Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Bonne Année!" Happy New Year from My Faux French Chateau

 Bonne Année!

I'm sitting here reflecting on the past year and, of course, thinking about the new year about to come. So much has changed for me this year - a new home in a new city and a new career focus. But I'm no stranger to change and I've embraced it as a friend throughout my life.

I think one of the best parts of my new life here in Texas (other than being close to MDD again!) is this little "blog" that I write. I don't care much for the word "blog" though - it seems too cold of a word for this experience. I think of my writing as a sharing of my life, an expression of ideas, a venue for expressing my passion for all things French, and, to some degree, a revealing of my hopes and dreams. When I hear back from you, when you share a thought or leave a comment, I'm so excited to know that you've been impacted by what I've shared and appreciate what I've written.

In the spirit of the New Year as a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future, I'm thinking about what I'm hoping to change in this new year. I think what I want is pretty basic - I simply want to be in the moment more. I want to fully embrace what I am doing as I do it instead of thinking about the next thing on my agenda. If I am writing, I want to enjoy writing. If I am working on the store, I want to enjoy adding to or modifying something in the store. If I am taking photos, I want to enjoy taking photos.  I want to appreciate the opportunities I have in front of me - to experience them fully.

As for the store, YES, it will open this first week of January! I'm thoroughly enjoying unpacking the boxes and unwrapping the individual packages. Each item that I unwrap brings back a memory of a Brocante Market somewhere in France and the thrill of that day's treasure hunt! My hope is that I've purchased little French treasures that will delight other Francophiles and add a little bit of France to their own faux French Chateau. Of course I want the store to be successful, but for me, if I can enjoy more treasure hunts in France, it will be successful enough!

So to you, I thank you for spending a few minutes with me from time to time and reading my posts. I wish for you a Happy New Year filled with all that brings you peace and contentment. I look forward to sharing more with you in 2012!

Bonne Année!, Mitty 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A French Christmas - Holly

Thanks to my friend in Virginia, my home was filled with beautiful holly this year. I love its dark, glossy green leaves and beautiful red berries. I placed it throughout my home but used most of it outside to decorate my patio.


Holly under lanterns and in kindling basket at Christmas.

Both here and in France, holly is a widely accepted symbol of Christmas. The legend surrounding holly is that when Jesus and his family fled Egypt, and as the soldiers of Herod where about to catch them, the holly extended its branches out to hide Jesus and his parents. Mary blessed the holly, announcing that it would remain eternally green as a symbol of hope and immortality.

Joyeux Noël, Mitty

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A French Christmas - "Le Gros Souper" (The Big Supper) and "Les Treize Desserts" (The Thirteen Desserts)

One of the most interesting Provencal Christmas traditions centers around the Provencal Christmas Eve Meal. 

On Christmas Eve, Provencal families traditionally attend Midnight Mass at their local church. Before attending Mass, the evening begins with what is known as "Le Gros Souper" or The Big Supper"!  This meal is divided into two parts, the first part eaten pre-Mass and the second enjoyed post-Mass.
The table for Le Gros Souper is typically set with 3 white table cloths, 3 candles and three saucers of wheat of Saint Barbara representing the Holy Trinity; Father, Son and The Holy Spirit. The food is set out on Christmas Eve and the remains of the meal stay on the table for three days until December 27.  These remains are called the "Part du Pauvre" (poor person's share.) The symbolism of this act is that the food is left for the ancestors and angels who come in the night to enjoy the celebrations or for a beggar who might come to the door.
The pre-Mass meal typically consists of seven very plain dishes symbolic of the seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary or, in some stories, the seven wounds of Christ. The seven dishes are all presented at the same time in the form of a buffet.  The seven dishes contain no meat, instead featuring fresh fish, shellfish, snails, and vegetables. Seven wines are served with this meal.

One traditional dish served at Le Gros Souper is Brandade de Morue which is a French dish containing pureed salt cod, olive oil and milk.

The family typically attends Midnight Mass and then comes home to enjoy the post-Mass part of the meal. 
This post-mass meal is known as "Les Treize Desserts" (The Thirteen Desserts), which symbolizes Christ and his twelve apostles.

The 13 desserts varies from region to region but the basic foods are:

Dried Fruit and Nuts
"The four beggars" (Les quatre mendiants), representing the four mendicant monastic orders:

1. Raisins to represent the Domenicans
2. Hazelnuts or Walnuts to represent the Augustines
3. Dried figs to represent the Franciscans
4. Almonds to represent the Carmelites, or
Dates or
Dried Plums

5. "The Olive Oil Pump" (La pompe a huile)

This is a flat yeast bread made with olive oil and flavoured with orange flower water and citrus zest . This bread is supposed to be broken just like Jesus broke the bread at The Last Supper. The superstition is that if it is broken and not sliced, it will prevent bankruptcy in the new year.

"The Two Nougats" (Les Deux
Nougats) representing good and evil.

6. White Nougat (Nougat blanc) - Made with sugar, eggs, pistachios, honey and almonds
7. Black Nougat (Nougat noir au miel) - Made with caramelized honey cooked with almonds

and 6 of any of the following fresh fruits or sweets:

Fresh fruit
Apples, Pears, Oranges, Winter melon, Grapes and/or Tangerines

Biscotins (biscuits) from Aix en Provence;
Calissons d'Aix - almond-paste pastry with sugar icing (marzipan)
Candied citron
Cumin and fennel seed biscuits
Fried bugnes
- donut-like deep-fried pastries sprinkled with sugar
Fruit tourtes
Oreilletes - light thin waffles
Pain d'epice- ("spice-bread")
sometimes loosely translated as gingerbread. These spice cakes can also be made with aniseed or other spices.
Quince chess or quince paste

In addition to the above, tradition calls for the serving of the "fortified wine." This is wine to which a distilled beverage, usually brandy, has been added. The fortified wine represents Jesus himself.

Tradition is also that you must try some of all of the thirteen desserts to have good luck in the New Year.

In honour of this Provencal tradition, and my love for sweets, I put together my own "basket" of  "Les Treize Desserts!"  We'll enjoy it tonight after our own Church Christmas Eve Candlelight Service.

Joyeux Noël, 

To all my friends and family,

I wish for you a wondrous Christmas,


Friday, December 23, 2011

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la!

About a week ago I mentioned to a  friend that I was having trouble finding greenery for Christmas decorating. I love to have greenery throughout the house tucked here and there, often where you least expect it. Unfortunately, here at MFFC in Fort Worth, Texas, evergreens are hard to find as I don't have any evergreens in my yard and no forests close by.  So a few weeks ago, I purchased packages of greenery, $5 for a package with three or four moderate-sized sprigs of pine, cypress, and Frasier fir. Needless to say, I didn't put up as much greenery as usual.

Well yesterday Santa Claus came early and brought me the PERFECT GIFT!  A friend (MDD's Husband's Mother) sent me a HUGE box filled with Virginia greenery! She must have pruned all of the evergreens in her (and perhaps her neighbors) yard! I can picture her outside, pruning shears in hand, happily lobbing off the ends of evergreens. There were huge boughs of holly, boxwood and two kinds of pine !!!!!  I was like a little kid, happy as can be, and soon my kitchen looked like the back room of a florist shop!

I put greenery on a platter in my breakfast area and placed Shiney Brite ornaments on it.....


I placed a few sprigs of pine on a tray with ornaments and glittered stars....................


Holly and pine bring life to a large silver sports trophy in my TV Room.................

Holly and pine makes a French confit jar happy in my TV Room.........................


Holly and pine make this little rose come to life......................

Greenery spices up white roses in vases ..........................

Greenery on wall shelves in my Entry Hall ..........................



I threw out the old greenery on this wall shelf and replaced it with fresh, Virginia greenery!.............

I added greenery to a bowl of ornaments in my bedroom..............

I added boxwood to the bottom of my "Twig tree" (finally, something to hide the soup cans that held the twigs in place!).......................................................

Holly and pine in a vintage red and white vase ...............................

I added greenery to a flower arrangement in my dining room.............................

A sprig or two of pine for the mantle................................


And lastly, a little holiday cheer for the Longhorn!


Joyeux Noël, Mitty

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All is calm, all is bright

The tree is decorated, greenery adorns the mantle and white lights twinkle throughout the house.  The house is ready for visiting loved ones, and I am enjoying holiday baking and wrapping presents.

All is calm, all is bright!

 I can't wait for Friday - family arrives from out of town, my daughter and son-in-law come to spend the holiday with MH and me, and we get to enjoy the blessings of each other and this magical Christmas Season.

Joyeux Noël, Mitty

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blooming Paperwhites!

My Paperwhite Narcissus are blooming!

My paperwhites are beautiful and starting to bloom! The degree of bloom varies from container to container throughout the house, depending on the amount of sunlight they've received and the temperature of the room.

The bulbs in this container in my kitchen are at four varying stages of growth - all in the same container!

When I posted about "forcing" bulbs for Christmas, I recommended starting them 4 - 6 weeks before you want them to bloom.  In my new home, 4 weeks out seems to be optimal.

Joyeux Noël, Mitty

Monday, December 12, 2011

A French Christmas - "Gui de chêne" (Mistletoe!)

"Marchand de Gui" - French Mistletoe Seller

A festive and traditional decorative item used in French homes during the Christmas season is "Gui de chêne" (mistletoe!) It is hung above the door, on beams and lights during the Christmas season to bring good fortune throughout the coming year.

Mistletoe can be found everywhere in France, growing in apple, oak, beech and other hardwood trees. You can see it hanging from leafless tree branches forming an almost perfectly round clump of greenery. At Christmastime, the female mistletoe plant is filled with pearlescent, round white berries.

When I think of mistletoe and Christmas, the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes to mind. But the French are less reserved, kiss on both cheeks at greetings, and don't usually need such tokens for their kissing! In France, hanging mistletoe is a symbol of peace and of good luck and often more associated with The New Year than with Christmas.

To meet the demand for mistletoe in both France and other European countries, mistletoe has historically been sold on the street by "Marchands de Gui" - Mistletoe Sellers.

Mistletoe at My Faux French Chateau

Joyeux Noël, Mitty

Friday, December 9, 2011


YES, IT IS TRUE.......My shipment of French Brocante has arrived!  We picked it up this morning in Pasadena and I love my purchases more than I remember!

Vintage baskets, wine bottle holders, bottle carriers, champagne buckets and lots of other country French Brocante! 

It feels like Christmas!

Joyeux Noël, Mitty

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A French Christmas - "Père Noël" (Father Christmas)

In France, Father Christmas is called Père Noël. After dinner on Christmas Eve, French families prepare for the arrival of Père Noël and his donkey, Gui (French for "Mistletoe.") Children fill their shoes with carrots and hay and leave them by the fireplace for Gui. A glass of wine is placed beside the shoes for Père Noël.

In earlier 18th and 19th century France, peasants’ wooden shoes, called "sabots", were often used at Christmas time.  Today shoes of any kind are set before the fireplace for Père Noël to fill. You can still see sabots throughout France in candy and pastry shops where chocolate wooden shoes are made and filled with candies.

Late on Christmas Eve when Père Noël arrives, he removes the carrots and hay from the shoes for Gui and, if the boy or girl has been good, he replaces the hay with candies and presents. He enjoys the glass of wine and then moves on to the next child's home.

At My Faux French Chateau I don't have any wooden shoes to set out for Père Noël and Gui, so I hope they'll be happy with my faux-leopard print heels instead!

Joyeux Noël, Mitty

Monday, December 5, 2011

A French Christmas - The Feast of Saint Barbara

Wheat of Saint Barbara

For some in Provencal France, the "Christmas Season" beings on December 4th with the Feast of Saint Barbara, when wheat (or sometimes lentil) seeds are planted on damp cotton wool in three small saucers and kept moist throughout Advent. These three plantings represent the Holy Trinity. Packets of wheat seeds are sold in bakeries, pharmacies and certain banks in aid of the children's charity Le Blé de l'Espérance. In the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, little pots of the wheat of Saint Barbara can be seen sprouting up on counters and windowsills all over France.

The tradition of the Feast of Saint Barbara is that the higher and faster the wheat grows, the more prosperous the upcoming year will be. There is even a common saying in Provence, "Quand lou blad vèn bèn, tout vèn bèn" which means "When the wheat goes well, everything goes well."

By Christmas Eve, the wheat plantings have grown and the saucers are decorated with red ribbons and placed on the table to accompany the Christmas Eve meal called "The Great Supper." After the Great Supper, the wheat may be used to adorn the Nativity crib in the creche, representing fields of wheat. In the New Year, peasants often plant the seedlings into their real fields to assure a good harvest.

Joyeux Noël, Mitty

Friday, December 2, 2011

A French Christmas - "Le Sapin de Noël " (The Christmas Tree)

What is the one decorative item that symbolizes the beauty of the Christmas Season? For me, it's always been the Christmas tree. I've always loved decorating our Christmas tree and I love to turn on Christmas carols, turn off all the lights in the room and simply gaze at the tree. It's one of those times when I reflect on my friends, family and Christmases past.

Just like at MFFC in Texas, U.S.A., le sapin de Noël (the Christmas tree) is one of the main Christmas decorations in French homes.

The sapin de Noël first appeared in the Alsace Region of France in the 14th century. At this time, Alsace was part of Germany.  It wasn't until the Franco-Prussian War from 1870-1871 that the Christmas tree became popular in France due to immigrants fleeing from regions of Lorraine and Alsace. These immigrants brought with them the Germanic tradition of the decorated Christmas tree. By the 1930's the Christmas tree had become a beloved part of the Christmas celebration in almost every French home.

French tradition is that the Christmas tree should not be put up before Christmas Eve and then should be taken down twelve days after Christmas, on the Epiphany. Most French households; however, put up their tree by mid December. Like me, they can't wait to put up this beautiful symbol of Christmas.


The French decorate their trees with candles, lights, red ribbons, tinsel and colored stars. The lights on the French sapin de Noël symbolize Christ, "the light that illuminates the world." Fir trees are used for the sapin de Noël since they do not lose their leaves during winter, also symbolizing hope and eternal life.

MH and I decorated our tree this Thanksgiving weekend. We picked out a 10 foot Noble Fir, the largest tree we've ever had! As I sit here I think this is our prettiest tree ever - just like I do every year.  But this year, I have new decorations, all in silver, white and gold hanging beside my newly collected vintage silver and blue Shiney Brite ornaments.  The very tips of the tree are covered in various sizes of clear, crystal icicles. It's beginning to look alot like Christmas!

Christmas tree with vintage Shiney Brite ornaments and vintage bead garland.

Bird Nest and Bird Ornament on Christmas Tree.

Joyeux Noël, Mitty