Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Love the Nightlife

Toby and I don't get out much. It's not that we don't want to, it's just that as parents of three young kids without a ton of money to spare for babysitters, it's generally not possible. Last week I tried to remember the last time Toby and I went out without kids and ended up on the dance floor and seriously couldn't remember when it was. Maybe Becky and Brian's wedding? She has a baby now so that tells a little about how long ago that was. So when we got the invitation from Evie's school for an evening of dinner and dancing under the stars to raise money for the school, I decided we had to go.

Imagining a glamorous evening, I picked out a nice cocktail dress and heels for the event. Then, at the beginning of this week, I talked to my friend Kathee about what I'd be wearing and she looked at me in horror and said, "Oh, no. No, no, no. You can't go in that. You have to get your disco on." I was skeptical. It said nowhere on the invitation that it was a costume party. And then there's the fact that Toby and I just don't do costume halfway. Anyone who saw us as Spiderman (me) or Miss Piggy (Toby) in college, or really anyone who has gotten our Christmas cards in the past few years, knows that we love a good costume party. But I pictured myself walking in and having an Elle moment from Legally Blonde. It took Kathee actually emailing me photos from last year's 80's event before I was convinced that we needed a run to the vintage store.

A little something about the vintage stores in L.A.: They kick ass. Seriously. You don't get better vintage than this. The one Toby went to in Hollywood is three stories high and is more likely to serve up clothing for a 70's era movie than a costume party. He came home in polyester bellbottoms and a tight polyester shirt. I opted for sequins in a silver dress with disco ball earings. I was feeling like my outfit didn't quite measure up to Toby's, when my friend Jane pulled out her thigh-high, shiny, pink platform boots. In a size 6. They were too good to be true. I knew that even though I might kill myself, I had to wear them.

(Can we take a moment here to just appreciate the beauty of those boots? Pretty much everyone did. I had at least 50 people come up to me in awe of the boots. They were totally speechless when I then told them that not only are they my friend's for-real-not-costume boots, but that she wears them while dancing around a pole for her S-factor classes. And she has never broken her ankle.)

So anyway, back to the party. Toby and I walked over to the CBS studios to find ourselves in a studio full of people dressed in 70's attire (phew), eating sushi, drinking margaritas, and shopping around the silent auction. The silent auction was an impressive display of hundreds of items, ranging from a rental house in France to a tour of Jay Leno's car collection (which went for 3x the price of the house in France. There's no accounting for taste.) to gift certificates for local restaurants. I wandered around considering bids when suddenly I saw a bidding sheet for the camp Evie has been begging to go to for the last month. It's a two-week long theater camp that ends with a the campers putting on a play. It sounded wonderful, but with a price tag of $575 for two weeks, we had told Evie no way. And there it was, an empty sheet, starting at less than $100. Suddenly I became a dead serious silent auctioner. I strategized with friends on the best plan and then stayed put for the last half hour of the bidding, trying to look intimidating towards anyone who came near, which is actually a lot easier to do when you're five inches taller than usual. It paid off. Evie will now be going to theater camp, for a total price of $175, and the money actually doesn't even go to the camp but is a direct donation to the school. It was so much fun to tell her about it the next morning.

After the auction, we headed out to the dinner buffet and tables, which were situated in what looked like a mid-western neighborhood street. How appropriate that we'd be having a dance party in the That 70's Show neighborhood. And in another reminder that we live in the heart of the film industry, throughout dinner, we watched the expertly-made, hilarious film shorts on the parent volunteers who had contributed to the events. The film clips were impressive, but even more impressive was the amount of work that the parents had put into the event to raise money for a school that's about to face California's budgeting axe. Los Angeles itself isn't laid out in the ideal way to form strong communities, but I couldn't help thinking last night that there are certainly people here working really hard to make this school community as strong as possible.

At the end of the evening, I pulled off my boots and we hit the dance floor, where DJ Richard Blade played some great '70s tunes. It was so much fun to be out dancing with friends on a beautiful spring evening. And for a good cause to boot. (Sorry, pun intended.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Face lift?

Let me know what you think about this format for my blog. I feel like I've started including photographs more often and it allows for a little more space for that. My profile information, link for following the blog, and list of friends' blogs is now at the bottom. And hey, while I'm talking about your input, thanks for reading!

Living in the wild, wild west

Nine years ago, the Los Angeles freeways became famous for something besides monstrous traffic jams when OJ Simpson led the police on a chase in his white Bronco. Why anyone would think that he could escape from police in a vehicle in a city with the slowest moving traffic in the world is beyond me, but it happened again on Friday night right in our neighborhood.

The girls and I were heading back from a birthday party when we were blocked from returning to our street by three cop cars. Police and cameramen were looking anxiously down the street. Helicopters looped overhead. Fortunately, a friend who had seen the helicopters invited us to her house (located safely up the hill). By the time we returned, the neighborhood was quiet, though the girls slept in our room that night.

Turns out that a block from our house, a suspect was hiding in a shed after a car crash and then police chase through our neighborhood. A friend of mine lives in the house directly across from the house where all the action took place and told me she spend the evening ducking down with her daughters in fear that gun shots would be fired near her home. Fortunately, no one was hurt, the suspect was caught, and Studio City can go back to being one of the sleepier parts of Los Angeles. But the kids in the pool (in the video below) have quite a story to tell their class when their teacher asks about their weekend today.

To see the action in our neighborhood, click here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Almost ten years ago, my sister gave birth to her daughter Hannah. Since then, my mom, sister and I have not had the opportunity to get together without our growing number of kids/grandkids joining us. Usually when we get together our conversations are full of interruptions or cut off completely. It's always fun - I love watching the cousins together - but it occurred to us this year that it was high time to have a "grown ups only" weekend. My mom's sixtieth birthday was the perfect excuse.

We probably would have have had a great weekend even if we'd stayed in a Motel 8 in Albany but the Casa Gallina in Taos made the weekend even more special. Here are some highlights (and lowlights) from our trip.

When I think about our trip to Taos, I will remember...

...driving from Albuquerque in the dark, hours after we expected to due to delayed flights, and suddenly noticing flashing lights and a train whistle, panicking, momentarily forgetting how to reverse the absurdly large rental Yukon, thinking that we were all going to die before our vacation began, and finally (at my mom and Mollie's screamed requests) putting the car in reverse, just missing the railroad crossing gate that was about to crash down on the hood of the car.

...arriving at the Casa Gallina at 11 PM (2 AM for my mom and sister) hungry and tired, opening the door of our cabin to find a room beautifully decorated with local artisan paintings and furniture, and seeing the incredible spread of food and wine that Richard (the inn owner) had left for us. We sat down, opened the wine and stayed up for another hour and a half, eating and drinking, talking and laughing.

...waking up at 6 AM to the sound of a rooster right behind our door. ...thinking about killing the rooster.

...feeling much more appreciative of the poultry out back after eating the freshly laid eggs for breakfast, along with Richard's homemade whole wheat and jam (made from fresh picked berries) muffins.

...all the delicious food that we ate, whether it was the strawberry rhubarb pie we found waiting for us one afternoon at our cabin, the delicious locally grown food from the Love Apple restaurant (which was a beautiful restaurant inside a converted chapel), or the ice cream at Taos Cow.

... visiting Taos Pueblo, which has been continuously inhabited by Native Americans for the last 1,000 years. It was interesting to see, but looked like a fairly dark and depressing place to actually live.

...all of our hikes. The first day we hiked along the canyon, where we saw lizards, humming birds and desert flowers. The second day we headed for the mountains but realized, an hour into our hike, that we might miss our spa appointments and practically ran the second half of our hike. The third day we had more confidence about our ability to hike in the high altitude (almost 10,000 ft at the start of the hike) and hiked a beautiful but steep trail near the ski area. Towards the top, my mom started to struggle to breathe and by the time we reached the top we felt like we were all high from lack of oxygen. We lay down in the peaceful mountain top meadow and caught our breath before heading down the tree-lined trail.

... the black night sky filled with stars, a refreshing view after all of the light (and other) pollution in Los Angeles

... browsing the shops and galleries in Taos. My mom spoiled my sister and I further by insisting we buy something for ourselves. She left with a turquoise pendant and I left with a new pair of Uggs.

... how wonderful it was to spend a weekend relaxing and catching up with my mom and sister.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You've come a long way, baby

Yesterday, walking home from picking up Evie from school, we were stopped several times by little girls of all ages running up to Evie, throwing their arms around her and yelling, "EVA!" Evie would smile, hug them back, and keep walking. I told her that I felt like I was walking through school with a movie star or something. "No mom, it's just something we do from drama," she replied.

This past weekend, Evie had two small roles in her school play. As Toby wrote in his blog, it was definitely one of the highlights of parenting so far. It was amazing to see all of these kids come together and present something they were so proud of. Apparently, as evidenced by our schoolyard walk, this created an incredible bond between the students.

A friend of mine told me a story about her daughter at a tennis class yesterday that made me think about Evie's first weeks at school. I thought about her coming home in tears and crying, "No one notices me at recess." Walking through her school, I couldn't help but smile thinking how far she's come.

To check out scenes from the play, click here!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stop, drop and run

A friend of mine recently described his house as "nuclear bomb messy". I assumed he meant that the house often looks like it has been rocked by a bomb, which is the way I regularly describe our home. But no, he explained, he meant that it always looks likes his wife and kids found out a bomb was about to go off, dropped everything where it was, and fled the scene. This cracked me up because this is exactly the way our house looks all the time. I couldn't help but think of his comment as I was about to clear the table for dinner tonight, though apparently three bombs went off outside our house today: We've got cereal from this morning, eggs from lunch and bagels from the afternoon snack...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The talk

Well, there's a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can't be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you're with
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

OK, Los Angeles, we've been together for almost a year now and it looks like we're not going anywhere anytime soon. I think we're at the point in our relationship where we need to have a talk. You know, the kind of talk where we talk about where we've been and where we're going? Yeah, that one.

So we've had our ups and downs this past year. It's not really your fault. Seriously. I'm not placing blame. I know I haven't always been the easiest to deal with. I met you when I was already in a really good relationship and rebounds are always rough. Plus, you were honest with me from the beginning. You never pretended you weren't a smoker. I saw the smog the first time the plane started to land. It's actually been quite clear all winter but I know how old habits die hard. The summer's coming and the smog will be back. You were upfront about the traffic too. Sure, I didn't expect to be run off the road anytime I attempted to ride my bike, but I knew you weren't healthy. That's alright. I mean, I'll work with you on getting a few more trees planted and voting on some stronger environmental laws, but I know you're not changing those habits anytime soon.

I should let you know that you have some wonderful qualities that I wasn't even expecting. Thank you for that. The weather has been beyond expectations. And, while I was excited about the beaches, I never knew how many beautiful places Malibu would offer, like the tidal pools at Point Dume. I thought you'd have some good mountains, but I didn't know that I'd be able to run up a trail from right behind my house where I'd be able to see both hummingbirds and various B-list celebrities on the trail while enjoying views of snow-capped mountains. All the hiking trails around here are amazing and yet, despite your 15 million residents, we've had them mostly to ourselves. That's been nice too. Though maybe it says a little bit about the culture, but I'm getting to that.

So culturally I don't think anyone's going to argue that we're a great match. In fact, Lucy's preschool director has asked me about five times what we are doing exactly living here. I came from a town where we got together with huge groups on the weekends for barbecues in the park or parties (with kids running around) at friends' homes. The struggle to find a community like that has been a challenge and I think it comes from both the city's layout and the general culture.

Still, I've got to give you some props. When we first moved here, you sent over two adorable kids from next door bearing cookies. For the past year, the girls have spent countless hours with them, hunting for snails, playing in the tree house, and sleeping over at each others' houses. I am always thankful for that. Meeting Sarah and Jane has been incredible too. The nights out, afternoons at the park, kid swaps and Friday afternoon "wine & cheese play dates" with them have all kept me sane and happy throughout the year. There's also our weekend camping team, the wonderful people we've met through Lucy's school, and recently a baby book club starting in our neighborhood.

But if we're going to continue this relationship, I'm going to have to ask for a little bit more. You're not a small town, you're a big city, so I can't really expect you to offer the sense of community that I had before. In Frederick, every person you run into you will see again and again and again, like it or not, and that pretty much forces you to befriend everyone you meet. But I feel like our neighborhood here should come together more than just once a year at the Fourth of July parade. I'd like to be able to walk through the streets near our house and know that there are at least 15 homes that I could walk into at anytime, knowing the families well. I know you're going to be lazy about this. I recognize that this is going to take effort on my part. It's easy, once you've lived somewhere for a year, to just get comfortable in a routine and not work towards making things better but I'm vowing now not to do that. If we are still together a year from now, I'd like to be writing about how, even in the middle of this crazy, big city, we found a really strong community that just grew and grew.

So L.A., looking forward, I hope we can be on the same page. I know it's probably not easy for you - I've been open about the fact that I don't see this as a lifetime commitment - but I think we can work together to have another really good year. I'm just asking you to keep the sun shining, the beaches clean, the earthquakes small and an open mind about our relationship. I'll do the rest of the work.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Love it!

My father-in-law emailed me this photo today of his recent trip to the grocery store, with brand new bags after reading my post about the Pacific Patch. He even has small bags for the fruits & vegetables. The average shopper uses 13,000 bags in his lifetime. He's already brought his number down to 12,993! Each reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate thousands of plastic bags over its lifetime - something to feel good about the next time you head to the store with a reusable bag.