Thursday, January 31, 2008

Guest blogger Benjy answers Marie

Salut Benjy! So what do you wear to stay snug on the chilly parisian streets? I hear you like cashmere, I'd love to see some of your outfits! merci! Marie

Dear Marie, dear readers,
Ah, cashmere! I so love my assistant's striped Lucien Pellat-Finet shawl (pictured), where I occasionally nap, that I have even gnawed on it, but it got me in trouble... Anyhow, I'm lucky enough to have an inbuilt fur coat. (Remember, that's the only acceptable fur!)
My amanuensis, who unlike me wears clothes on the street, apart from her striped socks and little cashmere hat, also favors high-waisted jeans (the vegan brand April 77 is stocked at Noir Kennedy, rue du roi de Sicile, in the Marais), and some cute girlfriends of hers swear by dance leotards. Actually, Mary-Laure is known to have worn dance leg-warmers on her arms to keep them toasty.
As it's cold on the street but hot on the Métro and inside many buildings, she just layers away... She'll wear a long-sleeved t-shirt under a short-sleeved tee (or a tiny dress, such as the sleek little numbers Roland Mouret designed for Gap last year...), with a light sweater and a warmer cardigan/hoody (or even a trim denim jacket), which she can take off in a wink. A knee-length coat (from Lanvin, no less), and the aforementioned shawl, complete her outfit.
Dear readers, if you too have a question about lifestyle, fashion, Paris or anything else, don't hesitate to ask. The Oracle always answers!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Recycle your pastry boxes!

The quintessential Parisian pastry shop Ladurée (located on the Champs-Elysées and on the rue Royale) sells its exquisite 'macarons' in rainbow-colored boxes that I save to keep my sewing kit, some aspirin, and those ugly, thick cables that otherwise would get all tangled up on my desk...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Andrea's Tag

I was tagged by Andrea, whose blog , with its focus on beloved animals and pared-down, meditative art, is like a home away from home. The assignment read : Show me a special something, something that is important or beautiful or meaningful or full of memories for you - or all of that - and tell me about it.
I immediately chose a pair of pointe shoes. Ballet is my passion, my shelter, my discipline, and to dance is like to make love to music. Also pictured is my old all-manual Minolta; though I hardly ever use it anymore, I love its retro look; it also embodies my creative endeavors and the reminds me of the many happy memories once sealed inside its metallic belly.

An award!

I won a "You Make My Day Award"! (Please picture me blushing here...). I was all the more honored as I was nominated by the wonderful Cally, a genuine artist whose creations are exquisitely fragile, yet textured and haunting.
"You make my day-Award" works like this:
1. Write a post with links to 5 blogs that make me think and/or make my day.
2. Acknowledge the post of the award giver.
3. Display the "You Make my Day Award" logo with a link to the post that I wrote. (Optional)
4. Tell the award winners that they have won by commenting on their blogs with the news.

I'd like to nominate five ladies whose blogs who inspire me every day:
Joanna's A Cup of Jo, Marie's , Pia's Pia Jane Bijerk, my mum's Laura's Kitchen Cookbook and, since Cally nominated me though she had only discovered my blog that very day, I too am choosing a blog I just stumbled on, Violet.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Let there be stripes! (1)

I just love stripes, and these socks, which a little friend calls 'your witch's socks', keep me warm in the winter...

On Sunday, I was delighted to meet Ronda from All The Best, a terrific blog about Stylish Living that features amazing profiles and interviews as well as an array of arts/design/fashion books that makes me drool...
Though both Ronda and her husband were disappointed I had not brought Benjy along to the legendary café Les Deux Magots, we had a great time over a glass of Bordeaux (me) and absinthe (an adventurous Ronda)...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I remember Baghdad

I remember Baghdad. It was the early 80's, I was five, and the country was at war with Iran. I remember my mum taking my sister and me to the Iraq Museum, where I saw a small, exquisite and moving statue (Nippur, 2700/2600 BC) that my mum bought a copy of, and that adorns my desk today as I type away. I remember the moon glowing over the city, and the muezzin's morning call. I remember the sandstorm that kept us indoors and crushed my mum's exquisite rose garden. I remember going to Samara on Fridays, or to Babylon, and wondering why we weren't allowed into the mysterious mosques. I remember people affectionately tugging at my oh so foreign blonde hair. I remember going with some Syrian friends to visit a relative of theirs who, upon learning who my father was, gave me an apple from a basket in his kitchen; an apple! in war-torn Iraq, were fresh produce was hardly ever seen, this was a regal present, and all the way back home, in the car, I held the apple on my knees like a treasure. I remember the air strikes and my dark fear, as my family cuddled in the bathroom at night. I remember going to buy pungent spices in the souk's tiny, dark shops glittering with silverware, and then going for intoxicating rides on little speed boats on the Tigris river. I remember our driver Bani, a Tunisian with a fondness for obnoxious little girls, spoiling my sister and me with candy and sweet dates. I remember going trick-or-treating for Halloween dressed as Scheherazade, my favorite heroine, she who told stories to save her life.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Recycle your old typewriter!

Don't you just love the look of ancient typewriters, sewing machines and the like? While I wish my mum had kept her old Olivetti, I must admit it may be a bit bulky... What I can do however is wear this bracelet, which was made with the keys of a typewriter.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pineapple Tea

Because I grew up in the Third World, where wastefulness is not a way of life, I like learning tricks to avoid just throwing things away.
A Peruvian friend taught me this recipe: boil pineapple peels for about 20 mn. in a panful of water, with a few spoonfuls of sugar/honey if you wish, or some cinnamon. Strain. Drink chilled or hot, for some exotic warmth in the heart of the winter. This delicious infusion cleanses the kidneys, and leaves your house smelling divine.

Guest Blogger Benjy Answers Taocito

I have a pooch who is kind, gentle and lovely but who sometimes lacks in grace whilst walking down the boulevards. Could you recommend ways for him to strut more gracefully? Thank you, Taocito

Dear Taocito, dear readers,
My assistant, a dancer, would recommend Pilates or other techniques that teach you how to stand tall and keep your back flat - always good for a more graceful gait.
Though your bichon pooch (pictured above) may feel goofier than elegant sometimes, remember, Queen Marie-Antoinette, who knew a thing or two about style, as well as a bevy of French sovereigns starting in the Renaissance, had bichons just like yours. (You can spot a few of them, amid a host of royal pups, in Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette) Royalty dog! Be proud of what he is.
Dear readers, if you too have a question about lifestyle, fashion, Paris or anything else, don't hesitate to post a comment with your query. The Oracle always answers!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I've been tagged!

In her exquisite blog, Pia tagged me, and now I must list 7 Silly Facts about myself.
1. The question I hate being asked is, Where do you come from? With a French father, an American mother, Uruguayan grandparents, and a life spent in Iran, Kenya, Iraq and China until the age of 15, it's complicated to give a one-word answer.
2. The question I love being asked is, Are you a dancer? I've been obsessed with dance for ever and am delighted when something of my efforts actually shows.
3. Unlike Pia, I love airplanes and hate boats.
4. I've been a vegetarian since the age of 18.
5. I always wear the ring my parents, sister and grandma gave me.
6. With its 'barre' (pictured) and ever-expanding bookshelves, my living room is half dance studio, half library, reflecting my two passions, dance and literature.
7. I want to learn to sew and to grow flowers.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Claudine's Hat

When I wear this vintage hat, I feel like Claudine, the cheeky and wild heroine in Colette's early novels.
While the Claudine series can't rival with the masterpieces of Colette's mature years, they are still as fresh, exquisite and creative as when they were first published (and became instant best-sellers). Claudine à Paris, or Claudine in Paris is a perfect treat, while animals lovers can't but fall for the hilarious Dialogues de Bêtes, in which the dog Toby and the cat Kiki comment on their owners' lives.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Guest Blogger Benjy Answers Jo

Darling Benjy,
I'm sure from your vantage point, you have a good handle on what type of footwear women wear around Paris. In New York, I am amazed that ladies dash all around town in high heels that I'm sure I could never walk, let alone run, in with out twisting my ankle. I'm sick of bringing an extra bag with my "nice" shoes so that I can change out of my sneakers when I get to where I'm going. Jo

Dear Jo, dear readers,
I love shoes (but unlike some colleagues, I never chew on them). Here are some ground rules:
1. avoid anything too strappy, too pointy or too high; if your shoes look terrific but you are limping with pain and discomfort, you'll look anything but.
2. choose shoes that are stylish yet comfortable, like my assistant's Dries Van Noten pumps, with their stacked heels made of wood and delicate embroidery.
3. if you are going to be on your feet all day, instead of sneakers, carry with you a pair of super-light, ultra-thin classic ballet flats - my assistant gets hers from French Sole...
Dear Marie and Taocito, I will answer your questions very soon!
If you, dear reader, have a question, don't hesitate to post a comment.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Memento Mori Cuff Links

I just love peppering my look with discreet Victorian/Punk details, so these Memento Mori cuff links are a favorite accessory! My sister got them for me for Christmas, from the really great Etsy shop Hoolala. It's a very literature oriented shop, with Alice In Wonderland jewelry and a Tolstoy brooch that could very well end up on my wishlist...

Memento Mori Cufflinks

I just love peppering my look with discreet Victorian/Punk details, so these Memento Mori cufflinks are a favorite accessory! My sister got them for me for Christmas, from the really great Etsy shop Hoolala. It's a very literature oriented shop, with Alice In Wonderland jewelry and a Tolstoy brooch that could very well end up on my wishlist...

Tribute to Kenya

Kenya is in the news, with distressing reports of violence and unrest.
That country is always on my mind, as I spent a couple of blissful years there as a child; I have an old photograph of the Kilimanjaro in my room (while technically in Tanzania, the regal mountain can be seen from Kenya). I took a picture of the photograph to share with you on this blog, and then realized that a reflection of me snapping the pic can been seen in front of the mountain.
I like its ghost-like quality and its implication that, somehow, I am also a part of that country, of that landscape.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A dash of pink

I hate to have cables lying around the floor like so many snares, so I was delighted when a friend of my mum's gave me this little pink gizmo, which holds your cellphone/ipod above the ground when charging...

One book that won't go onto my shelves naked is Sophie Gee's The Scandal Of The Seaon (one of The Economist's Books of the Year 2007) - the dust cover is just too spectacular.
A novel set in early 18th century England, it skilfully braids together the themes of history and love, as well as poetry, since one of the protagonists is Alexander Pope, of The Rape Of The Lock fame. It's a fun way to learn a lot about that period, as Gee pays close attention to details in lengthy yet fascinating descriptions of the markets and shops of London, clothing, food etc - a lot of research went into the book but it never sounds as if the author is forcing her knowledge into the pages. Good book.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Introducing Guest Blogger Benjy

A savvy Parisian with a taste for cheese and cashmere, an accomplished soccer player and a philosopher too (7 pounds of wisdom in the shape of a dachshund), Benjy will occasionally share his musings with us.
You can leave questions for him c/o his amanuensis (Mary-Laure) and, his schedule permitting, he will answer via this blog. His many areas of expertise include etiquette (how's a dog to behave on the train, the subway, the restaurant...), fashion (what to wear in Paris in the winter), relationships (just go ahead and sniff everyone is his motto) and especially pretty girls (he can't get enough of Mary-Laure's lovely girlfriends!), as well as animals' rights (fur-wearers beware).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Naked Books

As my living room turns more into a book-clogged library every day, I wonder whether I should leave the volumes' dust covers on. There's something about the naked spines of hardcovers that I find elegant and timeless. Where do you stand on this issue?

(Pictured are the books I have been reading since Christmas. All three are highly recommended! Anna Pavord's The Naming of Names charts the history of botany as a science and is lavishly illustrated. Ted Hughes's recently published letters allow the reader to see the poet at work, as he struggles with his writings, and also reveal a lot about his relation to his first wife, fellow poet Sylvia Plath; his letters to his children are quite moving and humorous. As for Bears, which I've only just started, it explores the history the man-bear bond, especially through folklore and anthropological insights - it's a great, great book for anyone interested in animals and/or the environment).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Any Azuki Bean Fans Out There?

They're beautiful and so tasty... Today I'm making the Japanese dessert Anko (very easy). Anko lovers can also head for Yamazaki (chaussée de la Muette, in the 16th arrondissement), a Japanese & French pastry shop in Paris.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Un petit bonnet

I love my 'petit bonnet' (little wool hat)... It's actually cashmere, and I purchased it at the super cool Ateliers de la Maille, rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the Marais, where they sell nothing but very cool, sleek knits. And now they're having a big sale, too.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nancy Mitford

I can't mention Nancy Mitford and not show the great vintage Penguin editions of her books that I found in used-books stores around Paris - they can't be compared to the super corny covers of her recently-reissued novels. Want to know more about Nancy Mitford? Read the chapter I wrote about her in an Anthology of Birtish Literature, to be published by the Editions Ellipses some time in 2008. Or just read 'The Pursuit of Love', a great place to start.


When asked how she would apportion the household money, Nancy Mitford replied that she would spend it all on flowers, saving a mere pound for "everything else". Without taking it to such extremes, I have decided that from now on, I would always have flowers around my Paris apartment. These are white hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis); their scent is exquisite.