Tea And Epidemics, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:04am

This morning I will be having tea with Maryn McKenna, a journalist and author who specializes in public health, global health and food policy. How did that come to pass? These pages. I urge any of you who think about writing a blog, as long as you can carve out several hours a week and establish a routine, go ahead. It’s quite a journey.

In other important news, it rained last night in California. Plants are celebrating all around us.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

If I Were Stopping By J. Crew Today

We have a J. Crew in my neighborhood, as I imagine do many of you. I find their merchandising displays enchanting. The color mix!

But if I were stopping by today, or this weekend, I’d try these on. I’ve been sending the universe requests for 100% cotton non-dowdy khakis for donkey’s years; maybe these are they. 100% cotton gets me the straight line from lower hip joint to hem that I prefer.

Boyfriend Khakis

I might have liked to have given these a shot,

J. Crew White Selvedge Jeans
but I recently bought, and am wearing, these,

White Boyfriend Jeans



so I think I’m set for white jeans. Although, had I found the J. Crew version first, I might have shelled out extra cash for the privilege of making my own holes in the knees.

I’m dressing often in a palette of soft neutrals these days, tan, white, light gray, dark gray. Works well with gray hair and blue eyes. Perhaps a little odd to wear the colors of your bathroom, but we’ll keep that to ourselves.


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Wishing us all small changes, day by day, for the better.

Photo credit from NASA, here.

Which Shelter Magazine Are You?

Having come very recently to the idea that we design interiors, they do not accrete themselves, I’ve been researching shelter magazines and sites. If we can use the term “research” for browsing images, pinning, yelping “Oh that’s horrible,” browsing, yelping, muttering “Maybe this one is OK,” and pinning some more.

I grokked fashion mags. (Remember that word?) I understood that I preferred Vogue over, say, Glamour or Harper’s Bazaar or Lucky. I also understood that I didn’t want to dress like the models in Vogue, that their outfits created a system of crossed flashing and occasionally neon beams, like a light show at a Madonna concert, and it was up to me to figure out the real costume.

I am working towards a similar understanding of the world of shelter. So interesting that we nickname interior style with its most primordial function, right? Does that mean that the nickname for clothing style, AKA “fashion,” tells us that the most essential function of clothing style is la mode? Not comfort? But I digress.

Let’s ask ourselves now, which shelter magazine(s) are we? Let’s review a few images, in no particular order. I’m flustered by the difference in images sizes, BTW, but if the mags don’t want to help me make them look good, what can I do?

Martha Stewart Living

Martha Stewart Living

Cute, but too peppy for me. I don’t want my house to be happier than I am. Also, I would craft in order to furnish a room, but I would not furnish a room in order to craft.



I see the appeal, but too much muchness. Often actualized in fabric, chandeliers, and swoop of all kinds.

Architectural Digest

Architectural Digest

My mother has subscribed to AD forever, and my sisters and I agree that we’re going to like one space in every issue. Not a realistic sort of liking, i.e. “I could do that in my house,” but a “Yeah, sure, were money no object.” I haven’t yet figured out how to abstract out any lessons.

Coastal Living

Coastal Living

I love their exteriors. So far as I can tell, their interiors tend towards other regional styles than my own, i.e they focus on New England, the Southeast, the South.



I speculate that this is a post-2008 look, a very hard recession having brought this eclectic, sparse approach to furnishings into our style lexicon. While I appreciate these spaces — particularly when they’re truly Craigslist and not faux upscale retail remakes of a thrift store aesthetic — in my house I like a little more plush and harmony. Where possible.

The World Of Interiors

So far from my world that I treat it as art. So do the publishers apparently, no tawdry Internet photos for them. Gotta embed the whole issue in the blog. I love their imagery, but I do worry a little about the homeowners, who often appear to be eating dinner surrounded by peeling paint and dust. Not good for the digestion.



I find it odd and yet eminently reasonable that a site focused on actual purchase of house goods offers the interiors I like best. Over all. So far. I’m still mulling over eleventy-billion photos of Swedish apartments full of white paint and light. Work in progress guys, work in progress.

All photo links on my Pinterest board, here. I look forward to your thoughts, if you have a moment.

Process People And Project People, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:39am

I’ve been thinking recently that there are Project people and Process people.

Project people gear up big, do a lot of talking before they start, plan carefully, manage to an end goal. Around about the 80% done mark they cry out, “What? I’m done! You all can take this the rest of the way.” They’d always rather do something new than something familiar, even the well-loved well-known.

Process sorts don’t like to talk about what they do before it starts. They enjoy conversations about how well something is going as it happens, take missteps quite seriously, stay in the moment, and get great joy from the last 20%. And in doing exactly the same thing the next day, but better.

I’m sure this over-simplifies, as may any idea that can be communicated in two short paragraphs.

But if I look back, I loved my work because it was about the new, the launch, the Make a Plan and Drive to Finish, then the Hand It Over and Start Again. My mantra, “good enough.” A project person, in other words.

And project people have to be careful when they stay at home. We have to limit our areas of focus, because everything calls for projects, and every single project demands the same amount of energy to get it going. We love to clean the house, once, in a blaze of lavender and lemon-grass scented biologically-sound liquids. Rags torn by hand from old sheets. But we really don’t want to do it again the week after.

Mardel posted something similar, here, with good points about taking a break.

I wonder if this might explain some of why I experienced child-rearing so intensely. One long, impassioned project. Only with kids your plans have to be remade every morning and you never get close to 80%. There’s no “good enough,” or at least not until several years in.

Still, eventually one hands the plan over. And then checks with the project managers a few time a week. Thank heavens for g-chat and texting.

My best friend is a process person. We made great co-parents. I planned and talked, she drove and walked. I planned the meals, she made sure there was enough food, even when we faced yet another dinner of breaded chicken and noodles and cut up fruit. She kept us laughing at the table until we hit 95%, on that day, in that moment.

The last 5% is always a matter of luck, and given by the universe on a whim no matter your methodology.

I’m off to a yoga class, where projects get left at the door with our shoes. Have a wonderful weekend.

A Privilege Blog Sale Of A Few Beloved But Hardly Used Pieces Of Clothing

Anyone else still working on 2-year old resolutions? I can finally check off “learn eBay.” The pointe shoes sold. Booyah!

Next step was to have been Sell Clothes. But I’m changing the plan. Turns out eBay is a community of its own, with particular behaviors. You have to know how to price, how to describe in eBay language, and you have to take a lot of photos. The good stuff often goes to people who arbitrage – i.e. buy goods and resell them.

So instead of eBaying I have donated a good percentage of my no-longer-or-never-worn stuff to the local American Cancer Society resale store. Off went a gossamer silk Armani dripping with sad memories, the unhappy black Monique Lhullier, a TOAST jacket, Michael Kors peacoat, and Nordstrom sparkle raincoat.

I held aside a few pieces with special meaning, which I’d like to offer to you all, if you’re so inclined. I like to think of them in friendly homes.

I’ve priced these at 50-25% off what I see on the RealReal (where applicable), and 80-85% off retail. I had unfortunately cut some of the tags out (they scratch!) and have discounted those items even further. Once I know destinations, I’ll add actual shipping charges to the requested payment.

Just send me an email at skyepeale (at) yahoo (dot) com if you’re interested in anything. First offers accepted, Paypal payments shipped immediately. With checks, I’ll wait until they clear. Preference given to previous commenters and correspondents, simply as a way to screen out the anonymous resellers, but if you’ve never spoken up before, please introduce yourself in the email. I will accept returns. And if you have questions, for example would like me to provide measurements, or even do an outfit shot in the Kiton suit, you have only to ask.

Whatever goes unsold, I’ll take back to the ACS shop, except perhaps the Kiton. Might put that up on eBay, because, collector’s item.

1. Clothes To Dress Like Grechen

In the blogosphere, one is occasionally inspired to dress like a revered blogger. And then her clothes look terrible on you. So it happened with Grechen and me. If you also would like to wear Grechen’s favorite brands, James Perse and Black Crane, this is your chance. I bet they’ll suit you well.

a. James Perse Paneled Shirts – $25 for both – SOLD







White shirt, linen and cotton jersey panels, size 3. Blue shirt, cotton jersey and ribbed cotton knit panels, size 3, purchase price ~$125-150 each from San Francisco James Perse store. Worn 4/5 times, washed several times. Slight wear at seams and neck.

b. Black Crane Carpenter pants – $20 – SOLD

These are above the ankle pants. You can see Grechen in hers, here, and the pants in a darker color, here. Maybe these would have worked for me in a smaller size, but since I’m all jeans all the time these days, I suspect I’d need a whole different supporting cast of tops to carry these off.




Black Crane label, light but tightly woven 100% cotton flannel, too heavy for hot and humid summers, size M, purchase price from La Garçonne online, $135. Never been cleaned, never been worn.

2. An Indie Blouse From Before Inside Out Style – $20- SOLD

Before I became a devotée of Imogen Lampert’s great blog, I took at stab at replacing a lace statement top. I shopped at Modern Appealing Clothing, one of my favorite independent SF shops., and took home a woven silk/cotton blouse by local designer, Dema. But, this is a large figure pattern, and as Imogen has explained to me, I like small figure patterns, such as, yes, lace, and Liberty of London. Worn once, because it looks good with my old Chanel jacket, but not again because I don’t lunch in Chanel that often these days.

Note that it has ties at the neck, if that isn’t visible in the photos.







DEMA label, care tags removed. Size M, purchase price ~$125 from M.A.C.. Beautiful worksmanship and detailing. Fabric has an ever-so-slight sheen. Altered in-store to taper the waistline a tad. Never been cleaned.

3. The Peanut Prada Cardigan – $100 – SOLD

I bought this long cardigan to accompany this dress. The dress still works, but the sweater fights with my gray hair and wins. Worn 2-3 times. Very lightweight fine cashmere.


Prada label removed (my apologies! but I’ll send the Prada hanger:)), care tags with “Made in Italy” remaining, Italian size 40, purchase price ~$800 but I cannot remember because I put my fingers in my ears as I sang “Lalalalalala,” to myself. Never been cleaned. One or two exceedingly small snags.

4. The Gray Lela Rose Dress – $150 – SOLD

Sigh. Back in the days of a job, cash, and a heightened sense of fashion, I bought this gray Lela Rose dress. Now it seems to demand more intense styling in hair and makeup than I can muster, to highlight its subtle joys. But it’s beautiful, for someone who lives a different life than I.

Here’s an outfit shot.


And here’s the dress today.






Lela Rose label at neck, dress in a 91% cotton, 6% polyester, 1% nylon fabric that’s crimped and puckered for texture, lining 100% silk in a lovely pattern, size 6, purchase price ~$800 via Farfetch from a boutique in Santa Barbara, Ca. Worn 4-5 times, been dry-cleaned once. Light sweat marks. Yes, even High WASPs.

5. An Extremely Rare Blush/White Felted Cashmere Kiton Skirt Suit from San Francisco Institution, Wilkes Bashford – $400 – SOLD

Purchased at the height of my Why Am I Not Rich!?!?! era, I was cutting off my nose to spite my face, as Mom would say, by spending money I didn’t have on something I couldn’t wear. I fear this might not be appreciated in the American Cancer Society shop. For someone who really loves fashion, and lives a life in which they can indulge their feelings. Never worn outside my house, although I’d occasionally put it on, stroke my arms, and sigh.

It fit like a dream. Dignified, but sexy as you walked away.






Kiton labels on jacket and skirt, care label in jacket, 100% felted cashmere, skirt lined in what feels like white silk but no care label in skirt, Italian size 40, purchase price ~$5000. Fabric is extraordinary, seaming you see is perhaps welted would be the technical term? Bought in the late 1990s, from the Wilkes Bashford shop in the Stanford Shopping Center.

6. A Pair Of Classic Ferragamo Varinas – $100

Back in the day, I wore black Manolo Blahnik flats to work. When they wore out, I tried these Varinas but I bought them too small, and the patent leather is unyielding. I did put on heel and half sole protection, but I fear the shoes were waiting for their Grande Dame.




Black patent leather with grosgrain bow and brass logo detail, size 7B, retail price $495, purchased online from I can’t remember where, worn several times including to this blogger conference, always painfully. Some wear to inner sole.

7. A Pair Of Jolie Laide Sofie d’Hoore Ballerinas – $100 – SOLD

Bought to go with the Lela Rose and the Dries van Noten dress. Forlorn without Lela. And too small anyway. Why I used to buy small shoes we may never know. I hope that my bad style habits become someone else’s fun adventure.

An outfit post.


And the details.




Orange-red leather with elastic, size 36 1/2, Purchase price ~$525, from M.A.C. Worn 3-4 times. A few dark marks on the toes.

And there you have it. Unlikely to be repeated. I’ll keep this post updated with sold notices, and I’ll cart off the unsold goods to donate on April 30th. Again, questions welcome.

If I Were Stopping By La Garçonne Today

If I were stopping by La Garçonne today (who now have a bricks and mortar shop in New York, which means of course that I’d be in New York, I’d be inspired to dress insouciantly but with a little polish. I’d like my stripes vertical, and muslin, if you please.

Striped top from La Garconne

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Is Gardening Nerdy?

This weekend I found a caterpillar in my garden. My first impulse was “Squish it!” — I don’t use pesticides, bugs are often bad news. Mid-swing I gasped, and dropped my arm.

It was a Monarch.


As many of you know, Monarch butterflies are endangered by the depletion of their natural foodstuff, the milkweed plant. As part of my Retiring To Values plan (I simply mean devoting more time to The Good), I have installed native plants under my oak, and now in my side yard as well. Milkweed features heavily.

When I found the caterpillar, I was excited. As in, all is SO right with the world, exclaiming out loud, heart rate elevated. I posted photos to all my social media feeds in celebration.

And almost immediately wondered if I had become a nerd.

When social anxiety strikes, I want to deconstruct.

Is Gardening Nerdy?

Arguments for Yes

  • Goofy clothes
  • Tendency toward debris in the hair
  • Exhaustive knowledge of arcane terminology and gear
  • Excitement over apparently trivial events
  • Long term fussing with hoses, seeds, and things that stick to your fingers

Definition of “Nerdy”

All of which is fun, but uncovers a need to define the term “nerdy.”

“Nerd” has always meant:

  • Funny-looking, as in not sexually attractive,
  • Funny-sounding, as in saying stuff that’s hard to understand, in a non-sonorous voice,
  • Prone to solitary endeavors,
  • Apt to hang out with others of type,
  • Obsessed with an area of interest, to the point of being unable to carry on standard social conversation. Never say to a nerd, “Some weather we’re having.” It will not be a short conversation.
  • And, which probably should have been first on the list, Not Fighters

In sum, nerds are Not Cool.

I think the concept of a Nerd, at least in Anglo-Saxon culture, carries over from the battlefield. Humankind fought a lot in the olden days. We needed good soldiers. They should be strong of body, terse in speaking, controlled in emotion. Cool. They shouldn’t care too much, about anything. Maybe a family, but a family far away.

We, and here I throw in my lot to Team Nerd, we are not good fighters. We research, we solve, we wax eloquent. But we don’t really want to punch you in the face. Even if you take our stuff. We’d rather talk to you about it thoughtfully; or, develop a drone that can track you down and take everything back in the night.

A Refined Argument for No, Or, Yes, But That’s OK

I hope humanity manages to ratchet down reverence for the fighter. This will of course require that we fight less. I mean no disrespect to our current soldiers. A job well done in the hope it may become unnecessary.

If we can, then, up our faith in the taker of care, in the solver of problems, in the lover of details, gardening and similar hobbies will be treasured. The tenders, venerated. All to the good, if we’re nerdy around our values.

Enthusiasm cannot be overrated.

Here is my gardening hat. Like this.


This is my delphinium.


I grew it from seed. Tough, that. A delphinium wants patience, grows to its own calendar, requires handwatering. We’re turning off our sprinklers here in drought land. I had to move the thing from my back yard to a prima donna location in my front yard. I even have to feed it.

But look up from the delphinium, just overhead, an enthusiastic rose has something to say. Add any caption you like, plants don’t mind handing over the microphone.


Do you have a nerdy hobby? Let us gather, and chat, enthusiastically. I’ll see you one crochet hook and raise you a pair of impermeable gloves.


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No Balls In The House, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:27am

My best friend was in town this week.

We truly met when our second children (my last, her second of five) were not much more than a year old. We’d encountered each other a year prior, when I walked past her house on my way to the park, but I’d been too startled and standoffish to make friends on the street. Silly me.

Once connected, we were inseparable. We raised our children together, even though she stayed home and had 3 more kids while I went back to work. My friend has an uncanny ability to make adventure out of the mundane, to keep going when others (I mean me) are dropping like flies. We’d talk on the phone every morning as I commuted, and laugh. She’s funny.

A while back, I can’t remember exactly when, she and her family moved to Belgium. I visited her once. Two years ago, they moved back to the USA, but to New Jersey. I visited her once. We still talked on the phone, as often as possible.

Her father died last year, and it was time for her mom to sell their house and move to a smaller place. My friend came out to help in the packing. But she spent one day with me.

When she arrived on my doorstep, I said, “So, what do you want to do? Go to the movies? Watch stupid TV?” She’s never away from her kids, I wondered if she wanted a break. “No,” she said, “Let’s just do what we always did. Let’s have your regular day. Any errands need doing?”

So we worked. She helped me move furniture. She powered through the acres of used boxes in the garage, cutting and twining the cardboard for recycling. She drove me to Safeway, (we bought Malteasers and gummy bears and turkey and avocado, all for good reason) and to the charity store to drop off donations.

When, finished, we sat on my sofa, I felt my green yard behind my back. The light in the room seemed heightened and familiar. My friend ran her fingers through her hair, taking out the pins and putting them back in. “Do you remember,” we said. “How we would steal a moment of quiet, hear the children playing in the other rooms, and how J. would bounce a ball into the living room? Do you remember how we always told him, ‘No balls in the house?'”

In that moment I swore, just for the smallest possible time, any smaller and it wouldn’t have happened, that I heard my children’s voices in the hall. From the other room.

I have no explanation. Maybe long time relationships carry memories with them, memories that only come back when the two of you are together. That’s what I envy in long marriages.

Stay friends with people. They hold your life in their hair.

What To Pack For 5 Days In San Francisco In April

I’ve posted packing plans for several destinations here on Privilege, from the Carneros Inn in Napa Valley, to London and the Cotswolds, to Europe, Manhattan, and Hawaii. But I’ve never written one for my home city, and it’s time. At the request of a reader, here’s a guide for a 5-day April trip to San Francisco.

Rules Zero To Three: Packing For San Francisco In April

The first rule of packing for San Francisco is: you can wear jeans anywhere, except, perhaps, and I cannot say for certain, to opening night at the opera.

The second rule (for spring packing) is: read the weather reports. You may arrive either to 80-degrees, although that’s unlikely, or a downpour. Most likely temps will vary between 48F and 72F. I engage in specious precision as an attempt to show you how temperate our climate truly is.

The third rule? Don’t believe anything you read. In all seriousness, the San Francisco Bay Area is a place of microclimates, and I recommend you use a forecast site like Wunderground to differentiate between, say, the Mission District and Golden Gate Park.

Rule Zero, however, and I’m not the first to say it, is layers. Layers, layers, layers. You won’t want a big coat – it’s unlikely to be seriously cold outside or annoyingly overheated inside. On the other hand, 95% of the time you’ll want to tote some sort of jacket.

In April the layer probabilities shake out like this: 4 layer weather 4%, 3 layer 35%, 2 layer 50%, 1 layer 11%. (I completely made that up, but, based on several years of experience.) An aspirational (i.e. high-budget but can be recreated for much less with savvy shopping) 5-day packing list, with flex up or down depending on the size of your suitcase, might look like this.

  1. A *good-looking raincoat* (as my mother would say) to double as a coat for evening (1)
  2. Light jacket(s), weather/wind resistant. (1-2) These really are the key to San Francisco street life.
  3. High wattage cocktail dress(es) or skirts. In case of a party. Which we do know how to throw and where we may embrace the outrageous. (1-2)
  4. Excellent shoes for said dresses and skirts. Break out the sparkletoes. (1)
  5. Pants (probably jeans). Do make sure you bring shoes that suit each hemline/shape (2-3.) Top tip: bootleg and flares look less than their best with sneakers.
    1. If you bring fewer pants, add a street dress that can “dress up.” (1). And a pair of black tights to go with. (1)
  6. Sneakers/flat boots for walking the city. Good to bring more than one pair, if you have space, to diversify the wear and tear to your feet. (2)
  7. Pointed toe flats/heeled booties for jeans nights out or business casual soirees. (1)
  8. Lightweight scarves – one to knot around your neck for day, one large enough for nights (2)
  9. Jewelry – as much or as little as you like.
  10. Hat for sun, if you will be walking.
  11. Sunglasses – Aviators look cool on the Artsy. Grande Dames stick to Jackie O’s.

I do want to point out something kind of cute about my city. We’re provincial – despite our international inhabitants. For all our revolutionary businesses, we’re not cool. San Francisco is so pretty most of the time, our view of bay and sky so available, that we manage neither New York/Brooklyn’s dark edge, nor LA’s burnt-white heat. Color us robin’s egg blue, or gray with white trim.

Our inhabitants likewise.

Artsy Cousins don’t disguise themselves enough, either with clothing or facial hair, to carry off Eff You To The Man. Who can blame them? The weather’s awfully gentle. SF’s Grandes Dames are jaunty, not daunting. They even wear sneakers, on occasion, albeit by Ferragamo. You’ll note a distinct love for navy blue, nautical fripperies, and decorum. And Sturdy Gals? Well, we’re pretty much the same all over the world. That’s how we stay Sturdy.

So Let’s Look At Artsy Cousin By Day, Grande Dame By Night For A Few San Francisco “Use Cases”

Untitled #200

Mission District (where the portapotties at Dolores Park are a scene in and of themselves)

Untitled #201

Bike Ride, Maybe Out To Fort Point To See The Golden Gate Bridge From Underneath

True Religion Halle Distressed Mid-Rise Skinny Jeans
Mary Katrantzou Flamingo Print Shirt
Saint Laurent Patti Leather Lace-Up Boots
Ray-Ban Aviators
Rag & Bone Stretch Linen Cargo Jacket (sold out – similar)
Swash Locket Cotton and Silk Scarf
Michael Kors Pavé Triangle Stud Earrings (on sale)
Philip Lim 31 Hour Zip Backpack

Untitled #199

Soirées (of course, for restaurants and casual parties, we’re in jeans, booties, a blouse and a jacket)

Joie Calvina Silk Dotted Necktie Neck Blouse (for “business casual” when your business is anything but that)
Max Mara Sargano Camel Hair Pencil Skirt
SUNO Floral Print Stretch Silk Skirt (for when you can’t bear to give up your Artsy Cousin even at night)
Eli Tahari Alejandra Silk Tie-Dyed Blouse
Jimmy Choo Mimi Mesh Almond-Toe Pumps
LD Tuttle The Bow Open-Toed Ankle Boots
Escada Beaded Wool Dress (the big idea is to let your dress and shoes provide the embellishment. That way you don’t have to travel with big jewels.)
Meira T Diamond & 14K White Gold Triangle Earrings
Manolo Blahnik Metallic Leather Pumps
Christian Louboutin Pigalle Glitter Pumps
Oscar de la Renta Embroidered Tulle Illusion Gown (this dress makes me sigh with pleasure. But I’d make them lengthen the underskirt.)
IPPOLITA Rock Candy Dark Amethyst & 18K Yellow Gold Stud Earrings
Oscar de la Renta Alyssa Beaded-Applique and Leather Pumps (it’s ok, you can sit down until you kick off your shoes and dance barefoot)

And If You’ve Forgotten Something And Need To Shop in SF?

All The Big Names

  1. UNIQLO (always my fave for t-shirts and light jackets)
  2. Saks
  3. Neiman Marcus
  4. Barneys NY ( in SF, but fine, we’ll let them keep the geolocator)

Some Indie Cred

  1. M.A.C. Does the Belgians like mad
  2. Claudia Kussano Jewelry Local Mission District artisan
  3. Self Edge for very pricy but very cool denim

See You Around!

Our legendary fog is may be disappearing – sad for the planet but good for camaraderie on city streets. We’ll be out and about when you visit, unless it’s raining. And if it’s raining, given our drought, we’ll wander even so, grinning like happy silly fools.


All links are from Saks. They are affiliate and may generate commissions. The post is not sponsored by Saks but I wouldn’t object. Corrected degrees from C to F, courtesy Nancy Friedman. Thank you!