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!

 

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.

New chapters = New Beginnings

 

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Back in the bay and the countdown has begun to the start of school for the year – everyone is pretty happy to go back! We have only 4 days to go, and for me, it is 3 as I start a new job as a Teacher Assistant on Friday with Orientation – how exciting as I have not worked full time for about 9 years!

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Since coming back I have enjoyed Granita cocktails with lemon verbena from my neighbours garden and watermelon from my CSA box, absolutely incredible. I made cocktails at a friends house the other night for dinner, and we had mixed melon and mint with lemon and Hangar 1 vodka, just the perfect drink for a tasty Indian meal! Oh I have to mention the inspiration for Granita was from Melbourne from an Italian coffee house called Pellegrini’s where every Friday they made fresh gnocchi and served it with watermelon granita, it was such a treat!

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I have loved being back on my bike and getting around the trails I opted for a 7.5-mile ride down the trail early on a Saturday morning and it was just perfect. Smooth riding, flowers in bloom and many bridges to cross.

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I have been really enjoying the colours in nature and coming back after spending a month in a dramatic winter scape it is beautiful to see everything in bloom and so alive!

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Sometimes I feel like this little guy trapped in its razor wire with one step forward and many steps back with the amount of work I have to get through with University and now planning for a full-time job plus volunteering and taking care of the household. One thing at a time from my list and eventually I get through, and there is more work. Still, it will make the time fly by, before I know it plans will be underway for our house in Oz.

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We had an enjoyable hike with our friends from Oakland on Sunday at the halfway meeting point in Pacifica and found this super cool County Park with many eucalyptus trees. There were so many and it was just like being home in Australia. That could be one of the many reasons how I have managed to be here so long, being amongst native trees and enjoying their energy. This tree was just spectacular as it was gigantic, growing like an oak tree with its massive supportive trunk in the centre.

There was so much fog that morning, and it enlivened the trees formations. We walked up and down for around 5 miles, and it was refreshing for all of us with some lovely views along the way. The trees were my favourite as we wandered through the many different landscapes.

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The kids were very excited to have found some sibling lizards on the hike and caught them for a bit of play – you can just see them on Ash’s finger sitting together. The bonus was the cafe at the bottom of the hill from the park was Beach Monkey Organic Cafe had tasty food for all of us including delicious Acai bowls!

Not long to go until life changes gear and I start a new chapter of my life for the next 6 months, it is something to look forward to and a super opportunity to engage in for my education degree.

New Year, New Beginnings

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This is the year 2017 and time for all those resolutions and all that jazz that never manifest. Last year I was supposed to play my ukelele but did I even pick it up and learn one song – no! I love my ukelele and it is so good to own one and I do need to make time to play if only there were more hours in the day, then maybe?

Now it is back to reality and to regular routine… I have my two subjects a week for this teaching period plus 3 assignments to complete in the next 2 weeks so my time is very limited to socialising and the like. I still need to get out and exercise for my mind, so time on my yoga mat and dancing are priorities. I am really enjoying studying and it gives me a sense of purpose and a goal (at the end of a very long tunnel!) My first group assignment is going along well and it was not as hard as I perceived it to be in fact communicating across the world online with different timezones is so do-able, every day it is done in business which makes me wonder why do business folks still have to have face to face contact and jet around the world constantly? Anyway, that is not my worry, I have to get this blog post written and get on with my reading and weekly tasks for this week for my Education degree…

Our new years eve this year was just the four of us enjoying a lovely dinner of DIY pizza, cocktails using Sonoma organic ginger vodka, loganberry liqueur from Whidbey Island distillers and lemon shrub I made over the summer and tonic water – they went down a treat. A collaboration with my hubby where he made the meringue and I decorated the pavlova sans the cream (as I forgot) turned out to be quite the success. It went down a treat and we shared it with our neighbour who also is a fan of Australia – my good friend in Australia said to me the pavlova was super easy to make and she is a Kiwi and it turned out to be so, though he did spend a lot of time with the hand mixer (I hear the Kitchen Aid is the biz!!).

For New Years Day we mixed it up a bit this year and we abandoned the idea of brunching with friends and decided to start the year off with something we have not done in the 10 years we have lived in the Bay Area. Why we have not done this is a complete mystery but as it turned out the 1st day of the year was a perfectly, clear, sunny day to walk the Golden Gate Bridge! Every time we drive over it seems so surreal that we are living here – well we live in the suburbs of San Francisco so it is not like living in a city! Anyway, I will not complain, I do love the sunshine 🙂 To start the year off on something new was a bold move for us and we plan to do many more adventures like this in the time we have left in the United States. That is if my plan works to escape and head on back home!

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The views from the bridge are absolutely spectacular and on a day with zero fog and sunshine, it was just amazing to see what this city has to offer. I loved the views of the bridge walking under it and I loved to admire the incredible engineering. The cables viewed from the walking paths with their curves were to behold and the view of the city just wonderful – it is such a beautiful bridge and a glorious bay it is no wonder that people love living here!

Here is a rare image of my hubby and myself finally in front of the Golden Gate Bridge – we had some time to talk about our future while we were away on vacay. Time alone without children screaming the background or media to distract us – now we know where we both stand it is up to us to take life where we want to go. The future can always be scary so a bit of investigation in the job market and where we are both going in life has to be examined before any big decisions are made! The love locks we found on the Golden Gate are from lovers who have used a lock as a symbol of their love and then thrown away the key – what a sweet gesture, I thought it was for suicide victims whew thank goodness they were not as that would be a lot of unnecessary deaths of couples!

I really enjoyed the light of the day the other day with the bridge and wandering along being together as a family. This holiday has really brought us together and it is so good to see the kids in a relaxed mode and enjoying each others company which is why I captured this pic of the two of them chatting away, they are both growing up so fast! Oh and check out the tunnel we had to travel through to get to the bridge, it is quite the adventure going into a little Hobbit tunnel.

So to new beginnings and how to move along 2017 in such a positive light! I plan to do more photography, ride my bike often (see this ride across the bridge for a bit of a long day of riding!) and bake more – this is a clafoutis that I made from apple and berries and it was divine. It is such a simple recipe I found in Sunset magazine using my Vitamix and oh yes I need to use my blender to make smoothies and all that goodness. Really it is so important to stay positive and full of light in the coming year and be there to support each other – I don’t want to mention here why but I think most people know the doom that exists on the horizon.

Celebrate, Good Times

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Look at this little Pomegranate thief, up high in the tree and grabbing the forbidden fruit of the pomegranate from a front garden up in the hills! It has been another one of those four-day weeks that went by in a flash but at least I managed to design a cocktail dress that I have always been dreaming about!

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Saturday we did take a family day out to Bark in the Park over at San Jose in the hot summer sun for some excellent dog-friendly activities. Hanging out with friends and meeting lots of dogs, what a lovely way to pass the day! I highly recommend this if you have never been before and have a love of animals. The entertainment will keep you going as there are lots of dog related shows to check out and all for free and you don’t even have to have a dog! The best thing is you get to meet lots of dogs and pat them – yay!

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Saturday I was invited to a party at my friend’s house for her daughter from London who will be getting married this Wednesday – Congrats Elly and Olly! I gave myself a project to design the cocktail dress of my dreams and it took most of my time last week but as I was inspired by the vintage fabric I found at an estate sale last week I continued with the flow. It was a lot of fun as I combined a bodice from a dress I love with a skirt from The Great British Sewing Bee book – creating a design in this way requires a lot of thinking and manipulating, still I went along with it and ta-dah finally I was happy with what I created. Also, it was a bring along a dessert to the party so I made my favorite Fig Tart with a Rosemary Cornmeal Crust from Epicurious. From my CSA box this week I received these beautiful candy stripe figs and they looked (and tasted) beautiful on the tart.

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The party was so much fun with an amazing array of food thanks to my friend’s daughter Rosie who is an events manager in London. The bar was the best with gin (& tonic) from a bespoke distillery down the road from Canary Wharf where Rosie lives and I enjoyed my first experience of a Pimms cup complete with fresh fruit, cucumber, and mint – an absolute delight. And as a special treat, we enjoyed this amazing ‘cheesecake’ made from Stilton, Pecorino, Goat Cheese and I think Humboldt Fog Blue cheese! What a dream complete with gorgeous figs and grapes. A piece of art in itself and very tasty at that 🙂

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As part of my segway of creating a cocktail dress this week I wanted to get a move on my inventory for the Textile Art Boutique coming up on October 22nd. So I made these sunglass pouches for your fly eye sunnies out of FabMo fabric. I have them in a regular glasses size also a wee bit bigger for the bigger Audrey Hepburn style fancy sunglasses.

Blueberry Lemonade for a Hot Day

Ingredients

12 whole meyer lemons peeled

1 container blueberries

raspberries

mint leaves

dash of ginger beer

dash of komucha

agave to taste

1 cup of ice

1 cup of water

Throw all these ingredients into the Vitamix till everything is combined and looks beautiful – see pic below!

Try mixing some vodka with this and it is a refreshing afternoon libation!

As it turned out I rocked on over to a pool party on the weekend with a Mason Jar 3/4 full of blueberry lemonade and 1/4 vodka and it was very popular, though it was very funny seeing peoples faces realising it was too much lemon for them  😀

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Fruity Blueberry Lemonade perfect for a drink mixer

A piece a Week – In Production Mode and getting totes done!

This week the kids had a half day afternoon camp so we had the morning to hang out together and have some fun. As it turned out I volunteered to water the school garden for this week with my helpers – the kiddos! The school garden is in full summer bloom at the moment and is looking really wonderful with lots of pumpkins growing big and round with splashes of sunflowers up high towards the sky.

A beautiful ombre shaded flower

Find the caterpillar in the sunflower!

One of the many pumpkins in our school garden

We ended up running into some friends from our school at the afternoon summer camp so we had a pizza night together where the kids could make their own pizza at Pizza My Heart. Every Tuesday night the kids have a few toppings to choose from that are bought to their table with a rolled out pizza dough and the kids have the joy of making their own pizza complete their own little flag for when they bake it.

Mr Ash with his tasty Canadian Ham and Pineapple pizza

A rainbow of Lego made by Ash’s Play Well Lego Camp teacher

Mid week was our 8th wedding anniversary and the material for the celebration is pottery so I made this succulent planter in my ceramics class as our gift. I had so much fun making this pot and I had some inspiration from a class mate who makes a lot of garden decor with tonnes of textures. My teacher helped me with the glaze and rubbing back the colours to sink into the texture and I just love how it turned out. We all went out for meal to a local fancy Mexican joint downtown and had some drinks to celebrate later in the evening!

Jalapeno and Guava Margarita

Our new succulent pot made in my ceramics class

These are the totes I have been working on and managed to complete over the week in production and my new patchwork tote bag that I am now road testing. FabMo had another wonderful stock reduction sale this week and they were selling fabric bags for $2 (fabric perfect for lining) now I have a fair amount of fabric to build up a decent inventory for the show in October. I scored a unfinished patchwork quilt for $10 so that will be made into totes for the show – they will certainly be one of a kind and limited edition!

FabMo fabric and a feather turned arrow

Close up of the arrow

A blue version with the arrow

My new patchwork tote ready for road testing

All my goodies inside with pockets for organization
Stitching detail from the patchwork quilt
And to end the week we had a BBQ appreciation for the FabMo volunteers at a local park and I made a fig and strawberry tart with a rosemary cornmeal crust from epicurious. And friends of ours we only met last year who moved here from Portland are moving to Taiwan so they had a pool party farewell late Sunday afternoon – so relaxing to spend it in the pool and hot tub after such a busy week.
Fig and strawberry tart glazed with honey

Find the neon cupcake against Missys swimmers 😀