Monday, April 28, 2014

Talk dirty to me ...

Like theatre? Don't mind a bit of dirty talk? Love to laugh?
You'll probably get a laugh out of 51 Shades of Maggie Muff, a naughty one-woman play, which is set to ruffle Brisbane's feathers from May 1.
Starring Sydney actor/comedian Nikki Britton as the lusty, sex-loving Maggie Muff, the play is now at Brisbane's Twelfth Night Theatre for a strictly limited season.
It's not for the prudish or faint-hearted. 51 Shades of Maggie Muff is a spoof play of the Shades of Grey novels, complete with four-letter words and detailed descriptions of sexual acts.
Described as 'funnier, sexier and much ruder than Shirley Valentinte', 51 Shades of Maggie Muff follows a streetwise young woman, looking for love in all the wrong places.
The show sold out theatres in Scotland, Ireland and the UK, 51 Shades of Maggie Muff, while the Australian production delighted fans in Perth in late 2013.
Directed by Terence O’Connell and presented by Simon Bryce and Andrew Guild who brought the record breaking Busting Out! to Australia, Nikki Britton makes it impossible not to fall in love with well-intentioned Maggie.

The bubbly, over-the-top actress takes the audience on an erotic journey detailing the ins and outs - pun intended - of Maggie’s torrid and one-of-a-kind love affair with the elusive “Mr Big”, who sounds like a bit of a dickhead really. 
Her captivating performance draws laughter, empathy and shocked faces the whole way through.
Penned by Irish writer and single mum, Leesa Harker, Maggie Muff’s journey began as a one-chapter, comedic, erotic novel circulated on Facebook. Within a few days however, it had a following of 15,000! 
From this online exposure, Maggie’s adventure eventually became a popular novel and from there, the runaway stage sensation 51 Shades of Maggie Muff was born.
This racy Australian production also teaches lessons about life and love as audiences come to realise that in fact, there is a little bit of Maggie Muff in all of us. 
The West Australian's reviewer David Zampatti described the Perth show as 'spectacularly obscene', but also 'filthy, and touching, fun'.
A present for the woman who has everything perhaps?
Best of all, Maid In Australia has three double passes for this Saturday night's show (May 3, 2013). 
To enter, leave a comment sharing your best dating/looking for love tip. Or answer this question: Do you believe in looking for love, or does love find you? 
Entries close 9 am AEST on Friday, May 2. Winners must be able to attend that night's show, and leave their prude hats at home.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Easter - better late than never

 Our Easter was a little strange this year.
Instead of being woken in the wee hours by excited children hunting eggs, I was actually wide awake at Darwin Airport in time to board our Tigerair flight back to Brisbane.
It was surreal to spend the early hours of Easter Sunday in the air, trying to catch some sleep ahead of our drive back to Kingaroy.
Luckily, the plane wasn't full so we were able to spread out.
Chase was impressed to get a whole row to himself, though Harmonie and I elected to share.
The Tigerair flight staff were lovely, helping to settle the kids and put our gear in the overhead lockers. One of them instantly brought me water when I woke from a nap with a massive coughing fit. (Damn whooping cough!)
We landed smoothly and on time, and were on the road to home in no time.
I was pretty tired after the flight, and it was only when we were halfway home that Chase said: “And by the way, Happy Easter' that I remembered what day it was!
The Easter Bunny's 'assistant' hadn't any luck at finding eggs in non-crushable boxes in Darwin before catching the flight. And she had failed to ask Mr J. to do so on her behalf earlier, so for the first time there were no eggs or bunnies for the kids. They were happy with Lindt Lindor chocolate balls instead. 
(Though strangely enough, Harmonie's pack was missing one and there was an empty wrapper in it! The pack didn't look like it had been opened before, so it was a bit weird.)
Now that they are 13 and 11, I guess they're up to scratch with the whole Easter Bunny caper, so it was cool that the milestone was reached without any upset. 
It was nice to come home to a welcoming committee instead of an empty house. 
Mr J. was waiting, and had even taken time to clean the house, catch up on our washing, and fill the fridge while we were gone. Talk about a Sensitive New Age Guy!
We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing and hanging out, as the kids rested after their trip and prepared for another term at school.
We were very grateful to The Best Neighbours In The World, who came to the rescue when naughty Kit Kat got himself into a spot of bother with another cat, They took the mischievous moggie to our lovely vet Trinity at Barambah Veterinary Surgery on our behalf, and were even brave kind enough to give Kit Kat his antibiotics and eye cream while we were away. (Why does something always happen when you are away?) 

 Kit Kat prefers to self-serve himself Whiskas ...
The shops weren't open in Kingaroy on Easter Monday, except for our local IGA, which had unfortunately run out of Easter eggs and bunnies.
In fact, it wasn't until during the week that I discovered that Big W had a few left, and the kids were able to do their annual Easter Egg hunt! Better late than never I suppose ... and certainly the children were happy enough.

As for Tigerair, we were really happy with the flight, comfort and service.
The new route from Brisbane-Darwin (and there is one from Brisbane-Cairns as well) is making travel more affordable for Aussies.
Regular readers will know that I was invited to fly the inaugural Brisbane-Darwin flight with Tigerair Australia.
Because it was the school holidays, and the kids' Dad lives in Darwin, Tigerair were kind enough to fly the kids up and back with me.
That gave Chase and Harmonie a chance to catch up with their father and his partner, while I did my travel writing thing, and I was very grateful for both opportunities.
To be honest, NT has never been high on my list of places to visit.
I'm not a big fan of crocodiles and snakes, and I guess it had always seemed too far away and expensive to visit until now.
But I was unprepared for how beautiful the NT is, and how much there is to see and do there. Way more than crocodiles and snakes, not that there is anything wrong with that!
My colleagues and I spent a hectic week fitting in as much of the Northern Territory as possible. There will be posts on all the highlights. I could quite easily have stayed on longer, experiencing the laidback, outdoorsy lifestyle, and the absolutely incredible national parks. They really have to be seen to be believed.
I came literally face to face, and eye to eye with a giant crocodile called Chopper, held a python called Monty, and received a cuddle from a frilly neck lizard, whose name I cannot remember. It was the first time I'd been cuddly with a reptile, and I was a bit nervous!
We also cruised the harbour at sunset, learned about the bombing of Darwin during World War Two, and explored the wetlands and Litchfield National Park.
My room at the Novotel Darwin Atrium was gorgeous – not that I got to spend much time in it. Enjoying a bubble bath and having a king-sized bed to myself at night was a treat though.
Tigerair CEO Rob Sharp says the flights (from $99.95 each for Brisbane-Darwin and from $62.95 for Brisbane-Cairns) are bringing the top end a new-look Tigerair that is focussing on delivering the best in safe, affordable, reliable air travel with friendly service. The customers are key, and in fact the new flight routes came about directly as a result of customer feedback.
“Darwin represents a gateway to the quintessential Northern Territory outback that thousands of budget, leisure and adventure travellers have on their personal bucket lists to go and experience,” he says.
We’re a volume business and our network evolves based on demand for our services.
In responding to this consumer demand it makes commercial sense to connect Brisbane, the heart of Queensland, with the top end and provide a cost effective means of getting quickly between the two.”
Minister for Tourism Matt Conlan said that adding another budget airline route to Darwin would stimulate more price conscious travellers to Do the NT, whilst allowing cheaper access to Brisbane for Territorians.
This is great news for Darwin and for the Territory and once again underlines the confidence in the NT’s tourism industry,’’ Mr Conlan said.
Since it reintroduced services to Alice Springs last April, Tigerair has stimulated the price conscious travel market to holiday in Central Australia and I have no doubt that this Brisbane – Darwin service will do the same.’’
Tigerair has received some bad press in the past, but this is the new-look Tigerair. All the planes are new or only a few years old, and having provided budget-friendly flights, they are now committed to getting passengers to their destinations on time.
If they can keep up the standards we experienced during our trip, they certainly will succeed. 

Hints for flying Tigerair: 
Book as early as possible to get the best deals.
Travel without luggage or as little as possible to save money. Passengers are allowed 10kg hand luggage, which is pretty generous.
The first eight rows have the most leg-room and you can check yourself in via the internet (or ask your kids to do it for you!)
You can pay extra for seats with extra leg-room like exit seats. But if they haven't been sold, you can ask to be seated there on check-in (or check yourself in via the web) for no extra charge. 
On-board food and snacks can be pre-booked to save money. 
Take entertainment if you think you'll need it, because there's nothing available really. Cool if you can sleep on planes, but not if you need to be busy - or have kids. My two loved their iPads, and Miss 11 also used her rubber band loom kit on the way up. She and I managed to nap on the return trip, while Mr 13 listened to music and played on his computer.
Take a blanket or wear something warm (layers are best) in case you get cold in-flight. Tiger doesn't provide blankets or pillows. Miss 11's favourite pillow pet was a Godsend.  

Disclosure: Tigerair flew the kids and I to Darwin so we could check out their services and I could experience and write about some of the hightlights of the Northern Territory.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Little tigers take flight ...

Usually, the VIP types are the first passengers to board a plane.
The first and business class passengers, anyone remotely rich, famous, or influential.
But the other night, Chase and Harmonie were taken to the front of the check-in queue like rock stars, with me close behind.
And when it came to boarding, Chase was the first person to step onto Tigerair Australia's first flight from Brisbane to Darwin.
Harmonie was next, before some random guy galloped up behind her whilst I was madly trying to take a photo to capture the moment.

The occasion was Tigerair Australia’s inaugural flight from Brisbane to Darwin, and MIA and kids were being treated as VIPs.
This particularly route is a big deal for us. The kids regularly fly to Darwin to see their Dad on holidays, and have flown every airline in the past. Sometimes on their own.
They are withering when it comes to flying unaccompanied on Qantas.
"We're left on our own up the back," says Harmonie. "They always serve food I cannot eat," says the anaphylactic brother. (Qantas is always advised of his nut and tree nut allergy in advance, but cannot cater for it). 
As parents around the world know, flying can be trying at the best of times, and it seemed to take just moments from the initial exhilaration of our VIP status to wear off.
Tiger Air prides itself on opening up Australia – and the world – to everyday Aussies, so it comes at a budget price. And that can mean flying at odd times of the day and night.
Which is nothing unusual for a destination like Darwin, where locals are used to making use of 'red-eye' flights to save money. 
In return for a bargain airfare (from $99 one way Brisbane-Darwin compared to hundreds of dollars each way charged by other airlines), we were leaving Brisbane at 8.40 pm, and arriving at 12.20 am the next day local time.
That meant for tired and fractious kids. And hungry ones too. A little unexpected turbulence meant a delay in the food and beverage service, and Mr 13 was starving.
This was despite having an emergency Hungry Jacks meal at the airport and supposedly eating “every 30 minutes” during the day at a relative’s house.
Plus there was ‘nothing on that menu I want to eat’, and everything had nuts in it anyway. (It didn’t. But there were nuts in a few things and this continues to puzzle me these days. Especially when it comes to kids’ meals).
Chase momentarily forgot his discomfort when our flight path went over Brisbane, taking in the lights below.
“Mum, it’s like Disneyland,” he exclaimed! 
Another journalist on the flight later explained she had been thinking exactly the same thing.
When the food finally arrived, both kids were happy.

The all-day Turkish ($9) is one of the few Tiger Air meals to be served hot. This was Chase's pick, and it was filled with egg mayo, bacon, cheese and tomato relish. Even a grumpy Aspie had to give it the thumbs-up. 
I was allowed a taste, and the bread was buttery and moist on the inside, and crusty on the outside. The contents were yummy and fresh.

I ordered a triple chicken platter sandwich ($9) to share with Harmonie, and was a little disappointed. The bread was dry but the fillings were okay.  She enjoyed her hot chicken noodles though ($5). I would have tried a vegie wrap, also $9, but didn’t want to be greedy.

Drinks range from $3.50 for juice boxes through to $10 for bubbly.
Harmonie ordered a hot chocolate later in the evening, and declared it delicious
The staff were really lovely and nothing was too much trouble. When we asked if the rocky road was nut free, the steward brought it out to us to check – and to our delight it was.

Rowie’s Yummy RockyRoad is wheat, yeast, gluten, dairy, egg and nut free, so was a safe treat for us to share.
We were told it was the plane’s maiden voyage, and it certainly had that ‘new car’ smell about it.
The seats were comfortable and fine, and seemed to have a little more space than we are used to.  
And again – that new car/plane feel. Lovely. 
For kids, or adults, who need entertainment, you really do need to be prepared with devices, laptops or books, as there appeared to be nothing available, even for hire.
My kids were happy enough, playing on their Nintendo DS’s, whilst Harmonie made a few bracelets and rings with her loom. She offered a bracelet to one of the stewards but he politely refused.  
At one stage I tried to sleep, but with a 13-year-old Man Child half draped across me and repeatedly grinding his head into my shoulder or side to get comfortable, it was a little difficult.
It didn’t help that he’d forgetten a jumper and had to borrow my favourite travel cardie. He ended up ‘boogering all over it’  - his words – in a case of emergency.
(Like most budget airlines, Tiger Air doesn’t carry blankets).
But I find any flight with kids can be challenging, and our Tiger Air flight got the high-fives from all of us. 
Certainly, I couldn’t fault the service, and the flight left on time and arrived a little ahead of schedule.
It was one of the best and most relaxed flights I’ve flown in Australia, and I’ve been lucky enough to be at the pointy end of the plane. The only difference is you would normally pay extra for what you eat or drink. (On this occasion, Tigerair Australia hosted us).
Personally, I love that Tigerair Australia is making exploring Australia affordable for everyday Aussies.
I'd never been to the Northern Territory in the past, and hadn't really considered it, because of the cost of getting there. And for my kids, it means they can fly rather than drive to see their Dad.
Other passengers included fly-in, fly-out workers, family visiting family, backpackers, and various other travellers.
Apparently, flights are booking out well in advance, so the demand is obviously there.
Chase and Harmonie, who are seasoned travellers on the Brisbane-Darwin route rated it highly. Harmonie said it was the best flight ever, and Chase reluctantly admitted it was great, but advised others to take a blanket and pillow if you want to sleep. (My cardie and I second that)
I’d fly Tigerair again, but perhaps pack a few extra snacks for the kids. Especially in cases of turbulence. 
Followers, where have you wanted to go, but ruled out because of price? And have you ever had a meltdown on a plane?

Disclosure: Tigerair Australia provided our flights to and from Darwin

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tripping out

I could have been here

Being a travel writer is hard sometimes.
Like when you’re invited on a famil somewhere awesome, and you have to say no.
For those not in the trade, a famil, sometimes known as a junket, is an invitation to go on an all-expenses trip to a holiday destination. The idea is that you get to  experience resorts, hotels, attractions, food, activities, and other fun things that are likely to appeal to visitors. So you can then write about them, and hopefully attract more people to visit.
My wings were clipped when I had children, but then I started writing about holidays with kids, and family destinations. So my kids often get to come too. For the win!
I must stress these trips aren’t always fun though.
Sometimes you’re travelling with a group of journalists and bloggers you may not know. (Or like. No offence.) Or you’re being dragged by well-meaning PR people from one activity to the next. Because they want to get bang for their bucks, and you can’t blame them, they have you up at the crack of dawn and on the go from morning until late at night.
That’s okay if you’re single perhaps, but not if you’re pregnant, or travelling with kids, who just want to hang around the resort or need to sleep in after a full day of driving the day before.
You can’t do what you want when you want. You don’t choose where you’re staying, and you’re usually not with your family. You have to be at this point by this time, and do this activity. Then be at the next point a few hours later. That can be difficult for anyone to accept, let alone for kids (especially ones on the spectrum). Luckily mine have grown up joining me on press trips and are pretty used to it by now.
(I remember a whirlwind pre-kids press trip to New Orleans, where I naughtily skipped an activity to feverishly fit in some shopping, while a few of the male journalists  just disappeared from a walking tour into a bar! Very unprofessional, but the PRs had left us no free time at all. Who could go to the US without shopping, said the girls? While the men thought a trip was unthinkable without sampling the drinks!)  
And when you’re freelance, you’re also taking time off from making money, and hoping the hell you will sell enough stories to cover the time you’ve taken for the trip.
It’s not exactly a free holiday.
But still – it beats sitting in an office. And when you’re a Sagittarian like me, travel is irresistible.
And so it really hurt last week, when I had to reluctantly turn down the chance to travel around the Whitsundays.
The occasion was Tiger Airways’ first flight from Sydney to Whitsunday Coast Airport, and the famil was to showcase the best of what the Whitsundays had to offer. Sailing, islands, Whitehaven Beach, seafood and more. Even better, some lovely writers I knew would be there too.
But now I live in country Queensland, I would have had to add on the 3-4 hour drive to Brisbane Airport, an overnight stay in Sydney, as well as the Whitsundays jaunt. Although I had wonderful people willing to take on the kids, it was the last week of the school term, and I felt it was too long to be away from the children, and too much to ask others to care for them at such an important time of the year.
And yes, it stung as my friends posted photos of pools, the ocean, romantic restaurants, and the wonderful time they were having in the Whitsundays.

Lover's Cove, a restaurant on Daydream Island. Photo by Aleney de Winter, BoyEatsWorld 
But you know, the best job role in my world has been mothering, and if I’d gone away last week, I would have lost countless opportunities to be there for my kids.
Chase, in his first term of high school, was doing assessments and exams.
He also raised $200 for the Go Blue For Autism Day by dying his hair blue and painting his fingernails blue. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world.

Harmonie received awards for attaining diamond status for behaviour and learning at her school, and also for achievement of doing volunteer work. It meant a lot that I could be there to see her receive her awards and share a special morning tea and cake in celebration.

Her class had also asked me to come in for a couple of days, to help them with short story writing. This included a question and answer session about writing stories, editing, and publishing.
The kids were all so imaginative, I didn’t feel the need to alter any of their stories – just perhaps suggest a few verb or adjective changes here, and correct a few spellings and errors there. One or two stories were surprisingly violent, and a couple heart-wrenchingly revealing. And some were delightfully quirky and funny.
The question and answer session was the most entertaining thing I’ve done in ages. Harmonie said I looked nervous, but I wasn’t at all.
Rather, I was just trying to think of age-appropriate ways to answer their very clever (year 6) questions.
For example, one boy asked me what story I was currently working on? Since it was actually about the benefits of orgasms, it took me some time to reply. Eventually I came out with something about the last story I’d written. Which was kid-safe and almost the same, don’t you think?
That over, and having being treated like a rock star, I walked in the door at home, ready to meet some deadlines, when the phone started ringing.
It was Mr 13’s school. I wasn’t to panic, he was okay, but he’d been pushed by a student, fallen over, and had a really bad gash to his chin. It would probably need to be stitched, but they hadn’t told him that.
I rushed to the school, to be met by the vice-principal who told me roughly the same version of events, and reassured me that it would be investigated. Chase was dazed and confused. There was blood everywhere – on his chin, shirt, legs and socks. He was also complaining about pain in his shoulder, hips, knees and wrist.
Our medical centre was wonderful. Staff found a room for him to lie down, and sent a nurse in with ice until a doctor could see him.
Chase is on the autism spectrum and has a needle phobia. He was in shock by now; cold, terrified, and his teeth were chattering.
The doctor said his chin would need stitches, and his wrist would need an x-ray. His wrist was more painful than anything, but the thought of a needle and stitches sent his panic levels sky-rocketing.
I won’t go into more details here, but it was a really traumatic afternoon. At the end of the day, Chase ended up with a broken wrist in a cast, and five stitches in his chin.
It is times like these that being a single parent hurts more than anything in the world.
All I could think of was: ‘Thank God I didn’t go away. Thank God I was here.’
Of course, you can’t be there all of the time for your children. But you try as hard as you can. 
On another note, last week I actually changed my Facebook status. These days, that makes it official, right? Yes, I am actually in a relationship.
My John has already met the family, been there in a crisis, and has the approval of the kids and pets. Oh, and me as well.
It took one text for him to to drop everything when Chase was hurt, and when I later needed a shoulder to cry on, he turned up, magically knowing I needed him.
He bakes cupcakes with Harmonie, plays computer games with Chase, but is there for me too. 
Hannah Kitteh, who hates new people, especially men, has included him in her massage routine. Kit Kat smooches him for a feed. Lucy has claimed his lap for nap time. Harmonie, who hates sharing me with anyone, asks if he can come over. Chase just wants him here all of the time.
How does this all fit with the context of my blog? John makes me happy. Happier than I've been in a very long time.  
One woman’s, one family’s, pursuit of happiness, has suddenly become a lot easier.
So staying home from the Whitsundays wasn’t such a bad thing after all. 
In fact, it was probably the best trip I never took.