Ooh la la

I am so tired of winter. It’s been freezing cold here and it seems like we rarely see the sun. I had to dig out my SAD light and have resorted to a wee bit of self-medication:

I’ve been continuing to read my francophile books as a lift. I usually read them in the bath. Yesterday, I resorted to reading in the bath while eating a bowl full of cherries. So decadent.

I just finished Jamie Cat Callan’s Ooh La La: French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Everyday.

This book is part memoir and partly a collection of interviews with interesting french women about beauty. It, like all books in the genre, romanticizes the lives of french women: she does not interview Valérie Trierweiler I noticed. Still, the illusion is charming.

Although the book offered fewer practical tips than Lessons from Madame Chic, Callan still provided lots of ideas for cultivating french-inspired beauty. I liked how the book ran a little deeper than many of the how-to books out there. Here are a few of her tips:

Celebrate your femininity. It’s OK to be feminine. That doesn’t mean you can’t run a country or a merger or your household. But you can do it in a lovely outfit and nice makeup. There is power in being a woman. Leave the lumber jacket at home (unless it’s a sweet one with a nipped in waist!)

Don’t worry about being perfect looking. Take a look at french actresses. Most of them are far from perfect looking but they are still gorgeous. Callan sums up the french approach to beauty: “Take care of yourself. Find a good colour. Don’t eat so much. Develop your personality. Dress for yourself.”

Bring artistry to everyday life. Callan tells a story of a nurse who took her blood when she found herself in a french hospital. She was so thrilled that she was not left bruised as she often was in the US, that she praised the nurse’s skill: “Vous êtes one experte.” The nurse disagrees: “Non. Je suis une artiste.” If one approaches life as an artist, everything can be made more beautiful: meals, relationships, work, and one’s appearance. Callan writes:

You create your own life. And every day, you have an opportunity to take this piece of human clay and mold it into something that is fine and elegant and pleasing. You get to decide what is beautiful, what looks good on you, and exactly how you will go about letting your own light shine. 

Be yourself. If sounds clichéd but it really is sage advice, and Callan provides a lot of anecdotal evidence about the importance of doing just that.

This is the French woman’s secret to ooh la la – she has given herself complete permission to be her unique self. She has completely aligned her outer self with her inner self. This allows for her sense of confidence and mystery. This is what makes her beautiful – whether she is a little overweight or has a slightly crooked nose or is a woman of a certain age.

I so wanted to capture a little of this ooh la la for myself so I thought I’d attend the Toronto Gift Fair to see if there were any lovely French items for sale. Before the whole business book/consulting thing captured my attention, I was thinking of getting into retail and I still flirt with the idea from time to time. The wholesalers were very nice and encouraging (except for one from a British pottery company I used to like: what a patronizing git!) If I decide to dip my toe in this water, you’ll be the first to know.

Stay warm, kittens,


  1. Those are all good with the Be Yourself most important. That's why I usually find myself drawn towards older or elderly people as they have outgrown the inclination to project a false front and are so much more interesting because of it.


  2. Well eating cherries in the tub sounds just perfect to me. Perfect. I read and enjoyed that book as well. When I started it I didn't think I would enjoy it, but it really did have some great ideas. I think you've pointed out the better ones. As far as retail goes, I spent many years running small shops, and it's more glamorous than it seems. It takes over all of your time, 24,7. Enjoy the rest of your day. xo


  3. Hi Jen, Words to live by and a wonderful bed/bath-side read:) Women need to nurture themselves and be easier on themselves. Now.. about those cherries:) They look so good and I think that that would be the perfect bath time snack.


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