Saturday, April 30, 2011

Not Today. . .

My beloved Macha, a gift from a friend and one of my best friends.

No post today. I have a sick dog and we're on our way to see Dr. Dal Corso.

A demain.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Town & Country: Out and About

Time for a confession: I didn't go into Paris yesterday. I had planned to, really I did. Then the rain started, the sun retreated and, well, it didn't happen.

That does not mean however that a broken promise ensues. Not at all. I've gone back into my "archives" (not at all pretentious considering my remarkable talents as a photographer. . .) and pulled out some of my favorite on-the-street shots from Paris and the country. Yes, many (most) of you have seen them, but still they simply confirm our preconceived notions about Frenchwomen: they certainly know how to pull themselves together.

My Parisian Chic book arrived in the mail from Flammarion today. I am not only excited about spending my weekend seeing what Ines has to tell us, but also I'm even more delighted by the fact Flammarion sent me the book with a little "best wishes" note after checking out this space to see if they could trust me.

It's my first freebie in my new position as unpaid blogger. Thrilling. I give you my word, when I review the book on Monday the fact I didn't pay for it will not influence my observations. I mean, what are they going to do? Ask for the book back? Good luck.

Ed. Note: Just returned from my two English conversation classes -- one beginners, the other advanced -- where I had my students watch the royal wedding. Their homework is to write a report for next week. I did this of course because I did not want to miss one second of the event and I definitely did not want to see her dress in replay. Wasn't it perfect? She looked so beautiful and apparently, according to the lip reader over here, William leaned over and told her so when she arrived at the alter.

I presume the queen in sunny yellow reflects her pleasure with the union.

Karl Lagerfeld commentated on one of the channels and offered some colorfully snarky remarks about some of the guests' ensembles. He did approve of the bride's dress and thought her mother looked young and attractive. Basically he said he didn't "see any fashion" in the crowd.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A French Affair

As promised, a guest post from hmmm, let's call her "Antoinette," what's a pseudonym or two among friends? (She is obliged to keep a low profile because her in-laws don't like her. You can read that story when you visit her today at the Class Factotum .)

As I was saying, you must visit her, she is hilarious. She is quite the accomplished writer as well. She talks us/takes us through her marriage in the form of "lessons" which makes me think it must be a laugh-a-minute chez elle, though we would need confirmation from the straight man on that assumption.

I discovered she loves Paris, but has had some iffy experiences in the city of love and romance. Below she tells us all about them. Then, as I was saying, you must visit her at the Class Factotum.

Ever since my Aunt Mary Ann brought her French boyfriend, Serge, to our house for Christmas when I was in second grade, I have been in love with the idea of France. L'amour. L'amour! And the charming accents of Frenchmen like Serge. Swoony Serge with his dark hair and 'ees dropping of ze 'aitch. Oooh la la.

Which was why when a Belgian boyfriend - Beligum is like France but without the Frenchness- and I agreed to meet in France for a vacation, I was swoony. At last, my dreams of a romantic tryst in la France would be realized.

Ladies. Temper your dreams when you go to France with an accountant. Almost-French Belgian accountants are no more romantic than American accountants. Blesstheirhearts and no offense.

I had imagined a week of pastoral delights: picnicking on the pain, fromage et fraises that we bought from the marche, supping at an intimate bistro, sleeping in a quaint country inn.

What I got:

1. Shopping at the open-air market with the Almost-French Belgian Accountant (AFBA) making a note of every expenditure so we could tally everything up at the end of the trip. I am about as tight as they come, but even I know that on a shared-expense vacation, it is not necessary to write down every six francs that one person (=me) spends on bread. As long as we were within $50 of being balanced, I would be happy. But AFBA kept notes and receipts and made a spreadsheet.

2. Food poisoning at the little country inn. Ten minutes yes ten minutes after I had my first bite of the zucchini tart, I was throwing up. At least I made it to the bathroom, but still, vomiting during lunch does not enhance the meal experience for anyone. Those were some really bad eggs is my guess.

3. A Marseille hotel that looked good on paper, as it was on the water and isn't waterfront property always more romantic? Alas, this hotel, with its jaunty nautical theme, including nautical sheets on the bunkbeds, seemed to cater to a rather different clientele from AFBA and me, or at least that's what the signs would indicate. If you go by the theory that what is forbidden is what really happens - why would a city need a "Don't pee here!" sign unless it was the custom to pee on that particular wall in the main square? - then the signs warning sailors they better not bring loose women into the rooms and don't even think about asking for hourly rates would indicate that the hotel drew a more focused customer than AFBA and I. Not that we weren't interested in such activity, but at least we were prepared to stay all night and AFBA was prepared to pay for his half of supper.

The relationship with AFBA didn't last, although he did, nine months after breaking up with me, come to the US to propose, albeit as part of a business trip and hence not on his dime, which makes me wonder how serious he really was about the whole thing. I rejected the offer once I understood what he was asking. He never said the words, "Would you marry me?" but instead announced that he was getting married, which prompted me to ask, "To whom?" That was not the response he was looking for.

Then I met the Moroccan Millionaire. That was a bad idea, too, but the glamor of it all! A Moroccan! Millionaire! We agreed to meet in Paris for a week. He, like the AFBA, spoke French. French!

Again, I imagined cozy lunches, cozy afternoons, cozy evenings.

I got instead

1. A daily trip to The Gap after he had spoken to his son, his sister and his mother in Rabat about what they might want him to shop for that day. A couple of trips to the Ferrari dealer. A trip to the bank where he hid his money to avoid paying Moroccan taxes on it.

2. All meals eaten in except a few. We were staying in his cousin's apartment and would go to the grocery store every day. He ate Belgian endive for lunch and for supper. Omigosh. I have just made the connection between the two bad boyfriends and it is BELGIUM. I should have known. Along with his lunch (and with supper), he would drink a bottle of wine. As I am not a drinker, I really don't know how much is a lot to drink and how much is not very much, but I have since learned that an entire bottle of wine at one meal is perhaps more than a good Muslim imbibes.

3. A daily nap. For him, not for me. Perhaps the wine had something to do with it. He would change out of his suit yes his suit and into his pajamas and take a four-hour nap.

4. No tourist stuff, even though I kept saying, "Let's go to Chartres! Let's go to the Champs! Let's go let's go let's go!" He was not interested. "I 'ave done ZAT," he would say. "Eet is borING." Then he would take another nap. Then we would go to The Gap.

That relationship also did not last. I began to wonder if France was the problem.

Then I met my husband. He is not an accountant, but he is an engineer, which - well, I don't even have to explain what that means to you worldly readers. He is neither Belgian nor Moroccan but he was definitely reared in a culture foreign to what I know. And after a college minor in the language, he speaks French. That is, he speaks it in theory. Being an engineer, he does not want a word of French to leave his mouth unless it is perfect, which means I do all the foreign talking when we travel because I am not afraid of looking like an idiot.

Did I dare? Did I dare try a romantic vacation with another non-French French speaker? My love of France had not been sullied by my bad experiences with the two not-French French speakers. But was it the ideal place for a romantic vacation pour moi?

Last November, my husband had the frequent flier miles. He had the hotel points. We had the vacation time.

We cast caution to the winds and to Paris we went. We didn't discuss who paid for what because he pays for everything all of the time because I am a gold-digger. We went out to eat because he loves to go out to eat. We went to all the tourist places, including the Sewer Museum, because we both like to do weird tourist things. We sat at cafes and sipped cafe au lait. We wandered hand in hand through romantic Paris lanes. We slept late and had croissants for breakfast.

Nobody threw up. Nobody got drunk. Nobody took a nap. We had one bad fight upon our less than triumphant return to Paris in the rental car - darn you, Paris street layout designed to confuse the Germans - but that was soon over.

It was the almost-perfect romantic vacation. Just because I had had two failed attempts at French romance did not mean France was at fault. (It's clear now that Belgium was at fault.) France was always the right place - I just had to go there with the right man.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dear Cherie Is Baaaaack!

What a joy, what a pleasure, what a relief to be back with you my dear friends and fans.

Mere taught us how to share, but You-Know-Who never seemed to get the hang of it. For months now she has been closing Cherie out of the blogosphere despite the clamoring for her immediate return. Most certainly the clamoring has been for an immediate return to sophistication and glamour. Cherie got the dominant genes in that pool, everyone who knows us agrees on that point.

But, Cherie is here and that's all that counts. Certainly Cherie has missed saving you from your fashion missteps, but she has been traveling, shopping, entertaining, being entertained, spa-ing, shopping -- the usual, but it's now time to get down to business.

Your questions:

Q: Mme. S: Dear Cherie, Words cannot express how thrilled I am to see you back where you belong. The only reason I keep coming over to check out this blog is to see if you're here.

I have an urgent request. My son's wedding is approaching and I am in the midst of a conundrum. I have great legs, but they are slightly marred by veins, spots, etc. and I definitely cannot wear opaque tights in the summer. What can I do?

A: My dear Mme. S: First thank you and second, Cherie has an easy-peasy answer for you, one she often uses herself. Auto-bronzer or self-tanner. You can choose the color you wish and the type of product. Before the Big Day, three words of warning: practice, practice, practice.

Apply with surgical gloves -- you don't want the palms of your hands the same color as your legs -- and play around with different formulations, i.e. creams, sprays, lotions, pads.

To look fresh and rested, put your day moisturizing cream in the palm of your hand and mix-in the auto bronzing product, apply to your face. Chances are you won't need makeup except for blush, lipstick and major eye la-dee-da. Practice with this as well.

Finally, if you feel you cannot pull off the leg bit by yourself -- Cherie never does -- there are salons all over the world that will happily spray on a sugar based (read non-toxic) solution that will give you a perfect no-streak "tan". It's a slight investment, but worth it.

Ines de la Fressange, proving once again "there are no rules."

Q: Mme. D: Oh, darling Cherie, hallelujah, you're back! Help! Memorial Day is approaching and I need your advice. Do those rules about white clothes still apply, i.e. never take them out before Memorial Day and put them away after Labor Day?

A: Ah, Mme. D, Cherie can see her return is not a minute too soon in your case. Do you live under a rock or what? Are you still wearing your little white gloves and a hat to go to work? Do you drink Manhattans?

Write this down on a collection of little cards and slip them into your mirror, your calendar and wherever else you will see them often: THERE ARE NO RULES. "Rules," if you like the word apply only to one's figure, self-confidence and in some cases age.

Cherie lives in France as you know where the prevailing guideline is, if you're not chic, stay home. Actually, one is required to be stylish 24/24 and 7/7 -- it's a strain, but one gets used to it and Cherie can attest to the benefits of the effort.

Q: Mme.V: We know you taught Ines everything she knows, can you tell us what you think of her book? What about her comment on "no pink on lips"?

A: Dear Mme. V, At last a woman who gives credit where it is due. Merci. Cherie has yet to receive her copy of the Parisian Chic book, but it is wending its way as of yesterday. Therefore, no comment before total immersion. However, the pink advice cannot go unremarked.

You may recall  sometime back You-Know-Who told us how the French say we can find our perfect every day lip color. The secret formula is: Bite your lips (gently) and quickly examine the color. Then run out and try to find a product that replicates the tone. That's every woman's perfect, slightly bumped-up lip product.

Q: Mme. J: Dear Cherie, I didn't see your name on the abbreviated list of wedding invitations -- yours was probably hand delivered, but I was wondering what do you think about the royal wedding?

A: Dear Mme. J, For those who do not understand Cherie, and they are legion, she has been accused of being jaded, world-weary, blasé. Fools all. Cherie is simply a sophisticate with an acutely developed sense of propriety and impeccable taste.

That being said, Cherie is tous simplement enchantée by the royal nuptials. Cherie would have attended if it weren't for two annoying details:

1.) Cherie hates crowds.

2.) Cherie hates even more not being the center of attention.

To remedy the latter, Cherie is hosting a champagne breakfast Friday morning -- demanding proper attire évidemment -- to watch the event without the hoi polloi. Cherie is positively giddy with excitement over her brilliant solution -- no crowd, center of attention.

Being a material girl and finding Mademoiselle Middleton charming, disarming, lithe and lovely, Cherie is overwrought with anticipation waiting for the dress viewing.

A la semaine prochaine mes amis.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

News & Views, This & That

Ines de la Fressange.

Oooops, running late today. Just finished a long conversation with one of my best friends -- we only ever have looong conversations -- Jean Rafferty, journalist extraordinare. Part of our conversation was about Ines de la Fressange and her new book Parisian Chic.

Jean's copy is signed by Ines. She's known her for years. My copy is yet to be purchased, but I can see I must find one tout de suite and weigh in on it like everyone else in the world. Jean is enchanted by the book and points out that the shopping guide alone is worth the price. And, let's be honest, Ines is a style icon. One can argue that she is tall and lean and lovely and well, we're not, but most of us don't look like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, Millicent Rogers, Pauline de Rothschild, Gloria Guinnes, Babe Paley and all the other style icons of the past. And then what?

Slim Keith.
Audrey Hepburn,

Gloria Guiness.

Pauline de Rothschild.

Babe Paley.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

My question then is: Why are some reviewers getting so upset, and in some cases unpleasant about the fact Ines is morphologically different than the vast majority of women on the planet? So what? Maybe we can learn a thing or two, maybe she'll make a visit to Paris more fun.

Until I have the book in my hands and can be more specific, I would simply like to add that with her sultry voice, her laugh, her nonchalance, her smile, her open friendliness I do believe she is a modern, approachable fashion icon.

And, to think, before my conversation with Jean I had intended to write about chocolate today.

A demain. Cherie returns.

Monday, April 25, 2011

News & Views, This & That

In my perfect world, this could be my uniform. From Max Mara
Let's see, where did I leave us the last time we were together. No, not with the frogs, but the day before when I said I wanted to discuss the super flow-y linen tunic. It is sold in the boutique owned by the woman wearing it. I inquired about one in black. She said, "Why would you want black?"

I said, "You don't have time."

She said (I'm translating, but literally), "Are you crazy or what?

I said, "Probably."

She said, "Beige is very flattering on blondes. It's spring, almost summer. Black is triste.

I said, "I'm sure you're right. Do you think if I were to buy it I could dye it black without it shrinking?

She said, "Absolutely."

Oui ou non

That's settled. But, black is not the only reason I'm hesitating. I think maybe it's too flow-y if you see what I mean. I'm all for camouflage, but sometimes it has the reverse effect. People look more closely to see what you're trying to camouflage.

I found one somewhat similar at Monoprix in khaki -- closer to black than beige -- for a fraction of the price which means I could afford the Monoprix version plus two shots of filler in my naso-labials -- one on each side. It's a tough call.

Next Up, 10 Euro Espadrilles

When I first saw them I had two thoughts: "Tres cute" and "where did you get them?"

The young woman wearing them with her red toes peeking out, said in the marche in Dreux, so that's a no go. But I'll check out other marches and get back to you.

She said they are comfortable and she doesn't expect more than one summer out of them.

French Elle Arrived

Please carefully examine the Chanel jacket. Moths!

I quickly glanced at the cover and learned Blake Lively is "conquering the planet" wearing jeans, a white Marcel and a Chanel jacket.

That combo has been going on for years now and I think it's great. Then, I took a second look and realized the jacket is full of holes (!). It appears to have been eaten. You be the judge.

It's sort of creepy.

Another Approach to Camouflage: Trompe L'Oeil

Long and tall and lean and lovely. (Can you hear the music?)

The famous vertical stripe.  Petite robe above is from Petit Bateau. If one is worried about her arms, a light cotton cardigan. In navy blue of course.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Next Week or La Semaine Prochaine

Frogs by Georges Larnicol.
                             Joyeuses Pâques

A petit cadeau for your delectation. A couple bathing in their 100 percent chocolat baignoire.  Now really, would anyone break into their fun?

You probably have important, amusing activities on your calendar today so I'll get right to the point.

Next week:

Lundi: News & Views.

Mardi: Probably more News & Views.

Mercredi: Dear Cherie will return, BUT she needs your questions. Please send questions.

Jeudi: A HUGE surprise. The creator of the if-you-aren't-sitting-down-when-you-read-her-blog-you'll- fall-on-the-floor-laughing -- I don't know whether I can tell you her name because I forgot to ask her permission, but her blog is Class Factotum , will tell us about her French experiences.

You will not want to miss this, I promise you.

Vendredi: On-the-Street -- with a little luck in Paris.

Samedi: On-the-Street in the country.

Dimanche: Just like today only different.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On The Country Streets

Proof that although the jumpsuit, or combination as the French say, may be one of the most unflattering pieces of clothing ever created, there is always an exception to the norm. Exception pictured above. (On Monday I'll tell you about her 10 Euro espadrilles.)
A white linen shirt.
You can run, but you can't hide. (Cristel will kill me for this picture. ) Isn't she cute?
My-Reason-For-Living-In-France and I were examining and discussing the merits of sardines in olive oil, with or without bones, maquereau au Muscadet or with citron when I looked up and saw the beautiful woman above. She was concentrating on cans of tuna and sardines at the time. Of course, I whipped out my card and my patter and she graciously agreed to the photo. We discussed backgrounds in the supermarket and she suggested we adjourn to her favorite area, chocolate. Note the Converse shoes, "bought in New York," she said.
Shortly thereafter, MRFLIF slipped over to the chocolate department and put a Lindt mousse au chocolat bar in our cart. I'm almost positive it's not on the Dr. Dukan diet.
Another white shirt.
On Monday I would like to discuss the above flow-y linen tunic with you. Unfortunately, it doesn't exist in black.
Next time, I'll see if I can get even farther away from my subject. That way you can try to guess what she's wearing. . .

Pictures from friendly territory. People in the village probably think I'm crazy, but at least they don't say so and they walk the walk. As you can see from the clothes and the smiles the weather continues to be Juin-like rather than Avril.

Typically French, many are saying "we'll pay for this later." In France, I've discovered, anything surprisingly good is supposed to have a penalty at the end of the experience. Payback. I can never figure out whether it's a karma thing, fear of optimism, outright pessimism or an intelligent observation on life in general.

Whatever it is, I take joy where I find it and don't ask questions.

I hope you're having a joy-filled, sun-drenched weekend.

A demain for the weekly round-up.

Friday, April 22, 2011

On The Streets of Paris

Ta-daa, color-blocking.
A gorgeous grandmother. (How can a picture be out of focus on an automatic camera?)
The young woman is wearing a gray mariniere beneath her blazer, striped in navy sequins. "It's from Zara a year ago," she said. I asked, "So, how do you wash it?" She replied, "Just like anything else." Hmmm.
Estelle, who cut, styled and did wonderful things to my hair yesterday including my new fringe, which I can use or not. She told me I might not wish to in the summer. If you want the best haircut in the world, she is chez Zouari.
Marisa Berenson one of Zouari's most loyal clients. Picture obviously not taken by me.
Photo by: Martine Rouselin.
Celebrity coiffeur, Alexandre Zouari, whom I met through Marisa Berenson.
Weather report: More unseasonably warm temperatures, blue skies and sun, sun, sun.

Fashion report: Striped T-shirts under blazers; wedge espadrilles; ballerines; white shirts (yes, it's true); long skirts; a few pairs of white jeans; and, as you see, our first experience from the runway to the real way with "color blocking," the hot trend of the season, continuing into fall btw.

You cannot imagine how excited I was when I saw the color-block woman. I thought, "You are really, really going to like this. Especially those of you who have been yearning for color."

A demain in the country.
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