Long before it was time to enroll our eldest in kindergarten, I questioned the move to put him in a traditional learning environment. Knowing what I knew about his capacity for learning, and his disposition, it never felt right to me to sit him down at a table under fluorescent lighting, to have him told what to learn, and then to expect him to absorb it all at the rate he did naturally… at home and in nature. Wasn’t there a school for all boys where they could go outside and learn in the woods, I wondered?
Instead, we started him late. Initially, I resisted my husband’s request, feeling he needed more stimulation than preK could offer, but the teachers we consulted assured us there is always something for a child to learn and so we gave him *an extra year of childhood*.
Kindergarten came and went, and although the first few weeks transitioning in were tough, I found myself embracing the magic of that first year of elementary school. First grade was more of the same, his teacher was beyond measure, the cuteness factor continued, and I found myself comfortable with our choice in the public school system.
Then came the second grade… and I watched the year unfold from the first few weeks, with great enthusiasm and high expectations, to a slow…train…derailment, which I witnessed in deafening silence, and in a void of school support.
What the hell is going on here? I wondered. Why is my son suddenly this way? What happened to the boy that was always that way? Why does he no longer ask for this? Why is he exhibiting signs of that?
I consulted his teacher but she wasn’t seeing it. She thought he was doing just fine.
As I write this, I cry, because I remember the feeling of despair I felt as a parent worrying if my son - this wonderful boy that I was responsible for bringing into this world - was suffering from adolescent depression. Where was he? What can I do? Can I bring him back? Will this last forever?
I eventually consulted someone very close to me about my options, someone who had experience with this kind of thing. I asked her if she thought I should have him evaluated and I’ll never forget her brave response: Sure. You can get him evaluated but I can tell you what they’ll say about him. They are going to tell you he’s depressed. And then they are going to recommend medicating him. He doesn’t need medication. He’s just bored.
And it turns out, she was right.
I do not in any way blame our school, or any teacher involved in my child’s education, for my son’s temporary fall from grace. My husband and I are 100% responsible for our children. I truly believe that our local public school and teachers are doing the absolute best they can, and we could not do better in that area. But at the end of the day, each classroom is filled with twenty very different kids, and one teacher is responsible for helping them all do their best. This works great for some kids, and quite frankly, I’m sure my son would have done just fine had we kept him in that system. But one in-class volunteer experience after the next had me cringing at all the lost opportunities for learning I witnessed. It’s not that I’m a tiger mom who needs my kid to be the world’s best, it’s just that the greatest teacher can only do so much when in charge of twenty kids. As a volunteer, I was in charge of six students at a time, and even I could only manage one well. My focus was usually spent on the squeakiest wheel - the kid who couldn’t sit still, the polite child asking for help, or the one who was so incredibly frustrated with the learning process he/she was about to explode. I would see my own child out of the corner of my eye getting no help, quietly rocking back and forth in his chair, never the squeaky wheel. I often left my volunteer spots feeling defeated and exhausted. I began to feel that the classroom learning experience was a colossal waste of time. One day, after another tough hour in the classroom, I called my husband to talk me off the ledge. Together we decided in a matter of minutes that we would not be sending our child back to school, and would instead begin homeschooling him the following year.
In the summer months leading up to this fall, I felt I walked a fine line in wanting to share our enthusiasm for our decision (I’ve been guilty of this on Facebook) while never wanting to make anyone feel judged by us for their decisions. Realize, our daughter goes off to the same school her brother did everyday. For the time being, it works great for her and she loves it. I’m not going to argue that…not this year, at least. ;-)
We are now one month into our homeschooling experience and I can not tell you who is enjoying it more – the kid or me. The experience has been nothing short of transformative for my son and for that we are all over the moon. We entered into homeschooling fully believing it would be better for our son, what we didn’t realize is how noticeably happier he would be to us and others. I have always known my son to have a beautiful mind (and believe that ALL kids do) but worried that he lacked the motivation to do great things with it. What I realized through our public school experience is that for his mind – full of thoughts and passion for science and nature and history, the set curriculum would not serve him well for this time in his life. Turns out, my son does not lack motivation, he simply lacked passion for what he was told to learn and because of this his love of learning couldn’t help but wane. In fact, it fell off a steep cliff.
We are going full-throttle these days. While we might have a tough hour here and there (usually involving a math worksheet), our days as a whole, are once again rich with enthusiasm and a passion for learning. Here are some answers to the three most commonly asked questions I receive about our experience to date:
What brought you to your decision?
See above. ☺
Do you follow a curriculum?
Er, uh - we did…for about two hours on our first day. It was a rough way to open up our school year. Let me say that I am a rule follower, so I was most comfortable investing in a set curriculum and working off of that. I never planned on following word-for-word or week-by-week, but I had to have a solid guideline to launch from. He resisted the formula and the fact that we had to sit to learn. Once again, I felt completely defeated. After struggling for the better part of a morning, I told him to take a break. He immediately found a magazine I’d just picked up at Costco and asked to read it. He spend the rest of the day reading it cover-to-cover.
When I texted Daddy at the end of that day I wrote: Today was rough. He called me back, listened to my gripes and actually found excitement in the fact that the nine year old spent the afternoon reading about Hitler. That’s great! he said. Why are you trying to teach him the same way the public schools do when we know that wasn’t working for him anymore? Quit the curriculum and go on a field trip tomorrow. Have him guide you towards what he wants to study. It will all come, just let it happen naturally, he said.
The next day we headed into the city to the new Exploratorium where my boys enjoyed all kinds of hands-on learning. Then we discovered the America’s Cup Park where we knocked-out three and a half hours of *play* learning about the sport, its history, the science of wind and currents, etc., etc. It was nothing short of amazing when I allowed myself to accept that this too was real learning! At the end of the day, the very excited 9yo said before bed, Mom, tomorrow we should probably do some worksheets since we didn’t really learn anything today.
Our days since have been totally lead by his interests, with me facilitating. Our entire first week was nothing but a string of hands-on science experiments on the lawn. His love of American History exploded and our trips to the library have us leaving with piles of books, audio and video on the subject. We started listening to historical fiction collections on audio in the car while running our errands. We finish-off days with shows and documentaries on the birth of our nation. We are constantly looking up the definitions of new words in the process and researching deeper into new subjects. Remember his first homeschool day spent reading about Hitler? Well it ended up sparking a month-plus long exploration of our country's history in wartime – WWI + II, Civil and Revolutionary.
Our mornings begin around 8AM and we are wrapping up our *school time* around noon. Every homeschool parent will tell you that you can get the set curriculum done in a 1-2 hours a day, leaving the rest of the child’s time to pursue their own interests. By the end of September, most of his selected extracurricular classes had started, and so subjects like hiking, science, Greek mythology, programming, engineering, piano, birding and soccer were also a part of his weekly studies. The word "homework" is not a part of his current vocabulary.
I still use the purchased curriculum as a reference point. I check in on where we should be on certain subjects – English and math – and then work those principles into the subjects he’s most interested in that week.
Did you ever consider private school?
Yes! I always leaned toward the idea of private school for a variety of reasons, but Daddy felt strongly that we lived in a great school district and didn't need to. We committed ourselves to homeschooling even before we thought to rethink private schooling. But once it dawned on us that the private route might work for our guy, we decided that no schooling, public or private, could do for a child what one-on-one schooling could do. If our guy wishes to return to school one day we will likely look towards a school that offers a child-led-learning philosophy.
What about socialization?
Not worried about it.
I choose to believe a wise woman who once told me that a child is who they are going to be socially by the time they enter kindergarten. I’m sure that could be argued, but besides needing a little reminding on basic manners every now and then, I feel the kid is doing just fine in that department. To suggest that being homeschooled might somehow cripple him socially is just ridiculous. First off – he spends a lot of his day with me – and am I so bad?!? Aren’t parents the best ones to help children navigate the world anyway? We all know what goes on on the school playground and I’m personally not always a fan. Besides, we all know some socially awkward people that went all through the school system and onto college but who cannot carry on a conversation at a party or get along with their neighbors. How did all that school socialization serve them? And we also know of wonderfully warm and social people that had alternative upbringings or isolated childhoods – like a lot of our ancestors! Laura Ingles Wilder comes to mind – anyone read her books?! There is not rhyme or reason on the matter. I fully understand the important role that touch/communication/socialization play on growing a healthy child. I just don’t think there is any social disservice done by homeschooling. Besides, homeschooled kids still get loads of peer interaction with supplemented classes, sports and playdates.
Is it hard to homeschool?
No. Quite the opposite. In fact, I feel like I have this incredibly, wonderful secret - homeschooling is awesome! What I lose in quite time alone in the house or working, I make up for in one-on-one time with my son and in watching him thrive and grow in a way that gives him real joy.
It’s interesting for me to scroll through the last three years of this blog and to see how much my interests and post have changed based on where we are as a family. I was so incredibly enthusiastic to write about gardening and what I was cooking up in the kitchen back when we had a great southern-facing garden and a large kitchen. Since moving to the new house, my focus has been more on the fun things we do and finding beauty in seeing how the kids are growing into their own persons. I can tell you right now that I’ll be sharing a lot on what we discover with regards to homeschooling. I can’t help but want to share – it’s been such a wonderful, life-altering experience for all of us. Jump on or jump off, but be warned, this ship is changing course once again!
A year ago this week, I had an incredible weekend-long experience on the beautiful Whidbey Island in Washington state. It was a farm-to-table photography workshop (!!!) led by a lovely food photographer from Seattle, Clare Barboza. The fact that it's taken me twelve months to post about something so wonderful should give you a little insight into how I'm keeping up in my personal life these days.
I attended the workshop with Granny A, and together we devoured every aspect of the experience. We arrived on a Thursday night to a lovely rental house at the end of long private road. All together, we were ten students, plus Clare, her husband and brother. Most of us had traveled from neighboring states, one woman had flown in from Taiwan, a professional wedding photographer had traveled down from Canada. We all shared rooms and meals, and took most of our down time together in the very open living and kitchen space. Everyone was great!
On our first day, we traveled to two different family-run farms where we were granted access to all areas and spent several hours walking around, honing our skills. At some point, in one of those fields, a light went off in my head (I light I'd been trying to throw for the better part of ten years) and I finally, (FINALLY!) I wrapped my head around *aperture* and *f-stop* and all that mind-blowingly complicated camera crap I've never seemed to grasp. (Thank you, Universe!!!) Later in the afternoon, back at the house, we set-up shop in a neighboring barn flooded with natural light. Individually, we plated packaged desserts and snacks on Clare's collection of dishes, incorporating a variety of textiles and textures for backdrops, and snapped away.
Our second day started out at the local farmer's market where we actually got to see and photograph the produce stands of the farms we'd visited the day before. Now I don't know about you, but that rates a *10* on my too-cool-for-school scale. We then returned to the house for a second session in food styling before our final presentation where we each shared and discussed our ten favorite shots from the weekend. It was nothing short of this suburban homesteader's dream weekend.
To learn more about Clare's workshops click here.
To see Clare's beautiful farm photography click here.
Pops had a great idea for keeping the peace in the car recently - he suggested we listen to books on tape when all together for longer periods of time. Ding-ding-ding!! It's been such a life saver and a welcome relief from XM Radio's Kids Place Live which has played an integral part in our car-life for the past three+ years. Right now, we are listening to a great story, The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages. It's a story of a young girl during the Second World War who lives in New Mexico, on an army base, where her mathematician father and many other scientists work everyday on *a gadget* that is going to help *end the war*. The story has offered us lots and lots of teaching moments with the kids, but the best part is just that they are quiet...and not annoying each other...or us. ;) When one of the characters was said to be missing her home in Berkeley, and remembering fondly her visits to Tilden Park, I thought it a good idea to help bring it all full circle for the kids, and go to where *Suz* loved to go as a young girl in the 1940's.
So we ventured across the bridge last weekend and jumped around the park, seeing all the lovely things it has to offer. After a full afternoon of picnicking, train rides, carousals and turkey chasing, we drove into town and met friends for dinner. I just love these kinds of weekend days...
We got back-to-school this week - in more ways than one, which is mostly to blame for my absence here. While Frijoles returned to our public school for the first grade, her big brother started-up his studies here at home, with me. That's right, we are home schooling. :)
Our week did not go at all as planned, but we learned very early on that that is OK. It was a beautiful five days here with my boys (Noodle has a few more weeks of summer), and I started to see signs of the big guy's love for learning re-ignited. I can't wait to see where this year will take us - it's bound to be good.
I've actually kept up with Friday's desserts, but haven't been posting them with all our end-of-summer scrambles. This Friday's dessert, Avocado, Coconut and Lime Sorbet, (found here) was a very enticing *school lesson* that touched on mathamatics (fractions, measurements), home economics (how to turn the stove on, where we store the sugar) with a little bit of chemisty thrown in for fun. ;) It is the second time we've made this (the first while I was doing my vegan exploration) and we love it! It offered the perfect finish to our turkey taco dinner.
Have a great holiday weekend!
Another summer has come and gone. I smelled Fall last week when I cracked open a jar of last season's apple butter, and I loooved it. I can't wait for the seasons to change and would race towards winter if it promised reservoirs full of rain. Until then, we have lots of changes to keep us on our toes. More to come on those.
As to be expected, I took more pictures and loved more things than I had time to post about. Here is a final smattering of summer shots to stories I never got the chance to tell.
Mini cheesecakes in jars for a Fabulous Friday.
Kids sliding down Cardboard Hill before enjoying burgers for dinner at a friend's neighboring house. We danced until late.
A week of cousins and an afternoon in the city playing tourists on the hop-on-hop-off bus.
Lots of apples and pears from our yard!
One of the best damn desserts I can think of. I need to dedicate a post to just this mud pie.
Killed the last week of summer with some fun crafts. I think their tie-dyes turned out amazing!
...will never forget last night. After raising the most amount of money in his baseball league last spring (as in over 600 players!), he won FOUR tickets to a Giants game of his choice, seats behind first base AND field passes. The evening had all the ingredients to cook up a little boy's wildest dream!
This year was our first year camping in Yosemite's Curry Village...and I'm pretty certain it was also our last. We had high hopes for this year's experience, it came with lots of good reviews from people we know, but perhaps these people didn't have the magical experience of car camping in Yosemite to compare it to. I forgot to ask. ;)
This year's attempt to get a much coveted camping spot was no different than past years. It typically goes something like this:
1.) Get online at 6:59am on February 15th with as many friends and as many laptops as possible working for you. Try like mad to secure a camping spot in the first half of the summer within the 30 second window you have. (I'm usually trembling during this part which undoubtedly results in delayed *key pressing and screen refreshing* skills.)
2.) Get shut out by 7:01. Close down laptop, lick wounds.
3.) Get online AGAIN at 6:59am on March 15th with as many friends and as many laptops as possible working for you. Try like mad to secure a camping spot in the second half of the summer within your 30 second window you have.
4.) Success - we I get a spot!
We actually did manage to grab car camping spot this year (I have tricks/tactics which I will never reveal here!), unfortunately, to make the situation infinitely more challenging, we were trying to coordinate our adventure with friends...who did not understand my tricks/tactics in time to bag a slot for 2013 (Hi, Bob! Hi, Nicole!!).
Plan B - Curry Village tents.
So...what can I say...NOT a fan of the Curry Village experience. It's not that these 300+ tents stacked-up on each other don't serve an awesome purpose for the park and especially, I'd imagine, foreign tourists wanting to experience *camping* without all the gear. They are a great alternative. Heck, if I went abroad and took in the natural splendor of another part of the world, AND got to have a quasi-camping experience without all the fuss, I'd fancy myself pretty lucky. But they failed us in many ways, mostly just because we have car camping to compare it to. For example: we had to park far from our tent (not like car camping where you have all your gear right there with you), we were literally sleeping ten feet from strangers. (In our case, we had to listen to people up until 11:30 talking in bed. And while the park encourages you to call them so they can resolve the situation, I could never pull myself out of bed.) There are no picnic tables provided which makes gathering with friends nearly impossible, so we had to make do with the steps up to our tent and a two-seater bench that was to be shared with several tents. We could store food in a bear box but couldn't cook, so we had to walk into Curry Village every morning for coffee and food. All of it was fine and good, it just involved getting everyone dressed (did I mention we have three kids??), walking and waiting in line.
On the up side - at least we got to share Yosemite with friends this year and we did manage to make the most of it. On the last night I threw our air matresses on the ground and the kids had a clean place to play a board game before they met some other young campers and played old-fashion games until dark. For me, personally, the highlight of our Curry Village experience was the walking through camp at night and taking in all the illuminated tents before everyone went to bed. They reminded me of floating paper lanterns aglow with firelight.
Despite last year’s pinky promise to not return to Yosemite
for our annual camping trip, unless we had big winter rains to ensure strong
waterfall and river flow, we made our way back to the (now very dry) valley floor
this week. What can I say – the place has puullll. Several winters of light rains have really begun to take its toll on our state, but despite the lack of
brilliant, natural water features, there were still some great highlights – our adventure included friends (a first), we
celebrated the now nine-year-old’s birthday, and we took in a great play. We also mixed things up quite a bit by opting to camp in Curry Village, something we will not do again. More on that in my next post.
Thankfully there was still a little life left in parts of the Merced, but we had to shelf our plans to raft until next year...or the following. The whole rafting business was completely closed down. The water only went a couple feet deep which actually worked great for the little kids.
One of our greatest Yosemite memories was this day, on Mirror Lake, two years ago. We haven't seen it filled with water since. This week, the lake was nothing more than a puddle, and the lower lake, a desert. The six kids made the most of it. When all else fails, a good game of Zombie Apocalypse can keep them running for hours!
You can't go to Yosemite without stopping for a drink or meal at the Ahwahnee Hotel. We barely got our tired selves there for lunch on our last day, but once we did it was so worth the effort and cost. To accommodate our large party of ten, the restaurant's management gave us TWO tables - kids at one, adults at the other. For over an hour we had total calm, cool air, well-behaved children and delicious, warm food.
I meant to post this back in July...or was it...May?
We drive through Sacramento on our way to and from the cabin, and about once a year, we drop into Old Town. I have already forgotten why I was solo with Mr. Noodle this past time (heck I've already forgotten what month it was), but there we were having *special alone time*, just me and my silly little guy.
There are few things in this world more endearing than watching a little boy anticipate a train ride. This guy proudly waved his ticket to ride high and wide for everyone to see, and waited patiently for "All aboard!"...then the whistle...until we began to make our way forward along the river.
Sentimental moments between mother and son on merry-go-rounds, ferris wheels and train rides, often make way for twisty balloons and soft serves doused in rainbow sprinkles. I am no exception. We also took a quick run through the famed California State Railway Museum which was incredible, as promised. The three year old was too young to take much in beyond the surface, but I'm eager to get back with the big kid and open his eyes up a bit more to some great American history.
Half a lifetime ago, I had an open obsession with the history of Route 66, America's Mother Road. And for just as long, I've yeeeaaarned for a retro trailer to call our own. For years I've vacillated between visions of someday owning a new Airstream to just throwing a couple hundred bucks at a junkyard Aristocrat trailer and fixing it up myself (like this pretty pink lady). This past weekend, our friends Dave and Ann (with baby Wynne) met us up in the mountains, towing their 19' Airstream trailer stocked full of eggs from their farmlet, and something Dave likes to call "hyper-local bacon". In other words, they are living the dream living my dream.
Lil' Wynne was captivating to all, big and small, and yet gracious enough to give me a tour of her home away from home. She showed me how bouncy the trailer bed was, where she likes to take her cereal while on the road, and the secret spot under the fridge where her toys are kept.
She also mentioned that her mom and dad had done all sorts of modifications to their silver bullet, like sewing new patterned curtains for the windows, adding lights and hooks to walls, and even repainting the face of the fridge with magnetic chalk paint so they could continue their collection of magnets from all their travels as a family. I was drooling!!!
You can follow The Adventures of Dave and Ann for great stories on both farmlet living and life on the road with family and Airstream in tow. Or you can just stare for hours at the picture featured below:
It's a tough call.
Whenever I'm in the Dry Creek Valley, I always make the usual stops - Big John's Market for chicken mango burgers, The Dry Creek General Store for coffee and a bite, and The Gardener, just to have a look around. I always seem to hit it big at one (or all three) of these places, I guess that's why I keep coming back.
This past weekend, my annual visit to The Gardener proved worthwhile once again, when I discovered the newly launched Modern Farmer Magazine. (In fact, it's still on its first issue of its quarterly release.) I was seduced by the Dwell Magazine-esque feel to the publication and so I picked one up for $7.99 and looked forward to sitting down with it and diving in. I finally got the chance to tonight, and if you read about my Sunday night shenanigans with a wild boar, you'll understand why I was so entranced with its article "Wild Pigs: It's a War, and We're Losing". I was so taken with the story that I started reading it out loud to the kids, poolside, and believe me, I had their undivided attention the entire time. When I got up, and came back from doing something, this was the scene I found:
The story of the world's exploding boar population might have put Mr. Noodle to sleep, but the eight-year-old and I are hooked on it and other global farming issues like organic farming in China, incredible farm stays around the world, and how to build a house out of straw bales.
Sign. Me. Up.
Women are wonderful. The world is full of them and I've often said that I am incredibly grateful for all the great women that move in and out of my days, around my community and through my thoughts and conversations. My women are strong, loving, mature and giving. I don't get to see any one of them enough, it can be months or even years, but I always feel connected, bound by a history and/or just their radient energy.
I turned 40 last week and the best way I could think to celebrate it is with old friends who I might not otherwise get the opportunity to pull together into one place for longer than a sit-down meal, interrupted seventeen times by three handfuls of kids. I looked at it as an opportunity to give back a little to some of the women who fill my life with love, laughter and friendship. We ate and drank, talked and laughed, took an awesome bike ride together through the wine country and into town, slept in, took walks, talked and ate some more, and narrowly escaped the attack of a wild boar while cherry picking at dusk. It was all I could have hoped for.
These are my women, and these are just a few of the reasons I happen to think they rock it so hard:
I have known her since the seventh grade and for 28 years she has had a constant presence in my life. She is loyal, tough, filled with passions and always the mother hen. If ever I'm lost in the woods, this is the girl I want to be with while seeking my way out.
She is strong, unstoppable, whip smart and absolutely hilarious. This former neighbor of mine is your go-to person for any bit of information you might seek. I am so grateful she could be here and have every finger crossed she moves back sometime soon.
We met in college under dubious circumstances and became instant friends. Our friendship evolved through handwritten letters when we were too poor to use the phone. Her colorful, confetti-filled cards were the absolute best! She is creative, HILARIOUS and filled with boundless energy and a never-ending willingness to help.
She is FUN, clever, interesting, energetic and generous with compliments. Always smiling, she has a beautiful way of asking you about you and making you feel like the center of attention. She warned me there is such a thing as *too much birthday* and she was right.
Former next door neighbor and World's Most Fun Mom. This woman makes very good choices across the board, and she wants to help people succeed. Creative,
gracious, generous, and unbelievably funny! You could not exist in a
dull moment with this woman if you tried.
We met our freshman year in high school. I once watched her from afar tell a guy off who had wronged me and I knew then that she was a keeper. She is a sweetheart and has an effortless way of asking you lots about you until you come to realize you just spent the last hour talking about nothing but yourself.
Former neighbor and smartest human I know. Incredible memory for anything and everything, too many talents and interests to list, but I should mention she is also a mind reader. She was, for a time, my rock, and I am forever grateful.
College roommates. She is loyal in a way that most West Coasters can't even begin to understand. She is East Coast, Mid-West and California all rolled up into one. She will hop on a plane and fly anywhere for anyone that means something to her. She is a magnet for interesting people and adventures and has a lifetime of fascinating stories to prove it.
We met in the early days of high school and I have such great memories of crazy adventures. She is real and alive, fueled with nothing but positive energy. She will power through tough times and always show-up, no matter what. She is gracious and sweet and blessed with one of the best laughs.
At the risk of sounding like a hipster-poser, I've been doing the gluten-free thing for almost a month now. I wasn't 100% right out the gate - that proved hard at the cabin when friends were arriving with things like homemade pies and the like, but I was pretty good. I'm operating at 100% gluten-free these days and it's no longer a struggle...although I plan to jump off the wagon this weekend with the excuse of *girly celebration*. It started when I read Wheat Belly. Packaged up as the key to excess weight loss, this book served me better as a real eye-opener to the negative side effects of wheat. I don't suffer from celiac, but for a whole host of reasons I'll just say, it seemed a great idea to me to eliminate wheat whenever possible.
That said, I've been playing around with gluten-free baking and trying to get my bearings down with the new vocabulary. I found this recipe from Dr. Oz and modified it to serve my fruit and portion needs (our neighbors blackberry bushes are dripping into our yard!). These were so easy to throw together quickly and I thought they turned out great, but even better - so did my kids!
Gluten-Free Blackberry Scones
Makes 12 muffins
4 large eggs, beaten until frothy
2 cups almond flour
2/3 cup bulk sugar substitute (I used unrefined coconut sugar)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blackberries
Preheat the oven to 375°F and grease a muffin tin.
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients, except for the blackberries, and mix well to create a batter.
Gently fold the blackberries into the batter and scoop batter evenly into muffin pan (about 2 heaping tablespoons each).
Bake for about 15 minutes until muffins begin to lightly brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
I haven't done one of these in a while and because it's late, I won't go into too much detail. Here are all my dinners for the past week:
monday - filet mignon with a rosemary + sage butter, salad with beets, pistachios, avocado and feta
tuesday - I can't remember what I fed the kids but Daddy and I ate tuna tartar on rice crackers with salad
wednesday - date night at farm shop
thursday - an old friend for dinner, grilled flank steak and vegetables
friday - my mom is our guest, pork and asparagus with mustard sauce
saturday - guests for dinner (no photo), grilled shrimp with mango chutney, grilled vegetables, fiesta salad with avocado, tomatoes and black beans
sunday - Marinitas where I ordered the vegetable platter
Last week, the eight-year-old struck it lucky when he got to attend a day camp at Windrush Farm with three of his friends. It's opportunities like this that make me wish I had my kids summer schedules. I found out about Windrush accidentally really, I was on Facebook and just followed a trail of seeds - "David Z. likes Windrush Farm -> "I like farms. Let me check it out." -> Gorgeous pictures, summer camp offered -> Call friend, coordinate -> Drop one week into cart and check-out.
The trek out to West Marin was a lot for us - an hour each way, two times a day. But I split it with my friend and the scenes at drop-off and pick-up just made it all bearable. This place was so picture-perfect...bucolic. The Windrush family were all smiles and welcoming. My friend and I went to the first drop-off together and found ourselves lingering about (doop de doop) while the kids did their morning chores - shucking wheat for pizza dough, brushing the dogs and watering plants.
What those kids did the rest of the day, I may never know. It's like pulling teeth for me to get details out of my kids, but I'm going to assume it was all magic and farm love until they tell me anything different. I know what it was like for me and that was *a little slice of heaven*. My girl and I did not want to leave that first morning. We too wanted the opportunity to be farmers for a week...or maybe even a little longer. ;)
Nana is in the house cabin this weekend and Nana LOOOVES fruit desserts. Upon her arrival she was already talking about, and excited to make, a new recipe she'd just spotted in the latest addition of Sunset Magazine - Campfire-Glazed Peaches + Figs with Olive Oil Cake. Unable to find figs, a cast-iron skillet or a logical reason to build a campfire in 100 degree heat, she opted to macerate peaches and strawberries on stove-top instead.
This creation was incredible and so perfect for a hot summer night. The cake was similar to angel's food cake, but with a thicker and sweeter outer crust that offered just the right about of crunch to each bite.
This one is absolutely getting filed under *Favorites* - right after I eat a piece for breakfast.
Olive Oil Cake with Fresh Summer Fruit
Adapted from this recipe, Nana macerated 3-1/2 pounds of peach and strawberry with butter and sugar on the stovetop. It could NOT have worked better! Serve warm fruit on top of a slice of cake and with a giant dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Now what are you waiting for?!?
We jumped on the patriotic food bandwagon a little early this summer. With a full house this past weekend (seven kids and seven adults) I couldn't help but go to all the trouble of making Ina Garten's Flag (Ginormous) Flag Cake. When you have that many guests at the table, it's always fun to bring out the big guns. This cake is nothing short of insanity, and I love making it every summer. It helps to make a Costco run before as it uses lots of cream cheese, butter and fresh (organic!) berries.
And on a slightly less organic note, I threw these red, white and blue nachos together one night with veggie taco leftovers. I picked up the chips at Cost Plus for a holiday treat and have to admit, they were pretty fun in this instance...despite the neon food coloring. ;)
We've also been cooking up lots of the usual summer fare - bbq ribs, cheese burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches with pesto, and tacos. One vegetarian visitor cooked up the most incredible polenta-based veggie lasagna that had us all running for seconds. I hope you too are enjoying good food, great friends and hot summer heat this week!
When visitors come up to the cabin, they often bring with them something special to contribute to our time together: a horseshoe game, a couple loafs of banana bread, some jars of canned treats from their garden back home. All of them mean something special to us, but I wanted to share my absolute favorites to date - some photos of the landscape, as well as a sweet poem.
The images here were taken over the weekend by our good friend (and former neighbor), Peter G. He loves photography as much as I do but has a much better grasp of the technical side. These images of the river and super moon were taken using a technique called HDR - High Dynamic Range. It's basically when you take one exact shot at varying exposures, then merge them all together so that the best lighting attributes from all images come together into one very intense image. You can see more of Peter's work here.
And then there is this sweet poem from *Vince*, a very special sort of Thank You after a long, Thanksgiving weekend last year:
Heavy traffic and a few winding twisting roads,
Deliver us to a place far away, yet so very close
Warm knotty pine ceilings and cool granite tops,
Sounds of the river flowing and an occasional champagne bottle "pop"
Warm turkey wrapped with bacon and mashed potatoes galore,
Corn bread with mushrooms... who could ask for anything more?
Mornings with strong coffee and cool cloudless skies,
Finding interesting curly bugs and studying a chopper that doesn't fly
Lively discussions and games without personal attacks,
Debates about politics, presidents, and voting democrats
A holiday weekend with family but without the ringing phone,
Far away from work and cities, but certainly not alone
We watched the bouncing kids and few happy wagging tails...
Had some driveway walks and explored where there are no people trails
For me, a rare holiday, that ended too fast and was gone way too soon...
We can't express enough thanks for the family, the food, and the warm wonderful room!
Well, it's not exactly like we set out to celebrate the Super Moon... we were actually already having a rather grand time with friends at the cabin when we remembered that it was on its way to rising all crazy big and bright. By the time we thought to pull out the telescope and set-up cameras on tripods, we'd already exhausted ourselves with river time, hiking, chalk art, imaginary play, board games, dinner and dance. Our tummies were stuffed with bunless burgers and salad, and we'd savoured the flavor of cake on the occasion of one child's half-birthday. The summer moon's glow seemed nothing unusual really, especially in comparison to the light of nine happy kids blissed-out on summertime fun.