Saturday, April 18, 2015

A French Country Weekend

I can hardly wait until our tomatoes look like these.
Another exceptionally beautiful spring day and we are all in the garden doing my absolute favorite annual ritual: planting the potager.  

The weeds were plucked from every corner of the garden and the grass was cut this morning in a mass clean-up so everything smells and looks wonderful.

We always plant lots of mint for infusions and sometimes I cut up a couple of leaves and toss them into a simple salad -- a friend taught me the trick. It's surprisingly good. Also, maybe because of our not too cold winters, the mint never dies so I can run out all year to gather the leaves.
We're planting several types of tomatoes and always, always lots of cherry tomatoes which I love plus  cucumbers, zucchini, celery (I think that's a first, we'll see how it goes) and masses of herbs. Rose bushes in my preferred colors: corals, yellows and a sort of blush-white share a corner inside the potager.

While we're on the subject of printemps, please find me at Women's Voices For Change today where I extoll the season. I highly recommend visiting Paris this time of year.

If WVFC is not part of your daily reading, may I suggest that it should be. The site is so intelligent, and fun and informative and well-written that you'll thank me. (Not literally, of course.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Le "Do It Yourself"

Really. That's how the French are referring to DIY, they explain that "Le Do It Yourself" has now replaced "fait main" (handmade) in the lexicon of branché speak or the latest IN jargon if you will.

Women of all ages, particularly young women, are apparently knitting their little hearts out to create one-of-a-kind items. Coinciding with the trend there appears to be a major resurgence in the popularity and thus purchases at merceries, or notion shops, those marvelous emporiums of buttons, bows, beads, trims, tassels and feathers that I so dearly love.

I have no idea how to sew, but I go wild in these places. The idea of changing buttons, even clumsily sewn onto a cardigan or jacket by moi-meme, is so exciting (context). These are the special places where I find a hallucinating choice of real silk ribbons to wrap special gifts and for cummerbunds and belts. The lovely thing about wrapping cadeaux in beautiful ribbons is that you know they will either be saved or used to wrap another present, re-cycling at its most elegant.

This image makes me swoon. (I know, I'm not quite normal.)
Then there is the possibility of finding special, sparkly embellishments -- an appliqué that can be lightly stitched onto a marinière t-shirt or a jacket pocket, just for fun. Just for one season. Ooooh, and passementerie. . .  Or you could sew fringed pom-poms on diagonal corners of a scarf. I'm really getting into this or rather the abstract idea of it all.

In fact, I have a date with a blogger friend for lunch next week in the Galerie Vivienne in Paris followed by a prearranged agreement to visit one of my favorite mercerise, Ultramode, just a few steps away. So exciting. . .

Wonderful, aren't they?
My absolute favorite mercerie though is La Droguerie. One of the owners once tried to teach me how to knit a scarf. She cast the pretty blue yarn onto the needles and I did beautifully until I arrived home and started to drop stitches. It was a very zen experience while it lasted however.

Of course I'll tell you all about our lunch and our shopping expedition, with pictures.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Paris News & Views

A total non sequitur. . . it's just that I wanted to mention how much I love this dress from the  Valentino fall 2015 collection.
Let's start out slowly today with a weather report: Gloriously sunny and warm temperatures, All semblance of winter wear has been put away for the duration.

Yesterday I popped in to see Babette to talk about putting together outfits for next week. She was wearing fluid white crepe trousers with a grey t-shirt, silver ballerinas and red, red lipstick. She looked gorgeous. 

I've asked her to choose one central piece of clothing and put it together for a teenager, her mother and her grandmother. We did this in my book and I love the idea.

The Models of A Certain Age, Modeling

Catherine Lowe.
Now, moving along to the topics relating to the headline. I thought you might like to see a few pictures of the models of a certain age in a fashion spread. The shoot is from Figaro Madame and was photographed by Benoit Peverelli.  I've only identified the women from last week's post (mainly because I don't know who the others are and this blog is about women of a certain age after all).

Anne Rohart.
Eveline Hall.
Renata Reutter.
Weighing In, Again. . .

According to the Institut Français du Textile et de L'Habillement the average size of a Frenchwoman today is 1.62 meters and 62.1 kilos. These latest statistics indicate that over the last 40 years Frenchwomen have grown two centimetres and gained two kilos. The study then concluded that these numbers indicate that the image of the ever très slim femme française does not coincide with the way she is represented in the media.

I did my math and this is how the numbers translate: She is slightly over 5'3" and weighs almost 138 pounds. I find this hard to believe. Even though I'm taller that 99.5 percent of the women I see, I do not think I know more than one or two who are 5'3".  I find the data doesn't reflect what I see every day, but then again what do I know?

A Snappy, Ageless Twist on Les Baskets

Would you wear them? I would. Maybe.
It has become eminently clear that sport shoes or sport inspired shoes are so trendy that they are probably just about to meet their expiration date. Although, they are comfortable so maybe they will endure. It will be interesting to see if they have a future.

I think these black and white striped baskets by Claudie Pierlot are quite cute and smartly reflect the black and white aesthetic that feels so crisp and fresh in the spring and summer. They are in leather which may help justify the price of 225 Euros.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Petit Bijou

Alyson's book, published by Hardie Grant Books, is available in Europe now and in the United States in September.
English journalist, Alyson Walsh, has just given us a marvelous book on style for those of us who belong to the club she calls FAB, her acronym for Fifty and Beyond.

Not only is her 160-page exploration of style at every age full of useful, concise tips and information, but it is also a fun, irreverent read.

She backs up her professional observations from working in the fun-filled world of fashion with women ranging in age from 90-something to 30-something and believe me, we all have something to learn from their wisdom on life and style.

Iris Apfel, the 95-year-old New Yorker who is the poster girl for eternal style said: "If you don't know who you are and you copy someone else's style, then that's sad. You must learn who you are and dress to suit your personality."
 She has lists that tell us for example, "You're Never Too Old For". . .

  1. Silk pyjamas.
  2. Leopard prints.
  3. Kooky sunglasses.
  4. The latest "IT" trainers.
  5. A new hobby/friend/lipstick.
  6. Denim.
  7. Pilates.
  8. Vintage (Even if it's not really vintage, just something you've had for a very long time.)
  9. Chandelier earrings.
  10. Rock and Roll.
Linda Rodin, 66, New York stylist with a successful career as a model said: "One of my friends gave me some good advice: Forget about the wrinkles and focus on the silhouette." 
Alyson has pages on beauty, scarf tying, how to wear denim, how to quickly turn daytime dressing into evening, a chapter on "Wardrobe Glue" and then she emphasises how important it is for us to own a few "kick-ass" jackets. We all know what that means.

She explores different women's signature styles and then tells us the stores where we can find the components for the looks.

East Londoner, Thelma Speirs, 55, is described as a milliner, DJ and fashion muse. She had this to say about style: "I used to do that granny chic thing, but when you're old enough to be a granny it doesn't work any more."
One of the very best parts of her book -- apart from what Alyson and her interviewees have to say of course -- are the absolutely brilliant illustrations by Leo Greenfield whose eccentric, fluid, full of joie de vivre work makes the book come alive. 

So, if you're looking for a good time I guarantee you'll find it in Style Forever.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How Do We Define Life's Luxuries?

Welcome to our world where every month a group of international bloggers takes on a mutually agreed upon "assignment."  This time we're considering the subject of Life's Luxuries.

It seems to me any reasonably thoughtful person should be able to come up with at least a short list of Life's Luxuries, which makes me wonder if I'm a reasonably thoughtful person -- in regard to today's challenge that is.

In the past I'm certain I could have produced a verrrry long list of coveted luxuries, but suddenly I find today's topic troubling, thus I turned to the dictionary to see if my definition of the word/concept coincides with its official meaning. I would say luxury is a desire for some thing or things that involve great expense. Then I add to that -- in my mind -- considerable pleasure derived from those expenditures, otherwise what's the point?

Here's what the dictionary says: ". . . a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense [ha!]. . . opulence, luxuriousness, sumptuousness, costliness, grandeur, affluence, wealth, prosperity, plenty."

Now, buried in all that richness are the words: "comfort and security" and I'm thinking, yes; that's more like it.

I don't want to rain on the parade, but suddenly my desires -- and there was a time when they were many -- of acquisition were fulfilled and I received great pleasure in return. Now I think of sumptuousness as a sort of equation in which Luxury = Happiness and if it doesn't, it's not worth the yearning and dreaming or the expense.

You see the problem I'm having here?

Les Prés D'Eugénie, one of the world's most luxurious spas.
Not to be a brat or to ruin the fun, let me mention a few things that might interest me -- fulfil the equation:
  • Replace my Cartier trinity bracelet and the gold link one I wore with it before our robbery.
  • Check into a spa for a week.
  • Hire a chauffeur (I really don't like to drive.) 
  • Employ a chef/nutritionist to prepare all of our meals.
Also, would I like to build a new wardrobe around all the Stella McCartney navy blue pieces I recently put together? Ah, yes I would.

Cartier's trinity bracelet.
But here's the problem, these possibilities are appealing but I do not think they would deliver on my criteria. I'm not dreaming about any of the above, although I think they would give me a short-term happiness buzz, but that's not how I define luxury now.

Masses of peonies, my favorite flower particularly when I can find them in yellow, an affordable luxury.
Luxury for me is waking up happy with the sun pouring in the bedroom windows; having a house that is lovely and organized, filled with flowers; having dinner at our favorite restaurant with My-Reason-For-Living-In-France; seeing Charlotte sunbathing in the grass; being productive and working on another book; knowing that my daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law are safe and content; having a marathon telephone conversation with a friend on the other side of the world; meeting girlfriends in Paris for a long gossip-filled lunch.

Maybe the reassuring, liberating sensation of my general feeling of freedom from excessive wishing  for more is my definition of luxury these days. 

I suspect the other members of our By Invitation Only group are far more entertaining than I am. Please click over to our leader, Marsha, at her splendid blog, Splenderosa, where you will be directed to essays on how everyone else defines Life's Luxuries.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Blurring The Lines

Because we're worth it. . .
One of my favorite minor idle pastimes is trolling cosmetic counters when I'm in department stores or Monoprix. I admit I find the exercise somewhat overwhelming, but I've done my homework well in advance.

I read articles about the promises products proffer, then I hone in on the ones that capture my imagination.  Case in point: Nude Magique Blur Cream from L'Oreal.

As I write this I'm wondering if I've mentioned it before. (Things sometimes blur in my mind as well as on my face apparently. . .)

If I have, which is possible, I have an idea for another approach: A long-term testing cycle. I've been using it regularly now for several months and find the blur to be a very interesting product. The more I use it, the more I like it.

This one is a "miracle" while the one I'm using is "magique" which makes me wonder whether this one is better. I would imagine it's better to experience a miracle than mere magic. I'll have to investigate.
I found consensus in an article from Refinery29 about Hollywood makeup artists' favorite drugstore products.

 I like the idea of a primer, and basically that's what it is. It has a strange consistency in that it comes out of the tube like a thin, narrow worm or string and it even wiggles a bit. Never mind. It should be applied over moisturizer and it has a slippery feel going on as well as on the face, one could be more delicate and call it "satiny" perhaps.

Forget about that aspect as well because once it "sets" its capacity for smoothing small imperfections like tiny lines and visible pores is quite remarkable.

You top it off with your foundation and all the rest, or whatever your regular makeup routine may be.

It does add another step to the process, but I love "doing my face." I find it restful and usually pleasing when I'm finished -- all things considered. . .

Friday, April 10, 2015

Plants, Pills, Peace

Rhodiola rosea, not a plant in our garden, but rather one I "take" twice a day with a large glass of water. . .
    Doubtless I've mentioned this before.  I'm a worrier. (If you need someone to worry for you, just tell me in the comments and I would be happy to comply. I'm sooooo good at it. Not to brag.)

          My-Reason-For-Living-In-France, allied with my daughter, accuse me -- yes, there is no other word for it -- of worrying about not having anything to worry about. I honestly don't understand how the two people who know me best could give me so little credit for what I do so well.

         OK, point established. Let me clarify, I am not paranoid, pessimistic or depressed. I'm simply overly concerned about just about everything.

          An old boss of mine, who became a good friend, advised me to take any situation that was bothering me and imagine the worst possible outcome and then imagine how I would handle the situation that would probably never occur in a million years. I do that quite often. It's very stress-y.

Griffonia simplicifolia before it ends up in capsules.
          Lately I've been in a frenzy of worry -- normally it's a constant flatline, recently it was spiking. Since I was making myself crazy, I decided to turn to my pal Christine, owner of our local pharmacy.  She has studied all sorts of plant-based remedies for just about everything. She much prefers giving people herbs and plants, in capsule form (she runs a pharmacy after all), than your every day over-the-counter meds.

          First she asked me my symptoms (see above) then I added stress and not sleeping because worrying is truly exhausting as you may know. She then asked if I was taking any prescription medication for my dilemma. "No," I told her. "Good," she said.

         Christine "prescribed" two capsules: Rhodiola rosea in combination with Griffonia simplicifolia, three of the former twice each day and two of the latter, twice a day with a very large glass of water in both instances.

          "I can tell you they really work," she said. "I've been taking them for months now and I feel much better."

          Rhodiola rosea is a perennial herb that is classified as a natural "adaptogen" or a substance that promotes overall well-being and heightened mental and physical performance. It was formerly called golden root and is reputed to increase blood flow to the brain thus making one feel better (perform better). It is supposed to increase resistance to stress, irritability and fatigue.

          One article refers to it as the ginseng of the 21st century. How about that?

          Griffonia simplicifolia is a West and Central African shrub with green flowers and later black pods from which products are made. It contains 5-HTP which Christine tells me acts as a stimulant for the brain to produce more of the "let's get happy" chemical, serotonin. Serotonin promotes sound sleep, levels of humor and apparently weight control. (That last bit was a surprise and always most welcome.)

          You're wondering, does this cocktail work? Yes, it absolutely does.

          Now I still worry, but I'm far less stressed about it and tend not to wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I need or forgot to worry about something.

          Who knows? Maybe it's a placebo, but really, I don't care.
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