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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Looking for Holiday Food Ideas?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Holidays can be described by the food served for the special occasions. Think about it. 
You can name the holidays on which the following menus are served. 

Roasted turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, ...

Hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, ... 

Ham, deviled eggs, carrot cake, ... 

Many families mutiny if the main holiday menu is changed, 
but usually will accept a few new additions to the main day meal 
or at parties leading up to the big day.  

In fact, many of us like a few new recipes at parties, and 
cooks are always open to holiday food ideas that complement their traditional fare.  
With the first of November just days away,  
I was thinking about some new holiday food ideas while 
having lunch at a new-to-me restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas. 

True to the motto on its front door, 
Cheese, Wine, Learn & Dine, 
The Magnolia Cheese Co included 
learning today with my lunch with friends and 
gave me some ideas for holiday food. 

Magnolia Cheese Co
Isn't this the greatest restaurant blackboard you've seen! 
Talk about learning.  
And the incredible artwork... 

Magnolia Cheese Co
Cheese must be served at room temperature, 71°.  

The five of us began our lunch with a 'local cheese' board loaded with 
a variety of cheeses and yummy flavors to enhance the cheeses' flavors. 

This board was not our cheese board.  
No, we devoured ours before I even thought to take photos. 
A couple of ladies at another table graciously allowed me 
to photo their cheese board.

Fresh fruit, pomegranate seeds, spiced pecans, honey with pollen, 
date jam with candied orange peel, and balsamic vinegar all added to the cheeses. 
This is what set my mind to whirring with ideas for the holidays. 
Not your ordinary, cheese-only, cheese board. 

Definitely a possibility for party food. 
Hmmm... how about serving a cheese board as snacks for college students 
arriving home late afternoon, but before dinner is ready.  
How about as an addition to leftovers the day after the BIG meal. 
How about game night with the family during the holidays. 

The cheeses were wonderful, but the candied orange peel was to die for! 
Now, I've had candied orange peel before, but this was the best ever. 

The best part of my idea? 
Easy to serve and to clean up. 

The second best part of my idea?
Magnolia Cheese Co sells all of these delicious cheeses by the pound. 
And, the candied orange peel, as an advance order, can also be bought. 
Visions of sugarplums... 

My lunch was soup and a red wine poached pear 
with smoked Moody Blue cheese, watercress, truffled pepitas, and crispy leeks. 

Once again, swirling thoughts. 
There is also the possibility of this poached pear salad to serve 
with the main holiday meal or with soup for lunch during the holidays. 

Yes, my mind is whirring with holiday food ideas. 
Are you planning any new recipes for your holiday meals? 

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Ugly Duckling to White Swan

Monday, October 27, 2014

What began as an unfinished backyard garden shed slowly has been transformed into a beautiful Maison de Jardin.  Yes, the lowly potting shed went from an UGLY duckling to a beautiful white swan with French-inspired details.

Although still a work in progress, the garden house has come a L O N G way, a V E R Y  L O N G way!  In the beginning, the shed was designed to house my garden tools, extra pots, over-wintering plants, fertilizer, little red wagon, and other sundry gardening supplies.  

Pretty forlorn looking, sitting alone in the backyard in 2009, the little garden shed appeared enclosed, but very ugly with its unpainted plywood siding.  

Take a look from another side of the garden shed.  Nope, the shed was not even enclosed in 2009.  The big gaping hole is where a window, a French-inspired eyebrow shaped window, was planned.  It was a depressing sight.  Good thing this is the back side of the garden shed, and I didn't have to look at it from the house.  Day after day after day. 

Here's the view in November 2011.  In August 2012, I began writing the Botanic Bleu blog, and my second blog post was Botanic Bleu Beginnings where I shared how the garden shed began and related to my new blog, Botanic Bleu. 

Spring 2014, the garden shed had a more decided French look with the addition of sculpted topiaries.  Read  French Garden Shed Elements for a step-by-step analysis of how the little garden shed in Texas was designed and styled to have French flair. 

Austin White Stone!  It was an exciting day in August 2014 when the stone masons delivered the Austin white stones that now cover the plywood walls.  If you look back at the first couple of photos, you can see the "brick ledge" that was included in the original foundation of the garden shed.  A stone exterior was always part of my original dream for the garden shed.  I just never dreamed it would take so many years to install the stone exterior.  Sometimes, you just have to wait.  Good things come to him who waits.  

And to she who waits.  And waits.  Well, I didn't really just wait all this time.  No, little by little over the years, changes were made, and the little garden shed stood a little taller and a little more elegantly with each change. 

Now that a white swan has emerged in place of the ugly duckling, the little garden shed is a little garden house, a maison de jardin, or as my family says, le Jardin Château

New trim work around the French doors is a new pale blue, but may be repainted a darker shade blue.  

The north side view gives a good look at the stonework.  I love how the stone pattern looks with its horizontal rows of varying sizes of stones.  The masons did an excellent job creating the creamy white mortar by using a very fine white sand instead of the usual darker beige or gray sand used in many stone projects in our area.  

The garden shed looks so much better with the new light fixture, green metal mailbox on the door, and a triple topiary.  

After seeing a similar vintage mailbox on Pinterest, I had been looking for one.  Does Pinterest get you into the same trouble it does me?  I never knew I needed this metal mailbox until I saw one on Pinterest.

The light fixtures have a rippled glass globe that blends with, but doesn't match perfectly, the already existing lamp post light in the yard.  I'm hoping the metal will age into the same color of green as the lamp post light.  If the fixtures don't turn a weathered green, then there is always spray paint.  

Lowes sold these topiaries this year for $36, which I thought was a fantastic price.  I bought the two topiaries on the front last spring and went back the next day to buy more, but Lowes was sold out of them.  In September, Lowes had the topiaries again.  Without blinking an eye, I bought one.  This one has been trimmed once already, but needs re-shaping again.  

The stone masons also added stone around the base of the lamp post and laid a new paver sidewalk. 

The sidewalk connects the garden shed, ahem, maison de jardin, to the house deck and makes it so-o-o easy to move things in a wagon.  No steps, just an easy slope and wide path. 

October is one of the best weather months in north Texas.  Cool nights in the 50-60s and warm days in the 70-80s with clear blue sunny skies are ideal growing conditions.  Fall/winter rye grass is one of my favorite plants, and the rye grass loves October weather. 

Like the fairy tale, this little ugly ducking garden shed has gone through many transformations over several years.  Abused and neglected after its creation, the little shed never knew that it was designed to be a beautiful white swan, maison de jardin.

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French Brocante at Round Top

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Round Top Antique Show has something for everyone. Spread out for 10 miles along Texas highway 237 and for 9 miles along Texas highway 1457, the semi-annual antiques show has multiple venues with wares ranging from early Americana to industrial vintage to European fine antiques with  everything in between.

Advertised as the largest antique show in the United States, Round Top is THE antique show for worldwide antiquers and is on many people's bucket list to experience the more than 2000 vendors over 17 days.  The best known sites are Marburger Farm, Blue Hills, Warrenton, the Original Round Top Antiques Fair, and Big Red Barn.  The dates this fall were September 19 - October 5, but most of these big sites were only open September 30 - October 4.

French Brocante at Round Top 

French Fall Accents at Round Top

Friday, October 3, 2014

You know it's fall at the Round Top Antiques Show in south central Texas by the date,
not by the temperatures.

Today Round Top, Texas was sunny and HOT; 90° was the high,
apropos for Round Top that has a population of ... 90!
That is, until the semi-annual Antique Show extravaganza
swells the population to over 100,000.
It's even been reported to have 200,000 visitors some years,
but Texas is known for its tall tales.

An antique wooden wheel barrow filled with multi-colored and multi-textured pumpkins sets the stage for the fall displays that enhanced all the antiques throughout the antique fair.  Of course, French antiques are what I was looking for.  

French Fall Accents 
 ... some ideas for decorating my own home... 

... white and pale green pumpkins are very chic (elegant)
in gris (gray) and white French urns...

... French pottery direct from a French brocante (flea market)
filled with yellow lantana flowers...

... a large vintage terracotta bowl worn from use... 

... earthy tones of Provence blend beautifully 
with all the yellow and orange fall couleurs (colors)...  

... yellow mums in French pots de cuivre (copper pots)...

... various sizes and shapes of French yellow ware could hold fall flowers... 

... pumpkins with French circular wooden architectural salvage... 

... a French gray urn filled with a pumpkin holding a bird's nest... 

... a grapevine wreath as the base of a pumpkin in a French urn 
with unusually shaped gourds in a wooden box... 

... a row of various French urns filled with purple fall flowers...

... a vintage original water couleur of Paris in the fall... 

Which of these is your favorite idea for fall decorating with a French accent? 
Did you learn a new French word? 

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4 Ways To Be Cool at Round Top Antique Fair

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Another 90°- day at the 
Fall Round Top Antique Show 

Here are four ways not only to keep cool, but also to be cool at the 
Marburger Farm-Round Top Antique Show. 
After all, Round Top Antique Shows are the places 
to see and to be seen. 

  1. Buy an adorable blue and white paisley print straw cowgirl hat at a convenience store on Highway 290 in Carmine, Texas.  Get some of their delicious chicken salad from the deli while there. Then head south to Round Top. 
  2. Wear your sunglasses you brought from home with your new ultra-chic blue paisley cowgirl hat. While shading your head and eyes, wander through the thirteen buildings and nine giant tents that house 350 exhibitors at Marburger Farm Antique Show, one of my favorite antiquing sites along Highway 237 during the Round Top Antique Show. 
  3. Drink plenty of liquids to beat the heat while strolling from tent to tent.  A large glass of iced tea, sweet or unsweet, will cool anyone down quickly.  Marburger Farm has a large open-air covered area filled with long tables that sport red and white checked tablecloths for resting while eating and drinking. 
  4. Generate your own breeze by using a hand-held old-fashioned fan on a stick.  Marburger Farm supplies the cute advertising fans in the shape of a cowboy hat.... to go with your cute cowgirl hat from Carmine.  You supply the energy to wave the fan back and forth, being sure to share your breeze with whomever is standing near you.  Southern hospitality, you know. 
Four ways to beat the heat at the largest antique show in the USA...  
All the while looking chic and exuding Southern charm...  

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