Tuesday, December 13, 2011

a French family christmas

Running around today shopping; preparing for my eldest coming home this evening YAY!; posting packages ..... so - for the moment - I bring you some lovely images of a house in the South of France decorated for a family Christmas.

Candles, a tree, a nativity crèche set up in the kitchen, chandeliers swathed in muslin and garlands of green and crimson.  A grand setting but a fairly simple approach to decorating.  But as you know, true French elegance is always simple!

Many French homes will set up a crèche at this time of year, the little figures used to illustrate the nativity story are called Santons and are collectors gold!

I hope your preparations are going well,
I'll be back soon with more

Monday, December 12, 2011

French christmas food shopping and more christmas decor

One of the things I enjoy the most about preparing for Christmas is planning the menus and buying all the 'special' things that we don't buy year round.

The two biggest and most traditional meals will be dinner on Christmas Eve, and lunch on Christmas Day.  While there are no hard and fast rules about what to serve on Christmas Day, we tend to follow traditions for dinner on the 24th.   This means a succession of courses, enjoyed in small portions with complimentary wines and champagne.

Typically the meal on the 24th will include oysters, smoked salmon, foie gras, cheese, desserts, possibly a paté en croute so I get to run around!

For our Christmas Day bird, which will probably be a goose this year, I head to the local farm and reserve the bird, to be collected on the 22nd or 23rd.  Many farms in France sell directly to local clients, this generally happens in a barn or outbuilding and despite the old fashioned appearance, sales are strictly regulated and the produce fresh and best quality.

The same farm will also sell their own foie gras, either  already cooked and ready to serve or - if I'm feeling like a saint ! - fresh for me to prepare at home.

 Oysters are best bought at a local market or fishmongers on the 24th.  Some people buy them already opened, my husband is a dab hand at the job, so we put in an order and collect them during the day.  There is a choice of size and source, we mostly buy oysters farmed in the Mediterranean at this time of year.

Chestnuts are vital for a French Christmas.  many people serve them hot with the roast turkey, or enjoy them candied with dessert.

 Most often I buy these tins of creamed chestnuts and make chestnut and chocolate ice cream desserts - totally yummy!  In fact if you like I'll give you that recipe later this week.

Cheese is always an option for a fine French meal; personally for this meal,  I find it a step too far for what is already a rich menu, so we prefer to keep the cheese for Christmas lunch.
What we won't skip however is a chocolate or two with our coffee.  I'll buy ours from local chocolate makers or our bakers who have an excellent home made range. If I were shopping in Paris, I'd head to La Maison du Chocolat and buy works of art such as these!

I promised you a Christmas decoration update, and yes, the tree is trimmed and lit and the door wreath finished but you know what?  today the sun is not shining but positively d-a-z-z-l-i-n-g and my Christmas stuff just doesn't look right in blazing sunlight so you'll have to wait until tomorrow for the pictures - I'm sorry, let's put it down to artistic license.  All I can offer you are these shots of a little vignette on the fire place, taken with the curtains drawn I may add!

Hope your week is getting off to a good start.
Thank you for reading me.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas wrapping ideas and bringing in the tree

I can tell you that bringing you daily ideas and up to date news on decorating here is no mean feat!! - I feel like I'm running a marathon!  Loving it though  ♥♥♥♥

Today I bring you some wrapping ideas for your gifts.  Of course in France, the stores are always happy to gift wrap your purchases for you, so it's easy to be lazy.  But this year, for the gifts I will have to wrap myself, and to tie in with my no-red-fairly-natural-green-look I like these ideas.

On the home decor front, we bought the tree, or rather the trees yesterday.  A huge tree for the sitting room and two baby trees for either side of the front door.  Last year I made holly bushes for the entrance, but this year (still tying in with the natural look) I'm using two Christmas trees, stood firmly in pots that still have miniature helichrysum growing to hide the pot rims and add a touch of silver grey.  Lights will be added to make them sparkle.

I started making the wreath using helichrysum, sage, black berried ivy and branches cut from the base of the christmas trees.  I'll probably add a few silver baubles tomorrow.

The tree has been brought inside and will be decorated and lit this evening.  I always savour this incongruous moment when a large tree seems to have sprouted in the room, not yet decorated or adorned, just left natural.
 If it were just for me I'd be tempted to leave it natural, or simply with white lights, but when I quietly suggested that  idea this morning it did not go down well.  Hey ho!

Tomorrow I'll show you the tree and door dolled up, 
hope you're having a fun weekend too!

Thanks to All about you for wrapping ideas

Saturday, December 10, 2011

a mood board for a christmas table

Today I start two weeks of non-stop christmas ideas and, I hope, inspiration.   Unfortunately it's not snowing here in Normandy, but I added falling snow to the blog just to make it feel festive!

Today's offering: a mood board for a tablescape.  As I already told you, I'm not clever at shooting whole tables, but I had good fun today putting bits together around  a cream, gold and green theme.

I used an antique soup tureen and soup plates, antique cutlery; crystal knife rests; some cool feather christmas trees I found this week; and instead of laying all this onto a real tablecloth I borrowed a wonderful metis embroidered sheet from my stock.

Hope you enjoy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

christmas countdown

So I got back from England this evening and the weekend is looking busy, but today is the day I start my Christmas countdown, and I inject some festive spirit into this little blog!

The snow is falling , bells are - almost - ringing, the temperatures are falling fast and I'm eager to have all the family under this roof for the holidays.  To celebrate I changed the header to a picture of the house in the  snow last year,

Tomorrow I buy the Christmas tree, and we decorate this weekend.  And everyday 
between now and the 25th I shall be showing a festive idea.

15 jours jusqu'à Noël 

the sweetest place to stay in england

What better way to visit England than in a sweet little cottage in the heart of a chocolate box village, surrounded by beautiful Sussex countryside; gardens to visit; pubs and restaurants to dine at and within easy reach of London if you want to visit a museum or shop.

This pretty cottage has been renovated in signature style by my sister, Nicola, and it provides a delicious retreat for two.  Warm, comfortable and of course stunning.  The cottage, known as Number 22, is furnished with beautiful antique furniture and paintings. 

Upstairs there is a lovely bedroom and bright fresh bathroom, I love this soft blue palette.

Downstairs there is a touch of pink and soft red in the kitchen and sitting room where
a log burning stove keeps the cottage warm and welcoming even in the winter.

and in the spring and summer the pretty garden provides an extra place for
 sitting quietly before walking down the road for supper at the excellent local pub.

If you are interested in renting Number 22, you can find all the details right here