Discover Kids: Color Me Playhouse

My son received a Discovery Kids: Color Me Play house for his birthday from one of our friends.  I have to admit I had looked at them several times in the store.  We love playing with cardboard boxes and we love coloring, but something about "buying" the cardboard box put me off.  So I never made the purchase. Plus, it felt like a bit of a pop up coloring book and I like to let my little ones color outside the lines. 
I have to say though it has been a ton of fun.  It was simple to put together and sturdier than I thought it would be.  The kids immediately got to coloring.  They had a great time coloring and playing in the house.  It has been a bit of a "on going collaborative art project".  They "play" house and "work" one the house both together and independently.  One of my favorite moments is when my oldest grabbed a book, pillow, blanket, and lamp and headed inside the house for story time.  The other has to be my niece adorning the walls with family portraits.  :)  Super big thanks to our friends for the awesome gift.  It has been great for inspiring imaginative play!  We will be so sad to see it go.


Sprout School Opening!

This is our new "high-top table time table" Thankfully the big kids are big enough to climb up to the high top table where the supplies that tend to pose safety risks for the littlest can find safe refuge.  The bigger kids love it and are frequently choosing the spot for artwork and puzzle play.  
Last week we officially began our Sprout School year.  I love the "opening" of sprout school.  It's so much fun to sort through the learning closet and set up our table time environments and supplies.  This year my excitement is a bit amplified because we have joined a "tot school co-op".  One of the primary reasons I wanted to open myself up to the co-op experience was the opportunity to have focused weekly co-op days.  I am so excited to join up with other families working on similar skill sets.  However, the co-op doesn't officially start for a few more weeks. Regardless, I decided to begin at my same old start time right along with our local public schools.

When the co-op officially begins I will have to re-sort some things a bit to accommodate the curriculum, which I haven't yet seen.  One of the great things about the co-op is that they are providing the accompanying curriculum.  I am convinced that the Chief Moms in Charge will do a great job.  Which is why I am calm as a cucumber about waiting so close to start time to see the curriculum.  None-the-less I am not abandoning my Montessori at Home curriculum.  I love it too much!! Plus, I am confident we will be able to fold it in nicely.

One thing that I have learned on the implementation side of curriculum planning is that you have flexibility to adapt and cater learning objectives to suite your specific needs.  From a practical skill, Language, and Cultural perspective I have my calendar pretty well set through November.  I will be posting those initiatives ... and their inevitable modifications on the sprout school page starting September 1st.  Also, much to my delight, I have received a couple of requests for the planner pages I created for last year.  I'm so glad some of you found the pages helpful!  Happy Opening of School!!   


Cunchy Goey Mozzarella Bites

This is a delicious fun treat that you can have ready in under 15 minutes ... depending on how fast your oven heats up!  It's always a big hit at our house and usually leaves zero left overs!  And in case you were wondering I didn't just forget the "r" in crunchy.  My little one always calls these "cunchy, goey, delicious" so I had to keep the r out when naming this blog post.  Heeh ... silly, but true.


- Organic String Cheese

- A bowl of Organic Skim Milk

- A can of Happy Munchies Crushed (Chedder  and Kale prefered)

- 1 tbsp Organic Italian seasoning

1.  Open a few strings of organic string cheese.  (I typically use low moisture Mozzarella.) 
2.  Slice them into 1 or 2 finger wide bite size bits.
3.  Mix together the can of crushed muchies and Italian seasoning.

4.  Dredge the bits through the skim milk.
5.  Then coat well with the muchie dry mixture. 
(I usually have my little help me with this part dropping the bites in the can and letting him shake it up.  Be sure the lid is on tight if you go this route to. Then when putting them on the baking sheet. I give each on a little squeeze to help smash in the crumbs.)

Tip: If you have time, pop them in the freezer for a half hour to an hour.  It helps them to hold thier shape when they are in the oven.

6.  Heat your oven to 425.
7.  Pop the bites in for about 8-10 minutes.  But keep an eye on them.  I start watching at around 5 minutes.  You want them to get bubbly and goey but still hold thier shape.  :)

Crunchy outside ... goey inside ... a classic and delicious combo!


Oh No, Metro!!!

This morning we headed to a terrific local haunt for Sunday brunch, The Metro Diner.  It is a great place to indulge in some decadant casual dining.  I was confident based on my previous experience at another one of thier locations that we would enjoy a great atmosphere & that they would be happy to accommodate my son's peanut and egg allergy.  Sadly, that was not the case.  Upon reviewing the kids menu I explained our allergy needs and asked our waitress if the bread used in thier grilled cheese sandwich contained egg.  She responded quickly with, "No none of our bread has egg."  Then when browsing thier delicious menu I spotted "Yo' Halla French Toast".  It jumped out at me for two reasons.  Number One it looks like deep fried oh my goodness deliciousness.  But more importantly it uses tastey Challah bread as it's key ingredient.  Challah bread is a well known egg bread recipe.  When the waitress stopped back by I mentioned that most challah bread I knew of had egg in it and I was suprised if theirs didn't.  She then abruptly said, "Well ... I can go get my manager but what he is going to tell you is that we don't know the ingredients of our bread because it is provided by the Village Bakery."  This was horrifying to me. Primarily, because if I hadn't spotted the Challah bread, I might just have trusted the waitress and served my son a deadly sandwich.  I asked to chat with the manager any way so we could figure out an alternative. The manager came to the table.  I started from the begining explained my allergy needs and asked about the grilled cheese bread.  Happily, he didn't tell me he didn't know the ingredients, but sadly he did confirm that he had checked the ingredients and the white bread used for the grilled cheese did in fact contain egg.  So we ended up ordering baked chicken and fruit off menu.  Problem solved.

This is such a hard one for me because I have long been a Metro Diner fan and ulitmately we did recieve accomodation. But what keeps blowing up in my mind is ... why in the world that waitress would off the cuff say the bread didn't contain egg.  If you are just to busy to really research ingredients when costumers ask, please err on the side of caution and go with that it does contain the allergen!   Boooooooo!  Very dissappointed. 


Food Fight!

So it's that time of year again! The moment when I must take my son in for his annual food allergy testing. It is a crazy thing to prepare for. Basically, I pack an activity kit full of things to try to distract my son from the reality of being pricked about 17 times, then to be asked to sit still and wait 15 minutes not touching his back while hives potentially pop up all over it.

This year, while significantly better than prior years revealed that our food fight rages on.  I was so amazed at how brave my little was.  He clearly knows the drill and while he knew it wouldn't be fun he didn't fight the process at all.  The verdict is in we are still allergic to egg and peanuts, but happily all tree nuts have moved off the list!!   So here is to another year of imaginative cooking alternatives!  :)

Is your little in a food fight also?  Check out the printable labels I made for my little's bento box.  WN Bento Box Allergy Warning Labels As always our WN printables are free to download! For more great food allergy info check out: The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN™)


Five Spice Salmon

One of my best dinner tricks is having a store of frozen filets in my freezer.  Fish filets are easy to defrost and cook quickly or overnight in the fridge.  Next time you are in a pinch for a dinner recipe give this one a try! 

What you need:
4-6 salmon filets preferably with skin on one side
1/4 cup of brown sugar
2 tbsp. Dark Soy Sauce
2 tbsp. Sesame Oil
1pinch to a tablespoon of Chinese 5 spice
Pepper Flakes (optional)
1 lemon
Aluminum Foil

Preheat your oven to 450. 

Make your marinade: Combine the brown sugar, five spice, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a bowl.  Squeeze the juice of half a lemon in to your mixture.  Mix well.  It should be the consistence of a paste. 

Make Your Steam Pouches:  Tear off the a rectangle of aluminum foil for each filet you have.  You want to make sure you have enough foil to make a pouch around each filet. 

Fill Your Pouches:  Place each filet on your rectangle of aluminum foil.  Place 2-4 Tablespoons of the marinade paste on each filet.  Top each filet with a thin lemon slice and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.  (Pepper Flakes are Optional.  If you have someone who isn't a fan of spices just leave the off their individual filet).  Seal each pouch and place them in your preheated oven for 14 minutes so.  Ovens temps vary so much sure your filets are cooked before serving.

I serve the pouches in the aluminum foil on the plates of all adults.  But I remove the aluminum foil on the little one's plates.  Be careful as you open them.  Steam will pop out at you.  :)  My personal favorite side is sautee'd bok choy and spinach! 


Go To Places for Great Tot Printables

I love making fun printables for my little ones, but sometimes time is not on my side.  Here is a list of great blogs that offer free printables for tots.  Do you have any go to blogs for awesome printables? Leave a  comment below and let us know!

Counting Coconuts: I love this blog it's full of great inspiration and even better fun free printables and tutorials:

 Totally Tots:  This is a great blog family check out the for tots page to link to a family of blogs that has a ton of great printables and curriculum ideas.

Shannon's Tot School:  This site has a myriad of great pintables

Montessori Print Shop: The Montessori Print Shop has lots of great easy high quality print outs although most are not free they are worth wild.


Good Morning, Saturday!

There is a moment everyday where the night before greets the new morning.  I usually find myself at that moment gently laying my littlest one back to sleep after his last feeding of the night - or his first feeding of the morning - depending on how you look at it.  Assuming my wee one stays for a while in the land of nod, I have about an hour to an hour and half before my oldest wakes up ready for breakfast.   Most mornings I choose to try to get in a few more winks before the wind hits the flame of the new day.  However, I have discovered that on those days when I catch those last few winks … I find myself ultimately more tired.

This morning I resolved to stay awake.  Blurry eyed with a pinch of yesterday's headache, I noticed that my house was very still and quiet.  It was almost unsettling.  You see, I lived several years with quiet mornings, time for yoga, coffee, and the morning paper before heading off to my work day.   The quiet was familiar and warm but somehow strange and new.  I decided to do something I haven't done in a long time … my morning yoga routine.  If you where thinking now is when I am going to tell you it was like a breathe of fresh air … you'd be wrong.   I discovered this morning that two pregnancies, sketchy sleep patterns, and swapping my yoga routine for mommy and me yoga has left me considerably less flexible than I was a few years ago.  None-the-less it was fun and a bit comical. 

When I had reasonably made it through my sun salutations I found myself magically still in this little pocket of time. Quiet singing through hallways, the sun not yet up.  So I made myself a cup of coffee opened my curtains and watched the sun rise. IT WAS AWESOME!  Moments later my youngest began to cry ready for his morning cuddle and that was even better still, a morning cuddle with my baby at daybreak.  A few seconds later I heard a little voice beside me, "Good Morning Mama".  My oldest piled into my lap.  For a few miraculous minutes this morning, I was sitting in my favorite chair handed down from my grandparents, both boys on my lap welcoming the morning.  Then my oldest looked at me and said, "Hmmm it's time eat … breakfast … I could use some breakfast."  And so it began.  I am writing this post in between making breakfast, piloting a rocket ship, managing the  squealing demands of a baby who is irritated beyond measure with his cup.  My house is anything but quiet … and I couldn't be happier.

Good Morning, Saturday!!


Water Xylophone

Once again, I was inspired by the awesome moms at Play at Home Mom.  I saw a picture of a fun water xylophone that they made and decided to do the same for my little one as a post naptime pick me up.  We used food coloring to color the different notes and a fun assortment of household items to tap our xylophone with.  This activity of course needed supervision because we used glass, food coloring and water … but it was super easy to put together, implement and clean up. 

It's hard to say what our favorite thing was: humming along with the notes, coloring the notes, or exploring to find new things to strike the xylophone!  :)  Highly Recommended!


Beef Noodle Bento

My niece absolutely loves beef noodle soup.  My son likes it as well, but it's become a bit of a special treat that a make when my niece comes over.  This was never more evident to me than when my son examined the contents of our grocery cart identifying the ginger, the chili, the romaine lettuce and the steak … then squealing my nieces' name over and over again.  :) I have put a few small twists on a very traditional recipe from Ching He Huang. Give it a try ..

Mama Mia ... What fun!

After a rain storm this afternoon de-railed my grocery run, I found myself frighteningly close to the end of nap time with no real dinner plan.  Then my sister told me that a friend told her about a little Italian place that let's children "make their own pizza".  Given our food allergies I was prepared to hear that they couldn't accommodate us.  But much to my surprise … they were happy to make sure that the kitchen was safe my little to have the same experience they provide to all youngsters.   It was an allergy mom's dream a restaurant that is so proud of their kitchen they actually let you in.  True enough the food was not organic, and not perhaps the healthiest choice for an everyday dinner … but man did it make for a fun and "Delicious" night!

Mama Mia's Pizzeria and Italian


Who Needs an Easel?

Okay, yes, easels are awesome!  But in a tight space it can be hard to accomodate the size of setting and keeping up an art easel.  In our home tight space plus the addition of a newborn has made finding the time to prep for setting up the easel inside the house a bit challenging.  One of our new favorite things is coloring on the sliding glass doors.  All you need is window markers and some imagination.  It's simple ... push back the curtains or blinds and hand your little some window markers.  P.S. It's also great fun for the cat hanging out on the porch!  :)

Small note about the window markers.  While they are not listed as washable off of fabric.  I've found clean-up to be a breeze.  The markers wipe right off the window and skin with a moist paper towel. 

What is your go to quick and easy art idea?

The Wasting Nothing Philosophy

Playing, cooking, reading, exploring, loving, laughing, and making a mess with your little one is NEVER a waste of time! It is priority one! It's not just about getting to know your little one. It's about letting your little one get to know you!