Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ten for Ten

Catherine Deneuve daring to bare (her arms) at the 2014 Cannes Festival.
          You know the formula: 10 pounds on the derriere for 10 years on the face.

           As we age our faces naturally lose the plushy plumpness of youth and constant dieting to remain bone thin tends to make us look older than our age. Yoyo dieting is the worst doctors have assured me. Being the queen of yoyo dieting you can imagine how disturbing that is for me. (It didn't come as a surprise to be apprised of that news, but it was still distressing.)

          Thinking about the 10 for 10 equation, I decided to ask the women in my English conversation classes the question: On a scale from one to 10, how would you rate the importance of being thin in regard to your well-being?  I posed the question to 12 women between the ages of 40-something to 70-something.  All but one of the women are slender, two I would describe as bone-thin, but both claim it's their metabolism and that if they eat heartily, even when they have the desire to do so, they will be sick.

          The sole woman in the group who is what the French would describe as "un peu ronde" said she has given up on watching everything that passes through her lips and has made peace with her size 44 body. She has a creative, boho-colorful way of dressing with lots of beads and scarves. She expresses her exuberant personality through her clothes and accessories.

Catherine Deneuve with her daughter, Chiara Mastroianni.
          As for the other women, they said that on my scale they rated the importance of being thin and the work that each one admits she needs to put into the effort at an eight.  When I pressed, one who is a good friend and attends serious exercise classes four times a week and belongs to a group of long distance walkers, admitted that maybe "it's more like a nine or a nine-and-a-half instead of an eight."

          My best friend, a former model and mother of six, has been slim as long as I've known her which is approaching 30 years. A few years ago she decided to take on the extra 10 pounds, not for her lovely face, but simply because she was "really, really sick of the mini regimes I have done my entire life after dinner parties and holidays."

Isabella Rossellini and her daughter, Elettra Wiedemann.
          You commented that Catherine Deneuve had allowed herself to gain a few pounds and I've noticed that Isabella Rossellini has as well. I tried to find other actresses or former top models who've dared to go for the 10.  I couldn't. Maybe you can.

          Oh yes, I forgot to mention: Several nutritionists told me during interviews for my book, that with the onset of menopause, a woman must cut 250 calories out of her diet -- every day -- to maintain her weight. Lots of fun. . .

          Where do you stand on the 10 for 10 conundrum?        

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Images and Aspirations

Helen Mirren. Did you recognise her? Neither did I. She looks like French actress Nathalie  Baye in this photo.
          All are over 60, all are icons and each one is beautiful in a decidedly different way although Helen Mirren claims she is not "and never was gorgeous." I think some of us disagree, but that's not the subject for today.

          We, women of certain age -- which I loosely define as 45-ish (and that's verrrry young) to whatever-ish (and that can be verrrrry old chronologically if not psychologically) -- apparently, despite our mental acuity and life experiences, are seduced by our aspirations. And, why shouldn't we be I say unashamedly?  

          However, here's the kicker: Advertisers know this and play on it and market products to theoretically appeal to our hopes and expectations.  They're a clever lot those marketers and realize that we of a certain age would like to see our demographic represented in their publicity campaigns.  After all, studies prove we have a significant amount of disposable income to spend on our aspirations. 
Jane Fonda for the latest L'Oreal campaign.
The "real" Jane Fonda after lots of work as she herself has now come to admit.

          Enter the icons to appeal to our common desires and concerns: Catherine Deneuve, 71; Jane Fonda, 77 in December; Helen Mirren, 69; and Charlotte Rampling, 68, to name a few. Mirren just signed a contract with L'Oreal where Fonda has been featured for several years now proving that anti-aging products really are better than plastic surgery. . . (If you believe that L'Oreal probably has some swamp land to sell you.)

Helen Mirren all touched up, but recognizable.
The real Helen Mirren. I think she looks fantastic, gorgeous.
         Mirren's ads, for the moment at least, will be featured only in the United Kingdom and she told The Telegraph she asked the company not to retouch her images. 
Catherine Deneuve for Louis Vuitton.
The real Catherine Deneuve.
         From the images here you can see that marketers believe, and studies supposedly support their position, that we really, really do not want to see women with their wrinkles, waddles and droops. Granted, some have had work done, but still they want us to believe even we can look this good if properly Photoshopped.

Charlotte Rampling for Nars cosmetics. Who is this woman?
The real Charlotte Rampling.

         I understand that we appreciate beauty and one would like to believe in all its forms -- slim, ronde, young, old, unusual. . . but when I see women of a certain age I would really like to be able to recognize them from the photographs in an ad that is supposed to appeal to my aspirations.

        What do you think?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Where's The Joie de Vivre?

In this golden bottle of champagne, "Ace of Spades," one finds the perfect cocktail of luxury, promotion and ultimately celebration when its cork is popped. 
          In a recent PEW study wherein citizens of 10 countries* were asked several questions about their optimism for the future, the French proved to be extremely pessimistic. The Japanese were the most unhappy with the current state of affairs in their country and sidling up closely behind them was France, the country known for its sense of joie de vivre.

          In reponse to the question: "Over the next 12 months, do you expect the economic situation in your country to improve, remain the same, or worsen?" only 17 percent of the French expected improvement, 35 percent predicted status quo and a rather shocking 48 percent are waiting for things to worsen. (The Japanese, though resigned to the present stagnant situation in their economy, showed more hope for the future, only 29 percent thought it would be worse.)

Jay-Z and Beyoncé drink Ace of Spades champagne. (To read more about it and other bubblies, please click here.)
         I don't know about the tone of news programs, magazine and newspaper articles in other parts of the world, but we are treated to a constant barrage of harrowing statistics about the sorry economic state of affairs in France. From the debt to unemployment, morose is the order of the day from those whose business it is to keep us informed.

         Realizing the demoralizing effect of these constant reports, an interesting television program tried to boost our mood with stories about what the French are doing well and why they should begin to think positively about their future.

The Marquise de Pompadour, known for her beauty and intelligence, ordered not only expensive porcelain and jewels, but also champagne from Möet & Chandon.
        The first positive example was champagne, the official quaff for celebrating anything and everything. In that respect the champagne business is booming. Every minute, 580 bottles are sold around the world.  Champagne has always been considered a mainstay of France's reputation for luxury it was after all, we're told, first appreciated by Louis XV.

          Möet & Chandon, now owned by Louis Vuitton, has precious sales books in its archives that show an order the king's mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour, placed in 1743.

With the royal seal of approval, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge christen something-or-other with a bottle of Bollinger champagne, the first choice of beverages for James Bond. Difficult to trump that sort of publicity, non?
        From there the program offered more examples of why the French need to snap out of their malaise citing such prospering areas of progress and innovation as: medical laboratories, aviation, robots (yes, a relatively new start-up seems to hold great promise), and, of course, the luxury sector which was and is France's specialty.

       Also mentioned was the site Vente-Privee, proof that where there's commerce, there's hope.

       I've been known to pour a coupe de champagne when things are not going well. Somehow the bubbles boost my spirits. For a moment during the program I thought maybe the French were exporting too much of their champagne and not drinking enough domestically, but that's not the case. The French still drink it more than any other country. At least that's what the reportage said.

* The other countries in the studies: United Kingdom, United States, Spain, Israel, South Korea, Germany, Greece and Italy.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A French Country Weekend II

Some have the deep blue-y center, others are lighter with just a dot of yellow in the middle like those below.
          On Friday we picked up the last delivery of our winter pansies for the jardinieres on the front, side and back porches.

          We ordered 70 plants and they're all in place. For me this seasonal ritual is a sort of right of passage into winter that guarantees happiness every time I look out, walk in or walk out of one of the doors.

         Always, we choose a blue-y mauve hue. Neither of us likes a melange of different colors. That goes for my bouquet preferences as well. I like shaded nuances, but not bouquets that are a riot of different colors.    

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A French Country Weekend

Fresh mint from our potager makes a delicious after dinner tea and read below for something I just learned today.
         A simple salad of cooked beets -- I buy them at the market cooked and ready to peel -- is one of our standard lunch or dinner entrées in the winter. After peeling I simply cut them into bite-size pieces and spoon on one tablespoon of my vinaigrette.

         Today our lovely housekeeper arrived, saw me preparing the salad, ran outside and plucked a handful of fresh mint from the garden. She then proceeded to cut it up into tiny bits and sprinkled them over the beets.

        It changed everything. She is a brilliant cook and has the most creative ways of making the most mundane ingredients come alive with unexpected zing.  She has taught me how to make some delicious meals.

        If you like beet salads, I highly recommend you try adding fresh mint. It's absolutely delicious and raises the bar from every day to gourmet.        

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Ella's first real "do" -- two tiny pigtails -- as well as her first experience on a slide. As you can see, she likes slides.
          Even I'm embarrassed by my "clever" headline. Please don't stop following me. . .

          What I mean by that is, I shall wrap up our hair conversation today. I forgot a couple other cuts and styles I like and think flatter the women who have chosen them.  These are totally random, no theme except for the most important detail, each woman has found her look (or at least one of them).

         Yes, I know some of the pictures have had a lot of "work" but I hate to choose photos that do not flatter women. I like to think part of our mission in life is to be kind to one another.

Julie Christie

Sigourney Weaver

Candice Bergen
Oprah Winfrey
Tilda Swinton
Unfortunately I do not know this woman, but I think she is absolutely gorgeous. Every detail of her stylish look is perfection.
          Also, I've always found the face shape concept interesting.  Apparently it's important if we want the ultimate benefit from our haircuts.

          I understand face shapes when I see them illustrated or in photographs, but I'm not sure I can detect them in real life. What do you think?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Les Coiffures que Parlent

Gorgeous Fanny Ardant with her masses of chestnut curls.
        Hairstyles are an extension of our personalities.  Our coiffures are so important that when a celebrity or a woman in politics changes her "do" the press thinks it's important enough to write articles about her new look.

         It's strange in a way, but like our clothes and to some extent our makeup our hair speaks for us. It may say: "I spend a great deal of time and money keeping this up;" or "I've decided to go grey;" or "This cut and color is pretty much 'wash and go' and I love it;"  or "I've had this cut forever and it is absolutely me (!)."

         A woman's hair may also say: "I don't really care," a sentiment which tends to be part of her complete, yet silent, presentation to others.  You know what I'm saying, but before you start telling me that it doesn't matter how we present ourselves to others (or to our own mirrors), that I'm being superficial and judgemental please remember I'm not commenting on the kindness, intelligence or character of another woman. I'm simply stating the obvious: we are judged -- fairly or not -- by the way we present ourselves to the world. Think potential employer, future promotion, first meeting. . .

Diane Sawyer.

Halle Berry. I did read that she has let her hair grow. You see what I mean? Women get press coverage when they change hairstyles.
Dame Judi Dench.

Ellen Degeneres.

Diane Keaton.
         Most of my life my hair has been flirting with my shoulders -- slightly above, longer, and just touching. I prefer slightly above which also gives me ponytail and chignon options. Unfortunately, my base color is something blah, no real white or anything interesting. Some blondes are lucky and have that gorgeous mix of white and blonde. I do not. Michelle, my colourist, told me to forget working with my dirty sand sort of color and just use it as a base for lots of  balayage. That's what we do.
Diane von Furstenberg.
Martha Stewart.  Heaven knows that after watching her in action while I was working on a project in which she was involved, I hate to include her here, but she has had this haircut and color for a very long time and it definitely suits her.
Marisa Berenson.
        I thought it would be fun today to look at women whose hairstyles are so much a part of them that we wouldn't understand if they did something radical. Some have tweaked the length and color ever so slightly, but the basics haven't changed.    
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