Saturday, December 24, 2016

Tweaking those traditions

As a family putting down roots, and with a small child, we're still establishing our traditions. My childhood Christmases were unwaveringly consistent, and I loved that, and want that for P. So there's a lot of talk of 'this'll be our family tradition'. whenever we find ourselves doing something festive we like. I guess it remains to be seen how many of those will prevail.

Our first Christmas in Hermosa we went to the Christmas Eve service at the Epsicopalean church (nice as I know all the tunes), and these last couple of years we've added the Christmas pageant there too: local children acting out the nativity, including a dog dressed as a camel. Perfect, and I think it's a keeper.

Watching the angels walk by, enraptured

This year we didn't make it to Terranea for those sunset cocktails - #traditiongoals - because P was sick. Let's hope in 2017 we'll switch the vomiting episode back out in favor of the drinks in the nice hotel.

Other traditions go from strength to strength. She is much more interested in the Elf this year, which is fun. The gingerbread house, we think, is better than ever (see these attempts from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 for proof) . And this year P got more involved in making it, which I loved. We sledged on the sand pile again, in lieu of snow.
'Sledding', SoCal style

We added in The Nutcracker, an LA Ballet production near us, which was lovely. And seeing Santa as he travelled Hermosa under police escort, which is both neighbourhoodsy, near to us, and short on queues. Another solid tradition addition.
In Hermosa Beach Santa arrives in a convertible with a surfboard in it

A healthy fish dinner on Christmas eve could become a festive tradition. Miso glazed black cod and sashimi this time, but it could as easily have been kippers and scrambled eggs. I think it makes more sense than ham, given the meat and carb fest that is to follow. On Christmas day itself, I'm still serving up pancakes for breakfast, and turkey for lunch. No cranberry, because no-one likes it. Stuffing, sprouts and roast potatoes because England. No Xmas pudding because no-one loves it, and in fact no pudding at all because no-one can get as excited for pudding - except P but she'll eat gingerbread instead -  as they can for cheese.

I think we're still refining some things. US festive flavors involve a lot of peppermint and chocolate - all that chocolate bark - which is all well and good but I'm am feeling a serious spiced fruit deficit - not a mince pie or christmas cake or pudding in sight. Next year I think I'll fix that with a little whole foods Xmas cake to add to the festive cheese platter.

On balance I think we are almost set. Just need to cut the vomiting, add some Christmas cake, and we'll have a model which will serve us well for many years.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Food confusion

Two nations divided by a common language. So goes the adage and nowhere is it more true than in food matters.

Check out this menu madness, from a Californian restaurant:

'Toad in a Hole', they say, and it has nothing to do with Yorkshire pudding and sausages. And this on a children's menu, of all things. How are they ever to learn?

They don't go in a lot for cheese toasties here, which I put down to a paucity of Brevilles. But they do go in for a 'grilled cheese' which by the way is really not grilled. It's made on a griddle, or in a frying pan. Which in my family makes it a 'cheese dream'. I know. P is quite confused. If offered a 'grilled cheese' she refuses, but if I say 'it's a cheese dream' she's suddenly interested. I just have to explain that the difference between grilled cheese and a cheese dream is the same as the difference between a cookie and a biscuit. That is to say, it just depends whether you are in Hermosa Beach or in Granny's house.

Now here's a sandwich I can never explain: the Monte Cristo. In it's simplest form it's a cheese dream, or a Croque Monsieur. A fried cheese sandwich. But then often here they dip it in egg before frying it. I'm good with that. And yet sometimes, are in the land where anything is possible, it includes ham and turkey, and is made with a sweet bread (like cinnamon raisin), and served with powdered sugar, and suddenly I don't know if I'm eating a sandwich or a cake, breakfast or dessert.

As we say in England, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Know your limits

It seemed like such a great idea when I booked our tickets. I love Christmas carols, and had wanted to see a performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall for years. The LA Master Chorale's Festival of Carols promised the perfect festive family day out. The program included a crowd-pleasing selection of carols, including a couple we could sing along to - Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, to which P even knows the words.

TLOML was excited too. Until he realized that the date clashed with a swim meet he couldn't miss. Still, I decided it would be fun to go on a 'mummy and me' cultural jaunt into DTLA. P and I would explore Grand Park, see the concert, and TLOML would come and meet us gals after the show.

It was about two hours before we were due to leave that I spotted the crucial restriction on the tickets. 'Children under the age of 6 will not be admitted'. How ridiculous, I thought. It's a family carol concert, for goodness sake, with a singalong 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' to boot. It's practically made for children under the age of 6.

I decided to wing it. We stuck to the plan, headed into town, and had a Starbucks treat in the park before climbing the steps into Walt Disney hall. Me, beside myself about the space and the concert; P, under strict instructions to 'behave like a big girl'. We were held at the door for a while as the attendant checked whether she could let a 3 year old in. I tried not to eye-roll at the silliness of having an age restriction on a carol concert. Then we were waved in.
High expectations
It wasn't long till I realized they were right about that age limit. About halfway through the first song, in fact, when P completely lost interest. She'd been pretty into it when we first entered the auditorium, all wide eyed at the space and excited when the choristers came in singing their hearts out. But her enthusiasm lasted all of two minutes. For the next forty, I tried and failed to amuse her quietly. She perked up a bit for Rudolph, but apart from that it was pretty much a disaster. P wasn't being naughty. She was just bored. Like, I suppose I had to admit, any normal three year old would be. And seemed to be most noisy - rustling, kicking the panelling, whispering - during the quietest parts of the carols. I never realized how noisy crayons could be till P started scribbling furiously in the hushed moments between phrases of In the Bleak Midwinter.

A low point, about three songs in

Decorating the programme got old really quickly
 So, yes, I was the idiot who ruined every else's civilized, festive concert with an unruly infant.

I aimed to salvage our fun day of culture by walking to Grand Central Market to meet TLOML. P had a little fancy chocolate petit four from Valerie, while TLOML devoured a Bel Campo burger, and I enjoyed the peaceful sensation that comes from being in a very noisy place and not having to worry about my child's behaviour. P was, now, quiet anyway - enraptured by her cake, and the Klezmer band who were playing in the market that day.
The highlight of P's day

That night P talked to her grandmother. 'Tell grandmama what you did today,' I prompted, hoping she'd talk about the concert, or maybe the park, or the market. 'I had a chocolate cake', she said proudly. 'Right. And what else?' 'Oh yes!' she said, 'I had a cake pop too!'.

At which point, I thought I might put the enriching cultural experiences on ice for a year or two. I'll try again when she's six.