Quite Continental Charm School: Day 25 — Travel Light

25/02/2012 § 6 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Image via the George Eastman House.

Day 25: Travel Light
On the topic of travel, we’ve already discussed what you should wear while you travel and keeping a journal, but I still wanted to touch on what I consider my best trick for a charming voyage, no matter if it is for a weekend or a month: always travel light.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I checked a bag on a plane, but it isn’t — thankfully — because I have a harrowing story of losing my cases on a trip.  I’ve been blessed to have never lost anything while travelling — knock on wood.  Instead, it was born from two distinct recognitions: First, that I have a definite lack of patience when it comes to travel: no patience to wait for the baggage carousel to fire up, no patience for dragging around heavy rollies in crowded train stations, no patience for checking in bags.  But second, and perhaps more importantly, I noticed a growing desire for simplicity while I was travelling.  I realized I didn’t need to drag along endless individual options in an overstuffed bag, but rather a multipurpose uniform that contained endless combinations.

I’ve since made two week trips to Cairo, London, Paris and Buenos Aires, all with only a carry-on.  While the ease in getting around while on the trip is refreshing, I must admit the hands down best part of travelling light is stepping through customs and heading straight for the taxi queue — don’t even give that baggage carousel a second glance!

A few tips to help you travel light:

  • When packing, first, pick a single color scheme: that way, everything will match everything.  Then, set out everything you want to bring, and try to cut it in half.  Get comfortable with the idea that you will repeat items.  Plan to do laundry while you are travelling and streamline your choices even further.
  • Ladies, your secret weapon is a single dress that can be dressed up or down.  Nice dinner? Add heels and a clutch. Casual walkabout? Throw a chambray shirt on over it and belt it at the waist.
  • Only bring the toiletries you absolutely cannot live without.  In most places, you can buy the basics.  If possible, stockpile samples of your essential items — they pack excellently.

How do you pack?  Do you travel light?

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 23 — Go Out and Play

23/02/2012 § 1 Comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Madrid, 1908.  Image via the George Eastman House.

Editor’s Note:  One of the best parts of working with some of my nearest and dearest on my Charm School project have been the times when a contributor has suggested a topic that I had on the brain as well, because I knew if the two of us were both thinking about it, you probably were too.  Case in point, today’s topic.  When Christine sent me the idea for her post (Day 8: Your Family Jewels), she enclosed an additional thought that I also had on my own list of things to talk about this month.  What follows is not another guest post, per se, but I wasn’t about to omit her lovely words from the conversation.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


Life moves pretty fast.
If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

-Ferris Bueller

Day 23: Go Out and Play
When we are little, we eternally wish were bigger, older, allowed to stay up late and sit at the grown-up table.  This emphasis on the future, on what is to come, isn’t confined to childhood.  It doesn’t magically stop once we get to watch the Late Late Show.  That yearning to be older is gradually replaced with the notion that we are hurtling towards our future in a runaway train with a busted emergency brake. College! Grad School! Marriage! Children! Career! Retirement! Where Grandfather Time once seemed to ignore us, he now seems to be breathing down our necks as we frantically race to tick all the boxes on the life checklist.

Today, I want to let you know that the emergency brake isn’t really busted.  All your grown-up self needs to do to slow things down, to get a breather and reengage that kid who (shortsightedly) wished he didn’t have to sit at the folding card table at Thanksgiving, is to go out and play.  Rediscover the things you loved to do as a child, and you will definitely receive a respite from the frantic pace of life.  Did you draw as a child?  Why not get yourself a new sketchbook and drawing pencils?  Did you enjoy the dinosaur bones at the museum?  Make a trip to visit them again.  Did you play little league?  Join an adult league.  Whatever you love, I guarantee you will feel the same thrill you used to feel when you buy your art supplies, spy a mastodon, or step up to the plate — I know I do.

Engaging your inner kid will bring great joy to your outer adult and help you truly live in the moment.  I can’t think of anything more charming than that.

By Christine, of N’East Style:
“When I feel like I’m in the thick of things or my life is a horrible mess, I always turn back to the activities that I loved to do as a child. For me a few of those things would be: read Jane Austen or Leo Tolstoy (nerd alert!), watch classic old movies (preferably starring Katherine Hepburn or Paul Newman), sit in a tree, dance in my room, go for a long walk by myself, bake a cake, knit a scarf, or draw in my sketchbook. I think it’s rather common that as you get older, you lose touch with the simple things that you really love to do, and it’s only in your youth that you have the time and stress free existence to regularly indulge in them. Yes, yoga and going on a detox diet of some sort is all fine and dandy. But for me, getting back to my early passions is what really gets me grounded and back in touch with myself. It’s something I don’t do nearly enough, but when I do it’s absolutely fabulous.”

How do you indulge your inner kid?
How will you go out and play?

Image via the National Maritime Museum.
The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 22 — Eat Chocolate

22/02/2012 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Taken at Fort Myers in 1940 by David Scherman for Life Magazine.
Even the US Army understands how important chocolate is.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker!  Sarah Seilbach Brasher is the amazingly talented designer behind Edelweiss by Sarah, a line she started in Brooklyn in the summer of 2008 after spending time at Vena Cava, Maggie Norris Couture and Elise Overland.  I can’t remember how I first found Sarah, but immediately after seeing her collection, which is heavily influenced by the styles and silhouettes of the 1930s and 1940s, I demanded an invitation to her atelier (you can view my post on our afternoon here).  It was then that I was able to discover how delightful a person she is, as well!

After you peruse her shop, you’ll quickly notice how remarkably well she incorporates an air of nostalgia into her completely wearable and feminine designs.  My love of Edelweiss by Sarah is a complete no-brainer.  If ever you are in need of the perfect party dress, Sarah’s your girl.  If you are not yet familiar with Sarah, or Edelweiss by Sarah, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Sarah’s tip for a charmed life.


Day 22: Eat Chocolate
To me nothing is more mysterious and intriguing than eating chocolate.  Chocolate was said to have come from the Amazon some 4,000 years ago but it was the Maya and Aztec people who really brought cacao to us.  Using the cacao bean as money as well as using if for offerings to their Gods, they would make spicy chocolate drink during their most sacred ceremonies.  It symbolized life and fertility.

I own and run a small fashion business.  I find that work can get stressful and overwhelming to which I find myself looking for a little outlet.  Chocolate.  I believe that a woman taking the time to really enjoy a piece of chocolate is not only fabulous but also captivating.  That afternoon chocolate will give me a burst of energy that will get me through the rest of the day.

Photo from Sarah’s instagram. Find her at @edelweissnyc

Find what chocolate excites you.  To be honest most of the time I only have the Lindor dark chocolate truffles on hand. They are still delicious but if I could, I would keep a box of Voges Chocolate Truffles in my desk.  I would either go with an exotic assortment or a box of their Aztec Truffles.  I would eat one a day and take the time to step away from my work and enjoy that piece of chocolate.

We all need to take a little time to enjoy the beauty and mystery of chocolate.

by Sarah, of Edelweiss by Sarah.


The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

For Serious, Matilda.

22/02/2012 § 8 Comments

Taken by Nina Leen, 1947.

There is no real reason I selected this picture, other than for its awesomeness.  I like to call it: “This hat and I are about to kick your ass in bridge.  For serious, Matilda.”

Today, I am getting serious about Lent, though.  I’m not especially religious, nor am I a Catholic (I’m actually a lapsed Episcopalian), but every Lenten season, I like to challenge myself to give up something.  For those unaware, Lent runs from Ash Wednesday (today) through Easter Sunday; 40 days in total.  For Christians it is a period of penitence, of giving up certain luxuries and of fasting.

Am I turning into a Sunday School blog? Hardly.

But I do think the concept of penitence is applicable universally, no matter what altar you choose to worship at.  A 40 day period is a great amount of time to reflect upon yourself, your personal habits and things you might want to change.  To abstain from some of your bad habits for 40 days will take some willpower.  I once managed to convince a very unhappy Mister to give up booze with me, rough going indeed, but we survived.  They say it takes only 30 days to cement a new habit, so why not seize upon the season to make some purposeful changes?

What I will attempt to give up for the next 40 days:

  • The snooze button.  You will be profoundly missed!
  • Those delightful bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches I’m very fond of
  • …and dairy in general, for that matter.
  • Passive negativity

What about you?

Sidenote: Would you believe this is my **600th** post?  In the spirit of gratitude, I wanted to send a big thank you to all of my followers, old and new.  I hope you understand how much I really appreciate your reading and comments and emails and sharing of this silly little blog.

You guys are the absolute tops.
xoxo. M.

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Quite Continental Charm School: Day 20 — A Proper Lunch

20/02/2012 § Leave a comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Women workers from the assembly line at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California in October 1942. FSA/OWI photo via the Library of Congress.

I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour.  I’ve never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.
–Erma Bombeck

Day 20: Eat A Proper Lunch
Years ago, lunch was a defining element of the day. We had the Ladies Who Lunched, the “3 martini lunch” and well-known lunchtime seating hierarchies in dining rooms across the country.  In the professional world, lunch was a deliberate event: it was planned, it was enjoyed and it wasn’t crammed into 60 paltry minutes (or less).  It was an oasis in the middle of the day, even if a good amount of business was done over lunch.  It was a way to break up the monotony of the day, leave the confines of one’s desk, and breathe a bit of fresh air.

Why do we seem to not value our midday repast as much as we once did? So many working lunches in dreary conference rooms and sandwiches held with one hand whilst the other is on the mouse!  Is it just me, or have you noticed this can cause the day to take on a tinge of drudgery?  The fix?  Make the time in your workday to have a proper lunch.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you must have a white tablecloth present when you sit down to lunch, or even a reservation.  All you need to do is make the time you have for your lunch deliberate.  Step away from your desk.  Better yet, leave the office.  Try local cafes and restaurants.  Bring your lunch and sit outside (weather permitting).  At bare minimum, even if you only have time for a brief walk around the block, any way that will hit the reset button on your “desk time” will do wonders for your mood and frame of mind.  Even if you work from home or are a stay at home parent, a small break in the middle of the day can be vital in maintaining your focus and your spirits through the rest of the day, allowing you to work smarter and harder.

I must confess, this is something that I can be downright horrible at.  The frequency which I eat a little sad bit of sushi or soup whilst parked in front of my monitors at work is much higher than I’d like (and is definitely not charming).  While work is important and keeps me busy, there is no reason I can’t simply remove myself for a few minutes of every day to clear my head.  Let’s give it a try, shall we?

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 19 — Find Balance

19/02/2012 § Leave a comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Photo taken by Nina Leen in 1949, for Life Magazine.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker! The lovely Jodi Fournier is the President of Windsor Resources, a full-service staffing and professional recruiting firm headquartered in New York, the wife of the feisty owner of Terrapin Stationers, Ted Harrington, and the mother of a lovely teenager they enjoy referring to as “The Spawn” (her real name is Kyle).  I had the pleasure of meeting Jodi through Ted, who you may remember did my lovely business cards, and whose work you have probably seen all over the internets and via some of the classiest fashion week invites.

While I first must remark how much of a delight it is to know her personally — and how it’s always a treat when she makes an appearance — it was after reading her thoughts on how she tries to achieve balance in her life, that I truly began to admire her as a person, and I bet you will too.  She truly has it all.  Jodi has managed to combine a successful career, a loving family and a deep commitment to giving back.  She remains one of the loveliest people to be around and has a delightful sense of humor.  She also has an adorable dog and horse.  Jealousy!

If you are not yet familiar with Jodi Fournier, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Jodi’s tip for a charmed life.


Day 19: Find Balance
When I think of work/life balance it connotes a 50/50 split or some sort of concession of work and “life.”  I don’t like giving less than 100% to everything I do nor do I like to compromise; neither option is classy or fabulous so, I say I can have it all by MERGING career, family and volunteering with proper planning, passion and involving the whole family.

Giving back is very important to me, my husband Ted and our 16 year-old daughter Kyle.  When Kyle was in the 7th grade, she and I joined a group of 9 other student/parent pairs and two geography teachers on a 10 day “middle school version of the Peace Corps” service trip to Senegal.  I was recruited to chair the fundraising efforts, which took many months and lots of planning; not an easy feat as the President of a small recruiting firm with offices in NY and CT.  To merge work with this huge undertaking, I made sure I used my time wisely, when at work, I concentrated ONLY on work – giving 100% so that I didn’t experience any pangs of guilt at night or on the weekends when I was “working” on our Senegal mission.  To give 100% to these efforts while not at work I made it a family affair.   With all hands on deck working towards a common goal it was very easy to merge family and volunteering.

Ted volunteered his time and materials – he owns a classy and fabulous printing company: Terrapin Stationers – by making 200 notebooks and pencils for the students of the school we helped build.  Kyle wrote an impassioned email and sent it to her grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends asking them to make a donation to this cause in lieu of giving her Christmas and Birthday gifts.  I coordinated and organized, with their help and the help of the other students and parents, a concert and auction which resulted in net donations of over $20,000.

I have to say, we received so much more than we gave.  Today, the visionary geography teachers and a small group of parents have formed Humanity Now, a 501c3 organization; Kyle has founded a High School group and has made new students aware of what is going on in the world and how they can help; and Ted continues to give to the cause too, by volunteering his time, talent and materials.  It’s a classy and fabulous family affair.

by Jodi Fournier.


The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 16 — Select a Signature Scent

16/02/2012 § 7 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Taken by Hans Wild for Life Magazine, 1947.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker!  My good friend Anne, founder of the fashion and culture blog Ritournelle, is a lovely French expat currently living in New York City.  She works in the beauty industry and is my frequent partner at some of the best museum and auction house exhibits in the city (where I frequently act like something of a living duck blind so that she can sneak photos, sshhhh!).  Her encyclopedic knowledge of beauty and fragrance companies, especially French ones,  is second to none, and as I am always in need of a good tip — and who isn’t?! — I quite enjoy picking her brain for new discoveries.  The fact that she almost always comes bearing some sort of French delicacy is icing on the cake.  She’s like my own private Inès de La Fressange.

Ritournelle is a place to visit if you love Paris, Dior, Charlotte Gainsbourg, fashion history and would like to practice your French language skills (all her posts are in both French and English!).  If you are not yet familiar with Anne or Ritournelle, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Anne’s tip for a charmed life.


Day 16: Select a Signature Scent
My perfume is one of my most treasured possessions. I grew up in the rainy Normandy countryside, surrounded by a lush garden from which scents of moss and flowers, surprising by their variety, would compel me. Nothing stirs me more now than the green notes of galbanum and earthy iris roots from my Chanel N°19 bottle. You will often find me obsessively sniffing my wrist like a drug, a gesture that appeases while revitalizing me.

In France, fragrance is an essential and intimate part of a woman’s life. She would not consider starting the day, much less leaving her house, without a spritz. Moreover, each perfume worn over time defines a certain period of her life. The chosen brand and perfume, its concept and notes reveal much about her personality. Think about it: the woman who wears the strong, oriental, in-our-face Opium by Yves Saint Laurent leads her life far differently from the one who favors fruity, playful and innocent Petite Chérie by Annick Goutal. Yet, I quote Hermès perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, “The perfume must say, ‘I have many secrets: I am who I am, but you may not know everything about me.’ In any case, the perfume builds up the other self. The one I am and the one I wish I was.”

In order to find the perfume that you can call your own, got to the brands which values you cherish most. Are you more drawn to traditional and Parisian houses like Guerlain and Hermès or to modern, urban ones like Le Labo and Byredo?

Make your purchase an event to look forward to: experience it during a trip abroad or in a refined store where you will get the best advice (like MiN or Aedes de Venustas in New York). Try fragrances first on blotters, but be aware that what you smell on paper is very different than on your skin. Let your emotions guide you and take your time; it can be a lengthy process with several trials. The ideal fragrance should surprise you by its power of bringing out your emotions all while being the perfect olfactory expression of yourself. (For example, I adore Iris Nobile by Aqua di Parma, it’s a great fragrance, but that solar citrus note is just not me). When you come down to a couple you like, spritz each one of them on a different wrist (without rubbing!) in the morning and see how they evolve during the day to measure their quality and chemistry with your skin.

You needn’t be loyal to your fragrance. Think of it as a wardrobe: you have your outfits for work and days off, and those that you save for a special occasion. Likewise, adopt a more sensual perfume for nights out. For example, I’ll trust the rich and voluptuous 34 boulevard saint germain by Diptyque to set me in the right mood. Then, I change perfumes according to the season: when spring comes and temperatures rise, I will switch to a lighter fragrance, like Un Jardin après la Mousson by Hermès.

How do you choose your fragrance?
Do you stay loyal to one perfume or do you experiment with different scents?

by Anne, of Ritournelle.


The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 15 — Keep a Travel Journal

15/02/2012 § 5 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Charles A. Lindbergh’s flight journal. Photo by George Silk.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker!  Jen Swetzoff is a writer, editor, mommy and the founder of the travel blog Parenture (parenting + adventure) where she focuses on family-friendly vacations, the best gear for families on the go and gives her readers an inside look at the places she travels to with her husband and her daughter, Baby E.

A secret: how I know Jen differs from all of our guest speakers thus far.  Ours is a friendship that predates either of our blogs, in fact — I met Jen very soon after my arrival in New York, and we worked together for some time.  I’m especially in awe (jealous) of the fact that she has travelled to twenty countries on six different continents in the last ten years.  And while I am not a mom myself, the locations that Jen suggests, especially those upstate, almost automatically get added to my to do list.  If you are not yet familiar with Jen or Parenture, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Jen’s tip for a charmed life.


Day 15: Keep a Travel Journal
Honestly, writing often feels like the last thing I want to do on vacation. But I do it anyway. Because no matter what other souvenirs I carry home, my travel journal ends up being the most treasured. Cameras are amazing, and I always pack one of those, too, but they’re predictable. Reliable. They always do the same thing and do it well. They capture clear and accurate moments of time–instants really, that exist and then fade away–and make them stand still forever. Which is great for people like me with crappy memories.

But words, written in our own sloppy handwriting, are fluid and imprecise and subjective. Which makes them either hilarious or profound in retrospect. Even when I’m not in the mood to put pen to paper (both of which I always have in my bag, locally and on the road), the right travel journal–a brand new book–is inspiring. Its openness gives me the same sense of hope that planning a trip does. On its pages, I can think, dream, remember, record, realize. Because anything’s possible on a blank page. Anything can happen on a great adventure. So even if you don’t have a trip planned yet, get yourself a travel journal.

Here are a few of my favorites to get you going:

Hands down, this Smythson is the classiest travel journal on the market. For some reason, it makes me think of Out of Africa. But I gotta say, I like the pretty pink version too.

I love a classic Moleskin, with all its literary history, but this company just gets better with age. Have you seen the new Moleskin travel journal?

The colorful and lighthearted journals from Archie Grand just make me smile.

Loving this adventurous notebook as well.  It’s also a Moleskin, but has been screen printed by the lovely print shop and design studio Fifi du Vie

Bon voyage!

by Jen Swetzoff, of Parenture.


The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 13 — Know Thyself

13/02/2012 § 5 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Actress Olivia De Havilland, 1942. Taken by Bob Landry for Life Magazine.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker!  Kate Arends is an amazing artist and graphic designer I initially came to know through her blog wit + delight, but I quickly discovered the full scope of her excellent eye and creativity through her Tumblr, her Pinterest, her Instagram, and her charming personality through her Twitter account.  I’m confident they invent new sharing platforms on the interwebs just so Kate has new mediums to dominate.

My favorite remains her blog, where she is at her most charming and wickedly funny and discusses everything from how her weekend went, to what she’s listening to, to how she’d like to redecorate her apartment…or her hair.  It’s all very genuine and deliberate and lovable.  And her obvious skills as a graphic designer and her aesthetic that balances the best of vintage and modern?  Well that’s just icing on the cake.  If you are not yet familiar with Kate or wit + delight, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Kate’s tip for a charmed life.


Day 13: Know Thyself
The key to living a little more fabulously is knowing who you are and what you like. I’m not talking about the huge things that define our lives- like what do you want to do for a living, just the small stuff. What’s your favorite dish to cook for friends? Perfect it. What’s your signature drink? Call it. What’s your go-to uniform for that second date? Rock it like nobody else.

Everyone has a uniqueness that makes them different from anyone else on this earth. I think that’s where true beauty lives, in the uniqueness of YOU. I couldn’t think of better way to live a classy and fabulous life!

So! Here’s who I am: I’m a letter writer, lingerie lover, red lipstick fanatic, inquirer of the extraordinary, with an extra large side of geek.

What about you?

Encyclopedia of the Exquisite // Gold Calligraphy Pen // Coin Purse // Liquid Eyeliner  // Glasses // Bra  // Red Lipstick // Custom Stationary

by Kate Arends, of wit + delight


The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 12 — A Proper Lie-in

12/02/2012 § Leave a comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
All tuckered out from a square dance. Image via the Library of Congress.

Day 12: A Proper Lie-in
Today’s tip is going to be short and sweet, because this is something I plan to put into action this very morning!  With our over-scheduled lives and constant multitasking, a brief respite is an essential ingredient for a charmed life.  You must be rested if you are to feel your very best.  A rested mind is a clear mind, and a clear mind is receptive to all that is charming and classy and fabulous.  When you have the opportunity to have a proper lie-in, take it!  Leave your pajamas on for a few extra hours, climb into bed with the Sunday Times, make tea and loaf about, snuggle up to your sweetheart and sleep in.

While it is impossible to take a proper vacation every week, you’ll always be able to find a few hours here and there that allow you to relax and recharge.  It could even be after a square dance (see above).

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

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