Monday, April 30, 2012

Slow Living Month 4: April 2012

April is over...

 Time to reflect on little accomplishments again, even if they are just baby steps
 toward a slower, greener and simpler life.

 Thank you Christine for the opportunity to share and link up at Slow Living Essentials

(Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over-packaged, over-processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. Share favourite links/recipes/tips from the month here.)

As the days are cooler, I am finding we are wanting to eat "comfort food", steering away from cold meals and salads, so here are some of the dishes we have enjoyed over the month of April:

*Vegetarian lasagna loaded with veg from farm that my sister brought on her last visit.
*Lamb that my older sister blessed us with on her last visit, made into a tasty curry with spinach and kale from the garden.
*Tasty home made chicken soup with frozen corn from the farm and herbs from the garden. I also like to add some fresh ginger and some frozen cubes of chili- great tasting soup!
*Nutritious cottage pie loaded with veg and a potato with added butternut for the topping as there were not enough potatoes at the time.
* Meatballs and spaghetti in home made tomato sauce with added herbs from the garden.
* Fish stir fried in pesto from the freezer with onions and beautiful green peppers from the garden.
 *Apricot squares baked by my daughter as well as apricot muffins (treats that are wholesome and suitable for hubby's low Gi diet, rather than convenient treats)

 ( Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season. Aim to reduce dependency on store bought items especially those known to contain BPA and other suspect additives. Stocking up on dry goods when prices are low counts too.)

*I bought a kilo of dried apricots from a wholesale dried fruit shop at a good price and we have been enjoying them in our baking:
*I found mushrooms at a reduced price per kg and made some mushroom sauce for the freezer. This is delicious when added to a pasta dish or used in an omelet.

*For my eldest, I made chili and tomato chutney, using chili from the garden and tomatoes given to me by my neighbour. He loves to eat this with everything!
*A double batch of tomato sauce made for a veg lasagna...there was enough to freeze and later add to two other meals.
*Blanching and freezing beans from the garden, just small amounts at a time as there are few left, but when added up, enough to add to a couple of meals.

(Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. A ladder into a strawberry planter? A sheet into a dress? Share ideas and project links here, allowing others to be inspired.)

*My clever hubby has used old wooden palettes to make a sturdy new garden gate as the old one was falling apart. 
*We continue to bake healthy treats to be enjoyed by the family if the oven is on for dinner, saving electricity.
* On that note, I am trying to get my family to be more aware of electricity consumption, reminding them to switch of unnecessary lights in the evenings.
* My daughter and I have been re-purposing old books ( that she rescued from the dump) and scraps of paper to  create cards for the up coming teddy bear fair.

(Up our lives. Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.)

*My neighbour has a new coffee machine and she regularly brings me the used coffee pods. Coffee grounds are placed around the plants to control aphids, rather than harmful pesticides.

( plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? Herbs in a pot, sprouts on a windowsill or and entire fruit/vegetable garden -opt for what fits space and time constraints. Don't have a backyard? Ask a friendly neighbour or relative for a small patch of theirs in return for some home grown produce, they may surprise you!)

Growing :
* Cabbage and broccoli seedlings are doing well.
* Leeks  and garlic are coming along and gooseberry bushes are shooting up all over the place! 
*Peas are getting their first fruits and I am hoping it is not too late to plant some more. 
*Aubergines are putting out flowers but I think I may have planted them too late as the flowers seem to be dropping off.

Our harvest: 
* beans, chillies, spinach, kale,lettuce, basil, spring onions, celery, mustard greens, green peppers

( to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. Create something as simple as a handmade gift tag or something as extravagant as a fine knit shawl. Share project details and any new skills learnt here.) 

Lots of knitting:
*Completed the fingerless mittens on order, as well as a black pair.
 They are great for keeping hands warm but freeing the fingers so one can still work well.

*A cowl for my daughter- the colours are just lovely on her with her blond hair and blue eyes

*At last I finished off the jersey I started making for my one year old nephew before he was born!

*My daughter made cute felt elephants for a cultural exchange and she is busy with teddy bears for the upcoming teddy bear festival.

* She has also made a beautiful Alice band with a fabric flower and done some fabric painting.

( Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Trawl libraries, second hand shops or local book shops to find titles that fill the need. Share titles/authors of what is being read this month. )

*Too many new websites: gardening, schooling and parenting and them but need to be disciplined!

( community: Possibilities include supporting local growers & producers, help out at a local school/kindergarten, barter or food swap, joining a playgroup or forming a walking or craft group. Car pooling where possible and biking/walking instead of driving. Even start up a blog if you haven't already - online communities count too! Or maybe just help out someone trying to cross the street! The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold.)

* Our monthly nature club outing, taking in autumn's offerings.
*Car pooling continues, giving ourselves and other parents a break from all making the same trips when we can share the load.
*I have loved babysitting my busy nephew a few times over the month so his mum could get a few things done.
*My daughter has enjoyed her weekly craft group, learning new skills.
* She also held another Krafty Kow workshop, teaching the  younger girls how to make sand shaker cards, embellished with beads and flowers, and some pretty mothers day gifts - rose hearts.

We have done some bartering too: 
*My daughter has been babysitting three little ones in exchange for sewing lessons from their mum. 
*Black fingerless mitts that I made were bartered with a young girl in exchange for fun nail painting as gift to my sons girlfriend. 

(Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment. Share a moment to be remembered from the month here.)

Some highlights in April:
*The Passover Meal we celebrated was timed perfectly with my mums visit.
* Easter weekend shared with family and friends was just wonderful.
*The changing season, causing us to take note of the trees in their glorious array of colours
* Enjoyable read aloud times with the children, that are now more frequent that the holidays are over.
* Celebrating our sweet cousin/nephew's first birthday!

April Joy Dare Week 4 God for many blessings in my life

Day 24
(1 gift fragile)
402) each day we have together on this earth....
& more my own
403) laughing, me and them.... my 16 year old son playing peek a boo with his almost one year old cousin today
404) that sweet friend of my daughter... dropping off fresh fruit, yogurt and more for us to enjoy
405) my brother calling to chat and being thankful we had his wife and baby here today

Day 25
(a gift cloth, steel,wood)
406) the clothes that kept me warm today, many being a blessing from my cousin
407) our little car that gets us where we need to be
408) our dining room table that serves us so well
and my own
409) meeting with a fellow home educating mom on holiday here from another part of SA
410) blessing of groceries that will see us through a while

Day 26
(1 gift moving)
411) big dark clouds moving over the sky and bring good rains to my garden
and some my own
412) quick catch up with my dear friend, short but good to talk
413) my boys, enjoying card games together
412) my daughter's message telling me she made the grade at karate tonight, happy for her! And thankful her daddy was there to watch.

Day 27
(3 gifts my own)
413) going with my friend to find her wedding dress...just perfect, so exciting!
414) having my little nephew here while his mom and dad did birthday shopping for his big day tomorrow...putting pasta on his fingers and toes and him finding it so funny and laughing a hearty baby laugh
415) next door for our sweet 8 year old neighbour
416) another neighbour giving us delicious left over curry so I didn't have to cook tonight.

Day 28
(3 gifts my own)
417) Hubby and a friend cooking up a delicious bacon and egg breakfast

418) celebrating my little nephew's first birthday
419) getting into bed early to try and fight off this awful cold.... my sweet daughter coming to lie and chat with me, hubby bringing me tea in bed.

Day 29
(3 gifts in dirt)
420) first peas appearing from white flowers
421) garlic sprouting long green shoots
422) scattered seeds beginning to push up through the dirt
& my own
423) hubby and daughter taking care of dinner as I am still feeling yuck!

Day 30
(a gift given, made, sacrificed)
424) given: by Him, rains from the skies

425) made: by my two youngest, scones for tea and a shepherd's pie for dinner tonight, using recipes from our cultural exchange pack from the UK...still not well so it is a real blessing

426) sacrificed: God's own Son to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more…It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend… ~ Melody Beattie

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hands on Science Fun

This year our youngest is part of a science group that meets at the Science Centre. He has enjoyed two workshops recently and it is the highlight of his month!

Their first workshop was on electric circuits where the children investigated series and parallel circuits,
 using cells, bulbs and switches.
 They were given a lesson from the dynamic teacher who engaged the kids fully.....
about 20 mostly loud boys!
After the lesson they got to build their own circuits. 
It had my boy begging me for his own kit like that!

The second workshop was on steam turbines where they learned how phase changes can be used in mechanical systems, and once again the teacher kept their attention and interest for the duration of the lesson. Then came the fun....
they each got to build their own working steam turbine!

Besides the workshop, the kids get to interact with one another.....
 (some socialization for those who are worried about home educated kids not being!)
They learn to sit quietly in a classroom setting, paying attention to the teacher and learning to follow the teachers instructions or else their experiments wont work.
They get to explore the entire science centre and any current exhibitions, have some hands on fun with the interactive displays, and watch an exciting science show with lots of bangs and smoke!
Moms have some time out too from the usual home school day, get to catch up with one another and meet new friendly faces!

Last week we had the pleasure of meeting up at the Science Centre, with a fellow home school mom from a different part of SA. My little nephew and his mom came along to enjoy the fun. No lessons but lots of exploring and lots of fun for all!

There is also some exciting news for high school home schooled kids...
There is a Professor at the Science Centre who is keen to discuss the needs of  IGCSE and AS level science students. I will be chatting with him in the near future and he is willing to be available to our students to help them with the practical side of science! Please don't hesitate to contact me if your grade 10- 12 scientist would like to join the group!

Monday, April 23, 2012

April Joy Dare Week 3

All though I may not start my day thinking of things to be thankful or grateful for, by the time the day comes to a close, I have found something... 
I always remind my children that no matter what they are facing, there is something to be thankful for. Just this morning I spoke to them about being thankful for the fact that each of them is healthy. 
I have a dear friend in an African country whose little daughter is fighting leukaemia again and she is only eight. I cannot begin to imagine what her mama is going through...

Here is my list of thanks from the last week:

Day 17
(my own)
378) having my sweet nephew for the day even though his mum was not working
379) him having a good long nap so I could help our eldest with some school work
380) hubby getting supper done while I washed dishes that were piling up
381) a picnic in the park to celebrate a birthday this evening, lovely to catch up with friends and see kids running wild and free even though the wind was really cold

Day 18
(my own)
382) laughing with the younger two as they learn is always funny!
383) the eldest getting an A+ on a practice paper for up coming exams...relief that he is on the right track
384) cottage pie at dinner that turned out just right even though I didn't have the "right" tomato sauce that usually gives it great flavour

Day 19
(2 gifts square)
385) two square packs of rice...more Home Tester samples from a friend!
386) my youngest having no problems working out area in metres square today...doing maths with a smile so he could get ahead
and my own
387) a friend dropping off lunch when her son came for the afternoon...lunch that fed us lunch and dinner!
388) a long overdue chat with my mum on the phone today

Day 20
(a gift stacked, stashed, stilled)
389) stacked....the table stacked with lovely gifts from the UK
(our first parcel from a cultural exchange we are taking part in)
390) stashed...chocolates that my boy gave me a while back, shared and enjoyed after dinner

391) stilled momentarily....the worries of the day as we enjoyed a perfect autumn morning walk with our nature club

Day 21
(3 gifts found in Christ)
392)"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17 
393) Grace..... never ending
394) A hope and a future in Him

Day 22
(3 gifts close)
395) thankful for each day spent close to our precious three
396) thankful for close friends who brighten our days in many ways
397) thankful for close relationships with my siblings 

Day 23
(3 gifts my own)
398) calls and text messages today that may bring in work for me and hubby
399) a blessing that meant we could get some grocery shopping done, just when we needed to
400) my little guy, happily helping me prepare dinner, chatting in his own quirky manner while he worked alongside me
401) chatting to my sister via instant messaging today, her saying we are in her prayers and me being glad to hear her news...

Friday, April 20, 2012

En plein air

Last week we enjoyed a morning outdoors as K needed to complete an art project. 
It was a perfect autumn morning, in fact rather hot! 
The project was a study on an Impressionist artist of her choice, the theme being "capturing the light". 
She chose Monet, who advocated en plein air the open air.

When Z was not sitting in the shade, listening to me read from his current history book or examining lady bugs, he was the perfect artist's assistant...

He sheltered her from the hot sun, fetched refreshments from his Oma's house
and had a little fun swinging on the willow tree which no longer seems to be able to support his weight!

She enjoyed her time working outdoors but will be more careful next time to choose a shadier spot.

She also had to research Monet and copy one of his mature works of art. 
I loved seeing her face light up as she relayed to me all she had learned. She remembered various significant dates in his life time with ease and was amazed at herself being able to recall them....
a perfect example of delight directed learning!

She chose "Woman with a Parasol" as her work to copy. 

Cultural Exchange - first parcel arrives!

Just as we were sending our parcels off today.... we collected our first parcel from the post office!
 Great excitement took over as we slowly took things out of the package one by one...
As you see by the flag, it was from the UK.
 There was a letter with typically British images around the border, a lovely touch!
Inside the parcel we found the following:
* A cute bag with London tourist attractions printed on it (shown in the middle of the photo at the top)
* A selection of British stamps
* Some British coins
* A cute red postbox sharpener (centre of the photo)
* A premix spice pack to make traditional cottage pie
* A variety of English tea bags
* Recipe for traditional English scones
* Crowns to decorate and have "tea with the queen"
* A selection of pictures and a referral to a website for more

The children were thrilled and could not decide on who would like to claim the sharpener...
I decided we will wait and see what comes in our other parcels and then share out the items as fairly as possible. We plan on spending a day really enjoying perusing the website, finding out more about the UK, making scones and drinking tea, and the children will make the cottage pie. It is going to be great fun! 
We are so thankful to have been part of this great idea!
Thank you Little Red Farm!
Please see the link below if you would like to sign up too!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cultural Exchange

We have been back at school for a week or two now. As always, things have been busy and the kids have had a few extra projects on the go.....
The Cultural Exchange by Little Red Farm, being one that has been plenty of fun and taken plenty of time!
The exchange aims to share information with a group of other families around the world  about the country in which we live. They get a feel for our country and culture, and we get a feel for theirs....
A different way of learning about other places and the added anticipation of receiving a package from another country makes it really exciting!

So here is what we are sending out to USA, UK, Spain and Canada.....

During read aloud time, K has been busy making these cute, colourful felt elephants to put into each pack. I love her creativity and choice of colours. When putting the packs together, she chose which elephant was going to which country.

My sweet sister suggested adding a recipe from SA, so we chose Bobotie, a good old South African traditional recipe. This afternoon K helped me to make up the spice packs to go with the recipes; one for the mince mixture and one for the yellow rice with raisins that is usually eaten with Bobotie.

We included a number of pamphlets about Cape Town in the packages so that the recipients would get a good idea of what is on offer in our beautiful city. Some of the pamphlets had colourful maps of the Western Cape and some had maps of South Africa.There were plenty of pictures of the Big 5 too. 
For the little kids, we added colouring pages of the Big 5, the Guinea Fowl (along with some feathers), a porcupine (with a quill) and lastly the Blue Crane, our national bird. I was thrilled to find some Jelly tots in the shape of  the Big 5, so each pack received one of those too.

We found enough Tiger's Eye stones amongst our collection to send each family a stone along with the following information: Southern Africa is often considered the “gemstone capital of the world” as almost half of the world’s gemstones are found in this part of the world. Tiger’s Eye is a variant of quartz. This gemstone can be found mainly in South Africa; however, Tiger’s Eye is also known to form in smaller quantities in Canada, China, Brazil, the USA, India and Burma.

Each family will be receiving a few rooibos tea bags along with the following info:
 Rooibos is Afrikaans for “red bush” and is a member of South Africa’s Fynbos “fine bush”.  Rooibos is grown only in a small area in the region of the Western Cape province of South Africa. In South Africa it is common to prepare rooibos tea in the same manner as black tea, and add milk and sugar to taste. Other methods include a slice of lemon and using honey instead of sugar to sweeten. We love our Rooibos Tea!

We added some copper coins with a blurb on our currency as well as some beautiful
 Zulu bead work with added info...
The KwaZulu/Natal province of South Africa is internationally renowned for its colourful Zulu bead work. Traditional color combinations and patterns can still be found, but modern Zulu bead work is evolving towards more contemporary styles. More than simply decorative weavings of intricate bead patterns, the bead work has often been used as a means of communication between genders, conveying messages of both courtship and warnings.
The visual art of this feminine craft relates directly in one way or another to attracting a mate and marriage. Males are the traditional clients and purchasers and receivers of these bead-works, and they wear them to show involvement with women whom they are courting.
The geometric figures incorporate color-coded symbols which portray certain values. The three ways of determining a design are through the combination and arrangement of colors, the use and nature of an object, and the deliberate breaking of rules which guide these factors. The Zulu bead work serves as both a social function, and also has political connotations, proudly displaying certain regional colours.

We sent information on the South African Flag and a sand art SA flag for some creative fun, as well as a little history on the Cape and a sea creature of their own to grow.

The 2 younger children each wrote a little note about themselves to add to the pack and then the work began...thankfully many hands make light work and we got the packages all ready for send off tomorrow. We know that one of our packages has already been mailed to us...we wait in anticipation and will be sure to let you know when it arrives!

Culture Swapper

Monday, April 16, 2012

April Joy Dare Week 2

So I keep counting and seeking each day, something big or small......
even in the more difficult times, the smallest of things to give thanks for,
 brings some happiness and joy.

Day 10
( gifts opened up)
345) His word, this morning, together as a family
346) beautiful new flowers opened up on my grannadilla vine today....I thought there would be no more
347) a package of cereal to test from Home Tester Club today
348) another box today from Home Tester for my neighbour...opened up to reveal 150 samples of Robertson's spice paste! Of course he shared some with us too!

Day 11
( gifts my own)
349) wow...more samples from a friend who got kitty food from the Home Tester Club
350) my not so well teen son lying on the couch, all wrapped in a blanket and resting his feet on my lap,
as I read aloud
351) watching my daughter re create one of Monet's works...she is blessed, art comes naturally to her
352) an autumn afternoon walk with my neighbour and our boys that needed to run in wide open spaces
353) 4 packets of hot cross buns sent by one of my daughter's friends...will enjoy some at breakfast!
354) hubby coming in from a day's work

Day 12
(3 gifts worn)
355) my comfy takkies that have carried me far
356) a striped T shirt passed on by my cousin, but still good
357) smiles of happiness as the kids and I took school outdoors this and  reading in the field across the way from their Oma, who spoiled us with a basket of tea time treats
& more my own
358) my sweet, smiling little nephew crawling to me and wanting me to pick him up when I popped in there today...and then watching him play with chocolate pudding...covered in it from head to toe
359) would you believe...more samples of kitty food today from my sister in law!
360) a big pack of sausage from my mum in law, split up and ready for 4 meals!

Day 13
(a gift bright)
361) bright, happy faces of excited kids at the science centre for their lesson on steam turbine engines
& my own
362) catching up with other home educating moms & treated to a cuppachino by a friend while the kids enjoyed their lessons
363) thankful for the blessing of a long awaited weekend out of town with hubby...just the two of us on route 62....finally celebrating our 20 years of marriage, a month after the anniversary
364) walking around the little town on a perfect, warm and windless evening.... wandering through art galleries and enjoying chatting to the locals and admiring the varied architecture..... thatched roof cottages to the grand church in the centre of the little town

Day 14
(my own)
365) knowing the children are in good hands and having fun back home
366) enjoying browsing the town market and admiring the crafts on display
367) swimming in the hot springs
368) seeing hubby relaxing with a good book and being able to do the agenda and no demands

Day 15
(my own)

369) a leisurely drive home again...majestic mountains, vineyards and colourful flowers lining the roads....good for the soul
370) arriving home safely and seeing our 3...wonderful to see them again
371) after the lovely weekend, not needing to cook as friends invited us to dinner...delicious lasagna, laughter and friendship

Day 16
(3 hard eucharisteos)
372) thankful my sister and her family were kept safe when they were robbed in the night...
hard they are so far away
373) not knowing what tomorrow brings...but trusting in His goodness
374) juggling it all: 3 children at different levels (and different types of learners) needing my input during school time and with life's challenges, trying to keep house and provide healthy meals, bringing in what I can where I can ...hard and messy at times, but thankful to be here with them
some not hard
375) thankful for a delicious gift of fresh fruits from my daughter's sweet friend
376) orders that came in today
377) complimentary movie tickets so hubby and I could join friends at a movie

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Autumn afternoon amble

With school starting up this week, it was a pleasure to escape to the great outdoors 
for an afternoon amble with a friend.
We have been enjoying the most beautiful Cape Autumn weather...
 Seasonal changes are creeping in as mornings are cooler and darker for longer.
The sun departs earlier in the evenings, fooling one into thinking it is far later than it really is.
 Blankets, jerseys, slippers and gowns are making their way out of the cupboards...
Perhaps soon it will be time to light a fire.

Red, brown, orange and yellow leaves are falling. 

Our boys made the most of the hour outdoors...
Vines made perfect Tarzan ropes.

The filtered afternoon sunlight cast dappled shadows on the path.

There was lots to discover...
"helicopter seeds", fungi, squirrels scampering through the long grass, 
honeycomb from a deserted hive,
hollow trees, ferns and bamboo along the muddy river's edge...

Just what the doctor ordered!

Monday, April 9, 2012

April Joy Dare Week 1

Day 3
(3 gifts surprisingly found)
320) the librarian surprisingly found that book ( that had been missing "forever") was actually returned by us on the due date, and taken out by someone else... and so the fine was no longer due
321) 10kg of dog food in my kitchen when I came in this evening.... a blessing.... delivered by my dad
322) shoes my daughter needed, just the right price, size and colour...usually it takes a number of trips to the shops to find the right shoes for her...and she was able to buy them for herself with her own money!

Day 4
(3 gifts in His word)
323) "You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power." Psalm 139: 5
324) " If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the furthest place in the west, you would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me." Psalm 139: 9-10
325) " The Lord is righteous in ALL He does, merciful in ALL His acts. He is near to those who call to Him with sincerity." Psalm 145: 17-18

Day 5
(3 gifts @ 11am, 2pm and 6pm)
326) bumping into my sister in law at the mall and going back to her place for an unexpected visit
327) air con, cooling us down in the car on this scorching hot day
329) friends and neighbours having a bring and share braai on this beautiful evening...sitting out under the stars until late

Day 6
(my own)
330) going to church this morning...remembering what He did for us on this Good Friday
331) tasty lamb, a blessing from my sister and her husband, shared today in celebration with friends who just got engaged
332) another neighbourhood gathering..all sharing our leftovers and having dinner together

Day 7
(3 gifts waited for)
333) our three healthy children...memories of waiting 9 months for each and being truly blessed on their birthdays with healthy babies
334) this break from school, much needed before heading into the new term
335) waited for a late lunch today at special friends...worth the wait for the delicious meal enjoyed together

Day 8
(2 gifts rising up)
336) thankful that He is risen
337) prayers with the family this Easter morning
& my own
338) a thankful heart for a special day...wonderful Easter breakfast spent with hubby's parents and then pizza party with special friends, celebrating their engagement again

Day 9
(a gift hiding, held and heard)
339) hiding away in my room for a much needed nap at the end of a long, fun filled weekend
340) holding my bouncy little nephew as he played "jumpy jumpy up and down" on my lap for a few minutes this afternoon
341) hearing my sisters voice on the phone this evening, enjoying catching up on her news
& more my own
342) my dad popping in for coffee and a chat this morning...means so much to me
343) hubby making dinner tonight, blessing me by taking over that responsibility as I am just so tired
344) unplanned visit to the shop today before early closing time due to the holiday, and being able to take advantage of some really good prices before they are no longer valid tomorrow!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Yes, the Ultimate Chocolate Experience!

Last week the younger kids, some friends, and I had the delightful pleasure of visiting Rococoa for the ultimate chocolate experience! It was a lovely surprise when we found out that we knew the owner.
To begin with....

 there was chocolate face painting!

Followed by a tour by a passionate chocolatier, who relayed the history of chocolate....

It was interesting to discover that the first chocolate making workshops were established 
in the Netherlands in the 1580s and then in 1815,
a chocolate factory, Van Houten, was founded in the Netherlands.
In 1828, Van Houten patented the first chocolate powder.
(a little bit of Dutch History for our half Dutch children!)

We learned of the love, care and hard work that goes into growing these trees 
that produce this "food of the gods!"

Would you believe that the above photo depicts the inside of a cacao pod?
Pulp covered cacao seeds....
these are piled up under banana leaves to ferment,
causing chemical changes that alter the look and flavour of the seeds.
After about a week, the seeds turn dark brown and
 begin to taste a little like bitter, dark chocolate.

The seeds then need to dry for about a week, preventing them from going mouldy
 once they are packaged in bags for shipping. 
Our guide broke open one of these seeds for us to smell...
the aroma of chocolate was so intense, I felt like I had eaten a chocolate!

We learned how the seeds are roasted, winnowed to remove the hard outer shell,
and how the cacao bean "nibs" are collected for grinding and mixing, becoming a course brown dough called crumb. The chocolate crumb then needs refining and conching to produce a smooth,
well rounded and mellow flavour.

We had a peek into the past and the interesting utensils used in fine chocolate making.

We learned much that we didn't know about real chocolate!
We got to eat the finest chocolate from the chocolate fountain and learned about chocolate making.

Rococoa is an interesting place to visit.....
all sorts of amazing discoveries to be made and a definite must for chocolate lovers!

We got to make our own chocolate creations with edible chocolate "play-dough".

One can enjoy breakfast or lunch there too.

I enjoyed the best ever Venezuelan Hot Chocolate with chilli,
while the kids enjoyed chocolate milkshake and hot chocolate.

Have you had your chocolate today?