Monday, 28 September 2015


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


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!



Sunday, 20 September 2015


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


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


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


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 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


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


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

Thursday, 3 September 2015


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!