Thursday, November 29, 2012

Coco Chanel

I have just finished reading Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie.  It was an easy read, full of pictures of people, places and things.  What's not to like about this self-made legend.

Born to poor parents, orphaned at 12, essentially abandoned by her father to a convent, she learned her craft of sewing and handiwork very young.  It would serve her well at 18 when she had to leave the convent and had to find work.

Enter the first of many well-known, prosperous and/or talented men into her life: Étienne Balsan.  He would be the first to give her the time and space she needed to break through to her creative talent.  Her second man Boy Capel would help launch the Chanel house on rue Cambon that is still in place today in Paris.

Not an exceptionally beautiful woman, Coco had an abundance of dark curly hair and a gamine body, a kind of clothes-horse frame that looked good in most clothes. She was well dressed and lady-like and athletic and very hard-working. She had very strong opinions and did not hesitate to voice them.  She liked men but never married.  This book hints that she was lonely in old-age and regretted her single life.

This is a great rags to riches story of a force of nature who single single-handedly revolutionized fashion and built an empire. (300 stores world wide and a 3 billion dollar a year industry) This was a fascinating look into an amazingly powerful and visionary woman and it is worth reading if not for her life story then for a look at the cast of friends, lovers and houses that entered and exited it.

Four stars out of five.

Enjoy!

Stella

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Testing and Trying... Food

My little repertoire is getting boring.  I have to spruce it up with new, different recipes. I'm talking appetizers, main dishes, side dishes...  I have purchased several old cookbooks reputed to be excellent sources for French cooking but I have a hankering to try other people's favorite best recipes.  No need to be French, just a winner. Can you help?

In the meantime, here a a few delightful and delicious discoveries I have made over the last weeks.
St-Germain liqueur.  It is made with elderberry flowers and is a surprising, fruity-candy taste for grownups.  It's light and perfect for an after dinner treat.  It can be served as a cocktail when mixed with champagne or white wine.  I have yet to try this but sense that the combo with champagne will be a winner.The bottle is gorgeous, I am going to use mine as a dish soap dispenser when it's empty and it won't be long now.  This, I know, will be a holiday favorite with my family.  V. and D. have already stamped their approval and T., when he gets home December 20th is going to taste it and see if he joins the ranks of the sold on this solid gold liqueur...

If you live in the Edmonton area, we have two lovely French bakeries:  Duchess Bakery and Dauphine Bistro and Bakery.   When I have people over for dinner, I am not averse to purchasing a dessert and Duchess has been my usual choice for something luscious like Duchess cake or lemon tart but recently, having been to Dauphine and spoken to the owner, the former «Queen of Tarts»I will have to try their Buche de Noel for my Christmas eve dinner this year.



Dauphine is also offering French pastry classes every Sunday in January.  Wouldn't that make a great «With Love From Me to Me» Christmas present?

Bonne journée,

Stella

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gratitude

I first learned the power of gratitude through Sarah Ban Breathnach.  This short film is a magnificent tribute to something as simple as «thank you».

Bonsoir,

Stella

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas

It's the time of year where, if you haven't already thought of something to buy, your housekeeper, your friend, something for the office gift exchange, you may be thinking hard... Here are a few items that I will be giving out this year.

Chai du Grand Vaudasnière Cremant de Vouvray, my new favorite (affordable) sparkling white wine... does great in lieu of champagne and the label is beautiful.

These felt crown Christmas ornaments are a cute gift for your co-worker girlfriends.  They are from Restauration Hardware and are on sale right now.

I think that the gift of reading is always an excellent choice.  My Dad is getting these Canadian biographies this year.



I bought a couple pair of these scissors at Fabricland the other day, one for me and one for a dear one.  I think they are cute to keep in your night stand or your knitting basket.


My guy is recently retired and needs comfy cozy things to wear at home this winter season.  I got him a few pair of these Serious Sweats at Land's End. They are everything they advertise and more.  So cuddly...


For a home-made gift option, I'll be giving a few pairs of these away this season. Get the free pattern here.

Photo source: Leslie Friend (A Friend to Knit With Blog)
And finally, for the younger men in my house, these Calvin Kleins 365's are just the thing for a stocking filler.



Happy hunting and gathering!

Stella


Wellington Reads

I am doing a reading circle for Wellington Garden Center in Edmonton.  If you are in the region, why don't you participate?  I would love to meet you!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dealing With Change

A long time ago, I invested much time and effort into bettering myself.  I was at a crossroads you see and I had to choose a path.

After many months working and working at myself, I came to a realization that there was nothing I could do about it and I had to let go.

Letting go was one of the biggest lessons life had to teach me and it has served me well in all kinds of life situations.

Today, I read a book that reinforced this life lesson and put into words what I have been experiencing in different areas of my life. Who Moved My Cheese?  is a very short but powerful analogy, mice and little people are called to action, or inaction, when the supply of cheese runs out in one section of the labyrinth they live in.


I found it on the Internet in pdf format here while researching it.  It takes maybe 20 minutes to read but it is so profoundly true that it is inspiring.

So get moving and shake hands with Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw and think about what you would do if you were not afraid.

Bonsoir,

Stella

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Faraway One



This video has been around for a long time.  The 45,000,000 hits it got on Youtube attest to that.  Today, I post this for my boy T. who is my faraway one.

Je t'aime.

Maman

Friday, November 16, 2012

November Weekend

We've had a pretty grey week thus far in Sunny Alberta. As I write this, I see a patch of almost blue sky between the buildings outside my office window.

The usual Friday buzz: «What are you doing this weekend?» is going to start after lunch so I'm thinking about it now. Saturday: sleep in, play with my new old skeleton keys just received from France; I'm going to try to get the rust off and make: key rings, necklaces and maybe frame some?  They are the real thing, so lovely I could just display them in a bowl.  I have little ones too, to make jewelry with. After that, I'll work in a walk with my loved-one.


http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/unlocking-the-riddle-of-skeleton-key-necklaces/
After that, I'll do some reading, make a nice supper and go out to see the new James Bond movie with V. and D.  On Sunday, I have to start working on a report that will take me several hours, do laundry, make supper, get ready for work and read.

What are YOU doing this weekend?

Bisous,

Stella

Monday, November 12, 2012

Home Again

After a whirlwind four days in White Rock with my sister D. at my friend Mary's, I'm back!  Phew!  Do you know that feeling you have that you just might have imagined the whole thing?  This trip was packed with fun and good company and good eats.

We hit the ground running on Thursday when we landed later than scheduled.  Picked up our car and headed for Dancing Firs, dropped our bags, hugged Mary and headed for the grocery store.  Later, around a meal of wild salmon, asparagus and roasted baby potatoes with Mary's rosemary from the garden, we sipped on Chai du Grand Vaudasnière (my new favorite sparkling wine) and just heaved a giant sigh of relief.
Friday, D. and I headed out to Bellingham where we did some shopping and I purchased Etienne Aigner boots similar to the ones pictured below.  The trip to the US was an adventure in itself and after a delicious late waterside lunch we headed home.  In our minds, we thought we would have time to make a beer ham and have a quiet supper in our suite.  As it happened, we got lost on the way home and beer ham turned into Chinese food from Fong's Eatery in Surrey.

Saturday was our Reading Circle day around the book: Portrait of an Artist  on Georgia O'Keeffe, lunch and an art lesson with Lucan, a gentle, lovely artist who guided us through a two hour lesson using one of O'Keeffe's work as inspiration.
You get the general idea...
Sunday, D. and I headed to a fabric store to buy trims and ribbons and then, with Mary, our guide extraordinaire, we went for a car ride in Vancouver, my favorite part of every trip I take to White Rock.  This time, we visited, Southlands, Terra Breads and Granville Street where we stopped at Williams Sonoma and Eileen Fisher. Here are the Striped Rib Glovelettes in Merino wool that I didn't buy at Eileen Fisher.  If I want them, I'll just have to learn to knit with  size 1 needles! E.F. has the most gorgeous clothes.  The cuts and fabrics are superb.  If I could, I would have a closet full of Sympli and Eileen Fisher.
Eileen Fisher Striped Rib Glovelettes

After the car ride, we had quick dinner at our friend Debbie and Mark's new condo and headed home to repack and hit the hay early for an early departure this morning.

My cup runneth over.  I am inspired to:

1. read more biographies
2. knit with finer yarns
3. have another painting lesson
4. go back to W. R. in Febuary
5. work on my garden next spring
6. go out on more four-day artist's dates

I've unpacked, had a bath, put in some clothes to wash, had supper and with your permission, am now going to pass out!

Bonsoir,

Stella

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Blizzard Conditions in Edmonton


1 hour and 40 minutes to come to work today!  The upside is that it is my last day this week because I am off to see my friend Mary at Dancing Firs in White Rock!  Yeah!  We will be having a reading circle on the Georgia O'Keeffe biography I read recently, then, we will have a large scale flower painting lesson, then a trip to an artist who also paints in this style. We are capping off the evening with a the biopic on Georgia starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons.

In the plans are also hot-tubbing with a view on the Pacific ocean, hot-footing it to Vancouver to do some sight seeing and maybe hit a few bijoux stores we don't have here.  I heard that the  Gourmet Warhouse there is incredible!

On another note, during lunch, I am going to Zumba with my friend Lizette!  Watch out world, the rockin' granny is in the room!  NOT.

I'll tell you one thing though, all of this snow is not boding well for our French Bijoux show at Wellington this evening... Hmmm.

Stay warm, or cool, whatever the case may be!

Bisous,


Stella

Monday, November 5, 2012

Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life

I'm so excited!

I will be starting a reading group at Wellington Garden Center in Edmonton!  It's such and inspiring place to meet and explore French style and culture.

We are having a first meeting on December 12th  from 7 to 9 pm at Wellington.  The book, as seen in the title of this blog looks really interesting and explores the life of this fashion icon. From the book description on Amazon:

The story of Chanel begins with an abandoned child, as lost as a girl in a dark fairy tale. Unveiling remarkable new details about Gabrielle Chanel’s early years in a convent orphanage and her flight into unconventional adulthood, Justine Picardie explores what lies beneath the glossy surface of a mythic fashion icon.
 If you live in the area of Edmonton, you may want to join in.  Books are available at Wellington at  13648 - 142 Street.  You can call them at (780) 455.2281 to sign up.  If you do not live in the area, why not read it anyway and comment on the post I will write after the circle!

Photos from: http://rose-gardendiary.blogspot.ca

I'm at a time in my life where I am fascinated with strong, talented women.  From  Emily Carr to Georgia O'Keeffe, I have learned so much about the strong talent and will that runs in these women who have given their lives over to their art.

So if you want to know more about Coco, please join us, in person or virtually,  to share your reading experience!

Bonsoir,

Stella

Friday, November 2, 2012

Paris: The Apartment that Time Forgot

Buried treasure.  Buried in the middle of Paris. In the 9th arrondissement, not far from Pigalle to be precise.  This is the apartment that was shut down and forgotten for 70 years "with the rent faithfully paid".  I wish I were the one who discovered it!

 This place is brimming with antique treasures.  Anyone the least bit interested would snap these up!  Corey taught me that unlike IKEA, antiques hold their value.  If you find something you love and you can afford, it's a good idea to buy it because your children will get something for it...

Just look at the bergère chair on the right, and the paintings and ooohhh!  The pretty dishes.  That coffered ceiling isn't too bad either...  I could live with that chandelier too!

Now the ostrich doesn't do anything for me but I would love the shawl that he is wearing and Mickey must be worth a fortune!   The faux panelling behind the ostrich, I have in my bedroom already... Check!  But I don't have a vanity table and mirror like this... The damask paper and gold curtains are not a bit dated don't you think?  What about those ivory vanity pieces eh?
 
And the mystery woman who owned all of this loveliness and decided to stay safe in Provence is: The granddaughter of Marthe de Florian painted above by Boldoni in 1898 when she was 24.  The starting price for the painting was 300,000 euros and it sold for over 2,000,000.  This article says that Miss de Florian lived in the apartment all of her life and that beribboned letters from fervent admirers were found...

Now, who was the granddaughter and why oh why was she so neglectful? Did she not know about it, or did the decades of dust in the apartment hide some sordid details?

Woudn't this make a great novel or movie? If I were a gifted writer, I would fly to Paris right now and research the story.  Then I would leisurely write it in Provence as a retirement project.

What do you think of that?

Bon weekend!

Stella