Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Incredible Egg & Maria's Birthday

Today was my friend Maria's birthday, and we had a loose plan to have a birthday party this afternoon; but it all got called off when her group got delayed at SFO. A birthday is a birthday, and so I told her I wanted to leave her gift and party contributions at their doorstep anyway: a chocolate souffle cake topped with fresh fruit, two packages of fresh ravioli, a packet of lemon pesto, two little Coronitas (to keep it all cool) and a gift basket I made with Araucana blue and pale brown eggs. All local, all hand-picked from the three farmers markets I was at this weekend. I wouldn't gift a carton of eggs, no way-- these arrived at her door in a make-shift nest of raffia in a mossy basket with ribbon.

While I love the subtle colors of the Araucana eggs, it's the form I am after. I can't look at a good egg and not think of Salvador Dali. On his house in Port Ligat on the Costa Brava Spain (third photo-- longtime residence for Dali and his wife, Gala--fascinating, as is the coast and Cadaques) and his Museum, his burial site (first photo), Dali used the Egg Form. R and I visited the Dali house a few years ago, and the eggs are very unexpected and memorable. Dali used eggs in his works, sometimes in the form of fried kind of eggs, see "Eggs on a Plate without the Plate" (his memories before birth); there is another one with a Velasquez dwarf; I think to Dali eggs symbolized hope and love and birth, but I have never found a really good explanation. I also find it strange how he moved between an egg in the shell and a fried-type egg. Now I won't pretend to completely understand Dali....he's totally in a class of his own. But I do love that his inspiration for The Persistence of Memory (his most famous work, the one with the melting watches) was actually a piece of Camembert cheese on a hot day. That's true. Inspiration is found in everyday objects, and don't you forget it.

I took a few shots in Maria's front yard (since she was away!). I want to build a folly in our side yard and top it with egg finials. Wouldn't that be unusual, even for Laguna?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

French Basketeer is One Year Old!!

Has it really been a year since we launched? If you ask a few of mes proches, like R and my mom, they will tell you it seems like 10 years. Anyway, it's only been one wonderful year!!! In our first year we have built a solid local presence, expanded in to 16 states nationwide and been covered in a national magazine.
I had the last-minute idea yesterday to do something with "1" in the booth, and I decided I wanted a glitter number. I called the best place I could think of: Paris to the Moon in Costa Mesa. While they did not have numbers in stock, the woman who worked there said the magic words: ""Why don't you make them yourself?" Capital idea! She provided me with a glass-based glitter and gave me a few instructions; I free-handed it, and you can see the end result; not bad?? They are significantly shinier in person than in the photo. If you have not been to Paris to the Moon, you are in for a treat; wonderful shop chock full of lovelies. Can I use a pair of plastic geese at the market???

Summer Palette

Here in Laguna, we know when the calendar rolls to June 1, because yesterday it was overcast everywhere else in the county but misting here, and it's been rather gray all day: we call it June Gloom. We have it worse in Laguna because of the way the winds blow and the"Catalina Island effect". So we settle in for a month of gray and then by July 1st it's hot and sunny with a mild sea breeze and in the 70's+.
Suddenly today, I was feeling ready for summer baskets. I have been fiddling around with a few basket combinations for a little photo shoot; I am going to have an ad in a local paper supplement covering all of South County in June.
Today there was a young woman at the booth with her boyfriend and her mother (super nice, repeat shopper). The daughter was wearing casual white pants, a blue tank top and a red sporty jacket with a white stripe. Her choice of basket: the Orange Cap Ferrat. Raffia, no black trim on top but black handles and covered corners. This is the second time this week someone with a keen eye has chosen this exact basket, and it's a solid winner. Fresh, young, a little cutting edge in an unexpected color. It rounded out what she was wearing perfectly, adding "bright" but cutting the patriotic look of the red/white/blue.
The addition of the orange was so great, I tweaked the photos I was setting up and here is the result; I think it will be great in print!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bio-dynamique Champagne

My dear friends Bob and Francoise recently went to Champagne to go tasting. They had a few places in mind, and I also gave them details of my favorite place to taste, which also happens to be the only bio-dynamique (essentially, organic) Champagne house I know.
Now Bob is a sharp guy, and he knows the difference between a fluffy, marketing-driven tour & tasting and the real deal. I was so happy to get an email today from him, to say the grandes marques were a little disappointing, but that he was "blown away" by the quality of my favorite, which is Larmandier-Bernier. These aren't the type of words I usually hear from Bob, so this was a huge compliment!
The Larmandier family began making wine in the early 20th century, and the mantle is now carried by Pierre and Sophie Larmandier. You can check out their website in English (, and it's full of lots of charming information. I borrowed a few of their photos for this post (I hope that's a good exchange for sending a good customer!); notice the grass growing under the vines, and the acrobat helicopter pilot, who can spray a bio-tea on the vines in 1.5 hours (it would take a tractor 2 days and then you might miss the window). Unlike pesticides, a broad-brush bio-spray via helicopter works very well; it does not have to be targeted. There are some great little stories on the site, including how the neighbor says "why not use weed killer?" while Pierre muses that it's not very natural to dress up like a spaceman to distribute that kind of stuff. They add very little sugar ("dosage") to the champagne after degorgement; this means their champagne is less sweet and more brut, and allows the terroir to really come through. I am a novice, but this must be wine making at its finest....

I found this champagne at Legrand on rue de la Banque, a dozen or more years ago. I used to bring a magnum of champagne home in my carryon every time I made the trip, usually Gosset rose or Larmandier, and in a wooden box, if possible. Those days are sadly past. I can find it here at Hi-Time Wines in Costa Mesa, but it's pretty dear. Now, if I were to rent a house in France, I would absolutely ring up Pierre and Sophie and have them ship several cases (6 bottles to a case in France) to the house....there would be no problem having it consumed....

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pavillions Going Green

Tonight I ran into the Pavillions in Newport Coast. They have a nice little reminder at the door (see photo) to run back to the car and get your reusable bags. Then, just inside the door, they have a reusable bag for sale made of 65% recycled plastic bottles, which is part of a "green line" of 100% recycled paper products etc. I am going to go back today to check on the line and see where it's made; my guess is China but we'll see. They are also selling the Edison-subsidized light bulbs there right inside the door.
This Pavillions is particularly large, and everything in the store seems to be made for those who are "livin' large." It's all pretty big and flashy. But I really do like the gigantic displays they do; someone loves to stack boxes of Coke; and at Holiday, cases of wine. Where you'll find a dozen cases of Veuve Clicquot in Laguna's Pavillions, here you'll find 75. It makes an impressive display!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Feast & Flowers

I had intended to get a bunch of stuff done today, and I accomplished most of it. I got my sister set up for some decorations and flowers very early in the day, then some grocery shopping, and I bought most of my tomato plants.
We had a gang over later this afternoon, for home-made ribs, potato salad, warm frisee salad w bleu cheese and bacon chunks, then 5 layer coconut cake and ice cream. Just so no one thinks I'm a French snob, I got the most adorable little demi-Corona's. I put them here in my little hotel silver ice bucket, and don't they look fab? I binged on flowers this weekend, for 4 of us. It made everyone very happy. R took most of the photos; he's a great shot. Happy Memorial Day everyone!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Los Angeles National Cemetery

Sometimes I meet people, and they complain about this country, and this and that and how it's so bad. I tell them, OK I'll be happy to drive you to the airport; go and see how it is somewhere else. Go to another country and feel what it's like to know that any policemen on the street could stop you and ask for your papers. And send you "home." I know how that feels; it's a very acute insecurity. But you'll never feel that way here. Every place has its problems....
This is Memorial Day Weekend, and we honor our soldiers, their service for this country, and tangentially, our freedoms. They never said this place is crappy and gave up; they fought for this country and what it stands for. This weekend, feel PROUD.
If you've never been to the Los Angeles National Cemetery, this is a great time to go. You drive by it on the 405 when you pass Wilshire. Every grave is marked with a small US Flag this weekend; it's hard to appreciate from these photos, but it goes on and on for acres and acres-- 115 to be exact; it's very touching, very impressive, to see. 85,000 servicemen and their dependents have been buried there, some with headstones and some with flat markers, since 1889, (the wives get a marker on the reverse of the gravestone, see photo). There are WWI, WWII, Spanish American War and Korean War vets there, and those are just the ones I saw; every branch of the Armed Forces are represented; there are also 2 service dogs buried with their handlers. Compare that with Arlington, on 600 acres and with 240,000 servicemen and dependents since 1864, including many Civil War veterans, JFK and numerous Supreme Court Justices. The site was originally the estate of Martha Washington's son. Also for comparison, the U.S. cemetery in Normandy; 172 acres (larger than LA) but with 9,387 buried there-- 1/9th the number buried in LA. By anyone's imagination, that is a lot of people buried, whether you are talking 9,000 or 85,000. It makes me feel very triste when I think about it. I have been to Normandy's beaches several times and you simply can't imagine....

Nothing I did today or this weekend or this year can compare. I had good sales, I got shorted of my delphiniums today and that made me really mad; I talked to lots of great people; I saw an oscar-winning actress. When I was on the way home, going by the VA, I gave a buck to the vet who was panhandling. Today they are all vets, I know; Homeless Vet signs work well today and we have no way to verify. He was really happy that tomorrow he would get treated to a BBQ at the VA-- Free! In Laguna, there was a guy also panhandling at the grocery store, and I asked him what he would do tomorrow; would he go to the Heisler Park pancake breakfast? That costs $5, he told me, which he did not have.
I bought a new flag this week; it had to be cotton, sewn with embroidered stars. I was happy to see all the flags today at LA National Cemetery, all cotton, embroidered stars. They also had a full set of flags from all 50 states.
Sign me, Proud to be an American.....

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorializing the Day

Welcome to Memorial Day Weekend! When asked if I have a store, I used to say "no," but now I say, "Corona del Mar farmers market." Yes, I am a frustrated shopkeeper! I treat my booth like a window display, and I keep it updated and seasonal. I hope you love today's setup; everyone commented on it!!! Bunting sheeting, bunting fans, American flags and lots of fuchsia, red, white and blue. I sold a ton of sets of net bags tied with red white and blue raffia. Chic, eco, holiday. Perfect.

I went out around 9am to get some produce to hang in the net bags--my samples-- and when I returned, there was a man sitting in my chair, the chair that I never sit in because I am too busy fluffing merch and talking to customers. But my Mom was there today, and she and he were engaged in conversation, which I then joined. As if right on cue, he is a WWII veteran, conscripted when he was 20 and then re-enlisted for a few more years. He had some great tales of the War and the 101st Airborne, as well as a great US Flag hat. We talked for at least an hour, and we covered the waterfront on topics, including his beauty secrets: he smashes avocado on his face once a week and then eats some of the leftover mash; I must say he had nice smooth skin, so maybe there's something to that! He is almost 90 by my deduction. Finally, he confessed that he needed a basket to hold his money when he went gambling, and to buy avocados. He likes the slot machines, so needed something to hold the change. What the heck. I sent him on his way with the most masculine little bag I had, a tiny natural St. Remy, and a small produce bag. The stories were worth the price of the basket. He then went across the way to Kelly the Pasta Lady, because he thought "she might be giving out free stuff" (she does have great samples, see second photo).

We have many Europeans at this market; today I met the loveliest Norweigan lady; she came with her little panier en osier, braided edge, the same one I bought in Austria years ago that I left behind in NY :( Next trip to France, I'll bring one back, because they are just adorable. She went too fast on her name, even for me, but here she is in front of the booth and she said she'll see me next time. R is 96% Norweigan so Norweigans get special treatment from me; a wonderful wonderful people.

Finally, I stopped at Trader Joes on the way home. I have to make many jars of pesto this weekend, by request. But I also loaded up on Hydrangeas, which is really sick because my garden is all hand water, and hydrangeas mean "water me daily." I also got some fab basil plants for $2.99! Pinch pinch pinch before they go bitter on me. On the way out, I looked at the bin for the weekly reusable bag drawing; I have NEVER seen so many tickets in that bucket!! I asked the manager if I could take a photo and he responded "I don't see you" so I quickly took my photo and bolted. Have a great Red White and Blue Memorial Day Weekend!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Playing Favorites

I hear it at least several times a week: I can't decide. It's so not like me, but I really just can't decide...which one is your favorite....?" Don't ask me to pick my favorite basket. I love all the colors and all the styles ('cuz I chose them, duh!), and they are each great for different reasons, depending on the time of year and the use; I won't go through the litany. So I have taken to having what I call my "current favorite." And my current favorite is the Antibes ombre, in rose pink or fresh green; as we move into summer, I'll want the orange or yellow, for the beach. Not all of these colors are on the website; they are available at my farmers markets, or call for details. I just ordered more of these since I am crazy about them; they are an awesome bag, especially in XXL for the beach.
When it comes to naming my other "favorites," it's generally a little tough to pin me down. Favorite color, food, city, song, flower, metal, candle fragrance or whatever, don't ask!
There are a few absolutes, though. Favorite period of (art) history: definitely the 19th century. I'll do a post on that this weekend. Favorite drink: definitely Champagne. Champagne is good any-where, any-time, any-place, with any food or no food at all. Buy French if you drink it on its own, or California sparkling if you're doing mimosas. I once was going to a dinner party with a Moroccan theme; I called the hostess to confirm and to say that I would be bringing a heft of champagne; she said "Champagne goes with Moroccan food?" Champagne goes with any food, Darling. Champagne is always correct!

Bio with your Neighbor & Beach Report Card

I am reposting some information today because I just read Heal the Bay's beach report for 2008-2009. While there are some A's and A+'s in Laguna, we are not far from one of the 10 worst beaches in the state, Doheney. Oh, and I forgot to mention, we also had two raw sewage spills in Laguna this year....oops. Funding for water quality is declining as the state's budget woes increase; who knows what will happen next year. You can read the full report, including county by country and city by city, at

......... ......In France, organic wine is called "biodynamique" or just "bio." Growers use various methods, including the addition of compost & manure, microorganisms, and teas of certain steeped ground-up plants applied at key moments. Some allow weeds to grow under the vines and think this helps the soil maintain its natural balance; others follow the cycles of the moon and the relative positions of the zodiac. Hey, why not if it makes great wine? The goal of all of this is to "encourage the natural rhythm of the vines" and of course to allow the soil to be truly alive. Certification rules apply if you want to call yourself "bio."
In Burgundy, the growers we know take it one step further: what's the point of going "bio" if your neighbor is pumping and spraying pesticides and chemical fertilizers on their vines? My lens was not crooked in this photo; the "cote" of Beaune is steep, and if it rains, you can imagine that you might get some runoff from your neighbor up the hill. And the parcels are of course packed together, so if you spray, your neighbor gets your drift, so to speak.
So, what they do is get together with their neighbors and agree that either all of us in this little area are going to be bio, or we can't make it work.
So where am I going with this post? Well, of course I am always ready to share interesting vignettes of France, but more importantly, there was an article in the Register about a national report on beach water quality by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has Laguna scoring in the top tier.
My point is: isn't a good score in Laguna diminished if your neighbor (e.g. Doheney down the coast) is chronically one of the worst? E-coli anyone? Ear infections? Gastro problems? Yuck! We each take care of our little corner of the world, of course, but in the end our actions relative to each other and the global picture also matter....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Madagascar 101

I get such an array of questions when people see the baskets for the first time; the original reaction is that they are very pretty, colorful and well-made; the following question usually centers on origin: Where are these made? or my favorite, "Do you make these yourself? No way could I make thse baskets! Do they come from France? Any of these questions allow me to share a little bit about the fascinating island we call Madagascar.
Madagascar is the world's 4th largest island, after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo; it is off the south-east coast of Africa. Its land mass is greater than France, and 80% of its flora and fauna are not found anywhere outside the island (think of the ring-tailed lemur); it supplies the best vanilla in the world (the real stuff not faux!). It is a "least-developed nation," the 13th poorest country in the world. It is rich in natural resources, with rain forests, minerals and renewable natural fibers, such as the raffia and grasses that make these baskets. Its poverty also means there are considerable problems with "slash and burn" deforestation (and the many ecological problems which follow) and mining of its natural resources. Every few weeks I meet someone who understands the travesty of the deforestation and mining that goes on in Madagascar; I can't repeat what they say, but suffice to say they are angry that this kind of depletion and ruination of a uniquely natural island is allowed to happen. I also get a handful of people who say "Oh, Madagascar, we loved that movie!" Now I can't believe that the movie discusses any of the real issues; it's about escapee zoo animals from New York, right? It's not the most erudite association for the island, but I guess it did raise awareness of the name....
The Malagasy language is closer to that of Borneo than Africa, because it was Pacific Islanders who substantially settled the island. I hate to oversimplify, but I'm giving you the "101" remember. The French annexed the island in the very late 19th century, until independence in 1960, and the educated (and my suppliers) speak French to this day. A good thing, since I do not speak Malagasy!
There are a few other strange twists in the tale, but I will stop here for now.
Madagascar has been struggling for years to break free from its poverty. The situation has become more difficult since January 2009, when the President of the country was challenged by the mayor of the capitol city, Antananarivo. The President eventually stepped down. It's a very sad situation for the citizens; my suppliers tell me they try to get out and continue with their lives, but I know in my heart that it is a difficult situation for them. We have nonetheless been able to transact business, and the summer order is now in Los Angeles.
I have not been to Madagascar yet, though of course I very much want to see the country and meet my suppliers. It is a 10+ hour flight from Paris, and Air France is basically the only way to get there, and it's a long haul by any measure. I hope to go in the next year, but that will depend on my time and the political situation.
In the meantime, I have wanted to work on an informal micro-finance program. Some friends at the U.N. are working on a formal program; (the U.N. and the World Bank both support Madagascar and my suppliers). I have a lovely, respectful and collaborative relationship with my suppliers. The baskets are produced under conditions of Fair Trade and Fair Wage; your purchases are helping my suppliers in Madagascar.
Aux mes fournisseurs: je suis tres fiere des toutes vos travailles cette annee; avec toutes mes remerciements et meilleurs voeux,

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

As Seen in Coastal Living

It arrived preview copy of the June edition of Coastal Living Magazine, featuring our large St. Tropez basket in rose pink on page 22! The Editors said they loved it, and the layout on the page is so sharp. We are in great company, there are several pages of beach-style items, all filled with so many beautiful pieces at all price ranges; I was also really happy to see the article on the previous page about Sally Bartz and her Halsea line; I met Sally a few weeks ago at the Corona del Mar market and hope we'll stay in touch.
I did a quickie job on the scan, sorry! I also did not do that stupid sharpie-circle around the basket, you can't miss it on the page.
The St. Tropez basket is "the classic" and has consistently been one of my best sellers; it's a beautiful basket, well made, trimmed in leather; and who doesn't love pink??! I also carry it in Fuchsia, Yellow, Green, Orange and Blue, and some with black handles (better for fall and winter, and for men). I'll be featuring the Rose pink in the markets in the next few weeks, with the magazine page.
This weekend of course for Memorial Day the booth will be all tricked out in red white & blue and lots of American flag motifs. I'll do lots of blue baskets and some neutral and fuchsia; I don't do red on the baskets, for now. Bunting is wonderful for me, because I just have to reverse it after July 4th and I'll be ready for Bastille Day.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jennifer's Cart, Reflection of Her Style

Every farmers market has a different feel, and a different energy. The space to be occupied has a lot to do with the energy. When people are close, in a smaller space, the energy gets concentrated and amplified.
This was the case yesterday in Pali; it's a much smaller space than Brentwood, for example, which is quite expansive. Even Calabasas and CdM feel larger. But it was still a good energy, like a tight, NYC type of energy. Lots of activity, lots of talking and lots of hawking.
Onto this scene came Jennifer McColm and her sister, late morning; if you don't know Jennifer, she is the mastermind CEO behind the many California Certified Farmers Markets in LA, ( and in addition to being a very gracious person, she is a savy business lady and an ardent advocate of a greener lifestyle, all with a keen eye to style and shape and color. I first met Jennifer in Calabasas market, last year; she instantly recognized that I had a European feel to my booth: European baskets, natural products, displayed in an unpretentious style, in baskets of osier blanc rather than plastic crates.
So it made me really happy to see Jennifer arrive at the Pali market with her French Basketeer honey colored rolling cart/market basket. She was in a long maxi-dress (why do they call them maxi when Jen is so mini-skinny?!) She looked fab and the Elle Magazine cameras were lapping it all up! She arrived with her empty cart, and when she came back around, the cart was full, of the most beautiful flowers, perfectly arranged. I had a dozen ladies come inquire about "Jennifer's rolling basket". Could I ask for a better spokes-model??
Jennifer always comes by to chat when I see her at the markets, but this was a special day; we waved at each other and I was really happy for her to be in the spotlight!! I got a few shots of her flowers in her cart so here they are. She has a wonderful blog too:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pali HS Plastic Bag Monster

I have so many posts I could do about this weekend, but I want to start with two dear brave souls who went around the Pacific Palisades farmers market, one dressed as a plastic bag monster, to raise awareness of plastic bags. They did a fine job!! They gave me a count, I think it was about 90 bags on this kid.
They are in an environmental group at Pacific Palisades High (dit "Pali High") and they took up plastic bags as their cause. It takes a lot of guts for these kids to get out and do this, and I sent them on their way with a some free sets of net bags, rolls of bio bags and a few business cards and told them to call me if I can ever help their cause or if they want to do a no-plastic fundraiser on campus.
So bravo to the Pali Bag Monsters; one way or another we will be rid of plastic in a few years. More on that.....

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Apres Marche Reading

It was a treat to be back in Corona del Mar market today, after 2 weekends of early days in LA. Today I did all blue and green on the front; net bags and baskets, and two cache pots of blue hydrangeas to set it all off. I would have taken more photos if it had been sunnier....It was nice to have a few surprise visits from friends and green-associates too!

I got home with a few produce items from the market, as well as some of my favorite fresh lemon-spinach ravioli from "Kelly the pasta lady." It's a little grey today, so I don't feel guilty about having a little down time and getting home "early" at 2:30.

If I have down-time or vege-time, it's often spent with a good book. I used to buy books constantly, in New York and Paris, new or used or very used; Rizzoli on 57th and the bookstore at the Louvre are favorite places to shop or just browse. Now every shelf I have is full, so I shop more carefully. I used to buy old French magazines (Maison et Jardin helped me learn French!) or World of Interiors' issues on 6th Avenue in the Village, from the street vendors who also sold incense (still have all those magazines and refer to them). I kept my syllabi from the Ecole du Louvre and I slowly track the books down since some of them are out of print or hard to find. From time to time I buy chez FNAC in Paris or online; it's expensive, but the only place to go if you're looking to complete your collection of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, for example, which could only be read in original French and comes in beautiful small blue linen bound books; exquisite! I'll have to do a post on the French and their books one of these days. Now I like to look for decor and style titles at Juxtaposition, Rogers Gardens and Anthropologie, and online at 1stDibs' Required Reading; I like to read just about anything except fiction (yuck!). But when I buy, the first place I look is Alibris, for used books. I used to like to shop at Strand in NY, which was new and used, and I still love to find new books at a discount to list.

Today I bought a book I've been meaning to buy, Nicole de Mazery's French Interiors. It has a fine collection of photos, including a beautiful series of photos of Hubert de Givenchy's chateau; I have photos of it in a French book entirely devoted to Givenchy, but this is the first time I've seen some of these photos in the US. I have a few of Nicole's titles already, and in French; if I have my choice I will always buy a book in French over English if the subject matter is French; in this case I'll buy in English and check it out later in France. I always come home from France with several coffee table books.

I am still looking for photos of Christian Lacroix's new home, or is it a chateau? There was a brief article in the New York Times about it a while ago, with Lacroix sitting on the sofa with his mother and his Parson Russell terriers. The canape was covered in a rich leopard velvet, and behind the sofa was a table with several fabulous taxidermy leopards, surely from Deyrolles. It was entirely fabulous and entirely French!

This evening I have to go see Erin to go over instructions for Brentwood and give her a few supplies; tomorrow I will be in Palisades for my first time, so we'll be out the door before 6am.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Blue Mood

I was in a Blue Mood yesterday, though I wasn't feeling down; I was getting ready to do a series of blue net bags. So I put on a turquoise blue top with a grey jacket and started combing the house. Out came pieces of my large collection of Real Old Willow (must be Booths, around 1920-30 so that the cobalt is just right) and some early English Willow as well. Next I brought out one of my favorite dresses, which is long, ombre chiffon: turquoise into green with a touch of pale yellow; that dress has been to parties in Laguna and a wedding in Switzerland. It's so subtle and a total winner. I pulled a few pieces of blue and white pottery too, some of which will be used this weekend in Corona del Mar and Palisades.
While many of the pink and peach and yellow bags I did a week or so ago had a saturated color, for the blue bags I had a lighter hand with the dye. Part of the first set is here: ombre turquoise with blue jean blue at the bottom, ombre turquoise going into green. I did some to match my dress, pale turquise going into green with a touch of yellow at the top.
When I lived in NY I did pottery for quite a few years, handbuild and wheel, though mostly wheel. I usually did series: 12 or 15 plates, and then bowls of a certain shape; then all majolica glaze etc. Someone somewhere has one of my "bather" series of majolica plates; I hope just one will turn up for my collection! I don't hold myself up to be a master artist, but I do OK. And whether its pottery or painting or drawing or net bags, I like to do series: you iron out your mistakes early and can test variations. Look at most major artists of course, and you'll see the same thing; mastering depiction of a subject matter, a medium, a form. It's what they did until they perfected it or got bored, and then moved on.
Tomorrow I will be in Corona del Mar, Sunday I will be in Pacific Palisades next to Elle again; I am really looking forward to my first day in that market. Sunday Erin and Kailea will be in Brentwood. Come see us for lots of pretty blues!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

West LA, in brief...

Today we were in West LA for a rare mid-week show. What a nice group of people today! Thank you Melinda for a lovely event.

I was up before 5 and got there early; Erin and Kailea joined later and ran the boutique; they are in training but doing a great job.

I am so tired now I have little else to say except good night!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thinking of Paris

Today, I had a sudden realization. Independent of the fro-yo. I am going to Paris in August....but how am I going to do what I want to do and still take the boys on "my tour" of Paris? Should I drag them around with me to see my favorite places? Seeing the Louvre and the Tour Eiffel and a few other places could take up 2 days. What was I thinking, only 2 days in Paris!?

I really like to do driving tours. Me at the wheel. I used to take people on a driving tour of Manhattan and show them all the important places out the window: Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building; Rockefeller Center; Soup Nazi's store, where Letterman is filmed; JFK Jr's apartment building, where John Lennon got shot. In Paris, voici le Tour Eiffel and Champs de Mars, the Louvre, Concorde (the obelisk not the plane though that is on display at CdG), the key bridges; Garnier Opera House, the Champs Elysee and the Etoile, Notre Dame; Chanel on Rue Cambon; we do the drive from the Ritz to the tunnel under Pont l'Alma, where Diana was killed. People love to see a mix of history and current culture.

But I have a list of places I always go when I am in Paris, and now I'm starting to wonder how I will fit it all in. I always go to the Louvre when in town (though it's a brief visit); always to a few favorite shops, like the one in the post I did for Sister Cities; it's a total inspiration, and I load up on little scented candles and glass and silver pieces there. I always go to les Puces, even if it's a brief stop. I know just which marches and which vendors I want to see; some silver, some fabric, some garden pieces, some crystal. I always go to see the vintage Hermes and Vuitton dealer though I never buy.

The one I am most worried about is Aux Vieux Paris. I didn't go there the last time I was in town and someone told me the building was condemned and that it is now closed. So I have to go see. It's a bar, but it doesn't open until midnight. It opened after the War, and precious little has changed since then; it's totally authentic. It is owned by Madame Francoise, who must now be in her late 80's; she always has nice jet black hair in a bob and pumps with a large chunky heel, like Minnie Mouse, except she has pretty bad edema in her ankles, so you always wonder how long she will last. And how she can be up and pouring drinks and on her feet in the wee hours; you see, she works the bar. Serge is on the accordeon, also handing out les paroles (pages of written song lyrics). He is alternatively scolding and disapproving and encouraging, looking at you with dark eyes that have some serious bags under them, and a little shoe polish hair. Why wouldn't he have major bags, working most nights midnight to 5am? No clapping is allowed, it's only finger snaps, and he enforces that strictly. Mme Francoise's daughter Simone rounds out the trio of characters.

You see, this is a singing bar; you come to sing along to the old French songs and have a glass or 5 or 10, until 4 or 5am when it closes. I've closed it down a few times, and the sun is coming up. If you want to learn French, you must give it a try; I guarantee you will be speaking French faster and with less inhibition when you leave than when you arrived. That's in part because you have been singing and reading French all night, and part because you're most likely pretty sauced when you leave! Just sing Jacques Brel's La Valse a Mille Temps a few times and I guarantee you'll be making progress! He was Belge, but the French adopted him.

I also always go to Dehillerin for the best and least expensive cooking/chef supplies, and I'd like to go see the peacocks (paons) at Deyrolle. One day I want to buy one, though it's sort of a folly and I have no idea where I would put it. I used to think I would stuff Napoleon when I lose him, but he's not quite as pretty as a peacock. Deyrolle is the place to go for taxidermy and natual history; actually the boys might quite like it. We will of course also go to Bertillon for the best gelato to be found just about anywhere. I hate to be a snob but it really is the best.

I'll get it all sorted; I guess I have to also discuss with the boys. I would like to let them wander alone for a bit, but not sure yet. I wonder if I can get them reading some French before the trip so they can go to Vieux Paris...? I'll have to post more stories about it later.

Fro-Yo & Bio-D spoons

What was I saying about feeling like it's summer? It's pretty warm today and while I was out picking up lunch, I decided to stop by the new Yogurt-land store, a self-serve Fro-Yo place. I have never been to a Pinkberry, but my sister had told me to go try Yogurt-land, so I stopped...
I got a huge cup of non fat strawberry-chocolate-pistachio-French vanilla (of course! But unfortunately it was faux-French Vanilla) with some blackberries and mini white chocolate pieces on top; yum-my!
But what I found really interesting were the non-yogurt items: 1) the plastic spoons they give out say "biodegradable" on the back. I'm bringing mine home to throw in the compost and see what it does; it's bright green and sort of flat but very thick, so I'm sure not to lose it in the pile! They also have conventional plastic spoons there, for tasting the yogurt and toppings (why?!); 2) when I asked the guy at the counter for a bunch of biodegradable spoons (I was sharing with the girls) he said "No" and that he's "not allowed to give out more than one"! This is the first time in any store that I've been refused a plastic utensil; usually they just toss about a dozen in your bag; this is a fabulous policy!! 3) He offered me a bag, which I took for my collection, because it says "This earth-friendly bag is made with both recycled and recyclable plastic. Please reuse." There is no plastic bag that is remotely Earth-friendly in my book, but it's a very interesting attempt. I was glad to see at least the bag is made in the U.S.
There is nothing on their website that talks about the eco-friendly aspects of the stores, but bravo on cutting down on waste; now if only they would get rid of those plastic bags!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Summer's Coming & Vides Greniers

Summer is coming; I can feel it and I can see it. We've had a little bit of warm weather, and the bugs and moths and spiders are multiplying and getting larger. We have what are commonly called Orb-weaver spiders in our garden; here is one that is about the size of my thumb, and I don't have small hands. I don't go out to find a lemon in the garden at night without a hand out in front or a stick, or else I might go face to face with this guy! It's not poisonous, but not pleasant! They usually tear their webs down each morning and then rebuild, but this one has been in the same spot for a few days now; it's up above the pathway, so safe from my karate chop and sticks.

In France, when spring comes, it's time for the vides greniers (literally "empty the attic"), the French equivalent of a collective garage sale. The French don't throw anything away. It is all sorted and cleaned and stored, and even if it's broken, it's better to sell it for cheap at the VG than throw it in the local decheterie. In smaller towns, you'll find individual vendors for an announced VG in the public square; in other places, there are dealers who come with trucks and piles of merchandise. The French are very conscious of their personal space, and unless you are in a certain antique-type district, as in Beaune, you don't have your own VG.

R and I went to a VG in Savigny-les-Beaune last spring; you have to look for the little signs on the side of the road a few weeks in advance. We found a nice wheat sheaf light fixture, but that was about it. I love porcelaine blanche, but it has to be free of chips, and that's usually what's on offer. It's a jumble of stuff; mostly not so perfect; lots of chipped plates and pottery and some glass and well, just what you'd expect at a French garage sale. So you ask, who would want a badly chipped piece of pottery?
Well, let me tell you a night J-F and I were invited to dinner at a flat in Paris, it was maybe over by Musee Rodin. It was a family, with several children under the age of 10, behind a typically non-descript exterior. But when you entered the flat, your eyes got wide with the fantastic display of an exotic, eclectic and singularly Parisian decor-- one room full of mostly primitive musical instruments from around the globe (on the wall and hanging from the ceiling), a mix of natural history -- encased beetles and butterflies; a range of patterns and fabrics, both French and very well chosen African patterns. Oil paintings. You felt like you were in the curiosities room of the Rembrandt House in Amsterdam, on steroids. The piece de resistance was a grand format painting lit low and handed down from the grandfather; it was said to be possibly a lost Carravagio (dit Carravage in France). The painting and the entire flat were a treat for the eyes. The children gave us their own tour of their "collections"; mostly natural history; it certainly was in the genes!
When we sat down for our meal, at a tiny table in the kitchen (the flat was the size of a NYC classic 6), we had a wonderful dinner, on a set of old (18C?) Luneville rose faience dinnerware. Clearly this was the family dinner service, and every piece-- every plate and every service piece-- was chipped, not just a little. But there was no mind, they were still beautiful plates and we had a lovely dinner.
In the U.S., we want to toss a set of plates if we get tired of them or they have a few chips; not so in France; if they are good quality, you keep them for centuries! And you go to VG to find replacements and matches to your pattern.