Christmas Message 2014

8:12 PM 16 Comments

Thank you for another wonderful year on The Daily Connoisseur. This is my last video of the year as I will be taking a break until January. I am greatly looking forward to 2015 and have some very exciting news to share with you upon my return.

So until then... Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and I am wishing you a very happy new year!

Please check out my video above to hear my Christmas message to you. If you are unable to see the video above, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or check out my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

At Home With Madame Chic is featured on Bella NYC as a book that will warm you up this winter.

On December 28th, check out my radio appearance on At Home With Cheryll and Sam, discussing At Home With Madame Chic.

Madame Chic Inspiring Thought
Enjoy the merriment of the season and "deprive yourself not" when it comes to holiday treats while still maintaining your standards. Be present while you are eating. Enjoy but don't overindulge past your comfort zone.

On my author guestbook page, Debbie writes:

I adore both your books – I read them both cover to cover! I remade my mornings to be more “Madame Chic” and now have a proper breakfast, sitting down and eating together, with my son, even on weekday mornings. It’s something I look forward to with great delight and prepare for the night before. Such a difference. I’m trying many of your hints. The idea to take pride in domestic tasks and “not to be lazy” are things I’ve taken to heart and really feel good about – thank you!

Thank you Debbie!

And thank you to all readers who have commented and contributed to the blog this year. You are appreciated more than you know.

See you in the new year!

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OOTD Rainy December Day + Choosing A Simply Luxurious Life Giveaway

6:59 AM 59 Comments

Rain has finally made it to California! We've been facing one of the worst droughts on record here in Southern California so it is with great relief that we all welcome the rain. Today I am showing you an outfit of the day, rainy day edition.

Many people automatically think they need to wear jeans in bad weather but you don't have to if you get creative with layers (remember Madame Chic never wore jeans and that Parisian weather was cold).

In this look, I'm wearing my Ann Taylor Loft navy and red spot dress, my felt coat from Anthropologie- the only new addition to my winter wardrobe since shooting my ten-item wardrobe video in the fall (this coat is no longer available online), textured tights from J Crew (key to keeping warm) and my black rain boots. For indoor use, I'm wearing London Sole black suede Henrietta ballet flats.

If you are facing even lower temperatures, I would suggest layering a winter coat on top of this look (or replace the felt coat with a thick cardigan and wear that under a winter coat)and adding a scarf, gloves, and/or a hat.

Check out the video above to see the full look. If you are unable to see the video above, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or check out my channel www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

Choosing a Simply Luxurious Life

I've gotten to know the lovely Shannon Ables of the Simply Luxurious Life blog over the years as she has been a huge champion for Madame Chic. Today I am very excited to share with you her new book, Choosing a Simply Luxurious Life.

Here is a description of the book from Amazon:

How can you have a rich and fulfilling life? The choices you make, not your income or financial assets, are the most powerful determining factor for your quality of life. Women have never had so many options. Yet we often experience a kind of paralysis, an unconscious willingness to follow societal dictates rather than become the CEOs of our own lives. When we mindlessly follow the dots, we smother our innate gifts and miss opportunities to fulfill our true potential. There is another way—choosing to live a simply luxurious life. This book will show you how to invest your time and what to eliminate from your life. It will enable you to: • Design a life of purpose that is aligned with your passions and talents • Become financially independent • Enjoy cultivating a healthy mind and body • Build and maintain strong, loving relationships • Create a chic, timeless signature style • Design a comfortable home that is a true sanctuary • Travel in comfort and style • Discover simple pleasures that make each day something to look forward to You can curate the life of your dreams by being purposeful and selective, no matter where you live, your income, or your relationship status. Luxury and true fulfillment are ours for the having if we know where to look and how to make the right choices.

Shannon was gracious enough to participate in an interview with The Daily Connoisseur so you can get to know her better for yourself:

We write about a lot of the same concepts with regard to living
well. My journey started in Paris, living with Madame Chic. How and
where did your journey start?

I’d have to say that the idea of living simply and living well began as a young girl as I had the opportunity to grow up in the country, having Mother Nature at my doorstep and the freedom to roam with my creative curiosities. However, much like you, the concept of living well as an adult was solidified when I studied abroad in France during college. From pairing each meal with hours of conversation, walking everywhere and taking in the history, museums and artisan talents that were on every corner, my initial experience in France confirmed that such a lifestyle was possible, and it was something anyone or anybody could instill in their everyday life.

What do you like about living in Oregon?

The amazing gift of Oregon is that you have a little bit of everything: all four seasons, vast rural, mountainous regions as well as urban progressive areas such as Portland, oh, and the many vineyards, of course. ;)

How can one live a Simply Luxurious Life no matter where you live?

Part of the mission statement of living simply luxuriously is the understanding that it must be a conscious choice. Living well doesn’t just occur; it is something that each one of us cultivates with the small choices we make each day. And once we understand that, the beauty is realizing each of us holds all of the cards for our own contentment. From sipping a delicious cup of hot tea from Palais des The to begin your day, to the thoughts we allow to run around in our mind, to nibbling on a chocolate truffle before snuggling into bed, such simple choices, not necessarily expensive or difficult, can make everyday moments very pleasurable.

I love that you write about finances, which are such an important
facet of living well. What are your top three tips for keeping one's
finances in order?

Having our finances in order is one of the best ways to achieve peace of mind, and when we know we are on sound financial footing we can be more present with those we love. The top three tips I would recommend are:

1. Schedule a monthly budget date with yourself. Make it a pleasurable ritual. Pour yourself a cup of tea, turn on your favorite jazz album and do something to celebrate at the end of month in which your finances are where you want them. (Need help setting up your own budget? Check out my simple budget template here.)

2. Start saving for retirement yesterday (in other words now), no matter how small. The sooner you begin, the faster compound interest can work its magic.

3. Use cash. Each month withdraw a certain amount of cash for entertainment, groceries and transportation. Do your best to stick to it. Seeing your hard-earned cash exchange hands from your wallet to a cash register is a mental reminder of the labor you expended and what it is bringing into your life.

When shopping for clothes, how can we save money, but still invest in quality?
Cost per wear. Initially paying $100 or more for a quality pair of jeans is going to be hard to swallow, but if they indeed are a quality pair, they will last for years. And with each subsequent time of use, the cost decreases. The goal when going clothes shopping is to purchase items that will last and will still look impeccable with each use. You may not have a lot of clothes, but each item will look stunning, and that is ultimately the goal (and it makes the decision process a lot easier).

How would you describe your signature style?
Casual, chic, classic.

What is your signature scent?
I keep it simple with this decision as well. I love the blend of femininity and masculinity in Chanel No. 5.

How can we learn more about you?
A quick tour of how I live my own simply luxurious life can be seen in this short video below . Readers can now get to know me even better on my weekly podcast The Simple Sophisticate which airs each Monday morning on iTunes. Not only do I talk about the topics addressed on the blog, but I share more of myself, my experiences, etc.

The key for anyone wishing to live well regardless of their income, age or relationship status is self-knowledge and being willing to find the courage to tap into your very unique innate talents. They are there, and they’re waiting to be discovered. When you find them, you will be so glad you made the effort. Trust me. I know it’s scary initially, but it only gets better.

Shannon is offering to give away one signed copy of her new book to a reader of The Daily Connoisseur. Please enter via the rafflecopter widget below. This giveaway is open to all readers (including international). The winner will be announced on the widget after the contest is over. Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more on Shannon visit her at www.thesimplyluxuriouslife.com

See you on Sunday for my Christmas Message 2014!

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New Signature Scent: Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay

9:29 AM 26 Comments

In the second of three new videos this week, I am sharing my new signature scent with you. I actually shot this video in early November but because of the many family events we had that month, I am just publishing it now.

A signature scent is a wonderful thing... A fragrance that encapsulates you, that your family associates with you... a scent that you can smell in the middle of a hectic day and be greatly soothed. A signature scent should be one that you not only adore but that evokes strong feelings, romance, luxury, whimsy or delight.

Perfume is that intangible mystery that can add so much to your life. Many of you are familiar with my signature scent journey. Stella has been my signature scent for nearly a decade, with a brief detour to Bvlgari Rose Essentielle. Even though I love and have loved Stella, I always knew that I would graduate from it and one day find the perfect scent for me. After much research, I can now say that I have found it! I've fallen in love with Jo Malone's Blackberry & Bay.

There are many ways to wear Jo Malone fragrances. Many people like to pair them with other fragrances (incidentally Blackberry & Bay pairs nicely with Jo Malone Red Roses. I've also heard it pairs well with Fig & Cassis). Or you can wear the scent with the body cream, which I enjoy doing with Blackberry & Bay.

Jo Malone describes Blackberry & Bay as: Childhood memories of blackberry picking...A burst of deep, tart blackberry juice, blending with the freshness of just-gathered bay and brambly woods. Vibrant and verdant.

I find this description to be very accurate. The initial top notes suggest very green, almost unripe blackberries. (Some people might take this as a sour top note but I see it as verdant.) Then the fragrance settles into a heady mix of deep crushed blackberries and woodsy notes. For me, this is fragrance heaven.

Now perfume is a very personal thing and what is ecstasy for one person, can be diabolical for another. So while Blackberry & Bay is my new signature scent, it might not be your cup of tea. Enjoy the sensual hunt and take your time, the perfect scent it out there for you.

Check out the video above to learn more about my new favorite perfume. If you are unable to see the video above, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or check out my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

Today I would love to know... what is your signature scent? How long have you worn it? Are you looking to change? As you get older do you notice a longing to change your perfume? What is your favorite classic scent? What is your favorite new scent? Have you tried Blackberry & Bay?

See you on Thursday for another bonus post: an outfit of the day (OOTD) video and a giveaway from the lovely Shannon Ables of the Simply Luxurious Life blog.

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Cream Cheese Christmas Mints

4:45 PM 2 Comments
Greetings Fellow Connoisseurs,

My Christmas present to you this week is... three new videos! Starting with today's video on Cream Cheese Christmas Mints. Be sure to check back this week for an Outfit of the Day (OOTD) video, an updated signature scent video as well as an exciting interview/ giveaway from Shannon Ables at the Simply Luxurious Life blog.

So let's get into the festivities...

This week I share a festive recipe for cream cheese Christmas mints. These candies are so fun to make with your children, require no baking and are a hit around the holiday season. Check out this week's video to see how you make them. If you are unable to see the video above, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or check out my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

Cream Cheese Christmas Mints

1 tsp peppermint extract
8oz cream cheese
7 cups confectioners sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
red and green food coloring

Mix peppermint extract and cream cheese until blended. Gradually add the sugar, two cups at a time until incorporated. Divide dough in half into two different bowls. Add green food coloring to one bowl and red food coloring to another (use only a few drops for lighter colors, more drops for deeper colors). Divide each colored ball in half and roll into a ten inch log. Place log on parchment paper sprinkled with confectioners sugar. Place parchment paper on top. Roll with rolling pin into a rectangle. Repeat with the three other balls. Place one red rectangle on top of on green rectangle and roll together like a jelly roll. Repeat with the other two rectangles. Roll the logs in parchment paper and twist the ends. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, slice the mints as thin or thick as you like. They last for one week in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

These make wonderful gifts and are tasteful treats to bring as a hostess present, to a potluck or a church fellowship table. Also, Santa might like these instead of the standard cookies... Enjoy!

** You can make these any time of year. In the springtime, only put a few drops of red in one ball and leave the other one white for pink and white swirl mints.

International readers: so far At Home With Madame Chic has been picked up by the following markets: Italy, Poland, China (simplified Chinese), Brazil, Japan, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. If I have not mentioned your country, please keep referring back to the blog as I will update this list regularly. Australia and New Zealand readers, the book is not available in eBook in your territory as you would have to order from America. Thank you!

Yanira Garza is inspired into Being Chic at Home in this week's blog post.

Madame Chic Inspiring Thought
Take pleasure in trying a new recipe this holiday season and you just might discover a new family favorite. The next time you're invited to someone's home bring a homemade treat as a thank you or surprise your neighbors or co-workers with your latest confection. Spread the good cheer as only a Madame Chic can.

Question of the Week

Ashu writes:

I'm 21 and I've not tried any make-up yet except for my cc cream every morning. Do you think I should start using makeup to look presentable?

Dear Ashu,

You do not need to wear makeup to look presentable. I didn't start wearing makeup until I was in my mid-20s! Wearing makeup is a choice and I do advocate for those who do wear it to practice a natural, flattering look (le no makeup look as discussed in Lessons from Madame Chic), but if you choose not to wear makeup you can be equally presentable. There is no need to change your routine if you are happy with it.

Thank you for your question!

I love receiving your comments and questions. I am not always able to respond but who knows, you just might be picked as the question or comment of the week!

See you back three more times this week with my bonus videos to ring in the holiday season...

Jennifer x

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Children's Christmas Book Giveaways

6:00 AM 17 Comments
Today I have two very fun and sweet classic children's books from New York Review Books to introduce to you that would make wonderful stocking stuffers or Christmas presents for the special children in your life.

We can be so inundated by commercial characters and fast-paced children's TV shows these days that there is something extra sweet about vintage children's books. Something for Christmas by Palmer Brown and Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow will charm you with their simplicity and innocence.

I can personally tell you that I adore both of these books and have read them several times with my own children. Today I'm excited to share them with you.

Something for Christmas

“What are you doing, dear?”
“It’s a secret.”
“Secrets are better if you share them a little. So tell Mother why you look so sad on Christmas Eve.”
“I am wondering what to give—someone—for Christmas.”

So begins the story of a little mouse’s search for a very special gift for a very special person. Nothing seems just right until the little mouse realizes that the best present of all is already at hand.

Palmer Brown has given us something special for Christmas—or any day—an entrancingly lovely story, filled with the true spirit of the holiday season.

Mud Pies and Other Recipes

Whether you’re entertaining garden sprites, feeding a regiment of toy soldiers, or simply whiling away a lazy afternoon, Mud Pies and Other Recipes is the only make-believe cookbook you’ll ever need. With Marjorie Winslow’s timeless guide on hand, you’ll never be at a loss for something to do in your backyard or by the seashore; you’ll be busy scooping up sand (a filling for Stuffed Sea Shells), hunting for flower petals (they make lovely hors d’oeuvres), and collecting raindrops (essential for brewing up Fried Water). The book is organized by course, and includes a general discussion of yard cookery along with detailed ingredient lists, methods for preparation, and helpful serving suggestions. And on every page, Erik Blegvad’s delightful pen-and-ink drawings ensure that Mud Pies and Other Recipes is a feast for the eyes as well as the imagination.

New York Review Books is kindly offering to give away one of each of these books to a reader of The Daily Connoisseur. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only (terms set by the publisher). Please enter via the rafflecopter widget below. The winners will be announced one week from today on the widget. Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

See you on Sunday for a special Christmas candy tutorial...

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Faux Flower Holiday Arrangements

4:45 PM 7 Comments

I'm going to let you in on a surprising secret. I love to decorate with faux flowers! Silk and faux flowers have really come a long way and can look incredibly realistic. They can be wonderful for people who don't have access to a garden or who don't have the budget to constantly purchase fresh flowers, but who still love the look of a beautiful bouquet. I don't advocate only using silk flowers but a few tastefully done arrangements placed in strategic locations in your home (they are great for guest bedrooms or gloomy corners) can add so much flair and really trick the eye. Flower arranging is an art and there is no wrong way to do it so the novice need not feel intimidated.

I especially like to use silk flowers during the holiday season because I can create festive bouquets to brighten up the various rooms in our home (especially the bedrooms). In this week's video I show you several different bouquets, share my tips on how to make professional looking arrangements (leaf ribbon!) and create a fancy arrangement from scratch using floral foam. If you are unable to see the video above, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or check out my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

Here are pictures of some of the arrangements featured in the video:

And here are both sides of the arrangement I create on camera:

Many of the flowers are purchased from my local craft store. Others were purchased online from afloral.com (This is a great resource), including the leaf ribbon, which makes the arrangements look so professional.

I was honored to be interviewed on camera for Connie Martinson Talks Books. Check out my episode where we discuss At Home With Madame Chic and so much more.

Lafourche Library Books & Reviews gives At Home With Madame Chic a wonderful mention in their latest blog post.

Letters from Eurolux recommends At Home With Madame Chic for French style at home.

The Decadent Minimalist shares how At Home With Madame Chic has helped her.

Restyling Home by Kelly recommends At Home With Madame Chic as one of her favorite new decorating books.

Madame Chic Inspiring Thought
Spend less time in front of a screen and more time indulging in a hobby you love. Try your hand at flower arranging, even if you've never done it before. You'll be surprised how soothing and therapeutic it can be.

Comment of the Week
On my recent post, 5 Days of Outfits from my Ten-Item Wardrobe, Ottie writes:

This is my first season using the 10-item wardrobe. I have more confidence and stand taller. Putting more thought into wardrobe planning gives me more outfits that look sharp. I think I saved money on clothes this year too, but look better. More complements are coming my way too. It's fun deciding what to wear and looking good and presentable.

Ottie, I am very happy for you! I tell so many people who are hesitant (or who keep making excuses) to just try the ten-item wardrobe. Try it. You will be amazed at how it can change your life. If you have been hesitant, just take the plunge. Get ready to live differently in the upcoming new year.

On YouTube, Marcellina writes:

I just want to tell you I just finished lessons from madame chic and I could just cry! I feel like this book is what I've been needing my whole life! I wish I would've discovered this in my 20s (although the book didn't exist!). At the end of the book I felt like I was at that nightclub with you dancing, and eating that Camembert, and hearing the secret quartet! Thank you so much! I am going to start 2015 with a fresh outlook and I'm using your book as a guidebook for my life! 

Thank you Marcellina!

This week I would love to know... have you decorated with silk flowers recently? Do you like to use them in your home? What type of flower arrangements do you like to do for the holidays?

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The Mistletoe Promise and The Greatest Gift Giveaway

6:00 AM 29 Comments

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are enjoying the wonderment of the season. Thank you for your messages of condolence on my social media sites regarding my grandmother's passing. Last week was very difficult for me and your messages were greatly comforting. I'm back now on the blog and hope to spend this month of December in celebration of Christmas on the blog. One of the many things my grandmother was great at was celebrating in style. So these blogs will be posted in her spirit.

Today I have two Christmas book giveaways for you on The Daily Connoisseur: The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans and The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern.

Both of these wonderful little books would not only make great Christmas presents but would also be a great treat for you to read this holiday season.

The Mistletoe Promise

A love story for Christmas from the #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box and The Walk.

Elise Dutton dreads the arrival of another holiday season. Three years earlier, her husband cheated on her with her best friend, resulting in a bitter divorce that left her alone, broken, and distrustful.

Then, one November day, a stranger approaches Elise in the mall food court. Though she recognizes the man from her building, Elise has never formally met him. Tired of spending the holidays alone, the man offers her a proposition. For the next eight weeks—until the evening of December 24—he suggests that they pretend to be a couple. He draws up a contract with four rules:

1. No deep, probing personal questions
2. No drama
3. No telling anyone the truth about the relationship
4. The contract is void on Christmas Day

The lonely Elise surprises herself by agreeing to the idea. As the charade progresses, the safety of her fake relationship begins to mend her badly broken heart. But just as she begins to find joy again, her long-held secret threatens to unravel the emerging relationship. But she might not be the only one with secrets.

The Greatest Gift

A beautiful gift edition of the heartwarming story that became the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

For almost seventy years, people the world over have fallen in love with Frank Capra’s classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. But few of those fans know that Capra’s film was based on a short story by author Philip Van Doren Stern, which came to Stern in a dream one night.

Unable at first to find a publisher for his evocative tale about a man named George Pratt who ponders suicide until he receives an opportunity to see what the world would be like without him, Stern ultimately published the story in a small pamphlet and sent it out as his 1943 Christmas card. One of those 200 cards found its way into the hands of Frank Capra, who shared it with Jimmy Stewart, and the film that resulted became the holiday tradition we cherish today.

Now fans of It’s a Wonderful Life, or anyone who loves the spirit of Christmas, can own the story that started it all in an elegant, illustrated edition that’s perfect for holiday giving. It includes an Afterword by Stern’s daughter, Marguerite Stern Robinson, that tells the story of how her father’s Christmas card became the movie beloved by generations of people around the world.

Simon & Schuster have kindly offered to give away both of these books to one lucky reader of The Daily Connoisseur. Please enter via the rafflecopter widget below. The giveaway is for U.S. residents only (terms set by the publisher). The winner will be announced on the widget one week from today. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, for a chance to win 15 Simon & Schuster new releases (including At Home With Madame Chic) enter their sweepstakes here. Best of luck!

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