Saturday, April 26, 2008

Living In the World of Anita Blake!

Yes, my vamp-romance reading is still happening! I bet you thought I'd have given it up by now!

The latest series that I've been tackling is the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K Hamilton.

Initially, I read a short story involving the Anita character and so tottered off to the library to find more. My favourite librarian (yep, have one of those, too!) gave me her summary of the's 'can't put down till about book 9 or 10 and then becomes smut!' with that in mind, I embarked on the Anita reading adventure.

The first couple of books in the series were exactly how my fave librarian described them. They are seriously 'can't put down' material. Anita is a vampire hunter and animator (in her world, that means that she raises zombies to help usually with legal or family information). Now being a vampire hunter, naturally she has serious misgivings about the 'monsters' as she calls them and is even called in to help the police on numerous investigations into 'preternatural crimes'. What she doesn't expect, however is to start developing feelings for the local Master Vampire of her city (St Louis) hunky if undead vampire named Jean-Claude. The problem becomes that she also happens to fall for another yummy 'monster' who is the local werewolf king. So along with catching the bad guys, she also starts to realise that some of the monsters aren't really bad. In fact, some of them are down-right sexy!

So, read onto book 9 or 10 and you start to see why my librarian was in a bit of shock. Anita, who managed to avoid the 'come-ons' of so many of the hunks for so many books, suddenly has no choice but to give in. And let me tell you, give in she does! But to be fair to Anita, if you are prepared for the fact that her character does an about face on morality throughout the series, then you can probably live with it. Anita remains her flippant self throughout and at book 12 (which is currently where I'm up to), she is still chasing bad guys and helping the police out. In fact, if you love Anita's dry sense of humour and Hamilton's style of writing then I think that on some level (ie ignore the smut!) they still remain can't put down books. The only tip I'd give is to read them in order cause without that, it could be hard to follow some of the developments.

At the moment, I am ploughing through them. I'll let you know when I've finished.

Footnote: After having read book 12, I have to amend my opinions above! Book 12 is exactly what my librarian described! Gratuitous sex scenes and a total character turn around. Don't it if you aren't into shock value either. I really had to force myself to read it for the most part. I do feel a loyalty to the character but honestly this book and the bit I've read of book 13 are so hard to get through. :(

Friday, April 25, 2008

What Anzac Day Means To Me!

Across Australia on 25th April every year, people stop to remember the fallen soldiers of past.

My personal reflections of this national day are a bit more real.

My father-in-law was a World War 2 veteran who served in the Australian Army. He enlisted in the army in 1941 with visions, like most young soldiers I guess, of serving his country and having some type of adventure. In October of that same year, 6 months after his enlistment, he was marched into Singapore to fight. As fate would have it, he was still serving there when Japanese soldiers invaded in 1942 and consequently he was captured as a prisoner-of-war in February of that year.

His war service record from this date on reads like a travel brochure for the horrors of POWs and include places such as Changi, Tavoy Burma, Burma Railway, Thailand, Saigon, Singapore and Omuta. His illnesses during this time included dysentery, malaria, pellagra and beri-beri. I can only speculate from this information as to what he lived most of my speculation is scary.

When the war was over he came back to Australia and later met and married my mother-in-law. To say that he was a broken man is, I guess, something that I'll never know. What I do know is that throughout his married life, he had emotional issues that consequently affected his entire family. He also had long term sight problems that could have been attributed to nutritional starvation. And I'm certain that there were other medical conditions that I haven't been told about. Given the events that he'd experienced and lived through, it amazes me that he survived at all.

I didn't know my father-in-law for long before he died from complications following a cancer operation. My impressions of him were that he was a hard man who had had a hard life (a 'glass half empty' kinda guy). He lived to an old age with lingering memories of a time in his life that made the history books. He never spoke to me of his ordeal although there were times that he talked about it to my husband. Regardless though, his DNA lives and breathes through my children and his survival fated their existence.

So on Anzac Day we think of him and those like him who served (and are serving) to defend the beliefs of their country. We remember victims and survivors and that even today, victims and survivors are the side effect of war.

Picture: Anzac Biscuits that we made today to commemorate Anzac soldiers of past.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

First Timer's Guide to Camping Hints!

Otherwise known as...the things that I've learnt on my second-ever camping expedition!

1) When you book your spot, ask to be located as close to the amenities as possible! This saves lots of midnight walking to the toilet in the rain!

2) Invest in some essential camping equipment. After the tent and sleeping gear, we found that the camp cupboard and the fold-up table and chairs were excellent. Personally, I would have liked a camp kitchen to sit the washing-up container and the kettle and toaster on. I guess that if you like rough and tumble camping, then you are probably saying right now that they are luxuries, but hey....that is how I camp! Lol!

3) Camp kitchens need to be the correct height. Now this is a tip from the people in the tent next to us who hated theirs cause it was bad for bending on the back!

4) Don't buy an air mattress with built-in pillows. This is another tip from our camping neighbours, cause apparently that lumpy in-built pillow drove them nuts all night and they ended up buying a new one!

5) Invest in a good quality tarp with reinforced eyelets! And yup, that's from personal experience.

6) Make sure that you pack waterproof shoes. Rubber thongs or crocs would be perfect. Not only are they great for wearing around, but are also essential for showering in. Don't want any nasty plantar warts from public bathing, now do we!

7) Green grocery bags and plastic grocery bags are essential. Great for putting stuff in and make an excellent carry bag for clean and dirty clothes.

8) Torches are a must and don't forget to pack replacement batteries. Even if you have a powered site and electric portable lights, the torches are great for midnight flits to the loo and not stumbling inside the tent when you can't find the light to turn on in the dark anyway!

9) Make a list of all the things to pack and keep it safe for next time. If you get to your destination and realise that you need something (plastic bowls and salad bowls were ours) then add to it when you get home.

10) Lock up your valuables. The people near us had a kids' scooter stolen. It is so easy for people to just up and take your stuff. So all valuables should be locked in the car.

11) Take an umbrella cause you never know when it's going to rain! ;)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Photo Envy!

The twelve year old tells me that I have more photos of his sister on my blog than I do of him! And apparently, it's not kosher to have her pic as my facebook profile and not his! Who knew!

So just to appease his delicate little pride, here he is in the's one of his best angles! Baahaaaaaa!!!!

Love ya, J!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

He's Got Wings!

On our first night camping, we decided that a Chinese meal would be ideal for dinner. Not knowing the best places on the Gold Coast, we drove around and 'inspected' all of the local Chinese restaurants. Finally, tired and hungry, we stumbled across one that Dear Husband was determined to try out. It was run by an elderly Chinese couple and, being a Sunday night, only had a couple of tables filled. It was your typical Chinese restaurant with big fans, paper lantern light shades, etc etc.

The little old lady who served us was almost a television stereotype. She tottered around us for most of the evening and made idle conversation which, for the most part, took a strained ear to understand.

After the meals came out (which were beautiful and inexpensive, btw!), her husband (at least I presume he was), came out from the kitchen to ask us, in his delightfully thick accent, how we enjoyed our meals. He then asked us if we were on holidays and where we were from. 'Brisbane', was our answer.

'Ohhhhh', he replied. 'That not too far! I drive up there on my day off! Go to Chinatown! I get very tired!'

'Yes', I nodded, 'It can be tiresome!' I was thinking that for an old fellow his age, it would be quite exhausting.

'Ahhhh!' he answered, 'I stop at Beenleigh on my way home'.

'Oh', said me, 'To have a little rest before you keep driving?'

'No', he replied. 'To buy can of Red Bull!'

And with that tottered off back into the kitchen, cackling all the way!

Photo is of the Q1 tower...the world's tallest apartment building apparently...situated at Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Surfers Paradise At Sunset!

Surfers Paradise is arguably, one of the most well known beaches in Australia (after Bondi, maybe!).

On one of the few afternoons that the rain started to clear, we went for a walk along it at dusk. The sky scrapers are plentiful, as you can see and yes, there are hundreds of people walking along it, too!

But isn't the sunset gorgeous????

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Camping Like the Griswalds!

Do you ever think that your life is channelling something from a National Lampoon movie?

Well, we are home from camping a day early and I must admit that our short holiday mirrored the Griswalds!

Firstly, as Dear Husband packed the back of his ute, I commented that he should put a tarp over all of our good camping gear! Nahhhhh, he replied. We'd be fine. You guessed it....half-way to our destination, it poured raining and all of the equipment in the back got soaked. I still have memories of him lifting the toaster out after we arrived and water pouring out from inside it. It was amazing that it still worked.

When we arrived at our camp site, the rain was so heavy that we contemplated just hiring an on-site cabin for the night. Luckily, the rain eased and we eagerly began setting up the tent and other camping paraphernalia. This actually went fairly smoothly until I tried to help the 12 year old assemble the camp bunks. I used the palm of my right hand to try and bang the pieces together...bad move cause the entire section of palm from my life line to my thumb ended up swollen and badly bruised. Have you ever tried pushing yourself up off a camp air bed with a half-swollen and very sore palm? Nasty!

Afterwards, due to the impending rain, DH decided to go down to the nearest camping place and buy a tarp to throw over the entire tent. Naturally, he bought a cheapy, which virtually fell apart after the first big gust of wind. In fact, the entire four days were spent fiddling around with this tarp. It started off completely covering the tent, then after it broke, he moved it so that it half covered the tent. Then he put the poles up so that it became an annex but everytime it rained, he went into such panic mode about water pooling and wind damage that he'd run out in the rain and anchor it all to the ground (he even did this in the middle of the night) so that we had to commando crawl to even get out of the tent. Then, after it dried a bit, he'd reattach the poles again. The entire up-down-up-down operation drove me nuts! And quite frankly, I don't care if I never see a blue tarp again!

On the first night, I was so exhausted that I fell asleep fairly easily. I was abruptly awoken at about 3am with some foreign tourists talking at the top of their voices in the tent across from us. A short time later, a male voice about 3 tents up yelled out some not so nice comments and the next we heard was a car take off and all was quiet. Phew! Never knew that there was such a thing as camping rage! Of course, by this time I was dying to go to the toilet and it was only then, while walking in the dark in the middle of the night, that I realised that we were the furthest campers away from the facilities there. It was a good 2-3 minute walk to them and in the middle of the night, this seemed forever! Not to mention that my 'mother's bladder' was not happy.

After settling back in for the night, we soon discovered that the tree behind our tent site was a party venue for the local flying fox population! In fact, they sang, ate and messed throughout the night for the entire time that we were there. And bat poop falling on blue tarp in the middle of the night sounds like mini explosions!

So we bravely continued on with our holiday. We did catch up with friends and go shopping and even made a walk on the beach once but by the third day, the rain was so continuous that we went to the movies and prayed for sunshine.

No such luck! By lunch time this morning, our tent resembled an island in the middle of a lake. Rain water thankfully hadn't penetrated the tent itself but did seep in one corner due to the pool of water that had accumulated outside. By this time, we'd given up. We craved the idea of a roof, a television, a toilet nearby and being dry. So we headed home.

Now, you'd think that the excitement would stop there, wouldn't you? We drove through sheets of heavy, heavy rain and prayed that we'd be safe. Then finally, we hit Brisbane where the rain was but a memory. And as I drove behind DH's car, thinking how grateful I was to be heading home, I watched him pull out into the lane next to us and then watched as a car from behind came screaming into him! Yes....accident! Thankfully, no one was hurt but it was just the icing on our Lampoon holiday!

I have no words left except that famous quote by Woody (and Dorothy): "There's no place like home! There's no place like home!)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A New Look!

At least that's what I'm seeing in front of me!

I was expecting to blog about the fact that Miss 8 had her very first netball game today! Or about that fact that I'm on holidays and am so not looking forward to camping in the rain and cold for the next few days! I even had some spiffy new netball photos to upload for you!

Instead, I am sitting here looking at my brand new computer!

Dear Husband decided that it was time for a new one. Who was I to argue that, huh? What I wasn't expecting was a day of no computer (omg, the loss!) and the many phone calls to our ISP tech support trying to figure out why we weren't getting emails. What I also didn't expect was to be looking at a whole new email and internet view. In his wisdom, DH has departed from Outlook Express and Mozilla Firefox and I'm missing them terribly!

I am also sitting here missing all of my fave cds that weren't transferred from the old computer! Waaaahhhh! And of course, most of my old programs and photographs are still in the process of being shifted over, too!

What I do love though is the fancy smancy new lcd screen and the noice new black computer. Wooo-oooh! I no longer suffer from computer least not for a while yet!

In the meantime, I am posting a picture that Miss 8 drew for the lead-up to her First Communion! Yup, that is us at church! I thought that it was kinda cute and yep, kinda appropriate in a blog entitled 'A New Look'!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Big Loser

What is it with the people in my family? In the last week, the list of things they've lost is as follows and growing:

* 2 brand new school hats (never to be found again)
* mouth guard (found)
* mobile telephone (found)
* Council library book (still missing)
* Homework sheet (being replaced)
* Homework folder and diary (on a different occasion to the above but found this morning!)
* Uniform and pjs (found in a bag in the garage...go figure!)
* Wallet including money (still missing)
* Chin rest for violin (definitely still missing!)

Is it any wonder that I am tearing my hair out??

The last on the list....the chin rest....was discovered missing this morning about 20 minutes before school take-off time. Now, I don't know about you, but in our house, this particular time of morning is a real danger period.....tired kids, tired and overworked mother, rushing to make time deadlines, lots of stuff to organise! Yep, you guessed chaos reigned supreme with screaming daughter and equally screaming mother! It wasn't pretty!

For some reason there seems to be a silent code around here. That is that if you lose something, mum will be responsible for finding it! As a child, you suddenly don't have to take ownership of the fact that you've lost something. You just declare it missing within a certain time frame prior to leaving for school of a morning, do a lot of squawking and squealing and crying about how you can't find it and suddenly, mum will arrive on her proverbial white steed and search the house until it is found!

Well, this morning, mum had too much to do to get out in time! And the battle that followed makes me wonder if it really is worth trying to teach my children about the consequences of their losing actions! I dropped Miss 8 off to school in tears and with a quickly scrawled note to the violin teacher explaining of the sad loss!

Since that time, I've spent today clearing out her room, searching the garage, car and every little nook and no avail! No doubt that if it isn't found, we'll have to part with hard earned money and time trying to find a replacement! Which leads me to wonder.....who really is the biggest loser now???!!!!

Picture is a result of kids playing around with my phone camera options!