Friday, October 19, 2012

Today's news: Big Tex burns at State Fair of Texas

Big news today in DFW: Big Tex, the 60 year old mascot of the Texas State Fair caught fire today.

Here it is, burning:

Here it is, done burning:

Here is a video form of it, from YouTube:

The story is that his jaw mechanism mis-fired somehow. Big Tex "talks" and "waves" to the crowds. "Sigh." I'm going this Sunday, the final day of the Fair--it won't be the same wihtout Big Tex looming, in a kind of scary, crazy way, over the crowds.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Time-Saving and Frugal Ideas for High Style

I've been thinking about and searching the blog sphere for advice about how to achieve high style while saving time and money.

By "saving money" I mean spending intentionally for best value, by the way, not completely not spending.

In my opinion, to achieve great style, I have to choose where I spend money (invest) and where I save (skimp) over time for the best long-term outcome. I am interested in style, not fashion, in the end.

What's worth investing in?

  • A good haircut. Ergo, a hairstylist you trust and whose work makes you feel goooooooood is worth the money. Make sure it looks good for seven weeks, and you'll need 7-8 cuts annually.
  • Effective, brightening haircolor. Ergo, a good colorist who won't ruin the texture of your hair while adding bright, appropriate shading. And can you keep the ratio of color: cut to a 1:2 visit sequence? If not, go for it, but talk to your colorist.
  • Skin care. Good quality, reputable skin care including serum, moisturizers, eye creams and foundations. Not cosmetics, but daily/nightly targeted skin care. Worth every penny for long-term products that will protect and replenish your skin's condition.
  • Sunscreen! Given the numbers about skin cancer, sunscreen needs to be worn every day, no matter what, and you need a complete spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen of SPF 30. This also improves the condition of your skin overall and certainly of your face.
  • Vitamins and high-quality/organic fruits and vegetables. What you put in shows, now and long-term, in your muscles, skin, nails, hair, and eyes. Seriously: buy the good stuff. Organic fruits and vegetables have higher nutrient value, free-range/grain-fed meat can be eaten in smaller quantities for tastier dishes, while good vitamins, minerals and greens enhance it all.
  • Shoe inserts for high heels: every pair! Get good ones: the benefits, short and long-term to your feet, ankles, knees and hips are mah-ve-lous. Replace as necessary.
  • Similarly, take your new shoes to the cobbler and get rubber heel caps and half-soles put on. This will preserve your new shoes and make them safer to walk on.
  • Bras. Invest in well-made bras fitted by an experienced saleswoman (not the teenagers at Victoria's Secret). No one product makes such a difference in your shape, confidence and comfort. Buy 2 new every six months.
  • Shaper lingerie: hey, if the size 2 women on the red carpet wear 'em, so can you. Spanx or other brands, get hold of quality shaper lingerie to wear under your clothes where you need it: under trousers, under skirts, under dresses, under blouses and t-shirts. If you tend to go up and down a size or two monthly, shapers will help you eliminate jiggle and bulge (my two least favorite words!).
  • Scarves. The accessory that does it all. Color, texture, spot/highlights. Around the handles of your purse, around your neck, around your head, around your waist: crazy-easy style.
On the other hand...

I try not to spend money on cosmetics or elements that won't last very long on my skin or things I can do myself. For example:
  • Lipstick or lip gloss. While there are a ton of department store/high-end brands that are very seductive to me in terms of packaging or claims (hello, Chanel!), I find that good old drugstore brands are actually excellent, considring that lipstick/gloss needs to be reapplied every couple hours. No matter what. Revlon, for example, has several varieties tht provide more than enough colors. (And after all, how many different pinks do you need, meaning that you will wear at least once/weekly?) Ditto Maybelline, who is really making an effort in this area. I buy and use the lip gloss from Sally Hansen: great texture and comes in four shades of neutral (clear, blush, mocha, and rosy, I think) none of which have more than a hint of color.
  • Nail polish: I will buy Essie and consider it a great savings over, again, the seductions of Chanel. The variety of colors and the 5 to 7-day last makes this a bargain. Even better bargain? Sally Hansen and Revlon, which has not quite so many shades as Essie, are my go-to drugstore brands.
  • Make-up brushes, manicure tools, sponges, and so forth: I buy Sally Hansen, Revlon or Sonia Kashuk (Target). Great quality without the high-end price. Tweezers from Tweezerman (Ulta).
  • Blush: I buy cheap. Yes, Nars gets lots and lots of applause, but seriously? I'm reapplying blush as often as lipstick. Cream or powder, drugstore brands are fine. And again, how many shades do you need?
  • Eyeshadow: L'Oreal, Ulta, and Maybelline offer fine-milled eyeshadows in a variety of shades. (And how many shades do you really wear, per week? C'mon)
  • Eyeliner pencils: Buy NYX. Cheap cheap cheap but non-irritating and great variety of smooth-drawing colors. Everything from kohl black to glittery pale blue. And about $5 each.
  • Mascara. Unless you have sensitive eyes, buy Maybelline's Great Lash and be done. NO ONE can tell which brand of mascara you wear -- NO ONE. Great Lash is the go-to for every makeup artist in the world.
  • Mani-pedis: do it at home. You can clean, condition, trim your own nails and give yourself both a manicure and a pedicure on a lazy Saturday afternoon or a quiet Sunday night. A Zen task for serenity. Turn salon mani-pedis into a reward for something great, because after all it is the treatment, not the nail-painting skill you crave, right?
  • Pantyhose and Tights: Buy cheap, especially if you snag regularly. These are not meant to last or bear the weight of a designer pricetag, and we all know it. My only caveat: buy the right size and don't compromise smaller or larger. That only results in saggy knees and ankles, or feeling like a particularly well-packed sausage all day. Do buy good quality lingerie bags if you wash them in the washer on gentle, or good quality handwash soap: that will make them last longer.
  • Body or Hand lotion, butter, or moisturizers: I favor old standards in this area, and I get great results. Why spend on really expensive lotion? I can also experiment through a variety of textures and scents and not feel guilty about giving away a bottle I don't particularly like. (I used to love The Body Shop's Papaya Body Butter--huge recommendation!--but they discontinued that scent and I don't like any of the others, so...)
And finally:

Your choice. Choose one area where you'll buy designer and spend big as an investment in an overall great look, and let the others go by. Literally, bye-bye. Invest in classics and ne wary of spending big for this season's color/shape/junk, because "this season" will be gone and you'll be paying the credit card bills. This includes:
  • bags
  • jewelry
  • accessories like scarves, belts, and bling (see above re: scarves, however)
  • shoes
  • eyeglasses or contacts, and sunglasses (including inexpensive readers)
Have a budget and figure out where the weight goes and where the lite goes.

Here's a little thing for you, in the subject. Become a curator, an observant buyer and an investor.

Friday, October 5, 2012

If I were in Paris... Friday, October 5, 2012

If I were in Paris today...

I'd go to the exhibit on Bohemes at the Grand Palais. This exhibit is dedicated to the myth of Bohemia as the "home" of artists, starting in the mid-19th century. The exhibition includes the work of such artists as de la Tour, Degas, Corot, Turner, Matisse, Van Gogh and Picasso and traces the intersections of artistic life not only in the visual arts but in literature, criticism and music.

This is one of the new brand of exhibitions curated to connect grand themes across and through and between artists and media and styles.

There's a music festival and exhibition dedicated to Django Reinhardt starting tomorrow, as well. At the Cite de la Musique, it includes concerts through next week. Reinhardt was the jazz guitarist who introduced and made world-famous that distinctive French sound evoking French gypsy music. Reinhardt was born into a family of gypsies living in Paris, and started recording as early as age 18.

By the way if you are a fan of the film Chocolat, you'll recognize the style.

And yes, in both cases, I'd wind up the day in the bookstores.

But this is the perfect day to be walking along the Seine or through the Jardins du Luxembourg, to enjoy autumn. To take a lunch of French baguette, cheese, grapes or figs and an Orangina or split of wine, along with your best book and a camera. Yum!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Business Casual for Women

Thinking back to the Sunday event I attended a few weeks ago, I swing back around to something that confuses me consistently: what is business casual for women? how do I decide what appropriate business casual is, for me and for any event?

Our event was a networking/business opportunity, and yet I felt very few of the women (including me) addressed it as such. Instead, it felt like a Sunday afternoon party, where some business talk emerged--but it didn't feel as if we were women in the same profession gathered for a business-related event that included makeovers and advice about presenting a professional self.

Business casual: clothing worn to a less conservative workplace, or on casual days in a conservative workplace, or to a conference or out-of-environment meeting, retreat or other event that evokes a more relaxed atmosphere than the daily workplace. (This is my definition, by the way.)

Men vs. Woman Business Casual, as I see it.

In general, I've noticed men have a simple business casual uniform: khakis/Dockers (in khaki colors), knit polos or button-up oxfords or plaid cotton shirts, leather lace-ups or loafers + belt and a ubiquitous sports jacket (sometimes also khaki/stone/biscuit/beige).

This "uniform," which replicates the uniforms at Besy Buy and other big box stores, will work for men on Casual Friday, at conventions, at retreats or other HR events and in any workplace that doesn't require a short/suit/tie combo. A watch, a shave and a neat haircut: good to go.

Men just out of college might start with a t-shirt and jeans, but quickly switch to the easy care, easily maintained uniform. With fabrics that resist wrinkles, in a variety of price levels and with slightly different details (pockets, pleats, shades), any man can be appropriate anywhere.


The rules are different and more complicated for women than for men. So are the possibilities.

First: the atmosphere/expectations of your workplace. Which breaks down to:
  • Where on the spectrum of conservative/liberal does your workplace fall?
  • How does your boss dress?
  • How does your boss's boss dress?
  • How does the highest-ranking woman in your office dress?
  • How do people at your level dress?
Wisdom: dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Second: the hierarchy structures of your office. For example:
  • Are you the only, one of the few, or one of the many women in your office?
  • Are you the youngest, middle-aged, in the middle of the age group, older than your office peers?
  • Are you an executive, executive staff, middle management, middle staff, etc.?
Third: you.
  • Are you on the conservative or liberal side of the dressing scale?
  • Do you need to wear pants rather than skirts for practical reasons?
  • Is there a uniform, literally? Or a uniform, metaphorically?
  • Are you moving up or passing time, for example as you launch a career as a writer outside the office block?
  • Do you want to be taken seriously, listened to, promoted: in general noticed
Let's circle back around to my meeting that didn't feel professional.

The meeting didn't feel professional. Why? I suspect because most women were there in jeans and t-shirts or casual smock tops. Almost no one appeared to be there in a completely planned head-to-toe outfit. And, okay, I know that feels beyond a Sunday afternoon when we're all there to have fun, but again I say, it was professional.

I suspect many of the women would cite the "artistic" nature of the group (we all work in artistic communication) or the Sunday afternoon timing or even the DFW overall location (a general excuse for super-casual style) as the "reason" for their non-business/non-business casual dress. Sadly, I think these have become what I call "go to" excuses in our overly .

Here are some webposts about business casual:
Wardrobe Oxygen: specifics about business casual
Houston Chronicle: compares the difference between "business" and "business casual"
The Learning Channel: explains business casual
Virginia Tech: simple, straightforward guidelines (!) to business casual whats, whens and hows for soon-to-be-grads.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Frugality & Summer 2012, Revisited

Last week I wrote about my summer derailment re: frugality.

Okay, so I was rationalizing my over-expenditure from May through August. Well, September.

What really happened? I came home, I bought a car to replace the 20 yr. old vehicle I had been driving that was sucking down money and self-destructing simultaneously. That equaled car payment + insurance hike, starting this month. Not huge, but a significant chunk taken out of a fairly stable paycheck (meaning even annual raises have little to no effect).

I knew this was coming, but I wasn't planning for it.

A subtle but significant difference.

Here's where I am now, after a weekend of coming face-to-face with paycheck realities (where compensation for my extra class and annual raise finally kicked in).
  • I'm glad I'm already slated to teach a course next summer in London.
  • I'm feeling good about my book coming out this month, beyond the accomplishment.
  • I've got serious reason to be frugal: when I'm stressed, I spend money as an outlet.
  • Facing my spending patterns and bills helps me know what not to do.
  • I have a job that means I can meet all my bills and pay off credit: I feel blessed and lucky, even while I know I've worked hard for that reality.
  • I have wonderful memories and "artifacts" from my summer trip.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ideas about how to use Color effectively

The bee in my bonnet, it seems.

I've been considering my previous posts about color. Here are some resources that I really like that provide new perspectives on color and how to wear it, appreciate it, risk it.

The blog The Vivienne Files: the writer provides countless examples of how to wear, mix, match color and to think outside the box. Nicely done.

The site Polyvore: a site where members can build sets, explore how other members create outfits, sets and use color.

The site Colourlovers: a site where members can explore color and patterns.

There are a number of books on Amazon (and obviously on other book sites) that foreground color. All of then usually include quizzes and a series of "types" that give the reader her correct palette to help anyone find the right colors for hair/skin/eye/taste. Dior or Chanel or Mickael Kors use color palettes. There are also lots and lots of books on designers with color photographs: see how I highly recommend spending a couple hours in the Barnes & Noble or a used bookstore checking out a stack of books. Buy a quiz book if you like those, buy a style book on Ralph Lauren if you like.

Hint: look at decorating books. If you like a house full of color, or full or nautical ideas, or Western, or French country, or Bohemian? Go with the pictures you respond to and try out those colors. Cheap ways? T-shirts from Target. Go get paint chips from Lowes or Home Depot.

Another hint: go to a department store (not a big box store, but a for-real department store like Macy's, Nordstrom's, Sears or Neiman-Marcus (do not be intimidated, just go) and try on dresses, sweaters, blouses and suits, strictly for color against your face and hair. Wear your usual make-up and hairstyle. You're not there to buy but to look, so try on crazy things you'd never, ever buy.

The best place to start might be a simple palette. Some of the best advice I ever found was in The Dress Doctor by Edith Head, where she advised choosing a simple palette of three colors and building a wardrobe around that trio. Head chose for herself a trio of white, beige and black. This series of neutrals worked for her--as the designer of fabulous costumes for major films, her own neutral self stood aside from the colors, fabrics and textures of her costumes.

Start small like Head and focus on three colors, one of which should be a neutral like white, black, beige, brown, gray or navy. Or go a little bit bigger and start with five colors, including two neutrals--I like this better because I need more variety. Finding the right shade sof the colors you choose is the challenge: green, for example, might be emerald or lime, olive or sour apple, pine or mint, avocado or kelly. That's where the choice comes.

In the end, it is also about what makes you feel good, as well as what you discover makes you look good. If you love orange, but the quizzes day NO!, find a way to wear it in shoes, accessories, scarves, jewelry. Or if you love orange and your workplace is conservative, same goes.

Consider, then, in choosing:
  • what you like
  • what you feel good in
  • what works with your skin, hair and eye coloring
  • what suits your workplace style and your non-work style
Go forth and experiment!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Frugality and Summer 2012

Sadly, I went a leetle off the rails this summer.

Well, one month in Paris (June) and one month in Oxford (July) earning and yet spending... yeah, that was "off the rails."

I had a great time in both cities plus London and I loved the museum exhibits, theatre, books and meals I indulged in... which is where a great deal of the money went. Oh, and clothes, cosmetics and shoes. Mmmm, shoes!

How do I feel about that?

Mostly, pretty good. I thrive personally when I go to museums and theatre, when I see well-curated exhibits, a variety of art and cultural projects, and enjoy delicious cafe meals. These choices replenish my spirit. I went to eleven exhibitions at nine different museums or foundations, and visited several more museum book shops. I went to eleven cultural sites beyond that, of varying kinds from the White Horse to Kelmscott Manor.

The fact is that while I do believe I spent too much, I was thoughtful about nearly every purchase. I knew, for example, that I wanted to visit my favorite pharmacy and indulge in skin care and homeopathic teas I cannot find at home--and that everything would be on sale there during the second week of June (an annual event!). I knew that I wanted to buy two pairs of ballerines at Repetto, since the black ones I bought in 2010 were so great. I did buy two pairs, both 25% reduced. I bought pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, notebooks, magnets, buttons/badges and "stuff" to give out to the students in one of my classes who get high marks on quizzes. I bought a very few books, but plan to add to that by purchasing the exhibition catalogs on Amazon (didn't have to carry them home, that way).

I did buy ridiculous amounts of postcards, as per usual, including some repetitions of Richter and Degas paintings.

What's the outcome? I'm paying off credit cards. Sigh. Weighing it through, I'm not sorry... mostly.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Let's talk about COLOR

All the pictures I used in yesterday's post as examples were famous women: women in government, women in the arts, women in economic and business leadership. They aren't "regular" folks, perhaps, but I maintain they're still great examples for the rest of us.

First, there is not an abundance of BLACK here. Which is good. Middle-aged women have come to rely on black (and its other neutral cousin beige) too much. I'm completely guilty of this.

Good black: the LBD that goes everywhere and makes you feel chic, sophisticated and sexy wherever you wear it. The black suit (skirt or pants) that makes you feel like a successful executive or the well-dressed woman at a formal event, like church or a funeral or a business dinner. The black accent that adds style to accessories like shoes, bags, scarves or gloves.

Bad black: the black outfit or piece you hide in, telling yourself you look thinner or taller but really only makes you look like a shadow. Possibly a bulky shadow.

Example: this summer I bought two linen maxi-dresses from a catalog. I bought one in light fuschia and one in black, but I took the black one to my tailor to cut it off just above the knees. Why? Because when I wore the dress in its original long form, I looked like a little old Sicilian gramma. All I needed was a headscarf and some tomato sauce to stir. Not my preferred look.

So I cut off the dress.

Second of all, each of these women has invested in good hair. Some of their styles are carefree and some are high maintenance, but each woman is paying attention to both cut and color.

You wear your hair everyday, no matter the weather, lack of time and your emotional stress. Therefore, unless you enjoy working your hair everyday (which I don't), a good cut that lasts between salon visits and holds its color is a necessity. It is an investment that pays off, if only because you know you look good everyday without fussing about it.

And yes, color is something to consider. At home if you can handle it, but at a salon if not. Why? Because we all go gray, silver, or white. You can go all the way that way and color your hair the right shade of gray, silver, or white for you, or you can choose a brunette, blonde, or red that brightens your face, suits your coloring and makes you smile.

Nervous? There are now temporary colors that fade without leaving dramatic roots. The color lasts anywhere from five to eight weeks. How do I know? I do it.

Get your stylist or colorist to give you tips about products, too. Hair masks, styling gels and waxes and tools like blowdryers that will, again, save you time and thought by delivering everyday.

Please note that none of these women has long, flowing locks more appropriate for rock stars or the CW's high school shows (think Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars).

As a side note, notice the investment in good subtle jewelry, watches and scarves.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Color for Middle-Aged Women

And here are some great photos of "real" middle-aged women looking professional... not "junior." Using color, including neutrals, pastels and brights.



Here's neutrals and bright colors, here's covered arms and knees, here's attractive necklines without gaping cleavage, here's polished-looking hair and makeup without an overload of color but (BUT!) no clown makeup or bare-faced blandness.
Yes, lots of jackets, lots of v-necks, lots of feminine accessories like scarves and necklaces. Lots of colored and well-cut hair. Whoo-ee. And these are busy women, y'all!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Color and the Middle-Aged Woman

We all know that color has the ability to enhance our mood, influence our decision-making, and help us achieve what we want and need.
  • Hospitals and police stations use color to soothe, control and direct those who work there and those who have to visit these (usually) high-drama sites
  • Grocery stores and restaurants use color to make you hungry (meaning buy more NOW!) and to make you leave quickly (for high turnover)
  • Leaders use color to influence our feelings about them, because spectators, listeners and critics respond first to color and the way it makes us feel rather than the specifics of a message
  • Sports teams choose team colors to influence athletes on their teams (and oppositions!) and spectators
Why, then, do middle-aged women refuse to use color as a conscious choice to make us visible, raise our self-esteem, enhance our attractiveness and demonstrate our power on a variety of levels? Or simply to make us feel better about what we see when we look in the mirror?

Last week I was at a professional event -- a casual professional event -- and the theme was "putting your best foot forward." Now, all of the membership at the event were women (it's a women's organization), and most of us were middle-aged (meaning between 40 and 60). It was on a Sunday afternoon in a salon/spa and about 25 women attended, including the salon personnel.

Three women got hair consultations from the salon where we met, we all listened to an image consultant talk about color, and we chatted and snacked.

Here's what I noticed:
  • Almost every woman there wore pants and a t-shirt variation
  • Only one woman was in bright color throughout, although about half of the women used some bright color in an accessory
  • Most women wore neutrals like denim, khaki, black or beige or grayed colors like loden, teal, gray (!) or faded navy without any color pop
  • Most of us had little or no color in her makeup, meaning everything was neutral or black (like eyeliner) and many looked as if they'd spent less than five minutes on their makeup
  • Very few of the women in the room looked as if they had pulled together a complete look from head to toe, meaning clothing, shoes, accessories, makeup, hair and bag; instead, we looked as if we simply pulled individual pieces together without much thought or more than two pieces (shirt + pants) in our mind
  • Despite being mid-afternoon, most of us looked tired and slightly faded; it was a rainy afternoon, and we should have brought a colorful raincoat, unbrella, boot or shoe, or scarf to combat the weather's effect.
Overall, the meeting didn't feel professional. I didn't feel as if I was meeting women brought together by a shared profession (although that's why we were all there) to network, make connections and learn something; I felt more like I was at a group meeting grounded in personal choice, like a church or neighborhood gathering.

There were two problems in our overall style on Sunday: the first was the clothing/accessory choices and the second was COLOR.

Here's my problem with middle-aged women dressing in neutral colors and grayed colors: we are already one of the most invisible portions of the population by virtue of our age.

Oh, yeah: didn't you notice how invisible you've become? I've been noticing it for a few years now. And it's not just me.

I've also noticed the invisibility from two directions. It comes from within me and it comes from others/society.
  • Middle-aged women are in a confusing position: we're no longer supposed to be sexy, we're too old to be new mothers (or fertile) while old enough to be established mothers (Mom-jeans) and when we dress to truly advertise our intellectual/economic/experiential power it makes others really, really nervous (yeah, Hillary!)
  • Middle-aged women aren't sexy in the way young women are, but magazines/celebrities/media tells us to use the same old techniques and recycle the same old looks given us when we were sixteen, like long flowing hair, glowing firm skin and perky figure parts... which most of us don't have in abundance
  • Middle-aged women know they're being compared to twenty-year old women, and feel bad about it (see sexy, fertile, perky above)
  • Middle-aged women are still dressing to compete for the attention of men, to fit in with cheerleaders and models, and to look "young." Still?
  • Middle-aged women feel guilty about caring about their appearance, spending money and time on something so "frivolous," and unprofessional by focusing on "surface" when they are serious thinkers, leaders and collaborators... even though we've earned the time and right to care about what heel height, what skirt height, and what color makes us look and feel best
And yeah, I'm tired of stovepipe/skinny jeans, sleeveless dresses, satin tops, short skirts, stilleto heels and everything else that suits a "perfect" twenty-year-old figure of 118 pounds but shows my age in every possible way, in fabric and style and fit... ugh. Makes me look and feel bad, makes me desperate to find something (anything!) else to wear, makes me want to kick something. Hard.

What I've noticed is that most middle-aged women go to bland or invisible rather than go Tammy Faye Bakker or Demi Moore or Grandma Moses (see above to choose your perfect "middle-aged" look). So...

#1: choose color. In your outfit and your face and your hair, dudettes!
  • Even if your choice is on the muted side, say wines and violets and spice, or pastel shades like mint or buttercup or sky... get out and find yourself some color.
  • If you like neutrals like beige and navy, team them with accessories or a single piece (a top) in color like clear red, green apple, bright white or carnation pink.
  • If you like pastels, bump up the intensity a notch: instead of faded colors, go for pastels with a bright bump.
  • Neutral clothes? How about using color on your lips, cheeks, eyeliner or hair? or accessories, like bags and shoes?
#2: learn which colors complement each other, accent each other, and fight each other...

#3: figure out which colors work for you emotionally, starting with the primary/secondary Purple/Blue/Green/Yellow/Orange/Red spectrum and then working through clear, jewel-toned, muted, pastel

#4: realize that NEUTRAL means how you feel as well as how others feel about you... neutral and don't blame anyone else for making you feel invisible, overlooked and bland. Camel can be chic, black can be chic, navy can be chic... it can also be the wallpaper behind you.

Next week: examples!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Saturday's agenda

With only seven more days in Paris, tomorrow is all about hitting the small exhibitions. I plan to return to the Musee D'Orsay for the exhibit on Misia, reine de Paris, the Impressionists and one last view of the bookstore.

Then the Musee Malliol for the Artemisia Gentileschi exhibit.

Then lunch at the Galeries Lafayette cafe and souvenir shopping.

Then the exihibit of opera tragedy queens at the Opera Garnier next door.

Then a quick walk to visit La Madeleine, and home. Exhausted, no doubt.

More Passerelle

The Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir is a bridge intended only for passage to walkers or bike riders. When crossing, you can choose to walk low or high, or a combination.

Not my photo! But a good overall picture

I choose to walk high, all the way.

First length, higher and steeper than it looks in the top photo

Second length, cresting up toward middle of bridge
On the other side, the top arch dumps you into a park, which was filled with sunbathers, families, and kids out of school. This stone staircase has a fountain running through the middle, which the kids loved.

From here, I walked through the surprisingly untended park (unlike the Tuileries or Luxembourg gardens, just a lot of green space and dirt paths to a cafe and finally the Metro home.

I want to talk some more pictures of the Passerelle and the Tolbiac side. It is a very peaceful place to sit and consider the day, the Seine, and the work one is doing deep within the stacks.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Simple Pleasures: Passerelle

Oh, today...

I am staying in the apartment. Doing laundry, cleaning, sweeping, and finally blogging.

I have been in the archives all week, from 9 am to about 4 pm everyday... and I am exhausted. So many people, such hard chairs, writing and researching and writing. I get back to the apartment at about 6pm, and I am done for. Didn't see anything, didn't enjoy anything, didn't even have fun researching: the encyclopedia entries I am working on right now are pretty cut and dried. Mostly fact-checking, and not particularly interesting. But it is paying for about half of my Paris apartment rental, so necessary.

I went to bed early last night, and got up late this morning. In the middle of the night I thought, I don't want to go there t'morrow. I'm not going.

After my roommate left, I went back to sleep for another three hours, then woke, took a shower, and stuffed sheets and towels into washer (the wash cycle takes about two hours). Then sat down to catch up on whatever is happening on the internet.

Notes to self:
  • back home in the Big D, start back with yoga and walking regularly. You are out of shape, madame!
  • add in some core exercises as well as strength and flexibility workouts. Because.
  • working all the time is boring and makes you boring and cranky.
  • a good view makes everything better
But yesterday when I was leaving the Tolbiac, I walked across the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir, which crosses the Seine just behind (in front of?) Tolbiac and links the right bank with the left there. Wikipedia tells me it is the 37th bridge on the Seine, but nothing about the loveliness of it.

My early morning view from Tolbiac of the Passerelle: misty and mysterious
A better, fancier view of the whole thing
I plan to take more, better pictures myself.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


One of the essential points of the baroque garden as imagined and designed by Andre Le Notre ( the gardener behind Vaux-le-Vicomte, Versailles, Fontainebleau, St. Germain en Laye, and countless other gardens of the period in France, England, and Italy, including the Vatican), is that it be interesting not only intellectually in its scope, symmetry, and mathematical use of landscape (vertical and horizontal) but that it be sensual.

So the baroque garden includes texture, movement, rhythm, stillness, variation, sound, and, in the case of Versailles, color. Most baroque gardens used only green, but Louis XIV loved flowers, both for color and scent, so flowers as well as flowering and fruit-bearing trees were integrated into the overall design.

Movement, reflection, and sound were added by the inclusion of fountains and pools throughout the garden. And of course the Grand Canal.

Pools offered serene, cool spaces of water countering the green parterres, trees, and topiaries and the paths. Theyalso reflected the blue skies above. Fountains shot water vertically or diagonally and gave life to the silent, still gardens.

At Versailles, the messages of the garden's fountains and pools carries the stories of Apollo, n'est-ce pas? sweeping upward toward Louis's palace, even into Louis's bedchamber.

The Latona Fountain at the head of the Allee Royal: Latona was the mother of Apollo and Diana in Roman mythology, a goddess.

Ovid tells the story of the fountain: when Latona was looking for refuge after having given birth, the Lycian peasants refused her water. In return, being a goddess, she turned them into frogs who had to live in the mud and water ever after. So there. So the fountain depicts Latona, Apollo and Diana on top, then descending/widening rings with fountains and figures of peasants transforming or transformed. Ha!

This is what it looks like with the water turned on, which it wasn't last Wednesday.

The fountains arch up and out, filling the basin, but also causing the water to flow down the layers of the wedding-cake style construction. The figures of Latone, Apollo and Diana are marble, but the others are brass, I think, a golden-colored metal in any case.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

More pictures of Versailles

Since I took about 150 during the one day I was there, I'll add them in slowly...
These first pictures are of the approach to the palace, from my hotel, then the rear of thepalace (but only part of it) and a view from that level (the palace level) down towards the Grand Canal. Where I was headed.

The palace is on a hill, by the way, which you should get from the pictures. You walk up to get to get to the entrance of the palace, then down into the gardens. Three villages were razed to create the expansive gardens around and behind Versailles.

Around the corner from my hotel, walking down the main street toward the gates of the palace 

The crowds at 10 am on a Wednesday morning

The chapel and a wing added after Louis XIV's time

The northern side of the rear of the palace, with some of the southern reflecting pool
Basically, to get to this point directly behind the palace took me about 35-40 minutes. I hadn't yet had to show my ticket, just walked into the gardens. The gardens and park are free weekdays and open to the Versailles public everyday.

In the summer, on weekends they have the Grands Eaux Musicales, where they blast baroque music in the gardens and shoot all the fountains about 15 minutes on the hour.

See the little blue within the green? That's where I am going.

A great picture of the Allee Royale, from the Palace level, looking from the Latona Fountain to the Grand Canal.
Where I'm going.

Topiaries: each one different

Approaching the Apollo Fountain at the bottom of the Royal Allee 
This was part 2 of the walk. From the palace to the Grand Canal.

This is what the palace looks like from the Apollo Fountain.
That's how far I came.