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

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Se7en Reviews: Jamie Cooks Italy…

October 12th, 2018 · No Comments

It has been a while since we reviewed a Jamie Oliver cookbook and this one is superb. Jamie Cooks Italy by Jamie Oliver. If you are trying to eat a rainbow on a daily basis, then this is a great book to start experimenting with. The best way to get into a new cookbook in our house is to leave it on the coffee table for a couple of days… if I leave it there long enough I very soon find post-it-notes lining the pages as folk tag recipes that they want to try. As you can imagine this cookbook very quickly filled with tags… so I went through the bookmarked recipes and chose se7en to try and share with our readers…


One thing about Jamie Oliver recipes is that because he is cooking for his own family, the recipes are designed with families in mind. Most of them have ingredients that you can pick out or leave off for that one picky eater, but saying that, they are full of ingredients that we don’t eat every day – so lots of interesting things to try. The joy of his choice of ingredients is that you can usually find them in the local supermarket, and if you can’t find the ingredients you can easily exchange them for something that you can get in season, or locally.

Jamie Cook’s Italy took two years to create, as he travelled around Italy with his best friend Gennaro Contaldo. Together they explored and tasted their way through recipes in each region, created by the nonno’s and nonna’s of Italy. These are recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation, real food that real Italians cook in their homes. The book is packed with little tips and tricks that turn previously “too difficult to even try” recipes into recipes that we can create in our home everyday. This book is a taste bud delight… 400+ pages, packed with 140 recipes… and all things Italian. Fresh seasonal ingredients and recipes cooked from the heart of Italy. Really is there anything better than Grandma’s cooking, in whatever language you are speaking?

We got together with friends and created a family feast for many… it was definitely a chance for the kids to be in the kitchen, to try new flavours and create beautiful food that they really wanted to eat… We are going to give you a tour of the recipes we tried…

Se7en Recipes We Tried and Tested

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Matera Salad

This recipe really does pass not only the rainbow test of healthy eating, but it packs a whole lot of crunch into it too… not to mention, just layering it up takes a bunch of individual ingredients to a whole, new and somewhat sublime level… This feels like a plate of summer sunshine and even on a wintry day it would bring a whole new level of warmth to your table…
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A delicious dressing over layers of oranges, red cabbage, cucumber, carrots, mint, apples, rocket… and we couldn’t find a ball of burrata cheese, so settled on a soft creamy cheese… to which one inspired tester decided to add camembert as well… as one does!!!
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Corteccia is Italian for tree bark, and with eight kids standing by and a large batch of pasta dough, it was surprisingly quick to create a massive batch of pasta… without any of the hassle of mastering the pasta machine and rolling it out. Simple pinch a small piece of dough off the batch, roll it into a little sausage and squash your fingers into them, like peas in a pod… shake the noodle off your fingers and you are good to begin the next one. Once you have a pile of noodles ready to cook, you can whip up his broccoli pesto,… though we didn’t have enough broccoli lovers to make this worth our while, so we swapped it out and used baby spinach. Baby spinach, garlic, anchovies, chilli flakes, olive oil and lemon juice… so quick so easy… and truly delicious.
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Potato Gnocchi

Gotta say, we have never ever tried gnocchi before, it just seems like too much work and to buy it in the store for a family of ten seemed somewhat over the top. Well let me just say, we were wrong… this is the ultimate comfort food, everywhere. While it was a very labour intensive for our first attempt, we will definitely be making it again. Easy to follow, step-by-step photographs with Nonna Teresa from Roma, we really couldn’t go wrong. And since my husband and I spent a month living on Campo d’Fiori in Rome, the year before we had children… we could very well have sampled her famous Gnocchi in real life, this recipe was a “simply must try” recipe. I mean what isn’t to love about mash potato, smoothed into a creamy pasta, cooked and stirred through garlic butter, and then topped with home made tomato sauce… really a bit of a game changer.
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Carrot Caponata

We didn’t intend to cook this recipe at all… but when one of your kids asks to cook “That Carrot Recipe” more than once… you make it happen. What could possibly go wrong: Carrots and red onions, chillies and garlic, sunflower seeds, raisins, a drizzle of honey and red wine vinegar… Nothing went wrong… these were so lovely, and so worth going the extra mile that I would never normally do when cooking carrots, frankly we could eat just these for lunch on a daily basis.

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Neapolitan Pizza Base

Moving on to Neapolitan Pizza, that has since become our Sunday night tradition… pizzas are the epitome of Italian cooking and while we have been making pizzas for years… these are so easy to create. Make the base early on a Sunday and then later on in the evening as kids drift in from their weekend, we can all create pizzas as we chat about our weekend happenings… its a good thing and exactly the right sorts of zero effort sort of celebration that I am prepared to rustle up on a Sunday night. Classic Margherita’s made by the meter… and you can find the recipe and a video on how to create them over here.
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Mozzerella Bread

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Can we talk about this dreamy lunchtime, actually anytime, treat for a moment. All the delicious flavours, rolled up in a bread dough and cut into wheels, then baked and it will be eaten long before it has a chance to cool. Delicious cheeses and a filling packed with a mixture of goodies that my kids don’t normally eat: capers and green olives, just saying… but something that looks and smells so delicious has to be tried and so we have added some new ingredients to our repertoire. The recipe suggests, smashing the flavours together in a pestle and mortar, clearly we weren’t strong enough for this and one zap in the blender did the trick.

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Ice Cream Sandwiches

And it wouldn’t be a family recipe book without desserts, and it wouldn’t be Italian without ice cream… Welcome to the ice-cream sandwich that hails from Sicilia. Brioche buns take a fair while to create, but they are so worth it. There is a lot of resting and waiting, especially with eager recipe testers all lined up and ready to try something new. These are such a fun dessert, just leave the toppings and the ice-cream out and everyone can create their own. Honestly, I am not a big sandwich eater, ever… but sandwiches like these might change my mind!!!
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You can discover more about Jamie Cooks Italy, and find recipes on his website by following the link here. And you can watch the Jamie Cooks Italy TV series on Youtube…

Previous Jamie Oliver Posts

We were gifted this book, for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

→ No CommentsTags: Cook Book Reviews · Family Recipes

Happy Brilliant Belated Birthday to Hood 5…

October 8th, 2018 · 2 Comments

And for the first time ever, we celebrated a birthday while being away… Hood 5 had a birthday while we were hiking our way through the Karoo. Gotta say, how did we manage that, with ten birthdays a year. In fact when it comes to birthdays, we are in that sweet spot where everyone has had their’s for the year and we realised that we have celebrated: 21 + 19 + 17 + 15 + 14 + 12 + 10 + 9 = 117 kids’ birthdays… that’s a whole lot of birthdays and no wonder our celebrations are ridiculously simple!!!


This is a kid that works his way to the top…

He enjoys the view from up there…

Always, always ready to lend a helping hand…

To whoever needs a helping hand…

Loves everything to do with hiking… and the great outdoors…

Not afraid to get dirty…

Or go racing through the wilds…

Has done bazillions of Beach Cleanups…

He is always the first one in the water and the very last one out…

Leaping into fourteen… Hope you have the best year ever!!!

Happy Brilliant Birthday




The Celebrity Chef’s Recipe Collection.

And that’s a wrap for birthday season 2018!!!

→ 2 CommentsTags: Our Events

Se7en’s October… A Little Late…

October 6th, 2018 · No Comments


For the first time ever a Calendar post got away from us, as we went off on a hiking adventure into the Karoo… but we are back and here is our October Calendar…


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!!!

Se7en’s October

1 October: Homemade Cookies Day

1 October 1908: Henry Ford Introduced the Model T

1 October 1924: Jimmy’s Carter Birthday (1924-)

2 October 1950: Peanuts First Published

2 October 1869: Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday (1869 – 1948)

3 October 1906: SOS Established

3 October 1189: Richard I (The Lionheart) crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey

3 October 1916: James Herriot’s Birthday (1916 – 1995)

4 October: Child Health Day

7 October: National Poetry Daythis day moved to September 28 this year, but it is too good to miss!!!)

7 October 1885: Niels Bohrs Birthday (1885 – 1962)

8 October 1871: Great Fire of Chicago

9 October: First Two Way Telephone Conversation

9 October: Leif Erikson Day

9 October: Mouldy Cheese Day

9 October: World Post Day

11 October 1884: Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962)

11 October 1880: Boer War Began

12 October: Columbus Day

12 October: National Fossil Day

14 October 1066: Battle of Hastings

15 October: National Grouch Day

16 October: World Food Day

16 October: World Dictionary Day

19 October 1879: Thomas Edison Demonstrated the Electric Light Bulb

21 October: Apple Day

21 October 1959: Guggenheim Museum Opened

23 October 1940: Pele’s Birthday (1940 – )

23 October: Mother in Laws Day

24 October 2009: United Nations Day

25 October 1881: Pablo Picasso’s Birthday (1881 – 1973)

26 October 1836: International Red Cross Organised in Switzerland

27 October: International School Library Day

27 October 1848: Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthday (1858 – 1919)

28 October 1886: Statue of Liberty Dedicated

30 October 1735: John Adam’s Birthday (1735 – 1826)

31 October 1941: Mt. Rushmore completed

31 October: Halloween

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Birthday Season and Hood 8 is 9…

October 1st, 2018 · No Comments

I have no idea how time flies so fast… but our little Hood 8 just turned 9… and he bakes a fantastic cake…


Happy Brilliant Birthday Hood 8


Our adventurer in training. Always drawing, reading, hiking running….

The kid who never just sits in a car, but absorbs the world that flies past him…

Chef in training…

Always on the run…

The creator of millions of pancakes…

Hardly ever has his feet on the ground…

Lover of wildlife…

Creator of ships…

Fantastic gatherer if friends…


Master of Arms…

And anything at sea…

Into the sea…

Really into the sea…

Once a pirate… always a pirate…


You Can Read About His Well Documented Life Here…


→ No CommentsTags: Home Truths

Birthday Season at the House of Se7en…

September 21st, 2018 · 4 Comments

So we have been ridiculously busy lately, and that is even before we head into the busy end of year season… I have been dying for even a moment of time with all my kids… just as they are… in the great outdoors.


So blue skies, ice-cream and a mini-beach day with this gang was my birthday treat today… It worked. That and coffee with friends and my happiness bucket is full. I love how the Hoods all made the effort to be home today. Your kids will grow up and all be busy with different things, and they will still make time for the important things like hanging out together and making sure they are home for family institutions like birthday ice-cream.

Enjoy the weekend and we will see you on the other side…

→ 4 CommentsTags: Our Events

Happy Brilliant 21st Birthday to Hood #1…

September 20th, 2018 · 4 Comments

September is birthday season, and suddenly we are the parents of a twenty-one year old… I can’t even imagine where the time went…


Happy Brilliant Birthday to our first born… I cannot imagine life without him and time sure flies, because it really feels as if it was just yesterday that this lad rushed into the world with a sparkle in his eye…


I blinked and you were fourteen, I blinked again and you were twenty one…


It has been a crazy, funny lively, journey…

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Wouldn’t change any of these moments… with the kid who had big dreams and hardly ever had his feet on the floor…

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The lad who wore a hat, whenever and wherever…


And a fantastic story teller…


Always ready for an adventure…


Love you to the moon…


And beyond…


Previous Birthday Posts

→ 4 CommentsTags: Our Events

Se7en Steps to Conquering All the Homeschooling Stuff…

September 20th, 2018 · 4 Comments

This week is third instalment in my month of homeschooling posts… and my goodness, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed writing about homeschooling. So far I have written about: Se7en Lessons I Learnt About Homeschooling, and Se7en Things Homeschool Moms Can Just Let Go Of. This week I am writing about something that can literally steal the joy from my school day and everybody knows that if the teacher is not having fun, then nobody is having fun.

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There comes a time in your homeschool journey, that you actually stop panicking and realising that you are in it for the long haul (like there was ever any doubt we would be in it for the long haul), and that if you are not enjoying it… then it is time to find out why and fix it. Well it turns out that the biggest roadblock to my school day being a good one is clutter and chaos. I simply get edgy. Just stuff everywhere and things jammed on shelves, till they spill off shelves, just about destroys my sense of calm.

We are all busy moms, I can’t spend my weekends tidying up from a week of school, or our summer holidays having a massive re-sort every year. I need our school to just keep on rolling, day in and day out, year in and year out. I need everything to have a place, and everything to be in its place… I don’t want to have to spend hours (actually any time), on preparations… especially if the preparations are actually tidying up or looking for resources. When I sit down for school with my kids I would like to have the pile of books I am reading handy, I want to be able to say… run and fetch this and that… and as soon as we are done… return it to its rightful home.


Homeschoolers, by definition are hoarders… particularly if you have a bunch of kids following along one after the other, after the other. Bookshelves are not so much for storing books as for practising your Tetris skills, as you try and squeeze thousands of books into a space designed for hundreds of books. I cannot begin to mention piles of paper, potential craft project materials… and countless things that might one day spark an interest for your kids. School days can quickly become overwhelming, not by the work so much as by the amount of shuffling of stuff out of the way so that you can actually get on with your day.

I have somewhat streamlined our school… down, down, down and down… to the bare minimum and to things that we truly are using and no more. Enough is enough, so to speak. Much as would love to Marie Kondo our entire house and toss everything that doesn’t spark joy to the far corners of the world… I can’t actually achieve this. But I can inhale a lot of her method into our home and keep our school resources to a minimum… that way we quickly cull what no longer seems relevant.


Organising Your Homeschool:

  1. If you haven’t used it yet, then you are probably never ever going to use it:
  2. I have said this before and I will say it again: Just get rid of it. I know somethings cost big bucks and then they just can’t be loved. Consider them part of the profit/loss model… mistakes were made. Let it be a financial cost only, rather than a financial and emotional cost. Trust me… those flash cards that you have never ever opened up, that are just looking at you and making you feel guilty, that “fantastic educational game” that is still in the original packaging ten years later… your youngest child won’t want to play it anymore than your oldest child did. Send those unused items on their merry way on to a happier home. The felt story board that you spent hours creating… and have never ever used: Gift it on. The joy was in the making… now move it along.


  3. Store Like Things Together:
  4. All our school books are in one spot and mostly in reading order. If you are looking for the next book to read on your reading list, you walk to the shelf, look for the book you read last, slide the book you just finished back onto the shelf and then grab the next one. That’s it. Books sorted… yes they get in a muddle over time and yes about once every six months I put everything back where it belongs… that works for us, particularly while I have kids in six grades, all reading books on their own level.

  5. Stop the Paperwork:
  6. Each of my school going kids have a crate for their current school readers and their journals… that’s it. Best thing we ever did in our homeschool was to not replace the ink in our printer… I do not have time to be looking for beautiful printables to print off the internet, my children do not want to fill them in, and I especially don’t want to be buying glue sticks so that they can stick the sheets into their notebooks. If it is worth remembering they will, if it is worth writing down then they pop it into their school journals.


  7. To Keep or Not to Keep, That is the Question:
  8. A big question from year to year is what do you actually need to keep, what do you need to save for a while, and what can you toss all together… When I began homeschooling I saved everything. The first time I realised what we actually needed to keep was when my first student needed a high school transcript. It turns out that what colleges want to see is very specific. They don’t want to see any workbooks or worksheets ever (what a big surprise), they want a list of books they have read… and not a list of book reviews, they want to see what courses your children have done and their year end results for each subject, they don’t care if your kids filled in copious notebooks, or they made one page of notes for the entire year. I do keep our family school journals as a keepsake… it is fun to look back and see the funny stories they wrote when they were little, what books we read together and the pages they created from outings we have been on. But there is no reason ever to keep pages and pages of math practice to prove that they can do arithmetic.

  9. Stop Buying School Stuff, Just Stop:
  10. At the stage, when I finally realised that I would never need to demonstrate my kids learning with the workbooks that they filled in, I threw out every workbook that had been filled in and vowed that I would never waste money on workbooks again. What was I thinking letting my kids fill in workbooks… remember I would need to buy each workbook eight times…insanity!!! That being said: we do use about three workbooks per child. For example, Singapore math and we have the full collection of workbooks, but I don’t buy workbooks… they write their answers in a notebook and we move on. The other workbook we use is Wordly Wise, they write their answers in a journal… and yes I do have some very reluctant writers… but somehow we get through it.

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  11. Keep Like Things Together:
  12. When everything is in one spot we can clearly see when we are running out of a particular resource or when we have too many of one and another. Stationary belongs in one place, all the pencil crayons and markers etc… I can clearly see that our school is in desperate need of some new pencil crayons and markers. Markers will be a treat sometime, but we use pencil crayons every single day… that’s urgent. Craft materials are stored together in another spot. I used to keep all the science kits together… but now I keep electronics in one place and magnets in another, and so on. My kids love science experiments, we don’t do them all the time… I still work on science weeks, when we catch up on experiments… but we are not close to outgrowing science weeks yet… so science will be kept in the science spot for a while yet.

  13. What Do Your Kids Actually Do:
  14. Our games are in one spot, and at one stage I thought we should move our games along… so I did an experiment and made a list of the games we used over a period of a month. Turns out my kids are gamers and the board and card games stay for now. All of them. But puzzles, not so much – I know I have visions of us sitting around on wintry evenings listening to audio books while we work on a puzzle together. As this winter draws to a close, and every other winter before that… and we have yet to crack open a puzzle… it is time to say farewell to puzzles. We are just not puzzle people. Just like that an entire shelf of space opened up.

The thing is, our school materials are used a lot… some of them more intermittently than others. The less materials we have the easier it is to cope with them… so continuously asking if things are still working for us and passing things on as we wind along our on our homeschool journey is definitely the way to go. And for all that, there are times when in the midst of the chaos I literally have to just sit down in it, embrace the pile of books we are reading right then, and just forget about the chaos. It is only a season and I would rather be reading and spending time with my kids than tidying up.


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→ 4 CommentsTags: Homeschooling · Organizing School