Operation Christmas Child

Note: Not a sponsored post.

I have knitted beanies and hats for my little family over the last few years. They have worn them once, maybe twice and then the articles have ended up in the ‘never to wear again’ box. I still have quite a bit of yarn left and last week I picked up blue and white and declared I would knit my husband a scarf. He does not like blue. It is the colour of the rival states Rugby League team. He told he would wear it at least once. I took the scarf off the loom. That is when I decided, I would knit for Operation Christmas Child.

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The Scarf

Every year the Craft Club women at church knit little beanies and toys to put in the shoeboxes. They display their items on the table and whoever wants it can take it. This year, I will be making my own. Considering the boxes get collected in October, I have time.

children stacking boxes at church in 2013

children stacking boxes at church in 2013

So what is Operation Christmas Child? It is the brainchild of a charity organisation called Samaritan’s Purse. They put out a call every year for people to collect items for children that would fit in a shoebox and drop it off or send it to one of the collection points. These boxes are then taken over to be given to thousands of children who would otherwise not receive a Christmas present.

There is a definite guide to how you pack the box. Follow this link to the Australian site for a .pdf file for ideas. There is a request to include a processing fee for the boxes. In Australia, it is $9 and I believe in the US, it is $7. Samaritan’s Purse, however, often receive boxes without any money in it and they still send those boxes to the children. They have to recover the cost through their normal donations.

Operation Christmas Child Australia & New Zealand

Operation Christmas Child USA

Operation Christmas Child UK

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Review: There’s a Wocket in My Pocket

Book Cover

Book Cover

 

It sounds weird when you here kids start talking and they mispronounce words. My little Miss 2 calls Milk – nilky. It bugs me when I hear her but I know now that I can’t push her. She will learn the right sound as long as I say the right sound.

There’s a Wocket in Pocket is all about mispronounced words to make then rhyme with a right word. In this context, it’s actually fun. The story is about a little boy who has all sorts of creatures living in his house. There is Nooth Grush on the tooth brush, a ghair beneath the stair, a vug under the rug and a Zillow on his pillow. The little boy finishes the story with “I hope we never leave it” indicating he actually loves his house as is with all the creatures in it.

Noothgrush

Noothgrush

We received this book as a present from Mom for my 2 year old. She enjoyed hearing about the different creatures and the rhyming style so traditional to Dr Seuss was an attention grabber. Now a days there are so much other than just reading books available for this title. Little ones would enjoy the associated activities as well.

Book Review: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?

Brown Bear Book Cover

Book Cover

 

Eric Carle is very famous for writing the Very Hungry Caterpillar. Many children love the book. It is one our favourites too. However, my 2 year old is more into, maybe a lesser known, Brown Bear. Eric Carle did the drawings so it looks rough like the Very Hungry Caterpillar and Bill Martin Jnr. wrote it.

It is not a story per say. The text is repetitive, ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see, I see a red bird looking at me. Red bird, red bird what do you see….” It is this repetitive style as well as the fact we sing it, has my daughter hooked on to it. While she cannot read, she is definitely having fun, putting in her own characters in places.

Brown Bear Last Page, all characters

Brown Bear Last Page, all characters

It is also an introduction to colours. Each character in the book has a colour. Some do not make sense like a blue horse or a purple cat but it is a children’s book, I am not bothered about right colour, gender, or anything like that.

I highly recommend Brown Bear to anybody looking for a book for children. For younger children, maybe a board book version like ours.

Read To Me

We often have people marvelling at how well our daughter reads. Now I am not beating my own drum, but she can read very well for a 6 year old. Her current obsession is Daisy Meadows’ Rainbow Magic. It is much easier for us when people ask what she would like as a present to ask them to get her a book. She declared her fairy books the best present ever at Christmas and ran all around the house squealing because my Mom had sent her Layla the Candyfloss Fairy in mail for her birthday. I sometimes wonder if it is right, whether we should be putting some kind of restriction. Then I remember my Papa’s words – “People can take everything from you but the can never take your knowledge.” He had only attended a few years of primary school.

Layla The Candyfloss Fairy

Layla The Candyfloss Fairy

People ask us, how we taught our daughter to read so well. Now this is where I hit a speed bump. Did I teach her to read? I do not remember sitting with her and teaching her sounds. I do remember picking a few easy words such as ‘and’, ‘you’, ‘if’ and ‘the’ on the whiteboard for her to see every day. That lasted a couple of weeks and we stopped because she could read more than that.

As early as I can remember, and that was even before we decided to have children, I started collecting some books, ones I remembered from my childhood. When my daughter was born, we would read to her. The first readings were from the Bible. We did our daily devotion and prayed while I fed her before putting her down for the night. As she grew older and started touching and flicking pages, we bought some board books for her. Her favourite were Sesame Street Beginnings library. She found it very fascinating to touch and do things with the books.

Sesame Street Beginning First Reader Set

Sesame Street Beginning First Reader Set

Once iPad made an entry into the market, we downloaded some Read-To-Me books for her. The very first one was Toy Story. At that time, there were just the four books – all of the Toy Story ones and Disney’s Princess and the Frog. I also downloaded and App called Preschool: 15 in 1. There was not much learning happening in there. There is section that has animal sounds and that is all she played J

When she was 2.5 years old, I tried to introduce ABC Reading Eggs. It was all on the computer and she could not understand much so she was not interested then, however, 6 months later, her childcare introduced the program and she wanted in on it at home as well. I subscribed to it and downloaded a free App from them as well. To make it easier for her, we bought a laptop as well. Though she has become bored of the program now, as far as reading goes, that was the beginning and she has never looked back. We are now at a point where Library trips may become fortnightly rather than monthly. She has become an insatiable pit.

Part of my 6yr old's collection

Part of my 6yr old’s collection

So here are some tips for reading:

Note: These are not endorsed by anybody or advertisements; these are what worked for us.

  1. Try to read to your babies even if it is newspaper, a work article, or a religious text.
  2. Do not push them. Let them lead, be the driver.
  3. Give them books. Babies would love board books. It is easier for them to turn over hard board pages then thin paper pages. If that book has something to touch, feel or play with, it’s even better
  4. When you are reading to them, vary your tone. Even you, as adults, would get bored and be disinterested if somebody read to you in a monotone.
  5. Keep the reading short to keep them interested. If there is a ‘what happens next’ then they will want to read it tomorrow to find out what happens next.
  6. ABC Reading Eggs has a free trial. Give it a go. The children can play with an avatar. They will need golden eggs for that and the only way to earn golden eggs is to do the activities.
  7. Look for Apps as well. ABC Reading Eggs has some free Apps and there are some free read-to-me books too.
  8. Make use of your local libraries. We are fortunate that our council has a very good children’s section in the library with play areas to entertain them and a relaxed environment to read to them or for children to sit and read themselves. Libraries also have children and babies reading sessions. Check with your local library for times.

Iggle Piggle Cake

Iggle Piggle Cake

Iggle Piggle Cake

Iggle Piggle is a character in BBC children’s show called ‘In the Night Garden’. The last ‘new’ episode aired in 2011 however abc4kids has been running reruns for a while.

My younger Miss G, loves the show and has taken over her sister’s Iggle Piggle rag doll to sleep with. For her 2nd Birthday, I had originally decided to make a simple butterfly cake, however, after seeing a book – ABC Book of children’s cake, I was inspired to try Iggle Piggle. I did not buy the book. There are numerous Iggle Piggle cakes on the internet. Different shapes, 2D, 3D, flat, sitting up or just cake toppers. I decided on a flat, semi 3D cake, an Iggle Piggle laying on his back.

Cake used is my white chocolate mud cake. The pan is a rectangle non stick 37cm x 26cm (approx 14.5in x 10.2in) roasting pan which I use for my bigger cakes. I searched for an Iggle Piggle image that I liked as template. I downloaded this image from coloring-book. I printed on a larger scale then cut the pieces and added an extra 1cm (approx 0.39in) when cutting the cake.

Iggle Piggle Template

Iggle Piggle Template

I cut out each body part so in the end I had 6 pieces to stick together. I covered the cake in white chocolate ganache and then covered the cake in fondant. Iggle Piggle requires 2 shades of blue for his body, red for his blanket and the three tops on his head, some white for his eyes and a bit of black for his eyes and mouth. Keeping the ganache on without chilling the cake was hard. It feels like we have had constant heat wave since December, 2014.

Iggle Piggle Almost Done

Iggle Piggle Almost Done

Though my toddler loved her Iggle Piggle, there was a look of horror on her face when I cut a piece and gave her, her beloved Iggle Piggle to eat.

Smurf Garden Cake

Smurf Gaden Cake

Smurf Gaden Cake

This is one of my birthday cakes that my husband made in 2013. I have been going through my pictures I had put aside for blogging and this came up. We had fun making this cake. He is not a decorator. He can bake. The decorating is normally passed on to me.

I asked for a Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese boiled icing. Now, one of my earlier posts has a Red Velvet Cheesecake and the recipe calls for 1/4 cup red food colour. This recipe relies mostly on the reaction between baking soda (bi carb) and cocoa powder and only requires 6 drops of colour. The book has a Beet Red Velvet Cake variation where beetroot is required instead of food colour.

The cake recipe is from A World of Cake by Krystina Castella. We tried to make the Cream Cheese boiled icing but the mixture split so we used chocolate frosting from Betty Crocker.

Red Velvet Cake as shown in the recipe book

Red Velvet Cake as shown in the recipe book

Some of the toys are from McDonalds Happy meal that could be bought separately for $2 each. The green grass is grated Wilton’s green melts. The logs all round are Cadbury Flake. The smaller smurf is standing on a Cadbury Crispello. The mushrooms and the scattered green leaves are made of marshmallow fondant.

Papa Smurf

Papa Smurf

Vexy

Vexy

The cake was delicious. My girls loved it.

Double Chocolate Cheesecake with Strawberries

Pick your Own - Strawberries

Pick your Own – Strawberries

Strawberry season starts in Queensland in May and goes on until October. From about late June – early July, some of the farms start offering Pick Your Own or PYO. Members of the public visit the actual strawberry patch and go throw the plants and pick the berries. It is a fun experience, especially for the little members of the public. Strawberry ice-cream at the end of the trip was a consolation for ours.

Strawberry field

Strawberry field

Strawberries

Strawberries

Last year (2013), we visited near the end of the season. There was still plenty of fruits on the ground hugging shrubs. We went to Berry Patch at Chambers Flat. The fruits were warmed up by the sun and delicious. I have not seen such big fruits in the supermarket. I realised, after we put leftover ones in the fridge, they shrink.

We did not want ours to go bad so we decided to make a cheesecake, one that we had seen a few months back and had been thinking of making.

The cheesecake recipe for Triple Chocolate Cheesecake was published in Better Homes and Garden Australia’s April 2013 magazine. It was the first western cheesecake that I came across that was baked in a bain-marie. Previously, I had only come across this technique in Japanese cheesecake making. It gives a more even cooking and the cake does not dry and develop cracks like some baked cheesecakes are prone to do.

We made a few changes to ours to use the strawberries.

Instead of using the last layer of chocolate ganache as frosting, we cut thin slices of the fresh strawberries and spread them on the baked cake. We then made some strawberry flavoured jelly and poured it over the strawberries. I thought it tasted good so did the church the next day.

Strawberry Cheesecake

Strawberry Cheesecake

Here is our adjusted recipe, adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Australia, April 2013

Ingredients

Cooking oil spray, for greasing
375g butternut biscuits
60g dark cocoa powder
125g unsalted butter, melted
1 eggwhite
500g cream cheese
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
2 Tbsp cornflour
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
300g sour cream
200g white chocolate, melted, cooled
1 punnet strawberries
1 packet of strawberry jelly mix

Method

1. Preheat oven to 150°C. Grease a 22cm springform cake tin with cooking oil spray, then line base and side with baking paper. Put biscuits and cocoa in a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add butter and eggwhite and pulse until combined.

2. Press biscuit mixture into base and up side of prepared tin. Put in freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.

3. Put cream cheese, sugar, eggs, cornflour and vanilla extract in a food processor and pulse until smooth, scraping down side of bowl several times. Add sour cream and process for 30 seconds. Add white chocolate and process for 2 minutes or until smooth.

4. Pour white chocolate mixture into tin. Wrap outside of the tin with 2 layers of aluminum foil. Secure the foil. Put tin in a baking dish and fill with water to come halfway up sides of tin. Bake for 1 hour. Remove tin from water bath. Set cheesecake aside in tin to cool completely.

5. Cut thin slices of the strawberries then arrange them on top of the cake.

6. Mix the jelly according to the instructions on the packet with half a cup less water. Cool down then pour over the cake. Put the cake in the fridge for the jelly to set.