Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rhythm and Bliss

In my dreams, I am smiling at the cameras in the season finale of Dancing With The Stars, waving at the adoring crowds with one hand and holding the mirror ball trophy in the other, with confetti raining all around.

In reality, I only dance after a couple of glasses of wine at a party. And it’s more shuffling from one foot to the other, hoping no one is looking.

My sister Julia suggested I accompany her to a 5 Rhythms Dance class. She’s been going every Tuesday in Topanga and thought it would be good for me to step outside my comfort zone and dance around a) with abandon, and b) among complete strangers.

Developed by Gabrielle Roth in the 1970s, 5 Rhythms is a cathartic form of dance for body, mind and heart with classes held all over the world. The practice focuses on putting the body in motion in order to still the mind and allow the student to connect to the spiritual. The five rhythms (in order) are: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness.

There’s a reason why I hadn’t been to a class before. Julia told me that at some point the teacher invites people to dance with the person nearest to them. Not in a “strictly ballroom” or “pas de deux” kind of way, but in whatever way takes your fancy.

Julia assured me that the class is not just for professional dancers, that no one will look at me or care if I am any good or not, and it’s not too touchy-feely. So I bit the bullet and prepared to dance the night away.

A quick, discreet look around the room confirmed that my fellow dancers were all shapes, sizes and ages, men and women – regular people. The music was loud and, well, rhythmic, and impossible not to dance to.

Kate Shela, a fellow Brit, is a brilliant teacher and a wizard at weaving the five rhythms.

There’s a guided structure but you cannot get it wrong. We were encouraged to dance whatever comes up for us and embody it.

That first time, I pretended I was a ballet dancer and just wafted my arms about with the occasional leap – for most of the class. I stomped around for the last half hour and genuinely didn’t care what anyone thought. That’s actually a very big deal for me. It was intensely and immensely liberating.

Kate runs weekly classes in Topanga and Santa Monica, California and gives individual tuition. She’s also a shamanic healer. Kate says, “5 Rhythms is a map that can take you anywhere you want to go. It fuels so much passion and gives you confidence in all aspects of your life. It teaches you to be truly present and fuels creativity. It can be life-changing and life-affirming. For some people, it’s just a great workout.”

It certainly makes me feel good and the best $15 I’ve spent in a while. It’s also aerobic exercise that doesn’t feel like a chore. Wear loose-fitting clothes and take a big bottle of water. The class lasts two hours and you will get hot and sticky. You can dance in bare feet or soft shoes, but you will dance. Oh, yes.

For more information and to find a 5 Rhythm Dance class near you: and

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Call me Bubu

I may have been a little hasty 10 years ago by stating I would stop coloring my hair when I became a grandmother. That time has now come, but my colorist will still be seeing me once a month. I also need to tell my sister I’m moving the goalposts on my request that she smother me with a pillow when I start peeing my pants. Let’s change it to: “when I start peeing my pants regularly.”

It was a one-off, honest, and only a teeny, tiny bit after I’d consumed a lot of water, was out on a long hike, and someone made me laugh.

Forget about growing old gracefully, I am going to be dragged into my dotage kicking and screaming. There are so many adventures to be had ‒ like more trips to Fiji, where my Man Child lives, to get to know my first grandchild properly. Photographs and Skype are all well and good, but I want to teach her to bake, swim, read, write, and play hide-and-seek in person.

I hope she likes me. Of course she will. I’m fun. Parents are annoying. But grandparents are fun, fluffy and kind. Or rather, we should be. And wise. My grandchild’s father and aunt chose to ignore most of my advice and words of wisdom, but they are happy, healthy and thriving, so I must have done something right.

One of the best things we can do for our children (apart from loving and feeding them, of course) is to set a good example and learn from our own parents’ mistakes. My mother was unable to resist mentioning (constantly) that she didn’t like the name Marley that my sister chose for her daughter, as it reminded her of Marley’s ghost in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I vowed never to be so tactless and rude about my own children’s choice of names for their offspring.

Although I defy anyone not to raise an eyebrow when their son announces he is going to call his unborn child Vosamana, a Fijian name meaning: “what he says happens,” if it turned out to be a boy.

The baby is a girl, so we dodged the Vosamana bullet. She is completely gorgeous, super-smart, and has been named after her aunt and maternal grandmother: Mia Claire.

The Fijian word for grandmother is Bubu. That’ll do nicely. I’m way too young to be a Grandma or Grannie. I see one of my jobs to ensure Mia Claire is the best-dressed and best-educated girl in Fiji. My husband, Colin (or Grand Poppa C as he is now known), has never had children of his own, but is almost as besotted as I am with the baby.

He said it seems like the world is a different and better place since she’s been born. I’m glad he feels that way, because his Porsche fund just became Mia Claire’s college kitty.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hawaii Six-Oh

Marley’s Hawaiian-themed sixth birthday party was a triumph. My tropical bra was actually made of two scallop shells; worn over a tank top plus a shirt to spare my embarrassment.

Leis and all other Hawaiian accessories ‒ including napkins, plates and cups ‒ were bought from a Dollar Tree store. Who knew? It costs more than the 99 Cents store, but well worth the extra penny.

Most of the delicious food was cooked by Marley’s grandmother, Luba. You could taste the love. Marley helped me make the cake the day before, although I was also in charge of the salmon, green salad, Pass The Parcel and Musical Statues. But my greatest contribution was to use pineapple juice instead of peach (more Hawaiian) for the adults’ Bellinis. I could barely keep up with demand.

Highlight of the party for me, as it is every year, is to go in the bouncy castle with a few other game mums after the kids have exhausted themselves. Joy.

Fresh Pineapple recipe

1 Ripe pineapple
Brown sugar
Fresh Mint

Cut the pineapple into four pieces leaving on the leaves for prettiness. Remove the core with a sharp knife as its bitter. Then sprinkle with brown sugar and the chopped mint. It looks spectacular and is delicious and refreshing. My friend Diane who gave me the recipe pounds the sugar (not much) and chopped mint in a mortar and pestle first but I can't be bothered.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

To blog or not to blog...

Overheard in a Santa Monica restaurant: a distraught man was telling his dinner companion that not a single comment had been left on his latest blog post.

Then I read an article on the New York Times website (before the recent paywall) saying the blog is dead and has been for years. Couple that with snide comments from some (alright, many) people who think those of us with blogs have enormous egos and deserve derision for thinking that anyone gives a shit about what we think or do.

I know several journalists who write for websites and get paid for it. They become quite huffy if anyone calls them bloggers.

In my defense, I started writing a blog when my book was published (June 2005 – yikes!). I was advised by other authors and my literary agent that everyone blogs and you simply must have a website. The idea being that readers will be so amused by your blog they will buy your book(s).

Not so much. My few followers have bought the book already, but I persevere nonetheless. Not from a place of arrogance, but a love of writing and the faint hope I might amuse a friend, family member or complete stranger who is bored at work and has stumbled upon my blog by accident.

My good friend and web mistress, Diane, who actually has hundreds of people follow her blog, advised me that blog posts should be no longer than 400 to 500 words (my first few ran to 1500 words), have a photo and be about something. In Diane’s case, she writes about book binding and other creative pursuits. So I decided to include recipes in mine, as I love cooking and hope to publish a recipe book one day. It has been fairly easy to accept that my life isn’t funny or interesting enough on its own.

To this end, please see below the recipe for Prince William’s Groom’s Cake to be served at his wedding to Catherine Middleton. I made it to celebrate my woman-child’s 30th birthday this month and it was very well received. And yes, I will be setting my alarm to get up for the royal nuptials.

Chocolate Crunch Cake


4ozs/110 g butter or margarine

10ozs/300 g chocolate (milk or dark, according to preference)

140zs/400g tin condensed milk

Large packet Rich Tea or Digestive biscuits or half and half.

15 glace cherries (Chopped)

2ozs chopped nuts

2ozs raisins


  1. In a large bowl, crush the biscuits.
  2. Stir in the cherries, raisins and nuts.
  3. In a pan, melt the butter, condensed milk and half the chocolate.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the biscuit mixture. Stir well until all the crushed biscuits are coated.
  5. Line a tin with parchment paper and pour in the mixture.
  6. Melt the rest of the chocolate and pour over the cake mixture.
  7. Freeze for at least two hours or until needed. Remove from the tin, leave at room temperature for two hours before cutting into slices and serving.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Sundance Kid

Turns out Colin was right, I could have packed the clothes I needed for the Sundance trip in a carry-on. Paul Reiser, Julia and I were the only people in our party who brought their biggest cases. But they were performing. I missed the email that said there would not be time to go snowboarding, so I needn’t have bought new (and expensive) ski pants and coat.

At least my case wasn’t overweight by two pounds like Paul’s and I was able to take the manuscript for his latest book, Familyhood, thus saving him $95 in excess baggage.

It pained me to have to pay $25 each way to check in a suitcase filled with outfit changes and six pairs of gloves in different shades that I didn’t use. Lesson learned.

I didn’t care that Paul could only get Julia into the first class airport lounge with him. Lori (Julia’s manager), Joan and I were happy in the Malibu bar drinking champagne and Bloody Marys with a surfboard as a table.

The gigs at the ASCAP Music Café on Main Street were a triumph. I loved being in the green room with the young rock bands who were also on the bill, so full of enthusiasm and excited about being on the road. Our favorites were The Manchester Orchestra, who became firm pals.

Paul was ready for a celebratory whisky after the last gig, but the young rockers had drunk the two liters ASCAP provided. Well, it was four o’clock in the afternoon. I went and found Paul some single malt and therefore proved myself invaluable on tour.

Julia and I were in an apartment with a fan that blew cold air - the Reisers, meanwhile, were slumming it in the Waldorf Astoria.

Thanks to Paul’s great celebrity, we were invited to many places and events where companies line up to give away their wares. I brought home hoodies with earphones sewn in, the headphones of Colin’s dreams, Ralph Lauren aftershave, a camera, drinking bottles, Moleskine notebooks, jewelry, a bracelet to be worn at all times to make me “balanced,” sweatshirts, ski hats and a pair of Shape-Ups. The vodka in my rucksack was confiscated at the airport, but my big case was able to hold the rest of my bounty.

We were determined to see at least one movie, and let Paul and Paula choose. It’s not as easy as you might think to see a movie at the Sundance Film Festival. The good ones are sold out well in advance and you need to get to the main office, a bus ride away, to collect your tickets. It’s incredibly well organized, though, with free and abundant buses and shuttles. Each shuttle stop has a volunteer on hand to point you in the right direction.

With great ceremony, Lori handed out our tickets, collected earlier by a nice lady from ASCAP. We had to be at the Egyptian Theatre at 9 p.m. sharp. We went for a farewell dinner before the movie, and it was there that Paul and Paula flaked, saying they were too tired. I had three words for them. Rock. And. Roll. But there was no budging them.

The rest of us raced to the cinema and were the last ones to take our seats in the packed theatre. I was sat behind the tallest couple in the world. The film was Cuban with sub-titles I had to crane my neck to see. It was a cheery tale set in 1993, where the impoverished, homeless, young protagonists deliberately get infected with AIDS so they can get a permanent bed in a hospital with regular food. There was some incest thrown in for good measure. The soundtrack was heavy metal. Death and misery and lots of suffering. Kind of the Buena Vista Anti-Social Club. It was called Ticket To Paradise and will probably win best foreign film.

The next morning at the airport, I gave Paul a hard time for a) choosing such a bleak film and b) not even sitting through it with us.

There’s talk of gigs in New York, San Francisco and possibly the UK in the late spring. I’ll be traveling light. And choosing the movie.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Aaaaaaand action!

“Ladies and gentlemen… it is my great pleasure to ask you to raise your glasses -- apple juice of course -- in a toast to celebrate the Internet publishing campaign of all time (look over to Eric Roberts). To The Novelist!”

“To The Novelist!” (the gathered throng raise their glasses).

Five (or was it six?) takes. For the different angles, you see. I only fluffed my lines on one occasion and did once start speaking before the director shouted “Action!” All in all, I opened to rave reviews.

Filmmaker Mary McGuckian who made The Making Of Plus One…said I did such a good job playing myself in that she wanted me to play the publisher in her latest film, The Novelist.

My brother, Mark, who is visiting has been teasing me relentlessly. When he isn’t saying “aaaaaaand action!” he says “The Novelist” with as many different emphases as possible. Over and over again. Wearing a tad thin, I have to say, though I am enjoying being his favorite sister. I have forgiven him for calling me “portly” over Christmas.

Julia takes him hiking up Red Rock every day and to Monday playgroup social gatherings in Topanga, while I get him a part as a film extra, play table tennis at the Mondrian hotel (where we shot the party scene) and take him for drinks in the Sky Bar. Then on to the producer’s Hollywood mansion for Veuve Cliquot, single malt whisky, In-N-Out burgers and cold fries.

Mark nearly choked on his champagne when a lady casting agent said to me: “I know you’re an actor, but I’m sure I’ve met you somewhere before.”

Colin and I have had a coughing competition over Christmas and I won, having been diagnosed with bronchitis. But thanks to antibiotics and cough syrup laced with codeine, I battled on and cooked the Christmas feast wearing a surgical mask and plastic gloves so as not to infect the other guests. Colin was so sick he missed Christmas and Boxing Day.

Now, I accept that Julia and I had decided to get each other just a token gift this year and I chose to ignore this agreement, but I gave her: a pair of stylish spectacles (it’s getting harder for her to read the small print), a silk purse filled with quarters as she never has any for parking meters, a table that attaches to her microphone stand for water, shakers, etc., her favorite peppermint bark, loose leaf Earl Grey tea, fancy face cream, and a few other things I’ve forgotten – all beautifully wrapped with matching bows and ribbons.

She gave me… a fridge magnet that reads: “She knew she had a Big Fat Ass and her attitude was “Kiss It!”

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Driven to distraction

When we were kids and went out on a day trip, my brother, sister and I would pretend Dad was our carriage driver and command: “Home, James. And don’t spare the horses.”

So it was especially poignant that the limo taking Julia and myself to The Tonight Show was driven by a man called James. Despite my protestations, James insisted on calling each of us “Ma’am.” It’s just plain wrong that any human being should have to defer to another, but that didn’t stop me asking James to stop texting the studio every five minutes while driving in the fast lane.

He explained that everything is timed down to the last minute and he needed to keep base informed of our progress. We compromised and I did the texting for him.

It’s a big deal to be a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Every artist with new product to push vies for the music slot. Just Julia and Paul Reiser’s luck to have a record out the same week as Annie Lennox, Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart — but they all made the cut that week.

The band had already played through “Unsung Hero” (from Julia and Paul’s album “Unusual Suspects”) twice, then had to wait around several hours for the camera rehearsal. Julia had received her five-minute warning to be in her place. I could tell from the TV screen in our dressing room that the band were already on their marks, including Paul.

Julia’s singing teacher advises performers to keep detached from emotional stories on a gig day, so they can keep in the zone and ease those nerves. Just as Julia was putting on her boots, her manager, Lori, told us about the last episode of The Big C (on Showtime) where the character played by Laura Linney has terminal cancer. Her son found a garage full of gifts and letters for the rest of his life that she wouldn’t be able to give him because she’ll be dead.

I hope Paul, the band and The Tonight Show staff don’t think Julia was being a diva and kept them waiting on purpose, she was just trying to compose herself after sobbing like a baby at the sadness of the story.

It’s been a fantastic, roller-coaster week: The Tonight Show, then two triumphant gigs at The Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood. When I wasn’t pulling Julia’s boots off after the shows, making her buckets of chamomile tea, flat ironing her hair and feeding her dog (and her neighbor’s dog), I was collecting Marley from school en route to the gig and dropping her off at Grandma’s.

Marley likes to play I Spy. This was the first time she ever beat me. I still can’t believe I didn’t get “sea” as I was driving her along Pacific Coast Highway. Once she had tired of that game we moved on to more philosophical questions. “Do you believe in God?” my favorite five-year-old asked. I side-stepped the issue and marveled at the weather.

My sisterly duties also included dropping off Marley’s friend, Charlotte, aged four. They were discussing, between fits of giggles, how boys like to kiss girls.

Marley: “…and some girls kiss other girls.”

Charlotte (howling with derisive laughter): “No they don’t! Girls can’t kiss other girls!”

Marley: “Yes they can. Girls can marry another girl if they want to.”

Charlotte: “No they can’t! Girls can only marry boys.”

Marley: “They can. Ask Claire. Claire? A girl can marry another girl if she wants to, can’t she?”

Claire: “I spy with my little eye something beginning with S.”

Marley: “Sky.”

Claire: “Correct.”

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