Celebrations for the 13 year old

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What an epic week of celebrations with a last minute cake bake inspired by the Great British Baking Show. The bowl of the week was a Yakisoba inspired recipe minus the chicken and subbing in smoked salmon, which was a winner, winner chicken dinner for everyone – the things you do when you check out the back of a packet of soba noodles. I added in shitake mushrooms and some pickles, it was delish.

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We found this great book at the library called Bakeland jam packed full of inspiring baked goods with a Nordic influence. This is the cake we made but…

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This is the cake after we tweaked the recipe by making 3 layers and added a chocolate mousse cream topped with a raspberry icing. It was incredibly rich and fell apart when cut due to the dense cake of the brownie, what a great experiment.

The celebration is captured on video with the gang of 3 our overnight guests for an intimate sleepover doing things teens do like play computer games, watch Spaceballs, play computer games, eat chips, play computer games!

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As the cake was super rich in even the tiniest slice, the next day I put the cake in the food processor with some hemp seeds, dates and coconut to make the richness bite-sized. I rolled them up and put them in the freezer and they are now little pocket snacks of chocolatey goodness to keep you going during the day. Today I shared them with my friends for a sewing prep party and we got a lot of work done – yay!

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And to top off the good times of the weekend with the teens taking over the house my hubby made this crepe stack from Bakeland with blueberries – absolutely divine to indulge for a Sunday morning brekky.

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And there’s the soon to be 13 year old who has lived his whole life in California and is soon to live his teenage years back to where he was born – in Melbourne. Some fun times ahead for him though I can see that he will miss his buddies who we have all known for so long.

 

Celebration & good times

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Monday was my hubby’s birthday so I got rid of all the crap on the dining table and created this lovely posy of plants from the garden.

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This is one of my fave quiches to make for a special occasion – the Spinach Impossible Pie with crumbled feta, spinach, cheese and egg custard, made with a base from the pie book below so that was meatless Monday dinner.

I had to stop briefly in amongst my assessment writing over the weekend to get some celebrations happening for my hubby! I always love preparing a good feast for birthdays and the menu started on Sunday with a Strawberry Crumble pie – made from scratch with my kitchen helper Missy with a lemongrass cream, so divine!

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Heres the surprise birthday cake on a relaxed Sunday morning – well for some of us who did not have to get up early to make a birthday pie!

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This was hot out of the oven which is why there’s a piece of bread with candles to celebrate, it was super tasty and from my favourite pie book – A Year of PiesThe pie was meant to sit for an hour before we ate it but it was so good we tucked into it straight away!

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Oh, I always love a cocktail for a party so I made this watermelon fennel cocktail, it went down so well – the kids loved the juice, hehehe they had no idea about the fennel.

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This has been my number 1 drink for focusing, a nice cup of Matcha tea – discovered in Queensland with my sister. This is a coconut matcha which is probably way high in fat but if you are into Paleo this is the biz for you.

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The countdown has begun and as of tomorrow, I have 3 months left in the United States. I am getting rid of so much stuff and giving it away to neighbours who I don’t even know which is excellent as they are going to people who are happy to enjoy it. The shelves are emptying when I get need a brain break from study. My sewing and study room is slowly getting rid of fabric – I have a couple of projects before I put the machine and fabric away for the year. Our bedroom is getting rid of pictures and excess clothes – I still need to work on that space! The kid’s room is slowly getting there – though I have a plan to get rid of more stuff! The lounge needs to get rid of furniture but that will come later before we sell up and go. A plan is really starting to develop and I scored a great flight with taking myself and the kids back in December and my hubby will come for a trip in 2019 and then sell this place and come back for good.

So much stuff to do after living here for 12 years and it is strange to finally say I am going home to Melbourne FOR GOOD! It is so exciting as I am happy and things are falling into place. I have the kids enrolled in schools that I really like, one in primary and one in high school. The house remodel is still moving along and scheduled to start as planned. Once everything is a little settled maybe I could do a practicum for University at a primary school, it may have to wait another year until we have our house. I am so happy to be going back and finally be at home with my family and friends, the future is looking bright again!

 

Bit of a busy week!

So I am supposed to be writing a paper at the moment, but it is so hard to get anything done with the week I had! It all began with a stuffed animal sewing workshop with Kinder and 1st-grade kids at my work as an auction prize. Here are a few of the animals made by these first-time sewers and I was really impressed with their perseverance and creativity.

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After the workshop, we had a call with our architect in Melbourne (our friend) who completed the design drawings for our house, and we absolutely love it! Our block is not huge so we are using the space very effectively. We just love the addition of colour and the skylight to bring in light to the addition at the back of the house. The front is a cottage that will be the master bedroom and downstairs bathroom. The extension on the back will be the living and dining all open plan – which I love! And the upstairs is the kid’s bedroom and their bathroom. I am so happy about this house and am so looking forward to seeing it built! Waiting patiently is hard, but I know it will all be worth it.

Thursday we had an open house at Stevenson Elementary for our 4th grader and saw her beautiful artwork and stories on pioneer times from her trip to Fort Ross. This week they are off again to Coloma for the gold rush overnight field trip with other parent chaperones which she is looking forward to doing, away from her parents :/

Friday night was Missy’s birthday, so we went out for sushi together as a family for her choice of dinner. Afterwards, I had a date with some friends to celebrate a March birthday with lots of cocktails, delicious Mexican food and dessert – check out the volcano cake from Agave.

At work we created a lovely craft for the kids to do with an invitation to write a personal narrative about their family using various materials, they crafted them to discuss experiences, their family and pets and it is such a great way to encourage writing through art.

Saturday was the big party for the 10-year-old! We were lucky we had beautiful sunny spring weather – the plan was a sewing felt animal picnic at the park but the kids really just wanted to play together, which was fine! The cake was a vanilla bean bundt cake with sprinkles inside to make it the funfetti version. I had made a funfetti cake a couple of years ago with natural sprinkles which did not really work and I realised what the secret was – it is the sprinkles from Safeway that are unnaturally brightly coloured.

We set up the craft table for the kids to choose their cat or dog – Missy had asked her friends beforehand so we knew what to cut out and they were ready to go! What ended up happening was the parents were sewing and drinking, and the kids were playing – so we had to call them over to stuff their animals so they could take them home as their party gift! I love the button eyes on the dog with the multicoloured floss.

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And then Sunday was Easter day, and the kids had their egg hunt inside the house as the garden was a mess from the chicken sitting.

And to come to full circle to the end of the week, we have another open house for the middle school tonight, and this is where we see what the mysterious tweens get up to at school! We showed our appreciation for the teachers and the communication they share, as the kids are not very good messengers!

I really love the quilling of Victini the Pokemon, and the owl – the scary teacher pic at the bottom is a bit dark for me. So it makes me happy that my son is finally doing art and over the summer I have signed him up for a How to draw Manga camp, and I am looking forward to seeing what he creates there. I need to get him ready for the arts and cultural hub of Melbourne!

Now a big breath and onto research for my paper – whew what a week!

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.

Party time after a busy week!

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Last week felt like a turbulent wind had taken me up into the gusts with the many things I had to do. It all started fairly relaxed – I baked Anzac biscuits for International Day which was Thursday at our school. The map above is a snapshot of our school community including where ancestors were from and where everyone is now – here in California. I have a little string beginning in Sri Lanka and then to Melbourne and then to Cali. I love how this visual map of the world shows that we are all immigrants and a school community of just over 300 families can create such representation from many countries throughout the world. It helps we are here in the Valley where the population is so multi-cultural with thanks to all the tech jobs. I think I will think of this every time I hear any racist comments from the many idiots running this place.

My week began with research for my Science assignment which I completed the 1st draft on Sunday – yay! Plus I had my math unit as well which I have to keep on top of. The fun then began with planning the rest of the week with the party on Saturday and the middle school Walkathon on Friday (which I foolishly signed up to volunteer for). Still it was good to get the study done in the first couple of days of the week so I could focus on the rest of the stuff I had to do, like baking, sewing, volunteering, researching and driving the kids around.

Saturday came around and it was so sunny and beautiful! We were worried that it was going to rain but the sun came out for us in the morning and the warmth was the best 😀 We had a party by the lake and  hired out some paddle boats for the kids to play on and enjoy some exercise. They were knackered by the time our hour was up!!

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The fun part was getting around the lake with just a little bit of wind – the power of nature and pedalling around on the water is then that little bit challenging.

After the boat rides we had a picnic lunch of pizza, chips, fruit and juice boxes. Everyone just played and were checking out this lovely mama goose and her nest with 4 eggs in it. This is why I love Shoreline Park so much because of the nature sightings – the egret above, the yoga sand piper and the mama goose.

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In between studying and organising I made this dress in the evenings when my brain was too foggy to concentrate on reading and research. The cat fabric is super cool and it looks beautiful on. Missy did have purple dye in her hair but it seems to have not taken too well, I think it was because the ladies had to use an oil to brush out her dreadlocks before dying it. Oh well it was a fun experience for her and also for me to go to the salon to get hair dyed.

Then came the cake after a bit of playing – I planned to make fairy bread lamingtons but I could not get it together to make them beautiful on Friday evening so it was a complete cake fail! So in the end I made a food processor carrot cake (made in 5 minutes!!) by Donna Hay which was very tasty with its cream cheese, ricotta and lemon icing. It was a hit or a miss with the kids – though I did have one little friend who really enjoyed it so I shared the recipe with his mum.

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The week was an absolute whirlwind with the many things that managed to get done and it all paid off on Saturday with the most amazing weather and sunshine. We did have a very bold ground squirrel who really enjoyed the crumbs from our table and did not mind his photo being taken 🙂 And here is mama goose on her nest of down about to take care of her little ones – spring is here so we will have to look out for some little goslings around the lake soon, so sweet!

 

A piece a Week – Birthday Sprinkles Cake for birthday number 8

A week of birthdays ending with my birthday today – whew! I cannot believe it is April already and that my birthday is nearly over. It was a relaxing day catching up on what I have to do at the library next Tuesday – we are making a double drawstring bag which is a fun and easy project!

Last week was a week of making cakes, dresses, kids projects and preparation for a birthday party – Whew! We had seen these cakes on Pinterest and wanted to make one for the party, it is made with India Tree Nature’s Colors Carnival Mix Sprinkles. Placing the sprinkles on the top with the stencil was the easy part – see the pic with a parchment stencil of an 8 cut out. Though I realised when you want to take the stencil off place the cake in the fridge for the icing to set a little bit before the stencil is removed otherwise you will see some rough areas of the icing, which is what happened to this 8!

Fun Sprinkles all over the stencil number 8
Big number 8 stencil

The next step was putting the sprinkles on a vertical surface up the side of the cake evenly. This worked out to be quite tricky so we found a couple of YouTube videos that helped us out with the process of placing the sprinkles by hand around the side of the cake.

Adding the sprinkles one by one… our initial plan?!?

My baking assistant

Saturday we organised a small party for some friends at the local paint your own pottery studio downtown called Fireworks Ceramics we had enough kiddos to have the party room which was a lot of fun for everyone. There was a place for snacks and the kids each received a piece of pottery to paint as their project. Here we are trying to look our best for the party!

A very happy 8th to Missy

Each child chose what they liked and put their name on the bottom and painted them with a glaze so when the piece is fired it looks nice, bright and shiny.

The painted pieces by the party guests

The cake was a big hit with everyone wanting to come back for seconds. I made my favorite whole wheat vanilla pound cake recipe from the King Arthur Baking book. It is a perfect cake for icing and decorating as it stays together very well with not a lot of crumbs.

The 8 cake in action
Do I have to blow out the candles??

We tried to marble the inside of the cake with natural food coloring – it was an experiment that works better with not so natural food colors that I had used in the past when making cakes. This time the marble effect is very subtle and fades when the cake is baked. Still I think it was worth seeing what would happen.

The first piece of cake – with a little bit of marbling

On the actual birthday which was Wednesday we went out to dinner to Sushi Tomi downtown Mountain View. That is one fine sushi joint! I had not been there since I was pregnant with Holly as it can always be way too busy with a line out the front – which is a good thing for a sushi restaurant. We had a delicious spread of hand rolls and some incredibly fresh seafood, the standout being the soft shell crab. As I had not bought a new dress for a birthday dinner I ended up making one that day using a pattern from a Japanese Pattern book a friend gave me. Everything is written in Japanese and trying to work out which pattern is which can make you cross eyed. I just needed the dress and the sleeve and found them eventually ready to trace. I really like the look of the dress and I have used a fabric a friend gave me from a dress she did not complete. I like how it had the pleats that she already made for her dress included in this dress. The sleeves are a standout for me with the gold glitter fabric Missy chose out of my stash of costume fabrics.

Wearing the dress I made from a Japanese sewing book

Friday I had to come up with an Australian theme craft for the class. We had decided to make peg dolls at the beginning of the week. But in between chatting to the teacher he wanted it to be an Australian focus so we made Pegapus (Platypus) book marks for the kids. They enjoyed them and it was not very messy and a cinch to clean up – we could have taken it a step further and added a tail and feet though the time ran out. Any crafts you like to do with the kids in your class? Feel free to share…

Platypus peg craft for the classroom