Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lunch box love

 This is a sponsored post 
As the countdown to the return to school began, tensions began to rise.
There were tantrums, tears, and meltdowns - and that was just from me! 
And the biggest cause of stress? School lunches!
After a delightful few weeks where the kids could eat pretty much whenever and whatever they wanted, I realised I would once again be challenged with the task of filling small packages of healthy but yummy food that would carry them through the day. Food that would actually be eaten, and not returned at the end of the day, stinky and soggy.
Mr 13 has always been a challenge in the food department. With his serious food allergies, and ASD sensory issues, his choices are limited.
He's never liked sandwiches, and anything in the nuts or tree nuts department is immediately ruled out, due to anaphylaxis. His sister has also tested positively to tree nut allergies so she has to stay away from them as well. To top it off, she recently decided she hates bread too. 
While I'm hardly an obsessive lunchbox Mum, I do admit to cutting sandwiches into cute shapes when they were toddlers - just to encourage them to try bread once again. This was before it was trendy and there were special sandwich cutters. I just used biscuit cutters instead. 
But it was wasteful and time consuming. And the novelty quickly wore off. For all of us. 
Sometimes I make sushi, because it's something both kids love. But that's time consuming and messy in the morning, when you just want to get everyone out of the house on time. 
Plus there's the challenge of keeping everything cold until lunch time in the Queensland heat.
These days, I tend to stick to chicken salad wraps, crackers with cheese or vegemite, home-made snacks, and fruit.
They always get water, and usually a popper. 
My two won't eat yoghurt at school, and they've never gone for the pasta salads, frittatas, savoury muffins and other recipes suggested by so many magazines and parenting websites for kids’ lunches.
They will occasionally eat leftovers at school - Harmonie loves curry, spaghetti bolognaise, and noodles - and the children both like soup in winter.
I’m not perfect, and I don’t always have home-made snacks ready to go, particularly as we get towards the end of the week and stocks get low. So I keep an eye out for yummy things I can pop into the lunch bags at the last minute to brighten their meals and help them through their day.
The nut thing rules out most muesli bars, and I’m not big a fan of chips, commercially-made biscuits, or so-called fruit snacks.
So I was interested when SunRice sent us some of their SunRice Mini Bites to try.
These are delicious, bite-size rice cakes, seasoned with tasty natural flavours and packed with whole grains for goodness. They have less fat than regular potato chips, so I don’t have to feel guilty when I slip then into the lunch box with some cheese, dip and carrot sticks. (Okay, only Harmonie eats the carrot sticks, but I’m hopeful Chase will one day!)
SunRice Mini Bites’ wholegrain and nutritional content makes them National Healthy School Canteen Amber compliant. And one pack contains almost 70 per cent of the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council’s recommended daily intake of wholegrain for toddlers, and around 40 per cent of the target intake for 4 - 9 year olds.  
They are available in three flavours: Spooky Original, Devilish Chicken and Creepy Cheese.
My kids loved the chicken ones the most, while my neighbour’s younger children enjoyed the cheese flavour the best.
SunRice Mini Bites are available in the Woolworths’ health food aisle.
Thankfully, my kids have started to help make their own lunches, and these little snack packs are often one of the first thing they reach for after their wraps are made.

What are your kids like when it comes to school lunches? And do you ever stress over the contents? 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The one where I found a lump ...

I was packing the car during my adventures over the summer holidays, when, with my usual grace (ahem), I bumped into the door.
"Fuck!" "Ouch," I said, and massaged the area. And that's when I felt it.
A lump in my left breast.
Quite hard, and quite there. Unmistakable.
I didn't panic. I knew the chances were that the lump would probably be okay.
But it was still a bit of a confronting moment.
As a journalist and former health writer, I'd interviewed loads of women about similar moments. I knew that 9 out of 10 lumps weren't cancerous (Source: The Breast Cancer Network of Australia). But as was the way of the media, the lumps that I'd written about had always been the nasty kinds.
Because of Christmas and New Year, my country GP had shut down for a few weeks. A GP was on call for emergencies.
Was a breast change an emergency? Should I go to the local hospital ER? I wasn't sure. Besides, we had family visiting and things were busy.
In the end, I decided to wait until I could go to my former medical centre in Brisbane, because I figured if there was a problem, I'd need to go to Brisbane anyway.
I couldn't see my usual GP (damn), but a saw another one I liked and had seen before. He recommended a mammogram and ultrasound, and possibly biopsy after that.
He wanted me to get it done while I was in Brisbane, straight away if possible.
A ring-around determined there was no chance of that - everywhere I rang was booked up for ages.
(And again, my mind was put at ease. If it was really serious, I assumed the GP would have organised something faster, right? So everything must be okay...)
Then I found out the Breastscreen Queensland mobile van was in Kingaroy. And I could have a mammogram there in 24 hours.
Except they couldn't do an ultrasound. If I needed one of those, it would have to be done later, in my nearest city, Toowoomba.
(I've since found out, from local ladies who know, that I should have gone to the Wesley clinic in Brisbane. Apparently, women can get everything done, including mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy if required, on the one day. And come out with a diagnosis in the end. But of course, you pay for this convenience and efficiency, ending up several hundred dollars out of pocket. And I probably would have had to wait a while to get in there too.)
Anyway, the Breastscreen Queensland mobile van is a fab service which travels to country Queensland, saving women at least one trip to the city for a mammogram.
Breastscreen usually recommends annual screens for women who have a strong family history of breast cancer, or who have had previous breast cancer. It's also obviously an amazing service for people like me, who are experiencing breast changes. And, women over the age of 40 are offered free screens every two years.
There's always a lot of talk about how painful mammograms are, and to be honest, they're not fun. But honestly, it's a walk in the park compared to many medical tests.
The x-rays are taken standing up so they recommend you wear a two-piece outfit for your modesty for the procedure. (You aren't given a gown at the mobile van).
It's a bit awkward in that you take off your top and bra, and are then manipulated in front of a machine which then basically squeezes your boob as hard as can be so a picture can be taken.
But it's over quickly, and with a minimum of fuss.
Tips? You're not allowed to wear deodorant or perfume, as it can cause confusing images on the mammogram.
I was in and out in about 15 minutes, and the whole thing, from walking into the van to finish took about 30.
I think the worst part of the process was that, my breasts weren't actually examined on the day, and my lump didn't even get a look in. Neither did the referral my doctor gave me.
This is normal practice though.
They only do the mammograms at Breastscreen Queensland. Then, the x-rays are looked at two radiographers, and maybe a third.
They weren't going to do an ultrasound just because my doctor wanted one, but would wait to see what the results indicated.
However, I was told it was common to be recalled for an examination, and not to 'freak out' if that happened to me.
I'll know within two weeks if anything more needs to be done, and the waiting is frustrating.
It's a niggle in the back of my mind, and I just want to know it's fine. And if it's not, I want it to be treated.
As soon as possible thank you very much.

To find out about Breastscreen Queensland and the mobile van, phone 13 20 50. Check with your GP about similar services in other states. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Happy Australia Day, baby

Australia Day is never just Australia Day at our home.
It is also the day my son Chase came into the world, 13 years ago this year.
Despite a nightmare labour, he arrived quite calmly, and proceeded to look at me through wise, curious eyes, as if he'd known me all my life.
As for all parents, my life was turned upside down from that day on. And it still is!
In a world of sore boobs, nappy-changes, milky cuddles, and sleep-deprivation, I always felt Chase taught me how to mother him.
What a curious child he was, this newborn who didn't like to be wrapped; who preferred not to be cuddled to sleep; who was so afraid of loud noises, that even my father's booming-but-kind voice made him cry.
Over the years I've seen him overcome challenges with Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD, and life-threatening allergies. He's had to deal with his Dad and I breaking up, bullies, and several moves (including countries).
There have been life and death moments, heartbreaking decisions, sleepless nights, and fights to be won on his behalf. Sickness, injury, good times, bad. Celebrations, tears. All the stuff that life entails.
I'm so proud of how far he's come - and excited for all the things he has yet to experience.
But for now, this was how we spent his Australia Day birthday:
A sleep-in, of course, and even Chase didn't wake me early for presents. (Mind you, he woke me several times during the night for 'snacks' but that's a growing boy kind of story ...)
Our family tradition is the birthday girl/boy/mum's choice for lunch or dinner. Chase wanted to go to a lovely tavern we'd been to with my family on a previous reunion -  an Irish one, as it happened, set in the middle of a country vineyard. How multicultural/Australian?
No more getting away with a sausage sizzle here.
A few treasured family members came too, and we spent a lovely lunch together at Daisy Hill Vineyard at Moffatdale.
It was the Prendergast Irish Tavern, a really beautiful pub in a gorgeous setting.
As Chase had remembered, the setting was family-friendly, and the menu was honest and delicious - certainly equal to anything in the city, but at country prices. Unfortunately for us, they are closed for the month of February, but will reopen in March, so we will be back for another meal and another game of pool - birthday excuse or not!
Then it was back home, for home-made pavlova cake - by request - and a swim. And an indulgent evening at home.
The little babywho caused so much drama when he was coming into the world, still causes a load of, um, entertainment and other issues, on a daily basis.
But he has taught me so much.
Happy 13th baby. Teen.

Love you to the moon and back. And even more than that.

The specials - yummy!

Games for the young and young at heart

I actually loathe these - but the photo has to be taken, right?

Chase and Uncle Owen about to play pool

This is my kind of dessert selection ...

Seafood chowder.

Fish and chips

 A child's serve of banger's and mash

Fresh salmon made divine

 Baby Chase and I back then ... (Look at how tightly I am gripping onto him!)

And now ...

Happy birthday Chasely. Sometimes you make me cray-cray, but most of the time you make me laugh and open my mind to new things. You were the cutest and quietest baby ever ... what happened?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Give your man a makeover!

This is a sponsored post

2014 is here, yet your man seems to be stuck somewhere around midnight on New Year’s Eve! He’s looking a bit knackered and you’d really like to help get him spruced up without hurting his feelings, and without blowing the budget.
An affordable style makeover doesn’t have to cost a fortune. The following tips combine the latest trends in a commonsense guide, designed to bring out the very best in your guy.
One: Good Taste
Good taste in clothes means far more than money. Purchasing quality clothing is an investment. It’s important to know where to cut back and where to splurge. Additionally, your man needs to dress suitably for his age. While that favourite pair of frayed jeans may be fine around the house, chinos, double-breasted jackets, and leather laced shoes create an appropriate public image.
Two: Great Fit
Proportion, detail, and cut speak louder than words, so look for clothing that is right for your man's build. The best place to start a makeover is with properly fitting shirts, pants, and jackets. Clothes should be tailored, hugging the body, though not too tight. While a slim fit is in style this year, if your man feels ill at ease, it will show. Well-cut clothing needs to suit his look while providing comfort.
Three: Mix and Match
Mix and match… but don’t overdo it! Styles can be combined without over-exaggeration. Keep things simple (usually no more than three colours). Great looking doesn’t imply overdone! A dark shirt with a vest, nice shoes, and a quality leather belt can make a stylish statement without overwhelming.
Four: Proper Grooming
Shaving, regular haircuts, and styling let the world know that your man cares about his appearance. Routine workouts and quality skincare products help to maintain good health and prevent signs of aging. Growing older doesn’t have to detract from your guy’s looks. Fitness and proper care will slow the effects of aging while enhancing his already great looks.
Five: A Great White Shirt
There’s always a place for a sleek white shirt! Dress it up or down with a tie, waistcoat, or stylish pair of jeans. As a general rule, an attractive dress shirt matched with slim well-cut trousers provides an attractively balanced combination.
Six: The Right Shoes
A great pair of shoes shows that your man really cares about his looks. Clean, polished shoes add as much to the overall look as a well-pressed shirt.  If your budget is limited, online stores like Connor offer great prices for quality shoes, adding style to value!
Seven: Accessorize with Intent
Less is more, a few carefully chosen accessories won’t weigh the look down… rather they can complement well-styled clothing. A great new watch, a gold ring, or a simple tie-tack can add interest without overwhelming a look.
Eight: Confidence
Confidence, attitude, good posture, and a healthy outlook do more for a person’s looks than just about anything else. Attitude is as important a detail as a silk tie! Help your guy cultivate his own unique style. His individual fashion sense conveys a great deal about what he values.
Bringing it all Together
Giving your man style makeover doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Bringing out the very best in your partner is a combination of good style sense, well-fitting clothes, and the type of confidence that comes with knowing that he not only looks good… he’s truly one of a kind!

What would you change about your man's style if you could - and why? 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Not beached as ...

And so the holidays continue, and it's been busy since the kids returned home.
The first thing on the agenda, was to celebrate our own family Christmas.
The kids, of course, had spent Christmas with their Dad and his family, but having left the day school ended, we'd had no time to enjoy our own festive fun.
So it was fab to finally open our presents at last! 

And enjoy a special dinner.

Seemingly within minutes the house had been demolished!

And then Harmonie had a gingerbread tree to nail ...

Which she totally did. See?

(Hers is the one in front...)

There were friends and families to catch up with, cups of tea to be made (because Mumma's are the best!), and favourite meals to be inhaled. Anyone would have thought the children had been away for months, not just three weeks. Though I was just as guilty as missing them as much as they had missed me!

And of course, the pets weren't going to miss out on being pampered, Lucy especially.

Lucy being groomed to within an inch of her life ... and loving it! 

I wanted to take the kids to the beach for a break but it turned out they didn't want to go.

"We don't like the sand," said Chase.

"The salt water makes my skin itch," said Harmonie.

Certainly, the last few times we've been to the beach they have a ball, but they insist on going back to our accommodation after every swim/kayak/stand up paddleboading session to shower and 'get clean'. 

Seriously? Who are these kids anyway?

Okay. Mine. Enough said. 

Anyway, they said they were perfectly happy to stay just where they were, thank you very much, at least for a while. I guess an 8000 km return road trip will do that to a kid!

So we're not going to the beach, but we're hoping after a family reunion and a few other adventures, to spend a few days in Brisbane rekindling friendships and getting our city fix before school starts once again. 

So dear followers, did anything happen these holidays that surprised you?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Want a thrill?

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of all her faculties must be in need of sex.
(With apologies to Jane Austin.)
But not all single women want a man. Or have one.
It doesn’t mean they don’t need a bit of a thrill in the bedroom.
It’s true, that single women, like men, have wants, needs and desires.
What girl doesn’t fantasise about a tall, handsome man striding into the house and taking charge of the dirty dishes in the kitchen? Recklessly taking hold of the vacuum cleaner or mop, and not stopping until everything is clean again?  Manfully, taking out the garbage…
Where was I?
Oh yes. Sex. Sometimes, single women just want a little pleasure in their lives. And I’m not just talking about a clean kitchen!
And because they are single - or taken but wanting - some girls need a little help in the orgasm department. 
They might have a self-imposed ban on dating. They might live in an area where the pickings are slim. They might have hooked up with someone who promised all the orgasms in the world, but left them feeling deflated. They may have been hurt and mislead too many times to count, and decided it’s just not worth going there. They might not have time for a relationship. They may be new to the singles world, and know it’s important to take their time re-entering the world of dating. They might be in a relationship and still need a little play time on the side.
So basically, there are itches to scratch … and there are appliances to help. 
Unlike many sex toys, which are aimed at couples, the We-Vibe Thrill is aimed at women on their own.
It’s designed for playful solo sessions, and can be held and manipulated in one hand for easier use.
Made out of supple, hypo-allergenic, non-toxic silicone, it’s guilt-free as well. Phthalate and latex-free, so you’re not putting anything nasty into your body, and did I mention, it’s non-porous? The silicone is medical-grade, and the device is flexible as well. Clearly a bonus.
It’s not just splash-proof, it’s waterproof, so it can be used in the bath or shower. Perfect for those long, relaxing bubbly baths. 
After use, you simply wash it with soap and water. 
So, part of the Thrill is designed to go inside vaginally, giving a feeling of fullness much like the real thing. There's a bump that is meant to stimulate the G-spot. (This is called a G-Spot prong stimulator. Oh my.)
The rest actually rests outside on the clitoris and stimulates it at the same time.
There's a bit at the end where you can switch it on and off with the push of your thumb.
This activates one of eight settings – four vibrational, and four random patterns. Something for everyone, or to just spice things up! And the Thrill remembers the last setting it was on and helpfully restarts on that setting, assuming it's your favourite. 
The Thrill charges via your computer or phone if you please, so you'll be needing to remember that when your parents drop by (cough). This give you up to two-hours playtime, but I don’t think you’ll be needing anywhere near as long as that...
I think that the first thing that came to mind after trying out my Thrill was that perhaps I don’t need a man in my life … though I’m still willing to be proved wrong!
If you’d like to get your own Thrill, the lovely people at We-Vibe have one to give away to one of my wonderful followers.
To enter, just check that you are a liker of my Facebook page, then leave a comment below.
What’s the last big thrill you had and why? (And yes, it doesn't have to be a rude one. In fact I'd prefer it that way. Keep it nice people …)
Entries drawn Sunday January 19 at 5 pm, AEST. Good luck.

The competition has ended and the winner was Anne M. (Domesblissety). Congratulations! Contact me so we can send out your prize. 
 Image supplied by We-Vibe. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New year, new me?

I’m back!
I’ve deliberately not blogged during Christmas and New Year.
In the time-honoured tradition of separated families everywhere, it’s been my turn to spend the festive season without my children.
Chase and Harmonie left at the start of the school break, to spend the first half of the summer holidays with their Dad, half the country away.
As much as it sucks to be away from my children during the festive season, everyone kept telling me the cure was to attack it head-on by making the most of the ‘me’ time.
And so I have.
It doesn’t mean I haven’t missed the kids, but I have had a pretty special time. That’s meant taking time off from blogging as well, as I’ve caught up with family and friends, reconnected with loved ones, read, written, and just relaxed.
It doesn’t make up for being childless, but it’s also been liberating to have a few weeks to be Bronnie again. As in the grown-up woman who is more than just Mumma. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)
The weird thing, is that I always find I’m pretty much the same person I’ve always been when I have time to be me again. Just older and wider and wrinklier on the surface. But the same inside and underneath.
Does that happen to everyone else?
I’ve had the pleasure of catching up with school friends and cousins recently, and we all seem to have that experience. We’re still the same underneath, and the years disappear as soon as the hellos and hugs are over.
We’ve all been belted around by life but also rewarded by it. And despite different paths, the basic values and personalities are the same. I love it.
Over the festive period, I’ve had a lovely time staying here, there, and everywhere, and once again, I’m reminded how lucky I am to have such wonderful friends and family in my life.
So whilst I hate being separated from my children at this special time, I also know how important it is for them to spend time with their Dad. And to my surprise, the time on my own doesn’t completely suck.
Because I haven’t been on my own at all. Not really.
I spent the first few days of the break with a gorgeous friend in Brisbane, who always welcomes Lucy dog and I into her home when we’re in town.
She’s been my rock over the years, and her lounge room has been the venue for many an impromptu counselling/bitch/pep-talk/whine session, and also the venue of much merriment. I love her to bits.
Christmas Day was spent with my sister and her husband at their beautiful country home, together with assorted family members and friends.
The night before we attended the annual Wondai Christmas Carnival, which has been held on Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember.
The kids in the household were up early the next morning, excited to see that Santa had been. It was great to hear the excited whispers and squeals of little children as they tried not to wake the household – even if there was a twinge of disappointment that mine weren't there to be a part of it. 
After a few presents, it was off to church as is our tradition, where I caught up with people who had known me since I was a child.
Then back to my sister’s home to prepare lunch with my family – niece, nephew, great-niece and great-nephews, parents, and friends.
One of my nephews had requested one of every kind of meat (!). My sister didn’t quite go that far, but there was certainly a feast, with everyone chipping in to make the workload as light as possible.
The Christmas-New Year break flew by, as I caught up with more people and actually read the books that had been sitting on my bedside table for months.
I really meant to throw myself into more productive exercises, but for once I followed the advice I’d been given and showed myself the same loving kindness I would have advised loved ones to show themselves.
I took it easier than usual. I slept in. I talked and listened. I met up with new friends and old. I went out on New Year’s Eve. I took time to live in the moment. I did all those things I don’t usually get time to do during the year.
Most of all, I didn’t rush!
Everyone has asked if I’ve made a New Year’s Resolution.
And I don’t usually. (Mainly because I’m crap at keeping them, and in any case, I try to be virtuous and good on a daily basis. I said I try!)
But I guess this year, I’m going to try to carry this more relaxed, less anxious version of myself forward into 2014.
So that I’m not quite as stressed and antsy as I usually am - too busy to make time for a coffee with friends, a casual meal with my family, or to sit down and watch a movie with the kids without multi-tasking on the computer, in the kitchen or folding the laundry.
How long do you think it will last? 
What’s your New Year’s Resolution? And are you any good at keeping them?

A little something for Santa

Santa has been!

The traditional backyard water fight. (There was cricket later ...)

Lunch is served

Followed by dessert (mainly courtesy of my amazing nieces)

Lucy joined in the celebrations with her doggy friends

A country sunset

New Year, new relaxed Bronnie. How long will it last? 
Stay tuned ...