Saturday, October 31, 2009

Framed . . .

As you are well aware after all this time, I use my friend Anne-Françoise as my consummate touchstone in the category of perfect hostess. Her flair, creativity and calm under pressure are unshakeable. She can roll out a dinner for 24 as easily as I can throw together a meal for four. More easily actually.

Her tables are beautiful, the food is perfect and all the rest just flows into wonderful evenings. I've told you this before, but today I wanted to mention a small detail I've stolen from her and would like to give to you.

Starting with eight guests at table she uses place cards. She doesn't have time to dither over who sits where when she has more important last second details to oversee in the kitchen. 

My stolen gift to you on this last Saturday of the month (can you believe it?):  She has a collection of small silver frames. Into them she places white parchment or a colored craft paper if it works better with her color scheme and writes each guest's name in the place of the picture. One New Year's Eve she gave us all our little round silver plate frames as favors. I still have mine.

P.S.: My beautiful pumpkin, which reigned in all its glory on the porch for one week, is now in the process of being turned into a soup for a small dinner party we're having tonight. Makes me sort of sad in a way. It was so sweet and bright sitting there. (If the soup isn't good, not beyond the realm of possibility, I'll be furious.)

Have a beautiful weekend. It continues to be autumn gorgeous here with sun and a few red and gold leaves still holding on to their branches. 

A demain for the weekly line-up.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dear Cherie

You know of course, Cherie lives and breathes fashion, style, elegance, chic, the whole  joie de vivre, art de vivre, style de vivre aesthetic. It's her very reason to leave her beautiful reves, slip from beneath her Porthault sheets and attack another day of beauty and possibility armed with a frothy cafe creme

(That entire last part is one of her major reves if you catch the drift. . .  Although she does own one pair of threadbare Porthault sheets and a machine that makes cafe creme just as well as any bistro in Paris. Unfortunately it is yet to be delivered on a tiny tray by a cute French waiter in a full-length white apron. Cherie is thinking, maybe when the film rights to this blog are sold she could not only get the new sheets she's been dreaming about, but also a little personal service as well.)

Never mind.

You have more pressing concerns and conundrums. So let's move on.

Q: Oh, Cherie, really this whole boot thing this season. I'm in a state. Everyone is buying them -- all your French friends -- they're in every magazine and the stores are full of them. I don't know what to do: high, low, mid. I'm at a loss. Au secours(!)

A: Cherie didn't think you would ever get to the point. As you can imagine she has the answer to all your questions and in only one boot (well one for each leg, but I know how mentally astute you are)  -- high, low, mid. It's all about zip, zip, zip and a mere 1400 Euros. (Ever your thrifty friend, Cherie will now teach you a nifty math trick, divide the astronomical sum of your new Louis Vuittons by three. As Cherie's ex often said, "You can rationalize anything." Eh, qui.)

BTW, very cute that off-handed addition of au secours, Cherie's impressed you know how to say help(!) in French, that might come in more handy than boots you can divide by three. 

Q: Mme. M: You have promised a continuation of the basics of French women's wardrobes. We've got the black cashmere turtleneck, what's next?

A: A black pencil skirt. Now, before those of you who have "issues" start to hyperventilate, there are pencil skirts and pencil skirts. There are also A-line-ish black skirts. French women shop until they find the one -- it may take scores of shopping sorties -- that is absolutely perfect for their bodies. Then, forever after they pretty much stay to the same shape. It's a staple, it MUST be in every woman's wardrobe. This is no place to compromise and the usual rule applies: The best you can afford. Light wool of the finest quality is a good start.

Q: Mme. A: I'm constantly hearing French women's wardrobes are a trade-off, something like addition and subtraction: one thing in, one thing out. Is that true, Cherie?

A: It depends. Among Cherie's friends and acquaintances it's more like a circle that keeps turning -- or re-cycling if you will. French women hold on to their best clothes until they have to be replaced. The lucky ones have a seamstress whose name they won't divulge to their best friend so precious is her service. Thus with her seamstress enabler she can tweak pieces that are not quite on the fashion mark, but are worth saving and reviving.  When she buys inexpensive of the moment pieces she often hands them off to make room for another.

The good stuff she keeps. You know why? It's not only because she probably has some precious designer duds, but also she can still fit into them year after year, after year. There's the rub.

Q: Mme: To your knowledge, Cherie, do French women travel alone either in their own country or abroad?

A: As far as Cherie has observed, they figure out a way to bring a girlfriend if there is a significant other who is either not interested or not available. They have no problem sitting alone with a book or a magazine in a bistro or restaurant, but they seem to travel in pairs or seek out a tour. Another advantage in this country is even small towns offer excursions that can include anything from a trip to the Louvre with a guide, lunch in Paris and back home to a trip to Vienna for example.

Q: I'm sure, living in France and all, it is practically impossible to shock Cherie. Am I right?

A: Probably. 

Cherie prefers to use the word "surprised" or if she were 100 percent French she would say un peu surprised. In fact, that sentiment arrived full-blown just last week when researching aprons at the request of a faithful reader. In the pursuit of the perfect shield between a too vigorously whisked vinaigrette and a Chanel ensemble Cherie found "The French Maid Apron." As you surmised Cherie is not easily "surprised," but the second thought that popped into her head -- well, she has been living in France for some 20 years -- was: "That little item is probably used for Gallic pursuits that do not necessarily stay in the kitchen." Then again, maybe Cherie has lived here too long or needs more fresh air.

Q: Sometimes Cherie, no offense intended, it seems to me you are entirely too involved in the frivolous world of fashion. I have the feeling you're not getting out enough with real people, with real values who have real lives that do not orbit around appearance.

A: Is that a question?

Cherie is bridling at your assumption that she is out of touch with what really matters in this life. She is anything but, which brings us not only to proof of this fact, but also a beauty tip.

So often Cherie is asked about lining one's eyes. She feels it is such an individual decision, so much a part of a woman's personality, that she and only she can decide. A note of caution: If one's eyes are not as wrinkle, crease and puff free as they once were -- rethink the kohl, at least on the bottom.

Speaking of kohl which will underline my proof that I do wander hither and yon. I recently learned from a friend, a veterinarian btw, that Arabian horses in competition have their hooves painted into a shiny patent leather finish and their huge eyes are enhanced with eye-liner. She told me sometime she might take me to see them.

See, where else would you get an off-subject bijou like that if you didn't turn to Cherie?

No one could ever accuse Cherie of being shallow. 

Note: Photo of boots from Elle taken by Paul Empson. The skirt is DKYN.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Country Living: Out & About

I tried my best, I really did. I took my big "be brave, be zen" deep breath followed by the "they-don't-know you, you-don't-know-them" mantra and hit the streets of Paris. More to the point, I took to les rues of the 16th arrondissement where we buy our six cereal and fig bread -- not mixed, two different sorts. (Worth the trip btw.)

Those of you who know the reputation of the 16th might sympathize with me or question my intelligence to start my endeavor in this neighborhood. You would be right on both counts.

Steeling myself, I walked up to a smashing woman -- age indeterminable, but in our vast range -- wearing an over the knee bleached denim pencil skirt; cropped close to the body camel leather zippered jacket and bottines of approximately the same color. Her hair was shoulder-length, blondish and wild, she was wearing big, black sunglasses. I explained my mission emphasizing all the while how gorgeous and chic she was. She stopped, gave me her full attention, lifted her shades ever-so-slightly over her blue rimmed blue eyes, looked into my blue eyes, gave me a withering half smile and said: "I don't think so, not today."

Suddenly I can empathize with those excruciatingly annoying telemarketers. She was my first and last attempt in Paris. I've returned to my safe hunting grounds. Little by little I'll build up my courage, choose another arrondissement and try, try again. 

Until then, we're still in the country, although I maintain, tres chic country.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Virtual Shopping: My Way, Her Way

We need to talk. Or, more accurately: I need to explain. Never varying from my black palette you will note I chose from Armani's fall/winter ready-to wear collection a snappy tweed jacket   for Edith and me -- more on that in a second. 

Edith meanwhile, noting we're running out of black paint (and perhaps our beloved followers are sick, sick, sick of noir), suggested I might want to add some pop of color to the black on black on black theme. I relented, after all I don't know how to draw and compromise can be in one's best interest under such circumstances. Thus, for our virtual shopping expedition* this week I chose Michel Klein's knock-out shocking pink coat. Honestly, I would love to own it.

Now as for the Armani jacket, don't misunderstand, I think it's perfect for Edith, but no sooner did I say to her, "How about that one for us?" She started drawing. It was at that very instant I realized I was about to make a HUGE fashion error. (Give me a little credit for seeing and admitting I saw it.) So there she is merrily sketching away and I'm thinking: "Here we go, my reputation is on the line again, I cannot wear that jacket. It hits my you-know-what exactly you-know-where; furthermore I don't really like three-quarter sleeves.  I've always been extremely tall and three-quarter sleeves make me feel as if I've outgrown something and my mother wants to get one more year out of it. I'm always tugging to pull them down and I find any fussing with one's clothes to be most unattractive. But I digress. . .

"Edith," said I, "We must take my virtual jacket to a virtual couturier who will lengthen the arms and add some "material" to hide the bits I always keep undercover." 

As a result of my "visit" to the virtual couturier my virtual purchase looks quite different from Edith's.  

*The virtual shopping game consists of my choosing (virtually, you know, not really) two pieces from the season's ready-to-wear collections which Edith and I then take back to our own closets to mix with pieces we already own. This week I mixed my Michel Klein with my gray cashmere turtleneck, gray flannel trousers and long black leather gloves. Edith is wearing her new belt (see yesterday's post), new boots, a pleated black wool crepe skirt and a fine silk knit T-shirt plus similar gloves.

For the Armani ensemble she's wearing the same tee, her favorite red wool skirt and the same boots. I'm -- surprise, surprise -- wearing my black cashmere turtleneck and black flannel trousers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What Did They Buy? Part I

Knowledge is power. 

Beyond our insatiable curiosity we must know precisely what they are buying to perk up their wardrobes this season so we can determine what direction we might like to follow -- or not.

This is the first part of another mini-series which will continue until we all get bored with the subject. (I trust you will let me know if you reach ennui before I do.)

A few observations before we plunge into the specifics:

1.) You may think some of these choices are too young for you. Consider the way a French woman would wear them: opaque tights, boots, lacy camisoles under deep Vs -- demure, yet sexy -- and so on.

2.) Their choices often underscore the way they expand the foundations of their wardrobes. Basically basic with a soupçon of frivolity.

3.) Two found or re-found their perfect LBD this season. As we all know, a staple.

4.) We may be returning to some of the women included in today's survey because they haven't finished shopping. They're still on the hunt. Sometimes they don't know for what specifically, but they'll know it when they see it.

Let us begin. . .


1.) Knee-high black leather boots with a low heel. "They're a replacement for the pair I can no longer wear anyplace in public."

2.) A black corset belt.

3.) A simple fine-knit wool cardigan with tiny silver buttons -- "and the reason I bought it, the little detail of buttons on the sleeves."

4.) Lots of opaque tights: black ("well, you know. . ."), red, dark brown and dark gray.

5.) Low boots to wear with jeans in dark brown suede.

6.) A wine colored cardigan flecked with red "I can wear with anything. It has no buttons so I close it with a brooch." (Drawn by her above.)

7.) "I'm still looking for my seasonal coup de foudre (love at first sight) something."


1.) Gray Tod moccasins.

2.) A gray/taupe Zadig & Voltaire deep V-neck cashmere sweater.

3.) A LBD from Irene Van Ryb. "It has short sleeves, a round neck, is quite fitted and then the skirt becomes A-line. It skims just above my knees." 


1.) Two pairs of three-inch heel moccasins, one in black, one in gray. Both in suede, trimmed with patent leather.

2.)  Chocolate suede knee-high boots with a medium heel.

3.) Black suede cuissards (thigh-high boots). "I wear them with a black envelope skirt so they don't look too risqué."

4.) A long, large cardigan with a one button closure in taupe.

5.) A black fine wool pantsuit with high-waisted straight trousers and a very fitted one-button jacket. "It is perfect for work and can instantly transform into a more formal affair."

6.) A charcoal gray three-quarter wool and cashmere coat with a huge collar. (It's pictured above.)


1.) A navy blue flannel dress by Bensimon (purchased chez Babette btw).

2.) Low boots in navy suede. "I thought I would wear them with the dress, but decided it was too much."

3.) Low boots in camel suede.

4.) A fine wool deep V-neck sweater in camel.

5.) A "patineuse" skirt in black. (Ice skater skirt?  She plans to wear it with black tights, not the way it's shown above.)

6.) A camisole in black bordered in lace to be worn under a deep U-neck black sweater.

7.) A cardigan with losange (like cough drops, sort of diamond shaped?) beads in tones of maron glacé, cream and beige.

8.) A LBD "very chic" to wear in Atlanta this December.

9.) A black coat. "Also very chic."

10.) A small, black sequined evening envelope.

11.) Black lace high, high heels. "Oh, I love them."

12.) A shawl in shocking pink.

Monday, October 26, 2009

TOP 10: Reasons Why I Like Frenchmen

You may have noticed I didn't say the "Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Frenchmen" because I only love one Frenchman, My-Reason-for-Living-in-France, but I have to admit I do have lots of fun with the others and they are unfailingly good for the morale.

It took me a few years to catch on to the games, word play and innuendo, but now I can joust with the best of them and as a result have passed hundreds of fascinating and amusing moments sparring with the masters of the class.

Here is a sampling of the reasons why they are so much fun. . .

TOP 10: Reasons Why I Like Frenchmen:

1.) They genuinely like women.

2.) They listen.

3.) They ask questions and are interested in the responses.

4.) They're impeccably polite and respectful (even when they're not always PC).

5.) I love the way they dress either country casual or business serious. (Business serious often includes a jaunty pochette, beautiful cuff links and a witty cravat.)

6.) They invariably smell delicious.

7.) They freely give compliments and I believe they are always sincere. As My-Reason-for-Living-in-France says: "There is something beautiful about every woman." He's proved to me how true that is.

8.) Some know how to cook extremely well and a few even clean-up after.

9.) They pour the wine. 

10.) They are arguably the world's best flirts and they make it a fun repartee. It is never vulgar.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Week Ahead or La Semaine Prochain

On the Calendar for Next Week:

Lundi: TOP 10: Reasons I Like Frenchmen.

Mardi: Interviews: What Did You Buy This Fall?

Mercredi: Virtual Shopping: Her Way, My Way. 

Jeudi: Out & About

Vendredi: Dear Cherie

Samedi: Deco Surprise (But not as surprising as last week I hope.)

Dimanche: Next Week's Line-Up.

(Ed. Note: Edith and I just finished our "virtual shopping" and as I walked out the door she gave me a pumpkin. So exciting. I haven't had a pumpkin on my porch since I was a little girl living near Niagara Falls.)  

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hearth & Home

Prepare yourself for a "best laid plans" gone completely awry kind of day. 

Theoretically Saturdays are all about decoration; that's what's on the agenda. As we all know only too well, sometimes life interferes with our best intentions. 

Since I am often wont to wander off subject, that's what's on the program for today.

I had a couple of projects in the developing stages, but they won't be ready for public viewing until the same time next week due to unexpected events.

Here's what's on offer today: A few every day details that make the quality of life in France so extraordinary.

Last night one of our dogs was frighteningly sick. Of course it all started at 9 p.m. on a Friday. While I tended to her, my husband called our vet who told us what to do until he arrived.

Note last few words of the sentence, "until he arrived." He did and all is well. Not all veterinarians make house calls, but ours does unfailingly, day or night.

These are some of the people who come to our house and always make us feel safe and cared for:

1.) Our doctor.

2.) Our medical pedicure person.

3.) Nurses to change bandages, give shots, vaccines, etc.

4.) Ambulances -- instantly -- in the middle of the night when one is most frightened.

On the more frivolous side:

1.) Dog groomer and nail cutter.

2.) Coiffeuse (She arrives equipped with the thingie that attaches to the bathroom basin just like in the salon and no she is not in business for the two ends of the beauty spectrum -- the old and ill or the rich and overbooked. Her prices are moderate.)

3.) Piano teachers for adults.

Perhaps other countries have some of these luxuries, but if so I am not aware of any that have all of the above. I'm sure you will correct me if I'm wrong. Can't wait.

The picture above, so this discourse isn't one long, gray block of type, is of the sheep, goats and chickens grazing and lazing in front of our insurance company's front door. 

Hope you have a wonderful weekend. A demain with the weekly line-up.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dear Cherie

Back from the Big City Cherie is refreshed and ready to get down to business. 

Before we begin, a little merci is in order.  Realizing with a sense of glee and gratitude your heartfelt participation in this earth-shaking, life-changing back-and-forth we're having, Cherie is ever more convinced of the importance of her mission. Of course with Cherie's impeccable credentials where else would one place one's trust about the things that truly matter in this life?

Now, on to your questions -- paraphrased, scrambled and completely off-subject whenever Cherie so desires.

Q: Mme. A: What do you make of grommets and all other "hard-wear" adorning women's garments and accessories? Do you think it's the new bling?

A: Cherie has a confession to make: She cannot honestly answer this question, considering her irrevocable prejudices on the subject. She cannot help but feel hardware belongs in hardware stores and not on women's bodies. Granted, exceptions can be made for studded belts which admittedly can be chic, a smattering on a bag perhaps and maybe a splash on shoes.

Is it the new bling? Let's hope not. Give Cherie sequins and beads any day.

Q: Mme. A (encore): Is there any rocker chic out there for us?

A: Once again, Cherie must demur. What she considers "rocker chic" may not be what you have in mind. Just today she saw a woman in a shiny brown asymmetrically zippered bomber jacket for lack of a better explanation. The woman looked dee-vine and Cherie is not a big leather proponent, but at moments she is capable of being open-minded. (You will see if you agree next Thursday in the "Out and About" series.)

Though Cherie doesn't own one herself, she does approve of and even admires a beautiful black leather pencil skirt. Yves Saint Laurent made it a classic and it can be pumped up into something rock 'n roll or toned down into a classic wear anywhere wardrobe staple.

Q: Mme.M: Are there some absolute "must haves" in every French woman's closet?

A: Why, my dear, I thought you'd never ask. Indeed there are. However, Cherie sees this question as an opportunity to draw-out this response for several weeks to come. . . One thing at a time in other words. 

Let's start with the no woman can ever, ever live without a black cashmere turtleneck sweater. It pays for itself hundreds, maybe thousands of times over if it is well cared for and of good quality. It is as chic with jeans as it is with satin evening pants or the above mentioned black leather skirt.

Q: Mme. KP:  Do French women wear aprons when preparing their remarkable cuisine? 

A: All the women Cherie knows, many of whom are extraordinary hostesses as one would expect from the milieu in which Cherie circulates, would never put their designer duds in jeopardy while stirring a sauce or sauteing a sole. Aprons are de rigueur, but of course whipped off the instant the hostess steps out of her kitchen. She would never be seen in an apron by her guests. (Aprons from French and Floral and French Chef.)

Q: It occurred to me recently that some time ago Cherie prattled on, no pardone moi, talked about seriously applying herself to a regime, or a diet as we say. You mentioned at the time you asked your doctor for a "silver bullet" in the form of a capsule you might swallow to cut your appetite. We're all quite curious about where you are on this journey. Can you enlighten us?

A: Cherie finds this to be a rather intimate and intrusive question, but will nonetheless bite the proverbial bullet the useless doctor refused to prescribe. We are among friends after all. We have no secrets. As you may recall, above mentioned doctor said he had two solutions for dropping les kilos. He said: "The decision and apples." (This doctor is extremely cute, looks like a rock star, but Cherie doesn't like him as much as she once did.)

The apples are in a lovely silver Revere bowl, the decision is pending.  

Dear Cherie. . .

Cherie had to run off to the big city so she'll be a little late with her column, but do stay-tuned. She already has ALL the answers to most of your questions.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Country Living: Out & About

They have no fear, they're not insecure, they've got it all worked out. For them it's not about trends or the ins and outs of the fickle world of fashion as dictated by magazines and the buzz about the latest and the greatest.  It's about their individuality. The way they dress is an extension of their personalities.

French women discover -- many at a tender age -- their singular style, it's all about them, they don't wish to look like everyone else.  They don't need to prove they recognize the new dictates. As the years pass, they add, eliminate, perfect and fine-tune.

Dressing is an extension of who they are, what pleases them, what amuses them and they hope at the same time gives pleasure to those who appreciate their efforts -- whether they know their admirers or not.

Basically, that's the thesis of this blog: To prove French women, particularly those who face perhaps more challenges as they pass out of their 30s, never fail to turn heads with their creative flair, respect for themselves (and others) and their fashion finesse.

Individualism, personal expression, an extension of who I am and what pleases me and I hope pleases others. That's the bottom line for them.

If my DIY/I'm-Not-A-Photographer pictures demonstrate anything, I hope it's their spirit of independence and how they use clothes and accessories to communicate their message to those who take the time to savor their unique savoir-faire.

Question of the week: Who is that red-haired woman dashing down the Rue de Rivoli? Could it be (?) the mysterious Une Femme?
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