Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Easter is a bittersweet time of year for me.

As a time of hope and new beginnings, in my own life it has been a time of wonderful beginnings and terrible endings.

One wonderful Easter Sunday, I got married. Surrounded by my closest friends and family, I said my vows, and left the very next day on my honeymoon to Thailand before moving onto London for a new job in magazines. Life was wonderful.

A few years later, I found out that marriage was over during Easter ... ironic, much? Or maybe just really awful timing.

Moving on a few years, my first child was conceived during Easter - another wonderful time in my life when I thought everything was as it should be again.

My Easters have been up and down since then. There have been gorgeous ones with my babies where they have discovered the magic of chocolate. Chase's first Easter was the first time he tasted chocolate and he knew exactly what to do with it!

And there was one a few years ago when I fell ill and had to take myself to the ER alone - the joys of being a single Mum.

This year, the kids woke early to find the Easter Bunny had been. There was chocolate for breakfast and an Easter egg hunt in our back garden.

I offered to take them out but they've been content to have a quiet day relaxing at home with our pets.

Easter isn't over yet, so I'm hoping this year's festivities will be one of the special ones.

How do you celebrate Easter?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Missing out

So last week, I was supposed to attend the social media event for parents in Australia: the Digital Parents Conference.

Held in Sydney over two days and nights, I had even been chosen to present a speech: My Blog, My Story.

I had accepted, in better times, when I'd been feeling happier and well.

But come DPCON13 time, times had changed. I was in the grip of a crippling depression and my finances were abysmal.

Not only could I not justify the expense, I was not physically or emotionally capable of making the trip to Sydney on my own. Let alone getting up to speak in a conference room full of my peers. As wonderful and welcoming an audience as it would have been.

Depression has turned me into a recluse in recent times. A shaky shadow of the confident globetrotter I used to be.

Oh, I'm able to do the things I need to do to be my childrens' mother. I go to the shops for food, I walk them to school, and participate in events that are important to them. I join in the cheers at the swimming carnival, I help out at school disco. I cook them nutritious and (mostly) tasty meals.

But I do nothing for me.

There are no girlie outings with friends. I can't remember the last time I had a haircut - it was mid-2012 I believe. An invitation to dinner? I make an excuse. Coffee with a friend? Suddenly I have to be somewhere else. Yeah, somewhere else like home. Alone. Alone with my thoughts and my tears. Just what a depressed person needs.

It's even hard to do things I need to do like check in with my doctor, look for work, or take a walk - it's so important to get some kind of exercise to raise the endorphins.

Sometimes just calling a friend to say I need help is all too hard.

So getting myself to Sydney to be at a conference became a jumble of times and logistics and fears that my mind couldn't cope with.

Then there was the sheer fear, irrational I know, of being away from my kids for anything other than an essential reason.

And the what-ifs. What if I got one of my debilitating migraines and had to be admitted to hospital? I'd miss my flight back. What if I had a panic attack and had an, erm, accident? What if I was hit with fatigue and slept through the whole thing?

But I couldn't afford to go anyway, so the depression had a win. And that made me even more depressed!

I tried to use the kid-free time wisely though. (The children were with their Dad).

I saw my doctor again. I cleaned house (gasp!). I visited with family, several times, and it was nice. I finished off paperwork that had been sitting on my bedside table for months.

I reached out to a couple of people for support, and I found it. (Bless them).

And although reading the tweets and Facebook statuses of my peeps who were lucky enough to go to DPCON13 were bittersweet, I realised that staying home wasn't the end of the world.

Getting my health right, and living within my means, was much more important. And it's still very much a work in progress, but that's okay.

Readers, what have you done for you lately?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A giant giveaway for Easter!

Did you know that Easter is one of the Skylanders' favourite holidays?
Me neither.
But I have it on good authority that this is the case, and that Easter is a great time for kiddies to catch up on their favourite Skylanders' adventures - and definitely create a few new ones. (That's after they've ran around picking up random Easter Eggs, and played healthy outdoor games with family and friends of course!)
If you're having a chocolate/lolly-free Easter, a Skylanders toy could be a good Easter present. My kids only get an egg or bunny from the Easter Bunny and one from Mum, because - A. We have to be careful what type of chocolate Chase eats because he has anaphylaxis allergies to nuts and tree nuts, and B. The kids don't eat a lot of chocolate anyway. Seriously. With the few extra they get from family and school, they're messing about with chocolate and wrappers for weeks! 
So I try to get them something useful instead, like pyjamas or slippers for winter. Probably a bit boring, but it's a kind of nice custom, particularly as we're usually visiting family in the country, and they need to wear them straight away as it's chilly there.
But I digress.
The fabulous people at Skylanders are giving one lucky MIA follower a Skylanders Giants Easter survival kit to keep the kids happy and entertained throughout the long weekend.
So what does this magical kit contain? Plenty! Packed inside you’ll find:
·         Skylanders Giants game characters
·         Skylanders Giants apparel
·         Skylanders Giants chocolate eggs
·         Activities including a colouring page, puzzle maze and cut-out face mask
·         Chocolate cupcake recipe complete with Skylanders Giants cupcake toppers
The contents of the kit will look a bit like this: 

(The toys may not be exactly the same ...)

What do you have to do to win it?

Simply leave a comment below on which Skylander your child would love to play with over the Easter holidays. If you leave a comment on my Facebook page, you will get an extra entry.

The competition closes at 9 am on Wednesday, 27th March, to ensure the winner has time to receive his or her survival kit in time for the holidays! So be quick ... 
The winner has been drawn and is Kerry Santillo. Kerry, please contact me to claim your prize. You have been emailed as well.

Disclosure: MIA has been promised a Skylander Easter Survival Kit of her own for the kids to fight over  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rams loose change round-up

It's kind of embarrassing to be participating in a competition about saving money when you're in the worst financial position of your life.

In fact, I'm missing out on this month's Digital Parent's Conference, one in which I was scheduled to speak, because I can't scrape together the funds required to attend.

And yet, as part of the Digital Parent's fun, I’m participating in the RAMS Loose Change Round-Up competition.

The idea is to share budgeting tips, because parents generally are right on the money when it comes to scrimping and saving.

On that subject, I am great at living off the smell of an oily rag.

As a single Mum, I have to run a very tight ship where the finances are concerned, and there’s not a lot left over after the necessities are paid.

My budget savers include:

  • Working out when local supermarkets mark down fresh foods like meat, seafood, and fruit and veg. Shopping on those days can save you huge dollars without compromising on quality, as long as you can use the goodies in the next few days.
  • Only buy what you can use. It’s not a bargain if you’re going to throw it out.
  • Make lunches whenever possible – it’s cheaper than buying them and probably better for you. 
  • The same for dinners. Even simple dinners are better than takeaways. Home made pizza, breakfast for dinner, or spaghetti bolognaise are great for nights when you don’t feel like going to much trouble.
  • Freeze leftovers for nights when you can’t be bothered cooking.
  • Save small change. $2 and $1 coins in particular are gold mines, but even 5c coins add up. I keep small change bowls, and use them for tuck shop or milk runs.
  • Buy fresh. Local markets offer fresh foods at a fraction of the price.
  • Recycle main meals and turn them into lunches and breakfasts. My kids love leftover lasagne for breakfast! Roast chicken is great on wraps, and ham is yummy in fried rice.
  • Eat and/or have a coffee before you go shopping. Make sure the kids are fed and watered too!
  • I rarely pay full price. I snap up staples when they are on special, and incorporate seasonal specials into the menu.
  • When money is tight look for what I call 'magic money'. It's money stuffed down the back of lounges, behind car seats, in hand bags, and suit pockets. You'll be surprised what you have lying around the place. 
  • Charity shops and garage sales are great for bargain-priced toys, shoes, clothes, furniture and other goodies. And don't forget to have a clean-out and hold your own garage sale every year or so. 

And my budget buster?

When I was in hospital late last year, I mistakenly thought that the money I had deposited into my credit card account had me well ahead in the account status.

Whether it was drugs, the stress of being away from the kids, or my addled brain, I don’t know, but I was wrong.

Even though I was never extravagant with my spending, and the credit card continued to pay for our private health insurance, my life insurance and other necessities, I continued along happily in ignorance, buying things here and there, until all the medical bills came in and reality struck.

Fast forward to present where I am still paying off a credit card debt. It was the worst, silliest, financial mistake of my life.

And now I have a massive debt to pay off, which means no conference for MIA. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

You can see why I don’t make a living in the financial sector!

So my overall financial advice is look after the pennies, because they will look after the pounds. 

And don’t read your credit card statements when you’re in a medication haze!

Good luck.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What if you're not?

"I am happy and I feel loved".
So read my affirmation for today from Bringing Spirit Into The Everyday, who rarely fails to inspire me with her inspirational wisdom.
But lately my depression has left me so empty of verve and energy that despite all my usual cures, I feel bereft of happiness and I feel decidely unloved.
Saying the affirmation in spite of myself, there is a hollow ring to it. My mouth is dry and tears spring to my eyes.
I know it is a lie.
Depression robs me of my self-confidence and self-worth. It takes away the sense of feeling joy from anything that would normally make me smile.
It lies to me and tells me I am nothing. That I am unloved and useless.
I know in my head this is untrue. I am a mother, a daughter, a sister and friend, and people do love me. They tell me so.
But today I don't feel it.
I feel I fail at everything I do. My achievements in life have melted away to be replaced by all the things I haven't done right - and there's been a lot of that.
I'm not where I wanted to be. Will I ever be? Isn't there meant to be more to life than this constant struggle for survival?
On days like today, an affirmation like "I am happy and I feel loved' is more important than ever. I will say it and repeat it and hope that a shift occurs.
I will take stock of the good things in my life - for there are good things in my life, despite the monsters in my mind that keep on telling me that isn't so.
I will focus on my kids, and our love for each other, and my desire to be the best Mum I can be for them. A healthy Mum. A happy one.
I will hug our pets.
I will take my pills and do everything I have to do to stay well.
Because as famous depressive, the late Winston Churchill said: "If you are going through hell, keep on going."
Happiness - I'm not close today, but I am trying.

Lifeline provides crisis support and chat 24 hours a day on 131114 or go to

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Simply magical

Brisbane gave Cavalia a standing ovation last night, as the world's largest travelling show had it's national premiere here.
36 of the globe's most talented artists, acrobats, dancers and riders cavorted with 44 breathtaking horses, in a show billed as A Magical Encounter Between Human And Horse.
And it was.
I'd wondered how Cavalia's founder and artistic director Normand Latourelle would bring his dream alive.
A 50 metre stage large enough for horses to gallop at full speed, at times running free, allowed the dream burst into life. The action was set against a 60-metre-wide digital backdrop, that at times leant a fairytale-esque air to the show.
Sometimes it was hard to know where to look: Simultaneously to the sides, back, front, and above the stage, actors and horses performed. And guests at the front occasionally got sand kicked in their faces or got snowed on!
Occasionally the action dragged a little, but the camaraderie between humans and horse, the skills, and the gifted musicians, including a haunting Pamela Boyer on vocals, seamlessly made up for that.
I could watch it again and again.
For details go to

Disclosure: Maid In Australia received two free tickets to Cavalia for the purposes of this review.

Pre-show dinner with a bunch of beautiful bloggers and their partners at Indian Mehfil Toombul. Delicious!
Trick riding in Cavalia
After the show ...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Human and Horse

I got a sneak peak at Cavalia yesterday, and my goodness, it’s the best thing I’ve seen in forever.

Billed as a Magical Encounter Between Human and Horse , it is really something which is difficult to describe.

In fact, the production is so moving that a bit of water might have gotten into my eye on a few occasions, or perhaps that was an allergy. Yes, I think there were a few allergies around at the media preview.

A tit bit first: Cavalia is the world’s largest travelling show, but never before has it set up in a city as wet as Brisbane. So much for the Sunshine State!

And for the “awww” moment: Two Queensland colts have been handpicked for their spot in the limelight – and a chance at equine fame – to star as babies in the show.

Six-month-old Showman and Glory were a little nervous at first, but bonded as soon as they entered their shared stable. “It was a mateship,” says Gold Coast-born stable director Donna Morton, who nabbed the prized role after an initial skype interview.

Then she was invited to fly to San Diego to watch the show, and she’s been managing the equestrian side of the event ever since. Her role includes accessing feed, assisting her VIP clients through quarantine, and finding a happy place for them to ‘chill out’ in-between shows.

Showman will return to his human family after the show, and Glory will be adopted out.

Another Gold Coaster in the show is gymnast Bianca Ruyssenaers. The 19-year-old gymnast, trapeze artist, bungee artist, and dancer is making a triumphant return to Queensland shores for the Australian premiere, and can’t wait to perform for her parents and brother Zane.

“Zane was actually a gymnast and he was four years older than me, and I just wanted to be like him,” she recalls. “So I started gymnastics at three, loved it, was good at it, and kept going.”

Though Zane eventually gave the sport up, Becky persisted, even attending St Hilda’s School because of their gymnastics program.

“There were sacrifices, sure,” she says. “Training 23-24 hours a week, and saying no to parties. But look at the rewards now! I have no regrets.”

She represented Australia in gymnastics at 15, and got her start performing as a pirate at Sea World. At 18, she was travelling around and performing in Asia.

But last year, she got the call for Cavalia and “left in a week”.

“I love it,” she says. “It’s just so exciting. The cast themselves are so amazing, but to have the horses too – it’s definitely different working with horses.”

Becky is looking forward to returning to her family home on the Gold Coast and catching up with her friends.

“You travel the world, but the Gold Coast is always home,” she says.
Cavalia opens under the White Big Top in Brisbane in the parking lot adjacent to DFO at Brisbane Airport on March 6, and will run in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. For details go to or call 1800 765 955.

Showman, left, and Glory, right
Bianca Ruyssenaers

Friday, March 1, 2013

Thai Tonic

One day in Thailand, we were wandering along the alleys of the old town at the Ancient City near Bangkok, when we came across a herbal medicine shop.
A long time fan of all things alternative, I was immediately interested.
The locals in our group explained that the herbs were taken in teas or whiskeys, and promised to cure everything from impotence to flatulence.
For a few baht, we could try a sampler.
The men folk tried a tea that promised to enhance their virility and, ahem, libido.
I went for a concoction that would aid my sleep and ease my arthritic aches and pains.
The tea was pleasant to taste, with a warming sensation as I drank. I was told it probably contained alcohol as well!
I decided against taking any back with me, since Australian Customs would be sure to nab it, but I did sleep well that night. (I asked the men if their tea had any effect on their sleep - or otherwise - but their answers are classified).
Readers, do you like to try local remedies when you travel?