Putting On Five Pounds In Midlife On Purpose, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:49am

So I’ve just put on five pounds. On purpose.

To be fair, this takes me from a BMI of 20 to one of 21, so I am not making a revolutionary statement. But it seemed my thought process, given our cultural focus on women’s weight, might of be of interest anyway.

As background, I have always been thinnish. When we were kids, at one point, our doctor told my mom she needed to fatten us up. Oh the 1960s. And so it went until a college summer internship in France left me 15 pounds heavier. Thrown into a state of distress and horror, I lost the weight but developed bulemia. The disorder persisted for a few years until one afternoon I thought, “To heck with this, I’m going to eat whatever I want.”

And for the rest of my life, I kept my weight where I wanted it, with some focus and discipline. No diets, no terrible sense of deprivation, just reasonable nutrition, a little physical activity, and helpful genetics.

Until about a year ago. I was 58. The usual tricks and intent stopped working. And then I started getting sick. Early in 2015, a prolonged struggle that turned out to be hormonal in nature. A bad cold in November. And recently the flu.

Finally I decided that my body was in fact trying to tell me something, that as I’ve aged I’ve come to need a cushion, real and metaphoric. Reserves. Five pounds of them, to be precise, and maybe more to follow.

I read so many articles about women trying to fight the pounds of midlife these days that I thought I’d add a different perspective. I made a decision for health. Also seems that some make the same decision for beauty. Iman, for example.

Shared in case it’s useful. And to counteract this, because, seriously?. Have a wonderful weekend.

The Garden After A California Rain Or Two

When last we left California, a long drought prevailed. (I wrote “reign” at first, but we will eschew the puns today.) Happily, in December, and January, the rains came. We’re in recovery. Long-term drought still running, 40% of the state still deep in, but the short-term is OK, and snowpack above average.

We’re all cautiously optimistic, when we’re not standing in the rain letting water run over our eyelids.


Then, late in January, the sun shone.


Blue sky, patio puddles, leaf.



A roly poly came out to play.


As did a few flowers. The hellebore.


The oxalis, which I’m supposed to hate because they are invasive, but I find I enjoy in little pockets. Like children talking about secrets on a playground.


Bleeding currants, a native California plan beloved by hummingbirds. Anyone remember when I planted them? They took.


Wild strawberry. I never know just how much of this is going to show up, spring to spring. This year’s abundant.


And perhaps the most breathtaking this time of year, the daphne. It smells so beautiful you have to watch for unplanned garden swoons. Sweet. Citrus. Both. Delicious.


One last caution. I know some of you, in cold climates with long gray winters, might think you want to come to Northern California in February. Don’t. Not that I don’t want to see you, I do. And one of our occasional weeks of 75-80 degree temperatures might be tempting, I know. But it’s also possible that the rains will continue, a day in the low 50s will stay gray, nights will freeze a little bit.

No, wait until the summer solstice. Come see us in June, or early July, for the skies as blue as your crayoned childhood. The sun warms the pebbled cement decks of our swimming pools, and dries the grasses into smelling of honey. I know you’re less tempted to leave home then, but, I think you’ll be glad you did.

For now, I’m on hydrangea watch. Nothing yet but a few teeny leaves on long brown stalks. Good thing the daphne’s perfume and washed leaves makes waiting a pleasure.

Winner Of The Valentine’s Day Garnet Heart

Thank you all so much for your stories. From loving fathers, to geeky couples, to longed-for babies, to mothers who remembered, they warmed my (appropriately) heart.

Susan D., in Dallas, you’ve won this giveaway. Congratulations! Please email me your mailing address and the rose gold and garnets are yours.

And I promise we’ll have more giveaways. It’s the least I can do. For now, here’s the link to Blue Nile’s current 15% off sale. Some nice earrings, if you’re on the market.


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What Should You Wear To Speak On A Panel About Two Of Your Great Life Interests?

As you may remember, back before Christmas, I was asked to participate in a panel about the Apple Watch. Wristly, the sponsoring firm, had found me via my review, here. As you can imagine, deciding what to wear that day required serious deconstruction.

I considered my options across several axes, as one does. Modern vs. classic, fashion vs. business, and those beloved High WASP superordinates, effort vs. nonchalance.

I considered the outskirts of my axes. Not actual skirts, mind you. First up, I Really Don’t Give A Damn And Am In  Fact A Street Artist. Imagine this, but with a long-sleeved UNIQLO Moomin-print tee and my Vince sneakers from this outfit, or this one.

Long-Untrammeled-Gray-Hair Fourth

Nah. Felt like I was trying too hard in not trying, if that makes sense. The extreme physical comfort would have been completely negated by social discomfort, by a sense of pretending to be something I’m not. I veer Artsy but only a little bit.

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On the other hand, I thought about wearing this. We’ll call it, Yes I Was At The New York Stock Exchange On The Day The Market Crashed And I’m Still Here. And I mean the 2008 crash, not 1928, in case you wondered.


A gray Italian suit (which everyone who might show up on Wall Street ought to own), pointy-toe Manolo Blahnik flats, pearls, man’s watch, and a t-shirt. But the watch event was held in San Francisco, and I’m retired, and I think this suit will remain in my closet against the highly unlikely chance I ever go back to the NYSE.

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I considered two other outfits more seriously. First, Oh, Are The Seventies A Trend? I’m Too Cool To Care. A variant of my most reliable date night getup. Even when it’s a date with two young women friends in New York’s Koreatown.

Untitled #208


  • Vintage DKNY ankle boots with squared heels
  • 7FAM flared jeans
  • UNIQLO Basquiat tee
  • Gold dangly earrings (Those Catbird chain earrings are so nice!)
  • All-Saints biker jacket
  • Hair in a low ponytail

This might have worked, but my real-life Basquiat tee is a little too high-contrast for perfection, and I don’t like to wear a biker jacket unless the rest of my outfit is impeccable. See, nonchalance.

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And finally, Simply The Best I’ve Got. Which, as you can see, is where I wound up. On the first panel.


And the second one.


All da shoes.

I wore:

Of course, I hadn’t realized that we’d perch on canvas counter-height canvas directors’ chairs, bringing my legs truly front and center in a way I hadn’t foreseen.

One of those moments when the universe gives back. I spent my young career trying to camouflage my figure. Working for a chemical company, selling to the semiconductor industry, not a lot of women. And in the mid-80s the idea that unwanted attention might constitute sexual harassment was pretty new.

So at almost 60, there I sat, ankles and knees on parade. And then one of the moderators asked me what had it been like to be a woman in tech. “Do you really want me to talk about that? I said. “Yes,” she did. I said, as I have before, “I like men. I married two of them, I gave birth to one.” (I joke to make sure any defenses are down.) “But,” I said, “I can’t tell you how many meetings I sat in where business development discussions used ‘dating the pretty girl’ as a metaphor. And,” I continued, “Even today so many of you have used the example of  “Even my wife likes the watch,” as a ways to talk about the technically unsophisticated.”

“We women in midlife, we have the financial resources,” I said. “Ignore us at your peril.”

Everybody clapped. I suppose I put my best foot forward. Thanks, Wristly, for the do-over, and Dries, for the fabric courage. Sometimes the universe is a good pal.

Similar Goods

Glance Conference photos from Twitter (#glanceconf). Shoes by Philip Elmer-DeWitt.


Links may generate commissions. You will notice that several of these links go to The RealReal or Vestiare, sites for high-end pre-owned clothes. I’ve never used them, but seeing the price and purported quality of their goods I just might give it a try and report back.

Happy Birthday Cara, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:48am

Today is Cara’s birthday. Who is that, you might ask?

They drive me bloody mental but I do love these three eejits.

A photo posted by caratakesphotos (@caratakesphotos) on

One of my young Internet friends. The online world allows us, spectacularly, to find friends in our age cohort. Witness the many midlife bloggers and the community that has developed around our shared questions about retirement, health, and style over 50, among other topics.

But the Internet also brings us like-minded people from other generations.

Sunrise, bringing the drama. #uist #westernisles #outerhebrides #uistskies #sunrise

A photo posted by caratakesphotos (@caratakesphotos) on

And such is Cara.

I’ve posted about her before, she owns Bluebird and Bear family photography. In 2015 she was living in London and owned a wedding photography business with her husband. They quit the business, spent several months in France, and have now moved with their twin girls to North Uist. It’s on beyond zebra remote.


A photo posted by caratakesphotos (@caratakesphotos) on

They have a dog.

You probably need to follow Cara on Instagram.

Over the past year I’ve told Cara a whole lot of “Congratulations!” And “Hooray!” And “I can’t wait to see your photos from Uist!” But today I wanted to say Happy Birthday, and in particular to address something she posted just recently on her blog, Peonies and Polaroids.

“I talked to someone about my wanting to write and was instead told ‘writing is just a hobby for you, stick to what you’re good at.’ I won’t pretend it didn’t hurt.”

I believe very strongly that people own their own talents, that they owe them to no one. You don’t have to do what you’re already good at if you don’t want to. Just because you happen to be an extraordinary photographer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stretch and write a book. Your talents belong to you.

Oh beautiful island, I might miss you while I’m gone. But I probably won’t. #FREEDOM #GREATESCAPE #THEMAINLAND

A photo posted by caratakesphotos (@caratakesphotos) on

Cara’s turning 31. A wee thing, as they say. It is such a privilege to be an older voice in a young person’s life. In that role, I often make discoveries of my own. Since Cara’s writing, I thought I might in turn draw her a card. Totally goofy, but getting older means you get to offer as much foolery as wisdom.

I haven’t really drawn much of anything since high school, when my teacher gave me a B because I chose deadline over art, ruining a print in an effort to get it done on time. This was not helpful to a High WASP teen. Et voilà,  40 years of trauma undone. Not to make a big thing out of it, but the earlier you address bad counsel the better.


Here’s to Cara, and the trying of new things, birthday after birthday after birthday.


All photos except the goofy one by @caratakesphotos on Instagram.

A Valentine’s Day Present For You From Blue Nile

This post is presented in collaboration with Blue Nile

Although my culture of origin tends towards the bland, or occasionally astringent, we do carry a sweet spot well hidden in our hearts. Witness, for example, our love for dogs.

Or, in my case, a distinct fondness for heart-shaped jewelry. Not as heart-warming, but there you have it. I try to make up for my materialism in other ways. When I was young I lost at least three heirloom hearts, two stickpins and a gold and yellow guilloché enamel locket. By the way, if any of you have both family jewelry and teenaged daughters, don’t believe your girls when they say they will take good care of what they borrow. They mean to, but their brain just isn’t ready. You’re welcome.

And here on the blog I’ve celebrated past Valentine’s Days with odes to “Amore” rings and heart-shaped sapphires and emeralds. So this year, how fitting to give away something of type from Blue Nile?

Now, they do offer hearts of the diamond variety of course. The pendants, pavé,



and open.


The heart-shaped diamond ring. Totally sentimental, almost gaudy and I love it. (The diamonds come both bigger and smaller, by the way.)

They have bracelets with heart tags too, not my style per se, but classic.

But for you today we have something slightly different. A teeny pavé, garnet heart, on a rose gold chain.


Here’s my philosophy on teeny jewelry for women in midlife. I don’t hold with the tenet that we’ve got to wear bigger and bigger as we age. The artisan pieces that look spectacular on some people make other of us look like clowns. I mean me.

But I do think you want to choose small jewelry that is Visibly Small.


Look how little. And pretty. It’s barely the width of my little fingernail. The rose gold adds just enough edge.


So, as is our tradition, if you’d like this piece, for yourself, or, say, that teenaged daughter who grew up, tell us a story. I’ve already told my Valentine’s Day story, here. Yours can be sad, funny, about your kid forgetting the entire packet of Star Wars “Vade Er Be My Valentine?”(s) on the kitchen counter. Doesn’t matter. You guys always do a good job.

Be sure to let me know in the comments if you want to tell a story but don’t want to enter the giveaway. I will draw the winner next Wednesday, February 3rd. Thanks in advance for sharing your lives.


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The First Great Candle Burn-Off Of 2016 — Black Orchid from Aquiesse vs. Black Hibiscus from India Hicks


Although the days are getting longer, and I can feel summer on the other side of the fence, every day around 4:30pm I remember we’ve still got a lot of night to trudge through. To say nothing of the cold, even in California.

Time for another Great Candle Burn-Off!

Let’s compare Black Orchid from Aquiesse , and Black Hibiscus, from India Hicks. I know! A theme! Floral Noir! Wholly accidental, as you’ll soon see.


I picked up the Aquiesse candle at the boutique where Tish Jett spoke last December, in an attempt to be a good citizen and chip in for my invitation. The store was not my thing, shall we say, but I smelled all the candles on offer before picking this one as the best of the lot. I also chose the India Hicks candle because of a blogger connection. Patricia van Essche sells the line, here, and I want to support her.


OK so I’m a dope. I thought these were roughly price-equivalent. Picked up the Aquiesse for $50, paid $54 for India. But the Aquiesse is 11 ounces, India only 5.8. Ooops.

Packaging, Design & Materials

Look how similar the packaging, at least at first glance. Black and silver for Aquiesse,Aquiesse

black and gold for Madame Hicks.

Black Hibiscus India Hicks

But Aquiesse sports a Romanesque monogram logo, India handwriting script. Aquiesse uses a vaguely Moroccan pattern as background, Hick, beetles. Hick’s subheading says to me, “English — but not too formal to hang out on Harbour Island.” I’m going to guess Aquiesse is going for opulence, and India, casual glamor? Probably should be spelled “glamour.”

You brought issues of safety and environment to my attention last time round, so this time I checked. Both candles are 100% soy wax, and lead-free.


Both candles seem to behave themselves reasonably when on fire. No spitting of cinders, no pillars of sooty smoke. In first burning, I thought India was going to drown in her own wax, but I tilted a little out of the way and now she flames like a dream. Short wick, no sputtering, no problem. Aquiesse, which I admit to having burned much less frequently, seems to insist on a high flame, which then gutters in the draft a bit while emitting white smoke.


The Scent Itself

Here’s the thing. I love the way India’s Black Hibiscus smells. Love it. It’s earthy and fresh, with just enough sweet.  Light but pervasive, as though I were burning the wood of a tropical shrub, one that dried just last week in salt and sand. I use it every day. On the other hand, I don’t like the Aquiesse much at all. Even though I sniffed it, unburned, in the store, and thought it was good. Not. Smells to me like an old-fashioned department store and laundry soap. Ooops.


I can’t tell! I have burned India’s candle just about every day since right before Christmas. It’s maybe 2/3 done. Since I don’t like the Aquiesse, I’ve lit it only 5-10 times. I know, I should be prepared to suffer for my research but I simply cannot. We’ll have to believe the manufacturers, who give the Black Orchid 100 hours, and the Hibiscus 47-50 hours.


Final Score

Um, yeah. India Hicks Black Hibiscus is the clear winner, even in the face of higher price per unit of fire and scent. Again, you can find it here. Should you actually prefer the scent of department stores, the Black Orchid can be had on Amazon for less than I paid for it in the boutique that shall not be named. I was prepared for either candle to win, as one must be in Burn-Offs, but I am quite happy the champion belongs to Patricia.

Next Burn-off I’ll go back to the comments from the 2015 post and pick some of your recommendations. I’m thinking citrus, and sunny, to match the lengthening days.


Amazon affiliate links may generate commissions. I have no commercial relationship with PVE or India Hicks, those links are not monetized, the product was neither free to me nor discounted.

So Next Year I’m Getting A Flu Shot, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:38am

Hi guys. Sorry about disappearing. Here’s what happened.

After visiting my mom I drove down to LA, where I met with blogging friends, (BTW, do you follow @mrs_badinage on Instagram? You must.) attended my extraordinary youngest sister’s 50th birthday party, and came down with the flu.

Not knowing I was that sick, we drove back north on Monday. The flu did not take kindly to my disregard for its powers and promptly laid me flat on my back, groaning. Fever and everything. Such discomfort.

Today is the first day I’m free of the aches and pains. Weak as a baby, but I’m not complaining.

I have every hope of putting out my two planned posts this week, a Candle Burn-Off, and a Valentine’s giveaway from Blue Nile. Can’t promise for fear of disappointing, but that’s the plan.

I hope you are all well. Next year it’s flu shots for me. And I really don’t recommend 6 hours on California’s I5 as a home remedy. Have a nice weekend.


Note: I thought I had published this hours ago. See, totally not myself;).

Interior Surfaces At Mom’s House ( At No O’Clock)

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights at my mother’s house. Thank you all for your response to last Saturday’s post. I’m working my way through the replies, it does take longer than usual.

I thought I might show you a few more photos from Mom’s house. These are interior surfaces.

Upholstery in a guest room.


Duvet covers in the same room.


Tile in a guest bathroom.


20th century Swedish upholstery on a sofa bed in a guest room.


A living room rug.


A tansu cupboard in the living room.


The living room tile. Installed when my mother and stepfather moved in, it single-handedly transformed the house.


The Southern California light, of course, was already there.

Blue Nile’s Annual Diamond Ring Event — 15% Off — For Weddings Or Just Your Regular Fingers

This post presented in collaboration with Blue Nile

Quick note. Blue Nile is holding their annual diamond ring sale, 15% off quite a few. Use code RING2016 at the checkout. You can think of these as wedding rings, of course, but they also work for regular fingers. I noted this, pretty in white gold milgrain and diamonds, back in a previous post for the Nile (I made that term up. I’m sure they don’t call themselves that, I imagine no one does.)

Or you might prefer to stack ’em high. Really high. So high.

Blue Nile Emerald Cut Eternity Ring

I can understand. I remember when someone I knew married the grandson of a jeweler. Man-oh-man her ring was amazing, channel-set emerald-cut, just like this. I admit I gawked, if surreptitiously.

Blue Nile sells simple bands and men’s rings too, along with the diamond-embellished, round or otherwise. And I did peek at Costco pricing when I was there the other day, and it appears, although not remotely by scientific study, that the price for a ring like this in carat, color and clarity (which is quite like my wedding ring BTW) costs more in Big Box Land than on Blue Nile.

The sale runs through January 27th.

Even if you’re not in the market, I do love a little wander through sparkle. Online, I can gawk as broadly as I like.,


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