This has been a highly unusual weekend: We are utterly RELAXED!
Gareth and I spent Saturday morning dragging our cameras over to the San Fernando Mission. Mind you, we have visited lots of missions over the years: San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, San Gabriel, San Luis Rey, San Buenaventura, Santa Barbara, Santa Ines, San Luis Obispo, Carmel, and San Francisco Solano...
...so you would think that we would already be familiar with the one that is literally almost in our backyard. But you would be wrong.
It's weird to think that I have lived in the San Fernando Valley for 44 of my 51 years and NEVER visited some of the oldest buildings in the area. Fortunately, I have now rectified that oversight.
I was pleased to see how well-maintained the grounds and buildings are, especially after reading Kevin Roderick's excellent book on local history ("The San Fernando Valley: America's Suburb") and seeing photos of the 200+ old mission in various states of disrepair (one such photo is in the banner of Kevin's Valley Observed blog).
One surprise was the informational brochures that were given us when we entered the compound, which included a biography of Bob Hope. Yep, the 20th Century's most famed comedian (along with members of his immediate family) is interred in a beautiful Memorial Garden right on the mission grounds. So that was a Memorial Day preview. (We are planning to attend this morning's services at the Veteran's Cemetery in Westwood).
Sunday, I finally got my annual brunch at the Farmer's Market's Monsieur Marcel... then, Megan and I met our friends Debbie (and her daughter Tanya) at the Galleria to see "Pirates of the Caribbean." Having read the reviews, both of us moms would have passed (and the dads wisely did) -- but the girls really wanted to see it... so we sat through nearly three hours of total nonsense. Johnny Depp still rocks, though -- and as we haven't seen each other since Park City at Easter, it was a good excuse to get together.
After we get back from the cemetery today, our plan is to kick back and relax some more. The husband has been working hard to get our decrepit old pool ready for summer -- he bought a new roll of "bubble wrap" (which allows us to heat the water via the sun) and replaced our torn market umbrellas, which didn't survive the crazy winds we endured this year.
"I can't believe we're getting a 3-day weekend," my husband said wearily.
He's been going non-stop at work, pretty much since we got back from the UK in January.
The days seem to fly by at light speed now. In four weeks, Megan will be culminating from elementary school. This morning, my tween-ager was ready to go before I was, as she wanted to see what was happening at a "party" on Club Penguin before she left for school. It is hard to reconcile the image of the smart, funny, very capable young lady she is now with the shy little girl who wouldn't let go of my hand on her first day of kindergarten.
Today the fifth grade class is going on a field trip, taking a tour of a middle school Megan will NOT be attending. She wanted to go, anyway. "I don't care where it is. I just like going on field trips," she said, as she got out of the car. She walked to the back, opened my trunk and removed her backpack and waved good-bye, as she walked through the gate all by herself. This year was the first where she didn't beg me to walk her onto the campus every morning.
September will be here in a blink of an eye, and she will begin her own middle school adventure. I am trying not to think about that right now. I have too much of my own tasks to do -- like putting together my final PTA newsletter of the year... not to mention it will be one of my final tasks EVER for the sweet little school that has been our home these last six years. I should have started it this week, but I've been preoccupied with other matters...
...like my friend Faith and her clothing business, which has mushroomed since she started it in her garage two years ago. Today she has an army of moms working part time as sales consultants, office help and designers, and I see her stuff on women in unexpected places (like at the PTA Convention I attended at the beginning of the month).
Last fall, Faith asked me to put together a hasty little website as an aid to the sales consultants. I explained to her that my web design skills are minimal and I only know enough HTML to be dangerous, but since my rates are commensurate with my abilities, the price was right. I wasn't very happy with the results -- but it did serve as a framework that I was able to build upon this month when, she asked me to update it with her spring/summer line.
I'm still tweaking it and hope to finish today so I can enjoy the 3-day weekend without that obligation hanging over my head.
I have also been preoccupied with the logistics of a big party I'm co-hosting next weekend (you'll be hearing about THAT soon).
So, blogging has been on my backburner the last several days. It's too bad, because I've received some intriguing emails this week:
... like an invitation from L.A. Daddy to attend a party he's hosting for SoCal Bloggers. Of course, it's the same date as MY party... but if you are a blogger here in SoCal, you should ask him for the details so you can go. It sounds like a BLAST.
... and the announcement that MotherTalk is having another Blog Bonanza today -- this week's book tour promotes Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Caring, Ethical Kids Without Religion, and participants are blogging about the role religion plays in their families. This is a topic I would enjoy sinking my teeth into -- if I wasn't so determined to finish Faith's website today! (Oh well... I've concluded that posting schedules, where you write about theme A on Monday and theme B on Tuesday, etc. don't work for me. Every time I have tried to impose something like that on this blog has failed, because I tend to chafe under rigid rules. So it's probably best that I am only an occasional participant in these exercises.)
... I also received a newsletter from the admirable women at BlogHer, announcing that the hotel room block at this year's conference in Chicago is filling up quickly.
When they announced the dates, I wasted no time reserving a room, figuring that I would work out the details later. Since then, I've concluded that this year's budget won't allow me to attend (and the dates at the end of July are a little problematic, too). So as soon as I finish this post, I'll cancel that reservation (which means that a room at the W will be opening back up... for those of you BlogHeristas who are interested).
I'm deeply bummed about this and think the reason I hadn't cancelled the res sooner was denial. I'll be reading all the posts of you attendees with a great deal of interest... and a tinge of jealousy, because you will all be having so much fun there!
It's about 9:30 now. Let's see if I can finish my work by lunchtime...
I don't know about the rest of you, but in our household, one of my roles is that of "Social Director." I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I am the keeper of the family calendar, the one who has to track all the different obligations of my husband, my daughter and myself -- and the person responsible for extending, accepting or declining invitations.
So I should not have been surprised last weekend, during our Mother's Day brunch, when my husband innocently asked me, "What are we doing next Sunday?"
I glowered at him and growled, "We're celebrating MY BIRTHDAY."
It would not have irritated me as much had he not asked the exact same question (with the exact same answer) the night before.
What a difference a year makes.
Last year was one of those milestone birthdays that many of us face with a little foreboding: I turned 50. And my husband, who is 5.5 years younger than I (and has always enjoyed making jokes about my relatively advanced age), was anticipating that milestone with great glee. You'd think that as we get older, a half year wouldn't matter, but he thinks it's fun to claim that he is six years younger than I... and every year, for six months after my birthday, he reminds me that I am (fill in the blank) years old, while he is only (subtract six years). Then each November, after his birthday, I point out that he's five years younger. It's a stupid little game, but it's one we've played for the 18 years we've been together, and I think we'll still be playing it when I'm 88 and he's a sprightly 82-and-a-half.
Last year, my husband went all out in helping me celebrate my birthday. He had wanted to throw a party (likely because he wanted to tease me about my age in front of all our family and friends), but I put the kibosh on that. I told him that I would prefer to take a weekend trip instead. We ended up flying to New York for Memorial Day weekend along with our friends, Tim and Debbie, as the latter was also turning 50 in June. In fact, so many of our friends turned 50 last year, that we decided to have a group celebration -- which turned out to occur on my birthday, as it fell on a Saturday then.
Last year, my husband showered me with birthday gifts. Now, I'm a pretty low-maintenance type of person, happy to receive any kind of extra attention at all from my family, and grateful for any kind of gift. But I have to say, I enjoyed the fuss everyone made over me last year -- which helped ease the transition to the dreaded 50's.
But that was oh, solast year. Turning 51 is kind of a bore. And I couldn't help feeling that celebrating it this time was a bit of an afterthought.
It wasn't just the fact that my husband seemed to have a mental block about it. It was probably a mistake to have two wisdom teeth and a molar extracted just five days before. While it wasn't nearly as painful or inconveniencing as previous extractons had been, the recovery did take longer than I'd remembered, and I hadn't anticipated that the antibiotics would be making me spacey and lackluster-y (I'd stopped taking the vicodin by Friday, but still couldn't muster up any energy over the weekend).
On Saturday, Gareth informed me he was transporting Megan to and from gym by himself. He didn't say why, but it was obvious that they were last-minute shopping. I reminded myself that he's been swamped at work, so even if he had remembered my birthday, he couldn't possibly do anything about it earlier. Still, I had been cooped up in the house since Wednesday (did not feel comfortable driving while taking the painkillers) and had been looking forward to having the weekend together.
I tried to write a blog post (but didn't have the energy to recreate it when Windows crashed -- which is how I learned that I still wasn't feeling 100%, even after stopping the vicodin). I spent the rest of the day watching more movies on HBO and Pay Per View (I am dreading our next cable bill). Actually, I am usually happy for an excuse to spend the day watching TV -- it's just that after four days of doing pretty much nothing else, I had finally OD'd on it.
I awoke yesterday feeling more like myself again. Megan loves gift-giving opportunities, and couldn't wait to give me my card and the present she bought on Saturday: Pink Grapefruit-scented body butter (and lip butter) from the Body Shop. The kid knows what I like.
Gareth gave me an iTunes gift card. This has become our all-purpose gift item for all of our friends. And now that I have a huge iPod to fill, I guess it's personal.
He also presented me with the birthday card his mum sent me, which he had already opened because he thought it was for him. (Not entirely his fault, as my veddy British mother-in-law persists in addressing all correspondence to "Mrs. G.I. Mills." Hubby just didn't see the "Mrs.")
I dropped Megan off for early session at Sunday School and moved on to Ralph's to buy some much-needed groceries (the first time in days I'd had the energy to do so). My parents called me on the cellphone to wish me a happy birthday.
"Did you get our card?" they asked.
No. It will probably arrive in today's mail.
"You know, we forgot to include your birthday check," my dad said sheepishly. "I sent it off separately."
I thanked them, and told them -- as I do every year -- that they don't have to send me birthday gifts. I don't need anything.
But I like receiving it. And I know what I'm going to buy with the money.
The plan had been to have brunch at my beloved Farmer's Market, the Los Angeles landmark where we usually go for Mother's Day (and would have done so this year, had we not been invited to Ventura last week). But my husband had forgotten that I had told him a month ago that the one thing I really wanted to do on my birthday was to see Shrek the Third. I had toyed with the idea of seeing it at the ArcLight, the best place in Los Angeles to see a movie (and where we saw the second Shrek film) -- but had never gotten around to ordering tickets online. So I figured that after we had our brunch at Monsieur Marcel, we could catch the movie at the Grove.
"Oh," my husband said. "I really need to spend some time this afternoon working."
OK. I can be flexible. I suggested we just have lunch at the local mall and see the movie there.
"But you wanted to go to the Farmer's Market," he protested.
It's true. I always want to go to the Farmer's Market. But next weekend is Memorial Day, and we haven't planned anything. We can have our French food then.
"But instead of Northridge, why don't we catch the movie at the Galleria? That would make it a little more special." After all, they have different restaurants.
So we headed down to Sherman Oaks. "After we get back, I'll go pick up a birthday cake," I said.
My husband looked crestfallen. He had actually remembered to order me a cake. "You ruined the surprise!" he said.
I didn't feel like it was ruined. Last year, I did have to buy my own cake because he had forgotten. I was delighted to find out that this year, he'd remembered it.
"What time does Costco close?" he asked.
"You got my cake at Costco?" I was no longer delighted. The cakes there taste great -- but they're HUGE. "For just the three of us?"
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. When my husband does the grocery shopping, he tends to select the BIGGEST and CHEAPEST items he can find. When I make out a list, I need to specify that I want small oranges or asparagus or whatever it is -- because I think they taste better. Of course he ordered a cake large enough to feed 30 people.
Once at the Galleria, we purchased tickets for the 12:45 show, which gave us 90 minutes to enjoy a leisurely meal. Last week, when I realized that I would not be able to stick to my diet for a few days after dental surgery, I decided I would go off the diet wagon for the week between Mother's Day and My Day... so I suggested we eat at the El Torito Grill, which is a bit more upscale than a regular El Torito. And I ordered a cranberry margarita with my chile relleno.
It turns out that ET Grill has a pretty good Sunday brunch menu. Gareth was delighted with his breakfast burrito, which came with a glass of champagne. "I want to go back," he said. This is pretty significant, as Mexican is NOT his favorite cuisine.
We enjoyed the movie, although not as much as the first two Shreks (I have to agree with all the critics that gave this one lukewarm reviews). The most exciting thing about the film was the conversation I had in the lobby, where some theater employees had set up a table with the ArcLight logo.
Yup, here's my news for Valley Movie Lovers: Pacific Theatres is turning the Galleria multiplex into another ArcLight, complete with cafe, gift shop, and (I presume) special film lovers' events. No longer will we have to face the traffic on the 101 to have a first-class movie-going experience! With an ArcLight in Sherman Oaks, I may actually begin to use my ArcLight membership.
Construction will begin in July, with the theater closing in August while they complete the conversion. They plan to reopen as an ArcLight in the Fall.
After the movie, Gareth grabbed his briefcase and laptop and went to Starbucks to work. It didn't take him as long as he'd anticipated. From there, he went to Costco to pick up my cake.
The inscription read, "Happy Birthday Mrs. Gareth I. Mills."
I suppose that's why he needed to order such a large one.
Some of my friends know that I'm a part of the "Parent Team Advisory Board" at Disney's Family.com (which has been redesigned and relaunched and is shaping up to be a wonderful resource for parents everywhere).
A couple of months ago, they asked me to submit a headshot. No problem -- except they wanted a photo that would convey a little bit of what this blog is about. I took this to be an opportunity to be a tourist in my own home town -- so one bright Saturday, when Megan was safely attending a birthday party sleepover, I dragged my husband down to Hollywood Boulevard to take some photos.
(I have learned that I can get my husband to go ANYWHERE I want, as long as I promise him he'll have good photo ops.)
We did not get any pictures that were useful for the folks at Disney -- but we had a great time. just the two of us -- walking, talking, dining, shopping... and revisiting sites from my childhood.
When I was little, my grandparents lived in a fabulous house in the Hollywood Hills, with a gorgeous view of the Capitol Records building on Hollywood and Vine. They sold the house when I was 8, and I never forgave them -- especially when they used the proceeds to buy ugly apartment buildings in the Valley, which they lived in. This turned out to be a terrific decision for them in their retirement, but I missed the grandeur and elegance of their old house. I used to think that I would buy it back some day, but as I never had the kind of monetary success that would allow that to occur (and let's face it -- its hillside neighborhood and narrow twisty 1920's era streets are not practical for families with kids). So I've had to settle for driving by and gazing at it every few years.
(My sister recently made contact with the man who has owned the house for the last 20 years, so we are hopeful that some day, we'll be able to arrange to revisit the interior. In the meantime, he told Linda that it is featured in this book, so now we have some photos we can look at.)
But while my grandparents lived there, I got to know the Hollywood area very well. We used to walk down the hill to shop at the stores on Hollywood Boulevard (back in the days just before it got so seedy). To this day, I love reading the names of the forgotten stars set in brass on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
So we began this trip at the shopping complex on Hollywood and Highland (the same place I took Jenorama on her LA visit two years ago.) This is the perfect place to begin a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, because it is the site of the Kodak Theater (home to the Academy Awards and American Idol Final) AND parking is CHEAP. (Just $2 for four hours -- compared with the $20 we spent to park for Wicked a couple of weeks ago, several blocks away.)
Another good reason for starting at H&H is its location right next to the famous Chinese Theater. I happily mingled with the tourists comparing their shoe sizes with those of the stars. I watched the costumed characters who earn their living by posing with out-of-towners. And for the first time in my 48 years of living in this city (we resided in the Bay Area for three years of my youth), I purchased a map to the movie stars homes.
Windows just crashed on me -- before I finished writing about our stroll down the Boulevard -- the things that have changed for the better (new, trendy restaurants and nightspots, preservation of some glorious old deco buildings, my visit to a Magic Store that I used to shop as a child and is in the same location) and the things that are not (the sex shop next door to the Magic Store put the kibosh on any plans to bring Megan there!). The painkillers I'm still taking for my mouth (damn, it still hurts!) have kicked in and I'm feeling too spacey to recreate what I lost... but there are more photos on my Flickr stream.