Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Meet Saki, Un Chat Parisien






When he is not running wild around his Etretat (Normandy) country house, Saki le chat hangs out at his Paris apartment. Named after a British writer, and owned by a history/geography teacher, he is quite the intellectuel parisien, with a passion for food too. Outside his window, he can gaze upon the zinc roofs of Paris - very Amélie, no?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Le Fleuriste Municipal In The Winter

Last summer, I posted about the Fleuriste Municipal, a botanical garden at the Porte d'Auteuil in Paris. I went there again this weekend, for a walk in its greenhouses - a tropical break in an otherwise bleakly cold winter day. There I saw graceful orchids and palm trees as well as carnivorous flowers that seemed rather creepy and hungry. Koi fish swam around impassively. Outside, all kinds of naked trees haunt the grounds but one in particular caught my attention, its white bark covered in something that looked like dashes - apparently, this tree is from the Himalayas.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas On The Rue d'Auteuil


The many little stores on Paris's rue d'Auteuil were abuzz with Christmas preparations on the 24th... The most exquisite floral arrangements, graced with this little bronze girl, are on display at Le Jardin d'Auteuil, my favorite florist... The pâtisseries all offer bûches de Noël, or yule logs, filled with creamy delights - to know which of the many pâtisseries is the best in the neighborhood, just spot the longest line, in this case at the Grillon d'Auteuil... The award-winning cheese place displays platters... And don't forget the oysters, fresh from Brittany, still filled with the fragrance, minerals and fresh air of the Atlantic.
So this year, it was Christmas in France for my parents, my sister and me. But here's a full list of all the countries where I spent Christmases since I was born: France, Uruguay, USA, Iran, Kenya, Iraq, China, British Hong Kong, India, Korea, Egypt, Singapore, Mexico and Australia...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Céline's Wedding - Tao Speaks Up

As many of you may know by now, I am a traveling dog. I am incredibly loyal to my beloved owner who schleps me halfway around the world so I can pee against exotic trees.
But lately a male human started coming more and more often to the house. After a while, he settled into MY bed, stealing MY pillow, and stretching his long limbs on MY side! He even decided to steal MY spot on the couch! Little by little he moved more foreign stuff inside our home, and all of a sudden here he is walking me at night, and turning our dynamic duo into a trio: the male human moved in.
After almost eight years of pure bliss with my owner, another testosterone-generating entity has decided it was all right to intrude, without even consulting me first. Going so far as to even put his dirty human paws on my owner! Sure he can be nice, plays fetch with me, feeds me and sometimes takes care of me when my owner is away, but because she chose him that doesn't mean I necessarily agree with her choice!
Now it's becoming even fishier. You see, last week, my owner put on a dress, got a bouquet of flowers, the male human put on a tie, and they all left the house. When they came back, the male human told me he was now my official step-owner. Say what??? My owner married the male human who is now going to be an integral part of our lives. Good for her but don't you think she should have asked me first?

Image: Tao with his toy burger in his Amsterdam home, as recreated by Fifi based on a photograph. These Tao cards, as well as their matching large framed version, were a surprise present for Céline from mum on the occasion of her marriage.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Céline's Wedding

On December 14, my sister married Joren, the Dutchman in her life! The bliss! In France, marriages must be celebrated at City Hall (Mairie) to be valid, so they tied the knot at the Mairie of Paris's 16th arrondissement, in the very building and in the very room where my parents got married 32 years ago. This was a very small affair, with just the parents and siblings of the couple - a great party, in a Belgium castle, is scheduled for next summer.
Céline wore a beautiful BCBG dress, with black flowers embroidered on white fabric, and carried an exquisite bouquet in addition to a silver handbag that my mum bought back when she (my mum) was 15... However, she made a cultural gaffe because she wore a pearl pendant and in the Netherlands, pearls represent the bride's tears.

The dinner took place at our favorite Parisian restaurant, Le Congrès, which I blogged about here. Guests were given a choice of foie gras, raw oysters or goat cheese salad, followed by a choice of scallop risotto, lamb or duck breasts. We then went back to my parent's apartment for a pièce montée, the traditional French wedding dessert; this towering pile of cream puffs filled with delicious crème pâtissière was made by Le Nôtre, Paris's supreme pastry store.
And the champagne flowed!

Friday, December 18, 2009

AF0065 - LAX to CDG

Benjy and I headed for Paris a few days ago. My travel essentials: Teen Vogue, my iPod with plenty of NPR podcasts, short stories by the Israeli writer Etgar Keret, an all-natural almond-scented moisturizer from Weleda, my Lucien Pellat-Finet cashmere shawl to use as a blanket and a pair of lovely slippers by Etsy's wonderful and talented Infusion.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Presents

Christmas gifts are piling up in my room... For those of you who are a bit lost, here are a few tips.

Wrap it - Half the fun about presents is wrapping and unwrapping. Skip over-priced gift paper and use pages from magazines or newspapers - glossy ad images, crazy National Enquirer type headlines, or something meaningful to the giftee.

Write it - a little note makes a present more precious and personal. Even "tired" presents such as the perennial soaps, mugs, and scented candles can become fresh with a note - for eg., Because I know you dream of Provence with a lavender/fig candle, or To help you dream sweetly with a chamomile tea for someone who has trouble sleeping.

Open up - I would never give makeup to my beauty editor friend or my sister who might as well be one. Rather than risk yourself into their field, open yours up to them. I may get some DVD's/books about ballet for friends who told me they find ballet fascinating but don't know anything about it.

Eat it - If you're going home for the holiday, stack up on local goodies. Even your home region that doesn't boast a stellar cuisine, you can find some local honey, or delicious preserves made by a local granny. It makes great little presents for colleagues, neighbors etc. I'll be bringing back from France treats such as: fleur de sel (fabulous sea salt), artisanal mustard, bonbons...
Drink it? I don't like giving alcohol. Still, a bottle of cider with a pretty jar of mulling spice is a lovely gift.

Don't splurge - I don't like getting sumptuous presents (note to Mum and sis: disregard this; I don't even mean it.): they make me uneasy - like I need to reciprocate. No one expects an expensive present, nor should they.
This year, I'm going (almost) all Etsy. A few ideas and shops I like: Tweet Heart for laptop vinyl decals; Good4You for fun teas, artistically packaged; Ippuku and Koide Studio for exquisite ceramics; handmade yoga mat bags; pouches to keep your handbag/suitcase/closet organized; etched mustache pint glasses from Bread & Badger; custom return address stamps from Asspocket (mention AUREA with your order and get 15% off!); message pillows stating Let's Make Out (I adore it!) by Alexandra Ferguson or Love (from Dedeeetsyshop)...

After my presents are distributed, I will post some pics. Until then, if you are clueless about what to give someone on your list, leave a comment and I'll provide ideas for all budgets. Promised.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Deer Decal

Recently, I have been obsessed with foxes (blame Wes Anderson's fabulous adaptation of Roald Dahl' Fantastic Mr Fox) and deer, those graceful creatures of the forest. So my heart skipped a beat when, as I browsed through Etsy's shops, I discovered this deer laptop decal, designed by Tweet Heart. I promptly ordered it - after all, my dear MacBook too deserves a Christmas present.
Isn't it enchanting?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Elizabeth Grant - A Cocktail & A Giveaway


When I covered the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, I was delighted to meet April Jackson, the PR dynamo for the high end cosmetics brand Elizabeth Grant. When I met her, April told me about the history of the company and how in the 1950's England, one young woman decided that since she could not find cosmetics that suited her skin, damaged by a shrapnel during World War II, well she would create them herself - thus her company was born and it endures to this day, with splendid packaging and extraordinary ingredients like Vitamin C or their own hi-tech, trademarked Torricelumn.
A few days ago, the regal Elizabeth Grant herself was in Los Angeles with her team, including her lovely and enthusiastic granddaughter Margot Grant as well as April Jackson, in order to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the WIFT. I was delighted to attend the cocktail and the awards ceremony - at the top of the Andaz Hyatt Hotel, on LA's Sunset Boulevard. I was spoiled (spoiled!) with some goodies, including day and night skin serums and their brand new The Socializer, or 2 pens, each filled with extraordinary treatment creams that regenerate, revive, and hydrate the eye area- Bright Lights for the morning and Late Nights for the evening.
And to thank you for being such wonderful and loyal readers, I am launching my second Elizabeth Grant Giveaway. One lucky person out there will win a golden Elizabeth Grant pouch, filled with luxurious products. Just leave a comment by Friday, and one winner will be chosen at random.

Update: we have a winner! It's lucky Beth.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Textures



From top:
Trees in Pacific Palissades...
My new corduroy pants from J.Crew (the matchstick model, in "Shadow" color)...
A coconut I have no idea how I'm going to split open...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Season Cards


As the holiday season dawns, one of the things I enjoy doing is selecting the 30+ cards that I will send across the world - remember the ones I sent last year, illustrated by Yoshimoto Nara and dear Fifi Flowers?
This year, I chose these graphic, fun, green cards from Kate Paperie in New York. I also chose some plain ivory-color cards that I will decorate with stamps I bought in Amsterdam - I especially love the paw stamp, which allows Benjy to co-sign my cards without having to dip his precious pads in messy ink.
Finally, on the back of these beautiful, delicate and creamy envelopes, I will apply the spectacular stamp designed for me by Etsy's Asspocket Productions - mention AUREA if you purchase from her store and you'll get 15% off!

Writer's Almanac - my dear, worshiped, adored Oscar Wilde died on this day, Nov. 30, back in 1900; his "Canterville Ghost" is my favorite short story of all times (download it for free here).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Children's Books

With Where The Wild Things Are (which I reviewed here) and The Fantastic Mr Fox, these past few months have brought us true gems when it comes to adaptation of children's books - or rather, masterpieces aimed primarily at children. The likes of Roald Dahl, my absolute favorite writer when I was a kid, and Maurice Sendak, are true magicians, true artists who do not pale in comparison with the greatest writers.
Right now, I am reading a recent scholarly volume, Children's Literature - A Reader's History From Aesop To Harry Potter, by the respected University of California professor Seth Lerer. In this fascinating study, Lerer pays tribute to extraordinary authors such as Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss, and makes you yearn to rediscover those eye-opening classics. My only regret is that there are not more illustrations (the few we are treated to, such as the one below, are really great) and that none is in color; it seems to me that the imaginary universe of many authors has been enhanced by illustrators (I would hate to read Roald Dahl without Quentin Blake's sharp drawings), or in cases such as Sendak's, are an intrinsic part of the book.
The books that illuminated my childhood were, among others: the Noddy series by Enid Blyton, which got me hooked on reading, Odette Joyeux's La Porte Ouverte, chronicling the live of a little girl learning ballet at the Opéra de Paris, anything by Roald Dahl and later anything by Judy Blume, the Nancy Drew novels, Martine Petit Rat de l'Opéra (which I blogged about here), Kessel's Afghan tale Les Cavaliers, Pipi Longstocking, and more.

Christmas present tip: a beautiful copy of a classic children's book is always an enchanting present...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sesame Street T-shirt

Sesame Street is 40! The classic PBS children's show may be 40, but really, it is timeless. To celebrate its anniversary, American Apparel came up with a special line of t-shirts; I immediately got my little paws on one, of course.
For a little nostalgia and a good laugh, check out Sesame Street's YouTube channel.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Old Rocking Chair


I found it, distressed and abandoned on the sidewalk. It had most obviously not been taken care of for a long time. I carried it home, sanded it carefully and painted it bright white.
Now all it needs is a cushy pad/pillow for its seat, to make it more comfortable. I haven't found anything on Esty, and am now considering making a custom sized pad using old sweaters. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rawsome

The metal door says Members Only. Upon entering, you must sign a discharge of liability. Yet this little Venice "club" is merely a place where you can buy produce, raw milk dairy products and all kinds of foods, some of which are pretty crazy - like the Kombucha featuring "symbiotic fungus"; I'll pass, but my dear friend Stacie swears by it. The dairy products, made with raw milk à la Europe, come from an Amish community, know for its commitment to all-natural methods and ingredients; the Amish also produce an apple cider I'm eager to try.
They have their own oil press on the premises and just bought a mysterious machine they mention with awe, that should allow them to make such products as almond butter...

If you're interested in food, don't miss The New Yorker's food issue, now in stands. Also check out the New York Times's article on so-called edible walls.