Thursday, May 29, 2014

Going loco at Fiesta Hermosa

Every Memorial Day and Labor Day (the two long weekends that bookend the summer here), Hermosa hosts a fair. Fiesta Hermosa started out as an arts and crafts fair in the 1970s. 40 years on and it involves dozens of stands selling art & tat, a petting zoo, food trucks, and cheesy cover bands.

Having told by my hairdresser that it's 'crazy busy', I was full of trepidation. She says she avoids Hermosa during the Fiesta, due to the nature of the crowds. 'A lot of people come in, and you know it's not like it used to be, they're not all locals.' Yikes!, I thought. Will we be safe?

I was picturing a sort of Notting Hill Carnival, complete with ear-drum-piercing sounds systems and an elevated risk of knife crime. Oh, I know, I know, the Carnival's changed, they have that family friendly day, etc etc. Still you'd probably avoid the crush with a baby in a buggy, and perhaps wouldn't carry too much cash, just in case.

In fact, true to Hermosan culture, the Fiesta is really quite mellow. Witness this orderly cue for shuttle buses, as proof.

And if this is how Pier Plaza looks when it's 'crazy busy', I think we can handle it.

Here are some people who may be from as far afield as Manhattan Beach, or Redondo, dancing to a Dooby Brothers cover band at 11am.
Slightly crazy, but not in a scary way. The security guard didn't look too concerned.

The only craziness I witnessed was the spam masubi. Seaweed wrapped sushi rice, with a spam filling. Apparently it's a Hawaiian specialty. I tried it, and can only say it wasn't quite as nasty as I expected. Damning with faint praise, I know.

Lady P's reaction to the food truck area was apt:

She averted her eyes, and insisted on going home for something more appetising. Quite right too. Still, we'll be back next time the Fiesta's in town. It's just the sort of craziness we like.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Sophisticated Snoop

My appetite for a bit of real estate porn was fully satisfied this weekend. And instead of flicking through DIGS magazine, I actually got inside these fabulous homes, for real. This is the Manhattan Beach Sophisticated Snoop, in which a handful of mucky-mucks with incredible homes open them to the riff raff. It's sort of like the London Open House weekend only you don't need to feel obliged to visit cultural or historical sites. This was pure and simple gawking.

I thought I would end the Snoop burning with desire and envy. But it turns out I didn't love any of these fancy pants houses. The sexy, industrial style, modernist house was my favourite but I soon dismissed it as not family friendly - too many dark rooms and sharp edges. The contemporary home on a walkstreet was gorgeous but definitely short on storage.

The 'Mediterranean masterpiece' was vast and gorgeous and also a bit much. There was a craft room, full of jars of perfectly coiled ribbon. A 'bake station' room lined with spotless jars of sugar sprinkles. It was creepy. And everything in it, including the laundry room, and the fridge doors, was 'Old World' Spanish style. Which feels odd in the South Bay in 2014. An apothecary jar full of Bounty sheets? That's just silly.

The other homes were just your typical, nicely decorated, well planned, spacious, $3m houses. Very nice and all that, but they left me a bit cold. Maybe that's just post-rationalisation, since aren't in the market for a big flash house just yet. Still, I enjoyed the snooping.

Lady P also had a good time. She rubbed her sweet little face on various expensive furnishings and tried to open a few drawers and cupboards she really didn't ought to. She also employed her new, comical, hands-behind-the-back walk, which made her look like she was really sizing these places up. So we all enjoyed that.

And TLOML? When we set out on the Snoop he told me he was looking for two things: elevators and stripper poles. We didn't see any stripper poles. But two of the homes we saw had elevators, which gave rise to a satisfied little chuckle. And he would have moved into the Mediterranean masterpiece tomorrow. He wasn't so fussed about the rest.

For what it's worth, the Sugar Cube house is single storey. No elevator required. We may not make the cut for the Snoop, but I still think it's the perfect home.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bumping up and down in my little red wagon

That title will make sense to Raffi fans. (He's a big hit with Lady P and most mornings the Sugar Cube House reverberates to his jaunty, singalonga songs.) But his cover of the folk classic 'red wagon' might not resonate with British listeners as much as it does on this side of the Atlantic.

Over here, the red wagon is A Thing. I'd guess that one in every five houses on our street has a Radio Flyer red wagon, tucked away in the back of the garage (yes, I stare nosily into other people's open garages), or abandoned on the driveway, or bumping its way to the beach. The beach, I think, is the reason people buy them around here. You can load your toddler, and a bag full of clobber in the wagon and haul it all to the beach.

When I put it like that, I realise it sounds a bit like a buggy. You can put your toddler and your clobber in one of those too. And so long as you've got sensibly sized wheels, your buggy will handle the sand just fine. And yet, the red wagon is the way to travel in Hermosa.

TLOML, like kids across the US for generations, got towed about in a red wagon when he was small. And when he got older, he towed toys and clobber and younger siblings around in it (ah! there's something you can't easily do with a buggy). So he's been dreaming of getting one for Lady P for a while. It was all I could do to stop him from putting it on our 'nursery essentials' wishlist before she was born. The only other wheeled vehicle I've known him hanker for more, was that beautiful 80s Porsche.

Frankly, the whole concept was lost on me. I couldn't see the benefit of a red wagon for transporting a baby around London or Saltburn. I had never seen one, and didn't know anyone who had one.

Now that Lady P is a sturdy toddler, and summer has hit Hermosa Beach, it's all starting to make sense. So it was that the purchase was made. And at the weekend, TLOML's long held dream came true: we took our child to the beach in her red wagon.
Much more fun than a Porsche and also a little less costly

Friday, May 9, 2014

The sound of the surf

This is a topographical map of Hermosa Beach.

See that crumple of hills, a few blocks inland? Well, we live just east of that crumple.

Which is to say there is a hill between us and the beach. It's not much of a hill, according to my Strava the summit is about 90ft above sea level. The walk (or run) is just a couple of minutes up a shaded, woodchip path. And at the top there's a reward in the shape of this view:
From that point the walk to the beach is all downhill, and takes maybe another three minutes.

As a result we do feel that we live close to the beach. It's less than half a mile away. Which is, however, not as close as when we lived 20 miles up the coast in Malibu.
Much as I love the Sugar Cube House, I do miss that deck over the waves, and the fact you could hear the crashing waves of the Pacific throughout the apartment. I guess it spoilt us for life, since anything else just doesn't feel as beachy. We were as 'coastal living' as it's possible to be, without being an actual dolphin.

So when TLOML tells me, with an entirely straight face, that when we have the windows open he can hear the sound of the surf at night, am I to believe him? I don't mean, believe that it is the case - but rather, believe that he really believes it?

Extensive research and personal experience allows me to state with confidence that what he hears from our bedroom in the Sugar Cube is not the sea. I'm guessing the soft sshhusshhing he hears is a combination of the wind in the trees, wildlife in the aloe and ice-plant covered slopes behind the house, and the less poetic hum of distant cars and air conditioning units.

On balance I think it's nicer to live with someone who hears the sound of the ocean, than someone who has been told it can't be so. There's a rhetorical question I've heard posed about marital disputes: 'would you rather be right, or happy?' In this case, I'm going to go with being happy that TLOML is happy - whether or not he is right.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The least efficient search engine in the world

The site 'Let Me Just Google That For You' might have been invented for mothers. Or at least, a special, weird subset of mothers who combine internet savvy with a startling lack of, well, internet awareness.

I'm signed up to a couple of local Mommy groups, which should be a useful forum for women to sell/ source old baby clobber, and share tips and recommendations on local resources. We joined it in the hopes of finding a nanny share. But it also appears to operate as a general search engine. n a typical example, here's a woman wondering what's going on in Palm Springs next weekend.

And this lady has used her Sprint smartphone to search for a baker who doesn't use food colouring. Only instead of searching in a browser and effectively asking the whole world, she's emailed a bunch of local mums.

Twitter can be almost as bad. How's about this for a random question to ask a random bunch of people? Hasn't she ever heard of John Lewis or Good Housekeeping?

Many women, on becoming a mother, give up their desk job - and the hours at a computer screen, and the work-funded smartphone that went along with the job. Many of us also find that time to mooch about on the interweb is in short supply.

So it's understandable if they get a little disconnected with the wonderful world of the world wide web. I could forgive them for using the Yellow Pages, or looking in the local newspaper for this sort of info. But if you're savvy enough to use Twitter, or the almost-impossible-to-pierce Yahoo! Groups, surely you'd have heard of Google, or Yelp?! And you can bet they're tech smart enough to upload a million pictures of their baby doing the usual baby things when the impulse strikes.

Anyway, anyway, that's my observation of the week. I've got to run. I'm going to message the Southbay Peachhead Moms to find out if anyone knows what's on telly tonight.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Lady P chose.... drumroll...

I don't want to leave you in suspense for a moment longer about Lady P's destiny. The good news is, she chose well. She also chose quite greedily. That is to say, she basically chose everything.

The table is set with plates of fruit and rice cakes, symbolising plenty and purity and other good things. But the most important objects are those which symbolise her path in life: yarn, and noodles, for long life; books representing academic achievement and learning; brushes for a life of creativity and writing; and money, symbolising, well, money.

We took a few photos before our guests arrived and Lady P showed a marked interest in her bunny - which I would say represented 'play'. She also grabbed at the noodles, but we told her to wait and take her time to think about it till our guests arrived.
'I choose bunny! Bunny for ever!'
Half an hour later when we did the ceremony for real, she was so delighted to see our nanny on her day off, that she was more interested in walking over to her than at making life choices. So I'd say she was choosing 'love', at that point. Once drawn back to the table she went for the brushes, much to TLOML's disappointment, for who wants to have to support their daughter while she spends her life being a starving artist or writing her thesis? To her credit, once he thrust the dollar bills into her hands, she kept a tight grip on them. So we take that to mean that while she may not pursue wealth, she'll carefully retain what money she does have. Finally, the object which she went to last, but held onto the longest, was a book.
On reflection, you can't beat sitting down with a good book
As I said, she chose a bit of everything. Based on this exercise, I predict a long life, during which she will place friendship above everything, have a creative, learned life, and save her pennies. Let's hope so.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Coming soon: Lady P's destiny

There's a buzz in the air at the Sugar Cube house. We're about to find out what Lady P will become! This weekend we're going to celebrate her first birthday in the Korean tradition.

I know, her first birthday was a couple of months ago, but we were kinda busy moving house that day. And I know, too, that she is only 25% Korean, but it just might be the 25% that makes the difference between a life of dazzling success and fabulous prosperity and something, well, more humdrum.

Allow me to explain about the Korean tradition. We'll put a number of items in front of Lady P for her to choose from. Whatever she chooses determines her fate. So, if she goes for the calculator, she'll become an accountant. If she chooses the fishing net, it's a life on the open seas for her. Only I think you don't put calculators and fishing nets out. Fortunately for Lady P, and for TLOML and I, his mother and aunt, repositories of all Korean traditions and knowledge, are in charge of what's on the plates.

I will keep you posted on what she chooses and therefore her path in life. So far she is showing a marked interest in paintbrushes (even when she is dressed for tennis), so I predict a creative choice.

This tradition also involves dressing Lady P up in an outrageously cute outfit, and eating a tonne of Korean food. What's not to like?