La La Land revisited

Two years ago my dearest friend, her husband (also my dear friend, Nicky) and their 4 month old baby girl upped sticks and head off to start a new life in LA – extremely selfish I hear you cry, my thoughts exactly – how dare they leave London (leave me more to the point) and head off to a land where people don’t age (physically at least), the sun always seems to shine, frozen yogurt is on tap and celebrities & Scientologists gather in equal measure.

“I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.” Andy Warhol

At school both our families lived overseas so we spent many happy summers in America with her parents driving down to the Jersey Shore from NYC, where we would live out all our teenage angst to the dulcet tones of Green Day, Ben Folds Five, Third Eye Blind etc –  my diaries of those summers make me smile and cringe in equal measure. So it is without question that when the move to LA came that I was plotting my first trip out there.

The trip came last July. When they initially moved I had my own newborn and we had just moved house while we were renovating. I bided my time and pitched the holiday to Brute only to be told he didn’t have enough holiday time and needed to train for his mammoth bike ride across the mountains of Europe. There was only one thing for it, go solo, with the kids…easy!

The strange thing was that whenever I told people in my over excitement, they seemed to give me a look of excitement mixed with confusion and possibly fear.

“You’re travelling to LA by yourself with a 3.5 yr old and 1.5 yr old”?

“Sure! I mean how hard can it be” I’m not the kind of person that gives myself too long to think about these things, I tend to go with the ‘it’ll be fine’ approach and then I find it generally is, I don’t research, ask too many questions or do anything that could put me off and on this occasion it was for the best…

Loaded into the cab we headed for Gatwick, smooth sailing so far. Exit cab, hmmm no trolleys, throw a child under each arm, leave luggage on the pavement and run a good 300 meters to the nearest trolley to find that you have to put £1in the damn thing to use it!! Obviously I have not one piece of shrapnel in my wallet other than the usual couple of 2p, 1p and a few random euro. Borrow £1 from some unsuspecting holiday maker, load up and start the roughly 100 mile walk to the check in desk one hand pushing a loaded up trolley and the other pushing a loaded up double buggy. Major crashes avoided, luggage dropped, security passed we made our way to the gate and I may have blacked things out but we got onto the plane.

I was ready for Rex to sit happily for a few hours watching movies and then calmly fall asleep and prepared to do a bit of pacing of the aisles until stella did the same. Incase you’re wondering, that’s not what happened. Instead I had made the fatal error of booking an outward bound flight at 2pm in the afternoon so both children had gone entirely feral being confined to a small space. I glanced across at my neighbour, praying that he would have mercy on me, he was a young musician with a bobbed haircut who was clearly leaving a loved one back in London as he said over and over on the phone before takeoff in a very delicate Australian accent how much he loved this person whilst my children screamed and bashed their feet on the windows and kicked the chairs in front of me and I swore intensely under my breath and attempted to pin them to their shared chair. The last hurrah was when I called the air hostess for an emergency large glass of wine which, after a second of it being placed down on my tray one of the children smacked their hand down on the table and the whole glass ended up on my neighbours lap without so much of a sip of it entering my mouth…I won’t go into detail, but he was the kindest stranger I have ever come across, no stress and offered me another wine – an angel in indie band clothing.

Feral for the first 5 hours, passed out for the last 6…I don’t need to say which half of the journey was preferable.

 

The most important thing is, we made it and from then on it was the most wonderful trip – we staggered out of LAX which must be the worst organised most stressful airport on the planet and into the arms of my dear friend, Koz – it was the evening in LA and we were smelly and tired and broken but we were also overexcited, Koz and I particularly so. We cracked open the wine immediately, put the kids to bed and next thing I know I woke up in my underwear on my bed, it was the next morning and my head was beating…testament to the fact that we shouldn’t be separated for long periods of time.

I’ve been to LA a couple of times before, but not as a mother, and it did not disappoint, particularly as they had based themselves in the gorgeous Santa Monica area of LA. They definitely have the weather on their side so we went to the beach almost daily (closest being a ten minute drive from the house), or to the many splash pads that they have around the city to help cool down from the mid summer heat.

Then when you’re suitably tired, hot and bothered there are frozen yogurt places almost everywhere you look and they are the best –  for some ungodly reason we don’t seem to pay homage to the frozen yogurt like the Americans do. Everything is bigger in America and their idea of a selection of frozen yogurt toppings is a full on pick n mix sensation and though the connotation of frozen yogurt makes one think of health and wellness if you’re anything like me your toppings to yogurt ratio is going to weigh heavily in on the side of toppings!

 

 

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hardly visible Fro Yo smothered by sweets & choc = perfect

One of my favourite things to discuss  is food and one of my favourite things to do is eat so lets do more of that –  my gosh does LA do food well – there is an abundance of farmers markets open on the weekends, from the fresh fruit and veg at Brentwood Farmers’ Market to the Smorgasbord in downtown LA there are endless options all super child friendly and a great thing to do and place to grab lunch.

 

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Brentwood Farmers’ Market

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Give them fresh peaches and they will comply

 

 

Photography skills not up to much here – sign flagged by the bins – but you get the gist  – this is the smorgasburg.

Let’s be real though this is a holiday so there needs to be some non child fun too, we learnt early that it does not pay to try and take 3 toddlers out to dinner even if it is early when you want to relax and have a drink…on night 3 we went down to the famous Gjelina on Abbot Kinney, I mean the food is major but my god did my two make a scene, made worse by the fact that darling little Zoe behaved like an angel the whole time while my two took in turns to see who could scream the loudest. Deciding that we probably needed to order quickly and get them fed and home the almost unbearably hipster waiter/struggling actor sauntered over and when asked if he could recommend some options “no, no its impossible for me to do that, you need to just go with what you feel” …I mean are you KIDDING ME – glances shot round the table between us as we bit our tongues in equal measure – could he not see the tension in my face, could he not see the desperate looks of the other diners, willing us to eat and get out as quickly as possible so they could enjoy their evenings in peace! When we eventually got our food, the madness was at an all time high with us taking it in turns to take Rex and Stella outside to blow off some steam. Needless to say we bailed with food in hand back to the safety of home.

BUT we had some fabulous meals without them too – Sitting outside on the rooftop at Margot in Culver City offering the best of Mediterranean coastal food. Yours Truly  on Abbot Kinney in Venice, a girls night out in West Hollywood at E.P and L.P and obviously you can’t go to LA without a long boozy lunch at Nobu Malibu. There are so many great places, there is no real public transport though so you’re gonna have to flex that Uber account.

 

Nobu Malibu showing off

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Not at all thrilled to be having a child free Boozy lunch 

Sitting here after 100 days of Lockdown in London and reminiscing about being in LA this time last year is almost torture and I feel like I could really ramble on, but everyday was happiness, it really was. There was never pressure to do anything, but so many easy and fun things to do for us and the kids, cruising down to the beach and not just local ones, we also went down to Manhattan Beach to see some other dear friends that have moved back to LA from London which is beautiful. Or just sitting in the garden with the giant paddling pool (and a glass of cold rose). Going to the incredible Cayton children museum or even watching the LA philharmonic warm up at the Hollywood Bowl, well that is until you are ushered out due to slightly over excited small people who don’t adhere to rules or noise levels.

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Hollywood Bowl

 

Not just any old cafe or Fire engine – its all part of the magic of the Cayton Childrens Museum.

 

When you think LA any honest human will wonder if they’ll spot a celeb – I  mean i’m not afraid to say my eyes are peeled as soon as I got off the plane, will I see the Hadid sisters sauntering through the airport (ideally not, I’m not sure my mental state could handle that). Or god forbid Jen Anniston on her daily hike, I would likely drop dead on the spot. But you know who we did see and who rocked my world…Henry Winkler, I mean obviously it wasn’t the spot I thought I would get but hey who didn’t love Happy Days!!! Just wandering around the Brentwood Country Mart with his wife, daughter and grandchild  – his wife, walked past Koz and I and said “you have your hands full!” but not in a snarky way, but a knowing way and It cemented our love for them.

So if you couldn’t tell already, the trip was the biggest of successes, it was just all happiness and sorry (not sorry) for sounding so gushy, but hey you have to tell it as it is. On our last full day, we booked in Koz’s baby sitters to look after the children and we went shopping…and had the most bizarre encounter, I can’t remember the name of the shop but it had lots of gorgeous over priced clothes and we were just mooching when this quite over zealous attendant came over to see if we needed anything, she then kept coming back to check we were ok (every Brits worst nightmare, right?) and upon realising we were both English she then out of nowhere said “R-I-P Princess Diana, I’m so sorry for your loss” to which we both sort of nodded and in our awkward British way muttered something like “yes it was very sad” she then proceeded to go off on a tangent about conspiracy theory’s surrounding her death as if it happened last week. Bear in mind this lady was no more than late 20’s (and was likely was on a come down from the night before) and when I say she went off on a tangent, I mean it, she went on and on and when she eventually stopped so we could shop, when we saw her again she would say again “I just wanted to say again, that I’m sorry for your loss & RIP Princess Diana” at which point we just grabbed some over priced clothes for the kids, paid and fled before bursting into hysterical laughter. No better way to leave La La Land hey.

The only thing missing from this trip was Brute, but that gives us even more reason to head back there when all this chaos is over and who knows maybe by the there might be a new president there…one can but hope!

There are too many special moments and memories so I made a little video compilation below instead, enjoy 🙂

 

 

 

‘For the love of…Amazon’ – A tale of two birthdays’

Have you ever wondered how it could be possible for Jeff Bezos, the inimitable force behind Amazon, to be worth a whopping $137 billion – well in the lead up to my children joint birthday party I found out…It’s down to my husband and I.

I knew before the party that we had a verging on dangerous relationship with Amazon, relying on it for any and every last minute need. But as we got closer to the day in question the deliveries starting mounting at an unprecedented rate, everyday we were receiving several parcels and at this point I had not once but on several occasions been stopped whilst out walking the dog by the delivery driver, sometimes just to say Hi as I now saw him more than my own family and sometimes to say he had yet more parcels and should he just leave them in the front garden if I was going to be out for the day. We had gone beyond the awkward stage of when you open the door a couple of days in a row to the same delivery man and do that awkward chuckle and a bit of a ‘yup its me again smile/grimace’ we had now grown to be acquaintances, maybe even friends.

This was our first full on, firing on all cylinders childrens party that we had thrown, Rex was turning three and is now at an age where we couldn’t get away with essentially having a party for ourselves with our friends whilst the children, mostly unable to move sit around dribbling, cooing, giggling and crying. Instead he told us in no uncertain terms that he wanted a super hero party with lots of cake (Stella, who was turning 1 sadly didn’t get much of a look in when it came to the theme) and Just like that, like any good bossed around parent we set about planning this double whammy monstrosity.

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Stella turns 1 and Rex turns 3 and just these two balloons cost about 5 times their combined age…

We booked the venue and then I set about finding an entertainer, now having absolutely no idea what I was looking for I went solely on reviews, and found a lovely company called JoJo Fun Kids and after much toing and froing about whether they could in fact provide the correct super hero, Spiderman was booked. Spiderman, also known as Dom, called me to introduce himself, I knew almost has soon as he’d said ‘Hello Sophie, this is Dom’ that a springy, camp and almost certainly a musical theatre practitioner was on the other end of the phone and naturally was thrilled, we clicked immediately. It was only post party that my darling friend who has his own events company gently raised his eyebrows when I said how much we were paying dearest Dom…note to self, must.do.more.research.

Then it was down to the nitty gritty and this is really where things pick up pace, because I don’t know about you, but once the big things are in place (venue, entertainment) its down to the fun part, the details and this is where Mr Bezos starts ringing up his enormous bill.

Party Bags – straight to Amazon obv – literally everything related to super hero – ADD TO CART.

Fancy Dress Outfits

Me: ‘OMG look at this amazing Hulk outfit’ ADD TO CARD

My Husband: ‘oooooh and these huge Hulk Gloves ‘ADD TO CART’

Me: ‘oh and look a mask’ ADD TO CART

MY Husband: ‘and face paints, we could paint him green too (event though he’s wearing a suit) ADD TO THE DAMN CART

Then onto Stellas outfit..oh and ours…

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Outfits on point thought, so totally worth it

 

Cake – I actually home made both of the cakes but hell would freeze over if we didn’t quickly add in some edible paper super heroes to pop on top of them  – Amazon here we come!

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Just showing me cakes off 

 

Balloons – I left the shop (yes an actual physical shop) with 10 huge balloons plus a bunch of normal ones thinking how nice and seemingly extremely lucrative it would be to own a balloon shop – I would be rich without hardly needing to do anything.

More Balloons – Hmmmm not sure if we have enough balloons, ill just nip onto Amazon and buy some more, sure why not.

Now I am actually all for small brands and I do my best to buy from them, but when it comes to dealing with this kind of situation, Amazon is your one stop shop, it’s also our one stop shop for every random thought that we have and think we therefore need to buy: Horrendous Polyester Fancy dress outfits, boxes of 10 roles of wrapping paper, 3 million straws etc etc i’m just V jealous I didn’t think of this before Jeff

The party was in fact a huge success (thank god) and Dom was everything I had hoped for and more, he arrived bang on time though possibly looking ever so like he had come straight in from the night before, I imagined him slipping out the doors of G.A.Y dressed to party and straight through the doors of our local church hall  dressed head to toe in his finest polyester spiderman outfit, which really left very little to the imagination. That said, he had the children, all 30 of them, singing to the beat of his drum, screaming with laughter (as were the parents as he dropped innuendo filled comments, leaving some of the fathers blushing for their lives) and when his part was over they followed him quietly and in a perfect line through for tea…whilst I stood thinking how many years of ageing he had saved me.

I mean look at Hulk (AKA Rex) rushing over to meet Spider-Man (AKA Dom).

 

Once tea was finished, E numbers had reached peak highs and sugar crashes were just around the corner we packed up the enormous amount of mess that children have a wonderful talent for making and made our way home, children straight to bed, us straight towards anything with a cork…and relax.

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The site of 30 children chowing down without a care in the world, surrounded by a tonne of manic parents

 

So party done, Bezos et al significantly richer and us significantly poorer party season is over for this year. It is to my absolute relief that the childrens birthdays are both in January as they will be having joint birthday parties until they are old enough to come to us with a bullet proof argument as to why this is no longer possible.

 

 

There is Power in Positivity – 2nd Trimester Feels

 

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One Multi Tasking Mummy

 

There’s no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this.

This morning as my husband got up at the crack of dawn to go and play golf and I was once again left with the slightly daunting prospect of another day trying to creatively entertain a toddler I thought of something I read recently in the Huffington Post  – A truly brilliant article by Dr Vanessa Lapointe which I urge all parents living in this fast paced screen filled world we live in to read .

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Standard morning of me trying to get stuff done, whilst being ordered to ‘cuddle baby’

Dr Lapointe talks about the need for children to be bored, for their minds to ‘awaken’  and for them to make their own magic and their own fun, for them to get creative. She talks of the fast paced world we live in now and how parents often feel like they need to respond to their children’s supposed boredom with outings a plenty, activities and as a last resort (or sometimes first resort) – screen time. She also mentions her husbands life as a child growing up the countryside,  this resonated with me as my sister and I grew up in the countryside, nothing but land and adventures to be made, we would take ourselves off on long walks, make up games, pretend we were different characters and immerse ourselves in ourselves in our own imaginations – yes I know it all sounds a bit famous five but my father was brought up in the African Bush and his adventure stories were magical to us – we imagined the Jungle book in real life. My mother though brought up in London was Irish and loved all things creative, she also instilled in us an ‘everyone should chip-in’ work ethic – my sister and I helped with house work and learnt from a young age to respect the things we were given and to help out where we could. These are all things that have stayed with me throughout my life and are things I want my own children to learn.

However, when I was reading this and thinking, yes, yes, yes I totally agree with all of it, It also made my stress levels go up a little. My son is still only a toddler so not quite at the age that I think Lapointe is referring to, but also I feel that living in London, or any city makes it all harder. Space is limited, particularly outside space so though I try to encourage Rex on some days to make his own fun, to enjoy the toys he has and to go out in the garden on those sunny days.

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Loves nothing more than throwing his Duplo everywhere and then settling down to read.

I don’t think more than one or two days of this is really feasible without both of us going stir crazy. We are lucky to have a house and garden but in any city a huge proportion of people are in flats. So on those days when you can’t do another day inside London certainly offers up a lot of options. There are dozens of amazing parks, city farms, soft play spots, sports clubs, childrens members clubs,  in fact there is pretty much everything you could possibly think of to entertain your child on a daily basis. Though a lot of things are not cheap, once every so often is fun and also opens childrens eyes to all sorts of fun new experiences. There are also plenty of free options –  get some friends together and hit up one of the parks or grab a bottle (milk or wine!) and head to one of your houses  – a problem shared is a problem halved as they say.

There is also the app Hoop which you can download and find a million things to do in your area too.

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No gender stereotyping in this house – Rex on the way to a playdate with his beloved baby, named ‘Baby’

 

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Tea for 4 while the mummy’s catch up 

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Hampstead Heath homies

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Couple of hunks hanging out in Battersea park

As for screen time – it seems to be a much debated issue amongst parents, journalists, bloggers, behavioural experts… everyone really. But honestly it’s really no-ones business but you’re own, you do what you can do and to be honest sometimes everyone needs 10 minutes of peace and quiet and if an episode of ‘Hey Duggee’ is what gives you that, then hell, put it on. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that’s really all it is, an opinion. Myself, I try to say no to iPads and iPhones, though some emergencies require them (ie. on a delayed 40 hour flight to Australia!), and I say at 5pm while I make supper ‘yes’ to sticking on some wild cartoon which can only have been created by an LSD induced mind for half an hour. We all make decisions on how to raise our children, how to entertain them, how to ensure they grow into kind, interesting, rounded adults – no single person’s way is right and no single person’s way is wrong – we should all remember that before we judge others.

I have put a few options below for those West and South West London Mums looking for options to keep them and their little people sane.

Flip Out – Fab trampolining centre in wandworth

 

Battersea Park Zoo

 

The Corner House Cafe

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Corner House cruising

 

 

Bertie and Boo

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Bertie and Boo do the perfect date food

 

The Army Museum

 


The V&A
– mainly in the summer for the outdoor splash pool that children can play in

 

Gambado

Sky Lark Cafe

Kew Gardens

The London Wetland Centre

 

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Watching the Otters being fed