31 October 2009

Julie & Julia - fabulous movie!

Just got back from watching this movie at Hoyts, Warringah Mall.

What a fabulous afternoon we had. I laughed and laughed and laughed and when the movie was finished I could so easily have sat through it again.

Meryl Streep and Amy Adams were simply amazing - check out the Facebook page to watch some great cooking 'featurette' videos. 

Huh! Now I simply must learn how to debone a duck.  Oh, and I learnt something (well, lots of things actually)... I now know why my beef doesn't brown properly... I don't dry it lovingly, piece by piece before I brown it.  And my mushrooms don't brown because I crowd them into a pan instead of giving them lots of space. 

I loved this movie.  Go and see it with a good friend.

30 October 2009

Cute Baking Tools and Other Stuff

I just have to show you one of my most recent purchases (not fabric or stamps for once). It is these supercute measuring cups from Fred and Friends!!!

I haven't actually seen them in person yet since I got my friend to pick them in the US while she was there recently on business, but she sent me a photo...  I love them!

I think they would be great for when your kids (or nephews and nieces and godchildren in my case) help out in the kitchen.  I'm very pro teaching kids to to cook and bake from young.  I have great memories of 'helping' Mum in the kitchen when I was little. Have you noticed these days that a lot of people under the age of 40 don't really like to cook much?

While my friend was on business in the States, she seemed to manage to fit in quite a bit of shopping time (my kind of business trip!).  She picked up these Copic markers for me... 

I can't wait to try them out on my cards.  I have heard they are really awesome for colouring in stamps and things.

And, she also bought me these lovely stamps and cute Amigurumi book!!!  We're both hooked on Amigurumi, so we are teaching ourselves (or at least trying to) how to crochet so we can make some.

Let me know if you buy any Fred's M-Cups!  I won't be seeing mine until about February next year, so would love to see them in action in someone elses kitchen... or galley.


Arabella Chickie in Greece

28 October 2009

ButterChicken Chick Quote Of The Week

“Mum … do you know … I told all my big school friends I can speak French and then I counted in French to 15 to show them.”
“Oh, I see, and did they like it?”
“No … no, because I only whispered it to my friend Gilbert who also knows French in my reception class”

She cracks me up. What did I do for entertainment before she arrived?

Cute Stamps from Sugar Nellie Stamps

I was browsing on Etsy the other day and I came across some handmade cards by Jankensan at Mini Crane Cards...  I fell in love with the stamps she uses and HAD to find them for myself.

How cute is this one?

It took me ages of searching online, but I finally found the company they came from... Sugar Nellie Stamps sold online at Funky Kits.

Look at all these beautiful stamps!!!

Hhhmmm... I think an online shopping trip to Funky Kits might be on the agenda.

Arabella Chickie in Greece

(Images from Funky Kits.)

27 October 2009

Torrential rain and big winds!

It's been raining cats and dogs in Sydney!  There was footage of shop owners in Chatswood desperately trying to keep the water out of their shops while their pavement furniture floated down the street.  People were frantically trying to clear leaves from the drain grids, but it wasn't helping and many business owners are going to be lodging large insurance claims.  Especially the bakery that had their flour and sugar bags soaked!  What a mess.

We (officially!) had the most rain for any October day in the past 25 years.  That's quite something.  Pity that most of it drained off into the sea then.

Big winds ripped the rooves off some houses and (as usual) there were lots of fallen trees everywhere. We live on top of a hill so the rain drained away from us and didn't really impact on us at all.  There were some awesome thunder and lightening effects to enjoy though. 

The Special Emergency Services do a great job of clearing up after these events.  I do believe that the SES is made up entirely of volunteers and I have to admire them.

In the days when we were living in Castle Hill, a neighbours tree fell down and was saved from crashing through our dining room ceiling by a fork in another tree!  The SES rocked up, cut up the offending dead tree and then removed all the wood.  I was astounded as they worked into the wee small hours of the morning.

As for seeing Penelope... I'm pretty sure it hasn't been on the circuit here yet.  Perhaps we'll get to see it over Christmas.  I'll definitely be making the effort to watch it.  Love the clothes!

April Blackbird (one day I am still going to type Blackbeard)

26 October 2009

Have you seen the movie Penelope?

What?! No?  Well you should.  It's not a new movie, (originally released at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006), but it is a good one if you like fantasy romantic comedies with lovely costumes. 

Penelope (played by the delightful Christina Ricci) is born with the nose of a pig due to an ancestral curse.  Her mother, horrified that her daughter is 'different' hides her away from society until she reaches adulthood when potential high society suitors are interviewed in an attempt to marry Penelope off.  The idea is that to break the curse  Penelope must 'earn the love of one of her own kind'. 

The cast includes actors such as James McAvoy as Max, a potential suitor who has been hired by Lemon (Peter Dinklage) in an attempt to get a newsworthy photograph of the 'girl with the face of a pig'.  Catherine O'Hara plays Penelope's snooty and very image conscious mother.  Reese Witherspoon also plays a role in the movie as Penelope's streetwise friend in the real world when Penelope escapes the family mansion and goes it alone.

Aside from the fact that this is a lovely 'feel good' movie with a meaningful message, I really loved Penelope's quirky, but very wearable clothes.

Look at this red jacket and cute beret... so nifty!

And this awesome coat with the mixture of retro buttons!  I love it!!!  Not to mention the scarf and the green shoes!

And this stripey long sleeve sweater... I do like stripes.

The costumes for the movie were designed by Jill Taylor (from Britain).  The idea for the costumes was to design them with a quirky 'other-worldly look', so outfits were customised with buttons, trim, brooches, and ribbon etc to give the effect of Penelope having adapted them herself to suit her own slightly eccentric style.  I think they did a great job! 

Anyway... Penelope is a sweet, quirky, movie with a good cast and great costumes.  In my opinion it is well worth watching.

Please note, the pictures and some information are from Aranel Online and the Christina Ricci fan site.

Arabella Chickie in Greece

25 October 2009

Great recipe site

I was going to chirp about the joys of making Koeksusters together!  Oh those days of getting together once a month to make 1000 Koeksusters to fill the Tamboetie Nursery School coffers...  ice cold syrup and boiling hot oil and slippery floors... I don't think it would be allowed anymore. Too dangerous! Too dirty (none of us wore hair nets or gloves and we used the nursery school kitchen table to roll out the dough - shock! horror!). We had a lot of very noisy fun though and I still think those were the best ever Koeksusters. They were sold out before we even began making them!

You might well ask what a Koeksuster is... the direct translation from Afrikaans to English is 'Cakesister'. You mix the dough, roll it out, cut it into thin (yes, thin!!! thick plaits are simply lazy!!!), strips and then plait three strips together, fairly tightly.  Your plaits should look like old fashioned hair plaits.  Plaits can be short to serve as finger food at tea parties, but 'in the olden days' we made them about 6 inches long (15cm).  They're 'pinched shut' tightly at either end so they don't unravel while they're being fried.

The secret to really good Koeksusters is simple. 

Drop your Koeksusters into your deep fryer (use Sunflower oil for best results) one by one (being careful not to splash yourself with hot oil!), let them go a light golden brown, remove from oil with a slotted spoon (to drain the hot oil!) and put them straight into the ice cold syryp mix (if you let them drain and cool, as some recipes suggest, before you put them into the syrup they will be soggy!).  Remove them quickly and let them drain on a draining rack placed over a tray - this is a messy business...

You should have at least two bowls of syrup in the fridge!  Change your syrup once it starts warming up.

We used to prepare our syrup days before we needed it (we needed an awful lot!) and would pop the 'warm' syrup buckets into the chest deepfreeze to cool off again. 

We worked in teams.  One team would mix the dough, one team would roll, one team would slice the dough into strips (we had a commercial cutter that worked a treat, but I've never found another one like it), one team would plait, one team would fry and 'syrup' the koeksusters.  The last team packed.  We'd rotate teams during the morning and were finished by 2:30pm on Koeksuster day.  Finished.  Literally and figuratively. A mammoth task.

I was going to give you a Koeksuster recipe I've had forever, but I came across a wonderful African recipe website this week and so I'm going to let you go on a taste experience of your own.  Try his recipes out! There's even a recipe for Cape Malay pickled fish, my fathers favourite!

Different recipes/instructions will give you a different end product.  If you want crisp outsides and sticky centres that are not soggy... use my frying/dipping instructions or follow the instructions given by the Cook Sister site below.

There's a good recipe for Meltert (Milktart... a custard tart) and a fantastic recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie.

Lots of diabetic recipes too.

Found another great blog with a Koeksuster recipe that sounds really good too, quite different, but her instructions on making them are great! 

Cook Sister -  (lots of other interesting recipes to try too).

I popped into a butchery in St Ives on Friday afternoon and was absolutely delighted to find it jam packed with all the South African products we loved and could not buy that easily here.

Pronutro, Ouma Rusks (I have a great recipe which I must share with you next week), Ina Paarman's spices (and even some cake mixes that are 'new' since we left South Africa so I couldn't say how good they are, but I do love her spices), dried fruit rolls, Redro Fish Paste, Marmite (relabelled Zarmite... anyone know what that's about?), Cadbury chocolate (chocolate tastes different here... different milk, more sugar - I don't know, it's just a fact), Bar One, Elizabeth Anne's baby products (used them for all my kids with great success) and even some magazines.  Stacks more!  Has to be the best selection I've seen in a shop here.  His boerewors has absolutely no preservatives either!  Which is fantastic news for me.  Very, very little fat and (he assures me) no water!  Tried his Karoo wors which is a mixture of lamb and beef and it was truly delicious.

Time to get stuck into my man's paperwork now.  GST is due in on Wednesday.

April Blackbird

24 October 2009

Oh I doooo like to be beside the seeeaaa!

One of the bonuses of being yacht crew is that we do get to see a lot of the seaside...

We pretty much never get sick of the water, even on long ocean trips.  Our longest so far has been 14 days on a sailboat between the Galapagos Islands and Tahiti.  The night watches are pretty amazing... phosphorescence in the water, the inky black ocean, all the stars so bright without city lights...

The water here in the Mediterranean is such an amazing colour...  just like the postcards.

The boat we are working on at the moment is a fairly large motor yacht (37m) that was built for speed.  Our current top speed is 55knots. although we were built to do 60knots.    Generally we travel top speed (or close to it) everywhere.

Arabella Chickie in Greece

22 October 2009

Oh I do like to live besides the sea side... sing along now!

Sundays are a great day for getting out and about in this city.  We aren't too keen on crowds so we prefer to go for walks along the clifftops, or the beach, or the Manly walkway we are so fond of.

We park the car just down from Balgowlah and take our time walking over to Manly, stopping frequently to admire the scenery and sometimes to watch the start of a yacht race.  The pathway can get busy at times too, but it's generally a very pleasant outing.

We'll walk down to Manly beach,along the beachfront, past Shelly Beach up to the cliffs and then back to the car again.

I don't have any photos of Manly beach, but I do have these of the walkway.

Click on the photos if you want to see a larger version...

Another one of our favourite walks is on the opposite side of the bay below:

The picture above shows the ferry terminal with one of Manly's favourite 'water holes' in the foreground.

Everyone pictures Sydney as a big city, with a bridge and an opera house... well, Sydney is a big city and it has a number of bridges (my favourite is the Anzac bridge!) and lots of people.  It also has a lot of lovely old buildings, large and small.

There is something here for everyone.  Glebe and Paddington have their rows of houses which remind me of England!  Cherrybrook,Castle Hill, St Ives and Turramurra have wide roads and large properties that remind me of a typical suburb in South Africa.  Leichardt has a distinctly 'Italian' flavour; Haymarket is referred to as 'China Town' and Cabramatta as 'Little Vietnam'. That's just for starters!

We have the Blue Mountains to the West of us and you can visit the Jenolan Caves for a totally different day out.  Up North we have the Hunter Valley famous for its wineries and great cheese.  Down South we have Kiama which is famous for its big blowhole and fish and chips.  The first few years that we lived in Sydney we were out and about absolutely every weekend.  Now we save our long drives for the times when we have family and friends come to stay.

April Blackbird

This and That from Japan has a sale on!!!

One of my favourite online fabric shops is having a birthday sale!  This and That from Japan is having a one year birthday celebration with loads of specials.  I don't think I am going to be able to say no to this one...

Here are a few of my favourite things in Lisa's lovely shop at the moment...

First up is this make your own donut erasers kit.  So cute!  Looks like it would be great fun for a rainy day kids project too.

Then there is this lovely elephant fabric.  I can think of lots of projects to make with this.

Beautiful bicycles on a linen cotten blend fabric...

And this lovely pinocchio fabric, again in a cotton/linen blend...

And this How to Sew Hats Japanese craft book!  I love hats in any shape!  I understand that the Japanese craft books have lots of pictures and are very easy to follow even though they are not written in English.  There is a small review on another Japanese hat book on Sew-4-Fun blog.

Ciao!  I'm off to the land of online shopping! 

Arabella Chickie in Greece

20 October 2009

ButterChicken Chick Quote Of The Week

“Mum … do you know …. I have to always kiss Daddy goodnight first and you last, because otherwise I will have boy dreams like Transformers, and I only want to have nice girl dreams like princesses”

… So I point out that Daddy is currently away and Aunty now gets first spot on the goodnight kiss table

… The reply without a moment’s hesitation: “first is worst, second is best, third one has a hairy chest”

Weekend trip to the island of Kia...

This weekend the owner of the motoryacht we work on decided to take a trip to Kia.  The weather prediction was for awful weather, but we were lucky and it turned out to be pretty good!  We went to a cute little bay that we hadn't seen before.    I think the little church is gorgeous.

And here are some other random photos I took on a walk around Lavrio, the little town where we live...

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Arabella Chickie in Greece

19 October 2009

Spring cleaning!

Haven't had time to write over the weekend, I've been busy spring cleaning. Mmm.

There are those of us that truly believe that housework is an absolute waste of our time.  I do so agree, it's a thankless task that is never quite done! I would so much rather spend my time watching a great movie (anyone seen one lately?), or reading a good book, working in the garden or going for a walk on the beach.

Sad thing is that I have to confess that I dislike living in a dirty house even more than I dislike housework. 

Sydney has experienced two awesome dust storms in the past month.  The first much worse than the second.  We were actually woken by a strange taste in our mouths on the first day!  Truly.  Not a smell, a taste!. We sleep with our bedroom window open and the thick red fog that had seeped into our bedroom 'tasted' weird.  Imagine our surprise when we opened the blinds to peer outside!  We couldn't see to the bottom of our property,never mind the horizon. 

Those dust storms left a heavy layer of red sand over everything outside.  It took us days to clean our patios, windows, washing lines, garden furniture and cars etc.  That yukky red fog leaked through the windows and doors and left a layer of fine red sand on every surface.

Eventually, the rains came and washed the air clear again.  Outside was now clean (and the car washers had a bonanza!), but inside... well, that's another story.  So this weekend was spent spring cleaning!  We washed the carpets, the windows, the blinds, the cupboards, the lightfittings, the oven (not because it was dusty), even the walls. By last night our backs ached (my sweet husband helped me!) and we were sore in muscles we didn't ever even remember ever having had. 

The house is now clean.  Which is great.  Until the next dust storm arrives.

Thought I'd share these very useful tips with you (please don't ask me why I had to try them out... that's another long story):

1.  Rust marks on carpet - simply cut a lemon in half.  Gently squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the rust mark.  Leave for a little while. Use a clean white towel to pat up the moisture.  Repeat if necessary.  I had a very big rust mark (oh woe), which is now history.  I did use the entire lemon in the end, but the carpet has been unharmed.

2.  Red candle wax on carpet (don't ask!) -  lots and lots and lots of white paper towel,neatly folded in a thick wad.  A hot iron.  Apply hot iron to thick wad of paper towel.  Repeat until all the wax has been soaked up into the paper towel.  I was truly amazed at how well (and how quickly) this worked.  Especially as said carpet is white!

3.  You know how well Handy Andy removes scratches from motor cars?  Well, it does the same for scratches on your walls.  A little Handy Andy on the corner of one of those 'gentle pot scourers', rub (gently!), wipe with a clean cloth.  Scratch gone.

Do you have any handy hints you'd like to share? 

April Blackbird

18 October 2009

Crafting without my crafting gear...

My husband and I have been crewing together on super yachts for the last 4 years.  In that time I have learn't to pack lightly when we leave NZ each time, otherwise it is really really hard to get all our stuff back home again.  It is amazing the amount of stuff you accumulate over a year.

Unfortunately packing light means no crafting gear.  I had to leave behind all my card making equipment, all my teddy bear making stuff, my cross stitch stuff and of course my sewing machine, patterns and fabric stash. 

So... I thought I would try something new and portable this time... crochet.  I have started to teach myself how to crochet.  I'm starting small with flowers and things, but eventually I want to be able to make a blanket, some Amigurumi, and also work with metal (the metal idea was inspired by Yoola's Etsy shop... go see, it is really cool).

So here are some of the flowers I have made so far...

This pattern is called Dusty Rose by Stitch Diva, and I found the free pattern on the internet here.  It is pretty straightforward, but takes me quite a while to complete, I think because I am using a really small crochet hook and I crochet quite tightly.

The next flower is just a plain round circle with some French knots in the middle.  I think I like these ones best even though they are quite plain. 

The final flowers are from a new pattern I have just found by Marte on the Shh, I'm Counting blog.  Click here to get the pattern.  These flowers are really quick and easy, although I must be doing something wrong as I find that my flowers go a bit lop-sided (see the dark blue flower on the bottom left of the photo) if I follow the instructions exactly, so I have to leave out a few stitches to get the five petals evenly spaced.

So, that is what I am doing to keep myself sane at the moment...  Well, that and reading other people's blogs.   I'm not entirely sure what I am going to do with these flowers yet, but I think they would make cute embellishments on jackets or tops or hats, or headbands, or doll clothes...

The thread and crochet hooks were my Granny's.  I'm not sure what the thread is, but it is quite fine, more like embroidery floss than wool.  The hook I use has 1.25 on it, (but I dont know what that means...) and it is metal.

I'm thinking that next I might try to get some bigger hooks and some wool and make a blanket.  I have just seen a pattern for a cute one here at Annies Attic (see pic below).

I have also purchased a super cute Amigurumi book from Superbuzzy that I would like to try.  But the book is in NZ at the moment.

So that is how I am getting most of my crafting fix at the moment.   Although I have to confess that I am also buying quite a lot of fabric online and getting it sent to NZ.  I will have a huge fabric stash to roll in when I finally get home to see it! 

Arabella Chickie in Greece

16 October 2009

Today was Farmer's Market day in Lavrio...

Every Thursday in the little town I am living in in Greece there is a Farmer's Market.

They sell beautiful produce and fresh fish as well as tools and clothes and household items.   The fruit and veges at the market are much fresher and better than those sold in the supermarket, but it is a bit 'pot luck' as to what you will find at the market from week to week.

Since May, the only onions I have been able to find at the market or the supermarket are red onions...

I've been buying my onions from these two chappies nearly every week for the last 5 months and they hardly every give me a smile.  Deep down I'm pretty sure they like me though... well I like to think so anyway.

I do love the beautiful colours at the market and the bustle of people and the sound of the vendors touting their wares...

Look at this lovely guy smiling for my photo! Most of the vendors don't speak much English and I speak no Greek, but we get by okay. The people here are so friendly and helpful.

These two are my favourite market vendors.  They are a mother and daughter pair and they seem so pleased to see me each week, it really makes my day. They always throw in something extra as a gift for me when I shop with them.  This week it was a melon. Aren't they cute?

Market garlic is fantastic... so much better than store bought...

And the tomatoes!  Oh, the tomatoes.... in my opinion, the tomatoes in Greece have the best flavour you will find anywhere in the world.

The fish from the market is also really good.  It's always fresh, and surprisingly these stalls are not too smelly...

Well, there you go... that was my trip to the market today.  It was a bit of a grey day, so not quite as cheerful as usual, but still good.  My arms nearly dropped off with all the stuff I bought and had to carry back to the car.

Arabella Chickie in Greece