Sunday, January 3, 2021

Ushering in a New Year

The following is a facebook post I shared with my facebook community on New Year's Eve from West Hollywood, California:

My Aussie brethren have already rung in the New Year, but we’re still on the steady march to midnight in the city of angels. Approx 6.5 hours to go. I have the Pol Roger and Billecart packed and making a Samin Nosrat chicken pot pie — simmering away on the stove. Will make my way to Zach’s apartment in the Westside suburb of Mar Vista early evening for an intimate send off to a rather memorable year!
I joined a virtual Buddhist meditation on Monday night and we were encouraged to reflect on the year that was. It was so useful that I’m putting on the same recording tonight so Zach can experience it too. 😂 He and I will then, with a glass of champagne in hand, reflect back on the highs and lows of 2020.
For a long time, I sought a life partner who matched me - and while I’ve had a somewhat colorful love life with characters in it who will always be endearing, Zach is my best suitor to date! (Let’s hope he sticks around.)
I was always very anti dating much younger men (naturally skeptical that they would soon seek out younger women) but it was in my 40s that I felt liberated enough to throw caution to the wind and see where the tide took me with the 28 year old intellect who just happened to share my love of Shakespeare. He’s been the most solid companion going on three years now. We are peas in a pod, helpful that he likes peas, and quite frankly - beyond the warm weather and my penchant for celebrity spotting, my anchor to LA.
I do miss Oz, and like Peter Allen, “I still call Australia home.” I’m thankful for those back in my homeland for keeping up their connection and buoying me on. My Aussie friend Justine likes to say “you’re like a cat, always land on your feet,” and I must admit, it’s been a slippery road in 2020 - but I’m incredibly grateful to my American PR community for throwing me a freelance bone when I’ve needed one. That hasn’t meant I’ve not had to hustle. Oh hustle hard I have. I have PR mates the world over and despite the industry’s changes along with “digital disruption,” their encouragement and support has helped me to hang on.
My oftentimes pesky personality and stubborn traits has seen me estranged from a few - I haven’t seen or spoken to my older brother and his two kids in three years and people I would have liked to hold as good friends have let go. My good old dad and I have had a tumultuous road since he met his wife 20 years ago, but I’m pleased to say we’re in a good place now. I cherish our history, familial bond, and our great love of my late mother!
So, it’s to the tried and true, that I raise my Winston Churchill favorite tipple (Pol Roger) to you all - as we sing, “should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?”
Happy New Year! 🎉🎊😘

Friday, July 10, 2020

The long wait

It's been five months into this unemployment/COVID-19 lockdown "journey" and as the weeks and months wear on, one gets used to the new routine, but also anxious about the realities that living an urban lifestyle in a city like Los Angeles costs money.

Although one's parents will (jokingly - but is it really jokingly?) urge you to marry a rich person, I dodged that bullet (his subsequent partner after me, he married, but 11 years on, they are divorced) and have mostly had to rely on myself financially since my father gave up that mantle of responsibility at my late age of 26. I was lucky - my dad was/is a generous man, but the real reason I hung around at home so long being the two of us were lost ships in a sea of storm after my mother passed when I was 21. Dad and I were holding on to each-other for the emotional support in our grief and living under the same roof until I was literally kicked out by the influence of his new love interest - now wife - five years later. She didn't want his adult daughter hanging around and she won that battle despite an epic war struggle.

On losing my job back in March, I am still somewhat in denial about spending. I have cut back on the designer clothing and expensive dinners and wines out, but I am still ordering "to go" $7 almond decaf lattes from Verve, buying matcha almond lattes, vegan cake, and strawberry almond milks at Erewhon, and have now started up somewhat of an addiction drinking the $13.5 smoothies at Kreation. Once the U.S. government's additional $600 to our unemployment allowance runs out, I guess I'll have to reassess again.

I would like to stay in LA, but it's a tough town to find work if you're not in entertainment and the movies. I found this when I first landed in the U.S. seven years ago. For three months I met with several PR people and set up "informational" meetings with PR agencies, but the efforts led to nothing. Well, I wouldn't say entirely nothing, as some solid relationships were made, and I still have some of those today. But no job.

It took moving to San Francisco to kick things off on the "making money" front - but after three years, I was able to relocate back to LA with my PR job at commercial real estate company, Cushman & Wakefield. When I lost that I was thrown back into the "LA is a tough job market" and it's been that way since.

Sure, great jobs come around but it's such a competitive space - PR, many, many people in it and all claiming to be experts. The competition can be enough to turn you to your own thing - I aim to build up (again) my own freelance PR business but also look into an entrepreneurial idea I have rattling around in my head after striking the idea watching a french film called, "Bright Days Ahead."

An older woman, the character played by Fanny Ardent, is given a free trial by her millennial daughters to an "activity house" called "Bright Days Ahead" for seniors. She goes along, gets involved in drama classes, wine tasting, pottery, computer classes, etc - and meets lots of like minded people. Rather than being fuddy duddy and depressive, the center and its offerings are friendly, adventurous and fun.

Well anyhow - there's a snippet of where my thinking is going and I'm still in exploration mode - I just think there's something to targeting the 45+ market and catering to them especially when so many of us feel like life has begun its age discrimination in our 40s (so young!) - how does it feel at 55, 65, 75, etc?

On that note, I have gotten back into my yoga because the studios have now opened back up - the lockdown and lay off sent my regular yoga practice down the drain - and I have an Iyengar yoga class to get to, so time to go. I have, perhaps temporarily, hung up my ashtanga yoga hat for now (it's a rigorous practice and well suited to younger people), and eased into the little less aerobically intense form of Iyengar.

Signing off from sunny California this Friday afternoon (argh, the unemployed still love Fridays...), adieu.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Bringing the professional to the personal

This blog has always focused on my personal life moreso than my professional, but right now these two areas have blurred. Currently, I am in a transition period. The company I was working for in LA experienced nation-wide lay off's as a means of "reduction in force" and my position (and many others in marketing and research across the country) was eliminated.

Less than two weeks later, the full sweep of COVID-19 government mandates clamped down around us worldwide. Today we are living as 'shelter in place' and the impact of this measure has inevitably slowed the economy and hampered employment prospects. In the hopes of speeding up a return to my industry, I wrote the following article, and thanks to my trusty boyfriend Zach, an English wunderkind, for his edits.

I first published the article to my Linkedin profile, that can be found here. Feel free to give it a 'like' as I believe this will help it to show up in more people's feeds. Thanks for the read.

How PR contributes to company sales

Author’s note:
It goes without saying that the mandated precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic, while necessary, have thrown our worlds into disarray. This is an unfamiliar and stressful situation for all of us, so the most important thing right now is to follow the guidance of medical experts and practice social distancing and good hygiene. If we work together and look out for one another, we can protect the well-being of our communities and prevent further spread of the virus.
This article is written in the spirit of sharing information that will be useful once we have made it through this crisis.
Knowing this one thing can ensure your career longevity in public relations
The most important item on a business leader’s agenda is to make decisions that maximize profit. That’s an unsentimental truth, but it’s one you’ve got to understand to flourish in the world of public relations. PR professionals must speak a language that appeals to business decision makers and helps them understand how our jobs contribute to their bottom line.
Sadly, a lot of business people don’t value PR. Businesses sometimes overlook and misunderstand the role it plays in their success. For example, an IT person passing my desk the other day saw a sign I had posted on my computer: “I love PR.” He said, “You love what? Puerto Rico?” Misunderstandings like this are common and is probably because the value that PR produces can be abstract or intangible – it’s not always easy to measure in terms of dollars and cents. But underestimating the importance of PR isn’t just bad for those of us who make our living out of public relations – a failure to appreciate PR can hamstring an entire organization and cause a business to miss ripe opportunities for profit.
Therefore, it is part of our job to do “PR for PR.” By helping paint the picture of how our profession drives value we can shift the mindset of our business leaders to become more “PR Friendly.” Below are a few examples of how good PR translates into profit.
PR helps build brand awareness - and this leads to sales
I like to apply the logic of how I decide to buy products or services to the development of my own PR programs.
I recall a tidbit of wisdom from an ad man I once worked with. He told me you need to show something seven times before it sticks. This makes a lot of sense. Our minds can be resistant to new concepts or products, so repetition is key to making sure an unfamiliar product or brand really penetrates a customer’s consciousness.
Here’s a practical example. Imagine you’re driving the 101 and you see a billboard promoting a company. Later that day you’re chatting with a work colleague who happens to mention the company’s name. The next morning, you’re waiting in line at Philz and you notice a friend has posted about the company on Facebook. While drinking the coffee you read an article which cites the company’s founder as a source. The point is, if you encounter the company over and over throughout a period of time, it will eventually enter your mental landscape, both consciously and subconsciously. As PR people, part of our job is to maximize the opportunities for such encounters to happen. We can do that through social media, traditional media or, as I explain below, connecting with third parties and influencers. 
The proof is in the pudding - how do you make your own purchase decisions? PR without a doubt has played a part
I love to travel. Admittedly that has been stalled during the necessary precautions we are all taking during the COVID-19 pandemic. When I was traveling, I spent a lot of time wandering on my own, discovering new places and making international friends. It shouldn’t surprise you that this got expensive, mostly because of hotel costs. I wasn’t about to give up my wanderlust at the time, but I needed to change something if I wanted keep my finances intact. So, I turned to my Facebook network and asked, where do single people stay when they travel to XYZ?
Through this social media outreach I learned about Airbnb. Years ago – before the company had spread mainstream and back when the logo was still in blue letters -- my Facebook friend said I should consider the service as an affordable option. This is what is otherwise known as word of mouth (going viral) or “third party endorsement”. As PR people, we will regularly engage relevant third parties to support our brands. The same concept sparked the ‘influencer’ craze on Instagram in the millennial era. My friend who told me about Airbnb probably didn’t think of herself as an influencer, but in a way all of us are influencers when we speak to people we trust within our networks. It’s our job as PR people to connect with those influencers.
After my friend, whom I trust (trustworthiness is again, integral to business success), recommended Airbnb, I went to its website and was impressed by the friendly vibe, easy user interface, and abundance of stay options. I could also read reviews about each place, see the photos, and learn about the host in their own words and from others in the reviews. Plus, back in 2012, it was much cheaper to stay in an Airbnb than a hotel. I became a convert and used the service the world over for the next five years. I even made a few more good friends along the way. 
Airbnb was able to gain my loyalty as a customer. But it’s important to remember client loyalty can’t be assumed. If the product or service slips, so does brand loyalty. You mustn’t let decision makers think of PR as a short-term project that ends when you achieve first contact with the customer. PR is instead an ongoing process – it needs to be practiced continually and cultivated to keep customers engaged and loyal. 
As Airbnb grew in popularity over the years, the prices increased, in some cases exceeding hotel pricing. Some hosts got greedy, charging up to $100 for cleaning expenses and more than $80 per night to lodge in modest rooms in equally modest apartments or houses.
A service that began as a community was becoming less friendly and more transactional. People started renting out apartments for the sole purpose of Airbnb and not making these places first their homes. In my opinion, this has undermined the warm and integrated culture Airbnb had grown. A good PR response would be necessary to restore this culture, and win back my loyalty.
Eventually I gave up and went back to hotels – but I will still review Airbnb options if I’m planning a longer trip.
There’s a lesson for PR professionals in my experience with Airbnb. Business leaders, when they make decisions, must consider the importance of brand perception, company reputation, issues management, and social responsibility. A good PR person can help them do that better than anyone else.   
Know which media will resonate best with your leaders and company
An article in Forbes or Fortune is impressive on any level but probably means the most to the C-Suite of a Fortune 500 company, whereas an article in TechCrunch is considered the PR Holy Grail in the startup world. Why are mentions in these publications so coveted by savvy industry insiders?
In a word: perception. Insiders know that securing media coverage in a respected outlet is extremely hard due to the competitive nature of media relations. Therefore, if your PR person is lucky and talented enough to claim that prize, others in the industry will look on your company in awe and let’s not lie, envy.
Almost every major industry has its “paper of record,” although sometimes it’s a blog, a magazine, or, these days, a twitter account. Whatever the format, these publications have audiences made up of the very people that companies in the industry want to reach. A skilled PR person should know what the key outlets are, and know who reads them.
I think back to the days when I worked to promote actors and did PR for arts festivals. You score a feature article in the city’s major newspaper, promoting a play, or secure a good review of that play – the outcome is immediate: ticket sales. I myself have bought countless tickets to plays, gigs, and events after reading about them for the first time in the media. Good PR translated directly into revenue there.
That’s how it works in the corporate world too. A good article in a targeted media outlet or publication can drive sales and adds substantial value to the company in the eyes of existing and future customers.
Your company website is often the first point of call for a customer – PR contributes to this through content marketing, news sections, customer testimonials, and more
Think of your company website – is it in line with your brand, your company culture? Does it show (remember: show don’t tell) what your product or service can do? Are there pictures, infographics and videos? Is it user-friendly and easy to navigate? Finally, and maybe most importantly, does it have the functions in place in order to drive sales? I quite like the instant chat function that is found on several websites. It’s immediately interactive and draws the visitor in, increasing their likelihood to buy.
Work with developing a voice for your Founder/CEO/company spokesperson
Brands often have a “face” or a “voice” – a person whose image, words, and personality represent the brand and its values to the public. It’s the job of PR to make sure the face is one people are happy to see and the voice is one people listen to. If your founder or CEO has social media channels, it’s important that he or she use them frequently and effectively. That way, the public starts to become familiar with that person and their voice, to feel as if they trust the face and appreciate what they stand for. PR people train and guide business leaders in developing this voice and ensuring it is consistent with the company’s brand and values. A PR person will also keep that person on track and work with them on strategies to ensure they stick to their messages.
As consumers, we appreciate the chance to see and hear things about the company, product, or service we buy from. Therefore, wherever possible, it is advisable to ensure your founder is seen and heard.
This can be done through podcasts, video, and elsewhere in the media. The more we see and hear these people, and like what we see and hear, the more likely we will buy into them which, of course, will convert to sales.
Have a crisis plan – how quickly and aptly you respond in crisis mode can make or break your company’s reputation – and a trustworthy reputation drives sales
It would be remiss of me not to draw attention to the glaring need for companies to have a crisis management plan. PR people should always be part of this crisis team and play a pivotal role in the rollout of subsequent communication. Now more than ever, we are seeing multiple examples of how companies have responded to a crisis situation. Many are handling it exceptionally well, notifying their customers and relevant stakeholders of where they stand amidst the crisis and what they intend to do about it, others have been a little slower to get on board. But overall, we’re doing it right. Despite the obvious economic damage COVID-19 brings to businesses, the companies who have done crisis communications well will return with more goodwill than ever and their reputations intact.
In closing, I want to return to the message I opened with. And that is bottom line. In this cut throat world and economy, brand can be built on ‘image’ and hype, but it needs a solid foundation to sustain it and prosper. Customers aren’t stupid – your job as a PR person is not to manipulate them, but to communicate with them in the most effective and straightforward way possible.
Show your C-Suite and business leaders that your PR efforts and achievements are helping to drive sales and boost the bottom line. Some of the examples I’ve provided above should help. By highlighting the value of PR – and demonstrating that value with results -- you’ll ensure you continue to have a seat at the leadership table and have a satisfying career, knowing that your CEO or founder appreciates your value and the role you play in ensuring profitability.
Caroline James is a PR expert with more than 20 years of experience in the industry. Throughout her career she has worked for tech startups, PR agencies, international governments, and corporate firms. She is the founder of Forever Speaks PR, and is always open to new PR opportunities and challenges. For more information, or just to chat about our industry, contact her on LinkedIn here.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

New York trip Part 2 - (December 29 - Jan 4, 2020)

We sat next to a middle aged man on the subway who took it upon himself to help Zach out with directions. His name was Jason and he turned out to be an archetypal New Yorker -- chatty, opinionated, and nosy, but also fun and charismatic. He was a self-described poet, Swiss watch repairman, and juggler.  Jason told us that the best way to see the "real New York" was to attend an open mic night. He also engaged Zach in a brief debate over Wordsworth's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but we reached our stop and left the subway before things got truly heated.

Pics as follows:

1. Following Jason's advice, we attended one of Brooklyn's many open mic events. At the Branded Saloon, we watched everyday Joes sing their hearts out and pluck acoustic guitars. Each performer  was permitted to perform three songs.

The guy in the first pic sang Rolling Stones covers.

The man in the second pic hailed from Winnipeg, Canada. Apparently he used to jam with Neil Young and told us a tale about Young being fixated on a woman, but that love had been unrequited. This was before Neil became famous! (and I think Neil's done alright with Daryl Hannah so it all works out in the end).

2. Zachary had wanted us to see "Drunk Shakespeare". It was located dead centre in the mayhem of Times Square. He loved it. I thought it was just meh. The actors were largely good but the evening delivered only about a fifth of "Macbeth" - the rest of the night was dedicated to various blabberings and audience interaction. The one "drunk" cast member was downing tequila shots (the woman in the second and third photo). I said to Zach it was an event for millennials and he agreed. Note - this event took place at 10pm on a Monday night, thus imagine mostly tourists. We didn't get to bed until 1.30am : )

3. More jogging.

There goes Zach. We tried to balance out all the eating and drinking (me more than Zach) with daily exercise. I did three Soul Cycle classes, but confess, the eating and drinking did outweigh the proportion of time we put to exercising. New York is a walking city - and just this process proved exhausting - especially all the stairs to and from the subway.

4. Shopping!

I hadn't bought Zach any Christmas presents until we hit up discount retailer, Century 21. Then it was an overwhelming experience for him - the people, the process of trying clothes on, taking clothes off, etc. Here we're trying on the suit that I had tailored for him.

5.  Back to Smalls!

We went again it was so good. This time it was a jazz trio and we knew to hit the line early to ensure we'd get in. We arrived at 6.15pm for a 7pm open door and fortunately made the front of the queue. The line soon populated with punters snaking around the corner.

6. While shopping in SoHo, I came across a National Geographic Fine Art Gallery. I liked both these snaps but to buy one will set you back about $10K.

7. I spent an afternoon shopping in SoHo leaving Zach back at the apartment. I bought clothing and items from a Swedish store, Gudruns Sjoden, that I had previously visited in Helsinki, Finland years ago. The only U.S. store is in New York. I also bought a new handbag and black watch winter scarf at Sandro.

8. New Year's Eve! Aussie friend Sarah and her husband Chaz, kindly invited us to their house party in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. How special to be able to attend a New York apartment party!

9. Really enjoyed the September 11 memorial museum.

10. On our last night we hit up LaLou, a recommendation from Sarah - the Aussie friend we spent NYE with.

We also caught a performance of To Kill a Mockingbird. It was good, but our seats were up with the gods and god awful! I particularly liked seeing new Aussie talent, Eliza Scanlen, in action. She's the "it" girl on the acting front these days, having almost stolen the show in Sharp Objects and Little Women.

Keeping up with our visits to museums, we also caught the general exhibition space at the Brooklyn Museum.

Had our last cocktail (egg nog - yummo!) at The Bearded Lady and bought 8 bagels from Olde Bagel Shop to bring home.

Our final morning was a systematic process of packing, cleaning, and vamoosing (Zach's word!). Our borrowed apartment practically sparkled by the time we were done with it, and the cats -- who had first met us with indifference or fear -- yowled tragically at our departure. After one last mildly exasperating jaunt through the New York Subway system, we reached JFK airport and departed for Los Angeles. We made it home with no big fuss, missing New York but happy to see the sun and hang up our winter coats! 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

New York trip (post covers various happenings during week of 22 - 29 December 2019)

Zach and I are cat sitting an acquaintance's two cats in her Brooklyn apartment while she and her husband are in the UK across Christmas and New Year.

I found Chloe through a journalist connection in LA. I had been talking about New York with Alison, the journalist, at a commercial real estate industry event we both attended in LA. Alison had lived in Brooklyn for a long time before moving to LA and said she had an English friend (Chloe) who had people cat sit during the times she would return home to see family.

I expressed my interest to be said cat sitter, and came over for a week in the summer of '18. I had a wonderful time - and what a blessing to have free accommodation in New York!

I'd spend the mornings doing yoga at Eddie Stern's ashtanga yoga school (now closed - sigh), then drop in for coffee and breakfast at a beautiful French cafe, Maison-May, on the way back to the apartment before tending to the cats, then taking off for a day's exploration (including clothes shopping - yay!).

I reached out to Chloe about doing it all again this summer - but she'd already stitched up a sitter. She said she'd need a person for December '19/Jan '20 and even though I am genuinely frightened of a New York winter I knew I'd have my young millennial Zach with me to help brave the chill and could also bring the cold weather clothing I had bought for a Chicago winter work trip three years ago (and not much used in LA since!!).

The following are some pictures from our trip (one week in) - with captions.

1. The night before catching our NYC-bound flight, Zach and I went to a famous LA establishment called Tam O'Shanter - the oldest currently operating restaurant in Los Angeles, and listed as one of the 15 most iconic Los Angeles restaurants (here). It was also close to the Walt Disney studios and Walt Disney and his animators were major fans. A waiter pointed out for me Disney's preferred dining spot. My work colleague, Joy, who knows great LA trivia suggested Zach and I go and said during the Christmas season we'd experience carolers. The following two pics show our carolers: we requested they sing "We wish you a Merry Christmas" and "Silent Night" - superb. Tips expected of course, and our carolers were duly accorded their loot.

2. Our first night in New York (Sunday December 22). It had been a smooth sailing trip and arrival - so in celebration and readiness to "take on New York", we hit up one of Brooklyn's notorious 'hipster bars' (that we just happened to land upon, no real prior knowledge): "Sharlene's". We discovered it has quite the rap - pinball machines included (Star Wars!). Article about Sharlene's in the New Yorker magazine here.

3.  Walking the streets of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, I came across a "Black Santa" wearing suitable lumberjack "Brooklyn hipster" attire.

4.  Most people are catching the 'Metro' (subway) - which has been Zach and my preferred method (although all those STAIRS - and the copious walking!!). We've only caught a Lyft once - back from a bar in Williamsburg to the apartment in Prospect Heights, but there are a few brave souls who choose to own cars and drive. Seems parking must be an issue (where is parking NOT an issue?). One way the New Yorkers appear to deal with the crunch on parking here is they install bumper protectors on the back of their cars. Genius. I took a few snaps of cars with bumpers, and then one car without - so we see the damage done if you keep your car bumper protector free!

5. Getting out for a walk/run in Prospect Park. Jogging seems to be the exercise of choice for New Yorkers. Lots of fit bodies around and great running tracks. I can see why they love it. It's been fun to hit the road and take some ground while listening to tunes. A brisk temperature but one soon warms up.

6. One of the cats we're sitting. His name is Dougal. He is a great cat. Very chill. The other cat is skittish and hides most of the day. Also a male, called Junior. Junior is low maintenance though (in part because we seldom see him) so it's all good!

7. The Christmas tree at The Met. An entry ticket buys you three days, the museum's collection is ginormous (and I've visited it at least once before). Zach and I first went on Christmas Eve but returned again on Boxing Day to spend another four hours roaming the floors.

8.  A Jewish tradition (neither one of us is Jewish), Chinese food on Christmas Day! After attending a small church service at The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew with, coincidentally, an Aussie reverend, Zach and I took to Hunan Delight for Peking Duck and other delicacies.

9. Chances are, you'll know at least one person living in New York! Had a fun catch-up on Boxing Day with a fellow Aussie, Sarah, and her American husband, Chaz. Sarah has lived in New York for 20 years, first coming to the city as a singer/dancer for Broadway at 18. She's never looked back. I met Sarah through the "PR Divas" Facebook network in San Francisco five years ago. We drank and nibbled at Le Crocodile bar in Williamsburg (and Sarah didn't even know I LOVE crocodiles!).

10. We happened upon a very cool jazz club called Smalls in the West Village and hit up some jazz on a Friday night. Had meals and drinks at two wonderful restaurants, Bar Sardine and Fairfax, beforehand. The West Village is a wonderful spot , and probably my no. 1 choice of neighbourhood if living in NYC. It's also where Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw lived!

11. Riding the subway is a necessity for tourists and locals alike in NYC. Being a big reader, Zach has been carrying around his volume of My Struggle Book 2 by Karl Ove Knausgaard and I'm carrying Andrew Sean Grier's 'Less' (Guardian review here) to help bide the commuter time.

Pics include Zach with his gnome like hat with two bags of shopping from 'Century 21' and one of the Subway's ubiquitous buskers. My donations to the local street strummers have left my pockets a little poor, but I don't mind. They're all good and it ain't easy making it as a musician.

12. Zach was worried about spending too much money. Erm, yeah - solid concern. We've been hitting up the restaurant scene every day. Carb overload! This place, Alta Calidad, happily walking distance from our apartment.

We've had many more adventures, including a performance of Fiddler on the Roof and more hipster bars (The Caledonia and Weather Up to name two), but for now that's a wrap!

Friday, November 22, 2019


Argh! The diary of an occasional cook 😜 

The “Fall/Thanksgiving” work competition called for a pumpkin dish and I was the only entrant 😂 with U.K. chef Nigella Lawson’s Pumpkin & Goats Cheese lasagne (with roasted pine nuts on top (one of these photos has pre-nuts)) and so work gave me a $30 Starbucks gift card anyway!! The occasion called for a potluck so I also made U.S. chef Samrin Nosrat’s almond and cardamom tea cake which was a screaming success. 

Tales from the kitchen - there’s very valid reasons why I eat out two meals (sometimes three) a day!! Ingredient sourcing, preparations, and cooking are work work work!!

1.  Cutting the pumpkins took hours. Fortunately The Crown Season 3 has dropped so I was able to binge on that while chopping.

2. Had to dash out for ANOTHER pumpkin as two didn't cut the weight required. This is what makes food preparation so time consuming too - the actual ingredients shopping.

3.  Zachary was after a blow by blow as I made the dish, so I sent him this pic - lol. Chopping chopping. When I wasn't watching The Crown - I was listening to Eddie Vedder's cool tunes from the "Into the Wild" soundtrack.

4. Simmering.

5.  Had to make another cake as I bungled the first one by adding baking soda when the recipe called for 'baking powder' - OOPS!

6.  The dud that Zach and I will still try tonight (and we did! it tasted fine but the inside was a lot darker than the one made according to the recipe). Notice how it sunk in the middle.

7.  Second attempt at the cake and success - I made double sure I added Baking Powder and NOT baking soda - lol. The ingredients in this cake are not cheap either. Mistakes can be costly.

8. Nigella Lawson's Goat Cheese and Pumpkin lasagne just out of the oven sans the pine nuts which are toasting now.

9. Nigella called for some crusty bread too - which I sourced this morning to ensure its freshness. The idea is you dip it into the tomato sauce of the lasagne : )

10. And my cake - as you can see, I supplied icecream, cream and sugared strawberries. Again, thanks to Lorien (who sublets her place to me) for the cake dish and apple dish.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Calling for good theatre in LA

I am struggling to find good theatre in LA. 

I’ve seen copious works and the best was a production of Euripides’ The Bacchae at The Getty, Malibu last year. Mainly because the lead actress was phenomenal. 

Zach and I went to actor Tim Robbins directed play, “1984” an adaption of George Orwell’s novel last night at “The Actor’s Gang” - a theatre house founded by Robbins. 

The production was so bad I (along with others I spied) left at intermission. I never do this - I am a theatre buff! Zach would have stayed, but he too saw its limits so came with me. 

Bereft of the quality theatre we just came to take for granted in Oz. 

Still think the Europeans do it best - saw quality productions of Ibsen’s “Ghosts” in Oslo/& “Hedda Gabler” by a German company as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. 

I guess LA is more film/TV acting. To that note - stumbled on a lovely piece of film trivia. The hotel we had a drink at prior was the one used by all the munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz” - they slept three to a bed. 

The film was being made at MGM Studios around the corner (now Sony Studios). The Wizard of Oz would be in my top five favourite films.


1. The Actor's Gang theatre space. 
2. Cocktails prior at The Culver Hotel
3 & 4. Window display at The Culver Hotel - Wizard of Oz