Italia

This July, Nicolas and I had great fun venturing off to Italy before I returned to the United States for the remainder of summer. I was struck by how different the country feels from France. The difference is palpable.  This is not all that surprising as the roots, the language and the history are very different from those of France.

As I am writing this, a flood of memories is pouring through my mind. Memories that cannot quite be put into words, as they are more emotions than anything else, which have changed me for the better. These memories are the souvenirs that returned home with me, aside from the photos and the Italian edibles that have long since disappeared from my shelves. They will stay with me forever as a reminder of the carefree days spent under the Ligurian sun. I think we will be spending many holidays in Italy.

 

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Le Pavillon Vendôme

Tucked away in the periphery of Aix-en-Provence in the Faubourg des Cordeliers district and accessible from Rue Célony or Rue de la Molle, sits le Pavillon Vendôme, a spacious 17th century mansion overlooking a sumptuous French-style garden. Built as a haven to shelter the forbidden love of Louis II de Vendôme and Lucrèce de Forbin-Soliés -King Louis XIV opposed their marriage – the mansion was erected in between 1665 and 1667. 

It is written that upon nightfall, the Duke of Vendôme ushered into the mansion Lucrèce and her ladies in waiting, all of whom were disguised in masks to avoid being recognized. They became knowns among the peasants as « Birds of Prey », « Las Machouettos » in the Provencal dialect and « Les Chouettes », in French. Upon the death of the Duke, whispers said that is was Las Machouettos who had killed him.

The mansion is styled after classical Provencal architecture was built with Bibémus stones, which came from a quarry on the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence. At the time, the yellow luminous stones were very popular, but were later abandoned for similar stones of a higher grade sourced from Rognes, a village 30 minutes north of Aix en Provence.

The front facade of the mansion features various ornements including fruit garland meant to represent summer. There are two mascarons, stone carved human figures, flanking the entryway. These rather frightening figures served to deter evil spirits from penetrating the demure and some even said that the figures resemble Lucrèce de Forbin-Soliés.

The mansion has undergone changes since it’s original construction most notably the addition of a level during the 19th century.  The two stone consoles on the second floor for example once held the bustes of King Louis XIV and the dauphin.

The enclosed French-style garden of the the Vendôme is today a public garden lined with plantains and benches to the east where the walls are covered with climbing rose bushes. In the center resides a circular fountain, a junction joining four walkways that divide the garden into four plots of grass with parallel flower beds. The path facing the mansion is lined with hedged bushes and trees. Opposing the mansion on the opposite side of the garden is a secondary fountain conceal by greenery, and in the left hand corner adjacent to the mansion sits a pavilion, the last of four, which was transformed into a chapel during the 19th century. Outside of the main gates, is a small garden alive with a bed of rose bushes.

Today the Pavillon Vendôme reminds us of the grandeur of yore and is a gallery for various expositions open to the public for a self and guided tours.

Marché aux Fleurs

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Flowers are such dainty creatures, animating effortlessly the space they inhabit. Ephemeral by nature, their beauty leaves a enduring imprint on our hearts.

Oscar Wilde once said, “A flower blossoms for its own joy.”  I suppose it is for my own joy then that I constantly have flowers in my living space. The variety depends upon the season, the cost and my frame of mind, but something about having a bouquet around me makes me feel a little more alive, a little more joyful.

Among the myriad of markets Aix-en-Provence has to offer, my preference is the Marché aux Fleurs. Every day except the first Sunday of the month, various producers and vendors convene upon la Place de l’Hotel de Ville, and their selection does not disappoint!

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Le Marché aux Fleurs d’Aix en Provence
La Place de l’Hotel de Ville
Tous les jours sauf le 1er dimanche du mois.

Tea and things

Spring cleaning has me moving files from my computer onto my external hard drive. In doing so, I came across these photos from this time last year while visiting Bordeaux.

It was my last day in Bordeaux. I was visiting the city interviewing for a masters program with une grande école, to which I was accepted. I then delayed my start date and eventually forfeited my place in the program. I’m still rather bummed about the whole thing, but it was the best decision at the time. One has to believe like Sinatra says, « the best is yet to come ».

The morning was gray and drizzly, not uncommon for the season. As the morning progressed, a huge thunderstorm erupted. I spent an hour or so waiting out the storm over verveine tea and a croissant at Miremont – the most perfect salon de thé – before dashing off to grab my suitcase from the hotel to catch the train back to Marseille and then home to Aix-en-Provence.

I love the liveliness of this space. The glass chandelier adorning the salon is gorgeous and the chocolates, honey pots, pearled candies and jam jars are irresistible!

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Fall is coming

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I have this oil that I apply each night before I go to bed (I love oils). This particular oil is a blend of several oils, namely grape seed, argan and sesame. I love the scent of this blend. Even more so, I find fascinating that scents have a way of carrying me off into memories and dreams. They elicit my emotions and shape my day to day experiences. I love this interaction between olfaction and experience.

I also love these little white chairs, the dainty flowers and the end of the season bunny snacks. They are charming, delicate and romantic. The scent of my oil brings me back to this place. It’s so lovely.

I have been pondering this quote on love: “Love … is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yet it is more than the end of the rainbow. Love is at the beginning also, and from it springs the beauty that arches across the sky on a stormy day. Love is the security for which children weep, the yearning of youth, the adhesive that binds marriage, and the lubricant that prevents devastating friction in the home; it is the peace of old age, the sunlight of hope shining through death. How rich are those who enjoy it in their associations with family, friends, church, and neighbors. Love is the very essence of the gospel, the noblest attribute of the human soul. Love is the remedy for ailing families, ill communities, and sick nations. Love is a smile, a wave, a kind comment, and a compliment. Love is sacrifice, service, and selflessness. » Read more here.

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REN Clean Skincare

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Performance. Purity. Pleasure.

These three P’s are the summation of REN Skincare.
If you don’t know this brand, you should.
Around since 2000, these skincare products are innovative, pure and all around enjoyable to use.

Whilst perusing Oh My Cream! in Aix-en-Provence, one of their in-house estheticians recommended I try the Clarimatte Cleanser and provided me with a sample of the Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask which, I loved so much I purchased a bottle later while in New York.

Why I love REN?

REN Clean Skincare products are full of skin-loving plant and mineral derived actives. This means that my sensitive, breakout-prone skin is happy and calm. I also have peace of mind knowing that the products are free from any harmful ingredients. Skin issues are stressful enough without having to worry about toxic ingredients!!

The Clarimatte Cleanser has redefined my skincare routine. After removing my make-up, I use one pump of the purifying, antibacterial cleanser. I have noticed a dramatic improvement in underground bumps on my face and the appearance of my pores.

The actives in this product include:

  • Flavonoids from Mayblossom decongest the skin
  • Salicilin from Willow Bark provides mild exfoliation and antimicrobiol properties to purify problem skin, reduce pore size and minimise spot formation
  • Guaiazulene from Blue Cypress Essential Oil calms redness and soothes minor irritations

The Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask is a cocktail of pineapple, passionfruit, lemon and grapes. These fruits contain Alpha Hydroxy Acids with create multiaction exfoliation that leave the skin feeling firm, radiant, smooth and brighter. The aroma is delicious as well as the smooth texture of the mask.

The actives in this product include:

  • Natural fruit acids from passion fruit, lemon, grape and pineapple, along with
  • Papain from papaya exfoliate the outer layer of the skin, encouraging cell turnover and smoothing fine lines

 

 

Aix en Provence Wedding Inspiration

Having fun modeling for a shoot featured in French Wedding Style.

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Brides Dress: Christina Sfez | Decoration: Okiss Wedding DesignHair and Make Up:Flatmakeup  | Lead Photographer: Malvina Molnar Photography | Videographer: Simply lovely Photography | Accessories: Corpace Joaillerie | Reception Venue: Hotel du Pigonnet 5* | Stationery: Creme de Papier | Planner: Mademoiselle Chahnez

Smart Jewelry

I am loving the LEAF health tracking system by Bellabeat! 

This is portable technology to sync your body and mind. 

Engineered with highly sensitive movement trackers and secure backup, this health tracker lets you monitor your daily activity, sleep quality and menstrual cycles as it supports your meditation and mindfulness practices.

LEAF is crafted for YOU with Nature in mind.

PURCHASE:

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LEAF 

 

 

 

Sisley: Plant Based Foundation

I love the Phyto Teint Eclat foundation from Sisley Paris.  Formulated using plant extracts and essential oils. The formula is oil free and non comedogenic. Each ingredient is individually selected to create an effective lightweight coverage.

My experience using this product has been overall positive. I switched to Sisley from a Chanel foundation. I prefer the Phyto Tenit Eclat because I prefer the natural formulation which is light, uniform and creates a silky finish that is fairly successful at hiding imperfections.

Main Ingredients:

  • Mauve flowers: hydrating, emollient
  • Linden tree: emollient, soothing
  • Gardenia: softening, hydrating
  • Coated pigements: long lasting, color integrity
  • Soft-focus pigments: light reflecting, softening of imperfections
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Sisley Phyto Teint Eclat

 

Pai Skincare

Before I left for a summer in New York, I stopped by Oh My Cream!, a concept store that sources high quality beauty gems that aren’t readily available in France. Interspersed among familiar brands easily available in the US, I discovered a few new companies I am really excited about.

One such company is Pai Skincare, an organic skincare company out of the UK crafted for highly reactive or sensitive skin.  (ME!) The company states that its products are carefully formulated with ingredients with proven remedial and skins soothing properties and that they avoid harsh chemicals and alcohol.

I was looking for a product that would help with blemishes I have been battling. I focused my selection on natural skin care products that would be gentle on my skin.  I also wanted a product that would easily integrate into my skincare regimen.  The in-house esthetician at Oh My Cream ! suggested I try the Copaiba & Zinc Perfect Balance Blemish Serum.

Each night, I apply the concentrated serum to a freshly cleansed face. I apply a cream over the top if my skin feels tight and dry. Otherwise, it is recommended that you apply the serum alone. I have been using the product for three weeks and feel that I had notice subtle improvement in my skin tone and skin congestion.

The active ingredients:

  • Copaiba: anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory with antioxidant properties all target persistent blemishes.
  • Zinc: reduces skin shine, blackheads and congestions
  • Hyaluronic Acid: deeply hydrating to ensure skin tone and suppleness

Purchase Product: 

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Copaiba & Zinc Perfect Balance Blemish Serum

 

 

Vineyards

Complementing the wild thyme, rosemary and innumerable flowers that grow lawlessly in Provence are uninterrupted rows of grape vines. The vines are certainly characteristic of many other regions of France, but for me, there is magic in the Provençal countryside.  A short drive from Aix-en-Provence to the north, intermingling with picturesque Provençal villages, you will find these parallel lines of paradise.  Although I personally don’t drink wine anymore (or any alcohol), I still adore the whimsical « farniente » invitation of the vineyards.

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Les Coquelicots

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Spending time in the countryside is therapy for my soul.  This period of the year is especially lovely as nature is alive with blossoms and buds. I am constantly in awe of the beauty that envelopes Provence. Vibrant green grape vines stretch for miles and contrast with fields of fiery red poppies. The lavender and sunflowers are soon to follow in due time. l feel extraordinarily blessed to be able to be surrounded by such beautiful creations.

Did you know that poppies (les coquelicots in French) have various virtues and can be used as a treatment for insomnia and persistent coughing?  The petals can be dried and consumed as an herbal tea. The flowers can also be put to use in the kitchen.  Fresh petals can be prepared into syrup and added to beverages, applied as a glaze to dress tarts or to accompany duck. The seeds are often used in baking to adorn cakes.

The other day, I went searching for a field of poppies. I didn’t have to go far before stumbling upon one.

Water + Lemon

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For the past several months, a habit I have adapted in the morning is to drink freshly squeezed lemon water. This ritual is touted for numerous health benefits.

 

Continue reading to explore the benefits of incorporating lemon water into your morning rituals.

  • Smoother Digestion
    • When I was younger, my mother always drank warm water in the morning to start the day. The jump start to the digestion most likely comes from the water rather than the lemon since its the first things to enter into the digestive track after a nights sleep.
  • Brighter Skin 
    • This added benefit most likely comes from the high content of vitamin C contained in a lemon about 44.5 mg per lemon. You may notice your skin is less inflamed which most likely is due to the pH balancing effect of lemon.
  • A balanced pH 
    • Although Lemons are a citrus fruit and contain acid, they are alkaline for the body. This means that in the body a lemon does not act as an acid but rather helps to establish a balanced pH (measure of acidity) and fight inflammation.
      • Alcohol and caffeine deregulate our bodies pH and cause inflammation which can have damaging effect on our heath and lead to the development of various diseases – all the more reason to stick to lemon water in the morning
    • Increased Energy
      • Lemons are a source of folate (vitamin B), which has been linked to brain and nervous system health and cardiovascular health.
      • Try replacing your caffeinated beverages in the morning with lemon water and see if you feel more awake and energetic than before.
    • A Detoxing Flush 
      • During sleep, our organs work hard to process all of the nutrients we consumed during the day « rest and digest ».  Flushing our system with water prepares the body for the day, removes unwanted toxins and ensures we start the day hydrated.
    • Kidney Health
      • Lemons are a source (low) of potassium, 80 mg. Potassium has been shown to neutralize acidity in the blood stream, which keeps blood pressure under control and the kidneys happy.

 

Christophe Robin

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While searching for a hair product that is formulated with nature in mind, I discovered Christophe Robin, a line created by Christophe Robin a color artisan in Paris.

His philosophy?

« Over the years, I have tried to develop my product range for colored hair, based on the properties of rare or ancestral natural resources (prickly pear oil, lavender, chamomile and lemon) to offer deep nourishing treatments for hair that also maintain vibrant color. »

I had a hard time finding a shampoo that was sulfate, paraben, silicone, SLS and colorant free – I literally read every bottle of shampoo. It was refreshing to find a brand that fulfills all of my criteria, is well formulated, nourishing and suitable for highlighted and color treated hair.

I love the « crème lavante au citron ».  The cleaning mask smells lovely and leaves my hair soft and regenerated. It doesn’t have any sulfates, which is a plus for colored hair. I leave the product in for about 5 minutes (longer if I have time), and gradually emulsify the product my massaging the cream into my hair. I add a little water as I go to help the process. It is necessary to let the product work in the hair before rinsing otherwise your hair will feel heavy. After having used the shampoo for a couple of weeks, I notice that my color is bright and my hair has less static, soft and light.

As a blonde, my color has a tendency to turn slightly bronze or yellow. Several years ago, I used a purple shampoo once a week and recently. I was looking for something similar but again with natural qualities. I really like the « soin nuanceur de couleur », which is a mask specifically formulated to to remove said tarnished blond hues. This is a miracle product! I was a little nervous before using it. However, the treatment worked very well. I found that yellow in my hair diminished and that my friends saves me a trip to the salon.

I am looking forward to testing out more from Christophe Robin.

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Soin Nuanceur de Couleur
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Crème Lavante au Citron