Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Call Me Crazy...

Color! Saturated, Sassy, Spectacular and Sensual

Meet my niece, Sarah Wedge, my hat model! 

 Sarah Wedge is a talented illustrator and artist. She is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art.  You can see Sarah's work here. Sarah is wearing my Louise Brooks haircut style hat -- "Crazy".

The "Crazy" style is made by piecing felt shapes on a headblock. All the pieces are joined by strips of either felt or velvet.

"Crazy" can't be crazy enough. I love this quote from Morris Lapidus, a neo-baroque-style architect who designed great 1950's buildings, like the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami.  "MORE IS NEVER ENOUGH!" Here's a little film about Morris.

I  like the contrast between the soft look of the felt and the shiny, luxurious velvet. I use pinking shears to cut some edges for the zig-zag effect.

Louise Brooks was a beautiful actress who starred in films in the 1930's.

Great shape and great color. Thank you Sarah and Louise.

À bientôt!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ma Mésaventure à Chambourcy

Le Désert de Retz, a Bucolic Dream and a Sprained Ankle

La Glacière (Pyramid Ice House) a folly at Le Désert de Retz
I have been intrigued by Le Désert de Retz, a late 18th century French folly garden in the suburbs of Paris, since I bought Diana's Ketcham's excellent book, Le Désert de Retz, around 1994. As she wrote, "Twelve miles from the heart of Paris, one of the glories of the architecture of fantasy has lain forgotten for two hundred years. The Désert de Retz was built as the private pleasure garden of Francois Nicolas Henri Racine de Monville, a gentleman of fashion during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI."

Within the almost 50 acres of the garden, Monsieur Monville created a fantasy world of 17 buildings called follies in styles such as classical, oriental, Egyptian and Gothic. A folly is simply a small, ornamental building with no earthly practicality, created for the pure joy and "folly" of it. Think of them as the playhouses for the 18th century's 1%.

When planning my recent trip to France, I was delighted to find that there would be a concert and tour of the Désert while I was in Paris. I ordered tickets. We hired a mini-van and chauffeur for the one-hour drive to Chambourcy, where the garden is situated.  The garden is now owned by the municipality of Chambourcy and is slowly being restored.

The property has magnificent specimens of rare trees from all over the globe.

When we are arrived at the Désert, in spite of following the posted signs to the concert, we entered at the wrong gate. The president of the Association Le Désert de Retz loudly chastised us for this misdemeanor and told our driver he couldn't park there. It was all very convoluted (the yelling being done in French) but there was, apparently, a parking lot and entrance where we were supposed to have gone. Our driver, a very nice fellow, went off to search for mushrooms until he could pick us up at 5:30 p.m. When the tour started, this gate was locked!

Our guide, Laurent Fourquié, an expert on the Désert, began the tour by speaking about La Maison Chinoise (Chinese House). Sadly, this folly collapsed due to neglect but will be rebuilt when funds are available.

Le Temple au Dieu Pan (Temple to the God Pan)

Ah -- the site of the unfortunate incident. Pan was being mischievous. A few of us (including French people), began to wander away from the guide. Some French people actually went up behind the temple. I did not. However, when the president of the Association saw us up there, he started to yell (in English) "You can't go up there!" He hurriedly came up the hill to the Temple, while the French people scurried away. As I was attempting to extricate myself from this situation and descend the hill, I slipped on an acorn (probably a Scrat reject) and fell. When I saw my left foot bent under my body at a very sharp angle, I knew this could not be good. I limped off to sit in the shade and lick my wound.

In 1786, Thomas Jerfferson, with his girlfriend, the painter, Maria Cosway, visited the Désert. Diana Ketcham set the stage: "After the viewing, what would M. de Monville have offered as refreshment? Perhaps tea in the Chinese pavilion, served from his collection of antique porcelain. If the day was hot, a servant may have rushed over from the Pyramid bearing ice for their drinks."

A distant view of the Le Colonne Détruite (the Broken Column.)  Some people say that Thomas Jefferson broke his wrist while trying to impress Maria Cosway by jumping over a fence at the Désert. Jackie Kennedy also visited the Désert in 1979.

Another view of the Pyramid Ice House. In the 1940's, André Breton and some surrealists sneaked in to the Désert to enjoy the ruins and decay.

La Tente Tartare (Tartar Tent) has been restored.

Dianna Ketcham wrote: "The Castle of Sleeping Beauty, the secret garden, the place time forgot -- such were the story-book images the Désert could evoke for the literary minded."

The tour behind the Broken Column. The word Désert is used to connote an isolated, rarely frequented and deserted place.

A close up of the Broken Column. Yes, it was designed with the cracks. A family actually lived in the Column in the early 20th century. New windows have recently been installed.

The Concert des Lumières, featuring 18th century Baroque music, took place after the tour. As I sat in the shade with an ice pack on my ankle, the lovely music floated over the lawn. People were quite solicitous and kind to me. At 5 p.m., our little group got up to walk down the road to where our chauffeur would meet us. I was supported by my stepson, Richard, and Dianna's husband, Michael. Dianna walked ahead, and when we were almost to the gate, she came back with the bad news. The gate was locked.

Just at that moment, Pierre Morange, the mayor of Chambourcy, drove up and unlocked the gate. And guess what? Le maire est aussi médecin. (The mayor is also a doctor.) He looked at my ankle, by now swollen and black and blue, and declared it was imperative that I go to the hospital. He called our van driver to come and pick us up, called La Police Nationale to escort us to the emergency room and lifted me in to the van! You may see Dr. Morange here. Merci, Docteur Morange!

And that is how I came to visit Centre Hospitalier Intercommunal Poissy St-Germain en Laye. X-ray, normal. Conclusion: entorse benigne de cheville (sprained ankle). Our chauffeur waited for the two hours that I was in the emergency room. Maybe he was smoking some mushrooms. We gave him a good tip.

I was so taken with the Désert, that in 1999, I did a painting using it as a background for A Folly Wedding.

A Folly Wedding by Carol Markel

A very nice man named Ronald Kenyon runs a website on the Désert. You can access it here.

A note to my readers: Why not follow my posts by email and receive Femme et Fleur posts as they fly hot off the keyboard? Simply click on the email subscription box in the sidebar, and you will receive only new posts as I post them. Isn't that convenient?

Thank you to Dianna Cramer for allowing me to use the wonderful photos in this post.

À bientôt!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ich bin ein New Yorker

For a story on shopping in New York City, Richard and I had our pictures taken by Grace Huang for this German travel magazine, ADAC/reisemagazin.

The shoot was at Theater Bar in Tribeca, and the bartender mixed up some beautiful, non-alcoholic cocktails for us. I am wearing a Tucker dress by Gaby Basora, a vintage silk jacket from Madame Matovu, a necklace from Wendy Mink and a hat by Marie Mercie. Richard is wearing a Coton Doux shirt, trousers and jacket from Paul Stuart and shoes by Jay Kos.

It was fun, fun, fun. I even had my makeup done! Thanks to Kathrin Leist, the stylist for the shoot.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

La Leçon de Française

For those of you who would like to brush up on your French, or perhaps even learn some, from time to time I will post a petite leçon de française illustrated by one of my drawings. Today's lesson covers a use for the subjunctive mood. Many students of French get in a bad mood when they see the subjunctive because it's a pesky thing they have to learn after they have mastered the indicative mood

Description in a nutshell: The indicative mood expresses a certainty or reality. The subjunctive mood expresses a doubt, a wish, a desire or a speculation on things that are not a reality. It's also used with impersonal expressions like "it's necessary that." It's not a tense, like past, present or future. It's a mood! A good mood. So don't get tense.

I'm here to tell you not to get moody over the subjunctive. It's actually fun. First, learn when to use it. Then learn how to conjugate it (including the irregular conjugations -- grrrr.)

In the example above we see a usage for the subjunctive. A woman is giving an order in the third person. It says, "Let him do the dishes!" Fasse is the third-person singular form of the verb faire (to do) in the subjunctive. Gloria Steinem would approve.

P.S. My first verb book was Barron's 501 French Verbs. That wasn't enough, so I got Bescherelle's Complete Guide to Conjugating 12,000 French Verbs

Monday, November 7, 2011

Inspiration Paris - Part Two

Bienvenue mes amis.  
Miss Nancy Boyle
My French teacher at North Shore High School, Glen Head, NY

I had an email from a high school friend, Ricky Zimmerman. Here's what he said about Femme et Fleur.
If you remember, our French teacher told the American Friends Committee that I was incapable of learning.  I think she was speaking generally but try not to use too much French in your new blog.  This is the first blog I have ever responded to so write away.  ricky
Inspiration Paris, Part Two
Because I am a compulsive organizer, when I go to Paris I do exhaustive research, culled from favorite blogs, on pâtisseries, restaurants, shops and museums. Here are some of the sources: The Paris Kitchen, Bonjour Paris, Girls Guide to Paris, and David Lebovitz.

Typical notebook entries may say: "eclair rue de Buci, any vendors - do many." Or, "autumn day, row to island in Grand Lac in Bois de Boulogne, lunch in a deserted restaurant." Or, from The New York Times, Lenny Kravitz likes: L'Amis Louis for dinner, Kai on rue de Louvre for sushi, Paris Opera, favorite building.

Oui, Deyrolle, cabinet de curiosités should be on your list.

I dutifully type up my notes like Saint Carol de Paris. But once I'm there, ah, that's another histoire. I may have 10 pâtisseries on my list and get to only two.

This chap at Gérard Mulot cannot believe that les Americains are ordering so many macarons!
Quel cochons!

One evening after dinner we skipped dessert at the restaurant and ran like the devils food cake to beat the shop's closing time of 8 p.m..

What a riot of beauty, cornucopia of color and surfeit of sweetness. Coming in on a tarte and a prayer, we made our selection.

The packaging is as delicieux as the pâtisserie. Lush pinks and salmon hues.

Let's see. I think we bought one of those raspberry tartes and that red bombe thing to the right. It was blueberry inside.

These pyramids of macarons were the inspiration for I.M. Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre.
Some little hostess gift, n'est pas?

Back at the hotel, the booty ready to be opened and devoured. But first, we order a bottle of Château de Gérard Mulot with hints of chocolate and raspberry.

Would you believe these are chocolate Easter bunnies? I didn't think so.

While on the topic of desserts, one I like to dwell on interminably,
we went to the Musée Jacquemart-André, ostensibly to see a show of the art of Fra Angelico, but really to dine in what I'd read was the most beautiful tea room in Paris.

Voila! Parfait for les Madames qui déjeunent.

Fra Angelico was an Italian Renaissance painter of religious subjects.
A Bishop Saint, Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro) (Italian, Vicchio di Mugello ca. 1395-1455 Rome) Date: ca. 1425, 
courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.metmuseum.org
Call me a philistine, but how many pictures of gold-leaf saints can a person look at.
This is much better.

I worship at the altar of Napoleon, the pastry, not the emperor.

Little-known fact: the Musée Jacquemart-André was used as
 Maurice Chevalier's house in the movie Gigi.

These people (and Monsieur Le Chien) look like they're enjoying lunch too.

Le Jardin du Luxembourg is a civilized place for a stroll, to see and be seen, to enjoy the pond and the plantings.

The gentleman on the left got the same memo as Richard for what to wear in the Jardin. It's like walking on a sandy beach. You must wipe the fine blond dust from your shoes after your walk. 

Speaking of Richard, he always manages to inject a bit of fun.

A lovely way to end the day: Absinthe at Deux Magots.
Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.

À bientôt!