Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The historic sights of ye olde Hermosa

I just overheard a woman telling her daughter, as they walked past our house, 'Hermosa Beach is an old beach town'.

I suppose everything's relative. But only in California, surely, would Hermosa be considered old. It was farmland up until just over 100 years ago and was incorporated as a city in 1907.

The woman's bold claim reminded me of this tourist map I picked up a couple of months ago. We were expecting an influx of visitors, including my parents, closely followed by my sister and her family. I wanted to be sure I had all 'things to do in Hermosa' bases covered.

As you can probably tell from the map, even at this size, there's not a lot of ground to cover. All of those blue and red dots are shops, gyms, bars and restaurants. The squares are historical sites. Not a tonne of them, are there?
They include some murals painted in the 2000s, a 9/11 memorial, and the surfer's walk of fame which I believe was started in 2003. So far, so not very historic. Oh, and a windmill from 1903. So there is that, at least.

The thing is, Hermosa just isn't old enough: there haven't been many people living here for long enough to create any real (as in, old) history.

Fortunately for our guests, if you like wandering along the greenbelt, grabbing a coffee, and relaxing on the beach there is still plenty to do. So my parents were happy enough. And we found enough to amuse my sister, her surfer husband, and their 5 year old twins on the days they weren't driving to Disneyland or the California Science Center. On top of the beach, the strand path and the parks, there is Hermosa Beach fire station: children who ask nicely can look around, and will even be given a fire hat and a sticker. Now that's something they should put on the 'Sights of Hermosa' map.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Weather conundrums

For most of my adult life I had no problems wearing weather appropriate clothing. A quick glance at the weather forecast and I had an outfit all figured.

Now, living too long in LA has ruined me. On a business trip to Portland last week I saw that the forecast was 12c and had to ask myself 'what does that mean? Is it a jacket, and trousers, but bare ankles? Or does it require tights, a wool coat and maybe a scarf?' I chose the former but (and maybe I'm just getting soft) I think I should have gone with the latter.

The clocks have gone back, and the shadows are longer for a greater part of the day. And sometimes in the morning it has felt a bit chilly.  So I have ended up dressing Lady P in something autumnal a few times recently. Only to strip her down, apply sunscreen, and roll my eyes at this ridiculous climate, a couple of hours later.
Looks pretty autumnal, doesn't it? She was actually sweating.

Lady P abandoned her leggings to play in the water feature
TLOML and I even lit our fire last week, and made S'mores. An hour later we had the doors and windows open because it was too warm. I should be more British: we know that there's no need to light a fire if you're sitting around in shorts and a t-shirt.

If it helps, I'm not the only one who's confused. I saw this good looking Hermosan family at a beach diner this morning:
Getting some wear out of their snow gear
The girl was wearing a woolly hat with a t-shirt. The mum was wearing a padded gilet with shorts and flip flops.  Maybe they, like me, are hankering for some cooler weather.

They might be local and not know any better. For me, well, I've forgotten what real weather is like, and I miss it. Pictures like this one in Lady P's book always tug at my heart strings, but they have a particular resonance this time of year. I crave a rain-heavy sky.
Grey skies, a scarf, and falling leaves. Sigh.
File this post under 'High Class Problems' too, I guess.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The highs and lows of Halloween on 8th Street

In accordance with our Halloween tradition I bought about 400 pieces of candy, only for TLOML to say ‘that’s not nearly enough’ and go out and buy the same amount of sweets again. I was expecting, in accordance with our Halloween tradition, to have to concede to TLOML over an empty bucket that he was right all along and we did need a tonne of sweets.

But no. The bucket remained untouched. Admittedly we do live on a block that isn’t very conducive to trick or treating. It’s a busy through street which is a little short on sidewalks and single family homes. Still, there are some families, and we trick or treated them successfully. When we ventured further down the street, we left a lit jack o’lantern glowing brightly on the drive, which is the time honoured signal for ‘we have candy!’ and I left a little bucket full of Sour Tart Zombies out for people who called while we were out.

When we returned an hour later that little bucket was still full.

Meanwhile we had ventured just four or five blocks west where we found the most Halloweeny street ever. One guy built an actual haunted house in the walkstreet, full of dry ice and spooky music, for kids to walk through in order to get their treats.
This was a lot spookier after dark. Kudos to the man who built it.
Another guy was dressed as the Joker and danced out across his front yard screeching ‘whaddaya want’ at enthralled/ terrified children. A witch a few doors down cackled as she handed out M&Ms over her white picket fence. There was a ten foot tall inflatable black cat outside one house, and another one at the end of the block. And plenty of families sitting out on their porches with Jack O'Lanterns giving out sweets to happy trick or treaters. Lady P and her two cousins had an absolute blast, and we headed back up the hill feeling all caught up in the spirit of spookiness and tooth rotting treats.

And then we got home to find our bucket was full. I left it out anyway, to save us answering the door, and thinking maybe some of the 20 and 30 somethings who walk down our street to head to the beach bars might enjoy a sweet treat en route. During dinner on the deck TLOML even shouted down at a couple of passers by 'hey, help yourself to candy' to which came the reply 'no thanks man!'. We literally couldn't give the stuff away. I left the bucket out overnight thinking that maybe some late night drunks might enjoy the treats. By morning it was still full.

So now, for the first time, we have a significant surfeit of Halloween sweets. And that's over and above the surplus in Lady P's haul (fortunately she can't count much above 10 so we are okay to whittle her sweet collection down).

TLOML suggests we save the excess for next year. But I'm not sure next year will be any different. Unless, of course, we have won the lottery and moved to a walkstreet by then. So now I'm weighing up the merits of giving them to troops vs just eating a couple of treats a day for the rest of our lives.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Harvest Festival

In the UK at Harvest Festival children bring tins of food, and dry food, to school. The school collects all the tins of beans and bags of rice and so on, and puts them into food parcels. Then the kids go out and deliver those boxes to local people who will appreciate them, like old people.

At least, that's how it was when I was a kid. I don't think it's very different now except I'm guessing they probably don't send unattended children into strangers' homes anymore. Still, it's about gathering in the fruits of the harvest and sharing them with the community.

Today we went to a Harvest Festival at Lady P's school. I was confused. This is what went on:
Lady P dressed as a pumpkin, playing 'Honey Drop' in return for a plastic spider prize

A spider's web dance party
There was a pumpkin patch and place to decorate pumpkins. Lots of little fairground style games. A popcorn machine and a pizza lunch. A bounce house. And absolutely no harvesting or giving to the poor going on at all.

So I learned a couple of things today. Harvest Festival is what the Montessori school cunningly call their Halloween party, presumably because someone devout once complained about celebrating a pagan festival. Nice job Montessori, you almost had me fooled.

The other thing I learned is that the Halloween Party Harvest Festival is my opportunity to demonstrate what a cool, creative, firm bodied mother I am by dressing up as a banana, a Dr Seuss character, Princess Leia, or a cat. There were a lot of fun/ foxy costumes on display at 10.30am in the Montessori playground today. I did not seize that opportunity, choosing instead to dress like someone who skived off work for 45 minutes and was in a hurry to get back to it. Damn those Manhattan Beach mums with all that time on their skinny hands!

Maybe now I understand what's really going on here I'll do better next year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The DIY household

If the local message boards are to be believed, this is not a town where people like to do things themselves. I have seen requests for information on 'someone who can come and clean my grill' and 'a company who will install baby gates'. I've also met no fewer than three different women who claim to be professional organisers (aka tidiers).

But TLOML bucks the trend. He likes to do his own dirty work. He cleans his own grill and has been known to install baby gates. (And he has me permanently on staff as an organizing force). So when we decided we needed to start rinsing sand off before entering the house, he installed a shower.

The first shower he installed was from a kit, which made it less impressive. We were hoping the white plastic look would be Skandi-chic, but in reality it just looked a bit ghetto.
So he went back to the hardware store (oh, just realised they dn't call them DIY shops here. Maybe DIY really isn't a thing here at all). He bought various pipes, shower heads, joiners, flashings and the like and constructed an actual, working shower.
Best of all it has a foot wash, which is just the right height for Lady P to rinse her grubby little hands in. I am very proud of him. And very happy about the big reduction in sand in our house.

The problem is now he's getting some big ideas. He wants to personally hack down the massive spikey palm leaves that hover 20 feet above our deck. You know, the ones which are touching the power lines. I'm counselling against. I'm saying that he's made his point, he's very capable, but we can pay a man to tackle that hazardous situation with specialist tools. And I know I can find one on the local message boards.