How To Grow A Gardenia In The San Francisco Bay Area, And Other Dialogues


Gardenia-In-The-Dark

  1. Harbor a hidden guilty love of gardenia fragrance, for 30 years
  2. In November, hire your fabulously talented garden designer to redo your backyard
  3. Respond, “Yes,” when he asks if you’d like him to put a gardenia in a pot, hidden from sight around a corner of your house
  4. Stare blankly at the resultant green and bloomless plant for months. It will stare blankly back at you. This is now your relationship.
  5. Cheer when a bunch of buds burst out
  6. Curse when said buds brown and wither and drop, not a flower in sight
  7. Go google everything you can about Why Won’t My Gardenia Flower San Francisco Bay Peninsula Gardenia Bloom Damn You
  8. Despair at the conflicting information. Apparently gardenias are notoriously reluctant to bloom in your region. Curse your garden designer and suspect him of giving you a plant he simply couldn’t bear to kill himself
  9. Continue to water said implacable gardenia plant because you can’t bear to kill it either
  10. One day, dutifully fertilizing your fuchsia with organic glop that smells of rotting fish, realize you might just feed your gardenia too
  11. Rummage around the garden supplies and find some azalea and camellia food that yes, hey, what do you know!, is also good for gardenias
  12. Follow directions. When nothing else works, follow directions.
  13. A month later, wake to the glorious sight of a flock of gardenia buds poised for flight like seagulls on shore
  14. Another week or two later, blooms. That peppery vanilla-esque fragrance is intoxicatingly yours, day or night, night or day. Juicy Fruit gum, meet Szechuan peppercorns.
  15. Take a breath. Your life has been forever changed.

Especially when you let the light reflect from a copper watering can onto one of your blossoms, early in the morning, and the drops pause, and wait, for whatever secret it is that only gardenias know.

Gardenia-In-Reflected-Copper-Light

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The Joy Of Non-Misery At This Moment, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:41am


I moved Mom Thursday.

Currently having a non-awful Saturday morning.

It’s astonishing how much one can learn from sheer dreadfulness. Horribility. Having often proceeded with one foot in the present and one foot in a shiny future vision, I’m now looking at, well, now. Turns out that an imagined happy future gilds the present, but, if it doesn’t come true, everything gets really bleak.

Lowering expectations doesn’t have to be depressing. There may be a different, smaller, grainier joy in a skeptical reality.

In any case, in this particular now, I wish you a wonderful, in-the-moment weekend. Or at least a Saturday morning. Deep breath.

What Shelter Magazine Are You? (And Wait, What Is A Shelter Magazine Anymore?)


Having examined, in the recent past, cultural identity, I thought we might move on to house style. As one does. Who among us has not undertaken Cosmopolitan and Glamour quizzes purporting to explain ourselves to ourselves? Who among us has never succumbed to a Facebook slideshow in an attempt at the same?

So, What Shelter Magazine Are You, v.2? (We’ve done this before, a while back)

How about Dwell? I love the minimal, rustic, craggy-vistaed look, but, since I don’t have a pristine grassy plateau available at the moment, I can’t say this is me. Impractical.

sailing_the_high_desert-prefab-vaction-home-narrow-building-storage-outdoor-kitchen-facade_0

Elle Decor? I love the photo below, but I realize that in this case, the outdoors makes the indoors. Insufficient chairage, if one wants to do anything other than stare out the window. For example, talk to other people. And by the way, Elle’s sourcing a Sotheby’s house tour. Guys, the world is changing.

nyc-les

Vogue Living? This image represents most closely a space in which I would want to live. A space in which the dishtowels on the oven door handle play a visual role as do the frames on the wall. Celebrate the rumple, my friends.

14-remy-renzullo-house-tour

Other sites host an aesthetic clearly not my own. BHG, I don’t know why but I don’t care for text-based decor.

1-Jennifer-Hadfield_Tater-Tots-Jello

Southern Living, love the furniture, but what do you have against a nice pale blue, or navy, or, say, silver to add to this palette?

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Beyond pure aesthetic then, the shelter magazines themselves are suffering from something of an identity crisis. Those who get the usefulness bit right, either in content (i.e. how to decorate with random non-beautiful art),

quirky-bathroom-colorful-hollywood-hills-home-sun-0216-xl_1

or online user interface,

Lonny Bathroom

often seem to lack the resources for top-notch styling and photography.

The perfect shelter magazine, for me, would have Vogue and Dwell’s aesthetics, combined, along with Sunset’s practical but creative thinking, and Lonny’s modern user experience and technologies.

In the interim, although I don’t do much on Instagram per se, I’ve begun to follow designers for inspiration. Bruce Shostak, Orlando Soria for sophisticated interiors, Christian Walker for architecture and design, Daniel Nolan (recommended by one of you) for gardens. And on HGTV I read articles by my friend Lauren.

You?

Ah well. Nobody ever said that finding oneself was easy. And nobody ever said these quizzes have to really be anything more than fun on a Wednesday morning.

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If I Were Shopping At Nordstrom Today


A long time ago I bought this dress. It’s by Eileen Fisher, the only piece from that line I’ve ever owned. (It’s not dissimilar to this, available today.)

Cape-Cod-Outfit-With-Sunglasses

I still have it. But it’s self-belted, and looks one notch below polished.

Recently, no longer feeling like someone who wants to wear seersucker ankle-tied wedges, I bought these shoes. (Marked down now from $395 to $264)

4c2e351d25f29f7cde07f75f2e64a207_best

I still have them. They are perfectly polished, in a naked leather 70s-referent kind of way.

So finally, I feel ready for the dress to come into its own, and get ironed for heaven’s sake. I want it to act like a lady, albeit of a Northern California persuasion. A lady who has replaced her Costco sunglasses with RayBans.

I’m thinking about this belt.

_11438958

Thinking hard. The Nordstrom Anniversary sale is in the Early Access phase. Of course, Sue’s the Nordstrom expert, and I urge you to hightail it on over to her site for the real story. But if you happen to own a navy linen dress, and a pair of light tan leather block-heeled sandals, you too just might want a navy quilted belt. Alternatively, a tan one with chain detailing, if you’re feeling wild.

It’s possible.

 

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The Alarms Of Care, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:32am


On Thursday, we moved Mom’s furniture, again. Why? Well, we’d originally set up a room in the Memory Care unit of her current facility. We kept it while Mom’s been on the Skilled Nursing side, as we hoped she’d move back in. Instead, this week we will be moving Mom to another place altogether.

Never mind. I wanted to tell you about beeping.

Moving the furniture required that we prop open not one, not two, but three alarmed doors. When open, the doors beeped, or chirped, or buzzed. Loudly. So loudly. There were three of them, all with slightly different sounds, all on slightly different timers. You could turn off the noises, for about 30-60 seconds at a time, by pressing a 4-digit code, but each door had a separate code box.

The movers carried furniture. I disarmed.

Imagine, if you will, a woman walking quickly from door to door to door, along a 30-foot hall, pressing a code rapidly at each station. Repeating the whole thing at, let’s say, 3 minute intervals, to intermittent very loud noise.

And that was the optimized process.

I wanted to tell you that at one point I thought, “These doors and this beeping is a metaphor for our whole experience with Mom’s care.” I might have used a silent expletive. I surely laughed. You may have gone through something similar.

See, when the alarms first started beeping I panicked, overwhelmed. Then I started responding with adrenaline every time something beeped. Then I sat down and pouted because I hated it all. Then I started, reflexively, trying to figure out the pattern of the beeps. Then I played a game, “Can I  keep these effing things quiet? Which one buzzes first? How long do I have before I have to push the code again?”

All we needed to perfect the care metaphor was a huge machine of metal and red light calculating dollars for every bit of beep, on one side, and the changing face of my mother on the other. Bewildered, cranky, beaming, lost. She is so innocent in this process. I am so responsible.

And then I wondered, “Wait, does it work if I press the codes PREVENTATIVELY?!?!” Yes it did. For a couple of go-rounds I walked quickly from alarm box to alarm box, keeping the beeps at bay.

Then I decided I just couldn’t care any more. So I disarmed at what felt like a reasonable rate and hoped we finished soon.

All of which is only to point out that a sense of humor and a desire to find meaning and mastery in any situation can do a lot to prevent overwhelm. Also, hence my absence. Beep beep beep. Have a good weekend guys.

 

Even High WASPs Hug Sometimes, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:44am


The world is on fire. Or so it seems.

Anything I can say that isn’t political is just a truism. Why don’t people like each other better? Are we not all human? Life is sacred. Oh I wish.

I do know that pockets of humanity remain. Are probably prevalent. Neighbors stop by and volunteer to care for toddlers, people hug strangers, we sing happy birthday.

You here are one of my pockets of humanity. I hope you feel the same. I’d say have a good weekend, but that does feel like a singular privilege this morning. So how about a big virtual totally non-High WASP hug? Communal sorrow.

Cultures can evolve, with any luck, for the better. We can inhabit our selves and widen boundaries at the same time. Include.

Include, include, include.

Include.

Estate Sale In Santa Barbara This Weekend, And Then A Large House With A Beautiful View To Rent


Santa Barbara Panorama

If you like estate sales, and live close to or in Santa Barbara, the estate sale for the furnishings of my mom’s house is being held this weekend, July 9-10. I use the passive voice, against my writerly preferences, because it’s accurate. We are not holding the sale ourselves, we the children. We’ve hired a firm to do it.

Living-Room

As such, the firm will sell the house goods along with some other pieces they’ve collected from other sales. That’s how the living room looked, the last time everything was still in place.

Guest-Bedroom-Mirror

That’s an upstairs guest room. The prints are illustrations from Alice in Wonderland.

My stepfather took a fair amount back to Sweden for himself and his family, we brought a few of my mother’s family pieces up here for Mom’s room in memory care, but if you’re in real need of a George III mahogany table that can seat 12 (with its extra leaves), or, maybe an antique chandelier, or a perhaps Tiffany table clock, this is your moment.

Tiffany's Clock

How about a mid-century Scandinavian “mushroom” lamp? Some vintage designer duds and a baleful of cashmere? Vintage iron pool furniture? I understand that stuff will most likely sell for a fraction of its appraised value.

Dining-Area

A detail from the guest house.

If you’re interested, you can contact The Clearing House for information. Alternatively, send me an email at skyepeale dot yahoo dot com, and I’ll be happy to send you the address.

Oh, and should you be looking for a summer residence in Santa Barbara, one with a pool, a guest house, and a stunning view of the Pacific and a couple of islands, Vista del Mar – for so the builders named it back when – will be available for rental soon.

Mom was cheerful yesterday. We read nursery rhymes in the sun. And so life goes on.

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Cultural Signifiers, Whatcha Got?


swallows-and-amazons-flags

Here in North America, we’ve just emerged from a brief flurry of national insignia-waving.  (Hey there, Canada!) Which made me think, what are the signs of our micro-cultures?

Forthwith, the High WASP Cultural Directory, Northern California Regional Variant

I could go on. But one shouldn’t.

How about you? How would your list look? Feel free to post the entire thing, or not. Pursuit of happiness and all that.

 

Were you to click on a link, you might then generate a commission, as it were, for the author of this blog. Image up top via the website of the Arthur Ransome Society.

Whither Civility, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:52am


I don’t miss formal much at all. I don’t really care what fork someone uses for their fish, nor in what direction they scoop their soup. I never wanted my kids’ friends to call me Mrs. So-and-So, Lisa is just fine.

But I miss civility. And I miss the grace notes of civility, augmented civility, often conflated with formality but not the same thing.

There’s so much yelling these days. I refuse to talk politics here, not because they don’t matter, they do, but because for whatever reason we seem to have lost the ability to speak in civil tones about civic matters. There’s virtue in kindness that’s separate from the virtue in causes.

Also people shove a lot. And honk. I’m guilty of over-enthusiastic horning, especially when I can tell the person blithely parked at a green light is reading his or her phone. I will try to do better.

I think Please, Thank You, and You Are Ever So Welcome are lovely words and should be over-used. It is possible to disagree, to coexist, to find a parking place in a crowded lot without yelling at your fellow shoppers. At least without yelling at them so they can hear. But yes, it takes work.

I think it’s worth it. Tough for blurters, I do not exempt myself from this reminder.

I am sure there is science behind how to have a civil argument. I know we’ve talked about dealing with difficult people in the workplace, maybe we just extrapolate that thinking to regular life. As though being a human in society is a job, even a privilege, not something we take for granted like grotty plaid flannel pajama bottoms.

So. Happy recent Canada Day to our Canadian friends, happy on-its-way Fourth of July to all my fellow Americans. Thank you for reading, please have a wonderful, wonderful weekend.

A Small But Abundant Garden Party, In Green, Pink And Aqua – With A Bit Of Gold


All-Set-Up

The party for my stepmother was beautiful. A little gem of a fête.

Before-the-Garden-Party

Spring green tablecloths, white chairs, turquoise and mint Chinese lanterns in the bright, bright sun. Gold-rimmed chargers. Low-power wires courtesy our telephone company, I have suggested they bury them, many a time, for some reason no ones’s jumped at the chance.

Below, a well-stocked bar with a bartender to come. I moved the fuchsia into the corner of doom. The blossoms put their heads down and best feet forward as good sports must.

Bar-for-Garden-Party

Catering. For 17 people. So wonderfully abundant, thanks to my father. I made Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake. Baking is not my strong suit.

Carnochan,-L-6-25-Dinner-Buffet

It is perhaps surprising, and perhaps not that nobody wore traditional “garden party.” Some came in ornamented black, some in tunics, some in white jeans and silver beads. My middle sister interpreted “floral” all darkly lush but urban. Full-on Northern California.

Sister-at-Garden-Party-Cropped

Shirt is Alice+Olivia, pants from Theory, shoes navy perforated suede from Georgio Armani. This look, blouson plus quasi-fatigues plus elegant flats, bears investigation. My sister also wore antique gold chandelier earrings, but they’re gone with her face into anonymity. We respect privacy as requested.

I wore the ol’ navy MaxMara maxidress, Max-Mara-via-Halsbrook-at-The-Carneros-Inn

Stuart Weitzman block heels,

Oak-Dress-Stuart-Weitzman-Shoes-Blue-Nile-Earrings

and gold hoops (a little bit like these, i.e. hammered.) Also a low ponytail with one of these elastics, and red toenails. But was having far too much fun to get a photo taken. In fact, the whole evening passed well-nigh unrecorded, so quickly and deeply did we fall into communing and eating and drinking. Nothing raucous; gin and tonics, Sancerre, and California Cabernets from the 1990s. Culturally appropriate.

After-The-Fête

In the end we put both tables in the shade. The sun was unusually direct for Northern California. The hydrangea wilted a little, my solo daisies, a lot. Somehow all to the good. This is a very intimate look into my family.

The birthday heroine and the jazz guitarist who serenaded us all.

The Birthday Heroine

My stepmother is one of those people who do things for you over years and years, always refusing help or recognition. Then one day, you ambush. As in, ‘Aha! We have you in our clutches and we will thank you come hell or high water!” I couldn’t help but think about privilege – not a constant sop to life’s little leaks, nor candy in pockets for children, but unburied all at once to give, a-shining. The evening was lit up by love and history.

I felt gratitude all through my throat.

 

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