Thursday, May 30, 2013

Remnants of the Past

I have been playing phone and email tag with Judy from Remnants of the Past Vintage Show over the last few months; but we finally connected a few weeks ago, and she mentioned that her daughter had seen me and Laura at the Rose Bowl flea and that she really loved our booth.  I was thinking she was going to ask about the fall, but she offered me a space at the June show, which is this weekend June 1st and 2nd.  What could I say, sure!  I quickly called Laura,  and she and her daughter will join me.  I have always wanted to go to this show, it’s a really great one, so I’m really excited to have a booth here this weekend.

I’m going to Burgundy again soon, and frankly, at this time I’m a little light on merch to sell; it’s all gone.  But that’s ok; I still have plenty of baskets and rolling carts, and linens from my personal collection that I can sell, and I started to go around the house looking for things my parents and I might want to part with.  Yes, plenty of things.  Love our little family baby shoes, but I think it’s ok to pass them on.


I’m going to sell the Italian angel I used in the Romantic Homes Christmas shoot; she was on the buffet in the dining room.  Love her, but ready to find something else; I added the ostrich feathers behind her at Christmas last year.


I also visited my friend Leah, who is downsizing her antique business; and came back with a car full of vintage French baskets and signs;


as well as a great vintage men’s bathing suit.  Made in England, of wool, it has this great anchor belt.  These look great framed, but I can’t imagine bathing in a wool suit.  It’s hung on a pair of ten-light doors I have had in the garden for many years; the other side is green; I painted the pink side white, and tomorrow morning I’ll finish these off with hinges, to make a small screen~


and Mom and I decided to sell the vintage doll pram; I played with this in my bedroom all the time as a child; it held my dolls and I would wheel them around the room; now I would only use it to wheel my Honey dog around, but she’s not too into it….


so this weekend it will go to the show; I put a lap-quilt and few bears in it; it has a great little porthole detail.


One of the best things in our booth will be something my Dad has urged me to sell, which is the collection of English marionettes my Parents bought us in 1968.  A few years after the movie version of The Sound of Music, weren’t these the rage?   We five children all played with these for many years, and used them in hundreds of shows for our Parents, Grandparents and friends.  There are eight of them, and a little folding theatre with red curtains.  I spent last night untangling some strings and mending others, and my Parents both had a huge laugh as I put on a mini show for them.  Though we have loved these, the grandkids somehow never got into them, or we thought they were too precious, and so we are going to sell them, being very sure that someone else should have and use these rather than having them sit in the closet.


I know kids are so into TV and computer-everything today, but marionettes are really a wonderful way to express and develop creativity; we never had a problem coming up with all kinds of stories and voices, of cats and witches,  kings, queens and dragons…so much fun, so many great memories; I wonder who they will now go to.  I’m going to look for someone special to have them~


The back wall of the booth will be all crates, and filled with all the other stuff I have set aside: vintage French lace, zinc tags, a 19thc French candlestick, linens and more more more.  I have a pile set aside that will be packed tonight, and today I decided to add in some naturals, so there will be a lot of white hydrangeas as well as several pots of fragrant thyme~


In the cubbies of the crates there will also be a series of birds nests.  I have so many from the garden, as found, and I thought it would be ok to sell a few.


I was looking around for something great to mount them; finding nothing suitable I took inspiration from this hummingbird’s nest, which was built into a small branch; I marvel at their construction; the hummingbirds pick up spider webs to hold their compact little nests together.  Our wild birds are busy here year-round.  So I put all the others on a series of twigs, and set each one on a piece of potato.  Yeah, I know, not super elegant, but they work….whoever takes these home can figure something else out!


There is a very good chance that mid-next week I’m going to be in Paris and Beaune, so I figure it’s a good time to raise a little money this weekend so that I can support the French economy as I say, and buy a bunch of new stuff!  I’ll show you how the booth looks in my next post.


And if you are in San Luis Obispo this weekend, be sure to come by and say hi~

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Good Little Gifting

Next week I’m going to be at an antiques show, one that I have really wanted to shop, but it’s going to be even more fun as a seller.  When the booth is set I’ll give you the details, but while the theme and style are still being developed, and we have a little lead time, I started to think of some nice little freebie for shoppers in our booth…Something easy to make in quantity, something useful, something a bit French….

I recently received a little thank you of a candle and fancy box of matches, and I had to smile, because when I do  corporate Christmas gifts, I usually include a scented candle and box of matches along with a bottle of wine.  Gifting matches with a candle is thinking it through; remember when you could pick up nice matches at every bar and restaurant?  Now that there is no smoking inside, even in France, few establishments give away matches.  I have a large box of the Diamond matches on hand, because I don’t like those trigger-pull lighters.  I still have a large collection of old matches.  I don’t use them anymore, and they sit in a Chinese lacquer box.


The oversized matches I received last week are the same ones I like to gift.  They are made by HomArt and I usually buy them online HERE.  You can never go wrong with the Paris box, though I love them all, especially those sold at Christmas time.  They are elegant and long, and everyone can use them.  And even when not being used, they look pretty next to your candles or in the powder room. 


So what to do for a giveaway…?  I didn’t get past my first idea before I settled on it: matches.  You can order all kinds of great matchbooks online, custom printed such as those HERE, but these will cost you $1 or more each with a minimum of 50.  Those are probably great for a wedding, but a giveaway needs to be cheaper than that, at least for me.  A few weeks ago I happened to notice that Smart & Final sells match books.  These are plain white, made in the USA by D.D. Bean.  If you search Amazon for “white matches” you will see these for various prices, but in a box of 50 at Smart & Final they are $1.50.  That’s 3 cents per matchbook, so that works~


But who wants a plain matchbook?  I got out my little Merci stamp and an ink pad in lavender….


And I stamped the back, where the match strike is~


On the front, I put a quick but thick brush of glue~


And poured some new lavender buds from Paris onto a plate.


You know how much I love lavender, by the kilo please.  I started out covering the entire front side of the matchbook, but then decided that a small dab across the middle is visually better.  These will be in a large glass vase full of them.  Taken home, they are better than a plain box and infinitely better than a trigger lighter.  This is something I’d use at home, on my patio table; how about you, would you take one home?~


And best yet, this cost me 3 cents plus some glue and lavender.  Not much.  And easy to make, quickly.  I could see these used for other events with something else glued on, though I think in quantity (I’m making 300) it’s hard to beat the lavender.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Le Pouf

Some time ago, when R was doing a clean-up of his home, he decided it was time to let go of some of his old furnishings, including a leather pouf he bought in Morocco ages ago.  I was surprised that he was letting this one go, but he came to this decision all on his own, and was ready to include it in a garage sale.  I have always been fond of the look of this pouf, though I never sat upon it.  I agree, at first glance, it may not look so great. It has some flaws and needs a little reshaping, but there was no way it was going in any garage sale.  It came home with me straightaway~


Look a little closer, because you will see the tooled leather on top and around the circumference, no doubt worked by hand.  It’s nicely worn, and with various intricate and classical patterns overlapping in some places, and finished with a welt.


The vast majority of poufs you see today are not finished this way, they are stitched but not with a welt, like this~


The central motif is one that is unmistakable…a camel in the desert.  Stylized palm trees form an arc over the camel, with birds overhead and a pavillion of some kind or mosque at right~


There is a little wear on one corner, but that doesn’t really bother me, it just says this pouf has been around for a while, and betrays a little of its construction, leather over some kind of woven or reinforced webbing. 


Looks like some deconstructed Napoleon III chairs I know, left “as is” while others were redone over the years.  Sometimes the original state is best, and it’s ok to see a little of the undergarments~

{image from my blogger friend Colette HERE}

The underside of the pouf is a buff colored leather, without the embossing, closed with laces.  I have the original leather laces that closed this bottom; a few of the holes were torn, and it may need to be reinforced in spots~


There is a tear on one side, and this is the part that needs the most attention.  I distinctly remember R sitting on this one day to tie his shoe laces and it giving way.  Old leather, what can you do?  {Laugh!}


Despite it’s little flaws, I love this piece.  It is very charming, especially in a moody interior light.  It’s perfect in a corner or under a night stand when you need to put your feet up to fasten a shoe.  I also know a handful of teenagers who love this lounge-on-the-floor aesthetic, but they are not getting this one.  The leather is very soft and the patina is one that you can not replicate; no, it’s just not possible.  The overlapping bits of tooled leather imprints are irregular in spacing and I’m sure done by hand, and of course, I love that camel in the center motif, the only image that is round, echoing the shape of the overall pouf. 


I am planning to go to Morocco this fall, and I can say it is a country I have almost visited about 50 times (no joke!).  But this pouf for the moment has conjured up ideas of the exotic country I long to visit, a reminder of the wonders of far-away lands.  Just a little taste of this in the house is a good thing.  Don’t these windows echo the pouf designs, especially the modern ones?~

{image via}

I am going to be at a show soon with a load of merchandise and am debating whether to redo and sell the pouf.  My gut tells me to fix it up and put it in my bedroom, for now, which will probably be until R sees it renovated and reclaims it.  It is great next to my vintage Louis Vuitton.  Some things you can never replace, especially anything with the patina of time.  I’ll show you the pouf when it’s redone. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Olfactory Associations

I am steadily completing the features for the book, and as expected, there is a lot to say.  One of my farmers market friends is a woman who is a stewardess, and she has recently picked up the route to Paris.  She goes for just two days at a time, but she stays for free and her husband goes with her, and they are having a marvelous time rediscovering Paris after flying to Asia for several years.  And it seems like every Saturday morning, no matter what we chat about, the conversation invariably turns to Paris, either talking about the book or her next trip or I forgot to mention such and such place that she must try next time.  She is pressing me to get it done soon because she is going to turn her wide circle of stewardess girlfriends on to it and get them to buy it.  Mostly, she just wants to have all these little tips and bits in writing after seeing some of it on my iPad at the market.  I know!!! I am writing as fast as I can!!

Today I am finishing the section on Perfume, and I have to say, I have had a particularly tough time getting it started.  Once I get a feature started, it seems to go fairly well, I can organize my thoughts in writing, but this one was tough.  I have had a hard time figuring out how to approach the subject, and mostly how to avoid any mention of people’s negative associations with certain perfumes, which kept popping into my head. 

I admit, when choosing French perfume houses, there was one I knew I had to include, immediately, another I wanted to cover and did, with success, another that I would have liked to have covered but didn’t have time to visit, and another that I already mentioned that would not allow any photos or discussion of any kind, so that house was out.  It all worked out perfectly in the end.  But there is one other that I hesitated to go see, but nixed even before the trip began. It would have been a “confront a demon” kind of a visit though, and I chose not to go there. No, I just can’t do it.

When I lived in New York, I spent a year working for a female managing director, who was very good at being a managing director, but also at scaring the wits out of us financial analysts.  Booming voice, perpetually demanding, large physical presence in very fitted suits and…always in a cloud of her signature French perfume.  You could smell her coming, and you could smell when she had been somewhere five minutes earlier.  It was like a trail of perfume around the office.  And to this day, when I smell that perfume on anyone (thankfully it’s since gone out of style) it gives me this knee-jerk reaction that this woman is going to show up around the corner.  I mean, I can’t stand that perfume.  I don’t even like to see the bottle, it’s almost as bad as smelling it.  Am I the only one who does this perfumey-association?


I saw another friend at the market today and tested out my question on her: “How do you feel when you smell your Mother’s perfume?”  Mother has passed, but her response was short and expected:  “….Angry...”  So there was my answer, I am not alone….


I wanted to be sure to steer the text widely away from this notion, and focus on the positive.  I got going and the text is good, and interesting, though not finished.  I included a few other perfumes that are famous but lesser-known to most.  The first time I smelled one particular perfume, I was with a girlfriend, having fun shopping in Paris, and we both agreed the top note was like getting slapped across the face by a leather glove, followed quickly by a middle note that’s like being hit over the head by a bouquet of carnations and a few batons of vanilla bean and a bunch of other scents. And then you might expect Marlene Dietrich to come slinking around the corner singing, in a tuxedo and silk top hat, as the perfume settles in.  It’s a positive association, and perfectly wonderful fragrance when you are feeling a little racy; I didn’t mention the leather glove would be like this lambskin pretty from Palais Royal~


I wish I lived somewhere cool and chic like Paris, because then I might have bought these gloves.  Faux trench-coat gloves in lambskin, wow; check out the buckle and the inner cuff at top; it’s so me, I am going to add this to Pinterest now. 

Anyway, I feel better telling the story of the perfume, as it is now off my mind.  But I am curious, if you have any perfumes that give you a strong association, positive or negative, when you smell them? OK back to editing now….enjoy the rest of your weekend….

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Guest Posting at Greige

Christina from Greige is lucky enough to be in Paris this week, and while she is antique shopping there she is hosting a series of guest posts called Design Traveller, taking readers to some fabulous and inspirational places.  Today it’s my turn, and I’m taking readers on a tour of the Château de Chantilly. 

Many visitors to Paris want to see the splendor of Versailles, which is sometimes called a château but is really a palace, the official residence of the kings of France.  Versailles can be totally overwhelming; it’s best seen over the course of several visits, though I have some friends who were there last week and spent eight hours in the palace and gardens and still didn’t see it all!   Chantilly, on the other hand, is a grand yet still manageable sized château, with an amazing little art collection and library, not to mention gardens by Le Nôtre, who also designed the gardens of Versailles and the Tuilleries. Here is a photo of the Salon de Musique, with its restored paneling and gilding~


I have toured almost all of the well-known Loire Valley châteaux and even stayed at a few private ones, but Chantilly remains one of my favorites.  Perhaps because it is a very personal residence, reflecting the tastes of Henri d’Orléans, who was the fifth son of King Louis-Philippe.  Best of all, Chantilly is a short distance from Paris. 

Pop on over to Greige (one of my favorite blogs!) today to come along on the tour.  The text and photos in the post are excerpted from Rêve, which is a project I am working on with Laura from Décor to Adore and Elizabeth from Eiffel Tells.  It will be published shortly as an e-book and will contain about 250 pages of beautiful photos and useful information about visiting Paris, including many additional photos and expanded text on Chantilly.  We are taking pre-orders on Rêve HERE.

Thank you Christina, and hope you enjoy the tour~

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Music in Paris

We’re finishing up our Mothers’ Day in Laguna with a rotisserie chicken, ribs and a large box of See’s Candy.  Mom wondered if this was her day or his day as Dad proceeded to jump into the candy first then the food, ahead of her, but there was plenty to go around.  We watched a Lawrence Welk rerun, the current favorite, then I played them some music clips from  Paris.  My parents have discovered YouTube!

I’m just a sucker for the old-style music anywhere in France, but especially the variety that you see in Paris.  In the Latin Quarter, a man with a very French red kerchief at his neck rolls this piano around on a little cart and plays without any sheet music.  The piano is less than full size, I think it’s called a console piano, but it makes a nice sound and is perfect for a little show tune on a Sunday in Paris.  I also like the fact that he has an espresso from one of the adjacent cafes next to the tip basket and his array of CD’s….we can only be in France~

A short distance away, at one of the entrances to the Luxembourg Gardens, was this man and his street organ.  These were also called the Barbary organ, roller organ or barrel organ for the mechanism.  While you see these elsewhere in Europe, I am particularly fond of hearing this 19thC relic in Paris.  The organ pipes are in the V shape in front, and his cart is full of dozens of other perforated song cards.  When you see the video, you will understand why the operator is called an Organ Grinder.  Monkey not required.  Actually, it’s much better without a monkey.

And in the Jardin de Luxembourg you find a very nice bandshell.  There was an American high school group playing this day, and as you can see and hear, while it was still cool, everyone was definitely In the Mood~

Hope you are enjoying your Mothers’ Day, and a little bit of some kind of music today~

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How to Eat in Paris

My days and nights are being spent writing.  Writing writing writing, for Rêve.  Laura, Elizabeth and I had a series of topics we wanted to cover before this trip, but as I write and think, there are always more things that need to be covered, more tips to add, things that I think readers should know.  This week I wrote a piece on how to travel around Paris with your teens, inspired by the time I lost my two 17 year old nephews in the Louvre.  That was a real eye-opener, and it made me think of a series of practical tips. And when teens need to eat approximately every two hours, in a city where you can easily spend $50 on a light breakfast for three and that barely gets you to 10am, where do you go?  The question is less where than how, and I’ll tell you how.  Me, I prefer a simple coffee, croissant, newspaper, and a view in the morning.  This is at my favorite café in Paris.  Like many Parisian creatures of habit, I never get tired of going here.  I’ve been going for 20 years, and I love it each time~


I like to eat out in Paris, and I have a few recommendations as well as a few wine bars.  But because I love to cook, I can’t resist access to a kitchen.  My favorite market in Paris is the one on Avenue President Wilson (Wednesday and Saturday mornings), which was convenient to me when I lived in the 16th.  We shopped there, then had coquilles Saint Jacques à la Parisienne (of course)~


Another night we had a whole fresh North Atlantic sole (à la meunière) at home, and it was fun because not only did we have a nice meal, I gave an impromptu cooking lesson and also showed Raquel and Julia how to serve a sole à table.  Knowing how to separate the waste from the filets in the manner of a Parisian waiter is a nice skill to have, and one very chic Parisienne I know says it’s her favorite way to impress a date, as the waiter brings the cooked whole fish and you say no, allow me.  So while it’s nice to have that experience out, I am just as happy to do it in the kitchen for friends in Paris.  There are restaurants to go for more sophisticated and complex fish dishes, but the sole is easy for home.

For a late morning or afternoon snack, nothing beats a slice of Poilane bread, with crème fraiche, sliced gravlax and a dab of faux caviar.  With a small salad, I’ll call this lunch, between museums or photo jaunts~


Or for the sweet tooths, try it this way, toasted, with a spoon of fromage blanc from the market and a drizzle of French honey.


Spread it around a little to mix the flavors, this is perfect with a little coffee~


I made Raquel and Julia tomato & gruyere tartines; so good, to tide everyone over until dinner and to help stretch the food budget~


Or just with a little Roquefort.


Julia’s favorite was apple tarte.  Skip the tartines, she went right for this, and I made several large ones during the week with the pre-made puff pastry crust from the grocery store.  Hot from the oven with a large dollop of crème fraiche, it’s hard to beat the taste.  I wonder if people believe me when I say that everything tastes so good in France?  Julia understood after a week there….the bread is fantastic, the apples are ten times as fragrant as ours, I can’t explain why, and the crème on top of the tarte is unlike any crème we have in the States.  And it was 1 Euro for a large tub.  OK we cheated a little and bought it at Monoprix instead of the open air market, but it was still very good and over the week we ate it all.


Paris is all about value decisions.  Is the glass of orange juice here really worth $10?  The glass of wine worth $20?  That depends on who, what and where.  One thing I can tell you is that every first time visitor to Paris is positively shocked by the price of eating out and very few of them are on an unlimited budget.  Before you go, it’s good to have a few strategies in mind for how to keep everyone fed without going broke. That’s what you’ll find covered in the book.

Back to writing…have a great Thursday~

Sunday, May 5, 2013


When I walked into Dehillerin Paris and asked for a carrot grater, all I had to do was look at the label to know it was a quality product.  Of course, what else would Dehillerin carry?  There must also be a Moulinex or other brand, which I would have trusted, but the one Dehillerin stocks is by a company called Guillouard.  The reason I like this company so much is that they have been in business for over 100 years, since 1911, and they still make their products the “old fashioned way,” which is principally hot-dipped galvanized (zinc over steel) or tin over steel. These products can be made with other methods, which are closer to electric plating, and will result in a thinner coating, but Guillouard’s factory in Nantes still makes them the old way, by hand, and the products might last forever.  Fancy a nice French galvanized tub?  This is the manufacturer you want. I love the lines, the handles, and the raised bottom~

You will find these products across France in stores that carry high-quality merchandise.  Look for them in garden stores, where you will find the Caddyac of French watering cans. You can find the galva versions like this, with laiton (French brass) spout~

as well as Guillouard’s “paint over steel” beauties which look like enamel in person~

Which do you prefer, bleu marine or the red?  A watering can like this would probably motivate me to water more often~

There are some other beautiful colors as well, and different shapes and sizes.  Watering cans with very fine spouts, for seeds, large and small watering cans; you can see the range of them HERE.  There are five pages of Gardening items on the website; and you will find some great items including zinc garden markers and equally beautiful flower buckets, galva and enamel, like this one…to me, a French flower bucket should only be bleu~

Unfortunately, quality does not come cheap.  This beautiful flower bucket is $60 and about 16 inches tall.  But I guarantee you it will last forever and still look great. Have a look around their website HERE (click on the British flag top left to convert into English) and you will find all sorts of interesting things.  The buckets and tubs come in all sizes, and some are designed for specific uses.  Such as this, a bucket for a well.  That’s what it’s called! It has the special handle with the loop in it, I suppose to tie your rope onto it~ 

One of their unique products is this one.  Can you guess by looking at it what it might be?~

Let’s look inside….there is a central column that goes from the perforated false-bottom to the top of the bucket, secured with a stabilizing chain on three sides.  The number three on top of the column refers to the size.  This Numero 3 holds 39 litres, or about 10 gallons.  Can you guess yet what it is?~  

Here is one more clue…..the diagram of how it works, but it’s in French~

Now you should understand what it is, right?  It’s the original 19th century French clothes-washing machine.  Before this, you washed your clothes where you could, in a tub I suppose, sometimes with a washboard, and you ruined your hands in the process. For centuries, clothes were often washed in one of the laundry stations along the rivers.  I’ll show you ours in Beaune the next time I’m there.  But this washing machine was better than a tub, and better than the river as you could wash clothes at home.  Put the laundry in, add water and soap, close the lid on and put a heat source below it.  The hot water circulates to the top and is distributed out the top of the column through a series of little holes; it’s the same principle as a coffee percolator.  You have heard about “boiling your laundry,” this is how they did it.  You still have to rinse the laundry, but this was significantly easier than hand-wash, especially if it’s heavily soiled. 

This truc-machin was first shown at the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris.  Can you imagine what they thought, seeing it demonstrated?  I don’t know at that time if you could send laundry out, I suppose so, or you had servants if you were wealthy.  I have been in some large old homes in Beaune, and the top floors often were the place where all the laundry was done.  In town, there was no place to hang linge du maison or linge personnel to dry, and if you own any old French sheets you know they can take awhile to dry.  So they hung them on indoor clotheslines.  If you are lucky you will find an old home that still has the rows of big hooks still on the wall.  I have photos of that I’ll show you another time. 

Anyway, that was sort of a tangent off the subject of a carrot grater.  I hope you will look around the Guillouard site and see their products.  The problem is how to get them back home, because I can’t find anyone in the U.S. who stocks this merchandise, surely the currency and shipping and duty are prohibitive versus something made in China.  If you do travel to France and are shopping for that friend who has everything, this is a wonderful range of products for a gift.  I know, when do you really need a hurricane lamp, but how about this pretty one in red; so French~

  I forgot to mention their watering stations and feeders for animals, and their various bird feeders; are these cute~

These are brand new and so have the “flowering” pattern of the galvanization process; that will go away after time and these will have a nice patina.  The other great thing about the galva process is that zinc is antibacterial and antifungal.  If I had chickens they would be fed and watered by Guillouard products.  I think I might have to track down one of these bird feeders next time, or maybe even arrange a factory tour. Photographing vats of molten tin and zinc?  Super Fun??! OK, for me at least it would be fun…

By the way, the closest thing that I could find to my Guillouard grater is a plane-grater, see HERE.  The Guillouard has tin-coated wheels, and as opposed to the plane grater it can make long pretty ribbons of carrots or beets, that look especially appetizing on a big platter of salad.  It will be put to good use this summer.