Saturday, March 29, 2014

Okay, you're fixing dinner for the four people in your family.  So you roast 5 turkeys, and a side of beef, and 2 or 3 bushels of potatoes, and bake at least a dozen pies, right?

Of course not - food is perishable, and you don't want to waste it.

You're out driving around and see a house that's really attractive, so you buy it.  Yea, you already own 8 or 10 other houses - you've really lost track - but this one is pretty, and it's a great price.  Right?

Of course not - houses are wicked expensive, and you simply can't afford to be this wasteful.

You can see where I'm going with this - almost all of us own more clothes than we need, and we keep shopping even though we have enough...


well-organized closet in which all of the clothes are visible
Gorgeous closet from The Container Store

Debbie Roes, over at Recovering Shopaholic, wrestles with this question a lot.  Her blog is full of great candor about her personal struggles, and abounds with intelligent analysis and good ideas for smarter, more disciplined clothes shopping.

She discusses the idea of finding one's personal, optimal wardrobe size.  This can be an interesting exercise- sort of like determining the right amount of food to fix for dinner, or the right sized home to purchase.

So for me, I thought of this as follows:

  • I want to be sure that I wear things at least twice a month, but I will only wear them for half the year, so each garment will be worn, ideally,12 times a year.
  • I have to dress for two distinct seasons - Chicago goes almost immediately from down-filled to linen with no real transitional pause.
  • On average, I have three garments on at a time - sometimes only one or two, but let's assume three per day.
  • So this comes out at 90 garments total - 45 for warm, 45 for cold...
The math goes like this:

45 =((3 garments per day *365 days)/2 seasons)/12 wearings per year

One more decision - how often do I want to wear skirts/dresses versus pants?  I'm dividing things 50/50.

Deep breath....

I want to have enough ensembles to wear things twice a month.  That's 2 weeks worth of clothing.  So that seven skirts/dresses, and seven pairs of pants.  Per season.  Or 14 skirts/dresses, and 14 pair of pants total.

sigh...

I think I have more than this.  I need to tackle my closet. Again.  

But there's really good motivation for all of this. Wasting money is horrible, wasting resources is horrible, and having way too much clothing just messes up your home and your mind...

have a lovely weekend!

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Friday, March 28, 2014


Everybody's eager to start packing for warm weather destinations, and I'm often asked for specific color combinations - especially those with navy.  One of my most loyal readers asked me for navy, white and coral a while back, and I'm delighted to be able to finally fill her request.

The travel outfit is, as always, very uncomplicated.  Long pants, shoes with closed toes and heels, a cardigan, and a scarf are all essentials that I include.


travel outfit in navy and coral, with a navy cardigan and pants, and coral scarf and loafers
Tee shirt – Marella, pants – Weekend by Max Mara, cardiganPhase Eight,
 scarf – Nordstrom, earrings – Hring eftir hring, watch – Skagen, loafers – Rockport,
 tote – Longchamp

If you're only going away for a long weekend, a six-pack will do.  Working with your three colors, you can choose six garments, a scarf and some accessories...

a "Six-Pack" in navy, coral and white for warm weather
White tank – Uniqlo, bracelet – Caipora Jewellery, checked tunicJoie
navy tee – Uniqlo,  cotton dress – Courreges, white shorts – Forte Forte
scarf – Antagoniste, floral skirt – Shop Ruche, gold sandals – Dirty Laundry

And you have all of these options to wear:

Four outfits using a "Six-Pack" in navy, coral and white


If you're going to be away for longer, you can add five more garments (marked with stars) to give you a LOT more options to get you through at least a couple of weeks of travel.

11 piece travel capsule wardrobe in navy, coral and white, for warm weather
Cardigan – Slide Slope, white tank – Uniqlo, paisley tee – Etro, bracelet –  
Caipora Jewellery, checked tunic – Joie, navy tee – Uniqlo, striped dress –  
Dorothy Perkins, skirt – Lauren Ralph Lauren, cotton dress – Courreges, white
 shorts – Forte Forte, scarf – Antagoniste, navy flats – Sam Edelman, cropped
 jeans – Ralph Lauren,  floral skirt – Shop Ruche, gold sandals – Dirty Laundry

four outfits using an 11-piece travel capsule wardrobe in navy, coral and white

four outfits using an 11-piece travel capsule wardrobe in navy, coral and white

Now if only the weather will warm up enough that I'm not wearing big lumpy rubber boots!

love,
Janice

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Just an ordinary room at the Hotel des Grands Hommes

Almost 20 years ago, when Belovedest and I first went to Paris, we stayed at the Hotel des Grands Hommes (the hotel of the great men, NOT the hotel of the big guys).  I don't even remember how the hotel was chosen, but we really enjoyed it, and have been back a few times since then, but not recently.

But when we were planning for our anniversary, it seemed an obvious choice, and it was a BRILLIANT selection.  They continue to enhance the rooms and the common areas, and literally every corner of every section of the hotel is beautiful and holds delights.  Our room was small, of course, but beautifully appointed, with a bathroom that was both spacious and utterly immaculate.

Chambre 31 - our delectalicious room.

Hotel des Grands Hommes - at the Place du Pantheon (seriously, literally 30 feet from the Pantheon). Gracious, English-speaking staff, a beautiful hotel, excellent service - I can't recommend it highly enough.

One of the oddest experiences we always have in Paris is that we seem to hear the same songs over and over - and not necessarily things like top 40 hits!  Our very first visit, we hear Frank Sinatra's "My Way" at LEAST four different places - it became almost bizarre...

This trip, we heard these two. For this first one, I defy you to sit and watch this without at least wanting  to dance.


And the other song we heard repeatedly was an oldie.  We hear a lot of blues, soul and jazz when we're in Paris.  Maybe it's just where we hang out, or maybe it's a wider-spread thing...


So that was my Paris, this trip... Blissful, beautiful, and full of love...

Magellans

Actually, we only stopped for pastries three or four times...

It doesn't surprise you, I'm sure, to hear that Paris is a pretty excellent place to dine.  I can't honestly remember ever having a truly bad meal there; most of the time I feel pretty confident walking into any restaurant or cafe that's at all busy, knowing that I'll eat pretty well, and occasionally have an astonishingly brilliant experience.

So in alphabetical order, these are the places that I can remember dining last week:

  • Benoit, 20 rue Saint Martin, 75004
This is where we went for our anniversary dinner, and it was a great choice.  The service was that perfect balance of attentiveness and respect that marks the very nicest places to dine.  This Alain Ducasse charmer is rather tiny, and is the quintessence of a beautiful bistrot; the room makes you feel like you've traveled back in time...  Their specialty seems to be taking perfect ingredients and doing the minimum necessary to make them shine.  For the first time ever, Belovedest had enough truffles (on a dish of chicken) to satisfy him.  Asparagus - amazing.  The most perfectly prepared sole I have ever eaten, and spinach about which I will dream for years...  Benoit is now on our short list of places to which we will return every time we go to Paris - it was that ideal.
It's very fashionable to hate this brasserie, because it's now part of a chain, but I've dined here at least 50 times (one trip, years ago, my companion wanted to eat EVERY meal here...) and I've never had bad food, nor bad service.  A beautiful piece of salmon was memorable, and they've added rice pudding to their menu, which delights me.  The menu has been somewhat updated, but the room remains timeless, and the people-watching (university types abound) is worth the visit.
  • Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie, 19 Rue des Fosses Saint-Jacques, 75005
Closed on weekends, which just crushed us, as this cafe was literally only a few yards behind our hotel, and gets rave reviews.  We stopped in one night without reservations (really BAD idea), and they squeezed us in for some snacks and a bottle of wine.  More amazing asparagus - sticking with the seasonal specials is always wise.  A cheese plate that married ideally with our bottle of Pic Saint Loup.  Desserts were tasty, the room was a madhouse of people from the neighborhood, and the whole experience was warm and welcoming.
  • Fish La Boissonnerie, 69 Rue de Seine, 75006
We lunched here, as we have in the past, and always find it wonderful.  Again, the room is tiny, tables are close, but the food is excellent.  I had rouget, which I virtually never eat, along with some vegetables that I couldn't identify.  Everything was perfectly prepared, and the art gallery neighborhood provides that you will have some amazing and exotic dining companions.  You know something is going right when you eat foods that you can't even NAME, and you love every bite!

Le Garde Robe - tiny, busy, fun!

  • Le Garde Robe, 41 Rue de l'Arbre Sec, 75001
Yes, it's named "the closet:, and it's apt - this is one teeny little wine bar.  But their selection of wines is wonderful, and the simple food provided to accompany the wine is well-chosen.  We always eat a combination of charcuterie and cheese, and generally throw ourselves on the mercy of the staff when it comes to choosing wine.  A handy location near the Louvre makes this place constantly packed - reservations are essential.
Fondue, raclette, and tartiflette. (tartiflette is like scalloped potatoes with cheese and bacon, touched by the gods)  This place is a cholesterol killer, but well worth the workout that must come later.  Extremely tourist-friendly, although the staff speaks relatively limited English - they have an English menu which will guide you very well.  On a freezing cold night, gloppy gooey oozy cheese is a wonderful solution.  Reservations essential - I think you can pretty much assume that you're going to want reservations at almost any place you eat in Paris.  The staff at your hotel can do this for you, if you're not comfortable making phone calls in French.
Another restaurant quite close to our hotel, and a real find.  They prepare ONE menu each evening - the night that we were there, we had a gorgeous cauliflower soup, a piece of beef that had been braised in red wine for about a month (along with lovely baby vegetables), a beautiful piece of blue cheese, and a dessert of panne cotta with caramel.  If you don't like any of the items on the set menu, I'm not sure how you will manage, but I'd be willing to at least try anything that they put in front of me.  
Another wine-centric choice, with a very short menu and an amazing wine list.  At the very outset, they brought an open bottle of a cherry and wine aperitif that was so good I might have been tempted to just take the bottle and run....  But I managed to restrain myself, and I'm glad I did. We had the menu with which each course is accompanied by a glass of wine specifically chosen to marry ideally with the food.  This was a great way to try a handful of wines without committing to entire bottles...

We always go out for breakfast every day - we will normally find a cafe very near our hotel and return to it every day.  We were fortunate to have Le Comptoir du Pantheon (5 Rue Soufflot) just a few hundred yards from our hotel.  The least expensive "petit dejeuner francais" in the neighborhood, excellent coffee, and genial service.  We will certainly go back there if we stay in the neighborhood again.

Ultimately, just go into a restaurant and make reservations if it looks good to you.  It's only one meal out of your life, and your chances of having a lovely meal are very good. Be patient with yourself and with the staff, try things you've never tried before, and approach everything with a sense of humor and love; you will have a wonderful time.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Every time I travel, I realize that I could pack less.  We realistically could have been able to get through most days with jeans, a sweater, and something to dress up a bit for dinner.  The items that were out of my bag continually look like this:
Stud earrings – Majorica, ballet flats – Cole Haan,  fingerless gloves – Echo, sneakers – Munro,  jeans – Eileen Fisher, tee shirt – Eileen Fisher, scarf - Julie Egli


Our weather was changeable - most days we started with jackets and ended up carrying them my late afternoon.  I found that I really enjoyed my fingerless gloves - they're sort of whimsical compromise that proved to be just warm enough.  And my ballet flats were great - they have enough support to be comfortable and excellent for walking.  Despite all of the stereotypes, you could wear jeans every day in Paris and blend in completely, so my black waxed denim jeans got a lot of action.

But I went shopping... of COURSE I went shopping...
Dress – French Trotters, tee shirts – Muji,  cashmere sweatshirt – James Perse, sneakers – Bensimon,  ballet flats – Geox 

I always drop in at French Trotters, and I generally find something I can't resist.  This dress was perfect for me - I wore it the next day after I bought it, with my black tee shirt, black tights and flats.  It's going to get some major mileage this summer...

The tee shirts from Muji were a no-brainer.  And this isn't the exact cashmere sweatshirt that I bought, but it's very similar, and again will be a garment that I'll wear non-stop in the cold weather.  Bensimon sneakers are hard to find in the US, and I've always wanted to try Geox shoes, so finding them deeply discounted made this an easy decision.

The unifying theme with all of these things is the tomboyish, relaxed feeling that they share - a clear reflection of my days working from home, and my evenings walking for miles and miles with Belovedest.

There were some pretty clear trends apparent on the streets in Paris - first thing we both noticed were the short trench coats that many of the women seemed to be wearing.
Yellow – Windsmoor, animal print – Juna Rose, floral – Aquascutum, green – Ted Baker, geometric print – Samya 
And it was delightful to see clusters of umbrella that WEREN'T BLACK!!!  Which made me rethink my longstanding policy of always owning a black umbrella - it's not like I have my umbrella out eternally, and so it doesn't have to match my whole wardrobe - a little bit of whimsy might be a great idea.

Black white and green – Kate Spade New York, pinwheel – Marc Jacobs, zigzag – Jonathan Adler, hexagon print – Jonathan Adler, cards – Jonathan Adler, striped – Burberry, turquoise print – Marc by Marc Jacobs, red floral – Jonathan Adler

And without question, the very second that the sun came out, so did the ballet flats - they were in every shop window, and as soon as there was a break in the clouds, they were on every female foot.  As long as you get a pair of shoes with reasonable support and structure, there's no reason that ballet flats can't be as comfortable as any other shoes.

All flats - Butterfly Twists

Another more subtle trend that I noticed was the juxtaposition of patterned shirts and sweaters.  These were worn in a particular way - the shirts were buttoned all the way to the neck, and the neckline of the sweater stood away from the shirt collar just a bit, so that the contrast of patterns was noticeable.

Black and white checked shirt – Comme Des Garcons, black and white sweater – Viyella,  red gingham shirt – Barbour, red and navy sweater – Dash

Beige floral shirt – Forte Forte, beige and white sweater – Mango, red floral shirt – Fred Perry, red striped sweater – Missoni

Blue and white shirt – Stella Jean, navy floral sweater – Theory, brown striped shirt – Loro Piana, leopard sweater – Michael Michael Kors

Other than that, the most noticeable things were the subtle but uniform self-care that we saw on women - good skin, good hair, overall fitness, and a sense of vigor and confidence...


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Monday, March 24, 2014

The first thing we noticed when we got to Paris last Saturday was that there was an election soon!  The Paris government very wisely puts up temporary "walls" upon which the political posters are affixed - a brilliant solution that minimizes the amount of paper glued to walls, and gives all candidates equal opportunity to expose their ideas to the public, without having to be concerned about raising huge amounts of money.


This picture is from 2008, but the idea is still at work
The single most amazing thing to me when I saw these posters was that more than half of the candidates that I saw on posters were women.  I know, I know, we're supposed to be used to this sort of thing by now, but after watching the interchangeable contesting the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Chicago, it was a relief to see some women...

Moreover, we saw  MANY groups of people reading these posters, and discussing them.  What appeared to be real  conversations about issues...

And the second thing that became apparent was that Paris was REALLY serious about taking care of their high air pollution levels.  The speed limits on the Periphique were reduced, and travel on all mass transit was free for the entire weekend - very handy for us, as we dashed back and forth to the Stade de France.



There was also one day of "even numbered license plates/odd numbered license plates" in effect - it was wildly unpopular! But as of this morning, this is the way air quality looks in Europe:

In which Paris still looks a bit troubled, but, to put things in perspective:


Both images taken at 4:30 a.m. Chicago time...

These super-neat real-time maps are available at http://aqicn.org/, where you can really get a grasp of what's going on with pollution.

Yes, I'm going to write about my hotel, and food, and fashion, and shopping, but let's not forget that real life is a part of what Parisians experience, and part of what I was delighted to share for a week.


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Saturday, March 22, 2014

This post was originally on A Femme d'un Certain Age on March 28, 2012.  If you've never browsed through her ginormous archives, there' a world of loveliness there...

And if you're one of the lucky ones that wear yellow well, then GET TO IT!  The rest of us swoon with desire when we see it, and envy you your ability to look so fabulous in it...

grey and yellow travel outfit
Grey blouse – Diane von Furstenberg, stud earrings – J.C. Penney, Scarf – Anne Selby, Blazer – Preen, grey pants – Reiss, silver loafers – J. Crew, grey sequined tote – Deux Lux

grey and yellow travel capsule wardrobe
Yellow sweater – Burberry Brit, grey tee – American Vintage, grey pearl earrings – Lord & Taylor, flower earrings & bracelet  – Alexis Bittar, square scarves – Hermès, yellow tank – Acne, pants – Etro, yellow skirt – Yves Saint Laurent, satin rose clutch – Franchi, gray cardigan – Vanessa Bruno, dress – Lela Rose, silver kitten heel sandals – Debenhams, yellow ballet flats – Repetto

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Friday, March 21, 2014

From the April 2, 2012 A Femme d'un Certain Age - visit there to see all of the possible combinations.

Cloud-print tee – Stella McCartney, grey pants – Veronique Branquinho, cable-knit cardigan – Stella McCartney, pave earrings – Marc by Marc Jacobs, silver flats – Bloch, grey metallic scarf – Dorothy Perkins, grey tote – Laema


Dotted scarf – Aspinal of London, pearl & jet earrings – JCPenney, star-print georgette scarf – Helene Berman, Cap-sleeved black silk blouse – Marc by Marc Jacobs, Black & white diamond flower ring – Lord & Taylor, white cardigan – Yves Saint Laurent, pearl drop earrings – Kate Spade, diamond and rhodium earrings – Lord & Taylor, bangle bracelet – 2028, black & white flowered sleeveless dress – Givenchy, black & white print skirt – Erdem, black capris – McQ Alexander McQueen, 4 tee shirts (black and white) – Old Navy, black & white loafers – Belgian Shoes.com, black & white ballet flats – Christian Louboutin, clutch bag - Balmain


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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ahhh, by the time you're reading this post, I'm in Paris celebrating our 10th anniversary with my most Belovedest.  I frankly wasn't convinced that marriage was right for me (yes, I had tried it before, and I was not very good at it....).  This, however, has been the most uniformly delightful 10 years of my life, and pretty much more than any woman could hope to deserve.  

This ensemble seemed perfect to revive for today, because I was married in a soft violet outfit (wisteria, to quote Eileen Fisher on the color).  This would be delightful for a second honeymoon...

The original post can be found on A Femme d'un Certain Age, where various combinations are shown.


Navy cotton cardigan –Vanessa Bruno, amethyst stud earrings – Bounkit, tee shirt – Prabal Gurung, Purple raincoat – MaxMara, navy trousers – Pied a Terre, scarf – Pashmina Art, navy flats – Rangoni, navy tote -Longchamp

urple, grey and white tee shirts – J. Crew, navy tee shirt – Majestic, small flower stud earrings – Shaun Leane, silver stud earrings – Nina Breddal, sequined tank – J. Crew, white cardigan – Dorothy Perkins, drop earrings – 1928, purple capris – Max Mara, navy capris – Jil Sander, Silk jersey dress – Saloni, cowl neck top – Coast, maltese cross cuff bracelet – Rewind Vintage Affairs, print skirt – Marni, Scarf – Crumpet England, sunglasses – Michael Kors, floral square scarf – Versace, silver clutch – Dorothy Perkins, tasseled loafers – Enzo Angiolini, purple flat sandals – Jimmy Choo
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