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Ausmerican

Differences between America & Australia, Expat tales, My LA story, Posts

A postcard from Sydney

G’day LA.

A Postcard from Sydney.  I’m still recovering from my trip to Sydney which was a whirlwind.  There’s never enough time to do what you need to do.

One of my highlights was getting back into the early morning rises for swimming training.  (If you’ve been following along he’s on a quest to qualify for the CIF–Californian Interscholastic Federation–made up of private and public schools across California and his coach suggested it was not OK to take two weeks off swimming in the middle of the season). I was so happy to wake early and even more happy that his old school took him in to train with them without question, in face welcome him with open arms. There is nothing more glorious than the site of nearly 100 boys swimming sets when even the sun hasn’t bothered to get up yet.

An hour later we’re on our way to the American Embassy applying for new Visas for another couple of years in LA.

Why would you want to leave Australia I was often asked?  What a great question.  It made me think (and appreciate) …

10 things I love about living in Sydney

1.   Our Beach House (& the unspoilt beaches in general)

Ah yes, our beach house.  Who needs holidays were you have to spend hours on end researching the ins and outs of new destinations when your home away from home is on the white sands of Jervis Bay with uninterrupted views, crystal clear water and unspoiled beaches? It’s the simple things.

It doesn't get much more spectacular than this

It doesn’t get much more spectacular than this

2.   Boats & Water sports

One of our favourite things to do is to head down to “The Shire” to spend a day with our gorgeous friends wallowing away the day.  The kids get to do all things watersports: wake boarding, tubing & biscuiting, Jetskiing, swimming and paddling around and we get to top up our Champagne glass and feed the adventurers when they’re hungry.  Good old-fashioned fun all day.

Doesn't get much more fun than this for the kids--and the grown-ups

Doesn’t get much more fun than this for the kids–and the grown-ups

And we can repeat it all again at the Beach House all summer long.

Ahhh the things we took for granted.

3.   Saturday Sport

Yep, seriously.  I never really whinged about Saturday sport: I loved getting up to watch my kids play and participate week after week for their school.  I also loved meeting and catching up with other parents.  So long as we have a coffee in hand (and a good BBQ complete with egg & bacon rolls) Saturday sport is a gift we give our kids.  And everyone knows where they stand: ‘no show’ means immediate detention and if you can’t commit then you’re presence isn’t required at the school.  That’s what you sign up for and besides, there’s nothing more important than teamwork, representing your school and good sportsmanship.

4.   Australian private school and the attitude to educating kids

When the Principal at my kids school here in LA said in reference to changing the girls uniform because they were sick of the short skirts–and they were short:

(I’m paraphrasing) “our job is not to be bogged down disciplining your kids it’s to educate”.  Wait one cotton-picking moment.  Screech those brakes.  Absolutely not.

Together the school and the parents must set boundaries for the kids and show them that if those boundaries are tested then there are consequences for those actions.  And those consequences aren’t changing a uniform because some girls don’t know how short is too short.  Those girls can learn a lesson–the hard way.

That’s how it is in Australian private schools and it doesn’t seem to be how it is in LA’s private schools.  I really miss that.

5.  Picnics in the park or by the beach–with wine (shock, horror)

As we were driving to friends house on our last night in Sydney we drove past the local park on a beautiful sunny Sydney afternoon.  There were groups of mums & kids sitting in circles on picnic blankets; kids playing happily (not without incident though!) and mums with a well-deserved glass of wine in hand.  After all it was Thursday and nearly the weekend.

Many of my best friendships solidified from “Friday arvo park days” or Champagne arvos.  And the best bit: you could walk home and no one has a mess to clean up.

6.  Pubs

Or is it Australia’s drinking culture I miss most? I’m not sure. Every afternoon pubs are crowded with people catching up for a drink or two after work.  Here in LA it can happen but it’s more like grabbing an early dinner then doing a runner once it’s finished.

7.  Everything revolves around a drink

Case in point.  I had exactly 50 minutes to catch up with a very dear girlfriend.  I dropped in to her house and she opened her fridge and there was no wine.

“It’s OK water’s fine,” I said.

“Wait, what time do you have to leave?  Right we’ve got enough time to go to The Three Weeds, have a drink and be back in time.”

With that we both walked out the door.  And guess what? We did it.  And we loved it.  And that’s something I sorely miss about my Aussie mates and Australia.

Back to point 6–there are pubs everywhere it doesn’t take you long to get to your nearest one to catch up over one or two “sherbets”.

8.  Public Transport

Yes! It might be shite because it never runs on time but you know it’s there if you need it (and you need it to head into the city because the cost to park is highway robbery).

But what I love best about the public transport system is the fact that my kids can catch the bus or train to and from school.  Not only does it give them a social outlet but it gives them freedom and a sense of responsibility.  And it means I’m not driving to and from their school two or three times a day or trying to schedule carpool.

9.  Corner shops and everything at arm’s length

You’ve already been to the supermarket but you forgot to buy milk.  I miss being able to send the kids to the corner shop to pick up the milk or bread, or even get me coffee.

The first thing the kids want to do is get on the bikes and ride to the fish & chips shop and get fish & chips for dinner.  Because they can.  All I have to do is handover the wallet.

10.  Bogans

Seriously.  Where would we be without bogans?  Where would we be without the newest breed of bogans of the cashed-up variety?  I’ve forgotten all about bogans living in LA, there really is no other breed quite like them.  Bless Bogans.  For those of you who don’t know what a bogan is… well that’s a whole other post!

Bona fide bogans: Kath & Kim (Image taken from The Daily Life)

Bona fide bogans: Kath & Kim (Image taken from The Daily Life)

What are 10 things you miss about your home city?  Or what are 10 things you don’t miss!  Would love you to share.

xx It Started in LA xx

Maude's
LA Restaurants, Posts

Curtis Stone: more than just the spunky Coles guy

“Curtis Stone has brought Australia’s flare for food and flavours to LA in what goes down as one of my greatest dining experiences to date in a city with dozens of celebrity Chefs and amazing restaurants. Who knew the Coles guy was THAT good? Bravo.”

I heard a couple of months ago that spunky Australian Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone opened up a 25-seat restaurant in Beverly Hills to rave reviews and he was personally there to make sure everything goes exactly to his plan.

And what a plan it was–or is.  Nothing is left to chance, from the single-fronted front door with nothing more than the signature “M” and a gorgeous lime tree to let those in the know know where they are.  To the exquisitely styled and very warm feeling you get when you walk through the door.  To the toilets and the gorgeous coconut-scented body and hand lotion. To the “party favour” raspberry tea and copy of the menu left with us as a take-away.  To the eclectic china and featuring Australian crockery given to Curtis as a gift by Australia’s Consulate-General in LA the warm and lovely Karen Lanyon. To the fact that the gratuity is added taking the hassle out of that pesky tipping thing that goes on here.

Nothing is meant to be easy

Getting a reservation at Maude’s is not easy.  And I have to say that the trouble it caused me was bugging me and I had a nervous feeling about whether this was going to be worth it or not.

In Australia we’re used to stupid booking rules like you must call three months in advance on a full moon when the restaurant is open and someone is there to fill up the next three months’ worth of reservations in 20 minutes.  But not here in LA where you depend upon your Open Table account or personally knowing the Maître D’ (usually the later).  Click here to book.

What I was stressed about was booking two months in advance not knowing whether we’d be in town, who’d be around and whether we could make the 5:30pm reservation which is the only one I could get for a table (party) of four.  First-world problems when you’re stressed about a restaurant booking and being slugged with a $100 cancellation fee if the table is not rebooked.

Perfect styling

Alas it all came together: my husband was in town and fellow Australian friends were free to join us.  We were on our way.

Maude's

Classic styling inside Maude’s–you just know you’re in for a treat the minute you walk in the door

 

The first thing we had to do was take in the meticulous styling: modern French Provincial with an enviable collection of old jugs, bowls and champagne buckets.  The next thing I noticed, at our table for four, was the table was big enough to accommodate us all really comfortably despite the intimacy of the restaurant.  All goes to suggest that rather than cramming in a couple of extra tables Curtis was focused on his aim to provide “equals parts comfortable and luxurious”.  And the staff were warm and welcoming, knowledgeable and not at all snooty as you might imagine they could have a tendency to be at such a special place.  I imagine this is not an accident and that warm, friendly Australian way shines through so much so you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Melbourne or Sydney.

So not LA

The food.  Oh the food.  I’m not a food writer but I am an “enjoyer of fine food, restaurants and wine”.  I died and went to heaven.

A bit like an episode from Masterchef Curtis chooses a core ingredient and prepares a nine-course tasting menu around that.  Our core ingredient was berries–and you’d be surprised what falls into the berry family.

Gazpacho

Gazpacho served from Australian-emblemed crockery

 

We started with Gazpacho, enjoyed a meticulously prepared lobster that was a textural delight and savoured the crepe with gooseberries, stracciatella and truffle that was one of our favourites for the evening.

Crepe

Crepe | Gooseberries, Stracciatella, Truffle

 

Each taste was the perfect size to savour every mouthful and hang on every bite providing multiple orgasms per round–wanting more but being satisfied with what you had.  As  our friend put it, “there were lots of ‘oh my gods’ proclaimed”.

At the doughnut round (three exquisite round balls one each filled with custard, strawberries and apple) we were satisfied but agreed we could go again.

Donuts

Berry-inspired Donuts

 

And as if it was a deliberate strategy out comes the mouth-watering peach melba with berries and “blah, blah, blah”.  He had us at that peach melba and we were lost for words, say what you like we had officially died and gone to heaven.

Fresh Berry Tart

The final orgasm: peach melba

 

Bravo Curtis Stone.  You are pushing the envelope for LA Dining.  I wonder if others will follow suit and bring the fresh food and flavours to LA that we miss so much from back home.  It is absolutely Ausmerican where LA and Sydney collide to provide nothing short of perfect.

I’ll be on that phone again on the first of next month trying to book a table stressing about whether we’ll be in town and who’ll be around and whether or not I’ll have to forfeit the booking and face the possibility of the cancellation fee.

Except next time I’ll advertise my reservation on Craig’s list as the most coveted and available reservation in LA those in the know would kill to have.

Hail Curtis Stone, the new king of LA dining.

xx It Started in LA xx

Psst: There is no Valet Parking (which I joked would be its biggest fail before arriving there) but there is a parking station right next door and I think you should book an Uber anyway to take advantage of the wine-pairing menu.

Patriotic
Posts, Visiting LA

Red, white & blue: Fourth of July

I’ve done it…We’ve done it!  We have now spent our first Fourth of July here as a family.  I’m glad it’s come around at the ten-month mark rather than early in our time here simply because we’re more acclimated and we’re in the groove of life here.  This way we get to appreciate the holiday rather than being freaked out–overwhelmed–by the sea of red, white & blue.

Australia Day in Sydney and Melbourne & the Fourth of July in LA are not dissimilar celebrations–it’s summer, many celebrations take part around the beach and there are fireworks. We spent our Fourth of July at a friends’ insistence in Mission Beach, San Diego and I’m so glad we followed her advice.  I really miss the kids having freedom to walk to the park, beach or corner shop without me having to accompany them.  Over the four days we were there they were able to do exactly that.  It was sooo liberating. But while the fourth of July is similar here as it is at home it’s also different: same, same different as we’d say in China.

It’s so same, same different in fact that it’s hard to articulate why. Firstly I would say that Americans seem more patriotic and they’re not afraid to be: they put it all out there: their American flags, dress in stars and stripes, paint their nails and even dress their homes.

Nails

You can never have enough red, white & blue

But we do too.  We’ve got our Australian flags, flag bathers and throw parties but maybe stop at decorating our nails and houses.

The impression I get is that the fourth of July revolves around community-based activities whereas our celebrations tend to revolve around parties with friends.  So even though we were “grilling” at a friends’ house we were also on the beach and interacting with others.

Two revellers being pulled along by their mate on the bike

Two revellers being pulled along by their mate on the bike

Many communities hold parades or fairs so everyone gathers in the same place.  I love that because the atmosphere is so electric.  And everyone is so bloody friendly.

A set-up the envy of many including the beachside "grill".

A set-up the envy of many including the beachside “grill”.

 

Not unlike us festivities start early–we saw a group doing shots at around 11am and still going around 2:30.  But they weren’t going in the late afternoon as they would’ve been doing at home. But starting early in America seems to also mean pacing yourself (a foreign concept for many of us Aussies).

The ability to practice the art of “pacing” lies in not always having a drink in your hand.  It also means hanging by the beach with the kids, going on a bike-ride up and down the boardwalk or chatting with fellow revellers.  Novel huh?  I quite liked it truth be told. Perhaps the biggest difference though is the LA element.  Once all the fireworks were done everyone went home.

To the Americans the fireworks were the grand finale and signals time to go home.  To Australians it signals the end of formal proceedings and time to start partying.  Which is usually, I have to say, when the trouble starts.  By our standards it’s an early night but here it’s the end of a fun day out.  And it ends in fun rather than drama or alcohol-fuelled incidents: we don’t have an off button (design flaw?).

Maybe as a new Ausmerican we can work out how to get somewhere in between…?

 Mission Beach for 4th of July

I’ve already blogged about our weekend away at Coronado Island when we first went to San Diego in April but I really wanted to talk about what a great spot Mission Beach is to holiday.

Three reasons to holiday in Mission Beach:

  1. Freedom to wander and walk (and bike) practically everywhere, such a nice change from the “get-in-your-car-for-everything” mentality of LA.  Also for our older kids we can give them the freedom to walk to the beach and the park on their own.
  2. Summer by the beach: totally unpretentious and lots of things to do (what more can you want for your summer holidays?)
  3. Watersports galore–jet skis, water skiing, wake boarding, paddle boarding, you name it it’s there.  If you feel like indulging yourself try the Hot-tub cruise boat.

Five places to eat in Mission Beach:

  1. The Mission–dubbed as the best breakfast place in SoCal and I have to say I strongly agree.  Great coffee too (psst no bookings, rock up early and put your name down with the masses but it all seems to move fairly quickly).  3795 Mission Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (858) 488-9060
  2. Saska’s–local sushi joint (and grill all in one) and great service when you ask for Carson 3768 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (858) 488-7311
  3. Arslan’s Gyros–amazing Greek food: fresh meat, great pita bread and dips and a great atmosphere (especially when you bring your whole group of 30 peeps and takeover the restaurant) 3861 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (619) 962-9925
  4. Better Buzz–another top breaky spot with Aussie-approved coffee, selling the very-LA acai bowl. Even with queues going out the door it’s worth the wait. 3745 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (858) 488-0400
  5. The Ale House–we didn’t eat there but we had one of the Chefs come and cook our BBQ for us. I continue to salivate over the beef he cooked. Dee-vine.  Oh, and our friend is good mate’s with the owner who brought over the best fish, prawns & scallops from his Fish Shop–yummo (Pacific Beach Fish Shop1775 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (858) 483-4746). 721 Grand Ave, San Diego, CA 92109 Ph: (858) 581-2337

Five Seven things to do in Mission Beach:

  1. Hang by the beach … of course.
  2. Head around to Mission Bay and go crazy on water sports rental.  The Bay is perfect for recreational activities. I recommend the Hot Tub Cruises ;).
  3. Hire bikes or a segway. I need to tell you Segway riding is not as easy as it looks but it’s fun once you get the hang of it. I just wish they’d lower the riding age because the kids love it.
    Hire bikes from Cruiser King on Mission Blvd and we got our Segways from the Catamaran.
  4. Book a fire pit by the beach (complete with Adirondack Chairs and Tiki torches. Fabulous.  Now there’s no excuse not to roast marshmallows and make smores.
  5. Book a Hot-tub cruise (you know you want to)
  6. Relax and let the kids exhaust themselves on activity overload–a perfect recipe for a great night’s sleep so you can do it all over again.
  7. Visit one of the many nearby attractions like the San Diego Zoo.  As you know if you’ve been following along we loved our visit and I highly recommend it.)

We stayed at the conveniently located Catamaran Resort and Spa is in the Bay.  Having the pool is a great option (especially for pool-side cocktails) and the kids love the Arcade with complimentary gaming. I think we’ll be getting in early and booking our spot in Mission Beach for next year’s Fourth of July.  Can’t wait!

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Update July 24, 2014 @ 4:00PM LA time

Liebster award
Expat tales, Posts

What do LA, Libya & Liebster have in common?

Life here in LA is getting so busy.  It’s the kids last week of school before “finals” then one of our besties arrives for a holiday next week.  Next week.  Ahhhhh!

Last week I was talking about how well I was acclimating and this week I have to be careful that I’m talking (well writing) like an Aussie because I’m finding myself and the kids talking in hybrid Ausmerican.  I’m not sure if it’s so we’ll be more easily understood or whether we’re picking up on words and phrases but I’m definitely not talking like I usually do.  Best I fix that up!

What do LA, Libya & Liebster have in common?

Is your first question what/who/where is Liebster?  Good question!  Liebster is an award for new bloggers.

Liebster award

My very-own Liebster Award

 

That’s my way of saying yours truly has been nominated for the Liebster Award.  I (and many others) have tried to find out how it all started and who organises it (surely it’s a great way to make money right?!) but its origins are unclear.

What is clear is its intent: recognition for the hard slog that blogging is.  I am so happy to be nominated that I could be singled out (ok, one of 10 but you know what I mean?) by a fellow blogger and given recognition for my baby.

So …. what do Libya, LA & (the) Liebster (award) have in common? Well I was nominated by a fabulous fellow blogger I came across one day, Diary of an Expat.  She lives in Libya, I live in LA and we’ve both been nominated for the award.  In fact, she nominated me!

Bloggers are recognised by their peers and nominated to receive the award.  Part of that nomination is to nominate other bloggers with the same privilege.

As much as the origin of the award are unclear the rules are also slightly different depending on who’s passed on the award.  A bit like Chinese whispers as the nominations go from one Blogger to the next the message changes slightly. Here’s a Blogger who took the time to try to research the origin of the award if you’re interested.

Liebster Award

 

For example I’m not sure when it changed from five questions and nominate five people to 10 as in my nomination.  I also read some people were part of a group of 11 people nominated to answer 11 questions.  The number of followers has also shrunk and it’s unclear if it’s subscribers to your Blog or Facebook followers or even Instagram and Twitter.  But the spirit is there and we follow the rules as we see fit.

So … here are the 10 questions I was asked to answer:

1. What is the difference between a traveller, an expat and a tourist?

I guess the difference between a traveller and a tourist is that a traveller takes the time to hang out in a place and try to get inside it and get a feel for it.  A tourist takes lots of photos and is ticking off a list.  Mainly.  You can’t say a tourist isn’t enjoying it or not trying to get to know a place better.  I’d say it depends on the person and the trip.

The difference between an Expat and a tourist/traveller is much clearer.  The privilege of being an Expat and living in someone else’s “place” is you get to experience their life as they see it.  And the best bit is you’re forced to put down some roots and go through the hard yards of meeting people and forming friendships.

You can’t also just leave and move on when you’ve had enough so you have to take the good with the bad.

2. Which one(s) are you?

I’m a pretty good tourist.  And a traveller depending on where we are.  For example we visited this town in China called Stone Drum Town in Lijiang, China.  They had their regular market day and we wandered through the market interacting with the locals and watching them do what they do day to day.  We enjoyed the moment and truly interacted (as best we could).  Same with climbing the Great Wall of China, we really bonded with that experience.

Other times, however, we’re like OK, got the pic let’s move on!

And of course now we’re expats again.

There are also different types of Expats.  I was a different Expat living in Shanghai doing “ladies-who-lunch” activities with other Expats. I had all week to be driven all over town for different things and no house to clean or often no dinner to cook.  Here in LA I’m doing stuff with the locals (if you can call them that because LA is a melting pot).  Thankfully some of my friends are the rare beast that is the “LA native” so I get to experience the full gamut that is the melting pot.

3. What did you learn “on the road” that you could never have found in books?

Experience.  Noone can tell you how to make friends or what friends will be best for you.  You have to navigate your way through based on your gut.  It’s also hard to communicate a vibe, you have to feel it and experience it for yourself.

4. What stereotype(s) did you find out was NOT true?

That America is super modern and has all the bells & whistles, you know? like in the movies.  I don’t think it could be further from the truth.  Lots of things here are quite antiquated like the banking system.  And if you think there’s going to be (free) wifi everywhere you go … think again!

5. The one memory/experience abroad that will stay with you forever?

It’s a toss up.  Bonding with our Ayi in China, she was our live-in maid and we adored her.  She didn’t really speak English and we didn’t really speak Chinese but we forged an incredible relationship, she is such a gorgeous soul.

I’m pretty sure going to the Golden Globes (after-party hosted by Warner Bros and InStyle Magazine) is up there at the very top of the list too.  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be at an event like that and it was nothing short of memorable.

6. The most beautiful place you’ve ever been?

Wow, this one is a tough one.  I don’t think one such place exists.  So many places are beautiful for so many reasons and it depends what attracts you.  Generally we are attracted by beaches.  One of the most beautiful beaches in the world is in Jervis Bay (where we have a beach house).  It is totally under-rated and we love it that way.  We call it Magic Beach, after the Allison Lester book of the same title.

Magic Beach

One of the most beautiful places in the world

 

We loved Palawan in the Philippines for the same reason and are dying to get back again.

We also loved the Great Wall of China, the rolling valleys and castles of Wales and the old town of Lijiang is spectacularly beautiful. There’s lots of different beauty in China.

The Grand Canyon was amazing and I can’t wait to get to Yosemite because from what I’ve seen that is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Paris and Copenhagen rate amongst the most beautiful cities I’ve visited.

7. What does Exotic mean for you, could you paint us a picture?

Can I phone a friend?!  I don’t know.  The first thing that comes to mind is: beaches followed by palm trees, pineapples, cocktails, sun and sunsets.

8. If you could give three pieces of advice to future travellers/expats?

1.  Do it, experience it, live it.  Experience is a gift, you may not be able to wear it to flash it to others but you don’t have to pack it or store it either.  And those experiences will live with you forever and mould you into who you are. It is indeed a gift and a privilege.

2.  Research.  You may want to go with the flow but it’s always a good idea to know what’s in store for you before you go.

3.  Pack light.  Don’t get bogged down trying to carry too much with you.  What you don’t have you can usually buy and what you don’t need you can do without.

9. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Home … Maybe!

10. When do you stop travelling?

Never.

My nominations for the Liebster award

In the spirit of bending the rules, I’d like to nominate three Blogs. And those Blogs are:

Living Life at 56: Because I love reading your work and want to encourage you to write more and often.

A Little Birdie Made Me: Because I don’t believe you’ve been nominated before (technically you have more than 200 followers but what’s in a number?) and I enjoy reading your Blog especially because it’s different to those I usually read.

ukdesperatehousewifeusa: I enjoy reading your blog: it’s short, it’s sharp and informative.  You probably don’t qualify because I’m so envious of all your likes but in the spirit of nominating Blogs I enjoy I nominate you.

How do I discover new Blogs that deserve recognition?

Why haven’t I nominated more? Because the ones I seem to stumble across have thousands of followers.  Which leads me to a little soapbox moment that there are probably lots of new blogs out there that haven’t found their way to me and are finding it as hard as I do to find new followers and be noticed by others.

Which is why this nomination (and award) is so significant and so special that a) someone found me and b) that they thought highly enough of my Blog to nominate me.

Ten questions

So here are my questions to you:

1)   Why did you start your Blog?

2)   How do you attract new followers?

3)   How much time do you spend on your Blog and other activities that go into promoting it?

4)   Why do you Blog?

5)  If a friend came up to you and said they wanted to start a Blog what would you say to them?

6)   If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?

7)   Why?  Or why not?

8)   What’s your favourite part of the day and why?

9)   Are you a scruncher or a folder?

10)  Finish this sentence: The best thing about my life is …

I look forward to hearing your responses so I hope you play along.  Thanks again to Diary of an Expat for your nomination, it is indeed an honour just to be nominated ;-).

xx It Started in LA xx

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