Into The Sky, Or, Saturday Morning at 6:34am

I have a long day ahead. But, it promises the long California sky so out I go into the blue.

I’ve added Katura Designs’ Mother’s Day discount to yesterday’s post – river pearls and rough diamonds, that much closer.

Have a wonderful weekend. Sustain each other as best you can.


A Mother’s Day Memento (Don’t You Kind Of Want To Spell It “Momento?”) In The Making

On Mother’s Day, I’ve always given my mom either flowers or jewelry. That is, once I started giving her presents – we didn’t celebrate when I was young. She still loves flowers and jewelry. On the other hand, maybe a meal together would be better this year. Cupcakes.

As I’ve said before, while I don’t feel that I need presents on the day, I do like the occasion, the recognition, the celebration. And my kids have heard me and are very good about cards and calls.

If I did want an enduring present, it’d be jewelry. It so easily becomes a memento, something to sort through with grandchildren. Let the chains run through our fingers, hold up a pendant for a closer look.

One might give the spectacular, were one so resourced. I’ve been admiring Alex Soldier’s cuffs for a couple of years now. Such a unique way with metals. Here, silver and gold are worked to look like faceted diamonds. Prices start at $2100. Dragons.

Alex Soldier Dragon Cuffs on whtie

Jewels in spirals. Stand out.

4 Stone Cuffs HR

Or maybe a more intimate evidence of craft? Lee Wiser McIntosh has been known to comment here, and I love what she does with river pearls and rough diamonds, at Katura Design. This piece is $1525. EDITED TO ADD: Lee got in touch with me to say we can use the coupon code HeartMomNow for a 15% discount. (This post was an (un-monetized) surprise for her:)).


Or, our friends at Mark deFrates are having a 15-20% off sale for friends and family, through June 1. Perhaps as a symbol of coming back from hardship, a phoenix. The large one, $800. Mention Privilege in your order for the discount. You can buy a smaller one if that works better for you.


Finally, these pieces from Blue Nile. Nicely designed, in precious metals. The traditions not yet in place. A three-strand gold chain, with circle stations $395. Or this one, more opulent but on sale for 40% off.

3 Strand Gold Chain With Circle Stations

It’s the Then Some I look for – the little click, the in-drawn breath, at a piece that looks just right — and then some. I think this pearl and sapphire pendant is just so pretty. $425.

Pearl and Sapphire Necklace

But guess what? We have a giveaway, a very generous one, thanks to Blue Nile. A white gold and diamond bar necklace. White gold. Discreet, sparkly, modern. With blue jeans, a v-neck tee, and sneakers; atop a low cut, fitted black dress – you choose.


Blue Nile Diamond Bar NecklaceSparkle. In case I hadn’t yet made that point.


In situ, last night in San Francisco, with a gray tee and Adidas bomber jacket. As one does.

If you’d like to enter the giveaway, tell us the story of how you might wear this necklace, and with what kind of earrings. Would you match it with these? Or complement less directly, with these? Pair with something else entirely? I’ll draw a winner on Tuesday May 3rd. That will give me time to mail the necklace to you before May 8th. And if you’d rather shop yourself, Blue Nile has 15% off on certain items right now. Code MOM2016.

I know Mother’s Day doesn’t make everyone’s heart swell. Maybe you’ve not been able to become a mother, maybe your own is a source of distress. In that case, let’s say this is a present from a friend, for no particular reason other than because.


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I Just Want Your Extra Time, And, Saturday Morning at 7:34am

Prince, the American R&B artists famous for songs like “Purple Rain,” “1999,” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” died last Thursday. Cause yet unknown, suicide not suspected. Although I have always loved his music, I have no particular insight about his place in the pantheon. I saw him only once in concert and it was during a time when he was struggling terribly and, unusually, could barely perform.

But I have a story.

When I first got out of business school I worked for a Fortune 250 chemical company. I spent 11 months in headquarters analyzing who knows what, and then flew off to Silicon Valley to become a salesperson. Although I was good at the job by dint of sheer perseverance, it did not suit my temperament or experience in the world. But I had a good boss. His name was Rich. He’d been a football player for Syracuse University. When I asked him once why he was good at football – did he run fast, did he catch well – he said, “If they told me to run my head into a brick wall I’d just run my head into that wall over and over again.”

He was a good enough manager that one quarter we held a sales challenge for our whole team and we won the prize. An overnight trip to Monterey Bay, the five of us. At least I think we were five. Could have been six.

We went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. In the time-honored tradition of sales teams, we drank. Beers, and then tequila shots. I was unfamiliar with tequila.

I should point out that I was the only woman.

The restaurant had a jukebox. We’d been there a while, long enough to finish dinner. The floor was tiled, saltillo maybe, the tablecloths were white, napkins in all the primary colors. Someone put on Prince’s song, “Kiss.” It might have been me?

We danced.

This sounds like nothing but I will say that it was the only time in my professional career that I felt wholly safe acknowledging my body. (Until I got old enough that it didn’t matter any more.) By which I mean I could dance to Prince, which one cannot do without implication, and remain part of the team. We danced through the lacuna in “Kiss.” The lyrics go, “I just want your extra time and your (guitar riff, pause, breath) kiss.” Nobody batted an eye. It sounds like nothing, but remember 1986, remember we wore suits, remember all kinds of things.

Partly I credit Rich, who along with the brick wall talent was an honorable man, and established good behavior as part of the group’s culture. But partly, and I cannot say how much, it was Prince, who knew how to both pause and say it all. Artists who break barriers for themselves can do so for others too.

I wish I’d been brave enough to carry that moment forward. My being a woman wasn’t my problem, now was it?

When I heard Prince had died, I regretted that I’d never written him to say thank you. I think I’ll thank Elvis Costello for “Clowntime Is Over.” I know famous artists get recognition and a lot of money, but then when we hear some of them are lonely or shy or struggling, I dunno. More thank yous rather than fewer are in general a good thing.

Have a wonderful weekend.

An Enduring Love Affair With My Fuchsia, And Its Friend, A Small Haws Copper Watering Can

My fuchsia has grown and is blooming. It’s such a pleasure to watch the buds swell over days. Then one morning you wake up and they’ve opened, little triangular petals curving away from purple centers.



Right now the fuchsia is surrounded by primulas, violas and heuchera (burgundy leaves forever!). Also a ratty alyssum falling down the side of one pot. I’ll probably replant the supporting cast soon, I like an orange kalanchoe or two in the hot summer, against the fuchsia’s purple and, well, fuchsia.


Fuchsias want humidity, and the San Francisco Bay Area is semi-arid. Recently I ordered a watering can. It was on my Christmas list. As it turned out, my sister gave me the small Le Creuset (thank you sister! I use it! I love it! We can haz soup!). But I couldn’t forget this, which now lives just inside the door that leads to my patio. And yes, those are my pink plaid flannel pajama bottoms you see reflected. Complementary, don’t you think?


By Haws, an English company that’s been in operation since 1886. The little brass rose comes off, for those days when you want to reach under leaves. And now I water my fuchsia in a sparkle of copper light. So funny, the things we can find intoxicating.



Last Tuesday, having returned from Santa Barbara the night before, and having spent the bulk of the day on administrative tasks for my mother, I went to Whole Foods.

I thought to myself, as I checked the full-length mirror, “I’m probably going to run into someone I know.” Decided I didn’t mind. My hair was in a messy braid. “Ah,” I thought, “Do I brush my hair? Oh never mind. That’ll just give me pinhead.”

And out I went, like this.

Untitled #209


Sweatshirt: Mine is from Isabel Marant’s 2013 collection at H&M. It looks a lot like this but is all-cotton || Tee: Any long gray will do. Occasionally I get really adventurous and go lavender. || Jeans: I was wearing GAP 1969s, which (why?) are discontinued. The closest (affordable version) I’ve found is this pair at || Sneakers: New Balance classics. Caveat – these work best for those who are narrow across the ball of the foot. I can only wear them for short bursts of walking. || Earrings: Mine are from San Francisco’s Chinatown. Dragons embossed on little gold discs. Unique, as far as I know. || Necklace: Emerald cut diamond worn as a pendant. It was probably invisible under my sweatshirt, it often is. Watch: Not pictured, but, Apple. It comes in yellow now. Bag: Bottega Veneta Large Hobo. This season’s blue is brighter.

At Whole Foods, of course, I ran into someone who reads the blog.

I love meeting our readers. (I use the collective possessive because most who read here come for the comments as much as my postings.) But I apologized to her for what I was wearing. Why? One may not necessarily expect to find a style blogger wearing a getup that flirts with, nay romances, full slob. But she was very nice, waved at me and said, (I paraphrase) “We all…”

I thought, as I drove home, that I’d have foregone the apology if I’d worn a little makeup. That layered top, the cuffed jeans and long gray hair, all provided just enough detail for rudimentary Tomboy style. Tinted moisturizer, cream blush, lip balm, eyebrow pencil – and I’d have been just about OK.

Doesn’t take as much as we think. Especially in a Whole Foods in Palo Alto, California. I saw Steve Jobs there, once, at the check out, in his usual black turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers. Context is king.

And, because, life, I also thought in that early evening light of a late California spring, how much I appreciate this process of moving the blog towards a sometimes impetuous voice of self. Not to mention moving that same self towards the more thoughtful voice of the blog. Thank you all again for your company.

And L., very nice to meet you.

I Seriously, Honestly, Wish I Didn’t But I Do, Hate Housework, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:26am

So guys, tell me, how does one come to enjoy housework?

In all seriousness, I hate it. And I read, around the blogosphere, that others feel otherwise. Faux Fuchsia, Dani at the Mop Philosopher, Leslie at the Humble Bungalow, all enjoy what they term “domestics.” Not to mention another blog, Down to Earth, written by an Australian woman. It’s all about the joys of a home-centered life – sewing, baking, making your own cleaning products. She even wrote two books.

Help me out. Must one be born with this predilection? Or does it result from secret tricks, an excellent system?

When I worked, I was either gone from my house so many hours that I didn’t notice how “kept” it was, or I had a house cleaner. I thought that I could use this time of retirement and/or working primarily from home to figure out how to clean if not blissfully at least peacefully. But it’s been 2 1/2 years, and, nope.

While I will never enjoy doing any tasks over and over again, I think I could move forward if I just felt like I could do a very good job in manageable chunks of time. Right now it feels like either I’ve got to work like crazy or I do bad work. Wait. Is that just the truth of the thing?

We could hire someone. We may hire someone. But before I surrender, anyone out there with hints? Some cleaning products that you really like, non-toxic, sweet-smelling? A simple schedule? A complex ritual of meditation and self-abnegation?

Thank you in advance for your counsel. Have a wonderful weekend.

Searching For Sale Sneakers

I looked down at my shoes yesterday and thought, “Hmm, I’d like sneakers in different colors.” That’s what happens when you find a uniform. Jeans and sneakers, sneakers and jeans. But they have to be the RIGHT sneakers. Not too flashy, not too boring. Preferably on sale, for we retired Polished Tomboys.

(By the way, not to take credit for my finds, the Shopstyle search engine is really good)

A few notes from experience. New Balance run narrow, the wide of metatarsal won’t be well-fit. Nike’s heel cup gets annoying when it’s high. And Supergas are really comfortable when they have a memory foam insole. Spring on!


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A Different Kind Of Adult Coloring, Without A Book

I just got back from a few days in Santa Barbara. The trips are very full and tiring, 5 hour drive down (I’m afraid of airplanes, small ones in particular), 2 days helping tend to someone in stage 5-6 Alzheimer’s, 5 hour drive back. So, a short post.

On one of my previous trips, I brought Mom colored pencils. We sat out on her back patio, I drew a small part of her garden, roughly, and talked about it as I scribbled. Then I asked her to tell me what colors to use for the detail. She did. She darkened the palm fronds, colored the trunk of the tree, added shadows to the ground layer.

EPSON scanner image

83, Alzheimer’s, the woman still has better color sense than I.

It’s so fascinating to see what goes and what stays as the disease progresses. Also sad, but somehow I’m living in a doing the work and thinking the thoughts mode. Sadness does catch me, inexplicably sometimes and almost always unpredictably.

Trees. Mom still really loves trees. Me too. Back in the garden; my dogwoods have begun to flower and a magnolia I had transplanted last year seems to have settled pretty happily in its new spot.

Announcing Rare Fiber, A New Kind Of Consultancy Deeply Rooted In Design And Culture


The Internet is a wondrous thing. At some point it introduced me to Grace O’Sullivan, connector par excellence, charismatic as heck. At some point, Grace asked if I’d join her in a new consultancy, Rare Fiber.

Yes. I would.

Here’s what we’re doing, and when I say “we” I’m one of 19 contributors. From the website.

We are passionate about advancing excellent people, organizations, and ideas. We believe in listening and pushing boundaries with style and design. We do this by weaving fresh, authentic perspectives through the fabric of our partners’ culture. We help forward-thinking organizations innovate through a collaborative, human-centered design process.

From an email Grace sent me last night.

Rare Fiber is not only about creating the next wave of consulting, it’s also about building a new lifestyle brand, art + business + design, and the people who want to thrive at this nexus.


One more thing, for you guys. Some readers have asked me over the years if I’d be willing to career counsel, or, alternatively, style consult; this venture is home for those services. I can be hired for 1:1 telephone consulting, as well as larger projects. In these early days we’ll give you a discount on my hourly rate on 1:1 work. The nexus indeed.

If you’re interested, you can submit an inquiry here. Or email me, as always.

To track us, if you are so inclined, you can follow Rare Fiber on Twitter, or subscribe to the blog. I’ve got a post up there now, Creative, Noun or Adjective? Felt good to speak in the less subjunctive mode; some things are certain.

Maybe you and I will talk about something you’re puzzling over soon. In any case, I wish you a wonderful weekend, and overarching success in inquiry of all sorts. It’s good to think big, as long as you think with discipline. Oh, and I thank all of you, so much, for giving me this space to practice.


If You Plant It They Will Come, Or At Least You Hope They Will


I’ve planted a butterfly garden. At least I’ve planted my side yard with flowers, mostly natives, that butterflies are said to enjoy.


This is what the space used to look like. Overgrown with thistles, here seen through a shrubby plum tree, a mock orange, and bamboo.


Thistles, filling the space in sunlight.


Thistles, finally cut down.

Then I drew that little pencil sketch above. Plotting sage, milkweed, yarrow, mint, checking for height and color.


Then, last November, we planted. Imagine you walked through that plum tunnel above, this is what you see now. Lining the fence,


and accompanied by a horde of volunteer myosotis along the wall of my house. Those stumps are the remains of three Monterey pines that towered over us for years. I used to climb up on the roof and sweep pine needles. Once even when pregnant. I love trees, mind you, but those were non-benign. Best planted along a fierce coast, where they come from.

Now, with any luck, some friends will visit.


Here’s a butterfly’s view.




I think butterflies can look past a weed or two.


We moved the bush anemones from under the oak, where they were perishing. Butterflies, this is for you. A flower boudoir shot, in case you’re feeling romantical.

Butterfly gardens don’t require native plans, as butterflies don’t eat taxonomies. If they like the nectar, they come. But it’s safer, and more fun, really, to sort out which plants those gaudy brilliant flyers grew up on. Native plant nurseries can provide both plants and knowledge. I planted, I confess, without a strict observance of light requirements — I hope the plants bloom despite my lack of attention to detail.

Just this week, we had a spell of summer weather. I was standing at my kitchen window, and I saw, above the abelia hedge, a pair of flapping orange wings. I ran outside in bare feet, exclaiming. Then, really, I ran back inside, and round to the window that overlooks my new plantings. I’ll be darned if the little critter didn’t fly over the fence and land on the warm ground, where it rested, for a few seconds, opening and closing its wings.

One came, one actually came. I’ve ordered this book and will keep it to hand. If I could send out invitations, letterpressed, flower-covered, serve champagne on trays, I would.

Butterfly cast of characters, starting top left of collage, moving clockwise.

Anise Swallowtail
Cabbage White
Gulf Fritillary
California Sister
California Hairstreak


Links may generate commissions. N.B. If you enjoy garden posts, Materfamilias, the Hostess of the Humble Bungalow, and Faux Fuchsia can be relied upon for lovely photos of their flowering friends.