Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Le Cigale Récamier

My first group of friends coming from the states for a visit arrived yesterday which was actually a reunion of sorts. Sisters who babysat for my newborn twins (who are now 24) way back when are here for a few days with their mom. We hadn't seen each other for at least 15 years. I met them in the lobby of their hotel, Le Lutetia, and for the next few hours became total boss of them.

The first day of a trip overseas (at least for me) is so disorienting. You have sort of been up for 24 hours and land at 8:00am which is the middle of the night as far as your body is concerned. I always feel slightly hung-over when I arrive (which occasionally happens in my world) but usually not on a transatlantic flight. All the travel leaves me shaky and dehydrated and head-achey like too many cocktails can do....just not as much fun. I check into my apartment, sleep for no more than two hours, shower, head out the door and promise myself I will not fall asleep before 10pm.

Those were the orders I gave my friends and they were most obedient. We met in the lobby at 2:00 and I took them for their first meal in Paris which I hope was memorable as it was quintessentially French.

Le Cigale Récamier, located just around the corner from where they were staying in the 6th is a restaurant that has been around for about 30 years and is not anywhere a tourist would necessarily rush to go which makes it perfect. It is filled with locals who "do" lunch in this fashionable part of town. The menu is simple....small salad and a few selections for starters and then the most delicious souffles for lunch. Savory things filled with seafood, cavier d'aubergines or spinach. A bottle of house wine that was delicious and while we passed on dessert, all the ones that went by.....the French don't pass on dessert too often, were little works of art on a plate.

Be sure to bookmark Le Récamier to experience authentic Parisian dining.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Eres Phenomenon and P.S.

Last Friday, a friend of mine and I found ourselves in Eres, a lingerie and swimwear company that has few equals. Or, as I quickly discovered, few here in Paris. They had just marked down their 2010 swimwear collection and the line to get into the shop wound itself around the block. Two guards let 4 or 5 women in at a time and there were no complaints as to how long the process was taking. I now understand why.

These bathing suits are beautiful, simple and well made. Each season, they bring out similar styles in new colors or new styles in similar colors so that you can mix and match tops and bottoms. The price tags for these teeny weeny pieces of fabric are about 180 euro/each. That's 180 for the top and 180 for the bottom. Rules are, you have to buy one of each. So on a non-soldes day, you're dropping a big chunk of change for a little something. Friday, everything was 40% off which still....I was not in the market for a swimsuit but my friend was. With the crowds and grabbing and clutching of sizes and styles I opted to wait downstairs by the cash register which was quite the education in the psyche of the French woman.

Every single size, shape, age, and socioeconomic group was represented. Women carrying Hermés handbags at $10,000 a shot and women with boho fabric bags walked in. Large sized, small sized, women in their 70's and 14 year old girls with their mom's walked through the doors and headed upstairs. And guess what? Not one of them left without a swimsuit. NOT A ONE. And they were dropping no less than $200 each. One young girl looked as though she might work an administrative job in the states, her outfit simple...maybe a few things from H&M took home a bright turquoise two piece. The woman checking out after her spent 1800 euros....four suits and a sarong. She was treating herself and her daughters to new suits. The 14 year old girl was getting an explanation from mom about why you spend 60 euro for a pair of lavender colored panties. Crazy.

There was this part of me that in the moment felt very tiny, as though this was something I needed to see. I'm not one that needs to spend that kind of money on myself and I don't think it really is about the money. It felt as though it was about valuing quality over quantity and passing that idea down from generation to generation. Nurturing the value of self. The value of womanhood. You don't need a $200 bathing suit to feel good about yourself, I get that. There are some days though when it helps. It can make one sort of go....ahhh, this is nice and I deserve this!! No matter what the item is. Making those kinds of decisions where small luxuries are a part of one's daily life is what goes on here. If that is superficial then, I guess, sign me up.

Occasionally, it's all about the....ahhh.

P.S. The hair vitamins = amazing.

photo credit:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

bon we

They think and says things like this in these gotta love it!
bon we.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Crazy Hair, Bad Chi and Comprimés

Ok, so my hair has been falling out at an alarming rate. I can't really pinpoint the culprit....could be stress, the bad color job I got about a month ago that fried what little hair I do have on my head, the incredibly crappy water that comes out of the faucets here in Paris leaving a residue on hair and skin that requires tons of products to make you feel like you actually belong in your skin, hot weather....who knows. All I know is that yesterday was my day of figuring out what to do about it.

Do you ever have moments when you are searching for an answer to a dilemma and all of a sudden a possible solution makes itself known to you? A little gift from the universe? That's what got me started on my quest. After no sleep worrying about my hair or lack of, I picked up my copy of Madame Figaro to read while having breakfast and there in front of me was a suggestion of a solution. I stumbled on an article written about a guy who has set up a salon here in Paris that works to fight "chute de cheveux" .....that would be hair falling out as opposed to what I went with to describe my predicament....mes cheveux sont tombés. No wonder the girl at the salon didn't get me! Thank God I enjoy a good laugh even at my own expense as much as the next person.

Anyway, for 155 euros, you get a private one on one consultation with this man as to what exactly is wrong with your inner vibrations that are causing your hair to fall out, he'll adjust said vibrations and then cut your hair according to what those vibrations are telling him to do with it. No more bringing in a picture of some cute haircut you found and saying I'd like to look like this. Oh, no you don't. Not if your vibrations don't want you to!

Once I had the information both explained to me and in a brochure, I observed what was happening in the salon. You'd think something like this would be at the end of some long alley with beaded curtains, plastic plants and less than health department cleanliness. But no. It's right next to Le Meurice in the incredible high rent district of the 1st and a rather pleasant space. One of the things, among many, that suggested this might not be for me was that none of the stylists looked as though their vibrations were any better than mine. It didn't appear to me that they had undergone the private hour and a half vibration adjustment with their boss. In my world, if you're gonna cut my hair, you should have well done hair. If you're gonna straighten my teeth, you better have straight teeth yourself. It's the rules.

Slightly disappointed, I headed home. At my métro stop, I decided to go into my neighborhood pharmacy to see if maybe they had some vitamins I could try. Perhaps I'm missing some vital mineral and need to replenish. Talk about pill overload. I discovered a couple of things. There are pills here that deal exactly with "anti-chute", little green things that you take for three months to stimulate one's "micro-circulation". Is that anything like vibration? Hmm? Then they have regular vitamins that you dissolve in water creating an orange fizzy drink that will "enhance one's physical and intellectual capacities". I liked the sound of that.

Guess what? As I write this I am watching my glass of water become fizzy and orange and am going to throw it and a little green anti-chute de cheveux pill back together hopeful my good vibrations get it going on today. I'll keep your posted.

photo credit: whodesignedit

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Visions of Chaumet, Boucheron, Van Cleef and Arpels Dancing in Her Head

What girl at least once in her life dreams about being lavished in beautiful jewelry fit for a princess. Most of us are stuck with the dream....a tiny handful actually get to own "out-of-this- world" designs fit for royalty or those with fat wallets.

Next time you find yourself in Paris, dream your own little dream and head to Place Vendome, a circular "square" if you will home to the column Vendôme erected by Napoleon, world class hotels like the Ritz, Park Hyatt Vendôme and Bristol in addition to a line-up of jewelry stores whose vitrines and vaults need security 24/7. A heady "defile" with the likes of Boucheron, Chaumet, Tiffany and Cartier to name a few, can keep one entertained for hours. Entertained?

You know, the window game. Pick only one thing out of each display window that you would take home with you and why. My daughters and I played this game years ago when catalogs from American Girl or the Disney store would arrive in the mailbox. It was something to do during those bewitching hours between getting home from school and me getting dinner on the table. Now that they are all grown up, our game has gotten a tiny bit more expensive and we've become fairly philosophical regarding our selections.

Funny thing. I was walking through Place Vendôme a few weeks ago with a friend from here and the first thing she said was, "Let's play the window game." I was shocked thinking my daughters and I pretty much had that game locked up to ourselves but not so much. About 40 minutes later we headed into the Ritz which was our actual destination and....we'll that's another story. Talk about the window game. A hallway the length of the hotel lined with glass cases filled with jewelry, shoes, handbags and everything in between. Gratefully, it dumps you off at Hemingway's Bar (Ernest's place) where you can set down all your bags and relax with a glass of champagne that is served with a white rose. Talk about princess!!

Follow the link and read an article from IHT about the latest designs that were unveiled here in Paris during Fashion Week in early'll get the idea.

photo credit: betterphoto

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Maille oh Maille

I would consider myself an above average cook. Many are the times I have thrown together dinner parties similar to this photo and was able to pull it off well enough so that my friends always took me up on subsequent invitations. The food, wine selections/beers in the cooler and assembled guests made for some wonderful evenings. Generally, I would decide to do something like this at about ten in the morning on a Saturday and people would start arriving at my door by dinner time. Simple recipes with great ingredients were the key to pulling things together that quickly. Today, I discovered some new "key ingredients" that would have made my recipes so much better.

I am an absolute fan of Maille mustard. Maille has been around since 1757 here in Paris which would take it all the way back to pre-revolutionary times. Their shop at Madeleine is a resident and tourist hot spot with all sorts of goodies to take home whether it be in a shopping cart or suitcase. Their mustard is like nothing else....I have been known to take a spoon and eat it right out of the jar. It took me a few tries to get the right amount as it has a kick to it that probably damaged some brain cells but there was that whole pleasure/pain thing going on that made it worth it. Plus, the creaminess.

Yesterday, I came home with their new flavors for summer. Six little sample size jars of ways to enjoy Maille in dips, dressings and recipes that need to be in everyone's cupboard. Parmesan and Basil, Dried Apricot and Curry, Sun-dried Tomato and Pimento, Pesto and Arugula and my personal favorite, Fig and Coriander. I ask you, what is not to love about these flavors? There was even a Lavender and Fennel combo not included in the sampler that I have to go back and get once these get used up. The possibilities are endless.

Here's a start:

Simple French Vinaigrette

2 Tbsp red wine vineger
6 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp Maille mustard

dissolve salt to taste in red wine vinegar.
add mustard
add olive oil
add pepper to taste

It comes out perfect every time!

photo credit: youaremyfav

Derniere Démarque

Yesterday, I thought I'd make my way to Galaries Lafayette, the grand dame of department stores here in Paris. Think Marshall Field's on State street in Chicago...a big, beautiful old building stretching not one, but two city blocks that is overwhelming on a regular shopping day. Add the fact that it was "derniere démarque" or last markdowns on the bi-annual soldes or sales taking place here and complete bedlam ensued. Tired, hot tourists whose eyes glazed over several hours earlier while they were in the Louvre with all the art overload where now on sale overload. Husbands and children were falling limp from not wanting to do one more thing other than sit. Women fighting, fighting over a Fendi dress on sale as to who grabbed it was a great deal but the fighting!?!

I started out with high hopes experiencing little excited bubbles going on inside thinking the ultimate purchase was waiting for me.....

And then I came across the cat fighting and scratching and people going into mini tantrums from over-exhaustion of just being in Paris on a hot day and my happy bubbles became a little bit bubblier....

until I finally reached the shoe department on the lower level that can be heaven but yesterday was hell and well, the bubbles started moving at a frenetic pace....

which prompted me and a friend to reconsider what exactly our happy bubbles should look like and we came up with this....

The champagne bar, for those of you interested is on the 1st floor (second for us Americans). Everyone there had found their perfectly paced happy bubbles once again!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dimanche in the Park

Sundays in Paris can be difficult. Difficult for us North Americans who are use to constant activity. Malls and stores open all weekend offer no rest for the weary in the states. We can grocery shop at 11:00pm if we want filling our restless souls that really don't want rest with mindless busy-ness. We really never have to be present with ourselves or others.

Here in Paris....France....all of Europe for that matter, Sunday is still a holdout to a time gone by. Nothing is open....or very little. It is certainly a day of rest and enjoyment whatever that means. A beautiful sunny day like we experienced yesterday brings people out by the hundreds. Strollers, scooters, soccer balls and jump ropes were all part of the baggage being hauled to parks throughout the city along with picnic baskets filled with the obligatory wine, baguettes, cheese and ashtrays (several smokers had them on their blanket as opposed to flicking their cigarettes into the grass...nice touch). Bathing suits were under everyone's clothes and once people were comfortably stripped down to nothing, eating, drinking, kissing, reading, debate, sun-tanning, sleeping and smoking got under way. For hours. No agenda other than to relax. With absolutely no guilt about all the "non-doing" going on.

It was glorious. And freeing.

photo credit:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

bon we

Inspiring words and pretty flowers to wish you all a bon we (good weekend).....this is my landlady's weekly sign-off in her emails as she tells me what's happening in the neighborhood, gently corrects my bad French and let's me know that as hot as it is in the apartment now, it will be that cold in the winter. Hmm....

Friday, July 16, 2010


I know, cupcakes have been around forever and in the states have seen a resurgence of late not equal but close to gourmet cookies. In Chicago, we had a few places that were cranking out flavors from red velvet (my personal favorite) to a chipotle chili and chocolate combo! Weird, but not as offensive as you might think.

Cupcakes, in general, are way too sweet for the French. All that buttercream icing is just too much. Desserts reign supreme in France, don't misunderstand, but they, like everything else here are subtle and delicate....leaving one perfectly satisfied and looking forward to one's next encounter :)

Lately, however, I am seeing more and more signs of these little goodies establishing themselves on French shores. This past July 4th (a regular day here) I participated in Cupcake Camp Paris , a wildly successful event that had professional and amateur bakers alike showing off their ways with batter and buttercream. My friend, Kim at Parisian Events and Parisian Party was a sponsor and asked me to help promote her beautiful wedding/event planning skills which I was only too glad to do. We tried at least a dozen entries between the two of us....some we had to spit out immediately while others (a pistachio creation) were divine. The event was a curious mix of expats looking for something to do on the fourth of July and the French trying to figure out what the fuss was all about over these sweet treats.

Not to be outdone, world famous Ladurée has gotten into the act. They are now serving their own versions of what cupcakes should''ll notice just a touch of icing on top! Delicately done in pastel colors and wrapped in beautiful papers they are a limited, summertime treat worthy of the expense. If you're in Paris, and you don't head to Ladurée, you really haven't been to Paris.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

French Women's Wiley Ways

You will learn, at least if you choose to read the article I am going to direct you to in a moment, that French women are all about secrets....secrets about beauty, fashion and a few other things possibly floating around in their lives. They take their personal regimes on diet, skin care and love to their grave. A few words of wisdom may be shared with their off-spring and off-spring of off-spring but that's as far as it goes. Many times, friends, life-long friends are left in the dark. Unlike us Americans....get a group of good friends together, open a bottle of wine and well, sometimes we find out more than we care to know!

Or is that really the case? I read the article on IHT first thing this morning before I headed out for my day. My day was all about catching up with the "soldes" or sales that go on here in Paris during the month of July. I hadn't taken part yet and was curious to see if anything was left. To my surprise, there were still many good deals to be had. Like the purchase that was food for this post.

Shoes are my weakness. Show me a great pair of shoes, full price or on sale and I'll live on lettuce and crackers for awhile to balance things out. Today was no exception only it was "soldes". Guilt was on a tiny holiday. I found a pair of shoes that were perfect with what I was wearing, felt like slippers on my feet and pretty much had to come home with me. I liked them so much that I put my well worn sandals I was wearing in the box leaving the store fully aware that band-aids would be in my future. Didn't matter.

About 40 minutes later in another shop, a beautifully dressed woman gently touched my arm, leaned way into my personal space (which is very weird here) and in a barely audible, indoor voice that was speaking rapid fire French asked me where I got my shoes as they were "fabulous". My brain at that moment was a tiny bit overwhelmed taking in numerous things that needed to be processed....rapid fire French, where was I going to find a quiet indoor voice to respond as that isn't something I possess, do I tell her where I really got the shoes and was floored by the fact that a French woman was asking another woman (who she mistook for French) where she got something. It was too much! Slowly, I found what I felt was a conspiratorial whisper and told her I got them at Bata just down the street. Bata is the equivalent of Payless in the states. The look on her face was priceless. Was it shock, horror, disbelief? Hard to tell. She broke out in a huge smile and told me that just made them even more fabulous.

I walked away feeling totally complimented. The best part was knowing I had just pulled a very heavy curtain aside to get a look into the complicated, wiley ways of a French woman. It felt good.

See for yourself what I'm talking about.

Photo credit:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Let's Eat

French food is long overdue for a renaissance.....contrary to popular belief, their food has become mired in tradition that has been stubbornly adhered to while the rest of the world has taken gastronomy to incredible heights. It has been left behind to it's tried and true and tired ways. Slowly, they are catching on without actually admitting to change and brave foodie revolutionaries are working hard to introduce both fellow countrymen and tourists alike to those chefs/restaurants that are choosing to breath new life into cuisine here in Paris and throughout France.

Here are a few links that speak to the culinary overhaul that is long overdue:

Photo credit:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Follow Your Heart

I put this blog aside quite awhile ago for a number of reasons. This past year or so has brought really monumental changes to my world....both good and not so much. As a result of all the tumult going on for my family I would have to say that we each have landed, somehow, in a place that is just right for us. All five of us, my husband and three daughters have experienced a "follow your heart" transformation and as a result we are living in five different cities in soon to be four different countries. Trust me, as confusing as that is to read, it is far more confusing to be living it! The photo of Paris is significant as it is here where I currently fall asleep and wake up each day. I listened to what my heart was telling me to do and voilà!

Well, not exactly voilà. Following that tiny voice in one's head (or rather loud one in my case) leading a person to act on their inner most dreams or desires you would think would be easy. The decision to actually do what you want, the saying of the words to the people you love most and the following through on plans can take you from the highest highs to the lowest lows all in the same day. Moments of fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. Feeling reckless with one's life occasionally comes from behind and grabs me in the middle of the Tuileries as I am surrounded by the splendor that I love about this city and stops me in my tracks. My heart races and I think what am I doing? And then, I calm down and I realize...yes, I am in Paris. I can't be surrounded daily by the people that I love but I can wake up in a city that makes me feel alive and full and on a daily basis through email or skype or text or phone call, I share that excited, vibrant person that I become when I am here. I hear my family members own excitement about their individual lives and while we still feel uncomfortable, unsure and unclear about what is happening for us we are certain of one thing....we are a family that is continually "becoming" the family we are meant to be.