Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Love Letter To You

My dearest friends, followers (and occasional passersby),

Today is the second anniversary of this blog. I really don't believe it. It has become an addiction for me -- my connection with you.

A simple thank you seems so feeble and inadequate for the joy you have given me. For reasons some of you know, this little escape into a virtual cocoon of kindness, enthusiasm and good humor has been exactly what I needed.

This love letter is not meant to be all about me, it's meant to be all about you. You are wonderful, creative, intelligent, wise and winning and I appreciate you every-single-day.

Tomorrow starts our third year together.

Merci, merci, merci.


P.S.: It states on my "profile" this blog started in 2007. I saved the name in 2007, it wasn't until October 2008 that my "niece," Catherine, set the whole thing up. So, dear Catherine, thank you again.

Oh yes, P.P.S:  Entre nous, I would rather have two of these Diptyque candles in Oranger, my favorite scent, to celebrate than that stupid 2 thing up there. . .

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Weekend In The Country

Rule #1: When in doubt, do not eat(!)

Rule #2: Immediately walk, cycle or drive to the pharmacie.

Rule #3: Toss OR save and savor.

Rule #4: Discuss till you fall over in a stupor, about how to properly clean.

Rule # 5: Argue over the perfect recipe immediately after the extended conversation/debate about proper cleaning methods has been resolved.

Rule #6: Reach a decision about rules four and five.

Rule #7: Forget about all the above and enjoy one of the culinary world's greatest luxuries.

You certainly deserve an explanation at this point. At the top is a charming picture of a toadstool --  you know, just like the ones in your garden. 

Immediately above is another, equally lovely picture of cepes, those rich, creamy, coveted mushrooms growing all over the Rambouillet forest (and other forests certainly, but I cite Rambouillet because as I mentioned last weekend it surrounds us).

The difference between the two pictures? Toadstools are poisonous, cepes are delicious and make one swoon with delight over every morsel. But you knew that. (However, you may not have known that when you find the two in situ. I certainly have no idea.)

Their fresh, rich, earthy odor makes the laborious task of cleaning them a pleasure -- so does a glass of Sancerre rouge and someone helping and talking with you as you work.

Now, back to rules #1 and #2:  Unless you know what you're doing, you don't want to blithely eat any mushroom you come across (where we live almost everyone does know what they're picking).  As for the second suggestion, in France, every pharmacie offers the free service of identifying your crops to tell you whether they are edible or whether they would be your last meal. 

And, rule #5: Cepe cleaners fall into two camps. 
  • Those who insist it is a crime to wash them. These purists maintain all mushrooms must be brushed clean with a purpose-made, fine bristled brush. 

  • Those on the other side of the debate agree that mushrooms should be brushed as clean as possible and then rinsed to assure the last crunchy bits of sand and mud are removed.
The friend who gave me a huge basket of them last weekend said, "Whatever you do, don't wash them." Two other friends said, "Definitely rinse them after you brush them."

I will not tell you what we did. I will tell you we moaned with pleasure as we ate them. All the work was worth it.

P.S: Sam, My Carolina Kitchen, if you're reading this please weigh-in. Those of you who have not met Sam, you must click here. Her blog is wonderful and her joie de vivre is contageous. You'll see.

Friday, October 29, 2010

All Tied Up

Scarves and shawls, two of my favorite subjects. (I realize up until this moment you probably thought I was an intellectual. . .) 

No, call me superficial if you like, but when it comes to wanton spending of Euros, more often than not it's on these items. To my surprise and delight, while flipping through my scarves and shawls I realized -- well, fashion is my life after all -- I already own lots of right on the moment fashion statements: camel, gray, leopard, also leopard in shades of gray and blue (very chic, as you can imagine), navy blue, French blue, red plaid -- I could go on and on, but enough said.

If you think that will stop me from shopping for more, you couldn't be more wrong.

Since, as I've mentioned on several occasions, I have about three or four tying techniques in my repertoire, I like to turn to my fab friend, Pseu, for tips and tricks. May I recommend you do the same? She has produced another tutorial for us today, click and see at Une Femme.

Pictured above are a few women I've snapped on the street over the last months, all wearing their scarves. Some treat them solely as neck decoration, others want the warmth as well.

Please note, directly above is a picture of our teacher, Pseu, on the rue de Rivoli, taken by moi meme. Note that complicated scarf trick she's pulled off -- pretty spiffy don't you think?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dear Cherie. . .Out On A Limb

The metaphorical "mailbag" was overflowing this past week, not only Cherie's but You-Know-Who also received her share of e-mails.

They all stared more or less like this: Dear Cherie, Have you seen the article? I thought of you immediately. What do you think? 

They were talking about the piece in the New York Times written by Dominique Browning, former editor-in-chief of the late "House & Garden" magazine on the subject of her long, long, long gray hair. In the unlikely possibility you have not read her "argument" (Cherie is using the word here in its Socratic definition), please click below.

Speaking of arguments, Duchesse made interesting points on the subject earlier this week you might like to read and think about her take on the psychology of the debate.

This is what Cherie thinks: To each her own. Frankly, what else can one say?

A woman's hair is such an intimate, integral part of her very essence, mirroring her deepest feelings about herself. A hairstyle can say: 
  • "I really don't have the time and I really don't care.
  • You can see my roots? That's your problem.
  • My husband/boyfriend/fill-in-the-blank likes it long.
  • Long is easier.
  • Short is easier.
  • Gray? No that means I'm old.
  • Gray? I hear it's the new platinum blonde -- bring it on.
  • I was a redhead, I will always be a redhead.
  • I had black hair, I will always have black hair.
  • I have no idea what my natural color is (and don't care to find out).
  • If Demi Moore and all those other celebs can wear their hair to their elbows, why can't I?
  • I can't wear my hair to my elbows because I'm not traveling with a hairstylist wherever I go.
  • My hair is my shield against the world.
  • My hair is just one more chore. Where are the rubber bands?
  • I don't care what anyone thinks. Period. 

Cherie could go on and on, but bottom line: a woman isher hair. If she goes over budget on cut, care and color she is giving out a message. If she lets the roots show, never conditions, has a cut whenever without the slightest concern for "style" that's another message.

Now, to get back on message. If Dominique Browning likes her long, long gray hair and her mother, sister and others are suggesting she may be mistaken, why do we care? It's her hair.

Out on a limb. . . Cherie thinks gray and white hair can be ravishing. It's a lot of work to keep it shiny and healthy. Then there is the other gray hair route, a trip to the hair salon for one of those short, tight perms -- heaven forbid -- it's easier to take a detour to the tattoo parlor and have "I'm old and don't care" tattooed on your forehead. In the long run it's cheaper.

No more dithering, Cherie, in general thinks long, long, long hair is aging. It pulls the face down, unless it has already been lifted. In France, and You-Know-Who confirms the observation, Cherie has never seen a woman of a certain age with elbow length gray hair -- or any color hair for that matter.

Cherie is not big on compromises, but when they are to her benefit, she's all for them. Between jaw and shoulder can be a flattering compromise. It's all about you.

Pictures from the top: Carmen Dell'Orefice (now there's a woman YKW should have put in her glamour list); 45-year-old model, Kristen McMenamy, (photographed in August Vogue by David Sims); Penelope Fillon and her husband, François, the prime minister of France; Jamie Lee Curtis; Dame Helen Mirren; and Dame Judi Dench.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Glamour: What About The Men?

Glamourous men.  Not an easy challenge. But I know you'll have some excellent ideas.

Again, I'm choosing only those who are still on this earth. 

At least we know -- hope (?!) -- none of these gentlemen in the entertainment business have stylists. Even when they're walking the red carpet their vestment choices were probably largely in their own hands or the tux was sent over from Armani with a tailor to guarantee a perfect fit.

No matter how often we see these men in photographs I think we know very little about them, therein one of the essential definitions of glamour -- "mystery." We know what they do, but do we really know who they are?

My choices include: George Clooney (yes, yes, I know, but I think he has that Old Hollywood glamour); Robert Redford; Clint Eastwood; Jean d'Ormesson (brilliant, terrifyingly cultivated, prolific writer with a huge sense of humor); Andy Rooney, how can one not be enchanted by a curmudgeon (?); and My-Reason-For-Living-In-France, really, he is.

For the men, I've created an entirely different subcategory called simply: "Maybe, Maybe Not. I'm Not Completely Sure." 

Johnny Depp, for example falls into this group. Apart from being a brilliant actor and a talented painter, he is a private man when and where it counts. And, he certainly knows how to get himself up in some exceedingly creative get-ups and we know he pulled them together all by himself -- or maybe with a little help and encouragement from Vanessa.

Also in the sub crowd:

Bernard-Henri Levy, the fascinating, media-loving philosopher.

André Leon Talley, American Vogue contributing editor.

Johnny Depp (I imagine many of you are thinking, "Move him up, move him up!")

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Readers' Choice: What Is Glamour?

You have to admit, this is lots of fun. 

Next week let's attack: elegance, style and my personal favorite, charm.

Some of my best ideas (that sounds like Cherie speaking) come in the middle of the night so I keep a notebook and pen next to the bed just in case. Unfortunately I haven't had any brilliant, life changing ideas. However, I did come up with three more women last night. I wonder if you will agree. Carolina Herrera, Valerie Plame and Jacqueline Bisset. (I always thought Candice Bergen was glamorous, but now I'm not so sure.)

Can you get anymore glamorous than a beautiful spy? And that's it from me. 

At 2 a.m. I interviewed My-Reason-For-Living-In-France -- he's absolutely crazy about these nocturnal grillings -- who said, "You. Now go to sleep." 

Never one to give up, I said, "No, I'm serious, give me some examples."

He said: "I'm serious too. Go to sleep."

This morning at breakfast he said he thinks generally speaking one sees almost no glamour these days. Maybe I'll have to do the post on the women who were glamorous and set the bar so high few can reach it these days.

Here then are your choices: Juliette Binoche, Diana Krall, Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz, Christy Turlington, and Marisa Berenson.

Anita, Je t'embrasse.

Tabitha, take it as a compliment.

Duchesse, I always find your observations fascinating. I seriously could have added my mother to the list, but I felt to make a point where we could all join in the conversation I needed to choose women with whom we were familiar. How about if any of you are up to the challenge, send me pictures of women -- mothers, friends, aunts, cousins, whomever and tell me about them and voila a post on real women who radiate that magic je ne sais quoi?

Let me know what you think.

Pictures from the top: Valerie Plame, the famous spy; Jacqueline Bisset; Carolina Hererra; Penelope Cruz; Kate Winslet; Juliette Binoche; Diana Krall; Marisa Berenson; and Christy Turlington. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

What Is Glamour?

The subject of glamour came out of a conversation last Saturday with my first and best American friend who lives in Paris. Our telephone exchanges, according to our Reasons-For-Living-In-France, are long, confusing, non-sensical and, oh yes, long.

They may believe our chats are non-sensical, but that is only because unlike the two of us, they are not blessed with monkey brains. We start a normal conversation in which a word triggers a different thought and we veer off in another direction and on and on it goes. I'll spare you the details and the detours.

In the midst of one of our digressions the other day, she said to me, "You know the word 'glamour' is absolutely verboten in the world of magazines these days, in fact you have to be careful even using it in conversation." 

"What are you talking about?" said I.

Then I argued glamour has nothing to do with bling and bad taste, glamour is exciting, fascinating, and is not related to the economy or money or status or any of those dreaded topics that can lead friends into real arguments.

"I know, I know, I agree with you," she said. "I think of glamour as something out of the 30s or maybe even the 50s." And off we went on that tangent.

Meanwhile, I think of glamour as something entirely different -- epoch-less and ageless, but rare.

Let's begin with the Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary definition (we might as well start with the lexicology experts, n'est-ce pas?): Glamour -- "the quality of fascinating, alluring, or attracting, esp. by a combination of charm and good looks." And, "magic or enchantment. . ."

There we have it, another one of those "I know it when I see it," qualities. It seems to me a glamourous woman (or man for that matter) has a star-dusted aura about them, but I can think of few celebrities today I would call glamourous. Maybe it's because I think glamour also entails mystery and we know waaaaay too much about celebrities.

Talk about too much information.

Also, God-given beauty for me does not equal glamour. I think Catherine Deneuve for example is beautiful, I don't find her particularly glamourous. (I'm sure many of you disagree.)

Pictured here are a few women who come to mind when I think of the word "glamour." If more come to me in the middle of the night -- and perhaps you'll help me --  this will become a two-part series. Top to bottom: Dame Helen Mirren; Christine Lagarde, France's finance minister; Kristin Scott Thomas (I think she has some magic); Catherine Nay, journalist and biographer; and of course, Ines de la Fressange strolling with her two daughters.

Ed. Note: I thought this was going to be easy, finding glamourous women. I've stayed away from politicians and adhered to women who are still on this earth -- no easy task -- and wish I could have thought of more. Help!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Weekend In The Country

As I've mentioned on several occasions, we live west of Paris between Versailles and Rambouillet, which by a happy coincidence puts us  in the real countryside, just 30 to 40 minutes outside the center of Paris (depending upon the traffic).

Another upside of our bucolic situation is the fact that we reside in a protected environment. No, not a double locked, security guarded, coded, password community -- not at all. We are surrounded by the Rambouillet forest which "protects" us. Strict laws preserve its ravishing beauty and many of our friends and neighbors whose houses are directly behind or in front of the forest need permission to cut down old trees on their own property (after all their property was once part of the forest). Then, they must replant.

The forest, once a favorite hunting ground for "les chasses royales" from the 16th to the 18th century, is as breathtakingly beautiful today as it was then. Anyone is allowed to collect large branches that fall on the ground to take home for the fireplace and pick all the mushrooms one can carry. The cepes are already popping up all over. Many families have their secret spots in the forest where they go every year to pick their mushrooms and they rarely, if ever, share this inside information. 

Walking paths and bicycle lanes discreetly crisscross throughout. For someone who is more of a city girl than a country girl, I find the Rambouillet forest one of the most thrilling experiences I have ever had in France. Every time I enter into its mysterious depths it's an adventure -- the light, the animals, the odors, the plants. It's a wonderland.

At a fast clip, it takes me five minutes to reach the forest from our house and two minutes of furious pedaling on my slick, chic black velo. The top pictures I took not far from our house and the lovely cerf was taken by an association that protects the forest.
Ed. Note: My tech problems simply disappeared. I tried everything in my very limited repertoire to fix the "error 400" and right before the stroke of midnight last night it fixed itself. I think it was the full moon. . .  Thank you once again for your help and sympathy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Probleme Technique - Again!!

Thanks to the help of an intermediary (ma fille) I want to apologize for not posting "A Weekend in the Country" -- which was absolutely fascinating...

This time I REALLY don't understand what's wrong. On my computer it says "bad request, Error 400." If anyone knows what that means, please leave me a message.

Merci par avance. Have a wonderful weekend. It's raining in my corner of the world.


Friday, October 22, 2010


You may be wondering the same thing I was wondering yesterday. Where are all les Parisiennes?

Good question. I certainly didn't see any photo op subjects. Maybe they are dressing down and demonstrating against the proposed law to advance the retirement age (and anything else President Nicolas Sarkozy might propose), or perhaps they were simply keeping a low profile.

Either way, I couldn't find them.

As you know my raison d'etre is to keep you happy and entertained, so once again I hit the cobblestone streets of the village next to ours and came up with these lovely ladies -- proving, I think it is safe to say -- that gray and "greige" are a major movement.

Speaking of scarves, as Cherie was yesterday, the master of the metier is Deja Pseu. I think you should visit her today to see what she's up to. She did a great sleight of hand on one of mine while we sipped and nibbled on outrageously divine delicacies at Angelina's on the rue de Rivoli, but unfortunately it came unwound. Every time I wore it I tried not to disturb her handiwork, but finally the loops unlooped. (Will you fix it for me in May ma chere? I'll pin it next time.)
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