8 In Getting Dressed/ Series

Anatomy of an Outfit to Wear to an Oyster Farm

Hog Island blue outfit on Brenda Kinsel website

Wearing brown and blue at the Hog Island Oyster Farm in Marshall

This could sound weird but I met the best people ever when I was going through the hardest time ever. It was 2004 and I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. I had that one thing in common with the perfect strangers who met for a few months in a support group on Tuesday nights, downstairs from the chemo room where most of us were treated.

As we moved through our treatments and surgeries we headed toward the friendships that have flourished ever since. We started making dinner and play dates. After a while we invited our spouses and partners to join us in some of our gatherings and they fell in love with each other too!

It’s not all been cheery. Our dearest Kimberly had an especially hard battle. My last hours with her were in her home in Larkspur. Several people were there. Kimberly and I were next to each other on her bed, propped against pillows, holding hands, and singing the old hymn In the Garden, our favorite. The refrain goes like this:

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own;

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.

We all feel her presence when we get together as we did a couple of weekends ago out at Hog Island Oyster Company’s farm near Marshall on Tomales Bay. It was a cold, chilly day but our hearts were full and overflowing. Seventeen of us gathered around a long table for a late afternoon feast as close to the water’s edge as you can get before falling in. We had oysters galore plus platters of fabulous food that everyone brought to share. Did I mention that this group is full of foodies? It’s crazy fun! Our hosts John Finger and Debra Ruff (owners of Hog Island) treat us to this great setting at least once a year.


Jewelry bundle for Hog Island fun day on Brenda Kinsel website

My beauty bundle for Hog Island fun day

Getting dressed for oysters

So what does one wear to an oyster farm on Tomales Bay? LAYERS!

I woke up that morning knowing one thing: I wanted to wear a necklace that came from new friends Ginny and Kathy, the Sol Sisters (“Two of a kind making one of a kind jewelry”) that’s shown at the El Sol Vineyard in Livermore, CA. It’s a double stranded luxurious, earthly necklace that makes me swoon. The colors are deep and rich: browns and orange and gold. It feels so good to touch. This was its debut.

I needed something to wear with the necklace, obvi. I decided to showcase the jewels with a column of navy blue.

I chose my long, lean Eileen Fisher indigo jeans and my navy blue vintage Zoran heavy silk tunic. I wrapped a navy pleated scarf around my neck three times. (I’d just brought it back from Minnesota with me. It came from Mother’s scarf drawer.) I added a long navy crinkle coat by Alquema, an Australian company, which I purchased from Specialtees Boutique in Lafayette. I was navy-ed up!


A rich brown Beauty Bundle on Brenda Kinsel website

Creating a Beauty Bundle with warm shades of brown

More accessories needed

I needed to add more accessories. I craved shades of brown: bourbon, whiskey, rye.

I slipped on my camel Lucky boots, added a woven brown hat, my vintage alligator bag and a wide cuff that looks like wood but isn’t. Suddenly I had this delicious warm-toned Beauty Bundle. I played off the gold in the necklace with bronze bangles by Patti Crandall (from Studio Collections Jewelry in Sonoma) and my Victor Sanz gold ring with diamonds. I looked in the mirror and was satisfied, except for one thing. I decided to add one more necklace to the double stranded one. It’s just a little something that layers in so easily. I liked the tiered effect.

Friendships live on

After hours of wine, food, conversation and laughter, I can say about that day that there was a lot of joy we shared as we tarryed there, basking in the special love that comes in the pleasure of knowing each other.

I guess it doesn’t matter how you find your friends, just that you find them. I love you guys!



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  • Reply
    August 29, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    I love the navy outfit. Blue is one of my neutrals and I wouldn’t have thought about layering so much of it but will rethink that now. I especially love the necklace and may have to search out the Sol Sisters. I knew we both had Midwestern roots, mine from Iowa, and that we are similar ages, but I did t know your history of breast cancer. I am going through treatment now. I’m half through my big chemo treatments and will do surgery in November. I grew up in the Methodist church and love many of the old hymns, including this one.
    Thanks for your posts. I find style blogs a pleasant escape at this point in my journey.

    • Reply
      August 29, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      Constance, my we do have a lot in common! I want to give you my full support as you go through your treatments. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And I’m thrilled if you find my style blogs and other people’s blogs a pleasant escape. I don’t think I ever leaned on fashion as much as I did during those treatments. I wanted to look my best as I knew it would create positive energy around me and I needed that. Check in any time with me. I love that you love those old hymns too! I could sing them all day. My love to you!

      • Reply
        August 29, 2016 at 10:44 pm

        Thanks Brenda. I appreciate your support. I am blessed to be a nurse with an army of nurse friends supporting me in countless ways. However, I have no style mentor who has dealt with the challenges of baldness! I may check in from time to time.

        I did try to google the Sol Sisters but didn’t find a specific jewelry site. Do they have a website?

        • Reply
          August 30, 2016 at 2:55 pm

          Love hearing about the great support you have. Just talked to Ginny, one of the Sol Sisters this morning and so far they don’t have a website but maybe we’ll nudge them toward that! I’ll keep you posted!

  • Reply
    Amy Roseveare
    August 30, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Not only was it wonderful to hear about your joyous gathering, but I LOVE your outfit!! Great jewelry all around. Thanks for sharing, Brenda! xo

    • Reply
      August 30, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      Thank you Dear One! It felt great to wear it!

  • Reply
    elena daciuk
    August 30, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    one of my all time favorite hymns…thank you for sharing it…i loved your line “I guess it doesn’t matter how you find your friends, just that you find them.”…it is always how i have felt…sometimes i am amazed at the amazing friends in my life…and how i am so blessed to have them…and how they have all come into my life at different points…and stayed…

    love love love this beauty bundle…i mean…you already know how i feel about vintage purses…but the necklaces…i love the warmth within a sort of ruggedness…

    • Reply
      August 31, 2016 at 8:57 am

      I’m so happy to hear that that is one of your favorite hymns as well. I’m singing it in my head right now. And friendship–well, it’s everything, isn’t it!
      I’ve been trying to figure out the right words to describe that necklace and I think you’ve done the best job! Yes, I love the warmth of it as well and it also has that ruggedness that makes the whole necklace a teaching story to me. Life is all of those things: beautiful, gritty, lovely, rough. For some reason this necklace really feels like it holds a lot of wisdom in it and knowledge. Necklaces don’t always get this personal for me–they are often just lovely adornments–but this one has gotten under my skin in a great way! Thanks, Elena, for your comments!!! And your clarification!!!

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