Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I haven't been paying attention to exact dates since last week - my brain is still in holiday mode from Thanksgiving. The fact that yesterday marked two years since I began this blog completely escaped my attention.

If this was one of those überblogs, I'd be touting some kind of fancy giveaway right now... but überblog this isn't. Happily, because I'm far too lazy.

Instead, I whipped up a new header this morning in celebration of this little baby turning two - and that's probably all I'll do for now. I spent much less time agonising over it than I had with previous headers. After all, it's hardly the same as a child's second birthday, is it?

As much as I enjoy this little corner of the internet, I'm not a slave to it. In the beginning, I naively had fantasies of perhaps being able to make a buck or two out of this (making money while at home using the internet? Brilliant!), but it wasn't long before I realised that wasn't going to happen. Chiefly because I'm a fairly private person and at heart I'm not comfortable with too many strangers out there knowing about my life. Sometimes I even toy with the idea of making this a private blog, but if I'm honest, there's a part of me that gets a little thrill when I see spikes in page views from time to time - and therein lies the contradiction. Besides, I suck at doing the whole blogger-comment-on-other-blogs to spread the love and build the blog. It becomes time-consuming and I just can't bring myself to comment for comment's sake. Tried it briefly, wasn't for me.

Small readership = no advertising opportunities = no pressure.

In other words, I'm happy with the status quo here... and having fun.

For those of you who drop in regularly, thank you! Cozy audiences are the best kind, and I mean that.


Friday, November 23, 2012


This Thanksgiving business is definitely growing on me. Each year we've been here, we've made a bit of a feast at home to enjoy... but there's only so much you can be bothered to cook when it's for just two adults and two fussy little eaters. Happily, this year we spent the afternoon and evening at a friend's home. He'd only recently moved in, so there was a lot of ogling to be had with the amazing views from his balcony.

My own contribution were Coconut Custard Pies for dessert - probably one of the easiest things to bake. I needed something I'd made before, and was fail-proof, as there were about fifteen adults there. Attempting a more traditional Thanksgiving side dish would have been daunting, but it was wonderful to sample the fabulous creations from the others. I think I ate (probably) the best mashed potato ever - heaven for a carb lover like myself. For the first time ever, I tried something called Corn Bake... oh my! I need to find a recipe and make it.

Anyhow, I like Thanksgiving. Obviously it's not a tradition I had growing up, because our number one day for ridiculously over-the-top feasting is Christmas, but having a day - like Thanksgiving - to reflect on how fortunate we are, is something everyone can benefit from (mind you, that kind of gratitude should not be reserved for once a year only). I also appreciate how Thanksgiving is about getting together, without the pressure and mindless consumerism that Christmas pretty much is these days. That's just my take on it.

As for now, we have a four-day weekend to enjoy. This time last year, we spent the weekend in Las Vegas, so I've been feeling reminiscent about that, and the drive through the desert. Time to start figuring out a way to make a Californian road trip to a white Christmas destination happen, right?

Monday, November 19, 2012

In the shuttle zone

Back in September, there was much excitement in L.A. when the Endeavour shuttle (on the back of a Boeing 747) flew overhead as it made its way to its final destination - the California Science Center, via LAX. School kids waited in their schoolgrounds to watch, and anywhere that had rooftop access was full to overflowing with spectators and their cameras. I was a little limited by the fact that Miss Pie needed a nap, so we were stuck at home. However, I followed the live broadcast on TV as she slept, and when the shuttle approached Griffith Park - not far away - I ran out to our balcony, in the hope that I'd get a glimpse. Sure enough, I heard the rumble of the accompanying fighter jets, looked up, and there it was. I wasn't prepared for my reaction as I tried to take a photo. My hands shook, and there was a definite lump in my throat. I guess you could say I got caught up in the hype I'd been hearing all morning... but there's nothing like witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Last Saturday, we had plans to hang out at L.A. Zoo with a bunch of friends but when we woke up, it was pouring so on a whim, Plan B was to head to the California Science Center and - if tickets were available - see the Endeavour shuttle. If not, we'd still have a lot of other things to see there.

The museum itself is free (and has some brilliant interactive displays that the Faery and her little mates were rather taken with). I didn't want to get my hopes up about seeing the shuttle, but we were able to get timed tickets not long after we arrived - 'timed' just meaning that we needed to join the queue to the exhibit at a certain time, and wait, but once inside we could stay as long as we liked. 

These tickets were only $2 each. Two dollars to see a space shuttle, y'all. When I think of all the museums I've been to over the years, in various cities, I am hard-pressed to think of one that would have charged so little. 

The shuttle is currently being displayed horizontally in a hangar-type building, until a large permanent exhibition structure is built - one which would allow it to be vertical. Horizontal, vertical... it didn't matter to me. It was incredible to view a piece of history up so close. Seeing it with American friends, and hearing their perspective on it, also hammered home to me how sad it is that this particular space programme is now over. It's truly the end of an era.

As we wandered around, taking in the time-lapse videos of preparation for launches, the kids' excitement wore off fairly quickly. For six-year-olds, they simply don't have the frame of reference that older generations do. I still have vivid memories of being in primary school and watching launches live on televisions that were wheeled into the classroom for such special occasions... but our kids? They just knew we were looking at a rocket ship that had been to space, but whatever. Next. Can we go back to the fish we were looking at before? I hope one day, when the Faery looks back at the photos, she'll remember bits and pieces, and understand how significant that 'big rocket' was, and how lucky she was to be able to see it up close. She's a bright kid, so I think she will one day.

At any rate, the day out was great. Both girls fell asleep almost immediately on the drive home... something which happens with the frequency of a blue moon. I call that a successful day.

Meanwhile, if you haven't seen the amazing time-lapse vide of the Endeavour making its way from LAX to the museum, through the streets of L.A, then I suggest you click here and watch it... now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


The end of daylight savings is always depressing but on the upside, I've been able to take advantage of the gorgeous late afternoon light by ditching a weekend gym visit for brisk uphill walks to watch the colours change over the city below - while J wrangles the kids into the bath. I call that winning.

I've had a thing for tulips for most of my adult life - my wedding bouquet consisted of white ones. I've always dreamed of seeing the tulip fields in the Netherlands, and have travelled there several times... but always the wrong time of year. Oh well. I did get lots of good cheese out of those visits. At the moment, I love that I can get bunches of tulips from Trader Joe's for under $3. Since we moved into our current apartment, I've made sure that there's always a mason's jar of flowers on our table - usually tulips or gerberas, as they look so cheerful.

More powerlines. This was taken from the rooftop of the parking structure at J's work, overlooking Griffith Park. Those lucky bastards had the best view of the Endeavour shuttle recently, as it flew right over them on its way to LAX, looping overhead a couple of times (I also got a glimpse, but was at home and had a narrower view of the sky from our balcony).

Last week, J and I attended a crew wrap party and preview screening for Rise of the Guardians. It was fun. Also, it was pretty dark so I didn't bother taking many photos. This time, we were sensible and didn't drive in - no arguments about whose turn it was to be designated driver. Instead, we shared a stretch limo with a group of his colleagues, and used the taxi vouchers provided at the end of the night. Let's just say the cocktails were extra enjoyable.

Rain! Well... some, anyway. The never ending streak of hot weather seems to have finally passed, and the chilly mornings/evenings have arrived. Last week, it poured with rain for a few hours, the temperature dropped dramatically, and then I noticed snow-capped mountains in the distance a few days later. I'm going to start looking into accommodation at one of those mountains for a few days over Christmas, so that the Faery can maybe have her wish for a white Christmas come true.

The day after the heavy rain, the sky was full of beautifully heavy clouds. Ones like these always remind me of the wallpaper in Andy's bedroom, in Toy Story.

For a city that's famed for its freeways, I seem to have very few photos of them. I don't actually spend much time on them (I avoid them at all costs when I'm driving - something I need to get over), so I'm always the passenger. I think I'm getting closer to working up the nerve to drive on them... but sheesh, there are some moronic drivers out there! At such high speeds, I'm intimidated.

What can I say? I'm just a sucker for shining, sparkling water. This was taken at a fountain in a large outdoor mall that's nearby. I take the girls in now and then for a run around the fountain, a play in the outdoor play area, a browse around Barnes & Noble, frozen yoghurt (in summer), and a ride on the touristy 'trolleycar' that does a loop around the mall (I'm sorry, but my brain will always refer to them as trams). It's kind of the Disneyland of upmarket shopping areas, in the over-the-top way that America knows how to do best.

Last, but not least, I had to include a shot of the girls, right? For a laugh, I thought I'd attempt a shot of them standing against a large wall that we walked past yesterday - emulating the hipsters' photos of their kids that seem to dominate my Instagram newsfeed (my fault for following so many damn hipsters in the first place...). Anyhow, the joke was on me because the girls were more interested in facing the wall than looking at me. Still - cute, yes?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

E Day

The best election sticker I've seen so far.
Click here for the site.

It's Election Day in the US today. I really hope that a record number of people vote. Coming from a country where voting is compulsory, the idea of choosing not to have a say in who runs your country is a foreign concept to me, a crazy one. The way I see it is, if you don't vote, then I don't want to hear you whinge for the next four years about your government. Got it? Cool.

I'm not a US citizen, therefore I can't vote in this election. Neither can J. That doesn't stop me from having an opinion on who I want to see in office. We are legal residents here, and as a family, we pay our taxes - just like any other US citizen - so we are just as much affected by policies regarding the economy and health care.

I have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to politics, but I'm also a big believer in democracy. No leader or candidate is perfect, and mistakes will be made along the way. There's no point putting anyone up on a pedestal... however, I have everything crossed that Obama will see another term in office. I feel that he has more interest in the greater good of society - unlike Romney, who seems to be mostly about protecting the wealthy and not caring much for women's rights or equality in general. Not to mention the flip-flopping he's done over recent years on major issues. How can anyone place confidence in him? Perhaps there are some redeeming features to him, but I'm unaware.

So there you have it. I identify as a liberal - by US definitions, not Australian (how come the Liberal Party in Australia is so conservative? Talk about misrepresentation). I will be holding my breath as this election plays out.

Fingers and toes crossed.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Do you remember going to music gigs when you were younger? Losing yourself in the music, not really taking much in apart from the music, but maybe once in a while you'd catch a glimpse of a couple.

This couple might have been a little older than most of the other punters, and the woman probably had a lot less flesh on display than the younger, tighter versions in the crowd. This couple was probably clutching a few drinks, but not going crazy with it. They definitely didn't have racing heartbeats, sweaty palms or massive adrenal rushes from various illegal substances. Instead, this couple was avoiding the epicentre of the crowd, and simply appreciating the novelty of being out on the town for a night, and a chance to hear some fun new music. What the kids are listening to today.

I never really paid any attention to that couple when I was younger, but now I realise: they were probably parents of young children, making a rare grab for a few hours of freedom on a date night, while a babysitter dozes on their couch.

I had this realisation about that couple on Friday night because J and I were that couple. On a whim a few weeks earlier, we bought some cheap tickets to a gig, figuring if we couldn't line up a sitter, it wasn't much money spent anyway. We've been in L.A. for two and a half years, and still hadn't seen any live music here. How crazy is that? Los Angeles is de rigueur for bands on tour, right? There have been plenty of missed opportunities here, but not due to laziness; more a case of not realising a band was in town until it was too late. We made a resolve last month that we would go and see some music real soon, dammit.

The chosen gig was an electronic act known as Com Truise. I know... I still read it as Tom Cruise, and I guess that was this guy's intention. His music style is a little like Boards of Canada. Anyhow, J recently discovered him and is the big fan in our home, but I was happy to go along.

On our way into town, we drove along and listened to the soundtrack from Drive. The sun had already set, but that didn't stop J from trying to channel his inner Ryan Gosling. He's watched the film a few times and is rather taken with it. Me, not so much. The Ryan Gosling factor wasn't enough to overcome the confusing mess of the film's grim goriness. I normally like a bit of noir, but Drive didn't do it for me.

We started off with dinner and cocktails at an amazing restaurant called Mess Hall, in Los Feliz. Totally recommend it to anyone wanting some American-style food with actual real flavour. I devoured a banana cream pie that I wanted to bury my face in, and - two days later - I'm still lusting after the memory of the smoked corn fritters we had to start with. So. Much. Flavour. It almost hurt.

After that, we made our way to Silverlake for coffee, where we pretended to be hipsters. Well, sort of... when we weren't laughing at how contrived some of the people around us were. Really, I kind of feel sorry for Generation Yers - so many of them feel the need to try so hard. Anyhow, it was worth it for the decent coffee.

Last stop for us was the Echoplex in Echo Lake. The opening acts didn't start until after ten, but the first one came on with a resounding wallop. Bonde do Role. They were an electronic funk/dance act from Brazil and I can't remember the last time I experienced energy with that kind of force. Some of their songs reminded me of M.I.A. (who I like) and I don't think words could do justice. Think grotesquely exaggerated sexual moves on stage. Think limbo pole brought down into the crowd for a song. Think Sponge Bob look-a-like piñata tossed into the crowd, donning jocks with a banana shoved down the front. It was pretty crazy.

Next up was a chilled duo called Poolside. They're described as daytime disco and were perfect to listen to while we sat down and had another drink. They're a local band and my favourite was their version of Neil Young's Harvest Moon - daytime disco style. I'm serious! Plenty of people have tried to put their own stamp on that song, but these guys did a great job.

A sign of getting old is fretting when you realise it's close to midnight, and - dammit - you're still waiting to see the main act. It was worth the wait, though. Something you may not know about me is that I'm a sucker for some loud, throbbing electronic bass. I really am. Bass that rattles every bone in your body and vibrates through you as though you're being zipped and unzipped in your sternum. I love it.

I used to think this enjoyment was purely a result of chemical substances consumed in my younger days, but I haven't been part of that scene in for the best part of a decade - nor does it even appeal to me these days, but I have no regrets. It had been a while since I last experienced bass of that calibre (car stereos just don't cut it, right?) but ultimately, I lapped it up. I didn't feel the need to dance up a storm; I was happy just listening and bouncing.

It was a lot of fun, and I'd forgotten how much I also love people-watching at these kinds of events. That night has left me determined to catch more gigs, so now I just need to start paying attention to who's in town, and when.

Next stop for date night night, though? Tomorrow, when we head to a crew wrap party and premiere for Rise of the Guardians. Instead of getting taxis in, a group of us are going in on a stretch limo for a laugh. Stay tuned....

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tricks and treats

Halloween seemed to sneak up on us this year. I'm not sure how. I mean, I'd bought the girls' costumes several weeks earlier, but with less than a week to go I realised we hadn't really done anything to the front of our apartment. Even some of the houses in our neighbourhood - ones that had over-the-top Halloween decor only two years ago - hadn't bothered this year. Maybe it was the ridiculously hot weather throughout October? It just hasn't felt autumnal at all. The mornings are chillier, but the days are just as warm as ever.

Anyhow, we grabbed a few pumpkins. I had every intention of carving out several, like I have the last couple of years, but I ended up only carving one. Together, the Faery and I painted the others. The carving only took place two days beforehand, and I'm glad, because you should have seen how mouldy the jack-o-lantern was only a day after Halloween. Consecutive 30º+ days plus Halloween? Not a great mix.

The girls also had last Sunday to wear their costumes, to a farewell picnic for friends moving to Hawaii. They made it Halloween-themed so that all the kids could wear their costumes. On the day of Halloween, the Faery wasn't allowed to dress up for school - school policy. I felt a little sad for the kids that they couldn't dress up, but I suppose it's a sign of the times. It's just one more way that kids today have less freedom that past generations.

With the Faery at school, I made my way with Miss Pie to the DreamWorks Animation campus, where J works. Every year, the campus is transformed for Halloween. All kinds of sweet and festive food is up for grabs, treasure hunting and face-painting for kids, a costume parade... you get the idea. This is our third Halloween in the US, and from what I've seen each time at DreamWorks, geeks know how to rock a Halloween costume. Even though I didn't grow up with Halloween and have spent most my life feeling fairly indifferent towards it, I now find myself looking forward to these DreamWorks lunches. I guess it's become our tradition here. After noticing quite a few school-aged kids at DW, I felt mean for sending the Faery to school. Next year, I'm going to let her have the day off so she can join in. A 'mental health day', perhaps? Six and seven year olds need them too.

Our evening of trick or treating was fairly low-key. Miss Pie was wild with overtiredness by 5pm, so by the time 6pm rolled around, I wasn't game to venture any further than the apartments around us. This suited the Faery just fine, as she's not a fan of being out in the dark. Hopefully next year, we'll be able to head out and visit a few blocks in our neighbourhood - it does look awfully fun.

Oh, and now that our current apartment is in a much quieter corner of the complex (our old one was in a busy thoroughfare), hardly any trick or treaters called by - despite us leaving a chalkboard with arrows pointing up to let kids know they were welcome. The Faery was disappointed because she was looking forward to handing out candy. So... the leftovers (most of the 150 count bag that I'd bought at Costco), combined with the bounty of treats that both girls wound up with, means that we are up to our necks in conveniently tempting snack-sized chocolate bars. Those good eating habits I've instilled in myself this year? I fear for them...