Thursday, November 26, 2009

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving

Making a Difference with Andrew Mersmann.

His new book Frommer’s 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference is out in stores now. Here is an interview from Audience with an Author at

Andrew Mersmann has volunteered on service projects ranging from working and living with the homeless on Los Angeles’ Skid Row to saving stranded pilot whales in Key West to a humanitarian excursion by horseback in Rajasthan, India. He is a travel writer and Editor in Chief of Passport Magazine and has been a restaurant reviewer, entertainment writer, and celebrity profiler. After a long run with non-profit arts organizations in both Los Angeles and New York, he stepped into travel writing via an extraordinary journey to Machu Picchu. He has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends on satellite radio. Andrew blogs about volunteering at home and abroad at Not only is he an amazing person but he is a fantastic writer, we are very thankful he took time out of his busy schedule to speak to His latest offering, Frommer’s 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference is out in book stores now!

How did the book come about?

Frommer’s had the plan, as part of their new-ish “500” series, to do a book on volunteer vacations. I had heard about it through market email alerts at my other job (as Editor in Chief of Passport Magazine), and tossed my hat in the ring. I had already begun specializing in volunteer travel and doing some radio and panel discussion appearances, as well as trying to wedge the topic into other articles as often as possible. It is a category of travel that lights me up, and I always thought could do the same for other folks as they learned the scope of what they can do around the world.

The process with Frommer’s (actually with parent company John Wiley & Sons) then was a bit of an audition, with first submissions of CV, cover letter, and published clips, then a phone interview followed by a writing exercise on the topic as they whittled down the field of applicants.

What drew you to the subject?

I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled to some of the world’s most amazing places, and have, sometimes by accident and sometimes by design, been able to find opportunities to “give back” to the communities I visit. It has made each trip so much more powerful in my memories, and the sense of attachment and newfound advocacy and passion that gets inspired, I would wish on everyone. I contend there is something out there in volunteer travel to light you up, no matter who you are and what your priorities are in life.

What difficulties did you face when putting the information together?

My most daunting obstacle was timing. This was a huge undertaking with an inhumane schedule put onto it. I continued working my regular job through the process, so I was writing very early mornings and very late at night, and it was the winter and spring of no weekends and never feeling like I could come up for air.

The other difficulty was in limiting the field to only 500—there are so many outstanding projects around the world — 500 is only the tip…and OK, a bit more than just the tip, of the iceberg.

Was there a particular format you had to use when working for a series?

My editor, with whom I was blessed to form an almost instant rapport, had a list of 16 proposed chapter categories before they ever hired me as the writer (it later became 15). He and I hashed through and finessed them, changing the focus sometimes, each of us occasionally feeling like we needed to go to bat for something about which we felt strongly. We turned those chapters into subdivided sections, and went from there. There was lots of back and forth—some of it needed to fit into the format of the existing series of other books, and in some instances, we reinvented the wheel as we saw fit. I felt truly lucky that our collaboration felt like a genuine partnership.

What do you wish you knew (before you started the book) that you know now?

How better to budget my time. It’s not that I procrastinated outrageously, but I didn’t hit the ground running as fast as I could when I began researching and writing this big ol’ thing…and running as fast as I could became my only option as I tried to finish a 480-page book in six months.

What advice would you give to budding travel writers and potential authors?

Write about what you know, and be generous with us as readers with the specifics of your point of view. Never be a generalist. Don’t decide that just because you are going to travel to Phoenix for vacation that an editor will want your perspective, unless you have been many, many times and know something quite particular about it that hasn’t been done to death.

The other big thing is to not fall into the trap of thinking that travel writing is only about place—people are what make the articles most interesting. Interview locals and get a true on-the-ground perspective. That will give readers much more insight than any listing of ten hotels and fifteen gourmet restaurants.

Lastly, never assume that rejection from an editor (or silence, even harder to take but much more common) is about your skill as a writer or even the quality of a piece you’ve written. Editing is as much about what fits on the page or into an issue with other elements, the balance of stories and range of destinations covered, ad buys (a brilliant story will get bumped out of any magazine in a heartbeat if a resort buys a two-page ad spread), and so much more that has nothing to do with literary merit. Work on your skill and making your voice specific and unique…and then make it even more specific so you do your one thing better than anyone else. Anyone can be versatile, but only you can write the way you do.

For more head to

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Unpaid, unsolicited yet fabulous review of Sunshine on Sugar Hill

"It was with some trepidation that I began to read Angela Gilltrap's "Sunshine on Sugar Hill" - on loan from a young and beautiful New Yorker called Casey who incidentally appears on and from Page 175 in the book. As a stuffy old Brit far removed from life in the Big A and indeed any big place, what was there for me in these pages?

From early on in the book though you are swept along by the author's enthusiasm for her new adventure as she begins her life in New York. You can't help liking AG. She is engaging, funny and you want her to succeed. Despite the inevitable setbacks on starting a new life she faces each new challenge like a reborn Polyanna with renewed vigour and the eponymous "sunny" disposition.

But for me the biggest plus in this very good read is AG's depiction of life in a Harlem tenement block. You wished you could meet the local characters who became her friends. Eventually Sugar Hill with its perils and its warmth gets right under your skin.

I was so sorry to come to the end of this book. It was like losing a friend."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Favorite Fashion Moments of 2009

Direct from Moda Lisboa
Moda Lisboa/Photography: Rui Vasco

Newcomer, Vitor showed a well-styled collection inspired by the recent upheaval in Athens.

Tried and true sportswear brand Adidas presented their Adidas Originals collection, showcasing a number of famous Portuguese celebrities and olympic medal winners (not too mention buff bodies.)

One of my all time favorite Portuguese designers, Katty Xiomara pulled together a cohesive collection of geometric and structured shapes. Very feminine, very Katty.

Luis Buchinho showcased long and fluid designs with pleats in silk taffeta and jersey. A colorful collection of wearable, dynamic silouettes.

Nuno Baltazar, is the supermodel of designers. Too die for eyes, George Michael-style stubble, the appeal of his clothes only adds the appeal of the man himself. His clothes are a hit with the high society ladies and this season, some inspiration from Africa made it´s way onto the catwalk.

To finish the night, the first lady of Portuguese fashion, Ana Salazar, showed her latest collection...

Moda Lisboa

There´s no denying that Portuguese Fashion Week is one of my favorite events. Situated in beautiful Cascais, the Atlantic Ocean kisses the sea side edge of the cliff, where a ancient fortress hosts Moda Lisboa. Now in it´s 33rd year, it continues to show designers new and old, experimental and conservative with a history steeped in traditional tailoring.

Every year the same international press descend upon Hotel Albatroz on the waterfront of Cascais to catch up, laugh, get loud, and of course, check out this season´s latest offerings.

This year marks the end of Moda Lisboa´s Cascais location so it is with sadness that we bid farewell to an era of down time by the pool and breakfast overlooking the beach - you may realize now why this is one of my favorite destinations.

Highlights from Day 1
Photographs by Rui Vasco

Cia Maritima

Alexandra Moura

White Tent

Jose Antonio Tenente

Monday, September 7, 2009

Review from excited reader

"Oh My Hell!!! Love, love, LOVE the book! I am only on page 17 and I am so stoked! So glad I went to Sugar Hill before starting it...awesome!!"

Well people, there you have it. Can't really say much more than that.

Available at ABC Shops, ABC Centres,
selected book retailers, online at
or phone orders to 1300 360 150 from March 30

Are yours as weird as mine?

Each one of us has our idiosyncrasies; the peculiar way we do things that have no logical explanation. I thought I’d share some of mine in the hope that all the other crazies would come out of the closet and admit that some things we do in life have no rhyme or reason and that’s okay. Be at one with your weirdness, embrace your oddness, and celebrate your slightly bizarre behaviour. Stand up and be counted (alphabetically in a beautiful excel spreadsheet in Garamond 12)!

1) I only eat apples if they’re cut up. Don’t know why, just do.

2) The only thing I care about in the morning is coffee and a hot shower ── don’t talk to me, don’t touch me just get out of my way.

3) All will be forgiven if… you arrive at my house with San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water in a glass bottle. Sad but true.

4) I don’t like to sleep I think it’s a waste of time. Saying that, once I’m under it’s hard to get me up.

5) When I ran out of milk… I once used Baileys as a substitute. Hence, why I no longer buy a bottle in customs ── the temptation is too much.

6) I only watch animated TV shows and movies. Note: I have been known to use The Incredibles as a motivational movie── evil lairs on your own tropical island is something we all should be striving for.

7) I put myself to sleep by investing (not even spending) the imaginary millions I have yet to earn. Honestly! What a dufus!

8) I would rather spend money on pot plants (I will no doubt kill) than buy food.

9) I adore vacuuming.

10) My signature font is...Garamond 12.

Okay your turn, go on get it off your chest...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The miracle of running water

No, before you delete this post from your inbox I'm not asking for World Vision sponsorship although, if the renovation on my block doesn't stop soon I may well be entitled to it. Yes, I realize that old buildings need to be rejuvenated and I know the downtowners are moving in but sometimes I can't help but think, 'can't you just leave well enough alone!'. Particularly when it comes to taking away my basics (and those of the elderly Mrs. Simon's in apartment 4D).

On one of the hottest days this steamy summer, I found myself with, gasp! horror!, a day off. At home. Without room service. Or a front of house receptionist to listen to my complaints.

I had a revelation that day. A moment of self discovery. I am okay with no couch. I am okay with no TV. I'm okay with no ac but I'm not okay without a fan. I needed one. Quite desperately. Add to my desperation the fact that I was left with no running water.

Which on reflection is quite hilarious for anyone that can imagine me at my home fanning myself with a cheep Chinatown hand held (that I'd bought cause it looked pretty rather than provided any real breeze) in my bikini in Harlem trying every tap in the house like a maniac.

After a long day of others yelling at the problem. Turns out it was a burst water main. Problem fixed 8 hours later. Ah, sweet, sweet running water.

Then the next day, thankful to have water once again, my toilet got possessed by evil ju ju. Yes possessed. With no TV noise to drown out the weird apartment noises I found myself peering cautiously around the bathroom door expecting an evil Gremlin to jump out at me. Seriously it was like a D Grade high school horror film complete with suspense building, gurgling fountain of (thankfully) clean water.

I would like to add here that I still love my apartment and my neighbourhood. I just don't like workman who once again, turned off our running water from 8am to 6pm. It's a simple thing in life, running water and exorcised toilets. But people when you wake tomorrow and you brush your teeth under the free flowing h2O be thankful. Say a prayer and hope the toilet demon doesn't visit your bathroom anytime soon.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Swapping smarts with author Ellen Meister

In her latest book, The Smart One, two-time author Ellen Meister takes us on a page turning journey into the lives of three sisters. A sister plot, with numerous twists and turns it was recently named one of the top ten beach reads by Woman’s Day. She dishes the dirt with me for about her creative process.

1) What was the major catalyst that led to the creation of The Smart One? Was it a professional or personal?

It's always personal for me. It starts with some thought or question that pokes at me begging to be explored. With The Smart One, I was thinking about the family dynamic and how it influences us as adults. In particular, I was contemplating how children sometimes get labeled, and how hard it can be to break away from that.

Note: In The Smart One, the three adult sisters find their labels both a blessing a curse, and need to understand this before their relationship can move to a healthy place.

2) How long did it take to get published?

This one moved fairly quickly because it was my second book and was sold based on a proposal (seven chapters plus an outline, in this case). My first book, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, was a much longer journey. It took about two years to write, nine months to find an agent, six months to rewrite and get an offer from a publisher, and then two more years before it found its way to bookstores.

3) The Smart One has so many twists and turns, how hard was it to layer the plot and keep track of everything that was going on?

Sometimes it can get tricky to stitch together a complicated plot and keep track of it all. I write notes to help myself figure out where I am and where I'm going. I hope no one ever sees these. They look fairly schizophrenic. The funny thing is, now that it's done I often can't remember what I left in and what I took out. So sometimes people ask me about the book and I give them the wrong answer!

4) What was your greatest challenge?

When I first starting writing The Smart One, I thought the humor was going to be a challenge. One of my characters is a comedy writer and I worried that it was a pretty ambitious thing for me to do. But once Kenny was fleshed out, the jokes just came. And I have to admit, it was kind of fun.

Writing, of course, has all sorts of challenges. I know authors who are natural storytellers and struggle when it comes to crafting sentences. For me, the story is the hardest part. Once I know what's going to happen in a scene, the writing is easy ... sometimes even joyous. But the hardest part of the whole process? Waiting. The publishing business is all about waiting, and I'm just terrible at it.

5) What motivates you?

Groupies! Kidding. It's the drugs. No, no. Kidding again. I'm motivated by deadlines, readers and the ideas themselves.

6) Any advice for budding authors?

Don't listen to all the horror stories about the state of publishing industry, and don't try to write for any specific market. Just focus on the idea you're in love with and write the best book you can. Also, read. If you're paying attention, every book has something to teach you.

For more author profiles head to

Chewing the fat with author Paul Bacon

Paul Bacon is among the new crew of creative non-fiction writers, penning the hilarious Bad Cop: NY’s least likely police officer tells all. He has been garnering great reviews and took time out to speak to me for

1) What prompted you to write Bad Cop?

In the beginning, I wanted to show how cops, who often come off as mean and violent, are just everyday people working under trying circumstances. As the project evolved however, it became more about how I personally wasn't cut out to be a cop. In the process of making cops look human, I made myself look like an idiot. Strange how things turn out.

2)How long did it take you to find a publisher?

It took about five months, which I don't think is extraordinarily long, but it seemed to take forever. Spilling one's guts on paper is an emotionally charged endeavor, so it felt like waiting for an answer to a marriage proposal.

3) How difficult was it to put your life into a formatted structure?

The structure wasn't too complicated in my case; I just started at the beginning and referred to my personal journal of the experience. The hard part was leaving out funny anecdotes and details which didn't necessarily serve the greater story. All told, I wrote about 200,000 words; only about 85,000 made it into print.

4) Have you been surprised by the reactions of friends and family? How did your fellow NYPD react?

I had a hunch people would take to it because it had a lot of things people usually like in a book: crime, humanity, physical comedy, and a self-effacing narrator. But I was surprised at how well it was received. My former NYPD coworkers praised the book for its accuracy, and more than a few civilians told me they read Bad Cop in one or two sittings. I couldn't have asked for more - from a critical standpoint, that is. I am still waiting for a big check to arrive in the mail.

5) What was your biggest challenge?

Not jumping off of a bridge during the four long, confusing years between the book deal and the pub date. There were times when it looked, at least to me, that the work would never be published.

6)Any advice for those budding authors wanting to put their experiences down on paper?

Be as transparent as possible in your storytelling. Reveal all your relevant weaknesses and motivations, no matter how embarrassing or crass they may seem. The more you admit to your readers, the more they will trust you and care about your story.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Taking you to the Apollo

Now I figured for most of you, a tour through Harlem is something you have not really considered, or indeed, considered and figured it a little too nerve wracking. So, in case you can't afford the airfare or are simply a big scardy cat, I've decided to take you on a little tour. Starting first at Harlem's most photographed and famous landmark the Apollo..

You may have seen the images broadcast throughout the world of people dancing on the streets outside the Apollo to celebrate the life of the late, great King of Pop, Michael Jackson. While tressle tables of merchandise appeared seemingly out of nowhere, (I swear that stuff was printed in an hour!), the vendours set up outside this famous landmark to do a roaring trade.

You see, the Apollo has always been one of the big draw cards of 125th Street which is the official hub of Harlem. This iconic theatre has launched the careers of greats such Stevie Wonder, James, Brown, Billie Holliday, Lauryn Hill and many others. It still hosts Amateur Night on a Wednesday night and is listed as Manhattan’s third largest tourist destination. It's now defined as a historic landmark and for good reason, for tourists and locals alike the Apollo is a huge part of the history of Harlem and although, most days I walk past it non-chalantly there are times when I have a 'Harlem moment' to stop and go 'that's pretty damn cool!'. I strongly suggest you go and find out for yourself. They hold tours where you can go backstage, select concerts and of course, amateur night is Wednesday nights.

ApolloTheater.Org. 253 West 125th Street, between Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd & Frederick Douglass Blvd (also known as 7th Avenue & 8th Avenue ) New York, New York, USA 10027. P: (212) 531-5300.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Book gets thumbs up from

Most people rarely, if ever, read the acknowledgements page of the novel they're reading. I do. Mainly because I know how much the people around you mean when you are doing something as time/energy and emotionally consuming as writing a book.

As my little pile of freebies gets smaller and smaller, I have to write lists to make sure the appropriate people finally get a copy of the book I have been talking about, crying about, having a mental breakdown about for the last two/three years.

Mr. Meyerson (as he's known in the acknowledgements) certainly helped me get through the worst of it. Being signed on to instant messanger can be quite a burden as he was soon to find out. I tested everything out on him from funny bits to serious stuff. ie. This is funny right? Isn't it? Or is it just me? Have I been writing this crap for too long? By myself? Do you think it's funny? Do I need to get out more? No, really you can tell me.

Patiently he told me when it was funny and when it wasn't. He stopped work momentarily to tell me I should take a break. I am forever grateful. Check out what he had to say on his fabulour blog:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunshine On Sugar Hill awarded 4 stars

Sunshine on Sugar Hill has been awarded 4 stars in Good Reading Magazine. Here's what they have to say:

"It is far from the glamourous story of a young Australian woman finding love and success in an exotic location, but that's what makes it so appealing and a stand-out among the many other memoirs in this genre. In a vibrant and entertaining way Angela shares her highs and many lows along the road to loving her new home and the people in it. It's definitely work a read." - Melissa Wilson

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I finally understand Paris

I was recently holed up in the fabulous Peninsula Hotel in Beverley Hills.

Note: I go from lifestyles of the rich and famous, to those of the poor and homeless on a regular basis.

After asking Jason, my lovely hotelier all the important questions - is breakfast included and how does the shower work - I set off to catch up with a good friend of mine Matty Meyerson of

Somewhat disorientated I asked at the front desk if my directions were correct.

“Well, Ms. Gilltrap, we actually have a complimentary driver, would you mind being driven?”

Um, let me think about it. How does, “Hell no, sound?”

Sitting comfortably in the back of my black Rolls Royce with my lovely driver up front, I flew past the many stores of Rodeo Drive actually understanding Paris Hilton for the first time in my life. If I had this life, I would totally be a shallow, stupid bi-atch with a penitent for small dogs too.

Arriving back at the hotel sometime after, I returned to my room to find something quite odd - either there was a new brand of luxury linen called ‘AG’ or they had had the pillowcase embroidered with my initials.

Answer: they had embroidered. I had it wrapped to go on check out. Hee hee hee!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Very big in Poland right now

Although the book is yet to be translated into various languages, Poland seems to have their eyes on the prize. If you speak Polish don't forget to check out the fabulous net-mag Cut & Paste that has an interview about the book:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Behind the Book Series - Casey Gillespie

Behind the book with Casey Gillespie, 29, 5’9”

What page do you first appear on?
I believe it’s 176, but I’m going to have to check again (note my bitter tone).

How do you feel about that?
Again, note my bitter tone, sweetie. I feel a bit jilted being your non-sexual life partner and all. Plus, I’m funny. (And tall.) I should have been introduced much earlier, and when you finally get it published in America I expect to appear in the first 50 pages!

Is it true that you say sweets and/or sweetie a lot or was I exaggerating?
Sweetie — seriously, what are you talking about?! I do not! Total and complete over exaggeration (sweetie).

Who would play you in the movie?

I’m pretty sure that Kate Winslet — having just won an Oscar — is the only one who would truly be able to understand the depth and complexity of my character.

What’s your favorite story from the book?

Well, besides each and everyone that I appear in I’m quite partial to the Laundromat/Korean embassy story. I remember you sent me a text that said, “Laundromat sign says ‘please empty pockets of paper, coins, bullets…’” I still laugh out loud.

Do you think you’ll get a spin off?
All leading ladies disguised as the best friend get spin offs, so yes. I see a trilogy plus movie deal.

Was the 'Casey' in the book the 'Casey' in real life?
You mean demanding, intolerable of stupidity, bossy, sarcastic and tall? Yep, that pretty much sums me up.

Is your name Casey?

Don’t ask me dumb questions, sweetie — I’m blond.

What makes this book better than a handbag purchase?

Well, clearly because a handbag will only give you one — possibly two — months of real joy. As soon as the next season rolls around you are going to want another handbag and said handbag will be tossed aside or donated to the homeless (where do you think the term “bag lady” came from?). The book, however, provides a plethora of timeless moral implications about life, love, friendship, heartache and how to avoid being a drive-by fatality. Plus, it’s really, really funny. When was the last a handbag was funny?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day 3 - Dubai

It's no secret that Dubai is full of expats. Ironically enough I travelled all the way to Dubai, from New Yoker, to talk to the General Manager of Ski Dubai, Mike Mahoney who is an Aussie, just like me. Was great to get the gossip.

Ski Dubai, gives you the opportunity to ski in the desert (or more accurately inside the confines of the Mall of the Emirates). After a good look around, I wasn't up to skiing, I headed into the Mall to find, well, globalization in fine form. H&M x 2, Forever 21, all the shops we are used to are doing great business unfortunately trying to buy something unique to Dubai is tough. In fact, most stores stocked exactly the same clothes as their world-wide counterparts.

From there it was off to The Address, Dubai's newest hotel addition. It's actually really great, very subtle decor, beautiful positioning, on the harbour directly beside Dubai Mall, Dubai's most recent and biggest shopping mall.

Then back to Emirates Towers and off to the airport.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The benefits of camel's milk - Dubai Day 2

The benefits of camel's milk

While slightly saltier than cow's milk, camel milk is highly nutritious. Designed after all for animals that live in some of the roughest environments, it is three times as rich in Vitamin C as cow's milk.

In Russia, Kazakhstan and India doctors often prescribe it to convalescing patients. Aside from Vitamin C, it is known to be rich in iron, unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins.

This I learned while having breakfast at the Jumeriah Hotel, Dubai.

Once fed we headed to the Burj Al Arab, considered one of the world's only 7 star hotels. Opulent in every way it shows the over-the-top nature of Dubai.

Next it was off to the Atlantis then a tour of the Old Dubai City.

My favourite, the desert safari with champagne stop and dune bashing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Day 1 - Dubai

Nothing like an early morning arrival to let you know you're alive (and truly justify those huge sunglasses). The heat hits you like a wall as you exit the enormous terminal that is Dubai airpot. 40 degrees celcius with 80% humidity makes it hard to feel energized but most places are air conditioned so it's not too bad.

Staying at the Jumeirah hotel which is lovely, fresh fruit three times a day, huge bath (with rubber duckie) and free internet!! The view is particularly good, no ocean shots but a good look at what makes Dubai tick - construction, high rises and development.

Headed to the beach which is something I never really associated with Dubai. The water was incredible. The sea the most gorgeous color blue.

From there it was a touch of shopping in the Souk for beginners, now a much needed rest.

Sleep deprivation does little for my brain.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Designers of Tomorrow

A sneak preview of this year's Parsons School of Design Fashion Design Graduates

Monday, May 4, 2009

Advance Article on Sunshine On Sugar Hill

Advance the ex-pat Aussie organization has included 'Sunshine On Sugar Hill' in their latest updates. To check it out head to:

The Preferred Airport

After weeks at airports, home is a much sought after destination. Particularly when you remember how great it is to be a New Yorker (be that an adopted one).

La Guardia, 1hr from my house, is my preferred airport. It's important to know your preference when others are booking your travel. JFK is okay, La Guardia preferred but please don't send me to Newark!

The Airport

Everyone in New York has this 'preferred airport' information. Mainly because many of use take public transportation to the airport. La Guardia for me means one bus, the M60 directly to the airport at a cost of $2 or if you have an all-you-can-eat metro card, free.

The Dilemma
Hoping on the M60 I was mortified to find my all-you-can-eat card had expired. A particularly big dilemma in NY public transportation as you have to pay the fare ($2) in quarters. Gathering this kind of shrapnel is rather difficult on a moving bus with luggage in tow.

"Listen, what do you want me to do?" I asked the bus driver politely, holding my $2 in bills up to show him I had the cash.

"Hold up," he then grabbed his speaker phone and announced to the rest of the passengers. "Does anyone have change?"

And just like that my fellow passengers came to my aid. Everyone from the old lady at the front to the dude at the back offered their card, cash and quarters.

In the end I accepted a lady's all-you-can-eat card as she was heading overseas. It expires in three days. I offered her my $2 which she refused to accept better still, it's good until Wednesday.

The Moral

The kindness of strangers cannot be underestimated so next time someone looks to you for a helping hand feel free to give it. We all need a helping hand sometimes.

Shout Out

I'd just like to send a special shout out to Emerson Williams one of the nicest airport bus drivers around.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Drive with David Iliffe 'Sunshine' Interview

Angela Gilltrap: Sunshine on Sugar Hill
Apr 30, 2009
Who was it who sang "Love Changes Everything"?

It certainly did for Angela Gilltrap. You may remember her as one of the judges, alongside Lex Marinos on ABC Television's Strictly Dancing a few years back.

Well .. soon after that show folded, she was on a working holiday in New York when a chance encounter with the man of her dreams in a bookshop resulted in her moving into an apartment in a part of the city most visitors to New York don't even consider visiting, let along living in: Harlem.

She's written about her experience of going from being the only white girl on the block, to "Miss Ghetto Fabulous" in a great book called Sunshine on Sugar Hill.

I had a terrific chat to her yesterday about what life in Harlem is really like, what's happened to her since the book was written - and also the stark differences in attitudes between Americans and Australians. `

Click here
to download the audio file.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Dangers of Red Nail Polish

Of all the things you should know about grooming, the combination of red nail polish and potential iguana attacks are rarely mentioned.

Personally, I've never been a pedicure gal. I'm not one to spend a leisurely afternoon lacquering my toe nails scarlet red. Little did I realize this reluctance is not the result of some subconscious anti-feminist movement but an in-built survival skill.

Visiting the Blue Iguana Recovery Program on Grand Cayman Island I was informed that in fact, Iguanas are drawn to red and have been known to race towards it and sometimes attack - not good news for the lady next to me sporting bright red toe nails.

Located in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, the Blue Iguana facility is unique to the world as it works to preserve one of the rarest reptiles on earth; the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana. Visitors can view these rare creatures from yearlings to full grown adults which can be over four feet long! A walk through the park's nature trail is included and your knowledgeable guide will point out the various Cayman wildlife and plants along the way.

Blue Iguana Safari Tours run Monday-Saturday at 11:00am CD$24 adults, CI$12 children under 12.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tales from Grand Cayman


Okay hands up, who enjoys a leisurely browse through Sky Mall on route to their chosen destination? On my way to Grand Cayman this weekend I found myself drawn to the inflight magazine’s version of the shopping channel. With it’s endless supply of weird and wonderful items it’s a great way to entertain. For those who haven’t picked up a copy in a while, I thought I’d relay what’s hot and what’s not in the airline shopping scene.

"Big Foot the Garden Yeti" Sculpture ($98.95)
With his characteristically big feet, our over two-foot- tall Garden Yeti will have guests doing a double-take as they admire your creative gardening style! With alleged sightings the world over from the highest Himalayas to the northwest United States, this elusive, mythical legend has been captured exclusively for toscano in quality designer resin and finely hand-painted for startling realism. (12 lbs.) 19 1/2" W x 19" D x28 1/2" H.

Jumpin Jammerz ($59.99-$76.99)
For the 'big kid' in all of us, now the same footed pajamas you loved when you were a child are available in adult sizes!
For those hot summer days and nights at the cottage, our classic footed pajamas are now made with the same MOISTURE ABSORBING fabric technology used in the latest yoga and sportswear.
Soft, lightweight, and breathable, this amazing fabric is also antibacterial--so you stay clean and cool as you fly into style and comfort!!

"The Zombie of Montclaire Moors" Sculpture ($89.95)
Not for the faint of heart, this Toscano-exclusive, life-size, gray-toned zombie will claw his way out of your garden plot, office, or family room corner, pleading for assistance with the most lifelike eyes you've ever seen.
Captured in meticulous detail in quality designer resin and finished so realistically that you'll swear you can hear him breathing! Arrives in 3 pieces.(13 lb.)

Carry eyewitness in your pocket ($149.99)
Click this pen and it doesn't just write words it records video. With a tiny color camera and microphone, it makes AVI movies with sound and stores them in 2GB of internal memory. Nobody needs to know that you're recording. USB cable connection lets you transfer data to your computer. By the way, this pen writes, too.

For more ingenious offerings head to

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Beverage is the new black

In our increasingly frantic, double-booked and over-complicated lives it seems even hydrating is causing us anguish. Gone are the days of a leisurely cup of tea. Banished are the simple pleasures of enjoying a cold beverage. Today, it’s all about hydrating on the go which, much like overhearing your neighbour’s phone conversation, tells us a lot about the strangers who invade our personal space.

On crowded sidewalks everywhere, harried passengers, exhausted commuters and serial over-workers are pounding the pavements clutching their drink of choice. Evian is the new Prada; Pelligrino (in a glass bottle) the new Gucci, these drinks are branding us in a way marketers could only dream.

This alarming development came to my attention whilst waiting patiently at La Guardia airport - destination: a fashion week, far, far away. Clutching my plastic bottle of coke I became somewhat self conscious of my beverage choice. ‘I’m much classier than this’ I wanted to scream. ‘I just need the caffeine!’

Looking around at the many people darting from gate to gate I began to realize that it’s not only our clothes, haircut, tattoos (or lack thereof) which are visually categorizing us, it’s our beverage choices. More than food, it’s the one thing we carry with us as an accessory, the one thing that defines our lifestyle and choices simultaneously. As the new age of intelligent consumers refuses to be branded by any one label, beverages are taking over where fashion left off.

The luxury items pertaining to beverage consumption, for example, include most of the European brands just as in fashion. Any beverage, Italian or French, is deemed couture on the drinking scene with San Pelligrino mineral water (in a glass bottle ) as well as the original luxury drink, Evian branding a person: rich enough to afford superfluous items, pretentious enough to want everyone to know it and fashion conscious enough to care about quality.

I myself, am a Pelligrino (in a glass bottle) drinker and to me it’s the champagne of bottled water, the Italian leather handbag of the drinking world. And yes, like a good pair of Italian loafers it’s worth every penny.

A little down the scale on the more Zara/Gap level are the waters in plastic bottles, a mainstream attempt at couture beverages. Much like its fashion counterpart it provides a convenient, less high brow way to get hydrated.

For the Nike crowd the endless brands of Vitamin water and energy drinks are the ultimate accessory. Similar to the brand of shoes they wear, their drinks must be seen as having the latest technological advances. Beverages with words like ‘electrolytes’ spur on these consumer’s choices. They want a competitive edge, even if it is just in their water.

For high powered execs, the new power suit is not the Chanel, hounds tooth matching two-piece, rather, the Starbucks mega latte, double shot espresso. Bounding, self importantly through peak hour traffic this group of consumers are simply running on caffeine. They are too busy for food (or so they would like you to think) and often shout out their well rehearsed order for all to hear.

And so the list goes on and on. Every minute someone is hydrating and high tailing it into a beverage, branding boutique to purchase an item that will tell the world what sort of person they are. And we all, subconsciously (or consciously), sit back and judge in our own special way - something to think about next time you’re clutchin’ and struttin’.