Monday, December 28, 2015

Operation Santa

You know that awkward moment when someone gives you a present you weren't expecting? It happened to us this Christmas. And the unexpected gift giver was Santa. No, not the Santa that is TLOML and I and a Target spree. Another, mysterious Santa.

The backstory: Lady P and I wrote a letter to Santa a couple of weeks before Christmas. I did the writing, she dictated. 'A candy cane, a lollipop, and a book of Gruffalo songs' she said. 'And a bicycle?' I suggested. 'And a bicycle', she agreed. It probably goes without saying that these are all items either she has had her heart set on for a while, or we had decided to give her for Christmas. Or, happily, both.

We walked together to the post box to post the letter, addressed to Santa at the North Pole. I didn't put a stamp on it. I wasn't expecting it to go anywhere. I just wanted to kill half an hour, expose her to some fresh air, and build up a little Christmas anticipation. I thought no more about it, except to remind her a couple of times of what she'd asked for, as I went about my Christmas shopping.

On Christmas Eve a cardboard box arrived, addressed to us, with this postmark:

Inside were a lot of parcels, addressed to someone called 'Fran', from Santa. I immediately said 'these aren't for us, there's been a mistake'. But TLOML urged further investigation. Some of the gifts were wrapped but others were in a gift bag so we could see what they were. A lollipop, a candy cane, and a Gruffalo toy with a companion mouse. Basically all Lady P's dreams come true.

I googled Operation Santa. It turns out it's a scheme whereby someone - who presumably is not (like most of us) saying 'Oh I wish I had more Christmas shopping to do' - can adopt a letter to Santa. Someone adopted Lady P's letter and decided to go nuts with it. Which is really very generous and very sweet. And the fact the gifts were addressed to 'Fran' can be put down to my appalling handwriting, on that letter I never expected to be read.

And yet. The thing is, we already had most of the gifts she asked for covered. And Lady P is far from needy. The gifts we were sent from Operation Santa were both more than she needed and worth more than those we donated to the local toy drive. So I feel guilty. I made the best of it, by stashing the toys for her birthday and donating the rest. Be careful what you wish for, middle class parents. Your wishes may come true and you will be struck down with guilt and a surfeit of gifts.

I hate to sound churlish. And she will absolutely love those Gruffalo toys, so we're very glad of that. Also the lollipop. They are surprisingly hard to find. I had tried CVS, Rite Aid, Vonn's, Ralphs and Whole Foods in search of one. All I could find are large bags of lollipops - who buys those?! - or large lollipop shaped cookies. I just wanted one big, special treat lollipop. We were going to end up giving her the one they give away at the dry cleaners, until the parcel arrived.

I think next year we'll do all our Christmas shopping and then put on the letter to Santa anything that isn't easy to buy in Hermosa Beach. Since some dear soul out there takes such great pleasure in fulfilling kids' dreams, let 'em at it.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Gingerbread Construction Success

Glad tidings of great joy! This year our gingerbread house stayed standing! It looked pretty good too.

TLOML and I had a little help this year, as Lady P decorated some trees. She did ask several times if she could 'just eat it?', which was a fair question, to which we said no. Not yet.
But after last year our fears of collapse meant we didn't decorate till Christmas Eve. So she only had to wait one day. And the house only needed to remain upright for 24 hours.

In short, I think we have perfected the strategy.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The limits of Lady P's imagination

Lady P's imagination is running wild right now.

The downsides are the occasional bout of night terrors, and her concerns about someone called 'the woo', who apparently lives under the headboard of her bed.

The upside is that she is constantly entertaining herself.

She can play Doctor with a chopstick and some salad servers as her surgical equipment. Two boxes are her 'robot shoes'.
'I'm wearing my robot shoes' 

This workout equipment on the greenbelt near our house is alternately a seesaw, and her house - so you have to knock before entering.

Cushions are stepping stones. The cardboard tube from the roll of Christmas wrapping paper is a horse, and sometimes a broomstick.

Most inanimate objects can be talked to. The turtle candle holder on our outside table gets a blow by blow account of cars passing by. Her toy moose is instructed to watch her jumping. And her favourite, 'Doggie', apparently insists on being cuddled during the scary bits of The Gruffalo's Child.

Yet, despite reading the story, moving the stupid thing every night, and telling him if she's being good in a stage whisper, she has absolutely no interest in communicating with the Elf on the Shelf.
Me: 'Look, that cheeky elf is eating a banana chip!'
Lady P (apathetically): 'Uh huh'.
The popular seasonal bribery is just not working on our Lady P. And while exasperated, I am equally proud of her contrariness and independent thinking.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Tale of Five Trees

The two beautiful tall palm trees we had to remove, because they were touching the overhead power cables (as I whined about a couple of months ago).

SoCal electricity sent around a crew to do it, slice by slice, as they shimmed down on their crampons with a chainsaw and a machete hanging off their belt. It was surprisingly quick: moments later our house looked bald.

The two large potted palms we replaced them with.

They are not as tall or as beautiful, but they will give us some of the dappled shade and rustling leaves that the old palms used to provide. The earnest dude at the garden centre whose advice we asked said they wouldn't be happy in the pots after about 10 years. When pressed though he conceded they wouldn't look unhappy.  To be honest, at the risk of sounding callous, even if they're crying on the inside so long as they put on a brave face and look good, I'll be satisfied. In the hope that in ten years time we have a proper garden to plant them in, we went ahead and bought them. So far they don't look too unhappy.

And finally, the one proud, perfectly shaped Noble fir we bought last weekend, and decorated to the strains of Silver Bells.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

On hoaxes, bomb threats, jitters and career suicide

There were lots of jitters around Hermosa and Manhattan Beach schools last week. On Monday, Wednesday and again on Friday a bomb threat was dialled in, targeting the local high school. The one Lady P's preschool is right next door to. On Monday and Wednesday the school was 'just' on lock down. Urgh, just typing that makes my stomach flip. On Friday they closed the high school, Lady P's Montessori, and the elementary school on the same campus.

I bemoaned these events in a 'this country!' way to my sister, who reminded me that when we were growing up various buildings were sometimes closed because of IRA bomb threats. None of the threats ever materialized in our home town, and I don't think I was particularly scarred by the existence of those threats.

Still, I was away from home during those first two threats last week, on a work trip to Florida. Reading about bomb scares when you're far from home does not help soothe the jitters.

Now I'm in Florida again and my goodness those jitters have spread big time: all the schools within the LA Unified School District were closed down because of another bomb scare. Our local schools are not in LA USD (in fact we moved here because LA USD has such a poor reputation) and remained open. But still, when 700,000 students are sent home it's hard to feel entirely comfortable with Lady P being in the classroom. And it's not like she has finals to sit for. But being the parent away from home, and knowing as I do that TLOML has an overwhelmingly busy work schedule, I didn't really want to call him up and suggest we (he) kept her home.

Fortunately for my peace of mind, he got the jitters too, and picked Lady P up early from school so she could spend most of her day with our former nanny. I know, I know, the whole thing was probably a hoax and she was perfectly safe at Montessori. But still, it's nice to know she's nowhere near a school today.

I'm heading home tomorrow and planning a significant change of lanes on my career path. In a totally unsurprising, mother-of-a-young-child move, I've decided I want to travel much less (okay, not at all), and I don't really care if that means sacrificing my career goals. Being home would not stop the jitters, but it would make it much easier to act on them. And if Lady P is at all disturbed by the changes to her school schedule, the 'lock downs' and the half-empty classrooms, it will be nice to be around to soothe her jitters too.

Happily, of course, Lady P is completely oblivious. Long may it stay that way. In which case I can use the time I no longer spend travelling doing fun stuff like baking cookies.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Things I gave thanks for this Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I was thankful for a holiday that is all about eating and drinking with family or friends or both, carries no gift giving obligations, and tees up a three day weekend very nicely.

I was also thankful for a table that was big enough to seat seven adults and three toddlers. An oven big enough to hold a 17lb turkey. And I was thankful that as a result that we could be, at last, the ones who host the Thanksgiving 'orphans'. That just felt really nice, in the new house and all.

I was thankful for all our lovely guests and all the food they brought. And thankful that this is a holiday where everyone brings something (even if it means you end up with enough cranberry sauce to drown an actual living turkey in).

And finally, I was thankful that no-one saw fit to bring this turkey shaped ice cream cake:

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.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sirens over Hermosa

Every day at noon, a siren goes off over Hermosa. It blares out from the tower at City Hall, and Hermosa being the size of a postage stamp, it's audible across pretty much the whole town.

Although I've lived here for over 18 months it still sometimes catches me by surprise. Like when I'm relaxing on the deck, enjoying the gentle rustle of the breeze in the palms, when suddenly...
...strange isn't it? Makes you feel  like you're in a war zone, and maybe under attack. But I scanned the horizon and there were no enemy craft heading our way.

Apparently the siren was originally set up to remind the kids of a 9pm curfew, presumably back in the day when life in Hermosa was like Footloose's Bomont.

Nowadays they just blast it out every day to keep the siren from getting rusty and dusty. So if there is an invasion, from the Pacific, or Redondo Beach, I guess we'll be well prepared.

Monday, October 5, 2015

On the American way of laundry

This is our garage. It includes several fire extinguishers, some old paint, a water heater, various wheeled vehicles, and a washing machine and tumble dryer. This is normal, in America.

It's very much not normal in the UK. There, if you don't have a laundry room, you keep your washing machine in the kitchen. Your tumble dryer? That's what clothes lines, clothes horses and radiators were for.

I think we can all agree that keeping your laundry in the garage (or the kitchen) is not ideal. Ideal - on both sides of the Atlantic - is a laundry room. Or a utility room where the washer/dryer rubs shoulders with a massive chest freezer, mops and brooms.

But failing that, in lots of homes in the US the laundry machines - including your dryer, even in sunny SoCal - set up in the garage. It took me a while to get used to. They're surrounded by dirty things, like cars, bikes and surfboards. But, like so many aspects of American life, it now makes perfect sense to me. Why on earth would you want to take up valuable kitchen cabinet space with something that has nothing to do with cooking and eating? Plus the machines are, of course, massive. They wouldn't fit in most UK kitchens I have known.

Suffice to say, till we buy that mansion with the laundry room, I'm a convert.

Monday, September 28, 2015

No change

I haven't posted for a while because, honestly, I've got nothing to say. Nothing's changed. But then I got an email at work entitled 'Changes taking effect October 1' which contained this brilliant message:

Well, if it's good enough for Big Corp, I suppose it's good enough for me. So here's a run down of some of the things that haven't changed here.

It's still warm and sunny here every day. We are still spending lots of time at the beach. And we are still delighted with our new house. Every weekend since we moved in we have had friends come over for a beach afternoon followed by happy hour drinks on the deck. Every single weekend: eight in a row so far and I don't think that's going to change anytime soon.

As for Lady P, she is still enjoying school. She also still loves apples. So every day I pick her up with an apple for us to share on the way home. Also a new tradition I don't see changing.

In the six years that TLOML and I have been together and I've been telling Transatlantic Tales, we've been in an almost constant state of flux and discovery, always with some new adventure to blog about or some new finding to share. While this period of 'no change' has left me short on blog material, it's still rather nice.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fall Fashion

Labor Day weekend has been and gone, the kids are back at school, and summer is officially over. This was one of my favourite times of year in the UK: misty mornings on the Heath, the opportunity to light a fire and make hearty soups - okay, maybe not in September, but October is just around the corner. And the delight of flicking through magazines imagining what woollens I would be
'shopping my closet' for, what new boots I had to have, and deciding whether last year's coat would do for this year or not.

Pictures like this would make my heart skip. Look at them all belted up with their nice scarves on!
Not any more. Now I just feel pangs. That Burberry ad ran in the September edition of Vogue, which I bought to keep Lady P's archive up-to-date, along with lots of other Autumnal images. They are like postcards from another life. I flicked through images of long coats, clunky boots, and heavy tweed skirts, with my short shorts on and my flip flop tan line visible.

This is what autumnal dressing looks like in LA:
Sigh. I know, this is another post like that one where I moaned about it being too sunny in our new house. I'm sure your heart just bleeds for me.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful. There's a lot to be said about warm weather, after all. And while autumn and winter are wonderful seasons, they can drag on a bit in Britain. So I'll enjoy the shorts season while it lasts (another month or two, I'd say). And I'll keep my fingers crossed for at least a month of rain, and a handful of evenings where I need to put socks on.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Safety First

Last week Lady P and her classmates learned about safety.

She told us that if she's ever on fire, she must 'stop, drop and roll!'. And she'll do just that, if you ask, shouting 'stop, drop and roll' gleefully,' as she flings herself about on the rug. She makes being burned alive look like a lot of fun.

She has also learned to call 911 'for emergencies, but NOT for sandwiches'. Duly noted.

And she's been colouring in sobering pictures like this.

I really hope if she ever needs extinguishing, I'll be around to help. And if we need to call 911, I can do it for her. But I suppose it's better to be prepared for the worst.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Little Free Libraries

A few months after we moved to Hermosa a Little Free Library popped up a few blocks from the Sugar Cube. Our neighbours seemed pretty excited about it so we swung by and it was, indeed, a charming thing. A little box full of books for children (others nearby have grown up literature, and non fiction), with an honesty system allowing you to take or donate as you wish. Walking up to the little library to pick up, or donate, a book, soon became a favourite way to spend a spare half hour.
The grown-up little free library up the hill from the Sugar Cube
Lady P having a good read
But then I went off the idea. I thought about the fact I would otherwise have given these books to Goodwill, which would have directly helped people back into work. I might have bought new books at Pages, a local, independently owned (and presumably therefore endangered) bookshop. We would have visited the lovely local library more often too. In fact, we could have donated our books to the library's fundraising bookshop.

I'm prepared to be shot down in flames admitting I thought this way. I'm sure the Little Free Libraries are useful resources in many communities. But in wealthy, literate, middle class Hermosa, I was unconvinced about the scheme's merits.

The Little Free Library caused some rifts in our happy home too. TLOML and I had an ongoing debate about whether 'bring a book, take a book' meant you had to return the book you brought or could, as I preferred, pass off books you didn't like and replace them with better ones. He thought I was breaking the rules but I felt I had right on my side. One child's trash is another's treasure, and I'm sure someone else would find that French vocabulary book illustrated with bears a source of endless delight. I kept a running tally in my mind to ensure we'd taken roughly as many books as we'd left.

It's unusual for TLOML and I not to get along so I was anxious to resolve this one (and of course, prove that I was right) so I went to  the FAQs. I was happy to learn I was correct. I also had my anti-LFL attitude challenged. It turns out these little boxes are cherished in thousands of locations, starting conversations,  creating meeting places, exciting kids about reading and creating an indefineable sense of community just by being there.

I stand corrected. So last week Lady P and I dropped off one of our duplicate Harry and the Dinosaurs and picked up a Curious George. A fair trade by anyone's standards. Yesterday we went to the public library, and this afternoon we'll go to Pages and buy a new book too. Spreading the book love far and wide.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sad goodbyes

Lady P starts Montessori full time this week. It's an exciting new chapter in her life, filled with access to bead sorting, counting sticks, and a far wider range of craft materials than we have at home. We are excited to have a little more flexibility in our child care (longer hours, if we want them) and at a lower cost.

But it does mean saying goodbye to our wonderful nanny. Dani took care of Lady P from her first birthday, when she was still in nappies and wasn't walking, and helped her develop into the chatty, running, jumping, well-mannered, potty-trained funny girl she is today.  As well as teaching her the basics of good behaviour, and some obscure Portugese words ('pedunculu' for grape stalk, for example), she also showered Lady P with an abundance of love, kisses and cuddles.

Hopefully we will see her from time to time. It would be a shame if she disappeared entirely from Lady P's life. But if we do see her, it'll be for a couple of hours at most. It won't be like it has been, where she's essentially sharing our house with us five days a week - toothbrush in the bathroom, strange egg concoction in the fridge, and so on. No longer can we just let Lady P run wild in PJs till Dani arrived to take care of business. No longer will I have someone to gossip with as I fix myself lunch. Many tears were shed on her last day (not by Lady P, mind you, who is either oblivious or heartless).

It's only been a week, but the memory of her is already fading - and Lady P's Portugese vocabulary is shrinking by the day. She has already forgotten 'pedunculu', for example.

We will miss Dani. A lot. The closing of a chapter - no matter how exciting the next chapter - is often sad.

But there is a silver lining. One thing I will not miss. It's the way she used to put the coasters in this fanned formation, every single day.

The first thing I did after she left each day was re-organise these guys into a simple stack. I won't ever have to do that again. So, while we'll miss Dani enormously, there is that consolation at least.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

High class problems

Beach life isn't easy all of the time, you know. As we settle in, we have become aware of a couple of major drawbacks of our bright and sunny new home.

First of all, our living room is so bright that we're worried the sunlight will fade our sofas and our lovingly refinished floors. At about 10am we drop the shades on the south-facing french doors, and from noon we draw the curtains on the west-facing windows. So for most of the day our living space is shaded and faintly funereal.
The grown-up living room on a glorious sunny day

The family room: suns out; shades down

You almost wouldn't know the sky outside is bright bright blue
The other bummer is that our lovely royal palm trees are, it turns out, touching the power lines. At least, when the sea breeze catches them. Which it does most of time, creating a lovely rustling sound and the potential to set the trees and presumably our timber framed house alight.
Ah, the wind in the palm trees...

...and the imminent risk of fire
We were advised to take the trees out, but we love them far too much. Instead I guess we'll have them trimmed back, which might make them look a bit bald and/or lopsided till they outgrow the power lines (or Hermosa Beach finally puts them underground).

Doesn't your heart just break for us?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Happily housebound

It was a scorching hot weekend in the South Bay, and anyone with any sense was at the beach, watching volleyball tournaments, surfing, or enjoying the beach concerts.

Alas, not us. Excursions were strictly limited to Best Buy, IKEA and Triangle Hardware. We did manage a quick yomp down to the pier for a coffee and Lady P's requisite 15 minutes of sand play. But other than that we were all about the house.

On Saturday TLOML installed SONOS while I hung curtains. And on Sunday he wall-mounted the TV and strung up lights on the deck while I reorganized the cupboards in in the garage.
Cupboard categories include 'replenish kitchen sink', 'laundry',' specialist cleaning' 'lightbulbs' and, of course, 'BBQ and car stuff' (aka 'I don't know what this is').

One could argue that it wasn't strictly necessary for me to take everything out of those cupboards and put it back in in a slightly different order. But I needed something to do while TLOML took care of A/V and Lady P napped. And I'd already baked cookies.

One could also argue that Hermosa Beach does not need any more overhead power lines, or indeed, overhead cables of any kind. But we wanted to enhance the ambience on our deck. So we went ahead and mounted strings of lights, and now we love it out there even more. It reminds us of being in a relaxed, friendly, possibly slightly cockamamie bar, in a busy beach town somewhere hot. Surely the ideal vibe.

Despite being housebound we weren't complete hermits. We hosted our first proper dinner in the house, for our dear Manhattan Beach friends. Our old neighbours (the friendship survives!) swung by, and we had some sunset drinks and snacks on the deck with other friends. And at the end of it all, although we looked enviously at other people's beach pics on Facebook, we sat on the deck, under our pretty lights, and toasted with a gin and tonic to the completion of our house move.

Yes, that's really it. All new home improvement projects are officially done. Anything that is left falls strictly under the 'everyday maintenance' category, or stuff we'll do it when we get round to it. I suppose we'll have to wait for the next not-hot, not-beachy weekend to tackle those. That could be a while. Meanwhile, we can relax, and enjoy the house (and the beach).

Monday, August 10, 2015

An education

Lady P's formal education has begun. Two days a week, for now, she is attending a local pre school. More specifically, the Aloha Summer Camp at our local Montessori.

The timing was rotten, with her first two weeks straddling the weekend we moved house. But apart from a torrent of tears on the morning of day one, she has taken to it like a duck to water. Or, like a sociable, smart little girl to a friendly, interesting environment.

We found it rather more difficult. The preparation was tough: I had to pack a disaster kit, in the event of an earthquake I suppose, which made my stomach lurch. 
Processed food, a flannel and a Night Garden book. Sob.
And dropping her off the first couple of times was not easy. 'What is she saying to that teacher?' I wondered, and briefly considered grabbing her, taking her home and watching her closely all day.

I restrained myself. She is having a great time, and far be it for me to interfere with that. She runs into the classroom in the morning shouting 'Good morning!', announces 'I want to sit here and do this', and then does exactly that. From what I see there's a lot of moving small objects from one receptacle to another by various means. The fabric flowers to be transported with a dustpan and brush. The ice-cream scoop and the orange balls. The little silver jug full of coloured rocks. They know just how to entertain a 2-and-a-half year old, those Montessori peddlers.

TLOML and I are delighted she's having a good time. Over the coming weeks we will, sadly, say goodbye to our wonderful nanny and usher in a full time education for Lady P.

But perhaps 'education' is too strong a word. I share below the recipe for coconut juice, proudly advertised as their Hawaiian cooking class. Perhaps I should have managed my expectations for what a 2-3 year old can cook. Still, juice?!

 This is from a worksheet of Hawaiian numbers she brought home. I diligently went through them with her, pointing with my fingers as I counted 'one... two.. Elua, two'.
Then I got to this one. The picture for ten. It has twelve creatures on it. Sloppy work, Montessori!

Again, I guess I need to lower my expectations. Lady P is, after all, there to play and have fun. Thank goodness, as I'm not sure the academic program will be winning any prizes.

Friday, August 7, 2015

What a difference a lick of paint makes

We’ve been busy moving house this past week. It was our shortest move ever – just ¾ mile down the road from the much loved Sugar Cube into our shiny, new house. Shiny and new because we had a little cosmetic work done before we moved in.

We just refinished the floors, and had the whole place repainted. so it really was only cosmetic, but what a difference it made to the way the house looks and feels. Most of all, we made it our own.

We flipped the dark kitchen and dining room into something altogether lighter, brighter, and vaguely Skandi looking. With the bonus of American appliances, natch. Oh, and my upcycled table of course. 

Someone else's dining room

Someone else's kitchen

Our kitchen/ diner

We turned the 1980s law library into a cheery workspace befitting a SoCal beach lover and his Brit bookworm.

Someone else's home office


And in Lady P’s room we created a sunny homage to the Sugar Cube, complete with a scaled down front door.
Lady P's 'little house'
The Sugar Cube, seen through palms
We painted pretty much every inch of the rest of the house white, which makes it feel clean and fresh and new. And ours.

We do miss our rambling back garden but are consoled by sunset drinks on the deck. Lady P has done some naked sliding into the paddling pool on the astro turf, and planted some chard seeds, so I feel that she isn’t too badly off either.

One week in and we are almost unpacked. We are still waiting for our new king mattress to arrive so we can move into the mater, and we have the small matter of 40 pieces of art to hang, but other than that I’d say we’re home. And this time, it’s for the long term. It’s a very very nice feeling.