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Friday, February 27, 2015

Give it Your Best ... A French Girl Friday Post

If you can not make it to France, give it your
very best to channel your inner French girl
where you are.

Yesterday my wonderful husband treated me to a day out in Historic Sacramento. We have been there many times, but this time was to visit the Crocker Art Museum to see a Paris art exhibit. A private collection of art by Toulouse-Lautrec  among others dating between 1880 and 1910 is there currently on display. The exhibit was titled "Toulouse-Latutrec PARIS 18180-1910 LA VIE MODERNE " . It is a look at the art of the avant-garde artists who gave us a look at what was then modern Paris society. Of course I was drawn to the exhibit like a moth to the flame, and upon entering the third floor where the exhibit was housed, I could hear the strains of Edith Piaf singing, and was greeted with a large sign that let us know that we were going to get a taste of what the art of the time was and how it reflected life so long ago in Paris. 

The disappointing part that I have to let you in on now is that there was no photographs allowed once we entered the doors of the exhibit. There was a theater of sorts that was set up with costumes and a dressing room and a place to sit and watch shadow puppet shows be acted out and hubby did take a few photos of me sitting in there....

We had a lovely time of it viewing the exhibit and if it comes to a city near you, or if you live in the area, I encourage you to visit the exhibit. Moving on to the normal FGF post that I had intended to share from the wonderful book Lessons From Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott, were I am now reading Part 3, Chapter 10, "Always Use The Best Things You Have" . In this chapter Jennifer opens with a giggle worthy story of her wearing less than her best clothing items as pjs and seeing her less than best out there panties hanging above her head to dry in the hallway of Famille Chics home, and how from that point on she made it a point to treat herself to the best that she could afford in both departments. 

I must admit that if anyone was to see my pjs and or panties I would be blushing and hang my head in shame. I have basic flannel, and not even what I consider real flannel button front pjs in a leopard print, and my panties are serviceable cotton. Neither are the best that I can afford, and truthfully I do feel rather dumpy in both, but I just never seem to be able to force myself to buy such things at a higher price point. Oh I do swoon a little when like today I was in Nordstroms buying seamed stockings at the pretty pj's and scanty, lacy trimmed panties and bras, but I put them back when I realize I have whole outfits that cost as much as one pair. This year I set myself a goal, even before buying the book to buy less, but buy better. I deserve it. So little by little I am getting rid of what is not in great condition or does not make me feel pretty or fit me just right, and replacing it with higher end items. It does not means I shall spend 30.00 on a pair of frilly panties, I just can not seem to want to break the bank to do so to cover my ..... for the week. Jennifer says that she is not pushing for that at any rate, simply that you do not skimp or settle to save a dollar, but that you spend your money wisely to buy the best that you can afford. I have mentioned that I plan to have my breast implants removed, I am hoping it will be no later than this Summer, and hopefully before my birthday, and when all is healed I fully intend to buy a couple of very pretty , not Victoria Secret, bras ( not that they are that cheap) , and perhaps I will treat myself to a couple of those Nordstrom panties and fill in the rest with at least some that I do not find in a max pack on sale. 

*Getty Image

The chapter was not all about pjs and panties, Jennifer also encourages us all to use the "special china" so to say, each and every day. Now I use my Corning wear dishes each and every day, and my wine glasses are some I found while thrifting, and I will admit that my fine crystal and vintage inherited china goes mostly unused.... but my every day is also my holiday items, we rarely upgrade as it is just usually myself, my husband and two of our three daughters. I have even, and do not fall down in a dead faint, have used themed paper plates for easy clean up. Buying holiday napkins instead of the cheap white ones from the Dollar Tree is as fancy as it gets! That being said, if we had a bigger house, with more than one tiny cabinet to store dishes etc ( the others dishes are in a bin buried in the storage room) , I might be more tempted to do as she suggests. There are days I pull out the crystal wine glasses or champagne flutes to drink my wine or sparkling water out of , and I do feel quite special when I do this. I also pull out the few dessert dishes that are saved for the holidays that I do store in the house, all four of them, to serve dessert or sandwiches on. I am thinking that it might be time to upgrade the table and table settings just a bit... I wonder what I can find at the resale shop down the street.... ok, ok, remember it is baby steps, this upgrade , buy the best you can afford thing.... can not help myself, I am thrifty by nature. 

When I first started writing this blog nearly 5 years ago, we had just lost our dream home to the bank, had to sell, our furniture ,or I felt that we did ( as most of our furniture would not fit)  and all our antiques... and some were French too ... to get into an apartment and were starting from scratch. We had a mix of IKEA, Goodwill and second hand store as well as donated items to feather our new nest. I began writing the blog as a way to show people that you could live well on basically next to nothing. I would scour places like Ross, Home Goods , second hand and thrift stores in search of items that mimicked those I saw in the high end stores that I used to shop in. I changed the style here and there with basic tweaks of inexpensive accessories, sell items on craigs list to afford others, and would show how changing out pillow covers and framing a poster or painting an old dresser could really help create a look. The blog went down rabbit trails after that and I started to blog about being fashionable on a budget, daycations and even entertaining on a budget. I went through a very dark time and that is when I started sharing my more personal side of things as I took you all on little journeys through self help books, and that is when FGF was truly born and where I have come full circle 5 years later. The reason for the history lesson is to give a back story to new readers as to why I am fighting this use your best mentality. Sometimes the best for me was a silver tray , not real, from The Dollar Tree to display my perfume on, most of which was gifts. In her book, Madame Chic, Jennifer relates also about the home, furnishing it with the best that you can afford and not regulating special pieces to be like museum pieces that you never allow to be sat upon.... sit on it, daily, use those items, display them, enjoy them to the fullest, your life will seem richer. I do agree with this... but still wince when my husband puts his feet up on the couch.

3 - louis-faurer-charm-cover-august-1956

Manners. One should always use their best manners, even if at some times it seems the rest of the world has no manners at all! Be charming, you get more bees with honey as the old saying went. You see you simply must give it your best efforts to use your best in this area of life as well.  The author is dead on when she states " ...many of us use our best manners in public or when we have guests, but when we are with our immediate family members, our kindness and good manners go out the window."  Gracious, how true that is, how guilty I am of that very thing.... but then my family is a sarcastic one and love to push buttons and one must have a tough skin. I did not for a number of years and inside I am still quite soft I am afraid, but I try my best to remember I love these people and should treat them as I would like to be treated, and not just save that behavior, the good manners for strangers and guests. 

Being your best and using your best takes practice and Jennifer chats about that as well. She shares a brief story and at the end it is stated ..." always practice his best, especially when alone. And that by doing so they would not come across as phony when joined by the proverbial Joneses..." I think that is sage advice. How often when around strangers and guests do you put on airs or are on your best behavior ? That is when the best china comes out, the best food, no grilled cheese sandwiches and bagged chips here, we have our best manners, or try to, my girls teachers used to say what darlings they were, and then I would get them in the get the picture. I think if we were to follow the advice above, and channel the lessons learned from reading this chapter life would possibly be not only a little bit richer ( even if you were on a Dollar Tree budget) and nicer too. As the author puts it so well, " Celebrate every day life by using your best. Hold your possessions and your actions to the highest of standards. Doing so can make the mundane special and life so much more interesting." As you can tell I agree, I guess I just needed a little refresher course. After all that was and has always been my goal with this blog. I guess I just need to give it my best efforts to follow my advice and that of the author. 

Til Next time.....  Give it your best. xx

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Art of Femininity~ A French Girl Friday

Femininity is not all about lace, flowers, and ruffles. For a lot of women, they simply are not comfortable wearing things, but in the same turn fear that if they do not, they will come off as a tomboy like. You do not need to dress in such things or even wear a lot of make up etc to be exude femininity. The typical French woman wears very simple, classic clothing, they do not wear a lot of make up and they keep their hair very simple. It is more about an attitude, about confidence and how they carry themselves with just a few "girly" touches to complete the picture so to say. 

*vintage Dior

In reading Jennifer L. Scott's book " Lessons From Madame Chic" , I had another one of those " Uh Oh, not sure I can channel my inner French girl side of femininity" I do not have the classic French bob, though I once did, I happen to have breast implants, though I do plan to have them removed...OH did I shock you??? That is a whole other blog, but let me just say after three kids and a lot of weight put on and taken off, and it being the 90's I opted to go that route, but now wish to go au natural, but as I stated that is another blog for the future... back to this one. So, I do not have the bob, I have the fake breasts, and I also have fake nails. French women tend to find all that pas nĂ©cessaire. But the more I thought about it, I could channel my inner French girl side of femininity in other ways and already do and well who knows where my hair will be... a bob might be in my future again... the nails, well I am partial to the classic natural or red tone on my acrylic nails ( I have them by the way due to very brittle nails so it is a health thing), that I do my best to keep at a natural length and shape. 

*Jean Patchette 

So what is some of the ways that French women show their femininity ? I think the easiest way to go over the "bullet points" is to start at the end of the ninth chapter of the book, with the "Le Recap" ....

" Cultivate good posture and constantly 
check yourself until it becomes naturally to you

My Mom was always telling me to stand up straight, pushing my shoulders back etc etc. It became such a habit with her that it soon became a habit to self check myself. I now do my best when I realize that I am slouching to stand up straight and push my shoulders back. There is an upside to this, it makes me look taller, slimmer and my clothing looks better. Physically it feels better as well. 

" Explore the world of perfume and either 
choose a signature scent or a capsule perfume wardrobe.
Delight in the process, as perfume is one of the great joys 
of life. "

I love perfume and cologne . I always have. I try to wear at least a scented body spray. I do not have a signature, but my favorite Chanel No. 5, though I do love all the Chanel perfumes. I am fickle and like to wear scents that match my mood or my outfit feel, but I definitely feel feminine as I spritz on my scent for the day. I could be wearing a tank top and shorts, and be working out in the garden, but I have my daily scent on. 

" Strive to always have well groomed nails-
whether they are just buffed and filed or elaborately painted"

I love my nails. I have had acrylics most of my adult life. I have very brittle nails ( I will save you the gory details) , so they save me from a lot of pain. I have gone through my times of having them look over the top, too long, outrageous colors, designs painted on them, and currently I have a splash of glitter on them . Decidedly American, yes, but I love them and I feel very girly and get a lot of enjoyment from them. I have been sticking with classic red, a pretty pink or a nice nude shade, I keep them shorter now, and a very nice oval shape, no more "square round" for me. I am sure as I age I will finally let go of the glitter... I do desire to show a more classic side of myself as I age, and though I shall always have acrylics, having them appear more natural might be my way of channeling that inner French girl appearance. 

" Healthy hair in an attractive style does wonders
for femininity "

I have had a simple bob many times in my hair style history, but it is a lot of work to keep it up, I have very thick and wavy hair and now that it is all natural it is very coarse and wire like without using a lot of product or heat tools. I do always keep my hair styled and groomed. I am rather OCD when it comes to my hair. Right now I have a poofy layered short bob, as it is growing out from my ultra short pixie cut, it is still easy care even if I do have to wet it and style it each morning, it does not take me very long... bobs on the other hand.... If I were to let my hair do it's own thing as it gets longer it would look as if I stuck my finger in a light socket. 

I am told daily how feminine my new
longer hair makes me look, I must admit
I do feel more girly.. the pink and pearls help.

" The intangible aspects of femininity, 
like self confidence, and a sense of humor and adventure,
are the most important. Never lose sight of these things."

I can have a fragile self esteem, again that is a whole other blog post and one years ago I discussed here, but I have as I have grown older done my best to build my confidence and I know how to fake it quite nicely, most people would never guess I am not super confident. I have a sense of humor, and love to laugh, but just like how I hide the fact that I am not confident, I often hide my sense of humor and appear, come off as very serious and my family keep telling me to lighten up, I am not sure where that comes from, I guess I have two more things to work on to adopt more of the French way of showing femininity.  I have stated many times over the years of doing the French Girl series, I am proud to be an American, but I truly believe there is a lot to be learned from how the French carry themselves and their art of femininity is something to strive for, at least for myself.... how about you? 

* photos from various google searches found over several months, bullet points of the Le Recap taken from the book Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Striving to be Presentable ...A French Girl Friday Post

One should always care about their 
appearance, be presentable, but this might be a bit  non
achievable on a daily basis.
*image is French fashion models 1950's Life magazine shoot.

"I'll never be French ( no matter what I do) "  to quote from the book of same title by Mark Greenside.  No matter how much I would love to channel my inner French girl  (woman), there are some areas it just is not going to happen as much as I would like it to. Not even a little. Oh I try to draw upon the pinkie size amount of supposed French bloodline that I have, and learn from all the books I have read over the years, I have failed time and time again in the area of being/looking presentable always. It is not even a total French thing, years and years ago it was the norm that a woman ( people in general really) would get dressed upon rising in the morning. Ready to face the day with every hair in place, make up on and presentable should hey see or be seen by anyone. They did not lounge around the house in their pajamas, and they did not stroll around the streets and the grocery store in them either! Now I do not do the latter, but am often at home in my pjs all day long. Oh I do my hair, possibly even add a touch of make up, but I do not get dressed. In reading Chapter 8, in part 2 of Lessons from Madame Chic written by Jennifer L. Scott, this is a big taboo in the French culture. One must strive to look presentable always. 

I often spend all day in my PJs,
they are cute, comfortable , but I do
still feel frumpy and unpresentable.

Most of you know I have fibromyalgia. I have suffered ( not as bad as many out there, luckily for me) for most of my life if memory serves, but more so for the past 20 years. The aches and pains, the exhaustion from countless nights of disturbed sleep from all the side effects and symptoms that go with having such a thing, that once day time rolls around, if I am not going out of the house, I am in my PJs. If I have gotten dressed, by the time evening rolls around I am back in them as it is so much more comfortable for me to be in loose fitting pjs than in clothing ( such as a bra) to spend the evening. Not unusual for me to sit down for supper in them. Even when my daughters are around. It has always been a thorn in my side that I can not seem to find clothing that I can look presentable in, not frumpy, and still be comfortable. Oh I have heard all the suggestions, but unless you can go braless....anyway, even though when I go out I try to be presentable, fashionable even, if I am at home it just does not seem to happen.

I have always dreamed of
dressing like June Cleaver daily. 

Growing up I watched reruns of 50's sitcoms, Leave it to Beaver and I love Lucy were my favorites. I wanted to be June Cleaver  when I grew up, the perfect housewife, and I tried very hard, but as the fibro took hold and life situations got dicey, I slid down the slippery slope and into pjs apparently, or just comfy clothing in general. Even though I am in not one, but two how to dress style groups, and people rave about my outfits I post , that is the rare thing in my day to day life, I wish it was not true, but it is. As I read the chapter in Madame Chic, I could feel that familiar feeling of guilt and shame creeping up, and I put off writing this post for hours. I went on a very long walk, did some window shopping, popped into a fancy boutique and found myself making excuses for why I was wear sweat pants and a T shirt to the very stylish clerk who rung me up for a pair of earrings I found in the discount bin ( she was polite but ....) , and when I came home I played on Facebook, then lounged with the cat, took a shower, and crawled into my Pjs and stared at the computer screen trying to figure out how I was supposed to write about looking presentable while dressed in my over sized night gown and robe from Wal Mart?! I would much rather be able to say I was wearing a stylish casual outfit, had my Tiffanys pearls on and pretty little shoes ( if I am home, it is barefoot, socks or slippers).  I laughed out loud as I read the authors accounts of how the Chic family dressed, and how even though she has written about and tried to adopt the habit of looking presentable always that she has her days, and has been seen by others looking less so. I read with interest with how she motivates herself and her observations of others who do not seem to care how they look when out and about 
( where I live it is the norm to see men with their pants down below their bottoms, and women in clothing that leaves nothing to the imagination or should only be worn in bed) , I at least try, even when I walk to look presentable, though today was border line. 

One should always try to look nice,
first impressions are often lasting ones.

Jennifer writes about first impressions and NOT tempting yourself to be frumpy. I feel like I live a double life at all times. When out and about I try my best to look nice, even if it is a jeans and a T shirt,  or come Summer, a tank top and shorts. I fix my hair, wear my make up ( though doing the no make up make up that I chatted about from a previous chapter) , nice as I can manage walking shoes and a pair of pretty earrings finishes up the look. At home, well read above, and my closet is made up of very nice, dress up clothing and then baggy sweat pants and over sized pjs. I would like to get to the point as the author suggests , where when I open my closet or open a drawer there is nothing frumpy to wear. If I am to be in pjs, perhaps ones that are not cute but sloppy, and find every day wear ( not yoga pants LOL) that is more comfy than jeans but not to the level of sweat pants. She also covers making sure to check yourself at every angle, make sure there are no holes, stains, and that everything fits properly. There is a section of how to dress for travel, the "Saving Things for Later Mentality" and sleepwear. Of course there is a section on hair and grooming, nothing makes you look more frumpy and dumpy than hair that looks like you have not brushed it in ages, a stylish, but simplistic hair cut can help with that ( makes me miss my currently growing out pixie cut). The steps are not hard to take to look presentable always as apparently all French are known to be, but I think I am wearing shoes made of cement in this department.

Maybe baby steps of simply dressing
in pretty well fitting pjs will be
where I start towards channeling my
inner French girl. 

So I may never be French, but I can perhaps make more strides day to day, a better effort, in the department of being presentable, even while I am at home and even when I am not feeling quite as dandy as I would care to admit most days, and find inspiration from the French. I shall add that to my inner French girl bucket list.