Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Flip Mum out for Mother's Day

What do you dream of receiving for Mother's Day?

A lazy breakfast in bed? A weekend away with the family (or maybe without)? A snuggly bathrobe?

Chance are it wouldn't be a CD of Elton John or The Seekers, which my friend, writer and Facebook Queen Kerri Sackville found being marketed as Mother's Day presents the other day.

"Coles thinks these are fine Mother's Day gifts," Kerri asked on her Facey page. Are they right?"

The responses were hilarious.

'Only if you live under a rock,' said one woman.
'Dear Coles, get well and truly Fxxd,' wrote another. 
'Oh for the love of God, NO,' said someone else. (Okay, that last one was me.)

One respondent likened the suggested gifts as the equivalent of a Bunnings voucher on her wish list, while another pondered the offerings might be more suitable for the 'other' nana. Snort.

To be fair, a few women did think CDs, even Elton John and The Seekers, would be perfectly acceptable fare to wake up to on Mother's Day. And after all, it's the thought that counts.

This year, I'll be on my own for the big day and would do anything to get the traditional breakfast in bed.

My kids are actually great cooks, so I wouldn't even have to suffer burnt toast and milky coffee. And they are usually pretty good as sussing out the kind of things I like as well.

But for those who are struggling for gift ideas, be wary of dodgy marketing. (Unless Mum really does like Elton John or The Seekers. My friends and I are more Planet Funk, Sia, Ladyhawke, Lady Gaga, and LMFAO kind of girls).

So instead of slippers, bath robes, and CDs, here are a few ideas that won't cost the earth ...

Cuddle time
Sure she used to read to you, but when was the last time you read to Mum? Find a favourite story book, kick back and read to your mother for a change.
Or if you're too grown up to read the woman who gave you life a story, how about organising a doona day, where after breakfast in bed, you spend a lazy day reading the papers or your favourite novels, watching DVDs (or Netflix), and hanging out together. (And if you're cooking breakfast, don't forget to clean up afterwards ...)

 Last year, I got a sleep-in, breakfast in bed, and lots of cuddle time 

Let's not mention that the kitchen looked like this afterwards ... 

Pack a picnic
Mums love high tea, brunch and bubbles, but if finances are tight there's nothing wrong with organising a DIY version. Pack a hot chicken and bread rolls, get an adult to buy some of her favourite wine, and go on a picnic. You don't have to go far. A nearby park, beach or waterfall is ideal, but we've even had some fun outdoor lunches in our own backyard.

Picnics don't have to be fancy. We met up with some friends at our local park for this one, and the furry babies came too. Perfect

Think outside the square
It's not that Mums don't love slippers and fluffy robes, it's just that, well - we still feel young on the inside. Most of the women I know, including those who have produced small humans, still love to feel alive. That means we like to go ice-skating, swimming, dancing, rock-climbing, and to look as hot as we possibly can, as much as you do. (Sorry if it's TMI or embarrassing, but there it is).

Mumma gets snakey in the Northern Territory ...

So discount sites that offer vouchers for makeovers or even better, experiences that we can enjoy with you, are at the top of our list.

If money is an object, don't worry. One of my favourite Mother's Day gifts was a book of coupons my son made one year. It included vouchers for things like: 'One night of doing homework without complaining', and 'one cooked breakfast in bed on a weekend'. It was awesome.

And one of my favourite gifts from my daughter was last year, when she held a 'spa day' for me after breakfast. She ran a bath, containing her own mix of relaxing potions and bubbles. There was a glass of juice on the side, and I was given the latest book I was reading to enjoy. Candles were lit and the door was closed while I was allowed to relax for as long as I liked. A pedicure followed, (complete with foot massage), then a manicure and facial. Perfection.

And finally, along the theme of gifts that Mums will treasure, here comes a giveaway...

Help Mum Flip Out On Mother's Day
Trampolining isn't just for kids - at least not if you head out to one of Australia's leading indoor trampolining centres, a Flip Out arena. With centres in 36 locations and counting, Flip Out arenas have no height or weight restrictions. So that means everyone in the family can bounce, jump and flip to their hearts' content.
What I love is that trampolining is actually good for us, especially women. The stability required helps build bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis (important for Mums as we age), and it's great for building neural synapses and pathways too (slowing down the effects of ageing). Not to mention, exercise releases endorphins and bouncing is fun. So it makes us happy. (Great for kicking depression to the footpath).
If Mum really gets into it, there are classes for adults. Why should kids have all the fun?
I'm disappointed there aren't any arenas in Queensland or the Northern Territory yet, but I'm told, it's only a matter of time.

If you'd like to treat Mum and the family to an outing at a Flip Out centre, check that there is a location near you, then leave a comment below sharing the funniest thing your Mum has ever flipped out about.
I have two lots of four one-hour passes to give away. Entry is only open to Australian residents and close at 5 pm on May 3.

If all else fails, a nice cup of tea always goes down well. Happy Mother's Day everyone.

The competition has closed and the winners are Fabulousandfunlife and MitchVee. Congratulations! Please contact me so we can send out your prizes. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Darwin Military Museum: Lest We Forget

As we approach Anzac Day, I thought it would be a good time to post about a poignant experience I had when I visited Darwin last year.

As a guest of Tigerair and NT Australia, I was part of a handful of bloggers and travel writers taken on a whistlestop tour of the Top End to celebrate Tigerair's inaugural flight from Brisbane to Darwin.

Now to be honest, a visit to a war museum wouldn't have been on the top of my holiday list. In fact, if I hadn't been part of a tour group, I probably wouldn't have even known there was a war museum in Darwin. (Don't judge me. I was expecting crocodiles and waterfalls. Not that there is anything wrong with that.) 

But there is. It's the Darwin Military Museum. And in fact, it was a very moving highlight of my trip.

Now, I know Anzac Day is traditionally known as the day when we remember those brave souls who served during the Gallipoli campaign - particularly those who lost their lives. However, it has come to represent those Australians who have served and/or been killed during World War 2 and other military activity, and the museum highlights this very well. 

One of the reasons I think that the Darwin Military Museum is so compelling is that, like so many good ideas, it was never actually a government initiative.

Instead, local Lieutenant Colonel Jack Haydon decided to do something about preserving the city's wartime history and with the help of members of the NT branch of the Royal Australian Artillery Association, began collecting memorabilia from within Australia and the world.

Partly housed in the original command past used by the army to control massive 9.2 inch guns nearby, the museum sprawls across tropical grounds, with inside and outside displays of memorabilia from Australian military activity, including Vietnam and the Boer wars.

The mix of military hardware and virtual reality means there is something for all ages, even youngsters. Or those, like me, who may initially have thought the subject of war was a bit serious for a tourism itinerary. I quickly changed my mind. 

Of course, the focus is on World War 2 and the bombing of Darwin, which was never taught in schools when I was a child. (I know this is not just due to my poor memory. I've asked other people of my age group and they say they same. We were told the closest Australia ever came to war was the Japanese approaching the harbour).

Australia's equivalent of Pearl Harbour occured in Darwin on February 1942, but was just the first of many raids on the city and the Top End. And in fact, war came very close to other parts of Australia as well. The museum brings all this to life so clearly.

Video, oral recordings, photographs, maps and actual equipment are used to show how many casualties there were during WW2 - civilians included - during the Darwin attacks. (Numbers are still being debated). I don't mind admitting it brought tears to my eyes to think of innocent lives being lost, of women and children being evacuated while males, some in their teens. were left to fight and deal with the carnage. 

We're told that Japanese submarines were in Darwin Harbour long before the rest of Australia were aware of it, and there were many similarities between the bombing of Pearl Harbour and Darwin. Although, Darwin was attacked strategically, and less civilian lives were of course, lost. But the population was less to start with, and the geography was different as well. And lives are lives. Listening to the accounts of civilians caught in the carnage is something I will never forget.

The museum really is a treasure trove of facts and information of the day war came to Australia - and the other close encounters we had. How different our lives would be if it were not for the brave sacrifices of all involved.

Anyway, there's more on all of that if you visit the museum, or even their website

The highlight of my visit was the Defence of Darwin Experience, which recreates the bombing of Darwin and how ineffectual our response was. To see how much suffering and destruction was caused, and how close Australia came to a full-on invasion, was just eye-opening.

Since my visit, the museum has even more artefacts and memorabilia, including a WW1 display, where visitors can dress up a digger and have their photo taken behind a WW1 machine gun.

In the centenary year of Gallipoli, the Darwin Military Museum is something every Australian should see. 

And at the same time, it reminds us of the importance of honouring those brave Aussies who are still involved in military activity. The sacrifices they make are inconceivable. 

Lest We Forget 

Maid In Australia was a guest of Tigerair and NT Tourism on a familiarisation tour of Darwin and surrounds, which included a visit to the Darwin Military Museum. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Are we bored yet? (And a beastly giveaway...)

It’s that time of the school holidays where tempers start getting frazzled and humans start bouncing off the walls. 

There are never-ending cries of: ‘I’m bored’ and complaints that there is never anything fun to do around here. Ever.

And I’m just talking about the adults.

This is where Maid In Australia comes to the rescue.

I’ve come up with a few tricks to try at home and beyond, and there should be something here for kids of all ages. Yes, even the fussiest.

And if you look carefully, there are a few freebies and giveaways as well.

Tinker with it
Firstly, the movies. There are loads to choose from during the school holidays, but what small child (or inner child) would not be thrilled by the latest instalment of Disney’s much-loved Tinker Bell classic?

“Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast” explores the  ancient myth of a fabled creature whose distant roar sparks the curiosity of Tinker Bell’s good friend Fawn (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin).
Anyone who loves Tinker Bell, will know Fawn is an animal fairy who’s not afraid to break the rules to help an animal in need.
But this animal—massive and strange with glowing green eyes—is not really welcome in Pixie Hollow, and the scout fairies are determined to capture the mysterious beast before it destroys their home.
Fawn, who sees a tender heart beneath his gruff exterior, must convince Tink (voiced by Mae Whitman) and the girls to risk everything to rescue the NeverBeast before time runs out. 

Thanks to the lovely people at Disney we have five family passes to “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast” to giveaway. (It’s rated G). To enter, leave a comment below, and answer the question: Would you break the rules for a beast in need?
Oh and you can watch the trailer here:

Face up to it
This next one is just for Queenslanders aged 12-25 years, aged 12 to 25 years. To celebrate National Youth Week, any Queenslander in that age group with a story to share about volunteering can score a sweet phone case with their face on it.
Fill in the form, hit "share my story" and the peeps at National Youth Week will send you your phone case and share your story in their Volunteer Gallery.  You might even see yourself on the National Youth Week home page or on their social media accounts!
If you are aged under 18 years, get your parent or guardian's permission to enter.
Thinking about volunteering? Visit the Volunteering Queensland website for more information and to search for opportunities.

Game on

My kids are gamers, and if yours are too, great news: The Pokémon Video Game Championship Series is back!

That means the search for Australia and New Zealand's best Pokémon Trainers is on!
If you enjoy Pokémon Video Games and want to meet other Pokémon fans, then come along and join in the fun at one of the events taking place in Australia and New Zealand.
In previous years in Australia and New Zealand, players competed at regional championship events and top finishers were awarded travel awards to the national competition, where they could compete for qualification and travel awards to the world championships. (I know: Who knew there were world championships in these things?)

In the 2015 season, players will be able to compete in more events than ever as the series expands with the introduction of Premier Challenge Tournaments and championship points that build toward coveted world championships invitations and travel awards to the Pokémon Video Game World Championships held in Boston, in August! All expenses paid.
That's right parents, your child's obsession with all things Pokemon could pay off.
Games days are being held around Australia and New Zealand, starting in Brisbane on Saturday, April 11. Yep, this weekend. 
All the details are here! Entry is free, but terms and conditions apply, and kids under the age of 15 need a parents' consent and an adult to accompany them on the day.
All the games day are really kid and teen-friendly, and there are helpers if kids get lost or overwhelmed – and plenty of prizes throughout the event.  All competitors get a special lanyard and card just for being there. 

Go For Broke
Lastly, don't forget to check out your community for local festivals and events, like A Little Bit Of Italy In Broke. (Don't forget I have a giveaway running for a $120 hamper of giveaways if you can't get to Broke in the Hunter Valley for that one!).

Or Bollywood Baby

Close to home, in Kingaroy, Queensland, an Indian couple are putting on the region's first Bollywood evening.
The innovative pair, who took over the town's Singh's Royal Cuisine restaurant seven months ago, decided to give the South Burnett region a taste of Bollywood on Sunday, April 12. Restaurant co-manager Sandy says, there will be traditional Indian street or stall food on offer, as well as the usual menu. 
Bollywood movies, with English subtitles, will be screened during the evening. A traditional Indian beauty therapist, Meena, will be travelling from Brisbane for the evening to attend to the beauty needs of women of the South Burnett.
Eyebrow and facial threading will be on offer, as well as creative henna designs, at a small additional charge.
How about that? A taste of Bollywood in the South Burnett.

Enjoy your holidays - and watch this space for more ideas and more giveaways. And if you like Tinker Bell - or Beasts - don't forget to enter the Disney competition.

Entries close at 5 pm AEST on April 16, 2015, and is open to Australian residents only. 

The competition has ended and the winners are: Mitchvee, Kelly, Lorraine, Tegan, and Stephanie Prendergast. Please get in touch with your addresses via my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MaidInAustralia so we can send out your passes. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A little bit of Italy in Broke

One of the great things about being a travel writer, is being given the opportunity to roam the world tasting and experiencing the best of what the country and the world has to offer.

And I'm a huge fan of festivals and events. It's funny that it's usually the big festivals that get all the attention - cultural, writing, arts, music, food and wine, the lot. And yes, the iconic ones, that involve motorised eskies, cheese rolling, tomato crushing, and cockroach racing are huge hoggers of PR and hype.

But it's usually the lesser known, much-loved local festivals that I enjoy the most. There is ease of attendance - park, walk, or car-pool with friends. Free or cheap entry. And the luxury of finding a seat with friends, at least, early in the day or evening.

Then there is the priceless relaxed ambiance you just don't find in the moshpit  anywhere else. Where you can chat to local growers or producers, knowing you're not holding someone up and they are actually one of the people behind that product. Or pull up a chair next to a local you may not know, but will pretty soon later.

One of my favourite kind of festival is the cultural experience where you to feel like you're in a temporarily in another country,  or even better, a country within a country - for a certain time. 

Take, for example, A Little Bit of Italy in Broke Fordwich, NSW, Australia.

This flavoursome festival in the Broke Fordwich wine region of the Hunter Valley celebrates its 10 year milestone pn April 11 and 12 2015.

That's right, this weekend, the Broke Fordwich Wine Region of the Hunter Valley will become all things Italian, providing rustic ambiance and mouth-watering aromas, all in the one location.

Known as the picturesque and more tranquil side of the Hunter Valley, Broke Fordwich will have an array of gourmet delights and world class wines, on offer to provide the ultimate Italian experience, without the hassle of overseas travel.

The renowned event was initially born in 2005 from an intimate Italian dinner that was hosted at a local home and catered by Italian chef Bruno di Sarno.  That initial dinner was so popular, the next one was even bigger and more delicious. Next thing, there was a full-on festival, which has grown by word of mouth - get it - to attract more than 3,000 people to the region during the weekend.

With wine-tasting, cheese-making (and tasting), olives and oils, and loads of other farm-gate produce on display to taste and talk about, the festival authentically celebrates the traditional Italian lifestyle revolving around food, music, wine, family and community.

Starting at the ‘Passport Office’ on the main street of the historic village of Broke Fordwich, visitors can pick up a passport which will outline all the venues that are participating in the Festival. 
The price of entry is $10, which includes a $10 souvenir tasting glass to be used for a complimentary sample of local wines from each of the region’s top 12 producers. 
As you travel around from venue to venue, get your passport stamped to go in the draw to win over $2,000 worth of wine, food and accommodation.  Plus, to make getting around easier, there will be a shuttle bus available all weekend for only $5 per day.
In love with Italian food? Indulge in nonna’s old-town recipes with live cooking demonstrations happening at several locations across the two days, or enjoy a luscious spread of woodfire pizzas, gelato, olive oils, formaggi, wines and fresh local produce. Gosh, I can taste it from here.
Other highlights during the festival will include live entertainment, market stalls and puppet shows that are fun for the whole family.

President of Broke Fordwich Wine & Tourism Association, Eden Anthony says, “We have had a great time in bringing to our Festival the love for good food, wine, music, fun, warmth and friendship that is always Italian, and so reflective of the general way of life in the Broke Fordwich region.”
Their motto? Che sta per essere un buon weekend! Buon Appetitio!! - It’s going to be a good weekend, have a great meal!
Maid In Australia's Motto? Fancy Italian? Don't mind if we do...

Can't get to A Little Bit Of Italy in Broke Fordwich? Don't cry into your home-made espresso. Thanks to the festival organisers we have a $120 hamper of goodies to give away from Belarna Grove, which are best known for their olives and olive oils. To enter, leave a comment below and share your favourite Italian 'taste' - whether it be food, wine, oil, music, culture or - it's up to you. Entries close 5 pm AEST, April 15, 2015. 

The competition has closed and the winner was Karlene. Congratulations!