Saturday, 18 December 2010

European Masters (18th December 2010)

Argh, sometimes I wish I had less hair! It takes forever to straighten it (about 20 minutes) which is why I hardly do so. “You have such long and strong hair – you really should put in the effort to make it look good, all the time…” said my new hairdresser Kim, somewhat aghast when I told her my hairstyle was au naturel, even though she too agreed I’ve got A LOT of hair and it takes twice the effort to straighten them compared to most people. I told you so! But I have to admit, it does look shiny and sleek when I do straighten it (plus Jono likes it too) so I promised myself I would make an effort to straighten my hair every time I washed it and today was one of those days – we’re going to be late meeting James and Carly at Te Papa for the exhibition!

Jono and I finally left home for Te Papa around 1pm, half an hour later than the time we agreed to meet James and Carly. Darn hair! Thankfully I had told James to go ahead without us which they did. This is SO not like me, being late!

Cost us $10 each for the European Masters exhibition at Te Papa that is on till the 27th of February 2011 (normally cost $22.50 but I got the discounted tickets from GrabOne). Finally we’re here and going to the exhibition! Jono and I have been meaning to head over to see it but kept putting it off doing other outdoor stuff during the weekends (can’t let the good weather go to waste!). The exhibition features 19th-20th century art from the Stadel Museum, featuring a collection of works including sculptures from 70 artists. We slowly worked our way through the exhibition, admiring the works that span from Neo-classicism, Realism, Impressionism, Symbolism, Nabis and Modernism. I really liked The Jealous Lioness (Paul Meyerheim) which had an angry lioness baring all teeth at the lion trainer who was stroking the male lion’s mane – a beautiful painting yet there was a dark side or feeling to it. Other amazing paintings on display included Goethe in the Roman Campagna (Johann H W Tischbein), Orchestra musicians (Edgar Degas) and After the luncheon (Pierre-Auguste Renoir). Well worth the visit to the museum to check it out if you’re a fan of European artworks!

2 hours later and no James or Carly in sight (they must have left – sorry guys!), we left the museum and headed to Mac’s Brewbar for lunch. It was a glorious sunny day and lucky for us, we managed to migrate from our shaded table to the tables set up near the waterfront in the sun to have our meal :) Mmm, green-lipped mussels…yum! We took a stroll down Oriental Parade and a short walk on the beach (eek, so many jellyfish washed up on the beach!) after lunch before heading home. A chilled out Saturday spent with Jono – ah, bliss :)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Alcatel-Lucent Xmas party (17th December 2010)

I’m counting down the days till the holidays – can’t wait, only another week to go!

I stayed back in the office after work (most of my colleagues have left for the day by 4.30pm) to catch up on my Mauri Ora assignment till about 7pm before heading off to meet Jono at The Grand for his work Christmas party. It’s ironic that I’m attending Alcatel-Lucent’s Christmas party when I’ve boycotted my company’s party this year; Telecom has always been known for throwing the best Christmas party in town but disappointingly, that won’t be the case this year. For the first time, we were allowed to bring along our partners PLUS up to 3 kids to the party themed ‘Only in NZ’ that is held during the day (12-6pm) on a Saturday – it’s just going to be a family day event!! Many of us were looking forward to partying it out after slogging hard for a year and though it is great that we could bring along a ‘+1’ this time round, I doubt the party would be as fun as previous years. No offence to those with families but seriously, you can’t really p-a-r-t-y when you have kids in tow, you know…

Around 7pm, I headed to The Grand to meet Jono (the party started at 4pm and partners can only attend from 7pm). You must be wondering if this was the same The Grand that was on Courtenay Place several years back. Yes, indeed it is – having changed ownership several times, this 3-storey bar has had several name changes: The Grand, Shooters and back to The Grand again (not sure if it was re-purchased by the original owners thus the change of name back to The Grand). The whole bar was booked out for the Xmas party (all 3 floors) and this year, the theme was ‘GLOW’. Almost everyone at the party was wearing glow sticks as bangles, chokers and a few creative ones manage to twist the glow sticks into glasses. Most of the attendees weren’t dressed in costume which seems the norm with the ALU bunch – they aren’t as costume crazy as Telcomers at parties. Hmm, I’m not sure how does an Avatar and Native American red Indians fit into the ‘GLOW’ theme but they were there…Jono and I had on our brightest clothes, him in his bright pink polo shirt and me in my red dress, an eyesore for others when we stood next to each other haha! Definitely fit the meaning of glow = brilliance or vividness of colour :)

Joel and Shane too work for ALU and brought Yayi and Ella respectively to the party so we hung out as a group with several other common friends at the party, chatting and laughing together over our free drinks and food available throughout the evening. It was interesting to see 3 white boys with their Asian girlfriends (3 of us girls from 3 different countries) in our group of 20-30-somethings. In fact, our group kind of reminded me of the youngsters from Beverly Hills 90210 TV series, only minus all the dramas seen in the lives of the characters in the TV version ;)

“Quick, come on – there’s a photo booth downstairs!” said Emma excitedly as she rounded up the girls to follow her to the photo booth located somewhere in the building. The husband and wife team from WE DO Photography & Design have set up their photo booth on the ground floor and us girls (Yayi, Ella, Emma and me) had a ball having our photos taken. We managed to squeeze into the 1m x 2m booth, pulled the curtain close and pressed the green button for the camera to take our photo with us changing poses and positions every 4 seconds (4 photos, each taken 4 seconds apart). Silly faces, sticking out our tongue, even a show of cleavage shot!! There was also a box of props available in the booth filled with geeky glasses, feather boas, masks etc. for us to use if we chose to.

“Let me see, let me see!” We were all eager to see the outcome of the photos, standing outside the booth for the machine to ‘spit’ out the 6” x 4” photo sheet that had the 4 photos taken minutes ago. We cracked up laughing as we looked through them. It was so much fun that we did it AGAIN! Frankly speaking, the photo booth concept is great for parties, even weddings – gives people the privacy to capture their photos (and silly antics) at the event and have something to take home with them on the same day.

Girls Emma, Ella, Yayi and I having our photo taken at the photo booth


We headed back to the top floor and split into couples to play a round of pool. A live band was playing cover songs on the 2nd floor and several people on the dance floor boogieing to the band. Talking became more like shouting with the mix of noises as more and more people arrived, filling up the venue. Alcohol still free-flowing though strangely, they started serving curry and rice around 9pm, which was after they served dessert of ice-cream, cheese and fruits. Hmm, curry and rice to absorb all the alcohol so one can drink more??

“Come on, group photo, NOW!” called out Sam to the gang and everyone headed downstairs. The booth that usually accommodates 2-4 people was now jam-packed with 8 of us squeezing and pushing against one another to get into the photo. It was hilarious when we tried to shuffle ourselves in the tiny space within 4 seconds – some photos only had parts of us, or one or two missing from shot. So what do we do? REPEAT! 

Group photos of the gang - in the midst is Joel, Jono, Sam, Lee, Yayi, Emma, Ella and me

Me and Jono with our silly antics :P

How many people do you think we can squeeze in here?

One final photo before they take down the booth!

Jono and I headed home around 11pm as the party began to die down. We walked to the bus stop and bussed home, adorned with glow sticks – Jono picked up a stack from the table on our way out of the bar and put them around my neck! We’re going to ‘glow’ all the way home :P

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Hot stone massage at Mallary Rainey Massage Therapy (16th December 2010)

I’ve recently purchased from Dailydo a 1-hour hot stone massage session from Mallary Rainey Massage Therapy for $39 (normally cost $65) and headed over to 124 Vivian St today for my 11am appointment with the massage therapist. I’ve always been interested to find out what hot stone massage would be like and this was a great opportunity to check it out for a reduced cost :)

I had expected Mallary Rainey Massage Therapy to be somewhat like a relaxation centre (several masseuses working in their rooms, maybe a chiropractor or physiotherapist on site as well) but it turned out to be a room on the ground floor of the Trades Hall building (infamous Wellington building where a suitcase bomb was found in the foyer back in 1984). Hmm, the room didn’t feel very welcoming or relaxing (something about the interior gave a dark and damp feeling, and why do the massage therapists in Wellington like to play Jack Johnson songs?? Relaxing, yes, but not ideal for massage) though I was greeted by a friendly and chirpy young American woman, Mallary Rainey herself.

I was given some time to undress my top half and laid face down on the massage table. On return to the room, Mallary popped several stones into a special massage stone heater (looked like an oversized slow cooker) and while we waited for the stones to heat up, she started working on my back, her well-oiled and strong hands massaging away, working on loosening the knots on my shoulders and upper back. The heated stones have a smooth and flat surface, and Mallary would hold the stones and use them to massage areas of my back. When the stones first came to contact with my skin, the heat felt too hot but gradually eased into the body and relaxed the muscles. I think I was half asleep when she put the stone on my lower back at one point – my whole body jerked, surprising us both!

Mallary continued massaging my back after using the smooth hot stones and it was then that I really felt the coarseness of her hands on my skin (probably coarse from playing female rugby). For the price I paid, I would say that the massage was good despite a few minor setbacks. Her normal hour-long massage cost $45 which is cheaper than most places in town so if you outright just want a massage with no care for ambience, Mallary’s your lady!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

BI Team Xmas party (15th December 2010)

10 more days till Christmas!

Around 4.30pm today, everyone stopped work and gathered in the office kitchen area for drinks and nibbles as part of the team Xmas celebrations. There were about 20 of us who stayed back after work which was an awesome turn out – that’s half my team! As we stuffed ourselves with Subway sandwiches, Nando’s grilled chicken tenderloins and chips and our choice of beverage from the selection available (wine, beer, juice and fizzy drinks), coordinators Rachel and Rick split up the group into 4 teams for the Xmas team quiz. I was in Team Prancer (the team names were all Santa’s reindeers) with colleagues Peter Jones, Jesse and Sean. Teams were given a sheet of questions and 15 minutes to answer the questions in their own groups. “No Googling!!” warned the coordinators. Oh bugger :P With beers in hand, we found ourselves an empty meeting room and worked through the questions together. Most questions were of dates and events that had happened in NZ or in the sports world (obviously Rick’s questions) while others were from gossip magazines (Rachel!). I’m not able to answer most the questions since I didn’t grow up in NZ or read gossip mags!

“Time’s up!” Rick called out and everyone gathered back in the kitchen where our manager Chris read out the questions and the nominated representative of each group called out their answers. A point was awarded for the correct answer and each team could pick one question for a double score – my team picked the question “How many seasons are there in Outrageous Fortune?”. I was sure the answer was 6 since I’ve just bought the final season DVD! “6 is the correct answer!” said Chris. SCORE!!

It was interesting to see that each team only had a female – just shows how big the male to female ratio in the BI team! And from the answers, we know who’s been reading gossip mags before bed…hehe…

Round 2 of the quiz was slightly different, this time a point deducted for incorrect answers with one opportunity to pass on the series of questions compiled by Chris. My team was the last in Round 1 – not sure we can turn the tables around in Round 2 when quizmaster Greg is in the current winning team…

At the end of the quiz, scores were tallied and it was Team Dasher that had the highest score (surprisingly NOT Greg’s team) – congrats! Around 6.30pm, everyone pitched in to help clear up the mess we’ve made in the office, then walked over to The Lanes on Wakefield St for bowling. Chris had booked The Loft (VIP upstairs lounge) so we had our own private area with 4 bowling lanes and a dedicated bar/waiting staff serving our drinks booked out for the hour. A selection of gourmet platters were served as we bowled (unlimited bowling) and drinks were on a bar tab (yes, all company paid for). Awesome!

It was such a laugh bowling with my colleagues and watching how each of us had our own bowling techniques – some rolled the ball with both hands, some just dropped the ball on the lane (ouch!) and others tried the pro bowler style but only ever got the ball into the gutter. Personally, I thought I did quite alright and even scored a few spares :) At one point, we were competing for the slowest bowl (based on the speed of the ball) – it was a cracker watching the ball spin oh-so-slowly down the lane. Photos taken this evening here.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Running along Oriental Parade (10th December 2010)

I can’t believe I’m actually trying to get into the habit of running...Frankly, I’ve never liked running as a fitness activity (though I seem to enjoy 100m and 200m x 4 relay runs in highschool…) – it’s just so hard on the knees! But when money’s tight (near breaking the bank with all the Christmas gift-shopping), I have to find other cheaper means of exercise and running is literally free as you can do it anywhere. Well, I guess I’ve got no choice but to give it a go and hopefully like it once my body gets used to it...

So I did a bit of research on the internet and found Running & Jogging which had loads of information on running including proper running form (landing midfoot, relaxed hands and shoulders, straight and erect posture) and running schedules for various running levels and goals. I selected the 3 weeks to a 30-minute Running Habit plan which I reckon would be a good start to get my body used to running and eventually able to run non-stop for the whole 30 minutes.

Day 1 of the plan had me running for 1 minute then walking for the next minute, alternating for 20 minutes in total with 5-10 minutes warm-up and cool-down at the start and end. I did the run along Oriental Parade all the way towards the road leading to Roseneath and U-turn back – nice view of Oriental Bay though the northerly winds were pretty strong and I was unable to open my eyes at times to see where I was going. And having to work harder running against the wind! Grr, the wind can be SO annoying sometimes...

I was somewhat surprised I could manage the running part (I had expected my body to retaliate with muscle spasms but it didn’t – huh, so I’m not as bad in shape as I thought!) and actually felt a great sense of accomplishment when I completed the 20-minute running session :) Knees feel ok so far but we’ll find out tomorrow if they hurt post-running. Hopefully little to no pain and I can continue the run plan next week!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Hot Express class at Hot Yoga of New Zealand (6th December 2010)

It has been a long time since I last went to Bikram yoga and with Freyberg Pool and Fitness Centre closed for the next 7 weeks for refurbishment, I needed to look for other ways to get fit during this period and decided to check out the hot yoga express class at Hot Yoga of New Zealand located on Wakefield St during my lunchtime today.

Located conveniently a block away from my office, I headed over about 15 minutes before the midday class to sort out registration and payment. Cost me $6 for the class (usually $18 for casuals but first-timers only pay $6) and $2 for mat hire (they do not provide mats – you bring your own or hire them). The centre itself was much smaller than Bikram Yoga (the other hot yoga centre in town located on Tory St, one I used to frequent when I lived in Mt Victoria) and had 3 different class types to choose from: Hot Yoga (for a total body workout), Yin Yoga (concentrates on floor postures) and Power Vinyasa (‘flow style’ class).

Upon entry into the heated yoga room, I was delighted to find that the room had polished wooden floors AND didn’t stink of sweat! This is just amazing!! The one thing I didn’t like about Bikram Yoga was the fact that every time I entered their yoga room, I felt confined in heat, dampness and worse of all, the stench of sweat. And that was at the start of the class! I’m feeling somewhat nauseas just remembering the smell…yuck. I reckon it is their carpeted floor because it soaks up the dripping sweat from the people in the room and with only a 15-minute window till the next class, it is impossible to rid the smell let alone clean the carpet; wooden floors are way easy to clean and having the fans in the room also helps with ventilation. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed my classes at Bikram Yoga and the instructors are great! It’s just the smell that really gets to me :/

There were about 18-20 of us in the class with still enough room for some personal space (depending on what session you go to at Bikram Yoga, you may get your neighbour dripping sweat onto you while you’re holding your poses…). During the 60-minute class, we followed Theresa through a series of postures which was a mix of sun salutations (e.g. downward-facing dog, raised arm pose, prayer pose etc.) and some poses from Bikram yoga, with the emphasis on deep breathing and engaging our core muscles when carrying out the poses. Meditation music played softly in the background which adds a nice calming and spiritual touch to the class.

I’m not sure if it is because I haven’t learnt the sequence of the poses or the fact that it was an express class but it felt as if we were rushing through the poses and we only did the poses once so there was no opportunity for me to watch what the others were doing to then carry out the move the second time. Hmm, maybe it’ll get better when I’ve attended a few more sessions…The posture series ended with the lights dimmed and everyone lying in the corpse pose, quietly ‘melting’ into the floor with each breathe. After about 3 minutes, we were brought back to reality by Theresa with 3 warm bell tones (Theresa stroke the soft mallet 3 times on a singing bowl). And like at the start of the class, we resumed back sitting cross-legged, hands in prayer position and humming ‘om’ as we exhaled. OMmmmmmmmmmmmm…

Had a quick shower and got dressed (it was a bit weird to share the showers and changing rooms with the guys even though they were all separated by thick curtains), then back to the office to work. All the sweating always makes me feel much lighter and gives me a nice healthy glow :) I’ll definitely be coming back again for their lunchtime classes – such a convenient time and location so no excuses not to attend the class!