Monday, 17 December 2012

Vintage Christmas

Christmas has arrived! Each year I vow not to be caught up in the maelstrom of parties, gifts, indulging in lovely festive foods etc. However, I am a child at heart, and looking at vintage children's illustrations, I feel the joy of uncomplicated fun, sharing and giving. The 1920's especially was a time of gifted illustrators who caught the innocence of children so well. One of my favorite is  Anton Pieck  which I reproduce here. Of Dutch origin, born at the end of the 1890's he illustrated many children's stories and fairy tales. Each time I see one of illustrations, I am transported back into my childhood. 
Another wonderful illustrator is Fredddie Langeleer, who was self taught and illustrated many children's books in the 1920's. She wrote a marvelous story which my daughter loves on the star children who live in the clouds and fish in moonlit lakes on the clouds and drive their carriages on plump clouds!Vintage Christmas cards, symbolize my lost childhood and I cannot resist the charming naivety of the images, here are some for your enjoyment!
 Happy Christmas and all the best for 2013!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Feel Good factor

How wonderful to have your breakfast mug inscribed on the bottom with; "Happy products for happy people!"! One of my favorite porcelain and interior wares, is  designer Pip Studio from Holland. This label happily mixes   retro and modern styles, some in pastel tints others in strong reds and pinks and blues, using images from the circus and flower designs with an oriental feel to them.  In case you wonder why I keep coming back in this blog to bright colors, retro style and warmth and happiness; my zodiac sign is cancer, which should explain all! My house is full of vibrant colors and I love nothing more than to change porcelain  for each dinner party or by season.This coming festive season, Pip Studio's bright red band on white porcelain's dinner service, called Love birds, is what will appear on the Christmas dinner table.

 Feel good accessories that are wonderful as Christmas gifts for
 your beloved is Spanish   label  "Mifabula", designing good luck bracelets with silk or leather cords and adding gold or silver discs inscribed with meaningful messages. You can design your own and they'll also  inscribe your children or your beloved's names.

If you need another gorgeous exotic label that designs original colorful accessories, look for Mia Zia, an original French label that does a great line in silk and wool scarves with beautiful patterns as well as leather ware and other complements.

Enjoy the festive season and buy presents full of warmth and color to bring joy into your homes and the heart of those you love!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Dolls as role models

I used to love playing with my Barbie dolls as a little girl, and so when my daughter was reaching doll stage, I turned to Barbie! What a shock to see the new Barbie dolls,  with more make up and thinner curves then I seemed to remember! My Barbie was more sedate in recollection, or is my memory wrong?
 It set me to think about dolls as role models for our girls, and how some girls have taken this to the extreem. Read recently about the current craze in Ukraine for teenage girls to  undergo plastic surgery to ressemble as closely as possible a Barbie, with some odd results!
When I looked at other current dolls, I liked the look of them but they all seem to revert to the traditional wellbehaved little girl look, see Kathe Kruse ( german make); Corolle (french make) and Mariquita Perez (Spanish make). It seems difficult for doll makers to model real girls, but what messages are we giving to our daughters?Are we teaching them about fashion?  In which case my daughter will say to me, that I am definitely not following Barbie fashion!
Another odd thing with dolls, is that it is actually very difficult to get boy dolls, which was not the case some decennia before? Are we stimulating girl power, and a matriarcal culture? Perhaps with society so much in confusion nowadays, we ought to rethink what kind of dolls we present to our children.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The art of elegance

How true! I have always loved to visit secondhand bookshops in search of vintage 1950'S and 60's manuals on beauty and elegance. The advice given therein may seem outdated, but it is a testimony to the age when women, even working women devoted more time to grooming. When I read about the ideal wardrobe and then take stock of mine, I make a firm vow to reduce and order the multitude of closets (they have even invaded the garage!), where I stock bags, shoes, clothes, jewelry, make up, in, short everything, a girl needs. In the 50's, the ideal wardrobe consisted of; one black dress, one suit, with two tops,one good coat and one for going shopping, 3 handbags; a clutch for evening, a good bag and a holdall shopping expeditions! My own collection of handbags has grown with the years ; it has two parameters, great colour or great shape, and I certainly could not exist with only 3.

A great little manual from that bygone age was published by french publisher Marabout flash. Delightful reading, especially when you get to the part where advice is given for the" Celle qui ne parait pas son age" (for her who looks younger than her age!). the advice is to be sober in dress, not to wear short skirts, as one has to remember"La decence est toujours une qualite. Elle est indispensable chez les dames", in other words decency is essential if one wants to be a lady! When I read this, I look at myself and try to compare to how my mother dressed at the same age. It seems a world apart. I do not hesitate to get my daughter from school in leggings (the excuse: I cycle everwhere if possible and when not working!); my mother did look ladylike, always during the week, a suit or straight skirt with twinset and pearrls!!!Always coordinated her handbag to her shoes! AsI keep remembering, I start to feel more and more that I should turn over a good resolve and make an attempt at daily elegance, rather than the odd time when I go to a dinner party!

 For those of you interested to read in english one of those 50's manuals, I would advise to order Genevieve Antoine Dariaux's book "Elegance", it has been reedited and translated into English. You can follow up by reading Kathleen Tessaro's novel "Elegance,true love never goes out of fashion"; a story about a girl who picks up Genevieve's Dariaux's book in a secondhand bookstore and vows to follow the good advice, in the hope it will transform her life!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Stanley Donen or the art of 60's chic

The other night rewatched Stanley Donen's great 60's classic movie with Sofia Loren and Gregory Peck Arabesque. The title sequence is 60's design with Henry Mancini, he of the Pink Panther theme, composing the music:
 Besides the funky music, which makes you swing along and feel jazzy, the fashion worn by Miss Loren is sophisticated and utterly right for feminine curves! She has hips!!!!!!! And breasts!!!!!!

The other great fashion movie from the 60's is of course also by Stanley Donen, Charade! Audrey hepburn on the other scale of elegance from Sophia Loren, is a dream in this suave and sophisticated detective comedy!As my favourite actor all time is Cary Grant, yes no apologies here, he is comic suave and elegant!This movie, is funny and if you love Paris you cannot fail but be charmed by the 60'S views of that elegant city!
My last favourite 60's comedy by Stanley Donen is "The grass is greener", Old england ( of course Cary Grant and Lovely english rose Deborah Kerr) versus the new American (portrayed by Robert Mitchum).
 There is one cocktail dress worn by Jean Simmons who is a chic secondary character, which is shantung silk capri pants with a dress coat over it! I could wear that today and feel the belle of the ball!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A feast of colour, fun and originality

Cassandra Constant, Viajando II
My dear friend Cassandra , from our schooldays in Spain, is an artist at ease in all mediums, but what truly gives such joy to her art, is her exploding sense of colour and the way she uses different mediums to highlight this.
She will be exhibiting some of her work together with other artists, in the "Art for Youth" exhibition, to be held in London's Royal College of Art, this coming 10 and 11 Oct. Anyone in London then can apply for tickets. the sale of the art works will be for the UK charity UK Youth!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A great Photographer

My dearest friend Chryssi, died last June and on another blog I paid tribute to her qualities as a friend,and person. Here I would like to remember some of the wonderful photographs she took in her short career.

One of her first exhibitions was portraits of a small village in Northern Greece; seeing the faces one is struck by the emotions protrayed. Old faces can say so much!The exhibition was held in this semi deserted village and helped to revive interest in it.

The photograph below was of a series she did of Istanbul, very atmospheric.I went there with her for the wedding of her brother.The family orignally hailed from the Pondos area of Turkey but came to Greece in the 1920's,and so was still closely linked to Istanbul.

For me her sensitive nature ennabled her to be open to atmospher and people,a great gift. If you want to see more pictures by her go to Flickr and look up Chryssi Patrona.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

end of holidays in ancient arcadia


Dear fellow bloggers and readers,after an extended holiday, am back in the harness of real life!
archeological site of Olimpia

This year like the previous 15 summers spent it in Greece as my other half is Greek. We have a house there in the hills near to ancient Olimpia. The photo above is the original olimpic stadium nestled in a forest of pine, cypress and eucaliptus trees. The Peloponnesos is very green, contrary to what most people expect from the Greek countryside. It is often compared to Italy's Umbria. although a huge fire in 2007 destroyed alot of trees in the area coming very close to the archeological site, it is recuperating quickly.

This part of the Peloponnesos is well wort a visit as nearby in the mountains (40 kms) is the old temple of Bassae dedicated to Apollo and constructed by the architect of the Parthenon, Ipecterion!The temple is now covered by a tent structure but still worth visiting.

My favourite beach this summer is a small beach visited by locals and with green around and only one small bar which has had the foresight to provide some shade! Cold frappé coffee in the morning as you arrive and lovely swimming.
Have a good start in September everybody

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Reading at the Beach

Agio Andrea beach Ilia Greece
A small beach with wonderful deep swimming water as you go in, someone to bring you a refreshment from the bar above, and some good books are all I require for the perfect decompression holiday. My reading eclectic at the best of times turns to wildly different authors for the beach. What did I take this year?
 A throwback to the adventure stories of my childhood with John Buchan's early 20th century spy novels (Greenmantle, Mr Standfast, the 39 steps and the 3 hostages; I reccomend the Wordsworth editions of the collected Dick Hannay stories, it has them all for a reasonable price).
To give me romance without turning to chick lit which bores me to tears, I have taken with me the Far Pavilions by MM Kaye. The author using her 1920's own experiences in India, tells a great love story spanning the British Raj.

Finally A greek holiday would not be complete without Gerald Durrell's A Corfu trilogy, delectable in its detailed descriptions of life in Corfu before the 2nd WW, throwing in a good measure of botany and biology.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Summer holidays

Kyllini beach in Northern Peloponnessos, Greece

Dear fellow bloggers and readers, To celebrate summer holidays I am attaching 3 videos  which represent the summer for me; Cliff Richard's 1962 Summer holidays from the film( watch the film; summum of kitch vintage 60's, great relaxer!); Doris day in "Que Sera Sera", and finally also from the 60's the Bee Gees and their "Holiday", slightly more melancholic. Yes, No apologies her for all this 60's revival, I am a fan, it hearks back to a more naif innocent period which makes me smile. In the current economic climate a must I would say! Happy holidays

cliff richard summer holiday
doris day que sera, que sera
bee gees holiday

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Summer coolness in Spain: tiles and porcelain

Summer coolness is best enjoyed in tiled interiors and exteriors as the mediterranean countries well know. Above a vieuw of the tiled veranda of the Catalan modernist Parque Guell in Barcelona. If you are in the north of Spain on the Meditteranean side this summer, it is well worth a visit. Designed by Antoni Gaudi,a catalan modernist archtitect in the early 20th Century, the park was intended as a lifestyle exercise combining livingspace, communalbuildings and a park. It proved extremely expensive to complete and so only the park was ever completed to the original design. If you ever wondered where the ideas of some of Spain's more famous artists from the movida period( post Franco 80's) found their inspiration,like Javier Mariscal (who designed the poster I attached), look at Gaudi's use of traditional materias such as old tiles, broke them and recoverted them in startling designs.

Another wonderful spot is down south in Sevilla,take an early morning or late afternoon walk to the Plaza de Espana. It was built also in the early part of the 20th Century, for a Spanish/LatinAmerican world exhibition. The square is bordered by a colonnade with seats. The colonnade and seats are tiled in those lovely Spanish tiles known as azulejos, each seat has a medallion representing a famous vieuw in Spain. What you next need is to take a summer picknick with you in the summer evening and sit down in either of these two spots. What I reccomend is to take a chilled bottle of Manzanilla (very dry sherry) or fresh young white Galician wine (Viura), accompany with a tortilla de patatas (spanish omelette)and some slices of spanish cured ham, the best being "Pata Negra". Then go down for a swim, the coast is not far in either case.If you are flush with cash or in need of some beautiful plates, why not go and visit the porcelain factory, La Cartuja de Sevilla,just outside Seville. It has some lovely services in vieux rose and royal blue which bring alive a dinner party al fresco on your veranda or garden.

Thursday, 21 June 2012


Summer holidays always make me think of salt; especially salt on the skin.The salty bracing air of the Atlantic is lovely in the spring and autumn, but for the summer give me the Meditterranean any time. I turn into a beach bum, smelling of suntan oil (yes to french eponymous Ambre Solaire and the much regretted Jean Patou huile de chaldĂ©e, which gave an inmediate colour and smelled exotically of the 1920's golden girls!). It is difficult to find perfumes that truly give off a salty, tangy, sundrenched and yes slightly sweaty smell. I went over to the fragantica website to look up notes of my beach summer perfumes and noticed that the salt seems to come from a combination of nutty/almonds, vanilla, ozonic fresh married to fruits sometimes red and some citrussy. Summer evening perfumes tend to have fruits, rose, licorice, caramel, and drydown to tonka bean and vanilla. I give you my alltime favourites for day and evening! Let me know which are yours.
Look up Italian perfumers, Profumum Roma, they only produce the real stuff so  no eau de toilette versions here, but for me their Acqua di Sale and their Vuolo AZ 486 give me a real beach bum feel sitting with a glass of ouzo after a morning tanning and swimming with some small mezze on my favourite terrace facing the sea in the Greek Peloponnese. Vuolo AZ 486 is also great I would think for those who holiday in the Pacific, Latin American region, it has coconut and tropical fruits but not overdone.For a similar effect you can also try Maitre Gantier et Parfumeur Bahania.

 If you want more coconut and suntan oil, Comptoir Pacifique do a candied Vanille Coco, which if too much add some ozonic perfume  to tone down.For a softer sillage and definitely better behaved than the beach bum look, go for Guerlain's new Acqua Allegoria, Lys Soleia. It has the signature of new Guerlain perfumer Thierrry Wasser who has done much to rebuild Guerlain's perfumes to their former creativity.

Lastly if you want the salty with a  slight metallic twing, there is nothing better than to go for that 80's monument, Dune by Christian Dior You hesitate between car exhaust and metallic car paint and a salty seabreeze, but for those whose skins take to it it is a sex bomb!

For me the nightime is about cooling down but enjoying the day's warmth of the sun. A shower and some sparkels and colourful wear, and I can feel the relaxation setting in. What to wear as a perfume? think back to that 60's french cult movie La Piscine (the swimmingpool) with Romy Schneider and Alain Delon, for me this means two perfumes which play in the general notes I mentioned in the beginning; Angel by Thierry Mugler (there is an eau de toilette version!) and Lolita Lempicka. You might think these two too heavy but rub some oil (Nuxe huile prodigieux if you can get it) and then a few spritzes of perfume, I swear heaven is there!