Monday, February 28, 2011

The hills are alive...

When the state was being drowned under floods of rainwater this summer, we were lucky enough to be 'trapped' catching up with family who live in the South Burnett region.

The kids love chillaxing in the country. What's not to like? They spend their days playing with their cousins, roaming my sister and brother-in-law's farm, swimming in their pool, and helping Grandma and Pa-Pa with the gardening. (I'm not sure how much they actually HELP, but they do have a ball getting dirty, digging potatoes, pulling up weeds, and collecting snails. We often come home with seedlings they've helped to plant into pots, and loads of Pa-Pa's home-grown produce.)

I also love shopping at Kingaroy, the largest town in the area. There always seems to be way more bargains at the shops there than in the city, and we do our best to support the local economy by stocking up on clothes and other goodies at a fraction of the price we'd usually pay. (That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it!)

The only thing I really miss (and please don't stone me here), is a really good coffee. Until our last visit, I'd given up hope of having a decent coffee in the country. (I know, I'm a coffee snob, but we all have our weaknesses!)

This year, it was even more enjoyable, as my brother and his family were visiting from WA. The kids immediately picked up where they left off last time we saw each other (erm, that would be the previous summer!), and had loads of fun catching up with each other.

My brother had missed Dad's 80th birthday late last year because of work and distance, and wanted to do something memorable for Dad now we were all together again.

Now, when we were growing up, there weren't many fancy places to eat in the South Burnett.
These days, we're spoiled for choice.

 The Booie Bello Vista came highly recommended by family who live in the South Burnett. It was where my nephew and godson proposed to his lovely bride, and where people go for a memorable meal with stunning views.

A bunch of us descended on them one morning (and my lovely big brother 'shouted' the lot of us. For The Win!)

And I am happy to report my skinny mocha was divine. (Yay, I can now get my fix when I'm next in town).

As there were a group of us, and we were too late for breakfast and too early for lunch, the lovely waitress suggested a grazing menu, including breads and dips, seafood spring rolls, and other goodies.

I can honestly say this was the nicest food I've ever enjoyed in the South Burnett. Even better, the wait staff were attentive, informed, and accommodating, particularly for the kids, who kept changing their minds about what they wanted to eat and drink. (Okay, that was just Mr 10, but you get the idea. And they took his food allergy really seriously by checking with the chef that no stray nuts would pass his lips.)

I can highly recommend Booie Bella Vista as a dining venue that successfully combines city food with the charm of the country.

We'll be back!

The Booie Bella Vista. Shades of Tuscany, don't you think?
Miss then-7 loved the archways
And the scenery ...

My Mum and Dad - Grandma and Pa-Pa

Slushies for the kids

Dips and breads

Pancakes for the young ones

And chocolate cake and vanilla bean ice-cream!

A happy diner!
Mr 10 highly recommends the desserts!

Missy Moo having a Sound of Music moment!

A little eye-candy in the ladies' bathroom.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

We're back

Cyclones and floods may have knocked us around, but Queensland is back!

Although people in the Tully region, south of Cairns, have been devastated by Cyclone Yasi, there is much of the state which has either remained untouched, or just a little bruised.

Those people in the cyclone's path really need our help, and the authorities are saying one of the best things we can do for our state is to continue to holiday here.

Or enjoy a weekend away. Or day trip. Or even shop at a local market.

 Tourism Queensland has announced most of our most beautiful regions are perfect again, and many operators are offering discounted deals to get the local economies running again.

A quick check of wotif yesterday revealed a two-bedroomed villa - not a hotel room - for just $99 at the gorgeous Rendezvous Reef Resort at Port Douglas. The catch? You have to stay at least two nights. Not exactly a hardship, right?

It's the same in popular tourist areas in the Whitsundays, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, not to mention Cairns and Townsville.

In Brisbane, areas like SouthBank and the famous Rocklea markets are re-opening.

So take advantage of the hot prices and help get Queensland back on track at the same time.
And at my personal blog MaidInAustralia, there are loads of giveaways to help not just the Queensland survivors of our natural disasters, but anyone who has been at the mercy of Mother Nature this summer.

So far you can win:

- A copy of No Chopsticks Required (My Family's Unexpected Year in Shanghai, by Katrina Beikoff (Finch Publishing)

- Two polo shirts from Stubbies new SunSmart range

- A dream blanket from celebrity baby wear designer aden + anais

- And believe it or not, Finch Publishing has given me a lovely pack of books to give away!  Fittingly, Finch publishes books that change lives! That giveaway is coming up soon, so stay tuned.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

An email from the cyclone zone

Throughout Cyclone Yasi's approach, I was terrified for one of my BFF's and her family in Cairns.

She kept us updated via the internet until power died, and you can imagine how relieved I was when I finally got this email from her. (Edited slightly to remove names and places).

Liz Inglis has agreed to me sharing one of her emails with you. She's my first ever guest blogger, so please welcome her warmly.

"I finally got access to my computer today and realised what a lifeline it was during the cyclone.

Thank you for all the messages of support. We were lucky to maintain phone contact (mostly) during the cyclone to let everyone know we were safe.

It has been a harrowing few days and we were the lucky ones, with only minor damage to our roof, and a massive mess to clean up in the yard.

The worst was losing our sewerage system for 24 hours and not realising until raw sewage
started flowing out beside our bedroom!

We started to feel flat yesterday - I think the adrenalin was finally gone - and today was just sheer exhaustion. I can't imagine how people who suffered such major losses must feel.

On the night of Cyclone Yasi, we got the kids to bed at 7.30pm as we would normally. They were pretty hyped, but we read stories and then turned their music up quite loud.

C. fell asleep instantly, but M. took nearly half an hour of pats as she was much more aware of what was going on.

As I was patting her, I heard the croaking of the green tree frog which often resides in C.'s room, where we were all camping. (Bronnie: C's room was judged the safest room in the home, so the whole family camped there.)

We gave M. 15 minutes of sleep before T. and I went in armed with torches to flush him out. The frog happily went with T., and, like the previous two times we had removed him from his hidey hole in between C.'s books, would not get off him.

So T., the frog, and I sat in the lounge room watching the cyclone coverage.

The frog snuggled in to T's shoulder, as we watched  the broadcasts by Anna Bligh and Julia Gillard.

It was the first time we had faced a natural disaster where we felt there was someone leading. Maybe it's just because this was the first cyclone where we still had power. All previous cyclones had been spent glued
to a transistor radio listening to reporters relay information.

We lost power about 10pm just as T. had switched from cyclone coverage to cricket scores, so he was pretty unhappy with the timing.

The howling wind was loud but constant, so we were able to get to sleep.

I awoke at 2.30am when we must have been in the eye as it had gone quiet with just the occasional gust.

I couldn't get back to sleep after that as I was waiting for the other side of the cyclone, which was when we would get the stronger winds. The winds did increase, but not to the extent we were expecting.

Night time cyclones are the worst because you cannot tell what is happening outside and it just adds to the worry.

As the wind picked up, I finally drifted off to its constant howl until 5am, when T. let out a yell.

The frog had returned and decided to sleep on his head! Lucky it picked him and not me or the girls! C.  stayed asleep, but that was it for M.; she was as restless as the wind.

As daylight arrived I saw a large huntsman spider had also sheltered in the room with us.

The news reports told us to stay inside until lunch time, but the wind died down long before that, with just the occasional incredibly strong gust rattling through.

We could hear cars on the highway but we started getting the house back to normal. Most of the day was spent undoing all our preparations.

Thursday night was uncomfortable as a massive thunderstorm came through in the afternoon dumping 300mm of rain and freaking the girls out with constant loud thunder and lightning.

It was then that we realised our sewerage system had failed. When the storm finally stopped during the night the humidity was unbearable, and without fans, very difficult to sleep.

Friday was spent in the yard clearing an enormous amount of branches, and most importantly, fixing the sewerage system.

By late afternoon, we had had enough! We couldn't face an afternoon of work, so visited friends with power
and enjoyed dinner and drinks with them.

They tried to talk us into spending the night in their airconditioning but I was worried about the chooks not
being locked up and (our dog) Tiger, who we had locked in the house.

We went home to discover the power was finally on, but a snake had taken up residence in the chook house.

The snake was dispatched and we had the best night's sleep for a week until 6am when the chooks who had been sheltering under the house awoke.

T. did a head count, and none were missing so we went back to sleep until the girls woke us at 7.30am - a massive sleep-in for them.

The yard clean-up continued today while I washed for hours. We'll have dinner now and hopefully we will all be asleep early.

I'm looking forward to watching some of the coverage on TV. We haven't seen any yet and small black and white images just don't do it justice.

I think the journalist in me is still alive. It's funny, but I still wanted to be out there amongst it just like when I was working in newspapers.

I spoke to another friend who has given up journalism since having children, and she was envious of her photographer husband who was out capturing the news."

This is my friend Liz Inglis's account of her family's experience during Tropical Cyclone Yasi. Liz is a journalist, travel writer, Mum, stylist, editor, public relations consultant, and loads more. She is based in Cairns, and she is awesome, don't you think?
Liz Inglis

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nowhere NEAR where Queensland is

As Queensland reels from yet another natural disaster (Mother Nature must be extremely pissed off with us right now...) I couldn't help laughing when I saw this map of Australia courtesy of CNN.

Erm ... Tropical Cyclone Yasi must have been more powerful than we thought if Queensland has been transported to Tasmania. And what's happened to the rest of our state?

Seriously, my thoughts are with everyone affected by Yasi, which has been our most destructive cyclone yet.

My week of giveaways will begin next week (fingers crossed), thanks to some lovely sponsors. And I hope the week may extend into two weeks or longer ... but I'll keep you posted.

Giveaways are only for victims of Australia's recent natural disasters, or people who are entering on their behalf.

Details next week.