On Why We Don’t Use the Best Things We Have

9:46 PM 24 Comments

Last weekend I took on the Herculean project of cleaning out my wardrobe... trying to cull my stuffed drawers by either throwing away damaged clothes or donating the ones I no longer wanted to charity. I tackled one category at a time (so as not to become overwhelmed). I started with my pajama drawer, and then moved on to workout clothes, and then... actually, I stopped after workout clothes. I stopped because I noticed an alarming trend. And the trend was this:

I do not use the best things I have.

Allow me to elaborate…

In my pajama drawer I have two types of pajamas. The beautiful, lovely matching kind (I went on a loungewear buying shopping spree in London last year at Intimissimi and picked up the most gorgeous sets of pajamas!) and the kind that have loooong since seen better days. You know- Calvin Klein night slips that were gorgeous two years ago but now have frayed or torn lace, or a cotton pajama night set that has seen the washer one too many times. And yet, I found myself hesitant to get rid of my old pajamas- in fact, I didn’t get rid of any of them (after all, I do love that Calvin Klein slip!) and I moved on to my workout clothes.

There I noticed the same trend. I have some lovely yoga pants and tops from Hard Tail and Lucy yet I found myself hanging on to the ratty college t-shirt and cut off sweats of years past. That is when I paused.

Why could I simply not let go of the old stuff and only keep the best? Why would I want to wear a tatty old slip when I could lounge in my beautiful sea green silk pajama pants and matching chemise? Why would I want to take my dog on a walk in faded old sweat pants when I could sport a beautiful, flattering workout ensemble instead? What was I saving my best for? An invitation to Buckingham Palace?!

In short… why was I not using the best things I had?

So quickly, without thinking about it too much, I placed all of the questionable items in a bag and got rid of them on the spot. I have spent the week lounging in my absolute best and I can’t tell you how gorgeous and liberating it feels.

I would love to know… do you use the best things you have?

Pictured above are two of my current favorite lounge wear garments... a pink lace night shirt from Intimissimi and a satin pink dressing gown from Victoria's Secret.


The Piano Teacher- A Review

8:14 AM 11 Comments

While vacationing in Barbados I had the pleasure of reading Janice Y.K. Lee’s debut novel, The Piano Teacher. This novel is a highly moving work that took me on a journey to Hong Kong in two separate time periods surrounding World War II...

The Piano Teacher
follows Claire Pendelton, a newlywed who moves from her native England to Hong Kong with her husband Martin, in 1951. It takes a while for Claire to get used to the exotic city and she eventually takes a post as a piano teacher in the home of the wealthy and illustrious family of Victor and Melody Chen. Once there, Claire strikes up a relationship with the Chen’s mysterious English driver, Will Truesdale. The two begin a torrid affair- Claire falls deeply in love with Will- even though she knows the secrets of his past leave a dark shadow on their relationship...

And the secrets of Will’s past are slowly revealed as Lee weaves Claire and Will’s story with that of Will’s earlier love affair- one that took place ten years earlier on the brink of World War II with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. Trudy and Will’s love never quite stood a chance as the brutal reality of war tore their whimsical and carefree lives apart in the darkest way possible.

Lee’s prose in The Piano Teacher is sparse and haunting. She makes you long to know more about her characters- to find out their secrets- to understand their pain. This fascinating book mesmerized me, was a thrilling read and I highly recommend it.

The Piano Teacher can be purchased at all major bookstores and at www.amazon.com


What would Jeanne Do? - My French Alter Ego Part Deux

10:16 AM 21 Comments

Life is about choices and when it comes to my French Alter Ego, Jeanne (pronounced Zzzhahn), she usually helps me pick the chic choice. Below is an example of what Jennifer might do (Jenn for short) compared to what Jeanne might do:

What Jenn might do:

Buy three of the same ankle pants in different colors just because they are on sale, even though she isn’t quite sure about the fit.

What Jeanne might do:

Take her time and realize that the ankle pants on sale actually aren’t very flattering. Decides to save her money to purchase a higher quality article of clothing that isn’t on sale in the future.

What Jenn might do:

Eat an entire box of prepared Kraft Macaroni and Cheese while surfing the internet.

What Jeanne might do:

Prepare plain pasta and grate fresh gruyère cheese on top and serve with a simple salad and a glass of wine. Eaten alone while listening to music.

What Jenn might do:

Pick a fight with her husband because he didn’t load the dishwasher in the most efficient way possible.

What Jeanne might do:

Pause when agitated- appreciate her husband for who he is and realize that it’s not Jeanne’s way or the highway. Rather than pick a fight, she decides to take a bubble bath instead.

What Jenn might do:

Eat waaay too much at a cocktail party and silently curse her aching tummy on the way home.

What Jeanne might do:

Delight in a few tasty hors d’oeuvres until she is no longer hungry. Focuses more on conversation instead.

This list could go on forever so I have decided to write down my observations regarding What Would Jeanne Do? And share them with you as they come.

I would love to know- how has your alter ego inspired you?

Audrey Tautou is pictured above in a scene from the 2006 film Hors de Prix. In this scene she looks as though she is contemplating what her alter ego might do...

And as a side note... my alter ego does not smoke (even though I keep featuring pictures of women with cigarettes!). Both Jennifer and Jeanne think it is very unchic to smoke...


My French Alter Ego

6:20 PM 28 Comments

One of my favorite authors on the subject of French living and lifestyle is Anne Barone. She is the author of a handful of little books on how to stay chic and slim by adopting the French attitude to life (if you are a Francophile and aren’t already acquainted with these wonderful books- allez! Acquaint yourself with them- you will love them...)

Some of Anne’s suggestions are practical and relatable… some are a little more over the top. One of her suggestions is that you give yourself a French name. You know, a sort of alter ego. Her theory here is that your chic French alter ego will keep you in check from doing very un-chic things.

Barone argues that :

“Maybe someone named Bobbie Jo who had already eaten a good supper would snack on a whole medium pizza and wash it down with 12 ounces of cola watching three hours of television in the evening. But would someone named Marie-Jeanne or Claire do such a thing? Non, non, non! Pas possible!”

I remember the first time I read this I laughed it off as a silly gimmick but quickly I realized that, while a little nutty (I don’t know how many people I would actually admit this to) giving yourself a French name actually works! Alas, my French alter-ego, Jeanne, was born.

And with Jeanne, came a new feeling of confidence. Jeanne actually debuted in France- not when I lived in Paris but a few years before that when I spent the summer in the South of France (more on that in later posts). Jeanne is chic, she is confident, she can tackle the world and do it in style!

Occasionally, however, Jeanne is forgotten and real, messy life gets in the way…

For example:

A huge rainstorm hit Southern California this week and amidst all of the rain and thunder and utter chaos, I bravely ventured out of my home to go to the grocery store. Up until my grocery store trip I had been doing laundry and working on my book, so I did not think much about what I looked like when I bolted to the store at the first sign of sun.

I gathered the items I needed and while standing in line I caught myself in a mirrored reflection. I was wearing (I shudder to recount) a white velour tracksuit, black Ugg boots, a plaid wool coat, my hair in an unkempt ponytail and no make up. I nearly fainted from the sight.

Now here is where Anne Barone’s technique comes in handy. Perhaps Jennifer (that’s me) would do such a thing- go to the grocery store looking like a wild country club refugee, but Jeanne (my French alter ego) certainly would not. Non, Jeanne probably would have taken 5 minutes to pull her hair together, change clothes (or at least match her outfit!) and apply some blush and a dab of color to her lips…

I’m glad I caught myself in the mirror today because it brought me back to reality... That life is too short to not go through it chicly. Jeanne came just in the nick of time to remind me this and I couldn’t be more grateful…

I would love to know... what is the name of your French alter ego?

For more information on Anne Barone, or to purchase her books, visit www.annebarone.com

A model wearing Jean Paul Gaultier is pictured above.


Vacation- Comme les Français

9:15 AM 17 Comments

At my resort in Barbados there were people from all over the world- Great Britain, America, Italy, Spain- but you can guess which ones I was singularly interested in... Mais oui, the French. I wanted to find out how they vacation and what differences (if any) they had from the other guests.

There were only two couples from France staying at our hotel (they were not together, in fact one couple was there the first half of the week and the other the second) but these two couples spoke volumes about French culture.

I observed three main things about them with regards to going on holiday: Dress Sense, Buffets and Man-Woman Relationships...

Dress Sense:

Most of the women in the resort (myself included) wore metallic espadrilles (mine are gold- I love them!) and bejeweled cover-ups but the French women carried their understated dress sense through to their resort clothing- a simple purple dress, a floppy hat, ballet flats and sandals- and no make up. C'est tout. I don’t think either option is necessarily better- in fact I think they are both fine- anything goes on holiday. I tend to be more understated in my every day dress sense so when I go abroad to catch some sun I like a flashy sandal or a turquoise colored wrap. The French women seemed completely unfazed by this. Their resort clothing was simple, uncomplicated and body conscious.

Our hotel offered a sumptuous, complimentary breakfast buffet. Every possible breakfast choice was on offer: pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs, baked beans, hash browns, bagels and cream cheese. I am terrible when it comes to buffets. I want to try it all (so that I know what’s good, you see). Both French women I observed had a large bowl of fruit, plain yogurt and a cup of coffee every morning... completely ignoring the other tempting options! With one of the women, I kept thinking that the fruit was her “starter” and waited for her to get up and indulge in some pancakes or at least scrambled eggs. But no, that never happened. She simply sat there, completely unfazed by all of the tempting options, enjoying her bowl of fruit and talking passionately with her male companion.

Man-Woman Relationships:

There was one thing about the second French couple at the resort that both my husband and I marveled at: They did not stop talking to each other! Ever! We encountered them first at breakfast (where the French lady was demurely eating her bowl of fruit and I looked guiltily down at my apricot pastry). That morning they talked about everything from politics to cinema to weather to art (meanwhile B and I happily read our respective papers in silence- I the New York Times and him Britain Today). Then later that afternoon, the same couple sat in the sun beds next to us by the pool- where they continued to talk to each other. About what? I’m not sure- at this point I was trying to read my book and have a lazy afternoon swim. Later that day B and I took a long walk up the beach to Sandy Lane and on the way back we encountered the same couple having yet another animated conversation with each other. B turned to me and said, “How do they not run out of things to talk about?!” I, too, was very amused by this. I consider myself to be happily married and have a good healthy relationship with my husband, but this French couple- who loved to talk to each other so much- made me feel like B and I were giving each other the silent treatment!

So there you have it- and I am not surprised with my observations of how the French go on holiday: they stay true to their style- even when abroad, they do not overindulge in food- even at tempting buffets and French men and women seem to honestly enjoy each others' company…

The Sasso pool at the Tamarind Cove Hotel in Barbados is pictured above...


A Beautiful Blue Death- A Review

7:28 AM 6 Comments

Some of you might be shocked to see I am reviewing a mystery that is not by Alexander McCall Smith. Yes, I do read books by other authors- it’s just that when I find an author I like I am a devoted fan, usually for life. Which is why I am so thrilled that I read the debut novel by Charles Finch entitled, A Beautiful Blue Death.

A Beautiful Blue Death takes place in Victorian England (plus number one) and follows amateur detective and highbrow gentleman extraordinaire Charles Lenox as he tries to solve the murder of a local servant named Prudence Smith. Lenox was put on to the case by his beautiful young widow neighbor, Lady Jane Grey, who used to employ Smith.

Lenox, whose favorite past time is sitting in front of his fire with a cup of tea, a pipe and a good book, wholeheartedly goes in to solve the case, which leads him through the upper echelons of London society (where he fits in quite nicely) to the dark underbelly of Victorian England’s crime ridden streets (where he fits in… not so much).

A cast of delightful, suspicious supporting characters, a valiant butler and a double murder round out this very impressive debut novel and has subsequently left me longing for more. Luckily this is the first in a series and I am actively seeking out Finch’s second book The September Society after I post this.

A Beautiful Blue Death
can be purchased at www.amazon.com


Barbados Trip- January 2010

8:11 AM 22 Comments

Happy New Year! Barbados was so much fun. This was my first time on the island and I cannot tell you how much I loved it! The island itself is absolutely gorgeous- beautiful weather, miles upon miles of white sand beaches, very friendly locals and hardly any mosquitoes! (I, in general, happen to be the mosquito's dinner of choice and while I did get one bite, it was nothing compared to the 30+ bites I received in Tortola last year... but I digress...)

We stayed at the Tamarind Cove Hotel in St. James. Situated on a beautiful stretch of beach, Tamarind Cove has lovely rooms, three freshwater pools, a very delicious breakfast and countless amenities- I highly recommend it...

Here was our hotel room...

The view from our balcony...

Me on the beach...

On a trip around the island...

It felt very good to relax but as you can imagine, my mind as The Daily Connoisseur can never fully retire. There were a few guests at the hotel that were from France and you can be sure that I was in full observation of how the French vacation! (post forthcoming). I also read two amazing books that I have to share with you... I'm looking forward to a new year of blogging, adventures and possibilities. Thanks for joining me on the way...

Jennifer xx