Halloween 2015: a tale of two costumes

Nov 4th, 2015 Entertainment, Life

I am personally a late comer to the whole phenomenon of Halloween.  Growing up in England it was not that big of a deal.  Now however.  Having kids.  In Southern California.  October 31st is a date that looms large on the calendar.

Trick or Treat is an institution here.  There is something undeniably magical and wondrous about walking around the neighborhood and being literally swamped by wave upon wave of miniature sized Batmans, Supermans, princesses and ghosts – of all ages – as you wander from one elaborately decorated house to another.  Each one more fantastical, welcoming and generous than the next.  As if there is an unspoken Halloweeners code to out-do each other.

It is impossible, for even the most cynical of hearts, not to be swept up in the theatricality of the whole event.  And it does feel like a real event.  As you join the masses of children shuffling along the sidewalk, and dodge the numerous children who are already experiencing sugar highs, it is impossible not to feel as though you are on the set of a Spielberg film.

For the first time – Jaxon had a costume change during the day.  Both boys began as rescue bots: Heatwave and Bumblebee respectively.

Heatwave and BumblebeeBumblebee Costume

Jaxon goes into fire truck mode as Heatwave.

Heatwave Costume

Skyer gets into racing car mode with Bumblebee.

Bumblebee Costume

By the afternoon, Jaxon had decided to ring the changes and – still embracing the whole rescue / helping theme that is so beloved of boys – became a policer officer.  An unarmed police officer it should be noted.  A sort of US / UK hybrid copper I guess.

Kids Police Costume

We began the afternoon at a party down the street.  It’s great to see all the kids compare costumes and swap accessories.  A plastic Captain America shield for a plastic Policeman’s badge. Sadly no plastic was lost or damaged as a result of these endeavors.

There was an attempt by the kids to “make mummies out of the mommies” and wrapt them up in toilet paper.  I decided to spare their blushes in this post.  In any case we the tables were quickly turned.

Jaxon broke free and exclaimed “I am the ice man!”

Kids Police Costume

We begin our pilgrimage for cheap confectionary that we will never actually eat.

Yes that is a giant inflatable black cat that visitors walked under to gain access to the house. Suitably spookily decked out inside I should add.  Don’t ask me what they do with the cat for the other 364 days of the year.  I don’t think it’s considered polite Halloween etiquette to ask.

Cool Halloween House

Surely some one engaged the services of a professional pumpkin carver at this house?  Or am I even less “crafty” than I previously thought?

Cool Pumpkin Display

It’s hard to capture how elaborate some these houses really are.  Here giant spiders, industrial amounts of fake cobwebs, tombstones and hanging ghouls lead the way.

Cool Halloween House

Skyer “on the streets” mid trick or treat.  Eyes firmly on the candy prize.  Pumpkin bucket locked and loaded.  I am not even going to attempt to wrestle with the mixed messages of accepting candy from strangers, begging for things in general, or, for that matter, the concept extortion (trick or treat?) that the night sends to kids!  My head will explode if I try.

Bumblebee Costume

Skyer’s Birthday

Nov 1st, 2015 Boyhood, Entertainment

So Skyer is now officially three.  Yikes.  It’s a truism to say it of course, but the time has flown by. Skyer’s turning three also means that we have been in LA for two and a half years.  That’s already half the time that we lived in New York.  Hand on heart, I can’t say that I feel half as connected to LA as I do NYC, but I guess you could argue that I am getting there.  In any case, and as we all know only too well, it’s not about you anymore.  In fact, it’s not really about you at all.  It’s about a collective.  And that’s a good thing.  In fact, it’s a great thing.

Events like this certainly help.  We took over a gazebo in one of our nearby parks and set up for our Lego themed celebration.  Word to the wise, if you are planning on hosting a children’s party first thing in a public park, be prepared to negotiate with the “locals” upon whose patch you might inadvertently be encroaching.

Without wishing to be too self-congratulatory, the party went off seamlessly and without a hitch. So, rather than philosophize about the passing years, or the yardstick that kids provide on measuring my own life, I’ll simply say we had a great time and let the pictures speak for themselves.

Lego BirthdayLego BirthdayLego BirthdayLego BirthdayLego BirthdayLego BirthdayLego Birthday

We got the help of some professionals in setting up the Lego play area – complete with a phenomenon I had never seen before – “springy” sports Lego.  Which actually made a little game of basketball, soccer or hockey almost possible.

Lego PartyLego Party

The Lego villages were also a great hit.

Lego PartyLego PartyLego Party

The puppy dog bounce house – a tried and tested party fave – also worked well and was – more importantly – bump, and tear free.  Although they do get pretty sticky and sweaty – even in October – in LA.

Lego partyBounce House

Cupcake and “happy birthday” time.

Lego Birthday

Then, what better way to burn off the sugar, than with some piñata thwacking?  This time it was poor old Emmet who was in the firing line.  The kids certainly seemed to rejoice in taking him down.

Kids PiñataKids Lego PiñataKids Lego Piñata

Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye and thank everyone for coming.

Lego Party FavorsLego Party Favors

London – Chiltern Firehouse

Oct 13th, 2015 Entertainment, Travel

London has definitely changed a lot since I left.  Architecturally, emotionally and culturally. Perhaps it’s also the fact that I now view London through the lens of parenthood that my perspective of it is altered.  I am certainly significantly more acquainted with the playgrounds of Balham and Clapham than ever before.  Perhaps also, I approach London from the rose tinted perspective of visitor than resident.

With that being said, the Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone, by any criteria, is a gem.  Staying in a hotel in a city where you grew up is, I feel, always going to be a slightly awkward match up.  All too readily, I find myself slipping into the role of bumbling tourist, whilst at the same time inwardly critiquing and analyzing my experience with a fervor and toughness that is the preserve of the homegrown. Familiarity breeding contempt sort of thing.

With that being said the Chiltern Firehouse passes every test with flying colors.  Super friendly, yet chic.  Rock ‘n roll, yet cosy.  Aspirational, yet welcoming.

The entrance and courtyard are truly wonderful.  Creating at once a sense of  heritage London, coupled with a modernity and sophistication.  It feels as though you are being let in to an intimate secret, right in the heart of London.  That paradox – between the intensity of the outside world and the intimacy of the interior creates a certain magic in a lot of hotels – here the effect is enhanced by the narrow corridors and hidden doors of the converted firehouse, creating a labyrinth of found spaces.  Oozing warmth and charm.

Chiltern FirehouseChiltern FirehouseChiltern Firehouse

I don’t want this to turn into a full blown hotel review.  So hopefully you get the idea.  Overflowing with charm and personality, we were even told that the Chiltern is a family friendly hotel – with the exception, I assume, of the bar!

We really loved the exterior courtyard that you pass as you enter the front door.  Very special.

Chiltern Firehouse courtyardChiltern Firehouse Courtyard

Aside from the cocktail bar – which was jam packed with glamorous types every night – the oyster bar was also a particular favorite.

Chiltern Firehouse Oyster BarChiltern Firehouse Oyster Bar

And then here is what a dozen of these beauties looks like when served up in the restaurant.  All from different regions around the British Isles.  All with their own unique flavor and texture. Really delicious.

Chiltern Firehouse Oysters

We ate in the restaurant for breakfast and dinner and the food is good without being world class. You definitely come more for the ambiance, the celebrity spotting (the night we were in we saw Bryan Ferry and Janice Dickinson – not bad for a Thursday night) and the people watching as much as the cuisine.  The open kitchen is also a great feature of the restaurant and really gives you the feeling of being at the heart of something vibrant and special.

Chiltern Firehouse Restaurant

Minions – opening weekend

Jul 13th, 2015 Entertainment, Life

As both Rachel and I were feeling a little under weather, we elected to take the boys see the new movie Minions on its opening weekend. A bit of a cop out, but at least I could not be accused of dragging my kids to a movie that secretly I wanted to see but couldn’t in good conscience attend on my own. Don’t get me wrong I like cartoons – oops showing my age again – sorry I like animated movies – if done well: Cars 2, Toy Story 1,2 and 3 and The Lego Movie in particular – but the Minions, as cute as they are, leave me feeling a little disconnected and cold. So it was somewhat of a struggle to commit to the Dome theater on Sunset, the outside of which had been entirely decorated in minion yellow – for two hours at the weekend. By Hollywood standards this is an historic theater – having been built in 1963. If they think that is vintage, no wonder I am starting to feel a little old! I mean, I do have a few years on the good old Dome Theater – but still.

In truth, I think my two year old, Skyer, got more out of the movie than the rest of us. Maybe it was that he connected with the Minions incessant babble that everyone else finds “adorable” better than us, or the fact that the film being set in London (sorry spoiler alert) made him feel oddly at ease, or maybe it was the fact that by the time we got to the very loud chase at the end – one which made Jaxon so anxious that he curled up on to my lap like a spindly cat – he was more interested in trying to snag popcorn from the people sitting in front of us. Whatever it was, Skyer’s Minions experience was the best.

Interestingly, the pre-screening entertainment and activities of: Minion coloring and activity sheets, Minion tattoos, and posing in front of life sized Minion statues for photos were, in my opinion, the best part of the entire visit. In fact, when the time came to get into the theater, Jaxon was only part the way through coloring in his Minion character sheet and was none too thrilled at the prospect of having his endeavors interrupted in order to go and see the actual movie.   We had to promise him faithfully that we would come back after the movie and allow him to finish just to be able to get him to leave and watch the film.

minions

 

IMG_0518 (2)

There is something unique about the hearing and seeing your child react to something that some one – other than you or they – have said or done that they think is funny. For the most part, my boys’ humor is derived from themselves, or from me or Rachel; so there is a moment of true wonderment as a parent when you watch your child legitimately react and laugh at something that is not of their own creation, and that they think is funny. So for all its faults (and there were many) the Minions gave me a couple those very particular and unique moments.