Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Oats for a Warm Wintery Morning

We love oats and porridge at our place.  On those slower weekend mornings when we have some extra time, the girls love to climb onto their little step-stools in the kitchen and help me measure out the oats, water and milk, then stir, stir, stir on the stove until the steamy warm porridge is ready to go.   And there really is nothing better than warm oats on a chilly winter morning, huh!  I love my oats plain, but I think the favourite part for my girls is adding the extra flavours.  Bethany loves to add a sprinkling of brown sugar to her porridge (and a little extra straight into her mouth when Mummy's not looking .... or so she thinks!), and Hannah absolutely adores a dollop of raspberry jam.  In fact, it's funny to watch her as she dollops on her jam then dips straight back in with her spoon to lift the entire dollop straight into her mouth ... apparently it's much better that way and there's certainly no need to mix it in!  Funny girl!

So when I was asked if I'd like to try some of the Uncle Tobys Oats Quick Sachets it was an easy yes for me.  I have always used my traditional porridge recipe before now, and haven't ever bought these sachets, but I can tell you I now totally see the appeal.  It is just so quick and mess free to make.  Just use a cereal bowl (microwave safe), tip your sachet in, fill the sachet to the line with milk/water, then mix that in to your dry mixture.  Heat on high in the microwave for 90 seconds (my microwave must be a little stronger I think, 'cause we only needed about 75 seconds), mix an extra dash of milk to cool it down a little and mix it to make the oats super smooth and you're done.  It's just as quick as cereal or toast would be on school mornings and still gives that feeling of warm deliciousness in your tummy on the super cold mornings like the ones we've had recently.  Oh, and did I mention the line on the pack that you measure your milk with? ... how ingenious is that!!!  You don't even need to dirty a measuring cup.  I'm loving the nothing-extra-to-wash-ness about these oats.  
Each box comes with 12 .... yep, that's 12 sachets of porridge with a variety of flavours in each box ...   On this particular day we tried Apple and Honey, Triple Berry, Raspberry and Strawberry ... but my absolute favourite was the Apple and Cinnamon. 
I just can't go past that flavour combination.  And the girls are loving that they can pick a different flavour each time.  It keeps it interesting, and the bonus is that there are no artificial colours or flavours - you can see (and taste) yummy little pieces of dried fruit - and Uncle Tobys have always been known for their great quality wholegrain oats.
When I was doing my grocery shopping today, my local Woolies was selling these boxes with lots of different flavours and even a high fibre or multi-grain option for $5.  So compared to the prices of other breakfast cereals, and considering that this is for 12 hot tummy-fulls, I think it's pretty good value.  And it's definitely better for the family than many of those sugary cereals anyway.  We've managed to totally avoid "those" cereals with our kids so far, and I love that they get excited about healthier breakfast options like oats. 
So, I'm seeing many more oat breakfasts in our future ... and now that we have this quick and mess free option, we can enjoy this on our busy school mornings too...
...and maybe even for a snack at other times of the day too ... Ha ha - yep! When these arrived at our house the girls were so super-excited they just had to try one straight away ... for afternoon-tea.  Is that terrible??  Well in our defence, it was a bitterly freezing cold afternoon and I have to admit that I sat down to a bowl of afternoon-tea oats with them.  Yum, and oh so cosy.  We slipped into our PJ's, snuggled under a blanket on the couch with a Tinkerbelle movie, and enjoyed a special oaty treat together.  Just love those moments with my girls, and I'm soaking up as many of those moments as I can before the idea of snuggling with Mummy to watch a movie is no longer cool ... know what I mean?

Oh, and yes, I was provided with these Uncle Tobys sachets in return for my review, but all opinions are my own.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Tutorial: Frozen-inspired tops

"Let it go, let it go, can't hold it back anymore".....  Yep, like everyone with little girls (and boys too I'm told) our house was overun by the recent Frozen movie frenzy.  I actually really like the movie (at least I did like it the first 35 times I watched it!), and it was a lovely excuse in the Christmas school holidays to have a girly date with my two little munchkins, and for Hannah to experience her first trip to the movies.  We had a lovely date ... got dolled up in dresses, caught a mid-morning movie, then had a lovely girly sushi-train lunch.  Too much fun!

Then came the waiting ... you know, the waiting for the movie to come out on DVD.  We were given the soundtrack so we had the songs firmly under our belt, and Bethany requested a frozen-themed birthday in March, so I came up with a very basic frozen-themed cake for her.
Then we watched as the merchandise came into the stores.  Personally, I've never really been a fan of licenced clothing, so I've managed to avoid any of the Frozen licenced clothing so far.  But having said that, with girls that are such huge fans of this movie, it is exciting for them to wear something associated with their movie-crush.  So I thought I'd have a go at making them some frozen-inspired embellished T-shirts ... you know, frozen-ish, obvious enough for the girls to be excited by them, but not too obvious for Mummy.  And here's What Mummy's Been Up To ...  
The first one I made was Hannah's.  I had this white shop-bought cotton doily left over from another project, and I thought it was totally snow-flake-esque.  
So here's what I did:

I grabbed a store-bought T-shirt in this lovely blue-green-aqua, my cotton doily, some clear and sparkly beads (which I secretly snatched from Bethany's beading kit ... seriously, she'll never miss them!) ... 
... and a cute sparkly button like this ...

Then I carefully laid the doily in the centre of the T-shirt, and pinned it around the edge.  I used lots of pins, one on each point and mid-point to make sure it stayed still while sewing.  I could have used some iron-on adhesive, but didn't want this to show through from behind the doily.
I then set my machine to a small zig-zag, and carefully and very slowly stitched around the edge of the snowflake, attaching it to the front of the shirt.
I then placed the beads between each of the points of the snowflake, and hand-sewed them in place, carefully knotting the threads at the back to ensure they are tightly attached.  I also sewed the sparkly button to the centre.
And the result ... Hannah loves her Frozen Shirt, even if she was a little hesitant to let Daddy snap a good picture at our recent weekend away at the beach ... and I really like the effect of it.  
And so, to be the nice, fair Mummy that I am try to be, I just had to make Bethany a frozen shirt too.  And in my classic matching-but-not way, I decided I'd do hers a little different.

For Bethany's I decided to go with a smaller snowflake embellishment.  I still used the same store-bought T-shirt, and the same sparkly button for the centre, but I used some 8-ply cotton, and a 4mm crochet hook and made the little snowflake.  I used this pattern, available free online.  
Once crocheted, I used a hot steam iron to set it and flatten it a little more, before attaching it to the shirt in the same way as I did for Hannah's shirt, and hand sewed on the sparkly button.
And Bethany's pretty chuffed with her shirt too!
So, I call that a win-win, huh!  Cute frozen-themed blue, white snow-flakey and sparkly tops for the girls which are totally original, as well as being a fun and quick project for Mummy, and 2 happy munchkins! 
Now, I'm off to enjoy flicking through some more of Daddy's amazing beach snaps.  Sunset at the beach really is the golden hour for photo lighting, huh.  We were at the beach for 3 nights, and had lovely beach-plays each evening in this amazing lighting.  You'd never guess it's the middle of winter!!

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.

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Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom