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Renewing my expired CA Driver's Licence | It Started in LA |
Moving to LA, Posts

Renewing my expired CA Driver’s Licence

Renewing my expired CA Driver’s Licence? (California but you know that!) Doesn’t it seem like only a few months ago I (finally) got my Californian driver’s license?

Well.  At home you can renew your license for 5 years or 10 years (5 years now if you’re over a certain age. Ugh).  Here (where, let’s face it, bureaucracy isn’t their strong point) they only give you a licence valid for the length of your Visa. Somehow though, even though my Visa is valid until next March my license was only valid until November.

I got a form in the mail telling me to fill in the blanks, provide a copy of my passport and my i94 and visa page in my passport.

Alas I never heard back and so you know what that meant?

Yup, it meant I had to go in and apply to renew my license.

Again you know what that meant don’t you? Yep, forms and queue.  Horrendous.

We were going on our road trip so it was important for me to get my license renewed.  Mr H was at home so could take over my carpool and I’d get up and join the DMV queue at 7AM (ish).

Trying to pack and get organized I needed to wash my hair.  My first instinct was to put a beanie on, suck it up and head over.  But with a bit of packing still to do, appointments banked up and precision timing required I decided the safest thing to do was to actually do my hair, pop on some eyeliner and finish the rest of my make up when I came home.

I head on down (still early enough) to join the queue.  There is always the longest queue at those DMVs it’s a nightmare.

So to share my pain with my fellow expats living in LA here you go.  Three steps to renew your Californian license.

Renewing my expired Driver’s Licence

This applies to renewing “in-between” times because it’s coinciding with your Visa date not the length of time they would have given you a license.

1.  Get in the queue early. Best to be there around 7/7:15 to get the shortest wait time.  Seriously.  If you don’t want to wait in the queue make an appointment, it saves so much time. (  Having said that sometimes you don’t have a chance as appointments can take weeks to wait for.

2.  Complete the form.  It is the same form as when you applied.  It’s called the DL44 and it must be the original form.

     Some things you’ll need to know or bring to get your temporary licence:

  •      Expired license
  •      i94
  •      Passport
  •      You’ll also need to know your Social Security number for the form (I know Americans know it by heart but I don’t).

3.  Wait your turn and they’ll process your form.

That may well be good information but here’s the number one tip I will leave you with:


Because they’re issuing you with a new license.  That means a new photo.

Oddly enough there was no fee to get you a new license.  (And on the positive how much cheaper are licenses are to get here?)

One more thing.  And this happened to my son who passed his test and hasn’t had his proper license yet (three months later).  And it happened to Mr H whose temporary license kept expiring and he had to continually follow up.  If you don’t get your license back you might need to call this number:

Legal Presence:  (916) 657 7445

I believe it might just jolt the system back into place and move your license along a bit.  That’s because our licences have to go through an extra step.  I was recommended to call the two weeks before the temporary one expires.

Good luck. You might just need it.

xx It Started in LA xx

My take on the 2015 Emmys Telecast
Celebrity, Movies and TV, My LA story, Posts

My round up of the Emmys 2015 telecast

I love the Emmys and I love TV. So it’s only fitting that I share my round up of the Emmys 2015 telecast. Last year I was lucky enough to go to the Creative Arts Emmys. As is the premise of my Blog, never in my wildest dreams as a very happy normal chick living the Sydney life expect to be strutting the Red Carpet amongst the cast of Orange is the New Black, Jon Voight and incredible talent that makes the TV industry go around. It’s crazy.

This year’s Emmys ceremony was great, I thoroughly enjoyed them and I love that it’s broken down over two separate ceremonies. It makes the main event go much quicker.

While I enjoyed most of Andy Sandberg as this year’s host can I am still mourning the loss of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. It will take a few more years til we get to their standard—if we do at all. They’re some pretty talented and funny women.

Andy opened strongly but it was a bit stop/start. His opening monologue was fine but not great.

It took a while to hit cruising speed but he definitely got more comfortable and relaxed as time went on, which is good.

To me, cruising speed was hit when he did his little “Girls” love scene impersonation—which is pretty funny even if you didn’t know the scene in question.

ICYMI here it is.

Important role of TV


The Oscars last year got slammed for “snubbing people of colour” but the Emmys did the opposite. I’m not sure it’s that the Emmys addressed or acknowledged people of colour but had the opportunity to award talent where it was due.

No one put it better than Viola Davis herself:

“The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy (or an Oscar) for roles that are simply not there.”

There have been many people commenting on social media saying, You won, you’re good, you deserve it but enough about the colour factor. Sorry, you can’t say that! Clearly to say what she said, to speak as openly and emotionally as she did, Viola Davis has been on a ride. Otherwise it wouldn’t be so from-the-heart as it was.

I also understand why they say “it shouldn’t be about colour”. BUT. America is very into defining people—men, women, black, Asian, native American, gay, straight, transgender and talking about Diversity. By labelling people America is its own worst enemy. It struck me almost as soon as I got here and I penned (so to speak) this post.

(And I’m not saying Australia is not guilty, we’ve had our own racist issues, which also embarrass me, but it comes from a different angle).

Maybe it’s easy for me to say but at the end of the day—when you look really closely—I’m not white middle America, I just act like I am. “White” that is. Clearly I’m not American (although I do see myself as evolving into an Ausmerican).

I act like I am white because I don’t see myself any differently. And I think that’s largely because I grew up in Australia, not America. I’m probably not really making a lot of sense but here’s the bottom line:

Shonda Rhimes, is a creative genius. Beyond genius. She’s like the Steven Bochco of the 2000s (am I showing my age?). When I first saw Grey’s Anatomy in Australia, I knew it was created by Shonda Rhimes but I had no idea she was black. It didn’t matter, why should it? When I first saw the shorts (trailer) for How To Get Away with Murder I saw a powerful performance by Viola Davis but I didn’t take special notice of the fact that she was black, she was just bloody amazing.

That should be the point. And (I think) that was Viola Davis’s point.

TV should be at the cutting edge of setting change. TV Shows have a shorter incubation period, cost less to make, and there is a large talent pool to choose from. And that’s why we love it so much and that’s why it’s so much edgier than movie-making at the moment.

And, the fact that every single drama nominated could clearly be the winner exemplifies that point.  And that every single comedy nominated could clearly be the winner. No one drama or comedy would have won that category and you would have said, “I don’t think they deserved it”.

I was like, “oh yeah, Game of Thrones deserves it.” Then I remember House of Cards and what an amazing season it was.  Downton Abbey, Homeland, OISTNB … Yep, they’re all over-the-top phenomenally good.

Donald Trump

On a lighter note it was good to see the Trump jokes out in force last night. Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her acceptance speech:

“What a great honour it must be for you to honour me tonight.

“Oh God, no! Donald Trump said that.”

On that note, shall we take a moment to say the women, to me, are rocking it as the stars of the show. The cast of Orange is the New Black, Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, JLD, Allison Janney, all the American Horror Story stars and guest stars. Good for them I say—now to get them all being paid the same as the blokes in the room ;-).

And, I wonder if we can now get Kanye to throw himself at Amy Schumer when he sees her on the Red Carpet.


All hail Amy Schumer.

For a full list of nominees and winners click here.


xx It Started in LA xx


Moving to LA, Posts

Getting my Californian Licence–part one (written test)

Californian law states that you must get a new driver’s licence within 10 days of getting here. Oops.

Mr H got his straight away but I chose the path of maximum procrastination.  There was a time where I thought I wouldn’t even get one.

But it’s time: Getting my Californian Licence–part one (the written test).

You can sign up for an appointment online but when I finally went to do this I came across this question: “are you new or transferring your licence from another State?” Well, no, I’m from overseas. Is Australia another state of America?

So I procrastinated and didn’t continue my search for an appointment. Then I heard all sorts of stories about how bad it can be to get your actual licence—Australians must sit the “behind-the-wheel” test as well as the written one—so that meant more procrastinating.

Then I thought I’d do it with a friend and that would encourage me to get it. We procrastinated together.  Still no licence.

Then there was the time Bruno Mars ran into me in his white Bentley convertible just down the road from my place (ok it wasn’t really Bruno Mars but he reminded me of him and he was the loveliest guy so) and I panicked.  Thankfully we resolved the situation on the spot but now I was becoming unhinged. If I don’t have a Californian licence I can be “cited” and have my ve-he-cle impounded and we don’t want that.  Maybe I should think about getting my licence.

My next kick-in-the-butt was getting my licence before my nearly 15-yeear-old could get his permit.  Time is running out.  I’ve finally run out of excuses and we’re finally doing this.

Step 1: Getting an appointment

Mr H (sick of my procrastination) filled in the online appointment request, got me a time and I started studying. How hard can it be? There are apps and online tests you can take to prepare you for the test. I used the app and it put me off because of questions like:

“A traffic light is red, but a peace officer is signaling you to continue driven. What should you do?”


Well first of all you can tell me if you’ve got a speech impediment and then you can tell me what the fluck a peace officer is.

(No, it wasn’t a typo, apparently a peace officer is a gentle term for police officer—the fuzz—cops. Why don’t you just say that?)


Then there was this one:

“A green arrow showing a red light means…”

It’s a red arrow.  Isn’t it?  No.  Is it just me or is it questionable how they phrase these questions?

I think I need an American lesson before I take this test. Thank god for those practice tests.

The app looks like this and is available on the App store–I highly recommend it!  It’s also a website so you can practice online and you don’t have to use the app.

Here's what the app looks like that I found so helpful--minus the typos and stuff of course!

Here’s what the app looks like that I found so helpful–minus the typos and stuff of course!

Step 2: Going to the DMV

Like all public services (I use the term service loosely) there’s a queue a mile long to get in. These places make me feel like I’m in a third-world country. There are people going everywhere, no one is exactly sure where to go and what to do and it’s very, very low-tech. There are the usual side conversations—people who have struck up conversations with each other in the queue. Normal America is far from the picture Hollywood gives you. In fact, I want my money back.

In a Hollywood backstreet with a view of the Hollywood sign the DMV brings together people of all walks of life. There, as if to provide entertainment, are two homeless drunks swigging on their wine (at 9:30AM–well they are homeless drunks and it is 5:00 somewhere in the world), poking fun at each other and surprisingly keeping to themselves. Whatever it was they were doing kept themselves amused for the longest time.


After spending 15 minutes in the long queue that snaked out the door and around the corner I texted Mr H to tell him his iPad ran out of battery so no more practising while I wait. Thank god I did because apparently there’s a separate queue inside for appointments. Nobody told me that. I even sent the girl behind me in the queue to check if there are separate lines. All they said was move back, move back, we need the room in the doorway, please move back.

After the false start I found one of the last remaining English forms and filled it in while I waited and was served.  (You can now pre-complete the form online–wonders never cease! You’re welcome!)

“Excuse me, excuse me,” said the lady pushing in behind me. “I have a question.”

“I’m sorry maam you’ll have to wait at the end of the line.”

“I just have a question.”

“I’m sorry maam,” said my lady while the question-asking lady got abused by the lady next to my lady serving the (gigantic) queue without appointments.

“She’s so stressed,” my lady says to me.

“It’s busy in here,” I said (I wanted to say it’s a shitfight in here but not sure that would’ve gone down too well). “Is it always like this?”

“Always,” she sighed.

“Oh my god you poor darlings,” I blurted out.

She smiled, sensed my sympathy and immediately felt better. I meant it. I was bracing myself to make sure she found my appointment slot, I had the right ID, filled in the form properly and could move to the next step because the last thing I wanted to do was come back any sooner than I needed to. No wonder discussion groups say stay clear of the DMV—it’s a nightmare.

The thing that continues to astound me is the patience of the Americans. They push to ask questions and find out what’s going on but they wait in line and do as they’re told. The scene at that DMV was one you can imagine on a news bulletin—people going everywhere and one lone madman gets filled with rage, can’t handle it anymore, gets out his gun and starts shooting. (There’s a metal detector & bag check at the Social Security & Tax offices but not one here). But they all do what they told don’t answer back and sit and wait. That’s why Americans are in shock when a madman does come out shooting. I know that much now at least. Still you never know, so I sit down and stare at that screen waiting for my number to be called to tell me where to go.

Because I’m getting older now I survey the windows, check out where people are being called to and sus out where I might be directed.  I need to get this right.

Step 3: It’s my turn

That wait wasn’t so bad—especially after you’ve spoken to the people next to you. So very American. The lady was really very nice (they’re not usually known for being nice or helpful). She entered my details into the computer, got someone to cross-check them, took my work permit (which was apparently a better from of ID than my Australian passport or driver’s licence).

Update: you now need to show proof of residency so you should bring in two letters/bills/bank statements with your name and address on them. For kids doing their permits who don’t have anything in their name, so long as you can prove you are their parent then something with your name on it will suffice. This isn’t always easy for expats like me as most bills are in my husband’s name. It’s just another reason you have to try to get stuff in your name.

They only took cash or debit card so for once in my life I had cash—thank god says this credit card queen. Anyway, at $33 it’s not the $100-and-something in Australia. Oh, and they took my right thumb print too.

“Would you like your test in English?”

“Yes please, unless you have one in Australian.”

No … oops, sorry. Nice but still no sense of humour.

Step 4: Photo time

“Head over to counter 22 Miss and good luck.”

Great, but I didn’t realise I was getting my photo taken. Cool, I get ID for my next trip out of Burbank where they reject my Australian driver’s licence as a form of ID.

Update: from October 1, 2020 a standard California-issued licence will no longer be an acceptable form of ID; your licence needs to be upgraded (read: go back into DMV to be a Real ID). Ugh.

Place your right thumb on the scanner then stand and get your picture taken.


Done.  I like that step.

Step 5: Test time

You get three chances (I didn’t know that until a friend told me on my way in) so it’s pretty hard to fail. Damn Mr H scaring me into thinking I’d fail. Still I was glad because some of those questions are so dodgy and the likelihood of me coming back if I failed was pretty slim so we had to do this.

I must one of the first to do the test on a touch-screen computer because most people I know still had to circle paper-based forms. How novel.  Once I went through the questions I went back to the desk to tell them if I passed or failed.  Do you trust me?  How do you know if I didn’t pass?  Well I wasn’t about to test that, I passed!

They printed an extra bit of paper gave everything back and told me to schedule my “behind-the-wheel” test.

“Do I get my photo?” I asked.  “No that’s it.”

Bugger, I thought I got a nice card with my photo on it saying learner’s permit.  Nope I have to wait for my actual licence for that.


Yes my friends, I have my permit. I have until this time next year to sit my “behind-the-wheel” test. Don’t’ think Mr H will let me wait that long somehow. Yep, time to face my fears and have a Nike moment.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: You can find Part two here!

Updated January 2019 with online application and RealID info
My reality
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

JLo, David Duchovny & Forrest Gump

I’ve been neglectful again because I had friends in town last week then a busy weekend catching up.  But showing friends around LA is the very reason this Blog started–to share my surreal life–so I can’t abandon ship on that.

It was a full-on “Only-in-LA” week so I thought I should share it with you.

It started on Saturday when friends landed in LA.  We went out to catch some lunch at Urth Caffe on Melrose and do a bit of people watching.  It never disappoints and it’s always busy.

One of my favourite phrases when I’m out is “Oh,” said with great drama and excitement, “he (or she) is someone.”  It’s true many people have that look about them.  And I probably “see” lots of people out but just don’t recognise them.  But as useless as I am at identifying people, the paparazzi never fail to impress me.  One of my favourite things I look out for–maybe more than celebrities–is the paparazzi trying to snap that pic that might pull them in a small fortune.

Hiding behind the bushes was a pap doing his best to stay in cognito whilst trying to pap a pic.  I looked and looked but couldn’t see who he had his eye on.  Wonder if he got the pic he needed.  Welcome to LA Andrew & Chris!

The next night we had dinner planned at one of my favourite West Hollywood restaurants.  With one pap out the front I felt like I’d let the side down; this would be a quiet night.  We sat down at our table straight away (unheard of) and it was really quiet at the bar.  Given the request was a bit of “Celeb Spotting” I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t delivered–or didn’t look like delivering.

“Oh, it’s such a shame,” I started saying.  “A couple of weeks ago Chris Noth–Mr Big–was here.”

“Oh, love him,” said my friend.

“I know, me too.  I’d love to see him.” No sooner had I said it but there at the bar was the man himself.  “Mr Big” sitting at one of the bar tables.  Sigh.

“Oh my god, oh my god,” I said, “it’s him.”

How cool we all thought immediately giving him the once over like he was there for the sole purpose of giving us someone to dissect.

“He looks good.”

“He needs a shave.”

“He’s grayer than I imagined.”

“He’s still hot.”

Just getting into the running commentary and he was saved only by JLo walking in.  Yes.  JLo.

“Don’t look now guys but JLo has just walked in.”

“That’s not JLo,” says MR H.

“Is it Beyonce?” asks our mate.

“Oh no, you’re right,” I say, “It’s not JLo.  Bummer.”

Until common sense prevailed and my girlfriend announces, “Of course it’s JLo.  Who else looks that flawless and perfect?

“We’re not in Glen Iris (Melbourne) or Lilyfield (Sydney), we’re in West Hollywood and you’ve seen her here before so you know she comes here!  How can it be anyone BUT JLo?”

Well yes, now that you put it like that.  Good point.

As she’s escorted to her table it becomes clear that she’s going to be seated in the booth DIRECTLY OPPOSITE US.  We only had one way to look and that was straight at her.  Poor us.  Our poor boys.  There goes any decent conversation for the rest of the night.  (Actually, you’re right.  Poor boys nothing).

And yes, there were a few more paps waiting outside when we left.  I wonder who tips them off.

Cut forward a couple of days and we managed to arrange to get out to Paramount to have a quick look at the sound studios at Mr H’s work.  Even if we don’t get to see anything I at least know my way around the lot and can conduct a mini tour of my own.

Well there we are in the “ADR” room (Automatic Dialogue Replacement) and I look up at the talent who’s on a break and recording some lines.  I look again.  And again.  And again because I can’t quite work it out.  It looks like David Duchovny.  With make up on.  I look again.  He catches me (again) but I don’t care because it’s not him but I need to know WHO it is.

Meanwhile right next to me I’m completely oblivious to my friends–one apparently having heart palpitations, the other apparently trying to get my attention so we can make eye contact and telepathically give each other the thumbs up.  We’re.  Standing.  In.  The.  Same.  Room.  As.  David.  Duchovny.

Nope.  I’m too busy checking out the David Duchovny look-a-like, looking at him up and down and trying to work out who he is and how remarkably he has some of his mannerisms as David Duchovny.

Again, we’re in Hollywood, David Duchovny has started shooting a new series Aquarius on the Paramount lot (that one of my friends is producing) and he has make-up on but it doesn’t occur to me that that guy IS David Duchovny.  I don’t deserve to live in LA.

Later as we’re driving a cart around the lot who should follow us but the man himself.  My friends were sitting at the back of the cart (looking out) and had no choice but to look straight at him.  Lucky them.  I wonder what he was thinking: “who are these people I keep bumping into”.  Or of course there’s always the fact he didn’t notice us at all.  Nah … not possible.

Welcome to LA Andy & Jess.

Forrest bench

Forrest Gump’s bench now sits at the Paramount lot | It Started in LA |

Shanghighs and Shanghlows

I could end the story there.  But I won’t.  I’ve joined in an Instagram project called #myreality where we’re posting a pic a day on various topics.  It’s been fun to be part of and gets me thinking about what pics I can post and also what pics I’ve already taken that I can share.  (You can see my pics on my Facebook page in an album I’ve created of the same name).  And if you’re not already following me on Instagram I’m @itstartedinla.

So it got me thinking I must be giving the wrong impression about #myreality.  Yes of course I see amazing things (straight from movie sets) daily and get to do lots of fun things I never dreamt of only 15 months ago.  But.  And there is a but.  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about FOMO.  As settled as I am here in LA, I’m unsettled.  I like our house but it’s only supposed to be temporary.  I hate renting, I want to buy a nice house (not unlike the one I plan to build some day–one day–at home).

The kids and I have been chatting and if life is meant to be here for us for a while then we’re ready for it.  We’re prepared to embrace it and stay.  But Mr H doesn’t feel the same way.  I’m pretty sure he’s in denial.  He’s job is here, he’s happy here but he doesn’t want that lightbulb moment where he thinks he can lay down some roots here and settle for a while.

And so, life as an expat is about the highs and the lows.  There was a saying in Shanghai and it was exactly that: the Shanghighs and the Shanglows.  Some choose to dwell on the lows, we try to focus on the highs.  And I don’t really expect much (any) sympathy from you.  But when you read this in your house that you call your home think of me living in a sort of limbo land and count your lucky stars because with your life comes family, friends and security.


Not falling but “Fall”.  Because we always end on a positive note it’s starting to feel more like Fall here now: it’s getting a little cooler and the Halloween decorations are out.  Also, the air freshners and candles are scented for the “holidays” in a glorious combination of cinnamon, cloves and “apple pie”.  It reminds me of this time last year when we were newbies and were trying to navigate around town.  That smell reminds me of home and security and family. So I think we’re lucky the kids and I can picture ourselves staying here another few years and we can gently let go of the “smells of home” that lure us back.  I think we’ve come a long way.  As unsettling as that is it is somehow very settling.

And of course the start of Fall means Halloween, people have their decorations out and the “spirit” is out there.  It’s a fun time of the year.


With Fall comes Halloween | It Started in LA |


Happy Fall–or in many of your cases happy Spring!

xx It Started in LA xx


Post Production Sound
Movies and TV, Posts

Business as Usual

We came into last week with a big gigantic thud, hitting the ground rather unexpectedly because summer just came to an end for us.  Sure of course we knew the dates but time just flew by so quickly we were completely unprepared.  But we rallied and here we are.  Already this morning I got the, “I don’t want to go to school” from my 14-year-old son to which I immediately replied, “It’s a bit early for that mate!”  It’s true though it’s hard to get momentum.

You know what I mean? What to make for lunch? What to cook for dinner? (again) Which activity do you need to be at?  How does one person get two people in two different spots at one time?

But the biggest killer for me is When will I start that diet?  (The answer is yesterday but I’m still looking for an easier option: read my head isn’t into it).

So yes, we’re back in full swing.

I wrote last week about my daughter’s party: Aussie style with a twist of 90210 and a Hollywood chaser.  It was a huge success.  Everything went down like a treat and the girls were extremely gracious and appreciative of the party.  That pleased me to no end.  Many of these girls have just come back from summer in Europe, camp and stays at incredible hotels yet they were genuinely happy and impressed with the party we threw.

The power of sound

Of course they were, the facility my husband has is amazing (not his personally you’ll understand).  I don’t know anything technical about post production except the tiny glimpses I’ve been privy to but when I sat in that sound stage watching a movie I was blown away by the sound and the impact it had on our viewing pleasure.  Apart from the amazingly comfy lounge chairs and side tables for lollies and drinks and the movie itself the girls also noticed the sound.  And it wasn’t one of those movies in which sound plays a crucial role.  It was just that sound is so powerful, and the facility is soooo incredible that you notice it.  Kapow!

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited back to watch Get On Up, the story about James Brown.  Now that movie does rely on sound.  What an experience.  Watching a well-made movie in one of the best sound stages in Hollywood (so the world) is an absolute privilege.  So much so that Princess Gwendolyn here is hooked.

I highly recommend you see the movie–preferably in a theatre or a good quality home cinema.  I’m sure it’s available on M-Go. (I for one am pleased I saw it in a theatre).

At the start it took a little concentration as the movie jumped from many different stages in his life.  But once it settled down then the story  was off.  There was so much I didn’t know or understand about James Brown’s life.  I knew he spent time in prison, for example, but I didn’t know he had a rough childhood or that he shared his father’s problem of beating his wife.  I found it terribly confronting but also incredibly real.  (James Brown also reminds me of one of my good mates and my Uni days so listening to the music–which is all his original music–brought back many memories).


I’ve spent a bit more time at my husband’s company in the last couple of weeks and have had the opportunity to see a little about what goes on behind the scenes.  We all know it takes a few months to shoot a movie and we all know that there’s quite a bit of editing that needs to be done to pull the story together and the sound track needs to be added but there’s so much more to the process.

Take colour for example.  My husband’s company has one of the best (arguably the best) colourist in the business.  He does all the Marvel movies.  It’s easy to see how colour plays a key role in a movie when you watch Guardians of the Galaxy, still evident when you watch The Giver but perhaps not at all noticeable when you watch a movie like Get On Up.

Yet every movie that comes into post-production needs to be coloured.  It has sort of a washed-out look and the filmmakers have a hue in mind when they colour the final version that sets the look, feel and tone of the film.  TV too (which they refer to as Broadcast).

Incredible when you think about it.  That same colourist will most often then go on to colour the DVD and Netflix/M-Go version too.  That’s a lot of painstaking detail.

Going to the movies

This all got me thinking: why don’t people go to the movies to see movies?  Or at least why aren’t as many people going to the movies to watch movies?  Guilty.  If I’m on a date night I actually want to talk to my husband so the movies are out for me.  And if we’re having a family night in because we can’t be bothered going anywhere then there’s no better service than M-Go or Netflix for watching the latest flicks or catching up on one you missed.

My family is also old enough now that going to the movies can be all together again-it’s not about getting away from the kids it’s about enjoying it with them.  We went to see Guardians of the Galaxy together and it was a fun thing thing to do.  I love comparing notes and thoughts at the end.

It’s so much better at the movies that I wonder how I can share my new-found joy with everyone else and encourage them to return to the movies.  I wonder if I put my marketing hat back on how I could encourage people back to the movies.

I remember when DVDs first came out… (ahem excuse me Video recorders if you don’t mind) they said the cinemas were dead.  And for a time people opted to rent a video and stay home.  But DVD shops (or the old Video Ezy) are not around anymore yet movie theatres are.

Is this just another dip or a trend?  I can’t see how people will stop going to the movies altogether when you have huge screens, amazing sound and create an experience.  Movie theatres need to get smarter and I think studios need to do their bit too.

At home Hoyts and Village are doing their bit by offering the Gold Class experience.  But sometimes these experiences are a bit like flying business class: perfect if you’re upgraded or someone else is paying but you’d rather keep the difference for the (exhorbitantly priced) choc tops and popcorn.

Dolby has a new sound system known as Atmos where speakers are located in the ceiling as well as around you so if a plane is taking off it feels like it’s taking off over your head.  These experiences can help lure would-be theatre-goers back to the theatres because there’s a profound difference in quality between what’s offered at home and what’s offered in the cinemas.

I’m going to try out some luxury cinemas in LA and report back.  I’m also going to do my best to see more movies.

My little slice of Hollywood

As I sat in the Sound stage last Saturday afternoon, the girls with their throw rugs covering them watching the movie intently, us in the rear couches designed for movie makers to conference and share their opinions I’ve finally decided what I’d like to do if I changed jobs.

Comfy couches

This is where we sat on Saturday to watch the movie (the girls were up the front)


Yep, if I got the good fortune to change careers I’d like to do something in entertainment.  My memory is hopeless so I could never learn the lines even if I wanted to be an actress but I’d like to sit on those couches and make movies.  I guess the closest thing to that is my sitcom: It Started in LA.  Best I keep working.

Yep, it’s back to business here in Hollywood.  As you were.

xx It Started in LA xx

My LA story, Posts

Our first US summer has come to an end

That’s right, sadly our first US summer has come to an end.  I know many people that would be jumping for joy at the thought of their kids back to school and out of their hair.  Not yours truly.

I love the lack of routine school brings: sleeping in, not having to worry about getting home in time for school pick-up–or even being at school to pick up; no car pool queues and no worrying about what to pack for lunch.

But alas like all good things in life they must come to an end.  And there is always an upside:  I’ve missed you!  I’ve missed my Blogs and have so much to tell you it feels like I haven’t caught up with my best friend for ages.  (Which is true too).

Where do I start? Let me start by telling you that summer was great.  We had one of our good friends come at the start of summer and that meant showing them around the LA we know and love and a couple of roadtrips.  It was with them we conquered Yosemite and then drove to Vegas via Mammoth and Death Valley.  It seems like a lifetime ago.

The day after they left my mum and brother came and five days after they left my in-laws came.  In between we had a great visit from fellow Blogger UK Desperate Housewife of USA.  And that my friends is summer done and dusted.  We estimate five or so days with just ourselves for the whole nearly three months.  No wonder I’ve neglected you and I am exhausted!

There were so many highlights it actually feels like a bragfest if I go through them all with you.  But what that makes me realise, once again, is how bloody lucky we are to be living here doing the sorts of things we’re doing.

Which brings me to how this Blog was born.  You know when you read someone famous talk about the struggle to make it big and you sit back and think, “wow, did you what? Good for you. How did you manage to achieve that?” And it’s hard to imagine them as everyday normal people.

OK, not that I’m saying I’m all over the mags and hugely successful by any stretch but I wonder if I’ve conveyed to you that just over 12 months ago I was a normal, happy person getting up at 5am many mornings a week to take my son swimming then go for a run myself before I had to go back home to help my daughter get ready to take her to the bus to start her day.  Then work or go to the gym, grocery shop, manage the soccer and waterpolo teams and be ready for the kids to come home and do their afternoon activities, dinner etc. Blissfully happy as you can only be when you live in Australia unaware (fundamentally) that there are normal people living similar lives to me in Beverly Hills 90210.

Until my hubby got a call about moving there.

So of course we are constantly pinching ourselves and wanting to share a glimpse into how life can suddenly change for an unsuspecting Aussie family like us.  I’ve had nothing but great support for my blog but I do wonder if people realise that we weren’t “destined” for this life nor were we looking for it per se; it just happened.  Apart from the usual teenage stuff neither of our goals were to make it big in Hollywood–or make a go of it here.  Such is the wonder of life sometimes.  That’s what makes our story so cool.

So … apart from a few travel stories over the coming weeks I’ll share with you tidbits from our summer (told in the spirit of this Blog) in LA including :

  • Heading to our first Bar Mitzvah–90210 style
  • Mr H & I at the Creative Emmys
  • The kids and I at the Teen Choice Awards
  • Brushes with fame out and about in LA.

What’s on this week?

With the kids reluctantly packed up to school for another year and having the house to ourselves again it’s obviously time to focus on It Started in LA.  Aside from that I have a mountain (and I mean mountain) of ironing.

(I don’t mind ironing because I have a system: I record my favourite shows–and with M-Go or Netflix I don’t even need that–and I watch them while I iron.  It passes the time nicely and I have a great excuse for watching TV.  High on my list, if you’re interested, are Orange is the New Black and Scandalwhich we saw being shot when we first arrived in LA and had no idea how big it or the stars were.  I’ve since added Sons of Anarchywhich is tough because it’s up to season bazillion), Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad so it’s just as well I have a mountain of ironing.  Wait, did I mention Mad Men and House Of Cards? No? You get the picture).

Plus I want to get out and meet more people to start my new series, “Profiles” and trying to get on set to get a taste for that aspect of LA life. And of course I need to start planning our next holiday.  Busy huh?

Birthday parties 90210 style

In the meantime I’m party planner for my daughter’s up-and-coming 12th birthday party.  It’s been an eternity (according to her) since she’s had a party and she’s picked this year and turning 12 to have one.

Sigh for me.  And Mr H.  I’m sure it would be the same in Australia but pin the tail on the donkey, bringing in a clown or even an at-home dance party don’t seem to cut it anymore.

What do you do for a girl who is practically last in her class to have a party and everyone else has pulled out the big-gun ideas?  With a lot of tossing up and negotiation we decided on a screening of the movie The Giver (a book my daughter and her class studied last year that I also read and loved) at Mr H’s state-of-the-art “Viewing Rooms” at his sound stage on one of the studio lots.

Sounds flash huh?  I thought so but there was a little skeptical worry that everyone has access to such an amazing opportunity that it wouldn’t be special.  Lucky she realised that living here does not necessarily mean everyone has access to it and we’re on.  We’re all on board and I have to deliver a party that’s 2040 with a twist of 90210 and a Hollywood chaser.

Three key differences between parties 90210 style and 2040 style:

  1. The key difference that’s highly evident is that there are no lolly bags.  That could be a good thing I hear you say except they are replaced with a more upmarket version and called a “party favour”.  Party favours can be anything from a gift card to your favourite store (with the 2040 present budget) to a kit filled with fabulous goodies also equal to or greater than the 2040 present budget (or maybe I was just a little on the scroogey side?).
  2. We’ve upped the anti.  That’s not to say it’s not happening at home but I don’t think it’s happening across the board.  While all very gorgeous some of the parties my daughter has been to include lunching at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel, High Tea at Le Montage, a private nails party at a nail salon, dinner and pool parties with ice-cream vans and all the bells and whistles required to keep some 20 girls amused for a few hours.
  3. Catering.  There is no sign of party pies and sausage rolls nor of fairy bread and for that I think we should all have a minute’s silence.  No sign of lolly bags either but we’re changing that with a “candy station” to get us through the movie.

From my son’s perspective there were hardly any parties this year giving way for more intimate affairs with a couple of mates over.  Except one girl who had a massive party at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel–booked out for Saturday night.  That one was quite the affair!

I’ve changed my thinking a little from when we first came.  While I’m not changing who we are or what we believe in I am accommodating things 90210 style.  A wise person (my mum) told me over the holidays that I shouldn’t make the kids stand out as being totally different to everyone else just because I want to stick to how we do things at home.  Her view was that (especially as you get into the teenage years) it’s good to be a bit under the radar and kids don’t particularly like to stand out as being especially different.  That’s not unlike what one of my school friends told me (reminded me of) when she came to visit earlier this year either.  So I’ve wiggled.

I think it’s good advice and I’ll continue to monitor how it means we navigate life 90210 style.

Enjoy the start of Spring Southern Hemispherers while we adjust to Autum (sorry Fall) here.  Thankfully LA’s weather doesn’t really change very much so the forecast is for sunshine and sunshine followed by sunshine.

xx It Started in LA xx


Brangelina, Dance moms & the Princess

I don’t know where to start. I’ve had a massively LA weekend.

I spent the last half of last week preparing for a “casual” barbie (BBQ/grill) on Saturday night as Mr H invited his team over.  This week one year ago we hopped on a plane for our “look-see” trip to see if we could get the kids into a school at the 11th hour (when applications had been closed for months & there was “no room at the Inn” in 99.98% of LA’s private schools) and find somewhere to live. So it also marks Mr H’s one-year anniversary in Hollywood.  Wow how time flies.

It’s so interesting talking to people that have grown up in LA and worked in “the business” their whole lives.  I’ve made my pitches so hoping that I’ll get to go on more Sets and go to some fun events over the next year (all solely for Blog research of course!).

What does Brangelina have to do with me hosting a casual barbie that I spent 2.5 days prepping for I hear you ask?  I’m so glad you asked.  You see last night I had some of their wine.  That’s right, I drank from Brad’s cup (metaphorically speaking of course).  I’m either going to be waaay ahead of the news or way behind but here goes.  At their “summer residence” in Provence (which also happens to be a “wine estate”) Brad & Ange teamed up with one of the regions finest winemakers to come out with a cheeky Rosé–Chateau Miraval–and it’s really quite nice.  Let me give you the tip it didn’t last long at this gathering.  Here’s a bit of a story from the LA Times if you’re interested and here’s a review from Decanter magazine.

Chateau Miraval

A rose amongst the beers: Chateau Miraval by Brad Pitt & his partner


The Princess

But that wasn’t the highlight of the night (I know, you’re shocked aren’t you?) No, the highlight for the night was getting my princess back (that would be princess the adjective/verb not Princess the noun).

Having some 30 people at our place on the weekend made me call out for help in the way of back-up in the back-office (ie. the kitchen).  One of my gorgeous friends arranged for a friend of her housekeeper’s to come and help me.  It came as a complete surprise to me (because this never happens) but I was so super organised I didn’t need her to come as early as I’d booked her.  I told her to just hang and gave her the rundown on the night (when guests are due, when we plan to serve food, dessert etc).  With that I went to get my make-up and shoes on.  I came back into the kitchen to find her cleaning it–I mean really cleaning it.  She moved everything and wiped underneath and put it all back, cleaned the splashback (backsplash–how funny we use the same word but backwards).  The bottom line? she cleaned places that haven’t been cleaned for a while!  It was all I could do to get down on my knees in front of her and hail her for being the Saviour of my world.

You’ll recall one of my first Blog posts was asking the question whether or not I do the very LA thing of getting a housekeeper.  My final decision was not to because it seemed like my postcode jacked the prices up and because I had time I’d rather keep that money to get my nails or my hair done or have a massage.

Well nine months on and it ain’t working.  You might be surprised to hear but this Blog takes up a lot of my time and after tennis, running the kids around for waterpolo training three nights a week and dance once a week there is not enough time for me to clean the house the way it should be cleaned.

Enter Bertha, saviour of my world.  She will now be coming every week to save me from the dust and grime and get my house in pristine shape.  And she’s not trying to rip me off. Can’t wait!

Very LA

There are a few more things I’ve learnt this weekend about living in LA since my post “Nine things I’ve learnt about living in LA for nine months“.  The first is the whole RSVP thing.  Apparently the trend here is not to RSVP.  Who knows? a better offer might come along and they’ll be stuck trying to back out of the previous commitment in favour of the better party (but later invite).  (This isn’t true for the gathering we had BTW, everybody was very un-LA for our barbie),

The second is the concept of “eat and run”.  We know this to be true of restaurants.  Totally the opposite of what we do in Australia–linger over the meals and when you’re done order another bottle of wine and sit and chat without food getting in the way.

But apparently it’s also true when you invite people over.  We served skewered prawns (of course) and chicken ala Filipino street food and I think many people thought that was the extent of the meal.  Time was getting on but we didn’t realise people were “wrapping up” and getting ready to hit the road.  We hadn’t served mains or dessert yet.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a criticism, it’s simply one of those lost in translation moments.  And it was the people at our party–those leaving–that pointed it out to me.  “Welcome to LA baby,” was the comment, “this is what we do”.  Too funny.

So, I was left with 30 steaks, I lost count of the number of sausages, we still didn’t finish the prawn & chicken skewers and we had four huuuge salads.  And that’s before I put the desserts out of mini cheesecakes, chocolate mousses in mason jars (don’t you just love mason jars?) and one perfect (if I do say so myself) Pavlova.  We’ve got food coming out of our everythings.  What am I going to do with it all–where’s Oz Harvest when you need it?

Thankfully not everyone left but there was another mass exodus after mains (entree in the US) and before dessert.


An Australian favourite: Palova

Chokky mouse

Mini Chocolate mousses in Mason jars–genius!


Back to the eat-&-run-thing though I sort of get it.  Many of our guests drove for up to an hour to come to our barbie.  That’s a long way to come and drink one or two drinks for the night because they have to drive home.

Dance Moms

Sunday saw me change gears as my 11-year-old daughter had her dance recital–her first LA gig.  The beauty of living in LA is your dance teacher is someone who’s not only a professional but has danced at a really high level.  The concert was incredible, the dancers … well, watch this space … and my daughter had me beaming with pride.  The other great thing about it was that the teachers danced a number.  What a treat to see professional dancers doing what they love but also sharing their talent with future generations.  Yes, I cried a number of times through the afternoon, thanks for asking.

Nothing like Dance Moms right? Not at all but I couldn’t shake the vision and voices in my head of Abby Lee and those mothers.  The reason I’m bringing it up though is because I was blown away by the wolf-whistling and woohoo-ing by the audience.  Oh they were getting into it–clapping along with songs, whistling, singing out.  I was back on Oprah, or Dr Phil, or my PA (Parent Association) meeting.  No meekly sitting back watching passively, no the audience was right into it.  Love it, I think it’s contagious.

This week we’re in “finals” mode then by the end of next week we’ll be on summer holidays.  Two months of fun. Yippee!

Have a great week and be thankful if you’re not in “finals” mode!

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: See if you can work out the very Hollywood meaning of the pic–I joked about being very Hollywood offering Coke in the bathroom of our party and lots of people didn’t get it.  Maybe they were fibbing?!
Tongue in cheek only; a bit of fun!

Posts, Soapbox

Can we laugh at ourselves? I mean really laugh at ourselves?

Can we laugh at ourselves, meaning Australians , British, American, South Africans, Chinese whatever race you are?  Can we take it when another race has a go at us?  (Hopefully it’s a go at us in jest rather than in spite I hasten to add).

I ask this question because yesterday I was entertained by one of the Bloggers I follow posting an article on her Facebook page, “20 weird things that Americans don’t realise make them weird.”

I thought it was funny, she clearly thought it was funny or she wouldn’t have shared it.  But the responses she got shocked me.  I’m sure she wasn’t expecting that otherwise she may not have posted it.

Before we turn this into a “see that’s why I don’t like Facebook” bitchfest let’s move on from that for the sake of the story.  I happen to love Facebook.  For me it does more good than bad.

You see, lots of people hopped on and got really defensive.  They put their hands on their heart and stood up for themselves.  I’m wondering if it was just me who laughed it off or whether others could laugh it off as well.

By blogging about this I sincerely hope I don’t offend my American friends because that’s definitely not my aim.  I didn’t even share it on Facebook after seeing the barrage of comments and discussion it incited on her page.

Comments like “weird to whom?” “Everyone’s definition of weird is different.”  Of COURSE it is.  That’s the whole point.  Weird is something that goes both ways.  America’s love for canned cheese is weird to us Aussies (& Brits) and most likely our LACK of canned cheese is weird to them.  Newsflash: weird isn’t actually all that bad, it could be a good thing.

Then a person really went on the defense saying “Ah, do the damn math(s) in your head,” (in response to #3 why doesn’t the price on items here include  tax–why isn’t it the final price).  “If you’re living in that state you should know what your sales tax is,” she went on to say.  Isn’t that the point?  Why SHOULD we do the math in our head?  We’re not going to pay that price, they’re going to collect the TOTAL so why not list the full price?  It IS weird.  To us.  Because we’re not used to it (and neither should we get used to it).  We’ve seen it done our way and seen it done their way and we’re happy to give our brains a rest!  And do it our way.

America is a smart country; a) they get lots of tourists who don’t necessarily know you add tax or the tax rate for that state (or which state they’re in from one day to the next) and b) you can see other countries put the price including tax wouldn’t someone wake up and go, “World’s Best Practice, that’s so much easier, let’s change the way we do things.”  Change the bloody way you price things!

I digress again because that’s not the reason I decided to Blog about it either.

No, the reason I decided to Blog about it is because I read this story (which I’d been avoiding clicking into for days) about a CNN report taking the piss out of the New Zealand welcome for William, Kate & George (to me, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to you) on their recent royal tour.

I think we as Australians can laugh at ourselves–we’re a small country who does pretty well at sport, we’ve got some really talented actors and creative guys in Hollywood, not too bad at business and we have a LOT of bogans.  Our most successful comedy shows are those where we take the piss out of typical Australians (bogans or not).

But watching that CNN story made me cringe.  I’m not even from New Zealand and by the way Australians (as a rule) aren’t even supposed to like New Zealanders and this still made me cringe.

So what’s the difference between the San Francisco Globe article and the CNN story?  I think it’s that the CNN story seemed so condescending and ill-informed.

The journalist issued a half-assed apology which said we all got it wrong because she “does humour and satire and maybe we just didn’t get it”.  But I’m not sure it was the right approach.  Save it for Letterman sweetie, or the Comedy Factory.

OK, step back a minute, it’s not many people that greet the future King & Queen of England showing his (mighty taut) bum.  Lucky him.  Lucky Kate.  But, let’s face it that wasn’t why he was showing her his ass.

I wrote a piece last week about racism in America.  My daughter chuckles at school about how everyone seems quick to say, “racist much”.  They’re so aware of saying the right thing.  So why poke fun of the New Zealand culture and heritage.  Racist much.

I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot if a New Zealand journo poked fun at an “Native American” custom what reaction that would get.  CNN might get the experts in for that one (and hopefully give a rest to the “breaking news” coverage of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight.  Meow).

I don’t agree with everything in the Mamamia story either, I think in their own country Americans ARE culturally sensitive (as I wrote about last week maybe too much).  BUT did we have a right to get defensive about the CNN story but not the San Francisco Globe story?

I’d like to quote the last two paras of the article because it sums it up nicely:

“Just because an event is different from what you are used to or outside your prism of experience, doesn’t mean it is something to be laughed at. And when you’re a national broadcaster, you have a duty to help inform and educate your viewers; to help them understand the context of the news they are watching.

“CNN’s coverage was an insult to those who gave up their time to so generously welcome the royal couple to New Zealand. And it was also insulting to the intelligence of their American viewers; who deserved more from that news report than an appeal to base ignorance.”

Ah controversy.  Gotta love it!  Let me know your thoughts, I’m very interested!

xx It Started in LA xx

photo source:

Reality TV Stars at school together?
Fact or Fiction, Posts

Fact or Fiction: Paris, Nicole & Kim

updated October 8, 10:00 LA time with new info on The Slap.

Happy Easter long weekend (although it’s now the tail of it).  And, of course, Happy Passover.  I love that we’re in a melting pot of religions here in 90210 and being exposed to Judaism and all its associated traditions.  I knew, of course, that there were many Jewish people in Hollywood and TV Shows like The OC celebrated Hanukkah and “Chanukkah” but didn’t even think about it when we were planning to move here.  I have to say that’s what’s so great about being an Expat and immersing yourself in other cultures, even if it’s fundamentally similar to your own (ie. not like our move to China!).

I love that I’m learning so much, too, about things like kosher food.  When I first got here I was having two friends over for lunch.  I sent them an email wondering if I needed to use kosher salt in my cooking as I’d seen it all over the supermarkets.

Knowing me they knew I was serious but a friends’ husband thought I was taking the piss (taking the mickey, joking).  Now I know why–if you’re truly cooking kosher it has to be that the whole kitchen is kosher and I actually even think that you then have to be practising kosher yourself.  Not sure I’ll have to look that one up.  You get the gist though … salt is not going to miraculously turn the meal kosher!

Anyway, onto this week’s Fact or Fiction question:

At one point Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie & Kim Kardashian all went to the same school here in LA.


Vote away!

Results from last week


The US is remaking The Slap for US TV.


The Australian cast featured a stunning line-up including Melissa George, Sophie Okonedo, Essie Davis, Alex Dimitriades and Jonathan LaPaglia producing an incredible mini-series that absolutely nailed it.

The answer is indeed Fact, NBC is rewriting and adapting the quintessentially Australian show for US TV.  They’ve got a great team (Jon Robin Baitzwriter for West Wing and Brothers and Sisters) behind the project but I’m betting it won’t be anything like the Australian version.

We all know American and Australian culture is very different and no one is learning that more than me as I live and play here.  The Australian version is too raw and real that it couldn’t play out in its current form.  So I’m guessing we shouldn’t expect it to be quite as confronting as the Australian version but I look forward to seeing how it goes.  If nothing else I hope it will give me some fodder to be to eloquently isolate the differences between American and Australia.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, NBC announced it would take up the show in 2012 but it’s only confirmed that it will put it into production this year.  Watch this space …

Special thanks also to Pink is the New Blog for its digestion of the news.

Enjoy the long weekend!

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: October 8. I’ve just found out that Melissa George is going to reprise her role for the US version.  Wonder if she’ll play an Australian girl but speak with an American accent.  The mind boggles.


Fact or Fiction, Posts

Fact or Fiction: Beverly Hills was named after the Beverly Hills Hotel

I’ve got an appointment to check out my much-visited Beverly Hills Hotel next week so in that vein here’s this week’s Fact or Fiction.


Meanwhile, the answer to last week’s Fact or Fiction.

I met Robbie Williams at our local Starbucks.

Clearly everyone is starting to get the hang of this game and is starting to get the picture that we’re being exposed to some crazy scenarios. Yesterday my daughter and I were on our way home from a doctors appointment and we witnessed a very “possessed” pap clearly with his eye on his prize.  It’s everywhere here you just have to know what you’re looking for and be out and about to see it.  (Actually I think it was the same pap who told me I looked like “someone” the other week at my favourite restaurant.)

I digress … again …

66.67% of you thought that I had met Robbie (my wildcard) at our local Starbucks and 33.33% of you thought it was made up.

Well… only 33% of you were right.  Sadly I didn’t meet Robbie at our local Starbucks.  I don’t think he lives in LA anymore.  Bugger because he only lived up he road and apparently was often spotted at my local Starbucks so there was a chance I could’ve very easily bumped into him.

In fact, what spurred this Fact or Fiction on was a very vivid dream I had where I was coerced (by Robbie himself) into ‘fessing up that he was my wildcard celebrity shag.  I woke up in a cold sweat.

Enough dreaming, happy weekend & happy voting!

xx It Started In LA xx


NP Elle Beauty

Top four make-up trends for Spring 2014

Put your best face forward

Those of you that know me well might be thinking, “What does Gwen know about Spring 2014 Make-up trends?”  Well you’re right, except that if you follow me on Facebook &/or Instagram you might have seen my pics at the recent Napoleon Perdis / Elle Beauty Trends event as a VIP guest (shameless event-drop!) here in Hollywood.

It’s true I never really did the whole make-up thing.  I subscribed to the “natural look” long before it was invented.  And mine was more the vintage natural look rather than today’s drop-dead gorgeous natural look.

Frankly I’m not sure why I never really got into make-up.  I would sit for hours watching mum put her make -up on as I was growing up starting from when I was really young.  I remember her favourite shade vividly when I was little was green.  Very Charlie’s Angels.

My mum sent me on a deportment course where we were taught how to apply make-up (and yes walk and pluck eyebrows).  This was a big call because we were living in FNQ at the time  (Far North Queensland for you readers outside Australia and land of the thongs–ahem, flip flops).  When we returned to Melbourne from FNQ she took me on the obligatory trip to the Clinique counter at Myer to once again learn how to apply make-up, stock up and look my best.

Yet it didn’t stick.  Until now.

I was treated to a make-over session by Napoleon Perdis just before Christmas last year and I marvelled at how little make-up was used to make me look (& feel) a million dollars.  Yes, I asked for the natural look (to continue my perpetual fear of all things make-up).  Baby steps peoples, baby steps.

I was also surprised as to how much prep work went into creating my look and provide tone and creates angles on your face which were invisible to those looking but made all the difference in the world.  They’re so bloody clever!  So I became hooked, and slowly I started (and am continuing) to get more adventurous with the hues and colours and every excuse to get to Napoleon Perdis’s flagship Hollywood store I don’t hesitate!  But enough about me …

Top four trends

I believe Napoleon has just been over in Australia running a couple of sessions so you have been lucky enough to attend.  If not you’ll have to rely on me.  No drumroll, here are Napoleon Perdis’s top four make-up trends for (our-LA-our) Spring 2014.

  1. Art Pop–a pop of very dramatic colour usually around the eyes (blue, green & purple are your friends not your enemies)
  2. Natural–as the name suggests
  3. White Lines–fabulous look creating white lines around the eyes
  4. Flaming Lips–embracing bold, flaming lips.

My favourite is Natural with a touch of White Lines (I’m going back to see if it will work on me), a pop of colour and finished with Flaming Lips.  Well there’s no rule about not being able to dabble in each and every one!

This post wasn’t meant to be confessions of a make-up shy Princess but I rarely wore lipstick (I thought it made my lips dry) let alone wear anything bright.  I was given “Hara” (a flaming orange that’s to die for) to try and it’s my new go-to colour.  Not bad for someone who rarely wore lipstick or wore it as brown or nude could be.

If you’re in doubt over whether this translates in “real life” take a closer look at the make-up at the Oscars, in fact here’s a run-down of some of the best looks again at NP’s blog.  (I couldn’t agree more with the best look of the night who I gave an honourable mention to for her whole “package” in my own blog).

It’s always so much better to see what you read in Blogs and in mags translate into the real world and I think that’s what Napoleon Perdis does so well.

Anyway, I’m no Beauty Editor so if you want to see more and learn more about the night check out NP’s very own blog at:

If you click on the video you’ll be able to see me in the front row (hint: it’s at exactly the 0.27s mark)!  The blog shows examples of each of the looks.

Let me share three things with you I learnt from the night.

  1. Start with mascara.  And add a coat of mascara last.
  2. Apply lipstick from the outside coming in–and don’t forget to go all the way into the “join” of the lips
  3. Add lipliner after the lipstick.

It was such a treat to see Napoleon at work (probably even more so for me because I’ve never appreciated the art of make-up).

A flick of the brush here, a bit of concealer there, contour there, colour here … and voila! you’re transformed into a beauty.  No exaggeration, they make it look so simple.

In fact since I’ve been putting more effort into my make-up my friends have been saying I’m looking good often saying that LA suits me.  Well I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with the fun I’m having here and everything to do with the special things I’m doing to my face.  So thank you Napoleon Perdis!

BTW here is a link to the official pics on the night:

These pics are waaay better than the ones I took.

Why not treat yourself?  Even if you’re “good” with make-up there are always trade secrets the Napoleon Perdis team is happy to share.  As Napoleon says, even if you only walk away with one thing it’ll be worth it.  Couldn’t agree more!

Have a good weekend everyone!

xx It Started in LA xx

Psst … the irony is not at all lost on me that I’ve come all the way to Hollywood to be introduced with one of Australia’s best loved brands.  Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

Beauty editor tip: if your lips are dry from lipstick use a lip scrub (there are how-to recipes on You Tube & Lush does a good one) and get some Lip Service from Napoleon Service, it soothes and moisturises your lips.  Oh, also pop it on before your lipstick.

Oscars 2014

The two things we talked about in LA last week: rain & the Oscars

I’m hungover.  Not with your traditional hangover but with a very special Oscars hangover.  I was so upset leading up to the Oscars that we weren’t going to one of the parties–or the awards themselves.  If you follow along on my Facebook and Instagram pages you’ll know that we (the royal “we” actually only Mr H) got to one of those “at a ceremony held earlier” functions relevant to his work at the Beverly Hills Hotel so at least we got close to it and definitely got in on the buzz.  But all’s well that ends well for my first “In Hollywood” Oscars because we did the right thing by them and sat in the comfort of my living room by the fire with a glass of wine in hand.  We watched every moment (except the bits where I was busy tweeting) and took it all in.

How good was it? I rarely watch it all at home: it’s on too late, I fall asleep, I know who the winners are and life’s too busy.  But here it’s expected and it’s what you do.  Plus I have a Blog to write!

Ellen was fabulous–she was more than fabulous, she was incredible.  I laughed out loud at her opening monologue.  It was true: we were all concerned about the rain here in LA.  It’s all we talked about.  That and the Oscars.  Then on the impact of the rain on the Oscars.  It’s like it never rains here.  Oh wait, it doesn’t.  So I loved her line: “It has been a tough couple of days for us here: It has been raining. We’re fine. Thank you for your prayers.”

The tears started early with Jared Leto’s acceptance speech that I still think was the best of the night (Matthew McConaughey lost me thanking God and I got it with the “me in 10 years thing” but lost me that he’s his own hero. I do still rate you though MC).

What made Ellen great was she was funny, she didn’t take it too far (maybe to everyone except Liza Minnelli) but it had bite (ie it wasn’t sucky).  I loved the audience interaction and the way she surprised Leonardo DiCaprio and Sandra Bullock as she announced the next presenter.  Priceless.  And of course the “selfie that broke Twitter”.  Very clever.  (I was very quick thinking and got up to take a pic of the TV and their selfie but I forgot to turn the flash off and it took too long to take the pic.  Fail.  Bugger.)  It’s moments like that we love to feel like we know Leo & Brad, Bradley, Sandra, Amy & Merryl.  Ellen going into the audience made them real and we liked it.  We were there.

The internet is full of buzz about the pizza coming too.  She talked about doing it but to really do it was clever.  Two gorgeous moments: Brad Pitt handing out plates and Jared Leto (again) giving his pizza to his mum.  Awwww. (Psst … Lots of pics of Brad chowing down on the pizza none of Ange).

Which brings me to a theme of the night: mums as dates, daughters as dates and hononouring your mum.  Who didn’t cry at Jared Leto’s story about this mum (good on her) and gush over Leo as he sat with his mum in the front row? And how lovely and proud Laura Dern was of her dad, Bruce.

And before we talk about the really important business of Best Dressed let’s recap on the song performances.  Best performances ever.  “Happy” didn’t disappoint and neither did “Let It Go” from Frozen but the two outstanding performances of the night have to go to Pink’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow” and Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings”.  Breathtaking.  Times two.  More tears.  Even Bette had tears.  Bless.

It was good to see Gravity win so many well-deserved awards.  I was disappointed it didn’t take out Best Picture but glad Alfonso Cuaron won Best Director.  Gravity was the first highly anticipated film when we arrived plus Mr H’s company did the sound and we went to support the film opening weekend so we felt very connected to the movie.

There are many more highlights (and a couple of lowlights … Kim Novak) but that’s enough.  It’s time to move onto the Best Dressed.

OK most of them got it right on Instagram and online etc but where was Bette Midler? She looked stunning (even if my pic of her was cut off–sorry Bette).  And so did Pink in her dress made from Dorothy’s Ruby slippers.  I think Camila Alves was largely ignored and Jennifer Lawrence nailed it (rumour around town was she didn’t like the last dress so I guess they had some making up to do). So my list is:

  1. Bette Midler. Gorgeous
  2. Jennifer Lawrence. Rocked it.
  3. Cate Blanchett. Flawless.
  4. Amy Adams. Stunning.
  5. Pink. Perfect (nice to see America is FINALLY embracing her)
  6. Camila Alves.  Stunning date.

Honorable mentions:

  1. Jessica Alba
  2. Naomi Watts
  3. Sandra Bullock
  4. Emma Watson.  More for the whole package–the hair, the look than the dress itself but she looked truly stunning.

I have been captivated by Lipita Nyong’o’s look the whole awards season but was disappointed in her dress.  She should still get an honourable mention though.  (Her standout dress for the season was definitely the Ralph Lauren at the Golden Globes).

And the boys rocked it too.  White is back in.  I’m only giving out three best dressed.

  1. Matthew McConaughey narrowly beating
  2. Jared Leto
  3. Ryan Seacrest

I know… I can’t quite believe I wrote his name either.  But he looked good.  Leo, Brad & Bradley looked good as did my special Channing and special honourable mention to Will Smith (I know, can’t believe it what’s getting into me?) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  And BTW where was George Clooney?

So, that’s it.  As I was desperate for more when the awards finished and the parties started I reflected and thought about what they’d be doing at the parties, what the mood would be like, how the queues were going and the traffic as they try to shuttle the guests into the various after-parties.

It’s so cool that I could picture what was going on because it wasn’t so long ago I was in the thick of it for the Golden Globes.  What fun it is, the egos in the room, the star-struck celeb-spotting, the waiting, the photos, the selfies and the dancing.  I could go to bed knowing I’ve experienced one of those parties and even though I wasn’t there last night I still got to go and I’ve still got it good.

Only in LA.  Have a great week everyone!

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: Here are all the winners in case you’ve been under a rock and haven’t seen the full list:


Slash--Fact or Fiction
Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction: Slash came to the kids school

Fact or Fiction?

This week’s Fact or Fiction is back on gossipy things that may or may not have happened around us.  So this week’s statement is:

Slash came to the kids’ school.

Cast your votes now, it’s easy to do and you’ll either be right or wrong.

Eighty per cent of you were on the money last week with the answer to:

Bel Air is a suburb of LA with its own postcode.

Bel Air as an actual suburb of LA with its own postcode is indeed a myth.  If you see someone’s address as Bel Air then they’re just showing off.  Their actual address is Los Angeles and 90049 (for example, there are a few LA postcodes that cover “Bel Air”).

Here’s a good blog page I found with some good stuff on Bel Air, bit of light reading for the weekend.

Happy weekend & happy voting.

xx It Started In LA xx

Image taken from wikipedia:

Furla handbags
Posts, Soapbox

Six months in: the darker side

I posted on my personal Facebook page last night that I’m feeling quite homesick.  No one could more shocked about this news than me.  It was here on this very blog that I shared my delight at reaching the six-month mark in LA with friends, fun and great experiences under our belts.  We were–are–living in the surreal world that is Beverly Hills/Hollywood and we live to tell the tale.

Only earlier that day we were having lunch at my favourite Cabana Cafe in the Beverly Hills Hotel where I missed seeing Harry Styles by a matter of minutes.  (We were already seated waiting for our friend who saw him leaving as he was coming in.  He even snapped a pic for his 11-year-old daughter.)

So why so glum?  I’m not really sure.  I miss my friends mainly.  It’s great to make new friends but it’s the good friends you leave behind that you are sad about–especially when they’re not here to share “the dream” with you.

Truth be told I think the whole “money” thing is wearing thin too.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re very comfortable and we’ve done well, we have a great little life in our corner of the world, we always try to make the most of every situation we’re put in and I don’t like to whinge about first-world (especially BH) problems.

So why’s the money thing getting me down? I think it’s because it’s hard to fight.  Just because our family doesn’t believe in designer handbags until our kids are at least 18 doesn’t mean everyone else shares our philosophy.  And not to say everyone needs to share our philosophy.  I value very much the concept that everyone is different because it makes the world go around and makes for a much more interesting place to be.  But seriously why do kids under 18 (or even 25 for that matter) have to have designer hand bags?  Will it make the world a better place and more importantly will it make the kids better people?

I say this also because my daughter and I were out shopping last weekend for a new dress for her to wear to a birthday party and to dinner when we go to Vegas next week.  She desperately needed some shoes and I said if we find a cute bag for a reasonable price I’d buy her one.  We got some cute shoes but no go on the bag.  It wasn’t a biggie because she’s only into bags sometimes and she knew she’d had enough bought for her that day and (for once!) was satisfied with her purchases.

So why am I going on about handbags?  Well because as we walked through the designer handbag section on our way to shoes at Bloomingdale’s we were looking at the new Furla handbags.  They were so cute and, with 30% off, this sweet little blue bag had Miss 11’s name on it.  We both looked at it longingly.  She wanted it.  I wanted her to have it.  But it was not going to happen and we both knew it.  I was cross with myself for considering its purchase and pleased with her at the same time for knowing she couldn’t even ask for it.  We mourned the bag’s departure never to come home with us.  We were doing what mothers and daughters should do: bond over a designer handbag.

But that’s where it ended.  Not in Beverly Hills it seems where my daughter can count on more than one hand girls she knows with designer hand bags.  Some her age, others older but none of them are over 18, or over 25.  I’m not here to judge.  Nor do I have a right to judge.  I suppose when you grow up with it you think nothing of it.

But as a family still “fresh off the boat” from Australia who comes from a(nother) corner of the world where girls don’t have designer handbags I feel sad.  I feel sad that I think my Miss 11 should wait until she has a designer handbag.  I feel sad that girls around her don’t have to wait.  And I feel sad for the girls around her because I wonder what they are going to want for their 18th birthday or 21st birthday (remembering they’ll most likely get cars for their 16th birthday).  And I feel sad because I actually contemplated buying her the handbag.  That’s not us; that’s not what we do.

They say you are influenced by nature AND nurture and there is no conclusive evidence that one outweighs the other.  One of our mottos before we came over was not to change and not to take life too seriously when we got here; to stay true to ourselves.  Easier said than done.  But we must stay true to ourselves because people will like us for who we are not what we have.  We have a lot to offer and I hope that’s what people are seeing and not the absence of a designer handbag, shoes or clothes.

Only in LA.  Watch this space …

xx It Started In LA xx

Style notes: If you’re not like me and wish to buy your Miss 11 a Furla handbag here’s the link (or of course you might like one for yourself):  Furla Candy Bag.

I’m pretty sure Bloomingdale’s ships worldwide.

Celebrity, Posts

Which one’s Craig?

We’ve got a few more friends coming in to town so I called one of my favourite restaurants–our go-to when we have friends come to LA–to secure a couple of reservations.

The guy on the phone took my details, you know? When, what time etc.  Then he said, “Name?”

“Gwen,” I replied.

“Oh Gwen, how are you sweetheart?” I knew immediately who it was on the other end of the phone.  One of my first LA girlfriends had recommended I go to this popular restaurant and was instrumental in getting my 9:30 booking changed to the more civilised time of 8:00.  She’s a regular and knows Craig well.

From that time the Matre D’ acknowledged me telling everyone I was Renee’s friend.  Then I had moved on from being Renee’s friend to being “Gwen”. I was in.

So, you can imagine how chuffed I was that even on the phone I was recognised.  I’ve made it and to no less than one of the restaurants to be seen at in LA.  I posted it straight to Facebook and was happy our transition to LA was looking very good.  I’m doing my job well: give yourself a pat on the back Gwen.

Fast forward one week to yesterday.  I looked up the website to call to see if I could get a last-minute dinner booking for my hot date with my son.  I knew it was a long shot but it was worth the try.  I clicked through to an article in the New York Times on the birth of the restaurant and how Craig had gone from being Matre D’ at one of LA’s finest to running his own restaurant.

I knew that so of course I assumed the Matre D’ was “Craig”.  That’s a pretty fair assumption, right?  Exactly what I thought.

Well that’s not what the pic on said article showed.  No, it’s the guy who schmoozes around half working, half chatting up the guests.  Well it makes sense now I say it that way–and I know who the real Craig is doesn’t it?  Duh!  Really, how could I have been so amateur?!

One of my friends I’ve taken there recently described him as the classiest pimp in town–sitting at the booths with the gorgeous chicks and hot celebs, being one of the guests.  I suppose he has one of the best jobs in the world.  He lets his (very professional and gorgeous) Matre D’ do all the hard work while he does what he does best–keep the celebs (and me) happy!

Looking forward to dinner there tomorrow night.  I’ll be careful who I call Craig.

Only in LA.

xx It Started in LA xx

West Gate, Bel Air
Celebrity, Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction: Bel Air

Fact or Fiction?????

Welcome back to this week’s Fact or Fiction.  It’s good to see voting increased by more than 15% this week.  Get on board, it’s a bit of fun.

This week’s item drifts away from me being centre stage to an LA Trivia question.  And the statement is …

Bel Air is a suburb of LA with its own postcode.


Thanks to the people who responded to last week’s Fact or Fiction.  The answer to:

Rod Stewart’s son is in my kids’ swim team.

was: Fact.

66.67% thought it was Fiction
33.33% thought it was Fact.

I am unashamedly a Rod Stewart fan.  I remember when I was younger we were on holidays staying at my uncle’s house in Wales.  He used to get The Sun daily and one week it had a Rod Stewart spotlight–a series about him, his life, his loves, his career etc.  Well I was hooked from that minute on.

So, when we turned up at the end of last year to one of the kids’ swimming finals and I glance up at the bleachers and see Rod Stewart–complete with hair and pastels–I did little to stay cool.  I couldn’t take a photo, I wouldn’t go talk to him and I was a mess.  (So much for the motto of staying cool).  I couldn’t get my words out–I was standing a few metres away from the one and only Rod Stewart. Ahhhhhhhhh indeed!

His wife, BTW, is gorgeous.  We did talk to her.  That was surreal in its own way because (apart from being a former famous model herself) she was talking about the upcoming holidays and their plans like they were normal people.  Of course they were–are–but it was totally surreal.

I heart LA.  And that’s how this blog started with simple everyday, surreal stories like that.  I can’t wait for the swimming season to start.  I just hope he’s not in Vegas for most of it!

Answer to this week’s post will come next week as usual.  Happy Friday Australia (and Asia).  UK and Europe you’re somewhere in between so happy weekend eve!

I’ll keep the link up to his Vegas concerts (and others for that matter) in case you want to fly over and see Rod Stewart live in Vegas.  I’m certainly going to try to get there.

xx It Started in LA xx


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