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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Noël Neige

Saturday, December 29, 2012

on Christmas Day...

There is something magical about snow on Christmas day.
Especially in Mansfield, Texas...

Until Christmas this year, 1975 was the last time it snowed on Christmas Day 
in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

I stopped cooking and just stood watching the snow fall,

BIG fluffy flakes, freewheeling across the sky...
made the snow look like a movie scene. 

What is more Christmas-y than a green wreath dusted with snow
on a red bench?

The lights and lantern at the front door with snow...
Another magical Christmas scene...

How beautiful to see snow through the breakfast windows!

Christmas Day 2012
Filled with magical snowy moments...

Bleu Noël Scenes

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Joyeux Noël to everyone
Christmas lasts for many days at our house.

Christmas scenes in Paris, France...
Paris Tourisme creche information
For Paris creche scenes,
go to Paris Tourisme creche information.

To see more beautiful scenes of Noël á Paris,
go to the Paris Tourisme site.

scenes at my house are simpler than ones in Paris.

Over the years I've decorated at Christmas using
bleu (blue) with rosy reds and mauves.
A very dear friend of almost forty years
made the wooden hand-painted sign,
one of my very first blue-colored Christmas decorations.
She gave it to us for Christmas about twenty-five
years ago, and it is a treasured part of my
Christmas decorations every year.

On Christmas Day,
we enjoyed a traditional American Christmas lunch
of turkey and dressing with family and close friends.

The dining room table and chairs were
decorated by my sister, a professional florist.
  Using left-over bead board, she built the wooden box planter
on Christmas Eve.

She filled the planter with roses and lilies from the local grocery.
The greenery is from her yard and my yard.

The Fitz & Floyd china, Renaissance Blue, was found years ago
at their warehouse sale when they moved warehouse sites
in the Dallas metroplex.
This truly was a warehouse sale...
The greatest bargain in my life...
Sample prices... Sugar bowl...$1.50
Gravy boat with under plate ... $5

The stainless steel flatware with gold beading is a Towle pattern.
The china pattern is discontinued, but 
Replacements, Inc has this pattern.
(For a lot more than $1.50 for a sugar bowl...)

The reindeer place card holders are from Pottery Barn years ago.

The blue crown was from my sister last Christmas.

Hand-carved wooden Russian Father Frosts stand
at each end of the floral arrangement.

Blue baubles and greenery tied with Noël ribbon adorn the chair backs.

With such a beautiful flower-filled dining room,
I don't want to remove the decorations.

Special memories leap to my mind as I
look at the beautiful flowers my sister arranged and 
as I look at the treasured Merry Christmas sign made by my friend.
One can see why Christmas lasts 
for many days at our house.

Joyeux Noël Home Tour Day 1

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Joyeux Noël
A country French Christmas in the making...

Bienvenue (welcome) to my home.
Fresh greenery, Santa, and French-inspired themes 
(fleur de lis, crowns, Eiffel towers, French prints...)
 await you!

French Children's Alphabet Christmas Decor

Saturday, December 1, 2012

In the mid-nineteenth century,
Paris had about 140 
passages couverts de Paris
(covered passages)
for shopping. 

Passage des Panoramas 

is one of about 40 passages that still exist in Paris today.

Joyeux Noël Tags

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The French have yet to succumb to having
Christmas cards, home decorations, shopping displays,
and city holiday lights before December.

But in December,
bedazzles the world and
truly becomes the 
City of Light!


Coke Case Advent Calendar and a Winner!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

When I first started traveling to France
in the early 1980s,
waiters would shake their heads, and
utter, "tsk, tsk," whenever I ordered 
with my meal.
I've always loved Coke.

Getting glaçon (ice) was a real feat
in the '80s and into the '90s!
Now, getting Coke and lots of ice in France
are relatively easy.
Restaurant in Sarlat, France


Sunday, November 11, 2012

have always appealed to me.

In Paris, angels are easy to find, without really searching for them.
Famous ones dressed in gold finery top the Opéra House.

The sky on this day in Paris was reminiscent of an Impressionist painting
casting a glow to the top of the building and highlighting the
dazzling golden angels.

Who Changes the Musée d'Orsay Clocks?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Daylight Saving Time ends
Sunday, November 4, 2:00 a.m.

"Fall back" an hour.
Most Americans reset their clocks before
going to bed on Saturday, November 3.

So who changes the clocks in 
Musée d'Orsay?
Source: France for Visitors, copyright Catherine Balet
See this site for more images of Musée d'Orsay.

Vintage French Stamps & A Give-Away

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What is it about vintage French stamps 
that is so alluring?

For me,
browsing for stamps, old letters, and vintage postcards
in France
is much of the allure.

What could be more relaxing than
strolling through flea markets, browsing book sellers' wares, and
meandering in the passages couverts (covered passages) in 


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.

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.

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.

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... 

French Lavender

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

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

Simple French-Looking White & Green Fall Vignette

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Lone Star State is still green.  
Well, as green as north Texas gets in late summer. 
The grasses, flowers, trees, shrubs... all have a fine film of dust
(lack of rain)
making them a dusty green.
The leaves on the trees are still green with a few brown edges.
Indications that fall is approaching... 

The calendar says it is officially fall,
but the temperatures and foliage say it's really still summer.

Reading other blogs and looking at linking party photos
inspired me to create a 
simple white and green fall vignette 
on my kitchen counter.

The white pedestal cake stand is a recent find.
Call it new vintage...

Fragrant Pink Roses Remind Me of France

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Just inside the local grocery store is a new display for fresh flowers. 
Sometimes I buy blue hydrangeas, but
this week there was a special on roses...

Texans Are More French Than Texans Realize

Saturday, September 22, 2012

While traveling this week from the Dallas, Texas metroplex to the Houston area, I discovered Texas provides free wireless Internet service at its rest stops along Interstate 45.  After getting back home, I then discovered Texas was the first state to provide wireless Internet access at Safety Rest Areas throughout the state.

Texas map on the state's transportation website shows the location of rest stops all over Texas.  The map also indicates which rest areas are new and which ones are scheduled for renovation.

Blue Limoges Hine Cognac Stag Bottle

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Nothing is more exciting than finding a rare treasure at a flea market in France.  The flea markets in Paris are well known and bring top euro / dollar for their items.  The most exciting thing I found in the French flea markets was in Carsac.  Carsac, France, in the Dordogne region, has about fourteen hundred residents and is over six hours away from Paris.  Yes, there are still real deals to be found in French flea markets.

Here's the story I promised in an earlier post.

The vintage blue Limoges commemorative X.O. Hine Cognac stag bottle shown below was a real find.

Carsac Brocante

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Have you dreamed of browsing a French flea market?  In September 2011, I had the perfect opportunity finally to go to French flea markets after 26 years of daydreams.  We arrived in Carsac, France very late on Saturday, September 17.  Within a couple of days we spotted the signs for the Carsac-Alliac Antiquité / Brocante on September 24-25.

Botanic Bleu Beginnings

Saturday, September 1, 2012

B O T A N I C   B L E U   B E G I N N I N G S 

A backyard unfinished plywood garden shed was transformed into a garden house to be a home for annual French Country Christmas Events. 

My maternal grandmother had flower gardens both around her house and in her vegetable garden in north Alabama.  I can never remember a time when she did not have flowers.  Her flower gardens were modest, overshadowed by the vegetables and crop plants necessary for food and a living, but they were always well-maintained, grown from cuttings and seeds shared from family, friends, and neighbors.  I don't think she ever bought a flower seed or plant in her life.

My life has been blessed with flowers beginning with my grandmother, then with my mother, aunts, uncles, paternal grandfather, and now with my sister who is a professional florist.  My husband sent flowers for every birthday, Valentine's day, wedding anniversary, and other special times.  For years we planned for a garden shed so I could have flowers year round.

When I traveled to France each summer with students, the flower gardens, parks, garden houses, and verdant countryside of France always refreshed my spirit and renewed my desire for beautiful gardens and a garden house of my own.  The north Texas heat, cold, and lack of rain limit what I can grow. Budgets, energy, and time limit what I can build.  When I drew the first garden shed plans on graph paper, my family quickly dubbed it a "jardin chateau."  The shed is not really a chateau, but my traveling-to-France friend, Dewayna, said she laughs when I call it a shed.

February 14, 2004 --- No garden shed, just an open area east of the deck at my house

Botanic Bleu beginnings show a snowy empty wood scene before the garden shed was built

French Tarte aux Fraises

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A French tarte aux fraise (strawberry tart), bursting with flavor, is the first thing I search for every time I visit France.

In 1984, I traveled to France for the first time and became enchanted with Paris, the French people, and the French countryside.  For several years I traveled to France chaperoning high school students with two close friends who taught French.  I knew no French that first trip; I taught math.  My two French teacher friends laughingly said math was a foreign language.

Over the years, I picked up enough French words and phrases to read menus, to find a bathroom, and to buy shoes.  The first phrase I learned to say was how to ask for a Coca-Cola with lots of ice and a strawberry tart.  Each year I eagerly looked forward to eating my first strawberry tart of the trip and ate them as often as possible.  The French strawberries are full of flavor, much more so than any American strawberry I've eaten including ones homegrown by my mother.  The tarts have a rich cream custard under the strawberries, and the crust is light and flaky.  Even today when I travel to France, I begin searching neighborhood patisseries for a 'tarte aux fraises'' as soon as I arrive.  Look closely at the lower left in the patisserie window below.  I think I spy a strawberry tart.

Thus began my love for France.

In 2011, I started Botanic Bleu, a small home and garden gift shop that offers new and vintage items from French flea markets, Deep South antique stores, and select wholesalers.  Check back for more stories about France and the Botanic Bleu shop.

Until next time, keep looking for strawberry tarts wherever you go. And dream of eating them in France.