Our State Fair is a Great State Fair Don’t Miss it Don’t Even Be Late

Call it an addiction,  a genetic disorder,  a wild passion, label it any way you would like, but I have a love of agriculture and fairs running through my veins. And well that makes perfect sense to me as my heart beats to a tune of a different drum. I gravitate toward vintage livestock photos, snap countless photos of display ideas, and examine signage, fonts and program themes with the scrutiny of an orthopedic surgeon analyzing  X-rays.  And when I happen to be lucky enough to come across an inspiration, well I capture it.

Combine my heart with my head and that is where life starts to get a little “ranch”. My mind works in a fashion that is different from most.  I live on the corner of math and logic meet creative process and chaos.  Objects are not three-dimensional, but six dimensional.  I see things for what they are now, what they have been and what they could be in the future. The word that I have decided that best describes my true nature is creation.

The final week of senior project we celebrated American agriculture. We visited a farmer’s market, made brunch and dined like a family. We toured a brewery. Experienced the entire process from the grains being unloaded to the bottling line. And finally we visited the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds and learned the deep history of the Royal Adelaide Agriculture Society.  That was a month ago and here I sit still pondering how to express my vision in a blog post.

Harnessing that creative process and narrowing it down to a simple message is a challenge.  I needed a week at Brain Camp.  Time to change my perspective and tackle my dilemma from a different vantage point.  But where do I find the space, time, and that view from above?  And then I stopped and realized for the past three months I have done nothing but capture the little moments of inspiration.  Why not share them.  Sure there is no obvious common thread, but then again, isn’t the common thread my mind’s eye?

As we drove home from our tour of the Great Ocean Road, I looked at Lilly and said “Isn’t all this farm land just beautiful?”  From as far as the eye could see were open fields full of grazing sheep and cattle. We even passed a farmer in his field assisting a cow with her calf.  Hard work, land, nature, well that filled my heart and the many breeds of livestock, vintage farm houses and ratty old signs caused visions of fair exhibits to dance in my head.  So to all of those like minded fair crazies, this blog is a wish for a fabulous 2015 Fair season.



Some of God’s Greatest Gifts are Unanswered Prayers

Just stop for a moment.  Stop and think.  How many times did you want something so badly and it didn’t happen?  How many times have you (it is okay to admit it) looked up above and asked God for something and it just didn’t occur?

I confess, I am as guilty as the next guy.  From my kids successes to my own personal gain, I have peered above for some sign of what will be the outcome.  Guess what, I might as well as, flipped a coin to determine what would happen with that wish, hope or maybe even a prayer.  I do firmly believe in the power of prayer, I just think he saves it for the really BIG issues.

In the fall of 2009, I applied to be part of the 2011 Study Aboard experience in Australia.  I discovered in January of 2010, I was accepted and happily took on the role of getting students excited about the program.  But with the economic crisis and the exchange rate working against me, my dreams were shattered come October.

Fast forward to January 2014.  I sit in my university office, overwhelmed with planning the AGB Gala, class, and the dreary nature that winter quarter delivers and yo and behold I discover an email searching for professors for Australia Study Abroad 2015.

Was it a dream?  Was it a sign?  Lets face it the name Adelaide has had a soft spot in my heart since childhood.  I have actually longed to live in Adelaide (the area at home) I guess God does have a funny way of answering your prayers.  And well if the truth be told, if Nolan would have been a girl his name would have been Adelaide.  So I responded, crossed my fingers, and kept it to myself in fear it would fail.

Fast forward 12 months later and here I sit.  Call it “better late than never”, refer to it as “answered prayers”, but I will tell you the proof is in the pudding.  I can’t imagine experiencing this journey with anyone else but the twenty-eight Cal Poly Mustangs that I share Adelaide.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few other bonuses in this unanswered prayer.  The exchange rate ROCKS! Luckily for my wine, fashion and “perfect bite” habit, it continues to improve the more I shop.  And did I mention the weather? Summer in Australia can be a day at the California Mid-State Fair, hotter than h#%$! We have had a few days over 38c (100 f).  It has been in the mid 80’s (non metric talk) and we have experienced cool, wet and windy weather. Which makes my thyroid so very happy.

Today starts our finals week.  Tomorrow we have our last supper as an entire group. Am I sad? Uh, yea, hello, have you not been reading my blogs?

I am going to miss those twenty-seven faces looking back at me in class. Their questions about wine, marketing and the look on one’s face when I actually teach a non business student something new. I am pretty sure they will never see a teacup the same again! I have always said to my classes, “I have three kids of my own, I don’t need anymore”, well I think I just adopted a whole ship full.

I will miss my conversations with my side kick Tom.  I seriously could have NEVER done this without him.  Tom’s experience in traveling can only be topped by his knowledge in teaching abroad.  I am not sure if we are the Mom and Dad of this group or the crazy, cool uncle and aunt.  Probably a combination of the all four.

But as much as I hate to admit it, I am going to miss our weekly outings with senior project the most.  They force me to do the one thing I have been pushing myself for three years to do…write in my blog!  And well to be perfectly honest, they have made this experience unforgettable.  They are all very unique people and have so many hidden talents.  I only hope I have had 1/10th of the impact on them, that they have had on me.  And worse case, God made sure we had some unforgettable adventures.

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

Maybe Garth was sending the world the right message.  Just because things don’t always turn out the way you want, plan, dream, wish, pray, or whatever religion you embrace, it is OK.  Because sooner or later, and trust me sometimes it might be later, that great gift of hearing that non answered call makes perfect sense.  And it is f&^($@g unbelievable.



Chicago, Chicago That Toddlin’ Town

Dear Chicago –

For over a decade you have been my favorite city.  From your timeless architecture, to the nostalgia of Wrigley Field, from the lore of hosting the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 to the bulls & bears at Chicago Board of Trade, you just blew me away.  Yet, I feel the time has come for our love affair to take a back seat, as my heart has stumbled upon an unforeseen joy.

My new love is full of food, fashion and life.  There are many characteristics that you hold in common.  However, my heart now belongs to Melbourne.

In the movie Eat, Pray, Love, there is a discussion on how every city has a word, well Melbourne’s word is COLOR.

Enjoy a glimpse into Australia’s cultural capital.

PS I am saving the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the National Gallery Victoria for a later post.


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A B C ……. It’s easy as, 1 2 3

Well I am a week behind with my class assignment and blog writing.  They have kept us busy with field trips and out of class activities.  Learn by Doing was the theme selected for last week, and Better Late Than Never for this week.  I guess you could say I am living right on the edge of both topics.

Cal Poly has built the educational experience on the foundation of Learn by Doing.  As a product of that environment, I must say I embrace this philosophy in my classroom.  Luckily, the classes I teach lend themselves to this mode of instruction and make creating an interactive lesson plan seem natural.  My time in a University of Adelaide classroom as been no exception.

The majority of our class work has focused around the Australian wine industry.  We have been blessed to have two amazing guest speakers from the University of South Australia.  The current and relevant consumer and wine marketing research they have shared is overwhelming and inspiring. But that is just the nature of the wine industry in Australia. Their ability to collaborate instead of compete is evident in so many ways.

One noticeable object we encountered was that our students lacked a basic knowledge of wine.  Don’t misunderstand we do have wine and viticulture majors and others who have worked in the industry back in the states, but they are the exception not the rule. During my investigation for class material I stumbled upon the National Wine Center of Australia.  They graciously developed two classes for the students; one for our novice pupils and one for the students with a more sophisticated palate. These classes were Learn by Doing to the tenth power.

The majority of the students took a class called Wine Essentials.  They experienced different types of tastes, as well as, wine faults.  Then they learned the characteristics of wines that are traditionally produced in South Australia.  The second class, Brilliant Wines of South Australia, featured fourteen of the most well known wines in the market place.  The students were not only learning through doing, but they learned through seeing, smelling and tasting.

A couple of days later we had our last wine tour filed trip, a visit to the Adelaide Hills.  There was a noticeable change in the students approach to the tastings.  Their discussions were about the wine as an experience.  “This smells like tropical fruit”, or “Does this wine have lots of tannins?”, it was such a treat to watch them evolve and grow from our first wine outing.

Gaining even a basic understanding of wine is lesson best learned by doing.  And becoming a certified sommelier is not as easy as simple as do re mi.  The greatest lesson to be gained is, drink the wine that tastes good to you…. and that is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

And by the way,  we also learned a new definition for ABC, anything but Chardonnay.

Here is another post I did about Learn by Doing https://alittlebitaboutalotofthings.com/2012/02/  It is a nice shout out to Western Bonanza which is happening this weekend.

I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised you a Rose Garden or Even a Rose Garland

I grew up with aday at the races giant poster of Secretariat on my bedroom wall.  Horse racing and me have a long history together.  From the first race my mother took me to at LA County Fair to my dad working for Pa Finley, the majesty of the experience has always had a soft spot in my heart.  Now don’t get me wrong, it is a great spectators sport, but could never replace college basketball as my all time number one.  But since college basketball isn’t big in Australia and March Madness is weeks away, why not go to the races.

In AGB 314, Introduction to Fair Management, the students learn about the Pari Mutuel Act in 1933 that legalized the betting on horse races.  The monies gained by the state of California went on to build the California Fair Network and enhance the agriculture learning opportunities at Cal Poly and UC Davis.  It was only fitting that the senior project class took a field trip to Morphettville.  The cultural and formality was unlike I have ever witness state side, short of a triple crown event.  Hopefully my photos will give a you a glimpse into Australia Thoroughbred racing.  From the turf track (only the low rent district tracks would have dirt), to the book makers, to the dress code, the day at the races was one of my favorites here Down Under.

As much as I marveled at the differences from the industry at home,  Jim Ahern and Stephen Chambers would have noticed so much more.  There is no winner’s circle or rose garlands, but there is a love of the sport and a deep appreciation for pomp and circumstance. There is a rose garden, actually many of them and as the song goes, so smile for a while and let’s be jolly love shouldn’t be so melancholy, come along and share the good times while we can, we shared a day of traditional Australian fun.  If only you got paid if your horse finished fourth, it would have been perfect!


I Got the World on a String, Sitting on a Rainbow…What a World, What a Life, I’m in Love!

Expectations, the word or more importantly the concept, can be a driving factor of one’s outlook on life. The dictionary defines expectation as, “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case.” We are all guilty of having expectations of ourselves, others and life and then by human nature allow an unfavorable outcome to bring us unhappiness. Shawn Achor writes in the Happiness Advantage, to often we think happiness will occur once we reach a goal or a milestone. I believe at times, our level of happiness can be in direct correlation with the outcome of our expectations related to our beliefs.

When I embarked on this journey I didn’t have a clue of what to expect. My lack of looking forward was hindered by fear that the experience might not happen. (I had previously gone through this process, only to have it cancelled a couple months prior to departure.) Concepts were developed from photos by past participates and stories, but my mind was a blank slate.  As I write today, four weeks into this adventure my lack of expectation has turned into a self-awareness of the world.

The world has literally shrunk since I departed 4074 Willow Creek Road. From the food choices, to travel options, to the many origins of people residing in Adelaide, the world is literally just sitting on a string outside my apartment door. Why you might ask? I have my theories, but basically it comes down to the fact that people don’t move to Australia to become Australian. It is okay to maintain your cultural heritage; actually it is celebrated and encouraged.

But more intriguing is the fact that I find myself venturing out into that world. I know I have many friends and family who don’t always “get” my ability to do things alone. Here, I find myself not only journeying out alone, but also trying new things. There is no comfort zone. (Well yes I do have Mother Vine) But from my backpack to my metro card, to visiting museums and sitting in a garden and working on my laptop, these activities are more foreign to me than any country.

And the most surprising outcome that has exceeded any expectation, I LOVE it. Don’t get me wrong; I am not packing my bag once I am home and hitting the open road as a hobo. But the idea of living somewhere else and experiencing new people and places a couple months a year would be truly blissful. Life is a beautiful thing, as long as I hold the string, and trust me that string and I are going to be life long travel partners. And of course my backpack!

 “I have learned how to live, how to be IN the world and OF the world, and not just to stand aside and watch.” – Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina

 Top 10 Unexpected Delights of Australia

10 – Birds, birds, & more birds (When was the last time you saw a wild Parrot?)

9 – The Amazing Street Performers in Rundle Mall (and they aren’t creepy)

8 – The variety of food choices

7 – The Australian Wine Industry’s collaborative nature

6 – Working on my laptop more often in a park, than at a desk

5 – Adelaide University’s Ivy League Beauty

4 – Australian Fashion

3 – The giving nature of the Wine Professionals who have visited class

2 – How fun it is to teach a variety of majors marketing

1 – My Northface Backpack

Heffalumps and Woozleis are Very Confuzle … The Critters of South Australia

decent selfie je(warning, this post requires a basic understanding of the works of Winnie the Pooh)

Happy Birthday Johnny

At the request of my mother, who basically said she could see cows, vineyards and wine at home, I am focusing on the wild life I have observed while abroad. There is no better way to share our trip to Kangaroo Island, Cleland Wildlife Park, and the urban jungle of Adelaide, than relating it to a childhood friend. Winnie the Pooh and his stories were a daily part of my life as a little girl. My brother John did not only have Pooh in eye-sight at all times, but our grandmother made sure that Pooh had special clothing, just like our dolls. He went on all our daily adventures and was the chief operator of the Tonka dump truck. Today marks my brother’s 45th trip around the sun, dollar to doughnuts; he still has Pooh wearing a custom pair of bib overalls within eyeshot.

Deep in the hundred acre wood where Christopher Robin plays
You’ll find the enchanted neighborhood of Christopher’s childhood days
A donkey named Eeyore is his friend and Kanga and little Roo
There’s Rabbit and Piglet and there’s Owl, but most of all Winnie the Pooh

Deep in South Australia we have discovered many enchanted neighborhoods. Kangaroo Island (KI) is Australia’s third largest island and features many nature reserves to protect the remnants of its natural vegetation and native animals. The largest and best-known being Flinders Chase National Park at the western end, where we actually relived the days of summer camp on an overnight adventure on a working potato farm.

I can honestly say that wildlife in South Australia resembles nothing of California, let alone San Luis Obispo County. KI lived up to its name and gave us our first sighting of Kanga, Roo, and their entire family tree. The first time one hops past you, it is an emotional moment that you can’t help but cheer “I saw a Kangaroo”. By the time you have seen your 100th they loose their glamor. They are not popular amongst the wheat and cattle ranchers. Kangaroos can best be described, due to their crop damage and large populations, as nothing more than squirrels. They are hugely over populated, primarily due to the fact that they have no known predator. The come in all sizes and shades of grey and brown. What fascinated me the most were their legs. They are set in a perfect 90-degree angle. I also ate Kangaroo for the first time this week, but I digress.

While on KI we took in a bird show at Raptor Domain. And Pooh’s old pal Owl was visible in the likes of the most beautiful and noblest birds. For the record, I don’t know if it is that I really don’t pay attention at home, but there are birds everywhere in SA. And they come in all colors, shapes and sizes. They can be a little noisy, but how often do you see wild parrots just hanging out in your corner park?

Our final stop before boarding the ferry was Clifford’s Honey Farm. From the honey ice cream to the tastings of fresh, pure Ligurian honey, it was a dream come true for any pooh bear. I purchased some honey that was packaged, of course, in a plastic koala bear bottle. If Winnie the Pooh walked into this store he would never fit back through rabbits doorway.

And that brings me to the long eared creatures. They really don’t have rabbits in SA and they truly don’t want any showing up on KI. The ferryboat forbid the following items, foxes, rabbits, potatoes and honey to be brought onto the island, (because who doesn’t travel with a fox all the time?) Furthermore when we visited the Haigh’s Chocolate Factory they were making Easter treats. In South Australia the bilby is the critter that comes in chocolate form. No biting off the Easter Bunny’s chocolate ears, these little creatures are more guinea pig like in appearance, with a rat nose.

Pooh’s best pal piglet can best be found in the likes of Truffles, Oliver, Augusta and Horatio. Officially known as ‘A Day Out’, these life size bronze hogs are depicted in lively poses just as they were strolling the streets and greeting shoppers. They are my favorite part of Rundle Mall and make me smile.

If one is in search of bouncing cats, SA will leave you disappointed. There are no large cats, only feral felines that roam wild and cause their own set of issues. I have a few amazing feral cat stories, but will hold off as not to offend my cat loving friends. However hope is not lost, I have seen Tiger and he is alive and well and living in the body of one of the Wine and Vit students. Kevin is tall and thin and basically bounces from location to location. I have had to use my mom voice on him more than once and say “We don’t have time to go to the emergency room today.” He lack of fear is only out done by his zest for life.

Sadly, the only Pooh pal I haven’t ran across is Eeyore. I have not spotted a horse, donkey or a person with a gloomy out look on loosing their tail. However, there are still many creatures that our unique to SA. We have been lucky to see a wombat, echidna, dingos just to name a few.

And then finally our friend Winnie the Pooh, well if you don’t think Koalas are the most precious thing in the world, phooey on you. From seeing them in the wild with their babies to actually getting to hold one, they truly represent why Australia’s wildlife is vastly different than America. They sit in eucalyptus trees all-day, chewing on leaves or napping, they just are willy nilly silly old bears.

Obviously there are no Heffalump or Woozleis here in Australia; they can only be seen in Winnie the Pooh’s dreams. But some of the critters we have run across are very confuzle.

Special thanks to my lovely daughter Kayla for allowing me her camera for my Down Under Adventures. Also if you roll your mouse of the photos below you can read the captions.  Enjoy 🙂

Monday, Monday .. so Good to Me

I would never have guessed I would say this but, Monday is quickly becoming my
favorite day of the week in Australia. Why, you might ask?

Well first of all, it is Sunday stateside. Which means the ever flowing airwaves
of emails dwindle down to basically nothing. The pressure and anxiety I feel for not
being a good little worker bee stop. It is the one day I get to be a 100% present in
my new environment.

I also don’t teach on Mondays. That alone feels like a get out of jail free card. I
can focus on any task and allow myself time to appreciate. For example this
morning, I wanted to figure out a way to share my photos on my blog. I basically sat
in my pjs, my tea pot in hand, watching the Man From Snowy River (in honor of my
brother John) and mastered photo galleries in WordPress. It took me a few hours, not
to mention the time to upload photos. But the sense of accomplishment was beyond

Moments like this make me stop and wonder, whMonday 2y can I never do this back home? The longer I am away, the more simplistic life becomes. Yes, I have had days that are spent in my apartment on my computer making sure my bases were covered. And to add to the baseball metaphor, my dad would be so proud, I do manage to not drop any balls hit in my direction. Yet without a list, agenda, and deadlines there seems to be so much more to experience on Mondays.

Today, I had a 2:30pm meeting at the National Wine Center, which required me to stroll through the Botanical Gardens. WOW, how peaceful and grounding is that little oasis in the middle of Adelaide. And before well one should have lunch, why not try another cuisine from around the world. Argentina and beef sound amazing. My Monday was all I hoped it would be, and then more. And the students found a fabulous pizza place that you get a whole pie for $6 on Monday nights, watch out stomach.

Cheeseburgers in Paradise..Not too Particular, Not too Precise

Cheesebueger in paradise
Cheeseburger complete with bacon, beet, pineapple and a fried egg.

This week our preplanned class adventure, as they would say in MLB, was postponed due to a rain delay.  Seeing an opportunity to check off the list his 463 day, Jordan stepped forward.  With a few hours to prepare, he planned the class on the fly so to speak.  He quickly booked us a tour of a chocolate factory and let the rest fall into place.  When we quizzed him over lunch of our theme for the week he carefully thought and replied, family traditions and things that remind you of home.  For his family has a tradition of having lunch and then going out for chocolates.

This struck a cord with me in many ways.  First Jordan reminds me of Nolan.  So right there he reminded me of home. And his willingness to wing an adventure with the full confidence of a peacock is oh so my son.  My post this week reflects once again on my stomach.  As the saying goes “home is where the heart is”, and one of my true loves is food.

I have to say my diet and eating habits have changed dramatically since my stay down under.  Living by myself and trucking my groceries by hand has minimized my shopping experience.  My apartment meals consist of fruits, vegetables, cheese and believe it or not peanut butter.  I eat out maybe once every day with the leftovers finding there w ay back to my frig for the next day’s meal.  I don’t lack for variety as the world is my menu.  But I do find myself craving beef and what is better than a burger.  At home I live for BBQ style patties complete with avocado, purple onions and home grown tomatoes cooked medium rare.  Here burgers are all cooked medium and come with an assortment of toppings that slightly resemble my state side creations.  Aussies are big on their red sauce, aka ketchup, but after that there is no norm to toppings. I have even discovered a cheeseburger complete with beets, pineapple and a fried egg.

I have learned from this experience is that we are all cheeseburgers with our basic ingredients, but it is fun to switch out our “toppings”. Being here has forced me to be my own self motivator.  There is no one counting on me for a meal, clean laundry, or to take them to town.  I have to be so self driven.  I get it, that sounds hilarious, but it is so much harder than it seems.  So I have decided that the “toppings” are what makes each day special and different.  It increases my yearning to go out and explore.  My daily tasks are more easily accomplished. And if I fit in a new location to eat a cheeseburger, well even better.

The CrewAustralia has been a lovely experience that borders on paradise.  It is quickly becoming my new happy place, giving Maui a run for its money.  I can have one hell of a Mai Tai at Cheeseburgers in Paradise on Front Street, (Brandy knows) but the toppings just aren’t the same. “Makin’ the best of every virtue and vice, Worth every damn bit of sacrifice to get a, Cheeseburger in paradise”. Thank you Jimmy Buffet for reminding me of something so simple.

And, by the way, the fries down under are AMAZING

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