Love that!

Today I Kicked Ass And It's Only Monday

And I wanted to document it! (Though now it's taken me until Wednesday to finish this!) It was a day where I felt I accomplished a lot of good things that made me feel proud. I ended the day on a high and felt a lot of joy.

*Did my shift at Open Progress Text Out as Leader/Moderator and got TWO AMAZING compliments by two separate people there that just made my whole pandemic.

*Texted a bunch of potential voters as well.


*Picked up books at the library

*Picked up stuff at Target

*Came home and Harper wanted to watch tv (school day so, no). Instead I had her help me make a snack station and two big calendars as she said she didn't know how to read a calendar. She made an August and September calendar.


*I made a new log in just for her on the desktop mac and shifted her minecraft account with lots of online search and help from a tech savvy friend. But I DID IT. (there were specific files you had to copy and paste over and it was not so straightforward.)

*I also did revisions on a story and am starting a new story.

*I'm ready for bed!


Flashback to July 2017 - Graduation Fortunes

Last July (2017) Harper had her graduation from Preschool. You can read about it here. What I didn't include in that post but found in my email recently was the thing they said about Harper. The Teacher read out a description of each student in the class and the classmates had to guess who it described. This was Harper's and it made me so happy:


"Which one of your friends can always be counted on to be THE PEACEMAKER?  When someone needs a hand, when someone needs help, when someone needs to figure things out .... Who is THE PEACEMAKER!?"
I'll be curious to see how this plays out in her life. 

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.

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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! 


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. 



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. 

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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.

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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 

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:


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!

Hooray LA!

OK Go!

We let Harper watch YouTube videos of kids playing with toys, unboxing videos, etc. But lately we've turned her on to funny cat videos (ha!) and OK Go videos. Now I am OBSESSED with OK Go. Yes yes, I'm a little late to the party. But man, the work they put into their videos is fantastic. And I will be buying their albums.
Treadmill video
Weightless video
This video in particular made me shake my head with wonder at the design and set up. I also love it because it's the ULTIMATE singing while driving video.

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.


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.


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.














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.


















The Matterhorn, of course.



















A churro of course.



















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.



















A good-bye selfie.



















One selfie is enough Grace!

















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.



















We Live In A Modern City (Almost)

Living in LA requires a car. Two problems with that:

1) Not everyone who lives here can afford a car and they rely on mass transit, which, in modern times, had been almost entirely made up of buses until 1990. That's when the Blue Line train opened, followed over the next 26 years by the Red, Green, Gold, Purple and now the Expo Line. But still, mostly buses.

2) Because there are so many cars and the majority of mass transit is buses, the roads are crowded.

LA had a history of great rail transit with it's Red and Yellow car system, but due to high costs, they were phased out for buses, the last rail lines dismantled by 1963. So to build subway and surface rail lines in a city that for decades relied on vehicles on surface streets is no easy feat, I'll grant you. And LA is big. Let's look at a map (click on it for a bigger image).

0f57261fdcc1fb8fab9357fcfc118c77The five boroughs of NYC are large. The greater LA area is also very large. This map incorporates other cities that live within LA (Long Beach, Santa Monica, Culver City, etc) and starts to touch on Orange County ("WHICH IS NOT LA OMG!"). Just to reiterate that restarting rail lines is not easy after all those years. And not just geographically. The amount of people who are against mass transit is astonishing.

I went to a few of the planning meetings for the EXPO line (as it is two blocks away from our house). I met many neighbors who were vehemently opposed to having it near us. "Crime will go up!" There is plenty of crime in our part of town already, trains or no trains, sorry to say. "We don't want those people come to our neighborhood!" Who are *those* people? People who want to use mass transit, like me?? "Our property values will go down!" In fact, property values generally increase. "The noise of above ground trains will be unbearable!" This part I can't judge because we live two blocks away from the train, not across the street from it. However, we do live three houses away from the 10 freeway and that sucker is LOUD. I doubt people can hear the train over the sound of the rushing freeway!

I couldn't wait for the train to get here and all this preamble to say: THE TRAIN FINALLY OPENED ON MAY 20!!

They had free rides on Friday the 20th and all day Saturday the 21st. We hopped on after work on Friday and went to Santa Monica to have dinner. What a blast!

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On Saturday the trains were PACKED. But we went again, meeting friends in Culver City and taking the train down to Santa Monica for lunch. While we had to stand the whole way, both ways, it was still a pleasure.

I'm currently working in Culver City and made it my goal to take the train at least once a week. It actually takes less time to drive, but I love have a little walk, a little ride, then another little walk. And after being on so many other city transit systems in my travels, it's almost surreal to use a train to get around in my neighborhood in LOS ANGELES! It's almost like living in a modern city.









There Is No "Some Day"

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.

That Other Online Place Where I Write Things

I'm on facebook and have some fun and lively interactions there. I'm not really 100% sold on facebook, I use it warily and my "security" settings are pretty tight. (I don't really believe I have much security there.) There have been some hilarious images being shared on FB and I wanted to put some here.

The whole Kim Davis (I'm not linking, you can google it) ridiculousness has been amusing for the memes it generates. Like the serious ones:



But more than that one, I really enjoyed the on-point, but hilarious ones:




Smart memes just make my day.

Here's another image I had to share about life in general these days. This is THE TRUTH!



And lastly I wrote about a comment made to me by a valet guy on recent evening. He was returning the GTI to me - six speed manual transmission (or "Stick" as we like to say) and as he got out he said: “I like the 6 speeds!” And I said, “I know, right?” and he said “It’s cool you know how to drive it!”

At first I felt a bit insulted, but not long after I posted that interaction, I realized it was a compliment. I felt insulted because of my own occasional low self-esteem. Middle age is a tough place to be (especially while I'm so overweight) and so when a 20 year old guy tells me something like that I imagine how he pictures me - like someone who could be his mom - and he's surprised that I know how to do something cool like drive a six speed stickshift car.

But you know what? I am goddamn cool!