LOTS has been going on since the last post. The Fall Semester is in full swing and has been extremely busy this last month and a half. My classes are really full-on — 67 students in total (and I remember all their names) and my Sophomores are particularly challenging. I don’t know what it is that make teaching them a lot harder in comparison to the Sophomores I had in the Spring, but they’re soooo needy! Plus, they ask A LOT of questions. Anyway, it’s an interesting dynamic across my classes and I am particularly loving teaching my Branding class (naturally!).
We were invited to a friend’s Birthday fundraising BBQ in mid-September. This was a real treat and the best BBQ we have been to. Luke’s dad travels around the US taking part in BBQ competitions so with his experience he has become the super chef of BBQs. Luke is a Designer and took up cycling a couple of years ago in a bid to lose weight. His story is quite remarkable and next year he will be cycling across the US with his family driving behind him, in support of STOP SAM (Severe Acute Malnutrition). Read about it below, support it and be in awe of this amazing person. He’s inspiring to listen to and this is why I’ve invited him to come and speak to my Branding class this week.
The following weekend we returned to the city that will always hold a special place in our hearts — our beloved San Diego. This was a Birthday celebration/Anniversary celebration so we stayed somewhere extra special — La Valencia hotel in La Jolla. The loveliest surprise was arriving at reception and being given a card with a lovely message from mum and dad wishing me a Happy Birthday and paying for dinner that night in the hotel! We were staying at the hotel for only one night so we had to make the most of it. The weather was slightly overcast when we arrived so couldn’t really make use of the pool, but we certainly enjoyed walking into our ‘villa’ room (the hotel upgraded us!).
Ryan taking full advantage of the luxuries of our room!
We walked over to La Jolla Cove and the Children’s Pool to watch the sealions. This is where Ryan proposed to me back in 2009 on Christmas Day. We took a photo at the same spot:
We walked further down the beach this time and watched the sea lions doing their yoga poses at sunset. It really reminded me just how beautiful this place is.
We also visited the cafe/bakery we went to on that Christmas Day back in 2009, at about 7am when noone was around and nowhere was open. We just wanted some breakfast and this place was a lovely family-run local bakery. We returned and I told the owner our story and she was so delighted that we came back and that her bakery played a small part in our special day. She told her husband who consequently came out from the back room and congratulated us as well. They gave us a freshly baked heart cookie as a ‘thank you’. Very sweet!
After enjoying our lovely dinner at the hotel (thanks mum and dad!), we woke early the next morning ready to embark on our kayaking adventure. We managed to get a discount through Chapman so we booked a 2-hour La Jolla kayaking tour. It was SO much fun, but we couldn’t go through the caves unfortunately as the current was very strong. I couldn’t believe there were people scuba diving and people swimming despite the quite rough waters. We were kayaking in a group and Ryan and I had a tandem kayak. We did extremely well I thought, but after 2 hours of paddling my arms were killing me! I’d happily do it again though!
We then ventured into Downtown to walk around. We were staying in another hotel for the second night and took advantage of seeing all the sights we saw last time we were there. Not a lot had changed! We visited Seaport Village, went to the Contemporary Museum of Art and ate out in Little Italy in the evening, which was an area we hadn’t visited before. Reminded me a bit of San Francisco.
Seaport Village, overlooking Coronado Island
The following week an event happened that I had been planning months in advance for — Chapman University’s inaugural Design Symposium. This will become a yearly event for the Art Department, where design topics are discussed by a panel of professionals. This is for the students to participate in, as well as the AIGA (the professional association of design in the US). This was a big deal and a lot to organise as the first event was discussing ‘The Branding Issue’. I organised for Greg Nugent, my old boss at LOCOG (ex-Director of Brand and Marketing), to fly over for the event and also for him to visit one of my classes whilst he was here. The other panellists were Armin Vit, who is the co-founder of Under Consideration and a designer/blogger (a big name in the Design industry for those in the know), Ron Leland (our friend who got me the Chapman job in the first place! He’s also a Brand Architect.), and a Marketing Professor from Chapman — Niklas Myhr. The event was a huge success — 100 people in attendance, most of whom were students. I was chairing the debate and had not been this nervous in a while! I think the nerves came from the fact I was trying to be a moderator for four very big design/marketing personalities! Overall we received great feedback and I think the students got a lot out of it.
Greg chatting to my Advertising class.
On Saturday the 5th of October it was Chapman University’s Homecoming celebration. This is where university alumni are invited back to the Chapman for a weekend celebration. Every year they hold the Chapman 5K, which is supposedly the fastest, flattest and funnest 5K in the world! Of course I had to run this on behalf of my department and managed a very average 26 mins (not my best!). I did overtake some of my students though, so that was a bonus! That weekend we experienced the crazy Santa Ana winds, which was practically a mini-hurricane in my opinion! Tree branches, dust bowls, leaves blowing everywhere and the biggest nightmare for those like myself who suffer from allergies. It luckily died down by Sunday!
Our friends from the UK — Amy and Tony — have now moved permanently to LA so we went to visit them on the Saturday evening. They have a beautiful dog called Holmes, who they rescued from a shelter. I mentioned before that Tony is American and an actor, so the plan was always for them to eventually settle in LA. They live in Studio City, which is quite an up and coming hip area in LA. We had dinner at their’s and following dinner we spent the evening at Chris Evan’s house. Now, let me just clarify. This is not our ginger-haired Chris Evans, this is the Hollywood A-lister actor Chris Evans, as in the star of Captain America, Fantastic Four, etc. Tony and him grew up together in their teens and were part of the same group of young actors trying to make it big in Hollywood. They all still meet up from time to time but Tony hadn’t seen his new home off Mulholland Drive so we jumped in a cab and headed over there. I should mention that his house is next to Tom Cruise’s place. I was totally willing to go and say hi but I don’t think anyone was at home. I literally couldn’t believe we walked in and there he was in his tracksuit bottom and hoody just having a casual night in with his roomates. Tony introduced us to him and he was very friendly and down-to-earth. Honestly, no signs of a big ego really at all! His house certainly has a big ego, though! The most incredible views of LA, together with a pool outside, the biggest kitchen and fridge I’ve ever seen. We had a tour of his house and he has his own walk-in wardrobe any woman would kill for. Plus, he had a gym room upstairs, which was my heaven. Anyways, I don’t think I will forget a very surreal evening of just sitting around and playing cards with a Hollywood actor. Ryan and I couldn’t have possibly asked him for a photo, at risk of sounding like proper fanboys/fangirls. Far too embarrassing! But instead, we went into one of the back store rooms and surely enough there it was — the Captain America shield used in the film! Just lying there, waiting to be picked up and have its photo taken…
Captain Ryan America
Finally (told you a lot happened this month!), we took a trip to Death Valley this weekend. This was originally planned for July, but we sensibly decided to re-schedule due to the extreme temperatures in July (55 degrees plus!). I think it’s safe to say we would have been burned alive had we decided to go back then. Unfortunately though, the stupid government shutdown meant that all National Parks are closed, including of course Death Valley. We could access the park but not walk through any of the hiking trails, which was the whole bloody point of the trip! I think a lot of people cancelled as a result as there were only tourists around (who probably couldn’t cancel a trip like this). We couldn’t have postponed it further as we didn’t know when the gov shutdown would end. So instead we drove 5 hours to stay at the Furnace Creek Ranch and drove around nearby to the vantage points, like Zabriskie Point. The views were still amazing and you could see plenty! It was just a shame that you couldn’t hike. The weather was perfect, too, a much milder 32 degrees. I’m glad we went as it was one of the places we wanted to tick off the list and very much reminded us of Grand Canyon/Monument Valley.
Sunset at Zabriskie Point
To round off the blog this month, here is a photo of my lovely Branding class (a few students are missing) and me teaching them (just so you lot back home don’t think I’ve been lazing around on my ass all year!).