Reviewing A Classic, The Bottega Veneta “Veneta” Large Hobo In Blue

Do you all remember when I was looking for a blue handbag? To go with both brown and black shoes? Maybe orange ones? As it turned out, in an act of extreme originality, I stuck with Bottega Veneta. Below, the brand’s Large Hobo, AKA the “Veneta.” The name suggests Volkswagen might name one of their cars “Wagen,” but why not?

As one might expect from a Sturdy Gal, the joys of luxurious materials and craftmanship are almost outweighed by sheer practicality. Look how it takes to suburban life.  Say hi to the Rav4, Ms. Veneta, and wave to the white-flowered oleander.


The name of this dusty, grayed, a-little-mauve-in-some-lights hue? “Blue.” Not Electric, not Navy, just Blue. In fact it’s the color of denim, and registers very Southern Hemisphere to me. Think Florida, Texas. Were I buying now for fall I’d probably choose Aubergine. But I’ll carry my little bit of Imaginary Miami right through our rainy season. We have umbrellas in the suburbs, we have cars, we go in and out of buildings.


While I wanted no logo, I’m OK with the characteristic woven “intrecciato” leather as an identifying design element.  And the shape works perfectly on the shoulder. So comfortable. Wear it behind you, on a slant. I’d tell you to be sure and zip it closed, but you all are smart.


The bag sits in comfort if not glamor on the passenger side of the Rav4.


Even a relatively short person like me can hold it in hand without the dreaded bag drag.

Finally, should you be headed to the airport, as I was recently, you can pack in an iPad, a book, and all modern cons. The bag’s interior is one large space (with a small virtually useless “phone flap” and a very useful zippered pocket for storing your keys as you travel far from home.)

The saleswoman at Neiman Marcus told me her customers reordered this year after year, because it is so comfortable. I have no doubt that’s true, probably in different colors every time.


If you like this Southern blue, I find it online now only in the medium Veneta. However, Neiman Marcus carries all sorts of colors, even Fuchsia, and you can occasionally find the brand on MyHabit, if you are registered there.

Other stuff: Sunglasses | Costco, T-shirt | Banana Republic (they make a great tee on sale for $10), Shorts | UNIQLO (sold out online), Shoes | Rieker (similar at Zappos), Earrings | 20 years old from De Novo (not disssimilar), Wood watch | JORD,  Jacket | UNIQLO de la Fressange (sold out online) Car | Toyota Rav4, profanely memorialized as the dorkiest car in the universe here, by Kanye West. Affiliate links may generate commissions, although not for Kanye, sorry dude.

The Hunt For An Organic, Visually Interesting, Subtle, “Am I Asking Too Much?” Bedroom Rug

And on to master bedroom decorating. Fixup. Whatever we’re calling it. Decorating sounds like embellishment, while this is more Moving Beyond Camping In My Own House. However, one word is always better than six, so decorating it will be.

I’ve got 3 major purchases to make, bed, mattress and rug. The rest – bedding, fabrics for such cushions as there are, paint, objects – will follow. At this point I’m searching for all 3 big ticket items in parallel, unsure exactly which will settle first. But for the sake of imagery, and in the spirit of pretending that life is linear, consider the rug.

Setting the context first.

  1. I do not plan to live in this suburban house forever. I envision growing old in a city, with a country place should liquidity events conspire to make that possible. Of course, life being non-linear I may surprise myself, but let’s assume planning matters. So I’m not going after perfect, just good.
  2. I don’t, however, plan to change everything in the room. I’m working with a certain space and flooring, and with a few set pieces of furniture. Sturdy Gals like constraints. Without them, life is vast and scary.

So what will stay?

The floor.

Flooring Closeup

The windows, most likely with blinds and no curtains. That corner window is double height, as is one of the corners of my bedroom. It was a 1990′s addition to the 1953 house.

Window And Chinese Evergreen Elm

The Pottery Barn dresser, which means I am apt to want a bed in dark wood, given a Sturdy Gal’s propensity for matching.


An armchair, which I think will wind up slip-covered for the sake of budget, and also because I like a little fray and mess. A lived-in look, if you will.


A Pottery Barn lamp. But it’s clear, so, you know, versatile.

Bedside Lamp

to say nothing of an undeniable new impulse towards blues and grays. Here’s the bedding I have now,


and I’m ready for change. So I make collages, as one does, in first, tentative steps.

Untitled #189

On to the rug. I search Pinterest, Houzz, and sites found when searching for “Tibetan carpet.” I love the organic look, neither plain, nor geometric, nor bold. Behold. From Tufenkian. I had one of their rugs, but it exited in the divorce.  The one below is woven of wool, silk, and linen.

Tufenkien Sequins Border Nickel

Sigh. Price requires a quote, and is likely to be upwards of $10K for a 5×8. I had been thinking it made sense to invest in the new rug, but Boy Darling (in reality a tony and quite brilliant designer) set me to rights. “Why,” he said, “Given that you may move in the next 3-4 years, spend big on something that may not fit in a new place?” Oh. Right.

But in searching for the same aesthetic, for less, we descend into that which reminds me a tad of office carpet,



that which is possibly too monochromatic,


that which is certainly too geometric,


that which is too vividly patterned. (Although I like the source, Inhabit. for the current “mid-century” look. In quotes advisedly because I was alive mid-century and I remember none of the look now in favor.)

Inhabit Madera Rug MDAOC_R_xl_28

and that which is too, something, maybe, “regular?” “Insufficiently random?” Albeit quite beautiful for somebody else.


But, oh joy, when I relax one of my parameters and open up to a deeper, more marine blue, I stumble onto other options. (Note to self: relaxation of parameters, good strategy.) Seems as though the design world expects a love of organic patterns to dovetail with a preference for “off” colors. Haven’t they yet understood that humans present in oxymorons?

What about this?

Feizy Qing Rug via Wayfair

Not neutral, but the best color of my eyes, so perhaps neutral on me? And Significant Husband likes it.

Or this, at nowhere near 12K?


And so we find, as both Chaucer and Hesse’s Siddhartha knew, a search produces more than stuff. It educates us in the patterns of the searching mind. Myself, I may now be ready to enter a showroom without having to shove panic down, below my throat, where it often rises in fear of visual overwhelm. Or at least make another collage.

BTW, to offer options for those who prefer the vivid, as we must not discriminate, take a look on Houzz, here. As always, affiliate links may generate commissions. Several of these links are for ModernRugs, a site with gorgeous goods and perhaps one of the ugliest visual designs I’ve ever seen. However, I can’t find anything bad about their service and quality, so am soldiering on through very sad font and color choices.)


Do Crows Make More Noise When It’s Hot, Or, Saturday Morning At 7:51am

“Do crows make more noise when it’s hot?” I Googled.  No clear answer.

We’re having a heat wave in Northern California, which, given our usual deeply temperate climate, feels a little apocalyptic. If the Apocalypse comes in small doses that is. The crows are cawing late night and early morning. Jays are screaming, and fighting with seagulls in from the bay.

My house was built in 1953 and I do not have air conditioning. New houses in the Bay Area may, but we faithful few, we soldier on. Come the annual heat wave – because it happens almost every year and each time we say to each other, “Oh, it’s so HOT!”- we long-time Northern Californians open our windows at night and close up tight around 9:30am. We wait it out, feeling like we really live here.

The day before yesterday Yahoo weather got stuck at 102°. Long after and Wunderground were calling the temperatures down like an election, 93, 86, 82, our phones just glared at us, 102. Hotter than decades past.

Yesterday wasn’t much better. I drank cold water with a lot of ice and a little lemonade. By 3pm the heat had reached its peak. We opened the doors in surrender, and hot air blew through the house. I lay on the sofa with my legs resting up the back, fighting off foot swelling. What a heat sissy, acknowledged.

And, even though at one point the heat weighed on my chest so heavily it was almost hard to breathe, I felt a sort of gritty joy. Reveling in my body dealing with extremity, perhaps.

When I woke at 1:30am the temperatures had fallen to the 70s, as our marine layer cooled us off for sleep.  Now as I write, the back door open to a morning in the 60′s, I see today they predict a maximum of 88. I can recollect 102 fondly, “Remember that summer when Yahoo Weather got stuck?”

This may be the purest definition of privilege. In an abundance of 75° days we can enjoy one nigh-on painful sweating. In comfort we can enjoy hardship – it feels like life force, not distress.

But if I back away from my own senses and good cheer, I remember we’re in a drought. Delaine tells me it’s spreading across the country. This is the flipside risk of privilege, we find the crows to be an annoyance rather than intelligence from the front lines. I don’t want to feel danger, who would unless they had to? Maybe we have to.

It should go without saying that the responsibility of privilege is empathy, and on a broader scale some kind of global consciousness, but I still need reminding.

Have a wonderful weekend. I believe it’s possible, even when we acknowledge the hard stuff.

The Long Awaited Return Of Professor C. In Which We Discuss James Joyce And John Huston’s The Dead.

My very distinguished father, Professor C., on The Dead as written by James Joyce, and then written again and filmed by John Huston and his son, Tony. If you find you would like more of these pieces, please look to the sidebar and click on “Professor C.” Thanks Dad, for all sorts of things.

“The Dead”


James Joyce’s “The Dead” is one of the best short stories ever. John Huston’s film adaptation of “The Dead” may be the best translation ever of fiction into film.  At least I think so. As do many others. So what to make of this outlier from “Rotten Tomatoes”: “Disappointing adaptation of the last story in Joyce’s Dubliners. It has dullness written all over it. It makes Merchant Ivory seem like Rambo.” This nonsense in fact undermines itself and helps explain why, and how, Huston’s film, about as far as it could be from Merchant Ivory’s glossy stuff, is a masterpiece. In the story and the film, nothing to speak of happens. Or, make that, “nothing” happens. There’s a Christmas-time party in 1904 at the house of two old spinsters and their niece. There is music and formal dancing. The guests are friends and relatives, among them the spinsters’ nephew Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) and his wife Gretta (Anjelica Huston). Snow is falling. When the party is over, Gabriel and Gretta go back to their room in the Gresham hotel, where Gretta is overcome by the memory of the boy Michael Furey, with whom she went out walking in their youth and who died, she thinks, for love of her.  And that’s it. Behind it all stands the ghost of Chekhov, master of domestic dramas in which nothing happens and everything depends on networks of implication and desire.

Photography By Brian Hamill

What is “The Dead” about?  Almost everything: the falling snow and the Irish landscape; Ireland and England in the person of Conroy, an imitation “West Briton” who takes vacations on the continent; the Irish rebellion that is soon to break out; the two Irelands, east and, in the west,Gretta’s birthplace beyond the English pale  – Miss Ivor invites the Conroys to come with her to Aran in the summer, and Gretta, born in Galway, longs to return; the two languages of Ireland, English and Gaelic – “beannacht libh,” cries Miss Ivor, “good-bye to you,” when she leaves rudely and early for a meeting of Irish nationalists; Ireland and its Scottish diaspora – old Mrs. Malins, mother of the drunken, charming, puppyish Freddy, has moved to Glasgow to be with her daughter; women and the Catholic church; the music of melancholy and memory  – “Arrayed for the Bridal,” “The Lass of Aughrim,” the song that Michael Furey used to sing; Catholic drunks and Protestant drunks; social class; love; loss; desire; age; death. What more do you need?  Film and story overflow with something that is everything more than nothingness.  John Huston was dying as he made the film, in a wheelchair, hooked to an oxygen line. Dying, he knew that “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “The African Queen,” good films all, were froth on life’s emotional seas, the comings and goings of every day.

In the script, by Huston’s son Tony, much of the dialogue is Joyce’s own; changes here and there are for emphasis. A new character reads (beautifully) the ending of an eighth-century Irish poem, translated by Lady Gregory, about immeasurable loss: “You have taken the east from me, you have taken the west from me;/
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;/
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me/
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!” Otherwise, Huston transplants from mid-story to nearer the end the emblematic tale of a family mill-horse, used to circling the mill, who starts circling a statue of the despised English King, William of Orange, when harnessed to a carriage for a day’s outing, an image of Irish life both political and domestic. In a bow to modern usage, Freddy Malins arrives at the party not “screwed” but “stewed.” The “jolly gay fellows” (“which nobody can deny”) of the traditional song become “jolly fine fellows.”  But the fabric of the original is intact.

The Dead Dinner Party


A final challenge, however, eludes the reach of acting and film-making, however adroit: the tumult of Gabriel’s feelings on his way to the hotel and the greater tumult after he learns of Michael Furey. As they go back to the Gresham, in Joyce’s telling, Gabriel is filled with quiet longing: the “touch of her body, musical and strange and perfumed, sent through him a keen pang of lust.” Years slip away: “as they stood at the hotel door, he felt that they had escaped from home and friends and run away together with wild and radiant hearts to a new adventure.” In the film, while in the cab to the hotel, Gabriel has taken Gretta’s hand, but nothing more. And all goes dead when Gretta, overcome by memories of Michael Furey and “The Lass of Aughrim,” cannot respond to Gabriel’s desires, which resist not only being spoken but, being silent, resist the power of film to capture them.


The snow is falling again. In the story but not the film, Gabriel lies “cautiously” down beside Gretta, understanding his feelings now not as lust but love, and speaks a silent requiem: “The time had come to set out on his journey westward” — to the country where Gretta comes from, where Michael Furey is buried, and where spirits dwell. “Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland,” the weather report as a human condition. The final lines of “The Dead” are surpassingly beautiful. In the film, Donal McCann as Gabriel assembles their threads in a soliloquy, the best film can do with interior monologue.  It would be ungrateful to protest that film cannot do more. What it can do, and does in Huston’s “The Dead,” is enough.

Photo credits (affiliate links may generate commissions)
James Joyce via The Independent.
John Huston via Brian Hamill Photography
Anjelica Huston via iMDB
Dinner party via Slant Magazine

Gallivanting Through Brooklyn, Manhattan, The Hudson River Valley, And Short Hills, New Jersey

(Reminder, Professor C., James Joyce, and The Dead on Thursday)


I’ve been gallivanting.

First to Brooklyn and Manhattan to visit my son and others, then up to the Hudson River Valley for the extreme pleasure of staying at Reggie and Boy Darling‘s house, then down to New Jersey to see my best friend. It has been a wonderful trip. Highlights are perhaps in order?

I arrived at my son’s apartment Wednesday night. We went to dinner. He’d bought an air conditioner to make my stay comfortable. Adult children, for the win. The next day he worked, so I took the F train into Manhattan. First stop, serendipitously, the Jefferson Market Garden. A small public garden, pretty much defining the term, “jewel box.”

Jefferson Garden

Next stop, Buvette, for lunch with Susan Champlin, writer, author of the blog What Would Katherine Hepburn Do. She’s a Twitter friend, and all-around-lovely-person. Planned, but on short notice, so I was very happy she was free. Here’s our selfie. We were searching for the perfect profile. Susan says she’s still looking but I think she’s awfully close.

Selfie With Susan

Then I scooted uptown to see the Jeff Koons exhibition. Serendipitously passing an extraordinary shop display on the way, I had to stop in to admire, briefly, what is essentially a museum of beautiful china. Quite something. The shop is called Bardith. Ring the bell, and smile at the proprietor to be let in. Some of his pieces are from the atelier of Marie Antoinette’s ceramicist. I know.

China Shop, Bull In

And then on to the Whitney for Mr. Koons. Jeff Koons is Jeff Koons, mostly monstrous, never pretty, highly annoying. The exhibit, however, is brilliant, and illuminates American cultural history in a way that I did not predict, drawing a clear line from early pop art to social media overexposure of today. Besides, Koons stumbled onto beauty with the balloon dogs and we will not forget. You might have to see the “balloon” polished surfaces in situ to believe me on the beauty thing. The porcelain sculptures of “Banality” are only monstrous.

Jeff Koons

A few hours later, revived by some caramel ice cream at the Sweet Shop, I met my son, @kidchamp, and her husband for ramen at Ippudo. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, and then more wonderful.

The next day, the boy and I meandered around Brooklyn, where I bought him a blue t-shirt. He needed it. Then we made our way back to the Upper East Side, to meet the author of the great blog Reggie Darling and his husband, for a trip to their gorgeous house in the Hudson River Valley. The Architectural Digest article shows it off to best advantage, here, so I captured just a few details. The side entry, for example.


After a drive full of entertaining conversation, we enjoyed a late dinner at Swoon, in Hudson.


The next day, I had the distinct privilege of following Boy Darling, Reggie’s husband, on his sweep through a few antique and “picker” stores, again in the town of Hudson. A quite tony designer by trade, he can can spot a find in an instant. I was distracted by everything.


Or perhaps my focus is taken by this young man, caught in a serious moment of post-prandial contemplation. Lunch was pasta and he said it was delicious. I told you he needed a blue t-shirt.


Back at Darlington House, we rested on the screened porch. Some beautiful sunflowers assisted.


We had to rest up, you see, as Reggie and Boy were throwing a dinner party. What a table. What food. Most of all, what guests!

Dinner At Darlington

We retired afterwards, again, to the screened porch. Sunflowers look even more beautiful at night.

Sunflowers In The Night

Spent the next day touring and exclaiming over the house and its extraordinary details. Then, almost overwhelming us with hospitality, Reggie grilled some chicken and vegetables for lunch, and served them on this table. Chamomile flowers by Boy Darling.


One last look down the view before we headed back to Manhattan. Much as I love California, the green of an East Coast summer cannot be denied.


And from there, I was off to see my best friend, who has returned from Belgium to live in Short Hills, New Jersey.

I’ve been gone just long enough to enjoy every minute, and now I’m ready to return home and and see Significant Husband. I miss him. However, lest I have not yet clarified, this trip has been a veritable paean to gallivanting, and I thank everyone who has hosted me so graciously. Never to be forgotten, thank you notes to follow.



Do Not Concern Yourself With My Absence, Or, Saturday Afternoon At 1:51pm

Well. I am back from blog break, but apparently not back enough to manage a Saturday morning post. Neither emergencies nor crises are at fault, and probably some stories of gallivanting will follow. I hope you are in the midst of a wonderful weekend.

The Return Of Professor C. And Suggested Preparations

As some long time readers know, now and again my esteemed professor papa writes for us. Theme?  Great Literature And Movies Wot Got Made Of Them. More elegantly said,  he has posted on several literature-based movies, Age Of Innocence, Wings of The Dove, and Passage to India, among others.

This time he’s written us a piece on on James Joyce’s very short novel “The Dead,” and the movie John Huston made of it. The book is available here, and here for those who shun Amazon. The movie can be found on Amazon Instant Video and, while not on Netflix, it is on YouTube in segments.  I’ll post Professor C.’s thoughts towards the end of next week, so, plenty of time for homework.

If you find you only manage to see the movie, nobody will know. I promise.

Affiliate links may generate commissions.

LPC Is At The Highland Fashionista Today

I took advantage of my blog break to deliver on some long-delayed commitments. I hate when I fail to do as promised, everything feels off balance, but the world is now back on its axis. As evidence, today I’m over at Kristin’s wonderful blog, Highland Fashionista. I hope you read her, she’s funny and gorgeous, with a wicked eye for sporty style – with a touch of rocker. The question she asked was, “Ought you change your style when you turn 40?” I answered by telling the story of my 40th birthday party, which you’ve heard before, here, but this time told with photos and flamingos. If you have a moment, you might take a look, here.

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

A post from the archives, during my brief blog vacation.

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.