Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tourist hats

So, a crazy thing... tomorrow, we'll have been in L.A. for exactly three years.

J recently finished up his job here, and - coinciding with the school spring break - we switched our resident hats for tourist ones. We either checked out parts of L.A. we've been meaning to for so long, or revisited other parts that we just happen to be mad about. We squeezed in as much as we could in a short space of time, before he left for a speedy trip to Australia (visa-related)... and now my tourist hat has been replaced (temporarily) with a "single parent" hat. Wish me luck.

(Details below photos)

1. A favourite place of ours is the Huntington Botanical Gardens, especially in spring.

2. For some reason, we tend to end up at our favourite ice cream shop late on Sunday afternoons, when most of the other shops on that street are closed - including this lolly shop that the girls are yet to set foot in. They dream of being let loose in there.

3. Downtown, making our way home after an advance family & friends screening of The Croods, courtesy of DreamWorks - and officially the last time we'll be going to one of these (PS. It's good - go see it).

4. Last chance date night for quite some time (not that we do this often). I had one too many cocktails at an amazing mixology bar that's stumbling distance from home. It has an average of 4.5 stars on Yelp, which I'm told is unheard of. Probably a good thing we didn't know about this bar sooner...

5. & 6. The girls and I first visited Universal Studios nearly two years ago, when my brother (and sister-in-law) were in town, but J had to work that day and missed out. Being in hostess mode, wrangling both kids, and unaware of their child-switch passes for the rides, I managed the grand total of one ride. This time round, J came along and - happily - I got to experience my money's worth.

7. Venice Beach. Ever since my teen obsession with Jim Morrison, I've been keen to check out this area. Can't believe it took so long to get around to it - probably because, in all honesty, L.A's beaches underwhelm me. The coast south of L.A? Beautiful. North of L.A? Stunning. But L.A. beaches themselves? Meh.

(I'd heard how wacky the Venice Boardwalk was, but it was nothing I hadn't seen before. The shops - toting marijuana paraphernalia and touristy T-shirts with photoshopped images of Marilyn Monroe and Bob Marley - were no different from markets in any other Western city, but it was fun to watch the Faery's eyes pop from some of the people-watching she did.)

8. Although I never followed Baywatch, as far as pop cultural references go, my mind will forever  associate these lifeguard stations with the Hoff (seriously - if in need of a giggle, click the link).

9. Filming on Venice Beach. As for which movie or TV show, I have no idea. Apparently each year in March, all the networks go ahead and begin production on new TV pilots, and there are currently about 75 pilots being filmed in LA. No business like show business...

10. I'm a sucker for North American style fire escapes, and don't see many around in my neighbourhood. This one was in Venice.

11. I've wandered around canals in London, Amsterdam and (the original) Venice. All have their own distinct look, and these ones in Venice were no exception. If I go back to Venice, it would be purely to explore this little network of residential canals - so lovely and not what I expected.

12. As well as admiring retro 50s and 60s style buildings, I also have a thing for art deco. This was my favourite house in the Venice Canals, and I love how the canal lent the home more of a Miami vibe than L.A.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

'92 Vintage

Like a lot of people my age, I spent a lot of time listening to The Cure when I was younger. 

On a whim the other day, I pulled out their Wish album. Sometimes, there's nothing like listening to that album and feeling the intensity of being sixteen all over again. In particular, From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea. It's probably my favourite song of theirs, and twenty years later, I can still listen to it repeatedly. Everything about that song is perfect - the soaring music, the painful lyrics. It gets me every single time. Musical taste is a subjective affair, but I can't imagine how any person with a beating heart could not love this song.

Ah, but I still have so many other Cure songs that I love to revisit from time to time.

If I had to pick a single year that represents my youth, and sparked a love for the bands I still listen to today, it would be 1992. That year began with me heavily into U2, but before long I found myself completely immersed in Nirvana, Pearl Jam (a reason why Seattle has been on my radar for such a long time - although I never imagined I'd be living there one day), Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M. and The Cure.

I like to think that - back in the day - I rocked the floral baby doll dresses or long flowing skirts, paired with either Doc Marten boots or Converse chucks, along with the best of them. I never went goth but my father used to delight in teasing me, telling me I looked "like a Greek widow". Instead, the grunge style had my full attention as a teenager, and I'm starting to see teenagers and students wearing green hair and Converse again, in the true twenty-year recycle of trends. That is what makes me feel old... 

Monday, March 11, 2013

A little freedom

Last week, Miss Pie began preschool - a momentous occasion not just for her, but for me. After doing this "stay at home mum" gig full time for the past three years, I get to have a morning to myself, twice a week. Heaven.

We chose the same preschool the Faery attended when we first moved to LA. She was happy there, and it's walking distance - two reasons that seemed good enough to me. I was a little worried that Miss Pie might not like the idea of me taking off for a few hours, though. When the Faery started, she'd already been in daycare back in Australia, while I worked, so the transition had been fairly effortless for her.

Miss Pie had been gearing up for, and talking about preschool for so long, that when it came to the big day, she barely glanced my way as I was leaving. She almost left a trail of dust in her wake as she headed for the table with play dough. The girl was more than ready. When I collected her at lunch time, I was told she'd had a 'surprisingly' good transition and first day.

As for me? I headed to the local library to grab a book that I'd reserved, and had arrived only the day before. Timing! I also saw another book and, realising I didn't need to rush anywhere, sat down by a large window and began to read. Both books were bestselling memoirs, written by well-known bloggers, and I was curious to see what the big deal was. About an hour later, I'd read enough of the second book to know there was no need to borrow it. Something about it felt... inauthentic. Plus, I'm wary of a woman who (as evidenced in her many photos) gives birth with a full face of make-up and perfectly-coiffed hair, in a room crammed with friends and family, and hands out party favours immediately. I do not relate. Thankfully, the book I'd reserved is a cracker - every night since, I've been chuckling and annoying the shit out of J by reading excerpts to him. For once, I think I'll finish this book before it's due date (it's Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, in case you were wondering).

So, there you have it. My baby starts preschool and I spend my first morning of freedom at the library. Rock and roll, eh? It felt decadent, though, because I still have issues with the fact that I ain't bringing home any bacon these days. Once J heads to Seattle, and I'm alone with the girls for a few months, I'm hoping the preschool mornings will be a relished chance to keep my sanity intact - guilt free. I'll need the little breaks.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The three year itch

When we decided to move to Los Angeles, we knew it would be for three or four years, depending on how things panned out for J with his new job. Maybe we'd all be miserable and return to Australia sooner, or maybe J would absolutely love the job and we'd have the option of staying on for a few more years. There was no crystal ball to help us out, and it was somewhat of a leap of faith. Neither of us had even been to L.A. before.

We are only six weeks shy of having lived here for three years already, and the last few months have seen us reevaluating where we want to be.

J's professional journey isn't my story to tell, but for a number of strong reasons, he's decided it's time to move on from his current job. So... he cast a net out and tried his best to see what else is out there in the US for him. A lot of sweat and sleepless nights, interviews, and winning people over.

And... it paid off. An offer was made recently that seems too good to be true - both financially, and in terms of a career trajectory for J. He sold himself very well, and is stoked that there are people out there who seem to recognise his potential, and want him on their team. I'm proud of him.

It's an offer that has us pinching ourselves. It will be a game-changer for us, and allow us to rid our debts quickly (unlike the naïve expectations we had moving when to L.A, before the reality of the cost of living here - on a single income - kicked in). A significant pay-rise and employment package which will not only enable us to kick our debts to the curb, but to properly save for a home, visit Australia more often, and start chasing our dreams of further travel together as a family.

There's just one catch - the new job won't be in Los Angeles. Our time in La La Land is drawing to an end.

Yeah, you probably saw that coming... we're moving to Seattle. Time to dig out my old Pearl Jam and Nirvana albums! Our recent weekend trip was more than just a random visit and catch-up with friends. We wanted to get a feel for the place, and check out the areas where we'd likely move to. Although we'd both been to Seattle many years ago, we needed to see it from a fresh perspective this time - is it somewhere that we think our little family will be happy?

Clean, fresh air is a good start. As is the fact we'll be more financially secure and able to pursue interests we've been wanting to for a long time. I feel lucky that we have an opportunity to experience life in another beautiful corner of the world, and am excited about the fresh new start.

This move will be bittersweet, though. We've made some wonderful friends here in L.A, especially since the Faery started school. I mean, it's one thing to "approve of" the kids that your child has chosen as little mates, but then to get along so well with their families and find you're on the same page as them with many things, and actually look forward to your families hanging out together socially - from what I've heard, not everyone is lucky to strike up such rich friendships from their kids' schools. I have some truly lovely girlfriends now, and knowing that they won't be a regular part of my life for much longer is probably the thing that makes me the saddest and most anxious about moving. I'm not too happy at the thought of starting from scratch, socially, once we move up there. We do have a few friends there but we'll be living in a different part of Seattle to them. I'll need to work on making new friends closer to home, and the older I get, the more daunting this feels.

I also worry about the Faery - she adores her friends, and one in particular is a real kindred spirit with her. I'm sad and anxious about putting physical distance between them, but we always knew L.A. wasn't going to be forever.

Another 'issue' will be the weather. It's a superficial thing, yes, but don't underestimate the impact of mostly grey skies and damp air. I've lived it before, in London. I'm determined I won't let it get under my skin this time. Seattle isn't London, our circumstances are very different, and... I just have to let go of the notion of me not digging winter. Put on my big girl panties.

Hopefully these drawbacks can be dealt with by the odd weekend visit to L.A. - a dose of sunshine and to hang out with friends. I've already promised the Faery that she and I can have a few girly weekends doing this, in the hope that the knowledge will ease the transition for her. We have a while yet, though. J will start his new job in spring, but the girls and I are going to stay back until the end of the school year so that the Faery won't need to change schools until the new school year begins. I feel strongly about that, so I offered to hang back here and do the solo parent thing for a few months, while J settles into his job and looks for a place for us to live in.

I'm trying to remind myself that moving from L.A. to Seattle is going to be much easier than our move from Sydney to L.A.  For one, we've actually been there and have an idea what to expect. Secondly, it'll just be a matter of packing our things onto the back of a truck (as opposed to selling things, storing things, shipping some things, and buying the rest at the other end). Thirdly, it's not like we're moving to yet another country where we have to figure everything out again. We're used to driving on the right-hand side now, we have our social security numbers, and a general understanding of how things work here.

All in all, though, this has been a lot to process. It's been on the cards for a few months, and only just been made official. All this time, J and I have discussed every thing there is to consider, at great length, but had to keep the news secret from family and friends - just in case it fell through. It's like first trimester pregnancy all over again, when you're bursting to be able to talk about it openly but the reality is only a couple of select friends or family know. Part of my way of dealing with this has been to draft this post, very s-l-o-w-l-y.

Hitting the 'publish' button will never feel as good as with this post, I suspect. Let's find out...

(PS - Not long after J accepted the new job, his current workplace announced they would be cutting jobs by twenty per cent. Scary stuff. Upon hearing the news, we knew beyond a doubt we've made the right decision.)

Monday, March 4, 2013


One of the harder things about living overseas is the lack of opportunity to spend time with old friends. We've made some really lovely friends here in L.A. but sometimes there is nothing like hanging out with someone who knows your backstory and every little detail; someone who you don't have to do the whole 'getting to you know you' chit chat.

Last night, we had an old friend over for dinner, and it was so good to reminisce about past misadventures together, and catch up on news. D lives in Portland but used to live next door to us in Sydney, when J and I first moved back after largely spending our 20s elsewhere. When the Faery was born, D and her husband B were the first to bring us batches of home-made enchiladas and Thai green curry. Their second child was born six weeks later and I tried to return the favour but I'm pretty sure my cooking was only half as good.

Over the years that we spent living side by side, I learned - for the first time in my life - what it was like to have awesome neighbours. Impromptu barbecues, with the gates to our shared (back) lane left open to run between the two homes, were a part of life there. So were communal baths for the kids while we cracked open another bottle of wine. D and B were the kind of neighbours that most people could only dream of having, and over time we stopped calling each other neighbours - we were more than that, we were friends. Are friends.

Of course, life happens and we were unable to stay in that tiny rented house forever. Likewise, D and B made the leap of moving to Portland (D's hometown). Less than a year later, we found ourselves in L.A. All this time later, there have been thoughtful handmade Valentine gifts in the mail (for the Faery and Miss Pie), Skype chats, and the odd family rendez-vous when schedules and finances permitted.

Happily, we were able to welcome D to our place for dinner last night. She's in town briefly, and none of us wanted to pass up the chance to eat, drink and be merry. The Faery was beside herself with excitement, as D is like a favourite aunt to her. Miss Pie didn't remember her from the last time we all got together, but she instantly attached herself to D... and what we love about D is that she showers our kids with the same love and attention she does her own.

Eventually, the girls were put to bed and J, D and I were able to get down to the proper nitty-gritty of catching up and family gossip, along with the inevitable comparisons of life in Australia versus life in the US. The uncomplicated familiarity between us was something I haven't felt for a while, and made me wish I could have more nights like this with old friends... but rather than dwelling on the geography that gets in the way of so many of my friendships, I went to bed feeling reinvigorated, my soul recharged.

Also? A little tipsy...