Ystad: charming town, Ale’s Stones

While we were staying in Malmö we made a trip down to Ystad. This small town is on the coast of Southern Sweden and faces Germany-Polish coast across the Baltic Sea. This quiet town has become world famous for the popular BBC series, Wallander. We aren’t fans of the show, instead, we came to see Sweden’s Stonehenge, the Ale’s Stones.

 

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My Christmas List…

Something I love about being an adult is being able to fulfil my own Christmas list. No more disappointments or being told that my wishes too numerous and unrealistic. Ok, some of it may be even too unrealistic for me to fulfil but at least I get to decide what is attainable and will remain a dream. Unfortunately with adulthood, so come the understanding of the value of money and that ‘things’ don’t make you happy. Nevertheless, ‘Santa’ has a sack of presents for me this year, so Christmas is going to be fantastic!

My interest (and obsessions) this year mostly revolve around colouring,  reading historical, politic and fantasy novels, Disney and travel. This is probably pretty obvious if you’re a frequent visitor to my blog. My life has changed so much since becoming a mother. I prefer to spend my spare time blogging, colouring, reading, watching late night and TV series, playing Disney Magic Kingdoms, planning future travel and eating out with friends. Shopping was previously a lifelong passion, but now it just seems too hard to look in a shop, let alone try something on and make it to the cash register to buy it. Until recently, everything I bought needed to double as nursing wear. So I expect in the new year I may try to get a few new items to update my wardrobe. I’m not too worried about that yet. At the moment I’m more interested in hobbies that are a bit more solitary since I spend my of my time accompanied by a small person, whose needs are more important than my own.

 

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Malmö: old city with a modern vibe

Next stop on our European trip was Malmö, Sweden. This was our second visit to this beautiful Scandinavian country, but our first time visiting this city. Marco actually has an uncle that lives in Göteborg, which we visited a few years back. This time we decided to spend a couple of days in Malmö, before making our way to Göteborg.

Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden and is situated in the south, near Denmark. Much of the city has an old-world feel, characterised by the decorative buildings, beautiful large squares, castle and parks. However, there are also modern feats of Swedish architecture that are just as stunning to the eye.

We were only in Malmö for a day and a half, so we tried to see as much as we could. We walked around Gamla Staden (the ‘Old Town’), tried all the classic Swedish pub food; visited Sankt Petri Church; saw the Turning Torso and nearby Scaniaparken; visited the Malmöhus Slott (Malmö Castle), Malmö Museer (Malmö Museum) and nearby Kungsparken; and tried enjoyed a selection of smörrebröd.

 

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Eco Toys for 2-3 years olds

In time for Christmas, I thought I better share with you guys some of my favourite picks of Eco Toys for two to three-year-olds. My daughter 2 and a half, so we are familiar with many of these toys. This age group love to do a lot of pretending play. This is an expression of what they have learned from the world that surrounds them. It’s a really fun time to watch them pretending to copy us and be in charge of something smaller than them. It also makes play with us a bit more interesting, as the toddler can now take the lead.

My daughter is really interested in animals, miniature homes, baby dolls to care for, puzzles, cooking and performing with instruments.  When I began looking for toys to satisfy these interests I did find that most are recommended for age 3 years and above. However, I manage to track down quite a few eco toys that can be played with from age 2 years. Since my daughter has never been one to put things in her mouth I have bought her a few toys for 3 years old, with no issues. However, always be aware of the recommended ages and that these toys often contain small parts that your child could put in their mouth.

The categories that I have covered include:

  • Animal figurines
  • Animal and doll houses
  • Vehicles
  • Baby dolls and accessories
  • Puzzles
  • Memory games
  • Kitchens and appliances
  • Tea and coffee sets
  • Pretend food and utensils
  • Workbenches and Tools
  • Building & destroying
  • Little Shopper
  • Activity/Music Centre
  • Other pretending play toys
  • Ride-On

These picks are of course only a snapshot of what many of these great eco brands offer. So take a look at what else is available in their ranges to find the best toys that suit your child. These toys are all currently available in the Australian market. Be sure to google the toy name, as the websites that are linked to the brands and probably won’t able to ship to Australia. There are plenty of in-store and online toy stores that stock these items. If you have any questions about these toys, their materials and safety, its always best to email the brand directly and I’m sure they would be too happy to answer your questions.

If the child your buying for is younger then 2 years, please check out my previous posts Eco Toys for under 12 months and Eco Toys for 12-24 month.

At the end of this post, I have also included some links and information on where to find Eco toys, Safety standards and Certifications and a bio on these Eco brands.

 

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Book Review: Ivy and the Inky Butterfly

I recently got my hands on Johanna Basford’s new colouring book, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly. I always knew I had to get this book eventually but I didn’t preorder it. I have so many books to start that I was putting off this purchase. However, as soon as I saw others colourists work from this book I got online straight away to get a copy.

Unlike Johanna’s other colouring books this one is actually a storybook as well. This story was inspired by Johanna’s own little daughter, who the book was named after. It tells a magical tale of a little girl named Ivy, who finds a secret door that leads her to the land of Enchantia. As she chases an inky butterfly, she comes across many interesting characters and wondrous things along her journey. The story is very cute and imaginative. It is also quite long, so it’s probably not a bedtime story I can get through in one night with my toddler. This is in no way a negative, as it will keep me entertained as I am reading as I colour through this book. I’m sure by the time I finish it Octavia can read it to herself.

There are actually two versions of this book, the US and the UK. In Australia, the bookstores are only selling the UK edition and I figure that would be the best copy. I often noted that colouring books that have been printed for the US market never have a good paper as the original country. However, I found this book is an exception. Lucy from the blog Colouring in the Midst of Madness wrote the fantastic article Inky Butterfly: A Comparision between the UK and the US Editions (also see video). Based on her comparison I decided to purchase the US edition. Although both versions have high-quality paper, Lucy found that the “US paper is much easier to use pencils on and is less likely to bleed with water-based pens”. The other big noticeable difference is the cover. UK edition is white with gold foil detailing. The US edition is an off-white with gold foil and some mint green detailing. Both are pretty but I do prefer the splash of green on the cover.

Something else that is special about both versions of this colouring book is that the paper on the cover is ideal for colouring in. I don’t think I own any other colouring books that have been designed with this in mind. I will probably leave mine as is, but I have seen other colourists cover and they are all very unique and special.

I can only speak for the paper in my US edition. It has to be the best paper I have ever coloured on and is unique to this book. The paper has a bit of a shine and takes pencils very well. You don’t need to do much layering at all get to cover the white speckling in the paper, yet you can keep layering and the paper will take it. I think so far I have only done up to 7 layers and I could of keep adding. So far I have only coloured with Prismacolor pencils, black Faber-Castell Artist Pitt pen and gel pens. I think this paper would great most colouring materials, with the exception of alcohol markers. I have seen other colourist using other materials, such as Polychromos pencils, Staedtler Ergosoft pencils, Derwent Inktense pencils,  Winsor and Newton Watercolor, soft pastels and more. Everyone seems to have fantastic results with all of their materials. Johannah has also included a testing page in the back if you want to try before you apply a certain art material to a page.


 

These are the first pages that I have completed this book. If it wasn’t so close to Christmas I would have loved to keep colouring through this book. However, I have many Christmas themed pages to do in my other books. These pages are in ordered by page rather than which order I coloured them.

 

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Family Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas. I look forward to it all year. For me its a time for magic, lots of presents, self-reflection, quality time with family and extra special delicious food. A few years ago the Christmas baton was handed to me, so I have been holding Christmas at my house ever since. Yes its a lot of work, but I love it.

Since I had my daughter, it’s been so wonderful to pass on the Christmas magic on to her. This year will be Octavia third Christmas and she will be 2 years and 8 months. Now she really understands who Santa is, what presents are and why mama keeps going Christmas shopping. She is so excited about this and has made going shopping with her easier if we are looking for things to tell Santa we want and need. We haven’t discussed the religious aspect of Christmas yet, I think this will be a conversation for next year or the year after.

Before we had Octavia’s first Christmas we began some Christmas traditions. We only started with few and will add a new one every year. I think it’s important to make traditions because it’s something we can all look forward, activities we can do together and will create magical childhood memories that we cherish forever.

 

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Belgrade: the bohemian, proud, white city

Our last stop in Serbia was the capital city of Belgrade. This is one of my favourite  European cities and I was so excited to see it again. I love Belgrade because it’s modern yet old, the parks are beautiful and clean, the people are lovely, the shopping is good and the food is exceptional. Since we did most of the tourist stuff last time, this visit we got to see a few places we hadn’t been before. We only really had one full day, but I would have loved to stay longer.

Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has been known by main names. It was called Belgrade meaning the white city, by the Slavs. This is because the cities fortress looked white from the river. It is also known as the city that never sleeps due to its vibrant nightlife. It is also a very walkable city that is bursting with culture and history.
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Sokobanja: fresh, lush and healing

While we’re still staying Aleksinac had the opportunity to visit the spa town, Sokobanja. This is one of Serbia’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s located in the southeast of the country, between the Ozren and Rtanj mountains and is 400 m above sea-level.

Sokobanja has been famous for the therapeutic qualities of its thermal springs since Ancient Roman times. People travel to bath in the thermal mineral springs (28-45.5°C) and inhalation the fresh air, which has a high concentration of oxygen, ozone and negative ions and no pollution. There are even specialised hospitals that treat a variety of conditions, such as bronchial asthma and chronic hepatitis.

Sokobanja is such a beautiful and tranquil place. I found this amazing video which illustrates what a truly special place it is:  Sokobanja Green Heart of Serbia (produced by Dusan Stojancevic).

 

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Niš: ancient city with a youthful vibe

While we were in the south of Serbia we visited the city of Niš a couple of times. It is the closest big city to Aleksinac (Marco’s hometown) and his place of birth. It is also the third largest city in Serbia, one of the oldest Balkan city and was considered a doorway to the west and eat in ancient times. Despite its ancient roots, this city has a youthful vibe. With bustling alleyways, live music, pop up markets and plenty of places to get good food and drinks, it definitely the place where you can have some fun.

We drove to Niš from Aleksinac, which only took 30 minutes, so we didn’t need to book a hotel. We visited a couple of times but unfortunately both times we didn’t have that long so we didn’t get to do all the sites. We did do a bit of shopping, visit the Fortress and Holy Trinity Cathedral and have a couple of great traditional Serbian meals.

 

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Weekend roundup of delicious eats

Over the past weekend and mid-week, we have been eating out quite a bit so I thought I’d share some of the photos and details of these delicious eats. These include some restaurants and cafes on the Gold Coast and in my hometown of Brisbane.

This roundup started from last weekend when we took a little break to the Gold Coast.  We stayed in two family hotels, at Sanctuary Cove and Benowa. We don’t normally do hotel crawls, but it was great fun to do. We got to experience two different places and give my toddler new surroundings to explore.

 

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Green Split Pea and Broccoli Pasta

I am always trying to find quick and nutritious ways to cook broccoli and legumes in an interesting way for my daughter. Broccoli is probably the only vegetable she will outright say is yucky. However recently she has been saying she wants to eat it in between meals. I’m not sure if she is joking or shes finally coming around due to the daily exposure. Legumes have also been a challenge to serve in their whole form. Split peas and lentils are great introductory legumes for little people because they are small and soft when cooked and don’t have that skin that can get stuck in their throat (like chickpeas). I like to add them to pasta sauces, lasagna, curries and stews, for more fibre and protein.

I’ve made this recipe a couple of times and it has gone down without a fight. I have left the option of adding organic free-range ham, for carnivores or flexitarians. My daughter loves ham, which she discovered at Kindy. My local organic butcher makes their own leg ham, so it’s the only one I let her eat occasionally. She would seriously choose ham over sweets any day. If you’re a grown-up vegan you could use some liquid smoke or vegan ham. Although this recipe is delicious and healthy without these additions. If you still don’t use salt in your toddlers’ diet, you can always skip the liquid stock or just make your own salt free version. I use to do this and freeze them in baby freezer pods. You could also use the first part of the recipe of green split peas mixture as a healthier alternative to potato mash.

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Serbian Wild Flowers

When we were visiting Marco’s hometown of Aleksinac, I went on a walk one day in a village with the rest of the young cousins. We walked down this long dirt road through the farmland and we found the most amazing array of wildflowers. I couldn’t believe how many different varieties of brightly coloured flowers I found amongst the grass and crops.

When I travel I always like to take photos interesting native flowers and plants. I like to add them to my photo diaries to the record the unique beauty of a place. I also like to find inspiration for colouring books and art projects.

Do you take photos of flora when you travel?

Do you use them for inspiration for adult colouring or other art projects?

How do you inspire your artistic side?

Do you like to walk through nature, flip through books or peruse sites like Pinterest?

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