28 January, 2014

Straya Day Mate

Australia Day means different things for different people. Lately it seems to have a lot of political and ‘politically correct’ overtones. It’s a complex issue, but I’m not really going to get into it. For me Australia Day is not about celebrating the day the British arrived in Australia, it’s for celebrating all the great things about our country and the people that live in it. Our glorious weather, our safety and freedoms, our quality of life, standard of living, clean drinking water, readily available nutritious food, Aussie delicacies like Lamingtons, Minties and Pavlova (don’t start that debate) and of course the wonderful people that we breed here. That would be my friends. So we spent the day surrounded by those we love, having a few beers, enjoying the sunshine, being idiots and having a laugh at ourselves. Very Aussie if you ask me. Oh and did I mention there was a slip n slide?
 

I went for the Aussie ‘beach babe’ look which was actually quite terrifying. Not me at all, but a great laugh. The Man went as Captain Australia, others were Aunty Jack, Dawn Fraser and Schapelle Corby – all men and all very tongue in cheek! The rest were of course, all just versions of ‘true blue’ Aussies. We shared beers and laughs with our mates, not to mention a ripper barbie. Couldn’t get much more ‘straya than that. Except it could, we all joined in a rousing rendition of the national anthem before the slip n slide costume competition got underway. It was a riot watching everyone go down, some interesting techniques, including mine which seemed to involved going arse over,
bashing my head on the ground and then rolling sideways all the way down the hill. I am so graceful.
 
 
Aunty Jack came third and one a warm West Coast Cooler which he then proceeded to scull. Second place went to Dan for an epic nudie run that took him all the way to the next door neighbour’s front door, he won a warm VB which is chugged half of and then poured the rest over his head. First place went to a very deserving Schapelle Corby who had a rather bumpy boogie board ride down. He was honoured with a warm tallie of Fosters which he almost finished, chugging it all in one go. It was the best Australia Day ever and so much fun, although we were all very sore the next day. Who knew the muscles you punished when tearing down a slip n slide!?
 

It was the perfect way to be thankful for the wonderful lifestyle we have in this country. We’re not called the ‘Lucky Country’ for nothing, and it got me thinking about how lucky we really are. The opportunities we have. The connections I’ve made because of all of that. In fact, the party was held by one of the loveliest couples I’ve ever met. It’s brilliant really, originally the lovely lady was a follower of this blog who always brought a smile to my face with her kind words and pictures of her pug. I finally got to meet her and we totally hit it off. Since then we’ve become great friends and get to hang out at parties. When I woke up on Monday, in the comfy bed her and her hubby had so kindly provided for us, I had a moment where I was kind of amazed that only 6 months ago, I’d only ever spoken to her on social media and now I was waking up in a bed at her house, so very well looked after. It’s pretty cool huh?
 
 
THAT is what Australia Day is about to me. To me we are a land of kindness and opportunity. It’s yours if you want to take it.

14 January, 2014

Book Review + Giveaway: Motor Dolls

Just before Christmas I received a little present in the mail, a copy of a new novel Motor Dolls by NBC photojournalist Lori Bentley Law. I was very excited to get my hands on it before it was actually available in Australia and was really looking forward to reading it over my holidays. For her first foray into novel writing, it's safe to say I'm impressed with Lori's work.
 
Set against the subculture of classic cars, motorcycles, tattoos, and vintage fashion, Motor Dolls takes the reader on a thrilling, girl-powered ride in search of life’s passions, featuring Jeda, a graphic artist full of bad-assery, and Benny, a photographer seeking her Perfect Moment on film. Fasten your seatbelts for this thrilling adventure novel involving hot rods, motorcycles, a daredevil girl with no fear of death, and a photographer who finds her true passion chronicling the madness on film. I mean, what's not to love!?
 
The blurb on the back reads:
 
A prophecy shared by a stranger on the day of her grandmother’s death pushes Jeda to live like there’s no tomorrow, chasing one outrageous stunt after another, all instigated by mysterious messages from an unknown source. But when the danger escalates, she begins to question the motive behind it all: Is she simply nuts? Or is some mysterious man in gray really trying to drive her to her death?
 
In her search for answers, Jeda lets Benny in on the secret, and since Benny is at a crossroads—finish her Masters in Geology? or drop out of school to pursue her true passion? —she agrees to help. As Benny documents the madness of Jeda’s life on film—like driving in a Blindfolded Death Race and luging downhill on a skateboard with no brakes—they learn the truth behind the enigmatic man in gray; a truth that tests the foundations of Jeda’s family and of their friendship. 
------

Hoowee! I can assure you this book is as much fun as it sounds. It was the perfect read for over my holidays, an easy and enjoyable read. Fast-paced with plenty of action to keep things interesting. It's easy to see this book was written by a woman who knows her way around the garage and with a knack for creating believable characters, even in unbelievable situations. Little quirks make the characters seem very real, like someone you know or could easily know.
 
There are lots of zinging one liners that are as amusing as they are true. My favourite "So much for hiding her emotions. Jeda was seriously losing her touch. She used to be able to fake joy better than a second-place pin up queen." (p. 93) HA!! There's also beautiful descriptions of girls and their cars or riding their motorbikes at top speed to clear their heads. Like this lovely moment when Benny and Jeda met.
 
"At the end of the small parking lot, under the flickering glow of the streetlights sat Bondorella and Stella, Benny's Ford truck and Jeda's Buick respectively - the things that had bonded them from the start. They'd met at a car show featuring a priest who blessed demons out of cars. While waiting for him to douse her Buick's cranky carb with holy water, Jeda felt the familiar tingle on her neck - but it was different somehow. When she turned to look, she found a camera-wielding, vintage-dressed girl putting her in the cross hairs of a lens. Jeda had pushed the camera aside in a none-to-gentle way. Focus on the pin-ups, not me. I'm here for the cars." "Clearly. I can tell by the way you study the details. It's a rare sight I wanted to capture, that's all. The beautiful love between a girl and her car". Jeda stared at her, perplexed. She'd nailed it. With every passing day, Jeda loved her Buick more, not just because it was Gran's. She loved the portholes on the fenders and the sporting elegance of the personal coupe, but most of all she loved the patina age had bestowed on the aqua and gray paint. She loved the car so much she had 'SPECIAL' tattooed around her forearm, lettered exactly like the emblem, the first tattoo she'd gotten in honor of both Gran and her eighteenth birthday." (p. 38)
 
There's lots of fun to be had on this little adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat while wishing you were also taking part in the stunts. However I did have a bit of a love hate relationship with Jeda and Benny at times. They're certainly a representation of both parts of ourselves, the part that wants to live wild and carefree and the part that feels pressure to be responsible and make other people happy. They learn from each other and kind of balance each other out, although at times I was a little frustrated by their lack of communication and rapid mood swings - surely I was never like that in my late teens/early twenties. Ahem. Still, it's a great writer who can make you feel so conflicted about characters who have almost become friends.
 
All my years reading crime novels had me trying to solve the mystery but it really did keep me guessing to the end - something I find rare these days, but highly enjoyable. Bad-ass babes chasing their dreams, racing cars, building motorbikes, meeting boys, struggling to come to grips with family secrets and a mysterious man in gray, all while trying to save an important and unlikely friendship that's certainly put to the test. This book has it all! I'll leave you with this passage, another favourite that makes me feel so calm and good when I read it.
 
"The colossally frustrating last few days fuelled Benny to kick-start her Triumph, something that usually took forever and even then, it sometimes still didn't start - the downside of a classic bike. But right now venting all that frustration on the kick lever felt pretty darned good. Once the bike warmed up, she strapped on her helmet and goggles, slid into her 1940s horsehide jacket, and took off in the dim morning light. The asphalt rushed by in a blur, the wind pushing against her body, the damp morning air forming a layer of moisture on her face. The longer she was on the bike, the more the garbage cluttering her head began to fall away. Funny how even the worst days could be calmed by a motorcycle ride - especially this time of morning when the freeways cruised at more than a crawl. The soothing vibration of the old twin brought her a much-needed sense of peace".
 
Lori on the tailgate of her '48 Ford Truck Bondorella
 

About The Author

An award winning television news photojournalist for NBC in Los Angeles, Lori has travelled around the globe, and had a front row seat to some of the most amazing and tragic events happening in our world today. Outside of news, she's also had the pleasure of working as principal photographer on several episodes of the half hour weekly show Travel Cafe, shooting in Fiji, Hong Kong, and Kauai, to name a few. She also completed a documentary on nationally renowned artist, Milford Zornes—one of the coolest human beings she's ever met. 
 
Motor Dolls is her first published novel, with four other novels soon to follow. She lives in Southern California with her best feller, a whole bunch of misfit motorcycles, and of course, her ’48 Ford Truck, Bondorella.
 

WIN!

You can pick up a copy Motor Dolls here, however because Lori is so kick-ass she's given me an extra copy to giveaway to one lucky reader! To win, leave a comment on this post telling me your most outrageous automotive stunt. Winner will be the answer that impresses or amuses me the most. My decision is final and no discussion will be entered into. Entries close midnight 28 January 2014. Please ensure you leave an email address I can contact you on in case you are the winner! 
 

07 January, 2014

2014: Year of the Ass

Year of kicking ass that is! I’ve started this year off with a bang and I have to say I’m mighty pleased. Although I’ve let myself go a little over the holidays, I’m not beating myself up about it and I’m jumping head first into making this year amazing, making it everything I want it to be. Because after all, ultimately that is up to me. Which is why I kept my goals for this year simple, realistic, achievable and hugely beneficial with a little fun thrown in too. And so I’ve well and truly grabbed this year by the horns, and it’s only the first week in!

Last year was a pretty great year, there’s no denying that. I got to travel with work and I went on my first big overseas holiday and heck, a month in the US was pretty damn amazing! But because I loved it so much I wanted to go back, a new event and some new places to visit. But that meant proving to myself it wasn’t a fluke the first time around. Lately I had been starting to worry that maybe it was. Despite all my planning, I was beginning to worry if I’d be able to afford it. Why?

Naughty me had no budget. Just a vague idea of the bills that would be direct debited out of my account and the knowledge that a regular pay would be deposited into that account. Everything else in between was a haze of overspending on the weekends and buying things I like but don’t really need. Time to reign it in. One of my biggest goals this year is to become debt-free (excluding my HECS debt). The good news is that by the end of March I will own my car outright. No more Mr Bank, allll mine! That is super exciting to me, and will also free up a large chunk of funds every month to put towards paying off my debt AND saving for another big holiday to the US. Not too shabby!

Which brings me to my next goal, getting back to the US. Totally achievable! Especially since I sat down on the weekend and did up a budget. There is not a doubt in my mind that by the end of this year I will have gone back to the US for another big holiday AND have paid off all my other debts. I just have to stay disciplined. Which shouldn’t be too hard as long as I stick to my budget, which I’ve got pinned up on my wall to keep me on track and motivated. My US trip is planned for the beginning of August which is only 7 months away! I know it will go quickly and it will be a brilliant reward after being so strict with myself for several months. Which isn’t to say I won’t be knuckling down when I get home either.

That brings me to my next goal. A place of my own. While I’m not ready to buy anything, I’ve been living in share accommodation for about 4 years now and while it hasn’t exactly been the stuff of nightmares, it is starting to get on my nerves a little. I’m at a stage in my life where I want my own space, to do what I want when I want and not have to worry about anyone else. Not to mention, I just can’t wait to decorate my own little place. Ah, bliss! So that’s my final goal for 2014, to if not actually have my own place by the end of the year to at least be ready to move in the new year. Can. Not. Wait!

It’s only my second day back to work but already things feel great. I see good things on the horizon in all aspects of my life this year. Including starting things off right with a bit of a post-holiday detox. Nothing too crazy, just getting back into my exercise and eating right. My plan involves appropriate portion sizes, frequent meals/snacks, drinking lots of water and eating less processed crap and more natural foods. So far my daily meal plan features 2 slices of Vegemite toast for breakfast, a mid-morning snack of watermelon, a lunch of curry vege patty (yum!) and salad (including beans, toasted pine nuts, cucumber and other yummy things), an afternoon snack of carrot sticks and hummus (yum!) and a dinner of hoisin chicken kebabs and salad – my favourite! No suffering to see here, just good healthy eating and already I feel great!

This year is all about taking control of my life and actively pursuing my goals more than ever before. No negativity, no excuses, no doubting. If I’ve got a problem, I’ll solve it (check out my hook while the DJ revolves it) HA!

What do you think this year has in store for you?