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One of my favorite people on Instagram is a woman known as “The Contessa” or the “Antique Goddess.” A few months ago she asked her Instagram followers if anyone wanted to come to her home for lunch. Hello. Why yes, I would. When she said her table could only hold eight, so we needed to let her know asap… 

I responded by saying, “I’m coming even if I have to bring my own folding chair and TV tray!”


Last Saturday was was a picture perfect, California day, when I joined four other women for lunch with the Contessa and Banksy, her Tea Cup pig. Known for her colorful caftans, exotic handmade slippers, big hats, smashing jewelry, a blooming garden she planted and a welcoming heart, the Contessa’s Instagram bio says she “loves all things old, worn, rusted and with a hint of a grander past life and elegance in day-to-day living.” Her home is that and more!

I love the photograph above. Look closely and you’ll see the Contessa, wearing a red opera coat (this photo is B&W), at the Louvre in Paris, feeding chickens out of a tin bucket! I know what you’re thinking: Kind of an odd place to be feeding chickens, but she and her photographer hid stuffed chickens and the bucket under their coats and carried them past security! LOL! As if a woman in a flowing, red taffeta coat was an everyday thing. If they’d been caught with their taxidermied chickens… Try explaining that to a group of humorless French Gendarmes. BTW, the rest of the brood were photoshopped in by the photographer. What a grand hoot, but that’s our Contessa. Actually it sounds a lot like something I’ve done before, but that’s another blog.


Even when she goes to Safeway, Elizabeth, the Contessa, lives and dresses like a real Contessa, and she surrounds herself with things that delight and take her fancy. Like her collection of over 20, silver ice buckets. Most were purchased from an antique store or a flea market, and she uses them for everything from chilling wine to holding a role of paper towels, a bouquet of roses grown in her garden, plus they’re lining the shelves of her pantry.

It’s great fun to meet women you’ve known, only online, because you’re already digital pen pals and know a lot about one another. There’s no “so where are you from,” “what do you do,” or “are you married?” We all picked up as though we’d known one another forever. I can’t see men, getting together with guys they’ve known only online—unless it’s for a poker game—can you?

That’s what I love about women over 50. We’re done viewing other women as the competition—for jobs as well as men—and we’re embracing one another like sisters, dealing with similar issues.

The other women around the Contessa’s beautiful table were left to right: Shannon, @shannonkirbyint, a Bay area interior designer and worldwide antique/vintage hunter and gatherer. Oh, yes! I’m loving these women! Then me, Brenda @1010ParkPlace. On the other side of me is Karen, a former Ad Executive and gourmet cook. You should visit her Instagram page @figcottagelife and find her video and recipe for making Tomato Jam. It will literally make that little spot in the back of your mouth water and beg for mercy!

Andrea at @Serrahna is the vibrant redhead in the gorgeous Indian dress and Sari. She has a boutique in Oakland where she sells treasures she has made in India. On the end is Juliet @makemineaspritzer–a native Californian who recently built her dream home, which is what we did all afternoon by adding club soda to our prosecco and wine.



SHE TOPPED THE PAVLOVA WITH ROSES FROM HER GARDEN. If you look on the left wall you’ll see a small photo of Elizabeth in her RED opera coat.

When it came time for us to leave, the other women lived in the general vicinity, the Contessa asked me, “What will you do, tonight? Stay in your hotel room? Why don’t you stay for dinner?” I think she wanted to make sure it had been worth my while to come all the way from Texas. How thoughtful, because that’s exactly what I would have done.



That evening I met her neighbors, who brought their friends to see the Contessa’s home and backyard, which she and her husband have lovingly created. It’s like nothing in suburbia you’ll ever see. The neighbors adore her, and it’s easy to see why. I also got to meet the infamous “Italian,” the Contessa’s adorable husband, who grilled steaks and Tuscan bruschetta for the three of us. Did you know the proper way to eat bruschetta is to grill the bread, rub it with a clove of garlic, poke the bread with a fork and then drizzle olive oil over it? Yum!


The real rainbow occurred when we were visiting with new friends and talking about shared interests, which started with the Contessa. Thank you for teaching us to live, everyday, like we’re all Contessas. And if we’re not using the “good china,” what are we waiting for? Seriously! Who’s more special than us and our loved ones? Thank you, Contessa dear, for sharing your home and going to so much trouble. Please know how much we love and appreciate you!

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Hi Girlfriends,

I’m proud to say that 1010ParkPlace™ has been voted one of the Top Ten Blogs for women over 50: the best-educated, wealthiest, most powerful demographic in history.

Here you will get a glimpse into the lives of other women, learn how they handled things life put in their path like divorce, the death of a spouse, serious health issues, low self-esteem, addiction and how to reinvent yourself after a major life change. You will find like-minded women and relevant conversations about finances, fashion, sex, books, music, films and food. We feature interviews with inspiring women along with straight-talk and bold conversations to reawaken your passions and make life count.

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Tell your girlfriends, sisters and coworkers about 1010ParkPlace. We have lots of exciting interviews planned and stay tuned for updates about my memoir! 

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30 thoughts on “LUNCH WITH THE CONTESSA”

  1. The Contessa is a true bon vivant, and surrounds herself with more of the same.
    It’s true what you say about the sisterhood. Elizabeth’s blog, this one and so many others by women of a certain age are full of joy and enjoyment.
    Thanks for the photos, which are a different perspective on the fabulousness chez Contessa.

    • Isn’t it special that we’ve found one another? I loved your post this week about the family trip to Italy and the walkie talkies and looked longingly at your apartments… Perhaps in the next couple of years my girlfriends and I will plan a trip to France and rent one of them. Brava that we’re both in the Contessa’s orbit. I’ve checked everywhere, but don’t know your first name!! Please let me know. xoxox, Brenda

  2. This is MY TOPPER for TODAY after that ROYAL WEDDING!!!!!!!!!I got up at 3:21AM……….Just in time to see HARRY AND WILLIAM ARRIVE!!!!!

    OH, I LOVED DOING These LUNCHEONS and meeting ALL OF YOU!YOU are such a TREAT with YOUR LIFE EXPERIENCES!!!!!!!PLus, I must ADD a GREAT PLATE DRYER…………Just so people know she is a TYPE A!
    As all I wanted her to do was sit and be still as I cleaned up a little before the next ACT!
    Brenda, cannot SIT!
    IT was MY PLEASURE INDEED to host these luncheons and I hope OTHERS will follow……………
    AS YOU STATED ABOVE we ALL ALREADY know each other and we care about one another and want to SHARE what we know!WHAT A GREAT TIME IN OUR LIVES!!!!!!!!DOn’t YOU THINK!!!??
    I think my next SOIREE will be a CAFTAN COCKTAIL CLASH in late summer……..ALL MUST DON MY FAVORITE A CAFTAN TO ENTER!

    THANK YOU BRENDA for your ENTHUSIASM and BRAVRY to get on that AIRPLANE and take a CHANCE with ME!!!!!!!!!
    I feel SO HONORED!
    PS.NO TV tray NEEDED!

    • Elizabeth, Yes I’m a Type A, but who goes to someone’s home and just sits around and watches them cleanup after having slaved away, making a fabulous meal? There was no way I could have done that. My mama taught me better! This is SUCH A GREAT TIME IN OUR LIVES and I’m OVER THE MOON THAT ALL OF US ARE FINDING ONE ANOTHER! At some point I will get my courtyard finished and something to sit on out there and have a soiree of my own! Until then, here’s to new online friendships with fabulous women! xoxox, Brenda

  3. The blogosphere has its fair share of contessas, queens, princesses, and other self-anointed royalty. Elizabeth is the real deal. I love Elizabeth. I remember as a new blogger how I often I left comments on blogs that I admired, hoping to form connections, and failing. Not so with Elizabeth. Not only did Elizabeth respond to my comments, she began reading my blog on the regular. We spoke on the phone a couple times. She even sent me a gift in the mail — a giant volume of antique Milwaukee newspapers. The woman is loving, generous, and open-hearted — a true Italian even if it’s her husband with the DNA to prove it.

    I might say you are like Elizabeth too. Open and kind and willing to give newbies a chance. How neat that the two of you got to connect face-to-face. Well worth it!

    • Thank you! You’re a sweet, genuine woman as well, Mithra. I still remember your first comment on my blog about hoping you weren’t too late for a party on my bed in the Spy House on the Hill. I love the serendipity of how we’re all finding one another! There are thousands of women blogging and on Instagram and yet, here we are, together in one way or another. Very special, don’t you think? xoxox, Brenda

  4. Thank you for this wonderful report which brings the joys of the Contessa’s world alive. I was a lucky guest at luncheon #1 and treasure the experience. People like Elizabeth and you who create beauty and have such sharing generous hearts show us how to create the world we want to live in, grow and share.

    • Grazie to you as well, Penelope! You’re part of the world we’re creating and sharing with one another. I know you’re as happy as I am that we were both able to be at one of the Contessa’s lunches! So fun! I especially love that you stopped by and told me! Brenda

  5. Love this, Brenda. Love the ‘Contessas’ of the world who teach us how to live. And love the bloggers of the world who bring them to us!
    You mentioned in a blog some time ago something about using the ‘good’ china. I am the happy recipient of my Maternal Grandmother’s china. Since reading your wonderfully wise words, I’ve been using that china. For both the adults and the children. When a plate got broken, I simply shrugged and said, “It’s going to get broken. But it’s going to get used first!”
    Thank you, Brenda!

    • Awe… Thank YOU, Diane! I remember that blog about using the “good stuff,” and am happy to know I made a difference! Truly I am! That’s the best thing I could hope for that in some positive way I influence someone else or get them to consider things they haven’t considered before. So a plate is broken… It’s just a plate. There are lots of online sites that carry old china and glassware, but we can’t replace those precious times we have with friends and family. Awesome comment. Thank you, Diane! Brenda

  6. Thankyou for such a loving and kind post sharing your peregrination with the Contessa. You’re both fabulous women that are so willing to share and open up new venues, insight on daily living and adventures !! I find inspiration everytime on your blog and Contessa’s blog ! Hugs wrapped around you both xo

    • Thank you for such a nice compliment… even if I did have to look up “peregrination!” LOL! It’s gratifying to know we’ve inspired someone in a positive way. I see you here, frequently, and love your name! Shawnee Gallagher! It’s lovely and lyrical. Do you have perchance an American Indian heritage and maybe married an Irishman? My late husband was Comanche, and I have so much respect for our first settlers. xoxox, Brenda

  7. Brenda, thank you for this most thoughtful installment. I adore you all and am so happy to meet you! On to Caftans & Cocktails! ‍♀️ Cheers to us all! Viva La Contessa!!!

    • Hi Rebecca, We all had such a great time, together, but I believe we’re all “one-of-a-kind women, don’t you? I always love seeing you here, Brenda!!

  8. Brenda – I loved reading your post and reliving our wonderful afternoon! It was delightful to meet you, and all of the lovely ladies around the Contessa’s table. The Contessa has inspired me in many ways, and taking the chance of inviting new friends to my table is next on the list. Ciao Bella!

    • Hi Juliet, The Contessa inspired you to buy a caftan!! I thought about it and wondered what to wear to lunch with a woman with such a fabulous wardrobe! At some point I’m going to have an event here, but first, I want to have more than a mud playground for puppies in my courtyard. I’m working on it. Ciao! xoxox, Brenda

  9. Hi Brenda,
    I was lucky enough to have been included in the first luncheon, expecting a delight for the senses – and was not disappointed in the least! But what I didn’t expect was for Elizabeth to be so warm and welcoming, and the sense you mentioned that we already knew each other. There was none of that awkwardness that comes at functions or weddings when you’re seated at a table full of interesting people who have nothing in common. With Elizabeth and the other ladies at the luncheon there was a feeling of connection and celebration, and it was a wonderful feeling! The conversation flowed and the food, flowers, music, and decor were more that I could have ever imagined! From the pictures on instagram and your post above, I see that you had the same experience!I wish I could have met you, too! Perhaps we’ll all be together at some other soirée at La Contessa’s casa! I’m so happy that people like you and Elizabeth are in this world, and that my life is opened up to new the possibilities of kinship, all because of a connection on the internet!

    • Hi Heidi, Isn’t the Internet a special place? Who knew when we first started on Facebook and Instagram that we would forge such great friendships and connections with so many interesting women? It’s been a lot of fun for most of us, and I hope we’ve only just begun! Here’s to what comes next and where it takes us! Thank you, dear lady!! Brenda

  10. Shoot! I missed the luncheon and you. Her invitation came when I was still in my walking boot and no way to fly. But I’m so sorry to have missed you. I know the Contessa is really Auntie Mame. One of a kind. I so want to meet you. It will happen. I have had the opportunity to be wined and dined by the Contessa. Her home and animals are simply delightful. Her generosity knows no bounds. Anything the Contessa is involved in will be unique and special. I know it was worth the trip.

    • Sandra, It was so worth the trip, but I’d hoped to meet you as well!!! You’re also a special lady with lots of life adventures and an open heart, so I feel that you’re already my special friend. We just haven’t met face to face… yet! xoxox, Brenda

  11. I love the Contessa! She’s one of my most favorite clients. I love that you hopped on a plane for a lunch date. That is what life is REALLY about. Loved this!

    • You have a new website design!! Very pretty! It just draws me in! Brava, Rena! And GDPR… I’ve been having to “click” on boxes on some of the websites I’ve been on lately, and maybe that has something to do with it. I figured it was fallout from what Facebook started. I must look further into that. Always a treat to see you her. Thank you, Rena! xoxox, Brenda

  12. Oh Soooo Love This!!!! Brenda, thank you for taking us all there! The photos are fabulous! I think the Contessa needs her own reality show! This looks like the most perfect day! By the way, Brenda, love your outfit!!!!

  13. I’m happy to have found your site – just the combination of wit, style, gentle humour and good writing I love!
    I have met some bloggers – near and far – and have had similar experiences……all the ‘what and where’ questions have been answered and the ‘who’ is pure pleasure!

    • Hi Pondside! I took a brief look at you, and you’ve just resumed your blog! Welcome back!! Your readers were so very happy to see you, again! You must be over the moon about that. I look forward to reading your blog and getting to know you!! Thanks so much, Brenda

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