Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July moments

Life is happening with a fury right now, but it's all good.

Housewarmings, lost teeth, birthdays, overseas trip preparations, play dates, car collisions (minor, and not my fault!)... all this leaves little time for blogging. Once again, Instagram to the rescue.

J insisted I go soaking in our complex's jacuzzi one night, and I had the place to myself. I love it when that happens, and the sun is going down - bliss.
(Cleaning up after our housewarming party, I'd managed to put my neck out pretty badly. Luckily, I was recommended an amazing chiropractor - I hadn't ever been to one before - and I think I've been converted. It's been a revelation, I'm not exaggerating, and I'm looking forward to a new improved spine.)

By grown up necklace, the Faery had in mind a gold Tiffany one, like I was given a few months back. The kid has expensive taste, but the tooth fairy only had a couple of bucks and a new toothbrush for her (it was her first tooth to fall out). Don't worry, I helped with the spelling. She's super bright, but not a prodigy.

A homemade curry - butter chicken - and catching up on Season Two of Downton Abbey. That's my kind of night in.

Ever seen this kind of rainbow before? I hadn't, and stepped out of a shop to see a bunch of people all standing around, phone cameras held at a distance, snapping away. I looked up to see what the big deal was, and, well, when in Rome...

I know nothing about cars at all, let alone old classic cars. However, I am able to appreciate the sturdy lines and glossy curves of these beauties. Each July, Glendale holds an annual Cruise Night and we've started going along to have a peek at people's pride and joys. Some of the cars are incredible - it's a shame that the American auto industry isn't what it used to be.

I found myself in Studio City last week, and only a few blocks away from this iconic home. Naturally, I had to go for a walk and have a little ogle at the Brady home. The owners must love this, but hey, what's that expression? Caveat emptor, right?

Golden evenings, where we can all play a little bit longer before it gets cold and dark - it's one of the reasons I love summer.

Another reason I love summer is for the park play dates, where no one else is in a hurry to rush off to various afternoon sporting or dance classes. It's nice to be a little less dictated by the clock.

Passionfruit. Oh yeah, baby. I just had my first taste in several years, and introduced it to some friends. I didn't really want to share, but...

... I wasn't about to eat this whole pavlova myself. Besides, it's great for the old ego when you can wow a crowd with something you've made - something that you're pretty sure they've never tried before. And yes, it was a hit.

The pavlova was for the adults, while the kids got Betty Crocker chocolate cake. There were no complaints, though. The Faery was in her element in the starring role as birthday girl at her pool party.

There were casualties at said pool party, but all in all, it was a success. I think the Faery is already counting down until her next birthday. Not me, though - I'm having a hard enough time accepting that she's six already.
PS. She got her grown up necklace wish - but not a Tiffany one. As if she'd know the difference.

Finally, I'm declaring this officially the Summer of Frozen Yoghurt. I woudn't be surprised to learn it was flowing through the Faery's veins right now - it seems we end up going for frozen yoghurt at least once or twice a week these days. The days of me hitting up cafes for good coffee (yeah, not so much in LA) have been replaced by missions for this sweet cold stuff instead.

Bring on August and Australia.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


In a matter of weeks, we depart for Australia.

For a little over three weeks.

It'll have been two and a half years since we were there last. Two and a half years since we packed up and said our goodbyes, ready for some adventure in California. We were sure we'd get back sooner, but life happens.

Two and a half years.

The Faery was three and a half years old. New to being a big sister. New to preschool. On the cusp of... so much.

She'll be six when we visit. Six. Such a world of difference in what she's capable of, and knows, and understands.

Miss Pie was barely ten weeks old. The most contented little (actually, big) newborn, happy to go with the flow. She made the whole overseas move so much easier on me than it could have been.

Now she's a two-and-a-half-year-old. A firecracker of a toddler, marching to her own beat. Unwilling to bend for anyone, but still has her many moments of absolute sweetness. American life is all she knows.

I'm going to introduce Miss Pie to all the things that her sister loved at her age. She is going to adore sipping on a babycino - marshmallow on the side - when we go to cafes. I'm also pretty certain that Cheesymite scrolls will be a hit too. She may have lived most her life in the US, but I've made sure she has Vegemite coursing through her veins.

As for me, apart from the obvious joy of catching up with loved ones and snuggles with new nieces, it's also my tastebuds that are getting excited at the prospect of this trip.

Drinking creamy cafe lattes where I can actually taste the coffee - because I haven't had to navigate through a bucket of stiff foam on top. Where espresso is the norm when eating out, and no restaurant or cafe would dream of telling customers their espresso machine is broken (this has happened to me a number of times in L.A.). They may as well close up and call it a day. Where brewed coffee is mixed with real milk - not processed, flavoured powder or little caps of liquid curiously called 'creamer'. Each to their own, though. I'm sure many Americans would find coffee the way it's done in Australia not to their taste either.

And to nibble on while I enjoy my coffee and the girls enjoy their babycinos? Toasted, fresh banana bread (with lashings of melted butter, of course). This was a staple for the Faery and I when she was younger and we'd stop in at cafes. I realise it's not a uniquely Australian treat, but I don't really encounter it here - at least, not toasted with butter. Another favourite I haven't stumbled across in our corner of L.A. are Portuguese tarts.

If it were passionfruit season, I'd be eating it like no tomorrow - someone tell me why it isn't popular in California? Seems to me like the ideal climate to grow it.

Barbecued beef sausages, Shepherd's pie, Sunday roasts. Cheddar cheese that's yellow, and not dyed a scary shade of orange. Double thickened cream. Tim Tams, Scotch Fingers, Mint Slices. Oh my. 

Two and a half years.

I need to be careful I don't gain back the 16kg (35 lbs) I've lost this year. (But yay me, right?) 

Look out Sydney. Lock up your pastries, because here we come.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Trash to treasure

Remember the chair I found on the side of a road last year? Remember the good intentions I had? This chair was going to look g-roovy. A unique little piece of character in our otherwise IKEA-dominated home.

Sadly, it hasn't happened yet. Mind you, it's not like the chair has been sitting, abandoned in a lonely corner of a garage, gathering even more dust. No. We've seen some good times together, that chair and I. Many an afternoon escape coffee, and evening wind-down wine, have been enjoyed on that chair - outside on the back patio of our old apartment. It was sheltered well from all elements, and instead of re-covering and painting it, I've simply enjoyed the comfort it offered.

Now, it has a place in the sun, on the balcony of our new apartment. There's no shelter, though, so once summer is over, this old chair is going to need to be rehomed inside. That means I have until late September to pull my finger out and fix 'er up, because it looks a little too loved to be inside as is.

Between now and the end of summer, I have a soon-to-be six-year-old's birthday party to organise, and an almost-month-long trip to Australia.

I have a feeling the fix-up is going to be somewhat of a rush job. Thankfully, the chair has great bones and is solid, so it's more just a matter of making cosmetic changes.

In the mean time, look what I rescued from one of the trash rooms in our complex yesterday:

Someone threw that out? This frame even has a sturdy hook on the back - all it needs is a paint job and some colourful fabric stapled to the back. Easy, and the perfect smaller project to practice on before tackling the chair.

Wish me luck. And stop laughing...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sink or swim

For an Australian who grew up in a coastal city, I'm not actually the best of swimmers. Sure, I can swim... but I was never going to win the swimming carnival events at school.

I was eight when I learned to swim. We'd recently moved to a new neighbourhood, and the kids across the road - who we spent all our spare time with - had a beautiful pool. Not long after moving, my mother enrolled me in swimming lessons at a nearby fitness centre. Unfortunately, I was traumatised after the heinous instructor grabbed my head and held it under water. I refused to set foot in that place again.

After that, I had trouble trusting anyone to hold me in the water, so pool time with the neighbourhood kids involved me using whatever floatation devises and googles were available, and flailing around alone in the shallow end while the other kids - all confident swimmers - frolicked and dived into the deep end.

It wasn't until later that year when my third grade class had its annual block of daily lessons (over a fortnight) at the local public pool, that I made progress. I was put in with the absolute beginners, taught by a kindly grandmother, and she managed to get me to float. It was a big step, and from then on, I was fine. Something clicked in me, and I caught up with my peers. Never confident, but okay, nonetheless.

When it came time to think about getting the Faery swimming, I knew I didn't want to pressure her. She is so much like I was at that age, and gets anxious over the smallest things. It seemed that every single other parent we knew were getting their kids in swimming classes before they could walk. Nothing wrong with that, but I instinctively knew that once-a-week only lessons with her would have no impact. We decided it was better if J - a confident swimmer who grew up in the tropics, snorkelling and swimming around isolated islands on family boating trips - introduced her to the water and built her confidence.

It's been a slow process, but one that I think would have been just as slow had she been enrolled in classes. Our first summer in LA, we actually tried her in weekly classes. Over a three month period... zero progress. She refused to wear her goggles, let alone put her face in the water. Then, a year later (last summer) she was confident enough to ditch her floatation vest which had become a security item in the pool for her. She began just using pool noodles to get around the deeper parts with but still avoided getting her face in the water.

She was still behind most of her little buddies, and it broke my heart to watch her trying to keep up with the other, more confident swimmers. I knew exactly how that felt.

Last month, I learned of daily swimming lessons being offered at a nearby community pool. Eight lessons over one fortnight. At only $40, these classes booked up almost immediately so there was a dawn queue on the one weekend we could register, but I went in and signed her up. J and I knew that now she was dog paddling and improving, it was more about getting her to learn some technique.

Only a week before she was due to start her lessons, we had a breakthrough. Of her own will, she began putting her whole head under water. I can't stress what a big deal this was for her. Immediately, she began propelling herself along under water, and was so happy with herself.

When it was time to begin her lessons, I worried that she might still be placed in (the large) Level 1 class with the absolute beginners, but the instructors saw she could do some basic swimming and and placed her in the Level 2 class. There were only four kids in this class, so the Faery was able to get a lot more help than if she'd been in one of the larger classes.

This is where we've spent most mornings these last two weeks. Yesterday was her last lesson. The final challenge for her class was to jump from a diving block into the water - the 10-feet-deep water.

I walked over to the line she stood in, to let her know I was right there. I knew all too well that as an eight-year-old, I would have cried at the thought of jumping into such deep water - let alone as an almost-six-year-old. I expected tears from her too.

She looked over at me and said quietly, "Mum, I'm a bit nervous to jump in from that big block."

"It's okay, I'm right here. You'll be fine!" I forced a cheery smile but inside, I was torn. I didn't want her to do something if she was terrified. I knew that feeling.

Turns out, she was more than fine. She jumped in, swam to the ladder, climbed out, and - as instructed -  did it all over again. Level 2, passed with flying colours.

All without a wobble or tear - so much braver than myself as a child.

I could not be prouder, or happier for her.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hi, I'm...

I should probably bother with make-up more often. I don't look half bad here (except for the dark circles under my eyes - nothing seems to hide those suckers). This photo is a total exercise in narcissism - it's rare that I like a photo of me. Also, taking a decent self-portrait - for me - is tricky. I like this one, though.


Hi, I'm Madeleine.

Otherwise known as Mad, or Mads.... but never Maddy. I'm all for shortening my mouthful of a name, but let's do it properly and keep it to just one syllable, okay?

I thought that after a year and a half (or thereabouts) of having this blog, I might as well start using my proper name instead of my boring initials. It seems like the right time.

Hardly an earth-shattering revelation for some of you, I know, but our little home is recovering from a housewarming last night. I'm feeling the need to take things easy today.

Ciao for now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


What? No square-shaped, retro-filtered photos from Instagram?

Oh, I have a stack of those from the last few days... but yesterday, I picked up my lovely proper camera and got my snap on. The poor thing has been more than neglected. I think May was the last time I held it in my hands. Anyhow, it felt good and I've resolved to get the camera out more often. I've been considering one of those 365 day challenges for a while now, but we'll see.

With the temperatures soaring in this neck of the woods, the Faery and Miss Pie were just hanging out in their knickers and nappies. One of my favourite things about summer and kids is the lack of clothing needed when it's super hot - just creamy soft skin on show.

That last photo is a blurry action shot but it kind of shows a bit of our new digs. And before anyone points it out, why yes, we do own an awful lot of IKEA furniture. It's what happens when you move overseas and realise it's far cheaper to buy from scratch than to ship everything over.

Excuses aside, I happen to like IKEA a lot. I get more than a little bored by people turning their noses up at IKEA. Whatever. I'd rather spend the little pennies I have on affordable furniture, than pay three times the amount for something just because it's been put together already. And as much as I love the charm and character of second-hand furniture, I've never been good at sourcing it.

Good thing this isn't a lifestyle/design/DIY blog then, isn't it? (and on a side note, after reorganising our entire living arrangements these last few weeks, and attempting some semblance of aesthetic peace with the new apartment to make it feel like 'home', I have no idea how bloggers manage to regularly write about and document that kind of thing if that's their schtick - especially the ones with kids.)

I'm not even sure what category my own blog really falls into. It's something I've been thinking about lately because even though I do mention my kids a fair bit, I don't really consider it a 'mummy blog'. Nor one that flexes my serious writing muscle, despite my occasional attempts at it. Sometimes I feel like writing; other times it's all about the photos. I'm okay with that, though. I started this little project to document a bit of my life overseas - something I might look back on one day, or my girls may want to dig into when they're older. For those reasons, I'm just going to keep going the way I am.

In the mean time, did you see the state of our carpet? My money says it won't last long...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Breathing space

I'm aware that lately, my posts here have been little more than regurgitations of my Instagram feed. Apologies for that - packing, moving, and unpacking again are to blame. My head seems to be taken up with mental Tetris (where to put everything when we actually have less storage space in this different - yet bigger - apartment), leaving not much room in my brain for anything else. Oh, and school holidays on top of that. But hey, this is my blog, so... whatever.

On the bright side, it literally is a brighter apartment - loads more natural light than the last one. No lamps required in the middle of the day. No more gloom. I have a feeling this is going to spur me on to start playing around more with my real camera again, even if it's just shots of the girls mucking around for now until we get back into the swing of fun weekend outings. Things feel roomier in general here, and quieter, so all is good.

Hopefully, this is the start of less Instagram rip-off posts, and the beginning of more words and quality photos. In the mean time, consider the following shots the highlights of my Instagramming this past week... because trust me, I have a hell of a lot more pics on there. I'm trying my best not to vomit them all onto my blog.

 Who can resist snapping the moon when framed like this?

 First morning in the new apartment.

 First purchase for the new home: flowers.

 In my adult life, I've lived in about a dozen homes.
It goes without saying that they all had a shower. 
Most had a bath tub too.
Those bath tubs and showers were always combined.
This bath tub is solo, and heavenly. 
No shower curtains to get in the way. A high ceiling. 
A window for a breeze. 
We're going to get well acquainted, that tub and I.

 On our balcony, we can see west. 
Wine o'clock is going to mean palm trees 
silhouetted against orange skies. Nice.

 No campfires here for July Fourth, but a barbecue did
the job nicely for s'mores. Maybe people do this often, 
but it felt like a little Aussie touch to the day.

 I've never seen this kid devour something so quickly.

Kind of how I feel, now that we've finished the move.
But then I remind myself that unlike the last couple of moves
we've done, I'm not 35 weeks pregnant; nor do I have 
a ten-week old baby. She's now a tantrum-prone toddler...