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The life and times of a home schooling mom of se7en + 1.

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Se7en’s List of How We Do a Whole Lot of School Topics…

September 9th, 2016 · 6 Comments

During our school year last year I wrote about how a day in the life of our home school is divided between family school and one on one time… and I thought I had pretty much covered all the details… but a friend asked me the other day to write a post on how we do the specifics… and in my head this post grew into something huge, an essay for each topic and a blog series about twenty years long… because you know how homeschool moms love to talk about homeschooling.

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Then I had a bit of a reality check… most folk just want to know how we tackle certain topics and how we conquer areas of school, not the entire back story. So here it is a “how we… do school” kind of a post, a list of resources and ideas. I may have left a couple of things off… feel free to ask about things I may have simply forgotten to add them in. Also, this is what we are using right now, it’s not prescriptive, but it works for us and it will change many times before we are done. The time has come the walrus said, for homeschoolers to stop fretting about every move they make… and just start doing the school they believe in.


How We Do Just About Every School Subject I Was Asked About:

  • History: I have to say that we use Sonlight as the backbone of our our schooling, which is a literature rich, history rich curriculum… we love it. We have used it from the start and we will continue to use it… what could be better than reading your way, using stories, to learn about history. Each of my kids is doing their own level of school and as a family we have been marching our way through the History of the World in 100o objects… it has taken a year and a half and we have reached the 1600’s… so a little way to go and we will have to think of something new to read together.
  • Bible Study: We begin our day reading from the Bible and we go around the table with everyone reading a verse or two… they get to practise their reading aloud and they enjoy following along and getting a turn to read. Otherwise we always have a missionary biography or a bible study book that we read a chapter from, as well.
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  • Science: They read their own science according to their curriculum, our high schoolers use Apologia and love it. I am guessing it isn’t so hard to read a page or two from a science books everyday, the difficult thing is actually doing all those experiments… that don’t seem so bad at first glance, and then they you miss a week or three and suddenly overwhelm sets in. To keep up with experiments we have science weeks where the only formal school is doing science experiments… I pop all the science goodies we need for a theme out on the counter and they are pretty much played with and experimented with for the duration. A week or two back we looked at electricity… they made circuits, torches, buzzers, batteries and so on… my kids think this is just another type of creative art class and have no idea that this is actual work.
  • English Grammar: Two or three times a week I have a one on one meeting with my kids and then we do a little bit of Winston Grammar together… that’s it. Everyone at their own level and pace. I have found the slower we go the more we retain… so the workbook literally lasts us years. It is tempting to say if we do a worksheet a week then we will finish the book in a year… but really… we take two maybe three years before moving on to the advanced level books… and not all my kids are really need to do the advanced level grammar… if it is their passion they will pursue it, otherwise enough is enough.
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  • English Writing: I have a feeling that in order for us to apply ourselves to our writing it has to be the real thing… it is hard to write “pretend letters” and it is difficult to write without a purpose. In the primary school years we try and write a very little something everyday… and I try and make it real, a letter to granny or a letter to a friend, create a shopping list for an outing, put forward an outing proposal and so on. In high school I let my kids find online courses in things that interest them… these courses usually require some sort of writing and feedback from the students. If you have ever taught a teen then you will know that it is a lot easier for them to raise their game and write something excellent for anybody that isn’t there parent person… just saying, outsourcing is a good thing. And otherwise there is NANORIMO in November, our older kids commit to that every year and write their way through the month of November.
  • Poetry: They each have their own beautiful poetry book to work through as part of their curriculum, but to be honest… these can get a bit lost in the mix and while poetry tea-times are lovely, they happen more occasionally than consistently. But I want our kids to appreciate words and the flow of language so I keep a poetry book next to the kitchen table and when someone is lagging we read a couple of poems. We have found The Works series of poetry to be fantastic, and we are reading our way through this one right now. This one has a se7en poems from fifty two poets… so a poem a day… it is a delightful mix of classic and contemporary, poignant and funny… we love it, we never know who will be next next, it is a book full of lovely surprises. We don’t analyse the poems, we don’t discuss their inner, deeper meanings… we just enjoy them. I read a couple of poems at a time and then ask around the table for their favourites and why they like them or don’t like them… and that’s it.
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  • Public Speaking: It looks like all our kids’ friends are always doing orals at school… and while my kids redefine chatterbox, their public speaking skills were poor. So we worked on it… I spent one evening a week with my teens, we googled “public speaking tips” we tackled a tip a week and then they gave us a three minute talk each week on a quick and simple topic. A few weeks of mildly concentrated effort and their public speaking efforts improved dramatically.
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  • A Second Language: Find someone around you fluent in a language different to your own and let your kids learn it… Our kids learn French and they love it. Otherwise I really battled to teach our kids Afrikaans for years, which is silly since I speak it. We tried lists of words, days of the week, counting and so on… boring snoring… we tried easy workbooks recommended by other homeschoolers… yawn. And then I read an article on teaching your children a second language and how immersion is the way to go. In six hours a day your children will learn super fast, my kids speak French on two hours a week, and epiphany warning there is absolutely nothing wrong with fifteen minutes a day. I have always read to my kids in Afrikaans, read and explained and read and explained… but now I have been picking a picture book from the library and we read it on Monday and I explain it, and then I read the same story book every lunchtime for the week… and they are learning heaps. I think hearing the same words again and again helps and just the ten to fifteen minutes in the language helps… when their Afrikaans friends can’t talk in front of them “in secret” anymore, then you know you are winning.

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  • Current Events: Podcasts or Youtube are your friend… about once a week, sometimes more and sometimes less we have a news hour: CNN Student News, TEDtalks for Kids and Family. and look for something interesting on Kahn Academy.
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  • Geography: We have a world Map on the wall and whenever we read something we look for it on the world map, otherwise last year we tracked the we take a look at where the Hokulea Voyage on youtube, and Lonely Planet is there for travel adventures as well.
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  • Computer Studies: Like myself, my kids tend to learn what they need to know and leave it there… one of them has a shine for all things computerish, and he has found whatever he needed to know. I must say that if your child is planning to study anything at all after school then they need to be able to find their way around a computer and safely around the internet. Our best resource for that… is actually Tim Chase’s Free Digital Learning Course. Our high schoolers have done this, it had given them the tools and skills to go much further than they could have done on their own. By the time they have completed one online course they are ready to dive into into online learning… and learning programming is second nature to those with that passion.
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  • Music: I am all for podcasts and listen to them whenever I can. For music appreciation look no further than the podcast Classics for Kids, pick a musician of the week, listen to their podcast and look for the “Best of your ‘Musician of the Week'” online” and you are done. My oldest kids played instruments but my goodness lessons got really expensive really quickly… for our younger kids BBC Schools Radio is a fantastic resource that they have really enjoy. They sing along, they act out the story, they love it. Right now we are listening to Code Crackers, and previously they have listened to The Great Fire of London and World War 1, Archies War.
  • Art: For Art Appreciation, there are any number of fabulous book in our library and I bring one home a week and leave it on the coffee table to inspire. There is a huge difference between art and crafts… and my kids are natural crafters… they just never stop making stuff and I love that. Once or twice a week we start school by doing an art project from Artistic Pursuits Series, each lesson comes with a classic work or artist to learn about and then a new technique to try. I am quite allergic to art programs that tell folk what to do exactly… these books tend to be the “how to do something” rather than follow each step, so everyone produces their own unique artwork. The materials are easy to source and I work alongside my kids. Otherwise for actual drawing… we keep soft art pencils, with our art materials and my kids draw while they listen to audio books, not everyday… but once or twice a week.
  • Math: For school our kids use Singapore math, it is hard work and slowly and steadily we tackle it. Last year we started reading a chapter a day of the Life of Fred and our kids have really loved it. So recently I have been looking for fun ways to do math, ways that challenge them to think mathematically and also have a heap of fun at the same time. But that’s a whole ‘nother blogpost.
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  • Phys Ed: Well we hike a lot, and in order to hike we need to stay fairly fit… so a daily walk and for some of the older guys a daily run, at least. We just don’t use our car unless we absolutely have to, pretty much once a week and that’s it.

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  • Cooking and Life Skills: Everybody has their signature dish, wether they know it or not, that they are working on… particularly cookies they make each week or dinner one night a week… I know they can fend for themselves and run a house… it is just about getting good at it now.
  • Real Life Studies: One evening a week I sit with my teens and we read books about relationships and marriage and dating… I want my kids to grow up and have the best chance at good relationships and I discovered that saying you can ask me anything at anytime was miles away from enough of a conversation opener for our kids. How do you ask about stuff you don’t have a clue about… you have to know something to ask something more. So if your teens aren’t asking you anything may I suggest that you start telling them things and talking about relationships. It is not enough to think your kids will grow up and leave home and one day find a husband or wife and live happily forever after… they need the tools to know how to do this and the nest way is to engage them in conversation. I have found hot cocoa and some good books to be just the conversation starter that we needed.

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That’s everything I could possibly think of, off the top of my head… don’t faint this is not what we do every single day by any means. Far from it… but it is how we tackle things bit by bit… chipping away at the things together, giving my kids as much free time as possible, for them to pursue their passions. Also, there are seasons for different themes in school, we can go for months without looking at a particular topic, and then we just dive in again where we left off… so this list is a list of how we tackle topics, not necessarily all the topics we we are doing at a given time.

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Se7en’s Guide to Hiking in Cape Point and Silvermine…

September 8th, 2016 · 3 Comments

Once a year in the Spring SANParks, South African National Parks, has a free week so that folk from local communities can visit their local park. All you need to gain free entry into one of the parks on this list is your ID Document. Please check the link for any special terms and conditions regarding the park that you would like to visit. We live within easy reach of Table Mountain National Park… and I thought I would post a collection of things to do in Cape Point, Silvermine and further afield, The West Coast National Park…

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Easy Family Walks in Cape Point

The reason we love Cape Point so much is that there are so many things to do there. Of course you can drive down to the point and wander up to the lighthouse and view False Bay and the Atlantic ocean at the same time. What a lot of folk don’t know is that there are lots of very family friendly hikes to take and varying from short easy ambles to longer day long wanderings. As well as hiking there are a collection of beautiful and pristine beaches… beautiful sandy beaches and plenty of rocky shores for rock pooling too. There is a wide variety of animal life, and getting off the main drive through route seems to be the best way to see them…

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Silvermine

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West Coast National Park

Further afield the West Coast National Park falls under the SANParks umbrella and at this time of year you will experience the phenomenon of the Spring Flowers… carpets and carpets of beautiful flowers… as far as the eye can see. Honestly, this is unmissable and if you can possibly make the day trip then jump at the chance…

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→ 3 CommentsTags: Cape Town · Hiking · Outings · Saturday Spot

Se7en Reviews: Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver…

September 7th, 2016 · 2 Comments

It’s been quite a while since we reviewed a Jamie Oliver Cookbook and we love Jamie Oliver Cookbooks. This one, Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver, and published by Penguin Random House South Africa, is a real treat, fabulous, fabulous, fabulous…


Se7en + 1 Things to Love About this Book

  1. This book is packed with masses of flavourful recipes… heaps of variety and hundreds of tastes that we tend to forget we can use everyday. If nothing else this book will pull you out of the rut.
  2. This is genuinely healthy food, packed with vegetables, and no added sugar. There aren’t pages and pages of tempting desserts… just pages and pages of family feasts that my kids were dying to try.
  3. The photography is brilliant, and even the youngest folk in the family spent hours pouring over it, saying what about this and what about that.
  4. The recipes were surprisingly quick to prepare… honestly this was the best factor for me. I love reviewing cookbooks but so often trying a new recipe, with ingredients you don’t often use can often take all day… All of these meals we prepared from scratch and some of them took only twenty minutes to prepare… I kid you not. Twenty minutes from start to serving. I consider that time in the kitchen well spent!!!
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  6. Somehow ordinary food, with a little twist can become a feast… his page on a bazillion ways to have your avocado toast has to be my favourite… there is no end to the things you can do with avocado toast and just a little imagination.
  7. There is a whole section at the end of the book on healthy eating and lifestyle tips, as well as tips for cooking with kids and coping with fussy eaters, budgeting and reading labels… not just a cook book, it is a good read too.
  8. The inside cover plate… filled with tons of pictures of his delightful family, trying and testing and tasting great food… so good to see that he practices what he preaches.
  9. You can take a look at a couple of recipes from this book at Jamie Oliver’s website here…


Se7en + 1 Recipes We Tried and Tested

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  1. Pineapple Pancake Mess Yoghurt, Coconut, Cashews and Lime: We have a nut allergy, we just left out the nuts and got to work on this recipe… this one is lovely because there are lots of components for little people to help you with… Pineapple chopping, smashing cardamom seedpods, yoghurt dripping and honey drizzling… and since we still need to master the art of of beautiful wholemeal flour pancakes it was a good thing that this recipe called out for messy pancakes. And was it good? So good. Lots of delicious flavours and just delicious… this is a fun recipe when you are looking for something to make with a couple of short people on a rainy Sunday evening, who want to make something looks and tastes terribly grownup. You can trust me on this, their tummies will be full and they will be ready to head straight to bed…
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  3. Chicken Lollipop Dippers Pea & Mint couscous, Charred Asparagus: My family needs no excuse to have couscous… they absolutely love it and will eat it with anything. We couldn’t find asparagus but everyone loves green beans… Otherwise this meal is one we have fairly often, but adding the skewers and turning them into lollipops took just a little longer and added something fun and a little finesse to the meal.
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  5. Grilled Beef Kebabs Shredded Crunch Salad, Feta and Pitta: We loved this meal, it tasted like a holiday and the preparation felt like we were preparing for a feast in the best possible way… everyone doing their own thing and working together. The astonishing thing about the recipe is, that apart from the pita breads, which we make ourselves, the recipe took literally 20 minutes to prepare and cook… and those of my kids who are loath to eat coleslaw are extremely happy to eat shredded crunch salad, I am guessing that it is all in the lashings of lemon juice!!!
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  7. Super Shepherd’s Pie, Smashed Neeps & Tatters: There were so many vegetables popped into this recipe and hidden under that mash… and yes my one or two veggie avoiders dived in and loved alongside all of them. They did say that they noticed all the vegetables, but they continued to eat on… Also we made everything except the topping and left it cooking in the Wonderbag all day… so dinner was literally make the mash and serve. Quick and easy and lovely.
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  9. Chicken & Chorizo Bake, Peppers, Sweet Potatoes & Spuds: This is exactly the kind of meal that we all love, my family love a good taste sensation and I love things that I can be prepared, popped in the oven and forgotten about while it bakes. I love how he pops so many ingredients together into then blender and then just carries on from there. He certainly makes me make the effort and use my blender for new and interesting flavours. We loved this dish, there were so many different bits and bobs to try in it… literally something for everyone to love!!!
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  11. Alphabet Tomato Soup, Fresh Basil and Cheddar Cheese: About once a week we make a couple of jars of roast tomato sauce and pop the in the fridge… and use them for so many things. But honestly I have never thought of making soup with them… anyway I knew my gang liked the flavours so we mage a huge pot of tomato soup. We couldn’t find alphabet noodles anywhere, we just used the smallest pasta we could find. This recipe was a galactic win and may have started a new tradition, because we got home from a fiercely cold hike the next day and had the left overs and it was even better the day after… like so many good recipes are.
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  13. Proper Chicken Nuggets Sweet Paprika and Parmesan Crumb: I absolutely loved his chapter called Kitchen Hacks… a collection of recipes that are easy to prepare way ahead and then treat yourself too later when you need the quickest dinner ever. So simple… marinade the chicken in all sorts of delicious flavours, overnight, then toss in a mixture of parmesan and breadcrumbs and pop into the freezer ready to bake later. These were brilliant, and my kids have been asking for them again and again, ever since!!!
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  15. Amazing Stewed Orchard Fruit & Jam, Apples and Pears, Bay, Orange and Vanilla: So we do have something in common with the Oliver family, we also make a couple of jars of apple sauce one evening a week… it just makes the house smell so delicious and we use it for so many things… to make porridge more interesting, pop it on pancakes… in yoghurt, anything really. Anyway, I can say that while we have always done plain apples, they add a whole lot of goodies to take it to a whole new level… pears, orange juice, a bay leaf and cinnamon. Just delicious.


Previous Jamie Oliver Posts

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We would like to thank the publishers Penguin Random House South Africa who supplied us with a copy of the book for review purposes. We were not paid for the review and the opinions expressed are as usual, entirely our own.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Cook Book Reviews · Monday Munchies

Se7en’s Book of the Week: FootPath Flowers…

September 2nd, 2016 · 4 Comments

As we head closer and closer to a new season. Spring is in the air and this delightful book is perfect, for the season that is all about flowers, let us introduce you to Footpath Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson and Sidney Smith.


Let’s Meet the Book

Another beautiful wordless picture book… and yet the story is quite clear. A little girl wearing a bright red coat, in a black and white world, is taking a walk beside her father. They have been to the store, maybe run some errands and are taking an ordinary walk on an ordinary day. Her father is on the phone doing this and doing that and this small girl is not distracted by the doings of the dour adults around her. She is absorbed and focused on her wondrous walk… as she walks along she starts to spot flowers growing on the sidewalk and as she discovers them so more colours enter into the story… they walk on and the adults remain aloof and distracted, but she notices more and more flowers… she notices a little dead bird on the path and while other folk have walked by, not noticing, she leaves some flowers beside the bird, and so begins her gifting journey. She leaves some flowers in a dog’s collar and continues to give little spontaneous gifts to people around her. As those around her receive their little gifts so the attitude of the story becomes more colourful and joyful. The illustrations tell the story, you can feel the path as you take a walk with this little gal… and anyone who has taken a walk with a child will know that an ordinary walk for grownups is anything but an ordinary walk for a young child. This books captures the essence of that… and leaves the grownup reader with a sense of “remember when” and the child reader with a sense of adventure, “what’s next.” This is a very clever book, that should be left lying on coffee tables for folks of all ages to read and discover for themselves. It is quite a magical capture… a poignant reminder that tiny gifts can make the biggest difference to someone’s day. You will want to spend a little time in this book again and again. You can watch the book trailer here.


Let’s Make Some Spring Flowers

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We decided to make some flowers and spontaneously gift them on…

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We began by drawing flowers with black Sharpie Marker…

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And then filling them with watercolours paints…

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Until we had a bright, colourful collection…

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Lots and lots of flowers…

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Cut them all out…

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And a table full of flowers…

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Project glue and skewer sticks… and our flowers were ready to gift on…

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I am sure you can think of many folk to gift some flowers on to… hope they enjoy them.


Previous Picture Book Party Posts

This post forms part of The Picture Book Party with PanMacmillan South Africa.


Thank you so much to PanMacmillan South Africa for the copy of Footpath Flowers for review purposes and the invitation to join the Picture Book Party. This is not a sponsored post, we were not paid to create it and the opinions expressed are, as usual, our own.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Tuesday Art Task

Se7en’s September… And Your Free Printable Calendar…

September 2nd, 2016 · No Comments

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Welcome to September…

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Click on the calendar page, it will open in a new tab, print it out and then colour it and fill in the days that you want to celebrate… pop it on the fridge and you are good to go. You can still find all the calendar pages down the right hand side of our website and they are all gathered together in our Almanac page for easy searching… If you have holidays or ideas that you would like to add then please go ahead and comment, I would love to have our calendars packed to the brim!!!

→ No CommentsTags: Celebrity Calendar

Se7en’s Complete Read Around the World Collection…

September 1st, 2016 · 4 Comments

Over the past few weeks we have been following the Give Your Child the World Book Tour with Simple Homeschool. I thought it might be a good idea to put all our posts and collections of books as we journeyed along, all together in one spot. We began our journey by welcoming folk from around the world to our particular corner of the world in sunny South Africa… with outings, recipes and of course our favourite books…

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And the next step of our journey was to pop over for an interview on Simple Homeschool… with all the details of Growing up in South Africa.


Se7en+1 Journeys Around the World

Each of these links takes you to a post, with some tips for virtually traveling through that region and a heap of books to help you on your virtual journey.


The Whole Wide World


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Africa


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Europe


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North America


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The Middle East


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Asia


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Central and South America


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Australia, Oceania and the Polar Regions


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→ 4 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books · Geography · Se7en at School

Se7en Reviews Baking with Jackie Cameron…

August 30th, 2016 · 1 Comment

A while back we posted a review of Jackie Cameron Cooks at Home… and months later many of those recipes have become part of our family food culture. The thing about Jackie Cameron’s recipes is they are classics, packed with nostalgia – your childhood could literally flash before your eyes and then she adds a subtle South African twist and you literally want to sigh for joy. When I saw that she had launched a new cook book, Baking with Jackie Cameron, Published by Penguin Random House South Africa, I was really keen to try it. What can I say, another collection of recipes that did not disappoint, this book is simply packed with stunning recipes, from breads to pies, to cakes and treats.

There are tons of recipes in here that you want to try right now, and you will most likely have the ingredients in your kitchen already. The recipes are totally doable and easy to follow… and many of recipes you will be able to include into your family recipe repertoire very quickly. Also, I love the South African twist to her recipes, there is nothing better than a local tweak that makes a recipe more like home. This has become the cookbook that my kids turn to when they are looking for something to bake and I know I can leave it to them and they will produce something great. One thing they have learnt, and it is a good thing, is to read the recipe right through to the end before you start and otherwise lay out and measure all your ingredients before you begin. I have been trying to teach that for years… well this is the book that achieved that!!!


Se7en + 1 Recipes We Tried and Tested

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  1. Granny Dot’s Jam-Drop Biscuits: I love that she includes so many family favourite recipes in her cookbook, and these biscuits reminded me very much of my own childhood. We had to try them. They were so quick and easy to make, and a little flare with the jam takes them up a level from ordinary biscuits… to a tea-party, with almost no extra effort.
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  3. Maids of Honour Biscuits: I remember these as a tray of treats as a small child, talk about a walk down memory lane… a layer of biscuit, a layer of jam and then a sweet topping of coconut meringue. I can see we are going to be making a lot more of these… trays and trays of them in fact.
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  5. Lady Finger Biscuits: I have always wanted to make finger biscuits, yes, I am that person that wants to make tiramisu from scratch. But here’s a recipe that I don’t think we could get right. We tried a few times because the flavour is perfect, they taste exactly like finger biscuits… but somehow when we folded the egg whites into our cookie mixture… these biscuits cooked flat… and then my son pointed out that another name for them is “cat’s tongues” and we thought… hmmm they do look like those, so we weren’t too far off.
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  7. Chocolate and Cinnamon Malva Pudding: This pudding is a game changer for our family. We only have dessert about once a week, when granny comes for dinner… well this has become that dessert. Half way through this recipe you have to pour more liquid over it and the first time we did that… I thought, “This is never going to work!” But it did… this is a lovely rich and delicious dessert… click on the link and try it… you can thank me later!!!
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  9. Beer Bread: We have our standard daily bread recipe, that we use almost constantly. What I have been looking for, for a long time is a quick alternative, especially one that you can add a few little surprises as well, this one has rosemary and roast garlic hidden inside it. Actually this recipe is so easy to make that you wonder why this little gem isn’t ingrained in all of our minds for whenever we need it. How useful to have this little loaf ready in a jiffy, for any number of events.
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  11. Bar One Chocolate Cake: I am just going to whisper this… if you buy this recipe book for only one recipe, then this is the one. We loved it so much that we made it for Yuppie Chef for their birthday. This recipe comes with a warning, it takes time and you can start two days before… well no kidding!!! There are a lot of components and there is a lot to learn with this recipe, and so very worth it… how to make caramel sauce, a bar-one sauce, a rich chocolate cake with yogurt and bar one chunks, and then finally a bar-one icing. There are many steps and while we made it in a day, it literally took all day. One thing is, it just can’t be eaten in a second, it is so good that you can only have small morsels of enjoyment. This cake went straight onto everyone here’s wish list, as the cake they would like to have baked on their birthday.
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  13. Cameron’s Chocolate Sponge Cake: After the crazy cake, you do actually need to have a standard chocolate cake that you can make, or your kids can easily make without too much effort and in a short space of time. This cake recipe is one that my kids embraced as their own and they especially loved the icing.
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  15. Cameron’s Crystallised Sugar Cupcakes: When I asked my kids what they would like to make from the recipe book… they could choose anything they liked… this is the recipe they chose. Really easy to make and really effective recipe. I can see this is going to be one of their goto recipes for when friends come round.

So that is se7en + 1 recipes that we tried and tested, and there are still so many that we didn’t get to try. This is one of those cookbooks that we are going to return to again and again… and then again. If you would like to get to know Jackie Cameron’s work better then take a look at her website… and if you are looking for recipes that she has published, specifically from this book, then take a look at this link here.

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We would like to thank the publishers Penguin Random House South Africa who supplied us with a copy of the book for review purposes. We were not paid for the review and the opinions expressed are as usual, entirely our own.

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