Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sediments of Ganache

Quote of the year so far:

 "It's not just the crumbs of the cake, it's the sediments of ganache."

A was determined to get as much from the cake tin as possible. I just love his use of the word sediments, not something I would normally associate with cake topping but it worked so well. Needless to say he enjoyed the cake and the sediments.

Spelling for the IPhone age:

"How do you spell Minnie Mouse?" Asked the 16 year old to her younger sister, probably around 8. The older sister was on her IPhone.
The little girl replied, "M-I-N-N-I-E-M-O-U-S-E.", spelling it out for her and the older girl typed it into her phone.
Is anyone else thinking, wait a minute? Shouldn't that be the other way around? And also, I'm sure she could have typed any semblance of Minnie and it would still have shown Minnie Mouse on Google. I don't get it!
This actually happened when I was out shopping with my mum. We both couldn't quite believe it and so I had to write it down. A 16 year old asking an 8 year old for spelling tips, whilst 16 year old was holding a technology that can pretty much tell you anything. Wow.

Now to terrifying events of the last week:

A children's friendly ballet production. Dear lord I've never seen quite so many children in one place before. And so many party dresses and twinkly shoes. Argh!

And as for merchandise, the extremely phallic, light up, pink fluffy wands......well, they could have at least put a star on the end of them. Honestly, they would be classic hen do props. It actually scared me a little. I mean who decided light up penis' were the way forward for an afternoon ballet performance?

And finally, the ending. I mean, "And they all lived happily ever after." Are we still sprouting that bullshit to kids? Really? I thought they might have come up with something better by now. No wonder half the kids were like, "Why has it finished?" "What happened?" "I want more."
We all want more little cherubs. Believe me, we all want more.

Continuing with terrifying events:

We went to see Dark Skies at the cinema last night and it was pretty darn good actually. Nice small part from Juno's dad and some pretty creepy stuff. There was quite a bit of sinking down in your seat and hiding and as A rightly said, "They actually made aliens scary."

But even the creepy, non music at the end (just a weird cycle of the sounds they would hear when the aliens were doing stuff to them) wasn't the scariest bit. When we were leaving I turned around to see only one guy left on the back row, the aisle seat, but I couldn't see his face. (They also hadn't put the lights on.) Yes I realise I probably had post film paranoia, but I actually couldn't see his face at all. So I shit myself a bit and then followed A, knowing we would have to pass him on our way out. (Camden Odeon - Screen 5) But as we walked past him and I realised he did have a face, I kept thinking, oh God, he's gonna get up or he's gonna grab me. After we'd passed him there were a few steps down to the exit door and I kept looking behind me, sure he would be hot on our tail. And then as soon as we exited the door, I screamed, pushed A down the rest of the stairs and burst into hysterical laughter.

Scary film + crazy imagination + plus post film paranoia = seeing things that aren't there + shitting yourself up.

Now that's maths!

It wasn't all bad though - despite the soggy Camden walk home - because there was time for a little porn for myself. Yes, yes, yes! Walking past the Irregular Choice shop, knowing you can't afford any of the shoes and dribbling on the window. That's some serious girl porn for you. Oh baby!

And now to sleep patterns and waking up singing that stupid song off the stupid Sony advert:

I seem to have fallen into that weird sleep pattern again, where it takes me around an hour and a half to get to sleep, once I'm in bed. I'm tossing and turning and thinking and annoyingly still waking up at least once in the early hours, sometimes twice. Also, A gets up around 6.30, whereas my alarm is safely set for 8.00 most days, so sleep is alluding me at the moment. Or I'm getting little bits here and there. And I keep dreaming of random people, some of whom I haven't seen in donkey's years. I'm talking sixth form college, uni, occasionally high school. I mean, what the feck? Why is my head dredging up a backlash of crap from years ago? Like that's gonna help me sleep.

And to make matters worse, I keep waking up singing that stupid song off the stupid Sony advert. Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo. Argh!

Lack of sleep does strange things to us and I don't think it will improve this weekend as A is away two nights at a stag do. Will try not to move bedding to the couch and live there for three days, but I can't guarantee anything.

And finally to chunky thighs:

I'm not talking chicken, I'm talking thighs to rival Beyonce's. Dear lord, whoever thought sitting on your ass at a computer all day instead of running round after 20 kids would leave you slightly chunky and unfit? All of you? Well yeah, me too! And it's happened but luckily I'm on it. Two workouts a week, possibly a jog if the weather's nice enough and an attempt to eat slightly less. This is not just Bridesmaid preparation, this is for me, because when you can barely contain your thighs in your jeans, it's time to shave off a couple of inches.
(Especially as finding jeans for me usually takes around two years, so replacing jeans is a tricky business. Not least of all because the choices are limited to skinny, ridiculously skinny and painted on. I will not wear jeans unless they are flared or wide leg and no, freakin' bootcut won't cut it. They're pathetic and actually have no room for boots. They lie.) Sorry, what was I ranting about?????

Anyhoo, I'm on it. I won't let myself balloon. I won't be the stereotypical writer with a bar of chocolate on hand and an ass that can't get out of the chair. I won't!

I should probably go, I've warbled on enough for one day. Teaching this afternoon. Shame it's so grey and miserable. Ah well. As they say, "Drip, drip, drop little April showers."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Sarky Traveller. Santa Monica and Venice Beaches. Los Angeles.

Hello fellow travellers. When we last met I was taking you on a whirlwind tour of Downtown LA and now I'm going to discuss a pleasant afternoon/evening's worth of sights around the coast.

All The Sarky Traveller blogs now have a new home on

LA has so much to offer, not least of all it's Downtown and inland areas, but with a West Coast line stretching far and wide and some of the best weather, you're guaranteed a pleasant trip to the sea, no matter what time of year you go. (Unlike Blackpool or any British Seaside resort where you are guaranteed rain, chilly winds and the occasional appearance of the sun - if you're lucky.)

Again, my holidays always have an element of speed tourism. We have to fit in as much as we can in a short space of time, which obviously involves a lot of compromise, but also leaves us plenty to do when we inevitably return. (We love the US!) So, with the beaches, we had to make a decision: Stay closer to town and investigate Santa Monica and Venice; or shimmy further afield to Malibu or South to Long Beach.

Now for us it really was no question: two for the price of one, that gets you extra points when speed touring. And besides I had very negative - probably completely unfounded - views about Malibu. In my head it is lots of women with tiny waists and mahoosive fake boobs, with died blonde hair, wearing roller skates and tiny denim shorts. (I realise this may have been influenced by Baywatch....possibly....) And the men are all arrogant posers, wearing wife beaters and small neon coloured shorts, or even worse, no tops at all.  Eeeshk. But as I never went there, I can't say for certain. That's just how it exists in my head.

Long Beach was just too far out of our way and so we opted for the uber cool if slightly seedy Venice Beach and the really beautiful Santa Monica. (Two for the price of one.) They join in to one another but the distance is further than you think. So unless you have many hours to walk up to Santa Monica pier and back to Venice (or vice versa depending on where you park) then I suggest hiring a bike. They have such a wonderful bike path meandering along next to the sand, with plenty to see, do, stop off at, eat and drink along the way.

 The iconic lifeguard stations. Act out your favourite Baywatch fantasy. Pretend you're running to save someone's life with your little red float and your swimming costume riding up so high you give yourself a front and back wedgie. (No really, it's fun!)

A sweeping look from Venice, all the way to Santa Monica Bay and Malibu.

There are various bike hire places in Venice and Santa Monica. They are super reasonable. You can hire for a little as an hour and as long as a whole day. You can also gain useful things like a padlock for them and helmets, all at small additional costs. Some things are just a deposit and you get it back once you return, the padlock for definite. Others are a flat fee, non returnable. But all in all it is the best way to speedily soak up as much LA coast as you can in a short time. And the bike path is spectacular. 

It follows the coast, sometimes right on the sand, other times shimmying inland slightly. There are parks to stop off at; gyms; playgrounds; cafes; restaurants. You pass by volley ball nets, amazing beach front houses, in all crazily kookie designs and of course the iconic and tremendously beautiful Santa Monica Pier. You also pass by the Venice Boardwalk which runs parallel to the cycle path for a short time and you later pass over to the Santa Monica part of the beach, with various places to disembark and explore, including 3rd Street Promenade, which I will come to later.

 Santa Monica Pier, complete with Roller coaster and Big Wheel.

 Anyone for a game of volleyball? Maybe not in this wind.

Some funky houses. All colours. All shapes. All sizes. Only God knows how much they cost.

Just a brief heads up. If you know in advance you're going to cycle - which I did not - then wear shorts or something which will not enable you to flash to all and sundry. (Of course this is a girly notion. Boys wear whatever you like just make sure the balls are strapped in.)  I wore a dress and flashed to just about everyone. Ah well. It's not like I'm going to see anyone again. Besides, who'd want to gander at the pasty, freckled Brit when there were plenty of American Beauties out there. 

The cycle can take as long or as short as you need it to. You can stop off along the way, just watch when you do stop in the cycle lane as it is a very popular way of getting around and not everyone is laid back and taking it easy. If in doubt ring your bell and check your blind spot, you'll be fine. It will probably take about 20 minutes to cycle there and is around 2 and a half miles from Venice to Santa Monica Pier. 

 On the pier. And the end of the famous Route 66. There's a shop dedicated to Route 66 as well, at the end of the pier.

 Looking along the pier. There are food stalls, an amusement park, restaurants, cafes and other shops.

Looking back along the beach to Venice in the distance.

There are plenty of places to lock up the bikes and head for an explore on the pier. And you might even get friendly with a local.

 The Pelican posing for photos. He was there for ages and there was a queue of people waiting to have their picture taken with him, though most kept their distance. He was a rather big chap.

 Mr Seagull and a view of Santa Monica.

If you go out of season as we did, then definitely take advantage of a ride or two at Pacific Park. They will let you stay on for a free ride and they limit what's open so you don't have to make huge decisions. I think there was only four rides open when we went and we took advantage of two of them: The Roller coaster (which compared to The Manhattan Express in Vegas or come to that The Caterpillar ride at Camelot - Chorley, Lancashire, England - was nothing.) and the Pirate Ship which swings you high, so high you feel you're never going to come back down, or you may lose your stomach on the way back. Hilarious though, especially when there's only like three people on each ride. 


Evil pirate ship thing. The little girl on the other end couldn't stop crying. I couldn't stop laughing.

So, once you've taken in the delights of the pier, you of course have the option to keep going on the cycle path. Apparently there's around 22 miles of the stuff. But if like us, you have time restrictions then maybe head on into Santa Monica and check out the town itself. If you like to shop then 3rd Street Promenade is a lovely wide-laned, pedestrian street, with lots of shops, cinemas, restaurants and department stores. But it has such a different feel to a mall. There's so much space and you experience that thrill of being close to the sea, even if you can't see it. It's definitely a cool place to while away a couple of hours.

 Cool Italian restaurant, with plenty of alfresco dining possibilities.

 The dinosaurs of 3rd street Promenade. Well worth a look.

 Expect buskers and some nice street entertainment.

 The palm lined, pedestrian promenade.

I love that they have these magazine selling places in America. You can get a magazine about pretty much anything. Amazing!

 Trees and flowers and space to sit and enjoy the early evening.

 I couldn't resist Mr Triceratops as well, sitting on his little mound.

3rd Street Promenade ends in a small mall of chains and department stores, again with palms. 

So, after a little shopping detour, or of course a cinema or eating detour, then it's time to head off back to Venice beach to return the bikes. You pay the full balance when you return, so it doesn't matter if you take more than expected, they just charge you by the hour. It's very flexible and laid back, just as you imagine California to be. 

Once back at Venice, you have to walk the slightly seedy, often wacky and sometimes down right creepy, Boardwalk. Oh but please not at night. Definitely before the sun goes down. And for those Tenacious D fans out there, think, The Pick of Destiny when they're busking in the early years. He he. 

 The Venice Outdoor Gym. For all those posers who want to exercise in front of the masses.

 This is California! The amount of Green Physicians along the Boardwalk was amazing. Are you sure you don't want some pot? No really, make up an excuse, we'll give you some! Ha ha.

Not forgetting Botox on the Beach, right next door to your Marijuana supplier. Genius!

 There's lots of interesting artwork and graffiti, as well as this stunning Van Gogh copy.

And if you get time for a walk around Venice or at least a quick photograph on the drive out of Venice, watch out there are lots of interesting sights and buildings.

Venice is wacky, it's big, it's in your face and it's fun and colourful. It is also full of interesting people but also some shady people. As I said before, in the daytime it's a hove of excitement, food, shopping, busking and what looks like people too young to be doctors, offering you medical marijuana. But by night it could be quite scary. I don't recommend a stroll after sundown, we are talking serious drugs and no polite doctors issuing them out. It's almost like a beach front Camden, with much better weather.

Santa Monica was definitely the highlight for me, but it's so interesting how two neighbouring areas can be so different. LA really is so much more than I thought it would be and there seems to be a niche for everyone. Somewhere that you could feel at home within its monstrous sprawl. Even pasty English people with allergies to the sun can actually enjoy a seaside experience and enjoy a bike ride. If only all cycle paths were like that. 

When returning to your hotel/place to stay/friend's house/restaurant/etc, just watch out for the traffic. They aren't lying when they say LA has some of the busiest highways. Most of them are 6 lanes across each way and most of them are chockablock!

That's all for now. Join me next time when I'll be exploring the joys of Universal Studios, Halloween Horror Nights and The Griffith Observatory.

The Sarky Traveller