June 20th, 2009, Saturday Morning At 6:47am

I’m sitting at my kitchen counter. It’s old. 17 years old. Butcher block. Which means that by now it boasts some fissures, a burn mark or two, and various mottled patches. Don’t get me wrong, I scrub my counter with reasonable frequency. I’d be embarassed not to. But wood seems to have a memory that cleaning substances and Scotch Brite can’t erase. Hmm, I see what looks like a pen mark too. Old homework relic. Time to sand. Rub it down with mineral oil. One of those house tasks that you carry in the back of your mind thinking to take care of. Whether you do it or not, who knows.

Last night my son said, “This is one of the great kitchen counters of all time.”

Being a parent of young children is such a large job. It’s like a camping trip, you pack everything you can into a car and take it with blind faith out to the wilderness. You get there and realize that you have forgotten your flashlight but you have the cayenne. You make something spicy to eat and sit by the fire. When you get home, some day when you are putting away the laundry or sorting the mail, your kid tells you, “Mom, you know when you forgot the flashlight? That was one of the great camping trips of all time.” It’s not just that you can’t tell if you are doing it right, it’s that you don’t get to say what any indicators that you are doing it right might look like.

February 26, 2011, Light In The Morning, Or, Saturday At 8:07am

As I am off this week, I’m republishing some Saturday posts. I know it’s not the weekend, bear with me.

There’s nothing better than light in the morning. Just now some camellia leaves outside my window are shining so brightly they throw the folds of this sofa cushion into high relief. I can even see the nap of faux suede, in ridges like sand blown by wind across dunes. There must be dew on the shrubbery.

The light’s going to fade in a minute. Yes, the camellia has gone green again. The sofa cushion reverts to upholstery. The coffee table shines instead, briefly. I got it at Pottery Barn.

This is how to feel time. Every little increment shining. Each regular thing lit in turn. Now the dust on that same window turns platinum, almost white, and the camellia bushes throw spiky shadows on the glass. I’m expecting the pile of laundry on the long low basket drawers to light up next. Maybe my leopardskin tee shirt. Maybe the baby blue towels. We don’t always get to choose what illuminates. Nor, really, would we want to.

Have a wonderful weekend.

March 13th, 2009, Saturday Morning at 8:05am

As I am off this week, I’m republishing some Saturday posts. This was the first, from back in 2009.

It’s Saturday morning. And my son is home from college.

My children are grown. They have not a vestige of body fat left on them that I can call my own. Nothing to pinch. I do not own their sweetness any more. But still when they are here it’s like I’ve remembered to put slippers and a bathrobe on after sitting at a cold kitchen counter for hours. Some part of me just wants to hum. Like Winnie-the-Pooh with honey.

I had been dying to have children all my life. I worried I wouldn’t be able to, maybe because it was so important to me. I remember to this day my first ultrasound. I didn’t know what was going to happen – I had no idea you could hear a baby’s heartbeat at 10 weeks of pregnancy. I remember looking at my 30-year old belly. The gel they put on you so they can use the ultrasound wand is chilly. And the OB squooging the wand around. I didn’t know it, but he was searching for the heartbeat. Good thing I didn’t know or I would have been terrified since I was terrified of everything during pregnancy that might have meant there was a problem.

The sounds at first are like the soundtrack of a submarine movie. All gurgle and swoosh. Then suddenly and quietly you hear the very quick thump thump thump. Almost closer to a pitpitpitpitpitpitpitpit. The OB said, “There it is.” And all I could think was, “Oh my god, I’m a mother.”

I still think that. And when my son is sleeping in his bed, I get to sit here with a cup of tea and warm my feet at that fire.

In Imaginary Texas, We Wear Tony Lama And Chanel

Are you familiar with Tony Lama? Founded by an Italian American immigrant in 1911, now making boots in America, Mexico, the world? When Lama’s rep asked if I’d like to review a pair, I was excited but hesitant. They’re an iconic brand, one to spark the imagination, but not to wear in Silicon Valley. So here’s a review and a giveaway. One change, which I hope you’ll excuse – this time I chose a winner in advance.

100 Percent-Vaquero-Tony-Lama

My thing for Texas goes way back. Rooted in summers at the Hunewill Ranch, encouraged by debutante parties in Houston, sustained by who knows what. Myth, I suppose. But I live in Silicon Valley, so this Texas is imaginary. Think Tess Harper in Tender Mercies meets Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman but isn’t a prostitute and goes shopping at Neiman Marcus. Imaginary.

We’ll scrabble together some faded light, dirt without water, and a wood fence -  if you squint my back yard will do. Thank you for inferring the horse.Tony-Llama-Boots-And-Sunshine

And I’m wearing the Women’s Coral Tango, by Tony Lama. With one “L.” You probably already knew it was only one “L.” Let’s pretend I did too. Worn with a blue chambray skirt, a tank top because my gosh it’s hot even in pretend Texas, and a pile of jewelry that throws off light and clanks a bit. For swagger.

Let’s take a closer look at the boots. They’re not subtle, but I love the trim. They were immediately comfortable, worn with thickish socks. But if I really wore cowboy boots here in Silicon Valley, I might go for these instead. Or these. Please don’t tell Texas.

Tony-Lama-100 Percent-Vaquero

How about a closer look at the jewels? Very kindly loaned by Nancy at Beladora. In Imaginary Texas we like to match our jewelry, hence the Ippolita gemstones. And we think Coco Chanel was nuts when she told us to take off a piece, so we flaunt our right to excess by inviting her bracelet to an arm party. Take that, understatement.


The chambray skirt, soft, full, and pocketed to carry nails – as women will in Imaginary Texas – sparkles too.


And the ring matches the chambray! Kind of.


Most of all, we cannot leave Imaginary T. without paying homage to a bracelet.

It’s Chanel, in 18K gold. Heavy, beautifully made, even the latch closes gracefully. It looks like a series of geometric shapes, until you notice the little heart in the center of two of the circles. And once you notice the heart, you begin to think that maybe this series of shapes is actually a very abstract rendering of the word, “Love,” which would make this Chanel’s “Love bracelet.” Given that Cartier is famous for theirs, if the reference is intended, how brilliantly sly. How very Imaginary Texan in its effrontery.

All of this without a hint of visible logo. Unapologetically expensive, but a work of art. I held it and I will not forget.


Here’s something. Imaginary style countries can help us all in finding an original way to dress; They’re another way to adventure, and understand where we call home. The term, “Bohemian,” after all, comes from the old country known as, “Bohemia.”

So, you may well ask, where are the boots now? Oklahoma? Australia’s Outback? The vast desert of Western Mongolia? Nope! The real world. Here you see them in deepest Southern California.


And my daughter, simply dressed in a peach tee, scarf, and skinny jeans. A bit of humor, no pretense. She wore them line dancing with friends.


It’s kind of a sucker punch, including her picture, I know. But many of you are also mothers of daughters, and you too might rank them among your real world jewels. Excuse the sentiment.


The Coral Tangos have landed. They don’t miss Imaginary Texas one bit. Thanks Mr. Lama. Happy 4th to those in the USA, and a wonderful weekend to everyone.


Photos of my daughter by Kellie Satterfield. Kellie is a medical student at UCSD. In her spare time, she paints, makes jewelry, gardens and humors her friends by photographing them in the San Diego wilderness.

Products. Affiliate links may produce comissions:
Tony Lama Coral Tangos (for more subtlety, if you prefer, try the Rancho or the Tan Saigets)
Chambray Skirt by Suno via Saks now sold out, but an interesting designer, new to me.
Ippolita Lollipop Bracelet in 18K
Ippolita Blue Topaz, Quartz, and Mother Of Pearl Ring in 18K
Stephen Webster Crystal Haze Collection Opal Earrings
Chanel 18 K Bracelet at Beladora

The Jigsaw London Sale Is On And I Am Off Next Week

Another brief sale notice, this time from our friends at Jigsaw, who are winning all the awards for Tops That Are Kind To Your Middle.

Here’s a summer version of my favorite Jersey Peasant Top, seen here with long sleeves, and below with short.

Jigsaw London Peasant

And another, for those who can do vivid.

Jigsaw London

Sizes are limited but options are not.

By the way, I will be off all next week, re-posting a few old Saturday pieces in my absence. That means tomorrow will be the last new thing for a while. It is, however, a doozy, including but not limited to: imaginary Texas; an iconic brand; jewels of dreams; and a beloved and lovely red-headed model.

What On Earth Do You Do With Those Crystal Wedding Presents?


How many of us have a distant cabinet for crystal? Or if not crystal, glass objects from which one does not drink? How many of us ever take said unused objects out of said cabinet?

If you, as I do, answer, “Rarely,” here’s a thought. Liberate a piece or two and look at them in a new light, literally. Light them up. This is a cut glass dish and that’s all I know. Not fine, not delicate, but cute and endearing. What it’s for? A mystery. eBay suggest it may be from the American Brilliant Period. How fitting.


Below we have a fancier crystal candy jar. I believe it was a wedding present. Who uses candy jars any more? Or am I missing a beat in my cheese plate hospitality?


Glass, as I have said before, is one of my favorite materials. It’s such a good friend to light. Lends elegance, or at least its memory, to everything, even a cluttered bathroom counter. Sturdy Gals rarely bother with coordinated storage units. Unlike the Grande Dame they do not tend toward seated, skirted, vanities. Unlike the Artsy Cousin, they do not keep their perfumes in the Moroccan jars of origin. But they quite like the humor of cotton balls in crystal. Especially crystal not intended for this purpose.

And they vow to either throw out or use up the several tubes of mascara they’ve accumulated. But I digress.


Sturdy Gals also exclaim in happiness, having discovered that a little cut glass dish makes a perfect place to hold sleepily removed earrings. In situ, on a Pottery Barn rattan bedside table, next to a glass Pottery Barn lamp (Sturdy Gals just love some Pottery Barn oh yes they do), and a coaster brought home from Vietnam by obliging traveling family members.


And if you have no cabinet, you can start fresh. One Baccarat dish or another, a crystal jar, or something cut by someone on eBay or Etsy. Follow the light, fear not the repurpose. I imagine some of you have done the same and more?


Affiliate links may produce commissions.

Summer Is For We Old, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:02am

I was driving through town yesterday, California blue sky filling my dashboard, and I wondered, “Was summer different when I was young?”

The thing is, I don’t remember Summer, per se. I remember some days swinging, some days alone in meadows, some days at school when sun shone in the windows and hit the table as I worked. I think Summer, the California sort at least, is too big for a child to grasp. Children experience the moment more strongly than we do but the seasons, less.

That’s something to love about getting older. I remember yesterday, but I also remember tomorrow. The tomorrow from last year and the year before. Yes, we relinquish our hold on the immediate as we age. Yes, our senses weaken. But the accompanying distance makes it easier to see patterns, that proverbial big picture.

I think the task is to find our same strong joy in rhythmic passage as children do in the single flash. We recognize the highs and lows. I didn’t know then but I do now that the absolute peak of California’s summer happens right at Nordic Midsommar. Next year I’ll celebrate. Making the most of my time.

I think we also get to ignore any melancholy brought by perspective, and its inevitable view of the end, and just enjoy the little known fact that Summer is also for the older. How great that we don’t run out of surprises.

Have a wonderful weekend.

15 Existential First Steps To Redoing Your House

As I delve into what we might call, “Conscious House Decor,” I believe I find myself in the same situation as some of you re: clothing. Let’s see. Does this sound familiar?

The Privilege[d] 15 Steps To Redoing Your House Decor [It's Kind Of Like Building A Wardrobe]

  1. Take a look at your house (closet)
  2. Find it comfortable, for the most part, but clearly lacking
  3. Wonder how it happened, how you have lived so long with cracks in your walls (ill-fitting clothes), rooms with no rugs (no dresses to speak of), and a complete lack of finish (accessories? what accessories?)
  4. Pore through Pinterest boards, unearth online magazines and other resources, find small blogs where the author’s aesthetic and voice appeals
  5. Do this again.
  6. Do this again and again and again
  7. Realize that all you are learning is what you don’t like
  8. Realize that everything you do like costs enormous sums of money that you do not have
  9. Become profoundly overwhelmed

And then, tell yourself you are in your 6th damn decade and you need to put on your big girl pants and find a place to start. Anchor your learning. It’s easier to learn small than learn big.

10. Review Priorities To Sidestep The Overwhelm

So where to start? Even though the kids’ rooms are most in need of help, and therefore tempting to fix, I have to remember that my children live elsewhere, and I haven’t yet settled on just what we will make of that space. My living room/dining room/kitchen room, for it is all one, is good enough for now. Which leads us to the master bedroom.

I made a list of what I don’t like in bedroom decor, because it amused me. Laughter is good for perseverance. Let me point out that these are personal tastes, not broad judgement. Because I am unlikely to ever see your bedroom, you get to do with it exactly as you choose and I have not one word to say in the matter. The High WASP voices may boss me, but they aren’t allowed to speak to you at all unless you issue an invitation.

11. What I Don’t Like In A Bedroom

  • Distressed surfaces
  • Round mirrors with sunrays
  • Curvy headboards
  • Too many pillows
  • Totally neutral/monochromatic because, drowning
  • Pops of color because, startling
  • Words on the walls
  • Too much stuff of any sort on the walls, including twinkle lights
  • Chandeliers, which I love everywhere else
  • Fur or skin with hair or leather
  • Most importantly, anything that hints at Trying Too Hard including but not limited to: overly artful piles and vignettes; swags of matching fabric; glitter As I said, the High WASP voices may talk to me. In fact they will.

Then I remembered that I already know what I do like, at the highest level.

12. What I Always Like And Why Should This Be Any Different?

  • Comfort
  • Serenity
  • Simple elegance
  • Nonchalance
  • Intent (That’s the hard part. Nonchalant intent, as though I meant my life, and the house just followed.)

I simply need to figure out how to implement my abstractions into actual furnishings. I say “simply,” you can and probably should laugh out loud. I think it looks like this:

  • Lots of space to throw clothes on – upholstered chairs, chaise longues, even a sofa if there’s space
  • Bedside tables for books
  • Good lamps on those tables
  • Serene but textured linens
  • A beautiful and very quietly patterned rug
  • One more pattern on some cushions, possibly a toile
  • Just a few items on surfaces, often glass, meaning- or use-ful
  • Minimal framed artwork, probably photos since that’s what I’ve got
  • Lots of light, high ceilings, and hardwood floors. That part’s done already.

13. Gathering The Resources For Knowledge

When faced with a new project, one should always acknowledge how little one knows. Done. And understand how important it is to gather resources. Here’s where I’m starting, in alphabetical order, taken from my Feedly sidebar.

And one book. I admit to never having read anything about interior style until Reggie Darling introduced me to Maureen Footer. This is on my coffee table and has been opened. Review to follow.

14. Admit To Constraints

I have a budget. There. I said it. It’s not nothing, and it’s not unlimited, and there’s the rub. I know how to Spend Almost Nothing; I know how to spend all the LaLaLaLa Money. But the realistic, You Are Financially Comfortable Albeit Constrained, Therefore Plan Wisely money, that will be new. Also known as Why Every Rug May Not Have To Be Tibetan.

I sense a spreadsheet in my future. How do you guys budget for house decor? Consciously?

15. Feel No Shame In Enlisting Support But No Guilt In Sticking To Your Preferences Either

Finally, I ask you all, of good taste and experience, “Any more preparations to make?” And I thank you for reading, for lending your voices, and for understanding those occasions when, despite all good advice, I persist in my sometimes unique preferences.

Just as with clothes, we may not always follow generally understood best practices, but we do want to know what they are.

What’s A Summer Sale For, Or, That Thing You Didn’t Know You Needed

Summer sales, to my way of thinking, are for finding that one thing you didn’t know you needed. We’re heading into July and in most parts of the USA it’s only going to get hotter. Pieces you’ve relied on are going to give up the ghost.

Something new is something crisp.


If I weren’t spending so much time in my garden right now I’d go to Halsbrook, land of the Grande Dame, and snap up this black poplin dress. It’s available only in an Italian 40/US size 4, but that’s how these sales work. Serendipity, that size, that color, that fabric.  This ia from Les Copains, down from $495 to $198. Something else might be waiting for you. Maybe it’s floral silk; only you know.

Affiliate links may produce commissions.

In Praise Of Shy Hydrangeas

Above you see what I think of as Classic Hydrangea. A community, massed in uniform volume, vegetable origin a distant memory. Transmuted from plant to decor. All well and good. But there’s another mode of hydrangea to consider – the Shy Woodland Creature. And such I’ve come to love.


To set context, my backyard is a woodland. Well, in the same way as my front yard is a cottage garden, i.e.  a Northern California remix of the archetype. One aging but stalwart 60-year old Chinese Evergreen Elm shades a very small gathering of woodland-ish plants. I use the “Ish” suffix advisedly, as you will see. This is an imaginary forest made up of plants from everywhere.


Here’s the forest-ish floor. Starting from the lower left-hand corner: ferns, hellebore, a path that needs new bark cover, native iris, Japanese anemones, a woody shrub whose name I do not know so sue me,  phormium (AKA New Zealand Flax – I told you it was a global forest – of the  yellow-leaved variety,) lacecap hydrangea (hydrangea macrophylla normalis – why normalis we wonder?) and the branches of a rather young dogwood.

The hydrangea at left mingles with the dogwood foliage. Look to the right, and you’ll see there’s another Hyding behind Nameless Woody Shrub. Get it? Nothing like gardening to bring out the dumb humor.


Look closer. When the wind blows, both shrub and phormium wave, causing pink to flicker through the mostly green of my yard. I should note that my living area (kitchen, dining, sofa-intensive-comfort-zone) is lined with windows and this is the view. Excellent for general calming of the spirit.

I’ve read that nature’s patterns, like leaves in the sunlight and the waving of branches, do in fact settle our metabolisms. How about that.


In this garden, you have to wander to find the grace of complex flower heads. Set foot on a path.


I have two lacecap varieties by the way, one pink, one with variegated leaves and white and lavender flowers. There’s something about the similar but different patterning that feels right. Just enough visual commonality to say intent, just enough variance to suggest nature.


To be sure, these hydrangea are shy for good reason. You can see here how more low plantings just might be a good idea to disguise their short-comings.

  • They’re deciduous, as in the leaves fall off after when the plant’s done blooming.
  • They’re prone to legginess – i.e. lots of naked stalks – if you forget to cut them back.
  • Their low flower to leaf ratio, charming in dappled shade, might reveal all kinds of browning and spotting were they planted front and center.

Perhaps I could do something about the biological fraying, but if it involves chemicals and fussing, no. Water, inspect, and subject to long chats is my plant care strategy.


You might think to collect some of the pink for a brief moment of shape and color, as I did here, but prepare to be sweeping up endless small floral bits. Shy creatures offer all kinds of joy from afar but may protest close quarters.