27 December 2010

Off to Prague!

Well Christmas is over and it was lovely spending it with friends.  We unexpectedly did not have to work Christmas day, so we all got to go out to have Christmas lunch in a very atmospheric local Greek taverna.  It was lovely not to have to worry about cooking and cleaning!  

Apparently it is not a Greek custom to wear Santa hats and pull crackers at Christmas time, so our group of 8 (and a half) was the focus of the restaurant... especially when we handed out crackers to some of the kids in the room and then told them what to do with them.  We even made some new friends and have a coffee date with a lovely Greek family on New Years Day!

Tomorrow my husband and I are off on a mini holiday to Prague which I have heard is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.  I will tell you all about it when I get back!  At this stage I am just hoping that I will have a bit of relief from the horrendous allergies I have been suffering from here lately.  

Happy Holidays!

Arabella Chickie, heading to Prague!

24 December 2010

That gingerbread house...

NMC's post below says it all... we got the gingerbread house erected and duly decorated this morning! 

I promised to post some photos for our UK and Greece based chickies...  wishing you were with us and sending you lots and lots of love and best wishes for a blessed new year...
Our house in lollypop land... had to go on a tray so we can move it around easily and keep it ant free! Those are icicles you see dripping down and around everything... remember, it's snowing in lollypop land. And those are trees to either side of the house.  Candy trees and a Smartie path.

We even made a snow man... he has tooth pick arms and a scary grin to keep the ants away.
More snow later tonight... we weren't too sure that the humidity wouldn't make it disappear....  those marshmellows are rocks.

The view from the back! All those little sparkly bits are our Xmas lights.

We had heaps of fun and we're looking forward to baking some biscuits together next year.  The complaints department will be grown up enough to sit alongside us and help.  She was so cranky that we weren't feeding her all those brightly coloured goodies.  Wonder if she's going to make it through tomorrow without trying one???

April Blackbird

Merry Christmas

Well I had big plans (in my head) for Xmas. I figured since it was our first with Chickie, I would go all out and make a really big effort. Then reality took over and right now (Xmas Eve) I'm just pleased that we have all the necessary requirements in the fridge, that the tree is up and pressies wrapped.  I think I forgot that with a very active little one around, there really isn't much spare time for things like baking and making elaborate Adrian Zumbo Christmas trees out of biscuits! Alas, next year then.

April B stayed over last night so hubby and I could go out. Unfortunately we were so exhausted that we only managed a quick dinner out then home to bed. I was really wanting to see a movie, but would have just slept through the whole thing. Anyway, this morning April B helped me to make and decorate a Gingerbread House (well let's be honest, I just stuck some smarties on the house as a token gesture, really it was all her doing). Actually I ate quite a few Smarties too, which upset Chickie as she really wanted some too but obviously isn't allowed (how long can I continue with these double standards?). Anyway, it was great fun and in the end we were rather pleased with our efforts!  So that was our token of creativeness and going the extra mile for Xmas.

Tonight hubby and I intend to enjoy some seafood outside following which I'm hitting the sack and the good man that he is, hubby will be taking his mum to Midnight mass.  Tomorrow all the family arrive to eat the worlds biggest Turkey, then the 3 of us retreat to our beach spot for a week of R & R. So have a wonderful Xmas all. We will be thinking of you all tomorrow. Lots of love NMC xx

23 December 2010

Merry Christmas one and all!

No matter where you are in the world, 
no matter what your belief's...
here's wishing you peace, love and happiness.

Wishing you joy!

21 December 2010

Not feeling the "Peace and Goodwill to man" vibe?

It's the week before Christmas and you haven't done the online shopping thing, there are no presents under the tree, in fact... there's no tree yet.  You never did order that turkey (or if you live down this way) or the seafood and now you're going to have to pay the price and face the crowds.  

Here are three useful tips to remember while you're out there...

1. We are all creating our own reality.  We have chosen this experience.  We may not be able to control the events that occur around us, but we can choose our response to those events.  

2. If you feel yourself getting stressed out by a situation, stop what you're doing, bring all your senses into 'the present' moment, and then take three very deep, long, slow breaths.  You'll be back in control and you'll feel so much more relaxed.

3. Try to remember that people are not actually setting out to be annoying...  smile at them instead of blowing your top.  It's a far heathier response.  This isn't as easy as it sounds... but it's worth the effort.

Next year will be different, if you choose it to be!

April Blackbird

19 December 2010

Baby mittens

Normally my lovely friend Arabella posts about her creative creations, but I'm so delighted with her most recent addition to my chick's wardrobe that I wanted to share a bit of gratitude...

These are so gorgeous.  And I am happy to report, with some nifty modifications, they stayed on for 25 minutes, and would have stayed on longer if I hadn't had to feed the wee man.

Beautiful job, Arabella.

Bookie Bird.

A beautiful part of the world

Well, I've just seen some of the most beautiful coast-line and a stunning little port called Nafplion, which my dear friend Arabella recommended for a wee driving trip with the folks-in-law.  What a spot.  It seems influenced by so many other European cultures (Venetian, Turkish) and is such a lovely little arty place.  I did so enjoy wandering around there and peeking in lots of beautifully lit doorways at gallery designed jewellery and all sorts of gorgeous things made of olive tree wood and other ingenious finds.  It painted a completely different picture of the Greece I had expected.

En route, via Epidavros, Mycenae and Corinth, I was astonished by the ruins still standing and in some cases, still operating. The incredible ampitheatre at Epidavros, and the forgotten city of Mycenae which was in its prime between 1900 and 1200 BC when it began to decline.  And the Canal of Corinth.    You'll see some of the history below  - which is fascinating as to how long it was considered before actually being completed.

Ancient writers relate that, in 602 B.C., Periander, Tyrant of Corinth and one of the Seven Sages of Antiquity, was the first man to seriously consider the possibility of opening a canal through the Isthmus. Periander is said to have given up on his plans fearing the wrath of the gods. Pythia, the priestess of the Delphic Oracle, warned him not to proceed.   

In 307 B.C., about three centuries after Periander, Demetrios Poliorketes made up his mind to cut a naval passage through the Isthmus. He actually began excavations before he was talked out of continuing with it by Egyptian engineers, who predicted that the different sea levels between the Corinthian and the Saronic Gulfs would inundate Aegina and nearby islands with the sea.

In Roman times -- which is to say two and a half centuries after Poliorketes - Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. and Caligula, in 37 B.C. again courted with the idea. In 66 A.D., Nero reconsidered earlier plans and, a year later, he set teams of war prisoners from the Aegean islands and six thousand slave Jews to work on the canal. They dug out a ditch 3300 meters in length and 40 meters wide, before Nero had to rush back to Rome to quell the Galva mutiny. Once there, Nero was arrested on charges of treason and was sentenced to death in 68 A.D. The unfinished canal fell to oblivion and was overtaken by tales of superstition and supernatural lore.
The next historic personality to be associated with the canal of Corinth was Herod of Atticus. He tried, as also did the Byzantines - but to no avail.

The Venetians were next in line. They commenced digging from the shore on the Corinthian Gulf but the enormity of the task made them give up overnight.

(After much consideration and study)  Construction of the canal -- a work which was destined to alter all existing sea routes in Greece, the Adriatic, Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea -- began on April 23, 1882 and was completed in 1893 -(by the Greeks in the end).  

It is quite surprising (and a historic irony) that modern engineering plans followed almost to the point the plans Nero himself has used long ago. In other words, the 6300 meters of canal length which Nero had mapped out still proved to be the most feasible economic alternative.

A little interesting bit of history for your morning!
(Oh, and the most DIVINE limoncello and gelati in Nafplio!)

Bookie bird

16 December 2010

Have you got the latest version of Skype?

If you haven't, you should download it today.  

It's an incredible improvement on the previous version and best of all!!!!  You can do conference video chatting... which is why I was able to talk to (and see!!!) my UK and Greek chickies online, at the same time over the weekend! I keep grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat every time I think about it. 

Skype will give you a free 21 day trial!  A perfect Christmas gift, thank you Skype.

It's just in time to bring smiles to the faces of all of us with family and friends spread far and wide.  Yes, it's perfect for business too...  but, Christmas is never going to be the same for us again.  Our entire family will be able to 'visit virtually' for the first time ever.  (Don't forget to put it in your diaries guys!)

We can also give permission for the other parties to 'view our screens' - which means we can all watch each other's Christmas videos!  No more trying to post videos for each other.  We can watch and listen to them on the creators' computers.  

Now all I have to do is make sure my kids remember to video their littlies opening their presents.

Mark my words... before I die (which I'm not planning to do for at least another 40 years), we'll be visiting each other virtually in life size 3D!  Kind of like the old 'beam me up Scotty' call from Startrek!  It's going to make being so far away from those we care about so much easier!  

I am SO GLAD I am not my great-grandmother.  She had to rely on mail ships and the odd, extremely expensive and hard to come by, black and white photo to keep her in touch with her overseas family.  News of 'hatches, matches and dispatches' came by way of the telegram, at great expense.  

So, onwards and upwards in the great technology race!  May all those whizz kids out there be truly inspired! I am so looking forward to seeing what you come up with.  

April Blackbird

14 December 2010

Christmas tags

This year for about the first time ever I feel like I am almost ready for Christmas...  Thank goodness for the internet!  I don't know what I would do without it!  Not only do I not have enough faith in the Greek postal system to send parcels out from here to friends and family all over the world, but I also struggle to find the things I want to buy for them here.  Now I will just have to cross my fingers and hope everyone gets their prezzie!

Now that BB and I have been busy ordering in card making supplies, we had not excuses not to make our own Christmas cards and Christmas tags... I kept my tags pretty simple... just digi stamps on Kraft, coloured with copics and white gel pen with a bit of glitter for sparkle.

Of course, I forgot to photograph my 40 or so different tags before I wrapped the prezzies and attached them!  These are the four that are still waiting to go on gifts...

This year we opted for a white tree.  We collected a burnt branch from the countryside where a fire had been through last year and spray painted it white, decorated it with candy canes, Christmas lights and red baubles and went with it!

I am quite enjoying the simple Christmas tree look!

Merry Christmas!

Arabella Chickie, Lavrio Greece

12 December 2010

It's the small things ...

Tonight, I came home from doing the grocery shopping, and was met by my hubby in the garage who told me he had a surprise for me! How exciting!
Low and behold, he had erected the washing line for me! Now, the feminists of the world might be aghast, however I can assure you that after six months of trying to dry our washing on an assortment of clothes horses, the prospect of a washing line is just pure magic!  It was with great delight that I went out and hung up 3 loads of wet washing. Sure, it's dark out, but it might still dry.

Now I realise to many that doing the washing and grocery shopping on a Sunday night might sound appalling, and before you lambaste hubby for not hanging out said washing for me, I should mention that I'm trying to feel useful whilst hubby is out there in the dark planting the last of our trees that need to go in the ground. This is quite a momentous stage... the landscaping is nearly "finished". By finished I mean enough things are in the ground that we can get the certifier out this week, hopefully he will give us our tick of approval, and then we can get our occupational certificate. This means we can officially, legally live in our house now, or so council tell us. It also means grumpy neighbours will hopefully leave us in peace! 

So on that note, I'm going to go and hang out yet another load of washing on my 6 metres of beautiful, clean, sparkly new washing line. Hopefully there is no rain forecast. If I was a true blogger, I would add a link so you could all have a look at the type of line we have bought, but probably, no one would really be all that interested.


10 December 2010

Fuddly the Flutterby

I have just finished another wee animal friend for a new baby girl.

This flutterby was from a pattern from a Japanese Amigurumi book.  I had a little bit of trouble following the instructions, so it is not quite how it should look, but I am pretty happy with the result.

Arabella Chickie, Lavrio Greece

09 December 2010

Mama's Holiday Wish List Meme...

Mama’s Holiday Wish List Meme
TodaysMama and GameStop are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.
1. What is your holiday wish for your family?
I wish for all my family to have a safe and happy Christmas and to have a wonderful year ahead.
2. What is your Christmas morning / Hanukkah Nightly tradition?
On Christmas morning we like to get up and have freshly brewed coffee while opening presents and then have pancakes with maple syrup, bananas and bacon for breakfast.
3. If you could ask Santa for one, completely decadent wish for yourself, what would it be?
Well... I asked Santa for Violet Crumble from Australia and guess what?!  He's sending me some!  (Love you Santa in Oz)
4. How do you make the holidays special without spending any money?
I really struggle not to spend money over Christmas, there are so many cool things to buy!  But really, Christmas for us is about spending time with family and you don't need money to do that.  Lots of lovely homemade Christmas baking helps though  : )
5. What games did you play with your family growing up?
Mostly card games like 500 and Canasta.  I love playing any kind of game though... it always gives me warm memories of family holidays.
6. What holiday tradition have you carried on from your own childhood?
Holiday treat baking.  In my family we always had special baking (like Mum's Belgian biscuits) that was only made at Christmas time no matter how much we loved it.  It's nice to save some things for special treats.
7. Where would you go for a Christmas/Hanukkah-away-from-home trip?
Well for the last five years we have been living away from home, so a Christmas trip for us is to go home and see family : )
8. Check out GameStop and tell us, what are the three top items on your GameStop Wish List this year?
Hhmmm... A Nintendo DS Lite, Sharkoon X-Tatic True gaming headset for my hubbie, Assasin's Creed: Directors cut game for PC.
Fun!  Go and enter yourself!  The prize package up for grabs is awesome!!!!
Arabella Chickie, Lavrio Greece

I saw a real 'feel good' movie this afternoon

Made in Dagenham at the little Manly Cinema.  What a lovely, unexpected afternoon out. 

It was truly entertaining and really made me remember how much women have to be grateful for today.  Our 'grandmothers' really put themselves on the line for us and I think we all take so much for granted today because we've never understood how different life could have been for us if they hadn't taken such a strong stand.

I salute them, one and all.  Well done.

April Blackbird

08 December 2010


I'm unfit and far too fat and last night I decided to get with the program and do something about it... so I went along to my first Zumba class and absolutely LOVED IT.

I used to do IDEA gym in SA (it's an American franchise and involved lots of dancing and toning exercise) and went as often as five times a week when I was really fit.  This is even more fun ('cos I love to dance!), not sure about the Bollywood style dancing we did as it's quite hard on the knees.

Needless to say, I ache in places I'd forgotten about. 

This is good old, contagious fun!  Have a watch.

April Blackbird

03 December 2010

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

I just wanted to remind you where I am this year as last year I don't think you could find me somewhere between Spain and Greece.  This year I will be in Lavrio, Greece, just South East of Athens, or maybe out at one of the islands in the Aegean.

Anyway, I wanted to say that I have been very good this year.  I have been flossing my teeth twice a day (most days), making my husband coffee in the mornings (if I get up first), I joined the gym when my husband said there was so much more of me to love than when he first met me, and when my husband asked me to stop online shopping, I did (for a whole month)!  

Santa, did you know I'm pretty good at baking?   This year I will be baking delicious Christmas goodies like Belgian biscuits, Spice biscuits, Apple cake, Russian fudge, Rocky Road, Milk tart and Neenish tarts.  I will leave out a few of each for you when you come to visit.

So Santa, do you think you could bring me some Violet Crumble for Christmas?  I really love Violet Crumble...

Thanks in advance Santa, 


Arabella Chickie

30 November 2010

The forgotten art of 'baby-proofing'

It's been an awfully long time since I've had to truly baby-proof my house and I've realised just how much I've 'forgotten' the in's and out's of this artform.

New Mum Chick is dropping off our littlest chickadee tomorrow afternoon and she's spending the night with us.  We're all looking forward to the event, but it's the first time she's sleeping over since she learnt how to crawl. Fast!  And she pulls herself up on absolutely everything before coasting around to the next piece of furniture so I have to make sure that there's nothing she can overbalance on.  We've seen her stand bolt upright on her own too before realising what she's doing and sitting down as fast as possible. This kids in a hurry!

I've spent the day washing off furniture that might resemble something delectably irrestable to gnaw on and I'm in the process of vacuuming the house (truly... just stopped by the computer to check my emails and thought I should really create a post...)and I'll steam the tiles downstairs early tomorrow morning...

We don't have gates on our stairs, but I do have very large couches that I can place in front of the stairs so we'll tick those boxes.  Might have to put another large couch in front of the entertainment centre too!  We don't want her climbing on top of that and it's at such a great height for climbing too! 

I have plenty of ribbon to tie my kitchen cupboards shut, but that can wait until tomorrow morning.  Fortunately my cupboards have the sort of handles that lend themselves to being tied shut.  So tick that box too.

Ornaments don't really pose a big problem as I don't have many standing about.  Those I do have will get popped into the cupboards before she arrives.

So, I think we're safe.  Little Miss C has learnt the meaning of the word 'no' too!  Which definitely helps and it amuses us all to watch her shaking her little head as she mimics us by repeating 'no, no' while smiling sweetly back at us.  She actually leaves off 'touching' or 'doing' when we ask her to now.  At least for a while.  Hey, we may have changed our minds and it might be perfectly allowable a few minutes later.  One never knows until one tries.  Does one?

Needless to say, she keeps us all highly amused by her antics and her grandfather and I are looking really forward to the privilege of the impending 'sleep-over'. 

April Blackbird

28 November 2010

Another card challenge entry

I had such a fun afternoon making cards with BB the other day!  It was great to spread our stuff out and have a good play. Of course we discovered that there was more stuff that we absolutely need (brads, bling, Glossy accents etc...), so we will just have to order it online.

This is my favourite card from our session....  I seem to have an obsession with blue/green and orange lately.

This cute little Send Me a Sign Bugg is a digi stamp from Tiddly Inks.  I fell in love with these Buggs as soon as I saw them!  I added polka dots to her dress with my copic multiliner.  The snowflakes are made with a white Hybrid Gel grip pen from Pentel and the colouring of course is done with my Copics.  The crochet flower is one I made to go with this card.

I am going to enter this card into two challenges... Christmas with a Twist (Challenge 5) at Copic Oz, and Non-Traditional Christmas colours at Mad for Markers challenge blog.

Skin: E0000, E000, E00 and R00
Dress and hat: BG0000, BG10, BG45, BG49, YR000, YR04, and YR07
Wings: B0000

Send Me a Sign Bugg from Tiddly Inks (digital stamp)

Arabella Chickie in Lavrio, Greece

25 November 2010

A table spread with all sorts of bits and pieces...!

What a beautiful afternoon I had the other day with my friend Arabella, we spread out all her card-making paraphernalia and (just like in my former life!) had a great few hours working on some cards, which I've not done forever. And LOVED. I was not quite as productive as my card-making colleague, with some eating and tummy-dragging policing for my little chick, but I had a ball.

We were aiming to complete a little comp run by Mad for Markers - A Christmas card in non-traditional colours - and here 'tis!

This is the Christmas Pixie stamp from Tiddlyinks.  

Hope all of your preparations for this special season are coming along well.

I am about to welcome my most wonderful folks-in-law on Saturday, who are coming for a delicious 6 weeks - of company, of someone else cooking sometimes, of an extra pair of extremely capable hands with our little Noah, and of some exploring companions! We are so excited about some little driving trips and maybe nights away to see some of this new country we've found ourselves in.

Happy Christmas preparations!

Bookie Bird

Tonight we'll light a candle for the Pike River miners and their families

Our hearts go out to the families of all involved at the Pike River mine disaster.

May those who have passed rest in peace knowing the world sends love and light to comfort their families, friends and the communities they lived in.

Please join us and light your candle as you send loving thoughts their way tonight.

April Blackbird

24 November 2010

Inspired by a wee gnome...

I am really enjoying this crocheting thing... It is so easy to make your own creations come off the page and into 3D.  Recently I came across I a little picture of a clay gnome I had saved  from Etsy (for just that reason) and was inspired to make a crochet gnome.

Here is my inspiration picture...

When I saved this picture to my "Sewing Ideas and Inspiration" folder, I wrote that it was Wee Gnome from Beas Wees on Etsy, but I can't find it or the seller anywhere there now.

Here is my crochet version... Her name is Gunilla Gnome.  Gunilla is a little bit shy, but she can be quite chatty once she gets to know you.  Her job in the World of Gnome is to paint the spots on ladybirds.

Okay, so Gunilla is really nothing like the inspiration version, but I love how she turned out so much that I have decided not to give her away (she was going to be a gift for a new baby girl).  As with most of my crocheted toys, she has moveable arms sewn on with buttons... and actually now that I think about it, buttons probably are not that suitable for a baby anyway so she will just have to stay here with me and I will have to make something else instead.  

Arabella Chickie in Lavrio, Greece

22 November 2010

Ribbons, lovely ribbons!

Look what just arrived in the post for me...

Yes, I have been busy ordering online again.  But how could I resist these gorgeous ribbons from The Ribbon Girl?!  I have decided that even though I don't have three quarters of my crafting gear here in Greece with me, there is no reason why I can't make some simple cards.  

See that package of green, pink and yellow ribbons on the right?  Those were a gift to me from the girls at The Ribbon Girl.  Isn't that lovely?

I was so excited to see that they had Baker's twine (in the little packages centre left) available in short lengths.  I have been dying to get some for ages, but really couldn't justify getting a whole reel of each colour.  

I am looking forward to having a play this week.  BB and I are going to get together and do some crafting... Yay!

Arabella Chickie in Lavrio, Greece  

20 November 2010

I'm so excited!

I've been busy these last few weeks with my parents visiting (we had a lovely time, but that is for another post) and haven't had much time to blog lately or to blog surf, so imagine my surprise when I started reading blogs again this evening (Mum and Dad are heading back to NZ as we speak) and found that I made Runner up in the Anything but a card challenge at Mad for Markers!

Woohoo!  I'm so excited!  I even get a prize!  ... a Copic Swatch book so I can keep adding to my copic collection and still know what is what colour wise!  Hhhmmm, I bet my husband will be super excited about that... 

The new challenge up at Mad for Markers is to create a Christmas card in non traditional Christmas colours.  I will definitely be getting right on to that when we get back from work Sunday night.

Arabella Chickie in Lavrio, Greece

19 November 2010

Amazing new web app for iPhones - The Michael Morcombe e guide to the birds of Australia

A family member has a company which has developed this application for bird watchers in Australia.  We don't have an iPhone or I might just have put it into my man's Christmas stocking.  I love that you can listen to the bird calls.  We have a 'mystery' bird in the bush nearby and in the five years we've lived in this house, we haven't been able to identify the bird.  Doesn't help that we never get to see it.  We just listen to its call.

They also have titles relevant to South Africa.

Take a look at   and while you're at it have a look at their other website...


April Blackbird

16 November 2010

Attitude of Gratitude # 13

It's been a long, long while since I wrote one of these. It isn't that I haven't found lots to be grateful for, quite the contrary actually, life has been very kind to me and I have many blessings to count.

UK chickie typed a message to me on Skype this morning; it concerns my 82 year old father and it really touched me so I thought I'd share it with you. 

"Grandad really chuffed as he babysat the little guy a couple of times for me today and Alex has really taken to him....walks up to him and asks to be picked up then puts his head down on Vic's shoulder....for a split second then he's off again!"

These two are as alike as two peas in a pod.  In nature and in looks.  When Alex was first born, my son was a bit freaked out by the likeness.  This is the first time they've ever been in each other's company though as my dad lives in Africa and it's truly food for my soul to see them together like this. 

My dad arrived in London the morning Kate was discharged from hospital and they hadn't seen each other since she was 11 months old.  She walked into the house and went straight to her great-grandfather for a cuddle.  She climbed up onto his lap and lay down on his chest with her head on his shoulder.  I could see how moved he was!  She stayed there for ages.  We were all absolutely amazed!

There is this saying that comes to mind from somewhere... 'in the end the love you take, is equal to the love you make'... maybe it's part of a song as I seem to hear a tune playing somewhere in the deepest reaches of my brain.  Maybe a Beetles song, anyone remember?

It's so true of my dad.  All my life, he has been my rock.  He has stood by me through some very trying times and he has never failed to ensure I know how much he loves me and mine.  He's been the same with my children and it's wonderful to see him getting so much love back from my children and now my grand-children.  Little and innocent as they are.

And for this I am profoundly grateful.

April Blackbird

13 November 2010

Places I have been - No. 8

I've always wanted to visit Greece.  Even before that Shirley Valentine movie was made.  I've always had lots of Greek friends and their tales of home fascinate me.  I also love their food... particulary that delicious spinach and feta pie they make. 

So, picture just how excited I was when my Greece based chickadees offered to book me a ticket to visit!  What an absolutely unexpected and ever so welcome treat it was.  Quick as a flash, Arabella had organised my flights and I was making plans on how to get to Gatwick airport from Wimbledon before the early morning rush hour.

One cab drive to Gatwick and a (somewhat delayed) EasyJet flight to Athens later and I was being hugged by my Greek chickies and handed a (strong) Frappe. It was so very good to see them both again and as a special bonus, I got to meet Bookie Bird, her chicco and her gorgeous little chickadee later that night too.

Our drive from Athens to Lavrio was incredibly interesting.  I hadn't ever fully understood just how dry that area is.  My chickies had told me about the numerous unfinished and abandoned buildings that abound in Greece, but it was quite something to see them for myself.  There is something incredibly sad about an abandoned building.  They whisper to me of lost dreams and I can't  help but wonder what happened that saw their owners walk away from their creations.

We had delicious assorted baklava for afternoon tea back at the flat and then went down to the marina for a quick look at the yacht.  It's especially impressive in real life!

I'll have to ask Arabella for the name of the taverna where we had dinner that night!  It was really good and we got to eat the most amazing calamari and squid.  The Greek salad was wonderful, as were the other dishes, but that calamari and squid were so well done that it will be a hard act for any place to follow.

Lavrio is a thriving little port.  There's lots of redevelopment and building going on and the people in the shops and market seemed incredibly friendly despite the language barrier.  My chickadees stay in a modern, light and bright apartment near the marina and it was good to see them so comfortably settled and 'at home' there. 

We took a trip into Athens from the port of Piraeus (we drove down to Piraeus so I could see the countryside) and it was quite humbling to see the remains of such ancient civilization still standing proudly (if somewhat the worse for wear at times... very little can withstand earthquakes and wars and get away with it completely).  It quite puts you back into your place!

It was hot and very humid that day and my throat was seriously sore so I probably wasn't the best tourist in town, but I did so enjoy the experience.   Athens is such a place of contrasts.  The old sits squarely and quite comfortably amongst the new.

We stopped for lunch in a lovely cobbled, and very shady, courtyard type area just up from here.  It was cool and restful and lunch was served by a smiling and very friendly local. 

 The main restaurant was across a small cobbled road... I love this idea, reminded me of another lunch in Paris a while ago...

The next day we went for a drive to the top of the mountains above Lavrio.  It was interesting to see where the mining takes place and there were quite a few really nice villages up there.  I wonder if they are actually 'mining' villages... somewhere the mine bosses and staff get to live.  Some gorgeous churchs too.  Perhaps Arabella will share her photos of them with us?  I didn't manage to get any.

The view over Lavrio

They call it a sink hole but I couldn't help wondering if it was actually caused by open mining

These beautiful 'Cyclamen' type flowers are everywhere... no leaves, just the flowers.

See what I mean about dry?  

The next day was a work day for my family so I went with Arabella to the market in the morning and was suitably impressed by the variety of fabulously fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood available.  They also have a 'general' section where you can buy everything from toilet paper to Spanish dresses.

Grocery shopping in the village was very rewarding too and we went back to the boat with everything Arabella needed.  Beautiful fresh bread too!

My four days with them (well, 3 1/2 actually) went far too quickly and I've promised my man and I will go back to visit them sometime next year.  I know he'd like to share their lives with them too.  My EasyJet flight back to Gatwick when smoothly and I arrived a little ahead of time; bought my Express train ticket without any fuss; walked down the station stairs onto the departing train; got off at Clapham Junction; walked across the platform and onto the train to Wimbledon.  Twenty minutes later I was in a cab on my way back to our UK chickies home.  Have quite decided that (if possible) all future travel to the UK should arrive/depart via Gatwick. 

So... if I didn't say it properly before... 'Thank you both so very, very much for my very special time in Greece with you!'  It's something I will never forget.

A very spoilt

April Blackbird

11 November 2010

A quick trip to NZ

We've just returned from a week in New Zealand's beautiful South Island. Hubby had a conference to attend in Christchurch, which always seems like an excellent excuse for me to have a holiday!  It was wonderful returning to Christchurch (I studied there many moons ago) and being able to do some of the things I couldn't afford as a student ... such as eating in a real restaurant and (highlight of my trip) having a punt on the Avon river on a glorious sunny afternoon. Chickie particularly enjoyed that experience though I had to hold on to her for dear life ... she refused to acknowledge that a swim in the River Avon at her age would actually be a bad thing! Off course the exchange rate was in our favour, so I managed to justify a spot of shopping too!

After a few days in Christchurch we went on to Lake Tekapo, Wanaka and then flew home from Queenstown. I forgot just how beautiful that part of the world is, and hubby was quite taken with it all (having never been to the South Island).  We managed to eat lots of delicious seafood (incl those delicious NZ mussels) and drink many fabulous Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, my favourite tipple by far. Chickie traveled well though was extremely tired all week. I had bought her a Baby Bjorn Light travel cot prior to the trip ... it only weighs 5 kilos and is super easy to put up and pack away. Best thing I have bought ... Chickie adored it. I had concerns that it might be a little on the small side, but she loves to be in tight spaces, so insisted on snuggling up into the corners of the cot and was really content. It meant that despite staying in several different apartments over the week Chickie always had her same cot for the night. It was a bit of a drag having to keep packing and unpacking all our stuff though, and boy did we (Chickie) have a lot of stuff! We decided that next time we go on a 'road trip' we will rent a camper van (large) so we only have to unpack once!

Despite having a really wonderful holiday I was quite pleased to get home last night, and so was Chickie. Best of all, today she got to see Granny April Blackbird and boy was she excited. I think April Blackbird was very relieved to know that Chickie had remembered who she was!

Well my body is still on NZ time hence it thinks its now midnight and I'm struggling to stay awake! Time for bed.

I will try and get very clever and insert some photos later when they have been downloaded off the camera!

New Mum Chick

10 November 2010

Anything but a card

Mad for Markers has another challenge on at the moment... to create anything but a card and use your copic markers.  Since I love using my copics on anything, I decided to join in.  I made some framed pics to make our little house look more like a home...

The frames are from Ikea and the embellishments are mainly crochet flowers I made when I was learning how to crochet and a couple of little craft hearts.  The tape is from Accessorize of all places!  The little house is a freebie digi from Pollycraft Designs and the little girl is Hope and Grace Rain Rain from The Greeting Farm.

Arabella Chickie in Lavrio, Greece