Saturday, March 31, 2012

A French Country Weekend

Mere et fils.
The mother and son who live across the road from us. Pictures taken last spring and yesterday.

What a difference a year makes.
I've noticed he has become a spunky adolescent, but she seems to know how to handle him.

A demain mes trés, trés, trés chers amis for the weekly round-up. I'm off to the market on yet another superb spring day.

I hope you have a beautiful weekend.

Friday, March 30, 2012

On the Streets of Paris

As far as I was concerned, there was no good reason for the dearth of skirts and dresses on the streets of Paris yesterday. If one could define a perfect spring day; that's what it was. But still, women were clinging to their jeans and trousers, with one notable exception.
(Inside Monoprix.)

As for trend spotting, this is what I saw: lots of colored jeans and trousers -- electric blue, red, yellow, bright green and even orange. I spotted two orange jackets, both collar-less one cut boxy and short, the other longer with a fluttery sleeve and a cardigan shape, also three sunshine yellow T-shirts, all under jackets. The best in that category you see here.

I promise to venture out more often.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Paris: News & Views

A plethora of flora by Christopher Kane.
Because I love you, I plan to drive to Paris right-this-minute and take pictures on the street. It's been a while as you know so it will be difficult to put myself out there. Here's hoping the Parisians are in a good mood -- they should be, the weather is exquisite.

Now on to the task at hand, this week's this and that:

Cutting Back the Flowers
For those who thought there was no such thing as too many flowers. Divide and conquer I would suggest. By Celine.
In a recent interview for my book with a renowned French stylist, she remarked that the only way she would consider wearing the season's floral trend would be either in pants or "maybe a coat."

She is in our age group with a lovely figure of course, but said she couldn't imagine wearing a flowered jacket for example or a shirt -- "it's banal, predictable," she added, waving off the notion with a flick of her her perfectly manicured hand.

One thing for certain, no matter what one's age, who would really consider being a head-to-toe bouquet? I mean really.

Just Because. . .
So pretty. . . by Agnès b.
I think this dress is girly, feminine, ageless, so perfect in every way -- and yes, Mad Men-ish -- that I had to show it to you. Note the nude shoes, bare legs, all so understated-ly elegant. No embellishments necessary.

Rounding Out the Season

As I mentioned yesterday, round sunglasses are the spring/summer musts.

From Rims & Goggles
Of course we're not limited to only the tinted circles, one could put his or her prescription into the frames, but round is difficult for many face shapes. In most cases it's probably best to invest solely in the lunettes de soleil.

Subtle & Stylish
Why I didn't buy this bag after I photographed it, I will never know. I've also forgotten the price except to say it was very reasonable for beautifully woven leather.
If you'll be in Paris this summer and you consider Galeries Lafayette an essential destination once in situ, may I suggest that you investigate the department store's eponymous label. The prices are right, the designs the latest and the greatest, and they're well made.

I defy anyone to doubt the tote above doesn't come out of a haute house with a big name label.

Catching the Weaves (I know, pathetic right?)

Prada and Massimo Dutti.
Ballerines tressées look new and now and impeccably summer chic. Do you agree?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lune de Miel: Destination -- Paris

Slip by Clare Tough. Did you swoon when you saw it?
Whenever something really exciting is about to happen in my life, I think the anticipation and the preparation for the main event are almost as exciting as the actual moment -- well, maybe not, but it draws out the pleasure. Planning is so much fun.

That's why I asked my friend, the creator of The Vivienne Files, to pull together a long weekend second honeymoon in -- where else (?) -- Paris.

Once again, it's perfection from take off to the last night of room service. You'll note she also packed a candle. Ambiance, ambiance, ambiance, n'est-ce pas? Order up -- or sneak into the room -- a bottle of Champagne and add more memories to your lune de miel (honeymoon).

Maybe yellow is what you wore on your first date.  Maybe it's your sweetheart's favorite color.  Maybe it just makes you radiant.  For whatever reason, it's the color of choice for this long weekend in Paris, dedicated ONLY to celebrating your happiness together.  Lots of pretty, lots of flowers, lots of love!

Grey blouse – Diane von Furstenberg, stud earrings – J.C. Penney, Scarf – Anne Selby, Blazer – Preen, grey pants – Reiss, silver loafers – J. Crew, grey sequined tote – Deux Lux

Yellow sweater – Burberry Brit, grey tee – American Vintage, grey pearl earrings – Lord & Taylor, flower earrings & bracelet  – Alexis Bittar, square scarves – Hermès, yellow tank – Acne, pants Etro, yellow skirt – Yves Saint Laurent, satin rose clutch – Franchi, gray cardigan – Vanessa Bruno, dress – Lela Rose, silver kitten heel sandals – Debenhams, yellow ballet flats – Repetto 
Camisole & shorts – Chantal Thomass, dressing gown – Jenny Packham, bra & thong – Elle Macpherson Intimates, embrodered mules – Manolo Blahnik, scented candle – L’Artisan Parfumeur, silk slip – Clare Tough

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Thoroughly Draining Experience

Cornflowers, "before". . .  See "after" below.
Marsi shares yet another one of her secrets today. What would we do without her?
When I came home from work one afternoon last week with my feet feeling fiery and swollen, straining at their Repettos, I knew that in spite of what the calendar said, summer heat was nearly upon us -- and with it, endless months of fluid retention.

For me, a huge part of the discomfort of summer comes from feeling swollen. In fact, I can't even think of l'été without remembering the dull misery of having puffy feet and "hotdog fingers." External heat dilates the blood vessels in our body, allowing increased blood flow and lymphatic fluid accumulation in our extremities. That equals swelling, edema, bloating, whatever you'd like to call it. (Personally, I call it horrible.) It doesn't feel good, nor is it good for you.

So, what's une femme d'un certain age, or any age, to do? It's a daily fight, one I wage with drainage techniques from head to toe. In these guest posts, I'll tell you how.

Today, let's take it from the top: your head.


Don't it make my brown eyes blue?
No, it don't. It make them un-puffy.

Tish turned me onto eau de bleuet -- cornflower water or eau florale bleuet -- a few years ago with this post, and it's now one of my most favorite things in the world. I'll let Tish fill in the blanks:

Eau Florale Bleuet is an ancient, delightful melange of fantasy and function. It is concocted from cornflowers and distilled water; comes in another one of those beautiful blue bottles and as promised reduces and relaxes puffy eyes. Most versions come with a spray top, but it works best in compresses imbibed with the liquid and placed over the eyes for a few minutes. It's particularly pleasant and effective when stored in the refrigerator.  

It's delicious to lie down and cover your eyelids with cotton pads soaked in chilled eau de bleuet. Twenty minutes later, you're ready to face the world again.

"Serenity now!"

Also important in keeping your eyelids comfortable and de-puffed is sleeping with your head elevated. I realize not everyone's a back sleeper -- and for most of my life neither was I. But not only does sleeping "sunny side up,"  with your head elevated 30-ish degrees, keep your face free of sleep wrinkles (it's a real phenomenon, I wouldn't lie to you) and your skincare treatments on your face rather than your pillowcase, but the gentle force of gravity pulls fluids down and out of your face so you don't wake up with puffy eyelids. I sleep propped up on a cushy bank of pillows, with another stashed under my knees to ease the pressure on my lower back. I'll admit, I don't look like Sleeping Beauty, but I think I wake up looking and feeling refreshed as she.

Facial Massage

Everyone knows that massage gets the blood and lymph flowing in your body. But did you know it's great for your face as well? I was instantly intrigued by the Gankin facial massage technique I came across about six months ago. Now this is truly amazing. If you can spare three minutes just a few nights a week, you'll see a gradual tightening of the jawline. (Allegedly, the jowls we often develop in our 40s and beyond are just pockets of stagnant lymphatic fluid that've chronically distended the jawline. After what I've seen of the effects of Gankin massage, I believe it.) Once you lapse your practice, of course the jawline softens again. Fortunately, it's so easy to reverse.

Suqqu, a Japanese skincare company (and apparently the originator of the Gankin technique), recommends using its own massage cream (naturally), but I just use a few drops of argan oil instead. I grab my instructions (PDF here) and oil after cleansing my face, and settle in for a few soothing minutes. When I'm done, I continue the drainage by reclining against that bank of bed pillows I mentioned above and closing my eyes. Isn't it wonderful when something so indulgent is actually good for you?


Virabhadrasana I pose.
Pretty good alignment, given Kitty's lack of proper knees. 

Our lymphatic system is a passive circulatory system, meaning it has no pump (such as the heart) to force fluids through our tissues. Rather, lymph relies almost entirely on our physical exertions to get around the body. If we don't exert ourselves, then gravity takes over and we're left with pools of lymph stagnating in our extremities, our breasts, and other places we don't want it. (Read all about it.) It's up to us to keep these fluids moving so we stay healthy, well, and vital.  My favorite way, which we'll revisit again and again in this series, is yoga. Upside down and all around, yoga moves and massages every muscle, every organ, every gland, every tissue, in your entire body and face. It shows.

So that's it for de-puffing north of the neck. In my next post, I'll be moving south. I hope you'll stay tuned.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Le Printemps Transition: Part II

Buyer's remorse.  I bought the turquoise bangle -- why I don't know -- I don't even like the color turquoise. I should have bought the one on the right in deep coral.  Maybe they'll let me exchange.
Throughout the week, according to the TV weather lady, the sun will shine and temperatures will be "unseasonably warm." Since she's not in the business of telling her viewers what to wear, she neglected to note that late afternoon and evening feel more like late fall than early spring. In other words, sartorially speaking, we're between seasons which means we need to be prepared.

Still, I think we can agree we need some oomph in our wardrobes right-this-minute to make us feel light and spring-y.

Last week I suggested the first five of the Top 10 Must Haves (or possible options if you prefer) for right now. Today, the final five:
From Patagonia, but I chose it solely to give you an example of a peppy, preppy color.
A cardigan: Beyond logical n'est-ce pas? Under normal circumstances I would run out to find yet another in navy, black or gray, but no. I will not. I will break out of my comfort zone, maybe look for hot pink (maybe not), coral, Klein blue.

Belt from my latest discovery, Boden.
A belt: Not an investment accessory, just some colorful frippery. How about belting the cardigan above  with it? I'm a huge tone-on-tone fan. Some people I know think that's boring. I don't care what people think.

Triwa watches.

Either/or (or both): An indiscreet bangle and/or one of those candy colored (except for the gray) watches that look like you're playing dress-up.

Ray-Ban Wayfarers -- my all-time favorite.
Sunglasses: Obviously not classic, you already own them. Think lime, raspberry, red, yellow -- you get the idea.

This "jacket" is a hybrid -- a cross between a cardigan and a jacket. It also comes in navy or oatmeal, but I'm forcing myself to think pink, or in this case hibiscus. From the Eric Bompard spring collection.
A jacket: The right choice could be season-less.
Lime Sky Eyes sunglasses -- too cute.
Another Boden belt.

Is this fun or what, matching your sunglasses to your belt? With a soupçon of imagination the possibilities are endless -- raincoat, ballerines, cardigan, scarf. . .

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Next Week or La Semaine Prochaine

Another gloriously gorgeous day. We had lunch in the gazebo. I think that's a first for March. The dogs are luxuriating, all stretched out on the grass in sunbathing mode.

For all of you who are planning trips to Paris I hope the weather holds for you. (I'm thinking of you Pseu, of course -- Une Femme.)

I believe the week ahead will be fun and informative. Here is what's on the calendar --in no particular order probably.

1.) News & Views.

2.) A guest post from Marsi on -- are you ready for this (?) -- "drainage" and we're not talking household plumbing. I can't wait to see what she has to share. French women love drainage. (It's the same word in both French and English. Try to pronounce it with a French accent in your head.)

3.) Part Two of wardrobe transitioning from winter to spring.

4.) What to pack for a second honeymoon in Paris from The Vivienne Files.

5.) Possibly James will give us his opinion on skirts versus trousers.

6.) A French Country Weekend.

7.) Next Week's Calendar.

***Now I'm not making any promises, but if I can muster up my courage and the weather continues to be sunny and bright I might try to take pictures on the street for you. I'm out of practice, not in the taking of pictures but in the delivery of my little speech when I beseech the subjects to allow me to take advantage of the photo op.

A demain mes trés, trés, trés chers amis. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A French Country Weekend

The living proof that spring is here.

I'm about to go into the garden to cut a huge bouquet of the budding forsythia branches to force them into full bloom inside. Then, off to the nursery to buy more herbs and finally the market.

The weather is so exquisite -- bright, warm, invigorating -- that it's impossible not to be happy today.

I hope it's beautiful in your corner of the world and that you have a wonderful weekend.

A demain mes trés, trés, trés chers amis.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hostess Gifts With A French Twist

Sam and I have been friends -- albeit cyber, unfortunately -- for about two years. I have always appreciated no, let's be frank, I've always been in awe of her sophisticated approach to entertaining and the ease with which she seems to whip up chef worthy marvels in her kitchen. I love to hear about her travels, her discoveries, what's for dinner. . . 

When you visit her at My Carolina Kitchen, you'll understand.

That's why I asked her if she would be so kind as to offer some beautiful -- and delicious -- hostess gifts. As you can see, we can learn from her divine inspiration below.


No one wants to go to a dinner party empty handed, but choosing a hostess gift can be challenging. The two choices that immediately come to mind are of course wine and flowers. I always keep a nice bottle of wine tucked away “just in case” a dinner invitation is extended at the last minute. It’s always easy to pick up flowers on the way.

However, I have a problem with taking flowers to someone sans a vase. Pourquoi you ask. I don’t like to put the hostess in a position of having to search for a vase while she’s greeting guests. In fact sending flowers the day before the party, or the day after is the rule in France. So I keep a spare vase to use for such an occasion. It’s an all purpose kind of vase that will hold almost any bouquet. Problem solved.

What if you would like to be more creative with your hostess gift and give something special, perhaps something you’ve made yourself? Here are a few ideas. For the recipe, just click the name.

Do you have an invitation to someone’s house who is entertaining house guests? Take a jar of homemade breakfast granola. You’ll be doing them a great favor – their guests can make their own breakfast in the morning.

Seasoned salt will please absolutely everyone. This seasoned salt with rosemary is simple to make and uses only two ingredients – sea salt and rosemary. If you can find French grey sea salt, by all means use it. Grey sea salt has been hand harvested from the clay bottoms of the French Atlantic sea marshes each summer since the seventh century. How’s that for being around for a while?

Are you going to someone’s home who loves martinis? Take a jar of blue cheese stuffed olives along with some Southern cheese straws. Stuff the olives yourself or pick up an assortment at an olive bar.

If you’re coming to my house, bring an interesting bottle of flavored vinegar. I am an avid collector of vinegars and embarrassed to tell you how many I have on my shelf. One more will always make me happy. Raspberry would be a nice choice.

For your friends who are bakers, take some homemade lemon curd. Maybe they’ll bring you a slice of their tart when they make it.

How about a jar of your Italian grandmother’s spaghetti sauce made from her recipe that’s been handed down through your family for generations. No Italian grandmother? No problem: neither do I. Mario Batali’s recipe for marinara sauce has never let me down.

I would like to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying something and making it pretty.  There’s no rule that says you have to make everything yourself. For example, tie a fancy silk ribbon around a really good slice of cheese from your favorite cheese shop and present it with pride along with a bottle of nice wine.

For someone who loves to read, gift wrap a book. Here I’ve used brown mailing paper and a dried hydrangea. My absolute favorite book to give is Lydia Cassett Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman. Inspired by five Mary Cassatt paintings of Cassatt’s older sister Lydia (who is dying of Bright’s disease), the book gives you insight into Lydia’s thoughts on how she feels about modeling for the paintings for Mary in Paris in the late 1870s.  The five paintings, beautifully reproduced, appear at intervals in the book along with fascinating real-life figures that include Renoir and Degas.

So there you have it – some ideas for hostess gifts. You’ll never go empty handed to a dinner party again.

All photography by Meakin Hoffer

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