Monday, December 28, 2015

Ten Things You Think You Will See in Australia


Australia rocks!  Just let me put that out there.  Of course, as an Australian, I'm pretty biased, but Australia is a fabulous country with so much to offer.  It's a great place to live, has a pretty fantastic climate, and if you're a tourist, there is an enormous variety of things to do.  This has a lot to do with the fact that we have such a diverse country.  From one end to the other, if you were to go for a very VERY long walk, you'd come across mountains, deserts, rainforests, wetlands, bushland, farmland, small country towns, bustling cities and vast expanses of nothingness.  There is literally something for everyone.  You can ski in the winter if you head up into the High Country, go diving with the fish on the Great Barrier Reef, sip great wines in the Hunter or Barossa Valley, sample incredible locally grown food, swim off gorgeous golden beaches, check out our oldest convict built buildings around Tasmania, be amazed by the many moods and colours of Uluru in Central Australia or indulge in a bit of 'culture' at the Sydney Opera House or in Melbourne, the home of the Australian Ballet. 
Tourists are truly spoilt for choice, and to top off all the great places and lists of things to do, there is also the weather.  It can get a bit heaty during summer, (I admit it can sometimes get a little out of control) but some people adore the heat, which means that we are pretty fond of our outdoor activities and doing things like messing about with boats, swimming at the beach, going camping and, yes, having barbeques.  We're pretty fond of those.
There are, however, a few misconceptions about Australia that some tourists seem to have, so to clear it all up for you I have made a little list.
1.  We do not all keep kangaroos as pets.  Nope.  Sorry.  Nor are they hopping everywhere down the main street of Melbourne, Sydney or any other capital city.  You will, however, find them in the country.  For example I hit a small grey kangaroo with my car here in Gippsland a few years ago.  I didn't mean it of course.  Kangaroos are ridiculously stupid and if they are on the side of the road and a car comes along they will hop along beside it in panic and then suddenly jump out in front of your car.  I was very glad I had a 'nudge bar' on the front of my car.  When we go up north to my in laws farm in Wakool (more remote country New South Wales) we see lots of kangaroos, and truth be told, they make good hunting.  The other thing about kangaroos, despite them being on our National Coat of Arms, you can buy kangaroo meat in the supermarket.  Yep, it's delicious. 
2.  Cork hats are not a fashion statement.  Nor are they worn.  Supposedly these are worn by 'bushmen' (or should I say 'bush people' to not be sexist??) and the corks are supposed to keep the flies away.  I'm telling you now.  NOTHING keeps the flies away.  They are persistent little buggers that know exactly when you have your hands full.
3.  We don't wear Akubra hats everywhere.  Ok, so in the country you might see them a lot more often, but in the city no.  This is me wearing mine while hanging out with my Dad's cows, but I usually wouldn't be wearing mine with a skirt.  Farmers are quite partial to them, and you will see every single person at the saleyards wearing one, but on a farm and around 'farmy type' activities, they are very sensible.  Below is a shot of me wearing my old one, which I still have, while showing cattle at The Melbourne Show, something I did a lot of a few years ago.  Actually when I met my husband this is what I did for a living.  Yes, weird,  I know.
4.  "Throw another shrimp on the barbie"....meaning throw another shrimp on the barbeque.  This was an ad campaign that used to run in America quite a few years ago now with Paul Hogan chatting about the wonders of Down Under.  We call them prawns and we're more likely to cook a sausage to death or burn the crap out of a piece of steak. 
5.  Snakes.  Seventeen out of twenty-six of the worlds most venomous snakes are found in Australia.  Having said that it is unlikely you will see one when visiting.  The first time I ever saw a snake in the wild was when I was about 34 and I was driving out to my parent's farm.  I nearly ran over a black snake.  It was busy crossing the road and it was so long that it stretched from one side of the road to the other, so no wonder I nearly ran it over.  However when I moved up north to Wakool I used to see snakes ALOT, and I even had a Brown Snake (highly venomous) in my garden.  My  poor sister in-law had one in her pantry, so the garden one was nothing...but this was my snake (after I introduced him to the shovel)....  That's a toy truck by the way, not a real one, otherwise that is one BIG snake.
6.  Beer.  We all drink beer.  'Fosters' is our drink of choice.  Rubbish.  I haven't seen the 'Fosters' brand beer around for ages and we don't all drink beer.  My husband is quite partial to it, as are a lot of men, and yes women too, but we drink a whole variety of alcoholic drinks.  Personally I quite like Pear Cider and alcoholic Ginger Beer is awesome. 

7.  A koala is not a 'bear'.  It might look cute and cuddly but it actually has some pretty nasty claws and it growls.  Yes, I know, kind of  like a grizzly bear, but this animal is not related to the 'bear' family.  Nor is it related to the 'teddy bear' family.  Here I am holding one on my honeymoon.  He was nice and soft but this was where I experienced the nasty claws.
8.  We always eat Vegemite for breakfast.  As ghastly as it looks, and yes to some it tastes pretty ghastly, it's actually not our food of choice over other foods.  Breakfast or otherwise.  I mean it is nice on a piece of toast but it's all about 'doing it' correctly.  If you smear it on like jam you're in for one hell of a ride baby!  It's super salty and tastes you can only have a little scrapping on your bread.  I'm sorry I can't describe the taste, it really has it's own unique flavour, but seriously it's not that bad.  But it's not all we eat for breakky.  I've been known to also have avocado on toast, porridge, a full cooked breakfast, mushrooms and ham on toast....the list goes on. 
9.  You will get eaten by a shark if you swim at the beach.  Awww look, it's like a puppy fetching a ......seal??  Ok, so you might not want to adopt one but you can MOSTLY go in the water without fear of being eaten.
10.  So just to make sure you're all awake, and to throw in a bit of eye candy, this is the typical Australian Male.  I wish!  Actually no.  They don't all look like this, although there are some about.  Surely.  Ok, so there are some gorgeous men about, I mean I'm MARRIED to one, so don't feel disappointed if you want to bag yourself a hunky Aussie bloke.  They do exist.  However, unfortunately we aren't all beach bronzed babes and actually, we are one of the most over weight nations in the world!  What an honour! (insert overly large sad face) 

Anyway, I hope this hasn't put you off coming to our fabulous country.  It really is one of the best countries in the world, even if I do say so myself.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Day Before the Day Before

It's Christmas know, that weird day where you feel like it's almost Christmas but not and when you were a kid you're like "one more sleep until it's one more sleep until Christmas" or some such faff.  It was all so exciting.  Actually, it's still all so exciting but for different reasons.  Wait until you have children!  (if you do already you know what I'm talking about!)

This year I'm a lot more organised than normal.  I always have my Christmas shopping done by now, although I'm usually getting to it late...not like some super organised people who start putting things away in June.  I bought the last thing today (a little something extra for my husband), and although I haven't wrapped it yet I've actually wrapped up everything else.  It took me two hours.  BUT....normally I'm up for ages the night before Christmas, madly wrapping up presents on the floor in my bedroom while my husband lounges around flicking between channels on the TV, trying to decide between watching the 'Carols' (big live Carols by Candlelight that happens in Melbourne every year) or 'Die Hard'....a mans version of a "Christmas Movie".  Usually 'Die Hard' wins. 

I'm actually a little bit more forward thinking this year in that I have already started on one of my New Year's Resolutions.  Actually, I didn't plan this, it just sort of happened.  Two days ago I did a big clear out (again) of my wardrobe and started to try on all the jeans I had crammed in my drawers.  Depressingly some are quite hard to get on and even more depressingly some I can't get on at all.  Arrggghhh.....!!!  Yes I have had four babies and yes I've reached middle age (so some excuse maybe for 'middle aged spread') but youngest baby is TWO!  What sort of excuse is that!!  Last year I stopped eating sugar for three weeks and actually got into my awesome Wrangler Booty Up jeans, which is my standard measurement for "Hell Yeah my arse is looking good and I'm the skinniest version of my fluffy self", but then after a little while I wasn't able to get into them again.... but now.....well the last four months I've actually put more weight on top of the weight that was stopping me from getting back into those jeans.  Does that make sense??!  Anyway, I've decided to take the bull by the horns and over the last two days I've been partaking in the 'Lose Baby Weight' diet.  Yes!  It's actually a thing.  Check out the website here.  There are all of these fabulous recipes to make, telling you how many calories in each, and great easy exercise plans for each day...exercises that you can actually do easily at home around the kids.  You know, the type of exercises that you can quickly do while you're cooking the tea.  Really, I was doing "step ups" while cooking dinner last night and this morning I was supposed to dance for  6 minutes.!!  I can do that.  So I bopped around to Michael Jackson in my bedroom with my head phones on....although I did lock the door so the kids didn't walk in on me and have me inflict upon them some serious psychological disorder when they witnessed my "Mom dancing". 

Anyway, this is one of the meals.  I made this for lunch today.  Mushroom and Ham Crostini.  It was delicious.  Who knew diets could be soooooo tasty?  Why didn't I do this before?!
This scrumptious little number consists of a piece of sour dough bread toasted, topped with a slice of ham that has been cut up and heated in the fry pan, along with spring onions, mushrooms, thyme, parsley and garlic, and then drizzled with a combination of yoghurt, lemon juice and pepper.  It was the best thing EVER!!
Yes, I know it's weird to decide to go on a diet BEFORE Christmas, but honestly I just couldn't stand the sight of myself and my wobbly bits any more, and having a considerably younger husband, I've just got to get back in the groove and start looking....well....more groovy.  I'm mentioning this diet here, although I did have some reservation because then...well...then I'd have to actually DO it...but then I thought...YES...I'll tell you to make myself accountable and it will make me stick to it even more and then I can show off how gorgeous I look in a swimsuit in a few months time. I won't be doing that to you but I can let you in on how it's going.
I actually had a hair cut the other day to help me on the way to grooviness (I hadn't had one for 9 months...yes really....before that hair cut it had been 12 months in between chops) and this time I let the hair dresser take 3 inches off and straighten it.  It looked so lovely.  Of course as soon as I washed it my hair went back to feeling coarse and looking like a gigantic boofy triangle on my I actually went back to the hair dresser and inquired about the fabulous shampoo and conditioner they used.  At $58 and $48 a pop respectively I think not...but instead I got something that would do the job just as well at about half the price.  I did, however, invest in this remarkable hair oil that she used before she dried and styled it, some incredible concoction with Camellia Oil in it that was $64.  She did assure me that it would last me 12 months so I took the plunge.  I then went and bought a hair straightener, headed home and popped in the Camellia Oil marvel, used the straightener and was a changed woman.....
I can now wear my hair down.  A miracle.  So my early New Year's Resolution is to shrink and do something other than scrape my hair back in a pony tail like some kind of exhausted soccer mum.  As you can see it doesn't take much to get me excited.  I'll think of some more inspirational New Year's Resolutions, I promise.

Santa is busy doing his rounds on the back of the local fire truck as I write this, a tradition I mentioned in a post here about what Christmas is like in Australia.  The kids are excitedly dashing about the back garden, listening to the whoops of the siren getting louder, and pretty soon the truck will come down our street, with Santa hanging off the back, throwing bags of lollies at the kids.
Anyway I feel like I can finally sort of wind down before Christmas now and take it easy for a while.  It was pretty busy at the end of term there, what with multiple ballet concerts, school graduations, day care graduation (since when do kids graduate from day care??) and starting to get things organised for kids starting school NEXT year...both primary school and high school.  Next year my crazy schedule is only going to get worse, due to the kids, but I'm really looking forward to it.  But for the moment I'm going to settle back with a good magazine or three and just smell the roses.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

How to Beat the Aussie Heat

I'll let you into a little secret.  I hate the heat.  Blergh.  When I say 'heat' I mean those really extreme days that we get here in Australia.  Actually for me 'extreme' is anything above 35 degrees (95 F).  At the moment, in the state of Victoria, where I live (which is the south east corner for those who don't know), we are experiencing a heatwave.  Today is the third day in a row of stupid heat.   It started with a sultry 39 degrees (102.2 F), yesterday was 40 (104 F)....yes, I said 40...and today we are expecting another 40 degree day.  As you can imagine, by the third or fourth day you are well and truly over it and praying for the cool change.

Lucky, where I live, our heatwaves of three or four days (at the most), are always followed by a cool change.  Always.  It's quite bizarre, but it's absolutely freakin' wonderful I can tell you.  In other parts of the country they are not so lucky.  For example where I used to live 'up north' in Wakool (which is in New South Wales), it gets in the mid 40s quite easily during summer and will stay up there day after day after day after day.....  But, it's a different kind of heat from what we get here, a real dry heat, so it's a little bit more bearable.  Actually, I lie.  It's still bloody hot!!  Here it's definitely more humid, but no where near anything like the humidity they experience WAY up north in places like Queensland, which is somewhat similar to countries like Indonesia I guess. 

The cool change here is truly amazing.  You have these stifling few days, where the house very quickly turns into a sweat box (and then kindly retains the heat for you), but then suddenly, within the space of about 10 minutes, the cool change will sweep through and the temperature will plummet about 10 degrees.  I kid you not.  It's insane.  At this point I will run around the house like a mad woman, throwing open all the doors and windows, then go stand out in the garden, my face pressed against the wind.  And when I say 'wind', it's normally crazy wind, which usually precedes a storm.  In the meantime, all my possessions inside the house will be sucked up in some kind of mini indoor tornado and go whirling around the room.  The last time we had a sudden onslaught of 'decline in temperature' like this was only recently, and my eldest son opened up the front door, which caused a gigantic gust of wind to blow through and unhinge a picture off the wall and send it crashing to the floor in a shower of broken glass.  Fabulous.

To give you more of an idea let's talk about today.  It's the third day of heat (thankfully the cool change is coming some time this afternoon....and after 40 degrees today it is meant to be only about 21 (69.8 F) tomorrow), and by 7.30 am this morning I had put the air conditioner on.  By 8.30 am it was 33 degrees (91.4 F).  I was folding the washing at 9 am and was actually working up a sweat!!  At the moment, at 9.52am, it is now.....let me check.....35.6 (96 F).  Now all this is totally bearable if you have an air conditioner, which thankfully I do, although it isn't a split system, just one of those ones you shove in your you have to sit directly in front of it to get the full benefit....still, it's better than nothing and does reduce the temperature in my lounge room enough to make it completely comfortable.
So, getting to the point of my do you beat the Aussie heat?  My best tip....STAY INDOORS!!!!  During extreme weather like this it is the advice that pops up on the television from the Ambulance and Police departments, along with the advice to drink plenty of water and check on your neighbours.  Apparently the emergency department has an increase of inpatients, particularly the elderly and the very young suffering from dehydration, and then no doubt the odd idiot who decides that today is a great day to go out for a jog.  Yeah, I know.  Can you believe it??

So, you stay indoors, which is what I have been doing.  I call it "going into lock down".  I know it sounds like I'm planning to survive some sort of nuclear blast, but this is kind of what it is like for me.  I hate the heat that much.  I used to DREAD the summer, and watch the forecast with a knot in my stomach, literally feeling sick when a stretch of super silly hot days was on the way.  Now, with the air conditioner firmly in place, I don't feel quite so bad about it, but for me it really was a THING.

Yes, as I said, I go into lock down mode.  I shut all the blinds and close all the doors.  The air conditioner goes on when it starts to get stuffy.  I do not deny the request of an icy pole from the kids, even if they have only just had one an hour ago.  Drink plenty of water.  I like to stick my hands under the tap for a while, the cold water on my wrists seeming to make a huge difference.  And then, like yesterday, I lie on the floor somewhere in the way of the vortex of cool air pumping out of the air conditioner, and I do as little as possible.  Yesterday I read very little of my 'Country Style' magazine because I kept falling asleep.  Actually this was probably a good thing because I got very little sleep last night...what with the high temperature, my husband being unwell and various children visiting my bed during the night and insisting on wrapping themselves around me. 

Looking forward to the cool change......

Friday, December 18, 2015

An Australian Christmas

I have a very dear friend, on the other side of the world, who is having trouble getting her head around the idea of Christmas during the summer.  (Yes Stephanie I'm talking about you!!)  But I do understand what you mean.  Exactly.  And I even LIVE through summers and Christmases coinciding, and have done so for forty years.  Ok, so let's not throw THAT number around, but yes, I get it.  It's a weird concept because Christmas is all about tradition and the tradition of Christmas states that it snows and you sit by the fire and you wear a really ugly Christmas jumper (sweater) and drink eggnog (whatever the hell that is) and Santa wears a big red suit with furry bits on it to keep him warm.  YES!  All of these images and then some are what is portrayed as Christmas down here.  Really.  We have all the movies showing with it snowing at Christmas, we buy Christmas cards with blizzards all over the front and dust our gingerbread houses with a liberal amount of fake snow.  Down here in our sun drenched part of the globe we just accept the fact that Christmas is about winter, snow and Frosty the Snowman.  However, as far as I know, and can remember, it has never snowed at Christmas, I've never seen anyone sporting an ugly Christmas jumper and Santa definitely does NOT need the furry bits.  And seriously, I've never seen or heard of anyone drinking eggnog here, although I've just found out that we probably should because it's served cold apparently.  I always thought it was a hot thing.  Go figure.

Instead we have sun, and lots of it, and sometimes heat if summer decides to show up on time.  Some people have their Christmas lunch outdoors, although weirdly a lot of us have the traditional Christmas turkey with all the trimmings, the roast vegetables, the ham and Christmas pudding afterwards, all eaten inside, with more people stuffed around the table than can possibly fit, and when I was growing up not a lot of people had air conditioning so it was always a muggy old affair.
There are those that embrace the whole 'Australian-ness' of Christmas and will "throw another shrimp on the barbie" (we actually call them prawns here), and many go crazy about seafood.  My family is very much a traditional turkey and ham family, and  my mother always makes the Christmas pudding, a recipe that was handed down from her Nana Rowland....which I actually have made myself, last Christmas and two Christmases before that...when I have spent the day with my husband's family.  I am proud to say that the pudding 'baton' was handed on quite successfully and both times I've made it just as well as my mum!

Instead of snow I can see this out in my back garden.
My vegetables have gone ballistic.  Nothing like a bit of sheep poo from the farm.
Very excited about the prospect of tomatoes! 

Instead of snowmen and frost I can see this out of my front door.
The tiles on the neighbour's roofs shimmering in the heat, the grass on the distant hills starting to brown off, the big big blue sky and the gumtrees getting that haze about them that suggests the eucalyptus oil is on the move and is just about ready for a bushfire, should a lightening strike, (or some idiot with a match) decide to strike.
Thinking about that....the Country Fire Authority (CFA)...are the volunteers that make up the fire fighters in our rural communities here in my state.  Other states in Australia have similar organisations.  This is what they normally do....
This was actually just after the Black Saturday Fires in February of 2009.  This was the farm that I managed and it was totally burnt out.  When I turned up two days later I had to call '000', which is our emergency number, and get the fire fighters out to deal with a grass fire that had sprung up, which then caused my last remaining hay bale to go up in a ball of flames.
Afterwards I looked simply stunning, all covered in ash and smelling like a chimney.  Even my white knickers had turned grey, which was weird because I hadn't even taken my pants off!!

However at Christmas time, usually on the night before Christmas Eve, you can find the CFA driving around the streets of country towns, with Santa precariously hanging off the side, with volunteers throwing bags of lollies out to all the children.  You always know they are coming because the siren will 'whoop' and the children will spill out of their houses like the beans out of a beanbag with a hole in it, and it just wouldn't seem like Christmas without them.

If Christmas day happens to coincide with a really hot day then Christmas lunch might dissolve into a massive water fight on the front lawn.  You know, the perfect opportunity to completely drench any relatives you might not necessary like.  The kids have a ball and usually get sunburnt and with all that running about the lawn and throwing water someone will undoubtedly get hurt and the whole thing is likely to end in tears.  Either that or a brand new toy will get broken.  But it's a hell of a lot of fun in the meantime. 

Your best Christmas outfit will most likely be a floaty dress, something maxi even, that hides the food baby you will most certainly have later.  Stupid paper hats at lunch are a must, crackers with bad jokes are a given and your Dad falling asleep on the couch in the afternoon just goes without saying.

The lead up to Christmas, I can imagine, would be pretty much the same in the Northern Hemisphere as it is here.  The frenzy of trying to buy your Christmas presents in time, the stress of it all...and if you're anything like me....the TWO hours it takes to wrap it all up.  This is just part of the crazy Christmas load for this year.....
Yes, this is a photo of the top of my wardrobe, and I'm not being very sneaky because my walk-in-robe doesn't have a door so if the kids just go in and look up they will quite easily see a whole stack of presents....but hey, what can you do?

Anyway, I hope this has shed a little bit of light on what goes on WAY down south during the festive season.  Have a good one!



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Up and Away

On the weekend my husband finally got around to using the gift certificate that I gave him for Christmas LAST year!  He'd mentioned in passing (a few times!) that he'd love to have a go at flying.  So tucking that away in my memory drawer of possible presents I went out and discovered that there is an airfield not too far from us that has a flying school.  With beginner lessons at a slightly out of reach price at around $600 I also discovered they had a 'have a taste of flying' lessons, for an hour for $220.  Perfect!

It did take right up until the certificate was about to expire (after 12 months) before I managed to get my husband to agree to take a weekend off to do it (!) but I think in the end it was well worth the wait.

The plane that he went up in, and yes got to fly for a while, was indeed as small as it looks in the photo above.  Yes.  Really.  He did stand taller than the height of the wing.  Do not adjust your sets.  This is not an illusion.  The cockpit of the plane looked barely big enough to squeeze one person in, let alone two, so on my behalf it was probably a bit of a relief that the instructor was an older lady and not some super hot Scarlett Johansson look-a-like (a particular favourite of my husband!).
First he was given about 20 minutes instruction where the pilot talked about various parts of the plane and gabbed on about things like wind and no doubt things like lift and drag and whatever else the terms are that are used in flying.  My husband is a bit of a whiz at maths and anything mechanical so he would have certainly been in his element and really understood it all.  I, however, would have been lost at the first sentence and would probably be standing there repeating to myself that it is only rubber bands and magic that are holding this thing in the sky.
This was after they had managed to fold themselves up and stuff themselves in.  I'm thinking a can opener might have been involved and maybe a crowbar was on hand somewhere to get them out later on.  My husband is 6 foot one and the pilot was quite tall too, so for the purposes of this photo I'm thinking they actually removed their legs and are in fact just a pair of torsos.  Is it just me or does it not look like there is enough space below the window to accommodate the bottom half of their bodies??  Random.
As you can probably imagine my stress levels were at about 11 right now.

With my heart in my mouth, my stomach in my shoes and me crossing every digit that I possess, hoping that I haven't just gifted him a 'Certificate to Go Up in A Blaze of Glory', he was up, up, up....
..a bit further up for my liking....
...and then away!
So wondering whether I'd see my husband in one piece again, I took the kids to the nearby play equipment and they joyfully cascaded up and down the curly wurly slide while I watched the skies and waited. 
In the meantime I had this to amuse me.  Right next door to the flying school is a sky diving joint.  You know, where people pay good money to randomly thrown themselves out of a perfectly good plane.  I watched a speck of a plane trundle by and then suddenly.....a whole pile of block dots appeared in a clump.  Then as quickly as they had been clumped together they separated and seconds later there were colourful balloons of parachutes bursting out all over the sky.
It really was quite a sight.  Even if I thought they were all lunatics.
Then, of course, I started wondering about whether my husband had access to a parachute, but then judging by the size of that plane it was highly unlikely, and if so, there would probably only be room for one at the most.  Then I started to go through all these scenarios in my head, like the teeny tiny plane that he was putt-putting about in was screaming out of control hurling towards the ground and a good humoured and well mannered argument was going on between my husband and the pilot as to who should take the parachute.  He'd be all like "ladies first" and being all gentlemanly and taking the idea of going up in a ball of flames like a man, and then she'd be all like a captain of a ship saying "oh heavens no, I have to go down with the plane"...etc...etc.....  But, then I figured that he'd be more likely to get run over in some freak runaway tractor accident than go down in an airplane, so for goodness sake Amber stop worrying.  So instead I turned my attention back to these lunatics...
It does sort of look like fun.  And I'd probably give it a go.  If I could get over the terror of tossing myself out the open doorway of a plane.  While it was in the air.  And a very very long way up.
Actually, what I found really odd about the whole thing is that when you see sky diving on the television it seems to take an age.  You know, they're up there free falling for ages and then they open their chute and gently drift down.  They plummet for about two seconds before popping their chutes, then it takes about twenty seconds maximum and they came THUNDERING down before hitting the earth with a shuddering knee shattering crash.  Surely my back couldn't handle the jarring on landing.  See how easily I've talked myself out of it?!
Tiny planes or parachutes, I think I personally prefer to be on solid ground.  My husband did land safely, just in case you were a little worried, and he did have a great time.  He said that he was probably having to concentrate too hard to actually think about having said 'great time' because there was just so much going on, what with having to steer with your hands AND your feet and watch all the different instruments and think about all the things that were going on, but he is quite keen I think to give it another go sometime!

In the meantime, I do win the award for giving AWESOME presents!!


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Handmade Bits For Sale

A little addition to the blog.  You may notice under the header I now have a 'Shop' which is where you can find little bits and bobs that I have made while satisfying my sewing habit.  These are all 'one offs' and can easily be purchased through here.

The decision to have a little shop comes from not only my need to fund my sewing addiction (!) but I am finding myself sewing for fun but having too many clothes put away that my children can't possibly wear.

The shop will be updated as new items become available but for the moment I have a collection of children's clothing, some skirts, shorts and a pinafore.  Here is a sneak peak at a few things available....
Rose Garden Pinafore, size 2
Ballet Dancer Girls Skirt, size 2
Little Red Elephants Girls Skirt, size 4
Camping with Creatures Shorts, in both size 2 and 4

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Writing Services

Just to let you know...I am now offering my services as a freelance writer!  Hop on over and have a look here for more details.
I have a Bachelor degree in writing as well as an Advanced Diploma in Journalism, and have experience writing for magazines and online.
I'm able to write articles, advertorials, SEO content, web content, sponsored posts, guest posts, blog content, brochures, flyers and anything else you might need!
And with the beauty of the Internet my services are also available worldwide!  So pop on over and have a look and let me help you with all your copy writing needs.

Monday, December 7, 2015

How Life is Like a Meringue

In all my experience of being forty *cough* one, and having gone through a range of human dramas, emotions, setbacks, highs and lows and plenty of good times, I think I have come to the conclusion you can almost look at life as being similar to a meringue. 

I made these last week, and it was when I was biting into one, the crisp shell exploding in my mouth and shattering all down my front and onto the floor, covering me in a dusty coating of sticky crumbs, that I became quite philosophical about this innocent concoction of egg white and sugar.

Like a meringue life really is fragile.  Our relationships with lovers, partners, friends and family, how fragile and finely balanced our environment is, (teetering on the verge of actual serious conversations about stalling the extinction of even our very existence); it's all just a thin sprinkle covered coating away from shattering.  Things you say without thinking can destroy a friendship, even things you don't mean.  With today's saturation of social media a single 'tweet' or 'post' can be misread and have you battling against family or being forced to constantly defend yourself for things you've never done.  And then there's the arguments you can have with your partner, because you're both stressed about money, or that you are forced to spend so much time apart because of the demands of work, or you're just tired because of the million and one things that fill your day.  Those arguments that lead to words that are said, that are not really meant, but perhaps are just frustrated thoughts that we all sometimes have, and now they are out there and they go on to hurt a person long after they were voiced.  Words that will get replayed in your mind when you are feeling low and make you doubt who you are and how your partner really feels about you.  It is these 'meringue' moments that we need to try and avoid.  Because like a meringue, it only takes a puff of wind and these relationships, and yes, even our lives, can be completely blown away.

The human race is like a meringue, because like the way I ate another one, and got covered AGAIN in white powder, we never learn our lesson.  We are still fighting and hating and trying to exterminate entire races, religions or those that are different from us.  The question of why a crazed few find it necessary to open fire in a crowded theatre in Paris or shoot those at random in the recent shootings in America, I don't think will ever be truly explained.  What really brings people to do this?  There is no straight forward answer and considering what the possible conclusion might be, it doesn't bear thinking about.  Our co-existence is so fragile, and always has been since the dawn of time, that picturing a meringue with its hollow centre and the delicate walls that surround it, is about as good an analogy as you can get.

My quest to simplify my life, rely less on having 'stuff' and think more about having experiences and spending time with family is what has brought me to consider my meringues as not just a sweet treat that, let's face it, I try and hide from the children (!), but also as a reflection on how precious my loved ones really are.  With Christmas just around the corner, and traditionally being a time where we all get together and spend time with family, it further heightens this awareness that it is the people that are in our lives that are important and not the 'things'.  Where the lead up to Christmas is now all about the stress of getting your Christmas shopping done (buying more 'stuff'), why not this year think about the 'meringue' factor and think about how quickly and easily life can just dissolve. 

Enjoy your time together, because it really is so precious, (and I'm not just talking about the time over the festive season), and perhaps to help you get a better understanding of my theory.....make yourself a batch of meringues! (recipe below xx)

4 to 5 egg whites (depending on the size of your eggs)
1 cup of castor sugar
Food colouring (if you wish)


Preheat oven to 100 degrees Celsius (212 F).  Cover baking trays with baking paper.  Separate your egg whites into a large mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form.  Gradually add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, making sure that the sugar dissolves.  If you like you can add a few drops of food colouring.
Using a piping bag pipe the meringue into swirls on the trays, decorate with sprinkles and place in the oven for approximately an hour, or until the meringues are dry to the touch.  To cool switch off the oven and leave the meringues in the oven with the door open ajar.

(If you're really clever you can have a go at making animals or all sorts of other shapes but my piping skills are pretty ordinary so I stick with this 'soft serve ice cream' type shape!)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Keeping Track

Ergh!!  Where has the year gone?  Are we really already doing the Advent Calendar countdown to Christmas?  Counting our way down to the madness one chocolate at a time?  (my kids love it)  My current diary is so packed with all the last minute things that are happening for the remainder of 2015 that I know there is no way I could ever do without the thing.  It's my lifeline.  I'd be completely lost without it. 
In it are an abundance of things I still have to remember to do, such as get my eldest son to a dress rehearsal this weekend and his final dance concert, (my two year old daughter even has a dance concert, a Christmas show), my two middle boys, who are starting school next year, have prep transition days, my eldest, who is off to high school next year, has orientation days, and he also has a final day of celebration at primary school, where they will be having water I had to remember to buy him a water gun....and he also does drama at school....where there is an end of year as the Sun God I had to find him a pair of yellow leggings....(I failed and had to buy him white instead).  My husband is also written up in my diary and finally using the present I gave him for Christmas last year (a training flight in a light aircraft....which is this Sunday)  There's a whole bunch of other things too; like a kinder Christmas party for my 4 year old son, a Christmas disco for the kinder kids, a concert and graduation for my two middle boys at their day care, a Christmas party for the day care and somewhere in there I think I was invited to a Christmas BBQ where the local CFA (Country Fire Authority) will be coming around with Santa in the back of the truck and handing out lollies.  It's doing my head in!  And somewhere in there I have to try and find time to do some Christmas shopping.  I have mountains left to do but more bills than I can poke a stick at so I'm not exactly sure how all of that is going to happen.  It usually has a way of working itself out so I'm just trying not to think about it at this point.
It was actually a couple of months ago that I was forced to buy a 2016 diary.  It's always a bit of a freak out, you know, thinking about the next year while you're still wading through the current one.  But I really had no choice.  I starting to book in appointments for next year and having to scribble them in the margins of the last week of 2015.  It just wasn't working for me.  Anyway, for next year I have diverged from my usual 'Country Style' diary (which is a diary produced by my favourite magazine and has lots of lovely photos on every page) and instead go for one by Kikki K.  It's a really nice stationery company and this diary will give  me more space to scribble. Trust me.  I need it.  This one has lots of cute illustrations through it but no space taken up with massive photos so it's a good one.
I've even lashed out this year and ordered us a family calendar.  This one is from Tiny Me.  They have the cutest personalised stuff.  Bags for kids, lunch boxes, stationery etc.  This calendar is one of those ones where you can personalise it and inside are columns, one for everyone family member, and they actually print the names of each family member on each column.  There was just the right number available, so all six of us are set and I figured, what with life getting increasingly busy as my kids get older, it is going to be the most useful thing in my house. 
I'm one of these people that if I don't have it written down it doesn't happen.  Seriously.  I don't remember anything, and next year I will have my eldest at high school, dance classes and dance classes in the city at The Australian Ballet School (!!!!....excited much!), my little girl at ballet classes as well, my two middle boys most likely playing soccer for the local club in my town, hopefully swimming lessons for my three youngest if I can book them in (places are so limited), all the other random appointments will no doubt come up and I also want to be able to get involved with the school that my prep boys are going to next year.  I really want to start helping out and getting to know the other mothers so that I can start making some friends.  I think it's about time.  Although how I'm going to fit all this in I have no idea!

Have you bought your 2016 diary or calendar yet?!