i nearly choked on a cocoa cayenne cookie…

… and other things you might say and hear in San Francisco.

“Do I have kale in my teeth?”

“Let’s eat these over by the Yucca”

“CHEESE IS NOT VEGAN!!”

But I’m skipping ahead. There’s still a whole week of LA to catch up on. Let’s start with the morning I went on a tour that, by the end of it, I felt so dirty and weird and gross and full of regret for every bad celebrity magazine and website I’ve ever read…

I coerced my good friend Ben into coming with me on a Lifestyles of Hollywood’s Rich & Famous Blah Blah bus tour the day after we arrived. With a brochure promising to take us through Laurel Canyon, along Mulholland Drive and through Beverly Hills, with sun shining and birds singing, it seemed, if anything, a great opportunity to see a bit more of the city. So I guess that’s one box ticked.

But as soon as our open-top minivan rolled down Hollywood Boulevard, I realised this was not the tour for me. Was it our tour guide, with his knuckle-n-neck tatts, missing teeth and eau d’ganja cologne? Was it when we drove past the hotel from Pretty Woman (SPOILER ALERT : the one from the end, where JR’s getting ready to leave LA and Richard Gere drives down the street in the stretch limo and he climbs up the fire escape and they kiss ON THE LIPS and it’s really romantic?) three times in 25 minutes, with no other notable stops or sightings in between? Or was it when we stopped on Mulholland Drive to see the Bowl and take some snaps of the Hollywood sign? Ol’ Toothy stopped the car (on a pretty steep stretch of road) and jumped out to let us out the back. Except he forgot to put on the handbrake. So we all started rolling backwards down the hill. Thrills n spills in Hollywood, I tells ya!

The remaining two hours were spent looking at houses in the distance, and being regaled with interesting facts like “See that house on top of that hill with the flat roof? Meg Ryan’s house. Beautiful property. Worth $16 million. See that house with the orange wall? Beautiful property. Worth $22 million. Jennifer Lopez got married there. Now Gwen Stefani lives there. She’s a fashion designer. See that house with the black windows? Beautiful property. Worth $34 million. Tom Hanks’ house.”

Snore.

The icing on the cake was when we screamed around a corner and “OH MY GOD THERE’S A CAR IN GENE SIMMONS’ DRIVEWAY IT COULD BE GENE” honk honk honk!!!! The lady behind me said “Gene Simmons? Is that her in the car? Who’s she?”. Gene Simmons was not in the car. I’m not a huge KISS fan and even I knew it wasn’t him, but it didn’t stop Le Tooth from honking a little (a lot!) more and blocking traffic and whistling and yelling.

By the end of the tour, I was glad we didn’t see anyone famous (despite being promised we would; if not on Rodeo Drive then ‘behind the wheel of any expensive sports car driving through the canyon’). It felt SO intrusive and revolting; like being at a human zoo.

Yikes. That was a DOWNER! Let’s remember when Ben and I started rolling down Mulholland Drive and have a little chuckle! Good times coming soon, I promise!

The only picture I took on the tour: Cher's house. And I took it because - well - it's a pretty impressive front gate.

The only picture I took on the tour: Cher’s house. And I took it because – well – it’s a pretty impressive front gate.

As an aside, because I’m sure you’re VERY interested, I DID end up spying a couple of (I hate the word) ‘celebrities’ while I was in LA. Most of them ex-Aussie actors, hilariously enough, but I saw Aziz Ansari getting coffee in Echo Park, and I held the door open for Giovanni Ribisi after a screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel. He looked very sullen and didn’t say thanks or even crack a smile. So that’s the last time I hold a door for a Hollywood moofie star…

p.s. That was ME that nearly choked on a cocoa cayenne cookie as well! RIGHT BEFORE I WROTE THIS POST!! I’m fine though. And I ate the rest of the biscuit too. And it was delicious, despite nearly killing me…

hollywood & la brea

Stuck in a traffic jam from the airport to Hollywood, our cab driver shook his head, in disdain for Oscar. “This… this is ALL Oscar… It’s crazy…”, tooting his horn and swerving around traffic (including into the wrong lane into oncoming traffic too – exciting!). Our bright yellow hotel is minutes away from where the Oscars were held last night, and craziness still abounds. We strolled along Hollywood Boulevard this morning as they were rolling up the red carpet and taking down giant gold statues – I saw two man-sized Oscars, wrapped in plastic Laura-Palmer-style, being driven around on the back of a golf buggy.

After breakfast at a 50s-style diner (because, HOLLYWOOD), we moseyed back to the hotel, checking out various ‘stars’ along the Walk of Fame, belonging to people we’ve never heard of, and those that make no sense (Amy Grant?? Michael Bolton???). We passed a homeless man, who was pacing up and down the footpath, shaking his grey dreadlocked hair. He got us in his sights and said (to Rich):

“Hey! You! With the drop (pause)… dead (pause)… gorgeous (looooong pause)… FIANCE! You better MARRY that woman and stop (another really long pause)… BULLSHITTING YOUR LIFE AWAY!!!!! Excuse my language… Can I have a nickel?”

After over 24 hours of living in the zombieland that is many, many timezones and plane travel and bad food and not enough water, I think I’m back in the land of the living. And I’m definitely ready for some hilarious adventures in the land of LA.

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LA LA LA

Tomorrow!! Los Angeles!!! Here’s to 90210 celebrity sightings, mimosas (what ARE they??), green smoothies, raw everything, rollerskating, tacos, Mexican wrestling, MAGIC, walking-walking-walking, (hopefully) becoming a runner [side note: given it’s my year of signing up to things, I’ve just parted ways with some hard-earned cash and have signed up to THIS – fingers crossed I’ll discover the joy of running in LA… in another side note, Nicole Antoinette – the gem who runs this site – is gearing up to run from Santa Monica to New York – holy hell!!!] and lots and lots of writing.

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We’re gonna spend a week moseying about in the city, catching up with rad peeps and eating lotsa food and seeing music and, as I mentioned already, MAGIC! Then Rich heads to SXSW and I find myself with the world (well, the west coast) at my fingertips! 5 days solo. I’m a bit stumped – do I tourist it up around San Fran, or go DESERT or CABIN IN THE WOODS to write and read and walk and think? Desert and wood cabin both kinda sound like a horror story waiting to happen, but they could make truly excellent blog fodder, no?? I’ll keep you posted.

Either way, bloggy US adventures coming up! Got tips, suggestions, ideas, anything? Please send ‘em my way!

this dress, from her, via you, to me

It was strange to see my usually cool, calm and collected older cousin so flustered, faffing about with cutlery and salad and setting down plates for dinner. I remembered her being so poised and graceful when I was a kid, but I could see her becoming more and more like her mum, and mine. A family trait, I guess.

We’d just started to eat when an alarm went off on her phone. “I set alarms for everything”, she exclaimed, opening her phone, to the groans of her husband and sons. “What’s this one for? O, it’s telling me not to forget to show you something. I’ll get it after dinner.”

I was intrigued.

The boys ate loudly, bickering amongst themselves, subconsciously offending their mum about the too-spicy chicken and the rubber-like prawns. I had another sip of red wine.

After dinner, the boys cleared the table and Celia and I sat down to talk. How long has it been?, we wondered aloud. Four years? Six? The last time I was here was for Tasman’s birthday and we made a cake shaped like a blue-tongue lizard.

“I have to show you the thing!” Celia cried, jumping up from the couch and disappearing into the front of the house. She returned with a black dress and jacket, draped over her arm on a wire coat-hanger.

“This. My mum made it for your mum, isn’t it beautiful?”

Anything that connects me to my mum is beautiful. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a handmade dress or an old diary or the hand-written note under the lid of the piano at Dad’s house. Knowing that it’s something she’s touched or written or been enclosed in, it always takes my breathe away. It’s why I’ve never been able to get rid of the old writer’s festival t-shirt she died in, 18 years ago. Rich once pulled it out of the drawer, with a ‘WHAT’S THIS??’ and I’ve never felt so protective of anything in my life. I snatched it off him and placed it – folded it – back into the drawer. “It’s nothing, it’s Mum’s, it doesn’t matter.”

I touched the sleeve of the jacket, not sure if Celia was showing it to me simply to show me, or if she was giving it to me. It should have been mine, but you can’t be presumptuous when it comes to family, and history, and handmade dresses, from one sister to another.

“Mum gave it to me years ago, and I’ve worn it a few times, but it’s never quite fit. I feel like the length is all wrong on me. I find the wool really itchy and it’s a bit tight across the front and cuts in a bit, here,” she pinched the tanned wedge of skin at her armpit. “Try it on.”

There’s something not quite right about trying on a woollen cocktail dress and jacket in the middle of a Perth summer, but I would have tried on a diving suit and helmet, if I knew mum had been in it.

The zip was sticky, the lining frayed and the fabric slightly moth-eaten. “It’ll need a bit of mending…” Celia said, as I wriggled myself in, pulling the lining and the dress over my hips. I zipped up the back. Manoeuvring myself into the jacket, I was careful not to push my arm through the tear in the lining. But once it was on, it was as if my dear Aunt Heather had made the dress for me. Mum and I have the same body.

Celia stepped back. I looked down and smoothed down the fabric over my front.

“It fits. It’s not too tight. It doesn’t cut. It’s not itchy. It’s beautiful.”

My aunt had made it for my mum in the 1960s, from a Christian Dior pattern. It’s a sleeveless dress, with a woven trim around the neck and a pleated detail at the waist. It sits just below my knees – where it would have sat on mum. The jacket is cropped, with three-quarter-length sleeves, three woven buttons and a wide collar. I could almost see mum wearing it, with court shoes and nude stockings and a patent leather handbag. Her short curly hair would have been tamed with a few bobby pins.

“You should have it,” Celia said, “You’ll get way more wear out of it than I will.”

We spent the rest of the evening drinking tea, eating shortbread, and talking about our kids and our parents and life. Books and TV shows and movies and pets. How hard it can be to motivate teenaged kids and how tough it can be when you see them wearing too much fake tan and having to keep it to yourself.

Before I went to bed that night, in the stuffy spare room at the back of the house, I carefully packed the dress and jacket into my suitcase. Folding it between skirts and t-shirts so it wouldn’t get creased. Wondering when, and where, I would wear it. Would I tell people its story, who made it and who it belonged to and where it had been for all these years? Or would I wait for someone to comment on ‘that beautiful dress’.

When I got back to Melbourne, I had breakfast with my dad at a busy café on Rathdowne Street. When I mentioned the dress, his eyes filled with tears, and he clasped his hand over his mouth. “Yes, yes, of course I remember that dress. Mum wore it the very first time we went out together.”

photo 2

* First little footnote: Try as I might, I can’t get a good photo of this outfit. Being black, like my black dog Gus, it’s SO hard to get a snap that does it justice. Gus is super cute, the dress is super beautiful, but it just doesn’t come across… But! I’m working on it. Watch this space.

** Second little footnote: I wrote this piece today at a writing class with Catherine Deveny. It’s something I’ve been wanting to get down since receiving the dress, but I’m excellent at putting things off. At the end of the class, when Catherine asked if anyone wanted to read what they’d worked on throughout the day, I put my hand up and said “I think I want to read this”. Good one, Wembolina. Why the hell did I think reading this OUT LOUD in front of a room full of writers would be a good idea?? As soon as I started, my voice started to waver, my cheek started twitching, and my heart actually repositioned itself in my throat. Yes. But… with a red-hot face and shaking hands, I got through it. 

some like it, robert

But not me! Not after 3 days above 40 degrees!!

But I DO really like this song you wrote, when you were in The Power Station. It’s so JAUNTY and bangy and fun! And the film clip is a bit racy too, in typical Robert Palmer style!!

NOTE: I feel like this post is a bit obvious, given the heat in Melbourne and the cries of  ‘feeeeeeeeel the heat’ in this song, but by joves it’s a good one. Don’t bop too much, in case you collapse with exhaustion.

a cuppa tea with me

So I think I told you about my recent toe-dip into the world of online courses? Where I signed up for the wonderful Blog with Pip eCourse with the supernice Pip Lincolne? And I actually kinda sorta did it? You might have noticed a few little changes around here – a bit of a spring clean, if you will – like my fancy new banner (thanks so much Katie!!), and a whizz-bang updated About Me page, and a few other little bits and bobs.

Anyhoo. The other bloggers and I are partaking in a big ol’ cuppa-tea-and-a-biscuit sesh. In the VIRTUAL WORLD! And I’d like to invite you too! You can get to know a little bit more about me, and if you like, you can do the same on your blog, or post a comment about what’s happening in your part of town. Hang on a tic, Imma gonna pop the kettle on and get us some donuts.

Let's have a salted caramel donut instead

Aforementioned donut (it’s salted caramel)

So! I’m Wembolina (obvy), I live in Melbourne (in Victoria, not Florida), and I’m a researcher & writer by day, a social-media-type person for a few different companies after hours, and a cook/dog-walker/cat-patter/reader/crafter/writer/downloader-of-great-TV-shows by night! I live with my luvverly fella and his two (teenage) daughters as well (but I haaaaaaate the term ‘stepmum’, because I don’t have warts on my nose and I don’t lock them in the cellar and we actually all like each other quite a bit). I’m trying to be better at going to the gym and I secretly love the big crossword that comes out in the summer newspapers… I’m also weirdly protective of our wheely bins.

My favourite things to do are eat (!) and drink (!!) with people I love, and people I am getting to know. Having giant Jenga parties with new friends, where we chow down on excellent food while drinking white wine spritzers is in my top 10 things favourite things to do, along with strolling aimlessly with le pooch, watching Degrassi with the girls, and having excellent adventures with my fella.

Some nerds playing giant Jenga.

Some nerds playing giant Jenga.

My favourite place to be? Eeep, am I getting old? It’s in my backyard… Watering plants and eating tomatoes and chatting to whoever might be around.

Favourite food and drink is a toughie for me, because I love just about ALL food and drink! But because we’re in the midst of a heatwave (so it’s sadly not ideal tea-drinking weather) today my faves would be an icy cold beer and a big slice of watermelon. Maybe not together though.

Remember this guy?

This guy was so evil I had to eat him…

I find in-spa-ray-shon in many, many things; weird things I see, conversations I have, and things I read. But the best inspiration comes from people around me – I’m pretty lucky, because I have some wonderfully ace people in my neck of the woods, who make me think differently and outside da box ALL the time!

This year I made a resolution to educate myself more. I want to know more about how brains work and how people operate, so I’ve been reading books on thought processes and the like. I loooooove learning new things, so I’m keen to do more course-type things too (especially around WRITING!).

Some favourite blogs… Well, there are blogs I’ve been reading for aaaaaages (and always love) like Meet Me At Mikes, My Darling Lemon Thyme, banana meet-cute, Gourmet Girlfriendand nothing matters when we’re dancing and ‘Voir Tales (among others!!) to blogs that I’ve discovered through doing Pip’s course, like Grow.Cook.Sew, Little Wolff, miss and misters and Think Big, Live Simply. There are SO many MORE incredible bloggers who have done this course, and I’m super excited about getting stuck into what everyone’s been doing!

So that’s me! What about you? What are some of your favourite things to do, food to eat, places to be, inspirations and blogs, and what do you want to know more about in 2014? And what would your reaction be if you discovered your wheelie bin had been INADVERTENTLY TAKEN BY A NEIGHBOUR/THIEF ON BIN DAY???

surfin’ safari

waves

Whoever woulda thunk that someone like me would be able to hang loose, bro? Not I, said the fly, with my little eye, I would NEVER have thunk I’d be able to casually stand on a board, in actual water, and actually ride a wave to the shore.

Last weekend a group of friends (who I shall refer to as ‘the crew’) and I spent the weekend in a dinky, yet rad, holiday house on Phillip Island, eating pizza, drinking alcohol, and playing Chuck Klosterman’s Hypertheticals. Let us not discuss that ‘the crew’ would all put their own love of the sun ahead of their ability to save another from a random bear attack – seven days later, this is still a sore point.

On Saturday morning we headed to Smith’s Beach, where we met our intrepid leader, Adam, who would be showing us the surf ropes. I instantly made a MASSIVE dick of myself when I requested that everyone in ‘the crew’ – including Adam – call me Brody.

“Why Brody?” Adam enquired.
“Ummm, only after the most significant surfer in the history of early 90s cinema. Ever heard of Point Break?” I smugly replied, only in words far less smug, eloquent, or facetious.
“Urrrm, you mean Bodhi?”

Obviously I meant Bodhi. From the most fabulous surf movie ever made that I have seen. I smacked my forehead in shame…

Anyhoo, on with the lesson. After my Patrick Swayze faux pas, we squeezed ourselves into some tres attractive wetsuits and were partnered with our boards (mine was a 9 footer we’ll call ‘Boardie’). And then, we were off to the beach. ‘The crew’ had now grown to accommodate an 11 year old boy called Deagn, so you can imagine how adept we – a bunch of 30ishes – felt. He was an excellent surfer, who later liked to yell “SMAAAAASH” whenever it appeared one of us might fall from our boards.

Once on the sandy shores of Smiths Beach, we did some cool stuff like:
– Lay on our tummy’s on the sand
– Pushed our chests out and up in a weird sunrise-y yoga-type move, while lying on our tummy’s on the sand
– Fake paddling (on our tummy’s) on the sand
All while a bunch of 6-8 year olds were already riding waves in the ocean.

I’ll be honest. I was not at all into the idea of a surfing weekend. While we were on ‘le world tour’ Rich and I had expressed an interest in learning to surf when we were in Costa Rica, and as soon as I saw the rough waves and ‘real’ surfers, I totally lost my nerve and started to see all the scary things in it; I’ll look like a derb; I’ll crack my head on the board; I’ll get eaten by a shark. When a friend suggested this weekend, I said no and firmly crossed my arms.

But then, I thought about it. Much like the weekend I recently spent horse riding, if I don’t like it, I can always get off and walk (except that I wasn’t actually allowed to get off and walk – instead, I was relegated to the back of the group to ride with two experienced riders who were 9 years old, and, subsequently, I will never get on another horse as long as I live). If I don’t like surfing, I can just sit on the beach and do the meat pie run.

So I gotsta tell ya, it felt pretty momentous getting out into the water and actually standing on a surfboard. And actually staying upright and actually SURFING that flipping wave all the way to the shore (which I’ve never seen a real surfer do, but hell, I felt like a pro). Yes, I was in waist-deep water. Yes, Adam the instructor was pushing the back of my board and telling me when to paddle and when to stand up. But still, I did it.

After 2 hours in the water, getting up, getting dumped, getting thrown around, getting SMAAAAAAAAASHed, our time was up. Waterlogged and bedraggled, we carted our boards back to the shop, stripped out of our uber-flattering wetsuits we had grown to love (and got back into our ‘Melbourne’ civvies), and celebrated our upright achievements with potato cakes and ginger beers at the general store.

While I don’t think it’s super likely I’ll ever ‘just rent a board and ride some waves with the dudes’, I’m pretty chuffed it’s something I did. Just. Did. Too often we get caught up in what we can do and what we think we can’t. I read a quote the other day that said something like: “You can or you can’t. Either way, you’re right”. So when adventures like this present themselves, go with it. You’ll surprise yourself.

You might even do a little gasp when you realise what a point break is.

kiedis_wasteoftime

“That would be a waste of tiiiiiiiiiiime!” says Anthony Kiedis.  To which I reply, No, Surfer Kiedis, it would not.