Wednesday, 31 October 2012

happy halloween...

Pumpkin coffee table display- laziest decorations ever

Happy Halloween from a city that is singularly obsessed with cobwebs and gravestones, even though it has the scariest real-life spiders and biggest webs I've ever encountered. The library staff were excellently dressed up today, with the 'axe through the head, blood ALL over her' lady winning the prize for making a small child cry. kudos for your commitment! 

Having been staggeringly unwell for the last few days (a seriously scary sight) I am celebrating by keeping down solid food and attempting to clean my house. I will further celebrate later by going to Target and buying loads of candy on sale. 


Sunday, 28 October 2012

tastes like home...

This weekend has been a bit of a washout. Thankfully I had a lot of fun at the start thanks to skyping my whole class at their grad ball, which was nuts but lovely and made me feel so special and loved (thanks girls)
my gorgeous girls rebecca and jenny. pic taken by the lovely sandy

Husband and I went out a few times for drinks to celebrate my graduating and being an actual, official, Bachelor of Nursing (Child Health) with distinction, but I was a little sad I missed graduation and the ball. 

We also got to skype the bulk of our group of friends who were  having a weekend together in London. It was hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure. The homesickness was a big crashing wave that left a flood in it's wake. We bobbed along in it for most of the afternoon. I missed laughing like that. I missed hearing the stories, feeling absolutely comfortable with those around me. They swore too much, were all drunk and I realised how sensible and quiet out lives are here. I want to curse like a sailor and drink gin and gossip about people we know. 

Perfect afternoon with friends- Connect music festival, 2007.

I've been surprised how easy it's been to mostly hang out with husband. We have really good fun together. But I miss the drunken chat. The screaching laughter. The shouting at one another and debating politics and life and everything else. I miss having a group of friends we both just slot in to, no effort required. An old friend of husband's from his uni days is arriving for 36 hours on Thursday. I can't wait.

I've been ill since Saturday. I have the cold and have been super nauseous with it (not that unusual for me). I've been pathetic and napped a lot and been struggling to eat much. I got some amazing chicken noodle soup for lunch which husband decreed 'tasted like home'. We debated for ages what exactly about the soup tasted like home, and we decided it was the cooked carrots. Cooked carrots taste like home. There's a sentence I never thought I'd say.

Friday, 26 October 2012

lazy weekend LA style...

As the title suggests, this weekend was a lazy one. Husband had a really long work-week, and we've travelled a whole lot the last few weeks. Saturday we went to the local mall. The local mall is just a boring, bog-standard mall. I love it because it makes me feel like a local. There is not a tourist in sight. We wandered around and bought a few things and I obsessed over the doggies the local shelter brings to a shop in the centre. We're not allowed a dog according to our landlord, but I want one rather desperately. I fell in love with an 8-year-old Australian Cattledog called Murphy. Unfortunately I had to leave him there. Horrible.

I finally drove on the road. It was terrifying and a bit exciting and I only ran through one stop sign, which I'm taking as a victory. Husband is actually a very good teacher. I'm trying to be a good student, even though I want to have a big strop when he criticises me, since he's actually trying to ensure I don't kill us both. I probably won't, but only time will tell...

We also discovered something of an LA institution- the Farmer's Market at The Grove. It's been running since 1934, so we're hardly the first people to go, but I had the best brazillian BBQ, wandered around the petting zoo and cow lasso-ing areas set up for their fall festival and watched a rather terrifying scarecrow try to convince people to enter the pie eating contest. It's probably best to let the people of the LA County Fair explain why events like this are important in this city... 

Personally I think the slur on Blondes in the uploader's title is a little unfair. Brunettes in LA can also be this... rurally challenged.

There are, alas, no pictures of this since I left the memory card of our camera IN my computer, but we had a gorgeous afternoon. The weather was starting to cool a bit, so being outside was pleasant. Not to worry though, temperature's to be back up in the 30s for this weekend...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Agatha Christie Challenge...

I really want to post pictures of our awesome weekend trip to Big Bear Lake, in the Californian Mountains, but they are all on husband's macbook, so it'll have to wait.  Instead, I am today honouring the rather marvellous people at the City of Los Angeles Public Library. Yesterday, the city council did something rather wonderful, reinstating longer opening hours that had been part of the panic budget cuts to save the state from going bankrupt.  The eternal politics student in me knows that this is not quite so simple as it appears, but I still think it's a cause to celebrate when public services here are, quite frankly, grim.

With that in mind, I've set myself a reading challenge, since I have 1,000,000 hours to kill. I'm going to read all of Agatha Christie's books.Why Christie? Firstly, it makes me think of autumn. I had a long conversation with my friend Hilary about why LA goes nuts for holiday celebrations. There are Halloween decorations EVERYWHERE. Every home, every business. When I went to get my driving permit, the DMV had a halloween display of a car crash with a dummy from the LA County Coroner's Office in the middle of it (photography was, unfortunately, banned.) We agreed that this overt display of holiday cheer is a desperate attempt to confirm that time is in fact passing. It is 28 degrees here today. As husband and I like to say to one another, 'it's another beautiful day in southern california.' It is always another beautiful day. There is no sense that it is not summer any more. Instead of pumpkins, spiders and candy, I'm choosing Christie.

Source- HarperCollins

The second reason is the Westwood branch of the library has hundreds of them, and I've read quite a few new ones in the last few weeks, and the ones I've read have been non-Poirot or Marple ones. These are some of my favourites.

Here's the list. There are a LOT. I'm hoping to have it done by the time summer rolls around. some I've read before, but it's hard to be certain what I've read and what I've seen on TV. They can be very different. A fair few of the Marple's are actually stand alone stories adapted for TV, as there are not that many stories featuring Miss Marple. Anyway, the list...

1920 The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Poirot)
1922 The Secret Adversary
1923 The Murder on the Links ( Poirot)
1924 The Man in the Brown Suit
1925 The Secret of Chimneys
1926 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Poirot)
1927 The Big Four (Poirot)
1928 The Mystery of the Blue Train (Poirot)
1929 The Seven Dials Mystery
1930 The Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple)
1931 The Sittaford Mystery
1932 Peril at End House (Poirot)
1933 Lord Edgware Dies* (Poirot)
1934 Murder on the Orient Express* (Poirot)
1934 Why Didn't They Ask Evans?*
1935 Three Act Tragedy* (Poirot)
1935 Death in the Clouds* (Poirot)
1936 The A.B.C. Murders * (Poirot)
1936 Murder in Mesopotamia (Poirot)
1936 Cards on the Table (Poirot)
1937 Dumb Witness* (Poirot)
1937 Death on the Nile (Poirot)
1938 Appointment with Death (Poirot)
1938 Murder for Christmas* (Poirot)
1939 Murder is Easy
1939 And Then There Were None*
1940 Sad Cypress (Poirot)
1940 One, Two, Buckle My Shoe* (Poirot)
1941 Evil Under the Sun (Poirot)
1941 N or M?
1942 The Body in the Library (Miss Marple)
1942 Five Little Pigs* (Poirot)
1942 The Moving Finger* (Miss Marple)
1944 Towards Zero
1944 Death Comes as the End
1945 Sparkling Cyanide*
1946 The Hollow* (Poirot)
1948 Taken at the Flood* (Poirot)
1949 Crooked House
1950 A Murder is Announced (Miss Marple)
1951 They Came to Baghdad
1952 Mrs McGinty's Dead* ( Poirot)
1952 They Do It with Mirrors* (Miss Marple)
1953 After the Funeral (Poirot)
1953 A Pocket Full of Rye ( Miss Marple
1954 Destination Unknown*
1955 Hickory Dickory Dock* (Poirot)
1956 Dead Man's Folly (Poirot)
1957 4.50 from Paddington*  (Miss Marple)
1958 Ordeal by Innocence
1959 Cat Among the Pigeons (Poirot)
1961 The Pale Horse (Insp Lejeune)
1962 The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side * (Miss Marple)
1963 The Clocks (Poirot)
1964 A Caribbean Mystery (Miss Marple)
1965 At Bertram's Hotel (Miss Marple)
1966 Third Girl (Poirot)
1967 Endless Night 

1968 By the Pricking of My Thumbs
1969 Hallowe'en Party (Poirot)
1970 Passenger to Frankfurt
1971 Nemesis (Miss Marple)
1972 Elephants Can Remember (Poirot)
1973 Postern of Fate
1975 Curtain Poirot's 'last' case (but written in the 1930s)
1976 Sleeping Murder Miss Marple's 'last' case (also written in the 30s)

(courtesy of the Agatha Christie Facebook Page. I don't have the energy to type them all out myself...)

The stars indicate alternative titles, for example I have just finished 'And then there were none', which used to be called Ten Little Indians. The reason for that particular change is, I hope, rather obvious. So this is the challenge. I have a pile to read just now, shall be back to update soon...

Monday, 8 October 2012

Late Nights and Early Mornings...

We were really busy this weekend. Properly, old-fashioned busy. Friday night drinks with husband's work colleagues, where I had to speak extra slowly because they were all convinced they wouldn't understand me. Two (american) pints in I'm not sure they could, but I had stopped caring.  

Saturday we drove for an hour and a half through a lunar landscape to Santa Barbara, a town I've heard so much about but hadn't made it to yet. It didn't disappoint. From the beautiful pier, green-y turquoise sea to the Spanish style architecture in every single building, it was heavenly. There was a man on a skateboard being pulled along by two Labradors down the main street. A lady locked in the toilet when the handle fell off in her hand, proving looks can be deceiving, because the bathroom was really fancy. Little Toppers bobbing in the ocean, following their leader. Seagulls and Pelicans and a water taxi called 'Little Toot'. It was marvellous. It was still warm, even though the weather man said it is finally starting to cool down. I had a mint choc chip ice cream on the pier.

How do you follow an idyllic afternoon like this? Ikea. Ikea in Burbank, to be specific. If you are a Greater Los Angeles Ikea afficienado, like me, you will know this is the WORST one. It may be the worst Ikea in the world. It has no car park. You have to park 5 minutes walk away, meaning the loading area is some sort of apocalyptic warzone of trollies, trucks and despair. We were barely speaking to each other by the time we got home. This is standard for our trips to Ikea Burbank.

Husband had to work this morning, so went and sat by the pool with his laptop. I built the things we bought in Ikea, drank coffee and listened to my music up loud. Shopping followed, lots of it, then my least favourite part of the week- a driving lesson with husband. I'm no good at driving. I wish I were, but I am terrified and angry at myself the entire time. I've not made it out of the empty car park at the end of the street yet. Today it wasn't so empty because there was a big Romney/Ryan rally outside the Federal Building next door, and it was the first time I wasn't scared because the thought of hitting a few of them cheered me right up. 

It's now 1.30 in the morning and everyone from home is getting up, heading in to work and starting their day. This causes me untold confusion, sort of like jet-lag, because I think I'll miss out if I go to bed. The house is still very much alive. The waterfall outside gushes on, the pool is still lit up like christmas, the fan still whirls around, buzzing gently as it goes. It's never quiet here. I think that's why I love it.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Hollywood living...

I am positively giddy with glee at the prospect of telling you this astonishingly true story. It is SO Hollywood, and nothing Hollywood ever happens in Westwood, which is full of sun-worshipping academics, a strange breed that reads hefty books about the Korean War in swimwear.

It was super hot again today (35 degrees) so I sat by the pool waiting for my laundry to finish. A blonde lady I’ve seen a few times on the loungers appeared. She is probably in her 40s, but is so plastic it’s a bit hard to tell. She dresses like she’s 13 and it is 1989- the ‘stacey’ fluffy blond perm, TEENY floral bikini, tiny whitewash denim cut-offs and sugar pink lipstick. This is fairly entertaining to start with. It is made all the more entertaining by the fact I have a partner in crime, Elise, a newly qualified nurse who lives 3 doors down and is from Chicago and also thinks LA is a little bit ridiculous.

The lady blasts teeny-bopper music out of her iphone. This makes Elise and I snigger behind Instyle magazine. She sings along, slightly off key, at the top of her voice. She dances along too, wiggling her limbs disturbingly as she sunbathes on her back with a bright pink towel over her face. Every so often she exclaims ‘Girls, it is SO HOT, why is it so hot in October?’ We agree that it is indeed very hot, and sadly we do not know why.

She bolts upright, then starts making a call. That is when things got really ridiculous. She starts talking a mile a minute, telling the poor recipient how great his body was. Elise and I catch each other’s eye, then bury our heads in our magazines, scared we will actually laugh out loud this time. The point of the call quickly becomes apparent- “Dale, I want you back in movies. It’s time. I have a great part for you, only thing, they want you to be butt-naked.” Elise and I look at each other, eyes popping out of our head. “No, no, honey, just your back-butt. Back-butt naked.” Elise and I are now shaking with silent laughter. “It’s a love scene. You’re a yoga instructor. It’s perfect.” I mouth ‘what the hell?!’ to Elise, she shrugs, still struggling not to laugh out loud. Dale the yoga instructor agrees to be back-butt naked in the movie and she hangs up. ‘Girls, I’m an agent. He will be great. It’s a LOVE scene. He’s a YOGA INSTRUCTOR” (I still have no idea why these two things are related…)”You girls know what I love? To make money!!” She wiggles around in a sort of dance again, singing loudly about plastic bags in the wind along with Katy Perry. “OOHH! He sent me back-butt pictures for the casting agent. Want to see?!”

Elise and I quietly say ‘No thanks…’ to scared to look at each other or directly at her. The bouncy lady decides it’s time to go inside. “Darling girls, it is TOO HOT for October. I’m gonna shower. I had so much fun with you!!” She wiggles herself back into her little cut-offs and sashays down the stairs. We wait until we see her cross the courtyard before descending into helpless, uncontrollable laughter. ‘This city is weird’ Elise says to me. She is right.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Beautifully lit moments.

My life happens in beautifully lit moments. Everything in LA is perfectly lit. It's the reason the movie industry moved here from New York in the days of silent film. It washes everything with a glow that makes it feel a little surreal.

Today, Mrs Martinez from the 3rd floor told me it was 110 degrees in the courtyard of our apartment complex today. That is HOT, even for here. “I watched you jump in the pool and I wished I could still jump.” Then the elevator pinged and she smiled at me and wandered out with her laundry basket, the usual call of ‘have a nice evening’ trailing back to me.

One day I cried for a full hour because I had read a tweet plugging ‘The big fat quiz of the 80s’. I wanted to watch it SO MUCH. Not because it was funny or because I cared who was on it or even because I loved the 80s (I wasn’t born til a few years in), but I wanted to watch something that connected me to my history. I wanted effortless pop culture cues and shared collective experience. I always feel a few moments behind the joke here…

I was sitting beside the pool, sewing a cushion cover. The turtles that live in the pond were on the patio next me. The biggest one watched me the whole time. He jumped back in to the water as soon as I finished, he must’ve wanted to be sure I’d get it done.

I have not long arrived in the US, and I am determined to wear beautiful flowing clothes like a cool, calm and collected indie princess. I would swan around the house in a flowing striped maxi skirt and sparkly anthropologie belt. I felt like one of the girls you see on blogs, with red lipstick and perfect tortoise shell glasses. Unfortunately, life still happens when you are beautifully dressed. I’m not sure if you have ever tried to change king size bed sheets in a maxi skirt, but let me offer you this advice- don’t. Especially not in 30 degree heat. This will always be known as the day I changed the sheets in my underwear, unaware that the team of landscapers were at the window. Moving away does not, unfortunately, change who you are.