13 Jan 2013

French Essence… The Year Ahead… And Finding That ‘Beauty’

I would like to tell you that I am a planned person when it comes to French Essence… that I know what I will be writing and showing you on any given day… But, I am not.

I didn’t create French Essence with any one particular purpose… it was a place to share my love of France and to ‘talk’ with like-minded friends who are as enamoured with France as I am… I never really think too much ahead about my content… I love that French Essence flows in and out…rambles about,  that it diverges and that it changes with my moods, my experiences and your feedback. It’s organic that way… not a set piece… Any experts on blogging would tell you that I have it all wrong…  that there are too many words, not enough keywords… that I don’t pander enough to the search engines… and I am sure that’s true… but I can’t change now. A labour of love has to be spontaneous… and I think this is what French Essence is… it must be, for we have been together for nearly five years.

As I reflected on my Christmas and New Year in Provence and shared my feelings with you about, ‘beauty’… I realised that this year I am committed to living life with ‘beauty’… in all it’s obvious, not so obvious and clandestine forms. So this year French Essence has a theme… a directed purpose… ‘Beauty’… in the way we live, in how we view ourselves, in the way we share our lives and in the way we view the world. I don’t know as yet where it will take us… and that is the joy of the unplanned.

I want to celebrate, explore and expand on our lives as women. For many of us entering into and enjoying our 50’s this is a magical time. I feel that our age bracket has been neglected… in fashion particularly. We are engaged, we are gorgeous and we are mostly independent. Our children are more than ever doing their own thing, our careers are established or we are embarking on new and exciting adventures… Women of our age have a new freedom that they had forgotten… time… What better decade to enjoy the ‘beauty’ that is available to us. I want to share with you my love of fashion… for it was my first love… and when it comes to fashion, there is no better place than France for inspiration. French women get it… I think we all accept that… This year I want to be more observant and truly find that inner ‘French’ beauty. I want to focus on what we wear and how to wear it at the same time. Fashion is about style, personal style… not trends, not fads… style is not intrinsic for everyone… but it can be learned and it can be emulated… Finding style is the gateway to fashionable beauty.

One of the reasons I enjoy French Essence is our engaged conversations… This year I hope that French Essence becomes more of a forum where we can chat ‘beauty’ issues… share our discoveries together… I want to discuss the hair, the make-up and the treatments that suit us. Too often I read magazine articles and feel that it is all well and good if I were twenty… How do I create this look when my eyes aren’t quite as smooth as they were, my skin not quite as translucent or my hair not as thick and luscious? We are at the most beautiful stage and age of our lives… but we need to adapt the information and make it work for us…  There is no generation gap anymore… age is irrelevant… just the need for simple translation and a key to decipher the information. I believe we can do that together. Many of the women I admire and respect, both close friends and celebrities, are older than me… but I desire to follow their lead… not the path of those who are younger.

In this year of French Essence,  I must travel more to Paris… discover her secrets… understand better her allure, both the city and the women… I hope to explore more of Provence, hold that magical elixir close to my heart and show you her inner beauty. I want to write more, photograph more and communicate more… Do I sound exhausting? I’m sorry… my enthusiasm is running away with me this morning.

With France as my mentor and you as my companions I think ‘beauty’ is our destination.  xv

images carla coulson and vicki archer exclusively for living4media



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I am so excited about your plans for this year. I love being 50 and will follow you with pleasure.

Wanda ( deHart) Murray

I so agree that 50 is the best age of all . Wish I were there again, but I am definitely enjoying my latter years , for I have wisdom that only comes with age and I have more compassion and gentleness for those who are younger! Vicki, I feel as though I am almost looking in a mirror when I look at your photo! We have the same chin and facial shape. It must be my French ancestry! Love your blog . Intend to follow it now that I have found it. Wanda

Shelley Evans

You have me very excited Vicki, with the promise of what French Essence will offer this Francophile down at bottom of the Southern Hemisphere. We have a return visit planned to the South of France and Paris in 2014 and I am sure benefit so much from reading from your posts.
Talk of beauty, Paris, Provence, fashion, sisterhood? too good to miss I reckon! Not only that, I am still eagerly awaiting the arrival of your book from Amazon plus Parisian Chic by Ines de la Fressange – any day now I hope.

Vicki Lee Johnston

Lovely thoughtful post Vicki.
I for one struggle to find what I want to wear – I know what it is, it’s just not readily available in the stores I visit and I don’t have time to shop endlessly.
I want clothes that address our age without looking like it does – beautful classy tops you can wear in a hot summer – but still cover your arms! So you have to feel cool without being so exposed …. skirts that are ankle length but still slim and sexy rather than volumous.
Tailored pants that aren’t too heavy … clothing in gorgeous colours – vibrant and alive without being too busy! So that while you may be covering more of yourself, what you cover it with is alluring and uplifting.
We should be our own works of art – as we get older we do feel more able to be free and express ourselves – our clothes should say that without looking ridiculous.
Our age group is usually more financially able – where are the retailers?
Plenty of beautiful accessories out there – scarves, jewellry etc – lots of skin care and make up – now we need better options for what to wear more readily available.


I shall be looking with just those thoughts in mind Vicki… It is all possible… it is just a question of where to look… And it is so true what you say… we are our own works of art… xv

Anita Rivera

Darling soul,

I think that your approach is the normal road to beauty. In writing, as I am sure you know, FREE-WRITING is essential to FIND what it is we are really looking for. The organic product emerges from the sowing of the seed, the cultivating and the re-planting. Your success has been illustrated and now even more targeted. I LOVE IT.

I enjoy the CONVERSATIONAL feel of your posts, for you reach out to the most simple to the most seasoned fashionista, or lover of all things French. You have my admiration my friend! AND THANK YOU…..I do believe you can say you have lived TWICE UPON A TIME….Anita


Such wonderful goals. Looking for beauty in whatever age group or location is a key to contentment. And truly, is this not what we all seek? I believe that the 50’s set the stage for the years to come. It is a time to center oneself, a time to reflect and plan. While our bodies tend to settle into new dimensions we seek more comfortable clothing and with changing skin tones we struggle to find the right beauty products to enhance rather than emphasize difficult areas. That said, I left my 50’s a couple years ago. They were good years. I wish the same for everyone. Now I face some new challenges but I still maintain my need for style and hope to be classic and comfortable in my years. I do not, or never have, tried to be a younger version of myself. Many do, sadly, and appear almost cartoon-ish. I am so looking forward to your interpretation of this. In the past I have totally enjoyed your trips to the city and the accompanying photo’s. Thank you for all your hard work, Happy New Year 2013!


Plastic surgery is a tricky subject… I don’t like to judge because we all do what we need to do… but I can’t say I am altogether convinced that it is a good idea when it is too obvious… I think this is a conversation we could devote to an entire posting…:)


Vicki, I am SO happy to hear this! I enjoy your blog and your books! Your words are very similar to my thoughts and my adoration of .France. Yesterday I was thinking about what it means to feminine and how some people are wanting to replace this lovely quality in women by encouraging power and aggressiveness. So glad to hear you have these role models who are strong but yet possess beauty inside and out! I think about my trip to France which will take place in late April everyday! I love Paris also……well all of France. Your blog and your books encouraged me to rent a car with my youngest daughter and drive to a few villages in Provence! This time we are bringing my husband! Keep inspiring us! Thank you!


Dear Vicki and Penelope

This sounds like a great year for your blog Vicki. Will be following with great interest.

Penelope, I would like my darling grand-daughters, 8 and 6, to grow up to be both feminine and empowered. Not so much aggressive, but confident, independent and able to express their ideas and fulfil their dreams in whatever sphere that might be. I think it’s possible to be both feminine and strong and I will certainly be encouraging them to be both, as I know their parents will.

They’re naturally very girly, gentle, sweet natured and love beautiful things, especially flowers, birds and butterflies. The older one is already growing in confidence, her parents give her lots of opportunities to develop her skills, she’s artistic and musical and at this stage wants to be a fashion designer. Her younger sister is very shy but very clever in different ways.

It’s a difficult world our young girls will grow into and we need to help them find confidence, self respect, courage and strength for empowerment, but also empathy, care for others and integrity that helps grow inner beauty. With best wishes, Pamela

Linda Hanselman

I have been reading your blog for a long time and have all of you books. You are by far my favorite blogger. Well I do love David liebowitz too :). Your email updates are inspirational and beautiful. Good on you for this week inspiration. Sometime I feel we women of a certain age are largely invisible. I’m glad you are focusing on us. I like that you also bring a younger women’s point of view in through your daughter and her friends style. We must after stay au courant! Looking forward to the posts.


That is another thing I would love to introduce… more of the influences I learn from my daughters… Actually, they are my greatest teachers …Thank you for the reminder… :)


I am so excited for the theme you have chosen this year; it is one near and dear to my heart, as an artist, teacher, and as a woman. I am smack dab in the middle of my 50s, and it is only in this decade of my life that I feel I have begun to find my own true way with Beauty. To me this means several things.

One is finding my own creative style of dressing, that has only tangentially to do with what is expected from current fashion, or of women my age–I wear what pleases me, and feels artistic (and this includes handknitting lots of things I wear.) Beautiful garments and shoes are just so exciting, and I love creating different ensembles.

I also have let go of most societal standards about who is beautiful, to focus on inner beauty–it seems to me that what makes a person look beautiful is really what animates them from within, regardless of age, body type, features. . . At the same time, I have enjoyed dabbling in pretty make-up and lovely creams, etc. in a way that I eschewed in the “hippy” days of my youth.

Perhaps most important to me, I have learned that life is happiest when there is as much awareness as possible of everything that is beautiful all around us, whether it is the play of light on the mountains, the ever-changing clouds in the sky, a flash of strong color in what a passerby is wearing, the smile on a child’s face, the whisper softness of a cotton voile curtain, whatever… To cultivate constant awareness of these passing phenomena of beauty is what I aim for.

So, we are clearly on the same path here. I am deeply appreciative of all that you share in your wonderful posts!!!!!!


Inner beauty is everything… Once we have that, the rest will follow ( with a little bit of wisdom here and there)… :)

Francine gardner

I really was in need of this post! I am trying to embrace 50… planning my next adventure while my body is still cooperating, feeling young, loving fashion and design but have never worked so hard in my life and so little time…i almost feel enslaved to my business… Nothing that a few days in france will cure though. I am looking forward to reading your take on french beauty, life, love… here is to great reading!!


Francine, you are so beautiful and stylish that you should be guiding me…:)
I understand what you say… I feel like I have a fight with my body every day… generally it wins… and as for work.. I can’t seem to keep away from it… but then I, like you… love what i do… xv

Mona Turner

Dear Vicki,
“Committing to living a life of beauty”, I’m all in! Looking forward to another year of my morning cup of tea with you.

Sheila in SF

Continued success with French Essence. I look forward to your thougts and ideas on life, beauty and all that is French. As I woman past 50 and in my 60s there is so much that I enjoy about your world. I enjoy fashion, French culture and the excitement that life offers and the experience that women like you can share to enlighten. Blogging has been a truly awesome vehicle that sparkles the life of readers such as myself. Thanks.


I also look forward to your advice and experience Sheila… it is the exchanging of ideas that is so wonderful…

Tiffeny Redman

I am new to following your blog and am so excited to read what unplanned treats you will have for us. I so agree with your ideas on fashion for women approaching or in their 50’s. I believe this is a time when we are our best yet. An appreciation for the time we have reclaimed makes us not waste it. The attention we once gave to our children can be refocused on ourselves and our passions. I too am looking forward to an unplanned 2013 and the surprises it will bring.


I’m looking forward to reading your beauty posts, Vicki…I too am enjoying my 50’s and I love to look at and read about older women who are accepting of ageing…there is such an inner beauty in these women I aspire to.
In my mind, Vicki…you don’t do a single thing wrong with your blog…such a talent you have.
Have a great weekend.


Hope you’ve got room for a youngster; I just turned 46! Love your blog and have printed so many posts for my inspiration notebook, which I thumb through whenever I feel a bit blah. Keep up the wonderful work, Vicki. I look forward to seeing what the year holds.


Absolutely… 40…50…60… Age is indeterminate… it’s finding our own, unique style that is the challenge… and the pleasure.. :)


I have just entered my 60s and always have tried to keep slim and healthy, but now the difference between trends and style and fashion have me puzzled. I look forward to your posting year!


Greetings! I am sooo excited about your theme for the year – and can’t wait to share the journey with you. I am in my mid 30s with two little friends under 4, with a career I love and a home that is our sanctuary, specially for my husband, who works so hard. Looking forward to beauty advice, as I have purchased and enjoyed many of your recommendations. Happy New Year!

peggy braswell

Have read your blog since I found you(3 years now) + will continue to follow. “Lead on MacDuff” (or something like that)xxpeggybraswelldesign.com


Hi, Vicki,
I have been loving your blog from the beginning and you inspired me to take a magical trip to Paris and Provence last summer with my beloved husband, our three adult children-two boys, 26 and 24, and a daughter, 19, and the boys’ serious girl friends. It was delightful–we rented a beautiful farm house in Goult with views of the valley from the terrace and bedrooms. Every day, someone ran out for fresh croissants and pain au chocolat, and then, after breakfast, we explored a perched village in the Luberon, swam and sunned. The weather was ideal, the lavender was in bloom and we finished our days back on our terrace feasting on the provisions we purchased at the markets that day. Thank you for all of the suggestions you provided in your blog!! They contributed so much to the success of this important family time.
Now, as a new empty nester in my mid-50’s, I am finding mental and emotional space as well as time to turn my focus back to myself and my husband. We are surprised at how much we are loving this new time of life but I do need inspiration and guidance and I am so thrilled to know you will be guiding me on this part, too.
Thank you for your blog!
xo, AnneHH

lisa thomson

Wonderful! I’m looking forward to this ride with you, Vicki and all your readers. It’s always fun to read other women’s suggestions and comments here on your blog. Happy 2013, indeed :)


Finally arrived at 50 and feel great, like you I find a lot of magazines are aimed at younger women, I still have the love of clothes,fashion and France as I did in my 20’s only now I know what My style is and don’t feel the need to follow every single trend, whether I like it or not.

The forum sounds a fabulous idea.


Vicki I love being at this age in my life. I just know that after this next surgery, I will be up and running again!

2013 Artists Series


This is exciting! A beautiful blog that will have living beautifully as its theme for 2013! I have navigated the 50’s and found them to be the best decade of my life. Sharing with others and learning will be a joy. Looking forward to every post.


Vickie… I love your perspective. Being fifty something is great because you have compiled all those previous years to become multidimensional and to know what works for you and what doesn’t… without making any apologies to anyone for not being what they want you to be… for instance…I was dating a man a while back who is an avid golfer and wanted me to share the sport with him. I didn’t have a problem with that… but could not bring myself to wear the god awful golfing attire for women…! If I find myself in that position again I will just have to design a golfing attire line that fits my own style…!


Vicki, you are so right. I love being a ‘baby boomer’ because we are all so innovative and seem able to push the boundaries no matter what age we are. Beauty is a wonderful word, for it encompasses our exteriors – both ourselves and surroundings; the ephemerel – nature; and our inner selves – our own nature, if you like. I rarely comment, but have been following your blog for some time and thoroughly enjoy it. It’s a breath of inspiration and this year committment – to beauty.


This is such a fabulous idea – I have always enjoyed your posts on fashion, style and self-care. This will be an exciting adventure and I am so excited to follow along. The older I get the more I want to be me, to let me be….

Sally Leonard

Vicki, I am thrilled with your theme for the year. I am 62 and I’m paying more attention to
fashion than in my 50’s. Saying that, I am no fashion horse. I much prefer classic, tailored clothes.
As far as the beauty we see around us, I am focusing much more on this also. Probably because I
know that time is getting shorter. My daughter asked me recently what was the happiest time
of my life–my answer—RIGHT NOW. Looking forward to all your posts this year!

cindy hattersley

I am so happy that you are choosing this path. I am nearing 60. I still want to be fashionable but I don’t want to look like a cougar. I have so enjoyed your blog and books. I look forward to your new adventure. I think you have chosen a path that many of us will be most interested in. I loved the part about your daugter…they keep us at bay don’t they?


Well Im a bit younger, 44, but I am very excited about your plans for this year!

Im sure we can all feel a bit blah and in a rut so directing the brain to focus on beauty in ALL facets is sure to uplift – it will be fuel for the mind body and spirit. What a fabulous idea

so looking forward to reading along

Trish Murphy

I am so looking forward to a superb year of French Essence. I agree the more mature years can be very liberating
and exciting we have to savour this stage of our lives.XTrish


Thank you! They are women like you who help to discover the beauty beyond the “eternal youth”. The best time is here and now, no matter how old you are.

The Enchanted Home

Vicki…2013 sounds like its going to be a fabulous year for you, full of wonder and surprises! 50 is the 30! I loved reading your thoughts and find myself far more attracted to blogs of substance with an authentic message instead of one filled with only glossy pictures and tons of ads distracting me. I love what you do here and always find what you have to say interesting, fascinating and above all inspiring…hope you will keep on doing things just as you have because it is what keeps me and I bet tons of others coming back!


I am really looking forward to reading your 2013 beauty inspired posts, Vicki…as one in the early 50’s age group..its pleasing to hear there may be hope for us yet! Jill

Jenny @ French a la Beach

You continue, Vicki, to inspire me ! Yes your 50’s are the exciting years & I am particularly looking forward to this year with so many plans & dreams for me personally & my online life as well. Thank you for sharing – I look forward to your “Beauty” Inspiration each read. I started this week with laps in the Coolum Beach pool & a relaxing walk home peering out over the sunlit ocean. ‘Love this life – also excited about my many ideas I have to enhance the opportunities of my readers.

jennifer keen

I love that you come to your blog “fresh” and on the spur so to speak regarding how you approach it, i.e. without any forethought,pretense or formulaic type of rendering. This makes reading and exploring fresh,exciting and a new adventure each time you delve into something both for yourself and for readers! Having turned 50 just this past November I am excited to share and hear about beauty tips for women who are not in the teens or twenties!
Or 30’s even….

So thrilled I found this site! I adore it and I adore everything French as well!!


Garden, Home and Party

How lovely…although I always think all of your posts are filled with beauty. I will enjoy your discussions of how to enhance our lives as women of a certain age. Like you, I embrace this time and am thoroughly enjoying these years, but it’s always fun to read about new ideas and I will look forward to that.

Cherry Chu

Hi Vicki,

So looking forward to another year of inspiration and beautiful insights from you and French Essence.

All the best to you and your loved ones in 2013!

Warm regards,


I am also looking forward to the year ahead with you Vicki. You are so inspirational, encouraging ‘us’ to get out there and live life consciously, no matter what your age, through your posts and photos. I’m with you … lead on! Mary-Jill xo

Pauline from Phillip Island

It’s going to be a wonderful year, Vicki, with you to lead us on such an inspiring journey. Your posts always lift my heart and make me feel beautiful. Your gift is something truly special. I don’t even buy magazines anymore as I would rather read my favourite blogs.

Debe Leone

I am also excited that you will include fashion in your posts. I have been in my 60’s a couple of years & have recently lost some weight so fashion is interesting again. I have looked for a blog that would address fashion for the more vintage woman and only find cute, young things posting. I will be on a quick spring break trip to London, Paris & Milan with a group from my high school and will especially look forward to seeing the Parisian style. Look forward to your insights!


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