Friday, 30 March 2007

And the winner is ...

We've made a couple of lists of things we enjoy about being here, and the things about Australia that we really miss.

First, the things I miss:

• You guys!
And Marnie, Simon and Mack.
Clean, empty beaches - with no footprints on the sand, and when the sea is that clear turquoise. Cate sent me this pic (below) of the beach at Eagle Bay - and I just love it.

• Kookaburras, parrots, magpies and mourning doves.
• Rokeby Road
• Clean air

Dave misses:
• The smell of plants - especially eucalyptus. You can't smell it here, though there are eucalypts all over the place
• The dawn chorus of birdsong
• The Southern Cross at night
• Absolutely everything to do with footy, all week, every team, every sports column inch, every radio talkback show, absolutely everything.

We both miss:
• Being among the people we love - our 'support network' is so very, very far away!

• Silence - you have no idea how much background noise there is here. Planes, helicopters, freeways in the distance, cars everywhere. Dave reckons that when he was back in Subi in January, the silence was astonishing.
• Australian efficiency, particularly when it comes to things like banking, or insurance - and health insurance. Sometimes the systems here are so big, and have become so complicated, that even people working in them can't explain what's going on. And often the systems seem incredibly old-fashioned - lots of paper. People still send faxes!
• The ABC in all its manifestations. And Kerry O'Brien, Margaret Throsby, Triple J, radio news, and evening news on the telly. PBS doesn't come close - while earnest, and good in parts, it's also old-fashioned. And while we're on the subject - we miss decent, news and current affairs shows that aren't pushing agendas. We know Aunty gets slagged for its leftist leanings, but honestly - that's nothing to what goes to air here.
• Simple pleasures: decent bread, butter, bacon, chocolate, Madura tea, Vittoria coffee, tomato sauce, apple and guava juice, good lollies - especially mints ...

And these are some of the things I love about living here:

• That the Barnes & Noble store in our local shopping centre is open every day from 10am to 10pm, and it's good.

• The postal system. I love buying stamps online and having them delivered to my mailbox, and I can post things in my own mailbox too!
• The shopping. From Marshall's discount stores to the suavest, glossiest boutiques on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and all the Mexican stuff.
• Hummingbirds.

Dave loves:

• Showing San Diego to people from home.

• Being able to tell people here all about Australia.

Will loves:
• The sheer number and range of prestige and super-cars - 'cars from the royal family' as he puts it.
Above: A very fancy tangerine Porsche and a silver McLaren Mercedes, parked in Rodeo Drive. Will reckons there's over a million dollars' worth just in these two! Madness! You should have heard the noise when the orange one took off!

Lily loves:

• 'The forest of the Pacific North West, where I live. I can't imagine living without the forest, and after a shitty day being able to walk through the trees to the beach (see all the pics on the Flick'r badge on the right of this blog).'
• 'That the idea of a hippy state really exists here - and that I live in one. Washington and Vermont are the two big hippy states.'
• 'Being able to see great touring bands - tickets here are about $15 rather than $70 or $80 back home. If you pay $20, that's expensive. I paid $120 for a Sasquatch Music Festival ticket and half the bands are headliners, like Bjork, and the Beastie Boys. It's on for two days next month, at a place called the Gorge, in George - that's George as in Washington!'

We all love:

• The climate - no extreme Aussie-style summers.

• Feeling that we are part of the world. (Lily adds here that she loves the fact that there's this enormous continent and you can get in your car and drive anywhere and everywhere - plus she loves being an hour out of Mexico when she's in San Diego, and three hours out of Canada when she's at college.)
• The fabulous landscape here - canyons, hills, and seeing mountains in the distance.

• Mobility - the freeways and the ease of getting about. The freeway system is amazing, and it works - okay, there are snarls, but it is also brilliantly designed and engineered, and I love it.
• Cheap fares within the US, and cheap fares ($232 to London return I saw this week) to the rest of the world are a thrill.

• Cheap subscriptions to fabulous magazines: Dave gets the New Yorker for 95 cents an issue; we get Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest, Esquire ... and they cost next to nothing if you subscribe.
• Everything about baseball!
• Live entertainment - last year we went to about 16 concerts, from Jerry Seinfeld doing stand-up to Steely Dan. Just wonderful.
• That Hollywood is just up the road, so world entertainment news is local news, reported well and articulately. The 'Calendar' lift-out in the LA Times runs an incredible list of phenomenal shows - more than you can take in. The entertainment reporting, unlike the day-to-day current affairs, is often brilliant, with great reviews and interviews.
• The friendliness of the Californians.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Snowbunnies in action!

Click on the word SNOW for a glimpse of our future downhill champions.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Off to the mountains ...

It's getting near the end of the ski season, and the snow is far too soft and mushy for Dave and me to take to the slopes with our usual ease and grace (!), but on this lovely sunny Sunday morning, we got up early and drove about two and a half hours north-east, to Big Bear Resort in the San Bernadino Mountains, out the back (east) of Los Angeles. That's me at the wheel of my fabulous Freestyle (above), and we had the roof open. Don't forget you can click on the pictures to see bigger versions.

:: Once we were off the big freeway and the road started to climb, we stopped for brekkie at the country cabin pictured above: coffee and magnificent BLTs served with a big spoonful of sauteed potatoes - yum.

:: Above: Lily was in her pyjamas still, and Will in his trackies, but hey! They didn't care! That's Julian on the left, one of the Bondi partners. He was taking a couple of Australian friends snowboarding — they know how to do it, and even have the right gear!

:: Julian took this pic (above) of the four of us at the entrance to the resort. Apart from Will, who went to Mt Hotham for the annual Christ Church Year 7 ski trip, none of us had ever been to a ski resort before, but we quickly discovered, that, like everything in this country, it is brilliantly organised, with easy, free parking, lots of chair-lifts to clearly designated slopes, classes for everyone from tiny-tots to geriatrics like Dave and me, and loads of fun.

:: We don't have any real snow gear - though Will is in his very classy snowboarding jacket that was a birthday present from Dace and family , and Lily is in a jacket she found in Randy's cupboard at our place - but we were able to hire boots and boards.
They wore jeans and got absolutely soaked to the skin. But that didn't seem to worry them in the slightest. I didn't get any good still shots of them actually coming down the slopes because I switched my camera to video. The videos are hysterical! Will got the hang of it and started to pick up speed by the end of the day, and Lily was getting on pretty well too. We were all worried she would sprain or break something (you know how she is!) but she has nothing but a couple of bruised knees!

:: I did get a shot of them at the bottom of the slope before they rushed off back to the chair-lift.

:: It was a pretty warm, sunny day, and the snow was melting fast. The resort makes a lot of its snow at this time of the year, using water from Big Bear Lake (above), at the foot of the mountain.

:: This (above) was a shot from the car as we drove home - gorgeous mountains with just a touch of snow still. The highest point we drove through was just over 7000 feet.
:: Above: The road down was 12 miles of hairpin bends and tight curves - and fantastic views. The tall trees with the 'broken' tops are Douglas firs.

:: It was a fabulous day! See ya!

Saturday, 24 March 2007

It's raining ...

... well, at least, it was yesterday, with two cracks of lightning and a bit of thunder. It was so exciting I had to take a pic of raindrops splashing on the pool surface. I think San Diego has had 2 inches of rain this winter - and the average yearly rainfall along the coast is about 10 inches. So it's quite a treat when it pours!

:: So much of a treat, in fact, that Lily even sat out in it, under the pool umbrella. And she lives in a part of the world where you don't see the sun for days and days because of the cloud cover and the incessant drizzle.
We get so little rain down here that our house doesn't even have gutters, apart from along the bit of roof that is next to the path to the front door, so visitors don't get drenched walking up to the house.

:: Daylight saving came in here a couple of weeks ago and, though it's just a one-hour difference, it has completely thrown me. I have only just started adjusting so we don't eat dinner at 8.30pm.

:: Nothing more to report - Lily's been working hard on a paper for college which is now finished, so she can at last start to unwind.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Gorgeous bunnies ...

:: They don't really celebrate Easter in this country - not, say, like they do Halloween, or Christmas - but there's still an awful lot of Easter-ish stuff about. Like these oh-so tasty, naturally-flavoured and naturally-coloured little bunnies in Ralph's. Yum oh!

:: Dave and I had a day in LA yesterday - he in Santa Monica talking to the immigration lawyers about visas for the new Bondi staff, and I at the LA County Museum of Art.
I was just ever so slightly disappointed by my first visit to this prestigious - and enormous - gallery because there is a massive rebuilding program going on, and the contemporary collection was not accessible.
Still, there was a big exhibition that had opened only a couple of weeks ago, The Art of the Modern West, which was all about representations of Western landscapes, in drawings, prints and paintings and some spectacular early photography. It took in work from the late 1800s to 1950 - which was another little bitty disappointment for me because the stuff I'm really interested in all kinda starts around the 50s. We got right to the edge of my interest zone with a couple of tempting works by Jackson Pollock, but that was it.
That is not to say I didn't spend a lovely hour or two looking at it all - lots of wide open spaces just like there are in Australian landscape art. But many of the American paintings showed skies full of clouds, and valleys with big rivers, and everywhere a general abundance - oh for such a fertile, well-watered continent!

:: This (above) is just a small part of LACMA - the Japanese pavilion, set in beautifully designed and maintained Japanese-style gardens. It was a very cold, rainy, hazy, grey day, as you can see.

:: The museum is right next to the famous La Brea tar pits and their museum - this is just a little prehistoric teaser glimpsed from one of LACMA's walkways.

:: David met me there after his meeting, and we drifted about for a while, looking at room after room of European art from the Middle Ages - then we walked out on to Wilshire Boulevard where, right before our eyes, a movie was being shot! I do love this crazy place!

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Monday at Bondi ...

:: Lily got back last night for almost two weeks of her spring break from college - it's such a shame that Will's spring break isn't until next month. Anyway, as soon as Will got home from school this arvo, the three of us hotfooted it down the 5 to see Dave at the Bondi. Incidentally, we reckon the photo above, taken by Brad, one of our lovely waiters, is probably the best that's ever been taken of the four of us all together!

Will had to take some more food pics (for something that's going in the Union Tribune this week), so Lily and I sat in a trap and had a cup of REAL coffee and a very late lunch.

:: This (above) is our coffee window, opening on to the porch. Perfect for a warm afternoon, or a sunny morning.

:: This (above) is my official birthday portrait! I never thought I'd ever be as old as 53. Dave's looking smug because he's still only 52 - he's got three weeks to enjoy the feeling.

:: Great news about Ben Cousins! Perth must be so proud! And what wonderful news about Chad Fletcher's holiday in Las Vegas! Marvellous! We had a little toast to the glorious, dignified Eagles this evening, during my birthday dinner (we left it until today because Lily didn't make it home in time yesterday).

:: I got the sweetest, cutest, tiny apple-green iPod shuffle for my birthday. I love it SO much! It holds 240 songs - hard to believe from something so light and so minuscule.
I'm having lots of fun with MP3s at the moment - my car has a six-CD player that will play MP3s, and I've made a CD of 110 songs from the 'A to L' section of all the music (1500 pieces) I've collected on my computer. So when I'm driving, I just whack this CD in, click on 'shuffle' and always hear something I love. I have to make one from the 'M to Z' part of the list now.

:: Dave's off to Santa Monica again tomorrow, so I'm going up to LA with him. While he's at his meeting, I'm spending a few hours at the LA County Museum of Art - yum. I'll report on it all later ...

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Begosh 'n' begorrah ...

... and that's all the Irish you'll be getting from me today, though I have to admit, the quilt I'm making for Lily (above) does - quite coincidentally - have a sort-of St Pat's Day air about it. Hmmm.
I have to make 96 of these 'flying geese' blocks for her single bed quilt, and so all the massed triangles look good, I am taking great pains to ensure that all the points and angles and measurements are accurate. So this bit of the process is a little slow.
I am loving it upstairs in my little work-room (Mack's bedroom while he was here), and I have started a couple of other projects up there in the peace and quiet.

:: Yes - it's an afghan rug! And yes, these are old-fashioned grannies. The true retro thang. And it's so much fun making them (and keeps me awake when the telly's on)! I'm a bit worried about the white borders, though - do you reckon, when it's all sewn up, they'll get grubby in a house with teenagers and two dogs?

:: And this is the start of the socks I'm knitting for my dad's birthday. When I told Mum I was knitting socks, I think the words "war effort" sprang into her mind. Anyway, she cracked up and told me, "Yes, that's the sort of thing you start to do when you get to your age!" Cheek!
However, I reminded her that when Dad retired, he said that he wasn't going to wear boring socks for the rest of his life but would be bright and adventurous from then on.
Mum reckons he's mad too.

:: The state of Colorado has adopted John Denver's old, old, old song, Rocky Mountain High, as its official song. But that's only after it got lots and lots of advice and reassurance that it wasn't about taking drugs.

:: David and I went out and about today, exploring parts of downtown San Diego we hadn't been to before. We had in our minds the thought that one day - in a year or so, when Will's finished high school - we'd probably buy somewhere to live rather than shell out $2700 a month to rent the house made out of ticky-tacky that we live in now, way out in the 'burbs.
Our whole immediate neighbourhood is governed by the local Home Owners' Association, right down to the colours the houses can be painted, the way you do the front yard, and even the letterbox you have. So the areas we are looking at are full of houses that are all shapes and sizes, and colours!

And this is what the drive downtown is like from up here:

With all the warm weather we've been having lately, we've been experiencing these thick 'marine layers', dense fogs that waft in from the sea (about a mile to the right of this picture) and hang about until the sun dries it off. This morning's layer did make the freeway look particularly uninviting!

:: Oh - U2 are on the telly - it must be St Pat's Day! I must turn it off before the odious Van Morrison lilts his way into something maudlin.
Dave's gone to check out the crowd in the Gaslamp (including the crowd at the Bondi) and Will's gone to yet another party. So I'm going to warm up some soup, crack open a slab of Ghirardelli's mint chocolate, and watch Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember (thank you, Netflix!).

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Family album ...

:: I thought that some pics of us from the past few months might be in order, so you can catch up with how we've changed (like Will, photographed for his school yearbook, above!), and see what a great time we've been having.
These are all in random order, but scroll away ... and remember to click on them if you want to see bigger versions.

:: Randy (one of Will's school mates), Will and Simon pose it up after bringing in the Christmas tree. I fiddled about with taking the red-eye out of Will, so he's ended up looking rather more demonic than usual. And he's now just over 6'2". Mack's on the floor playing with his cars. I just noticed Yoshi taking a sneaky sniff of Randy's leg!

:: Marnie, Mack and Simon at Disneyland, early January. Here we're on the train that does a big circuit of the Magic Kingdom. Sigh ... I do love it there!

:: On another day at Disneyland, Will and Lily wait for the ride to begin.

:: I finally got to go on the Raiders of the Lost Ark ride with Simon, something I waited ten years to do. It was FAB!

:: Marnie and Mack on a look-out at La Jolla - so beautiful there.

:: This is one of Disneyland's pics of Simon, Lily, Will and Lauren (one of our great waitresses, from Tasmania) on the rollercoaster, California Screamin', which does a 360-degree loop-the-loop. Needless to say, I never go on it!

:: Marnie, Mack and I as the evening draws in at Disneyland and the temperature drops. Mack's crazy about his Buzz Lightyear toy ... but later throws it in the water at California Adventure.

:: Dave and Les at the world's best lolly store, at Julian, a tiny town up in the mountains. They sell fantastic little cups of hot spiced cider to help keep the cold away.

:: Very happy mother and son at the Bondi opening party, January 25 (it was already Australia Day in Australia). I told you these pics were in random order!

:: While I looked after Mack here in San Diego, Simon and Marnie spent the first two weeks of the year in Amsterdam, where this pic was taken.

:: Marnie looking gorgeous in her amazing vintage boots amid the bicycles and cobblestones of old Amsterdam.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Getting warmer ...

:: Spring begins officially here on March 21 and the weather is just perfect. It was about 32 (C) yesterday, and today it's a beautiful 28. Yummy. Every day the sun gets a little higher and reaches more of the pool. With its dark surfaces, it starts to warm up very quickly - so every day I stick a toe in to check whether it's ready for a plunge! (Not quite - but it sure feels good.)

:: I like setting things against the pool, so here's a bowl of avocados and passionfruit that were a gift from a wonderful couple we met yesterday, Kevin and Betsy. Kevin is a former Quairading lad, and Betsy his San Diego-born wife.

They live in a beautiful region to the south-east, in the hills at Ramona, where they have started an Australian plant nursery and wholesale business. Dave and I went to check it out with a view to getting them to provide wildflowers and plants for the Bondi.
This (below) is a view of their property. They have about 5 hectares, with about a third of it under cultivation and the rest being prepared. Kevin has even built himself a corrugated iron shed-cum-shelter-cum-shop, just for a laugh.

It was really beaut to see all their hakea, banksia, kunzea, dryandra (sp?), eucalypts, grevillea and so on in the Californian sunshine, looking very healthy and happy. Kevin says his only problem with growing them is the gophers, which take a fancy to tender young plants just like rabbits do back home. Otherwise, they take off really well.
There are also avocados on the property, which he sells to Mexican restaurants, and a passionfruit vine - yay! Passionfruit are pricey here - about $3 each.

:: Which reminds me - how's the price of bananas in Perth now? Here they are 2 lbs (about a kilo) for $1.

:: This banksia is a bit frostbitten on the very top from a really cold night recently:

On the beach ...

:: On Saturday, Dave and I walked on the beach at Del Mar (about 3 km from where we live) with the dogs. You can walk on the sand with the dogs on leads until you get to the very end (where you can see the sandy cliff), where there is a very popular and well-used dog beach.
There was pretty good surf on Saturday - this is the break where Will used to have school surfing lessons three mornings a week.

:: This (below) is a view of part of Del Mar looking east, from the beach. It's just gorgeous, but very expensive. San Diego and Los Angeles have the most expensive real estate on the planet.

:: The homes right on the beach are the most expensive of all. Last year, Jenny Craig - of the weight-loss fortune - bought the three houses on the very left of this picture for a cool $25 million.
Will heard that the white one on the extreme left - you can just see part of it - was at one time owned by Brad and Angelina!

:: Lily's coming home next Sunday, for her spring break. So I'm sorting and cleaning and getting ready!

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Oy, oy, oy ...

:: Look how brilliantly Australian plants do here! This huge wattle bush is down in the canyon where I walk the dogs, just at the end of our street. The place is full of birds and I have no idea what any of them are yet, apart from the hummingbirds.
Things rustle in the undergrowth here just like they do back home - only here you have to watch out for rattlesnakes. And after dark, coyotes will venture through the canyons and into ordinary quiet suburban streets just like ours. It's odd living where there are predators.
And among all the other Australian native plants that are thriving here - eucalypts (Americans don't know the term gum trees, and seem to have little awareness of gumnuts), tea tree, roo paws, bottlebrush - are these ...

... and they are almost everywhere. They are put to great use on steep banks along the freeways and just as a sort of universal groundcover. You see way more of them here than I ever saw at home.

:: And while I'm talking of walking the dogs, here they are ...

... Nipper squinting in the sun this morning, and ...

... Yoshi (coyote-bait as we call him) trotting along on the sandy path.

:: Well, I do know from the odd comment and emails that a few of you are reading this! I was wondering ...

:: On my bedside table: Next to all the vitamin pills ('Hers Over 50'), fish oil tabs, glucosamine tabs, Caltrate pills (to help stave off incipient osteoporosis), tissues and hand cream is The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which I bought to read on the plane home from Chicago. The writing is spellbindingly good. It was number one on the NY Times bestseller fiction list, I saw today.
And my new Oldie arrived today - so that'll keep my weekend happy.

:: Dave's just got in from work - so I'm off to fry a steak or two. See ya!