Monday, September 30, 2013

Perfume Treasure

One of my Saturday farmers market friends has been telling me that she has two large boxes full of perfume samples and small bottles, gathered over several decades, and that one of these days she is going to bring them to show me, knowing that we have a mutual love of some classic perfumes.  This weekend, it was my luck, as she arrived to drop off the two boxes, for me to browse, and perhaps, keep a few.


Many of these are from the 70’s and 80’s, when the department stores used to give away all of these samples, with beautiful packaging.  Today, they are more rare.  I have another friend, who is French, and who says she tosses all of these kinds of perfume samples as she wears one and only one perfume for several years before she might change, currently wearing a Chanel.  And I think of all the Clean Surfaces people in my life who would never save things like cosmetics samples, let alone for 30 years.  I have tossed some samples that I now regret, like Youth Dew, which is horribly strong in a spray but great for the bath.  It’s a shame to toss these samples, I think.  If you follow the perfume world a little, you know that with the formation of the European Union certain standards were been put in place, and certain materials are now banned from perfumes for environmental reasons, as well as some for political reasons.  That has resulted in the reformulation of many classic fragrances, including many Guerlain favorites like L’Heure Bleue (longtime perfume of Catherine Deneuve) and Shalimar.  And so the older formulas are highly coveted.  If conserved properly, as the contents of these boxes have been, in a cool, dark place, the old formulations are gold.   It incredible to smell a small vial of Robert Piguet Fracas….so much richer than the current version, which I still love….But oh my, two boxes, full, and so many pieces~  


I did what you would expect after looking through the boxes for a few minutes….I pulled all the French ones.  Here they are with a few limes for the tartes I made this weekend.  Guerlain, Chanel, Caron, Annick Goutal, Rochas, Saint Laurent, Dior, Boucheron, Balmain and more….I love them….and they inspired many women to stop in their tracks and beg to have a look.  Hard to resist!


Among the French I chose a few notable Italians, including a Valentino sample with a  tassled box and bottle; what thought to the packaging!  A very pretty little bottle…I didn’t even smell the perfume.


There are quite a few Chanels in the lot, all splash, and so I had a little appreciation for the new magnetic tops that line up.  Still, who can argue with a lineup of vintage Coco??


And vials of more than a few classics, that smell just divine….if you find vintage Chanel 19 with the old formulation in good shape, snap it up, it is better than new 19, though I still wear that…


My favorite though, in all of the hundreds of bottle large and small, was this one, a vintage frosted sample bottle of some kind that has a remarkably detailed Eiffel Tower on it.  The bottle itself is just about 3 inches tall but very detailed; I  just love this little bottle~


The tone of the metals on it is a perfect match for all the shades of amber of the perfumes.


And its smaller companion, a little 3” bottle with garland detail, and a jewel-toned top.  The lattice work on the top is very close to the metal work on a tiny Eiffel Tower I have….just a sweet little piece…


but oh, the Chanel keeps drawing me back….vintage Coco, 19, 5, and a few others….Un Fleur de Chanel, one didn’t know but which smells lovely.  I remain a big fan of the house of Chanel~


These boxes will go back home next weekend, but if you have some of these in your collection, please do keep them!!  They are gold!

Comments are off; I am selecting fonts this week and today chose the cover font for Reve.  Progress!!

ps you can also follow me on Instagram HERE for images of what I am seeing and doing….the images showing in my gallery now are a little old, but I got a new phone this week and am finding lots of new inspiration for Instagram; it’s a great way to keep up with me real time for images.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Paris Guide to Macaroons

I have to say, I am really missing my blogging lately.  There is always so much going on, even when I try to be devoted to finishing Rêve Paris, but I will be back soon…blogging in force.  Meanwhile, as we work through the layout of the book, I have added a section on the best macaroons in Paris, with addresses and details, what to look for, who, where and why.  This book is a great project for me in that I am compiling extensive information from my own memory banks as well as a little other research all in one place.  The address section at the end has ballooned; it’s one big fat reference guide on Paris, lavishly illustrated with photographs.  And after writing about the best macaroons, I’m ready to get on a plane today in order to have a plate full of these.  I’ll eat one for you too~

topten7 a boxed cake or pastries

Or do I want these?  The next time I am in Paris I will make the macaroon rounds again, with more photos.


Macaroons are one thing I have never dared make.  But if you want to give it a try, I’ll tell you where to go in Paris to get all the gear.


Not ready to jump on the plane to Paris for a macaroon just yet?  Just watch this, you will….

Thanks to so many of you for your encouraging emails!!  I have a list of Super Wonderful People who will get this hefty book for free when it’s finished.    I’m turning comments off so I can get back to work.  And when I’m back to blogging, watch out, I have lots of French and Holiday goodness coming up as soon as this project is completed.  Now, hopefully you are someplace where you can run out and find yourself a macaroon today!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rx for Heat

After an unseasonably cool summer, we finally got some heat this week here in Southern California.  At the Rancho Santa Fe market on Sunday we had decided to have a little party as the market ended, to celebrate summer as well as our market manager Raquel’s birthday….any excuse for a party, right?  The problem was, it was so hot, low 90’a, as well as humid…the kind of of heat that you really don’t want to eat very much.  What to serve, with little preparation, and how to beat the heat just a little?  For starters, we offered up a little hydration, with some mint-lemon water. Boiling hot water over fresh crushed mint and sliced lemons from my tree; add ice and a generous pour of agave syrup, and you’re done~ 


In the market basket on display, I showed a ton of peaches and tomatoes and passion fruit,as well as a French beach staple; a can of Evian spray.  You can find those cans HERE, and if you don’t know them already, they are probably the single best thing to get you through the day looking good and feeling cool~ spray your arms, spray your face, love these…..I also bought a new bottle of balsamic, this one from Akram and infused with wild berries….thick and great; I’d love to pour it over a bowl of fresh peaches and ice cream; you will see this soon….


As the market was underway, I did a little prep, and dealt with the heat and the fact that I didn’t have a refrigerator.  The big copper bowl from Guy & Jacqueline was chilled with ice, and held the eggs I needed shortly.


Raquel brought six vintage steel blade knives, which I used to slice peaches, and I later brought home to polish and prep properly (hint: clean thoroughly then oil them)~


This was my worktable; you can see the cake in the back left, bags of frozen lemons, ice cream making bowl, sliced peaches, and gelato mixed with frozen lemons; the paper bags held the cartons of cream that went into the ice bath; It was an improv, it was a real mess, but it was delicious.


I can’t think of a better way to spend a hot afternoon than with an Italian Gelato.  We had a triple recipe, and this is my all time fave~ the single recipe is to heat a cup of water and a cup of sugar for five minutes at a boil, then add three cups of lemon juice.  Freeze.  Mix the resulting ice in a blender with an egg white.  Freeze again for about 30 minutes.  This will result in a light and frothy gelato. When ready to serve, scoop into bowls or glasses or fancy champagne cups.  Drizzle with a bit of vodka and a touch of berries or passion fruit juice if available.  I had mine in a glass as it didn’t have time to refreeze properly, but it was still super good~


This recipe calls for a lot of lemon juice, so I used tiny lemons from the grocery store for part of the recipe, and scooped the finished gelato into the tiny frozen lemon shells for serving.  This was sort of a quick slurp it up shot of lemon and vodka, and a perfect way to cool down after the market, garnished with a little sprig of fresh mint from Atkins Nursery~


And as soon as we sat down to the table, food started to arrive; Daniel from Rollswisserie brought us platters of quartered chickens and rosemary-roasted potatoes~


Emilio set down platters of the paella he made and then got to opening the bottles of Prosecco for the tables~


And before it got too late, I assembled a three layer white cake with the fresh peaches and passion fruit juice on a marble slab; it was appropriately loose and informal for a hot day….dig in, or pick a piece or two off the sides~


And for the entertainment as we ate, the vendors showed off fancy eggs, brought pretty straws and generally needed no further excuse to have fun~


Oh a little music didn’t hurt; Sally got right into the karaoke~


While the rest of us just sat around and ate and chatted and had a laugh, or ten~


Akram to the rescue with more fresh crudite and the tahini he makes from scratch;


My prescription for the heat? Bottle of Evian, lots of gelato, lots of good friends and light foods….I don’t like to eat a lot when it’s too hot.  Reve Paris is progressing, and I get more and more excited the further this project goes; though the death of my beloved 98 year old Grandma Virginia has also set me back this week. 

Enjoy the dog days of summer…no news means I am busy and making progress on Reve, which I must finish soon as I have SO many great projects stacking up after that!!