In France it always starts with food.
Which you can buy on any street corner. Buy a French baguette, a hunk of cheese, and a box of Medoc wine and attach it to a moped. Picnic a go-go.
Beauty is everywhere in France even at the back of a restaurant. How would you like this hunk of Cheese? It gives a new twist to "Take Out" food.
"Bonjour! Je m'appel Take me Home." (He is for you Nancy and Delphine, two friends who leave comments on this blog.)
(French souvenirs... Soap. Keep it clean Corey!)
A French Story of Food and Romance here is how it goes:
The young tourist came to France. She jumped on a moped, taking a spin to the backside of a restaurant. There she met her knight in a white apron. He grabbed the dessert (or was the dessert!) and they rode to his backyard and had a picnic.
Photos: Around where I live.
When I arrived in France I was thirty years old and did not speak more than three words in French. Some of you have asked me what was that like and how long did it take me to learn to speak French.
It took me a very l.............o.......................n.......................g time to learn French. I am still learning. I have a very thick accent that doesn't bother me in the least. Several years ago at a dinner party a man asked me if I could read in French. I answered that I could read basic French but not classic novels. I also admitted I could not write in French. In which he replied (in French) "Aren't you ashamed of yourself? After all these years you haven't learned?" I replied, "I am stupid." I thought I might as well tell him what he thought and avoid anymore of his insults. It worked. The conversation about my French language skills ended, though the dinner conversation continued on lighter topics.
Since then when French people ask me how long I have lived in France I know in a small way they are judging my French. If I say "twenty years," they often reply in one or two ways:
1. You speak well, but you have a very thick accent.
2. You speak like this after twenty years?
After awhile this sort of response started to bug me.
I thought I would change my answer so that we would all feel good. Therefore when a French person asks me how long have I lived in France I say, "Not too long." They respond by saying;
1) Incredible! Your French is very very good.
They smile and I smile everyone is happy.
Yes I am bending the truth. But that is a fault I can live with. Unless God only speaks French in which case I am busted.
I speak French. I dream in French. I can follow a conversation in French. I started to speak French when I found out I had cancer 15 years ago. (Amazing what a little fear can do to one's language skills.) I can buy antiques in French. I can also kiss in French, make crepes, and I feel I have come a long way since the day I couldn't say more than oui and non.
Photos: French vintage pieces found in a scrapbook.
When I arrived in France I didn't speak a word of French. Well, I spoke three words maybe five, humble pie was my constant buddy, observing in silence my new vehicle and re-decorating was how I stayed focus during dinner parties.
Things we collect. The smallest things. Bits and pieces, from here and there.
Things we collect that we attach meaning to, find pretty, or odd, that seem to say something to us.
Like people, places, ideas, words....
That stick to us, hold on to us... sometimes rewarding us with wonderful memories, and yet other times causing us to feel feelings that confuse us, allowing us to search for the reason.
Small gestures speak volumes.
Words that can lift up or pin us down.
What small word or gesture speaks to you?
I love watching my little nieces and nephews play. I love seeing their small movements.
I love being with my Aunts and watching their love pour freely.
I love the details of a party planned with care and attention.
Gentleness and humor
song and dance
life and living
the beauty and the beast
the stirrings of the heart
and the unknown reasons
that make our souls sing.
photos: Bits and pieces of vintage collections, and photos of my family too. The angels are my Godmother's paintings.
The garden of Albertas is between Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence created in XVIII century. The French garden is strongly influenced by the Italians. It is permanently in bloom with naked statues. Very colorful in gray tones. Flowers could not be seen, well at least my eyes didn't notice any other flowers. I was not disappointed.
It is rare to see a garden full of male statues. Everywhere I looked they seem to peek out, and then quickly turned their heads in shyness. Of course I looked and focused on each one of them. I was not shy. They stood very still. Oh those Italians thank you for influencing the French! I love their seductive powers.
The garden was created for the Marquis d'Albertas, where he had plans to construct his castle. Though due to the French revolution the castle never came to be. The Marquis Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas was murdered in 1790.
Only the garden remains...
The statues wait unclothed.
We were invited to party held in this Eden like garden. The tables were set up under a white tent. Look at all the flatware right side up. Each person received an olive tree. I found the symbol of peace soothing given the history of this place.
We went early so I could feast on the pleasure of taking photos. The party started with drinks in front of the basin.
In front of the stone basin stood a long table with white linen. Bottles of vintage regional wines where served.
How I wish this were my garden. Of course with the gardeners too.
Isn't this an amazing entrance gate? Imagine driving under that crown in a coach, lead by six white horses, and a glass of champagne in hand. I was happy as a lark walking underneath it. Thankfully those involved in the French revolution didn't destory the garden, nor its gate.
Rusty is gold to me.
I wanted to kiss him but he ran too fast!
The tent tops behind the hedge. I felt royal and giddy, I love dress up parties.
France with its rich history and culture gives a farm girl like me a place to live a fantasy. How lucky I feel to see places like this and weave stories in my mind. I wonder how the family felt after creating this garden, realizing that they would not be able to build their castle, having their lives stripped? The French revolution created different dreams.
Why is this man dressed? Why is this man smirking at me? Why is he telling me to stop acting like an American tourist! How dare he stand dressed in this garden! Viva la difference!
French silverware speaks of the importance that the French put on food and meal- time. The French have a fork, knife, spoon for every food under heaven. They also have one for every sauce, and believe me they love their sauces. To which my thighs cry AMEN!
Since we are an American-Franco family some of my silverware is from America. The innocent pair come to the table, an American fruit knife (1920s) and dessert fork (1940s.)
Unlike dinner knives and forks, the fruit knife has a sharp blade with a point on the end for stabbing fruit after it has been cut. The dessert fork has a fancy prong "do." Often the tip is curled-in to aid with slicing into a cake bite.
The fruit knife and dessert fork are much smaller than the dinnerware knife and fork.
The French place the silverware upside down on the family table, well that is in comparison to the American style of setting a table. The monograms on French silver are on the backside. Note the photo of the same service (1880): The fork's front side is bare, and the back side is elaborate.
Though at restauants the French place the silverware right side up. I am sure my dear friend Marie Noelle is going to tell me why (look for her comment below.)
The French have two sizes of spoons for coffee. A tiny one for espresso and a larger one for cafe au lait. The larger spoon can be used for tea, hot chocolate, eating cereal and yogurt (... ) that tiny espresso spoon has a singular role, certainly it feels smug adorning those cute little expresso cups!
(Photo French tea and coffee cups. Hand painted 1920s)
The table fork goes onthe left side of the plate. The table knife goes on the right, with its blade facing towards the plate. The table soup spoon (which looks like a serving spoon) goes by the table knife. The dessert spoon and cheese knife go on top.
The first time I came to France and had a meal at French husband's parents home I went as stiff as the silverware in front of me. The array of silverware overwhelmed me. I sat the entire lunch (five hours) mimicing French husband's Father. Whatever fork, knife or spoon he grabbed I followed suit. I don't remember a thing I ate, but I thank God for French husband's Father's impeccable manners.
Another view of a French table setting line up. As you can see I have mix and match silverware. It makes collecting easier and fun. Find a pretty fork at the flea market, inexpensive since it is on its own. Buy it polish it... Instant success! It adds to the collection and shakes up the snobby line up.
And by the way the French eat Pizza with a fork and knife. Tres Elegant.
Photos: Vintage French silverware.
Tipping over the card board box of vintage linen and lace the vendor gave me the thumbs up to dig through them, she went to the car bringing out another stack of linens. I asked her if she had ever dyed them because I wanted to learn how if she did. She slapped my back and said she barely had time to keep up with the demand let alone do something with them.
Linen and lace are easily found at the flea markets, though printed fabric such as lightweight romantic cottons, or printed linen, or the best- antique woven silks- are the true finds of the day.
Ribbons, bows, tassels, silk flowers or sashes often used for first communion or weddings are another favorite to be found. Better yet if found at an affordable price. Pale blue is a common color, one that is soft and subtle as the morning sky.
I found this baptismal gown and cape at a flea market years ago for my brother's first baby. Looking for nearly nine months... sure I found many, each more beautiful than the next. My goal was to find one that was rich in hand made white cotton lace, one within a certain price range, and that was in perfect condition. The cape and gown are different patterns, though from the same period of time.
Antique monogram bed linens. Is it possible that they could be 2000 thread count or more? Some are as heavy as a blanket.
As looms were smaller a century ago the older bed linens have a seam that run down the center. Hand stitched seams indicate age and are more sought after. The pillow case in the photo has a ruffle added by a sewing machine. Often old bed sheets were cut and made into pillows. The top edging would be used to add a ruffle or trim to the case. These type of pillow cases are of lesser quality, and are often softer on the pocket book.
A school girl's seam sampler. The sampler pieces pressed to perfection are attached to pink paper and a small bow adorn the corners. How sweet is that!
Over sized chimney runner, with fellow friends.
A sheet made into a pillowcase, though the crochet lace was added afterward.
Antique lace curtain panels.
Photos: Of linens and lace from the flea markets in France. Are you ready to come and find some?
Details of love. Do you share them?
Sacha asked, "How does a girl like to be treated?"
I said, "Listen to her. Share with her. Notice who she is."
Sacha replied, "Mom, Mom, Mom... we are talkin' my age, nowadays, not eighteen century whatever. "
(Photo this summer of my friend Ulla and her jewelry that she creates.)
I asked Sacha if he remembered when Molly (his cousin and my four year old niece,) dressed up in a vintage dress said, "I need a Prince." I asked him if he remembered when she asked him, "Cousin, will you be my Prince? I need a handsome boy?" He nodded yes.
Photo: My niece Molly dressed as a Princess.
"Sacha," I said, "Girls at any age, whether four, fourteen, forty or more, want to be loved and appreciated. They want to share life and laugh and enjoy the freedom to be loved as they are. They want a Prince of a man to believe that they are worthy of everything true and beautiful. A fairytale can be real life.
Isn't it true?
Sacha you have the golden slipper in your hand. Send positive thoughts to the woman of your dreams. She is there, and she too is dreaming of you. Your time will come."
Photo: A vintage small golden shoe.
I know deep down Sacha heard me, though he still shook his head and said, "Mom, Mom, Mom, I was kinda hoping you would say something like offer them a piece of gum and say "Hi" when you walk by. You know something normal day to day stuff like that."
Yeah that works too.
The French have a love affair with style. Note the square base, the etching going up to the rim. The stylish designs are a feast for the eyes and soul, especially if you are invited to dinner where you can see the details of small beauty in the everyday tableware.
There is a glass for every purpose under heaven in their cupboards. Can you taste a strawberry parfait in this one?
When in doubt serve champagne. Champagne is one drink in France you can serve anytime of the day or evening. I like that. It doesn't have to be for a special reason. This beauty is a Louis sixteen style champagne glass. I found six of them in a dusty box at a flea market. Dust not longer claims them.
This hand painted glass seems to sing, "Good morning would you like a glass of juice?"
A rare eighteen century (1700s) wine glass. The base of wine glasses this old are often wider than the rim. Slightly uneven in shape, and lightweight. This one is filled purposefully with memory tokens as to remind me to be careful with it... hopefully it will last another two hundred years with memories of my family.
A deep rose colored apertif glass... rose colored before serving, and after the color is reflected in our cheeks. It doesn't have to be filled to set my heart racing.
A French antique bistro glass is etched for a "fete" holiday. Celebrating the moment, creating an atmosphere, living ambiance... Meal time is a ritual in France. Food and wine hold sacred spots. Paper cups are a rarity unless at a picnic or at fast food joint. I love France for that reason alone, (even if I have to wash every glass by hand!)
As evening falls the stars come out, the dinner sounds are heard, the raising of the glass, the toast, the welcome... the sharing of the moment. Raise your glass to the stars and trust it will be filled with the joy of life.
Photos: French antique wine glasses from the cupboard that came out to take a bow.
Two English creamers stand side by side, similar in shape and design. Setting off the mood for a collection in pink.
Tapestry pillows with touches of pink inviting you to rest your head.
Above photos: Details of my friend Shelley's home.
Pink floral bouquet scent the inside and outside of this vintage French teacup.
Angel sleeping on her pink wings.
Textured floral painting.
Pink ribbon to lace your dreams.
Touches of rust add to this pink soap dish.
Shocking large panties by sexy pink sheets?
Pink Limoges charms on a misty green silk.
A Frenchman surrounded in the pink glow of the evening.
Show your colors.
Photos: A gathering of pink things.
French Provencal fabric. Depicting traditional colors and designs. Patterns that use to be hand-blocked using natural pigments of the region in shades of red, blue, yellow and green.
French Provencal early nineteen century traditional day wear costume. Varied small printed fabrics. Designs mainly of miniature bouquets, floral and paisleys. Quilted cotton, layers upon layers. Pocket purse attached at waist.
Note: Small pleats on the antique cape, and the scarf wrapped tightly around the bodice of the blouse, then tucked firmly at the waist.
Lavender bottles or wands (called "quenouilles de lavande" or "fuseaux," in French, thanks Marie Noelle for the answer.) used to scent chest of drawers and armoires.
Varied antique French Provencal "boutis" quilts. Folded with care. Rare Indian blues. This collection dates late eighteen century to the early nineteen century.
Photos: Taken at Michel Biehn shop in Isle sur la Sorgue.
Eighteen century French painting depicting women and children from the market place wearing traditional Provencal clothing. (Photo taken at the museum in Arles.)
Antique French santons (nativity scene characters) in traditional Provencal clothing. Quilted skirts, apron, scarves, and purse pocket.
Photo: 18th century Provencal boutis from my personal collection.
The choice is yours. Imagine that you had the time, the resources, the ability, complete freedom to do whatever you wanted, to have whatever you wanted... like having three wishes and one of the wishes you wish for the power to have more wishes. What would you do? What would you ask for?What box would you open first?
My Father went to his doctor apointment, and they said his blood counts were in the normal range.
Normal sounds extraordinary today!
The choice to be happy no matter what. To accept life at hand.
Photo: Antique limoge boxes.
How much did it cost you? An arm and a leg? Why did you pay so much? Was it something you've been looking for? How can you tell if it is real? Where did you find it? Are you sure it is going to fit in your house? Is it in perfect condition?
Everything has a price. Sometimes, the thing you want the most cost pennies, and other times it costs you nearly everything.
The question is: Is it worth it to you?
Sometimes, I wonder if the questions asked about buying antiques are not under-cover questions about life!
Photo! A peek into my home.
There is a hand that will lead you.... even when the door is closed.
Photo: My daughter Chelsea says I take more photos of doorknobs than anything else. French antique door knocker.
Do you know who this man is? He has being hanging out with me for a very long time, and still I don't know his name. (Click on the image to have a closer look.)
I'd like to get to know him can you help me unveil the man with the red bow? He has a partner. I wrote about her a year or so ago. I don't know her name either, and though many of you guessed and searched, her name remains a mystery as well.
I guess you could say this is a guessing game. For more clues click on the links up above.
I was standing on a stool, with a can of paint in one hand and a paint brush in another. Happily painting a wall in our hallway. I love to paint interiors. Suddenly without much warning I sneezed, in doing so I lost my balance nearly falling off the stool and down the stairs. Luckily I didn't... but the can of paint made a spectacular avant-garde design on the way down.
As I was cleaning up my Picasso I thought of my Mother, who years ago nearly fell off a ladder while painting. The can of paint landed upside down on her head running down into her ears and soaking her clothes. Avocado green hair now that is avant-garde.
Photo: The stairwell in my home not a drop of paint to be seen.
I am adding this a day later. While writing about my Mother's avocado green hair I knew there was more to the story and couldn't remember it. I spoke with my Mother today, and she reminded me. She added the punchline... She had a wedding to attend that evening. She went, green hair and all! My Mother is such a trooper!
French husband said he wanted a lamp for his bedside. He said he wanted one that worked. What he meant was he wanted a NEW lamp, a MODERN lamp! Not a find at the flea market standing on its last leg and flickering a romantic glow like a candle.
"Oh," I muttered. A new ugly lamp is what I thought. Though I knew French husband would never actually go to a shop and buy one. He hates to shop. I think the last time he stepped foot into a shop was to buy me a birthday present, and that was only once years ago. But that is another story.
I thought many moons would go by with the sweet, little, romantic lamp by his bedside flickering. Certainly he would forget his request by morning.
At the break of dawn he said he was going to buy a lamp. "Oh no, no-no-no, I already did!" I lied. "I bought you a new, modern lamp for your birthday!"
French husband laughed, "A lamp for a birthday gift?"
"Sure," and I added in case he forgot, "Remember when you bought me that printer that you wanted, then claimed it as my birthday gift a few years ago?"
He shook his head in disbelief, "I cannot wait to see it this evening."
"Doubt worry it will be wrapped up with a big red bow!" I smiled at him and freaked inside. I had to go buy a lamp fast!
When French husband came home there were two packages wrapped on the table. He opened them proudly. Two lamps, matching his and hers. New, modern and they work.
Happiness is love glowing brightly.
Photo: His new lamp by his bedside.
This is a post to answer a few questions I have been asked:
1) Yes, Chelsea started university (called Class Preparatory) in Aix. She is living in a studio and seems to be as happy as a lark. It is not too far away. No she is not joining the circus.
2) French Husband passed his flying test. Though there is a period of time where he must fly alone before he can take passengers. I will fly with him, and of course take photos. He has yet to pick a name for his plane. But when he does I'll let you know.
5) Thanks for asking me to be your guide in France.... though LE TRIP is the one to ask.
6) A beautiful place to stay in the south of France La Madrone. I could live there for the rest of my life. It is a dream.
7) My Father is as good as he can be in a not so good situation (he has a rare form of bone marrow cancer.) His morale is positive, his spirit strong. He is one tough old man with a heart of gold! Thank you for thinking of him.
8) I have a new camera Canon EOS 30 D . Though most of the photos on this blog have been taken with my Canon Power shot S2IS.
9) French husband does not have a brother.
10) I post everyday because I enjoy it. A book who knows.
*3) Thanks Star for reminding me that I didn't put a three. To answer yet another question I am dyslexic and forgetful.
Photo: Vintage doll head.
When my ancestors traveled from Portugal to the Azores Islands during the thirteen century, I was with them. I stood under their skin, living within their cells, intertwined within their spirit. Their sense of wonder and awe, beats steady within my heart.
When my Grandmother was a young girl she lived in the Azores when she stepped outside her front door she saw the ocean. I saw the horizon through her eyes, the sense of adventure is what remains deep within me.
When my Dad rode his motorcycle for the first time experiencing freedom as a young boy roaring through the countryside, it is his voice that echos enormously in my soul, YES!
And when my Mother jitter-bugged with her sisters on the dance floor I felt the beat from their rhythm, moving me to kick up my heel and twirl in the light of the moon.
We are connected past, present, and future. May our evolution stem from love and peace. Where do you come from?
Photo: A vintage calendar that hangs in my Godmother's house.
The porch door was open, inviting the early autumn leaves a place to rest. A few gathered taking solace by the old porch chair. Together they shared their stories with the words that were written on them. Words that had become the fabric of their being.
And in sharing those stories, their souls were revealed-
True colors that only eyes that listened could hear.
Photo: An old porch chair sharing her story by memory.
Photo shop and I are becoming friends. Or I should say, Photo shop let's me pretend I can paint!
Photo: A street in the town of Arles, France.
Photo: A chalk and paint art piece that I found at the flea market. Actually I found it in between the pages of an old book I bought there. Happy surprise! I wonder if Photo shop can do that on its own?
Photo: A window in Arles full of flower pots. Tweaked by playing around with Photo shop.
The joy of discovering something new! Photo shop and I are going to be best friends who spend many late nights together. I guess this old dog can learn a new trick or two!
Now if only I could learn to paint.
What are you discovering new about yourself?
The shout went out, "Put your best foot forward!" The table leg obeyed. She didn't care that her foot was peeling, cracked and rough. It was her best. It was more than enough.
photo: A peeling red table leg knows her stuff. Genuine antique.
"In ten years time will I remember this moment?" This is something I say to myself when I think the situation I am in is unpleasant, scary or unsurmountable. Saying this puts things in perspective. It reminds me that the situation at hand is not that bad, nor even close to being noteworthy tomorrow.
Though I have asked myself, "In ten years time will I remember this moment?" And the answer has been yes. It is in these moments I have stood up and truly be aware of life at hand. As if the unpleasant situations were stepping stones to seeing with new eyes, allowing me to kiss those stones as they helped create me.
I found this video today and was struck by its message, and how true it is. Crazy Sexy Cancer.
Live the life you have, grab it kiss it and let it be the rock that anchors you to being truly who you are....beautiful.
Photo: A statue in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. A woman with no arms can still fly.
(Today is French Husband's birthday.)
We were sitting by one another, just the two of us, I looked over at him as he drove, thinking... When you love someone, you believe in them...You would go to the ends of the earth for them. When you love someone you share in their journey, and feel their depth. You trust them and you allow yourself to free fall into their being, knowing it is going to be safe.
I sat by French husband knowing he wants me to fly with him, and in that moment I said to myself, "Yes! Why not? I'll go." As if something within me opened, I felt myself pouring into that empty space, rushing in... (Have you ever thought of something, and had it change you, instantly? Then at the same time wonder "Why didn't I think of that before?" That is how I felt, it caused me to catch my breath.) I looked over at French Husband and asked him if it would make him nervous if I flew with him. He smiled and shook his head no.
I'll fly with you. I trust you. Happy Birthday, I'll let go of my fear and fly!
Photos: A butterfly and her rock. Their is a safe place to land.
When I arrived in France 19 years ago...I tasted a pastry called Kouign Aman; which is a teaspoon of flour, a ton of butter and an equal ton of sugar baked. A forbidden romance my mouth has never forgotten! The cherry on top of the cake!
Kouign Aman is second to God.
The first time I tasted this I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I had seconds, and a slice of heaven went missing! The third day I ate the entire sky. The next day the angels vanished as I ate and ate. By the fifth day hell started to shake. On the sixth day, in my husband birth place, I decided France and I could be friends as long as Kouign Aman and I remain close. On the seventh day there was one fat QUEEN AMEN!
Photo: The image above does not depict Kouign Aman. It never makes it home. These are second best.
* Kouign Aman kinda sounds like Queen-A-man...though Queen Amen went better with this post.
** This is a re-post from last year.
One of Chelsea's first burning desires happened when she was in kindergarten, when her class went to see a circus. It was at that moment that she knew what she wanted to do with her life.
After the circus she came running up to me blurting, "When I grow up I want to be the circus lady who walks down the stairs on her hands!"
I asked her if she knew how to walk on her hands? Of course she did not know how. I told her she best start practicing. Shyly she asked, "If I start as soon as we get home, do you think I'll be ready?"
Every chance she had she practiced. I couldn't believe her determination. She fell often. Never cried, and tried again and again. Two weeks later she walked on her hands.
Twelve years later she has forgotten about walking on her hands. Though I am certain she hears the circus calling..... Come one and all! Explore! Step right up and see the many marvels of the world! Jump in and enjoy!"
I know she is ready for life's big adventure.
Photo: Chelsea's self portrait.
Let the seeds of desire find a place to land, and take root.
Photos: Dandelion ready to be wished upon.