In Sofia’s Kitchen

“We all have differences, but hey, lets embrace them! ” Sophie says in her bubbly tone.

Writing and Education are a large part of Sophie’s calling, but true to her own heritage – so is excellent food.

From the time Sophie Stokes was 7 years old, she was in the kitchen with her Greek-Australian relatives preparing treats to serve to her large family and many friends.

14372460_1819840598234711_6889302233023050404_o

For Sophie, this inclusive and vibrant environment ignited a passion for both food and learning, a passion she still follows boldly today.

We were lucky to be invited when Sophie recently held a large get together at her home showcasing her cultural culinary prowess; Sophie hosts with a broad, engaging smile and a warmth to her welcome as though you are family.

14525168_1825305571021547_1401007210114470306_o.jpg
With a background in Early Childhood education, when it came time to send her own girls off to school – Sophie elected to home school them.

“My thing is creative education, I call it Imagination Activation!” Sophie explains. This took the family around the world, making travel journals, discovering new cultures…  with a fair dose of learning in the kitchen too.

14361299_1819841811567923_7713811891955840128_o

8 years ago the family moved to Newcastle for work and university opportunities for the children, and have found the city so versatile, multicultural and beautiful that they absolutely love living here. Not to mention the great foodie options for Sophie!

Recently, Sophie’s children completed their homeschooling and it was time for a new chapter.

“It was time for me to have a new impact on the world,” she tells us.

untitled
Source: Exousia Publishing

In 2015 Sophie donated some resource books to Mebaya Orphanage in Tanzania, to help them establish their education programs and the orphanage invited her to come to Tanzania to assist.

While in Africa, Sophie was speaking with Elina Karamelina and was discussing the resources the Tanzanian children had – often donated books in English about Santa and snowy winters.

After this talk an idea was born.

“It was a spur of the moment conversation with Elina really and 8 months later we were publishing our own children’s book,” says Sophie.

static1-squarespace-com

Kula Chakula is Hungry! was created to honor the cultures of the children in Africa and also as a celebration of the languages spoken locally and in surrounding countries. The book is written in Swahili, as well as English and Greek.

The book has had a wonderful response with African educators loving their new resource.

“Actually, I just shipped a whole box of books to Athens for an art conference there and I am so excited that Greek children will be learning about the Swahili language and African Culture too,” Sophie tells us excitedly, “and I have been honored to do a few readings of the book in local Newcastle preschools too.”

“We all have differences, but hey – lets embrace them!” Sophie says in her bubbly tone.

Writing and education are a large part of Sophie’s calling but, true to her own heritage, so is excellent food.

14372100_1819839678234803_7702308769370058838_o

This led Sophie to start food blogging at In Sofia’s Kitchen, a journey of hospitality written through recipes and adventures. The success of this blog has led to a cookbook, In Sofia’s Kitchen: Mediterranean Flavours Down Under, which is launching in Newcastle on November 26th, in true Sofia’s Kitchen Style – with lots of friends, food, culture and celebration.

Sophie would like all to feel welcome to attend the launch if you would like to pick up a copy and enjoy some of the tasty samples like these on offer.

14379984_1819844531567651_3765485428490459494_o

And what is next for Sophie? So much!

A new multicultural children’s book is underway being published in both English and Norwegian (thanks to her Norwegian illustrator) and Sophie will be working on another cookbook and cooking workshops.

“I’m looking forward to the continued journey – delighting families and friends through food and hospitality,” Sophie tells us.

14362524_1819841851567919_5723329829803813486_o

Served up to you by Villager Property – because Home Begins Here.

 

Mark Hughes- A foundation of Support

There are many reasons to love the Newcastle community, but Marks story reminds us of the incredibly supportive environment in which we live.

It’s a sunny August morning in Hamilton and we’ve stopped in to catch up with Mark Hughes.

We have a chat about beanies, gratitude, the Kokoda trail and a magic ball.

Mark Hughes Blog_-3

There are many reasons to love the Newcastle community, but Marks story reminds us of the incredibly supportive environment in which we live.

Mark grew up in the town of Kurri Kurri before moving to Newcastle to play for the Knights. He now resides in the beachside community of Merewether with his wife Kiralee and their 3 children.

“I love living in Newcastle,” Mark says. “It really does have that big community feel.”

Mark played for the Newcastle Knights from 1997 until 2005, and played for the NSW State of Origin team in 2001, thus making Mark a celebrated Novocastrian.

After seeing a doctor about recurring headaches, in 2013 at the age of 36, Mark was diagnosed with brain cancer. An emotional journey that brought his family and community close together, banding for support.

Mark and Kiralee subsequently began the Mark Hughes Foundation. The foundation partners with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), raising funds to help find a cure for brain cancer. In January 2016  The Foundation appointed a Brain Cancer Care Nurse within the John Hunter Hospital.

“The Brain Cancer Care Nurse is focused 100% on the brain cancer patients at John Hunter Hospital,” Mark informs us. “A great support for patients to have a nurse that is committed to their condition.”

Mark Hughes Blog_-2

The Foundation has raised over $250,000 through the MHF Beanies for Brain Cancer fundraiser, hosted the Magic Ball with over 600 local participants, organised charity auctions, received donations from numerous local families and businesses and has even had Paul “The Chief” Harrigan going on the national TV program Im A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! to win $50,000 for the cause.

The response from the community is a massive source of inspiration for Mark, Kiralee and the MHF who work tirelessly to offer support for brain cancer patients and their families.

Sitting on the sunny deck of Mark’s Hamilton office, we talk about the importance of the foundation, “Our biggest goal of course is to find a cure – but we are also aiming for more awareness of brain cancer,” Mark says. “Brain cancer is the biggest killer of people under 40 – more than any other cancer – and we need more attention to this in the media and more funding for research.”

Mark Hughes Blog_

Mark and 17 others recently completed a Kokoda Trail “Coast to Coast” challenge: riding 130kms from the Northern tip of Papua New Guinea to the track, trekking the 100km trail and then riding another 70kms to Port Moresby.

“It was physically and emotionally challenging – yeah it was hard,” said Mark, “but I was also inspired to be with those 17 others and raising $150,000 for the foundation.”

13532872_513311918854504_2838298302675195045_n
Mark Huges on the Kokoda Trail. Picture by James Brickwood for Fairfax.

Since beginning his journey with brain cancer, the overwhelming story of support for Mark and the Foundation is what really stands out.

The Newcastle community, and national community too, reaching out with assistance and funding.

Mark Hughes Blog_-4

Here at Villager Property, Mark’s foundation is very important to us, especially for our Villager Rod, who donates $500 from every sale commission (currently totalling $3,000) to MHF in honour of his nephew, a young brain cancer survivor.

“We have great support from the community,” Mark tells us, “and I do tackle every day as it comes – but I am very lucky and I am very grateful.”

www.villagerproperty.com.au