Thursday, June 30, 2011

Robin's Nest Day 3: And then there were three....

Mami Robin has been busy - she has put a third egg today. She is very good to her babies. She sits patiently on her nest the whole day. It is so cute to see.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

When nature happens at your doorsteps…

Watching nature doing its thing is always fun, but when it happens right in front of your eyes, and literally on your doorsteps is just plain fascinating!!!

I have been lucky to experience 2 amazing sights during the last week. Last Wednesday I found a weird looking bug on my pond, I took it out and put it in a cup and found out via the internet that it was a damselfly larvae (a type of dragonfly). The next day I went back out to put it back in the pond so it could hatch, and then realized that it was hatching right there and then. My daughter and I watched for about 30 minutes while the little thing came out of the old shell. Its long body and wings were small and shriveled, and with a few funny up and down movements, the tail started to grow and the wings unfolded (almost like if someone was inflating a very small balloon). Then it took a rest and finally flew away! Wow… I do regret not taking any photos.

So when on Sunday we observed this architectural masterpiece I was trigger ready! My husband and I were in our garage on Sunday and we noticed the nest. I got a ladder to peek on it and it was empty. I remember mentioning how perfectly round it was. It was perfection.

On Tuesday, when I returned from work, my daughter and I noticed a Robin laying on top of it. As soon as we came out of the car, it flew away. I took the ladder again and found 2 beautiful blue eggs! We are so happy.

On Wednesday morning we caught the mami bird on camera – Smile!

I will be following the birdies and their development. I hope you enjoy their story!

Wordless Wednesdays: My blogging partner

Monday, June 27, 2011

Venezuelan Empanadas: An easy recipe, not a diet one!

Empanadas are a traditional food in my country and are so delicious that I wanted to keep the tradition going. So last weekend it was time for my 5 year old girl to learn how to make them. They take a while to make but are really easy – as you can see, if my daughter at 5 can do them, so can you! no excuse!


  • Corn flour (Harina PAN or Mazeca) 
  • Water 
  • Salt 
  • Oil for frying (I use Canola)

Fillings: As a filling, you can use whatever you want. Here are some traditional fillings:

  • Ham and cheese 
  • Chicken (I used this today - the recipe is coming soon) 
  • Shredded Beef (See recipe here)
  • Ground meat

For the preparation:

  • 1 plastic bag - transparent, large (Ziplock type) 
  • A cutting board 
  • 1 round bowl (diameter must be the size that you want the empanadas to be)
Cut the plastic bag to make a relatively large rectangular plastic sheet. If you are using a Ziplock type bag, remove the part of the zipper, and then cut the sides open. Wash the bag well and dry with a paper towel.

Before preparing the dough, heat the oil in a deep pot or pan. The oil should cover the empanadas when you fry then. I usually put enough oil to be two fingers deep (Note: this is not a diet recipe!)

Prepare the dough as if you were to make Arepas (see recipe here). I normally put about a quarter cup of flower per empanada. You can follow the instructions on the flour packaging to determine the amount of water to add. I do not normally measure the water. I simply begin to put water little by little while I knead and continue adding water until the dough is smooth. Add salt to taste and continue kneading. Some people like to put one or two tablespoons of oil to the dough to give it more flexibility (I don’t do that).

When the dough is soft like play-doh, you are ready to prepare the empanadas.

Set all the necessary preparation materials on your working table. This will make your work easier. Put a little oil in a small plate and a bowl with your preferred filling handy.

On top of the cutting board, open your plastic bag. Dab a circle with a little bit of oil on the center of the plastic bag with your fingers. Take a bit of dough and make a ball in your hands, put the ball in the bag where you put the oil and flatten it with your fingers until it forms a circle of dough (not too thick).

Put the filling in the middle, slightly down towards the bottom semicircle. Take the plastic bag and fold it, so that your circle of dough folds in half. Gently join the edges of the empanada with your fingers.

Ham and Cheese filling

Another empanada with chicken filling

Then take the bowl (the one of the size of that you want your empanadas to be) and place it on top of the empanada. Make sure the edges are on the outside of the bowl. Press downwards and backwards at the same time, holding the plastic. This will make the empanada tight and uniform.

Remove the bowl and open the plastic bag. The empanada is ready to fry.

Remove the empanada from the plastic bag very carefully and put it into the boiling oil (oil has to be hot).

Brown on one side and then turn the empanada. When browned on the other side, remove the empanada from the oil and place it on a paper towel to absorb the excess fat.

Tip: To stop the oil from burning, put a small ball of dough in the oil and leave there throughout the process. I do not know why it or how it works, but it works!

Let your empanada cool a little and enjoy it!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How to make a Matryoshka Doll Pendant?

Matryoshka dolls. I have been fascinated with these Russian nesting dolls since I was a child. I remember the hours spent opening them, laying them out in a file and nesting them back again. I have now about 5 or 6  different ones and I am so pleased that my daughter enjoys them now as much as I used to enjoyed them when I was her age.

Some of my Matryoshka dolls

A few weeks ago, my artist friend Adriana from Clay Cat Shop showed me her new line of Matryoshka dolls and I got Matryoshka fever!!!

Clay Cat Shop Line of Pendants - the inspiration!

I so wanted to make my own with images of my 2 kids and of course the kitty. If you want to have your own one, you can follow my how to, or even better and quicker, go to Adriana's Etsy shop and get the real thing. I am so impressed with her art - it is awesome!!!! You can also follow her blog (click here)

So here is my version - I am not sure I have used the right materials as I have not done clay before - I literally went to Michael's store and bought what I thought was going to work!

  • Air Dry Clay (I got a Crayola Pot)
  • Acrylic paint in your favorite colors
  • Finishing Spray - Clear Glaze or Varnish
  • Paper clips
  • Paint brushes
  • Rolling pin        

First you need to make the little hoop for the pendant (you can buy ready made hoops at jewellery making stores - Michael's did not have any I liked so I decided to make my own). Take a paper clip and with some metal clippers, cut  one of the loops off.

With tweezers, bend the legs of the hoop one to each side so when you insert it in the clay it will hold the dry clay and not let your hoop fall off the pendant.

Take your clay and make a small ball in your hand, form the ball into a egg shape.

Carefully flatten the egg a little (you can do it with your fingers or use a rolling pin to be more precise). With your fingers, shape the flatten piece so it looks like the matryoshka shape.

Carefully insert the hoop on the top of the head and reshape if necessary. 

Wet your fingers in water and carefully smooth out all the edges and surface of your little matryoshka pendant. Put in a flat plastic tray or plate and let dry for one or 2 days.

Once dry, you are ready to paint. First draw the main shapes with a pencil - I drew a mom (me), 2 kids and a cat! you can draw whomever you like! that is the beauty of it.

Start painting. I started with the faces and the small details, but then realized that I should have started with the dress (do as I say not as I did!). The reason is that when you then do the dress, you may go over the details by mistake and will have to do the details again. Have fun with your colors and details.

To paint the dress, hold the mathryoska pendant in between your thumb and index finger so you can paint the front and back at the same time. Wait until the paint dries (a minute or so) before putting the doll down again on your table - that way you will not smooch the paint.

To paint the faces use the smallest paint brush you have. For the eyes, do a couple of ovals in white, paint a dot inside on your eye color and then a smaller dot inside that with white. Use brown or black to do eyelashes and eyebrows. Put 2 dots in between the eye and a little lower for the nose and a curved line in red for a mouth. Personalize with freckles and glasses if you like.

Let the doll dry for a day. Now you will use the spray to get a clear varnish on the matryoshka pendant. For this you will have to hang the doll on some sort of rack (I used a file organizer). That way the clear varnish will not have any smudges. Follow the instructions on the can - I put a paper napkin behind the doll so I did not spray varnish all over my table. Let it dry for a day.

Now your matryoshka doll pendant is ready to wear. You can put it on a nice silver necklace! I am sure people will love it!

Thanks so much to Adriana for the inspiration!
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