While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters Turn Around and Say Good Morning to the Night

Betty’s Beach Whitsundays Australia

When we began our Senior Project Australian Adventure and I challenged the students to write weekly blogs, they stared back at me with blank looks on their faces. Daunted by the task of writing was a definite draw back, but expressing their true, inner thoughts was the real monster in the closet.

Putting on my teacher hat, I attempted to find an example of how best to tackle this new chore. And then the light bulb appeared above my head, music. We all have some sort of musical “go to” place. From old school sources, yes I still have all my 45 records from junior high school, to digital accounts; it is likely that a soothing tune is no more than a finger tip away. A place we store all our favorite tracks that help us guide the many ups, downs, twist and turns of our daily life. Our playlist is a true glimpse into our souls. And maybe not something we are willing to share with the rest of the world.

Writing a blog is like exposing your playlist to the universe. It is scary putting your thoughts out in the public and opening yourself to the feedback of your readers. Or worse yet have a new post met with an empty void. I used songs to start each of my blogs down under, to keep in theme with my original playlist lesson. But now that I am back and my loyal readers (all 10 of you) are demanding new content. I found myself looking to music for my inspirations.

Attracted to the less straightforward lyrics, multiple outcomes and endless puzzles were quickly becoming a theme. Returning to my daily life six weeks ago I was instantly greeted with many new obstacles and or changes in my world. Some I had control over and others were just happening. I began to feel like Alice chasing the White Rabbit down the hole. Did I have to follow, expose myself to the change or could I sit back and wait for the outcome? And if I didn’t follow, would I be missing out on the best adventure of my life.

Maybe embracing the confusion and anxiety you experience in your daily life, although frightful to admit, will pull your world into perspective? By exposing your weaknesses you will only grow and expand as a person. Just like writing a blog post, you get braver which each and every word published. Maybe every time we turn the music up loud we are actually opening ourselves to a truer self?

Standing still and watching the rest of society try new things will never get you to the ultimate tea party. Personally, turning at the corner of “lets try something new”, always seems better than stopping at the crossing of “what might have been.” I am not saying we shouldn’t be cautious of giant pink cats with grins or eating unidentified food, but moving forward through the journey is the only way to find home.

While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky
But they can’t and that is why
They know not if it’s dark outside or light

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.

Let it Go….It’s Time to See What I can do to Test the Limits and Break Through

      This One’s For the Girls

My Daughters Kayla Jo & Lilly Ann

And My Nieces, Carly Treana, Payton Marie, Julia Rose, Hannah Rose, Marileigh Grace, Lylah Rose, and Carly Rose

Audrey Hepburn is my film heroine. From Roman Holiday, to How to Steal a Million or the original Sabrina, I can literally spend hours watching her movies and admiring the fashion. The other day I stumbled upon the book Fifth Ave, 5am, which tells the story of the making of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The historical importance of the movie was eye opening. The struggle of old Hollywood censorship and the empowerment of the 1960’s female was a story of an evolving model of the modern woman. Oddly enough, when I visited the Fashion Icon exhibit at the Art Gallery of South Australia, the history of fashion followed much of the same storyline. No matter the form, women look to find their voice in film, fashion, or sometimes within.

And it got me thinking about being a girl. In any era, and being able to discover the inner you. As a professor I get the privilege to watch many young girls start and complete their college careers. And thanks to Facebook, have a front row seat as they go out and develop careers, get married and have babies. From tears to laughter, and countless heart to hearts in my office, I have witness the growth of their female spirit. Combine this with my own 48 years of having two x chromosomes and I have discovered; it is not about finding that inner voice, but being brave enough to share it with the rest of the world.

Don’t misunderstand, I come from a long line of strong minded women. My grandma Darlene married my grandfather and instantly was the mother of five boys. As a little girl I would always marvel how she could run a household, with a husband that was on the road, and still manage to feed the entire family (and half the neighborhood) huckleberry, homemade muffins every Sunday morning. Grandma Darlene is the satin binding that holds the Coon family quilt in place, so to speak.

And then there was my Grandma Roberta, who I know wasn’t perfect, but might as well be Mary Poppins in my eyes “practically perfect in every way.” She taught us everything from how to chop up night crawlers for fish bait to threading a sewing machine. And we really didn’t want to cross her, yet I believe her grand kids did little wrong in her eyes. Case in point any nonsense Stacy and I would create, she gladly went along with and probably secretly encouraged.

And if you want to find a lady who will kick ass and take names, well meet my great auntie Myrt. She was cool, before cool was cool. Auntie Myrt always looks perfect in matching outfits and jewelry. The fashion houses in Paris would be so lucky to have their season collections have the ease of coordination. She even let Stacy and I try our first cigarette when we were 10 years old, probably why we don’t smoke.

Then there is my Aunt Diana. The lady who gave me a fighting fish for my 16th birthday. She evoked in me my sense of experience and wonder. And why I HAVE to order the flaming dessert on the menu, try that specialty cocktail or hold a Koala. Her love of travel and ability to beat to her own drum made her Aunt Diana. She would be very proud of my study abroad experience.

And then I have two mothers, who basically could run the world. There really isn’t anything between the two of them that is unachievable. I could write for days about Mom and Trish, and never fully do them justice. Our family is lucky to have these two mommy bears back in the cave,  because even though they can tell you what you are doing wrong, no one else better ever cross your path. Mommy Bear will be making them Sunday night stew.

As you can see, I have more amazing role models than any girl could dream. But lets face it, there are times that it is just plain tough to be yourself. And I am here today to say, “Let it Go.”

Disney has helped us create these wonderful princess like images in our heads. Who doesn’t want that perfect pair of glass slippers? (That would be me and my little designer shoe addiction.) But when Disney created Elsa, they really hit the nail on the head so to speak. Lets face it, this chick has some issues. Talk about being comfortable in your own skin.  Her touch will turn one into ice.  Yet she discovered how to be true to herself.  Elsa stopped worrying about what others had to say, trying to please everyone, and decided to love herself, now there is a powerful message.  We should all take a page out of her playbook.

Many of you have heard my little Jackyisms.

“If it doesn’t matter in five years, it doesn’t matter now”
“Faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust”
“Be Nike, just Do it”
And the ever popular “Make Good Choices”

But I think it might be time to add a new phrase that sums up the story of Elsa and embracing the inner you. It might be the late 1940’s when Dior designed the “New Look”, or Audry Hepburn playing the part of Holly Golightly, or even Elsa letting her hair down, the point is embrace who you are and celebrate it from the inside out.

Besides, the cold never bothered me anyway

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 🙂

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