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.

Giving Presents Of Experience Is Like Giving Power

I remember last year, during the Christmas season, several of you commented that you prefer to give presents of experience. (And before I go any farther, let me just say to those who don’t celebrate Christmas the hubbub I know it can feel intrusive and exclusive and I do apologize but this year I need cheer and something to focus on.)

But experience. I received an inheritance when I turned 21. I was still in college. I had no interest in fancy shoes, or diamonds beyond the ones in my mother’s jewelry box. But I still wished. My first splurges; I bought an impractical Alfa Romeo sports sedan that everyone thought was a Toyota for myself, a silver cigarette holder on an impulse for a friend (we ducked in to Tiffany’s together, it was cold), and, about a year later, for someone else, an airplane ticket to England.

In each case, the experience was it. The car broke down a lot but served to drive me across the USA with my beloved middle sister. Waltzing into Tiffany’s and saying, “Yes” trumped the purchase itself.  And the ticket, although I didn’t really understand it then, was felt as true generosity.

Do you give experiences now? No inheritance required. Just considering the idea surfaces memories.

Oh traveler, oh vagabond. Extravagantly, you could send (or accompany) someone to a great city. I loved Washington, D.C, having really seen it for the first time ever in 2011. The D.C. St. Regis has a great chandelier and an even better location. Speaking of St. Regises (how does one make that a plural?), the one in San Francisco is completely gorgeous. You could bring the kids.

But if I were on the receiving end, I guess I’d want to visit a city I’d never seen. I’ve been to New Orleans, twice, but both times for business. I’d love to go back and spend some time. Maybe stay here? Otherwise, I’ve always fancied a road trip through the American South. I imagine roadside motels. (Or a renovated sharecropper shack?) A rental car with good speakers. Water-filtering water bottles. Sturdy Gals of a certain age are always thirsty but worry about contaminants.

And there’s always, always New York.

You could also give tickets to an event. A Canadian company called Venue Kings showed up in one of my affiliate networks, and reminded me that live performances still happen. That games are still played in stadiums. My son loved Stevie Nicks for a while, may still do. She’s touring. VenueKing’s interface lets you set a hometown, and they do support events in the USA. Of course you can always try the usual US suspects – Ticketmasters, Hubstub.

Or, writ smaller, dinner out. Do you guys use OpenTable for reservations? Their geographic coverage by no means perfect, but here in Silicon Valley it’s the way to go. They offer gift certificates. I took someone out to lunch the other day, it cost me almost nothing but made me feel so gracious and adult I think I got more than I gave.

That salad at Ladurée was better than 1,000 macaroons.

In this day and age, give subscriptions to online video, or print publications. Give someone an ad-free subscription to Hulu, or a year of Amazon Prime (free shipping, lots and lots of great free videos.) Or a publication. Let us all support high-quality journalism. I’ve subscribed to the New Yorker, Mother Jones, and the New York Times, online. Someone you love might prefer the Wall Street Journal, or Foreign Affairs. (While I admire The Economist I cannot for the life of me slog my way through it.)

The experience of taking a stand. Donate in someone’s name. To the ACLU, who fight for the rights of the bullied. To the Sierra Club, protecting the earth that was here before us. Those are my values. You will of course have your own, most important is to see them clearly, act, share.

Presents of travel and events tape a mark in the future spotlit with anticipation. Afterwards, memory’s smoke and mirrors, presto chango a story to tell. Presents of reportage or charity offer an opportunity for agency, to know what’s actually happening and that something’s been done about it.

Generous gestures give to the giver. No need, of course, to spend a lot of money. Generous time is often even better.

Photos: The bar at the St. Regis San Francisco || A red train passing a boy in India, 1982 || Reflection of a previously anonymous blogger in a cab on the way to dinner at the Mark Hotel || The Eugenie salad at Laduree in Paris

Some links but not all may generate commissions




Real Life Presents For Women From Bouncing Babies All The Way To Elders

Presents. We High WASPs we call them presents, even though the word “Present” doesn’t sound as good with “Guide,” as the word “Gift” does.  Let’s think about the women we might be giving to of all ages. For me, that means from 84 years to 5 months.




For my mother: Alzheimer’s appreciates repetition. The concept of a uniform takes on new meaning, supporting self-recognition. Without much thought, we packed Mom’s striped shirts for the move. Now we stick with that design to help her orient. Ease of dressing is also critical, someone is always helping. I’ve found the petite washable crepe pants from Eileen Fisher work well here (Mom’s short), as do button-front tunics. Shirt: Brooks Brothers, on sale. Pants: by Eileen Fisher at Nordstrom,

For my daughter: Medical students in Southern California need cute backpacks to carry their papers and even cuter sunglasses to protect and enhance their baby blues. Backpack: Vera Bradley. Sunglasses: Ray-Ban.

For my stepmother: At a guess, she wants nothing. And yet I would love to get her a piece of jewelry, the kind that’s really art in disguise. Previously-owned Hermès via The RealReal. I think I quite like the tarnish. Or, as she may have recently told me, a vase for a photography prop. Did you know Calvin Klein offers vases from a ceramicist? Me neither. But this one is less expensive and still pure of line.

A topper for my working sisters: In order to find affordable pieces nice enough for work, I’d scour the department store sale sites like Off5th, Nordstrom Rack, and Neiman Marcus’s Last Call, looking for a lucky size. Lots of Friends and Family deal this week. Or maybe I’d just splurge. Cardigan: Eileen Fisher at Nordstrom. Cashmere, by the way. A less expensive version that comes in multiple colors, in Tencel, here. The jacket is by Akris Punto, seriously discounted here. We always want our jackets to give like a cardigan, our cardigans to impress like a jacket.

Jewelry for my teenaged nieces: Something simple, a little edgy, but not remotely trashy.  Silver branch necklace via Blue Nile. Or maybe one of these.

Books for the school-aged children of my friends abroad: Reading levels vary widely at this age. I discovered Mo Willem in my volunteer teaching. How does he write so much humor and empathy into so few words? Today I Will Fly! (An Elephant and Piggie book). And surely any six-year old girl, or any six-year old anyone, ought to know Pippi Longstocking. I remember finding it very scary, that she lived alone, and wondering how she bore it. And yet she did, with good cheer.

Baby present for a little girl: Handsome in Pink makes gender-agnostic baby and toddler clothes. If a middle-aged woman can wear a biker jacket, surely a baby girl, or a baby boy, for that matter. should have this biker onesie.

Presents for a real life lived, for me: A throw blanket for sofa writing (or maybe this one, less expensive), Crocs for muddy gardening on sale here.

Links may generate commissions

One Minute In The Christmas Season Of 2016, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:13am


Just browsing warm white pre-lit outdoor cone Christmas trees. Four feet tall or thereabouts preferred.


Take Back Our Ray-Bans And Show Them What We’ve Got

This post is sponsored by Ray-Ban. All opinions are assuredly my own.


Today I have one message for my fellow baby boomers; remind the young ones we’ve still got it. We still think and feel.

We still style it out.

But we’ve also been around too long to try too hard. You know what’s easy? Let’s take back our sunglasses. Yes, sunglasses. As I have said before, there’s no quicker way to add a little edge than a pair of Ray-Bans. Sturdy Gals rejoice. Why should the young define what’s cool?

I’ve worn iconic Ray-Bans off and on my whole adult life. Here, blurry, blissful, in the Swedish Archipelago. Summer of 2010. A bit like these. Or these, maybe. Or these? It’s possible I’ve worn men’s glasses?


Six years later, hair no longer blond, vision no longer quite so keen, lenses prescribed. But mirrored aviators are up for adventure. Here, in a field alongside Highway 101, preparing for a highway patrol office to pull over and ask my sister and me, “What (implied: in the he**!) are you doing?”


One never has to answer fully.

And recently, at New York Fashion Week. With my adult son behind the camera. Motherhood, cool.


Also on a boat on Lake Austin in Tex. Long-term friendship, diamonds and 60th birthdays. Pretty cool.


But on beyond icons, even a Polished Tomboy occasionally wants a touch of Movie Glam. The aviators didn’t quite work with the Prada dress and pink cardigan that I wore to my niece’s Bat Mitzvah. Impunity takes us only so far.


Bat and Bar Mitzvahs are the best.

Back to style. Imagine I’d had a Jackie Oh-ish pair. Hmm, you might think, we know  our 60s references. How about frosted turquoise? Uhuh.


Ray-Bans, #4191. When it doubt, take it to the Pacific.


By the way, have you ever wondered what style bloggers do when a wave threatens to carry off our tripod and camera? Run like he**. Old enough to laugh at ourselves.


Tickled pink by our own foibles. I’m thinking the frosted Turquoise will go well with my pink and red bikini. The #4191s come in other colors too, including Bordeaux.

Practical with benefits. Coming into focus. Remember that Still Got It thing? We define “It” ourselves.


Iterative footsteps.

By the way, it might seem daunting to buy sunglasses online. But provides measurements. Measure a pair you own that fit, across a lens, across bridge of the nose, and at the length of the temple. Now buy that size again. My aviators are 58-14.

Sunglasses are like shoes, we don’t sacrifice for beauty.

Did we baby boomers make Ray-Bans cool?  No. It was our parents and the pilots of WWII. I think those flyers might wag their wings at us, overhead. Aging loves herself a little courage, and all kinds of encouragement from friends.

And if I pass the flag to my Ray-Ban wearing daughter, I’m thinking she might look great in these. Octagonal lenses, altogether new.

Links may generate commissions. Tunic here, white jeans here, bracelets here and here.


Wrapping Up The Presents And Your House

Seems like a year to double down on Christmas wrapping. And I don’t just mean presents. I wish Christo would come wrap my whole house in crinkle foil and twinkle lights. Or red felt if the crew were so inspired.

No, I haven’t bought even one present. I’ll do my shopping in a rush next week or the week after that. But decorating beckons, “Red me, green me, let me sparkle to my hearts content!”

OK then. Accoutrements required?


I need new outdoor lights. I like to mix white icicles and individual red lights for a candy cane effect. It’s ever so tasteful. I’ve resisted LEDs so far but I give up. These will do.

But wait, why focus on tasteful? Tasteful is so last century. I feel the urge for gilt and gaud. How about a light-up reindeer? I suppose someone might steal it but life is short and reindeer imaginary anyway.

As for the tree, maybe it’s time for a few new pinecones.


Surface Accoutrements

In years past I’ve hung an evergreen garland over the door to the study, and layered individual boughs underneath our crêche, but I’m tired of sweeping up needles. Again, tasteful?


Or like the reindeer, gold and glitzy?

Also this year we need both a new Baby Jesus and a menorah because we’re celebrating Chrismakuh. We’ve got a menorah from when the kids were in school so perhaps I’ll rely on our dear guests for anything more elegant. The Baby Jesus would replace the one we lost from our crêche. Although I’m an atheist, it’s the myth-loving variety, and I cannot resist a scene in which all the adults and even a bunch of animals gaze adoringly at a baby.

One asks again for the baby, tasteful or gaudy, faceted or rustic? This question is perhaps broader than I knew.


Last Christmas I thought, “Hmm.” Enough with monochrome. Let’s bust out.” So I’ve ordered eight Cornishware breakfast plates to put on top of my white and gold Lenox. Kapow.

plate_breakfast_red_1050px_3You might prefer an affordable, and more subtle illustrated version, here. Or for something quite over the top in both cost and style, count on Versace.

And, Yes, Eventually All That Goes Under The Tree

I will not be rushing to CVS for flimsy ugly paper this year. Some presents will be wrapped beautifully. Or in this.


Maybe with illustrated ribbon.

Others, reusably. I have ordered a set of these. Stretchy fabric in several sizes, to pull over boxes.


And I’m dying to see if they work.

So much fuss may seem extravagant. Unabashed, I want a winter holiday that warms the cockles of my heart. Preparing for family.

Links may generate commissions



Believe The Rain Or The Drought Or Both, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:48am

It’s raining.

This has been a terribly difficult year, personally with my mom, in public given the election. And yet I’m optimistic. Not in the way of platitudes, the gloss in which civilized people excel. But optimistic when you  admit everything’s been awful. Awful with teeth. You face it and fight it and believe anyway.

I believe that people are good. I believe that life is good. I believe this because of the irregular splatting of raindrops and because joy.

Joy. How could joy be so powerful if we were not good? If life were not good?

It’s raining. We had years of drought, and today it’s raining. I believe in the science of climate change. This anecdotal rain is nothing compared to data and yet it gives me hope. People are like that. Our feelings trounce logic. Let’s use our irrationality for good instead of evil.

I don’t even think my optimism is per se “right.” But it’s what I’ve got, so what I’ve got I’ll bring.

Love you all. Have a good weekend.

Black Friday And Cyber Monday Sales, A Giveaway Winner, And, No, I Won’t Be Going Into Stores If I Can Help It

I hope all the readers in the USA in had a great Thanksgiving, and that everyone else had a great, well, Thursday. Below is my list of Thanksgiving weekend sales and deals.These are all retailers or services I’ve shopped at, been in contact with, or coveted from, over the years. I will update this post with any new information as Cyber Monday arrives.


Let’s kick off with the news that Patagonia is donating 100% of their Black Friday sales to grassroots environmental groups. Thank you Patagonia, it’s good to have a planet.


On to our core shared interest. What to wear? What to give to people we love that they can wear?


UPDATED: True Facet, a pre-owned jewelry site, focuses on assuring authenticity for iconic pieces. So if you’re thinking someone would love a classic Cartier love bracelet, here’s a way to make that happen. Or a Van Cleef & Arpels butterfly necklace, for that matter. Take $100 off $500 with code CYBER100 at

UPDATED: And my friends at Blue Nile, not to be outdone, are offering 50% off some diamond and gemstone jewelry for Cyber Monday.

Home & Hospitality

The opulent home goods site, Horchow, is having a holiday decor sale. Up to 40% off. I swear I’m tempted by this horrid Santa fairy. He’s on sale? But probably this would be more appropriate, I know.

Novica, the global artisan site, is also having a Thanksgiving Weekend sale. Save $10 on orders over $50, $15 on orders over $100 and $25 on orders over $150. Use code SAVE10, SAVE15, and SAVE25 to save today. Valid 11-22-15 through 11-26-15 11:59 PM PT.

UPDATED: And Amazon’s got lot of Cyber Monday deals – new ones all day long.

UPDATED: Finally, if you have the same aversion to post offices as I do, I recommend Paperless Post. We used them for our wedding invitations, and my 60th birthday. Lovely designs abound at 35% off today.

Oh, wait, the winner of The Samuel Scheuer Linens Giveaway is MJ! MJ, please email me at skyepeale at yahoo dot com with your mailing address and we will get them sent out to you as soon as we can. I am assuming that although you decamped to Tasmania, which, understood, you have a mailing address in the US. I am really pleased to think of these somewhat goofy WASPy linens proliferating around the country.

I’ve already hung one that says Happy Holidays in my guest bathroom. Quite cheering.

Some links may generate commissions













Happy Thanksgiving!


Bootvana For A Rainy City

Do you know what drought does to a shoe collection? Encourages a preponderance of suede. And shoes perforated all which ways.

So we’d been having a little rain in Northern California and I needed boots to wear in the city. Boots without perforations. Boots that repel water. Boots that do not bring to mind mucking about on the moors.

Welcome to Bootvana. And an iPhone photo. I felt so cool I was willing to let my belly show.


Those are the the Aquatalia “Yulia” Waterproof Chelsea boots for women. Classic, modern, comfortable, a little sexy. And yes I know water can seep through the gusset despite Aquatalia’s weatherproofing process, but I’m not planning on playing in the puddles.


Not inexpensive. But I am hoping to wear them through many a rainy winter in San Francisco. Poised on the curb, no fear of the gutter, wet wind on my face. Exactly how a Sturdy Gal likes it.

(By the way, it’s probable that yesterday I replaced my painful Caovillas with these Grande Dame jeweled slingbacks because they are 60% off at Saks. I went for navy, needless to say, but they come in taupe and black too. )


Links may generate commissions




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