The Joy of Becoming “Forever Chic”

August 4, 2014  |  featured, inspiration  |  No Comments

Recently I found Forever Chic, Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance by Tish Jett at my local library, and I decided to give it a try. Although the target audience is women above forty or even fifty – les femmes d’un certain âge – women of all ages will find some valuable advice that applies to their lives, like wearing sunscreen on your décolleté. I got stressed out when I read this because I haven’t been diligent about applying sunscreen on my precious décolleté, and I am glad that somebody reminded me to do so. And no less that 20 SPF, s’il vous plaît!

The book is divided into small chapters, each developing its own theme – like skin, hair, make-up, exercise, food, even accessories and clothing. Tish Jette carefully investigated each subject by gathering the opinions of many experts, jet set beauty consultants, and close friends. She is a journalist who has lived in France for 25 years, and she blogs about fashion and beauty under the title “Une femme d’un certain âge.”

If I had to choose one quote from the book to describe its essence, it would be this: “ “Every woman has her own personality. Why then, would she want to look like someone else?” Antoniotti mused. “Frenchwomen are the original versions of themselves.” ” The book really focuses on what it means to be a French woman comfortable in her own skin, how she presents and lives her uniqueness in care, beauty and style. Yes, Frenchwomen take time to pamper themselves, to dress well, and they strive to be the most natural best they can be. This is what they are known and revered for. And it all comes down to self-respect and love. Do you put some make-up on as soon as you get up? To celebrate yourself, bien sûr!

I noticed that the French women interviewed in the book haven’t caught up yet with the natural products craze we have here in the States, at least in California. American women consult dermatologists for botox shots and Restylane® fillers, but not face creams. In France it seems that dermatologists rule over skin products, and the products they recommend are big brands. Nevertheless, you have the right to make choices about what you put on your face, and you are free to bring beauty and style to your life in your own way.

I learned how to make my own scrub – gommage – by mixing almond oil and fine sea salt or sugar. I love that this is so natural and you can make it yourself. It can be applied to your face, hands, and your whole body. After gommage, we are advised to use sunscreens to avoid brown spots and aging. I had never before heard of liquid nitrogen, cryotherapy, for removing dark spots, but I guess this is the inexpensive version of the laser. According to the book, it works wonders.

Next time I am in France, I will schedule beauté des pieds. The cost is around 30 euros. The author says that it is a much more satisfying and lasting experience than a pedicure and that the French do it beautifully.

The trick about applying eyeliner is: “The comma should be applied before the eye is lined so it does not become a thick extension, but rather a light lift.” This is interesting indeed, and it works.  And I was surprised to read that dark circles under the eyes were prized during the 19th century, are considerate natural even today by make-up experts, and having them means that you lead an interesting life… So, Mesdames, don’t cover them up!

Instead of telling you all the secrets contained in the book, order your own copy and read it with amusement. I am hoping that by following the advice, you could achieve the highest score possible of becoming “Forever Chic” – in your own eyes, as Frenchwomen do!

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Zero Waste Home, interview with Béa Johnson

June 9, 2014  |  featured, people  |  No Comments

Zero Waste Home US ORIGINALZero Waste Home US ORIGINALVera Hamady: Béa Johnson, you are the author of the book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste. What inspired you to write this book?

Bea Johnson: In 2006 we were living in a large home in the suburbs and wanted to move to a downtown to be closer to amenities. We moved into an apartment for a year with only the necessities and learned that living with less allowed us to live more. We all of a sudden had more time to do the things we enjoy. When we found our ideal home (half the size of the previous one), we let go of 80% of our belongings, including those that we had stored. Then our voluntary simplicity opened time to educate ourselves on environmental issues. That’s when we decided to change our way of living for the sake of our kids’ future. We adopted green alternatives and learned how to reduce our waste to a quart size jar’s worth per year.

We found that Zero Waste is nothing that we would have expected it to be. It’s not just good for the environment. Overall it has also made us healthier, and it saves us an incredible amount of time and money! I wish more people realized the great potential of this lifestyle and embraced it. Since there was no book about waste-free living, we had to figure it out for ourselves. I felt that it was important to share my knowledge with others. I wrote the book to share all I know about the lifestyle.

VH: What does it take to adopt the Zero Waste Lifestyle?

2013 trash tallyBJ: What we do to generate only a one liter jar full of trash per year is no secret. We found that following a set of 5R’s IN ORDER was the key to eliminating waste. So, we:

1. Refuse what we do not need (for ex. single use plastics, junkmail and freebies)

2. Reduce what we do need (furnishings, clothes)

3. Reuse by buying secondhand and swapping disposables for reusables (that includes shopping with reusables such as cloth bags, jars and bottles)

4. Recycle what we cannot refuse, reduce or reuse

5. Rot (compost) the rest (fruit peels, lint, hair, floor sweepings etc).

2013 trash tallyVH: I would like to imagine a planet where we all become environmentally conscious. How can we speed up our own transformation?

BJ: The most important thing one can do to stop waste and clutter from entering one’s home is to simply say ‘no!’ Think before accepting something that is handed out to you. Turn down flyers, freebies, party favors, business cards, single use plastics (such as plastic bags), and fight junk mail. Accepting these things not only creates a demand to make more, they are a waste of resources, and once they are brought into your home, they add to the clutter and require effort to dispose of them later. Refusing is the first rule to living a Zero Waste, simple lifestyle. Give it a try — you’ll be amazed how much stuff you’ll be able to stop from coming in.

VH: How do you intend to continue inspiring people to live responsibly?

Picking up litterBJ: My work is to shatter misconceptions associated with the Zero Waste lifestyle. So I will continue blogging (and social media), giving tours of my home to organizations and schools, speaking at waste conferences (I will be speaking in France this month) and universities, etc. But the bulk of my work is to address the interest of national and international media (TV, print, radio and blogs). For example, I filmed with a Swiss crew last week, and will shoot with CNN and a French crew the next. Writing my book, Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste allowed me to nationally and internationally share everything I know about this lifestyle, but I would like to see it translated into a TV show (the visuals of Zero Waste are so attractive and convincing). I am currently pitching the idea to French and American production companies. I am also developing a crowd funding plan to raise money for my Bulk app, which needs updating to keep up with ever changing technology. I also started making art again and showing my work (I used to be an artist before putting all my creativity into finding Zero Waste alternatives for my household!), and I am collaborating with my town to offer a tool library and develop EV charging stations.

VH: Tell us how the simple life beautified your life?

BJ:  The Zero Waste lifestyle does not deprive, as one would think but improves one’s quality of life. Life becomes less focused on having and rather on being. What I love most about the lifestyle is the simple life and how closer it has made my family. Voluntary simplicity has changed our daily routine in these ways:  It has greatly simplified our cleaning (picking up the house only takes a few minutes each day). It makes our housework and professional work much more efficient. It has allowed us to play more (simple living focuses on experiences versus stuff) and spend more time together (we always eat dinner together). It has even allowed us to travel more by being able to easily rent our house when we’re gone (our minimalist wardrobes fit in carry-ons), which then funds vacation and family getaways! Zero Waste has also brought beauty into our life — glass jars are so much prettier than disposable packaging in my pantry, for example.

Zero Waste Home’s website

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Restoration Hardware reimagines French style

Restoration Hardware reimagines French style

May 26, 2014  |  featured, inspiration  |  No Comments

Beautiful objects inspired by French style have been appearing in the Restoration Hardware collection for the last couple of years. But this year’s collection marks a reinvention, even a reimagination, by curators from around the world. Looking at the HR’s catalogues, I can’t help but wonder if French style is back in vogue, a comeback led with bravado and imagination by the company.

The catalogues are full of inspirational stories of objects and styles, of craftsmen and designers fond of antiques and notable objects. Blending old styles with a touch of modernity, the company’s curators have created timeless pieces for our admiration, use, and comfort.

If you haven’t been to a Restoration Hardware showroom lately, it is worth the trip. There is an abundance of French furniture pieces from different centuries – from armoires to chairs, French lighting, curious objects like a 19th century Horse fragment, a 20th century Glass Cloches, 19th century cartographic maps of Paris, and antique hand-pressed French botanicals. Even HR’s blank journals are inspired by 18th century “couverture muette,” or mute book of the French Revolution. And this is just a tease of the myriad of pieces found in the catalogues (which, by the way, I heard weighted 16 lbs. combined).

The picture below represents circa 1900 brass brasserie table with elegant and simple lines.  I love this table. It reminds me of Paris, of my favorite cafés, of my favorite writer Proust, and of my favorite time in the cultural history of France. This is a must-have for a Francophile.

French Brasserie table

This beautiful mid-century library is called the French library. It’s made of metal and comes in three different finishes.

French Library

If you love big maps and if you have a great wall to showcase them, you can choose from a 1739 Plan de Paris decoupage map, circa 1756 Elevation of the Louvre, or a 1672 Plan de Paris Panel Map. I think the maps are just marvelous and beautifully reproduced. In the baby showroom, I even saw a wall display – a sweet baby dress made from a Parisian map.

Baby Dress - wall display

The baby collection is exquisite and courtly. If you have a baby or a young child, HR makes you dream of Versailles and tufted luxury. Your child can sit in the Versailles chair, the Antoinette bench, or the mini ondine salon bench (below). You can choose to decorate your child’s bed with a canopy, add a French script tapestry to the wall, cover the walls with French botanicals, and add elegant scones or extravagant ornamentation. Who can feel more a king or a queen surrounded by such elegance!

French tapestry

The French script grand canvas wall tapestry.

HR’s inspiration and philosophy resounds in this sentence by John Barrymore: “A man is not old enough until regrets take the place of dreams.” Thanks to HR, we can continue dreaming in French style.

Website and showrooms: Restoration Hardware

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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