everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

The little things count at 35,000 feet

Australia’s national airline is nicknamed ‘the flying kangaroo’, due to its logo that looks like a kangaroo in mid-leap. I guess ‘the leaping kangaroo’ didn’t have quite the same ring to it, especially when trying to give the impression of smooth travel over long distances. Anyways, people tend to give Qantas a hard time – complaining about the service, the food, the cabin space and pretty much every aspect of the flight. ‘Airline X is soooo much better than Qantas’, you’ll hear the cool travellin’ kids say. But I say boo to that negativity – and I’ll tell you why.

Sure, it took me a really long time to check in my bag in Sydney because there were only two Qantas desks attended. But then the nice lady turned a blind eye to my slightly overweight suitcase (I still don’t understand how that happened – on the way back, of course I get it, but on the way over?!) and told me there was another much faster check in desk I could use next time. Good to know.

Sure, our flight was delayed as the plane was late arriving from its previous voyage, but they were working as quickly as they could to make up the time. I don’t like hearing that, as my mind immediately wonders what corners they’re cutting in order to load us on sooner. I have visions of the cleaning crew darting around the cabin as their team leader looks on, stopwatch in hand. Changing the little pillows? No time! Swapping the head rest covers? Don’t even think about it! Floors? Just pick up the biggest bits of rubbish, peeps!

Could it be? Two empty seats next to me all the way to NYC? Alas, no, it could not.

All seemed in order when we boarded and I experienced that feeling of pure childlike hope as the two seats next to my window seat remained empty as most passengers settled into their spots. I kept looking down the aisle at the incoming prospects – fat guy, please no; giggly girls, uh oh; and finally a pretty blonde lady took the aisle seat. I liked her because when they said the doors were closing, she realised we had an empty seat between us and gave me an excited ‘yesssssss!’ with a little fist pump.

Some people enjoy sleeping under the stars. I tried to sleep under the moon-like glow of the No Smoking sign above my head.

You may have read of my disastrous menu troubles on a recent long haul flight where the beautiful menu promised many delicious treats, including Banoffee Pie. Then when my vegetarian meal turned up, the delicious treats were nowhere to be found. Even though that was a different airline, the pain of that experience lingered and so I’d boldly cancelled my vegetarian meal request for this flight online. Good move – the ‘normal’ vegetarian penne option was actually ok. And it came with cookies & cream mousse. And a little chocolate bar. This is how it’s meant to be, I tell you.

Oh, is that the sun? NO. It’s the annoying lady in front of me being the only person in the cabin to turn her light on when it’s meant to be sleeping time. Grrr.

But the real reason that I love Qantas? Cadbury hot chocolate. Oh yeah. They make a special trip down the aisles to peddle it from their little carts, along with peppermint tea, and pour the steaming chocolatey goodness from special giant purple jugs. And then they add a marshmallow, which melts to a gooey mess, so you know it wasn’t one of those cheap, crappy marshmallows that never change shape. I guess it probably makes me shallow, but that’s what I look for in an airline.

Hot chocolate with marshmallow. The highlight of the flight.

So let the cool kids whinge about how the flying kangaroo doesn’t measure up to other global airlines. I’ll take their real Qantas mousse over non-existent Etihad Banoffee pie any day. And I haven’t yet found another airline that offers rivers (ok, cups) of delicious creamy hot chocolate – it’s like flying with Willy Wonka, I tell you.

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The Simple Things

Yesterday, I discovered a new magazine after looking at a photo on Instagram. It’s pretty amazing how that can happen, I reckon. Someone snaps something or mentions something, it catches your eye and when you investigate further, you discover something very cool that you would otherwise never have found. That’s why I like to read blogs and magazines and subscribe to a range of email newsletters – you never know when you’re going to come across something amazing in the virtual world that will make a nice addition to your life in the real world.

And so it was for me yesterday, when I found The Simple Things magazine. It’s a relatively new mag from the UK and its tag line is “Celebrating the things that matter most…” – sounds like a good idea to me. It’s pretty to look at (even the version for ipad) and amongst the beautiful photography, there’s cooking and design and craft and travel and all sorts of stuff. Even a “How to” guide to cutting your own hair. (Although that particular piece closes with the line, If it’s an absolute mess, reach for a vintage headscarf and remember hair grows half a millimetre a day. Caveat emptor.)

There are some interesting articles – although the seasons are out of whack, which you only really notice when you’re reading about preparing for a snowy Christmas in the UK and outside it’s a humid Sydney day with a thunder storm threatening. And they have recipes for cocktails, which makes any magazine a winner in my book. You can even download a free ‘The Simple Things’ soundtrack here.

Anyways, I don’t want to sound like their marketing team, but thought I’d share it in case my cup of tea is your cup of tea too. Or if this cup of tea might suit someone on your Christmas gift list. In a nice floral cup, with some chocolate biscuits on the side. Obviously. The Simple Things website is here if you want to have a look.

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Countdown to Thanksgiving

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m very lucky to be heading over to New York this week to catch up with our American family. I’m especially excited about this trip because I’m also visiting Boston (where I’ve never been before) and I’ll be with our family for Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving – we celebrate it with our family here and it’s got all the trimmings of Christmas, but with none of the pressure of gifts or rushing to join other families. Just a great excuse to get together and eat too much turkey and stuffing and desserts. Brilliant. Although it’s generally pretty warm in Sydney in November, so I’m really looking forward to a northern hemisphere Thanksgiving – hopefully the turkey/stuffing/desserts program is the same, just with an open fire crackling instead of the hum of air conditioning.

And even though it’s not about gifts, I’ve bought some festive treats from Etsy – they’re little polymer reminders that we need to count our blessings and give thanks for the great things in our lives. Made by Amy Giacomelli of SkyeArt in Colorado, these are pumpkins with a message.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day crappy stuff – bills to pay, people getting sick, jobs wearing us down, people being freaking annoying, rainy days, late buses, difficult homework, shoe sales where size 7.5 always sells out too fast, neighbours who spy through the windows, cholesterol, car troubles, money troubles, boy/girl troubles…

So I’m hoping that these little pumpkins will sit there all year ’round as a reminder to stop and notice the good stuff. Like Sour Cherry Slurpees, family and friends, magpies who nest near your apartment but don’t attack you, solving cryptic crossword clues, funny work mates, ice cream on a hot day, smiles from strangers as you pass them on the street, gardenias blooming in the garden. Things like that.

Hope you can look around and find many things to give thanks for too – with or without the little pumpkins as reminders.

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No sour grapes here

You may know that we are about four weeks into the 7 Eleven Slurpee promotion – 13 Flavours in 13 Weeks. Some of my nieces and I have taken it upon ourselves to try as many of the 13 flavours as we can get our hands on, after school on Mondays. This week though, I went to visit a friend and so the Slurpee Run has been postponed ’til Wednesday afternoon. Today, the official Slurpee site revealed the flavour for this week and almost everyone in our family is excited. It is the one we had been hoping for – Sour Cherry.

It’s amazing how life throws you little signs – this is a sign to me that the week ahead is going to be a good one. I’ll be away for the next three Mondays as I am heading over to the States for Thanksgiving, so we were wondering if Sour Cherry would make an appearance before I left, or if the girls would have to save one in the freezer for my return. And here it is, like a ‘bon voyage’ message from the Slurpee gods. Who must know that I’m heading to east coast USA, where they’re predicting even more storms to roll in this week.

Anyways, my dear old Dad and I went to their local Slurpee outlet to try it this evening. Our verdict: top notes of cherry, with a hint of sour-ness and a undertone of cola, all in the form of a cup of icy goodness that is just the thing on a hot Sydney day. To be fair, it was never going to live up to the hype that we had created around it, but as the kids say: whatevs. Our Slurpee Gang is all about trying new flavours and drinking out of brightly coloured straws, getting brain freezes and laughing like nutters as the sugar rush hits. Ah, this is the life!

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Like herding cats…

This morning at work was one of those mornings, when you know it would have been better for everyone if you’d just stayed at home in bed. After a particularly annoying email, as I tipped my head back and released a silent scream, I was reminded of a You Tube clip that someone had sent me years ago. The term was used a lot when working in professional services HR, but could apply to pretty much any workplace/looking after kids/organising an event/managing home renovations: “This is sooooo hard, it’s like herding cats”. I’ve always felt it was a powerful image to sum up that point of utter frustration and despair, when people just would not agree or fall in to line. Here’s the video that still makes me laugh every time I see it – I think it was released as one of those magical SuperBowl ads, back in 2009. Enjoy!

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Trick or Treating

So, yesterday was Halloween – the one night of the year when it’s perfectly acceptable to turn up at your neighbour’s door and demand lollies. I was lucky to be invited by some of my nieces to join them as they toured their neighbourhood and collected a bizarre assortment of candies in big buckets shaped like pumpkins. Good times.

The main unofficial rule of the evening are that you can only stop by houses that have decorations outside, showing that they’re on board with the whole idea. Although even the decorated houses participate in different ways – some welcome you to their door and personally hand out treats (with a few even making their own lolly bags), while others leave a basket outside the door or gate with a sign that optimistically suggests that you take ONE ONLY, and then there was the man who didn’t even open his security gate as he struggled to pass the kids their chocolates through the bars of the fence.

We had a good time and got a great haul of jelly body parts, eyeballs, jelly pizzas, sherbets and even some sugar-free lollies from one of the houses. A lot of people in the neighbourhood made a huge effort to make their homes spooky and really got into the spirit of the day. It was lovely to see so many kids of all ages (even the dreaded teenagers spraying their silly string) dressed up and walking around the ‘hood. Wandering around in the late afternoon sun, it was a really nice community feeling as people admired outfits and decorations while sugar-filled kids squealed and laughed – I think Halloween is a great excuse to make that happen. ‘Til next year!

OK, so these were actually our decorations – spooky eyes peering out from behind the gate. With horrible, sticky, fake spiders’ webs all across the gate, of course.

Scary stuff. This house also had grave stones and body parts scattered around the otherwise beautiful garden.

You’ve got mail.

A friendly Halloween house.

One of our skeletons, just chillaxin’ in the bushes.

Our witch – she has a frightening cackle when touched. But still not as scary as the skull hung on our verandah, which drops down from the ceiling when you clap – its horrible wail freaked out many unsuspecting people who followed our directions to clap loudly if they loved Halloween & wanted to meet our skeleton. And then they screamed. (Then they laughed, I promise – it was very funny to hear them as we sat inside eating our lollies.)

An amazing witchy pumpkin, hand drawn and carved by the girl across the street – looked even more incredible as it got darker…

And one of the highlights – my niece (7) had prepared notes for 60 Halloween potions (‘posions’). I was impressed by the range of ingredients – from monkey fur to cocoa to screws to garlic to wool to bananas. Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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