31 May 2014

The 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings

This year we are commemorating two major historical events. One tragic, as the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, and the other, an ode to hope and promise, as the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, where Allied Forces (USA, Canada, GB and Captain Kieffer's 1er BFM Commando consisting of 177 elite French fusiliers) liberated France and neighbouring occupied nations from Axis domination. No doubt that every single one of us has a tale or two from our (great) grandfathers or uncles (and the grandmas) who were involved in the war(s) one way or another. I wanted to pay a heartfelt tribute to our lads. They displayed immense bravery - paid with their lives even - to pave the way for the modern Western society as we know it but which we tend to perhaps take too much for granted at times.

You might remember my moving tribute to my maternal grandad, Armand, who worked in transmissions for the French Navy, before joining the US Navy in the Pacific. Oh boy, my grandad, a Général De Gaulle supporter, was immensely proud to have teamed up with the Americans! My paternal grandad, Léon, was less lucky in that he was made a prisoner of war at the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940 and sent out to the work camps of Germany - yet thankfully not the death camps!

'Into the Jaws of Death — U.S. Troops wading through water and Nazi gunfire', by Robert F. Sargent

When Americans landed in Normandy, they brought with them Showtime! Supplies aplenty, modern technology, Jeeps and GMC Trucks, Big Band music, corned-beef, chewing-gums, benzene, Lucky Strikes, cartoons... and Hollywood propaganda! Ask my star-struck dad, a toddler when US Troops liberated our Northern border town of Saint-Quentin in August 1944. "Quand les Américains ont débarqué... c'était l'Amérique !" (When Americans arrived... it felt like America had landed!). This American officer spotted my dad in a crowd of people queueing up for food. He asked my dad to come over, then lifted him up into his arms, tearfully called him 'baby' as he showed my dad a photo of his kids. Then he told my dad he could have whatever he wanted. My dad's eyes sparkled. He felt like a kid in a sweet shop. 'I want gum, Sir... and benzene too for the bonfires!'

Further D-Day Resources:

26 May 2014

Inspire Aspire - Live the Moment

Life is short - Fact. It goes in a flash. Better live it to the full then. Because it looks like in our quest for happiness, the next career move, the next shiny object, a collection, a chunk of mundane moments that are the brick and mortar, bread and butter making of us, slip and merge into days that slip and merge into weeks that slip and merge into months then years... A slow insidious landslide that takes us from the vigour of youth where time is generous and forgiving, to the emergency of old age. Then one day a reality check strikes and you wish you had taken notice.

By Sarah Abbott Art & Illustration

Yet it's easy to not entirely wholeheartedly be present in the moment, to just hang in an 'almost there' buffer place that is halfway between reality and a future hypothesis of wish/ daydream/ hope/ projection and their collaterals of fear and regret. This is called wishing your life away. Hands up, I am still guilty of wishing my life away, projecting into the future (or retreating back into the past!) and not living each present moment as it happens. Maybe you wish your life away too. Yet I can help you break the habit, stop the pattern with a little tweak 'n' trick of mine.

By acknowledging each moment as it unfolds it will not go in a blur nor will it deprive you of enjoyment and the opportunity of what might have been. Just remember that unacknowledged moments are the unsung heroes of our daily lives.

(Pict source)

For the last five years, I have been making a conscious effort to make each and every single day count, no matter how uninspiring and boring the day might look from the outset. I set aside a couple of hours daily to complete Ten Daily Tasks, i.e. ten mundane tasks that are not necessarily fun but that need to be done. At least this grounds my day and keeps procrastination at bay. It gives purpose to an otherwise ordinary day that would have been overlooked with my wishing my life away.

Currently a typical day for me includes the following tasks: to help my mum round the kitchen, water the vegetable patch, take my little dog Tickle for a walk, dedicate 15 minutes to the better good (signing and sharing wildlife protection petitions) via Twitter (@baguettemagique and @MirabelleDesign), check my emails, catch up on any admin/ housekeeping task, go food shopping, etc.

I also make sure that I practice gratitude and find enjoyment in the little pleasures of life as I go through my day, treat myself to a lovely cup of tea, bake a cake, strike a conversation, stop and enjoy a wild flower or a butterfly. Sounds twee and yes I do live up in the sticks but even in town you can be admirative of something (that covetable outfit in the retail store window) or someone (cracking eye candy!), anything that will make your day and won't cost a dime. Pinterest is a great place too to feast your eyes, make you feel good and boost your creativity. Lately my fabulous life coach, Dina Robison, has introduced me to meditation, which is being a great help. The coaching too is incredible and I will dedicate a post to it very soon!

Now your turn, peeps! Do you have any tips you would like to share of how you are taking ownership of each day? And to those of you who are following my Ten Daily Tasks format, how is this helping you? Email me labaguettemagique2009@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

24 May 2014

Work and Play

Here's an ingenious demonstration of practical functional furniture design that brings together a pet of the feline variety and their owner. It's a desk that is nothing to do with the "all work and no play" desks that usually belong to the office cubicle culture. This one here looks like the wooden version of a generous slice of Gruyère cheese, cavities and all. It is expected to get more than a round of applause from cat lovers and more than a passing Cheshire Cat grin from their tabbies, Lil Bub included! In fact, we expect no less than roaring success all round, especially amongst the scores of our design-conscious urbanite friends working in creative studios that are one quantum leap ahead of the game and only too happy to integrate the latest trends into their work environment, a bit like those cool dudes over at Google.

Designer Ruan Hao created the aptly-name CATable for Hangzhou and Hong Kong-based architectural design practice LYCS Architecture. The finished product was proudly featured at this year's Design Milan Week.

Sources: (1) to (3) The CATable, via My Modern Met. (4) Internet star Lil Bub.

Additional Resources: 

18 May 2014

Falling from Grace with Grace

Jérôme Kerviel is alluring and easy on the eye. He cultivates a sharpened edge these days and may look like a rugged fashion model on a casting for Davidoff Cool Water but he's certainly not being portrayed as a role model or some counter-culture hero by the media. He's the disgraced trader from French banking institution Société Générale (SocGen) that is miraculously celebrating its 150 years of trading (short of a resurrection after the 4.9 billion scandal losses directly imputed to JK back in early 2008).

Easy come, easy go? (Pict source)

2008 was a busy year. Europe and the US were bracing themselves for the first chills of the latest recession to date with the demise of Lehman Brothers and Bernard Madoff, the collapse of toxic loans and burst of the property bubble. It was also the year I got made redundant from my fancy Marketing job in the UK. Yeah 2008 was indeed one of those years.

While all of the above was crescendoing to the fore, Mr Dangerflirt had executed a few ill-advised high-risk moves across the financial chessboard that would bring SocGen, his employer, to the brink of a financial fall from grace. Six years later, does that still stigmatise him as a villain? Not in my eyes nor to those scores of keen supporters gathered along his publicised redemption pilgrimage that took him to and from Rome, where he met Pope Francis.

I do actually like JK as a person, his humility, humanity, dignity and quest for redemption and reinvention. He has learnt from his mistakes and he wholeheartedly accepts his share of responsibility in the financial demise. Having said that, I do not condone his actions as a trader. With the blessing of his industry, his chosen profession intrinsically praises a culture of fast cash at all cost - the dirty side of capitalism. The profession encouraged and incentivised him highly for playing cavalier risk-taker with investment funds that would yield him those juicy bonuses and deliver the sky-high dividends to his employer. While the profits were rolling in, it was win-win for the trader-employer combo. Then sh*t happened.

Never vanished nor vanquished! (Pict source)

What I do find villainous and hainous is how SocGen, which had allowed for the shady 'best practices' to take place in its offices, was quick to ostracise, victimise and repudiate its flagship trader for those losses. Yesterday's star became a scapegoat, pure and simple. However losses were to be expected as they come hand in hand with the volatility of the territory. As compensation, the highly-strung SocGen demanded that the trader paid back the 4.9 billion losses it had incurred. The decision was later overruled by the courts.

It's been a long drawn-out courtroom drama affair. Today JK faces a 3-year prison sentence once he crosses the Italian border back to France and he has now appealled to the French President for the case to be reviewed, his innocence claim to be heard, witnesses to be guaranted protection and allowed to testify, and his accomplices to be brought to justice. I wonder whether the justice system will decide to finally see eye to eye as it is always easier and more convenient to bring one isolated man down and shut him up than a bunch of top guys from an influent institution that is connected to the smoke screens of stock markets and the lofty world of politics.

Up in smoke? (Pict source)

Here's a guy fighting a system that made him a star player and unmade him once losses outperformed the wins. These were probably the implicit rules of the game. Off with a Baguette Magique ponder: in order to be both financially and professionally successful, should a trader be nothing short of a financial trickster and a rogue - after all?

17 May 2014

Beauty Review – Vinoperfect Radiance Serum by Caudalie

With French skincare company Caudalie having just released their latest innovative serum, Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum, my product review of their 2010-launched industry-acclaimed Vinoperfect Radiance Serum looks long overdue!

(Pict source)
Living in France, it made sense for me to choose Caudalie because it is a French pharmacy brand, which stands for quality. Besides it is readily available across all French pharmacies, high-street parapharmacy stores and the likes of Monoprix. Furthermore Caudalie fits in with my beauty ethics, focusing on natural ingredients rather than chemicals (no mineral oils), banning nasties (parabens, phthalates, paraffin, sodium laureth sulfates), animal ingredients (their squalene comes from olive source rather than – wait for it - shark!), and animal testing. Additionally Caudalie contributes 1% for the Planet.

Vinoperfect Radiance Serum speaks to my needs as I suffer from a history of sun damage, in the form of pigmentation across the cheek area. From further research, I found out that pigmentation may also be caused by hormonal changes, pregnancy, medical treatments, hereditary factors, ageing, etc. and is therefore not to be linked solely to sun damage. IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) Skin Rejuvenation sessions performed at Destination Skin Manchester back in 2008 had yielded beautiful results to my facial complexion. I had also abided by their strict beauty regimen involving three SkinCeuticals products: Serum 10 (Dual Antioxydant Treatment), Emollience moisturiser and a broad-spectrum UV protector (I have mostly been using their Physical UV Defence and Ultimate UV Defense).

Sun damage crept back up when I moved to the sunny Mediterranean island of Corsica in December 2009, despite wearing sun protection every day of the year and high-quality broad sunglasses whenever the sun is out. Last year I underwent a course of 6 IPL sessions and my complexion cleared up momentarily. I believe I may have finally identifed the culprit ingredient that encouraged dull complexion and pigmentation, urea, which is present in two products I used post-IPL: the Sleep and Peel Resurfacing Night Cream by Filorga and the Retexturing Activator Serum by SkinCeuticals that I had started using as an alternative to Serum 10, as per advice from a beauty therapist. In my experience, not only does urea bring out the sun spots but also makes my complexion duller.

Vinoperfect Radiance Serum does not contain urea, bonus! It boasts complexion-correcting ingredients (amongst which patented Viniferine) that will help tone down (fade) the appearance of sun spots and hyperpigmentation. Viniferine (grapevine shoot extract) makes it 62 times more effective than vitamin C! The serum texture is milkish, slightly sticky to the touch, yet easy to apply and subtly and pleasantly fragranced.

I used the serum every morning non-stop for the best part of five months. It was recommended that the serum be used at night too but I didn't follow suit. I was actually quite concerned at how fast the serum was going, in comparison to the SkinCeuticals serums, and at 43.00 RRP ($79.00 RRP/ £45.00 RRP) a bottle gone in less than 4 weeks, it ain't a cheap treatment.

Did I notice any results? Now those ladies who believe in beauty miracles in a jar/ bottle are in for a disappointment. No product will magically erase sun pigmentation. More extreme measures like chemical face peels or laser/ IPL performed at cosmetic clinics will yield a great finish, yet without the guarantee that pigmentation won't creep up again. Back to our serum, I did notice that some small pigmentation spots had shrunk and faded dramatically in colour, whereas larger pigmentation marks had remained the same. What I did notice though was the complexion in its overall appearance had a healthier glow, a radiance, like I had been on a spa holiday. But as I said, only minor imperfections (tiny sun spots) had shrunk and faded noticeably whereas the larger more stubborn marks had only paled down by a shade or two but remained unchanged in size.

Although I might still purchase the Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, I will happily give Caudalie's latest Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum a try, and in the meantime I am on the brink of ordering the Radiance Perfection Serum by REN, another brand that rocks my ethical beauty boat!

  • Fresh pleasant subtle fragrance
  • Milky texture makes it easy to apply
  • Focus on natural ingredients and no parabens
  • Against animal testing
  • Reputable brand and honest product
  • Pricey (RRP 43.00/ $79.00/ £45.00)
  • Seems to go faster than the more liquid (water consistency) serums
  • No dramatic results

12 May 2014

Inspire Aspire - Letter to the 20-Year-Old Daughter I Don't Have

Dearest Daughter, I had a lot of fun writing this letter and want it to inspire you, to carry you through your twenties and beyond. I was once the 20-year-old stood on the threshold of the world, and now that I am twice that age and 'old enough to know better', I can safely say I am proud of what I have achieved in life, successes, mistakes et al. And more than anything, I am so proud of you. I want you to be proud of where you come from, where you are standing now and where you are going.

As you are about to step, tip-toe or even stiletto your way into the world, the purpose of this letter is to facilitate your journey and shine a beacon of light on your life path, especially in times of trouble, doubt, loneliness and excess and loss and lack, because with each peak we reach in life, the cycle engineered by the wheel of fortune will make us gently tumble downhill until the velocity of will and the fuel of skillset and talent shall propel us again as we rise up like a phoenix to a higher height than the previously-achieved peak. So prepare to go stellar! You were born to grow and do good, not waste away like a wallflower, living your life by proxy via a TV screen or smartphone app. So I cordially invite you to get the Hell out of here and make your Heaven happen!

Uncredited image via Imgfave
In order to reach for the stars and not crash down and burn out like a meteor when problems break out, you need to dream big but you also need to still feel the pull of gravity and remain a tad grounded. Don't get too dizzy. Use your heart for matters of the heart, but when you get hurt, use your head to solve them. Use your head for financial security. Strive for balance between heart and head. Life strikes a balancing act between the two, and so does society. Art, the art of happiness and self-worth come from the heart. Rationale, material wealth and net worth come from the head. Some people get confused, go astray and waste a lifetime over this.

Before we get in too deep, let me get this clear. The most important relationship you will ever have is not with your mother or lover, it is with yourself. Take the time to find out who you truly are, what makes you tick, what makes you whole. Celebrate what makes you who you are, your skillset, talents, abilities. Your core values are a part of your essence, your DNA. Life is a journey of self-discovery and you mostly learn as you go. The more you know about yourself, the clearer you will be on your calling, your life purpose, the reason why you are on this planet. This is the key to happiness. Above all, be kind to yourself, because if you beat yourself up, others will be quick to kick you when you're down. Stand proud and love yourself before you even think of giving your heart away.

Sayulita, Mexico Wedding by Matt Edge Wedding Photography, via Style Me Pretty
Learn, learn, learn! Whether you are working out the Paris métro system, making up a new cake recipe for some charity, leafing through a magazine in the doctor's waiting room, or visiting a museum with a friend, any moment is potential for growth, way beyond the confines of formal state education. Be curious, be keen, be open to new ideas, thoughts and concepts. Strike conversations, share news articles, debate with others, write a journal. Have an opinion on everything and anything, practice your repartee with me and others. Make your own views. Never be indifferent or ignorant. Indifference and ignorance are the silent killers of the world.

Stay positive and surround yourself with those who view the world as a fascinating place. Marvel at its wonders. The world exerts a strong attraction and opens windows of opportunity. Not all opportunities might be the right ones for you, which is why you cannot rush. Yet for me to cocoon you here in a forced state of comfort zone wouldn't serve you any purpose. Unless you do vehemently decide to stay put, I strongly encourage you to spread your wings out and fly. And by fly I mean leave the family home, take a leap of faith, trust your gut feeling, challenge yourself and follow your dream. Travel to the other side of the world if you need to, but be careful who you trust. Know that I am never to judge your decisions, but always here for you. I want you to be happy. If you are happy, then I will have succeeded in the making of you. If you are not happy now, be patient. Trust that happiness is on its way as you are on your journey of self-love and discovery.

Via Tumblr
One last thing. You know about the birds and the bees and I am sure your friends and teachers and technology will have eased more mysteries out to you than I dare to figure. Don't go overboard though. The swag and the suave have a way with words that have the power to dent the female heart. Remember that actions talk louder than words, and promises are just mirages.

Love yourself. Walk your talk. Never go for cheap. Trust your gut feeling. You are worth more than you allow it to be. I love you so dearly. Be alluring, stand in your magnificence and enjoy your life, sweetie! I am one proud mum.

7 May 2014

Don Draper, Eat Your Heart Out!

Dust off your DeLorean machines for a short time travel away, 53 years back in time to be precise, and let's land in the heart of the UK Mecca of Mad Men advertising, London's answer to New York City's Times Square, and just as technicolor brash and electric: Piccadilly Circus! And there's a delightful branding revisit in the offing: Coca Cola, Guinness, BP, Wrigley's, Skol and Co. Have your pick!

The technological prowess isn't brought to you by crazy Doc but by the no less crazy team over at London FullScream motion design agency. The short animation is based on archive pictures superimposed with old weather reports and processed together with a state-of-the-art colouring and animation software. The moody grainy sepia rendering is hypnotically grand! Loving it, and let's wish the FullScream creatives will have another dab at this to offer us more (and longer) urban montages.

(Pict source)
Piccadilly Circus 1961 by FullScream from FullScream on Vimeo.