Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
If you're a regular visitor to Tongue in Cheek you know that Corey now has an online shop, Tongue in Cheek Antiques, where she is selling some of the pieces she's collected over the years. If you haven't visited her online shop, you owe yourself a visit.
One of Corey's first offerings was a brocante bundle, a collection of ephemera--letters, receipts, sheet music, photographs, pages from antique books. These items were thoughtfully bundled and mailed, but without the recipient knowing exactly what was inside.
I received my surprise bundle a few weeks ago and have been going through it ever since. My favorites are the letters and receipts from wine proprietors with their distinctive letterheads--Louis Huc, Vacassy Freres, Louis Tempier--dating from the early 1900s. These fragile, faded pages are written in such beautiful ecriture and are lovely to look at (you can click on the above pic for a closer look). My plan for these delicate treasures is to have them professionally framed and hang them as a group in my dining room.
Thank you Corey for bringing a bit of France into my home. I love my brocante bundle!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
What a wonderful discovery when I visited The Kitchn this morning: a post about Christmas in Burgundy by chef Marjorie Taylor. For anyone interested in French Christmas traditions, this post is a must-read, and her photographs of Beaune are breathtaking.
When you reach the end of the post, there is a link to Marjorie's weblog and business, The Cook's Atelier. Once there, you can check out her bio and photographs, and read Marjorie's philosophy on sustainability. You can read about the cooking classes and tours offered by Marjorie through The Cook's Atelier. Can't visit Burgundy? Not to worry, mes amis. You can still visit her blog, Inspirations from the French Market.
If you visit Marjorie's site, I'd love to hear your thoughts. For me, discovering The Cook's Atelier was a delightful day-after-Christmas gift.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Today will be busy for me: wrapping gifts, baking, preparing for tomorrow's breakfast and dinner, decorating the tree. I believe I enjoy the anticipation and the preparation for Christmas as much as the day itself.
But I wanted to take time to wish everyone a peaceful Christmas Eve, and a joyful Christmas.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Don't live in the D.C. area? There are AF chapters throughout the country; check here to see if there is one near you. If one of your New Year's resolutions is to learn more about France and French culture, Alliance Francaise is the perfect place to begin.
Monday, December 21, 2009
It's not lined, which is fine for a school bag. It's not vintage, but the leather has that nicely broken-in appearance. It's not French, but has that chic French appeal. It's a great price, but only if I love it.
What do you think?
Saturday, December 19, 2009
That is, until yesterday.
Yesterday, my closest friend gave me a gift, the boxed set of Julia Child's masterpiece cookbooks. The set includes Volume I, first published in 1961, and Volume II, published in 1970.
For those of you who have the Volume I (which I'm sure all of you do), you know this is the cookbook featured in the book and movie "Julie and Julia." I watched the movie for the first time last weekend and I was over the moon!
So, housebound by today's snowstorm that hit the Washington DC area, I decided to try out a few of the recipes. This afternoon I whipped my first cream with a balloon whisk (page 580) and for dinner I made my first braised leeks (page 495). Both were delicious and I can't wait to try out the other 522 recipes!
I'd love to hear from anyone who has cooked from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What are your favorite recipes, what would you suggest I try?
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thanks to everyone who commented. I love giveaways because they encourage comments and I feel a little more connected to my readers.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Those of you who have spent time in a French kitchen will recognize the casual, compact style, and everyone will enjoy spotting their favorite French products and cookware on the open shelving.
I found mine at TJ Maxx for $3.99, but you can buy them online from Graphique de France for $10.00. Even at that price these beautiful boxed notecards are a bargain.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
But this is one little book that you're not likely to find on your library shelves. I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita is a lovely book, charming in size and chockful of step-by-step photographs to help you turn out your own perfect macarons.
If you'd like to win this book for your collection, all you need to do is share a comment about your favorite holiday cookie. You can share a story, a memory, a recipe, a thought. Your name will be entered in the giveaway and the winner will be announced on Friday, December 18.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
There, you'll see renowned French pastry chef Francois Payard go up against chef and restauranteur Bobby Flay in a Buche de Noel throwdown. Too funny! I watched the episode last night and it was great fun.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I enjoy the recipes and the musings about food, but the real reason I visit the kitchn is the kitchen tours. I LOVE the kitchen tours! And I especially love the "Small Cool Kitchen" entries and winners.
Let me explain.
Recently single after (almost) 20 years of marriage, and with a son going off the college next fall, I have started looking for a new house. Hopefully my new house will be of the same 1940s vintage as my current home, the house where we've lived for the past 16 years. But for certain, the new house will be smaller. And while my current kitchen is not large, everything I've seen so far has been smaller still.
Like many of you, I love smaller spaces, reminiscent of beloved French and European homes. I've been combing magazines for ideas and inspiration, but, magazines rarely feature small spaces, and most of the featured kitchens are huge. Enter "Apartment Therapy," and its sister site, "The Kitchn." These sites focus exclusively on smaller spaces--apartments and small houses--and they help me to see that moving to a smaller space will have huge possibilities.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
One of the easiest reductions is a gastrique, a classic French sauce made from a reduction of vinegar or wine, a bit of oil or butter, and sugar or fruit preserves. Most reduction sauces require some fat and bits from meat, poultry, or fish, but a gastrique can be made from a few simple ingredients.
I found a wonderful video clip that perfectly demonstrates the steps and technique in making a gastrique, this one from balsamic vinegar and black currant preserves. One of my favorites is made from cider vinegar, oil, shallots, and sugar (or substitute bacon drippings for the oil). Tossed with and drizzled over sauteed spinach, or winter greens such as kale, it makes a perfect bistro food pairing.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
On one of our visits to Le Napoli, we ordered wine with dinner. It turns out that the wine was served in small juice glasses instead of the usual stemware wine glass. I loved the casual, everyday presentation, and when I returned home I set out to find my own small glasses.
I found them at Crate and Barrel and bought two dozen, knowing that they would have many different lives at many different gatherings. Over the years, these small glasses have served wine, water, pastis, juice, and most recently soup as my Thanksgiving amuse bouche.
I treasure these glasses, small and reminiscent of French bistros; they were a worthy investment and they'll grace my table for years to come.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
We all have our traditions, our particular way of preparing everything from sweet potatoes to the pumpkin pie, oui? That's why I couldn't resist posting this link to a story about how one French chef has put her own twist on Thanksgiving.
Food Network fans will be familiar with Dominique Crenn, and everyone will be amused by her French twist on this revered American holiday.
Wishing everyone, everywhere a peaceful, joyful Thanksgiving.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Traditionally a single-bite hors d'oeuvre, the amuse bouche is a lovely way to begin a meal. My amuse bouche will be a velvety smooth cream of carrot soup with tiny curry croutons. I'll serve the soup in small juice glasses, but it could also be served in small teacups, or cocktail glasses.
We'll see if my guests are amused . . .
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
The ingredients are simple and spare:
4-6 pork chops, bone in or boneless, room temp and salted
3 medium size yellow onions
1 acorn squash
Salt and pepper
Cut the squash in half, sprinkle with salt and arrange the squash, inverted, in one layer in a buttered baking dish. Bake the squash, covered with foil, in the middle of a preheated 375°F oven for 1 hour. When it is finished baking, allow the squash to cool. When the squash is cooled, scoop it out, add butter to your taste, a pinch or two of nutmeg, and mash it. You could also use a food processor, but I like to keep it simple. You can keep the squash warm in a slow oven while you prepare the chops.
Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed skillet—a pat of butter and a teaspoon of olive oil per onion. Thin slice the onions and put them into the heated skillet. I like to salt my onions, to bring out the flavor, but it isn’t necessary. The key to caramelizing onions is to slow cook them—about 30 minutes. This releases the natural sugars which caramelize and give the onions that rich, sweet flavor.
When the onions are caramelized, remove them from the skillet, add a bit more oil and butter then add the pork chops. The key is to brown the chops on the outside and cook them through without burning them.
While you can serve the chops, squash, and onions side-by-side on a plate, I prefer to plate the chops in a rimmed shallow bowl on a bed of squash, then top with the onions and a sprig of fresh thyme. This evening I served an inexpensive Shiraz, and for dessert, fresh grapes.
The ingredients were fresh and the cost of the meal came in at around $8.00, which delights my frugal French side
Next post: Monday dinner
The Italian sausage will make its way into a pasta dish as well as an egg dish as will the asparagus, and a few of the onions and tomatoes. The onions and tomatoes will also combine to help create a base for a meal of braised chicken. Onions will be the main ingredient in a galette, and will marry well with acorn squash and pork chops. With the help of the pasta sauce, eggplant become a fragrant parmesano. And the apples and grapes will create simple desserts.
But more essential than the food I purchased are those items in my pantry and fridge. I've said before that a well stocked pantry is the backbone of my kitchen. A well stocked pantry allows me to create meals from any ingredients, whether I buy them at the farmers market, Whole Foods, Costco, or my neighborhood chain grocery store.
Are you interested in the meals and recipes?
Next post: Sunday dinner
Saturday, October 3, 2009
I decided to take advantage of the following circular specials:
1 package of Safeway brand Italian sausages @ $2.99 per package
3 pounds of chicken thighs, skin on @ $2.99 per pound
2 pounds of boneless pork chops @ $3.99 per pound
1 box of Safeway brand penne pasta @ $1.00 per box
1 box of Safeway brand linguine pasta @ $1.00 per box
1 acorn squash @ $.99 per pound
1 eggplant @$1.79 each
1 pound of green asparagus @ $2.99 per pound
4 pounds of vine ripened tomatoes @ $.99 per pound
1 bag of yellow onions @ $2.99
1 jar of Bertolli pasta sauce @ $2.50 per jar
2 Honey Crsip apples @ 2.49 per pound
2 pounds of red grapes @ $3.99
How much did I spend? $43.31, which left me just enough to buy bread for the week. Knowing what I had at home in my pantry and fridge--eggs, cheese, butter, olive oil, chicken broth, rice, garlic, flour, white and brown sugar, wine--I was confident I could create seven delicious dinners (with leftovers for lunch!)
Next post: Que vais-je cuisiner?
Thursday, October 1, 2009
But a friend recently made the point that, while daily grocery shopping may work for me, most families plan menus for the week, do a weekly grocery shopping at a chain store, and don't shop the farmers market. Families scour the weekly food circulars, shop for what is on special, and plan their meals accordingly.
While this may not be the French way, it is an American way, and a cultural difference. But does that mean that shopping supermarket specials can’t yield delicious, healthy, seasonal meals?
I decided to take a close look at this week’s grocery circulars and challenge myself: using only the products on special, and staples from my fridge and pantry, I planned to create a week’s worth of meals using fresh ingredients, for a family of four. To further challenge myself, I wanted to do it for under $50.
So, armed with my Euro shopping trolley and my French attitude toward food and grocery shopping, I walked to the Safeway.
Next post: Qu'ai-je acheter?
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Hope everyone is healthy and happy.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
But I didn't want to let another day pass without saying thank you to Andrea at Rural Revival for passing on this award to me. Andrea, I promise to pass it on this weekend.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Located in California, French General is owned by designer and writer Kaari Meng. Talented, inspired, and inspirational, Kaari Meng has been delighting her readers for years, both through her blog, "The Warp and the Weft," and through her many books--Home Sewn, The French Inspired Home, French Inspired Jewelry, and A Shop of One's Own, just to name a few.
In addition to books and a product line, Kaari Meng/French General offers workshops, is available for special events, and will soon be hosting a getaway at Chateau Dumas in the south of France. For more information on French General just click here to visit their website.
If you've visited French General or are familiar with the books or product line, please share!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I have a small patch in my garden where the fragrant muguet des bois grows so every May Day I am able to snip sprigs, place them in tiny glass vases, and give them to my friends. I purchased my small glass vase, pictured here, at Target (sorry, they're not available online so there is no link). But you are just as likely to find something at IKEA, a craft store, or yard sale. Any container that is just a few inches high with a narrow neck will be perfect for holding a few sprigs of the fragrant flower.
Would you like to enjoy and share your own muguet des bois next May Day? If so, you'll need to plant now. If you don’t have a place in your garden, you can grow Lily of the Valley in a container, and, if you can’t wait until spring you can even force them indoors during the cold winter months. Just a note that the plants can be toxic for pets and small children if ingested, so take care where you plant. Click here for excellent information about ordering, planting, and forcing Lily of the Valley bulbs.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
On September 18, the Alliance Française de Washington, D.C. is hosting Jill Jonnes, author of Eiffel's Tower. Published in May, this book tells the history of the design, construction, and lasting impact of Gustave Eiffel's tower.
Both the cover and the book's description bring to mind Erik Larson's Devil in the White City. But where Larson's book is historical ficition, Jonnes book is decidedly nonficition, though it has quite a cast of colorful characters. Here's a review from the Alliance Française site:
"In Eiffel’s Tower, Jill Jonnes, author of the critically acclaimed Conquering Gotham, recounts in detail the compelling history of the Eiffel Tower’s conception, building, and reception in Belle Époque France.
At the same time, this lively and entertaining book tells more than the story of the world-famous monument. It also investigates the events and the remarkable artists and personalities that were part of the extraordinary World’s Fair of 1889, from Thomas Edison and Annie Oakley to James Gordon Bennett, Jr. and Vincent van Gogh.
Eiffel’s Tower is a richly textured and extensively researched portrait of a visionary, an architectural icon that became the glamorous symbol of Paris and French culture, and an era at the dawn of modernity, reveling in the limitless promise of the future."
While I won't be able to attend the booksigning, the book has already found a place in my stack of books to read!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Once home, I knew I had to find those cookies. I thought I had seen them in one of the neighborhood grocery stores, but which one? And would they still carry them? I was thrilled when finally, I found them at my favorite hypermarché, Super Target!
The history of LU is adapted here:
"The Lefèvre-Utile Biscuit Company was a baker and cookie maker founded in Nantes, France in 1846 by Jean-Romain Lefèvre. Today it is known as LU.
The name LU comes from Lefèvre and his business partner and wife, Pauline Utile. Their initials--LU--were first utilized by Alfons Mucha for an 1897 ad for the Lefèvre-Utile Biscuit Co. That same year the company hired Firmin Bouisset to create a poster ad.
Bouisset created Petit Écolier ("the Little Schoolboy") which incorporated the LU initials. Bouisset's poster was used extensively and the image was embossed on the company's Petit Beurre line of biscuits. Within a few years, the success of the logo resulted in the company becoming known as LU."
You can read more about the history of LU, the art, and the products by visiting the LU website. What's more, is since I discovered Petit Écolier two years ago, my neighborhood grocer now carries the whole line of LU products including Petit Écolier with white chocolate, dark chocolate, and extra dark chocolate!
If you haven't tasted Petit Écolier biscuits, check to see if your neighborhood grocer carries them. And if you can't find them, let me know because I just might have to send you a box . . .
Sunday, September 6, 2009
While browsing the kitchen section I stumbled upon the TEKLA tea towel: soft yet sturdy cotton fabric with a beautiful hand, that French inspired red stripe, and a herringbone weave that is reminiscent of vintage hemp fabric. Click on the photograph for a closer look; they're really handsome.
And what's more beautiful is the price: 49¢ a piece!
I would have purchased a half-dozen even if they were $4.90 a piece because they are that nice, but at less than $0.50 each, I scooped up quite a few; they will come in handy when I entertain. And I can imagine a dozen other uses for them—dust cloth, polishing silver, bundled with a bit of ribbon for a hostess gift, even used as fabric to make some lovely café curtains à la Bonjour Madame! The folks over at apartment therapy/the kitchn even used them for oversize napkins.
These tea towels are not available online, but, if you find yourself at an area IKEA, you should check them out.
Don't you love finding quality items that are oh-so-affordable?
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Anyway, on the FC group there's been some discussion about the upcoming documentary The September Issue: Anna Wintour & the Making of Vogue. So I thought it might be fun to post a link to French Vogue.
I love the ads, the Vogue TV, and this link to a few pages from French Vogue's February, 1974 issue. Très amusant!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
What a lovely little book! Less than six inches square in size, it feels more like a child's book than one written by an international stylist. And, like a children's book, it is filled with whimsy and delight and images that will transport you.
Here's what the author has to say:
"This is a book for lovers of all things handmade, the chic and unique, and of course Paris. In this book I take you off the tourist streets of this incredible city in search of Parisian artisans whose work is truly inspirational, and secreted studio boutiques filled with exquisite Parisian handmade treasures. I’ve been collecting these special addresses in my stylist’s little black book over the past couple of years and now with great delight, share them all with you in Paris: Made by Hand. Expect to see this fine city in a whole new light . . ."
I can't resist sharing this tiny treasure so I'm announcing a giveaway! To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment, and I will put your name into Random Generator. The drawing will be held Saturday, September 5, and you can enter as often as you like—each comment you post will count as an entry.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
There are only 4 ingredients—peaches, water, sugar, lemon juice—and the recipe couldn't be simpler. I approximate one cup of sugar for every pound of peaches, but, it really depends on the size of the fruit, and how sweet you like your jam. Remember though, this jam is made without pectin, so don’t skimp too much on the sugar or the mixture may not jell.
2-3 pounds of fresh peaches
½ cup of water
1 cup of sugar per pound of peaches, approximately
Juice from a fresh lemon
Several glass jars of various sizes
1. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits
2. Place the peaches in a heavy bottom stockpot, add the water, cover the pot, and simmer the peaches until they are cooked through. Stir the mixture frequently.
3. Add the sugar and continue to cook, uncovered. The mixture will reduce and thicken. If foam appears, remove it. Continue to stir to make sure it doesn’t burn.
4. You’ll know the jam is finished cooking if, when you stick a cold metal spoon into the mixture, the jam doesn’t run off the spoon when you pull it out.
5. Stir in the lemon juice and spoon the jam into clean jars. (I don’t sterilize my jars, but I do run them through the dishwasher on the highest temp.)
6. Cover tightly, and cool completely before refrigerating.
This recipe takes very little time—probably less than an hour. But making use of fruit-in-season is oh-so-French. Of course, the pleasure you get from making something so fresh is incomparable; the smell of the peaches is heady and fragrant. And, it is so delicious—better than any jam you will buy from the grocery store. If you give this easy confiture a try, I’d love to hear how it turns out.
I can’t wait until Sunday morning to spoon this on to a fresh baguette or croissant . . .
Monday, August 31, 2009
Because I've never taken my computer to France, what I didn't realize is, when you log on to Yahoo! in France, you find yourself at Yahoo! France.
When I first discovered this it took me a few minutes to get oriented, but after that it was great fun; what a wonderful opportunity to practice my French reading. Once I established the context I found that I could muddle my way through some articles, and the photos provided good text support.
Seriously, this is a challenge but so entertaining.
Enjoy Monday's "Fun French Link!"
Sunday, August 30, 2009
J’adore white tablecloths. A crisp, white cotton or linen tablecloth can transform the look of any table, and elevate a simple meal into an elegant experience. In Annecy it was not uncommon to see bistro tables adorned with white tablecloths, often for lunch, and always for dinner.
But you don’t need to go to France to achieve that elegance—you can do it at home, tonight. Many of you have a white tablecloth, oui? I recently purchased one at Crate and Barrel for $21.95. Pure, white cotton, 60 inch square with mitered corners and a beautiful drape, it’s exactly what I wanted and I will have it forever. But if you don’t have a tablecloth, a sturdy piece of white cotton fabric will work (dare I add, even a clean, percale sheet . . .).
After washing, let the cloth dry, but not completely; a little dampness will let you iron out any wrinkles with ease, and ensure crisp, knife-edge creases. And don’t forget to do the same with your napkins!
No special places settings are necessary, just make sure whatever you put on your table is sparkling. Take a bit of time to remove water spots from your glasses and rub your cutlery until it gleams. And remember, take pleasure in this preparation. Delight in performing these small domestic tasks; they will add to the experience.
Want an added touch? A small bunch of flowers from your garden in a small vase or juice glass will add a touch of color. After you’ve set the table, open a bottle of wine or sparkling water and set it on the table, et voilà! You’ve created that special “white tablecloth restaurant” feeling at home.
Simple and elegant, n’est pas? If you can’t try it tonight, save it for one night this week. I promise, it will make you want to linger, converse, and have just one more glass of wine, which is very, very French.
C’est bon, oui?
Thursday, August 27, 2009
An article in yesterday's New York Times features a brief interview with the book's author, Joan DeJean and the following review is from
"French cultural historian DeJean presents an entertaining account of how home life was virtually reinvented in Paris from 1670 to 1765 as sofas, running water and flush toilets appeared in modern residences: the city became a giant workshop in which inventions in the arts and crafts and innovative technologies were tried out.
Louis XIV's and Louis XV's royal mistresses displayed a bold vision for integrating architecture, interior decor and fashion, thus influencing modern comfort. In private mansions, French architects subdivided interior space to allow for varying degrees of privacy.
As bathing became a pleasurable, commonplace activity, tubs became more comfortable and were redesigned as decorative objects in their own right. Men fell in love with the superexpensive flush toilet; the sofa—created by the architect Meissonnier—attained instant celebrity status; and interior decoration became a subset of the new architecture of private life as Parisians discovered that domestic interiors should be the expression of their personal taste."
If you are interested in French history and culture you have to be tempted, n'est ce pas?
But, there is one blog I read daily, religiously and that is Tongue in Cheek. I’ve never met Corey Amaro, but I feel like I know her, her family, her friends. Every day she invites readers into her life, into her home, and yes, even into her bathroom (how many bloggers will do that for their readers?!)
Corey is an extraordinary photographer and her blog is a testament to her talent. She is also a collector of French brocante and the pieces she has in her collection will make you swoon. And one of my favorite sections of her blog, “French Dressing” is a collection of photos and recipes of her favorite foods.
I can’t say for sure how I discovered Tongue in Cheek, or what attracted me in the first place. But what keeps me reading day after day are her posts about her friends (especially Annie), her teenage children Sacha and Chelsea (I have a teenage son of my own and her stories about her son Sacha resonate with me), and her French husband (he reminds me of my sister’s French husband).
Corey has taken her readers to fancy parties and on day trips in the south of France. She takes us to the French brocante and to the marché. She invited readers into her home during her kitchen renovation (who does that?!) and most recently, Corey took us on a three week motorcycle trip she shared with her husband.
If you’ve never visited Tongue in Cheek, you are in for a treat. But be warned: the first time, you can’t drop in for a quick visit! No, no, you need to pour a glass of wine and settle in for a time because reading Corey’s blog is like reading a good book, or paging through a new issue of your favorite magazine. Beautiful photography, trips to Paris, stories about Corey’s family, her antiques—there is so much to take in!
As I said, I have never met Corey, but I feel like I know her. She is fun and funny and wonderfully human. She is a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a good friend, and she generously shares some of her most intimate life moments with readers who have come to adore her.
Mille mercis, Corey.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
But there are other blogs I enjoy because they are still evolving. These writers try out new approaches, revising their blogs to more accurately reflect what they want to say. Mary over at A Simple Life and Stephanie from Bonjour Madame have recently changed direction or added features to their blogs. Even Andi, who does this professionally, has moved Misadventures with Andi from Blogger to Wordpress in order to take her blog to the next level.
It is a challenge to find new content or come up with ideas, especially if you're not living the sweet life in Paris. I'm finding myself a bit stuck at the moment, and I'm not sure why. My original intent was to share "ways to introduce small but authentic French touches into your life." So far, I've managed to stay on message, but while I was in France it was so tempting to do the tour d'Annecy, complete with photos of shops and cafes and markets and meals. And now that I'm home, I'm resisting the urge to write about "what I did on my summer vacation."
In my attempt to stay true to my original idea, while trying to sharpen my focus, I'm considering more series writing, and, writing within specific categories. For example, Monday's posts might be about style, Tuesday posts about food, etc. I'd also like to continue to review and share books, blogs, and websites I discover, so maybe that could be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday? All in all, it's not much of a change, n'est pas? But it feels less random, and I think it will help give shape to my writing.
So, c'est une bonne idée? I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Someone suggested that the sheath dress is enjoying new attention because Michelle Obama has made it a staple of her wardrobe. That may be true, although it seems just as likely that the style is popular simply because it is classic. From Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly to Jackie Kennedy to J.Crew, the sheath dress continues to enjoy a place in many wardrobes.
While Holly and Jackie sported pearls with their sheath dresses, what I saw in France was very different. Though it is a city and it is chic, Annecy sports a more casual chic. Instead of pumps with a sheath dress, it was strappy sandals, or even flip flops! Instead of pearls or a scarf, I saw simple gold or silver necklaces, or Senegalese beads, and the Birkin was replaced by a fun canvas bag or a market basket. It just goes to show that in France it's all about style, not fashion.
Before you say “but I can’t wear a sheath . . .” think about this: a sheath dress is designed to hug the figure. If you’re fuller in the hips, find a dress that accommodates your hips and have it tailored (which is très français, by the way). Seriously, think about Michelle Obama; she’s fit, but she’s not petite. And, if you don’t have Michelle’s arms, there is always the cardigan.
Anyway, one of the first things I did after unpacking was to pull out my charcoal grey sheath dress (and my cardigan), put on my sandals, grab my market basket, and head out to do the grocery shopping.
And I felt very French . . .
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Summer gardens hold so much promise. We know what we’ve planted and what it will look like: we know that tomatoes will grow here and the roses will bloom over there, and the catmint will tumble over the wall. Still there is anticipation for the flowers and vegetables that will entertain and sustain us for months. I didn’t get to see the gardens at the height of summer beauty, a trade-off for spending time in a different place. But the trade was more than fair, n'est ce pas?
I haven’t forgotten Laura Joliet’s list, and for weeks I’ve been thinking about my own. Honestly, though I’ve added a few things, I don’t think I can improve on hers. So this morning I cut the last of the yellow coreopsis, the fading crape myrtle blossoms, and the lariope spikes, gathered them into a beautiful bunch, and placed them in a white pitcher as a reminder to embrace the seasons, and that the simple and ordinary is beautiful.
Sometime today, take a look around your own yard, try to see it with fresh eyes, take some cuttings and place them in a simple vase. You'll see what I mean.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
It's going to take me a while to unpack, do laundry, and catch up on my life, then I will be back to blogging.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Joliet's lessons are the same lessons I learn--and learn again--when I spend time in France. Savor the moment, simple is beautiful, embrace the seasons are mantras that I try to live by, but they can easily slip away if I'm not reminded. I found humor in Joliet's observations "keep things clean" and "don't be afraid to make a mess"--and her reminder to "set the table!"
I will miss blogging when I'm in France, but as Joliet reminds me, it is important to savor the moment. So, I will savor the time with my family who I see only once a year--my sister, her husband, and my nephews--and the friends I have made over the years. I look forward to many delightful al fresco dinners, drinking many bottles of wine, eating lots of bread, and, practicing my French.
I loved Joliet's post and will keep it in mind as I make my own list over the next few weeks of things I learned on vacation in France.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Just yesterday I connected with an artist whose work and blog I discovered on Etsy. Then, this morning while doing a search on “french laundry” (don’t ask), I discovered yet another blog I wanted to share.
Currently on the Yahoo French Chic/FC group there is a thread about the soon-to-be-released movie, "Julie & Julia." As you may know, the story is about a young woman who cooks her way through each of the 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and blogs about the experience.
What does this have to do with french laundry and the blogosphere? Well, I discovered another blog, French Laundry at Home, written by a woman who has cooked her way through chef Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook. A timely discovery, bien sûr!
You're probably familiar with The French Laundry restaurant, located in Napa, but I just recently learned about the restaurant, and have never seen the cookbook, so the blog caught my interest. Have you visited the restaurant or used the cookbook? Share, svp! I'd love to hear about it.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Inspired by European art and interiors, this artist has created beautiful paintings. I love her still lifes, but she also paints interiors which I know will appeal to some of my readers. This painting titled "Sweet Lavender" depicts a rustic French country interior and is from her European Interiors series.
Spishak's paintings on Etsy range in price from $48 for smaller pieces, to larger pieces which are priced appropriately. Her painting, "Moment with Monet" is featured in the August 2009 issue of Romantic Homes magazine and she writes about it on her blog.
I know some of you do collect original art and are fans of Etsy. If you visit Shann's site, I'd love to hear what you think about her work and if you enjoy it as much as I do.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Lac d'Annecy is framed by mountains, most notably Mont Veyrier, which is a haven for paragliders. The lake covers 10.5 square miles, with an average depth of 135 ft. and is one of the cleanest lakes in the world. The villages that encircle the lake are beautiful--Veyrier, Menthon-Saint-Bernard, Talloires--each with its own unique personality and offerings.
I am sorry I will miss the Tour as I don't arrive in Annecy until early Friday morning, but I'm sure I'll experience the remnants of this exciting event.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
- The French are not accustomed to fitted sheets; they use a flat sheet in place of a fitted one
- A long pillow, a traversin, is used at the head of the bed and often the sheet is pulled up, over and around the traversin
- A traversin may also be covered in its own case, as pictured here
- The couette, or down comforter is one of the bed coverings of choice; the couette has its own covering which is washed weekly with the sheets
- The bedskirt, or dust ruffle, is an indispensable part of the bed's ensemble; it is not only a decorative touch but is used to conceal what is stored under the bed
- The turnback of the top sheet is very deep, as shown in the picture, often to showcase lovely hem or trim
- The oversized pillows that are seen adorning a bed are called "European squares" and are 26" x 26" square
- These pillows are often in cases that are embellished or monogrammed
- Because the French like to display their pillows, their shams, and their top sheet, the bedcover is often folded back upon itself
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The French girl in me adores toile. Properly identified as toile de jouy, this fabric originated in the village Jouy-en-Josas in 1759 when a new process for printing on cotton was invented. Traditionally printed in red or blue, toile is now printed in all colors—green, violet, yellow—and is not limited to fabrics. While I have a beautiful blue and white toile boutis on my bed, I also have a yellow and blue toile Thibaut wallpaper in my powder room.
Even more colorful than toile, are the indiennes provençale fabrics we associate with Provence. Originally block printed in India and imported to France, these fabrics were once banned because of the impact of their popularity. After the Revolution this fabric fell out of favor, until the 1930s when it was manufactured again by the Deméry family in what is now the world famous company, Souleiado.
Jacquard, named for its inventor Joseph-Marie Jacquard, refers to the woven designs created on a special loom. Jacquard weaves are appreciated for their intricate and complex designs, which often result in rich, heavy, elegant fabric used in draperies, upholstery, and bedspreads. However, one of my favorite jacquard textiles are lovely cotton tea towels, woven by Tissage Moutet.
Once a craft practiced by only men, petit point later came to be associated with noblewomen and a proper upbringing. Following the Industrial Revolution, more women had time on their hands and petit point grew in popularity and was most often used to fashion pillow covers or cushions for a chair.
Fascinating histories, lovely fabrics, and another way to add a touch of France to your home, n’est-ce pas?
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
When it comes to seating and serving, it appears that the French and Americans do not differ so much; important guests are seated near the hosts, and women are always served before men. But that is where the similarities seem to end.
Did you know that in France, the guest never touches the wine bottle, and the wine glass is never filled to the top (maybe that's why the guest shouldn't touch the wine bottle)? C'est vrai! It is the role of the host to make sure all the wine glasses remain half full.
When the French dine, both hands are visible--never in the lap--with the wrists resting lightly on the edge of the table. MacLachlan points out that this custom dates back to earlier times when the fear of a concealed weapon was a reality.
As we know, bread is served at all French meals, but instead of slathering a slice with butter and eating it whole, the French prefer to break off a small piece of bread, sometimes using it to push food onto their fork. Much more civilized, n'est-ce pas?
Speaking of forks, in France the fork is held in the left hand, tines down, and it is never transferred to the right hand. The knife, which is held in the right hand, is used for cutting and for coaxing bits of food onto the renegade fork. Anyone who has tried this continental style of eating knows it takes some practice, but when mastered, one feels a great sense of accomplishment!
The knife and fork are also used to cut fruit into quarters, then each piece is peeled separately. I have often watched French brother-in-law expertly eat fruit this way and am always impressed with his ease and tidiness in the task.
And what do you do at the end of the meal? When the meal concludes, the fork and knife are placed on the plate, parallel to the table edge, with their handles resting at three o'clock, and the napkin is placed on the table, but not refolded.
MacLachlan continues with observations on table conversation, the art of inviting and receiving guests, and insistence that dinner guests experience only pleasure. The formula? Etiquette aside, pour a good wine, serve good food, and keep things simple.
Monday, July 13, 2009
This book was part of the Bringing it Home series published in the 1990s and includes Bringing Italy Home and Bringing England Home, as well as the book on French living. The series is designed to show how to “incorporate the very best of another country's decorating, entertaining, and kitchen secrets into American homes.”
As I prepare to leave for France, I thought it might be fun to revisit this book and share some of MacLachlan’s observations with you. Over the next week or so I'll write about some of my favorite parts which include "How to Make a Bed," and "How to Set the Table" a la Française, her writing on French textiles, and the simple pleasures of French living.
I'd also love to hear from anyone who is familiar with the book, or knows of others like it.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
As some of you know, I am a teacher. Yesterday, while researching books for my students, I discovered this video of Capucine, an adorable five year old French girl who could clearly write a book of her own.
Apparently Capucine has quite a following--one writer referred to her as a "pint size Audrey Tatou"-- so you may have already viewed this video of Capucine weaving her fantastic story about monkeys, crocodiles, Tigger and Winnie, and a witch with an orange ring.
And I never knew that the hippopatamus était allergique a la magie . . .
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
Some say citron pressé is just a fancy French name for lemonade, but, I disagree. Citron pressé is made to order, by the glass rather than the pitcher. Order this drink at any café in France, and the waiter will bring you a tall glass filled with ice and the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon. Alongside your glass you'll receive a carafe of cold water, and one--maybe two--sugars. You adjust the water and sugar to taste.
The first time I had citron pressé was in Annecy. We had spent the afternoon walking around the old city and it was time for a pause. I don't remember what I ordered, but my sister ordered a citron pressé and I was immediately intrigued (especially by her expert pronunciation!) She let me taste it and everyone was amused by my reaction to this tart drink!
Because it is so tart, you have to sip a citron pressé, which makes the taste, and the pause, last that much longer. Try the recipe below and see if you don't agree.
4 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Pitcher of chilled water
Put a small amount of ice into 2 glasses
Pour 2 oz lemon juice into each glass
Add water and stir in sugar to taste
Makes 2 servings.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
For the next few weeks you can bring France into your home by following the 96th tour. The tour begins today in Monaco and will finish 21 days from now with the ride down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
You can click on the pic to see this year's route, and you can listen to the story on this clip from National Public Radio.
Wishing all the cyclists bonne chance!