Monday, April 30, 2012

Cages, baskets and racks ... Oh my!

 Oh where to start!?  I am still feeling the residual 'buzz' of the perfectly fun day I had yesterday going with my 'Belle-Niece' to a HUGE brocante in Touques.  I have no idea how I missed this one last year!  (Well, maybe it was weather-related ....)  But this time it was on the calendar, with 300.....THREE HUNDRED, vendors scheduled to have stands.  It was a 'vide grenier/brocante' which means it is all sorts of things; pulled from the attic or shed with a mix of the really good vintage dealers.

After the rough weeks we have had, both family and weather-wise, I decided to go with my niece and French-Guy would stay at home with Petite-Fille.  She is finally fully recovered from a strange and extreme illness--so we are counting our blessings and not pushing for her to be out with us in the rain, wind and hail.... at least for a while!

I didn't even take my camera!  Just cash-in-pocket, donning the rain-gear and taking a seriously large umbrella .... which actually would have been blown all the way to China had I not left it in the car.

So 'Belle-Niece' and I braved the elements and found AMAZING things --- and as it turned out not only is she fabulously sweet and fun company to have along -- she shows promise to be an excellent negotiator!

I fell head over heels for this little guy-- an antique plaster figure of a stork with a little frog from the La Fontaine tale of the Stork and the Fox.

 .... a wooden 'ring-toss' game ....

and if you search in the pictures ... the most gorgeous deep green antique bird cage!

I found three stacked vintage 'apple racks' used to keep apples in cool storage, a few bottle racks, and a very rusty and rustic (and so cool!) oyster basket! .... to name a few favorites of the day!

We were there for three hours, and then we jumped in the car and went to one more sale in Point L'Eveque.. a very fancy dealer's show with gorgeous displays.. and it was INSIDE ... well, inside tents anyway! 

Last night I was exhausted and fell into a blissful sleep! And today I had a little help in the 'atelier' ... 

A perfect start-- for a great week!

Hope you had a fantastic Sunday too!

See you again soon!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fishermen & Fleas.....

Ah!  The Paris 'Marché aux Puces'!  Doesn't it just conjure-up romantic visions of rows and allies of precious and rare, gorgeous French treasures?  In fact it's hard to think of the term 'Flea Market'
and not think of the  ~ city of lights ~  and the magical, stylish, much sought-after ..... authentic Parisienne and French style that is all over every décor magazine, design portfolio and coffee table book.

But wait.  French treasures or French trash? It actually did all start with trash ... albeit Parisienne trash--but trash, nonetheless.

You see as many large cities did, Paris had a 'petit probleme' with trash back in the 1800's.  Lots of it, in the streets, in piles... mountains.  As it was everywhere, 'chiffoniers' scoured the Paris streets to collect scraps, bits of fabric, paper, discarded household items, everything (including bones....) ... glamorous, non?  Not really.

Then in 1884 a new standard was enforced which required the Parisiennes to sort their own trash and put it in a maximum of three trash bins per household (bins called 'poubelles' after Eugene Poubelle who was the local 'prèfet' at the time.... trash bins are still called 'poubelle' in the French language--what an honor -- lucky man!)

Now that the trash was sorted into bins during the day, the rag-pickers had to work by moon-light to scavenge the best bits and pieces and these tenacious individuals earned the name 'Pêcheurs de Lune'  or moon-fishermen. (Okay, now we are sounding a bit more romantic!)

But let's not get carried away-- yet.  As this practice developed, a few decided to group together and sell their findings along the allies and streets, and on Sunday afternoons, Parisiennes in search of a slightly alternative (slightly adventurous!) Sunday-stroll, would come by to take a look at the odd assortment of 'treasures'...... the trouble was--some of the 'treasures' were laden with .... you guessed it!  FLEAS.   Et voilà!   'Le Marché aux Puces'!

From trash to treasure?  From poubelle to puce ?  That's how it began.

Today you can visit any of the markets and 100's of stalls in the 18th arrondissment from the Rue de Rosiers known as Marche: Vernaison, Antica, Biron, Cambo, Malassis, Dauphine, Serpette, Paul Bert, Jules Vallee..... The markets are open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, and some on Monday or by appointment.

My Belle-Mother-in-law gave me this little book of postcards that inspired my to look at the Paris Flea Market in an entirely new way.  These cards feature the 'Marché Biron' which opened in 1925 and quickly became known as one of the most expensive markets within the 'Puce'....

Today the Flea Market attracts more visitors annually than the Eiffel Tower. My last visit to the market was in the Fall of 1999, a whirlwind trip and at the time we had our 9 month old son with us-- now that we live here, I plan to go 'sans enfants' as soon as I can! (Read--as soon as I can get a sitter!)

How about you?  Been there?  Going?  Dreaming of going?  

Until then -- Hope you have enjoyed this little visit to Paris circa 1920's to the most famous French antique market in the world --- without the fleas.

A bientot mes amis!

~ Cat ~

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Planning..... again.

A while ago I decided that I was experiencing complete 'Day-Planner' failure.  As my 8 year old would say...."Epic failure".....  When my life feels too complicated, things are getting forgotten, the to-do list is not getting accomplished, and mind-blowing creative thoughts are falling by the wayside.... I blame my "Day Planner"...... don't you?

Surely it is not about ME... moi?!?  It cannot possibly be that I am not organized and am failing to document and prioritize.....  non. non. non. Ce n'est pas possible!

So despite having a kinda cute calendar, day-book thingy already that I began in January---a French foodie one that has the basic calendar pages and pretty pictures of yummy food and recipes in French....I went in search of something hopes of saving the day, the weeks ....and all of those forgotten appointments.

It's tough to find a day planning calendar book in mid April.  They normally are printed to start in December/January or the student type runs from August to August.  Hence my search for something I could do on my own and completely set up the way I needed it to be.

The result was finding a little shop on Etsy called Droplet  who have created a print at home DIY Planner/Calendar.  I ordered the PDF on line and it was emailed to me the next day.

It took about an hour to read the instructions, chose my options and print it and about an hour more to sew the binding and finish it (including the time it took to watch a fewYouTube videos on "Italian Book Binding"...!)

All in all a totally fun project!  And the best news?  It works!!!  I am now once again highly organized, right on top on my priorities, remembering every single appointment and special day, way ahead on meal planning, answering emails, balancing my check book, and keeping track of all of my blogging ideas.... completely!  ....absolutely.    .....almost.

Well, sorta.

But it was fun--and just what I needed for a fresh new-year start!

In April.

Happy Tuesday mes amis!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Antique 'Jatte de Creme'

Antique French pottery bowl. Dating back to the 1800's this pale yellow and natural pottery 'jatte de creme' cream bowl made my heart skip when I saw it nested with a slightly smaller one at a flea market in Benouville, France. 

 At over 200 years old, it is a fabulous treasure! Used commonly in French farm homes, to separate the cream from the milk, it is still in amazing condition --- and gorgeously charming!

Just the fact that it has survived in near perfect condition to be found 200 years later to sit gorgeously in a French farm kitchen or on a dining room console filled with fruit -- makes it truly amazing!

Just listed on Etsy...... take a look!  Click here ~ Sunday Brocantes ~ to see it!.

A pale yellow, sunny start, to a fabulous week!  Happy Monday mes amis!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Vintage French Confiture Jars

This week has been ... has been..... well, in attempt not to sound negative --- this week has been "a week"... "one of those weeks" ... "one-heck-of-a-week".... week.

Petite Fille fell ill last Sunday -- in the afternoon, right after we got home from our Sunday 'rain-day' brocante debacle  adventure.  She was incredibly sick all week long.  She is 15 months old, and even though I am an experienced 'maman' having survived raising the 'deux garcons'... it was still very stressful.

My parents departed for home, and we start the countdown; it will be at least six months until we see them again in France and just for that I normally get the blues a little. 

Today, we set out under questionable skies to a brocante 'vide-grenier' in the pretty seaside town of Villers-Sur-Mer, about 25 minutes away. 

Yes, we got drenched in icy cold rain.  Yes, Petite Fille is still not 100% and she was fussy and unhappy for the 20 minutes we spent at the sale, finally hiding out in the car with Belle-Mother-in-law ...... But...... none of these things are really in our control, c'est vrai? ... and for a while at least, the rain and cold might be a Spring-brocante theme I am afraid!

But ...  On the very 'bright-side' of it all -- we found a bin of wonderful French vintage and antique 'confiture' jars.  J'adore! These lovelies are all slightly different, some with bubbles, pretty smooth rounded rims, some with thick heavy bottoms ....

They are all fantastic!  I purchased ten and I hope to sell them in 'matched' couples or groups.  I would use them for drinking glasses; they are perfect for a cottage-chic kitchen and even better for an authentic French picnic!

Let me know what you think!  Would you buy them as sets of two?  Or be more interested in a group of six or eight?  I would love your feedback as I get ready to list them for sale on Sunday Brocantes, Etsy.

Hope you are having a fabulous weekend mes amis; staying warm, dry and healthy!

 A bientot!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sunday Brocantes -- boot camp style.

The 'season' for brocantes is officially in full swing!  It is so fun to have a long list of several per weekend and the anticipation of what might be found!  Anticipation mixed with .....  well, wow.  Where should I begin?  Spring weather is a dicey and very changing variable here in Normandy.  It reminds me a bit of the PNW....if you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes for it to change to something else.

My parents were still here, and we decided to squeeze in one or two sales yesterday.  Although not as fiercely devoted to the 'game' as my Belle-Mother-in Law is... my mom enjoys a good brocante and both of my parents are very supportive and interested in my career as a vintage seller.  So we set off for Bénouville, about an hour from home, under patchy sunny skies and cool breezes.

When we arrived, within seconds of parking the wind came up, the sky turned black and the temps dropped 15 degrees....instantly.  Umbrellas were uselessly blown inside out and Petite Fille was wailing from inside of her partial shelter in the stroller.


There were 150 vendors scheduled to be there.  We spent about 7 minutes there in the gusting winds and freezing cold rain, bought ONE thing and we were outta there!

Re-grouping and trying to feel our cheeks and toes again in the warm car, we decided to hit the road towards home and stop at one more brocante in Le Home - Varaville.  This one was tucked behind a large church, the sun was shining again, we left Petite Fille in the car with the grandparents and we 'speed-shopped' taking a 15 minute walk through the sale.

Fifteen-totally-worth-it-minutes.  We found two extraordinary 19th century pottery bowls; one large yellow 'cream bowl' and the other with a rich brown glaze.  Utilitarian, farm bowls from the mid to late 1800's...... gorgeous.

You might ask "Do you ever buy anything that you DON'T love??"  The answer is, "Probably not".  I don't often look to see what other French vintage shops are selling.  I most always just choose from the heart.  Occasionally I am on the hunt for something specific that I have asked to find ... but most of the time, I buy what makes my heart skip.  These bowls certainly do!

So despite the pretty horrible weather, the long drive and dashed hopes of spending a long leisurely Sunday strolling through a brocante with my parents on their last day.... the first few brocante weekends of the season are like 'boot-camp'.... you have to be tough, dress warmly (and waterproof!) be diligent to find the 'good' things .... have a good attitude, and sooner or later, the sun will come out again!

Oh, and having babysitters to watch the baby in the car during the rain-storms, is a pretty good plan too!

A beintot mes amis!  Happy Spring!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Feel like ~ shopping ~ ?

Do you feel like shopping?  Really shopping?  HERE?  I am thrilled to offer shopping trips in France.  Hosted flea market and brocante excursions in Paris and Basse Normandy are an exciting way to discover France!  

Your trip can include full-service hosting, travel arrangements, lodging and escort to the seasonal sales and local sources of French antiques and vintage treasures, acquisition assistance, and international shipping back to your home!

Maybe you already have a trip planned to France and just need a few days with a French speaking 'pro' and negotiator who knows the lay of the land.... and the secret locations of the best sales?  

Packing and shipping of your treasures or any assistance in getting your items back to the US is available to you after you shop.

I would love for you to join us for the 2012 brocante and flea market season!

Feel free to contact me for information!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

French Enamel

The very first enamelware item that I ever purchased was from a brocante during my first visit to France in 1999.  It was a small blue pot with tiny handles... and I bought it to use as a cat-bowl.  Yes, I know.  But it was charming and just the right size and I paid 5 euros for it -- (probably too much for a cat dish if you ask 'French-Guy'). 

Enamelware has been around for centuries.  The earliest enameled objects were created as early as the 13th century as decorative art in Cyprus.  By the 18th century enameling was done in Germany and Sweden for more utilitarian uses and by the mid 19th century the Industrial Revolution pushed the production of industrial vitreous enameling for household items and cookware throughout Europe.

Called 'esmail' in old French, 'email' is the word for enamel in French, and 'smalto' in Italian.  Enamelware is made from fusing powdered glass to metal and iron through a firing process.  Once fired the 'porcelain' melts and flows to a smooth hard durable surface when cooled.

Used for all types of household items in France; cookware, kitchenware, utensils, buckets, milk pails, storage containers, pitchers,  even small lunch 'boxes'  ....  Enamelware pieces of all kinds are highly collectable.  Glaze, hairline chips, and cracks are common in vintage and antique enamelware and adds to the sweet rustic charm.

Although found in many colors (red, blue, yellow, pale blue and pink and even green!) I tend to be obsessively attracted to WHITE!  There is something so gorgeously classically French country about white vintage enamel!

I also love that vintage enamel is both decorative and functional; fabulously made, durable and made to stand the test of time!

Easiest to find here in France is probably the cream or milk pitchers, especially here in the Normandie countryside -- lots of farms, lots of cows..... lots of milk.  

And perhaps the most highly 'valued' are any of the very old 19th century pieces -- if you can find 'sets' that are still in-tact (like a pitcher and bowl or a 6 piece canister set with lids).

Enamelware integrates well into all types of decor; cottage chic, rustic industrial, French farm .... 

I can tell you that I am hooked!  Gorgeous French enamelware!  Can't wait to discover more!

A bientot mes amis!

~ Cat ~