Friday, April 24, 2015

Bright Shiny Objects, In French

For years, no let's be honest, forever, I thought paillettes were sequins. I assumed (wrongly apparently) that sequins were the literal translation of the word.

Recently, this week I'm embarrassed to say, I discovered that paillettes can also mean glitter whereas glitter for me is a mass of those shiny speck-y things that shed. You know what I mean. Sequins are normally solidly attached to a surface whereas glitter is glued on things and then falls off leaving sparkly bits wherever it last appeared.

I mention this because when describing one of the latest spring/summer French fashion footwear trends, everyone is referring to the blingy shoes as covered in paillettes.  I say they're covered in glitter and therefore before the season is over I maintain they won't be so glitzy when fall rolls around. And, some of the shoes sporting sparkle are very expensive.

Babette, in our ill-fated style shoot on Tuesday first introduced me to the look when she paired a pair of navy glitter covered sandals from the French brand Beaux Sabots. They look like Birkenstocks, see above. She carries them in navy, gold and black speckles.

She says they are flying out of her boutique.

If one has a sense of humor and believes that glitter doesn't shed, then the two pairs from Chiara Ferragni, the coke and popcorn slippers and the wink-wink pumps might be fun at 175 and 225 Euros respectively.

My favorite style is the Alexander McQueen version above, ringing in at a mere 345 Euros.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ella's New Dress

Fully realizing the futility and foolishness of buying baby clothes, so far this week (and it's only Wednesday) I have bought Ella three summer frocks.

Isn't this dress adorable? It's from Petit Bateau and, you will notice, it comes with matching diaper camouflaging knickers and the sweet detail of yellow piping around the sleeves.

Off to Paris to buy a new camera because all the pictures I took yesterday while working with Babette on the feature she was styling for the blog, three looks with one central piece, turned out green and blurred -- totally useless. Almost three hours of work together. Very frustrating. She took pictures with her phone so I'll see if there is still hope.

Theoretically the camera was repaired after the same problem at the cocktail party in Paris where I took lots of pictures for a post and they too were green.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Un Petit Livre. . .

It occurred to me recently that you might enjoy hearing about some of the content from one of my favorite little French books, Trucs et Conseils à L'Ancienne: Secrets de grands-mères by Julie Bardin.

As the title says, it features "tricks and advice." It's full of just the sorts of teasers and topics that fascinate me. The chapters include everything from the basics of cooking, cleaning and entertaining to makeup, beauty, taking care of clothes and much more. 

In the last pages the author has Un Proverbe par Jour, literally a daily proverb. The book is wonderful. I find solutions to problems I didn't even know I had. It's great fun which made me think you might agree and that it would make for an entertaining series. What do you think?

I'll start today and you can let me know if you enjoy les secrets de grands-mères as much as I do.

Let's start in the kitchen today:
  • For perfect mashed potatoes, make them with hot milk. Never pour cold milk into the hot potatoes and reheat. Add butter.
  • When Brie is presented at table, it is to be cut on the side, one never cuts off the point. (We've already discussed this subject.)
  • To determine whether an egg has passed its date of consumption, put it in a bowl of water. If it sinks to the bottom it's fresh. If it floats, it's time to toss it.
  • If you're not sure whether an egg is raw or hardboiled, spin it on a hard surface. If it refuses to spin, it's hardboiled.
  • If you need only a few drops of lemon juice, pierce the skin, squeeze out the amount needed and "plug" the little hole with a toothpick. The lemon will stay fresh for days.
  • To get the maximum amount of juice from a lemon, plunge it in hot water for 15 minutes before squeezing.
  • To clean a carafe (always tricky I find), cover the inside bottom with sea salt or egg shells, add vinegar, water, shake, rinse.
  • To enhance the flavor of fresh coffee add a pinch of cinnamon.
  • Wash strawberries with their stems. 
  • When boiling cauliflower, to assure that it remains white, place the head on the bottom of the pan and add a teaspoon of flour to the water.

We had cauliflower for dinner last night and I placed the bottom on the bottom of the pan and that was that. I haven't tested everything I've read or am now passing along to you.

Another tip, to keep green vegetables green, haricots verts and spinach for example, add a couple of pinches of bicarbonate of soda to the water and never cover the pan (go figure). 

I'm off to meet Babette for another feature this week.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Age Issue

In a recent comment one of you paraphrased, and praised, a quote by "Advanced Style" blogger and author, Ari Cohen.

He said in an interview that if we were exposed to more photos of older, mature women dressed beautifully [that] then younger women would not be so afraid of growing old.

Interesting. Perhaps one could compare this notion to a sort of positive psychological imprinting wherein constant exposure to something makes us see it as "normal" and every day.

We are not duped by the fact that recently purveyors of products find our demographic interesting. After all we do get up, apply makeup (then take it off -- more stuff), fuss to a certain degree with our hair, get dressed and get out there. We need or desire new clothes and most of us tend to be interested in a few cosmetic and treatment products. In other words, we're spending.

No matter. It's good news whatever the mercantile motives for beginning to feature older models in advertisements or, which I find less interesting, actresses of a certain age.

I think my perception of age was somewhat skewed by my mother. She was 44 when I was born. She was tall, slim and stunning. She wore trousers and men's shirts with Pappagallo flats (does anyone remember them?), red lipstick and Arpege perfume.

In other words, she was my first fashion reference and she was not a 20-something mother. She loved clothes and was drawn to the masculine/feminine aesthetic which she attributed to the fact her father owned a menswear store. From a very young age she chose many of her clothes from the racks in his store which were then altered to fit her properly by his tailor.

Another way to look at birthdays. . .
This month I will be, I hesitate to use the word "celebrating" my birthday. I'm telling myself, and I think I believe it, that I'm not disturbed by the number, but rather by the fact that there are so many things I want to do.  Believe me I'm not being maudlin. I'm lucky in so many ways and take nothing for granted.

One thing is certain, time is precious and I've got things to do and people to see. And suddenly I'm in a hurry. Being in a hurry indicates youth does it not? Maybe I've found the latest anti-age antidote. (I started to write "anecdote" which is probably more accurate.)

My long ago mentor in my first job at Women's Wear Daily told me that it was important that to feel good about yourself one must do something positive and productive every day because each day is an opportunity to accomplish something. "Then," she said, "when you go to bed at night you know you haven't wasted your day and tomorrow you begin all over again."

I thought when I started writing this post that I had a specific point to make, but I can see it has turned into a stream of consciousness ramble. Now I'm trying to think of a way to avoid platitudes and say something mildly meaningful. That way I can go to bed tonight feeling as if I've accomplished something.

Oh, I know. . .

I plan to make a list, not a long one mind you, of what I want to accomplish in my new year. I simply adore making lists. This one will include: visit Chicago; maybe go to New York; buy a new navy blue cashmere V-neck sweater (how exciting is that?); polish up my book proposal and, just in general, hope for the best and forget about those numbers.

My father, whom I adored, died when I was 10. One morning he left for his office and never returned. On his way home from work he pulled over to the side of the road and died of a heart attack, so I truly understand how fragile life can be.

I do not wish to dwell on numbers. I simply want to get on with it: slather on those creams, apply my makeup, get dressed and get out there ever fighting the good fight and all the while trying to prove that style and a little flair have no expiration dates. (We'll see how that works out for the duration.)

A bottom of the list P.S.:
  • Re-think neck lift. 
  • Buy more scarves. 
  • Get over yourself.
I'm off to Paris to meet Duchesse for lunch and shopping. I'll give you a report.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A French Country Weekend

I can hardly wait until our tomatoes look like these.
Another exceptionally beautiful spring day and we are all in the garden doing my absolute favorite annual ritual: planting the potager.  

The weeds were plucked from every corner of the garden and the grass was cut this morning in a mass clean-up so everything smells and looks wonderful.

We always plant lots of mint for infusions and sometimes I cut up a couple of leaves and toss them into a simple salad -- a friend taught me the trick. It's surprisingly good. Also, maybe because of our not too cold winters, the mint never dies so I can run out all year to gather the leaves.
We're planting several types of tomatoes and always, always lots of cherry tomatoes which I love plus  cucumbers, zucchini, celery (I think that's a first, we'll see how it goes) and masses of herbs. Rose bushes in my preferred colors: corals, yellows and a sort of blush-white share a corner inside the potager.

While we're on the subject of printemps, please find me at Women's Voices For Change today where I extoll the season. I highly recommend visiting Paris this time of year.

If WVFC is not part of your daily reading, may I suggest that it should be. The site is so intelligent, and fun and informative and well-written that you'll thank me. (Not literally, of course.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Le "Do It Yourself"

Really. That's how the French are referring to DIY, they explain that "Le Do It Yourself" has now replaced "fait main" (handmade) in the lexicon of branché speak or the latest IN jargon if you will.

Women of all ages, particularly young women, are apparently knitting their little hearts out to create one-of-a-kind items. Coinciding with the trend there appears to be a major resurgence in the popularity and thus purchases at merceries, or notion shops, those marvelous emporiums of buttons, bows, beads, trims, tassels and feathers that I so dearly love.

I have no idea how to sew, but I go wild in these places. The idea of changing buttons, even clumsily sewn onto a cardigan or jacket by moi-meme, is so exciting (context). These are the special places where I find a hallucinating choice of real silk ribbons to wrap special gifts and for cummerbunds and belts. The lovely thing about wrapping cadeaux in beautiful ribbons is that you know they will either be saved or used to wrap another present, re-cycling at its most elegant.

This image makes me swoon. (I know, I'm not quite normal.)
Then there is the possibility of finding special, sparkly embellishments -- an appliqué that can be lightly stitched onto a marinière t-shirt or a jacket pocket, just for fun. Just for one season. Ooooh, and passementerie. . .  Or you could sew fringed pom-poms on diagonal corners of a scarf. I'm really getting into this or rather the abstract idea of it all.

In fact, I have a date with a blogger friend for lunch next week in the Galerie Vivienne in Paris followed by a prearranged agreement to visit one of my favorite mercerise, Ultramode, just a few steps away. So exciting. . .

Wonderful, aren't they?
My absolute favorite mercerie though is La Droguerie. One of the owners once tried to teach me how to knit a scarf. She cast the pretty blue yarn onto the needles and I did beautifully until I arrived home and started to drop stitches. It was a very zen experience while it lasted however.

Of course I'll tell you all about our lunch and our shopping expedition, with pictures.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Paris News & Views

A total non sequitur. . . it's just that I wanted to mention how much I love this dress from the  Valentino fall 2015 collection.
Let's start out slowly today with a weather report: Gloriously sunny and warm temperatures, All semblance of winter wear has been put away for the duration.

Yesterday I popped in to see Babette to talk about putting together outfits for next week. She was wearing fluid white crepe trousers with a grey t-shirt, silver ballerinas and red, red lipstick. She looked gorgeous. 

I've asked her to choose one central piece of clothing and put it together for a teenager, her mother and her grandmother. We did this in my book and I love the idea.

The Models of A Certain Age, Modeling

Catherine Lowe.
Now, moving along to the topics relating to the headline. I thought you might like to see a few pictures of the models of a certain age in a fashion spread. The shoot is from Figaro Madame and was photographed by Benoit Peverelli.  I've only identified the women from last week's post (mainly because I don't know who the others are and this blog is about women of a certain age after all).

Anne Rohart.
Eveline Hall.
Renata Reutter.
Weighing In, Again. . .

According to the Institut Français du Textile et de L'Habillement the average size of a Frenchwoman today is 1.62 meters and 62.1 kilos. These latest statistics indicate that over the last 40 years Frenchwomen have grown two centimetres and gained two kilos. The study then concluded that these numbers indicate that the image of the ever très slim femme française does not coincide with the way she is represented in the media.

I did my math and this is how the numbers translate: She is slightly over 5'3" and weighs almost 138 pounds. I find this hard to believe. Even though I'm taller that 99.5 percent of the women I see, I do not think I know more than one or two who are 5'3".  I find the data doesn't reflect what I see every day, but then again what do I know?

A Snappy, Ageless Twist on Les Baskets

Would you wear them? I would. Maybe.
It has become eminently clear that sport shoes or sport inspired shoes are so trendy that they are probably just about to meet their expiration date. Although, they are comfortable so maybe they will endure. It will be interesting to see if they have a future.

I think these black and white striped baskets by Claudie Pierlot are quite cute and smartly reflect the black and white aesthetic that feels so crisp and fresh in the spring and summer. They are in leather which may help justify the price of 225 Euros.

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