What time is it? It’s tiara time!




Birthdays and Tiaras

Birthdays and Tiaras



Birthdays! How do you feel about them? A client of mine had a birthday this June and I was giving her some attention for it. She said, “I’m not really focusing on them anymore.”

I get it! I’m at that age where I have to do the math to remember which one of those upper numbers I’m running into on June 21st.

I don’t think that’s the way it is with thirty-two-year-olds like my daughter, Caitlin. That’s her, above, toasting to “32” back on January 4th.



Birthday angst


I remember angst moments about birthdays in those earlier decades. I had a lot of expectations about where I should be, what I should be doing, and who I should be doing it with up until I reached 40.

Life didn’t automatically get easier at 40 but I dropped a lot of those self-inflicted expectations.

Now I spend less energy trying to make things happen and focus more energy on accepting life as it is. I think there’s a peace in that acceptance that I wouldn’t have known about before 40.


Birthday tiara


I was looking for a quote today that I’d written down. I couldn’t find it, but found this one instead. It’s from the movie This Is Where I Leave You (2014) with Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, and more. A family has gotten together to sit shiva for their father/husband back in the house where they grew up. Jason Bateman plays Judd, one of the adult kids, and Rose Byrne plays Penny, a high school sweetheart he reconnects with when he returns to the family home.

Judd and Penny have been hanging out when Judd says, “I’ve never taken any chances. I’ve spent my entire life playing it safe, just to avoid being exactly where I am right now.”

Penny says, “Cut yourself some slack, Judd. Anything can happen. Anything happens all the time.”

By the time we’re in our sixties, we’ve probably begun to realize how true that is. Anything can happen. It might not be what we wished for, wanted, planned for, or thought would happen in a million years.

Of course, unexpected death to loved ones comes to mind because that’s what happened to me in this last year. Two family members won’t be there this weekend when I go back to the lake in Minnesota to be with my family. We’re short two beloved people.

Anything can happen, and it did.


Brenda Tiara

Amy said, “May your birthday sparkle, just like you do.”


I just had my birthday and Facebook reminded me of that fact just in case I had forgotten. I got lots of birthday greetings. I don’t know if when they were sending those greetings they  realized how poignant it would be for me to have good wishes coming my way as I leave the hardest year behind and head into the unknown. It made me feel like I was standing in the middle of the yard and I was looking up at beautiful butterflies that were fluttering their wings all around me. (Thank you Facebook friends and snail mail friends, too!)

One friend, Amy Rosevere, wrote: “May your birthday sparkle, just like you do.”

Funny thing is, I had put this little tiny tiara on my head in the morning, one a friend had given me last year on my birthday, and wore it as I puttered around in my closet most of the day.

I wasn’t in a party mood on my birthday. I was missing the woman who decades ago huffed and puffed to birth me and my twin brother on the longest day of the year.


Closet meditation helped


Russ would check on me from time to time. “Doing okay?” he’d ask. “Yup, just fine!” I said.

Russ wanted to take me out but I just wasn’t feeling it. We had dinner plans with the kids later. I’d make my appearance then.

Instead, I putzed around. Sorting, culling, and caring for clothes is meditation for me. Luckily he understands that.

Russ saw a busy bee every time he checked in. I would be in varying degrees of being clothed or not as I was tackling a few projects at once.

I was making final edits of any remaining winter clothes still hanging in my closet–coats, jackets, heavier blazers, heavier pants and some dresses. I love thinning out the closet. I packed those items away (how many cashmere sweaters does one need in July?).

I finished unpacking the last of the summer things that hadn’t come out in April–too chilly back then.

In my review, I decided whether or not some of those summer items had past their expiration dates. I actually repurposed some clothes that had been downgraded to bathing suit coverups. They got pressed and hung in the closet with a new status upgrade.

I’m old school. I had to pull out the ironing board and plug in the steam iron. Hearing the s-s-s-s of the steam, I had memories of being a kid pulling clothes out of the ironing basket and ironing for the family when we lived on the farm, near Hastings.


Planning a Minnesota/North Dakota trip wardrobe


I needed to plan my trip wardrobe so I got that done on Sunday, too.

I picked out an outfit to wear to the graveside services on Saturday for my mother and brother, Todd, at the Spring Creek Lutheran Church Cemetery in Hastings, North Dakota where we grew up. I picked out an outfit to wear to church on Sunday in Hastings, the last day services will every be held there. That beautiful little church where my parents were married and where we kids went to Sunday School is closing down after putting in 116 years of service. It’s pretty much the last place standing in that town of 75 people. There will be lots of relatives coming for the family and church reunion.

I put together an outfit to wear to the tea party I’m planning later in the week for Mom’s church lady friends from Dent, Minnesota who have been so very kind to me and my family. I crave sitting with them around the table talking about Mom.

Mostly I’ll be with Dad who wants help figuring out what his next steps will be. I’ll get some walks in and sit in the glider overlooking Dead Lake, sipping Stumbeano’s coffee and writing my morning pages. Lake life is different than city life and I actually have to work harder at putting that wardrobe together. Send me to a conference, and I’m set. Send me to the lake and I’m floundering!


What to wear for my birthday


There was one more outfit to put together during my closet meditation on June 21st and that was my birthday outfit–what I’d wear to celebrate with my twin brother, Brent, Russ, the kids, and Mike, Erin’s boyfriend. It’s turning into a tradition to have our birthday dinner at Central Market in Petaluma. I knew one thing: the tiara was going to be the focal point of the outfit. I’d worn it all day and didn’t want to take it off. I know it’s tiny, but it’s sparkly and mighty!

I decided to support it with more sparkle. I could hear Amy’s voice in my head: More sparkles, Brenda, more!

(You can read Amy’s blog Jewelry Fashion Tips and she’ll probably start talking in your ear, too!)

I wore white jeans, a Vince oatmeal colored long, lightweight t-shirt and my gold pretend tweed Chanel jacket (actually, Talbots). Then I layered two sparkly necklaces together and added a mix of bangles at both wrists for more sparkle. I wore beige suede Prada platform sandals and carried a lady-like tan purse with a handle.

But really, it was the tiara that was the hit. Caitlin and Trevor met us outside the restaurant and it was the first thing they spotted. It made them smile, and me too.

It’s pretty hard not to grin the whole time you’re wearing a tiara, especially this baby-sized one. I’m thinking there’s a tiara-size-to-birthday-decade ratio or formula. Since those first few decades of birthdays carry so much weight with them, the tiara needs to be bigger to match. Now that I’m in the taking-life-as-life-is phase of things, birthdays are lovely but less weighty. I think the size of the tiara I’m wearing is perfect for right now when I’m just happy to be here.

I miss those who are no longer here, sometimes desperately, but sparkles help.

I’ll take the sparkles into each new day where anything can happen, both good and bad.

Anatomy of an Outfit: Jean Jacket Chic

Shining in a jean jacket

Shining in a jean jacket


Mariam is my perfect muse. I see her when I’m at Nordstrom, shopping with clients or finding a fashion solution for myself. She’s a sales associate there.

She’s massively talented. She has had an atelier and making clothes from scratch is one of her talents. I’m having the pleasure of watching her create a suit for a client of mine. We had the first fitting last week. She starts with a muslin pattern (you know, like Dior did or Chanel or Halston) before cutting pattern pieces out of the actual fabrics we’ve picked out.

My client slipped into the muslin jacket and the muslin top. With Mariam in my client’s dressing room, together we made a few decisions about things like adding pockets or not having pockets at all on the jacket; having a cap sleeve or going sleeveless for the shell underneath; adding slits to the shell or not; making a small opening in the back of the top so it would be easier to slip it over my client’s head; and finally, where the button would go on the jacket (not at the waist but a little higher where my client is smaller).

It’s so fun being in on the making of this suit. I can’t wait for the second fitting! When Erin and I left our client’s house that day, Erin said, “I bet you want Mariam to make all your clothes, right?” Ah, yes, Erin! You’re reading my mind! It’s such a creative and fun process. But so is creating outfits from ready-made clothes off the rack.


Mariam explaining



Often when I see Mariam she’s in one of her own creations. I’ll compliment her on her outfit and she’ll say, “Oh, I made it!” One day I ran into her in the shoe department at Nordstrom and before I had a chance to compliment her, she grabbed my arm and exclaimed, “Brenda! I was thinking of you last night. You inspired me to make this jacket!” She was wearing a jacket that I can only describe as a fusion of Dior and Asian design. She’d just whipped it up the night before. “Then when I was done with the jacket I decided I needed a sheath dress to go with it so I made it too and here it is!”

A woman who can stay up until 2 a.m. for fashion–well, that’s my kind of woman!


Mariam belt


On another day (and honestly, she inspires me any day of the week), she was wearing this dress in these pictures with a jean jacket. I love mixing fancy with non-fancy so I had to ask her if I could take some pictures and ask a few questions.


Mariam wrist


The dress has been made from a pretty, rather traditional print. It’s glitzier than a normal day dress with all the gold metallic thread spun throughout it. It could be a special occasion dress. I love the bow tied loosely at the neckline. She bought it at Anthropologie. On this particular day she didn’t want to wear it dressed up so to dress it down she added the jean jacket, rolled up the sleeves and ditched the self-belt for a tough wide leather belt with a Western feel. She’d found it at Lucky Brand. It was on sale and then on sale and then on sale again so she ended up picking it up for about six bucks.

She added her signature of clustered bangles on her wrist, mixing colors and designs. Her earrings, even though you can’t see them clearly, are sparkly butterflies. Dainty and pretty like the dress, bright like her smile.


Mariam shoes


Her shoes are beige AGL flats with that little bit of hardware on the front. Don’t you just love how her glasses frames are a similar tone? If this outfit was a sandwich, the shoes and eyeglasses are the slices of bread that hold together the wonderful nourishing ingredients in-between. What a yummy concoction!

Do you have a pretty dress that needs some dressing down? What does your jean jacket want to be paired with before getting outside into this pretty day? Give us details!



Spice colors reign in House Prints No. 2120


Spicy colors reign in No. 2120


I love the colors in this Sonoma house and always look forward to coming across it. I know when I’m close to it. I walk a little faster to see it off to my right side and then I slow down.

You don’t find many gates that look like this one! It’s Nature as art.

(Uh, is that an oxymoron? Nature is art!)

You’re just getting a view of the gate and the double garage, not the house and the woodsy bench that sits right outside the house which is painted a shade that looks like tumeric. So spicy.

The garage doors are metal and purposefully rusted. They take on the color of another spice, cinnamon. I love the mix of wood, stucco, and metal all living together naturally in these warm tones. Even the leaves on the tree that offers shade over the gate are full of depth. No perky green leaves here. Instead, they’re deep, like eggplant.

The brightest color in this palette is the buttery colored driveway made up of loose stones.

I have ginger-haired friends who could wear these colors so well! Marj, Ginger, Coralie, Randi…you know who you are!

That weathered gate makes for a great altar for pausing to offer a prayer of thanks for the wonders of Nature. It’s not the Grand Canyon, but the colors and textures remind me of how spectacular Nature is. It makes me appreciate how I am but a mere spec in this wonderful place called Earth and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here!


House Print No. 2120 and the person who wears it

I didn’t quite get a “print” match for the color combo of this house, but I feel like the texture in this copper/brown dress reflects the same natural mix of elements in the house. There’s not a lot of razzle dazzle in this house combo. It’s earthy and grounded. So is this dress.

The fabric looks like it’s woven to have a surface texture. You weavers out there probably know just what the fibers are! I can imagine sliding my hand across the fabric and feeling slubs of silk.

I’m thinking the woman wearing this dress is strong and capable. She’s a no muss, no fuss kind of gal. She hardly wears makeup. She’s not against it or anything. She’s just naturally beautiful and doesn’t need it.

She’s athletic but not in a wearing-yoga-clothes-all-day way. She’s active. She kayaks in the early morning in Richardson Bay. She rides horses at stables in Sonoma County up near Cotati. She rides her bike out to Tomales Bay. On the way she has coffee at Toby’s Barn in Point Reyes and then rides up the coast to Marshall where she stops at the Hog Island Oyster Company for some fresh oysters, cheese and bread. She’s easily home by six so she can go roller skating with friends at the Church of 8 Wheels in the Panhandle in San Francisco. That’s a normal weekend for her.

She’s very Zen about her own beauty. She could care less about being the center of attention. In fact, she may slip out of the party early and go home to read up on Kenya. She’s heading there next week.

You might wonder how a busy woman like this has time to go shopping. She doesn’t. That’s why she books regular appointments with a fashion consultant so she doesn’t have to give her clothes any thought at all. She’s happy to let someone else take care of that part of life. Can you imagine her slogging through a dress department? Right, she’d hate it. She’d rather be climbing a mountain or swimming to Alcatraz. She considers her relationship with her fashion consultant as one of the best things she does to take care of herself so she can enjoy life to the fullest.


Where she wears this

Our lady in House Print No. 2120 is a loyal friend. She shows up for her friends and their activities wherever they may be–from Giants baseball games to scuba diving trips to weddings at Sea Ranch.

And that’s where she’s wearing this dress. A friend of hers, going all the way back to grade school, is getting married at Sea Ranch out at the cliffs. The intimate dinner following the I-dos will be in the barn just yards away. She’ll fit right into the natural colors at Sea Ranch.

For those of you who have been there, you know how there are only shades of brown and sage green. Everything blends into the landscape and Northern California at this time (especially with the drought we’re in) is very brown.

People don’t go to Sea Ranch to have glitzy weddings. They are there because they are Nature lovers, low-key, and and love the elements. And that describes our woman in No. 2120.

She has other occasions coming up where she might choose to wear this dress. She’s thinking of wearing it to an upcoming cocktail reception after an award ceremony for a colleague of hers; a party in Austin, Texas this summer; and her college reunion at Brown University. John Krasinski, the actor from the TV hit, The Office, was a classmate of hers. She’s looking forward to hanging out with John’s wife, Emily Blunt. They’re texting buddies.


Where would you wear this? Is this a color you admire on others or wear yourself? Do tell!



What I Wear When I’m Feeling Blue



When life feels blue, I wear light colors

When I feel blue, I wear light colors


Sometimes it’s hard to face the world, isn’t it? It doesn’t have to be gigantic tragedies that pull you under. It can be little things, or lots of little things that add up, or maybe it’s one big thing. When I wake up feeling blue, I know I need to take special care of myself right from the start and that starts with what I’m going to wear for the day.


What brought on this blue day

In the past, when I was feeling blue I could call my mom. But that option isn’t available anymore and I’m struggling to adjust. Sometimes I wake up and I am just missing her like crazy, eyes filled with tears, not sure how to put one foot in front of the other. Recently when that happened, I opened up my closet and started looking for the most gentle pieces I could pair together to help me find calm and peace even in the storm that is grief.

What works for me is simplicity. I need an outfit to be quiet, reflective. I won’t reach for a loud print or a busy pattern. I don’t want to wear anything that has lots of detail on it. When it comes to accessories, I want one necklace, not layers of them. I want one bracelet, maybe; not my usual stack of everyday bangles that I like to wear. I don’t want anything to make extra noise. I need to hear my own thoughts, reflect, be with the moment as it is, drop any “shoulds” and just be.


BK reflective dressing


The ingredients

So here’s what I chose. I picked out my Theory bone-colored silk top: super plain, super quiet. Then I added my “B” necklace, made for me by an artist I like. It’s on a shimmery platinum colored leather cord. It’s not noisy, doesn’t move around, it just sits there. It has a built in message. Yes, it’s my first initial but it’s also a reminder: just BE. It’s like a mantra. I can grab hold of the letter, take a breath and remind myself that it’s going to be okay.

I added my Carlisle blond-colored leather 3/4 sleeved coat. Again, it’s simple, not much detail, just the minimum. It has shimmer and for me, anything with shimmer captures light and brings in a soft energy. It’s not like a shiny metallic that practically looks mirrored.

This one is soft and easy, not demanding.

I put on my AGL taupe oxfords with white soles. Again, I like the shimmery quality to them. I added a favorite Calleen Cordero bone-colored leather cuff to my wrist. My silver leather “lunch bag” has a crackle shimmer finish to it.

Brenda Shoes

AGL oxfords shimmer


On my agenda that morning was meeting a client at Uber Optics in Petaluma to choose new frames for him. It was a Friday and my medium-wash jeans felt just right.

So while I was dressed for my client, I was also dressed for myself. I felt protected, safe, cocooned. I felt reassured. I know that “this too shall pass” and in a peaceful state of mind I can find the patience to ride the storm of deep loss.


My outfit choice makes me feel hopeful

This was the right choice for the day. I left the house feeling quiet, almost hopeful.

If I want to focus more on that quality of hope, I can use the Navajo prayer to help me.

I love the Navajo prayer. You pick a word and then say a set of lines in succession. Any word will do. I like to say it out loud but you can say it in your head as well.

I’ll demonstrate using my chosen word, hope.


Hope before me.

Hope behind me.

Hope to the right of me.

Hope to the left of me.

Hope above me.

Hope below me.

Hope within me.

Hope all around me.




Brenda Real Life

Feeling hopeful


I had a great appointment with my client. We had fun. We got him into a new frames that helped him move into his next level of “showing up” in the world. It was very exciting!

Whether it’s glasses, accessories, or clothes, I love how all the pieces of fashion can support us.

Life is precious. Clothes help us face it and enjoy it.

House Prints in Green: Heading into Summer Fun





Summer green and falling in love


Last week I posted my first House Print: Finding Outfit Inspiration from Sonoma Homes. Remember that beautiful violet c0lored door on the black and white house? Today I’m bringing you House Print No. 657 which celebrates summer green.

These House Print collages combine my favorite things: my walks, Nature, Sonoma, color, fashion and numbers.

Remember, the numbers are arbitrary and not the actual house number on this lovely home in Sonoma.


Numbers from 657 to 40,000


I will tell you though that 657 was an easy reach to name this House Print. It’s the number of my former P.O. Box in Ross when I was living in Marin County. Good things came through P.O. Box 657. My first book contract from Wildcat Canyon Press came to that box number.

I remember pulling it out, stepping outside of the Post Office, and standing there like a statue reading all the official language while people went in and out. It had been a long process with the publisher to wind our way through to the contract stage (seemed like forever, probably wasn’t). I was beginning to wonder if it would ever become official. But that day, 40 Over 40 by Brenda Kinsel, was officially official and destined to be on book shelves in only about eighteen more months which really was forever!

I was amazed to be a human being holding a book contract in her hand–it’s not an easy club to get into–but then of course, reality hit: the contract said I had to come up with 40,000 words! When I shared that number with a friend later that day, she said, “Do they have to be 40,000 different words or can you use the same ones over and over again?”


That New Green


Okay, so now you know my fondness for No. 657 so next I have to share my fondness for this lovely home in Sonoma. The green shutters and the wraparound porch with the crisp white rocking chairs invites a sensation of pure relaxation.

This color feels so summery. The green is that early summer shade of green when all the leaves are brand spanking new and glistening in the sunlight.

I could imagine this color combination at a resort or spa, in the Caribbean, or maybe on grand estates in historic places like New Orleans.

I just want to go here and stay for two weeks, don’t you? Can you imagine sitting in that white rocking chair, sipping a gin fizz in the hot afternoon before changing into your party dress for the evening festivities? I think you could fall in love with someone new or fall anew for someone you’ve known for twenty years if you were around these colors for very long.

So let’s imagine what’s happening for the person wearing the dress that mimics this summer green shade.


House Print No. 657 and the person who wears it


Although green is a very nurturing color, this green bold print is dramatic. You can’t look away from it: It’s an attention getter. The sheen of the fabric implies sophistication and luxury.

The high-low hem allows us to see the woman’s ankles and feet. It’s much more alluring this way. Think of it in a straight hem and it loses that sense of adventure in the world of men and women and romance.

What I’d imagine about the person wearing this outfit is that she’s comfortable commanding attention. Getting her own way is natural to her like breathing. She doesn’t wish for it or hope for it; she just gets things to go the way she wants them to! If she’s not doing it already, she’d relish the thought of managing a large herd of people. She’s a natural leader and a high achiever but she also knows how to take time for herself and isn’t afraid to splurge on herself either.


Where she wears this print


I’m thinking she’d wear this print to a charity gala, a wedding on St. Bart’s, the film festival in Cannes, or her own summer solstice cocktail party.

I imagine she bought the dress last week, opened her closet and was reminded of how beautiful it was. So over coffee this morning she gets the idea for the summer solstice party. By 10 a.m. one hundred people have RSVPed to her e-vite. She has her caterer committed (even though the caterer had another event to handle, she’s made special arrangements to handle this one because the connections are going to be huge!).

She’s so excited, she can hardly stand it! But she will stand it. She’ll accomplish great things between now and June 21st. I hope you were one of the people that already responded to the e-vite! Those gin and tonics are going to be so yummy!


Does this color tickle your fancy? Do you have a place where you’d wear a dress like this one?

Real Life: Stepping out of comfort zones



Blue glasses copy


Let me introduce you to Elizabeth Aguilar, an optician at Uber Optics in Petaluma, a great eyewear boutique owned by Nancy Billings Revis. The BK/EK Team (Erin and I) have invited  several clients to come and shop with us at Uber. The selection is fabulous for both men and women. It’s fun for me to be developing resources up here in Sonoma County.

Back to Elizabeth: Besides being helpful and friendly (take a look at that smile!) Elizabeth and I happen to be the same size. Not in clothes, shoes, hats, or gloves but in eyewear! What fits Elizabeth’s face fits mine, which is just grand. Unlike my clients, I have a hard time getting frames to fit me properly so knowing Elizabeth has given me a short cut.

In fact, I own the same frames as Elizabeth is wearing. Nancy insisted I needed to try colorful eyewear and once I tried these glasses on, I took the leap. I wore them a couple of times and came back to have Nancy adjust them for me. That’s  when I saw Elizabeth in this great blue and white outfit.




What I saw in her outfit

If you’ve ever loved Delft pottery, you might notice how much this outfit reminds you of the great blue and white designs. Delftware comes from the Netherlands. You’ll find it at antique fairs. The designs are so charming.


Are Delft Blue colors for you?

Delftware puts a smile on my face


So of course, that art appreciation is part of what I love about Elizabeth’s outfit. I love how she’s playing with the blue and white color palette and mixing in texture with her top and her layered jewelry. The texture in her white top echoes the scale and pattern in her pants. The solid blue T-shirt creates a great horizontal band between the white top and the blue and white pant. Her eyewear has that strong horizontal line as well and brings attention up to her face while tying the blues together.

I’ve seen Elizabeth a lot and this outfit really stands out for it’s lightness and levity. She’s so approachable! Who could possibly be “blue” around her? Her outfit puts a smile on my face. Of course what I appreciate about an outfit is one thing; how someone puts together an outfit is her own creation and has its own explanation. I had to ask Elizabeth some questions. Let’s start with the specifics.


The pieces

Joe’s Jeans, purchased for $50 from eBay, normally $140

H&M blue tank top as her layering piece

Nearly-a-poncho white airy top with 3/4 sleeves came from Target

Spring Step sandals came from Sole Desire

Tiffany pendant was a gift from her mom and it says, “I love you”

Silver bracelet was a gift from her son and the charm says, “Mom”

Eyewear is L.A. Eyeworks from Uber Optics


Elizabeth in blue

How did you put the outfit together, Elizabeth?


I really wanted to wear these glasses. I’m loving them so much and getting so many compliments on them. I needed a happy day. So I started with the glasses and then chose the pants. This is the first time I’ve put it all together this way.

I’ve been more and more getting into style since working with Nancy. Nancy helps me a lot. When I got my new hair-do, I felt I had to change it up. I was more blond before, had a lot more highlights.

I typically wear dark jeans. So this is a change for me. I’m getting more edgy and I appreciate quality more now. I didn’t used to treat myself to a good pair of shoes. Now I will. I’ll buy quality when it’s on sale. I have to be careful. I have two small children.


Elizabeth fingertips



Elizabeth turns forty this year. She wants to step out of her comfort zones. I think she’s doing a great job!


House Prints: Finding outfit inspiration from Sonoma homes



Wear what feels good

Wear what feels good


Since moving to Sonoma ten years ago, I’ve created several walking routes throughout the town. I have routes that are perfect if I have forty-five minutes, ones that I can enjoy if I have an hour and some that take seventy-five minutes. I’m comforted by the repetition of walking the same routes over weeks and months. I love watching the season’s change on my well-worn paths. I also get to see the teardown and buildups of homes along the way in real time–some slow, some fast.

At a walker’s pace, it’s easy to appreciate color and design in houses and landscaping. Although I walk at a fairly brisk clip, in some ways it’s like being on a beauty meditation. I don’t have earbuds in my ears, no music, no cell phone–it’s just me and whatever I see before me, to the left of me, or to the right of me.

This particular house pictured above is one I watched grow from the ground up. Actually, the house that was on the property was torn down with just the foundation remaining. Then they added to it and probably tripled the size. It was a long project. When they got around to painting it, I was curious about the black and white color scheme. The house is white and the trim is black, very classic. It’s a lot of house so it’s a lot of white, but when I look at it it feels solid and stable.

And then they painted the door … oh my! Violet is one of my favorite colors so of course, I was swooning with delight at that development. The door is so welcoming and fresh. When I imagine it in black or red, it seems heavy. This is just right!


House Prints


Last week I got the idea to photograph some of the houses on my walks, particularly ones with color combos that interest or intrigue me. I wanted to share them with you and thought I’d add one more layer to it. What if I found an outfit that repeated those house colors? And what if it was in a print? Well, then I’d have House Prints and I just liked the sound of that.

I numbered each combo house/outfit set. There’s no rhyme or reason to the numbers other than I like them or they are numbers of houses I’ve lived in. I thought about the names of Pantone colors or Benjamin Moore color wands. They have numbers attached to them so I decided I’d just pretend I was in the fashion print business and number them. This one is No. 2057, just because.

Come have fun with me as I share some of Sonoma with you. Join me in my make-believe world where I’m creating personalities of people who might be wearing these House Prints and where they might be wearing them. You can add your two cents worth too! I’d love it. Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section.


House Print No. 2057 and the person who wears it


The long dress has black, white, and violet in it, just like the paint on the house that inspired it. It’s a very watery, abstract print, kind of dreamy. The softness of the fabric–the drape and the sheerness of it–makes it so feminine and approachable. The violet leather jacket is also soft and feminine but stands out in a creative way because we don’t often see leather items manufactured in that color.

What I’d imagine about the person wearing this outfit is that she’s sensual, confident, comfortable in her body, and very unpretentious. She’s flirty but in an intellectual way. She’s read the latest books and knows producers with movies in production, movies we’ll see at Christmastime. She’ll get invited to the premieres.

She glides into a room, garners attention effortlessly, but is quick to deflect it. She’s more interested in how your vacation went or how that new job is working out.


Where she wears this print

She wears it to any number of social events: a daytime graduation party, a housewarming party, going to dinner at Boulevard in San Francisco, going to the theater. She’s also planning to pack it for a girlfriend weekend in New York in two weeks. She’s got tickets to see The Book of Mormon … again.


Is this a color combo you’d enjoy? Would you admire it on others? Where would you wear it in your real life world?

Memorial Day: Not Just a Three-Day Weekend

Max Webb and Erin Kinsel in Los Angeles, May 2015

Max Webb and Erin Kinsel in Los Angeles, May 2015 (it’s not really a tuxedo, it’s a bib!)


At the beginning of May, Erin, my trusty assistant, and I flew to Los Angeles to work some wardrobe magic.

Chara Schreyer is a client we see regularly up here in Marin County but she’s spending more and more time in her completed LA home (it was a big project).

I’ve been worried about her down there. In LA she has different wardrobe needs and faces a much different climate. I know about that climate. I lived there myself for many years. Besides that, she’s always warmer than anyone in the room. We all know how hard it is to look cute in heat!

It was pretty easy to do the math: LA + heat – her BK/EK team could = fashion disaster.



LA was on our minds while working in her Tiburon home. We’d come across items in her closet and think they might be better suited for LA: The fabrics were lighter weight, the layering pieces more versatile, the dresses much cooler than ones she needs up here to protect against the chill of Bay Area fog.

After several months of saying “Let’s send that to LA” I was beginning to wonder what was going on down there with those items. Were they getting out on to the streets of LA with her in them or were they imprisoned in her high tech closet going nowhere?

A decision was made: Chara needed an LA house call. We circled the first weekend dates in May and headed south for a wardrobe intensive.


The Wardrobe Intensive gets underway

Chara wanted me to touch every item of clothing she had down there. Here was the plan: We’d edit where needed, create new outfits out of old treasures and then see if there was anything that needed to be added. It seemed a bit daunting but once we got started, we found our groove.

We started each day with a great breakfast, worked until early afternoon and then piled into her car and zoomed down the curvy hill to Sunset Boulevard for lunch, fueled up on lobster salad and espresso, headed back up the hill and worked throughout the afternoon.

It was a delight and a challenge to work with some items she’d had for fifteen years but still loved. I made them look modern and edgy in new outfit configurations for 2015. To her it was like a renovation, something she knew a lot about having built five inspiring homes in her lifetime.



Taking breaks

Creativity was bouncing off her art-filled walls but we needed breaks. One day we went to the movies in Century City and saw Dior and I. Loved it. If you want to see how fashion works behind the scenes and how hard people work in the fashion world, this movie is for you.

One night we went to dinner at the famious Nate’n Al Delicatessen in Beverly Hills. It’s a tradition with Chara’s father, Max. We met him there along with his lady friend, Dora, and his assistant, Steve.

My across the table dinner partners

My across the table dinner partners

Max and Dora are old school. They showed up to dinner totally spiffed out. No LA casual yoga pants or flip flops! Max was wearing a dark suit, dress shoes and a dark blue dress shirt. Doris looked fabulous in black and white, pants and a jacket, with great attention to accessories.

Max was everything I’d heard about and more. He’s 98-years-old and still goes to work every day. He has an easy smile, smooth skin and engages with everyone. The minute we walked into the restaurant it was clear that Max Webb is a rock star. There was a lot of waving from diners throughout the restaurant; lots of people dropping by to say hello.

I sat across from him and the minute we were seated, he started telling me stories about Chara and her growing up years when she left for UC Berkeley in the ’60s. There were lots of details that were hidden from Chara’s mother. Her mother, who passed away years ago, couldn’t handle the stress that teenagers lay at their parent’s doorstep.

Life wasn’t easy for her. The term for it today would be Post-traumatic stress syndrome. Chara’s parents were both Holocaust survivors. “I had to be the mother and the father,” Max said.


Seeing numbers

As dinner arrived at our table, Steve, a syringe in his hand, walked over to Max and said, “Roll your sleeve up, Max.” He was about to give Max his nightly dose of insulin. Watching someone get an insulin shot is a common occurrence for me. My partner, Russ, is a Type 1 diabetic.

What is strikingly uncommon, like take-your-breath-away uncommon, is what I saw when Max rolled his sleeve up: a string of numbers tattooed on his forearm. I had to have known they were there but seeing them was like coming across a train wreck: I couldn’t help but stare.

The subject changed to those numbers on his arm. Max spent six years in eighteen concentration camps. He survived the Auschwitz death march. After the war ended he spent some years in Germany participating in programs to help survivors create lives again. After a few years in the textile business, he gave it all up and came to the US with his wife and two young daughters.

In 1952 with his two brothers-in-law, he started Shapell industries, one of the most major private homebuilding companies in California. He told me he first learned about construction in the camps when he was instructed to build the furnaces used to … I can’t even finish that sentence.

I’m a Baby Boomer. My most recent references to WWII have come from the BBC TV series on Netflix called Foyle’s War and the current movie playing in theaters now with Helen Mirren called Woman in Gold. Given my age, what would be the chances of meeting someone and hearing direct stories from one of the worst wartimes in history? Pretty nonexistent.

After the plates had all been cleared away, we got up to leave. Max got more attention and friendly “Goodbyes” from fellow diners before we reached the door. When we got outside, he wanted to know what we were going to do next. He suggested we come see the movie he had of Chara’s first wedding when she was nineteen.

“No, Dad,” Chara said. “We’re pooped. Next time.”

This Memorial Day weekend, I’m thinking about it in quite a different way. It’s not just a getaway weekend or a three-day sales event at Macy’s.

It’s a weekend of remembrance.


Young girls in Sonoma putting flags on gravestones


Oh, I’m taking advantage of being off today and going on a field trip with girlfriends to check out art in West Marin at Open Studios. But I’m also thinking about Max and the horrors of the past. I have compassion for Vets suffering from PTSD and the families that struggle to find a new “normal” once Mommy or Daddy returns from active duty. The challenges seem overwhelming.

And in the midst of it all there is also the mystery of how some people can survive the unthinkable, the unspeakable and find a way to thrive with graciousness.

There’s a lot to ponder today … and every day.

Don’t forget to remember.


Memorial Day in Sonoma

Bathing Suit Season–Where’s the Valium?

Alison Houtte, co-author of Alligators, Old Mink & New Money is comfortable at a pool

Alison Houtte, co-author of Alligators, Old Mink & New Money is comfortable at a pool


I’ve met a few people who are comfortable wearing bathing suits. Alison Houtte (above), co-author of Alligators, Old Mink & New Money would be one of them. But she’s from Florida! And she was a model for ten years in Paris and Manhattan. That makes a difference, right?

I met Alison and her sister Melissa when I had the privilege of interviewing them at a book event at Book Passage in Corte Madera. Alligators, Old Mink & New Money chronicles their growing up years, Alison’s modeling career and her wonderful store in Brooklyn called Hooti Couture, a vintage store favorite. She’s had it for 20 years but is closing the doors next month and moving back to Miami.

I think anyone who grew up on a beach or near swimming pools might find bathing suits something they could comfortably, intentionally wear, like on purpose, by choice. Me? Not so much. I got to California way past my formative years. I’m not sure I can adjust.


Shopping for Bathing Suits

Curiously, I love helping other people feel comfortable in bathing suits. I’ve helped clients buy bathing suits for sport, as a basic summertime necessity or for destination vacation use. It’s delightful!

Although in thirty years I don’t believe I’ve ever had a client sound eager to shop for bathing suits. In fact, they come to me with furrowed brows and trembling voices, like they’re terrified.   I usually say “No problem!” and tell them I’ll bring the Valium; not to worry.

It’s always insanely successful. It’s not because of the Valium; that’s of course, a joke. But they come to the dressing room with such low expectations that heading up from there wouldn’t take much. Every woman ends up buying two or three bathing suits, even more, because we just can’t choose between all the great choices.

How do I feel about bathing suits personally? I’d put myself in the mortified category. Give me a little slack, though, would you? I grew up on a farm in North Dakota and the nearest ‘pool’ of water was the water in the horses’ trough near the barn. I’m more comfortable in a wool sweater than a Spandex bathing suit. But that’s just me!

Jenny flip flops walk away

For your amusement, I’m sharing something I wrote called Bathing Suit Hell which was first published twenty-two years ago. Yup, in 1993. It marked my very first published piece of writing.

My experience around bathing suits hasn’t changed much since 1993 although I have purchased a few since the J.Crew ones I speak about in this piece. I wore one when my daughters and I had a spa day. Both of them were born in California and are not afraid of bathing suits. You can tell, just by being around them. I know where one is in case of an emergency, but otherwise, it stays at the bottom of the basket it’s stored in.

My kids may have had the Pacific Ocean and sandy beaches but I had snow angels. So there.



Bathing Suit Hell, circa 1993, by yours truly


Last Saturday morning while I sat on the straight, hard bleachers at my daughter’s softball game, Brianna’s mom got up, headed for the Coke shack, and flipped these words over her right shoulder: “It’s so hot I feel like I should be in a bathing suit.”

It was hot, that’s true. So hot that maybe I’d like to be in my air conditioned car, or sitting in my backyard thankful for the overgrown trees, or maybe hot enough to put on my linen, full skirt and blousey silk shirt. But to take all my clothes off and strip down to a stretchy wad of fabric in splashy colors that could fit in my fist? No, I can say for sure that I have never, ever, not in my whole life felt hot enough to walk around in a bathing suit. I leaned in close to Erika’s mom and said, “Now that’s one feeling I’ve never had before.” Her laughter let me know she was with me and we bonded there in the fourth inning, with the score 11-7.

I wish bathing suits had never been invented. I’ve been invited to go to Hawaii and I’m not thinking about how I’ve always wanted to go, how the trip’s being paid for, how I’ll get to see a dear friend again. No, I’m focused on the one glitch in the whole thing: I’ll have to get a bathing suit. I’ll be in bathing suit heaven feeling like hell.

I realize in the big scheme of things, my bathing suit phobia is pretty insignificant. But some of us take these things seriously. I called my friend Molly. I expected to commiserate, but she brushed the whole thing off like it was no big deal. She claimed to have found “a bathing suit that looks great on every body.”

Yeah, right.

“It’s true,” she insisted. “I’ll bring one over. You can try it on.”

I’m in the fashion business. I’ve yet to come across anything that looks good on everybody—okay, maybe cream colored socks or a teal blue sweatshirt, but a bathing suit? No way.

Molly dropped the suit by: dandelion yellow, simple tank, low back, cotton/lycra, from the J. Crew Catalogue. She told me it comes in other colors. I filed it on my bedroom floor, next to my dirty clothes hamper.

I picked it up that evening when I got undressed. An easy on and off, I thought. I pulled the dandelion suit up my body and tucked everything in its right place. I stood before my mirror and didn’t hate it right away. I checked myself out from every angle—sideways and stretching my head over my shoulder, I checked my rear end. Not bad. Now I know there isn’t a bathing suit that can make me look like Raquel Welch or Cindy Crawford. I’m happy just to look as good as I can.

I dialed the eight hundred number and ordered two suits; one in leaf and one in espresso. If I go snorkeling on the reef at Hanauma Bay, I’ll be well suited. But if I just want to get wet, I’ll do that in the privacy of my own bathtub, sans suit.


And what dear readers are your thoughts about bathing suits?


Saturday reflection, sports and fashion

Fashion Show on Mother's Day

Fashion Show on Mother’s Day, Easter in Afghanistan


It’s Saturday morning and I’m feeling pretty proud of my family because of a little somethin’ special we did last Sunday night to support a team in need. My daughter Caitlin suggested it when the Mother’s Day dinner conversation turned to the Warriors. She shook her head and said, “We need to have a prayer circle for them!” Amen!

But first things first. There was the dessert course to enjoy–Caitlin’s homemade pie, voted the very best ever. It was peach rhubarb. How does she come up with these combinations? It was divine!

Then we had to have Fashion Show. Caitlin had several pieces of newly purchased clothing items that she wanted to try on for us and vote to keep them or take them back. Usually this is done with just her sister Erin or me, but on this evening more voters showed up at the polls. There was the addition of her uncle Brent, Russ, and her brother Trevor.

With the added voters, the commentary got more lively with each clothing change. It wasn’t Keeping Up with the Kardashians but it was turning into a fun show. The boys had some quick quips. The voting even started to get a little competitive. Suddenly it was Project Runway. They voted yes on some things that the girls voted no on.

One of the tops in question seemed too long for her. I suggested maybe it would look better on me. Brent didn’t think so but the girls did. (I wore it to work on Thursday. It’s nice when Fashion Show comes with perks!)

The funniest moment came when Caitlin came out in a pair of pants that had already been rejected by all but now we were to assess the sweater. It was a challenge because the two pieces were pretty incongruent. It was hard to give the sweater a chance. The quippers got quiet until big brother said in a thoughtful way, “You know, it sort of looks like you’re dressed for Easter in Afghanistan.” The sweater got nixed but the words “Easter in Afghanistan” got some more play. Brent thought it sounded like a poem (of course, he’s a poet). Russ heard it as a movie title. Erin and I just thought it was funny as a fashion description!

What do we know? It could be the inspiration for a designer’s collection next spring!


Back to B-Ball

Getting back to Sunday night–before everyone left we had a rousing prayer circle to support our Bay Area sports team. We held hands and made a circle. It was part prayer, part cheerleading, and part silliness but added up to 100% heartfelt good wishes for our team. We raised the roof and then everyone went into the night and held their breath until Monday night’s game.

Our Golden State Warriors needed more than our prayer circle could supply, I feared.  They were in the Western Conference semi-finals with the Memphis Grizzlies. They’d played four games so far. They won the first two, easily, and then they lost the next two, hard. Very hard. Only three games left in the series. Oh, I’m talking about basketball, NBA basketball. Did you know that?

Are you wondering how a fashion blog got hijacked and is suddenly highlighting sports? Do you feel like you tuned into your favorite radio station–only this morning they have a whole new format, your radio host is gone and they’re playing a different genre of music altogether?

Well, don’t worry. This blog is all fashion all the time except when I take the liberty of sharing more personal details about family life and other interests like sports or my love of writers. See, this blog post is also about writers! You’ll see.


A sports writer said it best…

I was nervous about Monday night’s game five. To tell you the truth, both Russ and I were dragging our feet about turning on the game that night. If they lost, it was really going to hurt. The Warriors hadn’t won this series since 1975. They’d shown such promise all year but now they were facing the biggest adversity of their whole season.

On Wednesday Bruce Jenkins, one of my favorite sports writers for the San Francisco Chronicle, captured that scary feeling perfectly in his column. He did it with his opening line: “You can come out from behind the couch.”

That’s EXACTLY how it felt! I was reading Wednesday’s Sporting Green (the print version of the Chronicle’s sports section), and looked over at our couch. I absolutely saw it in my mind: both Russ and I crouched behind the butter cream leather couch pulling our faces up just enough so our eyes could peep at the TV screen, the sound off, seeing if the Warriors had come out with a plan to stop the Grizzlies. If they had, it would be safe to crawl out from behind the couch and slip into our comfortable green flecked upholstered chairs, turn the sound up and listen to the play-by-play, holding hands instead of wringing them.

Bruce Jenkin’s next line was: “The Warriors are once again a delightful spectacle with championship aspirations —and just in time.” Whew! That win meant they were going into Wednesday night’s game up three games to two.


on pins and needles

The family that prays together texts together


Next came Wednesday night’s game. I wasn’t as fearful. It was looking good! I texted Caitlin.


Then came Wednesday

Then came Wednesday



Spoiler Alert!

Then came last night’s game. The Warriors won!

They finished the series off in Memphis. I was happy for my boys, but I felt a little sad for Memphis. They lost the series last night and they lost B.B. King, the blues legend, the night before, at the age of eighty-nine. The Grizzlies started the game with a moment of silence that wasn’t silence. It was his music which famously came alive in Memphis decades before.  It would have been nice to win one for B.B. King and go on to play Game 7. But because the Warriors won last night, they don’t have to play on Sunday. That means our guys get to rest up for Tuesday night’s Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. You know where I’ll be on Tuesday night!

My son, Trevor, a big fan of B.B. King, left me a message just before the game started. He was going to be with friends who were taping the game and watching it later. I’d know the winner  before he did so I didn’t text him during the game.

Which reminds me of the Walter Matthau movie from 1978, House Calls. Walter Matthau plays a single big shot doctor and Glenda Jackson plays his new girlfriend, more age appropriate and smarter than the other girls he’s been dating. She knows nothing about sports. If I’m remembering this correctly, she’s made dinner for him in his apartment but when he comes home from working late at the hospital, he wants to skip dinner and go to his bedroom, grab the remote and flip on the TV to watch the tape of that night’s much-anticipated basketball game, a game between rivals, maybe the Lakers and the Celtics.

As he’s getting comfortable in the dark with the glare of the TV screen reflecting on his face, she questions what he’s doing. He tells her he’s watching the game. (Duh!) She wonders why he’s doing that. She says something like, “What are you watching that game for? It’s over! It was on the news already. It went into double overtime and the Celtics won!” He’s crushed. He’s been waiting all day to watch this game.

It’s one of my all-time favorite movie scenes. If you’re a sports fan, you know EXACTLY how he feels and if you’re not a sports fan, you know EXACTLY how she feels! Of course, it’s a romantic comedy. After he gets over the loss of not watching the game, I think they do find something to do together, later … in the bedroom … in the dark.

And now it’s Saturday afternoon and I think I should be checking out the Turner Classic Movie schedule! Hope you’re having a great day!


How was your week? What are your favorite Saturday activities? Do you enjoy old movies or sports as well as fashion?