If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

It’s amazing how many times this one children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, can be applied to real life. Starting on one project, which leads to a whole new, unplanned-for, project, happens to all of us. Despite our meticulous planning for renovating the space to become a bookstore, things creep up that we figure might as well do this now before furniture and books arrive.

Renovating the bathroom was completely unexpected. It originally was the ugliest of all the ugly bathrooms (think gas station bathroom), but I was willing to ignore it because we hadn’t planned on offering it as a public bathroom anyway. As long as it was clean, I was as okay with it as one can be with a Bodega Bathroom.


I saw this SNL skit a few weeks ago and yelled downstairs to my husband: “SNL did a skit about our bathroom!”

Just as renovations were starting, we made the decision to make the bathroom ADA-compliant, just so we wouldn’t be sued by anyone we took pity on and let them use the bathroom. That led to another while we’re at it moment. May as well make space for a future elevator.

So, now, you sit on the toilet and it takes you to the second floor.

I kid!

But wouldn’t that be fun?

After the wall and toilet were moved (still ADA-compliant, you bastards!), well…I just had to make it look like a cool bathroom, right? So, add that to my long to-do list.

This became The Bathroom That Required Two Doctor Visits and Vicodin.

Tiling, grouting, and wallpapering did me in. Aggravated a healing leg muscle injury that had me in tears last week. After taking a few days off, I’m ready to start painting the existing floor tile — because why not hurt myself one last time? — that’s what Vicodin is for. We didn’t want to go through the expense of ripping out the existing tile, so I played around with painting it to go with our Art Deco theme:


Every patron who comes into the bookstore is going to be asked if they have to tinkle and want to see our cool bathroom.

The painting: It just never ends. I never want to paint anything ever again. And I haven’t even been the one doing the bulk of the painting. Ross and Tom have been the chosen ones for most of it. And, of course, it has snowballed to more things. We originally were going to carpet the mezzanine office, but then I got the idea to paint the ugly floor white and do a harlequin stencil on top of that. It’s going to look cool, but it’s yet another task for me before we can put desks in there. I know. I know. I do it to myself. But it’s now or never to do it.

It’s hard to see the forest for the trees this week, even though I know we have made great progress from where we started. It’s just … the dust. It’s everywhere. I’m tired of feeling grimy. We’re coughing all the time because of it. I walked in the door the other day to see a layer of construction dust on the newly laid floor planks. Not our contractor’s fault. We’re putting the cart before the horse on probably every task we’ve done. We’re working concurrently with the contractors, just trying to get the bookstore open on time. Flooring probably should be last, but it’s going in now, and that’s just the way it is.

For the last month, the only running water we’ve had is from a disgusting bathroom in the basement. The contractors installed a line from the pipe for us to get water for construction needs. So, we traipse down there with buckets to siphon water and try to not spray it everywhere. Not that it would matter. That bathroom gives me the heebie-jeebies. It’s the kind of bathroom that men see no problem with because they don’t have to sit.


Now that our *real* bathroom toilet has been re-installed, in frustration last night with dust and dirt everywhere, I decided to glove-up and super-clean the main floor toilet so it looks brand-new. I just needed something to be clean in the space. Having a clean bathroom lifted my spirits so much. Granted, the contractor will be installing the sink today, so “clean” may be fleeting. But I had my Moment last night.

A good friend told me today that this is like having a baby. Right now, I’m in transition, and I need to throw up, push harder, then all I’ll feel is the euphoria of what we created.

She’s right.

Pushing harder.



Putting Lipstick on a Pig

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

We’re starting to feel the pressure now that March is nearly halfway over. When we started renovating the space two months ago, April seemed so far away. Now, it’s right around the corner. When we’re there tearing things apart, many people poke their heads in the open door to say hello and tell us how excited they are to have a bookstore in the neighborhood, which is always followed by “When are you opening?” We would enthusiastically reply with “April 1!” Now, we simply say “April.”

It’s difficult to realize all of the progress we’ve made in just a couple months when you still have so much ahead of you and are sore and tired from doing this nearly every day. While we did hire a licensed contractor to do the things that we were not qualified to do, the demolition, painting, tiling, wallpapering, flooring, and building custom bookcases are all on us. Lately, it’s been feeling like we’re just putting lipstick on a pig. My vision of the bookstore is clouded in billows of sheetrock dust, paint dust, and I’m covered in tile grout. I post several photos on our social media as we’re going through this, but what those don’t convey is how going through something like this makes one feel. That’s what I wanted to capture in our blog. If not for all of you, for ourselves as we look back on this years down the road. We’ll be able to say “Yeah, that really sucked, but look what we built ourselves!”

I discovered last night at 7 pm that grouting tile is HARD WORK. I no longer need a gym membership. My body is screaming at me today, and I’m finding streaks of dried grout on me that the shower didn’t rinse off. Our contractor recommended we use sheets of tile adhesive, rather than mud, but the super-sticky adhesive is literally taking the skin off of my fingertips. So, I decided to take a day off and not be tiling or endlessly vacuuming the space today.

Over the weekend, Ross and Tom painted the main walls the light-grey I chose. I was so worried about the color (all of the colors, actually). Because the gallery before us painted the ceiling this awful chocolate color, any light color on the walls will appear differently throughout the space (grey towards the windows, but mauve towards the back). I was giddy when I saw the color on the walls for the first time on Saturday afternoon. You can tell that it’s grey!!!

My parents were in town for the weekend, so we showed them the space. They were pretty quiet as I led them precariously through the myriad of saws, cords, and wet walls. Pretty sure they think we’re crazy for doing this.

We spent all day Sunday taping off our freshly painted walls so Tom could spray the poop-colored ceiling with the blue I chose. Let’s just say that if you think taping off your home for painting is tedious and hard, you haven’t lived until you’ve done it on 14-foot ceilings. Luckily, that wasn’t my job.

The blue started going on last night. Another sigh of relief. The blue is as perfect as the light-grey. Phew! Two for two. One more color to go (dark-blue on the bump-outs). And then we ran out of paint. Vastly underestimated how much paint the ceiling would take, so it’s another trip to our home away from home (Home Depot).

Any day now, I think we’ll start seeing the pretty.





Today, Presidents’ Day, there was a marked shift in how renovation felt at the bookstore. The professional construction crew arrived. It was like the Cavalry coming in, and that felt pretty presidential — and LOUD — to me. (Be sure to turn your sound on.)

We’ve started to have “regulars” on K Street pop their heads into the open doorway to check on our progress. One man, who I assume has been keeping tabs on us, gave me the thumbs up, saying “It’s coming along.” To which I replied, “It doesn’t feel like it.”

We’ve been in a sea of wall dust for what feels like weeks now. Everything that is currently on the first floor — tables, tools, mini-fridge, water bottles, ladders — have this thick layer of dust from spackling, sanding, resanding, and re-spackling. I set my purse on the table and left with it covered in white dust. We’ve become regulars at Pizza Rock, just across the street, and my son said during a happy hour lunch, “Ew, I have dust in my ears!” (He’s been the main sander in the family…well…because he’s 27, and we are not.) Besides, we’re saving him money on a gym membership. Every day he tells us he’s discovered muscles he never knew existed in his body. 

I decided that today was the day to tackle my fear of the 14-foot ladder and patch the holes on the upper wall that the former gallery left large pockets in. I’ve found that spackling is not unlike frosting a cake. You get into your zone and I didn’t really realize how high up I was. But the scaffolding. NOPE. Climbing the straight-up ladder to get onto the scaffolding was reminiscent of being on the school playground when I was little. Pretty sure I have not used those muscles since 5th grade, and I wasn’t about to revisit the Monkey Bars at age 52, so after two steps I took a hard pass on climbing the scaffolding. 


One more day of spackling and sanding and that task should be done. The contractors put drywall onto the mezzanine office wall today and started sorting out the wonky electrical throughout the building. They will be making the first-floor bathroom ADA-compliant by moving the sink — well, let’s be real here — taking that awful, disgusting sink to the dumpster — and replacing it with a different sink on to the adjacent wall. I am hoping that they will be able to use this super-cool cast-iron sink from upstairs. They’ll have to tell me if it is ADA-compliant. If it’s not, then I’m taking that bad boy home. 

Tomorrow morning, the construction crew will be back at it while Ross and I go to Loftings to see what they might have for two chandeliers that are in our Art Deco theme. 

Back to Square One

Back to Square One

Usually, the phrase “back to square one” means something fell through, but, in our case, it means we’re able to move FORWARD. After we signed the store lease about a month ago, we kicked into high gear in demolishing interior (non-load-bearing) walls that we didn’t want on the second floor and in the basement. I got the idea to put all of the nice wood as giveaway, hoping that people could upcycle them and they wouldn’t end up in the landfill. We even put the broken-up concrete as giveaway. We met so many people who are building wonderful things: a former Davis teacher who is building a shelter for a homeless man, two women who rescue horses, and a couple who are building a chicken coop, to name a few.

The first floor was looking like this last night with what was left:


And it looks like this today after the hauler came for all that was left (sans the doors, which were picked up by someone this morning):

Now that we’re back at Square One, the contractor comes Monday to pour the entryway cement slope to meet ADA requirements. After that cures, we can start painting. YIPEEEE!!! I am so ready to be moving forward in making the space pretty instead of tearing things apart. Things will really start moving forward next week with painting the exterior and signage. And I have nailed down what our first window displays will be for April, which entails having my husband cut a small tree branch down (shhh…we won’t tell him yet).

We were talked about yesterday on Capital Public Radio, which was surreal. Even had a couple poke their heads into the store yesterday to tell us they heard about us on the radio and wanted to see what we’re doing. We’re so excited to meet everyone! Until then, we’ll be busy getting ready for you.


Let There Be Light

Let There Be Light

I haven’t blogged in a while because there’s not really anything exciting going on down at the store. My step-son, who’s doing a lot of the grunt-work with the demolition, got sidelined this week with a bad cold, so nothing happened. Last weekend, we rented a jackhammer from Home Depot to get rid of the 4-feet or so of concrete from the entryway to make it ADA-compliant. It took — oh — all of 5 seconds for Tom to break the pick tool in half. I think we ended up making three or four trips to Home Depot that day. But, once they learned how to correctly use the jackhammer, the boys took turns getting the concrete up. I think they had fun with it. I mean, how many people can say they operated a jack-hammer, right?

So now we have this nice pile of concrete that we’ll dispose of, along with the debris from dismantling several walls.

If you’re local and would like some 2x4s for free (you’ll have to pick them up at the store), leave me a comment below. It’s great wood that we’d hate to have to throw away when it can be upcycled.

Unfortunately, our hopes of maybe being able to salvage the original tile flooring were dashed when we saw the poor condition around the perimeter.


Good news is that I don’t have to re-think our color pallete for the bookstore. Bad news is that it’s sad to see that previous tenants covered up something that had been so beautiful.

This week has mostly been all about phone calls, emails, and trips to stores to research items for inside the store. I’m really ready to be past this destruction part and moving onto making the space pretty. Because I’m doing a lot of gold accents in the store for the Art Deco theme, I was happy to stumble upon these hanging lights at Ikea, of all places:

I think that the white on the outside will nicely complement our white bookshelves, and the gold — well — who doesn’t love gold? I have an old round table that I’m painting blue that I’ll be gold-leafing. That will either be a show-stopper as you walk into the shop or be a huge NAILED IT!

We have our floorplan done. All we have to do now is figure out what genres will go where. It’s all starting to feel real now.


Next week, paint should be going onto the walls, which means, after my son sprays the base walls, I get to climb the scary ladder to roll the dark blue on the columns along the walls. I’m gonna need some Valium.



“The books will tell you what the store should be.”

“The books will tell you what the store should be.”

My husband, son, and I took a field trip to the Bay Area — specifically Berkeley and Oakland — to visit several bookstores for inspiration. We’ve been working with a bookshelf manufacturer on what our bookcases will look like. We know one thing already: white. And that’s about it. The designer gave us a 3D model of his first crack at the layout, which only confirmed that we needed to visit some bookstores to see what spoke to us and what didn’t.

Prior to that, we had visited local bookstores, and that’s where I decided that we should do white shelving (inspired by Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills). Because we’ll have a medium-blue ceiling, light-grey walls, and dark blue bump-outs, I felt that toning things down with white shelving is what we should do. I’m really surprised that my husband so readily agreed to white, quite honestly. His son, who did not fall far from the tree, said to me today, “But bookstore shelves should be wood-colored.” I suppose that is the norm, but Capital Books is not following the norm. Our Art Deco theme will have many dark features with some gold accents around the store.

It is interesting that, of the six bookstores we visited today, certain ones felt “right” to both of us for different reasons. Ross leaned more towards the “traditional” bookstores, like East Bay Booksellers (formerly Diesel Books). When you enter their store, walking on the old, creeky, well-loved floors, you get a sense that this is where serious book-lovers come to buy their books.


Personally, I fell in LOVE with Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore in Berkeley. They have the vibe that I’m after for Capital Books:

And then we stumbled upon, quite by accident, Owl & Company Bookshop. If you ever find yourself in Oakland, I urge you to treat yourself and visit this lovely bookstore. All three of us felt like we stepped back in time.

These photos cannot convey the feeling you get when you walk in the door. I barely got more than a few steps inside when I said to man behind the counter, “This is incredible!” I told him that we are opening a bookstore in Sacramento and were spending the day getting inspired by bookstores. He was one of those gentle souls who you want to sit and chat with for a while. That’s when he told me that the books will tell us how to design the store.

So far, I have not heard much muttering from the book boxes in the basement. They’re probably yelling to be let out, though. Maybe I need to open the lids to hear what they have to say. What I do know is that I want to do them justice. And I want to design a store that makes our community want to come in again and again. I want to make something that entices them to meander through the aisles like I did in Mrs. Dalloway’s or my husband did in East Bay Books.

I hope we will give the books what they want.