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.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What's For Petit Dejeuner?

Without exception, and to my grand amazement, all of my French girlfriends make their own jams, jellies and in some cases marmalade. Danielle makes a delicious orange/lemon marmalade -- not too sweet, not too tart.
         You asked me about what my French friends and acquaintances were eating for their first meal of the day.  As is my wont, I'll turn the responses into a mini series.

          I've investigated the eating habits of my above mentioned unscientific sampling on other occasions, but I think it's interesting to see if things have changed. Basically, French breakfasts are light, but nutritious usually comprising a fruit, something from the dairy family and a grain product.

        Typically I only ask women, but I thought it would be fun to include two men this time.  Here is what they told me:

        Didier: An espresso. Moi: "Are you serious? That's it?" Lui: "That's it." (He's my very attractive physical therapist.)

       Danielle:  Plain, zero fat yogurt. Moi: "I thought the French only ate the real thing." Elle: "I have cholesterol and I control it without medication so I'm careful with fats."

       One piece of cereal bread with either honey or homemade jam, no butter; black coffee and a clementine.

        Marie-Therese: A small glass of orange juice; café au lait; three small slices of whole wheat bread, toasted with butter and my homemade jam -- apricot, plum, strawberry. . .

Jus de grenade (pomegranate juice) -- bursting with antioxidants.

        Caroline: A tall glass of pomegranate juice; a small bowl of Greek yogurt; two slices of whole wheat toast with butter, and tea.

Tomme de brebis du Pays Basque.
        My-Reason-For-Living-In-France: Two large cups of red fruit green tea; five Wasa wafers with a swipe of butter and two "leaves" of hard sheep cheese (Tomme de brebis du Pays Basque) cut with a Swedish cheese knife; and the final wheat thin with reduced sugar raspberry jam from the health food store.

         More tomorrow. . .

Friday, November 14, 2014

True or False?

Through the magic of modern photography -- before and after -- not one wrinkle.
          In a multi-page article in Gala magazine, Carole Bouquet remarked that she found that, "It's exhausting to always want to be young and beautiful!"
Her quote in French.
         To be perfectly honest, I skimmed the article while having my hair cut. What? You think I buy the magazine? From what I retained after perusal, the beautiful, though some say "glacial," 57-year-old actress said she didn't plan on worrying about either youth or beauty. 

The lovely Dame Judi Dench
         Meanwhile over at The Hollywood Reporter, our beloved Judi Dench who will celebrate her 80th birthday in December , was quoted as saying:  “I don’t want to be told I’m too old to try something. I want to see for myself if I can’t do it rather than be told you might have a fall or you can't learn your lines. Let me have a go. Let us all have a go.

         "Age is a number, it’s something imposed on you...  It drives me absolutely spare when people say 'are you going to retire, isn’t it time you put your feet up' or tell me [my] age," the seven-time Oscar nominee said. 

          "The only time I got really upset was when I was 40, for some reason. I got really upset when I was 40, and I was alright after that. It’s that old thing: you are only as old as you feel. It’s not to do with age; it’s something to do with inside. It’s the engine."

          Just a couple of thoughts for us to ponder over the weekend.  

          I'm off to Paris in the pouring rain.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pictures Plus Que Parfait

Josephine Baker
          Do you have secret, extravagant wishes, ones you would love to pursue, but know you won't because well, the idea is rather frivolous and too expensive to take seriously?

          I have such a wish. It's not a new desire. It's almost as old as my arrival in France when I should have fulfilled it. At that time the franc to the dollar was very much in my favor and I was considerably younger, which is to say the results would have been more attractive.

          If I had 1900 Euros at my disposable income disposition today I would right-this-minute make an appointment to have my photograph taken at the renowned Harcourt Studio in Paris. (The dollar today is about 80 cents to the Euro.) But I don't and I won't.

Catherine Deneuve

Edith Piaf

John Malkovich

Karl and his Mini-Me.

Carole Bouquet

French philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy.
Jeanne Moreau

Marisa Berenson
          Recognized and celebrated throughout the world for its strikingly dramatic, stylish, glamorous black and white photographs of celebrities, Harcourt commemorated its 80th anniversary this year.

         For a studio known for its black-and-white portraits to be as revered today as it was decades ago, you can be certain there is a secret to its success. The secret is: Everyone looks gorgeous and mysterious. Light and shadow sculpt the face creating dramatically arresting images. Furthermore, no detail is left to chance. A makeup artist prepares the subject's "canvas."

          If you're looking for a good time, please go here:
Greta Garbo

Sophie Marceau
         For generations, to be photographed chez Harcourt was a sort of right of passage for many bourgeois families. We have two of My-Reason-For-Living-In France's mother. Always in the corner of the photos is the Harcourt signature.

        Celebrities do not pay for their portraits, in exchange the studio keeps the negatives and has the right to use the images for its promotion.

Marion Cotillard

Spike Lee

Dita Von Teese (Heather Renée Sweet)

Julie Gayet, the actress and supposed paramour of French president François Hollande.
         The other day MRFLIF and I were buying shiny white boxes for my little office -- I'm arranging and tossing -- at IKEA. While standing in line for coffee, a tall, slim, stunning blonde woman started talking to me. She was taller than I am which rarely occurs in France so I decided to just say it: "You're not French are you?"

          "No, and neither are you," she said, laughing. "Are you Swedish?" We were speaking in French.

          Again, something that seems to happen often in France, I was in one of those magical, serendipitous moments. We finished our coffees together and exchanged our cards. She works for Harcourt studios.

Marlene Dietrich
         She told me that if I had a foreign address, which I do, that a photo would cost a mere 1700 Euros. I am quite capable of remarkable rationalizations for spending money, but I'm still not seeing this expenditure in my future.

        However, in a world of make-believe, wouldn't it be thrilling to be photographed to look like an actress, or an actor, from the 1930s or '40s?  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Falling In Love Again

My girls, Ella Madeleine and Andrea. 
          For those of you who come here regularly and visit the blogs of other members of our international By Invitation Only group know, once each month we decide on a subject and off we go. Without further discussion, each of us attacks our "assignment" with our singular interpretation.

          Today's topic is: "So far, what is one of the best days of your life?"

Ella Madeleine in the beginning. . .
           So far I've had so many "best days of my life"  that we have neither the time nor the space to enumerate. However, answering this question is incredibly easy.  In two words: Ella Madeleine.

           She is our family's marvelous little miracle, trust me on this. She was born last fall, but I already told you that. She was hoped, planned and prayed for and has surpassed all of her parents' and grandparents' expectations with her born-happy attitude toward life.

Happy!  Her mother tells me that (they're both Virgos, if you know what I mean. . .) Ella always matches her toys.  Two cups are always the same color, two blocks are always the same form and color. "It's frightening," Drea says.
          Science has proved that some of us are born with a happiness edge or "set point" that serves us well through life, it's called "hedonic adaptation."  To read a NY Times article about the lucky ones amongst us, please click here.  

          My-Reason-For-Living-In-France was born happy. I see it every day.

          Having a grandchild, as so many of you know and perhaps will know, is one of those joyous moments in life that leave us in a state of euphoria (I'm not exaggerating). I call Andrea every couple of days to get a "what did Ella do today?" update. It's crazy.

         The thing about Ella is that she makes her parents exuberantly happy and because she has a crazy gap between her front teeth -- no one knows where that came from, but her father thinks it bodes well because of Lauren Hutton -- and wildly curly hair, she makes complete strangers laugh when she shoots them one of her crinkle-nose smiles. She smiles at everyone I'm told.

          Since I'm off to Chicago next month for Christmas, I'll have a series of "best days ever" with Andrea, Will and Ella Madeleine. As I've said, I've been lucky in life and lucky in love and I am forever grateful. I take nothing for granted.

          Ed. Note:  Now, please go to our leader, Marsha Harris, at Splenderosa where she will dispatch you to the other BIO members. Merci.
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