Friday, March 14, 2008

The Urge to Purge

Is everyone in the world suddenly getting the organization bug? It sure seems like it. Or maybe it’s like when you buy a new car, and suddenly it seems like the whole world is driving the same thing. The more I get on with my organizational aspirations, the more I notice others’ blogs, books, magazines, articles, etc. about the same.

This weekend, I am tackling one of the biggest issues hanging over my head: all the stuff I moved and never unpacked. Well, never officially unpacked—I’ve been trying to find things here and there and it’s become a big disaster. A big disaster that is supposed to be my knitting/studying/office area, except that you literally can’t walk into it.

I’ve had really good intentions. I’ve thought about it a lot. Maybe I just needed that little carrot? Well, the carrot found me, in the form of a gorgeous black lacquer desk. Here's a photo, from a magazine:
I was browsing/shopping a couple of days ago in lieu of studying for my math exam, and found this amazing desk. It’s a secretary style with a pull-down panel, and the inside is full of little drawers and cubbies all in the most brilliant RED! I knew from the moment I saw it I had to have it. I talked to the saleswoman about it, and she mentioned offhand that it was a really good deal. I went home and looked it up online… It was originally $2400—yikes, this one was $249. I bought it, and we’ll pick it up sometime this weekend.

As soon as I (ahem) make some room available for it. And so, my weekend of de-stashing, purging, de-junking has begun!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I promise I have some knitting and adventures to show you, and if the sun would just come out for a few minutes, I could take some pictures of the knitting! Until then, a little wedding inspiration for Åsa, who wants an American-style wedding in Sweden. Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials, Åsa!

September 30, 2006
Mountain River Ranch, Idaho, USA

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Knitty: Sophisticated Spring

Amy published the Spring 2008 issue of today, and I have to say, this may be one of my favorite issues yet. The designs are so sophisticated and polished. I think that knitwear design is really starting to come into it's own lately. The bar seems to have been raised quite a bit in the past several months as knitters want more and more wearable designs, current but classic pieces in luxury fibers.

I've also never been one for a lot of summer knitting, preferring rich wools, cashmeres, and tweeds for fall on winter to settle on my needles, but lately, I'm getting excited by some of the possibilities in design as well as some of the fantstic yarns. I'm considering a few of knitty's newest:

Yosemite is a very sexy, form-fitting little knit, isn't it? The mini faux-cable/rib is nice and looks like it would have a lot of stretch (and designed with seven inches of negative ease, I suppose it would!).

I also really like Honeycomb, though maybe for something to knit for the fall. I am in love with Silky Tweed and Silky Wool anyway, so this could be another possibility and looks like it would be a quick weekend knit.

The Salto socks are interesting...still trying to decide if the pattern grabs me. They'd be great with some really tweedy yarn. Again, more for fall than spring.

I think I really like Marjorie, too. For my body type, this would provide all-important waist shaping that sometimes gets lost with boxier designs. I like the slight throwback to retro without seeming too "costume-y" and the alpaca looks so soft and luxurious.

Well, these will all have to be on the back burner for now. I have a big weekend project planned, and in the meantime I also have to study for a math test (ugh). Besides that, I have a few lingering UFOs that really need some TLC.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Two Lipsticks, a Lover, and Don’t Forget the Matching Knickers

I recently had the opportunity to interview Helena Frith-Powell, author of, Two Lipsticks and a Lover, Ciao Bella: In Search of My Italian Father, More More France Please, Armas De Mujer/ Be Incredibly Sexy, and Everything You Need to be Impossibly French. Helena has a new book coming out soon, entitled, To Hell in High Heels, which will be released soon (and can currently be pre-ordered on Amazon).

Helena began her career at a young age in modeling and fashion design, later working as a journalist for a financial magazine and then as a recruiter. Helena began writing again after her move to France, and Is a regular contributor to The Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, and other magazines and newspapers.

While you may recognize her as a best-selling author, what you may not know is that Helena has just opened a rejuvination spa in the south of France, aimed at providing a restful retreat for women. The spa, called Renew Retreats, caters to a vacation-style setting, and is the result of Helena’s partnership with yoga teacher and psychotherapist Anna Cooper and holistic dermatologist, anti-ageing expert and nutritionist Tina Richards.

Helena says about the spa, “This is a different kind of retreat because it takes into account not just your looks, but your diet, your mindset, your everyday skincare routine, your style, grooming and exercise. It is designed for your well-being on a mental and physical level. But unlike superficial anti-ageing treatments like Botox, these therapies go deep under the skin to renew and revitalise.”

Given that Helena and I live about as far apart from each other as two people possibly can, we conducted our interview via email. Even over the written word, I could immediately tell how witty and funny Helena is, and how calm and centered, too. It did make me wonder if this part-time Pilates teacher needs to leave to full-time rat race and work in a spa, too. Below are the results of our interview:

Q How has your perception of French women has changed since you wrote your books, “Two Lipsticks, etc.” If you were to write the book today, what would you add/remove?
A Yes, my perception has changed in two rather different ways: One, I realise that they are even more perfect than I first thought they were in the major cities, but also that they most of them simply couldn't care less in the countryside. They even wear slippers to the shops!

Q Is it really that difficult to make friends with French women? How did you meet with the French women she knows today? What do they do when they get together?
A It is very difficult. Where I live, I have one French friend. I met her through her husband who makes a wine I became addicted to and wanted to introduce to a friend who runs wine bars in London. French women don't tend to get together in the way we do, they don't really seem to enjoy each other's company on the same scale.

Q Have French women approached you about your books? If so, what have they had to say about her description of them?
A All the criticism I have had has come from French women! They don't like to be pigeon-holed and hate the cliche that they are faithless and obsessed with they way they look. But as I always point out, cliches start somewhere!

Q What would you say the biggest pitfall or misconception American and British women have about French women?
A That they are rude. This is of course true of some of them, but really at worst they can be described as haughty.

Q How would you define that certain je ne sais quoi that French women seem to possess? Can it be taught? How (if at all) can it be achieved outside France ?
A I would define it as an inner confidence that comes from growing up in a country where women are revered. The symbol of France (Marianne), is a woman, for example. I also think it comes from knowing you are making the best of yourself, mentally and physically, and yes of course anyone can do that.

Q What misconceptions do women outside of France have about the slimness of French women? How do you feel about this slim reality/ideal?
A The slim ideal is changing, sadly. But still, French women are much thinner than their UK counterparts. I once asked an Englishman who lives in Paris what the main difference between a French and an Englishwoman is and he said "about 10 kilos."

Q This is the “desert island” question: if you had to leave France for an extended period, what would you stock up on before you left? What types of skin care, food stuff, clothes, underwear, something else?
A Matching underwear! That's the first thing. Then some of the wine mentioned above, lots of sunblock, moisturizer and bath oils. As I write about beauty, the products I use are not by any means exclusively French. My total favourites are both American: Philosophy and Laura Mercier.

Q What is your favorite piece of clothing or outfit? How has your wardrobe changed since moving to France ?
A My favourite piece of clothing at the moment is a small furry waistcoat my husband bought me in a local underwear shop for Christmas. I think you're meant to wear it in bed over your pyjamas but I wear it all the time. Yes my wardrobe has changed radically! I was told I was eccentric when I first came here so I think I am more classic now, I tend to look at Elle every week to see what's going on.

Q What are the advantages for her children of attending French school? what are the disadvantages?
A The advantage is discipline, the disadvantage is that they grow up thinking Napoleon was a good bloke!

Q What are your favorite French film(s)? French actress, actor and/or director?
A I have to admit I find most French films totally incomprehensible but I do love Jules & Jim and Belle de Jour. I think Juliette Binoche is my favourite French actress, she is so naturally beautiful and difficult to deal with - very French.

Q What French traditions have you and your family taken up since moving to France ? What traditions have you dropped? What French traditions do you not bother with/understand/ dislike?
A We always eat at midday now and we have bread with every meal. We no longer have a traditional English Sunday roast every Sunday. I quite like the French rhythm of life, how everything shuts for lunch, some expats find that infuriating but I think it's very civilised.

Q What are your favorite Parisian shops/department stores/food havens? What do you buy when you visit them?
A Galleries Lafayette - the biggest underwear space in the whole of Europe and thousands of creams. Chantal Thomass (also underwear) very Parisian and intimate. The classic food haven Hediard near the Place de la Madeleine, an Aladdin's cave of goodies.

Q What do you miss about the UK/British culture?
A The sense of humour, flexibility, friends, M&S, Waitrose.

Q How difficult was it to move to France? In general, the logistics of it. Is it easy to be a resident of another country and take up residence in France ?
A Very easy, now it is even easier, there is no need for a carte de sejour even.
™ ­ ˜

You can find out more about Helena’s spa here:

Helena’s blog and more information about her can be found here:

© Anna Larsen 2008. All Rights Reserved.