Friday, April 30, 2010

Dear Cherie. . .

Last week for her birthday You-Know-Who received the book, "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. (It was Cherie's birthday as well obviously, since we are twins -- identical, but oh, so different -- Cherie received diamond and pearl earrings, you see the difference. . .)

But Cherie digresses, You-Know-Who totes this ridiculous book around and is actually applying the tricks and secrets within to be obsessively, obnoxiously nice to everyone. It is beyond annoying. Furthermore Cherie, who has no time for nice -- polite suffices -- isn't sure whether YKW's niceness is sincere or merely a practice exercise. 

No matter, let's get down to your questions. At least Cherie can always count on you to be honest, sincere and on special occasions, snarky.

Q: Mme. H: Dear Cherie, I thought that birdhouse thing YKW showed us on Wednesday was adorable, but I didn't really understand what she was talking about, "a birdhouse for balconies" how does that work?

A: Dear Mme. H: Normally Cherie doesn't feel it is her responsibility to explain what You-Know-Who does, but today she will make an exception. The little maison is on the end of a very, very long  faux "branch" which one affixes someway or other to something or other and it extends out over a balcony. (Just look at the picture.) 

While we're on the subject of YKW, Cherie noticed she said "sight" when she meant to say "site" -- it has been corrected. 

Q:  Mme.B: My dear Cherie, Are there any specific French fashion magazines that one could say are particularly interested in les femmes d'un certain age?

A: Non.

Femmes magazine claims to hold the market, but it's a snare and a delusion, except of course for the anti-age ads. In that respect it is true to its mission statement.

It must be said though, French women know how to cull through Elle,  Madame Figaro and Vogue to pull out what works for them at every age. It's a Gallic gift.

Q: Mme. F: Dear Cherie, I am in the position of being surrounded by women who have more than everything they need. I, myself, am a member of this group. Our closets are bursting with designer duds, our jewel boxes are over-flowing -- well enough about me -- you get the picture.

I was wondering the other day: What would Cherie give to her friends who have everything as a small cadeau that says, "I'm thinking about you, but you don't need anything and probably wouldn't appreciate it anyway, but I have to give you something?" Any ideas?

A: My chere Mme. F: So amusant Cherie was confronted with just this conundrum recently. Cherie admits it can be a challenge. Even though Cherie has never -- would never have been -- a Girl Scout she is always prepared.

This is what Cherie offered a friend who has more houses than Cherie has shoes: A small child's suitcase made out of cardboard -- very chic, very French btw -- filled with cookies from the Bon Marche in the form of clothes and accessories. In other words, Cherie packed a suitcase of edible ready-to-wear for her friend. She laughed so hard she dribbled her champagne. 

Q: Mme. D: Dear Cherie, Many times, many of us have asked YKW to try to snap pictures on the street of women who have decided to let their hair go gray or white. To be fair, she has tried to include them when she can. What is your take on the subject?

A: Dear Mme. D: Cherie, who considers herself open to all expressions of style and elegance, thinks well cared for gray and white hair can be stunning. Most women are afraid to make the leap. It is, Cherie has been told, a bit of work keeping it shiny and healthy as opposed to the Einstein electrical shock style, which of course is a look in and of itself. 

(Cherie is convinced the woman in the second picture has natural gray hair. It probably instantly went gray when she saw that spider crawling down her cleavage.)

Interestingly, Cherie found these off-beat beauty touches from the collections Rue de Mail, Giles and Tim Van Steenbergen. Odd how those faces don't quite coincide with the tresses, even more bizarre is the idea that gray hair growing out is a fashion statement. 

Q: Mme. J: Dear, dear Cherie, I love it when you find things to entertain us, that may or may not have anything to do with anything IMPORTANT in the marvelous monde de la mode. Anything up your manche this week?

A: Chere Mme. J: Cherie is so pleased you asked. As it happens this is a particularly rich week in that regard. Cherie prefers to think of these items as "strange, but true" and "why would they" or "why would anyone"?

First we have t-shirts emblazoned with the images of -- are you ready (?) -- Bernadette Chirac and la Baronne Nadine de Rothschild from Comme Marc.

Madame Chirac, wearing Chanel and pilot sunglasses, is the wife of France's former president, Jacques, and Nadine is the self-made arbiter of good taste, fine manners and living proof anyone can marry up.

Second in the "believe it or not" category are these Jimmy Choo shoes. They're aptly named, "Zap" because the platforms, built with Plexiglas, light up as one walks or probably more likely dances in them. You too can own a pair for 1745 Euros. 

When one thinks about it, apart from the clear and terrifying danger involved in merely walking in them, they might be worth the investment. It's not every day one can find an accessory that will make one truly unforgettable.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Town(!!!) & Country: Out and About

Beside the point, but nevertheless I'm going to tell you the entire sordid story. 

I was en route to one of my picture taking adventures when it happened. The police again. This latest altercation had me seething. Wild might be a better description of my fury with the flic (that's French for "cop") who stopped me.

Furthermore, I was furious with myself -- it was a routine control, but of course I forgot to do something I'm supposed to do, but didn't know it, but I do know ignorance is not a defense (I'll explain in a second). The officer of the law said to me, "I'm going to 'verbalize' you," whereupon I said, "Oh, merci monsier." 

My-Reason-For-Living-In-France, sitting calmly next to me said, "this is going to be expensive." 

I retorted, "What are you talking about? Of course it's not, he's only 'verbalizing' me."

MRFLIF, said: "That doesn't mean 'oral' it means 'written' which is what he's doing right now, on his book of tickets." 

This is yet another example of my pitiful comprehension of the language. And I thanked him for the ticket!

I forgot, actually didn't realize my car needed to have a check-up with a sticker that proves it was done. I now have seven days to do it and the flic took my carte grise which is proof of my ownership of the car and gave me a piece of paper that permits me to drive it legally for those seven days.

He was so unpleasant and aggressive I wanted to say to him "now I understand why so many French people hate the police," but MRFLIF pointed out 90 Euros was enough for one day and that he surely looked surly enough to want to keep piling on the fines if I totally lost it.

All of that hassle and blood pressure spike for one refusal and one picture in Rambouillet. The woman who declined said she knew all about the Internet and didn't want to have her picture out there. Whatever. (This was 15 minutes after the cop control.)

Back to the subject at hand. Today we have, as I said, one picture from Rambouillet, several from the village near ours and two from Paris. You can see I was not en forme this week.

You can also see the weather is warm one day and chilly the next thus giving us a mix of everything from a Burberry raincoat to Marcels (t-shirt tank tops) and floaty summer linens.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Surprises & Non-Stop Fun (Seriously)

You know what they say about "if you want the job done right?" Well, I've done it myself. 

You see here a rendering of the perfect LBD. I am assuming Edith would agree, but since she is MIA on the beaches of Corsica a few steps from her house I didn't ask her. 

So you get more of a feel for the dress I've included a photograph realizing full-well it doesn't have the panache of a real artist's flair. It will nonetheless give you an idea of how you might like to wear it. The dress, in cotton, is a mere 59 Euros from COS stores. (If you go to the site you'll find lots of unusual items that will magically turn classics into something special and make all your friends jealous.)

Since, to be perfectly honest, we're having another "Pot Pourri" or a "News & Views" day, I'll move right along.

Matchy, Matchy

Everyone knows matching fingernail and toenail polish is so yesterday and shoes and bags from the same family are so four decades ago.

As always -- which makes the fun-filled world of fashion so fascinating -- this season and into fall we have an exception. Yes, I know, you're shocked. 

It's lips and fingernails, the same color. (Cameron Diaz gave it a try at the Academy awards. It seems to work, also look at the distance between lips and hands, only someone obsessed with the subject would even notice.)

The matched set was a major movement on the runways and we know what that means. All I can say is I certainly hope the greens, the blues, yellows and the grays are the exception to the exception. (Before you tell me how much you hate the orange combo up there, I agree.)

Quick Grab a Macaron and Go Here. . .

If you haven't already read the Wall Street Journal story about how those 10 extra pounds we've been trying to lose may actually be worth saving, you must mosey on over there. When you arrive, click on "Life & Style."

You Too Can Tattoo

Remember all the models covered with tattoos strutting the latest creations from Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel? OK, are you sitting down? You too can tattoo. For about 55 Euros all of us can buy five plackets of Chanel tatoos. Talk about throwaway chic. 

Just think, you can put them anywhere you wish on your body. You can reveal solely on a need-to-know basis. Is that exciting or what?

At Home: Inside Out

As the French say, I "cracked" when I saw these not only cleverly creative, but also useful and well-designed accessories for the home and garden.

1.) This I can almost not believe in its ingenuity: a birdhouse made out of natural wood that sits on the end of a long faux branch, designed by Emilie Cazin for balconies. Now birds too can have a pied-a-terre a Paris.

2.) The aptly named "bucket" stool -- you see the reason -- which allows one to have two free hands to tote whatever else one desires. It is great for gardening I'm told. It was designed by Carl Clerkin for Design de Collection.

3.) Instead of several small clay pots all in a row, how about lots of small clay pots attached to one another all in a row for a windowsill herb garden? Sweet and smart -- in the two senses of the word.

Et voila. A demain on-the-street.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hi-Lo, Here/There, It's a Pot Pourri (!)

Tuesday. I like to think of this day as the single moment in the week where my absolutely brilliant, timely, possibly world-changing questions are answered by a host of French women (and sometimes men) who look aghast, roll-their eyes and give me the best response they can come up with in the alloted time my patience holds out. When the queries are made by telephone I hear sighs, when presented in e-mail format I wait impatiently. Shortly thereafter, I send an e-mail reminder.

Exceptionnellement I didn't get my questions out on the public platform in time to meet my rigorous deadlines. 

Therefore, ta-da . . . You will be treated to another one of my "whatever catches my fancy or ignites my imagination" -- yes, you guessed it: A Pot Pourri (!)

Surely you're as excited as I am. . .

It All Started Yesterday

In my weekly "conversation" with mon amie, Jeanne-Aelia, when choosing women in politics and their fashion sense, or usually non-sense (please see yesterday's post chez elle and chez moi.) I noticed the sandals Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was wearing while meeting and greeting at the front door of the Elysee Palace. 

Presto, my little mind never stops whirling -- it's terrifying really -- I thought: let's take a look at Carla's shoe choices ever since she married the diminutive president of France.

Et voila.

Continuing on The Theme (More or Less)

I apologize in advance, but here comes an outburst: I HATE THEM!

It makes no difference to me if they're so "in" that photographers are tripping over themselves photographing stars on the street wearing them, that even Chanel and Prada want a piece of the action, that they're all over the fashion magazines, that I saw them in every boutique selling shoes in Paris yesterday. I don't care!

I still hate them. 

The French call them "sabots" -- I don't know what you call them. I call them clunky, chunky and ugly. 

Pictured here a quick review. From the top: Chanel, Miu-Miu, Sonia Rykiel, Marni and Ralph Lauren. (Actually, I hate Ralph's the least even though they give the impression the cowgirl left half of her boot in the stirrup). 

Don't even ask about the prices.

Let the dissenters come back with their arguments.

Big, Bold, Bare & Totally Out There

In another of Jeanne-Aelia's and my Transatlantic Parallels we talked about nudity in advertising. The other day when I was snapping on-the-street pictures for your delectation I turned around and saw this giant ad turning slowly on some magic axis on the side of several kiosks. 

If she and I hadn't recently discussed the subject I don't think I would have noticed.

Think Pink: Rose and Rosé

Veuve Clicquot is introducing a limited edition rose bottle, which I suppose translates "collectors' item, might be worth something someday, even empty" of its festive rosé champagne.

It is priced at a mere 50 Euros, considerably more expensive than the Lagerfeld Coca-Cola Light bottles which you will note have a pink chapeau.

It's a tough call. What to collect, what to drink, what to ignore completely.

Ed. Note:  As I mentioned Edith is in Corsica so our usual Wednesday "playing dress-up" feature will not be part of tomorrow's entertainment unless I can figure out a way to draw clothes on stick figures. Do not fear, I'll be here, but sadly without Edith who is probably swimming, sunning and shopping. Poor Edith.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Transatlantic Parallel

Until I met Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-HartLundi was my least favorite day of the week, but since we've constructed our Transatlantic Parallel partnership -- I love Mondays (!)

Briefly, for those of you unfamiliar with our weekly exchanges, this is what transpires: Jeanne
-Aelia, creator of the divinely chic blog,Through the French Eye of Design, lives outside New York City; I live outside Paris. That puts us in the unique sociological position of studying up-close and personal the habits and habitats of those whose culture may not necessarily mirror our own.  And this is where we tell you about our adventures --  the frustrations, the faux pas and the fun.

Each of our "conversations" includes two subjects we choose together, followed by a total blackout until we see each other's post the same moment you do.

This week we've decided to take a look at women in politics and transportation.

Clothes: The Great Communicators

To be fair, I should start my discourse on the politics of dressing with a simple fact: "What do I know?" 

I have never understood why, with few exceptions -- and yes, on both sides of the Atlantic -- women in government (or hoping to be) set themselves a style standard that can best be described as neat and not necessarily "crisp" which has its own allure when done right. No, we're talking about not a hair out of place, knife pleats in the pants, skirts grazing the underside of the knees, often a primary color is involved and perhaps a bold necklace, we know Hillary loves them, which holds attention next to the face which has the mouth which spews the words which spread the message. Madeleine Albright famously had her brooches.

Comfort is important we all agree. I remember at a conference I helped coordinate where Madame Albright was the star speaker. During the question and answer period she spoke about having to run after Yasser Arafat across a cobblestone courtyard to bring him back into the heated negotiations from which he had dramatically exited in a huff. Now that calls for comfortable heels. I can't recall whether she referred to a hiked up skirt. It may explain also why Madame Clinton wears pants in case she too is obliged to run after an errant head of state.

I think we all get it: serious, pulled-together, no-nonsense ensembles rule the day. However on
those rare, refreshing occasions when those few women who have figured out they can be serious while still being stylish I think they add great panache to the public facade. On the other side of the Atlantic I think Nancy Pelosi is stunning and sometimes Kathleen Sebelius gets it right, if we're counting First Ladies, one can like her choice of clothes or not, but Michelle Obama has a vibrant, confident style.

I'm sure there are many other women at other levels of state and federal government I do not know so I'm counting on my partner to fill in the blanks -- on both sides of the aisle.

On this side of the Atlantic my favorite (and Jeanne-Aelia's as well) is our Minister of Finance, Christine Lagarde (the first two pictures), whom you have seen here many times. Also in the style-a-thon is Rachida Dati, European Deputy and Mayor of the Seven Arrondissement (pictured with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and again immediately below. Both are consistently chic -- day and night. Rama Yade, (in the plaid jacket) Minister of Sports and Valerie Pecresse (in the red leather jacket), Minister of Education, vacillate between boring and smartly stylish. 

The socialist leaders, Martine Aubry, head of the party, is downright dowdy and Segolene Royale (pictured together here), who ran for president against Nicolas Sarkozy and is apparently gearing up to do so again, is trim and attractive, but stays on the safe side, sometimes teetering over into "dadame." On rare occasions she dares a stylish aberration. She has all the potential, but maybe feels it's not politically correct to be too chic.

 As I said, if we're counting First Ladies, who could not include Carla Bruni-Sarkozy?

Trains, Planes and Metros

My philosophy about getting from point A to point B is "whatever works." In a perfect world I would have a driver. I hate to drive. I'm not afraid of flying, but it's not way up there on my list of fun pass times, particularly these days as we all know. Even first class travel is a hassle, though less so obviously. Air travel is a necessary inconvenience.

Traveling by train is a by-gone luxury in the United States from my admittedly limited experience and subway travel of which I've had plenty of experience in New York City is unpleasant at best and let's not get into at worst. It does normally get one efficiently from point A to point B.

In France though, we have the fast train, the absolutely out-of-this-world wonderful TGV, I'm sure many of you know it. It is pure luxury and first class if one desires is budget friendly with lovely meals to make the trip from Paris to the South of France a non-stop pleasure. Since the French do have five or more weeks of vacation, they have the time to take trains to their leisure destinations. (The pictures at the top show the TGV inside and out.)

Trains as far as I know, except perhaps between New York and D.C., are no longer part of the general culture in the States. I remember every morning for years taking the commuter train from outside New York into Grand Central Station and then home again. The experience was rather unsavory and sometimes in the winter there was no heat. 

The Metro system in Paris is rarely unpleasant except perhaps in the summer when one can be packed entirely too close to  "dewy" passengers, but all-in-all it's a fast, clean, well-oiled system that everyone I know uses all the time. Buses are the most fun because of the sightseeing, but if you're in a hurry, the Metro is the solution.

(As I re-read this I think I haven't said very much of substance on transportation. I trust Jeanne-Aelia will be more lucid and interesting than I on the subject. Over to you my chere.)
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