Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sayonara squirrels, it's been fun...

Squirrel of Studio CitySo another day, another driving lesson. Only a few more days to enjoy driving around Burbank and Glendale before the big move.

Sadly we'll be leaving behind the squirrel infested neighbourhood, but I have a feeling there may be some in West Hollywood too (even though I'm sure they'll be a bit more coiffed and glamorous there).

Unfortunately, today I saw a squashed squirrel on the road (it wasn't me), so that's one less 'Tufty' running around!

So my normal blogging service resumes today after a few days of sharing some places to eat in L.A. I swear to god, if I wasn't jogging nearly every day I'd be the size of a house with all the places we've eaten out.

In addition to being able to start settling in properly once we're in our new accommodation, with a proper postal address I'll Squirrel on the roof in Burbankfinally be able to spend the fabulous Amazon.com vouchers my lovely work friends and colleagues gave me when I left IPC Media.


I'm sure you can imagine the delights I'll be buying. I'm thinking Madonna's new Hard Candy CD and just a few DVDs - Juno, Cloverfield, I am Legend, Jumper, 27 Dresses, Disturbia, Stardust, 30 Days of Night....as you can see, I've still got great taste!

Aside from that we've got loads of other boxes of DVDs being delivered next week to entertain us, let's just hope all our stuff has made it all safely across the ocean and through customs.

Just to update you on the latest Dancing with the Stars news, Shannon Elizabeth and her partner, Derek Hough, are the latest casualties of the dancefloor. No amount of on screen romance or fake butt and bust implants was going to save her after Dancing with the Stars Season Sixbeing criticised for lack of hip action in the past and her gawky dancing on Monday.

Also shockingly Def Leppard performed on the Tuesday night show. They really do stretch out the results show, but surely only in America could you have a British rock band on a ballroom dancing show.

We also had other dramas when Cristian de la Fuente pulled a tendon in his arm and still made it through the voting to the next round - bad news for him is that the judges are going to allow lifts in the routines next week, doh!

That's it for now, I'm off to make the most of my time with the squirrels before we have to say goodbye...

p.s. great news - I've now had over 1,000 visitors to my blog - hoorah! I know some websites get that in an hour, but I think that's great going for my little endeavour. Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Light lunches and more places to eat out in L.A....

The fab thing about moving to L.A. has been how friends have taken us under their wing and shown us great places to go for lunch or dinner, or even close to the beach!

So after highlighting where to eat in West Hollywood, 5 great places to dine out in Studio City and where to go for breakfast in L.A., here's my guide to a few other cafes and restaurants you may like to try out here in Los Angeles.

Prado - 244 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles.

This is a great place to grab a laid-back light lunch, inside or out. Apparently, their food is a mixture of Caribbean, Latin and Louisiana Cajun cuisine, but whatever it was we both had large and tasty salads.

It's a nice neighbourhood, so a great place to just relax and have a quiet bite to eat.

Lu Lu's Cafe - 7149 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles.

Lu Lu's Cafe on Beverly BlvdA friend invited us to Lu Lu's for a tasty light lunch. It serves breakfast, sandwiches and yummy salads.

Between us all we had the Garden Burger Salad (vegetarian) and the Traditional Chopped Salad (which had chicken). They are a good size and won't break the bank!

The Farm of Beverly Hills at The Grove - 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles.

Pop in to The Farm when you're at The Grove shopping to grab a quick bite to eat or a coffee. You can dine inside or on the patio area and watch the world go buy.

The interior is a big airy space with high ceiling and wood beams, it's very cool and tranquil when you've been racing through the hordes of shoppers.The Grove dancing fountainsYou'll find it right next to The Grove movie theatre and if you want you can even take your Farm food in with you to watch your film!

Cafe Stella - 3932 W Sunset Blvd, Silver Lake.

This place was a real surprise and another find by a friend. Hidden away in Silver Lake, we'd never have found it on our own.

It's a French Bistro so the European feel made us feel at home amongst all the tex-mex, American diners and fast food restaurants to be found here in L.A.

There's an outside seating area, but we sat inside. The food and wine was great.

The only downside for me was that the tables were too close together, so there's not much personal dining space.

Cafe des Artiste - 1534 N McCaddon Place, Hollywood.

Five of us dined here on a Saturday night and really liked the venue and had nice food.

We're still getting used to portion sizes in the U.S., so the appetizer was the size of a UK main meal in a restaurant. By the time I had the seafood paella I was so full, but it was good food.

The only problem with the evening was that the waiters weren't the friendliest and service not the best (which seems strange in such a tipping culture). I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they were having an off night!

Arclight Cafe Bar at Arclight Hollywood
- 6360 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles.
ArcLight Hollywood cinemaHere's another top tip, maybe for when you go straight from work to see a movie.
We grabbed a bite to eat at the Cafe Bar at the Arclight Hollywood. We didn't have much time before our movie, but we grabbed a drink at the bar and only had to wait a couple of minutes to be seated.

The great thing was that when ordering they took into account when our movie was starting, so it was a super-fast and friendly service. The food was more than OK too!

Plus the Arclight is the perfect place to watch a movie!

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe - Paradise Cove, Malibu, CA.Paradise Cove Malibu

Finally, not that you have much choice of venues to eat there, but for a great day at the beach try the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe.

My top tip is to get your name on list for food as soon as you get there as it can take up to two hours to get a seat.

You'll get a lobster pager, so you can relax on the beach for a while until a table is ready, then get out of the sun over lunch and then sleep it off, or alternatively walk off your lunch on the beach afterwards.Paradise Cove Malibu beachSo that's it for my suggestions for places to eat out in L.A., tomorrow normal blogging resumes...

7 fabulous places to eat out in West Hollywood...

So with eight weeks officially on U.S. soil under our belts living here in Los Angeles, plus several visits before that, here's some top tips for fellow tourists, new transplants to L.A. or those looking to try somewhere different to eat in West Hollywood.

Here are my seven top picks of favourite bars, cafes and restaurants in WEHO.

PLACES TO EAT OUT IN & AROUND WEST HOLLYWOOD

Dolce - 8284 Melrose Avenue. UPDATED: 5 Nov 09 DOLCE has now closed.
Dolce restaurant on Melrose
Dolce serves classic, yet cool Italian food from 6pm every night in a hip and trendy environment. The main dining area has a funky fire display behind the bar as the main feature and provides the wow factor for the decor, but the food is also fab.

Although pricey, the style and ambiance of the place is worth it and it's a great for people watching if you get a good seat.

As a cocktail lover, I did find the drinks to be a bit 'hit and miss' though, with some of them being far too sweet.

Ketchup - 8590 Sunset Blvd.
Ketchup restaurant on Sunset BlvdKetchup is a fun and lively place to eat. Funnily enough it's part of the Dolce Group, but is a totally different dining experience from Dolce. After you arrive and are escorted up the stairs (or in the elevator), you pretty much get the theme of Ketchup when you're assaulted by the funky red decor.

This place is a hot spot with the young crowd (oh my god, I feel so old at 33, but young at heart still counts) and it's very buzzy and loud - I found it quite hard to hold a conversation across the booth tables.

The food is a variety of inventive twists on classic American cuisine, so mini hotdogs smothered in chili or mini Kobe burger Sliders, fries with several different homemade ketchup and pretty much 'mini' everything else.

Another interesting feature was the cocktail lady who wheeled around with her trolley of drinks suggesting we sample some movie inspired beverages, featuring such American kids favourites as Kool-Aid, Sunny Delight and Yoo Hoo.

I'm looking forward to trying this place again when I'm not so jet-lagged!

O-Bar - 8279 Santa Monica Blvd.
O Bar restaurant Santa MonicaAs well as serving great food, this West Hollywood haunt has a great looking bar with very attractive bar staff (always a bonus).

It's a fairly relaxed dining experience and the decor and music are fab too!
I last ate there on Friday night and had the Mixed Baby Green Salad which is a great appetizer to start with two of my favourite salad ingredients, poached pears and blue cheese -yum!

I had one of the specials that was recommended by our waiter, which was a Santa Monica Sea bass. It was cooked to perfection and on a bed of a curried carrot puree (although a little less sauce would have made the dish better). Three of us had this dish and all liked it.

Another friend had the 'Nice Mussels' and fries which were equally tasty and on a previous occasion I've had the Pistachio Crusted Yellow Tail and I can recommend that as well.

The deserts were enormous and incredible. I had the Peanut Butter Chocolate Truffle Cake, which tastes as good as it sounds, plus the rest of my party sampled the giant chocolate chip cookie served in an iron skillet and topped with three scoops of vanilla ice-cream and the Lemon Chiffon Cheesecake. There wasn't much left of any of them at the end.

Marix - 1108 N Flores Street.
Marix restaurant West Hollywood
Tex-mex, big muscley men and margaritas. What more could you ask for on a Sunday afternoon in West Hollywood.

Enjoy complimentary tortilla chips and homemade salsa at the bar whilst you wait for your table at this lively and bustling gay hangout.

Lots of fun with friends, great for people watching (or cruisey, you decide), and funnily enough I don't think people come here just for the food!

Grab a margarita and enjoy!

Cafe D'etoile - 8941 Santa Monica Blvd.
Cafe D etoile sidewalk seating
I really like Cafe D'etoile. It was the first place I ever dined out in L.A. and although I was extremely jet-lagged, I still have fond memories of it. It reminds me a bit of Balans in London, but is slightly smaller, has nicer staff and has the fab outside sidewalk space.

The food has always been great whenever we've eaten here and it's just a nice spot for a late lunch with a glass of Kir Royale to watch the world pass by.

Asia de Cuba - The Mondrian, 8440 Sunset Blvd.
Mondrian poolsideThis is the place if you want an ultra-cool night out in L.A. The interior is super-chic and you can also dine outside on the fabulously stylish patio. With stunning views of L.A. and top-class service, this is the place to come to impress and enjoy delicious food.

The cuisine is Asian/Cuban and dishes are served 'family style', so you can try and share lots of different delights. I'd recommend the 'ropa vieja' of duck, jumbo sea scallops and the pan seared ahi tuna, which is just melt in the mouth goodness.

It's expensive, but worth the treat!

The Abbey - 692 N Robertson Blvd.
The Abbey interior
Another site of too many margaritas, this is a great popular gay bar in WEHO with a brilliant outside courtyard. The cocktails are strong, there's lots of eye-candy and they also serve food (which I've yet to sample).

Stay tuned for more great places to eat out in L.A...

Monday, April 28, 2008

5 great places to eat in Studio City, California...

Firefly restaurant exterior in Studio CityAs we've been living in Burbank for the last two months we've been eating out a lot in Studio City.

So here are a few tasty places to try out in Studio City, from Cal-mex to Argentinian food, budget bites to expensive dining and from breakfast to dinner ideas.

PLACES TO EAT OUT IN STUDIO CITY

Firefly - 11720 Ventura Blvd, Studio City

The best restaurant in Studio City by far, but probably one of the most expensive too! This is a cool, trendy place to dine out, from the library themed reception bar to the high ceilings of the main dining area.

One downside I found was that the lighting can be a little dim at times, not great when you're trying to read the menu. But I suppose it creates a romantic ambiance and hides the Hollywood celebrities who want to dine in anonymity.

The seafood was great though, so look forward to dining there again!

Tommy Rays - 12345 Ventura Blvd, Studio City 


UPDATED: 17 OCT 08 - Tommy Rays has now closed!

As well as being the venue for celebrity spotting, as with my Teri Hatcher encounter, Tommy Ray's is a great place to sit outside and drink cocktails. They also seem to have special cocktails du jour and I sampled a gingery pomegranate cosmopolitan concoction was was very nice.

Unfortunately, when I wanted another they had started to run out of the ingredients, so the second attempt tasted nothing like the first drink. They even ran out of orange juice, and it was mid-afternoon, so they still had evening to go, so not so great.

We had a friendly waitress though who laughed along with us and made us feel welcome, but then in my British naivete I always forget that they are also after a good tip at the end of the day - I like to think she was just a nice person. She made our meal more pleasurable anyway.

We ate from the lunch menu and so I only had a chicken sandwich or something, but it was a plentiful portion and more than enough for a Sunday afternoon bite to eat. So I would recommend it for a fun lunch with friends.

Mexicali Cocina Cantina on Ventura Blvd, Studio CityMexicali - 12161 Ventura Blvd, Studio City

I've spoken about this Cal-mex restaurant in a previous blog when we were looking for a place to live in L.A., but it's worth letting you know about it as it's a fun place to eat.

Mexicali attracts a young 30-something crowd and has a sports bar feel (so not where you'd normally find me). The music is quite loud (and a bit schizophrenic - from camp disco to American rock), so it's hard to have a proper conversation, but the OK tex-mex food (although my palate for Mexican style food is not that experienced), fast friendly service and strong margaritas are a plus!

LALA's - 11935 Ventura Blvd, Studio City.LALA's Argentine Grill in Studio City

If you fancy an inexpensive, tasty bite to eat try LALA's Agrentine Grill. Portions sizes are generous, service fast and staff are friendly.

One downside for me is that they don't have a proper spirits liquor license, so instead of a vodka Cosmopolitan I got a 'I can't believe it's not a Cosmo' cocktail, made from some kind of vodka substitute - I wouldn't recommend it!

It's not a place you'd go for fine dining, but if you're hungry it's great.

Aroma Cafe - see my previous blog entry on the joy's of this fab Cafe on Tujunga Avenue, which is a great place for breakfast, but which also serves a lunch and dinner menu all day too. Plus the cakes, muffins and cookies all look pretty amazing too!

Tomorrow, fabulous places to eat in West Hollywood...

Where to eat breakfast in Los Angeles and maybe a few places to avoid...

Now that we've been here nearly two months, I thought it only fair to share our culinary learning's and help you find where to eat out in L.A. and maybe a few places that may not be to your liking.

So if you're planning a trip or just want to dine out in a different part of Los Angeles, I hope my own dining experiences at various bars, cafes and restaurants will be of help. Today a few ideas of where to go for Breakfast!

PLACES TO EAT BREAKFAST IN L.A.

Aroma Cafe - 4360 Tujunga Ave, Studio City. Aroma Cafe on Tujunga Avenue
This is fast becoming a favourite of ours for Sunday morning breakfast. It's open 6am Monday to Saturday and 7am on Sunday. There's a great breakfast menu to choose from that's served until 2.30pm (plus a further lunch/dinner menu served until 11pm daily). There's also lots of space to eat outside, which is quite sheltered from the sun and they have a very dog-friendly policy.

I recommend the omelette's and my latest personal favourite ingredients are - sun-dried tomato, asparagus, feta cheese and smoked salmon. The portion sizes are not too overwhelming, plus all their cakes look amazing!

Alcove Cafe - 1929 Hillhurst Ave, Los Feliz.

The Alcove Cafe & Bakery describes itself as a strategic partner and as drawing their inspiration from Aroma, and you can see the similarities in food choice and dining style. As with Aroma you queue to order your breakfast and then tak
e your drinks and a number to your table.
Again there's great outdoor space and friendly atmosphere. Open Monday to Wednesday 6am until 11pm, Thursday to Saturday 6am until Midnight and 7am until 11pm Sundays.

Mel's drive-in - 1660 N Highland, Hollywood.
Mel's Drive-in sign
This nostalgic American diner is definitely a tourist attraction and can be conveniently found across the street from the Kodak Theatre, site of the Oscars.

So it's handy to see the local Hollywood sites, but I didn't think the food or service was particularly anything special. However, another bonus is that it's open 24 hours on Friday and Saturday for all you night owls!

Asia de Cuba at The Mondrian, 8440 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood.
Poolside at Mondrian Sky Bar
One of L.A.'s hottest restaurants at night serving nouveau Asian-Latino fusion cuisine, their breakfast menu is pretty tasty to. I was fortunate to stay at the Mondrian for a few nights and enjoyed their breakfast offering. The service is fantastic and you can either dine inside in the chic white interior or on the gorgeous open air patio with stunning views of L.A.

As they say, you get what you pay for and if it's a sophisticated way to start the day or a place to meet for a chic business breakfast (or if you have so much money it hurts), then this is the place for you!
Jason relaxing at Sky Bar

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A bed, a sofa, an iMac and one more margarita...

Lulu's Cafe on Beverly BlvdApologies for the lateness of blog entries this weekend my loyal readers, but we've been a tad busy!

As I mentioned before, Friday night we had dinner at O-Bar in West Hollywood with our friends Mike and Richard, which was great, but wasn't a late one as everyone (!) had been hard at work all week and we knew we had mucho shopping to do this weekend.

Our mission, should we choose to accept it, was to find a new bed and sofa for our new WEHO pad. At first it sounds simple, but when you don't know where any of the retailers are and are not familiar with the brands available it becomes a little harder.

So with some helpful hints from Charlie's workmates (and some prior internet research) we ventured out shopping on Saturday morning. It's been soooooo hot this weekend and in the high 90's (those Santa Ana winds blowing in from the desert) - so basically like walking through a wall of heat. We're finally understanding why no one walks in L.A. and why they all drive around in their air conditioned, climate controlled cars!

Before we got really stuck in we met with an old work colleague of Charlie's at Lulu's Cafe on Beverly Blvd. We sat outside (we're getting used to it in California) and had some tasty salads, then with some more furniture store tips we headed off sofa and bed hunting!

I know it all sounds like a lovely day floating around the shops, but when you've looked in your third or fourth shop and you can't find any style you like, or the sofa's are too big or the wrong shape, or the beds have no storage space underneath them or the price is too expensive or not practical for a new puppy, it's not so fun. By around 4pm we were feeling a bit demoralised, especially as we weren't that sure about the dimensions of our new apartment and whether furniture would fit, as we're not living there yet.Shopping in Beverly Hills

Anyway, we had another special chore to do on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, so almost defeated we headed there. As fate would have it there's a nice size Crate & Barrel store on North Beverly Hills Drive and by about 5.30pm we were ready to do some serious furniture shopping.

We'd seen some things last weekend at The Grove, so it wasn't out of total desperation, and we do like the brand and products they have. So we finally found our new Steele sofa, queen size Elan oak bed and two matching bed-side cabinets (or nightstands), all in stock and to be delivered in our first week at the new condo.

To say we were relieved was an understatement and I know other people may be a bit more relaxed about the whole process, but we live spending time at home and want it to be as comfortable (and stylish as possible), hence all the worry and effort. Now we have the basics (plus we've already bought some garden furniture for the roof terrace, sofa for the upstairs area and other bedroom storage form our new landlords, so the rest can come when we get settled in and more familiar with L.A. furniture stores.

So that was Saturday and after a trip to do some grocery shopping we were happy to stay in and watch another Harry Potter film with some 'light' Ben & Jerry's ice-cream (36% less fat apparently) and some more Californian 'I can't believe it's not champagne'.

Sunday has been another shopping day extravaganza, hence the late blog entry! Our friend Richard was also busy yesterday, this time buying a shiny new BMW car (I'm not sure about makes or models, but it's a nice Californian white - in that you can really get away with white cars here when it's so sunny, whereas in the UK they don't look as cool. I actually zoned out over breakfast at Aroma Cafe in Studio City when everyone else got very animated about the joys of BMWs, Mercedes and even engine types...all very exciting I'm sure, but I'll stick to what looks good!) My new snickers, I mean...sneakers
So chauffeur driven in a gleaming white BMW convertible, we sped over to the Galleria shopping centre in Sherman Oaks to look at a shoe shop to see if we could grab any bargains. Result! A new pair of New Balance trainers (or to use the American vernacular, 'sneakers' - isn't that a chocolate bar?). Now hopefully I won't get huge blisters walking over to Burbank anymore.

Then after stopping at another trainer store to no avail (it seemed to be having a refurb even though it was open), we zoomed down to Santa Monica to look at new TVs. Amongst all the massive screens, we think we've seen a Sony Bravia 40 inch that we like and maybe another smaller TV too. But today was a fact finding mission, so then it was off to The Grove to look at a lovely new computer.

The joy of being driven around all day shopping is that:

  • one - you don't have to drive

  • two - you're being driven by someone who knows where they are going (therefore taking all the stress out of the situation)

  • three - it's more fun when there's four of you

  • and four - we have friends who work with TVs and Macs all day (and night for their sins) long and so we get an expert opinion of a superuser, without the hard sell of a salesperson on commission.

Before The Grove we made a pit-stop at Starbucks (there really is one on every corner, along with the Psychics and nailbars), where I discovered my newest favourite drink - a green tea frappuccino. I'm not a fan of coffee (which is a shame as I love the fact there are so many varieties and it's such a nice coffee culture), and it's way too hot in the day for a British cuppa, so I thought I'd try something new! The frappuccino basically seems to have a gazillion calories (although I forewent the whipped cream on top), but is iced, cool and refreshing and is lime green - yum!!Jason in Hollywood's new car!

Anyway, our next stop on our shopping marathon was the Apple store at The Grove. We love our little laptop, but it's not great to spend so much time looking at such a small screen, so we've decided to super-size it and go all out for a 24 inch screen iMac. It's super sleek and stylish and just like a big new toy to play with.


We've opted for the wireless keyboard and mouse, plus an all-in-one printer, scanner & copier and god knows what other software and trimmings - it's much more fun computer shopping! We're not even going to try and take it out of its box until we get to our new home and can get our friendly neighbourhood expert to hook it all up for us, then let the magic begin!

After the excitement of giving Apple lots of money I had a minor sunglasses malfunction outside, so one little screw and over $10 later I was utterly glamorous and operational again.

So to celebrate our successful shopping spree we took ourselves off to another gay institution in West Hollywood, and conveniently just round the corner from our new condo, Marix. It's a tex-mex restaurant and bar (don't let the images on their website fool you, it's not as sedate as those pictures imply) with a buzzy atmosphere and filled to the rafters with gym buff bunnies and their admirers (so basically your local WEHO crowd).

Anyway, after our friend Richard spotting the guy who played Ted Schmidt in theJack Mackenroth from Project Runway Season 4 American series of Queer as Folk in Aroma this morning, we had our second confirmed celebrity sighting (we have to officially see them ourselves for them to count!). This won't mean much to non-Bravo TV viewers, but we saw Jack Mackenroth from Project Runway season 4. Even though he had to dramatically leave the series mid-way, he's lucked out with a cameo appearance in the new Sex and the City movie and more importantly, he's much more pumped in person.

How much excitement can you take in one day I hear you ask. Well, just to make sure that I'd not suddenly developed an allergy to tequila I bravely sampled another margarita (following a trusty vodka and coke) and I now know the difference between a small (wine glass size) and large (pint glass size) drink. And I've still managed to write this blog entry (so apologies for any spelling mistakes - although I do have the U.S. version of spell check on, so I'm sure before long I'll be losing a 'u' here or there soon).

Check back for more exciting adventures every day (when you're lucky)...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Life is like a box of chocolates...

Almost empty Godiva chocolate boxWhat do you mean Forrest, empty inside apart from the yucky coffee flavoured ones?? If in fact life is like a box of chocolates, I would hope it's like the yummy chocs and truffles in this Godiva box that Charlie treated me too.

For some reason he's under the misconception that being stuck at home all day on my own is some kind of hardship. Obviously I'm not in a rush to set him straight on this matter quite yet, but it was very sweet nonetheless.

So today, aside from munching on some chocs (by the way we have been sharing them the last few nights), I've been out driving again. I think I'm getting the hang of it now, but famous last words and all that.

You know, writing a blog is like having tourette's at times - one minute you're thinking something and the next it's out there on the world wide web for all to see. Story of my life really!

Aside from the obvious verbal diarrhea you get writing a blog, there are many positive aspects to it as well.
It's fun, it's mentally stimulating (I hardly have time to watch any TV), it keeps my finger in the online pie, it's like a diary in that it allows you to share your feelings, it allows you keep friends and family up to date with your adventures and I'm sure in the future it will be amazing to look back and see what I've created and have a good laugh.

There are some things you do have to be careful of though. Exactly how much do you share? If everyone can see and read what you're thinking, do you stop being honest or massage the truth? Is it safe? In these days of the 'look at me generation' it's a fine balance between egotistical grandstanding and feeling you have something to contribute.

The lovely grounds of our new West Hollywood padOne of the greatest challenges to us when I was working in magazine publishing (not so long ago) was the advent of self-publishing and the phenomenon of blogging, YouTube and the like.

As a society we've gone from big media owners pushing content out to the masses to individuals and communities creating free content, interacting and having a go themselves. I think it's a very exciting time and so am happy to be jumping on this bandwagon, even if I'm not one of the pioneers (just need to make some money from it now!).


Anyway, you may be wondering why I'm not out running today. Well yesterday when I told you I'd raced over to the cinema in Burbank (which turned out to be closed), I did say my feet were sore afterwards. Imagine my surprise when upon closer inspection I noticed I had a humongous blister on the heel of my left foot just waiting to burst. So no running until that's gone down methinks.

Last night we also had the opportunity to meet some of our new neighbours over a glass of wine at the West Hollywood complex we'll be living at soon. It was really nice and we were made to feel welcome. Our fears about moving in to 'Shady Pines' (or Palms) and befriending the cast of the Golden Girls were laid to rest, but we have now confirmed that over 40% of West Hollywood is made up of gay men. So we'll be in good company!!

The only reason we thought it might have an older clientele was that it's so lovely, with manicured, well kept grounds, and it's been so quiet whenever we've been there (but let's wait and see what it's like 24/7).

So it's Friday and tonight we're off to the O-Bar on Santa Monica Blvd in WEHO for a bite to eat, but we don't want a late one as we've got lots of furniture shopping to do this weekend. Wish us luck...View of the Hollywood Hills from our new condo terrace

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On the one hand I have a maid, on the other I have no salary...

I know life is so tough, but hear me out, I'm not a total snob.

Thursday is the day the maid comes to clean our temporary accommodation, so the dilemma for me is what time will she come and what can I do to get out of her way. In the seven weeks we've being staying here in Burbank, California, she's arrived either at 9am on the dot or alternatively from 2.30pm onwards.
Burbank Rancho Equestrian neighbourhood signAs you can imagine it's hard to know what to do for the best, as I hate to think that she has to clean around me. We never had a cleaner in London and we're perfectly capable of cleaning a two bedroom flat ourselves, so I feel a bit awkward when she comes to clean.

Add to that the fact that her English isn't very good (oh how I wish I'd studied Spanish and not Italian in my last few weeks at work!) and Thursday's can be a bit odd.

To remedy this situation I've tried to get out of the house - either booking a driving lesson, going to the supermarket, for a run or to watch a film. Today I was up and out early, deciding to go for a walk around the neighbourhood as we're only here for another week and a half and take a few photos with Charlie's super-duper digital camera (so basically looking like a total tourist!).

Then I came back at around 11am (she still hadn't been) and decided to rush over to Downtown Burbank to catch the 12.05 showing of the new comedy, Baby Mama. I just made it in time, my feet are still sore (note to self: must get some new trainers), but imagine my surprise when I discovered that the cinema was still closed and that the 12.05 showing was actually after midnight tonight!!!

Oh how I laughed...
Warner Bros cartoon character wall muralI could have waited around for another hour or so to watch something else, but the early showing would have been ideal. We've been invited to a cheese & wine tasting by our new landlords at our imminent West Hollywood pad tonight to introduce us to our new neighbours (which is very thoughtful), so I didn't want to be rushing back later on.

Guess who showed up about five minutes after I'd walked in the door? So here I am again, trying not to get under foot.

Anyway, back to my other statement, about not having a monthly salary anymore. Now that we've relocated and our safety blanket in our temporary accommodation is nearly over, we're about to start spending money again kitting out our new home.

We're not really sure how much everything is going to cost and now that Charlie is being paid in dollars, rather than pounds (doh!) and on a weekly basis it's hard to get a handle on what disposable income we'll have once we start paying for utility bills, cable/internet/phone bundles, food and unfortunately for maid-less me, cleaning products!

We've gone from being DINKYs - dual (or double) income, no kids, to a SINKY - single income, no kids (but with a high maintenance boyfriend and puppy on the way!).
Gaylord Drive - we don't live here, but could you imagine if we did!I'm sure we'll be OK once we're settled. It is strange suddenly not having my own income now (as well as not going in to work five days a week), maybe I will end up having to write a best-selling book to fund my Hollywood lifestyle!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I should write a book...

Overwhelmingly you voted that you would write a book if you didn't have to Michael Connelly's The Overlook US edition book coverwork for the next three years. Almost 50% of you thought it would be a good way to spend your free time.

On the subject of books (he says as subtly as a sledgehammer), I'm currently reading one of the latest in paperback by one of my favourite crime authors, Michael Connelly. Along with Jeffrey Deaver and James Patterson, you're always guaranteed a solid and engaging read with him.

The book is The Overlook and is another chapter in the life of LAPD detective Harry Bosch (there's around 13 or 14 of them I think, plus other stand alone crime novels).

Aside from great writing and characterisation, I always liked this series of books because they are based in Los Angeles. And look, lo and behold here I am in the very same place and driving around the very same streets that were mentioned in the books - Mulholland Drive especially springs to mind.

I'm not sure if I should be worried or not that all the places I've read about in the past were usually the scene of grisly murders and other dastardly goings on, I'm sure it's perfectly safe (he says tongue firmly in cheek).

Actually it gives me a bit of a buzz to be visiting the scenes of those crimes and gives a different perspective on the stories. Now I understand how traffic never moves on the L.A. freeways (just how does Jack Bauer in 24 get around so quickly, what part of L.A. is he driving in??), about coyotes being in your back yard and just where to go if you want to shoot someone in the head on a dark night (obviously that's a joke...).

Anyway, I'm sure I'll like this latest installment once I get stuck into it and if you need a recommendation for a summer read, why not start with The Black Echo, his first Harry Bosch novel.

So what else would you guys do with your time? Well 14% said they'd buy a puppy (hopefully we can check that one off the list soon), whilst 8% of you would study for a degree or just simply go with the flow.

Now that I'm in the magical land of Hollywood, I was surprised that no one voted to embark on acting classes, learn a new language or take up singing lessons.

Jason in Hollywood wrapped up for winter karaokeJason in Hollywood - A star is born, just waiting for his call back!
Jason in Hollywood does Karaoke, just not very well!
I'm not sure if the last one is a reflection of my singing talents the most, as my friends will tell you I am a fabulous karaoke singer. That is, if by fabulous you mean 'A for effort' and 'Z for talent'.Jason in Hollywood tries his best to sing like a professional, but fails miserably every time!
Jason in Hollywood shows off his tamborine skills to Cher's 'Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves'

Note to friends: I have edited all photos to spare you any unnecessary embarrassment in front of my hordes of worldwide fans. I on the other hand think if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? You have to be so careful these days, especially as we're now living in the U.S. where people sue you at the drop of the hat - they're very nice, but awfully litigious!

And on that note (get it?), bye for now...
p.s. just remembered, my prediction was right - Marlee Matlin was asked to leave the dancefloor on Dancing with the Stars last night!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I still don't like American popcorn and I'm not sure I liked The Forbidden Kingdom that much either...

The Forbidden Kingdom movie poster Maybe I'm being too harsh when I say that I didn't like The Forbidden Kingdom, which opened on Friday.

I'd not really seen all of the trailer for the film and I incorrectly assumed I was going to see a House of Flying Daggers or a Hero, which were both a visual feast, but were also super cool martial arts films and were refreshing to watch as they weren't made in the formulaic Hollywood movie mold. Instead what I got was Jackie Chan trying to be funny and a martial arts fest to please the fan boys, but I'm not sure many others!

It wasn't cinematically beautiful and the story was traditional kung fu quest fare, but it was entertaining. Even more exciting was that it had Jack's son, Elliot, from Will & Grace. Actually he's the actor Michael Angarano and he's also been in the sixth season of 24 and played the lead in kids movie Sky High.


Anyway, I thought he was quite good as the hapless American kung fu fan that magically ends up in mystical China to save the imprisoned Monkey King (believe me you can't make this stuff up, or actually maybe you can!), plus his character's name was Jason, so you can't go wrong. Only two stars ** for this one I'm afraid - save your dollars (and pounds) and wait for the DVD release!

I'll miss my trips to the AMC cinema in Downtown Burbank when we've moved to West Hollywood, but at least we'll be near the fabulous Arclight cinema and may be able to catch a few more special Q&A's with film directors and other special guests.

I've also been driving a lot around Burbank and had my last two hour driving lesson yesterday and drove through downtown Glendale and up to Eagle's Rock. Only onDowntown Burbank AMC cinema bannere hour lessons from now on, with an early one tomorrow at 9am. Apparently it's best to take your test when the examiners are still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, so that will be the plan when the time comes!

Aside from cooking up a storm in the kitchen last night and discovering the joys of mince (the meat, not the walk!), I continued my now age old struggle with HSBC.

Seven weeks in (plus a few months before we left) and I still haven't received my new debit cards. When we opened the account at their offices in Downtown Los Angeles, the incompetent person setting up my simple checking account misspelled my postal address, so hence no cards and no internet banking password yet.

For anyone planning on relocating to the U.S. and who'll be put up in temporary accommodation where you can't use the address to receive post (not ideal, but more common than you think I bet), it's a real pain as we've experienced similar problems with Lloyds bank also. But I still maintain that HSBC is still trying very hard to qualify as the world's worst bank.

In lighter news, Dancing with the Stars was its usual treat, although theDancing with the Stars USA series logo costumes are still shocking and most of the women looked like they were just wearing sheets of fabric last night - they need some help from Project Runway I say.

I think up for the chop tonight will be either 'no hips' Shannon Elizabeth (who's getting the PR machine working for votes with a supposed romance with her professional partner, Derek Hough) or Marlee Matlin, who's amazing for dancing at all as she's deaf and sadly can't even hear the music to keep in time with the beat - this week it showed. I'll say Marlee will go tonight!


So anyway, we're heading into another period of change and upheaval for us in the next few weeks when we move from our temporary accommodation into our new West Hollywood home. Just to tease you, I can confirm one of our Burbank IKEA storeneighbours will be a bonafide celebrity of stage and screen (how exciting)!!

So today after the film I thought "be brave" and I forced myself to take a look in IKEA.

Oh my god, it's just as bad as in the UK. Well it's not as busy, but the store layout is just as soulless and moves you around the same maze-like rat run. I didn't see any beds that I liked (do they not know I need under-bed storage?), but there may be a passable corner sofa, but we may have to check out a few more local furniture stores and do some more online research first before giving in to desperation!

As the Governator would say, "I'll be back...."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Too many margaritas, or top tips to avoid hangovers...

The Grove cinema signSo today I am thankful for the fact I don't have to go to work!

Yesterday we popped out to look at some furniture for our new apartment and then took our first trip to The Abbey in West Hollywood for cocktails, the rest as they say is history.

Now that we've found a place to live here in L.A., we need to furnish it, so early Sunday afternoon we popped along to Crate & Barrel at The Grove. We wanted to take a look at some beds and sofas (the rest we can take some time over) and try to get an idea of prices, before we venture to somewhere like the dreaded IKEA.

I'm sure I spotted an unshaven and bright orange cap wearing Cristian de la Fuente, from Dancing with the Stars, and his family (with nanny in tow), but it could have just been a lookalike or my eyes could have just been playing tricks with me.

After that we drove over to The Abbey to meet a friend Crate & Barrel store at The Grovefor a 'little' drink.

It was my first visit back to The Abbey in a few years. The last time I was there it had been at night and I was slightly jet-lagged, so to go there in the day time with the sun shining and to be able to drink outdoors in the courtyard felt very L.A.The Abbey sign

A bar, lounge and restaurant, The Abbey is a bit of a gay institution in West Hollywood. The crowd was quite mixed, cocktails very strong and the bar staff were big and buff, just the way we like them.

It was our first venture out to a bar, where food hasn't been involved, so I think I may have overindulged a tad, although in total I only had about four drinks (but remember I am only little and the measures generous).

So here are my top tips to avoid a hangover:

  • never drink any cocktails containing tequila
  • never drink on an empty stomach
  • make every third drink a soft drink (yeah, good luck with that!)
  • always say "no" to 'just one more drink?'
  • swear never to drink again....until the next time you do

And those are my words of wisdom from my tequila addled mind, as I sit here re-hydrating with lots of water and gingerly take a bite of a hearty ham and cheese sandwich.

Methinks I'll leave the margarita's alone for a while and switch back to vodka, as I know where I am with that...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Jason in Hollywood is officially moving to West Hollywood...

Condo poolHow exciting, we've signed on the dotted line for a loft condo in West Hollywood.

We are so thrilled. Not only is it a lovely place, but we now feel we can start settling in and getting to know and enjoy L.A. better.

We won't move in for another couple of weeks and I don't want to give too much away about exactly where we'll be living (I don't want any stalkers, thank you very much!), but here are a few pictures so you can share in our excitement.

In addition to a fantastic roof terrace which allows us to see some of the surrounding WEHO, does it help to know that the condo complex also has a gym, sauna, swimming pool, lovely grounds and two parking spaces?

I know it will be hard, but we'll give it our best shot.



Condo rooftop terrace It's also great to know that the current occupants have two dogs, so the place is very dog friendly and will be the perfect place for our new puppy.
View from condo roof terraceSo now that we've had our first Hollywood haircuts at Argyle Salon & Spa on Sunset Boulevard (still getting used to them, so the jury is still out), and after the relief of finding somewhere to live for the next 12 months, we're getting ready to go out tonight as we've been invited to dinner.

We're off to somewhere in or near Brentwood, which is a district in western Los Angeles at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains.

I'm sure we'll raise a glass or two to the fact that Jason in Hollywood will soon be officially operating out of West Hollywood!

Friday, April 18, 2008

A day of house-hunting in L.A....

I think my blog entry today will be quite short as I'm a bit exhausted from touring around L.A. looking at flats and houses to rent.

We've concentrated our search via our relocation expert in two main areas - West Hollywood and Studio City, plus looked at one place in the Hollywood Hills for good measure.
LA palm skyline
Today is gloriously sunny, with a few wispy clouds in the sky and overall it's been an up and down day with lots of variety, some really good places and some real shockers.

As I've said before Studio City is a great residential area and it's close to Burbank for Disney's HQ, whilst West Hollywood although being more densely populated is easy to get about in, with lots to do, even on foot.

We think we've found our ideal condo in the heart of WEHO (West Hollywood, dharlings!), but we're waiting to meet with the landlord couple tomorrow to make sure they are both OK to take us on as tenants.

We're going to pop by and meet with them after our first haircut appointments in over six weeks, so finally I can dispense with my Hollywood starlet style headscarf and get a full blown fabulous bouffant!!

We do have some fall back options, but it's like comparing apples with pears, the rentals all have their pros and cons, but both myself and our relocation expert found the condo we like independently on the web, so there must be something in that.

I'm trying not to get too excited, because it could all fall through, but keep your fingers crossed for us.

Will let you know more soon...

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