Autumn is in the air, time to get realistic

I’ve come to the conclusion that, realistically, updating my blog will be a once a week event. This should actually make it a better read by paring it down to the essentials and also assuage the guilt I have been feeling for not adding to it on a daily basis.

The thing is we really have settled in now and the routine is down pat. Kids off to school, I write, Hubby works, all easy peasy. Not so with the blog which I have decided to relocate from Blogspot to WordPress because I think the latter has better stats which I desperately need. So now I have to revisit all the sites I’ve added In the Hot Spot to and also relocate my (six!) wonderful followers.

Spoilt after 18 months in the tropics

The other evening I felt quite strange, I couldn’t put my finger on it for a moment and then I realised, I was cold! I don’t think I’ve felt cold for two years so that’s why I couldn’t pinpoint it at all, but since then I’ve been feeling a nip in the air in the mornings and even once in bed a night. So, my old duvets which were packed away in storage in New Zealand are now outside airing.

It is actually quite fun to have seasons again. In Costa Rica they do call the rainy season winter but it is not cold. Meanwhile here in Queensland, the summer was hotter than the temperatures in Costa Rica but now we will get a bit of respite over the winter and can enjoy wearing jeans and sweaters. Funnily enough Ticas (Costa Rican women) wear skin tight jeans non-stop no matter how hot and steamy the weather. It is kind of a national pastime I think.

So, now here in Queensland, the sky is clear blue and there is a light breeze, the perfect weather for airing my duvets after a week of clouds and unexpected showers. I do hope we have nice weather over the Easter holidays. I need to put getting a wetsuit to the top of my list as I could definitely tell I was cold last time I went surfing and was I eying all the surfers with wetsuits on enviously.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

Making New Friends: Playdates

Following up on the Gold Coast post and McDonald’s Happy Meals

We have a lot of kids over to play where ever we live. My kids demand it and I supply. Anything to keep them happy, even though this means lots of phone calls to strangers lining up the play dates and lots of conversations with mothers I don’t know.

Recently I had a conversation with one mum who was dropping her lad off at my house which went a bit like this:

“Samuel can stay for supper.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, it’s no problem. We’re just having omelets.”
“Samuel doesn’t like eggs.”
“Oh dear.”
“Just give him a little bit, maybe he’ll try it.”

Later at supper, after Samuel’s mum has gone home, Samuel eyed the omelet with suspicion and asked:

“What’s this?”
“Cheesy delight.” I answered, smiling encouragingly.
“Try it.” Samuel obediently had a bite, then asked:
“Has it got egg in?”
“No.” I replied, then shamed by the blatant and, to my own children, obvious, lie I added:
“Well, just a little bit.”
“Crocodile eggs” My hubby interjected helpfully. We all laughed and Samuel looked slightly confused but ate the omelet anyway. He’s a good lad, Samuel and will definitely be invited again. Wether or not he wants to come back to visit us is another thing.

Shameful I know, but we had Samuel’s best interests at heart. After all, you just can’t beat an omelet for taste, nutrition and ease. But I’m sure they’d be more popular if they came with a free toy.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

Gold Coast Theme Parks – White Water World

Small meets Dora the Explorer at White Water World

Small meets Dora the Explorer at White Water World

Learning to be like an Aussie and Speak Aussie

Last Saturday we went to the Gold Coast on a bus trip with our local Surf Life Saving Club to celebrate the end of the Nippers season, where children are schooled in the fine art of surf life saving. This was the final bash to reward the kids for all their hard and fast running, paddling and swimming over the season.

For someone like me, who doesn’t like bus trips, this was a brave move. Travel by bus makes plane travel, with it’s opportunities for walking round people watching and star spotting, seem positively enviable. Yes, five hours on a bus was a brave, some may say foolhardy move. Still, I have to say it all went well and was worth the trip.

Terror at White Water World

We spent the day at White Water World, a kind of aquatic adventure park and the only hiccup was that my kids didn’t want to go on any of the rides. I have to take some of the blame here. I have raised them on a small island in New Zealand and in the jungle of Costa Rica where the only adrenalin rushes are provided by nature. So, a vast theme park with thousands of people running around squealing may have freaked them out a bit. We went straight to the Temple of Huey where there were some short tubes for people to whizz down in inflatable rings. It looked like great fun and all the other pleasure-seekers had smiles plastered on their faces. Not my four year old though. She screamed, she yelled, she cried, she clung to the edge of the tube and refused to let go. The helpers and I cajoled, pleaded, ordered and finally prised her fingers away and pushed her off into the tunnel. “Wheeeee” I whooped.
“Again, again.” Small cried when we got to the bottom. Phew!

Meanwhile Medium, aged seven was having the same problem and weeping inconsolably at the top of the ride, so I had to go through the same scenario all over again with the same predictable end result. Sometimes you really do have to be cruel to be kind. Surely Large, aged ten was having a blast, I thought. But no, he was skulking around at the bottom and refused to even climb the steps to the top of the ride. This time the usual cajoling, persuasion and ordering failed and sadly, I had to resort to bribery. Yes, I am sorry to have to say that I had to pay my son a dollar to go on the ride. It makes me wonder what is wrong with my children in these kind of situations and by extension what is wrong with me. Any comments on this are welcome…maybe.

Learning the Lingo: How to Talk like an Australian and understand Australian expressions

Anyway, after all that nervous excitement, we really did have fun and spent six hours wooshing down slides and around bends. On the way home we stopped at ‘Maccas’ just as one of the other mums had told me we would. “What’s that?” I asked “McDonalds.” She said, without even rolling her eyes. Our kids, who have been deprived of such things for a few years were delighted to be reunited with the ‘happy’ meal, especially Small who was over the moon with her Hello Kitty watch. Combined with an unexpected meeting with Dora the Explorer things can’t get much better than this when you’re four.

Australians love abbreviating words to create new ones like ‘Maccas’, ‘avo’ (avocado) or ‘arvo’ (afternoon). There are so many examples I’d like to compile a list of them. But wait, the thoughtful people at Koalanet have already done it for me, so if you want to learn to talk like an Aussie and be in the know if you come across a bogan, a hoon or a jillaroo try Koalanet.

Noosa Festival of Surfing 2009

Bad News: Skin Cancer, Oil Slicks, and Sick Trees

Good News: Hot, Hot, Hot Surfers, doing what they do best

First the bad news…

Some of the beautiful people, and Thomas Meyerhoffer, launching his radical longboard design

Some of the beautiful people, and Thomas Meyerhoffer, launching his radical longboard design

The people sitting on the beach must be hot, and ignorant of, or choosing to ignore, the dangers of the midday sun, whose ultra-violet rays are notoriously strong here in Australia. Under the shade of a pandanus tree, with its roots growing in a cone to support its trunk, it is cool, chilly even with the off-shore breeze.

Laguna Bay is spread in front of me, glittering as far as the eye can see, like a million tiny mirrors catching the sunlight. From the shoreline the white surf and gauzy green shallows darken gradually to deep velvety blue on the horizon. Noosa National Park is hidden around the leafy headland, but the white sands of the beaches and dunes of Cooloola National Park are clearly visible across the bay.

Sad then that this paradise on earth conceals many hidden dangers, and it’s not just the sun which is posing a serious health risk or only humans who are in peril. On land there is a mysterious insect infestation which is killing the iconic pandanus trees. At sea, an oil spill has blighted beaches only twenty kilometers from here, and along much to the coastline further south towards Brisbane, causing untold damage to plants and animals at sea and on land.

And the Good News…

But here in Noosa, the Festival of Surfing must go on and a good time is being had by all. The pro-women’s surf competition is underway and the only drawback visible to the naked eye are the waves, which are so small, it’s a wonder anyone can surf on them at all. Lucky that these people are professionals who can surf on any wave, big or small.

On Sunday pro-surfer, Julian Wilson, was surfing in the family competition with his dad. If the local press is to be believed, twenty year old Julian, is one of the best surfers in the world. Despite the obvious bias of the local press towards this Coolum surfer he has beaten Kelly Slater several times already so it may just be true.

Julian and I flew to Brisbane together from Los Angeles in November. I’d never heard of him then, but like me, he is a poor flier who prefers to roam the plane and loiter outside the toilets for hours at a time, while other people are sleeping soundly in their cramped seats. His carroty tan and woolen hat pulled down low over wild straw-like hair made a lasting impact on me and I had no trouble recognizing him a few weeks later when I read saw him featured in a magazine.

So you see, me and Julian go way back. Fortunately for him and the other pros I have decided to stick to surfing at an amateur level this year. But I can’t help noticing that Julian looks much better in his board shorts, with no beanie and with wet hair.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

Writing career conflicts with tenancy agreement

Writing and Renting in Australia

Well, yesterday was a momentous day in my writing career. After all I’ve read about writing, the one thing that seems clear is that you have to be prepared to get many, many rejections before a piece of your writing will be finally be accepted for publication. This is a truth universally acknowledged in writing and everyone knows stories about famous writers suffering multiple rejections, before someone finally showed an interest in their work.

Knowing this, I thought I’d better get the ball rolling and actually submit some work to someone so I could start ticking off those rejection slips and start this writer’s rite of passage. So yesterday, for the very first time, I actually sent a stranger, in this case the editor of the local rag, an article I’d written. Sure enough, I got an instant result and within hours my very first rejection was emailed to me. This is what is said.

My First Rejection Letter (Hopefully the first of many)

“Hello Annabel
Many thanks for your column idea. We are always on the lookout for new ideas and ways to brighten up our publications. At present we are not in a position to add any extra columns, but we would be happy to revisit your column idea at a later date.
Best wishes”
(Name and address withheld)

Wow! I am really pleased with it. Especially because it didn’t contain the words “that sucks” or “you loser” so all in all I think it bodes rather well for my writing career. If he actually read it that is.

Renting a house and tenancy agreements in Australia

Changing the subject now, here are a few thoughts on being a tenant and renting a house as opposed to being the proud owner of your own home. I think we actually got a bit spoilt renting in Costa Rica. We had a lovely Italian property manager who would go out of his way to make sure we had what we wanted in the way of furniture, house keepers, gardeners and pool maintenance people, and all for a price which we found acceptable. How things have changed.

Here in Australia, we actually had to beg a property management company to allow us to stay in one of their houses. We had to provide references and copies of our bank statements, rental history and career progression. Of course, these all needed a bit of tweaking before they were accepted by someone. Now we pay through the nose to stay here, and are obliged to do all the cleaning, gardening and pool work all by ourselves! What’s more, we are treated as second class citizens by the press, who are forever making snide comments about how no one wants to live in areas where there are a lot of renters and little things like that.

Property Inspection Strikes Fear into Mother of Three’s Heart

Meanwhile, our property management company is coming to conduct a property inspection tomorrow. This sounds quite reasonable and they kindly gave us a few weeks notice, but with that notice came a letter that would strike fear into any mother’s heart. It said that the property had to be neat and tidy and the garden free of weeds. It listed the items they would be checking and requested that we do a few obscure things like “clean the grout” in the bathrooms. The timing of this is bad. It comes, just when I am really getting into the flow with writing and have gleefully lowered my standards when it comes to cleaning to avoid exactly these pointless activities that they are now asking me to perform.

So I have to go. Today will be devoted to tidying, cleaning, scrubbing, vacuuming and mopping ready for my big cleaning test tomorrow. Actually, maybe I should just forget the cleaning and carry on as normal. Is it really that much of a sin if my house isn’t 100% clean? After all, it’s not a total health hazard or anything, we do perform a standard clean on a regular basis and, anyway, I like a home that looks lived in, not like a museum. I wonder what punitive action there will be if I don’t make reach their expectations. Actually, it would be quite interesting to find out….

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!


New to Noosa and enjoying all it has to offer

The koala that motivated us to walk on

The koala: a little known motivational tool

Free activities huge draw card for family with Scottish ancestry

Before moving to Noosa we lived in the south of Costa Rica where there were more monkeys than people and the only family day out would be the odd cabalgata, or horse parade. Cabalgatas are generally typified by the number of drunken cowboys riding their horses round the village, while sinking progressively lower into their saddles and leaving a trail of crushed beer cans behind them. Not really that family-friendly in fact.

Prior to Costa Rica, we lived on Waiheke Island, a stunning wine-producing island in the north of New Zealand. There were some great events on Waiheke, like the wine and jazz festivals, or the spectacular biannual sculpture walk, but the time between these big events seemed to drag by, often for months on end.

TravelSmart Noosa

Meanwhile, here in Noosa we seem to be spoilt for choice with the vast array of things to see and do. Take last weekend, for example. On Saturday, we enjoyed the TravelSmart Noosa event, kindly organised by the local council to encourage us to be more eco-friendly in our transport choices. To this end the lovely TravelSmart people organised a fun and non-competitive bike and walk circuit for us, and about 500 other people, providing free entertainment afterwards with music, a stilt-walker, a giant twister board and a prize raffle with loads of prizes that you’d actually want to win: a family voucher for Australia zoo, a bike or a two night stay in a posh hotel, to name but a few. As if this wasn’t enough, they also plied us with useful freebies including water bottles, bum bags, bicycle repair kits and backpacks. Thanks a lot!

Because we thought our seven year old would struggle to cycle to the event and then complete the ten kilometer circuit, we opted to drive there and do the five kilometer walk. I know, going by car kind of missed the point but still, we weren’t the only guilty ones. The car park was full.

I’m sorry to say that the walk didn’t get off to a very good start. Our adorable four year old kept falling off her bike as the trainer wheels weren’t in the right position. Our adventurous seven year old complained of thirst constantly. Even my dear hubby bleated on about how hot it was and how he wished they’d chosen a shadier route. He even suggested we sit down for a while, wait until all the other walkers had gone by and then take off our numbers and go back to the car! He then claimed that he was joking but I have to wonder.

How we got Motivated by a Real Live Wild Koala

Just when I thought I’d surely go mad if I heard another complaint in this unrelenting heat we spotted a koala.

“Look!” Someone shouted.
“It’s awake.” And sure enough it was.

Well, if even a koala could stay awake for a few minutes to egg us on during the walk, then we could complete it. Mercifully, soon after that we reached a water stop, and it was all down hill from then on, via the bat colony and back to our starting point. Apart from one final scooter accident involving our independent ten year old, it was all good old-fashioned fun from then on. We saw a few familiar faces from school and the Surf Life Saving Club, and had a laugh thanks to the man who was manning the microphone and encouraging us to chant childish inanities like:

“What do we want? The prize draw! When do we want it? Now!”

Even though we didn’t actually win one of the big prizes we came very close, had fun, got a bit of exercise and got motivated by a koala. Now, not a lot of people can say that.

Family Fun Day at the Noosa Regional Gallery

For us jungle-dwelling, island escapees, it was an action-packed day and we had barely recovered from all the excitement when Sunday rolled around with a family fun day at the Noosa Regional Gallery. Yes, another free event to keep us off the streets. We rocked up grumpy, well, some of us, and not quite knowing what to expect, only to be pleasantly surprised once again.

A bevy of friendly, helpful volunteers guided our children through the array of shoe-related activities on offer. It’s a monthly event and this time the theme of shoes was chosen to tie in with the amazing display of creative footwear by Pendragon Art Shoes. From designing shoes, to actually making them or decorating a shoe box, our kids spent a happy hour or so letting their creative juices flow. What’s more we didn’t even have to cook them lunch as there was a sausage sizzle to stave off hunger pangs and give us a much needed break from the feeding and cleaning merry-go-round.

It wasn’t just us that had fun either. I saw a few kids leave their thongs, as Australians adorably call flip flops, behind, preferring to go home sporting a pair of gladiator sandals hand-crafted out of cardboard and twine. So next time my kids want to buy a pair of fashionable but impractical shoes I know what to do, just let them make themselves a pair and keep everyone happy.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!