Friday, November 28, 2014

Off to Paris for Tea

When you read this, Deb Chase and I will be having tea here.
         Primping and planning for my departure next weekend.

          My check list so far:

          Haircut, done.

          Balayage (yesterday), as my colourist said, "It would be impossible for you to be more blonde." That's always the balayage I request, "Plus blonde que blonde, SVP."

The Thrill of Brazil, a stunning red for the holidays.
          Semi-permanent pedicure polish applied Wednesday: My Chihuahua Bites has been removed and The Thrill of Brazil is now on display.  Both by O.P.I., the Thrill looks more holiday festive. In other words it's in the red rather than coral family.

My Chihuahua Bites.
         Now I'm about to head out to Paris to have tea at the Saint Germain Ladurée with a new friend, Deb Chase, prolific author and brilliant blogger at No Nonsense Beauty. I'm very excited. (I wonder if she would like to see my toes. . .)

        The weather is gorgeous, sparkly fresh, a perfect fall day.

        As I re-read this post I realize it's sort of stream of consciousness. Please think of it as a disjointed conversation we might be having together. That's what it is really.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Joyeux Merci-Donnant

The welcoming foyer of Mary Carol Garrity's home.
          Happy, Happy Thanksgiving.

          This quintessential American holiday is my absolute favorite day of celebration. It's the only specifically American fete that I miss in France. When we first moved here we tried to rustle-up some semblance of the occasion, but over time we let it slide.

          When I was growing up outside Niagara Falls, NY, I remember how much fun it was and often by the end of the day snow covered the ground harkening in the holiday season.

Up close. . .
         I hope you are having a wonderful day with delicious food, dear friends and family. What more could one desire?

         These pictures are a minuscule example of the gorgeous decorating skills of Mary Carol Garrity. Her sister is one of my very best friends. My little gift to you on this day: Click here please.

         And, another gift from my darling friend, D.A. Wolf, it's probably too late for today, but please save and read for the next round coming up sooner than you think.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hell Hath No Fury. . .

After and Before: Valerie Trierweiler and French president François Hollande.
          She's back with a frenzy. The woman scorned earlier this year by French president François Hollande is on an international mission.

           Valerie Trierweiler, 49, former "First Girlfriend" and author of the scathing -- and best selling -- book recounting the sweet and the sordid details of her life with Hollande is on a book tour promoting her oeuvre.

          Merci Pour Ce Moment first appeared last September and the chatter that accompanied its publication was the first story on every television newscast. She was pictured on the cover of magazines and the book was reviewed and debated not only by the "serious" press, but also on variety shows, at dinner parties and in casual on-the-street conversations. Everyone was talking about it. However, Trierweiler was not talking about her book. She refused interviews in her own country.

The former French First Girlfriend's best selling book will soon be translated into 10 languages. It's already available in English. Total: 12 languages.
          As you can imagine, this strategy enflamed the already incendiary remarks from her peers. She was after all a former political journalist. (That's how she met Monsieur Hollande.) They raged on and on about the fact she didn't have the courage to have a face-a-face with them.

         It seems Madame Trierweiler has nothing against the press as long as the press is not French. Her book has been bought by 11 countries (and counting) and it just arrived in British bookstores this week.  To bolster her English language sales she happily granted interviews to the British press.

Trierweiler explaining on the BBC that her book is not about "vengeance" and that  French  president Francois Hollande is a misogynist.
        Clearly, French television had no choice. All the French channels featured a clip of Madame Trierweiler merrily chatting with a BBC reporter, wearing a royal purple satin blouse, her signature verrry long hair undulating over her shoulders and lots of dewy crimson lipstick, recounting the tragedy of her trials and suffering as the uncaring French President frolicked with his latest paramour, actress Julie Guyet, 43. Go here for the interview.

The other, other, other woman, Julie Guyet.
        If humans could spit fire, the newscasters here would have torched their studios. As it was, they were spitting vindictive against the woman who they believe is not only bitter, without self-respect and ridiculous, but also a traitor. They are convinced of the latter because although she claims her book was written not to hurt the president but rather to help her "heal" and "reconstruct" her life, she is at the same time criticizing the government within its pages and in interviews.

        The consensus is that she is hurting her country and weakening the position of the president. The feeling is that she is providing fodder for international "French bashing."

         "Why are we talking about 'that woman' instead of our Nobel prize winners for literature and economics this year?" the pundits wonder. (Patrick Modiano and Jean Tirole respectively and with respect.)

         As I mentioned in other posts, it has been well documented that the French public never warmed to Trierweiler, except perhaps in an abstract way one might have some pity for another publicly humiliated. She never received an outpouring of support or empathy.

Ségolène Royal, President Hollande's former partner and mother of four of his children.  (He has another child with a prominent French politician.)
        My question would be, if as a journalist I were to be granted an interview with her:  "How can you write a book and somehow justify your pain when it was you who blatantly and gleefully played the role of  'the other woman' in the split between Hollande's long time companion, and mother of his four children, Ségolène Royal?"

        If it's true that revenge is a dish best eaten cold, Royal -- if she cares about the futility of revenge -- has had hers. Shortly after the breakup of Hollande and Trierweiler, she was named minister of ecology.

        In the meantime, Trierweiler is about to become a millionaire we're told. But as we all know Socialists don't care about money.        

Monday, November 24, 2014

Petit Dej: Back to The Breakfast Table

Who knew that one could find chataîgne flakes in the health food store? 
          In our on-going petit dejeuner series I continued my interviews over the weekend, passing by the pharmacy and moving on to my pals in the shoe boutique, Patou (Patricia), and next door, Babette, the owner of my favorite clothing boutique.

         This week, I'll attack lunch which for me tends to be the most complicated meal of the day. I'll ask my friends who work as well as those who don't to see how they rustle up something delicious and nutritious.

         Now, on to the wrap for petit dej:

Organic sultana raisins.

Buckwheat flakes.
         Christine:  "I combine petals of chataîgnes, riz and sarrasin with almond milk to make a hot porridge." (Translation: chestnut, rice and buckwheat flakes.) "I then toss in a few almonds and walnuts,  a small handful of sultana raisins and then drizzle the whole thing with honey.  I drink lots of green tea, before, during and after."

Breakfast cereal biscuits. Most certainly created for children, but most appreciated by many adults.
Hmmm, chocolate rice milk. Whenever one sees the brand, Bjorg,  it means "bio" as the French say.
       Geraldine (she works as a "preparateur" in Christine's pharmacy): "Chocolate lait de riz and Petit Prince 'petit dej ' cereal biscuits." Her children are equally enamoured with her breakfast choices.

Fresh orange juice squeezed on the French designer Philippe Starck's "spider." For many years Starck lived in the town where I conducted all of these interviews. 
Gouda cheese, but a much smaller wedge.
       Patou: "Fresh squeezed orange juice, a piece of Gouda cheese, a small piece of toasted baguette and a decaffeinated espresso."

Une galette de riz.
Almond butter, again from the health food store.
       Babette:  "Two rice cakes with almond butter and a little bit of one of my homemade jams and a cafe au lait. Except my 'au lait' is almond milk."

        You see what I mean?  No matter how busy they are, so far without exception every French woman I know makes her own jams and jellies.

         When I asked Babette how she has the time -- she's a wife, mother and owns five boutiques -- she said: "I make them on vacation. It's restful for me and I have something to show for my effort. I love the whole process from choosing the fruit to the preparation when the entire house is filled with the perfume of the cooking fruit and then, of course, the delicious results. We do it as a family so that makes it fun. Making jam has been part of my life ever since I was a child and I continue the tradition with my family."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cultivating A Passion for Persimmons

Oh, these kakis are so delicious -- and nutritious.
          No, I'm not "cultivating" as in growing these gorgeous fruits, but they are my latest fruit passion and they are "enriching" my fruit bowl if you will.

  1. Amount Per 100 grams
    Calories 127
  2. % Daily Value*
    Total Fat 0.4 g0%
    Cholesterol 0 mg0%
    Sodium 1 mg0%
    Potassium 310 mg8%
    Total Carbohydrate 34 g11%
    Protein 0.8 g1%
    Vitamin A0%Vitamin C110%
    Vitamin D0%Vitamin B-60%
    Vitamin B-120%Magnesium0%
          In France they're known as kaki and they are literally bursting with all sorts of good things for us from antioxidants to a hefty dose of vitamin C, all in a 127 calorie package.

          Go here to read more including recipes. I simply wash and cut off the top in a slight plunging V -shape the way I do a tomato. I eat the skin, but if you have a skin phobia they are relatively easy to peel.

         Also, I've found they are a splendid way to satisfy a need for something very sweet right-this-minute.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Fine Art of Choosing Abats Jours

We are here, shopping for new lampshades.
          We are in Paris with a car full of lamps to take to a boutique in Paris that specializes in custom-made abats jours, lampshades.

          We have been gradually rewiring and re-fitting most of our lamps. Many were damaged or broken in last year's robbery and it has taken us this long to decide what new shapes and colors we want for our lampshades.

         Upon each base we try different shapes, materials and colors, it's a little like shopping haute couture for lighting fixtures.

         As I've said, we live in a cottage in the country and similar to the way French women dress, our house is decorated in neutrals -- nuances from the beige family, from the fabric on the walls to the upholstery on the furniture right down to the carpet. The beiges have character and depth, but they are beige.

The boutique also sells other accessories for the home like these gorgeous throws.
        Therefore, again like a French woman, we use accessories to add color, i.e. pillows, throws, rugs on top of the carpet, flowers (of course) and lampshades (!).  Not all the abats jours are colorful, some continue the beige-on-beige theme, but those little surprises of deep red, shiny black, shiny chestnut, deep blue are lovely punctuations.

       When they're finished and in place, I'll take pictures so you can see them.        

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Petit Déjeuner: What Are They Eating?

When a French woman tells you she has baguette for breakfast -- two or three pieces -- do note the small size of the slices. As you know, moderation is the mantra.
          Entre nous finding out what my French friends, particularly les femmes d'un certain age, eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and the occasional snack -- as you know, many never eat between meals -- is one of my favorite "assignments."
         I'm just back from my Tuesday morning English conversation classes with new info for you. Obviously, this is a conversation we had in English. It's easy because it doesn't call for verbs, just a list of food.

         Here then is what my friends told me today:

There is nothing quite like the crunchy deliciousness of butter with sel de mer crystals. 
          Christine: "Green tea, two pieces of plain white bread with salted butter and if there is a piece of baguette left over from the night before I'll have that too."

          Marion: "Before I tell you what I eat for breakfast, I have to explain -- or rather I really can't explain -- the pecular habit I have had since I was a child. Every morning I drink four to five glasses of cold water. I have one before my meal and drink the other through and after it. I know, it's bizarre."

Moving right along. . ."black tea; two pieces of baguette with butter and my homemade red currant jelly."

Fresh "white" bread from the boulangerie. As you can imagine, it has nothing to do with the revolting industrial white breads out there.
          Françoise:  Green tea with bergamot; two pieces of white bread from the boulangerie of course; margarine, because I have cholesterol; and homemade jam.

Orange juice "sans pulpe"

          Anne:  "A glass of Tropicana sans pulpe orange juice; I hate pulp.

Anne makes green tomato marmalade with oranges and lemons. It sounds divine.
Then I have two slices of toasted brioche, one piece of toasted baguette and my homemade green tomato marmalade."
Hmmm, brioche. . .
          Fleur: "First thing, a glass of warm water followed by black tea with lemon; two pieces of toasted baguette or two slices of brioche, toasted; margarine, my friend's homemade plum jam with cinnamon and a small bunch of grapes.

When grapes are out of season I'll have a mandarine or a kiwi."

Honey is being harvested in all the smart places including atop of the Opera Garnier in Paris.
          Anne often spreads her brioche with honey from her family's country house. Recently, my French niece brought us a tiny jar of honey that was harvested from the roof of the town hall where she is a member of the government.

         It is so much fun to hear what you eat for breakfast. Please continue to share.
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