Friday, October 28, 2011

Things I love ...

I spotted the following in a press release this morning, and it was so good I had to share:

"Europe From $999 Return!
Online travel agent ZUJI Australia has partnered with Garuda Indonesia to give travellers a new reason to fly high...to Amsterdam, that is.
From now until 30 November 2011, travellers can take advantage of the more-than-affordable return flights (departing from Sydney and Melbourne) to the picturesque and highly entertaining 'Venice of the north' for only $999, including taxes. That's a saving of more than $1000! To boot, travellers won't be slapped with any booking or credit card fees.
More importantly, there is no need to wait for months before jetting off. Prices are valid for travel from 14 January to 31 March and from 16 April to 13 July 2012.
This high flying deal is not to be missed! Book at www.zuji.com.au."
Now I can't afford the time or money to go, given that I'm taking my kids to Fiji and Western Australia in the next two months, but someone else might like to take advantage of these fantastic airfares.
And it got me thinking about other really cool deals or things I've come across that you might like, dear readers.
I'm not getting paid to shared these with you, I just really like this stuff, and karma makes the world go around, so I thought, why not?

Nespresso. I've had my own Nespresso coffee machine since 1996. I know this because my ex-husband bought it when I was speaking at the Somerset Festival of Literature on the Gold Coast following the launch of my book Happily Ever Parted (Surviving Separation and Divorce). I know, ironic, huh?
Anyway, I was a bit peeved that he'd gone out and spent money in my absence but one taste of the nectar that is Nespresso coffee and I was sold.
And unlike every coffee machine we've ever owned the Nespresso is still churning out perfect coffee, years after the warranty ran out.
It has travelled across the ditch to New Zealand and back again. It's survived multiple moves, and even separation and divorce. It makes not only excellant capuccinos, flat whites and espressos, but fantastic hot chocolates and babycinos for the kids.
When I visited my spiritual home the Nespresso shop in Sydney recently, I was overtaken by the urge to buy one of the new machines in their pretty new colours. But I couldn't justify the purchase since my old one is still working perfectly.
Instead, I comforted myself by sitting at the coffee bar and tasting a few of the new flavours, eating free chocolate, and chatting to a lovely lady who was buying her third machine - third mind - for her boat! As you do. Or don't, in my case.

Oh Nespresso, how I love thee. Even I can't stuff up coffee-making with my Nespresso...

Group-buying deals. You know those quick-sale deals, like Our Deal, Grab One and Living Social? I've grabbed a few lately, and been happy with all but a couple of them. One of them was a spur of the moment one I grabbed with a friend, which was a package deal, all-inclusive holiday to Fiji for the kids and I. My friend and her kids are going too. We've each got our own rooms and will do our own thing if we want to. However, we're both single Mums so it will be good to have company if we want it. Plus, the kids will at least see a few friendly faces at kids' club. And it's all paid for, so there will be no nasty surprises when it comes to paying the bill at the end.
I've also enjoyed hair cuts, massages, a cut-price car service, and meals.
I've really only found a couple of the restaurant deals to be not great value and/or at out-of-the-way places. My advice is to only book meals if you know the restaurant and would normally eat there anyway.
The same with the holiday destinations really. (In this case, my friend has stayed at the resort in the past and can vouch for it, so we are well pleased.)
There was one hairdressing salon that talked me into getting a few extras I couldn't really afford, but that was my own fault for not being strong and sticking to the voucher deal only.

Justice A shopping brand for tweenage girls (aged 6-14), I love that Justice comes in sizes from 6-20 in tops and 6-18 in bottoms, so the designs are suitable for all shapes and figures. The clothes are age appropriate as well - no gold lame tops or hotpants here, but the designs are on-trend and non-daggy too.
It's true, a size 8 tee arrived by courier today, or I may not have been aware of the brand, but that's the extent of my interest.  (The shirt is a perfect size and design for Miss 8, but she's not with me today so can't model it for you).
I predict she'll love it. Not only is it very cute, but it's printed with scented inks, and smells like lollipops! I love the price. It retails at $10.90, so it's something I could normally afford to buy for her. Sweet!   

People who go the extra mile, even though they don't have to. Like Allan Border, at the Queensland Cricket Junior Cricket Revolution Launch earlier this week. Even though he didn't have to, AB stayed on after the event to chat to parents and kids, and play with the little ones. He shared tips, threw balls, coached them, and even patiently put up with 'look at me now', 'throw it to me', 'my turn, my turn' pleas, high-fives, and once, an errant ball in the unmentionables, courtesy of Miss 8! A true champion.

And just because I can, here are some photos taken at the launch by the very talented photographer Hannah Millerick.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hump Day Holiday: Caloundra

My car is a tip.

It's a tip, A. Because we are messy, but B. Because we like to be prepared for all occasions.

We never know when the mood will strike for an impromptu picnic, a swim, a game, or even an overnight stay. So the car is stocked with tennis racquets, workout gear, shoes, towels, a picnic blanket, toiletries and swimmers. Usually, there's at least a change of clothes each, tissues, and toilet paper too. (Don't ask).

So when perfect weather beckoned when we were visiting the Sunshine Coast recently, we decided it would be a shame to return home without at least setting foot on the beach.

And once we hit the beach, we thought it couldn't hurt to see if one of the resorts didn't have a last-minute special.

The first one we tried named an outrageous price - $230 for a studio. Really? Ouch.

But the next one, the Worldmark Resort on Golden Beach, was $160. This was for an apartment with a queen bedroom, a spa bath, and a double sofa bed in the lounge area. And air-conditioning and a balcony. Perfect.

It was only one night, but it was like a mini-holiday for us! 
Happy kids on the balcony ...

The view was breathtaking ...

An outdoor setting ...

The Glasshouse Mountains ...

There was an entertainment room for the kids ...(and the big kids!)

Who doesn't love a game of air hockey?

The next morning was perfect for a spot of kayaking...

Go Chase Go!

Harmonie tries her luck fishing ...

Kids messing about with boats ...

Readers, do you ever do things on the spur of the moment?

Meanwhile, the winner of my Little Treasures giveaway is Kylie Ofiu. Kylie email or DM me your details so I can send your prize.

More giveaways are to come, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Howzat?!

Some of my earliest memories are of long, hot, summer holidays sprawled in front of the television, crunching ice to stay cool, and watching the cricket with my brothers.

We also played cricket. In the backyard. On the beach. And it wasn't Christmas without an impromptu game after lunch while the oldies snoozed off the plum pudding.

There was that one time I was sent sprawling by a six, which connected with my head.  (I refuse to entertain rumours I've never been 'Quite Right' since then). Then there was the time when we all hid after someone sent a cricket ball through the (closed) kitchen window and onto the stove where a furious Mum was cooking dinner.

Good times, hey?

That's why, it took me about a second to respond 'You Bewtay' to an invitation to play around with the great Allan Border at Allan Border Fields in Brisbane this week.

The occasion was Queensland Cricket's launch of their Junior Cricket Revolution, a new family-friendly format for kids.

Launched by God  Allan Border and Junior Cricket's brand ambassador Chloe Maxwell, the idea is to tempt time-poor, financially-stressed parents and their kids back into cricket with a fun new take on the game.

Junior Cricket Revolution has several advantages over traditional cricket in that:

- No whites are required. (Think of the washing hours saved! And no red ball stains either!)

- It's played with softer balls and bats, so kids are less likely to get hurt. (Mind you it took Miss 8 about 10 minutes to cop a ball in the tummy, and Mr 10 another 10 minutes to sprain his ankle. Shhh ... They were soon back on the field.)

- It's shorter, so it doesn't take up the entire weekend. In fact, it's over in 20 overs (about 90 minutes).

- Every kid gets a turn, and all skills are practised - batting, bowling, fielding, the lot.

- Parents aren't required to be sporty or even participate, though that is welcomed if they want to.

- In fact, parents can sit on the sidelines drinking wine and beer and socialising (gasp!), while the ankle-biters wear themselves out. "You had me at hello," said Chloe Maxwell to that. Amen.

- There's no standing-around for all hours in the heat of the day, and some programs run at night. And the kids are active for the entire time they're playing.

- It's equally attractive to boys and girls - and in some cases the girls are better than the boys. (Gotta love that!)

- It's an affordable taste of cricket for youngsters, costing about $65 for about a ten week term. Kids play once a week, and this includes a backpack, shirt, hat, bat, ball, and Milo competitions/giveaways.

As Chloe points out, kids come home pleasantly exhausted which means: "They don't talk back, they go to bed when you tell them, and they sleep all night."

Where can we sign up?

(Easy ... Go to http://www.in2cricket.com.au/ and enter your postcode to find your nearest game).

Thanks to Queenland Cricket and the Junior Cricket Revolution I have a Junior Cricket pack to giveaway which includes a backpack, bat, ball, bucket hat, sticker and Milo sachet.

To enter, check you are following Maid In Australia and share who your favourite cricketer is and why in the comments below.

Meanwhile, here are a few of our favourite moments from the launch:

I love that Queensland Cricket is located at 1 Bogan Street.


Healthy catering for the kids
Me and bestie Allan Border

Practising my model hair flick with model mum Chloe Maxwell

A little pressie for me from Allan ... (Yes, we are on first name terms now, thank you)!

And the man himself checks my little man's injury is taken care of ...

The Milo queue

Good to the last drop!

Chase and Harmonie with the wonderful, very patient and giving Allan Border.


Harmonie doesn't want to wash her arm again ...
AB gives Chase a private bowling lesson ...

Harmonie's turn ... Honestly AB was like a Pied Piper with the kids. What a man!

Wanna play?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Random Acts Of Kindness

The other day, I was walking back to my car after dropping the kids in to school, when I noticed a man putting something on my car.

I'm so used to people being snarky, that I mentally ran through what I may have done wrong.

Had I parked a little over his driveway? Was I too close to his wheelie bin, which was out for rubbish pick-up?

Instead, as I neared the car, he got on his bicycle*, and rode away, saying: 'Have a lovely day'.

And when I reached the car, I found he had left me this:


a bouquet of herbs!

Wasn't it lovely?

I have no idea why he chose me, but it turned an ordinary day into a lovely one.

The kindness theme is kind of fitting, as today I'm announcing the winners of a few recent competitions.

There's a big thank-you to the companies involved for the kindness in donating prizes to my followers. And to my followers for reading my posts and entering the competitions.

There will be more to come next week!

Without further ado, the winners are:

Baker's Delight Chia Giveaway #1 - pack of Chia seeds, Chia t-shirt and $10 in Baker's Delight vouchers - AlyceB

Baker's delight Chia
Giveaway #2 - as above but with $15 in Baker's Delight vouchers - operationhotmother

And winner of the ZhuZhu pet giveaway is Honey the Great Dane.

Please email or DM your details so I can send your prizes.

* He really did have a bicycle, which he rode off on.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Little treasures...

Do you ever have parenting moments where you are caught out thinking the worst of your kids?

I do.

I guess I'm a bit of a helicopter parent in that we have family rules that are standard, and I expect them to be followed. And lately, if they're not, I'm too quick to assume the kids are doing the wrong thing.

Like the other day.

We parked at the shopping centre, when Mr 10 got out and starting running off in the opposite direction to the way we planned to go.

Now our family rules include that: A. We don't run in shopping centre carparks, and B. We wait until everyone is ready and we walk off together. So I was pretty damn snarky and was about to call Chase back, when I saw exactly why he was running.

Nearby, was a lightly-built young woman with a toddler, vainly trying to stop her shopping trolley from tipping over as she pushed it over a gutter.

Chasse was by her side in seconds, manfully righting the trolley and setting her on her way.

"You're welcome," he shouted over his shoulder, as he ran back to me.

My heart melted a little bit right then.

Then just this morning we were trying on school shoes again (don't ask), when something clearly caught his eye and he took off.

Now Chase does get distracted easily, and of course, the first thing I thought was that he'd spotted something far more interesting than school shoes.

And so he had.

But it wasn't an expensive toy, new D-Mag, or a mate as I'd expected. It was a lady in a mobility scooter who was having trouble turning into one of the aisles. (I swear department stores are making the aisles smaller and more difficult to manouvre through than ever before).

"Need some help?" my son asked the old lady.

She clearly did, and with a smile, she allowed him to help her on her way.

"Sorry Mum, I just like to help people out," Chase said when he came back.

Awww ...

Lucky none of his mates were around, because I had to hug him, right there and then.

And just recently, we were clattering down the stairs and into the car for school, when Harmonie suddenly stopped in her tracks.

"Come on kids, we're late," I began, thinking she'd forgotten something or suddenly needed to go to the loo.

"Wait Mum, there's something little here and it's alive!"

She was right!

My little wildlife warrior had found an abandoned baby possum, all pink and tiny and mewling for its mother. A few ants had started crawling on it, and kind-hearted Miss 8 burst into tears.

"Mum I don't want it to die. We can't let it die! What can we do?"

I didn't know, but I was pretty sure our local vet would have a good idea.

I dispatched H. to find a pillow case - luckily the washing basket was handy. Ahem.

Then, C. gently popped the wee possum into the pillow case and held it next to his chest. I seemed to remember Bondi Vet's Dr Chris Brown cuddling a possum to his chest for body heat, (insert sigh ...), so I figured it would be okay.

We took the possum to the vet, where we told a wildlife carer would take it home and mother it. The kids were allowed to say goodbye to it, although Harmonie is still upset she wasn't able to look after it herself!

It's a cliche, but it's special moments like these that make all the sleepless nights, wiping of bums, cleaning up of sick, and de-lousing of hair worthwhile, isn't it?

I just wish I wasn't so quick to jump to the wrong conclusion.

It's nice to be reminded that my kids are great.

Sometimes I lose track of the fact that I'm actually doing quite a good job of raising them, and I just have to have faith in that. And them.

And now for today's Mental Health Kindness Giveaway.

Since this post has a parenting theme, I thought I'd offer up a gift pack of children's books from New Frontier Publishing.

This very generous prize features four books from New Frontier's Little Treasures range, which aim to uplift and inspire children - and their parents.

Focussing on international themes like love, family, environment and self-worth, the giveaway includes a copy each of Peter Carnavas's books:

Jessica's Box
Last Tree in the City
Sarah's Heavy Heart
and
The Important Things

These books are also fitting for my Mental Health Kindness Giveaways (giveaway #2 is here), because they would be helpful for children struggling to deal with death, anxiety, fear, friendship and love.

The last one, about a mother and son moving on after his Dad has died, is particularly poignant.

Each book is valued at $14.95, and they are all aimed at ages 4-6 years.

To enter, check you are following this blog and then leave a comment below sharing one of your favourite moments with children. You don't have to be a parent; you can be an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or good friend to a child who you think would love these picture books.

Entries will close on October 25, 2012.

My own little treasures...
And where is Dr Chris Brown when you need him?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday Selections

Are you guilty of taking loads of photos that sit on your hard drive and never again see the light of day?

I am, which is why I always love Kim at fondpondsrock's Sunday Selections blog hop.

The idea is you share photos which have been sitting on your computer, so they can get the attention they deserve.

Today I thought I'd share some food porn from my last trip to Melbourne for Nuffnang Australia's inaugural blogopolis.

These spots were all within about a five-minute-walk radius from my hotel the Melbourne Citigate, and left me wishing I could stay longer so I could sample! 









Melbourne, I love you! And so do my tastebuds ...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

ZZZZ

You know that last post, the one where I said I wasn't going to write about mental health?

Did you see what I did right there?

I kind of talked about it.

One of the deals with Mental Health Month is to raise awareness that a person can enjoy a perfectly happy, fulfilling, holistic life just like people with physical illnesses and injuries.

So by 1. blogging, and 2. giving stuff away, I'm getting my happy on. And hopefully adding some cheer to a few of my followers' lives too.

Today's giveaway is something that makes Miss 8 happy, and Zsa Zsa the toy poodle even happier: ZhuZhu pets!

If you don't know what a ZhuZhu pet looks like, you clearly don't have or know children, or you live on another planet.

They are small, noisy, and either extremely annoying or cute, depending on how you feel about that kind of thing.

This is a Zhu Zhu pet. You can get Kung Zhus for boys (or tomboys), as well as babies, puppies and other toys. And you can buy them clothes, costumes, carriages and other accessories. (Of course you can!)

They're based on hamsters/guinea pigs I think, and even now that we have our own guinea pigs the ZhuZhu pets are extremely popular at ChezMIA.

ZhuZhus scurry around making cute little noises, and kiddies love them. As do toy poodles.

Butter - or ZhuZhu Pets - wouldn't melt in her mouth ...

Kind-hearted Harmonie has a collection of ZhuZhus but kindly donated a couple to Zsa Zsa to play with.

Zsa Zsa cracks us up when she follows them around the house, and noses and fusses over them like they are babies.

Zsa Zsa in a tender moment with one of her ZhuZhus.

Nawww ...so sweet.

Except that, well, lately, Zsa Zsa has started to destroy her babies! (Warning: The following image may be unsafe for the eyes of small humans...)


This is what is left of the ZhuZhu featured in the previous photos.

Scary, huh?

And lest you think I'm critical of ZhuZhus, I am not. Just the opposite in fact.

They are freaking sturdy for a toy that costs about $10.

This one endured months, of padding at with paws, nose-poking, licking, gnawing, biting, nipping, mouth-carrying and dropping before it started to look like this.

And that's after already having a first life as a much-loved kiddy pet. So they are a pretty good choice for a toy that lasts. Especially if you can't have a real guinea pig. And unlike the real thing they don't poo, wee and wheet all the time!

For today's Mental Health Kindness Giveaway, I have a toy and matching outfit that will make your child and/or pet happy.

ZhuZhu Guinea Pig ...

And an outfit!

To win, simply tell me what your favourite toy was as a kid in the comments below. Make sure you're following my blog first!

For extra entries, tweet or FB, but leave a separate comment to tell me.

Entries closed and winner drawn October 21, 2012