Forcing the Bloom

Happy, Healthy Mommy Blog

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Pictures of Winter

We had an awesome snowstorm the last two days considering we are in blue sky North Carolina.  What do you do on snow days to keep your toddler busy?  I rotate toys about twice a day and put out new activities anytime he’s not looking.  And, of course, play in the snow!  We had a long conversation about why the snowman couldn’t come in doors for a snack.  We made some bread pudding and organized kitchen cupboards.  B was completely engrossed in a food processor box!  He loved seeing all the things hidden away and investigating how they worked.  He was also completely fascinated with making bread pudding.  He stirred the custard mixture and put bread in the bowl.  One for him, one for the bowl.  Then he helped clean up.  He enjoys wiping up the counter and doing dishes.  Who needs movies!  This stuff took all day!  Nothing against movies.  We watched one last night with big bowls of popcorn!  We also did our usually books, potty time, and various other Montessori-style activities (which I’ll put in my next post).  For now, signing off from NC’s winter wonderland!

P.S. I’m pretty proud of my snowman!  B supervised and the dogs tried to eat the nose!  With all that being said, it turned out okay.

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Portobello Mushroom Soup

What to do with all those holiday leftovers?  Soup!  Since I had several pints of mushrooms and heavy cream leftover from Christmas, I decided to try making mushroom soup.  I love creamy soups in the winter.  I searched around for some recipes and picked out one by Wolfgang Puck on the Food Network.  I used portobello mushrooms in place of button mushrooms.  Delicious!

Mushroom Soup










Recipe for Mushroom Soup by Wolfgang Puck.

Some other ideas for Mushroom Soup.

Creamy Mushroom Soup by Martha Stewart.

Mixed Mushroom Soup by Martha Stewart.

Cream of Mushroom Soup by Rachel Ray.

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup by Barefoot Contessa.

What is your favorite soup in the winter?



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Toddler Activities with Egg Cartons

It is especially fun to create toddler activities with recycled trash!  Cheap, homemade (of sorts) and DIY are some of my favorite descriptions for toddler activities.  So, egg cartons are perfect!  I keep a stack of different kinds of egg cartons in my craft cupboard.  They are great for sorting, counting, and art activities.  They are also great for holding small items and organizing your drawers or cupboards.  Ice cube trays also serve similar purposes.  Here are some basic activities with egg cartons but you can do so much more!  One-to-one correspondence activities such as placing wooden balls, puff balls or wiffle balls in cartons are early math activities.  You can also color code the egg baskets or assign numbers or letters.  You can use them for more complex sorting or use them as paint dishes.  I still remember uses egg cartons when I was in elementary school for painting projects.

Here is B (21 months old) is placing wooden balls in a 6-egg carton.  He did NOT like the activity with puff balls so try different materials and don’t get discouraged.  I usually have to introduce an activity several times before B wants to try it.  We counted each ball as he placed them in the carton.  I’ve seen other people write numbers or letters on the balls and in the cartons for a matching activity.  We’ll build up to that.


egg carton activities from forcingthebloom

egg carton activities from forcingthebloom












Here is B with a 12-egg carton.  He enjoyed filling it with wiffle balls.  No puff balls, please!  Maybe it’s boy thing?   A major part of the activity is taking the carton off the shelf and putting it back when B is done.  He knows he can’t get something new until he puts everything back.  The practice of moving things on and off the shelf helps with body control.

egg carton activities from forcingthebloom

egg carton activities from forcingthebloom












Here are some more ideas from other Montessori mamas using egg cartons !

Living Montessori Now  – Color Walk

Our Natural Journey  – Repurposing Egg Cartons

Kindergarten Basics – Upcycle Egg Cartons to Building Blocks + links to many other egg carton ideas!

Gift of Curiosity – Math with Egg Cartons + several other cool Montessori activities

Any other ideas?  How have you used your egg cartons?

We’ll revisit this theme again in the Spring!  Say, around Easter time!  You, me and that crazy Easter bunny.  This will be the first year B really gets to open Christmas presents and will understand the idea of an Easter egg hunt.  Can’t wait!  Have a Merry Christmas!!

Christmas Tree from forcingthebloom

Christmas Tree from forcingthebloom






Roll it, Pat it and Put it in the Oven!

My little guy (20 months) enjoyed helping me make homemade whole wheat bread today.  The last few weeks I’ve been learning to make bread.  It’s very satisfying to knead and pound dough.  I put my toddler next to me on a stool or in his high chair and let him maneuver the flour.  He likes to trace his finger through it and sprinkle it on our dogs.  Then I let him mix the flour and water and feel the sticky, pasty dough.  Ounce it gets completely covered with flour and is nice and soft, it’s like playing with play-doh.  We talk through the process of letting it rise and baking it in the oven.  He never takes the hot bread out of the oven but he likes to put on the oven mitts just the same.  It kind of makes me feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Clean-up is just as much a part of the process as making the bread.  B loves to help wash dishes, wipe down the counter, and sweep the floor.  It’s amazing how difficult it is for me to let him do the work himself.  Maybe because I know I can do it MUCH faster and it’s easy to think the “activity” is over – now go play!  Today we worked for almost 30 minutes cleaning up dry rice that had spilled during a transferring activity (B will spoon the rice between two small bowls).  It was very challenging for him to push the rice into the dustpan!  Since he was intent on doing it and was not getting frustrated, I let him do it himself.  It was more challenging for me to keep quiet and not interfere!  He’s generally happier and more interested in helping the more I let him do things by himself.

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Homemade Wheat Bread












In the afternoon, we had to run lots of errands around town.  Everything goes much more smoothly (meaning no temper tantrums) when I go at a very slow pace, or I should say B’s pace.  I internally want to get the errand down AS FAST AS POSSIBLE.  I would think B would agree with me if he knew that meant more time on the playground when we are all down.  But that’s not how it works.  We have a much better time when I go at a slow, toddler pace.  That means, lots of breaks for snacks, singing, talking with people, checking out signs and picture, and generally observing the world.  At one store, B and I spent a LONG time swinging before getting back into the car.  We had to try both swings and switch back and forth several times.  Ah, I love how my toddler makes me a better person – someone who stops to smell the roses and not force the bloom!













Daddy was very patient with B while they decorated the tree!  Everything is more fun with a toddler when you’re willing to go at their pace!  Even the cat got involved.  😉


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Montessori At Home: Toddler Activities

I’m slowly incorporating Montessori into our home!  It’s sort of addicting!  It’s so much fun that I’m almost obsessed with finding more activities.  There are moms out there doing some pretty cool things with their kids.  You can find neat DIY ideas on Pinterest, YouTube and WordPress – pretty much everywhere.  Moms love to share ideas :).  Here are just a few of my recent favorites: Racheous, JadyMahoganyHomemakerPinterest searches.  So, what are we up to?  This past week has been an explosion of words.  Baby B is 16 months old and this week I have really started to hear a few words clearly.  This week I heard “water”, “itchy”, “out”, “kitty”, “doggie”, “daddy”, “mama” and “moo”.  Everything before sounded like “dadadada”.  He could identify lots of things but I think now he’s getting the hang of language.  I think using sign language helped but that’s another topic.


Since Baby B is working on words, I created a word display and a word basket.  All things I’ve seen other at-home Montessori moms doing.  Very cool.  I made a place that he could easily see while playing and displayed the word “cow“.  He says “moo” for cow.  After I made the display, we went over it together.  1.) I had the word written out on a dry erase board.  2.) I spelled out cow with magnets.  3.) I put up a picture of a cow.  4.) I displayed a plastic toy cow.  5.)  I let our dog stand in the picture because he looks like a small, baby cow (seriously).  Baby B loved it!  Later when we were talking about a cow he ran over to the display and yelled “moo!”  We are still working on saying cow but that will come.  As long as he loves learning, I’m in!  I also created a word basket (sorry no picture).  I put a few objects in the basket that were common and around the house.  I used a cup, ball, rock and small foam bird.  We sat on a pillow and I showed him each object while I said the word slowly.  He played with them and put them in his mouth.  Then I asked him to find each object I named and hand it to me.  Good time to practice please and thank you.  As you can see, the game can be expanded very easily.  You could talk about colors, numbers, stories and matching.  There are many possibilities.

Word Display









We are experimenting with homemade play dough this week.  I made a batch of whole wheat play dough.  The recipe was from Elizabeth G. Hainstock’s “Teaching Montessori in the Home.”  That book has lots of great activity ideas.  I borrowed it from the library along with “Teach Me To Do It Myself” by Maja Pitamic.

Play Dough (Clay) pg 84

3 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water (with coloring), and 1 T oil

I used whole wheat flour and it turn out fine.  Baby B liked to smash it and pull it apart.  I gave him a small, wooden hammer to pound it.  We also practiced pounding with our hands.  I rolled it into long snake-like strips and let him practice cutting with a toddler knife.  Today I saw him cutting his dinner food so I think it helped!  We also did finger painting with Veggie Baby Finger Paint by Wee Can Too.  I bought this at The Baby Grocery Store along with several healthy snacks.  He loved finger painting and stayed at it much longer than he does with crayons.  He didn’t even try and eat it!  Amazing.  🙂

Play Dough


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PB Crackers

Who needs Lance or Ritz when you have Mom?  Mom stuff is almost always better anyway.  I’m pretty proud of my PB crackers idea although I would not be surprised if I stole it inadvertently for another brilliant mom.  I would also not be surprise if you have already tried this 🙂  This week I made a new toddler snack – PB crackers – and it was one of those rare moments when I felt like a truly wise and creative mom.  I felt on top of the world!  Then my dog ate the poopy diaper I left in the bathroom and brought me back down to earth.  Ah yes, that’s more like it – chaotic, crazy, messy mom 🙂  So, my PB crackers are basically a homemade nut butter with tahini (which is a “complete protein” according to Super Baby Food book) and a little maple syrup mixed together and smeared between two crackers.  Let them sit in the freezer or frig until they harden and stick together.  In the end you have a great snack for toddlers.  Other options: graham crackers, honey or Nutella.  Any other ideas?  Stick a bag of them in the frig for the week and grab on the go.  It’s good to acknowledge the little successes in life.  And this was one of mine.  🙂


PB Crackers

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Clean Eating Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream

Yum!  I love ice cream and never thought there could be a healthy substitute.  Behold!  A clean eating recipe that was approved by Daddy and Baby.  Cocao powder has iron, magnesium and zinc.  Peanut butter has protein.  And bananas have potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, manganese and fiber.  Can’t wait to try some other similar recipes like cherry almond ice cream or strawberry banana ice cream!

Clean Eating Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream

(Makes 2 servings)


  • 2 cups frozen bananas, thawed on the countertop for about 10 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (more if you want)
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (more if you want)


  1. Allow the bananas to sit out on the counter so they just begin to thaw (just barely).
  2. Put the bananas through the Yonana’s machine (or in a processor or Vitamix with a small splash of milk and blend till smooth).
  3. Stir in the peanut butter and cocoa powder. Mix well and serve.

Nutritional Content:
(Data is for 1/2 the recipe)

Calories: 230
Total Fat: 9 gm
Saturated Fats: 2 gm
Trans Fats: 0 gm
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 78 mg
Carbohydrates: 39 gm
Dietary fiber: 5 gm
Sugars: 19 gm
Protein: 5 gm
Estimated Glycemic Load: 13