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:

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
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 ...
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.