Object Of Desire: Even Tomboys Get Cold Necks


My Etro men’s scarf, which I’ve worn and shown you eleventy billion times.

Scarves are popular. And well-documented, by Mai Tai, Deja Pseu, and the Hostess, among others. In silk, a hallmark of the Grande Dame. Fringed, purview of the Artsy Cousin.

Sturdy Gals and tomboys, however, avoid the traditional carré, unnerved by both flapping and sheen. Give us a rectangle, that domesticated geometry, that sometimes Golden Shape, and let simple squared-off ends hang safely at our lapels.

We do, however, support color. You can remove scarves without risking nudity, after all. And for color, in a rectangle, there’s really nothing quite like Etro. All praise the Italians.

Now, Etro’s admittedly pricey. But if you click through the carousel below, from Nordstrom through Bluefly to the vintage site, The RealReal, you just might enter the territory of possible.

I have found that little elevates extreme casual better than chandelier earrings and Etro at the neck. I suppose a zippered Étoile Isabel Marant jacket, like the one above, or pretty much anything Ms. Marant makes, here, or here, can’t hurt either.

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Clearing The Ways, And Letting Them Hide



In fashion, I err on the side of repression. I wear less color and flash than my personality might support. High WASPs are like that and always have been, we worship appropriate, and set our dashboard to flash an early warning for impropriety.

In the garden, however, I err on the side of letting go. And where this takes me, often, is down a path to the joy and rhythm of mess.

How so? In modern landscaping, at least in California, landscapers often rely on what I think of as “wallpaper vegetation,” i.e. affix 6 dozen impatiens to your front yard and be done. The green stuff lives, if you can call it that, dies, gets replaced. Not a lot of meditation, nor wandering.

In these gardens, paths are usually concrete, buttressed by fir bark mulch extending around.

The paths in my back yard, on the other hand, threaten to merge right into the ground. Any carefully lain flagstones are obscured, often as not, by debris. Sometimes accidentally, when leaves fall from a Chinese elm and fronds lie down on ferns, sometimes on purpose, when I clean up and leave piles.

Cleaning is one of my favorite parts of gardening. Such a contrast when you finish, such an opportunity for a new perspective. In process,


and done. You can see how the light changed as I worked.


When I first announced that I’d be widening the blog scope beyond clothing to house and garden, you all recommended Tara Dillard. Thank you very much. She writes often about the importance of “flow,”in garden design. And she also says, “Your landscape cannot have too many entries.” I’m glad someone who knows their stuff insists that mess is creative, paths to nowhere actually “entries.”

Some of my “paths” in fact, are nothing more than unplanted space. You know to walk through only by the suggestion of green and ground, and they disappear in a few months, if neglected.


To really clear the way, I even have to pull out plants I love. Japanese anemones are gorgeous creatures, their little white flowers perch on the long stalks like singing birds. You can see one flowering above, others ready to bloom, in that lower right hand corner.

And then removed, bare ruined choirs covered in compost, below. The entry is back.


This is not big statement gardening. No showy flowers, no firepit, a distinct lack of putti. Just enough work done to manifest the owner.

My motto, which I only managed to articulate because I’m trying to explain to you why this isn’t just laziness, which it resembles? Allow chaos, work for quiet. In other words, I like to lose paths and then remake them,


even when they lead to untrammeled bamboo, unused side doors, or a regular old garden fence. As another reputable design source once said, “The eye has to travel.”

A Whiteboard Analysis Of Renee Zellweger’s Plastic Surgery, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:29am

As 99% of you probably know, the actress Renee Zellweger had plastic surgery. The Internet opined. My apologies if you are ready to be done discussing, but the storm of talk has made me feel as I often did in business meetings, compelled 3/4 of the way through to leap from the table and start writing on a white board.

“Let me just see if I can line it out,” I’d say, scribbling. Then add a few rectangles and arrows. Or a bulleted list. Anything to reveal the logical structure of the debate.

Here’s what I think about Renee. What she did is just fine, except. Let’s analyze the motivations, briefly.

  1. People want to be physically attractive. Although in an perfect world we don’t care about surface beguilements, in reality we’re animals hard-wired to the physical. Not ideal, but perhaps we can make our peace with it. In any case, I am not sure we’ve got much choice in the matter. So, those things people do to become attractive, are they OK?
    1. Yes, except when driven by an uncomfortable sense of inadequacy and therefore subject to misery.
    2. Yes, except when the remediation is taken to extremes and backfires, either in your own eyes, or in the eyes of those you wanted to attract.
    3. Yes, except when women care much more than men, because gender expectations should be fair and balanced. We want our intellect, competency and good lucks to matter only as much as it does for men.
  2. People want to look young. This is not so fine. Let’s look at two specific variants.
    1. The need to look young for your job. Not fine. Workplace bias against age is so not-fine that in the US we have laws establishing those over-4o as a protected class. Employers have every right to look for au courant, modern,and strong, but not to assume that any of those attributes in inextricably linked to age.
    2. The desire to look young for beauty. More complicated. Not fine, and yet so hard to deny. The afore-mentioned hard-wiring to the physical is designed to produce more of us. And women, due to engineering that optimizes us to care for babies when we’re young but does little for our lifelong physical attractiveness, spend over half our lives off the production line. Please excuse the machine-centric language. So men may be hard-wired to find beauty in fertility. Hard to get past.
  3. People want to be recognized. They also want to talk about each other.
    1.  Wonderful. Except when we need recognition to fill a hole in our soul, and when we talk about others for the same reason. Need and mean feed off each other.

Back to Renee. I think the problem is that her actions exposed many of  the Not Fines that appear Kind Of Fine when seen separately. Imagine a Venn diagram with circles for Obsession With Surface Beauty, Ageism, Sexism, Celebrity Displays, and Internet-Enabled Public Humiliation – poor Renee’s face smack-dab in the overlapping center.

And when she showed us what she’d done, we all start talking at once. Whether we re-erect the screen, or see clearly and maybe make progress, well, that’s up to us.

Have a good weekend.

Talismans, Pentagrams, Longitudes, Latitudes

Do you find that odd little things can make your history clearer all at once?

Last week I read Tana French’s latest mystery, The Secret Place. I love her stuff. This takes place at an exclusive girl’s school outside of Dublin, and derives no small part of its color from the magical rites of teenagers. As I read, the High WASP in me spoke severely, “Over the top!” The prose seemed too purple, the supernatural happenings too preposterous.

And then I remembered actually being a teen and pre-teen. Took an effort, almost a quantum leap to put myself back in that time. Those years when pretend was as real as real. I went through puberty feeling magic, as though my life was being read out loud to me by James Earl Jones, portentous, deep. I was almost certainly a little weird – but maybe we all are at that age?

Recently I also realized that by coincidence, or vibration, two readers of this blog run small businesses so reflective of my particular young oddities, I want to cry “Sorcery!” or, “The universe is speaking!”  Of course, High WASPs don’t say that in public.

On the other hand, we’ll talk jewelry any day of the week. This is from our friend, Patsy. Ah, Cape Cod.

Patsy Kane Navigator Horizon Bracelet

We were all 11 going on 12, once. I spent that summer in sailing camp at the Wianno Yacht Club. I don’t know why it seemed so magical.

Maybe the independence of small boats and medium-sized kids helming them without adults? The snack bar with hamburgers ours for a signature? The surprise of small islands? The rumble of my parents’ slowly-failing marriage? Or maybe my own tan arms and white blonde hair? Had I know then how beautiful we are at that age, would anything have been different?

No, maybe it was Capsizing Day. We learned to escape after surfacing under a smothering sail. I remember the light in between the sea’s surface and the white sheet, and breathing to remain calm. I could have used that lesson better, later.

In any case, Patsy Kane lives and works in Marblehead, Massachusetts. She sails, for real, and makes jewelry that authentically reflects the lifestyle. Some of you may be familiar with Kiel James Patrick, and while I wish the young man all success in his endeavors, his marketing imagery presents a set of youth who glow differently than I remember. I don’t need someone else to manufacture magic – it comes from my own memories.  Patsy’s Navigator bracelet, engraved with coordinates of one’s choice, locate one’s time and space so specifically.

Unsurprisingly, she also does casual pearls.

On the other end of the talismanic spectrum, we find Pamela Gene Daley, and the business she runs with her husband, Mark Defrates.


They specialize in symbols. Above, a pentagram, with, you know, a diamond. Pamela and Mark offer other symbols too. Dragons, Egyptian cats, Celtic crosses, more.

A talisman should be specific and derived from something you lived. For me it could in fact be a pentagram. Imagine, if you can spare a minute, a standard high school gym, up in the hills above San Francisco Bay’s hot dry eastern side. Two teenage girls on the yellow wood floor dancing badly to a group called Pentangle. Probably wearing cotton skirts, and footless tights. Believing all the while that they were calling powers. It’s silly, poignant, and, although I know full well what a ninny I was, a little awe-inspiring. That time in our lives, we transition in ways that no one can yet fully explain. So teen drama maybe enacts stronger forces, like pretty shadow puppets.

When I was young, life seemed linear. First this happened, then this next thing, then something else. Each event took so much consciousness to process, I lived it in fragments.

It still takes a lot, to be a person, But now I suspect that some of who we feel ourselves to be can be simply told. For me, in the shift from sailboats off Wianno to witchcraft in California. For you, something else. We are our transitions, but we only know ourselves when we’re still. Maybe that’s the point of talismans, to change times of transition into something you can hold between finger and thumb.



The Amazon link is affiliate. No compensation has been received from Patsy or Pamela. In fact I suspect this post comes as somewhat of a surprise to both of them.


Tailgating With ALL The Gear

So, the San Francisco Giants are in the World Series. I’m always surprised when this happens, we’re too Alternative to be good at sports, right? Apparently not!

This weekend Significant Husband and I went walking out behind the ballpark Do you know how beautiful this city is? Look.

A photo posted by Lisa Carnochan (@amidprivilege) on

As it turns out, the ballpark, in addition to glassy harbor waters and picturesque boats at dock, offers ground level gameday spots for a small, free, standing audience. You watch for 3 innings, then they shoo you out and wave in the next group. Populism in action. Can’t you imagine setting up a tailgate party – or at least a harbor picnic – right nearby?

So when my friends at Boombox Network asked me to test one of their shopping guides, I said yes to Tailgating Essentials. Everything you need for a picnic on the asphalt. Or, in the case of San Francisco, by the bay.

Tailgating Essentials from Boombox Network

Boombox thoughtfully provided us with details.

  1. SportBrellaThis portable umbrella sets up in seconds and protects your entire family from wind, rain, sand and the blazing sun. Order it online and pick it up at Walmart.
  2. Tailgating CoolerAn ice chest, charcoal grill and all the utensils in one portable package. Shoulder strap or handles, you decide how to carry it. From Walmart.
  3. LED LanternDon’t you love the retro look, but with the safety and brightness of LED lighting? Order it now from Best Buy.
  4. BackPack Cooler ChairAll in one – your chair, your cooler, and your hands are free! Pick this up at JCPenney.
  5. Football BlanketSince childhood, sitting on the bleachers has always been better with one of these wool blankets over your legs. Online at Best Buy.
  6. Grill LightIt always gets dark before you know it. Clip this almost anywhere and the flexible neck lets you point it where you need it. Buy it at JCPenney.
  7. Weather Resistant Outdoor SpeakerGet the sound to everyone with this large speaker that can be placed horizontally or vertically and keep going for 6 hours. You can find this at Best Buy.
  8. The Picnic PackEnough for snack time for the whole team and the coaches. 16 Burgers and 16 Franks, all gourmet. Order it from Omaha Steaks and keep it in the freezer until you need them.
  9. Football ClawNow there’s the perfect place to keep that Game Ball – on the wall! Order it now so it’s on hand when you need it, at The Container Store.

Love that football blanket.

Baseball will be over in the blink of an eye. Congratulations Giants for a great opener. Sorry, Kansas City, no hard feelings. Football, however, will be with us for a while. Do you guys tailgate? And do you go all out? Surely you don’t endorse shivering with bad sandwiches?


The guide contains affiliate links. I have not nor will I receive compensation, but I am interested in any data derived. Please feel free to contact Boombox, if you’d like to work with them, here.


5 Things To Do This Week In Preparation For Winter Holidays And None Of Them Even Smell Like Gift Shopping


Last week I was walking through a shopping center in search of Teavana’s Dragonwell, when I spotted, not one, but three “holiday” stores. They sprout up now like little redwood seedlings in the mall-forests of California. I sighed.  Ah, well, no point wasting exasperation on things ignorable, is there?

On the other hand, a few other errands last week reminded me that there are a few tasks you might take on, even though Christmas  – my winter holiday of origin – is a ways off. Have no fear – I would not think of exhorting you to start gift-shopping. I never finish fortifications until the week of, and feel that December 22nd is a great day to slap down that credit card one last time.

But how about completing needed repairs? Stocking up on festive goods? Now seems good. For example:

  1. Buy lots of new candles. You might order a bunch of beeswax tapers from Glacier Mountain Honey, because it’s really nice to support small family businesses, to say nothing of  the great state of Montana, and beeswax smells gorgeous.
  2. Check your lights to make sure they all work, untangling as you go just in case you threw them in the box impatiently last January. Maybe buy new strands in fancy shapes like candles and grapes. Definitely a few packs of gutter hooks.
  3. Get wrapping supplies before all that’s left in stores is paper that erupts in glitter every time you touch it. I am a sucker for Paper Source.
  4. Take your party clothes to the tailor. I have needed these J. Crew cropped silk pants altered for 11.5 months. I’ll pick them up next week.
  5. Bring home a new Christmas object. When my kids were little, by tradition we acquired a few new ornaments every year. I don’t have big trees any more, and find we don’t even have room to hang what we have. However, there’s still space on tables and counters. Past finds included these elf houses, groovy glass trees from Target, and a set of little wooden carol singers that were souvenirs from a trip to Switzerland. This year I’m thinking kitsch. Look at these china figurines from Royal Doulton. Come on, admit it, fun.

By the way, alterations prepare you for many festivities. And candles, (here for Diwali – starts Thursday! or here for Chanukkah), illuminate winter without reference to creed. But no pressure. You owe neither tastefully wrapped presents, nor plush tables, to anyone. It’s just that taking care of a la few things now now does give you time to choose in something like peace.

In the meantime, if you don’t feel like carving pumpkins, here’s my lazy woman’s guide to jack o’ lanterns. Got your back coming and going, oh yes we do.

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You Could Use The Shopbop Sale For A Big Cool Clutch

Yes, I’m on break, this doesn’t count. The RewardStyle people wrote me to say the Shopbop sale is on,  at the exact moment when I was browsing Pinterest street style and realizing that the bag of the moment is an over-sized, soft-sided clutch. Envelope, fold-over, pouch, all good options.

And all available at Shopbop for 25% off, with the code, FAMILY25.

Of course if you’d rather look at the Vince slipon sneakers (also on sale), as a reasonable person might, Grechen’s got her highlighted items up over here.

Pretend you didn’t see me?


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Quarterly Blog Break

Hi guys! Time for the usual quarterly blog break. For any of you new to this self-published-time-stamped-upload-images game, I highly recommend planned breaks as a way to keep yourself going. New tagline, happily writing for 5 years and more?

See you in a week!

Extreme Casual Style For Weekends, Retirement, Stay-At-Home Moms And Anyone, Really

Back in 2013, I wrote a post about putting together a whole new wardrobe from scratch. We talked about how to stratify your closet, allowing you to dress well even when you have to muster all your courage to make the effort, along with some strategies for better days.

However, back then I was working, and the ideas I presented included the office. What are the equivalent ideas for the non-office world? For truly, madly, deeply casual lives? Weekends, stay-at-home moms, or Tomboy Retirement? The numbers and outfits are different, the stratification concept similar.

Stage 1: Survival

You can barely dress yourself, but, needs must. Kids have to get to school, there’s food to be purchased, you’re out of soap. Guiding principle?

Just don’t go naked. Seriously. There is no requirement in this world that you look pulled-together, you owe no one style. If you want to slam on clothes and bam on out the door, it’s your right. And here’s some impunity from the High WASP magic wand just in case. Ping!

Stage 2: Humming Along

OK. You’ve slept reasonably well. Armed with that list of errands, you’re in the groove. But you aren’t yet ready to sacrifice comfort for A Look. By the way, we’re wearing flats. I know you might find a little heel more comfortable, now, but I posit the theorem that time out of the office or social soirees is well-spent in returning our bodies to more natural states.

Untitled #193



On days of The Bare Minimum, AKA 2-25mph, I stick to one of these 3 modern silhouettes.

  • Body conscious top (not tight per se) with loose cuffed pants
  • A neat shirt (think athletic fit) with flared bottoms
  • Long over lean

I realize I’m ruling out the full Eileen Fisher of loose shirt and wide pants, but, while classic, I do not consider that look modern. Besides, if I am to avoid looking rumpled and messy in all that fabric, I must pay more attention than I’d like. These 3 silhouettes also rule out camp shirt and cargo capris; let me go on record as saying that I do not find that widely adopted look terribly flattering on anyone.

I have also found 3 color schemes very useful in looking pulled together with minimal effort and money:

  • Your best color augmented by tried and true subtle complementary hues (blues with a burnt orange, greens with a tobacco brown, etc.)
  • Neutrals with a little pattern or texture
  • Monochromatic (shades of red, green, all black, etc.)

What you don’t want to do is hop into black pants thinking, “Doesn’t black go with everything?” and then add a top in whatever color is on top of the drawer.  If you’re adding anything, even to black, you want to mean it. The same principle holds true for jeans or khakis. All the colors you wear matter, they can’t be wished away, your pants are not invisible.

It’s really easy to fix this, by the way. Just choose a color set. It can be very, very small.

Selvedge jeans on sale at Levis // Blue tees from Calypso St. Barth, James PerseSteven Alan // Orange Birkenstock Gizeh on sale at 6pm //  Climachill tee from Adidas // Yoga pants on sale at Old Navy // Black Nike sneakers via Kohls // Fawn skinnies on sale at the GAP // Striped tunic from J. Crew // Kamik wellies via Zappos

You will find style at the very outskirts of elegance by representing your intentions, by embodying your aesthetic. People with intention are assumed to be taking care of themselves, and that’s the first principle of extreme casual style.

BTW, some might pull out a maxi dress in this situation. Tomboys don’t like flappy fabric, so I save dresses for, well, dress up. However, I support your choice and perhaps you might share some ideas with the gang here.

Stage 3. Rev The Motor, Almost Imperceptibly

You want to step it up, just a tad. Maybe it’s lunch with Dad, maybe a trip to the elegant mall, maybe the city streets call you to style up, baby, style up. But keep your flats.

Untitled #192



The 3 basic silhouettes persist. However, in the Extreme Casual world, as you dress up you add interest at every level. Oh, and dress wearers, this is when we shift to, well, shifts, right? Along with,

  • Comfortable but well-designed accessories
  • More adventurous color mixing
  • More embellishment to shape
  • More visually layered fabrics
  • A tad more texture and spark to those flats
Peach scarf from the Block Shop // Earrings via Max & Chloe // White Topshop peplum jacket via Nordstrom // J. Brand bell-bottoms via net-a-porter // Isabel Marant draped gray ombre top via Farfetch  // Kenzo Eye sweatshirt via Forward by Elyse Walker// Turquoise Jack Rogers on sale at Amazon // Vince sneakers via Nordstrom (online only) // Pointy-toe brogues via Nordstrom

Stage 4. Blowing Out All Cylinders

And blowing it out? Here we converge with the world at work. The world of dressing up is its own, a bubble, without reference to where we come from or where we go next. Wear a little black dress. Or a long silver one. Or try budget black tie. And yes, this is the moment for heels. The only constraints are time, money and imagination.

I suspect you all have the imagination, in spades. That’s what matters most. In the meantime, I’ve added to my >25mph sneaker collection, with the Vince sneakers above, in Mushroom. They run a size small. See you on the speedway.


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Why Does My Mattress Cost More Than Everything Else In My Bedroom Put Together?


Somewhere on the way to refurbishing a master bedroom, you might find you need a new mattress. Round here, I’m still sleeping on the full-size bed I bought for the apartment of my post-divorce years. It’s neither cozy nor romantic. It’s small. So we’ve been looking at king-sized options.

Unfortunately, enter the Princess and her associated Pea.

First, I injured my shoulder, back in January, in part because I ‘m a side-sleeper. Imagine a broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped person lying on their side. Weight rests on the relatively rigid hip, while shoulder and multiple associated bones fold uncomfortably forward. This, along with other modern insults to the body, can provoke a tendinosis of the shoulder. In the world of mattresses, only memory foam provides equal support to someone with 18 vertical inches of shoulders and 13 vertical inches of hip. Vertical inches is a term I just made up. Please bear with me and pretend it’s real.

Second, I am also ridiculously sensitive to chemical vapors, and highly wary of the effect of petrochemicals on the environment. Almost all memory foams are made of polyurethane, prone to diffusing volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere.

Enter Essentia.

My Internet research showed me that while there are many “natural” mattress companies, and many makers of memory foam, Essentia makes, today, the only mattress both natural and foam. How about we define “natural” as, “made with materials that as often as possible are produced without petrochemicals or other toxic ingredients or by-products?” Everyone good? It’s kind of a squishy concept.

Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, Essentia makes memory foam mattresses in a unique process using latex rubber, essential oils, and plant extracts. To finish, they cover their mattresses in organic cotton, charge you huge sums of money, add a 20-year warranty, and tell you latex fends off bed bugs and dust mites. This last blunts the financial pain, a little bit.

A final selling point, one which I did not see articulated in Essentia’s literature, but derived? Researchers are beginning believe that good sleep consolidates memory. In which case, it may help ward off dementia. Dementia runs in our family, my mother is losing her memory, my grandmother followed a similar trajectory. So, research. We want sleep spindles, as you can imagine. And I only just now realized, on Tuesday October 7th, at 6:14am Pacific Time, the irony of the term “Memory Foam.” Huh.

I’ve ordered the Dormeuse. As a side sleeper, I need softness. I tried it out at the company’s barebones storefront in Berkeley, and felt so comfortable. Apparently they don’t need to do much marketing in-store; people show up already sold. BTW, back sleepers will prefer the Beausommet.

If I might ask, do you face sleep issues? And if so, have you found solutions?


No consideration has been received for this post, nor will any links generate commissions unless there are elves in the Internet about which I do not know.