31 March 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Some more colouring... I feel like a little kid playing with my colouring in... I so love these copic markers!!!

Stamps from The Greeting Farm.

Arabella Chickie in New Zealand

29 March 2010


I've finally managed to get some photos of the duvet cover I made for my littlest Chickadee. Apologies for the long wait Arabella.

They're not wonderful photos, but I think you'll be able to see what I did.  Those pillow slips are at least 30 years old so it's good to see them revived.

Recognise the eyes peering over the top of the cover?  Sweet man that he is!  I left a longer 'piece' on the top so the pretty top sheet can fold down over it. That said, nobody uses top sheets and duvets on cots anymore, this is merely decoration.  I was about to throw the cover into a 'soak' and 'wash'.  Came out really well and now looks really good. I was happy the lace didn't shrink.

The bit in the middle is the front of the old pillow case, then there's some ribbon and then some old lace.  I finished it off with a 'pretty' stitch on my machine.  Have 'stuck' the ends together with Valcro for quick closing.

I joined the two fronts of the old pillow slips and covered the join with the ribbon strip (actually 3 strips of ribbon... 2 narrow on the outside and a thicker piece in the middle) you see in the middle.  Made two bows to pretty up the edges.  Stitched them on flat.  They washed well.

Did the same pretty stitching right across the back, top and bottom. Not nearly as nice as my grandmother's beautiful hand stitching, but I simply don't have the time. Or the inclination, if I'm honest.

This is the detail from one of the top sheets I made for the cot.  Ancient lace from my kist. I bought the new cotton sheeting though.

All soaked, washed, dried and ironed.  I was most relieved to see it all survived intact.

So, what do you think?  Haven't got photos of the fitted sheets... they look like nothing except a mass of white material really.

April Blackbird.

26 March 2010

Copic colouring practice and TGF stamps

Since we have been home in NZ we have been very busy catching up with people and doing all the things that we don't do overseas (dentist appointments, doctors visits, hairdresser, accountant etc...).  We did take a trip up North last weekend though to visit my parents and I re-discovered all my card making paraphernalia in storage plus some of the stamps that I have ordered online.  It was very exciting!  I am not allowed to take it all back overseas with me, so I decided to do a whole lot of stamping and I will just practice colouring in with my copics instead. 

I couldn't resist having a play already though...

These are a couple of cards I made with The Greeting Farm Cheeky Rockabilly stamps.

Arabella Chickie in Auckland, New Zealand

Old fashioned hollow sugar eggs for decorating

Wow. That's a long heading.

I promised I'd tell you how to make these, but I have to tell you that I'm not a huge fan of these eggs.  I'd much rather have a good chocolate egg anyday.

Firstly, you'll need clean, dry moulds.  You would usually use large egg shaped moulds.  You get some with flat bottoms, which are ideal if you want to use only one side of a sugar egg and fill it with 'treats'.

As a 'modern' chickie, you may decide to use your noggin and be a bit more creative than this.  May I suggest you line an unusually shaped tea cup with cling wrap and use this as a mould?  Or a shallow bowl with an odd shape?

This is the recipe we used:

2 cups of castor sugar
3 teaspoons of water - add the water drop by drop, see explanation below
colouring of your choice - try bright purple, lime green etc
Simple, huh?

Mix the water in slowly, you don't want your mixture to be too wet or it will not hold its shape.  Too dry and you will not have a 'paste' to work with. It's not a train smash if you do wet it too much initially, you can simply add more sugar.

Spoon the mixture into your mould.  Pack it in tightly with the back of a soup spoon. You don't want the walls of your egg to be too thin or there won't be place for 'treats'.  Make the walls too thin and they're very easily broken.

Use the back of your soup spoon to 'smooth' off the walls.  They shouldn't be more than 3mm thick.  Max.

Your egg doesn't need to be one colour.  Get creative.

We used to leave our eggs to dry overnight.  If you're using an unusual shape lined with cling wrap, be sure to remove the egg gently and evenly.

What are you going to stand your egg on? We want this to be pretty. You can make a base out of modelling paste.  Colour your paste, roll out a small piece, don't make it too thin, we want it to be strong.  Use a cookie cutter to get the shape you want. Place the shape on a piece of cellophane to dry.  When your egg shape is perfectly dry and you're happy it's not going to shatter, glue it to the base with some egg white.  Egg white is a wonderful 'glue' to use when you're working with icing. Use sparingly though and don't 'streak' the bits you'll see.

If you've made both sides of your egg, you can put them together with royal icing after you've added some 'treats'.  Make up a mixture in a contrasting colour and pipe along the join.  Allow to dry. 

Let your creative mind run riot when it comes to decorating the top.  You can use paper flowers, pipe some icing flowers, make a chick out of modelling paste, use pretty ribbon...

Again, I'd wrap the egg in cellophane or place it on a nest of paper straw in a pretty box. have very good instructions on how to make a Panoramic Sugar Easter Egg. Their recipe and instructions are quite different to the one we used. 

Have fun! Love to see your photos...

April Blackbird

25 March 2010

Home made Easter eggs

It's been absolutely years since I last went to the trouble of making home made Easter eggs. There hasn't been much point really.  Good chocolate drops/pennies (or whatever else you like to call them) have become really expensive to buy, even in bulk.  You can buy cheap chocolate, but it takes like just that.  Cheap chocolate.

In the 'olden days' we used to have to fork out big money for Easter eggs, but that's not the case to-day.  You can buy great products for good money.  Especially if you shop wisely.  Lindt is still my favourite brand and I've found the Lindt bunnies to be a great favourite with my grown up chickadees.

So why the sudden interest?  I'm not sure, might have to do with having just made the Christening cake. It bought back sweet memories of many happy hours spent 'creating' in my kitchen.

When we moved to Sydney I gave away all my chocolate moulds. They were beginning to get brittle anyway and I thought that my (very talented) friend in Auckland would put them to good use.  I'm sure she has.

We had two small boys living in the townhouse next door to us, at one stage.  I'd promised to teach them how to make their own eggs in an effort to give their mum a few quiet moments to herself.  So I had to buy some more moulds that are now sitting in my cupboard.  They're very basic, but I'm quite tempted to put them to use again.

Now, I could re-invent the wheel and give you instructions on just how to go about the process of creating these eggs.  The job has been done for me on

Great instructions, but they've left out the instructions on how to melt your chocolate.  GENTLY.  Just that one word should say it all.  You should put your chocolate pieces into a clean, DRY, bowl.  Don't put in too many to start with.

Make sure your glass bowl fits snuggly over a cooking pan of boiling water.  No steam should escape around the edges or it will condense 'into' your bowl and spoil your chocolate.  Chocolate and water do not mix!!!

The bottom of your bowl must NOT TOUCH the boiling water in the pan. There must be an ample gap between the bowl and the water.  Why? Well, if you allow the boiling water to bubble around the bottom of your bowl you will over cook the chocolate and it will spoil.  Try it with a small amount of chocolate, if you don't believe me.  It will be useless afterwards. You'll have to eat it, what a hardship.

You want your chocolate to have a smooth, runny and very shiny consistency.

One other thing the instructions on don't tell you... when you've coated your egg mould on both side and have pegged/clipped them together... you should give them a quick 'bump' on your work-surface.  Why?  Well, you want to release any bubbles in the chocolate.  You'll need to work quickly when you're doing this step or you'll have an uneven egg.

I used to use cellophane packets or sheets to pack my eggs.  The cellophane doesn't sweat.

Tomorrow I'll talk about making Easter egg shells out of castor sugar.  A great favourite for presenting 'fillers' which can be made out of chocolate, nuts, biscuits, crunchies or some small 'crafted' animals etc.

Before I sign off for today.... REMEMBER, don't wash away the chocolate left over in your bowl.  Especially if you've bought expensive chocolate.  Make sure you have some rice crispies, slivered/chipped nuts, coconut and chopped biscuits at hand.  Put your favourite 'fillings' into the bowl (you'll have to decide yourself how much you need, I like to have only a smattering of chocolate around the 'goodies') and make sure you get to pick up all the remaining chocolate.  Mix well.  Line a tray with baking paper, drop spoonfuls of this mixture onto your tray.  You could use small chocolate moulds too.  Pop them into the fridge (not the freezer!) to set for a few minutes.  If you leave them in the fridge too long they will 'sweat' and the chocolate won't be shiny anymore.

Have fun.

April Blackbird

22 March 2010

Fresh fruit cake...

We all know a fruit cake should mature for at least three months, but I have to tell you that my fresh fruit cake tested pretty good yesterday.  In fact, it was scrumptious.

It looked pretty cute too!  The lacy ribbon on the bottom was saved from the parents' wedding cake and I had the dusky pink ribbon in my 'ribbon' box.  The cake looks nothing like I'd intended it to, but I'm pretty happy with the path my inspiration took me down.

I made the little flowers and did a poor job of piping their centres (the icing wasn't soft enough and I was in a hurry so I didn't go back and remix it as I should have).

Our littlest Chickadee's parents loved the cake and I suppose that's all I ever really wanted. 

April Blackbird

18 March 2010

Outfit reno!

Well, I decided to take a look at the contents of my rapidly depleting wardrobe this morning.  I don't want to go out and buy an outfit to wear to church on Sunday unless I absolutely have to. There has to be something that I can update/change and what do you know, there is.

Arabella might remember walking Auckland flat with me just before our UK chickies got married.  We eventually bought a lime green two piece outfit that I loved and my father hated.  When I'm finished with the cake this afternoon, my icing paraphernalia will make way for my sewing machine and overlocker.

I'm going to shorten the skirt from the top as the hem has some lovely detail I don't want to lose.  I'd like the skirt to sit just under my knees so it looks smart with high heeled sandals. That's the easy part.  The top needs some 'jazzy' buttons as I'm bored with the old ones and I need to lop off the sleeves at the elbows.  They were always just a little too long and I'm not that cracked on the way they've been finished off.  It shouldn't take too long and I'm happy to think that I'll be getting some more use out of the outfit after all this time.

Just by the way, the cake is morphing into something really pretty... I'm really happy with it.  One or two more little finishing touches and that will be that. It's been fun playing with icing again, but it has bought home to me the fact that my piping skills are zero now thanks to my 'sore' wrist.

Who'd like my icing nozzles?  Some are genuine antiques!

April Blackbird

Speeding Tickets and Avatar

So... our first day back in NZ and we were running a little late to a lunch date.  We pulled into the fast lane on the motorway to pass a truck and got the flashing red and blue lights behind us : (  Not a good start, but the cop didn't charge us too much... and it was probably a good reminder that the NZ police are about 100 times more vigilant about speeding than the European police (who really don't seem to care).  Ah well, we can consider that our contribution to crime fighting in NZ for the year.

On a better note, we went to see Avatar on the huge IMAX screen in 3D last night for the first time (because we didn't want to see it in Spain not in 3D and with subtitles).  It was awesome!  Such a good movie.  I wouldn't mind seeing it again not in 3D though at some point.

Anyway, gotta go to the dentist now. : (


Arabella Chickie in Auckland, New Zealand

16 March 2010

We made it to NZ!

A 5am start on a frosty Sunday morning in Palma de Mallorca… I’m the second in the shower and decide to wash my hair before we begin our epic 44 hour journey home to NZ for our holiday.  5 minutes into the shower, the water runs cold… total bummer… still have to finish shaving my legs and get the conditioner out of my hair.  Not a good start.

We wheel our 20kg bags over the cobblestones in the alleyways to get to our car.  We have probably woken the entire neighbourhood, but they were really too heavy to carry (we’ll apologize when we get back) and anyway, they were probably already awakened by the 20 odd drunken Germans that came past singing an hour earlier.

Larry, one of our crew members on the boat has very kindly insisted on taking us to the airport.  This will be the first time he has driven in Palma…. Hope he finds his way back okay. 

We get to the Palma airport and just make it to the counter in front of a busload of people all racing and pushing to get there first.  Thankfully our hand luggage wasn’t weighed this time.  Our checked in luggage was bang on 20kg each.  Not bad.  And now begins our 44 hour trip through five airports…

Palma airport (1 hour 30 min wait):  horrible breakfast but good coffee; shopping poor; didn’t check for wifi

Good flight (Iberian Air, 1 hour)… we slept the whole way.  Great smooth landing.

Madrid airport (4 hours 30 min wait): horrible coffee; reasonable shopping (I bought a cardigan at Mango); no free wifi

Bumpy flight (Iberian Air, 2 hours 30 min)… we dosed most of the way.  Very impressive landing in bumpy weather!

London Heathrow airport, Terminal 1 (7 hour wait):  very average late lunch (the waitress spilt the cider on herself and the water on me); very poor shopping (not one thing I wanted to buy); no free wifi

Long flight (Air NZ, 11 hours)... the staff were super nice and helpful, we tried to stay awake during this flights so we could sleep on the next one to get into sync with NZ time, I think I watched about 5 movies.  Mostly good ones.  My new noise cancelling headphones were the best buy ever for these long flights... I could actually hear everything in the movies!

Hong Kong airport (2 hours 30 min wait):  pretty poor shopping... very expensive and mainly very high end brands

Another long flight (Air NZ, 10 hours)... again the staff were great.  This time I tried to sleep and couldn't... I just couldn't get comfortable.  It seems like there is so much less leg space between the economy seats now days.  If the person in front puts their seat back, you pretty much can't move (and I'm not a big person... 5' and average build)! 

10.50am Tuesday morning... we made it to Auckland with all our luggage!  

Our friend picked us up from the airport and we are now settling in. I'm busy going through all my fabrics that have arrived here in my absence... so many!  and they are so much nicer in person than they are in photographs!  It's like Christmas for me!

We are going to try to stay awake this afternoon at least until 10pm... will see how that goes.  It's nearly 3pm now and we are doing okay so far.  


Arabella Chickie in Auckland, NZ!!!!!

14 March 2010

Heirlooms or just 'stuff'?

How does one know the difference?

Originally, this paragraph began like this...We've made three major moves in the past fifteen years.  Each time we've donated 'stuff' to friends, family and 'worthy causes'.  I sat staring at this paragraph for a long while... Eventually I had to come clean with myself and admit that we've actually made five major, and eight minor moves in the past twenty five years.  It doesn't include saying 'goodbye' to treasured books and photos lost in the flooding of my mother-in-laws basement where I'd stored my 'treasures' while we built a new house.  It also doesn't include helping our children with their various (numerous) moves.  No moss has been allowed to grow under any of this clutches feet.  

It hasn't always been easy parting with 'stuff' I thought was really important, but I'm getting so good at it that I have to wonder what the reason behind all of this is. The message seems to be written in ten foot high neon lighting.  Do not become attached to STUFF.  Which brings me back to my quandary... are they heirlooms or just stuff?

My physical baggage is one whole lot lighter nowadays.  Still, there is 'stuff' that I treasure (one would think I'd have learnt to know better by now!).  My grandmother's favourite ring, some tray clothes she embroidered for my 21st birthday, my christening gown, my daughter's christening gown, books and gifts from my children and now my grandchildren, photographs...  nothing frightfully expensive, but all greatly treasured. Sentimental 'stuff', or heirlooms? 

This constant 'shedding' of 'stuff' was highlighted again yesterday.  I decided to take a look at the wreaths of icing flowers from the cake I made for Arabella's wedding.  Imagine my utter dismay when I found that the extreme heat and humidity we'd experienced recently had turned them into a festering, mouldy mess. I had to throw the entire lot out.  It was hard. 

In the last month, I've pruned my grocery cupboard to a bare minimum in an attempt to get rid of the moths (the bay leaves have worked a treat, by the way); archived paperwork (to file 13); given away clothes and chucked out potplants.  I'm about to shed the last of my daughter's furniture and 'stuff' as she's now moving into a house where she'll have space for the rest of her belongings... again, we're 'lightening up'.

I wonder what's next to go?  Perhaps I'll spend some time sorting through the rest of my cupboards this week...

April Blackbird

12 March 2010

Great news!

Our Palma chickies are going to be making the marathon trip home this weekend.  It's going to take them 44 hours and I'm sitting here thinking that I'm very glad I'm not them.

Let's hope there are some good (new) movies for them to watch.  I have no idea which airlines they're flying on, but I do know they have a couple of stops along the way with a long stopover at Heathrow.

It will be interesting to hear their comments on the airlines when they have a chance to sit down again.  There are always 'hotspots' in the airports so Arabella might be persuaded to pass a running commentary on service, food, movies and that old 'dogbone' leg room.

On a separate issue, I'm in the process of icing the Christening cake.  The almond paste is on (thank you UK chickie) and the fondant will go on tomorrow.  I've pinched a tiny bit to make some very tiny, thin 'anonymous' flowers.  Coloured some very pale pink, yellow, blue and lavender.  Once I've finished with them I'll have to decide whether or not to make a few rose buds to go with them.  I'm running out of time as the Christening is next week and not the week after.

Talking of which, we have just discovered that we're going to have to battle the St Patrick's Day Parade crowd for parking in the city.  There are lots of road closures too...  the train is beginning to look quite appealing.

April Blackbird

09 March 2010

Sidekick Creative

Hey, you have to excuse me but I'm really tickled pink at some good news we've received just lately and I have to share!

One of our Kiwi brood (Kevin Lynch of SideKick Creative in this instance) has had major input into the upcoming Manchester United celebrations. Kevin has created a massive mural on the outside of the east stand of Old Trafford - "The Theatre of Dreams". 

I'm not going to reinvent the wheel as his achievement has had significant coverage on radio and in the newspaper. Switch on your speakers and have a listen to his interview.  You'll see some good pictures on the newspaper link. It's definitely worth taking the time to click on these links.

What an amazing coup for New Zealand, so far away from Manchester. 

Kevin has just started up SideKick Creative in Auckland, New Zealand and we'd like to wish him every success.  He's an amazingly talented graphic designer with a huge interest in sport (as you'll see from his home page). 

Please feel free to email this article on to your fellow Kiwi's.  We think they'll be chuffed to see a fellow NZ's work greeting the hundreds of thousands of fans that will be walking through those gates.

April Blackbird

07 March 2010

Sunday Stash #19

This week some lovely fabrics arrived from Above All Fabric...  These are from the Flaura and Fauna collection by Patty Young.  So very cheerful!

Happy Sunday!

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

This and that and Kiwi burgers

Whew!  We have had a busy week here in Spain.  Last Friday and Saturday the boss and his wife came over from Greece to visit his boat in the yard and have a little look around Mallorca.  We took them on a tiki tour to a few of our favourite places on the island and they really enjoyed it (we think).

Then on Saturday evening my brother-in-law and his family arrived for a visit from London.  We had a bit of an overlap with the boss and the family on Saturday night, but not a big deal as we had the family until Tuesday night so that was okay.  It was great to see everyone.  We hadn't met our 8 month old nephew yet, so it was lovely to finally see him in person, and our 3 year old niece had grown into a real little lady with lots to say!  The long weekend ended far too quickly and we were sad to see everyone leave on Tuesday afternoon.  They will have to come back though as we didn't get to see even half of the island!

I have had three Spanish lessons this week and I am really enjoying them.  My Spanish teacher talks to me in Spanish (and translates if I don't understand) and it really helps to hear it spoken more as understanding the spoken word is my biggest problem.  It seems to me that most Spanish people seem to speak at top speed!  I have to practice saying: "Puede hablar mas despacio, por favor?" (can you speak more slowly please?)!  

Our flights came through for our holiday back home in NZ and Australia, but then they got retracted again as there was a bit of a mix-up with them.  We are still waiting for the new flights.  I can't wait to go home for a holiday and visit our friends and family, but I really hate to pack.  Maybe the packing fairy will come and pack for me while I am procrastinating?  

On Wednesday I made Kiwi burgers for the boys for lunch.  I had forgotten how much I love the combo of fried eggs, beetroot, cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, gherkins and homemade burger patties!  So good, but hard to get your mouth around!

I wrote down my burger pattie recipe while I was making them as they were super yummy.

Yummy Homemade Burger Patties
(Makes 9 good size patties: feeds 4 - 5)

500g beef mince
1 egg
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 lge mushrooms very finely diced*
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 medium/large onion finely diced
2 shakes of nutmeg
1 tsp beef stock
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together with your hands (yeah, I know, it's yucky, but it's the best way to mix it properly) and form into patties.  Shallow fry on each side until brown and cooked through.  I usually make a tiny pattie to start with just to check that they are going to taste okay... I adjust the seasoning at this point before I start frying the real burgers.

*For those of you who have mushroom haters in the family, I am 99% sure they will not taste them as long as you don't tell them they are in there.  One of the boys on the boat doesn't eat mushies and he loved the burgers so much he had three!  The mushrooms definitely help keep the patties nice and moist and add flavour.

Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend!

Hasta luego!

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

04 March 2010

Bay leaves keep cupboard moths out!

I had to share this tip with you! 

For the first time in my life I've been plagued with cupboard moths in my grocery cupboard.  It might have had something to do with the extreme heat and humidity we've experienced this summer, or they might have come in with groceries packaged in cardboard (like the pasta I bought).  I will never know.

What I do know is that I would open the grocery cupboard door to find tiny little moths fluttering about.  Then I began to find them 'nesting'.  As I wouldn't use insecticide I landed up cleaning out the entire cupboard and washing absolutely everything.  I threw out a LOT of groceries packaged in cardboard too.  All the shelves were wiped off and everything was packed back in plastic containers.

It took me ages and cost me a fortune!  I hate throwing food away when there are so many starving people in this world...

Yesterday I happened to overhear something on a cooking channel that really caught my interest.  Bay leaves exude a natural oil that moths dislike.  I never knew that!  My cupboards are now strewn with dried bay leaves.  They smell really good.

April Blackbird.

02 March 2010

Anyone read any good books lately?

Thirty years ago a group of young mothers in Mulbarton, South Africa got together and started a book club. 

We all had young children, liked to read, were a long way from the nearest (decent) library and didn't have much money to spend on books.  We'd been swapping books between us for ages and thought we should do it formally.

Once a month, on a Thursday evening after dinner, we got together for tea, cake and a very good yak fest. Nobody discussed the books much until it was time to choose some to read before we left for home.  You had to be a 'friend' or a 'friend of a friend' before you were allowed to join.  That way, we didn't loose too many books over the years.

We all made a donation to the hostess and she used the money to buy books she wanted to read.  The books were added to the box which was then passed on to the next hostess... that box is still doing the rounds.  It was a great system.  When everyone had read the books, the person who'd purchased them took them home and loaned them to her family. 

We can't exactly share books via this blog, but I'd really like to hear about what you're reading at the moment... 

April Blackbird

PS  Many of the original group still keep in regular contact! 

01 March 2010

Sunday Stash #18

Today, some lovely fabric from Sew Deerly Loved on Etsy.

Clockwise from top left:  Michael Miller, Michael Miller, Heather Ross and Ellen Crimi-Trent.

This picture always makes me happy... I love these fabrics!

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca