Bellanda at International Women’s Day Party


There has been a HUGE GLITCH in tomorrow evening’s Art Expo at The International Women’s Day Event. There was a last-minute problem with the venue & the Event organizers had to scramble around to find a new venue last night. Unfortunately, the new venue is not conducive to hosting an art expo.
***I will still be there, but without my paintings. Please join me for drinks at the new venue. It would be great to get together.

For those of you who are looking for something to do this Friday, please join me as I put on one of my many “hats” – that of the artist. I’d love to see you there.

Atelier Bellanda: Oil Paintings, Photography & Mixed Media


Please join me, my paintings & more at the International Women’s Day Party!

For more information/free registration, please click here:

***I will post photos in the very near future for those of you who are unable to make it to the event.

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Returning to the Source: Starting Anew

Returning to the Source: Starting Anew...  Bellanda ®

Returning to the Source:
Starting Anew…
Bellanda ®

There is something about starting a new year that makes many evaluate the year that has just gone by. Over the last few weeks, I have heard and read an overwhelming amount of information about starting anew, broken promises, hopes, dreams, and about updating last year’s resolutions. Our eight year old, who happens to live a rather blessed life filled with love and activities of his choosing, cried on New Year’s Eve as he said, “I haven’t profited enough from 2013.”

I realize that a reflection like this is unusual for a boy his age, but he has touched upon something that many adults feel and express at the end of each new year and around birthdays. I’ve never quite understood this. Are these kind of reflections due to fear of the unknown? Regrets of the past? Hopes for a better future? Or is it something more… something more profound about man’s inability to feel truly happy? Could it be that man is driven by a desire for better and for more? If this is the case, what would happen if man was given all of time they desired? Would they finally be happy?

It is wonderful to take time at the start of a new year to evaluate the lives presently being lived, but I can’t help but wonder why so many people wait until this time of the year to awaken only to get lost again so quickly. We are given the gift of life, and with each breath the capacity to make things happen. If you are one of the lucky ones, born into a place where choice is an option and your gender, skin color or political and cultural affiliation don’t limit you to a stand still, then you are indeed blessed. You are the master of your future, if you choose to be so.

Perhaps if we stopped running around, trying to do everything, and started enjoying the simple moments we would realize how lucky we are. I know that this is more of a lifetime resolution than a New Year’s resolution, but it is also one that will help us feel more fulfilled in life. Finding something in each day that makes you smile, like a child’s laughter or taking the time to sip your favorite coffee instead of gulping it down while doing a million things at the same time takes no more than a couple of minutes, but the benefits are endless.

We are the masters of own little universe, whether we believe it or not, so we don’t have to wait for these precious moments to happen. We can make them happen by simply smiling at a stranger, or holding the door for them and wishing them a nice day. Naive? Maybe, but it is enough to bring someone else a gift and in doing so we are often rewarded by this exchange. 

I’ve been told on many occasions that I am lucky to live here in Paris, and that I should be happy. I agree that this is indeed a wonderful city, but being happy is more than just living in a particular place. It is about taking time for those you love and care about and about making choices that best meet your needs and passions intelligently. It is about taking the time to enjoy precious moments in between the rest of the things that need to get done. Most importantly, it is about finding positives in the midst of the roller coaster life so many of us live.

As some of you already know, I have been ill for almost two years. From my many activities, you might also know that I haven’t let this make me bitter or stop me completely. I’m often asked how I remain so positive in the midst of hospitals, doctors, treatments and the unknown, as I await what has been a very long and complicated final diagnosis. My answer is always, “never giving up on hope.” There comes a time when one must accept their limitations and then find a way to adapt so that you can do what you would like to do regardless of them. Accepting one’s imperfections while learning from our mistakes and the things we cannot control also helps. It is important to realize that by wasting energy on negativity and anger we only hurt ourselves, wasting precious time that could be used for something good.

At times I have had to slow down, but I’ve always searched to find a positive in each situation… even if I’ve had to dig a little deeper. Everything is about choice. Being forced to take time to slow down for health reasons, can mean cuddling on the couch with my little ones as they tell me about their day. When we think about it, as long as we are alive, there is hope and a chance to find a positive. Yes, death is something we all struggle with, but once the immediate shock and pain of the loss of a loved one has passed, it is possible to turn and focus your energy on feeling blessed to have had that person in your life, even if only for a short time during their passage here on earth. In doing so, they will live on in us and in our memories forever as you take that person with you.

All of this will help us deal with our own inevitable death. Living life’s precious moments, telling those you love how you feel so in the end our regrets are limited. The feeling that we have indeed profited from life and our loved ones is primordial.

As each new year comes around, I smile. I know that I am among the fortunate and I am thankful. I have lived another day, let alone another year. I am not sad, nor afraid of each year that passes. Yes, I am another year older, and wrinkles do come with age, but oh how lucky I am to have the chance that so many don’t get. Age is not a curse but a gift, and I’d rather avoid the alternative as long as possible. Once you get the hang of finding something positive in your everyday life and in negative situations that come your way, you’d be amazed how easy it is to do.

So, if I must make a resolution, it will be to continue doing what I am doing… mistakes and all. They are what make us learn and grow. I will continue sharing this positive attitude with those I love in hopes that they might pick up this trait. When my time does eventually come, as it will with us all, I will have no regrets. I will have lived my life as best I could, making sure that those I love know how very precious they are to me.

If Only All Wars Were Made of Toilet Paper: War of Wills, War of Cultures… or BOTH?

Before I begin, let me just say that last week was a difficult one for my entire family.  

I think we (or at least I) could use a little comic relief.  

Taking a little break from the big issues in life is at times a necessary blessing.  

If only all wars were made of toilet paper…

Seems like an ordinary roll of toilet paper, but beware of its consequences! Photo/Graphics by Bellanda ®

Seems like an ordinary roll of toilet paper, but beware of its consequences!
Photo/Graphics by Bellanda ®

It seems like an ordinary roll of toilet paper, right?  Who would have thought that a simple roll of toilet paper could start what I am calling the Silent Toilet Paper War?  I can almost see some of you shaking your heads as you wonder if I’ve either lost my mind or run out of ideas for my blog.  You might even be thinking that it must be sheer desperation that has driven me to write about such a subject.  On the contrary, those of you who follow my blog know that I had planned to write about my favorite place to buy and drink coffee in Paris.  So, why toilet paper?  Let’s just say that it’s amazing what can arise from a simple one week visit from my dear sweet French man’s parents.  Sorry, but the coffee post will just have to wait!

Toilet paper…  When you hear those words I’m sure there are many things that come to mind of which we truly do not need to talk about.  As long as I’ve had it when it was needed, I never gave it much thought.  Then came an eye-opening visit from my in-laws which led me to realize something that I’m not proud of.  Apparently, I can be quite petty when it comes to the direction a toilet paper roll is placed on the holder.  Ah, yes! Did some of you just have a moment of recognition?  Disbelief?  Either way, I have a feeling that many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

On the first day my in-laws were with us, I walked into the bathroom and immediately noticed that the roll of toilet paper was facing in the wrong direction.  Yes, I am seriously that obsessive. Who knew?!  Instinctively, I switched it back to what I consider to be the correct  way to hang toilet paper.  I figured that one of my children must have knocked it on the floor by accident and placed it back on the holder in the wrong direction.  Then, it happened again… and again.  I kept this whole thing to myself, but out of curiosity switched the toilet paper back each time I saw it in the wrong direction.

My Way!

My Way! (Over Orientation)

I decided to do a little investigating (I know, I need to get out more).  This probably sounds crazy and perhaps it truly is, but I just had to know who was doing this.  I found myself sneaking around, checking the bathroom each time someone walked out.  It turned out that it was my Mother-in-Law AND Father-in-Law!  They actually took the time to change the direction of the toilet paper roll each time they went into the bathroom!  I mean really, who does that?  Oh right, my in-laws… but why?  I don’t know about you, but I have never thought of switching the toilet paper roll direction when I am a guest at someone else’s house and would appreciate it if you are a future guest at my home that you leave my toilet paper the way I like it.  😉

The first time you notice that the toilet paper is in the wrong direction, you say to yourself that it must have been an accident.   The second time, you start to wonder.  The third time, you start to wonder if they are doing this just to annoy you.  The fourth time you are sure they are!  No one spoke of the subject, yet each time I switched the roll to my way, they switched it back to their way.  Thus began, what I’m going to call the Toilet Paper Experiment and the Silent Toilet Paper War.

Yes, I am indeed aware that perhaps I need to get a life but let’s just say I did all of this under the realm of  cultural research.  At least, that is what I’m telling myself. I continued doing this in secret for the entire week they stayed with us.  I was afraid if I mentioned it to anyone it would taint my experiment and ruin the outcome.  I actually giggled as I went in and out of the bathroom in disbelief.  I wanted so much to share what was happening with my dear sweet man, but I stuck to my original plan.  I kept wondering if my in-laws would eventually stop switching the toilet paper roll.  I was sure that they would… but this is what I would see every single day, several times a day, for the entire week!

Their Way!

Their Way! (Under Orientation)

Was this some Machiavellian way to get even with me for taking their son away ?

During the week, I began asking myself some truly ridiculous questions.  Is there even a correct way to place toilet paper on the holder?  Is it just an acquired behavioral pattern?  Is it just another one of those cultural issues that pops up from time to time as a result of being an expat?  Do people even care which way the paper is placed on the holder?

Then, I did what pretty much everyone else does when they want to know something, I Googled the words “correct way to place toilet paper on the holder” only to discover that despite this being a truly petty subject matter… there is actually a Silent and Not So Silent War going on when it concerns this topic.  Apparently, there have been a ridiculous numbers of studies actually done on this subject.  I smiled, feeling somewhat vindicated that somehow I was not as crazy as I thought.  If scientists, philosophers and doctors have researched this subject, then I can assume I’m in good company (or at least in crazy company).

The wealth of information is actually quite hilarious and even links toilet paper orientation to  personality traits, age, political affiliation, and of course cultural differences.  One can’t help but laugh, but apparently it is also a pet peeve that causes actual fights in some relationships.  According to Wikipedia,  Ann Landers said that this subject was the most controversial issue in her column’s history.

What struck me time and time again while going through the mass of information on the internet concerning this topic were the recurring polls and studies that showed that most Americans use the over orientation, as I do, while most Europeans use the under orientation like my in-laws.  Somehow, I was relieved that my in-laws weren’t trying to make me crazy or get even with me for some unknown reason.  I felt better in thinking that toilet paper orientation is just a cultural thing. That is, until I saw this…

You just can't make this kind of thing up... life is so full of surprises!

You just can’t make this kind of thing up… Life is much more fun than fiction!

War of Wills, War of Cultures… or BOTH?  I’ll let you be your own judge.  I’m going to pretend (or lie to myself) that it’s just another Expat cultural thing and that my dear man’s parents were just too preoccupied with packing their bags to replace the roll of toilet paper.   If I allow myself to think this was done on purpose, I might also discover that I have a little vengeful, yet playful, side of me that will have to spend my next visit to their home changing the toilet paper in all of the bathrooms… for the entire duration of my trip!  😀

If only all wars were made of toilet paper…

We could just flush them down the toilet.

Have some fun & see where you fit in.  Here’s the Wikipedia link if you are curious to know what your toilet paper orientation says about you:

Here’s a post that nearly made me fall on the floor laughing:  The author included sketches and clearly stated reasons as to why the way I orient my toilet paper is the correct way.  In all fairness to under orientation people, they updated their post to include some reasons why some people prefer this approach.

Now the BIG questions…

Have some fun and let yourself think about something truly ridiculous for a moment. 

Do you care which way the toilet paper is placed on the holder?  

If so, which way is your ‘correct’ way?  

What country are you from?

*Oh, and feel free to leave a fake name if you would rather not let people all over the world know you’re actually discussing toilet paper orientation…  🙂


THIS ARTICLE & TOILET PAPER PATENT JUST ABOUT SETTLES THE TOILET PAPER ORIENTATION DEBATE… I WIN –  HAHAHA! Just in time… They are due for another visit in about 10 days & this might come in handy.  😉

124-year-old patent solves the ‘over versus under’ toilet paper roll debate

Spotted by The Huffington Post, writer Owen Williams discovered a picture of the original patent and shared it with the world.

Sharing the view: Notre Dame – Paris, France

Notre Dame - Paris, FrancePhotography/Graphicsby Bellanda  ®

Notre Dame – Paris, France – 2013
Photography/Graphics by Bellanda ®

The light was shining ever so perfectly…  Despite the cold temperatures & shivering hands, I just had to share this view with you.  I looked at that very famous lover’s lock bridge, wondering if it could handle the weight of all the locks, cars and people.  I decided that you were worth it.  Obviously, I survived the bridge and my overactive imagination.   How could I not?  It would be a shame to keep something so beautiful a secret.

Here is a piece of Paris… sent to you with all the best wishes for a great week.

It’s no longer a joke! My overalls were not only illegal in Paris… they were illegal in all of France!

Bellanda ®

Bellanda ®

The last several months, I have joked that wearing my overalls in Paris might be considered illegal. Little did I know how right I was! Ever since that very first day I ventured out into the streets of Paris wearing overalls, there has been ongoing banter on Twitter and Facebook about the fact that this could be illegal.  There were some of you who gasped with laughter saying, “No, you didn’t?”  There were others who said things like, “Good for you!  Be yourself and be proud.” In my defense, and yes, I somehow think wearing overalls… more exactly wearing paint stained overalls in a city where people only wear jogging/sports attire if they are actually running, does indeed need defending.  My overalls have remained in my closet for many years, untouched, as I wondered why on earth I even bothered to bring them to Paris in the first place.  That is, until I began painting.  I was thrilled to have them, but never did I have any intention on wearing them in the streets of Paris. That said, I tend to get lost in my work.  Knowing this, I always set a little alarm in order to take a few moments to make myself look somewhat presentable before picking the little ones up at school.   When I write, work on my photography or social media managing jobs this task is pretty easy to do. However, on days when I get lost in my painting, things always seem to take a rather interesting turn.  Maybe I’m just a messy painter, but sometimes when I paint I wonder if there is more paint on me or on the canvas.  I literally throw myself into my work and disappear into the painting, letting go of all awareness as I get lost in the music, emotions, colors and the movement of my paintbrush.  It’s almost trance-like. That is until I hear my alarm go off telling me that I have exactly 40 minutes to be at the school when the doors open.  40 minutes sounds like a lot of time to get ready and walk just a few blocks, but have you ever tried cleaning off oil paint?  When you are up for some fun… give it a try.  Be sure to take photos!  I’d love to see how that all works out for you.  Oh, and no using any of those nasty easy oil paint removers that actually work but kill your skin.  Only use the natural ones so that you can truly have some fun. On most days, I manage to get cleaned up, throw off my overalls and slip into a pair of jeans, but one day in particular I was so deep inside my painting that when the alarm went off, I didn’t stop.  I kept telling myself to take a few more minutes.  It’s as if this painting posted below had taken me in and wasn’t letting me out.

RED RED  300

Bellanda ®

The next thing I knew I had 15 minutes to get to the school.  Changing was not an option, so I figured I would throw on a coat and hopefully no one would notice.  I quickly washed my face, and tried to get as much paint off of my hands as I could.  I threw on a little make-up to hide the redness that had formed on my face from all of the rubbing and ran out of the door.  I walked out of the door cringing at the fact that once again this American was going to stick out like a sore thumb, even though I knew very well in my heart that I would never truly fit in. I walked to the school at a rapid pace.  It felt almost criminal to be parading around Paris in overalls.  I imagined all of the French Mommies and Daddies looking with disdain at me and my half-hidden paint stained overalls.  There she is again, that American… has she no shame?  Then I thought, they probably won’t even notice.  I mean really, they have better things to do than to stare at me. Just then, an expat friend passed by on her bicycle. She waved and shouted, “Love the new punk look!”  She gave me a huge giggle, blew me a kiss and said, “Catch you later!” I was confused.  When did overalls become punk?  I quickly forgot the whole punk comment when I ran into another friend in front of the school.  I tried ever so casually to put my hands in my pocket and slide my coat closed, hoping this French friend wouldn’t notice. “The overalls are a nice touch,” he said with a wink and a huge smile. So much for no one noticing, I thought.  Then, the New Yorker in me said, who cares?  Let them look.   Maybe I’ll start a new trend.  That made me smile and I stood there proudly waiting for my little ones to come out of the school.  When they did, my six-year-old little princess ran over to me and screamed for all to hear, “Wow, Mommy, you went to the hairdresser today!  I love your new red highlights!  Can I get some, too?” Red highlights? What on earth was she talking about?  “Sweetie, I haven’t been to the hairdresser.” Just then, she reached up and pointed to my head, “Your hair has red in it… It looks funky Mommy!  Can I put some in my hair when we get home?” I was so worried about my overalls being “illegal” that I hadn’t noticed until I got home that I had left the house with streaks of red paint in my hair. One might actually say that it looked professionally done!  Well, I thought, at least I gave everyone something to look at, giggle at or downright laugh at.  That can’t be all bad now, can it? Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time I would be obliged to run to the school in my paint stained overalls, and I would continue to tweet and post on Facebook wondering if there was a law forbidding this in Paris.  Well, it seems that my fears turned out to be correct!  Not only was it illegal for a woman to wear pants in Paris, it was illegal to wear pants in the entire country of France!   I like to use humor on my blog posts, but this time I am being completely serious. According to an article I read on the BBC News website,, the French government recently overturned a more than 200-year-old law stating that women were only allowed to wear pants or “dress like a man” if they got permission from the police beforehand.  I know you are shaking your heads in disbelief and I wish I was kidding, but it’s true.   The law was put into effect in the year 1800 and was modified in the years 1892 and 1909.  Only then did it begin allowing women to wear pants “if they were holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse.”  No, unfortunately I’m still not kidding. Somehow this law was forgotten… or at least I hope that is why it took until now for the government to overturn it.  According to the Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, “This order was aimed first of all at limiting the access of women to certain offices or occupations by preventing them from dressing in the manner of men.”  Apparently she felt that the “ban was no longer compatible with modern French values and laws.” Really?  I’m so glad that someone has figured that out!  Now, I can wear my overalls and not worry that I will be taken away by the police.  Then again, they only mention pants.  I’m guessing that my paint stained overalls might somehow still be illegal in Paris and if they’re not, perhaps they should be.  On second thought, life would be boring if we were all so perfect; wouldn’t it?   No need to answer that; I’m just going to pretend you agree with me. This old French law got me thinking.  I’ve heard of many strange laws in certain states in the United States that have been forgotten about and are no longer practiced but are still in the books.  Please feel free to jot down an archaic law that no one practices anymore, but are still officially laws where you live.  It might be fun to add them in the comments section below. As for me and my overalls… only time will tell.  I’m guessing that they will see the streets of Paris again.  If I promise to try to clean my “punk” hair before leaving the house, will you be so kind as to keep your laughing to a quiet minimum if you happen to bump into me while I’m wearing them?

Bellanda ®

Bellanda ®

UPDATE:  Thanks to one of my Twitter contacts, I have a wonderful example of a female artist who received permission to “cross-dress”  from the Paris Préfecture de Police in 1857. Thank you, Rosa, for paving the way for us women.

Here are the links that I received from my Twitter contact about Rosa Bonheur (Thank you, Tim) :

Paris under a blanket of snow… wishes do come true!

It all began on Friday afternoon, when my dear man sent a photo of where he would be filming for the weekend.

Méribel, France - Photo Credit by my Man, Photo Editing by Bellanda. All rights reserved.

Méribel, France – Photo Credit by my Man, Photo Editing by Bellanda. All rights reserved.

My immediate response was total and utter awe.  The little ones, on the other hand, had different thoughts.

“Woooow!  How come we didn’t get to go with Daddy?”

“How come it never snows here?”

When my little guy looked up at me with wide eyes and said, “I wish we had snow…” there was such sadness in his voice that it broke my heart.  That very same night, the snow began to fall and I prayed that it would last until morning.  Thank goodness, some wishes do indeed come true!

Finally…  Paris is covered in a blanket of snow!  This is something that I, as well as my little ones, have been dreaming about for years.  I’m not talking about a few fluttering flakes that disappear an hour later or by morning’s light.  What I am talking about is the kind of snow that actually lasts, turning an already magical city into something truly breathtaking.

Paris snow signed

In the early morning, one couldn’t help but notice that everything was at a standstill.  The roads had not been cleared, causing the cars to move at a snail’s pace.  My daughter’s harp lesson was cancelled, of which we only learned upon arrival.  As we walked into the conservatory, the secretary saw us and said, “Didn’t you get the message?”

“What message?”

“I left you a message on your mobile around 11:10.  Your daughter’s teacher can’t make it in today.”

“Ummmmm… no, I didn’t get the message.  You do realize that the class starts at 11:30 and it takes over 30 minutes to get here… we were already in the metro by then.”

“Oh, sorry,” she said nonchalantly.

Efficiency, at it’s finest!   The New Yorker in me wanted to say so much more about how we dragged ourselves over there when of course my health is not 100%, paid the metro tickets, etc. but I decided shake it off and be cool.  I’ve actually become quite good at that since I moved here.  Besides, even if I did say something, I’ve learned it wouldn’t have changed anything and I don’t think she would have cared either way.

The kids were actually glad to hear that class was cancelled.  I’m sure they were imagining a day in the snow.  There was indeed snow a nice covering, however, I kept thinking of all of those incredible snow storms from New York where the snow had reached thigh high levels.  Now that was something!  I couldn’t help but give a little chuckle thinking about how all of my New York friends would be laughing if they could see how everything stopped after just a few inches of snow.  Then, I thought about it some more and smiled.  I actually liked the fact that everything had slowed down.  It was almost like something out of an old film… I loved the calmness of a usually busy place.

I looked at the little ones, one with sneakers the other in rain boots.  Us so called ‘Parisians’ aren’t used to getting snow… thus we’ve left all of our snow equipment at the in-laws who live in the mountains.  Rather than move things back and forth for no reason, it seemed more than reasonable to leave everything there. Result?

“Let’s go buy some snow boots so you can play in the snow!”  Their screams of joy could probably be heard throughout the city. We walked to the closest shop to buy boots for the little ones.

As we walked, I kept telling the little ones to be careful where they were stepping so as not to get their sneakers too wet or snow in their boots.  Have you ever tried saying something like that to little ones who’ve rarely seen snow?  Don’t bother; it’s pointless and you can’t really blame them.  Even I wanted to run and jump in the snow.

When we arrived at the shoe store, it was packed!  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one buying boots for their little ones.   A sales woman asked what size the children were, so I told her the size we had purchased just a few months earlier.  She tried that size on their feet, and couldn’t get their foot into the shoe.  She tried the next size up and made a huge frustrated sigh.  Then, she looked at me as if I was crazy.  She picked up their old shoes to verify that I had indeed told her the right size and sighed again.  Oh my, aren’t we in a good mood?  You’d think she would be happy with all of the business they were getting, but apparently she was not the happy camper, so to speak.

As the sales girl kept trying on bigger and bigger sizes she said, “Well, it’s normal they can’t get their feet into the shoes! Their socks are soaking wet!”

I kind of chuckled, thinking that I was no longer up for that Mother of the Year award.  At the same time, if I had snow boots I wouldn’t be there.  What did she think would happen when kids walk in sneakers in the snow?  I looked at the owner and asked if she sold socks.  She was a lot nicer and said, ” We don’t sell socks. I do, however, have a box of new socks in the back for such occasions.  I’ll give them to you, free of charge.”  Perhaps this was a peace-offering after witnessing her obnoxious sales woman?  I thanked her for her kindness.

When my son handed me his wet socks, I had another little giggle.  Oh yeah, definitely out of the running for Mother of the Year!  They were indeed soaking wet… had I squeezed water would have gone pouring down!

After a little more time, both children finally found boots they liked.  Actually, they took the first pair that fit them.  Personally, I think they would have loved just about any boot in any color, size, shape and form since it meant going out to play in the snow.  They walked out of the store with huge smiles.

Boots Princess   little guy boots

We headed straight to the park, for some fun in the snow, followed by hot chocolate and crêpes.  Then, we played a few more hours in the snow before heading back home.

What a truly lovely Saturday in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it’s even more beautiful when covered in a blanket of snow.