Thursday, August 15, 2013

Focus & Reward

I didn’t really intend to take a summer blog break, but a little over a month ago I decided to make some changes in my life, and pare back for a short time.   In fairness, I really should have told you and a few others that I was going to unplug for a few days, but what began as three days of total focus became ten, and over the course of those ten days in mid-July I became very intent on changing some patterns that have crept into my life over the last five years or so.   Some say it takes several months of rigorous effort to change behaviour, like quitting smoking or eliminating caffeine or alcohol.  But I managed to do it in ten days.  Basically, I put everyone and everything in my life on restriction: my family & friends, all but one farmers market, the house and garden, and even you, my awesome blog readers.  I have a fence or two to mend as a result, but for now you must forgive me, because I finally realized that I can best help myself and everyone else if I finish the Paris book and if I have my personal self in top shape.  It was time.  So I told my parents I would be spending just one hour each day with them, but otherwise, kindly don’t bother me.  There have been no family dinners, no fancy desserts, no food requests fulfilled.  My phone and texting were turned off most of the day, as I focused on my goals.

I spent five days warming up to a change in diet by substituting fresh juice from a new juice bar in downtown Laguna called Nekter.  It was sort of a toe in the water.  I had a regular dinner with wine each night, and then, suddenly, I jumped!  I got a set of the Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis CDs and a pair of three pound hand weights.  I started Tracy’s program, and haven’t looked back for the last 30 days.  Her diet is good old fashioned calorie restriction, with a small amount of protein and a few fresh veggies, as well as a green juice drink for breakfast every other week (the menu changes weekly and the workouts change every ten days).  It means I cut out caffeine, sugar, salt, wheat, dairy and alcohol from my diet, cold turkey.    Tracy has her own 30 minute dance cardio program, but I have slowly increased my own walking, to the point that now I power walk three hours each day in addition to Tracy’s 30 minute muscular structure work, which is segments of abs, legs and arms.  Just to be sure I stick to the program, I chose a walking partner who will listen while I talk and walk, always keep up to the pace I want, and who is available to go for a power-walk 24/7 on short notice; my sweet Biscuit dog~


Tracy Anderson gets heaped with praise as well as criticism on the internet, but let me tell you, the 30 minute workouts are tough but super effective.  Regardless of what anyone says, the bottom line is that she knows how to reshape a body, and she knows how to make you lose weight and not plateau.  Never a fan of weigh-ins, I go by how my clothes fit and how I look and feel, and I feel fantastic and have lost inches, many of them, in just 30 days.  I am on the 90 day program and I follow her diet to a T, which is actually really easy to do, once you get started.  You can see her diet in a pdf HERE

I spent the first ten days pretty obsessed with the diet and following it carefully, and wondering what to do in the evenings when I would normally enjoy a leisurely dinner and a drink with my parents; our social hour to unwind after the day.  This is really when the walking came into the picture, because rather than eat, I walk, and then in the evening I can do the floor exercises and go to bed tired.  I put a few dollars a day away in a jar too, to show myself that I was also saving money on food and wine.  Once each week I have allowed myself time to go to our upscale mall South Coast Plaza, to window shop the nice clothes and shop for perfume.  While I have a closet full of clothes I want to wear and don’t need many more, I have wanted one of two good perfumes, so I decided on fragrance as my reward for good behaviour.  And if you haven’t been out perfume shopping in a while, I highly recommend it as as a free way to spend an hour.  I’ve been to Hermes, Chanel and Dior to name a few.  It seems that everyone loves to give out samples, and most of the time they want to give them to you in a fancy Chanel or Dior bag or in a small orange Hermes box.  I’ve set those goodies aside for the time being, and sampled the store bottles.

The sales assistants at Dior in South Coast Plaza could not be nicer.  Really.  I must say that I rarely visit Dior in Paris, because I’ve usually just raided Monoprix down the street on the Champs-Élysées, but I never miss a walk past the windows.  It’s a legendary flagship boutique in an amazing corner building on Avenue Montaigne.  Walking by, you might not realize this building is as big as it is~

dior bldg paris

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The entrance is always immaculate, and it gives you just a clue as to what you can find inside in dozens and dozens of shades: Grey.

dior paris entry

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There are beautiful grey carpets, and ornate mouldings, and racks and racks of beautiful clothing and accessories.  This store is consistently ranked one of the top ten in Paris, which means, one of the best in the world.

dior boutique

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The combination of Grey and Pink was a personal favorite of Christian Dior.  You will still find pink and grey used in the store.

dior paris

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And so I was intrigued a few months ago when Dior launched a new fragrance in Europe, called Gris Montaigne.  Unlike J’Adore and the other more mainstream Dior fragrances, Gris Montaigne is part of the Collection Privée de Dior.  With names and fragrances based upon key locations and Dior concepts, the line is made of high quality ingredients and point of sale is limited to Dior boutiques and online.  After sampling several fragrances in the Dior boutique over the course of several weeks, I set my heart upon Gris Montaigne, which is the newest in the line and is now available in the U.S.  In the store you will see the jumbo bottles; I got the small one, which is 125 ml or 4.2 ounces.  It comes in a great cylindrical container.


The perfume is packaged in a cylindrical bottle, with a cap that is magnetized so that when you put the cap on, the CD on top aligns to the front.  Chanel does the same thing with their line of exclusifs; there is a great deal of thought put into the packaging~


So what would you think a bottle of Grey perfume would smell like?  This one is subtly rose….a soft pink rose, with sandalwood and a little patchouli and a touch of moss.  It’s intended as a chypre, yet it’s not like any other chypre I have smelled.  It’s not overpowering, it’s subtle, it lingers about two inches above my skin for about 5 hours, and it’s what I would consider a contemplative fragrance; perfect for the days I now spend editing and want to be comforted by and wrapped in my fragrance, but not distracted by it.  It suits the Dior Grey & Pink perfectly; I love this fragrance and am wearing it daily, not to mention liberally.


I spent a few minutes on Pinterest looking for something Dior that would represent this fragrance.  Nothing harsh, this is a soft and enveloping fragrance; subtle, and high quality.  I’ll wear it with jeans, but it would be perfect to wear with this gown, which looks to me just like the fragrance smells~

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The other fragrance I really like chez Dior is Grand Bal.  It’s a floral, opening with a big burst of Grasse Jasmine and Orange Blossom and then moves into middle notes of ylang-ylang and sandalwood.  You can smell all kinds of jasmine out there, but when you smell the best French jasmine from the perfume capital of Grasse, you know it immediately.  While Gris Montaigne whispers to me softly, Grand Bal has a bigger presence over the first two hours, though I find the fragrance to be comforting and cheerful at the same time.  The bottles come in eau de toilette concentration, and this again is the “small” bottle, 5 3/4” tall, which looks really excellent on my vanity table.  Oh, and I want to mention, two bottles were out of my budget, but I found this one on Ebay, used but only a few times, for a tiny fraction of the price in the store.  Ebay is a great place to buy fragrance at a deep discount, but you need to be patient.  


The concept behind Grand Bal is that of a full ball gown, its layers of fragrance unfolding like a big ball gown.  Who did this better than Dior?~

dior ball gown

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And this dress…..soft and pretty, feminine….just like these fragrances.  No one creates perfume like the French, and in these exclusive lines, which you will find at Chanel, Dior, Hermes, Serge Lutens and others, you will find some true works of art, like a couture gown…

vintage dior

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Before I found my way to Dior, I was in the Chanel store half a dozen times trying their line of Les Exclusifs.  You can see the range of 14 fragrances HERE, each created around some aspect of the life and work of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.  It’s interesting when people talk of a “fragrance wardrobe” because fragrance really is like clothes in many ways.  Sometimes you want to love a fragrance and you try it on and it just feels like you are wearing someone else’s clothes.  And when you find a great fragrance that you love, it’s like your favorite clothing, and you think, “I could wear this all the time.”  And so it is for me with Chanel fragrance, except No. 5, which smells poor on me but amazing on my Mother.  I could wear almost all of the Chanel Exclusifs line on a regular basis.  But alas, I had to pick just one, so I chose Bois des Iles.


It’s really hard to describe some of these fragrances other than listing a few of the notes; Bois des Iles means woods of the islands, literally, meant to conjure up  thoughts of far away places and exotic fragrances.  It smells of dark woods yet also soft florals such as rose, iris, jasmine and about ten other mysterious notes…but try it on and you will agree you have never smelled anything like it before.  I’d really like to wear it with this jacket and some Chanel bling~


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But as that jacket is not in my closet, I’m going to wear it with my boot leg jeans and a faux-Chanel jacket this fall.  With the stick-on camellia from the Chanel bag pinned on next to the treasured rhinestone brooch my Grandmother gave me.


I’m not giving anyone a firm date for Reve Paris just yet, but it will not be long since I’m planning the next trip, to Paris, Morocco and Beaune.  The weather will be cooler, I will be thinner, and I’m going to wear the cropped black turtleneck I have that is similar to this with a heavy application of Bois des Iles as we stroll Paris.  I might have to add a pair of long leather gloves and will skip the leather skirt.

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I’m back to editing, in a cloud of something lovely from Dior or Chanel.  The layout is in progress, and now I am hunting for a good print on demand publisher and working through things like bindings and margins.  Thank you for your patience and huge thanks to so many of you who sent emails or comments asking where the heck I have been…..I will not be posting regularly yet, but there is a lot in store for fall travels, and you will be in effect coming along with me.  Enjoy the rest of your week~