Thursday, March 31, 2011

New books



Have you noticed the trending on my blog today ... the word new is getting thrown around a lot I can see.


Well, in sticking to a good thing, I have more new purchases to share!


I found out just this week that 3 of my favourite easy-read authors have all released new books right now.


This frustrates me to know end as everytime one of them brings out a new book, I clamour to get it, read it in 2-3 days (I'm a very fast reader) then have to wait at least another year or so for one of them to put out a new book.


Who are the three authors and what are their new books I hear you ask...


Mia Freedman - Mia Culpa

I just love Mia and her writing style. She makes me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. She writes with total honesty and candour and so many times I find myself nodding along or thinking OMG how does she know that or that's exactly right! I own and love The New Black and Mama Mia and everyone I lend these books to falls in love with Mia as well. I read the intro to this one last night and seriously, laughed out loud and nodded in agreement - lucky S wasn't home or he would have called me crazy.


Mary Higgins Clark - I'll Walk Alone

I cannot even describe how much I love this style of murder mystery (even though I am a massive fraidy cat). Her books are exciting, fast paced and the characters are extremely well-written. I have been reading her since I was about 13 (used to sneak them from my mum's bookshelf) and own all of her books now. I have read most of her books at least 3-4 times and still never get sick of the stories.


Jackie Collins - Goddess of Vengeance

Pure trash and my guiltiest pleasure. I used to sneak these from my mum when I was 13 also and had to hide them well as she would have had a fit - let's face it, its not really appropriate reading material for a young teen. I especially love her Lucky Santangelo series as do most of her fans and this book is the latest to join that series so I am excited about getting stuck into this one - might leave it though for either a rainy weekend when S is working or over Easter.



So you don't think I only read rubbish (I do love Dan Brown, John Grisham, Mark Gimenez, Sophie Kinsella etc), some of my all time favourite books are classics like Gone with the Wind.


Who are your favourite authors?

New staff - love it when I'm right

We have had to hire 3 new staff in the past month for both sales and rentals positions that have come up in the business. We as always had an overwhelming response to the adverts - so much so that I had to pull them after 2 days on seek as I already had over 200 resumes to peruse! After a round of interviews and shuffling some applicants between sales and rentals depending on their experience and ambition, I came up with 3 ladies who seemed like a good fit for our office. I have not been wrong yet and these ladies are doing me proud. I know its still early days but these 3 ladies have slipped into their roles and teams seamlessly with no fuss and are picking up the systems and procedures at lightning speed. Recruitment can be a bit hit and miss as someone can have great resume and references then not be able to do the job at hand. That's why I shortlist 10-20 suitable resumes then interview the 5 top and work down if necessary. I don't believe in super formal interviews and conduct them as more of a chat - the more questions I have is usually a good sign for the candidate.



It can be a little overwhelming to be wholly responsible for the hiring of new staff but the boss backs me 100% on all decisions which makes it easy for me to trust my instinct and go with it. I have a 9 out of 10 strike rate so far having had only one very minor blip on my recruitment record.

Out with the old and in with the new





Totally inspired by my new vision for our home, I even madeover the blog today. Not sure where I am going with the makeover but I was just really over looking at that blue background everyday.


So, what went 'out' I bet you're wondering? Well, S reminded me just before our wedding when I mentioned to him that our garage needed a big cleanout that I have a lot of crap in there taking up space ... including a Super Nintendo and games of all things. Of course that stayed in my mind for a whole 2 secs before sliding out again until yesterday when I was adding some new listings to ebay and recalled the console.


Well, a quick ebay search showed me these old pieces are worth $$$ - I know, I'm totally shocked. No kidding, within 5 mins of listing it I had a cash offer for $50! Given that immediate offer I have decided to hold out for at least $70 at this stage and I think this will pay off as its up to $40 today with 4 days to run.


Any good clearout or redesigning deserves a few new pieces so with this in mind, S and I bought some new bedside drawers and lamps for our room. Our room has an overall choclate and wood theme so the accent colour here is going to be red. We have started with red lamps ($28 for 2 from Target - bargain!) and will build from here as required.



Wait for it though, my favourite new purchase absolutely has to be our new computer ... we bought an iMac! As we had to return early from Japan and I didn't get to do any serious shopping, we decided to invest the leftover funds into a decent computer. Snaps to the boys at JB HiFi Robina, their customer service was far superior over the Apple Store who didn't even acknowledge us despite standing around for 15 mins.


In the best interests of our new computer, we also bought a new desk. Love this desk but it was a nightmare to erect - the instructions say 60 mins but no kidding, S and I were still toiling some 3+ hours later.


New Faves



I randomly found a new favourite socialite icon today on Twitter of all places!


I follow Britt Gastineau who has been a favourite of mine since the E show years ago, Gastineau Girls filmed with her mother Lisa.


Anyways, she tweeted this morning about her oldest bestie Vanessa Trump which led me to query who is Vanessa Trump .. did Donaly have another affair and child scandal that I missed?



Thanks to my trusty friends at Google, turns out Vanessa is married to Donald Jnr and an ex-model who grew up on the Upper East Side. They have 2 children with a 3rd on the way.



I think she is absolutely stunning in a natural healthy way and have found quite a few blogs who love to follow her due to her classic style.



New York girls seem to have all the makings of classic style icons - Olivia Palermo is another favourite.


Have you or had you heard of Vanessa Trump?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Orange accents

So I toyed with the idea of copying M and her lounge room colour scheme of red and browns - a fabulous look of course but have decided to pioneer my own course and I have finally gotten around to choosing an accent colour for our lounge room to go with off-white walls, chocolate & beige couch and dark wood furniture ... oranges and shades of peach!




I know, I'm excited too about this snazzy new colour combination and have managed to get S on the bandwagon.



However, now I am struggling to find some reasonably priced yet interesting cushions - thinking textures like velvet or ruffles etc.




My mum has kindly donated two interesting satiny type burnt orange cushions so now I just need to complete the look with two velvet/suede and two ruffled cushions.




Loving these ...






But for $40 each on ebay plus postage, I just can't justify the spend.




I'm also on the hunt for orangey decorators pieces - no idea what but will know them when I see them - I'm hoping.

I won ...


I just won this Cue dress on ebay - I know, winning is a dangerous word to confuse buying with!




I think its perfect for Summer - pity Winter will be here first.


I am also trying to win this dress...



More Winter appropriate definitely although not sure if the olive will be my colour. For the right price though, I'm happy to experiment.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The day the earth moved aka Japan Day 3 part 2

We at this stage were trying to get a signal on S' mobile to call our parents but to no avail - we later discovered the mobile networks had been knocked out when we saw a queue some 70 long for our hotel payphone. S then recalled the lobby had wi-fi so I took his phone into the centre of the lobby and manage to get a signal to logon to facebook - I figured this would be the quickest and fastest way to relay to our families that we were ok. Within 10 minutes I had 41 comments on my status from family and friends. I also looked up smh.com.au to find out what was actually happening in Japan and it was here that I found out about the horrific tsunami in the North. We remained in the restaurant until about 8:30/9pm when we were allowed back to our rooms - they had to check all of them before allowing us access again. Now the Sunroute has a pretty big marble lobby and I was shocked to see every available inch of space taken up by people stranded in the city due to the train lines being closed down and gridlock on the streets. These poor people had nowhere else to go and it was some 0 degrees outside. Of particular upset to me was a young Japanese mother I noticed, crying quietly with an older woman and a little baby on her chest. S and I headed upstairs once allowed so that we could use our room phone to call our parents and access our laptop to get more news. Our parents were understandably freaking out and I cried on the phone speaking to them. I also personally emailed my best friends and sister to let them know details and we took the time to call the DFAT line (which was pretty much a waste of time). After getting this all done, I didn't want to be in the room (scared of more shaking) so we headed back down to the lobby to see if we could do anything or help anyone. I pointed out the Japanese lady with her baby to S and he, knowing what a bleeding heart I am, read my mind and asked me if I wanted to offer her our room so that she and the baby could rest and be warm. I agreed and went to speak to the lady and in broken Japanese/english, managed to convey our offer. She cried and told us we were very kind but she was waiting for her husband. We told her our room number just in case anything changed and on our way back to the room, we met a lady and her young daughter from Gatton, Brisbane who had been out shopping in our area for the day and now had no way to get back to their hotel over 30 mins drive away. We chatted to the mother and daughter for awhile and I kept an eye on the Japanese lady and baby. When her husband arrived, I told S I was going to try again and see if she would take our room - I just couldn't bare the thought of that poor lady sitting in the lobby after such a frightening event with a little baby to care for as S and I have lots of friends with babies and we would hate for them to be in that situation. I managed to explain to her husband our offer and they both cried and he helped me insist that she take the baby up to the room and rest while he would stay in the lobby. When we got to the room, she was clearly exhausted and so grateful to be able to rest comfortably in the warmth. Heading back to the lobby I found S chatting to our new found friends from Gatton and made myself comfortable on the floor realising this is where I would spend the night. At about 2am, the Japanese lady from our room found us and explained her brother had managed to drive into the city to pick them up so they were going home. They thanked us profusely and gave us our room key back. A Japanese business man who saw our exchange came over and introduced himself. Speaking very good english, he explained he was in Tokyo from Osaka on business and was stranded now till midnight Saturday night when he could catch the bus home. We chatted for awhile and he told us that he was so impressed by our kindness, he would like to show us Tokyo the next day if we wanted a guide. S and I both readily accepted figuring anything was better than sitting in the hotel being scared. We made arrangements to meet our new friend in the hotel lobby the next morning and then we went to ask our Gatton friends if they would like to sleep in our room on the carpet at least for the night. Our Gatton friends were quick to accept our offer rather than remain in the cold busy lobby and we all headed up to the room to get some rest. In the room I found a beautiful thank you note from our Japanese friend and a photo of her baby - Yuna, 4 months old. We all fell asleep quite quickly from exhaustion although we did wake several times due to aftershock tremors.
this is our bathroom after the quake - my bottle of Chanel No.5 was brand new :(

The day the earth moved aka Japan day 3



This is my personal experience of the earthquake in Japan. I have shared these details as a kind of diary for myself. It has taken me a long time to be able to write about it so please dont think I am making light of anything if you decide to read the below, its just my style of writing.


So day 3 of the Japan honeymoon required more bullet train travel - from Osaka to Tokyo to be exact.



Now as you have read (if you read this blog regularly), we had crammed a fair amount of sightseeing in to the previous 2 days so decided to set out midmorning on our next journey rather than wait till the afternoon as originally planned. This turned out to be a wiser decision in the long run believe it or not - if we left later, we would have been stranded on the train for the night.



So on that beautiful Friday morning, we headed to the Shin-Osaka station and boarded the Shinkansen to Tokyo. Don't worry, there was no seat confusion this time as we took the liberty of reserving seats - too much hassle otherwise whilst carrying luggage.




The 2 hour and 20 minute trip was relatively uneventful although we did get a clear view of Mount Fuji and a few ski fields - the towns between Osaka and Tokyo look pretty industrial and VERY cold!



Arriving as Tokyo station was exciting and we wandered a bit searching for the correct line to take us to Shinjuku and our hotel before pinpointing an information centre and sourcing a map. The map enabled smooth sailing and we were at Shinjuku and our hotel in the blink of an eye.


Checking in to the Sunroute Plaza was achieved with total ease and we made our way up to our 11th floor room to dump our stuff before setting out to explore the crazy city of Tokyo. Time check... this was about 2:20pm.


Bathroom break, luggage arranged and we were ready to set out for an afternoon of sightseeing. At the door waiting for S to gather his gloves, he stood up and said he felt shaky on his feet like the room was swaying. After a second, I told him that I felt the swaying feeling too. Then we heard creaking and S looked out the window before exclaiming 'OMG the room is shaking, this is an earthquake!'



Standing in the doorway to the hall, I yelled at S to get out of the room and follow me. He kept looking out the window to see the adjacent highrise swaying across our sight with the workers scrambling to hold their desks or get under them. All the while the shaking/swaying was intensifying and I was shouting at S to get out - my theory was to get to the elevator shafts (no, not in the elevator) as that area of the building is generally the strongest reinforced part so in my head, the safest at a time like this.


Finally S followed me out of the room and by this stage the building was rocking and it was hard to maintain balance. S got thrown into the opposite wall then back again to the ground while I was struggling to stay upright. Shouting at S to get up, I looked around the hall and saw 3 maids sobbing and sreaming in terror which made me even more determined to stay on my feet and keep moving. I figured if they were frightened, this can't be normal or good in anyway.


After what we were later told was about 3 1/2 to 4 minutes, the movement stopped and everything was silent. I looked at S with tears in my eyes and told him I wanted to get downstairs. Obviously the lifts were shut down so we searched the maze of hallways for the stairs. When we found the stairs they were electro -locked and this was my undoing. I burst into tears and told S that we were going to die and that I didn't want to die.


An American lady came out of her room and tried to comfort me by telling me that we would be ok and Japan, especially Tokyo, is built for earthquakes but upon seeing my rising distress, she found a maid and explained that I wanted to go downstairs. The maid took us down the hidden service stairs (the stairwell was filled with cracks in the walls and piles of cladding/render that had fallen off) where we met a young Japanese American guy and his girlfriend.


S asked what was going on and the guy told us this was pretty bad, that earthquakes were normal but this one was really bad. He then told us he was headed to reception to change their room to a lower floor so siezing on this, we headed down to do the same and were lucky enough to get moved to the 3rd floor before the rush of guests came down trying to do the same thing.


Room sorted, I just wanted to get outside where I thought things wouldn't be so scary so we headed out to the street in front of our hotel. Looking around, there were people everywhere streaming out of buildings and going in every which direction. There were sirens and loud hailers and people broadcasting instructions but of course they were in Japanese so we could only stand there and wonder what to do or where they were headed.


Shaking I turned to S, still crying and repeated that I didn't want to die yet and that I wanted to say goodbye to our parents first. S grabbed me in a hug even though he was shaking and held me tight while I sobbed telling me that we would be ok. I calmed a little until after about 30 mins of standing on the street, another big quake/tremor hit and everyone screamed and the 40/50 storey buildings around us began to sway.




By this stage, I was absolutely convinced we were going to die - I didn't know anything about earthquakes really, apart from the devastation in Christchurch recently, I didn't know if they got worse and came in waves, if that was the end of it. I think that was the scariest, waiting to see if another big one was going to happen. See apparently earthquakes only last about 20-30 secs but the big one we had went for almost 4 mins and got worse as it went on.



After 2 hours on the street, it started to rain so we had to go back into the hotel. The lobby bar and restaurant was open to guests and our lobby was filling up quicky with displaced workers who couldn't get home. We managed to get a table in the restaurant and it turned out there were a few other groups of Aussies staying so we stuck with them and had a drink, trying to calm down.



TBC ...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Vapianos





S booked me for date night on Friday night as we hadn't done anything together all week last week. By Friday I was so exhausted tht my only request was that it not involve a late night. S originally intended on dinner and a movie but given my request, he limited our date to dinner only.


In the interest of doing something different, he ended up taking me to a recently opened restaurant in Surfers Paradise called Vapianos. They are quite unique in many ways I discovered.


Whe you arrive, you are each given a swipe card (like a hotel room card) then you go to the various food stations (pizza, pasta, salad) or the bar and hand over your card to swipe when you order. Your chosen meal is then cooked or prepared in front of you while you wait.







Once you get your meal, you can detour past the indoor herb garden to further season your meal if you choose on the way to your table.



The card concept is just brilliant because it means you can have a group of even 30 people and at the end of the night, there is no bill drama to sort out. Great place for future birthday dinners I forsee.


S and I both enjoyed the food ... we ordered a calzone to share (with hot pepperoni, olives, ham, mozzarella, mushrooms), a funghi gnocchi (delicious sauce but didn't love the gnocchi as it was gluten free so the texture wasn't great, an antipasti plate and Italian white wine.






Definitely worth a visit if you live on the Coast or are coming to anytime soon.

Keep Ya Head Up Japan

There are some many great fundraisers happening to help Japan and some celebs have been especially impressive.


S told me yesterday about this T Shirt by Snoop Dogg and Neff where all the proceeds go to the relief efforts.



I think its a pretty cool T ... S is going to buy one.


I also think Lady Gaga has done a lot of good with her rubber prayer bands - apparently she is underwriting the production cost so every dollar goes to the Japan Relief Fund. She has raised over $1.5m already!


Its so wonderful to see people come together in times of crisis to help one another.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wedding Pics

Here are some candid wedding pics taken on my camera throughout the day for fun:





My middle-age bridesmaids ha ha


Posing up a storm - could be the effects of the Moet

The staircase of memories ... these are the ones I surfed down



The girls all hanging out killing time



My papa and I


Never say never

I managed to track down another Country Road lemming yesterday ... no thanks to the local store assistant. I'm getting so good at this, I might offer it as a professional service.


Its a dress that I have been lemming since October last year but was almost impossible to get in my size as it sold out so quickly 'apparently'. I say 'apparently' because imagine my surprise when the latest sale started and it was suddenly on the rack in 3 different local stores - unfortunately only in a 14 or 16.


So taking matters into my own hands, I went to the CR facebook page, got the item code and called the local store. The SA was most helpful over the phone and given my VIP status (due to frightening spending levels instore), she advised she would ring around Australia and track me down the dress.


The SA called back 30 minutes later to advise she had called everywhere and there were none available.


Well if you read my blog, you will know that 'no' doesn't detere me when I especially want something and this instance was no difference.



I called 3 interstate stores and 'bingo' a store in Melbourne was most happy to provide me with a phone order and the dress is now on its way to my parents house (safer to get deliveries there or to work as someone is always around and I dont have to explain to S).




What do you think... worth the effort?


Change of topic

So I've been posting on our honeymoon in Japan but have decided to change the topic as my next instalment due relates to our arrival in Tokyo and the quake that hit 15 minutes later. I just don't feel ready to put the event into words just yet but maybe tonight or tomorrow I will try.


So in the interest of change and positivity, I am having my haircut tomorrow - FINALLY!



I haven't had a proper haircut in over 12 months, only tiny trims to keep it healthy before the wedding. I didn't want to risk my hair being too layered or short etc for wedding hair choices and stuck to colour and trims to keep it healthy.



As a result, I have hair almost to the top of my hips that I am very sick of.



I was thinking just a good chop to my should blades with layers but S last night mentioned how much he loved my 'do from about 3 years ago - bangs and a heavy fringe. I can't find any pics of this era but here are some of the fringe I used to rock as a littley:




I'm open to revisiting this look so will discuss with my hairdresser tomorrow and get her advice ... she is working a heavy fringe at the moment so I expect encouragement.



ps. Are you there M? If so, what are your thoughts?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Osaka by day and night part 2

Our adventures continued from the Insshinji Temple to the Tennoji Zoo - which was our original destination if you recall. Unfortunately the zoo was an attraction I could have happily missed despite all our efforts to get there. Without being too negative, lets just say its no Taronga/Dubbo/Seaworld and although there are a huge range of animals, the facilities aren't amongst the best I have seen.

From there we ventured into downtown/old Osaka as S wanted to go up the Tsutenkaku Tower - an Eiffel Tower type structure. The locals say if from where you live, if you can see the Tower then you are a real Osakan.

Now to give you some background, I am not the biggest fan of heights when I am in buildings. I'm not scared of looking down or being on say a Mountain or cliff, I just don't trust engineers I guess and especially hate elevators. So from here on in, my afternoon and evening was amongst the most terrifying of my life (even if I include the Earthquake in that comparison).


So we went up the elevator (glass by the way to make me feel even more nervous) and opened into the 360 enclosed viewing deck. S loves heights and views so was quite happy to meander along photographing and taking in the scenery and views. Me? I was subtly trying to hurry him around the deck without letting on that I was hating this. I enjoyed the view but couldn't get comfortable - although I was momentarily distracted by Billiken. Billiken is the God of luck from what I could figure out so I made a donation and rubbed his feet - being up that high, I figured I needed all the luck I could get!


Back on the ground at last, we stopped for a beer before attempting to walk back to our hotel (the eagle eye view gave us the confidence to negotiate the crazy streets ahead of us). We ended up walking right into DenDen Town, an electronics district that S especially wanted to see so the walking ended up being a good move.



Even better, after our stroll (read marathon), we decided we desperately needed a sit down and freshen up for 30 mins in our room before setting off on our next adventure.


And this is where things got nightmarish for me... first stop for S was the floating sky garden. Me, not understanding quite what this concept was about, happily tagged along to Umeda where I got a very rude shock. The Floating Sky Garden involves a lift up to the 39th floor, an extra long escalator ride over thin air to a circular pod suspended between 2 towers. Sounds awesome doesnt it? Especially when S asks me if I want him to take a pic of me while we are travelling up the escalator. I think I bit his head off and told him not to talk to me. The view when we got up was amazing although I was so busy trying to get around and down to safety that I didn't really enjoy it S on the other hand was thrilled and loved every moment.



Can you believe it though, it got worse! Next on the list was the HEP -5 ... a ferris wheel. Like I said, I hate the engineered heights so ferris wheels are big on my list of hates along with elevators. I figured though that it would be a quick ride and I could suck it up for S' sake. Also figured it couldn't be that big a ferris wheel right in the middle of the city. Yep, I was wrong on both counts! The ferris wheel was already perched 5+ storeys up on a building with the highest point being 106m above ground. Upon boarding our pod, S wanted to discuss how amazing the engineering concept was. I requested we maintain silence and kept my eyes closed for much of the ride, occasionally peeking out at the view which was pretty fabulous.


Utterly drained (and freezing cold) we headed back to our hotel for bed in preparation of an early morning bullet train ride to Hiroshima.

The Shinkansen to Hiroshima (aka The Ice Cave)

Up early and feeling adventurous, S and I caught a cab to Shin-Osaka station for our bullet train adventure to Hiroshima.


Just figuring out the train line and buying a ticket was enough of an adventure to start with. I had told S we needed to buy a JR pass for our travel prior to arriving in Japan but S' 'expert' traveller friends insisted it was a waste of money! After forking out the equivalent of $500 for 2 return tix to Hiroshima, S was wishing he had of listened to me.


Lining up on the platform for the Shinkansen, we queued to the left of the reserved car sign which made sense. The train arrived exactly on time and upon boardingw e couldn't believe how luxurious the seating was. Easily better than Starclass flying with personal footrests etc. We found out 20 mins later that we were in the wrong carriage and that this was first class travel - our ticket didn't suffice. So we reluctantly vacated the carriage and headed towards the general public carriage... it was a bit of a come down but still far superior to Australian public transport.




We spent the whole 90 minute odd trip gazing out the window in fascination and were almost sad to arrive at our destination and get off the train. We were even sadder when we got off and felt the weather hit us! It looked sunny and quite nice outside but no kidding, it was like stepping out in Siberia. Rugged up in my layers, I was still completely unprepared and feard getting frostbite to my extremities. Teeth chattering I insisted we keep moving and pulled out my map to orientate myself towards the Hiroshima Gardens.


Much walking (and much complaining from S) and feeling warmer I stopped to check the map and realised we had somehow completely bypassed the gardens but were almost at the Castle & Temple so we decided to press on and skip the gardens.


After exploring the Castle and Temple grounds, the Peace Memorial was on our agenda but rather than stuff around in the cold trying to find our way, we cheated and caught a taxi. Turned out to be a good choice as the Memorial seemed to be a bit of a trek.


Touring the Memorial and its museum was a humbling experience:




the Children's Memorial




the last building standing (it was almost directly under where the bomb was dropped)




We finished our day in Hiroshima looking for somewhere to eat but ran out of time as we couldn't agree so I had to settle for Maccas to go ... but just look how conveniently they pack your food (my drink and all is in there perfectly arranged).