The Privilege Annual Report To The Board – Wrapping Up 2015


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Over the years I’ve habitually reported on the workings of this blog to the “board.” That means you. Doing so feels right, it’s a way to retain transparency without cluttering my writings with this kind of statement; “If you click HERE I will earn $0.16, if you buy THIS I will earn $4.05.” Or, on the other hand, “THIS has no monetization, your click will generates no profit of any sort.”

And, as always when one summarizes one’s efforts for a kind audience, the act of reviewing is useful to the worker herself. No further ado.

The Statistics of “Privilege” The Blog

  • 65,100 page views/month – holding steady from 11/2014
  • 25,200 unique visitors/month – up 20% from 11/2014
  • 53% repeat visitors – down 10% from 11/2014
  • 3500 subscribers (including email, Feedly, Blogger, Bloglovin’) email subscribers come to the blog and thus are included in page views, the others read in their platforms of choice and thus are not. Up ~15%

Strategic Issues

2015 didn’t surface many questions of readership strategy. Feels like the blog grows organically, as will most satisfying projects. I made very few efforts to promote Privilege last year. Few guest posts, if any, no brand competitions. Any press has been accidental; any mentions in the blogosphere just a conversation between friends.

As for content, I have made the transition from all personal style all the time to what is generally termed, in the blogosphere,  “lifestyle.”

We can deconstruct that word another day.

Monetization – 2015 Gross Income

  • Earnings via affiliate sales: ~$2000
  • Earnings via sponsored posts: ~$600
  • Earnings via ads and other paid clicks: ~$8000
  • Total up 5x from 2014

Strategic Issues

As you see, my earnings increased significantly, although they do not approach professional levels. Why the growth? I switched my primary monetization tool from RewardStyle to ShopStyle. RS uses affiliate links, i.e., commissions on sales, SS is a pay-per-click model. I have also established PPC relationships with some advertisers. This approach has been more profitable for me, and also feels more in line with my writings – i.e., while I’m not always saying “Shop for this,” I’m often saying, “Look at this, think about this, imagine this.”

I’d like now to revisit the question, why monetize at all? Reports to the board rely on bullet points.

  • Monetization provides a metric for someone like me who simply cannot relinquish the concept of achievement. I enjoy seeing the click results come in. They are like little chirps of companionship and participation.
  • And, as I said in 2014, in retirement these earnings are by no means nothing. They facilitate new sneakers, native plants, a jacket, a tray.

What are the risks of monetization? Alienating people, of course.

As it turns out, this process is somewhat self-regulating. If I don’t offer enough monetized links, I don’t get the feedback I enjoy. If I offer too many, you leave.  A lot of inner dialogue ensues, sometimes other bloggers raise their voices on the topic. I listen to them, but I continue. I listen to you who read and support the blog even more. Monetization talks, but emails from readers are more articulate.

Extraordinary Items

I usually take a break after one of these reports, like accountants after Tax Day. But last year, during several months of illness that kept me sofa-bound, I kept writing. It sustained me. This year, as it happens, we have just moved my mother into an assisted living facility. Her Alzheimer’s has progressed to the stage where she cannot remain at home. She needs a schedule of meals, activities, and sleep that even full-time home care can’t provide. As the only retired sibling, I’m doing much of the leg and paperwork. That’s as it should be, but I’d like to wait to take a blog break until the process is completed.

That means I’ll be here writing, occasionally distracted, always aware of the privilege. Onward. Thank you very much for reading. Those who comment, and it is by no means required, we’ve heard again and again that you are one of the best parts of this blog. Thank you for talking.

Winner Of The Blue Nile Diamond Necklace Giveaway


Claire H! Congratulations! Your first Mother’s Day, congratulations on that too! Please send me an email at skyepeale (@) yahoo (dot) com with your mailing address, and I will put it in the post to you tout de suite.

I loved the comments. You are all such stylish women, it’s a pleasure to envision your outfits.

Meanwhile, I’m still thinking about these earrings.

But how many pairs of danglers does one woman really need?

Thank you so much for playing along, and for contributing your stories.

 

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Everything I Now Believe About The Long-Term Project Of Cooking For Two People


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You asked me to report back with findings about how to cook for two, in retirement. OK then! Cooking isn’t my usual writing realm, but I do love a high level analysis of a carefully observed process.

To optimize anything, one must first understand both the desired outcomes and the constraints.

Desired Outcomes, AKA What We Like In This House

  • One of us prefers a main dish + sides model, the other would rather multiple smalls
  • One enjoys meat fat, the other does not, both try to avoid it for the most part
  • One of us wants to reduce meat consumption to save the planet
  • One insists on green, orange, and every color vegetables, the other would be happy living on onions, mushrooms, cabbage and tomatoes
  • Both have a metabolic need for a lot of protein
  • Both care about weight management
  • One of us needs sauce in a meal, the other, not so much
  • One really likes soup, the other, not so much
  • Both of us like Italian and Asian foods, neither of us care overly for Tex-Mex or French
  • One of us would love to learn how to cook Peruvian food but never has

Process constraints, AKA, Life Is Not A Bowl Of Cherries, Per Se

  • One of us works long and demanding hours, one has a flexible schedule of blogging, consulting, and volunteering
  • One of us likes to cook, nobody likes to clean up (AKA I do almost all the cleanup, it is my job)
  • The kitchen is part of of the living room. Ain’t no closing up that kitchen and forgetting about it.

High-Level Takeaways

  • Here’s what I can sustain: I cook 2 nights/week multiple dishes for a really good dinner; 3 nights/week something to add to leftovers or make a basic meal; once a week we eat out; once a week we take home, often from Whole Foods. I can’t “cook” more than that, at least not with equanimity.
  • I like to start the prep in the early afternoon whenever possible. Somehow just making sure my kitchen is clean and the pots are ready soothes my soul. I also take anything that should be at room temperature for cooking out of the fridge.
  • (Cleaning the kitchen in the morning, BTW, is my new thing. Thanks guys. Never could do stand to do it after complex dinner prep.)
  • Time spent finding good and repeatable new recipes is useful: so is time spent learning basic skills and cooking truths. In other words, read or watch YouTube videos on things like how to roast low and slow, or how to get a good wok sear. The more technique you understand, the less you then have to rely on recipes. That is obvious to those of you who have been a daily home cook for a long time. Since I was a good dinner party cook who relied on a sensitive nose to choose recipes, and fast reading to execute them, I’m still learning.
  • You can use up almost every bit of food you buy.
  • Cook soy sauce and chili paste on the wok, not on the food. It tastes better.
  • I flirt with non-refrigeration and reboiling for soups and stews. Not recommended, per se, but it does reduce the amount of pot washing.
  • If you are halving a recipe with a lot of fractional quantities, write down the new measures. Math over a hot stove is tricky.
  • You don’t have to plan every meal of the month, or even week, to find your own rhythm.
  • Great tools are a great help.

An Archetypal Week Of Cooking And Kitchening In This New World – Spring Weather Version

  1. Saturday. Grocery shop with my husband. Buy ingredients for 2-3 dinners, without a recipe in mind. Meat, dark greens, grillable vegetables, bones for soup. That night, grill some meat and asparagus with mustard vinaigrette, make rice noodles with a dipping soy/vinegar/mustard sauce, add a can of chopped tomatoes to the beef bone broth with meatballs that is sitting in a pot on the stove from yesterday.
  2. Sunday. Simple stir-fry of chicken breast cut into 1/2 inch cubes, cooked fast in a wok with soy sauce or chili paste, chicken removed to a colander, some kind of vegetables thrown into the same wok, reheated, chicken added back, then a dash of black vinegar or soy. Steamed rice. Final serve of beef soup.
  3. Monday. Flank steak with chimichurri sauce (I use more oil than they say, and an immersion blender), seared in a cast iron skillet on the stove and finished in the oven. Steamed broccoli or a salad. Pasta with simple sauce of carmelized onions, oregano, wine, and canned chopped tomatoes.
  4. Tuesday. Stop by the fishmonger’s after yoga. Madhur Jeffrey’s fish curry, sauteed spinach, basmati rice. A smidgen of leftover steak.
  5. Wednesday. Out to dinner.
  6. Thursday. Another Whole Foods run. Baked chicken breasts (best juicy chicken breasts ever), fried leftover rice with leftover vegetables and maybe some added leftover sausage or ham from last weekend if I have it, stir-fried celery with soy sauce. Because there’s always celery.
  7. Friday. Take out from the local Hawaiian barbecue place, plus leftovers, plus a bowl of pasta with frozen peas, garlic, and parsley from the chimichurri. Foraging, in other words.
  8. Imaginary Day: An actual week might be a little less optimal than this imaginary calendar. I’m now trying to build in more capacity for meal change and improvisation, to compensate for how little I enjoy planning a full week.

Speaking Of Tools In My Kitchen, Old And New, Stuff So Useful It Inspires Affection

Cookbooks And Blogs In Rotation

A Recipe For Galbijjim Optimized To Dirty As Few Pots As Humanly Possible (Adapted from Korean Bapsang and “Growing Up In A Korean Kitchen”)

Marinade Ingredients

  • 1 Asian pear, peeled and grated, or, half a green apple, half a Western pear, and a little lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup or 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 green onions, white and pale green part only, minced
  • 2 cloves minced or pressed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 8 toasted walnuts, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)

Other Ingredients

  • 3 lbs lean beef ribs cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 carrot in 3 pieces
  • Bay leaf
  • Peppercorns (10? 20?)
  • 1/2 sweet potato, diced 1/2 inch
  • 1/2 daikon radish, diced 1/2 inch
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced 1/2 inch

Cooking

  • Soak ribs for 1 hour in ice and cold water in medium-large heavy stockpot or Dutch oven. This removes the blood and impurities. Rinse ribs, wipe out pot
  • To make stock, cover ribs in water in same pot and boil for 1/2 hour, adding a bay leaf, 12 peppercorns, 2 squashed garlic cloves, 1 long carrot, ~ 3 tablespoons, one long piece of kelp or 1 oz rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Take ribs out, rinse, put in bowl covered in plastic wrap
  • Get rid of vegetables etc. in stock, cool it in a bowl in fridge for a couple of hours, then skim off the fat (if you do this overnight, pour the stock over the ribs and let them cool together, so the ribs don’t dry out)
  • Use 2 ribs to render some beef fat in that same stockpot, take them back out
  • Cook in the rendered beef fat 1/2  sweet potato in 1/2 inch dice and 1/2  yellow onion in a 1/2 inch dice
  • Make marinade
  • Add ribs to the pot
  • Add marinade
  • Add 3 cups defatted stock
  • Simmer for 1 1/2 hours
  • Add radish, and cooked sweet potatoes and onions, simmer for additional 1/2 hour uncovered to reduce sauce

Serve with steamed rice, and some kind of sauteed greens. This recipe has all kinds of flexibility. You can use anything from cabbage to dates, yes, dates, in place of sweet potatoes and radishes. The key is to play with levels of umami and sweetness, so the dish becomes your own.

I hope I get better at cooking daily, but, if not, we’ve reached Good Enough. Helpful tips always welcome.

Into The Sky, Or, Saturday Morning at 6:34am


I have a long day ahead. But, it promises the long California sky so out I go into the blue.

I’ve added Katura Designs’ Mother’s Day discount to yesterday’s post – river pearls and rough diamonds, that much closer.

Have a wonderful weekend. Sustain each other as best you can.

 

A Mother’s Day Memento (Don’t You Kind Of Want To Spell It “Momento?”) In The Making


On Mother’s Day, I’ve always given my mom either flowers or jewelry. That is, once I started giving her presents – we didn’t celebrate when I was young. She still loves flowers and jewelry. On the other hand, maybe a meal together would be better this year. Cupcakes.

As I’ve said before, while I don’t feel that I need presents on the day, I do like the occasion, the recognition, the celebration. And my kids have heard me and are very good about cards and calls.

If I did want an enduring present, it’d be jewelry. It so easily becomes a memento, something to sort through with grandchildren. Let the chains run through our fingers, hold up a pendant for a closer look.

One might give the spectacular, were one so resourced. I’ve been admiring Alex Soldier’s cuffs for a couple of years now. Such a unique way with metals. Here, silver and gold are worked to look like faceted diamonds. Prices start at $2100. Dragons.

Alex Soldier Dragon Cuffs on whtie

Jewels in spirals. Stand out.

4 Stone Cuffs HR

Or maybe a more intimate evidence of craft? Lee Wiser McIntosh has been known to comment here, and I love what she does with river pearls and rough diamonds, at Katura Design. This piece is $1525. EDITED TO ADD: Lee got in touch with me to say we can use the coupon code HeartMomNow for a 15% discount. (This post was an (un-monetized) surprise for her:)).

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Or, our friends at Mark deFrates are having a 15-20% off sale for friends and family, through June 1. Perhaps as a symbol of coming back from hardship, a phoenix. The large one, $800. Mention Privilege in your order for the discount. You can buy a smaller one if that works better for you.

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Finally, these pieces from Blue Nile. Nicely designed, in precious metals. The traditions not yet in place. A three-strand gold chain, with circle stations $395. Or this one, more opulent but on sale for 40% off.

3 Strand Gold Chain With Circle Stations

It’s the Then Some I look for – the little click, the in-drawn breath, at a piece that looks just right — and then some. I think this pearl and sapphire pendant is just so pretty. $425.

Pearl and Sapphire Necklace

But guess what? We have a giveaway, a very generous one, thanks to Blue Nile. A white gold and diamond bar necklace. White gold. Discreet, sparkly, modern. With blue jeans, a v-neck tee, and sneakers; atop a low cut, fitted black dress – you choose.

 

Blue Nile Diamond Bar NecklaceSparkle. In case I hadn’t yet made that point.

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In situ, last night in San Francisco, with a gray tee and Adidas bomber jacket. As one does.

If you’d like to enter the giveaway, tell us the story of how you might wear this necklace, and with what kind of earrings. Would you match it with these? Or complement less directly, with these? Pair with something else entirely? I’ll draw a winner on Tuesday May 3rd. That will give me time to mail the necklace to you before May 8th. And if you’d rather shop yourself, Blue Nile has 15% off on certain items right now. Code MOM2016.

I know Mother’s Day doesn’t make everyone’s heart swell. Maybe you’ve not been able to become a mother, maybe your own is a source of distress. In that case, let’s say this is a present from a friend, for no particular reason other than because.

 

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I Just Want Your Extra Time, And, Saturday Morning at 7:34am


Prince, the American R&B artists famous for songs like “Purple Rain,” “1999,” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” died last Thursday. Cause yet unknown, suicide not suspected. Although I have always loved his music, I have no particular insight about his place in the pantheon. I saw him only once in concert and it was during a time when he was struggling terribly and, unusually, could barely perform.

But I have a story.

When I first got out of business school I worked for a Fortune 250 chemical company. I spent 11 months in headquarters analyzing who knows what, and then flew off to Silicon Valley to become a salesperson. Although I was good at the job by dint of sheer perseverance, it did not suit my temperament or experience in the world. But I had a good boss. His name was Rich. He’d been a football player for Syracuse University. When I asked him once why he was good at football – did he run fast, did he catch well – he said, “If they told me to run my head into a brick wall I’d just run my head into that wall over and over again.”

He was a good enough manager that one quarter we held a sales challenge for our whole team and we won the prize. An overnight trip to Monterey Bay, the five of us. At least I think we were five. Could have been six.

We went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. In the time-honored tradition of sales teams, we drank. Beers, and then tequila shots. I was unfamiliar with tequila.

I should point out that I was the only woman.

The restaurant had a jukebox. We’d been there a while, long enough to finish dinner. The floor was tiled, saltillo maybe, the tablecloths were white, napkins in all the primary colors. Someone put on Prince’s song, “Kiss.” It might have been me?

We danced.

This sounds like nothing but I will say that it was the only time in my professional career that I felt wholly safe acknowledging my body. (Until I got old enough that it didn’t matter any more.) By which I mean I could dance to Prince, which one cannot do without implication, and remain part of the team. We danced through the lacuna in “Kiss.” The lyrics go, “I just want your extra time and your (guitar riff, pause, breath) kiss.” Nobody batted an eye. It sounds like nothing, but remember 1986, remember we wore suits, remember all kinds of things.

Partly I credit Rich, who along with the brick wall talent was an honorable man, and established good behavior as part of the group’s culture. But partly, and I cannot say how much, it was Prince, who knew how to both pause and say it all. Artists who break barriers for themselves can do so for others too.

I wish I’d been brave enough to carry that moment forward. My being a woman wasn’t my problem, now was it?

When I heard Prince had died, I regretted that I’d never written him to say thank you. I think I’ll thank Elvis Costello for “Clowntime Is Over.” I know famous artists get recognition and a lot of money, but then when we hear some of them are lonely or shy or struggling, I dunno. More thank yous rather than fewer are in general a good thing.

Have a wonderful weekend.

An Enduring Love Affair With My Fuchsia, And Its Friend, A Small Haws Copper Watering Can


My fuchsia has grown and is blooming. It’s such a pleasure to watch the buds swell over days. Then one morning you wake up and they’ve opened, little triangular petals curving away from purple centers.

Fuchsia-Closeup

 

Right now the fuchsia is surrounded by primulas, violas and heuchera (burgundy leaves forever!). Also a ratty alyssum falling down the side of one pot. I’ll probably replant the supporting cast soon, I like an orange kalanchoe or two in the hot summer, against the fuchsia’s purple and, well, fuchsia.

Fuchsias-in-Pot

Fuchsias want humidity, and the San Francisco Bay Area is semi-arid. Recently I ordered a watering can. It was on my Christmas list. As it turned out, my sister gave me the small Le Creuset (thank you sister! I use it! I love it! We can haz soup!). But I couldn’t forget this, which now lives just inside the door that leads to my patio. And yes, those are my pink plaid flannel pajama bottoms you see reflected. Complementary, don’t you think?

Hawes-Small-Copper-Watering-Can

By Haws, an English company that’s been in operation since 1886. The little brass rose comes off, for those days when you want to reach under leaves. And now I water my fuchsia in a sparkle of copper light. So funny, the things we can find intoxicating.

Hawes-Small-Copper-Watering-Can-In-The-Sun-Sparkling

Super<3Mega<3Most<3Casual<3Ever


Last Tuesday, having returned from Santa Barbara the night before, and having spent the bulk of the day on administrative tasks for my mother, I went to Whole Foods.

I thought to myself, as I checked the full-length mirror, “I’m probably going to run into someone I know.” Decided I didn’t mind. My hair was in a messy braid. “Ah,” I thought, “Do I brush my hair? Oh never mind. That’ll just give me pinhead.”

And out I went, like this.

Untitled #209

*****

Sweatshirt: Mine is from Isabel Marant’s 2013 collection at H&M. It looks a lot like this but is all-cotton || Tee: Any long gray will do. Occasionally I get really adventurous and go lavender. || Jeans: I was wearing GAP 1969s, which (why?) are discontinued. The closest (affordable version) I’ve found is this pair at Levis.com || Sneakers: New Balance classics. Caveat – these work best for those who are narrow across the ball of the foot. I can only wear them for short bursts of walking. || Earrings: Mine are from San Francisco’s Chinatown. Dragons embossed on little gold discs. Unique, as far as I know. || Necklace: Emerald cut diamond worn as a pendant. It was probably invisible under my sweatshirt, it often is. Watch: Not pictured, but, Apple. It comes in yellow now. Bag: Bottega Veneta Large Hobo. This season’s blue is brighter.

At Whole Foods, of course, I ran into someone who reads the blog.

I love meeting our readers. (I use the collective possessive because most who read here come for the comments as much as my postings.) But I apologized to her for what I was wearing. Why? One may not necessarily expect to find a style blogger wearing a getup that flirts with, nay romances, full slob. But she was very nice, waved at me and said, (I paraphrase) “We all…”

I thought, as I drove home, that I’d have foregone the apology if I’d worn a little makeup. That layered top, the cuffed jeans and long gray hair, all provided just enough detail for rudimentary Tomboy style. Tinted moisturizer, cream blush, lip balm, eyebrow pencil – and I’d have been just about OK.

Doesn’t take as much as we think. Especially in a Whole Foods in Palo Alto, California. I saw Steve Jobs there, once, at the check out, in his usual black turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers. Context is king.

And, because, life, I also thought in that early evening light of a late California spring, how much I appreciate this process of moving the blog towards a sometimes impetuous voice of self. Not to mention moving that same self towards the more thoughtful voice of the blog. Thank you all again for your company.

And L., very nice to meet you.

I Seriously, Honestly, Wish I Didn’t But I Do, Hate Housework, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:26am


So guys, tell me, how does one come to enjoy housework?

In all seriousness, I hate it. And I read, around the blogosphere, that others feel otherwise. Faux Fuchsia, Dani at the Mop Philosopher, Leslie at the Humble Bungalow, all enjoy what they term “domestics.” Not to mention another blog, Down to Earth, written by an Australian woman. It’s all about the joys of a home-centered life – sewing, baking, making your own cleaning products. She even wrote two books.

Help me out. Must one be born with this predilection? Or does it result from secret tricks, an excellent system?

When I worked, I was either gone from my house so many hours that I didn’t notice how “kept” it was, or I had a house cleaner. I thought that I could use this time of retirement and/or working primarily from home to figure out how to clean if not blissfully at least peacefully. But it’s been 2 1/2 years, and, nope.

While I will never enjoy doing any tasks over and over again, I think I could move forward if I just felt like I could do a very good job in manageable chunks of time. Right now it feels like either I’ve got to work like crazy or I do bad work. Wait. Is that just the truth of the thing?

We could hire someone. We may hire someone. But before I surrender, anyone out there with hints? Some cleaning products that you really like, non-toxic, sweet-smelling? A simple schedule? A complex ritual of meditation and self-abnegation?

Thank you in advance for your counsel. Have a wonderful weekend.

Searching For Sale Sneakers


I looked down at my shoes yesterday and thought, “Hmm, I’d like sneakers in different colors.” That’s what happens when you find a uniform. Jeans and sneakers, sneakers and jeans. But they have to be the RIGHT sneakers. Not too flashy, not too boring. Preferably on sale, for we retired Polished Tomboys.

(By the way, not to take credit for my finds, the Shopstyle search engine is really good)

A few notes from experience. New Balance run narrow, the wide of metatarsal won’t be well-fit. Nike’s heel cup gets annoying when it’s high. And Supergas are really comfortable when they have a memory foam insole. Spring on!

 

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