Monday, October 31, 2011

A French Halloween? "L'Halloween"

This "L'Halloween" evening, French goblins, ghosts, witches, mummies and vampires will walk the streets of France headed to get-togethers and parties throughout the country. In 2011 France, many people celebrate the 31st of October, "L'Halloween," much like we do in the U.S. 

Although not a traditional French holiday, Halloween is gaining popularity with the French with some attributing this increase in popularity to effective advertising, marketing and "globalization." More and more French citizens are learning about the holiday and and choosing to decorate for and celebrate the "ghoulish" day! Many others; however, don't understand the recent French infatuation with the holiday and don't welcome the intrusion of an American holiday into the French culture and lifestyle.

The first recorded Halloween celebration occurred in France in 1982 at the American Dream Bar and Restaurant in Paris. Here they began decorating for the holiday and explaining to all visitors the meaning of the celebration and encouraging the local patrons to participate year after year.

Today you can find the largest French celebration of Halloween in Limoge France where they have wildly embraced the holiday. Every year since 1996, on October 31st the town puts on a Halloween parade and celebrates the holiday where anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 people show up for a parade of ghosts, goblins and ghouls carrying candlelit pumpkins. Many people dress up in costume and tour the local bars, cafes and restaurants. The city also hosts annual Halloween street shows, story tellings and other events organised by the city and local merchants of Limoges.

I love celebrating all holidays, and Halloween is no exception.  Although I haven't been able to locate my Halloween decorations since the move to Texas (they're somewhere in my storage unit I hope!) I've added a little Halloween gore to the house!

Here at My Faux French Chateau in Fort Worth, Texas I'm getting ready for my share of local ghosts, witches, princesses and assorted characters to "Trick or Treat" at my front door. I've been happily getting ready for the last two days making Halloween treat bags and homemade caramel corn!

Black urns, witches shoe with candy and jars of "poison!"

Bags of homemade caramel corn and assorted "Trick or Treat" bags.

Happy Halloween!

Au revoir, Mitty

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vintage French Whatchamacallit?


What is this French glass thing?

Can you guess?

I'll give you a few clues.................

It's used to entice something you don't want bugging you.

It's usually used outside.

You add sugar water to the inside and a cork stopper to the top.

Have you guessed?

It's a vintage French wasp/bee catcher!

You add sugar water to the inside trough, add a cork stopper to the top, and the wasp flies in the bottom and becomes trapped. You can hang a wire around the top and hang the wasp catcher from a branch.

I love this "bottle" and have used it as a flower vase.  I've also seen one used as a candle holder. I've never had the heart to use it as a wasp catcher......

Au revoir, Mitty

Monday, October 24, 2011

Faux or Real? - Silvered Mercury Glass

I hunt antique malls, auctions, flea markets, estate sales, Etsy shops, Ebay and other Internet sites for vintage and antique items. One thing that I have learned over many years of "junking" is "let the buyer beware!"

Without doing your own research and educating yourself on what to look for in any particular item, you are at the mercy of the honesty and the knowledge of the seller. Although I believe that an item's "value" is whatever another person is willing to pay for it, I would never recommend buying a pricey piece without knowing how to differentiate between a real vintage piece or a great fake.

With this in mind, I've decided to periodically share any tips that I have about items that I love to collect. I cannot; however, guarantee that armed with whatever insight I might share you will not still get fooled. But you will at least have some idea of what to look for.

Since I blogged about Silvered Mercury Glass a few days ago, today I want to share just a few tips on what to look for when you are thinking about buying anything labeled "antique" mercury glass. Keep in mind, the earliest pieces of silvered mercury glass were made in Bohemia (Czech Republic) starting in 1840 - 1920, England 1849 - 1855 and America 1851 - 1880.

Bohemian Silvered Mercury Glass with Gold Washed Interior

Faux or Real? Tip 1: Look for a pontil scar.

1. Antique mercury glass is most often double walled and was blown with a hollow blowpipe and a long flat topped iron tool called a punty rod. When the piece was blown into its final shape, the punty rod was attached to the end of the piece in order to finish it out. When the glass blower was finished with the piece, it was cracked off the punty rod making what is called a pontil scar. This "scar" is the distinguishing feature of most blown glass and is the hole in which the liquid silver nitrate would then be poured between the two walls of glass making "silvered mercury glass."  This hole or scar would then be covered or sealed. ****I would never buy silvered mercury glass from a website that did not show the bottom of the piece! Always contact the listed seller and ask for detailed photos of the pontil scar and seal!

Faux or Real? Tip 2. Identify pontil scar sealing material to identity country of origin.

2.  To differentiate between English, American and Bohemian mercury glass look for how the pontil scar was covered or sealed. English silvered mercury glass was typically sealed with a metal disk covered with a glass round which was cemented into the polished pontil scar.  Most American makers inserted a simple cork into the pontil scar. One American company, the New England Glass Company, used a metal disc with the impressed "NEG.CO." covered with a glass disc to seal the pontil scar.  Bohemian silvered mercury glass was typically sealed with lead or metal seals covered with glass discs but the pontil was left sharp-edged and not polished or smoothed.

Antique American Silvered Mercury Glass Pontil Scar with Cork Seal

Faux or Real? Tip 3. Identify type of glass.

3. Most silvered mercury glass was not marked in any way. Nonetheless, you can tell a lot about a piece by determining the type of glass used. Both English and American silvered mercury glass was made from flint glass or glass containing lead making them heavy for their size. They also have thick walls and make a bell-tone sound when tapped. Bohemian mercury glass is lighter than English or American since it was made from unleaded glass and blown very thin.

Faux or Real? Tip 4. Identify type of decoration on glass. 
Antique silvered mercury glass was decorated by hand painting, enameling, etching and/or engraving. Many of the Bohemian pieces have a gold colored ("gold washed") interior.

If you are really thinking about collecting antique silvered mercury glass you might want to first invest in the following book:

Pictorial Guide to Silvered Mercury Glass, Diane C. Lytwyn.


Take care and happy hunting! ONE LAST TIP...... Be aware of the use of the description "Vintage like" or "Antique like."  I've seen this verbiage used a lot on the Internet and it could be misleading. Read descriptions carefully and don't be afraid to request additional information!

Au revoir, Mitty

Friday, October 21, 2011

Favorite French Things Friday - Antique Confit Pots (Pots de Confit)

Before I tell you about French confit pots (Pots de confit), I first want you to know what confit is. The classic French confit recipe is "pieces of duck slowly cooked in its own fat until meltingly tender, then stored in the same fat."  Hmmmmmm, tasty sounding huh? Antique confit pots were originally designed as a container in which to store the duck and duck fat before modern refrigeration was available.

These beautiful earthenware containers have, for years, been a signature of the French gourmet and Provencal kitchen and were typically glazed with a rich mustard or honey colored slip glaze.  The warm patina of these confit pots developed over the passage of time and with the help of Mother Nature. The chips and imperfections on the pots are a testament to their utilitarian history and frequent use.

If you look below the beautiful mustard or honey glaze on the confit pot, you will see that the lower part of the pottery was left unglazed. This is because, after the cooking process, the urn was typically sealed and buried in the cool ground or stored in stone-lined larders. This storage process preserved the meat without refrigeration. Throughout the winter, the confit pots would be opened and the meat contained within enjoyed!

Today, antique confit pots are used for decoration and treasured for their earthy beauty and rich coloration. They are displayed to add Provencal charm and character to a room and remind us of the warmth of sun drenched Provence.  When I look at them, I immediately think of the sunflower fields of Provence, Vincent van Gogh's  "Twelve Sunflowers" and bright, warm afternoon sunlight.

"Twelve Sunflowers" by Vincent van Gogh.

The antique French confit pots above are in the television room of MFFC.  MH and I lovingly hand carried these back on the airplane after visiting our daughter in April, 2003.  The one on the left (with the pouring spout) was also used to hold olive oil.

Notice the line at which the mustard-colored glaze ends. This is the point at which the pot would be buried in the cool ground to keep the duck confit "refrigerated."

Antique French mustard glazed confit pot on a round 19th century French table. (Country French Decorating magazine, Spring/Summer 2007.)

Antique French mustard glazed confit pot on French baker's rack with baskets and clay gardening pots. (Country Living magazine, September 2006.)

Antique French mustard glazed confit pots on round French wine tasting table. (Country French Decorating magazine, Fall/Winter 2007.)

By the way,  you may also see antique French confit pots glazed in a dark green color; however, the mustard or honey glaze was used most often.  Also, when I first saw these pots, I was told that they were called "Mustard Jars."

Have a wonderful Fall weekend!

Au revoir, Mitty


Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Love of Silvered Mercury Glass!

Are you a fan of Silvered Mercury Glass? 

Do you know what it is?

You see it used everywhere in decorating today and it works beautifully with the French look that I love so much. Go into almost any home decor store and you can find new Silvered Mercury Glass candle holders, vases, plate stands and, my favorite, Christmas ornaments. Its sleek, reflective silvery shine is hard to miss. 
Silvered Mercury Glass was originally made in Germany in the late 1800's as an inexpensive material for candle holders, vases and goblets. Its popularity quickly grew and it became sought after in France, England , Bohemia (Czech Republic) and the United States.

Although it is called Silvered Mercury Glass, it contains neither silver nor mercury!  The name describes glass that was blown double-walled, then silvered between the two layers with a solution containing silver nitrate in a liquid formula and then sealed.

Vintage Silvered Mercury Glass is highly collectible and the price tag reflects its desirability. Reproduction pieces are quite affordable and can be found at Pottery Barn, West Elm, Ballard Design and most home decor boutiques.

Antique Silvered Mercury Glass Candle Holders and new ornaments  (Traditional Home Magazine)

Vintage Silvered Mercury Glass on table at Lisa Luby Ryan design store in Dallas, Texas

New Silvered Mercury Glass vases at West Elm

New Silvered Mercury Glass Candle Holders at Ballard Designs

and, of course,

New Silvered Mercury Glass Candle Holders and Ornaments at MFFC!

Au revoir, Mitty

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Petite Container of French Brocante .........On a ship somewhere?

For those of you who have followed My Faux French Chateau for a while, you know that I have been somewhat patiently waiting for my petite container of French Brocante to arrive in Houston. In late April, MH and I traveled to France to hunt the weekly Brocante Markets looking for "tresors"  (treasures) to resell in the MFFC store. Well..................I'm getting closer! 

 As you can see from this freight invoice, there really is a shipment! As you can also see there's just no commitment on a "Scheduled Departure Date" or an "Estimated Date of Arrival."  I know,  details, details! 

Seriously though, I was fully prepared that it would be September or October before my shipment would arrive.  There are three sizes of sea freight containers, 20, 40 and 45 foot.  If you don't purchase enough items to fill (or justify) either of these containers, your shipment is held until there's one or more other partial shipments , headed to your area, to which your shipment can be added. It now appears though that my container has not left port in France yet.  I'm waiting for details from Camard, the packing and shipping company, and will keep you updated on an arrival date.  I'm just so excited for it to get here!

Hmmmmmmmmm maybe I'll receive my container in time for Christmas! There are some wonderful items in the shipment that would make great Christmas gifts for the Francophile in your family!

Have a blessed day.

Au revoir, Mitty

Monday, October 17, 2011

Baby Boo Pumpkins

YES, that is really what they are called......Baby Boo Pumpkins!

Miniature white pumpkins on glass pedestal and covered with glass cloche.

Baby Boo Pumpkins at market.

Au revoir, Mitty 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall "Cinderella" Topiaries

I'm starting to decorate for Fall. 

I love this time of the year and seem to feel my own intrinsic need to "nest."  I always love to piddle around my house but in the fall my passion for home becomes more acute.

I started decorating outside yesterday with my "Cinderella" pumpkin topiaries.  I love these for their simple beauty - three graduated sizes of pumpkins wrapped in grapevine and resting on footed urns.

"Cinderella" Pumpkin Topiaries

Beautifully simple. Only one thing is missing..............

A beautiful French crown, befitting any princess!

 Enjoy your weekend.

Au revoir, Mitty

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A long lasting love affair with blue and white.............

I fell in love with blue and white years ago.  I was interning for a design team in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  They exposed me to so much beauty and educated me on French fabric, design and antiques. Working for them changed the way I see beauty and it was while working here that I fell in love with blue and white.  Although they designed with French case goods and fabrics, they used English blue and white transferware as accent pieces in many of their designs. 

A couple of years later, my little family would follow my husband's career to Borneo, Indonesia.  It was here, on this third world remote island, that I began my passion for collecting blue and white.  This move began my weekly visits to the local "toko antiques" (antique stores) looking for Dutch, English and Oriental blue and white.

Throughout its history, Indonesia has been colonized by both the Dutch and the British. When families came to the islands they always brought a part of "home" with them, often bringing their china and tea services.  The items that they left, when they returned to their native country or moved on to another assignment, often ended up for sale in the antique stores. 

The start of a collection!  This is the first blue and white platter I purchased in Balikpapan, Indonesia.

 This is the same platter used in a grouping.  The small plate left of the books was also purchased in Indonesia. Blue Delft jar and Blue Willow bowl purchased in the U.S.

Large Dragon Temple Jar purchased in Indonesia.  The Delft jar was a gift given to me at Christmas.

Large oriental vase from an antique store in Singapore (dried hydrangeas stolen from various unsuspecting gardens.)  Large and small Blue Willow platters and bowl purchased in U.S.

Oriental blue and white snuff bottle from Singapore.  Oriental bowl found in Toko Antique in Balikpapan and still holding last year's Christmas potpourri!

English Transferware blue and white platters and plates purchased from EBAY!!!!!  They are ready and waiting to be hung on my kitchen walls.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these.  Blue and white makes me smile - it's that simple of a love.

Au revoir, Mitty

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beautiful Fall Wedding

I attended a beautiful wedding Friday evening. I loved the overall fall decor with white pumpkins, purple bridesmaids dresses, orange ties for the groomsmen and purple, orange, peach and green flowers.  It was beautiful!

I especially loved the creative containers used for some of the floral arrangements like the vintage wooden tool box (above) and the wooden crate (below)!

Au revoir, Mitty

Friday, October 7, 2011

Favorite French Things Friday - Ivy Covered Homes!

When I think about homes and the ones that I gravitate to, one thing is constant, I love homes that are adorned with ivy. I love the softness that the free flowing vine and the color of the ivy leaves adds to the hardscape materials of stone, brick or stucco.  When I travel, my eye is always drawn to any home or building that is adorned with ivy. To me ivy growing on a home is like the jewelry that "makes an outfit."  The dress may be lovely, but the right jewelry completes the look.

In Eze, France a few years ago, I took what seems like hundreds of pictures of homes and other buildings.  In looking at the pictures this morning, I realized that all of the homes I chose to capture in photos are ivy covered!

Whenever I move to a new home, the ivy that I always plant is known in the U.S. as "Boston Ivy."  It is fast-growing, has lovely, glossy dark green leaves which change to a dark orange and red color in the Fall.  In the winter, the leaves are gone but the ivy vine and small berries still add texture to home exteriors. 

MH and I used to disagree about the prudence of planting Boston Ivy to grow on the exterior of our home. Over time, he's "given in" to this love of mine even though some people feel that the ivy can damage a home.  I keep the ivy on our home "trained" though and shape it to only cover the areas that I choose.  I don't let it run wild over my home even though I love that look!

When I look at my pictures of the ancient ivy-covered homes in Eze, I wonder, how then have these homes survived the ivy without damage for hundreds of years? 

Newly planted Boston Ivy on the front of My Faux French Chateau.

My Faux French Chateau with newly planted Boston Ivy on the left and right corners of the front.

I'm pruning and training the ivy to grow along the right front edge of MFFC and around the curve of the decorative stone arch over the windows.

Here are some of my inspiration home pictures from Eze, France!

Ivy covered French stucco and stone home with French Bleu shutters!

Stone home covered in ivy and climbing roses.

 Have a wonderful weekend!

Au revoir, Mitty

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October in France - The Vendage (Grape Harvest!)

October is a wonderful time to visit France. The beautiful towns and villages become even more picturesque and magical as the soft sunshine highlights the beautiful colours of autumn. In my favorite region of France, Provence, the average temperature is a pleasant 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 degrees Celsius. This is perfect weather for the grape harvest, or the Vendange, which is at its peak in October and is a critical part of the French Culture.

In celebration of the Vendage, traditional celebrations and festivities take place in all the famous wine regions of France. Visitors to France can take part in the vendages in vineyards all over the country.  Among the many celebrations are:

Fete des Vendanges in Banyuls-sur-Mer—Located in the heart of the Roussillon wine region of France, thousands of people will flock to Banyuls-sur-Mer this Saturday, October 8th and Sunday, October 9th to celebrate the grape harvest. Visitors and locals alike will gather on the beach to await the arrival of the grape harvest by sea as in the old days when the barques catalanes (boat or barge) brought the newly picked grapes to the beach. Visitors  can stomp grapes the traditional way, lots of food and wine is consumed, and there is a carnival-like atmosphere with jugglers and stilt-walkers entertaining the crowds.

Arrival of the grape harvest carried by sea in the barques catalanes.

L'Armagnac en Fête in La Bastide d’Armagnac  - The beautiful medieval town  of La Bastide d’Armagnac holds a wine harvest celebration the last week-end of October. A large number of local producers present their Armagnac eau de vie, which is a lighter, more delicate version of cognac Brandy. What really might interest "wine enthusiasts" are the demonstrations of the wine production  cycle from the grape harvest to the distillation process. To demonstrate the distillation process there is a traditional alambic operating in real time during the celebration.  An alambic is an "alchemical still" consisting of two vessels connected by a tube. You can also buy your own glass and walk through the streets sampling wines from different vineyards!

Grape harvest!

I couldn't resist sharing this photo!  This is from a 1909 French post card (Carte postale vers 1900) and is entitled "Vendages en france vers 1900."  I love the grape basket the young man is carrying (although no one in this photo looks happy to be taking part in the grape harvest!)

Can you guess where I'd like to be this weekend?!  Well maybe not......I have a wedding to attend in Tulsa.  I wouldn't miss it, even for the vendage!  There will be other grape harvests in France - maybe next year I'll be there for one!

Au revoir, Mitty

Monday, October 3, 2011

October, Pansies and Daydreaming of Fall

Today's the first Monday in October ("premier lundi d'octobre") and I'm daydreaming about vibrant fall foliage in shades of orange, red, brown and yellow. I think about fall flowers - pansies and mums, and imagine frost on the fields and the smell and feel of  the crisp fall air.

It all sounds so quaint and cliche I know, but seasonal changes are some of the most beautiful of life's free offerings. The simplest of things. It's the passage of time, from season to season, and the recurring sights, sounds and smells that mark time and cause me to pause and daydream about people and places of long ago.

With these thoughts in mind and a yearning for "home" and West Virginia, I ventured out yesterday to a local plant nursery thinking of Fall and, as always, ideas of how to celebrate the season by decorating my yard with pumpkins and flowers.  I soon learn I'm too eager though, and am temporarily disappointed when I'm told that it's  too early to plant pansies (that's right, I'm in Texas now!) and need to wait a few weeks.

So I'm given a quick education by a gardener at the nursery and am told that planting Fall pansies in Texas requires special considerations and conditions. When to plant them is most critical. While pansies can survive temperatures in the single digits and bounce back when warmer weather returns, they have to be planted early enough for strong roots to develop and before cold weather hits. For best growing results, pansies should be planted when the soil temperature is between 45 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you plant pansies when the soil is too cold (below 45 degrees) they'll have stunted plants and little or no flowers.  If you plant too early, when the soil is above 70 degrees, the plants will be "leggy" with little or no flowers and yellow leaves.  So I'll wait, watching the weather, and as soon as Fort Worth has a week of below 70 degrees days, I'm running out to get pansies and plant them in the ground!

While only temporarily discouraged yesterday and with my camera in hand, I took pictures of the beautiful fall pansies and started planning and dreaming about where I'll plant them.  With so many choices, It'll take me a day or two to decide on which beautiful flowers to choose anyway.

Au revoir, Mitty