Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Living in the Napa Valley Part II

Sunface Large Bag and Cat Face Pillow (below) at

As for galleries and boutique shopping, well, we have a lot of that too. Not that I, personally, know much about it. You’ll find me at the factory stores and Target. Most of the shopping in Napa Valley is about the tourists, not the locals. My sister-in-law is a local jewelry and hand painted clothing designer. You’ll find her artistry at several galleries and boutiques from Calistoga down to Napa.

"Abloom in Plum" Bracelet by Fringe Magic on

Cold drink barrel or planter by JayCWoodworks on

I know several people who create candle holders and coat racks or planters and tables using barrel staves. These items can be purchased on Etsy and Ebay. 

My adult niece builds and paints birdhouses (Mother/Daughter Trunk Show this Saturday featuring Hand Painted Designs By Lorna, Fringe Magic Jewelry and Mundy Creations)

Custom birthday invitations and party supplies by Ladybug Karla on
My friend and neighbor is a magician with her paper crafts including custom invitations, centerpieces, cupcake cups and toppers, and banners, as well as paper flowers and place cards; most of which have been shipped to her satisfied customers as far away as Atlanta. 

There are so many talented people in our area who get an added boost in sales because they can honestly say that their product was made in the Napa Valley. It may be no different than products being made in Idaho or Tennessee or NYC, but many people are impressed by this addition to a label. And it makes us aware of the same types of labels when we’re traveling. The Captain and I find all this ironic because we feel that Napa Valley is simply another farming community. It just so happens that the crop grown here attracts the masses and there is a certain associated romance, which even The Captain used to his advantage while pursuing yours truly. See? Even we jaded locals are susceptible. It does help that it is spectacularly beautiful here. But when I was a child, we were commonly referred to as Napkins. This isn’t The Hamptons, people; at least as far as we’re concerned.

Just to make sure you don't get the wrong idea, the vast majority of Napans are not wealthy. Our homes are modest. Our neighbors and family are like us: tugboat captains, realtors, teachers, electricians, accountants, lawyers, welders, refinery workers, and stay-at-home moms. We drive cars that no longer have payments. Our homes do not come equipped with wine cellars. We have never been to The French Laundry (although, for many, that is a bucket list item). We only go wine tasting when friends from out of town come to visit. Napans spend our days working, shuttling kids to activities, attending school, church, and community events, and doing our laundry just like everyone else.

On that note, it isn’t cheap to live here. Gas is a lot more expensive than most places (currently $4.25 for the cheap stuff). We could live in a much larger and newer house by moving just twenty minutes south on the highway, still in Napa County but outside the Napa Valley. Simply put, our dollar doesn't go as far here. I’m not trying to run-down where I live. It is famous for a reason. However, it also has its share of problems, such as no two new buildings anywhere in the city limits have anything in common. It’s a hodgepodge of whoever-had-enough-money-to-charm-city-council (I'm not saying they take bribes but are simply more enthused about money than consistency of design). The arborists the city hires have less sense than the trees on which they work. There are too many one way streets and no good reasoning behind them. One of the major arteries into downtown has been modified to direct traffic away from downtown and two new shopping centers were designed with not enough parking even before most of the shops had opened. Our school district has a tough time making ends meet so on top of the perpetual threat of school closures and pink slips, spending their own money for supplies and having waaaay too many kids in their classrooms (up to thirty-six), our teachers have a minimum of seven furlough days during the school year; most still manage to hold their chins up and present a smile. 

And with all that, the answer to the question I posed in the second paragraph in PART I is: Very. We are very lucky. Even if it didn’t have gorgeous views, fabulous food, and swanky boutiques in which to browse, if not buy, the Napa Valley would be my home because that is where my friends and family – my heart is.


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  2. This is lovely. I enjoyed it very much. Your point about Napa Valley labeling/manufacturing is well made and the commentary on community difficulties is precise.

    1. Thank you! (I appreciate all your comments and am taking them into consideration.)