Month: March 2015

#retomontessori2015

Earlier this year I started reading about the Montessori method. I read Maria Montessori’s own works on the subject. As with anything, I wasn’t 100% sold but there is a lot about the method I am interested in applying in our home. I am no expert on Montessori but at the heart of it, it’s about encouraging and respecting a child’s autonomy and independence. This philosophy really appeals to me. I came across Montessori en Casa while researching for Spanish language resources. This site/blog written and maintained by Cristina offers a lot of information as well as resources on the Montessori method. She also hosts web seminars. What caught my eye was her Montessori challenge. The Montessori challenge is comprised of a different theme each month. Each theme embodies a Montessori principle that you adopt for the month. The following month a new theme is added, and you continue to build upon the last month’s theme. The idea is to ease you into it.

January’s challenge was to observe without interrupting. This consists of forgoing any offers of assistance to a child when they are performing a task/activity on their own unless they ask for it. At first glance I thought, this is easy. I already do this. The truth is that on more than one occasion I caught myself getting ready to offer my help when I perceived Diego to be struggling with something. When I caught myself the first time I almost laughed. This challenge wouldn’t be so easy after all. The idea behind this is, in part, to avoid bruising a child’s ego by basically undermining their autonomy. Of course these observations are performed while the child is engaged in a task that poses no risk or harm to himself or other. For example: playing with a toy, feeding himself, dressing himself etc.

February’s challenge was about order and organizing areas so that everything had its own place. This facilitates children participating in clean up, and learning to play with one thing at a time. There are other things involved such as rugs that mark their work area and thus limits where the mess goes. I did not fully adopt this challenge because I just didn’t feel that it fit in with my own wishes. What I did do was go through all our toys, sort them, and donate whatever Diego no longer uses.

This month’s challenge had to do with creating a prepared space. The Montessori Method involves preparing areas for kids so that everything they need is accessible to them. For example, in the kitchen all of their utensils etc are stored some where they can easily access and reach. Similarly bedrooms are prepared so that everything is eye level and accessible. Again, I am not at all interested in turning my life upside down in order to adapt my entire house so that Diego can pour his own milk at will but I did make some changes in the kitchen so that he now has access to his crockery and silverware. Now whenever I am plating up dinner I tell him to fetch his plate and fork and he is able to go to his drawer. Similarly, when putting away the dishes he is responsible for putting away his own.

I have been enjoying these challenges and adapting them to fit my lifestyle is part of the process. The past few months have seen a lot of changes in Diego, and it’s been fascinating to witness his development. Giving him responsibilities has, in my opinion, boosted his confidence and self-esteem. I have noticed that he is more independent and enjoys doing things on his own. I can’t say for sure that these challenges are to credit but in any case they have made it easier for me to watch as it all unfolds.

Below are some photographs that illustrate what I’ve discussed above.

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Diego surprised me when he stacked these blocks and placed the dots as he did. He was very pleased with his creation.

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He built this all on his own. He is using blocks in more complex ways and I feel guilty of underestimating him because I always am so impressed by what he comes up with.

Reading corner

Reading corner

Toy closet

Toy closet

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Book Fridays: Half-Resurrection Blues

I am going to try my best to talk about this book without sounding like a total fangirl (which I am). The first instalment in Daniel José Older’s Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series had me from the first paragraph. Well, let’s back it up. I heard about this book on Twitter and shortly after its release I purchased it on my Kindle. I have a TBR list that’s constantly growing so I knew it would probably be a while before I got around to reading this book. Luckily I was following Mr. Older on Twitter and to be quite honest his tweets nudged me to move his book to the top of my pile. I figured that if the content of his tweets was anything to go by, his book had to be pretty sick. I wasn’t wrong.

Half-Resurrection Blues (HBR) centers around Carlos Delacruz, a half dead being that straddles the worlds of the living and the dead. He’s a sort of mercenary for the New York Council of the Dead, dragging errant ghosts back to hell by bestowing upon them the deeper death with his sanctified blade. The world that Older builds is amazing and the end left me wanting more. I could spend all of my free time with these characters. Except the Ngks, those things gave me the creeps, In my mind, they look something like Gollum from LOTR.

The prose weaves in foreign words without apology, they aren’t treated as foreign at all. Much like I mentioned in my review of Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her, I enjoy this as it expects the reader to either know it or look it up.

The cast of characters is diverse and unlike any other fantasy book I’ve ever read. The villain, Sarco, is one of those villains that has you ready to side with him. He’s not evil in the obvious way. He’s too intelligent and calculated for that. The one character I wish we had spent more time with is Sasha. She really intrigued me. Perhaps she will be fleshed out more in future instalments*. She’s a strong woman and her portrayal left me with nothing to gripe about.

Bottom line: read this book!

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*After writing this I listened to an interview with Older where he said that book three is told from Sasha’s POV! I’m very excited about this.

Lemon Blueberry Cake

A friend forwarded me a link to a list of must-try cake recipes and this lemon blueberry one from Sally’s Baking Addiction caught my eye. The only thing I did differently was using less lemon than the recipe called for. I prefer a subtler lemon flavor. The cake was easy to make and delicious but I have to say that this cake does not store well at all.

I stored this cake like I do all other cakes and the next day it was hard and very dense. Nothing like the moist, light consistency of the day before. I left it out for a couple of hours and this did little to improve the texture, in my opinion. This cake is best made and served on the same day. I might try making it again in the future to see if I have similar results. I measured my dry ingredients by weight for better accuracy so I know this is not an issue of too much flour.

Regardless of my experience with storing it I give this cake a thumbs up. It’s got that lights citrusy flavor that feels like you’re eating sunshine.

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A slice of cake after being refrigerated overnight.

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Book Fridays: This Is How You Lose Her

This Is How You Lose Her is a collection of short stories by Junot Diaz. Although each story can stand alone, each is linked by the common narrator, Yunior. The running theme is male infidelity. (These men can’t keep it in their pants.) Cultural machismo is definitely at play here but throughout I wanted Yunior to do better. Women were nothing but objects for most of the book. In the end I think Yunior was beginning to see them as something more. Regardless, he got little sympathy from me on this front. As a character he was both endearing and rage inducing.

Diaz’s unapologetic use of Spanish throughout his prose was refreshing. I especially liked the fact that there is no coddling of the reader. No explanations or definitions are given. You either know it or you look it up. I really liked that. As a reader, I appreciate feeling like the author respects my intelligence. His style of writing has me looking forward to reading more of his works.

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Cinnamon Rolls (with cream cheese glaze)

I just can’t help myself, even though I had sworn off baking the sweet stuff I have been sucked back into the kitchen once more. This time I made these cinnamon rolls. I wish I could explain how delicious they were.

I browsed a lot of recipes and settled on the one I found on Epicurious. I don’t think I had ever tried a recipe from this site before. I made the dough using my stand mixer. I also made one teeny, tiny mistake. I forgot to add the egg! Once I had set the dough aside to rise I started cleaning up a bit and that’s when I saw the lone egg still sitting on the counter.

I panicked briefly and wondered if I should throw out the dough but then I thought, cinnamon rolls are bread and plenty of bread is eggless. So I proceeded. They turned out great! I do want to eventually make them again, this time adding the egg. I should probably do this sooner rather than later so I don’t forget what these eggless ones tasted like…

Cooking from scratch is one of my favorite things to do. For one thing, it challenges me. I love attempting something that intimidates me. I also like know exactly what goes into my food. These are by no means  something we should be eating everyday but because they’re labor intensive to make I know that I won’t be eating them frequently.

These are best fresh. They will keep for a day or two (covered) at room temperature.

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Fresh burger buns

I have always bought burger buns from my grocer’s bakery. We don’t often have burgers but when we do we do it the easy way. What’s not to like? It’s convenient to purchase ready made breads. Since I’ve made the decision to eat cleaner I’ve been learning how to make more of what we eat at home. When you make things from scratch you know exactly what is in your food. You also know that your food is free of any unpronounceable preservatives etc. I also happen to enjoy cooking from scratch, but whatever the reason you decide to make them these buns are delicious.

I found this  recipe by Chef John on Allrecipes.com and since I had already made another one of his bread recipes I decided I couldn’t go wrong.  I highly recommend that you try this recipe. For a complete list of ingredients, instructions and a video demonstration click here.

I don’t really have much else to say. This recipe makes eight generously sized buns. You could easily get ten buns out of it. In order to get equally sized buns I weighed the dough and figured out how much each of them should weigh. They are best the day you bake them but they will keep for a day or two in a zip bag.

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My taste tester!

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Also good in a BLT.

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Book Fridays: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

This is not a review per se but I wanted to share this awesome book I found. I learned about it while browsing ASMR videos on YouTube. Maria, aka GentleWhispers did a show and tell of this book and I thought it so well made that I decided to buy it. I got it from Amazon for around $22. In my opinion, it is well worth the money.

This is a pop-up book adaptation of the Lewis Carroll book. My son loves the images. It is definitely a keepsake. It’s not meant for little hands so adult supervision is required. This is one book I do not leave within reach.

My pictures do not do it justice at all but they will give you an idea of what it looks like.

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Delicious Banana Bread

There’s nothing worse than having food go to waste and in an effort to avoid doing just that I found myself in the lucky predicament of needing to use up some bananas. Naturally, I made some banana bread.

Joy of Baking has what I consider to be the best library of recipes around. Coupled with the Youtube videos demonstrating most of them and you have a fabulous resource. Stephanie Jaworski has the grace and poise of an experienced cook and she makes you feel like you can do it too. Even though she makes it all look effortless don’t be fooled, she has serious skills.

The banana bread recipe I used is from her website and you can find it here. 

I was all out of nuts so I omitted those and I sprinkled some oats on top of one of the loaves. I liked the oats on top, it added some nice texture.

I baked the loaves in paper molds. These were smaller than a regular loaf pan which is exactly what I wanted. These are great for gift giving as they are greaseproof and the paper is a pretty brown with gold print. I picked these up from Sur la Table for 75 cents each.

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#DearMe

If I had ever found a letter from my future self I am pretty sure I would have believed it. I would have also thought it was cool as heck!

There are so many things I would tell my younger self. I would start by telling myself that contrary to what I was being told, I was not too fat to be loved. It’s funny, I have never been fat enough to draw attention from strangers (as far as I know) but from the age of 13 I was told I had a weight problem. I hate going down this road because in order for this to make sense I have to disclose the fact that I wasn’t fat at 13. I was just going through puberty, which was hard enough, but my dad made it harder. He coaxed me into trying so many diets. It made me miserable. I am not sure what I could have done at that age, but if I could I would tell myself to tell him to bug off.

Until I met my now husband I was pretty sure I would never have a serious relationship, much less marry and have kids. I felt I wasn’t attractive enough. I didn’t have the tight hot bodies that young women were supposed to have. I spent a lot of time hiding. I had resigned myself to be the ugly fat chick that tagged along with friends but nobody hit on her. Because I believed as I did I also shut down anything before it even began. I would tell my younger self to not miss out on life because of this. Maybe I would have dated more, I don’t know. I also don’t know that it even matters but I wish I had been more happy with what I looked like.

I think a letter to myself would read something like this:

Dear Abdelis, 

It’s me, you, an older you. I am writing to you (from the future) because even though I don’t want to change my past I do want to impact your present. By default, I suppose, any advice I give (should you choose to take it) could change our lives. I hope you’re still with me. 

Right now you’ve just moved back to PR and you’re faced with many changes. Lots of new things. You’re going to be okay. You’re going to make friends, you’re going to be happy at your new school. Your dad is going to continue nagging you about your weight. He is going to police your body and what you put in your mouth. As a result you will try to time your meals to when he’s not around. You will overeat and later on you will actually be fat, but that’s ok. I don’t think fat is wrong, or ugly but these maladaptive behaviors aren’t healthy. Keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that your dad is wrong. So wrong, and I would curse up a storm about this but I won’t. Be your own advocate. Own your body. It’s not his, or for him. It’s only yours. 

You are currently very averse to trying drugs. Keep that up. You will not miss anything by avoiding that crap. I realize this letter to you should be filled with things you should not do etc, but I feel strongly I should tell you that there are things you should absolutely keep up! You are a good student and this will serve you well. You will be granted a merit scholarship to the university you will end up at. 

You will meet your future husband at university, thus proving wrong your current belief that you could never possibly be attractive to another person. After graduation you will be faced with a choice. You can either stay in PR for a graduate degree or you can go against your parents’ wishes and move to Florida. Move to Florida. The fight is worth it. Your future is in Florida. Trust me. 

I don’t want to give too much away but I do want to leave you with the confidence that you are loved, you are wonderful and you will be happy. I am hesitant to tell you this, but I can’t not mention it: you will have a son. He’s beautiful.

I’m (you’re) still fat, and I’m (you’re) hot. 

If you’re wondering why I haven’t included any information that could possibly make you rich it’s because I am still as ethical as you are now. And like I said before, I don’t want to change your future. I just want you to run towards it with open arms. 

Love, 

You

Book Fridays: It All Starts With Alligator

I am always on the look out for fun books that my son will enjoy. I get especially excited about self published books because I strongly believe in supporting artists directly. Last month my brother mentioned having a friend who had written and illustrated a book for children and he generously sent a copy my way. I had no expectations but I was thrilled when it arrived. This ABC’s book is so original and colorful!

The book was written and illustrated by Carlos A. Gonzalez Ramirez who hails from Mexico. According to his author page on Amazon.com he is a freelancing graphic designer. So far this is his only publication but I am hoping he will write and illustrate other books for children.

The book features a luchador from Mexico, a pink-clad unicorn superhero and best of all X is for Xavier Xoloitzcuintle. I’m still researching how to correctly pronounce that one. Five stars!

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