Sunday 22 June 2014

Some Dollies For Some Precious Little People

You might remember me mentioning my amazing friend Jo, cake decorating extraordinaire, and my lovely friend who taught me everything I know about cake decorating, runs an amazing cake business called The Cupcake Gallery, has written 2 self-published cake decorating books (they're amazing by the way) and a children's book.  She is definitely THE most creative person I know.  

Well, almost 2 years ago she and her husband moved themselves and their 3 kids (who were 5 and under at the time) to Malawi in Africa where they work as missionaries among the local people.  Amazing huh!!  I still gasp at the thought of packing up a whole family to move to another country where the language is foreign, water and electricity very unreliable and with no one familiar around.  Amazing faith is all I can think of that would make someone do that.

Through the miracle of today's technology (Facebook, email, text messaging), I've been able to keep totally up to date with Jo and her family and see first hand what they've been doing ... and let me tell you, they've been busy.  While Jo's husband works in local and regional youth ministry, they have also managed to get a grasp on the local language, get involved in their kid's school and start up a fortnightly Kids Bible Club at their home, where they often get more than 100 local children attending.  They've also started up a "Garage Friday" at their home and they welcome any local kids who want to come and have help with homework, play, draw or just generally hang out.   So a couple of months ago, Jo put a call out for some help with supplying some handmade dollies for the little girls to play with during their time at Jo's house.  I think it took me all of about a millisecond to respond and raise my hand.  Who could say no to supporting this beautiful family and the precious kids they're working with, but when it involves sewing too ... I'm there!!
And here's what I made.  3 of these gorgeous little ones using the free pattern from Girl. Inspired. which I've made a few times before, and which I really love.  It's a great sized doll, and super soft and cuddly.  Hannah loves the one I made for her last year and still takes it to bed with her every night.

Oh, and about a millisecond after I volunteered, my Mum (aka Nanna) was on the phone to me saying that she'd love to send over some of her knitted dolls too.  She made these beauties ... aren't they cute.  She used the Duduza Doll Knitting Pattern.  My mum has knitted a tonne of these over the past year or so to donate to kids in need, and they are just adorable.

So we got our dolls together and sent them off with plenty of love attached, hoping they would get there OK.  I was so super excited when Jo contacted me via Facebook just a few days ago (you might have seen her post on the What's Mummy Up To facebook page) to say that not only had they arrived, but that the little girls had been excited to play with them.  
She even sent me this gorgeous pic of the girls putting the dollies to "bed".  Oh, aren't they the most beautiful little kids.  Look at those smiles ... it's enough to melt this Mummy's heart!
Another project Jo has been working her tail off on lately has been a new idea she's had for helping the local women learn to sew.  Jo has found that many of the local women are lacking skills that they can use to help support their families financially.  She's found that if they were to develop a skill such as sewing, they could help to support their families by making even a small amount of income.  Jo has spent days, weeks and many sleepless nights sewing beautiful goods lately to sell at a market store to ex-pats and visitors, and has raised enough money to buy a few treadle and hand-cranked sewing machines (they have to be manual machines, as many of these women do not have electricity at home).   
And aren't they just the most stunning machines.  Jo has found a space in her home to set these machines up and has already started giving lessons to some local women.
Anyway, in case you might want to learn a little more about what Jo and her family are doing, or if you would like to help, follow this link to their website.  And if you'd like to make some dollies to send to Jo, it would be so appreciated.  You can send them to: Kids Bible Club, SIM Malawi, PO Box 136, Blantyre, Malawi, AFRICA.
Jo's photos have been used in this post with her permission.

Make It and Love It

Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom

Sunday 8 June 2014

Recipe: Winter Perfect Pumpkin Soup

Each spring we plant a little vegie patch in a purpose-built garden bed in our back yard.  I just love my vegie patch ... it's great education for the munchkins, a great outside activity for them with the weeding, preparing, planting, watering and then harvesting and it's such an achievement to grow something yourself that can then be fed to the family.  While we're by no means self-sufficient on the vegie front, it is nice to think that at least for one season of the year our vegie supply is well-supplemented from our own garden.  Here's a little bit of what we picked from our garden last summer.

Anyway, each year we seem to have one type of veg that does better than everything else.  Last year was definitely the yellow zucchinis ... check out this whopper that Bethany picked.  It weighed over 3kg!

This year, it's been the season for pumpkins.  Thankfully most of our vegie crops have now finished for the season, because Mr Pumpkin has decided to take over the whole garden, and our investment into 1 tiny pumpkin seedling has now multiplied into about 20 or maybe more pumpkins, at different stages of readiness. And with winter here and the weather cooling significantly over this last week, what else to do with pumpkins than to make Pumpkin Soup.

My soup recipe is based (albeit loosely) on the soup I've watched my Mum make as long as I can remember.  Here's how I do it:

Ingredients: (Serves 4-6, depending on how big-a-bowl you eat!!)
- 1 fresh pumpkin - any variety will work.  My pumpkin was about 10" in diameter.  If yours is much bigger than that, maybe add an extra stock cube for a bit of extra flavour.
- 1 tsp (small dash) olive oil
- 1 onion
- 2 chicken stock cubes (salt reduced) or 2 cups of liquid stock if you prefer that
- 1-2 cups of skim milk
- Ricotta Cheese / Sour Cream / Labna to serve

1.  Roughly dice your onion and place it in a large saucepan with a dash of olive oil and fry it off quickly, just until the onion becomes transparent.

2. Remove the skin and seeds from your pumpkin and cut into an even dice, then add it to your saucepan with the onion.  I cut mine in about a 1 inch dice ... it cooks nice and quickly.

3.  Add some water, until it just starts to cover the pumpkin like this, then also add 2 salt-reduced stock-cubes (If you prefer liquid stock, just use 2 cups of liquid stock, then top up with water until there is enough liquid to almost cover the pumpkin).

4.  Place the pot over high heat until the water starts to boil, then put the lid on, turn down to medium heat and cook for about 20-30 minutes until the pumpkin is nice and soft.
 It will start to break down a little and look something like this once it's cooked.

5.  Remove the pot from the heat and allow the soup to cool for about 5-10 minutes,  then blend until it's smooth.
 I like to use a stick-blender, but if you don't have one, a regular blender will work fine.  You might need to blend it in batches to avoid an overflow!

6.  Then add your milk, and mix well until the milk is completely combined.  You can adjust the milk quantity based on how thick or runny you like your soup.  I like mine reasonably thick!

7.  Now to decide how to serve it ... take your pick from some sour cream, ricotta cheese or my new favourite, some labna.  Daddy and I had a recent weekend away to celebrate our 10-year anniversary.  We went to the Hunter Valley, a beautiful wine region of NSW, and we came across this amazing Labna at a local cheese producer.  'Yum' doesn't even cover it ... it was so good ... yep, WAS ... it didn't last long in our house!

Anyway, to serve, heat the soup for a few minutes over low heat (don't let it boil) then ladle it into a bowl and top with your topping-pick and a sprinkle of freshly chopped chives.  A crusty bread-roll or a generous slice of sour-dough bread really completes this too!

Yum ... I might just pick another pumpkin and get another batch of this loveliness underway!  Oh, and this soup freezes fantastically well.  I love to freeze it in single portions, then simply heat it on the stove or even in the microwave for a quick, yummy and healthy winter-warmer lunch.

Hope you enjoy!!