CHRISTMAS GIFT WRAPPING . . . in the style of Coco Chanel

Logs in the ancient fireplace crackled .  Heavy faded velvet curtains shut out the cold and dark night.  On the old Victrola  Piaf warbled   Le Noël de la rue.  It was the top of the hour.  She opened the curtains.   The lights of the Eiffel tower filled the room.  Here in the magic of her little house in Paris she would wrap her gifts .

Plain brown paper unrolled.  Silver scissors cut.  A scattering of pearls.  An elegance of black ribbon.  A Coco Chanel wrapped Christmas gift.

Champagne chilled.   Cassoulet simmered on the ancient  La Cornue stove.   The room fragrant  with its rich welcoming aroma.  Footsteps whispered on the ancient stone stairs.  Her guests had arrived.  It was Christmas in une petite maison.   My little house in Paris is with me always.  To journey to it I have but to close my eyes and turn the key on the welcoming door.

(Dear Friends, This post of pearls and presents is a favourite.    I love the economy of wrapping with recyclable, inexpensive plain brown paper. Coloured tissue paper and metallic paper is not recyclable.  The pearls are easy stick-ons and the black ribbon is wireless.  Everything purchased in a quick trip to my favorite dollar store.  )

ALWAYS WELCOME STRANGERS FOR THEY MAY BE ANGELS

A very, very long time ago, in a place far, far away I bought a cabin.  It was built of huge logs harvested on the property.   The road a faint path grown over with years of neglect.  It stood alone quietly  facing  a small lake in Northern Saskatchewan.     The windows obscured with the dust of many years.  Velvety moss covered the stone doorstep.    Over the  door a sign ALWAYS WELCOME STRANGERS THEY MAY BE ANGELS.  I bought my cabin never stepping inside.

Later when I picked up the key I learned the history of my cabin.  It had been built in the early Twenties.  When  World War Two was declared in September l939 the son  of the owners enlisted.  He never came home.  His parents never returned to their cabin.   Twenty-Two years later I walked into a time capsule.    It was as if they had simple closed the door and gone for a stroll.   I kept the iron beds.  The “crazy ” patchwork quilts.    The  kettle for heating water.    The Union Jack to hang on the flag pole.  The tiny child’s wooden boat.   I kept the sign over the door.

Thus began my fascination with angels.    I was fascinated with the concept of entertaining angels unaware.    Their wings.  What do angels do with their wings?  Tuck them under their coats?  Hang them at the door?   The Christmas issues of my French magazines always featured angel wings in their decor.  Hanging over mirrors.  On the backs of chairs.    Now I was obsessed with finding  angel wings.  Not flimsy cartoon versions of wings, but big, white wings with feathers.

It was in July of the past summer when I walked into our Ladner Thrift Shop and discovered my angel wings.  They were hanging with children’s costumes.     Teary eyed I stroked the feathers.  They were perfect .  They were my long sought after angel wings.

They hang surrounded  by all things French .    The setting is perfect.  My angel wings catch the early morning sun and in the evening tiny fairy lights light up the night.   I remember the sign from long ago.   I live in hope remembering the cabin sign.   Welcome strangers for some have entertained angels unawares.

 

 

OOH LA LA . . . COCO CHANEL INSPIRED CHRISTMAS GIFT WRAPPED PRESENTS

The logs in the great fireplace crackled and sang warmth into the room.  Heavy, faded green velvet curtains shut out the dark night.   Le Noël de la rue, warbled Edith Piaf, on the old Victrola.    It was the top of the hour.  She opened the curtains inviting  the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower to fill the room with light.

Honest, plain brown paper.

A scattering of pearls.

An elegance of black ribbon.

A Coco Chanel wrapped Christmas gift.

Brown paper unrolled.

Silver scissors cut.

Pearls adorned.

Ribbons tied.

Champagne chilled.

Cassoulet simmered on the old La Cornue stove and filled the rooms with its rich aroma.

Footsteps whispered on the ancient stone stairs.  Theadora and The Tin Man had arrived.

It was Christmas in her little house in Paris.

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS DECOR INSPIRED BY MY LITTLE HOUSE IN PARIS

I’ve been away.  Traveling to my fantasy little house in Paris.   Heavy green velvet curtains cover the tall windows.  They keep out the cold wind that whistles and tugs at the window panes.  The house is snug and warm and I’ve filled it with treasure from the Christmas markets.  The flea markets have been scoured for bits of Christmas pasts.   I’ve wrapped fat white candles with brown paper tied with twine.    Angel wings hang from coat hooks  and the kitchen is rich with the intoxicating aroma of a welcoming holiday feast.   My Paris friend, Theadora, and our worldly traveled Tin Man  will dine tonight.  Joyeux Noel we shout from the balcony to the street belong.  Joyeux Noel!

Joyeux Noel!  Merry Christmas!  The perfect words to welcome dear friends and family to our house in the country.  I’ve brought memories of Paris home.  I shall wrap candles in brown paper.  I will conjure up golden angel wings.  And I will paint the words Joyeux Noel. There  is only a few short street of stores in our tiny  Ladner village.   It’s a charming , calm place to shop.  Far away from hustle and bustle of malls.   Quite by chance  I found these  letters on unpainted blocks of wood.   The perfect do-it-yourself project.  A little dark paint.  A little white paint.    Voila!

My slow and happy enjoyment of this season continues.   There are presents to be wrapped.  More decorations to make to adorn our home.  A Christmas tree to decorate, but all in good time.

 

(If you visit TripSavy you will discover the Christmas markets and other magical places to visit during the holiday season.  Photo of a Christmas market by TripSavy.)

 

 

 

THE SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT CUP FOR MORNING COFFEE . . . A FAIRY TALE ENDING

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It’s the little things in life that make a difference.  Nothing is more important than the way you start the day.   For me it is my perfect cup of café au lait.    Like Goldilocks’  search for perfection in  the fairy tale encounter with Three Bears I have searched for the perfect cup.  It has to be able to hold one and three-quarter cups of liquid.  I found the right size cup but the lip of the cup was two thick.   I tolerated that cup until   I found a cup with a thinner lip,  but the cup was so thin my coffee cooled  too quickly.   I really didn’t have time to enjoy it.    My dear friend Ellen has given my fairy tale search a happy ending.  Knowing my love for all things French  she arrived at my door with a pair of perfect café au lait cups.

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My morning ritual begins when I spoon the  mahogany coloured French roast beans into the grinder.   I stop and inhale the rich, heady aroma of the beans.  This is the way to begin your day.  I grind the beans exactly 7 seconds – to get my perfect grind for  pour over coffee.

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I very slowly pour the boiling water over the coffee.  Then tuck a coffee cosy around this fragrant wake-up elixir.    The timer is set for exactly 5 minutes.

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I pour boiling water into the perfect cup.  One simply does not pour hot coffee into a cold cup.  Meanwhile the milk is heating.

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It is this perfect cup that makes my perfect café au lait.  It is exactly the right size for equal parts of coffee and milk.

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I pour the dark, rich coffee.  Add the very hot milk and savor the milky coffee fragrance.

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In the quiet early morning light I sip my coffee.  The perfect beginning for my  day.   Coffee in the perfect coffee cup.  C’est bon dear Ellen.  Thank you for my perfect cups.

DO IT YOURSELF VINTAGE FRENCH BOOKS . . . Restoration Hardware inspired.

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There is magic in very old books.   They speak to you with a thousand tales.  Secrets from the past.  Adventure .  Romance.   Intrigue.

Restoration Hardware’s catalogue  “Objects of Curiosity”   was my inspiration for altering inexpensive soft cover books into expensive looking objects of desire. It is very easy to create these copies of  magnificent l8ths century handcrafted journals.

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All your need is a length of heavy string or twine, Elmer’s Glue,  natural coloured muslin fabric, Mod Podge,  Black craft paint, Gesso, a flat paint brush and an exactor knife.

I picked up some fat books (six inches by nine inches) 50 cents each in the discard bin at our local library.   They were ideal since they were about the same thickness and would make a set.

l. cut pieces of twine for each book and glue to the spine with Elmer’s Glue.  Let dry.

2.  Cut muslin fabric slightly larger than the book.  Do not use pinking sheers.  You want the edges of the fabric to fray slightly.

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3. Put sheets of wax paper between the covers and pages of the book and brush on a generous layer of Mod Podge.

4.Smooth the fabric onto the book and make a few small cuts on the fabric at the base of the spine.

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5. Let dry a little and remove wax paper and let finish drying.

6. When dry add more cut along length of the spine.

7. Mix gesso with one or two drops of black craft paint and stir well.  You want a dirty gray so you may have to add a little more paint.

8. Put wax paper between the book cover and the pages and paint the muslin with your gesso mixture.

9. Let dry a little and pull out wax paper and let dry completely.  This may take a day or two.   You are now finished creating your very French vintage books.

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I was so delighted with the results I went on to cover really large coffee-table sized  soft- cover books.    The instructions are exactly the same.  I also dabbed a damp tea bag on the edges of the pages to age them.

Sets of similar books retail for around $195.00.  Doing it yourself it works out to about $6.00 a book.  If you are a  “crafter” and have Mod Podge and gesso on hand (as I did)  the set of books cost me less than $5.00 for the set of four.

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A TALE OF THE SNOW ANGEL

THE BEAUTIFUL EYE

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The snow began to fall early that evening.  Glittering snow  that turned streets and sidewalks pristine white.

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Soft snow flakes that wedged in the mane and eyes of sleeping lions.

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Snow that pushed itself  into every crevice and ledge.

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She had taken off her wings.  They were heavy.  The feathers whispered as she moved.    Today she would not wear them.

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On the day of the first snow fall she would put aside her wings and angel duties.

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This day she  would be an ordinary person.  Doing ordinary things.

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She would ride through snowy streets.  Wheels singing.   Snow flying.

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Wearing silver skates she would glide and spin on ice high above the city.

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As the light faded she watched as napkins were folded.   Candles lit.  Wine poured.

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Her day was ending.  Sweetly she laid  down in the pristine snow and made her mark.

Snow Angels.

 Fini.

(Just a reminder about Snow Angels.   They exist.  You’ve seen and heard them filling the world with joyful song.

“King of Kings

and lord of lords

Hallelujah.  Hallelujah.  Hallelujah”)

FOREVER CHIC … Le Femme Francaise d’un Certain Age

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I am a woman of a certain age.  La Femme Francaise d’un Certain Âge

It is my wish on my birthdays to celebrate a life well lived.  To celebrate with elan, grace, elegance, humor and a glass or two of Champagne.  To celebrate with family and friends.  To celebrate with cake and sparklers.  To celebrate with joy and happiness this life of mine.

FOREVER CHIC by Tish Jett is a book divulging French women’s secrets for timeless beauty, style and substance.  What makes this book different is the advice is for older woman.   The significant chapters deal with hair, skin care and fashion.  Take your little black book and pencil in the lists, the suggested products and the ideal must-have fashions.  Some of the products may not be available to you or prohibitively expensive but there is an encouraging abundance of excellent ideas.

If you have little time for this type of book you can skim read the mantras that make French women  appear younger than their years and more stylish than runway models.  But their thoughts on beauty regimes and fashions  will inspire and encourage you to accentuate your strengths and conceal your weaknesses.

 

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I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little  –  if only out of politeness.  And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny.  And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.” – Coco Chanel

I am not embarrassed to admit I never leave the house without  make-up and the right clothes for the occasion.   Sometimes it is simply bright red lipstick, perfectly pressed chinos  and a classic white shirt.  It is never t-shirts with silly words, flip-flops and baggy ripped jeans.   This does require effort and discipline but organization makes it possible.  I do like to do things the easy way.  Perhaps I am a little bit lazy.  But if all parts of my life are tidy and in order.  If my closets are organized. If my shoes always put away cleaned and polished.   I can accomplish anything.  It is not possible if you live in chaos.

The situation for women of a certain age is this.    The children are grown up.  You have less obligations. You may live alone.   Perhaps you have retired.   Why not look your very best? Recently I went to a convention for women volunteers.  I was late arriving and sat in the back row.  From this vantage point I looked at the back of about 300 women well over a certain age.  The majority of the women had their steel gray hair cut so short that from where I sat it looked like a room of men dressed in women’s clothes.

FOREVER CHIC is inspiration and encouragement for those of us getting older.   Why not do it the French way – with grace and style.

 

 

 

HOW TO BE PARISIAN WHEREVER YOU ARE

 

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There is no doubt in any woman’s mind – the Parisian woman is the epitome of chic.    She is a fashion maven but not a fashion slave.   Style follows her.

Oh that we could be that woman.  One pours over fashion magazines.  The answer is not there.    The Parisian woman’s style is a state of mind.  No matter who you are.  Where you live.   How much you spend on fashions.   How old you are.   You can have Parisian chic.

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Four engaging, stunning and accomplished Frenchwomen – Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas collaborate  i n a witty, irreverent, funny tell-all book  HOW TO BE PARISIAN WHEREVER YOU ARE  *  Love, Style, and Bad Habits.

“Fashion rules the world and Parisians rule fashion.  Fine, it may not be true but the world still needs fairy tales.”

How can you not love a book that tells you how to be mysterious and sensual AND look natural.   It’s a very, very funny quick read.  When you finish the book you’ll feel so very, very chic and très Parisienne.  Can you ask for anything more?

P.S.  If you are single there some chapters you might just devour.   Others, depending on your age, you will ignore.  I promise you this.  You definitely will dress with more elan. Even cook differently.    It won’t cost you a fortune.  You will fill wonderful.

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FRENCH TEA TOWELS … TORCHONS!

 

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“”I’ve brought you something from Paris”.

She wiped the gray dust of Paris from her valise.  Unfastened the buckles.  Out tumbled yards and yards of linen.

 

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“This is what I found the second time I went to the Sunday Flea Market.    It’s  métis – tea toweling.  It’s made to the exact width and all you have to do is cut along this woven line in the weave and voila  you have your towel.”

 

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I caressed the fabric, feeling the glazed finish that protected the fibers.

“It’s beautiful. There’s enough fabric to make  a set of four tea towels.”

The fastidious French kitchen required tea towels to be in sets of four, each with a loop for hanging.  The quartet of towels were used for separate tasks – hands, glassware, dishes and cutlery.

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The well appointed French kitchen had a towel rack with four hooks.  Each hook labeled for the corresponding towel.

Mains, verres, couteaux and vaisselle” said my well-traveled friend. “You’re clever with a needle.   Embroider your initials in red.     If you ever send them to the blanchisserie (laundry) you identify your tea towels.”

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I will cut and sew and embroider my tea towels.  I will hang them from loops in my French butler’s pantry.   I will take joy, much joy in the simple beauty of a tea towel.

 

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