We are back from our trip to England. It went differently than planned on a couple of big levels, and it also went 1000x better than planned.
I recapped my March Goals here just before we left. I had lost 15 pounds on my way to losing 40. Good for me. Then we moved and life got nuts. New house, new neighborhood, new driving habits, new office, new colleagues, new food. My blog post was not very forthcoming on my attitude about the move and the job at that time. I mentioned tenacity as my keyword. That was true to a point for the job and the move.
Then it wasn't relevant anymore and my job ended and I was free. For two months I worked and Harper went to school and Kurt worked at the house and it rained. Then the job ended (for a variety of reason none of which are necessary to write about here - not yet anyway) and it stopped raining and there was this dry, hot, no-one-has-air-con-in-England summer. There was travel and adventure and family time and personal reckoning. There was also much eating and drinking and simply enjoying the hell out of life with new friends and then visitors from the US.
I learned a lot about myself and what I want and need. But that didn't really clarify completely until two weeks after returning home. Just this last week has seen some amazing changes for me. For us. Good changes. Happy changes. Exciting changes.
It's all a bit vague, I know, but I'll do a slow retelling in the next months as I revamp this blog and my social media life and creative world in general.
Seems like it was just November. December went by in a flash. Finished a job, then Thanksgiving, then Harper birthday then family visits then a trip to Seattle, home for Christmas and New Year and WHEW.
2017 was a good good year. I'll be honest and say the first half was much better than the 2nd! Because of course it was ITALY 2017 in the spring. My long planned birthday gift to myself. It turned out better and more wonderful than I even imagined it would. Here is an image from one of our last days in Lucca. Was was so sad to be saying goodbye to such a lovely town and an amazing experience.
We got home to LA and LA had not changed at all and stood out as dull and full of concrete in contrast. I know I know, not fair to compare Tuscany to LA. But it really made me sit down and consider what the next 5, 10, 20, ?? years might look like. What do I want them to look like? I made a 5 year plan that will be a huge help for the long term goals. But for our distant plans, we are still working on them. Questions like: are we going to live in LA until we die? Are we going to live in this house until we die? All very valid and very REAL questions. Intense questions. Questions we can't answer just at the moment and that's fine. Just as long as they are out there and we are considering.
As for 2018 - there are goals. Weekly goals, monthly goals, yearly goals. But all of that is predictable and unsurprising so I won't go into that until February as I want to walk my talk and then I'll report back. One goal I will share is to do 5 push ups a day for the month of January. I know, I know, sounds lame and easy. But for me, 5 push ups are hard. And PS I have to do them on my knees because my upper body strength is not great. Also - it's nice to make a goal that is reasonable and totally doable. No extra expense, time or equipment needed. I'll keep you posted.
I hope your 2018 is full of peace and hope and prosperity and joy and good health.
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.
Then you walk back up to the main buildings via all the amazing side gardens.
The wisteria was stunning and smelled soooo good.
There is a pool and pool house tucked away on the side. I can't wait to go back and see this fully restored.
There is a Grotto, of course. All the best villas had them...
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")
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.
A view from behind the fountain looking back at the Lemons:
Turns out, my favorite painter, John Singer Sargent, came here to paint. And he painted a few watercolors from this very Lemon Garden.
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!
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.
The huge water fountain (they call it the Water Theater) is behind this main building. We stopped halfway to empty rocks from our shoes.
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.
She hugged and kissed many of the trees and plants we found.
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
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:
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.)
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.
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:
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:
Rain: (I could have stayed in there for hours. The sound alone was soothing therapy for a drought filled LA life!)
If you follow the instructions, you stay dry, minus a few errant drops. Harper got pretty damp.
Giant indoor sculpture:
Giant outdoor - er - rock:
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:
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?"
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:
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:
Last thing we saw was this amazing set up! Cars cars cars!
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!
At my job I have the pleasure of working with a talented and relaxed VFX Supervisor. (Two things you MUST have in a VFX partner to retain your sanity.) He and I have had a few big picture what do you want to do in life outside of this job type conversations. In the course of a conversation we had with a third party yesterday, I discovered that my colleague is a fantastic painter. His work really impressed me. In the same conversation he lamented that he didn't have the time he wished he had to paint more.
Later, we were in my office going over work stuff and I mentioned how impressed I was with his paintings. He humbly said thanks and then got wistful and said, "Some day, Julia, someday we'll be able to do what we really want." I looked at him square in the eyes and said, "No, sir, not 'Some day' - October of this year. October I'll be [doing the thing I want to do]!!"
Hearing that sad "Some day" only redoubled my passion to get one of my personal projects done this year. Hell or highwater, I will be doing it.
You have to know, all of you, there is no "some day." You have to pick a date and make it happen. Some day you'll be dead. But other than that, there are specific days on a calendar and you have to pick one and go make stuff.
Zoolander was the first movie we went to after 9/11 happened. It seemed the no-brainer choice -- total escapism. I was having a good time, laughing an enjoying the ridiculousness of it all.
Then came the moment where the two models have their "Walk-Off" and they need a judge. I knew, I KNEW it was going to be an amazing cameo by someone huge and I was so excited SO EXCITED to see who it was going to be. Then this:
And I felt like nothing bad could ever happen again. David Bowie was there.
It was not dissimilar from the scene in Extras where Ricky Gervais' character is in the VIP section and tries to connect with the genius who is David Bowie. I'm sure I did a spit take when Bowie just launches into singing with "Poor little fat man..." Then a bigger spit take as he swivels round to the piano and just launches in to the full song.
I don't know Bowie's music very deeply. I don't relate to Ziggy or The Thin White Duke. I was about Putting Out Fire With Gasoline and China Girl from Let's Dance. I could probably sing all the songs by heart if you played it for me right now as it came out when I was in high school. I have fond memories of listening to it at Lisa's house in Makawao. I do know all his greatest hits, though, and have been surprised this week to realize just how many there are.
Of course I knew who he was and that there was a big important history to him in the music world. And yet, I truly fell in love with David Bowie in the movies.
Now you are going to scoff at me because having said that, I will confess I've never seen The Man Who Fell To Earth.
I know, I know.
I think I first heard about David Bowie in any serious way from my friend Jai. When I knew her she was just Karen. But she came to Seabury from Honolulu with a stack of records that blew my little Maui mind. She might have had Bowie, I don't remember (Adam and The Ants stood out to me more). But she talked about Bowie and about The Man Who Fell To Earth. This was back in the day when you couldn't just pop over to the video store and grab it, much less download it. But the way she talked about him and the movie and how much she admired him really stuck with me. It's almost like I don't want to see the movie because it might not live up to what I heard about it from Jai.
Jai died in 2003. I miss her so much.
There were two movie theaters in close proximity to me on Maui and I lived in them. In 1985 a movie came out called Into The Night with one of my favorite actors, Jeff Goldblum. It looked funny and I went to see it. (Probably alone as I loved going to see movies alone!) In the middle of this wacky awesome movie comes this scene:
Bowie playing a hit man, out to get Jeff's character. Bowie is suave and smiling and charming and amazing. He's in the movie for about 5 minutes but it made me happy and surprised. I also thought, "How cool that this amazing musician (so I'd heard) was just having a laugh doing a little part in this movie!" (I own this movie and can watch it over and over. I also love it because it is such a loveletter/postcard/snapshot to LA in the 80's for me as I was just about to move there.)
Also in 1985 was The Breakfast Club. That seminal John Hughes movie that defined a generation (I can use that phrase, can't I since I'm that generation?). And what was the opening visual of that movie?
I'm not sure which movie I saw first that year (They both came out in February of 1985), but David Bowie just seemed to always be there, always kept showing up. (Let's Dance came out in 1983.) And again, I didn't know much about him, but clearly he was important.
Important is not quite right. Significant. Exceptional. Vital.
One of his last big roles was playing Nikola Tesla in The Prestige.
If you know anything about Tesla (and you should because he's astounding - read this from The Oatmeal) you know that he's otherworldly in his genius. I believe he was also kind and open minded and misunderstood. Who better to play this wonderful soul, but another wonderful soul?
And while everyone is posting images of Bowie from the Glam Rock period -- you know the one with him and the big painted bolt on his face -- I will always remember him like this - impeccably dressed, handsome, gorgeous, enigmatic. Those eyes.
As my friend Laura said upon hearing the news: "Bowie seemed timeless, so his passing just feels incongruous with reality."
Incongruous with reality.
That is the truth to me. How could this ethereal, otherworldly, but oh so human being actually die of something so crass, so low as cancer?
Bowie just keeps showing up on social media this week and I'm glad. I don't want him to ever go away. I want to be surprised by his cameos forever.
Every new year is full of promise and hope. I have many goals and plans, much of which continue through from last year, with a few new ones thrown in. I won't give you a list, I'll just summarize by saying there will be various short films that will be produced and distributed, scripts to finish and produce, a novel I'm planning on writing as well as financial and investing goals that will start this month.
Now that Harper is not so much a toddler, but a big girl, there will be travel to places other than Maui. Really excited about that!
And as ever, better health and fitness. I started a great fitness program last year and while various things took me away from it in December, I'm back on track today.
I have a lot on my plate and will stay focused. I pride myself in walking my talk and the year will reflect that.
For one reason or another, I've gotten behind on my early morning writing. So this my transition week to get my momentum going again. Waking up pre-dawn* has been a little tough, but not bad. I've had years of training and I'm not talking about Harper.
In college I rowed on the crew team and learned to get up in the dark and get moving quickly. If you hesitate, you are done, asleep again until it's light out. Back then you did have the safety of roommates who would roust you if you fell back to sleep. But now I have the motivation of middle age. "Do you want to accomplish something more? Then GET UP AND WRITE!" is the voice in my head.
I am also very lucky to have the ability to wake myself up without an alarm. When I go to bed I'll tell myself "Wake up at 5:30" and I always do. Though usually I wake up around 5:15. This is the danger time - I can't just "close my eyes for five minutes" because I might be asleep again for another hour. I tend to just get up at that point.
The cats get excited when I get up, but are then disappointed that I don't open the door for them. (I don't open the back door because it's right by Harper's room and shares the wall with her bed and I need her to sleep as long as possible while I'm writing.) Except Dynamo sometimes pushes his luck. I'll sit for a few minutes, getting the blog set up, waiting for the coffee to brew. Then I'll get up for a cup, turn and see this:
Dynamo is not a small cat and not easily nudged from a spot. But nudge him I do so I can get on with the business at hand.
*Fun fact: Dawn is not sunrise. I learned this from working on a movie. The opening scene took place at dawn and we learned that dawn is "the first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise." So the opening scene looked like this:
Watch the whole opening sequence here. It's really good and I want you know that except for the interior helicopter shots with Jamie Foxx, the whole scene/city/everything is fake, CG, visual effects. Full credit to Luxx Studios in Germany for that job. Also, the movie is pretty fun. But I digress.
So learning about dawn was three years ago. But it took me until just recently, and listening to that damn Elsa Letting It Go that I realized what the term "break of dawn" means.
Sunrise=sun above the horizon.
So the sun coming up is what breaks dawn. Need a graphic? Here you go: