Sunday, 30 August 2009

Women's Lifestyle Expo & making Cinnabons (30th August 2009)

Caught up with Hew at 9.30am for breakfast this morning at Enigma Cafe on Courtenay Place. Hmm, looked and felt like the old Espressoholic Cafe that used to be here for years until they recently moved down to Cuba St. Other than a slight change in the design on the walls, everything is pretty much the same, even the menu. Had a yummy big breakfast of toast, eggs, bacon and hash browns with a flat white - so bad for health but so good on a Sunday :P

Hew wanted to check out the Women's Lifestyle Expo that was held at TSB Arena this weekend and I had agreed to go with her. Honestly, I wouldn't pay $10 to the expo since I'm not much of a girlie girl and going to a place that has stalls about women products and pampering stuff doesn't appeal to me. Lucky for us, I won 2 free passes to the expo so we didn't have to fork out a cent!

The Women's Lifestyle Expo is held annually across 9 cities around the country showcasing more than 160 exhibitors featuring everything from jewellery to health products to crafts, fitness and beauty products, food and wine sampling, home wares etc. Us girls went around collecting samples given by the exhibitors, sampling chocolates, stopped by to chat with Lance who was there serving alcoholic mixers, tried making a small gift card (that was hard work!) and just talked to several of the exhibitors about the products they were promoting.

Given that this was an expo about women, I was quite surprised to see the lack of actual women-related exhibitors. Where were the folks from Loreal or Cover Girl? There weren't any exhibitors that taught women how to dress or even do their make-up or hair. To me, it was just a central location of an assortment of people getting together to promote their businesses/products. Fancy cosmetic surgery? There wa a company there that puts surgery and travel into one package. Want to lose weight? Plenty of stalls promoting the different sure-win ways to lose kilos. Hew and I ended up at a stall promoting this magnetic wristband that is said to balance the ions in your body. Hmm, I'm not convinced even though wearing it, I was able to hold my balance when the male promoter tried very hard to pull on my arm.

Several exhibitors that I personally do not think they should even be there are like banks and the folks promoting The Avatar course. How do they even fit in all this?? Ok, if the banks were teaching women how to be financially fit for life, sure, but trying to talk you into changing banks? Puh-lease. I didn't end up buying anything, and Hew went home with 2 coloured hair attachments she purchased from the people selling wigs. My conclusion, don't bother going - it's not worth the 10 bucks.

Said my goodbye to my girlfriend Hew and went to pick up a DVD then headed over to Scott's for the evening. Sharon has been posting photos of her and Mark in Melbourne making yummy cinnamon buns from Cinnabon, an American cinnamon roll franchise, and Scott's got a copy of the recipe and keen to make some this afternoon. I want to come help!

Got to Scott's about 4pm and he had all the ingredients set up to make the rolls. Alright, team NZ (me and Scott), time to beat the Aussies (Sharon and Mark) in Cinnabon-making! Haha, I had a fun time taking photos of the process while helping Scott out. No, Scott, you can knead the dough - I don't want to get my hands dirty and eeky... :P Several unorthodox ways of baking including measuring unmelted butter in cups (that is SO wrong!), measuring the rolled out dough with a tape measure and putting the dough next to the heater to get it to rise (not even sure that works). But who cares, so long as they turned out yummy! Photos of our baking session:

Hmm, I'm getting hungry...Scott better make his beef stroganoff for dinner fast - I can't stop putting my finger into the icing bowl and licking the sugar. Yum...Scott's been meaning to have me over for dinner for a long time but we social butterflies always have something on. He talks about his passion for cooking often and I've yet to sample any of his cooking! Ladies, my buddy Scott's a great catch (and he's single...hint, hint...) - who wouldn't want a man who can cook? ;) Two thumbs up for his lite version of beef stroganoff. Absolutely YUM!

Rest of the evening was spent watching the rented DVD, having our dinner and wine, followed by 2 Cinnabon each for dessert. Not going to think about the gazillion calories in them when the recipe is full of sugar and butter - they are good! Scott's going to bring a batch to share with his work colleagues tomorrow though I reckon he'll end up keeping them for himself hehe...Thanks Scott for the great meal and evening - we need to do more of this before you leave in November!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Mt Kaukau & closing of Reel Brazil series (29th August 2009)

Was up early this morning to see if Chris was still planning to head out for a walk up Mt Kaukau. Weather forecast didn't look too good and given I'm the least experience in outdoor activities between us two, I left it to Chris to make the final call - he said we should go! Ok, let's go then!

Mt Kaukau is the highest point overlooking Wellington harbour and getting up there is one of the items in my 2009 list of must-do activities. Exciting! Went to pick Chris up around 10am, did a short stop at Thorndon New World for us to grab some buns, salad and ham for lunch and then off we went in search of our mountain.

There are several walking tracks that leads to the summit - we chose the shortest one that goes up from Khandallah Park on Woodmancote Road in Khandallah (a suburb about 4kms away from Wellington city centre). Took us about 45 minutes walking up a steep hill to the top and this was supposed to be an easy walk! I can feel the burn in my thighs, calves and butt - keep up, girl, it's good exercise!! And I'm getting warmer too!!

We passed a couple of viewing points as we made our way up through the bush tracks and took photos as we went, me with my small digital camera and Chris with his huge SLR. Mt Kaukau stands 445m high and is topped with a communications mast (which looks somewhat like the Eiffel Tower to me). Spectacular views of Wellington from here but it was slightly overcast and windy at the top - not so great for photos. It would have been a good place to have a picnic on a nice sunny day but not today. Just getting swept by the cold winds...brr...Photos taken on our little hike this morning:

We decided to head out to Makara in search of the wind turbines we saw from Mt Kaukau and have our picnic lunch there. Stopped by a cute cafe in Ngaio for me to grab a coffee - haha, was quite funny to see this sign in the shop that said: "If first you don't succeed, hide all evidences that you've tried". Nice!

Took a cruisy drive through Makara Hills towards the beach to find a lunch spot - I always enjoy this drive through the hills, passing by farms and just zig-zagging my way to the beach. It feels as if I've been taken out and away from the city into the rural NZ but I'm actually still in Wellington itself. Plenty of farm land and pine trees, even sharing the roads with folks on horseback some days.

Gee, the weather hasn't been kind to us today - it's equally windy here at Makara beach! Ended up having our lunch in my car (haha, Chris, don't worry about the crumbs - I'll sort it out later) and headed back into town around 2pm. Thanks for the great company, Chris! Look forward to more walks as we move into spring :)

Oh, and we couldn't get to the wind turbines - private access. Boo...

Went to meet up with Liviu at the Film Archive around 6.45pm to attend the closing of the Reel Brazil series event. Cost us $15 each to see Brazilian documentaries Jorjao and We Are Samba, plus our ticket also gets us a free caipirinha and $5 discount for subsequent ones at Southern Cross Bar after the show. The closing was also a fundraiser for the Wellington Batucada where 50% of all ticket sales goes towards the group.

Poor Liviu - we were trying to catch up about what's been going on in our lives over the past week but we kept getting interrupted as I saw another familiar face and had to pause our conversation to say hello. Yes, I do know lots of people in this town ;)

The two documentaries were really good. Jorjao was a documentary about batista director, Master Jorjao, a well-known man in the samba schools in Rio, who talked about his relationships with the dancers and percussion players and how he introduced funk beats into traditional samba carnival beats. Amazing colours and sounds as we followed him through the days leading to the big Rio carnival and being in the parade. We Are Samba, on the other hand, was a heartwarming documentary about a group of Canadians from different ethnic backgrounds living in Toronto who got together to form their own batista and telling us their stories of how the samba rhythms changed their lives.

The crowd started to make our way to Southern Cross Bar where the closing party was held with Brazealand band starting their gig at 9.30pm. Was on the dance floor as usual and laughing heaps at Liviu - he doesn't know any samba steps but was having fun dancing in his own style in the crowd. He reminded me of our dear Claus (now happily settled with his new life in Melbourne), who at parties would be running around like a 5-year-old kid, all excited and eager to be part of the party. Hahaha! Had a bit of a boogie with Leandro too and friends Rodney, Scott, Chris and Alicia came to join in as the night progressed.

The music played tonight was not very Brazilian in my books. Lots of fused songs like Michael Jackson's Beat It sung with a samba beat or tunes from Bob Marley. Hmm...Was feeling tired and needed to be up early tomorrow to catch up with Hew for breakfast so left for home around 11.30pm.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Ladies' Night Out with Liz (27th August 2009)

Liz had won herself a prize for 2 to a ladies' night out event with the local radio station, Classic Hits. She's ALWAYS winning stuff - she often tells me about her recent winnings (and where she has been to) and I've had the pleasure of getting invited to a few movie events with her over the years. Her neighbour wasn't able to make it tonight so she asked if I wanted to come along for some nibbles, drink and a movie. Of course! I've not seen Liz for awhile so it was a good opportunity to spend the evening catching up with her too :)

We caught up at 5pm for dinner at Courtenay Central before heading upstairs to Reading Cinema's Gold Lounge at 6pm where the radio station crew and other female winners where there for the pre-movie drinks and nibbles. We were greeted by a very bubbly radio host, Camille, who was halfway getting her makeup done. Part of Liz's winning prize included a free makeup session for the winners by the talented make-up and hair artists from Hil Cook and Camille was getting her make-up done by Hil herself as we walked in.

Every winner was allowed to bring a lady friend and upon meeting Camille, each was given a small goodie bag filled with makeup and skincare samples from Dermalogica and Bobbi Brown. As we awaited Liz's turn for her makeup, we were served bubbly and a variety of finger food including fruits with chocolate sauce dip, chicken nibbles, small pies and fried dumplings. What a treat! We continued our chit-chat about the events in our lives and it was great to see Liz enjoying herself without her husband and kids for the night. I have never seen Liz in makeup before (she's always au naturel) so this was a first for me :)

Hmm, I don't remember when was the last time I hung out in a social event with all females. Highschool reunion, maybe? FYI, I came from an all-girls highschool. It was interesting to sit at the comfy lounge sofa, watching women getting their makeup done, the makeup crew running around to the cosmetic display table to find the right foundation or lipstick shade for the winners. As a friend of the winner, I got a makeup touch-up (they didn't have enough time to make everyone up) and lovely Laura came by with a few Bobbi Brown products to brighten my eyes and add colour to my lips. Photos taken tonight:

Liz getting her make-up done by Hil Cook crew

Bobbi Brown cosmetics on display

The radio host and other ladies enjoying themselves,chatting over food and bubbly

Me and Liz in makeup :)

Our evening proceeded with a romantic comedy, The Ugly Truth, at the Gold Lounge Cinema. I've never been to the Gold Lounge Cinema - this is so cool! The seats were Lazy Boys chairs and you could just sink into the plush seat and have your feet up! This has been an amazing evening - thanks so much Liz!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Reel Brazil series at the Film Archive (26th August 2009)

Reel Brazil is an organisation which aims to promote the Brazilian film industry in NZ and headed by Wellington-based Brazilian, Leandro. I've seen Leandro many times in my Brazilian social networks and events but we're merely acquaintances. He probably doesn't remember me since we've been re-introduced to each other so many times! He had left the country for awhile to work in Canada as a prodution manager at the Brazil Film Fest in Toronto and is now back in Wellington, busy getting us ready for the first Brazilian Film Festival in NZ!

As a bit of a teaser for the upcoming film festival, Reel Brazil is currently screening a series of documentaries at the NZ Film Archive on Taranaki St from the 26th - 29th of August. I've had a look at the line-up of documentaries screening this week and highly recommend you get yourself to the Film Archive to check them out. I've got myself and Liviu tickets for the closing night party and fundraiser screening for Saturday evening - not many tickets left so you better hurry!

I had the pleasure of volunteering at the opening screening tonight, thanks to Christian - he had already signed himself up as a volunteer for the event and forwarded me Leandro's details for me to find out if they needed more help pre-screening. Lucky me, Leandro said yes! Rushed over from work to the Film Archive and got there just before 5.30pm to help serve drinks to the movie-goers. It was fun working with Christian, and Lance and his crew who were mixing up Passionfruit Batidas (typical of Bahia region, this cocktail is a mix of passionfruit puree, cachaça and fruit juice on crushed ice). The Film Archive was very busy, bustling with people (quite a number of them I knew so got to catch up briefly which was nice), drumming by Wellington Batucada and us serving the cocktails courtesy of Cachaça 51.

The deal was 1 movie ticket = 1 drink, but with a few exceptions. I don't know if it's the drink or just the fact it was free that people want more - we met some interesting people trying to talk us into handing them a second drink. I had a lady come up to me to ask if she could have another because she's a Brazilian. Er, no...Christian and I also had to deal with a bunch of semi-drunk older folks who tried to pay us for another drink (sorry, not for sale) and the most outrageous had to be bringing in a bunch of kids who look too young to drink with a story of how far they have travelled here la-la-la. After about 5 minutes of this man rattling on, we gave him his second drink. Please don't come back! It was SO funny seeing our no-fear Christian cringe being the centre of attention of a very drunk lady who kept telling everyone that Christian was someone famous (or something like that since I was busy 'working' while he was surrounded by a group of very curious people). All in all, fun :)

God, you should see the people running towards the drinks table when Leandro said there were few left if anyone wanted seconds! I had to steer clear from them not to get pushed over!! Lance was quick enough to grab one for me - hmm, very refreshing and yummy. Barely tasted the alcohol but have a few more and trust me, you are gone!

Rush, rush, rush as usual. Left for home at 7pm for dinner and out again for my burlesque lessons. Halfway through the term now and still loving it!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Sunday market and catch up with friends (23rd August 2009)

Was up at 9am to cook up the rest of my pancake mix before Scott popped over at 10am. The 2 of us were on a mini photograph expedition to the nearby markets this morning - him with his SLR camera and me, with my compact Canon digital camera. Great day to take photos because it's sunny outside!

We walked from my place over to the markets by Chaffers Dock. Priscilla suggested that we check out the City Market before heading to the Waitangi Park Market. But first, a brief stop at the pet store to check out what new puppies they have. Photos taken of Scott playing with a pup Jack Russell:

Come here little puppy...

Aww, someone's loving the tummy rub :)
After Scott had his fill of 'puppy love', we continued to the City Market located inside the Chaffers Dock building. I never knew there was a market in here on Sundays! If Priscilla didn't mention it, I probably wouldn't have known!! The City Market is like a compact food fair, showcasing a stellar line-up of local food and beverage producers together under one roof. Lots of food like jams, cheese, chocolate etc. to try out and it is a place that would bring a smile to food enthusiasts like Scott. There was even a live musician performing on site for the people wandering around the stalls. Lots to interesting things and colours to photograph and the two of us snapped away!

Hmm, I liked the saffron cheese at the Le Marche Francais stall - hard cheese that is salty with a hint of saffron. Looks as if eating a piece of pumpkin because of its colour. Went to look for Scott who was sampling some Esque fine chocolates. I had thought the lady at the stall was selling crafts because the chocolates were wrapped up and looked like floor tiles with artwork on them. Ops...Scott got me to try some chicken liver pate. The idea of liver made into a paste and just the taste of it makes me feel a bit weirded. Hmm, I don't know if I really like it...

More food sampling and photos...snap, snap, snap...Photos taken at the City Market:

Next stop, the Waitangi Park Market. This market has been here for as long as I can remember and is the place for you to buy your fresh produce for a reasonably cheaper price compared to the supermarkets (though you will need to be careful when selecting your fruits and veggies so not to pick one that is near rotten). Didn't end up buying anything here, just did a walk round then headed to check out the boat by the dock which sells fresh fish. It was rather cool to see people buying fish straight off a fishing boat and the guys in the boat were calling out to potential customers, asking them to check out their catch (some very huge fish, I must say). They will clean up the fish for you too. Photos taken at Waitangi Park Market:

That was our morning gone with our little fun trip to the markets. Caught up with Chad for coffee at Cubita around 12pm. I love catching up with these 2 boys - they are hilarious and I laugh so much with them. The two were experimenting with Scott's camera, using a serviette as a focus filter - the result? A rather vintage-looking photo of Chad drinking his coffee. The boys continued on with their silly antics, Scott taking photos of Chad making that face he usually does with a $5 note close for the camera shot. Yep, the same party trick he uses all the time and only he can do so because of his resemblence to the younger Sir Edmund Hillary. Photos taken of Chad by Scott at Cubita:

Looks like Chad's drinking through his nose

How you doin?

Chad's money shot - just look at the resemblence!!

Rest of my afternoon was spent chilling and sorting out my own things before heading over to James' at 5pm for our regular dinner and movie evening. James made roast beef tonight and it was YUM! He does the cooking while I provide the salad and movie - a nice way to end the week in good company :)

Day trip to see Miss Saigon in Palmerston North (22nd August 2009)

Was up early today and made myself some pancakes for breakfast, then headed over to Christian's place at 11am for samba gafieira dance practice. He has got several instructional dance DVDs by Brisbane-based Brazilian samba gafieira teachers, Kadu and Larisa, and we would work through the steps in the DVDs during our one-on-one dance practices. Not many weeks left before the class comes to an end with Christian leaving for England. We will miss him dearly :(

I couldn't stop laughing at his hair today - I was greeted at the door by a Sam Wheat (character played by Patrick Swayze in Ghost) lookalike! Apparently this is what Christian normally looks like in the morning if he had washed his hair before bed at night. Haha, I just had to tease him :P

Rush, rush, as usual...Headed home, whipped up something quick for lunch and got picked up by Liviu at 2pm for our day trip up to Palmerston North aka Palmy. Jonathan is performing in the Miss Saigon musical currently running in Palmy and we are heading up to show our support. Plus I've never been to the Miss Saigon musical and have always wanted to go watch it - this is one opportunity not to be missed! But before heading up, we had pick up one of Jonathan's mates from Northland. You would not believe how small the world is...Round and round, Liviu was driving in search of this house in Northland and we ended up right in front of Joel's flat to pick him up! Oh, Liviu, you could have just told me it was Joel we were picking up because I know where he lives!! Life sure has its interesting twists and random occurences - I'm the one who knows both boys from different social networks and we are gathered together because we all know Jonathan. Ha!

It was a fun drive with the boys though given we all work in telecommunications, most of the topic of conversation tend to revolve around work especially those 2 boys, who just couldn't stop comparing how good/bad their mobile phones perform and the constant Googling the internet for information about the musical and cast, ON THEIR PHONES! Tsk, tsk...

Stopped at Foxton around 4pm to grab some fish 'n' chips at Seabreeze Takeaways then headed to the nearby beach to enjoy our late afternoon snack. I got to agree with Joel that the crumbed fish tasted very good - well worth the stop if you are driving through Foxton. Photo of the beach taken from where we were snacking:

Around 5pm, we continued on our journey and arrived in Palmy at 5.30pm. Palmy is well-known as a student city as it is home to campuses of Massey University, Universal College of Learning (UCOL) and International Pacific College, and the students make up for nearly half the population. The three of us took a short walk around The Square, a 7-hectare park of lawn, trees, lakes, fountains, and gardens in the centre of the city. Hmm, I don't remember the place being so 'open' - if memory served me right, The Square used to be covered by trees, making it quite eerie and unsafe to walk through during the night. But it is now all brightly lit and clear of huge trees, making it a nice park to visit :)

Went to pick Jonathan up at 6pm and us four had a nice dinner together at Bangkok Thai Restaurant before dropping Jonathan off at The Regent on Broadway for him to get ready for the show. The rest of us went to The Fish Cocktail & Wine Bar located next to the theatre for a pre-show cocktail. Thanks Joel for shouting this round! The bar was rather small but has an air of class and cosiness - I like :)

Around 7.30pm, we went to the theatre to find our seats. Liviu had very kindly helped bought the tickets online which cost $40 each - they were the only tickets available, stall seats i.e. on the ground floor, 3rd row from the back. Thankfully the seats were raised so we still had quite a good view of the stage. Wow, I didn't think the theatre would be full house tonight given that it's a rugby night and this is Palmy after all. They show has to be real good to attract such a crowd - I'm SO excited!

Miss Saigon is a modern adaptation of the opera, Madame Butterfly, which similarly tells the tragic tale of a doomed romance involving an Asian woman abandoned by her American lover. Wow, I'm totally blown away by the the show. The singing and acting were absolutely impressive! The lead role of Kim (Vietnamese bar girl) was played by American actress-singer, Melinda Chua, who plays the lead role as Kim in productions in the USA. A small-sized Asian girl, she has such a powerful and beautiful voice - I was totally in awe. Palmy is very fortunate to have her fly down to a small city for the production. I wonder if she knew what she was getting herself into when she said yes to come down to Palmy...hehe...

We also got to see Jonathan on stage who had a small acting part in the musical, playing the saxaphone on stage in the nightclub (he and the rest of the orchestra were 'hidden' in the pit from view). The story had a sad ending where Kim killed herself after giving her son, Tam, over to Chris (the American GI she fell in love with and father of Tam). Speaking of the character Tam, the little boy who played the role did so well! He didn't have a speaking role but for someone probably age 7 or younger, he acted so well that it melted the hearts of the audience, just watching him run over to hug Kim. Another very well-played character was of The Engineer, this man who ran the nightclubs where Kim was working at - a sleazy man yet comical at the same time.

The whole set up the scenes were fantastic - the colours, dance routines (that woman pole-dancing definitely caught my attention), props and even the helicopter looked as if it really did fly in from the night sky. I totally did not expect such high standard and quality of a production in Palmy and I'm SO glad I made the trip up to see the musical - you MUST check it out if you live in the area!

The show ended at 10pm and we were back at The Fish for another round of drinks, this time my shout. Tagged along with Jonathan to the after-show party at Abbey Musical Theatre where the cast were all chilling out with family and friends over cheap drinks. Chatted with a few interesting people while I was there, including this one man who cracked me up laughing for he was showing off his Michael Jackson dance moves and pretending to flamboyantly flirty with me. I had to get Jonathan to plonk himself next to me so that Mr I'm-So-Hot (but really he's not, really) would stop his 'sexy' dancing at me :P

Would have loved to stick around longer with Jonathan but us 3 had to start heading back to Wellington. Left Palmy around 12.40am and arrived 2.40am. Yawn, it has been a long but wonderful day out with the boys :)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Chilled out Friday & child sponsorship (21st August 2009)

Didn't actually do much work at the office today for it was a team get-together day where the managers bought fish 'n' chips for the whole team followed by taking us out to see the new Peter Jackson movie, District 9. I've read very good reviews of the movie but it wasn't really my type cup of tea though I have to say, the story was very cleverly done with indirect references to what may be the historic events that occured in South Africa during the apartheid government. Did you notice that when it comes to sci-fi movies, the aliens are usually forms of an octopus/squid, some crustacean (in this movie, prawn-like aliens) or insects? Can't it be more creative than that??

Had a quiet evening at home with Priscilla. Us two girls were bored and started raiding the pantry for junk food! Spent the evening in our flannel pajamas and slippers watching Notting Hill on DVD which was nice :)

By the way, I'm officially a sponsor of a Cambodian child through World Vision New Zealand. Since returning from my trip to Cambodia and seeing the lives of the children there, I have been researching on NZ-based organisations that has child sponsorship and microfinance programmes where I can donate to (most of them are Christian organisations). I settled for World Vision mainly because they had Cambodian children who needed sponsors and it incorporates microfinance as part of the sponsorship. It is also an organisation that is well-known in NZ plus provides aid to nations in need regardless of race and religion.

For the minimum $40 a month (which works out less than $1.50 a day), I will be helping the Koh Andaet community in the district of Takeo (southern Cambodia) where my sponsored child is based. This is my sponsored child, Sochan Nov:

Little Sochan comes from a large family (she has 7 other siblings) and lives with her grandfather in the Koh Andaet community which World Vision is assisting in an area development programme to educate the people in education, health, agriculture/business and make plans and changes towards a better future for the children. During the time of my sponsorship, I am also encouraged to write to Sochan, as it helps create a warmer relationship, encourages the child and their family, as well as gives me a better understanding of their lives. I'm looking forward to my first letter from Sochan (I'm told it can take up to 3 months to received my first letter) and the many more coming ahead :)

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Weekend out and about (14th - 16th August 2009)

Into week 3 since I've returned from my trip and gradually getting back to more social activities, as I normally do. Caught up with Chris on Friday for a drink at The Red Head (upstairs of Molly Malones) on corner of Taranaki St and Courtenay Place around 7.30pm. This was my 2nd time at the bar (my first was during St Patrick's Day this year) and it was actually really nice - kind of more posh and as the night was still early, it wasn't crowded, which made it a great place for us to catch up. There even was a pianist playing jazz music while we were there. Lots for us to chat about as both Chris and I had been travelling in different countries recently.

Scott popped by to join us around 9pm and all 3 of us left around 9.30pm to Salsadrome at Wellington Performing Arts Centre (WPAC). It has been a very long time since I last turned up to a salsa event so decided to go this evening when Scott asked me if I was keen to head over tonight. As we were walking over, I told the boys of my earlier encounter with a bunch of young kids who wolf-whistled at me as I was walking into town to meet up with Chris. I ignored them and continued walking but the brats drove slowly by and started calling out "50 dollars". What the f*&k??! Finding myself in such a situation is more common (and I would say 'normal') in Malaysia but here in NZ?? I couldn't be bothered with the morons and walked on. Scott said I should have said something back. Hmm, perhaps (like telling them to shove it up their arse) but I didn't want to get myself into any trouble and why give them the joy of knowing I'm pissed off? Naughty Chris and Scott kept calling out '50 dollars' at me the whole walk over to WPAC. Grr...

A brief stop at the old Latinos Bar to check out the place as it reopened tonight. The place has been bought over by the same folks that owns Amigos in Newtown (this was another Amigos branch). We didn't go in since there was a cover charge but just had a look to see what has changed. Hmm, other than a splash of paint here and there, it didn't look very different from the old Latinos Bar. And we could see former owner, Manuel, standing near the bar - wondered if he too was thinking the same as we were: how long will this place last?

Salsadrome cost $8 as usual. Wow, I hardly recognise many of the people on the dancefloor. Have I really been out of the loop for so long? Chad was a new face in the dance scene and I must say, you're doing well, my man :) Keep it up! Had danced mainly with friends I've known and boy do I need to brush up on my dancing skills. Left the place around 11.30pm. Couldn't stay on as I've to be up early for a training course tomorrow.

Spent most of my Saturday at the Multicultural Services Centre on Webb St for my Job Mentor Training with Job Mentoring Service, a service that provides free employment support to migrants and refugees from a non-English speaking background. Remember I had previously applied for a volunteer position before I went on holiday? This was the position I applied for and to be qualified as a Job Mentor, applicants had to sit through a 5-hour training session before we are matched with a Job Seeker, whom we will meet regularly, plan, advise and support them towards finding employment. The Job Mentoring Service also falls under the ESOL Home Tutors Wellington Service which I had volunteered for back in 2005.

It was an interesting session run by the by co-ordinator, Rose Desmond, who gave us each a kit with tools and resources to take away and talked us through the role, cross-cultural awareness as well as issues and ways we can assist our Job Seeker. The 10 of us who were there for the training came from different cultures and backgounds, had varied opinions and some personal experieces, making the session one with lots of constructive debate and also brought back a lot of memories from my days when I was the new migrant who went through my own struggles to find a job here. It was also great to hear the experiences of a current Job Seeker and Job Mentor respectively. You would not believe how small Wellington is - one of the ladies in the training session was my former work colleague, and the Job Seeker's (the one who came to speak to us) husband was a friend of another guy in the class.

The training ended at 2pm. What happens next? Well, Rose will be in touch shortly to set up a meeting for me to meet my Job Seeker and we'll discuss how we meet, what the expectations are etc. Looking forward to find out who my Job Seeker is!

The rest of my afternoon was spent looking for a small pot plant for my room but didn't find anything to suit. Did my weekly grocery shopping and chilled out at home the rest of the evening. Going to make tamarind fish curry with lady's fingers for dinner tonight - yum!

Went over to Ambience on Elizabeth St in Mt Victoria on Sunday morning to see if they had any suitable pot plants. My flatmate, Priscilla, suggested I try them out and thank you, my dear, for I found the loveliest little pot plant which I fell in love with at first sight....hmm....Got myself a Portulacaria Afra (aka Money Plant/Elephant's Food Plant/Jade Plant) in a small white pot for $15.90 (plant was $5.90). Cute little baby green plant originating from South Africa that has horizontal branches and tiny jade green foliage. I'm told that it requires minimal watering (just keep moist, only water every 3 weeks if required). Check it out:

Blissfully happy with my purchase today :)

Thursday, 13 August 2009

QQ Rice (13th August 2009)

Went out to grab something for lunch and decided to give QQ Rice a try today. I've walked past this small Asian-looking fast-food outlet on Dixon St several times and have been intrigued to try their takeaway 'fan twan' (in Mandarin, meaning rice balls or rolls). QQ Rice is a franchise originating from Taiwan and New Zealand is the first Western country they have tapped into.

You can choose from the several meal sets or combos that they offer or make your own rice roll by selecting from the variety of rice and fillings available at the outlet. Rice options include brown, red, wheat germ, purple and mixed grain rice and you can choose 1 or 2 rice varieties as a base. There are 40 different fillings to choose from (you can pick up to 5) ranging from Western (e.g. ham, hotdog, smoked sliced salmon) to more exotic Asian delicacies (e.g. kim chi, dried shredded pork, pot-stewed egg). I couldn't make up my mind what I wanted so went for one of their set meal, a Spicy Beef roll. Cost $5.90 for the rice roll. I chose sesame rice as my base and it came with fillings of pot-stewed egg, dried shredded pork, braised beef with hot bean sauce, dried radish with chilli and sour cabbage pickle. The lovely girl behind the counter then rolled the fillings in the rice into a oval-shaped roll, popped it into a wrapper and gave it to me in a takeaway bag with a serviette.

Oh, this is SO yummy! And frankly, it was just the right amount to fill my tummy and affordable too. The serviette even has instructions on how to enjoy your meal! Haha, how very interesting! Highly recommend that you try them if you haven't. I'll have to go back and sample their other combinations. Photos taken on my mobile phone of my lunch expedition:

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Glitterbomb Burlesque lessons (12th August 2009)

When James told me that Grace was teaching the new Level 1 Glitterbomb Burlesque class with Full Swing, I immediately signed up for the course! I met Grace through James and at my previous swing dance class (she was helping out as a lead) - an awesome woman with a bubbly personality and thrives in her vintage clothing dress style. She was the one who got James started with his vintage wardrobe! Her class is going to be heaps of fun :)

Cost me $60 for a block course of 6 weeks that occurs Wednesdays from 8.30-9.30pm. The class was formerly taught by a lady named, Michelle aka Ms Tittle-Tattle, so this was Grace's first time teaching the course. Oh yeah, Grace's burlesque name is Ms Busty la Belle - perfect! :) Hmm, I've got to think of one for myself too but what? Tried out random Burlesque name generators I found on the web and got names like "Ermine de Ville" and"Orange Blossom St. Andre". Not exactly what I had in mind...

Burlesque is a theatrical entertainment consists of comic skits, and more often than not, associated with striptease. There are a variety of reasons why one signs up for the course - you get to learn how to command an audience (one or many), boost confidence, body awareness and just bring that sex kitten out that you might not yet discovered (and your bf/partner would happily pay for your class, trust me). You know me, always up for something fun and interesting to add to my already colourful life experiences. And besides, no harm adding a few more male-teasing moves that I can pull out from my back pocket ;P

The course is limited to the first 30 females who register (yes, it's a women-only class) but there were only 8 of us tonight. Grace was all dressed up in a gorgeous black corset and matching skirt, garter stockings, heels, black gloves that covered up to her elbows, red lipstick - the whole shebang. She started off the class by showing us a dance routine to a slow 1920-30s jazz music with moves of what we will be learning in the coming weeks. Oh my god, is it hot in the studio or what? Grace totally got my attention! She was teasing the audience with her slow yet oh-so-sultry moves, guiding your eyes to focus on her face to her hands then her legs and her chest. Mesmerizing, making you want more. And let's not forget those big round eyes and long lashes with a come-hither look, and the occasional 'ops' or shy pose. She continued her number by stripping off her gloves with her teeth and all the way down to just her corset, underwear, garter stockings and heels! All in all an amazing show done by Grace and I'm so glad I made the right decision to come check out her class.

We learnt a bit of the history of burlesque, did a warm-up and learnt several moves tonight including how to present our hands, arms and legs, poses, how to walk and bend down, getting the right look etc. and finished with a warm-down. Grace was really good at breaking down the steps and showing us how it is done. Not all the girls in the class were brave souls, daring enough to let loose into a sexy character. Perhaps dimming the lights a bit might help, so that we can't see ourselves so clearly in the mirrors and sets the mood. Grace was great at encouraging us by setting an example - she taught the whole class in her corset and underwear!

Have to wear something that would show more of my legs next week to help with the moves. Heels are definitely necessary for class. I'm looking forward to see what's in store next week!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

National War Memorial (9th August 2009)

Yet another sunny day (though a wee bit chilly) in Wellington City - ahh... :) Went for a swim around 11am, then home for lunch and out again to check out the National War Memorial on Buckle St. I still recall the days living nearby and hearing bell-like tunes coming out from the tower - I've always wondered what hides inside this massive monument.

The National War Memorial commemorates all New Zealanders, both men and women, who were sacrificed in the South African War, the 2 World Wars and the conflicts in Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam. Admission is free and you can call in to arrange for a guided tour. As you walk up the stairway either sides towards the main building, you will notice a large black granite tomb with white crosses (to depict the night sky and the warrior's companions who fell in battle) and words of Karanga (a Maori call to summon the warriors home) - this is the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. A casualty of WWI, The Unknown Warrior was one of over 9,000 New Zealanders who died in war and have no known grave. Having been brought back from abroad by the NZ Defense Force in 2004, he now lays in his new home and provides a peaceful place to visitors to pay tribute for the sacrifice made by all New Zealand servicemen and women.

I continued on my little adventure into the Hall of Memories, which features 12 alcoves or mini-chapels, each with its own dedicated plaque of rememberance and flags of the different arm forces served in the wars. 4 other plaque hid within the recesses, commemorating the conflicts in South Africa, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam. It was peacefully quiet in here, with me being the only visitor in the hall at the time. The main focal point of the hall was the sculpture of Mother and Children, an image to remember the sufferings endured by families during times of war.

I was rather disappointed to find out from the curator than the Carillon Tower is not accessible to the public. What a pity! It would have been amazing to see the 74-bell campanile ranging 6 octaves and weighing over 70 tonnes hanging within the tower (the Carillon is the 3rd largest of its kind in the world). The Carillon itself looks like a huge church organ but played by hitting on the clavier (keyboard) with fists. How very interesting! The instrument is often played during noon on weekdays and Sundays (ah-ha, now I know why I used to hear the tunes so often). Photos taken at the memorial:

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Claus' farewell party (7th August 2009)

Another week has gone and it has been 2 weeks since I've returned from my holidays. Strangely, I still wake up in shock some days unsure where I am and thought I had missed appointments made with friends! And at my catch-ups with friends, most of them tell me I'm more 'relaxed' now. Really?? I still feel exhausted thus not back in my normal social butterfly mode (but morphed back to a caterpillar hiding in my cocoon aka home) so have only made few appearance at events in the last 2 weeks. This is by far the longest period since my holidays to get back to normality. How very odd...

Tonight, I had to make an appearance at Claus' farewell party at Southern Cross Bar - he would strangle me if I didn't turn up! The man is packing up and moving to Melbourne this weekend to a new job. Yet another good friend of mine leaving NZ :( I've known of this plan of his for awhile now so it was only a matter of time when he officially moves over. Still will miss him heaps though! I'm happy for him and can see he's excited (and a little scared) of his new adventures in Melbourne :) You'll be fine - you've done the hardest part, moving from Brazil to NZ 2 years ago; this would be much easier.

By the time I got to Southern Cross at 8pm, the boys were already 'relaxed' having started the party since 4.30pm. Claus has reserved a space in the bar just for party and I could already see several familiar faces as I walked in - Liviu, Jonathan, Elaine, Chris, Rosel, Mel etc. Lots of chit-chatting, bringing each other up to speed with what's been happening in our lives. Rosel and Elaine performed a few songs for our dear Claus. Aww, so sweet! Our man of the night was busy flitting around talking to friends (and getting more tipsy as the night progressed hehe...). His camera was passed round the crowd taking photos of the night together - there should be some interesting and funny ones in there, some of them taken by me ;) Photos taken at the farewell:

Chris, Claus, me and Liviu

Liviu enjoying his moment in the arms of his beauties me and Elaine

Closer shot of Elaine, Liviu and me taken by Claus

Bros in the hood! Me and Chris with our silly antics :P

Left the party around 10.30pm for home. Gave Claus a good bear hug before I took off. Best wishes, my dear friend and keep in touch! Let us know how you're settling down in Oz. You'll have to come visit us sometime :)