Meanwhile, In The Garden, Light Comes And Goes


Hydrangea-Dogwood-Phormium

The back yard is green. It’s hydrangea time. Yeah, they are leggy, pruning mistake. Lesson learned.

Leslie asked me how my white roses are doing. In truth I neglected them to deal with my mother’s Alzheimer’s-provoked move. The poor guys responded by sinking into a despair of black spot, rust, and unnamable blight.

But a couple of good sprayings with oil from Indian tree seeds and back they’ve come.

Iceberg-Rose-With-Hole

A little bitten, a little cock-eyed, but still roses and on the whole white.

White-Iceberg-Rose-In-The-Morning-Light

You might also remember I had planted a butterfly garden. The plants are flourishing, the butterflies scarce to date but welcome.

Border-with-Coyote-Mint-and-Vervain

By the way, it’s not called milkWEED for nothing. This stuff spreads. I like to call it an optimistic plant. But I’ve made a morning ritual of picking out the tiny sprouts. Keeping some space clear.

Milkweed-and-Morning-Sky

Now native sage, yarrow and mint surround my olive tree like girls in bright dresses around a gawky friend. Bokeh, you party crashers. Light is such a prankster.

Border-of-Yarrow-and-Salvia-Plus-Bokeh

That yarrow, by the way, was supposed to be white. Surprise! I prefer the rosy pink, in fact, and the sage’s creature-like habit adds a little bite to the sweet colors.

Salvia-Ponzo-Blue

Elsewhere, some of the stuff in my garden, man, I have no idea what it even is. This stalk turns red eventually.

Weird-Thing-I-Do-Not-Know-The-Name-Of

And the general unruliness. Some plants, privet, for example, grow where they are not wanted. Out of my fern, you wanton sprout!

Fern

Some plants, although invited, decide to take over. There will be thinning oh Japanese anemones, you have been warned.

Japanese-Anemone

Fortunately, some daises I transplanted brushed off neglect and decided to grow tall and spectacular. By themselves,

Daisies-Almost-Alone

Or, in dappled context,
Hydrangea-and-Leaf-Burn

next to neighbors. Boisterous, lace-capped, pink-flowered neighbors. Lurking grasses, necessary menace.

Daisies-with-Hydrangea-and-Grass

Thanks, you plants, my friends. Just what I needed.

 

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Everyone Thinks They Are The Good Guys, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:45am


It has come to my attention that everyone thinks they’re the good guys.

I ran across this video, which is political, so let me sum it up more personally – all sides to any conflict believe they are in the right.

This plays out for individuals too. When I was young, if I thought about people who did bad things, I suppose I assumed they thought of themselves as Wicked.

They don’t. Over and over again I’ve seen, it, enough times now that I get what’s going on. People who do bad things are telling themselves an internal story that they are OK. That their actions are Correct, at least Justifiable. Few people bother with Simply Excusable.

And what’s weird, to me, is that often intelligence aids and abets in the story-telling. People don’t use their minds to analyze their behaviors dispassionately but rather to allow. In fact, sometimes the smarter people are the better they are at this act of self-deception. Very disappointing. When I was young I worked for a brilliant man. Golly gosh gee whiz the fancy fictions to justify terrible behavior.

This isn’t true of everyone, luckily. I have always loved smart engineers because they tend to dissect everything equally.

So in these days of retirement, when I have time and maybe an obligation to become virtuous, I find the best tactic is to stay still with my own impulses. To listen to my internal narration, and wait until it quiets, and in the silence is as much truth as I’m capable of hearing.

Now, I’d be lying if I said, that I always rise above my understood motivations to choose the virtuous act. Does self-honesty bring inevitable good? Nope. Even when I see what I’m doing I might do it anyway. I am just as selfish, weak, and greedy as the next person.

But I’d rather live truthfully with my sins than in deception with an invented virtue. And I’m getting better.

Add insult to injury. Complex spun stories of personal glory don’t just let you do selfish things, they also require everyone around you to participate in the narrative. It’s a burden to others. You’re going along, doing what you want, getting what you want, and yet you’re insisting that somehow you are in the right. You insist that everyone else plays along, even applaud. Even hold a parade.

On the other hand, once you decide to stare your own flaws clear in the face, you can’t just sit down and be done. Either you make a change, painful though it might be, or, you forgive yourself.

Anything else is just frustration and lies. Life is short and why not see it truly in all its harm and glory?

Forgiveness is such a relief. As is doing better. Even if it’s really hard work, it’s still easier – albeit more frightening – than fiction. This may seem harsh. I don’t mean it to be. It’s only as true as I can make it.

Have a good weekend. All the best to each and every one.

What A Very Tired Person Who Needs To Recuperate Wears For Three Days And Nights In Napa


Last week my husband and I went up to Napa for a few nights. We stayed, as we have before, at the Carneros Inn. I was so tired.

What I haven’t yet explained is that eight days after my mother moved into her assisted living facility she fell and fractured her hip. Ever since, we’ve been living through hospital stays and transfers of health care power of attorney and new medications and new doctors and more new medications and the ongoing vicissitudes of dementia.

My husband and I had thought that by last week Mom would be settling down and making friends. Not so. But, since our hotel reservations were set, it appeared Mom wouldn’t be sorted out for a while, and my siblings were willing to provide the first line of phone contact, off we went.

I arrived rumpled, saved from rags and tatters only by mirrored Ray-Bans and the clash of lavender tee v. sandy khaki.

Tired and Tiki at the Carneros Inn

In the past year the hotel has built a new structure for wedding ceremonies, replacing their apple orchard. Why they chose this vaguely “Tiki” aesthetic I cannot say. Nor can I understand why they chose artificial turf (on the seating area I’m looking at in this photo which you cannot see), instead of, say, decomposed granite. Except to accommodate the tastes of people who are not me. However.

Our marine layer occupied the land in gray glory. Nights were chilly. I rumpled on.

The Marine Layer with a Vengeance

Note: If you travel to Northern California in the summer bring a large light cashmere/silk scarf. You are unlikely to regret it. Also, I “distressed” those Levis my own dang self by getting in and out of the car and sitting on sofas and wandering the street.

Rumpled Resort Style In Northern California

I warmed up by the pool in daylight. A good light coverup, comfortable and quick-drying, is worth some investment. I wore my pink UNIQLO linen tunic here, but might have chosen an Ondedamar top on other days. A color-blocked wireless Araks bikini underneath, for swimming. So comfortable.

Sun on the skin.

By the Pool at the Carneros Inn

 

A crushable hat.

Poolside Coverings And Unconverings

We ate, mostly here.

Boonfly-#1

 

But one night we mustered for the Farm, the more elegant of the Carneros Inn restaurants. And I pulled myself together in the minimal outfit below. (I didn’t manage to get a decent picture whilst on vacation, so have recreated it on the streets of San Francisco for your entertainment. And that of a few SOMA passersby.)

Dressing-for-Dinner-in-Napa

 

Pink lipstick by Chanel. The dress is new, by Oak, my answer to this search. Comfortable as heck. It is also (at last) a successful attempt to Dress Like Grechen. Shoes are new too, from Stuart Weitzman, an answer to the long search for block sandals. Comfortable enough, could use some moleskine in the toe strap. Even my earrings are new, a Mother’s Day present from my husband, via Blue Nile.

Blue-Nile-Chandeliers

 

Told you I wanted them. 14k gold, light as cotton, on sale.

I, on the other hand, am not new. But it was a privilege and a pleasure to be able to get away.

 

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And One More Happy Thing: Cheekie Winner


Ann Beverly, the Julie Hewett Cheekie blush is yours! Send me an email at the skyepeale address, with your mailing address, and I’ll send it off. Congratulations, and I hope you like it as much as I do.

Volunteering, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:26am


So here’s something happy.

Back in 2015 I watched all of The Wire, and decided I needed to volunteer in a challenged school district. As my son told me later, such a white person thing to do. But, good acts may rescue poor intentions.

In any case, early this year I finally organized the paperwork to work in one of our local grammar schools. It’s just down the street from me, but serves a nearby community made up primarily of Latin American immigrants. Spanish is the first language, English the second. The school underperforms the California metrics by a large margin, and California has poor public schools to begin with, due to Proposition 13. Passed in 1978, Prop 13 means that here, in some of the richest neighborhoods in the country, our property taxes can be extraordinarily low. During a 30-year period where house prices might increase eight-fold, property taxes might only triple. Without property tax revenue, schools are comparatively poor.

That’s not the happy part.

I asked to teach reading to younger kids. I found myself in a classroom of first graders. They had been taught to read in Spanish. They were good at it. They’d learned, on their own to speak English. They were pretty good at that too. Starting in second grade, the district has no money for bilingual education, so they will switch to reading in English only. The teacher was also a native Spanish speaker, with 20 years experience. Very good at her job.

I was there to help prepare for transition. It’s so easy to attach to children at that age. The sweetness of their faces, their brushed hair, the little cheeks to hold oneself back from pinching. I have to bite my teeth together when I’m around cute small children, they are so delicious. In full disclosure, sometimes I was annoyed at the commitment.

I spent two hours, two afternoons per week, sitting at a table with four kids at once. Ten to twelve minutes a session, so everyone in the class got a turn. So little time. But we reviewed word lists, wrote stories, told stories, drew pictures, labelled pictures, talked.

Took me a while to learn all their names. Old brain meet 24 kids. So it became kind of a game, they would rush in from the playground and crowd around my little low u-shaped table, saying, “Miss Lisa, what’s my name?” “And me?”

I don’t want to get too sentimental about this, or distort my importance in any way.

One week it was really warm. The classrooms are trailers, without air conditioning. Anyway, one day, maybe 15 minutes into our class time, the teacher looked at me and said, “We can’t do this. It’s too hot. Let’s go outside.”

So out we went. Luckily, there’s a small playground in the front of the school with a lawn and trees. First I read the kids a book. Do any of you know the Henry and Mudge series? Very cute. Then we just let them play. You could see them, free and at the same time well-behaved, teaching themselves all sorts of things.

One group played tag, working out a game with rules and exploring social dominance. One group followed a caterpillar around, wondering where it came from, chiding those who wanted to experiment with bug squishing. Three boys played the whole time on the push roundabout, only they didn’t push it and they didn’t go round.

When the time came to go back to class, I gathered up the boys at the roundabout. “Miss Lisa,” one said, “We are talking about how we could make a fountain!” They’d dug a moat, and were thinking about how they might run a hose through it, if they had a hose.

I did say to them, “You are engineers!” We did talk about being fountain designers. It’s hard not to want to give kids glimpses into the worlds they might enter. But you can’t marry yourself to outcomes or feel special for what you do.  Just walk along next to three little boys, chatting on a hot day, following a line painted on the walkway. Try not to get a sunburned head. I did learn their names.

If you are in any position to do so, go help someone this year. You might have ulterior motives, you might make mistakes, but if you stay close enough to see that is the best I know about good.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Makeup For Running Out The Door Every Day, If You So Choose, Especially When You Are Over 50


Prepare for a strange but true linkage.

The effects from stress of my mother’s move and care have surprised me. One of the most pronounced – my need to clean up. Not just my house but also emotional detritus. If that makes sense. Sorting through relationships that have foundered, speaking up in places where I’d been silent. And, like today, delivering on commitments that have trailed for years.

A long time ago on this blog, a commenter who goes by HHH (I have met her in person, she is also a Princeton alumna) asked me to do a post on everyday makeup. In her place of work, she noticed that women often over- or under-did it. “OK,” I thought, “I can do that. Maybe a video.” I agreed to post.

Years passed.

I did not forget. The promise nagged. Meanwhile, companies contacted me about reviewing various makeup products. I didn’t engage. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I did.

So here, all in one package from the odd universe:

  1. A post on everyday makeup
  2. The first and probably only video ever of LPC on this blog
  3. A giveaway of a non-toxic, small business, big glamour cream blush

Makeup For Running Out The Door, Every Day

What’s your goal for makeup, absent a special occasion? At 59, mine is to soften, gently, the effects of aging. I find my face is now regressing to the mean, AKA turning a uniform color. My hair, my cheeks, my lips, all but my eyes converge on neutral. And, my skin tone is breaking up, with age spots, etc. As a result, my features get lost in my years.

Makeup returns my face. Not the face I remember, of course. I am not looking to erase wrinkles, or eliminate sag, or color myself up for dark city nights. But, if I’m going to make the effort to paint, which often I will not, I want to make myself more visible.

I’m also trying to move to safer cosmetics, over time. No further ado.

Makeup Video 2016 from LPC on Vimeo.

For Those Who Don’t Like Videos

posie1

  1. Start With The Base Of Face

    1. I use, as I have said, Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer, in Bisque. When this runs out, I’m thinking of trying Juice Cosmetics Tinted Mineral Moisturizer, for safer ingredients. Any other suggestions from the crew? I apply with the Beauty Blender, using the fat end of the sponge, boinging it onto my skin round and round, until I have the coverage I like. If I want to apply extra in places, I use the narrow end.
    2. Then, where needed on age spots, or redness (why redness, why?) I pat on a little Clé de Peau .concealer on my ring finger. Very expensive, but hugely effective. I’m not really prone to dark circles, but I might add some under my eye if inspired. The key is a light touch. We’re not looking for flawless skin, only a blurring of age-induced discoloration
  2. Add A Bloom Of Ancient Roses

    1. I had used, for ages, a YSL cream blush. It was discontinued. As I was searching for a substitute, the Julie Hewett rep contacted me. Would I be interested in reviewing any of their products?
    2. Why yes. Yes I would. Enter Cheekie, in Posie. Feels almost waxy in the pot, but all that makes it to your finger, and then to your cheek, seems to be color. And a beautiful color it is too, subtle, sophisticated. Easily blended on your cheek, quick as a fox. A glamourous pink fox. Thumbs up. Keeping it. Using it. Liking it.
    3. I will probably try some more of the Julie Hewett line. The company is headquartered in Los Angeles, and was founded by a Hollywood makeup artist. All products are cruelty-free.
  3. Consider The Lawrence Girls’ Eyes

    1. My eyes seem to be getting brighter. Bluer. Maybe just in contrast to fading skin, but I like the effect and want to bring it out. So, after I’ve based my face, I move on to eyebrow pencil. Not something I had used in the first 55 years of my life, but now one of my most important tools. I like Givenchy‘s. Because it’s a pencil, you can carelessly draw a few strokes; because it’s powder, you can then brush those strokes into something resembling an eyebrow.
    2. Then mascara. I believe that any tube of new mascara is better than any tube of old mascara. So, for everyday, buy something that darkens your eyelashes without irritating your eyes, and replace it often. I’ve been using Dr. Hauschka for years now. Added bonus, it smells like roses.
    3. Oh, and the Lawrence Girls’ Eyes is how my mother referred to the blue from her side of the family. Very 19th century, don’t you think?
  4. Finally, Lips, To Have And To Smooch

    1. Some women, as they age, rely on vivid lipstick. Sandra Salin does this particularly well. Given that I’m going for Did You See Her Blue Eyes? I like to keep my lipstick sheer and vaguely lip-colored. And, as I’ve aged, my everyday lipstick has progressed from a brick red, to a matte brownish pink, to a lighter brownish pink, and now to pink stick gloss. Currently, Chanel’s Rouge Coco Shine in Étourdie. I do want to find a similar color with safer ingredients. This? One of these?
    2. I’ll often use just a tinted lip balm, usually Burt’s Bee’s in Pomegranate.

Off we go.

Once I realized that videos were not easy, and that peering into my computer made me look my worst, I had second thoughts about posting this. But a commitment is a commitment, if only to oneself. One wonky video in pulled-back hair and pronounced wrinkles of face and shirt surely builds character. It perhaps tests your tolerance; thank you in advance for your forebearance.

Products

We will return to our usual written world directly.

If you’d like to try the Julie Hewett Cheeky, in Posie, let me know in the comments, and I’ll pick a winner Friday and send a pot along.

 

Julie Hewett provided product for review and giveaway, but neither sponsorship nor compensated links. Other links in this post may generate commissions.

Can’t Even Come Up With A Title, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:44am


Just sitting here on the sofa, listening to the Pandora Worldbeat station. Vaguely-Argentine guitar played by a guy named Johannes Linstead. I thought he might be Swedish, given the name, but no. Canadian.

I watch my hands, the veins that run between my knuckles are rising. Age. I’ll be 60 in September – I look forward to new adventures.

Although California’s in a heat wave, our marine layer persists. The sky is overcast, as of 8:24am. The night was cool, you can feel it still. The garden wet from the sprinklers that ran last night at 5pm; it was too hot to cook. I ate paté on sourdough, salsa and chips, some of a chocolate cupcake, an apple past its time. Drank old California cabernet, grown, originally, I suppose, from French vines.

Paris flooded. All safety to the beauty and the people.

Worldbeat.

I may be worrying some of you exceptionally nice people. I’m OK. Just tired from continuing issues with my mother’s care, and unable to muster concepts. I wish I had more to give you, but I’d rather write than not. Thanks for your forbearance.

You know what felt good? I walked outside without shoes, and a little piece of gravel stuck between the sole of my foot and the concrete path. I laughed. I gave my roses extra water, a crow landed nearby.

All the best for your weekend and beyond.

 

Net-A-Porter, The Sale


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Stella McCartney Embroidered Faux Leather. Always appreciate Stella for her commitment to her animal welfare values.

Hi guys. As we’ve learned, now is possibly the best time of the year for a bargain. In that vein, Net-a-porter, the best high-end online retailer in the business, has a sale on. Up to 50% off. From maxidresses with sleeves, to chambray field jackets, to bathing suits, to block heeled sandals. Not to mention denim in all its guises

I’m not buying anything, no budget right now. But, the browsing in and of itself entertains and even inspires me. I’m highly unlikely to wear this Current/Elliot coverall, for example, but it’s a teeny tiny breakfast adventure to imagine.

 

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The Perfect Set Of Outdoor Furnishings – For This Part Of The World


I generally prefer my gardens unfurnished. No statues or windchimes, no mirror balls. That way I can pretend I live on a high lonely hill, looking out. This isn’t an actively narrated pretense, just the kind that mutters when denied.

But summer beats fictions. Live outside we must, cook outside we will. You gotta sit down.

Outdoor furnishings vary between geographies, I assume. In cold climates you either cover or store your stuff, in winter, right? In the South, do you use outdoor furnishing much, or just stay inside in the air conditioning? You can tell, I’m a big baby about heat and humidity. By the sea, you’re thinking about wind, sun, salt. How about the desert? The mountains?

I do know the San Francisco Bay Area, and our particular sort of climate. We don’t need to bring anything inside for the winter. We buy stuff that can get rained on, we call it a day. And, notably, in the summer, it’s often too cool in the evenings to eat outside unless you’ve got the perfect spot.

The-Back-Patio

That’s my spot, above, at the back of our house on an overcast morning. It’s mostly shaded, and too cool for dinners unless our marine layer takes the week off. I have loved that bench, over the years. I sit on the patio watching the light change on hydrangeas. (I might need a cushion, these days, so my body can allow my mind some peace.)

I definitely need a grill. Although it’s too cool to eat outside, it’s perfect weather for cooking. We recently bought this, small, from Weber. One of those things you might as well source online unless you’ve got a very big car to bring it home.

Small Weber Propane Grill

Oh, and trays, plural, are critical for carrying foods back and forth. Use the good silver. Love my iGrill thermometer and app.

But that dumb old white table has to go. I think I’d like something small, round, wooden, to quasi-match the bench? It’d have to be sustainably grown and harvested, the earth needs rain forests and so do we. This one is acacia, and I like Savafieh’s responsibility statement.

Acacia Outdoor Table

Or this less angular one? What about a classic cadiz top? (BTW, Cost Plus World Market is having a sale on outdoor furnishings right now.)

Once we up the table game, surely that Fermob chair from my Christmas list? Some place for the cook’s company to sit. Do I want orange?

Fermob Bistro Chair

If yes, I’d need a muted cushion. Serenity can survive only so much burn. Or, wait?

I think I also want to put a plant in the corner. Something green, to pick up the dwarf maple. My fuchsia grouping is on the right, out of frame. I’ll get the patio power-washed this month, now that the trees are trimmed.

And finally, because Sturdy Gals with over-sensitive aesthetics care , I recently replaced my cheap and ugly bright aqua hoses with wonderful black rubber ones. Discreet, non-kinking, perfect for their task and the landscape. Less toxic than PVC. Seriously.
Black Rubber HosesIt’s all in the details guys, whether you like yours abundant or minimal.

What do your outdoor furnishings look like? Exuberant? Matching? Themed? Or, like mine, what we might politely term, “organic,” or, another forgiving adjective, “unfussy?”

 

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The Greatest Privilege, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:23am


I keep a manual to-do list. Today I look forward to rewriting it. Maybe that’s just foolish morning optimism, as often on waking I feel joy for no clear reason. But maybe it’s just been a difficult few months. When I’m neither overwhelmed nor enraged some part of me likes managing hard projects.

The greatest privilege, it seems to me, is having enough reserve capacity – either from genetics or experience or extended family and friends – to observe and infer. Even during very bad times.

Ah, I am sure the greatest privilege is never to face impossible times.

But I do feel lucky to be learning from what’s been going on with my mother’s Alzheimer’s. Looking outward, I realize just how much everyone fumbles. My family’s belief in and attempts at excellence are not standard. And raging about that gets one nowhere. Looking inward, I see how weak I am in a fight, and how sturdy in simply going along. Particularly when there is someone to care for.

I also see what a hard time I have listening without jumping to conclusions. My  desire for meaning often outstrips what I’m able to absorb.

Anyway, as I said, now’s my favorite time of year. As spring is to colder climates – a promise, a time outside of time – so is early summer to California. Every bit of our bones cries out, “Dry me! Blast out whatever decayed in the cold!” Or, lower-key,  we murmur, “How nice to be warm, and dry, and out under the long blue.”

Have a good weekend everyone. And boundless joy for no discernible reason whenever possible.

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