Thursday, 27 January 2011

Victorian Inspired vignette.

I think my style of decorating could be best described as Victorian inspired, English Country.
Achieved for the most part with auction finds, inherited pieces, flea market bargains and contemporary accents.

Chandelier, painting, lithograph and mirror
 all found at the Bayeux Hotel de Vente

Vintage Malicorne faience duck vase,
handpainted with a breton musician on the front.
Souvenir of St. Malo.
Over the years these two books have been invaluable sources of interior design inspiration, they epitomise the look that I aspire to in our home.

From “Victorian Style” written by Judith & Martin Miller -
“covers all aspects of Victorian interiors. Illustrated with over 400 colour photographs, the book reflects the diversity and eclecticism of the period.....”
First published in 1993 and available on Amazon, click here.

From “Classic Decorative Details, author Lady Henrietta Spencer Churchill -
“with the help of this book, you can become an instant expert on collecting silver, glass and ceramics, find out how to hang pictures, display leather bound books and make dramatic impact with flowers and fruit”...........
First published in 1994 and available on Amazon still, click here.

Quimper double shoe salt, silver bonbon basket and spoon,
a trio of vintage Famous Five books.
Many thanks to our wonderful hostesses
Courtney @ French Country Cottage for Feathered Nest Friday, and Debra @ Common Ground for Vintage Inspiration Friday

The large mirror reflects the staircase seeming to widen the hallway even more
to Laurie @ Bargain Hunting With Laurie for A Few of My Favourite Things Saturday

Copeland Spode Italian plate, HR Quimper card holder,
 Old English, Poole silver dish, the perfect vide poche for my keys.

to Mary @ the little red house for Mosaic Monday who has some beautiful tulips in her mosaics today,

and Kathy @ A Delightsome Life for Tuesday's A Return to Loveliness Party inspired by Victoria magazine.
Click on the links above, or on their buttons on my sidebar, to visit these great blogs and see who else is participating this week.

Monday, 24 January 2011

US National Food Days

Yesterday we had fun at Jo Jo's Pie Party celebrating National Pie Day.

Like many of you, before I heard about NPD from JoJo, I didn't have a clue there was such a thing.
Well, thanks to good ole' google I have discovered that in the US every day is a "National something food" day.
Just look at the partial list for the remainder of this month that I found on the States Symbols USA website.
Click here for the link to the site where you can find out which particular food item is celebrated when.


National Hot Tea Month
National Oatmeal Month
National Slow Cooking Month
National Soup Month

January 23 National Pie Day

January 23 National Rhubarb Pie Day

January 24 National Peanut Butter Day

January 25 National Irish Coffee Day

January 26 National Peanut Brittle Day

January 26 National Pistachio Day

January 28 National Blueberry Pancake Day

January 29 National Cornchip Day

January 30 National Croissant Day

January 31 National Popcorn Day

I just discovered that my birthday is National Chocolate Eclair Day!
How marvellous is that?
Roll on June!

Image courtesy of
What a great theme this could be for a birthday treat, I'll definitely be baking Mr B a Hazelnut cake this year.

Image courtesy of
What's your National Day??

Saturday, 22 January 2011

My apple pie.

On Sunday, all over the US, people will be celebrating National Pie Day.
I’m joining JoJo’s Pie party with our family favourite - apple pie.
JoJo has asked that we share our pastry/pie crust recipes, here’s  mine:
8oz plain flour; 2oz butter; 2oz white fat (Trex or Crisco); a pinch of salt & cold water to mix as needed.
Sift the salt and flour into a bowl then tip it all into your food processor, add the fats and blitz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of really cold water to bring it all together.
Turn out onto a floured pastry board and with your hands form the dough into a smooth ball.
Wrap the dough in cling film (Saran wrap) and refrigerate for about 25 minutes.
To make a deep dish fruit pie, divide the dough roughly into 2 parts. On a floured board  roll out one half to fit the pie dish with a slight overlap, add pie filling,  roll out remaining dough and cover the dish.
Crimp the edges together, roll out remaining pastry bits and press out shapes with pastry cutters or cut into strips, to create leaves, which is what my Nana & Mum always did. With a sharp knife make several cuts in the pastry lid to let out the steam.
Brush the entire lid with milk and sprinkle caster sugar over to ensure a crispy surface when baked.
Bake for 30 minutes at 200c or 400F.

For a tasty filling I always use 6 granny smith apples, (peeled, cored and finely sliced), 2 oz each of golden caster & soft brown sugars, & a pinch of cinnamon.
Confused about English Imperial/Metric/US equivalent measurements?
Click here for comprehensive conversion tables.
To quote Miss Jane Austen:
“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.”

I had planned on using these wonderful Williams Sonoma pastry cutters that my dear friend Sarah @ Hyacinths For The Soul sent to me recently but as I wanted to show you our family’s traditional apple pie, will save them for another time.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

"Make way! Make way for Captain Toad of Toad Hall!"

When I was 7 years old my mother finally agreed with me that I was old enough to have my own library card and I was successfully enrolled as a junior member of Stoneleigh Library.
One of the first books that I brought home was the Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
From the first page I was enthralled.

Charles van Sandwyk image
Source: Books Illustrated Ltd.
Although I liked Moley & Ratty and enjoyed reading about their adventures, messing about in boats along the Riverbank and the picnics (!)

Mole & Ratty enjoy a picnic.
Arthur Rackham image.
my favourite character was the Toad ~
“He is indeed the best of animals,' replied Rat. `So simple, so good-natured, and so affectionate. Perhaps he's not very clever--we can't all be geniuses; and it may be that he is both boastful and conceited. But he has got some great qualities, has Toady.'

He was so naughty and made my little girl self, giggle at his exploits. Always off on some adventure whenever something new caught his fancy and always getting into trouble.

Mr Toad of Toad Hall is probably best known for his love of motor cars, although his first encounter with one was quite disastrous and left him sitting, befuddled, in the middle of the open road after a road hog sent his canary yellow, horse drawn caravan careering off into a ditch.

Moley leads the horse drawn caravan.
Arthur Rackham image.

“Glorious, stirring sight!' murmured Toad, never offering to move. `The poetry of motion! The real way to travel! The only way to travel! Here to-day--in next week to-morrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped--always somebody else's horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!'

Image supplied by google
After this first fateful encounter he purchased and crashed several cars, until the day his three friends Badger, Ratty and Mole decided it was time for an intervention.
Despite their best efforts, the Toad  refused to reform and after escaping from them he steals a car, and lands in prison, where he is befriended by the gaoler’s daughter.

Drawing by French artist
Michel Plessix
courtesey of Floss

“When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one's ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries. Toad sat up on end once more, dried his eyes, sipped his tea and munched his toast, and soon began talking freely about himself, and the house he lived in, and his doings there, and how important he was, and what a lot his friends thought of him.”

Tea & toast a favourite afternoon tea time treat.
Toad eventually escapes from prison, with the girl’s help, dressed as a washerwoman and is reunited with his friends but not before having many more Wild Adventures along the way.
Wind in the Willows quotes from: Classic


Saturday, 15 January 2011

January sunrise in Normandy.

Last Monday morning, as I was preparing to link my mosaic to Mary's blog the little red house, I happened to look up and notice a beautiful light coming through the French doors that lead to the front garden.
Whilst I had been travelling through blogland the sun had been making her entrance, and she was coming up in a blaze of glory.
I quickly grabbed my Nikon camera and headed outdoors to capture the moment.

January sunrise in Normandy
Thanks to The Tablescaper for Seasonal Sunday
and also
Click on the links above, or on the sidebar buttons, to participate in these weekly events.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 faience brocante.

As you know my word for 2011 is "de-clutter" and so begins my exciting new venture.
I am so thrilled to finally be able to tell you my surprise.
After mulling it over for several months I've finally opened an Etsy shop "la faience brocante".

The clue was in my mosaic on Monday.
I'll be stocking the shelves with "les jolies choses".
French faience will be the star attraction with Quimper pieces to the fore.
However, you'll also find majolica, enamelware, lithographs and other vintage French items that I have gathered together over the years.
The French actually have a word to describe a person who loves to hunt out antique and vintage treasures at flea markets, vide greniers, brocantes and auction houses.
Je suis un "Chiner".
I love nothing more than to "chine" and Mr B and I, with dogs in tow, have travelled far and wide uncovering wonderful things.
Oh! those early morning starts at Le Mans or Le Bourget markets!
The exchange of banter with Maître Bailleul at our local Hôtel de Ventes in Bayeux, who would often berate his clientele with "les Anglais sont la" if he thought there was a chance we might steal a bargain from under their noses.
I hope you'll enjoy browsing through my Etsy brocante, where perhaps you'll discover a French souvenir for your home.
You'll find a link on the sidebar.
Bon chine!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

New beginning?

la faience brocante
Linking this post to Mary's fabulous Mosaic Monday @the little red house why not call in at Mary's to see who else is sharing their collages this week? It's a great place to see amazing mosaic creations from around the world.

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end" ~ Seneca.

Last week I told you about my word for 2011 - declutter, and I've thrown myself into the project with wild abandon.
I began by clearing out my wardrobe.
Really Margaret, how many "gardening" sweats and T's does a girl need?
Will also need to take a trip to the local Emmaus collection point very soon with the items that didn't pass the 6 month rule.
During the winter months, when it just gets too chilly for me to sit up in the grenier (my attic office/craft room) and freeze, I just plop myself (avec laptop) down in front of the wood burner in the sitting room to blog.
However, the sun was out today and I decided to tidy away all the "stuff" that had accumulated whilst planning/organising the Quimper Club's annual meeting in Savannah last October.
Out it all went, whee!
I'll have plenty of space and time now to start scrappin' again. Chouette!
After twelfth night, when all the Christmas deco had been put away, it was time to begin filling all the empty spaces on the library and dining room shelves and tabletops and mantlepieces, throughout the house.
And that made me stop and pause.
Just what was I going to place out on display, what goes and what stays?
Now, I can hear you all thinking "she's rambling on today" and also probably "what has any of this got to do with that great mosaic, and what is la faience brocante?"
Well, come a little closer and I'll whisper.............................................soon!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Mosaic Monday.

2011 has got off to a very good start here at Le Presbytere with fine weather, good company and books to read by the fire.

I'm not a great believer in "New Years Resolutions" any more. I used to be.

Every year I would resolve to lose weight; excercise more; drink just one glass of wine with dinner; volunteer more; improve my language skills etc, etc.

But as I get older I realise that, although I may be overweight, I like me this way.

Daily walks with Ben are probably enough excercise for me, (although I have promised to get back on the WiiFit very soon).

That my husband is a gourmand, a very good cook and knows a bit about fine wines too, so why should I deprive him of convivial company at dinner?

As for volunteering..........................I think I'm just a bit volunteered out after all my involvement with the QCI during the last two years, although I wouldn't rule out some other type of charity work in the future.

So, I decided no Resolutions, but everyone needs a goal to aim for and I think I have come up with something to focus on in 2011.

My word for the year?

Not sure if this is just a word, I feel it could become my mantra for the next twelve months.

So, with this new urge upon me I gave my full attention, this afternoon, to my Photo editing program and cleared 100's of photographs from my memory stick and upteen folders on my PC.
There's something so cathartic about de cluttering, but also what fun it has been to "review" 2010 through my photographs.

I've created several collages from some of my favourites. Double click on any of the collages for a closer look.

Some you may have seen before as they have appeared in previous posts.
I'm not quite sure but I think I have one from each month.

I'm joining Mary at the little red house for 2011's first Mosaic Monday.
Mary has created a wonderful calendar for the New Year, click on the link here or on my sidebar to see it and other bloggers participating this week.