Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Harvest Festival, French style

As October draws near I feel my love of Autumn returning.  My birth month, cooler weather, shorter days, falling leaves, thoughts of wood fires on the hearth.....preparing the home for another Winter.

The last time I was in southwest France during a glorious warm and sunny October, it looked like this.  Autumn had pulled out the paintbox, brushed burnished shades across the rolling vineyards, creating a palette of deep colors so beautiful they took my breath away.   The old and often wizened vines were giving up their final offerings for the year, large, heavy bunches of deep purple grapes, missed by machines and pickers, hanging low among the turning leaves.

Then along came this American guy.  Sauntering through the French vineyard blazing with glorious colors..........

...................he stooped low to pick a missed bunch of those now ripe and shriveled grapes, taste-testing the harvest.  Yes, my DH who enjoys a glass of red wine, but can't really tell a good year from a bad, became an unofficial, of sorts, grape taster!

Leaving the vineyard, we continued our stroll to a village where the Pumpkin Fête was underway.  French pumpkins are beautiful and French cooks create wonderful dishes with them.

Bon Potage au Potiron

The market lady is also a gardener.  She will share cooking tips with you when you buy her pumpkins (potirons). Her recipes are basic and simple but always delicious. She's probably made this soup for years, throwing ingredients nonchalantly into her large pot without measuring or weighing. 

Melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in your large heavy pot over medium heat and add an onion, peeled and chopped, cooking a few minutes until pale gold, do not scorch.  Add 5 pounds of peeled, chopped pumpkin, leave out the seeds and roast them later for a crunchy snack.  Dice a small potato and add to the pot, you can leave the peel on for more nourishment.  Pour in 5 cups of water, season with sea salt to taste, decide later if you want to add pepper. 
Cover pot, bring to a boil, reduce to medium, keep covered and cook 25 minutes until potato and pumpkin are very soft.  Remove from heat, cool slightly then puree until smooth with that wonderful kitchen must-have, your stick blender.  Serve with a swirl of thick cream, a sprinkling of Gruyere cheese and a chunk of fresh-baked farm-style bread.  Bon appetit!

Oh yes, a little reminder, don't forget to take something 
to the market to carry home all those fabulously huge pumpkins.........then get out your soup pot!

All images taken in Southwestern France - Oct. 2008

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lighting up...............

Do you remember to 'look up' when antiquing and thrift shopping?  Amazing what often hangs above one's head and, more often than not, it's beautiful lighting fixtures.  I'll take you on a little trip around SuzAnna's Antiques today and point out some of the beautiful chandeliers I discovered hanging around last week!

Above picture displays a gorgeous glass and bronze-toned fixture with the prettiest grapevine etched globes - and what appear to be perfect prisms. Can see this one in a Tuscan styled dining room above a chunky hand-carved Italian farm table..............groaning under bowls of homemade pasta and sauce, bottles of a great Chianti waiting to be poured into country-style glassware!  Notice how lovely it looks against the old barn wood wall.

This one reminds me of Dutch Delft china - very lovely, and would work with many different decorating styles from formal to shabby chic with the white.  How about that fabulous bird cage too, they are also often hanging from the rafters.

More contemporary, the metal floral shade would be perfect in a girl's bedroom or a sun room perhaps.  The white candolier could light up the evenings on an open porch, or hang from tree branch during dinner on the deck.

This fixture has that Victorian flair, especially the very elegant fluted and patterned glass shades.  The metalwork Acanthus leaves are lovely.  I see this hanging above needlepoint covered dark wood chairs, William Morris patterned wallpaper - a warm and cozy room for a holiday dinner.

Very different in looks is the open woven shade above - could see that in a beach house setting with the deep blue ocean in the background, or in a pool house with wicker lounge chairs and tropical print cushions.

My favorite, the one I would love to bring home of course! The French metal formal chandelier with the gorgeous 'feathers' at the top, dangling crystals and black candle sleeves........but made less formal mixed with simple country French decor, linen curtain panels, French grey painted pieces, and casual slip covered furniture.  

So don't forget, look up to discover precious lighting, birdcages, chairs, and other items which may be swinging above your head just out of sight.  You will be pleasantly surprised at what you can find.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pink Saturday

I've been missing from Pink Saturday for several weeks.  At present I'm not traveling. Home for a while, I've become a dealer with a little booth I'm sharing with a dear friend at fabulous SuzAnna's Antiques here in Raleigh, NC. 

There, while filling my booth, straightening, dusting, and rearranging, I also have a great opportunity to sneak about with my camera and find the prettiest pink treasures belonging to other dealers to share with you!  Today I'm just loving this print of the beautiful baby with the bird.  Look at the pink hand-knitted outfit and little booties, adorable.

If you're in the North Carolina area be sure to visit SuzAnna's - you will be amazed at this wonderful shop.  A second addition, just completed, filled with new dealers displaying great antiques, vintage, and gently used treasures, is now open for business.  Click on the link above for the newsletter and location of SuzAnna's Antiques and come on over, I can assure you a hunting and shopping bonanza awaits.....and the nicest staff will help you find just what you're looking for!

Meanwhile, stop by our Pink Saturday hostess Beverly's blog How Sweet The Sound to feel 'in the pink' all day, perhaps all weekend!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Up, up and away...............

We took a little time to celebrate the opening of the new addition at SuzAnna's Antiques yesterday morning........coffee and pastry, camaraderie and laughs as Vanessa and I added more items to our booth. All the other booths surrounding us are now filled with awesome things, and yes I did a little shopping of my own, hard not to!

Hammered nails and hung things, stacked and rearranged, trying to make everything visible without looking cluttered.

The art of display will be learned as we go.............

................and we'll be ready with new finds to bring in when these treasures are given new homes. 

Since this pic was taken, my antique chair with velvet cushion, and Vanessa's very pretty metal with crystals balloon, perfect for a little girl's room, have been hung from the ceiling..............we can utilize every square inch of space within our booth, up, down and sideways!

Even DH got involved yesterday, hauling heavier items into the booth.......and he thought our space was looking really nice.

...............and so our old metal and tarnished silver, linens, white and transfer ware china, books and jewelery, along with a mix of art, mirrors and decorative pretties, await new homes.  Hope YOU can stop by SuzAnna's day day soon and enjoy our booth and all the others now loaded with treasure.............

...........and yes, I do have one of the French sconces for sale too ~ an amazingly beautiful piece.  With the weather due to start cooling this coming weekend, at long last, it will be a great time to go treasure hunting in North Carolina.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Will they come?

Having a place to sell one's wares is a lot of fun.  For me it brings back memories of 'playing shop' as a child where I would save empty packages, tins, and bags, line them up on a piece of furniture and 'sell' to my mum or my next door neighbor girl friend.  I guess that's how I learned to make change.  I also loved wrapping items - especially tying pretty bows, and was often named 'best gift wrapper' in the family.

Now I'm playing shop again, selling alongside my booth partner Vanessa.  We started out small last weekend, displaying treasures we've been saving for a while.  We've hunted and gathered together over the past two plus years, having more fun in often grungy thrift and antiques shops than ever possible in a shiny mall.

Above, Vanessa's awesome handmade pillows from grain sacks and lovely fabrics, and the ugly yellow chair she painted French grey and slip covered in soft burlap ~ I'm tempted to take this one home myself!

Oh yes, we love the awesome style of Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and Ballard Designs, but their offerings are very expensive for many of us with a limited decorating budget.  Instead, formerly loved and owned, old and tattered, chipped and scraped, even almost new and perfect treasures can be a lot of fun and bring the look you want for your home without the huge price tags dangling before your shocked eyes at the mall!

We will also be bringing pretty jewels to our little shop ~ nothing precious, just lovely things to wrap around your wrist or neck, slip on your finger.

Vanessa's quilted coasters and rose strew burlap table runner ~ I love these alongside a mix of old silverware ~ getting that modern farmhouse feeling, so lovely to live with.

When I popped into SuzAnna's Antiques on Sunday afternoon I found Bruce back in our booth repairing a cracked window pane ~ love how the light shines in on our treasures.  Bruce and Susie had also spent much of their afternoon adding another wall made from fabulous vintage painted doors, and topped with a shelf, on the other side of our booth, giving us more display options.  They are just marvelous people who love helping their dealers get the most from their space.

Later this week I'll have more pics to show.  My huge painting project at the cottage is done at last - I waved a happy au revoir to the men in white and what looked like fifty ladders yesterday, thank goodness!  This morning DH and I will be putting our outside areas back together, but come tomorrow, Vanessa and I will be shopping so you just know we'll have lots more to add to our booth!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Buying the store.....

If you've ever worked retail in a shop selling things you love, you've probably ended up spending your paycheck before going home!  Looks like the same thing can happen when hanging around fabulous SuzAnna's Antiques
On a sweltering mid-September afternoon, while primping your own booth, you also peek into other dealers' spaces and there, hiding in a never before noticed corner, are treasures such as these!

This one is MINE!

My heart pounded! Hopefully this is not dangerous for a woman of a certain age. Was I back in a French brocante?  This pair of old, very heavy, 'make a statement' large, solid brass sconces, dripping with old crystals, heavily foxed and bevelled mirrors..........very French looking for sure.  They had my name on them.  I bought them. I'm supposed to be selling to you, not buying for myself, hope DH is not reading this post! No way could these be tucked into a suitcase in Paris and hauled back across the pond to North Carolina......even if I threw away all my clothes, shoes, and travel accessories at Charles de Gaulle airport!

I'm cleaning them up a bit, adding missing crystals, will perhaps just keep one - I'm not necessarily into pairs - the other may soon be for sale in my booth at SuzAnna's Antiques.

FYI - Sam is a dealer at SuzAnna's Antiques.  Sam knows what I like (as in crave) when it comes to French pretties.  When a teenager it was French boys - they came across the English Channel to my seaside town to learn English in the Summer holidays (if my brother, who now lives in France, is reading this I expect a comment, please!).  Now I'm too old for those adorable boys, but the antiques and vintage beauties from France I'll grab, take home, and swoon over instead!

Loving this shopkeeping {ad}venture already.  Thanks for your lovely comments and encouragement.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A new place for treasure...................

Vanessa and I worked diligently today to set up our new booth at SuzAnna's Antiques.   We were thrilled beyond all expectations with our lovely space, made beautiful by Susie, Jenny and Bruce - thank you so much dear ones.

I think you will agree that we are on our way!  More images to share with you soon.........and more days of treasure hunting ahead.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Busy weekend ahead.......

Only a couple of these treasures above actually belong to me!  My little lovelies found in New Hampshire at my favorite shop ever, Red Chair in Peterborough.  How could I walk away from French linens already embroidered with my initials, and some more French paperbacks in that perfect patina green shade?

Fabulous European offerings such as these antique coffee bowls, French platters, hotel silver and linens...... treasures I would love to be selling.

If you shop the flea markets and brocantes of Paris, or the weekend vide greniers in the villages of France, the antiques shops of Belgium, Holland and Sweden, the outdoor markets such as Portobello Road and Camden Town in London, these are the gorgeous treasures you want to grab and bring home..........kicking yourself for not taking that empty suitcase which means wearing the same clothes each day - with clean underwear of course!!  I've heard of gals who do just that, true 'junk gypsies' on a mission, who stuff tons of treasure in their suitcase while still looking stylish in one pair of black pants and a dozen scarves tied every which way.

So, as I take a blog break to start setting up my little shop with friend Vanessa at SuzAnna's Antiques, I'll be dreaming of European treasures as I display my offerings..............

..............I may not have beauties like these from Red Chair - blue English china, chippy white Swedish paint, Dutch tiles and French linens.........well not yet!!  However in my daydreams I'll be checking out airfares, looking for the latest in lightweight luggage.......and, if anyone has tried the throw-away travel panties, let me know if they work, ha, ha!!  One has to be prepared to go without clothes and shoe changes, need lots of space to bring European treasures back for you.

See you here next week.  Should then have stories of designing vignettes and shopkeeping under the still very hot Carolina blues skies.  Thanks for all the good wishes on the little shop venture.....hoping you will have a chance to stop by SuzAnna's Antiques at Vintage Village in Raleigh, NC some day soon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Setting up shop........

Eventually, Vanessa and I will be entering through this doorway beneath the lovely window, into our new booth at SuzAnna's Antiques.

Neutral barn board walls will be the backdrop for the precious treasures (those are not our items shown in the sale) we plan to bring you once we're open for business.

We actually shopped SuzAnna's ourselves on Sunday afternoon, picking through a ton of outdoor stuff in search of very inexpensive tables to use for display.  We bought this white farmhouse table..................

......................and, to add a little quirkiness, this table made from odds and ends re-purposed instead of being tossed on the heap! 

I'm anxious to get all the work completed at the cottage - hopefully this will happen by Friday - DH and are tired of the dust and hammering!  I can hardly wait to start setting up shop.  I love designing vignettes with unusual objects..........mixing antique, vintage and new pieces.   Vanessa and I have some great ideas for our space and I'll be sharing pictures soon!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Figs............for two!

My two fig trees, which are actually still bushes at this point in time, are growing well.  Last year one appeared to be on its last legs, I thought for sure was not going to over-Winter.  It survived, and is now several feet tall with some very tiny figs popping out.  The other larger bush was where I picked just one or two ripe figs last year, before birds/squirrels grabbed the rest....................but look what I picked yesterday, a handful of pretty fresh, ripe figs.  Just enough to bake in the oven with butter and broken walnuts, then top with acacia honey and a dollop of mascarpone, for two special tiny desserts.
Next year, enough for figgy jam perhaps!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nothing goes as planned!

Image from Cote Sud

All I want is to be back to neat, clean, organized and tidy.  A room such as this would make me happy..................but of course I'll never have one because DH would be scared to sit down..........and I'd never allow his big, old, ugly leather recliner in a room so bright and beautiful!!!

Speaking of ugly!!!  As mentioned in my last post, carpenter is now added to the list of men parading through and around the cottage.  Not that the carpenter is bad looking, if you like guys with ponytails and drooping mustaches!  He did arrive by bright red convertible sports car to estimate the job - guess at the huge going hourly rate, a grown man playing with wood can afford such fancy wheels..........when not hauling boards in the pickup truck!  Seriously though, the water damage to window sills, porch post, and lots of siding boards, has to be addressed prior to the new paint job.  Guess it's like having the right undies before putting on the lovely gown!

Should have bought an all brick cottage!

Hope this is not some little creature's home!

Amazing what was hiding behind my lovely shrubs!

Well said Leonardo!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A mismatched life.........

As you can see, I love stacking up pretty things such as china, old French books and silver here in the dining room.  For some strange reason, walking into this room always gives me the feeling that this is how life is, stacks of small things, mismatched, piled up, waiting for something to happen.

Not that I don't like this look and the feeling it conveys.............actually I love it and don't want to change a thing right now.  It's informal, crisp and clean despite the age of many pieces, and a lot of the items are very meaningful to me. 

The small silver cups and silver capped bottles are from a fabulous brocante in Aix-en-Provence.  Ruffle edged paperbacks from the little back street used bookshop in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.  Three antique Doulton grey floral plates were an amazing gift from Susie of SuzAnna's Antiques.  The handwritten menu from a tiny restaurant in Figueras, Spain, brings back memories of lunch with my family at the sidewalk table in the heat of a July day a few years ago.

Everything here does have a purpose of sorts.  Sometimes I change things around, removing and adding.......some may be used daily, others occasionally, some are just to look at and remember a special day, place or person..........but they all seem perfect together and make me happy.
Remember, always live with what you love.

Taking a weekend break and trying to clean up a bit. Sitting here in an oasis, my little dining room. The chaos from sanding ceilings, fresh paint, white dust everywhere, and plain old dirt surrounds me......and we still have to face week two on Monday when inside should be finished and outside started......and wouldn't you know it, a carpenter is now needed too!  Why do we do this to ourselves?