Sunday, September 28, 2014

How Potted about Harry Potter Are You? {Giveaway!}

Let me start this with a confession.

I have never read a single Harry Potter book.

But Miss 8 is LOVING them. She didn't start reading them until Immy started talking about them. I wasn't really sure at first that Immy was talking about Harry Potter, she was telling me that she loved the story that Dad told her at bed time but I knew he wasn't reading Harry to her.

Instead Mr H had got sick of making up bed time stories and instead decided to tell Immy the story of Harry Potter, it gave him weeks of bedtime story fodder and eventually they sat and watched the first movie together. Miss 8 then noticed the books in our book shelf and decided to start reading.

The next thing I know she has two new friends at school and is begging for a wand because the three of them are spending every spare moment playing Harry Potter games.

That wand was the first Harry (Hermoine) item to arrive.

Then a friend cleaned out their toy box and gave us another wand (apparently, much better than ours).

Then I had to order a Hermoine cape, which required me to dust off a very unused sewing machine and reduce it from the Adult size small to the children's size small, because who knew that adults are out there buying Hermoine capes on ebay???

I have been begged for Harry Potter chocolate frogs and Harry Potter beans. (Confusion number 2: I am a tight arse and refuse to pay $5 for one chocolate frog or a teeny box of jelly beans).

Can you guess who Miss 8 dressed as for this year's book week?

And which pj's she wants for Christmas?


There is a bit of Potter madness in the house at the moment.

So when I got the email asking if I wanted to giveaway some tickets to the  Potted Potter show, it was an easy answer.

Potted Potter is a comedy act where two actors go through the entire seven books in a couple of hours on stage.

Here is the 70 second trailer to show you what the show is about. I haven't seen it yet so I can't tell you what it's like.


But I DO have tickets to giveaway.

Do you have any Harry Potter fans at your place, perhaps you are one yourself? Would you like to come along?

I have FOUR tickets for the Melbourne Opening Night Show: 

TUESDAY 28 OCTOBER at 7.30pm 
Melbourne Arts Centre, Playhouse. 

To get these four tickets (valued at $310) in your hands, just leave me a comment here on the blog telling me anything at all about Harry Potter. 

Comments open Sunday 28 September and close at 9pm Friday 3 October 2014. 

PLEASE LEAVE ME YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS or Twitter Handle so that I can contact the winner. 

Good Luck

Monday, September 22, 2014

Smell snobs

There are coffee snobs, which I am certainly not. There are also book snobs, which I have sometimes been a little bit guilty of, but in my defence I am mainly a children's book snob. Just adding a few pretty pictures does not make a good kids story and nor does having a lesson in the story...anyhooo, that's a whole other post.

I am guilty of being a smell snob.

I have written of my favourite smell before.

I received a gift in the mail today, a box of all sorts of treats, most will be re-gifted, so I can't show you their faces, just in case you get one in the mail! But this little candle I popped open and whiffed up my nostrils in seconds.


It's also pineapple and coconut so all it really needs is some midori and it would be a green smoothie.
(Don't drink your candles) Prepare your drink, light your candles, make a wish and allow the power of good smells to make you feel good.

I kept this one on the kitchen bench and sniffed it as I walked past all day. It smells like summer days to come, good ones.

Burning decent smelly candles can change your day. It's ok to be a smell snob, I promise.

Have you got a favourite candle?

EAT: Fennel, Eggplant, Pumpkin Tagine

Firstly, we don't actually own a tagine.

Secondly, fennel and eggplant are not vegetables we know what to do with.

To help me get through the week knowing that everyone will be scurvy free I use a fruit and vegetable delivery service.

We get the in season produce rather than selecting what we want to eat, because otherwise I will order the same things every time. This week we had fennel and eggplant that needed to be used and that means I had to think about what to do with them.

I thought really hard about how to cook them.

Then on Saturday morning when I could think no more I had my bright idea.
I told Mr H that we were going to be playing Masterchef for dinner that night and he had two ingredients that he had to use.

He thought about it for 7 seconds. Googled for one second. Played golf for three hours and then cooked this up:

The image is poor, (it's from the SBS website where budgets are low!) but click on it and grab the recipe.

It was fantastic and we will certainly cook it again, it was full of so much flavour. I covered mine in quite a stack of coriander and a little bit of sour cream as I am not quite so good with the tabasco sauce levels that Mr H applied.

Next challenge is bok choy, any ideas? How do you cook your fennel?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Embrace the Odd Shape

Spend any time talking to food producers and you will eventually hear words about the waste that comes from consumers (that's you, the shoppers/buyers) who just refuse to buy odd shaped food.

This is not really a new concept, but it seems to be getting worse. Shoppers won't part with cash for food that is not looking like it came from a photo shoot.

As consumers many of us have become rather pathetic at seeking our fruit and vegetables to all come in a standard shape, colour and size. Our potatoes can't be too big, or too small, the eyes on them can't be too deep. Our apples must be blemish free and not show any signs that they may have actually grown on a tree.

Ever tried to grow carrots? I have and rarely did they grow perfectly straight and never did I get a bunch that looks like the ones I buy, but they were all eaten and tasted perfect.

Perfect looking fruit and vegetables are fine, but nature doesn't follow the factory ways. There are sticks and stones and bugs and birds and sometimes heat or rain which all influence how a plant grows and what it produces.

So here in Australia we are left with TONNES of perfectly good food that no one wants. It also means I can't pick through the spuds for the giant ones when we are having Hot Potato night at our place, because there are none, the supermarkets reject them as too big.

Your kids won't have fun peeling funny looking carrots or eating a giant strawberry one day and a teeny one the next.

I was feeling all annoyed at how I couldn't even choose to buy the odd shaped stuff anymore, all my local fruit and veg shops have gone quite high brow, selling quinoa on the side lines. But then I saw this NSW business with an entire campaign on odd shaped food.


There just might be a future for those foods that don't fit the the criteria of perfect yet.

I have been embracing my own odd shaped frame for some time, now it's time for us all to embrace the odd shaped veggie too, yes?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Inspiring People: David and Ros

To put the kids through university David and Ros Sutton added growing raspberries to their apple farm. But as soon as the youngest one was done, David said he would never go back to the raspberries and the tough hard work they require.

David and Ros also knew that they would need to do something more than just grow their apples for the grocery market, as the profits on fresh fruit has dropped significantly for Australian farmers, the prices were just too low to sustain their farm.

Over the next few years and many many farmers markets and early mornings David and Ros developed their apples into products. Apple juice first, and apple pies, apple syrup, apple cider and even an apple festival.

Their juice is different to commercial juice, firstly in that they don't mix their apple varieties so you can buy the exact apple juice variety that you want. There is also nothing else added in. It's just pure juice.

They opened up a cafe in the farm shed to start selling their juice as the local demand started to grow, that was 13 years ago.

That first year, they sold 500 bottles of juice.

They also opened up a section of the orchard for people to pick their own apples, leaving only the trees they needed for their juice. City folk can drive out, buy a bag and pick their own apples.

Five years later and David and Ros were selling up to ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND bottles of juice, all from their farm shed cafe.

They still do all the picking and juicing and cooking and planting and weeding and marketing and serving themselves. 

When customers drop in to pick up their juice they are also keen for a snack and Ros is now making 40 giant apple pies a week (that's 12,000 kgs of apples per year which David prepares for the pies) plus apple strudel, apple scones, apple pancakes and my favourite, apple cider ice cream.

David researches machinery for them to use on the farm to ensure they can keep progressing, he has vats for ciders and a syrup that if the world knew about it would be in every pantry of every house in the world. Delicious.

Ros now has some help in the kitchen to keep up with the customers rolling down the driveway, especially on weekends. The juice is now in such demand that they now purchase apples off other local farmers to keep up the supply for their juice (giving them a much better price than other traditional buyers).

I asked Ros what the best part of running an apple business was and she says it is meeting all the people that come to the farm and visit, from the international visitors to the locals who return often.

While I was chatting with David and Ros it is clear that their success has come from a few things. The first vitally important reason, was just pure hard work. The second was being knowledgable about the realities of starting a business, David said they factored in the first three years as being tough while they established the new business. I found this inspiring because it is in these tough years that so many people give up, possibly just before they are about to take off. Third and final was they continue to push their product, they could have just stayed with juice and only juice, but as the apple cider market is exploding, they are right there in it. David and Ros have the ability to be flexible and the courage to grow their business into new markets. It would be easy for them to just stick with the juice that they are so well known for.

As I chatted with David outside in the orchard, he just seemed to be planning something else, like a man who just has no time to keep still.

"We had 120 people at my first cider festival in May" he says.

"Next time, I hope to get 250"

And I am pretty sure he will.

Disclaimer: I was taken to the Sutton's apple farm as a part of a bigger trip with Queensland Tourism, but it was the personalities I met that I wanted to share the most. I was not paid to write about the Sutton's. 

This is the first post in a new series I am writing called Surround Yourself  Inspiring People.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Flying Fears

Are you a good flyer?

I am a good flyer.

No, actually I am not so great a flyer.

I don't like small planes.
I don't like helicopters.
I don't like planes that seem to be making a funny noise as we are taking off.
I don't like the take off. That feeling that we might not make it up into the sky.

I prefer an aisle seat, closer to escape, than a window where I can see the waves crashing - did someone say CRASHING?

I don't like bumpy bits where the plane is being wobbled around.

But I love the destinations and I also love flights with inflight entertainment when I might see a new movie or watch a show (which is not happening on this flight right now).

Once I am flying above the clouds I can relax and sleep. I can read a book, eat a meal, write this blog post and eagerly await the landing, the best bit of any flight.

I love that moment when the plane hits the ground with a thud and I don't care if we run off the runway, hit a tree or lose a wheel. At least I am on the ground back where I really really want to be.

Disclaimer: This post was written in the sky as I tried to calm myself during anxiety inducing moments. Solo flying just might not be my thing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Surround yourself with Inspiring people

I recently attended a big conference for people interested in online blogging pursuits and as with all conferences there were a few keynote speakers to inspire, encourage and teach people how to achieve their personal goals, or at least to think about what their goals might be.

One of the messages that I seemed to take away from the three days I attended was pretty simple.

Surround yourself with inspiring people. Be amongst people who are positive thinkers. Enjoy time with the 'I can' rather than the 'I can't' types.

Matthew Michalewicz used the words "Always accumulate knowledge" and suggested you spend time finding the people who can teach you more, show you more, inspire you more.

Being around people who believe in good things and want to see you succeed is a vital part in your long term success whatever your personal or business goals might be.

But just how do you find these people?

I don't know the answer to that bit. I don't know if you just turn up at the library and sit at a table and find them there or maybe you start talking to strangers on the train or in the line at the supermarket? Perhaps they are waiting in their cars at school pick up?

So other than just reducing the number of negative types you hang out with I don't know where these tribes form and go about handing out good words and sharing all their knowledge.

But. I do meet many people that inspire me, who I think do good things, who change career paths or open a business knowing that they could lose everything, but give it a go anyway. Chance takers, doers, and change makers. Smart types, brave types, inspiring to me types.

So in the next few weeks I am going to start sharing some of their stories in the hope that anyone else who is looking to surround themselves with positive people might get something from it.

I hope you enjoy the stories.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My Family and Me Update

It is now September and back in January I mentioned that I was setting myself a challenge.

I was going to get a photo of more than just my kids each week, I was going to get a photo of ME and my family.

I started off sharing the image each week on the blog, but then I started blogging every day in May and then I just started sharing them on Instagram. There were a couple of weeks when I didn't share the image because there were more family members in the image who don't like to be included on social media.

But I have managed to get at least one image every single week of either me or Mr H (or both) with the kids.

And while a few people started off well at the start of the year, only one other person has managed to get up an image every single week.

Perfectly Imperfect Kris is over on Instagram here and has a photo of herself and her two boys every Sunday night.

Taking on the My Family and Me challenge is clearly not easy.

It takes quite a bit of effort not only to just take the photo, but also to decide not to delete it. How often do you look at a photo of yourself and decide that it just isn't good enough? You look too fat, too tired, need your hair done, another shirt...whatever the excuse, many of my friends seem to not be getting in the photos with the kids.

But you must.

We photograph every day of our children's lives these days, if you are there, get yourself in the photos too.

Even if you haven't started yet, join in now. Try for a photo once a month, that will give you 12 photos a year of you with your family. Include grandparents, aunts and uncles if you can too.

If you don't think you can even do monthly, how about just one.

Take one photo of you together with someone in your family this week.

I promise you will never regret it.

And don't forget the Grandparents, I bet you don't have enough photos of them with the kids either.

On Instagram I am using the hashtag #MyFamilyandMe or #CHMyFamilyandMe but this is about you and your family album.

When was the last time you had a family snap taken?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Light the night. Because you can't cut your blood out.

Last year I did my first Light the Night walk, a major fundraiser for the Leukaemia Foundation. I was going to attend on my own but a really special friend said she would join me, thank god she did because I was not ready for the emotions I was going to feel.

When you attend the walk you get to carry a large paper lantern, I carried a yellow one to remember my wonderful Dad, my friend carried blue, to show she was supporting people affected by blood cancers and the white lanterns were for the people currently fighting blood cancers.

It is true that I am a crying type these days. I have given up the fight at trying not to cry when crying feels like the best thing to do.

When the walk begins there are a few words spoken, and it doesn't really matter what those words are, because they just make me miss my Dad.

As you look around you spy a child carrying a white lantern, wearing a beanie or a bandana, confirmation that they are fighting the beast within their blood. My heart breaks and my tears flow, because blood cancer is just fucking awful.

You can't cut your blood out.

This year, the Melbourne Light the Night walk is being held at the Melbourne Zoo, which is a bit of marketing fabulousness, because you get to take the kids to the zoo AT NIGHT, walk with your lanterns, remember your people and show support for others, while the koalas will grunt, the lions may roar and the birds will screech. Could there be a better place to stroll around surrounded by hope?

My family and my lovely friend are going to be walking to raise money for Leukaemia with me,  it's likely I will cry some of the way, but that's ok.

Did you know that on days when you are not feeling great, helping someone else actually makes you feel better?

We have a team called TEAM RAY. If you feel like popping a couple of dollars to help with research against blood cancers, click this way.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Problogger Conference 2014

Hanging out with Renee from About a Bugg

I met Em from Have a Laugh on Me, she was one of the few that made it everyday with my Blog Everyday in May challenge this year. Keep an eye on her, I foresee her blog growing in giant leaps in the coming year as more people find her fun posts to read.

And I hung out with this motley crew of Melbourne bloggers. They made me laugh a lot, sometimes you forget the benefits of lots of laughter, but it really does make the world a better place

Monday, September 1, 2014

Big Little Lies Book Review

big Little Lies book review

This was just the book I was looking for. I needed something that was going to grab me from the first page, not be too complicated but at the same time keep me interested right until the end.

Big Little Lies is Liane Moriarty's latest book, last year I read The Husband's Secret and I really enjoyed it so I was thrilled to see this one.

It did not disappoint. It's a fast read and you will try and guess the story from the start. You are likely to guess it early on, but I didn't guess it at all.

The story is based around the community at a local primary school and all the personalities that you encounter in such a setting. There are the funny people, the serious, the annoying, the caring, the bitchy and the shy and it all builds perfectly to the ending that you are told about at the beginning, you just don't know which character/s will hit the dust.

It is hard to talk about this book without giving too much away, so I am going to suggest that you just pick it up and give it a chance.

It could probably have been wrapped up a bit faster, towards the end I was getting a bit impatient with the book and the story seemed to be dragging on for no reason. I could also have cut the section out about the child selling herself on the internet as I didn't think it really added all that much substance to the book, but it's a very small aspect and certainly doesn't ruin the fun and funny lines through out the rest of the book. (Be warned though, the book covers some serious issues of domestic violence and is not all rainbows and laughter).

Have you read it? What did you think?