in general,

with the start of this “school year”, we are taking on a more specific Montessori approach.

If you want more information about the Montessori method, there are plenty of great resources and explanations out there. I’m not going to tackle that here. At least not yet. What I will say is that Ben and I are learning as we go. We’re taking on new “works” as they seem to fit with our life (right now, he is obsessed with dry pouring, and we’ve just introduced transferring with tongs which he seems to really enjoy as well). I am amazed every time I introduce a new work to him. He often needs no explanation which is part of the beauty of Montessori. Every work has a built in control, so learning comes very naturally.


And now for the DIY bit…


Montessori works can be really expensive (and sometimes confusing)… for me anyway, and I really don’t think I’m the only one. Luckily I’ve been able to find many ways to put materials together from things I have around the house, purchases from the dollar store, or simply by making them myself. So I’ll be sharing them with you all as we go in the hopes that you can benefit from our successes and failures.

The first thing I wanted to share is

Ben’s Place Setting Matphoto 1





I’m starting simple and with materials many of you no doubt have around your house

Construction paper, glue, a pen, and laminate material or clear contact paper (optional but suggested)



photo 2



There is no need for step by step directions here. I used Ben’s plate, cup, and flatware as a template,

cut them out of colored paper

labeled them

and glued them on in their appropriate places.



photo 3


I have a laminating machine which I LOVE but this was too big to fit through, so I just used clear contact paper so it will wipe clean. Then I put all of the materials in a separate bin and put the mat and bin on his shelves. No lie, when he found them in the morning, he didn’t even wait for an explanation. He just saw something new and dove right in, immediately putting everything in its place and then told me, “I did it! Bweak-fas?”

photo 4






You can buy these pretty cheap from the store, or really beautiful cloth ones on Etsy, but all in all this cost me under a dollar, and I didn’t have to leave me house. Craft hoarding for the win!



So that’s all for now. Keep checking back in for more DIY Montessori ideas!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bridal Luncheon Invite + Thank You Card

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photo 2





and now for the newest installation of “Meg is busy doing random things, so here’s something her mom made”





yes yes. More cards from my mom. She is so talented with the paper-crafting, I can’t help myself, ya know?



photo 1




First off, this super cute thank you card.




My mom has a knack for making thank you cards for people that are exactly his/her taste. Now, that, is the gift-giving love language, am I right???










This was a thank you card for me since I gave her a divided fabric basket for Mother’s Day (made from this awesome pattern by noodlehead) to hold her paper-crafting materials.



Did you get that? I made her something to hold the things that she makes, so she made me this card to thank me for the thing that I made. I love my family.



photo 3




And next up, this super intense bridal luncheon invite which she made to semi-match the bride’s invitations and wedding colors.


The front. So classy.

The band with the text slides off so you can open the invitation.



photo 4






The back (with the bride’s monogram).






photo 5





The inside

with pull cards for the details and RSVP information.




Super cute, right?





Great job once again, mom!

And I CANNON WAIT to share more of the wedding details from Amy’s wedding! We’ve helped her design the invites and lots of other pretty details like the place cards and programs! so stay tuned! :)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Freezer Meal Recipe Round Up!

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Nesting is a funny, funny thing. You see, I’m a “nester” by nature.
Add to that the urge to purge, reorganize, and clean everything that comes with the third trimester of pregnancy, and things get a little crazy around here. So I’ve been busy doing the following:
photo (2)
  • Washing, drying, ironing, and starching all of my linens (this is atypical, I assure you… well at least the ironing and starching bit)
  • Cleaning everything down to the cleaning supplies themselves
  • Reorganizing and labeling my medicine cabinet, cleaning closet, coat and linen closet
  • Totally redoing Ben’s room (not planned and more on that later…)
  • Setting up the nursery (duh)
  • purging, purging, and more purging
  • some light yard work (totally digging up my entire front yard to create new flower beds and borders. more on that later too…)
  • and lastly, or at least most recently, stocking up on freezer meals for when the baby comes or I’m too big and uncomfortable to feel like cooking.
I’ve been compiling freezer meal recipes for awhile on Pinterest, especially those that I can thaw and put right into the slow cooker, and let me tell you, there are so many great resources out there!
However, Chris doesn’t eat carbs or dairy on his current diet. That combined with my aversion to processed to foods, and there wasn’t too  much to choose from.
Luckily, I did stumble upon some great choices. And I’m here to share the wealth with you now.
All in all, I spent under $300 for over 40, yes 40 (!!!) meals. considering that most of my ingredients were local and organic, I think I did pretty well. FYI, I’ve included some of my tips for buying organic on a budget below.
Some great tips on making freezer meals can be found over at Life’s Little Moments.
I love her organization. Click here to read up on her process.
Most of the meals I made came from Loving My Nest.
She has three rounds of recipe round ups, and they were all super helpful, but with Chris’ diet the third was definitely the best for us. TONS of protein+bean+veg meals which is basically what we eat on a daily basis around here. I especially loved that there were a lot of options where I could add a little cheese or serve with tortillas, or the like for Ben and myself while keeping it all carb and dairy free for Chris. She also includes shopping lists which are super helpful if you’re making exactly what she made.
Here are the meals I made from her recipe collephoto (1)ction:
*most of these I made multiples, some of the recipes are also already for multiple meals
For Ben and Me, I also am a huge fan of these smoothie packs from Momables.
I honestly don’t mind making smoothies every morning, but since so much fruit is in season right now, it was a great time to portion these out. Buying my fruits and vegetables at this time of year was definitely how I did so well saving some money in the organic produce department (more on that below).
And honorable mentions go to:
These meals by Six Sisters’ Stuff- I’ve heard they’re good and SUPER easy. I only opted for the recipes above because it was much easier to adapt them to our diets.
These meals from Kojo Designs- also looked super tasty, so I may just do these on my next stock up.
So there you have it! Hope that helps some of y’all out. You can find even more over on my Pinterest board “Freezer Meals”.
Tips for Eating Organic on a Budget
I should most certainly mention that my kitchen is not entirely local and organic, but thanks to these tid bits, I’ve been able to work organic substitutes into our budget pretty easily. :)
  • Buy in season! This is obvious, but really! Eating seasonally will not only help you save a lot of money, but it just tastes better! That tomato you buy in the winter has to travel a long way from a warmer clime. You’re paying for that travel. You also pay in the taste department because it has to be picked before it’s ripe.
  • Consider “putting up” produce while it’s in season (see above). Even if you’re not into canning and dehydrating and all of that, think about simple methods of putting up like freezing. Example, blueberries are stinkin’ expensive when they’re coming to you from a different locale, but they are SUPER cheap when they are coming from local farms. They are also SUPER easy to frphotoeeze and pack in baggies.
  • Look for sales (duh). Organic does go on sale, just not as often as conventional foods. Hint: the sale is almost always at the height of that item’s local growing season. Also think sale for canned goods. Bonus: if you’re local to Pittsburgh, Giant Eagle’s “Market Pantry” organic canned goods go on sale ALL THE TIME, so I stock up on those when they are and usually get them for the same price or cheaper than even the off brand conventionals.
  • Shop Direct. I have nothing against Whole Foods, but generally speaking, I simply can’t afford to buy there. I’ve mentioned plenty of times that local farmers markets are where it’s at. Buddy up to your local organic farmer! Chances are, it’s cheaper than buying from the super store, not to mention it’s coming to  you straight from the ground. I’ve found that it also saves me a lot of money to buy bulk produce from the farmer. Don’t be afraid to ask for a deal! The nice thing about farmers markets is that they usually have control over their prices whereas the cashier at the grocer does not.
  • Eat your yard. Grow your own! I generally do, but don’t have space to grow every thing since I live in the city… which brings me to my next tip…
  • Consider a CSA. Usually you pay up front for a share, and if you can’t grow your own, this is the next best thing! A cute little box of farm fresh goodness!
  • Buy in bulk. I alluded to this above. A couple suggestions here… talk to your local butcher about buying a side or a quarter of beef. Then do the math. Chances are, as long as you have room to store it, it’s going to be cheaper than buying the same weight in specific cuts from the grocer. I also buy in bulk from the warehouse. We have a membership to Costco, and they have a ton of organic options that are the Kirkland brand, often cheaper than the name brand equivalent. This is how I save on a lot of organic dry goods as well as canned and frozen items.
  • Spend on the important stuff. Save your money where you can so you can afford to splurge on things are more expensive. For example, organic milk and eggs are pretty much always going to be more expensive than conventional. However, I can afford those by spending smart on everything else.
Alright friends! Lengthy, but I hope worth it! I’m off to put my feet up and eat some chocolate.