Friday, April 13, 2012

Full Circle

Oh it has been a very busy Spring so far.
Between emptying out our house in the country, and making plans to come back to New York, college applications, financial aid forms, taxes, posting on Basic French's Facebook ( plus the everyday stuff of everyday life, I cannot even find a moment to write about what I am doing.

I think we are all so busy. Too busy somehow. And while life sure is interesting, not having time to reflect on what you have done, what you are doing and what you dream of doing is not interesting.

I took a few days off from the computer and Basic French and went to the south of France with my very good friend Yves, fabulous creative person and very fun partner in crime. We went on a road trip to check out the professional flea markets of Beziers, Avignon and Montpellier. My head was spinning I learned so much and while we were crazy busy trying to see all that there was to see, I was completely captivated. On the car ride between the different shows, we talked all about what we had seen, what we could transform into something else  (glass bottles and jelly jars into lamps, vintage fabric into pillows,) I realize that I am a life long flea marketer, a born buyer and seller. I am not a collector, really, because I am a minimalist and objects easily flow into my life and out adding their visual impression to the collage of my mind.

I have been having and going to yard sales since I was a child and I have always had the "goût de l'insolite" (taste for the unusual.) I realized, as we listened to the random stories of "la provenance" of an object, as told by its enthusiastic seller, that I am most fascinated by the stories and by each object's place and function in history. So I have been studying; studying furniture, pottery and the art of upholstery and in so doing, studying French history. I absorb this knowledge so easily because it interests me. It is like information recycling, repurposing small details to pass history along.

Coming full circle with Basic French, which started as a tiny little antique space in the bathroom of a cooperative Rhinebeck antiques store, we will be introducing a line of vintage furniture this fall: overstuffed chairs, newly upholstered in vintage fabric, vintage lamps rewired and re-shaded, + + 

Happily, we will never forget our simple past as long as we guard our objects dear.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Contre le Blues Hivernal

Henri Rousseau, The Dream, 1910
I guess I have mentioned that I am not a Winter person. And we did have a reallllllllly cold Winter here in Lyon. But 4 days in Paris, walking around and breathing in culture, absorbing colors, laughing and window shopping really changed my perspective. I am ready to take on the crazy challenges I have ahead of me this Spring: selling a house then packing up said house and an apartment, getting the girls through some major end-of-year exams, keeping track of 2 dogs and two jobs (at least,) figuring out the shipping of a container of personal effects and antiques for Basic French, developing Basic French wholesale, finding an apartment (closet;-) to rent in Manhattan—the list goes on.

It has been years, perhaps since 2007, that we could not give away antiques or vintage pieces. The Ikea, Domino-style has reigned supreme, spattered with a bit of DIY ingenuity. I predict that old things will re-find their place in the decorative world. The trend is reversing and we will all realize that disposable furniture is just that, disposable. My focus now is on beautiful old things, 18th and 19th century pieces, that were made with loving care, to last a lifetime, or six. Those are the things that we want to pass onto our children, n'est-ce pas?

I noticed in Paris a few trends. Oddly enough, colors that seem to be huge for Spring are kelly green and peach. The red, white and blue, striped marinière theme is still looming large here, which is comforting since I love that look and it is so very basic French. Fabrics that are exotic in a far eastern way, like a printed paisley in poppy, crimson, indigo and celadon. Leather goods in simple, classic forms, made of stiff cowhide that will weather perfectly, last for decades and that carries the de-bossed logo of it's artisan manufacturer. Curtains and pillows with hand-made embellishments, like embroidery, comfy things, things hand-knit, things that are organic or bio, things made of paper. A most noticeable trend is animalia. There are animals and flora and fauna on everything. My friends at Objet de Curiosité and Hollister Hovey have loved this forever, but it seems everyone has now caught on and as our world becomes more and more computer-oriented we escape to the decorative forest, the inside of our home, where we surround ourselves with images of wild beasts, pillows with embroidered owls, decorative wallpaper recreated from Victorian originals, collections of insects. It is romanticism as it's best, pure escapism. Comforting, nurturing, a segue back to our natural selves.

Paris is an incredible antidote to the Winter blues—but if you can't go to Paris or escape into a world of French movies, go to a concert or go to an auction, hop in the car and just go. Drive 100 miles in any direction and do something you have never done before. I swear it will work, and then it will be Spring. Woo Hoo! Yippee! Yahoo! Hooray!

Out with the new and in with the old!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Being French Means Never Having to Say You're

So, so, sorry!

The French language is so complicated, so complicated that after four years of living here, I learn at least one new thing every day. And while my relationship with France is a true "love story," the more French I learn, the less fluent I feel.

I actually speak quite well, but that's only one aspect of knowing French. I suddenly realized that, before I move back to New York in July, I need to make some progress in my French...writing wise. So I signed up for a business writing course which starts next week. YIKES, I am going to get my derrière kicked!

At my gym, Lady Fitness (a circuit-style Curvesesque kind of gym, because nothing else exists here in the land of les skinny femmes,) I was chatting with one of the coaches and she told me that I should never say "Je suis désolée..." to express  "I am sorry..."  Now, I have probably said that one million times, thinking I was correct. She explained that, in France, you may never excuse yourself, you must ask forgiveness of the person you have wronged, and it is for them to pardon you...or not! You never admit wrongdoing.

So here's what you can say when you don't respond to someone's email quickly enough next time:

Je vous prie de bien vouloir m'excuser du retard de ma réponse. (I pray of you to really want to excuse me for the lateness of my response.) Who knew?    or 

Veuillez m'excuser de ne pas avoir répondu plus tôt à votre courriel (Would you excuse me for not having responded earlier to your email?) I beg of you, please please, I procrastinated ;-(

When you think about it, c'est logique (it's logical.) You can't pardon yourself. You have to accept the fact that some will pardon you, and some will not. And besides that, the French do not like to take responsibility for anything, and I do not say that lightly. They might be sorry, and they might not be, but you are never going to get them to admit it, not on your life. No siree. Sorry buster.

Je suis navrée! Non, vachement navrée!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Super Stalker

My girls were absolutely mortified when they saw this video I took of my new favorite bistro in Lyon, Bistrot de la Passerelle. I really did not mean to be a stalker, but from the looks of the faces of a few of those girls at the table, my flip video was just not subtle enough to capture the moment without freaking out the guests. Anyway, the Bistrot de la Passerelle has the best burgers in all of Lyon and the ambiance is the perfect mixture of causal, typically French, busy and lively. Franck and his wife, who used to live in Brooklyn and plan to move back and open a restaurant somewhere in Brooklyn (Red Hook?) in two years are funky and welcoming and just French enough to pull it off, though Franck really has the Brooklyn look down. He does not look typically French, that is for sure. So, this is my segue restaurant, with my one foot in Lyon and my other foot crossing the New York state line.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Bedroom Makeover!

I am a bedroom person and I have always been a bedroom person. When I was 10 years old, my two favorite things were to clean my closet and rearrange my bedroom. I did both of these things frequently, unsolicited by my parents.

Now, many moons later and a few homes removed, I remain faithful to my bedroom. I love to redecorate it, but not in a big way, just in a quiet little way, moving around my vignettes of books, mirrors and vintage "vieux Paris" virgins, changing sheets, throws, pillows, to create a new perspective.

So today, I was completely inspired by the sunshine (it has been brutally cold here but at least the sun brightly shines;-) I was most inspired by an embroidered sheet I found and a Louis VIII fauteuil with fabulous fabric. I remade my bed, I moved some furniture around et voila. A bedroom with a cheery view.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

An Apple a Day

Last night, Halliday and I went to our local health food store, L'eau Vive, to stock up on organic produce—a new year's resolution. I stooped down to fill a brown bag with crisp, sweet apples and turned my squinty, need-to-have-my-prescription-changed gaze towards a tall man a few yards away. Perhaps I hesitated, perhaps I frowned, perhaps my blank gaze lingered too long in his remote direction because... suddenly this stranger was in my face, pointing a finger and asking, "il y a un probleme madame, tu as un probleme avec moi?" Flustered, bewildered, I just said "Non, non, pas de probleme." Hallie and I had one of those what-was-that-all-about moments and escaped unscathed to our next destination.

Lady Fitness is one of those female-only circuit gyms, like Curves, and I belonged a few years ago and got into really great shape. Two knee problems later, I have resolved to renew my membership and you would think that would be a simple thing. A week ago, I stopped by to get a ballpark price and the manager (who might just as well be a mattress or used car salesman) offered to renew my membership for 29.95 euros per month, subject to confirmation by his boss. He subsequently told me his entire life story, details of his love life and stellar career, while avowing to his "correct" and honest business nature. He said he'd call me that afternoon. He never called me back.

The entry of Lady Fitness is filled with non-sportive-looking, heavily-made-up young girls, who seem to be employed there but who rapidly disappear if you attempt to engage them. I am left once again with the "manager" (ahem, mattress salesman) who seems to have no recollection of our previous conversation. He can't find the form he filled out for me, nor remember the price he proposed, and suddenly, his best price for me and only for me, only today, is 53 euros...and only if Halliday joins too, for the next 6 months. He puts his sweaty hand on mine, while reflecting on what special deal he can make for us, but when I suggest we think things over and come back the next morning, he raises and eyebrow and looks at me like I am some kind of sketchie character, refuses to give me a copy of the offer he has written down on paper and moves on.

People are edgy these days, it seems to me. I retreat to "ma cuisine" to prepare sauteed apples—just sliced apples, water and a bit of salt. My friend Ashleigh says to eat them at night instead of a heavy meal, as a diet starter. I vow to lift weights and follow vintage Jane Fonda videos on Youtube. Lady Fitness another fine day, when the stars align.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

A Most Wonderful New Year

2011 has been a wonderful gift, a year that breathed new life into Basic French. I am so thrilled to have such amazing clients and friends that follow our French adventures, that write us cheery and encouraging words and that share their own favorites French anecdotes each day. Cheers to all of you and to an exciting 2012. Meilleurs Vœux!