Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Miss Universe meets MIA (kinda)

It was a bit of a shock to get an invitation featuring the words "Miss Universe" and "Nude" in the same breath.

Was Australia's Miss Universe Australia 2011 winner Sherri-Lee Biggs about to tarnish her flawless image? Surely no nasty photographer was hawking nude photos of the Perth princess?

Of course, I need not have worried.

Like her favourite make-up brand, Nude by Nature, Sherri-Lee's reputation is squeaky clean.

It's just that the Miss Universe Australia 2011 pageant was sponsored by Nude By Nature, whose peeps organised a press conference so the natural beauty could share her beauty tips and philosophy with the likes of mere mortals. (Erm, like me).

Unfortunately, I couldn't attend in person, which, to be honest, saved me the agony of being seen next to the 20-year-old communications student. (Beauty and brains in one package...I tell you, the girl is blessed!)

In any case, Sherri-Lee is such a fan of Maid In Australia so lovely, she agreed to answer a few of my nosey questions via email. My questions were influenced by the fact I'm the parent of Miss 8 and Mr 10, who aren't far off that awkward teen/pre-teen stage.

Here goes:

Were you always beautiful? Did you feel pretty, and/or or have boyfriends at school?

I’m not sure! (Haha). I went to an all-girls school, and believe it or not, you really don’t care about how you look at school, because you have no boys to impress. I did have a few ‘boyfriends’, if you could call them that, but they were very short term, (as they usually are in high school). I preferred boys as friends, and would decide that about three weeks into the relationship! (Haha).

So school was relatively painless?

I had a heap of fun at school and got really involved in extracurricular drama and dance. I don’t think there was ever time to worry about how pretty I felt.

Teenagers feel so much pressure to look good these days. Do you have any advice for them?

I didn’t have many issues at school, but I think that’s purely because I wasn’t stressing about them at that time. After I finished school, I found I had more issues with skin and gaining weight. Maybe it was the regular meal times we had at school, and my mum was always good at packing a good healthy lunch. Uni cafeteria food doesn’t do any favours for the skin or waistline. I do believe the less you stress about it and the more you give yourself simple guidelines instead of strict regimes, it is easier to control.

And if kids are self-conscious about their weight or looks?

My advice would be to better invest your time at getting involved in school. Nobody remembers people at school for what their skin was like or their weight! They remember them for being that drama kid or the girl that was dux of the year.

Isn't she gorgeous? And apparently Nude by Nature is Sherri-Lee's favourite mineral makeup range, because it doesn't contain toxic chemicals. Plus, I'm told the products remove blemishes, redness, pigmentation, and uneven skin tone. I could totally use some of that!

Quite frankly, I think Sherri-Lee is a walking advertisement for the brand. (And no, I wasn't paid for this post).

However, I am trying to pursuade the lovely peeps at Nude by Nature to giveaway a sample of their products to MIA's readers.

So please leave a comment about why you'd like to win some Nude by Nature goodness.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Versatile? That's me!

So a while ago, I was awarded 'The Versatile Blogger' award by the lovely Kirri of Happy Mums At Home.

To be honest, I've been sidetracked with penis vegetables, pet poo picker-upper-ing, and the endless pursuit of happiness, to do what any well-mannered blogger would do, and give thanks for this delightful award.

So thank you, and today I will follow up on the requirements of a Truly Versatile Blogger.

The major step seems to be sharing seven things you may not know about MIA.

Now, that could be hard, because I pretty much feel like I've shared my guts with you. Depression, divorce, Boombah Battles, tummy upsets, and colonoscopies ... I mean how many more secrets can there be?  

But I'll try.

So here goes:

I once worked for Rebekah Brooks, then Rebekah Wade; She of the News Of The World phone hacking scandal. And I was a tiny bit scared of her, found the NOTW building depressing, and high-tailed it out of there as soon as I found a better-paying job on a lovely women's magazine. Actually, it wasn't really better paying. But the coffee and tea came with the job and every toilet or frozen yoghurt break was not monitored.

I had no freaking idea what I wanted to do when I left school. I was accepted into nursing as well as a Bachelor of Arts, which I eventually chose, majoring in Music, Literature and Journalism. To be honest, I'm still not quite sure what I want to be when I grow up, except that I would like for it to involve a pony.

I was once a talented pianist, having finished Grade 8 AMEB exams by the time I graduated from Year 12. I'm now kicking myself that I let those skills slide.

My entry into the workforce was via a holiday and weekend-job in a toyshop, where I could be regularly found cuddling the soft toys in the corner. I also had a secret fetish for gift-wrapping presents.

I cried with happiness when I first went to Disneyland. I was an adult by then, and I really long to take my kids one day. While they are still kids. And hopefully, unlike me, they will not throw up on the teacup ride.

Despite growing up in Queensland, and sharing my homes with a variety of wildlife,  I am still irrationally scared of snakes. Okay, and lizards. 

I love animals and have been lucky enough to pat Bengal tigers; cuddle baby lions; let baby cheetahs suckle my fingers; pat snakes,* crocodiles and dolphins; cuddle koalas and kangaroos, hand-feed monkeys and dolphins, and swim with turtles. I've also come within touching distance of bears, moose, elk, mountain goats, deer, marmots, and porcupines (the last lot, all in the beautiful Canadian Rockies. Sigh). I've ridden elephants in Thailand, and fed them bananas. Oh and in Africa, I saw loads of wild animals too, including watching a lion and a lioness Doing It. It was over in seconds, and I swear the lioness stalked off looking disgusted. 

So there you are: Seven things you may not have known about me.

And now I get to pass on this award to a few other bloggers I like:

When you've got time, join in by sharing seven things we may not know about you, and passing on the love to a few of your favourite blog crushes. 

* Yes, I know I said I'm afraid of snakes, but I think it's important to confront your fears. So although it freaks the hell out of me to touch a snake - and I don't go as far as actually wearing one, because that would be crazy - I touch them anyway. When held by a trusted wildlife handler of course.
I think it's important to show the kids that it's okay to be afraid of things, and it's okay to tackle your fears. And also, that the fear is often baseless.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Penis carrots and other veggie stories ...

I was shocked when I received emails, text and FB messages about Penis Carrots.

What do you mean you haven't heard of them?

Our family has long been a fan of funny-shaped fruits and vegetables.

They don't always have to look rude.

It could be a parsnip shaped like a letter, a potato with a 'nose' on it, or a carrot shaped like a ... thingie. Oh and double bananas, strawberries and cherries. Everyone knows double-fruits have been grown and hand-picked by unicorns.

Whatever, fruit and veggie shopping is always fun when there are kids in tow.

What a healthy lunch box! You'd think it would be for school, right? Nope, it's a snack for the guinea pigs! Only the best for our cavies ...

A penis carrot

Mr 10 thought it also doubled as a gun

A 'forks' carrot. NB: Non-Aussies you give someone the forks (two fingers up) when you are pissed off with them or telling them where to go. (Two to the Gabba anyone?)

Miss 8 going carrot crazy...

An unfortunately-grouped collection of sweet potatoes

A bug on broccoli at Woolies. Miss 8 wanted to bring it home and keep it as a pet.

And finally, the winners of the free passes to the Sydney Organic Expo and Green Show are redror., mamabook and yummy supper. Please email or DM tweet me with your contact details so I can organise your prizes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Grateful for

Today I'm joining the lovely Maxibella Loves who regularly posts about things she is grateful for.

As part of my recovery from anxiety and depression, I'm a huge fan of Mindfulness, and living in the moment.

As part of that, each day I take time to find at least five things that make me happy. Or grateful.

The benefit of my '5 Things' is that even if I've had a day from hell, or feel like punching someone in the head (perhaps even myself), I realise that actually, life is pretty good after all. And that gives me an instant boost.

Sometimes it's a struggle to come up with five; but thankfully, on other days, I can come up with dozens. There's a 'grateful for' right there!

On handover days when my kids go back to their Dad for his time with them, I usually fall into an instant depression. I miss those warm-hearted little souls so much, and I'm anxious because I'm not with them.

But today, they were smiling as they drove off.

Miss 8 was overjoyed that we'd just tracked down her favourite guinea pig Star, who scuttled off when naughty Kit Kat chased him. Mr 10 was excited to show off the first two days' worth of his latest obsession, the Harry Potter collection. (A current promotion of The Courier Mail/Sunday Mail.)

So I was grateful for their smiles.

Here are a few more moments from my week that made me happy:

- My pets. Sure, a few of them are on loan, having come with the house we're minding while their owners spend a year overseas. Those furry, warm creatures add so much to our lives. They help the kids get to sleep - each child usually has at least one of them in their beds as they drift off to dreamland each night - and they keep me warm when the kids aren't here. (Literally. I end up with three cats and a dog in bed with me some nights. Who needs hot water bottles or electric blankets?) Plus, they are just warm, cuddly, loving and fun!

- My friends. They are kind, empathetic, funny, and accept me for who I am, and more importantly, who I am not. There is little better than cracking up laughing with a friend who gets you!

- Having food to eat, a safe home, and a warm bed to climb into each night. I know it's not a given.

- My health. After months of off and on pneumonia and vertigo, not to mention the afore-mentioned anxiety and depression, I'm finally getting my energy, health and mojo back. And gosh, it feels fantastic!

- Books. I'm halfway through Jodi Picoult's Keeping Faith at the moment, and was so engrossed I didn't even hear the GP calling my name the other day. She had to walk right up to me, which scared the crap out of me, before I realised it was my turn! I love writing which takes me right out of myself and into the story.

Readers, what are you grateful for?

Who can feel sad when there are these two around to warm my heart and make me laugh?

So much to be grateful for!

Finally, apologies to readers of my previous post. Apparently YouTube pulled the original Noni Hazlehurst reading because it was offensive.

If you're quick, you can catch it here ...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Go the Fxxk To Sleep

We all know that parenting changes us. Forever.

There is that wonderful mishmash of sleepless nights, mess, bills, unconditional love, bodily fluids, squishy hugs, sticky fingers, and the joys of raising small humans.

But for me, the realisation that I'm a parent always smacks me in the face whenever I hear myself sprouting off sentences that I never thought would leave my mouth.

None of mine are anywhere near as clever as Text Publishing's latest genius creation, Go The Fuck The Sleep, narrated here by the wonderful Noni Hazlehurst:

Best. Storytelling. Ever.

I have my own stock-standard phrases, that always surprise me when they spill out of my mouth.

Here are just a few:

Sentence: 'No more penis carrots'.
Timing: Whilst shopping, while the kids gleefully pick out the rudest shaped vegetables they can find.

Sentence: 'No, I don't want to know what colour/shape/size your poo is'.
Timing: Usually when small human has helpfully propped him/herself on my ensuite loo, just as I step under the shower.

Sentence: 'Please don't pee off the balcony. The guinea pigs don't like it.'
Timing: Do I really have to explain that one?

Sentence: 'Take your hands out of your pants.'
Timing: Actually I may have said that one, BK (Before Kids). After all, I have had relationships with adult males.

Sentence: 'Tables are not for dancing on, they are for sitting at.'
Timing: Shhh! Don't tell them about Mumma's wild younger days.

Sentence: 'Please stop killing your sister/brother. It's really not very nice.'
Timing: Whenever one child is screaming my name, whilst the other sits on/kicks/hits/scratches the crap out of her/him

Sentence: 'Yes I would love to stay up until the early hours baking muffins for your fundraising stall.'
Timing: After small child has suddenly remembered at bedtime, that two dozen home-baked muffins/cakes/biscuits are required for school tomorrow.

Sentence: 'Are you absolutely sure you have to wee right now?'
Timing: After marathon grocery shopping expedition and queueing session, just as we're about to hit the checkout.

Sentence: 'Who farted?'
Timing: With resignation. Again.

Sentence: 'God give me strength'.
Timing: A lot.

Does every parent say stuff like this, or is it just me?

For what it's worth, my own version of that book would be: 'Flush The FxxKing Toilet!'

We seriously need one of these signs on our front door.
Image borrowed from Queensland Girl, who writes about parenting, pets, and poo...

Monday, July 11, 2011

For the love of mulberries ...gardening, green living, and a giveaway!

So, school holidays in Queensland have drawn to a close.

Regular readers will know we love to catch-up with family during holidays, and so it was that we found ourselves driving to the South Burnett, with our temporary foster toy poodle Zsa Zsa in tow.

When I was a kid, the South Burnett seemed a boring place to grow up. But with age and (some) wisdom, I now appreciate the benefits of a childhood spent in the country. I had the freedom to ride my bike to and from school and around the bush; to walk my sausage dogs (and there were a few over the years) to my Nana's home; and to spend summer afternoons at the council swimming pool with my siblings.

The most likely danger was a snake in the grass (seriously), a yabbie snapping off one of our fingers, or a serious case of sunburn.

So, we didn't have McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, or traffic lights, but we didn't miss them. They were usually a school holiday treat whenever we were in the Big Smoke or at the beach. (Well, the traffic lights weren't a treat, but the others were).

The worst part of country life was that whenever one of us was really sick or injured, we'd have to travel to Brisbane or Toowoomba for specialist treatment. And I used to get hideously carsick. Yuck!

I still hate the drive between Brisbane and Wondai, but travelling with kids (and a dog) helps me to forget all about being sick. Instead, I concentrate on staying sane without swerving off the road, swearing, or slapping myself in the face. (To keep myself awake! It's not some weird driving ritual.) 

And although the kids have inherited some of my dislike of a long car trip, they love to visit the country. Certainly, they moan whenever it's time to leave Wondai, my childhood home town; and the attractions of Grandma and Pa-Pa's home and garden. Not to mention my sister and brother-in-law's awesome farm and pool.

The kids love spending their pocket money at Wondai, Kingaroy, and surrounds. The shops here are magical places, where the bargains always seem so much more enticing than at Brisbane. I comfort myself that we're doing our bit to support the local economy.

Yes, we love a good weekend or longer in the country ... so here are a few snapshots from our stay.

Breakfast in bed, watching telly, from the fold-out divan at Grandma and Pa-Pa's house. And yes, those are glass windows. It's my parents' sun room which is freezing when there is no sun!
(Breakfast was vegemite toast of course. With optional toy poodle!)
Shopping at Wondai IGA. Note the uncrowded aisle.

Oh, erm, those purchases must belong to someone else's child ... am sure H. has grabbed the wrong trolley by mistake!

Helping Pa-Pa garden. Digging for potatoes. And in Miss 8's case, dancing.

'Look, there's one!' Luther, the not-so-mini daschund, (in jacket), and Zsa-Zsa the toy poodle, supervise.

'Are you sure they dug up the best ones?'
'Who cares? They had fun, and that's the main thing...'

Pa-Pa grows the best mandarins! They are the sweetest we've ever tasted.

The spoils ...

One way to get a picky young man to eat a cherry tomato is to get him to actually pick them! And that jumper was knitted by Grandma's own hands...

They're mine, all mine!
(You've got to love it when a child gets excited over a possie of produce!)

Our box of organic goodies, ready to take home. They were grown with that extra-special ingredient: Love.

We're currently renting, so don't get to do much damage to the garden. However, we have herbs, strawberries, lettuce and other goodies growing in pots. We've had pumpkins and tomatoes taking over the back yard, but we miss having fruit trees.

We do our bit to reuse and recyle. We have a compost heap, worm farm, guinea pigs, cats, and a spoiled toy poodle. (Who actually won't eat any household leftovers unless it is skin-free chicken.) Nothing is ever wasted.

When we were part of a two-parent family and lived on our own property, we also had mulberry, lemon, and lime trees. These, we lovingly planted when the kids were babies, and they grew up raiding the trees whenever the fruit was in season.

How we miss those trees! (And we really miss that home too. And do you know what? One of the first things the buyers did was to rip out the mulberry and other fruit trees. Sigh.)

Anyway, in honour of gardening goodness, Pa-Pa's Produce, and for the love of mulberries, I have double passes for 3 lucky MIA followers to attend the Organic Expo and Green Show in Sydney in August. The double passes will be valid for either Saturday August 6 or Sunday August 7. The Show will be held at Hall 3, Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour. Opening times: Saturday 10am-6pm and Sunday 10am-5pm.

To enter, check you're following MIA, and leave a comment below. Do you have a green thumb, have you ever tipped worm juice onto a rosebush, and/or what's your favourite organic produce?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Back to reality

As the school holidays draw to a close, I relate to the kids' anguish.

Don't you remember being a kid, when you wished holidays could last forever?

And I know many of us parents, particularly Mums, joke that we spend most of the school holidays curled up in despair in the corner, but let's face it, school holidays are special, even for the grown-ups.

Oh how I've loved those week day sleep-ins! Not having to pack lunch boxes, but make snacks throughout the day, as the mood strikes us.

I must admit, that being school holidays, my kids have been up at the crack of dawn. Unlike school days where I practically have to peel them off their beds, pour them into uniforms, and push them, ever so gently, out the door.

But even in the early hours, they were content to watch usually forbidden kiddie telly and munch cereal in front of it. Sometimes they cuddled up with me in my own bed, joined by the dog and at least one cat.

Sometimes my dear mini-Masterchef and his able assistant, insisted on making me breakfast ... omelettes and cappucino or tea, since you asked. Gosh, I love them.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I've been able to read, pay bills, tweet, and occasionally post; all whilst accompanied by the kids.

We've done every free or cheap event on offer (thanks to the council or local shopping centres). We've walked around the local lake; fed ducks, eels and turtles; pampered all our pets; cooked up goodies; and gone to the movies.

We visited their grandparents and other relatives in the country, and the kids were angels not just in the car during the hideously long drive, but in the country as well, where there's not a lot to do.

Unless you count participating in an army march, lunch with diggers at the local RSL, picking vegies and fruit with Pa-Pa, and eating Grandma's home-made soup. The kids were stunned by how many people knew me. (To be honest, I'm still stunned at that. I look nothing like I looked as a kid or a teenager, and yet people from my home town still know who I am!)

Sadly, Miss 8 suffered an awful ear-piercing infection, which resulted in her spending a couple more days with me, because she only wanted 'Mumma' to look after her.

And as much as I hated her pain, I treasured that special alone time. I would like to spend the same amount of special time with Mr 10, who at the time was happy enough to have quality time with his Dad. The idea was that we'd swap at a later date. But at the moment Miss 8 is veto-ing it! "I want to be with Mumma too," she pouts.

We'll have to talk about that, because I think it's important for kids to spend special one-on-one time with their parents.

In the meantime, we have just one more weekend to enjoy our holidays before it's back to school. Lunchboxes, uniforms, homework and all that. Back to a not-so-bad reality.

Until then, I'll be busy, racing them around the lake!

Readers, how have you spent your school holidays?

PS Either Blogger or my internet connection is being antsy, so I can't upload photos. Aren't you lucky? But don't worry, I'll catch up at a later date!

Monday, July 4, 2011

About an author. Kinda.

I don't feel like an author.

I'm not a novelist, which I always thought was the ultimate requirement to be regarded as a 'real' writer.

Oh I've tried.

Every short story I've ever written has been published, which is something I'm proud of. Especially as there have been quite a few. The problem is that inspiration doesn't strike regularly enough for me to take it up as a day job, though it's a fun, paying hobby to have.

Once, whilst working on a magazine as a commissioning editor (overseas), one of my job requirements was to write the 'reader's secret confessions' whenever the real ones weren't interesting enough. Which was quite often. More fiction.

And I've started several novels, which I've never felt brave enough to show anyone. Or to finish.

So I don't feel like an author.

Yes, it's true that many years ago, on commission, I wrote a guidebook to Queensland, which was basically crap. (The fact that I was given three days in which to write it, certainly didn't help.)

And then my lovely agent Selwa Anthony got me a deal for my first real book, Happily Ever Parted (Surviving Separation and Divorce), which was published by New Holland Australia in 1996.

I had three months to write that one, though I managed to extend that to five.

Most of it was written in the middle of the night, after a day of work and kid-wrangling. I'd go to sleep when I was tired, wake when my youngest needed a feed, and write until about 5 am. Then I'd fall into bed for about half an hour before one of the kids woke me.

It's no surprise that by the time the proofs came through, I came down with a massive dose of pneumonia. I seriously blame the lack of sleep, along with relentless parenting, working and writing. I was exhausted!

My then-husband was working out of town, as he often was, and I was so sick I'd sleep between school and childcare drop-off.

Eventually, my ageing parents travelled five hours to help me, and I spent each day in bed, proofs on my lap, editing and sleeping. In-between occasional cups of tea and soup.

Finally, proofs done, I slowly recovered. Just in time for the book's launch and the endless round of publicity, when laryngitis and a tickly cough made radio and television interviews that extra bit embarrassing.

I'm not particularly proud of my first real book.

I'd longed to write it for a very long time, but I wanted it to be perfect. But my editor - who was very good and very experienced - eventually said: "Bronnie it's fine. You've got to stop somewhere, or it will never make it onto the shelves."

And she was right.

The book did moderately well for a first attempt. And importantly, it finally gave me the title 'author' which I was really quite chuffed about.

However, because I've failed to follow up with another book - though I am working on several, fiction and non-fiction - I regularly forget all about it.

And then I'll get an email from a reader whose life I have touched, a request for an interview, or stumble across a copy of Happily Ever Parted, alive and well on book shelves and not in the bargain basement bin. And I experience that strange mixture of embarassment and pride that comes with being an author. For me at least!

A couple of months ago, I was thrilled to be asked by the Brisbane City Council to speak at the Sunnybank Hills Library about Happily Ever Parted.

Thrilled, and a little bit nervous, but happy all the same. That years after my book came out, people are still reading it and wanting to talk to me about it.

I am soooo sympathetic to anyone going through a divorce. My first, and that was amicable, was traumatic enough; and many followers will know I am going through a second. The sudden end of this second marriage broke my heart, kicked me in the guts, and sent me into a mental health hospital, suffering from a major depressive disorder. (Read Nervous Breakdown).

For those who are interested, I'm pretty much following the advice I give in the book, but even as a so-called expert, divorce still sucks. Big Time!

So I'll be happy to rock up at Sunnybank Hills Library at 10 am on July the 7 to talk about my book, writing, and any other darn thing you'd like to hear about.

The library is kindly putting on morning tea after the chat, but you must RSVP for catering on 07 3407 0571.

Please come along, so I don't feel like a complete loser if no one turns up!

And if you need a shoulder to cry on, I'll bring along the tissues!