Saturday, January 26, 2013

Does your face lie?


"You look sad," I was told the other day.

I didn't feel particularly sad.

But I didn't feel particularly happy either.

My daughter often asks me:

'What's wrong Mummy? Are you worried?" When I am not particularly.

Is it getting older, or is it the fact that, over time and this pursuit of happiness, I've stopped smiling as an automatic feature. Do I need a truckload of botox or do I need to reset my Default Expression to Happy? As opposed to 'perplexed', 'confused', or 'Permantly Weighed Down By The Demands Of Life'. Because that is how it feels some days.

It used to be that I was known for my smile, sense of humour, and my infectious laughter, particularly when I was younger. In fact, it often got me into trouble, for laughing at the wrong time, and playing pranks when I shouldn't.

But these days, my automatic mode setting seems be set on Exhausted. And clearly it shows.

Luckily, I do not always feel this way, even if my face lies!

I still practise Mindfulness and find it helps to centre* me, and help me focus on the present. And that's often a calming thing - unless the kids are in the middle of World War Three and the temperature is nudging 40 (celcius)! And it reminds me of the little things in life that are awesome too.

Like:

 *My new Twitter knickers. Okay, they are not actually Twitter undies. They are $3 panties I got from Best and Less, but they have birds on them, and they are Twitter undies if I say they are.

I'm not going to posr a photo because some things should remain private!

* This fucking new ad for adventure travel company Gecko's. Gecko's have rebranded their website, marketing and brochure with  irreverent imagery, quirky descriptions and the new tagline: "May your heart be light, your step swift and your stories fucking epic".


Head of marketing Kirsten Cameron says the move makes the brand stand out in the adventure travel sector, using language that suits its style of travel and resonates with its audience.

I'm already a fan of their travel tour itineraries, which are like none other. For example, on the Amazon-Incas 'River Deep, Mountain High, Jungly, Very Jungly' tour, comes this gem:
'Amazon animals to avoid: poison dart frogs, piranhas, anacondas, jaguars, vipers, caimans, tarantulas. We could go on but we’re starting to freak ourselves out. Quick, everybody think about sloths. Awwwww.'

* It's long been a special treat on a long, hot drive' or after a school or sporting milestone. But in the past, and as a member of the Boombah-battling club, I've looked on longingly as the kids have slurped on their delicious Seven Eleven Slushees. Full of forbidden sugar, how could I dare indulge?
And then the other day, I discovered Zilched. Happy sob.
It is a 1% sugar version of the Seven Eleven Slushee. It is full of icy flavour and I love it. Currently mango flavour, like all low-sugar drinks, there is a slight after taste. However, the flavour is good enough that I don't mind it at all.
Plus, there is flavour through until the end of the ice.
It gives me just enough of a kick to get through a long hot day, particularly if we've been swimming or to the park, or if I'm on a long drive. And I don't have to worry about the sugar content. Genius.

 
 
* And it goes without saying, hanging out with my kids, even if they are in the middle of World War 3 and the temperature is nudging 40. I love those not-so-little people. 

 
Readers, what makes you happy? And does your face always reflect the way you feel?


* Australian spelling

This is not a sponsored post. I just fucking like these things, okay?








Thursday, January 17, 2013

They had us at heaven


We discovered the Paradise Resort on the Gold Coast quite by accident.

We’d tried to book into another resort on the Glitter Strip, but that accommodation spot’s online booking system wasn’t actually working.

And when I rang them to see if we could get the special online price by booking over the phone, the answer was no.

So we winged it instead.

Driving towards the original resort, which I'd hoped might honour our attempted booking anyway, we passed the Paradise Resort, Surfers Paradise, and the kids immediately squealed with delight.

“Is this the place Mum? Is it?” they chorused.

The colourful waterpark was what drew their attention, while the slogan ‘Paradise For Kids, Heaven For Parents’ caught mine.

That and the fact that I’d heard of the resort before and knew they regularly held specials.

We drove in, asked for and received a standby deal, and were soon relaxing by the pool.

Correction.

I was relaxing by the pool, as the kids threw themselves onto the waterslides and into all the action of the water park, pool and spa.

Bliss.
And all thoughts of the original resort and their annoying online booking system glitch disappeared. The Paradise Resort had us at 'heaven'.

Since then we’ve had several mini-breaks at the Paradise Resort and always found it to be an ideal getaway for our little family.

At just a little over an hour’s drive from our Brisbane home, it’s stress-free as far as getaways go. There is no time for anyone to get car sick, and we're checking in before someone asks if we're there yet. 

Immediately, we switch to holiday mode. Paradise Resort is one of those self-contained places where you could be anywhere, but for the fact that Surfers Paradise beach is a short walk away if you fancy it.

Guilty secret: We never have. We’ve been quite content to hang out at the resort, because there is so much to do there. Or nothing at all. As you wish.

One of the highlights for parents is the Zone 4 Kids kids’ club. One free four-hour session per child is usually included in the room rate.

I have to admit that while this is and was a huge drawcard for me, my kids haven’t been fans. They’ve been to Z4K twice now: Once to a day session, and giving it another try with new-found resort friends, to an evening session.

Each time, they found the entertainment boring, the food ($8 extra) lacklustre, and asked the staff phone me to come and get them early.

The resort is soon to get a teen zone presumably to address this problem, as the younger kids seem to love it. 

No worries though, because my kids’ favourite activities are held around the pool, and involve supervised fun games like mini-olympics, jelly eating competitions, duck races, and ball throwing.

There are prizes like ice-blocks for the winners, and all that is required is for me to keep a lazy eye on the kids: Giving permission, supervising sunscreen, taking photos, praising jelly-eating prowess, and occasionally joining them for a water slide or a swim as required, much to their delight.

In between, I get to doze a little, read the paper or a good book, and spend time with the kids whenever I’m judged cool enough to be seen with. (Read: Their friends are dragged off by their own parents for Quality Family Time or sent to kids’ club so the grown ups can have some Time 4 Fun. Half their luck).

Until the recent arrival of the Southern Hemisphere’s first permanent resort ice-skating rink – a wonder we’ve yet to experience – the hotel’s main attraction was the main waterslide/play area. There is a separate area for older kids, and one for the little ones. There are slides, cannons, climbing nets, and giant water buckets for hours of splastacular fun.

There’s also a lagoon-style pool and spa for older kids and adults.

If you’re there on a Saturday night or on certain nights during school holidays, there are movies under the stars, where staff put out deckchairs, and you can order takeaway pizza, popcorn and hotdogs for dinner whilst watching family favourites on the big screen.

It’s all very relaxed.

A word of warning though: This is a family resort, so expect it to be over-run by kids and families having fun.

The rooms aren’t posh, the beds aren’t particularly comfortable, and there is no pillow service.

There is no room service either. The closest thing is ordering a pizza and soft drink deal and collecting it yourself from the bistro.

On each occasion, we’ve found the meals, except for the pizza, tired and uninspiring. We prefer to go further afield for fresh and tasty food, although the pizza is yummy.

On the plus side, the prices and serves are generous.

On each visit something has gone wrong.

On one occasion, Chase, then 11, was allowed to order himself and sign off on eggs benedict for breakfast whilst I was taking his sister to the bathroom. I came back to find him eating like a King.

If he’d asked me I would have allowed him to order a meal and it was reasonably priced. Plus, he ate the lot, but it was the principle of the thing. A child should never have been allowed to order and sign for a meal using room charge. And although the staff admitted the mistake, they did not refund the price of the meal, which surely would have been fair.

On the plus side, after my complaint, when my son tried his trick again next time, the server questioned his age, and did not allow it!

The Wi Fi, which is free around the pool, has only worked during one visit, so hopefully this is something they are working on.

On one occasion, we were upgraded to a Junior Bunkhouse room, and my goodness, these are worth the extra money if you can afford them.

The rooms feature a self-contained bunk area for the kids, which affords the adults – and kids – some privacy. The bunks come complete with TV and playstation for the kids, and a place for them to hang out.

There’s also a microwave and video/game hire, which is not included in standard rooms.

The resort is also working on a Chill Zone for teens, including fooz ball and snow boarding, so it’s likely to become an even cooler place to hang out with the family.

We never mind too much about the rooms – we’re only there to sleep after all – and are focused on enjoying the fun in and around the resort during our waking hours.

Another bonus, is that checking out but being allowed to stay on and linger to enjoy the facilities seems to be almost encouraged, which is lovely, allowing you to extend your stay that little bit longer.

We’ll be back.
There’s an ice-rink that’s calling our names, and I predict the atmosphere will be positively chilly.
And during Queensland's summer holidays, you've got to love that!

*Maid In Australia booked and paid for her own accommodation and meals at the Paradise Resort

A sneaky eggs benedict - but delicious and affordable at $11.50


A dip in the 'big' pool


A bit concerned that they have to remind guests that swimmers or swim nappies must be worn. Lucky they reminded us ... only kidding!


The kids loved the constant activities ...


Resort mascots Captain and Cleopatra gave Harmonie a warm welcome

Friday, January 4, 2013

How The Other Half Holiday

Have you ever wondered how the other half live? Or indeed holiday?

I often envy those who head off to the pointy end of planes, or to the highest floor of hotels, where, in a lifetime long ago, I may once have been destined to end up, too.

Instead I grumble with the rest of the hoards in the economy area of the plane, or check into the bargain-basement priced rooms of the hotel. Here, my gentle requests for aioli with room service fries are ignored, and the concierges look like they would rather park themselves in the eyes than park my crappy car. (Can't say I blame them for that one). On a plane, only a polite request for extra vomit bags for an actively regurgitating child seems to spur anyone into action on my behalf.

And then there is the other half, many of whom have chosen to summer on Queensland's Gold Coast, where an exclusive cluster of five-star hotels and resort vie for attention.

As Australia's unofficial favourite playground for the rich and famous, concierges and other hotel and resort staff are kept busy meeting the needs of VIP guests. And let me tell you, no request is too demanding, indulgent, or unusual.

According to Gold Coast Tourism's Media Development Manager John Kaarsberg, 2012 guest requests ranged from romantic overtures to the more extravagant and out of the ordinary.

In fact, the top 10 special requests made of Gold Coast’s exclusive five-star hotels in 2012 involved staff being: 
1. Asked to purchase alpacas for a Middle Eastern royal family.
2. An overseas visitor asked if he could organise a day trip to visit Sydney, Melbourne, Alice Springs and the Great Barrier Reef all in the same day!
3. Staff organised a private jet for the Argentine Polo team to fly from Gold Coast to Malaysia with 6-hours’ notice
4. Booked rooms on different floors for wife and girlfriend
5. An elderly couple looking to renew their wedding vows at the hotel chapel asked two staff members to be bridesmaid and best man. (As regulars to the hotel the couple knew these staff members very well.)
6. Staff organised dinner for two at Gold Coast Hinterland hotspot, Table Mountain. Guests arrived by helicopter where a personal chef, waiter and Spanish guitarist were waiting.
7. A guest left his luxury sports vehicle to be sold by a hotel staffer as he had to unexpectedly leave the country
8. A unique wedding proposal, with a gentleman proposing to his girlfriend as staff from the resort all wearing t-shirts that spelt out MARRY ME appeared. Meanwhile, a beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow was played on the ukulele by a gentleman that 'just appeared to be walking by'.
9. Exclusive use of the gym for various celebrities
Other more common requests of Gold Coast hotels included:
• Unpack suitcases and hang clothes
• Run a warm bubble bath
• Arrange flowers for wife/girlfriend (or both)
• Arrange rose petals and candles on the bed
• Cook dinner in the room
• Arrange high protein foods and menus for athletes
• Arrange birthday cakes
• Stay in a certain room on a certain floor every stay
 
Readers, have you ever asked for and received something indulgent during a hotel stay?
 
I remember breakfast being wheeled in during a stay at The Savoy in London, during a period in my life when I was A Princess Who Clearly Didn't Know It. There were two men serving breakfast in bed, and one of them asked if I wanted coffee or tea.
 
"Coffee please," I replied.
 
"Excellent choice M'aam," he replied, serving coffee at my bedside with a flourish.
 
I didn't know whether to be embarassed or impressed.
 
(Impressed. I was impressed. Okay, and a little embarrassed too. But not as embarrassed as when the massage oil dropped out of my backpack, and someone worked out who it belonged to, and it was personally delivered back to me ....)
 
Oh how I dream of such indulgent service now ... but maybe you only get it in London or on the Gold Coast?
 
Readers, where did you last feel extra special?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Baby you're a firework ...

Usually years end and new ones arrive with little fanfare at Chez MIA.
And I’m the first one to grumble that the last one was shite, and the new one has to be better, and then act all surprised when it’s not.

As 2012, a particularly trying year, stumbled painfully to a close, it became particularly important for me to purposely wave it goodbye, and to welcome the New Year with a positive attitude.

And I wanted to share the moment with the kids by doing something we’d never done before; experiencing the fireworks at Brisbane’s South Bank.

Just the kiddy ones, mind –the ones that are thoughtfully put on at 8.30 so that those with kids can go home before the big show at midnight.

It was a milestone we’d never attempted before.

Aspie Mr 11 has never been a fan of fireworks, mainly because of the noise, lights, sensory overload, and crowds. Not to mention the hassle of getting there early, and waiting for the show to start. But Miss 9 has dearly wanted to go for years, and we felt it was time, since next year the kids are due to be with their Dad for New Year’s Eve.

Mr 11’s anxiety levels were quite high at crowded South Bank, where moods were understandably buoyant. And the waiting was actually quite drawn out and a bit boring, so we wandered onto the Goodwill Bridge, which was much better.

There was more room, and we found being on the water much more spacious and calming. And the views, overlooking boats io the river and across to the city and South Bank, were amazing.

“Mum they’re magical,” said Chase,  when the fireworks began. All thoughts of crowds were forgotten as he took in the show. Harmonie loved it too.

I knew I’d made the right call to stick to the early fireworks when the kids turned the lights out at 11.45 pm – they just couldn’t last until midnight.

But as I waited for the New Year to arrive I was glad we’d done something memorable to say goodbye to 2012 and welcome 2013, instead of being boring and staying at home on my lonesome.
Maybe it won't make a difference to how 2013 goes, but it felt nice to embrace the New Year, and if nothing else, we made more priceless family memories.

Readers, do you make a big deal about New Year?
 
 
Ready for Fireworks ...
 
 
Missy on the Goodwill Bridge
 
 
The Man Child wouldn't consent to a photo on the night, so here he is tucking into a Transvylanian breakfast at Brisbane's Rocklea Markets a few days earlier