Monday, January 30, 2012

Retro coolness

As I was taking the Faery to school this morning, it occurred to me that it was probably time to post something in here.

I parked the car in our usual spot, about a block away from the school. We got out, began walking up the street, and I began contemplating what to write...

 ...then I looked up and was greeted by this magnificent sight.

Is that not the most fabulous motor home you've ever seen?

If I had to pick a favourite era - in terms of style - it would be art deco (followed closely by the 1950s and 60s). Judging by the millions of blogs out there, I'm hardly unique but hey - the heart loves what it loves.

I could not stop gawking, and neither could all the other people who were walking past. Now, that is photoworthy, I thought, and whipped out my phone for some snaps.

As soon as I was back home, I googled 'decoliner' (the words on the side) and found this website. Quite an amazing feat. The owner - Randy Grubb - is an automotive artist, and used the chassis of a 1973 GMC motor home and a 1955 truck cabin to make this. I can only be in awe of such creativity and cleverness. 

And yes, that is a steering wheel on the top deck of the motor home - I couldn't see one inside. There is footage on YouTube of this being driven around Portland, Oregon, before the exterior looked as shiny as it does today.

I love how an ordinary morning can turn up something that's extraordinary so that before I know it, my blog has practically written itself.

PS - I am going to miss the Picnik site when it's gone in April. It's provided so much photo-tweaking fun.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dragon Heart

Ever since I was a kid, I've had a love for thunderstorms.

I love the building suspense in the air as a storm approaches. How big is this storm going to be? I love watching the sky change as the the flashes jump between bruised clouds. I love the ear-splitting cracks of thunder when the storm is directly above: as a kid, counting one thousand, two thousand... I love the relief that comes with a storm. There's no better way to finish off a hot day in Sydney than with the storm that's likely to end it.

Years later, as J became familiar with my storm love, he told me it was because I was born in the Year of the Dragon, and the Chinese used to believe that thunder was the sound of dragons clashing in the sky. I loved that idea.

I don't really identify with horoscopes - never viewed myself as a proper Aries - but something about being a dragon appeals to me. For many years, I told myself if I ever got a tattoo, it would be an oriental dragon. Dragon tattoos may be a little clich├ęd to some, but it's less so if I am a dragon, right? Not everyone else with dragon tattoos are dragons.

(I never did get that tattoo. The publication of a certain bestselling Swedish novel killed that idea swiftly, although I read the trilogy, saw the films... and loved it all.)

This week has brought the Lunar New Year, completing three full cycles in my lifetime under the Chinese horoscope. The last time it was Year of the Dragon, it was 2000 and full of adventure - it was an amazing year.

To all the dragons out there: this is our year and it's going to be great.

My lovely dragon, who has known happier times.
Hatched in Bondi Markets in 1997,
it has had six homes, lived in three cities,
spent nearly five years in a box under my parents' house,
been knocked over by cats, lovingly glued back together,
and is currently well out of reach of little fingers.

Monday, January 23, 2012

In the old gum tree

A rainy morning - with one sick child home from school, and a spirited toddler destroying the place - meant just one thing. As soon as I could commandeer the TV channels in my favour, it was time for a cheerful programme not intended for a child audience. Live! with Kelly won.

(Photo source)
At some point during the show, there was a wildlife expert on. His name was Peter Gros, and he had the most bizarre, helmet-like head of hair I've seen since Ken doll.

Studly, no? Debonaire? (I've always wanted a reason to use that word.)

He had brought with him an assortment of animals, the cutest being a 6-week-old tiger cub, drinking milk from a bottle. The Faery was most impressed. There was a also a beaver, swimming in an inflatable Disney Princesses paddling pool. I'm sure there's a good joke in there somewhere.

However, it was the last animal brought out onto the stage which set my heart a flutter. As soon as I saw its cheeky grin, I hoped I'd get to hear it singing... and it did. A wonderful sound that made me feel like I was home. Even the Faery - whose associations would be a lot hazier - stopped in her tracks to listen, and was awe-struck.

The bird I'm referring too? A kookaburra, of course. I have such clear memories of singing the nursery rhyme "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree..." as a littlie at school, and am a little sad my girls won't have the same memories - do they even teach it at school these days? I should probably teach it to them - it's one more thing I've been neglectful with.

There's nothing like the sound of a kookaburra. As much as I'm not a morning person, whenever I'm away from the city and am woken up by their call, I love it.

Is that not the happiest sound ever? A true belly laugh, as though they're in on a big joke we know nothing about.

Feeling somewhat homesick now.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The creature

Some days, it's hard to ignore the creature in my head that whispers things I don't want to hear. Maybe it's because the truth hurts, I don't know.

This creature whispers that I'm lazy because I've been in no hurry to return to teaching. That I'm lazy for being put off by the idea of searching for, and then juggling a job, day care, and a school run. Plenty of people do it, why can't you? What's wrong with you?

It hisses that I'm a financial burden to J, and the reason why we still can't get ahead. All your doing - stop making excuses. Just get a job already.

It reminds me - frequently - that I'm pathetic. When did you become such a passive lump? When did you start relinquishing important decisions to others? You're not just 'going with the flow'... that's just you in denial. Stop sleepwalking. Stop 'letting' life happen and take control.

It also whispers that I'm not good enough with my girls, that they deserve more of my attention. Engage, engage, engage. Stop going on auto-pilot.

This creature is not my friend, but I listen anyway and suspect it speaks the truth... I have an uneasy feeling I've been taking a backseat in my own life, and for a while at that. Hardly the model of being pro-active.

So... Operation Find-An-Evening-Job is underway. I'm not sure how exactly, when all my qualifications and certificates are sitting in an unidentified box, stored away in Sydney (packed away by accident in the newborn-induced fog shortly before The Big Move). I figure that if I can get some references emailed to me, that will be a start, and then I can look into private tutoring - adults who need help with their English grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and so on. I've tutored before and it seems the most ideal fit for now.

Hopefully, when Operation Find-An-Evening-Job is successful, that creature in my head will leave me the fuck alone. It's been a little over two years since I last worked and contributed financially, and I think that's part of the problem with where my head is at these days.

I don't value myself as much, and something has to give - that something is me, so I can stop feeling as though I'm only taking.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Semi Wordless Wednesday: Instagramming

I suppose I could tap into my (long ago) Fine Arts studies and write a lengthy discourse about the popularity - and ease - of the Instagram app on iPhones, versus the more complicated science art of SLR photography... but I'll spare you.

I'm new to the world of Instagram, but am currently addicted. Who knows whether it's just a passing phase for me? I'm simply enjoying leaving the home less often with a heavy camera. Lazy? Yep. I do love my camera, but sometimes it's not a bad thing to take a little break from what we love.

Anyhow, if you happen to be on Instagram too and a) want to follow one more person and b) help me build my list of followers into the double digits (Wow, how impressive would that be?) I can be found as @madinla.

(Click here)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Meteorologic musings

Perhaps I've mentioned I have a lovely new iPhone? And that despite never coveting one before, I am head over heels in love with it.

My latest addiction is to the Instagram app, but more on that in the near future.

With the clock app, I never have to calculate what time it is in Sydney before attempting a Skype call.

(My brain thanks my phone.)

The weather app is also handy.

I never have to pay attention to those weather 'personalities' on the TV again - people with whacky names like Dallas Raines (seriously, I have such a hard time believing he was named that at birth, but apparently he was).

I need never google the forecast again - it's all at my fingertips.

As you can see, we're not doing too badly here. Winter has been mild - this is the coolest it's been in about a month. Blue skies and lots of sun - Seasonal Affective Disorder will not be a problem for me in LA.

However, looking through the many Instagram photos of others, I've realised something that's missing - awesome clouds and temperamental weather can make for great photos.

Not a whole lot of atmospheric wonders happening in these southern Californian skies.

On my weather app, I also have the weather for a couple of other cities. Now and then, I like to know what it's doing in Sydney... because I'm a nerd like that.

Rain, clouds, thunderstorms and sunshine - that sounds about right for a week of summer in Sydney. Even a single day can have all of those.

I miss those thunderstorms, I really do.

But when I want to cheer myself up?

I check out what the weather's doing in London, and remember the numerous winters that I suffered there.

Yeah... I don't miss that.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Trains on the brain

No matter where I live, trains seem to follow me. The house that was home for the first seven years of my life was across the road from a commuter railway line. I can remember peering out my bedroom window with my brother, every morning, to watch the trains clackity-clack past.

As a teenager travelling to my weekend/summer job, much of my adolescence was daydreamed away - out through the windows of the silver Sydney trains that carried me from the suburban sprawl and into the city.

Over the years, there have been a number of places I've lived in that were a little too close to the trains. Our flat in west London afforded blurry views from the back windows - of trains which whisked people to Oxford, Bristol and Wales. Those trains were bigger, louder, and faster. Foxes loved to hang around those tracks at night, so the evenings were often punctuated by their call, and if we weren't careful, the contents of of our rubbish bins would be raided and strewn across the garden and street.

Is it any wonder that my dreams are frequently peppered with trains? Not so much these days, but for a long time, the most commonly reccurring theme involved me travelling somewhere - usually on a train. Sometimes I'd be on the wrong train, sometimes I needed to change trains. Train platforms would change around on me, announcements would be muffled and confusing. Getting to the destination was never without drama, and I would always wake with relief... easy fodder for Psychology 101, right?

And now? We don't live so close to a railway line, but there is one that winds through our area. The distant sound of the train horns is now familiar, but for a long time they seemed like a sound effect from any contemporary American film - distinctive and chorus-like. A little surreal for me.

The local line passes near J's work, and on the days that I'm playing taxi driver, there's a good chance we'll be stopped at a railway crossing, waiting for a hulking Amtrak train to pass. This is always to Miss Pie's train-obsessed delight, whereas I brace myself with visions of the train suddenly derailing and hurtling towards us. Sydney has very few railway crossings, so this is one difference in LA that I'm still adjusting to.

Oddly enough, I've yet to set foot on one of these Amtrak giants. Despite the fact that I'm experienced with the train networks of four cities, and have hopped on trains in at least ten countries, I haven't been on any here yet. I think that speaks volumes on how necessary a car is in Los Angeles. If the public transport wasn't so dire, I'd have definitely ventured out sans car, but the logistics of it are of nightmarish proportions. Alone, it would be less of a problem, but remember - I'm usually accompanied by little ones. That always complicates things.

Oh, but I lie - I may not have been on an Amtrak train, but I have been a few smaller trains here. You know, the kind that are intended to give small children a thrill (as seen above)...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Semi Wordless Wednesday: Trike love

One of the gifts that Mis Pie received for her birthday was a tricycle. It was an instant favourite, and when the Faery was done with school for the day, she spent time helping Miss Pie play with the trike.

I didn't expect to witness such lovely moments of sharing, but I did. If I stare too long at some of the photos I took, a lump forms in my throat. It may be clich├ęd, but there you have it. There is something about the last two photos, especially, that keep me returning for more.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Remembering, two

My baby just turned two. No longer a baby, but a sweetly crazy toddler who is morphing into an even sweeter little girl every day.

The day before her birthday was Sunday, so we threw a tea party for her and the smaller kids who live nearby. I've basically had zero experience putting a kids party together (sadly for the Faery, this is very much true - we owe her a few 'proper' parties by now) so I was happily surprised at how well it all came together - especially as it was something I'd only thought up and put together over a few days prior to the party. It was fun introducing our American friends to fairy bread - a staple for every Australian child's birthday party.

The loveliest part was the opportunity it gave J and I to get to catch up with some of the other parents. It brought home to us that we're very lucky for the little community we have going in our apartment complex.

Once the day was over, my belly full of cake and pastries, and the girls were fast asleep, I stumbled across some online birth stories - quite by accident, but perfect timing. I hadn't really read any since I was pregnant, so I allowed myself to read a few... and remember.

I remembered how drawn out the labour was with Miss Pie. How it hurt like nothing else. How relentless the contractions were, on top of one another. How wonderful the midwife was, with her soothing Jamaican accent.

I remembered not wanting the heavier drugs, and how I welcomed the nitrous oxide. Sweet, sweet gas, that became my best friend.

I remembered how fantastic J was, and how I felt like I'd have broken in two if he hadn't been there. How deeply primal it was.

I remembered feeling more confident this time round, knowing I'd done it before and could do it again - even if I did want to cancel the whole thing and go home.

I remembered the relief as she emerged. Out. In this world. Pain subsiding. Hello, look at you! You're so beautiful... and so... big? 

She was a whopping 4.44 kg (9 lb 13oz). That's right, I birthed a just-under ten-pound baby, with nothing but gas. I don't normally like to brag... but I wear this particular badge with pride. No apologies. Sure, I got lucky that things progressed in a fairly straightforward manner, but it was fucking hard work nonetheless, so if on the rare occasion I want to shout out from the rooftops about this achievement, I will. Her birth left me feeling like a superhero.

Whether she'd been born a whopper or petite and dainty, the fact remains that she's mine. Healthy, beautiful and loving. J and I made this gorgeous creature who possesses an adventurous spirit - the yang to her sister's yin. A delight.

We can't imagine life without her.

Happy 2nd Birthday, PJ.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


We first found this studio-backlot-themed play area shortly after we'd arrived in Los Angeles. We were living in a hotel until a suitable apartment was found for us to rent. The hotel was in a convenient enough location - walking distance through the nice part of town to Burbank's IKEA and local mall, enabling me to to stock up daily on the basics we'd be needing as soon as we moved.

Every day, the Faery and I would trek into town with Miss Pie reclining in her stroller. I'd buy the maximum amount of towels, sheets, pillows, kitchenware, pots and pans I could possibly fit under the stroller and hang off the side. The trudge back to the hotel was always a delicate balancing act, and I received more than a few strange looks from people along the way. The stroller was essentially a caravan, with just enough room for a newborn.

Anyhow, the play area in the local mall provided a convenient rest stop where the Faery could run around and burn off steam, while I breastfed Miss Pie - something I did discretely but earned me some dirty looks. I'm still trying to figure out 'liberal' California.

In those days, the Faery was three and a half, and Miss Pie just eleven weeks old. If she wasn't feeding, she'd be sleeping soundly in her stroller while the Faery played. Miss Pie just fed, slept, fed, slept - such an easy baby.

We found ourselves there again today, but under such different circumstances.

The Faery was in a state of anxiety when we realised she is now slightly taller than the sign showing the maximum height allowed for kids to play there - 4'2", whatever that is. Given she's a sensible kid who doesn't play roughly, I decided it was no big deal, but she was convinced she'd get into trouble from some random authority figure. She couldn't relax.

As for Miss Pie, she's now a fearless toddler and only days away from her second birthday. She was outrunning most the kids there, and deftly climbing the structures, giving cause for my heart to skip a beat on more than one occasion.

Time... it flies...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

East, west, what?

(Click here for source)

A funny thing happened when we moved to the US.

I began to confuse east from west. This is actually a big deal for me, because I have a reputation amongst my friends and family as possessing superior map reading and navigation skills. My sense of direction has meant that I rarely get lost (but it has happened). People who need to turn the map each time they turn corners? I laugh and feel a little smug when I see others doing this (sorry, but I do). I think I've mentioned before that I love maps.

I've even been told I'd make an excellent rally navigator, which I'll take as a compliment.

Of course, north and south have never been confusing and for thirty odd years, I found east and west equally polarised in my mind... but some kind of malfunction has happened to the hardwiring of my brain recently. Only with east and west.

They were never mixed up when I lived in London or Melbourne.

After giving it some thought, I've decided that it must be down to the fact that I've gone from living on the east coast of Australia (Sydney), to the west coast of the US (LA). In Sydney, heading west meant going inland and heading east meant going to the beach. It's the opposite here in LA - is it any wonder that my poor brain gets a little addled? When discussing locations here and I want to mention somewhere nearer the coast from us, it comes out of my mouth as 'east'. Wrong. Likewise when we talk about inland from where we live. It comes out of my mouth as 'west'. The only thing that anchors the correct usage is if I think about where the sun rises and sets.

I always feel like such a goose when I mix them up. It's an effort that requires some mental gymnastics for me to stop and think before opening my mouth, so that I can get it right.

It feels backwards, and I can feel the same part of my brain twisting when I look at the short date here (or even worse, have to write it)... but that, I blame on the stupidly illogical American date format. Not my fault. East and west? I shouldn't be mixing those up.

Our drive back to LA from San Diego last week just confirmed how screwed up my brain is at the moment with this east/west business, when the job of navigation fell to me (happily, as I prefer that to driving).

I wonder if there is a term for people mixing their terminology for directions, when their frame of reference has been shifted... Chartis dysphoria? Because I just made that up, and it has a pretty cool ring to it, yes?

Just don't ask me where Santa Monica is in relation to the San Fernando Valley. I can find it in a flash on a map, but getting my mouth to say it correctly is another matter altogether...

(Click here for source)