Monday, September 15, 2014

Something to Consider


         Until I saw this Coco Chanel quote the other day I thought I knew all of her famous sayings. Evidently not.

          I'm not sure high heels are absolutely necessary, but always standards must be high, which means by extension that we can, and should, hold our head high. 

         A less poetic aside perhaps: An elevated head aligns the body, which results in excellent posture and the rest falls into place. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Trying to Sound Intelligent. . .


         That's what I'm doing today, responding to Q & A requests, and then again this weekend. I have been asked to do two interviews. Very exciting. One is on a fantastic website, the other a newspaper. I'll keep you au courant.

         My intention was to write something amusing and/or diverting today, but it doesn't seem like that is going to happen. Instead, I offer you an excuse and an apology.

        Because I want to appear -- operative word "appear" --  intelligent or at least on top of my game in the small sphere of my French lifestyle "expertise" I'm concentrating on my responses to the questions.
Dress in wool with a smudge of stretch from Gilt.
        Back soon, I promise. In the meantime: Don't you think this dress I gave Andrea for her birthday is perfect? If it had sleeves I would consider buying it for myself. I would, of course, order it in black (with the sleeves), hers is navy blue.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A New Product

Divine is not an exaggeration.
          Well, it's not a new product. But Rêve de Miel lip balm from Nuxe is a new for me.

           When I was a little girl -- this is an aside as I am wont to do (I'll be back on subject in a second)  -- my mother told me never to say I loved something that was inanimate like a bicycle or a dress or in this case a lip balm. People and animals, that was fine.

          So, let me just say I really, really, really like this stuff.

           Granted, one usually thinks of products for chapped lips or to keep lips from chapping are about as utilitarian as one can get, but Rêve de Miel feels luxurious. It's full of all sorts of delicious ingredients, it's thick and creamy, but not at all sticky or shiny. The finish is matte and with the slightest citrus taste, it's positively irresistible.

           It features vitamin E and antioxidants from grapefruit essence and hyper-moisturisers like Acacia honey -- thus the name "Miel" -- and shea butter to soften and seal in moisture and then just because more is sometimes much better, sweet almond, calendula and Chilean rose oils to heal and repair lips.

          Years ago I read in a beauty book that products for chapped lips exacerbate the problem, in other words the more we use the them, the more we need them. I asked my dermatologist if that were true and she said "very often," which has been my experience.

          Rêve de Miel also partners beautifully with lipstick because of its matte finish. Color glides right over it and lips feel plumpy and smooth.

         You need very little and it's addictive. I use it throughout the day. The pretty little pot lasts for months. It's the last product I use before I turn out my bed table light.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back-to-School -- Literally


          Last weekend I attended the foire (fair) in the town near our village where children and adults  signup for extracurricular activities.

          I sat at a long table with the woman responsible for the class registrations waiting for my old (and hopefully a few new) students to choose between my English conversation courses on Tuesday or Friday mornings.  It's almost a cliché tin this country hat those of us who speak English, even though we're not trained teachers, find ourselves in this position.

          My-Reason-For-Living-In-France doesn't understand why I continue to teach these classes. I try to explain to him that I absolutely love the time I spend with my "students" who in many cases have become friends. They are also the perfect subjects for the non-scientific studies that I share with you here, like: What do they eat for breakfast; how important is it to be thin; what do they eat when they're really, really hungry mid-afternoon; what's their favorite moisturizer, how much water do they really drink in a day, and so on.
The classes are fun because we really do talk. Every week my first question to everyone is: "How was your week? Tell us about it."  And we're off. We often exchange political opinions. I suspect we'll have a great deal to discuss in our first class of  the new school year.
          Please let me know if you have any questions you would like me to pose for one of my polls. Classes start next month.

         Students in my classes range in age from their 40s to their 70s and the majority want to practice their English because they travel extensively. One woman in her mid-70s says she signs up every year  because she thinks it's good for her brain. She never fails to do her homework. She also takes yoga and T'ai Chi classes to be strong in body and mind. To see her loping to market with a basket slung over her arm one would think she was a young woman.

        Although I know my grammar instinctively, I can no longer explain it beyond subject, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, objects. . .you get the idea. The French really know their grammar, no matter their age. That's why I teach conversation and not a full-on English course. There are trained teachers for those responsibilities. I have an American friend who has a degree in English as a foreign language and she has been teaching children and adults for decades. That's an entirely different skill set as you can imagine.

I've been told that the latest technique for teaching children English  is to immediately use contractions without explaining how they are constructed. Seems very strange and ultimately counter intuitive to me, but what do I know?
        There are two other reasons why I continue: It helps my French and it's fun. It's a win-win.

        While I was at the foire I signed up for aqua gym classes. With my new knee I can once again try to be strong physically.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hell Hath No Fury. . .

          . . . like a woman scorned.

         And scorned she was. Valérie Trierweiller, French president François Hollande's former "First Girlfriend" as the American press proclaimed or "Premier Dame" as the French press dubbed her -- basically no one knew what to call his live-in lover -- was summarily dismissed in late January in a brutal communique:    "Je fais savoir que j'ai mis fin à la vie commune que je partageais avec Valérie Trierweiler". 

         He called his declaration into Agence France Press, thus putting an end to speculation about the object of his affection which apparently then (and now maybe) focused on the French actress, Julie Gayet. Please note the bold type where Hollande used the first person pronouns three times in one sentence: "I am making it known that I have put an end to my partnership with Valérie Trierweiller," he declared.

         How elegant, n'est-ce pas?

        (If you have other activities and interests in your life and you've missed the backstory on the sulfurous lifestyle of Monsier Hollande, please click here and here for details.)

The book that may change the course of French politics.
        Never mind elegance. Madame Trierweiller, 49, twice divorced and mother of three sons, got her "revenge is a dish best eaten cold" payback last week. She wrote a tell-all book about her eight year liaison with François Holllande,  Merci Pour Ce Moment or Thank You For the Moment.  

         Even before her book was published, apparently 200,000 copies were printed (in complete secrecy in Germany) and immediately sold out, Hollande held the record as the least popular president since polling was invented in this country. Today his approval rating is 13 percent. Many see her book as the coup de grâce for his political career -- "kicking him while he's down" if you will.

        The press is in a hysterical feeding frenzy, loving every second of the scandal while claiming embarrassment and outrage about even talking about the book. One anchorman threw it over his shoulder in "disgust" after critiquing it for 20 minutes. Hypocrisy at its most exquisite hauteur.
Ségolène Royal, former partner of Francois Hollande and mother of four of his children.
         Luncheon and dinner table conversations are abuzz with the ramifications of the book with most voicing either real or simulated outrage that a woman scorned has no "amour propre" (self-respect).  Some, however, counter that since Trieweiller admits to her almost self-destructive penchant for jealousy -- long after she was the apparent reason for the split between Hollande and his companion (the man thinks marriage is too bourjeois for him) of 29 years and mother of four of his children, Ségolène Royal -- and other character flaws that she is speaking the truth about their life behind closed doors. The question remains, does it matter?

         I have not read the book because I couldn't find one and ultimately I probably won't buy it. I'm repeating here what others have said from a luncheon yesterday where two guests had read it to the press coverage.  On-the-street TV interviews indicated, at least in the handful of those questioned, most will not buy the 20 Euro exposé.

         Interestingly, this is what the Daily Telegraph noted from her book: ". . .Trierweiler, in the best piece of writing of her career (she’s a former political journalist with Paris Match) has changed the nature of the game. Her Hollande comes across as mean, cold, ungenerous, given to offensive macho put-downs and snobbish contempt, a serial liar in love and in politics, self-satisfied and media-obsessed."

         He, according to her, claims to hate the rich, "but the truth is he despises the poor." She said that in a "witticism" he referred to them as sans dents, without teeth. I asked My-Reason-for-Living-In-France if this were a French expression and if so what did it mean. He said he had never heard it before and assumed it meant those who couldn't afford to replace their teeth.

An affaire d'état or merely a series of complicated romantic affairs?  Left to right: Valérie Trieweiller, François Hollande, Julie Gayet.
           One will never hear a French politician admit that at times the personal can be political and only rarely will the public suggest that possibility, in France, sex and politics have always existed and in many cases throughout history the duo has been celebrated.  This is an interesting instance of politically

          Is lying lying and thus a commentary on one's character? Or, can one (should one) compartmentalize fabrications?  

          Oh, how I'm looking forward to your comments.     

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The White Handkerchief Story


          As some of you may recall, Andrea, our three very large dogs from the Bedford, NY, SPCA, and I moved to France for two years. That was more than 25 years ago.

          At the time, neither of us spoke a word of French (well, she was only eight) beyond merci, s'il vous plait, and bonjour. I also knew, voilà, but unfortunately had little use for it at the time.

          Because of the dogs, we couldn't live in Paris. I found a thatch-roofed cottage in the country between Versailles and Rambouillet, commuted to the Herald Tribune and shortly thereafter enrolled Andrea in the tiny school in our village. Because of the aforementioned fact she didn't speak French, every afternoon for several months, we would walk hand-in-hand to the home of Madame Lardin, a retired French teacher, who thankfully spoke perfect English, for intensive tutoring.  She had a sweet black dog named Dog. How perfect was that?

          Andrea's goal was not so much to speak French, but rather to have friends which excellerated the process. She was fluent in about three months. She continued with Madame Lardin for another three months in order to learn the more complex details of French grammar.

         The repeat of this story is for background.

          Madame Lardin was what the French call "special" which, as you know, tends to mean peculiar as opposed to wonderful although in her way, in our eyes she was a combination of the two.  She was, I'm being frank here, a sort of sorceress. She believed in myriad herbal tinctures and teas, tended to use candles instead of electricity, wore long dresses, sandals with socks and shawls, long grey hair flowing over her shoulders.

          Among the things she taught me was The White Handkerchief Trick.

          More background: Before I went into the clinic in Paris in June, I slipped my driver's license and carte de resident inside my passport and hid the three documents. I didn't need them at the clinic or in rehab.

          Several weeks later when I returned home I wanted to put the license and carte de resident back in my purse. I couldn't find them or my passport. I always keep my passport in the right hand drawer of the desk in our little library. It wasn't there. Hysterical is an understatement as I went through my Pavlovian searches, hour after hour, day after day.

          Then I remembered Madame Lardin's white handkerchief counsel. She said that whenever one loses something, "take a large white handkerchief and tie it to the leg of a piece of furniture that you constantly see throughout the day.  It clears the mind of obsessions and helps you remember where you put something or where you might have lost something."

          I promise you, this has always worked for me. Two days after tying the handkerchief on a table leg I found all my documents in the drawer where they belonged. For reasons unknown I had put them inside a white envelope. When I thrashed through the contents of the drawer I was looking for a blue passport, not a white envelope.

         Et voilà, I highly recommend you try her trick.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

One More Time: Le Blazer Bleu Marine

A J. Crew version of the blazer.
          More proof -- if it is needed -- that a navy blazer goes everywhere with everything.

          I'm pulling mine out of my closet. I have four and two are in black. I'm sure you're not surprised by the disclosure of that news. . . One of my favorites has a shawl collar which gives it another twist and makes it work beautifully with a pair of satin trousers for evening. It's almost like a tuxedo.
Claudie Haigneré, doctor, politician and former astronaut with the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales and the European Space Agency.
Isabelle Huppert in a supremely chic navy on navy look.
Françoise Barré-Sinoussy is a virologist and director of the regulation of retroviral infections at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. In 2008 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with her mentor, Luc Montagnier. She is credited with performing some of the fundamental work in the identification of the human immunodeficiency virus -- HIV -- as the cause of AIDS. 
Claire Chazal French television's star anchorwoman.
Anne Lauvergeon, former CEO of Areva a French multinational group specialising in nuclear and renewable energy. It is the world's largest nuclear company.
Catherine Nay, author, journalist, political commentator.
Dominique Reiniche, Europe Chairman of Coca-Cola.
Former model and current singer/songwriter, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy may not be French but she is married to France's former president, Nicolas Sarkozy.  
Inés de la Fressange wears her blazer all-the-time.
         From today's photos you can see, once again, how this perfect jacket is a natural fit for every profession whether the women are on or off duty.
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