Monday, 30 January 2012

My Zumba family

I feel extremely lucky to have stumbled upon Zumba classes run in the Wynnumarea by the talented, friendly, inclusive and spectacular Cassie Blazer.

Thanks to Kristy, Shelley and Kathryn, I dragged myself off to Monday evenings at Moreton Bay to try my first Zumba class. It is fair to say that I have now been spoiled for all future Zumba instructors!

I've taken other classes under other instructors, and while some are great dancers, it's Cass' ability to teach a move that sets her apart from the rest. Yes, there are times when she just totally bamboozles me, but she breaks it down to the lowest common denominator and before I know it, my uncoordinated, busted ass body is moving in what feels like a semblance of Cass' moves.

But it's not just Cass who keeps me coming back for more. My fellow Zumba devotees are like family to me. There seems to be an inclusivity within the group - whether it's the fact that we all recognise the love we share of the music, the movement, the dance, I really can't tell you. We've had some hilarious road trips to masterclasses on the coast, surprised Wendy with a Zumba party for her 60th birthday and shared lots of giggles during class as we learn new choreography.

We follow Cass to masterclasses, party classes, dress up for themed classes and we do it happily. Cass has shared the chance for us to meet and dance with some amazingly talented ZES' and introduced us to the ZIN network. They support each other, hold fundraisers for class members in need, take the time to find out the story of every person who rocks up to class.

If you don't make class for a couple of days, there's always a quick note from Chris or Wendy "checking in" to make sure all is good with the world. The last time this happened I had been in a bit of a funk. Those encouraging words dragged my sorry butt back to class, and after an hour of music and movement, all was good with the world!

Sometimes it just seems easier to sit on my butt in my easy chair. But I could not name a single time that I wished I'd stayed at home once I'd dragged my ass to class. The music and moves are a great mood elevator - as is Cass' smiling face at the front of the class.

So Monday, Wednesday and the occasional Friday you'll find me sweating it out at my local Zumba fitness class. Aqua Zumba is also looking like a goer this summer too. Feel free to message me for details - would love to see you there.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Ride like the wind Bullseye!

Ok, not so much riding like the wind, but riding into the wind.

This weather gives a perfect excuse to skip training and stay warm and dry inside. After our adventures in Sydney (where we walked a lot) I wanted to ensure I continued on the road to regular exercise, so after doing my civic duty on the Bunnings BBQ today, I planned a ride on my bike.

With all of the punctures I've sustained of late, I was spoiled by hubby who went out and bought me a new set of tyres. With a Kevlar band (yes, the material used in bullet proof clothing), they will apparently be more resistant to punctures. I guess only time will tell! One problem - I told Brendon the wrong size, so I now have thinner, slicker tyres on my bike. Time to be a little more thoughtful on those corners, especially where there is loose material on the ground.

Anyway, I changed the tyres over and took off out of the driveway, without a route in mind. I guess maybe after my impromptu holiday I figured I could try winging other things as well.

Brendon had already done a 60km ride today, so I didn't nag him to join me. I really don't mind riding by myself. It helps me get right inside my own head, and I think through a lot of things that are bothering me, leaving me much more relaxed and clear-headed post ride.

Today I set myself some challenges along the ride, including taking on a hill that I've found difficult in the past. As I rode I extended the ride to fit in more hill work, some long flat stretches and some new streets that I had not ridden before.

Proud to say Whites Rd hill climb did not defeat me, and I added in more hills after the climb to give the legs a chance to break down the lactic acid build up.

The greatest difficulty during the ride is the headwind that pushes against me along the flats on the foreshore. Seems like no matter what the direction I'm riding it will swing round and hit me face first. The positive though, is that it makes for a great resistance workout.

The new tyres were great to ride on. Less rubber on the ground = less resistance = faster riding. That certainly seemed to be the case today.

Felt great at the end of my ride. What could have been a lazy, indulgent afternoon became another step on the way to a regular routine. They say it takes ten days to break a habit and 90 days to form a new one. Plenty more reinforcement required, but there's motivation there, so bring it on.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The weary travellers are home

After what proved to be a whirlwind tour of Sydney, you'd think I'd be glad to be home. It's always nice to come back to my lovely, messy, familiar abode, but the kids and I had such a great time over the past 3 days that I really didn't want it to end.

Those who know me well know how truly anal I can be about my trips away. They are planned meticulously to the minute and I spend most of my time away watching my blood pressure rise and barking orders to hurry up at the family. The last big road trip I planned involved less planning and more off the cuff days, which meant a more enjoyable time for us all.

Sydney was my first experiment with a list of things to do but no firm plans on how to execute them. The only "booked" activity was The Potter exhibition, because it was paid in advance (thank goodness cos it was sold out the whole time we were there). We knew we wanted to do Bondi and the zoo and the Jewish Museum, but had no set plans. This meant we didn't spend so much time rushing to fit it all in - we just did one thing then checked the time and decided what else to do. The weather was a deciding factor at times, other times, it was just what mood we were in. There were times when it was an activity that we all wanted to do, one wanted to do or a combo of two out of three. Yet we all blended nicely, there was limited fighting, and we had a great time.

If this is how holidays can be all the time, I can honestly say that I would happily list my occupation as world traveller and spend my time exploring the world with my family. Of course money wouldn't be a problem with that huge lotto win under our belts, but until that time I will have to just enjoy the short breaks on offer. Hayden has his heart set on Darwin, so I've started to save already for another long weekend getaway.

For those thinking of a short trip, Sydney has so much on offer at the moment. The Harry Potter Exhibition is fantastic, Luna Park is hosting Dinosaurs Alive, an animatronic, robotic dinosaur display with 8 life sized dinosaurs in the display and there's one of the best zoos around at Taronga. Highly recommend all three of these activities and if you're clever and take a bit of initiative, you'll even find discount entry to a lot of places in Sydney just by surfing the net. Splurge on eating out - we ate at cafes, restaurants, snack bars and did not indulge in franchise fast food chains the whole time we were in the city. I had a beer or a cocktail with most lunches and dinners and thoroughly enjoyed trying new tastes and flavours (plan a Friday night dinner in Chinatown mall - great price and de-licious!)

We did so many things we don't do at home on holidays - dessert for dinner, leaving the hotel at 9pm to go out for a meal, wandering the streets of the city late at night...things I wouldn't dream of doing in Brisbane.

Anyway, time for this weary traveller to soak her feet, have her last late dinner (love eating after 9pm on holiday) and settle back into working life until my next holiday. Bring on Easter I say...

Friday, 27 January 2012

A day of mixed emotions

When we planned our trip to Sydney, there was a to do list that I thought may have been a little long. But with the way we have utilised our travel passes, tomorrow is now a day of new things to explore.

We started the morning with a lovely light brekkie at a French bakery. The kids chose croissants (savoury and sweet), while I partook of the tuna crepe. What a great start to the day.

It was then that the real adventure began. The Harry Potter exhibition at Powerhouse Museum is a collection of props from the movie on display for a limited time in Sydney only.

If your kids love to run and jump and touch stuff, then this is NOT the exhibit for you. It is a strictly hands off, read-fest of all things Potter. If your kids love the books and the movies, they will love this. From the moment you enter via the great hall and the sorting ceremony, through a frightening journey into the Forbidden Forest, you are transported into another world.

It's not until you get up close and personal that you realise the detail and craftsmanship that goes into the making of a movie. From costumes (more wizarding robes than you can poke a stick at, ball gowns, casual clothes, hats, shoes, glasses) to wand manufacture to furnishings, curtains and other props, there is a place for everything and a justified reasoning for its inclusion into the frame. I took the option of the audio tour, which added to the detail given on the cards in the displays by allowing you to connect with costume designers etc for the movie, who explained some of the things they did and how they came to make some of the choices.

There was food from the Great Hall, Quidditch practice, mandrake plucking, Hagrid's comfy chair (which I loved cos my bum looked tiny in it!), the life size replica of the horn tail, the Goblet of Fire, Dobby, Kreacher, petrified Colin Creevey, Quibbler magazines - a plethora of memorabilia from the film sets.

The only disappointment was the gift shop. Priced at the high end of the market, it was disappointing to find wands cost $60. Thankfully Jordan was satisfied with a Ravenclaw tie, and Hayden swallowed his disappointment and didn't buy anything. At $25, I thought the best value was the exhibition book - with no photos allowed in the entirety of the display, at least the commemorative book is a good memory jogger. We also got our photo taken in the great hall, and forked out the money to have a nice personal lasting memory.

But overall, was it worth it? My oath it was!

Our next stop, after a quick bus trip through Paddington was the Sydney Jewish Museum, a humbling monument to the suffering of the Jewish people throughout history, but in particular during the Holocaust. Not a great place for Hayden, who has only a limited knowledge of the history, but for Jordan it was an eye-opening, intense (her word) experience.

As I wandered from exhibit to exhibit I found myself aghast at the fact that no one stopped this atrocity in its earliest days. Where were the allies to assist the Jews, to be a voice against Nazi Germany? How could people do this to other human beings, how did so many turn away with a blind eye? 6 million people. 6 Million. One and a half million children. Where were our voices? Where was our outrage? Our compassion? Our empathy? Our quest for right to triumph over wrong?

I found myself moving from display case to display case, holding back tears, swallowing through the giant lump in my throat. The children's memorial did me in. They have erected a crystal water feature. It holds one and a half million water droplets - one for each child killed in the death camps.

I know the story. I've read my fair share of histories and yet it still sickened me. But I'll leave it at that for now. My thoughts are destined for another, stronger blog when my outrage has slackened somewhat.

Back on the bus, and we disembarked at the iconic Bondi Beach. After a delicious bite to eat at Moo Gourmet Burgers, we tore off the shoes and got some good ole Bondi sand between our toes.

Now Hayden has been having surfing lessons and could not pass up the chance to hire a board and surf Bondi. Cheap as chips at just $15 for the hour, off he went into the swell to test his skills. Massive 6 foot 4 inch board, heavier than normal, but ride he did. I had to feel sorry for the adult learn to surf class who he was sharing the beach with - talk about making them look like rank amateurs!

Was so proud watching him out there - it was a busy line up but he held his own and had a blast. For a kid who has so many anxieties, he can sure put them aside to enjoy himself at times.

Returned the board and I finally got the chance to test the waters; refreshing, cool and did I mention I got smashed! Fifteen minutes was enough for me, but it was another half hour before I tore Hayden away from his great love!

Back on the bus into the CBD and after a brief stop at our room to get our Gleek on, we ventured out into the Sydney evening to enjoy a guilty pleasure at the Lindt Cafe at Darling Harbour. You know that it's rich when even Jordan can't finish her sundae. Especially when she started to tally her food for the weekend and found she had managed to include chocolate in every meal!

So another great day in Sydney. Tomorrow's plans include a leisurely stroll through the Rocks and dinosaur animatronics at Luna Park before a late afternoon flight home. Hope Jordan's ears are better this time - so hard to watch your almost 14 year old in tears because the pressurisation in the cabin has created intense pain when her ears wouldn't click. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

A holiday is as good as a change...

Yes, I know I have that ass about, but funnily enough it is also plausible!

This morning I woke my children at an ungodly hour and packed the three of us off to Sydney for a three day short break. The main purpose for the trip is to see the Harry Potter exhibit at the Powerhouse Museum (which we are doing tomorrow - woohoo!)

But it just happened to coincide with the public holiday for Australia Day, so here we are on our first day on arguably the biggest public holiday of the year. Other days may still be holidays, but not many of them get hundreds of thousands of people into the City for a big party to celebrate this great nation we are all part of.

The city was awash with Aussie flags of all varieties, shirts, boardies, hat, brollies, stickers, tattoos - everywhere you look there was the familiar red, white and blue. Smiling faces everywhere and to be honest, not a single display of bad behaviour all day. Although that could be 'cos we were in a controlled area predominantly made up of families.

Anyway, I digress. We arrived at 9.30am and after checking into our digs for the next two nights, set out to check out the city. I might add for those of you who know Sydney, we are staying in Haymarket, right in the middle of Chinatown, just a short walk to the theatre district, Darling Harbour and the CBD.

And so to my first little revelation. Now don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer in "you get what you pay for". Our room is a cosy (read cramped) little three room with a queen bed for me and bunks for the kids. It's neat, tidy and was within my price range given its proximity to everything I wanted to be close to.

So when we get into the room and the kids marvel about how cool it is, I realise that we really don't stay in a lot of places like this! They are so used to camping that a room with a fan, air con, our own ensuite and a fridge with milk in it for coffee is pretty schmick. I guess I won't have to worry too much about pretentiousness from them anytime soon (at least when it comes to accommodation).

So onto our adventures. We walked the length of George Street right down to Circular Quay. I marvelled at the bridge and the OH, thinking that they would be as compelled as I was. Not so much it turns out. Hayden was more excited to see Luna Park's familiar smile across the harbour, and Jordan being the fashionista was bedazzled by the display of native animals made out of Louis Vitton merchandise in their shopfront!

Anyway, we agreed to ferry across to Taronga Zoo and wile away a few hours looking at the animals. It was a great decision, and even the intermittent showers didn't bring down our spirits as we reacquainted ourselves with a few old friends and made some new ones. Favourites are still the elephants, gorillas and chimps, closely followed by meerkats (my personal fave) and fishing cats. I love that we all three allowed ourselves to truly enjoy the time at the zoo. I was particularly proud of the kids who probably walked the equivalent of 15-20km today, without a word of complaint. In fact I probably whined more than them.

They also proved to be much more tolerant and patient when it came to poor behaviour, until finally Jordan had enough and let off a little bit of steam. I mean there are only so many times that you can allow a fellow tourist elbow you aside before you finally lose it. Especially when you are 13 and the offender a grown woman. But Jordan did it in a nice way, just walking away and grumbling to me. Very unlike her passive aggressive mother who would have stubbornly stood her ground and elbowed back!

Another moment of pride - well two actually - from my boy today. Normally painfully shy, I asked him to help his sister with her rail pass and he had to ask a station attendant for help. He really didn't want to, but did it for her anyway. Might not sound like much to you, but to those of us who know him, it was a massive achievement. Second one was watching the fireworks. Hayden has never liked loud noises, so the thought of a big display was nerve racking for him. Nevertheless he came along for the display and totally enjoyed it, even turning to me at one point to note that he had not put his fingers in his ears the whole time. Again, sounds simple, but I know the effort that it took.

And finally before I lay my head down for a well earned rest, a big thumbs up to Sydney's transport customer service officers. First of all bought three tickets to get from airport to city. Attendant noticed and said didn't need two for kids, and refunded my money. When I asked where I could buy multi tickets she explained if I had bought all of them together I would have saved more. So she sent me off to the ticket counter with instructions to get it rectified.

Now $100 might seem a lot to pay for three days worth of travel, but the airport transfer itself costs $70 for the three of us. With our trip to Taronga (another $26) and then the ride to Darling Harbour (another $20), it has paid for itself. If our plans pan out tomorrow there will be a trip to Paddington and then a return trip to Bondi on that tab too. Worth every cent!

Now it's off to bed, but not without recognising the amazing efforts of my husband in our absence. Today he ran his first half marathon in 1.50 and change. Well done Bren - wish we were there to cheer you on, but also wish you were hear to enjoy the Sydney experience with us.