Sunday, 28 June 2015

The same old, same old

Do you ever get the feeling that your days are getting very repetitive? Do you ever get the feeling that you need something new, something different to do? Do you ever get the feeling of total boredom, lack of enthusiasm and know that there has to be more to it than this?  Firstly, I guess, it is necessary to define exactly what 'it' is. For me, 'it' is basically what I do for fun, what makes me tick, what fills in my days, what keeps 'the mouse chasing the cheese', what stimulates me, what makes me feel good. So, the first step for me is to start writing and working this through, in the hope that by the end of this post, I have a plan........or at least to feel a whole lot better.
I've always suffered from one simple problem. I thrive on a new challenge, a new task, a new venture, a new project, a new activity or a new job. But then once I've mastered it and completed it, or feel as though I know it very well and it is no longer a challenge, I get bored, restless and look for something new again. This is a bit of a curse for people like me with 'busy brains', the constant need for stimulation, for excitement, for change, for new things, the need to 'work it out'. This is a battle, for we are always seeking that buzz, that need for accomplishment, for learning something new. I enjoy having a 20 track mind, but I have to say, there are many times I wish I wasn't so much in need of things to keep it occupied.
Having said that, I am also strictly a creature of habit, sticking firmly to a very regimented routine.  I like structure, order, discipline and often follow the same pattern each week in an attempt to manage my family and my life in general. But when this all gets very monotonous, I start to get frustrated, aggravated, agitated and know that I have to make a change somewhere in this pattern to get that happy vibe flowing through me again.
Now I don't blame my 'bored, neurotic housewife status' (that many must think I have), on this dilemma, no, not at all. Anyone that has half a clue will know that there is A LOT of work involved in raising 3 kids. I made the choice many years ago to sacrifice a 'high flying, corporate career' for my life as a wife, mother, care giver, chief cook and bottle washer. And this is all good, believe me, I wouldn't change this for the world and honestly have no regrets about this. It is a personal challenge, a need to create, explore, excel, develop, expand that I am talking about today, a need to improve, refine the way I do things and to keep active and satisfied, both physically and mentally.
It doesn't help that it is cold and grey at home where I live, either. Or the fact that I face the never ending problem of paying my bills and never being able to find much 'play money' at the end of each week.  But I'm sick of using these things as excuses, it's time to grab the bull by the horns and get moving, get motivated again, solve these 'problems' and get on with it! So now, what to do? What to do?
I am very fortunate to have a wonderful support network in my family and close friends who know me very well. They understand my annoying complexity and always help me work things through, each in their own way. I have people around me that help me understand myself and also give me encouragement and ideas. I know one thing for sure is that I will always need people, people to laugh, sing, dance and sometimes even cry with, to kiss and hug, for there is no way I would survive in isolation.
The first step, I guess, is to follow my passions and expand on these. So I will dust off my oil paints, dig up some more dirt in my garden, keep on writing (for whatever it is worth) and cook something new. I'll invite some people over for a mid year, Winter blues 'pick me up' night. This is the first step. Then I will go out into the world, meet new people and learn something new, maybe study again. I'll revamp by business and immerse myself in all of that. 
This is all often easier said than done, for finding the motivation to actually get up, get moving and get started is harder than completing the task. But I will do it, you know I will. I'll just repeat to myself, 'I think I can, I think I can' and then soon enough, I'll be doing it. I'll make sure that I don't neglect my responsibilities, but I'll give myself some new wings to stretch and fly a little bit further.
It will take time, it always takes time, but slowly and surely, I'll work through it, chip away at it bit by bit and make something out of 'it'. Positive self talk, people, never underestimate the power of positive self talk! Works a treat.
Well, there we have it, I think I've just created myself a little plan.......and I feel better, too! I've let it all out and worked it through. Where would I be without my beloved blogs? Works for me every time. 
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope you can relate in some way, or maybe I have given you a little bit of encouragement and motivation too. Or maybe you are smiling and thinking, 'There goes Laura again on one of her missions!' I vent, then I blog, then you read and then we are both happy. Until next time, stay warm, stay groovy and always walk on the sunny side of the street :) xxx

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The big chill

Runny noses. Sore throats. Chesty coughs. Cold feet. Yes, it's Winter in Australia and we're almost one third of the way through it......I'm not counting the days much, really I'm not!? I know that each and every day is a new one and we can't blame the weather for everything.....BUT, I don't like the cold, not one little bit and it's not just that, my whole routine and what I like to do, is rudely disrupted by this retched season! So, I grin and bare it, moan and groan a little bit about it, get busy and stay happy, doing my best to ignore the big chill.
My children were all born in Winter and I enjoy celebrating each of their birthdays (as all mothers do). I have my open fire to keep me warm and comforted, my wattle trees to blossom, my central heating in my house to keep us all comfortable.....but apart from that, that's it, Winter can't go away fast enough.  Some people use Winter as a time for hibernation, regeneration, a time for slowing down and recharging for later in the year and I kind of get that.  All I want to do when it is grey and cold is eat and sleep.  But this is not my first preference, I am way too active for that and I usually have that much going on in my head that this is really not an option for me.
I need to be in my garden, I need to walk long walks, I need to star gaze at night, I need to feel the sun on my skin, I need to breathe fresh air, I need to listen to the birds and the wind blow through the trees.......I can't do any of these things stuck inside my temperature controlled lounge room now, can I? I miss my BBQs and turning my sprinkler on in my garden. I miss my cotton dresses and my sandals. I miss swimming at the beach and the smell of my sun tan lotion. I miss the sun so much. I miss having all of the doors and windows open and feeling the breeze blow through the house. I miss having a clothes line full of fresh, clean washing and seeing it dry in the open air.
So I try to make myself feel better by cooking lots of soup. I have adjusted to Winter now and just put up with it. I seek beauty amongst the doom and gloom by watching nature take its course. I eagerly wait in anticipation for signs of Spring, knowing that it will come, it always does, every year. My oven gets a good work out as I bake and roast a lot at this time of year. I survive on cold and flu tablets when I need them and make sure I have a good supply of tissues. I try to boost my natural immunity with lots of vegetables.
On a positive note, I had a thought the other day for some fun.  Winter is the perfect time for a fondue night and I know how to have a mean fondue night! So I might just get that organised very soon and some friends and I can indulge in some warm, Winter comfort and knock ourselves out on pots of warm, melted chocolate and creamy, tasty cheeses.  Yes, sounds like a plan.
My little girl is turning 5 next week and I will enjoy making this day extra special for her. Then in August, my son, Marc, will turn 9 and I'll have to get creative for his special day......and then, before I know it, it will be Spring, yahoo! The days will get longer, the sun will reappear and I'll also turn another year older and be super glad about that. At my age, I look at my birthdays like an achievement, feeling very lucky that I'm still here, kicking on, doing my thing, raising my family and loving my life.
As soon as Spring is here, I can start planning my Summer garden and planting new things. I'll dust off the barbie and put the fire pit aside for another year. I can start my sun worshipping again and generally feel so much better. I can put my jumpers and boots back into storage and start sporting my little 'Summer numbers' again. The leaves will reappear on my Silver Birch trees and my garden will take on a whole new life again. I'll be able to spend more time doing things that make me feel alive and super charged. I'll do a good Spring clean and make the house all fresh and bright again.
But I still have a while to go before all of that. I had better not get too excited, well not just yet, anyway.  I will have to work hard at keeping my family and I germ free through this flu season, warm and comfortable. And I will, like I do every year. I'll keep roasting those roasts, toasting those marshmallows, cooking that soup, buying those tissues and wearing those socks and boots.  Yes, I'll put my head down and concentrate on living a little and loving a lot, while I survive the big chill :) xxx

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Terrific Thailand 2015 - Days 10 & 11

We had 2 days left in Phuket.  Day 10 was a full day and on day 11, we would fly home that night. We were satisfied that we had already had the total Thailand experience, having done so much in such a short time. We had ideas for our next visit, making it different yet again and this time, taking the whole family. It had been a constant 37 degrees during the day and only 24 degrees at night, every day and every night. We had fantastic weather, with only a couple of hours rain one night. It had been a brilliant holiday and all the planning and thought that we had put into it was well worth it.
Day 10 was spent going very slowly.  I spent most of the day by the pool, trying to escape the heat that was starting to bother even me by this stage.  Now I love hot weather and really don't like being cold at all.  But at home in Melbourne, the temperature can vary quite a lot in 24 hours so it can get hot but will also cool down.  In Phuket, this doesn't happen.  I had forgotten what the cold felt like, my ankles and feet were swollen and I really wanted a break from the heat.
This view was just outside our apartment and I would walk down the steps to the pool. You can see the heat haze in the photo, the beautiful palm trees that were everywhere and the inviting cool blue of the pool. All of this I did enjoy very much.
I spent a lot of time in this spa bath bed that was in the pool.  You could lie down and feel the water jets all around you.  The sun would beat down on me and the spa would relax my ankles and feet. This was bliss. So after a slow, relaxing day, for me in the pool and for David, in the cold air conditioned rooms, it was time to get ready for our last night out and we had grand plans.
That night was just the same as always, very, very hot.  We would be walking and going to crowded venues so I dressed in what I like to call 'sensible Thailand' attire.  That is a singlet (nothing else was needed on top), flowing skirt that was comfortable, sandals and of course, I had very sensible hair, tied up completely. One more thing, definitely no make up because it would be dripping off me within 5 minutes anyway!
I couldn't take enough photos of the brilliant markets that were on almost every corner at night.  Full of interesting things for sale, always very colourful and the place was always busy.  Here you could but fresh juice.
If you're into seafood and you want it fresh, look no further than Phuket.  Doesn't get much fresher than this! You select your seafood live and then it is prepared for you. There was always a huge range of seafood to choose from swimming around in tubs right in front of you.  Even the restaurants do the same thing, it is live in tubs at the front door and you pick your dinner as you enter.
This looked like fun.  You see many fish tanks like this around the place.  It is full of little, live fish that swim around and you soak your feet in the tank as the fish swim frantically around you.  This would be a weird sensation, but very popular amongst the tourists for yet another form of massage.
So it was our last night and we went to our regular Phuket hang out for dinner and drinks. We like the atmosphere at Nicky's, the drinks and meals are good, there are no hawkers and the music is good too.  Just our style!
I'm sun drenched, I'm hot and sweaty and I'm starting to get very tired.  I'm starting to look forward to seeing my home but I was determined to see out the night and take home more wonderful memories of our well deserved break from the reality of our rat race at home.
You can't go to Phuket without seeing the infamous Bangla Road.  We went here on our first night so it seemed right that we see it one last time on our last night.  It is a crazy place, the hype is intense, the bars are full of people, the music is loud and the girls are always out in full force, ready for a good night.
By this stage, I had seen it all before and this time, I found Bangla Road a bit boring.  I didn't want any more to drink, the music was repetitive but Dave just had to go to a bar, take a good look at the girls and soak up the atmosphere.  So we had a drink at one Club, the girls danced on the bar in front of us in tiny shorts and singlets and Dave was happy. It wasn't a late night and we were back at the hotel in good time after having fun, as always and bidding the Phuket night life farewell......until next time.
The next morning it was Day 11, our last day on our 'Terrific Thailand' tour.  Just downstairs from our hotel, was this very groovy coffee bar.  The coffee was good, nice and strong, just how I like it and I often stopped in here in the mornings for an espresso.
We were pretty organised on our last day, most things packed early and our fridge empty. We had managed to get through all of the fresh food that we had bought at the markets and had to try and stay cool and dry for we were flying out that night.  We took one last look at the neighbourhood and this is a great example of the gardens in Phuket.  There is not a lot of space like at home for gardens, but that doesn't stop the Thai's from having a strong appreciation of nature, with gorgeous, little gardens, complete with ornaments that high light their beliefs.
I took a photo of this corner and hill that we had walked up and down so many times.  The buildings are interesting, I loved the plants and trees, all so different from Melbourne.  Not to mention the scooters, there were always many scooters, zipping up and down the narrow roads.

Here we have a classic example of the scooters in Phuket.  They are such a great way to get around for many people there.  They are often very elaborate, brightly coloured (as are most things in Thailand) and so zippy.  It is amazing how there seems to be little road rules in Thailand as all of the cars, trucks and scooters weave around each other along the roads and up the hills.  But it is most certainly ordered chaos, there is very little 'road rage' and most drivers are polite to each other.  The traffic gets busy but always flows, just amazing.
We stopped at a little road side bar and had our last Singha beer.  This beer, the local Thai beer, is most certainly great to drink in this climate and really goes well with the hot and spicy Thai food. When we buy it at home, usually in Summer to have at our BBQs, it always takes us back to this place that we love.
For lunch on our last day, it was back to our favourite local Thai restaurant for my last big fix of authentic Thai food.  I love it, so fresh and spicy, full of flavour.  This time, it was Coca Cola with our meal, the bottles were cute and always served with plenty of ice.  We enjoyed our meal and by this stage it was mid afternoon and we walked back to our hotel. It was then a matter of relaxing in the cool air conditioning, doing last minute checks of our luggage and waiting to get picked up and taken to the airport that evening to fly back home.
We had put 6 months of planning into this holiday, our second trip to Phuket.  We waited and waited for what seemed like ages to go back to where the sand, the sun and the soup are hot.  This time, our adventure was different to our first experience, we tried new things, saw new places, all with a bit more knowledge of what to expect. It was truly sensational, we loved everything about Thailand; the culture, the food, the history, the people, the spirituality, the climate, the gardens, the beaches, the islands, the night life, the party atmosphere, the tranquillity, the beauty, the sunshine.........all of it, we feel very comfortable here.

We are planning our third trip to Thailand with the whole family and this time, will spend more time further south of Patong, at beach side resorts and move around a bit more, staying in different locations.  We know that our children will also love it, as their mum and dad do......and if you have taken anything away from reading my posts in this series.......maybe you will love it too.  Until next time, remember this blog's mantra.......live a little.......and this case, love Thailand a lot! :) xxx

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Terrific Thailand 2015 - Days 8 & 9

It is now day 8 of our Thailand getaway and I am starting to get home sick. As I look back over our photos and memories of our time away, one of the things that stands out in my mind is how warm it was in the glorious suns that shined, all day, each and every day.  It is now Winter at home and it is mighty cold, so writing these posts now kind of warms me up!  We continued to walk around Phuket, basking in the heat and as always, it continued to amaze us with it's sights and sounds.  We only had a couple of days left before we would head home and we were determined to make the most of it.
In the mornings, it was hot and would continue to be so all day.  I didn't feel like fried eggs on toast or anything like that, but each morning I would wake up with a big appetite. We didn't have much time left on our holiday and still had veggies in the fridge from our trip to the market.  So this morning I cooked some of them in my new wok.
These were delicious, mixed with noodles and scrambled eggs. On this Thailand experience, I really enjoyed staying in an apartment with its own kitchen as I could experiment a bit with cooking after shopping at the local shops and markets. I enjoyed trying to apply what I know about cooking at home and the challenge of buying local produce and making something out of it.
I was starting to feel a bit flat by this stage, missing my children and home and getting so very overwhelmed by the constant heat.  In an attempt to cheer up, we decided to head out on another walk across town to our favourite local hang out, Nicky's Handlebar Hotel.
As we walked around Phuket, there was always something to look at that was interesting and different from home.  Here we passed the Bangla Boxing Stadium.  Boxing is a big sport in Phuket, many tourists flock here to watch it.  It sits on top of the Tiger Bar.  At night, this place is lit up and a place where all the action is.
You can see here a Thai woman holding this wooden beam with a basket at each end. Locals would hold these and balance them on their shoulder, often walking long distances with them.  I can only imagine how heavy these are and quite often, the women carrying them appeared elderly.  Also carrying this long distances in that heat would be so very difficult and I admired the people I saw doing this for their stamina and determination.
It was about an half hour walk to Nicky's from the hotel and this sure was a good work out in the heat.  Whenever we walked across town, we would be completely saturated in perspiration, from head to toe.  Here I am, enjoying a cold drink, feeling very pleased that we had made it.
Here is Nicky's Thai version of a steak sandwich.  David was hungry for some lunch and this is what he had.  Washed down with a cold drink, he was a happy man.  We always enjoyed the meals at Nicky's.  We stayed there for an hour or so, cooling down under the fans and then it was time to walk back to the hotel for a swim in the pool.
One thing you don't see much of in Phuket in graffiti, not like at home.  I took a photo of this as I really liked it.  This is about as close to graffiti as you get in Phuket and even still, I would call it more 'street art' than graffiti.  It was bright, vibrant and colourful and a sharp contrast to the concrete of the paths and roads.

We spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool and in our air conditioned rooms.  That night, it was time to head out for dinner.  We liked to try a new place most nights and I loved wearing one of my new Thai dresses.  It is a very simple design, light weight and very comfortable.  I bought a couple of these, ideal to wear in the heat.  I really like the designs on the fabric and the fact that they are so easy to wear.  There is most certainly no such thing as socks and shoes in Phuket, it was always thongs for me and I loved this. 
Phuket doesn't stop, by day and by night.  There are many night markets like this, selling everything from shoes to fresh fruit.  There is always something to do here, even something as simple as walking around the block is full of many sights and sounds.
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and one thing that struck me as very different was this beauty salon, open at 11 o'clock at night!  This was standard here, most shops stay open until midnight, or longer.  Fancy that, going out to get your hair done at 11pm? Only in Thailand, sensational!  We were hot and tired, after enjoying a delicious Thai meal and walking a long distance that day.  We would get a good night sleep and see what tomorrow had in store for us.
Day 9 of our Thailand getaway was great fun.  We started the day with another walk and found this most amazing place to eat.  It was a Japanese restaurant that specialised in Tepanyaki.  We had to go in and have some.  My mum had introduced me to this at home and I was very keen to try it, not quite being in Japan, but in Asia, just the same!
I find this a fantastic way to eat.  We selected a range of meats and vegetables and ordered some Singha beer.  We were in for a treat.
This meal is cooked in a pot, at the table, on a hot plate built into the table.  We chose a chicken broth to cook in.  We were offered a range of condiments to add to the pot, like fresh lime, garlic and chilli, complete with sweet chilli dipping sauce.  Yummo!
Now it was just a matter of adding it to the pot and letting it simmer.  We could cook it to our liking, adding the meat first.
Then I added the veggies and noodles, letting it simmer some more.
This is the finished product, a superb blend of flavours.  I really love eating like this and also enjoyed the soup.  You can make this as spicy as you like, I added plenty of chilli sauce to mine and washed it down with the Singha.  A brilliant, authentic experience, I will remember this with much pleasure.
The day was not over and this evening we had lots more fun.  We made our usual trip to the Phuket Night Market.  This is a must see if you travel to Thailand.  It is a large market and has lots on sale.  It is very busy and as it is always so very hot, can get tiring and a bit overwhelming.  But once you get the hang of it, you can pick up some bits and pieces to take home that will always remind you of Thailand.
Here you can see the rows and rows of stalls. It is a fun way to shop and if you enjoy going to markets, you will love this one.
It is so busy, there are big crowds and people everywhere.  Limit your time here to two hours at the most for the heat is stifling.  I don't like crowds much, so it didn't take me long to have had enough.
But before we left, we made sure that we stopped to buy what we call our 'Thai grooves'. Last time we were here, we bought some CDs of popular music and totally loved playing them back at home. These CDs are usually copies but the quality is good and the mixes are different and loads of fun.  So we went back to the same music stall and grabbed a few more.  We couldn't go back to the market without doing this.  In Summer when we are having our BBQs in our garden at home, we put our Thai music on, light our spit rotisserie, cook a roast and are almost transported back to our time in Thailand.....we love this.
At the Night Market, there is also plenty of food to try.  It is often very different to Western food and I didn't quite have the nerve to try anything.  But it is always cooked fresh on the day, there is so much to choose from and I know that the locals love it.

We arrived back at our hotel that night, very hot and tired.  We only had 2 days left before we had to fly home.  We were so satisfied that this holiday had been full of new experiences and completely fascinating and enjoyable.  I was looking forward to going home by this stage and seeing my children.  I was also looking forward to feeling the cold again.  I had almost forgotten what the cold was like.  But we would see out the last couple of days in fine style, soak up the sun just that bit more and continue to immerse ourselves in the total Thailand experience :) xxx