How Julie Bowen Sparks Up Her Life
Whether hiking after dark or just broiling a fancier chicken, the Emmy-winning star of Modern Family likes to add a little adventure to every day. Here, she opens her playbook for you.
What's Julie Bowen's secret? Tequila, running, and a well-edited bucket list.Yu TsaiJulie Bowen pulls into a parking lot off California's Pacific Coast Highway driving a less-than-spotless black Prius. Wearing yoga pants, a hoodie, and a fleece vest, the ponytailed, super-fit 42-year-old has arrived from the set of Modern Family's fourth season. An avid runner, Julie—mom to Oliver, 5, and 3-year-old twins, Gus and John—has chosen to talk while we do a moonlit hike in the Pacific Palisades.
"As it gets darker, you won't even need a flashlight," she explains. Should we be freaked out? "No," she says, loaning me a fleece vest belonging to her husband, software developer Scott Phillips. "If we see a mountain lion, we'll turn and walk away real quick-like. Or do we make ourselves big? I can't remember," she laughs. "But we'll have fun."
As she narrates our trek ("Did you see that spider? Get down low!"), she shares the other ways she lives life to the fullest—all yours to steal.
Find the funny in your days
"I hate to admit how juvenile I am, but one of the things that always makes me laugh, besides [my co-star] Ty Burrell—the funniest person I've ever met—is damnyouautocorrect.com. Parents trying desperately to text and it's coming out all wrong? Holy crap, is that funny. I'll have tears streaming down my face."
Laugh off criticism
"Ty and I were talking about this ridiculous [Modern Family contract]renegotiation business. He and I are—how shall I say?—thrifty people who cringe at the world thinking we're, like, fancy people. I said, 'I don't want anybody asking me about my golden toilet.' And he goes, 'Yeah, or your fur sink.' I started laughing uncontrollably. A fur sink is the best visual!"
What makes me body-confident
"I definitely feel really good if I've gone for a run or I've been at the beach all day."
How I keep fame from going to my head
"I've had some very funny moments. I once called a restaurant, and they were like, 'Sorry the wait list is three months. What's your name?' I said, 'Julie Bowen.' They were like, 'Ah! Julie Bowen from TV?' And I said, 'Yes, can I get a table?' And they were like, 'No!'"
My feel-good cocktail
"I've recently discovered tequila, thanks to my friends who are north of 35. Good tequila makes you feel different. According to Doctor Google, my favorite doctor, it acts in your central nervous system in a different way [than other forms of alcohol]. If I have a glass of wine, and I'm a little bit tired, I'm ready to go to bed. But if I have a little tequila on the rocks, and I'm a little tired, I'm not more tired. I'm kind of thinking, maybe we should go do something...."
Next Page: Simple meal that wows [ pagebreak ]
Yu Tsai Simple meal that wows
"Chicken Marbella is an easy old-school recipe. You take a lot of thighs and legs—delicious dark meat—and marinate it all day in a giant Ziploc bag with prunes, brown sugar, vinegar, olives, and bay leaves. Then pop it in the oven for 45 minutes. To a girl from Maryland, it's very sophisticated to have the sour tanginess of olives with the sweetness of prunes. That, to me, is like, 'Well, my, my, my!'"
Grow something, anything
"L.A. has people who say, 'Everything you're eating we've raised, grown, and slaughtered.' You're like, really? But we have rosemary in front of our house, and my kids think it's the coolest thing to go outside and get it. They think: We're farmers! I'm like, Exactly right! You live in Studio City, but now you're a farmer."
Give yourself a break
"As I've gotten older, I've discovered the joys of being lazy. I've always been driven, feeling like 1,000 demons got me out of bed at 5 a.m. saying, 'Go run!' But I wake up these days and I'm a little tired. And I sort of enjoy that. I mean, if this is going to entropy into me never getting out of bed, that would be bad. But I get more genuine enjoyment out of working out [now] as opposed to feeling like I'm exercising something every time I go for a run."
Three things I always take on a plane
1. "My big indulgence is the fancy-schmancy Crème de la Mer, which I use all over because I feel like a lizard. [The instructions are] like, use one pearl-sized drop, but that's not happening."
2. "A paperback book. I always take my iPad, but you can be stuck on the runway during takeoff and/or landing for a long time, so that's when I actually read real books."
3. "A large, soft scarf that can double for a blanket on chintzy airplanes that don't have blankets."
Embrace the grown-up getaway
"For Sofia Vergara's birthday, we flew to Mexico. It was just my husband and me—my kids would have ruined it. Sofia was the most gracious host. With open arms, and wallet, she said, 'I want to share with all the people in my life.' She's my hero."
The gift that makes my week (thanks, Dad)
"My dad is a notoriously flashy-but-not-good gift giver. There were lots of pavé diamond teddy bear earrings and whatnot. But for the last 12 years, all three of his daughters get flowers from him every Thursday. I would much rather have that than just about anything else."
How I hold onto my (pre-kids) dreams
"Right before I started to try and have kids, I panicked. Scott and I had been married for about a year, and I flipped out: 'I've never been to India!' He was like, 'Go to India! But I'm never going to India.' That's what's great about my husband. He's like, 'I support your dream. Good-bye. I'll be here when you get back.'"
Next Page: Stay up all night (well, once in awhile) [ pagebreak ]
Yu Tsai Stay up all night (well, once in awhile)
"Sofia's family is loud, warm, and fantastic. They couldn't be more different from the tight-lipped WASPs I grew up with. [On her birthday trip] her relatives were like, 'Why you do not stay up all the night? The only thing you lose is sleep!' I was like, 'Sleep is gold to me.' They were like, 'Bah! Look at me! I haven't slept in three days!' I'm not talking about 17-year-olds—I'm talking about 70-year-olds! I can't even repeat all the bawdy wonderfulness [from that trip]."
You know, it's OK to be starstruck
"If I see Angelina Jolie, I have to look away. I just feel like maybe she's not real. She's like a unicorn. It's like, 'There's Angelina Jolie. We're not going to seriously stand here and pretend it's not like seeing a yeti, right?'"
Have good, clean fun at home
"We have a lot of crazy dance parties in the shower. A dance party with three naked children and one fairly naked mother? There's simply nothing better."
Keep a well-edited bucket list
"By 40, I thought I would have run a marathon. I was training for the LA Marathon, and I tore the cartilage in my hip. I was devastated. My younger sister, who's a doctor, said, 'You have to decide: Do you want to run a marathon, or do you want to run forever?' I was like, 'Crap, if you put it like that.' So I changed the goal. My ego still wants to run a marathon, but I want to be active for the rest of my life. Luckily, I was finished having kids by 40—so I knocked that one off. I made people."
Yu Tsai My not-glamorous secret to a happy marriage
"Our best date night is going to the movies. We get popcorn, Twizzlers, and Milk Duds—we call it Popcorn Dinner. We eat it like pigs at a trough and watch a movie and it's really nice."
What I will (and won't) do to my skin
"I've had lasers leveled at my face, and I would like to do Fraxel, the deep one where you go undercover for like a month because you look horrible afterward. But the results are astounding, as if someone blew time off your face. I do find it odd that people choose to do stuff that makes them look like crazy Hollywood faces, but I've got zero judgment about it...I've worn some ugly shoes."
Show the world the you you like most
"I'm so not stylish by nature, but I've learned to work with what I have. My darling father gave me some decent getaway sticks—my legs are OK. I do not ever work the stomach. That whole crop-top, baby-doll shirt trend was a very long period for me. Those were some tough years. I feel the most pulled together when I'm going for the tomboyish thing. I far prefer the Diane Keaton to the Loni Anderson."