Monthly Archives: June 2012

Microwave Puffy Paint

Puffy Paint 3

This week, we decided to make rainbow pictures using microwave puffy paint. I’d seen the recipe for this posted in various places, but I used the one from Play At Home Mom. Unfortunately, I forgot that we didn’t have any food coloring on hand, thanks to our day of marbleized shaving cream painting. So I improvised and used some of our Stockmar liquid watercolors. As Stockmar watercolors cost a fortune, I used them sparingly. As a result, all of our paint was pastel colored. I also chose to have Dora paint on cardstock, rather than cardboard, mostly because I am too lazy to cut up cardboard boxes. The cardstock worked fine, other than it curled some if I over-microwaved the picture. The one thing I really hadn’t given any thought to was that, once it is microwaved, this paint is essentially bread (gross bread, but bread nonetheless). So I was already worrying about how long we could keep the pictures for, but our cats solved the problem for me. Our cats are really psychotic and will eat ANYTHING that is left out on the counter unattended, especially cornbread, for some strange reason. It didn’t occur to me to think that they would find our pictures appetizing, so I left the paintings out on the counter to fully dry, while we went to the park. When we got home, the cats had essentially eaten our paint off of our paintings!

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Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Strawberry Picking and Baking

Strawberry Picking 1

It is strawberry season here, so we went to a u-pick field. Dora was not super interested in picking strawberries this year, partly because she wanted to start eating them as soon as we started picking! Unfortunately, they were covered in mud, so there was no way I was going to let her eat any right off the bush. I am hoping that next year, we will be able to get enough from our own garden that we will not need a u-pick field. The few strawberries that do have growing in our yard are not covered in mud at all, so it seems like the u-pick field is using soil that is more mud-prone.

After we managed to pick two pounds of strawberries, Secunda, who had gone with us, mentioned that she was going to make cupcakes with the strawberries that she had picked. So Dora immediately wanted to make cupcakes with our strawberries. We used this recipe Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcake recipe. I have never been to Sprinkles, as they are not located near us, so I can’t compare. I did make them using King Arthur Flour’s White Whole Wheat Flour, so they were on the healthier end of the cupcake spectrum, but they still were gobbled up pretty quickly (and still didn’t qualify as healthy).Strawberry Cupcake

I would mention that if you decide to make this recipe, puree enough strawberries for both the cupcakes and the frosting at the same time. By the time I realized I needed to puree strawberries for the frosting, I had already put my food processor away and all the parts in the dishwasher. So I fudged things by mashing the strawberries with a fork instead. Which is part of why the frosting on our cupcakes looks a bit weird (the other part being that Dora lost all interest in the project and was throwing a tantrum, because I wasn’t playing with her and because she wanted a cupcake NOW, not when they would be done).

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Labels: Montessori, Things To Do Around Seattle
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–A Couple of Classics and Two Rainbow Books

Dora is really excited about books right now and we are reading lots and lots every day. For some reason, she seems to think that library books are meant to be destroyed. The whole thing is really odd, because she treats our own books just fine. I even tried to slip some library books amongst our own books and she knew right away that they were library books and tried to write in them and cut up the pages. So we’re back to purchasing every book for her. The good news is that she loves to read the same books over and over. Plus, some books that we read to her when she was younger are taking on new meaning. For instance, she used to love Sheep in a Jeep, by Nancy E. Shaw, for it’s silly storyline. Now she is starting to explore the rhyming sounds that are in the book, so she asks me to read it every day. It is ironic that she loves this book so much, because none of my older kids liked it at all. Maybe I’m doing a better job of presenting it now? Or maybe it is because it is one of the lap-sized board books? Personally, I think board books are one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind! Making them lap-sized is the icing on the cake.

I introduced Dora to Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina, this week. I had to rush through the beginning during the first reading so as not to lose Dora’s interest. Of course, as soon as we got to the part about the peddler yelling at the monkeys and wagging his finger, while the monkeys copied him, she was hooked.

This week’s rainbow theme for us seamlessly followed last week’s cloud theme. I was a little surprised that there were not more fun rainbow books. I mean, where would the world be without rainbows, glitter, and unicorns? Yet, so little literature is devoted to rainbows! It is madness, I tell you! We did read What Makes a Rainbow?, by Betty Ann Schwartz, which was not nearly as scientifically sound as I had expected. It does teach the basic colors of the rainbow. What made this book so fun for Dora was that on each page, a new ribbon is introduced. So at first, there is just one red ribbon going across the page, forming the rainbow. Then, on the next page an orange ribbon is added, so there are two ribbons and so on. After all six ribbons are introduced, the final page actually is a giant pop-up rainbow and very briefly mentions the need for rain and sunlight to make a rainbow. The one thing that made this book a flop for Dora, in particular, was that she now wants all of her rainbow art to go in the correct order and gets very frustrated and upset if she doesn’t remember the correct order. She’ll go so far as to throwing her pictures away if they are not done in the “correct” order, even though I have tried to explain that in art, rainbows can go in any order she wants.

Finally, we read A Rainbow of My Own , by Don Freeman, who is more famously known for his Corduroy the Bear series of books. It is a sweet story about a boy, who wants to play with a rainbow and finally finds a real rainbow of his very own in his bedroom. The illustrations are a bit dated, which means that the rainbow’s colors tend to be more primary, in nature, than Dora would have liked, though she still loved the story.

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday – Summer Light Box Fun


Putty Bubble TitleI’ve blogged before about the fun we’ve had playing with our light box, in particular, we enjoy playing with translucent homemade putty on the light box. We haven’t brought the light box out as much recently, but as the rain here has continued almost endlessly, we’ve been getting more creative with our indoor fun. So the other day, Dora asked me to make some putty for the light box. She had completely forgotten about some of the things we did with it. When I got out the straws to make bubbles in the putty, she was incredibly amazed. First she tried poking it with her finger, Putty Bubble 1then she asked to try to blow bubbles herself and this time she was able to blow them all by herself! Putty Bubble 3Finally, she felt the need to arm herself with an oven mitt for some reason, that I still don’t quite understand…

Putty Bubble 5

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Labels: Montessori, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Marbleized Paintings

Marbleized Painting 6 copy

It just so happened that I had taken Dora to Michael’s the day before she came down with her recent cold, so she had a few goodies to help entertain her while she wasn’t feeling well (since she clearly doesn’t understand the meaning of “taking it easy”). One item we had purchased was a small, cheap set of glitter paints. She started off by painting normally with them, but slowly, but surely, things evolved to her squeezing out globs of paint on to the paper. As this was keeping her from being cranky, I was letting her go with the flow. Eventually, however, the paint began to build up on her paper, such that a big mess was inevitable. In an effort to control the mess, I suggested that we make a “print” of her “artwork”. She thought this was great idea, so we stuck a piece of paper on top of her “painting” and pressed down on it with mild pressure. My goal had been to simply mop up some of the paint, but when we turned the paper over I was quite surprised to see a beautiful, glittery semi-marbleized print.

Marbleized Painting 1

A couple of days later, the paint had run out, but Dora was still cranky and I was getting a bit desperate. I remembered having seen people online that had done marbleized artwork using shaving cream. Dora was far too cranky for me to take the time to look up any directions, so we flew by the seat of the pants. What we ended up doing was filling an old cookie sheet with shaving cream and dropping food coloring into it. We have the new Betty Crocker food coloring gels that come in squeeze tubes (when one leaves one’s husband in charge of grocery shopping, one is sometimes surprised with what he comes home with, sometimes it even ends up being a good surprise). We had eight colors and Dora just squished them all over.

Marbleized Painting 2

Then I tried to show her how to marbleize, thinking I could slip in a pseudo-cooking lesson, but she wasn’t haven’t anything to do with that. She insisted on using a stirring it with the knife.

Marbleized Painting 3

We then put sheets of cardstock on top of the “marbleized” shaving cream. When we lifted the cardstock, it was still covered in shaving cream, so I used a spatula to scrape off the shaving cream.

 Marbleized Painting 4

I think they came out quite nice. I never knew what a page would come out looking like, because Dora had swirled the color into so many layers, the paper would pick up colors that I couldn’t even see on top of the shaving cream.

Marbleized Painting 5

Were I to do the shaving cream project again, I would use a cake or Pyrex dish, instead of a cookie sheet, simply to better contain the shaving cream. I would also use something like a ruler to scrape off the shaving cream, as the spatula left streaks in a few places, since it wasn’t as wide as the paper.

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Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Tertia Has Graduated and Gohan is Freakishly Flexible

Levi is Flexible

Last week, Tertia completed her final exams at the community college. She has attended community college for the last two years of high school through a special program in our state. In the last two years, she earned a veterinary assistant certificate, a small animal massage therapist license, and is half way through her associates degree in business. She also has two jobs and volunteers with numerous animal rescue programs. All in all, I feel very confident in her ability to manage in the adult world, even though she hasn’t even turned 18 yet. She is definitely mature for her age in many ways and I am very proud to be her mother. I also am now officially homeschooling one child, with a preschooler in tow.

So why do I have a photo of Gohan on this post, instead of Tertia? Well, she won’t let me take any photos of her and if she ever did condescend to having her photo taken, she’d kill me if I posted it on my blog. This photo of Gohan was actually taken in the car while we were waiting for Mr. Mo to settle the tab for Tertia’s graduation celebration dinner. For some reason, I had never known that Gohan could wrap his legs around his head like this. It looks like his legs are someone’s else’s, but those really are his legs! The whole contortion looked so weird to me that I had to concoct some reason to post a photo of it. And no, he did not inherit this talent from me, it made me hurt just looking at him do that!

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Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading–The Windy and Two Days Late Version

I’m two days late with this post and I am sure that has really wrecked everyone’s week! SmileThis week, Dora and I looked at wind. We read three books about wind.Our first book was I Face the Wind and is from a four volume science book series by Vickie Cobb. We really liked this book. The illustrations are simple and modern. Experiments are woven into the narration. The narration also asks the child many open-ended questions to consider as you read through the book. My only complaint with this book is that there are not more books in this series!

We also read Gilberto and the Wind, by Marie Hall Ets, which I had never read before, even though it was published in 1978. It is a cute book about a boy and his adventures with wind. I think that the story is very compelling for the preschool-aged group as Gilberto’s character engages in timeless and genderless play. All children can relate to a wind that tugs playfully at your balloon one minute and then all of a sudden whips your balloon away. Wind is intriguing, playful, and at times, scary for children, as they come to fully understand what wind is about. The book ends on a sweetly peaceful note though.Finally, we read The Wind Blew, by Pat Hutchins. This book is often listed on “great books to read to young children” lists and I’ve never quite understood why. It is not really that funny. Nor does it teach much, in the way of science concepts. And when one compares it to Gilberto and the Wind, the storyline’s shallowness is glaring. I love a lot of Pat Hutchins’ books, this just isn’t one of them.

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

DIY Bubble Wand and Kite

Homemade Bubble Wand

As I mentioned yesterday, Dora and I were looking at wind this week. I had two wonderful craft project planned that I felt really illustrated the concept of wind. The first one, making a beaded bubble wand, I had seen beautiful pictures of on several blogs. Plus, I had a lot of beading material left over from when I used to make jewelry, which I have not been able to do since Dora was born. Here, it is important for me to point out that since I knew I had a lot of supplies left, I didn’t bother with checking my wire supply. I then talked to Dora about the project and got her super, duper, duper excited about it! Imagine my surprise when I went to get my supplies out and noticed that the only wire I had left was 14K gold! Of course, I couldn’t not let her do the project after I had talked it up so much. So enjoy this photo my friends, it is probably the first and last 14K gold bubble wand made with a mixture of semi-precious and cheesy plastic beads that you will ever see. Dora enjoyed making the wand, but when we went to use it, it was practically useless. That night, I went online to look at the various blogs that had given me this idea in the first place, to try to figure out what I did wrong. I quickly realized that though all of them had lots of photos of beautiful photos of wands, none of them actually had any photos of kids blowing bubbles with the aforementioned wands. I did, however, find this post from The Artful Parent, who did a comparison of DIY bubble wands and figured out that the best wands were made with pipe cleaners. Yes, nice, cheap pipe cleaners! Oh Irony, you are my constant companion!

Making a Kite 4

Our next project was to make a kite. As I grew up in San Diego, this was something that I did many times in various classes and camps, so I felt fairly comfortable with doing this project without any instructions. Plus, I had actual, real kite paper, how could anything go wrong?!?! When I was a kid, we had to use newspaper (and we had to walk 10 miles in the snow to buy the newspaper ourselves and the snow was hauled into San Diego especially for us). I must admit that the once we started the project, I realized that my actual recollections of how to make a kite were a bit fuzzier than I had realized. I knew we needed some skinny dowels in the shape of a cross though.

Making a Kite 2

It then seemed like we needed to notch the dowels and run some string along the outside, to make the frame. Well, I’ve been doing way to many home repair projects lately and there was no way in heck that I was going to get out any tools to make a kite, so I wrapped the string around the frame and hot glued it to the dowels (hot glue being another thing that we did not have when I was a kid, I was confident that my teachers would have used it if they could have, bless their poor little Neanderthal souls). I then trimmed the paper and hot glued it to the frame.

Making a Kite 3

Meanwhile, Dora was absolutely obsessed with cutting up kite paper and gluing the pieces together and had absolutely no interest in decorating a kite.

Making a Kite 1

I finally convinced her to glue some pieces of paper to the kite, but it is most certainly not her “best” work. I then added a tail made from string and pieces of felt. The only problem with our kite has been the weather. When it is windy here, it is cold and rainy. When it is sunny here, there is no wind. Oh yeah, that’s why we never fly kites unless we go to the coast or visit my parents in San Diego! I’ll let you all know if it actually flies, if we ever get a chance to fly it.

Making a Kite 4

So, while our week of crafts was a strange mixture of some success and mostly total failure, Dora did learn a lot about wind and we both had fun!

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Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday: A Week of Play Dough and a Chocolate Play Dough Recipe

Play Dough 6

The last couple of weeks have had us a bit out of sync. It seems like our entire world is poised on the brink of summer, not quite done with the school year, but ready for summer. Even our weather has been totally crazy, leaving us indoors too much of the time. As a result, Dora has been a bit irritable and hard to keep occupied. Finally, she started asking to play with play dough. We have a big bucket of play dough toys with cookie cutters, rolling pins, clay tools, etc., but I also brought out little bowls of cut up pieces of straws, gems, beads, googly eyes, golf tees, and toothpicks to liven things up and give her some additional fine motor skills practice. Amazingly, this activity kept Dora occupied for a good hour at a time. She started requesting certain colors of play dough, so I experimented with various recipes. I was having trouble getting very vibrant colors and when she asked for brown play dough, I was truly stumped. I finally decided to wing it by using cocoa powder and a mishmash of play dough recipes. It ended up working out really well, with the only complaint being that it made people want to eat it, but tasted awful. I know there are some edible chocolate play dough recipes out there, but this is not one of those (no one got sick or anything, it just taste horrible).

Chocolate Play Dough


  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 3 Tbsp. oil
  • 2 cups water


  1. In a large-sized sauce pan mix all dry ingredients. Add oil and water and stir well.
  2. Cook entire mix over medium heat, stirring constantly, until a ball forms (about 5 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat and turn dough out on to a plastic cutting-board or your counter top. Let dough cool for five minutes. Knead dough until completely smooth.

I have found that most homemade play dough recipes seem to store well in an airtight container for a couple of weeks when kept at room temperature. I going to store this in the refrigerator to see how long it stays good. Dora played with a couple of batches of play dough for so long, they were dried out by the time she was finished playing with them!

Play Dough 4

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Labels: Montessori
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–The Black Book of Colors, Amos McGee and Eating to Survive

This week, a lot of library holds came up for Dora. At first, she wasn’t too interested in reading them. Then all of a sudden, tonight, she wanted to read all of them over and over. The first book that stood out to me was The Black Book of Colors. The title sounds like an oxymoron, but the book is actually about how colors feel, sound, taste, and smell – not about how they look. The book is written in traditional English type, but at the top of each page, the text is also given in braille. Then on the facing page, each illustration is done in black vinyl on black paper. The illustrations can be seen, if you turn the page just so, but more importantly, the pages can be felt. I wish I had found this book when we were studying the five senses, but as is, it opened up a wonderful dialogue between Dora and I about blindness and other disabilities.

Another read that we really enjoyed was A Sick Day for Amos McGee, which is an endearing book about how the best way of showing your friendship will vary from friend to friend, but in the end, however, being there for each other is what matters most.

The next three books we read were all about animals eating other animals. I’m going to start with my least favorite book first, just because I want to make sure other parents know how this book ends before they read it to their child (meaning BIG SPOILER ALERT). This book has been very well-reviewed, though I am certainly not the first to question its message. I checked out I Want My Hat Back based on all the hype and wish I had previewed it before reading it to Dora. I will start off by saying that I very well understand that animals do eat animals in nature and this is not something that we keep secret from Dora. This book starts off very cutely with a Bear looking for his hat (my first issue with this book is that I thought the bear was a beaver, which made the ending a bit confusing for me). The bear asks animal, after animal, if they have seen his hat. When he questions the rabbit, the rabbit is actually wearing the hat and clearly lies about the fact that he has stolen it. It is funny that the bear is so gentle that he just accepts the rabbit’s story. In the end, however, the bear figures out the truth. It is what he does afterwards that disturbs me – he eats the rabbit. It is written in such a manner that it is supposed to be funny, but I just can’t find humor in the fact that the bear killed/ate the rabbit just because the rabbit took the bear’s hat. Had the bear eaten the rabbit in a natural act of survival, I would have no problem with it. In the context of this book, however, the author seems to suggest that if anyone does anything bad to you, you seek revenge and show no mercy. You can also imagine why I was a bit confused when I originally thought the bear was a beaver, as a beaver eating a rabbit is just weird. I had to read the book jacket to learn that the character was a bear and I still think he looks more like a beaver or a groundhog….

On the other hand, Feathers for Lunch, illustrates the natural hunting cycle, while allowing the birds to go free, because the cat’s owner has belled the cat. Thus, the cat only gets feathers for lunch. What I really like about this book is that it labels each bird and plant on each two-page spread. We’ve been doing a lot of bird watching with our two new bird feeders and several of the birds in this book were ones we have seen.

Finally, Bark, George is just a silly book about a puppy who actually swallows animals, rather than eating them. The ending of this book, combined with the mother dog’s facial expressions, were what put this book on my “it’s a keeper” list (not that I’ll literally keep the library book, mind you).

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff