School Days!

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We’ve been busily preparing for the start of another brand new school year. Although I hold on tightly to the remaining days of summer with its brilliant blue skies, warm, sunny days and sweet memories that have been made, I am also looking forward to the joys of autumn.

This will be our third year homeschooling, and earlier this summer, I decided it was time to rearrange my office/girls’ school room. In addition, I had been wanting to re-finish their vintage school desks. Right now the room is in a definite state of transition, but we made a lot of progress last week! The desk tops and chairs are mostly sanded/prepped for varnish, and the girls have picked out their favorite colors for the metal bases and inside storage. (I’ll be sure to post updated photos!)

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In addition, our curriculum arrived earlier last week, and the girls’ are so excited about their new textbooks! I have to say, I love perusing curriculum — by catalog, via Internet, at friends’ homes! Before we began homeschooling, I had no idea there was such variety! It’s a homeschool wonderland!

 My girls often grin at me as I sit perched with my computer tablet on my lap or with a handful of catalogs by my side —

 

“Oh girls! Look at this! A 108-piece puzzleball globe! How fun!

Oh wow! They also have it in 180-piece or 540-piece!”

 

Typically the girls share my enthusiasm, which is wonderful! Hovever, there are a few topics (namely math for my eldest daughter) where I’m usually met with a blank stare or a quiet “mm-hmm.”

 Two of my favorite curriculum sites/catalogs are:

Timberdoodle.com

A dear friend introduced me to Timberdoodle, and I absolutley love their creative line of products/curriculum! 

Christianbook.com

Christianbook.com has an extensive variety of curriculum options. Simply go to their “homeschool” tab, and let the browsing begin! We typically buy most of our textbooks through this company.

Remember, your children don’t have to homeschool to enjoy these resources! They are excellent for any student and great for their variety of games, puzzles, books, etc.!

While I’m on the subject of school, I have to tell you about a great kid’s band we discovered when I was trying to teach my daughter about prepositions and wanted something fun! The Bazillions currently have two CDs out — you can check them out on their website or at youtube.com. Started by two elementary school teachers who wrote songs for their students, this band from Minnesota is incredibly talented! Where were they when I was a kid in school? Oh yeah, probably in school themselves!

Check out two of our favorites!

 To all the parents, children and teachers gearing up for a new school year:

Have fun, be creative and let’s make this the best year yet!

 

 

 

 

Pesto-Parmesan Toast with Organic Cherry Tomatoes

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After a busy day today, my eldest daughter and I were in the mood for a light dinner. Aviah came up with the idea to take bread from a local French bakery, spread it with homemade pesto (courtesy of Whole Foods), top it off with parmegiano reggiano and broil it until the sides were a light golden brown and the cheese had melted.

So that’s exactly what we did, and it was delicious! We served it with organic cherry tomatoes from the garden.

I love cooking with my daughters and seeing their creative sides come out in the kitchen! What a joy!

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Now off to cook dessert with my youngest — she has a sweet tooth like me!

Liebster Award Nomination!

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What a sweet surprise! Sadie from Sadie’s Nest has nominated me for the Liebster Award! I am very humbled to be nominated and so honored to be included in such a wonderful group of bloggers! Thank you so much, Sadie!

From the very first time I visited Sadie’s Nest, I felt so warmly welcomed. I am inspired by her delicious recipes, her beautifully-written blogs and her heart for God, family and friends. Visiting her blog is like visiting a dear friend — a place of comfort where you can sit, chat and share. Stop by and say hello — I know you will love getting to know Sadie!

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The Liebster Award is a promotional award passed on from bloggers to other bloggers with less than 200 followers. It’s a wonderful way to reach out and get better acquainted with our fellow blogging friends! (Liebster (German) means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome.)

Here’s how the Liebster Award works:

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you
  2. Answer the 11 questions given to you by the nominator
  3. Display the Liebster Award logo in your post
  4. Nominate up to 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers
  5. Create 11 questions for the nominees
  6. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs that they have been nominated                                                                  Here are my answers to the questions I was given:

1.How did you get started on your blog?

I’ve always loved to write, so a few months ago, I started looking into blogging. The next thing I knew, I was opening an account with Word Press! It is a wonderful experience, and I am enjoying it so much!

 2.What is the hardest thing you’ve found about blogging?

I have so many recipes, stories, adventures I want to share! The hardest part for me has been trying to decide what to blog on first! Also learning how to photograph food. 😉

 3. What is your favorite blog post?

It would have to be “Danish Aebleskiver Recipe” where I wrote about cooking with my Grandma — it brought up so many lovely memories of her, and as I was writing, I could picture being in the kitchen with her and hearing her sweet laugh.

 4. If you had one day left to live, what would you do?

I’ve been pondering this very deep question all day. I would definitely want to be with my family and tell them how much I love them. I would also be thanking Jesus for the great hope we all have in Him! “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son — that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16

 5. Sweet or savory?

You really need both, but I’m sure you can guess from my blog what I would gravitate towards!

 6.What is your favorite passion or hobby?

I love spending time with God, my family and my friends, blogging, cooking/baking, going for walks (in the countryside, along the beach, in the mountains), learning about various countries, and I would love to travel more!

 7.What is a motto or quote you live by?

“Trust in the Lord with all  your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways ackowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6

 8.Name one person that has inspired you.

Oh dear! I’m having a very hard picking only one person. I’d have to say that I am inspired by people who use their God-given talents to encourage and bless others.

 9.What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Eating a little too much chocolate — moderation is key.

 10. If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Anything Italian because it’s my favorite cuisine!

 11. Your spouse’s boss has heard you cook and invited himself to dinner … what are you making?

Probably eggplant parmesan and stuffed mushrooms.

I would like to nominate: 

Hostess At Heart  Julie is another blogger that always makes me feel right at home! She has a loving, giving heart and has been so supportive! Reading her posts always make me smile, brighten my day and inspire me to get in the kitchen and try something new! You will love her blog!

Food By Camilla I was delighted to discover Camilla’s blog very recently! She is a wonderful inspiration as she blogs on the importance of eating well and living a healthy life! It was also lovely to find out that we are both of Danish descent! I know she will inspire you as well!

Old Country Girl This is another wonderful blog I discovered recently! I love how Claudia incorporates her grandma’s recipes into her own cooking and that she loves to cook for her family! I’m so excited to try out her recipes, and I know you will be too!

Boston Girl Bakes With her dazzling array of home-baked goodies and witty sense of humor, it is a joy to visit Heather’s blog! Yes, she bakes and has delicious savory dishes as well! All of her recipes and photos look amazing — be sure to check out her recipe index!

And now — here are my questions for the nominees! 

1.What inspired you to begin blogging?

2. What is your favorite meal? Please include a main course, side dish and dessert.

3. What are a few of your favorite hobbies?

4. Is there a favorite chef and/or baker that has been an inspiration to you?

5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you like to visit or re-visit?

6.What is a motto or quote you live by?

7. What is something that brightens your day?

8. What is your favorite holiday to cook for?

9. Do you prefer the city or the country?

10. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

11. What are five must-haves in your kitchen/pantry?

 

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

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As a child, I was under the false impression that any recipe that included oats had to be healthy for you. Therefore, oatmeal cookies, oatmeal bars, no-bake cookies with oatmeal were all fine, but not a real true dessert.

I didn’t have a problem with oatmeal for breakfast, but add it into a dessert, and well, what are you doing? I also remember biting into an oatmeal cookie which I thought had chocolate chips, but being greatly disappointed to find out they were raisins! Oatmeal and raisins? In a cookie? Why would anyone want a cookie without chocolate?

Over time, my taste buds matured, and I came to realize that desserts containing oats, and yes, even raisins, could be very delicious indeed!

When I came across this oatmeal cookie recipe a few years ago from King Arthur Flour (via Pinterest), I was very impressed! I think even as a seven year old child, I would have been perfectly fine with this dessert. The original recipe calls for three cups of chocolate chips. (yes, I am positive I would have loved this recipe as a child) However, I have modified the recipe to one and one-fourth cups chocolate chips, and I’ve also decreased the sugar down to one cup of raw cane sugar plus one teaspoon molasses. They are still sweet, and my husband and daughters are fine with them, so why add the extra sugar? (Okay, someday it might be kind of fun to make them with three cups of chocolate chips to see how they turn out!)

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

*inspired and modified from King Arthur Flour

Preheat oven to 325°

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup palm fruit oil (or coconut oil)

1 cup raw cane sugar

1 teaspoon molasses

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

*I prefer to use all organic ingredients whenever possible

With a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream butter and palm fruit oil.

Add sugar and molasses — mix well.

Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Gradually blend in flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt and oats– mix well.

Slowly stir in chocolate chips.

I use a baking stone for this recipe; however, if you are using a cookie sheet, line with parchment paper or lightly grease before baking.

Drop by rounded tablespoon (a tablespoon cookie scoop works great) and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes.

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Cookies will look firm on edges, but should be soft in middle.

Cool for one minute before transferring to cookie plate.

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Enjoy!

 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie Recipe

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I love smoothies! Love, love, love ’em! They are great for a quick breakfast, snack or treat and are very satisfying. This smoothie is one of my all-time favorites!

Inspired by Silk Smoothies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

In a blender, add the following ingredients —

1 cup dark chocolate almond milk

1 cup ice

1 large banana

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter

* I prefer to use all organic ingredients

Pulse in blender until ingredients begin to combine — blend on low, then high for approximately 20 seconds or until smooth and creamy.

Enjoy!

A Day in San Francisco

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While vacationing in the bay area, the girls were treated to their first musical production, Matilda, (based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl) and a cable car ride with Grandpa and Grandma. They were so excited as they boarded BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and headed into the big city!

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Jonathan and I drove into San Francisco as well and decided to visit the Legion of Honor — a beautiful art museum overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Overlooking the San Francisco Bay

IMG_0638[1]At the Legion of Honor – San Francisco 

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Entrance to the Legion of Honor

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Legion of Honor Dedication

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We had enjoyed our first visit several years ago and looked forward to visiting again. We had a wonderful time taking in the many collections and special exhibits. It is surreal to stand next to a piece of art that was created hundreds of years ago while imagining the artist with paintbrush in hand. I’ve posted only a few of my favorites … I have so many!

All artwork photographs were taken inside the Legion of Honor

Water Lilies by Claude Monet (ca. 1914-1917)

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Peasant Girl with Sheep by Julien Dupré (ca. 1895)

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Virgin and Child with Putti by Andrea della Robbia (ca. 1490-1495)

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Afterwards we visited the museum’s gift shop and stopped by the café for a delicious chocolate mousse cake. It was the perfect afternoon to enjoy gentle breezes out on the patio.

Another piece of art

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On the walk out to our car, our eyes fell upon a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. We hadn’t noticed this before. As we reached the memorial site, I was thinking there might be a memorial garden. Instead, the site curved downwards taking you to a sobering display of the atrocities of the holocaust. All at once, my heart ached, and I was flooded with deep emotion. Amidst those who had perished, a solitary survivor stands at a barbed-wire fence. The expression on his face and the frame of his stature portrays such intense heartache – you long to reach out in some way to ease the heaviness of his heart. To the millions of holocaust victims and survivors, you will never be forgotten. 

Driving away, we were once again taken in with grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge. We met up with our family at a cozy restaurant, Baonecci Ristorante, nestled on a corner of Little Italy — this vibrant and energetic district welcomes you with the fragrant aromas of Italian cuisine.

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The day was complete as we sat together for a family meal and shared the experiences of our afternoon. The girls, by the way, loved the Matilda musical and cable car ride!

 

Blogging from the Bay

After a wonderful week in Northern California, we made it back home safely. Jonathan, the girls and I had a great time visiting Jonathan’s dad and step mom, Dick and Fran, about 30 miles east of San Francisco. We arrived Monday evening and walked to downtown Danville for a lovely outdoor dinner at Sideboard. I had a refreshing salad with spinach, strawberries and blueberries in a pear vinaigrette — it was delicious! I’m so sorry I don’t have a picture to share, but here is a link to their lovely food gallery. Fresh strawberries are especially flavorful in California, and their pear vinaigrette is a new favorite.

The next morning, we drove into San Francisco to visit the Exploratorium at Pier 15. We had a great time! After several hours, we still hadn’t seen everything! Some of my favorites were the tinkering exhibits in the South Gallery — we were all fascinated with the 100,000 toothpick-sculpture of San Francisco!

View of the Bay Bridge from the Exploratorium at Pier 15

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100,000-toothpick sculpture of San Francisco!

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Fun at the Exploratorium

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Exploratorium Rooftop

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Later that evening, Dick & Fran planned a special evening of homemade pasta making! This is something we have wanted to try for a long time, and we were so excited! Dick & Fran have been on numerous trips to Italy and have had the opportunity to attend cooking classes with the very talented cookbook author, Letizia Mattiacci.

Although there was a slight problem getting the pasta machine up and running, making fresh pasta is not as difficult as I had originally thought!  Dick and Fran are extremely talented cooks, and we always learn so much from them! Our dinner of fresh pasta, pesto (made from their freshly-grown basil) and Italian sausages was fabulous! Again, I apologize for the lack of a dinner photo — the food was simply too delicious to go grab my camera! We did, however, get some great pictures of pasta making! Fresh food is by far the best, and for the girls, cooking with Grandpa and Grandma makes it even better!

Fresh Pasta Dough

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 Making Pasta with Grandpa

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Fresh Pasta!

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Fresh Basil makes excellent pesto!

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So inspired to make our own pasta soon! Will definitely share pictures!

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Triple Choc CookiesThese cookies are soft, chocolaty and a family favorite!

*Inspired by Silk’s Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup coconut oil, softened

1 cup raw cane sugar

1 teaspoon molasses

1/4 cup dark chocolate almond milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

12-16 ounces chocolate chips

* I prefer to use all organic ingredients

– Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.

– With a stand mixer or hand mixer, mix butter, coconut oil, sugar and molasses until light and fluffy.

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– Add chocolate almond milk and vanilla and blend slowly.

– Gently incorporate flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder.

– Fold in chocolate chips.

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– With a cookie scoop, place on cookie sheet. (for best results, I use a baking stone)

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– Bake at 350° Fahrenheit for approximately 11-12 minutes. Cooking times will vary — I found that I had to bake these cookies a little longer than typical chocolate chip cookies. Cool five minutes or until set.

Enjoy!