Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Circus school is cool!

Most children dream of running away with the circus but Jasmine and Etienne Savard are already 
living the dream.
As the offspring of the talented musician Sebastien Savard and his wife Melanie,  Jasmine, 7, and
Etienne, 4, live and travel with the Cirque du Soleil.
Jasmine attends one of the most exclusive schools in the world,  the travelling OVO! Circus school.
Sebastien is lead violinist, and also plays the guitar, erhu and does voices in OVO, dressed and made
 up in character as a lovable cockroach.
He was headheaded by the Cirque de Soleil in 2002 and joined as a violinist in Quidam. The musician 
was travelling in Japan when his then friend Melanie, “put her life into boxes” to join him on tour. 
The couple married soon after, before Jasmine was born in New Zealand. Etienne joined them a few
years later in Portugal.
The family now travel live and travel with the circus, and find the hardest thing about their nomadic lives are ‘the suitcases. We have so many suitcases,” Sebastien laughs.
Melanie, who teaches the cast yoga, makes an effort to keep the routine at home in each country as normal as possible. So bedtime is the same time wherever they go, as are dinner, bathtime, school, homework, and so on,
“The first day or two there might always be some tiredness from the travel but then the body adjusts,” says Sebastien. “As long as they can do some of the same things, like draw or go to school, they are happy.”
In addition, the children get an incredible education, living, eating, and playing in all corners of the globe.
“The school children study their lessons in French, in an English setting,” Sebastien explains. “Next year they start Chinese.  I am teaching my daughter violin, and she learns trampolining from an ex-Olympian. They learn more, not less.”
In each country, the Cirque de Soleil put the family up in a two bedroom apartment. This becomes their temporary home. In the childrens’ room, one half is pink, and one is spiderman-themed, with an imaginary line down the middle, smiles Sebastien.
During their stay in Brisbane, the children have enjoyed exploring the parks and cuddling koalas.
Sebastien is prepared for the day when the children may ask to have a ‘normal’ home like other kids, but is hopeful that day will remain as far off as possible.
“For us, this is the best possible way to bring up our family. It is a wonderful job and best lifestyle in the world. To us, home is where the family is, and as long as we are together, we are home."
As for OVO! it is a delightful confection of fun, frolics and festivity.
The show revolves around the colourful world of insects, featuring a sassy ladybug who quickly falls in love with an egg-finding quirky bluefly. (Ovo is Portugese for egg).
To be honest, there’s not much of a plot but it doesn’t seem to matter as the energy and talent of the performers, as well as the impact of the costumes and make-up, takes the breath away.
Sebastian is larger than life, even playing his violin upside down at times, and the musicians are in contact with singers and sound staff with headsets and microphones so they can adapt to what is going on stage, and not the other way around.
I loved watching the joy and delight on my childrens' faces as they watched the action on, off, around and above the stage.
Afterwards, I asked what they enjoyed the most:
"All of it," they chorused.
They loved the music so much, we even bought a copy of the CD as a souvenir.
The show runs in Brisbane until September 2, before it moves on to Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and finally Perth.

Some of the colourful characters from OVO!

Sebastien in character

And in case you missed it, the winner of the Sea World, Wet 'n' Wild, Movie World VIP pass  giveaway was Melanie from a Welcoming Hearth. Congratulations!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fathers' Day: Time To Think Outside The Box

This is a sponsored post 
Every year, when Father’s Day comes around, TV channels, billboards, the internet and magazines all rave on about the perfect gift.
And every year, it's the same old stuff that gets peddled. Aftershave. T-shirts. Underwear. Or heaven forbid, socks!
It's as if all Australian fathers are the same: A uniform mass of humdrum citizens in thrall of nothing but a few boring gifts that apparently represent the modern dad.
Of course, there is good reason for this. To a degree. Some Aussie men really do get off on reading Darren Lockyer’s biography, or wearing a t-shirt bearing an amusing slogan about beer.
Speaking of which, beer is surely among the safest gift to give, be it a huge crate of Tooheys, or, for the more discerning gentleman, something from the marvellous smaller breweries established in Sydney and beyond. Cider and wine are also good bets.
But we need not always hold with tradition. Why not consider a trip somewhere, or for the really adventurous, perhaps something like a flight in a hot air balloon or maybe lessons in how to surf, ski, hang-glide or whatever. Anything involving engines and speed is usually a good bet.
The world of food and drink remains rich with possibility too – and not just beer. Give the father in question a bit of credit: he’s probably not just a beer-swilling, pie-eating, footy-watching Neanderthal. (No, really!)
The job of raising children demands he is more than that. So, of alcohol options we can look towards things as varied as port, liquers, single malt whiskey, and more.
Don’t expect your dad to be entirely one-dimensional when it comes to food either. Perhaps the best gift we can give on Father’s Day is a new experience. Consider taking him out of his comfort zone with a meal at an experimental restaurant, or exposing him to culinary delights he hasn’t even heard of.
This extends to the sweet end of the food spectrum too. There are a vast range of desserts to explore with the dad in question on Father’s Day. Australia is one of the best places in the world for this.
Then there is chocolate. Sometimes unfairly regarded as a more feminine gift option, men have their own relationship with chocolate.
And of course, we are not talking about just any old chocolate from the supermarket shelves. Many of us have developed excellent taste in chocolate, and dads are no exception. Chocolate can be just as subtle and ‘adult’ an indulgence as anything else.
When considering chocolate options why not take a look at hampers? Many retailers (including many internet sellers) offer fabulous deals on baskets that contain a dazzling array of chocolate options.
Imagine the delectable possibilities with a hamper from, for example, Ferrero, who have created a Fathers Day hamper just for the occasion.
The key advice for this Father’s Day must be then: Don’t fall victim to boring old stereotypes when it comes to sourcing a gift. This is an opportunity to introduce Dad to new things. Why not take it?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sea World part two - and a giveaway!

It's the weekend, and what better time to revisit our stay at the Sea World Resort and Water Park on the Gold Coast?

One of the great things about staying at the resort is that you can go back to your room and rest when little legs get tired, and then return later. (Who am I kidding? When big legs get tired, or Mumma needs a rest!)

Even better, if you stay two nights or more at the resort, you're entitled to a Dolphin Discovery presentation before the park opens each day.

That means you get front row seats and the undivided attention of the presenter - great for inquiring minds with loads of questions.

We chose to do the presentation on our second day at the resort, and followed it up with yet more fun at the theme park.

And read on, because you could be visiting Sea World, plus Wet 'n' Wild, and Movie World for free. Thanks to the lovely people at Village Roadshow Theme Parks and the Sea World Resort, I have a family VIP pass to give away. That means unlimited entry to all three parks until June 2013!

 Front row at the Dolphin Discovery presentation

A lovely morning with Sea World's friendly dolphins 

Harmonie loved the sting rays 

Sea World was offering free paddle boating while we were there, and still are for a limited time

I like that Sea World is one of the theme parks that is introducing healthier options for meals. I never feel like hot and greasy food at theme parks, and the kids are mainly interested in drinks. An acceptable ham and salad roll was $7.99

Harmonie loved the monorail ...

Chase getting wet at Castaway Cove

The kids wanted to go in the 'people dryer', but Mean Mumma said no. Not when there was the perfectly lovely Queensland sun to dry them off.

We couldn't leave without having an ice-cream

Touring Sea World is hungry work. Sitting down to dinner at the resort's buffet restaurant

The kids loved the dessert bar ... totally healthy. Ahem. 

Does it look like fun? It totally is! 

If you'd like to win the Family VIP pass, simply leave a comment below sharing what you'd love to do at Sea World. 

You'll get an extra entry if you also like my facebook page and/or leave a comment there.

Entries close at 5 pm on August 24 AEST.

Good luck.

This competition has now been drawn and the winner is Melanie from A Welcoming Hearth. Congratulations! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A day at The Ekka

In a fit of parenting madness, I agreed to take the kids to The Ekka on Peoples' Day.

I knew it would be noisy and crowded, but Peoples' Day is the one day the kids get off school for Brisbane's iconic royal show. And I figured it would be better to go on a public holiday than pull them out of school for the day. (Just call me Mother Of the Year.)

The kids were way too excited to wait until the weekend, and besides, thanks to the last giveaway of a family pass to the Ekka, (which was won by Kimmie), I wanted to review the show for my dear readers.

In a stroke of genius, we caught the train in. Which meant no battling for expensive and/or legal parking spots, and ended up with us arriving being right at the centre of all the action. (The Ekka train station opens specially for the show).

That saved little legs and feet from too much walking, and left more time for fun.

We hit sideshow alley first, and as usual, were assailed by carnies offering for us to part with our money. Many of them had lovely accents - a lot of workers appeared to be backpackers - and were actually really nice. 

And the kids actually won some toys too! 

 In awe of one of the many 'haunted' rides

Harmonie gamely strikes a hammer down as hard as she can. It didn't quite make it to the top! 

They took home a couple of tiny stuffed toys for their troubles

Chase had more luck popping balloons with darts. He was thrilled with his blue alien!

And Harmonie was delighted with her cuddly blue hedgehog

It wouldn't be The Ekka without Dagwood dogs for lunch. At $5 a pop, I was glad they only wanted one each! 

It took us ages queuing to get into the showbag pavillion, and there were lines for the popular bags. They even had security people rostered on to stop people from jumping the queues! Crazy!

We then saw a few baby animals and a little of the Woolworths Pavillion before the kids, particularly Aspie Mr 11, got tired and overwhelmed from the noise and being bumped into by the crowds of people. 

We were lucky enough to nab what I think is this year's best value showbag first though, the South Cape Fine Foods bag. The bag was a small cooler bag complete with ice-pack to keep the contents cold, a cheese tray, knife, crackers and three of your choice of cheeses. All for $15 and afternoon tea at home was sorted!

Checking out our goodies on the way home.

Was it worth it? If you can afford it, I'd go. 

Personally I found the Ekka hideously expensive, and it was a pity we couldn't stay longer to see more of the free entertainment and activities. Ideally, we'd love to go back to see the night program and fireworks, and perhaps we should have got a pass out on the day, gone home for a rest,  and returned later.

We'll know next time.

On the way home, both kids kissed me and thanked me for taking them. 

"It was the best Ekka experience ever," said Miss 9. 

"I loved everything about it," said Mr 11. "Can we go again?"

And that made it all worthwhile! 

You can't argue with the smile ...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Totally Ekka-cellent!

Some of my earliest childhood memories involve being woken in the wee hours of the morning, and bundled into the car for a Very Long Drive to the city.

Despite the distance, we made regular trips to Brisbane, where Mum had grown up and lived before marrying my Dad and moving to the country.

The most anticipated trip was always the yearly visit to the Ekka.

We’d save our pocket money for weeks, and scour The Courier Mail for showbag guides and side show alley stories.

Mum and Dad always gave us enough money for two showbags and two rides each, and we were happy with that.

The showbags back then were much more generous than today – I remember paying $1 for a Kellogg’s bag that contained multiple dinky mini-boxes of cereal that my kids love now. (Yes, I am that old.)

Coming from the country, our day began at about 4 am when we started our drive. In Brisbane, we usually parked in some bloke’s front yard for a few dollars, and then trekked in through the gates to the cattle area.

Why cattle? Well, my Uncle Clarrie ran one of Australia’s best AIS (Australian Illawarra Shorthorn) studs at the time, Cedar Valley, and regularly won championships with his dairy cows.

He and his family – and later, one of my animal-loving brothers – would camp at the Ekka for the duration of the show, sleeping in a loft above the cattle so they could take care of the animals’ every needs.

It was a nice base, one where there were friendly faces, a small room with a few chairs and a cuppa always on offer, and a place to store our esky. The latter was always filled with home-made sandwiches, biscuits, fruit and drinks to save money.

Not that we went without all show treats. We always got a Dagwood Dog – the taste still brings me back to my childhood – and a strawberry sundae. The dogs were always a hit, but the sundaes sometimes missed. Sometimes you’d get one with sour strawberries in it, and all the magic would disappear.

My favourite activity was always the chairlift, though I was too scared to go on the Ferris Wheel. And yes, my brothers did call me a sook!

My parents were big on the freebies at the show, and we’d taste everything on offer, and watch hours of entertainment. And oh, how I loved the pineapple boats, which seemed so exotic back then!

We’d stay until after the fireworks, and then Dad would drive the four or five hours home.

I always loved opening my showbags the next day and reliving the magic, and I’d make the contents last for ages.

As a grown-up, I have mixed feelings about the Ekka. I still love the atmosphere and the idea of it. The country meeting the city, the animals, sideshow alley, showbags, the lot. (And these days, there are the firemen selling calendars too …)

But despite the free events, I still find it expensive to take a family, and often weigh up if we’d be better off having a weekend away or a day at a theme park, where rides are included, than a day at the EKKA.

But we’ve never been as a single parent family, and the kids are really eager to go. (Of course they are, but can you blame them?)

I’d love them to experience the magic of the EKKA and to see it again through their eyes. Money for treats will be tight, but then Mum and Dad never had a lot to spare either, and we always had a good time.

Besides, it’s the perfect way to con them into doing extra chores around the house for extra pocket money!

Will you go to the Ekka this year?

You could go for free if you enter MIA’s latest competition!

Courtesy of The RNA (The Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland), I have a family pass (two adults, two children), to give away.

To enter, simply leave a comment below sharing your favourite Ekka memory.

You’ll get an extra entry if you like my Maid In Australia facebook page, or if you’re already a liker, commenting on my page.

Good luck. I can almost taste the Dagwood Dogs!

The competition has now ended, and Kimmie is the lucky winner. Kimmie enjoy popping your Ekka cherry thanks to the RNA and MIA. Contact me so I can get your family pass to you as soon as possible! 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

We're bringing sexy back ...

This post I'm all about sex.

Yes, SEXPO is coming to Brisbane and MIA has been invited along.

This year, there's an official launch, a VIP Girls' Night Out, and the usual expo featuring sexy guests and hot entertainment.

I'm a SEXPO virgin, but I'm told I'll be in safe hands.

You see, SEXPO isn't just about sex, but is about sexuality and adult lifestyles. (Kind of reminds me of the time Miss 9 told her teacher Mumma liked to watch 'adult' movies when she and her brother went to bed. She meant non-kiddy movies, but I still haven't lived that one down!)

Anyway, apparently it's Australia's third largest expo, and more than 30,000 Queenslanders will attend the Brisbane SEXPO, from August 2-5.

There are hundreds of exhibitors, and the entertainment includes international pornstars, male and female hot  bodies, hypnotists, comedians, lingerie parades and their world famous amateur strip. (No, I won't be joining in, thanks very much).

This year's entertainers include:

* Hypnotist Mark Anthony – Gold Coast based hypnotist, renowned for being one of ‘Australia’s Leading Hypnotists’.
* Sexologist Dr Nikki Goldstein (channel 7 Morning show presenter and author), will be among the expert panel at Brisbane Sexpo, discussing everything sex and relationship related. www.drnikkig.com.au
* Australian Sex Party leader Fiona Patten (Australian Sex Party leader)
* Tottie Goldsmith – actor, singer and radio host. Host of Sexpo’s new VIP GIRLS NIGHT.
* Michelle Bombshell McGee, America’s most infamous mistress will be performing at Sexpo and sharing her tips on the latest sex toys and games; and
* Russell Gilbert – Host of Sexpo, Australian comedian and TV personality.

Are you up for it? (Ahem ...)

Because SEXPO organisers are kindly giving MIA followers the chance to win one of two double passes to Brisbane's SEXPO.

This will be a short competition, since the expo starts tomorrow, so don't be shy. Just leave a comment to enter, and for an extra chance to win, make sure you like my facebook page.

Winners will be drawn and announced TONIGHT, August 1.

Sorry, the double passes don't include Justin Timberlake as a date.

Good luck!