Friday, March 30, 2012

Let's talk about inspiration...

Thank you for your lovely comments about the Modern Chevron Baby Quilt I posted a couple of days ago.

A few of you commented on how I found the idea for the design on a manhole cover and that got me thinking about inspiration and wondering where others found their own.

Obviously there is plenty to be found out there on blogs, flickr and Pinterest. Wallpaper is always a good one for patterns, as are rugs.

Sometimes the raw materials themselves provide the spark.

I bought these scrapbooking woodcuts and lovely wool felt/fabric fat quarter at the Marseille Craft Fair, not knowing what I would do with it. It's been sitting on my sewing table since then, where it will stay until I find some inspiration or it makes me feel so guilty that I put it away.


I also bought these charms and metal beads but I knew straight away that I would make some simple earrings with them. Just need to sit down and do it! (The little Eiffel Towers might become zipper charms.)


My favourite kind of inspiration is when something inspires me to create something else i.e. a bathroom tile layout to make a baby mat or a gay-friendly hotel bar to make a quilt.

I saw this window grill in Lambesc, it looks like a quilt block asking to be made. 

When you get an idea does it usually turn out how you planned? Better or Worse? Or maybe just different?

Do you guys get that Great Moment of Regret/Doubt that I do? It always strikes after I've cut all my fabric and before I sew it all together.  So essentially just when I need motivation the most. Way to go, muse.

It's Friday, woo hoo! Here's a cute little video from a series on one of the French kids' channels. It's stop-motion animation and just so clever. It inspires kids' creativity and helps them to eat healthier so wins all 'round! (If video below doesn't work hopefully this link to it will.)

And a shout-out to the lovely Adina at Gluten Free Travelette for nominating me for a Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you!

Have a great weekend, tout le monde!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The City of a Thousand Fountains: Aix-en-Provence

About 2000 years ago Aix-en-Provence was a Roman spa town, courtesy of its mineral hot springs.


A place where a hard working Roman could go to kick off his sandals and soak his weary corpus.


If you spend some time wandering Aix-en-Provence's charismatic streets you'll soon see why it's sometimes referred to as the city of a thousand fountains.


The majority of the fountains were built from the 17th century onwards, but I think the Romans would've approved.


I hope you all had a great weekend. I made two batches of cardamom panna cotta, trying to replicate the masterpiece I ate at l'Épicurien a few weeks ago.


Blandina had kindly emailed me a recipe (she's Italian and therefore in the know), as had Susan, who's son is a chef! Isn't blogging awesome?


I made Blandina's recipe completely with cream (although you can replace part of the cream with milk), and Susan's son's recipe was half-and-half. There was more sugar in Blandina's recipe and I used some vanilla as well. In the other I put two peppercorns, trying to get a bit of spice in there.


Both versions were delicious. As you'd expect, Blandina's was richer - the ultimate winter dessert. Susan's son's was lighter (so I could eat more of it!) but still beautifully creamy and would be a perfect summer meal-ender. I feel very chic being able to say I now have seasonal panna cotta recipes. As for the vanilla vs peppercorns - not much difference there. I might have to boost the amounts.

I guess that means I'll have to make more. Life is cruel.

Have a great week, everyone. Someone please do some exercise for me!

Friday, March 23, 2012

An afternoon in Cucuron

After a morning spent exploring Silvacane Abbey near La Roque d'Antheron we headed to the nearby village of Cucuron for lunch.


Cucuron is another village with medieval roots, located in the south of the Luberon Valley.


We parked near the Étang, the large walled-in pond in the centre of the village:

Interesting fact: this is where Russell Crowe took Marion Cotillard for a music-dinner date in the Provence-set movie A Good Year.

We had a great feed of galettes (buckwheat crêpes) washed down with a Breton beer (except for the kids, who had whiskey). Then we took a walk around inside the ramparts.


Lots of lovely colour courtesy of the windows.


We also found the village church - Notre Dame de Beaulieu:


Built in the 13th century with a very different design aesthetic to Silvacane Abbey.


We walked up to the St Michel tower:


The views over the village rooftops were lovely - especially with the early spring blossoms.


More beautiful details to admire on the way back down.


Not to mention this lovingly maintained beast. Any Royal Enfield buffs out there? Is this a replica? (I love those leather seats.)


Cucuron really is charming and just the right size for an afternoon of leisurely exploration.


And here we are at Friday again. Must be French video time.

So, this happened in 2003. Why doesn't anyone tell me about these things??

Have a great weekend, Bright Eyes!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Le Fait-main en France

I love France. I love handmade. Don't even get me started on online shopping.

I thought I should share the joy so here is some France+handmade+shopping all smooshed together, courtesy of Etsy!

Isn't this just effortlessly French? 
One of the many stylish and thoroughly practical bags at Feyza's shop, ikabags

Coucou. Je te vois! Snowy the bunny would love to celebrate Easter at your house. 
Find Snowy and all his amigurumi friends here at Christelle's shop, à voir etc.

I love deep mysterious blues with a pop of colour... and there are three other matching prints.
Find marin fishes (and its friends) here at Aliette's shop.

Supercute Little Red Riding Hood felt brooches. Bonus: they can be used to distract children in times of crisis. BYO grandmama.  
Find them here at Patricia's shop, Memi the Rainbow

Gorgeous: a hand-painted recycled-glass bottle. This is why the world should drink more cognac. 
Find it here in Luliia's shop, Magical Space

I love me some photography and Marc Loret has plenty of prints for all you Paris-lovers out there. 
Find Entrée Place des Vosges in Marc's shop, Marco La Grenouille

Nursery art made from pages of French fairytale books? Oui et il est très mignon! 
Find the print here at Anais' shop, Galerie Anais

Pinterest fans, remember to click through to the item before pinning, so that your pin leads back to the source. Proper pinning is sexy.

Happy shopping, mes amis.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Abbaye de Silvacane (Silvacane Abbey), La Roque d'Antheron

Despite it being a little chilly this weekend we dragged ourselves out of the house to the Abbaye de Silvacane near the village of La Roque d'Antheron.


There are three Cistercian abbeys in Provence and this is one of 'em (the other two are Le Thoronet and Sénanque Abbeys).

The Cistercians are an enclosed order of nuns and monks who believe in material poverty, austerity, work (especially manual labour) and prayer.


The church was built by the Cistercians between 1175 and 1220, with the remaining parts of the structure (and other outbuildings) constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries.


The fortunes of the Abbey waxed and waned - at one stage the property was used as a farm - before the French government bought the church in 1845. The rest of the property wasn't purchased until 1945 and obviously considerable restoration works have been required.

So let's go in!

Looking back at the church doorway

Looking forward to the altar

The church was built to adhere to Cistercian rule, i.e functional and devoid of any ornamentation that could distract from prayer.

For those who dig architecture, it's mainly Romanesque with Gothic elements and has all sorts of naves, bays, transepts, transoms, culots and dosserets. Please do not ask me what any of these are.

It's simply enormous. You can see our seven yr old off the left there to give you an idea of scale:


While the Cistercians succeeded in curtailing the decorations, I don't know how they thought this architecture could qualify as non-distracting -  it's so pure and beautiful.


This was the most ornate item I could find in the church, on the wall adjacent to the altar. Whatever used to rest on the pedestal is now gone:


To the left of the church was the cloister  - a paved square/garden surrounded by covered corridors like this one:


You can see the garden area (where a water source is located) through the arches.


Speaking of the internal cloister arches, they've all deteriorated over the years but one has been restored to its original form:


On the top of the columns you'll see some stylised leaves - the only decoration motif the order allowed - and they appear elsewhere throughout the monastery.


This was the dormitory where the monks slept on straw mattresses:


Through this doorway is the chapter house where a chapter from the Rule of St Benedict was read each day:


The monks also made their public confession here. I'm tipping a lot of the world's problems could be solved if we brought in mass public confession. Can you imagine how embarrassing that would be?


Aren't those ceilings something else? This room was apparently constructed later in the 13th century, when the decorating rules had been relaxed a wee bit.


The windows in the refectory (eating hall), where the monks ate in silence listening to a religious text reading:


This room was where the monks did their book work (the Cistercians were the brainiacs of the medieval era) and was the only heated room in the monastery. Yikes.

Fireplace on the left there

When the two year old discovered how melodiously his voice echoed off the vaulted ceilings we went for a little wander around outside.

Original stonework and some new (and old) restorations

Over a stone wall we could see the ruins of other outbuildings that've been discovered:


We also enjoyed some early spring blossoms:


Silvacane Abbey is part of a 'privileged visitor' program where you can gain cheaper access to other sites in the partnership. Because we'd visited Lourmarin Castle earlier this year, we got in a little cheaper.


After our stomp around the Abbey we headed to Cucuron for lunch - but that's another post for later this week.

Cucuron, in the lower Luberon Valley. *le sigh

I'm linking up again to Design Mom's Love the Place you Live. Pop over there for more armchair travel!


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