Going wild in nature

Well, my first week of the summer holidays was just a dream with catching up on so much stuff – namely sewing! It was so good to feel so free and not have any responsibilities of going to work or even study! I still need the calendar to get the kids to their chicken duties and the like but nothing dramatic. In exchange for credit card points, I got my hands on the Nikon Coolpix P900, this is a recommendation from a friend of mine in Queensland when we visited and I was blown away with the pictures of the kangaroos with their joeys.  This camera has the convenience of a point and shoot camera with a 24mm to 2000mm lens that is lightweight and perfect for travel. The pictures above are a few of the earlier shots in the day of a favourite subject of mine, birds – who knew!!

Here are my little monkeys in a paperbark tree striking their Anime poses – I love this camera to capture these shots when the kids are high up in a tree.

From afar I was checking out the Canada Geese taking their bath on the shore of the lake, the zoom in on the detail of the water over the feathers is spectacular. The best part of this is that we went out for a picnic by the lake for Fathers Day and I had the camera sitting in the basket of my bike as we were on the trail and whenever we found something to photograph we hopped off the trail to check it out – like these ducklings and a mama duck. The butterfly was a random find and I had no idea this little guy had broken wings until I looked at the image later.

The highlight for me for the day was going to see the baby egrets on Shorebird Way where Google has closed off the street for a few months so they can nest in peace high in the trees. I have always wanted to see these birds close up and now I can, it was so exciting! Again we just parked our bikes and hung out with the wildlife show, it felt like a David Attenborough episode in real life.

Afterwards, my son and I enjoyed time out in the big chair at the Google employee park next door with a couple of crocodiles and the bikes of many colours.

Today I was on a mission to take pictures of the ladies at McClellan Ranch as the kids cleaned out the chicken coop. I took a wander around the farm and found baby goats doing yoga on mama. The market pigs are getting ready for their time at the show, I asked Missy what she sees when she looks at the pigs and she said bacon! It is hard for me as a vegetarian but one day they can decide on their own whether they would like to keep on eating animals. Plus I had no idea how beautiful pidgeons could be until I was photographing them today. The quails in the coop are Flash and Steve, they just need a lady friend.

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It has been quite an eventful week after all with the new camera and getting out an about checking out what Mountain View and the surrounds has to offer. The best thing is getting on my bike and photographing whatever I find on the trail, I had been meaning to take my camera down the trail but my Canon camera has such a heavy lens but now I have no excuse for taking a crap picture with my phone camera of a rabbit on the trail. Next stop Australia and I will be taking some pictures of some flying foxes for my friend in O-town.

Journey to a new destination

Last week it was time to say farewell to my life as a teacher assistant and get back to my life as mama and student. I made little gifts for the 14 1st graders I worked with by getting them a ball of yarn each to do finger knitting over the summer. And for the kinder kids I made them a kumihimo loom with some extra thread to practice counting and to get crafty.

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The staff at Ventana sent me off with this lovely book as a farewell gift, it was sad to say goodbye to all the lovely people who work there. This dinner is a beyond meat sausage with porcini mushrooms and fennel over a bed of brown rice noodles.

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This amigurumi koala was made for our sitter and friend L who looked after the kids while I was working. I was so lucky to find her to take the kids to their after-school classes and the like and take care of my kids as if they were her own, they will really miss her too!

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Saturday I was ready for some me time so I got on my bike and rode the trail on a cloudy morning. I found this little guy moving fast as ever on the trail.

Saturday we headed on over to Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa for a group camping with our school. It was a great weekend away and perfect timing to get away. We stopped off at Petaluma for some delicious pie for lunch both savory and sweet. For dinner it was a potluck and I made a mexican inspired black bean salad which disappeared quickly.

As the group site was booked up when we decided to go we stayed at this beautiful cabin for $98 a night (including reservation fees) – in the pics you can see the interior with a bunk bed and a double bed so it fit the 4 or us perfectly. Friends of ours joined in the fun and camped next door, so a total of 8 people can stay at this spot. There were super cool details, with solar lights on the balcony, a little broom cupboard, a table for your goods plus a seat for your bags so it was super spacious inside. We sat out on the balcony in the morning and enjoyed a mug of oatmeal with mixed nuts and maple syrup watching the hawk hanging out in the tree.

Before we left we went on down to the lake for a swim as it was a hot day and met an evil swan guarding the canoes, kayaks and SUP boards. The kids enjoyed the cool water and if you were there all day you can hang out at the water park for $10.

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We are now back in our regular routine of feeding the chickens and doing the chores each week, it was so good to see the little ladies out and about dust bathing in the sunshine.

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Back to mama time and time in the kitchen I made this delicious crumble with coconut whipped cream and nuts. It feels so good to be free with my time and I am thankful for the time I had with my work but I really appreciated to be a master of my own time now.

 

School is almost over…

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I am counting down the days of my work as my kids are already on summer holidays as they finished for the next 11 weeks – yep 11 weeks holiday! And in just 19 days we will be spending over 4 of those weeks in Australia, I am getting excited!!! I will be finishing my work gig as it was a substitute position for the school year and next year I will be spending more time at my daughter’s school as it is her last year there and we will be moving back home to Australia, so it is going to be BIG!!

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Last week was the culmination of our Bee Play for the Kinder class where the kids made their wings out of a coat hanger, tulle and sewed the lines/veins with black yarn. We attached them to their body like a backpack with a crossover back with elastic and put felt around the elastic and the joined coathanger to make it smooth. It was quite a fun little project to work with the kids – they all enjoyed the sewing part! I would have to say the tricky part was stapling the tulle onto the wire coathangers which took up a fair amount of time after school! The kids dyed their white t-shirts with our art teacher and later painted black stripes on them.

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Here is the play on the chapel stage complete with a backdrop the kids painted – I was switching out the backdrop from the meadow to the hive and the sun was stuck on there when it stopped raining. It was a super fun production! There is a farmer in the hat and the beekeeper is somewhere on stage too.

 

I am enjoying the last few times I will be visiting the church at Ventana – it is just beautiful inside, the stained glass is spectacular.

The 1st-grade kids I work with were weaving with sticks to make these really cool art pieces with our super art teacher Jess. She has these really long yarn needles and the kids made a warp tension across the sticks and then weaved in some coloured yarn, I will have to try some of these over the summer holidays as I have yarn and we can go in search for some interesting sticks when we go for bike rides.

There was a lot of fun with yarn too with the Kinders and the kids played this game of throwing a yarn ball across the closing circle to make a star. Afterwards, they had to roll the yarn back up remembering who they had sent it too, tricky but it was super cool fun.

 

Thursday I went out with my friends for an early summer birthday to Amber India which was so good to catch up. We had some delicious cocktails and the dinner was tasty with okra and roti and many curries. We will catch up again after summer to share our summer adventure stories.

 

Summer is here on an off and I did an early Saturday ride and it was so beautiful and still, I captured Hangar 1 in reflection and saw some beautiful bunnies on the trail and here is my amazing dinner from Friday of okonomiyaki with fresh basil, tomatoes and salad – yummy!

I was so happy to see Saturday as it was time to get into my final draft of my last paper for University on Contemporary Perspectives of Learning and Development for Early Childhood. It was a reflection, an education philosophy with the idea of writing this for a potential employer about what educational approaches I am interested in. Of course, it is Reggio, PBL and Waldorf-Steiner – all hands on with a focus on community.

 

Finally, Saturday afternoon came, after a day of editing my paper I got out to the park to the ice cream social with the neighbourhood. The fire truck sprayed water on the crowd on a 33-degree day which was super cooling. While I was enjoying a nice vodka cocktail with my friends. The kids were getting painted by my friend Susan (who was also my ceramics teacher), she was kept super busy for her time there and Missy wanted a bobcat and it looks amazing.

Some good times are ahead this summer!!

 

Little bit of this and that!

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There has been some good food around of late and the day I really love during the week is Taco Tuesday with the easy meal of opening a box of frozen fish putting it in the oven, getting some tortillas on the grill and making a quick slaw with the food processor grating attachment. They really save me on a Tuesday when I have come home from work and have exercised and I am starving. So my diet is now officially over after 90 days to tone my body and I feel fit and healthy, my recovery after exercise is way better plus I know how to eat to feel full and that is to eat every 3 hours. For a healthy snack, I eat whole foods such as Greek yoghurt and fruit and for lunch a protein, grain and salad – I discovered that whole grains are not the enemy they keep me sustained for a period of time. My pants are looser and I am sleeping very well, especially with the addition of golden milk (which I found in Australia a couple of years ago!) to help with sleep. It has been great to get into a routine each day of work, exercise, cook dinner and study/catch up on chores and bed. Sometimes exercise can be so hard, but it is so worth it as it makes me feel so much better and able to handle whatever weirdness is going on around me.

 

At work, the kids in the Kindergarten class have been studying bees and they had a visit from the legendary beekeeper Deb from Girlzwurk it was wonderful to meet her and give her a hug for all the amazing work she is doing with rescuing bees! She said she has around 3 million bees at her property up in the Saratoga hills – amazing! It has been an incredible experience for the kids to learn about bees and this week they will be presenting their information in a play for the school to enjoy!

 

This is artwork from the 1st-grade class that was created with our art teacher Jess – the children were inspired by what they made for the village project. Each piece has turned out beautifully!

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Finally, over the weekend we got to enjoy some summer heat and be out in the garden and I found some of these flowers growing on the fence with a huge stash of little passionfruits growing on the vine and it looks like a bumper crop this year! They are such amazing flowers, it is the perfect attractant for bees.

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While I have been writing my reflection for my 3rd and final assignment for this teaching period, my daughter and my hubby were making Pusheen doughnuts in the kitchen and this is how they turned out! They had a fun time making them but I somehow feel that you need that thin synthetic chocolate to coat these things, the melted chocolate became weird as my hubby learnt a lesson about putting water into melted chocolate as it thickens it up! Still, I think this is a good effort for the first time of making fancy doughnuts 😀

Maker Faire 2018 – a big week

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It was another crazy busy week including a very full weekend! Last week I missed the Market Day at my daughter’s school for the first time in years as I was working and I heard these mealworm races were excellent, I suggested that they add a chicken next time and the mealworm that survives is the winner!

 

Thursday evening we had the Celebration of Learning at my work where the kids present their projects. For the 1st-grade class, they presented their Global Village which they made from foam core and upcycled materials. Inspired by the book, If the World Were a Village read by my co-teacher, we chatted to the kids and documented their discussion to get the project off the ground. We asked the science teacher to help with the materials and organising the footprint of the village where everything should go. Our art teacher helped with the details of the ground and road and supplying the paint. I helped the kids with the paint colours, some of the construction and documenting the info. To make it a truly collaborative experience the 2nd and 3rd-grade classes helped set up the LED power station. The idea from the beginning is that each child who made their pieces/places can take them home to play with them.

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The photo booth!
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Shooing the birds

 

 

 

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Henna tattoo fun
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Waiting for my Lyft!
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Hello from Bollywood!

Saturday evening I went to the 2nd Annual Bollywood party as a gift to myself for studying even though I still have 3 weeks to go! The party is organised by some parents from Stevenson Elementary school as an auction prize. Somehow over the evening, I had a few too many vodka mango cocktails and I was dancing the night away, shooing away the birds (my new Bollywood move!). It is always such a fun night and so good to meet some new families and catch up with friends.

 

 

Sunday we had to get up early and go to our volunteer shift at the Maker Faire for Stevenson Elementary Schools booth where the 4th grade was showcasing their gold rush sluice boxes and the 2nd grade had their air plants art installation on display. We worked our 2-hour shift and off we went to enjoy the fun of the Maker Faire and by then Missy was hungry and ready for a hot dog! Not me I really do not like the food at Maker Faire all carnival deep fried disgusting food.

 

We lived the dream by checking out a teardrop trailer to see if we could fit in and then we found this refurbished trailer the kids really enjoyed, perfect for 2 people and the kids can camp in the tent outside 😀

 

As we ran into some Australian friends after checking out Homegrown – a place where you find the artisanal yummy food including hot cocoa, we saw a parade of cupcakes and another friend of ours from school riding the horse-drawn solar carriage.

 

Wandering through the rest of the Faire we had fun with Big Face Box while we caught up with friends from our old school plus so much art was on show and SO many useless robots. We had such a cool time, running into friends and checking out all sorts of new gadgets and games.

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I happened to be taking a break from walking when I came across this talk from Ted Dintersmith and he talked about the future of education in America and how there needs to be a bit of a shake-up in regards to the system. He showed videos of jobs will not be available in the future due to advances in technology and how there is a need for students to be able to be innovators and makers. He is out there to inspire students and educators to feature project-based learning schools allowing kids to become critical thinkers. The timing of this talk was perfect as I have to write a reflection of my educational philosophy for my next assignment!

 

Plus at the Maker Faire, I found this artist Miss Velvet Cream by chatting with someone at a food truck – so inspiring to see her work plus she had won all these blue ribbons including the editors choice. Oh, and how can I forget running into a fellow chicken lover Stoneface Project (we did a craft show together in SF ages ago!) at the SF Bazaar and she gave me some super cool earrings – a huge thank you! A couple of other fun discoveries were Escama Studio – pieces made from soft drink pulls by artisans in Brazil. And my daughter loved Bottle of Clouds laser cut hand painted pins and earrings, I could not resist her cat and teapot earrings, perfect for a cat and tea lover!

Such a great time was had by everyone and we were very tired at the end of the weekend, time to catch up on some sleep…

Grateful for all we have

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My exercise and eating well regime have been going really well as my meal plans are simpler now with eating more salads and knowing how to balance it with protein and grains. Tonight’s couscous salad of watercress, raw beets, grated carrots, radish, tomato and my new fave plant protein Beyond Meat “chicken” strips made from soy and pea protein topped with a miso chilli dressing so perfect for a meatless Monday. If I were to go vegan this is a perfect meal, one day I will get there! Still eating seasonal, local and organic adds so much variety to your diet and it is even better to get the vegetables direct from the farm.

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So I went out for Mothers Day celebrations on Saturday rather than Sunday as I am not a fan of crowds or people. I had a study break from my paper and went out for lunch to Terun on California Avenue in Palo Alto and afterwards, I went shoe shopping for my mothers day gift. Oh boy, what a treat to find such comfortable and beautifully made shoes, I saw these on a parent at the school I work at and said, “where do you find them” and she told me! These shoes are handmade in Israel and they are the most comfortable and light shoe to wear, I really had a hard choice choosing so I decided on the blue flats as I am looking for alternative shoes in my shoe collection to take over the Camper shoes that I have loved over the years. I get a feeling that from now on any spare $ I have will be spent on these Jafa shoes, they are the best! I mean the colours of the boots are stunning and that is what I have my eye on in the future 😀

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I enjoyed this vodka cocktail for lunch with beet gnocchi, eggplant balls, a Neapolitan style pizza with pear and gruyere plus a farro dish with calamari – what an amazing feast!

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At work former students of 2nd grade built this portable see-saw at tinkering, it is super cool and I see the kids hang out at recess or during class time for some air time outside. It sways on a PVC pipe and a chunk of wood – superb design.

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This week after a week of being appreciated it was time to be grateful for the wonderful year I have had. At the end of last summer, I began a temporary substitute teacher assistant role which initially was going to be 6 months but carried on for the school year where I got to meet another two lively cohorts of children in Kinder and 1st. I am truly grateful for this opportunity of working alongside some incredible educators. Today I was notified they don’t have a role for me next year so I only have 19 days left in this role until Summer vacation. After that it is a holiday in Australia to visit family and friends and then back here for one more year of student mama life and organising our move back home, it will surely be exciting!

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I usually go walking every week around the neighbourhood and it has been beautiful lately with all the spring flowers everywhere, I especially love the orange California poppies. This beauty is growing from a succulent and it is super tall and so pink it catches my eye each time I walk past – I managed to capture this in the evening light the other day, early morning would be best I think!

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Oh, and as I was cleaning out the classroom of library books to return I found this inspiring story and did a read aloud to the kinder kids. It is a story of Julia Butterfly Hill who lived in a redwood for over 2 years to see it preserved for all time. It was such an inspiring story inspired from the novel which I have to get my hands on sometime to ready over the summer I think! Which brings me to the Tarkine in Tasmania – a place where I visited many moons ago with The Wilderness Society. Patagonia has made a film about giving this incredible forest sanctuary for all time World Heritage Protection. Heres to making that happen as I really would love to take my children there when we go home as it is such an experience for them to visit an ancient rainforest where you feel so small.

Teacher appreciation week

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A very quick post this week as I am meant to be writing a paper at the moment and I have so much to do! Teacher appreciation week was last week and it was just wonderful to feel so appreciated by the children. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch and each day there was a surprise organised by our caring parents. It really is such a treat!

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Here is our breakfast table looking so good with fresh fruit and quiche and all sorts of yummy goodness. The salads were just divine with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato.

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This is dry collage on a light table with beads from a beaded curtain that my co-teacher carefully cut out and the kids sorted by colour. Such an interesting way to create patterns.

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The kindergarteners made salads for the teachers from their pea plants in a little restaurant they created and here they are in a pretend play restaurant with the chef hats they made for the kitchen.

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My daughter’s school organised treats for her teachers too, we also had a last minute potluck on Thursday which made the week quite full. Here is their gratitude tree which makes music in the wind.

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Our weekend was jam-packed full of a yard sale, visiting friends and out to dinner plus finalising my first draft of assessment 2 – so time to get into gear so I can submit it on the weekend. This is a pic of an Alexanders Patisserie Matcha dessert which was just like a Swiss roll, with delicious meringue – I love the colour of this dessert and it was perfect with a peony tea.

You gotta have faith…

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Sometimes you have to have faith that the universe is unfolding as it should (I found this stone today at work, I put it into a plant where someone else would find it!). Sometimes your patience will collapse and you feel overwhelmed by what is going on especially when it has involved work, study, work, study and park then finally a cocktail!

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Observing nature on my bike rides have slowed me down in my routine of work, exercise, cook dinner, try and study and do it all over again the next day. This symbolism from nature has got me slow down and take notice (even though I am really enjoying riding fast uphill!)

My eating habits have included way more protein as I have been exercising more and the plan is to build more muscle – yes I can feel it in my legs but the arms are slowly getting there. The midsection needs more work but hey I love food too much so whatever! My new fave is Beyond Meat, it is a plant-based protein made from the latest vegan protein – peas. I found the fake chicken which has a very good texture and was perfect with some pesto and brown rice pasta. The burger I really enjoyed on top of rice with veggies and pickles. Other sources of protein have been poached eggs, now that is too easy to cook with veggies, salad and sauerkraut! And marinated tempeh in balsamic which was very tasty when grilled, that is in between some corn tortillas with a handful of cheese for a quesadilla with guac and salad. My body is feeling much better now that I am eating some grains again and I am so happy with how healthy I am feeling after eating clean for the last 2 and a half months.

Now with this eating/exercising routine, I am allowed a cheat day away from the calorie counting and eating grains, salad and protein. I went out with my friends for a birthday dinner Friday night and it was so good to try a new restaurant, Cucina Venti Italian food with local and seasonal ingredients. The salads were amazing, our table of mostly vegetarians enjoyed the flatbread, zucchini cake, salad and the saffron fish was absolutely delicious. The cocktails were perfect and to top it off the dessert was absolutely divine with tiramisu and a chocolate fondant cake plus a mango sorbet. It was certainly an excellent night out with the ladies eating tasty food. Thanks to AU for taking the pics of the food and sharing them, I am doing what I enjoy most about eating out and that is taking pics of my food – thanks for the memories!!

Oh, there is that snail again – telling me to slow down and take it easy! This week is teacher appreciation week and I have been collecting flowers for my daughter’s school as well as receiving flowers from our students today with flowers from their gardens. I am so thankful for all the families and what they do. It is wonderful to be recognised for the hard yards that go into every day. The kids really enjoy themselves and I love watching them grow over time! I am truly grateful that I have this opportunity to work at such a special school with such an active community.

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In between everything with my time out at the park I have been crocheting with yarn that I have found from old projects with small balls that I have kept over the years and adding yarn that I have recently acquired from FabMo that I could not resist because it was neon yellow!

The universe has a way of letting me know that I need to keep it together and carry on because as soon as I felt that little bit of doubt things fell apart around me, for example, the kids fell sick and took time out of school – lucky my husband could stay home and then boom, I was transported into my old life with taking the kids to their activities plus work, no thank you! It is funny only then I realised that this intense life is not so bad after all, at least it is busy and the time is flying by! We will be going home when the time is right there is no need to feel so upset and have to uproot right here right now. Signs became apparent that it is OK to feel this way and when our house is ready in Melbourne then it will be time to go. I am ready now to leave but there are good things that can unfold before your eyes like a good night out with friends, a peaceful bike ride, calm days, time to study, support from family, connections to your children and just pure and simple time together watching Australian movies. Going with the ebb and flow of life is all that matters really.

Slow like a snail

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Back to routine last week and man it flew past which was good as the week back to reality after a break is always a tough one. My little exercise routine is going great as I have been doing this for the last 2 months now – counting calories, exercising for 30 minutes every day with a rest day on Saturday – I will ride my bike or if I feel like people go to a yoga class. To be honest, I am peopled out by the weekend as a teacher you are on all day and with people all day so by the end of the day/week I just want to chill ideally solo! My strength / HIIT workouts have been amazing and every other day I walk or do a low-intensity workout and the exercise really helps with stress and feeling good for the week ahead. Admittedly, by 10pm it is bedtime after a big day.

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The other big element in my life is studying for my education degree online from Swinburne University in Melbourne. I was busting through my last essay and I received my results and I managed to score a high distinction,  I had no idea I would actually get such a mark when I had crammed and written that paper in a week! I am now working on my second paper for the course focussing on the different philosophies of education such as Montessori, Reggio and Waldorf/Steiner. The research is fascinating so I am motoring along this week as we have consolidation week so time to hunker down and get some essay planning done.

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Tonight I was inspired by an heirloom tomato to make a salad of grilled asparagus, cucumber, celery, fresh basil and quinoa with a dressing of balsamic vinegar, lemon and olive oil. Sitting on top of the salad is a very underrated protein addition tuna fish topped with mayo and capers, yummo this really packs an excellent protein feast with the quinoa and tuna.

As I am building lean muscle it has been very tricky for me to get enough protein in each day so Naked Pea protein drink has been a great saviour with 27g of protein per serving which is excellent for a vegetarian/pescaterian. Also, tempeh and seitan are good sources of protein and really I should be staying away from the vegetarian bacon but I am craving salt!

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Here is my buddy Bella laying on top of a pillow my other little bud used to love (my boy Mackaroni RIP) – she is way more of a homebody now that she is alone. One day I will get another friend for her but until we leave the USA it is hard to justify the costs of shipping animals back to Australia. She does get a lot of love from all of us, even though she can be very aloof, though I think that is what we love cat lovers like – the independence of our feline friends!