The Sturdy Gal Hears The Call Of The Moors And Succumbs

I meant to get a J. Crew field jacket in black, but they discontinued the color. So, here I am now that California is raining. And raining. And raining.

We shall call this Queen Elizabeth tromps the moors and then gets on a motorcycle.

A photo posted by Lisa Carnochan (@amidprivilege) on

A Barbour Beadnell in waxed cotton. Classic, meaning boxy as heck. Meant to last for eons, if you send it back for rewaxing now and again. Worn with these Aquatalia boots, Citizens of Humanity jeans, a Stutterheim hat, and an old, old, grommeted belt. A little moto always saves the Sturdy Gal from her proudly dowdy heart.

I am so glad to see the rain again.

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Twinning Round The World

I’m friends with a group of young women in the UK, and one of them wore this Boden sweatshirt in a selfie.

So I got one too. Mostly cotton, comfortable, gold polka dots. Surely you would have done the same. Especially since it’s on sale for under $50. Surely you would have.

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Blue Nile End Of Year Sale With Bows On

Blue Nile is having their end of year sale. These bows are on back order – but try a phone call if you love them as I do. Good for a bride, traditionally, but even better with a motorcycle jacket.

In fact, right now Blue Nile is offering some pretty good savings on diamond jewelry in general. If diamonds can be said to be “in general,” ever.

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When You Didn’t Know You Needed A Sequin Bomber Jacket But You Did

My Christmas present in this years draw.

Thank you to my stepmother, who knew I needed this when I did not. Worn here on Instagram, on sale 40% off here. Note: I usually wear a size 6 or 8 in American jackets. I’m wearing this in a 34  – small, in other words, which makes it way better.

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Christmas Gift Cards, Sunny Skies

Christmas gift cards mean a new beach tote around here. With tassels!

Hope your holidays were lovely.

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Christmas, Happily, To Within An Inch Of Its Life

This year, as I predicted here, I went all out for Christmas. Or, as I say in the High WASP sardonic dialect we use around sentiment, to within an inch of its life. Having poked all manner of craft items into my front door cyclamen, I lit them. Burlap bow rimmed with gold; the same ribbon rumpled in the pot.

Having purchased not one, not two, but three gaudy fake, um, I think, poinsettia garlands (oh, wait, Pier One tells me they are fake amaryllis, not remotely the same), I hung them.

Next to two very cute and cold small children, courtesy my stepmother, 1992-ish.

Up close. Any time I get too close to anything I see myself.

Having at the end of last year’s Christmas (when I felt I had somehow Not Done Enough), purchased a flying Moomintroll candle thingie, I’ve put it on my dining room table next to a Hong Kong bowl full of metallic Christmas ornaments and an ironic silver spoon. Also a menorah I plan to fill with gold Hanukkah candles. All out, I tell you, all out for Christmas Eve’s Kwissmukkah.

But, having lived 60 years a High WASP, I have not greatly changed the tree. Traditions evolve but stay. My new pine cone lights are beautiful, albeit battery-operated? Huh? Ah well, the battery holders are small and translucent; they accede to invisibility.

And in a final stroke of good fortune, the Isle of Skye sent me a ruffled cashmere cardigan, in red. I’ve wanted a Christmas sweater since I don’t know when. Welcome! I am holding something behind my back, but I’m coming out in a minute to show you what it is, along with our gaudy glittered pre-lit Christmas cone tree.

First the back story on Isle of Skye. In 2012 I published a cashmere review post. At the time, I gave Isle of Skye a thumbs down. So, nice Rita, the owner of the company, got in touch with me a month or so ago to ask if she could replace the offending twin set with a new piece and see if I changed my mind.

Well, I did.

Lo and behold this ruffled cardigan! Sturdy Gals don’t do ruffles, usually, but these are so well-behaved. Besides, the Grand Dame Grandmama would have approved, and Artsy Cousins are remarkably tolerant during Christmastime.

It’s cold outside, no?


Oh yes, the cone tree. Still picking holographic glitter out of our rug.

I highly recommend a similar black pants, smoking slippers, red cardigan, bright jewelry ensemble for festivities. I expect this one to last a long time, although I may have to replace the shoes since my feet keep growing. Throw me in the briar patch. I’m wearing gold, and a cherry red, but of course you might like warmer or cooler shades. You might also want to dilute the Sturdy with more Artsy details in the components.

Alexander McQueen always says, “OK then!” to Artsy.

And now off to count stocking presents. Everyone gets seven this year.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, peace and quiet to those who do not. We’ll see you in the Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day, in a festive cross-cultural banquet.

You are all quite dear to me.

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Taking Stock Of Online Life, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:01am

This morning I was poking around on Facebook. I decided, then and there, to winnow my “friend” pool. Why? I never meant to be on Facebook, I joined back when I was blogging in an anonymous High WASP way, I was connected to several people I don’t actually know and with whom I share very little.

So I posted about my intentions, hoping in a non-anonymous High WASP way not to hurt anyone’s feelings. Then I “unfriended.”

All this was, as I said there, pretty inconsequential. But it did make me want to ask you guys, how’s your online life these days?

This is me. I blog here. You know what that is, at least for the moment. My Twitter is for politics of all sorts, with the occasional links to good clothes. I chat there, I joke, I express outrage. I’ve made a systematic effort to follow respectable sources of opposing viewpoints, i.e. the National Review, and to make a special list for Privilege readers.

I post the occasional photo to Instagram. I am not good at answering comments and may try to do better. I also have accounts on Snapchat and Pinterest, but don’t use either of them much at all. I’ll still pin photos from my blog or search for something on Pinterest, I still look at Snaps from one blogger I like, but that’s it.

And you? Plans for 2017? I have been very lax with Instagram follows, much more enthusiastic on Twitter, but if you have a handle you’d like me to engage with, leave it in the comments or email me and I will muster. And if you’ve decided to back away, from what, and why? If I can ask.

Have a good weekend everyone. Human beings are what we’ve got as a fellow species.

The Books Of 2016 Were The Best Part Of The Year, But Some I Hated And Some I Simply Couldn’t Remember

Lucky for humanity, even the most awful of years give us good books. Thank you writers.

I will confess that I have come to think about reading in terms of Use Cases, i.e. when, and in what form, I will read what. This is perhaps not the pure approach literature deserves. I would apologize but I’ve used up my store of sorries for the year and I hope a weak smile suffices.

In any case, we’ve got:

  • Books you want to live in. These you are going to want to page back into and back up out of. You will want to revisit the early chapters to see if the events now excoriating your heart were foretold, to check the book’s jacket and the author’s bio, finally, to see if they matter. These books are worth buying in paper; actually they demand it. Worth delaying your purchase gratification for shipment or a trip to the bookstore, worth holding in two hands.
  • Good Kindle (e-of any sort) books. Perfect at bedtime. These stories are simple enough, or their details so unimportant, you can happily consume small digital servings of words as they come. These books can still address important issues, can and should give you good characters.
  • Not so good books. In this category we have the ones that everyone loves except you. We’ve also got uninspired narratives you’ve read but can’t remember a single detail, and pap you can remember solely for how much you wanted to throw it over the fence into your neighbor’s yard. The annoying neighbor, mind you.

Books Worth Buying In Paper, Hard Or Soft

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara. I’m reading this right now. When I wake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep I don’t mind because two hours with this book enrich my life. Even in darkness. What’s so great about it? The deep patience Yanagihara has for absolutely everything in a novel. She never takes the easy way out. This story of four men, friends in college when the book begins, (so far I’ve made it to their 40s, I don’t know yet where it will finish,) inhabits me. Not by any means easy, I have to add. The book includes detailed descriptions of the practice of “cutting,” and less detailed but more miserable stories of child abuse.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel – Anthony Marra. Published in 2014. I’m also halfway through this. I’ll admit, dealing with my mother’s move, fall, and subsequent care, meant I read nothing but fantasy the first three quarters of the year. I’m trying to catch up now. Constellation is patient and skillful, like Little Life, Its setting in Chechnya makes it somewhat more demanding of the American reader, i.e., not so good for the middle of the night.

The Neapolitan Novels – Elsa Ferrante. This series has been reviewed and discussed everywhere. Materfamilias is hosting a read-along series here. When I read the first book, My Neapolitan Friend, I felt I was experiencing an entirely new kind of literature. So female, in a way that made clear to me how much of literature is male. If the thought of four books gives you pause, just read the first one. Even that will add to your understanding of the idea of women.

Good Kindle Books

The Gilded Years – Karin Tanabe – Addy, an African-American woman attends Vassar. However, the story’s set in 1897, so she has to pass as white. Based on a true story, the novel gives us one of those useful simple slices of complex history. Heavy on Vassar detail, the privileged girlish traditions contrast with Addy’s life and what she faces.

The Raven King (And all the Raven Boys books) – Maggie Stiefvater. As I said, the first half of my year was heavy on fantasy. This series is one of the best of type – particularly in the Young Adult genre. Boys, cars, a girl, prep school, Welsh-sounding royalty, magic tale-telling. Read all of it. So lovely.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel – Helen Simonson. A retired widowed English major meets a working widowed Indian woman. Their families have opinions, so does the village. Way, way more affecting than it sounds. Romance and racial dynamics told in the standard Village of Britain voice makes for a surprisingly powerful story. One of my favorites of the year.

Vinegar Girl – Anne Tyler. Taming of the Shrew for modern times. Cute! Good bedtime reading.

Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld. Also cute. Pride and Prejudice in modern day Cincinnati. Darcy is a neurosurgeon. Not Jane Austen, but, then, we have Jane Austen for that.

The Girls – Emma Cline. Reviewed briefly here. I stick by my assessment – beautifully, vividly written, not quite enough for a novel but worth a read. In retrospect, it illuminates a decade without relying on Klieg lights.

Well-Reviewed Books That I Didn’t Like Much

Commonwealth – Ann Patchett. Somehow, the same patience and detail I love in A Little Life bored the heck out of me in Commonwealth. Go figure. Perhaps I was still knee deep in emergency when I read it, and couldn’t open up to its careful emotions.

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff. OK, so, to me, and perhaps only to me, this book reads like dilute William Faulkner marries Edith Wharton and they populate a novel with preppy-shaded shadow puppets. Cardboard characters make a lot of money and navigate a privileged life even though they had sad childhoods. Everyone else loved it.

Nope, Nope, Nope

Real Life & Liars – Kristina Riggle. Since I have considered (now and again) writing a Kindle-variety book myself, I thought I should research good “women’s novels.” Real Life was bad data. The plot arc is so visible from the beginning I could have recited aloud what was coming next. I deduct extra points for use of weather phenomena to create drama, and for characters I wouldn’t want to overhear in an airport, much less spend time with in a book.

I Don’t Even Remember What These Were About And That Doesn’t Worry Me Too Much

Sunday’s On The Phone To Monday – Christine Reilly. When I looked at the reviews I did kind of eventually remember it. Kind of. It wasn’t bad.

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty. Australia. Money. Friends. Children. Oh just watch the TV miniseries. It’s coming soon.

The Flotsam And Jetsam Of A Reading Life

No need to discuss the rest of what you see on my Kindle, in depth. At a certain point it’s no longer fun to diss unloved books. But don’t you rejoice when you find a good one?

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La Garçonne, Thoughtfully On Sale

A good sale’s on at La Garçonne, site for Polished Tomboy gear. While I’ve never enjoyed the models’ deadpan stares, and find some of the clothes too-too, they do very well at upleveled basics. Which Polished Tomboys appreciate beyond measure.

Red tartan from from Comme des Garçons anyone?

Isabel Marant also offers a gorgeous red wool moto jacket, Chimala’s got your 100% cotton selvedge denim, Julien Terry your anime-illustrated sweatshirt – oh, wait, maybe that’s mine. And, in the kind of creative retailing touch I enjoy, La Garçonne throws in a tartan Barbour scarf. We all can use a little help mixing it up.

Oh, actually wait, socks from Issy Miyake.


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Things I Know And Things I Don’t Know, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:33am

All this week I’ve been feeling anxious. Seriously so, for no discernible reason. I ran through the usual suspects; Mom’s affairs, preparations for teaching, blog posting schedule, life administration, the well-being of my children. Although there’s stuff, there’s always stuff, nothing warranted the deep cold dread I felt.

Then yesterday, having crossed two particularly time-consequential tasks off my list, I knew.

My mother’s Alzheimer’s has me rehearsing the future day after day after day. I worry so much about forgetting that I treat my obligations like beads on a string and run them through my mind’s equivalent of fingers, over and over again. Black beads, I think, volcanic stone. Porous and sharp.

If I can’t at a moment’s notice remember all the 13 tasks I must complete, and when they’re due, and even which ordering will optimize the process, I feel dull fear in my belly. As though the beads have begun to crumble in my hand.

This is not terribly festive.

I suppose anyone who’s got an ailing parent might feel the same. We love and fear our genes. But we also know that humans are happiest living in the present. A life in the future, especially one in which one might forget to buy all the necessary Christmas presents, or burn the holiday choucroute (as my mother did early in her disease), not recommended.

Just figuring out my anxiety’s source helped, some. But in fact I am faced with a scary question I can’t answer. No one knows if Mom does actually have Alzheimer’s, it’s a diagnosis that can’t be confirmed in life. No one knows for sure what genes are or are not responsible. No one knows how to prevent the disease, or mitigate its effects. So, like so many things in life that we don’t foresee when young and no one explains, you just deal.

You just deal. You refocus on the glories of the day. I mean, there’s really nothing else to do. It may be pablum but that’s better than starving.

You applaud the Fedex man when he shows up with packages, be glad for spattering raindrops on slate and glass, drink tea but not too much. Too much adds to anxiety. Music’s good, especially “pop-oriented” flamenco. Some things we know.

And you wish your friends a wonderful weekend with great affection. Happy winter everyone.

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