Fun

One Of My Many Side Projects

HASHTAG HOME:

Hashtag Housewarming I can't say for sure what my main project is right now. There are a lot of sides projects going - and going strong!
 I started designing some fun "merch" (as the kids say) and have it up for sale on a site called Zazzle. 
 
 I started with lots of wacky fun Halloween/Candy Corn/Sugar Skull items. And have now been updating with my Hashtag Home   line. It's all a bit of fun and I love how the items are turning out!
 
 CLICK on the images to see more in each collection. Then tell me what you think.
 
 And in the header up thereImage result for finger up emojiImage result for finger up emojiImage result for finger up emojiyou can click on "SHOP" to go to the store and see what's new anytime!
 
HALLOWEEN SHOP:
Candy Corn Halloween


Let's Go Back To Italy For A Minute - Tips and Links

One of Harper's preschool buddies (and his parents) are going to Italy and asked about our trip. I wrote them the following email and thought it was wildly appropriate to post it all here.

LUCCA

Lucca is fantastic! Walled city with the tops of the walls as the city’s park. 2,5 miles around and everyone is up there riding bikes, running, walking, walking dogs, etc. Beautiful place to stroll. There are bike rental companies everywhere. We made friends with Laurie who owns this place with her husband. She’s American, he’s Italian. She’ll talk your ear off, but if you get there early to rent bikes, tell them we sent you! http://www.latoscananelcuore.it/

Our favorite coffee/breakfast/snack/lunch place was here:

https://www.facebook.com/panikolucca/

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187898-d9715778-Reviews-Paniko-Lucca_Province_of_Lucca_Tuscany.html

(they don’t have a website) Frederika was the young woman there every morning. {We knew we had become regulars/locals when she greeted us with a brusque "'Giorno!"

 

Right around the corner is an AWESOME place called Burro & Alici (Butter and Anchovies) They are a tapas place and opened literally 2 days before we first ate there:

https://www.facebook.com/BurroAlici-187942481705200/

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187898-d12321166-Reviews-Burro_Alici-Lucca_Province_of_Lucca_Tuscany.html

We made friends with the owners: Alessandro and Laura. We went there 3 times with a huge party of people. We LOVE them. If you go, please say Julia and Kurt sent you! (We are friends on Facebook now.)

 

Tons of good Gelato around, but our fave was La Bottega Del Gelato:

https://www.facebook.com/LaBottegaDelGelatoLucca/

 

Things for kids full of energy! The Guinigi Tower with the trees on top: IMG_6356

http://www.comune.lucca.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/131

The Bell tower:

http://www.comune.lucca.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/132

Harper and I climbed both twice! There are a couple of playgrounds for the kids as well (Harper was a regular at the biggest one near the Tourist Info office). If you walk around the walls, you’ll see both as they are next to the walls. 

 

Lucca also has great shopping (if you are into that) and the Anfiteatro which is a good place to stop and eat:

https://www.italyguides.it/en/tuscany/lucca/piazza-dell-anfiteatro

 

OH! And Lucca has a HUGE summer music festival every year with BIG names not sure what your dates are, but maybe you can catch something good:

http://www.summer-festival.com/

The Stones are playing in September…!!

 

Outskirts of Lucca - great family restaurant with fantastic pizza and it’s quite local Bimbotto (about 10-15 minute drive from the walls):

http://bimbotto.it/

Yummy food and super friendly kind people. One of the waitresses hugged me goodbye the first night we were there! 

 

Also nearby (15 minute drive from the walls) is this amazing Villa which you can spend an afternoon in:

http://www.parcovillareale.it/

You can bring in a picnic, your dog, whatever! It costs money to go in and the insides of the buildings are not open (under renovation) but the grounds are just great. If you are looking for a lazy afternoon of just chilling and having the kids run around. So many little gardens and fountains to look at. We were so pleasantly surprised. (I wrote about it in my blog.)

{I did a whole blog post about it here.} 

 

Other things not Lucca related. These are in towns between Lucca and Florence: 

Pinnochio Park:

http://www.pinocchio.it/

It’s wackadoodle, but super fun (wrote about it in my blog)

 

Zoo- nice small zoo with two playground areas inside (Very important for Harper because she does’t care that much about zoos!) They have updated a few of the larger enclosures (Lions and tigers and Lynx and Elephant) so it’s more modern but a few other enclosures are very old and sad, but they clearly have plans. But you can have a giraffe lick you, so that’s fun. 

https://www.zoodipistoia.it/en/

 

We heard about caves you can tour but didn’t go - seemed like a kid friendly, hot day activity! Book ahead.

http://welcometuscany.it/tuscany/lucca/garfagnana/wind_cave.htm

 

IMG_7790Montecatini Terme is a famous resort town with hot springs. We only went there to take the Funiculare up the mountain to Montecatini Alto - the Funiculare ride is SUPER cool, but I’m sure it will be crowded as all get out in Summer. And they have just an old window ticket booth and paper tickets, so I don’t think you can buy ahead!

http://www.montecatini.it/english/montecatini_funicular.html

 

San Gimignano (Smaller walled town full of towers) is a lovely day trip:

http://www.comune.sangimignano.si.it/en/tourism-culture

(Harper and I climbed the big tower there too)

 

 

 

FLORENCE AND ROME AND PISA (OH MY)

Some ProTips for Florence and Rome that we learned on this trip (and in these modern times):

If you want to see the David and if you want to climb the Duomo, you have to book timed tickets ahead of time. Otherwise it will be sold out or minimum you have to wait in line for hours! Same for stuff in Rome too - Colosseum, The Forum, The Baths of Caracalla, St. Peter’s Dome, Sistine Chapel, etc etc. http://www.coopculture.it/

As for where to stay in Rome - City Center. Here where we’ve stayed:

http://www.hotelnavona.com/

Not fancy, but clean and close to everything you want. If you aim your hotel or apartment finder to the areas around Piazza Navona or The Pantheon Or Piazza Di Popolo or the Vatican, you’ll be fine for a couple days in Rome. There are subways, but not a lot, plus it’s kinda fun to walk through all that stuff! Pantheon is my favorite building. 

And Gelato. Just Gelato all day long. It will be hot, so having it 2 or 3 times in a day would not be unreasonable. 

Oh, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa is 1/2 hour drive from Lucca (1.5 from Florence). Once you park at the tower area, it can literally be 1 hour in and out (not sure if you can buy tickets to climb it ahead of time or not). Kids under 8 cannot climb… :-(

The train from Florence to Lucca is 1:20 minutes, by car about 50 minutes. 

So many amazing things to do and see!!

 


One Of Our Favorite Spots - Villa Reale di Marlia

We got lost one day, looking for our 2nd rental. (Ever the producer, I thought it best to scout the new location before actually moving there. So glad we did!) It was out in the country where all roads seem to be named Via delle Villa and therefore tough to nail down with google maps. We pulled into what looked to be a tiny parking lot/ticket office for a huge villa. I popped in to ask for directions (being the most fearless of our group with my .05% Italian language skills.) The two women there were almost able to help me but more importantly, I learned we were at the Villa Reale di Marlia. I promised we would come back for a tour and I'm so glad we did. 

Upon our return, I went back into the tiny ticket office and the two same women were there. One turned to the other and said excitedly, in Italian, "This is the woman who was lost!" I laughed and bought tickets. At first it was disappointing to learn that all the buildings were closed. They are being restored and will be closed for probably years. (They only started restoring in 2015.) We went in anyway to view the gardens and man oh man did my disappointment disappear quickly. The tour map smartly takes you away from the buildings down to the lake first. Then you get this stunning view back up to the main house. 

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Then you walk back up to the main buildings via all the amazing side gardens.

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The wisteria was stunning and smelled soooo good.

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There is a pool and pool house tucked away on the side. I can't wait to go back and see this fully restored. 

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There is a Grotto, of course. All the best villas had them...

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Inside the Grotto it was about 10 degrees cooler and looked like it used to spray water from all the fountains into the center. I suspect on hot summer days this would be the place to relax and cool off as you walked from the lake back to the house. ("house")

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There were many other gardens and pathways - the Spanish Garden, the Green Theater, etc. But my favorite is the Lemon Garden. Kurt estimated it is a bit smaller than a football field. Half is lemon trees in pots (so you can move them indoors during winter!) and the other half is a big pond with a fountain. 

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A view from behind the fountain looking back at the Lemons:

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Turns out, my favorite painter, John Singer Sargent, came here to paint. And he painted a few watercolors from this very Lemon Garden. 

John_Singer_Sargent_-_Villa_di_Marlia _Lucca-_A_Fountain_-_Google_Art_Project

When you arrived in a carriage to the main house, this is what you saw when you exited the carriage - a huge fountain with multiple levels of water coming down. This photo does not do it justice except to show how large it is! 

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Here's a close up of the center. Also surprising, you could walk along that upper level next to the statues and giant urns. There were lovely little secret pathways through the trees and bushes back there. Excellent fun for this old romantic. 

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The huge water fountain (they call it the Water Theater) is behind this main building. We stopped halfway to empty rocks from our shoes. 

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The whole time we were there, walking the grounds, we saw one other family. Total. In the whole giant place. 

When we left, I thanked the women again and they said they were having an event on Easter Monday - a Botanical Treasure Hunt for the kids! Um, yes, sign us up. So we came back! This time with a picnic and blankets (because you are always welcome to come in and picnic any time you want) and Harper really enjoyed the treasure hunt and of course the gift at the end. (Amazingly she wore the exact same outfit!)

Here she finds Boxwood and Lemons.

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She hugged and kissed many of the trees and plants we found.

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I love this place and I can't wait to go back often to see how things have come along. I want to picnic there all the time.

The true joy of spending a long time in one place is visiting wonderful things you find more than once. I highly recommend it.  

Please visit the link of the villa - their photos are stunning and give you some better views. Villa Reale di Marlia 


Back To The Usual Tourist Stuff

There's this famous tower nearby in a town called Pisa. You may have heard of it. It leans. We went to see it on Monday. Some of us climbed up. Some of did not and were cranky.

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Then the crankiness as children younger than 8 cannot ascend the tower...

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So we went into the cathedral to look for skulls and to light candles and make good wishes for the world. 

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For the tower climbers, the view was spectacular.

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Harper did get to run on the grass, she liked that part.

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After the tower we drove to the ocean, Il Mediteraneo. 

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later we grabbed a bite and I liked this handsome fellow hanging on the balcony next door.

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A good day out!

 


Already Losing Track of The Days!

But that's easy to do on vacation, no matter what! Uncle Glenn arrived the other morning and while Kurt when to pick him up in Florence, Harper and I were busy walking through town, seeing the sites, and taking pictures. 

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We walked past this tower with trees growing out of it and later that day, climbed up!

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Anfiteatro in the background...

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After lunch [dopo pranzo] Harper helped me withy my espresso.

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I love being here with Harper and watching her just do her thing. I also love when she notices other kids doing something totally normal for here but out of the ordinary in LA - like drink right from spigots! 

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That's my little Bambina! 


Bye Bye Bibs and Perfect Sundays

I was cleaning up my computer desktop and found this image:

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It's from October and represents a Perfect Hilarious Family Sunday. All of us on the bed playing Hot Wheels. As you do. Hopefully Kurt will not try to recreate this scene with the new slot car track he Harper got for Christmas.

I love this picture. Pure relaxed fun.

 

When we moved out to remodel the house, things that had been jammed into the tiny old kitchen ended up at the new rental. I cleaned some stuff out, donated them to charity, etc but some stuff stayed. Like these bibs which were on a magnet on the fridge.

ByeByeBibs

When we moved back to our house, these got donated. Harper hadn't really used a bib in ages, but somehow they stayed. They are one of the last baby things to go from the house. The other is the monitor which I'm weaning Harper off of. If I'm honest, I'm weaning myself off of it. It's really been a year or two too long to still have a monitor. Harper is adjusting to not just calling my name at night. I'm the one who jumps when she opens her door when we are watching TV after she's gone to bed to say, "Mama, I want to read a book." For some reason she needs me to come in and watch while she picks books to "read" then get back into bed with them. It's sweet and why I ever tell her no to reading?

At the doctor for Harper's Five year check up, the nurse asked her to put on a paper gown! OMG it was really Big Girl time. Additional cuteness was when the doc when to check her ears, on her own, Harper held her hair away from her ears for him. Adorable.

Next year is a new year with some travel and then kindergarten to look forward to. Yowza.

 

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Fun Outside The House

Our new old house makes us happy. Our new old house is still full of boxes as we await installation of about 3 more major closets/cupboards - therefore - the house can become confining so going out is key! This last weekend we had some adventures.

Harper and I started on Saturday at the Dead Zoo aka The Dinosaur Library (Harper's name for it) aka The Natural History Museum. We are members and go there so often I've learned to bring a change of clothes so Harper can splash and throw rocks in the little fountain pond outside. Most of the other kids are bummed because they see Harper getting soaked but their parents tell them no. Sorry kids! But do I have a picture of that? No, because we go so often, I didn't take one this time...but here's one from the other side of that pond fountain:

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The last time we went, this little boy came up to me and said, "Can I go in there?" I said, "Sorry sweetie, you have to ask your mom." He walked away, glum. I watched him play in the not so wet fountain (pictured above) and he kept watching Harper throwing rocks and splashing about. Ten minutes later he came back and said, "Can I go in there?" I laughed and gave him the same disappointing answer.

Harper likes to look at the bones and sometimes the dioramas of the animals and sometimes the rocks and gems and sometimes the nature lab downstairs. The one thing she ALWAYS likes to do is look at the toys in the gift shop.

This last trip, after all of the above, we walked outside and around to the lovely hummingbird garden and the edible garden. Then back inside to pose with the lovely statue in the rotunda. (You can always click the images for larger versions.)

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NH Museum was Saturday while we let Kurt get his office somewhat put together (as the electrician had been there early in the morning to run power out there). Sunday the three of us went to LA County Museum of Art (no nicknames yet), signed up as members and had a grand day of it.

There was this fun outdoor noodly thing that Harper L O V E D.

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We walked through the Ahmanson Building and looked at art. We kept asking Harper was she saw or what she thought things were. One piece she said, off handedly, "that's a popsicle" another piece (a sculpture of what looked like different colored car pieces bent and welded together) she looked at and said, "That's garbage." (as in actual trash!) Hilarious. Later in the Toba Khedoori exhibit, which is comprised of rooms with giant cream colored canvases on the walls, each with a different image similar in style to this:

Toba

Harper ran through and then back out saying "They forgot to put art in here!" Sorry Ms. Khedoori! I wanted to stay and look at each one more closely. But this is the beauty of having a membership.

We opted for more "kid-friendly" art - Lamps:

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Rain: (I could have stayed in there for hours. The sound alone was soothing therapy for a drought filled LA life!)

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If you follow the instructions, you stay dry, minus a few errant drops. Harper got pretty damp.

Giant indoor sculpture:

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Giant outdoor - er - rock:

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We went to the Guillermo Del Toro exhibit - calling it "Spooky Fun Halloween" stuff for Harper (which she loves). We stayed for a little while. Harper wanted to watch the videos most, but I made her walk around. She was especially taken with the life sized reproduction of Boris Karlof having his Frankenstein monster make up put on:

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I had to explain it to her. Explain how actors put on make up to make movies. "Why?" so they can look like a monster. "Why?" You know how you like to dress up for Halloween? She nods. That's what he's doing, but his mask and make up take a long time. "Why?"

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We walked around a little bit more but got back to this and she stopped again and said, "Tell about this more." So we sat on the floor and I went through the whole story again about makeup and masks and playing dress up and movies and etc etc. Always amazes me what catches her eye - especially in that giant exhibit of monsters and weirdness!

We moved on to a quieter space. A space to create:

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I can't wait to go back to that lovely painting room.

On Sundays they have a bunch of craft and art stations for kids. Harper made this broach:

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Last thing we saw was this amazing set up! Cars cars cars!

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Happy to be members of LACMA now and to know how many different things there are that Harper will love. Plus the Tar Pits just down the street that we are already a member of by being members of the Dead Zoo/Dinosaur Library!

Hooray LA!


Earlier Summer Fun + Disneyland

Harper's preschool has "Crazy Fun Week" the last week before their short break in August. One of those days is about hair. We did a tame version of that.

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There was swimming and ice cream.

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Mama got a new bike. I refer to bikes at Ponies because Kurt bought me a bike for Christmas years ago and had to take me outside to see it, as you would a pony. So I told Harper I got a new pony and what should I name it. She said, without missing a beat, "Twilight Sparkle". DONE.

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The job I was working on for the last six months ended (YAY!) and the timing was perfect as the next day we got free tickets to Disneyland, thanks to our good friend Sarah (co-creator and co-owner of MomsLA. Also a dear friend since I was 9!) And also lucky for us, Grace has a year pass to Disneyland and the day off from work so she could join us. HOORAY!

Look at us, all fresh on the tram before the day starts! Surfing Goofy was a quick stop to pick up tickets.

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First ride of the day - Storybookland - a nice warm up. Followed up by TEACUPS! OMG Harper loved the teacups. We went twice.

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Then on to Dumbo - first the waiting, then the flying.

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Grace arrived with coffee (She's the best, our Grace!) while we took a break after buying the required ears. Harper put them on for a minute then took them off saying I'm not going to wear this today. Ummmm, today is the BEST day to wear them! Oh well.

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Off to Autopia and Harper helped me drive while we were being stalked by these people.

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After some Dole Whip in the Tiki Room (the tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki room) - that is some OG Disney, btw - we traumatized Harper with a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean. It's not a trip to the Magic Kingdom without scaring the crap out of your daughter. She recovered, we had some lunch then climbed the Swiss Family Robinson Tarzan Treehouse. Kurt took her once, then I took her through and she wanted to go back up and out the opposite way. That's a little awkward, but hey, I figured I owed her after the whole Pirate-Nightmares-For-The-Rest-of-Her-Life situation.

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We met up with Sarah, our Disney benefactor and rested to chit chat for a few minute outside Jungle Cruise (which was closed for a short while). Harper asked if she could get a spray fan, something she'd seen others carrying around, and we said yes. Oh did I mention it was about 92 degrees F? (That's 33 C to everyone else in the world). It was a welcome and practical purchase. The best part though, was I unwrapped the strap and Harper looked at it and said, "You WEAR it?"  Like that just blew her mind.

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The Matterhorn, of course.

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A churro of course.

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At this point we had crossed over into California Adventure and went on Harper's favorite ride The Clam Ride aka Ariel's Undersea Adventure. Then we rested, had a beer and a snack. Then off to the Ferris Wheel. Apparently we were too tired and too hot to take any more pictures other than one from the giant Ferris Wheel and one of me and Harper on Jumping Jellyfish. Funny thing - Harper doesn't like the Dark Pirates ride but heights? Not a problem.

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After that, a ride on the rockets with Papa and then we scooted out to avoid the parade. Dinner near the tram stop, then back on the tram.

We had bought one of these ridiculous balloons. Truly, they are a menace. But finally Kurt found the perfect use for it.

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A good-bye selfie.

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One selfie is enough Grace!

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Thanks to Sarah for making it happen! And to Grace for sacrificing fun grown-up rides for life with a 4 year old at Disneyland! Great day.

 

 

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Ten Years, Man! Ten YEARS! (Part 1 of 2)

IMG_0669The other day I was pouring coffee into this mug and thinking about when and where I got it and realized it was ten years ago.

20th Century Fox had hired me to work on The Omen (6/6/6) and the offices were at The Lot on Santa Monica Blvd. The job itself was not too intense and the crew was great, mainly the woman who ran the whole office, Emily. Technically she was the Production Assistant and had only recently graduated from university, but she really ran the place. She and I had many fun conversations and now, ten years later, we are still friends. We haven't seen much of each other lately and that is something I promise to remedy very soon. (Oh and I got the mug at the Starbucks at the corner of Santa Monica and La Brea on a slow work day just before Valentine's Day.)

 

TEN YEARS! This is my favorite moment from Grosse Point Blank. I love Jeremy Piven.

 

But then I started thinking about what a nutty crazy year 2006 was. Come with me...

January through mid April - working on The Omen, met Emily. Learned how to really set boundaries at work. Didn't let the outrageous screaming guy get to me. I was quite proud of myself.

In April I got a phone call asking if I could come and work in Mexico City for the summer on a movie, but due to work and vacation schedules I had to turn it down as they needed me to start right away in April. (But pay attention to the name of my blog...)

SpidermanI got another phone call asking if I could work on a movie for two weeks in Cleveland at the end of April. This actually worked out as The Omen was just finishing and I arranged to leave and work on a 2nd Unit shoot for Spiderman 3. It was the wildest/wackiest two weeks. The shoot only happened in daylight (best kind of filmshoot because once it gets dark, you are done.) AND our hotel was literally on the street where we were shooting. No 45 minute bus rides to location.

And because my hours were not too nutty, I also moonlighted in the evenings redoing vfx shot breakdowns for an HBO mini-series as new scripts came in. Hey, why not make a few extra bucks on the side? We had a trip to Paris coming up...Cleveland was fascinating and OMG SO COLD. I loved being downtown where there is a football stadium, a baseball stadium and the basketball arena and all the historic buildings from prosperous days gone by with names like Carnegie and Rockefeller sprinkled about.

The crew on the job was fun, though we had a local PA who was none too bright, I'm sorry to say. Hopefully he had other strengths. The best part was that while none of the actual stars of the movie were there (only stunt versions) the crowds came out to see Spiderman and the production company let Spidey meet all the kids who came to see him and take tons of pictures. I snuck one in myself.

 

I got back from Cleveland and almost immediately we jetted off to Paris in May.

20120706-110844We were in Paris for two weeks and rented an apartment about two blocks from Notre Dame Cathedral. We spent almost every day with Pranab and Kate who were in their apartment in the 12th arrondissement. It was relaxing and lovely and I'd like to do it like that again. The highlight for me was the day we walked along La Promenade Plantee - the original Highline Park. It was magical to walk up above the streets of Paris, looking into apartments and offices, through lush gardens. At the end we found a place to sit and have a refreshing beverage and just enjoy the city.

We walked so much on that trip, eschewing the metro every time we made the 2.5k walk back and forth to their flat. We always went to them as they had a large indoor market plus boulangerie and lovely wine shop all within two blocks. Heaven.

We have not been back to Paris since then and we need to remedy that soon.

Grace graduated from high school in early June and we were all there to celebrate that fun day. While there I got another phone call from the Mexico City job asking if I were available now. I said, well, I'm in No. Cal for an event then going to Montreal for a wedding in two weeks. After that, I said, I'm free. So on the phone I got the gig as they still needed a producer on the ground. They asked if I could come down for four days between trips to get a lay of the land, have a few meetings, etc. Ummm. okay! Hooray for Hollywood.

So after the graduation trip, I hopped on a plane to Mexico City with a script and not a clue what it would be like or even who in the world I would be working with! I have amazing guardian angels because I got to meet and work with Paddy and Steve. Two kind, relaxed and funny guys who made my quick pre-trip to Mexico easy and fun. We stayed at the very colorful Camino Real hotel and it was a whirlwind trip. I said "see you soon!" and hopped back on a plane to LA.

Montreal! An old family friend Paul married Dee in her hometown. Paul's whole family had come to our wedding five years prior and when his older brother Matt got married, we were not able to make that wedding (with great regret). So I vowed to be in Montreal. Kurt and I spent a lovely long weekend there. The wedding was beautiful and the receptions and parties after were a blast.

100_0761Then back to LA for a minute, wash clothes, buy specific Mexico City gear (including the infamous BFH) 100_0949pack for three months, kiss the cats and husband good-bye and back to Mexico City.

Back to the Camino Real, back to the wild main set built next to the abandoned shopping mall down in an old quarry, back to the fun crew and VFX team. My spanish got better and I learned a lot of very specific spanish words that are not normally taught in high school: pentalla verde, for example.

It was all going well. Trips to see pyramids at Teotihuacan, adventurous dinners out around town, just driving through the city every morning and evening there was something new to see. Finishing the work day in the bar, having cocktails, doing paperwork and emails with Paddy and Steve. Seeing other film crews arrive for other movies (clearly the Camino Real is THE place to stay).

 

 

Then my dad died.

 

More to come....