Saturday, December 29, 2007

Twelfth Night Cakes & Crowns

Now Christmas is past, Twelfth Night is the last
To the Old Year adieu, Great joy to the new !

Feast of Epiphany, the Magi, the Three Kings,
Little Christmas, ancient rituals tied to the winter solstice,
whatever one chooses to call it, the "Twelfth Night"
is approaching January 6.

A wonderful ancient custom of fun and frolic,
where the norm in social order turns topsy-turvy.
A kingdom where Bean Kings and Pea Queens rule.
Good Luck is bestowed on all.

What began as a pagan tradition, the "Twelfth
Night" was a celebration of the Winter Solstice.
While "Twelfth Night" customs spread throughout
Europe there were many variations, but one element
that remained the same was the choosing of a King
or Queen by means of good fortune. The most prevalent
being the eating of cake and the lucky one who
found the bean would be King for a night.

The most famous King Cake is the French
version "Galette des Rois" a french pastry filled
with frangipane (made from almond paste, butter,
eggs, and sugar). Inside the cake is a feve (bean).
Most feves today are porcelain trinkets, most
collectible by French children.

The youngest child present, distributes the slices
and one slice is always put aside ( le part a Dieu)
for the unexpected visitor.

Now for La Fête

So, by the Good Fortune bestowed upon me, I do hereby
declare myself QUEEN of my Kingdom and all
company being assembled here bearing witness.
Resting upon my Throne and having the the ability
to appoint court and enact arbitrary laws, I also
crown anyone reading this doctrine to be Queens
& Kings!
The policy of this reign shall be:

#1 to Eat Cake

#2 For all latent talents to be unmasked
For those who have never danced, to be of
fantastic toe.
For those who have never sung, to hum
sweet melodies.
For those who have never loved, to love rouge.
For those who have never eaten cake,

#3 Cadeaus pour tout
May you possess all the Gold, Frankinscence &
Myrrh you desire
May your wine always be dispersed with a
liberal hand
and French Hens rest on your table
May you have Lots of Cake

#4 Eat More Cake

The crown pictured above was made by
the Queen at
Cakes are from Almost too
luscious to eat.
By order of the Queen I do hereby wish you
a most merry "Twelfth Night".

Now, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where Bean’s the King of the sport here;
Beside we must know
The Pea also
Must revel, as Queen, in the Court here.
Begin then to choose,
(This night as ye use)
Who shall for the present delight here.
Be a King by the lot
And who shall not
Be Twelfth-day Queen for the night here.
Which known, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg’d will not drink
To the base from the brink
A health to the King and the Queen here.
Next crown the bowl full
With gentle lambs-wool;
Add sugar, nutmeg and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.
Give then to the King
And Queen wassailing;
And though with ale ye be wet here;
Yet part ye from hence,
As free from offence
As when ye innocent met here.
- Robert Herrick

PS For those of you who live in Louisville,
Mirabelle Gourmet Catering is offering
"Galettes les Rois" with ceramic feves imported
from France.
Quantities are limited, so place your order now.
And since we are on the subject of Queens.
#4 on my French Fashion List for Antiques
happens to be Crowns!
Bonne Annee

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Boiseries...Beautiful Thoughts

Every creation begins with a thought.

Imagine a blank take some beautiful,
passionate thought and express it visually upon
that wall.
Viola! A Boiserie is created.
I can only imagine the beautiful thoughts of those
artisans as they layered their passion upon these
once thoughtless walls.

Hotel de Varengeville 1735

There is one common thread that I find, that defines
"Country French" style and that is passion !
I think many Americans have this preconceived
notion that "Country French" is decorating with
Toile de Jouy. Marketing! you gotta love it!
"Country French" is more a way of life, than
decorating with Louis XV or a certain fabric.
As I travel through the countryside of France,
it never ceases to amaze me how many people
are living their passion. Whether it is the simple
farmer who hawks his harvest at market,
the family that lovingly tends the vineyard,
the Chef that is insulted when you don't finish your
plate, or the artist passing the day at a cafe,
while capturing life on canvas.
Their lives and their homes are full of passion!

There is something about France, that nurtures
thoughts of passion. An appreciation for those
things created from the passion. For you see,
they are not just things, they are the material
manifestations of beautiful thoughts!

It is difficult to find entire boiseries and if you did,
you would need deep pockets, so I will be content with
collecting fragments of those beautiful backdrops
of life.

And this brings me to #3 on my
French Fashion List for Antiques.
Pieces of intricately carved wood, trumeau mirrors and
plaster motifs...all of those creations which at one
time only existed as a thought, in the mind of an
artisan who wanted to visually express their passion,
in the form of a boiserie.
"For it is not what you look at that matters,
but what you see".
And by the way,
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas
and I wish for you some of the "Country French"
way of life in 2008!
Bonne Année

Saturday, December 15, 2007

une peu d'inspiration

While sipping my Cafe au Lait this morning,

I got inspired to play with some photographs.
I have a tendency to buy antiques and brocante
that are within the same color family. I just
really like muted, chalky, dusty tones and anything
that has it's original paint. I like colors
that are weathered, reminiscent of the architecture
in Nice, or a lot of places in France for that matter.

These are all items from the store except for
the paper covered encyclopedias.
I just had to include them because I adore
old white paper bound books.

I fell in love with these when I saw them. They reside
in the home of Mr. Thomas Briggs, a noted Interior Designer
from New York. He covered them with parchment paper
then added the gold embossed labels. How clever is this?
I just had to share. I've got it on my New Years Decorating
projects list to cover all my ugly books in my office with
parchment paper.

And then there are les poires. When it comes to color
nobody does it better than Mother Nature. I love going
to the marché when in France. The colors always take
my breath away.

Anyway, just a few photographs of the colors
of France.
I had to include a photograph of Thomas Briggs
home from the New York Social Dairy.
I want my bookcase to look like this.
And.. look at the boiseries!! OOH LA LA.
My next post will be about Boiseries, as
they are #3 on my
French Fashion List for Antiques
Chow for now

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dis Moi

AAH, the Language of Emotion, communicated in
oh so many ways!
Forms, colors, textures, all being combined in an
effort to express ourselves emotionally.
In this virtual world in which we are living, it
comes as no surprise that there is a re-newed
interest in TYPOGRAPhY which has slowly
spread to include all forms of enhancing ABC.

In my earlier post this week, I listed TEXTILES
on my French Fashion List for Antiques
All forms of TYPOGRAPHY are #2 on that list.

There are many great example of Typography
out there in the form of old menu's, theater
posters, cookbooks, signs, wine labels, etc.
The two items above are listed on Ebay.
Wouldn't a collection of old French recipes
or menu's be great framed. Talk about
adding ambiance to that Country French Bistro

And when Sak's Fifth Avenue creates an Ad Campaign
with scrolly text, I'm thinking people will WANT IT.
This was created by Marian Bantjes. You can see more of
her work at

Also love these Hand-painted vintage shoes by
Mathieu Missiaen. You can visit them online at

Since most trends cross the Atlantic via France,
I'm sure we will be seeing more of Chateau Shop.
They have a wonderful collection of wall art,
duvets and area rugs.

I love the Area Rug ! No retailers in the US yet !
I'm thinking I'll pay them a visit my next trip.
You can visit them online at
I'll have my eyes scanning the markets next
time !
I have been buying some items already.
I always have a collection of oversize zinc letters

Printers numbers and letters and....

any fun things!

This is a wall treatment I did at the shop.
I've always been a TYPOGRAPHY fan myself.

Stay tuned to see whats #3 on the list of
French Fashion List for Antiques
And don't forget, the next time your decorating
Dit Moi !

Saturday, December 08, 2007

All I want for Christmas is Santa's Sack

I'll leave the goodies inside Santa's Sack to the little ones.
Just give me the Sack!

I'll bet that it's made from Jute or Flax!
Probably jute, like a Gunny Sack.

Being the Antiquarian that I am, much of
my success hinges on being able to guess
upcoming trends and get into the market
BEFORE the price skyrockets.
Tooting my own horn a bit, I've been fairly
successful at trend spotting. Of course it helps
that I spend so much time in France and we
know that when it comes to fashion, whether on
the runway or in the home, France is Avant-Garde!
Well, on my
French Fashion List for Antiques,
one of my top ten has to be Textiles, specifically
those made from Jute or Flax fibres.

Don't you just love nubby textures? And oh so,
authentically Country!
Somewhere along the line, we Americans started
calling Jute burlap. I think we are the only
country that refers to it as such. In India it is
called the "golden fibre". I prefer to call it
"Toile de Jute".

It's uses are as endless as your imagination.
It's most common use is that of sacks.
Old grain and food storage sacks are becoming
popular. The better weaves such as Hessian
cloth are fabulous for endless decorating
projects. Window treatments, window shades,
lamp shades, upholstery, pillows, etc.
Jute is also Eco-friendly.

Stencil on it, if you like!

These are some French Sac's that I have available.

Kathy Delgado who owns Vintageweave Interiors
in California makes some fabulous home accessories
from Jute. You can visit her website at

And can a girl actually have too many baskets?
My favorite baskets are the lined boulangerie baskets,
used for bread. I always keep a supply of
these. I have the round and the oblongs.
Wonderful to line them with votive candles and
then fill with cranberries, nuts, greenery and pine cones.
They are also great hanging on the wall.
They are $45 each. Feel free to call us at 502.585.3111
or send us an email if you would like some.

My other favorite fabric is Poplin. Authentic poplin
was actually made from silk and worsted.
Poplin, from the word Popeline, originated in
Avignon, France where there was once a papal
court. The original Poplin was prized in it's day.
Today much of the Poplin is made from cotton.
I always buy bolts of vintage Poplin in France,
when I can find it, and use it for window treatments
and upholstery. Poplin is strong, almost stain resistant
and has the look of luxury!
With all the different weaves and man-made
fabrics now, selections can be difficile!
Did you know there are only 5 natural fibres?
Cotton, Jute, Flax, Silk and Wool.
When you visit a Tapissier in France, you'll
find they are using more Hessian and Flax.

Louis XV Fauteuils

Photo from Country Home Magazine
Louis XVI style Bergere

Louis XIV Fauteuils I had upholstered in
Vintage French Poplin

Love this Bergere !!

Just FYI
Bergeres are upholstered armchairs that are enclosed.
Fauteuils are upholstered armchairs with open sides.

And you don't even want to get me started on
the French linen napkins (serviettes)
The linen gets softer and more fine the more it
is laundered. This is a whole nother post!
But....I do have an assortment of beautiful
monogrammed French linens that are
table ready!
A useful site to learn more about fabrics is
They also have a copy of the Burn Test,
used to determine if a fiber is natural, man-made,
or a blend of fibers.
The best thing about Jute and Poplin, is that
it is affordable NOW.
Many suppliers actually sell used Grain Bags.
I'll be sharing more of whats on my
French Fashion List for Antiques
in the following weeks.

Chow for now

Friday, December 07, 2007

la Fee Verte Flies Again

Giving a Whole new meaning to
Hanging of the Greens!
The Belle Epoque Era of France has returned!
Absinthe is legal again in the US, after a 100 year
Bohemians rejoice!

Seems a small artisan distillery in California,, has been battling
Washington for some time. These guys are
passionate about reviving the ancient art form
of blending spirits. They received the
stamp of approval last week, which was quickly
followed by a celebration of the distillers employees
drinking from the bottle with crazy straws.
Sorry I missed it!
There were a few other labels approved
earlier this year as mentioned in a USA Today
The little green fairy seems to be gaining momentum now.

One of my favorites , Edgar Degas

The Wormwood Plant

Van Gogh

Surely, a new art movement is on the horizon.

Albert Maignan
To learn more about the history of Absinthe you can
visit Liqueurs de France at
While your there, you can place an order.

How to Serve Absinthe:

The serving of absinthe is something of a ritual,
involving pouring water over lumps of sugar cubes
sitting on slotted spoons. Absinthe was unsweetened and
too bitter for some palates, and the sugar needed to
sweeten it would not dissolve in the liqueur’s 72%
alcohol content.

Step 1: Pour a measure of absinthe into a tall glass.
Step 2: Place a slotted absinthe spoon over the glass

and place a sugar cube on it
Step 3: Slowly pour 4 to 5 parts of iced water over

the sugar and let it drip into the glass.
The absinthe will turn from emerald green
to a milky white.
Step 4: Sip slowly and imagine yourself on a sidewalk

of a Parisian café in Montmartre.
Step 5: Don't forget your sketch pad and colored
pencils, just in case you have one of those
Voilà Visions.
Well I'm going to indulge. It just might be the
inspiration I need to finish "hanging the greens"
and if I get tired of that, I can always visit