Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Forgotten Recipe by Amy Clipston

We are finally seeing signs of fall here in the Old Dominion.  The days are crisper, shorter, and I feel the urge to stock up on books so I'm ready for the long winter months!

Being part of Amy Clipston's Bakery Bunch has been a great way to have one of my favorite authors always at hand.  I was so super excited to receive an advanced reader copy of her newest series.

The Forgotten Recipe is the first of another great new series, the Amish Heirloom Series.  

From Goodreads: Veronica Fisher knows how lucky she is to be marrying her best friend. Seth Lapp is kind, hardworking, and handsome—but most importantly, he loves Veronica.
When an accident on the job steals Seth away from her, a heartbroken Veronica is certain she will never love—or be loved—again. Yet when she discovers a batch of forgotten recipes and opens a bake stand to sell her Mammi’s raspberry pies, Veronica picks up a regular customer who gives her heart pause.
Jason Huyard was with Seth when he lost his life—a memory that haunts him still. So when he seeks out the grieving fiancĂ©e to convey his condolences, the last thing he expects—or wants—is to fall in love. Nonetheless, Jason soon finds himself visiting Veronica’s bake stand every week . . . and it’s for more than the raspberry pies.
Now, as Veronica’s heart thaws, Jason can’t bring himself to tell her he was there when Seth died. Can he ever reveal where he was on the day her life derailed? Or will his secret rob them of the second chance at love they both want? 

If you haven't guessed already, I'm a big fan of Amy Clipston and her work.  I knew this was going to be a book I enjoyed and once I pick up one of her books I manage to slip into the story.  And burn dinner.  Twice.  

The characters were so easy to connect with and well thought out.  Veronica and Jason both have so much pain over the loss of Seth.  The way they came together and how the story unfolded was natural and unhurried. Everything falls into place at just the right time.  The epilogue wraps up the story nicely and leaves a great teaser in it for the second book in the series, The Courtship Basket.  I will have a very hard time waiting for it to come out!

Amy's books keep getting better and better.  I truly love seeing how authors change and develop over time.  Amy's writing style grows stronger with each book she writes.  Fans of Amish Fiction and Amy Clipston won't be disappointed with this story.  

So curl up in your favorite chair, grab a slice of pie, and a copy of The Forgotten Recipe.  Happy Reading!  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Thinking Tree's Therapeutic Coloring Book and Dyslexia Games

We have been busy trying to find a rhythm for our homeschool.  This being my first year it has been a roller coaster!  We have been trying to find really great matches for our son's  learning needs.

When we adopted Marvin we knew he was born meth addicted and had Shaken Baby Syndrome.  The social worker calmly said "Love him and he will be fine."  Well, love has done amazing things but the abuse he suffered pre removal impacted his ability to lean.  Add to that the trauma of abuse and two school who let him fall through the cracks because they could not teach the way he learns you have a mess.

We did have him tested and with support from other special needs moms he's started the home school journey with me.  He has lots of learning blocks some of which are forms of dyslexia and ADHD.  I have spent hours and hours (because sleep is overrated) looking for materials that will capture his unique learning needs and are "cool" for boys.

So one day a mom with a large group of adopted kids mentioned the Thinking Tree.  I was intrigued. So I started looking at there stuff.  Holy Cow!!!  Books for a kid like mine?  Well the first one that caught my eye was this one:
Because who doesn't love coloring.  Sooo I placed it out with some new colored pencils and started school work with Marvin.  I started with math since I know it stresses him out.  Sure enough he started to amp a bit.  So I took the opportunity to introduce the coloring book.  I simply said, how about you color in this while I go over the lesson.  Well, it worked.  Marvin was immediately drawn in (sorry bad pun).  He enjoyed the book because he loves art.  

The best part about this is that there is a whole series of books from homeschool handbooks to Dyslexia Games.  If I had an unlimited budget I would have one of everything just because these are amazing resources.  The next book I hope to get is Multiplication Games because it looks like so much fun (imagine me saying that for math).  

Check out these great books!  Happy Teaching! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Naomi's Gift: An Amish Christmas Story

So I'm starting to notice a theme around here and it's I read Christmas stories year round:).  But in my defense the weather is cooler, my trees are turning colors and fall is starting to creep into Virginia.

I have been running around to lots of extra appointments with the kids as well.  I normally tote around my Kindle Fire but I just keep forgetting to charge the thing.  I'm just not technology forward so on my way to wait at yet another Dr's appointment for Cary Lynn I needed to grab a more portable book that I could take in my purse.

So I grabbed a copy of Amy Clipston's book, Naomi's Gift.  It was small and fit into my purse.

From the back: Naomi has begun to believe that she isn’t meant to find love, but she might receive more than she has ever hoped for this Christmas.

Twenty-four-year-old Naomi King has all but given up on marriage and children. As Christmas approaches, Naomi is certain that her life will be spent as an old maid, helping with the family’s quilting business and taking care of her eight siblings. Then she meets Caleb, a young widower with a 7-year-old daughter, and her world is once again turned upside-down.

Caleb, a widower, heads back home for the holidays.  He meets Naomi at the farmer's market and they form a connection.  

It was great to see how Naomi has grown and matured through the stories that Amy has told.  I really felt like she had learned her lessons from past hurts and was trying to do it right this time.  The story was full of twists and turns like I have come to expect from Amy's work and I was unhappy to have to stop reading.  I even told one of the Dr's that I had to just finish one more page.  That didn't sit well with him:).  

Caleb and Naomi are meant for each other but it seemed like the harder they tried the more forces tried to pull them apart.  Naomi's mother has doubts, Caleb's sister wants him to find a "proper wife", and Caleb's grief over the loss of his wife.  

So what happens?  Well you'll have to pick up a copy and read it for yourself!  So if you're ready for a nice holiday read (like me) and can't wait for signs of winter pick up your copy today! Happy Reading! 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Plain and Simple Christmas


I was very excited to see this book show up in the mail a few days ago.  It's hot and humid here in Virginia in August so what better time than to turn the ac up and pretend it's snowing.  

I always love my "visits" to the Kauffman Amish Bakery.  You see a lot of familiar faces and check in on characters you have gotten to know. 

This book focuses on Anna Mae.  From the excerpt: 

In the tradition of her widely popular Kauffman Amish Bakery series, author Amy Clipston tells the tale of Anna Mae McDonough who was shunned by her family four years ago when she left her Amish community in Lancaster County, PA, to marry an “Englisher” (non Amish) man and move with him to Baltimore. Now, eight months pregnant when her first child, she longs to return home for Christmas to reconcile with her family, especially her stern father, who is the religious leader for her former Amish church district.

So Anne Mae writes a letter to Kathryn Beiler, her brother’s wife, to enlist her help. Kathryn asks her husband, David, if she should arrange Anna Mae’s visit. David cautions her that a visit would cause too much stress in the family and instead suggests they visit Anna Mae and her husband in the spring. However, Kathryn arranges the visit anyway, believing in her heart that it’s God’s will for the family to heal.

When Anna Mae arrives in Lancaster for Christmas, the welcome she receives is nothing like what she had hoped for.

A book filled with love, the pain of being separated from one’s family, and the determination to follow God’s will regardless of the outcome, A Plain and Simple Christmas is an inspiring page-turner that will keep you guessing what happens next … right to the very last page.

I enjoyed getting a chance to read this story.  As I said, visiting familiar characters is always fun and the book was a quick and easy read (I'm a fast reader and had it done in a day but it's a quick weekend or holiday read if you can wait that long;) )

Anna Mae wants nothing more than to be part of her family again.  She is having a baby and wants to make piece and mend the broken bond.  She enlists her sister in laws help to make that happen.  Kathryn spends time praying and believes that God is leading her to help with the reconciliation.  

I don't want to spoil the book and give everything away but things don't always go the way the characters want.  Anna Mae's father is stubborn and not all the members of the family are ready to welcome her back with open arms.  The story kept me guessing as to what was going to happen and I was cheering Anna Mae on the whole book.  

The story was full of life and I loved the interactions between the feisty Kathryn and her family.  The message of listening to God and forgiveness echoed through the book.  A great holiday (or August) read.  Pick up your copy today and Happy Reading!  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Betrayed by Amy Clipston

I like finding hidden gems.  One thing I enjoy is when you have read an author for a while and then find out they wrote other things before they found a niche.  

That's the case with Amy Clipston.  I found her pre-Amish book Betrayed in my library a few weeks ago.  

Amy Clipston is know for Amish fiction and the Kauffman series.  I have really enjoyed them.  When we were at the library a few weeks ago my awesome son pointed out this book.  While I insisted there were more Amy's in the world he equally insisted that this was one of her books.  My son is a pretty smart cookie.  I made the mistake of putting the book on a table while I was helping the kiddos check out and the next thing I knew the book was gone!  I had to go on a wait list.  But this book was well worth the wait.  

Betrayed tells the story of Lacey, the daughter of a NASCAR team owner who has been in love with Reese for as long as she can remember.  Reese is driver on the team and had grown up with Lacey. He sees her as a kid sister an grew up with her.  He also dates around a lot. 

When Lacey's stepmother and father were killed in an accident she begins to suspect things aren't quite right.  She turns to Reese to help figure out what happened.  The story moves along at a good fast pace keeping you involved and guessing what will happen right until the end.  Will Reese and Lacey learn to trust each other?  Will they uncover what really happened to her parents?  Well, I'm not going to spoil it for you. 

Now I really enjoyed the book but I do want to give fair warning, this is a departure from Christian fiction.  If you are looking for bonnets and buggies you won't find them here.  It is a fiction, mystery, romance combination.  I'm glad my son found this little treasure and that it is still enjoying popularity in my neck of the woods.  Pick up a copy and enjoy!  Happy Reading!  

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Gift of Love One Woman's Journey to save a Life

The Gift of Love: One Woman's Journey to Save a Life

This summer my son and I are making a point to read more non-fiction this summer.  We both challenged each other to get out of the fiction and into different literary venues this summer. 

So I kicked back and picked up an Amy Clipston book.  She not only writes fantastic Amish and youth fiction she has an amazing story of her own to tell. 

In The Gift of Love, bestselling fiction author Amy Clipston shares her story of almost losing the love of her life to kidney disease and the ultimate sacrifice that kept their family together. An ordinary woman who cherishes family above all else, Amy was challenged in every way―from her strength of character to the depths of her faith to the close-knit family that surrounds her. Enduring the good, the bad, and the really bad, she was determined to help her husband once again be the husband and father their family needed.
Amy’s story will give hope and encouragement to anyone who finds themselves waiting on God. Staring down adversity, Amy and her family received the most important gift of all, the gift of love. And regardless of your situation, this gift can be yours too.
An inspirational story of strength and determination, The Gift of Love is the triumph of one woman’s faith against all odds, and a soul-filling reminder that no matter how hard life gets, it is worth fighting for.

This was a great read and hard to put down!  Amy tells the story in a fantastic way.  She weaves together a car accident and God watching out for her.  I felt like we could be sitting down for coffee (or tea in my case) and talking and following the journey.  

I loved how she was so real throughout the whole story.  How she described the ups and downs they went through and the road that led to the transplant.  Amy's love for her husband shines through.  

This book also shows the importance you can make in another person's life by giving of yourself and becoming an organ donor.  It's such a simple thing to do and can be life changing for someone else.  

So pick up a copy of the book and become an organ donor!  Happy reading!   

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Simple Prayer book review

One thing I love about Virginia is the changing of the seasons!  It is truly majestic here.  The thing I don't love is that everyone around here gets sick at the changing of the seasons! Normally I manage to stay healthy, but unfortunately I have succumb to a nasty virus.  

I hate being sick!  But while I'm down for the count I get to do one of my favorite things.  Read!  I am sitting in bed surrounded by tissues, meds, clear liquids and lots of books!  I'd take a picture but I have been quarantined in my room and I don't think you want to see my piles of tissues, lol.   

While my new Kindle is fired up and at the ready I still find myself reading "real" books.  There is something very comforting about the feel of a good book on your lap and a cat curled up on your toes when you are sick. 

My book of choice the past few days has been A Simple Prayer by Amy Clipston.  This is the 4th book in The Hearts of Lancaster Grand Hotel Series.  

Here is the book Blurb: Life has taken much from Linda Zook. Now she dares to hope for a chance at love and a new beginning.Linda Zook, 32, works part-time at the Lancaster Grand Hotel. As the sole survivor of a buggy accident that left her orphaned at age four, she was raised by her unwilling Uncle Reuben. Linda longs to be worthy of someone, but the life-long effects of her injuries and her upbringing under the care of her embittered uncle have destroyed her self-worth.Aaron Ebersol, 32, left the Amish community 17 years ago when he could no longer bear the restrictions or the constant tension with his father. He d written too many unanswered letters to his mother and found himself incapable of putting down any roots in his new home in Missouri. Success in work could not replace the family that denied Aaron, even after all of these years.Aaron hastily returns to the Amish community of Paradise, PA, after receiving word of his mother s stroke. Hesitant to get too close to the family he was once a part of, he decides to stay at the Heart of Paradise Bed & Breakfast. He soon encounters Linda, working there part-time, and they begin to develop a friendship.Aaron s return allows him to reconnect with his family as he jumps into home improvement projects, hoping to make his parents house more accessible to his handicapped mother. But before long, he is enraged to learn that his brother, Solomon, had hidden all of Aaron s letters to their mother.
Linda and Aaron must each learn to forgive the family members who have deceived and forsaken them. And Aaron must also show Linda that she is worthy of his love.

I really enjoyed this book.  Being part of the Bakery Bunch I got provided with an advanced reader copy.  Plus lots of time to read it!  

Amy does a fantastic job with her research and presenting the lives of the Amish.  Linda was someone that you cheered for the whole time.  She works hard and is treated horribly by her uncle.  She feels alone and unworthy of love and attention.  

Aaron left the Amish after he made an awful mistake.  He spent years writing to his family only to find out that the letters had never been received.  He comes back home after his mom becomes ill and is greeted with a lot of tension and resentment from his brother.  

Aaron and Linda meet at the Bed and Breakfast and form an instant connection.  They are both experiencing heartache over the way their families are treating them.  They find friendship, forgiveness, and well, you're just going to have to read the book yourself to find out the rest! 

There were many things I liked about the book.  As with all of Amy's books you can read them in a series or as a stand alone.  She does a good job on researching the Amish way of life as well!  The characters were well thought out and the story moved at a really good pace.  This book was a fantastic read and it will be available around the beginning of May. Pick up your copy today and happy reading!  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

An Amish Cradle book review

So first I want to say that it has been way too long since I posted!   It has been a much harder winter than I had planned.  Everyone has been so sick.  We are just getting done with the flu!  Ugh!

I am so happy to see March and spring.  I'm a winter girl at heart, but frankly I'm happy to see this past winter just go.  The only good thing that came out of being sick is I got to do lots of extra reading (when you sit at doctors for 2 plus hours you'd better have entertainment!).

I was so excited to read An Amish Cradle.  This is a great book by four very talented writers with four very different short stories.

My son insisted my daughter "model" the book.  Just like my life the women in these stories had their lives change with the arrival of a new little one.  And things just don't always go as planned, like my "photo shoot".  As you can see someone was not quite enthusiastic about it!

In His Father's Arm's by Beth Wiseman leads off the stories in the book.  Ruth Anne has spent her whole life just wanting to be a mama.  When her son is born with Down syndrome her life is turned upside down.  Having two special needs kids I really connected with Ruth Anne.  I think I cried through a good part of the story.  Ruth Anne struggles to find peace and a place for her and her child. She meets unexpected friends along the way and finds strength she didn't know she had.  Beth Wiseman did an amazing job with this story and I would have to say this is my favorite one she has written.  

A Son for Always by Amy Clipston is the second story.  Carolyn became pregnant out of wedlock with her first child, Benjamin.  She has worked hard her whole life to make sure that he is supported. When she married Joshua and they found out she was expecting she is very unsure that her husband has room in his heart for her first son.  She worries and worries because that is what moms do.  I loved how this story showed that even in the Amish world they still have problems and are not perfect people.  The characters were easy to relate to and a really great read! 

A Heart Full of Love by Kathleen Fuller comes next.  Ellie became blind in an accident many years ago.  When she becomes pregnant her mom, who is already incredibly hovering, kicks into high gear. She insists her daughter can't handle twins and moves in.  The tensions rise and it becomes a battle ground.  I rooted for Ellie when she stood up for herself.  But finding out the reason why her mom couldn't cut the apron strings was heartbreaking.  Another home run in this book.  

An Unexpected Blessing by Vannetta Chapman is the last short story in the book.  Etta thought she was finished having children, but God had other plans.  She finds herself pregnant at 42.  She is missing her son David, who has left the community and also worried about the future of her farm. Will she ever find peace and be reunited with her son?  This story was a great end to a really good book.  

An Amish Cradle was a fantastic read with four very talented writers.  Pick up, or check out this book!  You'll be glad you did!  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Reviews on Roadside Assistance and Destination Unknown

I will admit most of my Kindle and bookcase are taken up with Amish Fiction or natural disaster stories and biographies(the latter ones are the hubs, I can't get into how nuclear reactors destroy the world, lol).  Fiction is solace and escape for me in a busy crazy upside down world.

I was so privileged to meet Amy Clipston a few weeks ago!  She also brought me books!!  And since I had a million hour car ride (at least it felt like that with two small kids!) I was able to burn through a few of them.  Since I had been lucky enough to have the third book in her ya series I decided the logical place to start was to go back and read the first two.  They were fantastic!  I felt really drawn in right from the get go.  Plus it really made a difference for me.  You can read them as stand alone books, but they really are better as a series.  You really can get a better appreciation of the characters in the book.   Both books did their job of telling a great story, character development, and a nice paced moving plot.

In Roadside Assistance Emily Curtis' life is turned upside down by her mother's passing and her father loosing everything they had. They are forced to move in with family that Emily isn't happy about. From the aunt that criticizes every last thing, the grandma that only seems excited about her cousin, the uber perfect blonde cheer leading cousin who has it all. Emily has lost a lot including her faith in God. The only place she finds solace is under the hood of a car repairing things. 

The story moves along at a good pace, the characters are really likeable. When Emily meets Zander and starts making friends in her new life she slowly learns that not everything is as it seems. I won't go too much more into it because I think you should read the book:). 

In Destination Unknown Whitney Richards seems to have it all on the surface. Blonde, cheerleader, popular, the right neighborhood, money, and dating a football player. 

But then her life starts to unravel. She gets a D in calculus and her mom goes in to panic mode and hires a tutor. Taylor enters the picture and life changes. 

Whitney starts to question who she is as a person and pushes hard against a mother that seems determined to control her every waking second. From what she eats to who she associates with. Whitney has to push back hard. And she does! This girl is no slouch and she shows that she is capable of fighting against what society expects and becoming what she is called to be. 

Both books will appeal to many different reader groups.  It's great for bookclubs because it has some awesome discussion questions that could spark some lively conversation.  Young adults will enjoy these books because the characters are so easy to relate to.  These are also fantastic vacation and unending car ride reads!  Grab them and enjoy!  Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pattern Blocks and Boards by Melissa and Doug

We are back after a week away in Florida.  It was great vacation but we were greeted by a really big (for Virginia) snow.  My son was supposed to go back to school today but with a whopping 4 inches the world sort of comes to an end.

So after a week away I wasn't going to have them sit around today.  I already had work on the docket for Cary Lynn but it was easy to include Marvin in many things.

One thing I think is an absolute necessity to have in a Montessori home school or school are materials that can be used in multiple ways and in multiple places in a classroom.  The more use the more bang for your buck.

One of my all time favorites is Melissa and Doug's Pattern Blocks.  I can't say enough good things about them!  They are beautiful, sturdy, and can be used in multiple ways in the classroom.

The shapes are lovely as are the boards.  They are nice, wooden, and very well loved in this home.

The ways you can use this are endless.  In Practical Life you could take two of the shapes and have the child sort them with tongs or tweezers and separate them.  In Sensorial you could use the boards and shapes for puzzles (or Practical Life).  You could just put out the shapes in an attractive basket and let the child make patterns.  I found by letting them have open ended activities in Sensorial that they used the tower of cubes and the broad stairs the appropriate ways.

Please ignore the mess we are still getting unpacked.  But as you can see Marvin enjoyed building them on and off of the boards.  

My daughter was exploring the yellow blocks sensory wise until she figured out I had a camera.  

In Math you can explore the names of shapes, count and pattern.  

In language you can play I spy to make sure the child understands the name of the shape.  

In the Culture area if you are studying a butterfly and you just want a simple extension exercise for your littles put out the butterfly board.  You are only limited to your creativity on this product.  

I was able to catch a good sale on Amazon and this will last for years!  Hope this gives you some ideas!  Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Miles From Nowhere

Reading in my house is a luxury.  I have two special needs kids and my days are never dull!  So when I do have those precious moments to kick back and read I want to have a book that I know I'm going to enjoy!

So when one of my very favorite writers comes along I am going to grab the book, hide where ever I can find a quite spot (I have been known to hide out in my closet with the door closed and a flashlight) and read.  Amy's book was no exception.  I had the book read in three days (it would have been two, but I do have to sleep sometimes!).

From the back of the book:

Chelsea Morris has always been responsible, dependable, and focused on her dreams of fashion design—a dream that will officially begin come fall, when she leaves for college in New York City. And as she settles into her role as the lead designer for the local summer stock theater group, she decides to make the most of her last summer in North Carolina. But with her best friend Emily busy working late and spending time with Zander, and tensions with Chelsea’s boyfriend, Todd, running high, the summer she envisioned seems to be falling flat.

Then Dylan joins the latest summer production. There’s something about the college boy that makes her feel free and alive, and soon she’s broken up with Todd, and is sneaking out late to meet Dylan at parties and breaking rules at the playhouse. But before she knows it, her exciting nights are interfering with her job, her role on the play, as well as her relationship with Emily and with her parents. Worse, Chelsea finds herself feeling more and more estranged from God.

As the summer becomes wilder than she ever dreamed, Chelsea must decide if her heart is leading her in the right direction after all.

This book will appeal to a wide variety of readers.  It will draw in young adults as many of them have either walked the proverbial mile in Chelsea's shoes or know someone who has.  It will also appeal to adult readers as well as they can sympathize with Chelsea's family or remember their own youth. This would make a fantastic book club book or one that a family could read together and discuss.

I really found myself identifying with Chelsea and reliving some of my own life path choices.  I don't want to put too much in and spoil the story.  But I really love the way that I was drawn in very quickly and how everything flowed together.

I did only have one real problem.
Ahem, someone didn't want to let me read my book!  You can't leave anything around sometimes:).  

Seriously, this is a fantastic book and I was very lucky to get an advanced copy.  The book comes out in April and it is a fantastic read!  Plan on picking up or downloading your copy, you won't be sorry! Happy Reading!

(I was provided this book in exchange for an honest and fair review)

Egg Muffin Cups

If you are anywhere near facebook or pinterest you get flooded with all kinds of recipes.  I love having so much information at my fingertips but it can be overwhelming!

So I kept seeing these egg muffins come up over and over again.  I decided to give them a try.  They are low FODMAP and very versatile.

The first thing I learned is that you need muffin liners for your muffin pan.  I know you probably see them straight in the muffin pan but many people who have tried them claim that they have ruined their pans because they can't get the egg out.  I only have one pan and I don't want it ruined!  So I put in muffin liners and lightly misted them with a little olive oil.

Here's the fun part!  You can put in whatever you want in the muffins.  You want veggies, pile them on!  Cheese?  Go for it!  There is no wrong way to fill them!

As for me I used some leftover rice (it sounds weird but the hubs and Marvin really like the combo), grated extra sharp cheddar cheese, and some sliced ham.
I piled them high, but you can stick less in.  Then I scrambled 12 eggs and 4 tablespoons of lactose free milk.  I put pepper in too. (Your family may like a dash of hot sauce, my tummy can't take it!). 

I filled up the cups with the egg batter.  Then all my feeds said to put it in a 200 degree Celsius oven. Ummm... yeah did the conversion on that and decided to make my life simple.  I put it in at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  They came out great!  
Now they aren't as pretty as the ones you see on line, but they are a first try and are so yummy!! They provided two dinners and two lunches.  You can refrigerate for a few days and they can be frozen and reheated (if they last, mine didn't).  Enjoy and Happy Eating!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What we are working on this month!

I wear lots of hats in this blog, but it was either that or write a ton of other blogs and I didn't really want to do that:).

We have been very busy in our Montessori home school.  Soon we will be on our way to Florida for a mid winter vacation so I'm trying to cram in as much learning as I can.

My son (who goes to school) had a snow day but by keeping a list on the fridge chalkboard he was able to choose his work and finish it at his own pace.  It worked really well and was a testament to all the early Montessori years.

For my daughter I do struggle more.  She is fairly non mobile, non verbal, and would happily sit in her beanbag chair in the sunshine every day.  But life doesn't work like that.  (Although she would like it to!).  I find that she isn't interested in the things that I painstakingly plan and lay out.  To follow this child is quite a bit more challenging!

I have manage to spark her interest in animals!  I attended a great conference once and the woman spoke on how we should just introduce the young child to biomes.  A biome is deserts, forests, grasslands, tundra, and several types of aquatic environments. Each biome consists of many ecosystems whose communities have adapted to the small differences in climate and the environment inside the biome. All living things are closely related to their environment.  Tah-Dah!  

So now I am busy!  I got rid of the current science and culture works on the shelves, raided the library and we are getting ready.  I will start in the ocean since I have tons of stuff on that! We have begun reading books, exploring wet and dry concepts, and I have some great ideas for Practical Life.  

I do have to temper things a bit.  Cary Lynn relies on technology to speak for her so I have to keep her IPad dry.  That is a whole other issue I'm grappling with.  How much is too much and how much is necessary.  

I will try to get some pics of things up and running and I am already looking into another contest when I get back from our vacation!  Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Punkin' Mac Attack!

With all that's been going on I realized that I haven't done much about eating!  Lots of good stuff with reading and teaching, but I've heard from my fellow fodmaps, hey hello, where is the food!

Fear not!  I promised recipes and here is a new one that you may not have seen.

For those of you who wonder, I was diagnosed with IBS a few moths back.  There are several factors/theories as to how I got it, but it really doesn't matter.  My son, who seems determined to be "just like mama" was diagnosed yesterday.  His gi dr and dietician were thrilled when I whipped out my Monash info (more on that in another post) and we will work together to tailor a diet for my son.
Basically fodmap is short for a group of dietary sugars, Fermentable Oligo-sacchariarides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols.  Try saying that 5 times fast.  Anyway, my intestines don't absorb them as well.  I have to be careful what I eat. So the burning question often comes up, what do you eat??  Do you eat??  The answer is I eat.  I eat well.  I just have to put more thought into what I eat.

In the old days before IBS when the hubby called working late Marvin and I would pig out on chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and canned fruit.  Easy, quick, and really unhealthy.  But it has been another crazy week and it's only Tuesday!  We had a crippling snowfall of 1/2" here in Virginia. At least my neck of the woods.  Shannon had to work late and Marvin and I needed a comfort meal.

So I started with the chicken.  Both Marvin and I have gluten indolence's.  So a processed nugget was out.  I had chicken breasts, but Marvin isn't a fan of them.  So I tried something new with them in hopes of making them seem exciting.  I started with a 400 degree preheated oven.  I then buttered a casserole dish
I then put the chicken breasts in the dish, threw a little butter, salt, pepper, rosemary, and basil on the chicken.  Then I did something wild and crazy.  I put aluminum foil on the chicken and tucked it in tight.  
This way the chicken poaches in the oven, keeping it moist and yummy.  
I cooked it until it got to be 165 degrees.  Easy.  And yummy.  Plus Marvin and I split a breast so it makes leftovers.  Which is good.  I love having another night or two of meals out of one meal.  

Now the next part Mac and cheese.  I was so upset when I found out gluten was not my friend.  Some can tolerate it, I can't.  Also Marvin has had lots of issues with it as well.  So I tried rice noodles, rice, and some other gluten free products.  I wasn't happy.  The Barilla came to the rescue!!
I love them and they taste really good!!  Almost like real noodles!  Yum.  So I take about 3 cups of uncooked pasta and cook it.  While that's cooking I make the sauce.  

You start with 2tbls butter or butter sub if you can't do butter (we can thank heavens!).  Melt it in a pot.  When it melts add 2 tbls of gluten free flour (I like gf King Arthur).  After it thickens slowly add 2 cups of lactose free whole milk (or whatever milk you can tolerate).  When that thickens add 1 cup of cheese (we used grated sharp cheddar but you could use fontina or gruyere).  Then add 1/2 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  Let it melt in.  Then you add some seasonings.  1/2 tsp dried sage leaves and salt and pepper to taste.  Then comes the pumpkin.  I love pumpkin.  I'm also glad I can still eat it.  Canned pumpkin can be a moderate fodmap to some so use caution.  I put one can of pumpkin in. 
Doesn't that look good?  Now if my son had any clue this had pumpkin in it he would have a fit and refuse to eat it.  So I just don't share that part.  Taste and adjust.  If you aren't on low fodmap you could throw in some onion powder or garlic.  I put a lot of pepper and sage in.  

Then you throw it in about a 9 by 9 baking dish and root through your freezer for the tail ends of the gluten free bread you hoard because no one wants to eat heels.  
I took a handful, stuck it in the toaster and shredded it up in a bowl with more parm and sage and threw it on the top of the mac and cheese.  I baked it at 350 until it was bubbly and browned 20-30 mins.  
Tah-dah!!  How easy is that.  And yummy.  To finish it off I just sliced some fresh veggies for me and the boy.  Red peppers for him, tomatoes for me.  
It's a far cry from what we used to eat, but it tastes so good!  It was worth the extra time it took.  Plus Marvin ate two helpings of the mac (so did I, just small portions though).  He thought it was great. So I have a winner dinner that I'll be putting into regular rotation!  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

We Have A Winner!!


It was a good first contest!  This week we have had a whirlwind week of Montessori, doctors, and therapies.

Cary Lynn has enjoyed working on her puzzles and I'm working on a second giveaway in February.  I have some more unused curriculum's and some materials I purchased for my daughter and realized it's not exactly what we needed so my loss will be your gain.  Also I have a dressing frame coming up as well!  So all sorts of goodies!!  Yay!!!  I love a chance to help out and give back!!  So lots of chances to win fun stuff.

I placed the names in a hat and my son insisted on putting on a blindfold and a scarf.  It was so funny. Of course no camera when I need one!  Go figure!

Congratulations Christie Vanavi!!!

Please contact me through the blog with your address.  Don't worry no one else can see it, I have to approve the post before it goes on!

Congrats and keep your eyes peeled for more great stuff!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Giveaway Time!!

As any Montessori person could probably tell you, they have a lot of stuff.  Most of it very well cared for.

I am proud of my hoarder status, lol.  But what I am realizing is that I don't need it all.

So my mission is to spread the knowledge and share the largess.  And to find my master bedroom closet once again!

When I was in training I was told that this was mystical knowledge and should be kept hush hush. After all we didn't want just "anyone" to have all star access.  The same was true when I became a teacher at most of my places.

Then I became a stay at home mom/home school renegade teacher.  And people asked questions.  I joined groups and learned so much.  I have a love of learning and sharing knowledge.  It's how we grow.

So I decided that I wanted to give back and help others on this journey.  There are only so many things I can use.

When my daughter came home I bought this book off of Amazon.  It's called Montessori House: Curriculum for Infants and Young Toddlers Birth to Eighteen Months.
I had all the intentions in the world of using it.  It is an amazing book and the lessons are easy to follow and execute.  I love that they include records and that it is laid out really nicely.  Unfortunately my daughter spent most of her first year with us either in the hospital really sick, living at doctors, or at therapists.  So from 9 months plus her life was mostly about survival.  I laid the book aside very sadly.

Fast forward to now.  We are much healthier, she is moving at her own pace, and we are three. Primary age.  I pulled the book out the other day and said "little book you need a new home".

So I'm giving away this book free of charge!  It has really nice lessons in it.
Plus, it is super easy to use as I mentioned.  You don't have to spend oodles with flashy materials.  A lot you can diy.  

The book is divided into sections.  The sections are: Creating a nurturing learning environment, starting out, use of the hands, structuring and presenting practical life skills, and language and vocabulary specifics.  

You will find lots of helpful info from setting up that bedroom to basic glass carrying.  This book is a great guide for beginners who are feeling a bit overwhelmed.  

To enter the giveaway is simple!   All you need to do is two things.  One, leave a blog post comment on why you want to win this or what you would do with this awesome resource!  Two, either subscribe by e-mail or google connect so you don't miss any really cool giveaways from me!  I also give away fictional books and sometimes food.  Yummy!  The contest will end on the 23rd.  We will put the names in a hat and my seven year old will draw a winner.  I will announce the winner on my blog and they will have 48 hours to claim their prize!  Easy peasy!! Also one entry per family please!  
Good luck!!!  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Montessori By Mom

(Please note that Montessori By Mom did not provide me with any perks, freebies, or trips to Mexico.  This is a review of their produce that is my personal opinion after purchasing this product.)

So you have probably seen their ads on Facebook or even checked them out on line.  Montessori By Mom is a new kid on the block trying to make a niche for themselves.  They provide a monthly toolkit or theme box with activities, Montessori materials, instructions and how to videos.  They are aiming at the home school Montessori parent.

I have been eyeballing them for awhile.  The price sort of cowed me.  $55.95 is a lot of money.  But my daughter had some Christmas cash left over and I didn't want to buy her cheap crap.  I wanted to invest in her education and give her materials we can use for a while.  Then they ran a couple of specials and I got free shipping.  So I caved.

I did have a brief moment of panic when the box came and I thought, this is a small box for nearly $60.

But then I saw this nice little note.  They put my name on it:).  I decided to breathe.  And took a look inside.
There was a lot of stuff crammed in that kit!  I'm going to go through some of the pros and cons of the kit.  Remember, this is my opinion.  You may think very differently than me on this.

As a Montessori teacher with 10 plus years under my belt and going on my first year as a home school Montessori teacher I look for several things.

Does the material call to the child?  Is it beautiful?  The answer would be yes on that one.
 I loved the turtle puzzle!  We have used this brand before and it's pretty and durable!
 The bee Practical Life transfer was probably my favorite!  The only thing I would do differently is I would use tweezers which were not included but if you are a home school rock star teacher (or a parent with a seven year old boy) you probably have a steady supply of them anyway.
The cards.  They are beautiful but I have mixed feelings about them.  More on that later.
The poster which is double sided.  Also more on that later.  

The second thing I look for is durability.  Will it last?  I don't care if you have 1 child or 20, you need things to last.  The cards came laminated but I notice they can still bend quite easily.  Also I will have to laminate the poster.  The instructions that came with it put it to good use with several activities and one careless jerk from my little one and it will be wrecked.  It also came with a book.  
The book is simple.  If you have an emerging reader or little one it will probably appeal to them.  But it is also flimsy.  I am going to laminate it as well and restaple it.  I have to say, I was disappointed because to me, books can make or break a unit.  Another idea that they may want to consider is a list of books to look into and put something else in the kit instead.  

The cards were something else I had mixed feelings on.  Though they are really beautiful and have lamination I have found that little hands are just that little hands.  I wouldn't introduce cards like that before 5 or 6.  They have a definition on the back that would be great for readers!  Here is one of the activities they suggested. 
You can see that the cards are fit for this but to me they don't pop and get lost in the picture.  Plus my three year old looked at me blankly, lol.  My seven year old enjoyed this.  But since this box is mostly for my three year old we go on to my next thing I look for.  

Adaptability.  Can these items be transformed?  Yes!  They can.  This kit was very flexible in that respect.  
Here you can see what I plan on doing with the cards.  I plan on placing them on card stock, re laminating them, and viola!  I have the control of error (card color) built in.  I will recopy the definitions behind the cards and use them at a later date.  

Another thing you need to know about my child.  You see we adopted her out of foster care when she was nine months old.  She was born at 24 weeks to a woman who was addicted to drugs.  She is my champion and hero.  She also has cerebral palsy, cortical vision impairment, and a host of other conditions.  So everything is harder for her.  Including being allowed to attend a Montessori school. Which is why I do it at home.  Because every child has a right to this education.  Alright, off my soapbox.  The following pictures are of her.  She works with a light box because it helps her see the work.  You could not wipe the joy off her face through the bee work and the turtle puzzle.  

 You can't really tell because of the light box but she was picking up bees and putting them in a container.  This is hard for her because she has to connect vision and use motor planning.
The turtle puzzle was a huge hit!  She spent lots of time exploring the puzzle and trying to get it back together!  

The last thing I look for is it frustration free?  For me, lol.  For the most part yes.  There are plenty of videos and handouts on line that make it pretty easy.  Plus lots of little extra parts like the jars for air, land, and water.  Those can be a real pain to get.   There was only one part of the kit that wasn't 
These are your land water form cards.  Yup, you get sticky sandpaper and a blue card with a description on it.  Now they do show you on line sort of how to make them, but I will tell you they are a real pain in the butt to make and if you don't know a bay from an archipelago and you cut it wrong, you are up the creek without a paddle.  I would really suggest that they put these together for people.  That is big time frustrating when you want something ready to go!  

So the burning question, should you buy a kit?  Well that is up to you.  If you want something that you can pull and go (for the most part) or you are a first timer who is panicked at the thought of putting together a unit and need a good place to start, then yes this is a good package.  I can even see a seasoned person (like me) who just wants some new ideas buying one (which I did).  

They do have memberships so you can get better deals, but the price tag may cow some (I know it did me and if not for discounts and free shipping I may have thought twice about getting one). But I'm going to let you decide on that one.  I'm putting their link here so you can check them out.  You may even just look at some of their ideas and say, "Hey, I can make/do this on my own!".  Whatever you choose to do is great.  I think all in all this is a really good idea and there is a market out there for it. I will be interested to see how this company does in the future!  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bakery Bunch

No,  I'm not off on another baking post.  Although there is nothing more I like better than curling up with a warm cup of tea, gluten free snack, and a good book.

I was excited to be chosen as part of Amy Clipston's street team, The Bakery Bunch.  I discovered Amy's book a few years back when I was amazon surfing and there was a free book of hers available. I've been hooked ever since.  Amy writes Amish fiction and young adult books.  You can link to her website here.

We got some amazing goodies and I got to take my camera and show where some of these goodies and I traveled to.  Unfortunately, my phone had other ideas and now my selfies are lost in space somewhere.  So I had to get a little creative.  The first photo is the only one I was able to find and of course, I'm not in it.
I got my goodies and I was pretty happy!  I love purple and having a new book is always a treat!!  I was really excited to start reading it!

Ok, so we got this really cool bag and not only have I taken a shine to it but so has my little girl. So we share.

When we go places I load her AFOs, feeding and g-tube supplies and we're off!  I get lots of compliments on it and a little boy at one of therapy sessions kept trying to take it, lol!

I took my bookmarks to the local library and was able to leave them with the librarian there.  (Note these following photos are reenactments of actual events due to lost photos.  All participants were willing and voluntarily offered their services.)
After my stop at the library I found one of Amy's books!
I was very excited.  Her books are easy to find around where I live (sorry the photo is sideways, I can't seem to fix it and I'm not taking any chances on loosing another one!)

I put on my new luggage tags right away.  This is going to be great since we are heading to Florida in about 20 days.  

The tumbler has been fantastic.  This is a hot commodity in our home.  I have to hide it if I ever want to drink out of it!
See what I mean?

I also put the pens to good use.  I tend to be the Bermuda Triangle of pens.  I have made sure to bring and leave them at doctors, the bank, and all the other places I make pens disappear from.
I'm off!  Happy Reading everyone!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What do I eat?

Eating is a social event in our culture.  When you have a condition that limits that, it can be a headache and then some.

I used to love to go out to eat.  All the time.  Now I avoid it as much as possible.  Not that I still don't love going out.  I just don't love what it does to me.

Another thing is I used to bake.  A lot.  I loved it.  When my diet changed I had to change too.  But I had the blues because I felt like I was being cheated.  So I decided that I would learn to make things that I love again in a safe format for me.

The first thing was muffins!  I love muffins.  I eat one pretty much every day.  Or more.  But I was buying them and frankly the price was killing me.  One pack of my fodmap safe brand is between 5-7 dollars.  For 4 muffins.  So I felt like I was being taken to the cleaners on this one!

I decided to try to make my own.  That didn't go well.  They tasted like rubber, plus I have two special needs kids so by the time I find ingredients, get it put together, and still have it taste bad is discouraging!

Then I was out shopping today and the light shone and angels sang!  King Arthur has a muffin mix!  With fodmap safe ingredients!  Yay!!  I snapped it up, took it home and assembled my cast.

Not pictured butter, eggs, and lactose free milk.  But it was easy!  You don't have to put chocolate chips in it, you can add fruit, nuts, gummy worms (my 7 year old's idea).  But I used my "safe" chocolate chips.  I only used a cup because a) they are expensive and b) one cup is plenty!

I started with wet ingredients.  Six tablespoons butter, 3 eggs, 1 cup lactose free milk, and a splash of gluten free vanilla.  Then I threw in 1 cup chocolate chips, then I added the dry mix.  I folded it gently and put it in a 375 oven for 18 minutes.

Sorry my pic is sideways here, but can we just say yum!   The box said it only would make 12 but I ended up with 18 muffins (one tragically lost his life in a taste testing).  So for the price I paid they are cheaper than my premade ones and they will last longer.

A couple of tips/hints.  I can do butter, eggs, and lactose free milk.  But some can't.  You can sub oil, almond or rice milk.  You can also do an egg substitute. You don't need the vanilla, but I think it made it taste better.

Also you MUST spray the muffin tins or muffin paper.  Gluten free stuff can stick.  I used olive oil spray.  And if you aren't going to eat them in three days time freeze them.  I let them cool stuck them in a freezer bag and they are now hanging out in the freezer waiting to munch.  They are best eaten within 2-3 months but with an active 7 year old and his muffin munching mama, that won't be a problem.