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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Earth Laughs In Flowers

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spring and fall in Texas, with their cool weather,
remind me of the French summer weather and entice me to plant
flowers like those in French gardens and flower boxes.

Embellishments adorn the garden,
inspired by French architectural garden details,
to enhance the 
pansy, lavender, mint,
rosemary, lobelia, oxalis,
plumbago, blue sage, lantana...

Little metal markers remind plants who they are,
lest they forgot while they
languished all summer in stifling
 temperatures in the 90s and 100s.

Calliope loves the cooler days and rests beneath the ivy and 
beside the limestone heart.

The weathered-green brass watering can sprinkler
promised rain would come again.

The brass bunny hose guard is at home 
guarding the pansies instead of hoses.

Oxalis blooms and leaves envelop
their French iron adornment. 

Rosemary, the bravest of all,
continued to grow and flourish all summer,

yet still reaches for its 
even more in October.

Revived in October,
the best weather month in North Texas,

flowers lift their faces, smile anew,
flaunt their most vibrant colors,
and toss their heads
for us to view.

"Earth laughs in flowers"
Ralph Waldo Emerson

October days beckon us to delight in
blue skies
horizon to horizon,
reflected in
blue plumbago,

flush with new growth.

Breathe in the cooler air.

Refresh and renew your spirit as 
the earth rejoices in its coming rest.

 Feathered Nest Friday linking party.

French Boulangerie or Patisserie?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Every town in France, regardless of size, has at least one boulangerie (bakery)
 that sells freshly baked croissants, baguettes, éclairs, and/or tartes.  
To be called a pâtisserie, the bakery must employe 
a licensed maître pâtissier (master bakery chef) 
who has completed extensive training 
and passed a written examination.

The Maison COLLET Boulangerie/Pâtisserie is in Paris. 
 Notice the two freshly baked baguettes partially wrapped in paper 
that the customer is hand carrying. 
That's how baguettes are carried all over France.  

The green bag she is carrying contains carefully packaged pastries.  
Even the smallest shops hand wrap pastries with the same care.


I do not remember whether my first tarte aux fraises (strawberry tart) 
came from a pâtisserie or a boulangerie, 
but I do remember how wonderful it tasted.  
Each time I return to France, I wonder if the strawberry tarts 
will be as good as my mind remembers them 
or if I have just fantasized the taste.  
Each return trip, I am delighted to find a tarte aux fraises 
does taste as wonderfully as I remember!

I see five framboise (raspberry) tarts.  
But, wait!  I see four tarte aux fraises with kiwi!

The boulangerie in Carsac, France [population 1473 in 2008]
 is on the main street in town.  
In September 2011, I traveled with my sister and her husband to Paris 
and to the French Dordogne region.  
We were excited to find that the local boulangerie in Carsac sold 
baguettes, tartes, croissants, and pain au chocolate (bread with chocolate inside).  

Chances are your kitchen cannot legally be called a pâtisserie, 
but you can still make a tarte aux fraises with the recipe below. 

CHOW online recipes

Botanic Bleu has French-style white stoneware tart dishes 
and pie plates this Christmas season.

If you make a tarte aux fraises, write a comment about it. 

Do you have a favorite American pâtisserie?  
Post a comment telling about it.

 I would love to hear from you.

One of my favorite American pâtisseries is la Madeleine in Arlington, Texas.

See la Madeleine on Facebook at
Until next time, keep watching for pâtisseries in your neighborhood.

Old French House in the Countryside

Saturday, October 13, 2012

While visiting the Dordorgne region of France we stayed in 
a house attached to an
old French house in the countryside
just outside Carsac.

The house has been added onto over the years (many years.)
The original old house on the far left was not habitable.

Our part of the house was the lower level on the right.
Two bedrooms, sitting area, dining room, kitchen, utility room, and bathroom...
Very much inhabitable...
Two sets of french doors opened onto the terrace.

The view from our terrace was over a sunflower field
with dried sunflowers still standing.

A view of the original house on the opposite side of where we stayed...

A closer view of doors in the original part...

I love the "eyebrow" arch above the doors.

The owners were restoring and repairing the original house section.

There was so little light in the old house.

Getting to peek into the old house undergoing
renovation was an unexpected treat.

The floor was an uneven rubble of crumbled stone.
The walls were made of stones.
Look at the open doorway to see how thick the stone walls were.

Old windows / doors with blue...

The old house contained an assortment of renovation supplies,
tools, modern pool chaise lounges,


Old timbers, wooden ladders...

Wooden tool box...

Crumpled wire basket...

I would love to have "shopped" the brocante in the old house.
Alas, no way to get large things home...

Seeing the renovation in progress and
getting to talk to the owner about the work
was an extraordinary peek into
real French people.

No hotel stay could ever provide such an
authentic French experience.

Search the Internet to find houses to rent in France.
A total immersion into the culture may happen.

A Small French Town

Saturday, October 6, 2012

No trip to France is complete without visiting one or more
small French towns.
All towns have their own personalities; no two are alike.

Carsac, France, six hours from Paris,
is in the Dordogne region of France.

While visiting there last year, we were delighted to find
that Carsac has all of these shops within two blocks
on its main street.

Une épicerie (small grocery store), la boucherie (butcher shop), 

La boulangerie (bakery), la pharmacie (pharmacy), la poste (post office)

We felt very French each day as we made our purchases.  
Buying just what we needed for the day...
No big impersonal supermarkets...
"Bonjour, madame. Bonjour, monsieur."
Greeting the shopkeepers with smiling faces...

Love the curved roofline on la poste...

We mailed three packages filled with purchases 
of French brocante (second-hand goods)
 to the United States using this la poste.

La souffleur de verre (glass blower) was on a side street.
Part of the personality of Carsac...
Not every small town in France has la souffleur de verre.

Biot is the only other French town that I have visited that had
la souffleur de verre.
I have a lovely bleu paperweight from there.

Back on the main street...
Une boutique de fleuriste (flower shop) / boutique cadeaux (gift shop)
Built right into the red clay cliff...

 We wanted to buy the wire cloches with birds on top,
but they were too big to fit into our suitcase or to mail.
One day, a container for all our French treasures...

The berry-picking basket on a walking cane also caught our eyes.
Too big also.  :(

Back home, I found a source for small wire cloches with birds on top.

Love this little bird...
Reminds me of birds sitting atop the 
 outdoor metal topiary my brother-in-law built...

My sister found a source for berry-picking baskets on a cane.
Happy eyes...when they arrive...

Botanic Bleu has both these items for sale in the
2012 Country French Christmas sale.
Now, will we put these in the shop or keep them for ourselves?
They are in the shop...for now.

Yes, no trip to France is complete without exploring small towns.

Another day, I will post photos of the 12th century church in Carsac.
Definitely part of Carsac's personality...

Watch for small towns in your travels.
The unexpected always turns up
which makes lasting memories.

French Lavender

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Visiting the lavender fields of France is a joyful experience for all the senses.  

Seeing the vibrant lavender hues in field after field after field...

Smelling the invigorating scent of the flowers...

 Feeling the breeze blowing across the fields...

Visiting with lavender growers in their fields...

Not just looking at lavender from afar on a train, 
from a distance in a car, or
at the edge of the field walking along, 

Walking in lavender fields with lavender all around...

 Touching lightly the long-stemmed blossoms...

What joy to actually experience French lavender.

Fragrant dried bunches of French lavender from Provence bring 
memories of walking among the lavender fields.
Close your eyes ... see the fields.

Dried lavender at Botanic Bleu

Have you visited lavender fields in France or near you?  
Write a comment about your experience.
I would love to hear about it.

Watch for lavender fields when you travel. 
Walking among them will refresh your spirit.
Please join me at these inspiring linky parties...