vintage picture of women pulling luggage cartThe French expression gagnant-gagnant (gan-yahn gan-yahn) means “win-win.” A big gagnant-gagnant for me is being paid to be in Paris during the summer sales! As I’ve mentioned, this year my gagnant-gagnant will be being paid to explore a new part of the world, which is then just a short hop to Paris – still in time for the summer sales. I don’t want to buy much, just a few pieces to fill in a some gaps in my wardrobe. Quality over quantity is a very French way to dress.

packing1I have developed an odd way of packing that makes room in my suitcase for my purchases. For years, I have taken gently-worn clothing to a thrift shop. I’ve learned, however, that about half of what I, or anyone else donates, ends up in a landfill or ground up for products such as insulation or carpet pads. Americans now buy five-times more clothing than they used to. Charitable organizations receive more clothing donations than they can possibly use. They keep only the very best, and discard the rest. Donations were a way of making me feel good, but they didn’t really accomplish much in terms of helping others.

packing3Now, if clothing is from a high-end label and like new, I sell it on eBay. If it’s less than perfect, I set it aside for my trips and leave it behind when I’m returning. It’s a gagnant-gagnant situation. I come back with luggage that’s lighter than when I left, I pass on what is still good to others who can use it, and the rest is disposed of as responsibly as I can.

41wHI7TgeGL._SL75_Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Inès de la Fressange

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Même pas en rêve

imageMême pas en rêve (mem pah ehn rev) means “not even in dreams,” we’d say “not in your wildest dreams” or “not a chance.” We often look back on the last twenty years of our lives and shake our heads in wonder. We moved from a small town in Ontario to southern New Jersey. I finished law school twice – once in Canada and once in the States – and practiced for eight years before switching gears and careers to teaching French. As a family, we traveled to France, Germany, England and Italy several times where we saw such beautiful places. I got a summer job in Paris that allowed me to spend six weeks a year in my favorite city. I got a Master’s Degree in teaching French.

imageThen we moved to Massachusetts when I found a new school to teach at. Our new home is surrounded by such beauty. I can walk to work in good weather, and my route takes me through the woods next to a beautiful reservoir. Now my summer job is taking me to St. Andrews, Scotland. We couldn’t have planned all of the twists and turns of our lives, meme pas en rêve, but it has been a fun ride. What did you not see coming?

51Q6g-vcIUL._SL75_My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine

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cqfdA couple of weeks ago, a lovely reader, Eugénie Street, commented on a post on the blog. She included the abbreviation CQFD, which stands for “ce qu’il faut démontrer” (suh keel foe day-mon-tray), which is the equivalent to the Latin phrase QED (quod erat demonstrandum) in math proofs (not that I ever did many of those). It literally means “that which must be demonstrated.” These days, CQFD has been transformed to apply to businesses, musicians, TV shows, and various interest groups by making one or more of the letters stand for something else, as seen in the images on this post.

cqfd_louvetlogo_cqfdThe French LOVE abbreviations, known as sigles (see-gluh). They abbreviate people’s names (PPDA was a celebrity newscaster), the train system (SNCF), political parties (UMP), you name it. It can be quite confusing! Thank goodness for Google. Before it existed, it was a lot tougher to figure out what an abbreviation meant.  Thirty years ago, my husband and I puzzled endlessly over the English abbreviation SRO that we heard in a song. You probably know that it means “standing room only.” Ironically, this expression doesn’t seem to have a sigle in French – it’s salle comble. The intricacies of language are such fun. More fun than math any day. IMHO (in my humble opinion).

51y+BEQtqFL._SL75_The French Mathematician

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L’essor des boissons exotiques au XVIIIe siècle

couverture_the_cafe_chocolat_2015Raise your hand if you had a cup of coffee today. How about a cup of tea? Or does your taste run to something a little sweeter like a nice rich hot chocolate? If Thé, Café ou Chocolat are an important part of your day, then you might enjoy the exhibit at the musée Cognacq Jay that opens on May 26, 2015 and runs until September 27. The exhibit is entitled L’essor des boissons exotiques au XVIIIe siècle (less-or day bwah-sohn zex-oh-teek owe deeze-wheat-ee-m sea-ek-luh), which means “The rise of exotic beverages in the 18th century.”

France-Penthievre-famille-penthievre-JB-charpentier-820x300Introduced into Europe for their therapeutic and medical properties, tea, coffee, and chocolate were also the center of social life in polite society. Because they were imported from outside of Europe, the cost of the beverages was commensurately high. They were goods of luxury and status, as were the goods needed to prepare and serve them. And they weren’t only consumed at home; they gave birth to European café society where women were allowed to socialize in public. They gave rise to new traditions, like breakfast and tea-time.

Thé-café-ou-chocolat-L’essor-des-boissons-exotiques-à-Paris-au-XVIIIe-siècle-400x230 (1)The exhibit has three themes: The Virtues and Dangers of Exotic Beverages; Circles of Consumption; and New Services. Works by Boucher and Chardin showing people enjoying their chic beverages illustrate lifestyle created by these exotic beverages. Just writing about this has made me want to go make a nice cup of something hot.

519YXTZXK3L._SL75_The Paris Café Cookbook: Rendezvous and Recipes from the 50 Best Restaurants

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l-exposition-jeanne-lanvin-au-palais-gallieraI think that designer Jeanne Lanvin is often overlooked compared to such contemporaries as Christian Dior and Coco Chanel. The first Paris exhibit at the Palais Galliera musée de la mode that is on until August 23, 2015 will go a long way to rectifying this oversight. Over 100 models from the oldest couture house in Paris that is still in business will show what the designer achieved.

CAVALLINILike Chanel, Lanvin started her career as a milliner. Inspired by her own daughter, Marguerite, she then expanded into children’s wear and clothing for young women before launching into haute couture. The Lanvin realm continued to expand into bridal wear, lingerie, furs, interior décor, sportswear, and men’s wear. The entrepreneur then expanded into markets other than Paris, including resort towns both within France and as far away as Buenos-Aires.

11Lanvin became known for her use of her favorite intense blue, as inspired by 14th century fresco painter Fra Angelico. Her famous perfume, Arpège, was a gift for Marguerite’s thirtieth birthday. The highly personal logo features Lanvin and her daughter. Beading, embroidery, and cutouts all characterized her meticulous craftsmanship.

LanvinIn 2002, former president George W. Bush famously said, “The problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.” Of course, the snicker went around the world, because the French word has roots back to the 16th century. It comes from entreprendre (ohn-truh-pren-druh), to undertake. If Lanvin doesn’t represent entrepreneurship, I don’t know who does!


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Napoléon avait 500 soldats

Carnavalet_-_Napoléon_by_Lefevre_01Our apartment for our Paris sojourn is going to be in the Marais, one of my favorite neighborhoods. And in that neighborhood is the always interesting musée Carnavalet. Until August 8, they are hosting the exhibit Napoléon et Paris. The exhibit aims to show the relationship between the Emperor and the French capital. Paris was also the capital of Napoleon’s vast empire and he lived at the heart of it, in the palais de Tuileries – destroyed during the Commune of 1830. Napoleon dreamed of a modern city of monuments and broad avenues. He started several projects that became the foundation of the sweeping transformation wrought by his nephew Napoleon III. Imagine Paris without the rue de Rivoli or his statue atop the column in the center of the Place Vendôme. Thousands still flock to see his tomb at Les Invalides 200 years after his defeat at Waterloo. The Corsican General’s step is still resounds in Paris.

7334157-11286904In Grade 5, I learned the song Napoléon avait 500 soldats (nap-o-lay-ohn av-eh sank sohn sol-dah), or “Napoleon had 500 soldiers.” It’s a simple tune where you drop one syllable off the end of a line each time you sing a verse. Once you get it in your head, you can’t get it out. The Corsican General’s step still resounds in my memory.

41oLjZYPpNL._SL75_Walks through Napoleon and Josephine’s Paris

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Une maison témoin

LES TEMOINSI stumbled across a French TV series on Netflix; if you like suspenseful police thrillers, I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s entitled Les témoins (tay-mwahn), which means “Witnesses.” One of the main characters, retired detective Paul Maisonneuve, is played by Thierry Lhermitte. I’m used to seeing him in comedic roles (Le dîner de cons, Quai d’Orsay), but he’s equally adept in a dramatic role as a retired cop with secrets of his own. His sidekick (Holmes always has Watson), is the beautiful Marie Dompnier, but she’s no mere foil character in the role of brainy Sandra Winckler. The series has only six episodes and they’re subtitled in English. It’s well written and well acted. I hope you’ll enjoy it if you check it out.

LES TÉMOINSI learned a new phrase watching the show – une maison témoin (oon may-zohn tay-mwahn) means “a show house.” The crime scene is a show house in a new development – with a perfect family staged inside – not exactly good for real-estate values!

51571Tl0goL._SL75_Le Diner de Cons

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