Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Friends with Perks

Years ago when I was in my early 20s I lived in Dublin. My friend and I scored a great shared room in one of Dublin's best spots, which happened to be not too far from the big arena where all the best gigs were held.

One Friday night I dragged my Irish flatmate to the arena so we could listen to a Robbie Williams concert from the outside. While we were standing down near the stage end (but outside the venue) a guy came over and asked if we wanted tickets? Of course I did.

There was a catch.

They were special VIP tickets and we had to stand RIGHT AT THE VERY FRONT with the other VIPs. He would take us back stage and walk us to the spot we had to stand.

Then he would take the tickets off us because he was going to sell them another three or four times, whatever he could manage before Robbie kicked off the first song.

I paid the pretty low price for the both of us and in we went and danced and screamed and sang our hearts out. It was a great concert, a perfect night. You can't plan nights like that. Getting those kinds of tickets just hardly ever happens, especially at bargain prices.

Until you get old. 

When you get old, (middle aged, mother of two old) there are perks that you don't think of when you are younger.

Like the fact that the people you know now have jobs, lots of them have a half decent job and lots of those jobs come with perks of some kind. Plus,  if you all want to go to a concert you can just buy a ticket.

But sometimes you just get a text message saying "I've got a stack of free tickets to the Lady Gaga concert on Sunday, wanna come?" And they are not seats that need binoculars, no, they are front of stage, with the dancers dripping sweat all over you tickets.

Plus someone is bound to have an 8 seater car, so you can all drive in together and then later cruise home, talking all the way, analysing how you think you knew maybe five or six of the songs and how glad you are that you wore your sensible shoes. You all discuss the concert in great detail, so thrilled you got a chance to escape a boring night where 60 minutes was probably going to be on the TV.

Friends with perks seems to just get better as you get older...they cook better food, serve MUCH better wine, get the best seats, wangle bookings at booked out restaurants...

Got any friends with perks?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

EAT: The No Fun Balls

I ended up at a lovely photo of some chocolate balls, like a rum ball,  but a healthy version, on facebook recently.

Currently I am trying to reduce the junk I consume so that I don't ever have to exercise (I know it's not a great choice but it's really cold and I just hate the cold so much).

Anyway, it's my usual conundrum because as much as I hate to exercise I also love to eat.

I decided to try the healthy chocolate balls. The original recipe was in a facebook post  from A Healthy Mum, she has lots of lovely recipe options that I hope to try.

I made the recipe a few times over the week to see how it went and changed it a little each time.  I went out and bought all the ingredients, most I did not have in my cupboard and they were not all at the supermarket so it took a little bit of effort.

Every adult that tried them liked them a lot. The children, not so much.

I bribed my kids to eat them.

I added them to their lunch boxes with little else and still they decided to go hungry rather than eat them.

Mr H christened them "The No Fun Balls". They are no gluten, no dairy, no sugar and apparently for kids, no fun.

However, here is what you need to give them a go.


One food processor. You are then going to put everything below into it and whiz, whiz, whiz.

1 cup of pitted dates OR 1 cup of pitted prunes OR 1/2 cup of dates and 1/2 cup of prunes.

1/3 cup of desiccated coconut

1/3 cup of sunflower seeds.   - These were hard to find, I got mine from a shop that sells grains/nuts/seeds as my Coles had none.

1 1/2 tablespoons of Carob powder.   This was really hard to find. I got mine at the grains/nut/seed shop but I had to ask the man working there if he knew what it was. The packet was in a completely unknown language so I had to take his word for it.

This is Carob powder. (I hope).

1 teaspoon of vanilla paste   Again, this was something I don't usually have. I did find it in Coles. It comes in a very little jar and is up the top with the expensive stuff.

2 tablespoons of coconut oil is the official amount suggested, I ended up with more like one big one as I found the first batch a bit oily for me.


Give the mix a good blend for a couple of minutes and then you are ready to squeeze them into shape.

The kids loved helping with the squeezy bit.

The balls will not roll like a traditional rum ball. You need to squeeze the mixture in your hands to get them into shape. Grab some mixture and squeeze it in your hands until it makes a firm ball.

Once you have done this, you will get about 10 to 12 No Fun Balls.

Pop them in the fridge to set.

Serve them up with cups of tea to friends.  Tell them first so that they don't expect a super sweet ball of sugary goodness. I told everyone they were so healthy we could have three each, which is exactly what we did. (I still haven't lost any weight).

Let me know if you can get your kids to eat them! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Should you take the kids to Adventure Park Singapore?

We recently had a wonderful family trip to Singapore. If you have just stumbled into this post you can read about our apartment and our thoughts on visiting Universal Studios too.

The kids got to decide the activity for a day, we were lucky enough to meet family in Singapore and to be celebrating a tenth birthday. Miss 10, and the additional four kids aged five to thirteen were keen to visit Adventure Park on Sentosa Island.

Sentosa was a quick $2 bus trip from our apartment, then a very short walk to the park.

The line to get in was small when we arrived at 10am and the lovely person at the ticket booth told us we wouldn't need to worry about the express pass option. At this park, the express ticket only gives you express access on two water slides, for everything else, you need to wait. And wait. And wait.

There are some really great slides at Adventure Park, especially for bigger kids. Miss 8 followed her cousins very quickly up the stairs and they all eventually came flying down the duelling racer slide.

The little pool behind her here is a paddling pool, ideal for toddlers only.

Miss 5 and I paddled in a small pool minding the lounge chairs, but she soon got bored in the paddling pool and we headed to the Rainbow Reef. Thankfully, those years of swimming lessons came in handy. The Rainbow Reef is beautiful. You pop on a life jacket, grab a mask and snorkel, get a 30 second lesson in what to do and swim around a reef filled with stunning fish.

This is a stock photo, not mine.

All was going well until a rather large fishy came a bit too close, and then Miss 5 decided she was not going to be swimming anymore - however, there is no turning back. Once you start, you need to keep going with the flow. (Unless you are drowning of course, there are many people there to watch out for danger). The only way we were going to get through is for me to piggy back her through the reef. Which is fine, but it is hard to swim with a snorkel with a life jacket and a five year old also in a life jacket on your back. My snorkel was filled with water a few times!  Beside this, I loved this reef.

The bigger kids were now lining up for a second water slide turn so Miss 5 and I went into the wave pool. This was also great fun. I put the life jacket on her and we went right to the deep end, with the jacket on she could bob around in the never ending waves and it was really fun. The waves then stop for ten minutes or so and start again, so we headed off to look for another adventure.

The big kids were still in the line for their second water slide.

We headed to the Adventure River. This is a nice option for small kids, but it was really packed. So packed that there were no tubes left for us to ride on. We decided to just float our way along the river, but there are so many people we were mainly walking. A highlight was floating past the Sting Ray pool and seeing all those smiling stingray faces looking at us. You can do a special Sting Ray experience, but that is an additional cost.

We were floating past the bottom of one of the water slides when all of a sudden the big kids came splashing down. They had waited over an hour for a ride on the spiral washout.

Uncle B then took Miss 5, Mr 7 and Miss 10 to the Big Bucket Treehouse for a play and I went back to take my turn looking after the chairs and bags. Seconds later he Uncle B returned with Miss 5 who was deemed too small to play in that area too.

Miss 5 and me doing a little more waiting around, hoping the storm will pass.

And then it rained just a little.

Even though it was still hot, the rides are stopped, everyone is ordered out of the water and you have to wait around until it's time to play again.

Then you line up all over again.

And then there is a storm warning and you are back out of the water again.

We eventually left Adventure Park just after lunch. In three hours the big kids had managed two water slide rides and that is it, the rest of the time they were lining up.

There are dolphins in the area, but this is as close as we got.

We went back to our apartment and played in our pool. We had our own small slide, our own pool stuff and stacks of fun.

Then on our way to have a feast of Japanese food the kids got cleaned up by the little fishies in the fish spa.

Personally, I have no interest in having fish nibble my feet, but the others all enjoyed it.

In conclusion:
Adventure Park is a water slide park that is ideal for big kids. There is not a lot for those that are under 122cm. But, the lines are very very long, we went on a Tuesday which was not considered a busy day and everything just took forever, even lining up for food.  If there is even the slightest chance of rain or thunder storms, it is probably not worth going. If you are heading to Adventure Park, prepare the kids for long lines and take a book, you are likely to get lots of time to read it.

This is not a sponsored post. We travelled to Singapore and all destinations on our own and paid our own way. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Do you dress up for Adult Functions with a theme?

In two weeks I am off to a big blogging conference.

It will be a big event and there are lots of people who have ridiculous numbers of followers on their social media channels who will be both attending and presenting.

They are usually pretty generous with their knowledge and are happy to share it all with those wanting to learn the way. We all sit there writing and thinking and asking questions.

By the end of the day you are pretty exhausted but also buzzing with the excitement from soaking up so much in such a short time.

Then you have a function to attend. Everyone dons their best glad rags, splashes on their best face and the hair straighteners are heated and ready to work.

This year, there is a theme. Nautical.

Pretty easy really. You can just do anything in red, white or blue. You could go crazy and dress as a pirate or a mermaid or wear a box and be a boat.

Some people might just wear a token symbol, a scarf with an anchor print, or perhaps a sunhat and glasses.

But wearing to a theme takes one essential ingredient. Confidence.

Not just anyone can turn up as a mermaid to a venue full of 500 people you don't know.  You also need to consider how you are going to get around the venue, can you walk in those flippers or recognise people if you are wearing goggles on your eyes?

The alternative of not dressing to a theme can only be considered party pooperish. Dressing up is fun, it makes you make a bit of effort and offers the chance to do something different.

But I have no idea what I am going to wear! It's a classy party, I don't want to look like Popeye.

I found this dress, but they are out of stock.

I have a new striped tee that I could wear with some white linen pants, so I tried them on together. 
Clearly I have had my hand in the tim tams too often and those pants that I wore in summer no longer do up. 

So I have been looking online for things I might be able to race to the shops and get. 

I could go casual nautical: 

Casual Nautical

Casual Nautical by claire-hewitt featuring euro furniture

Or I could go more dorky. Dorky often works on me.

Dorky Nautical

Dorky Nautical by claire-hewitt featuring long dresses

Whatever I end up wearing, I can tell you this. What I wear to that event for 2 hours will occupy way too much of my time.

What would you wear to a Nautical Themed Fancy Event? 

Monday, August 11, 2014

What made you think of that?

Sometimes I just get ideas. 

Idea 1: Let's do every activity along the local running track. 
I might be walking down the street, in a meeting, driving the car or doing the cooking and the idea comes to me and I decide that is something to be done. 

Often it can be a simple blog post. A story that starts to write itself in my head and swirls there until I get to a computer. But that is happening less and less, you might have noticed? 

Instead I am working on bigger projects in my real work life. I have meetings with people that start with things like "We thought we would meet to see what you think about this?" Somedays I just sit there with nothing to give. Other days I spit out so many suggestions that people just keep looking at me as though I might not stop. 

The trouble with this is that I am not always so good at seeing the ideas through. The fun part is the idea and if the project stalls I am probably already thinking of the next one. More ideas just keep coming up that I need to get working on. 

They are not all at work, they could be things to do around the house, they could be presents or gifts for friends, parties to organise, it could be school council or family get togethers, it could just be fun stuff to fill our weekends. 

Sometimes people will ask me, 'what made you think of that'? 

I don't have an answer. Other than once a conversation is completed, I often just keep replaying them in my head, it might be days later, it might be something I hear, see or do that makes me link it back to something else and the idea arrives, and once you have one idea for a project it just keeps flowing from there.

Funnily enough, with all these ideas and projects I am working on, I just can't think of anything to blog about lately. Those ideas are drowning under all the others that I have to spend time on, or want to spend time on. 

Do you have too many ideas to fit into one lifetime?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Universal Studios: Singapore. Should you go?

Universal studios singapore for families

While in Singapore we filled every moment exploring as many attractions as we could. The first place we ventured to was Universal Studios.

Did we like it? Why yes, we certainly did.

Would we recommend other families travel to Universal Studios? That is a big fat yes from all of us.

Singapore is a busy place and they stay up late, so the attractions don't open til 10am, which gives everyone lots of time to get there early, but we arrived at 8.50am and managed to be first in line. We purchased our tickets and then headed to a restaurant for breakfast.

The tickets are pricey. And just how much they are depends on the day. Forget checking the website for the price. We looked up the prices and decided to purchase the additional express passes for the day. This is quite a large additional cost at $50 per person extra. But, the day we went they decided to change the price to $70 per person per day - even though the sign still said $50! When I questioned the price, they simply said "Sorry, we have 'dynamic pricing' it changes depending on what we think might happen that day".

Anyway. Once you have your tickets, pop down to Slappy Jacks restaurant and order some pancake batters and cook your own pancakes at your table. I am not sure who had more fun here, it was a great way to kick off our day.

After breakfast, head back to the gates at Universal. The lines are long to get in at 10am, but once you get through you are good to go.

Grab a map and a schedule of the days events and you will have more than you can possibly see in one day.

There was only one ride that Immy was too small for but we managed to go on every other ride there. This was the Mummy ride, Miss 8 went on it and ended up with bruises on her back from bouncing around so much, but it's apparently an awesome ride.

Immy and I took some photos while we waited. This man just happened to photobomb her photo, I think he forgot to put his shirt on, opps!

We did end up buying the express passes and I would highly suggest factoring in the costs of these passes for your day.

Singapore is hot, the lines are long, the rides are short.

The express pass means that you bypass the very long lines for each ride and go straight on. The alternative is to spend over an hour in many lines, this would totally change the day and I don't even know if we would have enjoyed it had we had to stand for hours just to get on an attraction.

Favourite Rides

The transformers ride was a clear winner for me. Mr H loved the Mummy ride. Immy found the Jurassic Park river ride the best while Miss 8 loved the Roller Coaster in Far Far Away. The Shrek 4D movie was also full of great surprises.

Getting your photo with a minion was yet another line which we didn't bother with.

There are lots of fun worlds to walk through. I found New York fun.

Recognise this door?

In New York you will also find a Steven Spielberg set where you see how they make a hurricane happen in a movie. Fascinating stuff. Miss 8 found it nearly too real and a bit frightening, but we were right at the front and the fire felt like it was actually going to get us. If you like to be a part of the action and don't mind getting a bit wet, stand in the middle and at the front.

I am not sure how much value you would get with smaller kids that can't go on the main rides. There are a few rides for little ones, but you really need to be over 110cm to really get your money worth.

We got the free bus back to our apartment at the end of the day, but before we left the kids cooled down in a fountain. Singapore has lots of places like this, and in a place of such heat they are great options to get your kids cooled down quickly.

Five minutes later and they were dry again.

In conclusion, Universal Studios Singapore was a fantastic day for our family. The rides were amazing, it is laid out well and easy to get around and there is a lot to do. Costs for us in July 2014 were $74 per adult and $54 for kids (Singapore dollars). We also purchased the Express Passes once we were in the park and the lines started to get too long. These were an additional $50 per person that allowed us one turn on each ride. It was $70 per person for the unlimited express ride pass on the day we attended.

Check the webby for Universal Studios.

This is NOT a sponsored post. We travelled to Singapore as a family holiday and covered all expenses ourselves. I found reviews of places in Singapore hard to find so decided to share our opinions. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Book Review: The Best Feeling of All by Jack Ellis

Mols and Jaz can’t wait for life to begin. In the meantime, they’ll make sure they get their share of excitement and fun. When they’re not seeking out the next ecstatic thrill, they’re making big plans for the future while exploring the sand dunes, headlands and storm drains of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. They happily race along the ridge between possibility and reality until they slam into the shocks, heartaches and impossible choices of adulthood. 

I think I really liked this book. Except for when I did a bit of speed reading and crept past a few pages.

The story is mainly Mols' story. In some moments it is a bit like reading a teenage diary.
The thing about this book is that nothing happens and yet everything happens. In some ways it's just the simple story of a teenage girl and her best friends going from 15 to 25.

At times big things happen, there is first sexual encounters, there are family splits, and there are a few major things that occur which change the lives of the characters. But these events don't seem to change their lives a lot. I thought some of them could have been bigger parts of the story, especially when Mols' Mum moves away to Perth, when a character goes missing and when their is an incident of near drowning. Each of these things get a bit of discussion, but I was left wanting more.

To me, Mols and Jaz and pretty ordinary. They do consume vast quantities of alcohol and drugs, but mainly they are just kids that don't grow into anything much. In this story, it kind of works because as teens they never really seemed to be wanting to do much, other than host the best party ever.

There is a lot of harsh swearing in this book, much like there is in Barracuda, the swearing didn't bother me at all. It's not swearing in an aggressive form, it's the language that teens use to be funny and cute and to say 'we're good, everything's ok'. But if you don't like excessive swearing this might not be for you.

I did find it interesting that the adults in their lives provide so much alcohol. As someone who has only ever been a weekend drinker I just don't know how people function with so many hangovers!

This book contains a lot of sex, drugs and swearing. For some that will be confronting. You will also find yourself reading these pages quickly, wanting to know what happens at the next event and how they will react/live through the changes in their lives.

Have you read it, does excessive swearing bother you?