What are the differences between America & Australia when it comes to Pies?
Savoury vs Sweet
What’s the difference between Americans and Australians when it comes to pies? Well the answer lies in two words: sweet versus savoury (technically that’s three).
I’m Australian so when you ask me—or other Australians—what comes to mind when you say “pie” I immediately think Meat Pie. A hot, burn-in-your-mouth pie. If you’re American you might think Apple Pie. You know? It’s as American as Apple Pie?!
Meat pies are one of those staples you miss the most when you leave home. When we were in Shanghai I made my own pies & sausage rolls. I have made my own pies here in the US but the sausage rolls haven’t cut it. Enter Garlo’s Aussie Pie Shop.
“The closest Americans come to savoury pies is the classic Chicken Pot Pie,” said Nathan Garlick from Garlo’s Aussie Pie Shop in Westwood LA. “But they’re totally unfamiliar with the classic meat pie we Australians practically call our signature dish.”
Stacy Garlick, Business Partner (and marriage partner!) chimes in, “But that doesn’t stop them, they’re totally willing to try them and they actually love them.“
That surprises me. My son conducted a taste test with his swim team and at the mention of meat pies one boy said, “Ew, meat in pies!” But give them a pie to taste and it’s true they do love them.
“Do you have to teach Americans how to eat a meat pie?” I asked.
For my American readers, there are techniques & tips don’t you know! Stacy Garlick says they don’t have a problem with it.
(I think that’s because they’re not at the footy or other sporting event trying not to spill piping hot meat all over the place).
How to eat a classic Aussie Meat Pie
Australian pies are traditionally eaten by hand. You stick the tomato sauce (ketchup) container into the pie give it a huge squirt then go for your life trying not to spill the ultra-hot contents or burn your mouth. It’s most definitely an art.
(Sadly no one would volunteer to take a photo so I could demonstrate for you. I’ll work my way up to a video clip.)
Eating meat pies is a lot more civilised at Garlo’s though.
Stacy Garlick said, “The Americans are embracing our sides and the whole concept of Australian pie; it’s great.”
Typical sides are mushy peas and mashed potatoes but Garlo’s also caters to the exercise-conscious Los Angelinos by providing a green salad option.
And, you can sit down and enjoy all of the above in the comfort of their café and use a knife and fork.
(That’s actually made me think for a minute … my kids don’t know how to eat a meat pie at the footy. They only know meat pie eating at home and at parties. Time to update my “bucket list” to include giving my kids the opportunity to eat a meat pie at a sporting venue. Oh, the things we take for granted that we forget when we live overseas!
Garlo’s also has “American” apple pies and a range of Australian delicacies like Custard tarts, Tim Tams & vegemite. You can find them at Garlo’s Aussie Pie Shop or in person at 1010 Glendon Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90024. Garlo’s also ships America wide. And don’t go in looking for party pies & party sausage rolls … they’re known as sliders here. It might help when you’re putting in your next catering order.
Sadly Garlo’s is no longer in Westwood. We’re hoping they’re not gone for long though as we miss them terribly.
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: This is how you get Garlo’s Pies in Australia, at Coles every day.
I love the Emmys and I love TV. So it’s only fitting that I share my round up of the Emmys 2015 telecast. Last year I was lucky enough to go to the Creative Arts Emmys. As is the premise of my Blog, never in my wildest dreams as a very happy normal chick living the Sydney life expect to be strutting the Red Carpet amongst the cast of Orange is the New Black, Jon Voight and incredible talent that makes the TV industry go around. It’s crazy.
This year’s Emmys ceremony was great, I thoroughly enjoyed them and I love that it’s broken down over two separate ceremonies. It makes the main event go much quicker.
While I enjoyed most of Andy Sandberg as this year’s host can I am still mourning the loss of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. It will take a few more years til we get to their standard—if we do at all. They’re some pretty talented and funny women.
Andy opened strongly but it was a bit stop/start. His opening monologue was fine but not great.
I assume Andy Sandberg spent his entire #Emmys budget on that opening number and forgot to hire writers for his opening monologue.
The Oscars last year got slammed for “snubbing people of colour” but the Emmys did the opposite. I’m not sure it’s that the Emmys addressed or acknowledged people of colour but had the opportunity to award talent where it was due.
No one put it better than Viola Davis herself:
“The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy (or an Oscar) for roles that are simply not there.”
There have been many people commenting on social media saying, You won, you’re good, you deserve it but enough about the colour factor. Sorry, you can’t say that! Clearly to say what she said, to speak as openly and emotionally as she did, Viola Davis has been on a ride. Otherwise it wouldn’t be so from-the-heart as it was.
I also understand why they say “it shouldn’t be about colour”. BUT. America is very into defining people—men, women, black, Asian, native American, gay, straight, transgender and talking about Diversity. By labelling people America is its own worst enemy. It struck me almost as soon as I got here and I penned (so to speak) this post.
(And I’m not saying Australia is not guilty, we’ve had our own racist issues, which also embarrass me, but it comes from a different angle).
Maybe it’s easy for me to say but at the end of the day—when you look really closely—I’m not white middle America, I just act like I am. “White” that is. Clearly I’m not American (although I do see myself as evolving into an Ausmerican).
I act like I am white because I don’t see myself any differently. And I think that’s largely because I grew up in Australia, not America. I’m probably not really making a lot of sense but here’s the bottom line:
Shonda Rhimes, is a creative genius. Beyond genius. She’s like the Steven Bochco of the 2000s (am I showing my age?). When I first saw Grey’s Anatomy in Australia, I knew it was created by Shonda Rhimes but I had no idea she was black. It didn’t matter, why should it? When I first saw the shorts (trailer) for How To Get Away with Murder I saw a powerful performance by Viola Davis but I didn’t take special notice of the fact that she was black, she was just bloody amazing.
That should be the point. And (I think) that was Viola Davis’s point.
TV should be at the cutting edge of setting change. TV Shows have a shorter incubation period, cost less to make, and there is a large talent pool to choose from. And that’s why we love it so much and that’s why it’s so much edgier than movie-making at the moment.
And, the fact that every single drama nominated could clearly be the winner exemplifies that point. And that every single comedy nominated could clearly be the winner. No one drama or comedy would have won that category and you would have said, “I don’t think they deserved it”.
I was like, “oh yeah, Game of Thrones deserves it.” Then I remember House of Cards and what an amazing season it was. Downton Abbey, Homeland, OISTNB … Yep, they’re all over-the-top phenomenally good.
On a lighter note it was good to see the Trump jokes out in force last night. Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her acceptance speech:
“What a great honour it must be for you to honour me tonight.
“Oh God, no! Donald Trump said that.”
On that note, shall we take a moment to say the women, to me, are rocking it as the stars of the show. The cast of Orange is the New Black, Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, JLD, Allison Janney, all the American Horror Story stars and guest stars. Good for them I say—now to get them all being paid the same as the blokes in the room ;-).
And, I wonder if we can now get Kanye to throw himself at Amy Schumer when he sees her on the Red Carpet.
Let’s take a look at the differences between Americans and Australians waiting in a grocery store queue for a couple of minutes. (Or in Australian what’s the difference between Americans and Australians in a supermarket queue).
I get so mad when I go to the supermarket and just want to get in and out really quickly. I have the luxury of shopping (almost) daily—mainly because I can’t plan more than a few days in advance what we’re going to eat and there’s no Baker’s Delight to get my beautiful fresh bread from (salivating at the thought of Baker’s Delight, sorry just need a minute).
I know, I know, it’s not a luxury to go to the supermarket daily but it’s right around the corner from school and it suits me with nothing better to do with my life (yes, a little bored I’m not in paid employment but that’s another story).
As usual I went down to pick stuff up for tonight’s dinner. I’m a frequent visitor of the “About 15 items” aisle. It’s my saviour as you can imagine.
Not today. There was a lady with an overflowing trolley full of groceries. In the “About 15 items aisle”. With four other aisles (for normal loads) free. And with people behind her (not me because I went looking for other aisles) waiting for her. Waiting for her. Waiting for her with only a few things in their hands (they didn’t even need a basket).
That my friends is the difference between Australia and America.
Grocery shopping in Australia …
… bitter and twisted people like me would be eyeballing her into feeling the guilt and moving aisles. And, if that doesn’t work we’d start heckling her, first nicely then not so much:
“This aisle is for 15 items or less (what we call them at home), this aisle is not for you.”
Followed by the checkout chick looking at her like she’s diseased saying:
“Um … sorry, you have more than 15 items, you’re going to have to go to another aisle. Next…” (as she proceeds to help the next person).
Instead, grocery shopping in America …
… she was having a lovely chat with the woman behind her buying a magazine (after she finished reading it waiting for her) and a couple of grocery items. Another man came to stand behind her, again not saying word. I lingered in case they were looking for moral support of the kind that goes like this…
“Excuse me m’am but this is for people with about 15 items, between the two of us we have five items, do you mind moving to an isle where they can accommodate your trolley load full of shopping so we can get out of here fairly quickly.”
Nope. Not even something nice like that. This is a country where you risk getting shot going to see the premier of a Batman movie and yet a woman can hold up a grocery aisle checking out her cart FULL of groceries. (I’m not saying she deserves to be shot. Not really anyway.)
Where’s the grocery rage when you need it America? You are far, far too nice.
What happens where you live? Are they patient and kind or bitter and twisted? Please share.
This is one for Captain Obvious but I can’t let this series go without discussing the differences between America and Australia in terms of School Holidays.
We’re off and running–my kids are finally back to school today–Wednesday, September 9 here in LA. They broke off school on June 10. Their last exam was June 8.
Yep, that’s three whole months—one quarter (or one fourth as the Americans like to say) of the year.
Here our holidays have nothing whatsoever to do with the terms. I find this totally weird because it’s different to how I went to school. The kids still find it strange—they have assessments and finish the term one day, then go back to school to start a new term the next day. Not even a long weekend in between to catch their breath.
Apparently the number of school days in California is 175. This can drop to 170 for Charter Schools (sort of like a private public school but I don’t really get it. If you’re really interested you can click here to find out more). And it can drop to around 165ish at a private school. (Source).
So our year here in America looks like this:
Starts around Labour Day (I still can’t write Labor) which is the first Monday in September.
I don’t want to add up how many weeks it is cause it’ll kill me. Let’s just say it’s around about three months.
We get two weeks at the end of the year. They don’t call it a Christmas break here because even though they’re God loving it’s not politically correct to acknowledge the Christian calendar above all others.
Another few months of school. Again, I really don’t want to add up the weeks as I find it horrendously long.
Holidays (Spring Break)
We can say Spring Break because it’s a season with no religious connotation. We generally finish in mid March and come back on Easter Monday, although this year it’s a little different with Easter being in the middle of the holidays. Here, there is no such holiday as Good Friday or Easter Monday, it’s a “business-as-usual” day for retail and business alike.
Another god knows how long few months until school breaks up in June and we get to have summer all over again.
Hooray! After three long sessions at school we need that long summer break. I just wish we could break those “sessions” up and the holidays could coincide with the school terms. Makes much more logical sense.
There are some school districts that are starting to introduce what they refer to as the Year-Round schedule—pretty much exactly like our holidays in Australia. Not surprisingly, with an entire industry devoted to the summer holidays there are many debates about whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.
One of my friends who lives in Chandler, Arizona has a year-round schedule and she’s a huge fan. Who wouldn’t be? Count me in.
Cut over to Australia
Yes, let’s cut back to Australia where we don’t even know there’s a name for our holiday system. We have approximately 200 school days a year, give or take. (Source: many a site as well as the Blog Teaching Challenges.)
To us we have four terms and a summer holiday. Our school year looks a little something like this:
Starts after Australia Day—either late January or early February
Around 10 weeks of school—sometimes 11 or 12 depending on when Easter falls and let me tell you one day over that 10 weeks is a killer.
We get two weeks over the Easter Break, usually starting on Thursday in time for Good Friday. Yes, in Australia we have public holidays for both Good Friday and Easter Monday making it our longest long weekend of the year. We love Easter.
Another 10 weeks of school.
Yippee! It’s the middle of the year and it’s time for a break again. This time the private schools generally get three weeks. Because my two went to single sex schools, meaning they’re at different schools, the three weeks doesn’t always match up.
Time to get back to the school year for another ten weeks of school.
It’s around late September, early October and there’s another break. If you’re lucky enough this one can also be around three weeks long (usually the private schools–the more you pay the less you go is a universal concept I think).
The business end of the year and generally another ten weeks of school.
As summer is at the end of the year—December and January—it coincides with Christmas. The private schools usually finish on the first or second week of December giving them six-eight weeks off. There’s no time for camps but being a busy time of year there are plenty of Christmas positions available so many kids work. Then January is traditionally when everyone takes time off work and heads to the beach for some quality family time.
Which school year would you prefer?
I know I love my nice neat terms with a break in between to acknowledge the hard work that’s gone on through the term. Then when you come back it’s back to work. I also like the six-eight weeks: it never seems long enough but it is time to get back to school so it’s all good.
I guess it’s all a matter of what you grew up doing and enjoying. Except that we’ve got it right in Australia!
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: Interested in what others around the world do? Here’s a website that outlines it. Quite interesting.
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?”
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?)
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! It’s also a website so you can practice online and you don’t have to use the app.
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. (You can now pre-complete the form online–wonders never cease! You’re welcome!)
“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).
Update: you now need to show proof of residency so you should bring in two letters/bills/bank statements with your name and address on them. For kids doing their permits who don’t have anything in their name, so long as you can prove you are their parent then something with your name on it will suffice. This isn’t always easy for expats like me as most bills are in my husband’s name. It’s just another reason you have to try to get stuff in your name.
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.
Update: from October 1, 2020 a standard California-issued licence will no longer be an acceptable form of ID; your licence needs to be upgraded (read: go back into DMV to be a Real ID). Ugh.
Place your right thumb on the scanner then stand and get your picture taken.
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.
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.
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:
You love home and never really looked to move anywhere else no matter how divine your new destination is.
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.
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?
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!
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.
The much-yearned-for Michael Kors camo bag
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
PS: Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to my Blog rather than relying on Facebook to “feed” you articles. It’s quick and easy. And it won’t hurt a bit.
I love that word … acclimating. We say climitising in Australia. Don’t we? Or maybe we just call it settling in, “Have you settled in yet? How’s the settling-in process going?” Either way we don’t have a fancy word like acclimating. (pronounced aclim-8-ing).
A few things have happened over recent weeks to make me think I am acclimating.
We’re planning our summer holidays. One of my bestest buddies is coming over for five weeks and I can’t wait. We’ve been busy planning trips to Yosemite, Vegas, hanging out in LA, trips to Malibu and spending the Fourth of July down in San Diego. (Lucky I have really good housesitters).
While we were talking about San Diego I mentioned that some friends of ours will be down there at the same time who we just love.
“Are they American?” she asked.
“Yes, but they’re good ones!” I replied. (All of my American friends–and readers–are the good ones!)
“Aha”, she was quick to say, “but you’ve been there nearly a year now, you’re used to it.”
Last week my daughter and I had two milestones: one was our first trip to Chipotle and the second was our first trip to mega craft shop Michael’s.
At Chipotle we were catching up on the news of the day (while Mr H was away and my son was busy training our calories off at waterpolo) when one of my favourite spunks–Joshua Jackson–walks in. (This is our second encounter with Pacey from Dawson’s Creek). I was a bit excited to see that we’d both chosen the same fast-food chain in which to dine on that particular evening and that he was so normal that he’d choose to grab a bite at Chipotle. As you do.
I don’t usually take pics but as we were driving off my daughter snapped a couple of really bad pics of him for us to post to Instagram and Facebook.
One of my Aussie friends immediately wrote back that I’m so “acclimated” (said in my best American accent) because only a few months ago my daughter and I would’ve taken a selfie so we could snap him– up nice and close for us to see. (True story. I did that very thing when I spotted fellow Prime-Time Soapie boy Ben McKenzie from The OC last year. BTW: he’s about to star in upcoming new show Gotham).
Then last week as I sat in our last Parent Association meeting of the school year it felt nice and comfortable. I arrived, spoke to a few people and sat down to listen to the meeting, discussing College Admissions and how well the Class of 2014 had done this year. (Don’t you love it how they know before summer starts?)
There were wolf whistles in the audience, sighs, clapping and cheering and even a contrversial “key message” thrown in from one of the parents down the back (you know? the rhetorical question so in one fowl swoop a parent can share with the entire community how something bad happened to her and her daughter, ie the school effed up). Cue: mumble, mumble, whisper, whisper until everyone looks front at again focused on the rest of the presentation. Then more clapping and ra-ra-ing.
That’s right. I didn’t blink an eye with all the ra-ra-ing and clapping and commotion of the meeting. I actually caught myself and had a bit of a chuckle because I remember the first meeting scared the crap out of me.
My first time I was speechless. It literally felt like I was in the audience of Dr Phil, or Oprah or Ellen and I wondered if this is what it was like every meeting. Turns out they are.
It’s not so bad and it’s not so scary and it’s kinda fun. Yes, fun.
I so want to be American. I kind of like it. It definitely wouldn’t work at home. How nice would it be to let it out and not be worried about everyone thinking you’re loser for showing some enthusiasm? I kind of like that they do that … Now that I’m acclimated.
I’m not sure if I’ve shared with you before that I would live anywhere in the world except America. I didn’t want the kids going to school here and I would rather move somewhere where where we could immerse ourselves in another culture rather than a Western one (yet I’d be prepared to live in the UK). And of course here I am.
After the news sunk in though I started to wonder if a move to the US might give the kids amazing opportunities. The night we were to make our final decision (should I stay or should I go?) the kids were watching Pitch Perfect on TV. We were going to politely decline the offer and then I looked at the TV and thought about the opportunity America provides to be exactly who you are and to be recognised for who you are. I looked at Mr H and said, “Why don’t we give our kids the opportunity?” Flourish in the arts, be in a movie, open up connections. Do and be whatever and whoever they like.
The ra-ra scared me but I was secretly that person too. “Good for you, let’s do this, we can do this,” was always me.
(Ok, not so secretly. My friends were quick to say I’d fit in really well because that’s my nature: rally the troops, chief motivator and cheerleader.)
As Australians we need to stop knocking Americans. Why are so anti American? Is it because we’re jealous? Let’s ponder that a minute before you start throwing stuff at your monitor or device.
Do we want to be American? America? OK, forget loud and white runners with shorts and long white socks. Think land of opportunity, embracing Tall Poppies rather than cutting them down and generally encouraging everyone to be successful–and to hail them when they are. To be able to express ourselves (naturally–without the beers or wine).
Nine things I’ve learnt after living in LA for nine months
Then this week I found this article in LA Weekly and I started wondering if it’s really going to take me five years to be truly acclimated. Here I am thinking I’m well on my way to being acclimated. Will we even be here in five years???
Just in case we’re not, here are my nine things I’ve learnt after living in LA for nine months:
It’s OK to talk to random strangers in the street or supermarket (or anywhere for that matter).
You start to make restaurant bookings during the week–or the week before–and that booking is either at 6:00 or 9:00. (I think I’m pretty special when I get 8:30)
You don’t go anywhere unless there’s Valet parking (or at a pinch guaranteed parking).
You cannot survive without an Amazon Prime account.
Don’t take the 405 North after 2:00 unless you want to hang out in traffic with the rest of LA. I’m pretty sure it’s the same for the 405 South but I can’t vouch for that as I’ve never sat in it. Don’t take the chance on a Friday afternoon though, then I know it’s busy.
You don’t actually stop at four-way stop signs (when there’s no one there or you were there first). Unless you choose to stop for a long time then you let everyone go ahead of you. “After you, and you, I’m stopped now, why don’t you go…?”
When someone offers to check for other sizes or colours they actually do it. And when they say there are none left, it’s probably true. You don’t have to ask someone else (or call back) to make sure.
When someone says excuse me (because they will be in your way for a millisecond) they actually mean it, it’s not a back-handed comment: “Excuuuuse me.”
No one will actually RSVP to your event or function. And if they do it will be the last minute. What happens if something better turns up then what? Oh we just won’t show up.
I think I’m doing pretty well after nine months. Maybe I’ll be able to add to this list after twelve months, or two years. Watch this space.
One of my friends, a fellow Blogger, recently posted about the frustrations of driving in Sydney. What a great book this would make. Imagine a book on driving in many different cities in the world. In the Philippines it would be the art of turning two lanes into five. In Shanghai it would be the art of making your own lanes–two wide-ish lanes can make three. In Melbourne it would be the art of speeding up the minute the car in front of you indicates to change into your lane. Obviously so said car can’t get in front of you.
Ahh the idiosyncrasies of navigating the roads in different cities.
Short of publishing a book I thought I’d contribute to her blog post by sharing my pain of driving in LA. Without further adieu here are my top three pet peeves about driving/drivers in LA.
And, as a bonus prize I give you three things you should know before getting behind the wheel in LA. And it’s not they drive on the wrong side of the road.
Peeve #1: KEEP CLEAR
For God’s sake. It’s universal: in Australia, the UK, America they use the words “Keep Clear”. No translation issues here. So why the F%#@* can’t LA drivers understand??? Renowned worldwide for its traffic congestion, LA drivers are concerned about one thing and one thing only: themselves.
Keep Clear is a foreign concept for Los Angelenos drivers
Listen up people: if you didn’t block the Keep Clear area I wouldn’t have to push my way in and block the whole road. Try it sometime. I’m pretty sure it won’t kill you.
Peeve #2: INDICATE
Living Life at 56 mentions it’s a Sydney phenomenon but I can assure you LA cars don’t come with indicators (or blinkers as the case may be–did I just use an American word ahead of an Australian one?).
Well they can’t. Possibly. Turn left, right, change lanes, four-way stop, change from the carpool lane across four lanes to the exit a freeway in 10 metres and there’s no sign of an indicator.
No, cars in LA most definitely don’t come with indicators. We don’t need them here.
Peeve #3: STAY IN YOUR BLOODY LANE
Oh yeah, this one’s a beauty. I live up in the hills around Mulholland Drive. It’s not a very wide road and neither are the lanes. It’s windy and the drops are …. well …. steep and unforgiving.
Why then are drivers incapable of keeping in their own lane? I’ll often be coming the other way to find a car well and truly hogging my side of the road as if he’s coming in for a cuddle. I can’t just jump on top of you it’s a crash or it’s off the canyon. And I’m not going over.
Let’s make it easy for everyone: keep on your own side.
Now that I’ve shared that with you it’s time for me to take some good advice.
Keep Calm & Drink Cocktails
Driving in LA can lead you to drink.
Three things you should know about driving in LA
The more expensive your car the bigger hoon you are. There are no bogans in LA. No. It’s great, everyone’s hip and groovy or trendy or stylish. But when you have an expensive car you turn into a bogan. Automatically.
Overtaking is always allowed: suburban streets, winding your way around Mulholland Drive, can’t see the on-coming traffic. Don’t worry about it. Overtaking is encouraged. At all times.
There is no such thing as a speed limit. Technically as long as you’re the same speed as the traffic you’re OK. So technically speed limits don’t count for much. It’s not until you get someone in the car from out of town or you start driving back in a country where speed limits are enforced that you realise you actually drive quite fast here.
So now when you come to LA you can drive as the locals do. I remember the first time I got on the freeway I thought I was going to be blown away by the g-force of the cars passing me by, leaving me for dead. I was doing 100kmph or thereabouts. Try changing lanes, it can be scary. It doesn’t take long before you’ve got the hang of it and your speed is edging upwards of 70/80 mph. No wonder the freeway accidents are big.
It’s pretty tough to get around without a car. Acquaint yourself with driving LA style and you’ll be fine. Good luck!
One of my goals in coming to LA was to see paparazzi in action, I’m intrigued by them and their business. When I moved here I thought I’d see them everywhere, just lurking. Contrary to popular opinion they’re not. Much to my disgust. We’d go to cool restaurants, I was shopping at the right supermarkets but it took me ages to see a pap in action.
You see, a lot of the time they’re hiding somewhere and you might not know they’re around. We even had paps up the road from us when we first moved in and I didn’t see them.
But I’m more tuned in now. The other week I was showing a guest around The Grove and we saw two guys working together trying to pap someone. We watched them in action for a while but couldn’t see who they were following. A big part of my problem is that I don’t recognise people unless they’re George. Or Leo. Or JLo. Or Joan Collins!
I’ve had a few brushes with paps now. All at my favourite restaurant in fact. The first time was Golden Globes weekend which I wrote about. It was so exciting; I was beside myself as the flashes went off all night.
On one of our subsequent visits to this same restaurant I hopped out of the car as usual and there were two paps waiting. One of them came up to me saying like I looked like one of the past winners (or runners-up) on The Voice or American Idol. I was this close to being papped (a bee’s dick!) for real.
Fast forward to last Saturday night and there were more paps here again–more than Golden Globes weekend for Joshua Jackson and Diane Kruger. Inside JLo and Mary J Blige were having dinner. I was seeing off a friend visiting from Australia and as we walked outside there they all were. So I thought I’d pose for the cameras, take it all in and enjoy it. I’ve got pics here on my Facebook page. It was so fun I tried it five times. I got to try out my pap reactions a number of different times:
a look of surprise, oh are you here to see me?
acknowledge, be cool, wave hello, keep walking
a different angle
the hand over the face, please don’t pap me look
you really should pap me because I’m incredibly famous in Australia you know. I’m on Neighbours.
You got to have a bit of fun don’t you? In fact I should have offered JLo my services in entertaining them for her while she escaped. I sort of did. As she was leaving via a back door I shook her hand to thank her for all the paps I got to see in action–the most I’ve ever seen in one night. Poor JLo didn’t know what hit her.
It turns out our driver helped with the deflection–to make out he was JLo’s driver and I was JLo for the second time that night. There weren’t as many there when we left so there might’ve been a tip-off that she wasn’t coming out the front door.
The next night we were at our favourite local Deli having home-cooked roasts and Jon Voight was there having dinner. It’s not the first time we’ve seen him there, he’s a bit of a regular. But alas no paps for him. I don’t suppose he sells mags.
It got me thinking: what gets pap out to catch “that” shot. Rather who. It has to be someone that magazine editors will buy because that’s how they make their money. I’ve even seen paps at our local getting pics of Gene Simmons so what makes him more pap-worthy than the extremely talented Jon Voight?
I was hoping to get some insights from someone who works in the industry but sadly I don’t have anything to share. If I find out more I’ll be sure to update and share it with you.
Meanwhile I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the paps and keep reporting back on what I see. When Harry moves in down the road I dare say we’ll see a few around our street so that’ll be fun. Wouldn’t it be great to go out with one for the day and document their day? There’s an idea. I’ll get to work on that for you dear readers!
Meanwhile … enjoy your week. The weather here in LA is divine as Spring is in the air and feeling generally warmer. Always puts a Spring in my step. LOL.
It’s the ANZAC Day long weekend in Australia where we remember those that served our countries (Australia and New Zealand). While the spirit of ANZAC Day encompasses all Australians who served and died in war (and peace-keeping missions) it especially represents the landing on Gallipoli in 1915. One of the most moving ceremonies we went to was in Shanghai where the Australian and New Zealand communities get together to commemorate the Day. Likewise we will be attending a ceremony here in LA.
So … straight onto this week’s Fact or Fiction where I posed the statement:
At one point Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie & Kim Kardashian all went to the same school here in LA.
The answer is correct: Fact. Nicole, Kim & Paris all went to school together in their younger years–at the very same school my kids go to.
And 75% of you got it right! Well done!
I’ve been excited over the last couple of weeks to be visiting Beverly Hills’s iconic hotels. So I thought I’d pose this week’s questions about one of those hotels.
The Beverly Hilton pool is known as the largest heated pool in Beverly Hills, it is just about as famous as the hotel itself. You know the Golden Globes have been held at the Beverly Hilton since forever so … My question is:
Is the pool covered over for Golden Globes after parties?
I’ve mentioned a couple of times now that we lived in China–Shanghai actually. I have such amazing memories of our nearly two years there despite it being a really tumultuous time. I wonder if you asked my close girlfriends back in Australia what they would say about my time in Shanghai.
I’m tripping down memory lane for two reasons today:
We spent a fun weekend catching up with dear friends from Shanghai last weekend in San Diego and naturally we took a great trip down memory lane (I’ll post a full report on San Diego)
One of my readers asked me to write about the not-so-good stuff about LA and how there are days when you go enough’s enough, I just want to throw in the towel and give it all up just to be back in the comfort zone of family and friends living a normal life.
It was so good to hang out with our neighbours from Shanghai. We lived in a fabulously salubrious apartment called Tomson Riviera–the most expensive apartments in Shanghai–it was ridiculously convenient to Super Brand Mall, another fabulous Mall, IFC, we had the Shangri-la and great restaurants but we still had a Blind massage and “local” amenities so we felt like we were in China and not some surreal world.
Home in Shanghai
Our neighbours lived in the apartment downstairs from us and they had to put up with our kids thudding up and down the hall like a herd of wild elephants. We would see each other most days–either in the morning at the gym or around 4:30 for Orange Blossoms or wine (or both–morning and afternoon that is not Orange Blossoms and wine but come to think of it yes to both). We would also schedule shopping days out or “Tomson Tours” as we liked to call it where a bunch of us from the apartment block would go out and explore areas (like a day trip to Expo) or factories and shops we’d heard about from other expats.
We were each others’ sounding boards, rocks but it was a great balance because we weren’t living out of each others’ pockets. Our kids (with some 10 years plus between them in ages) are pretty much carbon copies of one another in temperament and roles which cracks us up–especially our two youngest “princess” daughters.
Fast Forward three plus years and they’ve repatriated back to Seattle and we obviously moved back home and are now here. A lot has happened in both our lives since we moved back home but it was like no time at all had passed, we were just loving catching up and everything clicked back into place.
I wrote the other week about how Americans struggle to laugh at themselves but it was Sue who laughed at me moving to America where I would “never live” and now I have more than one American friend. It was Sue that had to listen to my ear-bashing of Americans and how Australians don’t really “do” Americans as a rule yet she was one of closest friends in Shanghai. And it was Sue that came to rescue when my princess was having one of her (very regular) tantrums–oh and of course to help with our many dress-up opportunities.
But it got me thinking about our time in Shanghai–and back to my reader’s feedback. Not once did our trip down memory lane touch on the bad bits about being there. We led the most glamorous lives and according to Mr H all I did was “shop, shop, shop” go to the gym (yes, I was a gym junkie) and eat at fabulous restaurants and jump the queue and get into great VIP bars inside the best Clubs in Shanghai. But living in China was also hard. There’s not enough time in this post to try to get you over the line to understand the daily drudgery but it was there. (Hmmmm maybe it’s time to publish that book after all.)
So why are trips down memory lane always so good? I don’t know much about psychology but I’m guessing that has a lot to do with it, that it’s in our best interests to remember the good bits and flush out the bad bits. We do remember some bad bits–and that’s how we grow as people but by and large we look back on life (hopefully) rather fondly.
Get me out of here
When we were in Shanghai I remember vividly wanting to go home. I think it took me eight months to get over. I loved it but I hated not having friends (despite of course having friends). The closing chapter of my book was all about the realisation when we left that I had friends the whole time. Good friends. But those friends played different roles in my life compared to my friends at home. I likened my time in Shanghai to The Wizard of Oz that, like Dorothy, I had what I needed the whole time: Dorothy needed to (ironically) get home to Oz and me, well I had friends.
Jump forward nearly four years in the future to today in a new country yet again. I have made some great friends here in such a short time. I’ve been welcomed and included and had lots of fun. Repeat after me: I have made friends, I have made great progress. There was a time not so long ago I may have forgotten this lesson though.
I was pretty miserable a couple of months ago. I announced to Mr H that I’d had enough, I wasn’t happy that the kids were missing out on the great things Australian private schools had to offer them and I wasn’t sure this is were we should raise our kids for an extended period. That was totally my “get me out of here–now” moment. I hadn’t shared it directly with you to put it quite as blunt as that but I had written about some challenges we were having, conflicts in ideology and questioning whether we fit in or not.
I missed the “anniversary” of us being here eight months. What a great sign that things are on the up-and-up again. Of course we fit in. The kids are getting a great experience going to school in a different country and (hello!) living amongst the rich and famous has (big-time) the fun element.
Coming back from holidays does that to you though–you get this spring in your step, a rejuvenation like you’re ready to kick on. I felt precisely the same way when we got back from our Spring Break in Wales. We used to call them “Get out of China” days you needed to regularly get out in order to come back in fresh. Maybe it’s the same wherever you are as an Expat?
And catching up with friends that get you also does that to you–recently having dear friends here from Australia and just his past weekend with our Shanghai-American friends. They’ve given me my confidence back that I’m doing ok.
Wherever you are you have your good days and your bad days–home, overseas, on holidays. However much money you have you have your good days and your bad days. No matter how successful you are you have your good days and your bad days. What I’m learning all over again is that, despite my fear and loathing of rollercoasters, that’s life. Hop on and enjoy the ride and essentially they’re the same wherever you go. OK, maybe some are bigger than others but the bigger the climb, the bigger the thrill.
I posted a status update on my Facebook page about a very special moment in time at dinner the other night: “that” conversation. No, not the one about sex, the one about Santa and the Easter Bunny. We pretended the kids didn’t know the “truth” while they “lived the lie” knowing that once we have “the chat” and come clean Christmas and Easter would never be the same again.
We couldn’t believe we were having the conversation–the kids telling us stories of times were we’d been so obvious and the time my mum said (practically as soon as the kids went to bed), “So should we put the presents out now?”
To which I (apparently) replied, “No, they won’t be asleep yet”.
I think it explains my daughter’s meltdowns over the last few Christmases when we had confirmed for her the dreaded truth but she couldn’t let us know we had. She was acting up because what she wanted to be real was turning out to be a big fib after all.
It was such a gorgeous conversation but it was also melancholy that we were entering a new phase in our family life: the kids were indeed getting older. Still, as one friend put it, “It doesn’t mean it can’t still be magical.” True enough.
This Facebook post turned into a comparison of traditions around Easter. For many people here in 90210 they don’t celebrate Easter rather Passover–the freeing of the Jews from Egypt. Over eight days they can’t eat bread or cereal (basically anything that can rise or has risen). They start with a feast on the first night at sundown and the following night there is also a feast. And I’m not quite sure what goes on the remaining six days.
Easter in OZ v US
But those who celebrate Easter should do so in roughly the same way here in the US as in Australia right? Apparently not. Firstly, apart from Lindt chocolate bunnies there are hardly any chocolate Easter Eggs. That turned out to not necessarily be the case. I put my heart and soul into researching this topic and found some larger eggs but by and large the eggs here are small.
The eggs are either “candy” or plastic. The plastic eggs are filled with candy and coins and scattered around the yard for the morning Easter Egg hunt. There are lots of Easter-themed candies and marshmallows and a few little eggs. Naturally being America all the chocolate companies put out Easter specials so you get Reece’s peanut butter eggs and Snickers eggs and even Kit Kat bunny ears. Sadly for my family NO Red Tulip Bunnies.
Family favourite: Red Tulip Bunny
Even in China after the first year we managed to find chocolate eggs. (The first year we were there I arrived just before Easter weekend. I had smuggled loads and loads of Easter Eggs in my hand-carry and cases to make up for the fact that it was our first Easter away. My daughter confirmed during our chat that that was THE best Easter EVER!).
Lucky for us we had a Marks & Spencer’s which eventually started carrying Easter Eggs but before that we were forced to the international hotels for their Easter eggs for guests and expats alike.
Hot Cross Buns
The thing that surprised me the most was the absence of our beloved Hot Cross Buns. I think it’s something you just take for granted.
Missing in Action: Hot Cross Buns
Not unlike Christmas decorations once Valentine’s Day is done out come the Hot Cross Buns (actually someone reminded me pretty much on Boxing Day they come out!). There’s nothing better than the first batch of Hot Cross Buns but then by Easter you’re kind of over them. Right now, from where I’m sitting having had none this year I’m craving them–so much so that I’m attempting to make them. In fact, through Facebook a number of us Aussies living in America are collectively craving them. Imagine, fresh from the oven, butter melting over them (tons of butter!) and a cup of (real) coffee or tea. Look what I’m doing to myself.
Easter morning traditions
In Australia and across Britain we hunt eggs Easter morning then eat ourselves silly on chocolate and Hot Cross Buns.
Here in America eating is more central to Easter. Like Christmas and Thanksgiving there’s a “set menu”. A new branch of Ralph’s (supermarket chain) opened (an opening we’ve been hanging out for) and I wondered why they had stocked so much ham. It was like Christmas in Australia. Turns out everyone has ham for Easter; it’s the thing. I could fully do that one.
It got me thinking that apart from Hot Cross Buns there’s no “set menu” in Australia. As we’re usually on a long weekend we’re often away. It’s also often the last chance we get at being at the beach so we probably just have a Barbie (BBQ), feast on seafood and generally be out on the boat or on the Beach (or a bit of both).
Like at home Easter varies from house to house but these seem to be the main differences:
Chocolate eggs v plastic eggs filled with candy and coins (perhaps greenbacks in 90210?!)
Hot Cross Buns and anything goes v Ham as part of a shared meal and lots of variations on eggs, such as deviled eggs
Longest weekend of the year v Friday off if you’re lucky or in some states no days off.
Who better to sum up a typical Easter feast than Martha Stewart so I’ve linked her suggestions for you to have a sticky beak (click on Martha Stewart highlighted–Blog reading for Dummies). And if you click through you’ll see one of the desert suggestions is our very own Pav. There you go!
I love learning about the differences in our cultures, especially that we all basically came from the Brits many years ago at different times through different reasons and from different classes yet we’re so uniquely different.
Back to the long weekend
In Australia we love a good long weekend so the Easter four-day long weekend is like hitting the jackpot in Vegas. You can imagine my surprise then when I discovered it wasn’t really a long weekend here in the US. It’s not until you move or travel overseas that you realise how lucky we are to have a four-day long weekend.
Many countries obviously don’t celebrate Easter. When we lived in China I remember thinking how surreal it was that Good Friday–traditionally a day where NOTHING is open at home–was business-as-usual. Again, you’d expect a more religious Nation like America to have time off for Easter off. No long weekend here. Some schools get Friday off (not all) and many offices (like Mr H’s) are business-as-usual on Friday, let alone Monday.
So enjoy your long weekend (if you’re lucky enough to get one). My kids want to take a day off for “religious reasons” good luck with that kids.
Happy Easter everyone & Happy long weekend Australia & the UK. Bastards ;).
Those of you that know me well might be thinking, “What does Gwen know about Spring 2014 Make-up trends?” Well you’re right, except that if you follow me on Facebook &/or Instagram you might have seen my pics at the recent Napoleon Perdis / Elle Beauty Trends event as a VIP guest (shameless event-drop!) here in Hollywood.
It’s true I never really did the whole make-up thing. I subscribed to the “natural look” long before it was invented. And mine was more the vintage natural look rather than today’s drop-dead gorgeous natural look.
Frankly I’m not sure why I never really got into make-up. I would sit for hours watching mum put her make -up on as I was growing up starting from when I was really young. I remember her favourite shade vividly when I was little was green. Very Charlie’s Angels.
My mum sent me on a deportment course where we were taught how to apply make-up (and yes walk and pluck eyebrows). This was a big call because we were living in FNQ at the time (Far North Queensland for you readers outside Australia and land of the thongs–ahem, flip flops). When we returned to Melbourne from FNQ she took me on the obligatory trip to the Clinique counter at Myer to once again learn how to apply make-up, stock up and look my best.
Yet it didn’t stick. Until now.
I was treated to a make-over session by Napoleon Perdis just before Christmas last year and I marvelled at how little make-up was used to make me look (& feel) a million dollars. Yes, I asked for the natural look (to continue my perpetual fear of all things make-up). Baby steps peoples, baby steps.
I was also surprised as to how much prep work went into creating my look and provide tone and creates angles on your face which were invisible to those looking but made all the difference in the world. They’re so bloody clever! So I became hooked, and slowly I started (and am continuing) to get more adventurous with the hues and colours and every excuse to get to Napoleon Perdis’s flagship Hollywood store I don’t hesitate! But enough about me …
Top four trends
I believe Napoleon has just been over in Australia running a couple of sessions so you have been lucky enough to attend. If not you’ll have to rely on me. No drumroll, here are Napoleon Perdis’s top four make-up trends for (our-LA-our) Spring 2014.
Art Pop–a pop of very dramatic colour usually around the eyes (blue, green & purple are your friends not your enemies)
Natural–as the name suggests
White Lines–fabulous look creating white lines around the eyes
Flaming Lips–embracing bold, flaming lips.
My favourite is Natural with a touch of White Lines (I’m going back to see if it will work on me), a pop of colour and finished with Flaming Lips. Well there’s no rule about not being able to dabble in each and every one!
This post wasn’t meant to be confessions of a make-up shy Princess but I rarely wore lipstick (I thought it made my lips dry) let alone wear anything bright. I was given “Hara” (a flaming orange that’s to die for) to try and it’s my new go-to colour. Not bad for someone who rarely wore lipstick or wore it as brown or nude could be.
If you’re in doubt over whether this translates in “real life” take a closer look at the make-up at the Oscars, in fact here’s a run-down of some of the best looks again at NP’s blog. (I couldn’t agree more with the best look of the night who I gave an honourable mention to for her whole “package” in my own blog).
If you click on the video you’ll be able to see me in the front row (hint: it’s at exactly the 0.27s mark)! The blog shows examples of each of the looks.
Let me share three things with you I learnt from the night.
Start with mascara. And add a coat of mascara last.
Apply lipstick from the outside coming in–and don’t forget to go all the way into the “join” of the lips
Add lipliner after the lipstick.
It was such a treat to see Napoleon at work (probably even more so for me because I’ve never appreciated the art of make-up).
A flick of the brush here, a bit of concealer there, contour there, colour here … and voila! you’re transformed into a beauty. No exaggeration, they make it look so simple.
In fact since I’ve been putting more effort into my make-up my friends have been saying I’m looking good often saying that LA suits me. Well I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with the fun I’m having here and everything to do with the special things I’m doing to my face. So thank you Napoleon Perdis!
BTW here is a link to the official pics on the night:
Why not treat yourself? Even if you’re “good” with make-up there are always trade secrets the Napoleon Perdis team is happy to share. As Napoleon says, even if you only walk away with one thing it’ll be worth it. Couldn’t agree more!
Have a good weekend everyone!
xx It Started in LA xx
Psst … the irony is not at all lost on me that I’ve come all the way to Hollywood to be introduced with one of Australia’s best loved brands. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!
Beauty editor tip: if your lips are dry from lipstick use a lip scrub (there are how-to recipes on You Tube & Lush does a good one) and get some Lip Service from Napoleon Service, it soothes and moisturises your lips. Oh, also pop it on before your lipstick.
I posted on my personal Facebook page last night that I’m feeling quite homesick. No one could more shocked about this news than me. It was here on this very blog that I shared my delight at reaching the six-month mark in LA with friends, fun and great experiences under our belts. We were–are–living in the surreal world that is Beverly Hills/Hollywood and we live to tell the tale.
Only earlier that day we were having lunch at my favourite Cabana Cafe in the Beverly Hills Hotel where I missed seeing Harry Styles by a matter of minutes. (We were already seated waiting for our friend who saw him leaving as he was coming in. He even snapped a pic for his 11-year-old daughter.)
So why so glum? I’m not really sure. I miss my friends mainly. It’s great to make new friends but it’s the good friends you leave behind that you are sad about–especially when they’re not here to share “the dream” with you.
Truth be told I think the whole “money” thing is wearing thin too. Don’t get me wrong, we’re very comfortable and we’ve done well, we have a great little life in our corner of the world, we always try to make the most of every situation we’re put in and I don’t like to whinge about first-world (especially BH) problems.
So why’s the money thing getting me down? I think it’s because it’s hard to fight. Just because our family doesn’t believe in designer handbags until our kids are at least 18 doesn’t mean everyone else shares our philosophy. And not to say everyone needs to share our philosophy. I value very much the concept that everyone is different because it makes the world go around and makes for a much more interesting place to be. But seriously why do kids under 18 (or even 25 for that matter) have to have designer hand bags? Will it make the world a better place and more importantly will it make the kids better people?
I say this also because my daughter and I were out shopping last weekend for a new dress for her to wear to a birthday party and to dinner when we go to Vegas next week. She desperately needed some shoes and I said if we find a cute bag for a reasonable price I’d buy her one. We got some cute shoes but no go on the bag. It wasn’t a biggie because she’s only into bags sometimes and she knew she’d had enough bought for her that day and (for once!) was satisfied with her purchases.
So why am I going on about handbags? Well because as we walked through the designer handbag section on our way to shoes at Bloomingdale’s we were looking at the new Furla handbags. They were so cute and, with 30% off, this sweet little blue bag had Miss 11’s name on it. We both looked at it longingly. She wanted it. I wanted her to have it. But it was not going to happen and we both knew it. I was cross with myself for considering its purchase and pleased with her at the same time for knowing she couldn’t even ask for it. We mourned the bag’s departure never to come home with us. We were doing what mothers and daughters should do: bond over a designer handbag.
But that’s where it ended. Not in Beverly Hills it seems where my daughter can count on more than one hand girls she knows with designer hand bags. Some her age, others older but none of them are over 18, or over 25. I’m not here to judge. Nor do I have a right to judge. I suppose when you grow up with it you think nothing of it.
But as a family still “fresh off the boat” from Australia who comes from a(nother) corner of the world where girls don’t have designer handbags I feel sad. I feel sad that I think my Miss 11 should wait until she has a designer handbag. I feel sad that girls around her don’t have to wait. And I feel sad for the girls around her because I wonder what they are going to want for their 18th birthday or 21st birthday (remembering they’ll most likely get cars for their 16th birthday). And I feel sad because I actually contemplated buying her the handbag. That’s not us; that’s not what we do.
They say you are influenced by nature AND nurture and there is no conclusive evidence that one outweighs the other. One of our mottos before we came over was not to change and not to take life too seriously when we got here; to stay true to ourselves. Easier said than done. But we must stay true to ourselves because people will like us for who we are not what we have. We have a lot to offer and I hope that’s what people are seeing and not the absence of a designer handbag, shoes or clothes.
Only in LA. Watch this space …
xx It Started In LA xx
Style notes: If you’re not like me and wish to buy your Miss 11 a Furla handbag here’s the link (or of course you might like one for yourself): Furla Candy Bag.
I got a call from a really good friend of ours to tell me that he & his family are moving to London for 2-3 years. Evidently his recent visit over here with us inspired him to take on an adventure of his own.
This got me thinking about our life and what we’re up to. One of the things I’m afraid of by being here in LA as the kids get older is their desire to stay–as we get older and want to go home they get older and want to stay. Heaven forbid they’ll want to buy a house here and settle down. Especially with access to Hollywood they could be “stuck” here if they choose to be in the Entertainment Industry for example. I know, how lucky they are to be here and have access to contacts they would never dream of living in Australia (much like we never did!). Also choosing to work in the industry as an option makes them extremely lucky.
But there’s that element of “control” to take the family back as one cohesive unit so we stay together. My kids and I missed not having my family around as they chose to go back to Wales and I chose to stay in Australia (and Shanghai & LA as it turns out). I want to be close to my family and babysit my grandchildren (… just had to pause as I said something like that out loud so soon in my life) when the time comes.
Back to my friend. He has grown up in the same Australian city: gone to school, married, worked and started a family there. He recently also bought a beach house so his roots were firmly entrenched where he was.
Success–and an adventurous spirit–can move you to a different part of the globe regardless of whether you’ve moved as family through various expat assignments or stayed in the one spot your entire life. Perhaps I need to focus on what’s best for us all in the moment rather than plan ahead to something that may or may not happen.
And should it be that my kids get the opportunity to move and travel for work then I should actually be the one person who is happiest for them because I know how rich their life will be as a result. Of all people I should recognise how lucky they are to be gifted the opportunity–and how lucky they are to share that experience with their kids.