Friday, May 30, 2008

Lavender Harvest

A Touch of Provence in Northern California!

I am lucky to have a little hill slope on the front side of our tiny California suburban lot. When I was planning our "cottage style" garden I envisioned a slope of lavender just like you would see in Provence. Northern California's hot sunny climate is perfect for my lavender hill to thrive.

In Provence, the lavender harvest occurs in late June. No, I haven't been to Provence (yet) but I read a lot about it because I want to travel there. I want to see the magnificent purple lavender rows in person one day. I want to visit the Provence markets. I want to take cooking classes there, too.

My lavender harvest is happening right now. I have an abundance of lovely lavender ready to be cut. I just love having cut lavender bundles all around the house for it's marvelous scent. This year I am going to dry the lavender and use the buds for sachets and Provencal style cooking.

The bees love my lavender,too!

During my lavender harvest, I have about seven large bushes to cut. I hand cut them with gardening sheers, one bush a day. I love how the lavender bushes attract the bees to my garden. If I am lucky, I may even get another harvest of lavender towards the end of summer, too.

A bundle of fresh cut lavender!

English and French grandmothers know how wonderful lavender is for your linen closet. A bundle of lavender or a pretty sachet keeps pesky insects away. Lavender is a perfect organic natural way to keep harmful moths away from precious silk scarves, winter woolens and wool yarns in your knitting stash, too!

Enjoy a touch of Provence in your home with some lovely lavender!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bon Anniversaire de Mariage!

Bon Anniversaire de Mariage!
(Happy Anniversary!)

Lovely lady playing authentic French music at the French Flea Market.
(Love her red beret!)

Last weekend was our anniversary. Since we honeymooned in Paris we try to go back to Paris for our anniversary as often as we can. Since we couldn't get to Paris this year, we did the next best thing.....we had a French style celebration in Marin County. Lucky for us... Chateau Sonoma was hosting it's 5th annual French Flea Market.

Chateau Sonoma's garden courtyard was transformed into a French style flea market. There were different vendors all selling "tres chic" French antiques and collectibles. Here's a glimpse of the market:

Vintage French suitcase calling out my name to pack my bags and get back to Paris!

Fun French enamelware! Love the tea canister!

Vintage French canvas art is currently a "hot" collectible!

Chateau Sonoma
153 West Napa St.
Sonoma, Ca 95746
(707) 935-8553

Chateau Sonoma is a French theme boutique store filled with vintage and French antiques.

Owner, Sarah Anderson travels to France several times a year to fill her store with a unique assortment of home and garden antiques. It is just off Sonoma's town square. For more information:

Another Sonoma tip:
If you visit the town square in Sonoma, I highly recommend having lunch or dinner at The Girl and The Fig restaurant. Check out their food product line, too. I love their Fig & Port Vinaigrette. I have seen their food line products at Whole Foods Market, too. For more information:

The Left Bank
Chocolate Fondue for Two!

For our French theme anniversary dinner we opted to dine at the Left Bank in Larkspur. Since we always stay and dine on the left bank in Paris the brasserie's name struck accord.

We enjoyed it's ambiance, the food and a fabulous waiter. I think we liked our dessert the best... the chocolate fondue for two!

For more information:

Bon Appetit!

Monday, May 19, 2008

French Nest

Pretty French Settee Sofa at French Nest

I love the charming town of San Anselmo in Marin County California. I love to peruse it's antique and unique boutique stores. Through the years, I have snagged some fantastic home and garden decor items for our home from the quaint shops there.

One of my favorite stores was a darling tiny home and garden store called Grasshopper owned by Holly Hopper. She is a very talented designer/shop owner with a great sense of style and display. She closed Grasshopper and just opened a larger store with Silke Solomon called French Nest. Lucky for us Francophiles, there is now a larger inventory of gorgeous vintage and reproduction French Furniture and Home & Garden decor!

As a designer, I just love this store! Here is a peak inside the store:

Ooh, la, la...Parisian Eiffel Tower Accessories!

Elegant Table Top Items with French Flair!

French Nest has only been open for one month. They are planning a Grand Opening event soon. They also hope to have a web site up and running soon, too. For more information, give Holly a call or better yet...stop in for a visit and some French decorating inspiration!

Update 2015:  
Sadly this store moved to Sonoma and is now closed.  I loved Holly's style and stores!  

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Vintage Furniture is in Vogue!

Vintage French Desk

Used Furniture. As a designer, I prefer to call it Vintage Furniture.
Since I literally grew up in the furniture business, I never thought I would ever buy used furniture. Antiques yes, but used furniture no. But things have the world of furniture. Vintage furniture is now in vogue!

The San Francisco Chronicle's Home & Garden section has been running articles about vintage furniture. Since I worked in Home Furnishings for 25 years, I was inspired to write on the subject.

I think vintage furniture is hot for two main reasons:

Reason #1: It is hard to find quality new wood furniture that won't break the bank! New case good (wood) furniture is hardly made in the United States anymore. The majority of manufacturers like Thomasville, Drexel Heritage, etc. have outsourced wood production to China and other countries. The price of the import wood furniture is less but so are the designs and the quality. There are still some U.S. mfg making hand crafted wood furniture in the United States but it is pretty pricey! A lot of consumers know that older furniture is often made better.

Reason #2: It is hip to buy used vintage furniture now. It is all part of being green and not filling up the landfills. It's about the three R's, reduce, reuse and recycle. Being green can also fetch you some vintage bargains which are often made of solid wood and cost less, too. Check out garage/estate sales and your local charity/consignment shops. You would be amazed at what you can find. I often see fantastic older wood pieces, even Ethan Allen, now and then.

My personal best vintage bargain to date, is our vintage French cherry drop lid desk. I found it one day snooping for French furniture on Craigslist. I snagged it for under $180.00. It is solid wood with gorgeous floral relief carvings. If I would have purchased a desk like this when I worked for Breuners Home Furnishings, I know it would have been over $1,500.00 or more back then.

Give vintage shopping a try. The best advice I have for you, is that you do have to be patient. You also need to have your wallet ready...because you never know when or where you'll be when that vintage treasure shows up!

Do you have a vintage furniture find? Leave a comment if you do!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Bouquet of Fleurs

French flower stand in Paris

Don't you just love a bouquet of fresh flowers? The French do! There is a quaint flower stand or shop on nearly every street in Paris. They know that fresh flowers can really brighten up a room or someones spirits!

Treat yourself or someone special with a bouquet of fleurs (flowers). No special occasion required!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Happy May Day!

The Maypole Dance!

May Day is the celebration of the onset of the Month of May and the arrival of spring.

For centuries it has been marked as a joyful celebration with flowers.

The Maypole dance is an old English tradition for May Day. On the first day of May, villagers would gather for the celebration. A towering maypole was set up on the village green. Young girls wore floral garland wreaths in their hair and danced with ribbons around the Maypole.

These lovely spring rituals even continued here in the States into the 1950's. My mother remembers celebrating May Day in grade school. In her day, they called it May Day/Play Day. She recalls dancing with crepe paper around the tether ball pole and playing lot's of fun games. Too bad these old traditions seem to fade away.

So celebrate May...wear a flower in your hair and do a little dance!

Happy May Day!