Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Desperate Need...

Of some "likes" for my entry into Ctrip's Dream Vacation competition. I think "likes" are probably the most accurate record of how many people are actually voting for each entry in the comp and I think likes will carry a substantial weight in the final result (especially if the judges are alert to and care about cheating).  And it is a super easy thing to do also... so easy my five year old could do it.

So please consider these your super easy instructions... 

Please go here http://english.ctrip.com/DreamVacation/Page/Vote.asp

Next scroll down to my entry, which is entitled, "West Aus Hot for the Cool of China Dream Vacation"

On finding my entry, hit the "like" button.

That's it and thank you for your time. Of course this will only work if you have a Facebook account.

If you decide to read my entry, which is entirely optional, you may wish to leave a comment regarding how super exciting my entry sounds compared to the others.  There is no need for you to read the others, unless you really want to... just believe me when I say my entry is the best!  This again this is entirely your call, however I know some of you are exceptional writers and your comment could increase my chances - use an alias if you wish!

To my regular readers, sorry I have posted about this yet again... unless I win I promise not to mention it here again at any great length.  

Oh, this is an important point... voting closes at midnight, Wed 27th of Sept 2011.  That is Perth, West Australian time (GMT + 8:00).

Please like my entry.  Over and out.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Baby Boy's Second Birthday Party Plus Overdrive

A little while ago, my baby boy, Sabin had his second birthday!  I still can't believe he is already two.  Where did that time go?  He is my dream, text book child... I know that sounds horribly like favouritism, but he would be anyone’s dream child.  He sleeps, eats (lots), is sociable, calm and funny.  He's not at all querulous... except when it comes to his toy trains and cars!!

We invited family and close friends to Sabin's second birthday party.  I can hear your brain ticking over... how many close friends can a two year old have?  Well believe it or not, since he was born he has been accompanying me to school with Chynna five days a week and this has resulted in him adopting a second, third and fourth mum and also a second, third and fourth dad.  These are people we see frequently and who Sabin recognises to the degree of running to them and giving them a hug and kiss when they are in the near vicinity.  It's lovely to watch and I totally get a kick out of seeing those second, third and fourth mums and dads loving the attention Sabin pours on them.  He is such a special little petal!

As Sabin is into cars and recognises Lightning McQueen, I decided to make him a racing car cake.  It was pretty simple and turned out a treat.  I also made some chocolate gluten free cupcakes for the gluten intolerant kiddlet and a vegan cake for myself.  I try to mollify everyone's dietary needs because I know what it is like attending a party and being able to eat squat.  Everyone liked the gluten free chocolate cupcakes, but no one liked the vegan cake.  I accidently sprinkled a Japanese salt seasoning on top of it, instead of the Japanese strawberry sugar... these two items were gifts from one of our Japanese homestay visitors and clearly, I cannot read Japanese.  I thought the salt on top was a nice accident!  Kudos to those who tried it. My husband took the day off work and made a meat curry and chickpea curry in the slow cookers for the adult’s party dinner and the kids feasted on tortellini.  

Sabin's Poppy R, rang several days before his birthday and inquired as to what Sabin might like for his birthday.  A few weeks earlier, we were waiting in line at Subway, when in walked a little girl with her mother.  The little girl was carrying a "Hoot" toy owl, the host character from the kids TV channel, ABC2.  Sabin was fascinated with her Hoot, but the little girl was not at all eager to part with or even show her toy to Sabin.  So I said to Poppy R, I haven't mentioned this gift to anyone else - he will totally love it!  I really talked it up because I witnessed Sabin's reaction to the little girls’ Hoot in Subway! 

On the party night, Poppy R was running a little late.  Sabin had already opened many gifts and was very happy with his Chuggington train set and Matchbox car ramp among other things.  I managed to drag him away from these toys and sat him down ready to open the Hoot present.  We all stood around expectantly... he ripped the paper, look at the Hoot and kind of just went, oh big blue soft owl thing so where are my trains at?  What a fizzer... and to this day I still haven't seen him play with the big Hoot.  I say big Hoot, because Poppy R thought he was onto a good thing and bought a hand puppet Hoot as well!  We use hand puppet Hoot as a mobile above his change table!  Not much can compete with cars and trains at the moment... I still feel terrible about my judgement.

After the candle blowing, cake cutting and eating, all family members vacated the premises at a speed of knots, however Sabin's three other mums and dads hung around with their own children... seven in total, nine including mine.  It then became an adult shindig.  The kids were all pretty happy playing together, with only a few adult interventions required.  Slowly but surely the kids were put down somewhere comfy... it's not like we have seven spare beds!  The kids made a few adjustments among themselves... but soon enough, we could not hear anymore carry on!  I noticed all the boys went to sleep before the girls, who were too busy nattering to sleep, is this any surprise to you?

The adult party was in full swing before the kids went to bed, but went into overdrive afterwards.  It was a low key, sit around the table, shooting the shit affair. I guess we all share a similar outlook on life, have quite similar senses of humour and all live pretty close together, so are not constrained by having to drive miles in the middle of the night - some of us even live within walking distance of each other.  I can only speak for myself, but I really enjoy Sabin's super extended family's company and carousing with them regularly really brightens my life, considerably.

What's this boy's birthday going to be like when he turns twenty-one?  Was the question one of Sabin's other mothers was asked when re-telling details of the night.  On her way out, this mother somehow fell out our front door and sprained her ankle.  Another of Sabin's mother's fell off her chair.  I thought I was going to be unlucky number three... but I got away with not a scratch on me.  And to answer the question... I think Sabin will happily ban us from his twenty first birthday.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ctrip Dream Holiday Hopes

Recently I entered Ctrip's Dream Vacation competition. Entry required that I write a short piece about my ideal holiday to China which could include up to 4 cities in 14 days. On my previous jaunts to China I have seen the big draw cards of Shanghai, Beijing and Xian so I decided upon the cities of Harbin, Chengdu, Guilin and Wuxi.
The winner of the Ctrip Dream Vacation comp gets to live their dream with an all expenses paid, dream vacation to China - ie the one I wrote about for myself.
I was over the moon to see that my submission, as selected by the judges, made it into the top 20.  I am really proud of myself.  It was not easy writing about a dream holiday in so few words - there is not much about me that is concise and succinct!
My biggest problem now is getting people to vote for me.
I do not usually win anything... so my hopes are not high and already there are entries with hundreds of votes. I am also honest and do not know enough about computer technology to cheat!!  And I do not have the time or inclination to create millions of email accounts to vote with. So....

I can not win or even be competitive without your assistance.

Voting is no big deal. You have to sign up to Ctrip, but this is quick and simple and at the end of the comp you can easily unsubscribe.

Please go here
My submission is called "West Aus Hot for the Cool of China Dream Vacation"

You can vote once a day until the 28th of September, so knock yourself out! (Please).

I know this is a case of shameless self promotion, but I refuse to be ashamed of this on my own blog!!  If I don't beg (although you can't hear it, thats what I am doing) I won't stand any chance of getting overseas again anytime soon. So pretty please with sugar or chocolate or vegemite on the top vote for me now and if is not too much a pain, can you point a few of your friends or family members in my direction too.  Thanks so much.
Kind Regards

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Ctrip Dream Holiday

As you may know my husband and I taught English in China for about a year in 2005.  We had a super fantastic time... but I fell pregnant way earlier than expected and had to cut our working holiday severely short... goodbye working in Beijing during the Olympics. 

Often on Sunday mornings we would sit up in bed and watch an English program about different cities, sites of natural wonder or minority groups in China.  We came to learn you could probably spend ten years travelling in China and never see everything because it is such a vast, scenic and culturally wealthy country.   And just when you thought you had finished seeing everything in China, you would discover something else utterly jaw dropping that you MUST see. 
When we were there and travelling during our holidays we signed up to a Chinese travel company called Ctrip.  I recently received an email from them about a very cool competition whereby one lucky couple could win a dream 14 day holiday in China.  The parameters were this... be creative - no run of the mill tour, be realistic - up to 4 cities over 14 days and be social - shameless self promotion.  Oh and most importantly be concise - 2000 characters only!!  Far out brussel sprout - if you have read my posts, you know this was a tough ask for me.

Today was the last day for submitting entries.  In total I think there are about 126 entries.  The top 20 submissions, as determined by Ctrip judges, will be put to a public vote - so what do you think my chances are?  (Yes I know I just finished a fourth year statistics unit!)  Are you a glass half empty type person or glass half full?  I guess I'll know the answer on the 14th of September when the judges nominate the top 20 submissions. 

Anyways, here is my submission.

West Aus Hot for the Cool of China Dream Vacation

Living in Western Australia, one doesn’t experience freezing winters. Thus stop one on my Ctrip Dream Vacation would be leaving Shanghai for the winter wonderland of Harbin.  Every year during the peak of summer I watch on the evening news Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival. I wonder at the sheer size of the ice sculptures decorated in colourful lights. I want to be one of those people frolicking in the snow having the time of their lives. After much cavorting and working up an appetite I would relish sampling local delicacies or feasting on some hearty local cuisines. 

My next stop would be the “Heavenly Kingdom” of Chengdu. The obvious reason for visiting this city is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Where else are you going to see gorgeous cuddly Pandas while contributing to their conservation and research? I have dreamed about exploring this place forever! However there is a plenitude of possibilities in Chengdu - Wenshu Temple, Sichuan Opera and spicy hotpot. 

Stop three is Guilin because you’d have to be crazy to miss such exquisite and unique scenery. I could ride a bicycle to see some karst peaks, burning calories gained from eating too much at my previous stops. Though I am informed there is a wealth of restaurants locally. A relaxing cruise down the Li River may be more my speed to contemplate the many picturesque sites. There are many splendid peaks, caves and parks to appreciate and photograph in the region. 

Stop four is the “Land of Fish and Rice” otherwise known as Wuxi. It is not well known, but it has its share of natural beauty, cuisine and culture. I would endeavour to cruise on Lake Tai, visit Turtle Head Park and ride the Star of Lake Tai. I would love to ascend Mount Xi and Hui and explore their vast park. I would ponder the magnificence of the Grand Buddha at Ling Shan and espy the barges as they make their way along the historical Grand Canal. Then I would travel back to Shanghai primed and eager to share my memories with who ever read my posts or cares to listen.

Excited?  Want to take my tour?

Well check back on the 14th of September to see if my submission was in the top 20!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Denmark Trip

You know you haven't written in awhile when an anonymous comment to your last post remarks, "Bored...this post becomes a little annoying to see over and over again."  Ooops, sorry anonymous commenter.

On the MS front, not much is happening right now.  Now can I complain about that?  No way José.  But I have learned something through trial and error.  After a couple of days in a row of encountering very large bruises after my injections I decided I must be doing something wrong.  It occurred to me if I was getting bruises maybe I was pressing too hard on my skin with the auto-injector - I know, light bulb right?  So not only did the bruises not occur if I just placed the auto-injector on my skin... it hurt a whole lot less as well.  So there you go... if you have to inject MS drugs and you are left contemplating angry bruises and pain, double check your injecting technique.

Moving along to Denmark.  Denmark in the south of Western Australia is a small hippie town - my husbands words. It's located 400kms south of Perth and is surrounded by some amazing beaches, forests and wineries. When my bestest bud (BB) mentioned that she and her family were renting a house there for two weeks and would we like to come for a few days... I had to pick my words carefully.  "I'll check with my husband".  The last time I went to Denmark I stayed in a tent, it was freezing and it pissed down with rain.  So did I really want to go - uh, no.  I may have mentioned it to Ryan in passing, but certainly did not place any emphasis on it.  However BB's husband informed Ryan they were going and did we want to come? Oh of course and I was voted off the island, thank you very much.

Now it's not that I don't like cold weather, I do... when you are properly prepared for it and when said cold weather isn't accompanied by rain.  Given that we were mid winter and we were actually heading closer to Antarctica I figured rain would be part of the holiday.  I was careful to pack raincoats and welly's for the kids as well as many warm jumpers and long sleeved tops as possible.  We also packed our minus degree sleeping bags, so I was fairly confident I would not freeze to death in my sleep!

It rained on route to Denmark and was raining when we arrived.  However I was pleased to see that Braidwood Retreat was furnished with many holiday necessities including a wood fire.  But to my dismay it was not lit and roaring away warming the house!  But in the BB's defence they have two small, early to bed rug rats and Dad BB was fishing with their soon to be departing current house guests.

On the first night after the four kiddies were in bed, there was a little alcohol to warm the cockles and much shooting the breeze (my husband says this is the same as shooting the shit, but without swearing!)  I remember we all passed comment about a pic of Kimmy Kardashian's butt poking out of her bikini bottom.  Was the butt big or the bikini bottom small?? Oh the seriousness of it all.  Anyhow, as we were last in the house we drew the sofa bed near the fire... I was not at all unhappy, even with the prospect of being woken by four eager beavers at 6am for I knew I would be warm and snug all night.  Little did I know at midnight I would wake, drowning in a pool of my own sweat.  I got out of my sleeping bag and started peeling off the layers - first the socks, then the pj's, followed by the long johns, I put on my t-shirt and got back into my bag.  An hour later I unzipped my sleeping bag to allow for some much needed ventilation. Eventually I got the temperature right with a leg poking out!

The following morning we headed to the Pentland Alpaca Stud and Animal Farm.  Just ask my husband, but if you want to cheer me up and make me forget about the rain and squelching through mud just put a farm of pattable animals in front of me.  It's even better if I have my two offspring with me so I can spend even more time feeding a cute alpaca, goat, kangaroo, rabbit, lamb, Beryl the big pig, Scottish Highland cows, a pony or koloa all the while encouraging them to have a closer look.  Although Sabin required very little encouragement at all and is seemingly up for anything.  Chynna, on the other hand is going through quite a testing phase of crying when she thinks an animal might eat her instead of eating the food from her hand.  
 After lunch back at Braidwood we took a trip to the cliffs overlooking Ocean Beach, Black Hole and Wilson Head.  I think the heavy cloud coverage made the whole scene more spectacular and all the more foreboding.  We were about to leave when we saw some dolphins, so back to the rocks we headed to see if we would get another chance to see them.  We did and there is video I am taking with my voice saying "bloody" this and "bloody" that several times.  Not in a bad way... I can't help it when I am excited I cuss... I just forgot I was in the company of a highly impressionable three year old.  Needless to say little Master BB started to repeat the word “bloody” as soon as he got in his parents car!  Oops and did I hear about it?  Wash my mouth out with soap.
That night we moved into one of Braidwood's bedrooms.  I put on all my clothes again - yes long johns and pj's and socks then jumped into my sleeping bag.  I woke not long after boiling hot.  First I just took off my pj's - how hot could I be without the fire I wondered?  A little while later, still hot and unable to sleep I had to take off my long johns and socks.  A little while later still, I had to unzip my sleeping bag.  I was still fairly uncomfortable and wished I had brought my cotton sleeping bag insert, but I did eventually fall back asleep.  Ryan also had a similar problem, yet he did not have layers of clothes to take off.  So I think this proves that minus temperature sleeping bags are exactly that, made for minus temperatures – am I the only one who doubted this?

The following day we headed to the Valley of the Giants near Warpole to do the Tree Top Walk.  I have done this several times, but it never gets old - it's so lovely to be amongst the trees.  The walk is a 600 metre boardwalk in the 400 year old Tingle Tree tops.  The kids loved it, especially Sabin who raced ahead of us.  Even though in places we were 40 metres off the ground the safety fences were sufficiently high and unclimbable enough that I did not need to stress about his show exuberance.
Our next stop was Dinosaur World.  The replica dinosaur skeletons and reptiles in the indoor exhibit were just ok.  The feature for me was the sick snake, apparently he had just returned from the local veterinarian ... I don't know about you, but I hope they didn’t pay for its treatment because it looks pretty dead to me!!  The absolute highlight was the bird exhibit.  Before we were joined by the bird handler and before we knew the birds were shoulder friendly I sidled up to a black cockatoo to have a closer look and it jumped on my shoulder.  My dad has a pet weero so I wasn’t particularly perturbed by it’s rather large presence on my shoulder, but it did have one massive beak, which could have easily have taken my nose off if he had felt so inclined. 

The bird handler appeared and he gave a bird to everyone who wanted one.  This was cool, especially because we were the only visitors at that time and didn't have to share.  Then he looked at me and tutted slightly saying that I should be carrying the other black cockatoo.  I didn't dare ask why, but readily handed the one on me over.  It was quickly replaced by the other black cockatoo anyway, who I would have taken home if I had the chance.  Sabin, to all of our surprise, was all for having birds of all sizes on him.  Chynna again decided that she would much rather cry about having a bird on her because it might bite than actually trying it, until the very last second, when she realised she might really miss out.  When we were ready to move on the handler tried to take the black cockatoo off me, it dodged his hands and tried to bite him to which I was informed wasn't a show of mad love, but that a black cockatoo bonds very quickly with whoever might be carrying it, especially if you are female. Boo!
We next entered the kangaroo enclosure and hand fed the kangaroos.  Sabin marched right in and Chynna was again more cautious.  I'm no expert, but I guess this behaviour disparity is due to their ages and stages.  At least Chynna wasn't crying!  The kangaroos were quite underwhelmed and felt no urge whatsoever to get up in our company.  We had been in the enclosure for a while, when I had a thought about lying down next to the kangaroos and having my photo taken.  I think Daddy BB must have read my mind or something, but he saved me from a whole pile of trouble in the form of huge Kangaroo Ticks, which he pointed out on the kangaroos.  I made sure when we all bathed that night that I checked us all over because the last thing you need is a big tick hangin’ off your bum sucking your blood!  Eeek!

That night, you will be pleased to know that I didn't wear my long johns - just my pyjamas.  Unfortunately I still ended up quite warm.  Geez, who would have thunk it?  I really didn't need to worry about getting frozen to death in my sleep, but actually slow roasting in my sleeping bag instead.  So I rather routinely took off my pjs and unzipped my bag to be comfortable enough to resume sleeping!

The following day we headed into town for a bit of a look around.  It was a pleasant enough tour - the shops are highly focused on the tourist market, which is neither here nor there really, except I think the prices were a little inflated as a result.  I was also looking forward to the pie shop, which Mummy BB had mentioned all week.  I had a veggie pie that was so super delicious I wished I had bought two.  We went down to the Denmark River where we were going to feed the ducks, but they were well out numbered by the seagulls, so we fed them instead! FYI, which was nowhere near as fun.  The kids played on the very well equipped playground - yay for tourist towns!  And then we headed home.
Later that afternoon while Sabin was taking a much-needed afternoon nap, the BB crew accompanied by Chynna and Ryan headed off to Light Beach for a spot of fishing and frolicking.  I can tell they had a heap of fun by the photos.  I had a nice moment to sit on the verandah, relax and read a book.  When Sabin woke up I pushed him on the swing for what seemed like hours.  He was happy so I was happy too.  

The final chapter in the sleeping bag saga goes a bit like this...  After three nights of waking up cooking up a storm, I decided I should just open up the sleeping bag and wear a t-shirt as opposed to the several layers I thought I needed to stay warm.  I still woke up during the night to a chorus of "Mummy toilet" but I wasn't all hot and bothered.  Clearly I am a bit slow in the learning by experience stakes...

The next morning we packed the car and tidied up the house before hitting the road for Perth.  I had a really nice break with the BB family and hope that there is many more trips to come.  You will also notice that I only mentioned rain once or twice because it stopped raining on the second day of our expedition south - thank goodness for that...