A Visit To The California Estate Of Filoli, Complete With Family Dreams Of Wendover

Filoli mansion

Last weekend, I visited Filoli, a Northern Californian turn-of-last-century estate. Well-known, much-visited, somehow I’d never made the trip. A reader of this blog was living temporarily on the Peninsula. We’d chatted about local things to do, and before she left she was kind enough to suggest, “How about Filoli, together?”

It’s pronounced Figh-Low-Lee, by the way, after original owner William Bowers Bourn’s motto, “Fight, Love, Live.” Built in 1917, sited on 654 acres, now part of a land trust, it’s a wonderful, wonderful place. We started in the kitchen. Resurfacing my love for glass-fronted cabinets.


To say nothing of crystal sconces, in the hallway. Are they ever a bad idea?


You can see more of the interiors here. But the ballroom sent me into a fugue state of sorts.


I stood looking at the murals, the gilt, and the parquet floors, for a few minutes, seeing but not seeing. Then I turned and exclaimed to my companion, “Ah, I used to have recurrent dreams!”

Why? The photo below is where my father lived, decades ago, in the summertime. Called Wendover, the house was built in 1905 by my great grandfather, Walter P. Bliss, for his wife Katharine Bliss née Baldwin. Katharine, who went by B. in the High WASP nickname tradition, remained there after Walter died. One of her daughters, Sibyll Carnochan née Bliss, eventually returned to live at Wendover as well, along with her husband, Gouverneur Morris Carnochan, and my father.

It was a big place.
Wendover Estate

I told my tolerant companion that several years back I had a series of dreams in which I was walking through a mansion. Up three flights of a long mahogany staircase, to a ballroom. High-ceilinged, gilt, parquet-floored, gorgeous. But the first few steps are dangerous. The room starts to shake. The visitor turns in a circle, trying to see everything before the collapse, no use, the house is falling down.

Whether I actually ever saw a ballroom at Wendover is unclear. My father says that one existed, but was unused even during his years, except to host another Bliss daughter’s wedding. I was 9 or 10 when the estate was sold. But, as my companion pointed out, I live in earthquake country, I dream of past family holdings, well, things don’t get much more explicit.

My father wrote a memoir, here, with a far more coherent, real-life narrative. I only dreamed it.

Let’s return to Filoli. The house integrates beautifully into its surroundings. From side entries,


to wrought iron gates, farther afield. Serious geometry, recreational curves.


The courtyard flower beds extend the theme of lavish restraint.


Up close, Filoli’s gardens are lush, colorful, profuse. From the containers,


to the beds,



to the ponds. A pansy fell onto a lilypad, evidently.


My favorite part of Filoli’s gardens is the long views.


I do remember Wendover’s pool, and the lawn. We must gone to swim, one day in my childhood. These clouds hovered over Filoli.


The vista. Not the place itself, but what you can see from there. Which is sort of how I feel about wealth, or aspire to feel. Were I to rename this blog, I’d call it Sightlines.

If you come to Silicon Valley, or San Francisco, or even the California coast, do visit. There’s a cafe where you can eat lunch or have cake, and the live peacock may display its tail. We’ll leave the resonant imagery at that.


Credit for image at top to David McSpadden, on Flickr. Do we find the affiliate link to my father’s book ironic, or fitting? George P. Bliss, the founder of the Bliss fortune, made his first money in dry goods, after all.

Correction: It was Sibyll Bliss Carnochan who was sometimes called B. In the ways of High WASPs, even we get mixed up.

Halting The Downward Slide

In retirement, I have found it’s very easy to slide down the appropriate clothing ladder. All the way to the bottom. Especially when days consist of early morning pajama-clad and sofa-based writing, interspersed with garden forays and the boy child’s old Outdoor Action shirts.

When I have to leave the house, I can’t be arsed, as the British say, to get dressed up. Luckily I haven’t yet shown up at the grocery store in pajamas.

No, mostly when I go out – on errands, mind you, social occasions warrant a little more effort – I grab whichever pair of boyfriend jeans hangs on a chair in the bedroom, a t-shirt, a cotton jacket, and a pair of earrings. Then I slide my feet into Birkenstocks. The other day I caught myself thinking that the Vince sneakers were too much work because I had to bend over to pull them onto my heel.

How the mighty have fallen. Or, more aptly, how those concerned with the social ticks of a workplace may dress when their career has quieted. BTW, I did speak strictly but fondly to myself and put the sneakers on my dang feet.

I find so much of retirement dressing, for the Sturdy, involves ensuring that even one’s absolute dregs are presentable. To that end, I’m thinking of buying a pair of slides. You know, shoes you can “slide” into?

The Grande Dame might like these, by Miu Miu. Diamonds on the heel of her shoe.


Miu Miu


Tory, of course, is her friend, if a tad “rustic” on occasion.

Tory Burch Slide

The Artsy Cousin, in her urban guise, loves the minimalist artisan look at Need Supply. And yes, MinArts is a thing if we say so.

Need Supply Slide

In her more traditional mode, Artsy will be sourcing embroidered Turkish slippers on Etsy. Vintage is best, although she does want to support a new generation of craftspeople.

Vintage Turkish Slides on Etsy

The Sturdy Gal worries, “Where do one’s toes fit?”* and chooses these. Sturdies love a little glitter – besides gold pairs so well with navy.

Loeffler Randal Slide at Nordstrom

Or these, Adidas originals, because she’s worn these since her college lacrosse glory days and didn’t know they’d bloomed fashionable.

Adidas Slides

If none of the above tickled your fancies, Grande Dames might like Jeffrey Campbells’ not-too-expensive flowers, the minimalist Artsy a lilac (!) not-too-expensive Babouche. Sturdies might feed their secret desire for luxury in Donald Pliner’s black suede.

(Hat tip to Twitter, where, when I posted the Need Supply shoes,  someone replied with that question about toes. Wish I could remember whose brilliance to credit. Unrelated, don’t rude phrases sound so much better in British English? Edited to add, sorry I forgot, affiliate links may provide commissions.)

In Memoriam For Lives Lost Too Young, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:08am

Just over a week ago, early in the morning of Saturday, May 16th, a truck and a car crashed on a San Diego freeway. The driver and passenger of the car, two young women, were killed instantly. They were medical students at UC San Diego, and friends of my daughter. That’s how I come to be writing about this today.

There were five people in the car altogether. Two died, one was seriously injured, two less so. They’d all just received their results from the test known as Step 1, which is, as you might guess, the first step towards becoming doctors. They were coming home from a celebratory party. Madison Elizabeth Cornwell was the designated driver. That’s important.

The driver of the other vehicle, a truck, survived. He was and still is a 21-year old Marine on active duty in the San Diego area. He was drunk. So drunk, in fact, that he was driving the wrong way down the freeway. Headlights off, hazard lights on.

Madison, and the young woman in the passenger seat behind her, Annie Li Baldock, were killed on impact.

In honor of those we have lost, here is a video in which Madison’s younger sister and brother speak out.


I admit that when I was going through the end of my marriage, one night I drove home after 2 martinis. Big martinis. I wasn’t drunk enough to drive the wrong way on a freeway, but I shouldn’t have been in the car. I’ve felt badly about it ever since.

You may already be more responsible than I. And you may have, as I did, stressed to your children from the time they were little that they should never get into a car with a driver who is under the influence. My best friend and I used to say, “If anyone ever wants you to get into an automobile unsafely, without a seat belt or when someone’s been drinking, call us at any time and we will come get you.”

But there’s more we can do. We can adopt the Scandinavian commitment to and social acceptance of designated drivers. Even the 6’6″ guys who like to drive fast cars are on board. In Sweden, for example, every vehicle at every party has a corresponding non-drinking driver. There’s no cowboy prize awarded to bravado, no myth around, “Dude!”

We deserve a society in which we’d rather take away car keys, thus embarrassing our friends and ourselves, than let anyone ever drive the wrong way down a freeway into the end of two young lives.

Have a responsible weekend. We’re none of us perfect, but we can try. I am vowing on the tears that fall, as I watch and remember that video, to do better.

The Serenity Of Flowering Dogwood


3-2-1, cue month of online fawning over peonies. I always want to boycott. I cast no aspersions on preferences – peonies just seem too blowsy, too easy for me and my somewhat astringent tastes.

Ah, give me dogwood any day. Give me flowers that appear to float on water. Give me random numbers made chlorophyll. Never mind the fanciful images. Give me serenity.

I love them at a distance, the way blooms wander down a tree.

I love them close up, like pre-teens after school, forming and reforming in groups. Does Lolly love Louis today? Yes. But maybe not tomorrow. Again with the fanciful imagery – we will blame something about the patterns, we know not what.


Growing under trees as dogwoods will, in dappled light. All together,


or on their own.


The single flower keeps the promise of the tree.

Should you love the peony best, let’s still be friends. Perhaps we’ll bond again come winter over holly berries.



Be Careful With That Spam Button Please; Also Some Other Notes And News

The-Care-And-Feeding-Of-A-BlogA few housekeeping notes!

1. While I’ve switched over to MailChimp, and Privilege emails with links to each week’s posts should be arriving smoothly, if you have a moment, I would to talk about when to use the Spam button in your email client and when to use the Unsubscribe link in the footer of the emails themselves.

  • If the email is from Ms Grace in Uganda who needs money, or offers to let you shop and get paid if you send ALL your personal info, or promises INTEREST RATES UNDR TIN PERCINT, it’s spam. Click Spam. Yahoo and its brethren will then stop delivering emails from that IP address, the sender will be blacklisted,. Their emails may even be blocked all over the Internet.
  • On the other hand, when you simply want to stop receiving emails from a reputable sender, say, J. Crew or perhaps Privilege, please click Unsubscribe. Law requires this be possible, if you don’t see an Unsubscribe link, the email is non-compliant*. Please report it as Spam, you do us all a service.
  • If, however, you click Spam for a non-spammer, that person may have to spend a lot of time getting everything back in order, and other readers may then be deprived of emails they in fact wanted. Feel free to ask me how I know.

2. A reporter interviewed me a few months back about second weddings. This last Sunday, the New York Times published her lovely article in their Style section. The link is here – paywalled of course – but very nicely done. Several other people are interviewed too – here’s something I said.

“My entire emotion the second wedding was ‘I feel like I’m made of glowing cotton candy…’ ”

3. The above article reminded me to go reread all the comments on my Married post, (thank you, you all were so nice) which got me to thinking how important beautiful photography is to a style blog. I thought I’d make a request. If there are any photographers out there in the Bay Area who would like to practice their street style photography, don’t mind working around a middle-aged lady’s desire to work in the early or late Golden Hour, and would find credit and visibility on Privilege to be of value, please get in touch. You know how much (little) money I make here, my ability to compensate is commensurate, i.e. I can pay something like $25/session for gasoline etc. I realize the idea may be completely uninteresting, please excuse my ignorance. It’s a blip of an thought inspired by this blogger and her photographer. (I find her 100% adorable.)

4. Those of you who read Privilege on the site, rather than in a feed reader like Bloglovin’ or Feedly, (my personal preference) may have noticed a widget in my sidebar, below my photo but above the ads. It changes from time to time. You may have wondered, what’s that? Well, it’s a thingie I put together using Shopstyle, featuring goods with a theme. Page through if you like, using the gray arrow on the right-hand side. And, as a pay-per-click thingie, it tends to pay me between $2.50 and $.16 a day. So, not funding my dream house in Napa, but fun. Also allows me to share items I like without over-weighting blog posts with stuff, stuff, stuff.

C’est tout. By the way, if any of you have questions about how to set up a blog etc., or how to earn extremely moderate but still fun amounts of money without full commercial intent, always feel free to send me an email at skyepeale (at) yahoo (dot) com.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your time.


*Fun fact. The law about spam is called The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (acronym for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited P*rn*gr@phy And Marketing.)

Brooks Brothers’ Friends & Family Sale, Now Until Tuesday

(Publishing on a Sunday as is not the usual practice, because, stock is running low.)

Everyone knows Brooks Brothers makes classic clothing. Everyone may not know that the company occasionally offers their classic pieces in materials from luxury European fabric houses.

Besides, Brooks waves a navy flag like no one else.

Right now they’re running a two-tiered sale, i.e. spring reductions get you to a certain price, the code BBFNF25 gets you another 25%. Below are my picks – sizes are limited but not absurdly so, Friends & Family offer ends Tuesday. And, if all you need a another sensible but not too dowdy striped no-iron shirt for work, this is the place. I have one of their blue and white numbers hanging in my closet, just in case. Or perhaps to remind me of who I have been.




Is Drudgery Inevitable, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:24am

Compiling 100 entries for the Pearl Source giveaway took longer than predicted. I started yesterday afternoon, lost steam last night, finished up this morning. Larks are like that.

I’ve announced the winner on the original post. Congrats!

I also thought, as I painstakingly entered the appropriate names into a spreadsheet (having reread all the comments to discern who was in the contest, who only telling a story, and who just making a cheeky remark (GSL of course)) about a conversation I’d had earlier with my son. Careers.

I guess today’s question is: how much drudgery do we need to expect and bear up under, over time?

When my best friend and I were jointly rearing our children, five between us then, we called ourselves donkeys. My mother had taught me a song,

“Sweetly sings the donkey, at the break of day.
If you do not feed him, this is what he’ll say.
‘He haw, he haw, he haw he haw he haw he haw.”

We sang to our children as we ferried the 962nd serving of noodles to the table. Cut-up fruit and vegetables first, so they’d eat color before beige. A slog. But I never felt sacrificial. I never resented my kids — because I experienced my love for them like a drug.

These days, some people advocate Follow Your Bliss, others, Deliberate Practice. While writers may flog their ideas single-mindedly — a book entitled “It All Depends” is unlikely to sell — those of us reading probably know that you can follow your bliss only to a point. At some juncture aren’t you going to need to put your head down and engage in deliberate practice?

I feel the same way about the Law of Attraction. Envisioning your desires helps in realizing them, but so does planning for risks and understanding probabilities.

Recently I’ve been enjoying Prudential’s commercials on retirement. I know, weird. In particular, I like the one which shows how people characterize their past as half difficult, half good, but their future as perfect. We acknowledge past difficulties, but predict no more to come. Bliss and Drudgery. You can Attract only so much.

This morning, I opened my email to find a reader had written to say how much I’d helped her. After a rough divorce, and reevaluation and understanding of self, she found help here and from other midlife bloggers.

Her email made me happy. A tiny bliss. I’d been useful.

Imagine a donkey on a trail in Greece caring more about good foot placement than the wine-dark sea to her left. Sturdy Gals care most about being useful. That’s why we make good beasts of burden, even when hills are steep and dusty.

Which brings me up short.

Maybe others feel about drudgery as I do about fighting? In other words, can’t do it. No matter the waiting sea, no matter the stable, no matter the hay. Child-rearing was different, I realize now, because I would have fought for my kids not minding that death. Huh.

So I can only repeat the question, this time in light of temperament.

How much drudgery do we need to expect and bear up under?

The Beauty Of Flowers Who Have Met Their True Love


You all may remember Mr. D., the delphinium I grew from seed.

Delphiniums take forever to germinate. I had given up hope when I saw the first 3 teeny leaves. I held my breath, hoped, realized he wasn’t getting enough light on my back patio, brought him inside, watered him, fed him, realized he still wasn’t getting enough light, put him in the front yard. Fed him again.

He went nuts.

In the fullness of time, it became clear that Mr. D. would never reach his full potential in my front yard. My stepmother, Brigitte Carnochan, is both a gardener and a photographer. She decorates with flowers in containers, particularly on her back deck, where we Northern California-residing family members will often meet for dinners. Seemed like she might like Mr. D., and he might like her.

Yes. Yessity yes, yes, yes.

Delphinium 5-2-15-8 by Brigitte Carnochan

In black and white.

Delphinium 5-2-15-16-3 by Brigitte Carnochan

Deeply colored.

Delphinium 5-2-15-15 by Brigitte Carnochan

Delphinium 5-2-15-12 by Brigitte Carnochan


Delphinium 5-2-15-16 by Brigitte Carnochan


That last, in particular. It looks like summer in California feels.

Dressing Up Extreme Casual With A Not-So-Casual Pearl Bracelet

This post is sponsored by The Pearl Source. Thanks guys!


It is time for Privilege to give away a few pearls. As I said, back when, I own more than my fair share; earrings, a necklace, a pin. But in setting up this giveaway, I took my cue from pearls that got away, the 3-strand bracelet I had made from 7MM Mikimotos my father had given me when I turned 25.

Traveling without a jewelry box leads to a fairly odd conjunction of accessories.

A photo posted by Lisa Carnochan (@amidprivilege) on

I lost it in 2013, somewhere between San Francisco and Minneapolis, on the way to one of my husband’s colleagues’ weddings. Sigh. It made me feel elegant, no matter what I wore. So, in discussions with Pearl Source about a review and sponsored post, I asked them for a multi-strand wrist adornment. To provide a proof point for this alleged pearl bracelet versatility, here’s my very casual outfit from dinner Saturday night. Pearl-Source-Giveaway I’m wearing: (all links to original Privilege posts on the goods)










  • Pearl studs with diamond accent









Double-Strand-Pearl-Bracelet-from-Pearl-Source I pushed the limits of extreme casual here. But I’m going to propose that the bracelet — aided by Isabel and the shine on my feet — may have saved me from myself. I believe the clasp is white gold but there’s a chance it’s silver (I’m waiting for the PR firm to confirm, my apologies for the lack of certainty.) EDITED: Yes, it’s white gold:). Pearl-Source-Double-Bracelet-on-Wrist I thought I’d need spacers, those little bars that often link strand. But the bracelet holds its shape really well without. The pearls are just off-round, which I loved. Better than perfect spheres for low-decorum nights. The color is creamy, maybe a little ivory, a little pink or  tan. Different lights bring out different hues. In black and white, you can see how classic they are. And the size. Pearl-Source-Closeup So let’s tell stories, as is our tradition for giveaways. Tell us of your first pearls, alternatively, how you imagine yourself wearing this bracelet. I will draw and announce a winner on Friday, May 15. Giveaway is open to all US readers. My apologies to the rest of the world, I am shipping these to you myself and the freight/duties/bureaucracy for overseas deliveries is abominable. I hope any brands local to your parts of the world are paying attention. I confess to being tempted to keep this, once I saw it, but I breathed deeply and let it go. Pearl on, my friends, pearl on.

Similar Goods



Mary Kay Lyon, you are the winner! Congratulations! And thank you, everyone, for the wonderful stories. Our lives are rich. Mary Kay, I will email you for your shipping details.

A Mother’s Day Retrospective, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:51am

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the USA. Anne Lamott says she hates Mother’s Day, can’t say I agree with her. But there’s room for all kinds of opinions, and if I don’t like what I hear, I can close my laptop.

Here’s what I do feel about Mother’s Day, or have, in years past.  I went through my archives and found a few old posts.

2009: Saturday Morning at 9:56am, Or, Mother’s Day Parade
2009 Redux: Saturday Morning at 8:05am, Or, I Spilled My Blood For You
2012: To All The Mothers, Realized Or Hoping, Or, Saturday Morning at 6:23am (I had that photo of me and Mom framed for her, at my stepfather’s request)
2014: The Best Possible Mother’s Day Present — You Already Know What It Is — Or, Saturday Morning at 8:23am

I have no idea when I switched the Saturday title convention to from Time Stamp/Name to Name/Time Stamp. Makes me chuckle, that, how life evolves. Have a happy Saturday, guys, and any kind of Mother’s Day  — or not — that works for you.