Intermission II: The LA Tourist Speaks

I asked my sister, Katherine, to list her LA: Top 5. Being a first timer in the city, I’m not surprised that she responded with the following:

1. Hiking to the Hollywood Sign.

2. Walking Hollywood Boulevard.

3. Driving through Orange County – to Laguna Beach and San Clemente.

4. Exploring Beverly Hills and witnessing everything it is known for – the Lamborghinis; the brand name stores – Gucci, Prada; Rodeo Drive…

5. Drinking a Moroccan mint matcha latte at Urth Caffe in Santa Monica.

Though I’m a resident of LA, even I get excited when I glimpse the Pacific Ocean’s shimmer on a sunny day, take a Star Line tour of Hollywood stars’ homes, and hopscotch the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While Kath’s Top 5 may read like that of a guidebook, it’s a worthy list that reminds me that all that glitters in LA really is gold to the tourist.

My sis and me peeking over the fence at "that" sign

My sis and me peeking over the fence at “that” sign

Hollywood Sign c/o the iphone

Hollywood Sign c/o the iPhone

Top of the Sign

Top of the Sign

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Looking over LA

Kath looking over LA

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Lucille Ball's old home

Lucille Ball’s old home in Beverly Hills

Bijan's Bugatti

Bijan’s million+ Bugatti on Rodeo Drive

Harry Winston store on Rodeo Drive

Harry Winston store on Rodeo Drive

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Tourists

Tourists

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Oz premiere on Hollywood Blvd

Oz premiere on Hollywood Blvd

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Chilling at the pool at the Loews Hotel hollywood

Chilling at the pool at the Loews Hotel Hollywood

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

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Warming the fingertips - Montage Hotel Laguna Beach

Warming the fingertips – Montage Hotel Laguna Beach

Photo Shoot at Treasure Island Park, Laguna Beach

Photo Shoot at Treasure Island Park, Laguna Beach

The Pacific

The Pacific

San Clemente - through Katherine's rose coloured glasses

San Clemente – through Katherine’s rose coloured glasses

My sis, Kath, with her fave Moroccan Mint matcha drink at Urth Caffe

My sis, Kath, with her fave Moroccan Mint matcha drink at Urth Caffe

Road Trippin’ via Raleigh, NC

Driving along stretches of highway has given me a distinct feeling of de-ja-vu; I’m reminded of when I was a kid, driving up Australia’s East Coast with the family over the summer holidays. I’d stare out the window at the repetitive landscape – green tree after hill after green tree; a pattern broken either by a bridge crossing or farmland speckled with livestock: grazing sheep, dozing cows, and roaming horses.

Despite a difference in age, taste, and destination, road trips have a distinct feel. Of course, some things do change over time…

The 2Day station that used to play on the FM car radio has been replaced with an organised MP3 playlist; the highway lunch is no longer a McDonalds cheeseburger and sundae, but a Wendy’s salad and large coffee; the GPS has long superseded the UBD street directory, which used to be a staple in the side door pocket of dad’s car. I remember tracing the roads with my finger, tracking our progress towards Queensland’s Gold Coast. Now, I just key the correct address into the smartphone and ensure I keep up with what the navigation system is telling me (not so easy).

Sitting in a 2 seater is not dissimilar to sharing a car with 5 others. I am still crammed with stuff underfoot – at the moment it happens to be by bags filled with technology, and not a backpack jammed with can’t-live-without-them toys and books.

Probably the biggest difference in being an adult on a road trip, versus a kid, is that I have most of the control over the itinerary. Setting aside the amusement park rides for the time being, right now it’s all about arts and culture, dining, a bit of history, and experiencing the beautiful nature of the USA.

Because you just never know when I might be sitting behind the wheel of that family wagon.

The Prayer ~ Auguste Rodin. At the North Carolina Museum of Art

Iris Restaurant at the North Carolina Museum of Art

A New York Love Story

Written in the Spring of 2012

Cherry Blossoms in Central Park

Looking down upon 79th Street Transverse from Central Park, the ubiquitous yellow cabs passing underway feel as natural as the cherry blossoms that surround me. Juxtaposed against an oasis of calm, Fifth Avenue bustles at the Park’s perimeter with a constant stream of boot-to-pavement. To my left, a scene just as frenetic is playing out in the Met Museum; stoic, its interior is overrun by tourists trying to navigate its expanse.

This is New York – a city of dichotomies. Home to millions of people, and a holiday destination for millions more, it is the most bustling metropolis in the United States. New York City is where I, an expat based in a city charged with an unstoppable energy, found my peace.

Park Avenue, New York

I had been caught in New York’s embrace from the onset. Whisked into its whirlwind, the city subsequently unraveled a series of monumental moments along the way. Meeting him was the most definitive – it sparked a new beginning.

I’d fallen in love with him with the same ease I’d fallen for New York. Just as I’d experienced the spark of the city whilst standing in Times Square as a twenty-something year old thinking, this feels so right; years later I felt a similar sentiment as we dined together at my favourite restaurant on Park Avenue.

Ever since that first date, we’ve been walking the same path.

Now, standing in Central Park, newly married, I realise that my love for New York has taken on a deeper meaning. This is a city that can so easily seduce, enthrall, and enchant. But it’s when you stay a while that you really feel the beat of its strong, passionate, and loving heart.

Smooch Day ~ somewhere, and everywhere, in the world

A live feed from my living room in Brooklyn, NY:

A newspaper in Sydney, Australia (yes, Daily Telegraph) is claiming it is #HappyKissDay* on June 15, though a fellow tweeter has stated that is is actually an unofficial romantic holiday celebrated only in Korea on June 14.

*Likely a trending topic on Twitter but a good reason to wish everyone a #HappyKissDay anyway. Feel free to spread some hashtag love around the world !

Doinseau inspired kisses in Sydney ~ Photograph by Anthony Schuster

A Mother’s Day Dedication

My mum, in 10 words: elegant, beautiful, warm hearted, creative, caring, humanitarian, shopaholic, pet collector.

My mum – mama, in Russian – loves animals and got attached to each pet any of us kids ever owned. At one stage, a dwarf rabbit, a couple of guinea pigs, two cats, a dog, goldfish, and (caged) mice were under our care. You can imagine what a lively and entertaining household this turned out to be: I walked the rabbit on a leash, the dog stood guard by the guinea pig cage, the cats kept an eye on the fish, while mum would play midwife to the crazy-breeding mice.

Despite the oceans and lands that temporarily separate us, I know my mama is someone I can always count on, no matter what.

I never met my paternal grandmother as she passed away a few months before I was born. I did spend some time with my maternal grandmother (she passed away when I was about 7) and can remember when she’d babysit us. Baba, as we called her (grandmother in Russian), would walk us to the supermarket near her apartment, place a few coins into our outstretched palms, and allow us to buy whatever sweets we wanted. To me, this was one of the coolest perks ever and I’d always select the ‘Milo’ bar. Thankfully, it is still available in Australia and I associate its green wrapper, the swoosh of its logo, and the chocolaty crumbly goodness inside, with those times.

My mama, baba, and me. This was photographed around 1979, most likely by my dad.

Mother’s Day is a good reminder to pause, think, and thank all the mothers, grandmothers, “aunties,” godmothers, sisters, friends, and mothers-in-law for being such inspiring souls.

I asked a few friends and readers around the globe to share something special about their mums; I so appreciate them taking part in this tribute. Their reflections and words are full of heart, emotion, and positive energy.

Here’s a toast to mums ~ raise a glass of something bubbly as you read through these sentiments. Please leave a comment about a favourite memory or lesson learned from your mum, if you are able to. Enjoy!

NB: the pictures look alot better when clicked on and enlarged.

Miri Fridman, 34, Sydney, Australia

How has being a mother changed you? Well, apart from the fact that these days 6am is considered a mega ‘sleep in’ – and my body wobbles in more places than it did before – being a mum has made me more emotional and sensitive to issues affecting kids around the world. I now cry at any news of neglect or abuse; I never used to feel so deeply about it prior to having kids. With my children, knowing in my heart that I would actually die for them is such a powerful feeling – it is something I never thought possible.

Miri with Jamie (5) and Mikey (2) in Sydney this year.

What is the best lesson your mum taught you about motherhood?
I know its cliche, but you can never, ever, ever understand the unconditional love and devotion your parents have for you until you become a parent yourself.

I think about my kids every second that they are not with me. I wonder if they are happy, if they feel sad about something, if I packed enough changes of clothes in case of little ‘accidents’, if they are safe, if they miss me…. And we’re only talking about a couple of hours at the grandparents or kindergarten school here! Imagine when they grow up!

I actually sometimes find myself lost in thought, with tears welling up in my eyes, imagining what I would do if something happened to them. It’s crazy how powerful the love is.

Author’s note: This is a pic I love. It is of me, Marina, and my mum, Natasha, with Jamie. We were visiting Miri and her family on my trip home to Sydney in 2010.

Laura Cook, 30, Essex, UK

Favourite childhood memory about your mum: I have many of them with my wonderful mum but I would say the winner has to be a really simple one. I remember ‘helping’ my mum make cakes (I really did not help that much!) when I was about six or seven years old. She would be so patient with me and let me use the exciting electric whisk to churn up the ingredients. If I was lucky she would also let me lick the left over icing off the spoon! She didn’t mind that I made a mess and it was just a great time to spend together.

What’s the best lesson your mum taught you? Mum taught me to always go for the things you want to achieve because life is short! She sighs a bit when I tell her I am off to Sierra Leone on holiday or I have started a project that will require me to be somewhere hot, sticky, and crawling with spiders, but she has always encouraged me to try everything and for that I am really grateful.

Laura with her mum, Evelyn, and niece, Florence, walking up the Southend-on-Sea Pier. This is the longest pleasure pier in the world and you can walk over a mile out to sea along the Victorian board walk.  Photograph: lauracookphotography.net

Scott Karavlan, 33, Pittsburgh, USA

Favourite childhood memory about your mum: Growing up, mum would take me to the Carnegie Library and then the History Museum on Saturday afternoons. This created a lifelong love of reading and history.

My mum, in 10 words: an inspiration, a talented, beautiful, intelligent, articulate, and beyond patient woman.

Best lesson my mum taught me: By example, she has shown me how to treat those I love with compassion and patience.

Scott (far left) and his mum, Judy, along with the extended Karavlan family at Walt Disney World in 2011. Scott has 3 children with his wife, Amy.

Barbara Iliopoulos, 34, Sydney, Australia

How do you remember your mum on Mother’s Day? Mother’s Day is bittersweet for a motherless mother. My kids are so excited to show me the love on Mother’s Day, and I don’t have my mum to share it with her. I try not to get too emotional in front of the boys because it is a happy day, but we will always take the time to remember yiayia Maria (yiayia is grandmother in Greek). We will go to my mum’s grave – which the boys call yiayia’s little house, lay flowers, say a special prayer and light her candle. We will then go and visit my maternal grandmother (88), and we will always share stories about mum.

Funny story about my mum was showing my granny how to do a nice smile without her dentures. They were in for repairs during my wedding so mum was teaching her how to pose for the photos.

Barbara’s mum, Maria

What is the best lesson your mum taught you? Losing my mum before I had kids initially brought on an anxiety that I would not have her there to guide me with my parenting, especially through my first pregnancy. However, as I go through the process I realise that she has taught me so much – others might call it instinct. The best lesson she taught me was to give my kids a hug and a big kiss first thing every morning and the last thing at night, and to continue doing this every single day not matter how old the boys get.

Barbara, William (2), and Steven (5) on vacation in London, 2011.

Stephanie Laoaraya, 34, Nan, Thailand

The best thing about motherhood is… watching your baby grow up in front of your eyes and being with them as they share their funny thoughts on the world with you!

My mum taught me to… enjoy the moments as the kids grow up very fast.

Stephanie with Achira (3) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This photo was taken earlier this year at the Royal Gardens; the whole background is made up from flowers.

Lauren Paris, 29, Gold Coast, Australia

What is the best thing about motherhood? For me, it is the overwhelming and unconditional love I have for my son and daughter. No matter how sleep deprived, I consider it to be an absolute reward each and every day to get up to my babies and see their smiling faces. Life is one huge smile. Being a mum is the most rewarding role ever!

My son is always giggling; my daughter melts my heart every time she wraps her arms around me. She gives me slobbery smooches and says, “I love you mummy” just like she did tonight – it was the best (early) mother’s day present anyone could ask for. It’s true that the best things in life are free!

Lauren along with her grandmother (nanna), mum, and daughter Jacinta (2). They are at Q1 skyscraper on the Gold Coast for her nanna’s 75th birthday. At the time, Lauren was pregnant with her second baby; Jordan is now 4 months.

My mum, in 10 words: kind, generous, thoughtful, strong, and inspirational! She always gives great advice.

Now that I’m a mum, I value my mum and nanna even more. I am so thankful for all the opportunities they’ve given me and am so fortunate to have two such wonderful women in my life as role models. It’s beautiful to see the relationships they have with my two children.
I love them very much and can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me.

Jacinta and her baby brother, Jordan, with their nan nan and great nanna

Brendan Comey, 33, Dublin, Ireland

“The photo below was taken in Dublin last October.

I am not certain what my Mothers full name is; we always just called her “Ma”. I have reason to believe that she will answer to the name Patricia or Pat, or in more recent years, Nana or Granny.

I have so many fond memories from my childhood that to pick one would be an injustice. I do have some very vivid memories from my recent past: a few years ago, my Mother had a fairly routine operation that went badly wrong. For weeks she lay in a coma in an intensive care ward surrounded by her family. Her doctors were very non committal about her chances and we were told that she will either recover and survive, or she would die.  I have decided that this is a childhood memory because I am still her child even at the ripe age of 33.

Thankfully she survived with her lust for life and wicked sense of humor intact. She is currently gallivanting on the Sicilian coast.”

Brendan’s “Ma” ~ Photograph: Brendan Comey

Andrew Galea, 33, Toronto, Canada

What do you love most about your mum? As a child, my mum was so entertaining. I cherish her everyday and she is the second most important person in my life besides my wife.

My favorite childhood memory… is when mum, dad, my sister, and I went to Disneyland Florida – one of our first family vacations. We were standing alongside some Disney characters and seeing the smile on my parents’ face at that moment was priceless! My father and mother are always more concerned about our happiness than their own.

Andrew dancing with his mum, Monica, on his wedding day in 2011.

Author’s Note: The end of this post is in honour of my mum, Natasha, from the rest of her kids. They are all based in Sydney, Australia. ( I didn’t give my older brother, Michael, enough time to respond to this post. With two little ones, he and his wife, Karen, have their hands full. Luckily, he’s seeing mum personally on Mother’s Day.)

Alana, 29

My mum, in 10 words: Mama is giving and kind, and devoted to helping others.

My favourite childhood memory about mum… I have two: shopping with her on Friday nights in our local shopping mall in Chatswood, and accompanying her to the hairdresser on Saturday mornings. Random I know!

Alex, 22

My mum, in 10 words: Caring, emotional, humanitarian, strong, traditional, beautiful, sincere, devoted, disciplined, Russian.

The things I love most about my mum… her strength of character, physically and mentally; her willingness to help people; her love for her culture; and lastly, the fact that she will always love her children even during the most difficult times.

Katherine, 19

My mum, in 10 words: beautiful, loving, caring, adventurous, smart, and the world’s best mum.

What I love most about my mum..  she will always be there for me no matter what; she always puts others before herself; and, she has a big heart.

The last time we were all together was at my wedding in Australia last year. From left: My brother Michael and his wife, Karen; my sister, Alana; my dad and mum; me and Ali; my sister, Katherine and my brother, Alex.