Sunday, November 30, 2008

Accessorizing 101

















Today I'm doing absolutely nothing, resting comfortably if you will.  No, I feel fine.  Thank you for your concern.

The reason I'm not, actually can't, do anything is because of the gloves pictured here.  You can see why it's impossible to type in them slkfdjiktrhoijkag, for example. I can't even turn a page on my book or the hundreds of fashion and beauty magazines beckoning to me -- there's no grip with the fingers and the pages stick to my tongue.

As you know if you've been with me for a while, it makes me twitchy not to have products and accessories capable of multi-tasking.  By pure happenstance I discovered these gloves do indeed have a dual use.  I can take the tops off hot pots and pans without burning my hands and thus save precious minutes searching for my oven mitts (or whatever they're called).  

You may think at first glance these are exfoliating gloves.  They are not.  The exterior is like a sheared toweling, soft to the touch, but basically useless except for above mentioned hot lids.

These are the matching -- and this is ooooh so important, accessory-wise -- gloves that perfectly accent my little booties mentioned in November 24th post.  Even if you will only be seen by a domestic animal (and I realize this could include a husband or a boyfriend) while executing your beauty ablutions, remember:  a girl should always coordinate her accessories even if she's still wearing her pajamas.

Back to the gloves:  They too are lined with that weird, cold, solid gelatinous material which doesn't feel icky to the touch, but by some miracle of modern chemistry leaves hands, silky soft.

Like the sockettes they can be used 50 times.  And both the footsies and the gants come in little plastic zip bags so you can pop them in your carry-on.  Honestly, why leave home without them?  They pass, no-questions-asked, through security and you can spend useless plane time sloughing off dead skin.   

As I sit here contemplating re-installing my hands into my "Gants Spa", i.e. Spa Gloves (from Sephora),  I was struck by one of those brilliant beauty moments I'm wont to have.  They could be my one and only pair of winter gloves this year.  Think about it: warm, colorful -- not the season's hottest fashion color, but so what (?!) -- and built in moisturizer.  This afternoon I'll see if they have a good grip on a steering wheel.  It would be tricky explaining to a gendarme  I lost control of my car because I was deep moisturizing.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Scrub-A-Dub-Dub

You may think I live to accumulate products.  You would be so wrong.  The French have a saying:  "Why make it simple, when you can make it complicated."  (It's a joke.).  My motto is:  Give me three, max five products and leave me alone.

I want an uncomplicated life and an uncluttered bathroom.  Avène's Gommage Doux Purifiant or Gentle Scrub for Sensitive Skin is one of my can't live without super simple products.  

The scrub is meant for the face and as promised, it works wonders sluffing off dull, dry skin.  When you rinse away the little worker beads floating in the transparent lotion you will bask in the glow of your absolutely adorable shiny, rosy cheeks. You're so cute you'll find it difficult to pull yourself away from the mirror.  But you must, there is more work to be done.

Now comes the "aha" or off label use which, I have to admit, is one of my all time great beauty discoveries.  

When donning my little spa sockettes the other day (please scan down to post explaining their use) I realized it's almost impossible not to see what's going on with the part of the leg from knee to foot.  I was shocked.  By pure chance I noticed an unsightly expanse of rough, scaly epidermis.  I tried cream, to no avail.  Result:  a slick veneer efficiently sealing in the now even more visible crackles.  Desperate, I turned to Avene Gommage Doux Purifiant, squirted a handful into my Body Shop exfoliating gloves and went to work scrubbing like a mad woman.  In no time, no scales, just adorable shiny, rosy legs.  

Just add cream.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cross Dressing























Even in French they call it the "boyfriend sweater".  It's that classic, long, v-neck cardigan we sometimes think of as grandpa's sweater.   Not in the hands of a French woman.  As usual she gives new meaning to what we've always thought was the perfect gift for un homme d'un certain age.

First she steals it from the man in her life, then she gussies it up with her inimitable magic touch. If perchance she doesn't have a man from whom she can lift the object of her desire she heads off to any store selling men's sweaters, and hones in on sizes XL or XXL.  Big is better.

As you can see in the photo with the gray sweater, opaque tights and narrow belt which
turn the cardigan into a little dress; this is not for us.   Let's not say we're too old for it,
let's just say we've outgrown the look.

 Anne, a friend of mine in the fashion business, wore hers in such an understatedly sophisticated way that I made her tell me every detail.  She bought her boyfriend cardigan at Charvet because her husband didn't want to share his.  (From the minute I met him, I never liked him.)

Hers is lean and long enough to cover her derriere, but not snug.  
It glided over her body without clinging. Abiding by the immutable rule of every elegant French woman I know -- especially when elegant is also expensive -- she chose a neutral color; a heathery gray cashmere.  She layered it atop a slightly paler gray T-shirt; pulled her pencil-slim, charcoal gray flannel skirt from the back of her closet; added black opaque tights; Roger Vivier's signature silver buckle black patent flats and a narrow, black patent belt.  

Anne has the good fortune of owning some major family jewels, on this day she piled on  several strands of her big, fat gray pearls with unabashed abandon.  Deee-vine.
     -------------------------------------------

***Ooops, almost forgot.  Happy Thanksgiving.  We don't celebrate it over here.  So sad.  Every year on this day the International Herald Tribune re-printed a hilarious column by the late Art Buchwald explaining to the French what the holiday "Le Jour de Merci Donnant" meant to us. If you go to Google, type in Art Buchwald and click on "Chacun à Son Goût on Thanksgiving" you can read it.  It's wonderful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Beaux Bangles




Pile these on and you're dressed, accessorized and out the door.

Remember one arm only, some crazy fashion people may call the thick versions "cuffs" and wear them on both arms, but force yourself not to think of them as synonyms for shirt, sweater or jacket cuffs, i.e. left and right wrists.

They're a great finishing touch to any ensemble either in multiples or just one big statement bangle.  French women pile them on. They don't take a lot of premeditation or complicated coordination and they're sort of fun to wear.  They also clink together which could either be amusing or annoying depending upon one's temperament. 

They can be exceedingly expensive, dirt cheap -- or both.  It doesn't matter.

(Note the ones in prune I slipped in up there. . .)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gifts That Keep On Giving




















Surely you're asking yourself:  What do these disparate items have in common?  

Well, nothing and everything.

They are gifts from my stunning Swiss friend, Karin (she also has a divine apartment in the Seventh Arrondissement in Paris so I'm counting her as "French" to stay in context) when we visited her and her husband at their chalet in Gstaad.  Now, I ask you, who goes to visit friends and leaves laden with cadeaux?  

Karin is a hostess extraordinaire, a remarkable cook and tres chic so naturally I figured I can learn things by copying her

When I mentioned this (she noticed I was following her around recording her every move in my cute little Target notebook) I didn't expect her to give me a collection of the tools of her trade.

Here are the things she gave me and how they've changed my life: 

1.)  Comodyne Self-Tanning thingies. Inside each of those little bronze envelopes is a towelette moistened with a product that magically produces bronzé legs.  It can be used all over the body if you're looking for a head to toe faux tan.  I am mad about these handy-wipes, not simply for the great color they impart without drying the skin, but -- and far more important for someone as maladroit as I am -- they're sooooo easy to use.  Take it from a woman who has bought hundreds of self-tanning products over the years, ripped pages out of scores of magazines with instructions on how to apply creams, lotions, oils, sprays, etc. and never, ever had any results other than streaky legs, orange toenails, yellow palms and stained towels.  

These are different.  You will succeed.  And isn't there something particularly appealing about bronzé legs in the winter even if they are hidden under opaque tights?

Oh yes, you can buy just one to practice your application skills and when you practically faint from the joy of a job well-done you can buy a whole package.  

2.) A Römertopf.  You may already know what it is, I didn't.  Karin made a scrumptious dinner for us in hers and before I could say bon appetit she ordered one to give me 
before we left.  It's a slow cooking terra cotta "oven" -- that goes into the oven after it's been 
submerged in water for 15 minutes.  Food cooks for hours, tastes unbelievably delicious because everything cooks in its own juices without fat and the thing looks attractive enough to put on the table.

The cookbook and Karin assured me it's impossible to burn 
anything in it.  Not true.  I did a sort of boeuf carotte that looked like a boeuf carotte going into the oven and came out five hours later looking like bits of charcoal.  Even the carrots were incinerated, only a scientist would have known they were once orange vegetables.

I think my oven needs regulating.  Now I've got the hang of it -- more liquid, less time -- and everything is working out beautifully.

Note:  Unlike most cooking receptacles if you drop the Römertopf you have to buy a new one.

3.) Livéche, i.e. Levisticum Officinale.  It's an herb, tastes  vaguely like celery and is originally from Germany.  It's one of the main dried ingredients along with chives, onions, peppers and parsley Karin suggested I use to add a little un-je-ne- sais-quoi to my Römertopf meals. 

Since she gave me six bottles of the mixture I throw it in and on everything not in the dessert family.

Monday, November 24, 2008

One Size Fits All















Today I'm multi-tasking.  I just finished my article on Sonia Rykiel for "Vogue Knitting", I'm posting this blog, my homemade vegetable soup is simmering in the kitchen and I'm deep-conditioning my feet.

Note funny little sockettes above, they're on my feet right now.  They are not only supposed to give me a "genuine moment of pleasure and relaxation," but also "the fringe benefit of moisturizing and soothing weakened, dry or damaged skin."

Excuse me, but I thought the "pleasure and relaxation" part was the fringe benefit.  I was paying for moisturizing and soothing for my weakened, dry and damaged feet.  When I want pleasure and relaxation I have my husband massage my feet and he's never asked for one centime.

At first glance I thought the insides of the socks were coated with some gooky ointment, but upon gingerly slipping my hand in to check I discovered a soft film that feels like a cushy plastic that is completely dry to the touch.  

The interior is coated with grape seed oil, jojoba oil, olive oil and vitamin E, even though there is no squishy evidence of these substances.  

They can be used 50 times and there's a picture on the back of the package that implies they can be dipped into water for a quick rinse, but all the other symbols -- washer, dryer, iron and dry cleaner have X's through them.  As if, someone would send them off to the dry cleaner.

(That's sort of like the car I once had that came with the warning not to remove the sunroof while driving.)

I wore my socks to bed last night until I had a nightmare that my feet were on fire and I had to rip them off, but so far I can confirm they seem to do what they're supposed to.  My feet are silky soft  -- and hot. 
(Spa Socks from Sephora)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Last Prunes of the Season












































Madame Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, France's first lady, is mad about purples. 

Have you noticed men are absolutely made about her?  Another issue, but worth mentioning nonetheless.  (I'm always interested in what attracts men.)  

Back on subject:  I know I promised to drop the topic, but I simply can't.  Not yet.

Personally, purple, along with most greens is not one of my colors.  I once had a pretty burgundy crepe evening suit with a navy crepe camisole by Kasper (now you know how old it is) which I quite liked, but before and since I've never had any prune, plum, grape, wine, etc. in my wardrobe -- until today.

I felt compelled.  I'm living in France and the color is everywhere.  It seemed so wrong not to have a piece of the fashion action.  This is what I bought:  a pashmina,  the color of Carla's coat and a pair of socks (the color of her little shift) so I'll have a glimpse of grape peeping out of my gray flannel pants.  I think they'll look quite snappy with my black patent moccasins. 

I was comforted in my decision when I put myself at the end of the long, long line of young and not so young women (and the one open cash register with three employees talking next to the woman ringing up the purchases of the 5000 customers in front of me.)
Without exception, I promise this is true; every-single-woman was buying something purple: scarves, t-shirts, sweaters, gloves, and one really ugly pair of trousers.

OK, now I'm done.  Subject closed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

True Bleu


















Want your eyes to be sparkly bright?  You need blue eye drops, Les Gouttes Bleues

Two or three drops in each eye and magically the whites become blue-white instead of some wishy-washy whitish hue.  The high-definition contrast next to the iris is nothing short of riveting.  Even before you start layering on the cream, the concealer, the shadow, the liner, the mascara; your eyes are gleaming and gorgeous.

One caveat not on the bottle of course, but from my pharmacist:  use occasionally for special moments only because apart from the lovely azure film it imparts, it also constricts the blood vessels in the eyes.

I know several American makeup artists who never leave home without a few bottles in their makeup kits because of the way a few drops make the eyes glisten in "real life" as well as in photographs and on television.  "It makes the eyes 'pop'," as one put it.

According to the little paper inside the box, Les Gouttes Bleues also help "relax and rest the eyes."  Et voila.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Can You Bear It?























I think it's safe to say one should never go anyplace without very dark glasses.  

So as not to waver too far off subject, sunglasses do hide a multitude of certain age problems, save an amazing amount of time and money on all eye related beauty and treatment products and best of all keep people from looking into our souls.

Karl's little teddy is sold in exclusivity at the painfully trendy boutique, Colette in Paris.

He, the stuffed one, is made by Steiff and sells for a mere 1000 Euros.  You'll have to hurry though, ''Ours (that means "bear" in French) Karl Lagerfeld" is a limited edition bear.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Eat, Drink and Be Wary























French women are masters of dissimulation.  When you're at a dinner party with them you actually think they're eating as much as you are.  They never are.

Yes, yes it's the oft-repeated portion control bit and all things in moderation, etc.  But what's so amazing is they actually seem to be having a grand time with only one flute of Champagne.  Go figure.

With all the holidays coming up I thought I would get us psychologically prepared to have more fun with less food.  Claire (my nutritionist, remember?) insists we must never say "non" to pleasure.  O.K., works for me. 

If we train ourselves to think like French women life is a constant battle of desire over discipline and seemingly the formula equals pleasure.  (Little secret:  I think it makes French women exceptionnellement happy to be slim and the mere idea has some kind of chemical appetite suppressant effect.  I may be wrong.)

Let's say we decide to eat one slice of fois gras, the size of a deck of cards with about 30 cards left in the pack, it will take:  a one-and-a-half hour stroll; a fast one-hour walk or an intense exercise like my aqua gym class 30 to 40 minutes to burn it off.

Now, who can have foie gras without Champagne?  (For those of you who think I don't know about Sauternes and how in it is to drink with foie gras, I do know.  I hate it and it has about 30 more calories than Champagne. Besides bubbles make me happy.)  A coupe of Champagne, using the above formula takes from 30 to seven-and-a-half minutes to exercise away.  Seven-and-a-half minutes (!) I can't even do the math on how many glasses of Champs I could drink from now through New Year's Eve if I keep going to my aqua gym classes three to five times a week.  

Monday, November 17, 2008

Flash Black
















Until I saw a friend of mine buying her baquette in our little village the other day --decked out in one of her black Marithe + Francois Girbaud costumes, black sunglass and red, red lips -- I thought black nail polish was created for two market profiles:  Goths and women who work in the fashion industry. 

I also thought it would be the perfect solution for the scratches on the side of my car.  

Then Linsay Lohan and Victoria Beckham, among others went out in public with black nails, not that I consider this an endorsement even though it may be a fashion statement.  

I find the idea of looking down at black fingernails exceedingly creepy unless it's a one-off for some particular or peculiar reason.  It took me years to get used to Chanel's iconic "Vamp" polish introduced in 1994 and described as "a deep, dark chocolaty-red".  Now it looks tame next to the company's "Black Satin".

Here's what I suggest if it's really, really important for you to have black nails:  buy a teeny bottle of Bourjois, "Diner a Paris", get it out of your system and go immediately back to "Ballet Slipper" or "Bikini Rose" for example, i.e. just a whisper of palest pink.  (BTW for those who may have forgotten, Bourjois is the same company as Chanel.)  The sweet little minis pictured here (not in Diner a Paris, #39) cost a mere three Euros in Paris, probably less in the States. 
 
P.S.  I hate to go there, but feel I must:  If you have what I prefer to call "sun spots" as opposed to "age spots" on your hands, forget the whole thing unless you're willing to get them zapped off with a few -- yes, it takes more than one -- laser treatments.

I've done this, it feels like the doctor is snapping your hands with big, fat rubber bands and as I mentioned in my other blog I almost slapped her.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Knit Time Story






















When I first started covering the Paris ready-to-wear collections as a young fashion journalist I remember how much I loved going to Sonia Rykiel's shows.  No one quite knew how to give a woman what she wants -- a little bit of sobriety, a touch of sex-appeal and a soupcon of whimsy -- the way she did.  Everything she did seemed to me so quintessentially Parisian and all these many years later her clothes still say:  chic, French, ageless.  (They often also say "black" which, like Madame Rykiel, is my favorite color.)

I'm writing a story for "Vogue Knitting" at the moment about her 40 year career and her contributions to the world of knitwear.  Women's Wear Daily called her "the queen of knitwear" back in 1970.  In our interview she reminisces about her serendipitous beginning, her retirement this year and the tribute to her oeuvre at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris from November 20th until April 19, 2009, in case you'll be passing through.

(The "dress" pictured above was designed by Jean Paul Gaultier as part of a tribute to Mme. Rykiel's four decade career.)

In the research for my piece I came across an intriguing article published in "The Guardian" a few months ago where she was quoted as saying she has mirrors everywhere, "in my office and in my house."  Personally I like to avoid mirrors and even go out of my way to avert my eyes from reflective surfaces, but I found her explanation for her love of mirrors fascinating.

"I believe it is very important to look at yourself as often as possible if you want to know yourself well," she told the Guardian.  "In the mirror I see not only my face, but also who I am, who I have always been and hopefully who I will be as long as possible.  I don't think I'm beautiful, but I do think I'm special."

That's my favorite part, a lesson in life:  "I do think I'm special."

She went on to say she doubts she would ever have plastic surgery because there is nothing she wants to change about herself.  "My view is," she said, "you have to deal with who you are.  It's hard work, in a way, but somebody has to do it."

Now, if that doesn't brighten your day you're not paying attention.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Tennis Anyone?


French women know it's not necessary to sacrifice style for comfort.  They also know that for the right reasons  (meaning men are probably somehow involved in the sacrifice)  a little discomfort in the name of style is not such a bad thing either.

Case in point:  tennis shoes.  Pa-leese tell me why women and yes, women of all ages, wear tennis shoes with street clothes and then try to explain the aberration with the excuse that they're soooo comfortable and it doesn't matter what other people think.  Well of course it matters.  You're out there advertising your brand.  Do you really want your public to think you have coordinated a stunning facade, makeup included, that finishes off with a pair of big, ugly white accessories that scream: "I know I look like a fool, but I have a pair of Manolos in my tote"?  Who cares? It's too late, you've already potentially ruined your reputation.

Here's what they know that we don't:  Looking good is our best revenge.

It's fighting the good fight. Apart from the morale boost it gives us to get up, get dressed and get out there we're giving pleasure to everyone who sees us.  Isn't that a charming little cadeau to offer the world?

Back to basics: French women's solutions to nasty tennis shoes include moccasins and ballerinas, which we usually call "flats".  You see, no compromise involved.  It's a win-win.

(Pictured are golden ballerinas from Repetto, the too adorable for words Roger Vivier flats -- I would kill to have a collection of them -- and a classic go-with-everything patent leather Todd moccasin.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Everything Old Is New Again























The English language is full of French words.  Randomly flip through a dictionary and you'll find them on almost every page. To a lesser degree, the same is true in French, i.e. weekend, garage, television, (le) top 10 and scores of words from the fashion world like "top coat" for a gloss that goes over lipstick and most recently, "vintage" which brings us to today's subject.

As I've said several times previously and will continue to repeat, it's that special approach to most aspects of their lives that make French women so intriguing.  Vintage shopping is no exception.

Of course they have their favorite addresses, but their latest approach to finding lightly worn treasures is to have, for lack of a better explanation, old-fashioned Tupperware-style parties except the Tupperware is replaced with everyone's used or never worn old clothes.  (BTW Tupperware is very big over here.  Just thought I would throw that in.)

Friends and friends of friends clean out their closets, arrange everything by category and head out for a soiree that may include nibbles and wine 
or a light dinner followed by in-house shopping or in many cases exchanging of wares.  How much fun is that?

As with everything there are some "buyer beware" tips to consider when embarking on serious vintage aquisitions or even when participating in the more convivial entre amis approach.
  1. Be careful of clothes from the '70s, sometimes the fabrics can be nasty synthetics.
  2. If you love something, but it's such an unforgettable color that it can only be worn a couple of times, think cheap chic.  You'll get tired of it and everyone else will be tired of seeing you in it so don't break the bank on it.
  3. If you're crazy about something -- a little knit knee-skimming dress from the '60s; a lacy, silk slip from the '50s, a hunk of fur -- but it doesn't work in its original incarnation, rethink how you could wear it.  For example, the dress becomes a tunic; the slip becomes a camisole peeping out of a V-neck sweater; the fur cleaned and perhaps re-glazed becomes a collar on a jacket or coat.
  4. Think seamstress or tailor.  If you don't have one do your best to find one, she/he will be the best friend you will ever have for moments like this and whenever you want to make something not quite right, absolutely perfect.
  5. If a fab-u-lous puce sheath has everything going for it except its revolting color, maybe, just maybe you can turn it into the perfect little black dress you've been looking for for years.  
  6. When it comes to dying clothes talk to an expert it's not a do-it-yourself job.  I asked a woman who owns a "couture" dry cleaning service if she could dye a long, silk-crepe vanilla colored Chanel skirt I bought years ago at a factory sale black, she said "non" because the fabric would shrivel-up or something like that.  (My solution now, since I never wear the thing, is to pair it with a long -- as in covers my derriere -- black sweater and lots of pearls to draw attention, up, up, up.)
(Both pictures are from sydneysvintageclothing.com)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Just Say No



















It seems to me our list of things to worry about grows apace with our birthdays.  Something is always threatening to bulge, droop or need serious moisturizing -- and that's just from the neck down. 

Problems become even more terrifying when we start concentrating on individual body parts.  Take the lips for example, the challenges in this tiny area are legion.  Here we've got "feathering, bleeding and slippage."  (Apparently they shrink too.)

It used to be the only time we were concerned about slippage was trying not to fall down.  Now quite a few of us have those upper lip bar code lines just waiting for bleeding, feathering and yes, slippage.  So what do we do?  We outline the problem with colorful lip liner, kind of like putting a red line under a word to draw attention to its importance.  

Indulge me, I have to say this: lip liner is waaaay at the top of my beauty faux pas list.  I've been on hundreds of fashion photo shoots and yes, makeup artists line models' lips, but always, always with the same color as their lips (or the lipstick) and believe me I have never been on a shoot with models who have creepy upper lip lines.  If perchance you are one of those exceedingly rare women who knows how to do this little trick, more power to you.  If you're not, may I offer a few suggestions to save you from making yourself look older and just plain weird.  

At the outset we know we have to contain the "slippage, bleeding and feathering," but we don't have to outline it in color.  Above are two invisible lip liners which keep lipstick and gloss where they belong without emphasizing our little problems.  Right now I'm using one from L'Oreal with a teeny point called "Sheer Fidelity"  Infaillable Lip Liner Crayon-- even the name makes me feel better.  The two above, one from DuWop; the other Sally Hansen are excellent as well.

Last lip tip:  Try to learn how to use a lipstick brush.  Every makeup artist in the world uses them because they give precise, well-defined coverage.  Plus you get a little bonus, you can reach every last vestige of your favorite color before you toss the tube. Yes, it takes slightly longer than a quick swipe with the tube, but everything seems to take longer these days.  And remember, you're worth it. . .
(This MAC lip brush above is one of the best.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Up, Up and Away



At first blush one might think Chantal Thomass
 is simply one of the world's greatest designers of sexy, fantasy inspiring lingerie.  You'd be wrong. 

More than a creator of  flimsy frippery she's a brilliant engineer.  Do you think it's easy to design a delicately sophisticated high-wire instrument that can balance, yet not spill, emphasize yet not not deform that most historically magnificent amplifier of the female bosom, the balconnte?

(I love the word balconnte its original meaning is "overhanging railing" and has evolved to also  describe what we call the half-cup, push-up bra.  Isn't the image of hanging over a balcony wonderful?)

Thomass has worked for years to perfect her technique and is, bless her little coeur, especially sensitive to the needs and desires of women over 40.  In an interview for my book she explained the difference between a push-up bra for a very young woman and one for those of us who are less so.  As she explained it we need to be pushed-up from the sides, not from the bottom up.  Now, if you don't believe her, here's a little test you can do in the privacy of your own home or better yet a room in your home with a lock on the door and a mirror.  (Believe me, you really don't want interruptions or witnesses.)  I've done this and it works.

O.K.  standing nude from the waist up take your hands and push up your breasts from beneath, i.e. bottom up and notice nasty wrinkling wrecking the decollete area; now remove hands and place them on the sides and gently push inward.  Viva la difference. Problem solved. Lush, round and sexy without unsightly ripples of flesh.  
The construction of the bra is more complicated, but you get the general idea.  (What more could a girl ask except maybe a little laser "freshening up" treatment on the upper chest area, but that's another subject for another time.)

Madame Thomass also insists one must always, always make sure tops match bottoms. "Personally I cannot imagine not coordinating tops and bottoms," she says.  

Remember how our mothers always insisted we wear clean underwear and didn't much care about putting together a lovely ensemble?  Yet again, life's all about priorities.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Viva la Kiwi






Every morning, after my lemon juice (see post October 27th ), I peel a kiwi; slice it into small, bit-size pieces; put those pieces into a lovely little bowl; take out a tiny silver fork and slowly, slowly eat the gorgeous green fruit.

Some friends and my daughter like to eat their kiwis like a soft-boiled egg, i.e. cut in half and scooped out with a little spoon.  I, however, like to prolong the pleasure.  

According to Claire -- I think we can all be on a first name basis with my nutritionist since I can't imagine my life without her and you'll be hearing a lot from her -- this is the best way to start the day.  Trust me it makes up for the lemon.

Kiwis are super rich in vitamin C and also give us a nice fix of vitamin A and E as well as calcium, iron and folic acid.

Little known fact, or at least completely unknown to me:  kiwis can be used as a meat tenderizer.  Who knew?  (Perhaps my lovely Australian friends Trisha and Julia?)  If so, one of you can tell me if you just mash them up, spread them all over the meat and let the whole mess marinate.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Red + Blue = Purple


















Is it just me or did any of the rest of the world watching CNN for nine hours last night notice all the purple, mauvish, plummy colored neckties, shirts, pochettes and the satin blouse worn by Campbell Brown?

Was the news team trying to tell us something
about the secondary color palette or were they making a political statement about how red and blue make purple -- in all its tones and nuances?

(Isn't this a prettier image of color than the map of the United States with the jarring juxtapositions of the red and the blue?)

Of course it could have simply been a major fashion moment for the season's hottest hue, prune.  

(Curiously, the silk tie and pochette, $26.95 and $14.95, come from a place called The Purple Store.  As the name implies everything is, you guessed it. . .)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Girls Night In


Tonight I'm backing Champagne (Henriot, reasonably priced and very, very good), these adorable cotton pin-striped -- white, light blue and navy -- pajama bottoms from Landsend ($12.95) and one of my zillions of classic, white Gap T-shirts ($16.50).










I'll also be wearing a to-die-for navy Eric Bonpart cashmere cardigan from a few seasons ago and accessorizing with a pair of knee-high navy socks I'm borrowing from my husband and a navy herringbone cashmere and silk scarf my daughter gave me years ago.  No make-up,  just my magic serum and cream combo I'll tell you about another time.  Stay-tuned.

I'm going to a an election night sleepover with my American friend Donna* (also married to a Frenchman).  She's providing the food, from caviar to cookies, I'm supplying the drink.  

We plan to sip and nibble our way across all four U.S. time zones as the results pour in.  (The East coast is six hours earlier than we are; the West coast is nine hours earlier.)  We figure we'll actually sleep at about six or seven a.m. our time.

Win or lose we'll drink the Champagne to drown our chagrin or celebrate our euphoria. 

Just think tomorrow when I write to you we'll have a new president.  

*Donna is a wonderful artist.  If you would like to see her work go to her blog (she also has a website) donnagourdol.blogspot.com

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ahead of the Curve





Long before I was allowed to wear makeup I was curling my eyelashes.  

A quick squeeze on each eye, a couple of pinches to my cheeks, a "gloss" of ChapStick on my lips and a stroke on each pitiful eyebrow and I was out the door, onto my school bus and off to grade school near Niagara Falls, New York.  

Eyelash curling is the only gesture from my precocious primping days that remains part of my daily grooming routine.  It's an addiction.   The Shu Uemura curler, the best of the best
as we all know, didn't exist in those days so as a consequence I did some serious damage with lesser instruments over the decades. 

Oh, yes there's more to this story.  As time marches mercilessly on our eyelashes neither sprout nor spring back the way they once did.  (Frankly, what does?)

Result:  sad, skimpy lashes.  Obviously I sometimes use lengthening and thickening mascaras and have even had a few fake one-by-ones glued on by professionals, but I wanted my own lush lashes.  

Since discovering Talika Lipocils Eyelash Conditioning Gel they're back, almost as thick and long as they were when I was eight.  Here's how it works:
  • Apply to perfectly clean lashes.
  • Use twice a day like a mascara making certain the gel on the brush hits the baseline where the lashes grow then pull the brush up through to the tips.
  • Use twice daily for one month.
  • Use once a day thereafter.
  • Mascara can be worn over it.
  • I recommend you use it for the rest of your life.
  • It contains nettle extract, horse chestnut, soy lecithin, witch hazel, St. John's Wart and apple extract.
I discovered Lipocils while reading an article about medical and pharmaceutical products developed to remedy a specific problem that produced a surprising -- and in this case positive and marketable -- auxiliary benefit.  

After World War II, Dr. Danielle Rochas developed a plant based anti-bacterial unguent to treat patients with serious facial burns.  To her astonishment she noticed the salve not only healed the skin, but also provoked eyelash growth.  

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Accept No Substitutes


This is chez Angelina on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris where you can linger over what is arguably the best chocolat chaud in the world.  It is so thick you can eat it with a spoon.  (Added attraction: It's a great people watching spot.)

Chocolate, in all its permutations, must be savored slowly.  That's the way French women take their hits:  55 percent say they eat it square-by-square (no chewing allowed); 50 percent pop a piece at least once a day and 33 percent admit to being "chocomaniaques".

Am I belaboring a point?  Absolutely.  But I'll let Claire, my nutritionist, explain in her perfectly rational scenario for those of us trying to lose or not gain weight why there's no substitute for the real thing:

Let's say, for example, you're longing for chocolate, it's all you can think about, your sole fantasy.  What should you do? Diet or no diet, she says "go for it".  If you don't you'll have a no fat yogurt, and you're still thinking about chocolate so you'll have another low or no fat yogurt and now you can't think about anything but chocolate; next you have a piece of fruit.  And then what? You want chocolate. 

At this point, in utter, miserable frustration you break down and have the chocolate, but you have now wolfed down all the calories in two yogurts and a peach and you're not psychologically satisfied.  You wanted chocolate.  You should have had chocolate.  It must be eaten without guilt and you must move on.  

"When it comes to foods like chocolate, desire has nothing to do with hunger, you can't make substitutes for desires, they're psychological, not physiological and life is too short to deny pleasure."  Claire has spoken.

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