Saturday, December 31, 2011

A happy ending

It may be 2012 in Australia, but we still have almost ten hours of 2011 remaining here on the west coast of the US.

Unlike more recent years, I'm not in a hurry to see this one go... but I'm excited to see what next year will bring. What more 'firsts' are out there? We've had quite a few this year:

My first trip to San Francisco, where I took photos like crazy. I loved that city.

Last summer, we hung out down the coast, in the laid back town of Encinitas, venturing a little further south to visit San Diego Zoo - another place that's been on my list of places to see for a long time.

A third place we crossed off our list was Las Vegas, followed by a trip through the Mojave Desert.

Miss Pie had her first birthday, and is very much an adventure-seeking toddler. Her first birthday was January 9th... which means her second birthday is right around the corner. Slow down, PJ!

Perhaps the biggest milestone was The Faery starting her first year of elementary school, and I've seen her blossom even more than I thought was possible.

So... what better way to cap off the year than one final road trip? We decided to head south earlier this week, chase the sun, and see a bit more of San Diego. We stayed in the Old Town region, where the smell of freshly baked tortillas permeated the air, inducing flashbacks to a long ago trip to Mexico.

We spent our first afternoon there gorging on burritos, churros, and - for us grown ups - margaritas. The next day, we took advantage of our annual membership to the zoo, making it our second visit there; rewarding ourselves with sushi at the end of the day.

Our evenings were relaxing ones in our hotel room. Miss Pie snored away while we played Crazy Eights with the Faery and then, lights off for the littlies, we simply read by the glow of technology - me with my new iPhone and J with the iPad.

Yesterday was our day to head back to LA, but with a detour inland to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Our zoo membership also covered entrance there, and we loved the relaxed vibe. If you're ever in that area, I can't recommend it enough - I would possibly even recommend it over the zoo.

And here we are. Today is New Year's Eve - I can't help feeling somewhat like a contented cat sprawled out in the sun. 2011? A vintage year.

PS - If you want some comedy, scroll down and you'll be rewarded by the last photo. Promise.

Oh yes, they were. Nothing like making sweet love on the top of a car, right? The twelve-year-old in me had a massive giggle...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas fun

How was your Christmas?

Ours was lovely. Relaxing, which is just what the doctor ordered. J has some time off work, which is much deserved. This standard 10-days vacation per year ethos in US workplaces is in dire need of an overhaul. Seriously.

We started the festivities on Christmas Eve with a trip to our local shopping centre, which is a little like something that Disney would build if it were in charge of shopping malls - especially at Christmas time. There is a 100 ft tall tree, and twinkling lights galore.

This was followed by a drive around the neighbourhood to witness the extreme lengths some people will go to in order to outdo their neighbours' Christmas displays - fantastic displays, but I'm glad I don't live across the road.

By some miracle, the girls weren't up at the crack of dawn the next morning (this may be to do with the general sickness that's lingering here), so presents were opened at a respectable time... well, the Faery was up early, but to her credit, she waited because we insisted there was to be no opening until Miss Pie woke up too.

Play... coffee... breakfast... Bing Crosby... sunshine... jigsaw puzzles... then a spot of Roald Dahl, read from the newly-acquired fabulous books from various relatives for the girls.

Followed by more play, feasting, and relentless grips on newly-received soft toys. Just us, hanging out. No rushing, no obligations. I hope we have more Christmases like this one.

As for me? 'Santa' very generously - and unexpectedly - bestowed me with a lovely white iPhone. Something I hadn't dared to ever hope of possessing myself, as I am somewhat technologically challenged. My previous mobile phone was pretty basic and I can say that only a day later, I am surprised at how in love I am with my new gadget. Shiny.

Now, the internet can follow me everywhere. Be very afraid...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The childproof packaging on American medication does my head in. 
Every time.

I'm too used to Australian blister packs, where it's easy 
to push the tablets through a layer of foil. Done.

American blister packs are a little more difficult to open.
To the untrained eye, they look the same.

The fact that scissors are mentioned in the instructions
should be warning of the frustration level involved.

You see, in addition to the foil, there is a layer of thick paper.
Impossible to just 'pop' the tablets through.

In theory, the paper is supposed to peel away first,
leaving just the foil. Easy.

In my time here, though, I've yet to have this happen.
Scissors are always required, and the pack ends up a mangled mess.

So annoying if I need to pop some of these when I'm out and about.
It's not like I carry scissors on me.

I needed to pop some of these today, and had the brilliant idea
of documenting just how ridiculous it is. 

I should have known - Murphy's Law.

The pack opened for me in a way it's never done before. 

I was gobsmacked.
I threw away the empty packaging, put the camera back, 
and grabbed some water to swallow the tablets with...

...only there were no tablets on the table.

I searched everywhere.

They were in the bin, on top of the coffee grounds.
Nice one, MJ.

You can probably guess that in my sneezing foggy haze,
with genuine surprise thrown into the mix, 
I'd accidentally thrown out the proverbial baby with the bath water.

I won't combine medication and blogging again...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My life in review

Being December, most people look back over the past year and reflect. Good? Bad? Bring on the New Year? Be sad to see this one go?

All the magazines use this time of year as the perfect excuse to rehash photos and news stories. Revel once again in the scandals, ogle even more over celebrity transformations.

Last December, I found myself looking back a bit further than just the year, when I found myself scanning my favourite old travel photos.

This week has seen a similar trip down memory lane, courtesy of Facebook. You see, I decided to take a leap and embrace the new timeline format on my profile page. I figured I might as well, if it was going to be forced on us eventually. Plus, it does look rather fetching with the nice large cover photos.

A nifty new feature of the timeline format is that the dates on photos can be changed. This appealed - immensely - to the OCD part of my brain that likes to categorise things into proper chronological sequence. Rather than languishing in a December 2010 album, those travel photos that I'd scanned a year ago are now nicely dispersed along my timeline, neatly prettying up the years from 1999-2003.

Once I'd started, I couldn't stop. I found other old photos that I'd been tagged in over the years, even pics from the mid-2000s (before everyone was on Facebook) that had been added in retrospect. I had to change those dates, too.

Before I knew it, every year from 1999 onwards had been documented on my timeline, along with a few random school photos from the mid-late 80s and early 90s.

Looking at it all, I felt the need to start hiding some of the 'stories' from the timeline. Even though the stories were nothing new, and photos were ones that had always been available in albums for friends to view, it seemed like an overshare and needed culling.

There are the options of adding 'life events' to the timeline, and there are several categories, each broken into further suggestions. I'm sure it's only natural that people will want to add in special times such as graduations, weddings, births of kids... and that's where I draw the line for myself. Facebook has categories such as: New Roommate, New Vehicle, New Eating Habit, Broken Bone, Quit a Habit, Tattoos, Piercings, First Kiss... you get the picture.

Why not just add farts and nose picking to the timeline? Surely everyone wants to know that too?

Maybe it's just me. While I love looking at other friends' photos (I do!) I have very little interest in so many of the potential life events that some other people will no doubt be including on their timeline. I just don't care, and in that same vein, I don't imagine that my friends will be looking at my timeline and annoyed with me for not documenting my various body piercings and drunken antics.

Now that I have my timeline updated and looking pretty, something strange has seeped into the nostalgia factor. It's more than nostalgic. Seeing one's life spread out into neatly compartmentalised categories for others to view, it almost feels like preparation for an obituary. Born in -, graduated in -, married in -, X number of children, worked at -, travelled to -.

Packaged up, ready to go... how convenient.

I'm going to keep the photos on the timeline - because now that I've been thinking about it, the morbid part of my brain thinks what if? If something suddenly happened to me, and I was no longer around, my blog and my Facebook account would probably be the most easily accessible part of me that my daughters may want to access one day. It may be the best way for them to get a sense of my life when I was younger.

Hopefully, it won't come to that. We just never know, though.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pinned and jarred

If you've found your way here, thinking this is some kind of crafty DIY blog, then you're fresh out of luck. That's not me.

The chair that I rescued in October, with every intention of transforming, is still sitting out on our back patio. Don't worry - it's getting sat on to enjoy the odd cuppa (or, ahem, glass of wine) in the sun, so not all is lost. In my defence, I just haven't found a fabric that I like enough to recover it with.

Anyhow, with Christmas coming, I needed to be able to give the Faery's teachers something cute - on a budget - and not completely impractical. I hit up Pinterest for ideas, and settled on the idea of dry cookie ingredients in a jar, made pretty.

I'm happy with the results, so decided to share here... otherwise the only people to witness my rare burst of craftiness would J, the Faery, and her two teachers.

I'm hoping the label implies 'Christmas Cookie' in Korean - just to personalise it a little, as her teachers speak fluent Korean, even her regular Kindergarten teacher. I couldn't write the pluralised form of cookie because I have no idea how - I'm still at the Korean alphabet, and consonant/vowel blend stage. As it turns out, a lot of English words have been incorporated into Korean vocabulary - Christmas and cookie being two such examples. The label literally says 'Keu-ree-seu-mah-seu Koo-kee'. Well... like I said, I hope. Otherwise this could be awkward.

Not bad, huh? Kudos to Pinterest, or these teachers would probably be getting Starbucks gift cards (which is apparently quite the norm here). Now if I could just think of a way to use the other ten quart-sized Mason jars from the dozen that I had to buy...

Friday, December 16, 2011


I've had a million thoughts swirling around in my head, all seeking some kind of release this week, yet somehow I'm incapable of stringing much together in a coherent manner. It may be connected to the fact that my head is as foggy as can be, and my sinuses in need of serious suction. You needed to know that, right?

So, instead of subjecting anyone to ramblings which probably wouldn't make sense, a few photos from the week will have to do.

Don't you love the shiner, egg, whatever you call such injuries? And if you're not already impressed, I'd like to mention that this is the second one - in the exact same spot, but difference causes - in as many weeks.

As 2011 nears to an end, I hope it's not too late to nominate myself for Mother of the Year - because clearly, I deserve it.

This is a house in our 'hood. Crazy-arsed shit, am I right? To properly capture the crazy, I would have needed a wide lens. I'm not even joking - we lost count of how many inflatable Santas there were, in every conceivable scenario. The only sound we could hear was the hissing and whirring of machines to keep these babies inflated. I'm guessing this collection is several decades' worth.

Today, in my quest to find (fruit) mince pies for the festivities - how unAmerican - I encountered this cute little tchotche, and she now has a home on our tree. I also bought a sister for her, so the Faery and Miss Pie can claim one each. I couldn't resist, as my love of Japanese-related items knows no boundaries.

Also? I've been desperate to use the word tchotche since I first encountered it over at Best of Fates (Megan, this should be a proud moment for you, although I'm pretty sure you would have had no idea). If only I knew how to pronounce it...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Owl love

Although we got our tree last week, we only had a few things to put on it (bought post-Christmas last year). We are starting from scratch - not that we have a whole bunch of ornaments sitting in storage in Australia. Nothing of sentimental value, anyway.

Yesterday I made it my mission to buy a few more things for the tree. Mostly generic - but pretty and colourful - garlands and beads. No point hanging up delicate glass baubles with a toddler like Miss Pie around.

I don't know whether the current trend for cute owls in decor is a North American thing, or happening elsewhere... but it's rubbed off on me and I have a bit of a thing for owls. I couldn't resist this one when I saw it. Maybe this little critter will be the first in a line of more sentimental tree decorations to come.

We had fun re-doing the tree, and Miss Pie wanted a photo taken too - while laying on me, naturally. She does a pretty mean owl a hootin' impersonation. Maybe one of these days, I'll actually see a real live owl in LA...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Love thy neighbour?

Much easier said than done.

After the Armenian gangster (and his family) moved out earlier this year, we had a blissful almost-six months without anyone living above us. For anyone who's ever lived in an apartment with people above, you'll appreciate how great this was. No stomping around, no loud television or music blaring at 2am,  no midnight vacuuming, no drunken yelling, no doors slamming.

Our bedroom is directly beneath the living area of the apartment upstairs, so if the neighbours are being less than considerate, we know all about it.

I also understand that noise travels, and there are times when it's hard not to make noise. I'm pretty sure that when I was in my early twenties, I may not have been the most selfless of neighbours... so I'm not against the odd night of loud music.

When our new neighbours moved in, we peeked out our windows and tried to guess whether they'd be trouble or not. We - or rather I - decided that they appeared to be a young professional couple, so Party Central during the week was unlikely. Phew.

Less than a week after they moved in, there was loud hammering above the Faery's and Miss Pie's room. Loud, repeated hammering - like the sound of furniture being assembled. It was 11pm, and a Tuesday night.


Given that our apartment complex has a clause in our lease about not using the dishwasher or washing machine etc after 10pm - out of courtesy to other neighbours - I thought that hammering furniture together could fall under the same category for noise pollution.

I decided a friendly introduction and chat might help, so I went and rang their doorbell.

And waited.

And waited.

I rang again, and waited.

And waited.

I took a step back, to see through the window above their door - there is a staircase which leads straight up to their living area.

What did I see?

The back of the guy, creeping away from the door and up the stairs to the living area.

Oh no, he didn't!

He'd come down, peered out the peep hole, and decided not to deal with me. Clearly, he had no idea that I could see all the way up their stairs.

Anyhow, the hammering miraculously stopped, and that was that. Whatever. I was happy to avoid any confrontation, and he must have realised he was making too much noise.

About a month later, on a weeknight (I'm less likely to complain about noise on a weekend - I was young once, believe it or not), they had their television up way too loud - it sounded like it was maximum volume, and some kind of console game was being played. Again, it was about 11pm, and preventing J and I from sleeping.

I figured they probably just didn't realise how loud it was - it happens - and threw on some decent clothing so I could have a friendly chat.

I rang their doorbell, and waited.

And waited.

Took a step back, peered up through the little window, and saw a sheet-wrapped figure tip-toeing up the stairs, then their lights went out.

Okay... it's going to be like that, is it?

But the noise stopped. Result.

As much as I hate confrontation, something about this bothered me. It's not like we're never going to run into one another - why not keep things pleasant enough? Instead of ignoring me, why don't they just own the fact that they were being a bit too noisy, acknowledge it, say sorry, and move on?

Overall, the noise they make hasn't been too bad. Often, we'll go for weeks without hearing any sign of life up there. Then there are other nights - usually weeknights - where they'll be loud, but it usually stops by 11.30, so we haven't bothered saying anything.

Then last night (actually, this morning) - after being up several times already, tending to sick kids - I couldn't get back to sleep. Their effing television was up loud, and it was 1.30am. I really didn't want to go through the whole charade with their doorbell. It's winter now, and bloody cold outside at that time. Eventually, I gave in because I wanted sleep, dammit.

I went outside, rang the doorbell, and waited.

I took a step back, and saw their lights on... but couldn't be bothered hanging around to watch the back of somebody skulking guiltily away from their door, so I went back inside.

And it was quiet. Result.

I think it's safe to say we have a system in place now, yes? They make noise late at night. I ring their doorbell. No words are exchanged. Noise stops. Result.

I just wish the whole thing didn't make me feel icky.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Barefoot Tales Revisited

A year ago, I wrote about feet - my feet, how big they are, and how I love going barefoot (those are my bare toes in the above header). I whinged about my lack of options when it comes to attractive shoes in my size, but since then, I've found a few decent online sites which have a fabulous range of shoes for Amazonians like myself. If any readers have similar issues, my favourite site so far is Barefoot Tess. For the first time in my life, the act of browsing shoes is fun. There are whispered possibilities, and I don't end the search in tears of frustration or anger.

I also wrote about Miss Pie's feet, and my struggle to keep socks or shoes on her eleven-month old feet. She was at that age where she just wanted to pull them off, constantly, and it seemed as though every single person I encountered insisted I hear their advice on how to keep her socks on - tying a string around her ankles was one such gem. I still see that woman in our local supermarket, several times a week, and time has confirmed that she is a total nut job.

These days, Miss Pie is less obsessed with pulling her shoes and socks off. She will, but it's usually only when she's been in her stroller for too long and is bored. She's now twenty-three months old, and capable of using those little hands for far more destructive purposes. Socks? Too obvious. Pulling everything off the shelves along supermarket aisles is much more fun.

Miss Pie also happens to be obsessed with her gumboots. Given the choice, she'd wear them no matter what the weather is doing. Being wise enough to know which battles to pick, I just let her wear 'em... and now we're on the receiving end of comments from strangers who think they're super witty and original: "It's pretty sunny today - don't think there's much chance of rain, HAHAHA!" 

She is über cute in her gumboots, though. And yes, being LA, there are rarely any puddles to be found, but she does her best. Mostly, she just encounters wet patches of concrete from hoses or sprinklers, but in her eyes, they are just as good. She squeals and jumps on these wet patches, expecting a big satisfying splash. To her credit, she's never disappointed when the splash fails to materialise. "OOK! PUDDOO!" An optimist. I love that.

As for the barefoot weather we were having last December, I'm not sure what's happened. 30ºC this time last year? So hard to believe, but I'm clinging to hope that it might happen soon. It's sunny, yes, but cold. Last week brought icy Santa Ana winds which destroyed or uprooted many large trees in our area. These winds apparently registered at Category 1 hurricane speed, so the damage wasn't surprising. We're lucky it wasn't worse.

A year ago, not only did I write about feet, but I posted some pictures too. One, taken when the Faery was only three, and the other of Miss Pie's chubby almost-ready-to-walk foot. Bare and in the sun, taken the same week as the post. Her feet are growing at an alarming rate, and so much bigger now - is she destined to inherit my large feet? Poor thing.

It seems only fitting to wrap this up with a photo I took earlier this week of Miss Pie and I, in the leaf-strewn local park. I think you can tell who is who, but I will add that I'm wearing a new pair of boots, and they make me feel pretty damned groovy.

Nothing barefoot about this.

Click here for link

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Merry Tree-ness

Last year, we didn't really go all out for Christmas. Lots of reasons - like a crawling baby - meant that we decided to skip having a tree altogether. This year, that crawling baby is now a very curious toddler, but one that understands what she's not supposed to be trashing. Sometimes.

A couple of days ago, we got ourselves a Christmas tree, and our apartment now smells like piece of heaven, via Oregon. I love it, because we have such happy memories of our visit there last year.

The hippy in me is very pleased with our almost-six-feet-tall purchase, and I'd forgotten how lovely it is to have a real tree - in this case, a beautiful Douglas Fir. So American, yes?

We don't actually have many decorations on it at the moment (a hangover from last year's Big Move), and I need to buy more. It doesn't bother me, though. I'm not a fan of over-the-top Christmas style - I like to be able to see the actual foliage.

Until I get around to buying some more decorations, this is how the tree looks. Not bad (although there is a concentration of red baubles in one area, at Faery-height). The little girls nearby ain't bad to look at, either...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mixing politics

I'm beginning to realise it's not worth mixing Facebook and politics. It's simply too disheartening when someone comments in a way that goes against every grain of my beliefs. I'm all for healthy debate, but when I lose respect for someone in the process, I can't help but wonder if it's worth it.

Yesterday, I saw an excellent visual representation about the situation faced by asylum seekers in Australia, compared to those in various other western countries. It is shameful, and a cause very close to my heart.

[Graph source]
Too many Australians whinge about the asylum seeking boat people - that they have it 'easy', that they get too much financial assistance from the government. This graph really puts the situation into perspective.

I don't know about you, but to me, there is nothing 'easy' about this. First of all, for a person to seek asylum means they've been having a pretty damned horrendous time of it in their own country, and not in a crap-the-bank-wants-more-money-from-me-and-I'm-sick-of-this-awful-weather sense. No, there is usually a fear for survival at stake, whether it's political, religious or economical.

Secondly, the journey made by these asylum seekers, by boat, is downright dangerous. To choose to be on a cramped, tiny boat that's travelling the massive distance from Indonesia to Australia, at the mercy of the open elements and giant ocean waves; not to mention the unsanitary conditions on board as a result of unscrupulous mercenaries who've organised the trip and try to fit as many people on to one tiny vessel as possible... well, if a person is prepared to undertake such a journey, to me that speaks volumes about the nightmarish existence they're desperate to escape.

Thirdly, for those who survive the journey, they are not treated with dignity. They are herded into detention centres, for a ridiculous period of time. Interrogated. Not given the useful tools needed to adapt to a new life in a new country... and then people wonder why there are social problems down the track in some of the areas that the asylum seekers settle in.

I can't speak personally for the asylum seekers in Australia, but one of the first teaching gigs I had in London was at an adult community college, working with refugees. I had students from Somalia, Iraq, Jordan, Bosnia, and Kosovo. I heard some of their horror stories first hand, and will never forget.

I will never forget the young Kosovan mother, pale, trembling, tears spilling, her vocabulary unable to fully articulate her nightmares, but her face saying it all. Being trapped in a room, all the young men around her, shot dead in her presence, as she held her smallest children. Stepping over the bodies. Seeing their destroyed heads in her dreams. Haunted. Telling me she has post-traumatic stress disorder, yet no referrals for professional counselling.

When I hear people imply that asylum seekers are somehow not 'genuine', and are faking it, I see red. To hurl such accusations makes a mockery of countless people who have seen hell. Why would anyone leave their home country with little more than the clothes on their back? Make such a dangerous trip on a boat? Knowingly endure less-than-welcoming detention centres? Indefinitely?

I don't understand the resentment towards asylum seekers, and it's an increasingly prevalent attitude amongst certain sections of Australian society that makes me feel ashamed and disgusted. I do understand there are financial implications for when a nation accepts a number of asylum seekers, but figures show that far more money is actually spent on chasing down and deporting visitors who have overstayed their visas - usually visitors from Western countries. I'm too lazy to link the figures here today, but I've read 'em.

Why the grudge-holding? Why don't people see how lucky they are to have grown up in a country in peaceful times, with access to good public health and education? Why don't people see that it's the right thing to help out a person in need? Why don't people see that by embracing people from other cultures, we can enrich our own?

I don't have any answers, so when I saw what a friend - someone I've known since school - had commented on my link to the above image on Facebook, crying the clichéd phrase about only 'some asylum seekers being genuine', I saw rage. And disappointment. Being late at night, and in different time zones, I decided to sleep on it rather than reply in anger... so eight hours later, I replied. I was happy that I held off on the angry tones, then he bit back and said even more that I'm unable to erase from my mind. I am disappointed, and racking my brains, wondering what's happened in his life (as far as I know, he's done alright for himself) to make him so unwilling to accept the possibility of asylum seekers not being part of a grander conspiracy.

Whatever happened to empathy? Compassion?

That'll teach me, anyhow. No more politics on Facebook. If any more of my friends or family were to respond in a similar manner, to this topic that I feel deeply about, I don't know that I'd deal with it too well. I'd think I'd rather not know how they felt.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Five Things

It's time for another list (why not?) and I'll be linking this up with Mama Kat's Writing Prompts.

[Click here for link]

Things you don't know about me:

1. I have an unhealthy obsession with maps - couldn't live without Google Maps, or my Times Concise Atlas of the World. Dork? Me?

2. I used to have both my nose and belly pierced - rebel.

3. The tip of my nose clicks when pressed - freak.

4. I can't burp - one will take me by surprise, maybe once or twice a year, but that's it... FREAK.

5. I've had my DNA analysed by 23 and Me, and my haplogroup traces as far back as 40,000 years to Northern Europe. I thought that was pretty cool to learn - it explains why my eldest resembles a Nordic princess.

Things that I know more than a little about:

1. Public transport in all the cities I've lived in (except LA). This happens when you go for nearly fourteen years without driving. My friends in Sydney call me Public Transport Queen.

2. The English language - I've spent nearly ten years teaching adults to speak and write it.

3. Geography - it never interested me at school, but travel has changed that. I could teach it, seriously.

4. Breastfeeding - I have three years under my belt.

5. Movie trivia - it's a little embarrassing what my brain retains. It's as though IMDb has a permanent portal into my brain.

Things I am clueless about:

1. Computers - luckily, I'm married to a professional geek and technical wiz.

2. Financial stuff - shame, and I need to get a better handle on it.

3. Online shopping - how do people find cool sites to buy cool things?

4. Roasting chooks/turkeys/beef/anything - I leave that to the geek husband.

5. Gardening - my thumb is as black as they get. Pity any plant that falls under my jurisdiction.

Things I believe:

1. Chocolate can and will make just about anything better.

2. Women can be their own worst enemy - so much energy is spent blaming men for all that's wrong in the world, but being a bitch doesn't help the cause of sisterhood one iota.

3. Music and art - without it, we'd all be numb.

4. Karma, but not an eye for an eye - let the universe sort it out instead.

5. Lots of clothes, mini mansions, big cars, a gazillion presents for your kids - none of it truly matters.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'll show you a place...

...high on a desert plain
where the streets have no name

Ever since I was a teenager and obsessed with U2's albums from the 1980s, it's been a dream of mine to see the Mojave Desert. The stark black and white photographs which Anton Corbijn shot there for  The Joshua Tree are so iconic and wild, I just knew I had to see that landscape for myself one day.

Happily, I can now cross that off my list.

On our way to Las Vegas, we stuck to the highway that ran along the north of the Mojave Desert. If I'd thought that seeing my first Joshua trees dotted along the side was thrilling enough, nothing prepared me for the amazing scenery on our return home.

We wanted to avoid the nightmare end-of-holiday traffic for our return trip, so we cut right through the heart of the Mojave, on a series of tiny roads, and eventually connected up with a different highway on the southern side.

Along the way, we stopped for lunch at a tiny 'ghost town' called Kelso, and went to some nearby sand dunes.

It was incredible. All of it. As soon as we stepped out of the car by the dunes, we were struck by the silence. There wasn't even a wind. I always imagined I might feel sudden panic in the middle of the desert because I've never actually been to a desert before (all our road trips in Australia were coastal, or no more than a few hours inland) but in contrast, everything was very much peaceful.

The music we listened to during part of the drive was the icing on the cake. I'd rummaged through the CD folder, and found U2's Under a Blood Red Sky - a regular soundtrack to our road trips back in Australia.

Travelling through the Mojave with my own family, seeing Joshua trees, wild horizons, and listening to vintage live U2... that day, it felt as though life couldn't get any better.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Vegas Buzz

Eerily similar to Venice, yet so different.

The Chandelier at The Cosmopolitan.

The Chandelier at The Cosmopolitan.

One of many impersonators and characters on 'The Strip'.

The fanciest sign, for the most seedy-looking McDonald's.

On 'The Strip'.

On 'The Strip'.

Don't look up.

The Bellagio's water and light show.

Minnie Mouse's smoke break.

I've always wanted to see Las Vegas, but nothing prepared me for just how exhilarating this city is. It really is larger than life - big lights, big buildings, big sounds.

Big everything.

I don't gamble, and - obviously - I don't hang out at strip clubs. I saw no reason to try either in Vegas, but two things I do do are cocktails and people-watching.

Truly, I felt as happy as the proverbial pig in mud. Wandering around, observing, clicking... it was all I needed.

We spent two nights there and hired a nanny for the first evening, so we could have a date night. We hadn't organised catching a show, but that was okay. We went with spontaneity and wandered along 'The Strip', eventually winding up at one of the cocktail bars that our hotel's concierge had recommended to us - The Chandelier at The Cosmopolitan. He'd read us well, and as soon as our first drinks were placed in front of us, we knew we'd be having more (quite a few more) and doing plenty of people-watching.


The walk back to the hotel was one of the happiest, most drunken walks I've walked in a long time. I felt like I was 21 all over again.

I'd left the camera behind in our hotel room so I wouldn't do anything silly with it - such as lose it. There was only one thing I saw that evening that I regret not being able to photograph, but I think the snapshot will always stay in my mind.

It was a fleeting moment, as we were walking through one of the casinos. Sitting at two of the slot machines, were a bride and groom - both beautifully dressed. The bride was in her late thirties or early forties, and wearing a creamy vintage two-piece suit, a small matching hat with netting over her face, and a bright slick of red lipstick. The newlyweds looked classy, and about as far-removed from all associations of tacky Vegas that one could have. It was an amazing image that I hope I won't forget for a long time.

The following night, J stayed with the girls and put them to bed while I went for a very long wander - this time with my camera. The amateur nerd in me enjoyed playing with the settings as I had a rare chance to practice night time photography. I don't have a tripod, so was somewhat limited, but I had oodles of fun nonetheless.

Vegas made me feel more awake than anything else. I can easily see why people lose entire weeks there, so next time we have trusted family members visiting us? I hope they won't mind a night or two of babysitting for us, so we can fly out for a weekend - minus the kids. I will beg.

It has to be done.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


(Photo source)

I know I've mentioned here and here that us heathen Australians don't 'do' Thanksgiving, but it's a hard thing to get away from when you live in the US - not that we want to avoid it; it just doesn't have the same meaning for us.

At this stage, Thanksgiving means a couple of days off work for J, a week off school for the Faery, and endless amounts of scrumptiously tempting food in the shops.

Not bad, really.

Although Thanksgiving means little to me, there's no reason why I can't use this American holiday to reflect and be grateful for the good things in my life. I had actually typed a list of things I'm grateful for, but then realised I was echoing the sentiments of a poster I saw earlier this year. My list was sounding rather clichéd and unoriginal, so I opted to share the above poster instead.


- I am grateful that - most of the time - I have access to information which allows me to make the best decisions I can (not that I always do, though...)

- I am grateful for the perfect health of my daughters. It's lovely that they're also growing to be kind, clever, and gorgeous... but ultimately, good health is so incredibly important and not to be taken for granted.

- I am grateful that I get to wake up every morning with someone who is also my best friend.

- I am grateful for having seen a decent little chunk of the world already, and knowing I will probably get to see more.

- I am grateful for the friends I have. There are many days that have been made infinitely better by knowing such wonderful people.

A lot to be grateful for. A lot to feel lucky about.

Happy Thanksgiving.