Jan 31, 2018

Back Home. School Begins.

I'm taking a little break from LA today and I can hear your collective sighs of relief from here.  Don't get lulled into a false sense of security though, I still have so much to discuss.



There hasn't exactly been a lot of time for jetlag since coming home Sunday morning.  I find the Sydney summer humidity a struggle usually but it was surprisingly refreshing to have it feel it hit my face with the subtlety of a brick wall when I heaved my trolley out of the airport and over to the taxi rank.


That first cup of tea at home is always a good one.


Last minute school mum errands have been ticked off the list.  Officeworks have a good supply of the Lego LED keyrings that the school mums of Instagram recommend as a practical schoolbag charm.


I've embraced 'proper' coffee with both arms but the trade-off has been losing Target USA for its less exciting local subsidiary.  While you can have everything, you just can't have it all at the same time, I guess.



But perhaps most momentously, school has happened.  It's been a bewildering few days as I've read and reread official school emails, diarized where I need to be and negotiated the extreme driving and walking conditions that are the school's sprawling compound when it's just about time for term to commence.  

Starting school as a parent hasn't just been about the emotional side of seeing that newborn you gingerly placed in his safety capsule fresh out the hospital five years ago now able to clamber into his car seat on his own after miraculously not toppling over when he put on his school backpack.  It's been about entering a completely different world that's vaguely familiar from when you were a child but also completely new territory on account of you now being at school in the role of a parent.  The parking and driving situation, adjusting to the relatively brief hours of the school day, the more rigid structure of school days as opposed to daycare and preschool.  It's been a lot to absorb 


There weren't any tears on the day.  Master SSG found his locker, dropped off his morning tea in the class basket and strode into his classroom.


Desks were found and the room explored.  I've been following a few school teacher accounts on Instagram and it amazes me to see just how much work teachers put into their classrooms before the start of the year.  Wall space has to be planned and decorated, reading corners created, banners and props sourced, the laminating of custom-made stationery.  I have even more respect for all of you seeing this passion and enthusiasm in making learning relevant to the specific group of children that will be in your class in the coming year.  Thank you, our children are so lucky to have you in their lives.  

I'm also hoping to pick up a few handwriting tips as I help Master SSG over the next few years.  I might have to make copies of worksheets for my own use....


Master SSG's first day of school was also special for us because my mother and aunty were able to be here for it.  They met our kindergarten teacher and in their usual way ended up getting to know a whole new circle of parents and staff in the time it took me to settle Master SSG in his classroom and make sure he didn't lose his school cap on the first day.


We spent the last day of the school holidays doing some favourite things. Starting with a bit of public transport travel.



The harbour was looking stunning as usual.



There's always room and time for gelato at Messina.



We visited Hobbyco in the QVB for a look at their constantly changing and lovingly maintained model train window.  We then went instore for the first time.  It was fascinating seeing all the components necessary for assembling a 'grown ups' model railway as opposed to the much loved toy trains and tracks that are currently set up on the floor at home.


From miniature cars to people, Hobbyco has it all.  The love of model trains seems universal with the store's customers being of all ages and walks of life.


I hadn't realized that many model trains are sold just as unpainted pieces that must be put together then meticulously painted.  Worlds away from the relatively easy task of assembling Lego and its richly detailed plastic brick components.



Master SSG wasted no time in finding the Brio table.  There were many Brio sets I hadn't seen anywhere else in Australia.  I'll have to return for Christmas, I think.

How has the start of the school year been for you?



Jan 30, 2018

LA Story #7: FIGat7. Food and Shopping, Naturally,

If you're planning on staying Downtown in LA, FIGat7 could be a useful place to know about.


If this is peak winter weather in LA then I'm definitely coming back!

It's a spacious and airy multi-level shopping mall with one of the best basement food courts I've visited on my travels to the US.  Because the food court is in the basement, it's quieter and has a less hectic air about it than what's going on at street level.  While the food offerings around entertainment precinct of the Staples Center and neighbouring theatres tend to be steakhouses, burger chains or fine dining - FIGat7 boasts a diverse range of lighter and healthier options with the bonus of being able to take your meal out into the courtyard.

I'll run you through some of the food options later on in the post but first things first.  Some of my favourite shops.



First up, Target.



So many of my retail dreams were realized on this trip.  First, it was the opportunity to take a trolley around Ralph's supermarket in Camarillo and now the opportunity to wheel a trolley around Target.  Living the dream and living my best life.  This really is the land of opportunity and #yolo.


This photo basically captures the joy and also the stores I had the most joy at. That being said, the stock levels at Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works weren't great.  I think online is really where retailers are focussing but the good thing is I did get some online vouchers that I could use from Australia (for VS at least).  Another PSA - VS make great sports bras and their latest style, the Angel Max is a game changer. Great fit and coverage and no pesky straps to adjust.  The back also has some complexity going on with the straps but they're wide and don't dig in.  Okay.  I've gone far enough on that tangent already.

This particular Target featured a CVS pharmacy instore,  a supermarket as well as a Starbucks.  You conveniently pay for everything at the common counters at the front of the store.  Except for the Starbucks.  



This is but a fraction of the range of kids Band-Aids available.  The fraction Master SSG would like best.


My personal favourite were these.



My spoils from Target were rather unexciting but they're the things I can never find in Sydney when I really need them. Like claw grips for my hair.




I also stocked up on some US only mascara (Voluminous) and some other bits and pieces so I now officially have no excuse to casually browse the Mecca site while I'm doing overnight on call from home....



I can't really explain why I flew 15 hours to buy a box of Target's own brand of zip lock sandwich bags but I did and here they are.


These Dr Seuss Mega Block sets are for my nephews.  There were two versions available, the other being a Thing 1 and Thing 2 themed set.

Food wise, things looked a little like this.


A chicken and soba noodle salad bowl at Gentaro.  That chilli mayo dressing has quite a kick to it but is perfect with the salad,



Sprinkles also have an outlet here and business is brisk.  The shelves were a quarter full by mid-afternoon.


I went with a chocolate and peanut butter cupcake.


Much nicer than Magnolia if truth be told.


I began sliding down that slippery slope that is collecting mini antibacterial hand washes from Bath & Body Works.  They were doing a five for $6 offer but fortunately for my suitcase, quite a few were unavailable.  It's those names and those labels as well as the scents. I couldn't resist Peach Bellini and Mermaid Life....



Zara was in the midst of an epic sale so I bought this Zhanel at half off to squeeze into the last patch of space in my suitcase.


And I tried poke for the first time as well.  The store I tried was Ohana Poke Co.  I had the brown rice with my salmon and tofu.  Then I went nuts with the toppings (at the urging of my server) - pineapple, edamame, seaweed, spring onions and crispy onions....  It was delicious.  A kind of warm rice salad with the raw fish and seasonings giving it all lightness, tang and heat.

Where do you eat when you travel?  Foodcourts at the shops or something more high end?  Or do you prefer going off the beaten track and exploring neighbourhoods beyond the bright lights?


Jan 29, 2018

LA Story #6: MOCA. Monumental Words.

The theme for today's Life This Week is a little different.  It's the first run of 'Share Your Snaps' and as luck would have it, I have snaps to share.  Many, many snaps in fact.

Today's photos from LA are art themed.  I know, I'm pretty impressed with myself as well.  This hardcore shopper and sometime foodie and part-time fitness junkie went to actual art galleries and open-air art installations while I was downtown.  Who knew that art and culture could be so enjoyable?

'Airplane Parts' by Mark Thompson in the grounds of MOCA.  I could walk out the back door of my hotel straight into the landing where this sculpture resides.

Full disclosure though.  I practically had no choice in the matter because my hotel was on the doorstep of some of LA's major art galleries.  As a first time traveler to Los Angeles, the breadth and depth of the art scene here was completely unexpected and greatly appreciated.  I touched down a week ago with nothing but shopping, clean eating and hopes to see some of the natural beauty of the local area.  What I have left with is is so much more.  

Beneath the seemingly all-consuming worship of the superficial and the airbrushed to perfection exterior that Los Angeles seems to project as its abiding image to the rest of the country and to the world lies a healthily pumping heart of philanthropy.  I was lucky enough to visit two galleries on this trip and both owe much to the generosity and foresight of some very wealthy but also altruistic individuals.

Today's photos are from MOCA, specifically its main branch on Grand Avenue, downtown.  The Museum of Contemporary Art was first conceptualized in the late seventies when a number of LA's prominent philanthropists were seated at the same table at a fundraiser.  They go to talking about their passion for art and then they got to fundraising and MOCA was born.  Much of the work in the gallery's collection are generous bequests or else they were sold to it at bargain basement, interest-free prices.  


Entry to MOCA is $15 USD but entry is free after 6pm on Thursdays.  The gallery is closed on Mondays.


Unfortunately, I visited on a day when half the gallery was closed as an exhibition had just been taken down.  I was given a free pass to return again another day which I passed on to a local who would probably be able to get more use of it than I could.


Argh.  This post is meant to be about the photos so I will stop writing now and let you take in these photos of some of my favourites from MOCA.


These are photos of 'Toilet Ventilators' by Gabriel Orozco.  That really is toilet paper being whirled around by the fans it is suspended from.


'I will not make any more boring art'.....


Two works by Andy Warhol, 'Telephone' and 'Flowers'.


Just before I got in the taxi for LAX, I stumbled upon 'Monumental Words' by Laura Kimpton.  The outdoor public art installation is located on the upper level of Figat7th (more, much more about this fabulous food and shopping destination in DTLA in my next LA post) and is lit up at night.



The titles of the installations are exactly what you read as you look at them,



Art in public spaces makes for some pretty special snaps and I'm so happy to have been able to share mine with you through 'Life This Week'.


Jan 28, 2018

LA Story #5: Spin Class. Stalling About Hollywood.

 By LA standards, it's been cold and dreary today.


I planned my outfit accordingly this morning before proceeding to colour co-ordinate my T2 teabag of the day.


I've been using these sample sized mascaras I  brought with me from Australia.  Ironically, Too Faced and Benefit are both American brands and unfortunately for my wallet, I love them both.  Benefit's They're Real has one of those short and spiky latex wands and it really lengthens to a lash extension level.  Better Than Sex (blushing as I type) has this super fuzzy brush and gives you 11/10 volume.  Might have to source both at the duty free at LAX tomorrow.

Becuase it is tomorrow that I'll be leaving.  I can't quite believe how fast my time here has gone by.  It's practically evaporated.  It's been another amazing trip and I always attempt to promise myself that the next one will be somewhere beyond the US but I just can't keep away...

But that's all by the by.

Here's the latest in my adopted corner of the world...


I might not be great at keeping potplants alive but that bottle of milk is still going strong as it maintains close to optimal levels of refrigeration in the ice bucket I've been filling twice daily with ice from the  machine on our floor.  Despite being able to demonstrate this kind of Bear Grylls style survival thinking when I'm pushed, I still don't see myself going camping properly anytime soon.


I did something today that challenged me on many levels.  I took part in a spin class that took place at ... 6am at the convention centre where my conference is being held.  I'm not a natural cyclist and I'm also not a natural at taking fitness classess so it was a leap of faith that saw me turn up and bravely take a bike in the front half of the room.


I also got talking to the owner of the spin school that was conducting the class.  It turns out that she lived in Sydney for a bit, not far from where I live.  She's also planning to expand her business to our neck of the woods soon.


To any of you who are spin regulars, I salute you. I assumed that I was fairly fit on account of all the running I've been doing and the gym sessions I do sporadically but cycling on a stationary bike is next level.  I'm officially renaming that red resistance knob 'the red button of pain' because spin is not as gentle and low sweat as I thought it would be.  I was fine with the sprints but the standing cycling nearly broke me.  I kept slipping out of my pedal straps and panicking.  And just when I thought I was cruising along, our instructor dared us all to dial things up again with the red button...


But I survived it and I enjoyed it.  Our instructor was perfect in her role.  The music was well chosen and she knew just the right thing to say to keep us all going.  It was also quite a spiritual, soul searching experience in moments as well.  I do hope my new friend gets her studio up and running in Sydney soon.



I had Smash Burger for lunch today.  I've been trying hard to find In'N'Out Burger restaurants and all the other places on my hit list as suggested by friends backs home but they have proven suprisingly elusive downtown.  It was a good choice - those sweet potato fries are very addictive and the whole meal was surprisingly un salty while my thick shake was all the taste of chocolate Oreos without being overwhelmed by sugar.  I was also patting myself the back for my excellent timing for lunch.  That's a line literally out the door for Smash Burger that started pretty much the moment I sat down with my meal.

I'm stalling and I apologize.  Today's day trip photos are from the Hollywood Boulevard and The Walk of Fame leg of the tour and it wasn't my favourite part of the day to be honest.  My ambivalence has nothing to do with the standard of our tour but it's just me.  I love the mystique, glamour and highly edited image of these areas that I see on TV.  The reality is rather more pedestrian.  It's busy, noisy and really 'commercial'.  Okay, make that touristy.




What I enjoyed most about the Hollywood bit of the tour was the drive by sightings of the major studios.  This is where James Corden tapes The Late Late show and presumably where Harry Styles stayed that one time he took over the studio and lived in it because he didn't have anywhere else to stay.  The things I remember from the vidoes in my Facebook feed.



We drove and then walked by many of the historic theatres along Hollywood Boulevard.


The El Capitan Theatre where the majority of movies from the Walt Disney Studios premiere.


The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is a piece of Hollywood history.  It's the oldest hotel in the city (openingin1927) and the location of the first Oscars ceremony.  Shirley Temple learned tap dance routines on its stairs.  Brangelina were guests back in the day.  Ownership has changed a few times over the decades and it has been refurbished several times too.


The Chinese Theatre which was originally Graumann's Chinese Theatre but is now the TCL Chinese Theatre and is home to one of the largest IMAX screens in North America.


The Egyptian is another theatre up the road that I believe was also built by Sid Graumann.


I walked the Walk of Fame and I gazed up at the Dolby Theatre, venue of the Acadamy Awards.


As with many things Hollywood, it looks different without the special lights, the red carpets and the collective auras of celebrity, fashion and the media.


I didn't know that the columns inside the theatre bear the names of the winners of Best Picture by year.  Wikipedia tells me that there is enough space on the columns to fit all winners until the year 2071.



I finally found Britney's star!  


And then it was time to head for home via the horrendous peak hour(s) of traffic that is the commute on LA's major arterial roads.  My last photo of the day was another one from the Rasta Bus.  Wahlburger on Sunset Boulevard is part owned by none other than Mark Wahlberg, a man crush of mine.  He's apparently often out and about in the evenings but unforunately, like James Corden earlier in the day, I must have just missed him.

Have you visited Hollywood?  Did it leave you feeling a little numb or did you just love the energy that's there on an average non special event day?

Sorry if there was obvious underwhelm in today's post.  The joy will be back for episode six.  Promise.

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