The Calm Before the Storm

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There’s a decidedly nippy quality to the air in Santa Barbara. I won’t go so far as to say it’s cold, but it has that bell clear, cinnamony, tartan scarf, pumpkin latte feel to it.

These beautiful leaves were gathered from my garden just 2 weeks ago when the temperatures were still flirting around 80 degrees.


The colours were stunning. The Instagram photos don’t even do them justice, but alas, I can’t lift my big camera just yet.

Patience, patience (limp noodle)…everyone warned me.

BTW, you know one thing I’ll add to the “Post-Shoulder-Surgery Tip List” from last week??

#11. A glass of red wine helps before physical therapy. It helps a lot.

I just learned that yesterday. My genius is a slow, steady affair. It doesn’t like to rush in all at once and cause a big spectacle.

and just in case there are any doctors reading this-I’m not condoning drinking wine while still taking pain-killers.

(anyway, those are like sooo gone)

Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’m saving my very last one for the check up with my surgeon on Monday. He’ll be putting me through my paces to see how much progress I’ve made with my arm extensions 🙁 (hold me)

I’m down to only 2 Alleve a day, but let me just say-the physical therapy is no day at Butterfly Beach.

IMG_8055On the sweet side, meet ‘Leon’

He jumped up and gave me some tender, loving company yesterday afternoon while I was getting iced at the physio clinic.

Look at that face! He feels my pain.

May we also note it was the first day I wore trousers with no elastic at the waist. Hallelujah

So, basically, wine had to be served.

But, where were we?? Oh yes, we’re drawing very close to the holidays now.

Grab your helmets.

In just a few short days, the time between Thanksgiving, Hanukah & Christmas is going to pass so fast it’ll peel our faces off.

So, how about taking just a little time for yourself and curling up with a good read?

The calm before the storm as it were.

I finally finished “Empty Mansions” and would definitely recommend it.

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‘ “We are all a little peculiar” as she would say…’ a friend of Huguette Clark

Although it would be more than a stretch to write reclusive American heiress Huguette Clark’s eccentricities off as mere peculiarities, after reading this new biography by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. I don’t know that anyone would come to the conclusion that she was crazy either.  Sadly, many of her extended and long estranged family (all descendants of her father’s children with his first wife) tried to prove just that-or at least, that Huguette was not of sound mind towards the end of her (105 yr.!) life. After nearly two years of litigation concerning the $300million+ remaining fortune, the lawyers, family and various participants reached a settlement just two months ago.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but the story of Huguette, her immediate family and some of the people she chose to have in her life is indeed a head-shaker.

 Of particular interest to me, and no doubt many other locals, was Huguette’s stunning Santa Barbara mansion below.

Clark-Estate-3_t479“Bellosguardo” presides over the last ocean cliff separating Montecito from Santa Barbara, capturing panoramic views of both the mountains and the sea, to no doubt breathtaking effect. The estate was built by the preposterously rich, copper mining Clark family in the 1930’s as a summer residence and is “The House on the Hill” of our little hamlet.

Clark-Estate-1_t479It’s actually so close I can walk to it from my house. My doctor’s office is just to the left of the bird refuge/lagoon you see on the lower edge of the property. Huguette built the refuge as a tribute to her deceased sister.

The entire estate, as well as a large ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, passed to Huguette when her mother died in 1963.

Neither of them used the house in over 60 years.

Not once. Zero. I used it as much as they did.

Some years back, Ty Warner, owner of the Beanie Babies, Four Seasons Hotel NY, The Biltmore & San Ysidro Ranch and whose private residence is extremely close to Bellosguardo purportedly offered Ms. Clark $100 million for the property. She politely declined.

130909-hugette-clark-dolls-vmed-1p.photoblog600Huguette was a child-like woman who owned several vast homes yet chose to live in a small, spare hospital room (in very good health) for the last 20 years of her life.  Until the day she died she seemed to prefer the company of dolls to humans, but was unfailingly polite, charitable and kind to everyone she came in contact with.  She loved music, cartoons and everything Japanese, yet never visited Japan. She was an accomplished artist, loyal correspondent and friend, devoted daughter, loving sister, and generous patron of the arts.

huguette29n-1-webThis last known public photo was taken on her honeymoon in 1928 at the age of 22. I believe she was probably much prettier than the photo would suggest, but she was extremely uncomfortable being photographed. No Selfies for ‘Hugo’ .  Privacy was everything to her.

Everything. Greta Garbo was Kim Kardashian compared to Huguette.

She and her husband would be separated only 9 months later and divorced within two years., yet they remained friends until he died.

Those who knew her best said she was shy but not at all unhappy.

STOP  me before I tell you any more of the story! gawd.

Personally, I think she just wanted to live in the world completely and utterly on her own terms and had the limitless resources to do so.

Apparently a recipe for a very, very long life indeed.

Is that so crazy??


PS. I imagine this would make a great Book Club read. (even though I’ve never been in a book club)


leaves.slimpaleyEnjoy the rest of your weekend and remember…

Don’t stress!! It’ll get done, it will all get done.

It will all get done, won’t it?!!


Flash from the past; One year ago today; The Day After



  1. Love this line “Howard Hughes was Kanye compared to Huguette.” Perfection. Thanks for letting me know it will all get done. I needed that. It was funny that you mention the Pumkin Latte. I was just thinking about it, no lusting after it when I virtuously decided to take a walk instead. But I really want a pumkin latte. Really. Another super post and super book suggestion.

  2. Hey Slim,
    Just started reading the book, so thanks for not revealing too much…Congrats on the nifty q&a in mixxmaster. Your blog is the best!

  3. Dearest Slim Paley…..We don’t know each other…perhaps this email to will spark a conversation.

    I am an interior designer who LOVESLOVESLOVES your blog…..that being said, that is not why I am contacting you.

    Please check into this web site and info I am sending you…..

    Look under ‘Locations’…there is a locaqtion near you….run, do not walk….get your shoulder healing into this process…

    It is a whole body freeze that SUPER SPEEDS the soft tissue healing process up and you will suffer so much less.!

    Here are a few more sites for information….I researched before deciding to try this amazing technique out. It is nothing short of a miracle, and drug free. I have sent several of my friends to the Denver clinic that has this freeze machine….one of them was scheduled for the very surgery that you are recovering from…he was able to by pass the entire surgery and is almost well! It will sososo aid in your healing. It has taken me into a new jest for life after months of debilitating neck and shoulder pain with a pinched nerve. (Note: it also has a Hollywood following…it rejuvenates the collagen in your skin to regrow…. AMAZING how it adds youthful skin back!)

    Many thanks for your beautiful blog….you truly have a gift for photography and story-telling, in addition to your incredibly stunning design work!

    Best of luck…let me know if you decide to go for this cutting edge technology….you will never regret it!

    Warmly, Mindy Sunday Mindy Sunday Design

  4. Love , love , love your blog! The gods have banned me from google for some unknown reason, therefore my own blog sits idle. Perhaps they (the gods) know mine is not worthy…insert woman bowing to thee….but yours certainly is. Did I say I love your blog, or is that the wine talking? And yes it is Saturday afternoon! Speedy recovery.

  5. Will read, thank you so much but will read the last page first because I can’t stand the suspense!!!! And, I always wondered what was on top of that hill….thank you. Special kisses to Leon!

  6. Fascinated by the photo of child Huguette in the large hat ..I cant work out where or on what she is sitting / any ideas?

    She sounds a fascinating person ..I think we all want to live on our own terms and she did …half her luck

    Good luck with the rest of your recovery …I sprained my ankle last week and have needed a few scotchs to ease the way so hang in there Slim

  7. I read about Huguette in the L.A. Times some months ago. Fascinating story, I’ll have to pick up the book.
    Congratulations on being one of the first Mixx Masters. I had the good fortune to hear Timothy Corrigan speak at Pottery Barn (of all things) about his recently renovated Chateau. He was so fun and really nice. Then, he (or one of his minions) commented on my blog post about his new book and such. I was so excited…it’s the little things in the world of blogging! 😀
    Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

  8. Thanks for the info on the book – sounds like a good read and great for the upcoming long week-end. It is “coolish” here in San Diego, Enjoying it while it lasts!

  9. Read Empty Mansions everybody! It is a great read.
    Slim, feel better and keep the great posts coming! My sister turned me on to you a few years ago. I am hooked!

  10. Glad you are on the mend, the pooch is precious. I was almost feeling guilty about the fact that I am still in my freelance pants, watching Gone with the Wind and getting caught up in blogville, until I read your advice to take advantage of this calm, thank you!! Looking forward to seeing your Mixx, congratulations on the inclusion!

  11. Congratulations Ms. Mixx Master!! You are the cat’s meow..front and center! Great job!
    Your friend, Leon, was just so cute. He made me smile and I think “animal therapy” is sometimes
    just as good for the aches as physical therapy!
    Keep up your good work. Can’t wait to get that book “Empty Mansions” to read over

  12. Have known about Hugette Clark for years and now I must read this book. You make it sound so intriguing. And, goodness knows, I wouldn’t spend my life as she did but it worked for her didn’t it? Yes, definitely take your time with the healing process. In the end even that will all get done and finished. Now, onward with the holiday plans. Sending a big Texas hug…

  13. Funnily enough I was in physical therapy at the same office at the same time you were and had many a drive-by lick from Leon the therapy dog as I went through my exercise routine! I overheard the advice of a glass of wine before your appointment…Sorry we didn’t get to meet! I was the redhead in the hot pink top…happy healing!

  14. Geez! I love the picture of your gorgeous, warm and inviting living room. Lots of interesting things to read in this post! I wish you well with your recovery, Slim.

  15. Too bad that Ty Warner didn’t get it – he would have turned it into a fabulous small luxury boutique hotel! He did a truly lovely renovation of SYR a few years back.
    Love the creekside cottages, and how lovely The Stonehouse is for dinner on an early summer evening.

    However, the G.M. Seamus McManus is in my personal opinion, arrogant, rude, and has been simultaneously raising prices while cutting amenities and penny pinching the guests.
    For example, the ‘credit’ for breakfast is ridiculous = they allow you $26 dollars for a croissant, one cup of coffee and one glass of orange juice – and call that ‘inclusive of breakfast’ and if you want anything else, say eggs or bacon or waffles or oatmeal it is ridiculously expensive plus with the delivery charge AND service tip added.

    Don’t get me started on how their cottage “special offers” aren’t really discounts at all once you figure the pricing out.

    I hope they figure out the tax situation, and open the house to the public for tours at some point – would love to see it!

    The fight over her money was disgusting. I thought her housekeeper/maid was a unbelievably manipulative leech with a massive attitude of entitlement- 7 homes at one point given to her by Hugette, and complaining about the cost of the property taxes – what nerve!
    The doctors at the hospital weren’t much better. So sad to be taken advantage of like that, pressured, schemed, used.
    Disgrace her room in the hospital with no view once they realized she wasn’t going to give them a big bequest, despite all she HAD given some of the doctors and nurses!

    Makes you realize that you really DO have to have a valid Will witnessed by at least THREE different people, lawyer, accountant, physician, etc. in order not to have your wishes overturned!

  16. Now this is scary…OMG…my mom always told me I was ‘peculiar’! My husband always laughed in agreement with her. I asked her one time where she got that word and she told me with a big smile and an odd laugh…one of my Clark cousins. I’m thinking that that cannot be but I am so out of here tomorrow morning to get that book!
    SP, you never cease to amaze me…

  17. Hi feel better….good excuse to stay in and enjoy good food, read more books about zany people and escape a little:) Read Empty Mansions a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it…there were many wackadoodles back then (as there is now) but why then were they seemingly more charming, innocent and just “playful”? Now they are bonafide candidates for the nearest psych ward (many of our ahem…politicians could fall into this category)! I have always been fascinated by those kinds of people….fun to read about and here their tales. No selfies for Hugo…too funny! Feel better and Happy Thanksgiving.

    Another great book if you enjoy reading about wacky zany but entertaining people is “Apologize Apologize” I loved and enjoyed every page…happy reading:)

  18. Hi Slim, I live in New Canaan, CT, home of her other humongous mansion on 52 acres, so the book and the law suits are of course well known here. And the plot thickens ~~ this week her estate filed suit against a certain hospital in NYC for those 20 years…I don’t want to give it away for your readers…check it out on The New York Times web page. The 52 acres here may be subdivided but with 4 acre zoning and access road requirements and the huge house we don’t think there will be more than 10 houses. Such a shame! It should be a museum or a public park as is another mansion here from the same era, Waveney House. I am saving the book for “after the storm” when those cold New England days have me wishing for a trip to Santa Barbara! Thanks for the wonderful blog. I always love to see what you have found to entertain us with! Linda

  19. slim…so nice to read all on a foggy sunday in cold germany, love the selection and the stories ..and yr right… before the storm, prepping for christmas season. hugs tamara

  20. I was fascinated by the Huguette Clark book and devoured it in a couple of days. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she lived only half a block from my apartment for many years, before they tore down the old Beth Israel North hospital to build condos overlooking the East River. (t was at that point she was moved to the main Beth Israel hospital with a view of the air conditioning compressors.) Before reading the book I had a very negative impression of her family; after reading it, my disgust was transferred to the hospital administration and her private duty nurse.

    On a happier note, glad to hear you are continuing to convalesce.

  21. Slim, First congrats on being chosen to be highlighted by Mixx. Loved your interview and hope you show some of those pieces you spoke of…I really want this book! Hoping to read it during Winter break. How can anyone have such an amazing home and not use it for 60 years? Truly sad. I’m off to #getshitdone before the craziness! Hope you are feeling better. Perhaps you can relax during Thanksgiving this year? Will someone else be hosting. Take care and best wishes! xx

    • Thank you Kim!
      I will be hosting but not cooking! No lifting turkey-birds for me quite yet…though I may manage to raise a thigh and most certainly ‘The Pope’s Nose’ 🙂

  22. Oh darling, I pray someone else will be hosting Thanksgiving for you,so you can relax and be pampered, and drink hot toddy’s the day away, (it will be crisp cold, well cali style cold, cloudy and rainy) this recovery is truly a pain in the arse, I mean shoulder, isn’t it??? ….I am sure a tropical vacay is in tall order, a warm coconut oil whole body massage by the HGTV men is what you really need for a speedy recovery 😉

  23. Happy to hear that you are in the road to recovery, and out f elastic pants. Although let’s be honest, on a cold weekend day lounging around they are comfy.

    I hope you have a blessed an wonderful thanksgiving,

  24. Keep healing, Slim! Love your MixMasterFlash photo. And Leon. And Hugo. Dolls probably ARE more reliable than humans, right?

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