Thursday, October 27, 2011

Night Shift

Though I rise early each morning and get right to the day’s work, on a schedule, it is often the late evening hours that give me more productive, less-scripted time to relax, unwind, and to have a few uninterrupted hours.  Here in Laguna, I leave my window open, to feel the cool night air and to smell either the salt of the ocean or the charming waft of my neighbors’ wood-burning fireplaces, and to hear the sound of the crashing waves a distance away.  

Surrounded by various candles and inspired here by the first Camellia offered by my garden this season, I can get some good work done.  These are the M E R R Y votives from the Romantic Homes shoot; the more they burn down the more you can see the burlap and stencil, fyi~


I keep so many little reminders of friends and joy and love on the large pine baker’s table which is my work table.  We need more affirmation of love, don’t you think? A recent gift from a best friend will be a treasure for my Christmas~


Tonight’s project is to cut up a vintage Vichy check French duvet cover and sew gift & wine bags and the like for the Sur La Table class I will be offering next month; I threw today’s necklace on top of the check, both from last month’s Rose Bowl visit~


There is lots of “stuff” on my pine table, including all the curtain rings and candles and a few copper skimmers from Guy that are like art on the table~


A few mini Christmas ornaments from my recent Rose Bowl trip will be supplemented by stuff from my personal collection for the Sur La Table class; we will use these to embellish the gifts we will make~


The humble yet oh so useful peppercorn is also getting ready for its prime time at the class~


A tussle of vintage French lace and other stuff is around the work table, here with the locket I wear daily~


It is so hard to find “time,” to be creative and to relax and breathe.  Wondering if I am alone in enjoying the night hours?  Stay tuned for more on our Farm to Table class at Sur La Table San Diego, and Christmas and other great stuff!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Fall Brunch

Ma soeur cadette is in town this weekend with her family, from Minneapolis.  And our family says….let’s have a party!!!  Well, schedules were difficult to coordinate in the end, so we settled on Saturday Brunch hosted by yours truly.  Given my own busy schedule lately, it was more low-key than usual, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be nice. 

I set the table with a fistful of fall-colored leaves gathered on this morning’s walk with the dogs, evocative, and saving me the small expense of flowers from Hector at this morning’s farmers market~


In the center of both main tables, I used a single hurricane shade and a burlap-wrapped pillar candle from the Romantic Homes shoot.  I set out one chair here for effect, but waited for my sisters & hubbies and kids to come and make themselves useful by hauling out all of the other iron chairs~


On the tables, my usual white and gold Limoges; can’t go wrong; I have little variety among my dishes; they are mostly white with gold, French; all purchased on Ebay over the years; these Greek Key plates came from a Palm Springs estate and they are still my favorite, purchased for a song; you can’t even find this kind of stuff in France; buy it here, and wash it carefully~


A pair of washed burlap runners and cotton sheeting from Metis were the base, to which I added French sterling and vermeil flatware, but any kind of flatware- be it silver or stainless steel, plated or of natural materials will be set off by the burlap.  As my family are sloppers, especially for breakfast, I saved the linen and used vintage French  dish towels also from our Metis line; rolled the long ways, folded over at the top and spilling over the edge of the table; this had a very casual look and functioned as a real lap-napkin for kids & adults alike~


To finish, I used vintage French curtain rings.  I snap these up when I find them for like, $1 each; we are private-ordering these through Metis~


Each one is unique, and I love the gold tones of the brass; it plays off the gold rim butter dish seen in the rear-plan~


…as well as the gold rim of the plates; the napkin rings are as found and are all slightly dinged and not polished, so they are bright but not “fancy”…this is a great summary shot of the setting today; very casual, slightly rumply, good taste and very French~


The texture of each of the towels is different; I have stopped ironing these for dishtowels or napkins; they all come straight from a short tumble and then line dry and are wonderfully tactile~


Especially offset with the rustic burlap; in a pinch, and for a little variety, any dishtowels can be great substitutes for napkins~


And now for the food….I didn’t start cooking until 8pm last night, so everything was pretty easy to make.  I decided to go for lots of mini-muffins and heavy on the blueberry, which was a hit with the kids; my nephews Michael & Steven gave me thumbs up on the food~


Looking for a few new recipes, I found a great resources in the website Annie’s Eats.  Thank you, Annie, you helped me pull off this brunch! I used her pumpkin muffin recipe in minis, but used tangy local goat cheese from Soledad Farms instead of cream cheese. 


I wasn’t so sure my pumpkin muffins looked so good, but they were delicious, and all were eaten; I used the rest of the batter to make four loaves, which my sisters took home; Jacquie is on her way home to Minneapolis right now, and feeding this to the kids for a snack~


We also had Annie’s Eats blueberry muffins, though I am having a hard time finding the link now; it has swirl-in blueberry compote; very very good!~


I modified Annie’s baked granola a few ways, using peaches and blueberries and extra oats; here is her master recipe…this was hugely popular today~


And we had Annie’s Waffles of Insane Greatness, and I must say there were insanely good~

IMG_9061We topped our waffles with cheaters Syrup, off the shelf maple enhanced with Blackberry; that is, boil maple syrup with fruit and let sit for 10 minutes, then strain~


The winner was the blueberry syrup, topped with more fresh blueberries~


And lots of love to spread around; it’s so fun to all be together~


After brunch, Lauren and I made butter cookies; first batch on show to Grampy~


next batch better, showcasing initials…..and very yummy!!


Enjoy your weekend, and be sure to stop by the Giveaway hosted by my friend Rachel of French Farmhouse 425!!  You can win the pillows from the Romantic Homes layout that is now on the newsstand!  Wishing everyone a great weekend~

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

HOT HOT HOT French-Style Rolling Carts for $19.99

If you have always wanted a French Basketeer Rolling Cart, race on over to Joann Fabrics for a steal of a deal regularly $39.99 and now on sale for $19.99~



These are made in China I presume, and while the construction is rather leger compared to the real deal French ones I sell, they are perfect for some light market shopping, home storage or even garden tools.  Leave it outside and the cart will go grey. We use (an authentic) one for BBQ supplies.   I’m thinking of them for some Christmas gifts.  Can you imagine, getting one for Christmas….but why not for $19.99???  I would stuff them with farmers market produce and flowers.  Fill the bottom with paper wads and top with burlap; add fresh stuff on top; that would also make a great Holiday silent auction donation….

The handle is very slim but the look is great.  Especially if you want them for display only, e.g. towels around the pool or dried hydrangeas and the like, this is the ticket.  What would you fill yours with?  What would you choose for a fabric liner?  I would lose this green one (personal preference).

$19.99?  I can’t believe that price, it’s crazy!!!  How can China produce and ship these for that price?  That is another question, I suppose.  But I saw them in the store recently, and they are a great deal.

You can find them in stores, or HERE.  Use coupon code MCE293 for FREE Shipping on orders over $40, which means you need to buy three of them, or else some other goods.

Be sure to check out the Farm to Table Cooking Class I will host soon at Sur La Table. Seats are still available!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Farm to Table at Sur La Table

One of the great things that came out of the Romantic Homes “Give Freely” layout is that my work got the attention of someone at Sur La Table, and I have been asked to “guest chef” for a farm to table cooking series.  Am I thrilled, you bet I am! 

At the Sunday market recently, I got to talking with Raquel our market manager about the prospect of such a class in conjunction with a market tour.  I had brought a few sample foods for the Sur La Table contact, an “interview” of sorts, and before we knew it, there was a group of shoppers around the manager’s table sampling my goat cheese cheesecake and arugula pesto and Roman tomato sauce.  And asking us demurely, “so we couldn’t help but overhear…and…when exactly is this class going to be held…?”  We had six sign ups based on that tomato sauce and cheesecake!  Hey, maybe we are on to something?

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As we develop a format for Sur La Table to market as their own series, Raquel and I decided to start with an informal “private” cooking class and market tour.  It seems that many of our market shoppers are set on making their own gifts this Christmas, as opposed to “buying something.”  Our attendees will get a tour conducted by the market manager and me, which will be great as I come from a cooking perspective and she has the knowledge of all the farmers from the manager’s perspective.  Attendees will fill up their baskets and we will then head off to Sur La Table a short distance away for a seasonal and local cooking class~ 

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Raquel and I have said so many times, people need a little help to turn a basket of this….

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Into a classic French dish such as Blanquette de Veau,  This is easier than you imagine, and the best organic ingredients make it easy~

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The class will be hands on, in groups of four, and focus on the food as well as the presentation a table and display of gifts.  I came up with several dozen easy yet classic dishes without consulting a cookbook.  The first class will center on Holiday Gift Giving; you will learn all kinds of gifts that are based on Farmers Market ingredients, in most cases you can find the same ones at Trader Joe’s or your local grocer.  I will include many tips and ideas for sources for great stuff and showcase some of my French silver, copper and porcelain presentation pieces, as well as lots of stuff that you will find at Sur La Table.  Here, a scratch lemon-lavender pound cake for summer; so easy, delish, and not expensive; we will get to this in a few months~

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And yes, we will make the great Roman Tomato Sauce together.  I will show the recipes and ideas on my blog, but of course, there is nothing like being there; and if you come to the class you will get some great freebies from me, which are now in the works.  Even if you can’t be there, you will find some great ideas here on the blog; inexpensive ideas using what you have on hand or what is easily found.


The class will be held at the Carlsbad (San Diego) Sur La Table on Sunday November 13th.  Market tour starts at 9am and the class will start at 10am.  The cost will be around $100 for three hours, which includes numerous freebies and food from the class.  We will also have a December class, which will focus on Holiday Entertaining.

Please email me if you are interested in taking the class; and for my followers near and far, I will be posting lots of great information for you to learn what happened in class~

So excited, this will be sooo much fun!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Give Freely

I am honored to be featured once again in Romantic Homes Magazine, with an eight page layout in the November 2011 issue.  This magazine is chock-full of beautiful homes and attainable looks & decorating ideas….it is wonderful to be in such good company~

This feature was developed and photographed many months ago, after the Editor asked me for something “doable” for Holiday gifts; as is my habit, I promised to also throw in lots of fresh and lots of true French.  Gone are the days when most of us feel like we can afford to (or even want to) go out and spend freely on Christmas and Holiday gifts. Even among the chic crowd of Rancho Santa Fe & Newport, market shoppers have been asking me for ideas for gifts they can make themselves this year.  I settled on a theme revolving around my beloved French linens and farmers market fare.  The Editors are very plugged in and titled the layout Give Freely.  Not to imply spend freely to do so.  All photography is by the very talented Jacqueline deMontravel, Editor of Romantic Homes and other wonderful publications as well as author of many lovely books including one coming out at Christmas this year see HERE.  I love the lead photo, which is a textural stack from my linen closet on top of my favorite chippy gilt side chair; top to bottom: vintage 19thC grain sack from Cluny with repair in white stitching; washed Joann’s burlap, vintage French linen, vintage French hemp, vintage French linen & hemp, unwashed dark Big Y burlap, unwashed Joann’s burlap, vintage French cotton and linen towel~      

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One of the first ideas I had for this spread was to reproduce the vintage Grain Sack look, which of course we see all over in good and less-good reproductions.  But who wants to spend $35-89 on a pillow cover for a holiday gift?  Can’t we get this ourselves??  YES.  The key is to find a good quality burlap (hemp) which is dark enough and thick enough to replicate the grain sack look.  I scoured and sampled and washed away, until I found what I wanted at a local fabric store called Big Y Yardage.  See My links are not working so here they are direct.  Big Y ships anywhere, and the burlap is $2.10 per yard.  You can get a LOT out of a yard. 

I will do a second post this week on washed burlap, with more images for you, but this is by far the best thing I found.  I use Joann’s Stores burlap for the farmers markets, but I like this stuff BETTER, and when washed looks like the old stuff.

I spent a lot of time wrestling with images to put on the burlap…on the computer, into reverse image….there are many images available on etsy but I think you have to throw them into reverse image, and I was not able to do that with some basic images that I created in word, so I figured this was not “doable.” I love the cross-stitch look and tried that too.  Not doable for me.  But I did discover Freezer Paper, and that worked just fine, as was very doable, so I went with that.  Love the chair slipcover in the shoot, which I drew free-hand with a Sharpie, directly onto the Freezer Paper, then cut out with an Xacto knife~

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The little votives are cute too…made with unwashed Joann’s burlap; you can spell out happy birthday, congratulations or whatever, all the way down your table, for pennies….

But hey, even easier is to drop off some yardage to your local monogrammer and have some stuff sewn up.  The door hanger was actually a “mistake” pillow.  They put the holly leaf in the wrong spot, but I added some ribbon and made it into a door hanger rather than a pillow.

The pillows were whipped up by me in a minute, so easy.  I filled them with French lavender; another pillow was monogrammed with a  dear blogger friend’s name and is now in her salon.  Note I used more white thread and paint in this spread; lighter than the black stencils you see. The white is fresh and a nice change from the heavy black grain sack.  In reproductions, I find the French favor the white stencil, plus you never see a French monogram in black, it’s always white~

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I made up a series of gifts that you can prepare in summer when fruits are at their peak and at the best prices.  Home-made syrups or jarred cherries or summer preserves are most welcome in winter….apricot and cherry and truly seasonal fruits are my preference for gifts, especially when, like the cherries, they are infused with winter spices like cinnamon and clove.  A nice topper such as red ribbon and more washed burlap from your pillow scraps makes it a special gift~

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Year after year, I make more of these vodkas for gifts.  If you follow my blog, you see them at Christmas in crystal decanters.  Want to thank someone? Give them a small bottle of raspberry-infused vodka.  Or use pomegranate or lemon or orange.  Do this in summer when you have more berries than you know what to do with.  Top with fresh greens or other fun stuff~

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For a twist on the “bottle of red” hostess gift, make a simple gift bag of washed burlap and infuse the red wine with mulling spices and citrus.  The red wine I buy for this is from our friends in Burgundy, the Drouhin Family. Find their wines at all price levels at BevMo and other stores.  Fantastic!

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I showed a few simple candles, wrapped in burlap and tartan, and others rolled in coarse salt and glitter after a brush of Mod-Podge.  The vintage basket will be on my door this fall so you will see it again soon.  Use what you have, surely you can find some great baskets or fabrics….?

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Other ideas were presented, not all made it.  I was happy to have my glitter bird on the table of contents page.  More on this shortly~

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One thing leads to another, as they say, and I have yet MORE exciting news to share with you.

Thank you to Jacqueline deMontravel, Editor of Romantic Homes, I am thrilled to be a part of this issue and to share my ideas with their readers.

OF NOTE: as we continue the theme of giving freely, many of the items from the shoot are now in the hands of two blogger friends who will soon give them away, including lavender-filled Merry Christmas and Noel pillows, which anyone would love!  I will post those giveaways here soon….

Monday, October 10, 2011

Week-end Entre Amis

Receiving guests for the weekend is one of my greatest joys.  The beds are turned out in vintage French linens, interesting reading materials on the night tables; there is merriment and wonderful food; great conversation, lots of fun.  And yes, a little work.  Together, we tore out all the spent tomato plants and installed a winter potager, and distributed a year’s worth of compost around the garden in dozens of wheelbarrow loads; things I could do alone, but with a group of people it’s much more fun….

And after a little gardening, we hit a number of great places this weekend, Saturday morning found us stopping at two farmers markets, as well as Roger’s Gardens for garden displays including the fantastic little trains~


It was hard to know which way to turn; it was the second day of the Christmas display, but the outside garden was full of fall inspiration~


I love the hot colors for fall~


as well as a neutral green & white arrangement~


After that, we had a leisurely lunch, then went for a little shopping down the street, at Nicholson’s; see their website HERE and also on 1sts Dibs~


I am considering these chairs; can’t stop thinking of them for Beaune~


We have known Fred Nicholson & his store manager Joan for years; it’s one of those shops you hate to go in to, because you are certain to fall in love with something, like this painted commode~


Always a nice selection of mirrors~


Fred usually has several nice rustic breakfast/dining tables~


Pick your way through several rooms, of English, Continental and Asian antiques~



After our little shopping trip, we went for a long stroll along the beach at Crystal Cove~


and then we retired after an early dinner, as Sunday morning found us at the Rose Bowl Flea Market~


I bought this necklace for $6; it will go on a black long sleeved T for winter, or a Brittany Stripe shirt for spring~


The Rose Bowl is amazing; everything is there; I regretted a few butter molds I passed up; but could not help notice the grain sack knock-offs like this, $45~


and this pillow, $10, not even a good job, IMHO~


Still, there is lots of interesting merchandise, and lots of sweetness~


I bought very little; the brown transferware plate & bowl were $10 each, and go nicely with another vendor’s pillows~


OMG grainsack stuff is everywhere~


Loved these vintage stripe bolsters, but did not buy; I got something else here thought that you will see shortly~


Lots of deer sheds too; should appear soon in our fall decor~


That was a lot of photos; I hope you enjoyed seeing a little of what we saw this weekend.  It was a joy to have my guests this weekend, hooray for great house guests!