Jan 23, 2018

LA Story #1: See You Later, Sydney. The Shopping Begins.

Good morning from Camarillo, California.

Where I've mastered the in-room coffee machine and used it to make endless cups of tea.  Sadly, there was no room for a kettle in my suitcase after all but there you have it.

I've promised Master SSG that I'd bring Tiger (you might recognize him as Tigger with a 'double g' but to Master SSG, he is 'g' singular) and take photos of him on our travels so don't be surprised if you see more Tiger photos over the next few days.

SydneyAirport was a gracious host, as usual. I love wandering around international departures.  Anticipation is in the air, there's glamour in the storefronts and a global feel to food retail.

Traditions have been upheld...

Bellinis were made

and glossy magazines were purchased for the plane.  I'm also up to speed with Jasmine and Karl (they might be engaged...).  Forget Kate and the Kardahsians, when you have a cup of tea with my mum and my Aunty, having the down low and Jasmine and Karl will ensure that you'll be able to completely engage in the gossiping.

In the spirit of embracing the culture of the country I was on my way to visiting, I dipped my breakfast bacon in maple syrup but think I'll stick to keeping them apart in the future.

I did enjoy Ballers though.  I'm a new fan of The Rock thanks to this series in which he plays a retired NFL player turned financial advisor who is trying to bring the lucrative NFL to Las Vegas.  There's humour, a killer soundtrack, a dusting of 'how the other (famous, infamous and wealthy) half live' but also a fascinating insight into the world of professional sport and the people who have vested interests in its continuing profitability.

If you don't post a photo on Instagram taken through your window on the plane, did you really fly at all?  

Thank you to everyone who recommended going Uber in LA.  It's been so easy and safe to use and I've met some really interesting and lovely Uber drivers.

Ubering was so efficient, in fact, that I ended up at my hotel hours before my room was ready.

At the practially onsite Maccas near the hotel.

One guess where I went after dropping off my bags...

The Camarillo Premium Outlets are part of the Simon chain that I've visited across the country.  As a seasoned and shameless outlet shopper, I know the drill and I have my routine which I'm sure you know back to front through the blog. 

This year's pearls of wisdom:

  • in California, your NRMA membership card is as good as a passport for use in claiming your savings booklet.  Sales tax in California is 7.2% which is added at the register.  From what I can gather, there isn't a tourist refund scheme for this tax as there is in other states I've visited
  • these outlets are sprawling, stretching over three discrete compounds divided by two-way streets
  • there is a cinema central to the outlets
  • aside from the on-site food court and onsite eateries, there is a block of 4 restaurants just across from the parking lot of the middle section.  It features a Chipotle, a Smash Burger and a Thai restaurant
  • the premises are immaculate (including the plentiful toilets with nappy changing facilities)
  • there is outdoor lounge seating dotted around the complex
  • the sales assistants all extremely helpful and friendly
  • the Uber ride pick up point appears to be at the Starbucks kiosk
  • if you can, plan your assault over two days. A bit like Disney World.

But enough on all of that.  Photos from the front line.

Of course I started at Lulu Lemon.  Where the prices weren't much lower than the 'We Made Too Much' range online but I found some prints I loved as well as a machine washable wool sweater that I needed.  This also means I do not regret buying what I did at the Australian Boxing Day Sale.

 J Crew Factory was offering this irresistible discount.

Which prompted me to buy more black flats...  I have wide feet and a very low pain threshold when it comes to footwear.  J Crew addresses both these issues admirably.

I fell upon this salad bar at the centre's  food court.

I bought way too many pairs of jeans.

Before calling it a day and going back to the hotel and MASTERING the coffee machine and making a cup of tea with it.

But that's not all, readers. 

Supermarkets here always seem to be well back from main roads while they are often more prominently located in Australia.

I went for an evening stroll to an actual, suburban grocery store!  I am currently staying at the Hampton Inn & Suites here in Camarillo and besides it being a convenient hotel with spacious, well thought out rooms, it is also within walking distance of a local shopping centre.  I'm resisting the urge to hit up Target but otherwise, being able to mingle with locals doing ordinary, everyday things is something that is often elusive on my trips. Doing the grocery run, going to the nail bar, getting takeaway for dinner...   I enjoy these windows into everyday life abroad.

We have so much to discuss.  This post is already way too long but I'm on a roll and waiting for the gym to open so here goes.  Here are my supermarket happy snaps.

Rainbow Goldfish.  I was this close to bringing home this carton for Master SSG but ended up finding a smaller package instead.  I wonder if he's allowed these in his lunchbox at school...  They do contain (well maybe contain) real cheese.

Veggie Pringles.

Individually wrapped prunes, truthfully called 'Ones'.  This intrigues me on so many levels.

Driscoll's raspberries, just like at home.

Proudly single bananas!

Supermarket sushi.  Another reminder of home.

The most fascinating coffee pod award is tied between the Mild Mountain Blueberry and Krispy Kreme varieties.

I saw Saltines and Graham Crackers with my very own eyes after years of reading their names in recipes and wondering what to substitute for them in their absence in Australia.

Before finally leaving with two enviro bags full of groceries.  I'd only gone in for bottled water after a fellow hotel guest told me that the local tap water tasted terrible before directing me to Ralphs.  I bought a second bag at the store on the advice of another lady in the line.  There is a 10 cent surcharge on plastic bags here.  That mini bag of choc chip cookies?  Bought on the suggestion of yet another local shopper.

I treated myself to a punnet of blackberries before bed last night.  They're plumper, larger and juicier here compared to Australia.  Which reminds me.  I need to find peeled grapefruit segments somewhere too on this trip.

Once again, these are interesting times to be traveling in the US.  It's been a year to the day since President Trump's inauguration.   Women's Marches have taken place all this weekend throughout the country with key issues being the momentum gained by the #metoo movement, President Trump's record on women's issues (most recently, his push to ban late-term abortion) and in the wake of the words of powerful women stirring us all into acting for change.

In addition, the government is in shutdown.  For reasons too complex for me to discuss here.   Timers grace the screens on all the news channels counting how long the shutdown has been in force.

I'm awaiting Anderson Cooper's words on CNN.

In brighter news, Chicago West has been named....

And that's pretty much how my first day here went down.  This country of contrasts.  Multi-lane highways as far as the eye can see run between soaring, rugged mountains. Outrageous, almost written for television politics is countered by the warmth and friendliness of people on the street.

It's fascinating being here.

Jan 22, 2018

Life This Week 22/1/2018: What Is Kindness?

As someone who is well and truly into her adult years, I'd like to think that I've pretty much gotten the kindness thing sorted.  I know how to speak and act kindly and I also know when a word or an act of kindness has been extended towards me.  But I struggled when it came time to start planning my post for Life This Week. Denyse, it really is a good question to ask - what is kindness?

I started by filling the screen with happy memories of kind things and some photos that illustrated them.  Which was nice but not terribly meaningful.

Then I read Tania's post about Simpler Times.  The wise and reassuring words were just what I needed to read.  They were comforting yet also encouraged me to look at life in a different and more rewarding way.   That's kindness right there.  Being able to tell necessary truths in a considerate way.

Tania linked to this post by Holly Butcher which inspired her thoughts about what really matters in life.  There were even more words of kindness here.  Of telling the sad and confronting in a way that will hopefully inspire us all to change our attitude and priorities in life.

Holly Butcher died at the age of 27 from a rare form of cancer.  Soon after her death earlier this month, Holly's family followed her wishes and posted a message on her Facebook account.  Holly's message is an honest and frank account of what it meant to her to be dying when she still had so much to live for and so much she still had to do with her life.

I know that life is fragile and that is should never be taken for granted but I only know this on a theoretical, almost superficial level.  The kindness in Holly's words is that, again, she's telling us about death and how it is as much a part of life as living is.  Holly wrote with such urgency and frankness that paraphrasing her words is to do them and her an injustice so I'll quote:

I haven’t started this ‘note before I die’ so that death is feared - I like the fact that we are mostly ignorant to its inevitability.. Except when I want to talk about it and it is treated like a ‘taboo’ topic that will never happen to any of us.. That’s been a bit tough. I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit.

We're all guilty of this worry and perseveration over the most trivial aspects of our lives, aren't we?  Not surprisingly all that waste of energy and real estate in our headspaces doesn't make a lick of difference to the outcome of whatever it was we were worried about in the first place.  Which isn't to say that there's nothing worth pondering much except death.  We just can't let our anxieties over the minutiae prevent us from appreciating the bigger and more beautiful picture that is life.
Again, in Holly's words:
Those times you are whinging about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s okay to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively affect other people’s days. 

Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that - breathe. 
Let all that shit go.. I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more Birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more. 
Today is a gift and you've received it as yours to live.

How will you live it?

Jan 19, 2018

LA, Here I Come.

Just to be clear, I am trying to be 100% focused on the task at hand which is to pack and arrange for myself to get to the airport Saturday.  I've had today at home and it was meant to be a day of packing and planning.

But.  Life happened in the form of this sunrise and I've been a bit drifty ever since I witnessed it with my running shoes in the sand.

So I went to Priceline for a bit to browse its ordered aisles while looking for the three things on my trip shopping list.

These hair masks look as if they'd travel well.  Except if the foil packaging was to explode up in the air.  All over my thoughtfully packed bag.

So I went with this set from US brand HASK which features two sachets of hair treatments and a vial of Argan oil. 

A half bottle of milk had to be bought as well because I'm nearly out and only need enough to get me through to Saturday morning.

Which brings me to the packing and its progress, or lack thereof.  This assembly of things still hasn't packed itself in the three days that have elapsed since I confidently draped them over the beds in the spare room.

I've been worried that despite being a city of just under 4 million, I won't be able to find dried fruit, salty snacks that aren't too salty or biscuits that aren't too sweet anywhere near my hotel in LA.... so these provisions have joined that pile of clothes that I am now resignedly packing into my suitcase myself.

I'm not taking any chances with tea either.  This cube of T2 teabags is coming along as well.  Each bag in the box is individually wrapped in foil which makes them especially handy for travel.  The box will also look suitably glamorous on the shelf in my hotel room,

Another thing that's pretty much sorted and ticked off my 'to do' list is my inflight reading list.  Thanks to some great Instragrammers who have been posting micro book reviews in their feeds, I've got a great list of books loaded onto my Kindle.  I love the bookmark function.  As you can see, I use it for only matters of great importance.  Aside from book recommendations, I've saved a few handy housekeeping related posts and that's about it.

I wonder if I should bring a scented candle along as well?  And bath oil....  Nah.  What's even better than those two, combined even, is a mug of tea.  Made the 'proper' way.  With kettle boiled rather than coffee machine heated water.  This el cheapo kettle has just gone into my suitcase... I might change my mind later but gee a good cup of tea on holiday in the US would be lovely.

There's a part of me that's already missing the busy relentlessness of my 'everyday' life in Sydney.  The workday morning hustle to get out the door on time, work itself, the working mum juggle, the mum who works juggle... but I'm also just a little bit excited to be hopping into that taxi Saturday morning after one last run up the road and one last 'real coffee' at my favourite cafe.  

I do need a break and a change of scene.  A few days of unashamedly 'me' focussed activities, some time immersed in art, the intellectual challenges and discoveries of the conference program and also those luxuriously long flights there and back which allow me to decompress.  There'll be more leaves to rake and sweep from my front courtyard waiting for me when I return, of that I'm sure.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend and week ahead.

I'll report back after I've arrived at the airport or deplaned in LA.  Or possibly even both.

Be well.

Jan 18, 2018

Lovin' Life 18/1/2018: Making Time.

Working through the weekend always throws me.  They've been one of the 'perks' of my job ever since the year dot so you'd think I'd have figured out life the week after them by now.  You'd think.

What actually happens is that I run around like a sleep deprived (and headless) chicken trying to catch up on things that should've been done over the weekend plus the current week's commitments.  It's setting myself up for failure and it's not pretty.

So I took a different approach this time.

I made things easy for myself and did only the desired and the necessary.  In that order.

I've been running and I've paused to enjoy the fairylights draped over the trees of the park next to the beach / ferry wharf.

I've been detouring for coffee afterward.

I've enforced breaks at work, delegated and sent apologies where necessary.

I made time on my day off by not baking for this week's morning tea but rather buying a selection of tried and tested comfort foods.

I used that time to go on a little road trip (read driven down Parramatta Road in between peak hours).  When you're not driving to work, the construction work and its associated vehicles is fascinating to watch.  So much has changed since the last time I drove here and it looks as if there's still much to be done.

Dinner prep has been minimal.  In lieu of zoodles, I went with a 50:50 mix of spaghetti and broccoli. 

And DIY cauliflower rice?  Not when you can buy it ready made and ready in 90 seconds at Costco.

This week was still about juggling but I've managed to help myself by reducing the number of balls I needed to keep up in the air rather than adding to them.

How's your time management been this week?


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