Political Persuasion

I’m not a liberal and I’m not a conservative.

In high school I was a Young Republican and I cheered for the younger Bush to win the presidency twice in person. In college I was the president of our College Democrats. My political involvement with individual local candidates followed suit.

Then I met Mark, decided to take a different path than pursuing politics as a career, as I had planned for most of my life, and temporarily took leave of most roles other than being a wife and mother. I’m still in that temporary leave. Someday I’ll do more outside of the home again. But, even though I’m not working outside of the home I’m still inherently politically aware. It’s likely genetic.

And, again, sadly, I’m not a liberal anymore.

I left the Republican Party in college because they seemed regressive, angry and hateful. That was back in the early to mid 2000’s. Before then they had seemed socially traditional but more set on pointing out Bill Clinton’s transgressions than in forcing me, as a young woman, to pick between wearing an apron barefoot and being a sexually suspicious “career gal”. And there was little other archetype to choose from in that camp at that time. So I couldn’t be a member.

But…then I got married, and inherited a small portion of my parent’s inherited wealth. And then I joined Instagram to discuss perfume and eventually met a man in 2016 (not a perfume collector or connoisseur actually) who totally changed my view of things. Unfortunately.

After really opening up to him outside of Instagram in person, I was attacked. I thought I could trust him because he seemed very sensitive to feminist causes and compassionate and blah, blah, blah. I thought we had a connection. He was Mr. Blue and I really enjoyed him at first. (Or who I thought he was.) However, I soon discovered that he was almost no different than the men who forced me out of the Grand Old Party many years before. He just used the right buzzwords, virtue signaled and seemed much more chic and “smart”. Yet actually, he was worse.

He and his secret girlfriend, who I eventually met (not his wife who he has kids with), were ruthless and mostly unconcerned with true goodness other than to make money for themselves or gain prestige. (They wouldn’t even deny this privately.) My existence seemed very naïve to them and they assumed and hoped I was just a helpless “blond bimbo”. My soul was treated like a joke or at least they wanted it to be one. And, I was appalled to note that most (not all, thank God) of the liberal people we associated with defended them blindly. I wasn’t cool enough and I didn’t project the right bourgeois, progressive/angsty-chic image. I was a married, white, stay-at-home mom and not a single, “working woman” or even a “working”, married mom. (Intriguingly, the majority of the few liberals who seemed to understand or care about my humanity in that particular situation were over the age of 80 or 90.)

And sure enough, on one particular occasion, much to my shock, along came a conservative gentleman who interjected himself into an interaction I was having with the very liberal, chic fellow. While he was not particularly worried about letting me think I had an equal fight he was more concerned with my actual safety. And as embarrassing and shameful as it is to admit these days as a lady, he sort of…rescued me.

We became close (I totally distanced myself from the original, super-chic fellow) and I was left with a huge intellectual puzzle to sort through. Although, I did began to reassess my overall interactions and take note that, in general, men who were more truly conservative and/or often sincerely well-bred (as opposed to pretentiously so) seemed more protective, secure, discerning and…well…kind and chivalrous.

It reminded me of how there are often two kinds of racism in the U.S.. There’s the sort where you’re automatically openly suspect if you’re not white but people aren’t usually violent or that violent about it (awful) and the kind where people pretend to be liberal or kind but then viciously attack you behind your back in some demeaning way, at best. The latter has become mixed with the former in some sad cases, but the attitudes seem unchanged.

And then the nonsense on Instagram grew worse. I haven’t even described the half of it and I won’t here either.

At any rate, there were a lot people who often seemed like the character Dwight from “The Office” (US) and they were the interesting exceptions in the mostly liberal, mostly middle to upper-middle class, fragrance community, although perhaps more malignantly so. And everything you posted they had to find some way to top or conquer. If you posted a photo of your house they’d then post a photo of their double-wide trailer (nothing against kind and good people who live in trailers) with an acre of untamed land and their pet squirrel and, as would have befitted Dwight, they then acted like their place was obviously equal or maybe even better. In some cases they would even claim to own a house they never owned or if they got really angry they would try to insinuate that you were lying somehow and had a trailer with a pet squirrel too. And most of the time the fragrance community supported the Dwight in the situation. The Dwights were the official victims and anyone who wasn’t (at times patronizingly) nice to them was wrong.

Of course, more than once behind the “closed doors” of direct messages there was an occasion when people would say things about the Dwight-types like, “They think they’re much better looking than they are in reality.” Ultimately, I realized that you were allowed to say negative things behind people’s backs but not to their faces or publicly. The exception being that if you weren’t enough of an official “victim” it was fair for others to be outright rude, passive-aggressively hostile, or even openly hostile.

And when a perfume collector and reviewer died of a drug overdose…and many people either sought to make him some heroic, sainted martyr or their lost best friend I got even more upset. I’m sure he had good friends who cared about him in the fragrance community and he was a gifted man, but…*shaking head* the saccharine response was a bit much. Especially considering that he had filmed himself on the verge of death and seemingly very few people noticed enough to even comment. I wasn’t following him nor was he following me (I likely wasn’t his sort of person as a collector or an online persona) but I did see it all after-the-fact.

Those two experiences combined (personal and on Instagram)…along with a couple of years of other observations (more than a few empirically and not anecdotally based) made me think twice about my firm dedication to never become a Republican (or more conservative) as I grew older. The thing is, while perhaps crude, backward and harsh at times, the Grand Old Party felt strangely safer and more honest and still does. Still, I’m not a liberal Democrat and I’m not a conservative Republican.

Augie

There are people who are almost always good. They might make a few mistakes here and there in life but they’re unusually decent. They’re just filled with truth and beauty.

There are people who are almost always bad. They make many mistakes to the point that anything good they do becomes an anomaly. They’re filled with darkness and while God loves them they’re not people you, as a mere human, want to associate with.

Then there are the Augies.

Augie, a character in “Blue Jasmine”, is complex. He drinks too much too often and beats his wife. But he also genuinely loves his wife, works incredibly hard and has a mostly fair sense of most things. He’s not a simply reduced person.

My parents were complex people and still are. They worked incredibly hard and still do. And, as I said, they were very blessed. My mother’s parents were divorced so she had a somewhat harder lot but they both had advantages.

My father, for example, spent a lot of his time “in Vietnam” surfing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (he was stationed there at a hospital) and while he protested the war and was extremely against fighting in it, he still feels guilty that that was his experience. His most terrifying encounter with death involved surfing too far out in the ocean and being cut off from the beach by a shark. And to his credit, he never even claims to have had a “Vietnam experience” at all, most of the time. And his older brother did rise to the occasion, joined the Navy and graduated well from Annapolis (United States Naval Academy).

He was also given a nice bank account in college and a car by my grandfather who also paid for his first degree and…anyway…etc., etc.. He was blessed.

BUT my parents were sensitive, artistic and different and…they chose very unique paths that weren’t particularly all that lucrative. I’ve discussed this.

So, for years they didn’t have as much as their siblings, cousins or (most) friends did. Or as much as they had expected of themselves.

Still, I cannot emphasize enough that they really did work hard. It’s not as if they didn’t give life their all.

And my gosh, my father was as neat as a pin. Our apartment was filled with antiques, Native American artifacts, a piano, decent furniture, and lots of books and records (and a radio and two TVs), but it was all polished, dusted and sorted weekly to a great degree.

In my adolescence on Saturday mornings I’d wake up to hear my father’s classical records being played, a vacuum being used and I’d eventually smell lemon furniture polish being sprayed as the fumes wafted everywhere. It was a simple but tasteful life.

But really, they were complex. They still are.

…And they’re a perfect example of “how things work”. Our existence is ruled by forces we can’t see, and God has ultimate authority. But we all make choices. And eventually everything catches up to us. The good. The bad. Your background or lack of it. Your brilliance. Your foolishness. Your sin. Your sacrifice. Nothing is missed.

…Poor Augie.

As I write this I’m listening to Ben Webster’s, “St. James Infirmary“. It’s perfect:

“It was down by old Joe’s barroom, on the corner of the square
They were serving drinks as usual, and the usual crowd was there
On my left stood Big Joe McKennedy, and his eyes were bloodshot red
And he turned his face to the people, these were the very words he said

I was down to St. James infirmary, I saw my baby there
She was stretched out on a long white table,
So sweet, cool and so fair

Let her go, let her go, God bless her
Wherever she may be
She may search this whole wide world over
Never find a sweeter man as me

When I die please bury me in my high top Stetson hat
Put a twenty dollar gold piece on my watch chain
The gang’ll know I died standing pat

Let her go, let her go God bless her
Wherever she may be
She may search this wide world over
Never find a sweeter man as me

I want six crapshooters to be my pallbearers
Three pretty women to sing a song
Stick a jazz band on my hearse wagon
Raise hell as I stroll along

Let her go Let her go
God bless her
Wherever she may be
She may search this whole wide
World over
She’ll never find a sweeter
Man as me.”

Lost

My years on Instagram being public were…very informative and emotionally charged. At first there was this glee that my photos and collection were being recognized so much. I jumped to a couple thousand followers and then a few quickly enough and without trying that hard that I felt a sort of pleasant amazement. It “just happened” and it was a nice surprise. I also felt like I was part of a beautiful, accepting, warm and welcoming community that prized the things in life that really matter.

…Then things changed. And it was heartbreaking and equally unexpected.

People became more and more competitive and started flinging their crap on me as if it was my problem and fault. And if I tried to stand up for myself I often was accused of the very sins the perpetrators were actually guilty of themselves. But…I felt guilty and empathetic towards the people who came to hate me, none-the-less. And I loved the beautiful and kind souls who are not like that…

Guilty? Yes. Because I have been very blessed and I know that. But…I didn’t know it enough. And in an attempt to be my own champion I accidentally caught the righteous indignation of some and the manipulative indignation of others.

When I first started taking photos and posting them I had a maid, friend and artist (all in one) tell me that she thought my photos of perfume were stock photos when she first saw them on my blog and then eventually realized that they were done by me. She meant it as a compliment but later when people started stealing my photos and one idiot claimed that they were from a website that sells perfume I felt very violated. Some people were even foolish enough and hateful enough to believe that individual. Even though the perfume companies don’t sell the bottles I have anymore, the background was my damn apartment and umm…I had the originals.

But the people who knowingly tried to steal my photos then had the audacity (and possible narcissism) to turn around and claim that I was the bully. Giving them the benefit-of-the-doubt, perhaps they just couldn’t believe anyone was capable of taking good photos who didn’t work for a magazine. *rolling eyes*

Instagram stood up for me though and it was easy to fact-check that idiot by looking in my feed and seeing that the ledge I took pictures on was indeed part of my abode, etc. But I was scared by how dim some people are when they want to dislike you for egotistical reasons and when a loud enough and pushy enough person spouts off just the right bullshit.

*sigh*

But…I also am beginning to realize more and more that some people aren’t exposed to certain things. They don’t recognize the world outside of their box. We’re all like that to some degree, but there are people who are more like that than others.

They haven’t traveled very much perhaps and their view of the world is limited by the few places they’ve lived or the things they see on television or in the movies. They don’t really have a framework to understand nor do they realize its absence.

Again, some people might not have believed that it was fairly easy to take a decent photo with the right camera and some basic artistic knowledge of photography… So they felt stupidly entitled to steal my photos because they assumed incorrectly and very arrogantly that I had stolen them too (and they didn’t research it closely enough or at all).

Now, after years have passed, I think there are many more decent photos on Instagram of perfume (phone cameras have improved) and some that are so sublime that those unfortunate individuals who attacked me would be hard-pressed to convince anyone now that they were “in the right”. However, at the time, people were gullible and ripe.

Thankfully, some people believed me and again, Instagram had proof. …At the time one of the wisest pieces of advice came from a lady so many people love on Instagram in the perfume community. I told her what was happening and she said something very close to: “They like your photos. They are stealing them because you take good photos. It’s a compliment! It’s not a problem. Don’t worry.”

As someone who doesn’t usually fight unprovoked but who doesn’t easily step down from a fight when it’s started I had to take a deep breath when I read her response. She was telling me to let go. She was very right. And eventually, this spring, I had to let go of my entire account. It became dangerous and too ugly to deal with it all. So, that account doesn’t exist anymore. I deleted it.

And while those years of truly public perfume sharing were fun I’m somewhat glad they’re over. It proved to be too jarring and draining for me after the Instagram climate grew more negative over the years. If I could go back and just ignore the haters it would be lovely. There’s a lot of fun to be had by being an entertainer or artist online, but that became too difficult for me and eventually unsafe.

…Yet, I still grieve. Why? Because the issues that came to the forefront in my account are at the heart of the troubles we all face today. And I can’t just walk away from the world. And my response is mixed with anger to this day…

I went from being a conservative in high school out of rebellion to a liberal in college out of a deep call of conscience. Then, after being attacked and provoked and judged and hated over the last few years I’ve become a little…Randian. *gulp*

I also have realized, as an adult, how much my parents choose the life they led (I’ve written about them a lot over the years). As a child I felt disdain for the people who snubbed them because they weren’t bourgeois or financially secure enough, at the time, to fit in with what was our community. But now that their fortunes have changed due to familial wealth and wisdom and, again, their own choices (both good and bad)…I don’t see things the same way. And so from experience, observation and age I see a bigger picture than I saw before and I now understand more of, “how things work”. It’s not as black and white as I had thought and yet, at the same time, responsibility is a constant theme. Sorry if that’s too abstract.

It might not seem fitting, but one of my favorite quotations is from the Woody Allen film, “Blue Jasmine” and it’s what keeps circling around in my head. Augie, played by Andrew Dice Clay, says it towards the end of the film. And I think he’s easily one of the most brilliant and intriguing characters. He says, “…Some people, they don’t put things behind so easily.”

Some of us experience the sharpness of every reality in a way that others can avoid or ignore. And it’s not because we’re too sensitive. It’s because we see it…and…we saw it…and it affects us and there’s nothing left to do but mourn. And for some of us it’s particularly hard to let go when we know we’re right… Poor Augie. “You think I wanna be laying pipeline all the hell the way up in Alaska?”

San Francisco

While we stayed in a lovely lakeside hotel during our vacation I sat in bed one night staring out the window while contemplating what I saw. It was dark outside but the lights from the hotel were somehow both cozy and remote at the same time.

(The photo above is of the view of the lake from the room. The many people you see were at the restaurant in the hotel that overlooks the lake or just taking in the view from the restaurant balcony as pictured.)

…One thought that kept occurring to me was how different it truly feels to live next to water. I lived next to the Puget Sound for two years so I have a little experience. Now, however, we live near a river but that’s certainly not the same as living next to a huge lake, much less the ocean.

But also, I thought of one of my aunts (she married my father’s older brother) and her sister and her sister’s daughter. The daughter’s name isn’t Jackie but we’ll call her that for privacy reasons.

Jackie’s father was a heart surgeon and her mother was (my aunt’s sister) a nurse researcher. For years she was, anyway… BUT these days her mother is currently selling her art at galleries. She and her second-husband (an orthopedic surgeon) seemingly have retired in San Francisco while maintaining their home in the lakeside city we visited (where Jackie grew up). And Jackie also lives in San Francisco now and works as a lawyer.

*sigh*

During more than one summer family party in my adolescence, and very early adulthood, I recall being told about Jackie’s latest endeavors. And often I somehow found my way on her path without knowing it. For example, when I said I was considering working as a lobbyist when I grew-up I was told, “Oh, [Jackie] is considering that very same thing!” About something else it was, “Oh, [Jackie] is into that too!” Etc. …We were apparently similar and since she is a few years older than I am I eventually got used to following her lead by accident. I just started to assume we were up to the same things without ever even asking…

…But then I changed.

And now, after working in D.C. for many years Jackie is living and working in San Francisco. She owns a very lovely old home there too and frankly I can’t help thinking she might have an at least somewhat glamorous life… And unlike a lady (we’ll call Laura) near my age I’ve known since childhood who works in D.C. in a rather important government position and who’s father is best friends with my father and has been since college…Jackie seems very content to be single and thriving in her career? At least, that’s the sense I get. Again, Laura is very successful (she could apparently get a job at the White House if she wanted) but…she doesn’t seem to be the same as Jackie. Neither am I though.

No, I’m much more like Laura. Actually, I’d like to sit down with Laura and have coffee and talk. I miss her. But…Jackie…is fascinating.

Jackie’s aunt (also my aunt) idolized Marlo Thomas from “That Girl” in her youth and frankly she even looked like her a bit. So does Jackie… And they’re both stunning, so I mean that as a compliment, of course.

Yet, as I sat staring out that lakeside window I felt some sort of…melancholy. There are only so many things you can do with your life and I wish that we all could do more and live more. Perhaps having just seen my 90 year old grandfather-in-law also inspired a bit of pensive reflection. And it’s not just that it’d be fun to be able to be in more than one place at a time and have both a brilliant career and be a stay-at-home mom all at once. It’s that I wish the Jackie sorts could live longer. They do so much for our world… And we must all get old after all…

But, truly, I’ve made my choices and I tried to be as true to myself as I could be. However, regardless, I do respect the ladies of the world who are the reason we took shows like “Sex and the City” seriously. They are women who are elegant, well-bred, well-educated and…well…just charming. And while I think the characters on “Sex and the City” were (at times unfair or unflattering) caricatures of real women like Jackie, they at least gave a tiny glimpse into the lives of such individuals as themselves.

…My father went to San Francisco to visit last year and was disappointed by his experience in the city, although he loved seeing our family and relations. And actually a lot of people seem to dislike San Francisco now… But, it still seems like a beautiful city in my mind.

I highly doubt Jackie will read this, but suffice it to say, her house is in the single digit millions, I believe, as most homes are in San Francisco in good areas, and I’m sure it’s obviously a really lovely house, BUT…that night, at the lake, I got bored and a good friend of mine, who I was talking with, asked me what my absolute dream house (think dream, as in not likely to be reality) in San Francisco would be so I looked. And goodness… Some of the homes in San Francisco are…*shaking head* absolutely awe-inspiring. *rolling eyes in wonder* My goodness… I think I might be scared to own a house that expensive, especially in an area prone to earthquakes, but it’s amazing the sort of extreme beauty one can find in that city nowadays. Some of them sell for around 40 million or more. *silence*

So, I’m closing this post with a screenshot photo of one of my favorites just because I’m in the mood to see grand architectural splendor (“Hello” to the dear friend I was talking with.):

Baubles

One year for Christmas maybe five years ago or so, my husband gave me a Helzberg Diamonvita tennis bracelet. It’s their version of simulated diamonds and it is somewhat convincing. It was around, oh…$200 to $300 maybe.

And as much as I think it’s pretty…I wish I had the $300 now instead of this. It was a mistake. And if I sell it I’ll only get back $100 at most.

Yesterday when I said I had made enough mistakes now to be careful when buying anything, I meant it. I’ve wasted tens of thousands of dollars on jewelry or other fashion items at this point that I’m never getting back. And ok, tens of thousands isn’t hundreds of thousands or millions but it’s still genuinely angering. That money could have gone into dozens of other worthwhile places.

Some people might read what I just wrote and get nasty in their minds and make snide comments about how I’m “showing off” or am clueless in some way, but actually…I’m just being what I think is honest. See, it’s like this: There’s a line when it comes to certain things that you don’t cross without being flat-out wrong.

Once in London, Mark and I were at a jeweler that specialized in antique pieces and Mark was considering spending around $10,000 on an emerald for me so he asked the salesman what he thought was available in that price range that I would like. In a sort of matter-of-fact, but genuinely regretful way that seemed very British to me the salesman said, “Yes, in order to buy any emerald that’s not small and is good quality you have to pay over $25,000. It’s very annoying, I know.” Mark thought he was being a little snobby and dismissive. I thought he was just being blunt (and somewhat empathetic) and I appreciated his candor. *silence*

Either way, he was right and frankly…since gifts are about the heart behind them if you’re setting out to buy an emerald and you have $100,000.00 you can easily spend but don’t want to and buy something for $5,000.00 (or even $10,000) instead it’s problematic.

I had a few problematic rings and wasted too much to mention. I poetically threw rings out of windows, in the ocean, and down toilets without any way of getting the money back just to remind my husband that he was going to have to choose me and our family and things of real value over money if we were going to continue as a couple during more than one sad, passionate fight. It’s one thing to be frugal but another to be withholding of love. And if my fiancé or husband had had $500 to spend and bought a cheap ring for $50.00 because he was more interested in having money than making me happy it would have been the same thing. It was about the intention.

But, that’s a different sort of issue and we’ve worked that out for the most part in our marriage. Mark knows all I truly care about is his heart and I’ve come to accept that his natural instinct is to make the most financially prudent choice in every situation regardless of almost anything. And I love him.

The line I mean to discuss is about money. And $25,000. is a certain line.

Whether you’re a billionaire or not anything from $25,000. to $50,000. starts to be annoying to spend (especially on something like a piece of very particular jewelry, such as an emerald brooch or cocktail ring. It’s not a car or property or an investment. It’s a piece of beauty you’ll wear fifteen times to any noticeable degree to others.) …And if you spend that much it’s not wise to do so on an ill-advised whim. It has to be right. $25,000. is the line where I believe almost anyone starts to be emotionally affected. Of course, before that amount most people will be affected, but my point is that a. Wasting money past a certain point is dangerous or at least unwise for anyone and b. Things add up. So, every dollar and every hundred dollars and every thousand…has to be considered.

All obvious, I suppose.

And, the thing I know is this: If you’re truly in a place to make the choice, always buy the best. The best will rarely not be worth it. “The best” being what’s the most right for you and has the highest quality. Diamonvita was…clearly not the best. Ha!

Recently though I was considering buying a pair of white sapphire studs or…*sigh* …Diamonvita studs. *eye roll* Yes, it is embarrassing that I was about to make that mistake again.

*grimmace*

However, I had forgotten about my bracelet and thought that it made sense to buy the $50 fake earrings just to use until it was wise to buy the real thing. But then I was contemplating it around a very wise and lovely friend of mine from England and she said, “No! Don’t.” End of discussion.

At first I thought, “Oh, she’s a dear-heart but maybe she just doesn’t understand what it’s like to have to wait to buy luxury items over $1,000.” She has an exceptional amount of resources from anyone’s view and she handles it extremely well. For reference: To her $1,000.00 is as an ice cream cone is to a middle class American person. For me though, it takes a few months to buy luxury items over that amount unless it’s a necessity like a car or etc. And I don’t spend that much on a whim or spur-of-a-moment generally speaking (although, again, I obviously have out of necessity). That’s my budget. And, I thought, “I know she’s right, but…it’s hard to wait…and $50.00 isn’t that much. I can buy the diamonds this year or so, but in the meantime I’ll have these pretty little pieces.”

Yet, I’ve come to realize that she is so very correct. That $50.00 isn’t something to just waste on earrings I’ll never even likely wear eventually, and, therefore, it’s actually disheartening to buy them instead of shrewd. Buying a substitute is subconsciously depressing for so many reasons (i.e. you know it’s not real even if others don’t and so it feels dishonest.). Hence my further realizations and last post about “usables.”

My great grandparents on my mother’s mother’s side were immigrants from Norway at the turn of the Twentieth Century and they had a strikingly similar way of doing things to my dear friend. They bought quality items when quality was required and rarely bought anything that could eventually become useless. Also, honestly, they were both brilliant. To compare all these people to each other is a compliment to everyone in all the most lovely and meaningful ways, in my opinion.

So, as a follow-up to my last post, make sure your money in general is well spent. “Usables” it is…

Usables

Everyday on vacation I wore my Tiffany & Co. pearl stud earrings. Of course, they loved being worn. Pearls like being exposed to the natural oils on our skin in moderation. It makes them shine. And, of course, it should be noted that there are many things they do not like, such as any sort of cleaner, getting wet, being exposed to too much heat, cold or too much sun. They’re very sensitive.

It was delightful.

…One Valentine’s Day about four years ago or so my husband gave me a pair of Mikimoto studs he bought at our jeweler for around $600.00. The studs from Tiffany’s were purchased for around $200.00 to $300.00. Now, as it goes, the Mikimoto earrings really were better quality. They were smaller but they were so pretty. They were the highest grade there is, I believe, and Mikimoto pearls are generally always fantastic.

Of course, also as it goes, I lost the Mikimoto pair… At some point when we lived in Seattle I used them, didn’t put them away and I never found them again. *rolling eyes* BUT, as much as I love quality and wouldn’t mind another pair that are better than the ones I use (think thousands not hundreds) I actually think I’ll likely just keep my Tiffany & Co. pair as one of my usables.

Usables.

Have you heard of “forever bags”? Well, I love and advocate the overall concept of buying genuine quality items that are classic and usable.

There are people who are beautiful souls who fly about like gentle birds through life and follow trends and do so brilliantly. They make life much better with their fresh perspective. They are reflectors of God’s light. (He’s very creative.) However, I am not that sort of person.

I do tend to think I’m a rather artistic person though, mind you, but despite that I really am at my best style-wise when I stick to what I know will work. I’m not a style butterfly… And part of being me is being able to find things that are highly usable. To me, true luxury is when the things I use everyday are really lovely – “boring” stuff that’s actually luxurious.

My current “usables” are: My Tiffany and Co. 8-9 mm Ziegfeld Collection Pearls, and my Louis Vuitton Noé (I need a new one from the store). I need to add more…

The thing is, in order to qualify as a “usable” it must be something that could last in good condition while being used at least weekly (not abused) for at least ten to twenty years. Perfume doesn’t count, of course, because it gets used up (of course make-up doesn’t count either). And it must be something that truly works with your style, is a sort of “staple” and is of high quality and, of course, kitchen sinks and cars don’t count as much as they can be similarly “usable” because I’m referring more to the things we wear. … I should also note that while I have items I’ve used for five years I don’t think that is quite long enough to count and I have pieces that have lasted longer but aren’t used frequently…

So, on my “usables” to-buy list are the following: 1. A pair of diamond earrings, 2. A decent wallet, 3. A new Cartier Tank, and 4. A top handle bag (and a new Noé). I’m fairly certain I’m going to buy a Gucci wallet and top handle (as I’ve said) but, to be honest, the Alma still intrigues me… I have a vintage (1950’s or so) Cartier Tank watch that’s been serviced by Cartier and works well but I need a new one I can put some mileage in. The vintage one can’t be worn everyday as it’s too old and I want to preserve it. And…then…there are the diamonds.

Oh, I love gemstones. Truly! For a brief time I even considered being a gemologist with hopes of specializing in diamond grading. I’ve been told I have a sharp eye and can see differences in quality that most people can’t. Actually, if we lived in Boston I’d likely just become a gemologist for at least the fun of it… I’d even do it now, but for the fact that the respected schools that teach gemology aren’t in the Midwest.

That being said, one of my closest cousins worked with a major auction house like Sotheby’s (or maybe it was Sotheby’s – I cant remember) for a while when she lived in California and she thought I could combine my experience as an antique dealer with my passion for gemology and work at one of the better auction houses (like Sotheby’s) with antique and vintage jewelry, however she may have more faith in me than I have in myself. Ha! Still, long-term, I can’t lie and say that that wouldn’t be a dream job I’d love to someday have in my late 40’s or 50’s (along with finishing my two novels).

*dreamy sigh*

So…I have exacting standards when it comes to jewelry. Just ask my husband. Uff da. Ha! And my diamond earrings will have to be…good. What does that mean? Well, I’ve looked into it and it means that for a pair of .90 to 1.00 ctw earrings (my desired weight) I’ll be paying over $2,500.00. I always go for better quality over size when it comes to diamonds and emeralds in particular… The three c’s (in regard to diamonds) are of great importance to me.

So, $2,500.00 is…the least I’ll likely pay. And that’s not a huge amount for good earrings but it’s also not a purchase I want to make lightly. I’ve wasted money before and at 35 I know better…

Most of the time they use lower quality diamonds in earrings actually, but…since I’m going to wear them frequently as a usable I want something worth it. They’ll be with me for decades. I want them to be a kind companion.

What are your usables? Your gold charm bracelet? Your diamond studs? Your Rolex? Your Timex (those can actually last a long time too because some were made really well)? Your gold hoop earrings? That old style, leather Coach crossbody (that leather ages very well)? Hmm?

Darjeeling 1957

I’ve been a fan of coffee my whole life. My Norwegian grandmother gave me my first taste of coffee when I was just four years old in a watered-down version I drank out of one of her Fire King milk glass cups. They had swirls with a gold rim and she had a whole set. And everything tasted better somehow on those pieces. The cold (locally produced) summer sausage and cheese on bread (with butter) and homemade buffalo berry or chokecherry jam on toast or lefse (usually eaten with butter and honey or sugar) were sublime.

Those days were slices of Heaven.

In middle school I started my love of tea. First came iced tea (freshly brewed) with seafood. That just felt right. And then, eventually, I drank English Breakfast (hot) tea. And while I had added milk to my tea for years I hadn’t learned the difference between milk in first versus after until I went to England. That was a lovely revelation…

On this vacation, that’s ending today, I’ve had my fair share of excellent espresso (I’m drinking an excellent latté with Arabica Ethiopian beans roasted in Alberta Canada as I write this), good wine, fresh squeezed juice (always grapefruit for breakfast), and tea. I’ve realized that I like wine on vacation and gin at home. I’ve realized that I like things that are sturdy, certain and yet…at least a little enchanted…even in my choice of Champagne. And…as much as I quiver to admit it, I’m starting to love Darjeeling. Yes. I know…

It’s not Earl Grey. It’s not as taught and plucky. And, I mean, I love Earl Grey enough to even have the Jo Malone perfume. But…Darjeeling is melancholy and remote in this super tea-like, elegant and comforting way. It’s tea tea. There’s nothing refreshing about it, in my opinion. It’s not what I’d pick to make a good pitcher of iced tea. It’s…like lace. It’s delicate and yet still (at least mostly) definable.

Why does it matter? Why do I go on about sensual (or perhaps common) delights like tea and coffee? Well, why bother showering or drinking anything other than water? *roll eyes* It’s because the little details of sensual experiences are life. It’s life itself. For me to stop noticing them or waxing poetic about them is to stop engaging with my life. It’s also just the way I’m made. I was raised by a woman who loves to create sculpture (she has a degree in art, as I’ve written) after all. There’s a brilliant iron bust of her grandfather that she made, many years ago, waiting at the old family property for her to pick up later this summer (her siblings and her are meeting there). I’m looking forward to seeing it more regularly when she displays it at her place. …She strongly encourages noticing the tangible beauty around us and both respecting and enjoying it fully. My father is somewhat similar… I was always encouraged to make things and enjoy things…

But I truly never expected to fall in love Darjeeling. AND I’ve been wearing my 1957 everyday for the last week. I bought it from Chanel this spring and it’s already got quite a dent in it… My goodness… This vacation and that beauty will be synonymous in my mind.

Grown Alchemist

So, we stayed in this very chic boutique hotel during our vacation. It’s fairly new – it opened in 2017 – and it’s won awards every year since opening, which is great. It deserves it. The hotel took a very historic property in the heart of a historic old district and restored it well. Kuddos!

And, part of the charm of this location was its attention to detail. For example: we were given Grown Alchemist products to use (and we stayed there more than one day so I truly sampled them).

This! This was my favorite… This shampoo was a lovely!

The lather was fantastic! Soo good. And the smell? My goodness. It was…well… It was all about the Damask Rose, but it was an herbal and refined rose note so it was far from unpleasant.

I quite liked it and my hair adored it… I need to consider buying a bottle.

This body cleanser was also lovely. It foamed well. It smelled soothing. And, it was rosy. But, it was more than nice.

I’m not terribly into body gels but if I was, I’d hop on board and buy some. It felt like a spa moment when you used it.

Rosemary! Wonderful product, but wow! Rosemary… Lots and lots of rosemary.

Perfect. The conditioner smoothed out my hair (that I’m trying to grow out) and yet didn’t weigh it down and, of course, it smelled lovely. Lots of rosy goodness (notice the theme of rose). I’m recommending it to you and myself as I write this.

…Super duper sudsy. This stuff lasts. And it smells faintly of the notes listed in the most unobtrusive and happy way.

SO! I’m very, very intrigued by this sensually blessed Australian company now. AND, given my experience with them, their skincare products are particularly of interest…

More to come!

Lilly

I truly love Lilly Pulitzer. I didn’t try on one thing I didn’t adore.

So, I’ll be adding more than a few Lilly Pulitzer pieces since I don’t have enough, and it really is my style (I recently started doing an overhaul of my closet). But at least I have a classic Lilly shift dress now (that can be tailored down once I loose all my pregnancy weight).

I also bought these rather bold earrings. They are yummy.

Floridita!

And…until I’m back to my regular size 4 or 6 I won’t be buying a skort (or anything else from Lilly). The skorts really are cute but it’s not worth it until I’m totally back to my normal size. Perhaps I should have just bought a 4 or 6 size skort (I recently bought two blouses in smaller sizes at J. Crew ) but…*sigh* my best weight might not happen by the end of this summer (or it might, ideally) so I’ll just have to wait until next summer’s clothes arrive. *thumbs up*

Beverages

My husband is a coffee connoisseur. He even goes so far as to carefully roast his own beans. His favorite beans to roast are Arabica from either Ethiopia or Kenya. They apparently have a particularly bold flavor.

Whenever we go on a vacation anywhere he likes to research and try the local coffee shops. Today, Chicago was a treat!

May I say that Fairgrounds Coffee is amazing! My gosh… My husband ordered a (single origin Arabica Mexican) Americano that was mind-bogglingly smooth. I mean, I took a sip and I can attest to its extraordinary nature. If you’re ever in Chicago I highly recommend them. (They also have unusually good pastries)

Also, though I prefer red wine (Burgundy) over any other, I’ve come to realize that G.H. Mumm is my favorite champagne (for now). For years, even after trying it and loving it from the start, I’ve thought that it was taboo to claim that about Mumm given its reputation. And I thought that since I’d only tried a few varieties that I should wait and make sure. But even after trying Taittinger the other night (I’ve tried others over the years too), which is light and acidic in a similar way to Mumm, in my opinion, I’m still stuck on (non-vintage) Mumm. I like the ethereal lightness.

Mumm isn’t giddy or coy, in my opinion. It doesn’t scream “New Years Eve” necessarily or “wedding” (even though it’s used for such occasions regularly). Perrier-Jouet, for example, is one that does seem very befitting of a “special occasion” as it is sort of…well…sweet and particularly bubbly. Matter of fact, for whatever reason, Ginger Rodgers even comes to mind when I think of Perrier-Jouet. I envision her dressed in sequence dancing at a New Years Eve bash in the 1930’s. Iconic!

But no… I like Mumm. Even over the much touted Dom Perignon, I prefer Mumm. It’s just that fresh and bright.

(I tried Taittinger in the tub!)

And…(speaking of Champagne) I am now realizing how brutal I am to my bags at this point in my life. I have my Noé in mind in particular. I bought a used 2000’s Louis Vuitton Noé about a year and a half to two years ago and while it’s still very usable it’s not in as good of shape as when I bought it. I’m sure the leather cleaner and moisturizer I’ve used hasn’t helped because no matter how good it is, it wasn’t made for vachetta (from Coach) and in the future I’ll never use any sort of cleaner or moisturizer on vachetta. But, I think I’m, unfortunately, hard on my bags too (right now)…

Also, I can’t keep my Gucci Jackie. It looks awful on me. When I first wore it I loved it, but now it just feels all wrong.

The Noé, on the other hand, really is my sort of bag. Too much so...

So, I’m on it. Dionysus might even have to wait because I need to buy a Noé first… Practical luxury is true luxury.