12.29.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #1 Amélie



Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (also known simply as Amélie) is not only my favorite film of the decade… but is also my favorite film of all time. I’ll never forget the first time I saw this magical little gem by Jean Pierre Jeunet. It was 2001, I was living in Paris and went with a few of my friends to the cinema. I was completely unprepared for the utter enchantment I was about to experience from a film that would ultimately change my life.

Audrey Tautou plays Amélie, a shy waitress from Montmartre who one day comes across a box of childhood treasures in her Parisian apartment. She decides that evening to return the box to its original owner and if the owner is moved- she will devote her life to helping others. He is moved- and Amélie’s adventures begin- thrusting her out of her shell and allowing her to live life, make meaningful connections and ultimately… to love.

Everything about this movie- the music, the cinematography, the acting- reads like a love letter to Paris. It is so moving- so poetic… so ultimately unforgettable. Since Amélie was released I have noticed so many art forms influenced by its unique and whimsical style- which has happily assured me that this beautiful film has not only affected me, but millions of people who have seen it too.

I have really enjoyed doing this series on my top ten films of the past decade. I’m looking forward to another decade full of inspiring cinema and would love to know… what were your top ten films of the last decade?

And now... I'm off to Barbados... Happy New Year!


Audrey Tautou is pictured above in a scene from Amélie.

12.28.2009

New Years in Barbados


Dear Readers,

I will be spending New Years in Barbados this year. I haven't mentioned this earlier because it seems that every time I mention an upcoming trip on my blog it gets canceled- but it looks like this one is going full steam ahead!

I have packed lightly- but I find packing lightly for a tropical destination easy. I don't need much more than a few bathing suits, some long flowy dresses, white linen trousers, a hat and a good book.

I will post my number one film of the decade on Wednesday now and then I will take a short break from The Daily Connoisseur while on holiday.

Thank you for making this past year such a brilliant one. I hope you have a wonderful New Year and that 2010 brings you everything your heart desires...

With Love,

Jennifer xx

12.27.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #2 Match Point



Woody Allen’s 2005 thriller Match Point, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson is my second favorite film of the decade.

I came into this film knowing very little about it. I did know that Woody Allen directed it. I quite like Woody Allen films so I was expecting to be pleasantly entertained with neurotic characters looking for love and acceptance in New York City. Instead what I got was a complete shock- a thrilling 124 minutes that completely enveloped me in a tale of morality and seduction in modern day London.

Match Point follows Chris Wilton (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) a young Irish tennis teacher that has a passion for Dostoevsky, tennis, fine wine and the arts. He befriends a wealthy upper class British family that is composed of brother and sister Chloe and Tom Hewitt (played brilliantly by Emily Mortimer and Matthew Goode). Wilton makes his way into the Hewitt family by romancing Chloe but temptation constantly lurks around the corner in the form of Nola Rice (played seductively by Scarlett Johansson). This film is fluid, enthralling and utterly fascinating with just the perfect touch of darkness added...

Match Point
thrilled me in 2005 and continues to do so today and is, in my opinion, Woody Allen’s pivotal masterpiece…

I will announce my pick for the number one film of the decade on New Years Day. To recap my picks so far... here is my list:

10. Intimate Strangers
9. Drag Me to Hell
8. La Vie en Rose
7. Marie Antoinette
6. Lost in Translation
5. Y Tu Mamá También
4. The Dreamers
3. Gosford Park
2. Match Point


Any guess as to what #1 will be?


Scarlett Johansson is pictured in a scene from Match Point above.

12.23.2009

Christmas Wishes


Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year, from all of us at The Daily Connoisseur (and by all of us I mean Gatsby and me).

xxx

12.20.2009

Truly Happy Holidays or How Not to Overindulge


I generally love the holiday season- (not necessarily more than any other season, mind you, as I try to enjoy every day of my life- the holidays do bring that little sparkle of spirit...) but it is so easy to get carried away and overindulge in everything while not really savoring anything.

Does that make sense? How many times have I sat down to a particularly decadent holiday feast and overindulged in either food or libation? Now I know most people will say that’s what you’re supposed to do over the holidays- but I beg to differ. All of the hors d’oeuvres, roasts, candies and chocolates, cocktails, mince pies and eggnogs offered this time of year are all lovely- but I don’t really see the use of overindulging in them to the point where they are no longer special or considered a delicacy.

Now don't get me wrong- not overindulging is very difficult for me. I am a foodie and nothing delights me more than a delicious morsel of something to eat. But I am learning that it’s all about restraint- about relishing that delicious salmon in puffed pastry or that particularly tasty chocolate truffle. It is not, however, about having 7 more truffles after that one.

Oh, but how to not have the 7 other truffles? This goes back to Eating- Comme les Français- eating in the moment- savoring each bite in a sensuous, practically obscene manner. If I give that delicious chocolate truffle my entire attention when I’m eating it, rather than shoveling it nervously into my mouth while trying to socialize, I am more likely to enjoy it and less likely to reach for another.

So far this season, it has worked liked a charm. It could be that I find myself in L.A. rather than England, so I have less mince pies and mulled wines to fend off- or it could be that I am finally coming to the point where I can enjoy every little moment- every little morsel and be content with less…

How are your indulgences this holiday season?

Truffles from my favorite chocolatier in L.A., Chocolatt... from Belgium are pictured above.

12.16.2009

Christmas- Comme les Français


Every year around this time my elderly neighbors in the apartment across the street place two lighted menorahs in their windows- the glow of the candelabras dance off of their lace curtains. Next to them a young couple- newlyweds presumably- have erected a Christmas tree- decorated only with white lights. I love observing these subtle observances of the holidays… little things that people do to celebrate this time of year and what it means for them.

I am definitely in the camp that prefers subtle holiday decorations. As a kid, the more Christmas decorations the merrier, but now as an adult with my own family, my tastes have changed and I err on the side of subtlety. B and I put up a tiny four-foot Christmas tree decorated with white lights and red ribbons (pictured above). Two miniature rosemary trees sit on top of our fireplace and remind me with their soothing scent that the holidays are here… and our holiday cards are paraded neatly on a bow hanging over our hallway closet to cheer us when we enter the house. It’s not much but it is enough to remind us of the specialness of the season.

Not going too over the top and celebrating Christmas in a subtle but enjoyable fashion is a very French thing to do. I can’t imagine any blow up snowmen on the lawns of Famille Chic’s holiday home or massive piles of presents under the tree… After all this time of year is about spending time with your family, eating really good food and feeling grateful for what we already have- a great attitude that allows us to not stress out and remember what’s important…

I hope your holiday season so far is enjoyable and filled with magic and love…

12.13.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #3 Gosford Park



By now many of you know that I am writing (and nearly finished with!) my first mystery novel. I consider myself to be not only a daily connoisseur but a mystery connoisseur as well. I tend to usually like highbrow mysteries- mysteries with tea cups and whiskeys, bridge and evening gowns, servants and poisons- so it should be no surprise to you that I freaking loved Gosford Park.

This 2001 film, written by Julian Fellowes and directed by the late (and sorely missed) Robert Altman was the cinematic equivalent of heaven for me. The film takes place in 1932 in the English country manor of Sir William McCordle (played by Michael Gambon). A glamorous group of Britons, Americans and their servants gather in the austere McCordle home where, naturally, a murder is committed in the middle of the night. Altman weaves an enthralling tale that follows the whodunit from the perspective of two very different classes- those that live ‘above the stairs’ and those that live ‘below’.

The all star cast includes the likes of Kristen Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe and Clive Owen. This film was certainly a classic of this decade and will remain one, I believe, for decades to come…


Won’t you stay tuned for my number 2 pick?

12.11.2009

The Strange and Wonderful Joy I get out of Housework


For the past nine months I have been cleaning the house sans help. We are doing this partly to save money and partly because the wonderful lady helping us had to leave the country and I can't be bothered to get someone else in. I actually enjoy doing housework and do a little every day anyway so I didn't think it would be such a big deal.

At first it was all going smoothly. I had a schedule and I stuck to it. Then I found that the more I cleaned the more I needed to clean. (For example, I couldn't clean the kitchen counter tops without also doing the floors, the surfaces of the cupboards, the inside of the fridge... you get the idea...)

Then I found myself devoting a ridiculous 3+ hours a day to cleaning the house. B would look at me in astonishment. It was like I was a cleaning robot- incapable of doing anything else! I carried on like this for about three months. Then I burned out and completely let things go and only did about 20 minutes of cleaning a day (which for me wasn't really that bad... I just didn't do the details like clean the inside of the fridge... you get the idea...)

Where am I going with this? Oh yes. So today I had the day off and was in the mood to clean again. It was a glorious stormy, turbulent day in Santa Monica (very rare) so I lit the fire, played Anthea Turner Perfect Housewife on DVD in the background (you want to see a show that will motivate you to clean? This is the one!), and have made my home completely spotless for the past 5 hours (taking breaks in between, of course). I'm not sure what perverse pleasure I get out of doing this... but I think it has to do with wanting to live well and living well for me means looking at sparkling taps, gleaming floors and a gorgeously made bed...

I would love to know... do you get a kick out of cleaning?


Pictured above are my beloved pink gloves that I wear while cleaning- a very thoughtful present from my sister (Thanks L!)

12.08.2009

Breakfast- Comme les Français


The ritual of breakfast (or le petit déjeuner) in France is a very important one. Growing up in California, breakfast was certainly important, but never held much of a ritualistic value. I would usually scarf down a bowl of Cheerios or a piece of toast and call it a morning. Things, I would discover, were very different in Paris.

Monsieur Chic got up very early every morning to go to work (long before I would get up). He would rise for breakfast at 5:45am and be out the door by 6:30am. Madame Chic would rise before him and have his breakfast prepared by the time he got up(remember Famille Chic was very traditional- in fact I probably could have called them Famille Traditionnelle!) And as you can probably already imagine, breakfast chez Famille Chic was more than a piece of toast and a cup of coffee.

I discovered this on my first morning in the house. After getting ready for the day I walked timidly back to the kitchen (breakfast was the only meal served in the kitchen- the rest were strictly dining room only). There I heard the soft hum of the radio and the gentle clanking of dishes. Madame Chic made a comment about how I must like to faire la grasse matinée (sleep in). I remember looking at my watch and it being only 7:30am (and thinking, 'she doesn't know from sleeping in!')

Instead of saying that, however, I smiled politely as Madame Chic ushered me to the tiny kitchen table, which was adorned with a plethora of delicate little food items. She asked if I preferred tea or coffee (tea in the morning, merci) and she proceeded to pour my steaming cup of Ceylon tea into a breakfast bowl. Oui, you read that correctly- a breakfast bowl.

Yes, I thought perhaps I had gone mad or that the jet lag was getting to me or maybe Madame Chic ran out of teacups but the following day I noticed it again. In the morning, tea was drunk chez Famille Chic out of breakfast bowls. And it wasn’t just Famille Chic, I learned that most French people drink their morning beverage out of bowls. I found this quirky little ritual charming and decided to just go with it. After all, when in Paris...

Along with the tea (served ceremoniously in a bowl) a typical breakfast would include:

-a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice

-fromage blanc (a delightful fresh 'cheese' with similar consistency to yogurt that can be eaten with a sprinkling of sugar)

-a slice from last night's fruit tart (usually apple, cherry or strawberry- homemade by Madame Chic)

-toasted baguette with butter and jam (the jam was always homemade- strawberry, raspberry and orange marmalade were her favorites)

-a selection of cold meats (this was rare- but welcome from me as I like to have a little protein in the morning…)

I grew to adore those little breakfasts- they were a welcome departure from the dry cereal or heavy bacon and eggs I was used to. I was grateful to partake of those little delicacies every morning (I still miss my fromage blanc!) and enjoy my bowl of tea, the quiet hum of the radio and those lovely little moments shared with Madame Chic.

**Madame Chic served her tea out of a marvelous yellow tea pot. I found an almost identical one in England last year (pictured above) and had to have it for nostalgia purposes.

12.06.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #4 The Dreamers



The Dreamers
, released in 2003 and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci is my fourth favorite film of the decade. (**Disclaimer** Do not watch this film with your parents or your children unless you like being extremely uncomfortable. Only watch this film with cinema snobs that have a particularly open mind).

The Dreamers
is a film that might be disturbing to some as it explores explicit sexual and philosophical themes (I, however, happen to find that stuff rather interesting). It takes place in 1968 Paris and follows brother and sister Isabelle and Théo (played by Eva Green and Louis Garrel) and their misadventures with American exchange student Matthew (played by Michael Pitt).

The three bright young things are idealistically obsessed with art and cinema and hide away together determined to escape the unstable reality that was the 1968 student rebellions in France. A bizarre love triangle is formed that ultimately forces them to escape their escapism and face a stark reality…

This film was sexy, disturbing, fascinating and ultimately unforgettable… a modern masterpiece from the visionary director Bernardo Bertolucci…

Won’t you stay tuned for my number three pick? This is getting good…

12.04.2009

Recent Beauty Loves



I love Sephora and sometimes am alarmed by the warm, fuzzy feeling I get when I walk through those black and white striped columns. Is that normal? What is it about beauty products that so easily elevates my mood? A glamorous lipstick, a compact little pot of rouge and my heart starts to flutter... But anyway, that is neither here nor there. I purchased four little gems and want to share them with you…

1. YSL Rouge Pure Shine lipstick in Natural Pink 24. Mon Dieu. This is the Holy Grail of nude lip color for my skin tone. I have been searching for it forever- years maybe! I took a gamble by purchasing it without trying it on (as I refuse to try any sample in Sephora for fear of catching a disease) but this color is silky, neutral and brilliant. If you have a medium/ tan skin tone this might look divine on you!

2. Lorac Blush in Soul. I really love Lorac’s blushes. I have used the shade Plum for years now (and was contemplating just sticking with it- I love it so much) but decided to branch out and chose Soul- which is a dusty rose with a very subtle shimmer. I really love this color- it’s great for winter and adds just the right hint of drama to the cheeks.

3. DiorShow Mascara Backstage Makeup in Black. This was recommended by The Coastal Chicster who has impeccable taste, so I thought I’d give it a try. I really love the drama it creates with my lashes- it's a sophisticated mascara and I'm really enjoying it.

4. And lastly, we all knew it was coming, YSL Parisienne. You read my raving review for this glamorous perfume here. I love this scent- it is my new favorite and smelling it on my wrist brings me joy throughout the day.

I would love to know what your beauty loves are this month…


All of the above products can be purchased at www.sephora.com

12.02.2009

Update

Dear Readers,

I have had to postpone my trip to England due to a family emergency. My husband is flying back to join me at home (he has been in London the past two weeks for business).

Thank you for your understanding during this time. I will return to The Daily Connoisseur as soon as I can.

Love,

Jennifer xx

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…

10.31.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #9 Drag Me To Hell


And no, I’m not kidding.

I have to start by saying I do not generally like horror movies. Which is why I was completely surprised to find myself loving this one (*Disclaimer* If you are of the faint of heart variety, I suggest you give this film a miss as it is rather scary. If you can handle a little thrill every now and then, however, do read on).

Sam Raimi’s 2009 horror flick, Drag Me to Hell starring Alison Lohman was one of the most thrilling cinematic experiences I’ve had in a long time. It was scary, funny and camp all rolled into one.

Lohman plays Christine Brown, a bright-eyed Los Angeles loan officer. She doesn’t want much in life- just a promotion at her job, a happy future with her boyfriend (future husband hopefully!) and a shot of happiness- just like the rest of us. But when she turns down an extension on a loan to a mysterious (and scary looking) Mrs. Ganush (played by Lorna Raver) a curse is placed upon her and all hell breaks loose. This movie frightened me, made me laugh out loud on several occasions and thrilled me with its twists and turns… Overall a rollicking good time- and very apropos for this Halloween weekend don't you think?


I do hope you'll stay tuned for my number 8 pick...

Alison Lohman and Co. in a scene from Drag Me to Hell is pictured above.

10.29.2009

Dinner Parties- Comme les Français- Famille Chic


Ahh, the French dinner party. That intimate affair: the subtle interactions, the amazing food (the wine!), the ritual. If you have an opportunity to attend an authentic French dinner party- go, I tell you, allez!

Famille Chic threw at least one dinner party a week. This still amazes me. In America, dinner parties are a rarity (So many diets to take into account. So many allergies. So many picky eaters!). Staying in France really made me appreciate the art of a dinner party. It is, in my opinion, the most intimate type of party one can have.

The format for Famille Chic’s dinner parties were very formal. We would always dress up (no jeans, s'il vous plaît) - the men would wear jackets and ties (or for the most casual of dinner parties- a sweater with a collared shirt). Madame Chic would wear a skirt (but then again- she always wore skirts. I never saw her in trousers- even on the coldest of days). We would all sit in the salon for a little aperitif beforehand. The aperitif would range anywhere from a kir to whiskey to tomato juice. (I am quite a lightweight so when we had whiskey as an aperitif- it really became a party for me!)

Classical music would ooze from the record player. After the aperitif we would all move to the table. Madame Chic would disappear to the kitchen (how on earth she managed to create 3-5 delicious courses, mingle with her guests and not be a slave to the stove was beyond me) where she would roll out the tray containing the first course (the kitchen was not adjacent to the dining room, remember). The first course would often be composed of a soup, savory tart, salad or delicate slices of cured meats. The women would always be served first starting with the female guest of honor, then me, then Madame Chic (on non dinner party evenings, I was always served first- without exception), then the men served themselves last. It was like this for every course. At first all this etiquette following and pomp and circumstance felt very daunting to me (I come from the land of outdoor BBQs remember) but I grew to love this following of tradition and always feel slightly disappointed when the protocol isn’t followed aux États-Unis .

After the starter, Madame Chic would disappear into the kitchen again and roll out the main course on the trolley. This could range anywhere from lamb, to fish to roast chicken- and was always served with fresh vegetables and usually a gratin of some sort. And then the same thing would happen with the dessert- either a selection of delectable cheeses eaten with bread or a homemade apple or strawberry tart, a cake, crepes or fruit drenched in Grand Marnier.

**Sigh** I am getting depressed just writing this. I miss those dinner parties so much. I loved their formality- the ceremony involved- the pomp (the circumstance!) The different courses- the different wines. I long for that here in California… I suppose the only way to stave off my culinary depression is to throw a little dinner party of my own comme les Français . Now all I need is a little bit of courage…


The Dinner Table by Henri Matisse is pictured above

10.26.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #10 Intimate Strangers


I can hardly believe the decade is almost over. The past ten years have produced some amazing films and I have decided to celebrate by counting down my ten favorite films of the past decade, connoisseur style. We start with number 10…

Intimate Strangers
, or Confidences Trop Intime, is a French film released in 2004 starring Fabrice Luchini and Sandrine Bonnaire. It is the story of a woman named Anna (Bonnaire) who one day walks into the office of William (Luchini). William is an introverted tax attorney, bored with his life- frustrated. His world changes when Anna mistakes his office (and him) for that of her new psychologist. William wants to tell Anna that she is in the wrong office, but he is so intrigued by her- so beguiled that he allows her to talk and unfold her darkest secrets… and thus, the games begin...

What unfolds is a tale of erotic subtlety- one that explores the longings of the imagination and the heart. This movie is not overt in any sense of the word- its subtlety is rapturous and leaves the audience with a sense of passion and a longing for more...



I hope you'll stay tuned for my number 9 pick...

Sandrine Bonnaire is pictured above in Intimate Strangers

10.25.2009

Culture- Comme les Français- Le Théâtre


In my ongoing effort to support the arts and keep myself culturally active, I have been upping my game by attending more films, museums, art galleries, and live theatre. There is a certain feeling that I get when I take part in any of the aforementioned activities. Each occasion allows for a certain specialness- dressing for the occasion, socializing with close friends (or spending some quality alone time) and being fully in the present moment- immersing myself in the art at hand.

Going to the theatre is one of my absolute favorite activities. Theatre is one of the subjects I studied at University and I hold a soft spot of appreciation for it in my heart. There is a lot of great independent theatre in Los Angeles and over the past three weeks I have taken full advantage. I attended: Mother at the Imagined Life Theatre, The Dig at The Doheny Memorial Library of U.S.C., Ruby, Tragically Rotund at the Los Angeles Theatre Center and Meadowmount- an original one act play at the SIPA Performance Space.

The plays were each original pieces- unique in their own right. Their topics ranged from: mother-daughter relationships, to a Jewish archaeologist looking for love, to an overweight Filipino beauty queen seeking acceptance, to a true story of murder, sexuality and intrigue in the military.

While the subjects were largely diverse there was one common denominator at each performance- the audience. That special gathering of people, the excited murmur amongst friends before the curtain goes up, the hushed delight shared when a sacred moment is explored on stage, the joy of shared laughter and the special experience of being moved- even if just a little- by the collaborative effort of everyone involved.

Such, for me, is the specialness of the theatre…

Have you seen any good plays lately?


I am pictured above (left) at the Los Angeles Theatre Center with Fran de Leon (center), one of the stars of Ruby, Tragically Rotund, and Newton Kaneshiro (right), theatre artist and director of Meadowmount.

10.24.2009

End MS Charity Event, Technical Issues and Book Update

Dear Readers,

I have a very exciting charity announcement... If you love tennis and will be in the Los Angeles Area on November 14th, please check out the amazing charity event called: Ojakian Tennis Celebrity Pro-Am to End MS. This event will take place at the Jack Kramer Club and is geared at raising money for people affected by Multiple Sclerosis.

Ojakian Tennis will host celebrities, professional tennis players and tennis enthusiasts from around the country. This exciting event begins with junior and adult tennis clinics, followed by the official Celebrity Pro-Am tournament. The day wraps with a fantastic cocktail party, silent and live auctions, and an awards ceremony.

For tickets, please visit www.ojakiantennis.com.

~

**Technical Issues Update** The technical issues on The Daily Connoisseur seem to have been sorted out. Google Friend Connect was down for a period of over 24 hours and this seems to be the culprit. Thank you!

For those of you that are not a regular on Blogger, I have recently added a new feature whereby you can subscribe via email and receive new posts from The Daily Connoisseur in your email inbox. Simply enter your email address in the space provided (see top right) and then confirm your subscription by checking your email and clicking on the provided link.

**Book Update**

I have finished the second draft of my mystery novel today **celebrations!!** And will commence with the third draft, final changes and finishing touches tomorrow.

And finally, thank you so much for joining me on this journey. I so greatly appreciate your reading, following, commenting and subscribing on The Daily Connoisseur... you keep me inspired.

Bisous,

Jennifer xx

A Room With a View





This is the view from our dining room table. The month of October is particularly special at my house because the large tree out front produces these gorgeous pink flowers.
If I am ever feeling less than grateful, I sit at my dining room table and take in this magical tree with its thorny trunk and pink blooms and reflect about how truly lucky I am to live in Santa Monica and have a room with a view…

10.22.2009

Color- Comme les Français



One brisk Monday morning in Paris I was running errands with Madame Chic. We were on our way to pick up a few fresh items for that evening’s meal. Madame Chic and I spent a lot of time together. I would help her with the cooking (she always refused my help but I insisted! I wanted to learn to cook comme les Français). We talked a lot and my French was slowly getting better. Our relationship was lovely, but still very formal.

So I was shocked when that morning she told me rather bluntly. “That sweater does not look good on you.”

I looked down at my spring green twinset from Banana Republic. It had been a gift from someone back home (Who? I can’t remember). “Really?” I had asked, “But it’s silk/ cashmere blend!”

“No it’s not the quality that disturbs me,” Madame Chic said, eyeing my sweater with concern, “It’s the color. It doesn’t suit you at all. It washes you out. You look sallow.”

Great. I looked sallow. The sensitive American in me was shocked that Madame Chic had been so blunt with me. In America we tell each other we look good no matter what. And if someone looks really bad? We usually just don’t say anything at all. Mon Dieu, I must have looked horrible if Madame Chic actually told me so!

She could see the crestfallen look that overtook my face. “Don’t be upset!” she said, “It’s just an observation. As a woman you must know what colors look the best on you and how are you to know if no one tells you?”

This was true.

I asked her tentatively, “What colors do you think I would look good in? Not green obviously.”

“Pas du tout!” she exclaimed, “You would look ravishing in emerald green, in deep aubergine, royal blue, ruby red… black, bien sûr.” She advised that I stay away from yellow and spring green. I went home and looked in the mirror with new eyes. Dear God she was right. The color had washed me out. I think I instinctively knew this but because I received the twinset as a gift- I just wore it without questioning whether or not it worked for me.

“French women pay very close attention to what enhances their beauty and what doesn’t enhance their beauty,” Madame Chic had said.

This turned out to be a lesson I would never forget.

I would love to know… what colors work best for you?

10.20.2009

'Le No Makeup Look' Favorite Brands and Shades


My last post on Makeup- Comme les Français received a great response- merci! It seems that a lot of women (French or not) love 'le no makeup look’ and from the few male comments I received- men seem to prefer it on us too!

Below I am sharing with you the basic products in my makeup bag that give me the best no makeup look. Please keep in mind I am a brunette with medium tan skin tone. (Although I think a lot of these shades are universally flattering).

Foundation:
Bare Minerals Matte in medium beige

Bronzer: Bare Minerals in warmth

Blush: NARS in Orgasm / Benetint / Lorac in Plum or Bare Minerals in Laughter

Eyebrows: Mac eye shadow in Orb

Eyeliner: Chanel in Ambre

Lip Color:
Bobbi Brown cream lipstick in Heather Mauve or Christian Dior Ultra Gloss Reflect in beige or Guerlain Terra Cotta Baume au Coeur in Coeur Caramel

Highlight: Fresh Satin Lustre in Chantilly Lace

Mascara: Lancome Defencilis in black


I would love to know… what are your favorite brands and shades for le no makeup look?

10.18.2009

Interiors, Comme les Français- Madame Bohemienne


Madame Bohemienne was a single mother with two boys (one teenager, the other early twenties) that lived at home. She was such a marvelous woman- warm and welcoming. She frequently invited me over to her home... and her home was lovely.

Madame Bohemienne’s apartment was on the 10th floor (I have already described my journey in getting to the 10th floor sans elevator here) and while her apartment was very different to Madame Chic’s (no ancient antiques or portraits of formidable ancestors to speak of), Madame Bohemienne’s home was equally as inviting and uniquely Parisian.

When I first met Madame Bohemienne she asked me what I thought about the walls of her living room. I had noticed them as soon as I walked in. To say they were yellow would be an understatement. They were bright yellow. Strong yellow. Parisian yellow. When I gave her my opinion, I spoke the truth “I absolutely love them,” I said. Madame Bohemienne’s walls spoke volumes about the way she led her life. They were bold, creative, stimulating- these were not tranquil walls- these walls made you think and they would (as I would find out soon enough) be walls to host countless animated dinner parties. They were walls for living in.

Yellow wasn’t the only bold color in Madame Bohemienne’s living room, however. Her curtains were a deep red as was the cover on the built-in seating arrangement; not quite a sofa, not quite a bench… it was an l-shaped built in- covered with bold Moroccan-inspired cushions- perfect for before dinner socializing.

There was, of course, a very large dining table (a pre-requisite, I think for true Parisian living), lots of books and a very tiny television (another pre-requisite, I believe). Her kitchen was a modern one- modern appliances, new fixtures and it was painted bright blue- Madame Bohemienne, as you can probably already tell, was not afraid of color.

Her apartment vibrated with great energy. Some of my favorite memories of my time in Paris are from attending her wild dinner parties (more on those later). But one moment I will never forget happened late in Spring- Madame Bohemienne had just popped out to grab a bouquet of flowers for her dinner party that night. She walked in breathless (no elevator, remember) and placed her flowers down, walked to her open French windows and proclaimed, “We are so lucky to live in Paris. This is truly the most beautiful place in the world”.

I couldn’t agree more.


Image courtesy of www.zazzle.com

10.17.2009

Luis Meléndez- Still Life and Little Luxuries


Today, in my ongoing effort to keep myself culturally aware, I visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see the Luis Meléndez Still Life exhibit. I dressed for the occasion (taupe peasant skirt, striped shirt, ballet flats, wayfarers and messenger bag- perfect for for the museum) and journeyed to LACMA by myself for an afternoon of indulgence in art.

My art history knowledge is pretty abundant when it comes to French artists (thanks to my stay in Paris), as well as for religious art (thanks to Art History 101 at USC... Virgin and Child with Saints, anyone??) so I knew little about the Spanish painter Luis Meléndez (pictured above in his self portrait) going into today's excursion. I am so glad I went- they didn't call Mr. Meléndez the 'master of Spanish still life' for nothing.

His art was so vivid, so impeccably realistic I almost felt like I was looking at photographs. Meléndez painted everything from fish to figs, melons to grapes and the bread... let's just say I was longing for some tapas after the museum...


My favorite painting of his was the Still Life with Chocolate Service, Bread Roll and Biscuits (pictured above) painted in 1770. At the time, chocolate was a novelty from Central America and the Spanish upper class was obsessed with drinking it in the form of hot chocolate. I love the idea of chocolate as an exotic and coveted item- 1770's own version of a little luxury.

Sadly, like so many other artists, Luis Meléndez did not receive the acclaim he deserved in his lifetime and died a poor man in 1780. But his artistic genius is greatly appreciated today... and rightfully so.


The Luis Meléndez exhibit runs at LACMA through January 3, 2010.

www.lacma.org for more information

10.14.2009

On Posture (again)


Yesterday morning I was making breakfast for myself- chopping strawberries and bananas into a bowl- making a cup of green tea (I was having a healthy day) and I noticed with some chagrin, that while I was chopping the strawberries my shoulders were hunched in a very non-attractive manner.

I straightened up instantly.

Throughout the rest of my day I was acutely aware of my posture- in front of the computer (horrendous), at work (leaning against walls and objects to avoid standing straight), at dinner (elbows off the table!). When did my posture get so bad? I visited this very question on my blog about a year ago (see here). After that post I vowed to constantly have good posture. That didn’t last long.

I am finding a correlation with walking around ‘unconscious’ and having bad posture. I am a dreamer and tend to live a lot in my imagination and whimsy… meanwhile life is carrying on around me and I am going through it like the Hunchback of Notre Dame! (Okay, it’s not that bad but it might as well be… bad posture is a sin in my book).

This got me thinking about how I can straighten up and have more poise. Stop daydreaming? Live more in the present moment? Breathe deeper? Probably a combination of all three. This goes back to everything I've been exploring over the past few months... eating mindfully, being present, living with passion... (I can imagine it would be hard to live passionately with hunched shoulders- the two simply do not go together).

I’m glad I’m revisiting this subject again because I would like to know about your posture… how has it been lately?


Seurat's Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte is shown above. His subjects show impeccable posture. Something to aspire to perhaps?

10.13.2009

Makeup- Comme les Français


Madame Bohemienne had it… Madame Chic had it… practically every French woman I observed in Paris had it! “It” being what is commonly referred to by Francophiles as “le no make-up look”.

Do you know which look I am talking about? It’s the look that says, “yes my cheeks are flushed, my lips pouty, my skin tone flawless and my lashes ready to bat but I didn’t lift a finger to get this look. This look is au natural- it’s just me! I have better things to do with my time than spend an hour in front of the mirror every morning applying makeup. I go to art galleries! Read Proust! Embrace my lover by the Seine!" (Okay, this scenario is getting a little out of hand but you do get my point, don’t you?)

The truth is, most French women do wear makeup every day- they just look like they aren’t wearing any. The look is polished and pretty- a slight definition of the eyes, an accentuated lip... I have been embracing this look during the day for quite some time now (thanks to Carmindy for teaching me the 5-Minute Face!). But when I was living in France- I actually (horreur) didn’t wear any makeup. Yes, you heard me right. I was a fresh-faced bohemian college student- an idealist- a dreamer! I didn’t have time for blush and lipstick and other such mindless pursuits!

That is until I dropped my preconceived notions about what it means to be a well-rounded woman and realized that doing things like reading Proust and visiting museums is a lot more fun if you look good! Now every morning I spend five to ten minutes applying powder, blush, lip gloss and mascara (oh, and eyeliner…. I can’t live without it). It is a minimal look- my version of le no makeup look.

Madame Chic would be so proud…


Audrey Tautou, one of my favorite actresses, sports le no makeup look above.

10.11.2009

Little Luxuries- NARS Eyeshadow in Corfu


Anyone familiar with The Daily Connoisseur knows how much I adore Chanel Eyeshadow Quads. I love their colors, textures- the richness of the pigments. I still love my Chanel but I have found a new little luxury in NARS cream eyeshadow in the shade Corfu.

Corfu is a shimmery, creamy taupe that I would imagine would be flattering on any woman. The color is buildable - one application is perfect for a pretty day face- two or more applications and you have a shimmery smokey eye for a sultry evening out. I do recommend using an eyeshadow primer beneath as this is a cream eyeshadow and can tend to crease (I like Urban Decay Primer Potion). What I love most about NARS Corfu is that you can apply it with your fingertips for easy glamour.

NARS cream eyeshadow retails for about $21 and can be purchased at www.sephora.com

10.08.2009

Modesty- Comme les Français


I have already divulged the fact that there was only one bathroom chez Famille Chic. I quickly got used to sharing this bathroom with the three other members of the family: Madame Chic, Monsieur Chic and “A” (their son). I was asked my first day on arrival by Madame Chic whether I wanted to take my baths every morning or every evening. Hmmm. I chose morning and secretly wondered if I would also possibly be able to take the occasional hot bath before bedtime. I thought I might ask- but decided not to stretch it- especially on my first day there.

Time passed and I quickly got used to my routine salle de bains. I kept a little basket in my bedroom that contained my toiletries- as counter space in the tiny bathroom was sparse. Each morning at 7:00 am I would go to the bathroom and partake of my morning ritual. The bathroom, like the kitchen, was very bare bones. It was always sparkling clean and had very modest features- tile floors, a tiny mirror and a freestanding sink with hardly any counter space. There was no shower (which I found very odd, at first) but, instead, an ample-sized tub with a hand held showerhead fixture.

The tub was situated in front of a very large window. The window did not have any covering on it (no blinds or curtains) because it did not look out to anything but a wall. One morning, about three months into my stay, I was in the bathtub, well- bathing, when suddenly I looked up and there was a man in the window. This sounds very creepy- and believe me, it was! It was the window washer, doing his monthly rounds. He was washing the windows for the entire building, suspended on one of those window washing scaffolding things (at the time I was at a loss for the proper terminology and I still am). Mon Dieu! I shrieked and scrambled to find a cloth or towel or something to cover myself! The window washer looked in the window and merely smiled and waved at me and carried on with his business. He did not leer, he did not stare (I wasn’t sure whether I should have been relived or insulted).

After my traumatic bath I immediately went to Madame Chic and told her what had happened. I expected her to be outraged- shocked! Instead she looked at me with an amused smile and said (in French) “Oh yes, he’s seen all of us in the bath. He only comes once a month.” Madame Chic probably sensed my utter bewilderment towards her nonchalance. She asked if I would feel more comfortable if curtains were put up in the bathroom. I thought about it for a moment and decided against it. Yes it was weird, but perhaps my Puritanical American instincts were in overdrive and I just needed to chill. I said ça va, no need for curtains… after all… when in Rome…

The next morning I discovered someone (presumably Monsieur Chic) had installed a makeshift curtain over the bathroom window. I have a feeling that the moment I left Paris it was taken down.


Edgar Degas' Woman After the Bath courtesy of: www.encore-editions.com
 
BLOG DESIGN © 2012 SMITTEN BLOG DESIGNS/ CONTENT © 2012 DAILY CONNOISSEUR