A day of fun – Familypark, Neusiedlersee (May 2013)

I simply love spring in Austria; there are so many holidays, many of which are turned into long weekends and if the weather permits, they make wonderful opportunities to take a trip and have loads of fun.

So, several weeks ago, we had one of these holidays, weather looked promising and we decided to head for the Familypark at Neusiedlersee. It is the largest open air park in Austria, a real heaven for children and adults alike. It took us about an hour to get from Vienna to… Well, here.

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The park is divided into several parts; immediately behind the entrance, there is a part for the smallest children, featuring cute little cars, tractors and even floating ducks. There are ponds with fish, beautiful and immaculately groomed flowers and giant worms looking at you.

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Those flying balloons look innocent, but they spin very fast… So, consider yourself warned.

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Another innocent-looking thing is this scarecrow; however, it will give you quite an adrenalin rush.

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There is also a part of the park dedicated to fairy tales, with numerous scenes re-created from the most famous fairy tales. There are also buttons to press if you want to hear the tale; however, a small objection to this concept is that the sound is very loud, so if two neighbouring fairy tales are being listened to at the same time, they clash and it is quite difficult to listen to eather of them, and another objection is that, although all other materials have been translated into several languages, the fairy tales are narrated in German only.

Can you guess from which fairy tales are these two scenes?

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After we’ve made rounds through these two parts, it started to rain heavily, so we found our refuge in this restaurant and stayed there for about an hour. There are many restaurants, cafes and confectioneries in the park, and the prices are reasonable.

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The next part we visited was the one with animals; there were goats, donkeys and beautiful deers. The girls were a bit disappointed because it wasn’t allowed to touch the animals, since they’ve expected a petting zoo. They both adore animals and simply love playing with goats.

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The park is situated in beautiful nature, so there are lots of trees and shadowy places.

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Next stop was, believe or not, a haunted house!

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The part including water was simply great! We haven’t spent much time playing with water, but we did enjoy the water slides!

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A great and quite complicated three-dimensional maze, challenging the children who’ve entered it to find their way out.

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The last parts are the Classical Roman (or perhaps Greek?) and the Mediterranean ones, and their main attraction is the roller coaster. My, oh, my… Did we ride it! Again, and again, and again!

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Since the name itself reveals that the park is intended for families, there are many changing rooms for babies and bathrooms. I particularly liked the sign for the changing room in the Classical Roman style.

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So, this is what our day looked like. It was great fun and I would do it again any time and I would definitely recommend it.

For more information, please click here: http://www.familypark.at/ and if you like my blog, please support it by liking my FB page (just click “like” on the right side below the title) and by liking and sharing my posts.

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Bake your own rainbow cake from scratch and be proud of it!

Yes, it was a promise made to my older daughter almost a year ago and now it needed to be delivered. Since my girls’ birthdays are only a week apart, I decided to bake two rainbow cakes, to make them both proud and happy.

It is not difficult to bake a rainbow cake; however, I have baked both cakes from scratch (meaning, I haven’t used any of the popular baking or cake mixtures) and it does take a lot of time. And patience. Yep. So, here’s what I’ve done.

Ingredients:

350 g butter (softened), plus some for greasing
300 g white sugar
5 large eggs
3 packages vanilla sugar
750 g flour
2 packages (30 g) baking powder
1 tsp salt
350 ml buttermilk
325 ml milk
food colouring

These ingredients will make six layers, so bear in mind that this is exactly the double size of a usual three-layer cake. You’ll need to take care of several other things; first, the ingredients should be kept at room temperature for a while before you start baking, as they will combine better and second, be careful when choosing food colouring. Some colourings are fine for creams and frosting, but are not meant for baking, and others simply have a horrible taste. I’ve opted for gel colours by AmeriColor, as they are really vibrant, they look great after baking, the cake can be refrigerated for several days with colours remaining as strong as the first day and, most importantly, they do not change the taste of the cake even the slightest bit.

In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugar and vanilla sugar with an electric mixer until they are well combined. Add the eggs and mix again.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt and in another bowl, mix buttermilk with milk. Add the flour mixture and the milk mixture alternating in two or three steps, beginning with the flour mixture and ending with the milk mixture. Mix well until all the ingredients are well combined.

Then, divide the batter evenly between six bowls.

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Now add colours; first try adding only a few drops of colour, stir and if necessary add some more colour until you reach the desired shade.

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Now preheat oven to 170°C and line bottom of your baking pan (mine is 26 cm round) with parchment paper and grease the sides. Put the batter into the pan, making sure it is evenly spread and bake for 12-15 minutes. After the layer has been baked, remove it from the oven and place it on the wire rack to cool. Repeat for each colour (if you have more than one baking pan, all the better – however, make sure they are exactly the same size).

And after a long afternoon of baking, you’ll end up with six layers, just like these on my table (the pink one tuned out great, the photo does not do it justice).

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Now you have to combine them.

My cake no 1

For my younger daughter’s cake, I’ve opted for a simple solution; I’ve combined the layers with apricot jam. You can use any jam you like, as long as it is light in colour (the dark coloured jam is going to transfer to the cake layers and thus ruin the rainbow). The jam will add a nice and juicy fruit flavour and the cake is going to be soft and tasty.

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I’ve made a ready-to-use vanilla parfait creme for the top and the sides. So, here’s what the cake looked like in the end…

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My cake no 2

For my older daughter’s cake I’ve opted for the vanilla parfait creme inside out. In my opinion, the rainbow cake looks sooo much better with white cream layers between the rainbow colours. I’ve also made a ganache-like chocolate cream for the top and the sides. It is very simple to make and tastes great; however, you need to start making it before you start baking the cake itself, as it takes hours to cool down.

Simply combine 500 g of dark chocolate with 500 ml of cream and heat (don’t forget to stir!) until the mixture boils. Then let it cool down to room temperature (yes, it takes hours!). When it is completely cool (not before!), put the mixture in the fridge and keep it there for at least thirty minutes. Remove it from the fridge (it should be cold, but still fluid) and mix until it gets lighter in shade, firm and creamy and then simply apply to the cake with a spatula.

Here’s what my second cake looked like:

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After you finish decorating the cake, keep it refrigerated for at least several hours or, even better, overnight.

So, how do you like my rainbow cakes?

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Cycling, roller-skating or simply walking – head to the Summer Stage

The Summer Stage is one of my favourite Viennese spring/summer locations. It is a place where you can ride your bike, roller-skate, jog, walk, eat and drink, all in a beautiful setting under the shades of big old trees, listening to the Donaukanal’s (Danube Canal) murmur. All in all, beautiful.

It is situated in Vienna’s 9th District (Alsergrund), on the Donaukanal’s bank and directly above it, on the street that used to be a promenade (hence its old name, Elisabethpromenade) and today one of the city’s busiest traffic roads. If you are using public transport, you’ll need the line U4 and the Rossauer Lände station.

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This underground line, following the Danube Canal, was designed by Otto Wagner and first opened in 1901, operating with steam trains. By 1925, steam trains were replaced with electrical and it was the year in which the electrical trains were introduced. The line itself has been reconstructed several times and now has numerous new and modern stations; however, this one is a great example of the Jahrhundertwende architecture.

Ok, back to the Summer Stage. This is one of my favourite terraces. It is situated directly above the Danube Canal and it feels great to sit above the flowing river.

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A narrow path intended for cycling, roller-skating, jogging and walking is following the canal, leading you from the 19th District up to Schwedenplatz, a very central city location.

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Directly above this terrace, there are a number of other cafes and restaurants offering local and international cuisine.

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And in order to create a real summer feel, there are the palm trees in xxl-pots.

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There is a place for beach volleyball…

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…and a trampoline.

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So, it is actually not important whether you’d like to spend an active afternoon or just sit with your friends and sip a cocktail, this is a perfect place for both. And now I’ll greet you with a large cup of a perfect Wiener Melange.

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For more information, please click here: http://www.summerstage.at/

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Our favourite banana bread

Today I’ll share one of my children’s (and hubby’s, yep) favourite recipes: banana bread. It is very simple to make and it tastes delicious. You can serve it for breakfast, as something sweet with your tea or coffee, for picnics or children’s school snack. I often bake it with my girls and we very much enjoy the time together.

So, here it is…

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup melted butter (cup is always 2,5 dcl) & some butter for the loaf pan
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • an egg
  • teaspoon vanilla extract
  • teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1,5 cup flour

 

And here’s what you need to do:

Do not use a mixer for this recipe, the bread will turn out best if you stir the batter with a wooden spoon. Preheat the oven to 180°C and smear the loaf pan with butter. Mash the bananas, but be careful to leave the chunks. This way, the cake will taste better.

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Beat an egg in a small bowl. Mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla and what you now have is a liquid mixture.

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Now sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture, mix in and, finally, add flour and mix in again. Now you can pour the mixture into a buttered loaf pan.

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Depending on how your oven works, bake between 45 and 55 minutes. When it’s done, cool on a rack for about ten minutes and then take it out of the loaf pan.

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And now enjoy!

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If you like this recipe, please do like my FB page (find it here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Strawberry-Hill-Stories/372675619491239?ref=ts&fref=ts or on the right)  and remember to share it with your friends.

 

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Vienna’s smallest house

Vienna’s palaces, museums and galleries are all well known. But how about the city’s smallest house? Do you know where it is and what it looks like?

In Neubau, Vienna’s 7th district, on the corner of Burggasse and Breite Gasse, there is a house which has been officially declared to be the smallest in Vienna, as well as protected as cultural monument. This part of town is very jazzy and picturesque; here you can find the famous Museumsquartier and Spittelberg, but also lesser known and nonetheless beautiful Siebensternviertel, as well as numerous narrow streets with small boutiques, art galleries, antique stores and small family business. The large multinational stores have not – at least for the most part, excluding the popular Mariahilferstraße, which borders on the 6th disctict, as well as several other broader streets – entered this neighbourhood; quite the contrary, here you’ll have a chance to style yourself, outfit your apartment and get music and books to your personal, individual taste.

And here’s what the city’s smallest house looks like:

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The house was built in 1872 and was designed by the architect Josef Durst. Its layout spreads on not more than fourteen (14!) square meters. From the time it was built until today, the house’s name changed three names; first, it was called “By the white grapes” (Zur grünen Weintraube), then “By the golden lamb” (Zum goldenen Lamm), and finally “By the golden deer” (Zum goldenen Hirschen).Since it was built, the goldsmith and watchmaker Friedrich Schmollgruber’s shop has been in the house.

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So, if you happen to be in this part of the town (perhaps visiting the Volkstheater, going to the Museumsquartier or just having a mug of Christmas mulled wine at the Spittelberg), I would say it would be impossible to miss the Neo-Gothic facade and the windows with the columns with Corinthian capitals between them. So, do look up this house. It is small indeed, but very beautiful.

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