Saturday, 28 December 2013

Gone into Heiding OR: Help, I lost my darn cat.

This is Heidi.

Heidi gets lost a lot. And when I say lost, I lose her somewhere in the house. Heidi always knows where she is, and there have only been two occasions in which Heidi needed to be rescued - once when I locked her in the kitchen cupboard and once when she was a kitten and was too scared to jump off the wardrobe.

Earlier this week, Heidi was lost again, only this time at my Mum and Dad's house. she got into the recliner and stayed there. Before they knew where she was, I was in a panic until Stephen said that she is called Heidi because she likes hiding. True. When I adopted my kitty cat, they explained how much she loves hiding, hence having the name of a human. So Heidi kept her name and it has really suited her ever since.

I have never really been a cat person. I love dogs, and we never had cats while I was growing up. On the other hand, Stephen is the cat whisperer. Cats love him for some reason. Admittedly I had a few mistakes with Heidi, including vacuuming my house the first day I got her and making her have cuddles with me on the couch. We have now got all that worked out.

So, in case you didn't know, because I certainly didn't cats have a whole bunch of other senses, which is the purpose of my blog today. Here is a bunch of examples when Heidi has used her fifth sense (responding to things humans do), and where I have found her. Who knows, maybe this will help someone who can't find their cat anywhere. Enjoy.

When packing to go a small distance: Heidi has worked this one out, and usually hides under the bed, and then will run from one end of the bed to the other in the hope I won't catch her. I'm sure she knows because usually I only pack a small bag.

There have been a couple of times when I have left my place to go to Stephen's (before we were married obviously), and Heidi actually wanted to go, and would wait wherever her cat carrier was located. Sometimes I hadn't planned on taking her (including a day when I was running late to an exam), so I have said "if you want to go, you can't run away", and she'll happily be packed up. We never do this anymore... which is great.

When packing to go on a big holiday: Heidi will find the most squashiest corner and hide there in hope she doesn't have to come. I have learned that if you feed your cat and leave her in a small space (she has always had 'her room' in the laundry), it is a lot less stressful for everyone.

When there are thunderstorms: There are two places Heidi likes to be in thunderstorms - somewhere dark or next to me. I once came home during a terrible electrical storm to find her hiding in a green bag with the soup tins in the kitchen cupboard (she loved that cupboard). My non-cuddle cat was quite happy to be cuddled that night. Sometimes it's okay for cats to be a big sook.

When people come to stay: Heidi loves being under the bed, the dressing table or in the bottom of the wardrobe in the bedroom. I figure it's because no one other than us go in there. However, once the scary people have gone to sleep, Heids will then walk around and stare at them. She's a bit creepy.

When loud people come to visit: Heidi once made herself squahed between the wall and the bed and we couldn't find her for ages. That was pretty scary.

Other places we have found Heidi: corners of rooms, behind cupboards, on the wardrobe, on top of the wardrobe in a banana box (her favourite hiding place in Balaklava), in the TV unit shelf, green bags, linen press, on top of the beanbags, under tables and under couches.

Having said all that, Heidi really only goes into hiding now when she's a bit scared or knows something different is going on. Most of the time she's staring out of windows, hogging the couch or being just plan obnoxious. But how can you not love her? She's adorable.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Confessions of a Mystery Shopper

I have been a mystery shopper for seven years now. I get asked lots of questions about what I do, so it is really only fair to try and answer them. I have worked for a couple of companies and usually do somewhere between 1 and 4 shops a month at lots of different locations. I have also beeen on the receiving end of quite a number of mystery shops during my time in retail, so I know what it is like being on the 'other side'.

Confession 1: No, I don't have a vendetta.
Sometimes people think being a mystery shopper will allow then to 'expose' a store or company who have done the wrong thing. Of course, this doesn't work in anyone's favour, as you need to supply an unbiased response to your shopping experience that day. I often feel bad if a shop has not been successful - shops are scored according to a numbering system, and then a company decides what is a passing number - and of course, shops can fail a mystery shop. Mystery shopping is set up with a lot of closed questions, so if you don't say the right thing, you've missed out on that point.

Confession 2: The money isn't that great.
Unless you live in a remote area or you select a company who gives difficult assignments, you won't often earn much over $20. Often you'll be reimbursed a small amount, which means that buying presents and little trinkets is essentially "free" shopping. Each shop takes about an hour - 10-20 minutes in the store and then the rest in paperwork.

Confession 3: Yes, I do get sussed out.
Often shops give you a "script" or set questions to ask. I have been sussed out three times by older people. Huzzah! However, after doing about 50 assignments, 3 out of 50 ain't bad.

Confession 4: I wish I could shop for...
My favourite shops are stores I actually buy from. This makes it good and bad, especially if the staff members recognise you. This can be avoided by shopping across different sites, which I do a lot. My dream shop would be an expenses-paid-by-travel-agent assignment or JB Hi-Fi.

Confession 5: I do have ridiculously high standards. Of course.
I am kind of known for informing my friends (and poor Stephen) when a store would have failed their mystery shop visit... if it was a visit. This is somewhat due to my background in retail, but also because I have been working way too long at this.

Confession 6: If you want to pass a mystery shop, look after your store.
Empty shelves? No easy access? Unidentified queue for register? Mystery shoppers are asked questions about these things. And they are incredibly easy to fix. Sometimes we are asked about the cleanliness of staff uniform, other times we are asked if they smiled during this transactions. After slogging my way through retail, a smile and a friendly conversation isn't always what I wanted to do. But it is part of the job, and it is part of your assessment.

If your store is checked by a mystery shopper each month or quarter, start to recognise the possible days they may shop - often the company will inform you. If staff are trained appropriately - and some of my best shops have been with really young staff - passing a mystery shop is not too difficult.

If you want to be a shopper, just Google it. If you have previously worked for a company who contracts a certain mystery shopping organisation, you may be excluded from some assignments, but don't let this dissuade you - mystery shopping is great. And it is truly awesome to be paid on the other side of the counter.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

There's something about Tully *spoiler alert*

Tully is apparently a novel 'for anyone who had to choose'.

In a nutshell, it is a tale spanning about 12 years about a girl named Tully who had been abandoned by her father and abused by her mother and uncle. She has two best friends, Jennifer and Julie who have been by her side since childhood. During her early teen years she discarded the girls in order to dance and run with a wild crowd, but due to her mother's discovery of Tully's wayward behaviour, she grudgingly returns to the friendship.

After Jen can no longer live her own life, Tully goes on a quest to become both numb and live the life Jen wanted to have. She has affairs with other men while her faithful boyfriend Robin stands by her. Eventually Tully has children and works her way up the career path for a job she never wanted to do.

The saving grace in this novel is Tully's other friends, Julie and Shakie. Julie is the only person who is honest with Tully about her behaviour. Shakie loves Tully despite everything, and even stands by her when Tully falls in love with her very own Ashley Wilkes.

Overwritten but all-consuming, this novel has captivated me for many years, but it has also left me a lot of questions. I reread most of Tully over Christmas (I may have skipped my least favourite parts such as Hedda's story, Washington DC and anything medical to do with Tully, but I know this book so well it didn't really matter). Like Seinfeld, I always find new things. If you really want to read the book, please do so and then revisit my questions below.
New things I have discovered in Tully:
Jack and Tully: Despite the fact that everyone talks about Jennifer to Tully, she only cares what Jack thinks. She could easily talk about her with any of the people she is close to. But no, she doesn’t bother. When she finally stops blaming Jack for Jen’s death, she decides she can talk to him to glean more information. And that is truly lame.

Jeremy and Tully: Jeremy and Tully were never really a thing. Jeremy isn’t nice to Tully. He is a jerk. It should be a no-brainer. Basically I see Jeremy as a badly used plot device to help reassure us that Tully can and will cheat on the long-suffering Robin.

Robin and Jack: Tell me one nice thing Tully does for Robin? Nothing. Maybe she talks to him, maybe she wears his ring. She won’t live with him, only chooses him because she “has” to and declines all offers he makes to spend time with him. Ice Maiden right there.

-Jen’s secret is about Jack and her depression (lots of labelling around being a ‘savant’ and how she grew out of autistic traits – bull. This was obivously written in the pre-everyone's-on-the-spectrum days).
-Julie’s secret is she’s a lesbian, and Jen knew this.
-Tully’s secrets are not really that secret, she just likes to think they are. Tortilla Jack’s (I want more info on this, apparently she only took her shirt off once and I thought it was meant to be ‘racy’), the abuse of her parents and uncle, Wichita, running around with the wild crowd (who would want to be friends with Tully anyway?)

Bits of the book which truly suck
-The fair ground talk about Shakie
The ‘Did you kiss my leg’ scene
-Whenever Tully is at work
-When Tully makes speeches
-Anything to do with Hedda

Questions I still have:
-Why the 3Ms? Why mention this at the beginning and never mention it again. Don't make something a thing when it actually isn't.
-Hedda, Henry and Hank AND Jennifer, Julie and Jack. Someone explain this silly alliteration to me. It's clearly not coincidence.
-Why does Tully still live in the past so much? She makes it sound as if the railroad trailer days were horrible. Why? She was given freedom, a free place to live and had two men at her beck and call.
-Why so many stupid references to movies and songs? So many lyrics and forward slashes. I know that this is supposed to be a ‘historical’ novel, but Simons takes it to a whole new level.

Jack and Tully inconsistencies:
-         -Tully and Jack never knew each other in high school until Jen introduced them, but they make it sound like it was a thing when it wasn’t
-          -He is so disrespectful to Tully and Robin’s marriage – still calls her Tully Makker, takes her out for lunch every day, paints her house... explain please PS.
-         -Tully would leave her own son to be with Jack. WHY?
-          -Jennifer Pendel. Really?
-          -Why shouldn’t Jen’s dad work out who Jack was if they were BFFs and everything? Jen is supposed to be secretive, but she was very young and it seems irresponsible that the Mandolinis had no idea who her friends where when they new Julie and Tully so well.

10 Best Things about Best Friends

I was pretty lucky when I met this lady back in February 2005.

Spring and I were pretty much instant friends, she had cool stationery and I had a swag of coolness (okay, maybe I wasn't really that cool).

Since those YITS days, Spring has been with me in the crappy times and the absolutely awesome times. I had close friends in school, but never a long term BFF. In honour of that, here is my list of the 10 Best Things about Best Friends.

1. You can always count on someone else having your back.
Literally and otherwise.
I'm pretty lucky that Spring is assertive and fiercely loyal to people she loves. And I wouldn't want to be on her bad side either.

2. Even when you don't agree on stuff, you can forget about it.
When it comes to the world of social networking where "friends" happily fight with one another, it's nice to know there are still a few people who won't mind if you don't agree with their opinion.

3. Best friends don't always have to explain things.
Ranting or not, once you know someone pretty well, the need to explain why you are narky about things fades very quickly.

4. You can wear your dressing gown for photos and that's okay.
You need to see Facebook photos for that.

5. Time is pretty much irrelevant.
Back in 2005 I was time poor and couldn't understand how Spring was usually late when I was usually far too early for shopping dates or whatever.This used to drive me nuts. But then I realised that just like you can't change boys, you can't change best friends.

6. Best friends say "I know!" a lot.
Sure, some best friends can be complete opposites. But the ladies I'm closest too often respond in the affrimative when something is right or wrong. Great minds truly do think alike.

7. You can be apart for months and nothing changes.
Best friends can pick up where they left off. Some people are naturally good at this, others not so much. Distance and time away hasn't changed our friendship too much, other than not being able to drop everything and eat pancakes at 3am.

8. You can talk for hours about nothing.
Spring and I have had the same conversations over and over again. And this doesn't matter, because obviously what is is said needs to be spoken about. And let's face it, when talk about the same stuff because it it is interesting.

9. You know the extremes.
Quite often I know what will annoy Spring no end, and things she will love which make no logical sense to me. Part of this is that best friends invest time in their friendship because they are alike. Each of us are adventurous, but in very different ways. Also, Spring hates all you can eat places.

10. You can't imagine life without them.
Before I had really close friends, I didn't understand that life without your friends is unimaginable. The idea that there wouldn't be someone to call or text when you hear something outrageously silly (YaWay being my recent favourite) does scare me a little. But for a long time, I used to think 'I was the only one'. But I'm not. And that's the saving grace of friendships.


The remake of Sabrina has long lived in my heart. It was a wintry afternoon and we had just had Austar installed. Dad called me into the lounge to tell me this movie was showing, and it basically changed my life.

In case you missed the original, Sabrina is a Pygmalion story about a girl who lives above the garage of her father's rich employees. She is madly in love with the family's playboy, David Larabee. David has a different girlfriend each week, but he is witty, charming, funny and romantic. He doesn't turn up to work for the Larabee Corporation, the family business ran by his brother. On her last night before beginning an exchange trip to Paris, Sabrina watches David seduce another woman. After being called down from her favourite tree, where she has been spying on him, her dad assures her that her time away will be good for her, and that there is much more to her than this obsession.

All the same, Sabrina drinks a whole heap of sherry, runs up to David's room and delivers a monologue, concluding with "and if there is anything I can ever do..." Unfortunately, Linus, David's older brother and the head of the business is the recipient of the monologue and Sabrina runs away, mortified.

While in Paris, Sabrina does forget all about David, and suddenly becomes tres chic. She turns her angst and obsession into creative works, namely "writing nonsense in a journal" and taking photographs. She returns to America as a modern and beautiful woman, just the type David Larabee would love... if he wasn't engaged to be married to the daughter of a family firm the Larabee Corporation is merging with. David makes the moves on Sabrina despite all this.

Enter Linus. He tries to buy Sabrina out of her attraction to David, and when that doesn't work, he attempts to seduce her instead. Over the course of a few days, Sabrina realises she is in love with the wrong Larabee.

I said at the beginning of the post that Sabrina really did change my life. For one, it was probably one of the first movies Dad and I watched together and I have always loved it when Dad has announced a movie is on I would enjoy. This movie is about transformation - my favourite subplot. But in changing dramatically, Sabrina both lost and gained a lot. She was happy to call Paris her hometown and enjoyed living somewhere so different. She constantly acknowledged the change in her life from being in Paris, and what her time away meant to her. I never really wanted to go to Paris, but I always wanted to come back and command the respect Sabrina did.

The other thing is that Sabrina's world recognised all the mistakes the characters made, and it was somehow okay. Everyone wanted the best solution to the problem - there was a merger and Sabrina got in the way - and it happened so smoothly. This isn't real life, but we all love a plausible twist.

Did Sabrina choose the right Larabee? I have always questioned this until recently, and I hadn't really noticed that Sabrina's monologue was revisited at the end of the film. This is truly worth waiting for.

I came here from Provence... alone, uneducated. For eight months- no, more than that- a year, I sat in a cafe, I drank coffee, 
and I wrote nonsense in a journal. And then, somehow, it was not nonsense. 
I went for long walks and I met myself in Paris. 
You seem embarrassed by loneliness; by being alone. It's only a place to start. 
(Irene's advice about Paris)

These are a few of my favourite things.

Only things I love all the time make it to this list.

1. Dr Marten Boots
I have wanted Docs since I was about 12, and owned my own pair at 15 (I even got my first job for that one and only reason), and have worn them ever since. Why are they awesome? Yellow stitching, almost impenetrable soles, they look cool and go with almost everything. Even skirts.

2. diet Coke
I know diet Coke is full of bad rubbishy stuff, and I don't drink it half as much as I used to. To me, nothing beats a big glass of diet Coke any time of year. I don't enjoy it as much from cans, but I'm not really too fussy.

3. Napoleon Dynamite
Napoleon never gets old. Totally quotable and rewatchable, anyone who has been to visit me in my old house in Lockleys was probably exposed to this ridiculous movie.

4. Popcorn
I love microwaved popcorn, air popped popcorn and popcorn made in olive oil. It is perfect with diet Coke, for movie dates and when reading long letters or trashy teenage novels.

5. Hot pink
There are few colours better than hot pink. But it is very girly, so I have tried to curb my enthusiasm when it cokes to interior decoration.

6. BodyAttack
I don't care what anyone says, Attack in the best class ever. So much cardio, so many good tunes. So much running and jumping.

7. Gold Coast
If it were up to me, I'd go to the GC every school holidays. As you can see, I am a creature of habit. I like fast rides, late night shopping, neon sides and tourist traps. Give me Surfers Paradise any old day.

8. Singing
I sing every day. I'm not a great singer, but practice makes sometimes better. Singing also makes me incredibly happy and I love music. It just makes sense for me to sing... a lot.

9. The stage
I love performing. I'm not a triple threat in any way, shape or form, but I've had the acting bug since I was 11. While my hopes were considerably dashed in the few ensemble stuff I have done in school (blurgh), what I have discovered is that having traditional training (elocution for me) is never ever a bad thing and can be used all the time.  Not only can I project my voice, I never get stage fright. Being in Guys and Dolls has really confirmed what I always thought - the best people to work with are in it for the whole team, not just themselves.

10. Craft
I'm always making, collecting, baking and gifting. Even when I've been broke, I've always managed to come up with something to give or make. I'm trying to craft every day, even when I'm bust... it is relaxing and stimulates the mind.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Something about books, characters and friends.

I heard recently something about going to a writers conference - to the untrained ear, writers seem nuts because they are talking about all the things characters in their book are thinking or saying to them. It reminded me of something else - we bookworms are friends with characters. Even Rory Gilmore mentions this in her valedictorian speech after leaving Chilton.

I once asked my Dad if I was consumed by books. When he listed all the stupid places I read books, we decided that I probably was. And that has never been a bad thing.

 Readers like characters. That's why we read. If I share the same book with a friend, we are likely to speak about the characters as if they were real and we knew them really well. In some ways, characters are friends. In fact, this lady was my best friend at 18:

My character friends in no particular order:

Bridget Jones
"Hellllllloooo Bridget!" As brilliant as the movies were, book Bridget kicks some serious ass. She makes lists, weighs herself every day, loves fad diets and has pretty whacky friends. Most of all, she is confused a lot of the time. I can't relate to that too well, but it is pretty cute.

Tully Makker
Tully is probably the most self-centred character ever overwritten. Her one motive in life is to do all the things her dead best friend didn't get to do, including getting together with a complete jerk who treats both of the girls badly. The blurb doesn't lie when it tells you that "you can't help but like her". The only admirable thing she does is work for DOCS. But that's it. What I like though is that she doesn't get it right all the time. Unlike the BSC.

The Baby Sitters Club
Kristy, Claudia, Stacey and co were my best friends in primary school. They could solve problems, had more maturity than most of the negligent parents in the book and always knew the right thing to say. Those girls had more adventures, day camps and holidays than anyone I'm ever likely to meet. They also made some really confusing judgements, like volunteering to spend their summers looking after kids, being obsessed with California/NYC and travel in general and getting all serious about relationships at 11. But hey, I'll save that for another blog post.

Laura Ingalls Wilder
My fave biography about Laura says that a librarian once found "I love you Laura" written in the back of a Little House book, and then said of it "We all do". I loved Laura because she was high spirited, had ambition, gave everything a go and wasn't afraid to stand up for herself. When I discovered the Little House books a few weeks after my 11th birthday, I had no idea I'd still be rereading them every year. Whenever I lack confidence or feel nervous, I read parts of Laura's books - such as my first eisteddfod, I read about Laura's recitation at the school house. My first day of teaching I read about Laura's first term out. In the words of that seven year old girl, I love you Laura.

Winnie + Lauren from Freshman Dorm
Man, how I love those girls. I'm a lot like both of them. If you never had the chance to read the Freshman Dorm books, or you did and you want to refresh your memory, I'm writing a blog about them here. Winnie is basically manic and kooky, Lauren is a chubby writer who wears bowling shirts.

Jessica Wakefield
Jessica was the cool Wakefield twin from Sweet Valley High. She was a cheerleader, a drama queen, an actor and a serial dater. The bits about her twin sister Elizabeth were always boring, even when they tried to make Liz "cool". In the Senior Year books, which I'm reading at the moment, Jess seems a bit deeper and less flaky. 

Harry Potter
Although Harry could not have been a hero without a lot of additional help from his myriad of friends and acquaintances, Harry is seriously a pretty darn good character. He is a it pretentious, a bit of a jerk and he has a real knack of getting in to trouble. You can't hold it against him though, seeing as the pickles he kinds himself in made for outstanding reading. Ha. I love you Harry and Hars.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Something about love.

Last week I watched a video about a couple, Ian + Larissa. It was about the challenges they face and about love. You can watch it here.

What got to me, as I read their blog tonight is that they are both only a year older than I am and have been through so much. Ian + Larissa were at college the same time I was, but our paths are completely different. Could I do what Larissa does every day?

I'd like to say yes but I would also like to say no.

Yes, because:

We spend our lives getting up to crazy antics.

And even though I might get really annoyed when Stephen nags me for Panadol after tennis or wants me to buy obscure items for school (this includes a tarp, farm animals, lollies that can't be chocolate and so on), I miss him when he is gone and love him all the same. And Stephen has also put up with my strange behaviour without asking questions (late night reading, questionable hoarding and insisting on baking dessert during winter).

I also want to say no too.

Saying no recognizes the extent families go to when caring for their loved ones. I am constantly amazed at the strength women and men display consistently for years.

More than anything though, the video and the blog challenged me to look back at of vows. Now, I don't have a copy of what we said ready to type down, but I know the gist of it.  When I saw the video I wanted to drive to work and give Stephen a big hug. But I may have cleaned the house pretty thoroughly instead.

Love shouldn't be easy, but it isn't difficult to love. It's the act of being loving, even when it is hard, boring, tiring and demanding that makes love happen.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Les Mills Fitness Classes Reviews!

Unless you a) avoid gyms like the plague or b) don't attend a gym running Les Mills classes, you might have managed to escape the very topic of my blog today. Essentially, Les Mills is a brand of fitness classes which have different themes and flavours. You can cycle, you can do aerobics, you can lift weights. The great thing about these classes is that each one has pre-arranged music and choreography (called a release), so you can go to two different gyms and experience the same class. If you are a bit of a class junkie, which I was for quite a long time, you become very familiar with releases, the music and choreography. You might even find yourself putting in some requests for your fave song. I have too many to list here.

This is a review of most of the classes I have attended. I haven't try Sh'bam and I've only done BodyVive once, so they don't get a mention. As an added bonus, I've included some extra thoughts on other group fitness options at the bottom of the post. Enjoy.

Body Attack
BodyAttack is an aerobics class which I was scared of for a long time. Then I noticed that it was really only a few lyrca-crop-top-wearing gym bunnies going in for their weekly dose, everyone else looked like me in their singlets and not-too-short shorts. It is seriously my favourite class. It's high energy. Your legs feel like jelly afterwards. And it does have the best music.
Cardio: 8/10
Technical difficulties: 4/10. If you have problems with impact (like me - I can't jump), always take the lower options
Key to success: Seriously, stand somewhere in the middle. You will move around a lot, and at some points the back row becomes the front row. No one wants that their first time in.

BodyPump is lifting weights in time to some music for about fifty minutes. You get plenty of stretch time, and a great work out as well. Pump is a class I love to hate. I always feel awesome after it, and once you have been a few times, you start getting your technique under control. The music is again very good, but you need to watch out for one very important thing: crazy people with equipment.
The problem with Pump is you need a lot of stuff. You need an aerobic step, a bar, weights of a variety of sizes and enough space to do lunges and squats. People who are in a hurry tend to pack up all their stuff halfway through a class, which slows down the instructor (and means everyone gets out five minutes late every single time). Fortunately some gyms are really good at cracking down on the pack up culture. Country gyms are not, and everyone gives you the hairy eyeball if you decide you won't pack up half way between tracks. It's unsafe and rude. Don't do it people.
Cardio: 4/10
Technical difficulties: 7/10. Listen to the instructors, and if they say something like 'make sure your elbow doesn't come past the step' (and they will say plenty of these helpful tips), ALWAYS assume they are talking about you.
Key to success: Rest between classes - a day in between, once you get used to it, is enough time. And bring a big towel to cover your step. Sorted.

Body Combat is a 'martial arts' type class, with lots of punching, kicking and doing funny stuff with hands. I don't know how other people feel, but Combat can be either incredibly awesome or incredibly lame. I've only had a few good Combat instructors in the past, generally the best ones are the ones who focus on just Combat and maybe another class or two as well. My first class I was told it would take up to 10 classes to get the hang of Combat, and that it isn't really a workout until you can master the skill.
Cardio: 3-9/10 - it depends on what you put into, and get out of it. This is one you can blame on your instructor... usually.
Technical difficulties: 8/10
Key to success: Don't assume you'll be awesome at it. Maybe you can throw a good punch or have a great roundhouse kick, but that only accounts for a few of the tracks.

Cycle your way to happiness with this little class. Most RPM classes are 45 minutes, though express and extended classes are sometimes offered. This is the best fitness class to try if you are a newbie. It is very structured, you have your own space (well, you have a bike), and the chances of crashing into anyone are very limited. You will hurt after an RPM class. Don't forget to turn up the dial as much and as often as you can.
Technical difficulties: 3/10. You can't go too wrong if you have someone (usually the instructor or somewhere wearing cycling lycra) help you set up your bike.
Key to success: Take lots of water. If it's getting too hard, turn your dial (the resistance) down and peddle for a bit.)

BodyStep is an aerobic workout using a step. You do all these funky moves on, around and straddled over this metre long step. I must admit, Step is great. It is fun, your bum and thighs will hurt afterwards and you are usually surrounded by steppers who are nuts about this class. I no longer do Step because of my foot injury because it is quite high impact and there are really no options you can taken to lower the impact unlike Attack.
Technical difficulties: 5/10 Beware of the sliding step. If your step doesn't have feet on it, help it stop sliding around by putting some plates under it.
Key to success: Stand in the middle of the row, and watch the front row babes (okay, and a few blokes) for the technical moves.

Body Balance
BodyBlanace is yoga-esque and about promoting strength, flexibility and balance. Balance is one of those classes I always struggle with because you never seem to stay in the same spot for long. It is very relaxing all the same.
Cardio: 5/10 - I can still get a bit huffy puffy from Balance.. yes, seriously.
Technical difficulties: 7/10 If you have no idea what a downdog or tree pose are, you'll spend a lot of time looking at the instructor.
Key to success: Bring your own yoga mat.

BodyJam is a dance class, most new releases let you build up to two 'performances', where you spend four tracks learning the moves and two putting the moves together to create a little dance sequence. Most gyms seem to be phasing out Jam, but often dedicated instructors (and there are a lot of them) are really good at presenting this class.
Technical difficulties: 6/10 - it varies
Key to success: Laugh a lot at yourself, and assume no one else is laughing at you. I thought this my first few weeks, but then realised everyone gets a bit embarrassed when they don't get it. You laugh... a lot.

Other group fitness classes and fads I want to talk about

Group Training: Small Group
Group training in a small group is having a trainer set up some different exercises for you to work on. Often you will do this in pairs or teams. Sometimes you might have stations, other times you will be working individually. My gym doesn't offer this at the moment, and out of group fitness class options, this is probably the most expensive but also the most rewarding one. I have met some of my favourite people in the world in Group Training.

Boot Camp
I'm all for fitness in all shapes and forms, though the jury is out on Boot Camps for me. When these started running, they were classes set up in army training style, using beaches, open space and/or the elements to get you through a training session. However, the term 'Boot camp' seems to have been applied to Group Training sessions, big or small, and probably won't be a lot like you though you were getting into. If you do go with Boot Camp, make sure you know your instructor (and what they want to focus on) and check on the size of the group. Smaller is better, especially when you have an injury, need extra attention about something or you feel uncertain about whether you can complete all the activities.

I am a Zumba and Zumbatomic instructor. I only work with my school students and I like to incorporate a bit of aerobics into my classes too. Zumba was a great fad and it got a lot of people back into gyms and rec centres which is great. However, Zumba doesn't require you to be certified in fitness, and instructors can make up whatever they want in terms of choreography. The safest option is to visit a Zumba class within a gym or through someone with a lot of experience in fitness instruction.

PunchFit is a great class - 1-on-1 boxing for two minute rounds for a 50 minute class. It is fun, but I also have to say that the cardio level for PunchFit is not incredibly high (at least from my experience), and you can be part of a mis-matched pair too often.

That's it from me for now. Well done if you got this far. Seriously, please feel free to disagree, I don't mind being challenged and I'm qualified enough to take it.

After my very first Zumba class - best long weekend ever!

Blog Life!

I've set myself a bit of a challenge for the next few months. I'd like to blog about my life, a lot. Basically, I love what I do. I love being a Girl Guide, a derby girl, a writer and some kind of crafty person. I want to spend some time capturing it on a blog, mostly because I live so far away and I don't always get to share what's happening here as much as I would like. But also, just to have something to look back on, even if this page becomes really uncool and dated in a decade's time.

I probably don't need to wait for something exciting to happen, but I also shouldn't write when I'm half brain dead.

I will leave you with this photo from a very favourite place of ours, the Moonta Mines. You can walk into this old building, but it certainly doesn't feel very safe. More on the Mines later on.

Lis xx

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Bridesmaids Brooch Bouquets

When I initially started putting together my brooch bouquet, I considered having the bridesmaids carry something else instead. But as we started to collect brooches, we had a surplus of spare ones which didn't seem to fit in with mine.

We used large foam roses to make the posies. Foam flowers are stronger than silk or other materials and seem to retain their shape. My bouquet is four months old now and looks exactly the same as our wedding day. Because the foam roses are so large, each posy could only have a small amount of brooches placed on them, about 6 per posy.

The girls each had differently styled dresses, though they were wearing the same sashes and necklaces. Each of them are very unique individuals, and it became apparent that each posy was deserving of it's own colour scheme. Rachel's (featured above) is blue, to match her wedding colours. Narelle's was silver and Spring's was purple and pink.

To keep costs down, the bridesmaid bouquet brooches were vintage/antiqued styled and purchased on eBay for between $1-3 each. I would usually only search for 'free postage', so many brooches came through without any transportation costs. Because of the large shape of the individual roses, heavy brooches would not sit flat on them and tended to fall through.

A 'throw away' posy tends to be a popular inclusion with most wedding floral packages, and I realised that my single guests would probably enjoy catching their own brooch bouquet. After some consultation with Dad (who was concerned it may injure someone), I designed a small throw posy (second from right). It contained only lightweight brooches and these were well taped to ensure they would not 'escape'. My friends who caught the bouquet ensures me it was not at all thrown away, but is now being used as decoration.

At first I wondered about whether the girls holding these brooch bouquets would give away the big surprise that I was holding one. Of course, this was a little silly, and in the photographs, the bridal party's bouquets make very bold statement.

I hope to update the blog soon with some details about how to put together your own bouquets. There are plenty of helpful sites out there is you wish to start seeking some tips earlier than that. My advice is to read as much as you can, but make the creation process work for you. If instructions don't make sense or aren't working for you, change it up so they do. When putting together the flowers, we had many hurdles, but overcame each one through simple trial and error. Happy brooch bouqueting!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Brooch Bouquet

To begin my new blog, I thought I'd write about my brooch bouquet. I got a zillion and one questions about it, so here goes.

Apparently suppliers don't enjoy working over Christmas, and my ideal bouquet of white, pink and cream roses just wasn't going to happen without a gamble. Then, after finding the dress of my dreams, an ordinary silk flower bouquet just didn't seem to go with Swarovski crystals.

After much deliberation, Mum and I decided not only would I have a brooch bouquet, but I would make it myself AND it would be a secret. We spent July through until October collecting brooches, earrings and pendants. The bouquet contains a brooch from my great-Nan, jewellery from Grandma and also presents and jewellery from my own collection. Mum went on weekly visits to antique and op-shops to find pieces to include. I also trawled eBay for antique brooches (2 are from Scotland, the rest are Aussie), and mass produced brooches which made up the bridesmaid bouquets.

In October we decided to start putting it all together. I had wired each brooch with floral wire, and used floral tape to strengthen it and keep the bouquet free of pointy wire. I liked the look of a simple brooch bouquet without flowers, but this was near impossible as I also wanted a uniform rounded shape. After experimenting with hydrangea flowers (from Cheap as Chips), we discovered that although the flower size was good, the brooches were too heavy for the flowers. Mum then set to work and finally found the perfect flowers - foam roses.

During November and December we put the bouquet together. Firstly, we made the flowers sit in the right shape, and then taped it up. Next, we placed the bigger brooches, and the ones we wanted to display. Then we filled up the empty spots with smaller filler brooches.

The bridesmaids had larger foam roses, with each bouquet filled with about 7 feature brooches with colour schemes (will have to post when I have the pictures back).

We then purchased a bouquet wrap which was velcro and adjustable for the bridal bouquet. The girls had theirs wrapped in white ribbon as the wraps were far too big on the bouquets. On the day, we had 5 bouquets - mine, 3 each for a bridesmaid and one throw posy, which my beautiful friend Ros caught.The throw posy had several light brooches so we didn't poke out any eyes!

My brooch bouquet was incredibly heavy (1.5-2kg at a guess), and took countless hours of work - about 6 hours a week for six months, not including the brooch collecting. I successfully managed to keep this from my now husband the entire time - he knew there was a wedding project, but had no idea what it was. Actually, if he had gone searching in my house he would have found this:

Fortunately for all, the finished product did not have to be hidden in a pink box with a face.