Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dimanche: Dinner In Paris

Dimanche: Dinner Chez des Amis
A "sober" approach, as the French say, to an invitation to dinner by French friends chez eux. As for the camisole, you can decide whether you want to unbutton your navy silk Equipment blouse -- or not. Also, note how the blouse with the skirt just built a shirt dress of the utmost elegance.
         Paris being Paris, it is always possible to find a decent, even delicious dinner Sunday evening, but many bistros and restaurants are closed.

          Never mind. You have plans.  You have been invited to a dinner party chez des amis who have a divine apartment in the Seventh Arrondissement that their family has owned for generations.

         Translation: Huge, with its original parquet Versailles (it does squeak and moan beneath the feet); a massive Baccarat chandelier, recently -- that could mean 100 years ago -- wired for electricity; fussily charming moulures; and museum worthy rugs and furnishings. As for the table linens, silver, crystal from St. Louis, and the porcelain. . .well, you get the idea.

        (The kitchen was completely redone and features the ultimate aesthetic experience combined with modern, professional appliances and the latest culinary accessories because, obviously, both of your friends are extraordinary cooks.)

         The only information you have been given is that you will be 10 for dinner, one French couple, one English couple, you and another American couple, and your French hosts. Dinner is at eight. You will therefore arrive about 8:15-ish.

        Your hostess did not utter the word casual. Therefore you must dress. Still, it's a bit of a challenge. Stay with me. . .

         You will not under any circumstances arrive at the door with a massive bouquet although you could have sent flowers from a chic Parisian florist to your friends' apartment yesterday. In that way there would be time for her to arrange a bouquet. Barring that gesture, a very good bottle of wine is acceptable, but the best last minute hostess gift that never offends and always pleases is a box of chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat, Pierre Hermé, Michel Chaudan, or Debauve & Gallais for example.
Dinner With French Friends in Paris
Your choice for the shoes. The ballerinas take the look down a notch and instead of the navy cummerbund you may want to opt for simply "blousing" your blouse at the waist. I like the "finish" the cummerbund gives the ensemble and I don't think anyone really notices it beyond the pulled together look it effects.
         The best thing about arriving with chocolates is that the hostess always (usually) opens them and offers them to her guests with coffee in the salon.

        That's settled, but the biggest challenge remains. What to wear? How does one translate the unspoken directive and subtle clues of your hosts when all they've said is: "Dinner at eight; we're so looking forward to seeing you again."

        This is where I come in. I know exactly what you should wear. I've been in this situation many, many times and you know me well enough now to also know I've done my homework and studied the competition.

         I've got you covered.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Shopping A Parisian Marché aux Puces

Treasures to be had at one of the vendors in a Parisian marché aux puces.
          It's spring, you're in Paris, and without doubt on your to do list is: I must visit one or more of the city's famous flea markets.

          Nothing compares to the experience. You will probably find some souvenir to take home and you just might discover a petit bijou and that could literally mean a piece of jewelry, but more likely a tiny painting, a pretty glass or a wooden box. On one visit I found -- and immediately scooped up -- a collection of 19th century fashion illustrations.

          When reading articles about les marchés aux puces, we are told that we can find anything from antique treasures of every dimension, as in an armoire to a picture frame, to bric-a-brac which basically translates as "junk" but that's half the fun, separating the wheat from the chaff if you will.

          Let us never forget that major scientific studies have proven that it's experiences that enrich our lives. Consider a visit to a Parisian flea market as an unforgettable experience.

          Some advice, which you may very well know, but let's just review the basics:

  1. Dress casually.  I've heard, and experts say it's true, that if one dresses the way you would for a shopping trip on the avenue Montaigne or rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, prices are automatically raised. After all, the assumption is, you can afford to pay more.
     2.  Pick-pockets like flea markets. Never take your passport or any other important papers with you.

     3. Many dealers take Visa and some MasterCard. You can mostly forget about American Express.

     4. Everyone likes cash, but it is recommended not to use ATM machines near les puces, get your cash from a reputable exchange office or a machine near your hotel.

    5. Keep your bag across your body and try to remember to keep your hand on it.

    6. In general be cautious about where you carry money.

    7. Leave your good jewelry in the vault at your hotel.

The Marché aux Puces in Paris
The Gucci bag has no apparent logos and looks discreet. Who wants flashy designer advertising under any circumstances?
    The puces are open Saturday and Sunday.

     The big three include:
  • Porte de Clignancourt (St.-Ouen) in the 18th arrondissement
  • Porte de Montreuil in the 20th arrondissement
  • Porte de Vanves in the 14th arrondissement
      Do tell if you have been to any of these and found something marvelous.

     And if you haven't yet had the opportunity and you're planning a trip, do schedule a few hours for this quintessentially Parisian experience.       

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dressing For A Day In Paris

In Paris: From Lunch to Dinner
It's possible this ensemble is my absolute all time favorite. Isn't the skirt absolutely perfect? The cashmere shawl will keep you warm when walking back to your hotel after dinner.
       You're back in Paris (!) --  having unpacked your black wardrobe from your visit last week -- and now you have returned with your navy blue wardrobe and all the components that make it fun and interesting.

Playing In Paris
If you don't like wearing high-tops, you can always wear the moccasins you wore on the plane.
          You have the basics on which we'll build the rest from Wednesday's post (please scroll down).

Paris in the Spring: Lunch on An Outdoor Cafe

          Today I thought we would have an easy, stroll around Paris sort of day: Lunching on a terrace and watching the world -- and the fashions -- parade by; tea or a glass of wine later in the day after investigating little side streets and scoping out what you might want to do in the days ahead or meeting girlfriends for lunch with your fab-u-lous navy blue skirt (which you will be wearing forever) and then later meeting the man in your life for a bistro dinner without having to change between lunch and dinner.

        I haven't decided what we'll do tomorrow in Paris, but I do know the weather is beautiful, though a little chilly, but that's what our raincoat, scarves and shawls are for n'est-ce pas?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dejeuner Entre Copines à Paris*

    A little secret: Remember yesterday I mentioned that I was "flying into Paris" to have lunch with three blogger friends?

         Guess what? You were there.

         Yes, you were. I'll explain.

         The four of us: Vicki Archer, Sharon Santoni, Carla Coulson and I sat outside on a terrace. There were heaters to keep us warm, but the sun was brilliant and the city sparkled in that exquisite only in Paris spring sort of way.  To say we had a marvelous time would be an understatement. We talked for hours and as we reluctantly parted we were already making plans for our next meeting.

         We talked about everything from our families, children and dogs to our projects, hopes for the future and yes, our blogs. As you know, Sharon, Vicki and Carla are enormously talented and creative women who every day give us the gift of la joie de vivre on their blogs. (Isn't it interesting that "joy" is feminine in French?)

         It is this very strange cyber world that has brought us all together -- the four of us and you.  We talked about how much we appreciate your taking the time to not only read what we write, but also to comment, to participate, to extend the conversation. This is yet another aspect of that extraordinary mostly woman-to-woman exchange that enriches our lives and we're very grateful.

         As I drove home from Paris late in the afternoon all I could think was how buoyantly happy I was after those few hours with women who are kind, generous, supportive and encouraging. We spent  our time together talking about what we plan to do in the days, months and years ahead, how we need to have "projects" however one may describe the concept. Some of ours are broadly similar, others completely surprising. I'm sure you have similar hopes, which is what projects are after all, for now and later.

         What was so extraordinary was a "you go girl" ambience that permeated everyone's enthusiasm for what each of us hopes to do. Ideas were exchanged, excited encouragement reigned and each of us was genuinely pleased for what the others have accomplished and wish to accomplish.

         There is a great deal of talk in the media these days about women reinventing themselves. Somehow I think our reinvention is our natural evolution. As we learn more about ourselves and discover our passions we may veer in different directions. What do you think?

No one had dessert, but our coffees were accompanied with little cookies. When we were lost in conversation, two bold sparrows joined us at table and began nibbling on the cookies. Very Paris. Very sweet.
         One thing I do know. This blog and everything that has grown out of it has saved my life in more ways than you will ever know and for that I will be eternally grateful.    

         Have you reinvented yourself? Do you follow your passions?    
* Lunch with Girlfriends in Paris.
** Just a momentary break from travel packing to share a conversation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Flying Off to Paris

On the Plane: Off to Paris
All the basics in navy blue for the plane: The choice between jeans or navy tuxedo trousers, an extra sweater and into the tote another scarf and your fuchsia Chanel bag which never goes into checked in luggage. See you in Paris tomorrow!
     Metaphorically speaking that is exactly what I am about to do. I'm having lunch in Paris with three blogger friends all of whom, like moi-meme, live in France but not one of us is French.

         Meanwhile, as promised, you will be donning your navy blue duds and heading off to the airport to catch the next flight into Charles DeGaulle.

          Back to us, already in Paris: Our rendez-vous is at a charming restaurant in the gorgeous Place des Vosges. It will be so much fun. I'm willing to bet we will all order dessert. (I'll let you know.)

          One of the women and I have become close friends over the years and in a conversation with her on Sunday about typography for my new-and-improved blog, which will one day appear in this space, I said to her: "So, how much weight do you think I could lose between now and Wednesday?"

          "Probably five-and-a-half kilos," she said. "However, if you eat absolutely nothing starting right now, maybe seven."

          All joking aside, I really did say that to her and the absurd thought did enter, hover and revisit my mind. How pathetic is that?

Catherine Deneuve.
         I think I need a role model. Theoretically she could be Catherine Deneuve who has allowed herself to gain a few pounds, a decision that has not interfered with her acting career. She has had quite a bit of work done, as the plastic surgeons say, and maybe some of us are disappointed by the decisions great beauties make in that regard. I'm not weighing in on the subject. I can see how incredibly difficult it must be for an aging beauty in a business that worships pulchritude.

         Most of the women of a certain age who are representing the products we're supposed to buy,   have had tweaks (or more) and we know it even if some of them continue to lie about their interventions. Jane Fonda for example doesn't look like Jane Fonda. I always wonder: Who is that woman?
Candice Bergen.
         On second thought, I think I'll opt for Candice Bergen as a role model primarily because she looks happy. It appears she loves life and it shows. Furthermore she still looks like Candice Bergen.

        Dashing out the door, with exactly the same numbers on the scale as there were on Sunday, but so very excited about having lunch with these three remarkably talented, intelligent, stylish women.  I wonder what they'll be wearing. . .

         As you can see, my instincts are totally and absolutely superficial. . .

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Let's Talk: Sales, Lies & Vicissitudes


 "I’m fat — and do not care what haters say!

         Deep breath, quick turn around the garden on this beautiful day, another deeeeep breath, think quiet thoughts. OK. . .

          I shall approach today's subject by posing a question and then I'll plunge right in and you can be furious with me, agree or possibly not care one way or the other.

          (I know I promised we would be flying off to Paris today, all decked out in navy blue, instead of witnessing me flying off the deep end of annoyance (that's a euphemism btw), but I need to throw this out for discussion.

          Background: As we all know, major brands have been putting women of a certain age and of an age certain in their fashion and cosmetic ads. We also know why they're doing this. We're an important demographic, i.e. considerable disposable income.  Why else would they include famous faces over 50 which, at the same time, begs the question, why do they then Photoship them to the point in some cases where we have no idea who the famous faces might be?

Jessica Lange.
Helen Mirren
          A few of the starring players: Helen Mirren, 69; Joni Mitchell, 71; Charlotte Rampling, 68; Jessica Lange, 64; Catherine Deneuve, 70; Lauren Hutton, 69; Jane Fonda, 77; Joan Didion, 80; Inès de la Fressange, 57; and the baby, Julianne Moore, 54.  Then we have the "let's insult their intelligence" marketing approach wherein Christy Turlingon, Stephanie Seymour and Nicole Kidman, all in their 40s, are thrown into the "older" campaigns.

          Can't you imagine the strategy meetings? "OK, people, we've got the teens, 20s and 30s covered, no problem.   But, what should we do with the 40s? They're not 'young, young' but then again they're definitely not old. They present a tricky challenge. Whatever. Let's just toss them in with  the old gals. No one will notice."
Joni Mitchelle
Joan Didion.
Charlotte Rampling.
          Never mind. That's not my point today.

          My question to you is: Have you noticed, among these women what is the absolute common denominator?


          Let me tell you.

         They are all slim. Some are exceedingly thin. So, where are the famous faces whose bodies have -- with age -- become slightly more "mature" shall we say? No, not "fat" or "obese" just somewhat rounder, more in a normal range of real women.  If we can become accustomed to looking at older faces why can't we also accept slightly more realistic body shapes?

Lauren Hutton.
         It's a question, open for debate. What do you think?

        Please don't tell me that the fashion magazines and even Sports Illustrated have "celebrated" les femmes rondes. In these instances, all the women are young. Are these once-a-year "body issues" (literally and figuratively) pandering, a gimmick, a demographic? Probably.

         However, to my knowledge, major brands have not been interested in women of a certain age who do not adhere to a strict slender aesthetic.

Candice Bergen, back in the day. . .
         I'm posing this question because I was intrigued by what the exceptionally beautiful Candice Bergen, 68, said about herself in her new book, A Fine Romance.

           “Let me just come right out and say it: I am fat.”
           “In the past 15 years . . . I have put on 30 pounds. I live to eat. None of this ‘eat to live’ stuff for me. I am a champion eater. No carb is safe — no fat, either,” she boasts.
          “At a recent dinner party I shared bread and olive oil, followed by chocolate ice cream with my husband. A woman near me looked at me, appalled, and I thought, ‘I don’t care,’ ” she writes.
          “Dieting is out of my purview,” she writes. “I crave cookies . . . all the things that dilate my pupils.”
          “They maintain their weight by routinely vomiting after major meals consisting of a slice of steak or a filet of fish,” she writes. “I am incapable of this.”

With Alan Alda.
Look at that lovely face.    
   Of course she's not "fat" unless perhaps she measures herself by Hollywood and fashion model standards. 
         She does display a delicious sense of humor which by any criteria has no expiration date.      

    Oh, while were on the subject of prejudices, where are the women of color d'un certain age?  There is a lot we could discuss and it's not only physique and Photoshop.

Have we really come a long way baby?

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Last Day In Paris: Packing VII

What to Wear? Last Dinner In Paris
No one needs a poppy splashed black cashmere cardigan, but it is irresistible isn't it? As for the red shoes, why not? If not, you already have your Jimmy Choo's.
     Today is our eighth day in Paris, or as the French would say "une semaine" -- by using French math: one week = eight days we have one more day to play before flying home tomorrow.

           So what do you want to do? Last minute shopping; another museum; a combination people watching lunch break; tea and a decadent pastry (or the to die for chocolat chaudchez Angelina ; one last out-of-this-world dinner -- or all of the above. Why not, you're in Paris after all? You can sleep when you get home.

Paris: The Last Night
You will not regret buying the sweater. Trust me.
          It's clear that my original goal of one week, whether seven or eight days, out of carry-on was too ambitious and when you think about it, not that much fun. Furthermore, you've been shopping so you need the extra space, n-est-ce pas?

One More Day In Paris
Since yellow may not be a major investment color for clothes, unlike for the gorgeous tote, it makes sense to go for a little fast fashion when picking up the Uniqlo sweater. You can wear it over your new Equipment blouse -- you'll be wearing that for years -- or jauntily over your shoulders,
          You'll have to pack for your return home tomorrow, but then you can turn right around and come back for another eight day week, except this time your wardrobe will be based on navy blue.

          Take-off will be Tuesday. I realize it doesn't make sense, but we live in la-la land in this space. It's all fantasy, particularly when we tally up the price of the clothes and the jewels we have brought with us or acquired while here, but where's the joie de vivre if we can't pretend?
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