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 ūüėÄ

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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 Рwhat 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 РI 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 Рa 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.

Slow like a snail

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

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

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

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

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

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 ūüėÄ

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.

A quick little Valentine gift

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With Valentine’s day around the corner, I had a bit of a task on my hands to make last-minute valentines for my Kinder and 1st-grade students. So here is a quickie tutorial on making these cute little wooden bead heart necklaces.

Supplies needed: a stash of wooden beads – 25mm (about 1″), watercolour paint, brushes, skewers, a tall mason jar, sharpie, concreters string (from OSH) and Mod Podge.

Paint your beads all the colours of the rainbow using a watercolour wash on each bead, use a skewer to hold the beads in place. When the paint is dry draw a heart with sharpie and seal with mod podge on aluminium foil. The beads are ready to be strung and given to the kiddos as little Valentine gifts from their teacher! A super cool and somewhat quick project, I did have help with quality testing from my 9-year-old daughter – lucky!

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This is a super cute kinder card my co-teacher came up with using tissue paper squares, glue and then cutting the card to make a card for their parents.

These are observational watercolour drawings made by the 1st-grade class for a card for their parents Рsuch beautiful watercolours created.

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This was another kinder card using sequins, a sticker and a heart doily – I really love seeing what the kids make when given the opportunity to craft.

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This is an invitation for making the paper plate heart sewing with yarn craft for the 1st-grade class. All you need is some yarn, paper plates prepped with a heart shape and a hole punch and yarn needles. This is the perfect craft to practice sewing with a large needle and ready punched holes.

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And sewing last week with my volunteer class at Stevenson Elementary was making felt emoji keyrings – featured is one make by a 5th grader. We precut the circle and the kids can embellish whatever emoji they like from our emoji poster for ideas or create their own.

And I thought last week was pretty quiet with the 100th day of school – the Kinders bought in 100 of different¬†things like coins, seeds, Perler¬†beads, pom poms and these two with beads and little tiny felt houses. I remember when I did it with my kids it was 100 buttons stuck on some cardstock, maybe I was too overwhelmed with the two kids to be super creative at the time ūüėČ

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Again the amazing ramen recipe from Minimalist Baker and this time with a poached egg and seaweed – an absolute favourite at my place each week, especially in the winter.

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This is the Japanese Pizza from 101 cookbooks with a watermelon radish salad with a side of chanterelles and homemade miso mayo drizzled over the top – such a divine meal for the mushroom lover.

And I thought last week was pretty quiet – checking over all of this it seemed like quite a busy week for me, oh and I got some sewing done on the weekend too as I was inspired by some love bird fabric I found at FabMo. It is so good to sit at my sewing machine again ūüėÄ we have a break from school/work next week so time to organise the study/sewing room and do some sewing.

 

A four day week of busy-ness

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These two little animals in their groovy little house were made by the Kinders with their these Magna tiles to play with on the light table. They are so colourful, and I love seeing the creations made by the kids. Kindergarten is such a fun age to be in the classroom.

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Other fun prep ideas with the salad in a jar taken to another level by storing it in the IKEA jars that you can have a fresh salad on hand for lunch or even when you are making a quick dinner over the weekend.

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Thursday came around all too quickly and the second session of arts focus began! I was teaching with minimal instruction this time as we have dedicated volunteers for each table group. The kids made a stellar effort on both of their first-week crafts of a pincushion and a fleece hat complete with embellishments. I left the class thinking that went so well, and how great it is to reflect on the first session. We examined what went wrong and how to improve it for the next time (it does help we have more 5th grade kids!) I planned to get the kids into working their projects as soon as possible with minimal direct instruction on the rug.

These little wooden people were made with our art teacher at Ventana for the children’s story workshop where this character represents themselves for a personal narrative they will be writing. I love how they have come out, and even the one in blue to me looked like a grandma, but it is the persona of the little girl in the story with a swimsuit on and a swimming cap and just super cute!

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Friday I went to work and helped with the kids in 1st grade as one of the grandparents Nonna is helping the class make this fantastic quilt for the auction prize from their class. They have made hand prints, and she was getting the kids to place the border around the quilt from the scraps. It is so detailed, and Nonna is one talented quilter – I am quite excited to see the process directly from a professional. She has made the continents on a sea of blue in the centre which took ages to piece together! One trick she showed me when carrying her quilt back home was to use a pool noodle to wrap the quilt in – such a cool idea.

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Thursday was a big day for my hubby and my daughter who became a part of Russian history at Fort Ross for an overnight field trip. They both had night watch with 2am for the little one whose name was¬†Paraskov’ia Kulika and she was a Gardner. My hubby was a clerk at the store, and he traded goods to all the workers. They both came back Friday quite tired, but we did go out and catch up with friends for a birthday that evening.¬†

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Then came the weekend and¬†I was studying and trying to focus on doing a decent amount of work. We enjoyed time out with friends on Friday, and after study on Saturday, I like to go meet friends at the park and take the kids to play. Sunday came, and we went to see.¬†Mary and the Witch’s Flower by¬†Hiromasa Yonebayashi – famous for Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke and Ponyo.¬†We went to enjoy the exquisite detailed Japanese animation. The story was lovely, and my son really enjoyed it so much it is now his second favourite film with¬†The Lego Movie for the number one position.¬†I highly recommend this movie for its rich animation and for the fun and original story inspired by the book The Little Broomstick by Mary¬†Stewart, plus it has cats in it!

Here comes the rain again

It was lovely to see the rain last week even though it was inside recess and I did not get to go out of the classroom to enjoy the fresh air of winter. The highlight was Thursday when I saw the sunshine at last which made me realise I probably would not enjoy endless overcast days without the sun!

With the kindergarten class, I work with I enjoy watching the kids interact during curiosity¬†time – a time where they get to explore materials and create little stories with each other. We were lucky enough to have a light table in the room and I remember when I was at the Portland children’s¬†museum and saw these Magna tiles on the lightbox it was just beautiful. Unfortunately, this lightbox needs a bit of a fix and we did not enjoy the light shining through these!

The scene above of the forest animals arranged in their territories was created by M and I love to see what she comes up with every day Рthere is even a bit of moss in the scene and the wooden circles make the best materials to create stories with for the kids.

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Thursday began the show at Mountain View City Hall where we hung the pieces for the art show which is running until January 26th, the range of work is incredible from the ceramics to the weaving and dying to photography and theatre. Our school is so lucky to have such a wonderful program for the kids to enjoy. We introduced a couple of new projects in sewing class this session an emoji keyring and a yarn octopus. The projects went well with most of the kids giving a personality to their emoji and the yarn octopus had a lot of braiding so the kids who could not braid were a bit stuck with this one. The quilt was also a new design creating community amongst the kids and switching out pieces to sew to create the 9 square pattern plus my co-lead kept track of each square so that the kids could embroider their initials on the square they made, even the leads embroidered their initial in the center, see the T and the G.

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Because of the rain, the kids wanted to have ramen and I flat out refused as I could not be bothered to go downtown to try and find parking in amongst all the tech heads who invade our downtown during the week. It is great for the business of the restaurants but I just cannot be bothered to wait in line for dinner and listen to a bunch of people talking about themselves. Anyway enough of my rant about downtown Mountain View, there are many people who love it for this energy but after work, the last thing I want to do is wait for ramen in the rain amongst a bunch of self-centred geeks. So I promised the kids I would make a vegan ramen and my fave is the Minimalist Baker vegan broth and we just add whatever we have in the fridge as the toppings. This has some mushrooms, radish, broccoli, capsicum and tofu and it was just divine. The plan is to make a big pot of it and have it in big Mason jar ready to heat up and add the Miso and the veggies, super easy weeknight meal.

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The other tasty dinner was a riff on the Japanese pizza I made last week using egg, cabbage and flour on the cooked vegetables and bake this in the oven for around 30 minutes at 375 degrees and there’s dinner a frittata (of sorts) with a ready-made salad. The leftovers are a perfect addition to a sandwich with some mayo – delish!

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 Р300 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 ūüėÄ

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makers Gonna Make

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Last week I was in a flurry of making for a show with the Mountain View Parents Association on Saturday. It is a new energy of folks so it should be fun and the bonus is that it is at the community centre. I have made a lot of pouches for your glasses plus little coin or credit card purses that fit neatly into your pocket or evening bag. As I was chatting with my son I found this great little tool box he made with the scouts and I bought it off him for my table display. I had some gold spray paint and here it is living a new life holding my handmade goods.

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Some information on the holiday show here that I will be doing this weekend – if you are coming mention this post and get 20% off your total order. Shop local this holiday and support local makers – all good for everyone!

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As I was a bit of a busy bee this week with the sewing and then teaching at the end of the week and then I had to cook as a long lost friend was coming over for dinner – the week was over. Then came the weekend and now I am focussing on my studies!

The pic above is an amazing Green Tea Soba Noodle Salad I made on Thursday.

Ingredients

Green Tea Soba Noodles

Zucchini

Carrot

Watermelon Radish / Radish

Red Cabbage

Chickpeas

Coconut oil

For the chickpeas

Miso

Olive oil

Warm Water

For finishing

Sesame Oil

Method

  1. Cook your green tea soba noodles in boiling water following the packet instructions – I buy a brand from Australia.
  2.  Cut up all your veggies РI like mine raw Рadd them to a big bowl. Reserving the watermelon radish for finishing the dish
  3. Have your chick peas cooked and ready (use canned chickpeas, otherwise soak them overnight and cook them in a pressure cooker) and in a bowl mix the miso, olive oil and warm water slowly to create a sauce consistency. Add to the chickpeas and coat them in the sauce.
  4. In an iron skillet add some coconut oil and cook the miso coated chickpeas.
  5. Keeping an eye on the roll them around on the skillet until they look cooked – careful they do not burn!
  6. Take the chickpeas off the heat while you are draining the noodles with cold water. Add the drained noodles to the big bowl of vegetables and mix together.
  7. Pour a dressing amount of sesame oil over the veggies and coat them until they are shiny.
  8. Top with the chickpeas and watermelon radish and enjoy!

Such a super easy recipe and great for a weeknight – the prep is what takes the longest. Of course you can sub whatever vegetables you have on hand for any season – all it takes is some imagination!

And to finish my post this week with some inspiration I heard on the radio this morning from a favourite place of mine in the world РHobart, Tasmania. This little boy is sewing teddy bears for charity and he taught himself to sew, I was so happy to hear this story it gives me hope for all those little fingers I teach sewing that it will not be a lost art after all!

 

A piece a Week – A Wild 1980s Zebra Skirt

Being in production mode for the FabMo show in just 1 month I was allowing myself a little experimentation this week after a week full of happenings! I fractured my toe when the cutting board flew off the counter smashing the top bone in my big toe, so for the next month I have to wear a flat bottomed shoe in order for the toe to heal completely. This was something I did not need with my current schedule – still life goes on and I just have to use my other foot to work the sewing machine! I wanted to made an elastic waist fun skirt to tie in with Halloween so I found this zebra print – very 80s and lined it with a tulle to poof it out a little bit. It feels a lot of fun to wear and this is a piece that will be for sale at the show – yay one item down, who knows how many more…
Get ready for some 1980s action in this skirt
The fractured toe and its orthopedic shoe for the next month – I will have to bling this shoe up I think!

As I was looking at the skeleton in the Doctors office I wanted to know which bone I fractured – it is the top bone before the joint (thank goodness!) Still it is fascinating to see the skeleton and to see how fragile them bones can be!

Amazing bone structure!

So the weekend involved a lot of cooking as friends of ours visited with their little bubba from Seattle. So I prepared galettes for lunch on Sunday with a fig tart for dessert. For the family I made this super cool chick pea rice dish – vegetarian (omit the egg) with mung beans from the Salad Samurai cookbook, perfect for summer salads on these hot days!

Cool down with a rice salad from Salad Samurai – a riff on the Couscous salad with Preserved Lemons