Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy, Happy New Year

Nothing profound, only a hope that you will have a healthy, joy-filled New Year in all the ways you wish and dream. May you and yours be blessed with peace, contentment and happiness in 2012 and in the years to come.

I can never thank you enough for giving me a year I never could have imagined enriched by your outpourings of kindness, humor, good sense and generosity. I look forward to another year with you filled with serendipity and friendship.

Bonne Année and Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Je vous embrasse tres, tres fort,


Friday, December 30, 2011


In France, life is always all about relationships. We have special relationships with our butcher our baker and some of us even with our candlestick maker. I frequent a charming shop in the town near ours where I find the most exquisite heathery colored candles in a variety of unexpected hues.

Most women have those types of connections with their hair stylist, colorist (possibly), doctor, and maybe manicurist for some. My list of "friends who help" (FWH) includes all of the above plus, in no particular order: my pharmacist, medical pedicurist, dermatologist, dressmaker/seamstress, dry cleaner, vegetable man, cheese couple, wine shop owner, pastry shop, florist, chocolatier (also in the town near ours), special frozen food emporium -- Picard -- and one of my all time favorites, Françoise, who owns the perfumerie in Neuilly where My-Reason-For-Living-In-France and I keep our fragrance wardrobes au courant. When I say au courant, I don't mean to imply we change our signature perfumes for the latest creations. We never do. MRFLIF stays with Chanel Monsieur and I alternate -- depending upon my mood --  between Parfum Hermes and Clinique's Aromatics Elixir. In my case I also have all the attendant products to go with each.

Joelle and Jean-Jacques
Oh yes, I almost forgot. I also have a relationship with the husband and wife who own the librairie, i.e. book, newspaper, magazine store. They order my English language magazines and any other out of the ordinary requests I might have. For their French customers they have a reputation for fine recommendations on the latest books.

Our obscenely delicious Christmas dessert from Tendre Caprice where we have an extremely warm relationship with Clarisse whose husband is always backstage inventing new wonders.
Why am I mentioning this you might wonder, particularly on the day before the last day of the year? It's simple really, I was thinking recently about the reasons I love living in France and these FWH were at the top of my list. They make life rich, interesting, immensely personal and warm. We have a coterie of people who know what we like, know what we might like, take the time to please, take the time to chat, all in all they comfort us in the knowledge that maybe, just maybe the world is not spinning out of control in our simple day to day lives, that it's not all about shopping malls, fast food, Internet shopping, impersonal service.

Ca fait chaud au coeur. It warms the heart.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Your Cadeau. . . Joyeux Noel!


What you will have in your hand is not a diary, a gratitude journal, a happiness notebook, a calendar or blank pages waiting for to-do lists.  What you are –- or could be –- holding is the best moments of your life, a collection of joyous, funny, surprising, ephemeral instants that needn’t be lost forever in the melee of a life led too quickly, too carelessly or perhaps too carefully.

By taking a few moments each day to gradually fill these pages with the instants that add rich detail to your personal history -- your autobiography -- you’ll see how it’s almost always the small things that make life meaningful and memorable.

We’re bombarded with tips on how to save time and in the commotion of staying in constant motion we get dinner on the table in under 15 minutes, eat it in 10 and somehow manage to gulp down a glass of wine while having an abbreviated “how was your day” conversation with the most important people in our lives. Multi-tasking is suddenly a coveted goal, not a distressing aberration of modern life.

Every day everyone has three, five or maybe more serendipitous, if infinitesimal experiences:  a random act of kindness, the sighting of the first robin of spring, a kiss, lunch with a friend, a compliment -- who knows? That is the wonder of each new day, and day-by-day we’re losing the wonder.  As prudently as we plan every hour of our existence we can never know what will give us pause, intrude upon our routine, make us smile. Serendipity, lest we forget, is the ability to make happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. 

That’s what this little book, your book, is all about.  It doesn’t demand grand writing, great effort or profound pronouncements. It is simply a record and a constant reminder that each day counts for far more than what we have so carefully planned. 

** Mode d'emploi (User Instructions): This is your Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's cadeau (after you complete your DIY project explained in yesterday's post)Take your golden ink and write "INSTANTS" on the cover of your new notebook -- a word that translates in many, many languages -- and the rest is up to you. 

We gave them in leather (you see pictured above) to Andrea and Will as a wedding present. INSTANTS is embossed on the cover as are their initials in the bottom right hand corner.

Life is too short not to treasure the instants.

May you have the joy, peace and love of the season throughout this year and those to come. And, may your life be filled with serendipitous instants. That is my wish for you.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Gift for You

It is impossible to tell you how much joy and contentment you have brought into my life. Truly, you have no idea.

For some time I have been trying to find a way to give every one of you a gift. Not just a gift of words, but something real you can hold in your hand, keep, and I hope treasure because ultimately you will take this gift and make of it what you will.

It is a small DIY project on your end. You know I'm not clever in the DIY department, but this one is a breeze.

Here is what you will need:

1.) One pretty notebook, may I suggest Moleskine. (All the better if your notebook has a ribbon marker.)

2.) Gold Ink (or a marker with gold ink) to write one word on the cover.

3.) A pen you will love to use every day.

I realize you will not have the time to rush out to find your notebook in the next few days. That's of no importance. If you have it for the New Year that would be perfect.

Tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, I will explain your gift in full.

Also, in the next few days I'll announce the winner of the Kusmi Tea giveaway. If you haven't told me you would like to be part of the drawing, now's the time.

After tomorrow, I'm taking a short hiatus en famille. Andrea and Will are playing in Paris today so I have free time. I shall now write your Christmas gift post which you may "open" on Christmas eve.

I wish you joy, love, peace and happiness in all the ways you wish.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lost In Translation -- Again. . .

Since My-Reason-For-Living-In-France (MRFLIF) has not gotten beyond e-mail in his comprehension of the Internet and all its magic and mysteries, he likes me to tell him what I'm up to on my blog -- which he doesn't really "get" but thinks it's wonderful nonetheless.

When I decided it was time I got on the Facebook bandwagon I tried -- and failed -- to explain why I would embark on such an endeavor. As a consequence I thought I would share our conversation with you. I swear, every word is true though some have been translated. The conversation transpired in French, English and our own version of Franglais.

MRFLIF: Don't you think you have enough to do without joining Facelift?

Moi: It's Facebook.

MRFLIF: Whatever.

Moi: I really don't want you to go around telling people I joined Facelift.

MRFLIF: Don't worry. Just tell me why you joined this new thing.

Moi: I need a broader platform.

MRFLIF: A what?

Moi: A broader platform.

MRFLIF: I don't know what you're talking about. I'm an architect. Since when do you need a platform?

Moi: It's not that kind of a platform. It's a 'presence' which helps me build my name recognition where people come from all over the world and we become virtual friends and sometimes real friends.

MRFLIF: What are you talking about? Don't you have enough friends? I'm French I understand that one can only have a small number of real friends.

Moi: This is different. I need people to 'like' me.

MRFLIF: People always like you.

Moi: Thank you, that's very sweet. But, this is different.

MRFLIF: You already have about a million people visiting you every day on your blog. Those people 'like' you. Why do you all of a sudden need a 'platform'?

Moi: I do not have one million people visiting my blog daily -- if only -- that's page views and my blog is three-years-old. Furthermore lots of those people come over, check me out and never come back because they don't like me.

MRFLIF: What are you talking about?

Moi: We'll discuss all this later. For the moment, as I said, it's important that I'm on Facebook, especially if everything comes through with my 'project'. I need an important platform. And, that means lots of friends. You know, people who 'like' me. Everyone says so.

MRFLIF: I trust you.

Moi: Perfect.

MRFLIF: I remember when I always understood what you were telling me. I guess those days are over?

Moi: Just trust me.

MRFLIF: Oh, I almost forgot. Andrea said you should probably start Twitting. Are you going to start Twitting?

Moi: No, I am not.

MRFLIF: Do you want to tell me what it is?

Moi: No.

MRFLIF: You see what I mean? We're not communicating the way we used to.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Table For All Holidays

The exquisite, now classic, Baccarat crystal polar bear. Imagine him gamboling down your holiday table.
Welcome to the guest post of my great friend -- and first American friend -- in Paris --  Jean Rafferty, and regular contributor to Art + Auction, Town & Country, Veranda and other publications.   This is a replay, but her taste and her oh, so au courant -ness bears a repeat performance. I think you'll agree. Here then is the elegant dreamscape of what she imagines would be the perfect setting for all the holidays from Hanukkah and Noel to a new year we hope will be filled with hope, peace, joy and promise.

The art of the dinner party? Nobody does it better. French hostesses –and hosts – dress their tables with the same panache as they dress their fashionable selves. And holidays, particularly Réveillon (New Year's Eve) liberate decorative imaginations. Some of my most memorable souvenirs of Réveillons Past might offer up ingredients for a Réveillon Present.


Snow and ice with glints of gold and silver: This scenario is inspired by the most exquisite tablecloth I’ve ever dined upon – a white organdy dream by Noêl with a lily and thistle motif picked out in ice blue and gold thread and set over a white linen batiste underskirt. My friend Marie-Charles, a consummate French hostess, owns this jewel along with twelve napkins - almost too beautiful to put your lips to -- that were hand-embroidered by her mother, a zingy vicomtesse. The good news for the needle and thread-challenged (moi-même) is that Noël will custom do it for you in your own choice of pattern and threads.

No such gem in your armoire?  Pas de problème, Gallic resourcefulness comes into play. A beautiful pure white tablecloth, a lovely embroidered vintage linen sheet or a pristine white piqué bedcover that you can mix with blue napkins will do the trick.


We’re in the country where à la mode is not about ice cream on your pie, but leaping ahead like a true locomotive of fast forward French fashion. Today’s tables are all about The Mix.  

What could be better than the Porcelain Manufactory Nymphenburg’s Pearl Symphony Blue, an elegant twelve-sided plate with wide ice blue rim trimmed in tiny white porcelain pearls (and it's dishwasher-proof!)?

One can mix it with Mille Nuits midnight blue fluted crystal dessert plates by French designer Mathias for Baccarat.  

As place card holders these tiny silver and blue enamel picture frames from Asprey add another touch of glamor.


Clear crystal St. Remy goblets by Baccarat (or their distant glass cousins from the Conran Shop); Lalique’s crystal flutes with tiny snowball bases; blue and white-striped Murano water tumblers.


Puiforcat’s Art Deco Nantes service is as modern today as when it was designed by Jean Puiforcat himself in the 1930s.


Ambiance, ambiance, ambiance calls for candlelight. Crystal ice block candlesticks by Arik Levy for Baccarat -- they come in one to five stacked crystal cubes -- are perfect, all with white tapers. (Ed. Note: I found almost exactly the same cubes at Ikea.)


Haute couture blooms come from couturier florists.  For my snow scape, I’d choose a bank of Avalanche white roses from Parisian florist Eric Chauvin (a fashion-insider’s favorite) arranged in my low boat-shaped Lalique vase, but a clear glass fishbowl might even be more fun, sprayed in a design of white and silver and nestled into mounds of glistening faux snow. 

(And if you have room, nothing could be more enchanting than a crystal polar bear or two or three gamboling in the neige.)

For more intimate floral touches à la Parisienne, floral star Marianne Robic sets every place with a silver timbale of blue forget-me-nots, mini white roses and snowdrops.

THEN. . . Take a photo (like a friend of mine who has her maid snap her before every grand event) and remove anything that is TOO MUCH.  Less is more.


If you’re brave enough, go for all white food to match the theme. The late Comtesse Hélène de Mortemart who was as charming and fun as she was elegant introduced me to this idea decades ago. Suggestions include translucent oysters (so good for your health, but only if you know your guests are aficionados), risotto with white Alba truffles, Coquilles St. Jacques (scallops), Poulet Chaud-Froid or line-caught grilled Sea Bass for the main dish with a special dessert from my new friend Yann, whose culinary blog You Are What You Eat is a trove of scoop about French restaurants and recipes. 

Despite its name, he says, “Omelette Norvegienne" is a classical French dish of vanilla ice cream on a sponge cake layer,rounded with Italian meringue. You stick it in the oven for a few minutes, and then flame it with Grand Marnier. “ (For details click above.)


A crisp, white Sancerre goes wonderfully with the fish dishes and Prince Robert of Luxembourg's new Super Premium, Clarendelle Amberwine, blended at his American Dillon family's famed Château Haut-Brion is an intriguing choice with dessert.


Walk from white into the Technicolor world of Lyonnais glass artist Vincent Breed to Champagne toast the New Year with his tipsy and reversible wine glass/vase collection called "Bouquet."

One end is a round goblet; the other a raspberry red, orange, lemon, lime or violet flute. Giving them as guest favors would mark a delightful start to the New Year, Hanukkah or Christmas. 

(Picture of Breed glasses from France Today.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Christmas Wish

Paris all aglow in its seasonal splendor from now until January 12, 2012.
Once again, I've convinced my darling friend, James, of the sublime (but currently suffering from erratic posting schedules) blog, Man of the 50s, to focus his uniquely James views on life and the holiday season, Christmas to be specific.

He came through -- as I knew he would -- in sparkly, spiky form proving once again that one can make a point without proselytizing or posturing. 

If you've had the misfortune (Ed. Note: I beg to disagree, if you have had the good fortune) to read my blog (Man of the 50s), you'll know that I am one of those individuals who seems to pine for "the good old days."

I really don't. I just think there are some things that didn't need to change. Frankly I'm tickled that personal hygiene has improved. Can you imagine a room warmed by a fireplace, filled with unwashed souls in wool clothes? Bah humbug indeed. Other than that I can see no reason to have the kind of Christmas we have today. 

No, this won't be a sermon on commercialism. I remember Thanksgiving, even if the Mall doesn't. Who in the name of all that is Christmas decided that the only thing Thanksgiving is good for is to be "Black Friday" eve? And what a name for the beginning of what should be a wonderful experience. Instead it has been turned into a competition that rivals NASCAR's "The Chase" with just as many wrecks and casualties. Oh drat I'm starting to sermonize, somebody stop me.

And no, I'm not going to rant about the reason for the season. That is for you to work out on your own.  If you think it's a reworked pagan festival and Christ was really born in mid-summer, OK. I feel sorry for you, but OK.

I guess my point is that however you choose to hold Christmas, it should start in your heart, that much has never changed. The ultimate moment is after the gift giving and merry making, you sit and bask in pure, undiluted love. If there are children in the room, well you know. 

So this is my Christmas wish to all: May you have that ultimate moment and may it last forever and a day. And for once, trust me, I know. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Fabulously Frothy French Fairyland

My great, great amie Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart, an elegantly creative interior designer and divine inspiration behind the blog Through the French Eye of Design -- where she shares her sophisticated French inspired (she's French after all)  ideas for us to appropriate -- graciously agreed to help inspire us in our holiday decorating this year. What she says and does is so gleaming, glistening, glamourous it takes one's breathe away.

I hope you enjoy her ideas and are inspired as much as I am.

I received such a kind and flattering invitation: My talented friend Letitia** asked if I would share a few ideas for a Holiday decor. Bien sûr!

The implied brief was carte blanche. I like that.

I plunged into the challenge at the first opportunity. This is what I would, will, might do if and when I decide to send some invitations. 

MY operative word: PRETEND Holiday decor...thus little inconveniences like price and such? just not part of the picture.


What is the magic formula for decorating a spectacular Winter Wonderland dinner party?

Lots of white, lots of silver, lots of crystal and glass. And a few little details more.To be applied everywhere.

Start with the mantle, the buffet, the consoles; take your inspiration from the enchanting postcard pictures of Vermont in December, let's say.

When that is done, all the attention turns to the table. A crisp white antique table cloth will be spread, and for added drama, a silver brocade shawl or a rich sari becomes a stunning runner. 

Let's not forget the fine embroidered napkins waiting in the drawer. After all, c'est la fête!

The house's most precious glassware will be needed. Lalique or Baccarat a plus.

Crystal plates will be piled on top of simple white and silver china.

And of course, what would a Winterfest be without candelabras; statuesque silver or tall lacy Murano will do just fine.

The ornate family silver will lend some old world richness.

Mercury glass is the absolute best for making it all sparkle.

To be displayed generously; no limit.

For added drama, a large piece of rock crystal or two in the center of the table will bring on an inevitable ovation.

With all this grandeur a bit of whimsy and fun must not be left out. Artificial snow and Lapland fauna: the Alps or the Rockies have come... inside.

A few faux snow balls will round off the Wintery recipe.

A fete without flowers? of course not. Keep them white, keep them grand.
et voilà! 

Now all that is left is one's personal interpretation. As in all formulas, a little tweak here and there will do no harm. Adapt, adapt, adapt. 

Most of all,
Have a great time!

**I left in the compliment for which I am most grateful considering the source. Merci Jeanne-Aelia. I trust you'll run right over to meet her if you're not already addicted to her sumptuous style.
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