The Kind Of Garden Just About Anyone Can Grow


Of all my retirement projects, my container garden may provide the most small and bubbling happinesses. I started it back in July, from seed. I planted Grandpa Ott morning glories, sweet alyssum, purple basil, and delphiniums. If you are hypothesizing that this led to an all-purple extravaganza, you are quite right. But it took time.


The morning glories grew first. Like crazy.


The alyssum sprouted too. The basil dilly-dallied, the delphiniums did nothing. I pouted.

Then, before we left for England, I threw some petunias in one of the pots to compensate for my laggards. I set up a drip tubing system, of which I was very proud until I discovered that my 60-year old hose bib and faucet leaked. Cue Operation Cute Little Neighbor Girls to water in my absence.


Serendipitously, the tubing served as great climbing support for the morning glories. Such is gardening. Upon my return from travel, I thinned those purple trumpets mightily,  in order to add a bougainvillea from the nursery. Also scrounged up two more pots. Why not? In for a penny, in for a pound.


I filled the two empty pots with petunias and alyssum, also from the nursery. I’ll do seeds again next spring.


The alyssum flourished, the petunias did not, inexplicably. Such is gardening. Don’t you like my watering can? Is it vain to like one’s watering can and say so? I should mention that all this plant hubbub sits right outside one of the living room windows, and I can see it quite plainly from my perch on the sofa. I have loved experimenting with different shades of one hue. Sustains me from morning,


to night.


As does the purple basil, which I pinch and eat, regularly. And guess what happened? Those delphinium seeds? About a month and a half after I planted them, this sprouted.

Yup, a delphinium.


I have high hopes. Such, my friends, is gardening, even writ small.


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Why We Need Women In Tech, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:20am

Did you know that when you look to start a business built on software, you are likely to be told you need a technical co-founder? Someone who can build the first working prototype of your  product, be it website, phone app, or refrigerator that can order milk? Someone who will code for free, for however long, before anyone will invest?

No? Understandable. I would expect it to be news to many, as, despite working in Silicon Valley tech since the 1990s, I am surprised. I found out in recent investigations of a business I might like to start myself.

But so what, right? So what if capital flows to those who can build vs. those who can imagine? Here’s the thing. Given that the ratio of men to women in computer science is incredibly high, we’re pretty much handing the future of American software-driven innovation to men and saying, “Here. Tell us what matters.”

OK, so I exaggerate. There are a few women who lead top tech companies now, and a good deal more at high levels in smaller ones. But my issue is not how many women work in tech.

I am concerned instead with the degree to which women’s ideas are now and will in future be represented in the field. Tech dictates the evolving stuff of life.

This is not new, technology has always moved society one way and another. Think about automobiles, electricity, and washing machines. Do you know how much time women, or their servants, used to spend doing laundry? Today we’re run by software and computer processors, humming no longer in the back room, sparking everywhere. That’s not news.

But given that software programming has gotten more and more accessible, meaning easier for everyone, and given that women now have control over their fertility, because let’s face nobody is going to do much focused cerebral work if they are at home with an infant, now is the time to seize the day. To seize the binary day.

I always wonder, if I’d gone to school 20 years later, would I still have majored in Comparative Literature? My instincts tell me programming would still have been too precise for my brain, but that I might have loved User Interface Design. Anyone else feel the same way? Or do you recoil in horror at the idea?

In any case, those of you with girl children, ask them to consider programming. Consider science. Not to say that our boy children shouldn’t consider science too, they should, but they may need less encouragement. Science learning already works for those boys so inclined.

I see some hopeful signs. There’s a group called Black Girls Code that’s going gangbusters. For the first time ever, the Nobel Prize of math, AKA the Fields Medal, has been awarded to a woman.

Which elicits one more thought. The rise of China and India is predicted in equal parts on inexpensive hourly labor and a focus on technology. I read, as I pass, stereotypes about Asian students doing All The Science. This is not genetic. It doesn’t have to be political, or national. Scientific learning requires focus and willingness to move past failure. It requires the capacity to delay gratification, as one waits for data, as one corrects errors. Parents and the environment raise children.

Here’s a great link to a female Chinese professor at Stanford, on why and how she came up with her solar power stickers.

You might ask, “What about your kids, Lisa?” Fair question. My scientific daughter majored in Psychology and Neuroscience. Had I been on the ball, perhaps I would have encouraged her to learn programming early. It might not have taken, of course. She is moved by humankind more than sheer problem-solving, and has gone into medicine. Science enough. I strongly encouraged my son to take Comp Sci in college. He did, good kid that he is, but after one semester in which he performed swimmingly, he knew that he needed to work in a less binary medium.

One can only encourage one’s children as they grow, directing causes more harm than good.


Here’s the only thing of note in what I’m saying. Don’t encourage your girl to enter science so she can get a job. Do it so she can shape the future.

Have a good weekend.

Packing With Good Imagination And Imagining A Good Pack

I’m usually pretty good at packing. This trip to England, erm, well, um, spotty. I failed to use the Use Case Method to its best advantage. Specifically, I packed for special events like The Dinner With Friends and A Hike Through The Cotswolds, while neglecting the more common Long Walk Through London As Rain Threatens. To say nothing of the Repeated Paying Of Entrance Fees To Enter Overly Warm Buildings.

By the end of the trip I was quite certain as to what I ought to have brought. I will offer up my suitcase and resultant outfits here so we can all learn from my experience.

What I Packed For A 10-Day Trip To England

7 Pieces Of Outerwear Even Though I Wasn’t Going To The North Pole

  • Powder blue MaxMara peacoat
  • Small black Quechua parka bought in China 10 years ago for $25
  • Old black house label Nordstrom trench coat
  • Navy UNIQLO IdlF linen blazer
  • Cadet blue UNIQLO field jacket
  • White ribbed cotton cardigan
  • Heathered purple sweatshirt (brand is American Vintage, purple no longer available)

1 Scarf

  • Very long and old Loro Piana hot pink cashmere muffler
  • A small black umbrella. Yes, I know an umbrella isn’t a scarf, but aren’t they cousins?

5, Yes, 5 Pairs Of Shoes

Underpinnings And Their Friends

  • Enough underpinnings and pyjamas not to have to wash anything except I counted wrong. Luckily the place in the Cotswolds had heated towel racks for drying underwear.
  • A pair of Wolford tights I thought were plain black when packing but turned out to be wild lace.
  • Yoga pants, sports bra, and workout tee. Never worn, as it turned out. Walking through London > working out on machines.

1 Dress & 1 Skirt

3 Pairs Of Jeans

  • Very old and loose Levis 501s for the plane. Worn cuffed, with Birkenstocks, in London.
  • Close-fitting GAP 1969 boyfriends.
  • Distressed Citizens of Humanity to wear cuffed, with navy blazer, white tee, and Valentino Tangos because it’s a really cool outfit and I wanted to be cool hanging out with young friends.
  • Oh and 1 pair of shorts that I never even looked at.

A Whole Lotta Tees

  • Gray
  • White
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Leopard-print
  • Navy & white stripes


How Did This Packing Job Actually Work, In Situ?

Monday afternoon with Jane Potrykus of simple+pretty. I’m in the UNIQLO field jacket, and Dries. Too bad you can’t see the dress.


Wednesday night dinner with my cousins. In Max Mara peacoat, Loro Piana muffler, gray UNIQLO tee, black J. Crew pencil skirt, Valentino Tango pumps. Lace Wolford tights, because at 57 our ankles haven’t quite left the building.


Thursday morning in Kensington Palace Gardens. 15-year old leopard tee I bought at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, 3-year old GAP 1969 sexy boyfriend jeans, 18-year old Doc Martens, 4-year old sunglasses from Costco, Rolex Cellini. Note to self: Leopard+Docs=Yes.


Sunday in Oxford at Christ Church meadow. Max Mara peacoat, GAP 1969 sexy boyfriend jeans, Doc Martens, black J. Crew tee, and Bottega Veneta hobo in Blue. (In gray, here.)


Somewhere in Oxford. Purple heathered sweatshirt over a J. Crew striped vintage linen tee, Loro Piana muffler, GAP 1969 jeans, Birkenstock Arizonas.


What I Should Have Packed, In Retrospect

Looking back at these photos, I actually quite like the way I look. Verging on Artsy Cousin, with a touch of British grit. The thing is I didn’t feel stylish as I traveled, mostly I felt hot and pothered. Yes I mean pothered, it’s bothered squared.

My suitcase relied on layers, perfect for San Francisco, too much fussing for England’s changeable climate. Next time I’ll tend to my spirits as well as my look. What would my suitcase hold were I to do this again? This.

Untitled #190

And I’d still bring my earrings and a good collapsible umbrella, of course.

Note that I include Belstaff instead of Barbour. Why? Barbour feels country and suburb to me, I like Belstaff’s city edge, and besides, the conceptual oxymoron of a British motorcyle brand appeals. However, if the City Master Jacket is-  understandably – too pricey, there’s always our stalwart favorite, J. Crew’s Field Jacket, now in moss, navy, and black. And note that I wouldn’t take all 5 shoes, I’d choose between the black and the khaki booties.


Waterproof Jacket: Belstaff City Master (also comes in black) // Waterproof Shoes: Black Quilted Booties, Aquatalia (sold out) Khaki Booties, Aquatalia; Quilted Platform Sneaker, Aquatalia// Sandals: Birkenstock Arizonas in Copper// Pumps: Valentino Tangos // Large Nylon Tote: Tory Burch // Small Zip-Up Crossbody; Skagen // Jeans:  BoyfriendComfort, Dark Wash Straight Leg// Cotton Scarves: Blue, Block Shop; Pink, Jonathan Adler // Tees: Blue Leopard, Debenhams; Plain: J. Crew Vintage Cotton; Comme des Garçons Play: J. Crew Men //  Wowza Print Dress:  Mary Katrantozou of type on sale here, and here // Trusty Pencil Skirt: J. Crew // Lace Tights That Would Go With That Wowza Dress: Wolford

The trip, somewhat arduous in the taking, has survived brilliantly in memory. Almost as though I was simply gathering the experience like tufts of wool as we traveled, to be combed, spun, and enjoyed in full fluff when I got home.


Affiliate links may generate commissions. You can read the agenda of the trip I was packing for, and more on why I really needed that nylon tote and a small cross-body bag, instead of the Bottega Veneta, here.

All The Beds Of My Life, And Now For A Good One

Have we agreed yet that decorating a house is harder than decorating one’s corpus? “Corpus,” used in the sense of the original Latin here to mean physical body, the word more often refers to one’s literary body of work. But I digress. Nothing like word geekery to reestablish one’s sense of competence.

So I ordered a sample of this blue green rug, discussed more fully here, only to find that what appeared to be subtle striations were actual stripes. Too much noise underfoot for me. So back goes the sample, and we’re trying another. This one, from Garnet Hill.

Moroccan Rug Garnet Hill

Which also implies a return to my vision of rumpled blue linen sheets. With stripes,

Libeco Home Catalina Sheets

or without.


Maybe some vintage toile on a bench at the foot of the bed? I like the idea of old fabrics and textiles,but will need to start small to see how to use them.


But I digress again.

Which also brings us to the question of a bed to house said rumpled sheets. I had been thinking wood, because I have no imagination, but you all have sent me down the path of an upholstered piece and I don’t think I’m coming back. I’ve done the hard headboard thing to death. I bought my first bed to live alone in Manhattan, it was new brass, and always wiggled. When I was first married, we slept on a futon on the floor. Remember futons? Then we bought a melamine platform bed with a bookcase as headboard. How misguided is that? Trying to sit up and read with books behind your head?

When we remodeled, in 1992, I ordered a forged-iron canopy bed with blond wood headboard. It was beautiful. In place of a canopy I wrapped a maroon and fuchsia silk sari around the top bar at the foot of the bed, the ends hanging down part way on either side.

When we divorced, in 2006, I was doing a lot of business travel. I moved to an apartment so my ex-husband, who worked from home, could be there for our still-in-high-school son. I bought the Valencia Sleigh bed from Pottery Barn. Why, I cannot say. Perhaps for the same reason I got two moving violation tickets, painted one wall in the apartment red, and bought a sequined Brazilian bikini.

I also watched all 7 seasons of The Sopranos that summer. But never mind.

Now we need a new bed. A king-size bed. A comfortable one. And I want it upholstered. A reader suggested Restoration Hardware. who do show beautiful designs.

But ever since my experience with the memory foam topper, I’ve been suspicious of polyurethane foams. Not that I wouldn’t have been suspicious before, but I didn’t know they existed. And it turns out that Restoration Hardware uses these foams in their beds, so, out as a source.

Enter Room and Board.

Manufactured in the USA, which, while I do not have a nationalistic approach to manufacturing, does often imply higher quality control. And for their headboard stuffing? You have to ask a sales rep on a case by case basis, but for the most part they seem to use polyester batting. I’m torn between the Hoffman,

Hoffman Bed In Dwell Flax Linen

and this one. The Wyatt. Do they give beds boy names so that men won’t mind women making the choices?

Room and Board Wyatt Bed Desmond White

It’s a tradeoff. I prefer the legs on the Hoffman, but could do without those buttony tufty things. The Wyatt’s covered platform feels a tad corporate, although it’d be fun to put paid to dust bunnies under the bed, once and for all. I’d match the upholstery to either white walls or the grayish-brown rug, if everything goes according to plan.

Right about now, somebody’s thinking, “Well THAT looks boring!” And it doesn’t pop, anywhere. But remember I’ve got lots of gold-tone hardwood flooring, and floor to ceiling windows that look into a very green back yard. I will try, as always, to layer subtle, low-contrast patterns. And let us not forget my well-nigh gaudy pink and gold-flecked Murano glass turtledoves on the dresser. For a High WASP, that’s a vivid interior world indeed.

The Art Of Helping, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:33am

Night Bloomer II by Lily Stockman

Last night the Gallery had an opening. Among other artists, they featured Lily Stockman. Those are her flowers, above.

I would have loved to have attended. I own one of her paintings, Her Favorite Time Of Day, and I love it. But as it turned out, I have been struggling with fatigue, and couldn’t get myself out of the house last night. Why fatigue? The easy, fun answer is jet lag from the UK. The harder reason is that after I returned from overseas, I set off alone to Santa Barbara to see my mother.

Mom’s losing her memory. I drove there. Stayed 4 nights and then drove back, this time with Mom in the car. She stayed with my aunt for several days, and that same beloved aunt has now driven Mom back home, where my stepfather awaits.

Not my story to tell, all that, the details, but the resultant exhaustion has been nothing to scoff at.

So I couldn’t make it to the art exhibit. I felt bad, because I should have supported Lily, and like I’d missed something that would have fed my spirit, if I’d only had enough spirit to get out.

I also wanted to say that recently some of my younger friends have thanked me for my help, and I’ve been surprised. Two of them told me I’d mattered in the early days of their new babies, that somehow my presence or my words had made a difference.  You know how it is, when you are simply telling your true story, and it feels confessional, and heartening, to say it all, and then absolutely unpredictably it turns out to be helpful to someone else?

And then there was the thank you that put me in a magazine. A teeny me. If you read Redbook, open the September edition and look for the section where magazine staffers recognize their friends for style. Lauren Oster, the Senior Research Editor, included this photo, as a thumbnail, and thanked me for teaching her that being fabulous is a process. I am still surprised. That someone as brilliant as Lauren, and as creative, for she is both to the nth degree, felt I had anything to teach her.

Because I’ve never been teaching her, only relating.

So I suppose I wanted to say today, help someone. Even though you can’t always know when you’re helping. I have been the most useful when I am both truthful and focused on the person to whom I’m talking. And in those times when I have done that simple hard thing, like a long drive, physical or emotional. That which just needed doing.

Listen, tell the truth, amuse someone with stories of your own failings. Bring food, make the spreadsheet, drive.

But then you’re also going to have to make peace with the times when you can’t help. You’re not going to make it to the art opening, you won’t make dessert from scratch. You’ll get used up. So then you have to prioritize. Only one thing can come first. It was right that my daughter and my mother tired me out, albeit disappointing for paintings.

It’s just so hard to know. So hard to know when to push yourself and when to surrender, when to say yes and when to say no, when your reward will be your own pleasure and when it will be the also real and more flinty joy of doing something for another. How in all this we become and remain good people, I don’t know, but I am absolutely sure that we should all keep trying.

Have a wonderful weekend. See some art for me. Or for yourself. Or someone else.

A Fairly Brief But Happy Review Of The Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard, London


Americans thinking of a splurge stay in London might first focus on hotels of mahogany, brass, leather and old paint. Understandable. England does historic luxury pretty dang well. But in our recent travels my daughter and I stayed at the Shangri-La at the Shard, and there’s a good case to be made for skyscraper hospitality.

Even in the city of Today’s Most Famous Queen.

The Shangri-La’s got a nice intimate modern lobby. No milling throngs, as you might find at the Savoy, for example. Tourists visiting the top of the Shard for viewing use a separate entrance, which for whatever reason we never did. The clerk at the front desk will send you to the elevators, and you’ll check in on the 35th floor. The rooms are to be found on floors 35-52, we stayed on the 47th.


In many fancy hotel rooms, the first thing one does is pat the bed linens, or ooh and ah at furnishings and fixtures. Not here. You are going to want to take a picture.


From the Deluxe City View rooms, to which we were upgraded, here’s what you’ll see.


No I am not kidding. Looks like a Dutch painting, almost. And for some odd reason, not vertigo-producing, which as one not good with heights, I had feared.

We stayed at the Shangri-La because Significant Husband does significant business travel, which generates a lot of Shangri-La loyalty points. Thank you Significant Husband, I’d rather have you by my side than a view, but it does lessen the sting.


Eventually one’s thoughts will turn to sleep, especially in light of a 10-hour flight in Economy Plus. One will be not disappointed.  My daughter and I often share a bed when we travel, this one was big and fluffy. And yes, reaching out to hold her arm as I drift off is immeasurably sweet.

Do not worry that the view has disappeared with the sun. It’s still out there. The London Eye was blue that night.


The rest of the hotel is modern, but not coldly so, and luxe, but not too gaudy. I suppose I could do with less marble, but I suppose nobody is listening to me. (One note for the long of hair, watch out for the shower, the step-down is shallow and if the drains get slow water leaks onto the bathroom floor.)


Eventually you’ll leave your room. Yes that hallway is blurry in the photo. No in real life it’s not. And you’re going to want it to be navigable, because you should get the breakfast package and eat at Ting in the mornings. Wonderful waitstaff, brilliant service, and yes, a view, albeit south instead of north.


They put out the usual pastries, yogurt, and fruit for the buffet, as well as a hot breakfast that includes eggs and dim sum. The Shangri-La’s Asian heritage in evidence, as befits cosmopolitan London of 2014.


And nobody cast a disparaging eye at my purple sweatshirt, so, bonus points. Nor did they sigh when I ordered the 6th gallon of tea our first morning. The second day we showed up, they brought me a pot without being reminded. I loved that.


I also loved staying on the South Bank, amongst people going to work. For one thing, the Borough Market is right nearby for lunch as you return to the hotel after a morning’s sightseeing. This allows you to feel all frugal, kind of like a sale at Neiman Marcus but hey. Crossing London Bridge, which one does if one walks a lot, you enter the City of London, its financial center. Not picturesque, but there’s sufficient awesome and quaint to be found elsewhere in the city, and I enjoyed the more binary thrum of modern commerce.


Finally for those who cannot leave their room, entranced by the view as though it were Morgan le Fay, there’s fruit.


Which might not be your first priority, but is lovely when jet lag or strikes, or you just want to put some food in your mouth that nobody has sauced, fried, or seasoned. Even those of us who love luxury occasionally just want a simple green grape.

BTW, the rumored peeking into your neighbor’s room? Not apparent, I guess I’d have had to climb over the corner desk and plaster myself against the window with craned neck? It’s an absolutely lovely place, that became part of the fabric of our stay in the way that memorable hotels will.


A Phalanx Of Earrings To Rescue A Very, Very, Very Casual Wardrobe


Warning. This post has way too many pictures of my ears.

Remember how I thought retirement-wear meant hunting down fancy sweatpants? Hey, turned out to be a big trend, but not for me. I make my way through this new world in jeans and more jeans, in the company of their friends, tees and sweatshirts. All the while yearning for a little shine on the side.

Earrings to the rescue. To be specific, danglers. A trick I will forever credit to Alyson at That’s Not My Age. Thanks!

I’ve posted everything in my collection before (hence the large collection of auracular* images) but I thought it might be interesting to show them all together, with some similar options,  in case anyone else was as lazy but demanding as I.

For example, we shall not soon forget these Beladora chandeliers. (Although I have to move on quickly otherwise I’ll start thinking about this Chanel bracelet again and that way lies danger.)


Or these gold hoops, worn hereHandmade-Gold-Hoops

I’ve owned the antique Swedish danglers below for decades. That’s the best thing about being in my late 50′s. I can refer to “decades” in the plural. Sounds so authoritative.


These little turquoise guys are from Barneys, and still available, but I’m no longer recommending you run out and buy them since I lost one for the second time, in London. Boo. I know, I should have worn a plastic back as you advised but that lazy business got in my way.


How about some indie flowers?


Or optical quartz?


My collection works, for me, because:

  • All but the quartz are very lightweight. At 57, almost 58, heavy earrings are too hard on my poor flesh.
  • Color bases all checked, with neutrals – silver, black, gold – and turquoise, my talisman shade. And I can’t overemphasize the value of clear as a color.
  • All the earrings are just visible enough to elevate my jeans and tee, and none so visible as to overwhelm, or demand that I dress up
  • Shapes vary, from danglers, to drops, to full chandelier

Hang on a sec. My somewhat gaudy jewelery roll is demanding a glamor closeup. Well, after all it’s done for me, OK then. Turn and turn about.


And here are a few options you might like, these available from online jewelry merchant, Max & Chloe. Dangle on my wayward friends. And that just might be the perfect song for a raucous Tuesday staff meeting, if you’ve got one on the agenda.

*Made-up word meaning prophetically ear-related, see, lazy:).

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Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:42am

Do you ever get an uncontrollable urge to contradict popular memes? If only for the sake of argument? While I have vowed never to become she who grumbles that society is going to hell in a handbasket, one who finds fault daily with the points of modern thought, I give up when it comes to overly popular concepts. I mutter, under my breath, as the media rehashes ideas.

Oh what the heck. Let’s mutter out loud.

For example, anyone else tired of the French? Not as actual humans, they’re lovely, as is their architecture and embroidery. But as benchmarks for skills of all sorts? It was probably The French Make Better Parents Than You that put me over the edge. I worked as a camp counselor in France for two months, when I was 18, and I lived the good and not so good of that country’s child-rearing ways.

I scarcely dare mention French style.

Yeah, yeah, I get it, Parisians are less prone to totally dowdy outfits than, let’s say, tourists in Santa Barbara. But that’s an imprecise comparison and lack of precision always renders me both ornery and logical. We need a tighter analysis.

If Paris has 2.2 million people, we might reasonably compare Parisiens to the most stylish 2/3 of Los Angeles’ 3.8 population, relying on the political gerrymander to choose whichever cluster of zipcodes gives us the best result. Where’s the book on Pacific Palisades Style, we wonder?

Or take Houston. A city of 2.1 million, it matches up quite well to Paris. Houstonians do a bang-up job of raising their children. They’ve also got amazing food, by the way. Who will write that manifesto?

OK. We’ll leave the French alone. And wave to Tish Jett’s book, as we go, which is lovely.

Can we move on to the much-celebrated introvert? The book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, markets the introvert’s case well. We know that Them What Invents The Language Own The Discourse, a fact that makes the logical almost as ornery as any afore-mentioned imprecise comparisons.

The logical find themselves parsing out statements. For example,  what if we actually had a world that DID stop talking? Without extroverts, who will run the meetings? I mean, nobody’s going to write a book entitled “Loud: The Power of Extroverts” and think it a good thing. But have some compassion. It’s not easy to be the one compelled to present, the one who glad hands, the one who stands up.

In the end, I have nothing against either the French, or introverts. I understand that the French have become a symbol of graceful restraint, in both aesthetics and mores. (Except the male politicians and their behavior towards women, of course, but we so need the idea of French that we ignore that cognitive dissonance.) I also understand that introverts have suffered through How To Make Friends And Influence People for decades, and are now having their moment in a time characterized by the irritating talk of millions.

It’s the principle of the argument. Let’s honor the human capacity to reason.

Were I the marketing sort, I’d start a new meme, In Praise Of The Logical, arguing for more rigor all around. Ah, but if it took off I’d probably find myself taking the contrary stance and arguing the case for pure sentiment.

So in that vein, my friends, have a wonderful weekend. Or feel free to share any contrarian urges here, you’re amongst friends.


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A 10 Day Summer Itinerary In England, Complete With 7 Tips For The Middle-Aged Traveling With Adult Children

Travel recommendations are so particular. My fun might evoke your despair. So rather than advice about travel to England on a general level, here’s the story of  what my daughter and I did on our summer vacation. If we arrive at wider insights, bonus points for all.

Our Somewhat Jaw-Dropping 10-Day Itinerary

First, the not-short 10-day itinerary. Links included for those who want yet more information. In sum, we spent 4 1/2 days in London, 2 days in Oxford, and 2 days in a Cotswold town called Chipping Campden. Chipping Campden. Isn’t that lovely? Onward.


Sunrise is beautiful except at 2am in an airplane seat the size of a saucer


  • Land at 7:15am, after 10 hours in United Economy Plus. Take the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station, freak out at Tube prices, take a cab to the Shangri-La at the Shard. Wonder whether it might have been cheaper to take a cab all the way.
  • Get early check-in, feel incredibly grateful, eat breakfast, drink 6 gallons of tea.
  • Go straight to St. Paul’s Cathedral, remember you don’t like ornate anything, feel grumpy, get audio tour, realize it’s all about Christianity instead of architecture, feel grumpier. Daughter decides to climb to top, mother sits listening to services. Feel even grumpier. Fall asleep sitting up in a chair meant for worship.

Tea service at the Ham Yard Hotel

  • Head off to tea at the Ham Yard Hotel with Jane Potrykus of simple+pretty. Feel much better. Turns out that keeping on the go does go a long way to prevent the effects of jet lag.
  • Sleep coma.


  • Grab coffee and tea at the Borough Market, just outside the Shangri-La. Meet friends at Southbank, where their children will be able to play inside and out. Arrive late because mom mistakes the time of meeting. Eat Mexican food, which apparently is now readily available in London.
  • Walk to the Horrid Vortex Of Tourist Hordes, where one can visit the Houses of Parliament and the National Gallery in one afternoon. Both well worth braving hordes. However, recoil in shock at the cost of historic venue tickets (~$40USD), wonder if free museums compensate, muse on the pricing of power over art.
  • Walk to a nice small plates dinner with friends at Polpo Covent Garden, and spectacular cocktails at the Savoy after. Sit just outside the jazz bar, so that you can actually hear each other talk.

Woman taking iPad photo of the Savoy Hotel. I did not know her.

  • Sleep coma.


  • Be first in line for the Tower of London. Once inside, make a beeline for the Crown Jewels. Ooooh and ah, enjoying the newish display layout. Take the moving walkway past Big And Sparkly more than once. Enjoy the history, and the pleasant docents, very much indeed.
  • Eat lunch back at the Borough Market. Mom devours a hog roast sandwich, daughter Ethiopian vegetables, both delicious.

Ethiopian and Hog Roast “Bap” from the Borough Market

  • Gird our loins for more tourism, visit the slightly quirky Tate Britain Gallery, in hopes of some Turners, appreciate English buses as long as daughter is the one interpreting the posted schedules, move on to the fascinating Churchill War Rooms, finish at Westminster Abbey in hopes of evensong. Find no evensong, only a service. Briefly wonder if my atheism has offended someone or some thing.
  • Eat dinner in Pimlico, at a family restaurant, with actual family on my father’s side. Gawk at the beautiful skies.

The skies above Pimlico

  • Sleep, in a little less of a coma.


  • Take the Tube to Notting Hill, walk around
  • Proceed to walk through Hyde and Kensington parks, with a surprise visit to Kensington Palace Gardens. Serendipity begins to work in your favor.

Kensington Palace Gardens. Yet more sky.

  • Lunch, at Dinner. Absolutely fantastic food, not the best service, or maybe Americans just like to hurry more than everyone else.

Heston Blumenthal’s “Dinner.” I thought his name was “Hester” for the longest time.


  • Wander through memories at Brompton Square and 17 Tregunter Road, visit the equally important Margaret Howell shop and Buckingham Palace. Or at least the outside of Buckingham Palace. In short, I would want to wear Howell but I wouldn’t want to live at Buckingham.
  • Adventure up to North London for dinner at another friend’s house. Yes, we were quite lucky in the friends and family department. And there were others I would have loved to have visited, had we but world enough and time.


  • Wander Shoreditch, appreciating graffiti and the remains of London’s industrial day.


  • Lunch back at, you guessed it, Borough Market. Eat burgers, drink some ale, enjoy.
  • Take the Oxford Coach from Victoria Station to, you guessed it, Oxford.
  • Check in to the exceptionally pleasant Old Bank Inn, where they blend modern luxury and old style very well, eat a reasonable dinner at its restaurant, Quod.


    The Old Bank Inn

  • Sleep. Turns out to be necessary every dang night.




Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. Where one can also see a blackboard covered in equations that Einstein wrote in his own hand. Totally cool.


Ballet-trained daughter balancing on the front of a punt, having pushed us away from the banks, where we sheltered briefly from rain

  • Experience the great pleasure of punting, complete with brief rain showers, and a subsequent ale at the pub

The Cherwell River after a rain

  • Revel in homemade cake and tea with said generous and highly hospitable friends.
  • Wander about looking for a pub for dinner, find sunset instead.

Spires of Oxford

Dinner back at Quod. Dreadful service.

  • Sleep. Wake up at midnight in annoyance at two women drinking and talking in the courtyard. Note to travelers, take a room on the street side.


  • Try to visit Christ Church college, find out the courtyard is closed until 2pm, walk through the meadow instead. Sigh at the verdant vista.

Borders at the Christ Church college meadow


  • Take the bus up High Street to Oxford Station, and a train to Moreton-on-Marsh in the Cotswolds.
  • Get picked up by the wonderful Reg in his taxi, having arranged the service previously, and dropped at our “cottage,” found via TripAdvisor’s “holiday lettings.”
  • Pick up a few provisions ’round the corner, head off for a 6-mile walk on the Cotswold Way to Broadway. Traverse a lot of meadows, and only a few roads.
  • Have Reg pick you up again and take you back to Chipping Campden. If you do this walk earlier in the day, on the right day, you can manage with buses.

Bike rider in the Cotswolds. Best clouds in the world, England.



A house and denizen of the Cotwolds village, Broadway


  • Peek out the window to see a steady downpour. Take some time to enjoy having a kitchen, eat breakfast.
  • Walk the village. See Grevel House, built around 1380, and wander up to the church and graveyard. Don’t bother with the Arts and Crafts museum.
  • Have a proper English tea at Badger Hall, which perhaps needless to say includes memorable scones.

Afternoon tea at Badger Hall


  • Make the long journey back to Heathrow. Perhaps a day into which we could have crammed more sights, but it felt good to have time given only to the blank slate of transportation.

Moreton-on-Marsh railway station. Note that locals call it simply, “MoretonMarsh.”


  • Determine that despite the attempts of Mr. Tourist Information to sell you a coach ticket, the public bus takes you to Bath Road for free. It’s the Number 111, in case you’re wondering.
  • Enter the netherworld of airport hotels at the Sheraton Skyline Heathrow
  • Eat Indian food, which turns out to be plentiful and good in the area, at Annayu,


  • Take that same free bus back to the airport and fly on home. The return trip is apt to be less miserable than the flight over, however, someone may spill a full 7-Up and rum on your new Max Mara coat, so do put it away.

Those Promised 7 Tips On Travel With Adult Children

1. Planning, Or More Accurately, How We Didn’t

Both my daughter and I, ordinarily, are big planners. I thought she’d want to run the show, she thought she’d like her mom take care of it. We forgot to communicate as much until halfway through the trip. Luckily, English-speaking destinations forgive a lot of bumbling, but it helps to talk about a journey with your companion in advance, even when you’ve known her for 27 years,

2. How Much To Do In One Day

People who are 57 are 57. People who are 27 are 27. In my experience, the first species likes to do 1-2 things per day, the second, more like 12. Meet in the middle. You’ll feel amazed at your capacity, she may see her mother’s aging for the first time and that’s not bad.

3. What You Need To Know About British Transportation

Get an Oyster card at the first Tube station you find with a staffed ticket counter. This is a stored value card that saves you money and time, on both the Tube and the buses. You put down a small deposit for the Oyster but it’s easy-peasy to return at Heathrow on departure. And I’d say London cabs, like almost everything else in the city, costs more than twice as much as a New York City taxi. Caveat Hailor.

4. Hauling Your Belongings

In my opinion, carry-on baggage is overrated on a non-stop flight. And beware your expert packing skills. Whatever you stuff into a bag at home you’re going to have to restuff each time you move. Oof.

A very old suitcase being put through its paces

Bring two handbags, one tote (for cameras, umbrellas, the Valentino heels you want to wear to dinner) and one small crossbody or other zipup (for money, Oyster and credit cards.) Establish a place for everything and stick to the plan. I lost my camera case after one too many It’s Off It’s On It’s Off It’s Ons.

5. Wearing The Right Clothes

England’s changeable climate, in conjunction with midlife’s decreased ability to regulate body temperature, leads to You’re Hot You’re Cold You’re Hot You’re Cold. The trench and the Barbour became British style icons for good reason, one piece of outerwear and you’re set. They are also easily removed in un-airconditioned Tube cars. Bring scarves if you suffer from fashion boredom, just make sure they are appropriate for the season. My long pink cashmere muffler was too hot for even a British summer. Duh, to everyone but me. BTW, even if you can make room for more than 4 pairs of shoes, don’t. Make sure you have waterproof city and country options.

6. Budget Priorities

This one’s simple. Budget where you don’t care, spend where you do. My daughter and I were happy to forgo cabs, traveling by Tube and enjoying the hustle, or walking in great peace and contentment through London’s parks. We ate either at street markets or at one of the best restaurants in the world, where we chose expensive wine. If you’re going big, don’t niggle the small bits.

7. Midlife Compensations And Joys

The middle-aged are not the young. See #2. We have trouble hurrying, our feet hurt, we see less well than we used to. And let’s share a collective moment of silence for our short-term memory. Wait, what were we talking about? So set yourself up to minimize the need to orient and any resultant fumbling. Most of this is solved in #4 and #5, by good shoes and carrying strategies. But you’ll minimize dithering if you keep a list, on your phone or even paper, of what happened yesterday and what’s supposed to happen today.

Luckily, serendipity and a boon companion favor us all. I wish you every happiness in your travels and time to see what is still new.


Note: My daughter just texted me to say I had forgotten the Victoria and Albert. So I had. We slipped that in on the way to Buckingham Palace;).

Is London The New New World?, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:27am

An interesting thing happened in London.

My daughter and I went in search of two houses in the city where  I had previously lived. In 1967-8, we spent a year living in at 17 Tregunter Road. I can report that it’s still there, white, surrounded by trees.


Later, after graduating from college in 1978, I lived with a former roommate in Knightsbridge in a basement flat on Brompton Square. Right near Harrods. That building is also still there, along with an associated garden for residents.



I sent a requisite Look Where We Are Now! photo off to my roommate, who is still a good friend. She recognized Brompton Square at once. And added the comment that she finds London less British every time she visits.

That was the interesting thing.

London these days, as the husband of a London friend said one night after cooking us dinner, is buoyant. It is rich, diverse, and under construction. It reminds me not of Downtown Abbey, nor of that best of all BBC series, Pride and Prejudice, but Shanghai, City of the Future.

Now I like Olde England as much as anyone. White mouldings and black doors with brass knockers. Reverence for trees. But I loved New London too. How wonderful to see a city with that much history playing an electric role in the 21st century?

I know that some feel otherwise. The EU brings workers in droves in from Eastern Europe. I heard of entire neighborhoods bought up by Russian money seeking a hiding place rather than a home. A long running river of oil wealth pours through London financial systems, unabated. Real estate prices rise, cheese gets expensive, this is hard for many.

And yet it felt right. Maybe that’s natural for a Silicon Valley native. Can I also say that in the past 30 years England’s men have gotten better looking? The impact of war year nutrition seems to have passed and the men are tall and strong and wearing close-fitting suits. Frivolous observation, but maybe with meaning.

Note that I am a die-hard patriot. I love America, I defend its principles, I believe in its promise – even when we falter, badly. But wouldn’t it be ironic if after all this time the USA became the Old World, and Britain The New?

Old is nice, traditions bring comfort and proven outcomes, but New solves problems and we’ve got a few, we humans.

Which brings us to the question of how to remain New. A very big question, one I am not equipped to answer for nations. But here’s my personal philosophy. Embrace adventurers – immigrants, inventors, even those with whom we disagree. They keep us buoyant, and the metaphors for time are full of rising waters.