Thursday, April 17, 2014

You Know What Printemps Means

   
Plain yogurt with a few blueberries. You didn't think they were chocolate chips did you?
       Printemps in its simplest translation: "It's time to go on a régime or, as many of us would say now that we're peeling off the winter layers, 'we need to think seriously about a diet'."

            Most of the magazines are harping on the subject. It happens every spring. We know that.

            The most recent French Elle has several pages devoted to the subject which I will share with you over the next few days. Let me begin then with five out of a list of 10 trucs to boost the program, aide the progress and banish the problem:


  • Inverse the order of your meal. Start with fruit or yogurt and work backwards, or is it forward? Recommended frequency of the strategy: "Regularly.
That old trick. . .
  • This one we know with a nuance of difference: Use a small plate, that's the part we've heard for years and then spread the food out, do not cluster it together. "It gives the impression of more food." (Do they take us for absolute fools?)

  • Make certain food is extra, extra hot which will automatically slow down consumption.
Everything here looks extra healthy and not binge worthy.
  • Purge cupboards of everything you love to eat and know you shouldn't. (We know that one as well, but it never hurts to repeat for emphasis.)
A magic elixir -- sort of. . .
  • Drink a tall glass of fizzy water immediately before a meal. I can attest to this one. It really helps.
          Many more tips and tricks to come, some are quite interesting. Please stay tuned. Still. . . shall we simply agree that on this particular subject there isn't that much new under the sun? I'll do my best to try to surprise you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's Quite Fascinating Really

         
          Human nature can be astonishingly curious and unpredictable. Take yesterday in this space for example. I was blithely writing about sneakers on the streets of Paris, with what I thought was a slightly arch tone and all but one of you seemed mildly interested in the subject.

           The one dissenting opinion --Anonymous of course -- had this to say:





"another stupid post time for removal. . . another nonsense blog." 
          The color and quotes are inserted by moi meme. I left the punctuation and capitalisation or lack thereof in tact. I figured this person probably had a lot of rounds to make and didn't have time for details. 
Alice and her friends having tea and talking nonsense.

         Let's be perfectly clear: Of course this blog is irrelevant, nonsense and maybe from time-to-time stupid, although I hope not oftenStupid, I mean.  
         Many of my friends would tell me to delete the anonymous comment and move on, but to tell you the truth remarks like that fascinate me. Where do they come from and why? What's up with these people?
         Unless one is writing a blog about cures for major medical problems, world peace, saving the planet or myriad other concerns along those lines, most of us are probably conversing with new and old friends who share common interests, tastes and maybe, just maybe, similar senses of humor.
         I wouldn't presume to be relevant, but I hope I'm entertaining most of the time. I can't help wondering, if we talk by telephone or over lunch with a friend and our conversation is mainly about makeup, scarves, our last vacation, someone interesting we met on a plane, our dog, the new paint color of our bedroom (because we want to go back to neutrals), the flowers we planted, the vegetable garden we will definitely create this year, our outrage over the lack of worthy content on the major television networks, and on and on. . . Is that stupid? Is it nonsense?
          How can anything be nonsense when we're with a friend?
Look, an entire book devoted to nonsense! I think I'll buy it for Ella Madeleine.   It's always good to start nonsense early.
         For me the "nonsense" of life is never irrelevant. It's what brings us close together, it's what helps us deal with the real stuff, the hard stuff. It gives us a break. This stupid little blog for example has delivered right to my computer and in many cases right over a glass of wine at a table in Paris or the United States some of the most charming people I have met in years. I think we can call each other friends and yes we have many common nonsense interests in our lives. We also have our real lives which may not always be as much fun as the stupid stuff. Interestingly, we share those revelations as well interspersed with the irrelevant.
          When I set out to find "art" for my rant I had no idea so many relevant writers and observers think we all need a little nonsense. Now, Anonymous, I would hate to have another misunderstanding or difference of opinion between us, so I would like to emphasise that I am in no way what-so-ever comparing myself to the writers quoted here. I'm simply bolstering my argument with their observations. Trust me on this.



        There you have it, my rant for the day. That felt really, really good.
        I would just like to add, thank heaven for all the unimportant, trivial, fun, amusing, wonderful blogs many of you are writing and we are all reading. Joy and entertainment are never stupid and, as we all know, finding the right shade of nail polish this spring should be a major priority for all of us. Some details in life are entirely too important to be ignored.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hot Footed -- All Over Paris

         
Famous shoe designer, Pierre Hardy's take on the high top sneaker. I could be yours for $250. It's a color that goes with everything if you're looking for a rationalization.
         They're IN. They're in every arrondissement. Age appropriate does not apply. Women, girls, teens, tweens, and toddlers are all wearing them.

          The French mostly call them "baskets" or sometimes "les tennis" I tend to call them sneakers because I cannot envision them on either a tennis or basketball court. But, no matter. What's in a name?

           They come in every imaginable color, pattern, mix of materials and slight variations on stylish shapes. Shape tends to depend upon the brand, but everyone seems to be in on the trend from the très pricey to the reasonable. This past weekend my French niece was wearing pale pink low Converse sneakers.

           Since I always think bare feet inside any kind of athletic shoe is icky, I noticed she had slipped on a pair of those can't see, but thank heaven they're there, sock-let thingies to absorb the unpleasantness trapped inside the fad.
Above are haute couture athletic shoes from La Maison Chanel. Since they are haute couture one cannot help but wonder whether they, like the clothes above them are custom made for customers' feet. We have here yet another example of Karl continuing to be "relevant."
           For your viewing pleasure then, here are several examples of what's out and about (or not, or not yet, or maybe some of them are too expensive to wear on the street).

Look at this. . . tennis shoes that will take you from day right out to disco from Mui Mui, 200 Euros.
Shiny snake from Lanvin, 555 Euros.
Sparkles and a buckle from Ash Virgo, 130 Euros.
The always on point, leopard sneaker, from Van's Lo Pro, 58 Euros. (Are you paying attention Une Femme? I know this little number has your name on it.) 
Sparkle plenty, another day to evening -- if you dare -- choice from Philippe Model, 260 Euros.
Sweet feet from Converse. Personally I love this shape, if not necessarily the color. But, then again, why not?
The shoe that promises to breathe -- I'll believe it when I wear it -- the D Vega from Geox, $140.
Nike, of course, $100-ish. 
          Let us not forget, a something from Burberry for little one's who barely walk, and teeny ones who have yet to crawl.


Sweet, but silly don't you think? Shoes are approximately $100 and $165 respectively.
          If you're coming to Paris, you can't go wrong by wearing a pair of these or others similar to them.
Here we have a pair of, "Why in the world would you?" The argument could be made that these Eugene Riconneaus high tops are a bargain at 515 Euros because they incorporate four major fashion statements: Sneakers, high tops, leopard (sort of always on message apparently), and the exceedingly important fringe embellishment which, as you no doubt know is VERY big right-this-second. I know you care.
          Then there is always the "are you really serious?" just above.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Man Behind the Faces

     
Dr. Fredric Brandt, 64. 
         It's been a while since we (that's the editorial "we" which means "I") stirred up a little controversy in this space. I thought the time had come.

         Let's talk interventions, tweaks, the futile pursuit of eternal youth shall we? Let's talk about Dr. Fredric Brandt, dermatologist to the rich and famous.  If you missed the Sunday, March 30, 2014, New York Times Style section which featured a verrrrry large picture of him on its cover page and then proceeded to devote a great deal more ink and patient photos inside the section, I thought I would take you for a quick perusal.

A syringe for Botox which some plastic surgeons and dermatologists are now saying when used in excess makes a face look older rather than younger.
          I don't know about you, but I have a few rather elementary, basic standards I like to apply to the doctors I might visit. I don't think it's a lot to ask that:

  • My dentist has nice teeth.
  • My nutritionist is relatively slender -- not skinny, just normal is fine.
  • My internist looks healthy.
  • My dermatologist does not look like a frightening alien.
          Oh, yes, I would like my hairstylist to have good hair. 

          Perhaps I'm overly demanding, but so be it.

          Dr. Brandt is considered the king of Botox and he also seems to be quite enchanted with fillers. He said he likes to experiment on himself.

Kim Novak, 81, and John Travolta, 60, at the 2014 Academy Awards.
Madonna, 55.
Model, Stephanie Seymour, 45.
          In this case pictures probably speak volumes. All those included above were in the New York Times story so I can only assume that lots of fact checking went into their inclusion.

           One would be naive to believe that in professions that revere youth and beauty that letting time march unchecked across one's face (and neck) is an extremely difficult decision. One would also have to admit how very, very sad it is. It seems cruel to be mean to Kim Novak, but she turned her back on Hollywood when she was at the height of her stardom. It makes one wonder then why she decided she needed to visit Dr. Brandt.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Putting On Our Face. . .

       

          While at the airport in Chicago last week, I met a chic, charming woman. We struck up a conversation when I heard her say to her husband, "I'm going to find a macaron the minute we land." Obviously I couldn't just ignore a proclamation like that. (I probably would have if I were French because when you think about it, listening in and then participating in a private exchange is not a display of the world's best manners.)

           "Ladurée?" said I. "Of course," said she. And, off we went into a flurry of chatter.

           Eventually we established where we lived, she in Chicago, moi Paris. She explained that it had been a few years since her last visit to Paris and she was very excited about how much she could squeeze into a week. At one point she asked me if I would mind taking a look at a several page printout that a friend of a friend had given her on what one does and what one does not do in Paris.

           I love looking at dictums like that. An American telling another American "the rules" of the game is fascinating for me.

           One piece of good advice on the list was: "Always say 'Bonjour Madame' or 'Bonjour Monsieur' when entering a boutique." It's more polite and demonstrates that one is  bien élevé (well brought-up) to say Madame and Monsieur and not a simple "bonjour." Children learn this at an early age and their parents constantly remind them.

           There were various other recommendations like not asking for a "bathroom" but rather the toilet because the former would indicate one wished to take a bath or a shower which, admittedly, would be an odd request to a stranger.

           Another reminder: "Do not make eye-contact with people on the metro." Good thinking. I imagine one would avoid that gesture in any major city in the world, but maybe little reminders are helpful.


            Then, slipped into the advice was the the caution to "not smile all the time" the way we Americans have the tendency to do because the French, particularly Parisians, do not smile. If I've heard this reproach once, I've heard it hundreds of times over the years.

            I've been told that smiles are little cadeaux that are not given out indiscriminately in this country and perhaps that's true to a certain extent. A smile doesn't necessary accompany the "Bonjour Madame" upon entering a shop, but a small smile might compliment the au revoir Madame when leaving because  theoretically a bit of time was passed with a salesperson.

          When a tourist asks a local for directions or information I can't imagine the request would be made without a smile and I can assure you a smile will be returned.

           After thinking about this so-called cultural conundrum I believe smiling is one of the most charming characteristics of Americans. I've heard us accused of being "too friendly" and maybe that means invasive in some countries, like my rude interruption in a private conversation, but what in the world is wrong with a smile? We don't want to be everyone's best friend, but we do consider a smile a gesture of our politesse.


          For us, I think, a smile is an expression of kindness and appreciation, our little cadeau perhaps.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

From Chicago to Paris. . .

       
The forsythia is in full bloom -- spring is here!
          What a difference a day makes. I'm home now and after my usual 24 hour hibernation, I'm ready to get back to my normal writing routine. (I literally sleep an entire day when traveling in this direction.)

           My-Reason-For-Living-In-France said two months is too long for me to be away and Charlotte wagged her tail and offered a cursory kiss.

Cherry blossoms
          Our garden has burst into spring. All the fruit trees are covered with promising blossoms. Assuming the weather will continue to be in printemps mode, the beautiful cherry tree outside our bedroom window should -- the birds willing -- produce a nice crop this year. Those two variables have not always worked out in our favor. A gardener we know says the only way to keep the birds away from fruit trees is to hang smelly herring bits from the branches. Another one suggested shiny CDs dangling among the blossoms which give off frightening reflections. If you have any foolproof ideas, I would love to hear them.

          I hate the idea of nets because they can trap a bird inside and I don't want to be responsible for murder.

          Now I'm off to find flowers for the empty planters on either side of the front door. I'm thinking yellow.

          Oh yes, I almost forgot. You may recall (click here if not) on my last trip to Chicago Air France asked for my Carte de Resisdence, which of course I didn't have with me. When I returned home I realized that it had expired and there was not enough time to get the new one before I returned to Chicago in February. Therefore I decided to fly American Airlines in the hope that no one would ask to see the card. No one did. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Joyeux Anniversaire vs. Happy Birthday

       



         Ed. Note: Before I explain the headline of this post, please let me apologize for my extended absence. I fully intend to get back on my regular schedule because I just plain like "conversing" with you and miss not writing regularly.  

          In fact, I have been writing regularly, but in silence and secret.  For the last couple of weeks -- and I'm not quite finished -- I've been working on my new book proposal. It needs polishing and tweaking before I dare show it to anyone. I think it's a good idea, but one never knows. . .



          OK, back to birthdays.  Lisa Richey, an etiquette expert (she was responsible for two of my book signing events in Florida), and I were having a conversation about the differences in manners and mores in France and the United States. (Lisa, btw, will be writing here from time-to-time.)

          She posed all sorts of questions and wondered whether I had explanations for some of the differences she didn't really understand because they had nothing to do with universally accepted definitions of "good manners." One was the placement of forks at table. In France she knew that the tines are placed down, toward the table, but she didn't know why.  I've heard and read two reasons for the position:
Tines up vs. tines down.
          By putting the fork "face down" the silver stamps are in plain view, thus providing a certain provenance and perhaps the epoch in which the pieces were forged. History, after all, is everything in France.

          The other, rather bizarre explanation, someone told me was that tines up are aggressive, tines down are not. Interesting n'est ce pas?

          We covered a lot of territory over dinner one night -- everything from wine pouring and thank you notes to hostess gifts and entertaining. "What do the French do to celebrate birthdays, particularly children's parties?" Lisa asked.

          My first thought was, "Almost nothing." When I checked in with Andrea, she concurred. Her last "real" birthday party with lots of friends, cake, presents, games was in Pound Ridge, NY, when she was seven. We moved to France the next year.

It's a cake! Talk about "low-key" birthday celebrations. . . Everything (except the chain) is edible in this sweet indulgence from Sugar Shack.
          Please don't misunderstand, those momentous occasions do not pass un-commemorated, but with few exceptions they are celebrated en famille and perhaps with a couple of friends. Competitive birthday parties with clowns, music, special effects, games, excursions and extravagant gifts are simply not part of bringing up bebe. Andrea was always invited to her best friends' homes, usually a Sunday lunch, to mark the date. Those luncheons were at the same table with parents, brothers and sisters (where that applied), and sometimes godparents and grandparents.  That's how she celebrated her birthdays.

          They are intimate, warm and low-key. They do include gifts and a cake, probably no candles. "Happy Birthday" may or may not be sung.

          As for adults, and My-Reason-For-Living-In-France (MRFLIF) confirmed my impression, the day is celebrated similarly with the occasional exception for "big birthdays." My best French friend threw a sumptuous dinner party for her husband on the occasion of his 60th anniversarie.


         One year I wanted to give MRFLIF a party. He begged me not to. Of course I didn't. Instead we went into Paris and had a divine dinner. He even offered to give me a birthday present because, as he says every year on March 4 and Christmas: "I don't need anything and I can't think of anything I want other than being together. If Andrea and Will and now Ella Madeleine are with us, all the better."

         Being together seems to be the theme of birthdays in France.
       
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