Friday, September 21, 2018

Game On For Comic-Con

; ;

It's that time of year again. 

Yes, while others on social media are sharing their first sighting of Christmas-related decorations and food going on display in stores, and others remind us that Halloween is just around the corner, at Maid In Australia Manor it is starting to feel a lot like Oz Comic-Con.

While Oz Comic-Con events are held around the country (and in fact the world), the kids and I eagerly wait for the Brisbane event, which is timed to coincide with school holidays. 

Attending has become a bit of a ritual for our family, and although I originally tagged along because of the kids, I probably get just as big a kick out of it as they do! (Okay, possibly more!)

Usually we take at least one friend with us, and meet up with a few more, so it's a really great occasion. There is also a really nice vibe too. People are happy to be there, and generally very accepting and tolerant of each other, which is something you don't always experience at large events.

Attending Oz Comic-Con is never a quick event. There's lots of stopping to take photos and take in the action, a lot of admiring of gear which is on sale, trying out new games, and loads of talking to exhibitors and other attendees. We usually stay until we drop, and return the next day for more! 

There is always lots of eye-rolling as Mum begs for yet another photo ...Won't anyone think of the children?

It's hard to explain the appeal to anyone who has never been, but Oz Comic-Con is basically a collection of everything to do with entertainment under one roof for a whole weekend.

There are appearances by film and television stars; panels by actors, actresses, writers, illustrators and designers; gaming demonstrations, cosplay competitions, masterclasses and more. Oh and so much exclusive and rare merchandise, collectables, art and clothing to choose from that you'll wish you were a millionaire. 

There is always something happening at Oz Comic-Con, even in the foyer outside!

Come to me, my pretties

Even if you can't spend up big, there are little things to suit all budgets

We could all use a Hello Kitty-style banana plush,right?

A rare political statement at last year's event

Just a pic of my boyfriend and I ... Cough.

Once you are in the door, there is loads of entertainment which is included in the price. One of the most fun aspects for the kids and I are the people who dress up like their favourite characters. So much thought goes into their costumes, and many even act in character. But they are always happy to pose for photos. The etiquette is to ask first however, and say thank you afterwards. 

Strike a pose

It all gets a bit overwhelming at times, so it's nice to take time out at one of the many areas to sit and play games, add your own masterpiece to art work, read manga, or watch anime. 

At last year's show one of the cosplayers was giving free tutorials and advice on how to make outfits. 

Forget the kids, can I have one?

With so much to see and do, we usually pick a place like Anime Station to meet and then split up and do our own thing for short periods. It's well located, and there are bean bags to lounge it, books to read, and there's a mini-cinema showing classics too.

I always enjoy the panels, especially when writers and actors talk about their work, while the kids love the artists who are really generous with their time and love to talk about how they got started, and how they get inspired.

Melbourne's Oz Comic-Con has been and gone, but the Brisbane event is being held at the Convention Centre tomorrow and Sunday. (September 22-23).

Guests include:

 Christy Carlson Romano of Kim Possible fame (and so much more. She's also an author. Is there nothing this woman cannot do?)

Phoebe Tonkin - The Originals, The Secret Circle,The Vampire Diaries, Tomorrow When The World Began

Nathanial Buzolic - The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Pretty Little Liars

Dominic Keating - Star Trek: Enterprise, Beowulf,, Jungle 2 Jungle, World of Warcraft

Oz Comic-Con will be held in Sydney on September 29 and 30. 

There is a Marvel Cosplay competition on Stage 2 at 12 noon on Saturday and Sunday in both cities.

Do you have school holiday rituals? Have you been to Oz Comic-Con before? Would you disown your mother if she insisted on having her photo taken with strangers?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Back to (old) school

In a strange state of affairs at Maid In Australia Manor recently, we were forced to go back to basics.

Unthinkable I know, and I can tell you it was quite traumatic.

One afternoon, I arrived home to be greeted by a visibly anguished  Mr 17. Before I even had a chance to ask what was wrong, he revealed that a terrible thing had happened while I was out on one of my regular forays to hunt and gather stock up on groceries.

"Mum!" he said, and the tone in his voice was almost accusing. "What took you so long? I had to reheat my pizza. In the oven!"

I know! I was shocked too.

Meanwhile, Man Child took my shopping bags from me and motioned for me to sit down. He faced me, and I knew we were in for a Very Serious Discussion Indeed.

"You have no idea what it was like," he continued. "The pizza took ages to get warm enough to eat, and when it did get hot, it was dried out!"

A tear may have rolled down his face right about then. (I may have exaggerated that part.)

"It's not good Mum," he continued. "I was looking forward to my pizza and it was ruined. We can't go on like this!"

Clearly we had a crisis on our hands.

I was failing in my role as a mother and provider of easily heated snacks in our home. And it was time to make things right, dammit. No child of mine would live without second dinners, or subsist on substandard snacks in-between meals.

I did what any caring parent would do. I looked my son in the eyes, and promised that I would fix this. I would find a microwave to suit our budget and our bench space, and he would be able to easily reheat food again.

You may ask where my daughter was in all of this. Well, she doesn't like to complain. However, as she has a medical condition that requires her to follow a high salt diet, there were a few times where she would say wistfully: 'If only we could put some popcorn on ... Oh but, yeah, that will take too long. I'll just go and lie down for a while." Ouch.

I tried to explain how we did it before the touch of a button, and how much fun it was, but I just received a pitying look for my troubles.

"But that was just because you had nothing else to do back then Mum," she said. "You like doing weird things anyways."

Okay, I can see why she might think that.

Yet, when our microwave died, in a dramatic shudder of banging, vibration and sparks, I didn't think it was that big a deal.

Naively. I thought we'd manage for a few weeks before finding a replacement.

You see, our location in a small country town doesn't make replacing a microwave when you are a tightarse, broke, shopper with fairly specific tastes, an easy task.

There are only a handful of outlets where one can buy a microwave locally. I quickly discovered that these stores only stocked much bigger and more expensive versions of appliances than I wanted. I tried shopping online but the cost of postage meant that wasn't viable either. That's if they even delivered here. It would have been fab to find a second hand one, but no one was selling either.

Meanwhile, life without this convenience was rougher than we thought.

I'd taken for granted how often we use this appliance, to defrost frozen meals, sauces, and meat; cook vast amounts of rice (who needs a rice cooker when you have a microwave and a mother?); and to reheat premade meals and leftovers for hungry teenagers throughout the day - and night.

We go through mountains of rice and ready to eat meals

With our old much-loved microwave going on to perform a new role serving as a country mailbox,  we were now limited to cooking from scratch, or making meals which survived an oven or stove reheat while still remaining edible. Heaven help us if someone had to eat dried-out pizza!

The whole situation had the kids wondering how people coped in the old days, like when I was a girl? (Actually, how did my mother cope with a family to feed, especially when visitors came to stay? And how did my brothers survive their teenage years without a selection of meals available to devour every few hours?)

Living with a teen with a really high metabolism who needs to eat often, means there is a rotating stash of easily reheated, nutritious food in the fridge. I could make my son cook, and he often does. However, we've found during sleeping hours it's best for him to be up for as little as possible. That's when reheating and eating is the answer, so that he doesn't properly wake up, doesn't wake anyone else, and goes back to sleep quickly, with something filling to help him sleep soundly. 
I thought naively that we'd bond over making popcorn in a saucepan, planning meals more carefully, and increasing our awareness of what we ate. Instead, we were reduced to buying crap longlife food which my son could make in the middle of the night, and asking visitors if they had plans to stay for meals, so we could plan accordingly.

Quickly cooked ramen noodles. Yummy, but without adding the usual goodies to bulk them up, not much substance to satisfy a teenager for long. Two-minute noodles, and pasta packets came in handy  during our Back To Basics period too. (The teen doesn't do toasted sandwiches or cereal.)

On the plus side, I became a little more canny. Instead of putting leftovers into meal-sized portions, I used them in other ways - incorporating veggies into breakfast as bubble and squeak, using pasta and roast veggies for a fritatta, creating corn beef hash from a meal made earlier. That was a good result of going Old School in the kitchen. But it also meant a lot of extra cooking - and washing up.

It was Aldi to the rescue, for the word had gone around, that the specials from the latest catalogue had arrived.

I nabbed the only $89 microwave left. At that price, it was not what I wanted, and I could have bought the same thing for less - or something better for more - if I'd  waited until we had time to shop in the city or at a bigger town.

But I had a Man Child hanging around the kitchen with a rumbling tummy at all hours of the day and night, and there was one left. Who knew when I'd find one at this price again? Thoughts of going to bed knowing I could leave Mr 17's hunger pains would be eased with ease went to my head.

Behold, our bright and shiny appliance. Now, no child at MIA Manor shall be in need of a hot snack or second or third dinner again.

Finally peace has returned to our kitchen and our mealtimes are a bit more adventurous. There is a fresh supply of home-made meals for the kids to reheat when in need, or when friends drop by, and rice is cooked to perfection every time.

Finally we can all get some sleep. And hot pizza.

Readers have you ever been forced to, or chosen to go back to basics? Was it a simpler way of living or did it just make life more complicated?