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How to raise the perfect LA Princess: five steps to follow | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
My LA story, Posts

How to raise the perfect LA Princess

Ever wondered how to raise the perfect LA Princess?  Have you heard of the phenomena I like to call The LA Princess?  The LA Prince exists too but in merely a shadow of their counterpart.  Let me explain.

Firstly, welcome back after a bit of work and a great Thanksgiving break.

Thanksgiving is America’s longest long weekend (they don’t take the Friday and Monday off like we do in Australia and other parts of the world). And, because they’re giving thanks, it’s time to be with family and friends so it’s the biggest weekend of the year when it comes to travel.  (Did you happen to catch this story about how busy it was on the roads in LA?)

If you’re playing along at home via Facebook and Instagram, we took a road trip to Utah.  More about the travelog in the coming days (or weeks as the case might be!).  I will just say though that it is indeed a spectacular part of the world.

Leaving behind the LA Bubble

I’ve decided that leaving LA bound for other parts of the US is good for the soul.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the LA bubble we find ourselves in.  And this is despite us trying to keep all eight feet on the ground.  It’s not until you set foot outside the bubble that you realise you’re getting sucked in.

When we lived in China we used to call them “Get-out-of-China” holidays.  This was simply because day-to-day life could be extremely difficult, constantly trying to navigate a world where the culture and the language are so so different from yours and extremely difficult to navigate.

The LA Princess Syndrome

Before I left LA I’ve been noticing the phenomenon I like to call the LA Princess syndrome.  The LA Princess is unique in so many ways.  And in other ways she is not new to you at all.

Perhaps the original LA Princess in my time was Paris Hilton (ironically went to the same school as my kids).  She has been superseded by former bestie Kim Kardashian.  And so, per the “Reality” Show, the Kardashians have  big part to play in ensuring the LA Princess is alive and well.

But you don’t have to live in LA to be an LA Princess.  From the comfort of wherever you are in the world—coupled with reality TV and Snapchat (don’t you know Instagram is for old people?! And yes I have a Snapchat account but still don’t know how to use it) you can raise an LA Princess.

Not unlike Sydney, LA is a melting pot of many cultures.  And, like Sydney, there are many wealthy people around doing incredible things.  But there is still somehow a difference. It’s difficult to put my finger on but it’s here.

I look to two friends as examples: both not from here, both wealthy with celebrity parents yet their children do not suffer from LA Princess syndrome.  They must wander what on earth they’re doing wrong.

Controversially (or not) I think the bulk of the responsibility comes from the parents.  (Shock. Horror).

Thankfully so many of my friends and their children don’t suffer from this syndrome or I might have to actually slit my wrists.  But there’s enough LA Princess syndrome going on around for me to put together a little step-by-step guide on how to turn your perfectly normal girl into an LA Princess.

How to raise the perfect LA Princess

Here are five ways you can indulge your little Princess and turn them into an LA Princess.

1.  Let her believe she’s the centre of the universe

The key is to indulge her.  Indulge her in every way imaginable.

She is the centre of the universe isn’t she? Of course she is; let her know this. Only she matters.

My daughter has been playing school tennis.  It hasn’t been without its ups and downs but I love that sport gives kids a sense of the real reality—they learn to win and lose, they learn that money doesn’t buy you everything and they learn about how to be a team player.

One Friday afternoon we were playing against another team and there were rumblings in the ranks (thankfully not on our team as they know our Coach will not stand for it).  The conversation went a little something like this:

“We’re done, are you done?

“I don’t see why we should have to stay, I mean my daughter is finished.  Can’t we just go?”

“I have so much to do and I don’t want to get stuck in the traffic.”

Yep that apple don’t fall far from the tree.

You can always tell which schools have a sense of team and which ones can’t see past themselves.  We have played a number of teams whose girls just leave once they’re done leaving the last game standing to fend for themselves.  In fact, one of the games nearly came down to a forfeit because the match was shaping up to be a tie.  If it was a tie the rules are you all get back on the court and play another set.  But, without the girls there to get back on the court they would have to forfeit.  Oops.  Lucky we won the last game and spared them a little humiliation.

Then there was the girl who came off the court wallowing in self pity.  Here’s the conversation I overheard (in your best Kardashian voice) to a teammate who also just came off the Court:

“I’m so bummed we lost. It was so close, they were the biggest cheaters, we so should’ve won. And now I won’t be MVP” (Most Valuable Player).

But for every LA Princess you come across a girl who falls far short.

There’s one girl on our team who is nowhere close to being an LA Princess.  She’s a sub who rarely gets to play.  This girl is the first to cheer on her teammates, brings the best kick-ass snack to the games, take photos and is one of the first to ask the girls how they went in their match if they came off a different court to the one she’s been watching.

Now this girl has a lot of work to do before she can even dream of being an LA Princess. Poor darling.

2.  Let her do whatever she wants

It sounds easy enough doesn’t it? Makes your job as a parent much easier and your popularity will go through the roof!  But try as I might I just can’t seem to pull it off. If I let my daughter do whatever she wants you better head for the hills.  If a 14-year-old girl gets to gallivant around town using her Uber account and credit card without her parents knowing where she is there’s no knowing what sort of trouble she’ll get into.  And then for the rest of her life she’ll think it’s OK to do what she does.  A monster is what she’d be.  Oh wait …

3.  Let her have whatever she wants

This is where I need the most work.  I have myself the ultimate consumer.  She wants everything: new fancy fast cars for us each year (at least she’s a sharer), new clothes every time she goes shopping, lots of makeup, (expensive) jewellery, eating out at the hip & happening joints all over town and let’s not forget front row seats to every must-Snapchat-from concert.  Yep, if I followed this rule we’d be out on the street with nowhere to live.  Fortunately for most 90210 parents they have the budgets to sustain this over-the-top spending.  Fortunately, too, I hasten to add, for the LA Princess.

I once had someone beg me to let my daughter go with her daughter so her daughter wouldn’t miss out on her Snapchat-worthy event. I’ve still got a lot of work to do.  That-a-way.

4.  Don’t set any boundaries.

When we first arrived I was privy to this discussion.  Hashtag priceless.

“I took all the devices off my child yesterday.  You need to learn your lesson I told her adamantly.  Then I told her if she’s good all week tomorrow I would go and buy her a new one.  Now she has two and she uses them both. I’m so proud of her.”

Yep, you tell them.  That will teach her.

Then there was the time before that where she broke her screen.  A group of three families were out.  The then-12-year-old broke her screen on her phone.  She was crying hysterically.  Mr H said, “Don’t worry you can get the screen replaced just down the road.”  The other dad chimed in, “Yes, and we just did it for our daughter, so easy and so much better than buying a new phone.”  The next day she has a brand new phone.  It’s OK though, they fixed the old phone too.  You always need more than one phone don’t you know.

Either kids are really good here but you never hear of anyone really being grounded.  They are more like the exception to the rule.

So boundaries people, no need for them either.  Raising an LA Princes is easier than you think huh?

5.  Dress her appropriately

I have to say this is perhaps one of the most important things to consider.  There are a few looks to be embraced in order to become an LA Princess.  All of them are acceptable.

The first look is the leggings (must be a brandname, eg. Lulu Lemon) with tight top.  If the top is too long you can use an elastic to tie it above the hips to one side.

The next look is the short shorts with the Brandy Melville crop top.

Finally you can wear tight jeans with a crop top.

As the girls get older, designer handbags become the norm.  (Remember I discovered this the hard way when I first arrived).  Then designer shoes with 10” heels (they can barely walk in) start to creep into the wardrobe.  And now we are entering the “jewellery-your-mother-doesn’t-even-have” phase with the Cartier love bracelet being the piece du jour.  Buy Hermes will do too.

A word of warning about this “recipe for success”

This might seem easy but it is not as straight forward as it might seem.  You might need to play around with the proportions.

For example, some LA Princesses only need to feel like they are the centre of the universe with very little of any of the other ingredients.  Others have whatever they like but still struggle to pull off the LA Princess.  Others still have seemingly everything they want yet are still not content and are looking for something more.  Others look the part but struggle to own it; to act the part.

And others want to try to raise LA Princesses but can’t quite bring themselves to follow the rules.

We’re back in our bubble now.  For a little less than a week, however, my daughter was privy to how the rest of the world lives once again.  She said life would be much easier if we didn’t live in our bubble.  But that’s it isn’t it?  To learn to live as most people do within our bubble.

She’ll be right mate.  We got this.

xx It Started in LA xx

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)

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Getting my Californian Driver's Licence

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, Posts

Corner stores or no corner stores?

The difference between my life in Beverly Hills America & inner City Sydney Australia

The second instalment in my series in the differences between America & Australia (Americans & Australians) was spurred on by a recent end-of-year sleepover. With five teenage boys in the house the breakfast request was for pancakes.

“Damn, I don’t have eggs,” I said.

In Australia …

I would have sent the boys on their bikes or skateboards down the local corner shop to get said eggs. The boys would have got dressed and practically run out the door.

“Don’t forget to take the dog,” I’d yell at them, at which they’d promptly run back, grab the dog and the lead and continue racing out the door.

Some later they’d come home with eggs (and anything else I’d requested) and a treat for themselves. As payment. Works for them, works for me.

In America …

We live in the hills of Beverly Hills—down one hill is Beverly Hills “flats” (think the mansions and palm trees) and down the other hills is the “posh” part of the Valley, Sherman Oaks.

To “rush out” just to get eggs I need to hop in the car. (Yes it’s LA, everyone drives everywhere.) There’s no corner store to walk to. I have to go down one of my two hills to the closest “market” (which makes it sound really glamorous but it’s really just American for supermarket).

It’s not too bad, a drive down the hill to Sherman Oaks is around 10 minutes (out of traffic). Except couple that with the fact that you have to park, go in, get the eggs (it’s a big supermarket and the eggs are in the far back corner—good to know if you’re in Ralph’s Sherman Oaks and all you need is eggs), get back in the car and head back up the hill. That’s 30 minutes of my life I can’t get back all because I don’t have enough eggs. Yes, yes, I know I could have given them something else but it’s the holidays and they worked really hard to stay up all night what’s a sleepover without pancakes for breakfast???

I hate the fact that there is no corner store or local “market”. We had one at our local shopping centre it closed down now long after we got here. And even then I can’t send the kids there to go on their bikes, I still have to drive.

Flashback to Shanghai

In Shanghai our apartment was across the road from the international supermarket, CitiShop. The kids were a little too young to send over at the start but towards the end they could go themselves. Plus I didn’t have to get in my car and they had all the treats (like Tim Tams) I needed if I was feeling homesick. I just couldn’t look at the price.

I may be greeted with a smile and helpful “checkout chicks” here in the US but the kids going to the corner shop for me. Priceless.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t fess up to the fact that our corner store shut down shop since we left home.  BUT there is another shop a little further down the road I can still send the kids to AND there’s a new mini Grocer (IGA) that’s opened close by that I can also send the kids to. Do yourselves a favour and support the local corner store, before you need to hop in the car to get bread and milk.  Or eggs, don’t forget the eggs.

LA Restaurants, Posts

The Church Key

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. People complain about coming to the US and getting sick of eating hamburgers, hot dogs, salads with mayo all over them and fries, fries, fries. That’s not America’s fault people: it’s yours. You can’t use that excuse here in LA. The only excuse you have is ignorance—of not knowing where to go. But thanks to Google and blogs like mine you can find great restaurants to eat and with a bit of planning ahead of time you can check out some of LA’s great dining spots.

(Don’t forget to tip between 18-20% though—10% or rounding up the bill doesn’t cut it here! Blog post to follow).

Let’s start with the fabulously located The Church Key.

The Church Key… Just ✋. 😍 #canthandlethecute #thechurchkey #latergram #bestdonutsever @thechurchkeyla

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The bar. Love it @thechurchkeyla #thechurchkeyla #ladining #lafoodie #aussiebloggerinla #aussiebloggerinla #Itstartedinla

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It’s on W Sunset in West Hollywood right amongst some of the popular hotels.

Firstly you’ll thank me the minute you walk in as the décor is LA hip. You can enjoy cocktails at the bar and take advantage of the tapas/dim sum-style carts that wheel around specials with anything from tuna to mini shepherd’s pies and samosas to popcorn to deep-fried & breaded bacon!!! (I know sounds kinda too much but nothing in this place was terrible so I imagine it was anything but, still we weren’t game to try!).

Last one I promise! I want one of these drinks carts @thechurchkeyla #ladining #lafoodie #Itstartedinla #aussiebloggerinla #thechurchkeyla

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The menu is a sharing one—my preference to get a little taste of everything and not forced to pick just one thing. We sampled:

AGED CHEDDAR FONDUE—Asparagus, Artichokes & Carrots / Pretzel Twist

AHI TUNA TARTARE—Apricot / Greek Yogurt / Pistachios / Serrano Chili / Pappadam

BRUSSELS SPROUT “CAESAR SALAD”—Tomato Raisins / Sunflower Seeds / Parmesan Cheese

RICOTTA GNUDI—Corn Espuma / Parmesan / Brown Butter / Chives (my personal fave)

 

JIDORI CHICKEN “TIKKA MASALA”—Dehydrated Mango / Cilantro Raita / Basmati Rice

And next time I’m going to try (just don’t know what I’m going to swap for):

ENGLISH PEA “HUMMUS”—Vadouvan / Cherry Tomatoes / Grilled Paneer / Garlic Chips / Nigella Naan

OSOSKY’S POTATO PIEROGIES–Peach Butter / Aged Gouda / Crème Fraîche / Chives & the

CRISPY PORK BELLY—Gochujang Glaze / Cashew Butter / Radish / Pea Shoots / Cilantro / Sesame

RIGATONI PASTA—Fennel Sausage / ”Red Sauce” / New Olive Oil / Parmesan Espuma

TAPIOCA CRUSTED TAI SNAPPER–Broccoli Rabe / Sushi Rice Cake / White Soy Vinaigrette

Dessert |Filipino Key Lime Pie with Calamansi

Dessert |Filipino Key Lime Pie with Calamansi

 

Be sure to make it to the toilets as there are a few photo opps!

I lied. A couple more for the blog. Link in bio 🍷😍🍸#thechurchkeyla #lafoodie #ladining #livingthedream #myreality #weho #aussieexpat

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So next time you’re in LA eat somewhere nice! Here’s the website for more info & to make a booking.

I look forward to the thank-yous in the comments ;-).

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: For more LA Dining suggestions visit my Pinterest page.

Moving to LA, My LA story, Posts

Two years ago: finding schools in LA

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Moving to 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

My LA story, Posts

Los Angelinos love to … Hike!

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Los Angelinos love to ...

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).

 

See that hill? I hiked that today yes I did! #greeceready #itstartedinla #myreality #runyoncanyon #4k20s #sola #hiking

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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.

Hiking LA style #H2ED #myreality #itstartedinla #greeceready #la #90210 #bloodyhard

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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.

Proud owner of Duff McKagan's bass #myreality #itstartedinla #gunsnroses

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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

 

PS  If you’re reading this because you followed a link from Facebook why not subscribe?  Then you won’t miss a single post and you can always come back to read my posts later.  Check out the right-hand column, pop in your email address and you’re done.

Moving to LA, Posts

Getting my Californian Licence–part one (written test)

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Getting my Californian Driver's Licence

Californian law states that you must get a new driver’s licence within 10 days of getting here. Oops.

Mr H got his straight away but I chose the path of maximum procrastination.  There was a time where I thought I wouldn’t even get one.

But it’s time: Getting my Californian Licence–part one (the written test).

You can sign up for an appointment online but when I finally went to do this I came across this question: “are you new or transferring your licence from another State?” Well, no, I’m from overseas. Is Australia another state of America?

So I procrastinated and didn’t continue my search for an appointment. Then I heard all sorts of stories about how bad it can be to get your actual licence—Australians must sit the “behind-the-wheel” test as well as the written one—so that meant more procrastinating.

Then I thought I’d do it with a friend and that would encourage me to get it. We procrastinated together.  Still no licence.

Then there was the time Bruno Mars ran into me in his white Bentley convertible just down the road from my place (ok it wasn’t really Bruno Mars but he reminded me of him and he was the loveliest guy so) and I panicked.  Thankfully we resolved the situation on the spot but now I was becoming unhinged. If I don’t have a Californian licence I can be “cited” and have my ve-he-cle impounded and we don’t want that.  Maybe I should think about getting my licence.

My next kick-in-the-butt was getting my licence before my nearly 15-yeear-old could get his permit.  Time is running out.  I’ve finally run out of excuses and we’re finally doing this.

Step 1: Getting an appointment

Mr H (sick of my procrastination) filled in the online appointment request, got me a time and I started studying. How hard can it be? There are apps and online tests you can take to prepare you for the test. I used the app and it put me off because of questions like:

“A traffic light is red, but a peace officer is signaling you to continue driven. What should you do?”

Letter-for-letter-word-for-word.

Well first of all you can tell me if you’ve got a speech impediment and then you can tell me what the fluck a peace officer is.

(No, it wasn’t a typo, apparently a peace officer is a gentle term for police officer—the fuzz—cops. Why don’t you just say that?)

Studying for my California driver's licence tomorrow. I don't know what or who's a peace officer? #itstartedinla #myreality

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Then there was this one:

“A green arrow showing a red light means…”

It’s a red arrow.  Isn’t it?  No.  Is it just me or is it questionable how they phrase these questions?

I think I need an American lesson before I take this test. Thank god for those practice tests.

The app looks like this and is available on the App store–I highly recommend it!

Here's what the app looks like that I found so helpful--minus the typos and stuff of course!

Here’s what the app looks like that I found so helpful–minus the typos and stuff of course!

Step 2: Going to the DMV

Like all public services (I use the term service loosely) there’s a queue a mile long to get in. These places make me feel like I’m in a third-world country. There are people going everywhere, no one is exactly sure where to go and what to do and it’s very, very low-tech. There are the usual side conversations—people who have struck up conversations with each other in the queue. Normal America is far from the picture Hollywood gives you. In fact, I want my money back.

In a Hollywood backstreet with a view of the Hollywood sign the DMV brings together people of all walks of life. There, as if to provide entertainment, are two homeless drunks swigging on their wine (at 9:30AM–well they are homeless drunks and it is 5:00 somewhere in the world), poking fun at each other and surprisingly keeping to themselves. Whatever it was they were doing kept themselves amused for the longest time.

 

After spending 15 minutes in the long queue that snaked out the door and around the corner I texted Mr H to tell him his iPad ran out of battery so no more practising while I wait. Thank god I did because apparently there’s a separate queue inside for appointments. Nobody told me that. I even sent the girl behind me in the queue to check if there are separate lines. All they said was move back, move back, we need the room in the doorway, please move back.

After the false start I found one of the last remaining English forms and filled it in while I waited and was served.

“Excuse me, excuse me,” said the lady pushing in behind me. “I have a question.”

“I’m sorry maam you’ll have to wait at the end of the line.”

“I just have a question.”

“I’m sorry maam,” said my lady while the question-asking lady got abused by the lady next to my lady serving the (gigantic) queue without appointments.

“She’s so stressed,” my lady says to me.

“It’s busy in here,” I said (I wanted to say it’s a shitfight in here but not sure that would’ve gone down too well). “Is it always like this?”

“Always,” she sighed.

“Oh my god you poor darlings,” I blurted out.

She smiled, sensed my sympathy and immediately felt better. I meant it. I was bracing myself to make sure she found my appointment slot, I had the right ID, filled in the form properly and could move to the next step because the last thing I wanted to do was come back any sooner than I needed to. No wonder discussion groups say stay clear of the DMV—it’s a nightmare.

The thing that continues to astound me is the patience of the Americans. They push to ask questions and find out what’s going on but they wait in line and do as they’re told. The scene at that DMV was one you can imagine on a news bulletin—people going everywhere and one lone madman gets filled with rage, can’t handle it anymore, gets out his gun and starts shooting. (There’s a metal detector & bag check at the Social Security & Tax offices but not one here). But they all do what they told don’t answer back and sit and wait. That’s why Americans are in shock when a madman does come out shooting. I know that much now at least. Still you never know, so I sit down and stare at that screen waiting for my number to be called to tell me where to go.

Because I’m getting older now I survey the windows, check out where people are being called to and sus out where I might be directed.  I need to get this right.

Step 3: It’s my turn

That wait wasn’t so bad—especially after you’ve spoken to the people next to you. So very American. The lady was really very nice (they’re not usually known for being nice or helpful). She entered my details into the computer, got someone to cross-check them, took my work permit (which was apparently a better from of ID than my Australian passport or driver’s licence). They only took cash or debit card so for once in my life I had cash—thank god says this credit card queen. Anyway, at $33 it’s not the $100-and-something in Australia. Oh, and they took my right thumb print too.

“Would you like your test in English?”

“Yes please, unless you have one in Australian.”

No … oops, sorry. Nice but still no sense of humour.

Step 4: Photo time

“Head over to counter 22 Miss and good luck.”

Great, but I didn’t realise I was getting my photo taken. Cool, I get ID for my next trip out of Burbank where they reject my Australian driver’s licence as a form of ID.

Place your right thumb on the scanner then stand and get your picture taken.

Snap.

Done.  I like that step.

Step 5: Test time

You get three chances (I didn’t know that until a friend told me on my way in) so it’s pretty hard to fail. Damn Mr H scaring me into thinking I’d fail. Still I was glad because some of those questions are so dodgy and the likelihood of me coming back if I failed was pretty slim so we had to do this.

I must one of the first to do the test on a touch-screen computer because most people I know still had to circle paper-based forms. How novel.  Once I went through the questions I went back to the desk to tell them if I passed or failed.  Do you trust me?  How do you know if I didn’t pass?  Well I wasn’t about to test that, I passed!

They printed an extra bit of paper gave everything back and told me to schedule my “behind-the-wheel” test.

“Do I get my photo?” I asked.  “No that’s it.”

Bugger, I thought I got a nice card with my photo on it saying learner’s permit.  Nope I have to wait for my actual licence for that.

Step one done. Behind-the-wheel test to go #cadriverslicence #myreality #itstartedinla

A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on

 

Yes my friends, I have my permit. I have until this time next year to sit my “behind-the-wheel” test. Don’t’ think Mr H will let me wait that long somehow. Yep, time to face my fears and have a Nike moment.

xx It Started in LA xx

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

Home sweet home
Celebrity, Expat tales, My LA story, Posts

Home sweet home. Or is it?

I’m back from my amazing Aussie holiday that went by so (too) quickly.

I had so many ideas for my first Blog post back and like I often do have written some great lines in my head.

But alas now that I sit down to write all I can think of is how amazing our holiday was and how Australian life suits us so well.  Not so long ago I would have used the phrase, “… how we love Australian life so much better.”

Is Australia better?

And I probably would have gone into a spiel to say how weird America is.  (Shoot me down now American friends).  But I’ve grown up now and I can use mature, experienced Expat words—I call that experience rather than being politically correct because let’s face it that’s exactly what it sounds like I’m being (politically correct).  (Oh, and I don’t really think Americans … ahem America … are/is weird!).

It was interesting going back and even more interesting that we all just stepped back into our lives like we had never left.  My daughter spent the day at school–including an early start for tennis training at 7am and my son competed in a swim meet for his old school.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

While we were in Australia we caught up with a teacher from the kids’ school who has recently moved from LA to Sydney.  She’s a good 10 months behind me in time so she’s in the hard stages of change.  I’m sure a good portion of the time we’d rather be in each other’s shoes.  It got me thinking of the concept of home:

  1. You love home and never really looked to move anywhere else no matter how divine your new destination is.
  2. Because you love home all the familiar sights, sounds and smells of home play a big part in making you who you are. Everything else—especially when it’s actually so different but there’s absolutely no reason it should be (like Australian and the US)—is “weird”.

Weird is a matter of perspective

It’s not about which city is better or that the new city you’re in is “weird” it’s just that home is home.  And your newly adopted city isn’t (quite yet).  And, by the way, neither of us should get defensive when we say weird because it’s weird as in different-to-us-and-I-don’t-get-it not weird as in you’re-a-freak weird.  There’s a difference.

I have many friends that live in Australia that wouldn’t move out of their suburb let alone move overseas.  I also have many friends that have spent—and enjoyed—their time overseas they almost think Australia is too small for them.  I fall into neither of those categories.

You know before I left for this holiday I was talking about settling down here and how good it would be to buy a house.  I thought it would settle us.  Now I’m not so sure.

The day after we arrived I went to the supermarket for milk, bread, fruit & vegetables.  I remember when we lived in Shanghai and I’d go to the supermarket after a holiday it would drive me mental.  With a capital M.  It was difficult to navigate around and everything is in Chinese so it would remind me how hard something so easy could be.  Then I’d get accosted in the supermarket isles by sales agents wanting to direct me to their washing powder or their mop that I’d run for cover, race home and text my friends to say wine o’clock is starting early today.

carrefour

The newspaper and magazine section of my local Carrefour, Shanghai, China, 2009

 

Thankfully grocery shopping isn’t that hard in America.  I was safely minding my own business when I got to the checkout and started unpacking my shopping trolley.  A lady came behind me and blurts out, “Is there another aisle open?”  I looked at her.  She says, almost to herself, “Well you have to ask”.  I looked at her again, careful not to stare and show exactly what I was thinking.

I bit my tongue.  There are very few people that would say that in Australia—and the queues are often much longer.  I felt like saying to her, “chill love, by the time you’ve unloaded your trolley they’ll be ready to check you out.”  Honestly, seriously, by the time someone opens another checkout, they log in and she moves she’d be better off staying where she is.  But she doesn’t want—like—to wait.  I find that weird.  Someone who’s moved to Australia from the US might find it weird that we wait.  In silence.

I get that the service is better in the US.  I love that the service is better in the US.  When we checked through Coles Burwood last week in Australia (stocking up on our Aussie treats) my husband and I looked at each other and said, “It’s not quite Ralph’s service with a smile and a chat is it?”  But seriously … still weird.  Chillax chick.

 

Top five questions I was asked when we were home

Not that I’m one to dwell but was good to get a home fix.  Especially when we were so acclimated that we were on such a high point here in LA we didn’t really need to go back to Australia for a visit. So aside from my close friends and the “how are you going?” question there are lot of different things people wanted to know about life in LA.  Here are my favourite questions (and answers).

1.Who has been the best celebrity you’ve seen and what were they doing?

I initially answered with JLo but my friend wasn’t interested in her.  Bette Midler? Joan Collins?  Yes, much better responses.  I saw Bette at my favourite West Hollywood restaurant and Joan Collins having lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel by the way.  Joan Collins is forever classy.  (Still think my favourite spot to date is the very yummy Joshua Jackson aka Pacey from Dawson’s Creek).

2. Have you seen any celebrities? Do you go to school with any celebrities?  What are they like?

Ummm, yes.  Lots.  It helps that (yes) there are plenty at school but they’re just normal people doing normal things like attending school functions and back-to-school nights.  Except the Kardashians but I haven’t seen them around (even though Kim & Kanye used to live just up the road from us).

3. What are the people like?

It’s pretty much the same as being at home: there are people you like and people not so much.  Like at home there are people who are extremely egocentric and others who are very kind and considerate.

There is a paranoia that exists here more than at home and I have to say that I feel like we should be more paranoid at home and the Americans (especially around here) less so.

Then: have they all had lots of work done?

We noticed it when we first arrived then we just got used to it.  Then we noticed it more when we got back to Australia (the lack of work) and again since we’ve come home.  Funny.  So … yes.

4. How long do we need in Disneyland?

As little as you can.  Seriously.  The happiest place on earth is wonderful … until it all starts to go pear shaped and then you need to exit stage left IMMEDIATELY.  The problem is it’s very hard to judge when the right time is to leave so be prepared for pear-shaped.

5. Are you ever coming home?

Good question.

Three funny things I noticed being back in Australia

It’s interesting being away for some 15 months then coming back again.  It’s more interesting the things you notice that you didn’t before.

1. We talk funny.

At least we use very different phrasing (non Australians might in fact say “weird”).  We were on the Virgin Australia flight up to Hamilton Island and the hostie was taking drinks orders.  “Too easy” was her response.  I laughed out loud.  I hadn’t heard that in a long time.  What does that even mean to an outsider?  Only in Australia.

2. We don’t stop drinking.

That’s right, hard to believe?  The day we arrived we got to my girlfriend’s house where we were staying and settled in with a few bottles of wine.  We had friends stop in and go and stop in and go; it was so lovely and informal.  By about 6:00 in the early evening we were still going and no one even considered we’d be stopping.  Ah love an Australian drinking afternoon.  So informal and I didn’t even have to stop.  How good is it to be home?

3. We walk everywhere.

It was our last day and I had a couple of jobs to do: drop some stuff off to an artist friend, deposit some cheques and a last-minute dash to the supermarket.  What struck me when we were driving around was the number of people walking everywhere.  Not parking and walking but actually walking; like from point A to point B.  (I know LA readers, I know; breathe).

Admittedly I live in the inner suburbs of Sydney and that essentially means our houses are in walking distance of the nearest pub/bank/post office/coffee shop and other conveniences that it’s really easy to walk.

My kids went to the corner shop more times than we could count just because they could–one there actually is a corner shop and two because they had the freedom to go that they’d missed so much here in LA.  They even cycled to get their fish & chips for dinner.  Love, love, love the freedom and independence Australia allows them.

Walking is a sport here in LA not a pastime so there are barely any footpaths let alone people walking.  It’s funny what you notice when you’ve been away.

It is good to be home

Alas I’m home.  I’m re-adjusting to LA life and I do love it here.  I went to the doctor this morning to follow up on my yearly checkup.  Sit down Australians he actually took my pulse and listened to me take deep breaths.  He actually spent some time with me and cared to follow up my results.

I said that I could neither think Australia is too small for me or could see myself living anywhere but Australia.  I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given first as an “Expat brat” living in the Philippines and now as a “trailing spouse” (revolting term but can’t be bothered coming up with something sexy at the moment) in Shanghai and LA.

The first-world problem that arises out of the scenario from my perspective though is that I will always want the best of all worlds.  Sadly there’s no such thing as a perfect world so I’ll just have to pull my head in and be thankful I’m getting the chance to experience life from many different angles.

Enjoy your weekends,

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  Happy birthday to my gorgeous friend Kristen Long who was the reason for our return trip and thanks to all our friends (old & new) for making our trip ah-may-zing!

My reality
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

JLo, David Duchovny & Forrest Gump

I’ve been neglectful again because I had friends in town last week then a busy weekend catching up.  But showing friends around LA is the very reason this Blog started–to share my surreal life–so I can’t abandon ship on that.

It was a full-on “Only-in-LA” week so I thought I should share it with you.

It started on Saturday when friends landed in LA.  We went out to catch some lunch at Urth Caffe on Melrose and do a bit of people watching.  It never disappoints and it’s always busy.

One of my favourite phrases when I’m out is “Oh,” said with great drama and excitement, “he (or she) is someone.”  It’s true many people have that look about them.  And I probably “see” lots of people out but just don’t recognise them.  But as useless as I am at identifying people, the paparazzi never fail to impress me.  One of my favourite things I look out for–maybe more than celebrities–is the paparazzi trying to snap that pic that might pull them in a small fortune.

Hiding behind the bushes was a pap doing his best to stay in cognito whilst trying to pap a pic.  I looked and looked but couldn’t see who he had his eye on.  Wonder if he got the pic he needed.  Welcome to LA Andrew & Chris!

The next night we had dinner planned at one of my favourite West Hollywood restaurants.  With one pap out the front I felt like I’d let the side down; this would be a quiet night.  We sat down at our table straight away (unheard of) and it was really quiet at the bar.  Given the request was a bit of “Celeb Spotting” I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t delivered–or didn’t look like delivering.

“Oh, it’s such a shame,” I started saying.  “A couple of weeks ago Chris Noth–Mr Big–was here.”

“Oh, love him,” said my friend.

“I know, me too.  I’d love to see him.” No sooner had I said it but there at the bar was the man himself.  “Mr Big” sitting at one of the bar tables.  Sigh.

“Oh my god, oh my god,” I said, “it’s him.”

How cool we all thought immediately giving him the once over like he was there for the sole purpose of giving us someone to dissect.

“He looks good.”

“He needs a shave.”

“He’s grayer than I imagined.”

“He’s still hot.”

Just getting into the running commentary and he was saved only by JLo walking in.  Yes.  JLo.

“Don’t look now guys but JLo has just walked in.”

“That’s not JLo,” says MR H.

“Is it Beyonce?” asks our mate.

“Oh no, you’re right,” I say, “It’s not JLo.  Bummer.”

Until common sense prevailed and my girlfriend announces, “Of course it’s JLo.  Who else looks that flawless and perfect?

“We’re not in Glen Iris (Melbourne) or Lilyfield (Sydney), we’re in West Hollywood and you’ve seen her here before so you know she comes here!  How can it be anyone BUT JLo?”

Well yes, now that you put it like that.  Good point.

As she’s escorted to her table it becomes clear that she’s going to be seated in the booth DIRECTLY OPPOSITE US.  We only had one way to look and that was straight at her.  Poor us.  Our poor boys.  There goes any decent conversation for the rest of the night.  (Actually, you’re right.  Poor boys nothing).

And yes, there were a few more paps waiting outside when we left.  I wonder who tips them off.

Cut forward a couple of days and we managed to arrange to get out to Paramount to have a quick look at the sound studios at Mr H’s work.  Even if we don’t get to see anything I at least know my way around the lot and can conduct a mini tour of my own.

Well there we are in the “ADR” room (Automatic Dialogue Replacement) and I look up at the talent who’s on a break and recording some lines.  I look again.  And again.  And again because I can’t quite work it out.  It looks like David Duchovny.  With make up on.  I look again.  He catches me (again) but I don’t care because it’s not him but I need to know WHO it is.

Meanwhile right next to me I’m completely oblivious to my friends–one apparently having heart palpitations, the other apparently trying to get my attention so we can make eye contact and telepathically give each other the thumbs up.  We’re.  Standing.  In.  The.  Same.  Room.  As.  David.  Duchovny.

Nope.  I’m too busy checking out the David Duchovny look-a-like, looking at him up and down and trying to work out who he is and how remarkably he has some of his mannerisms as David Duchovny.

Again, we’re in Hollywood, David Duchovny has started shooting a new series Aquarius on the Paramount lot (that one of my friends is producing) and he has make-up on but it doesn’t occur to me that that guy IS David Duchovny.  I don’t deserve to live in LA.

Later as we’re driving a cart around the lot who should follow us but the man himself.  My friends were sitting at the back of the cart (looking out) and had no choice but to look straight at him.  Lucky them.  I wonder what he was thinking: “who are these people I keep bumping into”.  Or of course there’s always the fact he didn’t notice us at all.  Nah … not possible.

Welcome to LA Andy & Jess.

Forrest bench

Forrest Gump’s bench now sits at the Paramount lot | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

Shanghighs and Shanghlows

I could end the story there.  But I won’t.  I’ve joined in an Instagram project called #myreality where we’re posting a pic a day on various topics.  It’s been fun to be part of and gets me thinking about what pics I can post and also what pics I’ve already taken that I can share.  (You can see my pics on my Facebook page in an album I’ve created of the same name).  And if you’re not already following me on Instagram I’m @itstartedinla.

So it got me thinking I must be giving the wrong impression about #myreality.  Yes of course I see amazing things (straight from movie sets) daily and get to do lots of fun things I never dreamt of only 15 months ago.  But.  And there is a but.  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about FOMO.  As settled as I am here in LA, I’m unsettled.  I like our house but it’s only supposed to be temporary.  I hate renting, I want to buy a nice house (not unlike the one I plan to build some day–one day–at home).

The kids and I have been chatting and if life is meant to be here for us for a while then we’re ready for it.  We’re prepared to embrace it and stay.  But Mr H doesn’t feel the same way.  I’m pretty sure he’s in denial.  He’s job is here, he’s happy here but he doesn’t want that lightbulb moment where he thinks he can lay down some roots here and settle for a while.

And so, life as an expat is about the highs and the lows.  There was a saying in Shanghai and it was exactly that: the Shanghighs and the Shanglows.  Some choose to dwell on the lows, we try to focus on the highs.  And I don’t really expect much (any) sympathy from you.  But when you read this in your house that you call your home think of me living in a sort of limbo land and count your lucky stars because with your life comes family, friends and security.

Fall

Not falling but “Fall”.  Because we always end on a positive note it’s starting to feel more like Fall here now: it’s getting a little cooler and the Halloween decorations are out.  Also, the air freshners and candles are scented for the “holidays” in a glorious combination of cinnamon, cloves and “apple pie”.  It reminds me of this time last year when we were newbies and were trying to navigate around town.  That smell reminds me of home and security and family. So I think we’re lucky the kids and I can picture ourselves staying here another few years and we can gently let go of the “smells of home” that lure us back.  I think we’ve come a long way.  As unsettling as that is it is somehow very settling.

And of course the start of Fall means Halloween, people have their decorations out and the “spirit” is out there.  It’s a fun time of the year.

Halloween

With Fall comes Halloween | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

 

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xx It Started in LA xx

 

Teen Choice 2014
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

Teen Choice Awards 2014

One minute you’re organising a long weekend with your friends in Sydney the next minute you’re sitting in Row 13 at The Teen Choice Awards 2014.  In LA.  And not long after that you’re at the Post Party mixing it with the new breed of celebrity: the blogger or the YouTube video blogger.

I never got around to sharing our experience at the Teen Choice Awards last month so I thought I’d do a #tbt or #fbf depending on what timezone you’re in.

If you’ve been playing along at home (and you’re getting as acclimated as I am) then we all need to take stock and reflect on how crazy this is.  And it is crazy.

Seriously?  How did this get to be me?  And my kids?  What a spinout of epic proportions.  Yes indeed but it’s our spin out and I’m sharing it with you.

What are the Teen Choice Awards?

If you’ve had your head in the sand (or you have no teenage/tweens) it would be fair enough if you didn’t know what they are.  They are only one of the most popular award shows aimed at the very influential and lucrative teen market.

It would also be fair to say that I hardly recognised any of the names my kids and friend were “dying to see”.  One of the things that struck me most was the advent of the Internet celebrity.  Oh there’s hope for yours truly yet.

What to wear what to wear?

Before we went anywhere we had to sort out dress: what do you wear to the Teen Choice Awards?

Choosing a dress was made much easier because there’s a theme–beach wear.  Too easy.  I wore a Trina Turk dress (cover-up) and instead of thongs (yes flip flops–what a stupid name flip flops!) I donned my Jeffrey Campbell  boots (it was an awards show after all).

Did I just say the theme was summer beach wear?  It was hard to work that out once you got there.  While I expected to see girls using the beachwear theme as an excuse to expose themselves in skimpy bikinis but the contrary was true.  In fact, it looked more like a ball or a school dance then beachwear.

In place of thongs were stiletto heels and in place of shorts or cover-ups were dresses.  I have to say that if some of the girls wore their bikini they’d probably have been better off.

This is where I start to sound a little old but how do girls think it’s OK to wear dresses (or skirts) so short that you see their undies?  Or gaping tops showing that much cleavage that even the girls themselves are paranoid and self-conscious about how much they’re showing they feel the need to hold their hand to cover the cleavage they chose to show?  Oh, and where oh where are the mothers I ask you that let them go out looking like that?

Is it me? Am I just getting old?   Taste girls taste.

How do you get in to one of these events?

The traffic as we got near the venue was pretty chock-a-block.  Ah LA.  We got a bit of a bum steer with the signage pointing us to parking stations but thankfully we had semi-designated parking which we managed to get into (the first traffic person wouldn’t let us in).

Next the hard part–there are people going everywhere and security checks to clear.  We looked for different lines for different sections but found that no, we had to wait in the one long line like everyone else.  It was so hot and while the queues were moving it couldn’t move fast enough for us.

One woman marched ahead confidently announcing, “Excuse me, excuse me–we’re at the front, our tickets are in the front.”

Ummm … yes.  So are ours.  Can’t see a VIP entrance love.  (God knows we tried).   People are funny, especially in LA when you get a live one who thinks the world really does revolve around them.

 

We’re in we’re seated and the suspense is killing us

As most of my life here in 90210 it was a surreal experience being right in amongst it.  We were seated right behind Miss Abby Lee and the Dance Moms team (no tension there might I add), some “heros” of the kids–mostly YouTubers I had never heard of and familiar faces like Ariana Grande and the spunky stars from A Fault in our Stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.

Teen Choice 2014

Yes that’s me, I’m taking my kids to the Teen Choice Awards | It Started in LA

 

So you can imagine the kids and how over the moon they were.  It was worth it just to see the beaming smiles on their faces and the iPhones working overtime catching pic after pic to record the event.

We had to record some clapping and cheering before the show started and we were asked to jump up and dance when the live acts were performing.  And before we knew it the final awards were being announced and it was all over.

Lucky for us our tickets included tickets to the after party and we made a beeline for the door and first on the red carpet to see the stars do their bit before they disappeared.  The kids weren’t disappointed.  We walked through with Luke from Modern Family and when we got in the kids’ favourite YouTuber Bethany Moda was sitting there so the kids got to talk to her before the crowds got there.

We also found ourselves a table and so many giveaways so I had a base to sit while the kids went star stalking.  Lucky for me I bumped into a friend or we would’ve been sitting there quite bored and looking very conspicuous.

The food was laid on, activities, dancing. lollies, a photo booth and wine for the grown ups.  It was such an impressive party and so much fun.  Here’s me with Abby Lee as she had just been to Australia and was so excited about it she had to share it with me.  (OK not the best photo of me but I had to share it with you).

Me & Abby Lee

Abby Lee was so excited I was Australian she stopped to tell me she’d just come back from there | It Started in LA

Thanks for reliving the event with me.  So LA!

xx It Started in LA xx

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90210
My LA story, Posts

So 90210: Handbags, pocket money and schmoozing

Another week and another visitor to show off our LA to last week.  This time it was my niece coming over from Wales.  My dad was from Wales and left home when he was young to travel the world.  While we go back often to visit it’s not often we get to spend quality time with relatives apart from immediate family.

Ironically at the time my daughter was doing a history assignment on family so she got her nose out of joint that she hadn’t met any of Mr H’s extended family and only saw mine on holidays to the Philippines and Wales–and have since met more here in LA.

While her friends were having family gatherings and weddings she hadn’t experienced that because we have never lived in the same city as family. (OK technically that’s not true–Mr H’s brother and family lived in Sydney at the same time as us so the kids have a special bond with them as a consequence but that was some four + years ago now and with us both living out of Australia I can’t see us living in the same city again for quite some time.)  That’s the tough part about being an Expat.  The plus is that you establish close friendships stronger than any family bond and we’ve always had families take us under their wings (which we just love).

There were a few themes I noticed last week–especially as I see LA through the eyes of a first-timer–but I thought I’d use this week’s post to fess up to something I blogged about at the start of my new venture.

That post was about young girls here and their designer handbags.  Specifically it was about us getting swept up in 90210 and wanting my daughter to have a fabulous Furla handbag.

At the time I was annoyed that the PE bag of choice was a Michael Kors tote and naturally when you see someone with something you like you want it too.  But even with my fetish for handbags I couldn’t see how a Michael Kors PE bag would in any way be acceptable in my house.  (Thankfully I think the bag du jour has changed once again proving my point that I can’t afford to get caught up in many of the trends out here).

As I re-read the post I don’t think I even articulated myself all that well.  I think I was trying so hard to cover up what I was really trying to say that that’s exactly what I did!

Some of my gorgeous friends’ daughters do have designer handbags and to me that’s OK.  It’s OK because they don’t get everything they want and they are uber fashion conscious and spend time creating their own individual looks and it works for them.  They also don’t flaunt it.  It’s normal to them and they don’t judge my daughter for not having … a designer handbag for example.  It’s also OK because they can afford it.  To them buying a designer handbag is like me buying my daughter a Sportsgirl bag or even a Country Road bag.

What’s not OK are girls who make others who don’t sport the latest designer handbag feel bad or out of it.  Actually I don’t think many do but there’s a difference in my daughter’s behaviour (and what she wants) depending on who she’s been hanging out with so I’d love to know what is said and why she acts like that only after hanging with certain girls.  As I’ve said to her lets limit the amount of hanging out time with those girls–if nothing else but for my nerves and my alcohol intake.

So here’s the confession.  My daughter is now the proud owner of a spunky Marc Jacobs bag.  She was over the moon to be given one as a gift from a few of her friends recently.  Good for her.  She loves it and cherishes it.  It’s so special, especially because it’s come from friends.

She has also saved up for her very own matching Michael Kors wallet & tote bag.  And no, she won’t be using it as her PE bag.  She has counted every penny and watched as her favourite “camo” (that’s camouflage print to us untrained) gear went on sale.  She was able to use Christmas and birthday money as well as the very generous gift cards she got from her recent party to get it with her own money.

MK Camo

The much-yearned-for Michael Kors camo bag

Pocket money

OK She didn’t actually have to work for it but she did get to experience the importance of saving up for something you really want.

Since I wrote about pocket money at the beginning of the year we’ve also been thinking seriously about that.  The kids have been OK with doing some jobs but they’ve been doing a great job at budgeting their money and spending it wisely.  So much so that we’re pretty much eliminating gift giving in our house in exchange for money giving.

The main downfall is that it’s completely impersonal and a real downer on a celebration day.  But, money giving is helping our kids appreciate the value of money and make choices about what they really want–as opposed to asking for everything then being disappointed with the “little” they get.

My son did the same sort of thing with his money–saved it up and got a racing car set he really wanted.  Like my daughter he counted his “pennies” until he hit the magic number and got exactly what he wanted.

The only other downside to this experiment is that neither of them can have a bank account here with a linked debit card until they’re 15 or 16. Once they get that then they’ll truly be able to transact without fear of losing their cash and track their savings and spending.

Back to handbags

You see one of the things I hadn’t fully thought through was the problem is similar back home.  And it’s even more true in Expatland where Cashed-up bogans rule supreme.

In Australia there are girls with designer handbags, wallets or designer clothes. Or the latest Mac. Or holiday house. Or boat. Or iWhatever.  There are some girls who get what they want, and others who don’t.

In Expatland it’s probably even worse. I bought my daughter a designer wallet (fake of course–which brings up more ethical debate truth be told) and thought nothing of it.

When we lived in China things were so ridiculously cheap and we didn’t have mundane bills to worry about like rent, utilities or school fees that the discretionary spending was abnormally high.  I didn’t have a blog then but I spent a lot of time analysing how much the kids had and how no one wanted for anything that we were raising a generation of spoilt children living in a surreal world.  I spent a lot of time then making sure we weren’t buying the kids too many material possessions so they would think that was the norm and OK.  (No wonder my kids think I’m a hard-ass.)

The moral of the story?

The moral of the story is and always will be each to their own: their own beliefs, values and judgments.  This blog contains the world according to Gwen John and it doesn’t have to be the world according to you.

Am I being hypocritical that now my daughter, too, owns a designer handbag?  That’s for you to decide and me to justify.

What I love is that, sure, it’s got the Michael Kors element about it but it’s my daughter to a T–she loves everything camo.  In my mind she’s not compromising who she is for the sake of buying herself a designer bag.

I go back to my mum’s advice when she visited a couple of months ago when she questioned me and my steadfastness.

She cautioned me at being stubborn to resist the change (you always want what you can’t have).  She agreed we have to be true to ourselves and our values but we also had to be mindful we’re bringing kids up in a different place to where we grew up.  She reminded me that the same thing happened to me when we moved back to Melbourne after spending a few years in Queensland.  It’s OK to be pliable and blend a little so long as you remember who you are and what you believe in.  And I think we are and we do.

LA through different eyes

My niece was gobsmacked at LA–not just the six-lane freeways but the uber wealth in not one but dozens of different neighbourhoods (Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Los Feliz, Malibu, Larchmont, Santa Monica, Brentwood, Hollywood Hills .. need I go on?)  She was also surprised to see so many homeless people and the terrible state of some of the roads.  She laughed at dinner the other night as she reflected that everyone in the restaurant carefully checks out everyone else to see if they are “someone” or if they know them.  (She said I was being checked out–love it!).

Perhaps one (or two) of her biggest surprises though were the canyons.  Like most people she saw LA as being Beverly Hills (the flats), Santa Monica and the beaches and Anaheim.  She had no idea of the beauty of the surrounding canyons.  Coupled with that spotting deer crossing the road just two doors down from our house spun her out.

That’s what I love about LA: the surprise factor.  There’s so much more to LA than you might think.  Whichever way you look at it though, it’s worth getting to know better.

xx It Started in LA xx

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Post Production Sound
Movies and TV, Posts

Business as Usual

We came into last week with a big gigantic thud, hitting the ground rather unexpectedly because summer just came to an end for us.  Sure of course we knew the dates but time just flew by so quickly we were completely unprepared.  But we rallied and here we are.  Already this morning I got the, “I don’t want to go to school” from my 14-year-old son to which I immediately replied, “It’s a bit early for that mate!”  It’s true though it’s hard to get momentum.

You know what I mean? What to make for lunch? What to cook for dinner? (again) Which activity do you need to be at?  How does one person get two people in two different spots at one time?

But the biggest killer for me is When will I start that diet?  (The answer is yesterday but I’m still looking for an easier option: read my head isn’t into it).

So yes, we’re back in full swing.

I wrote last week about my daughter’s party: Aussie style with a twist of 90210 and a Hollywood chaser.  It was a huge success.  Everything went down like a treat and the girls were extremely gracious and appreciative of the party.  That pleased me to no end.  Many of these girls have just come back from summer in Europe, camp and stays at incredible hotels yet they were genuinely happy and impressed with the party we threw.

The power of sound

Of course they were, the facility my husband has is amazing (not his personally you’ll understand).  I don’t know anything technical about post production except the tiny glimpses I’ve been privy to but when I sat in that sound stage watching a movie I was blown away by the sound and the impact it had on our viewing pleasure.  Apart from the amazingly comfy lounge chairs and side tables for lollies and drinks and the movie itself the girls also noticed the sound.  And it wasn’t one of those movies in which sound plays a crucial role.  It was just that sound is so powerful, and the facility is soooo incredible that you notice it.  Kapow!

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited back to watch Get On Up, the story about James Brown.  Now that movie does rely on sound.  What an experience.  Watching a well-made movie in one of the best sound stages in Hollywood (so the world) is an absolute privilege.  So much so that Princess Gwendolyn here is hooked.

I highly recommend you see the movie–preferably in a theatre or a good quality home cinema.  I’m sure it’s available on M-Go. (I for one am pleased I saw it in a theatre).

At the start it took a little concentration as the movie jumped from many different stages in his life.  But once it settled down then the story  was off.  There was so much I didn’t know or understand about James Brown’s life.  I knew he spent time in prison, for example, but I didn’t know he had a rough childhood or that he shared his father’s problem of beating his wife.  I found it terribly confronting but also incredibly real.  (James Brown also reminds me of one of my good mates and my Uni days so listening to the music–which is all his original music–brought back many memories).

Post-production

I’ve spent a bit more time at my husband’s company in the last couple of weeks and have had the opportunity to see a little about what goes on behind the scenes.  We all know it takes a few months to shoot a movie and we all know that there’s quite a bit of editing that needs to be done to pull the story together and the sound track needs to be added but there’s so much more to the process.

Take colour for example.  My husband’s company has one of the best (arguably the best) colourist in the business.  He does all the Marvel movies.  It’s easy to see how colour plays a key role in a movie when you watch Guardians of the Galaxy, still evident when you watch The Giver but perhaps not at all noticeable when you watch a movie like Get On Up.

Yet every movie that comes into post-production needs to be coloured.  It has sort of a washed-out look and the filmmakers have a hue in mind when they colour the final version that sets the look, feel and tone of the film.  TV too (which they refer to as Broadcast).

Incredible when you think about it.  That same colourist will most often then go on to colour the DVD and Netflix/M-Go version too.  That’s a lot of painstaking detail.

Going to the movies

This all got me thinking: why don’t people go to the movies to see movies?  Or at least why aren’t as many people going to the movies to watch movies?  Guilty.  If I’m on a date night I actually want to talk to my husband so the movies are out for me.  And if we’re having a family night in because we can’t be bothered going anywhere then there’s no better service than M-Go or Netflix for watching the latest flicks or catching up on one you missed.

My family is also old enough now that going to the movies can be all together again-it’s not about getting away from the kids it’s about enjoying it with them.  We went to see Guardians of the Galaxy together and it was a fun thing thing to do.  I love comparing notes and thoughts at the end.

It’s so much better at the movies that I wonder how I can share my new-found joy with everyone else and encourage them to return to the movies.  I wonder if I put my marketing hat back on how I could encourage people back to the movies.

I remember when DVDs first came out… (ahem excuse me Video recorders if you don’t mind) they said the cinemas were dead.  And for a time people opted to rent a video and stay home.  But DVD shops (or the old Video Ezy) are not around anymore yet movie theatres are.

Is this just another dip or a trend?  I can’t see how people will stop going to the movies altogether when you have huge screens, amazing sound and create an experience.  Movie theatres need to get smarter and I think studios need to do their bit too.

At home Hoyts and Village are doing their bit by offering the Gold Class experience.  But sometimes these experiences are a bit like flying business class: perfect if you’re upgraded or someone else is paying but you’d rather keep the difference for the (exhorbitantly priced) choc tops and popcorn.

Dolby has a new sound system known as Atmos where speakers are located in the ceiling as well as around you so if a plane is taking off it feels like it’s taking off over your head.  These experiences can help lure would-be theatre-goers back to the theatres because there’s a profound difference in quality between what’s offered at home and what’s offered in the cinemas.

I’m going to try out some luxury cinemas in LA and report back.  I’m also going to do my best to see more movies.

My little slice of Hollywood

As I sat in the Sound stage last Saturday afternoon, the girls with their throw rugs covering them watching the movie intently, us in the rear couches designed for movie makers to conference and share their opinions I’ve finally decided what I’d like to do if I changed jobs.

Comfy couches

This is where we sat on Saturday to watch the movie (the girls were up the front)

 

Yep, if I got the good fortune to change careers I’d like to do something in entertainment.  My memory is hopeless so I could never learn the lines even if I wanted to be an actress but I’d like to sit on those couches and make movies.  I guess the closest thing to that is my sitcom: It Started in LA.  Best I keep working.

Yep, it’s back to business here in Hollywood.  As you were.

xx It Started in LA xx

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