La Dentelle du Puy

June 29th, 2010 comments 1

available here

Who doesn’t succumb to the charm of antique French Lace?

According to the oficial website for La Dentelle du Puy, the origin of lace making in France is unknown. However, legend has it that in 1407 a young girl highly skilled in embroidery was commissioned by the Bishop to create a cloak for a statue of the Black Madonna. She aspired to create a thing of beauty and eventually had the idea to attach strands of thread to pins. She then laced the threads together to create a delicate, transparent fabric that we now know as la dentelle. If you read French there’s a fascinating article outlining lace’s lengthy timeline here…. you’ll find politics, religion, commerce…who would have thought that lace had such a colorful history!

The area in the upper Loire around Puy le Velay became a center for the lace making trade early on. The tools required were, and still are, simple; a pattern, pins, bobbins, thread and what’s called the carreau. The carreau is the frame that sits in the lap of the lacemaker Most were hancrafted by the women dentellières themselves, each women adding her personality to her carreau through it’s decoration. Last weekend’s brocante yielded this treasure…

This particular carreau is special because it belonged to a child. The vintage paper covering is ever so charming. I have visions of a sweet young girl, head bowed, intent on learning a craft that her mother and grandmother and maybe even great grandmother had known. How old was she and what was her favorite pattern? I wish I knew.

And this collector’s piece is a sampler volume created during a young lace makers training. Eventually this book would be used to show prospective clients examples from which they could choose a pattern. This piece dates to the 1800’s and comes from the village of Crest, which is Provence.

One of the things that draws me to antiques, large and small, is the craft involved. So many of yesterdays treasures were wrought by hand and represent the time, talent and love of an individual. These cherished objects are the legacy of those skilled hands.

(Psssst, they’re both in the online shop….)

Shades of Pink

June 28th, 2010 comments 4

Le rhododendron commence à fleurir

Le dipladenia en fleur

Un verre de Rosé - bien frais!

Strawberry Crème Fraiche Ice Cream

Inspired by a recipe found here (which was adapted from David Lebovitz).
I’ve substituted a bit of crème fraiche which gives an ever so slight (and rich) tang… yum!

  • 1 pound ripe strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 TBl Chambord
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup crème fraiche
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Make the strawberry puree: In a blender, puree the strawberries until completely smooth. Strain the berry puree through a fine mesh sieve into a glass bowl, taking care to extract all of the strawberry juice. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar and Chambord, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make an ice bath: Fill a large bowl with several inches of ice water (half ice half water). Set a smaller metal bowl of at least a 6 cup capacity in the ice water. Pour 1/2 cup of the heavy cream into the inner bowl. This will help cool down the custard. Set a fine mesh strainer on top.

Make the custard: Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan mix the remaining 1 cup of cream with the milk, the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. Heat the mixture over medium high heat stirring ocassionally, until the sugar dissolves and tiny bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan. In a steady stream, pour half of the warmed cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.

Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly until the custard thickens slightly and measures 175°F to 180°F on an instant read thermometer. Do not let overheat or boil or it will curdle.

Immediately strain the custard into the cold cream in the ice bath.

Cool the custard: Stir the custard frequently over the ice bath until an instant rean thermometer measures 70°F. Add the strawberry puree and mix well.

Chill and freeze the custard: Chill the custard mixture in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove custard from refrigerator and stir in 1/2 cup of crème fraiche and the lemon juice. Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. I used a simple Donvier hand crank model and it filled it to the brim but worked beautifully… It’s sooooo good!


Before and After Encore

June 26th, 2010 comments 3

i’m sending a heartfelt thanks for the generous comments and emails you’ve sent about our kitchen project. And today I’m feeling particularly honored to be mentioned here on the fabulous blog Belgian Pearls.
Thank you Greet!

I promised some of you more “before and after” shots so here are a couple of images… more to come… Have a great weekend!

Before - red window matched the blue and red ceiling!



After - Mezzanine reading nook

What Do You See?

June 23rd, 2010 comments 4

i read an excellent blog post the other day by Tara Bradford of Paris Parfait (you can read the rest of her post here). It has me thinking about the “business” of seeing. For the design aficionado, professional or amateur, it’s all about what we see, how we interpret and translate what we see, and most importantly, how what we see makes us feel.

Yet even the best “eye” can go through life blind. Tara reminds us that true seeing isn’t a spectator sport and that it’s more than a visual sense. It’s about opening our eyes to the the moment and fully engaging with life on all of it’s levels. Even the messy ones.

From Tara….
Seeing what’s in front of us

How often do we take the time to really see?

It’s one of life’s persistent mysteries that many people have a gift for noticing everything, while others appear willfully blind. Well-meaning friends and acquaintances may pry open their eyes…trying to highlight the sparkle and sizzle and wonder of their surroundings. But they are reluctant partners, afraid to splash too much colour onto life’s messy canvas. They worry about the consequences of becoming fully awake and engaged in life. Instead, they dwell drowsily in comfort zones mired deep in charcoals and greys.

What would it take for them to snap out of their slumber? A loss? Love? A lost love? A fresh challenge? Why do some people shun the sun in favour of shadows? Too fearful to tread unknown paths, they stick to tired and familiar routes. But safe havens do not exist.

As we know all too well, life is fragile. Love is mercurial. Change is the only certainty, despite our efforts to preserve the status quo.

So let’s open our eyes and revel in the beauty of what is, right here, right now, today.

“The time which we have at our disposal is elastic;
the passions that we feel expand it; those that we inspire contract it;
and habit fills what remain.” -Marcel Proust

…’nuff said.
(except for that bit about charcoal and grey… which was surely metaphorical, because grey goes with pretty much everything!)

From The Hands of A Fisherman’s Wife

June 21st, 2010 comments 3

This weekends brocante unearthed several treasures and today’s post shows one of my favorites. Shell art is a fascinating form of l’art populaire – folk art, and many cultures produced beautiful examples.

However the pieces I see in the French markets are seldom as intricate as this and tend to have a stronger Victorian feel. The dealer explained that this one came from Brittany and that pieces such as this were often crafted by the fishermen’s wives. The imagery reminds me of the the motifs we see on small wedding chests from the same part of France.

It’s lost some of it’s decoration along the way, but it’s “crunchy” look is part of it’s appeal. The background is a tapestry of teeny-tiny shells, the size of a pin head, reminiscent of a Native American sand painting. Glass beads form the red and green areas.

The flower petals were created with miniature clam shaped shells mounted on their edge. I can’t imagine the time and patience involved. I re-glued a couple of the loose shells and as I was positioning them I managed to glue the shell AND the tube of super glue to my finger!

La Cuisine… Before And After

June 17th, 2010 comments 16

It’s a pretty scary image isn’t it! Yet somehow I saw possibility… I seriously wonder what I had been drinking….

I’ve mentioned before that we’ve been en travaux (under renovation) for what seems like an eternity, but now that most of the dust has cleared, I thought I’d share some pic’s of the finished project.

It all started with the kitchen and I’m happy to report that the room is no longer pink. There wasn’t anything we could salvage in the old space, in fact, what was the kitchen is now a bedroom and what was a bedroom has become the new kitchen. I wish my photos were better but I think they’ll give you an idea. In the new kitchen we kept the exterior walls and windows as they were and gutted the interior shell. Layout was a challenge because of the four doorways and traffic flow. The space wasn’t wide enough for a center island but we managed a bar area that’s great staging for serving on the terrace.

I found old planks that had been used to age big rounds of cheese and we had them re-purposed into the cabinet doors. The grain of the wood is rough and raised from years of washing and the color is a soft pale grey/white/tan melange. The cabinet boxes themselves -mostly all drawers – are Ikea. Sending Ikea love here…

In Provençal fashion we built plaster legs for the cabinets, but I wanted to try to create a more modern look with the old techniques so the legs are extra thick and have a radius that’s repeated throughout the room. The counters are a grey Portuguese limestone, totally impractical, and I know better, but I like the patina they’re developing… it seems to go with the house. The floor is pierre de Bourgogne – stone from Burgundy. Grey-ish palette of zellige tiles on the wall. Grey-ish paint on doors, windows, kicks, and shelving.

Dishes are stored in an 18th century armoire from Uzes, very simple, sober lines. It’s a brownish purpley color that I also have in some of the pottery scattered around from the Alsace region of France. (The purpley brown glaze was created using magnesium.) Antique Swedish chairs and French Directoire table that we can extend to feed a crowd.

I scraped the paint off of an 18th century door to use on the pantry, inch by tiny little inch.

Stone sink and other antique bits and bobs with some wood and antique wicker to add texture… I didn’t put the sink under the window in this kitchen. I don’t spend that much time at the sink but I do spend a lot of time chopping and baking and I wanted the view as I cooked.

I do love cooking in this kitchen… can you come for lunch?

But the very best thing about this room has to be the view.

View to the East

Double doors lead out to a terrace that looks toward Mt. Ventoux, Gordes, Roussillon, Lumieres and the valley below… a window looks to the east and the sunrise.. another window to our “found” outdoor eating area. Our home isn’t large, it’s a small-ish maison de village and no matter how we try to make it just so, mother nature always carries the trump card. Thanks for taking the tour, I hope you liked it!

Dans Mes Paniers

June 16th, 2010 comments 0

il ne faut pas mettre tous ses ouefs dans le même panier. Putting your eggs in one basket… the same proverb exists in French as in English. And though my actual eggs were safe and sound, I had squarely placed all of my online life on the same web host. Six websites, two blogs and numerous email addresses… all in the very same basket. So when the web host accidently disconnected the account 3 days ago… poof, everything disappeared.

After a lot of hand wringing and many, many hours on the telephone, most of the sites have been restored, including this blog. Whew! Email’s still not working but there’s hope on the horizon. Just before this catastrophe I had added a subscribe button, which disappeared in the restore process. I know that a few friends had stopped by and signed up but I’m afraid that the cord was cut, so if you’re reading and you happened to be one of them, please submit your name again. And if you sent me an email after the 13th, unfortunately I didn’t get it. Uhhggg.

Luckily I’ve had other baskets to distract me. The kitchen is one of my favorite places to de-stress, and the apricot tree has decided to ripen all at once, so jam’s on the menu. Last year I played around with several different recipes and this version was the star. It has the sweet honey tang of the apricot and a subtle bitter marmalade notes from the lemon peel. It tastes like sunshine.

Apricot Lemon Preserves

  • 500 grams (1 pound) lemons (organic and washed) sliced and finely chopped
  • 500 ml (2 cups) water
  • 5 kilos (12-1/2 pounds) fresh apricots, halved

Place lemon pulp and water into a jam pan and simmer until citrus is soft.

Add halved apricots and cook slowly until fruit is soft and beginning to break up. Add sugar and raise the temperature gradually until it has reached the boiling point. Boil steadily for at least 30 minutes. You may need to stir during the last bit to keep jam from spitting.

Pour into sterilized jars. Lid jars and invert them for about 2 minutes. Turn jars upright and cool then refrigerate. Or can in a hot water bath.

This recipe will make about 8 pints of deliciousness. Not only is it excellent on toast but also stirred into unsweetened greek yogurt or as the base of an almond tart. Apricots and almonds play so well together.

Scenes From The Vide-Grenier

June 14th, 2010 comments 1

a bucolic setting in the heart of the Luberon.

While just around the corner and down the road, a weekend ritual unfolds…

On tarps, on blankets, in the dust…

Piled on tables, in boxes, or the back of a van…

Heads bowed, eyes scanning, searching…

In this jumble of stuff we set our filters and hope to find treasure…

But sometimes all we find are “manpris”…

And as fashion trends go, I’m not a big fan.

Love In a French Parking Lot

June 13th, 2010 comments 0

it’s an image that so many of us have admired. And for me it inspired a genealogical search for a bed: a treasure hunt for an 18th century twin sister, just as in the photo… or perhaps her 18th century cousin… definitely not a 19th or 20th century distant relative.

She’s been elusive, and it seems to have taken ages… but she was there, a taxi strike and a long walk in the rain away. Standing upright and proud in a parking lot, waiting… (I think)… for me. Headboard, footboard and rails and the perfect gris patina of time.

I’ll re-upholster her soft spots in vintage chanvre or linen… then she’ll be itching to be set free, to find a permanent home with some lucky someone, somewhere. I hope, whoever it is, will have lovely linens and a ciel de lit waiting!

…the source of the 1st photo is unknown, I tore it out many moons ago and unfortunately can’t remember from where…

After It Rains In Provence

June 12th, 2010 comments 2

still enjoying house guests…  and soaking up the green.

It’s vide-grenier day tomorrow in Apt and Oppede. I’m hoping for sunshine and hidden treasure. Stay tuned!

Where am I?

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