Garden Wanderings and Flower Play

Hello,

Today I would like to share with you a fun nature activity that we enjoyed recently. We began our sunny morning with some outdoor exploring as spring has transformed our garden into a floral wonderland. Brightly coloured flowers, interesting gum nuts, berries and pinecones scattered throughout the garden kept Aniela captivated for the morning. We named the plants and flowers, and their colours that stood out to her. We talked about how some flowers close in the evening and move towards the sunshine, and the purpose of flowering during springtime. She was so happy and looked so cute wandering around with her flower basket, so I used the opportunity for a little photo shoot to capture this wonderful memory.

Nature really offers so many opportunities for learning and play. Since moving to Stirling our children have rarely played with their toys, even on rainy days. There is something so fun and adventurous for them when they explore the outdoors. Playing in nature has helped them develop creative freedom, a courageous spirit and involves all their senses (including their sense of motion in a way the indoors cannot).

While there is still value in some toys, I think nowadays some have become so sophisticated, expensive, specific and easily broken, which can really defeat their purpose for their little inquisitive owners! I have realised now as a mum of two how you can gain the same learning and entertainment from simple things found free in our environment. In our garden, Aniela often becomes engrossed in breaking little twigs, making little pictures from stones and throwing camelia petals into the air. Alex is at the stage at enjoying gardening skills and building things that spark his imagination. Playing outdoors also allows them to develop these tactile senses without the worry of damage that may occur indoors.

These experiences in nature help with their development and understanding of the world. For example, when Aniela breaks the twigs she is experimenting with the physical variables for a breaking point (such as width, length and flexibility) that can help her develop skills for building and creating things later on. I’m particularly impressed that many schools and councils are taking note on the importance of nature in learning and it has been wonderful to see more nature-based curriculums and playgrounds. I have been fortunate to find a playgroup that offers only nature-based play in an outdoor setting.

Now with Spring in full bloom, I highly recommend having a wander outdoors with your little ones; be it on the way to school, around the neighbourhood or in your own garden. Children love collecting things and in addition to flowers you can look around for what is in your local environment such as nuts, pebbles, twigs and interesting looking leaves. You can count, name and categorise them and even use them for a craft project. Recently we have enjoyed using pine branches as paint brushes and gum nuts as stamps. When they no longer show interest in their collection you can simply compost them or put it into green waste without having to worry about the waste of money like with abandoned toys.

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Play dough recipe

To extend our nature playtime, we made some home made play dough for Aniela to get creative with the flowers she had picked. I found a great recipe here and I added a few drops of rose water that I had for an added sensory element.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2 tbs cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbs oil
  • 3 drops rose coloured food colouring
  • 1 tsp of rose water or scented oil as desired

1.  Combine ingredients together and continuously mix over medium heat until the dough no longer sticks to the edge of the saucepan.

2. Cool down slightly before play to avoid burns. (Aniela loved playing with the dough while it was still warm and the dough is more pliable.)

3. Store in the refrigerator sealed in a container or plastic sealable bag.

We made two batches of dough in orange and pink and we enjoyed making little flower pots for our floral displays and little cute macarons and other little pretend cakes. Our little wander through the garden turned into a whole morning of nature and creative play and one very happy little girl.

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Thank you for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed this flower play idea for your children.

Have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

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A local treasure: The Stirling Hotel

Hello,

One of the great things about moving to the Adelaide Hills is discovering all the great food haunts; be it quaint little cafes, trendy hotels or classy vineyard restaurants. I will be sharing with you the worthy mentions, starting with the award-winning treasure of Stirling: The Stirling Hotel.

The Stirling Hotel is a beautiful and trendy venue, nestled at the end of the main strip in Stirling (Mt Barker Road). It’s charming ambience draws in crowds all year round. However since Spring has arrived visitors have been flocking here to enjoy their modern menu, whilst basking in the sunny weather we have had lately.

I have dined here several times; for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the service and food has been consistently exceptional. Their bistro menu caters to the traditionals, with some classy pub grub, to more modern experimental tastes with their tapas and signature burger menu. The multi-complex hotel caters to all moods, with a restaurant, a bistro, a pizza bar and a unique licensed patisserie that is located at the rear within the cellars (offering a wine or coffee with your fresh croissant!).

Breakfast has been my favourite time to venture here, to avoid the city crowds coming up during the day and evening. One of the highlights of breakfast is the pancake station that allows you to indulge in unlimited pancakes for $7.90, but get in early to avoid queuing up. My children love this and it is their usual breakfast choice when we come here. Recently I was here with them and we sat outside along the bench with the beautiful view of the main street all greened up on a sunny Saturday morning. I ordered the avocado and haloumi on sourdough dressed with dukkah and vincotto that gave it a lovely texture, it was delicious. For families, the deck area is ideal as it faces a lovely garden and lawn area where kids can run off their energy whilst waiting for their meals to arrive (yet remaining in full sight). I’m yet to experience the bar at night however I have taken note of their interesting cocktail menu, and inviting Sunday sessions on the deck (during my evening walks around town).

Visiting Stirling in Spring also offers the opportunity the wander around town which is right now in full bloom. The magnificent oak and druids provide lush green canopies and colourful bursts of floral hues are on display all throughout the town. A walk down the lovely leafy archway on Druid Avenue is definitely a must this time of year.

The Stirling Hotel is a great spot to mark on the “To Do List” this Spring and a great idea for those who wish to impress visitors or a new date. You can find it at: 52 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.

Hope you have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

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Hiking Adventures in the Austrian Alps

Hello again!

I’m finally back with some adventures to share with you. It seems like moving to Stirling has only made us even more infatuated with all things related to forests, nature and mountain culture. Between August and September, our family travelled to the Austrian and Polish mountains in Europe, and we also visited the very beautiful city Krakow, in Poland.

In Austria we stayed in Zillertal in Tirol, in a lovely traditional ski chalet in the heart of the Alps. This part of our holiday was a family reunion for my husband’s side, and we stayed together with many of his cousins and their families. We spent most of our time hiking through the most magnificent forests, eating hearty Austrian alpine cuisine and drinking schnapps to recover those sore legs!

Our chalet was in little town called Ginzling, and we were a short drive away from the main town in Zillertal, called Mayrhofen. It was the end of summer and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. The steep mountains lined with pine trees rose to the sky from left to right, and bright green meadows stretched across the valley for the ‘Alpen cows’ to graze on. I loved the lovely distant chime of the cow bells that all the cattle wore (I really miss hearing them, now that we are back home).

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The homes that are scattered throughout the valley are my favourite type of architecture style. These folk style mountain chalets are combination of timber and white rendering, with beautiful wooden balconies intricately carved out by hand in pretty ornamental patterns. Fortunately we were not too late in the summer season to see these balconies over flowing with the most beautiful geranium displays, in every colour combination you could think of! For me, a self-confessed germanium lover, this was truly paradise! I spent so much time captivated by these gorgeous balcony flowers. We don’t often see such floral displays in Australian gardens (except mine soon! hehe).

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We enjoyed a memorable hiking trip to the Schlegeis Basin to see the most brilliant turquoise coloured lake, surrounded by the steep rocky mountains and a permanent glistening glacier. Glacial water from within the mountain forms a waterfall that flows down into the luminous lake. Mark and I drank the glacial water pouring down the rocks, it was the most pure and crisp water we have ever tasted. We were also so impressed of our children’s effort in doing this hike with us, we spent all day exploring the path and hiking trails around the lake on such a beautiful and sunny day.

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We stumbled across a 200 year old wooden house where the musically talented Strasser children once lived. They became well known for travelling around the world singing Stille Nacht/Silent Night that has now become a famous Christmas hymn. This house is now known as the Silent Night House and has been restored into a museum to showcase the really old handmade tools and way of life over 200 years in Zillertal.

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A week after we left Austria the annual Almabtrieb festival was held where they bless and parade the cattle through town, before they are herded down to lower lying farms and barns before the winter snow arrives. The cattle are decorated with flowers and embroidered head-dresses with holy catholic figures and bells. Locals really adore and respect their cattle in Zillertal, as they provide the farmer’s their livelihoods and in turn the care is so evident in the happy and healthy looking cattle that we saw wandering freely everywhere.

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Another memorable day was when took three separate cable cars up to the Hintertux Glacier that had a peak elevation of 3250m. The view was spectacular above the tree line, with the enormous rugged mountain range overlooking the green valley below. It was so beautiful being at the top of Austria but I certainly experienced real vertigo on the viewing platform. It was very safe, but as a Mamma it was so difficult watching my children go to the edge and look through the railings into the steep mountain range. I could not help imagining the bolts breaking, and once my son noticed his poor mum in fear, he found it entertaining to keep going to the edge with his sister, much to the amusement of our family and bystanders!

It was lovely to experience glacial snow in summer and we had fun riding these tubes around and some snow play. At the bottom on the valley it was 31°c but at the top it was about 8°c. It is the only place in Europe where you can ski all year round and we were lucky to see saw the Italian ski team training that day.

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My favourite hiking adventure was a trek up to a little hut in a high mountain meadow called Max Hütte. I went on a ‘girls only’ trek with Mark’s cousins and his cousin’s wives, and it was so much fun hiking up with the girls; singing, laughing and enjoying the dark green forest and leafy passages on the way up. The path up was very rocky and it was both a mental and physical task to get to the top as each step was a calculated decision, particularly on the way down. Once we reached Max Hütte we were rewarded for our efforts with great coffee, delicious Austrian cakes and a beautiful view of the snow capped mountain and the cascading river flowing down into the valley. I loved the blueberry cake I ordered that was made with a blueberry yoghurt mousse that tasted so delicious.

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We had such an unforgettable week here in the Austrian Alps and we particularly enjoyed hiking so much that we want to travel on more hiking holidays in the future. In Poland we also went on many hikes in the Tatra Mountains that I will blog about soon. I really recommend travelling to Zillertal in Austria as it was one of my favourite overseas destinations to date, and the locals are so friendly and hospitable. There is so much to do, and a great holiday for families and nature enthusiasts. Stay tuned for the next instalment of our holiday, our visit to Krakow in Poland.

Have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

Our New Life in Stirling

Hello,

After much anticipation and planning, we have finally made it across from Perth to our new home in the beautiful town of Stirling, in the Adelaide Hills. We have been living here for nearly two weeks and our experience so far has been nothing short of magical.

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The absolute abundance of nature everywhere is so breathtaking! Everywhere you look the sky is filled with layers of various types of pine trees, luscious green ivy wrapping itself around anything in its path, beautiful bursts of remaining red Maple leaves, and the prettiest soft petals of pink and red Camelia’s sparkling with raindrops. While some trees including Elm and Oak are bare in the current winter season, their trunks are covered in the greenest moss and fit in beautifully with the evergreen trees.

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Growing up, I was always surrounded by gum trees so the experience of seeing bare trees is quite lovely as an Australian. Also quite distinct for Stirling, are the never ending Agapanthus plants lined up right onto the boundary of streets and roads. I cannot wait to see them flowering their beautiful blue blooms in Summer.

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Adelaidians who make the annual Autumn pilgrimage to Stirling and Hahndorf, would be really impressed by the sensory wonderland Winter has to offer here in Stirling. Taking the scenic route off of the main street is certainly worth it. I have made it a habit to take the longest way back home down some enchanting residential streets, after an errand or school drop off (even getting lost with low fuel this week! 😂).

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Our garden has been so exciting to explore. Our children especially love navigating around the rugged pine forest below our house, and the winding path towards the gardening beds at the top of our property. There is frequent drizzle of rain here, and while we have been lucky so far to escape the heavy showers (usually occurring in the evening), we have been surprised by how much time our children are spending in the garden. Some days, afterschool, they play outside until sunset and happily rug up and explore in their gumboots with their umbrella in hand!

Walking around our garden, my lungs are constantly filled with such lovely crisp fresh air with the occasional waft of comforting wood fires escaping chimneys that surround us. Gentle sounds of birds singing, rain water trickling into our creek, with bursts of majestic kookaburra calls; often draw me to pause and take in all that surrounds me.

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At the bottom of our property we have a winding creek that also runs through our neighbours’ properties, and it’s quite full at the moment after the recent rain. The cascading trees on the creek’s bank reminds me of that scene from one of my favourite movies “The hundred foot journey” where the two chefs form their friendship and love over their picnic by the river bank.

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Mark and I have enjoyed making countless plans for garden projects that we can’t wait to get stuck into and share with you here. For now, it’s been so wonderful just to enjoy and explore our new home amongst the great unpacking task we are yet to complete! Stay tuned for some more of our adventures in the coming weeks.

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Have a lovely weekend,

Jacqueline

Carpathian Mountain Cake ~ Karpatka

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The Carpathian Mountain cake or “Karpatka” as commonly known to Polish people, is a treasured dessert inspired by the magnificent Carpathian Mountain range that extends across the southern part of Poland. This dessert is close to my heart as my father comes from a beautiful city called Bielsko-Biała, lying in foothills of the Carpathian mountains in south-western Poland. A delicate and airy choux pastry base is filled with a velvety vanilla cream custard, that gives French crème patisserie some competition! Wavy contours bubble up during the baking process, and when finished with a gentle dusting of icing sugar, you have your very own edible snowy mountain! In essence; a fusion of a vanilla slice and a profiterole with Polish style, that will leave a memorable impression with your family and friends.

Choux pastry recipe

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For the choux pastry base you will need:                                      

  • 250ml water
  • 5 medium free-range eggs (or 4 large free-range eggs)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 125g butter

1. Melt the butter in the water until almost boiling.

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2. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together and add to the melted butter and water stirring continuously on a medium heat for 1-2 min. When the dough stays cleanly off the edges of the pan, remove from the heat and spread in a shallow bowl to cool.

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3. Once the dough is cooled down (so it’s no longer hot to touch) mix in one yolk at a time until the dough is thick and glossy.

Tip: To cool the dough faster, use the mixer to release steam, until it’s cool enough to add the yolks.

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4. Divide the pastry dough into two rectangle 30x 19 cm baking pans, spreading evenly.

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5. Bake in a 220°c oven (or 200°c fan-forced) for 20- 25 min. Leave to cool.

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Vanilla cream custard recipe

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For the vanilla cream custard you will need:

  • 1 litre full cream milk
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 5 free-range eggs yolks
  • 300 ml thickened cream
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, deseeded

1. Mix the flour and eggs yolks with 1/3 of the milk until smooth and well combined.

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2. Gently heat the remaining milk  on low to medium heat with the deseeded extract of the vanilla bean and half of the sugar. Slowly whisk in the egg mixture and continue whisking gently until the custard thickens and just reaches boiling point. Cool the mixture then refrigerate until completely chilled.

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3.  Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the chilled custard in spoonfuls, and continue whipping until well combined. Tip: Ensure your cream does not reach stiff peaks before the custard is added, to avoid over-whipping the cream.

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4. Spread the vanilla cream custard over the first pastry base quite liberally and top with the second base. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

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5. To finish your Carpathian mountain cake, dust with icing sugar immediately before serving. Enjoy!

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Please share if you try out this delicious recipe and what you think!

Smacznego and happy baking!

Jacqueline

Our Tree Change

Hello,

After 10 years of adventures living all around Australia, my husband Mark and I decided it was time to plant some roots so our children can grow in a place that is truly home.  After living in Darwin, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth, we made the decision to return to my home town in Adelaide, and we craved a more nature-based lifestyle. 

I still recall the afternoon I was standing in our backyard with Mark, in our current home in Perth, and he said “Wouldn’t it be nice to own a tree? A nice big leafy tree? Wouldn’t that be amazing!”

Mark grew up in a semi-country lifestyle in Nabiac in the central coast of NSW with various animals and 16 acres of land to explore and grow up in. I had quite the suburban life, but my parents owned a little shack at Swan Reach on the River Murray. I spent the best days of my childhood exploring the river, lake and riding my bicycle around in the luxury of freedom and nature. Over the years that we have been together, Mark and I have tried our best to maintain our involvement in nature, and we grew plants and vegetables where there was room. My solution to our lack of space in our apartment living in Sydney, was to grow my own hanging geraniums over our balcony. This has become a real therapeutic hobby for me, tending to my geraniums can lift any sort of mood I have (especially when people stop their car to take photos!).

We have realised how important nature is for the emotional, spiritual and intellectual development of our children. We long for a home where our children can explore, make a mess, climb trees, create, discover, experiment and have plenty of fun outdoors! We also believe in the importance of our children learning the skills of growing their own food and environmental sustainability, for our continual use in generations to come.

Since becoming a mummy to my wonderful son and daughter, I have felt a desire to preserve my genetic roots.  I aspire to uphold the culture, traditions and values of my Polish heritage and my husband’s German/ Polish heritage for our children. I have always been besotted by the stories of Poland my grandparents often spoke of, as a child. My polish heart adores the heart warming traditional Polish food I grew up with, and the mouth-watering Polish cakes filled with summer fruits, poppy seeds, cream and farmhouse white cheese.

Being Polish in Australia is a culture of its own. Ever since I can remember, my family made at least one annual pilgrimage to the beautiful Mt Crawford Forest in South Australia. These trips to the forest always stir much nostalgia and comfort from the motherland they all miss. The majestic pine trees and golden forest floor scattered with pine needles and pinecones, are always cherished. A day in the forest always included a hearty bonfire, with the tradition of roasting a juicy Kransky pierced onto a stick over the ember flames. In autumn it is a rite of passage for young children and their parents to learn the skill of mushroom picking from the elders in the family. This is an important skill as the wrong kind of mushroom can have terrible if not dangerous consequences! I have always loved forests and living all over Australia, I have always searched for a similar experience in the state national parks. Nonetheless, none could pull my heart strings like  Mt Crawford and the Adelaide Hills could!

We were so happy when we found our beautiful new home in Stirling… and our tree! Stirling is a pretty town in the Adelaide Hills, filled with majestic oak and pine trees and the experience of all four seasons, giving it a very european feel. I’m so happy that we have our own mini forest of pine trees at the bottom of our property, and some lovely terraced gardening beds to grow our own food and flowers, especially strawberries! Growing and eating fresh strawberries evokes fond memories of my Aunty Dorothy’s (Ciocia Dorota’s) garden as a child many lazy summers ago. Strawberries are one the most popular fruits in Polish baking and I hope to share with you some lovely Polish cakes I plan to bake with strawberries grown in my garden.

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Our new tree change adventure will begin at the end of July 2015 when we finally move from Perth back to my hometown in Adelaide. This blog will include our garden adventures, sharing some of my favourite recipes, our experiences exploring the treasures of the Adelaide Hills, and the discovery of my Polish heritage woven into these areas. I look forward to sharing our new adventure with you in our new wonderland…

Jacqueline