Monday, December 23, 2013

Stress-free shopping online!

This is a sponsored post
Does anyone else find furniture buying a chore?
Before I had kids, I seemed to have all the time in the world to trawl between stores, comparing products and prices.
These days though, I’m time poor. I live in the country too, which means I really need to travel if I’m going to check out everything that’s on offer.
Worse, my kids look at me like I’ve suggested giving all their electronic games to charity and moving to Mongolia if I even think of taking them with me on a furniture-buying expedition – even if it’s for them.
“It’s so boring,” they’ll moan. “Everything looks the same.”
And after five minutes of lying on mattresses or sitting on couches, they’ll ask: ‘Can we go now?’
Chase needs a new bed and Harmonie would love some cool drawers for her bedroom. But neither of them wants to actually go shopping for them, and I honestly was dreading the experience.
So imagine how delighted I was when I discovered Furniture Online!
This one-stop internet shop means I can browse for furniture while the kids watch telly, do their homework, or kick a ball out in the garden.
They’re happy, and I still get to choose from more than 5,000 products – all without the stress of dragging bored kids around stores with me, and minus the expense of travelling.
With a click of a mouse I can check prices and compare designs on everything from kids' bedroom furniture to lounge suites, plus rugs and accessories.
I can buy outdoor furniture online, or select much-needed bookcases and chairs for our home office.
Furniture Online has the cutest kids’ storage range too, as well as loads of dining and lounge room ideas.
When I’ve narrowed down my choices, I just call the kids over to see what appeals. So much simpler to shop in the comfort of our own home. Best of all, the prices are cheaper too.
Furniture Online have cut out the middle man so customers get the best quality products at the lowest prices. They are so confident of this, they give a no hassle guarantee that if you find any product at any of their competitors within 30 days of your purchase, they will beat that price.
But buying online doesn’t mean you lose personal service. In fact, there is as much help as you like, whenever you are ready to ask. The company has a seven-day helpline so if you have any questions or need advice about which products, designs or colours will suit your home or budget, you can actually talk to an expert about it. No waiting vainly trying to catch a sales representative’s eye, whilst the rugrats attempt to drag you out of a store by force. Simply pour yourself a wine cup of tea, and sit down for a chat.
Once you’ve decided and ordered your gear, delivery is fast. Within 5-10 working days, and they’ll schedule the time and day to suit you. There are options for weekend and/or evening deliveries if that suits your busy lifestyle, so you don’t have to take time off work or stay in for hours wondering when your much-awaited furniture will arrive.
They run regular sales and free delivery promotions too.
If you’d like to give Furniture Online a try, they’re offering a 10 per cent discount to Maid In Australia followers. To take advantage of this great offer, simply enter 10OFF at the voucher code when you finalise your order.

Happy shopping!  

Chase's current bed ... notice the similarity between the body language of dog and Man Child? 

I wonder what would be more fitting for a soon-to-be teenager? And his dog?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Paradise for parents - and a giveaway!

Do you have a favourite family holiday spot?
Their slogan is “Heaven For Kids Paradise For Parents”.  And it’s one of the few occasions where I’ve found advertising is true to word.
I’m always skeptical about these things.
After all, the advertising would be a crock, and the place would be over-run by other people’s kids, right?
Well, no, the advertising is actually very accurate. And yes, the place is over-run by kids, but that’s actually a positive as it happens.
Loads of kids means loads of instant playmates. And plenty of relaxed parents. Once we check-in, my own children are happily entertained for hours.
I can relax on a deck chair with a good book, and just listen for their happy screams. They come back from time to time, to drag me onto one of the slides – which they think is the coolest thing ever – or dunk me into the spa for a relax. And of course, whenever they are hungry or thirsty, which is often.
The resort’s biggest attraction is arguably the waterpark.  
Arguably, because there’s also Planet Chill, an indoor ice rink; an awesome kid’s club; ongoing entertainment throughout the day run by the Resort Entertainment Crew; and lots of free and paid activities, like hair-braiding, a magic show, and fire-truck tour.
The waterpark features two aqua-play attractions – one for littlies and one for big kids – as well as a large lagoon-style pool and a heated spa. There’s also an adults-only area, with private spa, for those who want to get away from the noise.
The big aqua-play zone is where my kids spend most of their time. Designed over three levels, it boasts myriad slides, water cannons, play areas and ladders, as well as a giant bucket that dunks 600 litres of water on delighted children every few minutes. And the slides are big enough for big kids, trust me.
The Resort Entertainment Crew are gems, supervising regular games throughout the day, like jelly-eating competitions, mini-olympics, jump rope competitions, hula hoop challenges, footy toss comps, and more. They will keep your kids busy and happy throughout the day, as long as you are there to keep an eye on them and cheer them on. (Who would want to miss it? I'm taking embarrassing photos, all of the time!) And it’s all free!
Some games have prizes like ice-blocks, and once, Chase even won a Spongebob Squarepants hat.
To be honest, my kids are far happier enjoying the outdoor activity with their new friends and the REC crew, and forcing me on to the slides than spending time in the critically-acclaimed kid’s club. But other parents find the kid's club invaluable.
Most packages at Paradise Resort include a free four-hour session daily per child, which is awesome.  But great as it is for couples who need a break, my kids always seem to want to hang out with me and in the main areas of the resort – which is fine as I still feel like I get a rest anyway, and we are still spending quality time together.
Besides, all that activity makes them hungry and thirsty, and often.
I always pack an esky of drinks, fruit and snacks to keep prices low, and the resort is close to the main drag of Surfers Paradise shops, supermarkets, and beaches anyway.
But you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find the prices at Bistro Zagame’s and the Poolside Bar and Bistro are surprisingly affordable. And they are aimed at fussy eaters so there’s enough to please everyone – even vegemite sammies are available by the pool!
Kids meals are $8, and there are regular budget-priced theme nights around the pool.
There is also a mini mart for purchases like milk, bread, noodles, cereal, and even wine and beer.
Wednesdays and Saturdays are movie nights, when deck chairs are placed outside in front of a giant movie screen. It’s a good time to order takeaway woodfired pizzas, sit back, and relax for an evening under the stars. So relaxing, even if you’ve seen the movie before.
The REC staff do a Wii dance-off with the kids – and a few big ones – as well.
The newest attraction, and one that I fell for, literally, is Planet Chill. Friday and Saturday nights are family disco nights, but there are sessions every day and some nights. And there are penguin helpers and complementary head-gear for those who are unsure of their skills.
The kids and I tried it out on a Sunday night and had it practically to ourselves. I fell over on my arse only twice, and wasn’t nearly as sore the next day as I’d imagined.
It was the kids’ favourite thing to do that weekend, and luckily, many packages include a session on the ice for the family.
There are so many things to do at Paradise Resort, it’s easy just to stay there. From cupcake decorating for the kids, to cocktail making workshops to the adults, it’s tempting to never leave.
But you are close to the Gold Coast’s beautiful beaches and shopping precincts and there is loads to explore using the resort as a base if you choose to.
We always bring back sushi and other treats we can’t get at our country home from our forays, to enjoy when the kids get hungry at odd times.
And the upgraded rooms are funky and comfortable, with lovely beds, and even a (tiny) table and chairs to eat at.
They are not posh, but they are clean, comfortable and serviceable. We’ve stayed there in cold weather too, and it’s only taken a phone call to have someone bring us extra blankets in the middle of the night.
Oh and it’s worth paying extra for one of the bunkhouse rooms, which contain brightly painted bunks for the kids, dividing the room from the adult area. There are xbox games and a TV for the kids, and little things like a microwave and toaster that make a difference.
One of the nicest things about the Paradise Resort Gold Coast is that it’s easy to stay on after check out to enjoy the facilities a little longer.
One of the most difficult things is that the kids always beg to stay one more night. And my goodness, it’s tempting to give in!
Oh well, there’s always next time…
Thanks to the Paradise Resort Gold Coast, MIA has three family passes to Planet Chill to give away. That’s for two adults, and up to three children to enjoy a two-hour ice-skating session, including safety gear if required.
To enter, make sure you’re following my Facebook page. Then leave a comment below, sharing what you’d do first at the Paradise Resort Gold Coast and why.

Entries close 5 pm, Tuesday December 17, 2013.

A rare moment of sibling peace - taking in the view from our room

The lagoon pool and the small kids' water park 

You can just see the three-level waterpark on the right hand side. And there's an adults only area to the left of that with its own spa, so grown-ups can have some peace.

More of the pool area

Time for a mocktail - a Cleo's Crush - and a chocolate frog in jelly. Well we are on holidays!  

Planet Chill was awesome!

Man Child on the move!

Proof we made it to the beach ...

Lunch at a nearby Sushi Train ...

Can't get enough Sushi 

Harmonie with Club mascots The Captain and Cleo

Chase, on one of our visits, doing arts and crafts around the pool

Harmonie puts the finishing touches to her masterpiece

Chase's favourite breakfast, Eggs Benedict

A kids' portion of Pasta Bolognaise at Zagame's Bistro

It's all too much fun! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Weird World Wednesday: The undies edition

Most of us don't go around without knickers, so why should our most loved accessory?
Protect your iPhone's modesty with its very own pair of panties or briefs. The sexy silicone smart pants protects your phone's special Home button, and keeps it looking stylish.
The perfect present for the person who has everything?
They originated in Japan where they are being sold in vending machines for about $2.50 but you can also get them on Amazon.
How about these Hello Kitty swimwear bottoms for summer?

Or you could go for the leopard-skin look for those sexier days ...

There are briefs for male phones too. Even superman pants!

You're welcome.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Christmas nativity like you've never seen it before

With my birthday over for another year, it's time to think of Christmas.

And what would be Christmas, without guinea pigs?

That's right, guinea pigs.

Christmas just isn't complete without a retelling of the Christmas Nativity story, but the story has never been told with guinea pigs before.

Until now ...

Take a look at the cutest trailer you will see this festive season ...

You know the story ...

Mary and Joseph make the journey to Bethlehem, only to find there's no room at the inn.

Along come angels, shepherds, and three kings from afar to worship the baby Jesus in the manger.

A Guinea Pig Nativity is the classic Christmas story as you've never seen before, starring guinea pig photographed in the starring roles.

Sweet, humble and funny, they bring their own brand of guinea pig joyfulness to the nativity in a way that is completely irresistible. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing, RRP AUD$14.99, hardback.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing, I have two copies of this delightful book to give away.

To win, you must be a follower of my Facebook page. Then, leave a comment below sharing what story you'd like to see the guinea pigs act out next and why. Winners will be drawn on Wednesday December 4, at 5 pm AEST.

See? You've never lived unless you've experienced the Christmas Nativity told by guinea pigs!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bronnie's birthday week - and a giveaway

I've gotten behind on blogging again because LIFE.
However, I know a few of you wonder what's going on when I'm offline for too long. So I thought I'd quickly drop by and reassure you everything is fine.
It's just I've been busy with wrangling kids and pets. I've been catching up on travel writing, and reading books to review, and you know, LIFE.
Then there's the end of the school year screaming towards us, and Mr 12 is graduation from Grade 7, and where-the-hell-did-that-time-go? And since when did primary schoolers graduate anyway? I finished up with a half-day at the swimming pool, cordial, and an ice-block if I remember correctly. Mind you, that was back in the Dark Ages.
And Missy Moo's garden has been taking over the back yard, and the kids have been eating me out of house and home, and bursting out of clothes and shoes with reckless abandon as they grow even taller and bigger. Much like the plants in Harmonie's garden.
And there have been bills and appointments and Dr Who (gasp) and, you know, LIFE.
And the year is just flying by faster than Santa's reindeer on the night of December 24th.
Speaking of which, this is the time of year that I start to feel a little bit festive. Stressy, but festive.
Today is my Mum's birthday - happy birthday Mum - and it has always marked the start of the holiday season for our family. My birthday is next, on November 27th. What a wonderful late birthday present I must have been for poor Mum. .
Apparently, I gave Mum pre-eclampsia, and a horrible labour, and then she was briskly told to put make-up on and look nice for her husband before Dad came to visit.
Later, one of my big brothers demanded I be taken back to the hospital and be swapped for a boy! My big sister dropped me on my head, Accidentally she insists. My other brother was too busy fussing over chooks and hens to worry too much about the noisy new arrival.
His birthday is next, followed by my father's big day. (Four Sagittareans in the one household. Can you imagine what it what like growing up in that fire pit?)
And then there is Christmas.
I always like to think birthdays should be celebrated in weeks not days. After all a day is over far too soon, don't you think?
I started this week off with mangos. Bowen Specials not the horrid stringy variety. I can't wait for cherries to hit the stores, then I get really happy.
And then today, I had lunch with two girlfriends from high school. They are just as lovely now as they were back then and it was a tonic to see them. We're grown-ups and mums now, but despite that, the years disappeared as we giggled about old times and caught up on gossip.
I've a few other treats planned for the week, including a visit to the hairdresser and a massage (bliss), not to mention special time with my two favourite humans in the world, Chase and Harmonie.
I love to travel for birthdays, but the demands of the rugrats' school agenda isn't going to allow that to happen this year. So in the spirit of giving, I'd like to give a perfect day away to a lucky MIA follower.
Thanks to Sovereign Hill and Maid In Australia's Countdown To Christmas Giveaways I've got a family pass to fabulous Sovereign Hill to give away.

"Sovereign Hill has been delighting visitors since it was officially opened to the public on Sunday, 29 November 1970.
In the 1960s, the Ballarat community recognised the need to preserve the unique heritage of the city through a network of museums that would collect research and interpret the significance of the goldrush era. From this vision, Sovereign Hill was born.
Sovereign Hill is an internationally renowned, award-winning outdoor museum operated by The Sovereign Hill Museums Association, a not-for-profit, community-based organisation. This means that operating profits are invested back into the museum so that new experiences can constantly be developed.
Sovereign Hill has an equivalent full-time staff of 200 and more than 200 volunteers who provide costumed interpretation of the Outdoor Museum and a range of heritage-related functions behind the scenes." 

It's an awesome day out for the whole family.
And guess what? They have fantastic gifts as well. I'll be featuring some of them in my Christmas gift guides, but I found a few for my birthday wish list.

A little birthday bling always gives a girl some heart. Nice for Christmas as well. This floating gold heart is gorgeous.

Sucks to be in the high risk group for skin cancer. But this lacy parasol would protect this ageing skin a treat. And so feminine! 

Some of the goodies on offer at Sovereign Hill. And I have some for a lucky reader as well. Read on ...

The lovely people at Sovereign Hill are giving a lucky follower a family pass valued at $117.50. You'll have a decent amount of time to use the pass, but obviously you'll have to get yourselves to Ballarat to use it.

Can't get to Ballarat? Never fear, you can have a taste of Sovereign Hill instead. Because we also have a hamper of delicious treats similar to those pictured above, valued at $45. It contains a jar of raspberry drops, a bag of Sovereign Hill boiled lollies, brandy sauce, a candle, cranberry sauce, and quince paste.

To win, you must be a follower of my Facebook page. Then simply leave a comment below sharing your favourite birthday indulgence. Winners will be drawn on Monday December 2 at 5.30 pm. Please don't forget to check back to see if you've won. 

Main Street, Sovereign Hill

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Food Of Love Cookery School - and a giveaway!

Every Nicky Pellegrino novel should come with a warning.
Because I can guarantee that within a few pages of each of her novels, you will be pining for delicious, soul-warming food; dreaming of a trip to Italy; and perhaps considering a romance with the sexy barista at your local cafe.
Her latest book, The Food Of Love Cookery School is just as delicious as those that have come before.
This time, Nicky tells the story of four women who travel to the Sicilian mountain town of Favio, to attend Luca Amore's tenderly run cookery school. They cook, visit vineyards and olive groves, taste chocolate, and of course, eat. As sparks fly, and secrets are shared, their lives change forever.
The always-entertaining Nicky took time out from writing her next novel with MIA.

Nicky Pellegrino

Why did you start to write? Tell us about moving from your previous career as a journalist to writing ……. I had always wanted to write a book but, working full time as a magazine editor, thought I didn’t have the time. I kept telling myself some day I’d do it but some day never came. Then I had one of those seize-the-day moments. I was at work and received an email that said a woman I knew quite well had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and didn’t have long to live. That woke me up. I realised none of us know what’s round the corner and some day might never come so if you really want to do something you have to get on with it now. I went home that night and began writing my first novel Delicious.

Are there themes or ideas that you particularly want to explore in your writing?..... I’m interested in the way we connect with other people, the nature of happiness and how we end up in the lives we have. The Food Of Love Cookery School is very much about limits – how we limit ourselves and how the world limits us. Oh and food too obviously!

Do you plan and plot or do you let it unfold as you write?..... I sort of know where I’m going but I’m never quite sure how I’m going to get there. I write the way I live my life – organised chaos. But I think if I knew exactly how a book was going to pan out it would be boring to write it. This way I get as caught up in the story as hopefully the reader will.

Can you tell us about your average writing day – where do you write and how do you write? …..I have a studio in my garden that is full of books, a sofa for the dogs to lie on and a desk for me. Ideally I’d be sitting at it early in the morning and write until about 3pm which is when my energy levels dip and I start feeling sleepy. At that point I need to get up and move. Often I’ll go and ride my horses. This provides valuable thinking time and is often when I’ll solve issues I’m having with characters and the story. With The Food Of Love Cookery School my characters got stuck in a cafĂ© having coffee at one point. I couldn’t seem to move them on. Horse-riding helped!

What advice would you give other aspiring writers?...... Just do it. The publishing landscape has changed so much since I began but the one thing that has stayed the same is the necessity of sitting and thinking and writing for long, long, long hours before you can get anywhere. The most difficult thing of all is making yourself do that.

Where does your inspiration come from – the ideas?..... Things just pop into my head often as a result of something I’ve said, heard or done. That’s why, as well as the long hours spent writing, it’s useful to be out in the world doing things and meeting people.

How much research do you do?..... It varies depending on the book. For When In Rome there was a lot of research needed as I fictionalised the life of a real person – the singer Mario Lanza. For The Food Of Love Cooking School I didn’t need to do as much. For the next book I’m just starting and I can see that the research will be fascinating and so there is the potential to go completely overboard.

Do you get to choose your book covers?..... Not exactly but if I totally hated a design I don’t think they’d go with it. Fortunately I love the new ones for When In Rome, Delicious and The Food Of Love Cookery School.

What three qualities fascinate you most in people and inform your characters?..... I am nosey so I don’t think I could narrow it down to three characteristics. I’m fascinated with other people, how they live their lives, why they make their choices and most especially by their flaws – I think they are what make us most interesting.

What does the future hold? Do you want to keep writing? ….. I never think very far ahead. At the moment I’m focused on writing the next book, getting my new horse Uno going well enough to enter some competitions, sorting out my vege garden and working on some really interesting journalism.

Thanks to Hachette Australia, I have four copies of Nicky's novel, The Food Of Love Cookery School, to give away. To enter, please check you are a liker of my Facebook page. Then leave a comment below, sharing your favourite meal to cook for someone you love, and why. Entries close at 5 pm on Tuesday November 19, 2013. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Santa's wish list - the countdown begins

As November rushes by, we're starting to feel a bit festive.
We're not bringing out the Christmas decorations just yet, but the not-so-little-anymore kids in the family well and truly know the countdown is on.
November is always a fun month I find.
The weather is getting more summary by the day, mangos are coming into season, and my birthday is looming as well.
My last few birthdays haven't been that flash, so I'm looking foward to doing a bit more celebrating this year.
And thanks to my lovely supporters, I want to share the love with my followers, by running as many giveaways as possible in the lead-up to birthday time and Christmas.
I'm kicking it off with a fabulous prize from Whole Kids Certified Organic, a delicious range of snack foods for kids.
With the party season on its way, it's nice to be able to offer kids a selection of additive-free, allergen-friendly snack foods that don't contain any nasties.
The products have been developed in consultation with more than 300 parents, as well as dieticians from Melbourne's Royal Children Hospital, to ensure the snacks aren't just good for you, but are yummy too.
No one wins when you try to feed the kids with healthy foods but they just don't appeal to their taste buds!
The official spiel is that the Whole Kids range of organic corn chips, popcorn, sultanas, fruit bars and juice is GMO free. There are no artifical colours, flavours, preservatives, synthetic pesticides or herbicides.
Oh and they are packaged in FSA-accredited BPA-free packaging too.
What matters to my kids is that they are delicious!
We were sent a selection of the range to try, and the kids raved over them.
It was nice to put something in their lunchboxes as a bit of a treat, without worrying about any of the usual allergy and preservative triggers at school.
Chase, 12, and Harmonie, 10 particularly loved the organic corn chips, and popcorn, which they said tasted fresher and lighter than the usual brands we eat. (The corn chips are made with organic wholegrain stoneground corn and cooked in organic non-hydrogenated vegetable oil! And the popcorn is air-popped to retain the corn's fibre. They particularly loved the Manuka Honey popcorn)
The fruit bars were a hit too, and nut-allergic Chase was relieved to see that for a change these snack bars were not "produced in a factory that also manufactures products containing nuts". (Which rules out a lot of popular snacks for him.)
No, the Whole Kids snack bars are cooked in a nut-free bakery and are oven-baked, not fried.
The Whole Kids Organic Juice was yummy too, as were the Frooshie fruit smoothies, which were shared with the kids next door. These contain organic fruit and vegies, honey, wholegrain quinoa and rice flakes, with no added sugar. Perfect for lunchboxes or snacks on the go. The only thing the kids didn't like about the Frooshies is that they all had banana in them ... and that's not their favourite fruit.
Oh and there are sultanas, and apricot and sultana packs too. What kid doesn't love those? (As long as they don't shove them up their nose like Chases did at pre-school when he was a tot. Queue, one more visit to the hospital ER ...)
I'm sure your children wouldn't possibly do anything like that!
To win one of three $60 Whole Kids Certified Organic goodie packs, make sure you're a liker of my Facebook page. Then, leave a comment below sharing your favourite kiddie lunchbox snack as a child, or tell me the funniest thing your child has ever done with food.
Entries close at 5pm on Monday, November 18.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Weird World Wednesday

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it's ...

A giant penis!

This firecracker display supposedly held in Scotland on Bonfire Night gave new meaning to the term 'happy ending.'

Talk about a big banger!

However, despite the phallic fireworks show being reported in various newspapers around the globe, there is some doubt about it's validity.

If it really happened, some pyrotechnic experts would be standing proud right about now, wouldn't you say?

And in other news from around the world, an Indonesian spa is offered stressed out customers the chance to 'relax' by letting a couple of snakes squirm on their back.

Apparently the adrenalin sparked by fear, and the movement of several pythons pummelling your muscles can send a person into a sense of marvellous relaxation. (Or maybe it's just relief that you're still alive?)

The weirdest fact about this idea, is that it isn't new! No, snake massage has been done for ages at spas in Israel and Russia, where snakes are allowed to roam the head and face as well, apparently exerting soothing pressures on the body.

If you're not up for a snake rub, the enterprising proprietor of an Israeli spa obligingly places rats and mice on patrons' feet to give them a pleasant massaging effect.

I could have posted photos and videos as well, but if you've got a snake phobia like me, you would Freak The Hell Out and I wouldn't want that to happen.

You cannot make this shit up!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The gift for the person with everything - including gas!

We love a good fart joke at Chez MIA.
Chase once had a fart pen shaped like a finger. He took great delight carrying it around with him, asking people to 'pull my finger'. And when they did, the pen would emit one of several horrible-sounding farts.
It actually went off once in the middle of Big W, when I needed a pen to write a message down with. Everyone looked at me.
Oh how the kids laughed...
Anyway, someone shared the following product on Facebook and I cracked up laughing at some of the reviews. We all know gas and bowel problems can actually be a serious matter, so I'm not making fun at people with a genuine need for these aids.
But I never knew these items existed, and I just know of so many people (thinking of a few males of my acquaintance), who could  use some of these pads.Imagine the embarrassment they could save.

These Flatulence Deodorisers come in packs of ten, and are disposable charcoal pads that you wear inside of your undies (they are only shown worn on the outside here for illustration purposes.)  You can also buy pads, thong disposables, and chair pads.

"End your fear and embarrassment when in public with Flat-D Flatulence Deodorizer," the sales spiel goes. "When intestinal gas is expelled the flatulence filter pad absorbs the gas odor normally associated with the gassy discharge or flatus."

I can almost see the infomercial now. 

The reviews are priceless.

Here is one:

So these absolutely work, but maybe too well. When you fart there is no smell and eventually they train you to just fart your heart out. Well the other day I was in a client meeting and forgot to put a pad in my underwear. Oops, I let a massive silent heat bomb out and the room cleared out faster then I could say, "who farted?" Good product, but keep in mind if you forget to put one on, people will smell your gas. 


My flatulence would come uncontrollably, usually in the sound of a high pitched owl "hoo". These underpads have given me my life back! Not only do they mask any smell, they muffle the "hoo's". On the occasion where my flatulence makes a "normal" flatulence sound, like when sitting in chairs, I've found that you can still silence them if you place both your hands about one inch away from the rectum bilaterally and giving traction to spread the anus open. Thank you Flat-D for the confidence to date again

And one more for good luck ...

I farted several times today and no one even knew!!! I even tried to smell them by bending down where my rear was immediately after I ripped one, and to my surprise, nothing! The only down side is that it doesn't of muffle the sound of the farts, and isn't very absorbent.

What is the funniest product you've seen for sale recently?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Not-so-common scents

There are times when our home smells simply delicious.
When biscuits or cakes are baking in the oven, or a pot of home-made soup is bubbling away on the stove.
When Chase has decided to treat us to some of his home-baked bread, or Harmonie has talked me into making lasagne or Japanese Curry.
We aren't completely undomestic at Chez MIA!
But there are times when there is nothing in the oven, the garbage is waiting to be taking out, the washing is festering in the laundry, or the house has been shut up because no one has been home all day.
And we open the door and are hit by an ... aroma. Kind of like a combination of mouldy socks, wet dog, and fetid school lunch boxes.
Even after giving our home a good clean, a kind of 'lived-in' smell often lingers. I guess it's not altogether gross, but society and advertising makes me feel that houses must smell of vanilla, cinnamon, and unicorn sprinkles to be homes. (I may have made that last one up).
Before kids, I used to burn incense and candles for ambience, but I've learnt it's not a good idea when kids are about, not even now my two are older. Candles are just too tempting for young ones, and my kids find the smell of incense overpowering.
We tried air fresheners, but we never really found one that didn't smell like something lovely trying to cover up something that Was Not Lovely. And that was worse than the original smell!
And then we interviewed Layla Subritsky, of Big Brother 2012 fame, and the official Ambi Pur/Big Brother 2013 ambassador.
Apart from learning a lot about living in the Big Brother house, we were sent a few of the most popular Ambi Pur products to try at home.
First up, was the Ambi Pur Car Mini. It arrived, happily, on the day we had to take a road trip with our mini chihuahua-pomeranian Lucy. For some reason, known only to her, she had decided to wee in her bed, just before we left on our journey. Excitement maybe. But stinky for us.
My son Chase simply clipped the car mini thingy onto the car vent and the odour was magically eliminated. And it wasn't just masked, it was replaced with a pleasant vanilla-like smell. We all travelled quite happily. Except perhaps for Lucy, who knew she was in disgrace.
When we returned from our road trip, we tried the Ambi Pur adjustable diffuser and fragrance. You put a little bottle into the diffuser and plug the whole thing into an electrical socket.
This particular one was supposed to smell like green meadows after the rain. Okay, it didn't smell like that to us. At first. But it still smelt pretty nice.
To be honest, we did have to turn it off from time to time because it took a while for our allergy-sensitive noses to get used it.
But we soon found it was lovely to switch on before visitors arrived, or when the house needed a freshen-up.
In fact, I leave it on all the time now, switched on to low. It's funny how it really makes a difference to come home to house that smells lovely and fresh and - welcoming.
There is no lingering smell of cat, or dog, or lived-in couch; just a happy aroma reminiscent of flowers and, I'll admit it now, rain!
We were also sent some Ambi Pur Air Effects, for the bathroom and shower. They work much better than products we've used before. (Can you believe some expensive and highly recommended products used to make Harmonie cry because she couldn't stand the smell? So we just gave up on using them altogether. Until now.)
The Spring and Renewel Febreze has a pleasant lavender aroma, that is so nice Harmonie has taken to spraying it in her room when she leaves for the day, and the room still smells inviting when she arrives home.
But by far my favourite product of those we were sent to try, was the Febreze Ambi Pur extra strength fabric refresher.
Our cats are both rescue pets, and one of them lost his mother a little too early. As well leaving him with an adorable fondness for suckling and massaging my childrens' soft toys, his abandonment issues mean that he doesn't like moving. (Well, who does, right?)
And so it was, that a week or two after moving here and having our couch professionally cleaned, Kit Kat well and truly let his feelings well and truly be known. Yep, right on our good-as-new couch. (It's okay, there was a blanket on it at the time. But, you know. Seepage.)
Despite my very best efforts, working my way through odour and stain busting spells cures, the remnants of of an act forgiven, but not forgotten, lingered.
Not any more. The room and couch smell as fresh and clean as they look.
If you'd like to give the range of Ambi Pur products a try, you'll be happy to know that they are giving 2 MIA readers the chance to win an Ambi Pur summer survival kit!
The kits each contain contain:

    1 x Car Mini, New Zealand Springs
·         1 x Electrical Plug In, Meadow and Rain
·         1 x Toilet, lavender and Rosemary
·         1 x Febreze
·         1 x Candle, Medlow and Rain
·         1 x Air Effects, Lavender and Comfort

To win, simply make sure you are a liker of my Maid In Australia Facebook page, and leave a comment below, sharing your favourite smell and why. The competition ends on Sunday the 17th of November at 5 pm. Good luck!

Layla Subritsky with an armful of Ambi Pur goodies

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Set Me Free - a book review and giveaway!

Brisbane author Jennifer Collin may not be a household name in her hometown yet, but she's making a name for herself in literary circles overseas.

Her debut novel, Set Me Free is currently sitting in the top 25 of the Amazon Bestsellers List for both Women Writers and Fiction, and Contemporary Romance, in the UK.
It's getting five-star reviews and a publisher has expressed interest in purchasing the series (Set Me Free is the first in a trilogy about the Evans family).
Set in Brisbane's arty West End, the novel follows quirky gallery own Charlotte Evans and her quest to avoid her growing attraction to apparently devious property developer Craig Carmichael.
Whilst leading feisty tenants on the Battle For Boundary Street, Charlotte drags artist sister Emily and best friend Ben along for the ride, as both Craig and Charlotte risk losing - or winning - everything.
It's a sexy tale of love, friendship, family and community, all set in a backdrop that will be familiar to anyone who has spent more than a bit of time in Brisbane. 
I loved it. It's a fun-loving romp that explores family, friendship, love and community - think feel-good chick lit with a distinctly Australian flavour. 
I was keen to find out more about this fresh new voice in Australian women's fiction whose first novel is doing so well in Europe.
It turns out that Jennifer is 39, and married to Norm Higgins, 41, who is somewhat of a celebrity in the Brisbane skateboarding scene. They have two children Audrey, 7, and Lola, 5. Jennifer took time to talk writing, the midnight shifting and ebooks with MIA. 

Set Me Free is your debut novel. When did you start writing, and when did you start writing the novel?

I've been writing on and off since I was eight years old, when I received my first positive bit of feedback from my primary school teacher. But I've had a fairly tumultuous relationship with my writing, because, like many writers, my ego is fragile, and I have been easily discouraged. Honestly, high school english teachers have a lot to answer for!
I wrote my first angst-ridden manuscript in my early twenties, and while it was a cathartic process, the end result really wasn't fit to be seen. After that I began a whole bunch of books I never finished, including Set Me Free. Then, after having kids, and successfully getting them past the age of five, I went back to writing, and Set Me Free, with a vengeance. After all, if you can parent, you can do anything, right? I picked it up again in early 2012, when my day job was under threat, and I needed to revisit what I was going to be when I grew up. I fell back in love with the characters, and had the mental space and drive to finish their story.

What made you set it in Brisbane? West End is kind of like a character in itself!

Set Me Free is a David vs Goliath story of a small time art gallery owner taking on a property developer. It's a story that could be told in almost any small community, with the neighbourhood very much a central character. It was very important to me to make that character genuine, so that the reader was as caught up in its story as they were in Charlotte and Craig's. I chose West End because I know it, and am fond of its quirkiness and diversity. At times I poke a bit of fun at it, but always with affection.

Did it require a lot of research? Eg, frequenting bars, art galleries and coffee shops?

Ha ha! I love this question! Why yes, I spent many years undertaking research for Set Me Free… Seriously though, in many ways it does reflects my life before kids. Again, I was writing what I know, because I wanted the story to be genuine. I still frequent galleries and coffee shops, though the experience is a little different with small children in tow. Bars on the other hand…
I also spent a bit of time on YouTube, which is a great research tool for writers who do the midnight shift.

With two young children, when do you find the time to write?

Ah yes, the midnight shift. After the kids have gone to sleep (to sleep, mind you, which is different to when they've gone to bed) it's time to turn on the laptop. It's very hard, because at the end of the day you really want to switch off, not on, which is why the drive to write is so important. When I wrote Set Me Free, I was working full time. I reached a point where I realised I was trying to do too much, so I took a step back. I am lucky I have the luxury of working part-time now, and I have two writing days per week…in theory…
There are still times when I have to neglect my husband and children, but they are fewer and of shorter duration now.

It's part of a trilogy. Do you have the rest of the storylines planned out?

I didn't when I started. The idea to do a trilogy came about as I was writing Set Me Free. I found Charlotte's sister Emily had a story of her own developing, and I didn't want to wrap it up by the end of that book, because I wouldn't do the story justice. Emily needed her own voice, her story needed to be told. And then, once I'd decided to give Emily her own story, I couldn't deny their brother Andy the opportunity to tell his.
One thing I learnt from writing Set Me Free, was the importance of mapping the story out before you start. I did it loosely for Set Me Free, and found the story evolved dramatically as I wrote. I did it more thoroughly for Book Two, and found it still evolved, but not as much. I was also much more conscious of setting up the story for Book Three as I wrote. Book Three at this stage has a loose plan, but I will be fleshing it out a little more before I start writing.

Why do you think the book appeals so much to Europeans?

Sometimes I wonder if it's just a bunch of ex-pats buying it up because they are homesick for some sunshine! Seriously though, it is a light read that can be devoured, so it does offer a little vacation to somewhere warm and sunny. People do like to travel within the books they read.
But I think it has more to do with the market for ebooks around the world. While I did do a small print run of physical books, Set Me Free is primarily an ebook. Ebooks are now outselling print books in the UK and US, and buyers over there are familiar with the sellers, such as Amazon, and how to discover new authors online. There are also hundreds, if not thousands, of bloggers (like yourself!) online, who do wonderful things to promote authors. I have found it difficult to find Australian-based bloggers.
The only reason I did a print run of Set Me Free was to ensure my friends and family who don't read electronically could have a copy of the book. Anecdotally, we Australians still have a love affair with the feel, smell and look of a printed book. And rightly so, I might add.

What was your day job before writing and do you still have it?

Yes, I still have it, and dream of giving it up to write full time. As I mentioned earlier, I do it part time now. It's not a very exciting job, but it has helped me keep my writing tools sharpened over the years. Not to mention being fodder for storylines! I am a public servant, which could mean any number of things, so I like to describe it as developing policy to make the world a better place.

How much of you is in your characters?

Apart from the fact that they do things I used to do, and enjoy similar things to me (eg vintage fashion, coffee, Pimm's), not a lot. My characters are bolder and more extroverted than me. They are not afraid of conflict and are sure of their place in the world (see previous comment about fragile egos!). They've got a lot more sass than me! In many ways I live through them vicariously. Running an art gallery, and developing property have both been on my list of things I might do when I grow up.

Set Me Free is only 99c as an ebook. Why is it so cheap?
As a new author, I am an untested commodity for my readers. In an environment as competitive as the book market, I don't expect to make money from Set Me Free, so the audience reach is far more important. I want to ensure I reach as many readers as possible, and making the book accessible, and a low risk purchase, is part of that.
Interestingly though, it seems the Europeans and Americans are much more ready to spend $1 on an ebook than the Australians. From speaking to people, I think there is an assumption in Australia that if a book is that cheap, it must be crap. But most often, 99c price tags are set by writers like myself trying to reach readers, not because someone has determined the book is poor quality. It's the reviews that are the best measure of a book's quality, not the price tag.

Set Me Free is available at  Amazon here , and is available at other ebook retailers.  Limited edition print versions are also available, and its best to contact Jennifer direct at to get one of those.

Jennifer is giving a lucky reader a copy of her debut novel Set Me Free, either as an ebook or as a paperback. To enter, leave a comment below sharing whether you prefer 'real' books, or ebooks and why. 
Entries close at 5 pm AEST on Sunday November 3, 2013. 

The competition has closed, and the winner is Nicole M. Jennifer was feeling generous so has gifted an extra ebook to Magnetoboldtoo for making her giggle. Please contact me so we can send off your prizes. Thanks. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Skylanders get spooky!

Who loves Skylanders?
We do!
In fact,  I don't know any child who doesn't love them. And there are quite a few big kids who collect them too!
My kids love Skylanders because when their friends come to visit - and vice versa - they can bring their favourite characters, and they can all play together on the same console.
Skylanders are great friends with MIA, and to celebrate the spooky season they are offering a lucky reader a Halloween-themed Skylanders goodie pack!
In the pack, you'll find a special Halloween 2013 Limited Edition Eye Brawl. He's so special, you can't even buy him in Australia!
He's from the Skylanders Giants Game.
But the great news is, in the spirit of Skylanders, you can use him in the brand new Skylanders SWAP Force game. Don't have one? That's okay, because you'll find your own copy of this brilliant game in your goodie pack!
The Skylanders peeps are also including a Skylanders character costume to get you covered for trick or treating, 3 Halloween-themed activity pages, and a few delicious treats.
As usual, all the characters from the previous game will work on the new Skylanders SWAP Force game - in fact, they work better, because they have new powers like jumping.
Skylanders SWAP Force will be on everyone's Santa wish list this year.
To win this fantastic pack, just leave a comment below to say if you'll be breaking into the Skylanders SWAP Force game or saving it up for Christmas. The competition closes at 5 pm on October 27, 2013.

The competition has ended and the winner was Gemmie Alliston. Gemmie please message me with your contact details so we can send out your prize.

Your gift pack will look a little like this - but with just one Eye Brawl

The must-have Skylanders SWAP Force Game. The Skylanders peeps know kids so well, they will send the winner one which will match the console you have at home.

A closer look at the Limited Edition Eye Brawl.

Disclosure: Skylanders have also offered MIA a Skylanders gift pack for hosting this giveaway. I wonder who will be making use of it?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Our walk for life!

Cancer is - well, every expletive I know, is not enough to describe cancer.
It's cruel is what it is. It's nasty, undignified, painful, and does not play fair. And much more than that.
Everyone has had their lives touched by cancer, that much is for sure.
Can you believe that these days one in two Australians will get cancer? That means it's a concern for all of us.
And if you don't know someone who has died from it, is fighting it, and/or has survived it, then you should probably buy a lottery ticket right now.
The kids and I certainly have known and lost loved ones.
We have admired lovely people who have fought the beast and survived (thinking of you Darren, Karen, Leanne, and Denise, and our more recent friend Rowena).
I met Rowena earlier this year when I interviewed her about her role in the Relay For Life. I was touched that she opened up about her story - fighting and beating two cancers in the space of a few years, and then wanting to give something back by chairing the South Burnett Relay For Life.
And then I learned that the Relay For Life was something that anyone could take part in.
Usually fundraisers like these seem to be for awesomely fit people and cost a lot to join in, Relay For Life involves walking for 18 hours overnight. In our case, it was 18 hours around the Kingaroy Showgrounds. But you didn't have to do it continuously, you could do it in laps, and swap with members of your team when you got tired.
Of course, those who were supremely fit or in training for other events could jog, but the highest fundraisers were actually a 'flock of birds', Birds Of A Feather, from a tiny town called Proston. They were a mix of survivors and supporters, and were all women of a certain age, decked out beautifully in floral trousers and hats.
I thought the kids might just want to go along to support for a few hours, but they were adamant: They were registering, and they were walking!
Chase wanted to relay in memory of his best friend Nick, who died of a brain tumour last year.
Nick has been a continuing influence on Chase's life. He was there when Chase started school in grade one and remained friends with him throughout, until he became too sick to go to school.
Harmonie walked, partly for Nick, and partly for a friend she has made since moving to Kingaroy. Her friend has bone cancer.
She also feels close to my friend Leanne, who is like an auntie to her. Leanne is a single Mum to two lovely boys. She's been to hell and back, fighting breast and brain cancer. Her cancer is terminal. She's the toughest chick I know.
And Leanne was who I was walking for. And I couldn't help thinking about a woman I wrote about in this week's New Idea, Sophie Oudney, who is also fighting terminal cancer. Another inspiration woman. So strong.
Sophie is being supported on her journey by her husband and teenage sweetheart Hamish, and is focussed on living out a bucket list of happy memories for her three children, husband, family and friends.
The relay was amazing and really helped us to feel like we could do something, however small, to help in the fight against cancer. And when we felt tired and cold and hungry overnight, we knew it was nothing to what cancer patients go through when they are fighting this horrible disease and going through the even nastier treatment to fight it.
Our small but passionate South Burnett community produced a record 43 teams who so far have raised an incredible (and another record-breaking) $116,500 for the Cancer Council.That money will change the lives of many cancer patients. Even better, that total will go higher as money raised during the night and since the close of banking last Friday comes in, as people still have time to donate.
Thank you to everyone who donated to the cause, and particularly those who sponsored the kids, as it really made them feel like their efforts were worthwhile.

With Nick's parents' permission, I give some information about him here:

Nicholas had a Brain tumour known as a GBM, Glioblastoma Multiforme. Brain Tumours are the second most common cancer in children, (although Nick's particular type is actually rare in children). He was diagnosed in September 2011 and he died on May 12, 2012. He was ten.
Nick's mother Belinda is now training for the Bridge to Brisbane for Brainchild, a charity set up by Nick's surgeon and nurse to raise money and fund research for children with brain tumours. 
Nicholas was a smart, happy child, who reached out to Chase on his first day of school. Chase has never forgotten that. 
Nick developed strong friendships despite his age, and is still making a difference. 
Belinda has described Chase as 'an inspiration' and says when she finds the going getting tough in her training she will look to him as her motivation. But we find Belinda and her family are our inspiration, and Nick in particular. He was an incredible boy, who was always smiling, and we think of him often. Rest in peace Nick.

So, do you want to know what walking for the Relay For Life was like? This is how it went down for us! 

Luckily, our team, the SS Dionysius set up our tent, but Chase did our blow-up bed, which the three of us shared for sitting on and resting throughout the afternoon, evening and morning. Here he is, pretending to be exhausted before the relay even began!
Fundraising was held throughout the event. In this one, Harmonie hitched a ride in a bathtub for the price of $1. (Adults paid $3).
Anyone for cake? Some Relay for Life fundraising cupcakes. 
A little break for some fun fundraising - Skirmish! $2 for those registered to relay
Of course, Harmonie joined in too! 
The moving candlelight ceremony. After the sun went down, those who were remembering people who were fighting, had survived, or had passed from cancer, wrote their names and a message on a bag. You placed sand inside to stablise it, then lit a candle. The bags were then placed around the track. All lights went off, and in the silence, the people were remembered. A few prayers and poems were said. A little bit of water may have gotten in my eye.
Harmonie met Sid the Seagull the next morning
And won $20 for getting the most balls through a hole and into a hoop in a Bank of Queensland fundraiser! 
Footnote: Chase kept going through the night, managing 249 laps of the showgrounds at last count. He was a machine. When Harmonie napped, I must admitted to joining her for a while. I did not walk for 18 hours straight! We were all very tired the next day - and the day after that!
One team had the fab idea of giving foot massages as a fundraiser on the night, $5 each. I shouted Harmonie and Chase one each for doing such a good job. (I couldn't afford one for myself, my funds running quite low after all that fundraising - sob!) That team raised more than $2000 overnight, just with that idea alone!  
Have you participated in the Relay For Life? Could you keep walking for 18 hours?