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June 2010

May 2010

Weekend sewing

The weekend was a productive one.  While Will was in Mumbai for a wedding, I stayed home with 7 children on Saturday (the boys had some friends over).

I finally got my winter range onto the website.  Well, I'm calling it a "New Collection" without getting too specific about season, given most brands now have their winter stock on sale.

Pleat shirt

I also found time for a little sewing.  With Adelaide wearing bulkier knits as the weather gets colder, she needs collared shirts.  Until now she has lived in the new Townmouse Cotton Shirt in many different fabrics.  I don't mind a cardi over a collarless shirt, but I'm not so keen on jumpers without collars under them.

Adelaide in pleat shirt

This is an old pattern from 2003.  I haven't made it in ages.  I've since refined my pattern block for tops.  I'm not sure about this pattern.  Now that I can see it on a little person for longer than a quick try-on, I need to change a few things.  There's too much roll in the collar.  The pleats are too deep.  The sleeve has too much volume.  I can't decide whether I'm being picky, or whether this top is really more Chloe Sevigny on Big Love.  Some patternmaking is afoot.  Variations coming soon.


Savouring things French

After a trip to a wonderful destination I like to hold on to the feeling of the place for as long as possible.

Macaroons

My first trip to Europe coincided with the launch of Christian Dior's perfume, "Poison".  We were in Germany and France over Christmas and the department stores, or literally the whole continent, smelt of Poison.  A few weeks later when I was back in Melbourne I got a hint of Poison as someone walked past in a crowded bar.  It was the most amazing moment - to be completely transported back to Europe by my sense of smell.  As soon as the perfume launched in Australia I handed over my hard earned pocket money for the smallest bottle - simply in order to travel in my mind back to a magical place.

Baking my own macaroons doesn't have quite the same immediate effect, but the boys were grateful for my efforts at least.

Macaroons recipe book I made them while I was jetlagged so did really silly things like adding the icing sugar without sifting it; which meant that all the air was mashed out of the whipped egg whites as I hunted for rocks of icing sugar with my spoon! 

For a first attempt they passed, but could certainly be improved upon.

The recipe was from this book.  There are quite a few other yummy looking recipes in it too.


Craft shopping in Paris

Put on your walking shoes please.  I'd like to take you on a tour of my favourite craft shops in Paris.

Paris map

It seems that craft is primarily a right bank thing. 
I didn't visit all these stores on foot.  I got between B and C by metro, and E on a velib with Will.  But here is what I found. (Click for a larger view of the map.)

A: Le Bonheur des Dames, Le Viaduc des Arts, 17 avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris
(Metro Bastille or Ledru Rollin)

Le Bonheur des Dames

This shop is worth a visit for its shop fittings alone.  The lovely big display tables are full of all things to do with embroidery and cross stitch.  This was the shop recommended to me by Shannon of Petits Details.  If you enjoy cross stitch, this is your mecca.

About 20 minutes walk from here is point B on my map:

Entrée des Fournisseurs, 8 rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75003 Paris
(Metro Saint Paul)

Fournisseurs exterior

This shop is easy to miss if you're not looking for it, because it is off the street in a pretty courtyard.  It's just moments from the beautiful Place des Vosges though, so lots to see and do in the area.

Fournisseurs buttons

This pretty store is worth seeking out.  There is a lovely array of braids and buttons, as well as fabrics (including Liberty of course) and books.  The thing I love about the Parisian craft stores is that the trims are all natural fibres.  100% cotton ric rac and grosgrain and Swiss cotton entres-deux and other lovely items.

Fournisseurs threads

At this point you will probably be weighed down by a parcel of lovely craft books (stay tuned and I'll show you mine in a future post), so you might want to jump on the metro. Take the metro to Les Halles.

C: La Droguerie
11 rue du Jour, 75001 Paris
(Metro Les Halles)  

This is not one of my favourite craft shops, but if you're into knitting or crochet, I think you'd best swing by.  It's very popular judging by the number of people in the store.  I think it is somewhat of a Paris institution as it has been around for many years and is quite well known.  But as it is quite close to point D, you may as well take a look.

D: Des Fils et une Aiguille
1 rue Chabanais, 75002 Paris
(metro Pyramides or Palais Royal)

Des Fils

I do like this shop and have visited it on each trip to Paris.  It has a pretty selection of cross stitch braids and canvases, lovely ribbons and trims, and a good bookshelf of craft books (which I emptied somewhat).  There is a velib station just outside this store if your feet are getting sore.

E: Marché St Pierre
2 rue Charles Nodier, 75018 Paris
(metro Anvers - prepare to walk uphill from the metro)

This little area at the heart of Montmartre has a grouping of fabric and haberdashery stores.  Described as the "kingdom of tissues" on its website, Marché St Pierre has many floors of fabric.

Toiles at Marche St Pierre

Their table of toiles was rather enticing.  I made a few purchases on their linen floor.

In rue Charles Nodier you can wander from store to store to find more fabric, trims and all things craft.  Reine, a few doors away, has an extensive Liberty selection at about 60% the price we pay for it in Australia.  This store had half sized mannequins above all the display tables of fabric.  Each mannequin was outfitted in a dress made up of the fabrics on that table.  Someone has been very busy sewing mini clothes.  It was worth a look.

On the left bank, you can visit the top floor of the beautiful and upmarket department store, Le Bon Marche, for their haberdashery section.  It's busy and stocked with lovely things.   Further down rive gauche near Notre Dame is Le Rouvray.  This is a patchwork store owned by an American woman.  I haven't been there in about 10 years so can't say what it is like now.  It was quite American in style from memory, but did have some pretty French toiles.

So there you have it.  I hope you find this post useful.  Does anyone have any other favourite craft stores in Paris?


Home on a special day

I arrived home from our trip on Adelaide's first birthday.  I found it terribly hard to be away from her.  I'm usually pretty relaxed about most things, but while I was away I had this awful feeling that I was never going to see her again.  I think partly because she was still so little, and partly because she was so desperately wanted in our lives before she ever came into existence.

French dollAbout a month ago Henri observed that Adelaide needed a doll.  This was after watching her push toy cars around.  I agreed, so while I was in Paris I went on the hunt.

I found this soft-bodied little brunette doll - faintly vanilla scented of all things.  She has the sweetest face, but the outfit is dreadful - all synthetic and bright, lairy pink.

The first order of business was to give dolly a Townmouse makeover.

French doll in Liberty

That's better.  She now has a gently shirred Liberty top and pin-tucked linen skirt.

Adelaide is rather impressed with her - giggles and smiles when we hold dolly out and gives her little cuddles.  Her little girl behaviour is such a novelty in our house; so sweet to see.


Seeking sunshine

Paris was cold, cold, cold.  Temperatures were well below average for May; it was coat and scarf weather; almost glove weather.

After 6 days in wintry France we weren't so keen on more cold in Copenhagen.  So we jumped on a plane in another direction and arrived in Istanbul, where we caught up with 4 friends whose holiday coincided with ours.

Blue Mosque

We spent 2 days touring the sites and eating incredibly well.

Mosaic4dc3f2281d4614d1b4f95af8b925b1d0e63bf409

The decorative detail in St Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace were just lovely.  Everywhere I looked there were wonderful colour combinations, floral details and pretty shapes.  Plenty of quilt design inspiration there.

Will has been to Istanbul a number of times for work and has always suggested I would really love it.  Again, he was right - he knows what I like.

17

A boat ride acrossthe Bosphorus took us from lunch to our hotel one afternoon.  It was a great way to see the city and admire all the varied architecture.  I loved all the mosques - so pretty with their minarets reaching to the sky.  The call to prayer was so enchanting.

Blue Mosque silhouette

We had an exceptional dinner at 360 on our first night.  On our last night we went to Sunset- a phenomenal spot overlooking the city and the Bosphorus - it was quite an incredible evening and a wonderful way to finish our holiday.

(Better photos from here.)


Happy coincidence

By happy coincidence we were in Montsoreau on the one day of the month that the town hosts a lovely little antique market on the banks of the Loire River.  Fortunately for us it was the 20th anniversary of this market, so the turnout was particularly strong and there was a lot of lovely "junk" to admire.

Mosaic

If only it was acceptable to take wardrobes and library ladders and boxes of jam jars home on the plane...

There were so many beautiful pieces, and it was all displayed so prettily.  The atmosphere was very relaxed and it was the perfect way to spend Sunday morning.

Market stallholders These two lovely gentlemen saw me taking photos of their wares.  When I said I liked the way the stuff looked they suggested they looked pretty good and I should snap them too; so I did.

There was also a farmers market.  This takes place every Sunday in the town square.  Local produce such as mushrooms, foie gras, fruits and vegetables were on offer.  And they looked fabulous.

Champignons I have posted some more photos in a flickr set here.

If you're travelling to France and want to stumble upon such a market, you might find this sight helpful.  

I didn't buy an armoire or anything bulky, but I did purchase a few metres of vintage braid, which I will photograph in the light of day.


The best and the worst

This is our first time in the Loire Valley - a very pretty part of the world indeed.  We visited two Chateaux.  Chenonceau is thought to be the best, and I can see why.

Chenonceau moat

The grounds and buildings are immaculate.  One of the most charming things about the chateau was the many beautiful flower arrangements throughout the castle.  The arrangements are prepared each day by local women.  The flowers are grown in the gardens within the grounds.

Chenonceau servant diningroom

My favourite rooms within the chateau were those below stairs.  This is the servants' dining room and meat kitchen.

Chenonceau meat kitchen

And I'm sure the horses were very happy to be housed in these stables.

Chenonceau stables

The vegetable garden was a delight to see.

Chenonceau potager garden

I don't think there would be many herb gardens neater than this:

Chenonceau herb garden

All in all it was simply breathtaking.

Equally interesting though, was the Chateau de Breze.  It is still owned and lived in by descendents of the family who built it in the 11th century.  It has a collection of underground tunnels dug out of the rock beneath it.  It also has the deepest moat in Europe.

Chateau de Breze

It's not until you visit a more humble chateau that it occurs to you the immense cost of maintaining such a building.  This chateau was a little ragged, with archaic heating systems, daylight to be seen through the ceiling in certain unused rooms and dated wallpaper and decor.  It had a very sombre atmosphere.

Breze archaic heating

It was a complete contrast to Chenonceau.

Breze back entrance

The most interesting part of this chateau was the extensive wine cellar.  Still used today for the Count's wine label, it is all underground and accessed from the moat. 

 

Breze entrance

This chateau is definitely worth a visit if you're in this part of the Loire.  It is the more interesting because it is someone's home, and not a state owned and funded public building.


A great way to see Paris

Paris is a great city in which to get fit.  Thanks to a handy app on my iPhone I know I walked over 30kms in two days.

Velib

Yesterday, however, we put our lives in the hands of Parisian motorists and used the Velib bicycles.  It proved to be a highlight of our stay and the perfect way to see more of the city.  Will was meeting with a colleague who lived in the 18th - Montmartre.  I decided to go too, and explore the fabric shops in the area.  Shannon from Petits Details had kindly given me the tip that it was a good area for fabrics (which I will tell you all about in a future post).

As most people would know, Montmartre is known for its wonderful views over Paris, which can only mean one thing.  Getting there is uphill.  I wish I'd done a few more spin classes before departure.  And it was no great surprise that the velib stations at Montmartre were mostly empty.  There weren't many people foolish enough to ride bikes to that point.

Montmartre

The motorists were very kind to us, giving way in all cases.  This is most unlike Australia, where there is much media commentary on the aggression towards cyclists from motorists.  I would highly recommend jumping on a Velib bicycle next time you're in Paris.  We loved it, and it wasn't as hair-raising as we expected it might be.  It's a very clever system.


A little Parisian cocoon

We love our Paris hotel. 

There are many bad Parisian hotels.  Even the very best have their bad rooms that you don't see on their websites.

Hotel entrance

Will spent hours searching his favourite travel sites a few weeks back (Mr and Mrs Smith, Trip Advisor, Concierge.com, Tablet Hotels).  Just when we thought we'd found a gem, you'd look at the guest photos on Trip Advisor, only to be depressed by images of the dowdiest, tiniest, out of date rooms. 

Hotel lobby

Then he came upon Hotel Recamier.  It was completely refurbished in 2009.  All the rooms are very chic, in a classic contemporary style.  It's perfectly located in one of my favourite parts of the 6th - Place St Sulpice, right next to the church.  In fact, this is the view (of the church) from our room:

Hotel view

And it is quiet; so quiet.  Thanks to double glazing, upholstered walls, and a quiet part of the square, it is a little cocoon - the perfect place to sleep off jetlag and unwind.  If you don't believe me, read what other guests have said here.


Le Marais

First day in Paris.  While Will was busy at his conference, I caught up with Penny, a university friend who moved to Paris last year with her husband and 4 children.  We met in the Marais - an area I have stayed in once before, but haven't really been back to often.

Merci

We met at a gorgeous shop that is accessed through a courtyard.  This little display greeted shoppers as they came through the portico.

Merci mobile garden

On the other side of the courtyard was this mobile garden.  Inside they sold the porous bags for carrying pots of herbs.  Quite handy if you need to move your plants out of the sun or into the rain.  I love the big metal door frames. 

Merci entrance

The shop is called Merci and can be found at 111 avenue Beaumarchais.  It is a mix of eclectic homewares, stationery, fashion and childrenswear (as well as Liberty fabric sold by the metre) - all round - my kind of store.


Travel wardrobe

The organiser in me was very impressed by the forward planning of Heather from Habitually Chic when it came to her trips to Paris and Los Angeles

I do like the idea of travelling light.  Will has it down to a fine art - all his business travel is done with no check in luggage.  When you're just dropping into a country for one business meeting and don't want to wait at the baggage carousel that makes sense, but not when you're travelling at leisure.

Paris wardrobe

I had a little play around with my clothes in an effort to be as organised as Heather, even if the chic part eludes me.  It's funny how ho-hum ones clothes can look when scrutinised through the camera lens.  

The thing that always gets me stumped when packing is shoes - you end up with so many pairs.  One way around this is to stick to a colour theme (for me it will always be grey).  Even with the limited colour palette I still have 5 pairs in contention.

I have my strolling around the grounds of a chateau in the Loire outfit at left.  Walking the streets of Paris in the centre outfit (with this coat if it is cool).  On the right is my casual dinner in a Montsoreau bistro outfit.

A few more outfits and scarves and wraps have gone into the case but, well, I got bored with the photographing part.  It does help with the planning though.  I think I am travelling lighter (apart from the two winter coats packed) so thanks for the tip Heather.


Why five year olds shouldn't watch Avatar

It has only occurred to me this weekend that the scare factor (will it give them nightmares) isn't the only reason why children shouldn't watch adult films.  

Bad boy HenriHenri wandered through the kitchen this afternoon proclaiming, "I didn't sign up for this shit."  Then later Max referred to Tom as "this jerk".

I let them watch Avatar you see.  They watched it twice.  It's amazing how quickly they pick up the language.  At least I know they're paying attention.

Oh, and there were lots of giggles at the kissing scene.  And when I said that Daddy and I do that, they were horrified.  They thought I was joking and asked me three times if I was serious.  I had to laugh.  But I will be thinking twice next time they request to watch something similar.  I don't want my boys swearing like uncouth army marines.