Monday, March 31, 2014

April Vacation

Vacations recharge the batteries, give fresh perspectives and are crazy fun!

For these and so many other reasons, my New House Girl Blog--about fixing up a house in Los Angeles while living in it--will be taking a vacation for 30 days. 

During the month of April I'll be blogging about my travels to Belgium and The Netherlands! These two countries, collectively known as "The Low Countries" because some of their lands are below sea, provide good comedy and uh, high times. 

I hope you'll join me on my April vacation!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Punch a Hole In It

“That was delicious,” I said laying my fork and knife across my empty dinner plate.
“Yes,” Mr. Wonderful said gazing at the overhead lamp.
“I love cooking in our kitchen.”
“In fact I love everything about our kitchen!”
“Want to punch a hole in the ceiling?”

In most relationships when I spoke to someone they listened and spoke back to me on that same subject. Because when the tables were turned and someone else addressed me on a particular subject they expected—and I complied—to respond to them on the same topic that they’d initiated. However after countless hours of field research and several years of committed study, I’d discovered that these normal rules of interpersonal, human communications practiced by billions of people around the world were lacking in the man I promised to love, cherish and talk & listen to… until death do us part. 

As a scientific person who relied on facts, I had collected numerous examples of our odd communications. Recently I told him, “I had a great meeting today.”
Mr. Wonderful replied, “The kitchen is too hot.” Since he changed the subject from my “good meeting”, I switched to his topic of “the hot kitchen”.
“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” I said with a grin. 
“The lamps are all wrong,” he mumbled then beelined for the tool shed.

It’s hard enough talking to men but talking to one who wasn’t even in the same galaxy of my conversation was becoming increasingly difficult. To be fair to Mr. Wonderful, it didn’t happen all the time, just every time we were in the house, out of the house or together. 

Clearly something was brewing in his head and I thought if he would just talk to me about it I would understand what he was pondering and we could talk about it together. So when he finally addressed me over dinner with the question of, “Want to punch a hole in the ceiling?” I was in shock for several reasons: 1) He wanted to punch a hole in our redone kitchen ceiling; 2) He was talking to me! and 3) He wanted to punch a hole in our redone kitchen ceiling?!

I’m a fair minded person. In fact I’m sure that King Solomon himself, the fairest judge in ancient Israel, would totally agree with me on this point: My spouse was off his rocker. Mess up our lovely kitchen, which we had lovingly redone and that I totally loved by punching holes in the ceiling?! 
I stayed on topic and responded to my dear spouse, “No way!”

Mr. Wonderful proceeded to tell me he’d done oodles of research and discovered that LED lights were the coolest lamp option for a kitchen which meant that when they were on they would not contribute to the heat of the kitchen, thereby relieving us from leaving the hot kitchen—ever again. Also, LED light were highly efficient using just a fraction of the wattage of traditional bulbs or even the curly fluorescent ones. But I still balked. None of these features could convince me to make a disaster zone of my fabulous kitchen.

“I can put the LEDs on a dimmer,” he said.
“Yes way!” we shared a fist bump.
“I’m glad we talked & listened to each other about this,” he said. “Where are you going?”
“To get a saw to punch a hole in the ceiling,” I mumbled beelining for the tool shed.

As a scientific person, in my mind the most important fact about dimmable LED lights was: they looked cool!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Farmer's Market--California Style

Another Sunday, another trip to the Market. I love going to the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles.

It has:



Plus, all the produce is:

 Long live fresh food!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Helping Hand

“Your… ‘garden’ is looking good,” my 86 year-old neighbor said adjusting his glasses.
“Thanks, Harold,” I said smiling while gazing at my blooming Lantana, Lavender and Verbena lilacina.
“Lots of colors.”
“Hmmm,” I said looking at the yellow blooms of the Aloe, the orange California Poppies and the red Salvia.  
“And such weird plants.”

In Southern California we had a winter with so little rain and so much sun that we rolled from Christmas right into spring—before New Year’s. In my neighborhood, plants and trees have been blooming since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. So although the calendar has finally declared it officially “spring” this announcement seems rather anti-climactic in our neck of the west. Spring sprang months ago. In fact we’re ready to hop right into summer—yesterday.

This was the first winter of our California native and drought tolerant garden. The plants soaked up moisture from the major rainstorm we got last month. In fact that was the reason they were looking so healthy and lush now. I spent a couple weekends trimming back the overgrowth and some dead from a fluke December freeze but then, my weeding work in the front garden was… finished. There might be more minimal pruning come summer but there won’t be any more planting and as for grass mowing? Zippo! With the hard work done all I had to do now was sit back and enjoy my garden’s beauty.

“Have you seen Harold’s yard?” I asked Mr. Wonderful early one Saturday morning.
“Huh?” Mr. Wonderful said through sleepy eyes.
“It’s a wasteland in the front and overrun with ivy in the back.”
“What if we fix it up for him?”
“You and me.”
“Ask me after I’ve had a cup of coffee.”

I was so excited to help Harold remake his yard into the Garden of Eden I forgot it was only 6 AM on a no-work weekend. I prepped the espresso machine then bounded outside for the newspaper where I saw Harold’s spouse sweeping the front walk.
“Hi, Norma!”
“Morning, neighbor,” she said turning her sea blue eyes toward me. “Your garden is so beautiful. We like watching all the… unusual… plants grow.”
“Thanks. Hey, if you need any help with your garden—planting the front or weeding the back—just let me know. I’d love to lend a helping hand.”
“Oh, no thanks.”
“You don’t have to answer now.”
“No, thanks.”
“Think about it.” 
“No, thanks,” she said storing the broom and retreating inside her house.

I returned to the kitchen scratching my head. 
“What’s wrong?” Mr. Wonderful said setting down an empty espresso cup.
“Maybe you should ask Harold if he wants us to help him with caring for their yard.”
“If he wants something, he’ll ask us.”
“Harold is from a different century,” I said explaining how Harold helped everyone else but would rather swim shark-infested waters in Antarctica without a wetsuit than ask us for help. Mr. Wonderful nodded.
“You do have a point.”

Later that day Mr. Wonderful and I were playing a game of Pétanque when Harold moseyed out to collect his flag. 
“Now!” I elbowed my spouse. Together we approached Harold. “Hi, neighbor,” I said smiling.
“Hi?” he said shifting his gaze from me to my spouse then back again. He looked like a mouse cornered by two ferocious tigers.  
“Say, Harold—” Mr. Wonderful began.
“If you want to borrow my green bin, go ahead.”
“We don’t, thank you,” I said then gave my spouse “the look”, which said: speak now or forever hold our peace.
“Harold, you help us all the time so we’d like to return the favor,” Mr. Wonderful said. “If you want us—or just me—to help plant some things in your front yard or weed the backyard, just say the word, we’d be happy to lend a helping hand.”
“Oh, no thanks,” Harold said folding up his flag.
“You don’t have to answer now.”
“No, thanks.”
“Think about it.” 
“No, thanks,” he said escaping to the safety of his house. 

It was so strange. Two people who clearly liked our garden but flat-out refused our help. Why? Were they just being polite? Did they really dislike the idea of depending on us that much? Or did they just say they “liked” our garden but deep down hated the “unusual and weird” looking native plants? I longed to know but they weren’t talking.

Before we could return to our Pétanque game, a car pulled into our neighbors’ driveway. A blond woman rang the doorbell and was greeted with hugs from Harold and Norma. The next day when I retrieved the paper, I saw the blond woman planting pansies in the front flower beds under my 86 year-old neighbor’s watchful gaze. 

“Hey, Harold. You have a helping hand today.” 
“My daughter,” he said. I shook Peggy’s bare hand covered in potting soil. She had a firm grip and friendly smile.
“Your garden is so beautiful,” she said. “I love the Verbena lilacina.” She knew our natives? By name?! I liked her—immediately!
“No lollygagging,” Harold told me. “After this Peggy has to rip out the ivy in the backyard.”

I nodded and left them to their work. Sneaking a look over my shoulder, I saw Harold give his daughter not a helping hand—but a hug.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Evolution of a Chair

"Doesn't it look beautiful," I said to lifting the chair out of the convertible.
"Yes," Mr. Wonderful said smiling in the driveway.
"The new fabric makes it pop!"
"I can't wait to sit in it!"
"You and someone else..."

I didn't have time to contemplate who he was talking about. But yes, not only did my spouse and I fix up The House, the Guesthouse and the backyard birdhouse, we even fixed up some of our furniture. There are few joys like taking an old piece of furniture, reupholstering it and making it a new piece of furniture.

The chair in question was given to me by a friend whose mother had gotten it at a Hollywood garage sale some years ago. It had a metal frame and was covered in a faded brown vinyl fabric. Why would someone cover a chair in vinyl? My friend's mom paid $45 for the secondhand piece and estimated that it dated to the 1950s or even late 1940s. Since she never used the chair, she gave it to her daughter who felt the same way about it and gave it to me. I loved the lines on it and had a vision of what I wanted. I drove to Downtown Los Angeles where fabric stores are as plentiful as sand on Long Beach and within 10 minutes I found the fabric: A western theme in red, blue and white wool.

The upholsterer did an excellent job removing the vinyl back and seat and recovering it with the western fabric. The whole chair really popped! I sat on it. Firm, functional and beautiful. I loved it!

Some evolutions happen quickly. My chair evolved from a garage sale find to a conversation piece overnight! 

After work I met my friend for coffee to thank her for the chair and tell her how well it turned out. She was gracious saying how happy she was that I enjoyed it so much.

When I got home that night Mr. Wonderful met me at the door. 
"You have to see where the cat is." He led me to the room with my gorgeous western chair and there was our feline. Lounging on it, fur all over it, exposed claws which had been sharpened on it.
My heart sank.
"My chair! But I love sitting in it!"
"I told you you wouldn't be the only one."

Evolutions are slow: Neanderthals evolved into homo sapiens over thousands of years. 
I evolved from a wine novice to a knowing wine drinker in a couple years. 
My chair evolved from garage sale find to conversation piece to cat scratcher in one weekend! 

If I'd had a firmer fabric maybe Jackson wouldn't have attacked my chair. Or may he would have. There's only one thing I know for certain: next time I recover that chair it's going to be in vinyl!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thanks, Book Soup!

A local bookstore.
Some reading.
A glass of wine.

These are the ingredients for a wonderful author's day. Yesterday I had a book reading and signing of my book EVOLUTION OF A WINE DRINKER at Book Soup, a beautiful, smart local bookstore. The event was fun, funny and thrilling!

The bookstore staff was helpful. Thanks, Molly!
The bookstore tweeter was busy. Thanks, Dan! 
The audience asked questions! Thank you, audience!
Afterwards we celebrated with glasses of white wine and rosé.

The bonus: no one fell asleep. Major score!

It was a very good day author's day. So good in fact I'm going to remember that recipe and make that type of day again soon!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Soup!

I like books.
I like soup.
But I love Book Soup!

Today I'm having a book event at West Hollywood's famous bookstore, Book Soup!

Nestled between the Sunset Strip's oversized movie billboards, Gordon Ramsay's Restaurant at the London Hotel and The Viper Room is this wonderful local bookstore.

I'll be reading and signing books starting at 4 PM. I hope to see you there!

P.S. There's parking behind the store!