Monday, March 31, 2008

21 today...

21 movie posterJust a short entry today.

I got very excited yesterday when I worked out how to add ALT tags to the images I use on this blog. For those not in the know regards website html code, this means that when you hover over the images you should get a caption for the picture. How exciting!

Today after a morning run I popped to the movies to see 21. The lead actor is a Brit named Jim Sturgess who's been in such TV classics as Heartbeat and a Touch of Frost, plus he's joined by Kevin Spacey (American Beauty, The Usual Suspects) and Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns). The film's not bad and certainly watchable, another 3 stars ***

Anyway, better go and do some revision for my written driving test exam next Monday!!

Bye for now...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Finding a place to live in L.A.....

Aroma Cafe Our mission this weekend was to find place we would like to live here in L.A., or at least find an area we would like to rent in.

We think we have three candidates, they are, in no particular order:
  • Larchmont, Hancock Park area
  • West Hollywood
  • Studio City

On Saturday we drove in to Larchmont (or Larchmont Village), which is the commercial area of Hancock Park district of L.A. Larchmont Village is centered on Larchmont Boulevard between Beverly Boulevard and 3rd Street.

There's a small strip of shops, cafes and banks along the Larchmont Boulevard and we have a friend who lives around the corner on North Beachwood Drive. We mainly know the area from the first time we visited L.A. together, as we were fortunate enough to stay at his house. So we meandered along the adjoining streets which are nice and green, very well kept, with manicured lawns, lots of space, not too built up or overlooked and very quiet on the streets.

It's definitely cooler this weekend, but it was still OK to sit outside and eat, so we popped to Prado (drawn by the fact no doubt it sounds like Prada!!). Prado's menu is described as "Cuisine of the Americas - an intriguing blend of of Latin and Caribbean cuisines with a dollop of Louisiana Cajun". We opted for some tasty salads and watched the locals walk by with all their yoga mats and toy dogs (we are so not getting that Chihuahua!).

After that we drove along Santa Monica Blvd to West Hollywood, which is considered a city in its own right within Los Angeles County. The city is very gay friendly and one of the most notable gay villages in the U.S. The area is occasionally referred to as WeHo and BoysTown, with a gay/bisexual male population of 41%, of these 60% being between 25 and 44.

West Hollywood is bordered on the north by the Hollywood Hills neighbourhood, on the east by the Hollywood District, on the west by the city of Beverly Hills and on the south by the Fairfax District of Los Angeles.

Being closer to the centre of L.A. life, the area is much more densely populated with apartments and properties situated much closer together. The upsides of living here are the shops, gyms, bars, restaurants, nightlife and things to dLALAs Argentine Grill, Studio Cityo, but some of the downsides could be the noise, the lack of greenery and the feeling of living on top of others. Plus there is a longer drive to work for some of us!

We popped to LASC, a great shop for men's clothes and brands - Diesel, G-Star Raw, DSquared2, Energie and more. Even more exciting is this is where I can find clothes in sizes to fit me!! This is very important in the 'land of the slightly larger', although it's lost some of its appeal now that we're paid in dollars and not with the mighty pound. I bought myself a new G-Star 'man-bag' to help carry around all my essentials - camera, wallet, phone, passport, sun glasses case, cuddly toy....

West Hollywood is also home to Cafe D'Etoile that we dined at last Sunday.

On Saturday evening we headed into Studio City with a friend to try out Mexicali,Mexicali Cantina, Studio City as the name suggests serving Mexican food (or Cal-Mex food). Aside from being a bit loud, it was a relaxed, lively atmosphere with dark wood and dim lighting.

Virtually inexperienced with Mexican food, our Burritos, mine crab fish & shrimp, Charlie's beef, with a side of black beans and rice, were flavoursome and filling. My margarita was fab (I always thought I didn't like them, maybe it was the salt which I'd opted out of or the thought of tequila) and I think I may have found a new favourite drink!!

We didn't stay out too late, as we planned to return to Studio City on Sunday morning to have breakfast at the Aroma Cafe, which was brilliant and very much like The Alcove in Los Feliz (which we'd visited on one of our orientation trips to L.A.). After a bite to eat our friend showed us the Sunday Farmer's Market, which seemed to have nice local grown fruit and veg, plus flowers and other nick-naks (not too much tat - as you know I'm a great lover of markets, not), plus we wandered along Ventura Blvd to check out the shops in the local area.

Ventura Boulevard is also home to Tommy Rays, LALA's, a more local, uncomplicated Argentine grill, plus also Firefly, which is one of the most sophisticated and trendiest restaurants in Studio City, all where we've eaten in recent months.

Aside from places to eat, Studio City is also home to a few celebs, due to its proximity to the studios and hillside views, such as George Clooney, Britney Spears and as you know, Teri Hatcher.

Before we came home, our friend drove us around a few different streets to get a feel for the place. Again it's very picturesque, manicured lawns and big houses (you get more for your money here), but quieter neighbourhoods. You do also get some noise form the planes flying into and out of Burbank Airport.

We're still not sure what we can afford in terms of small houses vs duplex apartments and we've yet to take a look inside any property yet, so that's our next step. Before we do that we need to narrow our areas down, so that's my question to you this week.

Where do you think we should live?? All votes and comments welcome!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

HSBC may just be the World's worst bank....

American Stop road signI wonder how many of you will agree with that title?

I've been a HSBC customer since my student days (so for about 16 years) when I opened my account in Pontypridd, South Wales and they gave me a lovely £3,000 fee free overdraft limit, plus I saw friends being treated really badly by their banks during that time. Well things have gone downhill since then I can tell you!

Why the rant you ask? Well today we drove to the HSBC in Downtown L.A. to sort out my American bank account. In an ideal world we really shouldn't have needed to, but as with most things in life, nothing is ever as easy as you think.

A few months before we left London, I'd popped along to my local Chiswick branch to investigate setting up an American account with a view that it would be really helpful to have the credit history or at least familiarity of dealing with a bank I know. Aside from HSBC becoming a very elitist bank recently (or am I just being naive?), i.e. the introduction of their two-tier service - if you don't have £75,000 in savings or a mortgage with them, you're not entitled to their Premier Banking Service and quite frankly they no longer want to know you.

As an aside, I saw a poster campaign as we drove to Heathrow Airport, when we were leaving, for a new Service from Barclays Bank, called 'WEALTH', with a rather smug looking older gentleman who was on a beach surfing (obviously without a care in the world because he was just so rich) and it just seemed a bit sickening and really did highlight the growing rich / poor divide (ooh, look at me getting all political and philosophical).

Anyway, back to my rant....

So, I'd tried to set up a checking account in advance of arriving in the U.S. so I would have an American debit card and be able to take cash out of ATMs without being charged and also just to have some financial independence as I'm not able to work. After paying a £100 fee (as I'm not a Premier HSBC member), thinking in the long run this investment would help simplify things, lo and behold my new debit card and internet access password were 'lost' by DHL when they tried to deliver them. I tried about 3 or 4 times to have them redirected to our home and to my work, but to no avail. The whole reason I started the application early was to allow time for unforeseen circumstances like this, but unfortunately our time in the country just ran out.

Ultimately I had to battle with HSBC to get my £100 refunded (but I did - yay me!) and I was told my American account had been set up and new cards issued, but all would need to be cancelled due to the security risk of my 'missing' debit card. Hence our trip Downtown today.

After being told I couldn't make an appointment at the branch and assured by email by the U.S. International banking department that I would just need to turn up on the day, the branch were aware of my history, the existing American account and cards would be cancelled and a new account set up, no problem. Well let's just say it didn't go as smoothly as that (hence the nice STOP sign visual!).

The branch contact I had been given was inconveniently on a training course and the person I spoke to was a business 'expert' and clearly had another customer appointment which made her very flustered. Then after everything I'd alreaIKEA store, Burbank town centre, Californiady been through, plus armed with my American account statement, my UK debit and credit cards and access to my internet banking accounts, I was asked for proof of address in the UK in order to open a new account (another security check, mainly to do with the deep doo-doo's of the American economy and their bank lending crisis at the moment).

As you can imagine I nearly fell off my chair. To cut a long story short, after printing off reams of paper, including my original HSBC stamped and approved application form, I now have my NEW American account - just need some money now to put into it!!

Sorry to bore you all, but just wanted to point out moving overseas is not all sunshine and cosmo's (but they help!!!).

Vantage Point movie posterAfter that adventure it was time for another one. On his way back to the office, Charlie dropped me off in Burbank town centre, home to IKEA and a 16 screen AMC movie theatre (cinema to us Brits!).

Interestingly in the U.S. IKEA is marketed as a much less quirky and edgy 'chuck out the chintz' place and their ads are much more about quality, inspiration and creating a sanctuary (oh to be working still on home interest magazines). Mind you I'm pretty sure the in-store experience is still as unpleasant as the UK one.

After amusing myself in their mall and investigating Macy's, Barnes & Noble (bookshop) and some god awful shops, I saw Vantage Point, which I loved (3 *** methinks). It's an action/thriller starring Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox (from Lost), Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver (she's great in everything isn't she? Have you seen Galaxy Quest?) and loads of others. There's a bit of a predictable twist, but it's "original" and certainly "worth watching" - "says Jason of Jason in Hollywood".

American cinemas (or the ones here in L.A.) are fab - they have nice comfy seats which are on a nice steep incline with great visibility and massive screens. The only downside seems to be the dodgy popcorn, which is very salty (no choice of sweet here, which is strange in the land of SUGAR!!)

Pavilions convenience store, BurbankI thought I'd need to get a taxi back from the town centre, but following my instincts and with my trusty map I headed back along Olive Avenue and navigated my way home, via Pavilions (sister-supermarket to Vons) for a few essentials, like Ketel One Vodka and tea-bags.

Remember don't be a stranger and don't be afraid to comment on anything you see or read here. Any comments are welcome - good, bad.....good, anything you like, agree or disagree with, or perhaps want more of e.g. squirrel pictures.

And on that note I'll call it a night and leave you with an image of the Lockheed jet, Spirit of Burbank, of special significance as regular visitors will know that the avaition industry has played a big role in the history of Burbank.Spirit of Burbank, Lockheed jet

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jason in Hollywood goes wild in Griffith Park...

I awoke this beautiful morning to the sounds of chirping birdsong, so I hunted out my earplugs and was able to drop back off to sleep to about 9am, which is a much more sensible hour when you're not working!
Tattinger Champagne bottle
As is becoming customary, Charlie had left me a little note, luckily not saying "iron my shirts." We celebrated Charlie's birthday last night with a bottle of bubbly (the real stuff, not any of that sparkling Californian nonsense), hopefully when we're both back up to full strength we'll do something a bit more glamorous and adventurous, although Charlie tells me he's stopped counting the years!!

As I'd been inspired by my exploratory run up into Griffith Park yesterday, I thought I'd repeat it today, this time with my trusty camera (as the true photo-journalist of the blogosphere I am!) to document my adventure.

Unfortunately it wasn't as clear a day as yesterday, a fine (smoggy) haze lay over Burbank, but at least the dirt trails were quieter than Easter Monday and I wasn't having to constantly look out for horse riders.

A workmate of a friend who works at nearby Disney studios had suggested some possible running trails up into Griffith Park, which is the largest park with urban wilderness area in the United States, with over 4,120 acres.
Griffith Park Burbank entrance
For those of you not in the know, the park situated in the eastern Santa Monica Mountain range, was originally a part of the Spanish land grant, Rancho Los Feliz. The park was named for its former owner, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith. Born in Glamorganshire, South Wales (how spooky is that!?!).
Burbank view from Griffith Park
Griffith emigrated to the United States in 1865, eventually, making a personal fortune in California gold mine speculation.

In 1882, Griffith settled in L.A., purchasing a 4,071 acre portion of the Rancho Los Feliz. On 16th December, 1896, the civic-minded Griffith bequeathed 3,015 acres of his Rancho Los Feliz estate (equal to 5 square miles) as a Christmas gift to the people of Los Angeles to be used as parkland (us Welsh are a generous bunch!). Over time the Park has received further donations of land.
Griffith Park Lizard

So there's your history lesson for today. The Park is much easier to run in than the local streets with the non-existent pavements, even if you have to dodge a horse or lizard or two.

On Monday I even saw a hummingbird, at first thinking it was a big beetle, it was beautiful and I was hoping to snap one today, but didn't see one.
What I did see though after I'd been
running and rambling for about 40 minutes was this sign...

Being a former cub scout (oh yes indeedy - dib dib), you can imagine that my thoughts went straight to getting my wildlife badge or maybe more about getting out of the park as quickly as I could before I stood on any snakes or was pounced on by some beasty and eaten alive.
Beware of Coyotes sign
So following the stinky horse trail out of the park and over the bridge to civilisation, so ended my love affair with the great outdoors, for today at least.

It's funny really, yesterday this seemed like the perfect place to run with it's lovely views and leafy surroundings (aside from the steep hills and sandy terrain not making it ideal jogging conditions) and today, maybe not so safe.

What other news I hear you cry! Well, Charlie got his social security number yesterday which is great news, and was another reason for a sip of bubbly. This means we can start doing all the things we need to, like getting our Californian driving licences and looking for a more permanent place to rent.

It will be great to start getting more settled, especially as it looks like I Squirrel on driveway in Burbankwon't be Squirrel in tree, Burbankleaving the U.S. in the coming months whilst we sort out my visa. Luckily we've got a legal team on that, so fingers crossed it'll all go smoothly otherwise you'll be seeing me sooner than you think!!

I'll leave you now with some pictures of our friendly neighbourhood squirrels, there really are more of them than people around here!!

p.s. just in case you were wondering, I wasn't a very good cub scout - me and nature don't go well together and as you know I prefer a good boutique hotel to a tent any day!!

p.s. again - we are sooooo not getting a Chihuahua!!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Abercrombie & Fitch model spotted on Sunset Blvd...

Okay, the votes are in and we have a winner (or winners) of the celeb you most wanted to see on Jason in Hollywood. And it's (drum roll please)....joint first place for George Clooney, Brad Pitt and the Abercrombie & Fitch model, each with 22% of the vote. So not to disappoint, look who we saw on Sunset Blvd....

Abercrombie & Fitch model billboard on Sunset BlvdIt's one of the things we miss most about London (obviously, as well as our friends - dodged that bullet) and that's the Abercrombie poster site as you come in from the Airport to Chiswick on the A4.

In other celeb news and talking about Chiswick, even though we've not seen anyone of interest since our Teri Hatcher encounter, apparently we have it on good authority that living in one of the flats in our old building is one of the Nancy's, Samantha from BBC's new, I'd Do Anything, the search for a new Nancy for the musical, Oliver!

Interestingly enough our building seems to attract all the talent (ourselves notwithstanding), as Charlie Brooks who used to play Janine Butcher in Eastenders once lived there. Plus our next door neighbours, who work in the music video industry, once had 'The Hoff' (David Hasselhoff for the uninitiated) visit when they were doing a video for him. Ahh, what have we left behind.

Just so you don't think our time here is a total waste, here's another celeb sighting, often described as a bit flat and wooden (plus dumb and a waste of space), Paris Hilton...

Paris Hilton Billboard, Los AngelesIThe Grove rooftop sign, Los Angeles hope that you're all enjoying the Easter break. We've been out and about. On Saturday we headed down to The Grove, which is located across the street from L.A.'s famous Farmer's Market, and is a lovely outdoor shopping centre - so much nicer than the indoor malls.

Its selection of stores includes an Apple store, Gap, Banana Republic, Nordstrom, Barnes & Noble and an Abercrombie & Fitch store (where I finally manged to find a t-shirt that fit for a change -you've seen the model!!).

After a trip to Samy's Camera store across the street on Fairfax Avenue, a great place for photography enthusiasts, we headed to The Farm of Beverly Hills for a quick bite to eat. We didn't want too much to eat as we had a dinner date at Dolce in the evening.

Dolce is a lovely and hip Italian restaurant on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, probably most famous for one of its investors, The Grove fountains from above, Los AngelesAshton Kutcher (Demi's beau), and it's flaming bar design. The food was great, the music totally 'gay' ("It's raining men"?!?!) and diners eclectic - around the corner from where we were sitting was apparently one of L.A.'s famous psychics, although her party was a truly motley bunch!

We had a quieter Sunday (the last few weeks catching up with Charlie as they did with me last week, so he's nice and run down for his Birthday today) and enjoyed the sunshine in the garden, whilst chuckling about the pictures we'd seen of the snow back in the UK.

Our other great love at the moment here is American TV and we caught a hilariously dubbed Bridget Jones's Diary, where there were lots of "shoots" and "freaking" rather than our more British vernacular - but with its setting it reminded us of London, which was cool. I'm also loving all the sentimental TV over here like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Oprah's Big Give (with Jamie Oliver as one of the judges?! He's so dull!).

I also love all the product placement and sponsorship of shows, plus all the comparative advertising - they really don't mind slating the opposition. But my ultimate favourite is the adverts for drug companies. A typical ad may go like this.....

"Buy MiracleCure the only drug to help your asthma/allergies/arthritis/insomnia (insert one), clinically proven to be the best blah, blah, blah. Some patients may suffer side effects. May cause bleeding, headaches, nausea, loss of vision, drowsiness, vomiting, lung disease, cancer and in some cases.......death. Do not take if you are using any other medication, are pregnant, need to drive or work. Ask your doctor if MiracleCure is right for you!"

Obviously a slight exaggeration, but they really are like that. It's a wonder anyone buys the drugs with all the side effects.

Anyway, we ventured back into West Hollywood (as that's one of the areas we're planning to look for a flat to rent) for a light lunch on Easter Sunday at Cafe D'etoile on Santa Monica Blvd. We've been there before on previous trips to L.A. and always liked it, actually I think it was the first place I ever ate out here, although totally jet-lagged at the time. We're definetely settling in here as we even drove back home without the aid of out SatNav or GPS as they like to say here!

Well I've leave it there today, here's another street sign (on the left) to make you smile (it did me anyway!!)...Willey Lane street sign, Los Angeles

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's hard being a house-husband.....

Contrary person that I am, now that it's Easter time my mind has turned to work - especially now that I'm not, working that is!

Maybe it's because I miss all the SouthBank department chocolate and biscuit treats (I certainly miss the people - well, I've got to keep you all reading somehow!), or maybe it's because my daily dilemmas are now less about how to stretch my marketing budget or how to please my Editor (answers on a postcard for that one...), but rather can I put a pineapple down the garbage disposal!?! This is important stuff people!!

Amazingly enough, I'm not the size of a house yet (although I am enjoying all the American TV), but not being in the office to be tempted by all those tasty snacks really helps.
Our back garden in BurbankEven though it's 82 degrees in the Valley today I still managed a good 25 minute jog (trying to take it easy after my cold) and to be even healthier I thought I'd better have some of the pineapple that had been sitting in the fridge since we got here.

The fruit and veg here is so temptingly displayed at the supermarket. It's all perfectly laid out, the minute something is taken someone is there to line up the limes or make a perfect row of tomatoes. There's a fine water mist that's sprayed over the lettuces to keep them cool and looking fresh (although god knows what's in the water!).

But don't worry, even though we're trying to eat more fresh fruit we haven't converted into total heath freaks yet - we're not sending away bread at the table when we go out to eat in restaurants, like most Californians seem to least not yet anyway!!

Apparently we'll be having a scorcher of a time the next few days for the holidays here in the 'Valley', which is where you'll find Burbank i.e. between the mountain ranges, away from the coast, in the eastern region of the San Fernando Valley, north of Downtown Los Angeles.

There's a lot of history here in Burbank, once acres of ranch land, by the 1950's one fifth of all motion pictures made in the United States came out of Burbank. In addition to movies, Burbank is also famous for aviation and in the mid 1920's the Lockheed Aircraft Company built a production plant near 'Turkey's Crossing' and by the time the U.S. entered World War II employed 94,000 people, producing 19,000 planes!! Lockheed closed its operations in the 1990's, but as you know the film and TV industry is still huge here and Burbank is still home to Warner, Disney, NBC and more (which is the very reason we are here).

You see, you learn something new everyday here. If I can't give you daily celeb gossip yet, I can at least give you an idea of where we're living and how different it all seems from the UK.
Jason poolside at the Mondrian Hotel
Well enough for now, best get back out in that garden and top up my tan...(here's a pic from a few months ago when we were staying at the Mondrian on Sunset Boulevard, on our very first recon mission, thought it fit the holiday mood).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Learning to drive is hard...

Brighton Street sign, BurbankToday the theme of my blog is driving, mainly because it's what I need to do the most to make the most of being here in L.A.

With that in mind I'm trying to knuckle down to studying my Californian highway code. I even took a mock test paper today and got 18 out of 27 questions correct (and it was multiple choice), not so good I know, but I did get 9 out of 10 for my road signs!!

Speaking of signs, this one made me laugh, who'd have thought that Brighton would be just around the corner.

I also think having my driver's licence I'll be one step closer to getting you those insider Hollywood scoops. So my action plan for the coming weeks is:

  1. Ace my written driver test
  2. Pass my practical driving test
  3. Get my new car
  4. Find our puppy (to lure those stars in)
  5. Snap away with my camera
In other news I'm bouncing back from my cold, although I have a sneaking suspicion it may have morphed into hayfever, but hopefully I'll be back doing my daily run around Burbank tomorrow.

Tonight we'll be glued to a new episode of 'Make me a Supermodel' on Bravo, but unfortunately for Charlie there's no relaxing until the end of the week as we don't get Easter Bank Holidays here.

So enjoy your Easter weekend and I'll see you soon...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's a jungle out there....

Lipstick Jungle poster on NBC Building
Walking past the NBC studios today I couldn't resist snapping a shot of the poster for their tv series, Lipstick Jungle, apparently touted as the new Sex and the City, written by Candace Bushnell and arriving on UK shores soon via Living tv.

So I thought I'd give all my girlie friends the inside scoop on this fashion friendly series, as this Thursday 20th March is the season finale over here in the U.S.

The show stars Brooke Shields, Kim Raver (of 24 fame) and someone I don't think many of us will know from Beverly Hills 90210, Lindsay Price, and most importantly of all top totty seems to come in the form of Robert Buckley. I'll let you all know if the show is worth all the fuss!

I do really love the way they promote their TV series and films out here. There seem to be big poster sites everywhere, especially around the studio lots and even more so around Oscar, Golden Globe and awards time.

On another totally unconnected note, it's amazing how you can fill your days out here - from sorting out bank appointments, to food shopping and playing in Scrabulous tournaments! I think I've come to the realisation, that no matter how much I like playing, I'm not that good at Scrabulous, and I no longer have the excuse of rushing because of worrying about who's looking over my shoulder at work!!House of Secrets Comic Shop, Burbank

After driving past it yesterday, my mission today was to walk to my new neighbourhood comic shop, the catchily titled - The House of Secrets.

So no more need for Charlie to drive me to Meltdown Comics on West Sunset Blvd every Wednesday (yes, that's right folks, over here in the States you get your comics a whole day earlier!!).

To my delight I even found a much sought after tome, almost the holy grail of the Marvel Masterworks set, X-men vol. 4 - after searching fruitlessly for it in the UK and L.A. for months and refusing to pay up to £120 Marvel Masterworks X-men Vol.4for it on Ebay, now my collection is complete!!

You see I will convert you all into comic readers in the end! It's where all the blockbusters are coming from these days - Sin City, 300, Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman, Superman, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man...(ok, maybe that list won't convince most of you).

Anyway, we're off to Firefly, a nice restuarant in Studio City tonight to quiz our friends some more on all things American, like taxes and medical care and other such exciting things, plus maybe to drown our sorrows with our on-going visa issues.

So I'll leave you with a fab pic of the mouse house that Snow White built (this is at Disney HQ and not the theme parks), you don't see this kind of architecture in London...Walt Disney HQ, Burbank

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Our 2 week anniversary and the holiday is over...

Blue Californian SkySo today marks our second week here on American soil and the weird thing is that it still feels like we're on holiday!

All the signs are there, we're running out of our Molton Brown Shower gel, our last supply of Twinings Breakfast Tea has gone (although have discovered a new stash at Vons), we have handfuls of random (what we once considered foreign) coins that we really don't know what to do with....

....basically it feels like the end of a two week holiday, but this time we're not coming home.

As often happens when you start to relax you come down with a cold and that's exactly what's happened to me, especially after all the plane flights and air conditioning. But like a trooper I'm soldiering on. The great weather helps and hence why I've posted this picture of the sky - how blue is that!! It's so lovely and clear at the moment and certainly just one of the benefits of living in California.

We took a quick trip to the Social Security offices in Burbank today to get Charlie his social security number. It didn't take that long at all and hopefully he'll be able to collect it next week, which helps us to start doing all kinds of things like getting a Californian driver's licence, helping with all kinds of credit issues and ultimately for tax purposes.

So today I've been attempting to read the California Driver Handbook, which has a special intro by our Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is very hard to take seriously. Next step once we have the social security number is to book an appointment to take the written test, which if I pass will mean I get a learner's permit - then look out California as Jason hits the road!!

In other celebrity led news, Dancing with the Stars premiered last night on ABC. It's basically the U.S. version of BBC's Strictly Come Dancing and their big 'names' for season 6 seem to be Steve Guttenberg (of Cocoon, Police Academy & 3 Men and a Baby fame) and Priscilla Presley (can't wait to see her dancing to see if her face moves!).

Anyway, that's it for today, will hopefully be back on form tomorrow!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lights, camera, action - I'm ready for my close up....

Today I thought we'd get out and about and show you more of our new home.
TV film crew Toluca Lake
Never did I think that right around the corner we'd discover even more delights for your enjoyment, following hot on the heels of my exclusive Teri Hatcher sighting, truly I'm starting to get under the skin of Hollywood.
TV filming Toluca Lake
As it's Sunday, we weren't expecting to come across a film unit just 10 minutes down the road from our temporary home in Burbank. I'm not sure if they were filming a movie or TV episode, but it was a scene at a local corner cafe - Priscilla's Gourmet Coffee, Tea & Gifts, which is on Riverside in Toluca Lake.

It was all very impressive, an outdoor shoot rather than on a sound stage, with quite a big crew and lots of security. So keep an eye out for a coffee house called Priscilla's, you never know when or where you'll see it next.
Disney's Animation Studio
Also just two minutes from our door is the home of Disney's animation studio. How cool would it be to work in a building like this?

This is where the magic happens and where it can take around three to four years to make a feature animated movie, such classics as The Lion King, Mulan, Tarzan and more. And can you believe my dear devoted blog fans I'm honestly not getting a cent for any of these positive reviews of Disney ;-)
The Hollywood Sign from Runyon Canyon
Our travels today also took us to L.A.'s most famous and most photographed landmark, the Hollywood sign, visible for miles atop its Mt. Lee Perch.
We accompanied our friend Barry and his two dogs, Ginger and Dot, on a 3 mile walk along Runyon Canyon, a popular off-leash dog walking trail.
Sprawling Los Angeles Downtown view
The trail was very picturesque, with a great panorama of the urban sprawl that is L.A. (plus quite nice views of some buff bare chested men too!).

You could see from the high-rise buildings of Downtown all the way to Century City and to the ocean beyond.

And finally, I couldn't help but smile when we drove past the following building, but with my sleuth-like prowess (and the power of mighty Google) I've since learned that it's actually home to many family favourites such as the Care Bears, Heathcliff and Inspector Gadget.
The Incredible World of DIC
Who would have thought, eh?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Finding Nemo the Musical...I kid you not!!

So here's part deux of our Floridian adventure and after all the excitement and thrills and spills (or soakings) of roller-coasters and stunt spectaculars I thought you'd appreciate a change of pace, especially as it's the weekend.

Yes it's time for something slightly gentler, the innocent guilty pleasures you all secretly like, but are afraid to's confession time!Finding Nemo The Musical
My confession is that we saw and thoroughly enjoyed Finding Nemo: The Musical at Animal Kingdom and the 45 minute spectacular of puppets, colour, song and feel-good factor brought a happy tear to my eye.
Mickey Hat and High School Musical Parade
The only thing about the star of the show, Nemo, is that in their efforts to find a boy-like lead they used a petite actress to play the small boy (fish) role and hence ensued a slightly 'Jimmy Krankie' feel and unfortunately once you've got that image in your head, it's hard not to think that little Nemo won't be spouting "fandabidozi" at any moment!
High School Musical 2 Live
Another guilty pleasure has to be High School Musical and the Wildcats parade I saw at Hollywood Studios in the dazzling sunshine was fab and had adults and kids alike transfixed and was a real crowd pleaser with it's American wholesomeness!Safari Pluto
I also caught some of the different Disney character parades with all your favourites and mine - Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, Goofy and more. My that Mickey manages to get around and seems to have an outfit for every occasion!
Donald Duck
We also made sure to take in the Kilamanjaro Animal Safari and saw elephants, crocodiles, hippos, lions, flamingos and lots of antelope types (who needs to go to Africa, eh?), but sadly the giraffes were apparently sleeping (must be all that standing around all day).
Rhinos on safari

Finally just to round up my Disney report just a few words to say how picturesque and well maintained the resort we stayed at was - they had teams literally repainting and repairing each day to maintain the pristine look and feel of the place.

Pink flamingos

Overall it was a fun place to spend a few days and as you all know I can be quite a cynic and not at all a Disney person at times! So have I convinced you yet? You'll find more photos on Facebook, but I promise I'm not on commission.

Elephants on parade
So back to reality then and on Friday I was mostly catching up on household chores (it's hard being a man-o-leisure you know!), and I tried not to shrink all our washing in the huge, almost industrial size, washing machine and tumble dryer, battled with the air-conditioning unit (changing it every time it got too hot or too cold) and playing with the In-Sink-Erator (what a great name) and trying not to shred my fingers to bits!!

Plus we've yet to work out what rubbish (garbage?) to put into each of the three bins we have. There's a green one for garden waste, so that's quite easy, a blue one for recycling plastic bottles, glass and newspapers (although not sure if you can recycle cardboard or magazines?), then a third black bin for dry waste.
Yacht Club beach

Apparently all other food stuff goes down the garbage disposal, so am sure it won't be too long before I've broken that!!

My final nugget of the day that is currently amusing us is how you get your bags packed for you at the Supermarket - it seems quite alien to us Brits and there have been a few eyebrows raised when we've tried to help out, but it makes us chuckle!
Rhino backside goodbye
And finally who can resist a closing bum shot, luckily not mine.....don't be a stranger!

Jason does Disney World....

We're baaaaaaaccccckkk!!! Did you miss us?

The World Tour continues and we're back from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, with a spring in our step and a song in our heart, but I'm not sure our body clocks quite know what time it is with all the time zone changes and jet-lag.
Safari Mickey Mouse at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Mickey says a special "Hi" to Lauren and Evan and I'm afraid for all the grown ups reading this it's going to be a bit of a Disney-tastic installment!!

So we flew to Orlando on Monday, me in 'cattle-class' and Charlie in First.....yes you are hearing that correctly, but thems the perks of the job (in his defence he did offer me his seat on the way back - he made me write that too!!). Plus I am grateful I got a semi-freebie holiday out of it!

I lucked out both ways as even though the flights were packed I had a spare seat next to me each time - four or five hours being the hotdog in a jumbo sized American bun, not my idea of a fun flight!!

We stayed at the Boardwalk Resort Hotel and on our first night were taken to the dinner at the California Grill in the Contemporary Resort Hotel. We ended up dining in the more secluded wine tasting room and had a great meal - the best sushi I think I've ever had (apparently prepared by one of the Top 3 sushi chefs in the US), plus we were able to see the 10pm Magic Kingdom firework extravaganza from the observation deck in between courses - not a bad way to start our stay!
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
On Tuesday I was left to get up to mischief on my own so I headed straight for the Hollywood Studios resort and took on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (starring Aerosmith - rock on!!) and then tried out the Tower of Terror...not bad!! I even came back to ride them both again on Thursday morning (although the park was much busier with Spring Break and the weekend looming on the horizon).

It's not so much fun being at Disney on your own (or any theme park for that matter), but I managed to try out a few more rides for nostalgia's sake - Star Wars: Star Tours and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.
Riding Expedition Everest
Later that day I headed over to the Magic Kingdom to try out Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain (so basically any ride like a roller-coaster), all the time trying to avoid little people and lots of large Americans in their mobility scooters (no lie they ride around in these OAP scooters - here's a clue....WALK, maybe you wouldn't be so muhoosive!)
Wet T-shirt Jason
On Wednesday I dragged Charlie to Disney's Animal Kingdom for essential on-the-job research! As you can see he braved Expedition Everest (did I not tell you it was a roller-coaster?!), Dinosaur, Primeval Whirl, the Kilimanjaro Safari and the Kali River Rapids where we literally got soaked to our skin.
Drowned rat Charlie
That's not so great when it's only your second ride of the day - lucky the sun was shining, otherwise we may not have been in such good humour!

One thing I have to say is that with all those kids there and the sheer variety of families (believe me we saw it all), I didn't see one kid have a tantrum - maybe they were having too good a time or being kept quiet by having anything they wanted bought for them, but no whingers!!
Topiary Fantasia Mickey Mouse
Anyway, that's it for now. More magical musings later.....