social spark Aisling Beatha: October 2011


Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy your stay, however short, and find something that interests and blesses you.

The tabs just below will take you to posts of particular topics. So if you are looking for my posts on food, fitness or creativity, you will find them there. You will also find my posts on thankfulness or other more contemplative posts, as well as a set of posts with traditional blessings from a number of different cultures.

You can find posts with labels not included in that list via the labels list over in the sidebar.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Romania Part 2

Yesterday I told you how I ended up going to Romania and shared some photos of the sewing classes that I ran while I was there.  The awesome thing about the classes and craft materials is that the ministry has two long term volunteers with them at the moment and one of them was a seamstress in one of the main opera houses in France before she came to the ministry.  I think the sewing classes will be safe in Clotilde's hands!

Today I want to show you a few photos from the Gypsy quarter and explain conditions a little.
Families in the gypsy quarter do have houses, but they are basic.  Thankfully, the ministry has been able to work with the families over the years they have been there, to build new houses, so they have gone from this:

to this:

or from this:

to this:

You can see the difference this is making.  The houses are basic, do not have running water, there is a communal well in the gypsy quarter and the homes have outdoor latrine pits.  They do have electricity and I was amazed at how nice some of the homes were despite their tough circumstances.

Talmid ministries provide clothes and food packages where necessary as well as providing a sponsorship scheme that allows the children to go to school.  Schooling in Romania is officially free, but the children once they reach secondary school have to travel on the school bus and this has to be paid for by parents.  This help does not stop when the children finish compulsory school age, and there is the opportunity to also sponsor young adults who wish to continue on to university.  The ministry also provides packages of materials for school, without which the children would not be able to complete their classes.

Here are some photos from some of the lighter moments of our trip, from turtle releasing to some delightful tourist spots.

The turtle had been given to the family but was actually a variety of turtle that is native to the waterways of Romania, so once it was healed up from some wounds, we took a trip out to release it.  

The little house where we stayed.

Rifka the husky.  Not at all scary but quite noisy!

One of the churches in Sibiu.  If you ever get the chance to go to Romania as a tourist, you really should go to the art museum in Sibiu, it's INCREDIBLE!

This was on our final day, back in Cluj Napoca.  Another must visit if you go to Romania as a tourist.  The Botanical Gardens.  Such a beautiful site, I could happily spend hours and hours there, with my journal and a pen!

Will I go back?  Maybe not, but I will continue to send craft materials that are needed for the classes.
Did I gain from this trip?  ABSOLUTELY.  I learnt a lot, about myself, about the way I react to situations, about what I can achieve and do that I never thought possible.  I also gained new depth to my relationship with God.  I am glad I went to Romania, and I hope that you have enjoyed hearing about my trip and seeing some of the photos.

Friday, October 28, 2011


At the end of August this year I travelled to Romania for 2 1/2 weeks.  There are lots of beautiful places to visit in Romania (and I shall give you tips for a couple to check out if ever you go at the end of this post) but I was not there or a holiday.  Neither was I there on business, although there were business men on our flight.  No I was there to teach and to help.

Over the last few years I have been putting photos of my sewing projects on facebook.  Shopping bags, handbags, microwave wheat bags and so on.  The church that I attend has links with a ministry in Romania that works mainly with the local Roma gypsy population, Talmid.  I have members of that ministry as friends on facebook and one of them suggested in passing that I come over to teach the gypsy women some projects that they would be able to sell.  I wasn't sure if she was serious or not at first, but it turned out she was and so a friend and I launched into a fundraising campaign which finally resulted in our trip, accompanied by a whole case full of craft supplies which we had also bought with the money raised.

YES, I literally filled that case and realised I could not fit that quilting ruler in it.  So I bought a bigger case which enabled me to take all the craft supplies, 3 folders of printed out projects for them to try after we had finished our trip AND some clothes.  Thankfully September in Romania is still quite warm so we needed no thick chunky clothes.

I do however have a CPAP machine due to Sleep apnoea and had to find space for that in my hand luggage.  We were flying with a budget airline so an extra bag would have cost us dearly.

We arrived in Cluj Napoca pretty much on schedule and had an adventurous drive crammed into the back of a car full of laughter and silliness on the way back to Romosel.

The following video is from the first walk around of someone else who visited the same project as us.

We settled in at our little home for 2 1/2 weeks and each day would walk from there to the house that the ministry is based at.  The weather was hot and dry.  I think it only rained once the whole time we were there and we only needed jackets on a handful of evenings.

We soon got to work sorting through the fabric that had been donated in recent shipments that the ministry regularly receive from other European nations.

From that we worked out what we would do in each of the 6 sewing classes we would be doing.  
Over the 6 classes, we made various fabric flowers, did some silk painting and made 2 different designs of bags.  We started with hand sewing and finished the 2nd week using 2 of the sewing machines that had also been donated.

Here are a few of my favourite photos from the classes:

The lady in the top photo only came to two of the classes but she was so lovely.  I told her (through our translator) that she could teach me to sew because she obviously knew a lot more than I did and she shrugged and told me no.  I don't believe her!

And that last photo is my favourite.  We were only allowing the girls 13 years or older to come into class once we had the sewing machines out and this girl was pleading with me to let her make something.  The look on my face, does not depict some of the hard moments of this trip but does depict the joy of teaching and being around those girls when they were focused and enjoying what they were doing and creating and learning.  

Come back tomorrow for more photos from the Gypsy quarter and the places we visited while we were in Romania

Thursday, October 20, 2011


This is the famous gingerbread.  The one I have been making for years and years.  It's a Mary Berry recipe but not the one that you might have seen online from a recent TV programme about baking.  This one is from one of her older books and is very similar to that recipe but not the same:

You can see from the spine that it has been well used over the years.  As my cookbook collection has grown there are not many recipes I cook from this book anymore, but this one STILL has a post it note marking the page!

Like I said I have been baking this gingerbread for years and there was one friend who would insist on her own personal portion to take home whenever I took it to events.  Sadly I rarely see her anymore, but Diane if you're reading this, now you can make your own!

First of all prepare your cake tin.  It should be 9" by 12" according to the recipe.  This is the closest I had.  Grease and line the tin.

Weigh 250g of butter or margarine into a saucepan.

Add 250g of dark muscovado sugar.  Now this is where my secret weapon in the battle of the gingerbreads comes in.  I use this wonderful stuff:

Now add 250g of treacle (molasses to my American friends).

OK, so I went over the 250g, but seriously I am NOT trying to get stuff back out of that gloopy mess.

Put that onto a low heat and stirring occasionally,

wait until it all comes together.

It will take a while, but you need to do it over a low heat because we just want to melt it all together, not get it too hot.

While that is melting, or while it is cooling get your other ingredients ready.
375g plain white flour (I think my American friends could use all purpose flour here)

Now I know the scales are reading higher than 375 in this picture but I promise you before I picked the camera up it was correct, maybe I moved the scales a bit and the number changed, I don't know!

To that add
5 tsp ground ginger and
2 tsp ground cinnamon

I did not have enough ground ginger, but don't worry, I am going to correct that with something else later.  Ideally though, I would stick to the recipe as I know it works!

You need to sieve those together.

Next you need two eggs.

Yes, I can count, yes I know there are 3 eggs in that mug.  I get my eggs from the son of a friend who keeps chickens and at the moment they are very mixed sizes.  You can see how tiny two of those yolks are.  I felt justified in using 3 of them today.

You need to beat the eggs.

Then you need 3 pieces of this wonderful stuff:

It is very sticky and truly the easiest way I have found for chopping it is to use a small plate, a fork and a small sharp knife.  You want to chop it fairly small but it does not need to be neat.

Finally you need
300ml of milk and 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda for my American friends)

When your butter, sugar, treacle mix has cooled slightly you can move on to the next stage.

First, you need to add the spice and flour mixture to the saucepan.

And mix until it is all combined.

Sometimes it will come away from the pan like this, sometimes not.  I think it must depend on how much you have cooled it.

Now you need to add the eggs and the stem ginger.  Remember how I said I would correct the lack of ground ginger earlier?  I just poured a little of the syrup straight from the jar of stem ginger into the pan.

You need to mix that until it is all combined and then move the pan to one side while you heat the milk.

When the milk is nice and warm, add the bicarb.  It should puff up like this:

Pour that into the other saucepan

where it will immediately look as if everything has gone wrong.

Do not panic, keep stirring and eventually it will all come together.

Pour that into the prepared cake tin and bake at 160c (325f)

for about 1 hour until well risen and springy to the touch.

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack.

This cake is even better on day two or even three.  Store in an airtight container to prevent it drying out.
And enjoy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

2 Journal Pages

I finally got back into my art journal this last week, after a long summer break for various reasons.

First of all was a page which doesn't have as many layers as some of the ones I have done in the past.  The quote is "Don't ask what the World needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do it.  Because what the World needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman.

To see any of these pictures closer up, just click to open them in a larger format.

I started with the swirly stencil in a darker colour of acrylic paint on the blank gessoed page and then covered that over with a couple of colours of acryclic paint, although you can still see some of the squiggles through the paint.  I added a few bits of patterned paper, another couple of squiggles using the stencil, which I outlined in white, and then wrote the quote which uses Kuretake metallic calligraphy pens.  I know a lot of art journalers have trouble finding pens that will work over acrylic paints.  There are various pens that I use, and some have trouble on different backgrounds, but the kuretake pens in metallic have never failed me yet.  I did a bit of journaling in the corner using a white jelly roll pen, about what makes me come alive and used copper acrylic and deep madder acrylic on my finger around the edge.

The stencil was one of a pack of two that I bought from a budget book shop called The Works.  In fact, that is just half of one sheet and there were two sheets in each pack.  I managed to pick up two different packs at just 99p per pack.  Not the thickest stencils ever, but who cares, they work!

The second page already had some colour on the page and I didn't quite know what to do with.  I tried to add some mica spray but the spray was a bit clogged up and I got splatter rather than spray.  I knew if I used anything wet over it it would smudge it and decided to use that fact to my advantage.  I journaled all across both pages about what makes me cry, using a basic cheap biro pen.  Then I took some white acrylic and brushed it into the page, smudging both the mica spray and the written words.  Normally I would have used gesso but when I opened my tub it had gone mouldy, eugh!  Thankfully there was only a tiny amount left in that tub so there wasn't a lot wasted.

I printed out the quote, coloured it lightly using an ink pad and a make up sponge.  I cut it into the individual words and edged them with a darker ink pad then glued them to the page.  I found the pictures of babies crying online and changed the basic colour of them in Word I think, then printed those out and glued them down.  Finally I wrote on the right hand page in a pound shop metallic pen, which I drew around using the white jelly roll.

"Crying doesn't indicate that you are weak.  Since birth it has always been a sign that you are alive."

Friday, October 07, 2011

Eden Tree - Part 2

The tree is finished.  I know I said I would get it finished yesterday but I had a weird day yesterday with dizziness from when I got up until lunchtime, so I left it for today.

No idea what I am talking about?  On Wednesday I began making a tree out of foam board to represent the tree in the garden of Eden for a bible Stories school assembly team I am leading.  You can read about how I made the pieces here.

Today it was time to put it all together.  First of all I took the two pieces of the trunk and laid them side by side and used a piece of duct tape to stick them together along the gap.

You can see that now I can angle the two pieces and it will stand up all by itself.  Fantastic.

Next I held the flat bottom of the tree to the top of the trunk and marked where I wanted it to sit.  If you are making your own you will want to do it further back than this, more on that later.

Then I cut a piece out of each foam board trunk.  I did this at an angle, not straight through although I don't think you can tell from the photo.

Finally I cut matching slots in the bottom of the treetop piece and fitted them together.

This is where I realised I had cut the slots too near the front of the trunk and the whole thing wants to overbalance forwards and fall over!  Oooops!  I'm not sure if I will try and cut a new set of slots further back and use the pieces from that to patch the holes, or if I will simply place something under the front of the trunk as you can see I have done here.  That balances it fine.

When it's time to go to school for the assembly it will be easy to carry, it will go together in seconds and be ready to carry home in seconds too.

The week after that we need a Noah's ark made out of one sheet of the same foam board.  Any volunteers? I think that might be beyond my rough and ready painting style.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...