Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Flying high

Since our little nature outing the other day, and seeing a hawk, there's a song I've had stuck in my head.

I loved it the very first time I heard it, and why wouldn't I? Jim Morrison's vocals were sampled, and an irresistible beat added.

Without fail, this song takes me back to my clubbing days in London - where I first heard it. It was the golden era of Fatboy Slim, and I managed to take in a number of his gigs. He was always happy, and grinning from ear to ear. The best gig I saw was when he played the night after his son was born, and people were passing cigars over to him. A very happy place, and I was there!

So, without further ado, I present - Sunset (Bird of Prey) by Fatboy Slim. The fact that the song has a great anti-war video is a bonus. Or... you could just close your eyes and let the song wash over you.

Bird of prey
Bird of prey
In the summer sky
Flying high

Monday, June 27, 2011

Urban nature trippin'

This morning, I took the girls along to check out a Japanese garden at one of our local parks. We first discovered this place about a year ago, but hadn't been back since last year. At the time, the Japanese tea house was closed to the public (it still is, mostly) and the gardens were only open during limited hours - ones that I never seemed to be able to fit in between Miss Pie's many naps.

I'm not entirely sure how I managed to forget about the gardens (given my love of all things Japanese) but a random chat to another mum at our usual park last week had her mentioning the koi pond in the Japanese garden at Brand Park, and how her toddler loved it... so we found ourselves there this morning. I didn't have my camera with me today, but the above photo is one I took last year.

It was a gorgeous day to go, and the three of us are suckers for small critters and wildlife, so we had fun admiring not only the koi and shimmery mallards, but the many turtles lazing on rocks, intensely coloured dragonflies, butterflies, and - exciting for me 'cause I can be a nerd - a bird of prey, perched in a tree near our car.

Once we got back home, the ornithologist in me came out - urged on by the Faery to find out what kind of bird we'd seen and heard. Don't you love the internet? It's fabulous for stoking those nerdy fires, I find. I came across a useful site for identifying birds, and narrowed what we'd seen (and heard) down to one of two. I'm pretty certain it was a Red-Tailed Hawk:

(Photo source)
Gorgeous, huh? It goes without saying that we saw squirrels and hummingbirds too, but I'll add a few samples below of some of the other critters which we admired.

- a Flame Skimmer (dragonfly):

(Photo source)
- a Western Tiger Swallowtail (butterfly)

(Photo source)
- a Western Scrub-Jay

(Photo source)
So pretty! And my kind of morning - sunshine, birds singing, trees rustling, alpine-scented air, cute critters... and the ability to hop back into the air-conditioned cocoon of our car when it's time to go home.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A poo story

One of the nicer elements of apartment life in LA is that we have access to a rather lovely swimming pool and spa. There's also a gym, but I struggle to make the most of that particular amenity. I'm lazy like that.

Last summer was easy. Miss Pie was still little, so I simply timed pool visits for when she was due to nap, popped her in the troller, draped a muslin cloth over the stroller, then frolicked in the water with the Faery.

This summer, not so easy. You see, I've never been one of those mothers that willingly visits the pool with several small children in tow. Not without backup in the form of another adult. I find it all too hard, because of my aforementioned laziness. I also factor in that Miss Pie is one of Those Toddlers who has no fear. She's a climber. She wants to investigate everything and she's not a fan of holding hands. Water safety is not a concept which concerns her.

This past week, I've been a little braver. My motivation has come in the form of hot weather, and the knowledge that a bit of water play does tend to make the kids sleep harder.

I thought I'd found a rhythm for managing both girls alone at the pool, but an incident happened yesterday. One which had me reaching for vodka the instant J walked in the door after work.

(I'm not even much of a vodka drinker, but we had no wine. Vodka it was.)

Yep, you guessed it. This incident involved poo. The non-solid variety, and a swim nappy which failed to contain it.

We'd been in the pool for less than five minutes when it happened.

Before you could say 'Shit, shit, SHIT!', I had scooped Miss Pie out of the pool.

There were only a couple of teenaged boys in the pool, and they would have heard me yelling for the Faery to get out, and why. They seemed non-plussed and stayed in. I glanced at the water and saw that the 'stuff' had dispersed. There was nothing that I could see to retrieve, so what did I do about it?


Don't go judging. You try holding a slippery, wriggling toddler - with crap oozing out of her nappy - and then you can judge. Besides, that's what chlorine is for, right?

I plonked her into our red Radio Flyer wagon, and - the three of us dripping wet - made our way back to our apartment. Then I realised... I really didn't want to get all that water (and poo juice) on our carpet, so I raced inside and grabbed a nappy and box of wipes.

Then I took us back to the pool and into the ladies loo. My mistake. That was where the true horror occurred. The tiled floor was slippery for Miss Pie, and as I peeled off her bathing suit, I discovered she had well and truly outdone herself. Under the lycra, seven kinds of evil had spread across her body, waiting for me to clean... and she did not want to stand still.

On those slippery tiles.

Slipping and sliding. Poo falling everywhere.

It was hell.

It was five o'clock by the time we returned home, so I immediately ran a bath, dumped both girls in, and instructed the Faery to watch... because I can be so good with my parenting like that.

Then, in need of some sympathetic cooing, I fired up Facebook and posted a new status:

"A swimming nappy plus bathing suit is no match for a toddler doing a #3 in the pool. Such horror. I need vodka. And a shower."

Over the course of the evening, many sympathetic comments arrived, soothing my soul - along with vodka and foot rubs from J. Yeah, I sure milked it.

One childless friend enquired as to what a number three is, and I educated him.

(I fear that I've scared off my newly-married friend from starting a family)

What got me, though, was that some friends hit the 'like' button. Really? Really? They liked that I got shit all over me? Surely that's grounds for deletion.

I had a fairly sleepless night last night - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Poolside Trauma from Shit Disaster? Anyhow, a quiet day is planned for today. No visits to the pool - it's too soon for me. A shaded, sandy playground will be the go... because despite my feelings about sand, it's definitely easier to deal with than yesterday's  nightmare.

I did learn a lesson... that's something, right? That lesson is this. If I'm going to attempt taking small children to the pool, singlehandedly, then at least be prepared for the worst: keep the fridge well-stocked with wine.

If you 'like' my story, please leave a cooingly sympathetic comment below. Or just any comment will do, because comments make my day.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I went for a walk this morning, and kind of wished I had a face mask. Maybe Michael Jackson was onto something. The LA smog has been here all week, with a vengeance.

I've suffered from hay fever for as long as I can remember, but last year - my first summer in LA - was by far the most severe and prolonged I'd had it in many years. To make things worse, being in the throes of breastfeeding meant there wasn't any medication I could find to help. None of the pharmacists I spoke to here were willing to recommend a brand of anti-histamines that were classified as 'safe' for breastfeeding. Frustrating, because I was able to get a particular brand in Australia (Polaramine) that is considered A-okay when pregnant or breastfeeding. Maybe they're too scared of lawsuits here? But after showing pharmacists my empty Polaramine packet, I was told there is nothing on the market here with the same ingredients. Cuh-razy.

Anyhow, Miss Pie is down to only one feed a day, and we'll be doing away with that in the next few weeks, when she hits eighteen months of age. We've had a good run. Then... bring on the drugs, baby. I will be doping myself up to my eyeballs to be rid of the itchy eyes and constant sneezing. Yay.

The mountains in these pictures are normally clear and immediate. They never appear as mere background - instead, it often feels like you could reach out and touch them. They're rather special... but the haze which envelopes them now gives them the illusion of being somewhat distant. I miss them already.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Food Nauseous Food

Over recent months, I've been seeing, reading and hearing things which are making me rethink the way I eat. Chocolate obsession aside, I do eat pretty well - most of the time.

We rarely eat out, or get takeaway, but that's probably more due to budget restrictions than anything else. I'm not a big meat eater, and never have been. The thought of a juicy tender steak, or roast lamb, has never excited me. Red meat in general is something I've consumed little of, although spaghetti bolognese has always been a regular favourite - not just for me, but now it's one of the few dishes that both my kids love. I've always loved a good burger, too, but mostly I've stuck to chicken - sometimes seafood - over the years. In fact, the only type of meat to guarantee salivation on my part is salmon - raw or cooked.

When we lived in the UK, I was glad that I didn't really eat red meat. We moved over there not long after the whole Mad Cow Disease scare. For a time, France defied EU regulations and refused to import British beef. It definitely made me question what I ate for a while.

Not eating meat has never been a huge deal for me. I've had enough vegetarian friends - and lived in enough vegetarian households - that I can cook plenty of meat-free dishes. J and I also go through periods where we decide to avoid all meat for few weeks here, a few weeks there. A kind of semi detox, if you like. But we've never cut out (red) meat completely. At some stage, the old classic spag bol is required - as a no-brainer dish to cook, and one that everyone will eat (a rarity). Or a burger from In-N-Out beckons. Those burgers are too good.

A recent TV show I've been following is Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution L.A. I primarily began watching it because The Faery will be starting Elementary school at the end of summer, and I was interested to see what the low-down was on food being served in the schools under the LA School District. Although her school is in a different school district, it's not far away and I have no doubt the food will be pretty much the same.

Apart from being horrified at the secrecy surrounding their school lunches, and the lengths that the LAUSD went to in order to prevent Jamie Oliver's crew from filming in their schools, I learned about some of the more questionable practices in the US beef industry.

Basically, if you're going to eat beef in America, you need to know where it came from. You want to know that it's clean. The cheaper it is, unfortunately, the more likely it will contain something that Jamie  refers to as 'pink slime'. Does that sound disgusting?

Pink slime is the result of meat manufacturers taking all the parts of cows that we normally wouldn't eat - and have previously been used to make pet food only - including the guts (you know, home of E. coli). Someone realised they could make more money if these cow parts are bleached with ammonia to kill the E. coli and salmonella, then ground up and added to other minced (ground) beef. Meat manufacturers are allowed to include up to fifteen per cent of this in the final product. Even worse, is that because the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) has categorised 'pink slime' as a process - not an ingredient - it doesn't have to be labelled on the packaging.

Fucking disgusting.

The only way to know for sure if you're not eating beef which contains pink slime, is if you eat out at a place that guarantees they source their beef from more reliable, conscionable suppliers. The minced beef in supermarkets have nothing on their packing labels which will tell you what you need to know. Because of pink slime being used to stretch out beef and make it go further (therefore cheaper), it would seem in this case that the old adage "you get what you pay for" is true. Cheap ground beef = pink slime included.

Since learning about this practice, J and I have both been more wary where minced beef consumption is concerned. We also watched the documentary, Food, Inc., a few months ago, and that was a real eye-opener. It was so well-presented, without resorting hysteria (which annoys me to no end when people rely on that as a scare tactic) that last night I decided to watch a film - Fast Food Nation - based on the book by journalist Eric Schlosser, who was also behind Food, Inc. Anyhow, the final scenes were filmed in a real abattoir and - going to sleep last night, I couldn't get those awful images out of my head.

Part of me wishes I hadn't seen it now, but part of me is glad. I'd been a little too naive for too long about what was involved in beef manufacturing.

Another area of food that I'm rethinking is organic. We were struck by how much cheaper organic food is here in the States, and began buying more and more of it, especially when Miss Pie first began eating solid food. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Given that it's the norm for growth hormones and anti-biotics to be given to chickens, I still prefer to buy organic milk, eggs, and chicken meat. Who wants that added crap?

However, the recent E. coli outbreak in Germany has worried me. Thirty-one people dead, because they ate organic bean sprouts. That's scary. I began to read up on organic farming in general, and saw that - at least where fruit and vegetables are concerned - it's somewhat of a con. Much more land is needed to result in the same yield that conventional farming gives. This means that independent organic farmers are paid significantly less than their conventional couterparts for their efforts... however, it turns out that in California, most organic produce comes from the same suppliers as non-organic - they just allocate part of their land to organic instead, and are reaping the benefits instead of smaller, independent farmers. Fertilizers are also not what they were twenty years ago, and don't contain E. coli (unlike cow manure). I don't know... from an environmental and economical perspective, organic farming suddenly sounds less than ideal to me.

So, what do I change? I think I'm going to give organic fruit and vegetables a wide berth from now on. If I want my money to go the smaller, independent farmers, then farmers markets look like the way to go. And red meat? I'm seriously considering giving it up completely, especially minced beef. That's the hard part though, as it's pretty much the only beef I consume, and my kids love spaghetti bolognese. Has anyone tried making it with turkey? Any good?

Ugh. All I know is, I feel incredibly protective about what goes into my kids' mouths. I don't want them having growth hormones, anti-biotics, or ammonia-sludged meat. Not for me, either.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's been too long...

...since I last had Tim Tams.

Thankfully, visiting family were able to provide
me with a new stash last week.

Share? I don't think so.

That half-eaten Tim Tam was the last one
from that packet. They were very good.

Luckily, I have more.

Even more exciting? They're from a range
 of new flavours - ones I've never had.

I can't wait to try some tonight.
Which pack to open next? Mint? Or Rum and Raisin?

When the Tim Tams are all gone - which won't take long -
I have a Plan B.

My latest love affair.

Yes... I love chocolate...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Automatic for the people

I'm beginning to have real 'issues' with American toilets. Not the ones in homes, but public ones.

It's got nothing to do with germs or hygiene, either.

It's all about the flush factor.

You see, the lack of cistern/tank at the back of public toilets here means that they all more or less look the same. Unless there is an actual lever to pull, it's difficult to tell at a glance as to whether or not it's an automatic toilet. Just a small cylinder with pipes, and a few round buttons... or what appear sometimes to be a flush button, but is actually nothing of use.
(Photo source)

We all know what automatic toilets mean - getting one's privates splashed at times by an unexpected flush, if hovering for just a second too long between sitting and standing. I first found out the hard way when using a toilet at the airport in Amsterdam. Given the amount of Mary Jane consumed that day (hey, I was young!), to say I was freaked out is an understatement.

So there you go. I don't like automatic toilets... but if there's one thing worse than an automatic toilet, it's not being able to tell.

I like to be prepared, and know how quickly to get my butt up and away. Knowing in advance that a toilet is automatic helps to avoid those cold splashes of shock.

Unfortunately, most public toilets look the same. Too often, I go about my business and hurriedly retreat, waiting for the flush... and waiting... to realise it's not automatic. Then begins the fun of trying to locate a button on the pipes at the back. Sometimes it's easy to see, sometimes it's well-camouflaged - one of several round, shiny surfaces on the pipe.

Sometimes the small black circle is a motion sensor. Sometimes it's a manual flush button.

You know, signage or labels wouldn't hurt, would they? Or maybe it's just me.

Having had family in town this past week has meant that we've been out and about every day, and have had to rely on using public toilets from time to time. The odds of me getting peeved with my 'awkward' toilet encounters were quite high.

Please. Someone tell me I'm not alone in hating these modern American loos, or whatever you call them.
I'm not weird, I'm really not...

Toilets aren't the only things of an automatic nature that are prolific here. It seems that in most restrooms, the taps (faucets) and soap dispensers have motion sensors too. Again, I often feel stupid when waving my hand around under the tap, waiting for that stream of water to start. Sometimes, waiting... then realising the tap is faulty and I need to move on to another one.

Then there are the paper towel dispensers that have motion sensors.

Only this morning, I saw a video taken by some friends of mine, in a parents room, changing their daughter's nappy. Some genius had thought it would be perfect to place the paper towel dispenser flush level alongside the baby change table. Brilliant! Every time my friend's baby kicked her legs, more paper would churn out of the dispenser. It was noisy, got in the way of her legs, and scared her - making her kick her legs more, starting the cycle all over again. Painful and funny to watch.

The argument that these 'advances' in technology are great for hygiene makes me laugh. What's the point in avoiding touching those things, if in the end, you still need to touch the doors to get out?

This need for things to be automatic - to have one less button here to push, one lever less there to pull... does it really improve our quality of life? Especially for such trivial tasks? I can't help but wonder about the culture of laziness that's inspired this technology.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Coasting east to south to west

We have family in town this week. Being summer, it means a week of hanging out by the pool and palm trees. The skies are gloriously blue and temperatures have been in the mid-20s (celsius, of course). Perfect.

Kicking back yesterday, and making the most of having extra hands for kid-wrangling in the pool area, I got thinking.

I've never been a fan of sand - I dislike how it gets into everything. It annoys me.

Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia - 2008
Beachgoer? Not me. I've never been a water babe, and yet I appreciate how good it is to be by the ocean. I may not enjoy being in the sand, but I love the salty air. I love the sound of the waves, and I love watching seagulls and pelicans circling for their dinner.

I can't imagine living far away from something which is so essential for wellbeing. I've been incredibly lucky to have always lived in coastal cities, no matter what country we've lived in.

The furthest I've ever lived from the beach was in London, and that's hardly what could be defined as 'inland'. Although - as the Brits refer to it - 'seaside' is a better description for what's on offer there (at least on the south coast). In Brighton, I could never get the hang of sunbathing on jagged rocks and pebbles, and my appreciation of sand grew... just a little, though.

In the spirit of summer, I thought I'd share photos of some of the beaches that have been in my life so far.

Manly, Sydney, Australia - 2005
Brighton, UK - 2003
Santa Monica, California, USA - 2010

Naturally, I'm biased and think that Australian beaches are the loveliest, but... lucky am I?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Wooden silliness

Cars with wood panels on the exterior - is there anything more American?

When my family first acquired a VCR in the 80s, a movie which got played on high rotation in our home was National Lampoon's Vacation. The puerile crassness of it appealed immensely to my father, and was barely tolerated by my mother, but allowed because she had a big old crush on Chevy Chase. As for us kids, so many of the jokes went way over our heads, but subsequent viewings over the years have taught me one thing: I have (mostly) inherited my father's same sense of humour, and laugh at the most politically incorrect of scenes.

Anyhow, thanks to childhood memories of this film, I have always associated wood-panelled cars as being, how shall I say?  Uniquely American. A species unseen in Australia.

So much time has passed since these cars reached their height of popularity that I'd forgotten about them. Coming to America and being on the roads, I never thought to look out for them.

Until last week. Exiting our local Target store, parked outside was a prize specimen of a wood-panelled car. I was ushering two tired, hungry small children to our own car, so walked past in a blur and didn't look too closely. I have no idea what type of car it was, but it appeared to be a gen-u-ahn relic of the 70s, with a complimentary hue of dark green.

It was somewhat of a "Yes, you really are in America" moment. I have those from time to time.

Then last night, I went for a walk in an attempt to undo some overdone Ben & Jerry's goodness. As I made my way up the hills and passed increasingly lovely houses, a car pulled into the driveway of one such lovely home. The happy sunset-viewing soundtrack that was playing in my mind screeched to a halt, record-needle style.

This car appeared not so old - and it had faux wood panelling.

Seriously, people think this is a good look? Or is it part of the trend of 'vintage' from the 70s and 80s?

You know what I think? Some hipster, of a design team somewhere, is laughing into his egonomic, organically fair-trade-filled coffee mug and... all the way to the bank.

I present to you, a sample of l'ugliness I saw yesterday:

Actually, if it had been maybe another type of car, I may not even be writing about this... but I've never liked these Chryslers. They've always struck me as incredibly offensive-looking cars (sorry Chrysler).

Perhaps on a Mini Cooper, or VW Beetle, the faux wood-panel look could be seen as cutely retro, but not on the Chrysler.

To wrap up this randomness, and link to the beginning, I just thought I'd mention that not far from where I live, there's a long road called Chevy Chase Drive. At the far end of it is Chevy Chase Golf Club, and Chevy Chase Library. I keep forgetting to mention this to my parents...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I can live with driving on the opposite side of the road.

I can deal with dimes, nickels and quarters.

I can  even accept candy, elevators, gas, yielding to and passing cars, faucets, bath tissue, potties, diapers and pacifiers.

A country where lemon-lime soda is what I've always known as lemonade, and lemonade is glorified - and deliciously sweetened - lemon juice. Butter is the palest shade of yellow, and cheddar cheese resembles bright orange plastic (okay, I still have issues with the cheese).

The biggest part of the U.S. experience that my brain isn't willing to embrace is the U.S. customary units of measurement. Inches, feet, miles, pounds, ounces, quarts, gallons... there is no easy way to convert these. Not accurately without a calculator. These units get divided or multiplied by eighths, twelfths, sixteenths, and so on.

It seems rather silly to me. Archaic.

Perhaps I'm lazy. Or perhaps it's just that I grew up with a logical system of measurement. The metric system - everything divided or multiplied by ten. Simple, yes?

It's not that I'm unfamiliar with the concept of pounds and inches - nearly five years in the U.K. and the dregs of their imperial system meant that I had no choice but to get with the programme. Officially (in line with the rest of the European Union), they were supposed to be in metric, but I saw and heard imperial measurements all the time.

There are some differences, though.

Firstly, I never drove in the U.K. Although I got used to judging distance in miles when I saw signs and maps, I never had to judge miles per hour while behind a steering wheel. Here in LA, it still feels odd to look at the car's odometer and see 35 (mph) instead of 55 (kph), when it's actually the same speed.

The other difference is Fahrenheit versus Celsius. The U.K. may have dragged its feet regarding metric use, but they at least use Celsius when discussing the weather - a popular topic of conversation, but really, how many different ways can you say cold with grey skies and drizzle?

After thirty-something years of thinking in Celsius, I struggle with Fahrenheit. I don't like it, so there.

My highly accurate internet research tells me that only three countries in the entire world have yet to adopt metric. The U.S. is in good company with Myanmar and Liberia. Sure, sure, just because the rest of the world is doing something, doesn't mean it's right... but maybe, just maybe, metric is better?

So, what gives, America? Why not ditch a complicated, out-dated system and adopt a sensible one instead? Why the stubborn cling to the past? (Trust me, it's not just this one Australian lass who thinks it's funny, in a sad kind of way...)  

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Our neighbourhood is at the base of foothills and mountains, so there is a real mix of homes. In the more level area, it's mostly apartments - for the plebs like us. But as you head north, and the roads cease to be straight and start to take on a slight incline, the apartments give way to modest homes and cute bungalows.  Not for long, though. The roads begin twisting and get steep fairly quickly, and the bungalows evolve into the sort of homes that give me a serious case of home envy.

It's a simple equation. Steeper roads + no pedestrian access (ie footpaths) = fancy schmancy homes.

Our local supermarket is the last one before the foothills start, so we see some seriously expensive cars around - belonging, I assume, to the fancy homes above us. Some celebrities lives in these hills, but I've never spotted any. But then, they probably get their PAs to fetch their groceries, right?

It's jacaranda time of year
I enjoy going for walks around here. Sometimes it's leisurely, armed with my camera so that I can play with it. Other times, I go instead of a rare gym visit, iPod plugged in with music to help pump me up those hills. I never venture into total mansion territory, though. The lack of footpaths I mentioned earlier? And narrow, winding roads to walk on instead? Combined with the way people drive around here, it feels... unsafe. Not the smartest place to be on foot.

It's about here that the home envy kicks in
So I stick to the lower part of the foothills, and if I'm lucky, certain bends in the roads will give me glimpses of views: the local area and its tall buildings downtown, Griffith Park, and - from a few points -
the towers of downtown LA. The other evening at sunset, the sun cast a pink glow off the sides of those skyscrapers. The sight felt incredibly, well, LA baby.

Looking north
Would you believe this is looking south, from the exact same spot as the previous photo? 
Downtown LA is in the very far distance.

Moments after hitting the shutter button for these last two photos, drama unfolded.

I was standing on a large pedestrian island in the middle of one side of a four-way intersection (with stop signs) when a white car came careening around, turning left, and stopping in the middle of the road - preventing other cars from getting past.

There was a crunching of gears changing, and I could see the male driver's arm furiously gesturing to the female passenger. Loud, angry words cut through the air.

I wasn't sure what to do next - their car had stopped in the direction I was heading.

Then, I'm pretty sure I heard the driver shouting, "Did you pull the trigger?"

I wasn't sure I'd heard correctly, but I suddenly felt trapped and very exposed on that pedestrian island. I looked around, not sure which way to run, or maybe duck down.

Did it occur to me to note the car model? Or the registration number?

Nope. I was in panic mode, and looking for escape.

Did I take a photo? Um, no, I was more concerned about possible bullets flying past.

Drama queen, I know.

It didn't occur to me to call 911, because I didn't have my phone on me.

A middle aged cyclist rode past me, looked at me, and shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, People, huh? What can you do?

Then the white car lurched forward, continuing its journey, while the female passenger screamed at the driver to get out of the car, repeatedly. The sound of her terrified screaming faded as the car disappeared into the distance.

Shaking, I crossed the road, and began walking home. About a block later, a dark blue SUV pulled up alongside me, and I recognised it as one of the cars that was at the intersection.

An older woman wound down her window, and called out to me. "Ma'am, did you see what happened back there?"

(This is where I confess that secretly enjoy it when an American addresses me as Ma'am - well, unless they happen to be moronic security guards)

So I walked over to her, and we talked about what we'd just seen. She was equally disturbed, and had the presence of mind to note the car model, and call 911 to tell them the direction this car was headed in. Thank god.

I have no idea what happened to those people in the car. Who was threatening who? But I was still shaking when I got home, and angry with myself for freezing like I did. It's hard, though, to know when not to get involved in something like that.

What a way to end a lovely afternoon stroll.

Later in the afternoon, I heard quite a few sirens in the distance, and my imagination began to run away, so I googled news in our neighbourhood.

Nothing turned up about a violent domestic dispute... but I did find out that Mario Lopez is one of the 'celebrities' that lives up in the hills nearby.

The vodka is kicking in now, so I'm okay...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mixing it up

Some very recent moments in my expat life:

- The Faery's preschool teacher asking me what a 'duffer' is - as in, you silly duffer. Yes, the Faery had called him a silly duffer. It's okay - it was out of light-heartedness, and her teacher had guessed as much because he'd been clowning around. It's not the first time there's been a question mark over appropriate language at her preschool. It got me thinking though, about what an Aussie-ism that term is. Or maybe it's just my family. It's a term I'd grown up with, but I'd never used it myself until having kids of my own - it gets used a lot in our home.

- Another staff member at her preschool said yesterday, "She's so cute! She came over and asked if she could have some 'sticky tape' and I told her that we just call it 'tape', and she said, 'Well, in Australia, we call it sticky tape.'" I have no idea where my daughter gets the need to correct other people's words from. No idea at all...

- The realisation that Miss Pie has lived more than eighty per cent of her short little life in the US. Strangers with American accents, lavishing attention on her in her stroller, is all she's really known.

- The acquisition of PB&J into our family's vocabulary - although we still call it jam, not jelly. Myself - I'd rather not mix the two, and prefer them separately on my toast. The Faery, however, is a big fan of this combination that she'd never had in Australia. I'm happy that she still asks for Vegemite at times.

- The Faery pestering me to get her an American flag. Just a little one on a stick for waving, like the Australian one she already has. The local supermarket has been decked out in patriotic red, white and blue for Memorial Day, and I think that's how she got the idea in her head. I promised her that when we see a little flag for sale, she can have one. Why not?

- Turning the car's ignition on this morning, and the radio blasting from when J drove it yesterday (I don't usually put the radio on because I like full concentration when dealing with crazy LA drivers). The song that was on the radio? "Beds Are Burning" by Midnight Oil. Oh, how that song took me back. Back to being an eleven year-old, and first becoming aware of political issues. I had to listen to the whole song before turning the radio off, and I'm pretty sure the Faery thought I was going a little crazy as I sang along to it.

- Arriving at the supermarket later, and seeing hand-held American flags - just as requested by the Faery - for 99c. She is now one happy new flag owner. And in true American style (ie everything must be massive in size), it is easily twice the size of her little hand-held Aussie flag. I feel somewhat traitorous...