Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The lady doth protest too much, methinks?

Tuesday the 19th of October. The girls school had been canceled (again) because of a student strike (blocus) in support of the workers strike (grève) about raising the minimum retirement age from 59.4 to 62. The actual average retirement age in France is higher than this because you have to have worked a certain number of years to be entitled to "full retirement" and the Sarkozy government is proposing to raise the national retirement age overall. Like all countries experiencing a growing aging population (social security recipients now living to 85 instead of 65,) France is trying to figure out how to pay for those additional 20 years, when they are already presently in debt.

Anyway, this is the not the story I want to tell. The story I want to tell is this: I opened my window to a big commotion outside, police helicopters circling above our apartment building, people yelling, in flight. I grabbed my flip video to record the sudden chaos in my normally calm bourgeois neighborhood. A group of teenagers started running down rue Victor Hugo. I had no idea what I was filming, who these people were, why they were running, so I just filmed. Seconds later, riot police followed, police cars ensued. Here's what I filmed.

Later that evening, after posting my video on Youtube, I googled the day's events and found another video, filmed simultaneously to mine (or a few minutes before) from 5 blocks away and a different vantage point.

One hour after posting my video, I began receiving hate mail on my Youtube page, I mean venomous comments directed personally at me. I was shocked. The rage that was expressed in these comments frightened me. Now I am not that shielded or naive, and I suppose after owning a store and being in the public eye for many years I should be a bit more thick-skinned, but as these comments rolled in, I was really upset. There was also frightening racist hate mail being exchanged between the viewers, people that I consider to be extreme on both sides. Is this my beloved France, I wondered? I decided to write a defense and address my critics and both extremes:

"I do realize that these are not the "strikers," that they are just young, angry kids. I am actually sympathetic to their situation, just not supportive of how they show their frustration. For those of you who are anti-American, anti-Maghreb, anti-immigrant or anti-children of immigrants, expand your horizons and get to know the people behind the stereotypes. Ignorance has always been the biggest threat to mankind. Compassion + kindness is what we all need to get through these times."

More hate mail, more comments about how stupid I am and how I should just go home to the states. Nice. Scary.

The week unfolded: more violence, hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to innocent store and car owners, bystanders pushed to the ground and trampled, helicopters circling overhead, CRS police with machine guns patrolling the streets. It was surreal, like a scene from a movie, dramatic. And the crescendo was Friday night, when hundreds of "extreme right" youths descended into the streets, all dressed in black, covered with black masks, to confront the young disenfranchised looters (casseurs,) filmed in the video. They chanted la Marseillaise, France's national anthem and were then loaded into buses by the armed CRS. It all seemed so ironic, this random extreme patriotism mixed with random violence and hatred. It made me think of this prewar scene in Casablanca. Yikes. I am worried for mankind.

English Designer Alex MacArthur

I stumbled upon the site of Alex Mac Arthur, thanks to my adorable friend Yves, commercial director at Couleur Chanvre and fabulously talented stylist and creative person. MacArthur's style reminds me a lot of the style of Objet de Curiosité and infact of my own style a bit. Super eclectic and in a state of permanent flux.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday Night

After a very long week that I will tell you about tomorrow, we were relaxing at home in our safe little apartment when this song came on. It's so infectious, we had to dance! Yolanda Be Cool and Dcup from New South Wales, Australia

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dream Dresser: Before + After

So for three years now, I have been looking for the perfect dresser, and it has proved to be a very difficult task. Once, about 2 years ago at the Puces du Canal in Lyon, I spotted my dresser. It was already sold and I wanted to cry. I guess I had given up hope and was resigned to buying something modern and incredibly expensive. My budget was $150.

But no, amazingly enough after 3 years, my dream dresser found me. Unsuspecting, shyly, it presented itself in this quirky depot vente (second hand store) and was delivered today. Only 99 Euros, a little elbow grease, a roll of paper towels and beeswax wipes! And, yay!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sweet Sixteen a la Francaise

Yesterday was Hallie's 16th birthday and of course I am just floored that someone as young as I has a 16 year old. I never imagined having teenagers. I definitely thought a lot about having babies, and toddlers crossed my mind, but in my early maternal fantasies, I never pictured me with adolescent children. I can tell you though, it is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me, having my girls. Better than any fantasy of my youth. And Hallie at 16 is just divine!

My Idea of Beautiful

Lovely and natural. I think this photo from the Sartorialist is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Go Brooklyn and the National!

I saw these guys in concert  this year and they were absolutely amazing. They were playing back up to Vampire Weekend at Fourviere, a Roman Amphitheater. Anyway, I kind of forgot about them until I reheard this song this week. I listened to it about 20 times in a row at the gym and I'm not sick of it yet.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rubens-esque Industrial Design!

I am wondering if it is me or if all kitchen products worldwide are as curvaceous as French products. I was just minding my own business, washing my little French dishes with Mir peaux sensibles aloe vera dish soap, using my super flash sponge and smelling my intoxicating Roi Soleil Cire Trudon candle when it dawned on me that all the products I use in the kitchen have a voluptuous form. Now I ask you, is this me or is this very clever, subliminal industrial design/marketing on behalf of the French? Are the industrial designers here secretly all rebellious feminists, trying to get men to spend more time in the kitchen or make those of us who do feel at home? At least this is one place where you don't have to be 6' 2" and 110 lbs. Any thoughts?

Thursday, October 07, 2010


I have to add another thing to my list of things I am obsessed with: typography and graphic design. And while I don't agree with the idea that everyone is a designer in terms of graphic design, I do agree that we are all good at something and designing our own lives, is a good idea. Design is "a good idea."

Anyhow, stumbling across Print Magazine's online blog, once again, I am filled with ideas about making pretty things, designing clever postcards for the "Gifted" sale at Brooklyn Flea this December, tees or stationery for BF. I just want to make things. Pretty things.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Princess Climbs the Stairs

We rent a small apartment (by American standards) in one of the best neighborhoods in Lyon. It's sunny, on the top and 5th floor of an elevator building, very central and very quiet. We have two bedrooms, a small office, a combination livingroom/diningroom, a small bathroom and one very small, very ugly kitchen. I feel very safe in this apartment. It is easy to clean, I have a decent landlord and a handyman named Omar who fixes things when they break.

Recently however, a beautiful huge apartment became available on the second floor of my building (which I love by the way.) I started having fantasies about moving into this grand, palatial space, each room with a marble fireplace, original details, hidden built-in closets. The girls started dreaming about having their own rooms (Hallie's pictured above), their own huge bathroom, a grand salon to entertain their teenage friends in grand style. It is a corner apartment with a view on a square, 15 foot ceilings and the most beautiful light you have every seen at any time of day. In Lyon, the lower your floor, the higher your social class because when this building was built in the 1900s, for example, there was no elevator as there is now. The wealthy and aristocratic only walked up two flights of stairs to their grand apartments with fabulously high ceilings, while the servant class (who lived in our apartment) walked up five to their low ceiling-ed apartments. The height of the ceilings also diminishes as you ascend in floors, and descend in social class.

Anyway, so I was having a moment there, dreaming of grandeur. I took great pains to write a perfect French letter to the management company (la régie) expressing my desire to be the first in line for this potentially coveted apartment. Long, long long story short: La régie was absolutely impossible and rude and while they were very interested in my proposal to renovate the apartment in exchange for really cheap rent, they took 6 months to move forward with the project, and barely returned my phone calls and emails.

I had a change of heart, while Bob and Barb were here. We talked a lot about all the responsibilities I already have—a demanding business, two thriving adolescents, two aging dogs, a big, old house in les monts du lyonnais, family and friends all over the planet that I try to keep up with. I am a bit maxed out quite frankly. And while the fantasy princess me wanted to project myself into this life, the actual practical me kept thinking "No, no, this is too much. You are going to be exhausted. It's going to cost a fortune. It's too hard to clean." One day of utter despair and self-doubt, where I cried hysterically for almost 4 hours just thinking about all that I had on my plate, I finally made the decision not to pursue the apartment. It was so obvious a decision and I have felt elated every since, free as bird, no regrets, more in love and appreciative of my little working class apartment (haha) than ever before.

Now here's the challenge: how to transform our present apartment into the perfect place for at least the next two years on a budget of less than $1,000? Stay tuned for the before and afters.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Big Concept for Small People

images courtesy of www.smallable.com

I am absolutely in love with the online concept store "Smallable" for kids which regroups wonderful products from all over the world. A great resource for those with little folks and for others who just need inspiration!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Germain in the Berkshires

I inadvertently stumbled across the website of Germain and then discovered that Elena Letteron's French-inspired-modern boutique is actually in Great Barrington, MA. For all of you upstaters and city folk thinking about planning a foliage weekend upstate, looks like crossing the border is definitely worth doing!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Flea Market in Chazelles-sur-Lyon

Chazelles-sur Lyon is the felt hat capital of France with the most amazing hat-making museum, le musée du chapeau and it is a lovely medium-sized town about 30 minutes from my house in the country. Addicted yard-saler that I am, I couldn't resist going to Chazelle's annual "vide grenier" (empty attic) with Barb and Bob and visiting my great friend, the most talented painter, Isabelle Grange. We found lots of treasures for Basic French. Yay!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Friday, October 01, 2010

French Farmer Chic

Saturday morning in the country and I am not joking, they really look like this the little country farmers, in their worker blues (kind of like the equivalent to Carhartt.) with berets and baguettes. They are incredibly costaud (strong) and macho but they are also incredibly short in general. They may have spent all their lives milking cows, but they certainly didn't drink the milk themselves!