Last week was a big one with beginning the week preparing for my last week in Arts Focus for the first session. Switching gears from a chaotic classroom and driving to work in the afternoon has been quite intense, bringing with it lots of excitement to the day and by Friday I am beat! We even ended up last week with a night out with the ladies to a Thai restaurant at 8pm, I was ready to be on the couch by then but I made it out till after 10pm and had a lovely time catching up with friends.
We did pipe cleaner dolls with the kids on Thursday at school and they loved them and I have a few for the art show come January next year at Mountain View City Hall.
I was always fascinated with this picture of this caterpillar when I was a kid and I found it again in a bugs book in the 1st grade class I help teach. I loved the detail in the colours and the body on this guy and always wondered about that massive enlarged face of the caterpillar, it still fascinates me to this day – maybe it is the colours of this guy?
As it turns out my work has asked me to stay until school is out for the summer so I am very excited about this wonderful opportunity to work with an incredible cohort of teachers and gain so much experience in this education journey. I will be covering a maternity position and be working with the kinder and 1st grade kids. Time to be a bit more organised and balance all the work with my study that I am a bit behind on 😦 This is the last week of school before the holidays which I am looking forward to as we are going to the Joshua Tree National Park!
A week of art and craft happened last week with a field trip to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on Friday with the 2nd graders.
The kids had exploration one day of the week and created many fun objects, this doll was inspired by the pipe cleaner dolls.
At the volunteer sewing teaching, we were working on LED cuffs, and these are examples of the Kinder and 1st-grade students.
I was teaching the 2nd graders to make Gods eyes in their exploration time – so much fun yarn to make holiday decorations.
Friday came, and it was time for the field trip to San Francisco! The kids were very excited, and we drove up in the morning for a 10am Storytelling throughout the museum with volunteers. They told us many stories beginning with the story of Lakshmi and Diwali the festival of lights then we travelled to Indonesia to view Kris (daggers) and listen to a folk story and the last story was about Ganesh riding on a rat with his love of laddoos. Our storyteller Monique was so full of character and brought the stories to life!
After lunch and no running around the kids and their chaperones and teachers went wandering around the museum. We found many beautiful textiles, which I love plus little tiny colourful snuff bottles and this nephrite shepherd with his goats. The Asian Art Museum has something for everyone, though our 2nd-grade class maybe could enjoy it more if there were more Pokemon!
Couture Korea was an exhibit the kids really enjoyed with many kimono to view and also to touch with fabric samples on the information panel – the interactive was a plus with these guys! Of course, I really enjoyed it too being a textile lover and always wanting to touch interesting fabrics and seeing detailed clothing design. The majority of the pieces were silk and felt beautiful.
Come the weekend I enjoyed a white elephant exchange with my work friends and a tasty dinner of savoury crepes and potluck appetisers. Saturday was a bike ride day and catching up on study and Sunday the house needed a bit of sprucing up after I enjoyed a fabulous Thai massage at Sawadee down the road, it was well needed and has enlivened my soul, namaste.
What a lovely Thanksgiving break we had with a day out with friends in Oakland for a beautiful vegetarian feast of Quorn and all the trimmings with a yummy salad and vegan mango cheesecake I made for dessert. The cat stood in the pumpkin pie our friends made and they had mini pecan pies as well – we were well and truly stuffed by the time we left their house that evening.
The break began on Wednesday which made a total of 5 days of just chilling! I had to complete a paper for University on the Humanist perspective on behaviour in the classroom – whew! So that took up a lot of my time as I was exhausted from work. The bonus of Wednesday was that I chatted to our architect in Melbourne and viewed concepts of our house for the future – I was thrilled to see how beautiful it will be! Patience and we will get there, one step at a time…
Anyway back to relaxing! We booked a campsite from Friday through to Sunday for our time away at Samuel Taylor State Park. We arrived late on Friday with just enough light to find our little tent spot and heat up out leftover dinner of the Thanksgiving feast, so that was super easy. It did not take long to get into relaxing mode and realise this is it under the trees for a couple of days. The campsite was perfect for entertaining, and our friends were on the site right next door to us. The bonus was that the bathrooms were a quick walk down the hill, I would definitely book that site again in the future!
Saturday came, and we wondered what to do – the vote was to do something low key and relaxing. So we opted for a trip to the beach for the day. Our beach of choice was Limantour beach just a short drive away from Point Reyes Station. We had been to Point Reyes before, and we really loved our adventure there, but that was about 8 years ago when Missy was a baby, now look at her in the water enjoying the freezing cold Pacific Ocean. I wanted to feel the ocean on my toes, but I did not last long as it was ice cold! The waves were beautiful to see, and the kids enjoyed getting their pants all wet and playing hide and seek in the spiky grass.
We packed up a picnic lunch of egg mayo sandwiches for me with some fruit and beers for the gang, and we just enjoyed listening to the sound of the waves and reading our books. Currently, I am reading Pie by Sarah Weeks, as my daughter recommended I read it! I have been really enjoying kids Graphic Novels and Young Adult books when I have the opportunity to read.
My friend was reading this book called The Seed Collectors now if you look at the text of that book above I would say that is my family written in the book. When I looked at the family tree at the back of the book, my name would be Bryony in their family. This was really strange to see most of my family written about in a book, I will have to read it one day! Apparently, the kids have those names in the book as the names of the people in the family are named after trees and plants.
A highlight of the beach day out was seeing this guy with his rescue horses and riding them along the beach. One of the horses was just wandering around without a rope looking wild and beautiful! We patted the horses and chatted to the rider, and he said both of his horses were rescue horses. He told us briefly of the stories of the horse he was riding was super skinny when she was rescued. The red stallion was a rescue too, and he mentioned a tragic story about the horse’s parents (I would rather not hear if it is a sad story about animals). He gave me hope and faith in humanity that he rescues these amazing creatures and lets them run free to greet people with their incredible presence and energy.
Here we are ready to leave the beach, it was such a relaxing day that we did not want to go but all good things come to an end, and we slept so well that night. The next morning we woke up to hear rain on the tent and feel a puddle forming beneath the tarp! We hightailed it out of there.
The gang getting ready to leave the beach – boo hoo!
So Sunday morning we woke up to rain and plenty of it, so we packed up our gear and put all the wet stuff in the car and off we drove to the closest coffee shop before we headed home! It was such a beautiful time under the redwoods, and Samuel Taylor State Park is a super special park with hikes and beaches close by.
It was a busy mixed up week last week with lots of prep for our Publishing Party and Savory Stories celebration on Friday which meant getting out the glitter and preparing the class for a Thanksgiving celebration. On top of all the celebrations, I was busy making tutorials for the Arts Focus class on Thursday where I volunteer to teach sewing. We had a new project we were bringing into the class – Felt Emoji Keyrings, which the children loved! It went well, and we know some tweaks we can work on for next time we run the lesson.
The 2nd-grade class where I work got busy collecting and decorating leaves for our publishing party which was Friday. The kids write a story on whatever they like in a class called Story Workshop and go through the process of inspiration (using manipulatives such as animals, logs, rocks, nature pieces etc), draft writing, editing, writing and publishing. The kids really enjoy the whole process and when tweaking the stories with the kids it is interesting to see what they create. The added bonus for the kids is that they get so excited to share their stories with their parents and their classmates.
Part of our glitter party was to make some table decorations, and this glitter filled wreath is ready to party! After our glitter explosion in class, we had such a fun time in Science building our props for the weather play the kids have conceived. I was helping with drilling holes for a rainstick, and other children were cutting out the mailvan that will be a full-size car for a child to wheel on stage. Such a fun day at school/work made me feel that I am finishing this degree as this is where I want to be in life! Glitter and power drills and creating with kids has won me over 😀
In the middle of the week, I gave the kids a tutorial on making pipe cleaner dolls for their project of creating supplies for community dramatic play at our school. Initially, they were not interested in making dolls, and once they started making them and realising they could customise them with personality it was “Can I make another one?” That has always been the response when we do them for the Arts Focus class at my daughter’s school, the kids love them! So many fun dolls were made, and I am looking forward to the response from the school kids when their dramatic play bits and pieces are ready.
So Friday evening came around, and it was time for a well-earned rest after such a busy week. I think the rain on Thursday added craziness to the mix as it turns out being on the road in the rain is very scary as people around here have no idea on how to drive in normal conditions let alone in the rain! Still, I was happy to be home and in my room on the weekend safely writing a 1500 word essay for my University class Understanding and Supporting Behaviour, with all the experience I am getting from this long-term substitute teacher job I am gathering so much information for my studies and I have plenty to write about.
As my 12-year-old son really wanted a sleepover, we opted for a Friday of a long weekend so that would give us enough time to recouperate. As it turned out it was a big night for Risk and playing the Nintendo Switch. Here are the boys eating pizza and taking over their countries and working out their “world peace” strategies. This game of Risk went on for around 3 hours until there were enough “peaceful takeovers” of the countries they cared about.
We took a break for cake time and this year as I do not have a great deal of free time I made a chocolate mint pound cake and iced it with melted chocolate with sprinkles which tasted a treat as well!
Saturday was a huge celebration for our littlest neighbour who turned 1! My neighbours are right next door, and we have hardly seen each other as their little one was born with congenital Glioblastoma which is a Stage 4 brain tumour and they have spent most of the last year in the hospital with their little one. I was so happy to have been invited to their celebration as I have hardly seen them and their little one. It has been such an arduous journey for my neighbours to go through as it was so worrying, but it was such a beautiful experience to be spending time with them over the weekend and celebrating their little girls birthday.
The theme for the party was ‘Super Girl’ as that was the costume for Halloween as well as being super for getting through such a stressful time. I love the superhero theme as it was so appropriate for what their little girl has been through – she is smiling, happy and super social just like her wonderful parents.
And what has been happening in the classrooms of late – I have been volunteering Thursday mornings for Arts Focus, and we are in our 4th week this week. Last week we did fleece pillows, and I found one of the students embellishing hers with plenty of bows. I love it when the kids go that extra step and get creative with their pieces.
And in the 2nd-grade classroom, one of the students has been working on pattern sudoku with shapes, and I was working with them to finally come up with the solution to their puzzle. It required a lot of examination and looking over and over at the shapes until we had finally solved it! This is how I like to see math in the classroom, hands-on and engaging.
As I have to make the most of my time these days with working full time I am either doing a bunch of cooking at one time or prepping for the dishes ahead of the week. A couple of weeks ago our Community Support Agriculture (CSA) box was taken from our front doorstep and found in the next block of apartments near the carpark with most of the fruit taken out of it and left with some vegetables and the dozen free range eggs I ordered. This was confusing as I thought OK this person is vegan as they do not eat eggs and enjoy fruit?!? Due to this shenanigans, I have had to have my delivery changed to my hubby’s workplace on a Thursday which means the fresh food and veggies come at the end of the week when I am totally knackered and it is hard to find the energy to cook. So this weekend, as I had a little bit of time I did a batch cooking experiment and whipped up a quiche with a couscous base, a pumpkin soup, apple crumble and baked eggplant. I have many kitchen hacks that are super helpful for worknight dinners, and now that I am working, I need a meal either heated up or ready in 30 minutes or less.
Our fave since I started work in August has been Taco Tuesday where a box of frozen battered fish, corn tortillas, a slaw – easily made at home calling upon the food processor to chop and guacamole is a hit with the kids for a super simple weeknight dinner. My guac is a couple of avocados, lime juice, cubed tomato, salt and pepper and is delicious!
With the colder weather now that fall is finally happening I have wanted to turn on the oven and cook up a storm. So with the baked eggplant, I made a tasty eggplant parmigiana that I used to have at the local pub with a nice cold one at the end of a workday! This one was super easy with sliced baked eggplant and layered with cheese, a mozzarella or tasty cheese works well with a rich veggie-laden tomato sauce. For extra protein, I have added refried beans to this sauce, and it cooked up into a loved gooey eggplant dish that only my hubby and I will eat as the kids will say, “Ewww eggplant!” Still, this will work for a lovely lunch as well and its better than eating all the babaganoush that I usually make when eggplant is in the house.
I had a bunch of collard greens sitting in the fridge from last Thursdays delivery, and I usually make wraps with lots of raw ingredients wrapped in a bright green collard green leaf and its refreshing on a warm day, but with this colder weather I experimented and make Collard green enchiladas. The idea is to take some leftover rice or quinoa and refried beans with a tasty tomato sauce and top it all off with grated cheese.
Collard Green Enchiladas
Bunch of Collard Greens (stems removed with a sharp knife)
Bottle of Pasta Sauce or any Red sauce
Can of refried beans
Cooked rice or quinoa
Grated tasty cheese or mozzarella
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Blanch Collard green leaves in boiling water, leave on a plate to cool.
Prepare your red sauce with added vegetables like grated carrot and cabbage.
Add your refried beans and keep them intact – the consistency has to be somewhat thick.
In a square Pyrex dish, coat the bottom with some red sauce and start preparing the collard green enchiladas (have a plate handy, so the sauce is not all on the stovetop!)
Use the whole leaf of a collard green folded in half and add the rice or quinoa on the leaf top with refried beans, red sauce mix and arrange in the Pyrex dish.
Top with grated tasty cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until brown on top.
I am quite a fan of savoury pies as I have had to make my own here as there are not many places that serve a savoury pie here in the USA. In Australia, I can go to a cafe and get a lovely veggie quiche and salad for lunch but here the things I miss I have had to make, so I have become quite competent in making quiche at home and usually is my go-to dish for a dinner party. The favourite book for my pastry is A Year of Pies and has many pastry recipes at the beginning of the book. I usually make the pastry with a shortening and butter mix, and it is delicious with the Spinach Impossible pie recipe I use as the pie filling either with spinach and feta or a salmon and vegetable. This pie was a bit of a hack as I did not make the time to whip up the pastry in my food processor, instead I cooked up some couscous and used that as a base for this pie. I felt it worked for a quick Sunday dinner and my family was ravenous after a day at the ranch laying concrete in the chicken coop! Oh and for dessert I made an Apple Crumble with a topping of coconut, brown sugar, oats, flour, butter, walnuts and spices. Another recipe fave of mine from a book I found at the local bookstore called Wholefood – 300 Recipes to Restore, Nourish and Delight.
A friend asked me to add some recipes to the blog, so I thought this week was an excellent opportunity after the excitement of Halloween. I really am having to really rely on kitchen hacks and prep in advance with this full-time work thing, and it works really well as I can never predict how a week will unfold, there could be many meetings after work, or I could be home early, who knows? This is where easy to prep recipes save the day! The other excuse I have is I use the kitchen as a place to create as I feel now with cooking and making meal plans since my son was born (12 years ago) I have quite a repertoire of recipes to draw upon. The kitchen is an excellent place to experiment, and most of all make wholesome meals for the family. Enjoy your week and eat well 😀
My favourite day of the year was yesterday – Halloween! I love the dressing up and pumpkins, spending time with friends and wandering the streets at night checking out the decorations. These pumpkins were made by the kids and my pumpkin was made with a power drill and a spade drill bit to get big circles – if I had more time I would have been more creative with it but still, it was a great experience to power drill a pumpkin!
My daughter has been enjoying Halloween with her friend each year where their house is fully decked out with lights and even a projector playing Thriller and Can’t Stop the Feeling on rotation which was so much fun as the kids got candy to dance! We stayed up till 8:45pm, and I said to the kids, now is the time for bed put all of their haul of candy away until tomorrow. Two different neighbourhoods yield a fair amount of candy that my son is trading in for something fun, like a Beyblade!
Sunday was so much fun with catching up with my peeps from FabMo at their annual Textile Art Boutique! This year I could not be a vendor as I have a full-time job in the classroom, so I was there as a buyer and found some beautiful pieces to take home. I really enjoyed the Japanese artisans, and a couple of booths caught my eye with Sarah from The Folly Garden who made these fantastic fabric flowers that I could not resist decorating the lounge room. I only bought a leaf and a flower but the colours and fabrics were just beautiful, and I really loved her work as I am drawn to colour just like a pollinator. Next door was the beautiful spirit Miko Kami dolls by Bahira where every doll is one of a kind. I planned to be at the boutique for just one hour and ended up staying close to three hours as I had so many friends to catch up with, it was wonderful to be with my textile loving friends!
Finally I finished sewing all my feathers onto my owl costume and wore it to work on Hallloween. The outfit was inspired by Eva from the Owl Diaries book series where she is a creative little owl who hangs out with her pet bat and enjoys her time at school. The teaching staff wanted to tap into our inner superhero, so my owl cape/wings channelled “my inner wisdom and creativity” – quoted by teacher Marla.
Halloween evening we hung out at this house and danced and wandered the streets with the kids to do their Trick or Treating – it was the perfect night to be out and about.
A favourite pumpkin carving I found was this little Japanese ghoul when we took the kids to the houses in my friend’s neighbourhood. Here is the gang of kiddos in their costumes a skeleton pirate, a phoenix, Happy from Fairy Tale, a grim reaper and a skeleton (their family theme of Jack and Sally from the film The Nightmare before Christmas).
Today we experienced a Day of the Dead celebration/presentation at school with our Spanish teacher sharing her tradition of the altar where the kids helped with decorating and we learned about honouring relatives that have passed on. Plus one of my favourite animated films ‘The Book of Life’ explains this tradition with such humour and colour including the Radiohead classic ‘Creep’.
Now I had better rest to get through the week, so I can watch more episodes of Stranger Things!
Boo! So exciting that Halloween is just around the corner though at the moment it does not feel like Autumn with its 32-degree weather today – so hot for this time of year! Last week was all about work with many meetings, covering for another staff member and at least we ended the week with a staff gathering to relax!
I have been trying to get into the swing of fall and I got a start on my Halloween ensemble last weekend with cutting out bits of fabric to make into an owl costume. Having to work in a classroom the costume has to be comfortable and adaptable to working with the kids so I was inspired by this cute dress DIY but my feathers were cut a bit too small so I had to cut a fair amount of them! After they were cut they were very easy to attach but it did take a while, this is my favourite part – the actual time on the machine and seeing how everything comes together.
So the idea was to be Eva from Owl Diaries but this may be a bit too colourful for an owl costume still the inspiration for a bird is there with the feathers.
There were many scraps of fabric that I decided to cut into little feathers, actually, I still have some so if time allows maybe I can add some capelet wings?
Looking forward to putting this costume together piece by piece and next week is the deadline so I am getting my final touches done this weekend! I have really enjoyed the time away from studying and having time to do some sewing 😀
We had a very exciting birthday this week with Mr Ash turning 12 this week! We always go out to dinner for birthdays, and it is usually Japanese. So we went to Shalala an old fave downtown as the kids wanted to have their favourite, rice balls! The week began with news of forest fires in the North Bay where we felt the repercussions 100 miles away of smoke and really bad air quality – the fires scorched over 200,000 acres of land.
We went out Wednesday evening, and the smell of smoke was everywhere. So many folks have been displaced, and it is such a disaster of immense proportions. The hardest thing has been trying to find out where help is needed the most but luckily a friend has posted some information from a local paper that highlighted how to help as an excellent resource.
At work, the kids enjoyed some new math games for addition called ‘Playful Pets’, and we played this visual-spatial game Q-bitz – there were so many games available this week with inside recess the whole week! It was exhausting to be inside all day and eating snack and lunch with the kids. We finally had some time out on Friday afternoon and it felt so good!
Lucky for science the kids got out to do some building of their weather stations and nail up some signs for the thermometer, rain gauge and anemometer. They will be placing these at various locations around the school to observe the weather.
We had an observational drawing time in class this week with the kids trying many mediums to complete their pieces with pastels, pencils and crayons. That really reset the class energy with quiet drawing and peaceful music.
We have been going a little screen crazy in this household as we had to stay inside because of the smoke and bad air quality but I finally convinced the screen trio, i.e. the rest of my family, to go on a bike ride together and spend some family time outside. It was a relaxing ride, and we did about 8 miles stopping and starting. On the way, we spotted herons, egrets and a squadron of pelicans. Our mission for the day was to find four white herons – we did not find that many but we did see two. The kids enjoyed the birding binoculars we bought second hand at the Audubon store, with the close up of the pelicans and we counted 30 pelicans feeding together. My ride on Saturday in the headwind encountered a Great Blue Heron and a hawk being attacked by a murder of crows, I just love riding around the Shoreline area with so much wildlife around providing a sense of solitude. I find I crave that time alone these days as I do not get much time off anymore with work, coming home, cooking, eating, a small amount of playing and then its early bedtime!