Sunday, October 19, 2014

Back In Business. . .

Happy Un-Birthday to me.
          We live in the country outside Paris. This you know. Consequently -- apparently -- it's "normal" (explain me that as My-Reason-For-Living-In-France would say) that there are occasional problems with Internet service.

         That's what happened to me for two days and then on-and-off until yesterday. It appears all is well now. There is no explanation that can be attributed to the weather. It is absolutely glorious. Outdoor cafes are overflowing. Everyone is smiling. Some people are even swimming in the Atlantic.

         As promised, I want to tell you about last Wednesday, slide on down to the post below please.  You cannot believe how lucky I am. I met two absolutely gorgeous, chic women. One was wearing head-to-toe navy blue -- three-quarter redingote jacket and leggings with an elegant scarf of many colors; the other in burgundy: blouse and cardigan teamed with understated tweedy slim pants and leopard ballerinas. Both had "investment" haircuts which I define as not only absolutely stunning specifically for them, but also simple, ageless, sleek. 

         But, enough about facades. They were sparkling with intelligence, enthusiasm, wit and generosity. I'm hoping this is the beginning of a long friendship. 

Note extraordinarily comfortable seating.
         We had lunch in the Primo Piano restaurant in the Bon Marché department store where the view is charming and thankfully the seats are extremely comfortable. I mention the seating because we were at table for more than five hours. Cliche or not, time does fly when you're having fun.

         As it turned out we did no shopping together, but I had prepared my mission. I presented them with a list of some of my favorite places in Paris and then explained why. I included everything from the world's greatest pharmacy to antique and estate jewelry to special accessories and "must haves" for the home. Oh, yes there were also my special leather goods places, perfume, vintage, buttons and bows . . .plus a list of my can't-live-without products. So much fun.

A toast to the wonders of serendipity.
        If this is what it's like to be a cadeau d'anniversaire for someone, I'm the one who got the best gift.

        So, I thank you both, A. & J., and here's to the magic of new friends.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Off to Paris on An Adventure

One of my favorite places on rue Saint-Honoré for leather goods including gloves, change purses, wallets, credit card cases, passport envelopes, totes and terrific bags. For those of us who do not like designer sacs -- except for Chanel and Hermes of course -- this is a great place to find a perfect purse. Best of all the prices are reasonable.

     Today I am about to embark on a "first."  I am a birthday present(!)

           In a couple of hours I will meet two stunning women, I've seen their pictures, one of whom gave the other a day of shopping with me in Paris. We're having lunch at the top of the Bon Marché where the food is good and the view charming. My-Reason-For-Living-In-France told me I should have chosen something more glamorous. Now I'm worried that they'll be disappointed.

The spectacular view from the terrace of the Cafe Marly, where we're not having lunch. Maybe they can go there without me or maybe we could have tea later in the day. 
           Maybe I should have chosen the Cafe Marly where we could have looked out on the I.M.Pei pyramids. It's oh, so "in" or maybe the Dali restaurant in the Hôtel Meurice. . .

La Grand Epicerie de Paris.
           After lunch we can cross the street and pop into La Grand Epicerie de Paris, an irresistible place for all sorts of exotic foody gift ideas.  Then we'll stroll around the area.

We should go to Dary's to see what's on offer.  Click here to understand why I love this place filled with extraordinary antique and period jewels.
          Because my favorite places are scattered in different arrondissements in the city, I've prepared a list with addresses for them to explore on another day.

          Of course I'll report back in this space. I must say I'm excited and flattered.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

This Month's Assignment

          As many of you know, I belong to an international group of brilliant bloggers, By Invitation Only (BIO) and every month we decide on a topic to explore. When you click here, you will be taken to Marsha, who founded the group, and her sumptuous blog, Splenderosa.  From there you will be directed to everyone else participating in the exercise.

         It's always so much fun because each of us approaches the subject from her own special point of view.  This time out we will be talking about the one item we cannot live without this fall.

          Leave it to me to cheat. But I can't help it. I reach for two accessories I always wear them together,  in my mind they are inseparable.  There, I've justified my fudging of the rules. 

Why the scarf looks washed out after all the editing and fine tuning I thought I did,  I will never know.  In real life the colors are sharply defined. (Maybe I didn't save something I should have. Anything's possible.)
          One is a huge cotton scarf in all my colors: navy, black, French blue, light blue, mauve -- they all sort of melt into one another.  This I partner with my French blue ballerinas.

          It is not an exaggeration to say I have been wearing them almost every day for two months. Neither accessory is new.  I've had the scarf two or three years and the shoes more than a year. You know how it is though, whether by serendipity or a true understanding of one's style, some pieces of clothing or items of adornment are like a siren song. We keep going back to them. We cannot resist.

The shoes that never leave the house without the scarf.  They're French Sole and unbelievably comfortable.
          While on the subject of fall, I wrote a piece for the extraordinary site Women's Voices for Change. It's all about why I love Paris in autumn.

          I didn't realize it would coincide with today's BIO post. Since I'm in the "business" of making recommendations, please let me suggest that you bookmark the site. It's for us. It's intelligent, sophisticated, edifying and fun. When you see who founded the site and their credentials you'll understand what I mean.      

Monday, October 13, 2014

News & Views

Aston Martin "sneakers" from the bespoke house of John Lobb.
          Yesterday friends invited us for lunch in one of our favorite country restaurants. They are a couple of a certain age with a certain affection for fashion and the means to express themselves in said medium without looking at the consequent price tags.

          Case in point: his shoes. At first I thought they were "amusing" sneakers, but one hesitates to call a pair of John Lobb shoes from its Aston Martin Winner collection, "sneakers" even though the company does. They ring in at 625 Euros. I checked. Arnaud's were in British racing green with red soles and laces.
Look carefully and you'll see she is covered in goats.
          One of my favorite fall diversions is perusing the Eric Bompard fall/winter cashmere collection. I have no idea whether I will add something new to my collection, but I thought I would show you a few pieces that appeal to me either because they are pretty or simply different like the troop of goats on the pullover.
So, so pretty don't you think?
        I find the light blue coat with the matching turtleneck absolutely lovely and tempting.

         The V-neck has a perfect fit. I know this from past experience. The one above comes in 38 (!) colors and is on markdown from 155 Euros to 100 Euros.

         You'll note that although I haven't broken up these news bites with headlines for easier reading, I haven't applied the rule of transition sentences either.  I'm counting on pictures to help smooth the way.

She seems to have decided to place an order with the Cook Angels
         The latest snobbism we're told is Cook Angels, meals in "kits" delivered right to the door but a la Française which is to say all the fresh ingredients are ready to prepare. Vegetables are peeled and diced, or whatever the recipe requires. In other words, they are ready to prepare, but not quite ready to eat. The idea, which one must admit is culturally fascinating, is fine, perhaps complicated cuisine made easy (or easier) with step-by-step recipes included.

         The menu can include an entrée, plat, fromage and dessert.

Are those hostesses winking?  Now you know why.
         If calling upon Cook Angels is for a dinner party, all the hostess needs to say is "merci" when the compliments begin because she really did prepare the meal.

        The service also offers menus for children.    

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Oh, do I love this confiture (jam). It's "allegée" which, in this case, means 30 percent less sugar.
          For years now doctors, psychologists, nutritionists, dieticians, probably even Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil having been harping on "mindfulness". In other words, everything we do we should think about it, savour it even.

          Now, as you know, and I've done some harping myself in this regard, the French eat mindfully (most of the time).  Over time I too have tried to eat all of my meals at table with no other distraction other than conversation. Except I didn't do that this morning.

         Since my rehab and my regime that started in June, breakfast has become one of my great pleasures. I look forward to sitting down at the dining room table, with silver, linen napkin, the whole la-dee-da. But what I love most is what I eat. And really, I've learned to throughly enjoy my petit dejeuner.
These are sooooo good.
         Every morning for going on four months now, I eat five "fibre+" biscuits, 34 calories each, five equal a breakfast serving; two of those restaurant-like pats of butter, demi-sel, which equal about 18 grams of butter (I eat butter because I love it and rationalize that it's also good for my skin and only first thing in the morning); a plum or another seasonal fruit; lovely strong coffee with skim milk (I've tried, but I just can't drink black coffee in the morning); and my latest discovery, reduced sugar -- by 30 percent -- apricot, and sometimes raspberry, jam on the fifth biscuit.  The last biscuit is a little wrap-up treat, but I have to be careful because I always want to dip a spoon into the jar and have more.

My mini butter pats which help me know exactly how much I'm spreading on my biscuits.
         Exceptionally, as the French would say, I prepared my breakfast mindfully today and then set my laptop down on the table to see what was going on in my mailbox and the world in general. My-Reason-For-Living-In-France had had his petit dejeuner and was off someplace (he is often a very early riser) so that left conversation up to Charlotte and me which tends to be quite one-sided.

This one is delicious as well and there are several others.
        Here's where everything went wrong: I consumed the entire meal while cruising around the Net and do not remember one single sensation from what, as I said, is usually my favorite meal of the day.

        Lesson learned: I will try never again to forget to eat mindfully unless, of course, I'm in some wildly riveting conversation. But that's different and I've discovered those situations seem to make food and wine taste better. The Internet does not, nor does television.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Reader Wonders About Style

Not surprisingly, these are the words of Audrey Hepburn.
         The answer: Oui, Yes, Absolument.

             The question, please read the letter below and also visit my great, great pal Une Femme who is also responding today. (I can't wait to see what she says.)  After the letter, I shall expound. Surely you didn't think I would leave it at three words? I didn't think so.

Dear Une Femme and A Femme,

My question: Are you chic if no one around you thinks you are?

I am writing to you both because I would like to get both a French and American point of view on my question.

I am a 56-year old woman who is often told I look at least a decade younger. I credit this to good genes from my mom and staying out of the sun for the past three decades. I have always tried to dress in what I would describe as a classically elegant way; however, over the past ten years, I had resorted to a very basic wardrobe of either jeans or black pants and a t-shirt, turtleneck or blouse in synthetic fabrics (or cotton) and bright colors. I did not buy the cheapest clothes, but certainly not high quality ones either. During that period, I put on and took off the same 15 pounds. Although it has been almost three years and I had stabilized at about + 10 lbs. over my weight at age 18, I still did not want to invest a lot of money in my wardrobe until I finally lost those 10 pounds. About 6 months ago, I decided to accept my size 8 weight (low by American standards and high by Parisian standards). I started reading a lot of fashion blogs and have found that your two blogs are most aligned to my tastes. 

I have read your book Tish, as well as the one you recommended by Inès de La Fressange and really love all your, Ines' and une femme's suggestions on how to dress. I have been buying fewer, much higher quality pieces and having started wearing them to work. I feel so much better!! I really was quite surprised at first. I am an administrative assistant at a large hospital in an outlying suburb of a mid-Atlantic state in the U.S. I never felt it was worth spending money on nice clothes because very few people in this area wear nice clothes. This brings me to my question.

While I wholeheartedly embrace the French way of dressing, few people here do. This may sound like a vain, silly thing to say, but, while I feel so much better about how I dress, I have received very few compliments. In fact, the only time I receive compliments is when I wear a bright color or a statement necklace. (These were a few pieces I bought when I first started viewing fashion blogs written by younger women in the U.S.). So, I guess my question is, are you really chic, if no one around you thinks you are? (If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?) 

I am a native New Yorker, who lived in Brooklyn, Queens and then Manhattan until I was 26, and I have always felt that my clothing choices did not fit in here. I even stopped wearing certain things because I felt I would stand out too much. Not because I was dressing in a tacky, garish way, but because I was dressing in a chic, elegant way. As I said, I prefer chic. Most women here dress in very inexpensive, poorly made clothes and walk around with low-designer handbags with large logos purchased from outlet stores. This makes me sound like a snob, I fear, but I don't like wearing logos, big or small. Yet, I am the one who doesn't fit in (and I don't want to)!

So, again, are you chic if no one around you thinks you are?

I would love your thoughts on this question.

Thank you both for your great blogs. I will continue to follow both of them as I build my Parisian Chic wardrobe.


Dear Cecilia,

          Thank you, Cecilia, for your kind words.

          Congratulations, you won the gene pool -- you said you look 10 years younger than you are -- and you are a size eight, bravo(!)

          What you have described in your letter to us is a woman who is stylish and confident, a woman who dresses to please herself, to feel good, or, as the French say, a woman who is bien dans sa peau, "at ease with herself, content and comfortable."

          That is what French style is all about. True style and elegance do not depend on the latest fashion trends, au contraire, they are each woman's individual way to interpret her personality through her vestments.

          It definitely sounds like you have found your individual way of dressing.

          Trust me, you do not need anyone else's approval.  (I suspect you have their admiration even if they do not tell you.)You must dress first for yourself because if you choose to wear a bright color for example that makes you even slightly uncomfortable -- something, anything that's not you -- your confidence will slip slightly. When a woman dresses with style she radiates the subliminal conviction that she respects herself.

          Personally, and I think Une Femme and I agree on this, dressing well is a form of good manners, a sort of gift for others. When we make an effort to look the best we can we are, I believe, happier and that too becomes evident.

          Remember, Frenchwomen always choose style over trends and shop for quality at the prices they can afford ( or save to afford, or wait for the sales). They embrace their "imperfections" -- being unique is far more intriguing than trying to look like someone else -- and best of all they accept their age.

          They are also diligent and disciplined in taking care of details: great haircut; serious skin care, understated makeup.

          Finally, as you know, accessories are where you can experiment, have fun, add whimsey all against the canvas of your stylishly well-designed comfort zone. Maybe your statement necklace which garnered compliments. . .

Et voià.
Bottom line: Every woman's appearance is a measure of her self-respect.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dealing with Ovals. . .

Note her nice, neat "oval". . .as you can see from her photograph, if she didn't have a nice, neat oval at her age, that would be a shame. Now, for most of us to get that coveted tightness back would require medical intervention with sharp, shiny objects. Don't let anyone tell you a cream, serum or any other topical will do the trick. (However, if you know something I don't please, please tell me instantly.)
         A quick story without naming names. . . While in Paris yesterday, because I am running low on a favorite serum product, I decided to run into the "institute" where I buy it so that I would have back-up. I don't like to run out of my essentials. 

         I plucked the product off the shelf and went to the counter to pay for it when the saleswoman said to me, "oh, this is a great product for the 'oval'."

Think scarves, turtleneck sweaters, lots of eye makeup. . .
         "The oval?" I retorted, shocked. "I would never buy a product for the 'oval' because I know there is no such thing as a product that can do anything about our chins and necks after a certain number of years living under the forces of gravity." (I checked around the institute to make sure I was the only customer. I figured if some women believe otherwise it's not my place to disabuse them of their egregious misconceptions.)

        "Well, of course, you're right," she and the aesthetician standing next to her said in unison. "We're talking cosmetic, nothing serious."

You don't honestly think this little "miracle" was the result of something in a tube or a jar do you?
         Why then did I think this was one of my favorite products? That's because the company changed the formula and its purpose. The serum I've been using on my face with excellent results I thought -- all considered mind you -- no longer exists even though the pump container is exactly the same. Exactly the same that is if, like me, one doesn't bother to read the new name and purpose.
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