Tuesday, 10 November 2015

SHARK TANK EXPERIENCE

Please don't be disappointed as this is not an expose about any real life experience in a shark tank with actual swimming sharks. We've been asked to complete a blog entry with our notes from a group presentation this morning in class where we presented our tourism business - the concept, our product, how we plan to market and what's on the website. Like the show 'Shark Tank'.

I introduced our group business and explained the genesis of the business idea. We are filling a gap in the tourism offerings in Brisbane by offering a matching set of simple low-impact tours. I explained the visual merchandising idea that is the power or the lure of the 'matching set' which our brochures will use - matching theme, similar names etc. Then I handed on to Katie, Dannielle, Shuto and Pinar. It went well and we ended up winning, but unlike Shark Tank, there's no promise of any cash funding! Oh well, we did know this was all a fictitious exercise. But oh, so very fun (really, I jest?). Thanks Sabine - I did enjoy it!

This morning was also a mini-graduation for the end of the semester and completion of the work for Sabine's subject (of which this blog has been a part). And so we had a party with lots of crazy unhealthy food. I made caramel slice and boy, was it ever a hit. Here's a small taster of my homemade treat that I am betting you so wish you could actually taste.


Monday, 9 November 2015

THE DYING ART OF CAKE DECORATING

Our lovely daughter had a 16th birthday party yesterday, complete with a fruity tropical theme, light drizzly rain that wasn't really in keeping with the bubbliness of the 'party customers' personalities (or the theme), and as always, a home-made and most wondrous birthday cake. If our kids have a home party, then I will always make a celebration cake. We have a range of well-thumbed Women's Weekly Birthday Cake cookbooks, with various scribbled notations indicating for which child and which age or year each cake was made.

I know some other mums who have always coughed up the home-made special and continue to do so, but I do believe that sadly, we are a dying breed. Every year, when the mums and dads come to drop off or pick up from one of our parties, the comments they give on my cake works of art astound me. You would think I had re-created the Mona Lisa. You know, birthday cakes are not actually that hard to do. Once you have a reliable cake mix, you just stick with it. You have to be able to cut and shape it without excessive crumbling, and you just need to make the cake the day before, so it's not too 'fresh'. Then the design, if it's a Women's Weekly option, is usually well-described, with the steps to creating all explained with pictures. It's a 'follow the words and pictures' type exercise. Seriously people, how hard can that be?

Simple it sounds, and pretty simple it usually is, but time-consuming it can be too. Just allow several hours alone in the kitchen in the morning before the party kicks off. Never start a party before 11am, and all will be ready in time!

I wish I had kept a gallery of my cake works of art in a more easily locatable place, because it would be so cool to be able to pull them all up at once to really wow the party-comers. But, for you, I will dig out a few from iPhoto. I am known far and wide for 'awesome' icing so drool away, feel free to comment, and be inspired to step up to the plate next year when your kids ask for a 'special' cake. I look back on these and am so glad I put the effort in.











Wednesday, 28 October 2015

FINDING THE REAL SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

Christmas means something different to everyone, but every time decorations get unboxed and they start lining the department store shelves in September, or even earlier in late August, I am torn between excitement and disgust. Excitement, because in recent years, we have as a family, really discovered the joy of spending time together doing something we all love. But the disgust with the commercialism and the loss of what Christmas should mean always hits me. I'm not loving the inundation of toy catalogues, the massive expense of all those toys, the relentless nagging from kids about what they really think they 'must' have, the pressure of just how much should be spent on each person, and all the warnings from the financial advisers about not ending up with a massive credit card debt in January. Is all this spending really in the spirit of Christmas?

In the past when our kids were small, we'd have ridiculous piles of presents under the tree for each child, and Christmas day itself was actually quite embarrassing to watch the grandparents faces as our children just kept unwrapping and unwrapping more and more all day long. It was so obvious that the number of presents was insane. There is no other word for it. We had to make a change. And that change we found a few years ago.

The change for us is being in Sun Peaks in Canada. We have been going to ski since our youngest was 5, not every year, but in the past few years, I have to admit, we have been going for Christmas every year. When we first made the trip we made sure our kids knew 'this trip is Christmas'. The holiday is our gift. We no longer do multiple presents and no-one misses them, no-one expects them. We have our family holiday, we have each other and we are much happier with the simplicity than we ever were with all the multitude of presents. Santa still visits of course, with just one small gift for each of our kids, but we always take a new big jigsaw puzzle as a family present. Another thing we can work on together.

I tell you, kids don't need the commercialism that we're sold here in Australia. And I'm sure you don't have to go to Canada to find this either. But it's where we've learnt it. And what better place than in the snow to rediscover the joys of family togetherness and having fun doing things we all like together. It's moving away from normal home life, chores and regularity and rediscovering family roots. Christmas at Sun Peaks is 'the white Christmas' that makes all the carols and songs make sense. The beauty of Sun Peaks in winter is incredible.  There are very few shops in the ski through main 'street', and it's so refreshing for me to be completely isolated from all shopping. Selfishly, I'd like to keep just how awesome it is under wraps, so it remains just as it's been for us, but I'd also like to share Sun Peaks' awesomeness with you, because if you get there for Christmas, you too may have the same revelation about the true spirit of Christmas that we have had. And the more people who do, the better the world will be. Christmas is about family time, sharing our time together, not about buying expensive gifts and one-upmanship, Boxing Day sales and credit card overload. Find it, people, in Sun Peaks if you have the opportunity to get there.











Saturday, 24 October 2015

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION

We are in the throws of the Christmas holiday or summer holiday job search for the returned home uni student son. So while he's trying to track down pretty much any summer job, I have been reflecting on holiday jobs of my past, both good and less so. Which has brought me to thinking and reminiscing about a fabulous year I had on a working holiday in Vancouver in the mid 90s. The job was a means to an end. We only wanted to ski, and ski a lot we did that year. So much did we want to ski, that with the teeny tiny wages we earned, it was being able to afford to eat that lost out to being able to ski. Priorities huh?!

That short-term job was in a killer beautiful location in West Vancouver, right on the harbour in the little village style hamlet of Ambleside. I sold high end French and Spanish children's shoes. They were the most lovely shoes for kids I have ever seen, and I have craved the likes of them ever since. Although my days were dull, I was the only staff member there, my few and far between moments of actually fitting and selling the shoes were fun. Time ticked by very slowly, but I decided to join the local library and it was in that year that I read all the north american classics. I think I read the entire John Updike shelf from the West Van library that year. I also took out every cookbook for dinners on a budget.

Ambleside is picture perfect with a seawall running along the harbour's edge, making about a 20 minute walk to the little beach village of Dundarave. Walking there and back, I'm guessing it's a 6km walk that is so picturesque - views across to the classic lines of the Lion's Gate Bridge, which joins the north shore to downtown Vancouver through Stanley Park. In summer, the harbour welcomes and sees off cruise ships most days, and it'll stop you every time to watch those giant ships sail under the Lion's Gate Bridge as the sun is setting. Vancouver is the postcard perfect city - snow-capped mountains, harbour, boats, seaplanes, Stanley Park, driftwood logs, and pebbly beaches. Strap on the the sneakers and take to the West Van seawall when you make it to Vancouver, you may see a bald eagle or a sea otter or two. You most certainly will not be disappointed with the walk or the vistas. And stop by in Ambleside and have a look around. Can you not see why I had the gold medal winning location for that shoe shop sales job? I was being paid to spend my time reading the classics in the most beautiful little spot on the north shore.  And I got to ski Whistler on weekdays in that epic early season that November back in 1994 without any crowds.You most definitely can't do that anymore. 

But you can go see Ambleside and Dundarave, and you absolutely must.



Wednesday, 21 October 2015

DR SUESS VS NON-POET

How on earth do you compare the talents of a master like Dr Suess to a non-poet like myself? The quality and life direction you can absorb by reading a Dr Seuss gem like 'Oh, the places you'll go'! Nothing compares to Dr Suess. I've gleaned so much positivity from quotes out of this book, from "Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!" to the final page, "So....be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Allen O'Shea, you're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So.....get on your way!"

My sad effort at creativity in class today, goes like this, with credit to Dr Suess for its similarity of style, but I'm sure he wouldn't thank me for that, or even agree to any style similarity. For your information, we were asked to have fun with our writing, and using our dream goal that we wrote in last week's class, create a piece of poetry. Be kind, we only had 20 minutes to pull together our creative masterpieces.

Come on, get going,
It's time to use it.
Use what, you ask?
Well, before you lose it,
And get so damn old.
There'll be no point,
Go now...and write some gold.

I think Dr Suess's place on the kids shelves is very safe for many years to come. There's no threat from this little black duck.

"You have brains in your head, You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose." Yes, Dr Suess I have brains in my head, and I am steering myself in the direction I choose. But poetry, I will leave to you.


Friday, 16 October 2015

MASTER OF HONEY JUMBLES

I gotta punch out another blog entry almost immediately after publishing the last one - this has never happened before. But what I have to share is so good you absolutely must see it right away. The very same younger daughter who so bravely took on the 800m yesterday, has turned out a batch of honey jumbles to give your left arm for. The breadth of her talents never ceases to amaze! For the uninitiated, the honey jumble is a gingery spice flavoured biscuit, a little like gingerbread, but shaped like a rounded corner rectangle, not as flat as gingerbread, and iced with pink or white royal icing. You get a good one, and trust me, you will return to the source again and again and again.

Come in close, and drool over these little beauties!


SPORTING CHANCES AND SUNBURN

Yesterday I experienced a glorious Brisbane spring day, being spectator at one of the most exciting and eagerly anticipated dates on the girls' schools sporting calendar - the QGSSSA Athletics at the stadium in Brisbane's south west, still known to most people as the QEII stadium, but now officially called QSAC (Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre). It's where Brisbane hosted the Commonwealth Games track and field events back in 1982.

The day was hot and sunny and shade is at a premium out there, so needless to say, after watching the stellar high jumpers in the sun for an hour and a half, I ended the day with a blazing case of sunburn - scarlet neckline and arms, and pink forehead and nose. Today I just feel rather stupid.

10 senior schools represented - all girls in the competition. It was a very tough gig to place out there yesterday, let me tell you. The talent we have in south east Queensland with sprinters, long distance runners, high jumpers whose names most certainly will be known at national levels in the years to come, hurdlers, the list goes on. It was a joy to be watching the talent, the determination and the standard that they brought to the track. I love these events - it makes you feel physical and virtuous just watching the activity. It actually gives me hope that all is not lost against the battle with obesity and our evergrowing fatness problem due to the sedentary lives we lead.

My own daughters excelled and I couldn't be any prouder of them. The big one is a jumper and took out the long jump and slotted into 2nd in the high jump, only on a count back. She cleared 154cm and only missed 157 by the tiniest smidge.  The high jump event is just amazing to watch, it's such a great show, with a big beginning, lots of eager competitors front up, and as they go, you feel their disappointment if they knock the bar and their exhilaration when they realise it's still in position as they hit the mat. I just want them all to get over that bar. It's such a specific event, you have to have a certain shape, a special run, enough speed, plenty of bounce and such faith in your own abilities, otherwise you'd just run straight past the bar and run away to hide under the stands. The show ends with only 2 competitors, and when it's done I always wish there was more - it's my favourite event.

The little daughter, at her first big one of these comps, was super nervous and was given the unenviable task of running the 800m. Smallest girl in the school team and smallest girl at the start line. Small but mighty! After 700m slogging along, she accelerated to fly down the last 100m, overtaking 2 girls before the line. Wow! She was totally spent from that and the emotions and tears flowed for a full twenty minutes after, but today (after a good sleep) she knows she could've given absolutely nothing more, she left it all out there on the track, and she is so so very proud of herself.

Worth the sunburn? Yes, absolutely to be there for these special events is priceless. Just someone remind me next time - HAT, UMBRELLA, SUNSCREEN.



PERCENTAGE CUP WINNERS
GO ST AIDAN'S!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

HAVING WHAT IT TAKES?

Over breakfast every morning for the past few weeks I have been reading a travel story and I mean a different one every day. It's been a journey of the senses with each and every bowl of muesli, and an exercise in containing my feelings of jealousy. Even though I'm loving the concept of me doing this kind of writing too, I've been getting more and more certain that other people are far better at travel writing than I will ever be. I have to try hard to believe I could actually do it anywhere near as well as the writer of this particular collection of stories. Her name is Lee Mylne and she's probably going to be coming in to our TAFE course to talk to us next month.

A life of journalism has lead her to where she now is with her writing. She's contributed to a bunch of books and travel guides, and she relates many of her travel stories in her blog 'A Glass Half Full', and that's also the name of her book that I've been reading over my brekky. So it comes without saying, she can write with eloquence. For me, the stories uncover her experiences so very well. It's not just the details - the what of the world she is seeing, the colours etc. But it's also the insight into how a place might make you feel, the people who touched her thoughts and heart while she's been out and about on her travels. To read her work feels like a little snapshot of her life on the road or on the journey, not always just the glossy bits, not only a 'travel brochure picture', but the less glorious parts of a journey, and even some bits that make you feel distinctly uncomfortable. I could almost feel the thicker air and unspoken feelings of sadness when a fellow passenger on her cruising trip in the Kimberley region of Western Australia passed away during the cruise. Her way of drawing the reader in to the journey is so much more than just an account of what happened or a facts list. You almost feel like you've been riding on the shoulder straps of her day pack. I really do appreciate that it's a skill honed over the years, but I also believe some of this ability is just a natural thing she's been blessed to have been born with.

I am left wondering again, was I born with enough natural ability to string the words together, and just how much do I need to practise in order to come close to the 'real thing'?

Thursday, 8 October 2015

BRISBANE BOXES OF ART

Many visitors to Brisbane will have noticed and no doubt, will have been impressed by the cool and unique urban art project that's been alive in our city for quite a number of years now. Brisbane residents are allowed to apply to paint traffic signal boxes as part of the Urban Smart Projects initiative. So all around the city, instead of plain and often graffittied blue-grey signal boxes, the sunny sub-tropical city of Brisbane sports brightly painted and original works of art.

Each box is hand-painted by a Brissie local and often reflects or is inspired by the local environment or community around it. This fabulous idea, funded by the Brisbane City Council, is based on the idea that painted boxes, showcasing cool, funky and real artwork, are way less likely to be tagged.

While it's clearly an 'in demand' opportunity, and there are well over 900 of them in Brisbane, it's funny, because there's still an element of mystery about how it all happens and where the art comes from. People love these boxes and I've heard of a few people who keep photos of all the ones they really love when they drive by them. The idea is spreading around now, and Ipswich has taken it on, and at least a few municipalities in Melbourne and also in Sydney have tried it out. But, I see it as a Brisbane thing, and I think Brissie should lay claim because I've been keeping an eye on the art since around 2007, when my clever husband decided to do his first box. Brisbane has stuck with this project, making it their own, the boxes are kept in good shape, but any old weathered ones get routinely replaced with new artworks, and everything stays fresh. You could say it's like a gallery that changes its works and has exhibitions. The idea hasn't got stale, which is great. 

The multi-talented husband has now completed 4 boxes with the most recent, just done this past weekend. He's timed his work amazingly well because there are bus shelters all over the city, sporting movie release posters for The Martian as well, so it kind of looks like he's super in touch and on topic. Actually, just coincidence, albeit a rather cool one.

Immerse, enjoy and savour art and originality, in all its forms.






Wednesday, 7 October 2015

TYING UP LOOSE ENDS

The New York sojourn over, daughter returned to the nest, safely but definitely more worldly, I must now shift my writing to the other item which must be put to bed, and that is the closure of events for World Skills 2015. Perhaps you may recall, I did mention the World Skills competition event that we, as TAFE tourism students, were leading and staging. Well, it has indeed happened, successfully, and is done and dusted for this year. Today we debriefed in class, how well we did on the day, what was great and what not so fancy about our organisation. On balance, with some minor tweaks here and there, the day went as well as was possible. It seems the powers to be at TAFE thought we had achieved success, and my view of the competitors happiness levels is that they were all extremely proud of their efforts and had fun. After their nerves settled and their presentations were a thing of the past, there were smiles all around, proud mums and dads, and lots of pats on the back and hugs. 

How people go home after something says a lot to me. If there's a sense of pride and a smile and they walk tall from the room, then I'm sure they'd get involved again and recommend it to someone else. These 16 year old school kids all walked a few cm's taller when they left that auditorium. Well done guys!

In that same vein then, there sure has been boundless happiness and enjoyment from newly returned New York traveller daughter, because she has not stopped smiling when you mention her trip. 'It was so, like totally amazingly awesome' (with a New York twang) may be what she's been saying!

And so life returns to a fuller household, and the prospect of only 3 more weeks of classes for the semester. 




Well of course not, but we will return.



Friday, 2 October 2015

THE LONG WAY HOME

My intrepid teenage adventurer is on her way home now, her stellar trip and tasty intro to world travel 'sans family' drawing to a close. Of course the trip back to Australia from New York doesn't draw to a close very quickly at all. She left this morning Brisbane time, but we won't see her tired but happy face at arrivals until tomorrow morning 6.30am! It's a long long journey around the globe.

I do hope she didn't have a final fluttery stomach moment like we did last December, when we came so close to arriving beautifully on time at the wrong New York airport. We had flown into JFK, coming from South America, but we were leaving from La Guardia, heading north to colder snowier climes, and the magnificence of Niagara Falls as well as some very gloomy grey weather in Toronto. Where we were headed was clearly communicated, we were fully versed to ask for the right airport and we even pre-booked our taxi cab the night before with the concierge at our hotel. So, it wasn't really part of the conversation when we got picked up (actually we weren't really involved in the conversation because the cab driver had his own pet subject he was going to talk about no matter what, come hell or high water this man was keen to tell us about exactly how many calories his body needed from carbs versus other foods). New York traffic is crazy, and so we spent an eternity, it seemed, just weaving through central downtown Manhattan, making our way to the right arterials to get to La Guardia airport in Queens. Right at the most opportune moment, thankfully, I asked (having seen a sign to say we were entering a tunnel) if we were about to go under the river? Yes, he says, Newark Airport is in New Jersey. With micro-seconds to change lanes after me uttering a panicked, no we are flying from La Guardia not Newark, this man was able to hold his tongue about carbs and calories for long enough to get us facing a different direction and heading now towards Queens. We did make it in time, but my advice for anyone flying from NYC is to leave at least 4 hours before your flight. And check what airport details have come up on the taxi booking as well.

La Guardia handles most of the domestic traffic as well as flights to and from Canada, and it is incredibly busy. Once locked and loaded and sitting on the tarmac, the pilot broadcast that we were waiting in line to take off, and would be off the ground as soon as the planes before us took to the air. We pressed our eager faces to the window and counted 12 planes all in line in front of ours. It's like some kind of precision dancing like the Rockettes we'd seen just days before, the way that air traffic control functions. It looks like no time between take-offs and landings, and to watch just how close these giants of the sky come for that 25 minutes or so that we waited, was kind of scary, but also impressive and reassuring at the same time.

I won't ever forget that flight because whilst waiting to board in New York, we heard and watched the first news of the Sydney Lindt Cafe siege as breaking news on the TVs in the departure lounge. By the time we reached Toronto, the news was reporting 2 Australians had been killed. We were travelling in North America, where all eyes are open to detect any terrorism, yet it was at home in Australia that terrorism had reared its ugly head.


Pretty much opposite directions!

Monday, 28 September 2015

GREENBACK?

The US currency, well the notes anyway, are always referred to as the greenback, and as daughter #1 has predictably just run out (the good old line, I don't know what happened because I've been writing all my withdrawals down), I've been pondering the ol' greenback and why all those notes look exactly the same in your wallet. Our pretty plastic notes here in Australia are so easy to differentiate - the lobster (20), the blue swimmer (10), and according to wikipedia, the 50 is a pineapple. Can't say I've ever heard that said aloud, but when all's said and done, you are never likely to confuse the denominations of our currency.

The greenback on the other hand - they are all small, all the same size, all green, all with the same layout, style, everything. So confusing! But they are green not black - now why is that?

Back in 1857 a chemist named Thomas Sterry Hunt invented the colour green that's used on the US bills. He used natural pigments and lab chemicals to come up with new colours and for this new green, he used chromium trioxide. Very cool idea, because back in the mid 19th century counterfeiters were really good at erasing the black numerals on paper money and then reprinting them with higher denomination numerals. What stood Hunt's new ink apart from the rest, back then, was that his ink was extremely difficult to erase, and because it wasn't black, but green, it wasn't able to be photographed. Now that is a clever invention huh? But that's not all... His ink is also practically indestructible; acid won't affect it and neither will most other chemical agents. Super ink!! Mr Hunt sold his ink invention to the US government and that green ink has been used since 1862 to print US bills. And that, my friends, is how US paper money became known all over the globe as the greenback.

Now, how much extra do I transfer for the 15 year old to finish her last couple of days in the Big Apple?

 I know she's bringing me some of these, so I'll transfer the cash!


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

WASTELAND TO POSTER CHILD


New York's High Line is a 1.6 kilometre linear park built on a disused section of rail line – the elevated West Side Line – running through the lower west side of Manhattan. It was abandoned around the turn of the century and was under threat of being demolished for almost 30 years. But back in 1999 a movement began to save it and get it redeveloped as parkland. The original founders of the Friends of the High Line had walked the abandoned line many times but they really needed a way to harness supporters by showing the raw beauty of the place and the amazing wildscape that it had become over time. So they reached out to Joel Sternfeld, an acclaimed photographer, who set about documenting the high line throughout an entire year. He captured the changing seasons, and his photos became the tools for getting people excited about what the place could be.

Fast forward to now, the power of his photography and the success of community activism have resulted in what is the most successful example of urban renewal anywhere in the world - in 2013 the High Line was named one of the top ten Instagrammed places in the world and it attracts over 4 million visitors per year.

It is a fabulous place, it will cost you nothing, and I rate it as a must see for anyone interested in landscape, architecture or recycling. The views and vistas are beautiful, and with the added advantage of being up high, you can escape the trapped big city feel. It's an urban oasis up there. And something I really love is what it represents - its transformation is an example of the power of the people - ordinary citizens being dedicated to revitalizing an area that almost certainly would have fallen into total urban decay.

Walk it, lie down up there, check out the art, marvel at the design features, appreciate the horticultural and plantings side of things, spot the remnant railway tracks, watch the sunset, catch some summer sun, or just use it to cover the city blocks up higher. You'll cover 20 city blocks in what will feel like only a few minutes. The High Line is a joy for all, and congratulations must go to the people who resurrected the abandoned space and have made it into the spectacular attraction that it is now. Poster child for urban planners the world over!


Before
 Before

After

Sunday, 20 September 2015

IT'S AN AMERICAN TRADITION

Lo and behold! People from all over the US descend on New York in their thousands in December and the Christmas vibe has to be seen to be believed. The lights, the window displays, the grandparents holding hands with little grandchildren all dressed in their finest party dresses, shiny shoes and pretty hair, the fresh Christmas trees for sale on busy intersection corners, the music of the season, people lugging store bags and packages of Christmas shopping - it is magical and beautiful. To walk Fifth Avenue at night is mesmerising, and even the December weather can't dampen the vibe - Christmas is infectious in New York. 

You feel and see American traditions being played out all over the city, from family visits to see Santa Claus, to ice skating under the Rockefeller Christmas tree, to the annual trip to Radio City Hall for the Christmas Spectacular. The first Radio City Christmas Spectacular was put on in 1933 and its long been a Christmas tradition. The show features well over 140 performers and the standouts are the precision dancing troupe, The Rockettes. Their performance of the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers is incredible, and has been a feature of every edition of the annual stageshow right up to the present day. For an extra fee, you can have your photo taken with a Rockette before the show, which is a very cool thing to do when you have a 17 year old boy with you! The auditorium is breathtaking, the entrance foyer is lavish, the dancing and choreography amazing and the whole experience is just brilliant. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, and you shouldn't either.




Friday, 18 September 2015

SLICING UP THE BIG APPLE



Call it the geography lesson for the day: New York City can be sliced into five boroughs. Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens are the five, and collectively they are known as New York City. Each borough has a distinct identity apparently, but I've really only seen Manhanttan, unless I can count my walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, as a visit to Brooklyn, or flying in/out from JFK and La Guardia as visits to Queens. While most visitors, like me, associate NYC as being Manhattan, the island, it's actually the smallest of the five geographically (in area), and not the biggest in population either. Manhattan has 1.6 million residents, but it's Brooklyn with 2.5 million that wins the biggest borough in terms of people. And that is where daughter number 1 is right now, if you have been following.

And if you've ever wanted to know for some strange reason how many bridges connect the Island of Manhattan to the rest of the world, the number is 20. The Brooklyn Bridge is the most famous of them all, was built in 1883, and was the first bridge to provide passage across the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan. On the Circle Ferry Trip we did around Manhattan, the very entertaining tour guide (who must have been an out of work actor I'm sure!) told us that at least 20 people died during the construction of the bridge, including the designer of the bridge himself who was taking compass readings one afternoon when his foot was crushed between some pilings and a boat. His toes were amputated, and a few weeks later he died of tetanus. Kind of a sad family tale, because this guy's son took over as Chief Engineer, and then he got the bends (from diving to work on the pilings for the bridge) and was completely bedridden from then on.


Another very cool thing about the Brooklyn Bridge is that it has become one of the regular nesting sites of the 16 pairs of peregrine falcons that live in NYC.

You can get fantastic photos from the bridge of the city, of the cables and stays that make up the cool design of the bridge and of the Staten Island ferry plying its way across the water. We walked the bridge just on sunset and were rewarded with a sky of pinks, oranges and muted blues. It was sensational! It's pretty damn crowded though, and you won't be alone up there. Make sure you don't walk backwards when you're taking your shots, because you will absolutely get cleaned up by speeding bikes!

It's iconic, it's on everyone's must see list, and it's so well worth the visit.




Tuesday, 15 September 2015

GET SOME MEATBALLS

I really really liked this place, The Meatball Shop in New York. I don't know what it is, but it felt especially New York to me. I felt like it's a place that people who've lived in NYC for a while have a certain level of respect for, and it is seriously popular, with a line of people at the door waiting for a table. So glad there was only 2 of us, cause it was freezing that night in December. There are a few locations for the Meatball Shop but the one we went to was in the Upper Westside on Amsterdam Ave. They present their food in a unique way, allowing the customer to kind of build their own experience without making it feel stupid or gimmicky. You basically piece together your meal by selecting the ingredients with a washable marker on the menu (no I didn't draw anything rude in the margins, but it did cross my mind!). You can go with hmm, 'naked balls', or you can have them any which way you like, with potatoes, mash, polenta, salad, in pasta, in a bun, as a slider, with or without sauce. You choose your ball - pork, beef, chicken, veg, you choose your sauce etc etc. You get it? Then for dessert, it's ice cream sandwiches, where you choose your cookies and your ice cream flavour. I had chicken meatballs with pesto sauce, on mashed potato. It's simple, it's fun, it's kind of like being at Grandma's, but with waiters who are really loving being there and some kinda music that nanna never played! Came home with the Meatball Shop Cookbook - oh yeah!



 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

HEARD OF BANKSY?

With New York on my mind over the next 3 weeks, I will be focused on topics New York. Sorry if you get a bit location weary! On the plane last time I went to North America, I watched "Banksy Does New York", a fabulous documentary which captured the craziness and frenzy that New York was thrown into because of a street artist (Banksy) who had a month long residency in New York a couple of years ago. Banksy is famously anonymous and he'd leave clues to each of his locations on a website. The short film really captures how New Yorkers went into over drive to scramble to be the first to see his works, and even just get to them before they were either covered over, graffitied, or completely removed. It was a crazy time, but so interesting, how people, how the art world, reacted to the art itself and the whole phenomenon of scavenger hunting. I loved the coverage, and I'd love to have been there at the time to get a bit caught up in the fun. The art itself - really cool, funky and cheeky. Whoever Banksy is, he picked the right city for this event. Absolutely certain what happened was even bigger than he hoped for and I'm totally sure he was smiling for the rest of the year! Look it up people, it's only a half hour documentary, but you will get such a cool glimpse of New York and New Yorkers.

Banksy Does New York - Official Trailer


Thursday, 10 September 2015

TO WORRY OR NOT TO WORRY?

To fly on the anniversary of one of the worst plane disasters ever, 9/11, is not something I am comfortable with. I have rationalised with myself though over the past few months, and now think it's probably a very safe day to travel by plane. I'm going with 'safer than usual', and please don't shatter that thought, because tomorrow morning my daughter heads from Brisbane via LA to New York, not just on September the 11th, but also flying into JFK airport, New York on QF11. Safer than usual, the date is irrelevant, is it not?

I am so envious of her 3 weeks in the Big Apple, as I only had 5 days last December. She will go to school in Brooklyn, stay with New Yorkers, see the sights, eat like a New Yorker, and I just know she will love every single moment. I do hope she comes home!

So many highlights, so many fabulous nooks and corners, and things to discover and marvel over. In December, for me it was open ice skating rinks in Central Park, the giant clipped and manicured dinosaur topiaries holding massive Christmas wreaths that guarded the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History, the sombre feeling and  the icy wind that ripped through me at the 9/11 memorial, making me feel so uncomfortable but so moved at the same time. And the cookies, oh the cookies from the bakery around the corner a few blocks from where we stayed on W79th. A tip from the concierge lead us, but the wafting scents would have got us there too. A line of people waiting for the most sensational cookies you will ever be lucky enough to savour. A cookie to share (even with a hungry teenage boy), but you really should buy one of each of their varieties.

You must see these cookies. But better still, you must eat one of these cookies. And my lovely daughter has this chance in the next 3 weeks. So jealous!



Wednesday, 9 September 2015

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

Today's class revealed we have a new live project to hurry up and get on with, because the event is happening in just 3 weeks time. It's the World Skills comp, regional level. So many tasks to be responsible for it seems. And the task of the afternoon for me, was a familiar one - the media release. Always written in the same way, because for a newspaper, you are never sure how much space your release will get, so it has to be written so the whole story is told in just the first paragraph, just in case the article is cut from the bottom. It all comes back to me easily it seems, just with a different subject matter. Quite possibly it's a release that won't ever end up in a newspaper though. TAFE website perhaps?

I do like the sound of the pop-up shops showcasing the skills of the patisserie students though! Hope there's time for us busy tourism professionals to get some tasters!



Monday, 7 September 2015

THE GREEN AGENDA CONTINUED

Enjoy this shared video. My point entirely. With a sense of humour too, what more could I ask for?!


Thursday, 3 September 2015

EXAM BLUES? NO, ALL SMILES HERE

Airfares exam was this afternoon, and I'm happy to report that the news is good. Got my constructions all right and scored myself 100% in the exam. Woo Hoo, do a little dance, sing a little song, celebrate with dark chocolate dotted with puffed quinoa. OMG, it is to die for, and almost as good as the Bolivian chocolate I had in La Paz. And this one you can get at your local Coles. Yikes that's dangerous; it's way to easy to stock up!

But that does remind me of South American chocolate. There is a Choco Museo in Cusco in Peru and their blocks of chocolate, instead of regular even squares, were patterned as an Inca stone wall, so cool! My son and I bought 3 blocks before going on a 7 day trek, and had to ration ourselves to make it last the whole time. But, we really felt like we'd earned our daily supply, because this trek was a 'serious' trek. My Fitbit almost pooped itself because I'm sure it wasn't believing me that I'd actually covered so many kms and stair equivalents in such a few days! Day 1 of the trek registered 436 sets of stairs, 26000 steps and 18km, and that was only Day 1! Clearly, I lived to tell the tale, but oh, wow, what an awesome journey is the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. Get motivated, get properly fit, save up, and get yourself to Peru and do an amazing trek before you die! 

And my best advice, if you're there with a 17 year old teenage boy, for goodness sake, invest in more than 3 blocks of chocolate from Choco Museo before you trek!



Monday, 31 August 2015

EYES WIDE SHUT

Walking this morning, I have been conscious to collect any items from nature for my nature box. How many bird feathers do we see and not really see when we walk? Did I know I walk over maybe 6 different types of seed pod on my walk every time I go? We really don't stop and look and actually see, do we? Training in green tourism shouldn't be hard, it shouldn't be a pain, it shouldn't be arduous to do. It's a chance to get on board, learn some things; because the rewards of travelling with a greener perspective are much more connected travel experiences. We will get so much more out of our travel experiences.

The gathering from my walk: little seed pods like marbles with an open end like a jug, shiny seed pod like a cockroach, half a canoe shaped seed pod that would float like a boat, a black and a white feather, some duck down feather, limey yellow transition jacaranda leaves, a spray of green grey eucalyptus leaves and a sawn eucalyptus branch piece with an awesome cross section. Try carrying that without a bag, I ask you?!


Sunday, 30 August 2015

TRAINING IN GREEN?

Wednesday this week brings our training sessions - where we need to train the class about our specialty group. My group is Green Tourists and I want to do a very quick activity which hopefully will make everyone realise how much nature and the environment means to travel. But first I need a nature box, a collection of items from nature that might evoke some memories for people. I've been out today and collected leaves, bunya pine branches (the prickly ones), bits of stick, bark, seeds, a few rocks, a mushroom, a coconut (OK so I bought that!) and a star fruit. I still want a bag of white sand, some gravel, some shells, a bunch of fresher stuff like palm fronds and flowers, and I'd love to find a cicada shell or a rhino beetle (dead of course). Hope the box has something for everyone by Wednesday!

Will we all come out a tad greener? I do think it's possible..




Friday, 28 August 2015

BNE ARM 29AUG

I've had my newly turned 18 boy home for a week and a half, and tonight he has to go back to uni down in Armidale, so I'm a little sad right now. It's gone really fast because I've been so busy with the course, husband being away, and managing all the daily activities for the 2 girls. So, on the travel-relevant side, he's off Brisbane to Armidale on the Greyhound Bus, departing Roma Street 5pm and arriving Armidale at 12.35am. Yikes! I've just been trying to ascertain where exactly the coach terminal is and whether there'll be a free call taxi phone there for him to call a cab. Turns out, no phone. Middle of the night, dark, cold, my beautiful boy on his own, needing to get out to the uni. Of course, he's left his mobile at uni for the holidays (why, I ask you?). I hope the bus driver is able to call him a taxi. Breathe, he is now 18.

Armidale is lovely, but possibly not at 12.35am in winter. The days will be getting warmer now, but it is a cold place in winter. They had 2 or 3 days of light snow this winter. And it gets the seasons, properly, unlike Brisbane. The autumn colours are amazing and the start of the uni year is so perfectly timed to see the colours when you drop off your intrepid first years at college for the semester!



Wednesday, 26 August 2015

DIVERSITY IN A NUTSHELL
SOME FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES IN THE REASONS IT IS EMBRACED

I want to talk about investing in human capital as opposed to investing in and thinking about social capital, which is something that came up today while talking about embracing diversity in the workplace and with our customers. The benefits of embracing diversity and accommodating people's differences and their practices and beliefs can be looked at in polar opposite ways. I think many businesses are after economic advantage, a better bottom line and would see taking on board diversity as just taking steps to open up new markets, improve their reputation (in turn leading to increased profits) and retain staff (thereby reducing their costs to retrain new staff, again making improvements to the bottom line). Would businesses that see these kind of benefits be in it for the 'right' reason? Is there anything wrong with this?

If a company is ethically grounded, they may be embracing diversity because it's just the 'right' and just thing to do, it's a human approach. The reasons they will recognise and embrace diversity will be to foster staff happiness, satisfaction and loyalty (which will of course increase productivity too, but the company is out to achieve staff happiness). These companies seek to create effective relationships within their organisations because they value social capital.

Again, it comes down to truth and honesty in why you've embraced something like diversity. It looks like and smells like falseness when a company is most interested in the 'image' they will portray to the outside; it's when embracing diversity is crossing into marketing and advertising. When showing the world you have disabled staff, for example, is what matters, not actually just having a diverse staff, some people detect the false motives, and are turned off. It's when seeing to be inclusive is more important to the company than actually truly being inclusive. Who notices this? I do.


Monday, 24 August 2015

HAVING SO MUCH FUN WITH PATHBRITE

Sadly, I'm joking. It was easy to create, but so time consuming to adjust and categorise things. I can see the usefulness of it, but really don't have as much time to 'play' as it needs. If I didn't have 3 kids, a million after school activities, dinner to think about every night, food to remember to buy, a needy kitten to play with, and 5 hundred loads of washing to do every 2 days, then just maybe, I could fluff around making my life look pretty in pathbrite! Oh gosh, I sound such an eeyore. I'm being honest though. It's a bit of a time sucker, this pathbrite thing, so let's hope what I've done is going to be what I've supposed to have done.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

It feels like coming home

What does? Going out to interview and survey people. After all the community consultation, questionnaires, and market research for tourism planning and EISs that I've done in the past, it really does feel like coming home again to go out into Southbank and find the visitors and ask questions. I really don't mind doing it, and the people I talked to were all helpful and nice. I know it's all hypothetical and the business we're creating is hypothetical, but if it were real, there'd need to be a way more statistically sound set of results, with a much bigger sample size. We're assuming the people we survey are a big enough target market out of all the visitors to Brisbane, so what they say influences our business. Maybe they are, maybe they're not really a big enough market to develop a whole business to suit. But I need to get over the flaws, and the holes in the methodology though, because it really doesn't matter for the sake of our exercise. Ha ha! Ahhh! I can't help being like this!!




Monday, 17 August 2015

Thinking creatively

Walking again, this morning, was when I started coming up with creative ideas for the next destinations presentation. Sometimes I think about coming up with a good idea, and the more I try, the more blocked I get. My better ideas seem to come when my brain is relaxed and when I'm exercising. Peru will be the destination for our presentation and I was trying to think of something different or a different way to focus the talk into key areas to talk about. So, my good idea from this morning is to use the letters of PERU for each area to focus the talk on. So P for PEOPLE , the cultures, colours and people of the history, so the Incas and the famous archaeology/anthropological history. E for ECOTOURISM as the Andes, along with the Himalayas, would be one of the the main trekking destinations in the world, and there's the Amazon as well. So the R is for ROUTES to take in Peru, all the options and recommendations. The U is for YOU, how to get you there, what you need, all the travel logistics for a trip to Peru. I think it's good.

Again, the benefits of thinking whilst walking - better ideas just start to flow.


Friday, 14 August 2015

Satisfaction? On the right track?

My week of trying so hard to catch up with all the coursework was both mildly frustrating, and satisfying for different reasons. Frustrating, because I pedalled harder, really really hard, and still didn't reach the finish line by Thursday. I did catch up on quite a few things, and submitted 2 itineraries, and at least, now I know what I am behind on! Satisfying, because I have confirmed with myself that, even though I had such a lot to do for the course, and I was single parent for the week (husband happily snowboarding in NZ!), I can achieve an enormous amount if I put my mind into it. Also satisfying, because I actually really like the itinerary work, which is what has taken up the most time this week. I feel like it's me giving a personal tailoring to what someone could actually do on their holiday. This is the stuff I like doing for my own travelling, and I realise it's not just because it's for me that I like it. I actually enjoy doing it anyway. I like researching! Also satisfying, because I don't find the selling of destinations even a little bit scary. I felt very spiffy because I'm cool with presentation, I actually really like that too. It's yet another chance to share my travel stories and talk about how great a place is with lots of people. So, on balance, after the week of craziness, the 'satisfying' feel wins the day! And that is a good thing!


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

WORDS THAT LURE

I am a walker, and when I walk, I think. Just got back from my walk and have been thinking about the language, the words that get used to attract tourists. Fascinating, wonders of the world, truly unique, special, once in a lifetime, views to die for, pampering etc. Words can and do lure us in. When used together with pictures, it is so very effective.  But I think there is a balance to appreciate. As potential travellers, we respond to the words if we trust the authority and knowledge of where they're coming from. If we suspect the words are being 'used' to lure us in, we feel less trusting, it's less believable, and feels less honest. So the balance is honesty, truth, knowledge, and authority, up against all the advertising for monetary gain that the businesses who want us to travel with/to are putting out there to lure us in.

I'm thinking about itineraries and wonderful places I've seen and why I would want others to see them too. This year, I have been saddened about the loss of a lovely man and very influential role model to my daughter. He was suffering from cancers and had hoped very much to do a trip to North America, including New York, and in Canada, Niagara Falls, Vancouver, the Rocky Mountaineer train trip through British Columbia up to the Rocky Mountains amongst other places. Many of the places on his spectacular itinerary (which he shared with his friends shortly before he passed away, and once he was truly aware that he was not going to be able to go on) were places I have enjoyed, loved and are exceptionally beautiful. I thought, this morning on my walk, why had I wished so hard that he had been able to do his trip and see these places? Why was I so upset that he hadn't been able to go? It's because I wanted him to see them and enjoy them as much as me. It would have been something we had in common, to share, to recollect and reflect on. I felt so sad that he didn't have time enough left to see those places. For me, the key is honesty. I want people to travel to places to see and experience the diversity and differences for themselves.

Tourism marketing and how that's different to sharing your knowledge about places, is a tricky topic to navigate, and I am so much more used to sharing my knowledge from a base of honesty, so I guess I have a degree of authority (but not so much as someone like David Attenborough!). A picture maybe worth a thousand words, but I want to put it out there, that the words we use will most definitely lure people if they come from a place of knowledge, truth and honesty.

This one's for you, Bob.