Sep 29, 2007

my find

Many of you post lovely pics of your thrifting finds. I would love to claim that I, too, am a "thrifter." But considering there are no thrift stores in rural Mexico, much less any of those second-hand palaces which boast of cutsie-patootsie bedsheets and linens, I cannot claim that moniker.

However, treasures can be unearthed in the most unlikely of places:

Damascus Vibrating Shuttle Sewing Machine 1925 001

Damascus Vibrating Shuttle Sewing Machine 1925 006

Sitting in the corner of a dusty-musty store in Creel, Chihuahua, Mexico. With no less than 10 years of dust on top. I present to you my new, old, 1925 Damascus Vibrating Shuttle sewing machine. I paid 150 pesos, or about $14 US. Eureka!

One day, when I can boast of an entire room dedicated to sewing, this tired old lady will have her own special place in a sunny corner, where she will live out her golden years with the respect she deserves.

Sep 27, 2007


Apple pie. Apple cider. Apple juice. Baked apples, cinnamon and sugar. Applesauce. Warm, apple smell drifting around the kitchen and enveloping you like a mohair scarf. Apple picking. Apple crates. Apples coming out your ears.

Here are the apples of my eye, making apple juice and peeling, coring, and slicing apples to be dried in the generous autumn sun.

making apple juice 012

making apple juice 003

making apple juice 050

making apple juice 080

making apple juice 081

making apple juice 106

making apple juice 103


Sep 25, 2007

i'm loving ...

wide-leg lounge pants

... my new p.j. pants, made from Amy Butler's book In Stitches. I shortened the pants substantially and added the band of owl print to complete the "bedtime" theme.

... this incredibly beautiful linen quilt that I bought from Amanda's Etsy shop. Visions of picnics, stargazing, cuddling and dozing dance in my head!

... live music in the classroom

Violin concert

A local Tarahumara (indigenous) man came to give my students a short violin concert. The Tarahumara make their own violins and play them in a fiddle-like manner.

tarahumara violin

The children watched intently. Later on in the day, look who I caught trying to play the violin! Adorable.

Playing the violin

Sep 23, 2007

the montessori classroom

I thought that some of you might find a photo tour of a Montessori Children's House quite useful. Skip on over to my Flickr page where you will find many photos of my classroom with helpful notes for each photo.

The Montessori Prepared Environment 011

I hope this gives you some ideas for how to set up your own learning environments!

This weekend has been SO productive ... can't quite yet tell you why, but I can't wait to spill the beans sometime soon! Crafting has been put on the back burner for these past few weeks, but now that this BIG THING is done, all those projects lined up on the craft conveyor belt can start moving once again.

Hope you've had a pleasant autumnal equinox.

Thanks for readin'.


Sep 20, 2007

rustic holiday stockings


Like many of you, I've been coaxed back to the knitting needles due to the ever-so-slight evening chill. This pattern, designed by Kristin Nicholas, can be found in Interweave Knit's Winter 2006 mag.

Rustic Holiday Stocking embroidered tree

These are some monumental socks. The tree stocking is the first thing I've ever made for Mr. Montessori By Hand. Although somewhere, buried under who-knows-what, is an unfinished scarf intended for my sweet. Maybe one day ...

This is also the first holiday decor project (of what I hope will be many) that I have made for us. One day I would like to boast of completely handmade holidays in our house. I feel the best way to go about this is to make things little by little, with no rush or pressure. It's better to have sparse-yet-meaningful holiday decor at first than to purchase items simply to up the festive ambiance.

We still haven't had to start a fire in our wood stove, but our neighbors say that the first frost comes sometime in mid-September. I'm reveling in the last few weeks of lounging around my house without three layers of clothing and a winter coat. Remember my earlier posts? Yes, those are my arms covered by a wool sweater and a wool coat. Inside my house. With a fire lit. Egads!

Sep 19, 2007

the hilarity of it all


This is me at three months old. I'm pretty sure I'm having a good laugh about the ugly, semi-shag 80's carpet in the background. Thank goodness children born nowadays will have their chubby little chin rolls remembered in a more artistic fashion. If the world were perfect, all children would have photographic portfolios to rival Heather's impeccable shots.

Thank you for all of your thoughtful and supportive responses to my last post. As I continue to dabble in motherhood and study up on child development for the 0-3 age range, I am boosted and validated by words of wisdom from all of you mama "experts" out there. I promise that, once I do become a mother, you will hear a lot about my musings on the whole motherhood/baby thing. But until then, I'll continue to offer you snippets of my life as I know it, which happens to be filled with a lot of 3-6 year-olds. And snot. Which is my #1 workplace hazard.

Joyful Abode recently tagged me with the 7 facts about yourself meme. Finally I get to write about the only thing I'm an expert at - being me. So here it goes -

1.) I've been a vegetarian-at-heart since I was about 5, when my brother told me where hot dogs came from. I was forced to eat a bit of chicken at the family dinner table until I left for college, but I often opted for the "chew-and-spit-it-out-later-onto-a-napkin" routine. I've been 100% vegetarian since 1999. Here's the weird part - I will, on occasion, fix myself a mustard and ketchup sandwich. My husband thinks I'm nutso. But who are you all kidding? Isn't the mustard and ketchup taste the reason why you opt for a hot dog in the first place?

2.) I ran the Canadian International Marathon in 2002. I finished in 3:44, two minutes short of qualifying for Boston. My dad, who ran in a gazillion marathons back in the day, flew out to cheer me on and accompanied me for the last six miles. Patrick, who was my boyfriend at the time, would graciously accompany me on bike for my training runs or, for the longer runs, would meet me along the way in the car with a banana and water refill. His philosophy on running? "Running is like carrots. I like carrots. I'll eat one, maybe two, but I'm not about to eat the whole darn crate-full. No marathons for me."

3.) My middle name is Danielle. My brother's names are Darby, Derek, and Daron. Thank goodness they named me Meghan. So I could be just like the other 18 Megans in the nursery at the time. This 80's Megan craze is why I go by Meg. And it is why I will do my best to avoid giving my children "popular" names. My years as Meghan A. will never be forgotten. (Just kidding, Mom. It wasn't that bad!)

4.) I don't like wearing shorts. I think they make me look shorter. I'm a skirt kind of gal in the summer.

5.) I have a secret desire to become Amelie. (That's the Amelie from the movie ... not my cat.) I saw the movie in France with my sweetheart when we were studying abroad. I sort of have the haircut. I listen to the soundtrack. I even love the name, hence my kitty. I would have named my daughter Amelie, but c'mon - Amelie McElwee? Doofy to the max.

6.) I've always had a thing for very smart boys. Dorky is better. Play the piano really well? Even better. Write really well? Good. And what were your SAT and GRE scores again? You would have thought this was my dating application form.

7.) Scorpion is my favorite yoga pose. And no, my back doesn't look as curvy as the one in that little video. Unlike Mr. Video, I still have all of my vertebrae.

Hope you've enjoyed this seven-fold sojourn into my wacky side. I tag anyone who wants to list 7 facts about themselves.

Sep 17, 2007

the questioning

Montessori books

I've had these two books on my bedside table for the past several weeks. Each has something important to offer to parents of young children.

Tim Seldin's How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way is an inviting introduction to Montessori, providing parents with an overview of Montessori philosophy in addition to many practical suggestions for daily life with a child. Tim offers tips for "disciplining" the Montessori way, ideas for a peace table in the home, advice on encouraging independence in personal care, and lots more. Plus, the book reads like one of those yummy craft books we all adore - interspersing great photos within the text. I highly recommend it for any parent, even if you aren't familiar with or interested in Montessori as an educational philosophy.

Montessori From the Start is a bit more "hard core." The book focuses intensely on the child at home, from birth to three years-old. As a prospective mother (hehe!) I've found many ideas within its pages. This is a book that you will underline. Although its layout is bland and it contains only a few black and white photos, it is a gold mine of information on child development and on how best to assist your child through these first years of life.

But I have a confession to make. I have a few strong doubts about some of the advice given in Montessori From the Start. For the most part, I agree with it. Here are my hang-ups:
  • The suggestion that weaning should begin at around six months. I believe we have to look to research which encourages breastfeeding for at least the first year of life. Breastfeeding once a day even after the child has been introduced to solid food should be encouraged, I think. I don't know where this early weaning idea originated, but I think that we do the baby a disservice if we encourage independence over what is natural and healthy. To me, "early weaning" seems like a vestige of an uber-western idea of "educating" a child. Early weaning would never happen here amongst the indigenous population of northern Mexico. I feel that since nature designed functioning mammary glands and willing babies way past the six month mark, then we shouldn't meddle.
  • The general sense the book imparts that, as parents, we need to be perfect. Calm. Always one step ahead. Ahem. We ain't perfect. I just want throw in my two cents for all of you parents out there, doing your best with what every day throws at you. You don't need to be perfect! If anything, the child learns a wonderful lesson from all of your "imperfections." He learns that love transcends imperfections. And that is one valuable lesson!
Sometimes I feel guilty for differing with my "chosen" educational philosophy. Then I hearken back to my own Montessori roots, which instilled in me an independence of thought and encouraged me to always ask "why?" And I feel better. It's so important, within any group, to have a healthy debate on controversial issues. I encourage you to respond with your feelings on the subject, so we can hear many different points of view.

On a different note, I just ordered Joelle's new book, Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts!
The impetus for me?
A Puzzle Ball pattern! The Puzzle Ball is a wonderful developmental toy for a baby who is just beginning to grasp with both hands. The many "handles" of the ball help the child build wrist strength and coordination. Plus, it rolls a very short distance if dropped, thus eliminating frustration of a bouncy ball that rolls hopelessly out of reach. It does roll a bit, however, encouraging the not-yet-crawling child to scoot over and grasp it again. I would give this toy an A+ if I believed in grades and academic competition. But I don't. So I'll give it three thumbs up instead. This would make a GREAT baby gift! I'll be making them for the many (prospective) children in my life!

Wishing you all a pleasant Monday eve,

Sep 16, 2007

Mexican independence day

fireworks from the roof of the mayor's offices

September 16th is Mexico's independence day. They also have a "revolution day" (November 20th) and celebrate their 1862 victory over Napoleon III's army on Cinco de Mayo. But the night of September 15th is the most important of these remembrances. In small villages and large cities around the country, the mayor stands in front of the gathered masses and reenacts Miguel Hidalgo's 1810 call for independence from Spain. This reenactment is called "El Grito," which is literally translated as "The Yell."

We were part of last night's festivities. Here are some of the sights (and smells and sounds, if you loosen the reins of your imagination.)

covering a mango with chile sauce

cooking on an oil barrel stove

candied apples

selling flags

city officials salute the flag

Sep 15, 2007

ellen edson - folk songs for children

Did you know about this already? I consider myself a bit of a children's music aficionado, but Ellen Edson's music just entered my radar screen. I LOVE IT! Take a listen:

This song, Sweet Potatoes, is from her first children's album, Family Fare: Folk Songs for Children and Their Families. What makes this music special, I think, is the Appalachian mountain style that seeps from every chord. Ellen's down-home vocals are accompanied by guitar, banjo, fiddle, autoharp and Appalachian dulcimer. Sweet, sweet relief from all of that gaudily synthesized, commercial children's music that's so readily available. This CD is a great way to introduce your child/students to traditional American music, as Ellen interprets folk "greats" such as Woodie Guthrie.

Ellen just released a new album, The Sweetness of You, which I heard about through one of my favorite designers, Kristin Nicholas. Kristin did the artwork for the album. After a quick listen, I knew I had to add it to my collection! I encourage you to do the same. There is little better that filling a child's life with meaningful music - and singing it together.

Sep 12, 2007

bittersweet: life as a bar of dark chocolate

september flowers

The sweet: My backyard is ablaze in yellow, as these plants have one last raucous outburst ...

The bitter: ... before the first freeze comes. Then they will make their humble retreat, unceremoniously becoming part of the soil from whence they came.

The bitter: Already a month of the school year has come and gone. Before I know it I will be leaving Mexico, my students, and my life here. I just returned from faxing a job ad to AMI's headquarters in Holland. Yeah. The one that will (hopefully) attract my replacement. This was hard. That fork in the road up ahead? It's no oasis.

The sweet: I'm going "home." Beginning a new chapter. Connecting with old friends and meeting new faces. Becoming part of a vibrant university intellectual community once again.

The bittersweet theme rings true in many areas of my life at the moment. I'm endeavoring to savor life as the dark bar of chocolate that it becomes when it's all taken in perspective. After all, it's the bitter that makes the chocolate rich, its flavor deep, and its delight lasting.

P.S. If you haven't listened to CraftSanity's podcast with Amanda of SouleMama, please do. I believe it touches on this theme. It's very uplifting. I really love Amanda - both her approach to raising children and her effusive creativity that touches every moment of her life as a mother and crafter. It's an hour well-spent.

Sep 10, 2007

barcelona skirts

I already know this skirt set will be an all-time favorite. Kind of like that dress my mom bought me when I was twelve that I still wear. Often. Well, world ... get used to seeing me in this skirt/apron get-up!

barcelona skirts front view

barcelona skirts back view

barcelona skirts reversed

The apron overlay is completely reversible! Did I mention that I've fallen in love with this skirt?
The sewing was simple enough, if you know how to sew in a zipper. Even if you don't - no need to despair. Amy explains it all in layman's terms.

You can get the pattern over at Sew, Mama, Sew.

Sep 9, 2007

recreational entomology and other news

tap dancing moth 2

First off in today's news, a tap dancing moth has been spotted through an (embarrassingly) dirty window. "The moth continued its little jig for several glorious minutes," stated a big, fat cat who was located on the other side of the window. To which a little cat responded, "I didn't know that you knew what 'glorious' meant. I'm flabbergasted."

tobacco hornworm 2

Also in entomology, the Tobacco Hornworm, a notoriously gluttonous grub, has made an appearance in Creel, Mexico. While wooing young children and their teacher with its flashy, green garb and extreme obesity, the Tobacco Hornworm surreptitiously and single-handedly destroyed a potato plant.

And in crafting news ...

Superbuzzy is having a sale! 20-40 % off awesome Japanese prints, including canvas for your reading pillows!

Amanda of Soulemama has launched her new website, which features excerpts of her book, The Creative Family, which is coming out in March.

Karla, a good friend and fellow Montessori teacher, has published an excellent tutorial for a wallet-sized fold-up fabric shopping bag on Whip Up.

And if you hadn't already heard, My Half of the Brain is a blog that collects crafting tutorials from all over cyberspace and directs you to them. Brilliant! Be sure to add it to your reader.

Finally, in blogging news, yours truly has given her blog a much needed make-over.

"I was feeling frumpy," stated Miss Montessori By Hand. "And I was feeling frustrated that none of the medium-sized flickr photos fit me. I just wasn't wide enough."

After listening to Miss Hand's needs, yours truly fiddled with her HTML code, gave her a new banner, and added a google site search bar so that Miss Hand's visitors can easily find what they are looking for.

"I feel like a new blog!" beamed Miss Hand.

Sep 7, 2007

something's up my sleeve

child's art smock

I've been working on a child's art smock pattern for the last week or so. Wonder what this teacher does with little bits and pieces of her spare moments? Here's a peek:

Montessori By Hand Child's Art Smock

I'll be working on writing up the pattern this weekend. Lately I've been able to get a good deal of pattern design on the time card because my husband is spending all of his "leisure time" applying to grad school. Maybe, just maybe, the child's art smock will be available in a fortnight or so ... a blink of an eye and a few twirls of the hourglass!

Sep 6, 2007

just subtract 20 ...

... and I would be six again. And I could wear these barrettes:

wool-covered barettes

Of course I would wear them anyway, but these are for one of my favorite six year-olds -- the model for the yoga poses.

I used Amy's tutorial and some wool that I had on hand. Very simple, very quick, highly recommended!

Sep 5, 2007

adios warmth

hand washing laundry

The days of having the children's washing table outside are numbered, I fear. Yesterday I came home to Mr. Montessori By Hand who was donning a fleece ski hat and a jacket. (And this was inside! I guess it's his Florida upbringing.)

Like many of you, the earlier sunset and the occasional cool wind have made me itch to get out the knitting needles. Crafting priorities change around this time of year. Here's what I have twirling about in my mental clockwork:

scarf and hat set : quilted throw a la Amy Karol : hand sewn quilt for my bed : set of holiday stockings : over-the-knee socks from this book : lots of embroidery and appliqué.

All of these endeavors are best accompanied by a warm mug of piloncillo tea, which wins my vote for one of the 7 wonders of Mexico.

To make two servings, add about 1/4 cone of piloncillo, 5 cloves, and a stick of cinnamon to a tea kettle filled with 3 cups of water. Bring all of the ingredients to a boil and continue until the piloncillo has dissolved. Pour yourself a hot mug-full.

I'll be making some tonight as we wait for hurricane Henrietta to pass over us.


Sep 4, 2007

pocket/stuff sack tutorial

Once again, fat cat was cajoled into this whole baby carrier photo shoot thing ... this time with a heavenly chin scratch. Little cat would have nothing to do with it.

cajoled cat sporting new mei tai

The Heather Ross fabric was looking at me while batting its Russian doll eyelashes, so I made another mei tai for this tutorial. However, you can add this kind of a pocket/stuff sack onto just about anything, from your already-made mei tai carriers to picnic blankets and outerwear - anything that you want to make portable and easily stowed away in a purse. Thanks to Katharine for the inspiration - check out the link to see her version of the mei tai pocket/stuff sack.

While Katharine used a zippered pocket, the one in this tutorial is zipper-free and really easy to add on to your mei tai. It shouldn't take you more than 10 minutes max.

final pocket stuff sack 3

1.) Cut out two rectangles of fabric 11 in. x 15 in. Place them with their right sides facing together (if you have a directional print like my fabric, place one "upside down.")

mei tai pocket pouch 001

2.) Sew around all edges, leaving an opening on one of the 11 inch sides for turning. Turn right side out and press. Now fold the top 5 inches and pin. Flip over the entire pocket and pin in place on the carrier. (The folded part will be sandwiched between the pocket and the carrier, and not visible until it turns into the stuff sack.)

mei tai pocket pouch 002

mei tai pocket pouch 003

3.) Topstitch around the three edges of the pocket. In doing so, you will close the opening at the bottom that you left for turning. Be sure to reinforce these seams, especially towards the top edges of the pocket.

*Notice here that I made another variation to the original pattern with this Russian doll mei tai ... I removed the nursing shield in favor of a more rectangular look, while still maintaining a slight curve and headrest at the top. That's the great thing about this pattern - once you get the general idea, you can modify it to fit your needs! (My need this time being making the mei tai body out of a measly half-yard of this precious fabric!)

Here's how to covert the pocket into a stuff sack:

Turn the pocket inside out.
final pocket stuff sack

mei tai pocket pouch 031

Flip over the top.
final pocket stuff sack 2

Place in your purse or use as a mini pillow!

Sep 1, 2007

giveaway winners and a 3-day sale!

admiring a flower

Comments closed at 11:50 a.m. mountain time, and here's what the random number generator conjured up:

46 82 114

Congratulations fiberfairy, sharon, and lynn in tucson! Please email me your choice of pattern and I will send you the file lickety-split. (montessorirevolution(at)

Truth be told, I just couldn't restrict myself to three giveaways. Your comments were so lovely and uplifting that I've decided to give everyone a little post-giveaway gift! Visit the pattern store and enter the following discount code (at checkout) to receive 30% off of your purchase!


The sale will close on Tuesday evening, September 4th.

And really, don't you think the world would be a better place if everyone had their own reading pillow? :)

If you are one of the awesome people who have already purchased all three of my patterns, not to worry! You will be able to receive my upcoming pattern designs at a discounted price. Expect more patterns within the month, such as a child's painting smock and the Montessori classroom pattern kit.

Add your email to my mailing list (in the sidebar) to be notified of future sales, giveaways, and new patterns.

I'm off to do some pattern designing, as Mr. Montessori By Hand is gone fishin'.

Thanks for your kindness and support,