Browsing Tag

Christmas in New York

%sos
Celebrity, Movies and TV, Posts, Sydney

Five seconds of summer

I’m back from a week in Sydney. I was working—which I miss more than I thought—and had arranged a fabuluxe couple of days of Sydney indulgence for my clients. To top it off their day on the Harbour coincided with Australia Day so it would be an amazing experience to remember.

As I prepared the incredible itinerary, had all my ducks lined up tightly I was packing for the trip and questioning my fee as there really wasn’t much for me to do but sit by the pool and make sure my guests had a good tie then knew where they had to be when next. Life couldn’t really get much better than that could it?

Well yes except for the fact that Sydney had not done her glorious self any justice and instead of turning on the sunshine she turned on the cold. And rain. And rain. And rain. Australia Day in Sydney 2015 was the coldest in 50 years.  The bottom line was I ended up working my tail off but all’s well that ends well.

It was interesting to be in Sydney for a (wet) Australia Day.  It didn’t dampen the spirits of many people who still went out to watch and join in the festivities on the Harbour but it did keep many people away. And prompted me to cancel my Water Taxi trips for the rest of the two days. It reminded me of the Fourth of July we spent in San Diego just six months ago but I have to say I think Sydney turns it on somewhat bigger and better (am I allowed to say that?).

What a Harbour Sydney is. It’s not until you move away that you really truly appreciate the City you call your hometown. For the five seconds I was there when the sun was shining it was gleaming—positively showing off. And even when the sun wasn’t shining the Harbour still looked majestic.

I’ve got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about Americans (I haven’t bitched about my host country for a while). When I get asked where I’m from and I reply Sydney, Australia everyone—I mean everyone—says “Oh I love Australia, I really want to go but it’s so far.”

Even this morning on the radio as they were interviewing an Australian singer they said the same thing.  But it’s 10 hours to Europe and no one even stops to think about it. It’s only an extra couple of hours. Stop yearning a Sydney visit and jetsetting back to Europe each year, have a Nike moment: Just Do It.

In honour of Sydney I thought I’d share my two-day itinerary. I’ve added a third option in there if you’re not inclined to head to the Blue Mountains.

If you’ve only got a couple of days in Sydney here’s what I recommend:

  • A day on the Harbour. There are lots of things to do from catching a ferry to Manly or the Zoo or even Watson’s Bay and having lunch. But whatever you do, get amongst it on the Harbour. If the weather is kind to you it truly is magnificent. If you’re on a budget the ferries are an economical way to get on; there are many cruises but if you can hire a charter to take you wherever you like without having to share a boat with hundreds of other tourists.If you head to Manly think about ‘wasting’ the afternoon basking in the sunshine at Hugo’s.  Unlike LA you can sit and drink and snack all day and they won’t try and move you on and give you the ‘check’.
  • A trip to the Blue Mountains. Hiring a car in Australia isn’t as cheap as the US but it’s worth it rather than being forced to follow someone else’s itinerary. I recommend one of the numerous hikes around and also a trip to Scenic World—the Sky Railway, Skyway & Cableway—are great ways to get different aspects of the Three Sisters and natural wonders (provided of course there is visibility).High Tea is also popular thing to do in this region. The Hydro Majestic is one of the most glorious places for High Tea in the area so I highly recommend an afternoon there.
  • Hang out at Bondi. Or Bronte. And walk between the two. One of the most popular things to do—and be seen—in Sydney. It’s a coastal walk that links two of Sydney’s most popular Eastern suburbs beaches. Fortunately for foodies like me there are some fabulous restaurants at either side to reward the walk.

For dinners I sent them to Aqua Dining and Aria, both are popular spots with exceptional views. My favourite was by far Guillaume at Bennelong in the Opera House (and a must-do for foodies and view-chasers alike) but sadly it’s now closed down at the Opera House and moved to Paddington so if you’re not looking for a view it’s still an option.

Leaving my clients to dine alone I went with friends to the long-awaited new Billy Kwong (yum, yum, triple yum) in Potts Point and Felix (so good) at The Ivy. Neither disappointed and I can’t wait for my next Sydney gastronomic experience.

I have to also say that I don’t often get starstruck but I was so impressed to see Kylie Kwong at the helm at Billy Kwong.  She was too busy to ask for a selfie but I did applaud her on her work (yes, I’m sure she’s feeling much better now that I’ve told her that).

KK

Kylie Kwong in Action

Back in LA

It’s good to be back at home. I came back to the household in better order (apparently) then when I’m here and life with Dad is so much better than with mum at the helm. This begs the question why is it always so damn hard to get away? I’m storing that for next time I’m looking for some me-time.

On Friday night we attended the ACE Eddies. The ACE is the American Cinema Editors (http://americancinemaeditors.org/) who are those clever people that edit the movies to make sense and are riveting to watch. One of the stats about one of the ACE Honorees was that he put together a six-minute action sequence from 30 hours of raw footage. Wow. I’m flat out editing 1,200 word blogs. I have to say though, they might be good at editing other people’s work but there were some incredibly long speeches–no one cutting down their speeches. These awards aren’t televised so there’s no music timing them out. Note to organisers, you might like to time them just the same.

I got to come face-to-face with (or be at the same event as) Matt Damon and Chris Pratt and sit through my second Awards night. There were two stand-out presenters: MC for the night Mary Lynn Rajskub (best known for playing the annoyingly annoying Chloe O’Brian on 24) and The Goldbergs patriarch Jeff Garlin.

Never underestimate the importance of a good presenter—and one who can ad-lib ad infinitum providing a much-needed break from the night (not that you don’t want to honour those being awarded). The classic was when Jeff Garlin (who came out to present in a Beverly Hilton robe saying they’d dragged him down from his room to present) changed his story at the end saying he was driving past in his car and they dragged him in. “But I thought we dragged you down from your room?” asked his co-presenter. “Yes, you dragged me from my room sitting in a car,” he said, exaggerating the gaff. It just made it all funnier.

As for Mary Lynn Rajskub—who joked about people editing the spelling and pronunciation of her name—she was very funny. There were drug references, there was sexual innuendo and very good comedy. Who would know the insipid and extremely painful Chloe O’Brian comes from such good stock. How does spunky, funny and entertaining produce whiny, annoying and do-gooder? Character acting at its best no doubt.

Amongst the winners Lego Movie got its own back from its snub from the Oscars, Boyhood got the nod for dramatic feature film over the movies we were ‘rooting’ for American Sniper & Whiplash; and The Grand Budapest Hotel beat Birdman and Guardians of the Galaxy (we were ‘rooting’ for both movies) for best edited feature film (comedy or musical). Our other favourite show to take out an Eddie was Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: Iran.

The winners in this four-hour marathon were:

65th annual ACE EDDIE Awards Winners:

BEST EDITED FEATURE FILM (DRAMATIC): Boyhood – Sandra Adair, ACE
BEST EDITED FEATURE FILM (COMEDY OR MUSICAL): The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling
BEST EDITED ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Lego Movie – David Burrows & Chris McKay
BEST EDITED DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE): Citizenfour – Mathilde Bonnefoy
BEST EDITED DOCUMENTARY (TELEVISION): The Roosevelts: An Intimate History: Episode 3 / The Fire of Life – Erik Ewers
BEST EDITED HALF-HOUR SERIES FOR TELEVISION: Veep: “Special Relationship” – Anthony Boys
BEST EDITED ONE-HOUR SERIES FOR COMMERCIAL TELEVISION: Sherlock: “His Last Vow”  – Yan Miles
BEST EDITED ONE-HOUR SERIES FOR NON-COMMERCIAL TELEVISION: True Detective: “Who Goes There” – Affonso Gonçalves
BEST EDITED MINISERIES OR MOTION PICTURE FOR TELEVISION: The Normal Heart – Adam Penn
BEST EDITED NON-SCRIPTED SERIES: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: Iran – Hunter Gross
BEST STUDENT EDITING: Johnny Sepulveda (Video Symphony)

Super Bowl

I’m not going to say much more about the Super Bowl except we went to a Super Bowl party and I still don’t really understand the game. Part of the tradition is to play Football Squares. When you don’t understand the game it’s a fun thing to play along with as the score changes.

Essentially, you have a grid with 10 rows across and 10 down (100 squares). You ask everyone to put their name in a square. Each square is a bet of your choosing (I think ours was $5).

Once the names are assigned the organiser randomly puts numbers on the top and to the side of the grid and also assigns each of the two teams to either the top or the side. Usually there’s a winner after each quarter and they win a percentage of the pot.

The winner is worked out by looking at the last number in each team’s score and then matching those numbers on the grid and seeing which square intersects those two numbers. Follow? Neither did I. But say the score was Seahawks 24 and Patriots 28. The final payout was determined by finding out which square intersected at 4 and 8 on the grid. I’ll give you the tip, it wasn’t me. We did, however, win the second & third quarters so we did OK.

(Source: for more info).

(BTW in case you missed it, the (Seattle) Seahawks got pipped at the post so to speak and lost to the (Boston) Patriots and the score in the eg above was the final score).

 

What about the entertainment?

I don’t know about you but I was disappointed in Katy Perry—until Firework anyway when I think she nailed it. I think the critics actually applauded her but the people I “interviewed” thought it was a bit ho-hum. It was to be the Super Bowl performance to knock out all other performances but I disagree. That’s the problem when you over-hype yourself. And what’s with bringing in the Special guests? See all that says to me is that you’re not backing yourself to pull off the performance on your own. And poor Katy until Firework you could hardly hear her. She’s got a good voice but no point if you can’t hear it. At least she finished on a good note.

Bruno Mars last year … now there was a performance. So maybe I just missed the hype last year but when the Red Hot Chilli Peppers came they didn’t take from Bruno Mars, they just made it somehow more brilliant. Bravo Bruno you’ve set the benchmark for me. Katy, or whoever is up next year, take a leaf out of his book. Yes, it was at the Super Bowl 2014 that I really and truly fell in love with Bruno Mars.  And realised what an amazing performer he actually is. (Wonder if he lives in LA?)

I missed the ads again this year. Except the Snickers Brady Bunch ad. Hysterical. If you didn’t see it make the round on social media last week here it is:

It’s worth watching I’ll give you the tip. Here are (according to two different people) the Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials 2015—they’re so different but they’ve both got some good ads in there.

 

I don’t know about you but I want to play Pacman—how fun.

That’s my second SuperBowl under my belt, hopefully next year I’ll actually know how to read the squares when I win ;-).

Five Seconds of Summer

You’re probably wondering why this week’s post is named after my five seconds of Sydney summer or the latest, hottest boy-band sensation to come out of Sydney? It is absolutely the latter. After delaying my flight by a day I got the joy of flying home with said band who are headed to LA to record their next album. I’ve invited them over for Sunday Roast—wonder if they’ll take me up on my offer? I doubt it but my daughter can dream.

5sos

Selfie with two of the boys from Five Seconds of Summer #5sos

 

Good luck boys, you were truly gracious participants in the Gwen selfie, success is yet to hit them so thumbs up. This is probably my best to date.  (BTW in case you don’t know pictured are Calum & Luke).

Problem with flying home with them was I couldn’t stop singing, “She looked so perfect standing there in her American Apparel underwear …” lucky I didn’t break into song for them.

Have a good week everyone,

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: What did you think of Katy Perry? Do you have mad 5sos fans at your place? Let me know what you think.

Xmas
Movies and TV, My LA story, Posts

Christmas in the US of A

Is it that I’m always coming back to the movies that we often think there’s nothing like Christmas in the US?  Of course Europe is where Christmas started and has the Christmas markets down but when it comes to packaging it in a nice white box (think Apple Marketing) then the US has it all wrapped up—with a perfect red bow on top.

Christmas in the US of A

Last weekend we got our Christmas on and went down to the local Christmas tree “farm” to pick out a tree.  The local Christmas tree farm, by the way, was formerly known as the Pumpkin farm (ie last month).  This year we were a lot more organised so got to pick from a vast number of superly (I know it’s not really a word) perfect trees.

Xmas trees

Love these Xmas tree “farms” where you come and pick your own tree | It Started in LA

 

On our way home my daughter said, “Remember last year we were on the freeway and someone’s tree fell off their car?”

“No,” I said, which didn’t surprise me because unless I’ve got a photo of it (& posted to Instagram) then I struggle to remember.

“Oh wait,” she laughs, “that was on Modern Family.”

(Is it just us or does that happen to you?  Here it helps that everything looks so familiar and “like it does on TV or the movies” but it’s funny when a show you watch feels so familiar it’s as if it’s happened to you first hand.)

Not unlike every other “holiday” here the Christmas theme gets a workout.  There are the usual Gingerbread men and Gingerbread houses, advent calendars (although I haven’t really seen as many as we have back home in Australia), holiday-scented wood (not joking) and lollies—lots and lots of special-edition lollies.

Candy

Like other holidays the Xmas-themed lollies come out to play | It Started in LA

Elf on the Shelf

But to me by far the most American thing I’ve seen is the Elf on the Shelf.  Seriously cute this company puts American Girl to shame.  Not only is everyone Instagramming and Facebooking the creative things they’ve done with their elves, there are websites and Pinterest boards guaranteed a lot of hits this month.  Not only that they have apps, adoption certificates, outfits, books, games and even a birthday edition.  Yep, I’m with you: why didn’t I think of that?

A quick look through its website and I couldn’t really see how the phenomenon started and grew into the hugeness (another made-up word) it is today but it is huge.  I’m so jealous of the creativity that goes into the elf’s daily (nightly) adventures but for us it’s all a little late so we’re just going for the least creative options in our house and just happy there’s an elf in our house.  Who knows though as we become more Ausmerican we might just surprise you!  Oh, and I have seen the elves popping up in Australia proving that the most successful marketing concepts can’t help but catch on in the rest of the world.

Elf on the Shelf

One of my friend’s creative elf exploits in the phenomenon that is the Elf on the Shelf

 

There are lots of well-decorated houses around but I want to say not as many as I thought.  But when they do it, there’s no in-between.  The easiest thing about going all out with your Christmas lights here is the thriving labour market (if I was to be un-PC then I’d just say there are lots of Mexicans happy to do the job and create work opportunities but just as well I’m not).  Like everything here it’s so much cheaper and more convenient to get someone in to do it rather than worrying about it yourself.  God Bless ‘Merica.

I nearly forgot to mention the Holiday cards.  I love receiving cards from my American friends with pics of their family on the front–especially as you see the kids growing up (and maybe even graying hair!).  This year I thought I’d do an abridged version with a pic of us (preferably a selfie) during the year.  That was quickly poo-pooed by mini me because we hadn’t had the photo shoot specifically for the card.  (Lucky I didn’t mention the selfie).  Here’s the photo I would have picked (still might truth be told!):

Xmas card

Christmas Card too much? I agree you can never have too much | It Started in LA

Quintessentially Cliché NYC Christmas #QCNYCC

It’s too long to hashtag so we’ll have to abbreviate it.  We’re so excited here in 90210 because the kids are getting to live the dream and head to New York in the hopes of celebrating a white Christmas.

In fact it’s so exciting that it’s hard to write about without going back into Safari and checking out tickets to this, booking restaurants so we secure a coveted table and work out who’s open and who’s closed for Christmas.

Our #QCNYCC bucket list/ must-do list includes:

  1. Ice-skating at the Rockefeller &/or Central Park on Christmas Day
  2. Seeing the Rockettes Christmas Show
  3. See a Broadway Show
  4. Strolling the Upper East Side and staring in amazement over the wonder that is the Christmas windows.
  5. Looking for Eloise at The Plaza
  6. A bit of Seinfeld & Sex & the City spotting
  7. Visit Dean & Deluca perhaps even trying to spot Felicity
  8. Obligatory tourist stuff: see the Chrysler Building, climb the Empire State Building & visit the 9/11 Memorial
  9. Eat at a couple of iconic restaurants
  10. Play in the snow on Christmas Day!

There’s so much to fit in I’ll obviously let you know how it all goes in real life.  My cousin lives there and she’s giving us the ultimate “NYC-by-night-as-seen-by-a-local” tour which I’m most looking forward to.

What I’m least looking forward to is trying to look glamorous and very NYC while staying toasty warm.  This is in fact the ultimate challenge and I’m not sure I’ve put enough thought into this yet.  Lucky for me Princess Kate (well actually Duchess Kate isn’t it but everyone here is calling her Princess Kate) is in NYC as we speak so I can get a few style tips from her.

My Pinterest board, however, is looking quite healthy with lots of ideas on what to do and every blog and his dog’s top 10 things to do in New York so be sure to visit if it’s ideas you’re after.

Tax Time

You know you’re living in America when you have to declare to your worldwide income.  Last week we were finally all able to lodge our tax returns at the IRS.  We all had to go because, being our first time, we had to get tax file numbers.  And I guess to prove who we are had to bring our passports with us.  For MR H to lodge it on his own he would have had to bring our passports with him and leave them with the IRS for around 6-8 weeks so that meant one in all in.

Last time Mr H went on his own he got turned away.  It turns out that they already had enough customers waiting and they couldn’t accept any more for the day as there would be nobody to process their requests.  Wow.  That there is the public service for the most advanced country in the free world.

So, to avoid a repeat of that situation Mr H decided we need to queue outside an hour before.  We seriously thought he was exaggerating until we saw there were already four people waiting in front of us and many more queued up behind.  I heard one guy behind us if you don’t queue up here at this time you could be here all day.  What choice do you have?

Going into the building was interesting.  We had to go inside one by one while we went through security.  I have to admit I did think at one stage this looked like one of those scenes where some psycho comes in and open fires at everyone so the security checks didn’t phase me one little bit.

Fortunately the plan worked and we weren’t there long after all.  Now we have to wait eight weeks for processing to get a tax file number and have the privilege of lodging our Californian tax.

Sale time

We’ve all heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday but one thing that caught me by surprise was the Family & Friends sales post Black Friday and Cyber Monday offering 25% off.  I bought a new doona and sheet set for us during the Black Friday sales and was very chuffed with myself only to find the 25% Friends and Family sale trumped the Black Friday deals by another 15%.  I ummed and ahhed for a while and decided it was worth the grief at taking it all back and rebuying it again.  But, I was still a bit embarrassed that I was doing it so I sat on the thought for a couple of days.

With our tax lodged I decided to bite the bullet and do it.  It was over a $100 in savings (which could buy me a case of wine so nothing to be sneezed at).

“No problems mam I’ll simply do a price adjustment.”  Oh my god there’s a thing for it.  Of course it’s America, while I’ve been mulling it over for a few days for fear of embarrassment people do this here all the time.  There’s even a process for it; a button on the register.

I shopped the kids coats, jeans and thermals for New York in the various 25% off sales and got me a new pots and pans set so I’ve not only done my bit for the American economy but I’ve saved myself a bucket load of money to boot.

God Bless ‘Merica.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  How does Christmas look where you are?  Let me know, I’d love to hear about it (especially now that commenting works again on my site).

%d bloggers like this: