LaLa-Land Tuesday.

So, what day is it? And where am I supposed to be today? And what the heck was I going to blog about?

Dudes. I am still so scatterbrained it isn't funny. I went from being a super-organised freak, to someone who is kind of aimlessly shuffling around having no idea what's going on. Bah! My head!

But cute, cute kidlets! Super cute kidlets! Squee! Must refrain from pinching cheeks. And from pre-judging some of my deadset annoying worrisome kids that I had last year. Perhaps this year will be better. And they will stop muttering to themselves on the floor. Or punching random things in mid-air. Or falling asleep at the tables. Er, oops? Maybe tomorrow?

I sweated so much at the gym today that I looked like I'd gone swimming afterwards. Damn those perfect women who turn up with their hair out and perfectly styled, bouncing around like maniacs and not even breaking out a moustache sweat. Come on, we all know what that looks like.

But seriously? I so much as walk INTO the gym and my face instantly turns red, my legs and arms go splotchy and I start sweating. Not the gross, stinky, armpit kind of sweating -- no, the main part of me that sweats? My scalp and face. Can someone please explain why this is the only part of me that sweats (big time, bring on the buckets!) and how I can fix it? Gosh, it's embarrassing enough lugging my backside to the gym next to skinny, bouncing sheilas, but do I have to mop my brow at the end of every 45 second circuit? Sheesh.

Doo-bee-doo. Bring on the next batch of holidays!

Scatterbrained Monday.

Driving to the school today felt like just another work day - as if I'd just had an average weekend and was heading back in for a new week. Absolutely bizarre!

Today was so strange, I felt a bit lost without a classroom of my own this year. The room which I'm sharing with Belinda is the same room I had last year, but since it's not really mine anymore, it's different! The other classroom I'm sharing in is all sorted out too (all these organised ladies, sheesh, making me feel bad!) and since I'm just supporting for my other two days, I really don't have much to do with that at all.

Basically, I'm a big ol' fish out of water.

But it's still going to be a good year! People will just have to not mind me if I wander around with my head in the clouds for the first couple of weeks until I get my routine organised, and know what I'm expected to be doing in each of the classrooms.

Excited for the kidlets to come back tomorrow! I have about 10 of the kids I taught this year in the 1/2 class, and another handful in the 3/4 class, so it's going to be good fun. Right now, I'm off to print off some tray and bag labels, just to make things a bit easier tomorrow. I hope your Monday was just dandy.

Second Year - Already?

I spent my day today doing (as my blog header suggests) a whole lot of nothing. Well, it's the last day of my holidays, so why not?

Let me share some of the more noticeable accomplishments of the day with you. Please don't all applaud at once:


  • Not showering.

  • Getting on the computer before 9am on a Sunday.

  • Paying my brother to wash the car for me.

  • Watching ER episodes.

  • Reading: The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

  • Playing aimlessly with the bunnies.

  • Playing aimlessly with the dogs.

  • Folding a whole lot of laundry.

  • Hiring a Foxtel Box Office movie: The Omen.

  • Considering hiring another: The Da Vinci Code.


Yeah, that's about it.

Basically anything that involved sitting around on my backside. Tomorrow I start back at school, can't believe this will be my second year out in the real world. Some days I feel like it's been longer than that, others I feel like I just finished uni and still don't know what I am doing!

Am looking forward to this year of teaching. I don't know if I mentioned what I'll be doing, but I'm going to be a jack of all trades grades this year! Still at the same school, still five days a week, still earning the same, just not on one class specifically.

Monday: Job sharing a 3/4 class all day.
Tuesday: Supporting a 5/6 learning support class and their teacher.
Wednesday: Job sharing with Madame Belinda on a 1/2 class.
Thursday: As above.
Friday: Supporting a 5/6 learning support class and their teacher.

So I really am (almost) teaching K-6 next year! Now THAT'S what I went to university for! We have our staff development day tomorrow, so things might change, but it's definitely going to be a busy year. Bloody holidays going too fast.. But here's a nice New Zealand shot to keep you going until I do some serious uploading.

100_0024_1I want to go back!

Er, About That Kiwi.

So, the big black photograph I posted yesterday?
The one with the supposed Kiwi in it?
Yes, well, er.

It was kind of meant to be a joke.

(There really was a Kiwi in there, though. I swear!)

The birds are nocturnal, so the enclosures we were walking into all didn't allow flash photography. Me being stubborn (and slightly blonde), decided that since I could still SEE the Kiwi in the dark through my camera lens, that the picture would work out even without using the flash.

As you can see, my theory was proved wrong.

I also have a 10 second video clip which also features nothing but darkness, with my voice in the background saying all sorts of randomly stupid things like "Aww, it's moving! Look at the Kiwi! Pretty bird!" You should thank me for not uploading it to YouTube. You have now saved 10 seconds of your life.

Speaking of Kiwis, our tour manager on Contiki had me convinced that all of them are robots. He basically implied that the species probably died out years ago, and that the NZ government created machine versions to keep the tourists happy. The theory could work; Apparently seeing a Kiwi in the wild never happens, so all the ones that we got to see were kept in enclosures. And if you watched closely? They really did just do the same peck, waddle, peck, waddle movements over and over again. Hrm. A great conspiracy? One never knows.

(Although I did later see the Kiwi in the photograph take a drink of water, surely robots can't drink water? Unless they are using super sophisticated technology? Oh my!)

So, about that photo? Just use your imagination. It should look a little something like this.

freekiwi.jpg

Much cuter than our flightless Emu, if you ask me.

And since I am still awaiting the rest of the photographs, (damn zip file not sending, phooey) let me just reply to a couple of comments left in my super remarkable picture post.

Luscious Lara: NOW do you see the Kiwi in the picture? If you close one eye, squint with the other and tilt your head to the side, I'm sure you'll find him. Or you can just pretend.

Kewl Kirby: I was thinking of you when I jumped off the canyon. Okay. I take that back. I was actually thinking of death and possibly crapping in my pants. But I wish you had of been there.

Valacious Viv: See Lara's reply. And it really, really was a beautiful place. We went white water rafting over that river the next day!

Awesome Angela: If you would like to purchase the rights to one of those displays of photographic genius, there's an Amazon wishlist right over there. *wink*

Lively Laurel: Hah! A sheep beauty pageant! I love it! Actually, it was just a farm show. But there was this one sheep there with dreadlocks (no joke!) that could have definitely taken out the title. Too cute.

Super Sarah: Thankyou, m'dear. My reasoning is that now I've done all this scary stuff, I can spend every other vacation I ever take relaxing and getting massages. I've earnt it, no?

Nice NPW: Alright, since you are all being so nice to me, I'll tell you a little story. I didn't actually JUMP off the canyon. I was planning to, but then I turned into a big giant wimp. I actually got dangled over it, and THEN had the wires cut and kind of did a Tarzan swing over the canyon. Does that make me still brave?

Amazing Aimee: Do you like the Kiwi now? I think they are quite cute myself, and I would like to squish one. And no. It was not a big, life-like Kiwifruit in the enclosure. Although that is a pretty funny visual, if you think about it.

Lovely Lala: Yes indeedy! Am ready and waiting for stalkerage!

Vivacious VBG: The sheep would be very flattered, I'm sure. And heading that way right this second.

Skip, Hop, Frolic.

The photographs! Are coming! Hoorah!

In the form of a zip file that is currently zooming across the internet from Jason's computer to my computer, floating swiftly through the information super highway.

I can't wait to see them. And share them. Aren't you excited?

I did take my camera with me on holidays, but we used J's camera for the majority of the time. What's the point in wasting two batteries? Or taking double pictures of the exact same thing? My camera came with me on the days we were doing separate optional activities, though. Like when he was jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet and I was doing a lovely nature walk. Oh, and when he was doing the super ginormous Nevis bungy jump and I was pottering around the bush on the back of a horse. (I swear, I did the scary stuff too!)

Consequently, his camera had all the stunning nature photographs and pictures of us on it, which are the ones I'm hoping are fabulous. You'll see why, shortly.

As for my camera?

It has pictures of the canyon that I jumped off. (Holy crap!)

100_2658
I also managed to snap a demented looking photo of my horse.

100_2672
(Bloody thing kept moving! You'd think it was alive or something.)

Hrm. What else. Oh, I did manage to get some pictures of sheep. What good trip to New Zealand doesn't feature sheep?

100_2735
(No comments about why the lady is bending over the sheep, alright? Let's keep this blog family friendly, folks.)

Oh, yes! How could I forget? I also managed to snap a picture of a kiwi on one of my solo days. I was ever so proud.

100_2713

(They're cute wee buggers, yes? Apparently, they dislike flashes.)

Now can you see why I'm excited to see the rest of our trip photos? Hee, I crack myself up sometimes.

Just Another.

It feels very much as though my New Zealand trip didn't happen in some respects. I know, I got home yesterday, what the heck am I going on about? But I woke up this morning, pottered around the house a little bit, hopped on the computer and I feel exactly the same as I did before I left.

I don't even have any photos to share with you yet, as we took most of our pictures with Jason's digital camera. He is going to put them on a zip file for me which I should get by tomorrow, I hope. I can't wait to see how some of them came out.

Because the last month has been filled with posts about the holiday, I'll try and make my summary short and sweet, so I can get on with other things. It was bloody fantastic! I would go back again to the South Island in a heartbeat, driving myself next time around. The scenery was just incredible - you could hardly take a bad photograph. The Contiki group was fabulous (and filled with gossip!) I would recommend it to anybody. I really, really would.

I am a complete klutz, and managed to get sunburned on my legs (!) of all places, break not one but two pairs of sunglasses on the trip, leave my wallet behind on at least one occassion (all good, everything recovered), and step on a spiky sea urchin while snorkelling. Good times, eh? The bloody sea urchin thing was so painful, and it still is - considering there is a piece of spike that I can't get out of my heel. I'm hoping it'll poke out a little soon, so I can be brave and yank the rest out. Bleeeh.

I was very disappointed at the airport at the beginning of the trip - I thought that just this once, I'd beat Jason in the "I bet my suitcase weighs less than yours, ner ner" competition. I'd weighed mine on the scales here the night before, and had rung him to cheat also find out what his weight was. Score! Mine was like, 2kgs lighter than his. But somehow overnight, my suitcase managed to put on a couple of unexplained kilograms (just like it's momma!) and he beat me. Bugger that.

Ahem. Yesterday though? I am pleased to say that his suitcase weighed in at 20.1kgs coming home. And mine? Mine was 19.3kgs. Fwee! AND I also bought three tops, one skirt and a pair of Havaiana thongs too. Oh man. Speaking of said thongs/flip flops. They are the most comfortable ones, EVER. I got a brown pair so they'd go with everything and wow. I am in love. They're super flexible, you can bend them completely in half and they just flip right on back. Grand.

For now, I'm heading to the shops with my momma and relaxing. I recieved some awesome packages while I was away - my Alice In Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass DVD that I'd ordered from Amazon, a couple of books (The Memory Keeper's Daughter and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), my X-Files complete series (Season 1-9, complete with Asian writing on the front and back, so I have absolutely no idea what they say!) and a package from Lara, with sexy sailor shoes in it! Thankyou chook, made my day! I'll take photos soon, promise.

It's so good to be back. But I am dreading the whole back to work in two days thing. Boo.

Well, THAT went fast!

I am home.

And it went way too freaking fast.

And that's all I have to say right now because bed? Is calling me. I'm planning on some quality time with my pillows. That's right. All four of them.

Dude! Lara! Shoes! Present! Squee! More later.

Happy Birthday Jennifer-moo. Love, love, love.

I'm BACK!

Update Number Fouuuuur

Dear Blog World,

We finished our Contiki today, after being dropped back in Auckland. I've already got plans to stalk keep in touch with a couple of the Sydney-ites I met on the tour, which is a big improvement from the last trip. The last ten of us who are left in Auckland tonight are going out for dinner, like a last supper. I've been really, really lucky with the group I've had. I clicked with most people straight away (which is rare for me) and have enjoyed the whole thing.

You'll be proud to know that I kept my whinging to a minimum. Oh, and also? Jason and I (as part of the six couples on board the tour!!) won the competition when it came to who knew each other the best. Crazy, considering we aren't married, engaged or living together like most of the others there.

Alright, I sort of lied.

I whinged this afternoon, after finding out that the super big hotel that we were supposed to be booked into after the tour finished? Was not actually where we were booked into. Freaking travel agents. No, we got the sister hotel (in the same name) which is a hell of a lot smaller, located about a block away, has wobbly lifts and a hotel room with no opening windows and a busted air conditioner! C'mon, I'm allowed to whinge about that, right? (We're complaining about the air con later, don't you worry.)

Anyway, yesterday? Was heaven on a stick. Absolute heaven. We drove north to the Bay of Islands at the tip of the North Island. There were about 20 of us left on the tour, so we rented a Catamaran for the ENTIRE DAY and spent it cruising. Oh man. I have never had so much fun in my life, doing absolutely nothing. Beautiful water, beautiful weather, great company. I swam in the water and even went snorkelling for the first time. Am proud. (My kind of snorkelling was kind of amusing - I'd be just getting the hang of it, then would spy a fish and start squealing with excitement and promptly fill my mask up with water. Hee.)

Oh, I also got a strip of my back (below my long bikini tank, and above my swimmers) sunburned, which is a wee bit painful when wearing pants of any kind. Jason has sunburned legs and FEET, which is kind of amusing in a cruel, cruel way. The sun here is insane, you stand in it for a minute and you're burning. Even with sunscreen! Crazy.

All in all, it was fantastic. The perfect last day of the tour!

Now we're in Auckland for the next day, flying out the day after that. I actually really just want to go home. I'm tired, grouchy and a wee bit bored of Auckland. I much prefer the little towns than the big cities, here just reminds me of Sydney's inner city as well. Ah well, time flies so no doubt I'll be back home complaining before I know it. I'll be home soon!

Love,

Aly

P.S. Next tour? Is definitely North America, with Contiki. Starting to save right now. Well, after tomorrow's shopping day because I can't see us doing much else here. Bleh.

Update Number Threeeeeee

Dear Blog World,

You will have to excuse this entry if it contains a bajillion typos, as I'm sitting in a backpackers hotel where the computer monitor is hidden behind possibly bulletproof glass, and the keyboard is completely and utterly super glued to the computer desk. I get the feeling they've had a fair few computers knocked off from around here, but jeeeeez. It's horrible for my blind, blind eyes.

Since we left Wellington, we visited Lake Taupo and did not much of anything except shopping. Had a boat booked out on the lake for just us, which was great fun. Lots of dancing, to Jason's disgust. I've not yet got that boy to dance. My mission is failing miserably. After that we headed to ultra stinky Rotorua, where we had a huge tour of a Maori settlement (I'm officially in love with their history, I am such a nerd) and saw a kiwi. Squee! Must somehow smuggle one home. Jason went skydiving, and i opted to keep my feet on the ground, wandering around a national park instead.

I AM disappointed I couldn't get time to go and have a thermal springs relaxation day, was rather grouchy about that. Hrmph. But the place smelled like you would not believe, so I suppose I'll treat myself somewhere nicer back home one day. Last night we went to a Maori feast and concert, ate a yummy hungi meal and listened to their amazing singing and dancing skills. Jason did a non scary haka (hee!) and I attempted to use a Poi, once again failing miserably. This morning Jason did the Zorb which I chickened out of (rolling down a hill before 8am in the morning sounded a wee bit horrid today) so I went and saw a sheep show instead. So much fun! Almost stole a lamb AND a sheepdog. Didn't quite manage it, though.

Right now, I'm in Waitomo, which has been great. We did a cave tour this afternoon, it was absolutely stunning. The glow worms were gorgeous, the river cruise was gorgeous, the cave itself was gorgeous. I like it. AND this hotel room has a television and volleyball court; aka hours of mindless entertainment. Love it.

Tomorrow we head to Auckland briefly, and then it's on to the Bay of Islands for two days before we finish up. I can't believe how fast this tour has gone, it's millions of times faster than Europe was. I've decided I'm also going to do the North American Contiki as soon as I can save up for it. That's one of my goals. Yep. Anyone want to come with me?

Oh and Julia dear, there were many more nights of drinking, however I've refrained from going on about them because, ahem, some people didn't know what a Contiki was, and may just think I'm a raging alcoholic. Or something.

(I should add here that I've had my fair share of nanna naps though, so it's been good. Tonight is a big night here at the tavern because we're losing half of our tour group, and gaining 30 strangers for the next (and last) two days of the tour. Which probably also means that tomorrow will be a big night too, as we'll be meeting fresh new Contiki-goers, who will be much less buggered than we all are.)

(That's enough brackets for now.)

Off to have a shower now before dinner so cheerio, lovelies!

Love,

Aly

Update Number Twooooo

Dear Blog World,

Am so glad you guys haven't forgotten about me! It's going to be nice once I'm back at home and can get on with my regularly scheduled stalkerage. I miss it, big time.

Skipping back, let's see what else I did since last time I updated. Hrm. Well, I survived the Shotover Jet (effing brilliant!) and Whitewater Rafting, where our group came ____ <-- that close to completely capsizing the raft! It was so strenuous, the rapids were grade four, so pretty darned scary. Well worth the dead arms in the end.

That afternoon we were meant to go River Boarding, but it was pretty falsely advertised so I didn't end up going. (Long story short? The so-called "boards" that we were given were actually flimsy cork boards, and we were given five whole minutes of training before being sent down the river into rapids. My response? Hell, no. Jason went, I climbed up on a rock and did some sunbathing. I also made friends with a horse and a labrador. Good times.)

After that, we headed to the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers. It poured with rain, and I mean POURED. Never seen so much water in my life. But we were brave, whacked on our wet weather gear and headed out to do our hike. Oh my. I didn't think I would make it to the bloody glacier at all! The hike wasn't very long, but it was about 500 man made steps as well as a natural incline up the side of a gorge. It was awesome walking on the glacier, but bloody terrifying, rain plus ice mixed together is not a good thing! We got back and were completely and utterly drenched.

Headed back to Christchurch again, dropped off half our tour and that brings us to today.

So, hello from sunny Wellington! We crossed Cook Strait last night, jumping onto the North Island soils for the first time, and this morning woke up to the most stunning day so far! Not a cloud in the sky, it's amazing. Thanks to a nifty little restaurant (that encourages table dancing!) in Wellington city that loves Contiki tours to death, I spent last night happily barefoot, enjoying a nice night of alcohol induced karaoke. Fabulous!

Today we had a free day, so we skipped breakfast and slept in late - so good. I miss my sleep. We met up with a couple of girls from the tour, wandered around, bought some snacks and headed for the beach. I spent about thirty minutes attempting to introduce my pale legs to the sunlight, but all that happened was that they turned blotchy and itchy from the sand. Damnit. We're going to have a cruisy day now, and just stroll around town. It's really great, minus the fact that we're on the 7th floor of our hotel, bleh, lifts.

Not much else to update again, most of the fun adventure stuff was done in the South Island. I think it'll be a bit more relaxing now. Fingers crossed we get good weather, eh?

Chat soon! (And I do hope you're being nice to Bella and Lucy while I'm away.)

Love,

Aly

Update Number Onnnnne

Dear Blog World,

I am writing this from Queenstown, New Zealand, sitting in a beautiful lodge that overlooks a lake, surrounded by mountains. I am not facing this wall though; no, I am staring at a beige coloured wall while I type. Good times.

So far, we've spent a night in a secluded lodge (overlooking a gorgeous lake), spent a night on a boat parked in the middle of Milford Sound (beautiful!!) where we shared a cabin with four people. Sounds nice, doesn't it? Did I mention the cabin was the size of my bathroom?

Yesterday we made our way up to Queenstown (adventure capital of the world, wheeeee!) and Jason and I celebrated with a bungy jump off the Kauwara (probably horrid spelling, meh) Bridge. Oh. Man. That was nuts! I was told I would have fifteen minutes to prepare myself, but then the guy pointed to me and it was time to go! I gripped on to the pole for dear life until I was told to let go -- the next second he was counting, and I was diving off! Can you believe it?

(I also asked specifically NOT to touch the water, but guess who got dunked?) Er, that would be me. Thank goodness we got a free t-shirt at the end. The video was a $45 one, so I passed on that. One of our tour mates got it on camera though, so fingers crossed that it works out.

Today, I jumped off a cliff!

...

No really, I did. I almost chickened out, but managed to do it in the end. It was called the Canyon Swing, you can check it out if you like, I'm sure I linked to it a couple of months back in one of the pre-New Zealand posts. It was ten times worse than the bungy jump, and there were some tears, yes. I was planning to just step off the ledge and into the canyon, but sadly my legs decided that was a really ridiculous idea and just wobbled away instead. After about ten minutes of whining (those poor, poor employees!) I decided to just do it in a sitting position, and have the guys cut the rope so I could swing away. Swing I did! I DID fork out the $45 for this DVD, as terrible as it was.

Two words to describe it?

Bloody terrifying.

This afternoon I'm relaxing though - have booked a nice horse riding session (while Jason throws himself off two more bungy jumps, mind you!) and then I'm meeting up with some other tour mates to go ice skating. Tomorrow? Is all day in the water. White water rafting, Shotover Jet Boat ride and then RIVER BOARDING. I must be crazy. Wheee!

New Zealand is excellent - with the exception of a cruddy Contiki daysong - which happened to come off my Ipod. Gwen Stefani's "Wind it Up". Oh, the shame. Although we had fun dancing to it in the bar last night. I have found my dancing shoes again, and I love them. Yes, Yes, I do.

Hope you're well! I'm off to scoff some lunch before playing with the horsies! xo

Cheers guys!

Aly

OY!

You there.
Clicking the mouse.
All big-eyed and slack-jawed.
Yes, you.

I'm talkin' to you.
The name's Bella. Bella Rabbit. What are you doing here? Do you have authorization? Where's your security clearance?

What's that? You have none? And you say you're looking for Aly?

Pah.

She's on holidays right now, pal, as if you didn't know. Where? Snoopy little fellow, aren't you? She's in New Zealand, of course. Can't you read?

I don't hear you, speak up!
When is she back, you ask? On the 24th of January, not a moment too soon if you ask me. And
she's left me in charge of this place while she's gone.

Now. Back away slowly and start walkin'. You don't want these teeth to start gnawing on your behind.

Don't think I won't. Your behind is mine. Scram!

(Make sure you pop back every so often, hopefully updates to come. Just make sure you bring your pass this time, alright? Otherwise you might end up looking like this poor sod.)




A Bookwormy Farewell

Am officially shutting up now. I leave tomorrow. And I can't tell you how bizarre it feels to type that. The flight leaves Sydney at about 9am, and we should get to Christchurch in the early afternoon. I'm guessing the plan will be to check-in, dump the suitcases and wander around the city before the pre-Contiki information session. Hee. Contikiiiiii.

Totally can't believe some people don't know what Contiki is.

I'm all set. The mice are going to stay with mum's friend and her daughter while I'm away, they're all cleaned and ready to go. Mum's looking after Gage and the bunnies for me. I've got to jet to the bank tomorrow to convert some money into NZ $$ for Jason and myself, and then I'm all set. Oh! And mini shampoo! I need that. Must remember.

Gosh, I am such a dork today. I took a cue from Y's recent plea for work-out music, and downloaded a whole batch of boppy, teeny songs for while I'm working. I'm all ready to use them now (they're even in their own spiffy playlist!) but I probably chose a dodgy time to upload them onto my Ipod: I'll be on the plane and/or coach and will most likely get Britney screaming into my ears. Or TLC. Or maybe even the Quad City DJ's. Say it with me now; Loser!

So, I'll finish this post with a quick couple of books, and then I'm signing off. I haven't missed this many days blogging in many a moon. I'm sure you'll enjoy the break! Hoping to pop back on if I spy an internet cafe on a quiet day (!) to keep you updated and absolutely jealous. Except for Janet, because she's coming in my suitcase. Sorry, Andrew.

Have a fantastic January, and leave me some more questions while I'm away. I shall miss you all, and no doubt your faces will flash before my eyes as I'm jumping off a cliff towards my death. Hee.

Book #16: The Bronze Horseman - Paullina Simons

Bronze
I officially want to visit Russia, after reading these books. Tatjana is the most wonderful character, so innocent but then so brave and strong and Alexander? Aaah. I want an Alexander of my very own. This book is another historical based novel, and tells of a great romance.

Set in Leningrad during the war, it's a lot about relationships and families, and about how the town was ravaged in that time. Tatjana and Alexander are so interesting, reading about them together was lovely. You really feel caught up in it all. This is one of those books that left me sniveling at the end. Ah, the end! What an ending!

(If you haven't noticed by now, I cry reading. All the time.)

Book #17: The Bridge to Holy Cross - Paullina Simons

Holycross
And the ending of the first novel, brings us to it's sequel. Which I adore, but not quite as much as the first. In the first book, Alexander's fate is unknown - and Tatjana? Well, she manages to start a new life for herself, outside of Russia and in America.

This book is great because it tells both sides of the story. We hear about Tatjana and her new life, and we hear about Alexander - who is still stuck in Europe, with many struggles to face. I love that their relationship continues into this book, and it's ending is also wonderful.

(There is a third conclusion novel to this saga, called The Summer Garden. I read it, got half way through it, and threw my hands up in disgust. Don't ask me why. The same characters are in it, but it's like the whole tone of the book changed. Sad, because I love Alex and Tanya so much.)

Book #18: Tully - Paullina Simons

Tully
Tully is one of those books that is hard to shove into a category. It's an interesting story about an interesting woman. She leads a bizarre life, is not the most fortunate of people and has a great many struggles.

You know those characters that you don't particularly like, or agree with, but you can't help but continue finding out more about them? Tully is like this for me. Some parts I read shaking my head, other parts I completely empathized with her, some parts I just couldn't even comprehend.

It's all over the place. But I like it.

(Red Leaves, Eleven Hours and The Girl in Times Square are a couple of other Paullina Simons novels that I enjoyed, but these three are my top picks.)

Something Different.

This morning when I opened up my blog, I was pondering what to write about. Most of the stuff that is on my brain right now revolves around sticking to my lifestyle change and/or New Zealand. And as interesting as that might be to me, I think it's getting a bit over-done here, don't you? (I mean, you're going to be bombarded with holiday stuff after I get back, so I might as well shut up about it for now!)

A while back when I started this blog, I did the standard "Ask me any question and I shall answer it" post; except I think there were all of three people that knew this blog existed back then. Because I have made some more lovely new friends across the months, I'm going to put it out there again. That way, when I get back from New Zealand, I'll have some more blog posts lined up. Convenient AND efficient. If you're reading this RIGHT NOW, please take a few seconds to pop in a question. Alrighty.

Sassy started, because she is wonderful like that.

"If you could have any job in the whole world and live anywhere, what would it be and where would you live?"

The last couple of nights I haven't slept very well. In fact, I've tossed and turned for ages, got myself back out of bed, read The Odyssey (I'm almost finished, I am such a nerd) and stared at the ceiling. You know those nights where your mind is churning away so fast, that you just can't switch it off? That's what it's been like.

I've been thinking of a million different things, which I'll save for a rainy day. But lately, my focus is on me five years from now. This is how it is looking. (I swear, I'm getting to the question, Sassy!)

There are two options: Option 1 is that I stay here in Sydney. I live on my own and I have a giant big labrador to keep me company. I keep on teaching. I walk the dog in the morning and at night. (I've always dreamed of having a big dog to walk with, it just doesn't work with chihuahuas!) Basically, it's simple, I'm doing what I was trained to do.

Option 2 is that I live overseas, which is something I have wanted to do for a really long time. Most likely England, maybe Scotland in the countryside somewhere. I'd still have a giant big labrador to keep me company. I'd still be by myself. And I'd be writing books, in a quaint little cottage. I've always wanted to be a writer - I was writing stories when I was in primary school. I don't have the official training for it, but it's a nice dream to have.

So there we go. Which one will it be? I have no idea. I hope it's one of them. And actually, it would be nice to have someone other than a giant big labrador to keep me company. We'll see.

Book #13: Ice Station - Matthew Reilly

Ice_station If you have not read, or heard of Ice Station, I suggest you get your hiney to the nearest bookstore and buy it. Buy two copies. Buy the shop out! It's that good. Matthew is a young Aussie author (who I've met at a conference and emailed a couple of times) who is just amazing. This is the first book of his I read, and I instantly went out and bought all the rest I could find.

This book is so fast paced, has awesome characters, has action and science and relationships, it has everything! It has lots of military terminology in it, but explains them for the not-so-bright readers, like myself. It's set in a research station in Antarctica, where scientists discover a spaceship, buried in the ice. All sorts of governments get involved, but humans aren't the only threat - there are more dangers in this place than people.

I read this in one sitting, it's hard to stop. All of his books are like this. In fact, he's probably my favourite author, full stop.

Book #14: Temple - Matthew Reilly

Temple
Like Ice Station, this book is another one you can't put down. This time, the story is set in South America - a university professor is suddenly caught up in a huge discovery that takes him on a journey through ancient and not-so-ancient times.

This one has a good twist to the story, and is also one of those adventure books that just keeps on throwing things at you. Temple is just as good as Ice Station, a really fascinating read. Have you noticed I tend to lean towards historical books, in fiction? This one is great. I remembered back to my high school days where I was interested in cultures. Yep. Another great read.

Book #15: Seven Ancient Wonders - Matthew Reilly

7_ancient_wonders This one is his most recent book. It's fantastic! Another adventure novel, based on more historical events and myths. As well as all of the travel, the fighting, the mazes and puzzles, the military quirks, there is a really good story behind it all.

What can I say? My love for Matthew Reilly books is probably oozing out of my blog in waves. He's just really, really good.

His other books that I didn't list here are Contest (awesome book, sci-fi, his first book ever published when he was all of 19! Amazing!), Area 7 (continued from Ice Station) and Scarecrow (continued from Area 7). I'm hoping he releases another novel soon, so I can eat it all up.

NZ, Gilmore Girls & Books

Now there's a mixed subject line, if ever I should see one.

Let's do this in chunks, shall we?

New Zealand

It's Thursday. I leave at some disgusting time on Sunday morning. Meaning I have three days before it all starts. Three days! Am so excited, but strangely not at the same time. It'll kick in once I'm on the way to the airport.

I always turn into a quivering mess of nerves when it comes to airports. I'm terrified of missing check-in times, getting lost, planes changing boarding times. Yep. Stress. Ha, and I said I wasn't going to be stressed this time. Pshaw. Like I said to Sassy yesterday, if I get it all out now then I should be fine for the actual trip.

(Seriously, though. When we were in England, about to board our flight to Scotland, they had ONE customs operator working, and we were 5 minutes away from missing our flight. STRESS.)

I'm packed. My suitcase weighs about 18kgs, the maximum is 20kgs. Not too shabby. I'm just not cut out for packing. Even now, after removing a whole stack of clothing, I'm worried that I haven't got enough. Funny, since everybody keeps telling me I have too much. I think I'm alright with remembering things though; spare contacts, glasses, my medication, eye cream. Someone give me a packing list, so I can check everything off. Please?

Gilmore Girls

As much as I love this show, and have been poring over my DVD boxsets, I'm pissed off at them. How the hell can Rory and Lorelai eat so much shit, and look like twigs? I mean, they eat out for breakfast every morning (and I don't see them eating cereal, do you?), they don't cook and Rory has eaten pizza or Chinese for dinner in nearly every damn episode! I want legs like Lauren Graham's. And clear skin like Alexis Bledel. Those girls suck.

(That being said, if anybody would like to purchase Season 5 and 6 for me while I'm in New Zealand, that'd be quite okay. Great.)

Books

I've enjoyed this so far, posting in extras since I'm going away so soon. Today is a bonus sort of day - 1 review, but six books. It's a series, my mum discovered it and I stole it and got completely hooked. These books made my historic side perk up, and my romantic side swoon. Le sigh. If you haven't at least read the first one (called Cross Stitch in Australia, but Outlander in the US) you must. If you don't find yourself completely smitten with the story, I'll eat my hat. If I owned a hat. Oh crap! I need a hat for New Zealand. Boo. I digress.

The story is set on Claire, who is travelling in Scotland on her honeymoon of sorts. She is investigating a set of standing stones, walks through them and finds herself transported back in time. She meets loads of people along the way, including the dashing Jamie (catch me - I'm swooning again!) and it's just one great adventure from there. I can't really give away much information about the other five books, as it will spoil the storyline, but they're fantastic. Dragonfly in Amber is set in Paris, and I adore it. 'Tis my absolute favourite. Read, Read, Read.

(This is one of the reasons I had my heart set on going to Scotland - and everytime I would see something that the books mentioned, I would get giddy with excitement. Scotland is AMAZING.)

Book #7: Cross Stitch - Diana Gabaldon
Book #8: Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon
Book #9: Voyager - Diana Gabaldon
Book #10: Drumns of Autumn - Diana Gabaldon
Book #11: The Fiery Cross - Diana Gabaldon
Book #12: A Breath of Snow and Ashes - Diana Ga

Thursday Thirteen #3

I am absolutely not letting myself forget that it is Thursday, so you'll recieve an extra post today as well. Lucky little chooks.

Thirteen Things about:
*Aly's New Zealand Trip*

1. Around October of last year, I started feeling the travel bug nip me in the backside once again. I had worked hard all year and wanted to treat myself to a vacation over the January holidays. At first this was going to be a working holiday in South Korea, however this fell through. Next, I thought I'd take another trip to L.A. and visit Disneyland again, however that was quite expensive for a short trip. Then Jason mentioned New Zealand, and that was that.

2. We were some of the last people to get accepted into our 15 day Contiki tour. I was certain we wouldn't be accepted, that the tour would be full; but thankfully we managed to scrap ourselves into spots. Phew!

3. We paid the trip off in November, and once that was done I had absolutely no money left in any of my accounts. I was literally, dirt broke until the next fortnight.

4. It was worth it! I've been pretty excited about it since!

5. My work Secret Santa bought me a New Zealand guide book as my gift, and I've been read it three times now.

6. Adding up all of the "optional excursions" that Jason and I want to do, gave us a figure of over $1000. Yikes!

7. Everybody I talk to about my trip doesn't think I will actually follow through with any of the adventure stuff. Ha! I will show them! I'm actually excited about doing it all, some of them sound terrifying, others downright amazing.

8. I am secretly concerned that I will be too unfit or too overweight for some of the adventure things, which makes me feel good about starting a newer, healthy lifestyle on January 1st this year. (Please don't let that bungy break!)

9. Last time I did a Contiki was a 21 day Europe tour. To put it mildly, I was pretty nervous spending that amount of time with strangers; since it was my first trip alone (so to speak) and I didn't really drink. I grew more comfortable, but it took a while to adjust. This time around, I feel better about meeting new people and enjoying it all.

10. I plan on taking a bazillion photos. And I mean a bazillion. From the books and videos I've seen of it, New Zealand is a stunning place. I want to capture as many photographs of it as I can. Hoorah for digital cameras!

11. I also plan on losing weight while I am over there. The goal is to be so distracted by the gorgeous sights and the experiences, that I don't have to be concerned about food. Plus, there will be a lot of exercise, which will be a bonus.

12. After me stressing over anything and everything on my last vacation, I'm determined to be more mellow now. I know the Contiki schedule, I know how hectics airports can be, I know (mostly!) how to read a map. I'm planning on going with the flow a little more, to eliminate the stress.

13. It's in three days. THREE DAYS. I love holidays!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday.  Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged!

Shoppity Shop Shop!

If you're wondering why you have not heard me speak that much of my New Years Resolutions, don't think it's because I've given up already. Number one, I don't want to bore you with the things I've been eating every day (why would I, when I already bore you with the things I've been doing every day? Hee!) and number two, some people would just be not interested at all. No worries. I've found another outlet for that. Just rest assured that I am ON MY MISSION, people.

Mum and I went for a super speedy shop in the afternoon yesterday; Jason's parents had given me a $50 bookstore voucher for Christmas, and I wanted to look for a pair of sneakers to take to New Zealand. Want to see my purchases? What's that? You do? Fantastic! I love me some blurry photos!

It was really hard explaining to mum what I was looking for. Not joggers, I have those. Not sandals, I have those. Just something more casual. I don't usually like the slip on kind, but it was these or paying an extra $20 for laces. Umm. Yeah, we'll take these thanks.

Who's got sexy knickers? Aly has sexy knickers! There was a bra sale on, so I got some nice boring ones for New Zealand. Oh, I also replenished my Bonds supply - their Contour T-Shirt Bra is so lovely! Worth every penny. (gulp)

I bought a strange selection of books: The Odyssey (Teacher Jane, I totally blame you!), The Lamplighter - Anthony O'Neill (it was on special, and the blurb sounded good) and Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer (I have his other book coming from Amazon, it's somewhere unknown right now.) Not pictured is also the 80/20 cookbook I found - it says you should eat well 80% of the time, and indulge 20% of the time. Ha. Well, it had nice recipes.


Onto my books for today. Not those three up there, geez, I may have started reading The Odyssey, but I'm not THAT good.

Book #4: The Taking - Dean Koontz
I think I blame my momma for my love of thriller type books. She had a whole shelf full of Stephen King books which I started reading pretty young, and loved. Dean Koontz was another one I picked up and loved. I find his books really fast reading; they can sometimes be a bit repetitive though. This is my favourite of his. Absolute favourite.

I don't know why I liked it so much - maybe because it all could be so real. It's a bit War of the Worlds-ish, but not. Well, I bet that description has you running to buy a copy, haha. Imagine waking up one night to rain, but not normal rain - rain that spooks wild animals, has a strange smell and sound, that makes you uneasy. The rain is bringing something down with it, but you'll have to read to find out any more.

Book #5: Magician - Raymond E. Feist

Jason doesn't read very much, but what he does read is fantasy. He told me about the books he liked to read and I turned my nose up. A book about a magician? Come on. You can't be serious? He said to read them. So I did. In fact, I took this book on Contiki with me to Europe, for reading on the plane, on the bus, in the hotels, anywhere. In fact, once I started, I couldn't put it down.

It's a great tale, fantasy fiction yes, but really interesting. It jumps about a bit, but once you get to know the characters, it's easier to follow on. It's the first book in a series - there are a couple of others too which are good, but not as good as this one, in my opinion. If you want something different, try this.

Book #6: The Guardian - Nicholas Sparks

This isn't a life changing book or anything, but it's really quite sweet and touching. The main character's husband died suddenly, the last gift he gave to her was a dog - this animal is the focus of the story. I'm not saying a single thing more, except I possibly cried when I read this. I even possibly cried a bucketload.

But you know. It's only a possibility. (snort)

A nice, simple book I'm glad I discovered.

A Wee Catch-Up

I posted about it a couple of days ago, but I'm participating in Sassy's January Book Blogging. Keep in mind that I leave for New Zealand in about 5 days (!) so I'll be posting a couple of my favourites in each day, to keep ahead.

(Let's ignore the fact that I have enough books on my sagging bookshelf AND the wall-to-wall bookshelf downstairs that I could probably post them daily for several months, alright?)

It's mildly irritating when I Google-search these books on my list. The covers that are displayed in the USA are NOT the ones I have over here. Mine are much, much prettier. Hee. That's all.

Book #1: The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
I bought this novel really early this year, as Jason had given me a nice hefty batch of book-store vouchers for Christmas 2005. Being a bit of a history nerd, I automatically picked this book up while wandering around the store. I love the way it's written (in reflections, diary entries, etc) and it is really easy to get caught up in it. I finished this in one setting.

If you enjoy reading about legends and quests, this one is for you. It's a pretty thick book, but worth a read. The characters travel a fair amount, and you'll learn about a fair few myths along the way. There are some spooky bits, too. The Historian definitely is a book I'm glad I spotted.

Book #2: Grace Notes - Charlotte Vale Allen
I don't actually remember where I found this book. All I know is that it had an interesting blurb on the back which got me hooked. Grace is an author, as well as a recovering victim of domestic violence. She publishes books for women on the topic, and corresponds with many through email.

Without giving much information away, the story focuses on one particular character she interacts with; it's quite a tangled web. The main characters in the book are written really well, Gus and Nicky (Grace's brother and daughter, respectively) are people you'll get to know pretty quickly. And the ending? Is one you need to read.

Book #3: Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks
Ever had a book you've just re-read, over and over and over again? Yep. This is one of them for me. I bought it years ago, found it on special in a bookstore, so figured "Why not?" Flash forward to now, when I see it listed (full price, mind you!) on the Angus and Robertson Top 100 Books List. Ha! I found it first!

It's another historical novel, set in the 17th century. Anna is a lovely character, you'll find yourself really experiencing things through her eyes. It is a novel about the plague; how it ends up in this small town, how it spreads, what happens, the aftermath. Several parts of this book make me teary, but there is some hope in it also. You should read this book. No, really. Right now. Go buy a copy.

Storm Girl.

For lack of anything superfantastically interesting to blog about today, I thought I'd share some photos I took of the sky over the last couple of days.

It's been really overcast lately; and not too hot. January is usually the hottest month here in Sydney, last year on New Years Day, the temperature was practically unbearable. Because of the stormy weather lately though, it's been really nice. Now that I've mentioned it, of course we'll be hit with a heat wave in days, you watch.

I hope you're enjoying 2007, wherever you are. I've been spending mine sitting at my bedroom window with my nose pressed to the glass like a three year old. I have a fascination with storms.

Well hello there, January

What better to ring in the New Year, than with horribly horrible cramps of horridness? I suppose it's fitting that I get to start 2007 with a little whining; it just wouldn't feel right otherwise.

New Years Eve had us playing a game of Cranium (girls won, hee!) and then Scrabble (I won, hee!) which had my competitive juices all used up. We had people running over our lawn, on our patio and parked on our grass, which is typical for stupid neighbours. Said neighbours did, however, provide us with music loud enough to be heard in California, until about 1am. Or at whatever time I fell asleep. I do not know. (Their music selection was pretty good, except I lost all faith in them when they skipped With or Without You. No taste. None at all.)

Feeling very festive (!) I then watched my C.S.I. Season 4 boxset with Jase and Dad. We squished in two episodes, rescued the scared puppies from the noisy fireworky backyard, checked the rabbits hadn't been blown up, and then watched the fireworks at midnight on TV.

It's funny, I didn't feel that happy or excited watching the harbour this year. Usually the fireworks are great, but this year? I just wasn't feeling it. Am kind of glad we didn't make the awful hike getting into the city and back this year. I don't think it would have been worth it.

New Zealand: I leave in 6 days. So awesome.

I'm a bit peeved that I won't be able to participate in any of the "monthly" blogging competitions across January. I know what you're thinking. YOU'RE GOING TO NEW ZEALAND ALY YOU FREAK! GET A CLUE! Yes. Well. I've just really enjoyed having a reason to keep myself motivated. If only I were this dedicated towards being fitter.

Speaking of this, head on over to Gettin' My Kicks if you're up for a light-hearted blogging challenge. The rules? POST EVERY DAY IN JANUARY - EXCEPT FOR THE DAYS YOU CANT. Even I can manage that one. And I've also heard that two other lovely ladies have a challenge going on, that I'm disappointed to miss out on.

As for resolutions - you'll be proud. I ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast AND I just moisturised my elbows. Howzat? Yeah, yeah, got a long way to go. Have to start somewhere though!

Possibly the yummiest moisturising cream in the entire world. Planet Spa: African Shea Butter // Whipped Body Balm. Good enough to eat, and great for elbows!





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