Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And the beat goes on

So the Man Child arrived home from camp, and to my surprise, he had survived.
Okay, the entire group came down with gastro - I dread to think what the long bus ride home was like - so Chase wasn't exactly healthy.
He was sunburnt and exhausted after a week of outdoor activity and little sleep.
But he was home, and clearly not traumatised in any shape or form.
His abs were rock-hard after a week of swimming, sailing, stand-up paddle-boarding, body-boarding, hiking and more. And he'd popped his shoulder, after someone fell on him, he told me cheerfully.
Half his (new and expensive) belongings appeared to be Missing In Transit (they later turned up at school thankfully). And his suitcase was broken and half full of sand.
Somehow, in the space of a week, he'd picked up an English accent too. Hmm ...
Anyway, the little man was home and he'd enjoyed his week away.
His sister had enjoyed some 'Chasely-Free Time', as she put it, too.
We spent some girl time together, watching videos, having baths and DIY beauty treatments, and Missy presided over afternoon tea with the pets.
Harmonie loved getting her say when it came to meal-times, requesting the foods that fussy-eater Chase wasn't fond of, like Japanese curry, pea and ham soup, and Dominos pizza. (He likes home-made pizza, just not the takeaway version).
After a quiet weekend, catching up on sleep, Chase was back to normal, and if not raring to return to school, at least ready to leave on time.
And I wondered what I had worried about!

Harmonie and Lucy enjoy afternoon tea

Kit Kat got high

Hannah hung out with the girls

Harmonie and I enjoyed dinner out, just the two of us.

And before we knew it, the sunkissed young man was back! 

Readers, have you ever worried about something for nothing?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A giveaway with heart!

It’s been a few weeks into my Mum’s United Heart Foundation challenge and I’ve been enjoying it.
The campaign is all about encouraging Australians to get healthier the easy way.
The idea is that we don't have to make difficult and expensive changes to our lifestyle – which are therefore often short-lived; but by making small, inexpensive changes. Which then hopefully become a part of life.
For us, that’s been surprisingly easy.
We started by making some treats from the Heart Foundation website.

The strawberry muffins – modified to suit what we had in our pantry, blueberries – were an instant hit. The kids at the morning tea we baked them for wolfed them down and we had had to rescue a few for the grandparents! We didn't use the almonds in the recipe either, because Chase is allergic.

We made a mixture of big and small muffins, and they were delicious!

The next day, Harmonie experimented by making another batch, but this time baking the mixture into a loaf. It was moist and delicious and just took a little longer in the oven.
Another challenge was finding healthier versions of our favourite foods.
As Mr 12 edges closer towards teenage-dom, he has developed an overwhelming love of KFC.
He’s a health-conscious child and knows he shouldn’t eat it often, so he’s been at me to come up with a home-cooked, healthier version of his favourite chicken treat.

“Ask your foodie friend if she knows how to make it,” he begged.
My 'foodie friend' is blogging legend Lorraine Elliott, of NotQuiteNigella fame. 
I like to boast that I've loved her blog from before she was famous, and Chase was right, she was the perfect person to ask.
Indeed, she replied that she did have a couple of recipes for chicken that might pass for a reasonable version of KFC!
This is the one we tried ... 
Ours turned out looking like this:

It was quite nice, but as Chase said, didn't really fill the Kentucky Fried Chicken craving. And to be honest, I didn't enjoy cleaning up the kitchen afterwards either!

However, we did have fun buying the ingredients and making it together, and it felt good to add a new recipe to our repertoire. 

We also found a salt-reduced version of family favourite cottage pie on the Heart Foundation website. This one is a good way to get extra veggies into our diet without adding too much salt.

Ours looked like this, and we didn't notice any big difference in taste. The kids still cleaned their plates.

Served with a chunk of crusty bread

Speaking of bread, Chase has been making his own recently.

We don't have a bread maker, so he does it by hand using recipes we google off the internet.

It's surprisingly good.

He makes it at night, and leaves it in his room, which is heated, to rise overnight. It's lovely to have for breakfast the next morning.

This was the first batch he made, so it doesn't look as pretty as it can look. He sometimes makes little dinner rolls too. 

We've made other changes too, like incorporating a family walk into our day - though we've had to put that on hold for a while as Harmonie recovers from shingles. She gets aches and pains in her legs and joints, and incredibly tired, and sometimes she's too worn out after a day at school. But we enjoy it when she's up to it. 

And we make healthy choices when shopping by choosing Heart Foundation 'tick' products. The tick means foods must meet strict nutrition standards which limits bad things like saturated and trans fats, salt and excess kilojoules, and includes more good things like calcium or fibre. 

We feel like we're a healthier family as a result, and best of all, we're spending more quality time together, exercising, shopping for ingredients, and cooking.

On a recent break away with the kids, I even joined in activities I'd planned for the kids when I'd normally just watch and take photos. 

Why should the kids have all the fun?

Now it's time for you to enjoy getting healthier! Thanks to Mums United and the Heart Foundation, I have a $200 supermarket voucher to give away. To win, simply make sure you're a liker of my Facebook page leave a comment below and share a simple way you've made your life or you family's lives healthier.  The winner will be drawn at 5 pm on Monday September 2. Good luck!

The competition has closed and the winner was MitchVee. Congratulations. Please contact me so I can organise for your prize to be sent to you. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Time for camp - and a mother's worries

I put the Man Child on a bus to camp this morning.
I held it together until I saw his little face getting smaller as the bus drove away from me.
"Mum, I knew you were going to cry," Harmonie giggled, putting her hand in mine as we walked back to the car.
My emotions are famous at Chez MIA.
I've been known to cry at television commercials. I teared up when Chase recently got a new shirt and pants from a men's clothing store, and I realised, with a shock, how grown up he was becoming. I emptied a tissue box when Patrick from Offspring died. So the kids were pretty sure my eyes would leak when Chase went off to camp.
It's not that going to camp is new.
Lucky Mr 12 has been to a few camps in his time, but this will be the longest he's been away - and the furtherest trip, five hours with a stop for lunch.
We've spent a fortune buying all the things he needed - rashies, boardies, pyjamas, wet shoes, new thongs, labelled versions of the medication he's on, and even a tie for 'etiquette night'. Bags have been packed, and sleeps counted down.
I know he'll have an awesome time - he loves the water, and most of the activities will be based around the sea and the creek.
But he gets motion sick, and I worry he'll be sick on the bus. He has trouble sleeping and I'm concerned he won't get enough sleep in a dorm with six other kids.
He can be a picky eater, and what if he doesn't get enough to eat? Has an allergic reaction? Forgets to drink enough water? Or to reapply sunscreen?
I know, I'm such a worrier! Do other parents do this or is it just me?
And I always get emotional at milestones like these, because I feel a niggling sense of unrest, that I am doing this on my own.
I never signed up to be a single parent.
I'm not the only solo parent at school by any means, but, as I saw couples farewelling their children, I certainly felt a sense of loss that I was seeing my child off on my own. That Chase didn't have his mother and his father with him to experience this moment with him. Was he missing out?
It's been 3 1/2 years since my marriage to the childrens' father broke up, but it's still hard to get used to the idea that I'm a solo parent.
We are certainly a solid, happy family unit with rich lives full of love. But it's moments like these that I worry that I've failed them.
And then I wonder if that's just my expectations. And that the kids aren't bothered at all.
Certainly, leaving the house this morning, Chase seemed happy enough.
"Don't worry Mum, I'll be back in a week," he said. "You probably won't even notice I'm gone."
Oh I'll notice, son. I'll notice.
And yes, I will probably worry.
I'm a mother. It comes with the job.
Doesn't it?

 A billion and one things were needed for camp ...

A last cuddle before boarding the bus. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Doctor down under!

Confession: I never liked Dr Who.
When I was a little girl, the first episodes I saw freaked me the hell out, and scarred me for life.
Or so I thought.
Recently, the kids' Dad gifted them with the entire series 5 set of DVDs. They've always liked watched Dr Who, so I thought I better join in and see what the fuss was all about.
In spite of myself, I really liked it. The Dr Who as played by Matt Smith seemed cooler than the ones I remembered, and the story lines much more engaging. And of course, the special effects these days are pretty fab. I wasn't really grossed out at all, and Chase would warn me to look away for any scary scenes he knew were coming up. (Yeah, I know, I'm a wimp!)
So, we were interested recently when the new Dr Who was announced - Peter Capaldi in case you've been living under a rock!
Even better, The Doctor is coming to Queensland - in the form of The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
To be staged on February 8 next year, at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, the show is based on the recent Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Proms in the UK.
The spectacular will feature 22 incredible monsters, including the spine-chilling Silence, Daleks and Cybermen, Vampire Girls and more.
The technical mastery, scale of production and complexity of arrangements represents one of the biggest events in the history of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
It's said to be a musical celebration of the iconic BBC series, and will showcase Murray Gold's captivating music, and a big screen featuring specially edited sequences of Matt Smith's performance as the Eleventh Doctor.

Can you wait? My kids can't!

What an awesome way to get kids into the orchestra too.

Details: Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular
Date:              Saturday 8 February at 7.30pm
Venue:          Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Tickets:          Adult tickets from $76.80
Bookings:     132 849 or visit

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shingles are in

It's been a testing few weeks at Chez MIA.
I don't know if I mentioned that the kids brought back a nasty lurgy from their holiday in Darwin.
Usually they pick up quickly from any bug or injury - you know what kids are like - but this time it's hung around for ages.
Poor Miss 10 has been particularly knocked around, and at one stage, had to endure blood tests for all kind of nasties. Thankfully, all the likely suspects were ruled out, but that left us none the wiser as to what was causing her sore throat, headaches, temperatures, upset tummies, and aches and pains.
Then last Thursday a rash appeared on her tummy. At first it looked like an irritation where her school uniform may have rubbed, but when it was worse on Friday, I tried to get her into the doctor.
That's the worst thing about living in country Queensland. Doctors are scarce, and the first appointment wasn't until Monday at 5 pm.
And it was just a tiny rash, not more than a few centimetres across. Even our pharmacist wasn't sure what it was, but advised taking her to the doctor if it got any worse.
Anyway, Harmonie didn't seem any sicker than usual, and she even went to school as we're very conscious about not having too many days off.
We had a lovely weekend, although on Sunday night Harmonie complained of having more aches and pains than usual, particularly in her back and legs. Funnily enough, on the right hand side, the same side as the rash, that was looking more like little blisters now. Her face was very flushed, and her right eye was sore too.
She was so sleepy and looked so ill the next morning, I let her stay in bed.
When we finally saw the doctor, he took one look at the rash and said: Shingles.
Apparently, Harmonie was a classic case, and all the symptoms fell into place. The rash apparently followed a nerve line.
Though we'd vaccinated Chase against the childhood illness, Harmonie had contracted chicken pox as a baby, before she'd been old enough for the vaccine.
Now the virus had laid dormant in her body until her immune system had been compromised - by the virus she'd brought home from Darwin - and attacked.
Chase will be immune thanks to his vaccination, and the disease can only be spread to unvaccinated people by contact with the actual liquid inside the blisters.
Harmonie's been kept home from school while they've been popping - on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as it happens - and has to take it easy while she recovers.
I feel bad that I didn't know the rash was shingles, but then no one else I showed it to - the pharmacist, and several other Mums - recognised it either.
To be honest, I thought it would be bigger, more like measles or chicken pox rashes. Now I will always recognise it!
Because we were so clueless, Harmonie agreed it would be good to post about her illness and include some pics we took of her rash. If we can somehow stop someone else going through all this, that would be fab.
There's no medicine she can take to cure her shingles - though if we'd been able to see the doctor the first day we saw the rash, she'd have been able to take some medication that would have made the symptoms less severe. She just has to drink plenty of fluids, take painkiller, and rest as much as possible.
She's found oatmeal baths soothing too.
Another point is that shingles is rare in young children, but as Harmonie has shown, not completely unlikely.
The worst thing is that now Harmonie has had shingles, she'll be susceptible to getting it whenever she is run down, ill, or stressed, for the rest of her life.
So our message is if you suspect you or someone else has shingles, get to your doctor or a hospital as soon as possible, so you can take the medication which will help you get better much faster.

The rash the day it appeared

This one gives you an idea of how big/small it actually was! 

The rash once the blisters started popping - when it was actually contagious.

Resting in the winter sun with faithful furry friend Lucy has helped

As has ice-cream. And lots of it.
This is Groovy Gumdrops, the kids' favourite ice-cream from New Zealand. We found it at Wondai IGA, the first-time we have seen it since New Zealand.

Readers, what makes you feel better when you are ill? And have you any tips for coping with shingles? 

Friday, August 2, 2013

My prosperity ...

I’m not good with numbers.

As a freelance journalist, I made a very good writer. But something happened to my brain when confronted with invoices and BAS statements, and I suddenly got all very muddled.

My relationship with numerals has just grown from bad to worse in recent years. Like a lot of single parents, I struggle to pay the bills, and unexpected medical or motor vehicle expenses are crippling. A school camp, new shoes, not to mention the fact that I'd like do or buy something fun for a change … Let’s just say there’s a fair bit of juggling that goes on where money is concerned.

And for a woman who once owned her own home and was reasonably financially comfortable, I think: What the hell happened?

That’s why I was thrilled to get the chance to trial a free product called My Prosperity.

My Prosperity is an online tool that securely links your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, super, shares, property, car and more, all in one place.

Knowing my problems with figures – and with IT – I thought I’d find the site difficult to navigate, particularly adding accounts and things. But My Prosperity basically walks you through it, does what it says it will do, and adds the different accounts and super or whatever, from all the different places where they are held, and puts them right where you can see them.

If you’re feeling brave, you can have it calculate your net worth – and taking into account insurance and assets, you might find you’re worth more than you think! If you’re not, there are ways to increase your wealth, quickly and relatively easily.

My Prosperity will also automatically organise your spending into categories, so you can easily see exactly where your money is going.

So basically it’s a budget but I don’t think it’s ever been so easy to DIY, or so quick.  You’ll see exactly how much you spend on groceries, petrol, or medications, and connect all your financial accounts together – regardless of which bank they are with.

I also got an instant valuation for my car, and the site will do the same for homes.  

There are also tools for setting goals, savings and more.

I know this sounds like an ad, but I’m just so thrilled to have found something that has made it easy for me to do my own budget, and understand where I’m doing well and where I need to improve, that I want to share it with everyone.

To try it, just go to My Prosperity and register. You can take your time filling in the information if its too daunting to do in one go, all from the comfort of home or work. 
And it's free! 

(Gosh, this totally does sound like an ad ... and it's not!

So you know it's still Bronnie here and not a spambot, I also like:

* Good coffee

* The staff at EB Games who are ever so nice to my kids, and always so knowledgeable about the games they sell

* Puppy breath

* That my daughter wrote that she wanted to go to see Australian author Jackie French because she wanted to be a writer 'like my Mum' and Jackie French might inspire her. If only I was a tiny percentage of the writer Jackie French was, I'd be happy. But bless her all the same. 

* Having enough money to pay for everything we need.)