11.27.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #5 Y Tu Mamá También


My fifth favorite movie of the decade is 2001's Y Tu Mamá También (And Your Mother Too) directed by Alfonso Cuarón. It takes place in Mexico in the year 1999 and explores the coming of age of two teenage boys: Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna).

The boys find themselves bored one summer after their girlfriends leave for an Italian vacation and decide to go on a road trip with Luisa (Maribel Verdú), a mysterious older woman that they meet at a wedding. The three go in search of a secluded beach called la boca del cielo (heaven’s mouth). Class issues, sexuality, mortality and loyalty are the themes explored in this explosive (and I'm talking explosive), seductive tale that ultimately is a celebration of life and all of the passion that goes along with it.

This film will have you measuring your mortality and sizing up the amount of passion in your life... two things that are probably good to do every now and then don't you think?

I hope you'll stay tuned for my #4 pick...

11.24.2009

YSL Parisienne- A Perfume Review


It has been a while since I have fallen in love with a scent. As some of you know the two scents I wear the most are Stella and Narciso Rodriguez For Her. This past summer I purchased Stella Sheer- the limited edition summer version of the original Stella and fell in love with that (and almost cried when I couldn’t get another bottle… it’s long gone- I should have bought two!).

So I am over the moon that Yves Saint Laurent’s new fragrance, Parisienne has hit the shelves because I have sampled it twice now and have literally fallen in love with it! Parisienne is a very feminine scent- and a mysterious one at that. Its main notes are composed of blackberry, damask rose and sandalwood.

At first spray Parisienne is delightful with a heavy sandalwood note but the dry down is where it holds all of its mystery. The blackberry note is much stronger in the dry down and I think I detected notes of… dare I say… Dr. Pepper? I know, I have probably lost the plot but there you have it. I detect Dr. Pepper in the dry down and I am not ashamed to admit that I love it! (It’s a sensual Dr. Pepper... if there can be such a thing).

The commercial for the scent stars Kate Moss writhing in a bed of silk sheets and damask roses with the Eifel tower in the background- and yes that pretty much sums it up. YSL’s Parisienne is a sensual, naughty fragrance. One that I am delighted to have found. I plan on purchasing my very own bottle next week at duty free!

I would love to know what perfume or cologne you’ve fallen in love with recently…

11.22.2009

Neighbors- Comme les Français


So I can’t believe I haven’t written about this yet but a French family has recently moved in next door to me in my Santa Monica town home! Our neighbors have rented out their home for one year and in moved a family from France.

You can imagine my delight upon learning this news as I have been able to observe how true French people live Comme les Français in Santa Monica! I shall call this family Famille Sportif as they are the most active family I have ever witnessed in my entire life. And by saying that, I am not exaggerating.

Famille Sportif is composed of a mother, father and two young sons. They are constantly lugging surf boards and skate boards, boogie boards and bikes out of their house (I see and hear everything) They seem to really like Santa Monica- its close proximity to the beach, the beautiful weather, the plethora of outdoor activities to take part in…

Observing Famille Sportif is great fun but the downside to it all is their sportiness makes me feel incredibly lazy. I can’t remember the last time I went to the beach! (Actually, I can. It was on my birthday in July and before that I hadn’t been in over a year). And yet every weekend I see the entire family of four coming back, suntanned and sanded- looking completely content.

I suppose it is a very French thing to take advantage of one’s environment and all of the pleasures it has to offer. There is an expression in French- profiter de la vie- which means simply to enjoy life or to ‘profit’ from it. I do realize that I live in a beautiful city- an active person’s dream, really. Famille Sportif has gently reminded me of this in their own very French way.

I think I’m going to start riding my bike more…

11.21.2009

My Dinner Party



I have recently been regaling you with tales of the dinner parties I attended while living in Paris. Those magical occasions were my favorite part about my time there and through my lamentations of remembrance you wonderful readers gently reminded me that I can in fact throw my own dinner party comme les Français in Santa Monica. Why this never really occurred to me? Je ne sais pas.

So throw one I did! I invited two of my favorite girlfriends J and R(ones that would love me no matter how overcooked the chicken was) and decided to recreate a fête worthy of the city of light.

The Menu:

Caramelized Onion and Feta Cheese Tartlets (purchased at Trader Joe’s but don’t tell anyone)

Roast Chicken with jus
Potatoes au Gratin
Haricot Verts
Sweet Corn

Molten Chocolate Baby Cakes with Raspberry Sauce
(brought by J… so delicious!)

Peach Blinis, Argentinean Malbec and Port


We had a wonderful time- eating, laughing, playing the piano, listening to good music (which got more obscure as the night went on… It went from John Legend, to French Dinner Party, to Carla Bruni, to Opera to Amélie les Crayons!)

We also took pictures. Note the rather blurry Renoir quality they have- this is all the better as I believe we look more mysterious and you cannot see the absolute mess that was my kitchen!







I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am planning on doing another when when I return from England. Thank you for instilling the courage in me to throw my very own soiree comme les Français...

Have you thrown any good dinner parties lately?


PS- J (who made the delicious molten chocolate baby cakes) has a wonderful blog called Dining on Deals where she searches for high end deals in Los Angeles and beyond. Check it out by clicking here.

11.19.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #6 Lost in Translation


A film of quiet beauty, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003) is my sixth favorite film of the decade. Lost in Translation stars Bill Murray as aged movie star Bob Harris. Harris is in Tokyo to film a lucrative commercial for Suntory whiskey. There he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), the lonely wife of a busy celebrity photographer.

Bob and Charlotte create an unlikely friendship as they explore the wonderfully foreign landscape of Tokyo together. Sofia Coppola masterfully explores the fine nuance of yearning, of longing and of loneliness. Lost in Translation is experienced more as an existential slice of life- one that is not full of the usual thrills that one would expect from a love story- but one that is equally as satisfying...

Hats off to Sofia Coppola for making her second appearance on my Top Ten Films of the Decade- she is a director with a fresh vision and perspective and I so look forward to what she will bring us in the decade to come!

Won’t you stay tuned for my #5 pick?

The Lost Symbol- a Review


I would love to claim that I am the type of person to only read important literature- rich in philosophical and heart wrenching prose- (and I do read those books every now and then) but sometimes there is something very satisfying about reading a good old fashioned guilty pleasure...

Dan Brown, bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, has recently released his latest book, The Lost Symbol. As in Da Vinci Code and Demons, The Lost Symbol follows Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon through yet another intricate thriller- rich with history, symbology, twists and turns.

This time Langdon finds himself in Washington D.C. at the mercy of a maniacal lunatic that wants the answers to some of the world’s most ancient mysteries- ironically stored in our relatively new capitol.

Dan Brown is really a master of the page turner, and while this formula is nothing new for him, the familiarity of his prose is well received like a comfortable pair of old slippers. I like the pace of Brown's writing- the short chapters (that leave you thinking at 2am… well, go on then, I’ll just read one more chapter…) and the wealth of knowledge incurred from these interesting little books.

This book is rich with information on secret societies and symbols but my favorite aspect involved the delving into of Noetic Science, or science that measures the power of the human mind. I am a great believer in the power of thinking and manifestation. It is a topic that has always interested me as it touches on both mysticism and realism. How on earth Dan Brown can make an obscure mental science both interesting and suspenseful is a mystery to me. But does it, he does.

This book does not have any exotic European locals like its two predecessors and is therefore not as glamorous but I found it to be equally thrilling and informative. If you liked any of Dan Brown's previous books, you might like this one as well... I recommend it.

11.17.2009

On Mystery- Part Deux


I recently wrote a post entitled Mystery- Comme les Français where I discussed the unfortunate effects of TMI (too much information) syndrome in our society. Based on the overwhelming response I received from you in the comment section of that post I take it that we are mostly on the same page… and being mysterious is decidedly better than not being mysterious.

So I decided to do a little research… I looked up on the internet (highly scientific, I know) the phrase, “how to be mysterious”. And the answers I received were, to put it lightly, hilarious.

There were suggestions of developing a signature coy laugh, of excusing yourself from a room whenever you receive a phone call and then returning back to said room with a salacious smile and (my favorite one) disappearing for days on end and not telling anyone.

I believe these tips, while humorous, completely miss the entire point of being mysterious. Being mysterious is not about changing who you are and playing childish games. Being mysterious is about being wholly who you are - realizing that you are special and guarding that specialness carefully.

If you think highly of yourself (as I think everyone should) and regard yourself as being special- you are less likely to relinquish your life story to the old lady at the bus stop. You are also less likely to gossip relentlessly, apologize for yourself or be shrill (I hate it when I’m shrill- shrillness is so not mysterious).

Now the next time a new acquaintance asks me a question- am I guaranteed to not reveal too much information about myself? Who knows… but I am intent on having a good time trying…

How has your mysteriousness (or lack thereof) been lately?


The mysterious subject of David Stoupakis' The Day the Frogs Rain Down is pictured above.

11.15.2009

And the Winner is…


Actually before I tell you who the winner of the L’Occitane en Provence Giveaway is, I want to tell you how thoroughly impressed I am with your creative and varied answers to my question What is your current favorite little luxury?

Your answers were so passionate and inspiring- they made me look at little luxuries in a whole new light. Your little luxuries ranged from beauty items, to fine food, to activities to daily rituals … and this got me thinking… what if we treated everything in our lives like a little luxury? Even the most mundane and hated of tasks (such as emptying the dishwasher, or paying bills)?

I believe if we get to the point where we can treat every delectable moment in our life as a little luxury we are truly living well indeed…

Okay, enough with my luxurious rant. The winner of the Relaxing Lavender Hand and Foot Cream from L’Occitane en Provence is…

REBECCA

Congratulations! Rebecca please email me your mailing address details and I will be thrilled to send you your prize.

I really enjoyed my very first giveaway and plan on doing many more in the future so please keep an eye out for them… and, once again, thank you for your readership on my blog- you keep me inspired…

Jennifer xx

Gatsby is pictured above, modeling the prize.

11.13.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #7 Marie Antoinette


2006’s Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola is my number seven favorite film of the decade. Yes, I will admit that I have a lifelong obsession with all things Marie Antoinette- I’ve read her biography by Antonia Fraser (highly recommended, btw), I’ve read the biography of her perfumer, I have books on her palaces and the court gardens. I have, naturally, been to Versailles where I spent an afternoon pretending I was Marie Antoinette (I can’t believe I’m admitting this).

So when Sofia Coppola’s film came out I was determined to like it for better or for worse. Luckily liking this film was not a stretch for me. I loved everything about it- from the quirky casting (Jason Schwartzman as Louis XVI!), to the indie soundtrack, to the amazing scenery (which was actually filmed in the Palace of Versailles) to the incredible costumes. I also thought Kirsten Dunst was lovely in the title role…

This film got mixed reviews from the critics but as far as I’m concerned, it was as delectable as one of Marie Antoinette’s little cakes… a true delight...

Won’t you stay tuned for my number 6 pick?


Kirsten Dunst is pictured in a scene from Marie Antoinette above.

11.11.2009

The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday- A Review


I actually finished this book about three weeks ago (I devour these books, I tell you) and am just now getting around to reviewing it. Merci for being patient.

The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday
by Alexander McCall Smith is the fifth installment in the Isabel Dalhousie series. This time around Isabel finds herself solving a medical mystery, watching over her niece's deli, and dealing with a tiny bout of jealousy involving a mysterious American composer.

Sound intriguing? It was. Alexander McCall Smith weaves another marvelously intricate tale of love, mystery and philosophy in Scotland.

Once again, the philosophical quandaries in this book are both humorous and thought provoking. Isabel ponders such things as: when one is at the symphony and hears a song that has a strange or unresolved ending, should the clapping from the audience be equally unresolved? Or... How much does chance play in determining the course of our lives?

Such is a glimpse into the way Isabel Dalhousie thinks... and I cannot wait to delve once more into her mind in the 6th installment, The Lost Art of Gratitude...

For more information on Alexander McCall Smith's books and the order in which to read them, click here.


The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday can be purchased at www.amazon.com or in most major bookstores worldwide.

11.10.2009

The Daily Connoisseur's Very First Giveaway!


Dear Readers,

This year I will be spending Christmas (and the entire month of December, really) in England and I wanted to do a holiday giveaway before I jet off! This giveaway is to thank you, my cherished readers, for your readership and continuous support on The Daily Connoisseur...

So, for my first giveaway, I wanted to offer something luxurious and special- a little luxury in the form of Relaxing Lavender Foot and Hand Cream from L'Occitane En Provence...

I encourage everyone to enter the giveaway (you do not have to live in the United States to enter).

To be eligible for the giveaway:

- You must either be a follower or verified email subscriber of The Daily Connoisseur. (If you have any questions on either of these things, please do let me know).

and

- You must leave a comment on this post describing your current favorite little luxury in life...

I will pick the winner out of a hat this Sunday... (drawing the winner out of a hat is so old fashioned and romantic- don't you think?) and the winner will be announced on Monday, November 16th...

Best of luck!


Bisous,

Jennifer xx


For more information on L'Occitane products, please visit: www.loccitane.com

11.08.2009

Musings on An Education


This weekend I saw the film An Education by director Lone Scherfig (thank you Rose for the recommendation!). This film really moved me. I loved it and highly recommend it- but this is not a review, as I don’t wish to give anything away about the film (just go see it!). What I want to do, however, is discuss the key question that encapsulates the movie- which, for me, is:

What constitutes an education?

Is it schooling, textbooks and exams? The gathering of information in one’s mind with the wistful hope that one day you will put that information and knowledge to good use?

Or is the ultimate education gained through experiences? Meeting people, leading an exciting life, traveling… living.

I suppose, for me, it was a combination of the two. Even though I am no longer at university, I still believe that my education continues. Yes, I studied English literature, Latin and French- Science and Math (not so good at the last two) and for the most part enjoyed my ‘classroom education’. But it has largely been through my travels and meeting interesting people that I have gained the biggest education- about myself- about life.

Living in Paris, of course, played a massive part in this. The culture, the fashion, the people the champagne (!) the lack of inhibition… That experience and those feelings are carried with me every single day of my life.

And yet while I appreciate all of the cosmopolitan moments in my life- past, present and (hopefully) future, I don’t think I could appreciate them fully without the levelheadedness that I learned in the classroom setting (after all, without dark, how can one appreciate the light?)

Yes, for me it has very much so been a delicate balance of the two…


So… I would love to know... what has constituted as an education in your life?


Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard are pictured above in a scene from An Education.

11.07.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #8 La Vie en Rose


Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for best actress for her portrayal of French chanteuse, Edith Piaf in the 2007 film, and my number 8 pick, La Vie en Rose, directed by Olivier Dahan.

Edith Piaf’s life was painful- it was a life lived in extremes- from the utter poverty and desolation of her youth to her later life basking in the luxury of fame. Along the way she suffered tragedies, love affairs, drug addictions and still, through this all, she had ‘no regrets’.

Piaf’s life was so dramatic it was only natural that it would make a good film subject. And while the film itself is good standalone biopic- Marion Cotillard’s brilliant performance as Piaf is what transcends this film and brings it over the edge.

Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote that Cotillard’s performance as Piaf was “the most astonishing immersion of one performer into the body and soul of another I’ve ever encountered in a film”… and honestly, I couldn’t agree more.

To this day, Cotillard's performance is the most powerful and heart-wrenching I have ever seen…

Won’t you stay tuned for my number 7 pick?


Marion Cotillard is pictured above in a scene from La Vie en Rose

11.04.2009

Dinner Parties- Comme les Français- Madame Bohemienne


You’ve already read about the formal occasions that were Madame Chic’s dinner parties here. Now I will delve into the passionate soirees that took place chez Madame Bohemienne…

Madame Bohemienne loved to throw dinner parties (and like Madame Chic, threw them regularly). But with Madame Bohemienne’s parties there was less formality and more spontaneity. Her varied guests were (naturally) more of the Bohemian variety- artists, writers, philosophers… These were guests who sang for their supper in the form of providing witty conversation and entertainment.

We would always gather before dinner in her bright yellow living room for nibbles and aperitifs. Madame Bohemienne’s signature aperitif was a champagne cocktail that included: champagne, Grand Marnier, lime juice and simple syrup. It was a delightfully sweet concoction that did the trick- whetting the appetite and causing general giddiness all around.

Madame B’s dinner parties were sometimes a little too giddy, however. We would often find ourselves sitting down to dine after 10pm (very late for this Californian!). The dinner parties would start with the most formal of intentions… aperitifs at 8pm, for example, but somehow the laughing, debating and general merrymaking would distract our fabulous host and we wouldn’t sit down to eat for hours afterwards. Madame B would completely forget about the dinner on the stove and would have to be gently reminded…My stomach would grumble tirelessly during these times and I would usually quell my hunger by one too many champagne cocktails (but when in Paris…).

When we did finally make it to the table, however, it was worth the wait. Her fearlessness in serving course after course after course was truly admirable. That woman turned out more Boeuf Bourguignons and Coq au Vins than I could count. She never used a cookbook (come to think of it neither did Madame Chic… hmmm) and was very animated when cooking- when serving and when eating. Madame Bohemienne was someone who operated on all levels- sense wise. She would close her eyes when she ate, she would smell her wine before the first goût , she would savor the last bite of chocolate tart (and her chocolate tart was beyond divine)... She ate in the moment and completely surrendered to her senses.

In fact, she was my ultimate role model for passionate eating- for eating Comme les Français. I suppose the multitasking, clock worshipping American in me learned a few things from this marvelous woman who got carried away with conversation, laughter and champagne cocktails. In the end, dinner was always served (even if it was practically midnight!) and our bellies were full of the joy that inevitably comes with good food, good company and passion...


Cafe by Tsuguharu Foujita is pictured above.

11.03.2009

On Alexander McCall Smith



So many of you have expressed interest in the Alexander McCall Smith books that I review (and am obsessed with) on The Daily Connoisseur. Many of you asked me which book to start with (there are so many!) So below, I shall describe each series that I've read and list them in order. Here we go...

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

This is my favorite of the McCall Smith series. Taking place in Africa, these warm little gems follow Precious Ramotswe as she solves crime and leads a charming life in Botswana. I swoon over every book in this delightful series.

The order is as follows:

1- The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
2- Tears of the Giraffe
3- Morality for Beautiful Girls
4- The Kalahari Typing School for Men
5- The Full Cupboard of Life
6- In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
7- Blue Shoes and Happiness
8- The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
9- The Miracle at Speedy Motors
10-Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
11-The Double Comfort Safari Club (not yet released)

The 44 Scotland Street series.


This wonderful series of books is written in the episodic manner and humorously follows the lives of the residents of 44 Scotland Street. I devour these books as well- they are humorous and life affirming. Highly recommended…

The order is as follows:

1- 44 Scotland Street
2- Espresso Tales
3- Love Over Scotland
4- The World According to Bertie
5- The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (not yet released)

The Isabel Dalhousie Series

I have recently reviewed The Careful Use of Compliments (and will post my review for The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday shortly). This is a delightful series. I adore Isabel and her life- following her philosophies and sleuthing through the beautiful streets of Scotland.

The order is as follows:

1- The Sunday Philosophy Club
2- Friends, Lovers, Chocolate
3- The Right Attitude to Rain
4- The Careful Use of Compliments
5- The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday
6- The Lost Art of Gratitude

There you have it. If you pick up one of Alexander McCall Smith’s books, I hope they bring you as much joy as they bring me…

Happy reading!


The picture above depicts a portion of my cherished book collection by Alexander McCall Smith…

11.01.2009

On Lighting: The Chandelier



There are many things in a home that can evoke true feelings of luxury and romance: paintings, rugs, flowers, candlelight, sumptuous pillows, lovely soaps and chandeliers...

We recently installed a chandelier (pictured above) over our dining room table. I am in love with this gorgeous fixture. It creates an instant atmosphere of luxe and helps to define the dining room in our open plan home as a space of importance- a space to be cherished.

Now I am seeing my room with a view in a whole different light…
 
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