changing lives

Yesterday I attended the RIDBC Changing Lives Luncheon with special guest speaker Michelle Bridges, in my hometown of Newcastle for an amazing charity organisation.

My BFF Grace McLean is RIDBC’s Community Relationships Manager in the Hunter which basically means she builds & sustains relationships and community partnerships with individuals and businesses in the area that help support (through charitable foundation) the core work that the
Royal Institute of Deaf & Blind Children do (inc childhood education and socialisation through face-to-face and technology-driven schooling, family support and new technology development for things like iPad Apps to support communication).

Gracie secured Michelle Bridges, my fitness mentor through the 12WBT program, as the special guest speaker. (I’d like to think that I had a tiny part to play in getting her since she dropped my details about my 12WBT journey when sending the request!!!).

Neen & I drove up from Sydney and arrived just in time for the 12.30 lunch. The weather fortunately didn’t get the “winter” memo because the sun was shining, it was 28°C and the vast glistening Pacific ocean stretched out the blue horizon in front of the Merewether Surfhouse. It was beautiful.

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Mike Rabbitt, a local TV sports reporter MC’d the event. He was commanding, genuine, engaging and funny. The CEO of RIDBC Chris Rehn gave a short overview of the organisation’s history, values and the work they do in the Australian community.

Mike Rabbitt (Far Left) with the NBN News anchors

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Gracie & CEO Chris Rehn

After settling into our meal of either salmon with beans & cauliflower mash or roast chicken with vegetables, the first speaker was a beautiful woman and mother of four (!!!) Rachel Cooper, who spoke of her son that has a hearing impairment. Their daily lives have been significantly changed for the better through the work that RIDBC do. It was an interesting and heartfelt story.

Mish Bridges talking while sitting because of her hamstring surgery last week. She’s a machine!

I’m not sure how long Mish actually spoke for but time seemed to stop. This is a woman I am influenced by every.single.day…I am following her workouts or cooking her recipes or watching her videos or reading her Facebook posts or tweets. I’ve seen her a few times; at 12WBT workouts and events and at the Fairfax office when I was doing a project there, but to be so close to her was just awesome! It’s strange though how you can know someone and they don’t have a clue who you are! She directly impacts my life and she doesn’t even know it! Also, just so I seem a tad more stalker-ish, Mish and I share the exact same birthday, which I of course told her!

Her talk was about things I’ve heard before through the program, but she’s so engaging, relaxed, funny and inspiring that it was like hearing it for the first time. Her message and her words found a renewed resonance with me. She spoke about how she detests this generation of self-hate. How women (and men) seem to relish putting themselves down. How does that behavior achieve our goals in life; whether its fitness, weightloss or career driven? It’s not OK to tell someone else that they’re a useless disgusting fat pig, so why is it acceptable to talk to ourselves like that (she was using an example of one of the 12WBT clients who had a blog site called ‘bigfatchick’). Mish went on to say our bodies are “perfect”. They react perfectly to the signals and messages that we give them.  If we are giving our bodies messages of high-sugar, over-processed, high-fat food with little exercise it will respond perfectly to that message; it will bloat, retain salt & water, breakout, pack on weight & cellulite. But if we give it messages of wholesome, natural foods with daily exercise, then it will flourish to that message with good intestines, clear skin, optimum weight.

What a perfect message!

[Michelle Bridges via

With Mish’s help, the MC announced the silent auctions, raffle and lucky door prizes which were all donated by amazing Newcastle businesses;

National Australia Bank (NAB) (major sponsor), Merewether Surfhouse (major sponsor), Hearts on Fire, Matthews Jewellers, PeopleFusion, AFRM, Carla Swimwear, Subo, Gorgeous Gowns, Newcastle Herald, Hot Yoga, Natalie Baker Styling, Collette Dinnegan Baby, Endota Spa, Kokum Hair, Sprout Dining, Hot Rock Catering, Intimo, Newcastle Cosmetic Medicine Centre, Fernwood, The Essential Ingredient, ACP Magazines, ActionCOACH, The Greater, The Good Property Girls, ABC Orthodontics, De Lorenzo, Organic Temptations & Bioline Skincare.  

The gift bags were full of vouchers & samples for the above businesses along with some recent magazines (Madison & Australian Women’s Weekly) and some pens and notepads.

I really really wanted a picture with Mish, but she was getting hounded by the gaggle of girls and her Exec Assistant “the gatekeeper” Gisi, was keeping a protective eye on her (crutches and all) so after the prizes were handed out the lunch started to wrap up with Michelle being ushered out. Fortunately for me Gracie took me along to see her out and I scored a private lift ride, a hug and a photo!!!

It was amazing to see Gracie in action; I’ve been to her office many times, but I got to see her run a meaningful event for 200+ people raising some much needed cash for a worthy cause and it was fantastic. My BFF is an amazing woman!  

I think Neen & I floated down the F3 all the way home!!!

Look out 12WBT Round 3 2012, here I come!

***

For more information on RIDBC visit their Facebook page [here].

(All pictures except those sources mentioned otherwise are taken by moi aka Melissa Williams with my htc phone.)

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tokoriki | fiji | tropical paradise

view across the main pool

The sun slipped behind the horizon, and the shimmering flat, silver-blue ocean stretched into the distance.

Nine hours earlier our third day at Tokoriki began with the awareness of waves gently lapping, birds chirping and geckos calling.

Waking up in your own private beach bure, meters from the shore is one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced in my 31 years on this blue planet.

waking up is bliss

The hammock out front ever-so-slightly sways invitingly as we awaken and look outside into the greens and blues of this tropical wonderland that is this small amazing island.

hammock heaven

As I write this, the first stars of the cloudless sky are twinkling and geckos are calling; clicking back and forth. In the distance I can hear Jay and the others laughing and joking in their “Fiji versus The World” volleyball match.

….I can see the ocean glistening in my enclosed and private outdoor shower as it washes away whatever sleep remains, and the coconut body wash cleanses and revitalises my sun-soaked skin.

sunrise in paradise

Today, breakfast is Continental; island made bread toasted with jam & vegemite, assortment of fresh fruits including the sweetest and juiciest pineapple, fresh plumpest pink papaya and sweet heavy watermelon. This morning Kara is the barista and the flat-whites allows us a semblance of normality. Today’s fresh-baked muffins are caramelised pineapple which are almost as good as yesterday’s ripe banana ones.

After brekkie, the activity desk calls, with a booking to Monuriki Island (where Tom Hanks spent 3 months filming Cast Away) for the afternoon. We pick our kayaks for a morning paddle/snorkelling adventure; they are glass bottomed which makes it difficult to paddle in a straight line because your busy ‘wowing’ at all the fish and coral below. We paddle up and down the length of the property (about a kilometre or two) before tying them up to a buoy a ways off-shore for some snorkelling on the reef. We see a lot of beautiful tropical fish in an array of colours, but the coolest is the discovery of a crevasse near the drop-off, which is home to a very large groper and a school of black dart. We also see garfish and silver trumpet fish, but my favourite are the rainbow wrasse which like to suck up sand and then swim around spitting it out in little clouds.

We climb back into our kayaks (much flailing of limbs, bums in the air and giggling ensues) and paddle around the headland with ease due to the flat water and little wind. Jay dubs me Fijian Princess as he lets me tie my boat to his and drags me in his wake. I lay back, my hands dragging in the cool water as the sun beats down prickling my skin with its heat; there is almost nothing that makes me happier.

We have a quick game of poolside chess on the enlarged hand-carved wooden board before a lunch of coconut fish (for me), and chicken quesadillas (for Jay). Later we make our way to the boat ramp for our trip to Monuriki 30 minutes by boat away, where we snorkel for the rest of the afternoon. The island is small, isolated and beautiful, which made it perfect for the filming of Cast Away. Someone has even placed a Wilson in the tree line! When we return, it’s only an hour or so from sunset, so we spend it in our hammock with a bottle of Moët Rośe. It would have been perfect with a cheese platter, but we make do with a box of BBQ Shapes!


After the volleyball match, it’s time for happy hour in the bar (island singing, cocktails and catching up with other guests) before dinner.

Tomorrow we go deep-sea fishing for Spanish mackerel and yellow fin tuna (fingers crossed) with another young Aussie couple, Matt & Sarah, from QLD we’ve mutually befriended.

Island time on this little patch of paradise in the middle of the Pacific is certainly agreeing with me.

Melly at home indeed!

*****

Our total of 9 days/nights spent on Tokoriki were truly joyful. The staff are so lovely and friendly, even more so because they have a kinship with Jay because he’s Samoan. They treat us like family and we truly make friends; spending each night after dinner mucking around, joking, laughing, drinking kava, playing guitar and singing well into the night. There are always other guests with us, but when they go to bed we remain and as the staff finish their jobs for the night, they join in to drink kava (the traditional drink with relaxes the body but doesn’t have an intoxicating effect). Jay discovered a kindred soul with Vili, the 22 year old voice of an angel band member and activities guy. We would run into him around the property and he’d clamour up a palm tree to fetch fresh coconuts then we’d sit on the ground and he’d crack them open so we could drink the sweet juice and eat the flesh. They would sit for hours at night teaching each other songs on the guitar and he was genuinely sad when it was time for us to leave. We’ve since become friends on Facebook and have promised to keep in touch. He was still waving from shore when we motored out to meet the Ferry as we were leaving. Sometimes you meet people who truly have a shining light inside them and a joyful soul. Vili is definitely one of these people.

We do a few day trips to other reefs/islands – the stand out being the trip to The Sacred Islands which where were ancient Islanders first landed in Fiji. It is a heritage area so no permanent dwellings; just powder-soft white sand beaches, hermit crabs, turquoise water and the best snorkelling we’ve done so far with coloured coral, purple starfish, lots of tropical fish and the elusive giant clams. Vili and Api our guides are knowledgeable and our group is small (Alex & Joela, a newlywed couple from New York and Matt & Sal (Sarah) our new friends from QLD) so we don’t get in each other’s way and happily chat, share snorkelling stories and drink beers on the boat in the sun on our way back.

There is only one restaurant in which you eat all your meals, but the lunch/dinner menus change daily, and twice a week they have themed nights – the best being the traditional Fijian Lovo night (like a Umu or Hangi) where all the food is cooked in the ground on hot rocks/coals and wrapped in banana/taro leaves. It is a buffet-style feast under the stars, consisting of Lovo cooked coconut fish, lamb on the bone, pork roast, rice, fresh salads and Kokonda (which is the regular staple menu item of mackerel marinated overnight in lime juice in a cold soup of coconut milk, lime and island seasoning). All the food is really good; lots of fish and curries (being the Indian influence in the islands) and eating big meals 3 times a day does weigh on you (literally) towards the end, but it’s holidays so we’ll deal with the fallout when we get back!

Our room was island luxury heaven! Natural wood furniture, with woven rope detailing, thatched palm roof, white crisp linen on a four-poster bed made of driftwood, coconut toiletries, pebbled outdoor shower, cabana day bed, hammock, and infinity plunge pool. It was so wonderful and refreshing not to have a TV or phones. When you get bored you read or nap or snuggle or look for shells or swing in the hammock with a drink in hand.


Each day, we’d sit in our private infinity pool and watch the large school of white bait being traumatised by three little baby reef sharks. One even snuck up and scared Jay while he was wading knee deep on the shore. We saw their mummy when we were out snorkelling at the drop-off, our kayaks tethered to the ocean buoy. That made us slightly nervous, but I think they’re more scared of us than we are of them. The black tip reef sharks seem inquisitive and the resort staff weren’t too concerned when we told them about it.

Our foray into the depths of off-shore fishing was more fun than productive. We caught just shy of a dozen “scat” which are smallish Mackerel which were used as bait for the bigger fish, most of which got away… we did however catch a lovely sized Coral “Moon-tail” Trout which was so beautiful in its bright fuchsia pinks and electric yellows that Sal and I want to throw it back. Almost. The kitchen cooked it up for us at lunchtime the next day with chips, salad and salsa and it was divine!


Josua gave me private basket weaving lessons which we’d do by the diving pool (where guests getting their SCUBA licenses would train). He is soooo talented and amazing. (I am now armed and ready to wow Jay’s mum and show how the Fijian’s do it!) Along with Vili and Ramsey, Josua was my favourite on the island.

basket weaving with the resident "Bob Marley" - Josua

In all, our 10 days in Fiji were amazing. Calming. Soul restoring. Relaxing. Indulgent. Worth it.

A special mention goes to Josua, Ramsey, Vili, Moses, Kara, Lave, Sol, Joe, Penone, Fabi, Vili, RaRa, Api, Vee, Priti, Sam, Seva & Jitin. They were so lovely and the resort mantra “Arrive as a visitor, leave as a friend” certainly rings true because of them.


It was sad to leave the shores of Tokoriki Island, but we will one day return. We both certainly recommend you visit if you can. And don’t forget the duty free! I am now the proud owner of two bottles of Moët, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, a box of KitKats and a bottle of Dolce & Gabbana The One Rose perfume.

Vinaka Vaka levu! Sota tale.

the following are some local words and phrases we picked up:

  • Vinaka Vaka levu (thankyou very much) pronounced vee-nah-ka vah-ka lay-vu
  • Dua tale mada na bia (one more beer please) pronounced do-ah tah-lay na bee-ah mandah
  • Sota tale (see you later) pronounced soha-ta ta-lay
  • Sega na lega (no worries) pronounced senga na lenga
  • Kerekere (please)
  • Sa kuca (how are you?) pronounced sa kutha
  • Ni sa yandra (good morning)
  • io (yes) pronounced ee-o
  • seqa (no) pronounced senga
  • kana (eat)
  • gunu (drink) pronounced goo noo
  • Moce mada (goodbye) pronounced moe-they manda

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Last night Jay & I went to the Australian movie premier of Prince of Persia; Sands of Time.

We were the first public audience in the world to see the film!  Afterwards, they had a live satellite link-up to the actors in The Dorchester Hotel in London, 6 hours before they were to attend the World Premier.  Attending the live hook-up were producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Mike Newell and actors Sir Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton and Jake Gyllenhaal.

KerryAnne’s movie guy (can’t remember his name, but he was very funny and very gay) hosted the live interview with questions from audience winners, like;
Q)  “How did you buff up for the role”,
A) from Jake: worked out 4 hours a day,  days a week for 6 months….
Q) “Were there any insect mishaps when filming in Morocco”,
A) Gemma relayed a funny story about a nest of scorpions that travelled home to London with them in her costume underwear…
Q) “Was there extra pressure given the movie is based on a well-loved game”
A) Jake said that there was, and he played the game incessantly with his stunt team so that they could practice the stunts on the video game before trying it IRL

There were other questions, but I was too enamoured to remember!

Gyllenhaal’s answers were really funny, he seems like he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He just moved up in my list of favourite Hollywood people!

Jake and Gemma Arterton (English girl, also in ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘Quantum of Solace’) looked totally hot, and if anything, see the film just to see Jake half-shirtless, sweaty and sandy!

Here are some pics