The story of my life…

MINI Weekend = Big Fun

The greatest decision I’ve ever made was my recent decision to buy my 2012 ice blue convertible MINI. The second greatest decision I ever made was to join the DC Metro Mini Club. My new club friends told me about another club from Hampton Roads that was planning a weekend drive (the Fall Color Run) in Waynesboro and since I had a rare free weekend, it seemed like a great way to meet a few new people and enjoy the lovely fall weather.

Friday afternoon I headed down to Waynesboro. The weather was fantastic so I took off my top and  found a route that avoided the freeways. Once I arrived, I parked next to a couple of other Minis and checked in. I discovered there was a group headed to the Devil’s Backbone Brewery, which sounded like fun, so I joined up.


Although Ali had told me about the group and was planning on joining in, she wasn’t due to arrive until Saturday morning so I had to try to find the club members so I could follow them to the Brewery. Turns out that’s not hard. If there are Minis around, they are generally huddled around them somewhere!

We headed over the mountain and found some fantastic twisties along the way. For those of you who haven’t yet purchased a Mini, and I’m not sure what you are waiting for, those are the most fun roads you will ever drive and the twistier the better!


The food was good, the beer was great, the conversation was phenomenal! At the end of the night I had a bunch of new friends as well as a club (see you at the next meeting, Hampton Roads Club Mini!)


The next morning, our drivers meeting was at 8 am. Most of us got down to the parking lot much earlier than that! I prepped my car (took off my top!) and drooled over some really super cute MINIs. After Dale went over the rules and handed out the drivers sheets. Among the rules? Make sure your radio isn’t on VOX, keep your headlights on, and we don’t have Hondas with unpainted body kits we are respectable and will act like it (my personal fav).


There were 33 MINIs on our first day of driving. Our route took us south through some really beautiful countryside. There were tons of twisties and it was great fun! I discovered that if someone falls too far behind, they might make a wrong turn. I also discovered that MINI drivers don’t mind, turning around is just more driving!


We took our first break on the Blue Ridge Parkway at an overlook along the James River.


All of the car lined up so after we climbed out and took a bathroom break many of us stood around and looked at them. While we were there, my DC Metro Mini club president Ali and her husband Mark arrived. They’d been driving all week in honor of their 10th anniversary and the HR Fall Color Run was their final activity.


We loaded back up and pulled out but stopped to line up our MINIs for a photo shoot. Jay had a drone with a camera and took some amazing aerial shots.


The rest of us snapped a few more pictures before we loaded back up and took off again. We hit the twisties once again. This time I was further in the back. The pace in the back was a little slower than the front, but maybe it was because every once in a while we would pick up a civilian who was inevitably driving a lot slower than we had been!


We stopped for lunch in Glasgow at a little Italian place called Scottos. For some reason there is a giant dinosaur across the street. Lunch was lively and afterwards we headed out for a few more pictures before we left.


The rest of the afternoon involved some very exciting twists with a few significant elevation changes and somehow I ended up second in line! I was a little nervous about keeping up, but Dale was really good about always keeping a Mini in his mirror and never got too far ahead.

After we returned to the Days Inn, many of us decided to walk to the Plaza Azteca for dinner. I think we would have driven, but we were all interested in some adult beverages and decided to walk instead. Food was fantastic, company was even better!


Sunday morning our drivers meeting started promptly at 8. Dale handed out our drivers sheets and outlined the route. This was a northern trip with fewer twisties, and more history.


The temperature was a brisk 48 degrees, but those of us who could run topless did run topless. Hey, they’ve got heated seats! Well, all of them except Roxy. Ginger was really bundled up though and looked super cute with her hats on!


We’d lost a few cars (missed you Debbie and Ben!) but our first stop was the beautiful Natural Chimneys Park. The rocks were amazing. We all enjoyed learning more about them and then shooting pictures of our Mini Coopers all lined up!



We drove on and finally arrived at the covered bridge.


The Historic Meems Bottom bridge had been burned by vandals on Halloween in 1976 but was rebuilt and is thankfully pretty sturdy! Still we went through pretty slow and one at a time. As we came out the other side, we lined up while we waited for everyone else to make it through.


Next up we headed up the road towards Edinburg. We stopped at the Food Lion for a bathroom break and snacks, since it was still a couple of hours to our lunch. While we were there Ginger showed me how to clip my radio to my seatbelt so I could finally hear the interesting historical facts Dale was sharing as we drove. This was the greatest thing ever because when we finally got back on to some more better twisties I could hear the warnings when big trucks were coming from the opposite direction!


We drove through some really charming little country towns until we arrived at the final stop: Hanks Smokehouse in McGaheysville. The food was delicious but bittersweet since it was the end of the ride, though my spirits rose when I was accepted into the RVA Mini Club at lunch. Since Ali and Mark were going the same way I pulled out behind them and turned on my radio. We took the freeway home since they were eager to get back and that was fine with me because Mark was really flying down the road and the only thing I like as much as twisting is speed!

Final tally? 640 miles total, hundreds of twisties, 138 pictures, and dozens of good friends. Not to mention some fantastic pictures which I borrowed from many of my new friends Facebook pages (you know who you are, so thanks!) And I learned lots of fun new things about Minis like the types of mods I need and why run flats suck. I also saw some beautiful cars that convinced me I have a desperate need for vinyl.


Motor on, friends!




My Chicago Cultural Extravaganza Part Deux

After experiencing the most amazing theater performance of my life, I had some concerns the other theater events scheduled for the rest of my week would not measure up. How could they possibly compete?


The next show was Ecstasy, which did have full frontal nudity, but even that wasn’t enough to impress me. The first act was weak and I was totally distracted by their constant attempts to fake light up their electric cigarettes. It was the UK in the 70s, they smoked, I get it. But, my God, it seemed like they lit a new cigarette every time they had a line. Also, the fake British accents were terribly distracting. Bob and Angel liked it, I was less impressed.

Sunday we attended a show from the Hypocrites.


But not just any show! It was all known Greek tragedies (there are 32) combined into one 12 hour play.


That’s right, 12 hours. The show started at 11:00 am and ended at 11:00 pm. I had no idea what to expect, it was my first Hypocrites experience.


But it blew me away! Seriously! The cast was amazing, the story pulled me in and even during the many breaks, all we could talk about was the show. I laughed, I cried, I drank, I ate vegan food. What did I learn? Everybody dies.


THAT show was the greatest theater event of my life. I mean seriously, it was like doing the Iron Man of theater! Afterwards, we walked to a nearby cash only bar. I think it was in the Polish neighborhood because their very old school jukebox had an interesting mix of old rock, oldies, and old polka music. We listened to a few Madonna songs and then headed up the street to an eerily similar bar. That was where most of the Hypocrites cast was hanging out so we chatted with them for a while and congratulated them on an amazing performance.

On Labor Day, we headed to the Chicago Art Institute. They were having an exhibit of Magritte. My favorite piece was This Is Not A Pipe, but we weren’t allowed to take any pictures so you’ll have to google it for yourself. Bob and Angel seemed to think everybody knew that one (I didn’t!)


That night we attended a dinner party. I wish I’d taken some photos because that house was beautiful and the food was fantastic!

On Tuesday, night Angel and I were going to pick up Justin Honard at the airport and drop him off at the Soho House. Justin is a drag artist and is better known as Alaska Thunderf*ck, runner-up on the 2013 season of RuPaul’s Drag Race (I’m a fan of the show). Bob’s concept was that instead of holding up a sign with Justin’s name, we would hold up an iPad with an image. We decided on an image from Alaska’s ice bucket challenge.

While we were waiting Angel kindly taught me how to make Belizean Potato Salad, which is the finest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.


After a lovely dinner on the deck, we headed out to the airport.


I had the best sign there.


Justin finally arrived and he was absolutely delightful. We all enjoyed the short ride to his hotel and chatting about his experience on the Drag Race and his incredibly powerful video for Your Makeup is Terrible.

After work the next day, Angel and I rode over to the Empty Bottle where the IHC Now What? discussion was going to take place.


The Now What? event was a part of a series of events. This event focused on drag performance and its impact upon perceptions of gender along with the artistic disciplines of theatre and music. The first part of the evening was a discussion about drag. Angel was moderating the discussion and with Justin and Daniel Alexander Jones. For those of you who haven’t heard of Daniel yet, he does a theatrical piece as Jomama Jones. And you should make her New Year messages a new tradition in your family like me.

I am a huge fan!


Daniel was pretty impressed that I’d framed the signed 8×10 he gave me when I caught his performance last year! We were early enough that I could watch the Baathhaus sound check.


Angle and I had arrived early so he could put the full length mirror and organic fruit in the green room (Justin has some amazing riders in his contract!)


When Bob arrived, he and I walked to Leghorn Chicken to get some dinner. Sorry Chik-Fil-A, even if I weren’t protesting you, you could never compete with Leghorn Chicken. You can’t tell from this picture, but that chicken sandwich was nearly as big as my head!


So, Angel moderated the panel and did a fantastic job.



Justin and Daniel were very interesting and offered some incredibly insightful comments about drag and gender. Next up was Salonathon, a drag and drag inspired performance. I particularly enjoyed the Drag King, and when she bit the head off of the plastic bat she pulled from her pants, it was fantastic!


There was also a great dance piece. And Bob and I were lucky enough to be standing front and center.



I got some tips on how to construct a very dramatic flower and ice castle crown, which I may incorporate into my look for my pending Bammy Awards Viewing Party…



The next performer was The Big Dipper, a gay rapper.


His raps were very amusing, he had great timing, and it turns out he’s a never nude!


Between acts Bob, Justin and I spent time at the bar.


The final act was Baathhaus.


It was the second time I’ve seen them, and they were even better than I’d remembered. And so dramatic!


It was an amazing week. I was terribly sad to leave. Not even an upgrade and all the cocktails I could enjoy could cheer me up as I made my way back to DC. I’m already planning my next visit!



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My Chicago Cultural Extravaganza Part 1

Chicago is one of my favorite cities for so many reasons (friends, theatre, art, food!) and every time I go it gets better and better…

This trip began with a quick cab ride to Bob and Angel’s house to meet up and set out for the Retro Futura show at Ravinia. Ravinia is  an amphitheater surrounded by beautiful park lands, though it’s really hard to find the actual parking area.


As a result, we missed China Crisis and Katrina (from Katrina and the Waves). As we entered we could hear Midge Ure, but it wasn’t compelling enough to deter us from heading to the restaurant to pick up some dinner. After we ate (and chugged a few drinks because the people who pay for the fancy seating can’t take drinks in?) we entered the amphitheater which has assigned seats. Ours were good, but how do you watch a show like this with no bar? Or dance floor? What is this the Footloose town?


Our seats were excellent though and we really enjoyed watching Howard Jones prance around the stage in his bright orange suit belting out our favorite 80s songs.


His set was minimal but he did have a cute band and a great suit.


Next up was the Star Attraction, Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins! Bob and I (and our friend Jane) had seen the Thompson Twins 3 times in high school (go Truckers!) so our expectations were very high.


Though it’s the first time in 27 years Tom has sung the Thompson Twins hits, it was almost as if it was still 1983! I didn’t even miss Alannah or Joe!


The light and set design was perfect!


Tom was backed by three incredibly talented women who totally rocked. Angel missed Joe the most and thought Tom should have at least asked Howard for some fashion tips since his outfit “made him look a bit like a middle manager at Boeing”. I got the sense Angel wasn’t impressed with the fashion choices of middle managers of Boeing.

The next day I rode into the city and worked from Angel’s office. Angel is the ED at the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC), which means he’s a bit of a celebrity. After work he took me to the Soho House private club for cocktails. Yeah, that’s right, I know people! That night we attended a discussion on #Ferguson and the role of social media, sponsored by the IHC. It was an incredibly thoughtful conversation.


Afterwards we went to the gas station for some Krispy Krunchy Chicken. You have not lived until you’ve had Krispy Krunchy Chicken from the gas station. Delicious!


On Friday, I spent the day working from the IHC office again. Angel was kind enough to set me up in a conference room so I could participate in a series of webinars. Afterwards we headed over to the Soho Club for a few pre-theatre cocktails. Bob met me there because he and I were going to see Since I Suppose, a new production from the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Since I Suppose is a journey based theater experience based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. My ticket was for 8:00 and Bob’s was for 8:20. They told us to wait at the corner of Randolph and Wells at the appropriate time with a fully charged cell phone at which point we would be given further instructions.

I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but I will say they give you a video player and a very large set of head phones and turn you lose in the city. As I walked through the dark alleys and bustling sidewalks of downtown Chicago I knew I was in for a good time.


The play took me inside the deserted city hall…


through the subway, into an adult book store…


and up to a high-rise apartment. Words cannot express how much I enjoyed the entire experience. It was the greatest theater experience of my life… so far.


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A Long Way Home. Literally.


First of all, it would be wrong of me to conclude this series of blog posts related to our trip to Australia without mentioning that Jenni was not only never late, in Australia she was often early! If you know Jenni and her penchant for operating on “Jenni time” you would understand how truly impressive this was. If you knew me and how I am horribly frustrated when I’m not on time, you’d understand how much I appreciated that! That’s just one of the reasons I was really excited for her when her global upgrade certificate got approved and she’d been moved up to business class for the journey home. Having flown over there in coach, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, let alone my best friend! And she totally deserved it for not keeping me waiting. Ever!


So the day started with a quick breakfast in Jenni’s room before our cab arrived. We got to the airport pretty quickly and Jenni found out she was number two on the list for upgrades. There were two seats available. After passing through security, I went scouting to find the Delta lounge. They apparently operate through the New Zealand airline lounge and I was turned away because only those sitting in business or first class are able to enjoy their comfort and amenities. I wandered aimlessly back to the terminal and picked up a few more packs of Tim Tams, you know, for the family… Jenni also got denied entrance to the lounge, since her upgrade wasn’t yet official, she was technically still in coach with me.

Our flight from Sydney was delayed because the inbound flight couldn’t land due to fog. We went over to the gate to wait. Not long after we got there they kicked everyone out. Apparently they do this so they can check passports as people enter the gate area. Jenni and I went to get a drink and when we got back we went through passport control and then found a place to wait.


Jenni finally got her upgrade and was even subtle about how excited she was. Once boarding began I lost sight of her but I quickly found her again when I took my seat. There’s a little window in the bulkhead. So the rest of us can see how much fun it is up there, I suppose.


My seat was on the aisle in economy comfort. On the flight out I was in a regular coach seat but by the window. It’s kind of hard to tell the difference between the economy seat and economy comfort. To be frank, there isn’t anything comfortable about it! But it was definitely better to be on the aisle in a flight that lasts over 10 hours. The girl next to me had an inflatable seat cushion and an inflatable foot rest. I’m totally going to google those, she slept like a baby…

I got up to check on Jenni and she was all settled in.


My plan to avoid jet lag was to stay awake for the first seven hours and then try to sleep the rest of the way. I started by watching Only Lovers Left Alive. Two thumbs up. It was entertaining. Tilda Swinson was great and her vampire husband was hot.

Jenni had told me that shortly after boarding she’d made her dinner selection. She was having a sushi appetizer


And the shrimp with soba noodles.


They brought our dinner out. I asked the flight attendant what my options were. She said beef or spaghetti. I asked what kind of beef. She gave me a blank look, peeled the top off of one and said “it’s just beef”. I took the beef. She was right it was just beef. Cubes of beef swimming in a lumpy gravy with what may have been couscous and green beans and a mushy orange substance that may or may not have been carrots. The green beans were the only things I was sure of so I ate those.


I also ordered a glass of wine. I asked what the wine selection was. I was told I had two choices, red or white. Red wine in coach is poured from a box.


I noticed the bar trolley in business had actual glass bottles. And more than one kind. It’s too bad Jenni doesn’t drink…


The next movie I watched was Veronica Mars. Very cute. I wasn’t feeling terribly sleepy yet so I took some of my nighttime cold medicine and turned on a movie about Wolverine of the X men. I must have gotten all caught up in it and missed my sleep window because when it was over I was wide awake and ready for another movie. I decided to watch the original X Men movie. it looked like it was going to be a long day, so why not make it an X Men Marathon?


When it was over I turned the TV off and really tried to sleep. A few minutes later they turned all the lights on and the flight attendants came down the aisle with their boxes of wine. They also provided a snack which was a bag with a sandwich and an apple. I actually got stuck with the vegan bag because the dad and his daughter next to me were vegans and somehow I got associated with them. I slammed down another glass of red wine and then tried again to get some sleep. It didn’t work so I watched another X Men movie.

We finally arrived in LA and I hadn’t had any sleep at all. I realized as we landed that I only had 30 minutes to make it through customs, find my bag, drop my bag off, and go through security to catch my flight. Jenni was one of the first off, so I texted her goodbye and made my way down to Customs. There was a flight from Japan that had arrived at the same time we did, so they held us up at the top of the escalator since they didn’t have enough room for everyone from both flights to go through at once. Thankfully, they let those of us with the Global Pass go through and I zipped through customs in less than 5 minutes. That’s when things broke down. I had to wait for my bag to arrive so I could pick it up and drop it back off. Jenni’s bag was the first one off the plane. I texted her to let her know, but she’d been placed in a holding pen. My bag was one of the last to arrive. I grabbed it and ran to the exit but then got held up in line waiting for everyone else to declare whatever it was they were declaring.

I finally made it through and dropped my bag right outside the customs area but then I was outside of security and had to go upstairs and wait in anther line. For some reason my TSA pre check had not been included on the printed ticket they’d given me, so I had to wait in line, and then remove my Uggs and laptop. By the time I’d made it through my flight had left. The worst part was that I’d been upgraded to first class for the flight to Atlanta and the flight to DC and was counting on that for some quality napping.

I decided I’d have better luck getting rebooked in the Delta Lounge. But that’s because I forgot how busy the LAX Delta Lounge is. I’m sure that’s why the agent working there didn’t care that I was hot and tired! She said I’d already been rebooked on Alaska Airlines. I asked if I was going to be upgraded and she said I was on the list but that it would never happen. I asked her to check if there were any other routes to DC that I could take where I would be upgraded. She said first class was full on every route. She told me I would need to walk through the tunnel to get to Alaska and that I should leave by 11:30. It was already 11 so I decided to head over because I had a seat request card and needed to check in at the gate to get my seat assignment . Jenni was still in the holding pen.

When I got to Alaska and asked about the upgrade, she laughed at me. Then I asked if I could have a window seat. She said they were out. I sat down to wait for boarding to begin. Jenni finally made it out of the holding pen and went to the Delta lounge to pass the time.

My flight finally boarded. The entire row next to me was empty. I asked the flight attendant if I could move. She said she’d already promised the seat to  little girl two rows up because she was in a window seat with no window. She offered me that seat. Good enough!

As soon as I settled in my new seat, the plane fired up and we pulled away from the gate. The middle seat in my row was empty so I stretched out and put on my sleep mask. Next thing I knew we were landing. Can’t wait to do it all again…


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Back to Sydney

Brisbane is an amazing place with incredible weather! Jenni and I hated to leave, but had to make our way back to Sydney before heading back to the states. Before we could go, Jenni had to do another radio interview and I needed to stock up on cold medicine. Many picked us up at the villa to drive us back into the city.

We dropped off Jen at ABC radio and Mandy and I went to Cole’s to pick up my supplies.


The cold medicine was critical since the day before I’d stopped at the IGA and was tricked into buying some sort of herbal remedy that included licorice and horseradish and had absolutely no effect on my terrible plague. Afterwards we went to the Smith Family office to meet up with Julie who would drop us off at the airport.


She kept our bags at the office while we walked over to the West End for a quick lunch. I had the Thai Chicken Ball which was basically a big ball of minced chicken cooked with a lot of delicious spices. If you ever see one, I highly recommend it!


Julie dropped us at the airport. Our bags were underweight (whew) and we dropped them off and headed to our gate. Jenni VERY kindly took the middle seat so I could take the short way. I leaned my head against the side of the plane and closes my eyes. When I opened them again we were in Sydney! And just in time for a beautiful sunset!


We decided to take the train into the city instead of a taxi. After all, we are masters of public transportation. We only had to go three stops to the Central Station.


We left on the Pitt Street side, which was easy to remember since my PTA office is on Pitt Street as well!


Our hotel was a lovely two bedroom apartment in the heart of Chinatown. Sadly I was too sick to enjoy it so Jenni and I picked up some food at Coles and called it a night.

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Beware of Random Man on the Street Interviews

Day 3 in Brisbane was a short workday, which was a good thing since I apparently caught the plague or some sort of really bad head cold. We hiked across the 10 lushly landscaped acres from our villa to enjoy breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but the breakfast buffet in Australia is very hearty. In addition to eggs (scrambled and poached) there is spaghetti, veal shanks, sausages in dark gravy, bacon, and roasted tomatoes. I settled for bacon and eggs. Jenni had her usual.

We walked over to the roundtable discussion. The room was packed with key education stakeholders from the Queensland area as well as a couple of researchers and representatives from the national government. Because of my sudden and unexpected illness I was without any makeup, devoid of contacts, and sneezing and hacking into my growing mound of tissues. In spite of my disease, we all had a very rich discussion!

Afterwards, our friend Carmel agreed to give us a lift to the city. We had a lovely ride in and she dropped us off in the west end.


We visited a few quirky shops and then grabbed one of the best meals of the trip at a little bistro called Chop Chop Chang. I enjoyed it very much in spite of the giant planet of the apes art (that movie totally freaks me out!)


I was determined not to let the horrible head cold ruin our trip. so we walked to the Cultural Center and bought tickets to Le Noir, the dark side of cirque.


With a few hours to kill, we strolled through the South Shore to buy some souvenirs. On our way we were stopped by two guys with a camera and microphone. They asked if they could interview us for a show they were doing on computer repairs. We said sure!

The first question they asked us was how long we had been using computers. We said about 25 or 30 years. Then they asked us if we ever had any problems using computers. We said no, we were very good at it. They asked if we’d ever had a virus because of our computer use. We both said no, we’ve got Macs. Then they asked if we’d had any viruses before we started using Macs. We said maybe, it was a long time ago but that was one of the reason we switched, to avoid the Macs. Then they asked if we ever let our partners know we’d had a virus. I suddenly realized they weren’t talking about “computers” at all! Jenni asked what they meant by computer partners. They said, you know when someone puts their USB in our drive. Jenni was involved in some lengthy discussion about why she didn’t really think it was necessary to tell her partner but I leaned in and said absolutely, I would absolutely tell my partner about my “virus”.

They thanked us for our time and we walked off. I told Jen I didn’t think they were talking about computers. She insisted I have a dirty mind. Whatever! I just hope my Australian friends who view the edited version on the Aussie style Trigger Happy TV show realize we had no idea what they were actually talking about!

We found a little candy shop and Jen stopped in to top off her supply.


She wouldn’t try the Witchitie Grubs so I bought a couple. For the record, they are quite tasty and unlike anything I imagine a real grub would taste like. Then we found the public beach on the river.


And walked through the rain forest…


to the Nepalese Temple.


The sangria of the day was grapefruit and lychee at Ole, a local tapas bar.


We went back to the cultural center so we could be on time for the show. I had an onion and cheese pastie for dinner while we waited. Jenni adjusted the heat, which caused the entire thing to glow bright red. It’s a Christmas miracle we didn’t get kicked out or burn the place down!


The seats we had for the show were in the center and only about 8 rows back. The only seats better were on the actual stage and the last time I scored seats on the stage it was for the Woolley Mammoth production of Allow Us To Present and they lynched a man in front of us. This was much more enjoyable. I loved the DJ in the booth above the back of the stage. Very Zoolander. Plus he played excellent music.


The show was amazing. My favorite part was the roller skating couple. I never should have stopped taking lessons! Jenni liked the couple suspended by ribbons. The show was fantastic! I’d have taken pictures for you, but I didn’t want to distract any of the performers who could have plunged to their deaths at any moment.

Lucky for us, our bus arrived shortly after the show ended. We had a very chatty bus driver. Thankfully Jenni sat up front and kept him company, because I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. Turns out neither did she, but they both enjoyed their conversation nonetheless and we made it back to the villa safe and sound!



Rats the Size of Small Children

On our second day of Brisbane training, I finally got to try vegemite. Let’s just say I prefer Tim Tams and leave it at that.


Our second day of training focused on action team planning to help the participants begin planning how they could put into place some of the strategies they’d learned the day before. They spent a lot of time brainstorming barriers to family engagement and then strategies for overcoming those barriers.


During the tea break, they added suggestions to our list of sightseeing options for our final afternoon in Brisbane.


They worked really hard throughout the day.


I think we went through a small forest of chart paper.


But our final reviews were worth it!


At the end of the day, our friend Mandy offered to drop us at the Queen Street Mall so we could get out of our room villa. We found some lovely arcades.


After we picked up a few souvenirs for our friends back home, we emerged to find it had become dark. The casino was lit up like it was the Emerald City.


We strolled through to see what it looked like on the inside, but kept our money for more shopping!


Having heard that the South Shore had some great restaurants, we walked across the river


And past the free public dance lessons in the park.


It was Latin dance night and the instructor had a fantastic Spanish accent.


We strolled over to Greystone for dinner and ordered a trio of dips, and a delicious platter with salami, sun-dried tomatoes, bread, pistachios, french bread, and basaltic vinaigrette. I also tried a south Australian Cabernet Merlot which was delicious.

Jenni and I made our way back to the cultural center to catch a bus back to Roberston Gardens.


Did I mention it’s pretty far out from the city? The bus we usually take only stops a couple of times on its way out, but it also only runs once an hour. We found out bus 120 also stopped at the QEII Hospital and ran much more frequently. Nobody told us it had about 50 stops before ours. It took a while.


Thankfully the bus driver pointed our stop out to us so we wouldn’t miss it.


We jumped off and began the half mile trek back to our villa. I was huffing it up the hill on the side closest to the road, Jenni was on the side by the fence. Most of the time, I concentrated on where I was walking. I didn’t want to trip on a sidewalk crack and sprain anything. However, at one point I looked up and glanced over at Jenni. That’s when I saw the giant rat stalking us along the top of the fence. At first I thought maybe it was a Tasmanian Devil, which freaked me out because I remembered their name meant ‘flesh lover”, but I realized it was brown and all of the Tasmanian Devils I’ve seen are black. It was as big as a 5 to 7-year-old child with a long skinny tale and big shiny teeth.

I tried not to panic and to encourage Jenni to pick up the pace. She kept asking why. I was trying to keep an eye on the giant rat and not tip him off that I had spotted him in case he realized I was on to him and tried to rush us. I was also trying to walk as quickly as possible without tripping over any cracks or reinjuring my ankle. Eventually I told Jenni to look over at the fence. As if he’d heard me the giant rat ducked down and hid from her. She took off running anyhow. When I reminded her I was injured and still recovering from my sprained ankle which slowed me down, she pointed out that Hudson needs his mother. My friends Mandy and Jeanette both think it was probably a possum, but if it was, it was the biggest, hungriest, ugliest possum that ever existed. I’m just glad we survived.





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Training Action Teams in Brisbane

Jenni and I had two days of training set up in Brisbane. Our day got off to an exciting start when Jenni’s flat iron blew up.


Our first day of training focused on assessing school cultures and climates. We set up the room with our usual supplies: chart paper, pipe cleaners, feathers, die cut hands and feet, glitter, and googly eyes.


Our participants really seemed to enjoy it and made some really creative mixed media visions of family engagement.


One team used their pipe cleaners to create glasses for their googly eyes.


Another team turned their chart paper into a boat with families, teachers, and community members hanging from it, trying to get on board!


One team used the leftover pipe cleaners and feathers to make a mini me for Jenni and I.


At the end of the day, many of the participants who had traveled in from other places and were staying in their own room villa met us for a dinner in the hotel restaurant. I sat at one table and Jenni sat at the other. I’m sure her table was nice but mine was super fun! I was sitting in between a group from Darwin, which is in the far northern territories and over four hours away by plane. Also at my table was Anne, a former catholic school teacher/public school teacher. This was lucky for me because the topic for the #ozptchat was #studentwellness and she had some terrific ideas!


We had a lovely time before Jenni and I returned to our room villa to prepare for the next day.

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The Best of Brisbane

One has high expectations for any tour that bills itself as the best of anything.  Jen and I had booked tickets on the Best of Brisbane tour which was supposed to start promptly at 9:15. We hiked to the hotel restaurant for a quick breakfast before our taxi came and whisked us away to the city.

When we arrived in the transit station where we had to join the tour, we discovered that it was actually supposed to start at 8:30. In our defense, our tickets said 9:15 but the crusty old driver didn’t seem interested in our excuses. We all boarded the bus for the first part of the tour.


Our first stop was the Old Windmill. It was never an actual windmill, but they call it that because of the shape. It’s one of only 2 buildings still standing from the convict era, because apparently they weren’t highly skilled or highly motivated to make long-lasting buildings. On the top is a big ball. They used to mark the 1:00 hour by dropping the ball and making a big racket. At least that’s what I thought he said. There was a lot of traffic and the rest of our tour group was crowded around him, so it’s hard to be sure.


From there, he drove us around the city in the little bus. We stopped a couple of more times for interesting views of local churches and landmarks.We also stopped on Kangaroo Ridge to snap picture of the city from across the river.


Our final stop was at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. It was the site of the first beer garden in Brisbane and has a public bar and a private bar. The public bar was for anyone to drop in, even after work in your dirtiest clothes.


The private bar was for ladies and gentlemen and much fancier. Both are still in use today and the public bar is the only place in the city that still serves untapped beer each night at 7. The bartender announces the beer and then they open the tap and par-tay.


The bus driver took us down to the river and we boarded a boat for the next part of the tour.



The best part of the boar tour was the charming little tea break.


Jenni and I both went up top for a while.


But it got cold and windy so Jenni left and I was on my own.


It was really interesting to see so many of the landmarks the bus driver had pointed out. The customs house, for example, only has one story showing at the street level, but from the water, it’s got three levels with big beautiful columns. Or maybe that was the Commisariat. Whatever, they were both nice!


Eventually we reached our destination, the South Bank. We climbed off and queued up for the Wheel of Brisbane.


There weren’t many people ahead of us, so Jenni and I got our own gondola. The wheel made four or five rotations and we saw some amazing views of the city.


When we came down, we had 45 minutes to eat lunch before we had to board the bus again. We saw a cute little waffle shop with sidewalk tables so we decided to call it brunch. After we boarded the bus, we struck up a conversation with a lovely couple from Victoria. The woman worked as a social worker with aboriginal families, particularly helping aboriginal kids who’d been removed from their homes. She showed us some of the pictures she’d taken in the outback of women chopping up kangaroos and burning the hair off the hide and she cautioned us not to play the didgeridoo. Apparently women are NOT allowed and if they touch them its bad luck and they must be burned or purified or something. Eventually we arrived at the next stop the Lone Pine Koala Refuge.


This is the largest Koala refuge in the universe. Or at least in Australia. they also have a lot of other animals. Like kangaroos.


And emus.


And dingoes. I wanted to scream “Dingoes ate my baby!” but couldn’t find a way to work it into any conversations.


They had Tasmanian devils, which turns out actually exist! They are not cartoons, but they are quite unattractive and I find it hard to get excited about animals when the first line on the sign post is “from the scientific name Sarcophilus meaning ‘flesh lover'”. Apparently they are quite useful since they eat both fresh and rotting meat and consume the entire animal. But they aren’t very pretty.


The kookaburra was super cute.


The highlight was holding the koala. They are super cute and weigh about 10 or 12 pounds. My koala was Sharkey.


You know who else likes koala bears? George R. R. Martin.


Afternoon tea was a lamington and some mineral water. Lamingtons are not as good as Tim Tams.IMG_3812

We boarded the bus for one last stop, a trip to the peak of Mt Coot-Tha, the highest point in the city of Brisbane. It’s hard to believe it’s still in the city limits, but I guess it was about as far as our hotel so it does make sense. The view was breathtaking.


From there we went back to the transit center where we started. It’s a good thing we were getting off there because right before we arrived we heard the bus driver say “dammit, there went my clutch” right before he blew through a red light, pulled up to the bus station and told us to get out.


We found our way to the proper platform and even managed to make a bus transfer, all of which was completed without proper signage. And by that I mean any signage at all.

We grabbed a quick dinner and trudged back to our room villa to prepare our materials for tomorrow’s training. Back to work in the morning. Wish you were here!





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Bye Bye Sydney, We’re Off to Brisbane

The second half of our international consulting gig involved a week in Brisbane. We had tickets to fly on Jetstar, a budget airline that’s somehow affiliated with Quantas.


We caught an early cab to the airport. You can only check your bags 2 hours before the flight leaves, and they are pretty strict about the timing, so we found a bench to wait.


When we finally got through, we had a quick breakfast and I found a plug to charge my laptop. When it was time for the plane to take off, I queued up, like you should. Jen eventually joined me, but when she saw we would be delayed, she sat down and struck up a conversation with another traveler. I think they were mocking those of us who were patiently standing in line, but I can’t be sure. When we boarded, we discovered Jen’s new friend was sitting at the end of our row. This worked out really well, cause Jen was pretty steamed about having to sit in the middle. Matthew was over 6 feet tall and didn’t complain at all about his lack of leg room.


The flight was great fun. Jenni and I outlined the chapters for our new book and Matthew recorded the moment for the back of the book jacket.


Turns out Matthew is a Kindergarten teacher from Hong Kong. He’s also great fun to travel with!


Once we arrived, our hostess Julie and her husband Peter met us for the ride into town. They drove us through the city and far, far away to our hotel. Because it was so far from the city center, Julie kindly offered to drive us back into town and drop us at the Queen Street Mall. We strolled through the shops. Since I’d decided to remove my splint, I realized I could finally wear cute outfits again. One of the first shops we found was Target.


The Targets in Australia are 100% nicer than the ones in the states! The clothes were adorable. I picked up a new dress and a couple of skirts. But I couldn’t wear those with my Chucks, right? Off we went to look for some comfy, flat boots. Along the way we stopped for a quick lunch and to check out some local street art.


I found a pair of salmon colored Uggs and Jen got some in purple.  It started getting late and we knew it was a long way back to the hotel, so we took off for the Queen Street bus station. It took a while (because of the lack of adequate signage) but eventually we figured out we needed to be on Platform A3 to catch bus 135. We accessed the fare station and bought reload able cards. The bus stopped at the QEII Hospital and we walked the half mile to the hotel.

Our room villa was the furthest from the from doors of the “lushly landscaped 10 acre property” so we stopped at the hotel restaurant first. They were about the have a couple of VERY large parties so we got there just in time! I had the mussels and prawns which were bathing in a really dense tomato based sauce. Jenni had the lamb shanks, minus the mash. The large parties arrived and were VERY loud so we ate quickly and then trudged back to our room villa.



Tomorrow we will see everything in Brisbane, so we decided to call it a night! Wish you were here!



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