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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Going Native

Last weekend, we went out to dinner for J's birthday, along with some of his workmates and their partners. He was feeling carnivorous, and thought it would be hilarious if we ate at the Outback Steakhouse. Neither of us is a fan of chain restaurants - which seem so popular here - and I had my misgivings, but him being the birthday boy, I acquiesced.

I knew that once we were there, I'd be talking far too much to spend any time looking at the menu, so decided to look online and choose ahead of time. The only problem with that plan was that once I began reading it, I couldn't stop laughing.

For further giggles, I shared a link to the menu on Facebook and let the comments fly from friends and family back home. Some of the thoughts offered were:

- Toowoomba Pasta (with seafood)? The town after which this was named happens to be two hours inland from the coast. Hardly a place that's associated with seafood.

- Aussie Cheese Fries? Well, the Monterey Jack cheese which tops the fries is very much American. Still can't figure out the 'Aussie' element of this dish.

- Californian Chicken Salad? Perhaps this is for anyone who's outside their comfort zone when ordering 'foreign' or 'ethnic' food. Especially given the exotic nature of this particular restaurant.

- Tassie's Buffalo Strips? Because Tasmania is known for their buffalo wings - a fact which has escaped my attention all these years.

- Walkabout Soup of the Day? Sounds messy.

- Coconut Shrimp (with Creole marmalade)? Two thoughts here. The first: that nobody in Australia says 'shrimp'; the second: 'Creole'? Yeah, that's authentic Australian right there... via New Orleans.

- Bloomin' Onion? Never heard of this dish, and according to Wikipedia, it was created in the 1970s in - wait for it - New Jersey. The recipe was then acquired by the (American owned) Outback company and rebranded as an 'Aussie' dish. Turns out these are nothing more than glorified onion rings... but without the ring shape.

- Alice Springs Chicken Quesadillas? We all know quesadillas are actually Australian, and not Mexican. The sooner people acknowledge this truth, the better. Yo.

- New Zealand Rack of Lamb? Because New Zealand is part of the Australian outback. Didn't you know that?

- Chocolate Thunder from Down Under? Okay, I give them credit here for that dish's name. It sounds delicious, and is something I planned to order... but by that point, I was full after imbibing one too many sangria margaritas.

- The number of times that barbie was used in reference to barbecued food? Too many. I also hate to shatter illusions here, but nobody I know in Australia says 'barbie' unless they're talking about Mattel's plastic doll. We are a lazy bunch with language, and shorten many words, but we somehow manage to get out the three syllables required for 'barbecue'. Bar-be-cue. See? Easy.

I rang up to reserve a table for fifteen, and was laughing even harder by the time I got off the phone. There was an initial recording that I had to sit through, voiced by - I'm guessing - an out of work Australian actor, instructed to do his best Paul Hogan impersonation. When the recording was over, I was greeted by an American girl: "Gidday!..." The snob in me cringed.

* * *

The food itself was okay. Nothing amazing, but it wasn't bad. J was more than happy with his steak, so if the birthday boy enjoyed himself, then the objective was achieved, right?

After dinner, a handful of us continued on to a bar called The Bigfoot Lodge. Instead of American-dressed-up-as-Australian-themed, we got North American camping-themed. Much more of a novelty for me, then. The crowd of hipsters did their best to make me feel old, but I went ahead and had another cocktail - complete with toasted marshmallow on a stick. My sophistication astounds me at times.

Eventually, the cocktails caught up with me, and - in need of fresh air and water - I found myself standing outside the doors of a nearby petrol station. The large store was completely lit up, and an attendant was inside... but he'd locked the doors and refused to let me in. I had to go over to his window and the charade for a bottle of water was on. I had to pass the money through one of those security drawers, and felt ridiculous. He served me most grudgingly, and I'm not sure why he even bothered. Dude, you don't feel safe in there? I'm standing out here, freezing my tits off, purse open, with over $100 cash on me for the babysitter. 

My lesson for the night? I can't down cocktails the way I used to. My limit is lower, and the recovery time far longer - let's just say I'm grateful for a husband who makes good bacon and egg sandwiches the morning after.

Monday, November 21, 2011


What do you think?

For a while, I've been wanting to shake things up a bit with the way this blog looks - make it simpler, less fussy. I may tinker a little more (it's fun) but I'm happy with it for now.

This week seemed the perfect time to jump in and do it, because November 26 will mark a year since I started the blog. I won't be around to post or do a grand reveal on the day, as we'll be in Las Vegas (Vegas, baby... Vegas!) for a quick getaway, so I'm going to go right ahead and pat myself on the back now for sticking at this for a year.

(Photo source)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wrong turns

There was this one time when I was in the Netherlands with a good friend, and we thought it would be fun to hire bicycles to get around one afternoon. We'd heard numerous stories about how the flatness of its countryside made it an ideal place for cycling.

We'd been backpacking, and found ourselves in a town called Arnhem, not far from the German border. We caught a bus from the train station to the local youth hostel and after dumping our bags, immediately rented a bike each.

They had no helmets for hire, so I should have realised right then that our mission was somewhat doomed. Having grown up with strict laws regarding helmets and bicycles, I was more than nervous. Courtesy of childhood 1980s campaigns, images of smashed eggs - representing the human skull - flashed before my eyes.

Trying to shake off my paranoia, we set off. The hostel was at the top of a large hill, and we had to ride down a long, steep road to reach the town. Until then, my experience of cars driving on the right hand side was limited to the perspective of a pedestrian. Riding a bike on the 'wrong' side of the road, no helmet, down a very steep hill... let's just say I rode very slowly.

Did I mention I was 23, and hadn't ridden since my mid-teens? I felt deeply embarrassed when an elderly man whizzed past and overtook me down that hill.

We survived our ride, and rewarded ourselves with tasty Dutch treats in the town. After checking out the local shops, and stocking up on food at a small supermarket, we thought we should head back to the hostel, so hopped on our bikes.

Somehow... we got lost. Despite having excellent map skills, we couldn't find our way (from memory, I think the hostel was far enough away from town that it was just off the map). We'd retraced our steps, but taken a wrong turn somewhere.

Followed by another wrong turn.

And another.

We found ourselves cycling on beautiful country roads, but very much lost. Oh, and we'd somehow chosen the one Dutch region that isn't flat, but filled with hills and forest. Clever, right?

Eventually, we saw another elderly man, so we stopped to ask directions. Of course, we'd picked the one Dutch person who didn't speak fluent English. He didn't speak any English, and had a slightly crazy glint in his eyes. We hurried on.

A bit further along, we saw a younger person, and stopped again to ask. It turned out we were only five minutes away from the hostel, and I cannot describe our relief.

The return journey on our bikes - from the town to the hostel - had taken three hours. Three hours of being lost and riding up and down hills, in what felt like the middle of nowhere.

Being so out of practice with cycling, I was in a world of pain for the next few days.

1999 - Somewhere outside Arnhem, and trying not to panic.
The reason why I've been thinking about this 'adventure' is because of all the cyclists I see around LA - with no helmets. It's something I don't understand... especially when I see how crazy some of the motorists are. Who wouldn't want to protect their skulls?

I recently saw a car knock a young man off his bike, throwing him onto the road. It happened right in front of us one day when I walking the Faery home from school. It was awful to witness, but he was lucky to pick himself up with barely a scratch. Of course, he'd been riding with earphones in, and straight in front of a car that was turning right from a side street. It could have been so easily avoided.

I'm guessing that Australia is one of the few countries to have such strict laws regarding helmets, but it's something I agree with and think people are better off erring on the side of caution - especially where children are concerned. Brain damage is tragic.

It's one thing for adults to decide what risks they take, but I can't help feeling angry when I see children riding around the streets without helmets. How can parents be okay with that?

This, in a state which makes it illegal to smoke anywhere in public: "Your children are safe from passive smoking in public places, but their skulls? Meh, not so important...."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


"Gag! Gag! Gag!"

This is something I hear every time we go out in the car. Miss Pie is at that gorgeous age where her words are finally coming together, albeit not always sounding the way they should. Yesterday, I heard her first three-word sentence when her apple was all eaten: "Eat. More. Apple!" A proud mumma moment for me - compared to the Faery, Miss Pie's speech seemed to be coming along so much more slowly. In hindsight, her big sister was somewhat of a freak when to came to speech development (eighty words by fourteen months, I kid you not).

So much of what Mis Pie says can have several meanings, depending on the context. If she sees something round anywhere - even better if there are numbers on it - then she'll exclaim, "TWO! TWO! TWO!" Meaning? Clock. So I'll reply, "Yes, a clock" or "Yes, it looks like a clock", then she'll say "I-O-I-O-I-O". Tick tock tick tock tick tock.

When it comes to animals, she delights in making the sounds that they make. Don't all toddlers? But her latest one is baffling me. "Hort! Hort! Hort!" That part is easy enough: horse. Then the sound follows, "Haba haba haba", in a sing song voice, intonation going down. Almost like a little Arabic nursery rhyme's chorus.

I'd love to meet a horse that sounds like that, but I'm yet to encounter one.

Anyhow, back to "Gag!" Initially, I thought she was talking about bags, because that's also her word for bag. But, you know, there aren't really a lot of bags to be pointed at out of car windows, are there?

Something that is plentiful, though, are flags. The good old stars and stripes. Maybe it's just our area in LA, but we'd be hard pressed to go more than two blocks without seeing the US flag. Some blocks will have many US flags on show.

Compared to Australians, Americans love their flag.

There may be eucalyptus trees in abundance here, but there's no forgetting what country I'm in.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When Faeries and Pies attack

Beware the sleeping daddies...

Having two little girls is every bit as sweet as I'd imagined it would be.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A thousand feelings

When it comes to the old adage a picture is worth a thousand words I often wonder what the number is for feelings that an image can elicit.

The spare time I've had these last few days have been spent organising a stack of photos I finally had printed back in May, into newly-purchased photo albums. Because I can be pedantic about dates and correct sequences, I had to check every single one of these photos with the information on iPhotos.

Somehow - between May and now - this large stack of photos had been rifled through and mixed up. Badly. Did I mention that some of these photos date as far back as early 2008? That's a shite load of photos to be sorting, and each day ended with a headache.

That's at least three and a half years of photos.

Three and a half years of my life, captured, in images.

The oldest photos in the stack were, in some ways, the hardest to look at. That year was all kinds of fucked up for us.

We moved house. A close family member attempted suicide, and of course there was fall out from that. We also had to urgently find day care for the Faery (in an area with long waiting lists), while trying not to miss out on badly needed days of work. Our computer died. Then, J was made redundant (without a payout). I had to switch to working full time while he looked for a job, knowing that my salary would never be able to cover all we needed.

All kinds of fucked up.

Looking through the photos from that period, I had strong physical reactions. Seeing the faded hallway carpet patterns, I could smell the rising damp and mouldy ceilings of our first winter - in what turned out to be a hideously drafty house that we'd moved into.

Seeing the golden sunset glow on the bricks of the back of the house, and the large frangipani tree in the back corner of the yard, I can taste the wine we sipped at once we'd put the Faery to bed. An end of working-week treat.

Seeing the front door open, I'm reminded of the strong winds that barrelled through it and also down the side passage of the house - winds that came up one side of the hill that this house was perched on, bitter in winter but blowing my washing dry in no time.

Seeing photos of the Faery playing on the painted kitchen floorboards, I felt the urge to scrape the white flecks of paint that stuck to the soles of my feet in those first few weeks there - a result of the landlord's cheap DIY before we moved in.

Seeing the light green kitchen walls, I can smell the cooking I did. I also feel the walls' stickiness - from lack of adequate ventilation (no extraction fan above the stove). I can also taste the distinct worry that comes with not having enough money. Not knowing when things would improve. A tight feeling in the pit of my stomach. All. The. Time.

This period was only three years ago, and I can feel it so clearly... but it also feels further back in time. We got through it, and so much else has happened - starting with another move, then another baby, a fantastic job for J (after several false starts with some shitty companies), and that job being the reason for our biggest move of all.

The photos from the newer chapter have a shiny glow to them in comparison, even though everything was printed at the same time. It's purely my perception.

Moving to a new city, a new country... things tend to have a shine for a while. The shine of newness. Adventure. Plus, the feeling of relief that we aren't in the position we were only a few years ago. We didn't run away, but anyone who knows us well understands that we needed a fresh start, and a chance to maybe even get ahead one day. With the industry that J had been employed in, if we'd stayed in Sydney, I'm pretty sure we'd still be stuck on Struggle Street today.

Things are a little less shiny now, but it's still good. There's hope, and one day we'll return to Sydney - winners, not losers.

This has been my headspace over the last few days. Reflective, and grateful that the stomach-churning anxiety of that time is gone (mostly, because I'll always find something to fret about).

I'll never underestimate the impact a photo can have.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Most days here are still bright and sunny, so I wear my sunglasses regularly when driving.

There's a beautiful street near the Faery's school that I usually park on. It's lined with large sycamores and maples that form leafy archways over the street, and every time I turn into that street, I think Wow, the leaves are finally turning!

Then I park the car, remove my sunglasses, and realise the leaves haven't really turned after all - it's just the tinting on my sunnies. Those trees are in fact just a dry shade of green.

This is now my second autumn in LA, so I'm well aware that we won't be getting the full 'fall' effect that other parts of the US experience.

Instead, there's a mysterious process at play - green leaves on trees, brown leaves on the ground beneath. It's hard to catch the transition, and the leaves seem to drop without turning magnificent shades first.

A walk around my neighbourhood yesterday revealed the odd glimpse of leaves changing, but if you weren't looking for it, you wouldn't be aware that the seasons were changing. For the most part, it's sunny business as usual in LA.

Linking up with Mama Kat's Losin' It.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Use as directed

Courtesy of a rewards-type card, every three months I receive a batch of coupons to use at my local supermarket. 

In case you can't see the picture clearly, this coupon is for Stayfree products. In other words - pads.

I'm so glad they reminded me to use as directed. When I think of all the ways I could possibly misuse this product, I can only feel grateful for this sage recommendation.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mission Possible

I am now the proud owner of a Californian drivers licence.

Confidence restored, I can return to feeling superior to so many of the idiot drivers in my area who consistently cut me off, don't indicate, don't let me change into their lane, text while they drive, and plough through pedestrian crossings - regardless of people actually crossing. These are incidents that I see on a daily basis (no exaggeration) and I never drive like that, which is why I was so disappointed not to pass the first time.

Anyhow, all good now! I feel lighter, the sun is shining, and I have a hidden stash of the Faery's Halloween chocolates to reward myself with. Even better, I'm going to sleep like the proverbial baby tonight - the stress dreams can fuck right off now. This little glitch is officially behind me.

In other news, we're off to Vegas, baby.

Now when people ask what our plans are for Thanksgiving, I can actually contribute something to the conversation other than it not being culturally relevant for us so, no, I haven't made a gourmet meal plan for the day.

We realised yesterday that it would be the perfect time to go away for a few days, seeing as J will have time off work anyway. Neither of us have been to Las Vegas before, and have been super keen to see the bright lights for a long time. We'll have the girls with us, so it won't be the wild trip it may have been if we'd gone in our twenties, but it's going to be fun nonetheless.

Road tripping through the desert has also been on our list of things to do, and the Mojave Desert is on the way, so I'm excited. If J's lucky, I may even drive for a little stretch of the way.

The hotel has been booked (on 'The Strip'!) and we'll be setting off the day after Thanksgiving - the best excuse ever for not having to slave away in the kitchen.

(Not that I would have slaved away. I've never really mastered roasts - that's J's domain.)

So, Sin City - here we come. If any readers have any tips or recommendations, don't be shy! Leave a comment for me, and I will love you for it.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Today, we had only our third rainfall (that I can think of) in a month, and before that, it hadn't rained since spring.

I suppose when you're twenty-two months old, and haven't seen much rain in a long time, it's a rather intriguing affair. When it was time to do the afternoon school run, the rain began coming down quite heavily, so I covered up Miss Pie and let her stomp around out the front while I got ready.

When I returned a few moments later, I expected her to be stomping like crazy but found her standing still, completely entranced by the falling drops and the sound of echoing drips from the nearby gutters. She was utterly still, and looked completely at peace.

Then she came to her senses, and realised exactly what her boots were intended for. Tranquility gone, just like that. A splashing frenzy ensued.

Although the rain had stopped by the time we got to the Faery's school, she managed to get her legs and arms completely soaked from all the puddle-stomping and hand-splashing. She had a ball.

Most of the adults standing around waiting watched her in envy. Some even expressed a wish to jump in the puddles too.

It's the simple things, right? Jumping puddles and splashing - well, who really grows out of that?

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I can't decide if today has been a string of successes or failures so far.

After a jittery night of broken sleep, I revisited my favourite place, the DMV. Driving test time. Well, it would have been if their computers hadn't crashed. I was given the option of waiting it out indefinitely, or rescheduling the test.

I ummed and ahhed, and chose procrastination - after all, there was a toddler who needed to be kept entertained, a husband who needed to get to work at some stage in the next hour or so, plus several other errands to be sorted out.

(Last week, it was the DMV's fingerprint scanning device that caused delays. Here's a thought - seeing as the Californian DMV is essentially broke, why not charge more than $6 per driving licence? That's a mere fraction of what many other states/countries charge, but their facilities possess somewhat more sophisticated technology than the ones here which issue pencil-on-paper tests. I almost feel embarrassed for the DMV. Almost...)

So, driving test successfully delayed - and more crazy stress dreams scheduled - the next mission was to get some updated passport photos for part of our visa renewal process.

The last time I needed passport photos of Miss Pie, she was three weeks old. I thought that had been challenging at the time, because every time I took her to the shop for the photos, she fell asleep (and all passport pics require eyes to be open and looking ahead). In hindsight, that was an easy problem to deal with.

Try getting a twenty-two month old to sit still for more than two seconds, and look directly at the camera. A camera held by a total stranger.

Let's just say it's a good thing the resulting photo won't be used for her Australian passport photo (hey, nothing wrong with her 3-week-old photo, even if it bears no resemblance to her now)... because it's the face of a toddler in meltdown mode. Quite hilarious, actually. Whoever processes her visa application at the US Consulate will probably wet their pants when they see it. I'm also hoping they're more lenient with photos used for toddlers, because it's questionable as to whether this one actually meets the strict criteria.

Once that drama was over, I found myself shopping for jeans - bored toddler in tow. Masochistic? Yes, but I want to order some boots online for my massive feet, and will need some skinny leg jeans to go with said boots. I always swore I'd never get skinny leg jeans, but the look of them worn with boots has been growing on me for some time.

Shopping for skinny leg jeans, and did I mention it's that time of the month? A wonderfully bloated time to shop for tight jeans, but I persevered and acquired a pair. However, they probably won't be seeing light of day until I have my new boots too. There's the minor issue of cankles, but the boots will hide them nicely. That's the plan, anyway.

Once we got home and I finally wrangled Miss Pie for a nap, helped the Faery with her homework, and completed various boring domestic chores, it was 3 o'clock. It had been a whole fifteen hours since my last Halloween chocolate - win! So I rewarded myself and raided my daughter's stash - lose.

At least my taste buds are happy now.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I've been having such fun with the writing prompts from MamaKatsLosinIt that I decided to do another round. This is a list of FAQs and I swear - I did not invent a single question. Some of them are surprisingly frequent.

(Click here for link)

So, your accent. Swedish? South African? Russian? Scottish?
Nope. Cold, cold, cold, cold.

From across the pond or down under?
Ah. You're getting warmer...


What line of work are you in?
I spent the better part of the last decade teaching English as a language to foreign students, refugees and immigrants. Prior to that, I've been a bar maid, worked in retail (mostly chocolates - lucky me, huh?), and even a volunteer phone counsellor. Not sure what's next, but I'm open to cool job offers.

Can you really see kangaroos hopping down the street in lots of places? I bet a lot of people have asked you that.
Quite a few people have asked. And no, it's not like you see them hopping through the city or suburban streets. It's something only really seen in the less urban areas, but I have seen them in people's front yards - in small towns - on a few occasions.

What brings you to L.A. then?
My husband accepted a job here. It's a good job and we were keen to experience living in yet another city/country for a while. You only live once.

What do you normally do for Thanksgiving in Australia?
Well, considering it's a holiday that celebrates an important time in North American history... nothing. It's a normal day. We're happy to go along with the excuse for a good feast while we're living in the US, though!

Would you like your latte hot or cold?
People drink them cold? Ugh, no thanks. Hot, please.

Do you want whipped cream on top?
Oh, you think I need more dairy in my latte? I'll pass, thanks.

Can I have your social security number?
Despite what your store manager may have told you, I'm not legally required to give that information to anyone other than government services. So, no - you can't.

I've only just realised that you're quite tall, aren't you? Just how tall are you?
A little over 6"... or 183cm to the rest of the world.

How old are your daughters?
My eldest recently turned five, and the little one will be two in January.

Can she breathe under that thing?
You really have to ask? Okay, I shouldn't get snarky. It is Southern California after all, and you genuinely may have never seen a rain cover on a stroller before.

What are your pet hates?
The biggest one is chewing gum. So glad that these days, I don't have to sit next to people chewing it loudly on buses and trains. Likewise, I'm glad I spend less time in close proximity to women who drown themselves in perfume. Why do they do that? It makes me nauseous. A third one is balloons drifting around in my apartment. Kids can be so annoying that way.

Favourite colour?
These days, I'm gravitating back to turquoise and teal. Purple is so nineties.

Where do you badly want to visit, that you haven't been before?
I can now scratch San Francisco off my list, so New York is number one... followed by Japan. While we're in the US, there are loads of other places I'd love to see: Las Vegas, New Orleans, Utah, Montana, Arizona...

What's for dinner?
If you ask one more time, I'm going to stab my eyeball with something blunt.

Are we nearly there?
If you ask one more time, I'm going to stab my eyeball with something even blunter.

Can I stay up a bit later?
No. Mum needs her 'me' time.

Sure kiddo. Here's your third apple for the day...

Um, I'm confused. Again.

Have you seen my glasses?
Wherever you left them last...

You coming to bed soon?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Candy sucker

Growing up and watching Halloween episodes of TV shows as a kid, I always associated it with cold weather and colourful foliage. By the time I lived somewhere that actually celebrated it (the UK), those associations seemed true enough.

Last year was our first proper American Halloween. A few cool October mornings, and I got carried away - carving some pumpkins a week early. Then a few 30ºC days taught me the error of my ways. When pumpkins begin sprouting white fuzzy mould, dark spots multiply, and gunk oozes from underneath... they can be a disgusting thing to pick up for disposal. This year, I held off on carving until the day before.

The Faery was lucky that she had a school-free day, so we went to a park in Burbank for a play date with some of her classmates. A dozen five-year-olds in assorted Halloween costumes? It was cuteness overload.

Meet my swingin' cowgirl.
The park play date was followed by lunch at J's work. His workplace puts on a massive Halloween family lunch every year - complete with ghoulishly-themed food, carved pumpkin competitions, costume parade and prizes (with employees dressed to a level like I've never seen before), treasure hunts, and trick or treating for the littles. A fun way to spend a couple of hours.

...and meet my lil' cupcake.
Then it was home for an epic afternoon nap for the cupcake, and chill out time for the cowgirl, before continuing with some evening trick or treating.

Ah yes, the trick or treating. We now have an insane amount of sugary crap (of which I can't stop eating). I've told the Faery she'll probably have a week before the Sugar Sprite Fairy visits to replace her loot with a toy. I figure that should give me enough time to get to a toy store. It also means I can openly eat chocolate in her presence. Once the switch has taken place, I'll have to be more careful. Chocolate stuffing-of-face activities will have to be limited to post kiddy bedtimes. Even then, I need to come up with a better plan, unless I want to be buying my next pair of jeans in a bigger size.

The lure of sugar proved a happy event.
Overload on sugar and cuteness.
In Australia, we never did anything for Halloween. There'd be one random house in the neighbourhood with Halloween decorations, and a handful of kids would come a knocking. Half the time, they were teenagers who hadn't even bothered to dress up - they possessed some weird sense of entitlement to sweet treats because it happened to be October 31st and they'd seen trick or treating on American shows. So, we tended to keep the outside lights off, keep quiet, and pretend we weren't home if we heard the door bell. As do most people we know - at least, in the neighbourhoods we'd lived in.

We're going to have to rethink that approach when we move back to Australia, though. The Faery was devastated when I told her that not many people bother with Halloween in Australia. There was much sobbing, and declarations of love for all things Halloween, until I heard myself promising that we could still 'do' Halloween when we move back.

Yeah, I'm a sucker...