French Women Don't Get Facelifts book review -- part 1

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I promised a review of French Women Don't Get Facelifts after I reviewed Toss the Gloss (here). I'm going to probably do two or three posts on this as there is a lot to talk about.

 Mireille Guiliano, who wrote the book, is the author of the best-selling French Women Don't Get Fat and French Women for all Seasons. I have read both. In fact, I've read quite a few French style books over the past 10 years. It seems that I (as well as many women of a certain age) am looking for advice on aging well, or how to be bien dans sa peau (comfortable in your own skin). 

There is a big difference between American and French attitudes toward aging. While Mireille acknowledges that some French women do have facelifts, France is not even in the top ten countries in the world for plastic surgery (guess who is first?). French women are much more able to accept aging comfortably than their American counterparts. She says, "In America, people seem to want to project youthfulness, while in France, people want to look comfortable in their skin and not tired." 

French women, naturellement, want to look chic and stylish, and they continue to be interested in beauty and style their whole lives. They are big on skin care and moisturizers, and see regular facials as important as a visit to the dentist. But, it is all done with an attitude of ease and acceptance, not one of panic and anxiety that can so characterize our attitudes toward a new wrinkle or gray hair.

I want to stop for a moment, and be clear. I don't aspire to be a French woman. Some of these books project the not-so-subtle opinion that American women should just be French. But we Americans have our own wonderful strengths as well, including a friendliness, openness, and optimism that we should be thankful for. But we can always learn a few tricks from our French sisters, n'est pas?

Mireille says that the biggest difference between French and other women in regards to aging is attitude. France is not a youth culture. A woman in her forties and fifties and even older is still considered alluring, and she believes that she is. Because of that attitude, everything changes. She takes care of herself and watches her weight, of course, but she doesn't try to be twenty-something. Her mind is active and engaged and she acts like an adult, letting go of insecurities about herself.

We seem to take an overly critical assessment of ourselves, and see every "flaw" and imperfection, while "French women don't give a fig about perfection."

We fear being seen as old, while the French think, "I see myself in the mirror for what I am. I accept that, and I am at peace with that; but will do whatever is in my control to manage the message I send. And then I won't sorry about what people think. I will take care of myself and cultivate an image that is me at my current best and stay engaged in the world."

She mentions the beautiful Catherine Deneuve, born in 1943, who is not afraid to show her neck, "which betrays more or less her age, but she seems to be saying comfortably, 'Who cares? I am the whole package, not an aging neck.'"

My takeaway from this is that we do the very best we can, and then we enjoy life, with all its beauty and drama. We enjoy learning new things and cultivating friendships. We deepen our faith. Studies show that women our age are some of the happiest -- let's enjoy that!

A common theme running through this book is that less is more. As we age, that should be our mantra. Less makeup, less reliance on fashion trends, less (and higher quality) food. Kitten heels rather than stilettos. Quality versus quantity. Less skin showing.

Mireille has lots of tips on clothes, makeup, skincare, hair care, exercising, nutrition (including recipes), and supplements. And throughout it all, she talks a lot about our attitudes.

Her attitude toward exercise is one that I can embrace, never really being into it myself. She says French women aren't into gyms and competitive sports or sweating. Walking is huge, though, and she does emphatically recommend some "invisible" exercise every day, incorporating movement into all your routine activities. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Don't look for the closest parking space. Bike, swim, dance. A twenty-minute walk per day is the best "nonexercise" you can do. She does recommend yoga and Pilates as well as a little strength training with weights as we age, for flexibility and strength, and gives directions for some deep breathing practice. 

This is when I wish I lived in a little English or French village, and walking to the boulangerie or fruit and vegetable stand was part of the daily routine. The suburbs isolate us from so much, and a car is necessary to get almost anywhere. Walking around the neighborhood just isn't the same. Maybe I should get a dog?

Stay tuned; I will share some more specific tips that she has in my next post. I would love to hear your comments about aging well, too.

The long and tall of it

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I'm not sure what my dear grandmother was thinking when she made this afghan . . . 

My mom gave it to me while I was out in Colorado a couple weeks ago, and how I fit it in my already full carry-on, I'm not sure. I thought I might have to wrap it around me in some bohemian-hippie-pashima get up and wear it on the plane.

This was probably made in the early 70s, and has never been used. Too narrow for a twin bed, and way long for an afghan. Perhaps it is good for a two-person cuddle on the couch.

I have a feeling that grandma, being thrifty, was using up yarn. The outer panels are definitely 70s colors; I'm happy for the pink and burgundy in the center panel. Regardless, it is a family treasure I will use. Folded in half it does make a warm and comfy lap blanket for reading and snoozing.

That was the long. Here is the tall . . . 

Four of us went to dinner last night and had a fabulous meal. Stuffed lobster tail and beef tenderloin. So delicious. But we thought we'd each like a little bite of sweet. So we ordered one dessert to share. After cutting this up four ways, we each felt as though we'd had a whole serving. Can you believe this?

A couple more tall things. (I feel like Mr. Rogers . . . "can you spot the long thing? the tall thing?").

I've heard that the hummingbirds are back. Can't believe those little guys are okay in our still-cold temps, but I made some sugar water for them and hung up the feeder. Can't wait to see the first one.

You can see how barren things still are here in Michigan. But once things begin to green, it always feels like Birnam Wood in Macbeth. Every day the woods seem to creep closer to the house. It happens quickly, too. One day this, and four or five days later, everything is green and full, and we'll be unable to see any of the ground.

The Official Blog Cat is posing with one more tall thing.

Have a lovely day, friends.

Toss the Gloss book review

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

{I did not receive a copy of this book for free, nor am I being compensated for this review.}

I just finished a book entitled Toss the Gloss, Beauty Tips, Tricks & Truths for Women 50+ by Andrea Q. Robinson, a beauty insider who has worked at top cosmetic companies (Estee Lauder, Tom Ford) and magazines (Vogue, Mademoiselle) for more than 40 years. She has an impressive list of credentials, so I thought maybe she'd have some valuable tips.

I'll save you some money, or perhaps a trip to the library, by giving you the highlights. Maybe it's because I've read many of these types of books before, but I didn't learn too much new. And it seemed disingenuous for her to introduce the book with the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi (the opposite of trying too hard, understanding the power and seduction of imperfection), and continue with a whole book encouraging the reader to accept her laugh lines and to not be afraid of the aging process, and then to admit to having had plastic surgery. "Be proud of who you really are" and "love your lines, you've earned them," she says.

Now I don't want to start a debate on a loaded topic, but really?

{Another book I've been reading, French Women Don't Get Facelifts, admits that well, yes, some of them do. That's a better book, however; maybe I will review that one as well.}

So here are the most valuable tips I gleaned from this book . . . 

Less is more as you age. Heavy or liquid eyeliner, eye shadow with glitter, sticky lip gloss (hence, the title), heavy foundation . . . it should all go. Beauty magazines are promoting products for the 18- to 40-year old audience. Most of what you see won't work for une femme d'un certain age. (The only thing that's being heavily promoted for our age is anti-aging products, which she admits include a confusing and overwhelming number of so-called miracle workers ready to promise the world.)

All you need is foundation or tinted moisturizer (and I would add that most over-50 beauty gurus say ditch the foundation and only use tinted moisturizer), cream blush, mascara and eye pencil, lip pencil and lipstick. I would add a brow pencil and some concealer (which she does discuss in detail). If you like, natural-looking eye shadows (taupes, creams, browns. Stay away from green and purple and blue, which can highlight dark circles.).

On my recent trip to Colorado, I only took a carry on, and so had to be extra careful about how many liquid products I packed. This BB cream is a sunscreen and moisturizer, and lightly tinted, as well. Three products in one. I really had a chance to practice the less is more philosophy since I took so little makeup.

I have totally given up on undereye concealer. I have tried everything, including a sample of the $70 Cle de Peu concealer (which she does recommend, however, along with a few far less expensive ones). I've had professional makeup people apply various brands. And no, I don't see a difference. If anything, it is aging. I was happy to see that Tish Jett, in her book, Forever Chic, says that the tres chic French don't even worry about undereye concealer. As Forrest Gump says, in one of my favorite lines from the movie, "one less thing."

Her best-bet advice for better looking skin and dark, undereye circles is to get enough sleep, eat well, drink enough water, and exercise. She discusses retinols, peels, glycolic acid, and other anti-agers as well, and gives recommendations. I would add, give up sugar. Sugar is aging. I have eaten way too much of it over this long, long winter. A couple summers ago, I was able to stay off it for three months, and my skin really glowed. I am looking into an amino acid that is supposed to help with sugar cravings; I will report back.

Drug store brands are, in many cases, just as good as the expensive department store brands. Here was a pleasant surprise. I always suspected it was the name and the packaging we were paying for. Many of the high end names are owned by companies that also produce the brands you can pick up at your local CVS. For example, Lancome and Kiehl's and Ralph Lauren are owned by L'Oreal. Estee Lauder owns Clinique, La Mer, and MAC, to name a few.

Toss the powder blush and use a cream blush. Powder blush is aging.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Have a tube of lotion in your purse, by your kitchen sink, on your nightstand. Use rubber gloves when you do the dishes.

She gives some good instructions, with drawings, on how to successfully use highlighter to either camouflage or highlight areas of your face. I might try some of those suggestions. She offers tips on both salon and home hair color, lip liner and lipstick application, self-tanners, and product recommendations for every category of makeup and skin care. These include both department store and drugstore products. If you follow beauty blogs and read up on these products, there were no real surprises here.

I think the biggest gem in this book is the insider information on marketing and selling beauty and makeup products, and how much false, misleading advertising is out there. Many of the claims are exaggerated, and  based on very small test groups. Do your homework, don't believe everything you read, and remember, more expensive doesn't always translate into better. She says, "the tubes from Target will probably work just as well as the bottles from Barney's."

I'm interested in what over-50 makeup and skincare tips you may have.

Pretty spring colors

Monday, April 21, 2014

The world is so full of a number of things
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings. 
                               -- Robert Louis Stevenson

One of the things I love about our world is all the beautiful color. When I was a child, and got my box of eight crayons at the beginning of the school year, what I really longed for was one of these . . . 96 colors! Oh, my . . . think of what I could create with these!

And no wonder I can't resist buying yet another nail color . . .

Brightly colored paper straws and colored pens and pencils inject pops of color into everyday activities like drinking our eight glasses of water and writing our lists . . . 

There's a whole psychology of color that explains how color can affect our moods, and what our color preferences reveal about us. Consider this typical color chart . . . 

Red  . . .  energy, passion, and action
Orange  . . .   warmth, happiness, optimism
Yellow . . .  cheerfulness, enthusiasm, creativity
Green  . . .   growth, renewal, harmony
Blue . . .   loyalty, peacefulness, calm
Purple . . .  imaginative, creative, spiritual
Pink . . .   unconditional love, nurturing, intuitive
Brown  . . .   security, warmth, protection
Gray  . . .    conservative, classic, elegant
White  . . .     innocence, wholeness, simplicity
Black  . . .   strong, sophisticated, mysterious

I tend to stay away from red, orange, and yellow (too loud) and black (too cold). I also don't care to wear or decorate with bright or loud colors, although I admire those who do, because who can't smile at a bright sunny yellow or a screaming pink fuchsia?

Springtime colors probably represent my favorite palette for decorating and dressing; pinks and lavenders, pale blues and greens, soft browns and grays . . .

Can't wait to wear summer dresses in lovely colors, and in simple white cotton (my favorite) . . . 

It's getting time for sandals, and that means a pedicure. Maybe a beautiful blue like this? Hey, I know it's trendy, but it makes me smile.

Oooh . . . nothing like a closeup to reveal a not-quite-perfect manicure job and hands needing moisturizer!
Look at the beautiful spring colors on this pretty scarf from Talbots . . . 

Can't wait to see these beautiful colors. Even the packets make me smile. 

This is one of those days that I especially need beauty around me in all its forms and colors. Beauty is healing. My life is not perfect. I struggle with sadnesses and worries just like everyone else. Sometimes I can't fix anything, and can only pray. ("only"! Prayer is powerful.) But I try and notice the little things around me, the beautiful matters, and remember, the beautiful matters. There is so much loveliness around us every day, that as the poet states, "we should all be as happy as kings" (and queens)! It matters that we stop and notice and give thanks.

Linking with . . . 

Hot cross buns

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha' penny, two ha' penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons,
One ha' penny,
Two ha' penny,
Hot Cross Buns!

Hot cross buns are a Good Friday tradition at our house. After the noon Good Friday service, we have them with tea mid- to late afternoon. Legend has it that a 12th century monk was the first to mark a cross on a bun, with a knife, prior to baking. They became popular throughout England, and were associated with Easter. Queen Elizabeth I thought they were too special to eat any old time, and in 1592, outlawed their use except on Christmas or Easter, or for burials. If you were caught making and selling them illegally, you had to give them to the poor.

 I've been busy, and so didn't think I'd make them from scratch this year, as I usually do. I looked for them at the grocery store Thursday, but couldn't bring myself to buy them. The ingredient list was a paragraph long, full of additives and preservatives. In a pinch, I might have still bought them, regardless, but I could tell they weren't even going to be that good. So I figured I would just make the time to make them.

{One year, in a rush, I bought Krispy Kreme doughnuts and some ready-made frosting, and decorated them with crosses. The kids loved them.}

Thankfully, this year, it's homemade hot cross buns for us. So delicious.

These have freshly ground cardamon in them. I smashed the pods open using the flat side of a knife, and then whirled the seeds through my coffee mill. I guess you're supposed to have a mill for coffee and a mill for spices, but I don't. The cardamon smells delicious.

Love to see a bowl of risen dough. It's like magic. If you look closely, you can see specks of cardamon, cinnamon, and allspice. Normally, you would also see raisins or currants in hot cross buns, but I'm not a fan so I omit them. 

The tulips will be perfect by Sunday, bending out and open.

Right out of the oven. Mmmm . . . 

And delicious decorated with homemade icing on top and a spot of tea.

We always sing this at our Good Friday service. It is such a sobering hymn, and one that always brings tears to my eyes . . . 

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble!
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to a tree?
Were you there when they nailed Him to a tree?
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble!
Were you there when they nailed Him to a tree?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble!
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Thankfully, there's Good News on Sunday! Have a Happy Easter.

Handpainted teacup

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Just got back from a visit to Colorado to see my mom and sister and her family.

Crazy weather there, too. In the 70s for three days then one night down to 18, and a couple inches of snow on the ground! Back home in Michigan, we received another snowfall, and are officially over the all-time record set back in 1880-81 of 93.6 inches of snow. With 3.1 inches of snow Monday night, we are at 94.8 inches! This has also been the coldest winter since 1911-12, and the fourth coldest on record.

It was great to see everyone, and my three nephews are a blast. We went to a place called Dart Warz, and, trying to be a cool aunt, I ran around obstacles, shooting nerf discs, and actually hitting a few of the "enemy."

My husband took the day off today, being April 16 and all. He has survived another tax season! We are going to a movie this afternoon, but I wanted to get in a quick post, and show off a beautiful handpainted teacup my mom has.

It was painted by a neighbor when my mom was a child growing up in Massachusetts. She doesn't know exactly when, but knows it was prior to 1945. She's never used it, because she's not certain whether there was lead in the paint that was used. Aren't the colors beautiful?

We did drink tea out of these beauties, however.

These are Shelley teacups.The blue-handled one is called Blue Rock, the green-handled one is Rosebud, and the pink-handled one is Rose Spray. They have a lovely, delicate feel to them. They are sitting atop a woven placemat my mother made on the loom you see in the background.

Looking forward to getting back to my regular blogging schedule and visiting with you all.

Tea and snickerdoodles

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My book club was coming over last night, and I wanted to make a treat. I didn't have a lot of ingredients on hand or a lot of time, so I decided to make some simple, old-fashioned cookies. Snickerdoodles. Quick and easy and yummy.

I've always thought how amazing it is that a single batch of cookies can bring so much happiness. Think about it. You make a batch of cookies. There they are, fresh from the oven, for anyone to pick up and enjoy right out of hand or with a cup of tea. Some are set aside for book club, or a potluck, or a sick friend. Others are put in the freezer for a treat when there's nothing in the pantry. Still others are put aside for the lunchbox. Really, one batch of these little guys gives so much, for relatively little effort, don't you think? 

I start by gathering the ingredients, and making sure I have everything. My heart sank when I thought I didn't have enough cream of tartar, but yes, there was another little jar on my spice rack. Whenever I open the last bottle or can of something, I add it to my grocery list. Yay, I thought. The system works.

I don't have one of those big KitchenAid stand mixers.  I don't mind mixing things manually. One less big thing to sit on my countertop, one less thing to clean. Sometimes I use a little hand mixer, but not often. I usually don't get out my food processor, either, but instead, chop things by hand. Maybe it's because I learned to cook without those gadgets, I'm not sure. Maybe I just like the quiet.

After you mix the dough, it needs to be wrapped in plastic and sit in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

I have a bowl of cinnamon sugar I keep for cinnamon toast. I pulled this out to dip 1-inch balls of dough in before putting them on a cookie sheet.

I decided not to enlarge this photo; in X-Large it looked scary, and made me dizzy! Don't think it's in focus.

So the reward after baking? Tea, of course, and a couple cookies. Many times I have lists next to me, and here I am planning a trip to Denver to see my mother and sister and her family. I'm leaving tomorrow; none too soon. They are all very healthy out there, and maybe they will be a good influence on me so that I can get out of this long winter-induced carb-fest.

This Arthur Wood & Son English teapot came in a picnic basket with some other tea goodies that I won at a silent auction years ago.

The teacup is Rosina China Co. "Louise."

And the best for last; a little cupcake stand from Pottery Barn. Love those bunnies.

Here's the recipe for the cookies.


1 c butter
1 1/2 c sugar
2 large eggs

Cream these together, and then add:

2 3/4 c flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix well, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Roll into 1-inch balls and dip in a mixture of:

1/2 c sugar
3 Tbs. cinnamon

Bake about 10 minutes at 375 F. Cool on rack.


I will be taking a week blogging break. Love to all my bloggy friends; have a wonderful week and blessings to you! See you next week.

Linking with . . .

Easter wreath

Monday, April 7, 2014

This weekend I took apart a spring wreath I had, and made it a little "Easter." This is what I started with.

 The flowers and ribbon came from bouquets that a friend of mine made for her daughter's wedding and later gave to me.

The wreath itself was made by my sister-in-law maybe 15 years ago with grapevines from her property. She died shortly afterwards at 43 from cancer. Since I don't really have anything from her except pictures, I want to preserve this wreath. It is starting to fall apart a little, so I thought I would wrap it with a big burlap ribbon to help hold it all together.

Here are the Easter elements I decided to add. A cute little "Happy Easter" metal sign from Hobby Lobby.

And a little bunny in a sparkly pink tutu.

Here is the re-made wreath.

I had hoped to have a big lovely bow on this wreath. After quite a few frustrating attempts, I gave up. How hard can it be? One of the things I wish I had done years ago was take a bow-making class. It would have come in handy many, many times over the years.

After Easter I will remove the bunny and sign and add some other spring elements. I'm thinking some small gardening tools.

In other pretty news, look at these beautiful daisies. 

Don't they just scream Spring?!

A beautiful quote found in the March/April issue of Victoria magazine . . .

Spring drew on . . . and a greenness grew over those brown (garden) beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.
                                                                                          --Charlotte Bronte

Linking with . . . 

Helping our feathered friends

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Have you ever been so excited to do something that you ran ahead and did it without thinking things out first? That's what I did this week. All the birds are "twitterpating," as Friend Owl says in Bambi, and I thought I'd help them by providing some nesting materials.

They have plenty of raw materials around here, but last year I found a piece of tulle ribbon cleverly woven into a bird's nest, and thought how fun it would be to see some of my ribbon scraps bound up in this year's nests, to see pink and green and yellow polka-dotted ribbons woven in with grasses and twigs and mud. I did worry, however, that it might incite rivalry or jealousy among my feathered friends. Would the robin lord it over the house finch because she got the pink ribbon?

Despite some misgivings, I gathered a handful of ribbon pieces and hung them on a cedar near our feeders.

I had kind of a nagging feeling about it, though. Maybe I should check this out first. Keeping one eye on the ribbon outside my doorwall, and the other on my laptop, I did some internet searching. Well, sure enough, after checking with the Cornell University's ornithology lab and several other sites, I discovered that long pieces of nesting materials are not recommended. Birds can get tangled up in them. Uh-oh. And of all the different materials recommended for nests, ribbon was not included.

So I hurried out and gathered up all the ribbon, making sure to pick up any pieces that had fallen to the ground. Whew. I still remember how I felt after collecting a bird's nest last summer, and being told at our local bird store that the goldfinches nest all summer long. Don't know for sure whether it was a goldfinch nest that I had filched, but I felt terrible. 

After collecting all the ribbon, I almost felt like I should just forget about "helping" the birds; after all, they've been building nests long before I came along. But, I do love to watch them, and I am providing them with food . . .

So, after reading a little more, I found an "approved" way to help the birds with their nest building.

Cut up pieces of yarn four to eight inches long, and put them in a suet feeder. Voila!

I can have the fun of watching the nest-building activities, and maybe in the fall, finding nests with red and blue yarn inside, and my little friends will have some soft and cozy bedding.

I was interested to learn in my reading that hummingbirds use spider silk in their nests. It holds things together, and also stretches as the little family grows! Human hair and animal hair (especially horse hair) is good for nests, too. No dryer lint. That surprised me. But apparently, there is residue in the lint from detergents and fabric softeners which can be harmful to the birds.

Hope you're enjoying all the activity around you as Spring finally arrives.

Linking with . . .

The Scent of Water

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This is what my tea table often looks like when I'm alone. Lots of books piled around. One for reading, others for perusing and inspiration.

I just finished a book by Elizabeth Goudge entitled The Scent of Water. A wonderfully gentle and wise book, as are her other books, including one of my favorites, The Dean's Watch. It is about a woman who inherits a cottage in a small English village, and the discoveries she makes about her life and love there. 

When I have tea by myself, I am not alone. I am kept company by the characters in the books that I love. And, somehow, by the people who have passed on heirlooms to me that I lovingly and gratefully use.

This knowledge of not being alone, of being surrounded by "a cloud of witnesses" is humbling, and fills me with thanksgiving. 

I think I've shared this teacup before, but not the beautiful tablecloth. Who sat and embroidered this? What were her hopes and dreams? I'm grateful to her. And I'm grateful for the many authors who have been wise mentors in my life.

I'm thankful for whimsy and the promise of Spring.

Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. (Song 2:12)

Linking with . . .

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