A long weekend of celebrations

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Comfort food week

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Taco Tuesday

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!

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Eggplant Parma

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.

 

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Collard green enchiladas

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

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Blanch Collard green leaves in boiling water, leave on a plate to cool.
  3. Prepare your red sauce with added vegetables like grated carrot and cabbage.
  4. Add your refried beans and keep them intact – the consistency has to be somewhat thick.
  5. 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!)
  6. 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.
  7. Top with grated tasty cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until brown on top.
  8. Enjoy!

 

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Salmon and Vegetable Pie

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 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best day of the year

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!

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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.

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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).

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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!

Halloween is creeping up on us!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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 😀

A Birthday and Smoke and Fire

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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The harvest moon

This week we celebrated the Harvest Moon with the Chinese Moon festival in the classroom and enjoyed a story of how the moon festival came to be with a fascinating folktale, a paper lantern craft, and snacks of fruit and mooncakes. Oh and the lovely tea our parent volunteer made from jasmine flowers.

We were introduced to some new math games, two different versions of Sequence which is a fun game to play.

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Friday afternoon after a big week we had exploration on Friday afternoon with a collection of materials ready to play with. The kids had a blast and made many beautiful things using wire, string, beads, sticks and other pieces to tinker with.

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Here is a necklace in progress on a wire string which turned out beautifully.

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Here is a rainbow sting of beads made for a friend. The perfect way to end a week of writing my report for its deadline and my co-teacher out sick.

Still, my Friday did not end at work – I even had the Walkathon at my daughter’s school where she walked 12 miles doing 60 laps and had really sore feet which is understandable! So we went off to visit a friend at his fancy apartment with a pool, and we had a BBQ and the kids relaxed in the hot tub. I had a lovely time catching up with friends I have not seen in person for ages (only on Facebook) chatting about the life and times of living in da valley.

Pick a pumpkin or two?

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Sunday we finally had a day out! Even though I still have not handed in my 3850-word report which is due this week, I felt good as I had edited the day before. So I got to go out to Ardenwood in Fremont and meet our friends for a catch up in the pumpkin patch and of course, ride the train and see the animals. I remember going ages ago when the kids were babies, now they just like to run around and chase the cool looking rooster away from his harem of ladies. It was quite random to land there and say oh the pumpkins are ready for Halloween and it is 30 days away!! In the wheelbarrow, the kids collected the pumpkins – that big mother pumpkin went to our friends and I just wanted a fairly small pumpkin to look festive around the place.

The kids were very excited to check out the pumpkins as I said to my hubby, “Who buys their pumpkin this early in October?” Well, it turns out we do, at least that errand is out of the way for this year! Our friends were laughing at the memories we have at pumpkin patches over the years – in Pescadero one year we went to a farm and saw gorillas pooping pumpkins 😀

As we met our friends on Sunday we did a bit of Fall shopping for Halloween decorations. I really like Halloween though I am not a fan of the crappy candy the kids get, we send it away with the Girl Scouts somewhere or overseas to my family to taste what bad candy is like. We found this Indian corn for sale to decorate around the place and the colours are just amazing – you can make beautiful necklaces with the kernels and they are so pretty.

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Our lovely pumpkin from the farm bought on the 1st day of October – no we really are not that organised otherwise the costumes would be with us too! The kids are still deciding on that?

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Back to work and reality, the observational drawings from our class of the cacti – the colours look amazing in real life. I really need to get out some watercolour and have a play when I am free again in the next couple of weeks only a couple of more days and my report will be handed in – yippee!

This week we were doing 3 digit addition and a new game was bought in the classroom to play – this is Addition Spinners, where you spin to find two numbers and add them together to find the answer on the sheet and the first player to line up 4 numbers is the winner.

Variety of resources for fun Storytelling, Math, Science and Literacy (collected from my co-teacher):

Mystery Math Town provides a math challenge at various levels for children comfortable with math symbols and operations.

EPIC! – A fun reading app (used in class) – listen to stories, read a variety of books

You Cubed – Mathematics with Growth Mindset.

Make your own math kit – use “stuff” from home to make developmental math manipulatives – with explanations and activity suggestions.

Greater Good Science Center – SEL for family and schools.

Thinking Blocks – bar models, story problems (iPad app used in class)

Problem of the Month – Math

National Geographic Kids – variety of activities, research projects, games, videos

Dream Box – math

My Story – great way to tell a story – upload photos, pictures, record and write, then share.

http://galileo.org/

http://wild.maths.org

http://nrich.maths.org

http://cut-the-knot.org

http://brilliant.org/

http://mathplayground.com

Today as I wanted the kids to have a bit of a stretch we ended up having a bit of fun with GoNoodle.

It was a hectic week and I am happy that I am nearly done with my report – this time my reward for this teaching period is to watch Twin Peaks new series so I am really excited about that as it came out when we were in Australia over the summer.

 

Time for some Pie

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The weekend was so relaxing, and I think that my body was just saying slow down after I went to visit my acupuncturist for a Seasonal Adjustment. My last treatment was in February, so it took a while for my body to just say OK now it is time to relax and stop! So I did and even took time out on the hammock in the sunshine – it felt so good to have a nap.

As the weekend was my hubby’s birthday weekend our weekend began at our friend’s place for Navratri Golu to see the collection of dolls (collected over 11 years since my friend’s daughter was born) reenacting various Hindi stories, watching kids perform and eating a delicious Indian feast. On Saturday we enjoyed pizza at the park with our neighbours and hung out and relaxed on the blanket while the kids were playing and Sunday I made this amazing raw vegan cheesecake (plus two quiches).

I made a vegan fresh mango and strawberry cheesecake to share on Friday night to take to my friend’s place and it disappeared in seconds! The second one I made for my hubby’s birthday cake was mango and passionfruit, was divine and took me to the tropics! I found this recipe and modified it the second time using my Vitamix to make it extra smooth. For the Friday night version, it was the one bowl food processor recipe as I was making it before work and had to get it in the freezer, quick sticks!!

Raw Mango Passionfruit Cheesecake
to fit one Pyrex Pie dish

Crust

1 cup almonds
8 medjool dates
1/2 cup dried coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Filling

1 large mango
1 lime (plus lime zest)
1 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight, and drained)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup agave (or maple syrup)
1/2 cup coconut manna
3 passionfruits for mixing
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 passionfruit for swirling through the mix

Instructions

1. Mix all the crust ingredients in a food processor for about 1 minute.
2. Place the crust mixture into a pie dish and flatten evenly with your hands.
3. In the Vitamix (a very smooth mix) or a food processor mix the mango, lime, cashews, coconut oil, agave, coconut manna, 3 x passionfruits and vanilla extract.
4. Swirl the passionfruit insides through the pie to see the black seeds everywhere.
5. Pour the filling into the pie dish and place in the freezer – freeze for at least 5 hours.
6. Remove cheesecake from the freezer and let sit at room temperature to cut into slices.

Enjoy!
This can keep in the freezer well-covered for a couple of weeks or just scoff the whole thing down which is what happened at the party on Friday night.

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Now back to work/school so I have been really enjoying working as a Teacher Assistant at Ventana School, and I love seeing the art around the place especially when it is kiddos painting chickens! These are artworks by the kindergarten kids, and I just love their colours in their observational drawing.

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So more math games and fun with the kids – this time Race to a Flat where the kids cut a strip of paper to record their numbers at each roll of the dice. The aim of the game was to get to 100 or more rolling the dice and adding to the solution each time. The kids were so excited that they wanted to make stip of paper longer and longer – I wish I learnt math this way back in the day. Perhaps I would have loved it like I do now after the course in my Education degree.

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More math resources for the classroom and another fun game I really like is Capture 5 using the 100s chart, and all you need is some objects to be the players, and these kiddos used glass pieces and ones to capture. Check out the video link for info how to play, but it is a super fun game to practice addition and subtraction. These kids were trying to play Capture 25 and were working as a team.

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This is another fun math game using simple things such as a paperclip for the spinner and whatever objects you can find for the players – you can use coins or coloured rocks whatever is small enough to fit in the squares. This cool game is Place Value Munch, and my co-teacher finds all sort of fun math games on the Teachers Pay Teachers website. The kids really enjoy this game and so did I when I was playing it with the kids in the math rotations. I have to say this is the best way to learn math playing games and having fun!

Back to another week of work and life – taking it much slower as the weather is warm again even though it was the first day of Autumn last Friday.

Art and New Discoveries

As our class will be going on a field trip to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens next month our Atelierista (Art Specialist) bought in some cacti for the kids to practice their observational drawing. They used Indian ink and pastel, to apply the ink the kids used a variety of brushes, plastic forks and skewers.

A Problem of the Month in maths was this worksheet looking at the patterns in bowling pins and using repeating patterns to work out how many pins were set up. It is interesting how the kids approached this with their super cute drawings, most of them getting messier and messier at each line of the x pattern. More math resources for the classroom for working in small groups and coming together as a math congress to discuss their findings in the end.

After assembly this week the whole school all sang a song to the birds – yes this is the whole school including the teachers and the specialists. It was a cute little song I am sure the birds really enjoyed! We all danced in a circle around the labyrinth near the upper playground, it is such a wonderful place to work!

My discoveries this week were overnight oats and how good they are as a study snack! All I did was get this recipe from Oh She Glows Every Day by Angela Liddon, I store it in the fridge adding fresh fruit and coconut to the bowl for the healthiest snack ever.

Apple Pie Overnight Oats
(this is my slacker version adapted from the cookbook)

1 cup oats
1.5 cups cashew milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, to taste
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Small pinch of fine sea salt
1 Fuji apple unpeeled – chopped up finely
2 tablespoons chia seeds
Ground Allspice
Ground Ginger

I just used a large mason jar put all the ingredients in there gave it a shake and left it for the morning and the next day and the day after, it keeps a few days in the fridge and is a great snack anytime!

The avocado with Siracha is sitting atop a super easy recipe for baked zucchini patties from the Vitamix cookbook I found at the library.

I love the library and one of the books I found there this week was this amazing Lebanese cookbook, and it made me so hungry just looking through it. If only I could get decent Lebanese food here like I do back home in Melbourne!! The good thing about working full-time is discovering shortcuts to eating well and the best place to find good recipes is at the local library, go Mountain View Public Library you are my best friend 😀