27 February 2010


It was my mother's 76th birthday this week.  I went to bed with her in my heart and in my head, and I woke to thoughts of how much she would have loved being with her family, in body, at this time in our lives.

You see, my mother passed over 14 years ago.  She had throat cancer.  A couple of dreadful operations and six weeks of radiation therapy didn't stop the cancer returning again and again.  She finally gave up fighting when she heard it was on its way up to her brain. 

I can understand why my mother began smoking.  Truly, I can.  I was around, I saw the advertisements!  You couldn't be one of the 'in' crowd if you weren't a smoker.  It was good for stress, for your throat, for everything...  if you don't believe me, why don't you take a look at this link. Have a read of their 'About Exhibit' page. It explains why so many people of that generation are dying of various smoking related cancers.

Neither my sister nor I smoke.  We never have.  I could never stand the smell of cigarette smoke.  It made me physically ill.  The constant exposure to cigarette smoke also caused me to have many, many bouts of bronchitis and even pneumonia when I was a child. We didn't even know about the dangers of second-hand smoking then! 

I tried to smoke.  Once.  When I first started work for a large insurance company. 'All' the girls smoked (they did, truly) and I was constantly being teased because I didn't.  I eventually gave in to a 'lesson' on smoking.  Two deep draws and I was ill!  Which was more embarrassing than not being a smoker.  I also had a violent headache which lasted for the rest of the day.  So.  No more smoking.  I was constantly nagged to 'keep trying'. Why would I pay good money to feel so sick?  Made no sense to me. Today I can reflect on the fact that somebody must have been looking after me!  I am so grateful that it never became a habit.

Right.  So now we know why our generation felt compelled to smoke.  What I'd like to know is why young girls (sorry, but this is a 'chickie' chirp page so I'm leaving the boys out of this) today are still smoking.  I truly can't understand the logic behind it.  Their generation now know better than ever that smoking kills. And, if it just killed you it wouldn't be that bad... it's how it kills you that is so shocking.

If you've ever valued your looks you would understand the trauma of having to submit to having half your mouth carved away by a surgeon desperate to save your life.  When that operation doesn't work, they'll perform another and then another... your teeth might go, your saliva glands might not work anymore, you might not be able to swallow properly.  You're not looking so cool anymore and you're feeling as though you've woken to hell on earth. 

Smoking also makes you STINK.  Stale cigarette smoke on the most expensive suit smells no different to what it would on an old rag.  Smoking makes your hair STINK too.  So what if you paid hundreds of good dollars to have the best cut and colour?  Expensive perfume + cigarette smoke = STINK.  So what is the point?  Sticking it to the establishment?  Hey, our generation have 'been there and done that'... you're not impressing us.  Hell, most of us don't apparently seem to care either! 

There's an advert on Australian TV at the moment.  It asks how a mother feels when she has to tell her children she has cancer.

If you're a young girl who's just getting into the addictive business of smoking, this is a good time to ask yourself a few questions.  Do you want children 'one-day'?  Why do you want children?  Will you love and cherish them?  Do you want the best for them? Do you want to watch them grow up to have families of their own?  Will you be around if you don't stop smoking?

You see, life is about a series of choices we make.  The choices we make today affect tomorrow.  That's just how it is.  We are each of us responsible for our own destiny.  We create our reality.  Why would you choose to create a living hell for your family and yourself?  Oh, right... I forgot!!!  You can stop whenever you want to.  You're in control. Of course!

I miss my mother.  I miss her voice on the telephone, I miss her arms around me.  I miss her long, chatty letters.  I wish she was still around to see what lovely human beings her grandchildren have become.  I wish she could have held her great-grandchildren in her arms.  I know how much she loved us all and I know how much she would have loved to be here today.

I believe that what my mother went through has to make a difference, it has to have taught us all something. It can't all have been for 'nothing'!  So, please be patient with me if I ask you whether you really need that cigarette...  I ask because I care.

April Blackbird

25 February 2010

The almond trees are in flower in Mallorca!

It is one of my favourite times of year here in Mallorca... the almond trees are in flower!  They are so beautiful!  We went for a drive in the country on the weekend and I made my long suffering husband pull over (when all he wanted to do was go home for a nap) so I could get a few pics...

Isn't this island just stunning?  I do love it here...

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

24 February 2010

This and that...

I love Myrtle!  What a great job you did Arabella.  Especially as a first effort.  We'll have to have a 'home made' toy section in our shop one day.

Thought you might be interested to know that all four fruit cakes came out fantastically.  I am really happy with the look (and the smell) of them all.  I did cut the end off the long loaf I made for 'home'... far too fresh to eat really, but it was delicious and will improve with keeping.

It's far too hot in Sydney to be making fruit cakes!  The last thing I want is for them to start growing mould as they 'mature' in my cupboard.  Ask UK Chickie and she'll bear me out... my grocery cupboard gets as hot as an oven somedays even though I make sure to leave the door open so the cupboard can breathe.

The cakes have had to be wrapped in cling wrap and stored in my fridge.  If you know me, you'll know that my fridge isn't all that big.  Some of the cakes are going to have to be farmed out for keeping.  I don't want to send my cakes overseas until the weather has cooled either.  One never knows how long they'll get to stand on a dock somewhere.  In this heat, it's not a chance I want to take.

Next step... make some tiny little flowers for the Christening cake.  It won't take long as I don't need many.  I love making fondant flowers!  Always looking for an excuse to practice the art!  The icing has to be almost as fine as a real petal to give me the look I like.  Getting the paste 'just right' in this heat is going to be a challenge.

I'll let you know how it goes.

April Blackbird

23 February 2010

Meet Myrtle

I finally finished the Tootsie Tortoise pattern I purchased on Etsy from Melbangel.  She turned out really well and the pattern was easy to follow (even for a beginner like me).  I used Anchor Artiste Tridalia cotton, number 5 and a 3.00mm hook. 

Myrtle was lots of fun to make and she looks so cute, I've started on the next one already!

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

22 February 2010

Cake's in the oven and the house smells just wonderful.

I finally got that cake into the oven.  Actually, technically it's cakes.  Not cake.  I divided the mixture up into four different size and shape pans.  Why?  Well, it's not going to be a big Christening so we won't need such a huge cake.  We'll be able to store some cake for Christmas and we'll be able to send some to distant relatives whom we know would have loved to join us for the day.

Like a great-grandmother and great-grandfather in South Africa.  Wonder if they'll get it if we post it to them?  One never can tell.

It took me ages to mix the cake this morning.  I made sure I'd weighed out all the ingredients and had everything ready to go.  Finally used my head and didn't follow the instructions...  I'd made a mental note to myself that I had to do something different this time.

So, I mixed the butter and sugar together in my old Kenwood (it's 48 years old now!) until I had a pale yellow, fluffy mix.  Then I spooned the mixture out equally into three different bowls.  First lot went back into the Kenwood and I slowly beat in 5 eggs.  Then I added a third of the sifted flour and other dry ingredients.  I repeated the process for both the remaining bowls.

Hey, that wasn't that hard!  Why couldn't the recipe book have suggested doing it this way?  Does everyone have a commercial grade mixer?  Nooooo. (You want to try mixing 1 kg butter, 1.2 kg castor sugar, 16 eggs, 1.25 kg flour in one bowl!  It's exhausting work.)

Then, I shared the HUGE fruit and nut mixture (which I'd 'floured' well before hand so I know it's not going to sink to the bottom like a torpedoed U boat!) between my three bowls of perfect cake batter.  It mixed in really easily and I don't feel as though my arm is going to fall off anytime soon.  Which is how my arm usually feels when I make this cake.

I bunged it all back into my seriously HUGE soup pot and mixed it all in together...just in case there was any one reason that one mixture was better than the next.  Had to add my bicarb dissolved in vinegar last and that really helped to 'lighten' the mixture.

Another thing that truly bugs me about this recipe... it says to 'spoon the mixture into the pans'.  It would have been helpful if they'd included more specific instructions.  I know now how much to spoon in, but it really had me guessing the first time I made this recipe.And just by the way, this mixture DOES NOT, I repeat DOES NOT fit into two 225mm pans.  Which I now know.  There's nothing worse than scurrying about the kitchen trying to find bigger pans and brown paper at the last moment.

My oven isn't wonderful so I've had to put the cakes in at 120 degrees with the fan on.  I've been watching the cakes and 2 1/2 hours later, they're looking really good.  I just have to be careful not to overcook them.

Funny thing about baking... the smell always takes my appetite away.  I should get myself a job in a bakery.

I'm off to make myself a well earned cuppa now.  It wasn't the best day to choose to bake.  The temps got into the mid 30's again today.  Thankfully, there's a lovely cool breeze coming off the sea now.

April Blackbird

21 February 2010

The mysterious art of glazing fruit.

I have this wonderful fruit cake recipe that I sometimes make for special celebrations. Why only 'sometimes'?  Well, it's always been extremely difficult to find the variety and quality of glazed fruit the recipe calls for. 

Quality?  Yes, quality.  Most of the glazed cherries we buy in the shops today leave a lot to be desired.  We get excellent glazed ginger and pineapple in Sydney, but buying glazed oranges,kumquats and figs is difficult to say the least. 

Sure, I can buy dried figs.  I can even buy organic dried figs (which means there is no sulphur added), but to buy glazed fruit I have to be sure that I visit a gourmet farmers market or make the trip into Paddy's Markets in Haymarket.

So, I decided to make my own glazed oranges this time around.  I didn't have long to do it as I really needed to get my fruit chopped up and soaking.  This cake is HUGE and it takes a lot of work to prepare the fruit. 

I found a jiffy recipe for Candied Orange Slices on The Repressed Pastry Chef blog and I followed the instructions easily.  The finished product is quite delicious and I was happy to use it this time around.

However, I have decided that glazing is fun!  So I plan to make a batch of glazed fruit the 'old fashioned' way. I found a great recipe on OChef which should give me the type and quality of 'glazing' I am looking for.  It's a long process, but I reckon it will be worth the time and effort in the end.

I just have to be sure that I stop 'tasting' my wares along the way.  The oranges were so delicious I had a major will power battle on my hands.

I'll let you know how my cake baking goes.  The ingredients get mixed and the cakes get baked tomorrow. Sixteen eggs, 1 kilogram of butter, 1.5kgs of flour...  thank goodness I have a seriously HUGE pot to mix it all together in. 

April Blackbird

Sunday Stash #17

My stash fabrics today are from Tessuti fabrics in Australia. 

From left to right, they are a Gucci silk, cotton and Japanese cotton.

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

20 February 2010

Lovely Finds on Friday

Yay!  I am finally back up and running again!  Nasty things computer viruses... they cause such chaos!

I haven't done much browsing this week, but I do have a few lovely finds to share...

Like these coin purses and pouches in awesome fabrics from Baumig on DaWanda...  I do love Japanese fabrics...

I am so in love with this painting by Sophie Adde....  and plenty more of her beautiful paintings.

And these melamine mugs and trays in the London Calling collection by Michelle Mason...

I also love the stunning artwork by Sybile on DaWanda...

And finally, these cute crochet patterns by Melbangel on Etsy...

I am making this little turtle now, and she is going together nicely...

So, that's it from me for now.  I am so relieved to have my computer back...

Happy weekend!

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

18 February 2010

My Poor Little Netbook has Died

I LOVE my netbook (Acer Aspire One), but last night while I was posting yesterday's blog, my faithful companion, recipe book and notebook froze and died.  Ordinarily this would not be such a problem, but I have two months worth of photos on there that I haven't archived yet!  Aahhhhh!  I'm tearing my hair out right now.

Anyway, posting may be a bit infrequent while I am getting my computer sorted out.

In other news, I tried the muffin recipe from yesterday again this morning with only 1/4 tsp of salt and it was MUCH better.


Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

17 February 2010

Muffin Experiment #2, Chocolate Fudge Muffins

Today I decided to try those completely sinful Chocolate Fudge Muffins that have been haunting my dreams lately.  I couldn't find a recipe in my files, so I did a quick internet search and decided on these suitably evil looking ones from My Mum's Muffins.

I made a few changes to the recipe... I didn't have sour cream, so I substituted creme fraiche and I don't like nuts in my muffins and cakes, so I substituted Nestle dark chocolate drops.

The result:

The verdict:
They rose well, they had a nice crispy exterior and a softish interior.  They would have been super super yummy, but... they were too salty.  I did use salted butter, but I always do, so that shouldn't have been a problem... The recipe calls for 1/2 tsp of salt (which isn't much), but I think next time (probably tomorrow) I will try 1/4 tsp of salt.  I have noticed that the salt I purchased recently seems to be more salty (if that's possible) than usual.  Definitely a recipe to keep anyway, but the muffin texture is more like a brownie or cake than a muffin.

I'll let you know how tomorrow's batch turns out.

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

16 February 2010

Monday Weekly Menu Plan #4

Nothing too exciting on my menu plan this week, although it looks like we are having a bit of Thai food... I will try to make some more muffins though... I think next I will try something dark chocolate and fudgy - YUM!

  • Lunch: Hotdogs with caramelised onion, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and gherkins and brown rice, pumpkin, corn, feta and carrot salad
  • Dinner: Pan fried risotto cakes with salad and bread
  • Lunch: Chilli mince stuffed potatoes with sour cream and cheese and pepper sprinkles, with a green salad, brown rice salad and bread.
  • Dinner: Chicken, leek, bacon and pinenut risotto with salad and bread
  • Lunch: Rotisserie chicken with baps, lettuce, tomato and cheese.
  • Dinner: Spinach, feta and cottage cheese cannelloni with crispy bit salad and crusty bread
  • Lunch: Chicken pad thai with steamed green vegetables
  • Dinner: Pan fried steak with Savoyard potatoes and steamed vegetables
  • Lunch: Leek, carrot, red pepper, bacon and pea self crusting quiche with Warm butternut squash and chickpea salad.
  • Dinner: Thai caramelised pork with steamed rice, salad and bread

  •  Lunch: Roast vegetable galettes with salad and bread
  •  Dinner: Date night
  • Brunch: Creamy mixed mushrooms on toast with roasted tomatoes
  • Dinner: Leftovers from during the week
What's on your menu this week?  More menu plans can be found at I'm an Organising Junkie.

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

15 February 2010

Wild weekend!

Well, the sun is finally shining and although there are definitely still dark rain clouds about, I can finally see the horizon again.

What a few days we've had in Sydney!  Flash floods!  Huge winds!  You can read more about it here - the poor woman in the photo appears to have been having more than a small problem.

Family members had substantial damage done to their garden, fencing and gates. Twice!  Not so funny.  Wonder if the insurance company will come to the party or whether it is deemed 'an act of God'?  We'll find out, no doubt.

We've had the dehumidifier running non-stop.  It makes a huge difference, particularly under the stairs. 

We did get time to visit our littlest chickadee and her parents.  She's grown in a week!  And we got time to pick some roses.  Not the greatest of photos, but I thought I'd share it with you anyway.

This particular rose has the most amazing perfume.  The buds start off quite a deep orange and as the bud opens it begins to pale.  By the time the rose is full blown, it's a pale lemon.  

We have a few others that are blooming, but they're not ready to be photographed just yet.  

It's been a busy day to-day and I've washing drying on the line so I'd better sign out and get on with things.

April Blackbird

Sunday Stash #16

My Sunday Stash this week has some boy fabrics.  Most of these are from the Oh Boy collection from David Walker, but a couple (the odd ones out) are from Dena Designs, the Leanika collection.  Unfortunately I can't remember where I purchased them from...

What do you think?  Pretty cute huh?

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

14 February 2010

Busy Bee!

Gosh Arabella, you have been a busy bee!  Love the slippers!  No wonder your man was willing to pose with them on.  And I love the PhotoShop effect!  Thanks for the link, I'll have a read sometime soon.  I can do with some lessons.

I happen to know quite a few people who would dearly love to receive these slippers as presents!  One of these fine days you'll find that you no longer have to spend a cent at Xmas or for birthdays!  UK Chick and her Butter Chick would adore a pair of them.  Especially in bright colours.

We'll be going along to visit our 'Clucky Mummy' (can't call her Preggy Chick anymore, can we?) this afternoon (by invitation, please tell your man) so I might well make some of those muffins you've been blogging about.  They look delicious. 

I know I've dropped the ball when it comes to 'blogging' this past week and I apologise sincerely, but I've been very much otherwise occupied.  'Work' has kept me very busy when I've not been visiting our littlest chickadee and her 'Clucky Mummy' (by invitation, I assure you all). 

What a joy to hold your grandchild in your arms!   Such a special blessing and one I will never take for granted.  Each moment is a gift.

There is nothing that makes my heart happier than seeing my chickadees happy.  Knowing that they are loved by their 'other halves' makes my heart sing (how's that for a truly 'soppy', but very sincere sentiment?) and as it's Valentine's Day today, I think that's a wonderful feeling to share. 

I have to say that I sometimes wonder about all these 'special' days that are marketed so well.

If we can't show our love to those we truly care about every day of the year, then do we truly love and care for them?  That is the question. It doesn't take chocolates, red roses, wine or soppy cards to show them we love them (although they are truly appreciated, always!).  It's the 'little' things we do each day that say it loudest.

My man has been getting up every morning for the past 16 years to make me coffee.  I did it for the first 20 years of our marriage and I can't really remember the catalyst for the change over, but he never quibbles. Each morning I get my coffee, in a very large mug, milk boiled to perfection (I know, the milk shouldn't be boiled, but I love it this way), just the right amount of coffee, and best of all... served to me in bed!  Somedays it's instant coffee (Mocha Kenya, still the best I can buy... why would we want to drink cheap coffee at home and then go out and pay big bucks for a coffee in a cafe?), someday's it's perfect, fresh plunge coffee.  It makes me feel cherished.

My father got up at 5am every day of his working life.  He made all the sandwiches, put a pot of coffee on the stove to percolate while he polished his shoes, washed, shaved, dressed and then he'd served us all coffee in bed before he left to catch his train.  For those of you who are wondering why my mother didn't do this... well, she got up at 5:30 and we all left for work/school by 6am during summer and 6:30am during winter.  This was my dad's way of giving his three 'girls' a gift of love.  Everyday.

My man has been buying/bringing me flowers out of the blue, all our married life.  Today he takes great joy in presenting me with freshly cut roses from my garden.  I love that he does this knowing how much I love it when he gives them to me.  I could cut them myself, but it wouldn't be the same.  This is our 'thing'.  

This is a photo of one of my lovely  David Austin roses in full bloom, just verging on being 'past it'... 


This is what it looked like when it began to open...

My father has always presented me (unbidden) with gifts of music that he knew I'd enjoy.  He once went out and looked for a record called Ogden's Nutgone Fruitflake for me, simply because he met a young man on the train who told him it was great.  It was so 'out there', at the time, that I couldn't get over the fact that my dad had gone out to buy it for me.  Today, he brings me CD's of the African music I miss so much.  Pennywhistle.  Drums.  Singing.  My collection grows and on the days that I sit down at my sewing machine the beat throbs through the house while I sew.

I think what I'm trying to say is that I feel loved every day, in every way.  My chickadees show it by keeping in regular contact and by sharing their lives even though I'm sure they have far more interesting things they could be doing instead.  It makes my heart sing to hear their voices or read their emails. I love that they're willing to put their arms around me and give me a huge hug no matter who's watching!  It's wonderful to be such a big part of their lives. Such a huge blessing!

So.  Excuse me if I play 'Pollyanna' again, but isn't life just wonderful?  We love and are loved in return.  What more could anyone ask for?

When my kids were little and asked what I'd like for a present at Xmas or on my birthday I always said the same thing!  "Good kids!"  I have my good kids!  It might be overcast outside, but the sun is shining brightly in my world today.

May the sun shine brightly on your faces.

April Blackbird

Crochet Slippers for my Husband

I'm really getting hooked on this crochet thing (excuse the pun)... It is great to do while watching TV... I hate just sitting and watching TV and not doing something. 

Our apartment in Palma is very cold... we have tiled floors and high ceilings and the heating doesn't work very well.  I (being the organised, must be prepared for every situation and pack everything but the kitchen sink sort of person that I am) brought my slippers with me, but my husband... well, he didn't.  He watched me walking around in my slippers with toastie feet and got all jealous, so I offered to make him some crochet slippers (my alterior motive being that as a beginner, I get to practice and make something useful and he can't complain about me not paying him any attention while I am busy counting).  I only had a limited selection of colours on hand and I can't seem to find any yarn stores here in Palma, so I went with it.  This is what he got.

I think he's pretty pleased with them... I'm quite excited myself to have actually produced something wearable!  I loosely followed this pattern for Men's slippers which produces a double thickness sole... a necessity for our freezing tiles.

I've also been having a little bit of fun playing around in Photoshop CS4, using some of the actions that Ree from Pioneer Woman generously put together and posted for download.   The above photo has been actioned using her 70's action.  Fun!  The slippers are actually brighter than that in real life... but I didn't want to scare you...

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

13 February 2010

Muffin Experiment 2: White Chocolate Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chips

The muffin experiment continued today, this time with sweet muffins as my husband pointed out that they were nicer than savoury muffins for afternoon tea and snacks - which makes sense really. 

However... it is a little bit limiting as he doesn't eat fruit flavoured muffins, so I am left with chocolate (not that I am complaining too much... I am quite fond of chocolate myself).

I used the same Marvellous Easy Muffins recipe from Homemade The Handmade Help Recipe book as I used earlier in the week, but I based the filling on the Chocolate chip and Pumpkin recommended filling which is as follows:

1/2 cup chocolate chips, 1/2 cup mashed pumpkin and a little milk or apple/orange juice if needed

Since I didn't have any mashed pumpkin on hand, I decided to add melted white chocolate instead... I melted 130g of white cooking chocolate in a microwave safe jug in two 30 second spurts, stirring in between and then let it sit for a little while to cool.  When it was slightly cooled, I stirred in milk to bring the volume up to 1/2 cup. 

This time I found some self raising flour, so I used it instead of the flour and baking powder combo I used last time.  I also adjusted the oil and buttermilk quantities to 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 3/4 cup buttermilk. 

I cooked them for 25 minutes, which was probably 5 minutes too long for the size of the muffins, (but I wasn't paying attention as I was having lunch) so they are a little bit browner than they should be.

They are quite crunchy on the outside, and the inside is a lot fluffier/spongier than the last muffins, but they still didn't rise as much as I would like.  I think next time I will add a bit more baking powder as well as the self raising flour.   I quite excited that the change in oil : buttermilk ratio worked out well... I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

I think that dark chocolate is yummier and more attractive than white chocolate, so next time I will make Dark Chocolate Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chips...  The boys have given these muffins the thumbs up... but anything with chocolate in would probably work for them!

On another note: Yay!  It's Friday!

Have a great weekend!

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

11 February 2010

Wednesday Favourite Tutorial Links

I have had these tutorials bookmarked for a while now and I will find the time and space to make these things one day, just not today or tomorrow or the next day... or this year.  Maybe next year...

1. First up is How to Make Vintage Style Sock Monkeys from Sock (where you can also buy sock monkey kits and other patterns).  I love sock monkeys, I think they are a great idea for a cool homemade toy.  I just purchased this sock monkey from the Craft Hope for Haiti shop on Etsy...  isn't he cool?

I'm definitely going to keep my eye out for funky socks to make my own monkeys!

2. How about making some customised pillows from Design Sponge for an inexpensive change in decor...

3. Have you got some scratched old CDs in the cupboard that you were going to throw away?  Try making some bright and colourful clocks with them instead!  These would be great for kids rooms.

4. I love these felted sweater teacup pincushions from the Martha Stewart website.  I would even consider learning how to knit just to felt some fabric to make these!

5. These toadstool and mushroom houses by the Little house by the Sea in NZ are so sweet!  I love all things toadstool!

Those are just some of the tutorials I have my eye on at the moment.  I have tonnes more bookmarked, so check back next Wednesday for more.

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

09 February 2010

In Search of the Perfect Muffin Recipe...

I am always on the lookout for new and interesting recipes, but one that always seems to elude me is that perfect muffin recipe. 

I have a great recipe for blueberry muffins that I use a lot (when I can get blueberries), but I think it has a bit too much sugar and butter in it for my liking.   Is it possible to get lovely moist on the inside, crispy on the outside muffins that work perfectly every time and are not full of fat?  Or are the words 'muffins' and 'healthy' mutually exclusive? 

The other thing that would make a muffin recipe perfect for me is being able to add whatever filling I want to make it either sweet or savoury.   You know... the perfect base muffin recipe.

So, with that in mind I have set myself a goal over the next few months to try out a few different muffin recipes and see what I find.  I am not going to limit myself to only healthy recipes, but I may try and tweak some recipes to lower the fat and see what happens.

The first recipe I have tried is from Homemade The Handmade Help Recipe Book.

This book was put together by the crafting community to raise money to help the people that lost so much in the huge Australian bushfires last year (2009).  Recipes were sent in from crafter's kitchens all over the world to make a this great home cooking cookbook. The official website for this recipe book is here... and the book can be purchased in pdf format or paperback.

I have just started reading through my book now, and there are lots of recipes that I have bookmarked to try out. 

There are quite a few muffin recipes in the book, but the one that caught my eye was Marvellous Easy Muffins.  This same recipe was submitted by two  different people, and it came with a list of various filling options which I thought was a good idea.  I tried it out with a savoury filling... cheese, ham and corn.

The Recipe (adapted from Homemade the Handmade Help Recipe Book):

220 g self-raising flour (I used normal flour with 1 and 1/4 tsp baking powder)

1/2 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
Flavour of your choice (in this case: 1cup corn kernels, 1/2 cup diced ham, 1/2 cup grated cheese and either 1 tsp pepper or 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper)

It also suggested that if you were making the savoury option, you should leave out the sugar, but I added one dessert spoon of sugar for flavour.

Preheat oven to 200 C
Grease muffin tins
Mix dry ingredients together
Whisk wet ingredients together separately
Make a well in dry ingredients and add wet ingredients and filling.
Mix until just combined.
Spoon into muffin tins and bake 20 - 25 minutes (or 15 minutes for mini muffins)


They were beautifully crispy on the outside the first day. Today the crisp has gone, but they are still delicious.  They were moist on the inside, but not quite as fluffy and light as I had hoped they would be and they didn't rise as much as I expected, (but that could be due to my use of baking powder and flour instead of self raising flour).

So:  they look nice, they are super yummy, but 3/4 of a cup of oil!!!  They are practically deep fried!  I'm not sure if that was a typo or if they were supposed to have so much oil in them, but the mixture was very wet, so I think I will try them again with 1/4 cup of oil and 1 cup of buttermilk (that reduces the total liquid by 1/4 cup) and see what happens.

If you have any muffin recipes you would be willing to share, please send them my way.  I would love to try them out.

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

08 February 2010

Monday Weekly Menu Plan #3

Last week's menu planning went really well, and we all really enjoyed the pork and mushroom cannelloni, although I think next time I will alter the recipe to make a lower fat version.  My beef goulash turned into a combination goulash and stroganoff, but it was good! 

This week's plan is as follows:


  • Lunch: Hotdogs with caramelised onion, lettuce, tomato and cheese.

  • Dinner:  Stuffed potatoes with bacon, leek and pea and leftover hotdog sausages.

  • Lunch: Self crusting quiche with peas, bacon, leek, bell peppers and carrots served with a salad and bread.

  • Dinner: Spiced pork with peaches casserole, steamed broccoli and mashed potato.

  • Lunch: Rotisserie chicken with baps, lettuce, tomato, cheese and coleslaw.

  • Dinner: Spaghetti bolognaise with salad

  • Lunch: Homemade hamburgers with lettuce, tomato, cheese and gherkins.

  • Dinner: Satay chicken fettucine with salad and crusty bread.

  • Lunch: Sunday Roast on Friday:  Roast leg of lamb with hasselback potatoes, peas and mixed roast vegetables (and mint sauce and gravy of course).

  • Dinner: Chicken Enchilladas

  • Lunch: Homemade pizza with chicken, brie, apricots and rocket.

  • Dinner: Lemon chicken with steamed broccoli and jasmine rice.

  • Brunch: Poached eggs with bacon, fried onion and roast tomatoes on toast.

  • Dinner: Shepherds pie (using the leftover lamb from Friday) with salad.

What's on your menu this week?  See more weekly menu plans at I'm an Organising Junkie.

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

07 February 2010

Sunday Stash #15

In my stash today, a mixture of fabrics I purchased from Above All Fabric a little while ago.

Happy Sunday!

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

06 February 2010

Yes, our littlest chickadee is a girl... and she's just gorgeous!

As grandparents, you'll excuse us for thinking that all our chickadees are all just gorgeous!  I'm not making any excuses for being over the moon at the safe arrival of our littlest girl.  I find sitting on the side-lines watching the entire process absolutely nerve-wracking! 

I spent yesterday morning cleaning the house, all the while having ernest conversations with my angels... couldn't settle to anything as I watched the clock tick by so I had to 'move'!!!.

Whoever said you have to sit in a quiet place with your legs crossed to 'meditate' didn't know what they were talking about... you can meditate as you move, as you clean, as you shower.  Meditation is a 'state' of mind.  Thankfully, I find 'zoning out' very easy to do.  It helped to pass the time while we waited for the phone to ring. 

Our littlest girl looks just like she did in the scan picture I posted previously.  This photo was taken yesterday afternoon when she was just a few hours old. 


Needless to say, we have all fallen in love with her!   Haven't seen her 'awake' as yet... haven't had a cuddle yet... will be doing heaps of that!

April Blackbird


I have to interrupt today's program for a special announcement... It's a girl!!!  We are so excited to welcome new member to our family... Preggie Chick is no longer Preggie... she is the proud Mum of a lovely new daughter!  We are super excited to be three times an Aunt and Uncle now and can't wait to meet the new addition to the family!

So... lately I have had a bit of quiet time on my hands at work with things to do with my hands that don't require my full attention mentally, so I have found myself listening to podcasts.  I am a newbie in the podcast world, having never heard of them until recently, but I am loving listening to other people talk!  The podcast I listen to most is from Brye Lynn of Sew Stitch Create, and I really love her voice and the fact that she shares a bit about her life as well as sharing her research into interesting topics in the sewing world.  I keep meaning to download iTunes so I can download a few podcasts in advance to that I don't have to rely on the internet working for me to listen (as it so often doesn't work when I am at work). 

I am definitely keen to find some more podcasts to listen to and I can see they would be great to listen to while I am doing my day job... mindless cooking and cleaning at the moment... so if you know of any good ones... let me know... I am interested in pretty much anything creative.

There is another one that I listen to that I listen to for content only as she has a really irritating voice... if my husband hears her, he gets instantly cranky... she is that annoying, but I do like her content, so I try to get past the voice thing...

And now for a bit of a gripe on an unrelated topic... 
Since we are working overseas, I do most of  my gift shopping online and I have just done some very late Christmas shopping for our UK relatives (since they have been on holiday and have just gotten home).   Everything I ordered for them from Amazon went fine (thanks very  much to Stacy from StacySews for guidance in selecting a good 'turn-to' sewing book for my sister in law) but, the one thing I ordered from the US using Shopatron has been a nightmare!!!!  I ordered my 3 year old niece a Kimochis plush toy..., but because my billling address is in NZ, and my credit card is international and I wanted to have the order shipped to the UK, I set off all kinds of red flags...  They wanted me to send in proof of billing address and ID, but I don't have proof of billing address since I don't live in NZ at the moment, so I sent them a copy of my credit card instead (at the suggestion of the customer service rep I spoke to)....  The person who received it didn't want to accept it and actually called my sister in law in the UK and decided that she should pay for the gift instead as it was easier that way, and I emailed back and said "No, it's a gift, why should she pay for it etc..."  Anyway, 6 days later with lots of emails and phone calls and assurances that they are only trying to protect me...  they have finally accepted that I am who I say I am and have accepted my credit card.  I am NEVER going to use Shopatron again.

Have you had a similar experience?  Did it drive you crazy?  I mean, there's security and then there's security, right?!

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

05 February 2010

Very helpful tutorial on how to sew with knits...

I just found this great tutorial on one of my regular read blogs that I thought everyone should read...  I am one of those people who is a bit scared of sewing with knits, but this tute made me think that maybe I should give it another go.

Go here to Indietutes and have a look for yourself... It all sounds so easy!

Happy Thursday

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

04 February 2010

A few tutorials I have bookmarked...

How was your Wednesday?  Mine was fine... nothing exciting happened today (unlike yesterday when another superyacht in the boatyard burned down - thankfully they were quite some distance from our boat, absolutely awful for those involved though).
Anyway on a more pleasant note, I love finding new tutorials to make things, and I thought today that I would share with you a few of my favourite tutorials I have bookmarked to make later...

Firstly, this carpetbag weekend bag from the Weekend Designer is on my 'Must Make' list.   The design is based on this one by LIFEwithBIRD...

I love this bag!  I will definitely be making this when I get some time back at home with the sewing machine (probably this time next year).

Next up, some lovely burp cloths for babies from Chickpea Sewing Studio... Everyone I know seems to be having a baby this year, so I think these might have to be top of my list for now.

And here, from Sew Mama Sew, how to quick piece tiny squares.  I think this would be great for using up scraps, and I can think of tonnes of things to do with them... cards, pot mitts, doll quilts etc...

And this great tutorial from Biz Miss on how to make a plush toy pattern from scratch... Just think, any of those creatures in your imagination can come to life!  This tutorial was about how she made a plush version of Mitch for Neon Monster... And here is a picture of the final product now available here!

Here's another baby orientated tutorial... This one is from Floating World Views and it is for a baby stroller liner.  I think this is a great idea for personalizing your stroller, especially for those occasions when like Suzy says, "every second stroller is a Maclaren"... How do you know which is yours?

Those are just a few of many tutorials I have bookmarked for future reference... If you want to links to more, check back next Wednesday!

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

03 February 2010

Why are the shops full of Easter eggs already?

Is it just me that finds this annoying?  So much hype!  So much marketing! So much 'stuff'!  The shelves are already crammed full of eggs in every shape and form possible. 

What truly annoys me is that the supermarkets put sweets at eye-level at the check-out counters... and one of them is my favourite.  Cadbury Caramello eggs.  Don't they know how hard it is to stick to a diet? 

02 February 2010

Cute little shoes!

While looking for ideas for a 'Nina Bettina' skirt (I think it's  supposed to be red, cut on a circle, and very swirly with some kind of of pretty finishing on the bottom), I came across this fascinating website where you can buy e-patterns for all sorts of interesting projects.

Of course, I had to take a look, didn't I?  They have some fabulous ideas and I soon fell in love with a pattern for some very special 'booties' or little shoes, if you'd prefer.  They'd be perfect for a Christening ceremony. I really like the lace finished pair in the middle. They're quite gorgeous. 

There are some cute little 'kitty' shoes/booties too, although my preggie-chickie didn't like them. 

Lots of instructions and lots of ideas on too.  Woodworking, jewellery and beading, photography... I could get lost there.

Take a look and let me know what you think...

April Blackbird

Monday Weekly Menu Plan #2

I have to confess that I didn't quite stick to my menu plan completely last week.  I managed to squeak by the week without visiting the grocery store... Yay!  I hate the grocery store - it always takes me at least 2 hours to do the shopping and I always spend more that I want to.  I managed to find some sausages in the freezer, so we had 'bangers and mash' for lunch on the day that was supposed to be grocery day.

Unfortunately I did have to got today...  so I whipped up a new menu plan this morning before I went.  Then, on the way to the grocery store my husband called and asked me to pick up some big plastic storage containers, which of course I couldn't fit into my shopping basket with all my groceries, so I had to make two trips up the four escalators to the car... joy.

So this week's plan...


  • Lunch:  Rotisserie chicken* with baps, coleslaw, tomatoes, cheese and lettuce.

  • Dinner:  Pasta bake made with the leftover chicken from lunch and broccoli, tomato, mushrooms, leek and onion with a white sauce.

  • Lunch: Beef mince and chili bean nachos with sour cream, red pepper sprinkles and grated cheese.

  • Dinner: Pork and mushroom cannelloni (a new recipe I am going to try out) with green salad and bread.

  • Lunch: Self crusting quiche with mushroom, bacon, tomatoes, leek and peas and red pepper served with a salad and bread.

  • Dinner: My special lasagne with green salad and bread.


  • Lunch: Hotdogs with lettuce, tomato, cheese, gherkins and fried onions.

  • Dinner: Hungarian beef goulash with rice.


  • Lunch: Ginger beef stir fry with broccoli, beans, cauliflower and red pepper.

  • Dinner: Chicken fajitas with grated carrot, grated cheese, and sour cream.


  • Lunch: Ham, cheese and tomato paninis.

  • Dinner: Date night!


  • Brunch: Bacon, mushroom, courgette, tomato, cheese and onion omelettes.

  • Dinner: Pumpkin and pancetta risotto with salad and bread.
* Just so you know, I buy two rotisserie chickens for lunch on my grocery shopping days... These feed the four of us for lunch (three big 'boys' and me) and then I can use the leftovers to make four generous sized individual pasta bakes and one generous two person pasta bake. I give one each of the individual ones to the two boys for their dinner (in disposable oven safe aluminium dishes) and take the two person one home for my husband and myself and then freeze the remaining two individual servings for when I am not able to cook for the boys.

So, what are you making for dinner this week?

Here is the link for the Pumpkin and Pancetta Risotto.  I got this recipe from the Entertaining Epicurean cookbook, which has several great recipes in it that I use a lot.
Here is the link for my Lasagne recipe.  Hope you like it.

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca