Los Angeles 2012 – Part 1: Concrete Jungle

My wonderful hubbie won a trip to L.A.! I am unsure if won is the right word, maybe earned is a better fit considering he was awarded the trip for doing a certain value of loans in the last financial year. Since plane tickets are the biggest cost of a holiday, we thought we would take advantage of this situation and do a USA trip!

Our trip started in L.A. and it sure is the concrete jungle its known for. Flying over L.A. all you can see, for as far as you can see, are freeways winding, twisting, overlapping and circling each other. And the roads are not as nice as Perth’s roads. The roads are covered with cracks, pot holes, 4-way stop signs, trucks (RVs), trucks (SUVs) and lots of trucks (same meaning in North American and Australian English)! We also got to experience the roads first hand this time as we drove from L.A. to Las Vegas!

The first thing we saw driving from the airport was a humming bird. One of the guys travelling in the escalade (they don’t seem to make anything small over there) with us pointed out a hummingbird Michelle's Labyrinthfluttering around a flowering tree, on the other side of the road, at the height of the power lines. I have no idea how he saw it, but it was amazing seeing this bird fluttering vertically. You could almost hear it humming because of the speed his wings were going at. I was so excited and I knew it was a sign this trip was going to be amazing.

Source: http://getahead.rediff.com/report/2009/jun/15/a-hummingbird-in-love-flies-faster-than-a-fighter-jet.htm

After checking in the hotel we went on the famous bus tour around Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Mulholland Drive. I had recently finished about 7 Michael Connelly books where the main character, Harry Bosch, lives in a house with stilts on Woodrow Wilson Drive in the Hollywood Hills. It was lovely driving along Mulholland Drive and actually seeing what Mr Connelly had made so vivid in my mind. A winding road, with sheer drops and natural parks on either side. I definitely didn’t want to get off the bus since some of the murders had happened in those parks!

You know when you do something that you only dreamed of doing and you just cannot believe it is actually happening? Well we went to a party at the Playboy Mansion and it was something I had never even thought of, so I didn’t know what to think. So we went with no expectations and to have a few drinks and just see how it goes.

You see the crazy Playboy Mansion parties in movies, hear stories about the parties, but you never think you will be at one. Some people were a bit shocked we were going to the Playboy Mansion, but at the end of the night it was just an awesome massive party. Yes the girls were somewhat under-dressed, but its no different from a pool party, or even some of the outfits young girls wear to nightclubs.

They definitely weren’t shy at pouring drinks, apparently when you order a bourbon & coke, the coke is added just for colouring! But it definitely ensured the party ‘went off’. There were many rumors going around about how often parties were held at the mansion and how much the tickets cost. Charlie Sheen was rumored to be in the mansion. One of the playboy models said she saw Pauly Shore (very sad I didn’t get to see him if he was there :( ). And of course Hugh Hefner was supposedly in the mansion with his three girlfriends.

We arrived by limousine. First thing we see is the Playboy Bunnies, who were giving everyone photo opportunities with them. Then we walked onto the artificial lawn, grabbed some champagne, or beer as the case may be, and starting looking around and checked out the silent auction.

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Now I have listed some rumored celebrities, but we actually did see some. First off the ranks was Richard Reid, the gossip guru on the Channel 9 Today Show. He was lovely and chatted to everyone. I got a wink from him at one point.

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Do you like how I used the ‘smudge’ tool in GIMP? The blonde lady looks like she inspired a creature from Pan’s Labyrinth.

We then checked out who was being interviewed on the red carpet. We recognised Sarah McLeod (pictured below), and then that’s when I spied the Stafford Brothers, who are a house music DJ and Production duo (Chris on the left and Matt on the right).

Michelle's Labyrinth  Michelle's Labyrinth

And as I said there were lots of girls with sparse clothing. So here are a couple of pictures for you!


We then checked out the catwalk. It wasMichelle's Labyrinth starting to get difficult for me to focus on things, so I just got my iPhone out and starting taking heaps of photos. The boys recognised Ron Jeremy, who is an American adult film actor. I said who, so I could take a photo, and also asked how they all knew him. They reckon all males would know who he is! Raises a few questions….

After the catwalk and a silent auction we moved to the other side of the mansion (near the grotto) and the party really started! Massive stage at the front. VIP section in the middle. A massive bar near the back. Cabanas all around the perimeter.

As I said they weren’t shy pouring the drinks. My bourbon & cokes were so strong that I had to breathe out after each drink (and I was drunk at this stage!). I swear my breath was flammable. We had access to a section of cabanas, but we stayed out to take in the atmosphere. We had various entertainment on the stage, such as Sarah McLeod – shown below; MiniKiss (a picture below that); the Stafford Brothers and even hubbie and I got on the stage and danced towards the end of the evening!

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Michelle's Labyrinth

Source: https://twitter.com/i/#!/minikiss/media/slideshow?url=pic.twitter.com%2FycVWrZ9v

They stopped pouring drinks at 1:30am, and yes as we left I fell on Matt Stafford – the ground was uneven I say! 10 of us piled in a limo and we were all in agreement to stop and get a burger or something. There was food at the mansion, but its pretty hard to eat when you’re already smashed! The limo driver passed one place but it was already shut. Yes a lot of places shut at 2am in L.A.! He refused to try another place, but we saw Fatburgers was open, and it was only a couple of blocks from the hotel. So off we went!

Hubbie had a small cheeseburger and I had a Maui Banana Shake. I say ‘small’ burger, because check out below! They had photos on their wall of people who had 7XLs and higher! CRAZY!

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Source: http://www.fatburger.com/

So we ended up getting to bed at 4am. Good effort? It gets better! We had to be up at 7:30am to catch the bus to Universal Studios! Now I only have a big drinking session once a year (sometimes only every second year) because I just do not pull up well. We were all very quiet on the bus on the way to the studios. When hubbie and I got there we headed to the lower section straight away because we had been before and knew that is where all the cool rides are. I visited the ladies – just in case. All good. First up was the Jurassic Park – The Ride. We survived, so we then tried Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride. As a reward we decided to eat brunch. Then after that we went onto the Transformers: The Ride-3D – which is brilliant. You feel like you are in the head of one of the transformers while they fight some bad guys. Awesome! We totally recommend you go to this ride first if you ever go to Universal Studios, so you can go on it more than once. I’ll end this blog post here, we survived our day at Universal Studios, we were so pleased with ourselves. The honest truth – I think we scared our bodies into just enjoying the day, no hangovers!!!

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Source: http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/attractions/transformers-the-ride-3d/

And one last thing, how many people do you know who got a mobile number from one playboy model and an e-mail address from another one? Well you know me and my hubbie!


Craft with friends

I have heard people say that when they are an extended leave, that they started to get bored and wanted to go back to work. I really don’t understand that. There is so much to do out there, how can you get bored? I have been off work for 2.5 months and I am anything but bored! I know I just spent 3 weeks in USA and not everyone can afford that, but there is still so much I want to do. And some of these things don’t have to cost a lot of money to do – like going to your niece and nephew’s sports carnival; going bush walking; reading the stash of books you have been meaning to read; catching up on all the episodes of Cake Boss; and spending time with family and friends.

When we returned to Perth I was lucky to be able to rekindle a friendship with a high school friend; and she then invited me to her craft group. It is a fantastic outlet to be creative and get ideas of what others do out there. When I was working I tried to go to craft as often as possible; any chance I could take a RDO or DIL (day in lieu) on a Thursday. My friend and her mum and I make cards while other ladies do scrapbooking, beading, sewing and all sorts of other things.

Since leaving work I have been going every Thursday (well not when in the USA!). It is so nice having at least 2 hours for pure craft making. We have a few laughs and giggles and I (I say I because my friend and her Mum have been doing it for a lot longer!) learn lots of new card making techniques. I have also dabbled in scrapbooking at home over the past few years, and I often use card techniques I have been shown. It is the last day tomorrow for ‘term 3′ so we are doing a morning tea. I thought I would decorate a cake with the theme of craft!

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Some tidbits about the cake: I made a moist date loaf because one my friend’s mum can’t eat chocolate. Last week someone during ‘show and tell’ showed the jumper she had knitted; so I attempted a jumper (I do like the ball of wool :) )! My friend’s Mum makes a jewel chain that she attaches to scissors, so we don’t lose them! So the scissors are dedicated to her. Making a mini scrapbook is pretty hard, so I will stick to the real deal going forward! And I finally got to use the sugar beads and the shiny things are an apple and a penguin (supposed to look like beading!)!

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Of course I had to put some cards on the cake. The three cards were inspired by the ones I made below. How can you get bored making just pretty things? And usable too!

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Warning! Warning! Alien approaching!

Since moving back to Perth (almost 5 years ago now!), after living in Kalgoorlie for 5 years, I really wanted a hobby to explore my creative side. Now I was closer to my niece and nephew and also had other friends/family with young kids I thought I would start cake decorating.

My youngest sister remembers a troll cake Michelle's LabyrinthI made for her when we were younger (a lot younger!) and encouraged me to make some more. I even loved creating back then; loved mixing colours and shaping the cake/icing until a sugary, buttery, chocolatey masterpiece was constructed! The cake was based on one of those 1980s fads – troll dolls! The cake was the troll’s face with rainbow coloured hair! I cannot find a photo of it though :( I just may have to make another one :)

When I told everyone at work I had resigned there was quite a bit of surprise, but a lot of support. They knew how hard I worked and it was not a decision that was made lightly. They liked the idea of me taking some time off and making more cakes! One of my ex-colleagues (I am still not used to saying ‘ex’, like ex-employer!) asked if I would make a birthday cake for her son to get the cake decorating ball rolling. She sent me some images from Google for inspiration and set me my first cake challenge! I loved the challenge!

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As you can see it was space themed! I really enjoyed being able to decorate the two tiers as it gives the cake depth. I also loved being able to play with lots of colours (yeah, yeah, I’m a kid!)! I also liked blending colours to make patterns (marbling?) on the planets, and also giving some of the planets rings. While I was making the marbling effects on some of the planets, I thought it would be awesome to make the actual cake look Earth-like, with water marbling through it. I didn’t even consider trying to make it look like Earth! These cakes usually take me 4-6 hours as it is! I was quite please with the end product, and when I walked in my friend’s door her son squealed when he saw the cake! That was awesome!

Michelle's Labyrinth          Michelle's Labyrinth

Since the cakes take me a while to do (and usually my feet start killing me) I watch a movie or three :) I have been trying to choose movies along the same theme as the cakes I am making. While I made this cake I watched Ella Enchanted and Flight of the Navigator.

I chose Ella Enchanted because it is just so much fun and it always uplifts my spirits! When I made this cake I was supposed to have the day as an RDO, but it was the only day some external parties could all make it to the office. So I was in the office around 4am to finish off the presentation for them (we owed them money so I wanted to ensure I was right!) and then zoomed home just after 11am, well via Red Rooster! So I needed a movie that would definitely Michelle's Labyrinthbrighten my mood! Plus there are many interesting characters (not specifically aliens thought) that would inspire me. I cannot remember hearing about this movie when it came out at the cinemas. I found it at a DVD store and it would have been under $20 so just bought it. So I am guessing Ella Enchanted was very much underrated. So if you have kids around 10 or ones that love fairy tales, I totally recommend it!

Source: http://www.amazon.com/Ella-Enchanted/dp/B006RXPR5M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348578048&sr=8-1&keywords=ella+enchanted

The next movie was a 1980s favourite – Michelle's LabyrinthFlight of the Navigator. When it got to the stage when the boy David is exploring the creatures (“specimens”) on the spaceship and sees a cute one an idea formed. “That is a Puckmarin from Binpuka Minor. He’s not dangerous”. (Pic to the side)

I very much wanted to make an alien like him, but dream on! I am no way near that good. But he inspired the little green slug-like alien. But it did give me the idea to think of other alien movies and what easy-ish aliens I could do – hence I made a Jawa from Star Wars (all from memory)!

Michelle's LabyrinthI was supposed to cover 3 cakes during this post. But you got a bit of history of my cake decorating and also some insight into my movie obsession. Just another warning (no aliens this time), but a lot of my travel blog posts will reference movies too! I promise a travel post will be coming shortly! I have downloaded all our photos, just just need to troll through them!

PS Although I had gotten up at 4am and it was a long day/night making this cake, I thoroughly enjoyed it and won’t forget the squeal it received :)




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