Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 - a year of jumping for joy and recovering from injuries...

This year has been a bit of a mixed bag, from the highs of exotic holidays to the lows of sports injuries, but you know what, I have a great life and this year proves "I can take a lickin' but keep on tickin'".

Jumping for joy on Oahu's North Shore in Hawaii
At the start of the year I continued to build my Daily Billboard and costume and props blog businesses, train for my fifth consecutive L.A. Marathon in a row and enjoy Hollywoodland's glittering awards season.

Surviving another super hot Los Angeles Marathon
Running Los Angeles Marathon for charity
The 2015 L.A. Marathon in mid-March was my hottest experience to date, warmer even than the scorching 2014 L.A. Marathon, so you can imagine that I was ready for a well deserved vacation to Hawaii this year at the end of March.

Cocktail fun in Hawaii in March
Hawaiian cocktails sunglasses
In fact our trip was the celebrate my husband's 'big' birthday milestone, so lots of fun was had with friends and Mai Tais in the sunshine (and rain) on the relaxing North Shores of Oahu for a few days.

Enjoying our Chiswick garden in British Springtime
Springtime Chiswick garden
Hawaii wasn't our only travels this year, as in mid-April we flew back to Britain and got to enjoy a few days of glorious springtime visiting friends and family, and staying at our garden flat in Chiswick.

Completing my first London Marathon in April
Crossing 2015 London Marathon Finish Line
The trip was also to allow me to run my first ever London Marathon, something I've always dreamed of doing.

I ran to support another HIV/AIDS charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust, but to be honest I found the 26.2 mile race itself to be a frustrating experience. No one seems to practice Jeff Galloway's run/walk marathon technique in the U.K. and very narrow London streets made for a race where spectators thought I was flagging in the early stages (hearing "you're nearly there" and "don't give up" along the entire route on your walk breaks isn't very encouraging) and there was little room to maneuver to get out of the way of thousands of other runners.

Fortunately that's off my bucket list, but I do think I injured myself during the race, a calf sprain I think (but foolishly rather than allowing myself to heal, I continued to run over the summer as I won a lottery place into the New York Marathon at the start of November).

Taking in a show in London's West End
Imelda Staunton Gypsy Musical Savoy Theatre London
Anyway, lots of other fun was had during our time in London, like spending time with friends and taking in the musical Gypsy starring the wonderful Imelda Staunton, who was a real showstopper.

Our groggy pup after his leg surgery in June
Labrador Cooper after leg surgery
When we were back stateside in May, we decided to take Cooper to the vet to have the growth on his leg examined by a surgical expert. We'd always been told that it was just a 'Labrador lump', fatty tissue with nothing to worry about, but when it's the size of a tennis ball you can't help but be concerned.

Fortunately the lump was benign and following a successful surgery in June to remove the mass, Cooper was soon back on his feet and bouncing around like a crazy thing like normal.

We skipped the L.A. Pride Parade to look after our recovering pup
Pride Labrador Cooper after surgery
Obviously his recovery didn't happen overnight (we even slept with him downstairs on the sofa cushions for a week or two as he couldn't manage the stairs with his stitches), but it did mean we weren't really in the mood to enjoy the WEHO Pride celebrations in the same way this year.

West Hollywood's Marriage Equality celebration rally on June 26, 2015
West Hollywood Marriage Equality celebration rally
One highlight of the year came on June 26, 2015 though, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled marriage equality for all 50 states. It was no longer 'gay' marriage, just marriage for all. I honesty believed this day would come in the future, but not so fast as it did in America, so it was a wonderful triumph for LGBT equality.

Attended Marvel's Ant-Man World Premiere on June 29, 2015
AntMan movie billboard
Also at the end of June, I was fortunate enough to attend the World Premiere of Marvel's Ant-Man movie which I throughly enjoyed (in fact, it's probably one of my favourite films of the year). Because you also have to check your phone or camera before you go into the theatre (for fear of piracy) I never seem to be able to get any pictures at these events, but that just means I'm able to enjoy the experience and walk the red carpet at the same time as the movie's stars talk to the swarm of press.

A new sectional sofa to help refresh our condo arrived in August
Labrador Cooper wondering what happened to his sofas
This Summer we invested in a new sectional sofa to help give our condo living space a mini-makeover, although it did cause some confusion for Cooper, he wondered where his two sofas had disappeared to. He soon found his spot on the new sofa though.

Disney's D23 Expo on August 14, 2015
Giant Buzz Lightyear inflatable Disney D23 Expo
In August Disney held its biennial D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center and I popped along to see what costumes and props were on display.
Star Wars Force Awakens movie costumes D23 Expo
To my delight, not only did they have film costumes from the new Alice Through the Looking Glass movie, but they also had cool costumes from Star Wars: The Force Awakens on display (out of their reflective cases as an extra bonus).

Still enjoying all the sights that L.A. has to offer
MacArthur Park floating Spheres
This year I continued to try and make the most of living in Southern California, enjoying the beautiful weather and also checking out cool things that popped up, like this spherical floating art installation at MacArthur Park in September and closer to home all the cool sculptures in West Hollywood Park.

Enjoying the delights of Huntington Dog Beach in Orange County
Cooper's leg took a while to heal properly, but fortunately it did, so it wasn't long before we were visiting old haunts, like his favourite dog beaches in Huntington Beach and in Santa Barbara.

October in Palm Springs by the pool
Palm Springs pool
In October one of our bridesmaids and best friends came to visit, which made for an excellent excuse to spend a few days by the pool in our rented house in Palm Springs, providing much needed relaxation in the sun with good company in beautiful surroundings.

Exploring and bar hopping around San Francisco
Coit Tower San Francisco
After a few cocktails around the pool we even dreamed up the idea of cashing in my air miles and doing a two-day trip to San Francisco, a city my friend had never visited before. We had a great time playing tourist, exploring the streets and trying out as many local bars and eateries as we could fit in.

A disappointingly slow 2015 New York Marathon
2015 New York Marathon runner
In November, nursing a calf injury, I ran my second New York Marathon and unsurprisingly I didn't have that great a race. But I accomplished my twelfth marathon and got to add another medal to my collection.

Staying a few extra days in the Big Apple we got to catch up with friends, revisit some of our favourite restaurants and discover new ones, plus even find time to see a musical on Broadway, An American in Paris, which was utterly charming.

Pre-Thanksgiving visit to Hendry's Beach in Santa Barbara
Labrador Cooper Hendry's Beach
Towards the end of November we caught up with old West London neighbours from the U.K., now also living in California, the day before Thanksgiving in Santa Barbara. Obviously we couldn't resist taking Cooper with us to the dog-friendly beach for a good play along the shore to tire him out.

Hosting and cooking Thanksgiving dinner again this year
The next day we hosted friends for Thanksgiving dinner and it was time to remember how to cook a turkey, plus all the trimmings, which I always forget from year to year. The red wine flowed and a good time was had by all involved.

Around this time it was back to physical therapy to try and find out what was wrong with my leg and back, and hopefully get my body back in shape for another marathon (although sadly I'll be missing the 2016 L.A. Marathon).

Enjoying a very Merry Christmas Day
 Merry Christmas Day lunch
Thanksgiving is always great practice for Christmas Day too, when we do it all over again a month later, only this time with Christmas decorations, music, crackers and party hats.

Seeing out the old year in style in Palm Springs
Palm Springs rental
I'm ending the year with the obligatory cold, but spreading it around with friends in Palm Springs to see in the New Year.

Let's hope 2016 brings good health, happiness and success for everyone...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

December's TV billboards filling the Holiday skies of L.A...

Aside from a new Star Wars film at the box office, there were also plenty of new and returning TV shows to get excited about on the small screen this month. Here's a selection of the television show billboards entertaining L.A.'s festive skies this December.
TV billboards
Let it snow Elsewhere Happy Holidays Comedy Central billboard
First up is this fun 'Happy Holidays' billboard from Comedy Central. It's true that L.A. never really experiences snowfall, but with the chilly temperatures we're experiencing compared to the heatwave on the East Coast, never say never. 
A Very Murray Christmas special billboard
Bill Murray was also bringing his own brand of festive cheer his month with these fun santa hat ad creatives for his Netflix holiday special, A Very Murray Christmas.
The X-Files 2016 miniseries billboard
For fans of The X-Files, news of a new six-episode mini-series in the New Year was a nice Christmas present, especially as this billboard with 'Mulder and Scully' appeared outside Fox Studios to tease us in December.
The Expanse series premiere billboard
In the meantime, science fiction fans were treated to double the fun this December, with Syfy bringing us two adaptations of literary works.
Childhoods End miniseries billboard
Firstly The Expanse was a new epic space opera saga based on the sci-fi novels by James S. A. Corey, whilst Childhood's End was a mini-series event adaptation of the legendary Arthur C. Clarke's classic alien encounter story.
Giant Game of Thrones season 6 teaser billboard
Game of Thrones fans were also teased with these giant brooding 'Jon Snow' billboards, seeing the fan-favorite character seemingly back from the dead for the sixth season. April 2016 suddenly seems like a long time away.
Walking Dead marathon billboard
If you love zombie drama The Walking Dead, then you're in for an end of year treat with a special marathon of all the episodes before the show returns for the second half of the sixth season.
Neon Joe Werewolf Hunter TV billboard
From the undead to another supernatural horror, and Adult Swim was bringing Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter to this month's skyline.
Always Sunny in Philadelphia season 11 billboard
Speaking of horror, for their eleventh season the comedic gang from Paddy's Pub on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia were channeling Stephen King's Children of the Corn for their latest promo billboard.
Shadowhunters Mortal Instruments series premiere billboard
In 2016 Freeform, the new name for ABC Family, is bringing The Mortal Instruments fantasy series to life in a new TV show called Shadowhunters.

At least this billboard for episodic adaptation of Cassandra Clare's young adult novels is leagues better than the movie billboard for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones from 2013.
Shannara Chronicles series premiere billboard
Meanwhile over on MTV, another series of fantasy books written by Terry Brooks are being adapted in the New Year, as The Shannara Chronicles debut in January.
War Peace TV miniseries billboard
And speaking of adaptations, the retelling of Leo Tolstoy's classic War & Peace, starring Lily James, Paul Dano and James Norton, is headed to Lifetime, A&E and the History Channel in January.
Outsiders series premiere billboard
Towards the end of January WGN America will bring the Outsiders to life, set in the modern day Appalachian mountains where a group of people who have lived there for years are threatened when big companies want to redevelop the hills and radically alter their way of life.
Billions series premiere billboard
Speaking about businesses concerned with nothing but money, and Homeland's Damian Lewis stars alongside Paul Giamatti in a new Showtime drama, Billions, set in the complex world of New York's high finance.
Shades of Blue series premiere billboard
Over on NBC, Jennifer Lopez is back on the small screen in the new dirty cop show, Shades of Blue, alongside Ray Liotta and Drea de Matteo.

If you're a fan of the actress and singer, be sure to also check out the super-sized billboard for JLO's Las Vegas residency starting in January 2016.
The Wiz Live billboard
It wouldn't be the Holidays without seeing a stage show, and for the third year in a row NBC put on a live musical for audiences to enjoy. Following The Sound of Music and Peter Pan, this year it was the turn of The Wiz! to get the small screen treatment.
Mr Robot FYC 2015 billboard
In addition to all the new shows, there was also some outdoor campaigning taking place for the upcoming awards season, most noticeably in the TV world for USA Network's acclaimed Summer hit, Mr. Robot.
F is for Family series premiere billboard
Later in the month that billboard was replaced by this ad for Netflix's new animated sitcom based on comedian Bill Burr's childhood in the 70s, F is for Family.
New Girl season 5 billboard
Speaking of comedy, this time live-action, and New Girl is back for a fifth season in 2016, with Zooey Deschanel's 'Jess' taking five episodes off to do jury duty, whilst the actress takes some real-life maternity leave after the birth of her new daughter.
MasterChef Junior season 4 billboard
MasterChef Junior was back for a fourth season of the cooking competition for kids, with it being Graham Elliot's (on the left hand side) last time as judge for the TV franchise.
I'm Brent Morin comedy special billboard
Netflix continues to showcase standup comedians, with Brent Morin and Mike Epps comedy specials being in the spotlight along West Hollywood's highly travelled Sunset Strip this month.
Mike Peeps Don't take it personal billboard
Comedian Whitney Cummings got super-sized for her new HBO comedy stand-up special, I'm your Girlfriend, along the Sunset Strip.
Whitney Cummings I'm your Girlfriend comedy special billboard
And Samantha Bee has a new late-night talk show coming to TBS in 2016, with 'Full Frontal' already offending ultra-conservative group, One Million Moms (which actually consists of only a few thousand people) before it's even aired.
Full Frontal Samantha Bee Watch or be sexist billboard
You know what they say, any publicity is good publicity. Plus this 'watch or you're sexist' billboard is great fun.
Deliver us from spin Bill Maher billboard
And speaking of pointless political crusades, Real Time with Bill Maher is back to comment on the latest in the world of news, current affairs and politics for a fourteenth season.
VH1 Big in 2015 billboard
In addition to all the Golden Globe awards campaigning, VH1's Big in 2015 bash also celebrated this year's breakout stars, movies, TV shows and music performers.
FishCenter Nude fish compete cash billboard
And finally this bizarre 'nude fish' billboard from Adult Swim and their very quirky FishCenter Live show, which is a call-in talk show presented over footage of tropical fish swimming about in a tank, really made me smile this month. you can always count on Adult Swim's billboards to entertain and bring you something unexpected and different.

So there you have a it, a veritable smorgasbord of TV shows, mini-series and specials trying to get you to watch. Expect many more to appear in the coming weeks for the new midseason of television due in the New Year.

Why not also check out the TV show billboards filling L.A.'s skies last December and in December 2013.

See you all at the end of next month for another roundup, to see what 2016 will have to offer...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Santa was kind again this year...

Happy Boxing Day and a very Merry Christmas everyone. Yesterday we had a fun and fabulous Christmas Day with plenty of good food, friends and presents (and a glass of champagne or two, naturally).

Look what Santa left...
Christmas presents guarded by Labrador Cooper
Once again Charlie and I managed to buy different gift wrapping paper, but only just, as I'd eyed one of his designs when buying my own 'Christmas tree' themed selection ay Paper Source.
Gift-wrapped Christmas presents
Let's just say Santa was very kind to my husband and I this year, with Apple Watches, Tiffany souvenirs from the New York Marathon, books, chocolates, decorations, gym gear, Blu-rays (I think we're the only people buying them these days) and more delights.
Christmas presents
Of course, before we dug in to our presents someone else wanted to see what Father Christmas had left for him in his stockings.

Cooper knew exactly where to look for his presents
Labrador Cooper Christmas stocking
Cooper wasn't disappointed with treats and new toys galore, including a new 'Woody Woodpecker' (although he's not quite sure about the character's trademark laugh that comes out when squeezed), buzzy bee and dragon toys.
Toy time Labrador Cooper
As you can see they put a smile on his face and he had a good roll around enjoying playing with them.
New toy playtime Labrador Cooper
We were joined by some friends for our festive lunch, which was basically a repeat of our turkey extravaganza from Thanksgiving, complete with 'Mrs. Patmore's Downton Abbey' brussel sprouts (with a bit of added bacon), all washed down with some bubbles and delicious red wine.
Festive Christmas tree table
To say fun was had by all was an understatement and even though the sun was shining outside, there was a nice crisp chill in the air to make it feel more like Christmas in L.A. That and the wonderful hush that had fallen over West Hollywood with everyone away, or inside enjoying their own festive feasts, was the perfect way to celebrate Christmas Day.

Cooper had one too many sherries, or treats, one of the two
Sleepy Labrador Cooper
As you can see, after playing and entertaining the troops all day, Cooper was well and truly pooped by the end of the day, when it was time to relax and enjoy this year's Doctor Who Christmas special on the sofa together.

Inspired by The Great British Bake Off...
Christmas fruit cake slice
Today it's time to do it all again with more Boxing Day festivities (for us Brits abroad) and time to try a slice of my world famous (on two continents anyway) Christmas fruit cake (you can probably smell the sherry from there).

Continue being merry, merry...