Thursday, 29 January 2009

One last timeWe've had our friend Susan staying with us for a week, giving her a much-needed break from the chill factor of a bleak Chicago winter — brrrr!
Apart from her obvious delight in the sunshine and warmth, the big thing she noticed was that there are flowers in the gardens and leaves on our trees!
With gardens in mind, and art, and just because I wanted to be there one last time before we're off, I took Susan up to LA yesterday and we visited the Getty Center.
I've blogged about it before, but it's worth raving about again.
Yesterday the weather gods not just smiled on us, they positively guffawed and gave us a perfect, brilliant day.
It was really cold, and there was a brisk and chilly wind, but the sky was amazingly clear.
I've been to the Getty Center many times, but I'd never before seen the sea — click on the pic below to see what I mean:
By the way — this is where we had lunch yesterday — just gorgeous.
This is what it looked like when I was there last July:And it wasn't just the surprise of seeing the sea. We could make out a line of palm trees along the Santa Monica beachfront, and see ships on the ocean, and islands on the horizon.
To the south, we could see planes coming in to land at LAX, and beyond that the cranes and derricks of Long Beach, with the 405 freeway cutting a huge swathe as it wends its way south, eventually to rejoin the 5 and carry on towards San Diego (click on the pics for bigger images).And looking south-eastwards, we could see way beyond Century City to the Los Angeles city centre, and even further, to the snowy peaks of the San Bernardino Mountains.
It was staggeringly beautiful.
What a place! Snow, mountains, the sparkling ocean, and one of the great cities of the world spread out before us — or part of it anyway!We walked about the gardens, marvelling at the mix of traditional cottage flowers, like sweet peas just starting to climb ...... succulents, and more 'architectural' plants, to say nothing of the sculptural hedge that forms the labyrinth in the pond — so much fun for the ducks!Inside, we had a fabulous hour or so inspecting the miniature treasures of some of the illuminated manuscripts created in the first decade of the 15th century for the Duke of Berry — not the Tres Riches Heures, but the Belles Heures.
I am so going to miss Los Angeles ...

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Method in his madnessFor a while we used ski goggles, but the lenses are a deep yellow, which is unpleasant in a non-snow environment. Now we wear swimming goggles when we're chopping onions, which seem particularly pungent over here.
Works like a charm!
:: Note Mr Gumby's T-shirt. The slogan, 'Obamanos!' is a created Spanish term which roughly translates as 'Go, Obama!' Ideal for this week. The excitement over the inauguration is palpable. It's going to be quite a day tomorrow. I'm so very glad we managed to stay long enough to see it all.
:: Our house is so clean at the moment — we've had to open it to let prospective tenants come and have a look. So we spent a day tidying and starting our packing, and all of a sudden our life is ordered and calm. It's weird ...
:: We're looking forward to seeing our friend Sue, from Chicago, who flies in tomorrow to spend a week with us — probably the last time we shall see her in quite a while. Boy oh boy — will she ever enjoy the weather! It's freeeeeezing in Chicago, where the maximum temperature forecast this week will be 3 degrees C.
Here, meanwhile, we're in T-shirts and shorts, with strangely high temperatures in the 20s and 30s. It's been like this for a while, the result of an unseasonal few days of Santa Ana winds a few weeks ago. We even had to have the air-con on for an hour or two the other day — madness. And there I was, hoping to enjoy my last days of winter before I head back into Perth's furnace.
:: Check out this fun new website, Imagine That ... Quilts, from my fellow blogger and amazing Australian quilter, peppermint patcher, who is creating brilliant kids' quilts like the one above, incorporating the children's own photographs in the designs. Such a clever idea!
:: I've been letting my hair grow since I returned from the UK and it's almost at the stage where I can tie it back. After 20 years of very short hair, I'm enjoying having it longer — hats look better on me, for one thing, even beanies!
But I'm off now to get the very ends trimmed. See you later ...

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The other VeniceThe sun was near to setting when we called in at Venice Beach, just to have a look.It was pretty much as I expected.Lots of people, lots of dogs, lots of noise and lots of tacky shops and stalls selling fast food and tacky souvenirs and clothing. Mind you, had I wanted something pierced or tattooed, or to buy a smoking implement, or to have my karma amended or my future told, I'd have been in the right location.And some of the graffiti was pretty amazing.And the murals.Dace said the whole place and the scene were reminiscent of Kuta, in Bali.Which probably explains why I've never been there!
There was even a Bondi — no relation.I've been to both Venices now, and even the one in Las Vegas — and I know the one I prefer ... if only by a whisker!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

What hell looks likeOn Saturday, at their request, we dropped the boys at Six Flags, the extreme roller-coaster park north of Los Angeles.The photos were all taken by Will. Click on them to enlarge them, if you're not convinced this is one of the scariest places on the planet.Dace and I didn't actually leave the carpark in case we found ourselves accidentally caught up in and on one of these monsters. Could you imagine?Leaving the carpark, for a sedate lunch in Beverly Hills, we all agreed we'd rather have root-canal work than ride one of those roller-coasters.In fact, David said he'd rather undergo surgery without anaesthetic.
We told Will and Max to ring us when they'd had enough, and we'd pick them up. Almost three hours later, they were smiling, but they also looked pretty green, I thought ...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

My other two boysSimon and Mack (5), on Marnie's family farm in Goomalling, in Western Australia's Wheatbelt.

This one cracks me up ...... he's holding a marron, which is a freshwater lobster. Small but tasty.
Nanna will be so very happy to be home!
I'm badWe went to The Container Store this morning, to buy boxes so we could start packing up some of our non-essentials, like winter coats and snow gear.
But even flat, the boxes were too big to go in the boot of the car, so we folded them and stacked them in behind the front seats, and then David left Dace and me at the shopping centre while he took the boxes home, saying he'd be back to pick us up in about 40 minutes.
So the store right next door to The Container Store is Bloomingdales, and we just had to walk right through the shoe department on our search for coffee.And then these found me.I won't tell you how much they were (cos some of you know David), except that they were half-price and were made in Spain. And they are made of the most perfect, black suede. So soft it's almost edible. And they come right up to my kneecap, or they can be squished down ever so slightly. There's no zip.
And hey! In Australia, they'd cost an arm and a leg and a kidney, if not a first-born. And they are so impeccably classic that I'll be wearing them until I'm 90.
I haven't shown them to David yet, so I photographed them in the sewing room on the hush while he's watching the gridiron and answering Dace's questions. (I love Dace.)
And I'd model them for you, but if I leave them in the box until next weekend, I can ring the lovely young man at Bloomie's who sold them to me. He'll tell me if they've been further reduced after next week's two-day stocktaking, in which case they'll refund me the difference.
I gotta say — the shopping here is a whole 'nother planet.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Bye bye, cold ChristmasDace helped me take the tree down on Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, or what you will. And all the lovely ornaments are the first things to be packed with returning to Australia in mind.
My last Christmas — for a while, anyway — in winter.
Dace helped by wrapping things in bubble wrap and packing them into boxes, and now there's a pile all ready for the first of the big cartons that will inevitably come when we start packing in earnest very soon.
:: Our landlord has put the house on the market, and would we mind if people came through to take a look? Just what you need when you're packing up and moving out. Sigh.
:: We've been up to LA twice this week. On Monday we were on standby for a seat in the Ellen audience, and on Wednesday we got in! It was really good fun, though you do have to suspend all cynicism and jump up and down and look excited and dance and clap and holler when instructed by the warm-up guy who looked about 19 years old.
Some of the women in the audience were so enthusiastic and excited it was as though they had succumbed to some kind of weird religion. Possessed, you could say.
But it was so fascinating to watch it all happen right there, in front of our eyes.
The studio, on the Warner Bros Burbank lot, was enormous, and chilled to something slightly warmer than a deep freeze. This, we were told by one of the many, many minions, was to ensure there was 'plenty of energy in the room'. It also means you are only too happy to get to your feet and dance about, to restore feeling in your fingertips and get your circulation going.

In the ad breaks, crew members nip about. A make-up person touches up Ellen's forehead and fluffs her scarf. A woman kneels and holds open a board for Ellen to read — I imagine it's cues for the next segment, with info she needs to mention. Cameras whiz about on the floor and over the audience. There are lots of blokes standing about with clipboards, all in warm-looking clothes. The music is loud. Everyone jiggles about, crew included.
The guest on our show is Anne Hathaway, and she looks tall and slender and really really pretty. The interview is light and fluffy, promo for a new movie ... in between jumping up and down on cue to clap and go 'woooo', I wonder if it can really, honestly, be that hard a job, doing a daily show like this? One hour, including ad breaks. Plenty of staff. Writers, assistants. Audience handlers. Rehearsals. I guess the chemistry is the thing, the inestimable quality that makes it all work. It's clear that Ellen has it.
At the end, we are ushered out. Security people make sure no-one walks off and gets loose on the lot. We take a trolley ride to the gift shop, where we thaw out on hot Starbucks coffee, then catch the trolley back to the exit, passing the make-up trailers outside the studio where they're filming ER.
Ten thousand people work at WB. I can be a bit cynical about woo-hooing over Ellen, but there is a serious mystique about the whole place, and it has a fascinating history. We're going to do a studio tour next week ... and a tour of the stars' homes!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Shock horror probe!
Frogdancer has posted with a fun sort of meme, in which bloggers interview one another, asking and answering five questions. Unlike other memes, the questions vary according to the interviewer and the subject — so every one is different.
Bloggers volunteer to be subjects, and then you send them five probing questions by email.
So here are my answers to the five questions Frogdancer asked me. In return, I invite any of you to email me or leave a comment saying 'interview me', and I'll ask you five searing questions. (Hmmm — I wonder if I have enough readers?!)

1. You seem to have travelled all over the globe. Which is the one place that you would go to in a heartbeat if you could, and why?

If you mean a place I've already visited, then it'd probably be Carcassonne, in the Languedoc region of south-west France. I'd love to take my husband and show him this amazing walled town.
I was 20 when I went there, in the summer of 1974. I had no money, and was hitch-hiking around Europe with a friend from Perth. We got a lift to Carcassonne in a Kombi van full of hippies whom I repaid by sitting on the streets of the old city selling their African jewellery and beadwork.
It was hot and beautiful, with bells ringing in the church towers. It remains the most romantic place I've ever been. I took a fancy to a lovely young singer from Perpignan who wanted me to ditch my friend and hitch there with him, but I didn't! On our last night together — I was heading for Spain and he was going home — he took me to a bar where we ate leftovers from the kitchen and listened to Romany flamenco guitarists — so much passion! So long ago!
I say I'd go back in a heartbeat, but I'd be nervous about how time has treated it. It's probably crawling with tourists, with fast food and soccer on big-screen tellies ...

2. Alternatively, which place tops your all time list of 'Places Never to go to again" and why?
Tijuana, Mexico — just across the border, about 20 miles south of San Diego. In fact the two cities have merged to form the world biggest trans-national conurbation, with about 5 million people.
It didn't rock me. I hate that you can drive across the border and go in an instant from a land of excess into a far less privileged country, and you can look back from the potholed roads and shanties and see America sparkling across the fence. Not fair.
And parts of Tijuana are rough, desperate, violent, horrible. There were 830 murders there last year.
I'd like to go to other parts of Mexico, and I know when I'm back in Perth, I'll wish I'd taken advantage of the cheap flights to Mexico City or Guadalajara. But hey!

3. Which is the quality that really stands out in each immediate family member?
Oh lord — just one? Each of them is really loving. And funny. That's two ...

4. What are you really going to miss when you come back to Australia to live?
Having Los Angeles just up the road (same distance from San Diego as Bunbury is from Perth)!
Art galleries too big and full and fabulous to get round in a day.

Mountains in the distance.
Concerts — frequent and cheap.
Sensible traffic rules.
Driving on the freeways — and along Wilshire Boulevard in LA.
Turning right when the light's red.
Cheap flights to scores of amazing places and wonderful cities all over the country.
National parks.
The shopping — it is the absolute b-e-s-t! In the whole wide world.
Polite, attentive service in shops and restaurants. Nothing is too much trouble. I'm preparing myself for the rude, apathetic, haughty shop people and waiters when I get home.
Having my birthday in spring instead of the stinkingest tail-end of a Perth summer (March).
The Bondi!

5. Which quilt is your favourite that you've made?
This little one, about a metre square, which is a copy of a 'Navajo eye-dazzler'. I first saw it in the book, Patchwork Folk Art, by Janet Bolton, who is an English textile artist whose work I just love. I made this quilt about ten years ago, and — don't ask me why — I didn't use scissors for any of it, other than the diagonal cuts for the triangles. And it was entirely hand-sewn.
This is the picture that inspired me.

If you’d like to join the fun, it’s simple.
  1. Send me an email or a comment saying 'interview me'.
  2. I will then email you five questions that I choose.
  3. You can then answer them on your blog.
  4. You should also post these rules along with an offer to interview anyone else who emails you or comments that they want to be interviewed.

Monday, 5 January 2009

I heart New Mexico
Got back from New Mexico late last night — it really is my favourite place. Magnificent landscapes; snow on the Sangre de Cristo mountains; the melding of old Spanish, Mexican and Native American cultures — it has everything. There was snow everywhere as we drove north of Albuquerque, climbing to Santa Fe, which, at over 2000 metres (7000 feet), is the highest capital city in the US.
Unfortunately we never got to see snow fall from the sky, which is something Max and Will were hoping for. Of course, there's lots of snow forecast for today and tomorrow — now we're back in California!
Lily joined us for a night in Santa Fe before heading off for Oklahoma City to see the Flaming Lips New Year's Eve concert (brilliant, apparently). Then she and her friends spent a day or two in Austin, Texas, and are now on their way to New Orleans and Memphis. She likes a good road trip, does our girl.
:: Tomorrow we're off to Los Angeles to be at a taping of the Ellen De Generes show — that's the plan, though at the moment we're only on standby for a seat in the audience. We'll be watching from 'the riff-raff room'.
I hope you all had a great Christmas, and will have a wonderful 2009!
Back soon ...


Originally uploaded by Lesley (Z).
just testing how to work pics between flickr and the blog