Summer Is For We Old, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:02am

I was driving through town yesterday, California blue sky filling my dashboard, and I wondered, “Was summer different when I was young?”

The thing is, I don’t remember Summer, per se. I remember some days swinging, some days alone in meadows, some days at school when sun shone in the windows and hit the table as I worked. I think Summer, the California sort at least, is too big for a child to grasp. Children experience the moment more strongly than we do but the seasons, less.

That’s something to love about getting older. I remember yesterday, but I also remember tomorrow. The tomorrow from last year and the year before. Yes, we relinquish our hold on the immediate as we age. Yes, our senses weaken. But the accompanying distance makes it easier to see patterns, that proverbial big picture.

I think the task is to find our same strong joy in rhythmic passage as children do in the single flash. We recognize the highs and lows. I didn’t know then but I do now that the absolute peak of California’s summer happens right at Nordic Midsommar. Next year I’ll celebrate. Making the most of my time.

I think we also get to ignore any melancholy brought by perspective, and its inevitable view of the end, and just enjoy the little known fact that Summer is also for the older. How great that we don’t run out of surprises.

Have a wonderful weekend.

15 Existential First Steps To Redoing Your House

As I delve into what we might call, “Conscious House Decor,” I believe I find myself in the same situation as some of you re: clothing. Let’s see. Does this sound familiar?

The Privilege[d] 15 Steps To Redoing Your House Decor [It's Kind Of Like Building A Wardrobe]

  1. Take a look at your house (closet)
  2. Find it comfortable, for the most part, but clearly lacking
  3. Wonder how it happened, how you have lived so long with cracks in your walls (ill-fitting clothes), rooms with no rugs (no dresses to speak of), and a complete lack of finish (accessories? what accessories?)
  4. Pore through Pinterest boards, unearth online magazines and other resources, find small blogs where the author’s aesthetic and voice appeals
  5. Do this again.
  6. Do this again and again and again
  7. Realize that all you are learning is what you don’t like
  8. Realize that everything you do like costs enormous sums of money that you do not have
  9. Become profoundly overwhelmed

And then, tell yourself you are in your 6th damn decade and you need to put on your big girl pants and find a place to start. Anchor your learning. It’s easier to learn small than learn big.

10. Review Priorities To Sidestep The Overwhelm

So where to start? Even though the kids’ rooms are most in need of help, and therefore tempting to fix, I have to remember that my children live elsewhere, and I haven’t yet settled on just what we will make of that space. My living room/dining room/kitchen room, for it is all one, is good enough for now. Which leads us to the master bedroom.

I made a list of what I don’t like in bedroom decor, because it amused me. Laughter is good for perseverance. Let me point out that these are personal tastes, not broad judgement. Because I am unlikely to ever see your bedroom, you get to do with it exactly as you choose and I have not one word to say in the matter. The High WASP voices may boss me, but they aren’t allowed to speak to you at all unless you issue an invitation.

11. What I Don’t Like In A Bedroom

  • Distressed surfaces
  • Round mirrors with sunrays
  • Curvy headboards
  • Too many pillows
  • Totally neutral/monochromatic because, drowning
  • Pops of color because, startling
  • Words on the walls
  • Too much stuff of any sort on the walls, including twinkle lights
  • Chandeliers, which I love everywhere else
  • Fur or skin with hair or leather
  • Most importantly, anything that hints at Trying Too Hard including but not limited to: overly artful piles and vignettes; swags of matching fabric; glitter As I said, the High WASP voices may talk to me. In fact they will.

Then I remembered that I already know what I do like, at the highest level.

12. What I Always Like And Why Should This Be Any Different?

  • Comfort
  • Serenity
  • Simple elegance
  • Nonchalance
  • Intent (That’s the hard part. Nonchalant intent, as though I meant my life, and the house just followed.)

I simply need to figure out how to implement my abstractions into actual furnishings. I say “simply,” you can and probably should laugh out loud. I think it looks like this:

  • Lots of space to throw clothes on – upholstered chairs, chaise longues, even a sofa if there’s space
  • Bedside tables for books
  • Good lamps on those tables
  • Serene but textured linens
  • A beautiful and very quietly patterned rug
  • One more pattern on some cushions, possibly a toile
  • Just a few items on surfaces, often glass, meaning- or use-ful
  • Minimal framed artwork, probably photos since that’s what I’ve got
  • Lots of light, high ceilings, and hardwood floors. That part’s done already.

13. Gathering The Resources For Knowledge

When faced with a new project, one should always acknowledge how little one knows. Done. And understand how important it is to gather resources. Here’s where I’m starting, in alphabetical order, taken from my Feedly sidebar.

And one book. I admit to never having read anything about interior style until Reggie Darling introduced me to Maureen Footer. This is on my coffee table and has been opened. Review to follow.

14. Admit To Constraints

I have a budget. There. I said it. It’s not nothing, and it’s not unlimited, and there’s the rub. I know how to Spend Almost Nothing; I know how to spend all the LaLaLaLa Money. But the realistic, You Are Financially Comfortable Albeit Constrained, Therefore Plan Wisely money, that will be new. Also known as Why Every Rug May Not Have To Be Tibetan.

I sense a spreadsheet in my future. How do you guys budget for house decor? Consciously?

15. Feel No Shame In Enlisting Support But No Guilt In Sticking To Your Preferences Either

Finally, I ask you all, of good taste and experience, “Any more preparations to make?” And I thank you for reading, for lending your voices, and for understanding those occasions when, despite all good advice, I persist in my sometimes unique preferences.

Just as with clothes, we may not always follow generally understood best practices, but we do want to know what they are.

What’s A Summer Sale For, Or, That Thing You Didn’t Know You Needed

Summer sales, to my way of thinking, are for finding that one thing you didn’t know you needed. We’re heading into July and in most parts of the USA it’s only going to get hotter. Pieces you’ve relied on are going to give up the ghost.

Something new is something crisp.


If I weren’t spending so much time in my garden right now I’d go to Halsbrook, land of the Grande Dame, and snap up this black poplin dress. It’s available only in an Italian 40/US size 4, but that’s how these sales work. Serendipity, that size, that color, that fabric.  This ia from Les Copains, down from $495 to $198. Something else might be waiting for you. Maybe it’s floral silk; only you know.

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In Praise Of Shy Hydrangeas

Above you see what I think of as Classic Hydrangea. A community, massed in uniform volume, vegetable origin a distant memory. Transmuted from plant to decor. All well and good. But there’s another mode of hydrangea to consider – the Shy Woodland Creature. And such I’ve come to love.


To set context, my backyard is a woodland. Well, in the same way as my front yard is a cottage garden, i.e.  a Northern California remix of the archetype. One aging but stalwart 60-year old Chinese Evergreen Elm shades a very small gathering of woodland-ish plants. I use the “Ish” suffix advisedly, as you will see. This is an imaginary forest made up of plants from everywhere.


Here’s the forest-ish floor. Starting from the lower left-hand corner: ferns, hellebore, a path that needs new bark cover, native iris, Japanese anemones, a woody shrub whose name I do not know so sue me,  phormium (AKA New Zealand Flax – I told you it was a global forest – of the  yellow-leaved variety,) lacecap hydrangea (hydrangea macrophylla normalis – why normalis we wonder?) and the branches of a rather young dogwood.

The hydrangea at left mingles with the dogwood foliage. Look to the right, and you’ll see there’s another Hyding behind Nameless Woody Shrub. Get it? Nothing like gardening to bring out the dumb humor.


Look closer. When the wind blows, both shrub and phormium wave, causing pink to flicker through the mostly green of my yard. I should note that my living area (kitchen, dining, sofa-intensive-comfort-zone) is lined with windows and this is the view. Excellent for general calming of the spirit.

I’ve read that nature’s patterns, like leaves in the sunlight and the waving of branches, do in fact settle our metabolisms. How about that.


In this garden, you have to wander to find the grace of complex flower heads. Set foot on a path.


I have two lacecap varieties by the way, one pink, one with variegated leaves and white and lavender flowers. There’s something about the similar but different patterning that feels right. Just enough visual commonality to say intent, just enough variance to suggest nature.


To be sure, these hydrangea are shy for good reason. You can see here how more low plantings just might be a good idea to disguise their short-comings.

  • They’re deciduous, as in the leaves fall off after when the plant’s done blooming.
  • They’re prone to legginess – i.e. lots of naked stalks – if you forget to cut them back.
  • Their low flower to leaf ratio, charming in dappled shade, might reveal all kinds of browning and spotting were they planted front and center.

Perhaps I could do something about the biological fraying, but if it involves chemicals and fussing, no. Water, inspect, and subject to long chats is my plant care strategy.


You might think to collect some of the pink for a brief moment of shape and color, as I did here, but prepare to be sweeping up endless small floral bits. Shy creatures offer all kinds of joy from afar but may protest close quarters.

Spare Toddlers And Ladies, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:04am

Nephew Evidence

With little children I used to wish, fervently, to live in co-housing. The more time around other families, and other people, the better. I practically co-reared with my best friend down the street. When she moved, I mourned, even though it was just to the next town over.

Later, in the days of teenagers, I felt less of a pull towards the communal. Our kids of course had their own cohort, the ballet studio, the soccer team, the friends. I had work.

Now, at 57 and retired, I find myself occasionally useful to mothers of young ones. My young nephew’s nanny was sick recently; I took care of him for the day. Aside from almost forgetting that he needed a second nap, and zooming him bumpily home in a stroller to sleep, it was a good deal all around. I had fun and warmed my old heart, his parents trusted that I would not run off with him or leave him in the bathtub unattended or feed him whiskey before bedtime, he tolerated it all with good humor.

Today I’m visiting a young friend faced with a traveling husband, a toddler, and the tiredness that comes from a heavy but productive work week.

I still haven’t found quite the right volunteer opportunity, but perhaps we could start a retired lady sharing service, like those aqua bikes on the streets of San Francisco? Pick us up in our gardens, set us to toddler-wrangling for half a day, drop us off at the tearoom. Or the bar. We understand why some cultures deem all adult friends of little ones Uncles and Aunties.

I can’t quite say It Takes A Village, because these mothers and their children are doing very well. But I remember in business school, where in fact I learned only 10 things of any particular use, I took a class on Operations Research. Spare Resources are critical to a smooth-running system, you need something in reserve for the days when the setup is over-taxed.

It’s easy to see how Retired Ladies are a good spare resource. We’ve played that role forever, showing up with metaphorical cakes and pies, airing old motherhood instincts. But I think toddlers can be spare resources to the human system, reminding us that people are minor miracles. We talk! We discover the physical properties of objects, and sometimes must cry about them! We miss our mothers. We love spoons.

Spending time with toddlers you almost remember what it was like when you didn’t want to go to bed. But most of all, you’re struck how much like the pulse of a small animal is human trust.

When my family gathered for Father’s Day, and my nephew came into my house happy in my sister-in-law’s arms, he looked up at me for a minute. And then he smiled the smallest smile. Nothing big, no reaching out in joy, “Oh Aunt Lisa! Let me come to you!” Just teeny.

That night he played with my daughters’ old Polly Pockets, which, yes, I keep because I’m a sentimental old fool and because they come in handy for just such an occasion. He reached into the sea of pink plastic, picked out a Polly Pocket school bus, put it to the floor and said, “Vrrooom.” I’m sure I will stow it away at some point, but for now, it sits in the corner of my back hall.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone, graced with Spare Toddlers, if you so desire.

A Deconstructed, Imaginary, Celebrity, Mom’s Afternoon Out At The Standard High Line Biergarten

How’s that for a title?

As you all know, lots of requests float toward us in the blogosphere. Most often I decline. (This post here posited the life I might lead if I accepted more broadly.) However, I do participate in offers, when a good giveaway is involved, or when I find the merchant requesting particularly interesting. The oddest experience of course being the Sodastream live video announcement featuring Scarlett Johansson and Mohawk Man.

Recently I got a request involving no goods at all. The only quid pro quo would be mention of the post on social media streams. A woman named Kendra Thornton, who looks to be in her late 30s, runs a PR firm, does television segments on travel, attends social functions in Chicago, and has 3 kids ( so maybe she’s early 40s), sent me an email. “Dress me for a visit to the Standard High Line!” it said.

Despite the odd, random, clearly-marketing-driven-but-not-clearly-by-whom setup, I couldn’t resist. It’s New York, and a boutique luxury hotel at that.

How did I choose her outfit? Just as I would if anyone wanted suggestions on what to wear in a similar situation.

  1. Understand the wearer’s preferences and constraints. From the Internet, it appears that Kendra favors solid colors, a tan, and is happy to show a little collarbone.
  2. Understand the locale, and the zeitgeist. I knew Manhattan, I love Manhattan, but I live in the California Bay Area. I’ve been to the High Line park, but never to the hotel. So how fortunate that Duchesse had recently returned from the city bearing tales of corset tops and floating skirts.
  3. Understand, or in this case imagine, a Use Case. While the Standard High Line has several places to eat – one of which apparently you can only enter if you are that fabled Manhattan creature, Cool Enough – what do I know of all that now in my suburban life? But I never forgot summer afternoons in the city. You’ve braved the urban grit in sandals, walked through the streets only looking, you find a chair as the heat is just turning and sit, in shade, and feel the day’s passing and a faint thrum of subway.
  4. Survey the totality for that moment of aesthetic Yes.

Here goes.

Untitled #188


  • A corset top by Alexander McQueen, in black, because, Manhattan, check.
  • A floaty skirt, but toughened just a tad with chambray, check.
  • Tan and black sandals in the leather-crafted look kicked off, I believe, by the Ancient Greek brand. We are not sure the shoes will work for ping pong, we will wait for the imaginary report back.
  • Wrapped metallic bead bracelet, gold post earrings (sold out, but from here), because, summer.
  • A bucket bag, in this year’s newest silhouette, by the largely sold-out trend originator, Mansur Gavriel (tan/black/brown still available). In blush, because, sophisticated, and she got there early.
  • Red, red lipstick, to be noticed, and to fall in with Jo Goddard and Zooey Deschanel. A slightly more Maker Faire look than Kendra’s usual.

I trust her to cut loose a little and choose her own beer.

The final component of this request was to include some text in its entirety. Read this with head cocked quizzically.

“Designing the Fashion Forward Mom

Are you interested in fashion? Do you love putting together just the right outfit for any occasion? Now is your opportunity to help a hard-working mother have a stylish time at one of New York’s hottest hotels. In Kendra’s Fashion Challenge, you will provide trendy advice to a busy mom who could use a little help in putting together a beautiful wardrobe.

While The Standard, High Line Hotel is well known for its variety of fine-dining and entertainment opportunities, you will be organizing an outfit for the Top of the Standard. At the Top of the Standard, not only are there provided calming beverages during the day, such as tea, but in the evening the lounge picks up energy with live Jazz music and specialty drinks. In this light but fine dining experience sophistication is a must, and so too is an outfit that can look good in both the sunset and the moonlight.

As is known across America and across the globe, New York provides the most unique fashion and travel opportunities in the world. This means that striking attire is a necessity. This is the Big Apple we are talking about here, don’t just design something that will look good, think of something that will stand out and make people take notice. In the city of bright lights, brilliant artists, and cultures from every place imaginable, it’s your job to make any person want to turn their head and take notes. This isn’t just about astounding others however; remember that this dedicated mom wants to have a fun night out on the town. Looking fantastic should not have to be uncomfortable, or in need of constant maintenance. Think fashion forward without all the fuss, think sophistication without all the seriousness of a catwalk. This is New York, looking stylish comes naturally.”

As you see, I broke the rules by choosing the Biergarten, by dressing down, by any number of things. I suspect I’ll be forgiven. This is all imaginary. The request seems to have been made to increase Gogobot’s social media profile – the outfit will almost certainly never be worn.

I say almost certainly because Manhattan is a very big city, with industrial-strength capacity to surprise, as a summer afternoon slips into evening. Someone might be wearing a black corset top with chambray skirt even now, they might be reapplying red lipstick on the High Line.


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The Joys Of A Cabochon, Which Is Pronounced Ka-Bo-Shawn, But You Knew That Already

Back when, I indulged myself in this pair of turquoise danglers. Wore them frequently, loved them much.

Turquoise Earrings from Barneys

And then, sadly, one got lost. Happily, however, the people at Finn Jewelers were of great help. I mailed off the earring I hadn‘t lost to New York, along with a check for $250, and got back a whole new matched pair. Still some of my favorite earrings (along with these from Beladora, and these from Vicente Agor.)

Which brings us to the cabochon. Seems modern, somehow. The unfaceted, the matte, the convex, all align with ugly sandals and watches made in Detroit. Or so it feels. One could start big, at Beladora. Although this is an Art Deco piece, star sapphires seem ever so mid-century to me.

Beladora-Art_Deco_Star_Sapphire_and_Diamond_Ring_in_Platinum-0-460x346You can, if you must, jazz up your cabochon with trim, at Farfetch.

Turquoise and Emerald EarringsOr venture into the realm of costume jewelry, where I think a cabochon excels. These are from our friend Tory Burch.

Tory Burch via Shopbop

Cabochons can in fact be had that are not blue. Shocker. Turquoise and lapis dominate the field, I admit, but red resin recovers.

Yochi-02202013-012-gold-red-beads-earrings-MNot to forget our fingers, or the joys of pale stones. From Beladora, in its non-stratospheric guise.


And finally, because America’s national holiday is coming up on the 4th of July, we let a few facets joint the party for some wholly affordable red, white, and, well, yes, blue.

4th of July Earrings via 6pm

Gleam on, my friends, there are times to give sparkle a rest. In case you need just one more look, Vicente Agor makes a beautiful set, here.

Finn Turquoise Cabochon via Barneys
Andrea Fohrman at Farfetch
Beladora Star Sapphire Ring
Tory Burch
Yochi via Max and Chloe
Beladora Vintage Angelskin Coral Ring
Sparkling Sage 4th of July via 6pm

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Flowers In The House, Lace Cap Hydrangea Edition

It’s Monday, these are flowers, so it must be time for Flowers In The House! In Northern California, we’ve moved to hydrangea season, accompanied by Thank You Very Much For A Second Bloom white roses. And a few stalks of lavender.

Here, in a red carpet closeup.


And here, on the table, where they waited last night for a Father’s Day dinner with my family. That’s Grandmama’s mirror in the back, underlaid by a flock of family photos, speaker and several Swedish glass objects.


To be cleared away before eating, because lovely though they are, we like each other’s faces even more. I did put more placemats down, do not worry. I even let my guests have plates and forks.

If you jump on over to Jane’s blog, Small But Charming, you’ll find more lace cap, and a host of actual florists gathering flowers for your enjoyment. Happy Monday to all.

World Cup From A Middle-Aged Lady’s Perspective, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:48am

Mexico vs. Cameroon via ESPN


World Cup, guys! Are you excited? For many reasons, I find this more fun than any other sportsapalooza. A metric? I’ve installed the GOAL sidebar in Firefox, so I don’t have to wonder which game is being played when.

And how come?

Personal history, in part. My counterculture high school fielded a soccer team, instead of football. Our guys played with long hair and bandana headbands and we were cool. In college, one of my best friends was a guy who had a) grown up in Hungary b) escaped over the border with his parents at 14 c) attended high school in Canada d) been recruited to Princeton to play soccer.

So I hung out with the soccer team all senior year. Might have dated that best friend too, briefly. When Pelé and Beckenbauer came to the US, and the Cosmos played in New York, we went to a game. So did the world, it seemed, or at least its representatives.

And then my son’s time as center midfielder in high school. Vivid memories of that so smart teenager, watching the field, never making a mistake.

Of course, soccer is harder to enjoy on television. But coverage has improved enormously over the years, and ESPN GO makes it easy to catch up on the lore we in the USA might miss. While I may not want background stories on minor characters in Game Of Thrones (it’s pretend! I’m suspending disbelief! don’t complicate things!), they do make for  a better soccer experience.

A question that’s been puzzling me. Why does soccer seems to produce more photos of good-looking men than any other sport? Many possible explanations. Football and hockey players wear too much headgear, basketball players never stop moving long enough for a shot, baseball players are too often prone to unusual facial hair and golfers to tummies. Now, Olympic athletes, hmmm, but I just can’t get past swim caps.

Call me old-fashioned.

Finally, soccer’s global reach gives humankind the chance to show up civilized. Or not, of course, as recent struggles with racism and thuggery prove out. But I like to watch the stands almost as much as the games, to imagine the lives of the players and fans, to compare the body languages of different cultures.

“High WASPs did not originally understand the falling down to bring a foul call, but we now believe it’s quite a good strategy, under the circumstances.”

Columbia vs. Greece starts in 10 minutes. South Africa’s 2010 World Cup brought us the vuvuzela – Brasil, what you got?

Photo credit: ESPN

4 Bathing Suits You Maybe Thought You’d Never Wear

Editors Update: I have just heard back from an inquiry to River Island about charges on returns – in fact they DO NOT accept returns on swimwear. DO NOT buy the jeweled top or high-waisted bikini bottom below unless you are sure you will keep it. Which, WHO WOULD DO THAT? My apologies!


Have you quit a few bathing suit styles forever? Do you scold them as you shop, “No way buster, not in your lifetime!” But do you also find yourself sighing as you put one leg, and then the other, into your old reliable tankini?

I suggested that if you are ever to experiment with swimsuit fashion, this is the year.

  1. Designers now offer almost any combinations you can imagine
  2. Adventurous suits are available at multiple price points
  3. Online commerce means you can indulge in Blitz Shopping, i.e. order 20 suits, try them on at home (where you don’t have to hop around a too small, mirrored, badly lit, box trying to encase yourself in stubborn nylon), return what you won’t wear.

You might ask, adventurous suits even in midlife? And yes, especially in midlife, if you want. With any luck, we know our shapes. With any luck, we are fond of them, either for their geometry or the good job they have done at any number of things. So we can cover judiciously, expose precisely but jauntily, and enjoy our bathing suits as we do our other clothes.

In any case, we’ll never know ’til we try. A few possibilities.

The Bejeweled Top And Pareo, Taking A Page From 1001 Nights

For the small-busted among us, I highly recommend a sparkly bikini top, here, with a cotton pareo, here. I spent decades in flattering and dignified one-piece suits. Then I went to Hawaii the Christmas after my divorce, alone for Christmas Day, eventually joined by my children. As fortification, I bought a sequined Brazilian bikini. I wore it with a pareo when on land, and felt all kinds of alluring and elegant.

Pink Jeweled Bikini Top


Everything But Water Pareo

No one seemed shocked in the slightest, and I found my cleavage and ribcage very reassuring.

A High-Waisted Bikini, Palms Optional

We discussed this possibility, last year, because here at Privilege we are nothing if not trend-spotters. Well, in 2014 high-waists are everywhere. While my friend @kidchamp says Not A Good Look, I can’t help but wonder if that’s always true. River Island makes it easy for we Americans, and the citizens of its home territory, the UK, to give it a try, here.

High Waisted Bikini

Surfer Garb

Surfers and teens have made the rash guard both cool and ubiquitous. Well OK then. A long-sleeved tee, in essence, reducing the need for sunscreen? I can work with that, especially in a ladylike tulip print from Madewell.

Madewell Rash Guard



You had perhaps vowed never to wear a skirted suit. As did we all at the same times as we swore never to own a minivan, never to wear orthopedic sandals, never to be seen in a cloth floppy-brimmed hat. Ah, the hubris of youth. Fortunately, the industry has realized that we might actually want to wear a swim skirt, and we might want to feel stylish while so doing. This ruffled one’s by Gottex, available at Macy’s. They’ve got all kinds of options in all kinds of sizes, ruched, crochet-trim, classic.

Ruffled Swim Skirt

Bonus Recommendation #1: L.L.Bean

And, if you’re thinking, “This woman is off her rocker,  I WANT MY TANKINI MISSY,” or the equivalent, there’s nothing wrong with that. Good news is that L.L.Bean has stepped up their game. Megan, one of our commenters here, works often in swimming pools. Her recommendation?

LLBean Floral Tankini

Bonus Recommendation #2: A Scarf For Your All Important Neck

In closing, A Note On Style, a fashion blog I’ve been reading, recently recommended wearing a scarf on the beach for extra SPF on the neck. Think about it. Might be too much flapping, might be brilliant. But if you see a middle-aged lady on the beach in Hawaii this winter, all scarfed up, promise you won’t be shocked.

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