Maureen

Owner and Administrator of website: maureendurney.com
Owner and Administrator of website: maureendurney.com

WordCamp Brisbane 2019? What’s a WordCamp?

It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting here sipping the first life-saving coffee of the day. As I savour each precious gram of caffeine, my eyes scan Facebook to see how the world fared without me while I slept. Then out of the blue, the words ‘WordCamp Brisbane 2019’ leap from the screen. Yep! WordCamp Brisbane happened over a week ago and I haven’t written a word about it. So if you are wondering …. “WordCamp Brisbane 2019??? What’s a WordCamp?” …. let me explain.

WordCamp is an event I start looking forward to the minute the previous one ends.

Maureen Durney

Let’s unpack WordCamp…

From Pre-Party to Pack-Up

I’ll start with a definition of WordCamp, then I’ll give you the low-down on why it is the highlight of my year.

WordCamp is an event that occurs in cities around the world, usually annually, that focuses on everything to do with using the WordPress open source platform. That’s tech-talk for saying it’s all about building websites with WordPress.

That’s my very simplistic definition and I’m sure the organisers of WordCamps, and WordPress aficionados, could come up with a more sophisticated explanation. But I am neither of these. I am simply a WordPress user.

Brisbane started hosting their WordCamps in 2015 at the University of Technology (QUT) on George Street – and this year was no different.

Remind me to tell you how much WordCamp costs – because that’s the important part!

The Pre-Party kicks it off

It all began with a pre-party for Speakers, Organisers or Volunteers who were in town the night before WordCamp officially began.

The Bar was perched on the rooftop of a local establishment on William Street. Huddled around a patio-heater to ward off the chilly night air, WordCamp-ers gathered – and networked.

When I arrived the bar was open, so I sidled on over, wallet in hand, and ordered a drink.

No money changed hands!

There was no charge – not then – and not hours later. The Sponsors of WordCamp Brisbane 2019 had put a generous amount of cash in the till – and said…

“Drink Up! The Drinks Are On Us!”

And then the food arrived! Lots of fabulous ‘snacky’ food!

With drink in hand I found a comfy bar stool on which to perch to do some serious people-watching. I can talk under water with a mouthful of marbles, but in a big crowd – I need to warm up first. People-watching is what I start with.

Within a few minutes I was joined by Korryn Haines, one of the WordCamp speakers. Korryn and I chatted about all things WordPress and life in general, until two young men from Texas joined us. BlueHost, Sponsor and web-hosting company, had flown Devin and Chris to Brisbane for WordCamp.

The sounds of bubbly conversations echoed around us as we laughed and talked for a couple of hours. Korryn and I did our best to teach our new American friends the quirky language that makes us uniquely Australian.

And that was how WordCamp Brisbane 2019 began…. and continued…..

Day 1 of WordCamp Brisbane 2019

By 9am, we volunteers had scanned or checked our way through the registration of hundreds of Attendees, Speakers and Sponsors. And handed out the same amount of lanyards, badges and swag. Oh, swag is another bit of tech-talk – it means the freebies the generous sponsors provide.

Wapuu What?!

This year the swag included a furry little yellow Wapuu.

A Wapuu is a character that has become the mascot of WordPress WordCamps. At a WordCamp after-party in Japan 2009, a group of WordCamp-ers thought it would be a good idea to have a WordPress mascot.

The idea was taken seriously!

After much deliberation, the Wapuu was unveiled at WordCamp Fukuoka in Japan, two years later. Each WordCamp adds their own cultural flavour to the basic Wapuu.

A creative display of our Wapuus
And my cute little Wapuu

The Presentations

Once registrations were all done, WordCamp Brisbane 2019 kicked into high gear with two streams of presentations. The hardest thing was to work out which of the two outstanding speakers to listen to, since most of us haven’t worked out how to be in two places at once – (the organisers moved so fast I guarantee they’re the only ones who know how to do this…).

(Photo of schedule displayed at WordCamp Brisbane 2019)

At WordCamps there is no shortage of technology. Each presentation is professionally recorded, with some even being live-streamed. So when you have to choose between two great presentations, you can catch up later on the one you missed via WordPress TV.

And the Speakers?

The organisers of WordCamps are inundated with submissions from great Speakers (click here to read more about the amazing speakers at WCBNE2019).

So how do they choose the Speakers?

With great difficulty!

If they could, they would choose them all, but there just isn’t enough time.

So a lot of agonising-organising hours go into selecting the range of presentations that WordCamps are now famous for. And the decisions reflect all levels of expertise. Some Speakers talk of their emerging journey with WordPress, others speak to high-end developers, and others pitch to the in-between.

With the number of submissions received, you’d be right in thinking WordPress pays a lot of money for Speakers to attend.

Yep! Right in thinking that, but wrong!

The Speakers are all volunteers – even those who need a passport and international flights to get here.

So why do people beat down the door of WordCamp organisers to be selected to speak?

Because that’s what WordPress is about.

It’s all about the community.

WordPress is open source software:

The term “open source” refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible.

https://opensource.com/resources/what-open-source

The people who use WordPress help and support each other, and give back to the community of WordPress users.

Image from: https://make.wordpress.org/community/2017/11/02/what-makes-a-wordpress-meetup-great/

WordPress community members are the most generous individuals and organisations you will ever meet.

The Sponsors

Speaking of generosity, the Sponsors have it in bucket-loads.

Image from https://2019.brisbane.wordcamp.org/

Click here to read about the amazing Sponsors who helped make WordCamp Brisbane 2019 the biggest WordCamp in Australia so far!

JetPack, BlueHost, GreenGeeks, Conetix and WP Engine are just some of the companies who were ready, willing and able to answer attendees questions over the WordCamp weekend.

And it was the Sponsors who paid for the venue, Pre-Party, After-Party, recording of presentations, food, coffee and swag – and subsidise tickets for attendees (more about that later).

Speaking of food….

The coffee wagon was primed up and ready to go, and the caterers delivered enough food to feed the masses – all four-hundred and forty of us.

Morning Tea, Lunch, Afternoon Tea, were provided each day. Dietary differences were catered for. And the coffee continued to flow.

By the end of Day 1 we were all feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of information we had absorbed. But luckily we mustered enough energy to make our weary way to the Botanic Bar at the back of the University, just in time for the After-Party that kicked off at 6pm.

The bar was open – the food arrived – and there was even a Photo Booth at the back of the room. With no shortage of props, individuals and groups outdid each other in vying for the best ‘photo-booth-selfie’.

The party was in full swing.

Drinks, including Mocktails for non-drinkers like me, were plentiful. And just as at the pre-party the night before, no money changed hands in the process. WP Engine sponsored the After-Party. And we thank them, as we do all sponsors, from the bottom of our hearts (and stomachs!).

Day 2 WordCamp Brisbane 2019

With most of the registrations processed on Day 1, there wasn’t as much for volunteers to do on Day 2. We knew the process: answer questions; give directions; run microphones; time Speakers; clear up after meal-breaks; work out which presentations to listen to; eat; drink coffee; etc., etc., etc.,; and network.

If you want to know why networking is important, ask Sally. She has enough information to write a book about it!

Oh wait – she did write a book about it.

Sunday’s Line-Up of Amazing Speakers

(Photo of schedule displayed at WordCamp Brisbane 2019)

I will forever be indebted to:

  • Luke Carbis – for teaching me that building your own Block in Gutenberg is a lot easier than I would have thought.
  • Robert Li from WP Engine – for his presentation on Lead Generation. Robert stepped up without much warning to replace a Speaker who was unable to get there.
  • Paul Luxford – for enlightening me about the 10 things my WordPress website can do that I didn’t know it could do.
  • Cameron Jones – for showing us how easy it is to develop our own plugin for a WordPress website. Despite his young age, Cameron is an absolute Guru – having built his first website in Primary School.

Sadly, I didn’t get to listen to Korryn’s talk because I was timing the Speakers in the other room, but I’ll certainly be tuning in to WordPress TV to catch up on it.

Closing Remarks

At the end of the two days, the Organisers summed up the successful weekend.

Should I have been surprised by these stats?

  • 440 registrations – making it Australia’s Biggest Wordcamp (well done Brisbane!!!)
  • An astonishing 1050 coffees consumed in two days! – I hope the Sponsors are aware of how many lives they may have saved – mine included.

Everyone I spoke to as I helped with the packing up, whether they were first-time attendees or old masters, agreed that the weekend had been amazing!

And the outcome of two fabulous days of WordCamp Brisbane?

  • Sponsors:
    • took care of the sustenance and hydration of all who attended WCBNE2019
    • cemented relationships with current and new clients
    • answered technical questions
    • took care of the recording of each session
    • taught us how to pick a lock – yep! – and I now have the hardware to do it
  • Speakers:
    • shared their knowledge, thereby creating a lot of ‘ah ha!’ moments
    • provided shortcuts for WordPress users and website developers
    • answered a lot of questions
  • Organisers breathed a heavy sigh of relief in the knowledge that the countless hours of preparation had paid off
  • Volunteers hung up their high-viz vests and promised their tired feet a restful night
  • Old and new friends:
    • networked
    • shared tech stories
    • vowed to meet again at another WordCamp
  • Attendees gathered up their swag, said their goodbyes, and wondered how such an amazing weekend could cost so little.

And each one of us gave thanks for the overwhelming amount of knowledge we had acquired over the two full days of presentations

Okay – so how much did it cost?

Right at the outset I promised to tell you the important bit – The Cost! – and here it is.

I’ve described the:

  • pre-party
  • after-party
  • morning teas (times 2)
  • lunches (times 2)
  • afternoon teas (times 2)
  • coffees (1050 served over 2 days)
  • high-calibre speakers, both national and international
  • swag
  • hire of venue
  • tech-gurus on hand to answer questions
  • tech-gurus recording the sessions for catch-up on WordPress TV after the event

And the cost of all this?

$50.00!!!

That’s It!

Not per-day…

Total!!

And you wonder why WordCamp is the highlight of my year?

I buy my ticket as soon as they go on sale!

I’ve volunteered in other years and had to tell people that we can’t sell them a ticket at the door because tickets sold out weeks before.

I’ll keep you posted on when WordCamp Brisbane 2020 is happening so you can jump in and get your ticket.

If you live anywhere else in the world, check out a city near you for a forthcoming WordCamp.

But get your ticket early!

And so for another year, another successful WordCamp Brisbane has signed off.

And it wouldn’t have happened without the combined effort of the Organisers, Sponsors, Volunteers, Caterers, Coffee Wagon and especially – Attendees.

I am already looking forward to WordCamp Brisbane 2020!

I’ll see you there!

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Equality? Not Yet!

Today is officially International Women’s Day. It is a day of taking stock of where we’ve been and where we still need to go. Have women throughout the world gained equality? Not yet – but we are working on it.

Australia was:

My grandmother was fighting for equality for women in the early part of the twentieth-century. More than a hundred years later, we are still fighting for equality.

While some professions acknowledge the work of women as equal to men, and pay accordingly, others do not. Women, especially Baby Boomers, had to leave employment to raise children. When superannuation was introduced, the missing years of employment meant less superannuation. Is it any wonder the rate of homelessness among older women is so high?

Times are changing…

The introduction of paternity leave is helping to level the financial playing field for women, but the changes have come too late for the women of my era.

According to YourLifeChoices.com.au,

“Fifty-two per cent of Australians living in poverty are female, according to the Poverty in Australia 2018 report prepared by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the University of NSW.

YourLifeChoices.com.au

Median super balances for men and women in 2015-16, according to the Australian Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), were:

50-54-year-olds men $99,000, women $45,000
55-59-year-olds men $115,000 women $50,000
60-64-year-olds men $110,000 women $36,000
65-69-year-olds men $32,000 women $9900.”

YourLifeChoices.com.au

The superannuation figures quoted above indicate we still have a long way to go.

Back in the old days….

In my grandmother’s day, if a woman secured employment post-school, she had to resign when she married and/or became pregnant.

My grandmother wrote to the Government in the 1900s to lobby for financial assistance for raising children. It was not uncommon back then to have ten or more children in a family, and raising them on a single income was difficult. The Child Endowment Act was introduced in 1941, and amended in 1942 to mandate that payments be made directly to the mother, and to include children in government-run institutions, and Aboriginal children living on missions.

1915

In 1940, a female Public Servant officer had to resign when she married. During the war years this was overturned, as there was a need to keep women in the workforce due to the number of men away at war. Once the war was over, women were again forced to resign (Regulation 53), except for widows, divorcees, and women separated from their husband who did not receive any financial support. In 1966, females in the Commonwealth Public Service were able to remain in employment after their marriage. In 1982, the Commonwealth Government legislated for the prevention of discrimination against women.

Where are we now?

Thanks to the Suffragettes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the continued pressure on governments, a young woman of today has better prospects of financial security in retirement than those of the Baby Boomer era.

On this, the International Women’s Day of 2019, I’ve heard the question, “Do we still need to celebrate an international day for women?”.

Whilever statistics of domestic violence against women are unacceptably high – then yes, we do.

Whilever women are not safe to walk alone on streets at night – then yes, we do.

And whilever there is a disparity between the pay of a male and his female counterpart – then yes, we do.

Equality? Not yet!

On this, and every International Women’s Day until we have reached equality and safety for all women, we should celebrate International Women’s Day. It will continue to be the one day of the year when the world can take stock of gender equality. By focusing on the issues, we can plan for a better future.

I gratefully acknowledge the dedication and sacrifice of the suffragettes and women like my grandmother, who refused to accept the inequalities of the gender-divide, and stood up for the rights of women. We still haven’t achieved full equality on all levels, but we continue to push forward, and that is what matters.

I honour and thank all women for their contribution to society, no matter how insignificant they may feel their contribution is. And I urge us all to continue to demand equality for all women, everywhere.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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Where Have All The Teachers Gone?

A friend posted an interesting Article on Facebook today about the drain of experienced teachers in Australia. So, where have all the teachers gone?

Experienced teachers are disappearing into the sunset

They Have Retired!

Or at the very least, they’re thinking about it. Years of experience and skills walk out of the classroom every day, leaving a void that is hard to fill.

I retired almost three years ago from a teaching career that spanned the eighties, nineties and more than the first decade of the 2000’s. My career took me from Jelly Pad to iPad, and everything in between.

Why did I retire?

The pace of teaching has increased to the point where it is hard to keep up. We’ve gone from teaching the three R’s to teaching so much more, including how to function in the modern world of technology (cyber-safety). The curriculum is at breaking point and I shudder every time I hear ‘why aren’t they teaching that in schools?’.

I loved my job and gave it 100% of effort, but I found it hard to sustain the long hours.

It was time to go.

When a teacher retires, they hand in their laptop and their identity. A teacher’s world is contained in the files on the Government issued laptop; when they hand it back, their teaching world ceases to exist.

Departure time

But the retired teacher goes full circle – they embrace retirement with the same enthusiasm and passion they had for teaching when they were a new graduate. The difference is – they are now the boss and work to their own hours.

I’ve come full circle

But my heart is still back there in the classroom, wanting to help just one more student, or another parent battle the maze of paperwork to have their child diagnosed and accepted as having extra needs.

Should we try to lure retired teachers out of their new comfort zone and back into some kind of meaningful relationship with classrooms?

A lot could be gained:

  • We could salvage some of the knowledge and experience that walked out the door with the retiree
  • new graduates could be mentored – something new graduates identified as an area of need
  • the agility of mind that took teachers from Gestetner machines (if not, Jelly Pads) to Smart Boards and iDevices could be put to good use in the busy classroom in a meaningful way

Supply teaching is available to retired teachers, but it doesn’t offer the opportunity to pass on the experience of years of teaching. And it doesn’t highlight the depth of skills of the older teacher, especially in managing difficult behaviours and diverse classrooms.

New graduates start their teaching careers with enthusiasm, passion and a lot to learn – as we all did. They are the first to arrive at school each day, and usually the last to leave – at least for the first few years. The smart ones take advantage of senior teachers on staff and ask lots of questions – others prefer to learn the hard way.

Was it easier back then?

  • How did we go from Jelly Pad to iPad?
  • How did we move from chalkboard to Smartboard?
  • Where and how did we learn ‘the look’ – you know, that look that stops a wayward student in their tracks – without a single word?
  • How did we manage a classroom of over thirty students, many with Special Needs, without a teacher-aide or Special Education support staff?
  • How did we cope with thirty 4 and 5 year olds in their first year of school – on our own?
  • What could retired teachers teach new graduates that would help them over the five-year hump?

If only there was a way to bridge the gap between retired and newly graduated teachers – it would be a win-win, and the children in today’s classrooms would be better off.

Our Prime Minister surprised me yesterday when he gave the Closing the Gap Report. To get better results, Mr Morrison offered to wipe the HECS Debt for new graduates who offer to teach in remote areas.

I applaud the offer to help new teachers find a job, but our most vulnerable students deserve the expertise of our most experienced teachers. An ideal way to marry experience – with the exuberance of youth – would be to offer incentives to retired teachers to mentor new teachers in remote areas.

Mr Morrison – I’d go!

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The Sewing Fairy!

Thank God for the Sewing Fairy! I don’t know where they normally hang out, but one of them found their way to my house recently. And I’m so glad they did.

Image from Pixabay

It’s kind of a long story….

A couple of weeks ago I was sorting out a container of fabrics and I came across a piece of colourful stripy fabric. I thought at the time – wow!, this is good – I’ll make a skirt out of it. And because that day was just ‘sort-out’ day, I put the fabric back in the container.

Stripy fabric with arrow type designs, mostly orange, yellow, green, red and blue colours.

Meanwhile….

Move forward a couple of weeks to a lazy Friday afternoon. I had been doing a few chores that day and by late afternoon I needed some therapy. Since I didn’t have any chocolate in the refrigerator, and I didn’t want to go down town to buy some, I headed for the sewing room.

Sewing machine and overlocker sitting on colourful striped fabric on top of table

The aim was to drag out the orange and yellow stripy fabric and make a start on the skirt. I shook the fabric out to see just how much I had, but it was in a ‘tubular’ configuration. In other words, it wouldn’t actually ‘shake-out’ because it was a ‘tube’, as in doubled, or cylindrical.

Whoa!!!

At that point my imagination raced ahead of any logical thinking, and I figured this was going to be a quick and easy project. Since the fabric was stretchy, all I had to do was add a waistband (with elastic) and a hem. I don’t do zippers. If fabric doesn’t come with a zipper already inserted, my projects don’t have zippers. But I’m working on that void in my sewing skill repertoire.

When I turned that stretchy stripy fabric inside out, I was shocked to find it not only had been sewn into that tube-shape, but it also had a pocket inserted. When did that happen?

I kind of remember buying the fabric, maybe a year or so ago, but I don’t remember having started the project, and I certainly don’t remember inserting the pocket. The only explanation is:

The Sewing Fairy!

Perhaps they (using the gender-neutral form for Sewing Fairy) saw the mess I had made of the last project I tried to put a pocket in, and decided to bestow their kindness on this project.

God Bless That Sewing Fairy!!!

By Friday night I had added a waistband, complete with elastic, and hemmed the bottom of the skirt. Voila!, my new skirt was ready to wear – all I needed was somewhere to go to wear it.

Striped skirt hanging on a white mirror against a wall background. The skirt is mostly yellow and orange colours.
Not bad, for a few hours work….

And thanks to my lovely neighbour, Joan, I found the perfect excuse. On Saturday morning, Joan and I decided to go out for a coffee. As we drove onto the main road, I got the urge to go to a great little coffee place at Dungay, not far from home. So off we went.

There’s nothing wrong with my navigation skills!

The best thing about being navigationally-challenged is that I find the best places, by accident. By the time I realised that I was going the wrong way, I remembered another great coffee place in the direction we were heading.

Trees in the background and a table in the foreground
The Rainforest Cafe was peaceful, and so serene…

The Rainforest Cafe

What could be better than sitting at the base of Mt Warning, sipping on a great coffee and indulging in a little slice of pure decadence.

Cup of coffee and plate with cake, strawberries and cream
You can’t beat coffee and Persian Cake for brunch – any day….

Thanks to the Sewing Fairy, my new skirt took no time to make, and I was able to wear it to one of the best coffee places on the planet.

Oh, and by the way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my memory. If I had inserted that pocket and sewn that side seam, I would have remembered doing it…

It was the Sewing Fairy!!!

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The W to Z of Windows and Doors

The W to Z of Windows and Doors

Talk about leaving the hardest to last! The irony is that I learned the alphabet backwards before I was five. I still find it easier to say the alphabet backwards – and to go from the back to the front of a dictionary. So why am I only now working on the W to Z of windows and doors? Why didn’t I start the journey at Z? I have no idea!

But Here I Am!

W – W is for Wellington, New Zealand. A trip to New Zealand was never on my travel-radar, until September 2017. And then, as usually happens, it was circumstance rather than deep burning passion, that had me jetting off to Wellington. And they don’t call it Windy Wellington for nothing! After the pilot had switched off the engines at Wellington Airport, the plane started rocking from side-to-side. With wide-eyes of terror, I was close enough to the flight attendant to ask, “Is that the wind making the plane move?”. She replied in the affirmative, and added “You should have seen it earlier today”.

I’m glad I didn’t!

Did you know that only pilots who have had special training are allowed to land in Wellington? I now know why! And that was my introduction to Windy Wellington.

Despite the wind and the cold, I fell in love with the beautiful city and its people. And its windows and doors! One of my favourite holiday photos is this door in Cuba Street.

Black and white photo - side view of a door with a pot plant near it and signs above it

I decided to feature the photo without colour – it just adds a different feel to the scene. It isn’t the most beautiful door in my photo collection, but it has a certain charm that I love.

W is also for Windsor, an historic town north-west of Sydney.

Windsor is famous for a lot of things, not the least of which being the place where I grew up. One of the great windows in my hometown is in a house called The Doctor’s House. The house overlooks the Hawkesbury River and the old Windsor Bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge is currently undergoing a controversial change – not sure if I would call it progress, but it’s happening.

Old red brick two-storey house with verandah around the top floor with white railing, white doors and white shutters on the windows.

The white doors and shutters in the old house stand out against the red bricks.

White door with arched glass above and window with white shutters set into a red brick wall with sandstone steps leading down from the door
The Doctor’s House in Windsor

There is so much history in Windsor – including the oldest Pub in Australia – The Macquarie Arms Hotel.

Convict life was a prominent part of Windsor’s history and St Matthews Anglican Church, designed by Francis Greenway, was built by convict labour.

And now, X marks the spot…

X – now here’s a challenge! As I trawled through my photos – thousands of them – I came across a place called Xinzhuang, in China – more specifically, Shanghai. The reason I have any photos from Xinzhuang is because I took photos of the arches and roadways leading to Shanghai Airport. According to my trusty photo App, the exact spot of those arches and roadways is called Xinzhuang. Admittedly, they’re not exactly windows and/or doors, but they are close – kind of – (imagination needed for this). All you need to do is build some walls around the arches and Voila!, they would be spectacular doors.

Xinzhuang

Y – Y? Because Yatala starts with Y! And what is the big attraction in Yatala? Yatala Pies! Wait – where is Yatala? Take the M1 Highway from Brisbane in the north, to the Gold Coast in the South, and you will find Yatala just south of Beenleigh. I think the old highway went right past the door, almost, but now you have to detour, just a little bit.

Back in the old days…

My dear old dad used to call in there on his way back to Brisbane from the Gold Coast, to partake of their famous pies. By the way, that’s a hint to how long Yatala Pies has been plying their trade on the side of the highway that links North and South, on the East Coast. Thousands of motorists have detoured over the years and either dined in, or used the drive-thru option.

The important thing is, Yatala Pies has some great windows. Oh, and did I mention how good the pies are? Judging by the number of people dining in or passing through the drive-thru each time I visit, I’d say they’re pretty good!

Stained Glass windows featuring Australian animals - Emu, Goanna, Kangaroo and Kookaburra
Australiana captured in this beautiful window
Stained glass window featuring a red parrots and leaves
Red Parrots – part of the Australian bush, and this window at Yatala Pies

And finally, Z (wish me luck with this one!).

Z is for ?, and there’s always ??, and I couldn’t forget that quirky little place called ???. Dang, what does start with Z? Wait! There’s only one country that comes to mind when I think of places that would start with Z – China – of course! Let me check my photos from China and I’ll be right back, or – brb – as the young ‘texters’ would say.

Z is for Zhujiajiao – in China – somewhere not too far from Shanghai. Zhujiajiao is famous for its heritage as one of the Ancient Water Towns. The following photo is a slight diversion from windows and doors – but it’s just so symbolic of this fabulous place. I took the photo from the balcony of a Starbucks store – that just happened to be nearby. Yes!! Coffee!!!!

And now, back to the windows and doors.

Sometimes it isn’t as much about what the door looks like, as what it represents. In the following photo, it was all about what awaited me on the other side of the door. This was my little haven in Zhujiajiao.

A Funny Thing Happened in Zhujiajiao

On the day this photo was taken, our host had arranged transport for three of us to go to Zhujiajiao for a quick visit.

We had only been in the country for two days and were keen to explore. Our lovely host, Julie, had even written our accommodation address in Chinese so we could easily get a taxi back. Well, we enjoyed a coffee at Starbucks and then decided to cross the bridge. Now really, was it our fault there was a large market area on the other side? And was it our fault there was a ‘foot-massage’ place there? We couldn’t resist some shopping and one of us couldn’t resist slipping off her shoes and letting the cute little fish nibble massage her feet.

Time flies!

By then, we realised that time had slipped away while we were having fun, because that’s what time does. We were late – actually – very late!

No problem, I said, I can use WeChat to contact Julie. But WeChat needs WiFi to function.

Solution?

Go back to Starbucks and use their WiFi. Oh, and maybe have another coffee, because you can’t just ask to use their WiFi without ordering a coffee first. Coffee ordered and paid for – but no WiFi without a Chinese Sim. Oh well, we were already late so we might as well just enjoy the coffee.

Oops!

We found a taxi, managed the address problem and arrived back to a welcoming committee, in the form of Julie. A very-worried Julie!, who was just thinking about sending out a search party to look for us. Naturally, we were grounded! – but we were back in Julie’s good books by the end of the night when she arrived in our apartment to partake of a wine or two with us.

What’s next?

With the W to Z of windows and doors all wrapped up, let’s see where blogging takes me next. I still have thousands of photos and memories just begging to be shared, so watch this space!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Travel, 0 comments
S to V of Doors and Windows

S to V of Doors and Windows

Well, here I am at the S to V of doors and windows. I’ve got S, T and even V covered, but U? I haven’t been to Utah, Uluru or Ulladulla, so the U section will either be devoid of photos, or full of creative licence.

The purpose behind these stories about doors and windows is a wild attempt to sort out some of the thousands of photos I have collected over the years. By working through the photos alphabetically, it helps to categorise the many places I’ve visited. Why am I drawn to taking so many photos of interesting doors and windows? I have no idea. I’ll leave that to the arm-chair psychologists to work out.

Buckle up, and let’s get this show on the road.

S – S is easy. There is Sydney, Seattle, San Francisco and even Shanghai, and luckily I have photos from each of these beautiful cities. But because I grew up north-west of Sydney, I’m going to focus on S is for Sydney.

Sydney is famous for the Sydney Harbour Bridge, affectionately known as the Coat Hanger, and the Sydney Opera House.

You would have to wonder what Danish architect Jørn Utzon was thinking when he designed the Sydney Opera House, officially opened in 1973? White sails in the sunset, maybe? But no, Utzon’s design was apparently inspired by nature. Hmmm, I might have to stretch my imagination a little to work out which part of nature he had in mind.

Masterpiece by day – spectacular by night – the Sydney Opera House is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s right up there on the world stage with the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids.  

S is also for South Bank Brisbane and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this door.

Ornately carved wooden doors set in white brick wall


Goodbye S and Hello T

T – T is for Tenterfield, a town in the New England region of New South Wales. Singer/song-writer Peter Allen was born in Tenterfield, and wrote the song Tenterfield Saddler about his grandfather, George Woolnough. Perhaps Peter’s most significant contribution to Australian music, guaranteed to move ex-pat Aussies to tears, is I Still Call Australia Home.

These buildings are reminiscent of the architecture of an era when buildings were built for beauty. The buildings of today might be flashy, but they don’t have the character of these old places. The arched door and shaded windows in the side of the School of Arts look like a tired old face, looking out over the kingdom.

When I visited Tenterfield in 2018, I had forgotten that my grandparents had lived there in the early 1900’s, when Grandfather was the Postmaster at a little village near Tenterfield (Yetman). As I walked through the School of Arts I suddenly sensed a very real ‘presence’ of my grandfather. I couldn’t help but wonder if he had walked down that very same corridor, so many decades earlier. Perhaps his spirit is still walking those corridors… (shiver!)

U – I can’t put it off any longer and here I am at U. Did I mention that I might have to be a bit creative with this one? Since I haven’t been to any places that specifically start with U, I’m going to highlight Union Square, San Francisco. And since we are still in holiday-mode from the Christmas just gone, this photo is timely. In true Christmas Spirit, what could be better than the Macy’s Christmas windows?

Wall of windows in Macy’s storefront, San Francisco.
Macy’s Christmas window – Union Square San Francisco

Phew! That’s U, done and dusted!

And now, on to V….

V is for Vancouver, another one of my home-away-from home places. I always seem to gravitate back to this beautiful city to relive memories of happier days. Don’t get me wrong – all my days are happy days – but there are some that are happier than most. And my days spent in Vancouver (most of 2005) hold very special memories: of buying tulips at the supermarket to brighten up the week; Saturday morning treks to Granville Island Market to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables; walks to Stanley Park to use our yearly pass to the Aquarium.

I challenge you to spend time in Vancouver and not fall in love with the city and its beautiful people.

Wall of windows in a dark brown and a light coloured brick buildings.  Bare trees in the foreground.


Doors and Windows on Dunsmuir Street Vancouver.

The photo was taken on my last trip to Vancouver, in December 2016, featuring the St Regis Hotel on Dunsmuir Street. I love the windows in the lighter coloured building, with their darker frames. And the bare trees highlight the winter feel of the impending cold night.

On my very first trip to Vancouver, in January 2005, I stayed at the St Regis Hotel. We had flown out of sunny Sydney, had a few days in sunny Hawaii on the way, and then landed in cold, dreary Vancouver. I hate to admit that I wasn’t impressed, and may even have given voice to thoughts of going home – sooner – rather than later. Then the sun came out and we moved into an apartment in the West End, and I fell madly in love with Vancouver. Whenever I get the opportunity, I head back to that magic city, surrounded by Grouse Mountain – covered in snow, and Stanley Park – home to ducks, geese, squirrels and raccoons.

Is Vancouver on your Bucket-List?

It should be! And if you want to spend some time in the best location in Vancouver, contact me (through the Comments section) for a link to the best apartments on Robson Street. You couldn’t find a better location, or a more fantastic Landlord.

With the S to V of doors and windows completed, there is only W to Z left to do.

Huh – and I thought U was hard! X and Z – really? Oh well, I’ll just have to be creative – again!

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Where Were You on Christmas Eve?

Specifically, where were you on Christmas Eve 2017? For some of us, today is Christmas Eve – well, for those of us in the Southern Hemishpere anyway. For you folk north of the big divide – hang in there, it’s coming.

When something spectacular happens on a particular day, it’s usually easier to remember than most days, and that’s why I do remember where I was on Christmas Eve 2017.

The Dreaded Yellow School Bus!

Just to clarify, it was Christmas Eve here in Australia, but I was tripping through Seattle at the time, literally. That’s why I remember the day so well. In the Northern Hemisphere, it wasn’t yet Christmas Eve. It was the night before Christmas Eve. One minute I was taking a photo of yellow school buses on a cold dark night. The next minute I was tripping over a sign on the footpath (that’s Australian for sidewalk).

Yellow school bus behind a wire fence.
As if I hadn’t seen a yellow school bus before – but here was a whole paddock full of them – so I had to take a photo!

No big deal, except that my wrist hurt – a lot! I bought a wrist support at Walgreens and carried on regardless. Nothing could dampen my spirits as the snow came tumbling down for the next two days. As if by magic, it snowed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – for only the third time in a hundred years – in Seattle. The day after Christmas the snow had stopped and I figured I should go to a Medical Centre and have my wrist checked out.

Photo of me with arm in wrist brace on a Seattle street in December
Tying my hair back (or brushing it) is definitely a two-handed exercise – this is me before I ended up in a full cast. But I was still taking photos…

More than a little break!

X-Rays revealed a fairly serious break (‘smashed’ was a word used by the Doctor), so a few days later I ended up in a full-cast – shoulder to wrist. I have nothing but praise for the American Medical system – expensive – Yes!, but very caring and extremely professional.

Again, a little thing like a full cast wasn’t going to stop me – it might have slowed me down a bit, but it didn’t stop me. And if it hadn’t been for possibly needing surgery, I would have just kept right on going. I would have been happy to have had the surgery in Seattle, but my Travel Insurance was paying for it, so they decided to bring me home early. Can’t blame them.

As for the surgery?

I managed to avoid it.

Twelve months later I am reminded by an occasional twinge in my left wrist of that fateful night-before-Christmas-Eve in Seattle. But for the most part, my wrist healed with no problems (fingers crossed!). As predicted, I have lost a little bit of movement range – but nothing to stress about. And I’ve had no pain, which is a blessing.

So, where were you on Christmas Eve, 2017?

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The L to R of Windows and Doors

Sign Post to Linton

Linton

Sorting photos from A-Z makes sense, and now that A to K is done – L to R is next.  The L to R of windows and doors provides a link to the past; to days gone by when my feet weren’t so deeply planted on home soil. Back then I would pack up and go someplace new, on nothing more than a whim. Now I sit here and wonder what happened to that carefree attitude? Oh well, back to sorting thousands of photos alphabetically. 

L is for Linton, a quaint little village 30 kilometres south-west of Ballarat, Victoria, and the home of my BFF (that’s, Best Friend Forever). When I visited my BFF last year we went for a long walk around her ‘hood. As often happens when I’m travelling, I stop to say hello to someone or make a comment about something, and suddenly I’m engrossed in a deep conversation.

It happened.

As we were walking past a house with a verandah  (I love verandahs!), I stopped to take a photo. A lady walked towards us and I couldn’t resist commenting on how beautiful the cottage was. I soon discovered that I was talking to the owner of this little piece of history, aptly named ‘Peacock Cottage’.

Local Linton Artist

Pam Farey is a local artist who bought Peacock Cottage and transformed it into a beautiful gallery of her work.  My BFF and I were lucky enough to be invited in for a guided tour of Pam’s incredible Artwork, and the beautiful windows and doors of Peacock Cottage.

Looking out the front door of Peacock Cottage with a stained glass window on the right side
Looking out from the inside of this beautiful door and window

From L to M

M is for Miami, Florida. While I was in Miami in 2016, I was flabbergasted by the beauty of the lights from the buildings, lighting up the night sky and the water. 

Buildings in Miami Florida lit up at night with the light shining on the harbour


M is also for Melbourne, voted the most livable city in the world for seven consecutive years, up to (and including) 2017. Don’t worry Melbournites, the score didn’t drop by much in 2018 (depending on which survey you look at).  

This fabulous door in Melbourne was just begging to be photographed. It looks so old and mysterious.

You could easily let your imagination conjure up a fabulous story about this door…. hmmm, that might just be a story in the making. 

A green door with studded panels and decorative hardware

And on to N…

N is for Noe Valley, San Francisco, one of my favourite places, where bay windows abound. Noe Valley has more than its share of buildings that resemble the Painted Ladies that feature on postcards of San Francisco. Donut and Bagel shops are on almost every corner, and anyone who knows me well knows I can’t resist donuts or bagels. Or coffee, milkshakes, chocolate (but that’s another story). Looking back on the photos of Noe Valley brings back memories of happier days, in what seems like a lifetime ago, but, life goes on…

Street scene in Noe Valley with bay window above a donut shop
Church & 24th Noe Valley

N is also for New Delhi

Arches and unusual shapes highlight the windows in this building. Most of my photos are taken from the window of a moving vehicle, and this photo is no exception. I wish I had been able to take a closer, better photo, but at least I got this much. 

Building in New Delhi with rectangle and arched windows

O is for?

O Well, O could be for a lot of places – but none that I have any photos of. I’m going to have to use a little creative licence with O, and talk about a building that starts with the letter ‘O’. 

Inside Old Melbourne Gaol with cell doors each side and skylights above.
Old Melbourne Gaol

The Old Melbourne Gaol (yes, in Melbourne) is now a popular tourist attraction.

As you wander in and out of the open doors, you can read the story of an inmate who called that particular cell – home – often for a very long time.

As Aussies, we all know the story of Ned Kelly and his gang. It seems that old-mate Ned drew his last breath right here in the Old Melbourne Gaol, in November 1880. Even though he was a notorious Bushranger, Ned Kelly has become a bit of a hero in Australia.

Bullet-proof Vest

Right or wrong, Ned was an enterprising young lad and is best remembered for his iconic armour, designed to protect him from stray bullets. In the final showdown with the Constabulary at Glenrowan, Ned was wounded, but the rest of his gang were not so lucky and didn’t live to tell the story. Ned might have survived the shootout, but couldn’t escape his fate at the hands of the hangman at the Old Melbourne Gaol, on that eleventh day of November. 

From O to …. P

P P could be so many places, but it is especially Picton on the South Island of New Zealand. Ferries transport tourists and travellers from the North to the South Island (and back), arriving at Picton on the southbound journey.  

The Edwin Fox Maritime Museum building has windows and doors that tell of sailors coming and going, and travellers making their way to the south. From Picton, Christchurch is a (long) scenic drive away.

Windy? Are you kidding?

On this cold windy day, I was (not) patiently waiting for the ferry. After a fabulous weekend in Christchurch, it was time to return to Wellington, on the North Island. Windy is probably an understatement of the weather conditions that day. The ferry was delayed because of the almost hurricane strength winds that closed Wellington Airport for hours. So we waited, and waited, and waited…

We finally left Picton for the journey north and arrived safely, albeit very late.

Museum building in Picton with water in front

And on the other side of the world?

P is for Pike Place, Seattle, and no trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to the Pike Place Market. When I was in College, a long time ago, we were shown a training video of the fish market on Pike Place. Watching the fishmongers throw the fish to each other and engaging with customers, I figured one day I would go there and see that. Yes, I was at College studying to be a teacher, and No, the video wasn’t suggesting we throw students to each other!

My trip to Seattle in December 2017 was the second time I was witness to the antics of the famous fish market. The first time was in 2005 – but Seattle is such a beautiful place – I couldn’t resist going back again. 

While not exactly a window or door, the photos above are an indulgence to my memory of the fabulous Pike Place Market. 

Did someone say coffee?

A more significant door on Pike Place, well – for me anyway, is the door leading into the original Starbucks. And yes, I did go through the door, and I did have my favourite coffee in that very special Starbucks. Of course, I couldn’t leave without buying a mug to add to my collection of coffee mugs from around the world.  

Window of Starbucks store in Pike Place Seattle
This is where it all began 

A Starbucks on every corner…

I spent a lot of time in North America in 2005 and 2006, and somehow Starbucks featured heavily in significant decisions being made at the time. The fact that there seemed to be a Starbucks on every corner probably contributed to the statistics of that happening. The morning ritual for two years was first a coffee (at Starbucks), and then the day could begin. Well I guess not a lot has changed since then – my day still starts with coffee – just not a Starbucks. And that’s mainly because we don’t have a Starbucks on any corner here in Murwillumbah. But also because my trusty Rocket Giotto and Dancing Bean coffee beans make a mighty fine cup of Joe, right here at home. Bellissimo!

With P done and dusted, it is on to …

Q

Q is for Queensland, and I have spent a large part of my life in that sunny state. With so many miles of golden sand and surf, I seem to be lacking in the windows and doors department of my Queensland photo collections. Well, apart from the ones I highlighted in the A-E of Windows and Doors in an earlier post. 

Queensland by Night

Since Brisbane is the capital of Queensland, I think it is appropriate to add another Brisbane photo. Besides, the building is kind of at the top of the Queen Street Mall, and Queen starts with Q, right?.

I’m always in awe of the colours that light up the walls of the Treasury Casino Brisbane, at night. From my vantage point on the Victoria Bridge, one cold night in July, I was able to capture the beauty of these doors and windows. 

Treasury Casino at night with red lights showing up the doors and windows

Meanwhile, back in the US of A

R – R is for Rainier Beach, Seattle. When I think of doorways in Rainier Beach, there’s one that I would walk through every day of every week, if only I could. And that door is the door that leads into the Redwing Cafe  – my favourite place for coffee and avocado toast in Seattle. 

Front of Redwing Cafe in Seattle with Christmas decorations in the window

The photo I took doesn’t do justice to the entrance of my caffeine-haven for more days than I counted. If Redwing Cafe was open – I was there. When I stepped inside I was welcomed by friendly faces that were more than just baristas and chefs. A cafe can be popular for the food, or the coffee, or the friendly staff; Redwing is special because of all three –  oh, and the handcarved timber decor, which is spectacular, and beautifully carved by Shawn.

I bought the Redwing Cafe T.Shirt!

I’m so glad I bought the Redwing t.shirt. Every time I wear it I’m reminded of the place that was the highlight of my trip to Seattle. Seattle is full of iconic places, including the Space Needle and Pike Place Markets, but it is the beauty of the people you meet that really stands out. Anthony, Su, and your amazing Redwing Cafe team (and Jennifer, Shawn and Jackson) – I miss you all!

Organinsing photos isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I’ve  completed A to E; F to K; and now the L to R of windows and doors. All I have to do now is sort out the S to Z, and I’m all done. 

Easy!

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The F-K of Doors and Windows

The F-K of Doors and Windows

The F-K of doors and windows is a journey through some of the places I’ve visited here in Australia, and across the world. Some of the photos might need to be viewed with a little more imagination than others – but – most  fall neatly into their assigned category.

F Well, this kind of qualifies in the F category. A stroll down Flinders Lane Melbourne opens up a whole new world of ornate doors and windows. How beautiful are these?  The curves, the panels – it all adds up to a beautiful piece of architecture and craftsmanship – or – should that be ‘craftspersonship’?

On to the G’s…

G The Treasury Casino is on George Street Brisbane. The windows and doors are stunning and provide the perfect backdrop for the colours that magically transform the Brisbane night sky. It doesn’t matter what angle you view this building from – its beauty is exceptional, especially at night. The former life of the building was a Government Office, dating back to 1886.

Old brick building, the Treasury Casino Brisbane, with red lights highlighting the sides of the building.
George Street Brisbane: Treasury Casino

Oh gee – Microsoft Windows!  

Buildings on Granville Street Vancouver at dusk with the Microsoft building highlighted in a bubble
Granville Street  Vancouver

H is for….

H Hamilton, Brisbane. The Kookaburra Queen entertains diners as it steams its way along the Brisbane River. The light coming from the windows on the old Paddle Steamer is reflected beautifully on the water at night. If you find yourself in Brisbane, you can dance the night away on a dinner-cruise onboard the Kookaburra Queen.

Old paddle steamer boat on the Brisbane River at night with the lights from the boat reflecting on the water
The Kookaburra Queen at Hamilton, Brisbane

I – well – it has to be India

I India! What comes to mind when we think of India? The Taj Mahal, of course. The magnificence of the buildings has to be seen to be appreciated. The windows and doors that make up the total experience of the Taj Mahal are spectacular! Just to stand in the shadow of this romantic building is amazing.

White dome-shaped ornate arches of the Taj Mahal in India
The Taj Mahal – India

And then, onto …

J

Jiangsu – well – Nanjing to be precise, but it comes under the broader heading of Jiangsu. I’ve been to a lot of places, but obviously not many starting with the letter J. I love the way the new buildings can be seen through the archway of the old. Not exactly a door or a window, but I love the colours on the old structure. The colours in this elaborate entrance would welcome even the most weary traveller. 

Typically old Chinese colourful arch structure with modern buildings behind it.
Jiangsu, Nanjing – China

On Jefferson Street you can stand and peer in this window and watch the experts mould the sourdough into delicious sourdough bread at the Boudin Bakery. There’s nothing better on a cold day in San Francisco, than going to the Boudin Bakery for soup in a sourdough bread bowl. Just thinking about it brings back so many memories…

Baker shaping sourdough into buns at Boudin Bakery San Francisco
Boudin Bakery, Jefferson Street (San Francisco)

The journey ends at K

K Kangaroo Point in Brisbane – home of the beautiful St Mary’s Anglican Church. The windows, as expected in a building like this, are spectacular. I sat in the church recently (at a wedding) and was mesmerised by the colours. I was grateful that the bride was a little late because it gave me time to take photos and admire the beauty of the stained glass.

Old stone church with stained glass windows in Kangaroo Point Brisbane
Kangaroo Point Brisbane

As I meander through the twenty-plus thousand photos I have stored on my i-Devices, I wonder why I have so many photos of doors and windows? So far I’ve covered the A-E and F-K of doors and windows, so stay tuned – the journey will continue until we get to Z.

By the way, if you know any place that starts with the letter Z, please let me know in the comments section below. Otherwise, we’ll only get to Y.

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That Didn’t End Well!

October – here one minute and gone the next. I can remember sitting here at my keyboard on the first day of October, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Now I’m sitting here on the last day of October wondering what the heck happened? Where did October go? And all I can say is – well – that didn’t end well. 

It always sounds so easy. Just post a blog each day, for a month. What could go wrong? 

Life!

That’s what could go wrong – and it did! I knew I was in for a busy month; I just didn’t anticipate how busy it would get. The committee I’m on needed attention – a little more than usual – and WordCamp happened. Add to that a sick neighbour who needed assistance and you’ve got a whole lot of too-tired-to-write nights. 

Okay, WordCamp Brisbane 2018 was only one weekend – but it entailed a lot of planning. I live about one-hundred and thirty kms from Brisbane. At the very least it takes about one-and-a-half hours to drive there, but factor in road-works and heavy traffic – and you’ve got a more realistic time of close to two hours. Now that’s a little too far to drive to and from each day, so the first planning that had to be done was finding accommodation. With the first morning being a seven-thirty start, the accommodation was needed for Friday and Saturday nights.

The Options…

I looked at a few options, but because I was driving there, I had to find accommodation for my car as well. Has anyone found car-parking in the city that didn’t necessitate mortgaging the house to pay for it? The options weren’t too exciting:

  • Park on the other side of the river and drag luggage across the bridge (at least the parking is more affordable on the south side) 
  • Park in one of the parking stations in the city and be prepared for the hefty cost at the end of the two days (at least I’d be on the right side of the bridge)
  • Phone the hotel and see if they have parking and would it be affordable (I seriously doubted both)
Photo of Level 4 Row 1 of the Myer Centre Carpark
A photo of the carpark is a good reminder of where I left the car…

The last option won

I chose the Ibis Styles Hotel (right next to the Myer Centre) for two reasons:

  1. I have AccorPlus membership which gives me discounted accommodation; option of using my accumulated points; free WiFi; discounted food in the restaurant; priority check-in; 
  2. Location – the Hotel is: an easy walk to QUT (Queensland University of Technology), the venue for WordCamp; in the heart of the city; oh, and did I mention there is a Starbucks on the corner? Getting my morning coffee is not an option – it is a ‘survival-choice’. 
But first, coffee! 

A call to the Ibis Styles Hotel on Elizabeth Street cemented the deal. I could park in the Myer Centre carpark for $20 a day, as long as I remembered to have my ticket validated at check-out. Bargain!

Then there was the planning of what to pack for the weekend. I usually take three cases when I travel: one in case it is too hot; one in case it is too cold; and one in case it is just right. And then there is my technology bag, which usually weighs more than the other three put together. This time I had to economise. Even though the hotel is next door to the Myer Centre, I still had to drag my luggage from the carpark, through the shopping centre, out onto Elizabeth Street, and up to the door of the hotel. I ended up with one small bag for clothes and my usual large backpack for technology. It worked.

And WordCamp?

Two days of non-stop learning! Even though it meant more than two days away from writing (remember all the planning?), I figure it was a great investment in my blogging. What I learned that weekend will help me work faster and smarter – not harder.

WordCamp is all about using a WordPress website which is great for Blogging
Looking towards the path leading from Z Block at QUT
QUT – Z Block

So even though October has gone and the Ultimate Blog Challenge didn’t end well, I came through relatively unscathed – although exhausted – and a lot better off, knowledge-wise.

Life is a journey, and every moment taken for learning is a giant leap forward. 

Maureen Durney

So until we meet on another Ultimate Blog Challenge – this is me signing off. And now I’ll go back to just ‘blogging’. 

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