This bulk buying lark is great! I keep finding more things I can add to my 'things to buy in bulk on special' list, such as the can of tuna I've just scoffed for my lunch. It's certainly made my life easer this week, I've hardly had to buy a thing, only fruit and vege top-ups. Even storing it in the filing cabinet isn't working out too bad for now, the kids are blissfully unaware of my secret stash and things have lasted a week already, not just a day or two. However buying things in bulk last week turned out to be a real lifesaver this week. Our part of the country has been really beaten and battered by storms, we've been flooded out, the schools have been closed and nobody in their right mind has set foot out the door unless absolutely necessary. Throughout the revolting week I have been safe and secure in the knowledge that I have plenty of food and no need to brave the weather to go to the shops. I was grateful for my SS skills more than once when the power went off. A couple of days before I made two huge pots of soup and was able to relax from then on, knowing that even if the power did go off, we would be able to eat. To be honest I find it quite enjoyable having no power sometimes! I just popped the pots of soup on top of the fire to heat and we toasted some bread in front of the fire to go with it. When the power's off, there's nothing else you can do as a parent but chill out. No phone, no computer, no washing or ironing, no dishwasher - we have had heaps of fun playing Scrabble by candlelight instead. The boys are actually surprisingly good at it, although they do come up with some hilarious new words at times!
Already it hardly feels as though we've been away, it's so sad! Our second week was spent at Surfers Paradise and being such a family of peace loving country bumpkins I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. Was it going to be too awful and noisy? After all, we couldn't believe how much busier Maroochydore had become in the last 10 years. I needn't have worried though, we all loved it! We stayed at an apartment complex called Mari Court and we can't recommend it highly enough. It's a gorgeous place to stay, very quiet and the staff are fantastic. They really went out of their way to be helpful and even gave Ali a box of chocolates on his birthday! Again we booked through Wotif and came to realise how much this had saved us over the course of our trip. All our fellow guests were very friendly and as we got talking to them we felt really quite smug to learn that we saved between $20 and $40 most nights compared to what they paid through using travel agents and so on - and a lot more on several occasions. We estimate booking through Wotif would have saved us an absolute minimum of $400 on accommodation. Another bonus of chatting to the other guests was that we often were able to share tips with each other - where to go, where not to go, the best times to go there - one such tip saved us $60 at White Water World, thanks to a fellow guest who told us it was much cheaper to go there after 2pm.
It's funny, before our trip we kept saying to ourselves 'Woohoo, we're going on holiday! Stuff the expense, we're going to let our hair down and enjoy it!' But you know what? We enjoyed it every bit as much as we planned - we just didn't feel the need to go overboard after all. We found we genuinely preferred to eat at home and found it far more relaxing than having to get dressed up and drive somewhere. I realised just how much this had saved us after talking to a fellow family of four who said it was easily costing them $100 a night, just to go out for dinner. We wouldn't have spent much more than that in a whole week - and for ALL our food! One of the things which came hardest was the amount we were forced to waste on holiday. With hardly any recycling facilities and no chooks or worms to take care of our food scraps, we found we were throwing out a bag of rubbish every day, where normally at home we wouldn't even fill one a week. It made us realise what a good job we were doing at home and how much our habits had changed.
The day I realised just how much we had changed was the day we went to Movie World. As we had faithfully promised the boys, we did ALL the theme parks (once again feeling very smug fronting up with our discount vouchers). My favourite was Sea World, I wanted to go again! The rides were great and the shows were fantastic but the highlight for me was quite unexpected. We thought we had seen everything and were about to leave. There were the four of us just ambling along when I saw something 'waving'. A dolphin in a nearby holding pool had come to see us. For almost an hour it appeared as fascinated with us as we were with it - chattering and singing to us in between swimming off and resurfacing again near us with its adorable smiley face. It came as far as it could out of the water and was close enough to touch. No tricks, not a care in the world, just happy hanging out being a dolphin. I could have stayed there all day! Best of all, we were the only ones there. It was a real thrill, that alone made it worth the entry fee!
Anyway, back to Movie World. We had been tossing up whether to go there or not but everyone kept telling us how great it was so we decided we didn't want to miss out. The rides were great, don't get me wrong - but there were more shops than rides! It looked fabulous, a lot like Disney World but it was just row upon row of shops. For every ride you went on, there were shops you had to walk through so you could buy things which said you had been on the ride! There was a Shrek shop, a Harry Potter shop, a Looney Tunes shop, a Batman shop and goodness knows how many other shops which all sold the same stuff. I confess, I was disappointed - we all were. We managed four hours there but spent most of it sitting on benches and wondering what to do next, as scores of people bustled past with fast food and bags bursting with giant soft toys and the like. 'There's hardly anything to do here, it's just shops!' grumbled Liam. Why were we proving so hard to please when everyone else was obviously having a great time? 'It's because we're such good Simple Savers!' I said to Noel, who agreed. 'We just don't buy into all this commercial stuff. We see it for what it is - just more clever and appealing ways to get people to part with their money. They must make an absolute fortune here!' Of course, you could go on the rides as often as you liked, but who wanted to queue up for up to an hour at a time to go on something you had already just been on?
We found the best value theme park by far was Wet n' Wild. It was fabulous! Even though I didn't go on anything - I was really sick with the flu by then. I don't really recommend hanging out in a cold, wet environment like that for eight hours with the flu but still, I really enjoyed watching Noel and the kids have a blast. They went on absolutely everything at least 10 times and didn't want to go home at all. The fact we had taken our own food again, as we had done with all the parks, made it an even cheaper day out! We discovered on holiday that our shy, retiring Liam is actually a bit of an adrenaline junkie. He loves rollercoasters in particular so as you can imagine, Dreamworld turned out to be his favourite place. Ali on the other hand discovered he does NOT like rollercoasters! All he wanted to do was keep his feet firmly on the ground and go and spend his money in the huge arcade. The boys are so different, as most siblings are. Ali's money burned a hole in his pocket the entire fortnight, where as Liam really struggled spending his. Nine times out of 10 he would pick up something, carry it around for a while and then put it back. The first thing he bought was a Bindi DVD at Australia Zoo. He paid $29.95 for it and was mortified to see it in Coles supermarket the next day for $15! After that he was very wary how he spent his money and as a result came home with $200 more than Ali. To be fair to Ali though, his biggest purchase was a pretty good one. He picked to go on a day's charter fishing with his Dad. They caught enough fish for two night's dinners and he had a wonderful time, hand feeding a wild dolphin over the side of the boat with a pilchard, catching bream by hand (literally out of the water, with his hands) and they saw no less than nine humpback whales on their migration. Best of all, they only spent a fraction of what the whale watching boats had charged people to see the same thing and more! As for me, two weeks spent shopping with my three males meant that I bought very little. I was very excited about going to Pacific Fair, which I was told is the largest shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere. I can well believe it! I was all ready to make a whole day of it but with Noel and the kids in tow we had managed to navigate the whole place in less than two hours - and that included having ice creams at Baskin-Robbins. I should really hire Noel out as a 'shopping handbrake' for people who have trouble controlling their spending. It didn't matter where the kids and I went, every single thing we thought about buying was greeted with 'Nah, you don't want that. Nah, that's crap, you don't need that. Whaddya want that for? Come on, let's get out of here and do something more fun instead'. See what I mean?! I hate to say it but nine times out of ten he was right though...
One SS thing that I always forgot to pack but mercifully remembered this time was my homeopathic first aid kit. One way or another it got a lot of use! It really was worth its weight in gold and saved us at least two doctor's trips while we were away. I never realised that there were remedies for fear of flying (although I should have known, as Fiona has told me many times, there is a remedy for everything! Sure enough, there was a chapter in my book all about fear of flying and which remedies to use depending on your actual type of fear. So I took one which I thought sounded like me and even though our flight over was rough the whole way, I was actually a lot better than usual as Noel and the boys will testify! The next day I slipped and fell over in the shower - well, I fell ON the shower actually - you know the bit you have to step over to get in? Well I fell on that, on my bum - heck did that hurt! I still have the bruises three weeks later! At least I was able to take Arnica for the pain and hopefully Fiona and the others didn't notice I had a bit of a job sitting down for a day or two! I also sent boiling hot fat splattering over my tummy while cooking dinner a couple of days later. I didn't realise how much damage I'd done at the time but my midriff looked like an abstract painting! My kit came in pretty handy for that too.
It even cleared up Ali's bronchitis, which he had arrived in Australia with and quickly got worse. He was in certain need of a doctor's visit had it gone on one more day but it disappeared like magic with a single dose! It also cleared up super-sceptic Noel's horrendous toothache, which came on late at night in the Gold Coast and he didn't know where to put himself. I've never seen him in so much pain so he agreed to take the remedy I suggested, chamomilla. I kid you not, less than five minutes after taking it he was back to his normal self and it hasn't bothered him since. Funny that – it also got rid of his migraine not so long ago too! Most of all, my magic kit kept me going when I got sick. Every day brought something new - sore throat, thumping headaches, earache, deafness, chills, uncontrollable coughing, you name it. I literally credit my kit with enabling me to endure a week of theme parks!
Unfortunately when the time came to pack for the flight home, I couldn't find my previous wonder remedy anywhere - I had put it in one of my 'safe places', never to emerge. The day did not start well. It was raining and the supposed hour-long journey to the airport took two and a half hours as their had been no less than three accidents on the motorway that morning and it wasn't even 6am! We finally arrived but were stunned to arrive at check-in and find our flight had been cancelled due to mechanical problems. Well that did it for me, I was a complete basket case. We had to hang around the airport for the next four hours to get on another flight. The airline gave us food vouchers and were very generous but there was absolutely no food in the airport suitable for poor Liam. As for me, from this point on I was a mess, convinced after the chain of events so far we were never going to get home in one piece. I scoured the airport and in particular our departure lounge for likely looking terrorists. Fortunately almost our entire plane was full of World Youth Day pilgrims and the two dodgy looking blokes who I was convinced were on their mobile to Bin Laden ended up on a plane to Brunei instead of Auckland. There's a positive side to everything and instead of boarding the flying cigar home as planned, we were upgraded to a lovely new plane with all the whistles and bells. Best of all, it was FAST and there was a tailwind. Instead of three hours forty-five minutes, we made it from Brisbane to Auckland in two and a quarter hours! I also learned, in the absence of my flying remedy that wine makes a pretty good substitute!