Spring Breaking

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We all had a lovely spring break the kids and I. It all started with completing my paper for Uni, and once that was done I had a bit of a breather with hanging out with the kids. Monday I drove them to the farm to do the chicken chores. It was such a beautiful day to be hanging with the chickens, they loved the outside sunshine and snacks with the humans. This Buff Orphington chook is one big lady, she is all feathers and such a sweetie! You can see Snowflake the white chicken on the ground, she was adopted by one of the kids in the 4H chicken project as someone left her at the farm?! She is another lovely lady. While we were hanging with the kids and the chickens in the spring sunshine, we even had our friends from San Jose visit and drop off my son after a sleepover.

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After an intense study period, I like to craft and as I had not switched out my entryway decorations since the last holiday I wanted to bring in something fun to my new garden bell addition. I made pom poms after I found this cool neon yarn and I added it to an embroidery hoop without its buddy so here is the undersea background for the whale. I am now crocheting a blanket which is a lot of fun as I have not crocheted in ages. It all started with a granny square YouTube video when I was kicked out of the lounge room as Missy was playing the Switch and watching Netflix (a cooking show!) with her friends for a girls sleepover.

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Thursday I went in search of a mysterious flat white coffee as an Aussie friend of mine told me about a place downtown Mountain View that had decent coffee. You see, I stopped drinking coffee 12 years ago when I moved here as the only well-made coffee I could find was at Dana Street Cafe (an Aussie barista made a kick-ass flat white). It was inconsistent as she was not always working plus I was not hanging out at the coffee shop with a baby. So after a while, it was no more coffee for me which turned out to be a good thing as I became a kombucha fan down the track…. but that is another story! Anyway, this coffee shop downtown is called 1oz coffee, and it was a super cool cafe to hang out sans the nerds! Actually, there is one in the background! Well, it seems to me that this is a place to come and drink coffee and snack out with friends (delicious pastries from Alexanders down the road, plus Rx date bars and big cookies) rather than sit on your machine all day with that one cup of coffee.

After the coffee (see the super cute flat white) I took the kids to look at the caterpillars outside the Mountain View Library. These caterpillars were everywhere, they will one day become the Tussock Moth when they transform. They were all over the sculptures outside the library, and the kids really enjoyed finding them in bunches all going somewhere? The library is always the best place to hang out over break even though there is a remodel happening and the kid’s book selection is minimal. The kids will still come out with a bag full of books especially when they have been banned from the computer for the break! It worked out well as we would have family game time playing Mario Cart and the kids could track my progress and give me high 5s whenever I was in the top 10 – yay!

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The bonus of being off all week was that pretty much every day we would go to the park and hang out with our neighbours! The kids would climb the trees and look for critters and even bring them home to live in a shoebox. The adults would knit on the blanket and drink wine, not long till summer and we can do that all the time!!

I also had the opportunity to deep clean my house to get rid of 3 boxes of books, clean out the kitchen and kids room to sell at the upcoming citywide garage (yard) sale on the 5th May weekend. And after that it will be time to donate everything, it will feel so good to get rid of stuff though we still need to move some more stuff if we have another year or so it is hard for me to donate all the yarn! I did give a local maker space lots of craft materials, and that felt good. Most of my little yarn balls are going to my big granny square blanket that will tell the story of the many pieces I made in the time I have been knitting which is around 12 years that is since I was pregnant with Ash, man time flies when you are having fun!

A lovely birthday week!

It was a quiet week last week as I was busting my free time to write a paper for University plus it was my birthday! It was so fun to go to school and have the kinder kids give me their wishes they had made and present a beautiful bunch of flowers to make my day.

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At my work – Ventana School, it was the week of stories, so that gave me a great excuse to wear my owl costume from the Owl Diaries book series – I am a bit of a fan of Eva the owl ever since my daughter bought it home from the library. Since then I have moved onto any book by Raina Telegemeier and the Phoebe and her Unicorn series. You know I need to read the stories to understand what the kids are getting into these days.

Recently I listened to the book The Wild Robot, and I absolutely love it, and as a birthday gift, I bought myself The Wild Robot Escapes, book 2 and it is so good! The audiobook is so well produced and well read I cannot wait until book 2 is out so I can hear the narrators voice again. The story is incredible with the friendship connection from a new being (the robot)  stranded on an island, meeting sea otters :D, combined with the futuristic sci-fi element where the island became an island from the rising sea levels, so all types of animals live there. The characters are lovable, and you feel for the robot as she begins life as an outsider and soon becomes loved – it is full of such grand adventure! I have not enjoyed a book as much as this for ages. I have a copy at the bookstore so I can add it to my collection for a classroom read aloud (it is recommended for grades 3 to 6).

Speaking of books, we had a Hicklebee’s book fair at school as a fundraiser, and this was a book bought into the classroom. I love the illustrations in this book and by Lemony Snicket. Our family favourite is A Series of Unfortunate Events audiobook series which we listened to on our way down to the Joshua Tree. And now Netflix has a TV series of all the books which we love watching on the weekends.

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So for my birthday, I had a very delicious dinner of a middle eastern salad topped with grilled fish at Dish Dash in Sunnyvale, and over the weekend we enjoyed family time going to the Aquarius cinema in Palo Alto to see Isle of Dogs by Wes Anderson. I am a bit of a fan of his films as one of my faves is Fantastic Mr Fox, actually looking at his filmography I really enjoy most of his movies! My husband and I met volunteering at a film gallery so going to the cinema (mainly to see an arthouse film) is a special time for us.

The rest of the weekend was lovely with hanging out at the park in the sunshine after I had done enough writing in the afternoon. On Sunday was a bit of a write off for the ladies enjoying too much wine on the picnic blanket (the picture above says it all!) and singing our afternoon away… I was even thinking of getting out my ukelele?!?

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!

Chicken sitting

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This week we are chicken sitting, and we are just loving having a couple of bantam hens in the back garden eating bugs and wandering around. We have a makeshift cage out the back made out of a dog run, and they come inside at night time, just to be safe away from those criminals of the night – the racoons. I have heard some horror stories or racoons and chickens, not good at all. This little cutie is Nova, and she belongs to another friend in the chicken project, so we are taking extra care of her.

Sunday we met our friends from Oakland in the San Francisco Botanical Gardens and I just love this place. Unfortunately, it was full of people looking at their phones participating in a worldwide Pokemon Go tournament. So we walked carefully on the paths making sure we did not run into the Pokemon Go peeps not paying attention to where they were going.

Our first stop in the garden was the Austalia and New Zealand section of plants, and it was like being at home, so we added a lyrebird sound effect to make it seem like we were back in Oz. The ferns were amazing, and the Lilly pilly (bottom centre picture) was in bloom, and they looked delicious and apparently they can be eaten! It really made me homesick and being among native flora really makes you feel like you are there.

We wandered over to the neighbours across the meadow to find a wonderous redwood grove, and it felt just like hiking in the redwoods. The redwood sorrel was in full bloom after all the rain, and the meadow nearby was filled with little white daisy-like flowers.

We kept on coming back to the Australian section each time finding something new like the native Holly which was funny. The kids said look, Holly, this is you! Plus we saw old man Banksia in its stages of growth with its spiky leaves.

The kids were hanging for ice cream as the botanical garden was not as exciting for them as it was for the adults. We then found the twirl and dip ice cream truck across the way and went on over to the Shakespeare garden for an afternoon of flowers and sonnets, it makes me want to read some Shakespeare in my spare time.

Back at school/work today and the kids in the kindergarten class are ready for their next project – bees! It is going to be super exciting with their first exploration of drawing their impression of what a bee looks like to them in their art class this afternoon.

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Later in the afternoon, I wandered over to City Hall to check out the art exhibition from our Arts Focus kids, and I found Ms Hollys beautiful tapestry purse. I will have to find out how she made this little beauty!

Home sweet home

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The big news that made me so happy last week was the approval of my hubby working remotely in Australia. Now with all the plans moving along it was a hard decision to up and leave a job but now with this in the pipeline and a presentation from our architect in Melbourne shortly I am getting excited to be back in Australia. This illustration was found at the park after I took the kids for a walk as I could not sit still after my hubby gave me the news. Day by day I am patiently waiting for the green light that says now start packing and selling everything it is time to go. But until then I am enjoying myself here and having fun carving out my future career in education.

I was still on a balanced nutrition diet last week had me caving and wanting extra flavour in my food with sriracha and miso mayo. Tacos have carbohydrates that I do not want to be eating in the evening, so I turned Taco Tuesday into a bowl minus the taco of salad, avocado salsa and beer battered fish. I know my diet of no bad stuff, but hey it fitted into my macro plan for the day! The bowl on the right is smoked salmon on a kale salad with miso mayo and spring onions. I am finding with eating fish is helping me reach my protein limit to build muscle, fingers crossed I am doing this thing right! I love food too much to eat bland food all the time…

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At Ventana School where I work we made some pipe cleaner dolls for the dollhouse the kids built, and here they are all ready to be sold at the auction.

Speaking of the auction my hubby and I had a lovely night out on Saturday night at the adults-only event with cocktails, wine and a delicious catered dinner by Opa! It was a game theme, so my outfit was my own interpretation of a Candy Land princess :D. It was a bit wacky but anyway it gave me the opportunity to wear the lovely raw silk vintage beaded jacket (from my fave vintage store in Mountain View, which is now gone!) with a dress I made out of FabMo silk pieces.

The quilt that is pictured was created with help by the 1st-grade class I help teach. A grandma of the students (who is a star quilter) designed and made the quilt, and it is incredible. It was won by the parents of the class and will be shared by the parents to travel with this cohort of children at the school. It is an absolute treasure and captures the spirit of the community at the school.

My daughter came with me to work today, and we had a fun time in the classroom together. She was a bit tired by the end of the day, so she did some reading when I was working with the kindergarten kids. She had a fun time with the 1st grade and enjoyed the tinkering with the kids at lunchtime and ate and played with them all which was so good!

After work, we went to visit the lovely ladies AKA the chickens at the ranch, and they have a new addition an Easter Egger whom we call chicken cheeks which is just beautiful and tiny. Apparently, these ladies lay different coloured eggs which are how they get their name. I cannot wait until she starts laying. I was so happy to spend time with the chickens where at one point I turned around, and the whole flock of standard hens had followed me out into the grass, I am so looking forward to having chickens of our own one day!! At the coop we now have 13 bantams and 10 standard chickens so that is quite a flock and they are all very entertaining, I am sure they remember the people they interact with and most especially whoever gives them the best treats like strawberry tops and kombucha!

Farewell Arts Focus for another year!

Last week it was our final week of Arts Focus with some very talented sewers from our school. I was really impressed with this owl fleece hat – I think this student has set the bar high for the next session! The quilt we made was given to our school principal as a gift for her baby, here is a detail of it – embroidered by one of the students.

This 2017-2018 session we brought in some new projects such as the yarn octopus and felt emoji. For the second session, we introduced the button tree to fill in some time as we had a lot of older grade kids (5th grade choose what class they would like to do as their final class). My co-lead also made the kids get fancy with their pillow making which is always a plus to see the kids stretch their creativity. The pipe cleaner doll and embroidery on the bottom left was made by a kinder girl who sewed such beautiful stitches. A favourite of mine is the platypus embroidery sewn by one of the 5th-grade girls in the class.

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At the school where I work the students have been busy making a dollhouse for the auction coming up this weekend. The kids started with making little dolls of themselves and in true Reggio fashion, it evolved into something magical – this dollhouse. With some help from their science and art specialists, this all came together. I am helping them with pipe cleaner dolls this week to give away with the house when it goes up for auction this Saturday evening. Tomorrow we will wrap the yarn around the pipe cleaners and define the bodies of all these dolls lazing around in the playroom of the house 😀

It was back to University over the weekend and what better way to get the brain going on this clean eating diet I am currently on is to have grilled sardines over sauteed kale and roasted garlic topped with watermelon radish and tomato – very tasty with a dash of sriracha.

The annual Holi celebration my friend celebrates each year was a lot of fun on Sunday. We were very lucky to have the sunshine and warm weather after our all out splash of colour followed by buckets of water.

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To add to this weeks collection of food I am looking at lentils as a high protein food so I needed to discover new recipes to eat them and this came to mind after enjoying lentils in Melbourne last year.

Black Lentils with Grilled Asparagus topped with watercress and goat cheese salad

1 cup black lentils (cooked)
1 small onion (cut finely)
Olive oil
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon Smoked paprika
1 tablespoon miso mixed in a small amount of stock (a thick consistency)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Bunch of watercress
Tomato
Goat cheese (as much as you would like!)

Method

  1. While waiting for the lentils put the asparagus in some oil on the grill.
  2. Simmer onion on a skillet in a little oil until transparent, add lentils.
  3. Mix onions and lentils and add diced tomatoes.
  4. Mix through miso and stock through the lentils and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Finish with watercress, tomato and goat cheese.

Sewing a little love

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Another week flies by, and it was back to Arts Focus on Thursday. Our little button tree extra project is looking really good now, and it gives the kids a good reason to sew a button onto something as a group project. The class for the LED cuffs went well as I made a video this year for the LED cuffs to show on the big TVs in the classroom. An excellent outcome of the class is when the kids hardly make any mistakes and hopefully follow the correct steps from the diagram and the video, so I call that class a win. Next time though I will not be stressing out from stopping and starting the video and handing out the materials required, the kids do not realise how much energy goes into these classes and we DO need more volunteers!

This week I am eating like a rabbit with many takes on salads for this low-fat exercise diet I will be on for the next 3 months. Checking out my calories on the Fat Secret app I need to up my protein intake to build muscle. So at a confused point on how to make this happen last week, I made an Asian salad with tofu and nori. Saturday was an eat anything day as friends invited us over for a delicious quiche dinner with ice cream sandwich for dessert and to top it off, a couple of glasses of red wine. I made a kale salad with Brussels, beets and sunflower seeds to go with the quiche and it was perfect.

Sunday we caught up with friends who moved out of our neighbourhood and now live in San Jose by this beautiful stretch of rolling green hills and oak trees. It was so lovely to be outside after the rain and see new leaves on the trees. The kids even found a geocache box full of crap!

I am hoping I get the hang of this exercise diet thing this week before I head on back to my studies this weekend – whoo hoo here’s to another 12 weeks of work, study and life!

 

No skiing, just cleaning!

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Last week was ski week which was a whole week off of doing whatever we wanted to do! I was on a mission to clean out a couple of rooms in the house, and the first target was the sewing/study room. The motivator was to move fabric out of there into the hands of my co-teacher who wanted quilting cotton, so that helped me get started. The rest of the fabric I donated to Hope services and kept a year’s supply, so I don’t have to go out and get some more, as hard as it is for a fabric lover to hold back on staying away from fabric purchases! Having a clean room allowed me some space to discover leftover projects and things I wanted to create like a felted vest from my husband’s old jumper. I threw it in the washing machine and left it there to shrink to a really small size, and there was an OOPS moment, but then I got out my super sharp scissors and cut away and made a cute little vest, which reminded me of what Kat wore in The Hunger Games.

The other project I completed was a bulky knitted scarf with some lovely yarn a parent bought me last year for a holiday gift! I found some big wooden buttons, and now I have a very bright striped scarf to get through this winter and the upcoming winter in Melbourne in June.

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As I am in a cleansing mode at the moment getting ready for the imminent move home to Australia, I figured I would cleanse my body and eat clean, start counting calories and pick up on my exercise to a higher level doing HIIT (High-intensity interval training). HIIT is intense really tuckers me out, but it feels so good. The idea is to do a day then a low-intensity workout like walking or riding and back to it. Today I did weights, and my arms are feeling it!

The thing is I have never been on diet of watching what I eat to utilise the right foods I consume positively, so I am really enjoying this and seeing what will happen. Hopefully, I can get toned in my body and gather more energy in the process. This is one of the recipes from the eating plan, and it is quinoa cakes cooked in coconut oil and served with salsa – delicious indeed and full of protein for a vegetarian.

Sunday after my first HIIT workout where my inner thighs were hurting from too many squats we met our friends from Oakland at Mori Point for a hike. Note that this hike was supposed to be low key! Instead, the kids and the dads decided to hike up that cliff you see in the first pic and wander through eroded paths on an unmaintained trail which caused me great difficulty as sometimes I am not too good with heights, cliffs and the ocean below. Eventually, we made it back to the ground safely, after I had fallen over into rocks, but all was fine. We had lunch at Rockaway Beach and headed back the safe way on a path!

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From the trail we found this beach full of crab shells and a lot of flotsam and rubbish on the shore, perhaps it is a trap for trash due to the cliff and inlet – who knows?

On our way back to the cars we wandered through a path surrounded by pampas grass. The kids just loved it and were sword fighting with the tall grass. The funniest is when the kids were wandering within the grass with little bits of feathers moving around.

It was such a beautiful afternoon with warm sunshine and blue sky which made a perfect spot for taking some pics of the grass in bloom. Sword fighting or being Jedis the kids just loved them!

On our way back Calla lilies were in bloom growing wild, and a garden that was dedicated to 9-11 from a local volunteer Gardner had a selection of succulents and other fun plants in memory of lives lost.

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The kids and my hubby are at the top of this hill they are waving down to us who were walking on the path by the road. They ended up taking the high road where there was not real way to come back to the path, so they had to backtrack and walk the long way back to the car. By the time they arrived the weather was super chilly by the beach, and it was time to go home after a very adventurous day!

All in all I had a very productive week of clearing out the sewing / study room and our master bedroom with the end goal of “Do I really need to take this back to Australia with us?” I still need to venture into the kitchen one day, whew!!

Nothing like a holiday!

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Now we are on holidays and it is so good to sleep in and catch up with so much stuff that has been waiting to be done such as getting rid of stuff for our move! So far I have cleaned out the sewing room but I still do not have a cupboard’s worth of fabric, hey I could be here up to another year so I have to keep some fabric to keep me occupied in my spare time!

Yesterday we did a coop clean out with another 4H family and we came home covered in dust. It was so much fun to see the chickens again, Ruby even got to go on a walk with a chicken leash 😀 Now their coop is super clean complete with an indoor dust bath made from play sand and diatomaceous earth to help keep the feather mites at bay.

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Saturday I went to yoga after weeks and it was a brilliant start to the weekend with my idea of cleaning my house I may as well cleanse my body too with some hot yoga! The spring flowers are starting to pop up but with the current weather with overnight lows of 2-4 degrees, I only see it in the sunshine during the day.

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These lovely watercolour pictures are created with salt on the watercolour to create the sky in the background. This was a discovery for me as I have not had much experience with watercolour. Our art teacher worked on planet paintings with the kids and these were my favourites with the bottom on looking like Salvador Dali.

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Wednesday we had wandering time in the chapel and the kids worked on an exercise of what feelings arise when you look at particular colours and this is what happens when you give a 1st-grade girl the colour brown.

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These made great gifts though next time I will wrap them individually on cardstock so they do not tangle plus they need to be made long so the string can get over the child’s head. In the end one was so small it went on one of the kindergartens stuffies!