The smell of LA

When I moved to LA last year it was as though all the moisture got sucked out of my skin. My friends and I all marvelled at how dry our skin had become, seemingly overnight, and the enduring nature of it was more than could be blamed on a 14 hour flight over the Pacific.

I wandered down to my local CVS Pharmacy on Glendale Boulevard and spent a really long time looking at all the beauty products, most especially moisturisers. I still remember comparing all the different brands, the prices (calculating currency conversions in my head) and features until finally deciding on Alba Botanical natural very emollient body lotion. It had a pump pack which I thought was a bit different.

After bathing myself in the moisturiser for more than a week, I managed to bring back my skin’s normal smooth appearance.

I loved it so much I made sure I brought some back to Australia and now every time I apply it to my arms and legs I am taken back to LA, to our cool apartment in Silverlake and to the vivid feeling of excitement I had while living there. I love that certain smells can instantly transport you to another place and another time and am glad I have a strong association to take me back to my memory of LA.

Do you have a special scent that takes you somewhere else? What is it and where does it take you?

How to stand out in Medellin

As soon as I left the hostel this morning, I got my first comment.

A dirty man sifting through rubbish followed me with a barrage of comments on my looks and appearance.  That set the tone for the rest of the day as I constantly had people staring at me and dishing out comments. That is the thing I hate the most about Latin America.

By the time I got to the Metro station, I realised the errors of my ways. I was the only female with bare legs. While I was wearing denim shorts, the rest of the girls were wearing jeans two sizes too small. This latina condition is what my roommate at the hostel calls “chicken bus jeans” – they pack as much into there as possible and as long as they can close the door most of the way, all is good.

So for the rest of the day, I copped a stack of (unwanted) male attention. This is one of the reasons I´ve decided to head back to Bogota. At least it´s too cold to wear denim shorts there, and I seemed to be able to roam the streets without the looks and stares.

Best foot forward

I got the hell out of Dodge and drove 350 miles to Kansas City where I was catching up with Hiker Buddy Brian who I met in Utah.

Arriving in the pretty city that was surprisingly devoid of people, I found what I’d been looking for – a nail salon.

After several weeks of travelling my feet were desperate for a pedicure. My heels were cracked and flaky skin formed a ring around my feet like a chalk outline on the footpath.

It turns out everyone in Kansas City was in the nail salon. All the Midwest bridal parties were having their nails done in preparation for “the big day” and engagement and wedding rings adorned the hands of almost all the women in there. After a short wait I sank back in the massage chair and had my feet primped and preened and my back and shoulders pummelled.

I felt like a million dollars when I walked out the door and into the surprisingly sultry weather. It was the perfect start to my city break and my feet sang with excitement.

Birthday mail & celebrations already

Birthday cards
Early well wishing birthday cards

I was so excited to find birthday mail even though it’s still a week away.

Given that not many people back home actually have my address, it was so lovely to receive a card from my aunt. That at least balanced out the two birthday postcards I have received from companies I’m a customer of being New Look Skin Center and Farmers Insurance Group. At least the New Look Skin Center included a $10 discount voucher.

I was also extremely surprised when J and I went around to Ricardo, Astra and Jolena’s place for dinner and all of a sudden Jolena turned all the lights out and then Astra came out of the kitchen with a cake and candles. The fact that the fan blew the candles out before it made it to the table and there was a short break in the proceedings as the fan was turned off and they were relit didn’t take anything away from that magical moment.

I can’t remember the last time I sat in a darkened room with just the candles on the cake in front of me for light and having soft lit shining faces sing happy birthday to me. That was really special and I was so touched by the gesture from these lovely new friends of mine in LA. That and the chocolate caked baked especially for me by Jolena was the perfect birthday gift to a person who continually escapes her birthday celebrations.

A kitchen isn’t complete without an apron

Being hostess
Vintage apron, dress and necklace. Brand new pavlova.

Entertaining at Easter was the perfect excuse to get about in my new vintage apron.

J and I had decided to put on a lunch for a bunch of friends and given that she is vegetarian, I said I’d cook the roast while she prepared the vegetables.

Roast lambRoast lamb in the oven

Going to Gelson’s, there were only two sizes to choose from, a half leg and then a full leg. The full leg weighed 7.55lb (which is about 3.5kg). I have never cooked a leg of lamb on the bone before so I was a little nervous to attack such a big piece, but I did a lot of research on the net as to how long I should cook it for and at what temperature. Converting weight and temperature is not my favourite thing, but eventually I figured that I should cook it at 325°F for 2 and a half hours. I think the winning element was resting it for around 20 minutes. It came out perfectly. Tender, easy to carve (also something I’d also never done before was carve off the bone) and totally delicious.

J cooked some traditional American Easter recipes from her grandmother which were fab and went down a treat. She made baked beans, scalloped corn and cornbread. Yum, and a little touch of the US in what was a mostly Australian affair.

Chocolate Ripple Cake
Chocolate Ripple Cake

We also introduced our two American guests to the delights of pavlova and chocolate ripple cake which was courtesy of the chocolate ripple biscuits sent in my care package.

Since Jolena was over, J organised an Easter egg hunt in the “backyard”. Now I’m not sure our backyard can really be called anything but a carpark, but still, it had some great hiding spots and she had fun finding them (as did I).

Easter hostesses
Me and J celebrating a great day

It was a lovely Easter with old friends and new, and J and I had so much fun entertaining.

Twinkling tootsies

New pedicures
Our toes in the freebie thongs to keep the finish smooth. It’s great fashionable footwear, perfect for everyday use.

A treat was what our feet deserved after trampling all over Los Angeles in search of sights, sounds and male attention.

In the dying hours of Movie Lass’s visit, we popped into Harmony Nail Spa down the road for a bit of pampering. We were lucky to find two of the big massage chairs with foot baths next to each other and sat down to have a manicure and pedicure. As soon as I felt the massaging back of the chair start kneading my back and the warm water on my feet, I was blissed out.

Two ladies worked on us at a time, one on the hands and one at our feet buffing and polishing. What made it even better was that our legs, feet, arms, necks and hands got a relaxing massage.

It was perfect for Movie Lass before her 15 hour flight back to Australia. And it was the icing on the cake of our LA adventure with a girly outing.

A deserted Beverly Center

With the Aussie dollar at such a great exchange rate, Movie Lass had to go shopping, so we went to the Beverly Center.

It’s a large shopping centre in LA with both a Bloomingdale’s and a Macy’s along with a stack of other shops. I was astounded by a few things there.

  1. Unlike shopping centres in Australia, there were barely any seats in the concourse. I was weary and needed to take a seat, but it wasn’t until we were out in front of all the luxury brands like Prada were there any seats.
  2. Again, unlike shopping centres at home, there weren’t really any mall furnishings like potted plants and bins. It felt like an empty warehouse.
  3. Adding to the empty warehouse feel was that there were hardly any shoppers. The concourses were virtually deserted. I think it is a telltale sign of the economy that on a weekday evening during the spring break there was hardly anyone there. And those that were there were clearly tourists like ourselves.
  4. Whilst in Bebe, an entourage of people descended upon the store and started asking questions about products, what was selling, pointing out bits and pieces that they loved. There was a clear leader and all the rest were here followers. Movie Lass asked a sales assistant who they were and apparently she is the visual designer for the store, so it must be going to have a makeover soon.

I am being very good at not getting caught up in the spending frenzy, trying to watch my pennies and not succumb to temptation. I did buy a bag, dress and skirt that I am going to need, but I spent less than $70 so that was okay.