Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Ekka - Pricey Or Priceless?

It appears that only one family from our 'real life' friends are going to the Ekka this year.

The rest are citing the expense and/or the risk of flu, whooping cough, and all the other Dreaded Lurgies doing the rounds this year.

Even though we've been sick, the kids are still begging to go, and I would love to take them.

However, my social media peeps have been keeping me informed, and to be honest, they don't make it sound too enticing.

Here are a few examples:

@simonband: absolute chaos as police martial shoulder to shoulder crowds set to riot at the smaller show bag pavilion #ekka #notajoke

@o_Natalie_o: Biggest waste of time, the Internet scam van. Next to the car dealers. Felt like they were recruiting us...#Ekka

@jendudley Word is spreading around the #ekka about the substandard strawberry ice creams. One person queueing.

@DebRyan66 The showbag pavillion at #Ekka yesterday had bouncers, crowd control for those who want to pay $25 for $5 of plastic. #mayhem

@Graham_Friend  Back from the #Ekka. Dropped 350 in 4 hours. How cheap is that!!

And then there were more positive tweets like:

@simonband i just watched a sheep do a poo #ekka


@simonband i'm watching lambs being born #ekka

@kliplet Asked 7y son how was it? - "Best day of the week" #ekka

@bern_morley: Bertie Beetled out #Ekka

So it seems there are pros and cons.

As for costs, apparently a single, heart-attack-inducing Dagwood Dog/Pluto pup will set you back $5! Can you believe that? Fair suck of the (battered) sav ...

Sounds like the $2 Coon cheese toasties at the Woolworths Fresh Food Pavillion are the Ekka's best bargain treat.

And for foodies, there's a $7 Ekka pie which is supposed to be amazing. ($10 if you want mushy peas, potato and gravy).

Or from Let's Do Yum Cha, the $2.50 dumplings and yum  cha (or 5 for $10) sound like another bargain.

I was thrilled to read there is still a CWA (Country Woman's Association) stand offering their famous Devonshire teas and ham sandwiches. They are always a favourite for Ekka visitors in need of nourishment, tea, and a genuine country smile.

The opinions of the new-look strawberry sundae are mixed, with most dissing them in favour of the traditional ice-creams. (See, you should never mess with tradition?)

Advice on good value goodies from my twitter peeps?

o_Natalie_o The Theiss mining stand at the far end of the #Ekka had little bag for gold coin. Mini mining hat, coloured pencils in case with sharpener, ruler, chocolate. Jellybeans.

#Ekka Government Qld building giving away free fruit...bananas, apples orange 1 per person. Bananas are like gold! (Unsure who this one came from, sorry).

And this: @earleyedition Ekka! Miss2 is seeing the real life animals & animal sounds for the first time!!

Now, I don't think you can put a price on that do you?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's Ekka Time!

It's cold, and we're all home sick, which in Brisbane can only mean one thing: It's Ekka Time.

For those playing at home outside of Australia, The Ekka is an iconic Brisbane event which has been held since 1876.

It's when 'the country comes to the city'. Over 10 days, visitors will roam the showgrounds clocking the country's best animals, cooking, fine arts, produce, and more.

The word 'Ekka' is Queensland slang for Exhibition, but over the years it's built into a massive carnival as well.

There's sideshow alley, packed full of stomach-churning rides and high-pressure carnies tempting visitors to part with their hard-earned cash for what they think will be a huge fluffy toy, but will instead probably be a piece of shiny, plastic crap.

And then there's the food. While in recent years, there's been an increase in cooking shows and quality eateries; plus wine, coffee, nut, olive oil and wine tasting; there are iconic Ekka foods which should only be enjoyed once a year.

These include Dagwood Dogs or Pluto Pups, depending on where you buy them. They are battered frankfurts on sticks, generally dipped in tomato sauce. About 185,000 will be consumed this year. And of course, strawberry sundaes, an intriguing mix of ice-cream and strawberries served in a cone. Some 145,000 of those are expected to be eaten this year.

There are more than 10,0000 animals on display, 11,200 competition classes, and 20,000 competitions.

For some city peeps, the Ekka is the first time they get to see cows being milked, baby animals born, or wood being chopped. Not to mention the fireworks displays!

At Chez MIA, the jury is out as to whether we'll attend. For the kids, many of the attractions are the sideshow rides and showbags, all of which tend to add up very quickly. Add in ticket prices, food and drink, and a day at the Ekka, while always fun, turns into an expensive day out.

Needless to say, Mr 10 and Miss 8 have launched a relentless campaign to talk me into taking them, spruiking the fact that there's a lot to be seen that doesn't cost extra.

Point taken.

But there's also the sickness fear. Throw in the fact that we're already sick - tonsillitis, sinus and asthma - and that some 400,000 people will move through the gates to the Ekka this year, and I'm thinking it's a germy prescription for yet more days off school and visits to the GP.

So we'll see.

Some families decide to have a night or two at a swanky hotel, or take the kids to an all-inclusive theme park instead of going to the Ekka, citing the cost.

Regardless, the Ekka should be experienced by kids (big and small) at least once in their lives.

Readers, what would you do?

Showbags. Image courtesy of The Ekka Media Centre.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Japanese Curry

Every family has staple, no-fail meals that everyone enjoys.

In our house, one of our favourite family dinners is Japanese Curry.

One of the ingredients is cooked crumbed chicken or veal schnitzel. (Sorry veggies. I pick out the meat myself, but my kids are carnivores.  To balance it out, we only buy organic meat which we hope has lived and died humanely. And we don't eat it a lot).

I then veggie the life out of the curry. I chop up onion, carrots, zucchini, and pumpkin,  and throw them into the mix. The pumpkin cooks up so soft it becomes part of the sauce, so the kids don't even know they are eating it. The only time they ever complained, was when I tried to hide silverbeet in the curry. Don't do that. It doesn't work. It may even end in tears. Literally.

You can throw in potato too, if you're not counting carbs, and my kids like their Japanese Curry with boiled rice.

Simple, easy, and pretty nutritious.

When we were out shopping recently, we saw this:

How much nicer an option is that than the usual fast food/food court options?

Miss 8 was craving a good Japanese curry, but Mr 10 had insisted he'd 'gone off it'.

So I let her grab a portion, and what a generous serve it was. It smelled delightful, and she allowed me a taste.

Oh my God, it was even better than mine. Or their Dad's. (And that is High Praise Indeed).

Watching his sister enjoy the feast, Mr 10 couldn't help himself, and had to order some too.

"It's spicier than home-made, but it gives it that extra kick," said the Mini-Masterchef. "And they don't put heaps of veggies in like you do."

They gobbled up the lot, in double-quick time. (Yes, I know. I was hoping for leftovers too).

That night, dinner was soup (for all of us); with toast and fruit and dessert for the still hungry. I couldn't have made the Japanese Curry for that price, so I not only got a night off cooking, but the kids had a yummy meal as well.

Readers, do you have a favourite family meal?

We bought our curry from Sushi D'Lite at Mt Gravatt Shopping Centre.

Friday, July 22, 2011

That was then, and this is FAB!

Six months ago, one of my regular shopping centres looked like this:

It was the aftermath of the January 2011 floods, which left much of Brisbane (and let's face it Queensland and other parts of the country), inundated with stinky, sludgy floodwater.
I blogged at the time, that it was the closest thing I'd ever come to living in a war zone.
People were left homeless and stranded. Property and businesses were destroyed, basic requirements like clothes, family photographs, and personal records were gone forever.

Not to mention the loss of food, water, electricity, lives.

By the Grace of God, I was safe.

I'd moved weeks earlier, in a bid to escape a neighbourhood thug who was bullying Mr 10. The thug and his gang were well-known to police, but because of their age, the police could do little more than tell them off and slap their wrists. (Although the main bully did receive a caution, which I'm told goes on his permanant record if he offends as an adult).

Of course, I kept the kids safe, but the two serious incidents occured: A. When C. was playing with our next door neighbour, supposedly under his parents' supervision; and B. When I was with him in our own back yard. (A slingshot from the bully who was in the neighbour's back yard, flew past me and hit C. in the eye. Only good luck, ER hospital treatment, and a couple of millimetres saved C. from losing an eye.)

After that, the bullies would often congregate at the park across the road, which ironically, I'd taken as a bonus when we took the rental. And they would shout abuse at the kids, but run away when I took them to task, and yell sexual slurs at me.

They damaged my car and letterbox, and would knock on the door and run away. Little arses, and I can't tell you what I think of their parents.

Anyway, that's a whole other story.

 Moving was an absolute and expensive pain in the arse at the time, but a necessary means to an end.

And as it happened, that nasty, evil bully and his gang of thugs saved my little family from losing everything.

Our 'new' home was situated at the top of a steep driveaway, near the top of a hill.

Around us, we were isolated by stinking floodwaters, but we were safe. And dry.

I found out later that our old home, street, community centre, and neighbourhood, went completely under. Residents were evacuated, and many lost precious belongings.

We were stranded away from home for a while (as we'd been visiting family when the floods hit), and we lost power and water too. But the damage was minimal.

I did my own part to help those who weren't so lucky. I provided what I could spare of clothes, bedding, towels, and toys for those who had lost everything. I spent hours buying bottled water and giving it away to the Mud Army of volunteers.

I'm not special. Everyone did what they could. The community spirit was alive. And slowly, life returned to normal.

When I think back to that time, I remember that bad things can happen to good people. But good people can help to make bad things better.

And so came the re-opening of the All Sports Shopping Centre at Jindalee.
Thanks, not just to the business people who lost everything during the floods, but the generous souls who lived and worked in the area, this vibrant little village is now open for business.

Bigger and better than ever before.

All Sports was home of the real estate agency from whom I purchased our family home; a home the kids and I loved.

Later, when my ex's work took us overseas, they found us tenants for that home. And later, sold it, because we were going to return and buy a cool new one.

(The fairytale clearly did not happen. There's a story there, but I can't tell it right now.)

Anyway, that house was more than a house, but a home.

And it survived the floods, just, so my lovely former neighbours told me.
Nearby Jindalee Allsports was where our favourite GPs worked, and our favourite blood-taking, urine-sampling, clinic resided.

Where we got videos, and loaves of fresh bread. Milk and the occasional pie or sausage roll for the kids. And those silly marshmallow ice-cream cones. For when they had been Really Good At The Doctors' Surgery. (Read: When they had not run screaming up and down the aisle in fear of needles, vomited all over the waiting room, and/or told the doctor that Daddy was very well thank you, but farted a lot).  

And suddenly, in January 2011, the surgery, the shops, the vampire blood collecting place, were all gone.

Here is one of the old shops in January:

And look what's in its place ...

The Nook Caffe-Restaurant, which I'll be reviewing soon. And which has already worked itself into the tummies of residents in the Western Suburbs.

The kids were not keen to be photographed with the Pizza Capers dude/dudette. So I had to do it.
(NB: This did not stop them from scoffing huge amounts of pizza. Also? I think they have a secret agenda to see their Mumma look silly). 

The aftermath of the floods ...

The same area, where a happy Miss 8 wins a Nerf Gun from B105 FM

Mr 10 was thrilled to win a prize from Pizza Capers and B105 FM - a large pizza for all of us!
Oof! On the jumping castle. Thankfully, pre-pizza-eating!

While Miss 8 took advantage of the free face-painting to become a cat!

Thanks to the very kind people of Pizza Capers at All Sports Jindalee - who were kept busy on the re-opening day handing out delicious free pizza - I have a giveaway for people who live in the area.

I have two prizes up for grabs:

A voucher for one free large pizza, and two kids' pizzas;
and for the larger (or hungrier) family, a voucher for one free large pizza and three kids' pizzas.
To enter, make sure you're following Nowhere Like Queensland, and leave a comment below.

Unfortunately, these prizes are only valid for the Jindalee Pizza Capers store, but there is talk of a nationwide giveaway on my sister blog Maid In Australia.

Good luck!

Prize will be drawn and winners announced August 1, 2011

Aussie Giveaway Linky
Hosted by Three Lil Princesses and Tina Gray {dot} Me

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Not the car wash

Spotted at a service station at Kingaroy, Queensland.

Seriously, some people use squeedgies to try and sneak a cheeky car wash?

With the high cost of water, you can't blame a motorist for trying ...

Only in Queensland!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Get stuffed!

Don't you just love to shop?

I think most of us do, but dragging the kids along to crowded shopping centres during school holidays can be, well, a drag.

Unless you go to one of those shopping centres that puts on free or cheap events on for the kids.

Brisbane's Mt Gravatt Plaza is one of those centres.

During the recent holidays, Mr 10 and Miss 8 were delighted at the chance to make their own teddy bears there.

There was a small cost - $5 each - but there was a nice selection of soft toys to choose from. Mr 10 got lucky and chose the last pink fluffy teddy bear (he likes pink and he collects teddies, so this was an instant win). Miss 8 went for a panda. (Usually her brother's favourite!)

There was a huge queue of hyped up kids and frazzled parents, so I was glad I'd fed and watered the kids before we joined the line-up. (That didn't stop Miss 8 from desperately needing a wee halfway through, but that's another story.)

Finally it was our turn.

Disappointingly, the kids didn't actually get to make and stuff their toys themselves, nor to sew them up. A professional did that.

But they were still happy with the result!

H. with her panda, pre-stuffing. Poor Panda is looking pretty slim...

Too many to choose from ...

Poor panda, being filled via the butt. The lady had to insert her fingers into panda's bottom to widen the hole before she could stuff it. Oh how we laughed!

C's teddy was lucky enough to get stuffed in a bit higher up

Signing 'official' birth certificates ...

And the finished result: Isn't she gorgeous? (The panda is pretty nice too...)

Readers, how do you survive school holiday shopping?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fancy a quick root?

Every red-blooded Aussie girl loves a quick root, so imagine my surprise when I got to have one en-route to Brisbane recently.

We were on our way home after visiting family in the South Burnett, when on approaching the pretty town of Esk, we all felt the urge to, erm, use the facilities. And fast. (I'm not saying anything about Grandma's homemade vegetable soup the night before. No I am not. Cough).

So we stopped, and because I was feeling sleepy and Miss 8 was a bit car sick, we went for a wander.

Inspired by helping their Pa-Pa dig vegies and pick fruit in his garden over the weekend, the kids eschewed gift shops and cafes, and headed straight for a nursery in the main straight.

I was instantly attracted to the nursery's name: Quick Root. In fact, one of the nursery's mottos is: For a Quick Root, call Brad on 0412 321 550.

And it was a lovely little place, packed with pretty plants, seedlings and all manner of gardening goodies.

The kids wanted to buy out the shop, but mindful of several recent Magic Money Weeks, I limited them to one container each.

Mr 10 went for strawberries, all the better to feed all of us, while Miss 8 chose purple carrots. For the guinea pigs you understand.

The plants were cradled lovingly all the way home and talking about gardening and all the tips the nice lady in the shop had given them made the last hour or so of driving go much more quickly.

See? Nothing like a quick root to liven up the day!  

Note to non-Aussies: A root is slang for sexual intercourse. And a quick root, is well, quick.

The Quick Root nursery

So much to choose from...

Happy with their purchases ...

Mr 10 can't wait to get them in the car ...

Readers, have you discovered somewhere interesting on your travels?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ice, ice, baby ...

I love shopping centres.

I mainly love them when I have money to spend whilst I'm there, but I also love that during school holidays they pull out all the stops to attract the hoardes.

Which is why we found ourselves at Indooroopilly Shopping Centre yesterday, for a spot of ice-skating!

I really think Indooroopilly Shopping Centre should be paying @Tutu_Ames a commission, because it was she who alerted the World of Twitter that there was an ice-skating rink in the middle of the shopping centre.

We met up with her for a coffee (and she is every bit as lovely in person as she is on twitter and her blog), before the kids dragged me off to the rink.

To be honest, the rink is TINY compared what we're used to, but that kind of made it a more enjoyable experience too.

Also, the ice-skating was only open to kids, so you didn't have flashy teens and show-offy adults racing around sending smaller humans flying.

The people running the event were really lovely, and there were plenty of helping hands to guide the newbies and pick up fallen angels.

The ice skating isn't free, but at $10 for a 45 minute skate, (which includes a two-for-one ice-cream at New Zealand Ice-Creamery), I thought it was good value.

Also, unlike normal ice-skating rinks, it was normal temperature for spectators, so I didn't end up freezing my butt off (handy as that would be!) while I watched.

The kids' little legs were tired by the time their time was up, and they were hungry and thirsty, so it was a decent period of time to skate, without exhausting them too much for shopping.

Miss 8 rediscovering her skating legs ...

Mr 10 pulls a silly face ...

And a lovely time was had by all! 
If you go:

Saturday 25 June to Sunday 10 July
Mon-Thursday 9am to 5pm
Thursday 9am to 9pm
Sunday 10am to 4pm
Centre Court, Level 1, outside Myer
It's $10 for 45 minutes including skates, or spend $100 at participating retailers and receive one free skating pass.
Each day, one family will win four tickets to Disney on Ice presents Worlds Of Fantasy showing at Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

Tip: Miss 8 fell over quite a lot. She wasn't hurt, but her pants got really wet from the ice. So if your child is balance-challenged, you might want to carry a spare pair of jeans or leggings, or be prepared to splash out on new ones at one of the shops.