Baby sensory board {DIY}

A baby sensory board is a fun, hands-on activity to watch your baby learn and explore the sense of touch and tactile differences!

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I found a some hard and soft items and hot-glued them to some cardboard — I had to find white cardboard because the brown just wasn’t as pretty.  I tried to stick with “girly” too because May doesn’t have enough pink and girly things in the house : ).

Ensure that you are with your baby at all times as some of these items are choke hazards, and though they are glued on, babies can work miracles!

I assembled my supplies.

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And got to gluing!

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And here she is with her boards!  She is very serious!

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She loves them, but again, I am always with her while she is playing, when they are not, they are set out of her reach!

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The Sunday Showcase

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recipe: apple puffed pancake dish

Have you every tried the Whole Foods buffet’s Creme Brulee French Toast?  

Well, that is what this dish tastes like, with a cinnamon-apple twist.

This is my favorite breakfast. 

It is easy and so, so good.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, put your 9×12 dish in (or two smaller pans) with one stick of butter to melt.

After the butter melts, add 2-4 thinly sliced apples.

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Mix in a bowl:

      • 1 1/2 cups milk
      • 6 eggs
      • 1 tsp vanilla
      • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 1 cup flour (we use a gluten free mix version)
      • 3 tablespoons sugar

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Pour the contents of bowl on top of the apples and butter and bake for 18-22 minutes.

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Enjoy hot out of the oven with syrup or (more!) butter!

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Let me know what you think!  This recipe is worth making every Saturday morning!

Guest Blog Post at Hammock Tracks: Learning Through Tot Trays

I am very excited to have my first guest blog post today!  Savannah at Hammock Tracks blogs about her life, her homeschooling, and her delicious recipes!  I love her gorgeous photography, too. Please head on over to Hammock Tracks to read about:

Learning Through Tot Trays!

And if you have made your way over from Hammock Tracks, I’d like to say:

Welcome!

I hope you stay a while!  I write about mothering, homeschooling, healthy living, and many other passions in between.

You may be interested in how to plan Tot School with your little ones.  I created a Tot School Planning Form to help organize our time together.  Here is a link to that post.

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I thought I’d set up some easy links to my Tot School posts so far, for letters A through J, so you can see what we are doing with Tot School and Tot Trays.  Just click on the photos below.

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{Early Literacy Stage 1} Uppercase Letter Recognition

The development of early literacy skills progresses in stages.  Beginning concepts should be taught before introducing more difficult ones.  By following a proper developmental progression, we assist the child’s natural learning capabilities.   This is why I have decided to write a new series of blog posts — {Early Literacy Stages}.

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The entire scope of literacy includes the following: reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and representing.  I am focusing on reading letters and writing letters for this series.  However, the other components are very important in developing the whole child towards literacy and becoming a lifelong learner.

Please note: I do not label these stages by age — I have met 18-month-olds who have learned all of their upper and lowercase letters and I have taught 5-year-olds who were still struggling to learn both.  It is important to meet the learner where they are and embrace the child’s pace!

Here are my Early Literacy Stages for childhood learning:

  1. Uppercase letter recognition

  2. Tactile uppercase letter writing

  3. Utensil prewriting and uppercase letter writing

  4. Lowercase letter recognition (and matching uppercase with lowercase letters)

  5. Lowercase phonetic sounds

  6. Lowercase letter writing

There is debate surrounding whether children should be taught uppercase or lowercase letters first.  Some teachers opt to teach them together.  I believe that children should be taught recognition of uppercase letters first.  They should certainly be exposed to lowercase too, (we call them “big” and “little” letters), as they are presented in many picture books together, but at the beginning, the focus should be on uppercase.  Certainly, children who are taught lowercase first, or both together, can also become very successful (for example, a Montessori approach is to teach the lowercase letters first and name them their sound names: “This is aah” and “This is “bbb”).  My decision is based on the following reasoning:

  • learning 26 letters will set your child up for success sooner than trying to learn 52 letters,
  • uppercase letters are more distinguishable from one another,
  • they have many more straight lines, so when it comes time to begin printing letters, children can excel, and
  • uppercase letters represent the majority of letters in print outside the home (on street signs, in the grocery store, etc), so learning these will expose your child to a world of print outside the home.

Now how can we help develop this initial stage of learning in our children?

1.   Read, read, read!  If you can do anything with your child at home, this is it!  Reading to your child opens them up to a world of imagination and developmental readiness towards print awareness and learning.  Reading doesn’t have to become “lesson time,” just enjoy a book with one another morning, day, and night!  Here are more suggestions:

  • Books with no words teach story sequence.
  • Nursery rhymes are especially wonderful for phonemic awareness.
  • Begin pointing out the “Big” letters at the beginnings of sentences.
  • Dr. Seuss is the master — our particular favorite is his ABC book.  This book focuses on uppercase letters while exposing children to the lowercase letters!  We also love There’s A Wocket in my Pocket — Dr. Seuss had an amazing ability to speak to children through rhyme and this book helped my son learn about rhyming.

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2.  Singing songs at home, all day, every day!  There are many songs that introduce letters and sounds.  The Alphabet Song can be coupled with simple ABC books for a fun and teachable daily read-aloud.  Our favorite children’s collections are Songs for Saplings ABCsThe Little Series and Jewel’s Lullaby and The Merry Goes Around.

3.  Point out uppercase letters both in and out of the house.  “The ketchup has a K, K, K, K!” and “The magazine has a P, P, P, P!”  My son gets very excited about this, and he asks, “What’s that?” when he sees a letter he doesn’t know.

4.  When your child has learned the letters “A, B, C” from reading and alphabet singing, move to a simple letter of the week focus (or curriculum)!  Don’t be intimidated, just start small!  Even if you only do one or two of the below, that is enough, your child will learn as he grows!

  • This can be as simple as writing the uppercase letter A on a sheet of paper and sticking it to the bottom of your refrigerator!  Talk about the letter every day.
  • Think about purchasing some magnet letters from Melissa & Doug.  This linked set includes uppercase and lowercase, and again, I would begin with the uppercase letter to set the child up for success at the beginning! Here is our ever growing collection (with many magnets purchased from garage sales — I have one lowercase letter for exposure only)!

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  • Create some tactile experiences for your child with sandpaper letters or Do-It-Yourself puffy paint letters.  Touch the uppercase letter and say its name and sound.  Again, exposure to the lowercase letter is fine, but the focus should always be on the uppercase, so your child has a chance to excel!
  • Consider an uppercase letter puzzle!  Melissa & Doug and Lauri are both wonderful options.  My son got his start in learning letters with one of these.
  • For more tactile fun, print out some magnet pages from Making Learning Fun and have your child put magnets (or pom pom magnets) on the letter and image on a magnetic cookie sheet.

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  • There are many free online printables available from many homeschooling mama blogs to choose from — my advice is to keep it simple so you won’t be overwhelmed.  Choose a couple of pages that you think your child may be interested in.  (We love 1plus1plus1equals1‘s Tot School ABCs as a model — the below pictures are all a part of her free online curriculum.)
  • Choose an object to focus on for your letter of the week. (A is for Apple, B is for Bug, C is for Cat, D is for Dog, etc!)  Find that object and keep it in a special place — in a small bin or basket or reusable sour cream container! — along with a handwritten or printed uppercase letter for some informal phonemic awareness learning.  Below we are learning “H is for Horse”:

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  • Let your child color on a piece of paper with the uppercase letter, with a corresponding object, like the “H is for Horse” above, with markers or crayons.  (Remember not to expect the child to print the letter or even color in the lines of the picture — that will come later  — when they are developmentally ready!)
  • Do-A-Dot markers are amazing tools.  Write the uppercase letter many small times on a piece of paper and have your child “dot” each letter and say it at the same time!  My son loves this!

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  • Use uppercase letter stamps and stamp on a picture or a piece of paper or project.
  • Print out or make large uppercase letters and have your child jump from letter to letter (or throw a beanbag or other object) as you call them out for a review.
  • More tactile exploration can come from a letter sensory bin.  Include a base (beans, lentils, rice, etc.) and add the letter and objects corresponding to that letter.  Below is a “G Sensory Bin” — I included one lowercase “g” in addition to many uppercase ones — please keep in mind that sensory bins can have only a few objects in them and children will love them just the same as the extravagant ones!:

DSC00339How have you taught your child the alphabet?  Did you focus on uppercase or lowercase first?  What made you choose?  Or did you teach both at the same time? 

Thank you for visiting Wildflower Ramblings, if you’d like to receive post updates, please Like my Facebook Page!

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This post is linked to the Carnival of Homeschooling at Teach Beside Me!

Featured at The Ultimate Homeschool Link-Up at The Homeschool Village

Treasure Bin: Red Objects

What is a Treasure Bin?

A small amount (5 to 10) of similar items to put in front of your growing baby and let him/her explore!

Of course, ensure that the items are safe to babies (no choking hazards or sharp edges) and that your baby is supervised at all times!

This week, we worked on the color red!  May loved her Treasure Bin this week, just as much as last week.  She especially loved having a little car.  I could tell she felt like a big girl with her car because she sees her brother with cars and trucks all day, every day!

My first post about Treasure Bins is here.

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I included in her bin:

  • soft red frog
  • red wooden ring
  • red ball
  • red link
  • red squishy cube
  • Melissa & Doug red pickup truck
  • red triangle
  • red fire truck
  • red fire hat
  • red cup of soup
  • red hexagon
  • red stacking cup

And here is my sweet girl with her Treasure Bin.

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And finding new objects to explore!

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Thanks for visiting Wildflower Ramblings, if you’d like to receive post updates, please Like my Facebook Page!

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I am grateful to all of the wonderful linky party hosting mamas: check out my Link-Up page for where I may link this blog post!

Cloth diapers: What I’d buy if I could do it all over again

Tomorrow, April 20th, is The Great Cloth Diaper Change!!  Saving the world, one cloth diaper at a time!!

I have been cloth diapering for over two and a half years now. I can honestly say that I love it as much now as when I started.

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See?!  I now have a boy and girl stash (two children in diapers, for me, did not mean washing twice as much, so I had to buy a pink, pink, pink stash when my daughter was born!)

I began my cloth diaper journey with diapers bought even before I was pregnant. Crazy, right? Well, I thought that I was being prepared — because they were on sale. I bought many brands, all different kinds, super cute ones.

And they all worked, but as I grew more experience with cloth diapers, I realized that not all brands or diapers are created equal. For example, many mamas will tell you that the organic cotton will protect your baby’s bum from rash. It was the opposite for my sensitive-bottomed little guy, so out went all of organic cottons diapers and in with the stay-dry polyester.

So I ended up having to sell a lot of what I had. This isn’t too difficult, just head on over to DiaperSwappers.com and try to navigate your way through that mess :/ The site is wonderful, but it is difficult to understand at first. I sold all that I didn’t want, though, so it was nice to get (most) of my money back.  You can also buy gently used diapers on this site which is great if you want to take a test run or buy a whole stash on super sale!  Please let me know if you have questions and I will try to help you!

So on to what I wish I would have bought, had I known then what I know now, at the beginning.

If you’re looking for the lowest price, then prefolds and covers are what you’ll need.  You’ll need at least 4 covers per size (from x-small to large — about $12 each+) and about 24 prefolds ($1.20 each).

But prefolds are not convenient.  I don’t like them.  But I do use them for baby naked time and changing poop time, but that’s it.

If I could do it all over again, I would purchase 24 of my hands-down favorite diaper….

Blueberry Simplex.  (The brand is formerly known as Swaddlebees.)  This diaper has an organic cotton soaker , is very absorbent, and has an attached stay-dry insert that can go on top — where your baby’s bum touches.  (No stuffing the insert in the diaper!)  So you can choose cotton or polyester for closest to you baby!  Blueberry has adorable prints for boys and girls (a must!).  I love this because of the convenience (much less folding time) and they are not too bulky.  I’m sad to say I only have one, but I will be buying more when I find a good deal!

I should add that all of the below are One-Size diapers, which means that you can snap the diapers to become smaller, medium, large, as your baby grows (8-35 pounds)!  This truly is the way to go (versus “sized” or “perfect” diapers).  The exception is the newborn stage because most of the diapers really aren’t a good fit until about 10 pounds, in my humble opinion.

Also, you may choose between snap or velcro (hook/loop) closures.  I favor snap because the velcro sticks to everything in the washer/dryer!

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And the second brand that I love for convenience (no stuffing!) is Freetime by BumGenius.  This runs a close second to my beloved Simplex for the simple reason that it is a bit more bulky than the Simplex.  But!  I use this for my night-time diaper for my baby girl and it works great!  No leaks so far, and she is almost 7 months old!  There are so many great colors to choose from and BumGenius is a brand that you can trust.

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Pocket diapers are wonderful.  You can stuff them with as much absorbency as you need (i.e. a microfiber insert — what it comes with — and one or two hemp inserts for night time).  But!  The stuffing becomes monotonous!  If I could do it all over again, I would have bought all Simplex and Freetimes (All in Ones).  (Below is a BumGenius one-size 4.0 — which is the most recent version — I also love, yes, the Blueberry pocket diaper!  These two diapers make up the vast majority of my boy and girl stashes!)

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The only downside to All in Ones over Pockets are that they are a bit bulkier:  (However, the Simplex are the same thickness as a regular pocket!)

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I have discussed prefolds above, but below is another option, fitted diapers with a cover for water proofing.  Many people have success with this.  I tried this, but hated it.  The fitted diaper gets soaked with pee and your baby is then very, very wet.  It made my son rashy and it just seemed uncomfortable to him.  I see how this might be helpful for potty-training, but my son is still in diapers and knows when he’s going, announces it, and sometimes makes it to the potty, so by the time they are potty-training (my son is two and a half), the feeling wet part is not as important.  Though, as a side-note, cloth diapers definitely help your child potty-train quicker, or so I hear.

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And there you have it.  My humble opinion for what you should get if you are just starting out.  The BumGenius Freetime diapers are $19.95 each, but there is always a “Buy 5, Get 1” sale going on (BumGenius pockets are $17.95 each).  And the Blueberry Simplex are a bit pricier at $25.95.  You are saving so much money on diapers, even if you splurged on all Simplex.

If you got the above BumGenius sale, you’d be spending $400 up-front for a whole diaper stash of 24 diapers.  But you’d spend an estimated $3000 on disposables if your child wears them until he’s three.  That’s a lot of savings!

What is your favorite cloth diaper?

What brands did you have to go through before you discovered your favorite one?

There are many places to try to find good deals on diapers: Kelly’s Closet and Diaper Junction offer rewards and coupons all the time.

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Teaching practical life skills – just give the kid a real glass!

My husband has lost it, and so have I, over our son’s huge sippy cup falling off the table, on the table, falling off the couch, hitting things, banging into toys. These things were made to be bulletproof (well they are spill-proof, after all).

Anyways, I was perusing the Montessori Services site to update my Alphabet Box (I’ll post on that later) — and I saw these adorable little glasses. They were selling these — Economy Juice Glasses — $7.50 for 6! I had to buy them, and wow, are we glad we did!  They are very sturdy, and though they are glass, they have fallen once or twice on our wood floor with no breakage so far!

John treats these with care. He feels special.  He holds it gently with two hands, and lately, sometimes only one hand — he is learning a life-long skill.  He feels grown-up. He is. Growing up.

Just look at that smile : )

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Happy drinking,

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Linking up at Living Montessori Now!

wordless wednesday: make spring flowers with egg cartons

DSC02941DSC02942DSC02945DSC02946DSC02948DSC02949 DSC02951 Thank you BlogMeMom for a wonderful idea!  The kids loved these and they were so simple to make!

Happy painting,

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I am grateful to all of the wonderful linky party hosting mamas: check out my Link-Up page for where I may link this blog post!

Thanks for featuring me!

Featured at Tuesday Tots on Growing a Jeweled Rose

Tot School – Letter J

This week was a week of jellyfish and jeeps!  John is now 32 months old.

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Every week, I put out six tot trays out for my son and I try to be intentional with activities that correlate with each of the four Montessori learning categories: Language, Sensory, Mathematics, Practical Life.  Our Tot Trays are out on our shelf all week.  I’ll take one out intentionally for us to play together, but he can also play wiht them at any time. DSC02841

A Melissa & Doug lacing fish.

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J is for Jellyfish magnet page with pom pom magnets.  (This is a sweet girl-friend.)

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Matching Teddy bear counters to the Jellyfish number cards 1 through 5.  1:1 correspondence.  He really got the hang of this this week!  So proud of him :)

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Lauri capital letter stackers with pegs.

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He loved these from last week’s Ii theme: Some awesome instrument shadow matching from Memorizing the Moments.

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And matching flowers to their stems.  I made this simple activity as a busy bag.

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schedule

I made this schedule to organize our Tot School time, according to the Montessori principles: Language, Mathematics, Sensory, and Practical Life.

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You can read my post about it and download the free Tot School Planning Form here.

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Bible verse of the week:

I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God,

in the God of my salvation.  Habakkuk 3:18

We use the ABC bible verse songs from Songs for Saplings.  These songs are so catchy, beautiful, not “children’s music annoying,” and I find myself singing and learning and memorizing the bible verses along with John.  Carisa at 1plus1plus1equals1 has made coordinating ABC Bible Verses posters which have really helped with his memorization as well.  

Letter of the week: Jj

Our curriculum consists of 1plus1plus1equals1‘s Tot School ABC’s. Do-A-Dot markers on his J is for Jellyfish pages.

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Tracing left to right in a straight line!

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Matching the jellyfish with their shadows.

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Stamping J (and cows) onto his Jellyfish.

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I presented the color cards like this last week and John loved it.  I cut them out and put them on his tray with the corresponding colored crayon. He loved it again this week!  We have these Crayola triangular crayons which I love and are worth the couple extra cents : )

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Book of the week:

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw

DSC03176 We love this goofy book about five sheep who are all riding in their jeep! We got out some of our jeep toys and worked with the simple Jeep pages that I made — you can get them here.

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We also went to the library and checked out some Jellyfish books to learn about those crazy creatures : ) DSC03230 math

We did some Jeep size sorting and number counting with his Tot Tray manipulatives.
And John loved his pattern blocks and the free pattern block puzzles that I downloaded and printed from PreKinders!
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A split pea sensory bin with his vocabulary pictures from Tot School ABCs.  I laminated one set and cut them out and hid them in the peas.  John had to find them and match them to the page in a sheet protector.  He loved this and we played it several times.  And I am happy to report that this bin gave us the best success with “throwing everything everywhere” problem : )
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Had to stop sometimes — as you can see — he is beginning to fling everything across his room.DSC03007

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Gross Motor

I have been doing yoga with John about 2 or 3 times a week.  I love Rodney Yee of Gaiam and have his AM yoga dvd.  When we went to the library, I found a Baby Yoga dvd. He had a lot of fun with it.  There is a different move for every letter of the alphabet : ) — including a jabberwalking jellyfish!!!
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Care of Environment

“Sharpening his knife.” DSC03162Opening the cheese seal.DSC03115 weeklycraft

We made a cute jellyfish (and learned about the bell, tentacles, and lobes!) from our trip to the library! DSC03195

His work for the week on his clothesline in his room. DSC03196

Thanks for visiting Wildflower Ramblings, if you’d like to receive post updates, please Like my Facebook Page!

I hope you have a wonderful week,

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I am grateful to all of the wonderful linky party hosting mamas: check out my Link-Up page for where I may link this blog post!

Thank you for featuring me!

Sunday Showcase feature4

The best (and easiest!) homemade bread

When you don’t have a lot of time to make delicious sourdough-y bread.  (Who does?)  This is the recipe for you.

1. Mix together:

  • 12 oz warm water (1 and 1/2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon bread yeast

2. Set aside for 5-10 minutes.

3. Now mix together:

  • 1 lb flour (approx. 3 and 3/4 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

4. Mix the dry ingredients with the water and yeast.  Add flour as necessary and knead into a nice ball.  Keep in a cloth-covered bowl for at least 18 hours.

5. After it has risen, take out of the bowl and plop it onto a floured cutting board (using a spatula is best).  Tuck it back into a ball.  Let it rise, again, for another 1-2 hours.

6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place your dutch oven pot inside.  Plop dough into your hot pot.  Cook with top on for 30 minutes.  Take top off and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  Cool on a bread rack.

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Enjoy!
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