Joy

New Starts - Watch This Space!

LifesABeachI feel like I'm in first gear. And it's good to be starting again, slowly revving up to new things. I'm learning a lot, getting into new habits, working to stay focused when my attention is scattered all over by these new shiny exciting ideas and plans.

One of the plans involves revamping this blog. It needs a redesign STAT. And I have fun plans for new content and varied story telling. I'm also going to start working with the Amazon Affiliates program so if you see me hawking some wares with amazon links, know that it's all for stuff I use and love. I'm not being paid by anyone to post about them, just looking for some revenue streams while I write about what excites me.

I hope you'll follow me on instagram too: @freyjulia as there will be a lot of new stuff happening there, plus some Harper related fun. I'll be on Facebook a lot less as I push past my regular old boundaries. 

One big goal I'm going to work toward is writing a novel in November. Did you know November is National Novel Writing Month? Truth! I know people who have done it and are honing their novels to this day. England inspired me with a notion for a novel and so I'll be blasting out ... something like a novel ... a very rough draft of a novel. But it will be something to work with and expand on. 

Season 2 of Menopodcast will be out soon and then we'll begin Season 3. I hope you are listening! 

See? So much to see and do. And I've only talked about HALF of it! Stay tuned, watch for changes, come along with me into new worlds!

Watch this space.


So That Happened

Oh Hello.

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. 

I feel so good. 

JuliaAndBirdOfPrey

 

 

 


34 Years Ago Today...

MixTapes...Seabury Hall had a dance, planned and executed by the Social Committee, headed by - guess who? - that's right - ME.

On February 15, 1984, we put on a Valentine's Dance and I made mix tapes for them. Two mix tapes to be exact: #1 called "New Music" and #2 called "Harder Rock". 

(Quick thing to point out: Seabury back then was 7-12 grades, about 200 students total. And we had dances every month or six weeks and everyone could come, very casual, you didn't have to ask anyone or dress up or anything. We also had a prom in the spring every year which was just for 10-12 graders and it was very fancy.) 

So, here is my Mix for:

VDDance#1

(All spellings as per the paper label inside. Gosh-my all caps handwriting hasn't changed at all!)

A SIDE:

Bowie - Modern Love 

English Beat - Jeannette

Madness - Madness

Rod Stewart - Young Turks

Squeeze - Piccadilly

Pretenders - Pack It Up

Men W/O Hats - Ideas For Walls

Duran - Lonely In Your Nightmares

BowWowWow - I Want Candy

Culture Club - Karma Chameleon

Billy Idol - Dancing With Myself

B SIDE:

Duran - Is There Something I Should Know

Stray Cats - Rebels Rule

Rob Stewart - Tonight I'm Yours

BowWowWow - Louis Quatorze

Bill Idol - Baby Talk

Bowie - Without You

Stray Cats - Sexy & 17

Duran - Girls On Film

Led Zepplin - Stairway to Heaven**

Billy Idol - Mony Mony

 

**All my Seabury Peeps will understand the inclusion of this song 

 

Let's get to the Harder Rock! (OMG can't wait for this, I haven't read this list yet.)

VDDance#2
 

A SIDE:

Rod Stewart - Baby Jane 

Led Zepplin - Black Dog

The Who - Who Are You

Van Halen - Jump

U-2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday

Foreignor - Head Games

Black Sabbath - Mob Rules

Soft Cell - Frustration

Thompson Twins - Love On Your Side

Madness - Our House

 

B SIDE:

Pretenders - Bad Boys Get Spanked!

Led Zepplin - Rock and Roll

Joan Jett - I Love Rock And Roll

AC DC (I wrote it with the bolt in between!) - For Those About To Rock

Alice Cooper - Schools Out...

Kajagoogoo - Too Shy

Thompson Twins - We Are Detective

U-2 - Refugee

Forgeignor - Dirty White Boy

Alice Cooper - I'm 18

AC DC - Let's Get It Up

 

Okay I think we can all agree that the "er" in "Harder Rock" was critical in that description...! 

Wow that takes me back. And now I have Rod Stewart stuck in my head. Of all the songs from these lists. {eyeroll}

I'll make a spotify playlist for you later so you can enjoy it out loud. Check back in a bit for that. 

Oh the 80's on Maui...

 

 

 

 


Your Los Angeles Lakers!

Last Tuesday night I went to my first ever Lakers game. I've lived here for over 30 years and FINALLY made it to a game! I was lucky enough to be invited by my boss from Jumanji, along with some other peeps from the Jumanji VFX crew. We were in the 15th row behind the Lakers bench. Dude.

IMG_1410 IMG_1409

I've never even been inside Staples Center. It's pretty cool. 

I'm don't really follow sports, but I usually have a decent handle on who the top players are, who the coach is, etc on the Lakers. But currently - NO CLUE.

Back in the day, when I went to LMU, the Lakers would sometimes practice in our big new gym on campus. One weekend, my college beau (current friend of the blog and back then a H U G E Lakers fan) and I drove onto campus and saw the lot full of very expensive cars. We parked near them and there was Magic Johnson, walking to practice. My beau had just been telling me about a great interview he read with Magic and I said, "Go say hi! Go tell him how much you liked his interview!" He hesitated and I encouraged and he went, I stayed at the car. Magic was gracious and shook his hand, chatted for a minute. I love that memory. 

Shout out to you, RCL!

Now, maybe I should pay attention to who is on the team these days....especially if I get to go back again some time to the 15th row! 

 


2018 Already?

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.

IMG_7930

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. 

 

 


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!!

 


Mystery Spot!

Harper got to go to the Mystery Spot! It's a fabulous place in Santa Cruz, California, truly one of those wacky Americana places that are on every "Must See!" list for family roadtrips. Right up there with Largest Ball of Twine and The Corn Palace

We went to Santa Cruz to visit family and friends last weekend and had a lovely time. (More on that in a later post.)

Yesterday, Harper brought home this drawing from preschool and I said, "Tell me about this drawing." And she said, "It's the Mystery Spot!" 

OMG. It totally is.

HarperMysterySpotJune2017


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. 

IMG_8167

IMG_7492

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

IMG_7493

The wisteria was stunning and smelled soooo good.

IMG_7495

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

IMG_7497

IMG_7499

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

IMG_7501

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")

IMG_7502

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. 

IMG_7505

IMG_7506

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

IMG_7510

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! 

IMG_7513

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. 

IMG_7511

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

IMG_7525

IMG_7522

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.

IMG_7826 IMG_7827

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

IMG_7848

IMG_7838

IMG_7842

IMG_7853

IMG_7866

SWAG

IMG_7867

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