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A blog post looking at how kids in 90210 spend their free time--what do they do for fun? | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

What do Beverly Hills kids do for fun?

Such a good question: what do kids in Beverly Hills kids do for fun? Perhaps we need a branch-off reality series: the Real Kids of Beverly Hills.  (Dibbs: if that comes out I want a cut of the takings).

Of course, in all seriousness, this was one of my fears: how do I raise a “normal” child in LA.  It’s true I was focussed more on the safety of “living in America” (you know? guns, mass shootings and metal detectors) but also going into a private school with many celebrity kids and alumni alike I was worried about “keeping up with the 90210-ers”.

But it’s just about the money.  In some ways, that’s the easy bit.  (If you’re relatively new to the Blog you might have missed my post on handbags & designer clothes.  You can link back to read it here.  And it might be time to freshen it up as it’s a little too cryptic in hindsight).

No matter where you live you come across some parents who are prepared to let their kids do stuff and others not so much.  Then there are those “in-betweens”.  That’s me—somewhere in-between.  When we lived in Shanghai the teenagers grew up really quickly.  With no legal drinking age, a really safe City and these people called “drivers” and things called taxis, kids start going to Clubs when they’re 15.  I was happy not to have my kids growing up in that environment (despite doing something similar at that age).  But LA is a different kettle of fish again.

Cut back to present day LA …

My 13-year-old daughter wanted to go to The Grove shopping with her own with a friend.  I love the Grove but it’s often packed, filled with tourists and very, very exposed.  I didn’t want her going without a parent lurking somewhere close by.  She’s still only 13.  Right?  Plus, I didn’t let my son start going to the larger Malls until he was 14/15.  On top of that I don’t know about you but I hate the whole “Let’s-go-hang-out-at-the-mall-today” thing.  It’s just so … eek and unimaginative and, well, even I don’t like hanging out in Malls.

Thankfully her friend’s mum was of the same opinion as me and together we poo-pooed it.  Five minutes of incessant texts asking “Why?”, “The Grove is safe”, “Now we have nothing to do” and that was it.  Radio silence.

Beverly Hills kids

Then, no more than 10 minutes later all was good in the world again. She was at her friend’s place having a lovely time. I got sent pics of houses and locations all over her friend’s gated community.  They both have very 90210 Segways (you know the ones without the handles?) so they went riding around, exploring.  Happy as can be.  Beverly Hills kids indeed, with a touch of my normal.

“We’re at Gwen Stefani’s house” was the next text.  “It’s so cool.”  Then, “I can’t send you a photo because there’s security watching.”

Celebrity

It’s OK, there’s a bit of an unwritten rule anyway that if you go to a famous person’s house that you’re mindful of what you take photos of—and what you post.  Same if you’re going to live in the same community as Gwen Stefani there’s an unwritten good-neighbour policy that goes along with that.  We’ve also had the discussion about when she goes into famous friends’ parties.  Even if they’re really, really famous! (And it kills this Blogger that she can’t write about them).

Still on Gwen Stefani, my friend—her friend’s mum—drives the same car as Gwen (not me LA Gwen, Stefani Gwen).  One day, back when speculation was rife surrounding her relationship with whatsis-face-Blake-country-dude she was coming out of her community, was going to turn right, hesitated and instead turned right.  She thought nothing of the car following her except they were travelling at some speed.  When she got to the traffic lights she saw the driver with a long lens on their camera.  One solid look at her and the camera went down and it was back to see if they had missed the real Gwen coming out.  Poor Gwen.

I do love seeing the paparazzi, it makes me feel like I live in LA.  Remember when I hadn’t been here that long and I had my brush with the paps courtesy of JLo?

But the converse of that is feeling sorry for people like Gwen who, apart from the sanctity of her home, can’t escape the attention.  I wrote about how since I arrived in LA I’ve changed my opinion of celebrities and how I don’t believe we have a right to judge them I got a bit of heckling back.  The argument is when you put yourself out there and make money from being in the spotlight then you are asking to be scrutinised.

I don’t think so, I think it’s two very separate things.  You can be curious (like, let’s face it we were with Gwen Stefani) but you don’t have a right to be part of their lives and intrude in a sanctity that is their privacy.  My humble opinion.  (And don’t give me that shit about they became a singer or actor to get celebrity; very few people I know actually think like that and their “celebrity” often catches them off guard.)

Don’t be hating

I have a friend who is very successful, he has a great Instagram account and understands that his money is made from the people that support and buy his product.  What upsets me is when people start being nasty.  And do they ever let loose.  Being out there in the spotlight is like a target to the power target.  People feel fine commenting on someone’s social media accounts because they don’t have to say it to their face so they feel protected.  For some reason, if you’re a well-known identity or celebrity—or you put yourself out there like I and many other Bloggers do—then it’s OK to say whatever you like.  Like nasty comments won’t hurt them.  The more famous you are doesn’t automatically mean you get an extra layer of protection to stop getting hurt by what people say about you.  NO MATTER HOW FAMOUS.  And, by the way, sometimes you get even more sensitive.

So, yes, I felt for Gwen Stefani.  I love whenever I visit my friends seeing the tour buses stopping at the front—we often wave to them even when they get in our way!  It’s part of living where we do in LA.  And part of how this Blog started.  And it’s fun to get a glimpse of the paparazzi waiting for some action.  Again, it’s part of living in LA.  But, it’s also good to stop and reflect on the reality of those people being there means to some.

Oh, that also answers the question are they all looked after by Nannies.  Most of my kids friends aren’t; only a small handful are.  And even then their parents are very hands-on and connected.  And only a couple of them have Bodyguards.  (Just thought I’d throw that in there for you to see if you’re reading along).

But where was I?  Oh yes, what Beverly Hills kids do for fun.

Postmates

On the other side of town my son was hanging with a friend.  Collectively he and two friends are obsessed with Garlo’s Aussie Pies, an Australian pie shop here in LA.  On my way to dropping my son I needed to go to the ATM.  To get to the ATM I have to drive right past their shop so I suggested we pick up their pies.

“No, you can’t do that mum, we’re getting Postmates.”

“Oh, you’re not getting Garlo’s anymore, you’re getting something else.”

“No, we’re getting Garlo’s.”

“OK, well seeing as we’re here why don’t I get it.”

“But we’re getting Postmates.”

“Yes, but we’re here”.

Whatever. Seriously.

If you haven’t worked it out Postmates is “Uber for food.”

It’s the app of choice for 90210 kids who need something to eat and whose parents are happy to pay the $4.99++ delivery fee—plus tip.

When it first launched in LA kids were ordering $3.99 Frappuccino’s from Starbucks and paying $4.99 to have it delivered plus tip.

And my daughter wondered why I wouldn’t let her do it.

“$10 for a Frappuccino to be delivered?  Are you aware there are refugees trying to flee Syria right now and countries who still don’t believe girls should be educated?” is my catch-cry du jour.

“Fine. You’re so embarrassing.”

Fortunately, we’ve stopped having the Frappuccino battle and I think I’ve even relented once and paid the delivery fee for take-away (take-out) one night.  But I also don’t really need to when we still have old-fashioned take-away services where restaurants deliver for free.  And I still don’t have to resort to Domino’s or Pizza Hut.

Speaking of Uber

Yes, so speaking of Uber, that would be the main form of transport of the kids these days. Even for my kids. It’s actually really convenient and great value.  I still like getting in the car and driving them–let’s face it it’s how you get all the gossip–but when the LA traffic is going to get the better of you, I find it more than OK.

Taking it possibly a bit far is the kids who book an Uber to pick them up from school.  And, there are also those kids who Postmates themselves after school.  (Note to self: check if they do it at lunch time).  Oh the things money can buy; and here’s me thinking you can use money for good.

And, to answer the private jet question, yes a couple of our friends regularly travel in private jets. There could be more and others I know have done on an ad hoc basis.  My daughter has been invited more than once  (unfortunately for her she couldn’t join them) and I’m not sure I’ll ever score an invite but hey, it’s LA so you never, never know.

What’s going on in your part of town?  What do your kids do for fun?  Are you happy with what they do or do you have to step in and play bad cop?  Would love to hear all about it.

 

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: Sadly our favourite Aussie pie shop, Garlo’s, is now closed. We’re hoping it’s coming back in some way shape or form. We’re awaiting more news in that department. Please oh please come back.

Los Angelinos love to talk routes | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Differences between America & Australia, My LA story, Posts

Los Angelinos love to talk routes

Los Angelinos love to talk “routes”

Routes.  Better known to us Aussies as which way to go.

We call them “roots” they call them “rowtes” (row as in argument not what you do in a boat).  However you say it Los Angelinos love to talk about it.  It starts every conversation when you meet up somewhere, and it will be the last conversation you will have when you part ways.

“Which way are you going…?”

“Which way did you come…?”

“Did you take the 405…?”

“Which way should we go, the 101 is busy at this time of day, is it quicker to use the side streets?”

Even recently, when an Australian friend was talking about which way her friends were going on the way from the airport to her place, she said this:

“From LAX they took the 105 to the 10 to the 101….”  Only at the end did she say “they went via Downtown.”

The sad part about that is not that she just didn’t say, “yeah, they went via Downtown,” it’s that I actually could picture the “route” (said with an American pronunciation if you will) they took.

One time when I hadn’t been here too long and went off to Disneyland for the first time my friend said, “Let me send you the best way to get down there.”

405S
105E
605S
91E
5S
Disneyland exit.

“Don’t I just plug it in my GPS and follow?”

Which way you go is a sport in LA.

And now it’s fuelled by apps like Waze (pronounced ways) that will tell you the “fastest” way to get to a given destination.

Waze has fuelled the discussion even more making it an extreme sport.

“Did you check Waze?”

“What does your Waze say?”

And Waze has a lot to answer for in the back streets of LA.  I’m too lazy and selfish to suck up my phone’s battery to use Waze.  My GPS will be just fine.  But I have to confess I’m getting suckered into the “Which route …?” discussion too.

Gotta love LA.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Celebrity, My LA story

The Kevin Bacon Game

Do you know the Kevin Bacon Game? It’s basically where you can put any actor within six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

Well … I just found out at a dinner that I can put myself within two degrees of separation of Kevin Bacon.

We went to a “rigged” school event/dinner party at a friend’s house on Saturday night.  I say rigged because it was an Auction item at last year’s end-of-year Fair and we had to buy tickets to join.  But our hosts gave us the “heads-up” to get together a fun group of like-minded people.

At dinner we played the game, two truths and a lie.  As the name suggests we had to give three facts about ourselves, one of which was a lie.

As one of the facts one of our hosts said she walked down the aisle alongside Kevin Bacon.  Truth!  Wow, she was a bridesmaid alongside Kevin Bacon.  So, she’s linked to Kevin Bacon and everyone else at that dinner table are now two degrees of to the very same.  And now, as one of my loyal readers, you are three degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.  See how easy this game is?  How much fun it is.

Uber

You know we love Uber here in LA.  I don’t know what the sticking point is getting it over the line in Australia but we are regular users–and lovers–of Uber.

In the last couple of weeks though we’ve hit a couple of snags.  Firstly I had a little incident a few weeks ago which clearly caused one of the drivers to rate us badly.  We thought we checked everything off with him to make sure we were all good.  He said we were but between late Friday night and early Sunday morning there became a problem.

Now every time we’ve tried to book an Uber X the drivers cancel us.  Now the simple job of getting an Uber is not so simple.

Then last weekend we came across some other unfamiliar Uber Ts&Cs.  One of our friends decided it was time to go home so ordered their Uber.  I managed to convince them to stay but the time I’d done that the Uber had arrived.  So out I go and chat to the driver and apologise and ask him if it’s OK with him to cancel.

“Sure,” he says, “no problems.  Do me a favour though and press cancel the job.  That will look better for me.”

“Will that affect his rating?” I cleverly ask.

“No, not at all,” was the reply.

“Well not a problem,” I replied while pressing cancel.  “Thanks so much,” I said.

About half an hour later my mate yells out to me, “Gwen, you owe me $10 Uber just charged me to cancel.”

And it was off, I was straight on the phone to Mr Uber driver and argued with him that perhaps he should have told me when he “innocently” asked me to cancel the trip as it will help him.

After going around in circles I told him I had a party to get back to but he wouldn’t hear the end of it from me.

Then a couple of hours later the same thing happened to us.  We got the call to say our Uber had arrived, we said our goodbyes then as we were walking out the door we saw the Uber driver driving off.  It was late so we weren’t lurking–we have been longer waiting to be picked up to go out as I finish getting ready or walk down our steep poorly paved drive.  We got charged a $5 no-show fee.

What the Uber?  We love you but it’s also possible for a love affair to go sour.  I’m putting you on notice.

Top 13 celebrity encounters in LA so far

All the talk of the last two years in LA, and my two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon has prompted me to list my top 10 celebrity encounters to date.  It’s still bizarre to me that one move as a result of one job offer puts me in LA writing a blog about some of my surreal experiences–experiences would just reply, “Get of out town” to a mere 25 months ago.

  1. Going to my kids’ first swim meet and seeing Rod Stewart sitting on the Bleachers. Then realising his son goes to our school.  After only a few weeks in LA…
  2. Saying about the son of a big-time pop star, “I would have picked him up and taken them [out], next time please feel free to ask me,” without thinking about what it means.  To me, they’re just normal people and we’re doing normal things.
  3. Looking up from my mobile phone at the Golden Globes after-party and realising I was following Rhianna.   Into a VIP section.  And being able to be there.
  4. Seeing J Lo and Mary J Blige out for dinner at one of my favourite WeHo restaurants.
  5. Seeing dozens of paparazzi waiting outside for JLo on that same night.  And posing for them.
  6. Having friends from Australia with us and apologising for the “dud” celeb-spotting night when JLo walks in. And gets sat across from us.  Then seeing the look on the face of the Maître D when he realised he’d sat her across from me!
  7. Sitting in front of Sandra Bullock at a school PA (Parents Association) meeting.
  8. Coming head-to-head with Beyonce and Jay Z on New Year’s Day night in a narrow LA street. Jay Z politely reversed up the hill to let us through.
  9. Sitting in a classroom with Warren Beatty.
  10. Telling Taylor Swift how I thought she was a fabulous role model for girls everywhere at the Golden Globes.
  11. Seeing Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves AND Hugh Grant eating together at my favourite hip WeHo restaurant.
  12. Seeing David Duchovny standing outside a sound stage at Mr H’s Studios. Then thinking it was a look-alike.
  13. Seeing Duff McKagan recently all rock-starred up (ie like he’s just finished filming a music video) rather than “conservativing-up” his look.

I’ve had to stop at 13 otherwise it will just end up being a list of all my celebrity encounters!  What’s worse is now my standards are much higher–how quickly you get acclimated (sorry climatised)!  I’m going to redo this in 6-12 months’ time and see if it changes.

Enjoy your week, go the Wallabies to beat the All-Blacks in a nail-biting but “good-for-rugby” World Cup Final.

xx It Started in LA xx

Moving to LA, My LA story, Posts

Finding somewhere to live in LA

Finding somewhere to live in LA

I started this little trip down memory lane a few months ago, reminiscing about all the things we needed to do to see if living in LA would work out for us.

When I last left you we were on a plane bound for LA with appointments at two schools and time set aside with a relocation agent to try to find somewhere to live in LA.

Qantas A380 SYD-LA

One the plane ready to interview with LA schools & find somewhere to live. Wish us luck | It Started in LA

 

Our first step was getting through our interviews at the two schools we chose. Once we had a better idea whether or not we’d get in then we could start narrowing our search for somewhere to live.

Ten private schools to consider in LA

I realise I didn’t name the schools in my last post. And, if you’re coming to LA and looking for private schools you’re going to need a few names to start with. Here were some of the names on our list to help give you a start.

  1. Harvard-Westlake
  2. Brentwood School
  3. Oakwood
  4. Buckley
  5. Campbell Hall
  6. Polytechnic
  7. Crossroads
  8. Wildwood
  9. Chadwick School
  10. Windward School

This is by no way definitive—do your research and check the area they’re in first. Unless you’re a good commuter you don’t want to work on one side of LA, living on the other and having your kids at school in the opposite direction to both.

For single sex schools you might also consider:

  1. Loyola HS (Yrs 9-12)
  2. Marymount HS (yrs 9-12)
  3. Crespi HS (Yrs 9-12)
  4. Marlborough
  5. Archer School for Girls

Eight areas to consider when finding somewhere to live in LA

You’re getting the message there are lots of different areas to live in LA and, not unlike anywhere else in the world, it dictates the type of lifestyle you’ll have when you move. If you’re relocating for work then you know where your office is. We knew MR H’s office was going to be in Hollywood. I knew I wanted to be close to the action and I didn’t want him to have a long commute—we wanted to replicate our Sydney experience as closely as we could because that works for us.

I opened Google Maps and started to look at different areas that could work for us. Here are some of our choices and/or suggestions.

1.   Santa Monica

We heard Santa Monica was a bit tricky to get into and out of but being relatively self-contained, and by the beach, it would be a great lifestyle choice for us. The bonus was that the public schools were good so the extra rent could be saved in free public schooling.

Pros: Beachside, up to 20 degrees (F) cooler than in town and with everything at your fingertips you rarely need to leave.

Cons: Much smaller houses and high rent gives you less bang for buck. The traffic getting into and out of Santa Monica could also be a downer if you’re not used to it.

2.   Hollywood Hills

When you think of Hollywood Hills you think mansion after mansion of sprawling celebrity estates. But there are some nice neighbourhoods that don’t have to break your budget and I like the feel of the area, plus it’s convenient for all of us.

Pros: Great areas, good choice of houses, retro style.

Cons: nothing really—just have to find the house.

3.   Pacific Palisades

It’s a lovely area but you can’t get much further away from Hollywood. For some reason our Relocation agent kept pushing us towards the Palisades. We’ve since found out there’s a great Charter School there and many people try to get their kids in here as an alternative to Private School but we weren’t told that at the time.  Anyway, for us the commute is the deal breaker.

Pros: Great neighbourhood and community

Cons: A long commute to Hollywood for Mr H and I felt like I’d be isolated away from the shopping and restaurant districts of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

4.   The Valley

Movies have been made on the area–remember Valley Girls? We were advised to consider the valley because of its more affordable houses, and if you go out further enough you get good schools and McMansions—bigger houses and better bang for buck.

After two and a half years of living in Beverly Hills we bought a house in the Valley (Sherman Oaks).  It’s nice and close to school, it’s not far from our old house, it’s close to the freeways to get around town and we can walk to shops and restaurants.  We feel like it has given us a new lease on life in LA.  It’s great for us and it’s great for the kids.

Pros: Bigger houses, lots of pools.

Cons: 50,000,000 degrees hotter in summer.

5.   Beverly Hills &/or West Hollywood

I didn’t really think we were going to consider Beverly Hills because it’s well … Beverly Hills. But like the Hollywood Hills Beverly Hills isn’t all mansions, there are some more affordable areas.

South of Santa Monica is still Beverly Hills and it borders West Hollywood. This is definitely the area I would have loved to live in.

Pros: Proximity to shopping and restaurants.

Cons: There is absolutely nothing wrong with Beverly Hills as long as you can find the house.  West Hollywood too for that matter.

6.   Pasadena

Pasadena comes highly recommended by a great many people for its culture, great schools and lifestyle. We didn’t consider it though as it was a commute for all of us.

Pros: Lots of people love it and a good school district.

Cons: The commute–unless you’re working in the area.

7.   Brentwood or Westwood

Brentwood was nice and close to Santa Monica making it convenient to the beach yet still convenient enough for Mr H and work.

Pros: Great location with close proximity to beaches and still easy access to West Hollywood and Beverly Hills restaurants.

Cons: Not much good stock in our price range.

8.   South Bay

Many people come to SoCal (Southern California) for the lifestyle. So it’s no surprise that people are attracted to the South Bay area encompassing Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach.

Pros: Good schools, beautiful shops and township, community feeling

Cons: Quite the commute!

9.  Hancock Park

Bordering Melrose and West Hollywood Hancock Park is a beautiful leafy suburb in the middle of concrete-paradise LA.  It has great schools nearby and lots of the private schools have buses to and from each day.

Pros: Convenient to Hollywood and Downtown, great community neighbourhood.

Cons: It’s pretty hard to find good houses available for rent–but do put it on your list if it’s convenient for you.

Plus two other neighbourhoods I’d add to my list:

10.  Silver Lake & Los Feliz

Silver Lake is on the other side of the 101 off Sunset.  It’s hip & happening, funky, groovy and an eclectic group of people.  I’m not sure there are many private schools in the area but if I were a young family this is where I’d want to be.

11.  Culver City

Culver City has come a long way even from when we moved here: new restaurants and shops and it’s close to the Studios, especially Sony Pictures.

Plus, many other studios and entertainment businesses are setting up shop there.

 

Map of LA according to LAist

LA Stereotypes according to LAist

 

Our journey two years ago finding somewhere to live in LA

We spent a lot of time covering different areas of LA looking for something semi-decent in our price range. We wanted a spare room and a pool and didn’t think it was a huge ask. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. In a horrible wake-up call it felt like we were struggling Uni students on a measly budget. Every house we went into was depressing—wardrobe doors that wouldn’t open or close let alone you wouldn’t want to put your clothes in, small and dirty kitchens, rundown houses with filthy carpet and—if there was a pool—grimy and couldn’t be less inviting if they tried. I felt like I was visiting Neil, Vivienne, Mike & Neil from The Young Ones.

Not one house we visited in the first couple of days would be one we’d be happy to visit let alone call home. It was back to the drawing board—we’d need to up our budget and/or forgo the guest room.

It was easier to find a house to suit our needs in Shanghai—a city where the majority of people couldn’t speak English—than it was in Los Angeles, one of America’s largest and most prestigious cities.

To say our relocation agent was useless was an understatement. She seemed surprised that we didn’t like any of the houses she showed us so we took things into our own hands. We started trawling the rental websites looking for places, increasing our budget and seeing where the sweet spot would be for us to find something vaguely decent. I thought getting into a school would be the problem, not finding a house.

We found a few places in West Hollywood and I decided this would be a perfect area for us—close the action like we were in Australia, not far from Mr H’s work and it wouldn’t be too bad getting the kids to a nearby bus stop for school commuting.

Everytime we sent our relocation agent a place we wanted to check out in West Hollywood she’d ignore it. I’d ask her when I saw her next how she’s going securing us an appointment she’d defensively say, “it takes time to get an appointment, please bear with me.”

Then Mr H said, about one particular place that looked really quite promising, “that was one of the first places we sent you,” she finally started saying something about West Hollywood being a questionable place to live.

She was alluding to the fact that—shock horror—there were a lot of gay people that lived in the area. We reminded her that we lived in inner city Sydney and we’ve always had lovely gay neighbours and we were very comfortable with this. Despite writing her a brief on our family and our tastes, she couldn’t relate to us because her picture of us had us in a family-oriented neighbourhood with conservative values.

After brushing us off to a Real-Estate agent to continue house hunting we hit the ground running with a full schedule of houses to visit. The Agent would give us a list of houses, we’d check the maps and drive past the house, then provide a short list of the ones we liked that we wanted to see inside.

That’s when we thought we were going to end up living in either the Hollywood Hills or Beverly Hills—great proximity to Hollywood and not bad for the kids for school.

After a week of solid searching and being totally despondent we settled on two houses—one in Beverly Hills off Mulholland Drive and the other in the Hollywood Hills. I was overruled and we put an application in for the house in the Hollywood Hills. It had a pool that was swimable and whatever made them happy I was happy enough to go with.

In our application we explained that we don’t have a credit history in America but we have a good one at home in Australia and that we’re being moved to LA by Mr H’s new company. For whatever it was worth they would back us if necessary. We also said we were pretty keen to stay longer than 12 months as it wouldn’t make sense for us to get settled only to have to move again.

Our application was rejected—apparently someone else had put an application in at the same time and were offering more money.

To me this didn’t make sense for two reasons—one we weren’t told anyone else was interested in the house let alone let looking let alone miraculously putting in an application at precisely the same time as us. Secondly, if there are two people putting an application on a property wouldn’t you go back and create an auction situation and try to get the best possible deal for the house? Exactly. So clearly our lack of credit history meant that we lost out on this house.

That meant it was Plan B and the Beverly Hills house I was keen on. It didn’t have a pool but it was the sort of style we were used to in Australia and a house we wouldn’t be ashamed to have the rich and famous over to visit.

When we were visiting the house we actually got a call from one of the schools saying we were accepted. What a relief, now we just have to find the house and our job here in LA was done for now.

We put an application in for the Beverly Hills house and it was accepted. The owner—a movie producer and composer came to LA from Austria a number of years ago only to find himself in the same position so he was sympathetic to us. We’ll never know whether we’d struggle to find another house but we were so thankful the search was over.

Plus, we later realised that the school was an incredible ten-minute commute away so we couldn’t be luckier.

It was the most stressful week and enough to put us off making the move to LA quite frankly. I actually don’t know why we persevered. Yeah, I actually do, it was the allure of Hollywood and the wonder of what life would have in store for this ordinary but happy Australian family about to move to Hollywood.

Now, two years on, I wish we’d chosen a bigger house and held off to get the pool we so desperately wanted. It’s one thing to get a house close to your needs in Australia but it would have been smarter to get a house different to what you’re used to so you get a different experience.  And, as a growing family we could have grown into that “big American house.”

If only we were a bit more realistic and weren’t looking at the opportunity through rose-coloured glasses.

Did you make your move in a hurry? Did you find finding a house easy? Hard? Did you know where you wanted to live? Did you have anyone to help you? Would love it if you’d share your stories.

xx It Started in LA xx

Updated October, 2016

Getting cultural in LA
My LA story, Posts

Who said we couldn’t get cultural in LA?

One of the reasons I didn’t want to live in America was the lack of cultural opportunities we’d be presented with.  It was such a bonus in Shanghai to learn about and empathise with the Chinese culture.

But who said we couldn’t get cultural in LA?

Alas I was wrong… most of my friends here in 90210 are Jewish so we’re lucky enough to learn so much about their (religious) culture and the holidays and ceremonies involved.

My first cultural moment was when I had my tennis friends for lunch in what was a momentous cultural exchange.  I was exposing them to my culture of Pimms & Lemonade after tennis and they were introducing me to food preparation the Jewish way.

Cheers! Pimms & Lemonade anyone?

Cheers! Pimms & Lemonade anyone?

 

My first question to them: “Do I need to cook with Kosher Salt?” (something I’ve seen a bit of in the supermarket).

Apparently not.  No, apart from not serving them the basics like pork (the key ingredient in many of my signature dishes–bugger it) and bacon I don’t need to worry about Kosher salt.  Apparently it was funny because using Kosher salt doesn’t magically make the dish kosher (if only).  Glad I could provide some entertainment for you, it’s what I do best.

A highlight of the Jewish calendar would have to be the Bar & Bat Mitzvahs.  (It’s Bar Mitvah for the boys and Bat Mitvah for the girls when they turn 13).

I’ve been very honoured to be invited to a few now and so humbled to witness such a momentous event.  Such a lot of work and preparation goes in I wanted to witness the “call to the Torah” myself.

With the number of Jewish people running Hollywood I’m surprised there aren’t more movies–or at least TV episodes–about these amazing events.

And they are a party planner’s dream come true: photo shoots, red carpets, candy stations to rival the Candy Bar at the movies, dancers, DJs, MCs, special guests, photo booths, activities galore–and quite a bit of grog.

Bar Mitzvahs

Amazing table setting at a friend’s Bar Mitzvah at the Beverly Wilshire | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

 

And the 90210 Bar/Batmitzvahs are the best!

In case you’re wondering what to give at these momentous events–a cheque!  (Cause they still write cheques here!)  To show your reverence and understanding of their culture multiples of $18 are the way to go.  This is symbolic for the gift of life originating from Hebrew words and letters that make up the word life.  (They usually also give multiples of $18 for birth or a wedding too.)

 

Sukkot

One of my girlfriend’s favourite Jewish holidays is Sukkot.  It’s essentially a holiday to celebrate the harvest where you eat outside to mimic the forty-year period when the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.

There’s plenty of food and a traditional offering is made gathering family and friends together.

It’s now a regular event on our social calendar we look forward to each year.  It may or may not have anything to do with great friends, lots of good wine and fun family times.

Sukkot

Sukkot at my friends is a great night–and a reminder that our food comes from a harvest something that’s pretty easy to forget.

Learn all about it here.

I have a lot of respect for my Jewish friends who keep their traditions alive.  I struggled to do it as a semi-lapsed catholic so hats off.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: I can hear the dissatisfaction at the end of the post with you yelling at the screen asking, “Where’s the recipe for the Pimms & Lemonade it looks so bloody good.”

By popular demand here it is …

Pimm’s Fruit Punch

 

Pimms & Lemonade

A cultural exchange: Pimms & Lemonade goes hand-in-hand with tennis

Grab a jug and pour in a good dose of Pimms to your mixing taste.

Add half lemonade (Sprite) and half Ginger Ale.

Cut up your favourite fruit like oranges, strawberries and cucumber and mint and stir.

Enjoy & please drink responsibly.

 

Behind-the-wheel test
Moving to LA, My LA story, Posts

Getting my Californian Licence—part two (behind-the-wheel)

I hope you haven’t been holding your breath waiting for “Getting my Californian Driving Licence—part 2 (behind-the-wheel)”.

Yes, they call it “behind-the-wheel” here and it’s the practical part of the licence process—the part that has “fail me” written all over it and the part I was putting off the most mainly because of the horror stories I’d heard. You know? Anything that can go wrong will go wrong?

About six months ago I embarked on the getting-my-licence journey thinking it would give my sitcom (actually Blog) a comedy boost. Sadly there is little to no comedic value in this post.  It’s not original and it’s just one of those stupid things in life there’s just no getting around.

One Sunday night a few weeks ago—while it was still school holidays—my husband got out his iPad and announced it was time to get my licence.  Where did that come from?

The overwhelming advice was don’t sit your licence in Hollywood, they’ll fail you.  OK.  It was suggested I go into the “Valley” to Winnetka.  The only available appointment in the foreseeable future was the very next day.

“I can’t do it tomorrow,” I said rather adamantly.

“Why not?”.

“Because,” knowing full well that’s a ridiculous response. “I need to drive around and get to know the area first. And we’ve got dentist appointments in the morning, how am I going to do two things in one day?” Useless … not getting any more convincing.

So, after checking around at alternative appointments and realising I’ve got no excuse, we made the appointment. I can do this.

I rounded up all my paperwork ready for the test. Because I was driving on a Learner’s Permit Mr H had to come with me.

(Only a year ago you could show your Australian licence and they’d give you a temporary licence provided you past the written test. Now you’re given a Learner’s Permit valid for one year).

Because you’re on a Learner’s Permit it technically requires a licenced driver to accompany you.  Given part of their checklist is you must be accompanied by a Licenced Driver, we weren’t about to test the DMV and have me front up alone only to be rejected.

Preparation for behind-the-wheel test

Next we collected up the rest of the paperwork I needed:

  • My Learner’s Permit
  • My Registration Papers (that are supposed to be kept in the car anyway)
  • Proof of insurance (that’s also supposed to be kept in the car)
  • i94 & Passport.

(Side-bar: While I needed my i94 and Passport they didn’t ask for my son’s when he got his licence at 16. It may have something to do with the fact that it’s a brand new licence but not sure at this stage. He passed his test and is now driving so all must be OK).

And look up my hand signals. (That’s right, for some antiquated reason you need to know hand signals for left, right and stop).

OK, check, check, check.

We rocked up to the Winnetka DMV.  You’re asked to park in the carpark, check in and then drive up to the testing area when “instructed to do so”.

Like every other DMV in LA it’s packed. I don’t know why this is. There’s always a queue out the front and there are always hordes of people inside.  And it’s always always always chaotic. This DMV is not unlike the Hollywood DMV I described in Part one of this story.

I had to go inside past the outside queue (and funny looks) and then past another inside queue that was marked for appointments and head over to the far side (not dissimilar to the far queue) where there was a separate queue for driver’s licence appointments.

I’m glad Mr H asked as it wasn’t obvious when we arrived and there are so many people around, you feel like you need to start queuing outside before you make your way in. Without deliberately offending my host country it feels like I’m walking into a government department in the Philippines.

We were early but unfortunately they were checking us in in appointment time order so that wasn’t much use to us. And, they were running late.

We checked the paperwork list on the desk matched the paperwork we’d brought in with us.  All good.  Oh, except the insurance papers.  They were expired.  We’d been automatically renewed but we mustn’t have printed out the renewal and now we’re standing there looking at expired insurance.

Ok, we can log in and show that our insurance was actually current.  But now we’re at the mercy of DMV—and whether the people behind the counters are sticklers for the rules or reasonable.  You never want to be at the mercy of the DMV so who knows how this will play out.

We started playing out the different scenarios.

“Oh, is it expired? I didn’t realise. I can look it up online to prove it’s not.” Possible.

“Would you be able to print our proof of insurance out for us?” Doubtful.

“We’ve just realised the paperwork is out of date but here it is online to prove it’s current.” Yep, always go with the truth.

There was a nice girl at the desk so we’ll take our chances.

Oh wait, the nice girl goes on break. The one that takes over seems a bit grumpy. Great.

We wait some more. I’ve got Mr H there, slightly dodgy paperwork and a car to sit the test in so I’m just at the mercy of the chick behind the counter as to whether she accepts the insurance certificate and then that of the driving tester.

They call our timeslot and as if it’s meant to be the nice girl comes back. “No problems.” she says as she takes my learner’s permit and registration and hands me back my proof of insurance and asks me to sit down and wait for my name to be called.

I’ll spare you the muzak on hold music and the obligatory … 30 minutes later to give the idea of the length of time this is taking …

(Ok I didn’t but I could have).

I’m up! My name is called and Mr H and I go to my car. I’m driving, he’s in the passenger seat. I was asked to put my paperwork on the right dashboard so I did.

It’s taking a bloody long time to drive to what is essentially a drive-through minus the bottleshop or Maccas ordering window. There’s a hold up in front of us. Two lots of people get out of their cars. Oops. As we’re creeping forward a clearly nervous 16-year-old hits the people in front of her, who are just in front of us. They exchange paperwork we chuckle at the irony and wonder if she’s automatically failed or given a lifeline. There’s a security guard there facilitating the exchange but none of the testers so maybe she’s good to go.

(She was good to go but came back some five minutes later failing anyway).

Time to run through my hand signals one more time.

Taking the behind-the-wheel test: we’re on

I’m up. The tester takes my paperwork and Mr H is free to get out of the car. Then she starts asking me questions.

  • Where’s your foot brake? Put your foot on it (and she checks my brake lights)
  • Right indicator (oops I’ve done the windscreen wipers, try again, got it).
  • Left indicator
  • Checks my tyres
  • Asks me to do my handsignals and say what they are.

Next she hops in the car and asks some more things saying point don’t touch.

  • Emergency or foot brake (parking brake)
  • Horn
  • Emergency flasher
  • Headlights
  • Defroster (rear & front demist)
  • Headlights.

We’re off. I had nightmares for two years about exiting the driveway and turning too close and running over the gutter but all good. I turned right into a street, stopped at a traffic light and turned right again. She asked me to pull over then reverse. Then she asked me to pull out again. The silence in the car is killing me. I hate awkward silence. I turned left into a street and left into another one. I was near the DMV I could feel it in my bones I was home and hosed.

Keep going straight. What??? Aren’t I done? Left. Right. Left. Left. We were getting further away. Was she willing me to make more mistakes? This is becoming a competition now. I wasn’t going to fail after all this. I passed mini test after mini test she was giving me. I had to turn left into a street but the cars were banked up past the turning lane left so I dutifully waited behind the cars. (You know when you’ve got your licence you just cross the wrong side of the road so you can join the turning lane so you catch the lights?) Two cars overtook me and I laughed awkwardly. She was impressed I could tell. I could sense we were heading back.

“Left,” she said. There was a pedestrian crossing yet I was free to go. I had heard that the pedestrian had to fully cross the road before you could go. What do I do? Do I go? Wait? I’m going to fail on my way back to the DMV. I went but turned wide when the pedestrian was crossing on the other side of the traffic. I’ve failed. Keep calm she would’ve asked you to pull over by now.

I pulled into the DMV. As far as I could see I was perfect: I stopped ahead of the lanes, I used my mirrors all the time (as in checked them remembering when I was 18 and sat my test in Melbourne and passed on the first go) and I didn’t speed.  That damn pedestrian.

“You can have 15 errors,” she started. Great. No way, I couldn’t have failed.

“You made 11 errors.” I passed. Yay me. Wait, what 11 errors?

“You must take care not to turn too wide,” she said. Oh yeah, I’m lucky I made the right call there I’ll take that one.  “Awkward giggle, oh yes I know where I did that,” I said out loud.

“You must always look both ways.” But I did, I did. I looked in my mirrors I looked everywhere.

I nodded as if to agree. Who cares? I passed.

“Go inside, give them this and you can collect your licence.” No congratulations? No well done?

“Ok. Thanks.”

I went to the desk and said to the girl (a different girl at a different desk). “I passed. Just.”

“Oh,” she said looking at my paperwork.  Then, looking at the girl next to her she said, “She got you-know-who guess how many errors she made. She passed.”

“14,” says the girl next to her.

“11,” she laughs back at her.

“Oh you’re good girl,” said the girl looking up at me then and the girl next to her and continues serving the person at her desk.

“She’s tough that one.  Let’s put it like this.  I’ll get in the car with you any time.”

Only then did I breathe a sigh of relief.

I’m a licenced Californian driver. I had to sit a written test then (endure) a behind-the-wheel test and I live to tell the tale. Not only that I passed.  With the toughest tester in Winnetka.

Could you pass a behind-the-wheel test if you had to resit it today? How did you go? I’m just glad this little obstacle is done and dusted.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: For more information on applying for your California Driver’s Licence head here.

Differences between America & Australia, My LA story, Posts

Differences between LA & Sydney: Drinking at lunch

As I continue my series on the differences between LA & Sydney, I’m noticing so many, many things.  Who said the transition to California would be smooth? Well, it’s not that it isn’t smooth so much as we are different.  Take drinking at lunchtime as a prime example.

I love going out to lunch—there’s something totally decadent about having a long lunch where you enjoy good conversation, great food and, of course, a bottle or so of wine.

I remember when we moved to Shanghai it took me a while to find drinking partners at lunchtime. It was so foreign to me that you would go out for a beautiful meal (even if it is through the day) and not have a glass of wine—or three—to accompany that meal. Water simply won’t cut it will it?  And I see now that was probably the American influence in our Expat society.

I go out regularly with my girlfriends in Australia and love it. We’ve often been known to seek alternative methods of after-school pick-up for the kids. And, with the wonders of time (the kids getting older) and public transport in Australia it gets easier for the kids to walk home from the bus stop.

Here in LA not so much!

I don’t think “doing lunch” is a thing here amongst my fellow Beverly Hills Housewives. Sure, when someone has a birthday we’ll go out but it doesn’t seem to be a regular thing (or maybe I don’t have enough friends). And then, once you get them out it’s water or an Arnold Palmer (Ice Tea & Lemonade).

The other week I had a lovely lunch with my fellow PA mothers and not a drop of wine in sight.

I do have to love my supportive girlfriends though. The ones who know that a lunch with me means we’re going to have a glass of wine. That’s supportive.

I’ll keep looking for fellow lunchers though—where lunch turns into afternoon drinks, which turns into dinner.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: If you’re in LA and looking for places to eat, check out my Pinterest board I keep updated with tips from a local. There’s no excuse not to eat well when you’re visiting–stay away from those chains!

My take on the 2015 Emmys Telecast
Celebrity, Movies and TV, My LA story, Posts

My round up of the Emmys 2015 telecast

I love the Emmys and I love TV. So it’s only fitting that I share my round up of the Emmys 2015 telecast. Last year I was lucky enough to go to the Creative Arts Emmys. As is the premise of my Blog, never in my wildest dreams as a very happy normal chick living the Sydney life expect to be strutting the Red Carpet amongst the cast of Orange is the New Black, Jon Voight and incredible talent that makes the TV industry go around. It’s crazy.

This year’s Emmys ceremony was great, I thoroughly enjoyed them and I love that it’s broken down over two separate ceremonies. It makes the main event go much quicker.

While I enjoyed most of Andy Sandberg as this year’s host can I am still mourning the loss of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. It will take a few more years til we get to their standard—if we do at all. They’re some pretty talented and funny women.

Andy opened strongly but it was a bit stop/start. His opening monologue was fine but not great.

It took a while to hit cruising speed but he definitely got more comfortable and relaxed as time went on, which is good.

To me, cruising speed was hit when he did his little “Girls” love scene impersonation—which is pretty funny even if you didn’t know the scene in question.

ICYMI here it is.

Important role of TV

 

The Oscars last year got slammed for “snubbing people of colour” but the Emmys did the opposite. I’m not sure it’s that the Emmys addressed or acknowledged people of colour but had the opportunity to award talent where it was due.

No one put it better than Viola Davis herself:

“The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy (or an Oscar) for roles that are simply not there.”

There have been many people commenting on social media saying, You won, you’re good, you deserve it but enough about the colour factor. Sorry, you can’t say that! Clearly to say what she said, to speak as openly and emotionally as she did, Viola Davis has been on a ride. Otherwise it wouldn’t be so from-the-heart as it was.

I also understand why they say “it shouldn’t be about colour”. BUT. America is very into defining people—men, women, black, Asian, native American, gay, straight, transgender and talking about Diversity. By labelling people America is its own worst enemy. It struck me almost as soon as I got here and I penned (so to speak) this post.

(And I’m not saying Australia is not guilty, we’ve had our own racist issues, which also embarrass me, but it comes from a different angle).

Maybe it’s easy for me to say but at the end of the day—when you look really closely—I’m not white middle America, I just act like I am. “White” that is. Clearly I’m not American (although I do see myself as evolving into an Ausmerican).

I act like I am white because I don’t see myself any differently. And I think that’s largely because I grew up in Australia, not America. I’m probably not really making a lot of sense but here’s the bottom line:

Shonda Rhimes, is a creative genius. Beyond genius. She’s like the Steven Bochco of the 2000s (am I showing my age?). When I first saw Grey’s Anatomy in Australia, I knew it was created by Shonda Rhimes but I had no idea she was black. It didn’t matter, why should it? When I first saw the shorts (trailer) for How To Get Away with Murder I saw a powerful performance by Viola Davis but I didn’t take special notice of the fact that she was black, she was just bloody amazing.

That should be the point. And (I think) that was Viola Davis’s point.

TV should be at the cutting edge of setting change. TV Shows have a shorter incubation period, cost less to make, and there is a large talent pool to choose from. And that’s why we love it so much and that’s why it’s so much edgier than movie-making at the moment.

And, the fact that every single drama nominated could clearly be the winner exemplifies that point.  And that every single comedy nominated could clearly be the winner. No one drama or comedy would have won that category and you would have said, “I don’t think they deserved it”.

I was like, “oh yeah, Game of Thrones deserves it.” Then I remember House of Cards and what an amazing season it was.  Downton Abbey, Homeland, OISTNB … Yep, they’re all over-the-top phenomenally good.

Donald Trump

On a lighter note it was good to see the Trump jokes out in force last night. Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her acceptance speech:

“What a great honour it must be for you to honour me tonight.

“Oh God, no! Donald Trump said that.”

On that note, shall we take a moment to say the women, to me, are rocking it as the stars of the show. The cast of Orange is the New Black, Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, JLD, Allison Janney, all the American Horror Story stars and guest stars. Good for them I say—now to get them all being paid the same as the blokes in the room ;-).

And, I wonder if we can now get Kanye to throw himself at Amy Schumer when he sees her on the Red Carpet.

 

All hail Amy Schumer.

For a full list of nominees and winners click here.

 

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Trends on the 2015 Red Carpet and who got my vote for Best Dressed | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

Who was my Best Dressed for the 2015 Emmys?

Who was my Best Dressed for the 2015 Emmys? I’m glad you asked!

Did you tune in to the broadcast or hear about it? Were you thinking, “what is it about LA where all they talk about is the weather?” Well, let me just say that it was HOT. So hot that I was actually glad I wasn’t at the Emmys this year. Seriously. I don’t know how you can look so good on the red carpet so everyone should get special claps for getting dressed up and surviving the red carpet walk. I’ve seen how long it takes to get down the Red Carpet—it’s a long walk and the sun is beaming down on the area that’s essentially a mall (not of the shopping variety but of the convention variety) so despite having the Red Carpet out it’s hot.

The hot trends were definitely colour. And yellow seemed to be the “it” colour from Heidi Klum’s controversial dress to Taylor Schilling’s (OITNB) at-first-sight nice then oh-not-so-much frilly yellow number.

 

This was closely followed by pink/fushia/mauve in a fabulously stylish non 80s way.  Although the fashion to me was “80s inspired with a 2010s edge” with no sign of the embarrassing stuff.

Then there was that whole chain strap thing noticeably from Claire Danes and “Cookie” from Empire.

 

Who am I to judge? Well I think anyone who’s anyone can come up with a Best Dressed List and a Blog with the name “It Started in LA” definitely can.

Before I give you my winners, here’s what some of the “experts” came up with.

Vanity Fair
Harper’s Bazaar
Vogue

 

I’m trying really hard to list my Best Dressed list in order but I’m struggling. I guess that’s why I’m not an expert. I’ve been doing this a couple of years now and I’m starting to see that unless you have a pushy (or good!) publicist or are part of a nominated show—or you are yourself—you don’t make the lists.

Well this Blogger doesn’t let that get in the way and I try to study what everyone’s wearing and who’s doing what and award those I think deserve it.

So my winner is …

Yael Stone. Who? I hear you say. Well, she plays “Lorna Morello” from Orange is the New Black. She looks sublime in a light pink mesh dress, stitching along the bodice and skirt to give a rouging effect with a full and layered skirt. Better still, I’m searching for a pic of her I can include for my Blog without violating any copyright laws and I found an article that says she’s Australian. Get out of town! Even better.

 

I’m struggling with my “Number two” which is a toss up between the gorgeous Laverne Cox and the stunning Uzo Aduba.

My number two goes to “Crazy Eyes” who truly looks spectacular in the fushia dress with the halter top and the heavenly blue that makes the pink pop. Truly stunning and original.

View this post on Instagram

Ready. #emmys

A post shared by Uzo Aduba (@uzoaduba) on

 

That means number three goes to the fabulous Laverne Cox who looked totally stunning in a teal figure-hugging dress with perfect cutouts through the back.

View this post on Instagram

#NoFilter #TransIsBeautiful #Emmys2015

A post shared by laverne cox (@lavernecox) on

 

Did you notice that means the top three are all from Orange is The New Black?

 

That brings me to number four. I can do this. I know I can. Oh no, I don’t know if I can. Help. I’m looking at my list and I’ve got another 11 names written down and six spots to round out my Top ten. They’re all so different and so good. Focus. Focussing. OK.

How good did Allison Janney look? Forever my idol CJ from the West Wing she is truly glamorously stunning.

 

I love white so I have a bias. The next four are equal five—Viola Davis channelling Kerry Washington in white with black, Carrie Ann Inaba—a judge from Dancing With The Stars, Olivia Culpo and Gina Rodriguez. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure Gina Rodriguez was in white but it was a light pastelly number so for me it counts.  Regardless, it was gorgeous.

OK, positions eight, nine and 10. Three more places and I’ve got six chicks to choose from.

Number eight I’m going Lady Gaga. Who’s not going Gaga for Gaga at the moment? Seriously. She’s rocking it transforming herself into a complete siren. She’s come a long way from the infamous meat dress.

 

Number nine. Let’s see. I’m going with Maggie Gyllenhall. I love her mauve and (is it navy?) Oscar dela Renta number with the full flowing skirt. I’m sure it’s inspired but the 80s but there’s not a hint of bad taste in this dress (even if it looks like it’s made from taffeta–and I’m not saying it is—do they even make taffeta any more?!).

 

So, I’ve got one spot left and I’ve narrowed it down to three people. I’m giving it to Sarah Hyland who looked stunning in a figure-hugging floor-length wine red (there’s that 80s influence creeping back in again) off-the-shoulder number.

 

My runner-ups were Sarah Paulson and Julia Louise-Dreyfus–who always looks flawless.

 

The guys

Two guys that totally stood out were Rob Lowe (my heart skips a beat) and Liev Shreiber (who you might recall I had a brush with last summer at the Jonathan Club).

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En route. #emmys #blacktie #redcarpet #sweatbox

A post shared by Rob Lowe (@robloweofficial) on

 

I love that navy is the new black this year as many men rocked the navy dinner suit. Changing it up for these guys is gooood.

I loved Alan Cummings’s tie and from all accounts he wore Crocs. Thank god the camera didn’t pan down to show them.

 

Not-so hits

I don’t want to get all negative. Looking good on the Red Carpet isn’t always about you rocking a look. Sometimes, as with life, business gets in the way. So, I feel sorry for the people who, let’s just say, didn’t quite get it as right as they could have. Too PC?  Still, it’s true.

Two winners:

Joanna Newsom

 

Need I say more?

And Laura Prepon. Sorry “Alex” but the whole bolero thing didn’t cut if for me.

 

A couple of other notables—Claire Danes featured on a few best dressed lists this year. I thought the dress was great but then you can’t help but get drawn into her (lack of) cleavage and it was all wrong. A little sad for her I thought (not not having a cleavage just that it was unflattering).

And, one of my fashionista goddesses favourites Kerry Washington didn’t cut it for me tonight. I’m still a Gladiator though.

 

And, finally Kernan Shipka. From the waist up she looked gorgeous. Then pan down and … what was that? Pants? Seriously? No, wear it short and proud. Besides it’s boiling so ditch the pants as a last-minute anyway.

 

Like I said I’m glad it wasn’t me out there in the spotlight. All in all a good performance was put on by all. It hasn’t cooled down here in LA so there’ll be lots of sweaty bodies dancing on dance-floors at after-parties all over town.

Tomorrow I’ll post my run-down on the ceremony itself. It’s a school night and this is enough for you to absorb for now.

Speak to you tomorrow.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Did I leave someone out? Did I put someone in that didn’t deserve it?

Movies and TV, My LA story, Posts

June Gloom really is a thing

It’s the summer holidays and it finally starts to feel like it. Apart from feeling more relaxed, sleeping in a little and eating later it hasn’t really felt like the holidays.

I managed to pin it down to two things:

  1. I didn’t have—or attend—an end-of-year break-up drinks session. For as long as I remember either I or one of my friends would have break-up drinks where all the kids and mums get together for drinks not unlike our Friday afternoon drinks. This year my son hosted a sleepover after exams and my daughter went to a friends for break-up pool party but I was left to my own devices and didn’t invite any parents for accompanying drinks. I don’t like it when there’s no celebratory get together so I’m pretty sure this was part of that anti-climax.
  2. We didn’t head straight for the beach. Once school is out–and we’ve got together for break-up drinks–we head straight for the beach to spend some six weeks in summer holiday mode: prepping for Christmas, heading to the beach each day, boating, water sports and lots and lots of eating and drinking. We love our summer holidays in Australia: it’s all about the beach, great food and amazing company.

Summer holidays in Australia

Let me tangent for just a minute: Australian beaches are largely uninhabited. Sure you’ve got Bondi and Manly beach in Sydney and St Kilda and Brighton in Melbourne but the beaches aren’t built up on the beach like Santa Monica, Malibu and Long Beach. Where we go—Jervis Bay on the South Coast of New South Wales (NSW)—there’s nothing.

At Our Beach, Our Magic Beach, Jervis Bay, NSW | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

At Our Beach, Our Magic Beach, Jervis Bay, NSW | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

 

And that’s exactly the way we like it. It has all we need: a seafood co-op (where local fisherman sell their seafood to the public), a butcher and a deli with most of the hard-to-find ingredients we need for the incredible food we’ll prepare—recipes we’ve been researching and preparing for months in advance.

All we have is the beach, the white sand, crystal clear water and fellow boaters. Oh, and lots of great food and drink.

In Australia hundreds of families pack up their car on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) to congregate on the highway headed for the beach. They rent houses, enjoy their own or camp or caravan (RV) on the foreshore for their annual fortnight (two weeks) holiday (vacation). It’s the quintessential ‘Straylian thing to do.

Summer holidays in the US

American summer holidays go on and on and on. And on and on. Essentially three months of the year are spent on holidays. If you ask me (I know you didn’t) it’s ridiculous. It’s just too long. There are some school districts that have caught on and implemented the “year-round” schedule. It works similar to Australia where you get two weeks four times a year and six weeks over summer.

(In Australia the school year goes something like this: 10 weeks of school, two weeks holidays, 10 weeks of school, two/three weeks holidays, 10 weeks of school, two/weeks holidays, 10 weeks of school, two/three weeks, 10 weeks of school, six/eight weeks summer holidays).

We all know through movies like American Pie that American kids spend weeks at a time on camp; well it’s no bloody wonder. You need to be a patient martyr to manage the kids for three months.

June Gloom

Last year I blogged about Brenda and Brandon heading down to the Beverly Hills Beach Club over summer where Brandon would go to work (good old Brandon working to earn his keep as opposed to Dylan living comfortably off his trust fund–don’t misunderstand me I loved Dylan!). I was so excited to be hitting the beach at the members-only club the likes of which the fictitious beach club in 90210 was based.

As a family we made a pact that we wouldn’t let 90210 and the Hollywood lifestyle change us. There have to be exceptions to every rule and heading down to the beach club has to be one of them.

Here are three (OK four) reasons why the private beach club should be an exception to our rule:

  1. Beach chairs: It’s so nice not having to lug your chairs all the way down to the beach, it’s all set up for you. How decadent.
  2. Valet parking: No more driving around trying to find a park: pull up, get out of the car and it’s parked for you.
  3. Bar and restaurant (no words needed)
  4. Toilets and hot showers (no words needed).

The only problem with world-famous Santa Monica beach in June (and SoCal in general for that matter) is June Gloom. June Gloom is exactly as it sounds: a marine layer hovers over the beach suburbs making it grey and gloomy (rather than bright and sunny) and doesn’t lift (if you’re lucky) until early afternoon.

I remember when we first arrived in LA we were running around Hollywood in the stifling August heat. We were due to meet friends in Santa Monica at 3:00. When we got there we were freezing: the marine layer was hovering over Santa Monica, visibility was poor, no sun and it was at least 20 degrees colder. Ill prepared we needed jumpers and long pants it was that cold.  And that was in August.

On our way down to the beach club I was telling my friend about my experience because we’d forgotten to pack jumpers for our trip to the beach. Sure enough—as if I’d jinxed us—the same was true that day.

We were supposed to head to the beach the day before but Obama was in town and the roads were closed from the beach to Beverly Hills making it impossible to go anywhere on the Westside without being stuck in standstill traffic.

When parking our car we asked if the June Gloom had lifted at all this week to which the valet replied not really but they did catch the sun the day Obama shut down the roads. Great, we hoped we weren’t doomed.

But, alas around 3:00 in the afternoon, like magic the gloom lifts giving way to sunshine.

June Gloom lifts and Santa Monica looks like the travel brochures: iconically perfect | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

June Gloom lifts and Santa Monica looks like the travel brochures: iconically perfect | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

 

The scene was set for an afternoon in paradise: an afternoon where we could sip cocktails on the balcony watching the sun set over Santa Monica and the kids had run of the club and the nearby pier.

Sunsetting behind the Santa Monica mountains | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

Sun setting behind the Santa Monica mountains | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

 

Yep, summer is here, holidays are here. There truly is nothing like being at the beach to make you feel like the summer holidays have arrived. And if that trip to the beach happens to come with all the bells and whistles of a 90210 lifestyle then I’m all in.

Happy summer everyone!

xx It Started in LA xx

Moving to LA, My LA story, Posts

Two years ago: finding schools in LA

This time two years ago was quite a significant milestone moment for us as it was a rude awakening that this LA “thing” might actually happen.

Cut back two years and six weeks ago Mr H got a call from an old boss with four questions:

  1. How’s the family?
  2. Do you still hate your job?
  3. Would you consider moving to LA?
  4. How quickly can you get here?

Then I got the call from Mr H:

“I’m about to rock your world,” he said. “F called,” he started. We were down at our beach house on the South Coast of NSW getting ready for a long weekend with friends. We’d prepared the menu, bought the grog and I was out in the car with a friend heading to the Bottlo to get a couple of extra bottles of champagne—just in case as we hate to run out.

“Oh my god,” I interrupted. “Is he in town? Coming to town? It’s OK, he can have the spare room…” as I proceeded to play musical beds and musical rooms so we could fit in an extra person…

“…And I’ve got seafood which he loves so it’ll be all good.”

“He wants to know if you would move to LA,” he said once I’d done with my ranting.

“What? Sorry? Huh? LA? I hate LA. Remember? Been there done that never coming back?”

“I knew you’d say that.”

It’s true Mr H and I went to LA with my best friend and her boyfriend when we were all of 19 or 20. LA didn’t really do it for us and I had absolutely no desire to go back. So why would I want to live there?

“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.”

By this time my girlfriend, sitting in the car next to me is wondering what on earth is going on. I looked at her and shook my head.

Digesting the concept

It was a crazy weekend of utter shock that some 36 hours ago we just got that call to move to Hollywood and Mr H had gone back up to Sydney to attend a video call to get briefed on the job. The job was to run the post-production division of a multinational company. He would be based in Hollywood and he’d have to work with all the studios and production houses. To say the weekend was a daze with endless workshopping, dreaming, reality checking and more workshopping was an understatement. And let’s just say there was a LOT of champagne (and wine) drunk as we all tried to come to terms with the prospect of moving to LA. Those extra bottles came in handy—we didn’t run out.

We too’d and fro’d with the pros and the cons but first practically had to come into play.

Schools in LA

We thought we’d be very systematic about the possible move: pinpoint work (Hollywood), find a decent school not too far away then find somewhere to live.  Sounds easy enough.

Contrary to how it looks on Beverly Hills 90210 and the OC the LA public school system is in shambles—especially as you get to Middle and High School. There are a few good school districts in South Pasadena, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and the Bay areas but they either require a long commute to Hollywood for Mr H or require me to sell my body to pay the rent in Santa Monica or Beverly Hills. Then you have to be in the right zone for the “better” school in that area.  (Read: it’s not as straight forward as let’s rent a house in Santa Monica and we can go to Lincoln Middle School.  Thankfully we didn’t find that out the hard way.) The public school system in LA is not easy to navigate—and when you have finding a house in the zone is like playing the lotto.

So as I was coming to terms with the fact that US high schools aren’t like they are on TV and my kids weren’t going to have a Breakfast Club/Sixteen Candles/Ferris Bueller/90210 high school experience moving to LA started to look a little bleak.  Both kids are thriving at great schools in Sydney and education is so important to my family (my dad drilled that into me from a young age) that we’re not going to a below-standard school just because Hollywood is knocking on our door.

(Now I wonder if they’ll get the chance to have a College experience like Pitch Perfect?)

I emailed a few people and the resounding response was private school. There go my dreams to be rid of private school fees and enjoy my life. Plus, America being America, private schools aren’t subsidised so we got a rude shock to see not only weren’t we saving any money but it would cost us more money than it does in Sydney.

I knew the prospect of a Hollywood lifestyle was too good to be true.

But I ploughed ahead and started researching websites to see what schools we liked and what we didn’t. We rated them and I started the arduous task of ringing admissions directors. It was now May 2013 and applications closed in late December 2012 and offers were made earlier in the year. There’s a shortage of places at LA private schools—because the public ones are in such a state—so all of a sudden our dream of moving to Hollywood was shattered.  No school=no move.

Because of the time difference I would set the alarm for 4:00am Sydney time (which was 11am the day before in LA) and start making calls. It’s pretty hard to pitch your family and your kids to an Admissions Director with a full enrolment at that time in the morning.

Some were helpful, others felt for me, others didn’t care.

I got traction at two schools. A great start. The next hurdle was sitting the ISEE test. What on god’s earth is that? Well it’s a standardised test (Independent School Entrance Exam) that most of the private schools use to test would-be students.

Can’t we just skip that bit? How do we do it in Sydney?  My  kids are doing well in school, here are copies of standardised tests they’ve completed here…

Well as matter of fact there is a location that administers the test in Sydney.  It was a pain in the backside booking two appointments at the same time because the system would only allow one student at a time (I guess what are the chances of two kids wanted to sit an entrance exam for private school in the US in Sydney?). There was no one to talk to either at the location or at the head office (another alarm set for 2am this time to try to reach someone in the New York office). Nothing about this stage was even remotely easy.

So Mr H took the day off work, we all went in hoping they’d say that both kids could sit the test together—no luck—so I sat with one while Mr H took the other home then came back again to swap kids while I waited the entire day given it was a ruling that the parent or guardian had to stay with the child the whole time. And the ID rules were so stringent it was as stressful as anything formal here in the US. One thing wrong and you have to reschedule—and pay for it all over again as there’s a cancellation fee involved don’t you know? A day I’ll never get back. An experience I’d rather not have to relive. But I was so proud of my kids, they did it.

It wasn’t until we got to LA that we heard that kids are tutored for this exam and some take it a few times until they get the score they want to give them a better chance to get into their school of choice.

This was my first glimpse into the privatised world that America is—there is a company making money for a service (which comes at a fee) for everything.

Playing the waiting game

With two schools secured (with no promises even now there’s room for one or both of them) and another interview secured at a school for my daughter it was time to look into public schools.

Public schools have open days where you can come and check them out. I was still in Australia for these so via our relocation agent we put calls into Santa Monica and Beverly Hills both of whom said they were so overworked they didn’t have time for private tours. Tell me that didn’t put me right off.  And they’re supposed to be the good ones.

 

Such an emotional rollercoaster that whole “will we move; won’t we move”, “can we move; can’t we move” thing.  At least when there’s little or no choice like “normal” expat assignments you know the city is geared up for you. Shanghai, for example, has plenty of expat housing (not all good by the way), a number of international schools and the company you’re moving with has some degree of leverage because they’re responsible for not just your school fees but a number of others.

What I remember most about this time was how applying for schools was anything but straight forward. Simply having a place was not a guarantee of entry. You had to pass the test but you just don’t know what that (or those) tests are.

It’s a bit like a Seinfeld episode:

“Great, so you’ve got room for both my kids?”

“We have the flexibility to admit your kids but first you have to apply.”

“So is it worth my applying if there’s no room?”

“We have room but you have to apply.”

“Oh so there’s room for both my kids so if I apply, based on what you’ve seen and what I’ve told you then there’s a good chance we’re in.”

“Go ahead and complete the application and proceed with the tests, we’ll have a better idea of what our enrolments will look like once you’ve done those and we’ve interviewed you.”

Wowsers … I hope passing school isn’t as hard as getting in.

Nonetheless we hopped on a plane bound for LA not sure what to expect when we got there.

xx It Started in LA xx

Next week … looking for somewhere to live

Differences between America & Australia, My LA story, Posts

Returning things (taking stuff back)

The difference between Americans & Australians

I’m starting a new series of differences between Australians & Americans prompted by today’s shopping experience. I’m not talking spelling or speaking but reactions and situations. Join in if you’ve got a story to tell.

Returns Bloomingdale’s style

I bought some candles for a friend whose birthday is coming up. I ordered them online (of course) and opted to pick them up in store because I wouldn’t receive them in time for her birthday dinner.

Cut to the chase I got the candles home and my daughter was snooping in the bag (she is obsessed with candles AND snooping!).

“Ew,” she screamed. “This candle has been lit.”

And sure enough it had. No sign of real lighting action but that wick was not white (or clear) it was black.

So I headed straight back to Bloomingdale’s the next morning so they didn’t suspect me of being the mysterious candle-lighter.

“Oh my god,” said the checkout chick (who is actually a bloke but then I couldn’t use the term ”checkout chick”), “that’s terrible. Ew. Let’s get you another one shall we?”

So off we went looking for the same product—but one that hadn’t been lit. Each time he passed someone who worked at the store he’d call out, “Hey Larry—or whatever their name was—look this poor lady got sent a candle that had been … (gasp) lit.”

“No way,” they’d reply in shock.  “That’s terrible.”

It took us a while to find the same product but he looked up the stock and knew there were some somewhere. So off he went digging out the back to try to find more. And he did. And he sent me away a happy—albeit still shell-shocked—customer.

 

Returns Australia style

Let’s imagine how this might play out in Australia…

Me: “Hi, I bought these candles online and picked them up here yesterday but one of the candles seems to have been lit.”

Checkout chick (CC): “Oh,” glaring at me sizing me up to see if I hadn’t in fact lit the candle myself. “Do you have the receipt.”

Me: “Yes,” showing her the receipt.

CC: “And when did you say you bought them? Where from?

Me: Politely answer the question.

CC: “I’ll have to speak to someone about this, wait one minute please,” while walking up and whispering to her colleague both looking at me making me feel guilty like I deliberately lit that candle and took it back wanting a new one.

“OK, mam, this is an unusual situation. We won’t give you your money back we can only exchange and since the candle has already been lit then we can only exchange it for exactly the same product.”

Me: “Well that’s good because I want the candle, I got it home and found that it had been lit and it’s a gift and I really want to give them a brand new one, not one that’s been lit by someone else.

“Do you have anymore in stock? I couldn’t find them anywhere.”

CC: “I’m not sure you’ll have to look around and see if you can find another one.”

Me: “I’ve had a look around but can’t seem to see any. I only bought them online yesterday there should be more here somewhere shouldn’t there?”

CC: “You’ll have to wait while I serve this customer and maybe I can check stock for you. Or you might go back online and see if you can find some more.”

You get the picture? I love shopping here and not being treated guilty before being proved innocent. Plus the prices are better and it’s so convenient online!

 

xx It Started in LA xx

 

My LA story, Posts

Los Angelinos love to … Hike!

The first (or last!) in a series of what Los Angelinos love to do. And the very top of the list is that people in LA are obsessed with hiking. Yep, Los Angelinos love to … hike!

At first I didn’t really get what all the fuss is about but now I’m starting to get the picture.

Thanks to Google, Pinterest and earnest Bloggers I found a few links to LA Hikes. I had pinned this article a while back and as a good “gunna” (aka going to but never do) person that’s where it stopped. Until now.

I don’t think you can hike alone and when fate hooked me up with a fellow Aussie at an ANZAC Day function we decided to check out LA’s hiking scene and see what all the fuss is about.  The goal is for us to do a different hike each week.

If you live in LA—or if you’re just visiting—I’m going to share my quick two-cent’s worth about each hike we’ve done as well as a link so you too can do the “LA thing”.

Hike 1/Week 1.  Runyon Canyon

Billed as the “Celebrity hike” I haven’t seen one in my two times (!) I’ve been. When you’ve come from Australia & your morning walk/run was around the Bay in Leichhardt/Five Dock/Haberfield hiking along a dirt track with the possibility of coming face to face with a rattlesnake takes a bit of getting used to (yes, it’s a bit of a come down).

 

 

Having said that it’s a decent hike and the fact that you’re essentially walking down the hill from Mulholland Drive down the Hollywood is still pretty cool.

Good for: dogs (there are heaps that go hiking too!)

Watch out for: parking police—parking can be hard but be read the signposts carefully.

Address:
(the bottom end) Runyon Canyon Park, 2000 North Fuller Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046

(the top end) the 7300-block of Mulholland Drive, Hollywood Hills

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.modernhiker.com/2007/08/16/hiking-runyon-canyon/

 

Hike 2/Week 2.  Tree People

The second week we ventured a little closer to my place and not far from Runyon Canyon.  Also a spot I discovered via the Celeb Spotting pages, Tree People is off Coldwater Canyon & Mulholland Drive. Like Runyon Canyon is from Mulholland to Hollywood, Tree People takes you down to the Valley into the Laurel Canyon area.

It’s a little greener than Runyon Canyon, and probably not quite as good on the people watching but it’s a pretty good hike nonetheless. Once you know which track to take!

Address:
Coldwater Canyon Park, 12601 Mulholland Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Parking can be tough, especially at busy times so beware.

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.modernhiker.com/2009/02/09/hiking-fryman-canyon/

 

Hike 3/Week 3.  Franklin Canyon

Once I discovered I could enter via Mulholland Drive (opposite Tree People) rather than drive all the way around into Beverly Hills then up again I was much happier. This is a gorgeous place to hike—easy to park (during the week), lots of options to hike and some great spots that make you feel you’re in the middle of the bush when you’re actually in the heart of Beverly Hills.

There is water in Beverly Hills

There is water in Beverly Hills

 

There are several hikes here and we only did one of them so I’m looking forward to coming back to do more.

Address: 2600 Franklin Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Also great for dogs.

Watch out for: Yogi-Bear like stop sign cameras. When it says there is a camera, they mean there’s a camera and you’ll get a ticket in the mail. They’re also serious about the sign that says you better be out of there beyond sunset—I know because I met a girl who had to front up with a “please explain” what she was doing there beyond this time (her answer: trying to leave!).

Smarter than your average bear! When the sign says they're "photo enforced" it means they're "photo enforced!"

Smarter than your average bear! When the sign says they’re “photo enforced” it means they’re “photo enforced!”

 

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/franklin-canyon-park-hastain-trail/

http://www.modernhiker.com/2012/10/12/hiking-franklin-canyon-reservoir-loop/

 

Hike 4/Week 4.  Caballero Canyon Trailhead Santa Monica Mountain Reserve

It might be week four but I wasn’t ready for this one. This was a beauty—or at least the trail we chose (a steep climb to the top) was bloody hard.

 

While we were troopers and did it (minus a little incident that we won’t talk about in this forum) there were a number of very fit people who do that trail quite a bit.

When we nearly got to the top we thought we should head back down again. We bumped into a couple of “old-timers” who warned us against going back down the steep trail again but continuing on and following the loop as it was a much more gently decent.

It was great advice but when they told us it was just ‘around the corner’ don’t believe them. That and “the bench” which would be our marker to descend down the gentle decline. Everyone we asked kept telling us we’d see the bench but that bench was a long time coming. Clearly they were walking a lot quicker than we were. (If you click on the link from the Blog below you’ll see plenty of pics of that infamous bench).

All in all a good hike.

Address: Reseda Boulevard, Tarzana (start is just near Braemar Country Club).

Tips: Take plenty of water to hydrate & be on the lookout for mountainbikers hooning down the track.

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/caballero-canyon-hike-tarzana/

So that’s four hikes so far.

This week’s hike: The Fire Trail on Mulholland Drive.  Keep coming back for a quick run-down and links to future hikes.

For more inspiration I’m also looking to cross a few of these off my list:

http://www.modernhiker.com/la-hiking/
http://www.modernhiker.com/la-hiking/5-best-l-a-hikes-for-beginners/
http://la.curbed.com/archives/2014/07/6_los_angeles_hikes_with_spectacular_endings.phphttp://www.hikespeak.com/los-angeles/

 

Happy Hiking—and be sure to have a cold drink (preferably a cold beer or glass of wine/cocktail) ready after you’ve done the hard yards!

 

xx It Started in LA xx

Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

A normal end to the school year–with a twist of 90210

Like everyone in my neck of the woods, with school finishing in the middle of the year rather than the end, it’s busy, busy, busy. There are fairs, thank-you breakfasts, end-of-year events and of course big assignments and exams to study for.

Last weekend we had the Annual Fair, which was moved from the school grounds to a private party on Santa Monica Pier. Each school we’ve been to (with the kids) has had a Fair/Fiesta/Fete of some kind. They’ve all been good but last year we (I) was so shell-shocked laughing at the fact that my kids are having their fair on the Santa Monica Pier.

I never expected to be ever going back to LA let alone living here let alone having a private party on the blessed (pronounced bless-ed in place of a swear-word) Pier. This year we’re so LA that we’ve taken it all in our stride. Somewhat.

Cut back to my son’s school in Australia and the boys had to rock up to the Fiesta in full school uniform. While I can hear most of you that aren’t used to this thinking “WTF?” I can assure you it comes in very handy for three things:

  • Finding your son in a crowd
  • The girls finding a potential boyfriend in the crowd
  • Keeping the boys out of trouble—and if they choose to get into trouble they’re easily identified!

His Fair was fantastic. I love the excuse to hang out with my friends (may or may not sneak in a bottle of wine) and see the kids having a great time in the safety and security of the school grounds. Equally I love the scantily clothed girls hunting in packs checking out the talent—so easy to spot those strapping boys in their school uniforms. Such is the joy of single-sex schools and the lengths they’ll go to for the opportunity to meet someone of the opposite sex (yes, I am exaggerating).

My favourite thing about the Fair would have to be the silent auction. A lot of work would go into each class donating goods & services and we’d package them all up into enticing hampers. I would spend a considerable amount of time weighing up those hampers—what was in them, whether I was getting a bargain and whether or not I could use any of the contents as Christmas pressies. I was (not surprisingly) attracted by the alcohol hampers and scored many a bargain. At the end of the day I’d walk out with us all juggling a number of hampers trying to avoid doing more trips than we needed to.

I do love a 90210 silent auction though. On offer were things like Ellen tickets, tickets to the LA Kings, LA Lakers & Clippers, tickets to the American Idol final, Teen Choice Awards, lunch with Halle Berry and the opportunity to hang out with her on set and have lunch, and meet Steven Spielberg. By far the most popular prize was the chance for 12 kids to play basketball with legendary Clippers basketballer Chris Paul.  There were so many, many more amazing prizes it was hard for me to decide where to concentrate my focus.

I did very well this year. Instead of going home juggling several hampers I went home with an envelope with gift certificates and a Bass Guitar. Did I happen to mention that the guitar was Duff McKagan’s from Guns n Roses? No? Yes, as a matter of fact it’s true.

 

My gift certificates were for four tickets to see Rod Stewart in Vegas (as well as a photo opp & Meet & Greet—which seems really silly seeing as I’ve already met him and didn’t have to pay for the privilege but at least this way I get to take a few guilt-free selfies). That wasn’t all, four tickets to see Britney Spears and two night’s accommodation including F&B credit and Spa credit. Score. Yep, quite the haul indeed.

I say that we’re taking Fairs on Santa Monica Pier in our stride, we are, somewhat.  But we do have to stop and pinch ourselves and shrug our shoulders and think how on earth did we land here?  Seriously, the chance to bid on amazing experiences and events that simply aren’t available to everyone—especially for most people who live outside our bubble is not something we should ever take for granted.

“That” moment for us the other night was seeing the one and only Sandra Bullock just hanging out like a normal person (yep, new bestie material). For my son that moment was when he was on the Rollercoaster with her. Only in LA could you be riding a rollercoaster on Santa Monica Pier with Sandra Bullock. Hashtag Living the Dream.

The Californian High School Swim Season

I have to say I love how swimming is done here in the US. While I love, love, love the atmosphere, school spirit and passion that goes into swimming at my kids’ schools in Australia (especially the private boys schools) I’m forced to reflect that it’s somewhat elite. And in a strange way, it’s College level here.

Back home in Australia my son had to qualify to be in the swim team where they would compete in one bigger-than-Ben-Hur event. There are a lot of fast swimmers in my son’s school—most of whom qualify to compete at state level—and his times may or may not earn him a place on the team.

Here in the US my son had a swim meet each week, a tri-comp where three schools competed in individual events and relays. The events were broken up into girls and boys, Junior Varsity and Varsity. Everyone got to participate and compete on his or her level. They got to win, lose and get disqualified. They also got the opportunity to qualify for the CIF (which is basically all the private and public schools in California) for a mega meet to finish off the league season.

My son made it to CIF and his relay team made it to the finals.  I got a kick out of lots of things–nothing more than eavesdropping all day on other parents’ conversations–but the main one was them playing the national anthem before the finals.  The Amercians’ reverence and patriotism is certainly one to be admired.

Hats off & hands on your heart for the National Anthem

Hats off & hands on your heart for the National Anthem

 

The atmosphere and venue are second to none in Australia, the competition fierce but we’ll take swimming US High School style where regular, seasonal competition for your school is available.

Having said that I do wish the meets were bigger and had more of the ra-ra style cheerleaders that I expected to find when we moved here. I guess that proves you can’t have it all.

Exams v Assignments

Assignments are big in Australia, exams not so much. That’s what makes it harder the older you get when you actually have to start sitting exams and you’re not used to it.

Cut back here to the US and generally all grades (in our “College Prep” school) from 6-12 sit exams. But this year there’s been a little shift, a gentle shift but a shift nonetheless.

That’s right shock horror a couple of the departments opted for a major assignment rather than an exam. I’m on the fence about this. I thought that our American experience would have them so used to exams if and when the time came to head back to the HSC (Higher School Certificate—which it is in NSW) they’d be experts and it wouldn’t be so daunting.

Alas my son in 9th Grade (a “Freshman”) has an exam for every subject except for English and my daughter in 7th Grade (she’s a “Middle Schooler” so she doesn’t have a fancy title) seems to be in the grade that they keep changing the rules for, she’s missing English and History. Last year she was supposed to start exams but they opted for only a couple of the subjects having exams. In the middle of the year she was also supposed to start exams but they opted for only exams at the end of the year. Wonder if this is the start of a trend?

So you see the end of our school year isn’t that much different to yours but it does have a 90210 twist. And that 90210 twist is what makes life that little bit exciting here.  It’s what makes the mundane bearable and the move worth it. I’m sure when we’re home in a few years we’ll look back on this time and not believe it was us.

Enjoy the rest of the week!

xx It Started in LA xx

 

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Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

The Australian accent makes us cringe but the Americans love it

My daughter and I were at the hairdresser—she was getting her hair done and I was getting my brows done. There was a guy next to me talking about what he’d been up to. He had been shooting on the East Coast, jamming with some old band mates and had some stories about seeing Paul McCartney or Elton John or insert some other mega rock stars name.

Having a couple of rock star dads at our school I was listening but not as intently as I would have been a year ago (when I was all starry eyed and simply COULD NOT believe one move could me zero to one degrees of separation from my favourite rock acts.  Do I need to remind you–or skite–that I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to two mega rock stars now?).

Then he got talking about his next project. Everyone in LA has a “project”. It’s the thing. Generally everyone’s working on a project, has one in the pipeline and is talking to someone else about making the third project closer to reality. These projects are also best discussed at breakfast, lunch or dinner.

So he says, “Yeah, I’m headed down to Australia and I’m shooting in BrisBANE (pronounce bain in this case not bun in a kiwi accent), going to Central Australia and down to Tasmania.”

“Dude. How do I talk to these people?” he asks his hairdresser (who he’s obviously known for a long time). “Do I say, like, G’day mate? Let’s put a shrimp on the Barbie. Will they even understand me?”

That seemed about the right time to pipe up and so I said, “Should I come clean now?”

“Oh no, wow, an Australian. Dude, how do I talk to you?”

“What do you mean how do you talk to me—to us? We speak English. OK, granted we don’t speak ‘merican but we speak English.”

“Yeah dude, that’s it, like, what words do you use?”

“For starters we don’t say shrimp, we call them prawns”.

“That’s what I’m talking about dude, will everyone laugh at me when I speak, like, American?”

“Mate, they’ll laugh at you more if you try to speak Australian.”

“Wow, far out.”

I could have been mean and set him up and told him Australians would love it if he did a bit of research in the different words we use and then localised his language accordingly. But I couldn’t do it—and I told him as much.

It’s true though, we can Americanise our speaking because we know what words Americans use instead of ours–like shrimps and prawns; or ride and lift.  There are moments when I could be speaking Mandarin my friends don’t understand a word I’m saying.

“Oh man, I’m terrified.”

“You’ll be fine.”

A really nice guy, but this is something that happens in America, not so much in Australia—you just strike up full-blown conversations with strangers. A hairdresser is one place but I’ve seen, heard (and had) conversations in the Post Office queue, at the supermarket and in the middle of the street.

I think that guy just wanted to show off his lousy Australian accent (let’s face it Americans just cannot do an Australian accent—remember Meryl Streep, “A dingo’s got my baby”?). I’m told we’re not that great either and that you can tell when you’re putting the accent on.

Lately I’ve been stopped and asked to talk so they could listen to my accent—a bit like seeing a cute dog in the street and asking them to sit???

But it’s all well-meaning, they’re naturally curious and friendly and despite being so Americentric they are interested in other parts of the world.  And they’re especially interested in Australia: “I’ve never been but I want to some day.  It’s just so far”.

When that crazy, loud American is in our part of the world, don’t take five giant steps to take a wide berth. They actually enjoy meeting people and talking to others about their lives. You might surprise yourself and find you have more in common than you think. Call it your good deed for the day.

Share your stories below and pics on Instagram with the hashtag #Amerifriend.

But if they’re the Jerry Seinfeld variety with bright white runners and jeans feel free to take the wide berth. We do here too.

xx It Started in LA xx

BH makeover
My LA story, Posts

Does Beverly Hills need a new look?

Beverly Hills is known for its mansions and compounds–many of which take up entire blocks–its lush green gardens, the bands of gardeners to maintain said gardens and the food trucks required to feed said gardeners. It’s an eco-system that makes LA–at least Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood etc–go around. Can it be that the very stylish and chic Beverly Hills needs a make-over? Does Beverly Hills need a new look?

This week I’m getting my “Greece on” for summer and have started gently walking each day.  So I headed down to the walking track in Beverly Hills when I was approached by a news crew regarding water restrictions, the drought and what I thought about the lush green gardens of Beverly Hills.

Are there “younger generations” coming in stealing its thunder? (Enter Venice Beach for example).

Does it need to look at itself and think, “my look is so pre-drought, what can I do to move my look to be up with the latest drought trend?”

Keeping up with the times

We went through it in Sydney.

We couldn’t water (our gardens) and everything was conserve, conserve, conserve. I agree it took a while for the message to get through—you know how it is? You think, it’s bound to rain soon or we’ll give up water tomorrow; it’s really not that bad OR how can we run out of water … to … we won’t really run out of water will we?

But then it started happening: people started replanting their gardens, stopped watering (fines were issued and news stories were sensationalised thanks to the people who refused to follow the rules). You start turning the tap off in while you’re brushing your teeth, you become aware how long your showers are (and curse your guilt and those damn restrictions), you don’t throw away half-drunk glasses of water (you empty them in a pot plant or in the garden).

And all of a sudden you look around and think, “huh, my look is so outdated”. Peer group pressure rules supreme (not that I’m condoning peer group pressure per se).  Because the Sydney garden landscape started changing.  Gone were the lush green lawns and in their place were succulents and natives–plants that didn’t need constant watering (or very little water) to survive.

But I’m not sure Beverly Hills is ready to reinvent itself quite yet.  I think Beverly Hills thinks it looks pretty damn fine the way it is thank-you very much.  I’m not so sure you can sustain that look though.  You might not run out of Botox anytime soon but we could well run out of water.  Bugger …

Five bits of advice

So, here are my five pieces of advice for Beverly Hills to embrace a new look that’s keeping up with the drought:

  1. Book in a therapist. Obviously you’re in a state of denial and that is not a good state to be in. The sooner we face the fact and deal with the problem head on the sooner we can get on with our “normal” lives.
  2. Get a stylist darling. It’s imperative you have a cutting-edge stylist that can show it the latest trends and looks and just how modern and edgy it can be.  After all, if you’re going to change your look you want everyone to go “wowsers”.
  3. Shop, shop, shop: what’s the number one pastime of 90210 residents apart from Soul Cycle & plastic surgery? Well it’s to shop of course. What better excuse do we need to hit the shops and get our new look on.
  4. Flood social media with selfies. Peer group pressure works every time; like any good fashion trend someone has to start it but make that look happen and people will be trying to emulate you (or outdo you). Instagram, tweet & Facebook the new look: get everyone talking about you and you’ll have instant buy-in.
  5. Hire a new publicist. He/she needs to pitch your new look to entertainment reporters and news reporters to encourage everyone else to get on board with the new look. Before you know it there’ll be specials, reality TV offers and even a book deal. This new look could really pay off.

So now that you’ve got the new look happening and it’s working for you we have to remember there are—of course—other things we can do to conserve water.

How to conserve some water

To start we could, like, make sure our watering systems don’t go on during those rare moments when it does rain here (I know, you don’t have to do it though we still need those gardeners to be gainfully employed).

Perhaps you could stop washing down concrete areas (yes they still do it over here–shame on you).

And, possibly the hardest of them all, try shortening our showers.

(I would have said drink bottled water fresh from the springs but it seems there’s a separate campaign to ban them—something about landfill?).

But seriously, drought or no drought don’t let your teenage sons convince you he’s conserving water by not taking a shower. Tell him it’s a community service to keep him showered and smelling sweet.

xx It Started in LA xx

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