Milano: amazing food and beautiful architecture

In my last post, you saw some a few of my favourite places in Milano. However, there is so much more to this city. I spent a semester studying at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me on my favourite eats and places to visit.

Continue reading “Milano: amazing food and beautiful architecture”

Spaghetti Squash with Sun dried Tomato, Olive, Red Wine Sauce

Just because your trying to skip gluten, grains or just want a more nutritionally dense meal doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Italian flavours. Spaghetti squash is an amazing vegetable that when roasted has an amazing stringy texture that can lend itself as a pasta substitute. I love big bold pasta sauces with wine. This sauce doesn’t take long to prepare and will go perfectly with any other pasta or substitute.

dsc01852

Spaghetti Squash with a Sun Dried Tomato, Olive, Red Wine Sauce 

(vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 Spaghetti Squash (90g -100g)

olive oil

sea salt to taste

black pepper to taste

1 small brown onion, diced

2 garlic, cloves diced

1 red chilli, diced

6 sun dried tomatoes, chopped

1 can good quality tomato pulp (I used Mutti)

1/2 can filtered water

sea salt and black pepper to taste

pinch raw sugar

2 tablespoons red wine (I used Lambrusco)

8-10 black olives

8 basil leaves, chopped

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.

2. Cut off the stem of the squash, then cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and remove some of the guts. Sprinkle some sea salt and black pepper and roast for 30-40 minutes or until cooked.

3. Heat a pan with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and add onion, garlic and chilli. Saute for a few minutes until the onion starts to brown.

4. Then add sun dried tomato and saute for another couple of minutes. If you like add some of the oil from the sun dried tomatoes or olive oil.

5. Add the tomato pulp, water,  sea salt, black pepper, raw sugar. Bring to a light boil, then leave to simmer.

6. Add the red wine and black olives. Leave to cook for 20 minutes or until the spaghetti squash is cooked. Add more sea salt and pepper if you need to the sauce.

7. Once the spaghetti squash is cool enough to handle, run a fork through the flesh to produce small strains of spaghetti.

8. Before serving, add the basil leaves to the sauce and stir it through to them let it wilt.

9. Top the Spaghetti Squash flesh with the sauce.

*Serves 2

dsc01849

Book Review: Vivi söker en vän

While I was away on holidays I had major colouring withdrawals. The first book that I got started with was the Swedish colouring book Vivi söker en vän by Maria Trolle. It’s taken me a little while to get some pages coloured to share with you all, as I have been sick for the past month.

It wasn’t easy getting hold of this book. There are only a couple of Swedish retailers who sell the book online and to get it sent to Australia upwards from $50. Luckily we were travelling to Sweden on our trip.  The next problem I faced was to buy the book online and get it sent to a Swedish address without a Swedish personal number. We don’t have personal numbers in Australia, so I found this odd that Swedes need one to purchase online. Luckily I was able to get Marco’s uncle to buy the book for me for 90kr ($14Aud) from the Penstore. I have seen many other colourists with this book so I’m not sure how they got hold of the book in their countries, perhaps a bulk group order.

Anyway, I am really in love with this book. It is true to Maria’s style and is similar to her other books. However, this book a collection of drawings from a children’s book that she illustrated, also called Vivi söker en vän (Sagobok). The name translates to ‘Vivi is looking for a friend‘. Unfortunately, there is no English edition of her story book. So I can only guess what is about based on the pictures. Maria did mention on her facebook page what the story is briefly about.

“When Vivi woke at dawn the walls were darker than usual and the house felt cramped. I want a friend, someone who is just mine, she thought. Vivi lives in a tree house in the woods. One day she goes on an adventure to find herself a friend.
Vivi takes a ride with a bird and flies up into the sky where she meets the Cloudbear. She goes deep into the ocean where she meets a mermaid. In the oak, she becomes friends with the tree spirit. Vivi looks into hollows in the ground where the voles live. But who can be her very own friend who is hers always…
The Miniwolf are also looking for a friend. He is curious about Vivi and wonders if she’ll ever see him …
Vivi meets a friend is about finding your place in the world and to find yourself and meet the right person. A best friend” (Maria Trolle).

13920138_1023568134363646_3745113185378327237_o.jpg
Cover of the storybook

 

Continue reading “Book Review: Vivi söker en vän”

Milano: a home away from home

Next stop on our trip was Italy. We stayed in Milano for a few nights so we could spend time with family and visit some nearby cities before heading up north to Luino. Milano has a special place in my heart, as I spent a semester living here when I was in my third year of Italian studies a few years back. When I wasn’t studying, I was walking, eating and shopping my way through the city or travelling to nearby cities. I’ve already seen all the sites, so I wanted to spend a day just enjoying my favourite places and doing a bit of shopping.

Continue reading “Milano: a home away from home”

Colouring Update

Hi all, it has been a while since I last posted. I’ve had to take a break after contracting Influenza and suffering from perforating my eardrum. So after nearly two weeks of bed rest, I am finally feeling like myself again. I’m still partially deaf and have constant ringing in my ear but it’s improving.

When I was in Europe I got some new colouring books! Every bookstore I came across I went straight to their Adult colouring sections to find something unique. Surprisingly I didn’t find any colouring books for the cities or countries I visited. I really didn’t see anything I hadn’t seen before but I didn’t come home empty-handed.

I received Vivi söker en vän, by Maria Trolle as a gift from a relative in Sweden. I was really excited about this one as it was ridiculously expensive to get this book sent to Australia. I did ask them to buy the book for me since Swedish citizens need to use their own personal number to buy things online. I didn’t see anything new or exciting until we were driving through Helsingborg,  and I came across Maria Trolle’s new book, Skymningstimman and Emelie Lidehall Oberg’s book Sagor Och Sägner. So I impulsively bought them. The other book I bought was from Amazon France, which I organised to be delivered to my friends in Bordeaux. This was Coloriage Wild, by French artist Emmanuelle Colin. 

I could not wait to get my pencils out as soon as I got home. I decided to start Maria Trolle’s colouring book Vivi söker en vän. To get back into the swing I did Chris Cheng’s three part tutorial, Into The Fairy World. This tutorial took me soon long. I only finished a couple of nights ago. Partly because there is so much detail and also because I’ve been too sick to colour much the last couple of weeks. 

I am so thrilled how this page turned out. It just looks just as spectacular in my book and I can’t believe I was about to achieve this much colour and depth. I absolutely love Chris’s tutorials and I learn so much from her. The biggest thing I think I have learned is how to layer with so much colour.

For my book, I decided to keep Vivi in the yellow dress so that I can continue this throughout the book. I was using a thinner Uniball Signo white gel pen to do the fox’s fur. I did upgrade to the Broad Uniball Signo, but I was happy to leave it as is.

I am so in love with this book so this will be my next project for a little while. Once I have enough pictures I will do a review and include my finished pages.

DSC04524

DSC04535

DSC04537

DSC04536.JPG

Bordeaux: the sweet life

The second stop on our trip was Bordeaux, in the south of France. This port city is the known for its wine production and is the largest urban World Heritage site, with half of the city Unesco-listed. This exciting city is bustling with patisseries, restaurants, local and artisan food markets and super-food food trucks, making it a foodie’s mecca.

This was my first time travelling independently outside of Paris, so I was really excited to see something else in this beautiful country. I have a couple of friends, former Parisians, who have been live in Bordeaux for the past couple of years. They hosted our short stay and showed us a few of their favourite places.

Continue reading “Bordeaux: the sweet life”

Disneyland Paris in Pictures

Disneyland Park Paris is a replica of my favourite park, Magic Kingdom (Florida). The land themes are nearly the same and few of the rides have also been replicated. However, there are some big differences. The castle in the centre of the park is Sleeping Beauty’s castle, there are also many unique rides, amazing walk through exhibits and the restaurants are all unique.

I really enjoyed this park. I love Disney princesses and Disney movie themed rides and exhibits. I also really love the parades, shows and fireworks show that feature my favourite classic characters. Being that this park is in France, you may be wondering will anyone speak English. Well yes, the staff in the restaurants, shops, rides etc all speak English. The attractions and entertainment are primarily in French but they do include English, so it is easier to follow.

My favourite attractions in this park were It’s a small world, Big Thunder Mountain, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Alice’s Curious Labyrinth. It was my first time experiencing all of these attractions, but I really felt like they were worth the wait. Octavia’s favourite attraction was strangely the La Taniere du Dragon. I also really loved the Disney Illuminations show. I went alone since it started at 11pm, but it was definitely worth the hour I sat in the crowd and the walk back.

After visiting Florida parks I did have a few disappointments with this park. Firstly the restaurants and fast food were nowhere near as good. The restaurants were beautifully themed but nothing blew me away in terms of flavours and uniqueness. On the bright side, it was less completive to get a booking. Also, the app does not allow you to book your fast passes. It’s really just a map with wait times that wasn’t always reliable. There were not many rides that had fast passes, so the wait times were really long and you have to take a fast pass ticket from outside the ride so you could not choose the best time available. Despite this, I did get to go on nearly every ride available in a day and a half. I didn’t bother with character meets since they were ridiculously long. Since I stayed in a Disney hotel this time I also had extra magic in the morning, which was only for a few rides but still worth going before the crowds arrived even to line up for rides. Another plus was the Baby Switch, which we utilised for rides that Octavia couldn’t go on.

Probably my biggest disappointment with Disney Paris is that people are allowed to smoke in the park. Although it’s only permitted in smoking areas it does not stop people smoking in lines for rides and even in crowds where children were watching shows. Even in the evening show, it was advised over the loud speaker in five languages not to smoke. Yet I had two ladies behind me smoking and they were seated next to a toddler.

We visited four restaurants at this park, which included Walt’s – an American Restaurant, Silver Spur Steakhouse, Market House Deli and Agrabah Cafe. I wasn’t blown away by Walt’s or Market House Deli. I had a delicious pork chop at Silver Spur but the highlight was definitely Agrabah Cafe. This buffet had many great Moroccan and Middle Eastern savoury and sweet options. My only regret is that I wasn’t famished when I visited. It was also the only place my toddler liked the food. Everywhere else she was offered baby food or ate part of my meal, both of which she didn’t like. Unfortunately, Blue Lagoon and Victoria’s Home-style Restaurant were closed the days we visited.

So here is my day at Disneyland Paris in pictures. If you are planning a visit or want to know more about the attractions see my Guide to Disneyland Paris. I have also written a Guide to Walt Disney Studio Park Paris and recently wrote a post on Walt Disney Studios Paris in Pictures.

 

Continue reading “Disneyland Paris in Pictures”

Walt Disney Studios Paris in Pictures

I’m back from my month long holiday in Europe and I have so much to share with you all. Our first stop was Disney Paris. This was our first visit and a great year visit, being that it is the 25th Anniversary.

We arrived quite early in Paris, but we didn’t get to our hotel until 9:30. Since we arrived after the parks opened we decided to start with the smaller of the two parks, Walt Disney Studios Park. I thought it would be more low key and we could do everything in that day.

I really didn’t love this park and it was probably my least favourite of all the parks I’ve visited. It is such a mishmash of themes. There are limited choices of restaurants and not many fast passes available for the attractions. This means long lines and large wait times. I guess I feel a bit negative towards this park since our experience on the first day was great. We first got Fastpasses for Ratatouille: The Adventure ride, which was quite late in the afternoon. We then decided to line up since the wait was 30 minutes, which wasn’t so bad. However, the ride broke down and when we were nearly at the end of the line. It was not known when the ride would start so we had to leave after wasting 45 minutes there. After that, we were faced with over an hour wait times and not a lot that we could do with a toddler.We did later revisit Ratatouille which was really great. It did malfunction while we were on it though for a few minutes but it wasn’t a big deal.

We did end up seeing the Mickey and the Magician Live Show and Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular. I loved the Mickey show, the other show was a bit boring for me. We missed Disney Junior when the Moteurs show ran late. So after that, we decided to walk over to Disneyland Paris to get to know the park. Surprisingly at the time in the afternoon, there was plenty to do with minimal wait times, which was not the case Walt Disney Studios.

We did end up revisiting this park to see Disney Junior Live on Stage! and did nearly all the other attractions. The only regret I have is that I didn’t get to go on Crush’s Coaster Roller coaster and Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic Tour. The wait time for Crush was 70 minutes just for Single Rider so with a toddler it was impossible. If I didn’t have a daughter I may have just waited. Unfortunately, because there are not a lot of fast passes it is difficult to avoid lines with long wait times. I did enjoy the park better the second time we visited. I guess after visiting Florida parks I had some higher expectations. I do still recommend you check it out if you visit though.

We dined at the two most highly recommended eatery and restaurant. For lunch, we went to Cafe des Cascadeurs for burgers in a 50’s style diner. It was nice but not great. It was quick though. For dinner, we went to Bistrot Chez Remy. The decor is quite amazing, the food was not though. It was nice but not mind blowing. The ratatouille itself was really delicious though.

Disney Village is an area with restaurants and shopping with free admission for public and is located just outside the parks. We didn’t eat at any of the restaurants. I did notice that Annette’s Diner was always really busy. I did visit all the shops though. There were not really large Disney stores. I much preferred the shopping in Disneyland Park for the variety of merchandise and clothing.

This was our first time staying in a Disney hotel. We stayed Disney’s Newport Bay Club and I’m really happy we did. We had the breakfast buffet included in our meal plan which was quite nice. The room was simple but comfortable. The good service, proximity to the parks and extra magic time (morning) really made it worth it though. I don’t think I would visit a Disney park again without staying in one of their hotels.

So here is our experience at Walt Disney Studio Park in pictures. I also included some photos of Disney Village and Disney’s Newport Bay Club. I have also written up a Guide for Walt Disney Studio Park and Guide to Disneyland Paris. Stay tuned for my upcoming post on Disneyland Paris in Pictures.

 

Continue reading “Walt Disney Studios Paris in Pictures”

Life update

Since starting this blog I haven’t really told you guys what’s going on in my life and where it’s about to take me. As most of you probably know this blog is a new project I started after concluding Live Blissful that I started back in September 2012. I had a really long break from blogging after I had my daughter. I just really didn’t have the time or energy to put up quality content. Additionally, I was unsure where my plant-based journey would take me.

As I stand at the moment I am not 100% plant-based. I really struggled with this during my pregnancy and since then. I have accepted that I will probably never be 100%, but that’s ok. Different phrases in my life will call for different foods to nourish my body and my growing child. Does that mean I will not continue to cook and seek plant-based food? no. I actually prefer to eat like this. However, I also love to try new things and eat traditional foods when I travel. My biggest priority is to eat the clean, mostly organic and unprocessed foods. This means that majority of our families diet is vegan and vegetarian. I never came to this diet for ethical reasons, but I do believe eating minimal amounts of animal-based foods for better health and for the environment. Eating dairy-free is still a priority for me. I was able to eat small amounts while pregnant and through breastfeeding, but now as my child is feeding less I am getting side effects. For me just tasting someone else’s food can bring on blemishes and flu-like symptoms. I guess it’s a blessing in disguise, I would have never known how bad cows milk can be for our health had I not found out about my intolerance. As for the recipes, I will be sharing, I will probably stick to vegetarian since that’s what I like to cook.

Other big news is that I’m going to Europe tomorrow for a month. We are travelling to France, Italy, Serbia, Sweden and Belgium. Although we will be staying with family and friends throughout our trip, we will be making a special trip to Disney Paris. I can’t wait to share our adventure with you when we get back!

Book Review: Twilight Garden (Blomster Mandala)

After so much colouring envy I finally bought Maria Trolle’s Twilight Garden. This beautiful Swedish colouring book has been my latest obsession. I was determined to get as many pages done before I go on my trip. It was an absolute joy to colour. I was a bit intimidated at first, but after taking a few advanced tutorials I can imagine a colour scheme for every page.

Maria Trolle is a Swedish graphic designer, gardener and mother. She is a self-taught artist and does a lot of work for Swedish garden magazines and grocery chains. She draws inspiration from the flora and fauna in her garden. She lives just outside of Stockholm on a beautiful farm. She has a blog and website, called Trolle’s Garden, which is a collaboration with her husband, who is a Garden designer and Design director. Here you can find information on their current projects and images of their amazing garden.

Maria’s first colouring book was Blomstermandala, which was a 20-page poster book, filled with flower still lifes. She also made a postcard book with the similar images. After the success of these two book, she published a full-scale colouring book in 96 pages, in the same theme. This full-scale version of Blomstermandala was eventually republished in an English version,  Twilight Garden, which is the version I bought. Both versions have been incredibly popular in the colouring community. She also illustrated a children’s book,”Vivi söker en vän” (Vivi’s looking for a friend). This was also made into a colouring book under the same name. I have actually purchased this one and waiting to pick it up in Sweden in a few weeks. I’m so excited to see it!

The paper in this book is a lovely thick ivory colour. I didn’t find any bleed through using pencils and my Prismacolor blended really well on this paper. The images include flower still lifes, garden scenes with and without animals and some blacked in backgrounds.

This collection of pictures I coloured is in order of when I coloured them. As I mentioned I did use some tutorials. They were all from Chris Cheng’s Youtube channel. These were by far the most advanced tutorials I’ve ever done and I really learned a lot. So I tried to incorporate these new skills into the pictures I coloured on my own.

 

Continue reading “Book Review: Twilight Garden (Blomster Mandala)”

Hiroshima: tragedy, rebirth and great food

Hiroshima was the last stop on our Japan trip. It is the largest city in the Chugoku Region on the western front of the Honshu Island. It is largely known for the Atomic bomb that was dropped on it during WW2. Despite this, the city has been rebuilt into a modern city, whilst paying homage to its rich history and is home to million inhabitants.

Hiroshima was one of the highlights of our trip. We visited nearly all the top attractions in a day, without rushing and had some great meals along the way. The sites that we saw included Shukkeien GardenHiroshima CastleHiroshima Peace Memorial ParkHiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Downtown Hiroshima.

 

Continue reading “Hiroshima: tragedy, rebirth and great food”

North Tokyo: low city and skytree views

North Tokyo is a more mature part of the city, where you can find temples, shrines, gardens, shopping strips, museums and residential neighbourhoods. There was something more authentic about this part of the city. It a great place to stroll and observe and find traditional artisan stores.

We didn’t see many sites in North Tokyo, but we did spend a few hour exploring Asakusa district and Sensoji Temple. From there we walked all the way to the Skytree Sumida City district. The views in the low city are quite spectacular and shouldn’t be missed.

 

Continue reading “North Tokyo: low city and skytree views”