Stovetop Goodness

• 31 August 2009

Many of you are surprised I'm still meal planning here in France amidst the chaos that is our lives right now. Well, I'll tell you why...because I get to cook on this bad boy! The star of the cottage is this pimped out French stove that is so beautiful, I can hardly bear to mess it up {but I do}. It seemed only right to place a nice stove in the kitchen since the cottage used to be the town's Four Banal a few hundred years ago.

Deciding on the size of stove was easy (see top right), but the color was a whole other issue. There were so many lovely hues to choose from! We ended up choosing the color pictured above, top left, as it complimented the stone and the antique terracotta tiles the best. I confess it will be difficult to go back to my cheap, American, electric stovetop after cooking on a La Canche. It's too bad they are more than double the price in the US. Drat. I guess I'd better enjoy it while I can!


Menu of the Week: Farmer's Market

Although it's difficult to navigate a crowded market with 3 kids sometimes, it's a good thing I have the chance to visit such a delicious place each week. I'm not sure I would've survived up to this point without access to good, fresh produce. It makes cooking more enjoyable and adds an element of joy to my week. Seeing the same farmers every week (this one is my favorite) certainly creates a sense of familiarity and oddly enough fills a little void inside me.

This week instead of planning meals first and then shopping, I did it the opposite way. I knew I was going to have my two youngest with me, in a crowded place (August is high-tourist season) and without a stroller (we left it in our last rental) so I kept things open. In my mind I figured if I came home with anything I'd call it a success!

Grandpere's Chicken & Pancetta Pasta with Mushrooms (see below), Steamed Broccoli,

Quiche Lorraine, Roasted Potatoes with Herbs, Strawberries

Roasted Tomato Soup with Thyme*, Salad with avocado, Pain Rustique

Ina's Perfect Roast Chicken, Roasted Carrots, Green Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Tortellini with Tiffany's Sugo Rosa (see below)

* I couldn't find fresh oregano at the market so I substituted thyme and the Husband and our guests declared it the best version I'd made thus far (I make this recipe often). I also was rather liberal in my usage of the fresh thyme and roasted it with the tomatoes & garlic as well.

Tiffany's Sugo Rosa ("Pink" Sauce) for Pasta

2 T. olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced, or 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 (14 oz.) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 t. basil
1/2 cup heavy cream
s+p to taste
Parmiggiano-Reggiano, finely grated
1 lb. pasta of choice (we prefer Barilla)

Sauté garlic or onion over medium heat in olive oil, until garlic is barely brown or onion becomes soft and translucent. Add cans of tomatoes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens (about 8-10 minutes). Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding about 1-2 tablespoons of salt before adding pasta. Cook according to directions on box. Add heavy cream to sauce and stir 1-2 minutes. Add basil, salt and pepper. Toss sauce with pasta and serve, spooning cheese on top of each portion.

Grandpere's Chicken + Pancetta Pasta with Mushrooms

1-2 T. olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½" strips
¼ lb. pancetta cut into 1/4" strips
1 pkg. mushrooms, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Italian Seasoning
s+p to taste
2-3 T. flour
half & half or heavy cream
1 lb. penne pasta

Heat up olive oil in large cast iron pan. Add chicken strips and cook on medium-high heat, turning often to create brown. Add pancetta, garlic and mushrooms and cook on medium heat. Add spices to taste (should taste really spicy before making cream sauce). Remove from pan. In remaining grease, add 2 T. flour and mix. Slowly add milk or cream, mixing constantly to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil, cooking to desired thickness. Add in meat mixture and serve over pasta. Serves 6.


Paper Flowers in Beaumont

• 28 August 2009

We stumbled upon this beautiful little town and its magnificent decorations recently and I could not help but stop and take a few pictures. I wonder who went to the trouble of decorating every single road (both large & small) as well as every alleyway, with these colorful tissue flowers. It felt so magical to drive underneath them.


Foundation for a Better Life

I love these billboards dotting the local interstate...are they in your neck of the woods too? Undoubtedly, they are the only billboards that actually increase the quality of my life (and my way of thinking). I'm so grateful for the inspiration and the fact that a non-profit like this actually exists. I think my favorite is "Devotion".


Mamie Gateaux

When the renovation of La Maisonnette du Coteau is finished, I'm plugging for a day in Paris--without the hectic pace from our last trip. One of the major reasons I want to return is so I can revisit the lovely Mamie Gateaux--a shop, brocante and bakery. Yep, it's a 3-for-1 folks. You can eat a slice of homemade cake, walk 5 feet and buy a handmade linen tote for a modest price, and then walk 5 more feet and explore vintage goodness from the past century. It's simply fabulous thanks to the Japanese (her) meets French (him) details throughout. The kind couple who owns Mamie Gateaux clearly have exquisite taste. If you're a fan of Japanese simplicity, add this to your must-visit-list while in Paris.

p.s. Also in the neighborhood is the famous Poilane. Oh that apple tart with it's perfect crust...


Sneak Peek: Bedroom No.2

• 27 August 2009

Another teaser...this time from bedroom no.2. I themed it around the pretty antique tiles in the window sills.


Choosing a Paint Color Palette

Now that all of the painting here at La Maisonnette is completed (do I hear the Hallelujah chorus??) with the exception of minor touch-ups, I feel compelled to bring up this post about choosing paint colors and our love for the RH collection. We can't get over how much we absolutely love their perfectly-edited paint collection. It's sheer brilliance I tell you! Talk about the ideal combination of warmth, tranquility & color.

Also helpful is this little tip from my sister, Cher. I cannot tell you how many times it's come into handy. No really! Read about it here.

Note: I've heard mixed reviews about the RH quality so we typically bring the color swatch to Benjamin Moore and have them match it.


Recipes to Love

• 26 August 2009

Instead of listing my favorite "tried and true's" in my sidebar, I decided to clean things up a bit. I created a button that will send you to a post outlining all of these favorite recipes including links. I've divided them up into categories for easy reference. Remember, only recipes that are guaranteed "pleasers" make this list. I hope you enjoy putting them to use!

You can find the full list of recipes, including links, right here. In the future simply click on the yellow image in my sidebar to see the entire list. Easy peasy.

images 1, 3


Scalloped Edges

I have a real penchant/mild obsession with all things scalloped. Here are a few of my current favorites--some very affordable and some on the "save-up-for" list:


Cupcake Stand

Circle Label

Craft Boxes


Lighting In

Something I've learned in only the past few years...lighting makes a HUGE difference. From now on, all lighting decisions will be made during the beginning stages, and not the latter. I also learned that allocating more budget towards lighting--even if that means shaving a little from other areas--is the way to go. Lighting can make such a powerful statement! Lesson learned.

Our electrician and his team were finally able to get around to installing all the lighting at La Maisonnette--all 30 units! We can't believe how much this update changes the feel of the home. All of a sudden it feels more finished, more cozy, and more beautiful. Here is a picture of my favorite lighting pieces in the cottage--one of my purchases at the uber-fabulous Merci in Paris (now a must-visit in my book). I'd love to bring a few home but am not sure if it's possible to do that. Has anyone bought lighting in Europe and brought it back to the States? Are there wiring issues?


Le Jardin de La Maisonnette

• 25 August 2009

One of the many valuable tips Rachel gave me when she visited was to create a little eating area in this private nook. At first it seemed like one more thing to add to the massive "to-do" list in the garden (it seems large to me for a cottage this size), but once things started moving along, I had the energy to take on this project. The addition of a pretty robin's egg blue cafe set from my in-laws' old apartment in Paris (thanks Nana Becca & Grandpere) transformed the space instantly. I added a mini-topiary and voila...it's time for tea.

p.s. that's the Dordogne River through those trees...during the autumn and winter you can see the river in full view and it's stunning.


School Lunch Reform

Last year I had the chance to spend an afternoon with one of my favorite Boston {now-Berkeley} pals, Lesli. When catching up she told me all about her son's school lunch program and my jaw dropped...you should've seen the menu! Not only was it healthy, but it encouraged children to try new flavors like curry and lesser-known vegetables like kale. I wish all of our schools adopted such programs. I am hoping that Michelle Obama's influence helps redefine what a proper school lunch should be. I would love to feel good about my child buying a school lunch more than once per month.

You can read more about what the First Lady's efforts to modify what our children eat in schools here.

A few of my favorite portions of the article if you can't get to it:

"...Waters and other pioneers of the local-food movement have long struggled with perceptions of elitism. Critics mocked their breathless praise of farmstead cheeses or the ultimate roast chicken, painting them as out-of-touch, arugula-loving yuppies. "Michelle has used her position in a way that has made people realize this is a very simple, very American impulse," said Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA, which promotes small farmers and artisan producers. "What they're doing is normalizing something that should be normal."

and this one too:

"The more they can tell the story of what they're doing, the better it will be," said Slow Food's Viertel. "If they can let people see a family meal, if people see that the busiest man in the world takes time to sit down with his kids for dinner, that could have an incredible impact."

photo by Lynn Sweet


Through the Front Door?

Nah...too easy!

We cannot fit large furniture up our stairway so everything going into the second or third floor of the cottage must fit through the 2nd story window. It's been such a pain as many of our choices of furnishings had to be eliminated due to a few centimeters difference. Drat! In the third level we even had a false wall built just so we could squeeze a large bed in the master suite. Typically everything in Europe is smaller than in the US, so these issues should be expected I suppose; but add in "very old home" aspect and you've got yourself one logistical nightmare :)

We drew a small crowd during the 15 minutes it took 4 men to get this 200-year-old armoire into La Maisonnette. It was great fun to watch, especially after it was certain they'd make it! I really love this piece...

Images 1 & 2:

1) Preparing the armoire for take off

2) Let the games commence...slight panic on the 2nd floor

Images 3 & 4:

3) Two men on the 2nd floor hold down the fort while the Husband heads to the 3rd story and the other to the truck to grab a ladder

4) Help arrives to the 3rd story (see husband hanging out of window) and the armoire is finally past the balcony in a safe position

Images 5 & 6:

5) In order to slide the armoire over the crest of the railing, Batiste (on the ladder) had to stand on his tippy toes, grab onto the 2nd story railing, from the 1st story mind you, and tip it over the edge. Well executed don't you think?

6) Just barely inside...we made it! and only with a few very minor scratches. pfew.

So far the following have made it through this balcony in a similar fashion:

* 4 mattresses
* entertainment armoire
* 6 boxsprings
* 1 couch
* 1 headboard
* 1 clawfoot bathtub


Sneak Peek: Bedroom No. 1

• 24 August 2009

A little teaser showing just what I've been up to these past few days. I found that completing just one room makes me feel so much better about the renovation as a whole. Seeing it all come together, be it slowly, is satisfying to see.


Leif Flowers

For our first anniversary, the Husband gifted me with a bouquet of unique flowers arranged most artfully. An artichoke on its stalk was even included...it was unlike anything I'd ever seen to that point and since. Sadly, the shop closed its doors shortly thereafter. For this reason I am most excited to announce a new local business...Leif Flowers. The talented artist Chelsea James and her equally artful sister Amanda joined forces and are now sharing their creativity with locals. I simply love what they offer...you can see what they are up to here.


French Soap

• 21 August 2009

I'm a big fan of this intensely pure soap (and it's fabulous packaging), but finding it for a reasonable price in the US is pretty difficult. When I discovered an entire display (at BHV Deco in Bordeaux) dedicated to all sorts of pretty French soaps, including many varieties of Savon de Marseilles soap, I almost flipped out. It took incredible discipline to only pick up a couple of things...for La Maisonnette...and not completely empty out all the shelves. Wow, it almost makes me feel like cleaning :)


I Looked out the {Kitchen} Window...

...and what did I see?

This weekend is one of assembly now that almost all of the painting is done. I'll be taking a lot of pictures to share with you beginning Monday. I am loving seeing it all come together. This is the part I love the most!


Etsy Pick of the Week: Handmade Charlotte

Newly discovered Handmade Charlotte is definitely going into my "favorites". Aren't these handmade goodies simply adorable? The attention to detail is incredible...Rachel really creates beautiful frocks, no?

Find her on Etsy here and read her fantastic blog here.


Interview at Kirei Nest

• 19 August 2009

Lovely Nicole of Kirei Nest, asked me to participate in a little interview over on her beautiful blog this week. Her blog mainly focuses on "nesting" and "gifting", and she offers wonderful design inspiration too. Warning: lots of pretty pictures await...


Junky Heirloom GIVEAWAY Winner

Three cheers for three winners! And many thanks to Junky Heirloom for sponsoring this fun giveaway!

#1 aly who said, "These are fabulous! I like the picture frames too!"

#2 Whits who said, "So beautiful! I would love this."

#3 kareena who said, "pick me! I am really enjoying your construction updates!"

Please email me if you are one of the 3 gals listed above...congratulations!


La Maisonnette du Coteau on VRBO

It's official...we are up and running on VRBO. Because the cottage isn't finished yet, the images are pretty basic. But, due to the requests to make reservations and such (or to at least find out more details), I thought I'd go ahead and get started.

Our firsts guests are coming over from NY in just 3 weeks. We are so excited to be hosting guests at La Maisonnette du Coteau! Oh my are we are going to be busy bees for the rest of August...


Simple Summer Picnic

This simple summer picnic would be easy to replicate just about anywhere --with a few minor variations of course. All you need is a simple salad, berries, good bread, salami & cheese. The best part is the easy prep and easy clean up. Keep it casual with a roll of paper towels that can be used as "plates" or napkins.

For the salad: I like to mix a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a TB of apple cider vinegar, and 3 TB of olive oil with a whisk before tossing with simple greens. Cheese wise, we are huge fans of anything that begins with "Tomme" so ask your local cheesemonger what he/she has in that category.

P.S. thank you for always being/feigning interest in my food posts...it really helps distract me from all the mayhem of this renovation :) Posting an easy summer picnic is waaaaay better than posting about:

1. the contractor who said he'd show up to finish a project but hasn't...and it's been 13 days (the pickings are slim out here in the countryside and we find ourselves feeling more like "beggars" than "choosers")

2. having to pull out my son from summer camp (there goes any hope of accomplishing anything while the kids are awake) because of some sketchy stuff going on

3. missing/stolen keys (it's not the first thing to disappear unfortunately) = we'll have to re-key the cottage

4. pushing through extreme fatigue and having no time to test out that lovely tub I posted about here.

No...when I look back I don't want to remember those things so in the meantime, I'll just keep posting about yummy food and the like. Thanks for bearing with me here folks :)


Tweeting from Paris

• 17 August 2009

Bonjour dear readers...today our little family is embarking on a whirlwind furnish-la-Maisonnette-tour of Paris. This is going to be tricky with the three little munchkins but we are going to try and have fun despite the logistical nightmare that is Paris...in August :) After all, it is one of my favorite cities in the world! I will be photo tweeting throughout the day...you can follow me at http://www.twitter.com/stephmodo. Have a wonderful day!



This and this inspired me style-wise more than just about anything I've seen in quite some time. I love how simple she appears to dress, yet when you look closely there are details attended to. She also appears to enjoy a little variety, which I can appreciate as well. I don't know what happened to me after checking out those images, but something inside of me wanted to look for dresses. Like really bad.

Here are a few of my favorite finds:

Tie-at-the-Neck Silk Dress-Marc Jacobs

Max & Cleo Flutter Sleeve Silk Dress

DVF Jersey Sheath Dress

Teri Jon Flutter Sheath Dress

Marc by Marc Jacobs Pinwheel Dress

Anne Klein Dress with Pockets

DVF Ula Dress

Maharishi Cotton Sack Dress

Sweater Dress by Athleta


Construction Update No.4

• 14 August 2009

We are halfway through with finishing up the ceiling on the first level. They've been super time consuming, but the results are simply lovely. Go hubby go.

Step 1. Sandblasting - (this is a fun post)
Step 2. Taping & Painting (we opted for the Mediterranean White at RH)
Step 3. Scraping edges for clean lines
Step 4. Staining beams

Lighting went in just after I took this picture and it looks fabulous. More pictures later...gator.


Junky Heirloom GIVEAWAY

Attention all paperie lovers: May I present you with a bit of eye candy for your viewing pleasure...lovely cards and monograms from Junky Heirloom! Junky Heirloom recently debuted at the National Stationery Show and already caught the eyes of the fabulous Kate's Paperie in NY...have they caught your eye yet?

Having pretty stationery on hand is just about the best thing ever and we'd like to add to your stash :) Three winners will win an ensemble of 6 cards and a set of monogram seals. Now, how fun is that? Three winners! Let's get started...you know the drill! But, in the meantime, check out Junky Heirloom's website here and their blog here. Not only do they have lovely stationery to have and to hold, but they also offer imprintables making it easy peasy to customize.

Giveaway Guidelines:

- You have 5 days to enter this giveaway (closes Tuesday, August 18th at midnight).
- Make a comment on THIS POST to enter.
- One entry per person please.
- Anonymous comments will be ignored so make sure we know who you are!
- The winner will be chosen via random.org and then announced on Wednesday, August 19th).
- Winners should respond by Monday, August 24th to secure prize


Little Church

• 13 August 2009

One of the best parts of driving around the country {seeking out furnishings and such} is stumbling upon the unexpected. This little church in the middle of nowhere immediately struck me...I'm dying to know the story behind it and the initials on the beautiful doors.



• 11 August 2009

I apologize if you are tired of seeing pictures of pretty little towns...I can't seem to get enough of them! I found it utterly amazing that I can drive through a thick forest, on a road that seems to be going into nothing, and then find myself in places like this. In the US, everything seems to blend into one another and here that just isn't the case. I love examining the differences and I simply cannot help but be thrilled every single time a new discovery is made.

One of the vendors at a brocante in this town {Molieres} had the most amazing antique French toys up for grabs. I wanted to bring home just about everything on her table, but alas they were grossly overpriced..."this ain't Paris honey!".


Kraft Brown Bags + Other Fun Supplies

Did you see Suann's {stupendous} packaging post last week? It made me swoon. I immediately went out and cleared out a local discount store of all their Kraft brown bags. For some reason it never occurred to me to run anything but regular paper and cardstock through my printer. Yet another fun idea to add to the ever-growing list of things I want to get done...sometime :)

image via {simplesong}



We stumbled upon this town en route to a brocante about an hour away. We picnicked here and then bought the Husband back later for a peek. I knew he'd enjoy this little village and all it's character. There is a beautiful abbey right behind me in this picture and it even houses a hostel! How fun would that be to stay in an abbey?

We ate a simple dinner of omellettes and salad at this little restaurant and while the food wasn't the best, the ambiance was adorable and my kids thoroughly enjoyed the book corner. Being away from all their books is a little tough for them...and me too. I think I've read the kids "Curious George and the Dinosaur Museum" about 100 times already :)


BHV's Hardware Section

I adore the little blue placards on the homes here in France. If I had a French-inspired home in the US, I would totally place one of these on the facade. They have serious cute factor, don't you think?

The little white signs pictured on the right would be perfect for a bedroom or bathroom door. Again, it would be so fun to pick up a few of these budget-conscious souvenirs and bring them home. You can find these goodies in the basement of BHV in Paris (Bazaar de Hotel de Ville). It's a fabulous department store...definitely worth a stop.

p.s. Recently discovered in the basement of BHV was access to the metro directly from the store. It was so nice to avoid the crowds above on Rue de Rivoli.


A Room with a View

Here is a little sneak peek at our third story master bathroom. What you see is part of a new clawfoot tub (the thought of an antique tub kind of grosses me out) set up against a newly refurbished stone wall overlooking the Dordogne River Valley. I dare you to get through that latest novel with a view like this!



• 09 August 2009

1. All the women are donning light, summer dresses and sandals; not the shorts that we Americans wear (including me!). It's really fun for me to see and to be quite honest, it looks more comfortable than denim. I may reassess...

2. Unlike Paris, I haven't seen any obnoxious travelers in this area (although at times our family could definitely pass as "loud"). It feels different than other regions in France. I wonder if perhaps it's because most of the tourists are from other European countries? In Rick Steves' France edition he mentions that he is surprised more Americans don't visit the Dordogne (he loves it). I definitely concur Rick!

3. You'll find both evergreen and palm trees in the same yard/garden. It's amazing. Everything grows here! And they all live together in peace :)

4. Here, the concept of the "wife not liking it" seems to strike a chord. If you don't like something and want it fixed, blame it on the wife (even if she is innocent in the matter!). For whatever reason, saying "my wife doesn't like it", "my wife wants it changed", etc. speaks to the French, while a man simply stating he isn't happy doesn't have near the affect. While it does get things done and people are far more interested in making sure I like the outcome, I am also always the scapegoat. I'm not sure how I feel about this yet...:)

5. Every time I glance outside the front door, I spot a tourist taking a picture of our third story. It's kind of surreal.

6. The grapes here are quite different than conventional grapes found in the US; they are more delicate here, as well as more sweet and more delicious!

7. The approach to raising children here is very different from those in the US. I'm not sure I'd fit in here :)

8. Everyone rises at 7, eats lunch right at noon (2 hour lunch break), and concludes the work day by 5, at the latest, with earlier hours on Fridays. The lunch hour is the most structured...you should see how people flock to the restaurants and such right at 12:00, and not a minute earlier. The bells at the local church go crazy!


Assembling an Armoire

Have you ever put together an armoire from the late 1800's that came in 15 pieces? :) Me neither, until yesterday! After an hour of assembly, I can honestly say they "don't make 'em like they used to". The quality and precision taken into consideration to create such an outstanding piece of furniture is amazing. Oddly enough, I found it easier to put this armoire together than almost any furniture from IKEA :)



• 07 August 2009

This interesting vegetable is undoubtedly one of my summer favorites. When we lived in California it was such a treat to be able to purchase them for such a great price...none of this $3 per choke stuff.

I'm curious as to what you enjoy eating with your artichokes. I grew up with melted butter but the Husband grew up with a mayo/Dijon mustard blend. What about you? I'm trying to mix things up a little since.


Local Guide to France's Tag Sales

• 06 August 2009

In the US we refer to them as "garage sales", "yard sales" or "tag sales". Here in France, they are called "vide greniers"...meaning "empty attics". These sales are terrific. Sometimes you find excellent little antiques (although most of the time they are saved for the larger, more expensive, more furniture-oriented "brocantes"), antique toys, books, art and all sorts of wonderful little French-y things. Everyone gathers together for these large sales so instead of spending all day Saturday morning cruising the valley and hitting maybe 5 sales, you can visit 50-70 stalls in about 2 hours or less. I told the Husband today, that if I ever was one to have a bumper sticker (and I'm not one to have them), I'd probably want something that said, "This car stops at all vide greniers". It's that bad.

If you ever visit France and want to experience the thrill of a vide grenier, you MUST buy this book. It lists all the vide greniers in any chosen region, the date, the location, a phone #, and how many people are participating...all in a handy, little book. How did I ever get along without it? It'll only set you back 9 Euros, yet will provide hours and hours of browsing and spending pleasure :) Plus, you'll discover quaint little towns you would've missed otherwise. You can buy it online or in local bookstores in France.


By Day and By Night

I hope you enjoy this little update...I went to great lengths to take this photograph :)

First, I climbed up a steep hill; then I opened a ten-foot gate; and proceeded to climb atop the old city wall (4 1/2 feet in width) before lying down on my side and propping up my camera on a rock. A few people watched as the "crazy lady" took a few shots. Oh, and I did this all in a skirt :)

Can you feel the love? Hope so.


1. 3rd story/master suite painted (all but the door)
2. 2nd story almost completed (what you see in the image);
3. electrician coming tomorrow to install towel warmer (common in France) and air conditioner (very uncommon in France); in fact, I'm not sure I've ever experienced air conditioning, in France, in a residence. I hope our guests love it on hot, summer days! I know I'll sleep well tomorrow night...
4. trip to Bordeaux planned for tomorrow; hitting Zara Home, BHV Deco, Habitat, IKEA; should be interesting! Oh, and a bit of antiquing for an hour en route as well. I'd better get to bed...


Get Your Craft On

• 05 August 2009

Look! Our very own big-mama craft fair right here in SLC!

Admittedly, I become jealous when I see larger cities participating in the Renegade Craft Fair and the like...but now we have our very own. I guess Salt Lake is growing up a bit. Be sure to check it out if you're local. It promises to be outstanding. See more details here.

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