Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I really enjoy baking- whenever I get a chance, that is! Cooking is okay, but I'd much rather bake. I like the creativeness of baking and the sense of accomplishment when I finish a recipe. Having a sweet tooth doesn't hurt either! 

I'm a sucker for trying new recipes, so I thought I'd share the ones we've tried and liked. I made this brownie recipe last week and it turned out really well. It's just a basic brownie recipe, but I clipped it for my recipe binder! My original intent was to cut the brownies into football shapes, but I got lazy so we just had regular brownies. :) 


1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup cocoa powder  (or 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional  (I did not use)

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, melt the butter. Whisk in the cocoa or melted baking chocolate. Stir in the sugar. Make sure the mixture has cooled, and then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until very cremy. Stir in the flour, salt, and vanilla. Fold in the nuts if using. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cut immediately. Let cool for 30 minutes, then remove from the pan. 

Modifications: I added 1/2 tsp espresso powder to bring out the chocolate flavor as well as 1 cup peanut butter chips (I was craving chocolate/peanut butter). It was delicious- I think I ate half the pan myself. :) 

Original Recipe Source: Penzey's Spices Catalog

If you try them, let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tot School- f is for firetrucks & footballs!

Tot School
Jonathan is 29 Months

We started looking at the letter "f" by reading about firetrucks and footballs. Jonathan is really interested in both things that move and any kind of sport, so he had a lot of fun this week!


We haven't worked on a Bible verse this week. We've been taking a little break from it. I have been playing the Seeds of Courage on our iPod and Jonathan likes dancing and moving around to the music.

We continued reading through a little devotional in the morning, Everything a Child Should Know about God by Kenneth Taylor. We do one page each day and talk about the pictures.

We bought a few more books from the Beginner's Bible I Can Read and Jonathan loves these books. Each night he asks for one or more stories.


We read lots and lots of books the past couple weeks about firemen/firetrucks (see part I and part II) as well as footballs.

  • Flashing Fire Engines by Tony Mitton- this is another part of Tony Mitton's Amazing Machines series. This book focuses on firemen. and is a wonderful, fun introduction to what firemen do. 
  • Fire Engine Man by Andrea Zimmerman & David Clemesha- a little boy imagines what he will do as a fireman someday and how he'll teach his younger brother to be a fireman. 
  • The Little Fire Engine by Lois Lenski- a reprint of a 1946 book that tells about Fireman Small and shows him going through his day fighting fires and rescuing people. The vintage illustrations are charming and Jonathan wanted it read "again" and "again". 
  • My Football Book by Gail Gibbons- This nonfiction book teaches the main rules and positions of American football through showing a friendly competition between two teams. 
Those are the highlights- but we've read plenty more this week. See the original posts for our reviews.

Motor Skills 

We practiced stop, dropping, and rolling while we were learning fire safety. We also practiced "climbing" a ladder:

We also played football. :)


We made a firetruck from a box and some construction paper. Both Jonathan and his friend T. had fun dressing up and pretending to be firemen:


We used our beginner pattern blocks to make a firetruck:

And did puzzles which featured firetrucks and footballs:

and Jonathan also had fun playing with his fire extinguisher which just happens to be a water gun. I let him "clean" my windows.

So that's what we've been up to this week!

I'm linking up to:

Link & Learn @ No Time for Flashcards
Tot School @ 1+1+1=1

Saturday, May 28, 2011

f is for firetruck/firefighter: books part II

Firetrucks were such a hit with Jonathan this week that we actually went back to the library to find more books about firetrucks. Here are some of the ones we found- enjoy!

Fire Engines by Anne Rockwell

This is a book Jonathan has requested several times. It has bright illustrations with dalmatian firefighters featured on every page. The text is short (one or two sentences per page) but very informative about different types of fire engines. It held Jonathan's attention at two as well as his friend T. (who is 15 mos). Both boys really enjoyed the book and Jonathan had fun pulling out his different fire engines as we read the story.

The Little Fire Engine by Lois Lenski

This is a reprint of a book by famous author/illustrator Lois Lenski that was originally published in 1946. It was part of a series about "Mr Small" and in this book we observe "Fireman Small" fighting fires and rescuing children. The text is simple and the illustrations are charming and while some firefighting methods have changed, it's still an entertaining book for toddlers and preschoolers. Jonathan has requested repeated readings of this book!

Clifford The Firehouse Dog by Norman Bridwell

We pulled this one from our own collection. Jonathan has always enjoyed the Clifford stories. In this particular book, Clifford and Emily Elizabeth go to the fire station to visit Clifford's brother who is a firehouse dog. Clifford has his usual adventures helping rescue people and putting out fires. The book concludes with some fire safety tips. As I mentioned, Clifford is usually quite entertaining for Jonathan and this book was no exception. It's not as high quality as some of the other books we read, but it would make for a good introduction to firefighters and would lead into the other books we enjoyed.

Jonathan & T. the firemen!

Friday, May 27, 2011

f is for football- books & activities

Image source

Another thing Jonathan is enamored with is sports. Although it's not football season, I figured that football would be of interest to Jonathan.


My Football Book by Gail Gibbons

This book introduces the basics of the game of (American) football. It covers the basic rules, equipment, field, and positions of American football. The book emphasizes that football is fun to both play and watch. The illustrations show a friendly game between two different teams and features a female referee. Jonathan really engaged with this book and wanted it read several times.

Family Huddle by the Manning family

This is about football's famous Manning family. It recounts a typical weekend during the childhood of Peyton and Eli Manning and their older brother Cooper. The boys go on a trip to Mississippi to visit both sets of their grandparents. The weekend is full of football as the boys attempt different plays. However, there isn't much of a plot beyond the different football plays. The story is stilted and awkward. I didn't really care for it. Jonathan enjoyed it though, so maybe other little boys would as well.

 Touchdown! My Football Book by Davd Diehl

This board book is a perfect introduction to football for babies and toddlers. One football related word is illustrated per page such as "helmet" and "quarterback". The bold illustrations are are very eye-catching.This is more of a concept/first word book, so it probably wouldn't hold the attention of older children.  Jonathan enjoyed looking through this board book, but did gravitate more toward the stories with a plot.

Gross Motor Skills 

We played with Jonathan's toy footballs (indoors) and played with daddy's football (outdoors)

Fine Motor Skills 

We did a puzzle which features different balls, including a football:


And we colored an "F is for Football" page from 2 Teaching Mommies.

Web Resources 

Football Unit & Printables @ 2 Teaching Mommies
Football Printables @ Making Learning Fun

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

F is for Firetruck/Firefighter: Activities

Image Source

Motor Skills 

We practiced stop, drop and roll (camera was out of batteries for that one- but he kind of tried to somersault). 

We climbed a "ladder":

(And threw bean bags between the "rungs")


We used some flashcards that I found at Lawteedah to talk about common fire safety words including  firetruck, helmet, fire extinguisher, ladder, etc.  Jonathan had fun "matching" the pictures to real life objects:


We made a firetruck out of a box. First, I covered the box with white drawing paper and we went outside and painted it red:

The next day, we added wheels, windows, headlights, and ladders using construction paper. Then Jonathan took it for a ride:


We used our beginner pattern blocks to make a fire truck:

We also tried to count firetrucks using another printable-- but this didn't hold his interest.

Just for Fun 

Jonathan's fireman costume included a fire extinguisher which was really a water gun. I let him "spray" the back door and then wipe up the water. He loved this-- I had to eventually  hide the fire extinguisher!

Web Resources: 

Fire Safety Unit Study @ Lawteedah

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

f is for firetruck/firefighter: books

We finally started our "f" unit by looking at firetrucks!

My little boy loves cars, trucks, planes-- anything that moves. Firetrucks have really caught his attention. We live in a small downtown area where the fire station is about a block or two away, so we hear the sirens frequently. Jonathan gets excited every time he hears the sirens and has to come tell me about it. This little mini-unit was a hit for him. I thought I'd start breaking up what we've done into several different posts. Here are the books we've been reading:


Fire Engine Man by Andrea Zimmerman & David Clemesha

This is the second book we've read by this writing duo. It is a follow-up book to Digger Man, which Jonathan really loved, and it follows a similar storyline. A little boy imagines what he would do as a fireman. He would put out fires and slide down poles. He would sleep in a bunk at the fire station and drive firetrucks. His little brother is too young right now, but one day he'll teach him how to be a firefighter. Jonathan enjoyed this as much as the first book-- he requested it be read several times. I think he can relate to the young boy in the story and how he just really enjoys big firetrucks!

Flashing Fire Engines by Tony Mitton

Both Jonathan and I have really enjoyed Tony Mitton's Amazing Machines series. So as I plotted out our lessons, I knew I wanted to reserve this book. The book is filled with Mitton's usual alliterative prose and shows three friendly firefighters going about their day. The firefighters drive in their fire engine with flashing lights and help rescue people who need help. It's a wonderful, fun introduction to what fire fighters do.

Fire! Fire! by Gail Gibbons

This book by noted notifction writer Gail Gibbons is perfect for the older tooddler or preschooler. This book explains how firefighters fight fires in different settings-- in the city, in the country, in the forest and on the waterfront. There are only a few sentences per page and the detailed illustrations are labeled so you can point out different terms to your child. The book also includes fire prevention tips as well as instructions on what to do if there is a fire. Jonathan paid attention to the first section, about the fire in the city, but then he quickly lost interest. I think if I continue to read one section at a time, it will be a great resource for him.

I Want to be a Firefighter by Dan Liebman

This book features full and double-page photographs of firefighters in action. The book features both firemen and fire-women and teaches about the daily responsibilities they face. There are one or two sentences per page, which make it an easy read-aloud for the younger set. Jonathan sat through the book but wasn't as interested in the pictures as I thought he might be. If your child is interested in being a firefighter when he or she grows older, then this book may be a bigger hit.

I'm linking this post to:

Read Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word
Feed Me Books Friday @ Little Sprout Books
What My Child is Reading @ Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns

Friday, May 20, 2011

Reading Our Library- Molly Bang

This week has been a busy one for us- we've had family in town for most of the week. So we haven't done very many "tot school" activities, but we've read quite a few books! This week's author is Molly Bang. This is kind of a mixed book review, because I honestly didn't enjoy some of the books we read this week.

Molly Bang is an award-winning children's book author and illustrator from the United States. She's written over thirty books for children. We recently read and enjoyed her story Yellow Ball, which is part of the Before Five in a Row Curriculum. She frequently appears on lists of recommended children's book, so I decided that we should sample more of her work.

 First up was The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher, which received a Caldecott Honor Award in 1981. To be frank, I found this book incredibly creepy. The story is told solely by the illustrations. A Grey Lady purchases some strawberries at the store and then is stalked/followed/chased by the strawberry snatcher, who looks like a mean blue goblin. Over and over again the snatcher gets close to getting the strawberries and the lady finds a way to escape. Finally, the strawberry snatcher is distracted by some blackberries and the lady arrives home safely. I had heard of the book, but wasn't aware of the content. So I was a little worried as we read the book. Fortunately, Jonathan didn't seem scared by the story. But he also didn't want to repeat it.

Then we read When Sophie Gets Angry-- Really, Really Angry which was another Caldecott Honor Book. This story is about a little girl named Sophie who gets angry when she has to give her sister a turn with her toy gorilla. She gets so angry "she wants to smash the world to smithereens". Bang's vivid warm illustrations illustrate the volcano that Sophie feels inside. Then Sophie runs and runs until she can't run anymore. She cries and climbs a favorite tree and sits there until she calms down and returns home. As a parent, I have mixed feelings about this book. I think it's appropriate for children to need to move to a "quiet place" until they can calm down. (That's helped to defuse Jonathan's temper tantrums). However, I did not like that Sophie ran away into the woods in order to do so. I think the book can provide good talking points on how to handle anger, but I'm sure there are better books out there. Jonathan sat through this story, but hasn't requested it again.

All of Me! A Book of Thanks was the next book we checked out from our library. This is a more recent publication featuring a bi-racial child who shares how he is thankful for the different parts of his body. It's a cute colorful book which would lend itself well to talking about the different parts of the body. The only caution I have is with the final page in which talks about the universe "inside all of me". As a Christian, this is too pantheistic for me. I just altered the end a bit when reading to Jonathan, emphasizing that the whole universe was made by God. Jonathan enjoyed this book and it made him laugh at points. He had fun pointing to the parts of his body as they were mentioned in the book and we talked about what the parts of the body do (knees can bend, mouths can kiss, tongues can taste, etc.) So overall, I would recommend this book with the caution to other parents that Bang's worldview isn't necessarily theistic.

Finally, we read Molly Bang's classic bedtime book Ten, Nine, Eight. This is yet another book that received the Caldecott Honor Medal. In this sweet story, a father lovingly tucks his little girl into bed while counting down from ten to one. They count ten toes, nine fuzzy friends, all the way down to one big girl ready for bed. The text is very simple and the illustrations are very soothing. There's nothing objectionable at all in this story, and it held it's appeal for Jonathan. It's a perfect story to read before bedtime (or naptime) and you can easily expand on the story find your own things to count in your child's room.

I am linking this post to:

Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope Is the Word
Feed Me Books Friday @ Little Sprout Books
What My Child is Reading @ Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tot School- e is for elephant, earth, eggs, elves, & engines

Tot School
Jonathan is 28 Months

I haven't posted a Tot School post for the several weeks. We were busy with Easter and traveling. But we did continue our alphabet adventures and studied the letter "e" the past couple weeks. We've focused on eggs, elephants, the earth, elves, and engines. 

Easter 2011


We reviewed our new memory verse this week from the Songs for Saplings CD:

"The Word of the Lord Endures Forever" 1 Peter 1:25. 

We printed out the memory verse from the Totally Tots printable. This is really hit or miss at this point. Sometimes Jonathan will sing along with the song, and sometimes not. I don't know that he's really capable of memorizing verses at this point. But it's still something I want to attempt with him. Have any other moms had success with memory work at this age?

We also read through a little devotional in the morning, Everything a Child Should Know about God by Kenneth Taylor. We do one page each day and talk about the pictures.

What has been the biggest hit was an idea my husband came up with. We had been trying to read Jonathan from a toddler Bible, but found that the stories are often truncated with one story per page. He wasn't paying attention well or engaging in the story. Brian thought maybe if we had a separate children's book for each Bible story, he would engage more. We bought a few books from the Beginner's Bible I Can Read and Jonathan loves these books. Each night he asks for one or more stories and he remembers the basic plot of the stories. He's started telling me that Noah was happy because he loved God and that the mean king of Egypt said "No! No! No!". It's really quite cute.

The stories in this series are retellings of the Bible stories, so they are not the actual text of Scripture itself. Our hope is that by reading these at night, we'll be able to transition more easily into an actual children's Bible.


We read lots and lots of books the past couple weeks about all of our "e" words. Here were some of Jonathan's favorites- click on the links to see our full reviews and lots more books!

And those are just the highlights of the books we read the past couple of weeks! We also read books by Gene Baer and Keith Baker as part of our Reading Our Library project.

And we also read some books about the letter "e":

My "e" Sound Box by Jane Monclure

Jonathan has really been enjoying this series. Each letter is represented by a little boy or girl who finds objects that begin with his letter sound and put them into a box. He requested this book several times and it gave us chances to talk about words that we aren't covering as part of our "e" unit such as envelope, Eskimo, and eggplant.

Alphabet Bob Books 

We were reading the "E F Book" this week. Jonathan has liked this series as well, but not as much as the sound box books. 

Motor Skills 

We did some work on lacing using cards (eggs and elephants) I printed from Confessions of a Homeschooler and 1+1+1=1's Tot School Printables. Jonathan wasn't so interested in the lacing this time though.

He has been really focused on gross motor skills. Lately he's becoming quite the little boy- very, very active. Everything is a baseball bat or a hammer to him. We've been trying to set boundaries over kicking balls in the house. It's a little of a struggle for me because I don't want to squash the little boy in him, but yet the constant activity drives me nuts sometimes! Anyone else deal with this?

Fortunately, we've been able to play outside a lot more. Spring (or Summer) has officially arrived to Chicago. We've spent a lot of time playing in the yard where it's perfectly acceptable to kick or throw balls (as long as he doesn't throw them at Grace!). He seems to really enjoy soccer and he tries to "golf" with his baseball bat and golf clubs:

Letters  & Writing

We did some pre-writing exercises from our Tot School Printables pack. Jonathan's getting better at making lines and circles on a page. However, he gets so excited that then he wants to scribble all over the page!


We made an elephant out of shapes. This was good for shape recognition as well as practice gluing:

We finger-painted the earth:

Painted pictures of eggs and dot painted upper and lowercase "e" to practice letter recognition:

And used markers to color an "e is for elf" page:

Pretend Play/Music/Games

We played with Jonathan's Thomas the Tank Engines a lot. He loves these!

Jonathan got a new game this week, the Bambino Luk


We practiced number recognition by using our elephant floor numbers from Confessions of a Homeschooler and practiced running from one number to another. (Great rainy day activity!) 

We practiced number matching/counting by using an Easter egg printable from Confessions of a Homeschooler. This one was hard because the eggs were printed on the page and Jonathan had a hard time knowing which eggs he counted already. 

We practiced more counting using another printable from Love My Life x 4. This one was easier for him because he had to move eggs into a basket. So he knew which eggs he had counted already. 

We practiced counting and matching by pulling Grace's shoes out of a bag (a tie in to the elves and the shoemaker story). This was another great way to count because he could touch and manipulate the shoes to see if he counted them already:

So that's what we've been up to the past few weeks! Now it's on to letter f. :)

I'm linking up to:

Link & Learn @ No Time for Flashcards
Tot School @ 1+1+1=1
What My Child is Reading @ Mouse Learns, Mouse Grows
Feed Me Books Friday @ Little Sprout Books

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