Saturday, February 28, 2015

Someone to watch over me

I’ve always loved watches.  I’ve owned big watches and little watches.  For years, after my mother died, I wore her delicate Caravelle ladies watch.  It was gold and had an elasticized band that cut into me and left tiny red marks in the shape of squares on wrist.  My mother’s wrists were much slimmer than mine.  She was delicate and small boned. 

Still, I wore that watch until it stopped working and then I retired it to my jewelry box.

In the seventies I wore a vintage pocket watch on a red silk ribbon around my neck.  This went well with my McCabe and Mrs. Miller/Julie Christie-inspired ensembles, the flounced skirts and the flower-child hairdos. 

I was never one of those Swatch Watch people of the 1980’s.  By then, I had a husband and a baby.  I was writing young adult novels at night and writing marketing copy for Estée Lauder during the day.  While the other girls at Lauder were going out to Studio 54 or Lime Light, I was thinking about picking up dinner and getting to the nanny’s home in time.  And then the next day, I would wake up at 5 a.m. to work on my novel.

This is when I started to wear my Timex.

I’ve owned a few Timex watches.  They seem to last for about five years and then they quit.  They’d probably last longer if I didn’t abuse them so much.  I wear them day and night.  I often forget to take my Timex off in the shower.  I bang it on things and I spill things.  This rough and tumble treatment doesn’t mean I love my Timex any less.  In fact, it makes me love it more.  My Timex is like a faithful old friend, who’s straight spoken--the numbers are big and easy to understand—no winding necessary and there’s nothing to set or change.  It doesn’t tell me the date, the temperature, or how fast I walk to the post office or how many calories I’ve burned.  It just tells me the time.  Minutes and seconds.  And that’s all I really need.

More than this, my Timex is a link to the real world and the passage of time and place.  Sometimes, you need to know what time it is.  You need to witness the hand of the watch gently shift from one number to another.  Sometimes, this simple movement is all that stands between you and drifting away from the shores of reality.

I learned this when I was in France a few years ago. 

I was at the end of 6-week tour, researching a new book, Ooh La La! French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day.

It was early October, the last evening before I was to fly back to the United States.  I was in the southern town of Toulouse, one of my favorite places in France, and everything was in place.  My bags were packed.  I was not only ready to go home, but I really needed to go home.  I was exhausted beyond tired, and just wanted to return to my husband and our home.

Only, the universe had other plans for me.

Just as I was leaving my French friend’s home to go out to a farewell dinner, I slipped on a very large, very old, very slippery cobblestone.

I went down in one big swoop and I hit my head on the stone.  My left foot teetered from one side and then to the other with a crack and another crack.  I felt a jolt of pain and then I fainted.

I awoke to the sounds of the French ambulance—the singsong siren, that is so different from the American siren.  I was in a state of shock and I could feel myself unmoored, slowly drifting away from all that was familiar.

As it turns out, I broke my ankle in two places—the tibia and the fibula and before I could really grasp what was happening to me, I was rushed into surgery, where the doctor inserted a titanium plate and six pins.

When I woke up I couldn't remember what had happened to me.  The nurses tiptoed in and out of my room, whispering in French, before giving me morphine.  And while I do know French, at this point the language eluded me.  Everything floated away from my consciousness.  And to add to this sense of disconnection, there was no cell phone reception in my room.  There was no clock on the wall.  And no internet.  My husband was on a research trip in the Australia outback and while my French friend was able to eventually reach him and tell him what had happened, he had no way of getting in touch with me.

During this time, I did have two touchstones to keep me anchored in reality.  There was my little moleskine notebook, where I wrote everything down.  And most important, there was my Timex watch.   Whenever my blood pressure was checked, I noted the time and wrote it down in my notebook.  I noted the time that breakfast arrived, lunch, then dinner.  I noted the time when the nurse came into the room to tidy up or when the doctor made his morning rounds.  I noted the time when the sun came up outside my little window and when the streets of Toulouse were busy and when they were quiet. 

I spent nine days like this, until my husband arrived, rescued me, and took me back home to America. 

This experience changed my life and it was after this, I began to keep my watch on all the time.  Today, I never take it off—except to shower or swim (when I remember!)  I sleep with it on, and sometimes will check the time in the middle of the night, just to reassure myself that all is well with the world and I know the time.  I cherish my watch, knowing that left to my own devices, without the trappings of modern life, my little Timex will still protect me.  Or this is what I tell myself. 

Someday, I imagine my daughter will wear my Timex wristwatch.  She will wear it for a year or two, and she will find comfort in the thought that her mother wore this watch and that it served as a kind of talisman against the vagaries of life—not that it will necessarily protect her from unexpected events, but that should something unexpected happen, such as a fall in a foreign city, this wristwatch will tell her the time and she can actually see time pass, as sure as she can see the sun rise in the sky and fall again--minute by minute—in a plain spoken, straight-forward, honest and simple manner.  And I think this is a great gift for mother to give her daughter. 

With this in mind, I recently discovered  It's a wonderful auction site that carries fine art, beautiful vintage jewelry, and yes, wristwatches.  So if you want to pass on a memento, a beautiful object with meaning, this is a great place to begin.

What would you like to pass along to your daughter, your son, to a family member or a good friend?  What's your story? 

I'd love to hear more about it!  


Monday, January 12, 2015

Paris will always be Paris.

This week, my heart and prayers and healing thoughts go out to dear Paris, City of Light.

Yesterday, over one and a half million people joined hands across the streets of Paris to show unity and hope for the future.  Forty world leaders came to Paris to show support for the beloved City of Light.  And ordinary citizens came out in the frigid cold to say Je suis Charlie.  Je suis Paris.
After all, Paris belongs to all of us.  And she is more than a city that resides in France--she is a place we hold dear in our own hearts.  Whether we come from Kansas or Cancun, Tokyo or Tuscany, we have joined together with sadness yes--but also with bright and hopeful hearts.
And yes, there is always hope.

Spring will come and we will once again find beauty and delight in Paris. 

This is how we push against the darkness--through light, and through laughter.  
We rebuild confidence through simple pleasures and ordinary moments--

Picnics along the Seine.
An afternoon at the cafe on the Boulevard St. Germain.
Lifting a glass of champagne at Cafe Ruc on Rue Saint-Honoré.
A stroll through the Tuileries.
Buying a new scarf at Printemps.
A visit to the Eiffel Tower.
Paris will always be Paris because her beauty can never be diminished.
Through the tumult of the centuries, she has remained strong and dignified--shoulders back, 
and her head held up high--oh, and with perfect posture, bien sur.
This after all, is Paris, City of Light.  City of Hope.

Dear mes amies--stay strong and keep dreaming.
With love,

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bonne Année!

It's almost New Year's Eve, dear friends.
And it's time to say au revoir to 2014.   
(Photo by Lo Charme e un nodo da stringere con stile)

Have you ever wondered how the French celebrate their New Year's Eve?  Well, they are a lot like us and will attend a party--either a small, intimate soirée or a big ball.  There's always dancing, and of course there is always champagne!

And oftentimes, there's foie gras.
French women get dressed in something pretty and elegant.  (Bien sur!)

New Year's Day is called Le Jour de l'An.  It's a time for family and friends to exchange cards and gifts and share their dreams and hopes for the new year.  One of my favorite holidays is the Epiphany, January 6th.  Perhaps it's because of the traditional cake Gateau des Rois, which is delicious and fun because it includes hidden little ceramic trinkets.  
But I think the Epiphany is my favorite because it's the day my daughter was born--31 years ago!  Now that's something to celebrate!

Please tell me how you enjoy your own special holidays this time of year.  Do you get dressed up?  Do you drink champagne?  Do you write resolutions?
I'd love to hear about it, mes amies!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Come Meet Me in New York City!

Bonjour, mes amis!
Guess what--
I will be at the New York Times Travel Show on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 24-25
and I'd love to meet you there!
If you happen to be in the area of The Big Apple, this is an amazing and spectacular show with lots of seminars on travel, insider hot spots, tour tips, and travel freebies!
You'll meet fun-loving, adventurous people--just like you and pick up lots of great travel information.

Plus, I'll be there and it would be such a joy for me to meet you and say bonjour!

Thanks to The Traveling Professor (I'm a guest at his booth) I have a limited number of
free tickets to the show.  They're a $17.00 value.  If you'd like one, please send me
an email at as soon as possible (there is a limited number) and I'll give you the details.
I would love to see you there!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

French Women and the Secret of the Stairs

It's not too soon to get ready for the Ooh La La! Paris Tour in May.
You can start now by practicing going up and down stairs.  Here's a typical French staircase.
Trés elegant, n'est pas?
(photo from Paris in Four Months)
It may seem a bit daunting--the winding stairs, the marble floors the circuitous nature of the steps.  But you know, it's very French and I do believe this is how  French women stay slim.
The next time you approach some stairs, just pretend you are the heroine in an Edith Wharton novel! Hold your head up high, think beautiful, mysterious thoughts and above all, take your time.  (This was taken at The Mount, Edith Wharton's estate in Lennox, Massachusetts.)

And this photo is from Printemps, the famous French department store in the heart of Paris.  The mirrors create a bit of an optical illusion, but you get the idea--lots of stairs!
All this is to say, walking up and down stairs is excellent preparation for an Ooh La La! Paris Tour in May!

I'd love to hear how you get ready for a Paris Adventure, mes amis!  

P.S.  I will be at The New York Times Travel Show in New York City on Jan. 24-25, as a guest of The Traveling Professor.  If you'd like one of my 25 complimentary tickets to the show, please let me know as soon as possible.  I'd love to meet you there!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

French Women Love Ruffles

It's true, French Women love ruffles!
I saw lots of women with ruffles while I was in Paris last summer.
Sometimes the ruffles were very subtle and appeared in a pretty scarf or an accent on a pocketbook.
And sometimes, the ruffles were just a little flair at the hem of a dress.

You can also find flamboyant ruffles in evening dresses.  Ooh La La!

Whether they're subtle or spectacular, ruffles are always fun and flirty.
Even nature loves ruffles!

And you can even find ruffles at the patisserie.
And while the Ooh La La! Paris Tour ladies were shopping at Bon Marché we noticed that French lingerie is full of ruffles (and silk and lace and ribbon trimmings, bien sur!)
Don't you just adore ruffles?  My plan:  find a polka dot scarf with ruffles!  
How will you add a few ruffles to your life?  I'd love to hear about it, mon amis!

Photos of red ruffled dress from Simply Feminine.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

French Women Love Polka Dots!

Last week I met with Madame Poupie Cadolle in New York City.
Her grandmother invented the modern day bra and her mother, Alice, actually created undergarments for Coco Chanel's non-corset styles of the 1920's.
And now, her lovely daughter, Patricia, is part of the Maison Cadolle legacy.

Please notice how Patricia is wearing a polka dot dress.
I told her how much I liked her dress and she laughed, saying oh, French women love polka dots!  
And then her mother, Madame Cadolle agreed.
I was so pleased and excited by this, because I love polka dots too!
And you know what--my French-American grandmother loved polka dots.  She owned a beautiful navy blue silk suit with tiny white polka dots.  I had forgotten about that until that very moment.

And so, mes amis, I encourage you to try out polka dots.
You can start by wearing them underneath a pretty cardigan.
Or you can be more bold, and wear a skirt or dress with polka dots.
Aren't they whimsical and fun?!
I haven't worn a polka dot dress or skirt in many years, but now I'm going to reconsider and begin my search for cute polka dots!
But who sells them nowadays?
Any suggestions to help with my polka dot search?  I'd love to hear your thoughts, mes amis.

Photo of Madame and Patricia Cadolle by me, polka dot photos by Simply Feminine.