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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Looking for Holiday Food Ideas?

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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Monday, October 27, 2014

Ugly Duckling to White Swan

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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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

French Brocante at Round Top

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 by Design had these antique French flags made from fabric. 
At least one of them was hand sewn. However, they were not for sale and 
were only part of the booth styling.  I tried to buy one, but the owner said the 
flags are getting very hard to find, even in France. If you see one for sale, 
snatch it up.  Buy two if possible, and sell one to me. 

French is in.  All kinds of French... rustic, ornate, architectural salvage, garden containers, linens...  Blue Hills, Marburger, and Arbor International Antiques & Interior Design Show were my three favorite spots for French antiques. 

The real thing.  
A massive stone carved coat of arms cut from a larger stone in France 
is my favorite from the antique show.  
The Round Top experience lets us dream of possibilities. 

Way out of my budget, only possible in my dreams... 
integrated into the stone above a stone fireplace, behind a Viking stove, 
in a sculpted garden, the centerpiece of an interior stone wall in a conservatory,...

Fleur-de-lis iron finials from old French fences 
were in my budget.

A French mirror is on my wish list. 
Not for my living room, but for my master bath. 
One that has French bones, but one that is not as formal as this one.  

So many beautiful mirrors from which to choose. 
Budget, style, and size constraints are all part of the selection. 
My favorite in this group? 
The one at the top left in the trumeau style, but it is too big for my space. 

No, this is not a mirror, but a salvaged wood carving that may have been part 
of a trumeau mirror at one time. 

What is it about a French handwritten document that is so appealing? 

I spent the most time in this one spot during 
my 3 1/2 days rambling through Round Top. 
French by Design's owner was so gracious.  She went to her car 
and got two more boxes of authentic French documents for me to peruse. 

Original documents with embossed seals, including some with bleu seals, are from the 1800s. 

The 'copies' embossed seal is so much more elegant than our current day 
stamped notary seals.  This document is an original 'copy,' which means 
that both an original document and copies were made at the same time.  
No copy machines back then means handwritten copies were made. 
Sounds very similar to when my will was made.  I have the original in a safe, 
but there were copies made for those named in the will. 

Old handwritten pages were glued onto the recessed areas 
of the door and drawer panels of this chest. 

Hydrangeas, a blue feather, and a blue bottle are perfect companions 
for the multi-paged antique French document with a blue cover. 

RF on the tricolor sign stands for Rèpublique Française (French Republic).

Grape pickers' wooden buckets would be beautiful filled with flowers. 
As with most of the French antiques, the vendor's prices were not bargains. 

Of course, my favorite grape picker bucket was this blue one, 
a metal version, but still expensive. 

Look closely at the top edge of this carved door with its original color. 
The door is c u r v e d.
One of a two-door French door set. 

Two designers from Houston were loading the doors 
into their truck when I entered this booth at Marburger Farm.  
A builder will custom build a curved corner pantry 
in a new house just for this set of French doors. 

The doors were sold the first morning that Marburger Farm was open. 
A perfect example of why designers, builders, and name-brand store buyers 
(Pottery Barn) pay $25 for an early-bird ticket to the first morning at Marburger Farm. 

I did not see anything that indicated this carved wooden horse 
came from France, but carrousels have been popular in France for centuries, 
beginning with elaborately-dressed live horses and riders in the 1600s. 

Parisian children can ride on beautiful carousels scattered throughout Paris 
for about €2.50 for a 3-minute ride.

Cactus Creek Daily Round Top Guide
See my Pinterest board, Round Top Antique Show
for more information, including links to Guides to Round Top. 

While the carved stone coat of arms is my favorite in the 2014 fall antique show, 
the blue curved French doors would have been a REAL temptation 
had they not already been sold. 
I did buy some of the French documents and fleur-de-lis finials.

What is your favorite item pictured? 
Did you go to the Round Top Antique Show this fall? 
Did you find any treasures to take home? 

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