Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The January Booklist...

January was a semi-busy book month. I've noticed that I have become even more of a book binger. 4 of the 7 books here were read in one sitting. 

Sarah Dessen- Dreamlands
Meg Cabot- Size 12 and Ready to Rock
Agatha Christie- The Regatta Mystery and other stories
Nora Ephron- I feel bad about my neck
Sheila Heti- How should a person be?
Paul Lieberman- Gangster Squad
Julia Glass- Three Junes

The Best:

A two way tie between Nora Ephron and Julia Glass. 

This was my first Nora Ephron, and it was just heavenly. It was wet and cold outside, and I sat on the sofa under a blanket with a pot of coffee and the cat curled up next to me (not biting my arm for once...) Hilarious, moving and completely relatable stories about growing older. 

The Julia Glass was a total surprise. A family saga-ish book that tackled infidelity, the AIDS crisis in New York in the 1980s, the Lockerbie bombing, infertility and feeling the odd one out in your own family. To name a few. I literally sobbed through parts. It was just brilliant. Highly recommend it

The Worst:

Sheila Heti. I was SO looking forward to this one, but the characters were just ghastly. I gave up half way through. Maybe its my natural aversion to New York or London 'creative' types, but the conviction that they are all so cool just made it unreadable. I couldn't have cared less about any of them. So disappointing.

The Ongoing:

Still working on Gangster Squad. Loved the movie, and the book is just fascinating. It is also staggeringly long...

ps. I have added a seperate page (see the tab at the top) for the Agatha Christie Book Challenge. Still working on away on it!

Monday, 28 January 2013


I've been determined to look a bit more Californian. Sun-kissed, laid-back, easy-breezy. No one (outside Beverly Hills) tries too hard here, it's about looking like you are on a permanent vacation. Lucky for me, I am. The quickest and easiest thing way to achieve this is to live in jeans (or shorts) a t shirt and flip flops. Check-I'm managing that one just fine. Secondly, hair is big here. Wavy, wild and unkempt. Double check. I've never been a massive friend of the hairbrush, and I was staggeringly unsuccessful with anti-frizz products at home, never mind adding heat and humidity to the mix. 

Large, long, unkempt, dark hair

So all that being said, the next stage was 'sun-kissed'. Highlights are too high maintenance, and I'm far too cheap to stay on top of them. I was loving the Ombre look, so decision made dead easily.  It also has to be DIY all the way, since I don't have $200 to shell out. So I made husband drive me to the big Target in Culver City, about 15 minutes from our house to buy this kit. It was super easy, I deliberately went pretty easy on it, as I had no idea what the end result would look like and I didn't want it to be too uneven or bright (although the advantage of Ombre and super long hair means if it was a disaster I could just cut it off...)

Half way through...

In the end it was really easy and I decided that I would only leave it a wee while- I wanted a kind of auburn colour rather than blonde. I'm pretty chuffed with the results. My favourite bit of it all is that the summer sun will do the rest of the work- no more smelly chemicals!

Mad 'slept with it wet in a messy bun' hair...
Yay for experiments!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A very feminist rant

Nothing has inspired more rage in me recently than this piece by the BBC. This is not necessarily going to be a particularly popular post, as most of my family and my oldest friends from home are anti-abortion, but this kind of thing makes me SO ANGRY.

Firstly, the fact that anyone thinks it is acceptable to question a stranger on their way in to a medical building is absolutely abhorrent to me. The picketing of abortion clinics is one of the most obnoxious things you can do. Whilst free speech is vital to a healthy democracy, the cost of that is taking responsibility for the impact your words have. Does anyone really think that harassing a woman outside the clinic is likely to change her mind? It is nothing other than bullying to cause shame and guilt, something that already abounds in the situation. It is not helpful, constructive or likely to result in anything other than anger. 

My main issue with the anti-abortion movement is the fact that the people who legislate against abortion also legislate against welfare and benefits. I do not think anyone can claim to be 'pro-life' who then actively attempts to prevent those deep in poverty from maintaining the most basic standard of living. To me, it would seem obvious that if you want a woman to become a mother rather than have a termination then ensuring financial stability would be the first step. Instead, the anti-abortion movement in the US asks woman to become a mother, and completely self-sufficient financially at the same time. Mississippi has a high unemployment rate (9.1% compared to the national average of 7.8% across the US.) In some of the counties, the unemployment rate sits as high as 18.4% (source) Finding employment whilst pregnant is near impossible.  

For a woman with no financial security, remaining pregnant with no welfare to fall back on is astonishingly difficult. I'm so lucky that I will never have to make these kinds of decisions, but people do, and legislating abortion clinics into oblivion is irresponsible in my opinion. Instead, terminations in Mississippi and the other states (North Dakota, South Dakota and Arkansas) with only one remaining abortion clinic are actively trying to prevent safe, legal abortions are doing a disservice to woman. The rich will be able to afford to travel out of state, the most vulnerable will be forced to look for illegal, unregulated and unsafe options, or to have children they cannot care for and do not want.. 

The fact that these laws continually hit the poorest in society reeks of elitism, exactly the type of government right-wing citizens complain loudly about. Essentially, the right-wing in Mississippi is dictating the options for the most disenfranchised. Those with money and mobility are exempt. Injustice makes me angry. Injustice perpetrated by those with a 'righteous' agenda and sense of moral superiority angers me the most. The fact this has essentially been undertaken by stealth angers me the most. There has been no referendum or outright vote on banning abortions, which would be unconstitutional under Roe vs Wade. Instead, small changes to operating legislation have made it near impossible for clinics to operate. This is dishonest, plain and simple.  

I'm going to go and have a coffee to calm down, and be thankful I don't have to make these kind of decisions. I'd love to know what you think...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Final Frontiers...

This happened when we first moved to LA. Unfortunately it was no where near our house, was during the work-day and, rather obviously, caused traffic to come to an absolute standstill, so there was no chance of seeing it. Husband was DEVASTATED to have missed it, so on Saturday we booked a time-slot to go and see the shuttle Endeavour.

I'm not particularly interested in space. Growing up, my dad was a massive fan and I had watched 'The Right Stuff' and every documentary made about the Apollo missions. On the anniversary of the moon landings, husband and I watched the whole BBC4 night of Space-TV. I know a bit about it, but the thought of going to wander round the outside of what is essentially a giant plane didn't hold any fascination. I ended up being seriously impressed.

Space shuttle. Those aren't windows. I thought they were.
The documentary they show right at the start was incredibly moving. The sheer grit determination it took to drive a space shuttle through the streets of LA was staggering. I couldn't help but imagine how the organisers planned the route, making arrangements to temporarily take down power lines, shaving branches from trees and otherwise making tiny but vital decisions. The whole thing was remote controlled- imagine being the guy that remote-control drove a space ship past a McDonald's in South Central LA? As if to demonstate the full impact this had on the community, we were waiting behind a dad with his two girls in the queue, and he was positively giddy with excitement. The older girl- maybe 12 years old- was desperately scanning the mission crew photos to find a picture of Dr Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. She talked excitedly of the doctor's work in the Peace Corps and how she was an astronaut AND a doctor. Looking with her dad, she found her in STS-47.

Schools in south LA went out en-masse to see the shuttle, either passing overhead strapped to the back of a plane of lining the streets outside to watch as it snaked through the city. The legacy of that is a young woman completely inspired by what she had learned, a father encouraging her and a family bonding. It was incredible. I can only dream that we will be parents like that. Sadly, we lost sight of them, so I'll never know her reaction when she entered the 'space shed' to see the shuttle. I hope the others around her appreciated her excitement.

The shuttle was amazing. Really, truly, astonishingly incredible. It is a bit grubby. Some of the tiles were cracked. It was somehow simultaneously fancier and simpler than I expected it to be. I was completely overwhelmed by the capacity of man to create something that can reach space. That in the 1960s, before the internet, cell phones, DVRs or even a decent dishwasher, we not only sent men to the moon but brought them back again. Seeing the shuttle really brought all that home. My husband was blown away. In a fit of ill-thought out decision making, he studied aeronautical engineering as his 'elective' subject during his Masters at Georgia Tech. He said he didn't understand a word of it, but couldn't turn down the opportunity to learn what astronauts do. Given access to a rocket ship, he was like a 5 year old hopped up on candy. 

Tile damage. This thing has ACTUALLY been to SPACE.
The rest of the science museum was brilliant as well. It was fun, a good mix of kids activities and interesting facts and just generally awesome. Unlike every other museum in LA, it is free to get in. It's in a pretty crappy part of town. I love that there is free access to science and learning for these kids. The down side to this is that instead of the museum cafe, there is a McDonalds. Husband and I talked about this for ages. On the one hand, I am appalled by this. Corporate greed, the fact parents cannot escape trashy food and obnoxious marketing, how unhealthy fast food is.

This time, however, I'm ok with it. All of the above complaints are true. Parents shouldn't feel strong-armed into a Happy Meal. But museums in LA are so expensive- it's $12 for an adult to go into the National History Museum across the park, pushing it out of the price-range of many local families. California is bankrupt, they have reduced the school week in LA County in order to balance the books. Science funding in schools is virtually non-existent. If the replacement of the cafe with a corporate sponsor enables the museum to provide free entry, then to me, in this instance, I won't have a hissy fit.  But just this once...

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Moving forward

Mostly, this blog post is way to avoid all the housework I have to do, the CV I need to work on and the kitty-litter I need to change, but I also felt it brewing inside me, like it was going to bubble up and spill over if I didn't get it out, making a colossal mess. 

I have cried with envy on 3 separate occassions this christmas. All at pregnancy announcements. I am so angry at myself for letting it bother me. I didn't want to be that person, I didn't want to begrudge anyone else happiness because I've had some crappy luck. So many of my friends are pregnant at the moment, and I am thrilled for them and I don't even think twice about it. The bump pics on facebook are lovely to see, and I am so excited to be part of their lives. But those announcements this last week- wow. 

None of them were by close friends, more acquaintances. I'm not quite sure how they impacts on it all, but it is certainly a factor. I want to shout how unfair it is, how this should be me with the 'happy new year, especially for us since...' type announcement, not the girl who hasn't finished uni yet and with the boyfriend living in another city.  When I am feeling rational and calm and full of tea instead of wine, I feel guilty and rather ashamed of myself for feeling jealous or envious or angry or annoyed or whatever it is that boils over in hot, angry tears quickly brushed away. 

The really odd thing about the envy is that we're not 'trying again' as everyone politely puts it. We will, at some point, but for now it's on hold. I want to get a job. I would personally feel dishonest starting a job pregnant and wouldn't be able to find one if I was honest about it. So it has to wait. We're both really ok with this decision. We discussed it for a long time, and it was the right thing to do. I LOVED my boozy christmas (although I'm not sure my liver did...) and I am very much enjoying our rather selfish lifestyle at the moment. (I'm not sure exactly how much bearing the fact that pregnancy will mean husband will have to change the cat litter instead of me had on his feelings, but I suspect pretty high.) This is definitely the best course of action.

That is the duality of man, I suppose, cursed to never really be fully content with what you have, but rather to seek that greener grass. I'm sure it will pass. These things always do. I wanted to write it out in an attempt to normalise it a bit further. I found some amazing blog posts written by others when I was struggling, and it made such a difference to me knowing I wasn't alone. I read a few miscarriage forums, and they are really dark places. I have never felt the way most of the way those ladies felt. I didn't 'lo(o)se my angel', rather had a pregnancy end. I don't feel the need to have a winged, fluttering avatar marking time, or curse those 'awful' people who had the indecency to not read my mind but rather used some-what tired platitudes that, to me, show how desperately someone is trying to say the right thing. But some lovely, honest, hope-filled blog posts by some talented writers made me feel like things would get better. They are better. Every day they improve a little more. So on the first proper day of 2013, after the chocolate is finished and I'm contemplating taking down the Christmas tree, I'm feeling pretty good. I'll feel even better after another cup of tea. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year (finally...)

Every time I think I've experienced the strangest thing California has to offer, something appears to surprise me. This time, it was being the last large population to experience New Year. The time-difference is a perpetual source of irritation to us and our families- it's particularly tough with our 6 year old niece and 3 year old nephew- by the time we get up it is bed time for them. Arranging phone calls and skype dates is seriously tough. 

Sunset at the South Bay. My first ever Whale spotting.
When it comes to New Year, it adds a new level of weird. It hit New Year in Scotland at 4pm our time. It was awesome. I got lots of texts and messages from friends and family. My brother phoned me, somewhat worse for wear, to hear the fireworks in Edinburgh (this meant I couldn't hear a word he said, but the thought was appreciated!) We had a big skype chat with our friends who were having a party. The down side started about 6pm, however, when we were still 6 hours away from the bells here and were all New Year'd out. We've both been battling some sort of cold/flu bug. We watched some of a Star Wars marathon, a few episodes of Family Guy, an episode of Lewis on Amazon Prime and then we went to bed. I heard our neighbours shouting 'Happy New Year' with tooting horns shortly after brushing my teeth, whilst I was having a pee. There was fireworks that caused the cat to have a nightmare of a night, scratching down our bedroom door to get in. We were cuddled up in our duvet for the coldest night since 1973, safe from parties and entertainment.

2012 was a mental year for both of us. We argued the most we have EVER on the 1st of January, stress finally getting to us. I officially moved into our Edinburgh flat that day- the first of 5 moves I made in 2012. I am FED UP of moving house. We got married on the 7th of January. Husband went to Holland for a week on the 13th, I was back on night shift the same time. By the end of February I was in North Carolina for 2 weeks, April we came to LA for a week to decide if we wanted to move out here. By May we knew we would, and started the process of emigrating. This co-incided perfectly with the start of my management placement, or the last three months of my degree where my competence is decided. We moved out of our house in July, Husband moved to California and I stayed with my brother's wonderful girlfriend. I finished my degree with a bang (or rather, being first on the scene of a ward emergency, the first time in my whole degree that ever happened to me). I went home for a week, sat my last ever exam then flew half way around the world. We moved into our apartment in September, discovered I was pregnant in October, and then miscarried in November. December has been Joan, Christmas and recovery. 

Griffith Park and Christmas sunglasses (white blob in the background is the Hollywood sign)
I would argue this is TOO MANY things for one year. Just too many. I would like 2013 to be quieter, calmer and more settled. When it comes to resolutions, I have made a few, none of them too radical. Firstly, I resolve not to move house. Not even once. Last week we extended our lease by a year. This means that in 2013 I will not move house at all. I am so excited about this. 

I would like to improve my cooking, something I made some serious headway on at Christmas alone, but last week I made the best mac and cheese I've ever eaten (yeah mum, I went there. Sorry, I out-did you.) I am going to continue to make interesting yummy things instead of super noodles (or Ramen, as they are known here.) 

I would like to get better at sewing. Thanks to a sudden increase in time, I have made everything from baby blankets as gifts to sewing my own cushions for the living room. I have a ton of fabric and spent some Christmas money on a rotary cutter to make my edges sharper and I can't wait to get started. 

In direct opposition to having lots of time to sew,I would like to get myself a job. I FINALLY have a social security number and authorisation to work, so the search starts in earnest as of tomorrow, when husband goes back to work. 

Santa Monica Pier at Sunset
Finally, I want to take more pictures. Almost all the pictures I put on this blog are husband's. He is so good at making sure we have the camera, getting it out and documenting the cool things we get to see whilst we're here. I should really get better at it too. 

Any resolutions? I would love to hear how you are going to make 2013 a good year. And if your resolution is to travel more, our sofa is always free!