A few weeks back, on the eve of my thirty-third birthday, people began to question my abnormally, anti-climactic countdown to the main event. Historically, birthday month is announced every single day, all May long. My reserved birthday demeanor was unintentional and obvious. The significance of the month was not being ignored but it was being drastically overshadowed. The importance was becoming larger than turning another year older.
Since May 1st, after arriving back home from a 10-day vacation on the gorgeous island of Hawaii, our life became consumed with the quest to find a home. In the fourth and final month, after drastic levels of optimism and heartbreak, our house hunting persistence paid off, more than we could have ever imagined.
Within ten hours of being back on the mainland, we were standing at the front door of what we thought was meant to be our future home. White brick fireplace, desirable location, decent yard, bathroom and kitchen remodels a necessity, it was the first home we had seen that hit all the marks. It was also, unknowingly, the first of many homes we would see during May. With cash buyers and a few extraordinary hurdles thrown our way, the house search had become extremely frustrating to say the least. It wasn’t until a few days before the 27th that a light at the end of the tunnel began to glow. After four tumultuous months and numerous let downs, the perfect home had found us. Thirty-three was about to be a very pivotal year. We are finally in escrow and on our way to homeownership.
Regardless, neither myself nor my husband would allow a birthday month to pass without some sort of celebratory recognition. After agreeing to keep things low-key this year, uncertain of what the future would bring, we ditched the traditional road trip, passed on the annual family bbq and decided to cram all the celebration we could into our three-day Memorial weekend. My main criteria was to keep everything as local as possible.
Birthday weekend started Friday evening, at Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar in Healdsburg, for dinner with my tragically handsome better half. Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar is one of many restaurants that make up Stark Realty Restaurants, along with some of our other local favorites. The small plate style menu allows us to work through multiple mini-entree’s offering as large a spectrum of flavors as we could want. For anyone like my mother, who is seafood allergic, don’t let the name be misleading. They have chicken and other non-seafood, non-raw menu options. Through our own research, we have confidently created our prime custom menu. In no particular order as long as the fish tacos are the finale, our favorite selections are, flash fried calamari with orange chili gremolata, dunes crab cake, “melted cheese” dip with chorizo, cilantro pesto, and frito chips and grilled fish tacos with salsa, avocado cream and lime. Each of which go perfectly with my favorite cocktail on this entire planet, the Sprung Strawberry, made of vodka, white wine and fresh strawberry. The calamari is like candy. It’s just like the calamari at Stark’s Steakhouse. Having two locations where I can get this very specific appetizer classic makes life twice as nice. The crab cakes are crab, nothing else. The order gives you just one crab cake and for two people, just one is perfect. The chorizo cheese dip is one of the few dishes I could eat far past being completely full, regret it in the morning and then have it again for dinner. The cilantro pesto floats on top of the gooey pool of melted cheese. The Frito chips make it feel like you could somehow make it at home. Don’t try, you can’t. That is why, at one point in our lives, we ate there twice in five days. No shame in our game. Lastly, always specifically lastly, the fish tacos. I don’t totally understand what the red grilled coloring is from but I accept that it gets all over my white napkin, like battle wounds from the world’s best taco boxing match. The fish taco is actually what prompted our first trip together to Willi’s. It was a Tuesday, we were craving tacos and I requested a good fish spot. Five minutes later, we were in the car headed to Willi’s, the home of Ryan’s favorite local fish taco. Someday we will forfeit one of our menu items for dessert, anything but the tacos.
The birthday festivities continued on Saturday morning when my parents came to town for a day of wine tasting in our own backyard. Neither of my parents had wine tasted around Sonoma County and with Dry Creek Valley just a few miles north, Ryan planned a daytime tour of the places we have grown most fond of. The first stop was Sbragia Family Vineyards, the furthest north destination on our map for the day. In my opinion, Sbragia, perched hillside adjacent to the dam at Lake Sonoma, offers the best view of Dry Creek Valley. We hired a driver to ensure all four of us could relax and taste our way around each winery, responsibility free. The benefits of that choice were evident from the moment we all received our first pouring of Chardonnay and the second and third. After trying their full tasting menu and taking in every ounce of the endless mountain layered horizon, we were ready to move on.
Not too far south, our second stop was a location that I have been anxious to show my parents, especially my mother. During my years in the interior design industry in Los Angeles, I experienced some of the most over-the-top tastes in home design that you could imagine. A lot of grandness, just teetering on the level of absurdity. Gold and glam were often the dominate themes and although at the time it felt ridiculous and excessive, it has left me often missing the unapologetically indulgent lifestyle. Twice a year, I would recruit my mom to work our semi-annual gift show. She got to experience first hand the eccentric cliental that came through our front door. Because of that, I knew she would understand my appreciation for Ferrari Carano. If I could live at any winery in Sonoma County, Ferrari Carano would be my home. Pillars, fountains, gardens featuring color blocked floral patterns, marble, vineyards all around, every inch meticulously manicured, all tastefully overdone. It’s easy to feel like you are in a different place in the world. Not all of their wine is my favorite but what it lacks in flavor, the grounds make up for in aesthetics. Between the upstairs bar with a garden and fountain view, the downstairs bar with a relaxed lounge atmosphere and the impeccably maintained landscape, as long as I had cheese and crackers, I could spend all weekend there.
The ladies tasted mostly whites and the men mostly reds. After agreeing on a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc, not a wine I am traditionally fond of but very much enjoyed the light fruity flavor of theirs, we decided to try their dessert wine. Baci, meaning kiss in Italian, according to our wine steward, reminds me of a chocolate covered cherry. The kiss is the touch of dark chocolate that comes in at the end. We immediately added a bottle to our purchase.
Our third destination would bring the feeling of Sonoma County, from a design perspective, full circle. We began the day at a somewhat modern, borderline concrete-industrial tasting room that relies greatly on the beauty of the surrounding, classic Sonoma County view. Then, we moved onto a location that exudes the more elaborate, luxurious lifestyle that is often associated with the high class image of the wine culture. Winery number three touched on the eco-friendly, country living side of Sonoma County’s local wineries. Looking much like a modern day farmhouse, Truett Hurst is the epitome of barn chic. The adirondack chair logo completely encompasses the laid back atmosphere of the tasting room and grounds. A beautiful patio where you can take in live music, say hello to the estate’s chickens and goats, stroll through the garden or picnic on the lawn, all at your disposal, a little bit of everything. We happened to be there on a Saturday when they had a live musical guest. Zinfandel aplenty, we relaxed with equally content and welcoming strangers and listened to some rather long renditions of late seventies classics. It was like being invited to a party where everyone was a friend of a mutual friend but no one really knew who that friend was. You know, like that.
After purchasing our third bottle of wine for the day, we left Truett Hurst hungry. When you’re out in Dry Creek in the middle of the day and food becomes a priority there is really only one solution, Dry Creek General Store. Salads, sandwiches, gifts and a cheese selection to die for, waiting for your food to be ready is the best part so you can peruse every aisle. Smoked turkey on a soft roll with Mendocino Mustard and pepper jack cheese for me, the same with bacon for babe, paired with Kettle Chips and well-deserved bottle of water. Our wine tasting tour had found itself at its end. Although we had great intention of continuing on, five hours of wine tasting proved to be borderline exhausting and we had a Warriors game at home to tend to. Pizza, beer and jammies became our early evening conclusion. It had been a perfect day. Special thanks to Rick our driver from Dugway Limousine Service for allowing us such a stress free and fabulous time.
Sunday was set up to be a deserving encore to such a successful couple of days. The Oscar de la Renta exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park with my parents and some dear family friends seemed like a very solid decision to round out the weekend. Being an Oscar de la Renta admirer since I was a very little girl, watching the red carpet events of all the major award shows, I have always associated his work with glamour and class. When my mom told me about the exhibit I knew that there was nothing I could want more for my birthday than to see his stunning works of art in person, in one of my most favorite cities. The opportunity to stand in front of one-of-a-kind garments, created by someone I hail a genius was an opportunity I would regret forever should I let it pass. From the moment we exited the garage and entered the hallway, I was smitten before even making it past the gift shop.
The exhibit had an optional audio tour that we found to be worth every cent of the eight dollar rental charge. For eight dollars, you were given headphones and an iPod like device that had narration and runway clips that aligned with the layout of the exhibit. Most of the narriation was by Andre Leon Talley, formerly of Vogue magazine, who curated “Oscar de la Renta: The Retrospective”. Beginning with work from the 60s and ending with gowns worn by Amy Adams and Sarah Jessica Parker at the 2013 Academy Awards and 2014 Met Gala, I was in awe of the level of craftsmanship carried through in every detail. Traveling through decades and stages of inspiration, each vignette was like being given a key into the vault of his creative history. Influences from Spain and Russia were prevalent in some of the vintage collections. Couture creations from Vogue moments I distinctively remember stood inches away. The blue and white Marie Antoinette gown worn by a barefoot Kirsten Dunst, photographed by the one and only Annie Leibowitz in the September 2006 Issue, was displayed in a sitting position in the garden room. A room that used video footage of Oscar’s notorious garden in the Dominican Republic, his home country, as full wall backdrop.
Thanks to the brilliant efforts of Andre and the De Young, woman like myself can now know and appreciate the journey and full passion of a man who’s legend will live on forever in the art that he left behind.
Before leaving town we headed to Tacolicious on Chestnut St. for margaritas and tacos, naturally. Sharing a combo platter of chicken, fish and beef, we found that you really can’t go wrong at Tacolicious. It was a delicious hooray to a day full of family, friends and fashion. What more could a girl ask for?
Originally, this post was to end with a brief write-up on our Memorial Day trip to Home Depot and the joy of officially becoming homeowners. Now, the original ending seems trivial. To be fact, this all seems rather frivilous. On Sunday morning, I along with the rest of the world, woke up to the news of yet another mass shooting. This time, however, would make history as the largest mass shooting in the United States to date. A horrific and outrageously infuriating event that will now be just as synonymous with Orlando as Disney World, the happiest place one earth. Sunday morning, I silently sat and watched in horror as frazzled newscasters pieced together the stream of information unraveling from the disgusting turn of events. I was overwhelmed with anger and sorrow, emotions undoubtedly felt collectively worldwide.
In the days that follow an event of this nature, there is a flurry of concerns and judgements about politics and religion, expressed through various means of media. Gun control, terrorism and homeland security will be the dominate topics of discussion. History has shown, that in the wake of such a disaster, many jump to defend whatever side of the coin benefits their own lifestyle best. I understand why people do this. It is our instinctual reaction of survival to take necessary precautions to ensure our own longevity. I get it, but I think we can do better. I think we can sway towards our other instinct, to make the best decision for the whole pride, for the greater good. We are supposed to be united. We are supposed to be in this together, working together, supporting a system that is best for everyone, all of us, together. We have to figure this out, together.
I believe, I am one of many that lack the ability to be black or white, pro or con, all or nothing. I am stuck, unable to identify with either side of the spectrum, swimming in a grey area, in search of an end to the violence. I am one of the many that is tired of the repetitive tragedies taking away our children, parents, siblings, coworkers and friends from lives they deserve to live. Tired of everyone being ready to argue but no one trying to offer a solution. Tired of everyone trying to be heard but no one having anything helpful to say. Tired of being told I have to pick a side when the right side doesn’t seem to exist. Tired of the absence of humanity. Most of all, I am tired of all the hate. From global to local level, I can’t handle anymore hate. I don’t have any answers but I know I want to be a part of the solution. I want to be a part of a generation that makes a difference when the world needs it the most. I want to feel like I have other people around me trying to do the same, unselfishly, for the benefit of mankind. Think, outside your own walls. Think, beyond your own needs. Think of the people we have lost. Think of what can be done to stop this from happening. Realize that this level of hate is happening. It is happening now and it is happening to us and we have to make it stop.
May we all find tolerance, may we all find compassion and most importantly, may we all find peace.
Spread love, xoLA