Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Having Fun in Sac

In Napa, I drink wine.
In Sonoma, I drink wine.
In the Central Coast, I drink wine.
But in Sacramento, I see the sights.

Wine country and I were made for each other: I love it for the wine, the vines, meeting like-minded vino aficionados and did I mention the wine? Wine Country is my DisneyLand: the happiest place on earth. 

On this particular trip to the land of the vine, I traveled by plane through Sacramento and got to spend some time in the capital city of California, or as the locals call it: “spending time in Sac”.  

Sacramento was named after the Sacramento River, which the Spanish explorer, Gabriel Moraga (1765-1823), called the Rio del Santissimo Sacramento. However the city of Sacramento should have been called “Gold Rush City” because that’s why it was developed in the first place, as a place where miners and get-rich quick adventurers went in 1849 to stock up on supplies before heading to the American River to pan for gold. 

To honor this historic element, the present-day city of Sacramento has preserved and developed a small area of town with wooden sidewalks, saloons and horse-drawn carriages. “Old Sacramento”, as it’s known, is popular among kids, western history buffs and people pretending to be cowboys. I didn’t see a single miner.

The city of Sac is found at the confluence of the Sacramento and America Rivers both of which have deltas that are rich for farming. This proximity to agriculture and organic farming has led to a farm-to-fork movement among Sacramentans, which we could partake in at the local Farmer’s Market (under the 80 freeway) and at some really delicious restaurants. I ate well in Sacramento including at the Magpie Cafe. Their baked goods are worth checking out as is their roasted chicken for two and espresso-infused cream brulé for one.  

Finally as the capital city of the Golden State, I had to see the Capitol Building. Built in the 1860s and retrofitted in the 1950s, I relished walking the marbled halls and seeing the old-style Assembly and Senate Chambers. In addition the hallway walls are lined with portraits of California governors including Ronald Reagan (one term 1967-1975) and Jerry Brown (two terms 1975-1983). I especially liked comparing the official portraits. Reagan’s looked like a photograph while Jerry Brown’s, painted by artist Don Bachardy, resembled a modern, expressionistic work. Hanging next to each other, Jerry Brown’s portrait really popped. Not only was it a portrait it was a work of pop art.  

Now that Jerry Brown is finishing a third term as California governor and likely will get a fourth, the question is, will the famously frugal Brown have a second portrait painted of himself for the Capitol. Or not?

As for the answer to that question, I’ll mull it over while drinking a glass of wine, in Wine Country.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Magic Carpet

It was old.
It was classy.
It was mine.
And I couldn't wait to use it in The House!

The HGTV application had advised mentioning one item in my possession that—if I were picked—I would like the HGTV professionals to decorate my new and improved room around. I had indicated my Persian rug.

Before we bought The House Mr. Wonderful and I lived in a rented apartment with a balcony, and before that we rented one with two balconies, and before that something with three balconies, and before that I lived in a rented apartment on a square, and before that a rental with a gas stove, and before that one with two roommates, and before that a rental on the ground floor, and before that a place on the second floor, and before that two on the fourth and one on the 14th. 

And before them all, I bought a Persian rug.

I remember finding the rug in an antique store. “Antique” is just another word for “secondhand”, which I don’t mind because I love the look and well-made quality of so many secondhand things. I also appreciate that antique things had a whole life, or six, before I bought them, before I thought of them, heck, before I was born. I especially like wooden tables, stuffed armchairs and Persian rugs. Maybe it’s my DIY nature but I like turning something that says “ow” into something that says “Kapow!”. Wooden tables can be polished, armchairs restuffed and recovered and Persian rugs can be cleaned. In fact the only antiques I don’t like are old bras, used handkerchiefs and wigs filled with Cracker Jacks. But that’s just me.  

Back in that New England antique store, the antique dealer told me that this particular Persian rug had laid on the dining room floor of a wealthy Boston family’s home for decades. When the homeowners’ great-grandkids sold the house and its contents, the rug made its way to this shop with a “for sale” sign. The rug had a beautiful red diamond shape in the middle with blue and salmon accents surrounding it. The pattern was called a Herati after the town in Persia that first popularized it a gazillion years ago back when the country of Iran was still called the kingdom of Persia. 

“It’s gorgeous,” I said running my hand over the wool pattern. 
“Buying it you’d be making an investment,” the antique dealer said in a hard Boston accent that sounded like she’d had a bit part in the movie Good Will Hunting. She went on to explain how the traditional craftspeople making the rugs took pride in their rug-making to transform simple floor coverings into marvelous works of art, that they “pahked they ca in Hahvard Yahd”, and since rugs have been made for centuries in that part of the world, some of them have become über valuable, as in worth beaucoup bucks.
“So you’re saying this rug is like a 401k plan,” I said fingering the cotton fringe.
“No, it’s a different sort of invest—”
“It’s like a Roth IRA?”
“It’s like owning real estate?”
“I’ll take it!”

She had uttered the magic words: buy a piece of art now that would keep my floors warm and that I could sell for a profit later. Bingo! I paid, rolled it up and put it in my moving van. But it didn’t go to any of my apartments because all of them had wall-to-wall carpeting, the kind that is made in a factory, cut to fit a room’s dimensions and hammered into the floor. So my gorgeous investment spent time at my parents’ place, my sister’s house, then my other sister’s house.

Those lovely people got to enjoy my piece of art and investment for years while I toiled way to get a home of my own with wood floors where I could lay out my non-401k plan and enjoy my non-real estate-Roth IRA. After years of keeping others’ feet warm, I had the rug cleaned, rolled up in plastic and placed in my storage locker to wait for U-Day, that is “Unfurling Day”. 

Finally The House was purchased and we moved in! Finally we unpacked! Finally I had completed an HGTV application where I said this rug would be the centerpiece of any HGTV-redone room.   

“What does the rug look like?” Mr. Wonderful said tapping the plastic wrapped around what looked to be a burrito fit for Paul Bunyan.
“It’s not a rug but our investment,” I said correcting him. “And you’re going to love it.” 

Finally U-day had come! Armed with a pair of scissors, Mr. Wonderful cut through the plastic and together we unrolled my valuable work of art and as we did a tan cloud arose from the rug. And another tan cloud fluttered up to meet the first one and another one. On closer inspection the “cloud” was moths, hundreds of them, that released from the cocoon of the rug, had flown free.

“What color did you say it was?” Mr. Wonderful said looking at my  über valuable investment.
“Red, blue and salmon.”
“I guess moths like those colors.” Sure enough, the moths had eaten holes in my rug precisely through those color patches. To be fair, they also ate through the other colors too, as well as through the backing, the fringe and the whole kit and kaboodle. The moths were voracious and more than my family members, Mr. Wonderful or I, they had enjoyed my investment the most because they had devoured 96% of it. 

My heart sank. My rug was ruined, beyond repair. In a pouff of tan moths, my investment was gone. Sniff.

My rug. It was old.
It was classy.
It was everyone’s but mine.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The HGTV Application

“I finished the HGTV application,” I said clicking through the photos on my computer.
“I didn’t know they were hiring,” Mr. Wonderful said chomping on a carrot stick.
“I don’t want to work for them.”
“I want them to work for me.”

There comes a point in every DIY, fixer-upper’s life when she gets tired of DIY-ing, fixing-upping and having construction dust in her clothes, hair and nasal duct conduits. In short, there comes a time when she wants some professional help so she can put her feet up and drink a glass of Rosé by the pool. As for this DIY, fixer-upper, I had reached that point. Yesterday.

So when I saw an advertisement about HGTV looking for Los Angeles homeowners looking to renovate a room in their house I pounced on the opportunity. Ah-ha! I could have someone else schlep to the home improvement store 16 times in one day, do all the backbreaking labor and get sawdust up their nasal passages, all while improving my house free of charge. What a brilliant plan!  I was a mastermind!

For them to do this, all I needed was to: describe the room to be renovated; include pictures of said room; describe what I wanted for the room.


Here was my application in three easy steps: 1) The room I wanted renovated was the studio, which needed HGTV or a miracle. 2) The picture I included told the sorry story in a thousand words, as pictures are known to do. And 3) I wanted the space to continue being a place for my mother-in-law to stay, as mothers-in-law are wont to do.

“Is that all you had to write for the application?” Mr. Wonderful said nibbling on a celery stick.
“They also wanted to know about us.” 

What I told them about us boiled down to three points: 1) We were recent homeowners in L.A.. 2) So far we had fixed everything up in the house by ourselves. And 3) We liked to laugh.

“Once they realize we’ve done the renovations ourselves,” my spouse said “they’ll know we aren’t laughers but masochists.”
Boy, Mr. Wonderful is hilarious.

“Anything else on the application?” he said chewing on a sliced cucumber.
“I have to tell them what our style is.”
“When you know what our style is, tell me,” he said returning to his vegetable dip.
Boy, Mr. Wonderful was on a roll! Of course we had a style, which I shared with him and the nice folks at HGTV. 

Here’s how I described our style on the application: We weren’t picky although we loved the mid-century modern style mixed with the Mediterranean style to reflect the climate of Southern California, augmented by contemporary leather furniture, mashed up with traditional pieces to anchor us to the past.

“Mid-century modern, Mediterranean, contemporary, traditional?” he said. “That’s not one style but four.”
“We’re eclectic.” 
“They’ll never accept your application.” 
“The key to my application is I say I want them to work in The House for me.”
“Wow. I’m sure they’ll want to do it now,” he said rolling his eyes.

Boy, that Mr. Wonderful. He’s a laugh a minute! 

NEXT: The HGTV Application Decision