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The Chic Assignment Check-in | September 2019

It has been another amazing month with The Chic Assignment. I just love how these assignments accompany us through the month with beauty and loveliness.

Today, I'm going deeper into the assignments to share my findings with you.

Chic Assignment no. 1: Listen to: Sicilienne in E flat major by Maria Theresia von Paradis
The hauntingly beautiful melody of Sicilienne in E flat major carried me through the month. I often had it on a playlist and just listened to various renditions of it. The great thing about listening to a piece of music like this periodically throughout the month, is that you will never forget the composer or the nuance of the song. Your children will also remember! Here are a few more excellent renditions to share:

I love this rendition from MusicForums

and this one by Ginette Niveau is truly beautiful.

Here is her interesting biography, as chronicled by
Robert Cummings
Maria Theresia von Paradis was a remarkable figure in music history, for not only did she attain significant triumphs as both a composer and performer -- rare enough achievements for a woman living in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe -- but she had to cope with the dreadful handicap of blindness.

Maria Theresia von Paradis was born in Vienna on May 15, 1759. Her father, Joseph Anton von Paradis, was Imperial Secretary of Commerce under Empress Maria Theresia, after whom young Maria was named. When Maria was two she began losing her eyesight, and by the age of five she was blind.

She studied with Antonio Salieri (who composed an organ concerto for her 1773), Leopold Kozeluch, and Karl Frieberth. Treatments by Anton Mesmer in 1776-1777 offered hope her vision might partially be restored, but after 1777 she had to resign herself to a life of total blindness.

By this time she had already established a career as a pianist and singer in Viennese concert halls and salons. Moreover, she had gained respect from the most prominent composers and musicians of the day, including Mozart. By some accounts, his Piano Concerto No. 18 (K. 456) was written for her.

In 1783-1784 she toured Paris, London, and various German cities. In 1785 she helped found, with Valentin Hauy, a school for the blind. Paradis would not turn to composition until the 1780s: the first work that can accurately be attributed to her is the Zwolf Lieder auf ihrer Reise in Musik, dating to the years 1784-1786. The process of composition for Paradis was not simple, but she was aided by use of a composition board developed by Johann Riedinger, who served as librettist for several of her stage works, including the 1791 melodrama Ariadne und Bacchus and the 1792 Der Schulkandidat.

By the late 1780s, Paradis was devoting less time to performance and more to composition. She wrote five operas between 1789 and 1797, as well as numerous other works. Unfortunately, many of her scores have been lost, including two piano concertos and 12 piano sonatas. By 1800 Paradis had begun focusing on teaching, and in 1808 founded a music school for girls in Vienna. For the last decade-and-a-half of her life she taught there and continued to turn out an occasional composition, like the 1811 Fantasie in C for piano.

Chic Assignment no. 2: Enjoy the poetry of Robert Frost

Robert Frost said that "all poems start with a lump in the throat". I certainly get that from his deeply introspective poetry. In fact, you'll see in today's video that I not only have a lump in my throat, but I cry like a baby!

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

I ran across this interview of Robert Frost on YouTube and was fascinated by it. I recommend watching this if you want to know more about the talented Mr. Frost. https://youtu.be/Qem3v0zvajQ

The artist I feature in today's video is Julian Peters, who creates graphic art to accompany famous poetry. He is so talented.

Chic Assignment no. 3: Curate Your Seasonal Accessories
If you haven't already seen my capsule wardrobe accessories video for fall, I recommend watching. I give a lot of fall accessory inspiration.

Chic Assignment no. 4: Switch Out Your Seasonal Decor
I plan to put out my seasonal decor video soon. I am really enjoying the subtle changes in decor and scent in our home.

I hope you enjoy today's video.

📍 LA Parent Magazine gives an excellent review to Connoisseur Kids. Read the article here.

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Comment of the Week
This week's Dress Code Insanity post sparked a lot of conversation! The most "liked" comment on YouTube came from Heather M., who wrote, "I think we have lost our ability to understand that sometimes you have to do things you may not like, as in, dress for the occasion. Knowing what is appropriate nowadays has gone out the door. We have also become very lazy. I spent more time having my staff have to go home for inappropriate dress. Strappy camisoles are not business casual. Beach shoes are not business casual. Heavy cleavage is not business casual. I know clothing is an investment but it affects the culture in which one works or goes to school or even parents going to pick up their kids. You can dress nicely with items from Walmart, if you try. Brush your teeth, hair, no stained clothing, deodorant helps (men I am talking to you). It's not that difficult. Sorry, we have lost all decorum."

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Anonymous said...

Dear Jennifer,
I was lucky to have an amazing 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Kyper, who had the class memorize various poems. We practiced them together as a class every single day, then had to memorize and recite them individually to her, at her desk, for a grade. One of the poems we memorized - that I shockingly still know by heart today! (and it gave me chills!!) - is Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Morning". So while you were emotional reading these poems, I was as well. The chic assignment is such a wonderful addition to your blog. (Also still in my long-term memory is Emily Dickinson's "I'll Tell You How the Sun Rose". What an awesome 4th grade teacher, right?!)
- Julie

ilsa said...

Yes a moment to say THANKS Jennifer...from the bottom of my heart .. I'll cry with you because of the beauty of the poems, the memories, and sharing that with a kindred spirit .. and alll that miles and miles away... so thanks again and the warmes regards from Barcelona, Spain!!!

JadeOctober said...

Hi Jennifer,

The poems recited and your memory of your beloved childhood tree that you shared warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes as well. Literature and poetry are meant to be evocative; they should draw out our longings, call upon our senses, and even prod at old wounds so that we may share with the author a mutual experience of being human. What we read is meant to be felt! Thank you for this video! Happy September to you!

Deborah said...

Thank you Jennifer,
The chic assignments are beautiful. I am starting to like poetry, but in general, there have been very few poems I've actually been touched by in the past. But I totally share your sentiments and attachment to a tree(s). How heartbreaking to lose your beloved tree, a living, sheltering companion in your childhood. Like losing a favorite pet.

Perhaps my aversion to poetry started when as a student we were forced to try and interpret the "meanings", and to listen as the teacher(s) came to some grandiose conclusions of the "hidden meaning". I inwardly rebelled thinking, "how do you know what the poet was thinking?" or, "I don't think there's ANY hidden meaning, and if so, I don't "get it"! So I didn't enjoy poetry. But starting with Emily Dickinson, and now Robert Frost, I'm starting to relax and just enjoy their poems at face value.

Watched the interview with Robert Frost... he was appalled that his poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was being taught that its "hidden meaning" was suicidal! That's exactly what I'm talking about. I rest my case. :) thank you for sharing that interview, Jennifer.

Can't wait for the October assignments!

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, I think many of us have memories like that from childhood - thank you for sharing yours! I grew up in Minnesota and we had a little cabin on a lake in the northern part of the state. No TV, no phone, (and definitely no internet!) nothing fancy, just lovely weekends swimming, riding our bikes, and long games of cards in the evenings. My parents retired to Florida when I was in college and, for better or worse, the lake area had started to become much more developed. The old style cabins were being replaced by enormous homes and the general feel of the area was just not the same. My parents decided it was time to let go of our little cabin. It's the only time in my life I've ever seen my dad cry - when we packed up for the last time after it was sold. So many happy memories there that I'll always carry with me.

MA said...

Please never again apologize for crying. It's beautiful to connect with your emotions and really good for us to see this dimension of you. Thank you for allowing us into your heart. I have noticed over the years that women tend to apologize for crying, as though it is wrong or should be kept hidden. I think we should show each other, and especially our children, how to feel and express feelings in a true and healthy way.

Kgirl said...

Yes, no need to apologise for keeping it real. I think a genuine love of any art that speaks to us should bring out emotions like this, and often. My friend and I went to the ballet for the first time this year and both had tears streaming down our faces at the end. Each of us were convinced it was a singular reaction until the lights came on and we realised we'd been similarly affected. Trees in particular have such a link to childhood, I think, and a kind of human quality: branches being like arms supporting us, etc. I still think of one particular tree where I had favourite branches and can still remember the sound of it in the wind. It's something incredibly reliable and soothing and I could only imagine your distress to see it cut down.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog and your monthly assignments. Your are so "european". Greetings from Vienna, from a girl who lives in Paradisgasse (Paradis-Street, "Gasse" means small street in German) in Vienna.