The Perfect Parisian Souvenir Monday, Apr 26 2010 

You never know where a good deed will go.

When I was a teenager, my parents received a call from a local coordinator for student exchange programs. Would they be willing to host a teenager from France? Yes, they said, but as we have four daughters, it would need to be a girl. Of course–bien sûr!

That summer, Karine from Paris came to spend several weeks with our family. We swam in the pool, visited the local mall and made chocolate chip cookies. We had such a good time à l’américaine that she came back the following summer. And then her sister, Stephanie, did a homestay chez les New a couple of years later, and my sister Hillary stayed with their family during her junior year abroad.

Today, Karine remains a dear friend and one of my favorite people to see when I am perched in Paris. She is a charming Parisienne, a mom to two adorable French children and a very talented artist. After attending the Académie Charpentier art school in Paris, she decided to specialize in les portraits au fusain (charcoal portraiture) and has become well known in France and Europe for her artistic abilities.

portrait Perrin 001

 portraits Gastines 001

 portrait Villaret et Freget 005

So what does this have to do with the perfect Parisian souvenir?

When a close friend decided to spend the fall in Paris a couple of years ago as a much-needed sabbatical from corporate life, she called me for all sorts of tips on enjoying Paris to the fullest. We covered the Paris essentials both on and off the beaten path—museums, monuments, gardens and parks, restaurants, unique shops, quiet corners of the city, and more. And then we talked about the perfect memento of her trip—and it came to me…A portrait of her done by Karine!

Laura loved the idea. She met with Karine and learned about her method and approach. As Karine says, “Ma recherche et le combat mené auprès du model pour dévoiler l’ expression du visage la plus vraie, ainsi que le reflet de la personnalité en dehors du temps me mène vers un but primordial: l’ Elégance.” In essence, Karine strives to bring out the most real and lifelike portrait of her subjects and to reflect their personality. In so doing, her ultimate goal is the most elegant representation of her clients…what I would call it the “French touch” of portraiture.

To begin Laura’s portrait, Karine worked from a black and white photo of Laura that she and Laura had chosen together. Then Laura sat briefly for two sessions while Karine finished the portrait with the details only apparent in real life. Finally, the memorable souvenir of her time in Paris was done, and Laura had a wonderful Parisian experience in the process.

portraits Baldwin


To date, Karine has practiced her art in Paris and Europe. This year, she will bring her French artistic talents to the U.S. for the first time on a “portrait tour.” So it will be possible to have that perfect Parisian-style portrait and meet Karine—without the jet lag! I myself will look forward to spending time with my French friend while she is in America—perhaps we’ll even make some chocolate chip cookies again…for old times’ sake.

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

Karine is so charming that it’s worth having a portrait done just to meet her. If you are interested in having Karine do a special portrait of your son(s) or daughter(s) or grandchildren or yourself while she is in the U.S., please let us know so we can reserve your family member’s time with her: or 214-232-5344. For friends of French Affaires, Karine will offer her portraits at a special rate. For more information on Karine and her art, please click here to visit her web site.

Paris’s Outdoor Rooms Wednesday, Apr 14 2010 

Space comes at a premium in France. There are 64 million people in a geography that is smaller than Texas.  
What does that mean? Real estate is high, i.e. apartments and houses are small (in relation to the U.S.). In addition, “renting” a seat at a cafe in France does not come cheap, i.e. $7-8 for a cup of coffee in Paris. So, what do the French do to get more space??
They embrace gardens and parks of every variety. Spring, summer, fall and winter, les jardins et les parcs in France are packed with those extending their home spaces with public spaces…

Last April, outdoor lovers flooded the Parc Monceau in Paris during an early ‘summer moment.’ You have to wonder if people work? go to school? have things to do?…as all hours of the day, the place is teeming with people. Check out the evidence in these photos:

Monceau lawn


Even French children make the outdoor ‘furniture’ their furniture…


But you have to pay attention to the ubiquitous “Do not walk on the lawns” signs…The French are particular about their grass…


Personally, I would rather see something more creative like “Do Not Walk on the Pyramids” signs. They seem rather walkable, no?


In any case, even if it’s freezing outside, the least amount of sun will bring out scores of park lovers:


Whatever the weather, I like to call Paris’s gardens and parks “outdoor rooms” as they seem to be an extension of home living space…you can even move chairs wherever you see fit…not a bad deal–and no French language required!

Tuileries chairs

And here is a short list of some of my favorite Paris green rooms which are found all over the city:

  • Parc Monceau (Right Bank)
  • Luxembourg Gardens (Left Bank)
  • Tuileries (Right Bank)
  • The garden tucked behind Notre Dame Cathedral (Ile de la Cité)
  • The garden at the Delacroix Museum (Left Bank)
  • The garden at the Rodin Museum (Left Bank)
  • The garden at the Carnavalet Museum (Right Bank)


French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter™

The French also like to make their own gardens in window boxes, on balconies, in a small plot behind a house in the country–wherever there is a bit of dirt. Of course, for that you need gardening tools, and the French company Le Prince Jardinier has the crème de la crème of anything you need to maintain your green spaces. Note that this is high-end stuff–you could call it the “Hermès” of the gardening world. 

And speaking of dirt, the French Affaires book pick for April is French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France. We will gather to discuss this wonderful love affair with French gardening on Saturday, April 24th, at North Haven Gardens in Dallas. As part of our festive spring book event, NHG gardening expert and coach, Kay Nelson, will talk to us about growing French herbs here in the U.S. See the details below! (For full information on the French Affaires Book Series, please visit our web site.)

APRIL 2010

French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman

French Dirt


“I had a garden in the south of France…” So begins our French book pick for April. Author (and New Yorker) Richard Goodman describes his gardening adventure in a small village near Avignon where he discovers the riches of the earth as well as French friendships in his adopted close-knit community.  Perfect for spring, French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France will inspire us to consider our own herb or vegetable gardens at home.

We’ll meet for our April book discussion at Dallas’ gardening heaven North Haven Gardens where gardening expert and coach, Kay Nelson, will lead us on a tour of the vegetable garden and herbs offered by NHG. Following her tour and tips for gardening in North Texas, we’ll enjoy wine and savory / sweet gourmet tastes made from French herbs as we discuss this month’s book selection. And we’ll take away a small herb gift as a fragrant souvenir of our gathering. Pre-registration is required; to sign up, please click here or call us 214-232-5344.

Date:  Saturday, April 24, 2010
Time:  4 to 5:30pm
Refreshments:  Herb-inspired savory hors d’oeuvres and sweets and French wine

Location:  North Haven Gardens, 7700 Northhaven Road, Dallas, Texas, 75230