Sunday, May 30, 2010

Great find - SWEEP DREAMS Broom

Yesterday, I popped into one of my favorite stores in Escondido, CA, REVERIE, and purchased a SWEEP DREAMS Broom for my son.  It is handcrafted out of 100% renewable sorghum and bamboo from Thailand.  It is dyed with non-toxic colors, and assembled by workers under fair labor conditions and compensation.  The one I bought for my son is kid sized, but I think I may go back and get one for me that is full sized.  They are beautiful.  I needed to buy a new broom anyway, and this one sure beats anything I would have bought at the nearby big box store.  

Check out their website, they have lots of cool stuff.  (We have one of their mats, too!  And LOVE IT!)

And here is Reverie's site:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Homemade French Fries

Homemade French Fries are one of our favorite things to make around our house.  Maybe not the most healthy in the world, but at least we can say we make them with love!

Vegetable Oil
Yukon Gold Potatoes - sliced thinly, or julliened
White Granulated Sugar
Seasoning Salt
Straining Ladle, Slotted Spoon, or Slotted Spatula
Paper Towels

Heat oil in a large pot.  It must get hot before you toss in the potatoes, but make sure the oil does not burn.  I always toss one potato in to see if the oil is ready.  If the potato immediately starts to bubble, then I know I am good to go.  Turn the potatoes a bit as they cook, to be sure all sides are browning evenly.  When the potatoes turn golden brown, they are ready.  Take them out of the oil and place them on a plate lined with paper towels.  Pat some of the excess oil off.  Sprinkle the sugar and the seasoned salt on the potatoes, making sure to get all sides covered.

Here are some neat ways to enjoy your fries:

With Spicy Ketchup
Mix in your favorite hot sauce (mine is Tapatio) with regular ketchup.
Aussie Style
Dip first in sour cream, then in Sweet Thai Chili Sauce.
Brit Style
Smother them with yellow curry sauce.
Texas Style
Smother them with gravy.
Spanish Style
Melt Manchengo cheese over fries and top with caramelized onions.


""A child's smile is like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.""

Author: Unknown

""If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it""
Author: Andy Rooney

"A child's smile is one of life's greatest blessings."
Author: Unknown

"A laugh is a smile that bursts."
Author: Mary Waldrip

"A smile costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes last forever."
Author: Anonymous

"A smile is a language even a baby understands."
Author: Unknown

"A Smile is truly the only thing that can be understood in any language."
Author: Unknown

"Don't worry about wrinkles they're just antique smiles."
Author: Unknown

"Keep smiling - it makes people wonder what you've been up to."
Author: Unknown

"Start every day off with a smile and get it over with."
Author: W.C. Fields

"A smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks."
Author: Unknown

""Don't cry because it's over...Smile because it happened.""
Author: Dr. Seuss

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sunscreen Can Affect Fish and Turtles - Gotta Read This!

So, at some point last night, I feel asleep with the t.v. still on.  When I woke up early this morning, Bill Nye The Science Guy was on.  He was talking about SUNSCREEN.  Many sunscreens contain sodium benzoate, which wash off in the ocean as we are swimming, or wash off in our showers (and down our drains, and eventually back to our oceans) after a long day at the beach - and fish and especially, turtles, are being adversely affected by this chemical.  

By sodium benzoate leaching into these waters, it is exposing wildlife to high levels of estrogen which can cause them to CHANGE SEX!  The younger and smaller the fish, the more prone they are to this phenomena. 
So, "The Science Guy" suggests we look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide, instead.  Also, wearing UV protectant clothing is an option.  Since summer is upon us, I thought this was good info for us all to have.  

Also, check out:
for a great blog post on sunscreen!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Seeing" Design

Design is everywhere.  It is in nature:  the way a long leaf curls onto another leaf, and then gives way to a flower.  It is in the sidewalk:  the way the crevices and cracks form an impromptu pattern on the ground.  It is in in your child's smile : the way the corners of the mouth gently curve upward onto plump cheeks you just want to pinch - they are so cute!

Take the time to "see" design.  You will see your house, your yard, the "usual" things in a very different light.  You can even keep a small journal to write down your discoveries.  This is a great project for both parents and kids alike.  It will stretch your creativity and writing muscles.  

Yummy Trail Mix

Check out the bulk bins at your local health food store.  There are lots of fun items to choose from - and the kids love picking out their favorites.  (Plus the scooping and mixing are great "practical life" skills. )  Here is our most recent recipe:

1 scoop raisins
1 scoop dried pineapple (sweetened)
1 scoop dried shaved coconut (sweetened)
1 scoop peanuts (salted)
1 scoop pistachios (unsalted)
1/2 scoop chocolate chips

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

GREAT TOY! - Kapla Blocks and Keva Planks

We first saw Keva Planks at The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego.  The Keva Plank area was packed with kids (and adults) intently building their own masterpieces of architecture.  They were building these amazing structures by stacking the planks.  No glue and no connectors.  Each plank is identical.  
As the Keva site says, "They can be stacked upright which looks like it would be unstable as a house of cards, but even this type of structure is surprisingly stable."

Then, a friend gave my son Kapla Blocks for his birthday.  Each wooden block is also made of pine and is identically sized and shaped.  They are intended to be stacked, and you can stack them REALLY high, depending on your design.  They are all weighted the same.  The blocks are certified green from renewable forests of Marine pine near the Bordeaux region of France.  They are used as educational toys in France, and I bet you might find them in some Montessori schools here in the States.  A model Eiffel Tower made of thousands of Kapla blocks was exhibited in 2008 in the Cité de l'Architecture in Paris. Kapla has also shown at the Louvre and at the Children's Museum of Manhattan. These toys are beautiful, practical, "green," and will capture your child's imagination for years.  (I like to play with them too, I must admit!)

The Keva Planks are produced here in the US.  Check out their site at:

I found Kapla Blocks on  Here is a link to the basic set:

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words...

One of my favorite places...
One of my favorite photos...
One of my favorite memories...

Homemade Liquid Hand Soap

Have you ever looked on back of those bottles in your bathroom?  It has been said that the most dangerous chemicals in your household could be sitting on your bathroom shelves.  Even the stuff that says "natural" and "organic" may be fooling you.  And being a parent, the last thing I want to do is soak my boy in chemically laden soaps!  So, I am on a mission to bathe and wash without chemicals.  Here is my recipe for liquid hand soap - works just as good as the store bought stuff - smells great - NO chemicals!  
1 part Dr. Bronner's Pure Castille Soap
1 part Vegetable Glycerin
Several drops of lavender essential oil
Several drops of lemongrass essential oil

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lessons and Rewards

My son and I have started a new tradition.  Each week, he chooses "lessons" from a chart which hangs on his bulletin board.  The list of lessons is as follows:


He can do as many or as little lessons as he wishes.  And, there is really no set lesson time.  Just when he feels like doing a lesson.  So, we're are pretty loose!  One day he may say, "Let's do a cooking lesson."  And out come the pots and pans, and I create a learning experience for him.  
We tally our lessons for the week, and at the end of the week we add up our total.  Based on how many lessons we did, we determine how many points he has earned.  He earns a point per lesson.  At this point, we pull out an old top hat with little papers folded inside.  The papers are like coupons.  One may say, "Redeem for 4 quarters."  One may say, "Trip to the park with mom."  Or, "Ice cream!"  

3 lessons = 1 "draw" from the hat
5 lessons = 2 "draws" from the hat
7 lessons = 3 "draws" from the hat
10 lessons = 4 "draws" from the hat 

We love doing this.  Learning is fun, because he gets to pick what he wants to do.  And, the rewards are sweet!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Worm Composting - BLACK GOLD!!!

Okay, it looks a little gross!  But earthworms are amazing little creatures.  They help to break down the organic matter in your compost bin and produce the most AMAZING fertilizer for your garden...worm castings!  (Yes, worm poop.)  But did you ever look to see what is in some store bought fertilizers?  Everything from sewage sludge (BAD) to bat guano (poop) (GOOD.)  

Here is how to make your own compost heap - which you can harvest into this fantastic fertilizer.  The cheapest method (while still keeping tidy) is to create a wooden box.  You don't really need a lid.  But, you should drill some holes in the bottom for air circulation.  The box should be at least 3' x 3'.  On the bottom, place wet, shredded newspaper.  The worms like that.  Then add some garden soil.  Next, add some green matter which will provide nitrogen.  Green matter can be anything from kitchen scraps (veggies, fruits) to grass clippings.  Do not put anything in there that has had non-organic herbicide, insecticide, or fertilizer on it.  Also, no cat or dog poop.  And, no meat products.  Then, cover with brown matter (dried brown leaves, small sticks, straw).  This provides carbon to the compost bin. You can also throw in crushed egg shells, paper towel tubes, fireplace ashes, paper towels, tissue, and dryer lint.   I like to cover the whole pile with brown paper bags, or palm tree "paper" that has fallen off my palms.  You could also use a small tarp.  This keeps the rodents away.  

You can buy red earth worms from your local nursery.  Sometimes they may need to order them, so call ahead.  Place the worms in the bin, but be sure not to put them right in the center of the pile, due to the heat of the compost.  They will find their way to the good stuff.  (PS - They don't like citrus rinds.)

Keep the bin slightly moist (like a wringed-out sponge.)  You will also get faster breakdown if you "turn" the pile every few days.  After some time, you will have rich, dark brown "humus"- the BLACK GOLD fertilizer - which you can sprinkle around the base of your plants before watering.  

There is really no way to screw up the compost bin - the organic matter will break down no matter what.  With a bit of extra care - it will break down faster.  The worms help this a lot.  Plus, the big bonus for me is that a compost bin with worms has virtually no flies and pests.  Bugs hate worm poop.  "So, bring it on, worms!  Poop away!"


"Children are one third of our population and all of our future."  ~Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981

Laundry Time!

The sun is out.  No need to run that dryer!  Have you ever smelled line-dried clothes?  No perfume or fragrance can duplicate how crisp and fresh clothes are after drying on the laundry line.  And, what a great way to bring Montessori's "practical life" outdoors?  Here's what you need:

A laundry line.
Wooden clothes pins.
A basket or bag to store clothespins in.
A laundry basket.
A shoe box or small container for socks

After you have washed your clothes, place the wet clothes in the laundry basket.  They are heavy, so do this task on your own.  Although, you can certainly explain to your child what you are doing.  Then, take the basket outside.  Your child can bring the basket/bag of clothespins.  Either use a step stool, or a low-enough laundry line, so that your child can help you pin the clothes onto the line.  Mother nature will take over from here!  When the clothes are dry, reverse the process.  You may bring the basket of clothes inside, while your child brings in the basket/bag of clothespins.  Together you can fold the clothes.  It is best to leave the napkins, washcloths, and socks to your child.  They can certainly handle it!  

For washcloths and napkins, have your child lay the napkin out in front of him.  Smooth out all of the wrinkles.  Bring the bottom to the top (folding the napkin in half).  Then, fold one side to the other (folding the napkin in quarters).  

For socks, the child can place one sock on top of the other.  Both will match directions.  He can smooth out the wrinkles.  Then he can roll the socks up.  When he finishes rolling each pair of socks, he can place them neatly in a shoe box or other small container, so they won't come unrolled.  That box can be taken to the child's room, and the rolled socks can be transferred to their drawer.

Your child will certainly enjoy spending time with you in this way.  Your dryer AND your electricity bill will get a break.  And your clothes will smell GREAT!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


We just signed our son up for Play-Well TEKnologies Lego camp again this summer.  He had a blast last summer, and this time he is taking the class with a friend - added bonus!!  If your child likes building things - this is the camp for them!  You get to "design and build motorized machines, catapults, pyramids, demolition derby cards, buildings and other constructions out of LEGO® bricks. While exploring engineering, architecture and physics, students will develop problem solving and critical thinking skills." The instructors bring in 1000s of LEGO® bricks, wheels, motors, you name it (all immaculately organized, I might add), and the kids learn all sorts of engineering and physics concepts.   

I had originally found out about this class from a friend of mine who home schools her son.  One day she said, "Oh, gotta get going!  We have our Lego class!"  "Lego class?!?!?"  I thought.  "That sounds like to coolest thing ever!"  So, I checked it out - and sure enough, Play-Well TEKnologies is all over the place - so I bet there is a class or camp near you.  Here's their website:

Monday, May 17, 2010


"What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not been discovered."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Or as I like to say...
"A plant whose virtues have YET TO BE DISCOVERED."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Montessori Journey

Last night, my husband and I attended a "Montessori Journey" at the school my son will be attending next year for 1st grade.  They let the parents simply observe (without talking, chatter, discussion) the Montessori materials for a bit.  This is the first step when introducing a Montessori lesson to a child.  The directress (teacher) does not "teach" anything in that first interaction with the material.  They let the student observe.  It is in the 2nd step, that the lesson is actually taught to the child.  At this point, they had the parents sit down and explore a few lessons.
I had a lesson in land and water formations.  There were 8 trays placed on a table.  Each had a land or water formation sculpted inside of the tray with clay.  I poured water into each tray.  I watched each tray fill up with water. (I also had to be sure I divided the water into eight somewhat-equal amounts - not to overfill.) I observed how the water played a part in the land and water formations in each tray (lake, gulf, bay, strait, isthmus, peninsula, etc...)  I placed a card next to each tray to identify each formation.  Then, I turned over a card that was the "control" for the lesson.  I checked my answers - a couple were wrong!  (But, no one was there to say, "That is not correct."  I was able to correct my own work - self correct. Next, I had to clean up my work.  I could not just dump the water back into the pitcher. (Although, that is what I wanted to do.) Part of the lesson was taking a small sponge and soaking up all of the water and ringing the sponge out into a different pitcher.  This took awhile.  At first, I didn't think the sponge could hold that much water.  I thought, "Oh, god, I poured way to much water into the trays!"  But, sure enough, little by little, all the water gracefully made its way into pitcher.  It almost felt meditative - quite zen-like - the act of methodically and rhythmically soaking up and ringing out the water.  At last, I took a towel and cleaned up any last droplets.  I made sure each tray was straight, and that the pile of cards was stacked neatly, and that the control card was turned face down for the next student.  
Wow!  What a treat it was to experience Montessori in this way!  It urges the student to take time - not to rush.  Such an important thing to instill in our little ones who are growing up in a very fast paced world.  So many different areas of learning went into that one lesson - not only geography, but reading, matching, fine motor skills, organizing, self-correcting, cleaning up... 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What My Montessori Son Has Taught Me

Jack has been in a Montessori program for 4 years, and will continue on next year into a primary Montessori program.  He has learned so much at his school, from his teachers, from his peers, and from his environment.  Through these past few years, he has brought home the things he has learned and has imparted his knowledge and his wonder unto us.  

1. He has taught me to care more for the Earth.
2. He has taught me to be more gracious.
3. He has taught me to "breathe."
4. He has put my life in perspective - my priorities are all in the right place.
5. He has taught me to take time and observe, be it a ladybug on a leaf or a majestic view.
6. He has taught me to draw outside the lines- literally and figuratively.
7. He has taught me the value of learning in a non-abstract manner.
8. He has taught me to pick up after myself and care for my things.
9. He has taught me to eat healthier.
10. He has taught me to go "organic"-with food, as well as with household and beauty products.
11. He has taught me how cool it is to make butter, or make soap, etc...
12. He has taught me the importance of teaching him the correct way to do things, and not to just assume he knows how to do it.
13. He has taught me patience.
14. He has taught me understanding.
15. He has taught me that his capacity for learning has no limits.
16. He has taught me the importance of research.  "If you don't know about something and want to learn more about it, research it!"
17. He has taught me that a three year old can meditate - and needs it.
18. He has taught me that he has a beautiful perspective on the cycle of life, the circle of life.
19. He has taught me that he can be responsible.
20. He has taught me that he can express his feelings and thoughts anytime, anywhere, in a wonderful way.  
21. He has taught me to care for people more.
22. He has taught me how to be a "citizen of the world."
23. He has taught me that I have made one of the smartest decisions of my life (and his) by allowing him to take the Montessori path of learning.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

OOHHHMMMM - Meditating with Your Child

No one is too young to meditate.  A couple years back, my son was having problems with constipation.  We tried everything...the traditional Western medicine approach - and when that didn't work out so well, we looked into ayurveda.  Then we added chiropractic care, then yoga, and meditation.  I couldn't help but smile one day when my son was sitting on the potty, in lotus position, trying desperately to "go potty" while singing the meditation song he learned in his yoga class.  
Meditating with your child can have the most profound affect on both of you.  You are both able to put things aside and simply focus on the present.  You are both able to calm your breath and calm your mind.  Here is a wonderful meditation practice you can do with your little one:

Sit facing your child.  If possible, sit in lotus (cross both legs) or half lotus position (cross one leg onto the other) on the floor.  If this is not possible, you can both sit in chairs facing each other.  Place your hands on the tops of your thighs, and have your child do the same.  Let your palms face the sky, "open to the to the universe."  Calm your eyes, and gently close them.  Your child can do the same.  

Lead him through some nice relaxing breaths.  Breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth.  Do several of these breaths together.  Then, as your child continues this breathing pattern, you can say "as we breathe in, we breathe in oxygen from the we breathe out, we nourish the plants" or "as we breathe in, we breathe in we breathe out, we let go of our problems."  Get creative, you can adapt these little mantras to your child and the things he is going through.  

After you have spent a little time on these guided breaths, just breath together in harmony.  Slowly open your eyes, and hug your child.  This is a wonderful bedtime ritual.  You could even follow it with a gentle massage using lavender lotion.  He should sleep like a baby!  (even if he is not a such a little baby anymore!)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Three tips from Ed

Just finished reading, "Living Like Ed," by Ed Begley. Jr. I watch his show on Planet Earth - a channel that I am rather addicted to. And I am pretty "in the know" with ideas for sustainable living - but his book certainly taught me a few things!  
1.  Did you know that those ratty blankets (that no one would buy at a garage sale, and Goodwill would throw away) are perfect for your local animal shelter? They need blankets all the time for bedding. So, we are going to hop down to our local shelter and supply them with some of our own.
2.  It is best to use your electricity during OFF-PEAK hours.  Now, I already knew this - but I didn't know there were 3 tiers of usage hours.  HIGH PEAK is from 1pm to 5pm on weekdays. LOW PEAK is from 10am to 1pm and 5pm to 8pm on weekdays. OFF PEAK is from 8pm to 10am on weekdays, and on weekends. So, it is pretty easy to throw in your laundry in the morning, or do your vacuuming. Not a problem to run that dishwasher after 8 at night.  
3.  Even if you can't afford to buy solar panels (which would start around $30,000), you may be able to lease them for a $500 deposit and monthly payments (which would be similar to your current electric bill!)
So, I encourage you to check to book out for more great ideas.  It is a quick and easy read.  His wife Rachelle also puts in her "two-cents," so it is lots of fun!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thankful Mornings

My son and I have established a new tradition in our morning routine.  The routine that includes me trying for 15 minutes to get him out of bed (poking, prodding, tickling, turning the lights on, turning the fan on, pulling the covers off), eating breakfast, going "poop," taking a shower, getting dressed, and finally getting out the door - YES, we have added a new element to our routine! When we finally get in the car, buckle our seat belts, and head down the road to school - we talk.  We talk about the things we are thankful for.  Today it was "Legos and mommy " for him and "springtime and Jack" for me.  It changes every morning.  It may be that he is thankful for his pets, or his artwork, or the sun, or peanut butter - but this newly established tradition puts a smile on his face and mine.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

STUFF - part one (George Carlin Talks About "Stuff")

Don't you ever wonder, REALLY wonder what our obsession is with STUFF? Remember this...?

STUFF part two (The Story of Stuff)

And then, don' t you wonder, REALLY wonder where our STUFF comes from and where it ends up? 

I was listening to Rosie Radio the other day on Sirius, and she was interviewing the remarkable Annie Leonard - the creator of "The Story of Stuff."  Here is what The Story of Stuff project is ALL about, according to her website:

The Story of Stuff Project was founded in June 2008 by Annie Leonard to leverage the remarkable success of The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute web-film that explores the often hidden environmental and social consequences of America’s love affair with its stuff. Currently, the film has been viewed over 10 million times on-line and in thousands of schools, houses of worship, community centers and businesses around the world. Our Project’s focus is on systems of production and consumption—in particular the harmful environmental and social impacts of current modes of producing, consuming and disposing of material goods.