Gustave Caillebotte…with children

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It’s a guarantee that when we are on a holiday, we will visit the museum. There are always a few paintings that make you want to step into the picture. When you go to the museum with children, it’s nice for them to be the leaders and see what paintings they would like to step inside of.

We seemed to agree that The Floor Scrapers, Traffic Island, Boulevard Haussmann and Paris Street: Rainy Day were three that pulled us in…making us wonder and feel like our holiday was in Paris (if only for the afternoon). Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth was a treat to see. Caillebotte’s paintings make the viewer wonder what it is we’re looking at, what we’ve decided we see, and why…

Do you know how to say Caillebotte? The Kimbell created this fun video…see if you’re right!

Here are three Gustave Caillebotte paintings that will make you wonder…

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The Floor-Scrapers
1875

The Floor Scrapers demand the viewer’s attention…showing a dramatic perspective. Look at the splayed stripes of the wooden floor being so laboriously scraped. Caillebotte visually drops the bare-chested workers right in the viewer’s lap. It’s a painting of three laborers at work preparing his first studio. It was in what was then the relatively new neighborhood of the 8th arrondissement, where Caillebotte’s father had bought. It’s an odd subject matter…very different from his Impressionist friends, Monet and Renoir. His colleagues invited him to participate in their 1876 exhibition. He chose to submit The Floor Scrapers, and it was very popular…viewers either adored it or hated it, but everyone was talking about it!

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A Traffic Island, Boulevard Haussmann
1880

Caillebotte’s Traffic Island is an aerial painting that captures a sensible and controlled environment. This is a true impression of a Paris street with people in isolation going about their everyday routines and repetitions. It might remind the viewer of Degas’s Place de la Concorde (1875) the way that you see these people going about their day as if the viewer were “people watching”…they both have a serene quality. Views like this one could only be afforded by buildings that were ten stories or higher…Caillebotte was one of few painters who could afford the view.

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Paris Street; Rainy Day
1877

This is a painting about intersections…working class and upper class mixing together in modern Paris. The Parisian bourgeoisie cross in and out of the picture on this Right Bank drizzle-slicked street. Caillebotte steals the limelight from Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir during this time because he created this glowing light that the great Impressionists were trying to capture. Sadly, Caillebotte was never considered a true member of the inner circle of the Impressionists…lacking the easy brushstrokes and sunshine scenes with people interacting. Instead, Caillebotte tells us two things we know about Paris (then and now)…the sky is usually grey and fashion is black.

Gustave Caillebotte had a short career: born in 1848, he didn’t start painting until his late twenties, and he was dead from a stroke by the age of forty-five. Upon the death of his father (who had much success on the Paris real estate market) Gustave inherited a hearty fortune. The cash meant that Caillebotte could work at his own pace, selling almost nothing; the large majority of his art still belongs to his successors. He never needed to work for a living, and never married or had a family. He painted current, in the moment surroundings…gardens, river boating, and his father’s country house. This is why he is one of the most modern of the Impressionists.

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All three paintings are remarkable for plunging perspectives for children and a sense of contiguity. Step inside Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye…it’s an air of modernité.

Related posts:

Botticelli to Braque…with children

Carravaggio…with children

Dega and Pollock…with children

Frank Sinatra: Five things you might not know

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This year marks the centennial of the birth of Frank Sinatra, who came into this world on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey and died on May 14, 1998. Sinatra had many nicknames…The Voice, Ol’ Blue Eyes and The Chairman of the Board were a few. Each name represented different sides of his talent, good looks, charm and presence. Sinatra won nine Grammy Awards, performed on more than 1,400 records during his six-decade plus career. It was his honest voice that made the audience feel that he understood them.

When I think of Frank Sinatra, I think of my grandmother. I remember when I graduated from college in May, 1998 (the very month that Sinatra died)…my grandmother kept disappearing to the bar so she could talk to the bartender about Frank. It was as if she was in mourning for the loss of that time in her life.

I imagine that my grandmother would have loved to have been in the audience at The Copa Room in Las Vegas when Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were on stage…sipping cocktails and smoking cigarettes. This beautiful generation seemed to know how to enjoy life to the fullest.

My grandmother would have loved to have read this book to her great-grandchildren and elaborate on his life and his songs.

My children like to listen to Seriously Sinatra in my car on the way to school. I knew they would enjoy the John Seven book, Frankie Liked to Sing. This is a spunky biography that follows Sinatra as he moves from his humble childhood across the river to New York City, begins a recording career and makes it in Hollywood.

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Reading the book, Frankie Liked to Sing, is a beautiful way for grandparents and parents alike to pass on their love for Ol’ Blue Eyes to a younger generation. “Frankie’s voice made people feel like they could get through hard days and have fun on better ones.”
Perfectly timed to celebrate Sinatra’s one hundredth birthday…here are five things you might not know about Frank.
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1. Frank’s signature cocktail originated in Philadelphia. This drink can be considered a martini, but make sure to hold the olive. It is a rather refreshing, sweet cocktail that is popular in the summer time.
3 oz dry gin
3/4 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
1 oz sweet and sour mix
 
Get a martini shaker. Add a few ice cubes, then add all ingredients. Shake for ten seconds and serve in a martini glass or cocktail glass with a lemon twist.
  

 2. The song My Way is thought of as Sinatra’s signature song but he didn’t want to record it…thinking it was self-indulgent. Remember that scene with Peggy and Don in Mad Men? It’s a perfect moment when Sinatra’s “My Way” comes on the radio, and the two share a dance; it’s a magic moment for Don and Peggy.

3. Frank’s favorite color was orange. He used to say, “Orange is the happiest color.”

4. Frank inadvertently helped name Scooby-Doo. CBS exec, Fred Silverman, found inspiration in Frank’s signature, “Scoo-Be-Do-Be-Do!”

5. Born in a New Jersey, apartment, Francis Albert Sinatra was not breathing when he was born. Baby Frank was thought to be dead and was laid on the kitchen counter while the doctor attended to his mother. His grandma picked up the newborn, stuck him under some cold water, and little Frank sang his first song. Thank goodness for grandma!

His music crossed the decades from World War II to the 1990s. He defined the classic American songbook for decades with verve and panache.

Any song that Sinatra sang was most likely the very best rendition of that song. These are just a few that are linked to this amazing entertainer over his career.

Fly Me to the Moon Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” was the first song ever played on the moon.

I’ve Got the World on a String There have been many artists who have recorded their own versions but Sinatra’s is the most memorable.

Swinging on a Star “Swinging on a Star” was composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke and originally sung by Bing Crosby in the 1944 film Going My WayIt has been covered by artists including Burl Ives, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra.

New York, New York This love song to New York makes you want to be in a Broadway show.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas This is the gold star of Christmas songs.

Let it Snow This song helps set the mood for holiday festivities. It’s romantic, happy and everyone likes to sing along.

Luck be a Lady Hearing this song reminds me of when I was in the musical “Guys and Dolls.” It’s full of energy and spunk.

Strangers in the Night Frank Sinatra’s version of Strangers in the Night, can’t be beat…it’s smooth and I imagine my grandparents slow dancing to it.

My Way This song was not Sinatra’s favorite but it sure is a favoirte of fans…one of his most popular hits.

Mack the Knife This song is pure New York!

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May you live to be one hundred, and may the last voice you hear be mine. 

Related posts:

Mary Cassatt: Five things you might not know

Amelia Earhart: Five things you might not know

Nutella Sunday Breakfast…with my little Heidi!

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Cozy fall weekends are for hibernating in your pajamas and watching old movies. This weekend, my daughter and I finished reading the book Heidi together. To celebrate, we made a chocolaty breakfast in bed and watched the movie Heidi (the one with Shirley Temple).

The windows were open and we imagined that we could smell the wild flowers high in mountain meadow where Heidi’s grandfather lived.  Aww, fresh fall air…you can almost smell the Swiss Alps! Weekends are made for hitting the reset button, snuggling with your little reading buddy while watching an old movie and indulging in something chocolatey.

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My daughter let me know that she loves me more than Nutella!  I imagine Nutella is not far behind. Bananas and Nutella go together like Heidi and her grandfather…they compliment each other beautifully! This is one of the most perfect coffee cakes ever. It’s moist and chocolaty sweet…perfect for a Sunday morning.

Nutella Banana Coffee Cake

  • Cake:
  • 1 C of unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 C flour
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 C whole milk
  • 4 eggs at room temp
  • 3/4 C sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • Filling:
  • 2 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1 C Nutella spread
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • Topping:
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 C all purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 C hazelnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13×9 inch pan.
  2. Melt the 1 C of butter and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and add the melted butter.
  5. Using a spatula, mix the dry into the wet until combined.
  6. Layer half the batter into the pan, lay the smashed bananas on top and drizzle the Nutella spread…I microwave my Nutella for 30 seconds to make it pourable.
  7. Layer the remaining batter over the Nutella and banana filling using a spatula, smooth out the top of the batter making sure it’s even and reaches the edges of the pan.
  8. Sprinkle the top with the streusel…smash 4 softened butter, flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg with a fork.
  9. Bake for 50-55 minutes until set when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Your Nutella weekend won’t be complete without Nutella hot chocolate. You HAVE to make this! My daughter said, “Mom, you are the BEST mom in the world” when I served the Nutella banana coffee cake with Nutella hot chocolate. She also asked, “Do you think Heidi had chocolate breakfasts too?” Hmm…with all the goats milk, I’m sure she probably whisked a little Swiss chocolate in there.

Fall Sunday mornings are made for Nutella and Heidi! Wishing you many more fall weekends…may they be full of Nutella, your favorite pajamas and snuggle buddy to enjoy a frothy, creamy, chocolaty Nutella breakfast!

Nutella Hot Chocolate
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons Nutella
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Optional Toppings:
  • Marshmallows
  • Crushed hazelnuts
  • Chocolate chips
  • Extra Nutella
  1. Heat milk in a medium sized saucepan on medium – high heat until beginning to warm and steam. Add the spread, cocoa powder and sugar, and whisk until dissolved and combined. Bring to a gentle simmer while stirring, and take off heat.
  2. Serve with your desired toppings.

Guten Appetit from my little Heidi!

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Botticelli to Braque…with children

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When you go to a museum, there are usually at least a few paintings that take you in and cause your mind to linger amongst the images on canvas that haunt your mind…I love going to the museum and being led by my children. It’s nice to see what artwork they gravitate toward. We seemed to agree that the Lady Agnew, The Ladies Waldegrave and The Reverend Robert Walker were three subjects that we were naturally and happily pulled into. Their portraits were captivating and tremendously enjoyed at the Botticelli to Braque: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. When I take my children to the museum, I go with the flow… the plan is not to have a plan and see what you can see as long as they can go.

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, John Singer Sargent, 1892. Scottish National Gallery.

Lady Agnew’s direct gaze takes the viewer in with her seductive eyes and alabaster skin. The cool blue Chinese fabric and shimmering satin dress have a free and fluid feel that add an air of mystery. Sargent captured Lady Agnew in an informal pose that is striking and hypnotizing. Lady Agnew was about twenty-six-years-old when Sargent captured her. She lived a very extravagant life style and spent most of the Agnew fortune. It was saddening to learn that she had to sell her painting so that she could make some money for herself.

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The Ladies Waldegrave, Reynolds, 1780.  Scottish National Gallery.

Three sisters quietly work together on a piece of embroidery. The sisters were all married shortly after this painting which was commissioned by their great-uncle, Horace Walpole, for his house Strawberry Hill. The Ladies Anna Horatia, Elizabeth Laura, Charlotte Maria Waldegrave, daughters of the second Earl Waldegrave and his wife Maria Walpole, were sure to get some eligible suitors. Their beauty and gentleness were noticed when the painting went on public display at the Royal Academy. This is probably why the sisters were married so soon after the portrait was created.

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The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch, Sir Henry Raeburn, 1795.  Scottish National Gallery.

The Skating Minister is one of Scotland’s most beloved paintings. Walker was the minister of Canongate church in Edinburgh and participated in founding the first figure skating club of the world…the Edinburgh Skating Club. There’s an amusing and sub plot style humor to this painting by Raeburn. The Reverend Walker is like Santa…he has a twinkle in his eye, rosy red cheeks and a merry stride.  The Reverend’s pose looks effortless as he glides across the slippery ice…showing perfect control. He is poised and keeps his balance without the use of his arms. The mountains in the background look bleak but the Reverend seems to skate with joy.

The skating Minister. Reverend Robert Walker (1755 - 1808) skating on Duddingston Loch *oil on canvas *76.2 x 63.5 cm *circa 1795

I have always believed museums to be powerful learning environments that give children opportunities to explore, observe and experience art. Children get to choose what to look at, and they leave with the pictures stored in their heads. The memories they create are filed away for future reference. Museum experiences help provide children with knowledge and understanding of the world all while gaining an appreciation for art.

The museum shop in the Kimbell is a must see also. Among the array of gifts and remembrances on sale are decks of playing cards that name and reproduce the paintings on display. Much like learning from the use of flash cards, the children playing card games can see the painting, read the title and remember it. What a great souvenir.

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Mary Cassatt: 5 things you might not know

The soul selects her society

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A few days ago we watched our wedding video… it’s been fifteen years! For several years we celebrated without even thinking to watch it but in the last three years it has become a tradition to enjoy it on our anniversary with our children. Our two kids always have so many questions and comments…”Why is Grandpa’s hair brown on this DVD?” “Why does Aunt Paige have short hair?” “Who are those flower girls?” “I wish I could go to this party!

Derek and I were married in July of 2000. When we were watching the video, it really doesn’t feel like it’s been fifteen WHOLE years. Didn’t I just put the ring on Derek’s wrong hand just a little while ago?

There were so many beautiful toasts and poems recited for our engagement party, rehearsal dinner and our wedding night. It makes the heart happy to hear and read poetry at celebratory events of our lives…weddings and anniversaries are perfect for love poems.  Everyone should have a few poems memorized. Poetry is a good investment…it’s like buying a beautiful piece of jewelry to wear inside your heart forever and ever. Here are a few of my favorite love poems and one that I wrote for my love…

And you’ll always love me won’t you?
Yes
And the rain won’t make any difference?
No

~Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.

Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.

I’ve known her from an ample nation
Choose one;
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone.

~Emily Dickinson, 1862

Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly today,
Were to change by tomorrow and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy wings fading away.
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will;
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.
It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofaned by a tear,
That the fervor and faith of a soul can be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear.
No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close:
As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
The same look which she turned when he rose.

~Thomas Moore, Believe Me, if all those Endearing Young Charms

When I first met my husband, I told him that he was my missing Pac Man piece. I’ve been an elementary teacher now for seventeen years. Every year that I read Shel Silverstein’s “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O” I think of my husband…he’s my missing piece.

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For Derek

We float together in the sea
Our heads to the clouds as the storms swiftly pass
Mermaids gently protect us
Sway with us

Bathed by the current that cannot break us
Our love for the sea together beautifully binds us
The waves carry our souls
Sway with us

Sanddollars anchor us dreamily
While schools of silver fish kiss our toes
We drift for so long that the fish seem to grow.
Sway with us

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I love you Derek, my missing piece! xx

Related posts:

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Poetry the greatest of all arts

And then he kissed me 

Edgar Degas and Jackson Pollock…for children

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Children are always the best audience. I couldn’t wait to come to school every day that the Traveling Art Exhibit was on display. Our PTA was once again, kind enough to purchase the exhibit for arts and education in order to acquaint children with Edgar Degas and Jackson Pollock.

Most people know how much the arts can impact creative thinking. Arts and education have a tremendously positive influence on children and their academic and social development.

The morning the kids saw the giant reproductions, they were in awe and realized that they can use their body to express themselves effectively just like Degas and Pollock did. My first grade class pretended to drip and splash paint like Pollock. Some of them wanted to see how long they could stand like Marie (Degas’ fourteen-year-old dancer) in fourth position. Every day that my third grade daughter would pass the Degas reproduction she would run and do a grand jeté as if she were going to jump into the scene.

Exposing children to the arts during a regular school week was a little like a vacation day from the every day norm.

Arts education is an essential component of a child’s curriculum…art inspires and children are most creative when inspired. Teachers and parents want their children to be exposed to art…especially when it has such a positive effect on their creativity and questioning.

Here are some questions, quotes and information about Edgar Degas and Jackson Pollock to inspire you and your children…

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EDGAR DEGAS: 

Degas was known as one of the founders of the Impressionist movement. He was gifted in sculpture, drawing, and printmaking. This series of paintings of ballet dancers remain the iconic images of Impressionism and French painting. Like many artists, Degas did not stop working as he grew older and his eyesight began to fail…he simply switched mediums and began working with pastels and sculpture. 

Questions to ask children: Were these REAL dancers? How can you tell which ballerinas are dancing and which are not. Was Marie dancing or posing? What do you think Marie was thinking about when she was standing there?

Quotes to inspire children: “Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.” “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.”  

Edgar Degas loved to be backstage capturing the dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet. The sculpture was of fourteen-year-old Marie van Goethem. She is the MOST famous ballerina in the world. Marie will forever be remembered in Degas’ iconic sculpture of the little dancer. The other dancers and horse riders were also real people. Degas preferred to capture the moments before the big moment…in rehearsals and backstage. A recent musical at the Kennedy Center will give the feeling of what it might have been like to be Marie and be Degas’ muse in Paris.

It probably took a really long time to make the little dancer sculpture. After a while she was probably just standing there waiting for Degas to finish. Probably she was just hoping not to move or mess up. She’s in fourth position, but it’s a relaxed fourth position. Her feet aren’t crossed over. And her weight is on her left foot. Your weight is supposed to be evenly distributed on both feet, so you don’t fall over. Judging from her outfit and her hairstyle, I don’t think she’s about to perform onstage; her hair is down, and she’s wearing a casual ballet outfit. Maybe she’s practicing or in the dressing room preparing herself. 

My first graders enjoyed traveling to the Paris Opera House with Degas courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

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JACKSON POLLOCK: 

The son of a farmer born in Wyoming who had a love of Native American culture, his early works showed the inspiration of Cubism, Symbolism and Surrealism. His style evolved to something so new and exciting that he was the only American Abstract Expressionist to be taken seriously in Europe.

Questions to ask children: Is this art? How can you communicate a feeling through art? How would you show: relaxed, happy, scared, angry, sleepy…What feeling do you think Jackson Pollock was having when he painted Lavender Mist?  

Quotes to inspire children: “My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to take the un-stretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around in it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.” “Every good painter paints what he is.”

Yes, of course this is art! As Jackson Pollock was becoming famous, many people argued whether his paintings were really art or just paint drips on canvas. Art makes you feel and Pollock’s paintings evoke strong feelings. 

Watch this video from the MOMA about Pollock’s Lavender Mist and your children will also enjoy this cartoon “Art with Mati and Dada” about Pollock. 

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Mary Cassatt: 5 things you might not know

Caravaggio and his followers…with children

 

The Best Books for Francophiles (pour vous et les enfants)

It’s no secret that I’m a total Francophile. Most of my favorite books are about France. I fell in love with France on my first trip to Paris at seventeen and I’ve been reading about it ever since. Everything sounds better in French. I love the style, butter, language and joie de vivre of the French.

You know those books that grab hold of you from the moment you start reading the first few pages? Who doesn’t love when that happens? If the book is French-inspired, I’m hooked! I’ve compiled a list of my favorite French reads…one for adults and also a list for les enfants. 

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Mastering the Art of French Eating: Ann Mah’s book will make you hungry for a crusty baguette and thirsty for a good rosé. Her book is about love, food and France. The life-lessons she learns in France truly give her food for thought and make memories you can taste.

My Life in France: See France through the eyes of the charming queen of cuisine, Julia Child. Her joie de vivre, charm, personality, voice, quick wit come through in this beautiful book.

Widow Clicquot: The story of the visionary young widow who built a champagne empire, showed the world how to live with style, and became one of the world’s first great businesswomen and one of the richest women of her time.

All you need to be Impossibly French: The Frenchwoman is sexy, sophisticated, flirtatious, and glamorous. This book is full of the secrets that make them that way…face creams, silk lingerie, and shopping-as-exercise. Powell reveals how French women stay impossibly thin and irresistibly sexy.

A Year in the Merde: This book made me laugh out loud several times. It’s the perfect entertainment for Francophiles.

Lunch in Paris: It was a pleasure reading Elizabeth’s adventures in Paris and I love her recipes.

Dinner at Mr. Jefferson’s: I have yet to read this book but it’s next on my list. Jefferson was one of my favorite Presidents…probably because he was a Francophile too. This book celebrates Thomas Jefferson and his two guests, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, and the meal that saved the republic. I can’t wait to read about a single great evening that achieved compromises that led to America’s great expansion.

Colette’s France: Colette was a true vagabond who came of age during the Belle Époque. She had all kinds of affairs and wrote about love in France.

How to be Parisian Wherever You Are? Love, Style, and Bad Habits: French women “don’t get fat,” are always elegant and effortlessly chic… How do they do it? We non-Parisian woman can learn something from Caroline de Maigret and her co-authors Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan and Sophie Mas.  I imagine these four women to be the French equivalent to the American Sex and the City girls…”without her girls gang, the Parisian is incomplete.”

Claude & Camille: Monet was prepared to make any sacrifice and have his family undergo discomfort for the sake of his art. For Monet, art came first and family second. Monet truly loved Camille but he had a difficult time balancing his two loves (art and family). Painting was how Monet dealt with reality and relationships.

Le Divorce: Two Californian sisters in Paris take on men, art and sex. Isabel helps her pregnant sister through a divorce as an American in Paris.

Marie Antoinette: The Journey: One of my very favorite books! The Journey is a beautiful portrait of Marie Antoinette’s life from early marriage to her reign as queen.

A Year in Provence: Peter Mayle’s dream come true…making a move into an old fashioned farmhouse in a small French town with his family.

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Coco’s life and personal philosophies of charming theories about love, style and career.

Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris: Australian, Sarah Turnbull writes a travel  memoir as a romantic with her husband as she tries to fit into French culture and learns to adapt to the country’s customs.

Eight Days in Provence: A love story set in the countryside of Provence, Eight Days in Provence will make you dream in color…like your swimming in a Van Gogh painting.

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Pour les enfants

Chasing Degas: After a rehearsal, a young Parisian ballerina realizes that her satchel, supposedly containing her tutu for that evening’s recital, now holds tubes of paints. She deduces that Monsieur Degas must have mistaken her bag for his, and she rushes off to find him. Along the way, she meets a series of artists, including Monet, Caillebotte, Renoir, and Cassatt.

Bon Appetit! The delicious life of Julia Child: you will see the illustrations and little scribble notes are child-like and joyful. I’m so excited to be able to introduce Julia to my children through a bedtime story. It’s sure to inspire children to try new foods and find their own talent.

Le Petit Prince: This is the Beatles of children’s books…changing the world of readers forever. It’s about how a child sees the important things in life much more clearly than many adults do.

This is Paris: This book is so visually pleasing. It’s a wonderful book to introduce your children to the magic of Paris.

Eloise in Paris: Eloise’s mother wants them to come to Paris to get roses in their cheeks. I rawther love that Eloise is never bored…especially in Paris! Think about all the good things that come with being the age of six…Paris is her playground. My little girl LOVES Eloise!

Madeline: In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines…there’s not a more recognizable beginning to a book!! Madeline is my favorite children’s book. I used to dress as Madeline for Halloween. I love everything about Madeline from Miss Clavel to Pepito and the dog Genevieve, bien sur!

The Time-Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette: I wish I had a series like this when I was a young girl…what a fun fantasy! Louise Lambert’s best friend’s thirteenth birthday party is fast approaching, so of course the most important question on her mind is, “What am I going to wear?!” Slipping on an exquisite robin’s egg blue gown during another visit to the mysterious Traveling Fashionista Vintage Sale, Louise finds herself back in time once again, swept up in the glory of palace life, fancy parties, and enormous hair as a member of the court of France’s most infamous queen, Marie Antoinette.

Degas and the Little Dancer: I’ve been reading this book to my classroom for years and years! It’s the true story of a young dancer, Marie, who worked as a model for the artist Degas in order to pay for her dance classes.

Linnea in Monet’s Garden: I brought this book home from Giverny. The joy that Linnea discovers in Monet’s garden is touching. She has such enthusiasm for Monet’s Garden that will make your heart melt.

Charlotte in Paris: It’s 1892 and Charlotte lives next to Claude Monet in Giverny when an exciting invitation arrives. The celebrated impressionist Mary Cassatt is having an exhibition in Paris. Charlotte enjoys Paris to the fullest and even celebrates her birthday at the Eiffel Tower.

Van Gogh and the Sunflowers:  A young child brings Van Gogh a gift of beautiful sunflowers that become the subject of a magnificent painting.

Adele & Simon: My daughter loved this book when she was younger. She could relate to it since, like Adele, she has a little brother. Adele and Simon takes you to Paris…around the park, through the market, and all the way home.

Everybody Bonjours! Shop a fancy France-y store. Eat a pretty petit four. Discover! Sightsee! Explore! On this fun and friendly tour, everybody says “Bonjour!” Whether at a soccer stadium (“players scoring”), a crêpe stand (“batter pouring”), or strolling the Champs d’ Elysee (where folks “bonjour” in every store).

Julia, Child: This is a charming book! Some friends are like sisters. Julia and Simca are two young friends who agree that you can never use too much butter — and that it is best to be a child forever. The friends share a love of cooking and create recipes for growing young.

Happy reading fellow Francophiles! xx

 

Send Someone a Love Letter

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What’s better than a love letter for Valentine’s Day? Jean Honoré Fragonard knew how a love letter and flowers could make a girl’s heart skip…add some chocolate and she’s smitten. Just look at the way Fragonard painted this young lady’s cheeks, she’s as giddy as a girl from the 1770’s could have been. Fragonard’s paintings were so flirtatious. Wouldn’t you like to know what was written inside this love letter? I imagine it was sensual enough to rival the Fifty Shades of Gray.

My husband used to leave me love letters under my windshield back when we were getting to know each other. You learn so much about a person when they write to you…it’s a glimpse inside their heart.

Letters are treasures…especially love letters. Here are a few love letters to inspire you to create a Fragonard kind of Valentine’s Day.  Happy Valentine’s Day and happy writing.

TO COUNTESS EWELINA HASKA FROM HONORE DE BALZAC, 1835:

My Beloved Angel, 

I am nearly mad about you, as much as one can be mad: I cannot bring together two ideas that you do not interpose yourself between them. I can no longer think of nothing but you. In spite of myself, my imagination carries me to you. I grasp you, I kiss you, I caress you, a thousand of the most amorous caresses take possession of me. As for my heart, there you will always be — very much so. I have a delicious sense of you there. But my God, what is to become of me, if you have deprived me of my reason? This is a monomania which, this morning, terrifies me. I rise up every moment say to myself, ‘Come, I am going there!’ Then I sit down again, moved by the sense of my obligations. There is a frightful conflict. This is not a life. I have never before been like that. You have devoured everything. I feel foolish and happy as soon as I let myself think of you. I whirl round in a delicious dream in which in one instant I live a thousand years. What a horrible situation! Overcome with love, feeling love in every pore, living only for love, and seeing oneself consumed by griefs, and caught in a thousand spiders’ threads. O, my darling Eva, you did not know it. I picked up your card. It is there before me, and I talked to you as if you were here. I see you, as I did yesterday, beautiful, astonishingly beautiful. Yesterday, during the whole evening, I said to myself ‘She is mine!’ Ah! The angels are not as happy in Paradise as I was yesterday!

TO VITA SACKVILLE-WEST FROM VIOLET KEPPEL, 1910:

I am in the act of asking myself if I ought to reply to your question? A question furthermore most indiscreet and which merits a sharp reprimand. Reply, don’t reply, reply! Oh to the devil with discretion!

Well, you ask me pointblank why I love you… I love you, Vita, because I’ve fought so hard to win you… I love you, Vita, because you never gave me back my ring. I love you because you have never yielded in anything; I love you because you never capitulate. I love you for your wonderful intelligence, for your literary aspirations, for your unconscious (?) coquetry. I love you because you have the air of doubting nothing! I love in you what is also in me: imagination, the gift for languages, taste, intuition and a host of other things…

I love you, Vita, because I have seen your soul…

TO FELICE BAUER FROM FRANZ KAFKA, 1912: 

Fräulein Felice!

I am now going to ask you a favor which sounds quite crazy, and which I should regard as such, were I the one to receive the letter. It is also the very greatest test that even the kindest person could be put to. Well, this is it:

Write to me only once a week, so that your letter arrives on Sunday — for I cannot endure your daily letters, I am incapable of enduring them. For instance, I answer one of your letters, then lie in bed in apparent calm, but my heart beats through my entire body and is conscious only of you. I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough. But for this very reason I don’t want to know what you are wearing; it confuses me so much that I cannot deal with life; and that’s why I don’t want to know that you are fond of me. If I did, how could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping onto a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you?

Oh, there is a sad, sad reason for not doing so. To make it short: My health is only just good enough for myself alone, not good enough for marriage, let alone fatherhood. Yet when I read your letter, I feel I could overlook even what cannot possibly be overlooked.

If only I had mailed Saturday’s letter, in which I implored you never to write to me again, and in which I gave a similar promise. Oh God, what prevented me from sending that letter? All would be well. But is a peaceful solution possible now? Would it help if we wrote to each other only once a week? No, if my suffering could be cured by such means it would not be serious. And already I foresee that I shan’t be able to endure even the Sunday letters. And so, to compensate for Saturday’s lost opportunity, I ask you with what energy remains to me at the end of this letter…

If we value our lives, let us abandon it all… I am forever fettered to myself, that’s what I am, and that’s what I must try to live with.

TO THOM STEINBECK FROM HIS FATHER, JOHN STEINBECK, 1958:

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa

Feeling inspired? Grab you favorite pen and send someone a love letter! Happy Valentine’s Day! xx

LOVE LETTERRelated posts:

Letters from three famous Americans

The passion for literature and the romance of letters

 

How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Un Petit Guide

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French women “don’t get fat,” are always elegant and effortlessly chic… How do they do it? We non-Parisian woman can learn something from Caroline de Maigret and her co-authors Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan and Sophie Mas in How to be Parisian Wherever You Are? Love, Style, and Bad Habits.  I imagine these four women to be the French equivalent to the American Sex and the City girls…”without her girls gang, the Parisian is incomplete.”

There’s hope for us non-Parisian women because the most famous Parisienne women are foreigners: Marie Antoinette, Josephine Baker, Romy Schneider, Jane Birkin…

Add some joie de vivre to your winter and read How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are. It will make you laugh as you slip into their ballet flats and tap into your inner Parisian.

Fashion:

  • Wear a black bra under your white blouse.
  • Do not wear too much make-up, too many colors, too many accessories.
  • Do not wear logos. You are not a billboard.
  • Do not wear sweatpants. No man should ever see you in those. Except your gym teacher. Leggings are tolerated.
  • All you need is one signature item: the one you wear when you need to feel strong.
  • Do not match your purse with your outfit.
  • Wear navy blue with black. (And red with pink, a la Yves Saint Laurent.)
  • Don’t follow trends. (Trends follow you)
  • Your bag is not an accessory; it’s your home (…) If it is beautiful on the outside, that’s just to keep up appearances. And so that no one ever wonders what’s inside.
  • A small silk scarf is an essential to the Parisian wardrobe.
  • The Parisian wears very little jewelry: a fine chain, a simple ring, a family heirloom. It is as discreet as possible.
  • Parisians love going to the market. To go to a market, dress casually and carry a large basket over your shoulder.

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Beauty:

  • Either go all gray or no gray hair. Salt and pepper is for the table.
  • Short, clean nails, sometimes worn with nail polish but not always. Simplicity is key. In fact, the French manicure is something of an enigma: it is the exact opposite of French chic. The Parisian does not understand the point of it and never wears it.
  • Do not have lip augmentation. It makes you look like a duck.
  • Of all the precious fabrics you love, your skin is without a doubt the one that fascinates you most of all.
  • In Paris, the rules are clear; you anticipate, you prepare for the future, but you’re never totally correct.
  • You never go to bed without taking off your makeup.
  • Cheat on your perfume, but only on cold days.
  • What you need for a restorative hair mask: Rum, honey, two egg yolks, and the juice of a lemon.
  • Enjoy the face you have today. It’s the one you’ll wish you have ten years from now.
  • Always look as if you are gazing at the sunset. Even during rush hour in the Metro. Even when picking up frozen pizza from the supermarket.

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Motherhood:

  • When pregnant…The word pregnant is an adjective. It describes you, it doesn’t define you. You replace your Bloody Marys with Virgin Marys, but that’s it: you’re no saint.
  • The Parisian is a selfish woman. A loving mother, yes, but nonetheless incapable of forgetting herself completely.
  • The Parisian does not stop existing the day she has a child. She does not give up her somewhat adolescent lifestyle, her nights out with friends, her parties, or her mornings-after feeling worse for wear.
  • According to the Parisian, this joie de vivre is the best way of inspiring children to grow up. And also the best way for mothers to never miss the lives they led before they had children.
  • A Parisian never hires a babysitter who is too pretty, always finding the less attractive one to be far more competent.
  • You don’t share the photos from your last ultrasound with your entire address book: you still have some secrets.

Hosting a diner party:

  • Never say “Bon Appetit!” when you sit down for a meal.
  • On Saturday night, the Parisian stays home and hosts intimate dinner parties. The true Parisian never goes out in restaurants and nightclubs on Saturday night.
  • When hosting a diner, the trick lies not in being a gourmet chef, but rather mastering a couple of recipes perfectly. One of them should be easy so that you can rustle it up at the last-minute. The other should be very complicated, to wow your friends.
  • The cook should never appear stressed out – everything must look effortless.
  • Your glasses on the table don’t have to match but they should be clear (nothing colored) and should all have stems.
  • At a Parisian’s table you will often find Laguiole folding knives, named after the French village where they are made.
  • Parisian’s favorite dinner topics: Politics, sex and adultery.

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Advice:

  • Laughing at yourself is better for your health than crying.
  • Do not take yourself too seriously.
  • The Parisian never gives too much away. When it comes to revealing herself, she follows one golden rule: less is definitely more.
  • Take the time to take the time because nobody else will do it for you.
  • Drink at least one glass of red wine between 7:30pm and 10:30pm
  • Asprin in the water makes your roses live a little longer.
  • Cancel your gym session to have a drink with your friend who’s just been dumped.
  • Be thankful that you always wear nice lingerie – you never know what might happen.
  • One should never attempt to hug a Parisian. La bise (kiss on the cheeks) may bring faces together, but bodies must stay apart.

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Love:

  • The Parisian is in love with the idea of love. To a pathological degree. Her entire life revolves around the flutterings of her heart.
  • Statistically speaking, Parisians don’t often get married, but every Parisian dreams of her wedding.
  • The man carries your suitcases and your shopping – a woman only ever carries her handbag.
  • When it comes to kissing, the Parisian does it the same way she does everything else: with cinematic flair. Preferably all kissing should take place in the middle of the street. The city is after all her stage and she treats each kiss like a once-in-a-lifetime performance.
  • Always be baisable: when standing in line at the bakery on a Sunday morning, buying champagne in the middle of the night, or even picking the kids up from school. You never know.
  • The man pours your wine; you should never have to touch the bottle. It suits him- that way you’ll get drunk faster.

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Related posts:

Mastering the Art of French Eating

Farewell, My Queen

The Little Red Hen Comes Full Circle

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It’s a beautiful thing when life comes full circle. My first year of teaching first grade (I’ve taught fifteen years in second) and I kept thinking of my beloved first grade teacher, Mrs. Lane. It is such a coincidence that Mrs. Lane found herself in my new first grade classroom at the beginning of this school year. Her granddaughter just happens to be in my son’s class.

When I was a six-year-old, Mrs. Lane gave me swimming lessons, took me horseback riding and had me over for dinner. She had hair like Crystal Gayle and she used a pencil to hold her bun. One of my favorite memories of first grade is when I was the Little Red Hen in the first grade school play.

“Who will help me harvest the wheat?” asked the Little Red Hen. “Not I!” said the pig. “Not I!” said the cat. “Not I! said the dog. “Then I will do it myself,” said the Little Red Hen. And she did.

Thirty something years later, I find myself teaching the same lesson that Mrs. Lane taught me.

The Little Red Hen works so hard,” said one of my first graders. This made for a great discussion. Poor Little Red Hen! She is always asking for help before she does anything but her friends refuse to help her… lazy farm animals! Once she has made a delicious bread, she asks “Who will help me eat this bread?” Finally, her friends agree to help her… This was everyone’s favorite part of the story because the Little Red Hen says, “NO! NO! NO! You did not help me…I will eat it all myself!”

The Little Red Hen is a cherished folk tale that teaches children the importance of a good work ethic…those who are willing to contribute, will reap the benefits.

I’m hoping that my hard-working little first graders will remember our class making bread together. Some of the best memories involve food…the smell of yeasty bread in a first grade classroom made for twenty-one very happy children. I think Mrs. Lane would be proud! Who knows? I may have a future first grade teacher in my room…and wouldn’t that be wonderful!

When someone asks you, “Who will help me plant these grains of wheat?” You should reply “I will!”

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There are several very cute interpretations of the Little Red Hen. My first grade class enjoyed The Little Green Witch just as much! The Little Green Witch is left to do all the “unhousework”…hanging cobwebs, dirtied laundry, and spreading soot. When she finds some pumpkin seeds and asks for her “tree mates” to help her plant them, the trio is too lazy (much like the farm animals). The BEST part is when the Little Green Witch turns her “tree mates” into LITTLE RED HENS!

Another Little Red Hen transformation is The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza. This Little Red Hen grows basil in a pot on her balcony apartment. The animals live in a city and are busy listening to music, jumping rope in the street, playing in the spray of a fire hydrant or chasing after an ice cream truck. When the Little Red Hen realizes she is missing an ingredient for her pizza, she cries out “Cluck!” The Little Red Hen calls out the window to see if anyone would like some…unlike the original, this hen likes to share. When the Little Red Hen asks, “Who will help me do the dishes?” The animals all reply, “I will.” “I will.” “I will.”

Related posts:

Battle of the Books

I had a Favorite Dress

P.S. Every first grade teacher should own a bread machine!