28 May 2010

Places I have been # 2 - Fort Victoria en route to Lake Kyle

Back in 1973, when we made our one and only trip up to Zimbabwe/Rhodesia we drove a Ford Corsair.  It still had bench seats, back and front and nobody ever thought about using things like safety belts.  Which was great, it meant I could sit with my back to the car door (on the passenger side, of course) and put my feet up so they didn't swell too badly. Shock! Horror!  I can just hear the comments.

It gets worse though.  In those days, we used to pick up hitch-hikers.  Truly.  It was the done thing.  South Africa had compulsory army service for all school leavers and these young chaps were sent off to remote areas to do their training.  After the first six weeks they were allowed a weekend pass.  How they got home and back was their problem.  So, as a nation we supported each other's sons.  We'd pick up these young men and drive them as far as we were going.  No problems there.  We never, ever had problems with one of these young soldiers.

Thing is, my man had back-packed across Europe and felt empathy with every traveller he saw on the side of the road.  Which is why we picked up a lone hitch-hiker (in the middle of absolutely nowhere on a very hot day) on our way up to Beit Bridge.  Big mistake.  Which we only realised when this man began to give the guards at the Beit Bridge customs a huge run around.  They wouldn't let us go and he wouldn't sign the papers.  It was getting dark and the swallows were swooping in huge swirls in the beautiful sunset and it was beginning to look like we were all going to be sitting in the car for the night.  Warning bells tolled.  Loudly.

Needless to say, he eventually signed and we were allowed on our way.  I would happily have left him there.  He wasn't going to have any of that!  No way.  Turned out he was a badly shell-shocked Vietnam vet.  We learnt all about that when my man hit a rabbit that night.  Our passenger went hysterical!  We were miles and miles away from everything and everyone and we had to stop to pick up and move the dead rabbit.  We were beginning to get quite worried at that stage.  When we pulled in to the only hotel in the area we discovered that they had only one room.  We tried to leave our passenger in that room, but he wouldn't get out of the car.  So the hotel staff kindly phoned around and found that there were two rooms available at the Lake Kyle park.  We think they also had a word with the man who owned the place once we were gone...

When we arrived (very late and absolutely exhausted), he'd organised a Rondaval (a round hut) for the two of us, and he put our hitch-hiker into a caravan quite a long way away from us.  Our hitch-hiker didn't want to leave us, was scared of being on his own, but the owner persuaded him there was no way he was going to put him into our room.  Thank heavens.

The next day we were offered a trip on the lake compliments of the owner.  We had an amazing day out and got to see a lot of the crocodiles and other wild life from the small motor boat.  We didn't take our hitch-hiker with.  He'd caught a bus into the nearest town to have a look around.  Once we realised he was able to get 'out' on his own we (I am almost embarrassed to tell you this) jumped into our car and drove off as fast as we could. We, quite literally, ran away from him! We never saw him again and I cannot ever begin to tell you how relieved we both were.

We didn't pick up hitch-hikers after that.  Not unless they had army uniforms on.

April Blackbird

Happy, happy birthday Mama Tui

Arabella's mum celebrates her birthday today and we'd all like to wish her a fantastic day.

Best wishes from all of us :)

26 May 2010

Finally, the finished product!

I finally finished the second baby shoe to go with my first prototype... Unfortunately I didn't document my stitches for the first one as well as I thought I did as I went along, so I had to make it up a bit for the second one.  They still look mostly the same.  Next time I will have it right for sure though.

And here they are attached to some lovely little baby legs!

Happy Wednesday!  We have the day off today and we are going to the markets in Andratx on the South West side of the island.  I LOVE market shopping : )

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

25 May 2010

Something truly special to watch and listen to... Lost Generation

This is a video that was submitted in a contest by a 20 year old.  The contest was titled "u @ 50" by  AARP. This video won second place.   

When they showed it, everyone in the room was awe-struck and broke into spontaneous applause.  So simple and yet so brilliant.

Take a minute and watch it.

Click here: Lost Generation

A palindrome reads the same backwards as forward.  This video reads the exact opposite backwards as forward.

Not only does it read the opposite, the meaning is the exact opposite too.

This is only a 1 minute 44 second long video, but it is brilliant.  

Make sure you read as well as listen...forward and backward.

April Blackbird

24 May 2010

Attitude of Gratitude # 6

I've just read Arabella's latest post about 'eating out' and it really stirred something inside me.  How wonderful it is that 'my chicks' are getting to experience such diversity!

So.  Today I will tell you that I am grateful for the opportunities that are available to my chicks.  How fantastic it is for them to be able to get 'out there' and experience what life has to offer! 

Yes, I know that these opportunities have (in some instances, and we won't go there) come at a price to them.  That they've had to work hard to get 'where they are' and that they're still working hard at 'what they do'.  They've had to make sacrifices. They've had to 'get out there and make it happen'!  I know that.  Still, it is wonderful to know that they're doing/seeing/experiencing so much. 

No matter how it came to be, the fact is... these are still opportunities and  I'm truly chuffed to see how they have reached out and seized the moment. So many people I have known have sat back and watched opportunity pass them by. 

April Blackbird

23 May 2010

Dining out

One thing I really love to do is eat out, (much to the dismay of my husband and his wallet).  I am still trying to analyse why I love to eat out so much... but I think it is the combination of several things:

- having someone else prepare a meal for you
- being able to enjoy an evening chatting with friends with no-one having the pressure of being host/hostess
- the opportunity to try some new flavour combinations that I haven't tried before
- the chance to try a new bottle of wine that you know should be reasonable good or it wouldn't be on the menu at all
- if it is just the two of us, the opportunity to really chat without being distracted at home by the TV or the computer or my crafts etc...
- and finally being able to walk away and know that someone else is going to take care of the mess in the kitchen tonight

Palma is such a great city and it really comes alive at night time.  There are so many restaurants and cafes and bars tucked away in little alleyways around here, and it is such a pleasure to explore and find some new little restaurant to try.  The other day I even found a vegetarian restaurant!  

At the moment we find ourselves eating out two or three times a week!  But I am sure that will change when we get back to Greece.  The area we live in in Greece is quite rural and doesn't have much in the way of restaurants, although we do have our favourite few... two Tavernas (similar to tapas style eating) and a great Italian restaurant that I really hope is still there when we get back to Greece.

Now I just need to work my way through my mental list of restaurants that I want to try before we leave Palma and I will be happy... it could take a while though!

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

22 May 2010

Thought for the day

Saturday May 22nd 2010

"Imagination was given to man
to compensate him for what he is not;
a sense of humor to console him for what he is.”

Posted using ShareThis

Posted by Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

21 May 2010

Places I have been - # 1

While I was chomping on my very yummy, home-made muesli this morning, I picked up a Gourmet Traveller and began browsing the recipes.  There are so many fantastic recipes in that magazine, but this time it was an article that caught my attention. The journalist was reporting back on the best hotel he'd ever stayed in.

The article sparked a distant memory... I've always wanted to write about the 'places I have been'.  So I thought I'd write about one a week.  Starting to-day.

Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe), Africa - August 1973.  Leopard's Rock Hotel - Vumba Mountains - the BEST hotel I've ever stayed in.

Not the poshest, but definitely the best.  I'll tell you why.

We were very young.  I was very pregnant with our first chickadee (he was born in November) and we were a very long way from home, with very little money. I would freak out if one of my kids did the same thing!  We knew the writing was on the wall for Rhodesia and we wanted to visit the country before it became too dangerous.  So, we packed up the old Corsair and made our way up.

It was a grand adventure and I'll tell you more about it over the next couple of weeks, but to-day I want to talk about our stay at The Leopard Rock Hotel.

In those days it didn't have a casino and wasn't nearly as grand to look at.  It's had a major refurbishment... they had to, it was hit by mortar fire in the early 70's (see what I mean about needing to visit while it was still safe?) and the grounds are just stunning.

We hadn't made a booking and arrived late in the afternoon of the 5th August expecting to be turned away (I remember because we had to book a trunk call to Johannesburg to wish my dad a happy birthday and it cost us a small fortune).  I waited in the car while 'my man' made enquiries.  Far from being turned away we were (quite literally) welcomed with open arms.  The hotel was practically empty!

By the time our luggage was lugged upstairs by the tall, very dark man with a huge white smile and shining eyes, our room had been opened to air and there was a small crystal decanter of sherry with two glasses on a little table.  The welcoming note that stood beside it had been handwritten and was personally addressed to us.  A little silver tray of Lindt chocolate blocks, and a bunch of freshly picked flowers stood alongside. I don't know about you, but we've never been welcomed in this fashion by any other hotel.

We were informed that the drums would beat to announce the serving of dinner on the terrace and then we were given a quick guided tour so that we would feel 'at home' in this vast castle of a hotel. We were introduced to everyone we met.  By the end of the tour we were 'friends' with all the staff and the few visitors.

We were blown away!  To this day we both still speak of this experience.  We have never forgotten the friendliness of the staff and management.

Our bedroom looked over the beautiful gardens, down over the majestic slopes of the Vumba Mountains and we watched as the mist drifted in over the tops of the thorn trees.  The sounds of the drums beating duly summoned us down to dinner.

'Our' waiter met us at the door, a huge smile on his friendly face!  "I am your waiter while you stay with us.  If there is anything you want, ever, please ask me and I will get it for you."  Wow!  He was true to his word.  I didn't drink tea or coffee in those days (wonder where my kids get their pickiness from?), but I did drink hot chocolate, Milo and Ovaltine.  This sweet man would not rest until he had coaxed me to drink something 'for the pickannini' and he'd always come around at least twice more than he probably should have, with the chocolate basket.  "Please, take a big handful."

When we eventually got upstairs to our bedroom, we found the curtains drawn, the lamps on, the beds beautifully and very precisely, turned back with a hot water bottle stratigically placed for maximum comfort.   Everything in the hotel was always absolutely spotless.

The next afternoon, we arrived home from our drive a little earlier than we'd expected and 'our waiter' met us at reception to inform us that afternoon tea was being served in the drawing room.  Scones and cakes, fresh cream and home-made jams!  All beautifully served. With a big glass of Milo for me!

Given that we'd been camping and staying in game park 'rooms' up until then, we truly thought we'd died and gone to heaven.

Our stay at The Leopard Rock hotel went on in the same vein.  They told of us of the best places to visit and what to stay clear of.  When I arrived home one night feeling totally and completey car sick after a day of wending our way around tight bends in the deep mist, 'our waiter' came  to our door to find out why we weren't coming down for dinner.  He insisted on bringing something up to our room for us.  Hey, who else has ever given a hoot about whether or not we've come down to dinner?

My man plays the guitar and one night while he was playing in our room (very quietly and I promise we had no neighbours to bother) we became aware of quiet singing outside our door.  I'm not quite sure who was the most surprised when I opened the door.  The small group of people outside our door, or me!  It took a lot of persuasion to get them to hang about and they wouldn't come into our room to listen, but we did leave the door open and we all enjoyed the evenings music together.  We sat on the floor just inside our room and they sat on the floor just outside our door - all very proprietal. 

The morning of our last breakfast together has stayed in my mind forever.  'Our waiter' did not want us to leave.  He plied us with food and drink and then insisted on fetching the chocolate basket so that I could make sure I had 'sweets for the pickannini, for the long journey'.  They stood on the stairs of the hotel and waved goodbye until we could not see them anymore.

We have never forgotten them and the kindness they showed us. We think about them each time we read about the terrible goings on in that amazing country and we hope they are safe.

I'd love to take my chickadees there one day, some time in the future.  No doubt, it won't be quite the same, but the views are still amongst the most incredible in the world.  To-day you can 'fly-in and fly-out'.  Things have changed.  As they do.

April Blackbird

20 May 2010

Picky eaters...

I have always lived in awe of mother's whose children 'eat everything'.  Always. Are there really children who eat everything, always?  Gosh, I had four and not one of them ate everything.  Ever.

We're not going to get into the allergy side of things.  That was another whole experience.  I'm talking only about my 'picky eaters' today. 

Gosh, they're all grown up today and having the family around to dinner is quite an experience.  Let me share a list of (some) of what they do not eat:
  • potatoes (truly!)
  • onions (understandable, they can cause a lot of discomfort)
  • mushrooms 
  • peas
  • cauliflower, brocolli
  • tomatoes - raw or cooked
  • squash of any sort including zucchini and butter nut
  • rice (allergy, so maybe shouldn't be on this list)
  • butter, margarine
  • white bread of any kind - so no sour dough
  • soy and linseed bread, bread with too many 'bits' in it of any kind
  • lamb shanks; lamb neck; kidneys, liver, tripe; fatty meat of any kind
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • baked beans, canneloni beans, red beans, broad beans, lentils, chick peas
  • feta cheese, blue cheese, brie, camembert
  • eggs
  • honey, jam, syrup
  • raisins, currants, sultanas, oh heck... just about every dried fruit
  • fruit cake
  • fruit salad
  • fruit, especially bananas
  • cake with jam in the middle
  • icecream
  • cream
  • yoghurt
Cooking for a family gathering has become an artform. The simplest way to please everyone is to make a BBQ or a roast. Chicken or turkey are my best choice. Red meat roasts pose a small problem too... everybody likes to have their meat cooked differently.  My husband's 'raw' is everyone elses 'medium'.

My green salad's have become a joke!  The best way to dish them up is to serve sliced/diced components on separate plates.  That way everyone can make up their own without 'contaminating' anything.  Nothing gets dressed.  I put a variety of oil/vinegar/lemon/bought dressing on the table.  Those that want add, those that like 'plain' salad are happy.

By the time I've taken all my families 'fimmies' into account I've quite lost interest in trying anything new.  Which is why it's always good to find out about new ways to 'hide' vegies.

I watched a great class on the latest Masterchef series here.  Gary talked about his 'picky' children and gave us a wonderful recipe for home made (obviously) sausage rolls with hidden vegies.  Follow this link and you'll be able to watch him make them and/or download the recipe.

If you have children that eat everything, always... let me know how you managed to get it right.  I'd love to hear. I'd also like to hear about those of you with husbands that eat everything.  Counts you out automatically Arabella :)

April Blackbird

18 May 2010

An Attitude of Gratitude - # 3 (yup, I forgot about 3 and went straight on to 4)

I have no idea how it came about that I totally skipped # 3.  No excuses, just a fact. Moving on.

Today I'm going to express my gratitude for the heavy rain that's been falling in Sydney since early last night.  It bucketed down all night and all I could think of was New Mum's newly laid lawn!  Yayyy!  The rain will do a better job of 'wetting it in' than any amount of watering could ever do. Couldn't have asked for better. Let's hope the creek doesn't flood at No. 8 though!  The fence has only just been repaired.

I haven't always been so grateful for the rain that's fallen around me!  Truth be told, there was a time when we lived in New Zealand that I honestly wondered whether I would begin to grow webs between my toes.  The first six months that we lived in Auckland were the wettest on record.  Which reminds me of this poem which we found in an information centre in Westland National Park in NZ:

The Rain
It rained and rained and rained
The average fall was well maintained
And when the tracks were simple bogs,
it started raining cats & dogs

After a drought of half an hour
We had a most refreshing shower,
And then most curious thing of all,
A gently rain began to fall!

Next day but one was fairly dry
Save for one deluge from the sky
Which wetted the party to the skin
And then, at last, the rain set in. 

Right, so now we all know that it can rain A LOT in New Zealand. We also know that when it doesn't rain A LOT, they dry out all too quickly.  The countryside was brown when we were there last.  Apparently, it got a whole lot worse... let's hope they're getting some rain again.  

Anyone able to say whether they are?

April Blackbird 

Viktor Frankl: Why to believe in others | Video on

I have to share this with you! Please watch and enjoy.

Viktor Frankl: Why to believe in others | Video on

Just by the way, (ideas worth spreading) is worth a visit anytime.

April Blackbird

15 May 2010

A very purple bear...

Meet Madison II.  This little bear is going to a new baby boy called Archie.

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

A baby shoe prototype...

I have been busy lately crocheting a little bit every night. I am still trying to get my head around things, but I think I am learning a bit.

Here is my latest prototype baby shoe to try on my friend's little 3 month old baby Noah.  The yarn is Sirdar Snuggle Baby Bamboo and it feels really nice and soft to the touch and is easy to work with.

The funky orange button was purchased at a tiny little old fashioned store here in Palma that is absolutely stacked full of boxes of buttons and crochet cotton.  It is run by a cute little older couple who only speak Spanish.  Thank goodness I am keeping up with my Spanish lessons!  The store is so crowded that I have to take my handbag off my shoulder when I go in in case I knock something down when I turn around.  Next time I go, I will ask if I can take a photo.

Here is a pic of the prototype with my favourite chocolate lolly at the moment (purchased from the food section of Ikea), to get a better idea of size.

What do you think?  I really like the colours on this one.  The style is based on the Hi-Top Athletic shoe from the Gourmet Crochet Julian Blaise Collection of Baby Boy Shoes.  I have made quite a few changes to the pattern though.  I just hope I can work out what I did so that I can make the matching shoe to go with this one!

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

13 May 2010

An Attitude of Gratitude - No. 5

I am grateful for my wonderful friends.  All of them.  Life just wouldn't be the same without them!

Somebody once asked me whether my friends were truly 'friends', or simply 'acquaintances'.  I was quite taken aback, but had to agree that she was right to ask. 

Yes, I have a lot of acquaintances. I like people.  Well, most of the time anyway.  I count 'acquaintances' as people I have known briefly.  I like them enough to chat to them; maybe we'll share a cup of coffee at lunch time; maybe we'll chat at a club. We share each other's company briefly and often only in passing.

Isn't making someone's acquaintance the first step to becoming their friend in time?  The smallest seed with a potential to grow into the largest tree?  Real friendships don't happen over night.  They have to be carefully nurtured. 

And yes, I do have a lot of friends.  True friends. From all walks of life. People who care about me and mine, as I care about them and theirs.  We are 'there' for each other in the truest sense.  There are some very close friends to whom I refer to as my 'elected family'. Shared blood couldn't make us closer!  We share each other's joy and heartache.

That said and done we all acknowledge that we share different parts of ourselves with different friends.  We cannot possibly be all things to all people.  We don't have to live in each other's pockets or share the same breath of air. That isn't possible.  Or necessary.  For us, the accent on friendship is on the 'caring'.

What do you think defines 'a friend'?


10 May 2010

Baby shoes galore!

With so many babies being born around me and not much new and exciting in the shops, I have decided to start making baby gifts for something a little bit different.  So far I have made two Madison bears (one in pink and one in purple) and four pairs of baby shoes.  I am quite pleased with the baby shoes as they do look quite different.  I have also become confident enough that I am now starting to alter the 'recipe' to suit me better - make them faster and make the straps buttonable.

Here are some pics of a few I have made so far:

What do you think?  Cute?

Arabella Chickie in Palma de Mallorca

08 May 2010

Homemade Ricotta

It wasn't too long ago that I watched a cooking program that revealed just how easy it is to make your own Ricotta at home.  I was taken completely by surprise.  How is it possible that something so easy (and cheap) to make at home is so expensive in the shops?

Not only that, if you make it at home you know exactly what's gone into it.

Which is all well and good, as long as you write down the recipe!  Which I didn't.

While our Palma chickies were visiting we found it very difficult to find the baked Ricotta we all love so much.  Arabella did eventually find some and we enjoyed it, but we didn't enjoy it quite so much as the baked Ricotta she made herself. It was absolutely delicious and had a marvellous texture.

I did find an excellent baked ricotta recipe that I'd like to try - you'll find it by clicking on this link- it looks like it could well become a firm family favourite.

I've been searching the internet for good 'homemade' Ricotta recipes and have found quite a few variations on the theme.  Some use a mixture of buttermilk and milk; others use a mixture of cream and milk; yet others use only milk. Some use lemon juice as the 'curdling' agent; others use white vinegar.  All add a little salt.

Some recipes will give you 'instant' ricotta (or very nearly); some are a bit more time consuming.  I'm sure you'll enjoy reading all the instructions, but it does seem you can get a good result by:
  • making sure the milk doesn't actually boil
  • not burning the milk (duh)
  • using the microwave to heat the milk seems the best method
  • draining the curds through paper towels if you don't have a good muslin
So, what do you reckon?  No more shop bought Ricotta?  And... a huge variety of home baked Ricotta!

April Blackbird

05 May 2010

An Attitude of Gratitude - No 4

Sunday is Mother's Day in Australia.

When my children were little they would ask me 'that question'.  "What do you want for Mother's Day?" My answer was (and still is) always the same. "Good kids!"

I pretty much got what I asked for. Today, my children are grown up.  Three of them are married.  Two of them are parents themselves. I still think my children are my most worthwhile contribution to this world.  They are 'good kids'.  In every sense of the word. They are loving and caring human beings. I am proud of who and what they are.

So, to-day I give thanks for my children.  I am eternally grateful that we are spending this lifetime together.

April Blackbird

02 May 2010

Who loves a new pair of shoes?

For as long as I can remember, I've had a passion for shoes. Not just any shoes, but shoes that 'talk' to me.  You know the situation ... you happen to be casually browsing the shops and suddenly you come across a pair of shoes that you just absolutely have to own.

As Preggie Chick I resisted the urge to buy shoes for my entire pregnancy, primarily because my feet and legs swelled up to the size of large tree trunks and all I could fit into during the last trimester were my thongs (flip flops not a g-string).  As a person with a passion for shoes you can imagine that this nearly killed me. I was mortified to have to go out wearing thongs ...  Now that I'm a new mom I have very little reason to wear anything other than sensible footwear as I pound the pavements (or malls) pushing or carrying Chickadee. However, it came to my attention that long, flat boots (Riding Boots) are all the rage in fashion right now and they rather took my fancy! Initially I persuaded myself that I had no need for yet another pair of shoes. I quickly came to the realisation however that these boots may not be in fashion next year, therefore I ought to buy a pair now whilst I still had the opportunity. Having come to my senses, Arabella Chickie and I hit the shops during her recent visit and I was thrilled to purchase a beautiful pair of long, black riding boots. Very plain and simple but quite elegant. It felt really good taking that pair of boots home! Of course, this also meant that I now had to purchase two new pairs of trousers to wear with the new boots. I am now the owner of a pair of skinny leg jeans and a pair of black leggings. The idea being the pants get tucked into the boots. I have a distinct memory of outrightly mocking this fashion statement a number of years ago and never thought I would become a victim of this trend myself. Still, with such gorgeous boots, one is compelled to display them.  Besides, Arabella Chickie assured me that so long as you wear a long top over the pants to hide your bum, then all is ok.

On Friday I had to run to the mall to get a few things and to my delight it was freezing cold and pouring with rain. The perfect opportunity to wear the new boots. Admittedly, wearing new boots when you know you have lots of walking to do is not necessarily very sensible so I did take a few band aids with incase of blisters. However, the boots were fabulously comfortable, much to my delight.  That said, by the time I got home it was quite a relief to slip them off and put on my pale blue Peter Alexander Ugg Boots ... a fashion item I swore I would never, ever own. They are rather warm and comfy though, sometimes I even think about leaving the house with them on ... but that would just be crossing the line.

New Mum Chick

01 May 2010

Madison Bear

Well here we are back in Palma!  It was great to go home and have a holiday and catch up with everyone, but strangely after having only been back one week, we are struggling to remember what we did on our holiday!

One thing I did do while we were on holiday was crochet this cute little bear for our newest niece...

Meet Madison Bear.

Madison Bear is about 20cm tall (when standing) and she has moveable arms and legs and no nasty bits that might choke someone who might decide to chew them off.  She is made from 100% wool.

I ordered the pattern online from Maggie Wheldon.  I found the instructions to be well written and easy to follow; however I might make a few minor changes next time I make this bear.  The hardest part was choosing a colour and nice woollen yarn to make Madison in!

Well, I'm off to finish some crochet baby booties for another little baby!

Hasta Luego!

Arabelle Chickie in Palma de Mallorca