Things that rock

You Can Learn A Lot From A Seven Year Old.

IMG_6204On Sunday I did a brave thing. I had two girls from Harper's grade over for a playdate. I was warned not to have three girls at a time-there could be too much drama. Well guess what? No drama! There was one moment, right at the very end of their play time when Harper had a hurt feeling. It last about three minutes. Whew.

They arrived around 11:30, played in Harper's room for a bit. Then I gave them luncheon: quesadillas, apple slices, tangerines and blueberries with a choice of apple juice or water. They also got a small slice of the mistake cake I had baked. (I was baking cakes for a friend's birthday that night and my first cake came out not quite right, so I started over. Bonus for the girls and Kurt. More about cakes and baking in another post.) 


After Luncheon, Harper offered each of her guests a candy from her Halloween bag. Very generous. Then, as Harper said, they did "an activity". I pulled out paint and toilet paper rolls and they made thanksgiving turkeys. I traced feather shapes on construction paper and the cut them out. One of them wanted to freehand her feathers so I said, "Rock on" and she did. I, however, forgot to take pics of their turkeys. Here is Harpers:

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That's a crown and a cape...

While they were working on their "activity" one of the girls got frustrated that it wasn't come out the way she wanted. I said that we had plenty of supplies so she could start over or get new pieces or whatever she wanted.

I said, "Practice makes perfect"

She whipped around and said, "NO!" 

I looked at her and said, "No?"

"No. Practice makes better. Because nothing is perfect." 

I told her I loved that and that I was going to write it down, which I did.  IMG_6276

While the paint was drying they went outside to play on the chair swing and use the sidewalk chalk. 

It got a little rowdy and I caught a couple of moments of the girls almost getting clobbered by the chair as it swung wildly. Fortunately none of them had to learn how to play safely the hard way. 

It was a good time! And I'm pleased it went so well and I learned an important lesson from a seven year old: Practice Makes Better.

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Pencils - Standard #2

IMG_5876I bought me some basic pencils today. Bog standard pencils. Classic yellow #2 pencil with pink eraser. I got a pack of 10 from the grocery store and I love them so far. USA GOLD - "Proudly made in Tennessee."

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Harper's Pencils

Harper is in first grade and we are drowning in pencils. They are given as party favors and valentine favors and rewards at school and come flying out of piñatas. And most of them are CRAP. You can sharpen them over and over, but they break so easily and so often. With all the "oooh look! We can print pencils with anything cool on it!" enthusiasm, they forgot the basics about ACTUALLY USING A PENCIL.

I know I know, kids today barely use writing instruments of any kind (past a certain age).

But I recall pencils not only being used for writing, but for PENCIL FIGHTS! Raise your hand 🙋if you had pencil fights during recess or on the school bus! I certainly did. Armed with my trusty Berol Mirado #2 or the Eagle, I would challenge my friends. (All this in between Chinese jump rope and marbles and milk caps.) Berol Mirado Eagle Pencils 

I never grew out of my love for writing instrument. You might know I'm obsessed with office supplies in general, writing instruments in particular. So much so that I once did a Writing Instrument Census in our house. (Gosh that was in 2010 - I have two years to prep for the next one.)

PENCILS!! Get yourself some. You know you want to (affiliate links in this blog post):


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...

 

 

 

 


Happy New Year!

I know I know, it's almost February, but the year still feels somewhat new, though the sheen is wearing off. 

I'm writing this on January 30 to publish on the 31st, right when the BlueBloodRedSuperMoon is happening. I'll be standing outside looking up going "cool!" (Unless it's cloudy, then I'll be saying "poop!") 

A couple of posts ago I talked about resolutions and how I didn't want to go on about them at such an obvious time - the beginning of January. But I can talk about them now as I've already made progress! 

First of all, I decided that since I have so many goals, it was best to break them down into pieces and not be overwhelmed by giant insurmountable seeming plans. Also, I didn't start them all in January, that felt like toooo much to even consider. So my plans sort of look like this:

2018:

--Improve overall health with weight loss and increased fitness

--meditate daily

--finish the script I started last year

--Blog more often

January:

--lose 8 pounds (DONE!)

--do 5 push ups a day (DONE! Except I missed 4 days due to illness and one brain fart and since there are 2 more days in the month, I promise I'll do them.)

--added many more days of walking for exercise, including the occasional burst of jogging or stair steps into the walks and better stretches at the end.

--floss Monday through Friday (DONE!), get the weekends off of flossing (this has worked for me in the past and I got off track lately so am back on it.)

February:

--all of the above but will increase to 8 push ups a day

--meditate 5-10 minutes a day (started yesterday)

--work on my script 2x a week for an hour

--strength work. I got stretchy fitness bands for Christmas and will add those in to my work out schedule

March:

--All of the above with variations to the workouts as my schedule allows. 

April, May, June

--All of the above

 

The overall weight loss goal is 40 pounds. I'm already down eight. I signed up with Noom (saw it on Instagram!) and it's been helpful to get me focused. My biggest changes, aside from mindset about eating in general and looking ahead to what I want, is to only drink one night a week and to stop snacking after dinner. So far so good. And taking it two pounds a week at a time and only looking at eight pounds to lose each month makes it feel much more doable. Now, I had started at such a big number that, while I'm proud of getting these eight off, there is a ways to go before I can even really feel a difference. I don't look different in the mirror and my clothes feel mostly the same EXCEPT - I have a down vest that was tight if I zipped it all the way up, but I zipped it up the other day and...not so tight! Slow and steady...

Well done me in January, I have earned my reward of new work out clothes and will purchase them tomorrow. 

Then FOCUS on February to achieve February's goals. 

I have to stop writing about it now as it's making me TWITCHY. Less talking, more action. Maybe at the end of February when I check in I'll talk about why I chose these particular goals. And there are plenty of other goals I'm working on too. It's going to be a BUSY AWESOME YEAR. 

There is a pot of gold at the top of the mountain and I'm climbing.

 


New Belts - My Karate Family

Harper started shotokan karate in late spring this year. We were looking for something sporty that wasn't soccer (dear god, I'm putting off soccer as long as I can) and when offered karate, she said yes. With advice from preschool parent friends, we started at the Culver City Rec Center with Sensei John. Turned out there were kids in her class from preschool - excellent! After a short while, Kurt decided he wanted to join in. Both started as white belts, as you do. Harper tested up to Orange a few months ago and two weeks ago, they both took tests. Last night - ta da! Both got new belt colors!

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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!!

 


Preschool Graduation

I 100% admit I used to be a person who said, "OMG preschools have GRADUATIONS?? How ridiculous." Because it kind of is. 

On the other hand, marking an occasion is important. Call it whatever you want to call it - graduation or whatever. The more funerals you go to, especially the startling, out of nowhere ones, the more you realize how important it is to stop and reflect on life changes. Funerals, weddings, graduations - or more simply - transitions from one part of life to another. Stop the world from it's wild spinning for a second, reflect, breathe, applaud, enjoy, cry, celebrate. Celebrate where you started and how far you've come. It makes a difference.

So, cut me to crying at Harper's preschool graduation last Friday. The "graduation" consisted of the kids singing all kinds of wonderful "I've done it!" songs and taking lots of pictures, then dancing. Each child got a one line description and Harper's was "always the peacemaker." My heart melted with joy. What a wonderful thing to have said about your five-year-old!**

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Mark those moments. Celebrate them all. 

 

 

 

**My preschool or kindergarten year end report included the line "Julia has to learn she can't always be the boss." I have almost learned that. Still working on it. 


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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SWAG

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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