Barefoot in Suburbia

Homeschooling & Special Needs, Inspired by the Montessori Way

Green Christmas–gift wrapping December 22, 2010

Filed under: Saving the Earth — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 11:17 am

I’m slightly behind in getting this post written, but hopefully it helps some of those last minute gift wrappers! 

Over the past year or so, we realized just how much wrapping paper we go through between birthdays and Christmas…for a family of 5, it gets a bit ridiculous!  We decided this year that we need to change that–there is no reason we need to be buying new paper, just to tear it up and toss it in the recycling bin (because let’s face it…even recycling takes energy, so to reduce our environmental footprints, our first step should be to reuse when possible!)

We soon decided to switch to reusable materials to wrap gifts–cloth was our first choice.  We did a test run with Jedi’s birthday to see if he would be disappointed in the lack of paper wrapping paper.  Knowing how particular and set in his routines he can be, if *he* could make the change without too much resisitance, then we would be able to make that transition as a family.  Sure enough, he didn’t mind the cloth wrapping paper at all!  It’s still the same excitement (albiet, without the tearing sound), and every piece of it can be reused.

I will admit, I am *not* a sewer.  At all.  In fact, if I have to do anything with a needle and thread, it will go undone until the exact last minute possible, and then you’ll find me cursing the fact that I never learned to use my sewing machine.  So, if I was going to do this cloth wrapping paper thing, I would *not* be sewing anything for it (for those that love to sew, the only difference between what I did and what you’d have to do is that you’d probably bind the edges a bit to make the edges smooth and polished. 🙂 )

You can use any type of cloth for wrapping–some of our wrapping involves using old, outgrown clothing.  Some of it involves using scraps or clearance sale yards of cloth off a bolt.  And some of it is old bedding–old pillowcases make fantastic bags, and sheets that are no longer being used can easily cover larger gifts. 

Using the Furoshiki wrapping technique, it’s easy to create a decorative, festive, presentable gift using cloth that can be reused over and over again!

(For those that do the Santa thing, we told our kids that we will keep our cloth paper out with a note to Santa to please use our reusable wrap.  That helps to answer the question of “why does Santa’s cloth and your cloth look the same, mama?” LOL!)

Under the tree looks just as festive with colorful cloth instead of colorful wrapping paper!


Because we knew that not everyone we give gifts to uses cloth wrapping and not everyone is interested in using cloth wrap, we also came up with a solution for those gifts we had to mail out.  All year long, we saved the brown kraft paper that comes as shipping material.  We ended up with an entire large tote full of it over the course of a year (apparently we do a lot of online shopping, LOL!).  This paper was perfect to use for wrapping paper–we decorated it with silk flowers, raffia ribbon, stickers, and ink stamps.  The silk flowers could easily be reused, the paper was reused, and every piece of it could be recycled (except the flowers of course).

Our gifts that needed to be shipped out to family

And, since we did receive gifts from others that were wrapped in traditional paper, it helped us answer the question of “what do we  use as packing material to ship these gifts?!”  We simply reused the wrapping paper the kids took off their gifts, and crumpled the paper to use as packing material–another way to reuse and reduce!

I hope some of these ideas help green up your Christmas!


Montessori Monday November 14, 2010

Monkey is 3 years 9 months old

It’s hard to believe that we’re already 3 months into the school year, and the winter holidays are getting closer.  On one hand, it seems like we’ve just barely gotten started, but on the other hand, Monkey’s done so much and accomplished so many things in just 3 months.  It’s amazing to see this process every day. 

It feels like we’re finally making headway on the colors thing.  She’s been able to match them for months, but because of her processing issues, she has such a hard time naming colors.  She’s finally getting a couple of them, which is huge!  And once she got those, it seemed like she was then ready for so much more–for starting to learn her letters and numbers, etc.  She’s been so interested in those the past couple weeks.

Monkey also did really well with her Vietnamese lessons this week.  She learned the words for ‘baby’, ‘mama’, ‘daddy’, ‘hi’, ‘goodbye’, ‘fish’, ‘ball’, and ‘swim’.  She also learned the first couple lines of a song.  She was pretty shy for her tutor, but on the way home, she started repeating the words.  This week, I made her 3 part cards of the words she learned–that way she learns to read the words in Vietnamese (and it also helps me to remember the words as well. LOL!)

Here are some pictures from this week…

Sorting feathers by color

Using the hammering work to hammer shapes into the piece of cork

This was really really cool! The Olivia book was sitting next to her, and she decided to find letters to match the word Olivia and hammer them in. We were all really impressed by this!

Working with the geometric cabinet, drawer 1. Here she's tracing the outside, and then she traces the inset before matching them together.

This was something I came up with after seeing a printable on I printed the turkey color card from that site, then I laminated it. Monkey puts a colored button on each turkey (green buttons on the green turkeys, brown buttons on the brown turkeys, etc.) Then she counted the number of buttons for each color.


Learning how to set a table. I printed off a template for setting a table from the Martha Stewart site, and then taped it to the lid of the box that held the table setting work. She used that as a guide for setting the items on her work table.

Sorting items into "living" and "non-living". We talked about how living things eat/need nutrients and/or water, grow, and reproduce. For the rest of the week, every time we were in the car, she'd ask if various things she could see out the window were living or non-living, so I'd ask her if they ate, grew, and reproduced. She thought that was a pretty fun question game to play during car trips this week.

Polishing silver. I made a silver polish out of baking soda and water, so that it was completely non-toxic (Bitty Bug wanted to work with it too, so I had to make it completely non-toxic so that she wouldn't get sick if she tried licking it or something). I also set out a dish to hold the polish, a tooth brush, a soft sponge, and a wash cloth. She's polishing the goblets from my husband and my wedding (almost 8 years ago--we've never gotten around to polishing them!)

The 3 part cards I made after Monkey's weekly Vietnamese lesson with her tutor.


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Our Halloween Celebration October 31, 2010

Since the kids don’t go trick or treating due to allergies, we always throw them a Halloween party at home, filled with all of the costumes and unhealthy goodness that every child enjoys on Halloween. 😉  This party’s been a couple months in the making…we decided this year to make sure our party was eco-friendly and as healthy as it can be (well, as healthy as a party can be when you’re indulging in chocolate and treats! 😉 ).  All of our decorations had to be made from materials from our recycling bin or be things that either had been reused from previous Halloweens or could be reused for future Halloweens.  And above all, the kids had to have fun, of course!

So, on to the pictures….

Jedi attacking his pumpkin. Apparently he is a little knife happy sometimes. Should I be worried?

Bug getting ready to paint her pumpkin. I think it might be bigger than she is!

Monkey loved her pumpkin and didn't want to carve it. She chose to paint it (but we'll dissect it and take the seeds out to roast in a few days. 😀 )

The girls painting their pumpkins

The painted pumpkins in the back (Monkey's is red, Bug's is blue), then Jedi's pumpkin, my "food chain fishes", and Dave's traditional jack-o-lantern face

Dirt Pudding...homemade coconut milk chocolate pudding with chocolate cookie crumbs and gummy worms. All of our food was dairy/gluten/egg/nut free due to allergies, and free of refined sugars/artificial dyes/artificial flavors due to behavior issues. And as much as possible, we tried to get things made close to home (the produce and meat was)

Chocolate couldrons--chocolate cups with yogurt (plain with fresh squeezed orange juice & orange zest) and a chocolate covered pretzel "stirring stick"

Ghost & Pumpkin chips made of corn tortillas, olive oil, & himilayan sea salt with a pumpkin dip made with one of the poor pumpkins that didn't fare well the night before.

Jack-o-lantern oranges filled with banana slices & orange segments

Faux peanut butter cups made of sunbutter & allergen free chocolate chips

Vampire teeth made of apple slices & broken jagged banana chips

Blood punch, made with an organic super fruit & veggie juice, SoDelicious coconut water sorbet, organic lemon lime soda, & ice cubes made in a jack-o-lantern muffin pan

Worms. Made with an organic beef hot dog & a homemade BBQ sauce

Sloppy Joe Jack-o-Lantern pie

The food spread

Ghost made of cheesecloth

The party's not very often you see a 7 month old house covered in massive spider webs. 😉

The haunted houses the kids painted, and the signs Jedi made

One of Jedi's toilet paper roll bats

The digging pit. A huge bucket filled with sand, fake spiders, and fake skeleton bones

What's Halloween without some candy goodness?

Hunting for the hidden candy

Dr. Claw (Jedi) as the party DJ

Bug & Monkey tossing beanbags into the pumpkin pail

Feeling the items in the mystery box--a bunch of squishy toy snakes & frogs, some fake spiders, ears of corn, etc.

Digging in the pit

Jedi looking for bones blindfolded


Take the Green Halloween Pledge! October 28, 2010

Filed under: Saving the Earth — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 7:40 pm

This year, our family took the Green Halloween pledge.  We made the choice to celebrate Halloween in an eco-friendly way…it’s healthier for us and for our planet!  Some of the things we did this year are:

-All of the costume parts were either handmade and bought from Etsy, bought from our local consignment store, or pieced together from things we had at home.  Plus, some of the components were bought with future use in mind (for example, the girls’ hats for their costume were bought with the intent of also being winter hats!)

-The kids used reusable containers for their trick or treating at the zoo.

-Our pumpkins were bought from a local farm, and most of them are going to be painted instead of carved, so the insides can be used for soups.  The ones that are carved will have the seeds roasted for snacks and the outer part composted.

-The kids are making all of the decorations for our party with things from our recycling bin (pictures to come!)

-The food at the party is all organic, with most of it locally grown.

-The candy we’re giving out to the kids at their party is all organic, free of artificial colors/flavors, preservatives, and refined sugar.

-Any decorations for the party that aren’t made from recycled materials are at least reusable…no paper plates, paper streamers, latex balloons, etc.

What are you doing to Green your Halloween?  Take the Green Halloween pledge here:  (Holiday LEDs is giving away a $150 gift certificate to one lucky pledger!)


Family Update & Field Trip–trick or treating at the zoo! October 17, 2010

Filed under: Family updates,Field trips,Saving the Earth — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 7:43 pm
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Because of multiple food allergies, we don’t usually trick or treat around the neighborhood (well, that, and there are no other kids in our neighborhood currently…that kind of puts a kink in the plan! 😉 ).  We usually throw an allergen-free Halloween party for the kids on Halloween, but we do take the kids out trick or treating at an area zoo.  This year, instead of going to the Columbus Zoo, we went to the Cincinnati Zoo to meet up with my sister, her fiance, and my nephew.

A lonely little rose at the zoo.

Monkey as a Pumpkin. This year, we decided to go eco-friendly on the costumes (of course!). All of the costume pieces were either reused, consigned, or bought handmade from Etsy with the intent to repurpose (the hats the girls wore can be used for winter, and the tutus can be used as regular clothes).

Jedi as Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget--this was totally his choice. Not sure what's up with the plaid shoes, but those were also his choice. 😉

The lovely bamboo that was everywhere at the zoo.


The rhino was coming straight at us

Bitty Bug was a ghost.

Jedi was really into character, being all mysterious why watching the animals.

Wild horses (obviously not wild at the zoo. 😉 )

Petting a big snake.



Bug lovin' the zoo!

Bug and Monkey discussing their trick or treating loot

The zebra really close to us

Polar bear

Beautiful pheasant that was loose at the zoo

Asian Elephants

Bug was really into trick or treating. We liked that it was mainly stickers, coloring books, and tooth brushes with 2 or 3 pieces of candy. That way they didn't get too sugared out.

My sweet little baby bug.


Fun with Science…solar powered cooking! July 7, 2010

Filed under: In the kitchen,Preschool,Saving the Earth,Toddler learning — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 3:06 pm

It’s been really hot in Ohio lately, with the heat indices close to 100 degrees for the past several days.  Yesterday, Jedi asked if it was hot enough to fry bacon on the sidewalk.  And of course, when someone asks a question like that in our house, it becomes a science experiment!

So, we tried three separate foods to see if we could cook them using solar power–bacon, hot dogs, and chocolate chip cookies!

For the hot dog, we cut one side out of a milk carton, and lined it with some foil, shiny side up, in an arch shape. Then we put some hot dogs in it (with slits cut in them to let steam escape...not sure if we needed to do it, but why not. LOL!)

Hot dogs in their solar powered cooker.

For the bacon, we lined a cast iron pan with foil, shiny side up, and then layed the strips of bacon in it.

Bacon ready to be cooked

We set both things in the driveway to cook.

My car thermometer says it is 88 degrees out for our experiment. It's also sunny with a few clouds, and it's 1 PM.

For the cookies, I used a gluten free vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe (since we don't eat eggs, gluten, or dairy).

Cookies ready to go out to the car.

I put the cookies on the dashboard of the car, and opened the shield to the moonroof so that more sun can come in (I left the actual moon roof closed though)

While the cookies were baking, we looked at the bacon and hot dogs. After 20 minutes, both were pretty hot. I did take them in and finish them off on the stovetop for one minute just to make sure they were safe for the kids to eat. 😉 )

After 60 minutes, the cookies had expanded and were starting to firm up.

At the 2 hour mark...the cookies are DONE! They are firm, warm, and taste delicious! (And my car smells awesome now too. 😉 )

Even the bottom of the cookies got a little brown. Actually, for gluten free vegan cookies, these actually baked up better than in the oven. Usually they fall right apart coming off the pan when they come out of the oven, but these were firm right off the pan. I've used this recipe a lot in the oven, so I was pretty familiar with the results using non-solar methods to cook.)


So, there you have it…it’s so hot in Ohio these days, you can cook bacon, hot dogs, and cookies (and maybe it’s a good time to remind y’all not to leave pets and kids in the car these days.  After all, it was only 88 degrees, and the car still got hot enough to bake cookies!).  And these were pretty energy efficient cookies…no electricity at all!


April 23, 2010 April 23, 2010

Filed under: Preschool,Saving the Earth,Toddler learning — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 8:45 pm

I have a little catching up to do–yesterday was so busy that I didn’t get to post.  I do want to mention one thing…with wordpress I get to see the search terms people use to find me.  I sometimes check it because this is a new blog and I want to see how people are finding me.  I had to laugh because one of the search terms people used was “montessori with monkey”.  LOL…so this probably wasn’t quite what they were looking for–our Monkey is the human gymnastics-obsessed type of monkey. 😉

Yesterday was Earth Day, so we worked a lot outside starting the process of moving the new dirt to the gardens (when our house was built, a lot of the dirt was torn up, so to get things started and growing again, we had to have some new dirt brought in).  Monkey also worked on planting seeds.  She was thrilled today to wake up and notice that some of her seeds from earlier this week were already growing!

We also set up some recycling bins and talked about recycling.  Monkey didn’t seem to quite grasp the concept of what happens when you recycle, so I’m going to have to think more about what we can do.  For those that are working with younger kids…how do you work on this concept with the 1-3 year old crowd?  She understands about reusing things, but, the concept of taking something to the recycling center and having *them* reuse the things was a bit over Monkey’s head.

In the Montessori room, Monkey and Bitty Bug worked on the same things as earlier this week, plus we brought out a second set of knobbed cylinders and the yellow knobless cylinders.  Monkey loves working with the knobless cylinders, which surprises me because she doesn’t like the pink tower.  Yet, with the knobless cylinders, she builds them up in a tower like the pink tower.  Go figure! 

Bitty Bug decided to try her hand at the knobbed cylinders too–they weren’t set out for her, but I wasn’t going to discourage her from trying.  She actually did quite well.  It’s interesting to see the difference between the two kids.  Monkey is 3 years old and when she works with it, she takes out all of the cylinders, lines them up, and then puts them back in one by one.  Bug will take only 2 out at a time, and then tries to fit them back in place.  Both girls were very good at seeing when the cylinder didn’t fit in the opening and self-correcting.

Both girls were really attracted to the puzzles again.  I think I need to pull out a couple of out toddler puzzles.  I wasn’t expecting the girls to even notice the puzzles (I had them in the case on the top shelf), and not only did they notice, but it held their attention for a long time.  They are way too advanced for Bug, so I’ll have to figure out where the toddler puzzles are at (we haven’t finished unpacking the house yet) and see if she wants to try those.

Both girls tried beading large wooden beads as well.  Bug didn’t really understand the concept but Monkey did.  She only was able to get a couple beads on before she gave up though.  The eye-hand coordination was really difficult for her, but she definitely was on the right track with them.