Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Back to Our Regime


          After an Easter weekend, perhaps chocolate infused, it is perhaps the moment to get back to our regimes. What do you think?

           As I was saying last week, the French magazines are in full throttle "it's time to diet" mode, therefore let me share more from Elle.

  • Make sure there is always fruit in the house. It is the "go to" (immediately!) solution for between meal and after meal hunger as well as those pesky sugar cravings. We can have five pieces of fruit a day. (That's what Elle says, even a banana because, as we know it's full of good stuff and it's filling. Remember portion control. It's not a good idea to buy the biggest banana at the market.)

  • Eat an apple one-half hour before a meal. Then, if you recall, a tall glass of fizzy water immediately before the meal. (Ed. Note: I can imagine one wouldn't eat much after that, but is it longtime doable?)

  • If, like moi meme, you are a sugar addict (though I do think I've done some rehab and steer away from white sugar), forget about  jam, jelly or honey in the morning, or, if you can't go cold turkey eat no more than two or three teaspoons per week.

  • "Always" -- such a nice word compared with "never" -- eat two squares of dark chocolate every day.

  • Either buy or make your own detox tea. I love the Kusmi tea and drink lots of it.

  • If salt is your bete noir, this one is tricky, but worth it. I've tried and failed, I'm trying again. It takes about 15 days of withdrawal. The benefits of not eating too much salt are legion, not the least of which is heart health. Then there is that thing about water retention and puffiness around the eyes.  A friend of mine who did this with her family said it took them a month to think they were eating anything other than various textures of "white paper." But after, she said, everything tasted wonderful.
She's just showing off and she was probably photo shopped which I think would be the best way to approach cellulite: take a picture, re-touch it, hang it in the bathroom. Done.
          The French love, love, love their anti-cellulite creams and potions and to listen to aestheticians, as I did for my book, you would think they work miracles. They don't. They take an enormous amount of time and dedication and may, because of the vigorous rubbing (and self-inflicted pinching!) involved and some of the ingredients get the blood moving, but don't count on any long-lasting results. My dermatologist told me to save my money.

          They do smell wonderful though and your thighs and derriere have a lovely pink glow -- for about 10 or 15 minutes if you really throw yourself into the exercise. My face tended to look quite pink as well because I really did my due diligence.        

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Petit Cadeau Pour Vous

The iconic Rolls Royce "Spirit of Ecstasy" hood (bonnet) ornament which plays interestingly into E. L. Smith's short stories.
         Two days ago, I spent the best three dollars of my life. I bought a book written by my friend, E.L Smith of the exquisite blog Mon Avis Mes Amis.  I say "exquisite" because of her writing. It takes my breath away. If I didn't like Els so much I would be jealous.

          No. OK. I am jealous. She is brilliant.
          Ten Tales Told is a collection of 10 marvellously rendered short stories. Titles of the stories are the years in which they transpire, beginning with 1919, taking us to today. What is particularly impressive and impeccable is how her language changes as she moves from epoch to epoch reflecting the mores of the times. Eccentric and eclectic are a perfect description of her collection.

          Not only does she compose and choose words with perfect pitch precision, but also she certainly knows how to tell a story.  Her characters, her descriptions. . . the conversations neatly wrapped in her seemingly easy, breezy prose, the colors of wet, translucent leaves in the sun. I could go on and on, but instead I would like to suggest that you too go right to this link:

           I promise you, you will be making the best three dollar investment ever.

           Unfortunately, for the moment at least, Ten Tales Told is only available electronically. I'm hoping it will soon be a book I can give my friends for Christmas.

            More good news: Els promised to share some of her short stories in this space. Not the ones in her book, but others she has saved. Won't that be exciting?

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.
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