Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A low key home spun English Easter

Last Easter we had my sister and her family staying with us. Along with their time at Disneyland, in Hollywood and Santa Monica pier, it seemed fitting to give them a 'go big or go home' Easter. So we went to that massive bunfight of an Easter Egg hunt in Valley Park. I found it all a bit much.

So this year we dialled it way down.  Our Easter was so low key and home spun as to be positively English. First we made hot cross buns (for lack of being able to find them on sale here), which takes hours and for somewhat limited reward since they still weren't as nice as Sainsburys. Ah well, it was still an enriching and educational experience for Lady P.

Then on Easter Day we went to the local Episcopalian church, and came home for an egg hunt on our deck.

First of all as you can see, our deck is a pretty easy terrain for hunting.
And the prey was no great shakes either: about two dozen eggs, each filled with one or two sweets - marshmallow bunnies and little chocolate eggs. Almost mean, I know. But it was enough.

By the way, I bought the smallest pack of Robin's Eggs and marshmallow bunnies I could find, and used less than a quarter of the bag. I guess some people have more families to feed. But please tell me no-one is giving an entire pack of eggs out to a single child? The fools! We kept Lady P happy for an entire week munching her way through those eggs.

Long may these easily-pleased years last.

Monday, March 28, 2016

LA culture: all about appearances (at least for me)

More culture this week for me and  TLOML. We went to the LA Opera, in the heart of LA's Downtown arts district.

I was excited to see Madame Butterfly, which I've never seen before. I was excited to be out on a date night, of course. I was excited to leave the South Bay too.

But most of all, once we arrived at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion I was excited about the decor, and the extent to which I chimed perfectly with it. The lobby is a vision in caramel coloured marble, with gold tiled columns and brass handrails and just lots of warm, honey and cream golden tones. Inside the theatre there's a tonne of gold, and raspberry velvet seats. The hexagonal tiles on the floor of the ladies room were ivory and blush pink. And me? I had taken a punt on LA opera goers, like those in London and New York, dressing up for the occasion, so I'd made an effort. My look comprised several tones of gold, a couple of shades of pink, and an ivory jacket. Me and that Dorothy Chandler Pavilion were just meant to be together.

Don't you just love it when that happens?

Here I am admiring the way my shoes look on the floor in the Ladies, and leaning delightedly against a column which matched my dress.

And then I saw her. She took my nod to Dorothy Chandler decor and turned it into a full body salute. Her hair was pale pink, like candy floss. Everything she wore sparkled like those gold tiles and the chandeliers. Her top was covered in gold sequins and her trousers were gold lame. Here are a couple of blurry shots in case you don't believe such a creature could exist.

I was humbled and full of admiration.

I should probably set less store by appearances. But this is LA for goodness sake.

After the performance we walked around the rest of the music center, and committed to making that trip more often. There are so many great musical events to enjoy - the LA Phil, the LA Chorale, anything at the Disney hall. But my confidence is shattered. I just don't know if I've got the wardrobe for them anymore.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Growing up (but not like the Springsteen song)

I remember when going to a gig was a little freewheeling. Like, if the ticket said doors were open at 7.30pm, you’d show up around 9pm, a little the worse for wear, and continue to get mildly wasted whilst ignoring the support act. We stuck around for the encore, the encore after the encore, and if we were lucky we might sneak backstage for some green room partying. Okay that’s only happened a couple of times in my life, but still, it has happened. Afterwards there might some unsuccessful attempts to secure a cab, or a run for the last tube – none of which transportation had been particularly well considered beforehand. Unless it was at the Kentish Town Forum, or Camden Jazz CafĂ©, in which case it’d be a chatty walk home past a kebab shop or dodgy after hours bar. Did we eat before the gig? Maybe. Maybe we shared a bag of chips on the way home. Maybe we didn’t eat dinner at all. We were young, and carefree, and like I said, a little freewheeling.

Well, I don’t know if it’s age, or parenthood, or just life in the South Bay but all of that has changed. We had tickets to see Bruce Springsteen. The ticket said doors opened at 7.30, so what time do you think we got there? That’s right, round about 6.30pm. We wanted to be sure we had time to eat before the show, you see.

For what it’s worth, we weren’t the only ones thinking that way. The venue was already half full when we arrived, and we had to circle fully 4 stories of the carpark before finding a spot. When we did we saw a group of aged (oh, wait, they actually might be our age) Boss fans tailgating. For British readers, tailgating is when you eat junk food from the boot of your car before or after an event. I know. Anyway, that was happening.

We weren't invited to any tailgates. So we decided to hit up the food trucks instead. There was a choice of tacos, fried chicken, curry and gelato. Because nothing says rock’n’roll like some artisanal frozen dessert.

The Boss knows his fan base. These are people who show up early to tailgate and eat gelato. So he showed up on stage at 8pm and just got on with it. He played all of The River, and then proceeded to rock out like a much younger man for many hours. For many, many hours. Possibly an hour too many for people with a babysitter to pay and a toddler alarm going off at 6.45am. And we were among the young ones there. Some people looked like they might be of an age to have a cup of Horlicks and be in bed by 9pm, to be honest.
These are my people now
Something else has changed too. Instead of cigarette lighters, people now use the torch on their smartphones to create that ‘many tiny candles illuminating an acoustic ballad’ vibe. Who knew? Maybe that's also my age, and at the gigs that carefree 20 somethings go to they all still whip their lighters out.
The beauty of thousands of iPhones swaying in sync

The Boss put on an incredible performance. We had a great time. But we didn’t get to bed till 1am… and not because we went to the after-party or missed the last train home, but because – this being LA – the traffic (as fifteen thousand people left the LA Memorial Arena in their large cars) was murder. Times have changed for me indeed. And with the exception of the traffic, I’d say my gig experiences are the better for it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

St Patty's Day

Yes, that's right, St Patty's Day. For that is what they call it here, in this bastion of Irish culture, Hermosa Beach.

Just wondering, though... don't they abbreviate to Paddy's Day in Ireland? I've never heard Patrick shortened to  Patty till I moved to Hermosa Beach.

Mind you, I've never seen St Patrick's Day celebrated with swirling Latin American folklorico skirts...

... nor Bolivian dancers with bells on their boots either.

These guys were so popular I had to tape bells to Lady P's wellies the next day to recapture the vibe.

I've also never seen so much orange on St Patrick's Day. Guess this youth music group didn't get the memo about how people marching in orange don't go down so well in much of Ireland.
I wasn't too clear on the connection between a cavalcade of DeLoreans and Ireland's patron saint, either.
Still, they were pretty cool.

Of all the many groups who made their way down Pier Avenue in the Hermosa Beach St Patrick's Day parade, the only ones who really seemed to know what it was all about were these guys, who I'm pretty sure heading straight to a bar:
Meanwhile, at Lady P's school, they are celebrating 'St Patty's Day' with a themed breakfast (I guess Guinness and black pudding are not part of the plan) and sugar free treats. Again, all news to me.

In all my years living in North London's Irish strongholds I've never seen St Patrick's Day ever celebrated in anyway other than drinking many many drinks.

If this sounds a bit negative, that's not quite how I feel. Confused, but delighted, would be more accurate. We all had an absolute blast at the parade. It might have nothing to do with St Patrick's Day but it was a whole lot of fun.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Tail of two Doggies

This is Doggy. He was among the many soft toys, from Jellycat, John Lewis and other purveyors of sweet plush creatures, that Lady P was given when she was born. Because of that thing they tell you about babies liking monochrome we placed him alongside Lady P in her crib when she was just a few weeks old.

Doggy soon became a firm favourite. Here he is firmly tucked under Lady P's arm when she was about six months old.

Here he is, when Lady P had just turned one.
Again, he's tucked under the arm. He usually is. And if she has a free hand, she usually strokes his tail, especially if she is listening to a story or otherwise being snuggly, and even in her sleep, and particularly if she's a bit anxious. Holding Doggy and stroking his tail is pure comfort.

Early on it became clear that Doggy was too important to take risks with. We introduced a strict 'Doggy doesn't leave the house' policy, with exceptions made for overnight trips or other times we needed Lady P to chill out and go to sleep. We also bought a decoy Doggy, told Lady P we had washed Doggy and presented the new guy.

After that we took care to rotate them so they aged at the same rate. Here they are today:
Decoy Doggy lives hidden in our wardrobe.

I say decoy Doggy but I no longer know which one is the decoy. We have done such a good job mixing them up that I really can't tell them apart.

Guess who can?

That's right, Lady P. Over eighteen months after we began this elaborate scam, she is starting to see through the cracks. She keeps telling me 'I don't like Doggy anymore'. Which is odd because she really does love Doggy. When probed, she told me it was because his tail didn't feel right.

Then I realized that her habit of stroking his tail has worn it to an incredibly smooth state, and the one I'd just brought out from the wardrobe was almost imperceptibly less smooth. I don't know why my rotating of the Doggies has failed here. Perhaps the last few weeks have been particularly hard on that tail. We have had a lot of bugs and minor head injuries, so maybe more than the usual amount of snuggling and tail rubbing have been required.

I responded with a white lie. 'I just washed him', I said. But on some level, Lady P knows something is up with Doggy. Which means something is up with the whole world order, in her eyes. And if she finds out the truth, that there are really two Doggies, I think she'd be scarred for life.

So I guess I just have to keep up this pretense. Just for the next decade or so.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

In search of snow

Last year we went to Idyllwild on a doomed hunt for winter. This year I satisfied my craving for chilly weather with that flying visit to London.

But meanwhile, Lady P is in danger of thinking a light breeze and 15c makes for a cold winter's day. And she's never really seen snow. Which is a shame as it looms quite large in her imagination, what with the number of books she has involving polar bears, snowmen and just actual snow.

This time we decided to head to Big Bear, our nearest ski mountain. This being LA's ski resort, they have no qualms about manufacturing snow if none falls, so we knew we wouldn't be disappointed.  Even if it's just fake stuff on a groomed ski slope. And as all good Californians need to be comfortable hurtling down a mountain, it's probably about time that Lady P gets to know what goes on in a ski resort anyway.

We arrived after dark last night. First thing this morning Lady P and I went out in PJs to find some snow.
'Look! I see some! Over there!'
This was the best I could do near the cabin, and she was thrilled at first. But once we got up close and she realised it was just dirty icy slush, she was a bit disappointed. I promised her we'd go and find some fluffy, possibly manufactured, snow. And so we did.

Here she is sitting with a hot chocolate watching people descend on last night's newly pumped snow.
All about the apres ski (technically this is avant ski but the concept is very similar)
It aint exactly the Alps, but it's a good start. After that we crunched along the bottom of the slope which delighted Lady P. Then we had a long and confusing conversation about various expensive options to get Lady P out on some skis. Which is par for the course for any would-be beginner I think.

She has yet to actually get truly in amongst the snow but we've certainly laid some good groundwork.