Sunday, December 30, 2012

Maid in 2012

Can you believe it's almost the end of 2012?

I can't.

These days, the years pass by so quickly, I'm starting to feel, well ... old!

And my body has started to show it too. Not just aesthetically, but physically as well. This year I seemed to battle a host of health problems and all at once. Groan.

There were highs and lows, and the usual rollercoaster that seems to pick us up and carry us along throughout life.

But enough of that.

I choose to relive my favourite moments of 2012, rather than the ewww moments. And the cool moments definitely include my visit to Bangkok and reunion with former highschool friends Ian and Carolyn.

It had been a long time since I'd tumbled out of a cab at 5 am following a drag show ... in fact make that a first time! We had the time of our lives, and as a former tourist I enjoyed rediscovering Bangkok through the eyes of locals.

The kids have been strong and healthy, doing well at school and at home, and were towers of strength whilst I was sick.

We added chihuahua-pomeranian cross Lucy to our menagerie, and she's added much joy (and many poos and wees) to our lives.

Christmas was the usual Down Under Yule in the country, celebrated in the air-conditioning with a swim after lunch for the kids.

This New Year's Eve we are going to be 'chillaxing', whatever that involves, and hoping for a better 2013.

Wishing you and yours a blessed 2013 too. Or at least one that totally rocks.

 
Carolyn and I with the Concierge who escorted us to the lifts after every night out in Bangkok.
 
 
 Shopping at the nearby floatng markets
 
 
At the Ancient City
 
 
 
 Ready for another night out...
 
 Readers, what was the highlight of your year?
 
And happy 2013!
 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A very wary Christmas



Is it just me, or is there some weird shit going down at the North Pole this year?
 
 Shit being the operative word ...

Doing the annual Christmas present shop this year, we were confronted by this ...
 

A game called Doggie Doo.
 
Innocently sitting amongst the more traditional games like Scrabble and Hungry Hungry Hippos, on the shelves of K-Mart no less, was a game which entreats players to 'feed, poop and scoop'.
 



 
Missy once had a Baby Alive who 'ate, drank and peed', but this is the first toy I've seen to produce actual poo.
 
I shit you not.


 
We were recovering from the shock of the all-pooping doggie-doo game when Harmonie spotted this unfortunate toy.
 
"Mumma, why is the poor baby in handcuffs?" she asked.
 
Sure enough, the doll appeared to have been shackled to her bath.
 
I had no answer so we moved on.
 
Only to be confronted with this:
 
Santa's head on a stick. A little Middle Ages I would have thought?
 
But no, someone, somewhere had decided it would be perfectly acceptable to jam Santa's head on a light pole, all the better to light up at night to delight small children.
 
 
(Yes, of course we bought one!)
 
I decided the book shop might be a safer bet, but flicking through a guide of fun things to do, we spotted this:

 

 
How To Make a Giant Penis.
 
 
 At least that's what it looked like.
 
It was actually supposed to be a volcano.
 
Now we have made plenty of these home-made volcanos before, and although they are hideously messy and hilarious fun, they have never turned out like this. Nor have we felt moved to jam a carrot next to it, all the better to enhance the resemblance to a part of the male anatomy.
 
After all the excitement, I needed to go home and have a Cup Of Tea and a Good Lie Down.
 
Doesn't anyone make normal presents anymore?
 


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Caitlyn Nicholas: Drive Me To Distraction

Today I'm delighted to pop my Guest Post cherry.
Delighful blogger and author Caitlyn Nicholas has dropped by talk about writing, and her latest novel, Drive Me To Distraction.
I'll hand you over to her:
 
Caitlyn Nicholas
My publishing tale…
 
Everyone’s path to publication is different.  Like birth stories. No tale is the same as another, but at the end of it all you usually end up with a baby, or a book.
 
I am not one of those authors who’ve been writing fiction since six years old. I was, however, a prolific letter writer from my teenage years. This morphed into prolific emailing (when :cough: they invented emails), and when I couldn’t keep up with demand, the emails morphed into blogging.
 
I am not a good pregnant person. I throw up. The whole time. All day. Every day.  I do not glow with maternal contentment. Oh no siree.  I am a very sad panda. There came a point when I was about six months along with my second daughter when my husband looked at me, white faced, foul tempered and retching and said something like, “Just go and sit down would you.”
(I’m not very good at sitting down).
And I said (whined), “But what I am going to do sitting down? So boring.”
And he said, “Write a book or something…”
 
So I did.
 
I rewarded myself for getting to Chapter 3 by joining the Romance Writers of Australia.
I then discovered they ran competitions, and set myself the goal of finishing the book and entering a competition.
I entered several competitions, got loads of feedback (which was hard to take because they tore my beloved story to bits). Read Valerie Parv’s The Art of Romance Writing. Read Romance Writing for Dummies. Rewrote the book and submitted it to Mills and Boon/Harlequin.
You could nearly hear the laughter from their London office, and within days I had my very first rejection letter.
So I sulked about that for a while, dusted myself off, found out about guidelines and what different publishers expect, and rewrote the story.
Again.
I knew it was a good story.
Then I submitted it to a start up publishing company in the US called Samhain Publishing.  It was high risk, doomed to failure, and anyway, said pretty much everyone, e-books are just a blip, no one will take them seriously.
But I had a good feeling. E-books made sense to me. So I persisted.
Two weeks later I had a publishing contract.
 
And so the rollercoaster of being a published author began.
 
Drive Me To Distraction is my third full- length novel (I had a bit of a gap between novels 2 and 3 due to being knocked sideways by Post Natal Depression) and it will be published on 1 November.
 
 
I also have a novella, Dark Moon Rising, being published in late December (check my website / blog for the details about that one – I don’t have them yet!)
 
You can find me online at: http://www.caitlynnicholas.com
 
About the Book:
Drive Me To Distraction is fast, fun and full-on. It’s about Alex, a female Formula One racing driver, who’s determined to make it in a man’s world - no matter what the cost to herself or anyone around her. After she makes a deal with the evil Hamish MacCameron she is propelled to stardom, but it quickly becomes clear she is nothing but a pawn in a more sinister high stakes game. Rob Dryden, owner of the Prometheus race team that Alex drives for, isn’t shy about his feelings for Alex. But she has a nasty secret, one that prevents her from having a relationship with Rob, one that no one must ever know about. Which is a pity, especially when it’s leaked to the tabloids and she winds up being the star of an extremely popular YouTube video. Of course Hamish MacCameron is responsible, and she vows to strangle him with her bare hands. Unfortunately for Hamish, someone has already taken care of it, and now she’s the prime suspect with Rob Dryden close behind.
 
Caitlyn is very generously allowing MIA followers a peek at a sample of Drive Me To Distraction here. (Just scroll down to sample and click to read).
 
Enjoy.


 
 

Friday, December 7, 2012

She's back!

I'm back.
I'm home, back with my kids, and out of the surreal world of discomfort, routine, and waiting that is hospital - for me at least. And back to the chaos of feeding small children, struggling to clean house whilst being told to do nothing (bahahahaha ...), and a general feeling of exhaustion.
Never have I valued my own bed more. A cuddle from my kids. The ability to take my medication when I want to take it, and go to bed when I want (within reason), thank you very much.
I'm still in a bit of pain and quite a bit 'loopy' I'm told - now is the time to get me to sign cheques and do deals apparently. But I'm getting stronger every day.
Thanks to everyone who have offered their support.
From my peeps who have commented or tweeted, following my progress: Thank you. Never was the connection with the world provided by the internet more appreciated by me than when I was literally confined to bed after my surgery.
(Although I did send some rather interesting texts and made strange updates. I still cringe from the grammatical errors that slipped through, let alone the made-up words.
Note to self: Do not use internetz whilst recovering from surgery and on mind-meddling drugs.)
Anyway, in the haze that followed I completely forget to announce the winners of the breakfast competition.
Those who won the sexy hamper of Kellogg's goodies are: Kim Maxwell, Leanne Myles, Ang Melting Moments and Amber B. Contact me as soon as you can so I can organise for Kellogg's to send on a hamper of their breakfasty delights.
MIA was inundated with requests for reviews and giveaways whilst recuperating and I've given them a lot of thought whilst admiring the unicorn floating on the ceiling in the corner of the room ... tee hee!
No seriously, as usual I've gone with giveaways from companies I believe in and trust and that I think have products you will love.
So stay tuned for some exciting promotions that will come up as I find a little more energy in every day.
And don't forget to eat breakfast!
Your Mum was right ...
Snigger.





Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday




 



 
One of our favourite things to do on a sunny Queensland weekend (or holiday) is load up the car-drobe with towels, sunscreen, hats, dry clothes for later, (we wear our cossies underneath), and head down to the coast.
 
Since we bought our Warner Bros. VIP Park passes we are regulars at Sea World, MovieWorld or Wet 'n' Wild Water World. Without a doubt, Wet 'n' Wild has been particularly popular over spring - and winter!
 
Yep, even Mumma has faced her fears (revealing her body in bathing attire), and felt all the better for it.
 
How awesome is this place and it was particularly fun on a hot winter's day too. (I know that sounds weird but if you live in Queensland, you'll understand.)

Can't wait to return, just next time with more sunscreen!
 


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The greatest gift of all ...


It took me a while to remember it was my birthday today.

I awoke as usual and took in my surroundings.

I was lying in a narrow single bed instead of my usual comfy Queen. There were nasty brown and cream curtains at the foot of the bed, a 70s-style chair and shelf/desk laden with my crap next to it. The bedside table beside it contained the hospital phone, my own phone, water bottle, and presents the kids had given me to remind me of them and “keep me safe”.

That’s right, I was in hospital.

Having birthdays in hospitals suck. (I am an authority, having ‘celebrated my 9th in hospital after having my appendix out. Actually it was kind of cool as people bought me nicer presents than usual and the nurses gave me a cupcake with a candle in it and sang Happy Birthday.) But where was I? Oh yes.

Birthdays in hospitals suck.

There will be no Gangnam Style dancing in my quiet street of Brisbane tonight I can tell you. (At least, not anywhere near my house!)

There will be no celebratory quaffing of cocktails, made with mangos fresh from our own trees. No clinking of glasses beneath our rustic gazebo, keeping an eye out for snakes and an ear out for mossies.

No instead, I shall be spending another night in the hospital room that costs more to stay at than a suite at most luxury hotels. (Thank Goodness I took out private health insurance all those years ago).

And instead of moaning that I am here, I shall be thankful that I AM here, getting the treatment that I need.

That I am here at all, ready to go home to my kids as soon as I get the okay.

And that’s the very best present a girl could ask for really, isn’t it?

And just because it's my birthday, I'm ending with my kids' fave spoof version of Gangnam Style: Minecraft Style. If you have kids who are into Minecraft and you haven't already seen this, you will love it!

Cos it's my birthday and I can dig if I want to:

http://youtu.be/u9emjalsOsE


Friday, November 23, 2012

Albany Farmers Markets, WA



On a cool summer’s morning in Albany, Western Australia (no "cool" and "summer" is not misprint), Uncle S. woke the kids and I early.

It was time for Uncle S's almost religious pilgrimage to the Albany Farmers Market, a truly festive occasion where farmers and producers come from only close surrounds for the locals to sample their products.

The idea is that the food is grown and produced locally. Really locally. So everything you taste and buy there has been grown, reared, caught or made within a 150km radius of rhe Great Southern Region of Western Australia.

The 'fresh food people'* in me loved the concept of that.

We were all starving, and just as well, because there were a cornucopia of edible blessings on offer.

But where to start? Luckily the markets are still small enough and friendly enough that with two (reasonably) responsible adults** we were able to meet in the middle and meet for coffee for the adults and fruit and frozen yoghurt for the ankle-biters later.

Oh readers, you know I know my markets, and this one was heavenly. We all enjoyed tasting – and for their generosity, sales people were rewarded with sales. How could I deny a child fresh fruit I knew they were going to devour like lollies in seconds?

But more about the markets themselves. The quality and range of the products were amazing. Apart from the usual fruit, salads, and vegetables, there was organic beef and lamb, fish, crab, rock lobster, and yabbies – caught overnight or that morning – and cow, goat and sheep yoghurt and cheese. Add in ice-cream, oils, eggs, jams, preserves, plants and fresh flowers. The range was enormous.

In most cases, we were were buying direct from the farmers themselves (or fisherman/producers) and they were happy to yarn about they way they’d grown or caught the products, and the best way to cook them up for lunch or dinner that night.

There was a friendly atmosphere I’ve not quite seen in Australia before. And I also loved that this was no farmer’s market in ‘wolves’ clothing’. No. Albany Farmers Market does no permit the on-selling of produce or products from anywhere outside the Great Southern Region.

So the chances are you are buying the produce direct from the farmer who grew or made it.

I really admire that, and I’m told that genuine excitement “fills the market when the first of a new season product appears like asparagus, avocados, raspberries or cherries.”
It’s a return to sustainable, seasonal farming, where freshness is at its best.

That evening, we enjoyed dinner around the table: fresh fish, caught by us off The Ledge Beach that afternoon and cooked by Uncle S., prawns, marron, and squid bought at the markets, and a variety of vegies and salad vegies either bought at the markets, given to us, or grown at home. With eggs laid by Cousin Tate's very own hens.

It was truly one of the best meals I've even eaten. And an environmentally friendly one too.

Readers, do you love a good market?

If you go: Albany Farmers Markets are held every Saturday in Collie Street, Albany, from 8 am to 12 noon.

*MIA is not affiliated with Woolworths in any way, shape or form. I just can't get that damn jingle out of my head, even though there is a new one now.

** Speaking for myself obviously. (Hey, we may be grown-ups, but I'm still the little sister!)

I have dozens of photos from the day but picasa is being difficult and not letting me post them to my blog. So I'll be back, hopefully tomorrow, to post a selection for you then in Albany Farmers Market, the pictorial edition. 











Sunday, November 18, 2012

The switcheroo

So the other day a simple switch made our family loads healthier.
I'm a member of The Soup Community. Much to my daughter's disappointment, it is not a project where you receive endless supplies of soup.
For me, it's even better. (Though trying telling the Soup Queen that!)
You see, Soup is a community where you are matched up to products that fit in with your family and/or your lines of interest, and you are occasionally asked to take a short survey and as a result, go on to test a product, sometimes with friends and family, and give back your feedback. You don't have to say yes - you can decline or accept, and it's all good.
I've accepted as many as I've knocked back, depending on time and interest levels.
You don't have to be a blogger to do it - anyone can register. It's free and it's fun.
On this occasion, the product was to swap butter for MeadowLea in cooking and preparing lunches.
To be honest, I was brought up a butter girl. We had our own cows for goodness' sake, and often hand-churned butter ourselves. I myself preferred margarine for everyday stuff, but for cooking? Mum taught me that butter was always better. And my kids' grandparents passed on their love of hot-buttered toast a long time ago. (It's been a Comfort Cood staple at home for some time, particularly when teamed with, dare I say it, soup? Home made of course)
But it was easy to take up the four-week Switcheroo challenge  - to swap butter for MeadowLea - particularly when I knew some of the facts.
- One 10g serving of MeadowLea provides 35% of an adults daily Omega-3 requirement
- Every tub of MeadowLea is made from more than 70,000 seeds, contains no artificial colours or flavours, and has 65 per cent less natural fat than butter
- Butter contains FOUR times more trans fats than MeadowLea
I'm not saying butter is bad. In fact, we still have it in our fridge. For important items like fairybread. And shortbread. (Sorry Soup, we didn't try it on those).
But we did substitute MeadowLea on just about everything else and had no compliants on dishes like:
Chase's herby baked salmon in foil
buttered toast
vegemite toast
scrambie eggs on toast
regular baking - bakes, muffins, biscuits, slices
chicken kiev and cordon bleu
scones
lasagne
moussaka
spaghetti carbonara
garlic bread
and too many more things to remember

My Crazy Johns pocket wifi has been giving me no end of grief since I've been in hospital so I've had to go with the photos I've managed to download (which means no cute ducky sandwich lunchbox pics. Sob).

Instead, here for your enjoyment are:

 
Chase polishing off a homemade toasted wrap
 
 
 
A favourite lunchbox cake
 
Doesn't it look yummy? And yes, it does have choc chips in it, but so do muesli bars.
 
We've had an awful lot of fun switching MeadowLea for our usual spreads, and we'll be keeping it a staple in our fridge.
 
There are a load of healthy and yummy recipes on their website so take a look.
 
We are trying the cheese and vegemite scrolls next! 
 
 




Monday, November 12, 2012

Of overshares and unicorns ...

Or at least three of the things I learned about blogging this week.

One of my early blogging mentors, Nikki Parkinson from Styling You, posted a 'Things I learned About Blogging' linky this week, and considering I posted some pretty private stuff online during the past few days, I felt I had to join in.

For me, most of the things I learned were reminders more than learning experiences, but as we scholars know, revision is very important.

- Blogging is portable. For me, the motto goes something like: Have laptop, mobile and wifi, will blog.
Unfortunately, sometimes I blogged, posted, updated and tweeted whilst shaky from surgery and under the influence of a concoction of drugs - I may never live the grammatical errors down!
But I blogged, despite being confined to a hospital bed, which relieved my frustration of being contained, and took my mind off the pain factor considerably. Cool.

- Some things SHOULD stay personal.
I may have crossed a line and yet, and yet ... There have been many calls from followers for me to post more about my procedure. They want more details in particular, of the surgery I had done. (A posterior prolapse vaginal repair and perionoplasty, and saccrospinious colpolexy since you ask).
And as it's particularly relevant to women, and I'm a pretty open person - after all, I've spoken out about depression and anxiety, which to me is WAY more revealing than talking about the part of me that was damanged giving given birth to small humans - I'm surprised to find that I'm actually okay with that.
To a point.
I mean, I don't want to put people off their breakfast or cocktails, depending on what time of the day they are reading.
But how much to reveal? If at all?
What do readers think?
I did have a few younger, childless relatives saying: Some things should stay off the internet! And I can see where they are coming from. But there is a part of the blogger in me that wants to answer the pleas from my (in my dreams) demanding fans for more.
And the journo in me wants to inform.
So I'm, quite literally, torn. (Sorry ...)

- PR people will find you everywhere.
Even in recovery, a PR person I'd had all sorts of trouble tracking down originally, decided to phone me about some inconsequential piece of information he'd forgotten to give me that was apparently very important to his client. (Don't worry, I don't blame him, he was only doing his job!).
But of course, polite Bronnie didn't think to say: "Oh, I'm very sorry, but I've just come out of surgery and I'm under some major mind-altering drugs and  - oh look at the pretty butterfly."
Instead, I murmured something incomprehensible and promptly dropped the phone on the floor. Seriously, why did I even have it on in the first place? (Answer: Because I'm a mother.)

What about you? Did you learn something about blogging this week? And were you on drugs at the time?


A little something I dreamt up at the time ...


If I could bottle it, I'd be rich!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Notes from my hospital bed ...



Sorry I haven't blogged for a while, I've been a wee bit busy ...
here
My sexy post-op leg attire. (And if you thought that looked like a bum, you are just sick!)

The view out of my window the morning after the morning after...


 It wasn't all bad. There were presents. Like this pretty, from my big sister.


A hand-made love-heart bowl made by Mr 11 


It says I Heart U on one side and Mum on the other. So sweet.


It looks great with all the hand-made goodies they've knitted and plaited for me to wear for good luck, whilst in hospital - necklaces and friendship bracelets. Who needs Chanel, or even Brad Pitt, when you have woollen necklaces knitted by the home-scented rugrats I ask you?


See how well it looks with a tiny pillow-pet, lent to me, just in case I need something soft to cuddle at night?


In all honesty, the surgery has been painful and tiring. So I was particularly interested in the post-op instructions ...


Particularly those in the first two weeks. I'm talking about the part that reads: for the first 2 weeks following your surgery it is important that YOU DO NOTHING. Nothing more than potter around the house and make cups of tea. I think I can manage that quite nicely.

In fact the physio told me I was to lift nothing heavier than a litre of milk in those first two weeks, and walk no further than the kitchen or bathroom.

Hmm, I wonder how much a laptop weighs?


Monday, November 5, 2012

Breakfast - what a challenge!


I'll admit it!

Chez MIA is a busy household, and sometimes we find breakfast time a bit a of a challenge.

I've always been a bit breakfast-shy, ever since I was a wee tacker.

Mum and Dad were old-school and insisted on feeding us up for the most important meal of the day. As they should.

They were right then, and they are right now.

Research shows breakfast is still the most important meal of the day, in that it breaks the fast of the night before, kick-starts the metabolism, and fuels the body for the day ahead.

We all know kids, and adults, do better when they've eaten breakfast, compared with those who haven't. And that's without taking into account things like headaches, drops in blood sugar, and even the encouragement of normal growth and development.

So as a child and later a teen and young adult, I'd always eat something, even if it was a piece of fruit or toast, and a hot or cold drink. I stick to that today.

True, sometimes I'm so busy feeding small humans, organising lunches, and pouring bodies into uniforms, that I don't get to have something other than my morning coffee until after the school run. I am the first to admit this is a terrible habit to have fallen into, and it's something we've begun remedying by setting the alarm at least 30 minutes earlier, so we can sit down together.

So it was timely when Kellogg's contacted me about their National Breakfast Crusade, which they ran in conjunction with Woolworths and former Olympian Melinda Gainsford-Taylor.

I am sure Kellogg's chose me, because I'm just like Melinda. You know, a mother of two, super-fit, super-healthy, and a super high-achiever and all that. Not to mention really gorgeous. (Ahem).

Also, everyone knows I love shopping at supermarkets, and I'm particularly fond of their advertising campaigns and jingles, which my children sing word-perfect at all hours of the day and night. Much to my pride and joy.

Anyway, now that Melinda and I are best buddies and all that, I'm passionate about putting breakfast back on the agenda - and on the table - for families.

That's Brand Ambassador-Speak for highlighting the importance of eating a nutritious breakfast each day.

What really hit home for me was research by the University of Sydney's Jenny O'Dea who found that nearly half a million Aussie kids head off to school each day with empty tummies. And, that those kids who skipped brekkies found it difficult to concetrate at school and subsequently performed worse in basic numeracy literacy tests than their mates who ate nutritious breakfasts.

Food for thought huh?

So Melinda's role in all this has been to help publicise both Kellogg's Breakfast Crusade, and their Breakfast Buddies program, which serves up free bowls of cereal at schools, sporting clubs, childcare and community groups at outback, indigenous and disadvantaged communities.

 As part of the campaign, I received a hamper full of Kellogg's goodies - and read on, because I have four of these to give away to my lovely followers. What amazed me was the reminder that you don't have to eat a huge breakfast to break the fast and get a good start to the day. Just a 30 g serve of cereal - a small bowl or few handfuls of rice bubbles, cornflakes, sultana bran or whatever - with skim milk (or whatever milk, I like skim), is enough to give your metabolism a kick-start and fire up the body and brain for the day ahead.

It's quick, easy, and cheap as well. And way healthier than a stop at the nearest drive through.

Since we received our pack we've made a concerted effort to eat something first thing every morning, with cereal a staple. The kids have certainly noticed a difference in how they feel.  (In the past, we would have waited until they were hungry, which may have meant waiting until they were over-hungry. And perhaps cranky.)

In turn, I've noticed an improvement in the level of calm and behaviour in the household, and even just getting ready for school is easier.

So here's to breakfast, and if you'd like to try the crusade for yourself, Kellogg's are kindly donating four hampers containing boxes of cereal, bowls and spoons to MIA followers.

To enter to win one of these hampers, simply leave a comment below sharing your best breakfast tip. For an extra entry, make sure you're following MIA on Facebook, and leave a comment there.

Melinda Gainsford-Taylor at breakfast time. I look just as together as she does in the morning too. And my kitchen is totes as tidy.
(In my dreams).
 
 
 
Chase loves his Kellogg's so much he sleeps with it.
(MIA note: Joke. We set this up for the photo. I'm not that bad a mother, honestly!)
 
 

 Harmonie loves the Sultana Buds and has taken them into her possession. She particularly loves the slogan: Take your buds to school.
 

She won't even share with Lucy, the fur baby.
 
And yes, I do have shots of us eating breakfast at the table, but I am in hospital, and I can't find them, okay? Cut a sick girl some slack.
 
Don't forget to enter our awesome Kellogg's/MIA competition to get breakfast on the table at your home ... and good luck. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The unicycle, the helmet, and the flying chicken ...




One of the best things about staying in a city with people who actually live there, is that you get to experience things that are off the beaten tourist track.
So when my highschool buddy Carolyn and I stayed with our mutual former classmate Ian in Bangkok earlier this year, we got to some fantastic places that don't feature on the usual tourism brochures.
Not for us the one-size-fit-all Thai show theme nights, complete with dancing shows. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Instead we experienced the best and most basic of Bangkok's drinking establishments (more on that later).
We ate at basic food courts and the most exclusive restaurants, enjoyed real Thai massages and beauty therapies, and perhaps most memorably of all, dined at a local institution: Suan Aharn Kraton, or The Flying Chicken.
Where else but Bangkok, can you dine at a restaurant where a waiter impails a pre-roasted chook onto a spring-loaded catapault? Once there, he douses the unfortunate bird with alcohol, sets it alight, then sends it flying into the air and across the restaurant, over the heads of diners towards a waiter on a unicycle.
(Stay with me readers, because the best is yet to come.)
As the chicken sails through the air - bringing new meaning to the words 'fast food' - the unicycle-riding waiter cycles towards the chicken and ceremoniously catches it on a spike carried in his teeth. Or in his hands. Or on a spiky helmet worn on his head. Or on a plate. Or even all of the above. Occasionally, he'll piggyback a child on his shoulders as well.
And then the chicken is delivered to your table, with a flower adorning where the head should be, all the better to be devoured.
Yes it's cheesy and just a little bit weird, but can you honestly say you've ever eaten at a restaurant like this before?
Outside and inside the restaurant, glittering (pretend) chickens sit wisely, as if casting judgement or granting blessings on diners.
Bored, beautifully-dressed waitresses swat at mosquitos and other insects with tennis-racquet-like bug-killers, while you eat.
Waiters and waitresses take it in turns to sing, or you can book private karaoke rooms for your own singing sessions, and enjoy a pre or post-dinner massage if the mood should take you.
Then there's the audience-participation part of the evening, where diners are invited to take part.
Presumably bearing in mind the possibility of dropping and spoilage, diners are offered foil-wrapped potatoes to catch instead of chickens.
Perhaps wisely, Carolyn and I weren't offered the chance to ride the unicycle. (Though I'm told those fit and silly enough to take the challenge would be welcome to).
Carolyn is brave enough to go first, and is fitted into a shiny helmet, complete with spike. All the better to catch a potato with.
The potato is catapaulted across the room and she skilfully catches it on the spike - and is rewarded with her very own plastic chicken for her troubles.
I can't help it. I'm jealous.
I want one of those chickens.
My friends chant.
"Bronnie, Bronnie, Bronnie..."
Peer-pressure mounts and I give in, hoping the thought of footage will never appear on YouTube at some stage in the future.
It's too late to worry about looking silly. I'm already in the helmet and my friends are videoing and photographing to their great delight!
When the time comes, I get a helping hand from Unicycle Man. Read: He pushes my head towards the potato so it unceremoniously lands on the spike on my helmet.
The restaurant erupts into cheers. I feel like I've just won Miss Australia. Or perhaps Miss Flying Chicken.
My prize? A rather scary looking fake chicken which emits a horrible farting noise and which the kids fight over endlessly when I eventually get it home.
And what does the chicken, listed on the menu as Fly Chicken, taste like? It's just like a roast chook, except a little dryer.
I suspect it's been a boiled first, all the better to not fall apart as it is impaled on a spike, shot across a crowded room and impaled on another spike.
But I digress.
The rest of the food on the menu at the Flying Chicken is typically Thai, but not as good as we've had at other restaurants, where a weird-arse show doesn't come with the meal.
And let's face it, you don't really come to a restaurant like this for the food.
It's yummy though, and like most Thai food, cheap.
We wash it down with some Chang beer and water, and share a table of assorted delights including seafood, vegetables, and one of our favourites, stir-fried morning glory. (It sounds rude, but it's actually water spinach fried with garlic and chilli).
Just another night in Bangkok really.


The place to go for 'flied food'



The Flying Chicken Restaurant


Our unfortunate chicken


Some of the other yummy food we enjoyed with the fly chicken



Yes, I just caught a potato on my head ...


My prize!


Readers, do you enjoy trying different restaurants when you're on holiday?










Friday, October 5, 2012

Let's talk about the other 's' word ...


I am a woman with needs.

You know the needs I'm talking about.

They are the needs that make a woman sway unsteadily when she lays eyes on the subject of her lust. A lust so greedy that it makes her breathe deeply with desire.

They are the wants that make a woman's eyes turn green with jealousy when they see that other women have what should be rightfully theirs.

You know what I'm talking about ladies, right?

That thing that makes every woman go weak at the knees.

Storage.

Oh how I need storage, with its hidden places of depth and cunning. How it fulfil mes with its ability to mask my secrets, to hide from prying eyes the little indulgences I like to keep at my disposal, but don't necessarily want everyone to see.

Yes, storage is the one thing I want and yet lately, it remains tantalisingly beyond my grasp.

When the kids and I moved into our new, old home recently, we were really happy with it.

It's got character with ornate plaster ceilings and solid walls; history - it was once a local doctor's surgery; and a backyard full of fruit trees to climb and rose bushes to raid. But the house itself is tiny. And was clearly designed by a man.

For apart from the kitchen and bathroom, where a few cupboards have been added, there is no storage to be seen. No built-in wardrobes. No cupboards. No wardrobes. Nothing.

Each room has just one powerpoint, except the kitchen, which has two. Side by side.

Which means the obvious place to put the kettle, toaster and microwave would have involved feeding extension cords across the kitchen or across the kitchen and into the bathroom.

Not a good look. Or a safe one.

So when I received an invitation to a morning tea to celebrate the launch of the new Howard's Storage Solutions catalogue, I was immediately interested.

Not only would I get morning tea and a catch-up with some of my blogging buddies, but I might learn how to keep  my house tidy too. (And anyone who knows me, knows I need all the help I can get!)

The catalogue was launched at Brisbane's fabulous Franklin Villa, a lovingly-restored five-level mansion at Highgate Hill.

There we were served high tea (or coffee) on the sprawling verandah. Oh it was divine.


Tea in good China cups, with tasty treats and dainty sandwiches


It was the yummiest morning tea ever, with the most delightful company.

And then Howard's Jillian O'Keeffe, took us through the catalogue and gave us a few handy hints on how storage could help us keep our homes and lives organised. (Don't we all need more of that? Or maybe that's just me... sigh.)

We were each given a goodie bag of products to try at home, which I'll probably take you through at a later stage, because, to be honest, I'm still trying them!

Morning tea over, and tummies full, we then visited the nearest Howards Storage World at Mt Gravatt to get a feel for some of the products.

We'd each been given a gift card in our goodie bag, and although there was no pressure to make a purchase, when I spotted this groovy kitchen trolley, I knew my microwave/kettle,toaster problem in the kitchen was sorted. 


It could go next to my fridge, right where the powerpoint - and no cupboard/bench space - was. Awesome. 

The Howards lady patiently explained how to put it together, and a trolley was fetched and I was on my way home.

Before I got a chance to put it together myself, Mr 11 had it out of the box and ship-shape in about 15 minutes. It was that easy! 

And here it is in action at home:


Viola!


Next to the fridge, where it fits in perfectly


The Man-Child who put it together for me, with his able assistant Lucy.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Jane Eyre Laid Bare

Do the classics really need sexing up?

We're all familiar with the restrained passion that simmered between Jane Eyre and her arrogant older employer Mr Rochester in the original Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

It was one of the many aspects that made the novel so great. Am I right?

So why did journalist and editor Eve Sinclair decide Jane Eyre needed to get the 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' treatment?

In her fan fiction rewrite of the classic love story, Sinclair has chosen to add lurid sex scenes to the book.

To be fair, it's a great idea, and she does this in Jane's voice, tolerably well. But to me, it seems as if the extra scenes are there for the sake of sex, and that they are not particularly sexy or well written.  And for me, it spoils a novel which has always been very special.

In Sinclair's Jane Eyre world, the innocent governess arrives at Thornfield Hall alive with sexual desires and already quite well accustomed to orgasms with females and at her own hand. But she's desperate to experience the 'real thing' and go all the way with a man, and the arrogant, experienced, much older Rochester, ticks all the boxes.

Jane is also a voyeur, spying on the enigmatic Rochester and his sexually adventurous friends - and their servants - and fantasising while masturbating at every opportunity.

Sinclair claims she was building on the ever-present eroticism between Jane and Rochester in the original tome. But I feel she's building on the sales and interest in eroticism which is ever-present in the sales of books like the Fifty Shade of Grey trilogy.

Or maybe that's just the cynic in me.

I know classics have been rewritten since the early days, but I do think there are some things, and some heroines, who should be left alone. Jane Eyre is one of them.

But you be the judge.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan, there's a copy of Jane Eyre Laid Bare by Charlotte Bronte and Eve Sinclair up for grabs.

Just leave a comment below if you'd like to win.

Do you think Jane Eyre was an innocent or was she gagging for it?


The competition has now closed and the winner was BabyCakesQueen (Amanda). Amanda, please contact me so I can send your prize.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Maid in ... Fiji!

As school holidays hit, I find myself dreaming of places where I would rather be.

And our fondest family holiday has been without a doubt last year's trip to Fiji.

I chose Fiji, because it was reasonably close to home, many people speak English, and I knew it would be enough of a culture change for the kids, without being a culture shock.

Besides, as anyone who has ever travelled to Fiji with kids knows, Fijians are all about families. And they love kids!

I travelled with a single girlfriend and her children, and for us, one of the highlights of our holiday in Fiji, was that we got to spend quality time with our children. But there were so many included activities on offer for children, that we, the Mums, got to have a break as well. And our kids were having a ball. For The Win!

It had been forever since I'd been on holiday and actually finished a book. Or a conversation for that matter!

Kids Club access was included, although my two mostly decided they were too old for that. Instead, they hung out with me, but occasionally ventured off with the adults who organised the childrens' activities, for hermit crab hunting, coconut collecting, egg-throwing, fish-feeding, or all manner of fun.

It was bliss!

Our first stay was at The Warwick Fiji Resort And Spa, on the Coral Coast.

We also stayed at Shangri-La's Fijian Resort And Spa, but more on that property in another post.

In the meantime, The Warwick was our introduction to Fiji.

It's supposed to be about a 45 minute drive from Nadi Airport, though it took more like twice that, thanks to the bumpy roads. Which you'd expect really.

However, we enjoyed passing the time with our driver Moses, who explained some of the local traditions and described crops and towns we were passing.

Until it grew dark, and then we all nodded off until the bright lights of The Warwick beckoned.

"Missy, we're awake," whispered Chase, gently patting his little sister. (Don't you love beautiful family moments like that?)

And then we were welcomed warmly and handed mocktails all round. The kids were stunned that they were included in the fuss, and I was stunned that the concierge then took the kids to see the goldfish and other features of the hotel while I took charge of the 'boring stuff', like checking in.

Formalities over, the concierge then took the gleeful kids on a 'ride' to our room. I can honestly say, that has never happened before at any resort, and has never happened again.

Either we weren't hungry or the buffet was crap, because none of us had much of an appetite that night. But the kids quickly discovered the resort kittens and cats, and began feeding them morsels of food.

Then it was a walk along a moonlit beach to our room, and bed.

Our holiday in paradise had begun!


Welcome mocktails. Kitty gets one too!


Hitching a ride to our room ...


There was so much for kids to do. Beachcombing was just one.


One of the kid officer-led activities - digging in the sand for buried treasure. Harmonie was the only child to find two, and won an ice-cream for her efforts.


Chillaxing, Fiji style. Hammocks are not just for the big kids!


Hmmm ...


On either side of the resort were little shops where activities and souvenirs could be purchased. Harmonie gets her hair braided for a few dollars.


Bula!


On the way to breakfast one morning, some workers were de-nutting and trimming coconut palms. When they spotted the kids looking longingly at the green coconuts, they quickly sliced one open for them to try. Chase doesn't look convinced! 


He much preferred a green lemonade in the spa! (At the Warwick, there were no coloured drinks like Fanta or creaming soda, so instead the staff would paint lemonade with all the shadows of the rainbow. Am sure it was perfectly healthy for them. At the very least, none of us had any trouble sleeping.)


The nightly drum and torch-lighting show was a highlight for their kids - and their happy Mumma! 



Looking for treasures.

A bonus was that the kids got to eat, play and stay at the resort, even though I was the only adult in the room. We bought our stay via an online voucher via Our Deal , which was $599 for a four-night stay for two adults and up to two children. This included accommodation in a rather basic room - though we only ever slept in it - kids club, most activities, breakfast, and was excellent value.

Having said that, you might be better off booking an all-inclusive flight/accommodation voucher.

Meals weren't five-star, but there was plenty of food, and you could choose from several fab restaurants, including Japanese, Italian and seafood, so it never got boring. Importantly, for my kids at least, breakfast was great, and Mr-then-10 quickly made friends with the egg chef, who made omelettes to order from scratch.

For me, it was great knowing the kids could order practically whatever they wanted without me having to worry about the bill at the end. 

We were sad when our stay at The Warwick came to an end and would go back like a shot. 

Plus, the kids want another ride on the bellhop trolley before they get too old!