Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A French Christmas - The "Spirit" of the Christmas Season in France

"Joyeux Noël!"

Christmas Bird Nest Ornament and Gift Tags I made for for my Christmas celebrations!

"Joyeux Noël!" This joyous greeting comes from the French phrase "les bonnes nouvelles," which means "the good news."  The word "Noël" is derived from the Latin word "natalis" referring to the Nativity of Christ.

When images of Christmas in France come into my mind, they come from books and magazine articles that I've read. I've never spent Christmas in France but this is a dream of mine.

 As in the U.S., Christmas in France is a time for friends and family, marked by family's spending time together, gifts for children and adults alike, gifts for the poor and religious celebrations.

   The celebration of Christmas in France varies by region. Most provinces celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December; however, in eastern and northern France, the Christmas season begins on December 6th and in Lyon, December 8th is la Fête des Lumières when residents pay tribute to the virgin Mary by lighting up the city with candles in their windows.

Throughout the month of December, I'm going to research and share details of French Christmas traditions and incorporate some of these into my own holiday celebrations.  Join me as I try to capture and reflect the French "spirit" of Christmas!

Joyeux Noël, Mitty

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Beautiful French Carved Wall Shelf added to MFFC Store!

All dressed up for Christmas and added to My Faux French Chateau on-line store!

Getting ready to pick up my shipment from France and adding items daily in anticipation of store opening!

Beautiful French Carved Wall Shelf!

Au revoir, Mitty

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving

To all who celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope for you a day filled with friends, family, wonderful food to enjoy and a warm home in which to celebrate. I wish for you an awareness of blessings and peace of mind.

Thank you for visiting MFFC from time to time, reading my musings and sharing in my love for home and everything French.

Table ready for Thanksgiving Dinner!

Au revoir, Mitty

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Beautiful Antique, Mid 19th Centuty Tole and Giltwood Candle Holders added to MFFC Store!

I've been busily adding items to the My Faux French Chateau Store, getting ready for the store opening when my container of French Brocante arrives!

I just added new pictures of a pair of beautiful antique, Mid 19th Century French Tole and Gilt wood Candle Holders.

These are very delicate candle holders with a carved ribbon and wheat motif (14 wheat sheaths per sconce) and with two candle holders on each. They contain their original gilded patina and are absolutely beautiful.

Beautifully detailed candle holders with French Ribbon and Acanthus Leaf Motif.

Detail of Wheat Sheaths and French Ribbon

Au revoir, Mitty

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Update on Container of French Brocante!

French Brocante Container Diary, November 22, 2011

It's getting closer................ it's off the ship and now getting ready to be put on a rail car headed to Pasadena, Texas!

I'll have to tell you my friends, this first experience in shipping goods from France has been filled with the unexpected. Have you ever heard the expression "You don't know what you don't know!"?  Well, this explains me over the past few months and a few false beliefs that I held. 

Misnomer Number One: I was under the false belief that my container would be shipped from the port in France to the port in Pasadena (Houston).  I was wrong. I found this out when I was e-mailed an invoice from a "container line" in New Jersey billing me for "Terminal Handling", "Stripping" (I can only imagine this is getting my goods off the boat and segregated from the other items), "Document Fee", "Port Security Fee", "Terminal Fuel Surcharge", and "Chassis Fee."  My container arrived yesterday on the OOCL NAGOYA and, if time allows, will be on the way to Texas tomorrow.  Shipments leave NJ for Pasadena every Wednesday so if it isn't loaded today, it will be loaded and en route next Wednesday.

Misnomer Number Two: I thought I could handle all of the import and customs paperwork with the help of the shipping agency in France and not use a "Customs Broker"!  I can't even go into all of this but let's just say that the Customs Broker in Pasadena has been awesome and I was lucky to find them. They informed me of a little customs form that, if not filled out in time, could have cost me a large fine! Again, you don't know what you don't know!

So, for anyone thinking about shipping items from France to the U.S., I WILL SHARE WITH YOU EVERYTHING I HAVE LEARNED!  I don't care if you are starting a business yourself, I am happy to share all of the knowledge that I obtained.

So next my shipment will be put on a train to Pasadena, off-loaded to a warehouse where it will be segregated from the other shippers items in the container, and all of the items will be assigned classification numbers. These classification numbers are what the custom's "duty" charges will be based on.

So, if all goes as planned, and my shipment is on the train tomorrow, I should be able to pick up my items some time around December 2nd or 3rd!  I'll immediately catalogue them, post them on the MFFC store website, and, hopefully, OPEN THE STORE!!!!!!!!!!! 

I can't wait to see all of the French Brocante that I purchased. It's going to be like Christmas morning and Santa Claus came early!

Au revoir, Mitty

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shiny and Bright!

I love sparkly and shiny things, especially at Christmas!

Vintage Shiny Brite ornaments at Lisa Luby Ryan's Vintage Living in Dallas, Texas

This year I'm on the hunt for silver and blue Shiny Brite vintage Christmas ornaments.

Take a look at Grandma's ornaments this year and I'll bet you'll see some Shiny Brites in her collection. The most frequently found ornaments are plain silver, blue, and pink round ball shaped ornaments.  Glittery bands of mica decorated some balls and  others were silk screened in white with seasonal motifs such as sleigh rides, carolers, poinsettias and seasonal greetings such as "Merry Christmas."

Less frequently found Shiny Brite ornaments have "indents" (see the detail of the two ornaments above) which is a decorative indentation that reflects light and adds detail to the piece.

The rarest Shiny Brights are intricately detailed ornaments in the shapes of various items - teapots, bells, santas, pine cones and other assorted figurines.

Here's a brief history of Shiny Brites! In 1907, American businessman Max Eckardt introduced Christmas tree decorations imported from Germany. The ornaments were typically small hand-blown glass balls that were colorfully decorated. With the war seemingly imminent in the late 1930's and the probable disruption in imports, Eckardt arranged with the Corning Glass Company to produce Christmas ornaments in their light bulb plants! These ornaments were sold at Woolworth's stores where your Grandma probably purchased her own Shiny Brite ornaments! They were also sold to Eckardt factories where the plain ball shaped ornaments could be further hand decorated.

By the end of the war, Shiny Brite was the largest manufacturer of Christmas ornaments in the world and the popularity of the ornaments continued on into the 1950s. Shiny Brite stopped making these whimsical ornaments in 1962 due to production disruptions.  At this time, Shiny Brite switched to the production of plastic ornaments.

To identify Shiny Brite ornaments, simply look for the words "Shiny Brite" imprinted on the metal cap of the ornament! Many collectors also hunt for the original Shiny Brite ornament boxes. These boxes show where the ornaments were made (USA, Japan, New York) and many bear the name Max Eckhardt on them!

Whatever you collect this Christmas season, I hope they bring back memories of special, joyous times and make you smile.

Au revoir, Mitty

Thursday, November 17, 2011

SOUPE à l’OIGNON - Christine's Recipe from Jardin de Bacchus - Chambres d'hôtes

I'm so pleased to share with you this recipe for classic French Onion Soup or SOUPE à l’OIGNON created by Christine Chapot, proprietor and chef at Jardin de Bacchus - Chambres d'hôtes in Tavel, France.  Christine offers Gourmet French cooking classes at her lovely bed and breakfast.

MFFC's completion of Christine's SOUPE à l’OIGNON!  PERFECTLY delicious! 

SOUPE à l’OIGNON by Christine Chapot at Jardin de Bacchus - Chambres d'hôtes

4 persons

  1. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus softened butter, for spreading les croutons
  2. 3 large onions halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise oignons doux des Cévennes sont les meilleurs pour ce plat !
  3. Sea salt such as  Fleur de sel de Camargue (ramassé à la main, le nom de la personne qui ramasse le sel est écrite sur le couvercle)
  4. 2 tablespoons Cognac
  5. 1 liter of flavory stock such as beef stock
  6. 1 bouquet garni, tied in cheesecloth
  7. Freshly ground black pepper
  8. Four 1/2-inch-thick slices bread, cut into 4-inch
  9. 200 g  shredded emmental cheese
Préparation :

1.  Melt the butter in a large cast-iron casserole. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring once or twice, until the onions soften, should take about 10 minutes.

Following Christine's recipe and Cooking 3 onions in butter.
2.  Uncover and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the onions get lightly browned, about 40 minutes.
3.  Stir in the Cognac. Add the stock and bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the soup has a deep flavor, about 30 minutes. Discard the bouquet garni and season the soup with salt and pepper. Be soft with the salt the stock may be already salted !

MFFC's Boquet Garni!

4.  Preheat the oven to 180° C. Butter the bread on both sides and place on a baking sheet. Toast the bread for 15 minutes, turning the slices halfway through, until golden and crisp but not dried out. Raise the oven temperature to 220°C.
5.  Bring the soup to a simmer, Pour it into 4 deep ovenproof bowls and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Place some croutons in each bowl and sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Bake the bowls of soup in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling. Serve hot.

    I shopped locally at Fort Worth's Central Market for my ingredients. I was able to find everything easily including the French salt Christine recommends, Fleur de sel de Camargue.

    I have a couple of helpful details for you when making this wonderful soup:

    1.   (1) liter equals 33 fluid ounces
    2.   200 grams equals 1.6 cups
    3.   180° C equals approximately 350° F
    4.   220°C equals approximately 425° F   

    And lastly, Bouquet Garni - I used 1 Bay leaf, thyme sprigs and parsley. At Central Market I purchased bouquet garni bags that have a draw string for ease of use!

    The end result was awesome! I actually fixed the soup in advance and then last night brought the soup back to a soft boil, added the toasted bread and cheese and baked it.  PERFECT!

    Au revoir, Mitty

      Wednesday, November 9, 2011

      Nothing but Real Holiday Greenery and Paperwhites at My Faux French Chateau!

      Don't get frightened, but there are only 46 days (can that possibly be right?) until Christmas and I'm starting to think about decorating for the holidays.

       Although I live in a Faux French Chateau, I decorate with only real evergreen garlands and sprigs and like to bring the outdoors in for the holidays! My memories of Christmas with my little family encompasses not only the sights of Christmas but the glorious smells of fresh evergreens and blooming plants.

      One of my favorite ways to decorate for Christmas is with containers of beautiful Paperwhite Narcissus blooming throughout my house. Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus, (forcing them to bloom for a specified occassion) is easy and relatively inexpensive.

      Paperwhites tied with ribbon! (Courtesy of Country Living Magazine)

      Yesterday I went to a local Fort Worth, Texas plant and gift shop named "Into the Garden."  I spent some time with the horticulturist there and he graciously shared with me some of his tips on forcing these bulbs. ( )  I've forced bulbs to enjoy at Christmas numerous times but I love to pick up new ideas from "experts" especially when they are passionate about what they do and love to share their helpful tips.

      To force Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs to bloom for enjoying this Christmas you need to "plant" them 4 to 6 weeks in advance.  TIMING is the KEY!  Soooooooooooooooooo you'd better get started!

      Here's what you need:

      * A container - glass vase, bowl or appropriate container without drainage holes. Keep in mind that the flower stems will grow very tall so you can use a tall container if you like. (I purchased the glass cubes seen below from The Dollar Tree for $1.00 each!)
      * Rocks, sea glass or marbles - (I purchased "Accent Rocks" at Dollar Tree for, yes you guessed it, $1.00 per bag!)
      * Paperwhite narcissus bulbs - (I purchased mine at Into the Garden for $1.33 each)
      * Water

      Various containers, river stones, Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs and fresh new moss to add to some of my containers.

      Here's how you do it:

      1.    Fill the bottom of your container with about two to four inches of stones, sea glass or marbles. These elements allow the bulb's roots to grow toward the water and stabilize the bulb without allowing the bulbs to get too wet.  If the bulbs are submerged in the water, they can rot!

      Glass cube container showing river stones.

      2.    Place Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs, pointed tip facing upward, on top of the stones. For a full, lush look, place the bulbs close together. This also helps to stabilize the bulbs until the roots have attached to the stones. Make sure the bulbs are not sitting in the water.

      For this wire container, I added new, fresh moss for lining and then inserted a plastic storage container filled with the river stones and bulbs. Notice the bulbs are snuggle up close to each other!

      3.     Add water.  Add just enough water so the level is below the base of the bulbs but is wetting the roots.

      You have just prepared your Paperwhites for "forcing!"  

      Now, a few additional tips. 

      Keep your bulbs in a cool (50 - 60 degree Farenheit) area out of direct sunlight for a couple of weeks or until the roots have grown.  After this initial "acclimation" period, place your containers in a bright, warm spot. Keep in mind that the more sunlight and warmth the bulbs are exposed to, the faster they will grow and bloom.  I watch mine, and if I need them to grown more quickly, I move them to an area where they will receive more direct sunlight.

      Check the bulbs from time to time, adding more water as needed to keep the roots wet.

      If the flower stems grow so tall that they start to fall over, I like to tie natural raffia ribbon around the middle of the stems.  This not only stabilizes the stems but it is also very pretty. You can also use bamboo garden support stakes.

      These containers of Paperwhites, especially when they begin to grow, will make wonderful and inexpensive gifts. Wrap a beautiful bowed ribbon ("un ruban") around the container! Each of these cubes of Paperwhite Narcissus cost me less than $10!

      Great gift idea!

      Paperwhites in a new blue and white container. 

      I hope you enjoyed this posting and I hope it gave you ideas for your own Christmas (Noël) decorating!

      Au revoir, Mitty

      Tuesday, November 8, 2011

      Gourmet French Cooking Classes and a glass of Rosé at Jardin de Bacchus - Chambres d'hôtes

      I'm so excited! MH and I stayed at a lovely Bed and Breakfast, Jardin de Bacchus - Chambres d'hôtes, in Tavel, France on our buying trip this past April.  The gracious, and oh so helpful proprietors, Christine Chapot and Erik Van Greuningen,  not only offer their lovely home to visitors but Christine also offers Gourmet French cooking classes!

      MH loves to cook (and I love to eat!) so we spent a lovely evening with other guests learning to prepare several delicious French dishes. Christine is a talented cook, speaks English beautifully, and shows you proper techniques and tips for preparing some classic French foods. We spent the evening preparing liver Pâté,  eggplant casserole (resembles a lasagna with sliced eggplant instead of pasta) and a molded strawberry dessert. Although I don't recall the exact names of the various dishes we prepared, I do remember that they were delicious! We cooked, talked, laughed and enjoyed some of the local Tavel Rosé wines.

      Christine instructing us on proper cooking techniques as we prepared a delicious eggplant entree.

      MH and Christine cooking sliced eggplant in olive oil.  I'm so glad MH payed close attention!

      Christine is not only a gracious host but was my translator a couple of times coming to my rescue and working through a couple of "snags" with getting my purchases home. We have stayed in touch over the past few months since our trip. 

      Now to the exciting news -  I'm tickled to tell you that Christine has graciously offered to share with My Faux French Chateau's readers some of her favorite French recipes and meal preparation tips! You can learn some of Christine's recipes and, maybe some day in the near future, have the pleasure of meeting her in person and cooking in her beautiful kitchen!

      Once a month, Christine will send me a delicious French recipe to share with you! I'll post the recipe one day and then shop for the ingredients and prepare the dish the next day. 

      Christine and I decided that, with the weather turning chilly both in Tavel and in a large part of the U.S., our first choice will be Christine's recipe for classic French Onion Soup! I love this French classic but have never attempted to make it. Wish me luck.

      By the way, should you be planning a trip to the south of France, check out Jardin de Bacchus in Tavel! 

      Jardin de Bacchus - Chambres d'hôtes
      Christine Chapot et Erik Van Greuningen
      223 rue de tourtouil
      30126 TAVEL

      Tel + 33 -(0)4 66 90 28 62

      Au revoir, Mitty

      Wednesday, November 2, 2011

      Vintage Sterling Silver Flatware Magnets!

      I've collected bits and pieces of vintage sterling silver flatware for years. I'd find unmatched yet lovely patterned pieces at yard sales and flea markets. I've kept a drawer full of mismatched sterling in my kitchen for years, always thinking that someday I'd find something to do with them.

      Well........I was looking at the Ballard Design catalogue last week and guess what I saw - Magnets made from antique silver flatware!

      So MDD and I jetted to Michael's this Sunday and purchased a pack of small, round magnets. I glued two magnets to the back of each piece of silver and look...........................


      A sterling silver fork magnet!

      Wanting to have all the utensils that I need for a meal, I then made one with.....

      a Knife,

      and a Spoon!

      In case you are wondering, the pictures in these photos are of some of my brothers and sisters and assorted unknown baby pigs!  I'm the little girl in the "knife" photo behind the dog. Even back then I was probably looking for some kind of treasure. Also, have you ever seen such clean and well dressed kids in a pig pen?! To this day, I find myself having more and more appreciation of my Mom.

      Set of 3Vintage Silverware Magnets. Courtesy of

      I hope you enjoyed this little DIY project.

      Au revoir, Mitty

      Tuesday, November 1, 2011

      "La Toussaint" (All Saints Day)

      Although the French haven't traditionally celebrated Halloween the same way we have in the U.S., the French have; however, been celebrating the concept at the very heart of Halloween for centuries. From October 31st to November 2nd, the French celebrate "La Toussaint" (All Saints Day) which has traditionally been spent visiting cemeteries, honoring saints, and attending religious services. This holiday honors all the saints in the Roman Catholic tradition and includes the placing of flowers on the graves of family members who have passed.

      Just a tidbit of French culture to share with you, the beautiful autumn flower, the Chrysanthemum, is the French symbol of All Saints' Day. Chrysanthemums fill the graveyards in France on this holiday. Keep this in mind if you ever give flowers to a French friend - Chrysanthemums are associated with the deceased.

      Chrysanthemums placed on graves in observance of La Toussaint. 

      La Toussaint is a reflective and somewhat somber holiday. Families typically come together to share a meal and spend time with those that they love and to remember those that are deceased.

      Also keep in mind that La Toussaint is a major national holiday in France which means that most shops, restaurants and businesses are closed in observance of the holiday.

      Au revoir, Mitty