Monday, 14 November 2022

You Saved Us

I'm absolutely staggered. This morning I was hyperventilating in tears, stressed beyond belief, and at an absolute loss. I didn't know what to do. I hate asking for help but I was desperate. 

We (Mr Owl, Severine, and I) took a cab to Glasgow Airport at 3am, arriving before check-in opened to give us plenty of time before our 6am flight to New Zealand. I already wasn't looking forward to flying for 40 hours while 30 weeks pregnant, with a chest infection, with a 1 year old, and on no sleep that night. Our flight was to have a 1 hour layover in Frankfurt, then a 6 hour layover in Houston, flying with Lufthansa. I had booked through Expedia, with whom I've booked just about everything for years. 

At check-in, the operator asked if we had an ESTA visa for travel in the USA. I've had these before for visiting the country, it's a simple visa-waiver. Never in my life have I heard that one needs a visa to literally transit through an airport; generally they're only required for actually visiting a country. I've had layovers in the USA before and don't recall the need for the waiver. The operator then assured us that we did not need the ESTA visa due to our New Zealand passports. Then his colleague googled it and explained that we did need them. We were given until check-in closed, so about 35 minutes, to apply for the ESTA visas, and hope they got approved in that time. They said if that came through approved, that all was well and they could proceed with our check-in. 

That was bloody stressful itself. I sat down, got out my phone, filled out and paid for three applications. Freaking out, I wildly hit refresh on my email until the blessed moment of relief came - our ESTA visas were approved. Thank God. We returned to the check-in counter and showed staff the approved visas.

But. While checking us in on the computer, they said the computer system wouldn't process it and there was nothing they could do. The manager popped his head in and wouldn't assist with an override. The staff started giving me the feeling of disinterest, that they were more interested in finishing up their work, picking up their bags and heading off, than helping the desperate sobbing pregnant lady with the baby.  They just said sorry, the computer won't let me put it through, mutter mutter nothing I can do. You'll have to contact Expedia and re-book. I cried, saying that wasn't possible as the tickets had cost so much and couldn't just buy more. I literally begged them to help. I probably looked like a nutter at this point, crying so hard in public. It was like a nightmare, I couldn't believe it was happening, they actually weren't going to let us on the plane. Even though I had done everything they said and provided everything they asked for, in the time they gave. I begged to speak to someone else or if there was anything they could do. But they wouldn't even allow us on the first flight to Frankfurt. 

I'm sure they could have done something. I don't believe there was "nothing they could do". Mr Owl reckoned a friendlier airline or staff would have made an effort. I had the feeling they just wanted to finish up their work and head off. They said we weren't to have known about the ESTA requirement as Expedia wouldn't have mentioned it, so not our fault that we didn't know. But yeah, basically bye, nothing we can/will do, and no offer to find an alternative journey or anything.

I'm doubly annoyed because in the previous days, I had rung Lufthansa at Glasgow Airport 4 or 5 times and nobody ever answered the phone. I would hold for at least 30 minutes before the line would 'pick up' and go silent. I wanted to establish that the bassinet and wheelchair assistance I had requested in my booking was arranged. It looked like the bassinet at least hadn't been. So I'm left, I feel, with no other option than to go Full Karen™ and complain about Lufthansa at that airport, how they initially misinformed us, and their unwillingness to put in any effort or help. I will contact Expedia, though my hopes for a refund are not high. The price of refundable tickets was beyond our means, and even if you do get them and need a refund, you're lucky to get a percentage back. I speak from experience.

I can only assume that, due to the increased price of fuel, that airfares have also gone up. And by a fucking lot.  Flying between New Zealand and Europe isn't cheap to start with, but the price of tickets doubled. While searching for flights, I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought we had enough to get our tickets, with enough left over to comfortably sort our lives out after arriving (move house, etc.) and do a few nice things during our last weeks in the UK. But it ended up with us putting together everything we had just to get back to New Zealand, followed by a period of strict frugality. It was horrid paying that much just for airfares, but there was no choice.

So you can perhaps imagine my horror when being refused to board our flights, and losing the mega-expensive non-refundable non-transferrable tickets. I didn't know what to do, and again, I hate asking anyone for help. But we were utterly fucked, and I had no choice. I put a PayPal link online, explaining the situation, and that any help would be amazingly appreciated.

I knew our Belfry Bat family is kind. I see it every time I do a livestream, and it is often remarked upon what a friendly and supportive community we are. I always feel lucky to be surrounded online by so many genuinely good people, surely that's got to be pretty rare as far as internet communities go.

Within a few hours, thanks to the combined donations of so many wonderful people, there was enough to book new flights. I can't believe it, I'm fucking staggered at the outpouring of kindness and help. You have literally saved us. You came to our rescue when it was needed and I'm utterly blown away. I don't know what to say or how to aptly express my gratitude. Because of your swift kindness, Belfry Bat family, we were able to get new flights for the day after tomorrow. Because of you we are OK. I'm in tears again but this time it's from joy and relief. I can never thank you enough, whether you donated a little bit or a lot, you have my lifelong love and gratitude for your generosity. You saved us. Genuinely. 

The new flights are with Emirates, with no layover in the USA, so no need for the ESTA visa waiver anyway. I rang Emirates to ask about wheelchair assistance etc. They answered immediately and were extremely helpful. They set that up for me at each layover, confirmed a bassinet for Severine, and even a diabetic meal for my gestational diabetes. What a huge contrast from my dealings with Lufthansa. My head feels absolutely whammed, to have gone from such devastation, disappointment, and confusion in the morning, to relief, faith, and joy in the evening. My faith in humanity and kindness has been boosted. You are amazing. We were drowning at sea and you tossed us a line. We will be back in New Zealand now on the 18th. Just, thank you, so much.







Sunday, 17 April 2022

Black Widow Spider Truffles

What's more appetising, I ask you, than biting into a huge fat venomous spider? And which deadly spider is more instantly familiar than our cannibalistic friend the black widow? God they're creepy aren't they. Even looking at this photo below gives me the creepy crawlies. Anyway, I long thought it would be a fun idea to make chocolate truffles decorated to look like spiders. They'd make a nice addition to a spooky afternoon tea, a Halloween party, a children's party, or just whenever you feel like baking spooky sweets.

Black Widow with hourglass marking.
Source: Albuquerque Journal

Now I'm aware they don't look precisely like the real thing, but if you have the skills to make the red abdominal pattern more accurate to nature then by all means go ahead, just please take a photo and tag me so I can see it and be impressed. Widow spiders come in many varieties, but I think the red 'hourglass' shape is pretty easily identifiable. On real spiders it's sometimes underneath, but you can't see the underside of these truffles so that'd be a bit daft wouldn't it.










This was fairly time consuming, but the hardest part was tracing around the spider stencils and cutting them out. If you're more artistically talented than I, you might want to draw spider shapes straight onto the black card instead of printing out an image. This recipe yielded enough for about 10 of my fairly large ones, but you can make them any size you like.


Ingredients:
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1tsp cocoa
  • 1 cup icing sugar +
  • Cherries (morello, glacĂ©, etc.)
  • Rum, rum essence, or vanilla essence
  • Black fondant
  • Red fondant
For spider bases:
  • Black card stock (fairly stiff, not paper)
  • Cardboard
  • Glue
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
Bases Method:
  1. Print out the image at the bottom of this post.
  2. Glue image into cardboard.
  3. Cut around the image carefully to create a stencil.
  4. Hold the stencil onto the black card stock and (this part is particularly fiddly) trace around it with a pencil.
  5. Cut out your spiders! Arrange them on a plate or pretty tray.

Truffle Method:
  1. In a pot, melt together the butter and chocolate on the stove, slowly stirring til combined.
  2. Add half a cup of icing sugar, the cocoa, and the rum or vanilla essence. Stir, then add more icing sugar until the mixture is stiff and firm. 1 cup of icing sugar wasn't enough, so I added another half a cup, and a bit more cocoa for luck.
  3. Let cool til it's comfortable to handle.
  4. Using the spider stencil as a guide for how large the truffle should be, roll some mixture into a rough ball.
  5. Mush a cherry (or two) into it, then roll the mixture around in your hands until it's pleasingly round. Place on a plate, it doesn't matter if the bottom flattens.
  6. Repeat for as many truffles as you want, then put them in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours.
  7. Flatten out the black fondant as thinly as you can, you only want it a few millimetres thick.
  8. Lay the fondant over each truffle, and roll it in your hands until the whole truffle is covered. It doesn't matter if the underside is bare or untidy.
  9. Flatten out some red fondant, and using a sharp knife (xacto knife or non-serrated kitchen knife) carefully cut out hourglass shapes.
  10. Gently place the red hourglasses onto each truffle and pat to smoothen them down so they'll stay in place but not lose their shape.
  11. Put each truffle onto the black card spider base. Serve!

Watch the video:


Here is the image I used for my black card bases if you want to print it out and use the same:


Thank you for joining me, and if you do have a go at making these, please take a photo, share it and tag me so I can see it! Til next time! x





Thursday, 10 February 2022

Goth Baby Clothes

It's been challenging finding gothic or even just black baby clothes, for some reason there's not much demand for it? Every shop I visit is swathed in terracotta, apricot, ivory, green, brown, blue, pink, grey; neutral earthy tones with ugly patterns seem to be in for the modern baby. In New Zealand anything black tends to be All Blacks themed, the nation's beloved rugby team. So what can one get for the baby bat? There were a lot of things online that I would love to have got, but as I'm still in new Zealand, it's grossly expensive and difficult to do any online shopping here. Which really sucks.

I had many things 'favourited' on Etsy that I simply couldn't justify the shipping cost for, especially now that USPS has ceased shipping to New Zealand. But for those of you in more convenient parts of the world, I found a lot of great baby things in the following Etsy shops:

You might also look at My Baby Rocks and BlackCraft Cult. Here is the video, and below is a list with links to everything I showed you in the video where possible:


Anyway, as for what I was able to own, here are all the linkable things I showed you in the video:

Thank you for visiting, til next time!



Monday, 18 October 2021

Vote Bat for Bird of the Year

Every year, New Zealand Forest & Bird runs the native Bird of the Year contest, but this year features a special and controversial contender for the title, the Long-Tailed Bat or Pekapeka-Tou-Roa

"But it's not a bird!" I hear you cry, and to that I answer indeed, but it lives amongst birds and flies, and the point of the contest is to raise awareness around native species and their conservation. Many people don't even know our native bats exist, despite being New Zealand's only native land mammal. Our bats are critically endangered, the most vulnerable level before extinction. They're as rare as the Kakapo, winner of last year's contest, and also one of the rarest mammals in the world.

In Maori folklore, Pekapeka are associated with the mythical nocturnal bird Hokioi, which foretells death or disaster.


Photo: Colin O'Donnell (DOC)
Long-tailed bats have been in New Zealand for between 1 - 2 million years. They were common throughout the whole country in the 1800s, but were already becoming rare by 1930. Now, they number only in the hundreds. I've personally never seen one. Without a concerted preservation effort, they may be extinct within a decade. Fortunately, the Department of Conservation and Forest & Bird have been working hard to protect these tiny winged treasures.


Photo: Diana Noonan (This NZ Life)
Why are they so endangered? Long-tailed bats produce only one offspring per year, which cannot fly for the first few weeks of life. They are threatened due to habitat loss caused by logging, land development, and felling of their preferred old-age roost trees. They and particularly their offspring are vulnerable to attack by predators such as possums, stoats, and cats. A single feral cat can kill an entire colony.

Bats roost during the day in the hollows of native trees, under peeling bark, in tree stumps, in caves, or fractures in rocky bluffs. They are insectivores, enjoying mosquitoes, midges, moths, beetles, and other nocturnal flying insects. They weigh about 10g and are only the size of your thumb with a wingspan of about 25cm. Their echolocation is at such a low frequency that some people can hear it. They're social creatures, living in groups of 20-60.

In the contest, you can pick your five favourite birds in order, so by all means pick your other favourites as runners up, but I do urge you to give your top vote to the dear bat this year to help give them the attention they deserve and very much need. Voting begins on October 18th and closes on Halloween October 31st. Vote bat, and raise awareness of this critically endangered (and very cute) native creature to help keep them around. This year, trade feathers for fur and beaks for cute fanged snoots. Spread the word: vote bat for Bird of the Year. CAST YOUR VOTE HERE.

Other ways you can help:







Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Penta-Pretzels DIY

 I had this idea for ages, ever since being in Germany and eating so very many delicious Brezeln, and wondering if I could make them a different shape. Over there you can buy them unbaked and frozen in the supermarket in big boxes to bake at home, and I'd thought about just thawing those out and reshaping them. But no, that would be cheating, and it turns out they're exceedingly easy to make, and this recipe tastes exactly like the authentic thing. I didn't take this exact recipe from anywhere in particular, but rather watched a bunch of videos in German and read several different German recipes to get the gist of how they're made. These are awesome for picnics or parties. You can use a different amount of dough to make them larger or smaller to your liking. You can of course use this recipe to make pretzels in the traditional shape, but because we're weird, let's make them pentacle shaped.

Video:


Ingredients/Zutaten:

  • 3 1/2 cups (500g) plain flour
  • 1 cup (250ml) warm water
  • 1 Tbsp dry active yeast or a cube of fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 25-50g butter
  • 3 Tbsp baking soda

Method/Zubereitung:
  1. Put flour into a large mixing bowl (or bread machine if you're lazy like me) and make a little well in the centre.
  2. Into the well pour your warm water. You can also use slightly warm milk instead of water. 
  3. Sprinkle the yeast onto the water (or crumble if using fresh yeast), then add the sugar. Give it a wee stir.
  4. Having ideally let it soften first, add the butter.
  5. Knead the dough until well mixed. Leave the dough to rise for about 20 minutes, it should hopefully double in size.
  6. Divide the dough into about eight equal pieces, but this will depend on how big you want your pretzels to be.
  7. Between your hands, roll the dough out into very long, thin sausages. The part for the ring should be thicker, but the star part shouldn't be much thicker than a pencil.
  8. Make a ring and twist the ends together. Carefully lay the thinner sausage over the ring in the shape of a five-pointed star. Pinch the corners and mush the dough carefully into the ring to ensure a good shape and a good stick.
  9. Be careful here! Boil a litre of water in a pot. Add three tablespoons of baking soda to the hot water, and turn down the heat so it stays hot but not boiling. If you are making a big batch, remember to use three tablespoons of baking soda per every litre of hot water. 
  10. Gently place each pretzel into the water, and leave it there for 30-60 seconds. Make sure the whole thing gets wet. This process is what gives the pretzel its lovely brown exterior. With a slotted spoon or similar, lift the pretzel from the water and place it on a baking tray.
  11. While wet, sprinkle thick chunky salt on. You can use other toppings too if you really want.
  12. Preheat oven to 180˚C (360˚F) and once heated, bake your pretzels for 20-25 minutes. They should be brown and properly baked. 
  13. Best enjoyed warm and fresh, but they'll keep for a day. Guten Appetit!

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Makeup, Music, Gore - Favourites!

 Hi! It's been ages since last I did a 'favourites' vid, just mentioning a few holy grails from across the board. Watch the video, and below is a list of everything I mentioned, with links if I could find them. Enjoy :3 



Here's the stuff I mentioned if you wanna go have a look:

Thanks for watching, see you next time!

Saturday, 4 September 2021

BIG Korean Skincare + Beauty Review

Phew! I fell down the Korean skincare rabbit hole and I can't get out. But that's ok 'cause I don't want to. Here's a review of lots of products that I've been trying over the last few months, plus a few cute things I haven't opened up yet! Korea seems to be very strict on what is allowed in skincare products, and there are online resources to check the safety of all ingredients. I used to have a "less is more" approach to skincare, but since discovering and going fully into Korean skincare, I've resolutely switched to "more is more" and my skin has never been happier. Maybe it's a bit excessive, but I've really been enjoying it, and a lot of people I know swear by it too. Watch the video, then below is a list of everything I showed you, separated by brand. 

Tony Moly:

CosRX:
Some By Mi:

G9Skin:

BadSkin:

Etude House:

Others: 

See you next time!