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2019 New Year’s Resolutions

How is your 2019 going so far? I love the New Year–full of hope and promise and opportunities to correct the wrongs of the year gone by.

I know we’re supposed to keep going in a continuum but I think there’s nothing better than hard starts and hard stops to stop, reflect and move forward. And, thanks to living in the US with the summer being in the middle of the year, I get two such opportunities.


Those of you who follow along on my Instagram will know I went to visit my sister-in-law in Jakarta. If you solely follow this Blog, that post is still in draft mode (lol). On my way there I watched a Ted Talk that totally caught my attention.

If you had time to watch it I hope it caught your attention as much as it did mine. If you didn’t the essence of it was that colours–especially round colours–bring you joy. When you’re surrounded by colour you can’t help but be joyful.

This was a bit of a mantra of our week. Of course after that I forgot all about it until we got back together again for Christmas. I saw that the author and presenter of said Ted Talk had written a book by the same title.

So back to being joyful and thinking about bringing joy to my house.


As we were leaving Australia we sat next to a fabulous Mother/Daughter duo in the Qantas First Class Lounge.

Big big shoutout to Qantas if I can continue to visit the Lounge as it’s truly a great place to visit before you fly out! And, even better we got the best service from our guy who helped us peel off our bags (we were a little stressed), find battery charges and generally make us feel at home. I wish I got your name we just wanted to take him home with us to look after us for always.

So, anyway, the Mother & Daughter duo said to Miss H (now 16) that they loved her nails cause they matched.  All three of them had a brightly coloured fingernails–a different colour on every nail.

I then noticed she had fabulous jewellery.  It turns out she’s a jewellery designer and designs amazing, brightly coloured jewellery.

We talked some more and they (by then we also met the hubby/dad) have such a happiness about them. So we swapped Instagram handles and started following each other.

And it turns out she’s much more than a jewellery designer!

More Joy

They were off to New York. Cut to a few days later and lo and behold they met up with Ingrid Fettel Lee (said author of book & TedTalk presenter) when they were there. It got me thinking about joy all over again.

They (Megan & Zoe are their names) recorded their chat on Facebook Live. You can watch it here:

What a small world!

Cut to 2019 New Year’s Resolutions

One of the things they talk about are choosing words to reflect the types of joy you focus on in a particular year. This year Ingrid’s words are “energy” and “harmony” and her words last year were “celebration” and “abundance”.

Megan & Zoe’s word for the year is “joy”. And they chose theirs separately so they say on the video.

So I thought it would be good to come up with a word too. But I misread it (of course I did!) and thought I had to come up with three words to describe my year ahead.

So, after a bit of soul-searching I’ve decided that my three words are:

  1. Spunky
  2. Happy
  3. Thankful

The overarching theme is positivity and joy rather than negative and ungrateful.

Favourite things

Jewelchic puts out a call in her live video to name five things that make you feel joyful. Why don’t we do that? What are five things that bring you joy?

I’ll start:

  1. My Fam Bam (the name our group chat!)
  2. Home (especially the smell as I walk back in the door after I’ve been away)
  3. Water (preferably in the form of a vivid blue pool or a crystal blue sea)
  4. My (our) Doggies
  5. Flowers (the smell of Jasmine coming out in Spring is THE best!).

Happy 2019 everyone! May you be as inspired as I was. Or may I be an inspiration to you!


xx ItStartedinLA xx

PS: If you want to follow Jewelchic you can click on the links for Facebook or Instagram and do your thing.

PPS: Don’t forget to share your five favourite things or your three words for 2019.

Good coffee in LA
LA Restaurants, Moving to LA, Posts, Visiting LA

Where to get the best coffee in LA?Just ask an Aussie

You’ve landed in LA either on holidays or to catch your break and move here. LA–the US in fact–is not known for its coffee so you’re in search of a good cup of coffee.  Maybe you’ve lived in LA for five years and are still searching. Where to get the best coffee in LA? Just ask an Aussie. And Discover Los Angeles who put together a great round up of Aussie institutions. I shared it on my Facebook page but I thought it was time I did my little summary here for you.

The Great Aussie Invasion

The great Aussie invasion of LA is not a new thing, nor is it a phenomenon that’s going anywhere anytime soon. From Olivia Newton-John’s Koala Blue stores to G’day LA (now G’day USA) to the Hemsworth brothers (Mel Gibson before that) Australians have made their mark.

Doing the Rounds: where to get the best coffee in LA?

This Blog might seem cutting edge and up with the trends … well we are but we’re never first with the breaking news. It might have taken me a little while to support my fellow Aussies but thanks to a fellow Countryperson (shoutout to you Chris!) one weekend at a time we are carefully but surely doing the rounds of some great Aussie cafes and restaurants.

Bluestone Lane

Long live Bluestone Lane and thank you for opening up in Studio City (although truth be told I would have preferred you open up in walking distance to me).

A small joint (place) with great coffee, welcoming smiles and lots of happy, beautiful people hanging around.

The Avo toast is great (of course) and the banana (on) toast was not at all what I expected (ie not banana toast) but so so yummy. The coffee is good and the Aussie style iced coffee is my absolute fave.

Avo Toast Bluestone Lane Studio City

Avo Toast from Bluestone Lane Studio City

There’s also a location in Santa Monica and one in La Brea and a full-on cafe offering dinner now in Venice if you’re a tourist or live that way. Either way, good coffee = Bluestone Lane.

Web | Insta | Facebook | Twitter
12186 Ventura Blvd, Studio City
176 South La Brea Ave, LA
31 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica
523 Rose Ave, Venice


Little Ripper Coffee

I love this place. In Australia we get coffee shops scattered on every second street corner all pumping out fabulous coffee–none of that Frappuccino stuff (well OK maybe now they are succumbing to culture blending and adding it to their menus). Little Ripper reminds me of said Aussie coffee shop (minus the Frappuccino–thankfully). And, a must on every Aussie coffee shop menu is the Babyccino (a cappuccino sans coffee–ie the froth) and the Little Ripper ones look like”little rippers”.

Little Ripper Coffee | It Started in LA

Little Ripper Coffee

Little Ripper has a loyal following and we’ll hope they’ll be here for many years to come.

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4155 Verdugo Road, Los Angleles (Glassell Park)


Bondi Harvest

Also love this place although my daughter and her friends have been here far more than I have. The vibe here is Aussie meets LA with healthy dishes and my favourite Aussie-inspired-Middle-East-influenced food. I had the Avo Toast with Halloumi and Dukka. The kale salad was also very yum and actually makes you like kale rather than hate it.

Avocado, Halloumi & Dukka Toast | It Started in LA

Avocado, Halloumi & Dukka Toast at Bondi Harvest

Tucked away in a groovy part of Santa Monica parking can be tough on the weekends but it’s worth the trip imho (in my humble opinion).

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1814 Berkeley Street, Santa Monica 90404



This place reminded me of growing up with the kids in Sydney. Every weekend we’d go out for breakfast with equal parts of joy and stress.

Pollen reminds me of some of the neighbourhood eating establishments we’d frequent during this time. Set in a fabulously hipster part of LA Pollen has a great menu that is nicely tweaked to be LA friendly without drawing gasps of horror from us Aussie expats.

Brunch is great but I want to come back for Happy Hour (Thursday to Sunday).

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2100 Echo Park Avenue, Los Angeles 90026


Little Ruby

This is another place my daughter frequents more than I do now. Little Ruby deserves to be right on the beach in Santa Monica Aussie style then you’ll feel like you’re truly transported home.

Seating is first-come-first-serve so time it right!

While this place serves up a great coffee and breakfast it also offers all-day dining.

Little Ruby’s is the real deal with a menu that suits everyone (read not so much LA’d, aka they serve pasta!).

The bowls are great, the burgers look fab and the sweet potato fries with sweet chilli sauce are a hit.

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109 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401


Red Window Coffee Bar

Studio City’s first hole-in-the-wall go-to coffee place. If it’s good coffee you’re after here is the place to go. It serves up good coffee from its little window.

This place would be even better if it offered an in-car delivery service. Pre-pay, wind down your window and drive on through–how good would that be?

Web | Insta | Facebook | Twitter
12953 Ventura Blvd, Studio City


So that’s it for now. Will keep you posted on more places to enjoy a good coffee Aussie style. Even in LA coffee doesn’t have to be bad or from a large chain. Just saying.

xx It Started in LA xx

Next trips: Great White and Paramount Coffee Project


PS: Here’s my inspiration and great reviews by Discover Los Angeles for more info.

My LA story, Posts

Can you get scouted by surfing in Malibu?

It’s a fair question isn’t it? Can you get scouted just by surfing in Malibu? After all it is LA and you hear stories like that all the time. How did you start modelling? Well I was shopping and a talent scout handed me her card and told me to come into their agency.

But surfing in Malibu? Can you get scouted doing what you love to do?

Apparently that answer is yes for two guys we met last week.  They were on set when my daughter filmed her first commercial. It’s not out yet so I can’t say too much–except of course that it’s very exciting!

Living the Dream

It’s all very exciting securing a commercial but it’s a whole ‘nother thing getting to Set. It’s quite daunting when you’re the youngest there and you’ve never done this before.

That is until you find out it’s also the first time for your two co-stars who happened to be scouted while surfing in Malibu. Don’t get me wrong, they still had to read some lines and answer some questions, it’s just that their audition was on the beach. In one case it he went up to get his car and came back to get his mate. That’s when they asked him if he’d be interested in being in a commercial. He was still reeling at the fact that he offered to get the car and pick up his mate. If he hadn’t have done that he would not be in “the right place at the right time.”

Immediately the fog lifted from the actor’s holding area as everyone compared notes about how they got to be, sitting there about to go into hair & make-up and shoot by the beach in Malibu!

It was so refreshing to sit there in LA and hear from these guys about how grateful they are to be there and how happy they are to be living the dream.  It was like one of my “never-in-my-wildest-dreams” moments  Zero pretension and attitude.

Ron E Laybacks

You know you walk into a room or a place and you look at someone and you pass judgement on them–positive, negative or neutral–you come to some conclusions about who they are and what they are. Location (a commercial shoot) has some bearing on it as well as their general attitude.

We walked in and Ron E Laybacks was laidback, confident and happy. He was a natural conversationalist and everyone around him was listening and engaging with him.

Quietly I filled in the forms for Miss 16 while she got her schoolwork out and started work. We listened in trying not to seem like we were listening but the general banter was on commercial work.

It could have been safe to assume that Ron E has been doing this shit for years–no trepidation,  his body language was all confident and, while there’s not the slightest bit of pretension about him, there was not the slightest bit of self-doubt either. None of the “where-do-I-go” hesitation my daughter and I were wondering about.

One by one the talent would go to hair and make-up until finally it was me and Ron E. I introduced myself and he to me. My accent gives him a new conversation point: “I was in Australia a few years back surfing. Spent two months surfing in Ulladulla and Mollymook.”

“Oh cool,” I said, “we have a house not far from there in Jervis Bay.”

Surfing Australia

It turns out Ron E got his hands on a $299 Virgin flight so he thought he’d go visit a friend who was there for a year. He packed himself up and together with his surfboard headed for Australia. He got himself a job on a Roadworks sign directing the traffic and he was able to do this while “living the dream” surfing.

We talked about meat pies, the best surfing spots and the laid-back “charmed” Australian life.

Back in the US

Then all conversation turned to the day’s shoot. Where else in the world can you be surfing in Malibu and someone comes up to you and asks you if you’re interested in filming a commercial?  “We’re living the dream,” he yelled for everyone.

It’s contagious.

Better still for Miss 16 she was immediately less anxious and enjoying the moment. Ron E and her “co-star”, Matt, were such sweet breaths of fresh air.


The shoot seemed to go by so quickly. People were lingering trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on and taking photos of the “stars” shooting this commercial. A number of takes, re-starts, changing things up and their bit was done.  Following this was a long series of still photos taken by the Director (a renowned feature film and Commercial Director) and another photographer and they were a wrap.  Time for craft services!

On location for a fun day shooting a commercial

Stay true to yourself

Before they wrapped there were many photos taken of Miss 16. “Mum/Mom it’s clear who the star is in this shoot,” the boys said to me.  They were genuinely so pleased for her and were still reeling in the fact that they were on a commercial shoot living the dream.

As Miss 16 finished up there were High-fives all around.  The boys repeated their words to Miss 16 about being their rock star. “Awww,” she said loving hanging out with these guys.

Then they hit her with the best advice they could: “Be true to yourself, remember this, remember us. You’re going to be famous but don’t change.”

Matt, her cute co-star said, “I’ve seen too many lovely people change who they are and are just no longer nice, don’t let that happen to you.”

They then turned to me and made me promise I wouldn’t let that happen.

I promised there are too many people around her that would definitely NOT let that happen!

It all depends where you live in LA

LA is like 20 small cities stacked next to each other–they’re all so so different. You can literally walk a few blocks into the next city and it will be night and day from the one you came from. It’s possible to find your peeps in LA, you just need to find the right area.

It’s also possible to find good eggs everywhere throughout LA. We’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing, kind, warm, fun people. Probably the thing all these people have in common is that they’re all true to themselves. And they don’t take themselves too seriously either. A great combination.

So thank you Ron E Laybacks.  And Matt. What a pleasure it was hanging out with you for the day “living the dream”, soaking it all in, not taking ourselves too seriously and just having fun.  I hope that attitude comes out in the final product.

Thanks for the great influence you had over my daughter in such a short time. She’s truly blessed and I hope she remembers it for many years to come.

Chevy Tailgates Commercial 2019

Chevy Tailgates Commercial 2019

And if they don’t get cut out, and they manage to get some airplay I’ll share the ad with you. Here it is!

xx It Started in LA xx

updated January 14 with the ad–poor Ron E didn’t make the cut but he got himself a lot of fun and a “great feed”.

College move-in

Dropping my son to College aka Uni

Give me a second to get a coffee (or maybe something a little stronger), a box of tissues and perhaps some chocolate.  It’s not easy but I’m here to talk about College move-in, the inevitable trip to drop my son to College aka Uni.

A week ago was move-in day for us–a day that up until a couple of years ago was not in my future.

I wrote those two paragraphs two weeks ago.  And I still can’t bring myself to write about it.  Actually I thought writing about it would help.  The bottom line is that nothing can prepare you for dropping your son (or daughter) to College (aka Uni).  Even if you’re prepared for it because you’ve grown up knowing that it is inevitable–which it’s not when you live in metropolitan Sydney–it’s still hard. Just saying.


Let me back it up a little. I did not want  I took myself through a number of months of self therapy–I set up a Pinterest board on Graduation lunch ideas, ploughed myself into menu planning, decoration shopping and coming up with different drafts for an invitation.

Oh yes, I had custom M&Ms, specially made cookies, everything themed in his College colours–even put coloured beach balls in the pool.  Yep, I did all that.

Graduation table

The table all set and ready for lunch

Graduation came and went and I can proudly say I survived.  It wasn’t at all sad because he was ready to spread his wings and fly; he was ready for school to be over.

With that summer was upon us. Hooray! We had holidays planned including a mother and son (and his girlfriend!) trip back to Australia and the holidays between finishing school and starting Uni has to be one of the best of your life so I wanted them to be enjoyed.

But now fast forward three months and just like that he’s gone.  While a quiet soul, the house is empty.  The dogs are acting weird, my daughter misses her brother (so much more than she ever thought she would), my husband stalks him and I’m still in shock.

I thought I was going to be OK.  I’m fine, I’m totally fine I kept telling myself.  Until I wasn’t.

Shopping–a new form of nesting I never thought I’d get to experience

But it wasn’t all bad. College move in is like you’re nesting all over again.

There was a bit of a process in getting my son ready.  Did you know this moving to College caper is a whole industry?  And it’s not small.  At Berkeley alone there were 6,000 new kids moving into dorms at the start of this school year. 6,000.  That’s a lot of new sheets (they need a special size sheet–twin xl–so you can’t just bring them from home) and towels and dustbusters (portable vacuum cleaners) to buy.

Bed Bath & Beyond is all geared up for this time of year.  You set up an appointment, it has lists of all the Colleges and what the requirements are and it might surprise you to know that they’re not necessarily sanctioned by the Uni and it’s just BBB’s opinion of what the kids might need.  Ok, it might also be its opinion of what the kids should bring or its opinion on what would make parents feel better that their kids bring (ie said dustbuster).

There’s a whole program at BBB where you pick what you want then they look up the nearest store to your Uni and the items get put away over there for you to collect when you move in.  It’s called Pack and Go.  It’s quite genius.  Theory is you then don’t need to lug it half way across the country you can get it there.

Steep learning curve

That might work well for some parents but this mum got a little confused.  Firstly I tried to trick the system.  My son went online and chose everything then we went to the store with the list and asked for it to be set aside at our soon-to-be nearest store.  Uh, no.  Turns out we needed barcodes and if the stock wasn’t instore you couldn’t order it online and have it sent there.  (That doesn’t make sense does it? It’s not just me?). Anyway, after going around the store we finally got all the things we thought we needed, bought some stuff to take home so we could organise it and/or wash it.  (Don’t you just love organising stuff?).

But then I forgot that I ordered a mattress protector to be picked up at our new store, I thought I didn’t get it at our current store and ordered it online to come here to the house. No problems, we can just return the mattress protector at the new store.  Next.

We also forgot to add the fan we’d set aside at the old store.  So I called the new store (are you keeping up?) and asked them to put the fan aside with the rest of our “Pack and Go”.  No, turns out you must call the old store so it can call the new store and see if it’s in stock then set up a whole new Pack and Go order.  Even though I looked online first and saw that the new store had it in stock. You can’t go direct to the source, that’s not the system.  Oops. OK, well not my problem at least I didn’t go into the store and could do it all over the phone.

Dorm decorating: another industry I never thought was in my future

We bought some cute things to decorate his dorm–a new rug, some neon lights from Urban and a movie poster from home–all things to make his new home feel like home.

This is where I take you aside and tell you that the decorating thing is real–it is on for young and old.  These dorms are decked out all pretty and cosy and there is no leaving anything out.  It could be more the girls but if you check out Pottery Barn Dorm you’ll see exactly what I mean.

But let me give you a small tip–dorms do NOT look like this. I repeat they do NOT look like this. Nor thisNor this. They might look more like this. See? It’s a whole industry here! It’s locker decorating on a whole ‘nother level.

Transition from the Dining Room pile to the Car

As if having his whole new dorm packed up in the Dining Room wasn’t bad enough we had to get it all car ready and move-in ready.

The car’s packed and we’re ready to take our son to College aka Uni

And that’s when it started to get real.

Last dinner

Despite asking time to stay still for just a while it refused to do it.  Not quite sure how we got there but next thing you know it was the night before it was time to leave.  We went to one of our favourite sushi places–he’s not going to get good LA sushi on a student’s budget–and that’s when it hit me.  Tomorrow we’d be driving up in the car and I won’t be able to stop time.  He won’t be coming back with us.  A few tears at dinner–I wasn’t proud of that.  And with that we went home to throw me over the edge.  Yes, we went home and watched Toy Story 3.  You know? The one where Andy goes off to College.  Yep, that one. More tears and time for bed.  An early start, a last breakfast, an emotional farewell to the dogs and packing the car.

Toy Story 3–don’t watch it unless you’re ready to face the inevitable

On the road

Packing the car didn’t seem so bad, even our last breakfast wasn’t as bad as dinner the night before.  Saying goodbye to the dogs–who did not have a clue what was going on except that they knew something wasn’t quite right–was hard.

Part of my self-imposed therapy was documenting every moment on an Instagram story.  Apart from making some friends cry I was the only one who thought it would be a good thing to do–that’s code for the two in the back didn’t appreciate it AT ALL.

Still we sang, we slept, we got way frustrated with the bad driving and it was all good.

Fast forward to actual College move-in

The logistical process itself is actually painless.  We drove up, got to stop in a drop-off zone for 20 minutes and unloaded the car.  The kids went and got a huge trolley on wheels and we loaded it up with the well-packed contents of his new dorm (yes, I did an outstanding job as a mother), Mr H parks the car nearby (also painless) and up we went.

There was loud music playing, cheerleaders doing their stuff, stands with free stuff and the vibe was very upbeat.  That’s right folks, they’ve done this before and they know how to do it.

Unpacking everything in his room was also painless.

Special shoutout to the man at the new BBB store for clarifying that the mattress protector goes on the mattress (don’t want any bed bugs) and then the topper goes on and then you’ll need another thing to go on top of the mattress topper to keep it in place otherwise my baby boy might have been subjected to the possibility of a beg bug creeping up from the mattress, over the mattress topper and through the sheet.  It’s OK, disaster averted.

My son is fortunate to have two mothers to unpack everything for him (the other being his younger sister) and one Dad who can set him up his own wireless network as rumour was the wireless network was a bit hit & miss due to the sheer volume of devices trying to suck every last Snapchat from their mates all across the country embarking on the same journey.  Oh and work too of course.

Best mum in the world

I mean, seriously, I’d thought of everything.  We had hooks for the trophy (stuffed animal deer type trophy not sports trophy), velcro strips, push pins, everything you could possibly need to put everything away and up in its new home.  Except a bloody tool kit to put the fan together.  (We may or may not have smirked at the fact that, well, who the $%&* needs a toolkit in their dorm?).  And I didn’t think about the batteries for the remote either.  I mean seriously, shouldn’t they come with batteries?

So, like a good move-in family it was back to Bed Bath & Beyond.  We could’ve gone back to Target which was way closer but we had bought a storage stand and there was no room anywhere in that small dorm to put it so back it went too. (Lucky we resisted the sofa as pictured on Pottery Barn Dorm).  We did alright with only one return.

Still, I give myself a 9.93 out of a possible 10 for move-in organisation.  If only every task I had was self-imposed therapy then perhaps I’d be a 9.93 at life too.

Drumroll, we’re actually going to have to say goodbye

We’ve delayed the inevitable long enough. It’s actually time to say goodbye.  Like leaches we busily worked arranging and re-arranging all that we’d unpacked, reluctant to say the job was done.

Making sure it all works

One last check of the network, making sure the screws were tightly fixed onto so the fan doesn’t fly away and decapitate someone (highly unlikely PS) and that the nightlight on the toilet seat germ-safe thing I’d bought fits OK. There was nothing left to do.  Yes it’s a thing and yes I bought it and yes I even put it in, couldn’t just skim past that one could you?

His two roommates were starting to get disgruntled (their parents were long gone) so I guess it wastTime to exit stage left.

Dorm life when mum makes your bed

Why do I actually have to say goodbye? Why can’t we just pretend we went through that whole process and he can just come home with us?  (Why do I have to feel like this?).  There’s plenty of room in the car.  I’ll never really know if he was as sad and melancholy about the whole thing as we were.  But into the hallway we went for our final hugs.  I run back … one more, just one more hug!  (I’ve started you haven’t I? You’re doing it aren’t you? You’re feeling a little sad.  Did I see a tear? I’m sorry, really I am.)

It’s just such a strange, horrible feeling.  I wasn’t OK.

Cue Green Day’s Time of My Life

You see, where I come from your son or daughter graduates from school, you are terrified about Schoolies week and whether they’d get alcohol poisoning or get themselves in trouble, then they come back and you bitch and moan about the house not being a hotel, yell at them to do something other than party the whole time then wait to find out which course they’d got into at which uni.  And then before you know it they’re off–somewhere between 12 and 20 contact hours a week, working part time somewhere and yes, still treating the house like a hotel.

They’re not supposed to be moving away.

But he is. And it’s great for him. You know I’ve talked about how hard the whole College application process can be here. So he earnt it. And this really is a turning point for him. It is.

Two weeks later

And so here I am two weeks later.  Is it only two weeks? How is it that three months goes past faster than you can order a glass of rose yet two weeks crawls by with the second hand slowly ticking in the background determined to take its sweet time?

I’m not OK.  Don’t tell me it will be OK–although I’m sure it will be.  I have no choice but for it to be OK.  And what an amazing experience Mr 18 is going through. And while I’m being totally self indulgent by wallowing in my own self pity I stop and think of a friend whose daughter was in a serious car accident before graduation and she hasn’t even woken up yet.

So, I’ll pick myself off the ground, see if ordering another glass of rose will speed time along a bit and hope but not hope that the next four years flies by as fast as the last four have flown by.

And yes …. of course I’ll be OK.

xx It Started in LA xx

5 things about LA
Moving to LA, My LA story, Posts

Five things that make LA … LA

I’m back in LA and, as if we were still living in China, I get a case of severe culture shock when we get back. Oh yes, you might not think so but LA has a very distinct culture. And it’s hands-down more noticeable when you get back than when you’re in the moment.

It got me thinking, how do you define LA. Here are five things that make LA … LA.

1. The Faces

Oh My God, the faces. These dermatologists and plastic surgeons are having the last laugh–aging men and women are lining up, chucking all their cash at them and they’re laughing all the way to the Bank. Just for a minute I wonder if they truly looked at themselves in the mirror could they face the fact that they look like clowns.  Unattractive clowns with mouths that look like Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, plump lips that are disproportional with their face and foreheads–shiny smooth foreheads–that cover half their face.  Big cheeks plumped up with so much filler it’s not helping–in fact it’s making things all the worse.

The day after I arrived, I was walking into a shop minding my own business when I looked up and came eye to eye with a 60-plus year old lady, not a wrinkle in sight, forehead from here to eternity and big, big eyes that were so wrong on so many levels. I actually physically jumped with fright.  No, in LA botox is simply not enough. Give me aging gracefully anyday.


2. Gym gear

Sure I see people in Australia in gym gear, I may have spotted the odd person in London, I can’t say I saw anyone in Paris but back in LA every second person is in their gym (or yoga?–said with a Valley-girl accent) gear. And, like me if I decide to fit in with the LA look, they haven’t been to the gym.  Their fully made up looking perfect and the gym gear could actually be a way for them to tell the world their favourite meal is kale salad.  They take the active wear phenomenon to a whole new level. Lululemon has a lot to answer for.

It’s not hard peoples, buy some nice shoes, a skirt, a dress, even a pair of pants or shorts with a nice top–these outfits aren’t reserved for going out. You can actually wear them out during the day and feel good about yourselves.


3. It’s all about me

You may think with the number of celebrities in LA I’m talking about them. Oh no. LA seems to have bred itself a culture of self-absorbed, very important, all-about-me people. And that’s hard to take when you like a bit of the spotlight and glory yourself.



4. LA Drivers aka the driving culture

You need to go somewhere/anywhere, you need to get in your car and drive. And if you don’t have your car you hop in an Uber or Lyft. That might even be a short trip down the road: walking is not the thing to do. Let’s face it with Valet parking top notch here you don’t even walk to/from your car. Nope, LA is not the place to be carless.

And that means there are millions of cars on the road. And, with the said entitlement culture, there are a lot of people on the road who are in a hurry to get somewhere and you need to get out of their way, or read their mind when they cut you off or turn without indicating. LA drivers are anything but polite or patient.

Even as I was writing this I had an incident in the Westfield carpark at Century City. They have a smart parking system which reads and detects your numberplate on entry. Then if you download the app and register your numberplate/registration, as you exit it charges the parking to your credit card–at a discounted fee. Who wouldn’t be all about that?

So, I went in not bothering about being close to the ticket machine. The system glitched (misread my numberplate–doh) and I had to essentially get out of my car to get my ticket. Just before I could do this a young very unlady-like chick pulled up and immediately started beeping at me.  Obviously in a hurry you can bet she judged me for being so far from the booth. I gave her lip and got my ticket. She beeped again before I could even shut my door. And proceeded to beep until I drove through the boomgates.

Now seriously, do you think I enjoy spending my time getting a ticket out of the machine at a carpark entrance? Hell I don’t even like paying for parking. So now I’m pissed off and I am giving her lip and–of course–taking my sweet time. Because chick, who thinks she’s more important than anyone else in a hurry at Westfield Century City, here’s a tip, just because you’re tooting me does not mean I’m going to be all like “oh-my-god-I-better-hurry”; in fact you can bet I’m going to take my sweet time and piss you off even more. And I hope you were late to whatever important thing you had to do.


5. The Sushi is so so good

The first place we go to eat when we get back–and the last place we go before we leave–is one of our favourite sushi joints.  LA has bloody good sushi. Not only is it fresh but it’s innovative and different.  You can get any number of different roll combinations and the spicy tuna is to die for.  Did someone say crispy rice? YES PLEASE. Yes, if it’s one thing LA does well, hands down it’s sushi.

Don’t get me wrong, I love LA for more than just the sushi. Five years on I’m happy to have good friends and call LA home. But sometimes LA can be hard to bear–once you’re in it’s fine but when you drop back in it takes a little while to get your LA groove back on.  When I lived in China we used to need “get out of China breaks”.  For the record is a bit the same.

But LA is a bit like being on drugs or having a really good “one-night stand”: you know you should wean yourself off but at the time it’s so good you just want to go back.  One more time.

Welcome back to LA!

xx It Started in LA xx

Applying to college in the US as Australians
My LA story, Posts

Australian applying for College in the US

An Australian’s perspective–an Australian applying for American College from the US.

What a relief: we live to tell the tale! I’ve tried to avoid boring you with woeful tales of stress about applying to get into College in the US as Australians living here. Although I do think it’s easier because we live here, it is all so different from what we’re used to–and there is a lot of pressure over here while you endure the process–that it turns into a very stressful time. And, because of that, I thought I should write about being an Australian applying for American College from the US.

So much easier at this end of the process too, let me tell you.

If you could see me now my head is swollen with pride. I’m kicking back patting myself on the back for not only having a smart son get into College but for helping him through application time and trying really hard not to pester him too much.

Of course it’s me who has done all the work isn’t it?

OK, not really the hard, hard work, just the love, guidance and inspiration. But enough about me, here’s a little step-by-step guide as to what you need to consider when applying your HSCer/VCEer/Senior/Year 12er to College in America.  At least, here’s a step-by-step guide of the what we went through to apply to College here in the US.

Visiting Colleges

It’s a big part of the process to go on College tours here.  Not everyone does it but many, many do.  There’s a big belief here that you have to feel where you’re applying to to see if you like it and whether you can picture yourself there.  It makes a lot of sense seeing as a) your kid will be spending their next four years there but also b) and perhaps more importantly that your hard-earnt coin is going to be shelled out there.

On the upside many of these Colleges are amazing places to visit in their own right on beautiful grounds and full of history and intrigue. On the downside you invest a lot of time, effort and money into going around the country visiting these institutions. Most of the Colleges have great online/virtual visits so don’t worry too much about this step if you can’t make it happen.

TIP: Book your trips early and before you commit to airfares and accommodation make sure you can book a space on the tour–they book out faster than you can say, “Will we check out Harvard?”

Bonus TIP: If you like the sound of the College but can’t visit apply and if you get in then arrange to visit before you commit.


This is the total stress ball part of the process.  While many Colleges link themselves to a thing called the Common App (where you can apply to multiple Colleges in a single app) it’s a little deceiving because most Colleges still want you to answer their own special questions.  What it’s great for though is not having to write your name, address and date of birth 15 different times.

Even though you apply to many of these Colleges on one Common App you still have to pay to have your ACT or SAT sent to all the different places–no free ride there unless you are eligible for financial aid. Remember peoples this is a business.  And you still have to pay an application fee per College you apply to–yep that beautiful thing called capitalism.

Speaking of SAT & ACT

I hate to bring this up, especially if you’re in Australia reading this and are wonderfully oblivious to what goes on here in the US. Mark my words there is a lot of tutoring, studying and sitting and resitting of those exams that goes on here. At least it does in LA.

The good thing about this application process, however, is that they read the application based on your student–where they’re from and what the situation is in their corner of the world.  So if you’re just doing your SAT or ACT once and you live in Australia I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

By the way, my son was happy with his SAT score and decided to only sit it once.  We were happy with him for making that decision.  While he may have got some extra marks we were never sure if the score would make a difference.  Also Colleges get to see how many times you sit the test and even if they take the best one you have to wonder when they think it took you four goes to get there–or what they think when you decide to only take it once!

How many Colleges should I apply to?

So this questions depends on where you live and the peer group pressure around you.  At College Prep schools (aka private schools here in LA) there are a lot of applications that get sent out.  The average may be around 12 but it can be from as “few” as eight to as many as 20. That’s a lot of work. Let me repeat, that’s a lot of work.


Your essay–your story–is so vitally important spend some time thinking about it and how you want yourself to be seen.  There are books and articles written on this topic alone so I can’t properly give my two-cents worth on this here; except to say really try to think outside the box; without looking like you’re really trying to think outside the box.  Of course it helps if you’re a good writer but if you’re not that strong make up for it in the content and have someone like an English teacher at school help you edit and give you feedback.

If you’re applying via the Common app don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll only have to write one essay too.  Remember this Blog post when we were going through the arduous process? Yep, there are (or at least can be) a lot of questions and they can be really hard to answer–especially for us Australians who aren’t necessarily very good at telling people how good we are.

Extra questions

Each College has extra questions they want you to answer; and these are time-consuming!  Some Colleges want 100-word responses, others 25 words, others one word-answers and of course others again want another essay.  Whatever they are asking for though know what they want and prepare for it ahead of time.  Your “story” will invariably have a few different elements to it and knowing these questions and drafting the answers ahead of time will help you refine your application.

TIP: Start your essay and extra questions before school starts (if you’re at school in the US). Once you start school there’s a lot to do and there’s not a lot of time (or energy) for extra work.


The Calm before the storm

Enjoy this time, it’s the best! It’s the time between early January and end of February/early March when you can’t do a single thing. Applications are closed and now you have to sit and wait. But stressing isn’t going to help so you may as well keep up your grades and have a good time.


The stress comes back in the form of acceptances–will I or won’t I get into the Colleges I’ve applied to.

There’s quite an etiquette that goes along with asking whether they got in.  Basically everyone knows pretty well what day (and sometimes the time) acceptances come out.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the moment and hover over your senior while they’re bracing themselves for whether they get into the School of their dreams or not.

In our house we “disappeared” downstairs basically waiting for sobs or screams.  In actual fact we got no sobs as the rejections were “reach” schools where he really just wanted to see if he had a shot of getting in.  There were screams of joy and happily for us he got into the schools we thought he would. #yay

To increase the stress there are sites like College Confidential that provide hours of searching and reading other people’s stories.  I don’t advise looking. But then again …

National Candidate Reply Date

May 1 is National Candidate Reply Date.  This is basically your deadline date to say to your College of choice, yes I’m in.  But sometimes it’s not always that easy.  You might be waitlisted at your first choice or you might be waitlisted at more than one.  Either way this is decision crunch day.  Hopefully for you it’s the easy bit though. Good luck.

Applying to Australian Uni from the US

But what do you do if the shoe is on the other foot? How does an Australian living in the US apply for Uni in Australia? Well assuming you’re an Australian citizen the good news is you absolutely can and it’s a pretty easy process.  I put in a couple of inquiries and found you just have to apply like everyone else in Australia.  The ACT or SAT is accepted and Unis publish the equivalent score you need to get into your Course of choice.

Sydney Uni sent me a score conversion table which laid everything out really clearly.  (The link takes you to the 2018 version of the entry guide, fyi). UTS said it didn’t do it and asked me to contact the Universities Admissions Centre, UAC.

UAC Schedule

If the Uni of your choice doesn’t publish a table and, like UTS, they send you to UAC here’s the reply you get:

If you wish to purchase a UAC Schedule which has the university rank for the achievement in your overseas Year 12 study it will cost $A95.00, payable by credit/debit card (MasterCard and Visa).

Please write to the Managing Director and include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your email address including+ daytime telephone number
  • Qualification Name
  • Qualification Year
  • Country of Origin
  • Issuing Body

Alternatively, you can call our office on +61 2 9752 0200 and request and pay over the phone.

Please sign your letter.  Post your request to:

Locked Bag 112
Silverwater NSW 2128

UAC Deadlines

I asked UAC about timing of applications etc.  The bummer is that if you want to compare offers it’s pretty hard given the school calendars don’t match.  We were thinking of it as a positive though, and thinking a nine-month gap “year” is a pretty good thing.  I also had the peer group pressure thing sorted out and was going to buy my son a Gap sweatshirt to wear in the obligatory “College photo.”

The other good thing about the gap is you have time to resit your SAT after your kids’ senior year is done if you don’t quite have the right score. This takes the pressure off having to do it while they’re at school trying to work hard to get the marks or GPA they’re after.

Applications for 2019 admissions will open on our website early August.

When he applies he will need to request his SAT results are released by the College Board directly to us, our institution code is 3719.  He will also need to upload his High School Diploma to his application to show completion.

Applying to UAC

As Australian citizens we apply as domestic students.  Here’s a link to a video which shows you step-by-step how to apply.  Here’s the relevant page on tHE UAC website too which says

“You can apply for undergraduate and postgraduate (coursework) study through UAC if you are an Australian or New Zealand citizen.”

Good luck if this is you!

PS: How much did it all cost me?

Now that we’re done I thought I’d do a quick addition of what applying for College here cost me seeing as I’ve bitched and moaned a bit throughout the last 18 months. I really did it the cheap way with very few College visits.

But.  Everything here comes at a price–it’s how America is a “great” nation–there’s an industry for everything.

Education up to High School might be free but if you want to do extra subjects (at some high schools) you have to pay; if you want to do Advanced Placement (AP) subjects, you have to pay registration fees and an exam fee.  If you want a tutor to help you through your SAT or ACT you have to pay.  If you want to go to private school you have to sit an entrance exam and that costs money (and most of the time parents pay for tutoring to sit the exam so that costs more money).  but I digress.  Here we go.

Tutor for SATs                                                                                     $960
Visiting Berkeley & Stanford                                                           $500 for food, lodging & parking
Sitting for the SAT                                                                              $60
Sitting for the SAT Subject exams (three exams, one sitting)  $80
Visiting USC                                                                                         $10 parking–bargain!
Submitting SAT scores to Colleges                                                $60
AP Scores                                                                                                $75 plus again this year
Stanford application                                                                            $90
UCs application (UCLA & UC Berkeley)                                  $140
USC application                                                                                    $85
NYU application                                                                                    $80
Harvard application                                                                              $75

SORT OF TOTAL (I wouldn’t call it Grand Total)                    $2115

If you’re Australian applying to College from Australia

It can still be done. I had a friend who did it all herself for her fabulous runner and he got a free ride into an American College. The steps are the same, the application is essentially the same–you just apply as an International student. But guess what? We also had to apply as an International student. It’s all possible!

If you are a sport spice I recommend reaching out to Coaches via each College’s athletics webpages.  Each sport provides guidelines.  And, if you’re lucky enough to be considered not only will they offer you a free ride but they may well offer to tour you through the campus–on their coin! Yep, College athletics is huge.  And that’s a whole other story …

Good luck!

xx It Started in LA xx

G'Day USA 2018 Gala
Celebrity, Posts

G’Day USA Gala the best event in LA

By an (Australian) country mile (or should that be kilometre?) G’Day USA Gala in LA is the best event in LA. Bar none. Well maybe except if I was nominated for an Oscar or Golden Globe. Actually probably not even.

There’s something so comfortable about Australians that make them (us!) so easy–and fun– to be around.  I’m not sure if Americans share that opinion but I think they might.

Take the G’Day USA Gala here in LA. Held around Australia Day every year it symbolises the union and mateship between America and Australia over the years. Not only do we bring our best actors and performers over (Margot Robbie was honoured this year), we also bring chefs (Curtis Stone who really is more than just the spunky Coles guy) and great business people (eg Mr H).


The G’Day USA Gala in LA not only showcases and honours our great talent (mainly in entertainment) but it encourages American investment and partnerships in Australia. That’s basically how I get my guernsey–by the Australian government and organisations like AusFilm encouraging companies like Mr H’s to invest more in Australia or bring their productions to Australia.

What does it mean to be Australian?

I’ve been to a few awards shows now. I love them but there’s something so different about this one.  The schedule is jam-packed as are the awards shows (you don’t go to catch up with the people on your table) but the program is so much more fun and engaging.  And just a little bit more low key whilst maintaining its pizzaz and hoopla.  Take for example Rebel Wilson singing a duet with the very fun Hugh Sheridan.  It’s a classy number and well performed then you look down and see Rebel has her shoes off.  Clearly those shoes were far from comfortable.


Part of what it means to be Australian is finding a very comfortable place being self-deprecating–and to hang shit on others.  When honouring Big Little Lies “other” Producer (we met her on stage during the Golden Globes but many not in the know wondered who she was) Bruna Papandrea, Isla Fisher gave the best speech.

You can only describe her words, spoken truly eloquently and from the heart, as magically Australian:

“Audiences would know Bruna had Reese or Nicole ever once given her the microphone.”

Then, “I get the shit movies and I still have to give the speech‎.”

I mean, priceless! That there is what we mean by being very Australian.  And I love it.

And a little video clip that sums up what we feel to be Australian–same same but oh so different!

The Lucky Country

I think Margot Robbie summed it up best:

“I moved to America seeking more opportunities, I bought a house here, I started a business here, I had found prosperity and success in this country.

“I’m sure many Aussies in the room know that in school we’re taught that Australia is the lucky country, and it is… but we’re also taught that the United States of America is the land of opportunity, and I’ve always thought if it that way.”

“As a girl from the lucky country living in the land of opportunity, I can say with absolute certainty, when you have opportunity collide with luck, incredible things can happen.”

(Thanks to Variety for the quote as I was too busy enjoying to scribe!)

Whenever people ask me if we’re staying here in the US they’re shocked when I say no.  It’s because we are from the lucky country and we don’t have to escape to have a better life. I love my Australian life. But what I haven’t been able to properly articulate is what Margot Robbie so eloquently put it: we are given an opportunity here in the US and we’ll make the most of that opportunity given we’ve been given some good fortune and opportunity.

Changing Tune

While we had Jess Mauboy performing, Delta and Human Nature that’s not what I’m talking about!

With Mr H away in India I was lucky enough to “freeload” with a friend whose fiance was off with Mr H in India.  None of us thought anything of it–I got to go to my fave event, Mr MGM got to go with someone with his special person being away (me!) and Mr H didn’t have to feel bad that I would miss out on the event.

But oh the reaction from the Americans was hysterical. They were almost embarrassed we were there together.  A little chuckle from one couple, a little red-faced was another and the smirks and giggles as we might have been “swinging” was mentioned.

“And they’re OK with it?”

“Of course they are, they enabled it!” I said somewhat surprised at their reactions.

More awkward laughter.  I almost felt like I was doing something wrong then.  We’re friends with no ulterior motive, no Hollywood sleaze or miss intentions yet I felt like eyes were on us.

It was, needless to say, very strange indeed.

Oh, did someone say Jess Mauboy? Yeah, here’s a little selfie we took:


I Still Call Australia Home

If we were write a post, though, on the differences between Australians and Americans it would have to be the ending.  So very LA!

The Americans are out the door rushing to valet as soon as our second national anthem is playing. If they’re lucky they’ll beat the queues and get out of there ahead of the others.

The Australians are pouring another glass of wine and singing proudly with the celebs, politicians and diplomats up on the stage ready to party on at the after-party.  Yep, the fun is only getting started as everyone–celebs, politicians and all–are headed to the after party.

I’ve posted a few moments on my Instagram story and preserved them as a highlight so hop on and relive it with me!

Oh yeah, Michelle was in that one

Unlike Awards Shows’ after parties there is no second red carpet or necessary outfit change, it’s time to let your hair down.  Apart from a couple of big names (deeply disappointed Margot Robbie didn’t party on but I did hear she wasn’t feeling well) everyone was up on the dance floor and having fun catching up.

Not one to shy away from the action I had a lovely catch up with Kim Ledger (Heath’s father who took the Lifetime Achievement award for the late, great Heath Ledger). As we were talking I had this surreal moment when I was describing what Mr H does.  I explained he (well not he “he” but he he) was responsible for putting Christopher Plummer in the place of Kevin Spacey for the movie “All the Money in the World.” Struggling to come up with the name though I said, you know, the J Paul Getty movie, something money. His reply was, oh yes, Michelle was in that one. Doh. Of course, Michelle Williams, that Michelle, no one much. Oh LA!

But we were chatting away being perfectly normal.

You’re The Voice

Then there was the finale as the whole crowd was singing, “You’re the Voice” by John Farnham.  In groups we stood side-by-side singing at the top of our lungs. I didn’t see that at the Golden Globes After Party.

No sir, Australians love to party and don’t mind letting their hair down. They’re not too important to be singing and interacting with anyone who wants and it all makes for a mighty fine evening.

G’Day USA Gala in LA

It was the same last year.

And I hope to find out it will be the same next year too!

Maybe I’ll find an Australian designer to “dress me” next year.

xx It Started in LA xx

Here are some write-ups in the Australian press on the event:



Red Carpet thanks to Vogue


The last time we celebrated Australia Day
My LA story, Posts

The last time we celebrated Australia Day in LA

Do you celebrate Australia Day in LA? Did I tell you about the first and the last time we celebrated Australia Day in LA? It was a doozy.  So much so that it was about four years ago.  Each year I think about holding another Australia Day party and each year I get cold feet.

This year is no different.  Given it falls on a Friday I asked my son if he wanted to have some mates over to celebrate Australia Day. I had it all planned in my head.


Drinks are easy: Australian beer, Australian wine and Australian soft drink (that would be “soda” to you Americans and “pop” to you Brits.

Fortunately I was sent some Bundaberg Ginger Beer from my now best mates over at Bundaberg (keep them coming guys!).  So I had the drinks covered, not just from the soft drink side but Bundaberg Ginger Beer (synonymous in our house by the generic name of just “Ginger Beer”–in other words there is no other ginger beer) makes the best Moscow Mules. Like EVER!  Tick.


Also very easy–although much easier when my mates Garlo’s was in town. (Taking a minute’s silence to mourn their loss).

So a simple Barbie–snags (sausages) in bread for the kiddos and some prawns (shrimp) for the grown ups. Throw in some mini pies and sausage rolls to start with and I’ll bet you’re salivating right now.

Of course there would be pavlova and Tim Tams for dessert and if everyone was lucky we’d break open the stash of party mix.  What wouldn’t be on the menu is breaking open our (very small and sacred) stash of Violet Crumbles.  What would be even more mouth-wateringly scrumptious would be to break open some Golden Gaytimes. How I wish we could package them up and bring them home with us.

For those of you not in the know, Gaytimes are the most divine ice-creams you can buy–the epitome of heaven on a stick.

Side note for my Aussie mates. Did you know Wonderpies in Melbourne has a Golden Gaytime Pie? Seriously. Seriously. When I head home again I’ve got them lined up to send me a few.  I hear they’re bloody good.

Golden Gaytime Pies

Golden Gaytime Pies

Sidenote two, we got very excited to see some product growth in the Gaytime family to the Gaytime Cornettos–Gaynetto for short.



Back to the would-be party. Obviously the theming was covered. I brought over Australia Day flags and other paraphernalia when we moved over so one flag as the tablecloth and another flag flying proudly and a bit of blue & white colouring to finish it all off.

So with everything set to go in my mind it’d be great to celebrate where we’re from and share a lot of love from Australia.  So what went so wrong last time we had an Australia Day party?

The last time we celebrated Australia Day in LA

It’s a good story. And perhaps enough dust has settled for me to be able to pick myself up off the floor and tell it. I was reminded of it last Friday night at a dinner party where we played out the events with friends that were also there that day.

The stage was set

We’d been here in LA about six months so our social circle was growing. It was time to invite some of our mates over to the house.  My son asked if he could invite a couple of other mates over. “Of course,” I answered in delight. “Let’s invite the parents too.”

So everyone came along. It was mid afternoon on Sunday–rare for here in LA so I must have got everyone on a good weekend. I made party pies and sausage rolls. We were all excited. That was actually the first slip up although I seemed to get away with it. There are a lot of Jewish folk here in LA with a good percentage of my friends Jewish and I forgot all about the fact I was making sausage rolls from pork sausage meat. Rooky mistake, plenty more food no worries.

Everything was going swimmingly

We were pouring wine, chatting and having a lovely Sunday afternoon.  It actually–in one of those small world LA type stories–turned out that three of our guests at some point in their lives went to the same boarding school outside London.  They weren’t in the same year but there was crossover for sure and we’re talking one party, three guests, one boarding school.  In England.  I mean boarding school isn’t even that common here let alone in England.

Conversation was flowing, we were getting to know new friends and life was good.  Australian music playing in the background and everyone was having fun.

The Slap

No, not The Slap. That’s another famous Australian BBQ that didn’t end well.  It may not have been the actual slap but it sort of felt like it.

Our house in Beverly Hills was on a hill and the house was carved into the hill so if you imagine our backyard was a hill.  It wasn’t nicely terraced or landscaped so it could be played on but from time to time there would be some hill play.

This wasn’t hill play. One of the boys apparently ran up the hill and hid in the bushes.  Everyone (his parents and the boys) were looking for him and he wasn’t coming out.  The kids knew it was up there so we could smell a rat–someone wasn’t happy.  Oops.

Long story short there was an altercation with his little brother. I was so nervous one of the kids did something to upset him.  Well it turns out that’s exactly what happened. Although the kids didn’t know they did anything. We suspect he didn’t like my son meeting new mates and including him.  But that’s what we do back home–the more the merrier.


So the dad, in his fine Gucci shoes and Ralph Lauren Polo shirt tucked into his beautiful designer jeans (with matching Gucci belt) had to go up the hill and pull a great big extraction in front of a huge crowd of onlookers.  We were worried for the kid, it wasn’t like it was normal behaviour.  I mean it was not a good look for our party either.  Welcome to 90210 you’ve just upset people.  Oops.

The beginning of the end

Yeah, it was basically the last time we hung out with that family in any real way. I think there were casual Sunday drinks that didn’t last long.  And, it could have just been me but I think the parents might have been doing their best to be really obnoxious so we wouldn’t want to hang out with them anyway.

The next I heard some mutual friends were catching up with them and the word was the mum said, “let’s just catch up the two families,” as they hadn’t done anything with the two of them for a while and they just needed to catch up.

So that was it. Six months in and one friendship gone.

One door closes another one opens

The funniest thing was that ending of a friendship–if you could call it that–opened up so many more doors for me.  People whom I first met and thought I was nice were curious onlookers because they thought it was odd I was friends with this family.  Apparently I missed a couple of warnings but I’m glad I did. I don’t (didn’t) mind finding out for myself.

It turns out that they find it hard to keep friends.  I remember at the time being quite down in the dumps about it. It was a bit too early to be losing friends and was it me? Was I not cut out to live the 90210 life?

It turns out I was. I just needed to experience a little Real Housewives of Beverly Hills action before I could tell the tale.

(And in case you’re wondering those mutual friends aren’t friends with them either. Oops.)

Happy Australia Day guys and remember if you’re out and about pick up a pack of Bundaberg Ginger Beer. And if you see them a packet of Tim Tams!

xx It Started in LA xx


PS:  If you want tips on how to celebrate Australia Day in LA my mate at Bright Lights of America wrote a great guide. Cheers.


PPS: Yes, Bundaberg sent me some samples of Ginger Beer so this post is sponsored by them. Having said that it is no word of a lie our fave ginger beer so thanks again to the good folk over there.

Do you sell everything and rebuy it in LA or ship it all over?
Moving to LA, Posts

Do you sell everything in Australia and rebuy it in LA or ship it over?

It’s a great question: do you sell everything in Australia and rebuy it in LA or ship it over? You’ve decided to take the plunge and live the dream. Or maybe, like us, you get an opportunity offered to you on a silver platter. “You’re moving to Hollywood.” Who wouldn’t want to be moved to Hollywood when others are busting their chops to crash on someone’s couch just to live out their dream?

This is one of the topics being debated on a really handy resource and Facebook Group Australians in LA so I thought I’d pool the responses together, give you my two cent’s worth and put it up on the pedestal that is It Started in LA for all to see.  I don’t think the answer is as straight forward as it seems: like everything you have to do what feels right for your circumstances.

Selling everything in Australia

I remember when eBay first started I would collect my baby’s clothes that didn’t fit them anymore, bundle them together and get a pretty good price for them.  We’re not talking baby’s clothes now (Apple Watch 1.0 and old Beats) but I struggle to selling anything on eBay anymore that’s worth my time listing it and taking it to the Post Office to ship.  I still have an eBay pile but just don’t quite get around to listing them.

It’s not to say you can’t sell it and it’s not to say you won’t get at least something for your stuff.

Then there’s I found I had slightly better luck with that site for a time. Same with  But that was around five years ago. Things change.

I lilsted our Dining Table & chairs and no one, I mean no one wanted it.  I tried every avenue.  I think the problem with Ikea and similar places is that people can get something that looks good brand new so they don’t want second-hand stuff.  I ended up bringing them to an Auction House and getting pittance for it there.


Our cars were even harder to sell.  The convertible went to an Auction house and my treasured and most loved Audi Q7 was handed to a friend who sold it for me.  The new owner ended up getting a one-way flight from Melbourne to Sydney and driving the car back again.  Seems they’re more expensive on the second hand market in Melbourne. Go figure!

The thought of buying a car again at Australian prices when we go home makes me sick to my stomach.

Rebuying in LA

It’s true things in LA (and the US in general) are cheaper than Australia.  But you still have to buy everything full price.  Unless you’re prepared to buy everything second hand.

As one active user on the Facebook group, Paulina, said, “I think it depends on your personal situation–we moved the whole family including kids. When you sell stuff you get peanuts for it and to buy everything–even though it’s cheaper it’s still a lot. Don’t forget you’ll be buying all electricals, kitchen equipment, all electrical. Most rentals come with fridges and washing machines.”

But then, as another person in the group said, “Always loads of stuff going cheap on Aussies in LA.”

And another confirmed, “just get everything new here and throw/sell/donate everything non-essential in Sydney–unless it has major major sentimental value it won’t be worth it, it’ll cost you a lot in transport and/or storage costs. LA is a transient city people are always selling their stuff cheap online you’ll be fine, seriously.”

Flea Markets

It seems this group love the Rose Bowl flea market, the first Sunday of every month in Pasadena.  After a couple of false starts I still haven’t gone.

“Also check out the Rosebowl flea markets for great furniture. We bought an awesome table and a console there. Often they’ll deliver for a small fee,” according to Liv.

Katrina also chimed in, “Sell it and start a new. Go to the Rose Bowl market and get inspired!”

For more on vintage stuff and the flea markets check my blog here.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing

Then there’s the benefit of hindsight from Sara, “There is always the chance you will move back. Sell the big stuff and see if you can store the smaller stuff with a relative. Then buy stuff here.

“We moved back and forth and really regretted selling all our stuff. It sucked having to rebuy everything. In hindsight, I wish we had hired a storage unit.”

Hindsight is great Sara, the problem is you never know how your experience is going to end up

We put stuff in storage like our fridge, washing machine and dryer and other electrical appliances we weren’t going to be able to use.  We did this mainly because we thought we’d be 2-3 years tops and we couldn’t get much money for selling them but to rebuy is hugely expensive.  Four and a half years later I dread that storage invoice!

If only we all had a Magic 8 Ball that actually worked!

Budgeting to rebuy everything new in LA

Don’t forget the wattage is different here in the US (110v) as it is in Australia (240v). One person on the Facebook page said the converters don’t really work that well but I bought a really good one (bulky but good) and my Thermomix works a treat.

You should also check the power supply as some items are now compatible with both voltages so it pays to check.

Here’s a breakdown of some “necessities” you’ll need/we bought when we arrived.  Yep, it all adds up! Don’t forget to add tax. That’s 10% (OK 9% but you get it) here in LA so don’t forget about that!


Oster 1.3 Cu. Ft. 1100 Watt Microwave Oven from Target   $89.99

TV (let’s say one but we ended up buying a couple)

Samsung – 55″ Class (54.6″ Diag.) – LED – 2160p – Smart – 4K Ultra HD TV from Best Buys  $499.99

Vacuum cleaner

BISSELL® PowerTrak Compact Upright Vacuum Cleaner in Black/Lime from Bed, Bath and Beyond  $69.99*

* Hot tip: save those Bed, Bath & Beyond 20% off Coupons for good savings


Stainless Steel 2-Slice Toaster also from Bed, Bath and Beyond for  $19.99

Sandwich maker

Cuisinart® Sandwich Grill at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $19.99

Hand mixer

KitchenAid – KHM512IC Ultra Power 5-Speed Hand Mixer – Ice Blue from Best Buys (price matched) for $31.99


I chose a Conair® Infiniti Pro Hair Dryer – Orange for $24.99.

Total spent on these items is $756.93  plus tax ($68.12) equals $825.05 and not including shipping.  Many places ship for free when you spend over a certain amount so that’s not a big deal.

Also, if you are Australian you might want to buy a coffee machine, here’s a Nespresso machine for $199 plus tax with free shipping.

Most rentals come with a fridge, washing machine & dryer.  Some even come with a microwave, but not that many.

That’s the electrics taken care of. There are lots of furniture shops around and there is the biggest Ikea in nearby Burbank–every Expat family’s favourite must-do store!

Ship it over

This is the category we belong to. Mr H’s company paid for our move and, after having our things in storage while we were in Shanghai, we jumped at the chance to have our own stuff with us.

That’s not the case for others though. One person, Clare, on the Facebook group said, “I didn’t bring anything over, and I was glad, houses here are different styles and none of my furniture would have suited the house we moved into.

“Even though we had a Company paying for our items to be shipped, we went back to them and negotiated an allowance of the same amount as they were willing to pay to ship to buy all new.”

Great tip according to another Facebook group user, Liv, who said, “One other tip is to use Jetta which is excess baggage–we packed up all our artwork in doonas and bedding and it worked a charm. Jetta are very reasonable, pick up your boxes, weigh them and then everything arrived a few days after our flight.”

[Ed: I’ve never heard of Jetta so will definitely look it up. Could be a sponsor for this page ;).]

How much does it cost to ship it over?

According to Alan, “We moved over in March last year (2017) from Sydney to LA. We used Santa Fe, they were great, cost around $15,000 for 3/4 of a 40 foot container.

Lori said, “If you shop around and do some investigating, we got a 20ft for about 5k AUD plus a little extra for removalists to help load and then unload when it arrived in LA.” That doesn’t sound too bad.

Paulina said, “My friend moved with Chez and it cost $7000.”

Kym “paid $9500 for a sole use half container (21 cubic m) inc packing and insurance thru Santa Fe. But I understand If you share a container it’s cheaper.”

What’s your experience selling things in Australia? Have you sold up shop in Australia and rebought where you are? Or did you, like us, get all your things shipped over? Let us know and help others in the process!

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: None of the links or businesses mentioned sponsor me, these are just my preferences.  I am, however, looking for sponsors for this post/site. Are you a moving company who can offer great value to our readers? Are you an Auction House that welcomes clients bringing in lots of stuff to sell? Ikea, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Best Buys! If you want to jump in or offer a discount to my readers please do! If you know anyone Contact me. Cheers!

Playing spot your mates at the Golden Globes ceremony
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

Playing spot your mates at the Golden Globes ceremony

This year I was able to watch the Golden Globes as the past two years I’ve been working. Yay! I realised as I was watching from the comfort of my living room in my black hoodie that I was playing spot your mates at the Golden Globes ceremony.

Yes the 75th annual Golden Globes awards have come and gone for another year. While this Blog has done blow-by-blow accounts in recent years by the time this comes out you will have already dissected the ceremony with write ups from the professional teams of writers and photographers covering the event on the ground. (Read: gone are the days when I think writing about them will get my a guernsey to the event, sigh). But that’s not to say I’m not going to give my humble LA opinion!

I do love the Golden Globes. I do love a good Awards show and the Globes of course kick off Awards season.

Actors and activists

I spent a lot of time juggling social media during the awards shows. I hopped on Facebook Live during the Red Carpet–just love the various medium we have to choose from to gawk!

Some of the comments–in this day and age–are still so woeful. People just think they can say whatever they like just because celebrities are in the spotlight and seem to “ask for it”, for people to say whatever they want.

It’s really interesting that popular opinion is divided somewhere down the middle when it comes to actors being activists and whether or not they should have an opinion.

I’m all for actors speaking up, especially the #timesup cause and the #metoo movement. As a mother of a girl–and one that wants to get into the industry–how can I not?

I get that some people take it all a little bit too far. Others aren’t eloquent and others rant and rave (perhaps we could say present company included) so the message might be there but it’s lost in its delivery.

But the reality is if these actors aren’t going to speak up how else are we–the general populace–going to know about these issues and how then can we do anything about it?

Celebrity Presidents

Besides people can’t have it both ways.  You either want celebrities to have their say on issues affecting our society or you don’t.

America cracks me up though.  It’s no bloody wonder Donald Trump is President. If you recall I predicted he would be–not because of anything other than America’s fascination with celebrity.

So to almost fully contradict what I said about actors being great activists, why does an eloquent celebrity automatically get put up on a pedestal to become the next President? The cries here now are Oprah for President hashtagging like crazy and talking like stupid people as if it’s really A THING. Or worse, should be a thing.

Seriously, you should hear the carry on here and the media is running with it.  It’s breaking news–“will she or won’t she; please let’s all hope she does.”

It’s great that anyone can be President. But… If there’s one thing this President should teach us it’s that being recognised doesn’t make us qualified to be President. (Yes I know there’s so many more reasons why this President shouldn’t be president but that’s not my point).

Correct, I’m not one of those people getting on the Oprah for President bandwagon.

And before you jump down my throat, I thought Oprah’s speech was inspiring and she provides a great role model for our girls.  She’s come from humble beginnings (the stuff she said about her mum made me cry) but she achieved extraordinary success.  She beat the odds, she did it.

But don’t you think we need to stop looking to celebrities to become “The President”? Come on guys, let’s help Politicians be better people, get in touch with the people and lead their country to be better.  In order to effect change at the political level you need to have political experience; you need to know how stuff is done; gets done.  It’s one of the reasons Trump is so arguably bad because he thinks he knows it all and doesn’t need to play politics.  You need to understand the law and you need to understand economics.

But wait, there’s a role for Hollywood and a role for someone like Oprah in politics.

Influencers like Oprah can work hard to change society’s beliefs, old-fashioned views and really instill change.  Maybe if she worked together with an inspiring President-to-be together they can deal with the law and popular culture at the same time. What a great combination that could would be.

Woosh-ka.  Hell I’m so inspiring maybe we can get the #gwenforpresident2020 going.

Playing spot your mates

Changing gears back to the Golden Globes.

As I was watching I squealed: there’s my girlfriend from tennis.  Immediately I texted her to say I spotted her and to say she looks very glam, green with envy.  (She texted back from the ceremony to say thank you so I guess in my own little way I was there at one point in time–on a very cool table might I add!)

As another girlfriend and I were texting each other through the ceremony though I started laughing because we were playing “spot your mates”. Instead of watching who was front and centre with the cameras we were looking in the background for people we knew.  Her ex-boyfriend and his husband were there and another client of a friend of mine was there too.  Looking, looking.

You might recall my son was front and centre at the Emmy’s. I love TV and TV stars but the highlight for me was still playing spot the son!

I know, it looks like I’ve photoshopped him in doesn’t it? I haven’t!

It’s what living in LA is all about–smack bang in the middle of the Entertainment industry and it’s all good fun.  Remembering this post about how normal people actually can be, it’s still true.  And you may never actually understand unless you live here but I hope this Blog let’s you in on that insight every now and then.


Reese Witherspoon to be my BFF

Speaking of playing spot your mates … While everyone was ogling over Oprah, I was on team Reese. (No, that they were on opposing sides just that my girl crush was elsewhere).

How gorgeous is she? She pulls everyone together, let’s them do the talking, doesn’t get too serious but is so inspirational.  And she does it all being fabulous and a great role model for her kids. Go her. And congrats to well-deserved Big Little Lies and can’t wait for Season 2 (complete with a new female director to boot).

Back to natural faces

If there’s one thing our hopefully changing society should do it’s go back to natural faces.

I don’t know about you but living here in LA you notice everyone’s really bad faces. These fillers and over botoxing is getting out of hand. Fresh from being in Australia over Christmas the first thing that hits you is the over-worked faces on women here.  I swear the look is not to look young or natural but to look like you’re able to pay for fillers and “work”.

Let’s hashtag no more work. That goes for the blokes too.  Look after yourselves, do what you need to do for a natural look but enough of the out of the control facial distortions.

I think there could be a lot of credibility coming back at you if you start there ladies and gents.

And with that it’s over and out for me this week.

xx It Started in LA xx


BTW Image source/credit: Getty / FREDERIC J. BROWN from PopSugar celebrity website

Good luck, good health, good fortune for 2018
My LA story, Posts

Good health, good luck & good fortune for 2018

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018.  Here’s to good health, good luck & good fortune for 2018.

I’ve got a (good) feeling about 2018.  I think it’s going to be a good, good year. And if that line reminds you of a popular song you might well be right. I’m singing it as I type and it’s a clue to what’s coming up.

But first I’ve got to say I had the best break. We went home for Christmas this year–which we don’t usually do–and it was so good. It was especially good to head home to Melbourne and catch up with some old and dear friends and just hang out for a while.  Thanks to our special friends for putting time aside in their busy holiday schedules to catch up: it meant the world to us.


It’s true us Aussies associate the end of year Christmas break with summer holidays: It’s summer in Australia, school is on break for around 6-8 weeks and the Christmas/New-Year period is a great time to unwind with many offices and workplaces closing down between Christmas and New Year.

And, in Australia as with many other parts of the world (just not America or China), shops are closed on Christmas Day and New Years’ Day (they should really be closed on Boxing Day too.) So it actually feels like a real holiday.

December (and the start of January) has been really mild for us here in LA, not like winter at all.  It’s funny that people kept saying, “it doesn’t feel like the end of the year because it’s so hot” or “it doesn’t feel like Christmas with the weather being this warm”.

But for us, that’s exactly how it feels–normal.

Christmas in July

But imagine my shock yesterday at the post office when I was posting some sneakers for a friend’s son.  I casually said I hope it’s not a Christmas present (referring to the urgency of the package).

The very friendly guy asked when Christmas was in Australia.  I thought I was hearing things so replied quietly, “The same, in December.”  It’s also not unusual for people not to celebrate Christmas in LA so I thought maybe he was one of those people.

He was shocked.

“When is it? December you say? Isn’t it May or June … July?”

“No, it’s the same: December 25.”

“Oh wow, but it’s summer there isn’t it? How do you celebrate Christmas when it’s summer? I just expected it to be in the middle of the year.”

He had a very, very hard time coming to terms with–much less picturing–Christmas being in the middle of summer.

Fascinated he continued, “What does Santa wear?”

He was most intrigued! So of course I had to tell him about one of our favourite Hi-5 songs, Santa Wear Your Shorts.  That seemed to appease him.  Somewhat!

Carols by Candlelight

I hope you clicked on that link and enjoyed a sing-a-long like I did.

Back in Australia Christmas Eve tradition has it that you watch Carols by Candlelight while you drink eggnog (or wine) and wrap presents preparing for Santa’s arrival. The kids go to bed once Hi-5 has come on.

(For those non Australians Hi-5 was/is a group of kids brought together not dissimilar to the Wiggles. They had a show on TV which we were utterly addicted to. It had puppets, singing and a bit of good old educational value for the pre-school kids. They also put on sold-out concerts which we’d go to–and loved!).

Until last Christmas Eve I forgot all about that. One of the most fun days/nights I had over Christmas was singing Christmas carols with my sister-in-law and reminiscing with kids about Hi-5 like it was yesterday. Seriously, where has the time gone?

Hot or cold?

But the thing about Christmas in Melbourne (as opposed to Sydney) is that you never know if it’s going to actually be hot or cold.  You can get cold days in December. And there’s always a chance it might rain.

That always makes it hard to decide if you’ll set the table inside or outside.  That’s called a first-world Australian Christmas problem.

So, you see, just because it’s summer, doesn’t necessarily mean Christmas Day will be a hot one.  You hope it will be so you can sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.  And that’s Christmas to us.

New Year

Now it’s the new year and we’re back home.  This is the third year we’ve had a New Year’s Eve party at home and it’s becoming quite the tradition.  I grew up with my parents always throwing a party so it’s a tradition that’s dear to me.

This year, while we were down a couple of regulars, it was our biggest yet.  Being an expat in LA isn’t the easiest thing. But having fun, close friends around me made me realise how lucky I am to have them.

I’m hoping 2018 will be a good, good year.

New Year’s Day

That’s the perfect segue to New Year’s Day.  A few years ago we were invited to a friend’s house. It was very spur of the moment as her mum decided to cook some Black-Eyed Peas (we’re not talking the Band) and have an impromptu afternoon/evening with friends.

You may recall if you’ve been following on for a while that was the time we almost went head-to-head with Beyonce & Jay-Z. Still one of my personal highlights as we’d flown in from Miami that morning and it was a sign we were back in LA. Maybe also the fact Mr H wouldn’t move and good old Jay-Z reversed down the narrow road for us to get passed him.  The dead giveaway was when I got my phone out to google Jay Z and Beyonce immediately bowed her head and covered her face!

Collared greens

What I didn’t realise though, that I do now, is that the Southerners have a tradition on New Year’s Day. A tradition and a superstition.  To start the year out they eat a meal of Black-eyed peas, collard greens and Ham.  All good except up until a few years ago I didn’t really realise black-eyed peas were a thing other than a band/group.

And, I wondered what on earth collared greens were. Could it be a generic name for green-leaf vegetables. Is there some significance to the “collar?” Was there something I was missing?

Apparently there was. There is no collar on those greens but it is a generic name of sorts.  Collared greens are in fact collard greens.  Learn something new every day!

Good health, good luck & good fortune for 2018

This year we were lucky enough to be invited to our in-laws place (my son’s girlfriend’s family) to ring in the new year with the good luck-/health-/fortune-bringing meal.  We had Bloody Mary’s, a beautiful meal and played some games.

(On a side note we played lifesize Jenga Australians versus Americans and for the third time–or is it fourth–the Australians won. Pressure’s on next time for sure!

Here’s a sneak peak at the deliberation of which Jenga block to remove to avoid the spill!


And, I have it! Footage of the Jenga fall. Aussie win!


And let me leave you with the meaning of those meals.

Black-eyed peas: Good luck

Collard greens: Good fortune

Ham: Good health

Apparently you can’t have collard greens without cornbread so we had that too. And no American meal is complete without Mac and cheese so we had that too!

So that’s why 2018 is going to be a good, good year. I hope it will be for you too.

Happy New Year everyone!

xx It Started in LA xx

Christmas in LA 2017
My LA story, Posts

(When will it) Begin to look a lot like Christmas

Seriously, in LA that’s a question: When will it begin to look a lot like Christmas.  Truth be told it doesn’t.  Sure you’ll get Rodeo Drive decked out in all its 90210 glory and The Grove will be the same, even a few other Malls.  But, the truth is, LA is not the American city to visit to recreate Christmas from the movies.  I know, isn’t it ironic?

Instead, Christmas is some neighbourhoods with some lights out (or on as the case may be), a few “festive few” going all out.  But on the whole you can spend most of December wondering where on earth the “holiday spirit” has gone.

And we can’t blame the fact that Christmas is only “Christmas” for half of LA. I mean, it’s the same in New York and you can’t get more “Christmas” than there right?

And, let’s face it, the greater majority of my Jewish friends “celebrate” Christmas so it’s not that either.

So what is it about LA that Christmas seems like just another day?

It might well be that life continues as normal.  It’s not all shut up like it is in Europe or Australia. I could be forgiven for thinking I still live in China.

New Year’s Eve

And New Year’s Eve here is a little flat too.  It’s definitely not the pomp and ceremony and fireworks extravaganza that it is in Australia.  Let’s face it, for the big hoo-ha that is New York in Times Square for New Year you’re only going to see a ball drop.  A ball drop peoples.

Ubering for “holiday” parties

There is one constant and that’s the “holiday party”. Being LA this year’s parties were apparently very toned down; fortunately I went to a few fun ones!

I’ve had two uber drivers with huge claims to fame. My latest one picked my accent straight away:


“Yes I am, well done.” (They don’t often pick it right!)

“I went to Australia in 1983, had a great time. I was on tour with my boyfriend at the time.”

“Ok, fun,” I said. “I hope you managed to see the sights.”

“Yeah my boyfriend loved Australia so he always makes sure we got downtime.”

“Oh nice, he’d been before?”

“Oh yeah, he’s a really famous rockstar … David Bowie?”

“Oh right, OK.”

“Yeah, we toured Japan first then went to Australia, it was a wild time.”

OK stop. You’re driving an Uber and you went on tour with David Bowie. That’s serious stuff. I hope she’s all there as she’s responsible for getting me safely from A to B.

I mean all the dates and info seemed to make sense. Could it be?

Then she starts giving me advice on acting and building up an IMDB profile. OK …

Sadly our trip came to an end. Five stars to you Diane. What an entertaining trip. Say hi to David for me.

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year to you all. I’m sure you won’t hear from me til the new year so take care out there. And I hope you get an uber driver with some fun stories to tell.

xx It Started in LA xx

Buying a House as an Expat in LA
Moving to LA, Posts

Buying a house in LA as an expat

You secured your lease, life is going along swimmingly but you think it’s time to lay down some roots.  Here’s a guide to buying a house in LA as an expat.

LA rent is not cheap.  Essentially, unlike in Australia, LA rent is the same as the owner’s mortgage payments plus property tax. In other words, you’re not getting a bargain and all you’re doing is helping them pay off their mortgage.

We loved the house we first signed up to but after a while it got too small for us. So I started looking around, even extending our search outside the 90210 postcode, and was shocked to find there was nothing around. Even increasing our budget by $2,000 didn’t get us what we were looking for in upgrading our humble abode.

Buying a house in LA

I started scouring websites looking for houses. My dream was a mid-century modern in the hills already done (or minor jobs to be done) with a pool and view.

The next thing I needed to do was see who would lend me the money.

I worked on a budget of our current rent figuring we had a decent buy price to get a house with everything we wanted.  Cheaper than rent plus it’s ours!

Armed with this I went to our bank, Citibank, to see what they could offer me.

With a 20% deposit and a very good credit rating we could get the money we need.  Excellent.

Credit rating

Credit rating in this country is a whole ‘nother beast of a topic.  But, in short, ours wasn’t very good or excellent; it was just good.

In a nutshell, from what I could gather it’s because of the way we manage our credit cards.  You see our limit is a limit we use each month that I’ve budgeted to pay off each month.  I don’t want a higher limit because we’ll use it, we’ll spend it and eat into our savings bucket. I’m happy and comfortable with what we have. But that means we actually use the credit limit we’re given.  That’s what it’s there for right? Wrong.

The powers that be in Credit rating land think we’re a red flag because we use the credit made available to us via our credit card. They don’t look at the fact that I pay it off each month (every fortnight actually).  I made a $10k purchase on my credit card (think of all the points!) and then paid it off once I was done so I could carry on charging my stuff to it.  But you could see in that month our credit rating drop down. I mean seriously, don’t they look at the next transaction, the one where we paid it off (and I’m talking that day people that day). Stupid.

You really think I’d learn my lesson.  Please learn for me.

No loan from CitiBank #fail

So, even though we showed that we paid our rent on time every month for two plus years, we had the deposit and money to spare in the bank, based solely on our credit rating CitiBank was a no go.

I threatened to move my accounts but haven’t bothered because it’s too convenient having a branch down the road.  But they don’t know that!

I speak of them with disdain instead of admiration now though.

Finding my dream LA house

After months of searching for my perfect Mid-century modern home it became clear that most of them are fixi-ups. Now, to be clear, this is our “rent replacement house” not our “forever house”. Being a rent replacement house I didn’t want a fix-up job, one where we’d have to take six months renovating it.  Defeats the purpose.

Securing a Realtor

You can scour the websites and research houses yourself but if you engage a Realtor early on in the piece they can start looking for places for you.

You see they have broker open houses and access to a clumsy but very good tool known as the MLS.  Just by entering the parameters you want in a search engine you can get houses sent to you weekly.  And, if they see a house while they’re looking, they can arrange for you to see it.  It can take a lot of time out of the hunting process.

Buying a house as an Expat

It can be done, buying a house in LA as an Expat.  But, you just need to be aware of a couple of things.

  1. The visa. Each Bank deals with different visas in different ways. Then depending on that there may or may not be different conditions.  As an E3 visa holder we were able to borrow money like a “normal” American.
  2. Deposit.  Some of the lenders I spoke to insisted on 30% because of our expat/visa status.  We did find a bank willing to give us a loan based on 20% though so do shop around.

Mortgage Broker

One of the people you need to secure, as well as a Realtor, is a Mortgage Broker.  There are mortgage brokers who represent several banks (as they are in Australia) but beware many Mortgage Brokers I spoke to represent only the one bank. From what I gather these guys are sole operators but work with a bank. You don’t have to pay them they must get a commission from the Bank.  So it’s a bit different and a bit strange because they’re not actually shopping the market looking for the best deal for you, they’re just offering you a Mortgage.

You can also go into your local branch and ask to apply for a loan as we do in Australia.  And, there are online guys which I would say be wary of.  I started filling forms in for Quicken Loans but then when I got to the last screen cancelled out yet I got calls from all these lenders/brokers and still get the occasional email from them (got one today in fact). Not happy Jan.

Putting in an offer

I know you’re dying to know if I found my dream mid-century modern home with very little to do, a pool and a view.  In short: no. Out of left field we found a house in “the flats” which was brand new, had a beautiful floorplan and a pool.

We fell in love. We did a quick change in search looked at a number of new constructions in the area but decided this was the house for us.  It was New Year’s eve when we put an offer in and our Realtor was in Europe on holiday.

“Oh no, you absolutely must put the offer in now because there’s less chance of other active bidders at this time,” she said.

So we did.

In the US offers must be writing and you need to think carefully about contingencies at this time.  That’s where your Realtor becomes like gold.  If they’re good at what they do, with experience they come up with all the ideas and you just say yay or nay.

Not to bore you but the offer process is very boring. If you’re looking for a bargain (which we were) then there will be counter offers and counter offers before you either bow out or settle on a price–don’t forget contingencies.  For example, in one of the seller’s contingencies was reducing the settlement time. We were all for it too (we wanted to move into our house and stop paying rent) but we weren’t sure how long the mortgage would take to get through.  But that became a “thing”.

And then, some sellers will use your offer to go back to interested parties to say look, we’ve got an offer do you want to put one in too.  That’s where a quasi auction happens. (They don’t have auctions here; too complex a system I suppose to be able to deal with it but you’d think auctions otherwise would be quite successful).

Even if a house is under offer or under escrow anything can happen.  It’s not until all contingencies are dropped that they’re comfortable it’s all going to be OK.  So for them it’s a trust issue. Our agent had to put the seller at ease and let them know that we want to buy the house just as badly as he wants to sell the house and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure it happens.

Much like when you’re leasing a house, as I mention in that Blog, you need an agent who you’ve developed a good working relationship with that can go into bat for you and ensure the seller the purchase is secure.  And, as soon as you’re able to drop contingencies (like inspections and securing the money) then you’re up and running.

But, expats make Americans nervous so hook up with a Realtor that understands you and the situation. We were happy with our agent because she deals with Expats all the time and understands how the system works. A big part of it is knowing what to say.


So here there is an Escrow agency that’s used to sort through the paperwork. They co-ordinate with the Bank, their agent and your agent to settle.  Not conveyancers or lawyers like in Australia.

On the day of settlement, you don’t actually sign the mortgage at your bank, you sign it all at the Escrow’s office.

Then once the documents are all signed at Escrow the house is yours! The agent will arrange with you to meet at your house with the keys and you’re in your very own new home.

Complex system

It’s a complex system here. As I always say everything in America is an industry designed for people to be able to make a living from. You don’t pay your agent to buy your house (the commission is split 50/50 and paid for by the seller) so use one.  It might well be the only free thing you get in the US!

You don’t get a say in who you use for Escrow but they’re arbitrary anyway so it doesn’t really matter. Actually seems strange but it’s true.

Why buy?

The way I figure it even if the property doesn’t increase in value my “rent equivalent” is paying off principal AND interest. And that money is going to me, not someone else.  Interest payments are tax deductible here although there is a cap on the mortgage amount so check first. Check with your tax accountant and please don’t take my advice as financial in any way, shape or form–you’d not only be a Wally too because I’m not qualified but seriously you need to work out if it works for you.

The property tax is a bitch but the year after we bought our tax bill was much less so we figured it balanced itself out.

You see, for now at least, interest from your principal home is tax deductible.  Barry bonus but those nutbags Trump calls his party are trying to limit the amount of tax that can be claimed so watch this space.  Sounds like a socialist thing to do in my humble opinion (and you know since moving here I’ve realised I am a socialist so it’s not a dig, just fact).

Apart from all of that we’re so happy to be in our own house. If we hadn’t have bought and ended up paying more for rent it would down-right depressing.

So if you’re sick of paying rent just know it can be done.  What have you got to lose?!

Good luck!

xx It Started in LA xx

American words to Australian
Dictionary, My LA story, Posts

American words I just don’t understand

It’s not uncommon for Americans to have no idea what I’m talking about.  We have lots of slang words and I often like to use them just for laughs.  But every now and again there are some American words I just don’t understand.

And, as much as Americans love our accent we say words differently so it sometimes takes a bit for them to understand us.

(Eg. Alternate. We say al-ter-nate, Americans say alter-nate).

Ever noticed that most non-English speaking people talk with an American accent?

I think that’s why their accents aren’t foreign to us–we’re so used to hearing them.  Whether it be on TV, the movies, a Swedish person, even Canadians (sorry, couldn’t resist. Just like you can’t tell the difference between an Australian accent and a New Zealand one, I can’t tell the difference between yours).

It usually also means we know all the different words they use.


Yes, even “fanny”.  Fanny might not make Americans laugh but it always makes us Australians (and Brits etc) laugh out loud–rolling on the floor laughing out loud.

To let you in on the secret, in Australia a fanny is your vagina.  So imagine how funny it is for us when we translate your politically correct sentence, “I have a sore fanny” or “We need to take our fanny packs with us”: what pres tell is a vagina pack, dare we ask what we need it for and where do we get it?

For the 1% of Australians who might not know, and if you haven’t already worked it out, fanny to Americans is a bum.


And even rooter. There are ads for it, vans driving around with it–there are rooters everywhere. Again, our conservative American friends have a word they happily throw around that in our part of the world is a “rude word”.  If not a rude word most definitely a socially uncomfortable word for them (we don’t have a problem with it AT all).

To root is the act of having sex.  As in, “hey love, wanna root?”  Perhaps some of these Hollywood men you’ve been hearing about in the news might have used that line had they known about the act of rooting.

The rooter in America is the generic term for a drain cleaning service.  So we have business names/websites like:

Rooter Man

Team Rooter

And even Rooty Rooter. He must be a really good rooter!

Then you have every Charles-, Dick- & Harry-the-Rooter (or should I say Chuck, Archer & Parker).  All these American men publicising that they’ll come to root for you.

Speaking of rooting for you. I also know that one.  “Rooting for” is the American term for supporting your team. In a sentence, “I root for the Dodgers”. If I said I root for the Dodgers at home I’d be classed as a first class slut–some form of groupie happy to put myself out for the entire Dodgers team.

Yes, yes, our humour is very much of the gutter variety.  And we’re fine with that.

American words I just don’t understand

But there are some words that I don’t know–or don’t know the slang for might be more accurate.

At tennis my friend was coming clean that she lets her kids have their passes every so often.  We had this entire conversation with her telling me it’s bad (no it’s not), asking what I think (yeah, it’s fine) and saying they don’t do it all the time (ok, fine).

I’m looking at her thinking did I miss what the pass was for? Her kids are young, where do they need passes for? I gave a little chuckle. It’s our turn to be in on the court.  Yay, we won, off to the other side.

Then, when we got to the other side, she called me out on it. Oops! She’s so used to not understanding what I say that she recognised that blank look on my face and nervous giggle.

The “pass” was a pac (soft c–said with that American accent so the a sound is not the “ah” sound but an “a” sound that’s quick.  And so “pass” is actually short for pacifier.  As in dummy.

Oh! Yes, I know you guys say Pacifier. I just didn’t recognise “pac” I thought you were saying pass!


So a Pacifier is a Dummy in Australia. One of our friends from Shanghai’s favourite phrase of ours is “spit the dummy” which means “chuck a hissy fit” or have a little tanty (tantrum). And no, I have no idea why we call it a dummy.


While I’m at it I’ll give the Americans another favourite word of ours: bogan.

A bogan can be loosely translated as “trailer trash”. Traditionally they had an outfit which consisted of way-too-tight jeans, a flannelette shirt (flanno) and ugg boots.  Yes, ugg boots.  Only bogans actually wore ugg boots out in public, the rest of us only wore them at home.

Here is a bogan:


A family full of them actually

But then things started blurring–there were cool incredibly tight jeans, flannos were deemed respectable (depending on who wore them or how they wore them of course) and ugg boots became a thing.

And bogans also became proud of being bogans.  And so the term “cashed-up bogan” was born.  This is when a bogan did good and all of a sudden had loads of money.  They would carry on being bogans but now they had lots of money to throw around. The long-standing belief then was, well, money can’t buy you class.

Americans have bogans too. Our family calls them yogans (Yankee bogans).


I think Americans know this one but it’s one of my favourites.  We wear thongs on our feet as well. As in flip flops.

In America (& probably every other place in the world) thongs are undies.  And I know this.  But I do love calling out to the kids in public, “Don’t forget your thongs” or “Are you wearing your thongs”.

It’s important to keep a sense of humour.

So technically that was one word I don’t understand. There are more I’m sure. But that was funny and then I could share with my American audience some of the words we hold dear to our heart–and why some of your words make us laugh.

Halloween in LA

On another note I first wrote about Halloween in LA a few years ago.  I made the observation that we don’t really celebrate Halloween in Australia.  But the fact is we do.  Well many people do anyway.  It depends what neighbourhood you live in.

We get the impression we don’t celebrate it in Australia because it’s not as widespread but when you think about it not every house is dressed up and not everyone goes trick or treating here either.

It’s just more of an event here: they dress up at work, even people going about their normal business dress up.

In Australia though, we tend to dress up as “spooky” things–blood, guts and gore.  Here in the US Halloween is a giant dress up day–you can be whatever you like, it doesn’t have to be scary.  I hadn’t changed since tennis that morning so I pronounced that I was dressed as a tennis player. Tick. All fine.

Our neighbourhood decided they’d start trick or treating locally this year.  It’s a big step to be able to trick or treat in your own neighbourhood rather than going to someone else’s (which is the thing to do). We’d never think to head to someone else’s ‘hood and knock on their doors for lollies (candy).

But when houses (or streets) go all out, they go all out.  Did you catch my Instagram post where one house had a crashed 747 in their front yard? Very cool.


Lead up to Thanksgiving

And now it’s November 1 it’s time to fast forward to Thanksgiving–the longest and only four-day long weekend in the American holiday calendar.  And because of that I have to leave you now to research what we’ll do for the four-day weekend–we all need a break.

Enjoy the rest of the week as we head into the weekend. Catch you soon!

xxIt Started in LAxx


College v Uni
Differences between America & Australia, Expat tales, Moving to LA, Posts, Soapbox

Applying for College v Applying for Uni

I last left you (on this topic) when we were first understanding what the bloody hell we’d got ourselves into with our son wanting to go to College here.  We’re not up to the bit where we’re applying for college v applying for uni.

We’re doing both.

That’s mainly because of the exorbitant cost to go to College in this country. Yes that is a tone of great disdain.

You may recall I was on a little bit of a high horse (and I quote) “And I’m thinking if my son wants to go to Stanford he should bloody well be able to consider Stanford.  A College education should not just be for people who can afford it.  Right?”

Wrong.  Sort of.  Actually I was a little wrong about the cost to go to Stanford. After having toured there last summer apparently “no one actually pays full tuition for Stanford”. There are so many merit scholarships and so on that so many people who get into Stanford are eligible for that it eases the burden for the parents–and the loans for the kids.

But it’s rarely all $70k worth so when it comes down to the crunch how the bloody hell do you spare the $280k (four years at around $70k–more by next year) to send your kids (two of them so make that $560k) to get a College degree. One that will set them up perfectly only to do a Post-graduate degree for a squillion more bucks (and no we’re definitely NOT paying for that).

I digress … today I’m sitting down to chat to you about the difference between applying for College here in the US v applying for Uni back in Australia.


Applying for College

Wowsers. It’s time consuming applying for College.  We’ve had the advice that it’s a good idea to apply to somewhere between 5-8/10 Colleges–to be sure you get somewhere. In that mix you’re going to want to choose a couple you’re confident you’ll get into, a couple that you may have a shot at and a couple that are a “reach”.

Application fees

At around $80-$100 per application let’s start the [ca-ching] bank account depletion at $500. (She take a sip of wine).  And while we’re tallying my costs let’s not forget the $10 per school you’re applying to for the College Board to send your SAT score each College you’re applying to. Oh, and let’s add the (thankfully already forgotten) cost of tutors and the fee to actually sit the SAT.

Application forms

Only a few years ago most of the Colleges had their own application.  These applications tend to be pages long with short answer questions and an essay to answer.  These days many Colleges have tried to simplify the process by participating in the Common Application.

What each College will do then (although not all) is come up with their own supplementary questions unique to them and stuff they want to learn about you.

Sample questions

The common app features one essay your child has to write. They have a choice of seven topics although technically the last “question” is to write about anything you like so it’s infinite.

For those of you playing along at home here are the essay prompts.  Here are my favourites:

“Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.”

“Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?”

You’ve got 650 words. Go.

More questions

Then places like Stanford and the “UC’s” (Universities of California) have their own questions.  Stanford has these three questions.  Minimum should be 100 words and a maximum of 250 words.

  1. The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning.
  2. Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate—and us—know you better.
  3. Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why?

Berkeley (A UC–The UC) has eight extra questions and you need to answer four.  Each answer should be about 350 words.  Here are a couple of them:

“Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you stand out as a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?”

It notes: “From your point of view, what do you feel makes you an excellent choice for UC? Don’t be afraid to brag a little.”


And more questions

There are also a few short, sharp questions where the answer should be no more than 50 words.  These are actually harder as you have to precise, knowledgeable and you can’t beat around the bush.  Here they are–just for fun!

“What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?

“How did you spend your last two summers?

“What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?

“What five words best describe you?

“When the choice is yours, what do you read, listen to, or watch?

“Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford.

“Imagine you had an extra hour in the day — how would you spend that time?”


Application due date

Then there’s when these applications are due.  There are early decisions (EDs), restrictive early decisions, non-binding early decisions, normal application, Spring applications etc.  This decision alone is a huge one.  Early decisions are due around November 1 and you can find out as early as December whether you’re in somewhere.  That’s right–you still have a whole semester left of school but you might know you’re already in somewhere.


Remember, they would have, should have or are still doing their ACT or SAT exams.  It’s actually these scores that most Colleges look at.  That and your transcript and application.  But there’s no standardised testing so it’s hard to know if your transcript means you’re good or you suck.

So, that’s the American system.  Here’s a bit about the Australian system.


Applying for Uni

Work out the top five courses at which uni you want to go to. Eg: Business at Sydney Uni.

List them on your Preferences sheet via UAC.


Get your HSC marks and your ATAR.

You get a week to change your preferences based on your marks and whether you think you’ll get in.


Find out what offers you get a few weeks later.

Accept & pay.

OK, it’s not always as straight forward as that. Some courses require a portfolio or interview but essentially that’s it.


Pros and cons

So the US system was designed (hmmm … over engineered?) to make it easier for kids to get into a College; so it’s not so stressful to get a good mark on your ACT or SAT and basically make it fairer for everyone.  You see, kids get tutored for the ACT or SAT and those that can’t afford it don’t.  And families start so early here it’s no wonder lots of kids are stressed, over-stretched and missing out on their childhood.

The US would probably argue (and many others no doubt) that there’s too much pressure on Australian kids to get the score they need to get into the course they want to study.

Who knows which one is right.  Maybe neither? But, there’s a lot of work and a lot of extra money that goes into kids applications here in the US.  We’re not having a bar of it (well technically we are because we’re still applying) but so many people are.

I bet many of you reading this are just happy you’re not the ones having to go through this process–that you’re at the other end of it.  True.

Meanwhile, “we” continue to do question after question each weekend in the hopes of systematically and stresslessly going through the process.

She takes another gulp of wine.

xx It Started in LA xx

Securing a lease in LA
Moving to LA, Posts

Securing a lease in LA: 5 important tips

You’ve found the area you want to live in and even managed to narrow your search to a couple of house.  But now you have to secure a lease. Here are five important tips for securing a lease in LA.

As expats you may know–and understand–each country has its idiosyncrasies when it comes to credit and finance.  The US can be a tough market if you don’t know what you’re doing and if you don’t have established credit.

1. Secure a good agent–preferably one that understands expats

There are lots of agents in LA; not all of them good, not all of them bad. Securing an agent is a whole topic in itself but you need to find an agent that understands you, your family and your needs.  That’s why I recommend asking someone for recommendations then secure one with whom you have a good relationship.

There are so many houses in LA and not all of them good.  You could spend a lot of time looking at places that remind you of your uni days (like we did) so choose wisely.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because your situation is going to be a little out of left-field (even for LA) so you need to make sure your agent is not only good, but is on your side.  Find someone that’s persuasive and affable. At the end of the day they need to go into bat for you–to convince your future landlord that you’re going to be a fantastic person/family to rent to.

My agent, Caroline Fleck from Caroline Fleck Real Estate, tells the story of how one agent got aggressive with her because her client didn’t accept a tenancy for her clients. “The last thing you want is an agent who is going to argue with her fellow agent. She should have sold her clients to me to take back to my client–that’s what I’d do.”

Subscriber Adam Halen who thanked me very much for my site as it helped him with decisions to move his family to LA says the same thing.

“Kate Sutton, our agent,  ultimately had to “vouch” for us as solid, trustworthy and a credit-worthy family. Having someone go in to bat for you, as an agent, has credibility and professionalism to it.”


2.  Be ready with the cash–and lots of it!

There’s no escaping this one. At least there’s rarely any escaping this.

You’ll need three months’ deposit upfront. Rent is not always cheap in LA so that can be a lot of cash upfront.

Remember, Americans rely on that stupid credit rating to help them work out if you’re a worthy tenant of not. If you don’t have a credit history in the US show them what you’re like in your home country. Show them you have the means to pay the rent so they’re not stuck with a mortgage without the rent coming in from you to pay it.


3.  Have lots of supporting documents available

On top of the huge deposit you may also have to show an American bank account with plenty of money in it (enough to carry you through for a number of months).  Sometimes landlords accept this in lieu of the deposit.  Even in our case with an amazing landlord they wanted the cash upfront.

You may also be able to show that you have decent funds that you can call on from your home country if you need to.

Another thing that can help your case is a letter from your employer showing that you’re coming to LA with a secured job and they’ll vouch for you.  This can’t hurt so ask your employer if they’ll vouch for you IN WRITING and if you can get it, provide it–even before they ask.

The bottom line is you won’t have much credit so you need to show as much financial info as possible–just give it all to them: pay stubs, tax returns, financial statements, references, a letter from your business manager, whatever it takes.

Remember, in the US everything revolves around that stupid credit rating so if you don’t have one yet you’ve got to show that you’re worth taking a chance on.

Caroline Fleck says, “Be open, honest & upfront. The more you show the more likely they are to have faith in you.”


4.  Write a letter

Personalise your application by writing a letter to your potential landlord.  Add a photo of your family.

Ask to meet the landlord in person. Even if they’re not up for it it shows that you’re all in.

When we applied I wrote to the Landlord saying we loved the house and could picture ourselves at home in it. I said that we rented out our houses at home in Australia so we know what it’s like to entrust your home to strangers.

If you are from overseas you won’t have a credit history.  Tell them why and what your credit is like back home.  You want them to trust that you are good for the rent and you won’t leave them with a mortgage to pay and no rent coming in to pay it.

When we met our landlord he said he was so grateful for that letter and was very happy to receive it and approve our application on the back of it.

It can work!


5.  Clean up your social media

Adam Halen also recommends cleaning up your social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn etc).  Sometimes you forget that you put your life out for everyone so make sure it says you and your family are amazing and will be great tenants.  Yes, that might mean taking down the photos of your wild going away party back at your house!


A couple of extra things

Consider furnished versus unfurnished. Furnished houses cost more but some people like to furnish houses with their excess furniture.  It could also help you if you don’t want to ship all your furniture over here.  And you may need furniture while your stuff makes its way over.

If you’re furnishing the house yourself there are plenty of rental companies to get you through the three months until your furniture to arrive.

During the hunt

Look up properties not selling and ask them if they’re interested in renting for 6-12 months.

With a lease you really need to work 2-3 weeks out, sometimes a month. Much longer than that might not work.  Do sus out market before hand but it’s highly likely that house you’ve fallen in love with won’t be available in three month’s time.  So either don’t fall in love or be prepared to secure it earlier than you first though.

We ended up doing just that–with not much on the market we were happy to find a house that we’d be happy to live in for a while.

Remember! You almost always end up staying longer than you think.  We ended up staying two years rather than one.

Either way good luck. It’s a real nightmare when you first come.  It will get easier I promise you!

xx It Started in LA xx


PS: Need help narrowing down an area to live in LA? Check out this post.


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