Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Merci

Mille mercis to everyone for your comments and emails this past week. I'm recovering (it takes a little longer as we get older, oui?), I'm back in the classroom (though many of students have been absent as well), and trying to get back into my routines. I'll set aside some time this week/end to start posting again.

Hope everyone is healthy and happy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Je suis malade

Apologies for not posting, but I've been under the weather. Hope to be back later this week.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Awesome Award

I want to apologize for not posting regularly this week; these first few weeks back in the classroom are especially busy. I have lots to share with you, and promise to post this weekend.

But I didn't want to let another day pass without saying thank you to Andrea at Rural Revival for passing on this award to me. Andrea, I promise to pass it on this weekend.

Bonne nuit!

Monday, September 14, 2009

French General

If you haven't discovered French General, please, let this be your introduction. Part craft store, part notions store, part fabric store, part jewelry store, part bookstore, French General is likely to have something for everyone. Hence the name, French General.

Located in California, French General is owned by designer and writer Kaari Meng. Talented, inspired, and inspirational, Kaari Meng has been delighting her readers for years, both through her blog, "The Warp and the Weft," and through her many books--Home Sewn, The French Inspired Home, French Inspired Jewelry, and A Shop of One's Own, just to name a few.

In addition to books and a product line, Kaari Meng/French General offers workshops, is available for special events, and will soon be hosting a getaway at Chateau Dumas in the south of France. For more information on French General just click here to visit their website.

If you've visited French General or are familiar with the books or product line, please share!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Time to plant muguet des bois

I know it’s hard to think about spring; summer has just ended and autumn has already arrived in some parts of the world. But I wanted to remind everyone that this is the time to plant muguet des bois. If you remember on May 1, I posted about May Day when sprigs of Lily of the Valley are exchanged or given as tokens of friendship.

I have a small patch in my garden where the fragrant muguet des bois grows so every May Day I am able to snip sprigs, place them in tiny glass vases, and give them to my friends. I purchased my small glass vase, pictured here, at Target (sorry, they're not available online so there is no link). But you are just as likely to find something at IKEA, a craft store, or yard sale. Any container that is just a few inches high with a narrow neck will be perfect for holding a few sprigs of the fragrant flower.

Would you like to enjoy and share your own muguet des bois next May Day? If so, you'll need to plant now. If you don’t have a place in your garden, you can grow Lily of the Valley in a container, and, if you can’t wait until spring you can even force them indoors during the cold winter months. Just a note that the plants can be toxic for pets and small children if ingested, so take care where you plant. Click here for excellent information about ordering, planting, and forcing Lily of the Valley bulbs.

Bonne chance!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Eiffel's Tower

Thursday is turning into my day to post about books I've discovered, and this week I recieved help from my Alliance Française newsletter.

On September 18, the Alliance Française de Washington, D.C. is hosting Jill Jonnes, author of Eiffel's Tower. Published in May, this book tells the history of the design, construction, and lasting impact of Gustave Eiffel's tower.

Both the cover and the book's description bring to mind Erik Larson's Devil in the White City. But where Larson's book is historical ficition, Jonnes book is decidedly nonficition, though it has quite a cast of colorful characters. Here's a review from the Alliance Française site:

"In Eiffel’s Tower, Jill Jonnes, author of the critically acclaimed Conquering Gotham, recounts in detail the compelling history of the Eiffel Tower’s conception, building, and reception in Belle Époque France.

At the same time, this lively and entertaining book tells more than the story of the world-famous monument. It also investigates the events and the remarkable artists and personalities that were part of the extraordinary World’s Fair of 1889, from Thomas Edison and Annie Oakley to James Gordon Bennett, Jr. and Vincent van Gogh.

Eiffel’s Tower is a richly textured and extensively researched portrait of a visionary, an architectural icon that became the glamorous symbol of Paris and French culture, and an era at the dawn of modernity, reveling in the limitless promise of the future."

While I won't be able to attend the booksigning, the book has already found a place in my stack of books to read!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Petite Écolier

On my visit to France two summers ago, my nephews Maxime et Jules, introduced me to Petit Écolier biscuits. Oh how I loved those buttery biscuits with the perfect layer of melt-in-your-mouth milk chocolate. I was hooked forever.

Once home, I knew I had to find those cookies. I thought I had seen them in one of the neighborhood grocery stores, but which one? And would they still carry them? I was thrilled when finally, I found them at my favorite hypermarché, Super Target!

The history of LU is adapted here:
"The Lefèvre-Utile Biscuit Company was a baker and cookie maker founded in Nantes, France in 1846 by Jean-Romain Lefèvre. Today it is known as LU.

The name LU comes from Lefèvre and his business partner and wife, Pauline Utile. Their initials--LU--were first utilized by Alfons Mucha for an 1897 ad for the Lefèvre-Utile Biscuit Co. That same year the company hired Firmin Bouisset to create a poster ad.

Bouisset created Petit Écolier ("the Little Schoolboy") which incorporated the LU initials. Bouisset's poster was used extensively and the image was embossed on the company's Petit Beurre line of biscuits. Within a few years, the success of the logo resulted in the company becoming known as LU."

You can read more about the history of LU, the art, and the products by visiting the LU website. What's more, is since I discovered Petit Écolier two years ago, my neighborhood grocer now carries the whole line of LU products including Petit Écolier with white chocolate, dark chocolate, and extra dark chocolate!

If you haven't tasted Petit Écolier biscuits, check to see if your neighborhood grocer carries them. And if you can't find them, let me know because I just might have to send you a box . . .

Sunday, September 6, 2009

French-inspired tea towels

This weekend I made my annual trip to IKEA to stock up on items I’ll use all year—candles, tea lights, magazine files for my classroom.

While browsing the kitchen section I stumbled upon the TEKLA tea towel: soft yet sturdy cotton fabric with a beautiful hand, that French inspired red stripe, and a herringbone weave that is reminiscent of vintage hemp fabric. Click on the photograph for a closer look; they're really handsome.

And what's more beautiful is the price: 49¢ a piece!

I would have purchased a half-dozen even if they were $4.90 a piece because they are that nice, but at less than $0.50 each, I scooped up quite a few; they will come in handy when I entertain. And I can imagine a dozen other uses for them—dust cloth, polishing silver, bundled with a bit of ribbon for a hostess gift, even used as fabric to make some lovely café curtains à la Bonjour Madame! The folks over at apartment therapy/the kitchn even used them for oversize napkins.

These tea towels are not available online, but, if you find yourself at an area IKEA, you should check them out.

Don't you love finding quality items that are oh-so-affordable?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

And the winner is . . .

The winner of the Paris: Made by Hand giveaway is Andrea over at Rural Revival. Andrea, if you send your mailing info to me at annecychic@gmail.com I'll get the book in the mail this week.

Thanks to all for playing--I wish I could send a copy to each of you!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fun French Link: French Vogue

If you've been following my blog identity crisis, you'll know that I've mentioned posting weekly on certain topics. I think I've decided that Friday will be my "Fun French Link," post. Friday is my busiest day of the week, and a French link is quick but fun way to stay in touch with my readers.

Anyway, on the FC group there's been some discussion about the upcoming documentary The September Issue: Anna Wintour & the Making of Vogue. So I thought it might be fun to post a link to French Vogue.

I love the ads, the Vogue TV, and this link to a few pages from French Vogue's February, 1974 issue. Très amusant!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Paris: Made by Hand Giveaway

My sister is a big fan of my blog, and I'm constantly tapping her for ideas and suggestions. Earlier this week she sent me a link to the recently published Paris: Made by Hand by Pia Jane Bijerk.

What a lovely little book! Less than six inches square in size, it feels more like a child's book than one written by an international stylist. And, like a children's book, it is filled with whimsy and delight and images that will transport you.

Here's what the author has to say:

"This is a book for lovers of all things handmade, the chic and unique, and of course Paris. In this book I take you off the tourist streets of this incredible city in search of Parisian artisans whose work is truly inspirational, and secreted studio boutiques filled with exquisite Parisian handmade treasures. I’ve been collecting these special addresses in my stylist’s little black book over the past couple of years and now with great delight, share them all with you in Paris: Made by Hand. Expect to see this fine city in a whole new light . . ."

I can't resist sharing this tiny treasure so I'm announcing a giveaway! To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment, and I will put your name into Random Generator. The drawing will be held Saturday, September 5, and you can enter as often as you like—each comment you post will count as an entry.

Bonne chance!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Easy peach confiture

This is likely to be the last weekend for stone fruit at the farmers market, so I'm planning on picking up some extra peaches to make a few jars of easy peach jam. As much as I love to cook, I'm not into canning and preserving, so when I say a few jars I mean two or three that will keep in the fridge a month or two.

There are only 4 ingredients—peaches, water, sugar, lemon juice—and the recipe couldn't be simpler. I approximate one cup of sugar for every pound of peaches, but, it really depends on the size of the fruit, and how sweet you like your jam. Remember though, this jam is made without pectin, so don’t skimp too much on the sugar or the mixture may not jell.

Peach Confiture

2-3 pounds of fresh peaches
½ cup of water
1 cup of sugar per pound of peaches, approximately
Juice from a fresh lemon
Several glass jars of various sizes

1. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits

2. Place the peaches in a heavy bottom stockpot, add the water, cover the pot, and simmer the peaches until they are cooked through. Stir the mixture frequently.

3. Add the sugar and continue to cook, uncovered. The mixture will reduce and thicken. If foam appears, remove it. Continue to stir to make sure it doesn’t burn.

4. You’ll know the jam is finished cooking if, when you stick a cold metal spoon into the mixture, the jam doesn’t run off the spoon when you pull it out.

5. Stir in the lemon juice and spoon the jam into clean jars. (I don’t sterilize my jars, but I do run them through the dishwasher on the highest temp.)

6. Cover tightly, and cool completely before refrigerating.

This recipe takes very little time—probably less than an hour. But making use of fruit-in-season is oh-so-French. Of course, the pleasure you get from making something so fresh is incomparable; the smell of the peaches is heady and fragrant. And, it is so delicious—better than any jam you will buy from the grocery store. If you give this easy confiture a try, I’d love to hear how it turns out.

I can’t wait until Sunday morning to spoon this on to a fresh baguette or croissant . . .