At the first brocante I ever went to years ago I found a postcard of a woman impeccably dressed carrying eggs in a basket, water from the fountain in a zinc watering can, and carrying vegetables in her white crisp apron. The framed postcard is one of the first things I ever bought at the Brocante. It is worth nothing, but it spoke sweetly to me pointing in a good direction.
"Land for sale in the heart of Paris, where the Eiffel Tower will be built..."
That was what the article said in the massive 1854 book full of newspaper articles, some of them written by Balzac. French Husband found it on a friend's stand.
Land for sale in the heart of Paris, unheard of now, but back in 1854 you could buy a lot for 19,000 French Francs which today is roughly $3,800.
What would you do if you could go back in time?
The language of color do you know how to speak it? Those facades! How that must have been a conversation: What color should we paint our house? And the shutters?
Language of color:
Outside the lines.
Pretty in pink.
Stone house. Stone steps
Door not as old, though nevertheless older than anyone hanging around.
Painted Pop Splash Blue as the Sea.
Would you be as daring?
I doubt I would, but gee it was like a movie star on that street; Talk about an attention grabber.
Did you know that church bell towers in Provence are covered with an elaborate forged iron dome? The Var region has the most forged iron domes.
A handful of photos from the charming village of Lorgues.
Far away from the beaten path, nearly out of town, a plain wooden door with a century old lock that looked like it hadn't been used in a very long time.
Cinderella and the glass slipper.
I liked it best.
Over twenty years we have known one another, and yet at times I feel I don't know him at all. He will say something, or do something that I have never heard or seen him do before. As if he turned over a stone and a sprout shoots up.
I see a moist fertile ground underneath,
aching for a seed and
one is planted with a whisper,
"I never knew that before..."
Have you ever felt the air change, though there isn't a breeze.
Something new takes root.
Relationships are like a garden. We hold seeds waiting for the right season to plant them. Waiting can be hard, but if we plant them too soon they might not take root... When the sun warms and the rain softens the ground, a seed drops, we gently cover it wondering if can take the entirety of our soul and grow...
Waiting carefully not to pull at it, or stomp out the little green things that might appear, believing in it we water it, shelter it, give it room to grow without weeding it to death.
...With a gentle hand.
Tender and true through the seasons it becomes, changes colors, grows anew, endures pruning and stagnation, blooms...
She sees for the first time.
As he went on with his day I thought to myself isn't life incredible, challenging, fearless... It is easy to become caught up in the day forgetting to see the tender new growth, the underline hope, the smell of rain, the sun warming our back, more so it is easy not to notice the person right in front of us... the inner song of their soul, their spirit, the beating of their heart, the source that passes between us.
A long time blog reader, Faith and her friend Lisa came over for lunch yesterday afternoon. Faith lives in France, works with W.H.O. and also is an artist.
The summer day was hot, and nearly too uncomfortable to sit outdoors, fortunately that did not stop us from enjoying the moment.
Faith brought over blanched almonds with rosemary and rose wine. The rest of the menu came from the town's village gardener: Melon, salad, zucchini, tomatoes...
Ruth and I bought an entire collection of antique fabric from a textile artist who recently retired, hence the old matelas (mattress cover) textile now is a tablecloth. We will be selling the pieces as soon as we stop admiring them.
Through FB I found out that Faith was celebrating her birthday. Since I am not known for making desserts I went to our local bakery, lucky me that the bakery is literally around the corner or 105 steps away... Yes I am haunted by the aroma of baked goods and baguettes everyday.
Raspberry, macaroon, chocolate, tartlettes...
In Provence it is a tradition to take one of the lit birthday candles and let it burn down, instead of blowing it out. As the candle burns down it is a way to remember the pass year, to say goodbye to it as you welcome in the new year ahead.
What do you wish for?
Faith at lunch
enjoying life at hand.
French Husband came home with a twinkle in his eye, handing me a note that had the name and phone number of someone I didn't know.
"A certain Monsieur wants you to decorate his home on the French Rivera, and possibly other properties he owns! He wants you to call him today." Saying this his face beamed brighter than the moon on the Mediterranean! He added, "At a meeting today I told him about you, and he was intrigued and told me to have you call him."
French Husband is my biggest fan. He believes I could redecorate Versailles. He believes my fingers are golden. He thinks way too much of how I can fold fitted bedsheets and put the linens away.
I looked over at him and then back at note. I licked my lips wondering what this was about.
"Call him now!" French Husband said as he nearly shoves the phone down my throat with excitement.
Words stumble through my head in French, my heart beats faster, my fingers wiggled, I awkwardly smiled at the plunge I was about to take.
Dialing the number a woman's voice greeted me. Introducing myself my American accent gave more than I wanted it too. Silence lingered... I swallowed doubt, a thought raced through my head, "HANG UP!!" I stayed on the line chasing nonsense out of my desire. Finally after ages of silence that occurred in a split second, that only mathematicians can explain, the woman barked at me,"WHAT!!! What, what??? Who are you??? What has my Husband done??? WHAT??? NO! Oh no no no no!! Certainly not!"
I wanted to say I am not his mistress. Somehow that is what I think she thought.
Folding fitted sheets and putting the linens away is a simple art. One man's admiration is enough. I wonder what I said? I wonder if even mentioned it to his wife? I wonder what she found in her laundry?
To this day I do not know the real story. But this much is true. The guy was probably being nice, and over admiring Husband took the guy's words for real. Either way it made a good story.
Spent a lovely day antiquing with my friend Gina.
Who end up buying more than she could possible carry home.
I offered to keep it for her until she returned, but she knew that
was risky business. Not really. I offered to carry her bags back to
our native California.
We packed boxes this afternoon on
my kitchen table. Honey, jam, soaps, wooden bowls, copper platters,
We went strolling in villages, peeking into whatever caught our eye.
The weather is changing, but it doesn't matter, anytime is a good time
to be in France.... no matter what.
Do you know what these are?
I bet you do.
Cherry tomato provencal salsa is what I call it.
Simply diving on anything: Bread, fish, rice, vegetables...
or on a spoon will do.
Gina I will miss you.
Instead of buying antiques today I bought two very modern paintings by a man in his late eighties.
The first painting is nearly as tall as me, but wider than me...whew.
I never thought about yellow as one of the colors for the house in Cassis. But as you can see I took a giant leap in the direction of unexpected and colorful. And it feels scary and good all at the same time.
I also bought the painting below.
The Inky blue black wall is look closer to reality.
You know the saying, "Do something that scares you everyday?"
Well I took a step to doing something I have never done before,
Oh la la.
It is going to be a fun challenge in the scheme of scary things.
Thankfully I had a blog reader (Gina) with me, and she coached me through it.
A new baby is born, lol.
The French book I found at the brocante was titled, "I Shall Read". The images are just too dang cute. When I found it I thought what darling wallpaper it would make. I have a thing about using old paper as wall paper. The second thing I thought... was a flood of memories when Chelsea and Sacha were mere wee ones. They grew up bi-lingual.
When Chelsea went to first grade, I thought how was I going to help her learn her spelling words, or listen to her read since I could not read or write French myself? Imagine your child reading a language you barely understand.
It was an education in humbleness.
"Mommy, are you trying to say "jAune" with an A, or "jEune" with an E?
"I am saying the one with an A."
"Oh okay, the one with an "A" is J-A-U-N-E, that means yellow, the other one sounds similar but it means people."
"Oh thanks, I knew that, but I pronounced it badly."
"That's okay mommy, you are a good learner, like me!"
And so I started to learn how to read a French first grader's book when I was 38 years old with the best teacher in my five year old daughter.
Living in a foreign country without speaking the language was a challenge. The simplest things became mountains to climb. How to ask for something without words, or how to ask for something with only the few words I had in my pocket.
Pointing was a good tool.
Smiling was a good tool.
Not feeling stupid took courage and grace.
And using my children to do my bidding help.
How does it feel to be a child growing up with a parent who doesn't speak their other mother tongue?
I cried watching it.
back in 1996-
Sacha and I were at the hairdresser's. I was looking at a magazine. Sacha was checking out his surroundings. The women waiting, were admiring Sacha's curls and his perfect English vocabulary.
"Mommy, do you know how to say, "haircut" in French?" Sacha had something up his sleeve, I could tell by the twinkle of mischief in his eye.
"Oh no, I don't. What am I going to do when it is my turn?" I lied.
"Do you want me to tell you how to say, haircut in French?"
"Please, Sacha you are so helpful." I couldn't wait to hear his reply.
He leaned in closely, whispered in my ear, "Just say, rouge!"
"Rouge", means "Red" in French. Rouge, which at the time was the "in" color to dye ones hair and Sacha's favorite color.
Do you speak French?
If so you know the three words written below:
When I met Yann he did not speak English, and I did not speak French.
Yes, it was tad hard to communicate. You might say it was the language of love. Which it was with a lot of sign language.
After one year of living in the States, Yann was speaking English.
We moved to France.
I thought that when we arrived in France, Yann would speak to me in French.
We kept on speaking English.
I gathered French words here and there.
At the grocery store, at the post office, at a dinner party...
The first words I learned were basic:
Merci = Thank you.
Bonjour = Hello.
Combien = How much?
Oui = Yes.
Sortie = Exit.
Rue = Street.
Enchanté... Which I heard people say to me when they first met me. "Nice to meet you."
Learning French was not easy. It was frustrating. I was frustrated. Twenty five years ago when I would ask a French storekeeper, or someone on the street, "Parlez-vous Anglais?" They gave me a frustrating, "Non." Smiling was not in their vocabulary.
Yann kept speaking English to me. His English improved and my French, well, did not.
A few years later we had some babies.
I wanted them to speak English, to be bi lingual.
If you have ever lived in a bi lingual household you know the gift and the grit of daily conversation. Yann spoke French to the children, as did the rest of the land. I spoke English to them. I soon learned that if my children were to be completely bi lingual I was going to have to talk, and talk alot. Otherwise their vocabulary was going to be limited to: Get yours shoes. Come and eat. Button your coat. Sit still. Go to sleep. Yes, no, please..."
I read books. Many of them. Suitcases full of books.
Chelsea and Sacha are utterly bi lingual. Flawlessly. No accents. It is my pride and joyous accomplishment. During that time my French took a back seat.
I could go on and on, story after story, day after day, gift and grit of learning French while, teaching English to two little people.
But I will save that for another day.
I speak French. With the heaviest of accents,
but understandable nevertheless.
Though the real challenge isn't the speaking part, it is the feeling that I am not me. I feel like I am a different person...
French lessons. I should have taken a few of those before I came to France. Unfortunately, I learned to speak French on the streets. The words you can pick up on the street can be very.... um.... flavorful to say the least. Mostly, I learned how to speak French at the brocante. Later it improved when I was ill... being ill in a foreign country can encourage one to learn the language quickly.
Though my French has taken me a few years to grasp, my accent has remained strong and steady. It is something that just sticks around.
Kind of like an old coat, loved-worn and true.
With family, friends and the contractors coming and going every night I have become the cook again. It reminds me of a big family and the person at the helm having to think about menus from sun up to sun down: What to make, what is left, what to buy, buy it, carry it home, plan it, prepare it, set the table, burn your arm on the over door...
Constant food. I think I should just write the menus.
Or the grocery list as blog posts.
Tonight was a small dinner party... French Husband's nephew who is a chef in Paris (no pressure there!) and who today rode a bike to and from Cassis (about 65K) and took some sun. My Belle Mere and French Husband.
If you ask two out of the three people gathered around the dinner table tonight, "What did you have for dinner?", only the chef would know.
What did you have for dinner last night?
Each stitch with the needle she pushed through the cotton fabric and pulled it up with gentle force,
in rhythm with her breathing, steadfast, sure, content... as a prayer.
Praying an entire monogram "S" simplicity, "A" always.
With a scissor she cut out small designs, and stitched around the cut out part to prevent it from ravelling.
Flowers, petals, leaves, stars... some she would give to the church for the priest's alb and altar clothes. But she would keep some, for when her future dreams would come true.
with her basket of white thread, thimble, the tiny scissor she worked with deliberate patience.
A labor of love mixed with the pleasure of passing the time creatively.
Over seventeen yards of various English eyelet I found at the brocante. From the 1800s neatly tucked inside an old cardboard box. Most has never been used.
So many questions I would ask: "How long did it take you? What inspired you to do this piece? How old were you?"
Selling it is going to be hard because I find it beautiful as is... something this old, handmade, carefully guarded... beautiful as is, no need to cut it and make "it" into something that will never have as much value as it does now.
The house next door renovations continue, when it is finished we will go back to Cassis and complete it. Both should be completed by October.
French Husband is under the kitchen sink. Today he sanded the old tiles smooth, as we are going to cover the old tiles with new ones.
To know more about this follow this link:
Above is the bathroom sink that Rene's father made.
Now that it is dry, the color is light as straw.
The walls have been tadelakt-ed too, when they are dry they will be lighter than the bathroom sink.
The walls above the tadelakt appear grey, but they aren't. I must decide on wall colors by Friday.
The wall above the tadelakt part, will be painted. The tadelakt part will not be painted, nor will the walls that are plastered. They will remain the color/tint that we used when creating them.
In the corner is where the massive copper tub will go. Rene made a small angle counter so that the faucet could sit there, plus as the tub is angled the space behind isn't wasted.
The stairs are above, hence the slanted ceiling.
The house next door is shaping up. I cannot wait to move in the furnishings!
We will rent this house to guests who come to visit us, and rent it for long term vacation rentals. It is separate to our home.
O la... that is my shorten version of: "Oh la la."
Pam (blog reader/friend) and I have been on a diet for the last few months... Pam has lost weight and I have gained weight. O la.
Tonight Chelsea, a friend of hers, Sacha, Celia, Mr. Espresso, my Belle Mere and Yann were here for dinner. I cannot cook meals and be on a diet. In France dining and breathing go hand in hand, and with me hand to mouth is more the case.
Tape on mouth might become my new best friend.
Photo via Yann.
My Belle Mere is hanging out with us for the month.
Today French Husband asked if she wanted to go to Cassis by motorcycle, she is not one to say no to adventure. So she put on my helmet, jacket and gloves, hopped on the massive motorcycle and away they went. As they rode off I thought, "Talk about alive and kickin'!"
My Belle Mere is 86, in a few weeks she will be 87.
I have heard people say, "I hope I am like her when I am her age..." In which I respond, "Then be like her now. Constantly dare yourself to go further."
Meanwhile I sit here and type.
Photo Via Yann:
Belle Mere and french Husband enjoying the day in Cassis... I am not jealous really I am not.
The second question most often asked about my Belle Mere is:
"What skin care products does she use?"
She would tell you, "I don't use anything."
Sure genetics plays the most important role, but my Belle Mere uses and has used for years:
A glass of wine, sparkling sneakers, shades and a book.
The quiet life is a rare occasion for her.
Now go out and pop a wheelie.
Well back to the house next door. Rene's father (plaster, gesso, hand crafted moulding... and Tadelakt (tadla:kt) which is a waterproof plaster surface used to make baths, sinks, water vessels, interior and exterior walls, ceilings, roofs, and floors.) started to create the bathroom sink.
I would tell you the steps (there were many before this happened) but he told me I could not share his way of creating, it is his art... so I took photos (added two videos on FB) and he was okay with that.)
Tints. I wanted a color that would correspond with the massive copper tub. Though the photos appear to be more yellow than it actually is.
The grey is for the kitchen counter and back splash, the other piece is the color for the bathroom.
I wanted to use this antique iron fire guard as a back splash but Rene's father said it made the sink look like a BBQ which made me laugh. I will use it somewhere else.
The kitchen counter....
The faucets match the tub faucets, they are old and have been refinished. I think larger would have looked nicer, but I did not want to break the set... when the tub is in you will see what I mean.
The color will be lighter as it is still wet.
Out of all the years that I have been doing these French Antique Guessing Games this is the first one that has not revealed an answer, and it doesn't surprise me. When I saw this thing at the brocante, I was with Andrea, Jan, Sarah and Andrea's Mom... none of us knew, and even when we were told we were all a bit baffled by it.
It is for a servant to carry a hot beverage to their charge. Let's say right before bed you would like to have a cup of tea. So you ring the servant's bell and soon there after here comes your tea, with the handle facing you.
Pretty clever don't you think.
Yann was my servant for the demo.
There were so many clever creative responses, that I have decided to select
A servant's tray of sorts.
I think there must have been a matching cup, but unfortunately the cup is missing, I had a cup so used it in the photos.
Thank you for the many many comments, and emails. I really appreciate your guesses. Until next time!
Keep on "guessing" below yesterday's post, so far the correct answer has not been found.
I love the responses, it does hold something but not a: Mouse, nor a ladle, or a candle, or shaving gear, nor hairbrushes, it is not an urinal, nor for teabags, or makeup, nor a flour scoop...
French Antique Guessing Game
This is how it works:
1) Guess what the above item is in the comment section or by email as often as you want.
2) If you haven't a clue, make something up, the more original the better, roach clip included (inside joke around here due to some hippie like readers....
3) The first person to correctly guess the object wins. The most creative answer wins too.
4) Wins something Fun and French.
5) Winners announced tomorrow evening.
Hand painted porcelain
about six inches high.
PS Kirk no cheating!
He was going off to the war,
She wanted him to have something to remember her by.
Blue, white and red (that is how it is said in France) ribbon and some beads,
curling them this way, curving them that way around her photo which she attached to
part of the pastry box that held chocolate creams.
And there it was after all these years and wars later,
in an old box covered with fabric,
mementos of a past life.
Faded blue, white and red ribbon,
Beads curled this way, curving that way around her photo:
A woman with a large hat.
We carried a portable picnic table, where four places to sit pop out, upstairs to our apartment in Cassis. With it we brought wine, glasses, a tablecloth, yet forgot the corkscrew. Luckily the apartment is above Chez Gilbert (a restaurant) they lent us one. Since there was five of us French Husband sat on the paint bucket.
Amongst the supplies, and renovation we celebrated for no reason.
Our friends Anne and Kirk and my Belle Mere joined us.
Kirk, who loves brocanting, brought us this book about Cassis that he found at Emmaus which is like a Salvation Army in France.
The book is full of old photos and postcards. Such thoughtfulness Kirk!
Taking a drink of that view.
Kirk and Anne took these photos of us standing upstairs looking out.
It feels like a dream.
Because I have been blogging for nearly twelve years, everyday, I have a ton of photos.
I see my photos pop up on pinterest, other blogs, facebook, instagram, etc. and usually they are not linked nor credited to my blog or name.
If you want to use my photos for your social media or otherwise please remember to link back with my blog address with: Photo via Corey Amaro.
A few days ago I asked if you could tell me something: A poem, a story, a word, an idea, a joke, a frustration, your last hiccup or movie you saw. And that I would pick someone and send them a gift, an 1803 book...The responses were amazing, I hope you read them,As I could not make a decision I asked you the readers to cast your vote.I enjoyed your responses to the point that I plan on doing this more often, hearing your "voice" is important to me. Many of you I have met, many of you I feel I know and this allows me to hear-see-know you better.
The winner of the 1803 book by votes casted in the comment section goes to Toni, the firefighter who shared her experience of what it was like for her on that day:
Too hard to pick just one of the comments from yesterday. Impressive sharing:
Poems, tidbits, jokes, thoughts, personal moments... wow, I honestly do not know which one to pick.
At times I wonder why I put myself in this position. So please read the comments and tell me which one you think deserves the book, please.
A laugh, a reflection, a generous heart, a tickle, it is all there in the comments.
Thank you for being part of this blog. For your faithfulness all these years. I am a better person because of your reading and following me (but not any better at grammar or spelling...)
Who is the winner tell me?
A book of fables, you know the ones, I found it inside a cardboard box with many other books at a fleamarket, it had a turn of the century fabric book cover which intrigued me.
Under the fabric book cover (that was added at the turn of the century) the book dated 1803, a book of those famous fables.
... like those who dine well off the plainest dishes, he made use of humble incidents to teach great truths, and after serving up a story he adds to it the advice to do a thing or not to do it. Then, too, he was really more attached to truth than the poets are; for the latter do violence to their own stories in order to make them probable; but he by announcing a story which everyone knows not to be true, told the truth by the very fact that he did not claim to be relating real events.
On the top corner of the book there is a monogram.
What a story this book could tell.
Printed in 1803-
With a monogram on the corner-
Not a rare book-
Small and very worn-
We never know where we will go, or how our story will turn, twist, run high, twirl, swirl and maybe rest is a box untold.
Some are page turners, some turn pages, some read between the lines and others are a closed book.
This one has a monogram on the top right corner.
Tell me something: A poem, a story, a word, an idea, a joke, a frustration, your last hiccup or movie you saw. I will pick someone and send them this book...