Friday, 28 November 2008

It's Thanksgiving today — so happy turkey day to my American friends!
:: It's been a week since my last post ...... and I've been productive. I've got Christmas well under control, with parcels ready to go, and Christmas cards all written and ready to post.
Lily was home for a few days, and we had family dinners at the Bondi on two nights. I'm happy to report it was jumping both times, and the new winter menu is just sensational. If I do say so myself!
At home, David got cooking and I got baking, and Lily and I got stuck into her quilt and have finished piecing the top. Yay! So now I can relax and get it layered and quilted.Lily has planned a post-Christmas road-trip with friends of hers from Perth, tying in with our visit from Dace, Max and Halina. She still has the cast on her leg, and we're all hoping she'll be in good shape for her trip, which takes in the Grand Canyon and Oklahoma City for the Flaming Lips' New Year's Eve concert.
I was devastated when she flew off back up north: I'll see her just a couple more times over Christmas and the New Year and then David, Will and I will be off home to Perth.
It's been raining — oh the very sound of it dripping on the big leaves outside our bedroom window at night ... soooooothing!
We've been to the movies — last week we saw the wonderful and widely acclaimed British film, Happy Go Lucky, which I heartily recommend. Last night, we saw Australia, which was a truly entertaining three hours if a little dodgy on dialogue and music. And with a week and a good pair of scissors, I'd be more than capable of cutting a good twenty minutes out of it. But definitely worth seeing. The first Baz movie I've liked. But why the grandiose, all-encompassing title? A great film to see at an early session so you've time for lots of talk about it afterwards.
I've been sorting out my 10,000 photos stored in iPhoto, and updating my visual diary, which is definitely one of those jobs best done when there's no rush ...
... and I've been making a few bits and bobs out of papier mache for Christmas. These have turned out strange. I have doubts. They are weird and very spooky, and eventually they will get wings and then be weird and very spooky angels. The jury is out until then!
There are a few less subversive-looking birds made with the same technique, but I neglected to photograph them. Next time.
:: Horrible, horrible reports from Mumbai. And an Air New Zealand training plane down in the Mediterranean. And an Australian killed in Afghanistan. Grim times.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Time out
I'm all out of blogging energy.
I'm having a quiet re-group all to myself before the fun days of Christmas get here. Getting the place cleaned, getting Christmas organised, having my girl home for a few days on Friday, making some stuff, finishing some stuff. Starting to sort out other stuff — and throw it away! — before the big move home.

It's all good, and I'm sure I'll be back with something I just have to tell you about!
See you!


Monday, 17 November 2008

SundayImagine my poor dogs flying home to Australia in these little boxes, and then, when the nightmare journey does end, having to spend weeks in quarantine.
I worry particularly about Nipper, who is very much My Dog.
He sits as near to me as possible wherever I am, usually touching my feet, or leaning up against my legs. Follows me up and down stairs. Waits outside the loo for me. Sleeps at the foot of my bed. He will pine in quarantine, so I hope he at least gets to bunk up with Yoshi.
I've been put in touch with a guy in LA who will help organise their trip home. The quarantine regulations are very complicated, so I feel better to have someone who knows the ropes helping me get them home.
:: Just got back from a wonderful chatty Sunday session-style arvo at the Bondi. There were quite a few of us — the drinks and nibbles were our prize for being the top table at last year's season of quiz nights. Sounds a bit weird, I know, to have won the series when we own the place, but I assure you it was all above board!
There was lots of talk about the new Baz whatsisname movie, Australia, which opens here the night before Thanksgiving. A few weeks ago, David and I saw a short trailer for the movie and were a bit worried about it. But on Friday night, we went to see Happy Go Lucky (really really wonderful English film) at the local cinema and there was a longer trailer for Australia, and I must say it looked a lot better. So we'll see.
:: How's your Christmas shopping? These are pics of FAO Schwarz, the fabulous, enormous, magical toyshop in New York on Fifth Avenue, right next door to the big glass-cube Apple store.There are whole wings dedicated to animals, books, Lego, and Playmobil and Barbie. Then there's a huge Harry Potter section — including these 'life-size' (or what you imagine life size to be) dragons.The one in the window was half -price — a snip at $2300. The unicorn, which was, frankly, a little grubby about the hoof, was a mere $800.
:: It's been hot and sunny ever since we got back from New York. There have been terrible fires in Los Angeles, with flames whipped up by fierce 96 mph Santa Ana winds — about 800 homes lost. Ghastly.

:: We bought tickets home to Perth this morning. So I feel I have a date to work to, and can now structure the time I have left and organise the things I have to do to get home. Also, this weekend, we booked a return trip to Santa Fe for when Dace is with us — fantastic! We'll be in Santa Fe for New Year's, which is bound to be spectacular.
:: Lily has had a second opinion on her foot, and will now not need surgery — thank heavens. She has a better cast, which has already made a difference to how she gets about, and has been told that the reason her ankles give out on her so frequently is that she has short, tight hamstrings and calf muscles, which she needs to stretch, strengthen and lengthen by exercise. Then she'll stop stressing her ankles by no longer walking on the sides of her feet.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

LacyWhen I was in New York on the weekend, I went to the lovely eau-de-nil shop on the right (above) and bought some of thisand now I'm knitting this:Actually, the shop, the famous and much vaunted Purl in SoHo, is very pretty, but all the yarns are stacked by colour, which I find weird. And it is t-i-n-y. Take a deep breath, hold your elbows to your side and squeeze in.
It's really not a patch on the yarn stores I go to locally, in Encinitas and Solana Beach. But I thought, since I was right there in SoHo on Sunday, I'd better check Purl out.
There is a similarly bijou Purl patchwork store just a few doors up the road from it.
The pattern is for a wrap called Seascape — free pattern here.
The lace is gorgeous, but is going to give me brain ache. I started on ordinary needles — too blunt — and then I bought myself an Addi turbo circular, which is designed for fine lace knitting, with lovely pointy ends. Much easier.But oh! It's a pain in the arse if you drop a stitch, because you can't see where it went. Correcting mistakes is very hard. You have to come up with ways to compensate and just carry on. In the hope that no-one will ever notice it anyway.
The yarn is Rowan Kidsilk Haze. Beautiful. A blend of mohair and silk. It's like knitting with a cobweb. Don't breathe too hard!
Simultaneously, and to ground me, I have another very chunky beany on a sturdy circular beside me, to stop me floating away.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Flying tonight
(Pic: Coming in to land at Melbourne, from Perth.)
Someone I met at the Bondi, who is off to Brisbane for the Christmas holidays, asked me if I had any tips about long-haul flying and staving off jetlag.

And I do. After crossing the Pacific a lot in the past four or five years, David and I figure we know how to do it reasonably comfortably by now.
1. Wear comfortable clothes. Flying isn't glamorous — though you do still see princesses in tight jeans and high heels getting on a 15-hour flight. Much better to be in something stretchy, with a bit of give in the waistband.
Wear layers — the cabin can be over-warm and stuffy, or freezing cold.
And wear shoes you can slip on and off easily, as you'll have to take them off for security screening once you've checked in.
2. Take as little on board as you can. US fliers, in particular — who are used to less accommodating airlines with bad records for losing luggage, and who want to avoid long waits at arrival hall carousels — will take massive bloody carry-on cases and ram them into any overhead lockers they can lay claim to in the vicinity of their seats. So don't count on having any overhead space for your stuff.
I don't take a handbag (I put mine in my checked-in luggage to use when I'm at my destination), but pack a pretty small and rugged carry-on bag that I push under the seat in front of mine. It provides a footrest during the flight so I can raise my thighs off the seat — helps the circulation.
3. No caffeine. I go without coffee, tea or any caffeine for a few hours before the flight. I don't like UHT milk that you get on airlines anyway, so it's no great loss, and the aim is to help yourself snooze and sleep as much as possible.(Pic: Flying at the end of Brighton pier, UK.)
4. In your seat.
Stash your book, magazine etc in the seat pocket in front, take off your shoes and stick them in the overhead locker. Even in economy, Qantas gives you a pair of socks in a little pouch with an eye-mask and toothbrush and toothpaste, soon after take-off. All the armrests can be raised, even those at the aisle, which gives you a little more spreading room if you're among friends.
The headrest has flaps either side which you can pull forwards to hold your head and stop it wobbling from side to side when you're asleep. These are an absolute godsend, completely doing away with the need for those U-shaped foamy things that just get in the way.

5. Sleep. Forget about what time it is where you've just taken off, and set your watch and brain to destination time. Then work out when you should try to sleep — which will be when it's bedtime at your destination. Or near enough. Give yourself some settling-in time, have your dinner (Qantas serves up in the first few hours after take-off), watch a movie or two, wrap yourself in your blankie, put on your eye-mask and then try to s-l-e-e-p.
Now, to do this, you may need help, even if you've made yourself as comfy as possible. So get something wonderful on prescription from your doctor beforehand. (Tylenol PM from the supermarket or drug store works well for me!)
(Pic: The Rio Grande, at Albuquerque, New Mexico.)
Qantas also dims the cabin lights when most passengers have settled in, and hands out a snack pack with bikkies and a bottle of water, a piece of fruit and some chocolate etc. Very handy — you won't be fed again until breakfast, an hour or two before landing. Drinking water is also really important — the cabin air is so incredibly dry. Pack lip-salve for the same reason.

6. Stay awake. When you've got to your destination, it's important to stay awake — as far as humanly possible — until it is regular bedtime, or near enough. The dangerous thing is to give in and go to bed at 2pm and sleep for eight hours. Then you are stuffed. But if you can stay awake and go to bed at, say, 9pm, you're doing well.
I can honestly say I rarely get jetlag these days — these tricks work well for me, even with the big time difference between Perth and California.
• Oh — and remember there is always time to get better seats. Even when you are at the departure gate, as soon as you see a member of the airline staff arrive at the desk, go up and ask if she/he can get you a better seat. You'd be surprised!
If you are given a seat allocation when you book, check this online seating plan (or one like it for your airline) to work out where you'll be and if you want to try for somewhere better. Take note of where the galleys are, and the loos.(Pic: Flying over our house, San Diego.)
• When you're leaving from LA, you can check in at Qantas six hours before the flight leaves — plenty of time to get a better seat. We'll often check in really early then go to Santa Monica or Culver City for dinner. Most flights to Australia leave around 11 - 11.30 pm.

Hope this helps!

• Added later: I forgot to mention that having noise-cancelling headphones and an MP3 player is wonderful for helping you nod off. The plane cabin can be incredibly noisy, especially if you have a seat near the galley or the loos. I'm sure I look like a complete nutter with my eye-mask and my headphones, wrapped in my blankie, but I've managed six or seven hours of sleep a flight. There is no better feeling than waking up and realising there are only a few hours to go!

• In her comment, Tracey mentioned swelling feet. This will happen with sitting for hours, and I agree that the exercises Qantas promotes will only go so far to prevent it — and frankly, the seats are so tightly jammed in that you may not even be able to lift your knees, especially while the guy in front of you has his seat back. Nor may it be possible to keep getting up for a walk around the cabin. Support socks are supposed to help, and the other tip is to drink lots of water. Getting up frequently to pee is all part of the therapy! I also think this is where having my bag on the floor under the seat in front helps me, because I can put my feet up on it and get my thighs off my seat. Cathay Pacific has clever little bars in economy that flip down from the front of the seat for you to rest your feet on.
• One other essential piece of advice, as you're getting on the plane and find you have to walk through business class to get to economy, is to avert your eyes from all the leg room, the wide comfy chairs, the snowy-white pillows, the room to recline, the flight attendants hovering with trays of pre-take-off drinkies ...

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Rare airWell, we certainly landed okay when it came to the apartment we stayed in in New York. The pic above shows the view from our complex's roof terrace! Honest!
We had a very roomy two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with an enormous living room and fairly flash kitchen, and a balcony, in a historic building right opposite the NY Stock Exchange.
In the pic below, taken from the steps of Federal Hall, where George Washington made his inaugural address after becoming the first US President, you can see the NYSE to George's right, and our roof terrace over his left shoulder:The entire 40-odd-storey building and the building next door, which is right on the corner of Wall Street, were once upon a time the headquarters of the JP Morgan financial corporation. In 1998, they were both due to be demolished to make way for a new stock exchange building and office tower, but that all screeched to a halt after 9-11.
Instead, the two buildings were made over by Philippe Starck, converted from offices into very trendy condos and apartments. There was an Hermes shop on the ground floor, and in the lobby there was a ginormous crystal chandelier hovering just over the floor, recycled from the original Morgan Chase office building.
I don't understand why I have no pics of the inside of our apartment — but it was very groovy, and totally unlivable. A triumph of design over function. One bedroom was almost open to the living room, save for being slightly higher and having a half wall.
The main bedroom suite had no windows, and the wall between it and the front bedroom didn't go all the way up to the ceiling, to allow in a sliver of light and air.
And Will ended up sleeping on a blow-up mattress in a cupboard that was slightly bigger than his bedroom here at home!
The living room furniture was all very black, and very uncomfortable. You just can't lounge on a hard, shiny black leather couch with a low-slung back!
But we had so much fun, and were hardly there during the day anyway.
The amazing thing was the roof terrace, called Starck Park ...... with its water feature like a giant tap, and glorious view of the facade of the NYSE. It also had a ping-pong table, a huge dining table where you could hold dinner parties, and an open-air fireplace. Yum.
Security was understandably heavy in this area. The roads are all closed to cars, and there are patrol boxes and security guards everywhere. Ground Zero is only a short walk away — and it was really very spooky to consider what must have been happening in this area on that fateful day.
The location was otherwise excellent. It was a walk away from Tribeca, SoHo, Battery Park and the Hudson River ...... and a stone's throw from the out-of-this-world apartment of Nick's grandparents, who have 120-degree windows with a view of New York Harbour and across the Hudson River to the Jersey shore — this is just part of it, with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (click on it for a bigger image): We were also a short stroll away from the famous Wall Street Bull. How that poor beast must have suffered at the hands of our late-night revellers ...(Thanks, Iman, for your pics!)

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Thought my Australian friends would love to read the overwhelmingly positive reviews of Summer Heights High, which started screening here on Sunday. Click here for a website that will take you to the reviews.
The jury's still out, in my opinion, on the American version of Kath and Kim, now into its fourth or fifth week. I'm never sure if I'm laughing because it's funny, or because I so well remember the original episode being presented. I will keep watching, though,because I really want it to succeed.
Seven and one in a wheelchairOur five fabulous days in New York for Lily's 21st birthday (Sunday) went far too quickly, and this morning, sitting in the sunny silence of San Diego, I'm missing my girl and all the noise and excitement of being (almost) all together in that amazing place.We thought for a while that Simon would join us, and be there to buy his baby sister her first legal beer in the US, and we were so disappointed when he couldn't make it. Will made up for it, though, sticking close to his sister, sharing wheelchair pushing with Nick and Larissa for the miles and miles we walked, and helping her about.Of course, when we started planning this trip, we had no idea she'd have a broken foot and be in a wheelchair — but she didn't let that cramp her style, dampen her enthusiasm, or get in her way at all. From crowded Subway trains and tiny historic pubs, to Broadway and the top of the Empire State Building.
There were six of us to start with: Will, Lily, her boyfriend Nick, her room-mate Larissa (who turned 21 the Sunday before), David and I. Then, on Friday night we were joined by Iman, one of Lily's old school friends from Subiaco. Iman is studying in Washington DC and working until December as a Congressional intern in the office of Don Young, the sole Representative from Alaska, and a Republican to his gun-totin' boot straps.Iman (pictured above with Larissa) is staunchly un-Republican, though, and it was great fun to catch up with her and hear all her stories — especially about election night, when she was at the Democrats' sparkling celebration party in a DC ballroom.
She also really knew her way around in NY, having studied here for a while last year, so she was very handy when it came to negotiating our way through the Subway, one of the major lines of which had been closed for renovations. Chaos!On Sunday morning, early, we were joined by another old Subi mate, James, who's been in the US since August, working as a volunteer on the Obama campaign, doorknocking and 'getting out the vote' in Detroit, Ohio, Philadelphia and Virginia. More fab stories! It's a pity we couldn't have had longer with him, but at least he got there for Lily's birthday.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

What exciting times — yesterday was wonderful.
We're off to New York today, for Lily's 21st. See you next week.
The excitement mounts!
The big five!Happy birthday my beautiful golden boy.Nanna misses you!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

BaggyI didn't want to take my Kelly Bag to New York (too OTT), so I made this much more practical one.
I used fabrics I already had, re-cycled the inside pockets from an older bag I'd made (whose handles never quite worked), pinched the handles off another one, and was quite happy with the result.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Take a shiny gold-painted frame that's just the right size, and spray-paint it matt black.Finish the papercut picture I started a while ago.Et voila!And, to top it off, it rained — yay!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Spirit dancerIsn't he wonderful? He's a giant Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer, sculpted and cast in bronze by San Carlos Apache artist Craig Dan Goseyun. He stands about 3m (10 feet) tall, caught in perpetual motion. Though he's so big, and has been sculpted in such a chunky way, you can still see all the tassels flying on his deerskin, and almost hear the bells round his hips and knees. To say nothing of all the feathers swirling about him.He's outside Santa Fe's spectacular Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, in the beautiful courtyard gardens of Museum Hill, off the Old Santa Fe Trail.When I was a kid in England, I was crazy about North American Indians. I even made myself an Indian shield out of cardboard, copied from an encyclopaedia, slathering it with textured paint to simulate ochres, and using my fingers to paint figures on it. There were feathers as well — though they would have been from English wild birds, not eagles or anything exotic! It hung over my girly bed, with its candlewick bedspread instead of the softened animal pelts and deerskins I dreamed of ...
:: I spent hours, yesterday, looking online at property for sale in Perth. I was really very pleasantly surprised — especially when you get out of the western suburbs. So many amazing places for sale! We'll be renting when we first get back, then eventually looking to buy in North Perth, Highgate, Inglewood, Mt Lawley and Maylands.
:: Poor Lily has not had the best news about her broken foot. She is going to need surgery. Bugger. And the orthopaedic specialist told her that in that one mis-step, she'd done so much damage to her foot that there were several chipped and broken bones (ligaments ripped off bones, taking bits of bone with them as they tore).
So, we'll be getting hold of a wheelchair and helping her get about in New York next week. It'll feel familiar to her: last time she was in NY, two years ago, she broke the other ankle, and ended up in Cedars-Sinai hospital.