Why the French give Lily of the Valley on May 1st?

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Every year, 60 millions sprigs of ‘Muget” (Lily of the Valley) are sold in France – nearly one strand per French person!!

But Why do the French offer Lily of the Valley on May 1st?

In the Middle Ages, they offered strands of Lily of the Valley as a sign of Love. The tradition to offer on May 1st dates back to the Renaissance, says the site of the city of Paris. In the 1560, King Charles IX, while visiting the Drôme, was offered a sprig of Lily of the Valley by the knight Louis de Girard de Maisonforte. Delighted, the king would have perpetuated this gesture by offering the ladies of the royal court a strand of lily of the valley every spring as a lucky charm and then would have extended that tradition to the entire kingdom!

Ever since then, the tradition in France is such that a sprig of Lily of the Valley with 13 bells brings good luck!

Visit our store location or www.petiteprovence.com today to find our Lily of the Valley 150g soap!

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http://www.petiteprovence.com/product_info.php?cPath=2_158&products_id=2221

 

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The History of Perfume

One of our new additions in the shop is the wonderful line of Fragonard soaps and perfumes; a worldwide known Perfume maker! Come for yourself to embrace our wonderful new scents!  Here is a little history:

Perfume in Antiquity and Middle Ages

An “industry” as old as mankind
The word ‘perfume’ is derived from the Latin per (through) and fumare (to smoke) because, long before the use of modern techniques, the first perfumes were obtained by burning woods, resins and other complex mixtures. Humans have always been exposed to smells. We can suppose that it was around a fire that our earliest ancestors discovered what smells they could produce by throwing herbs, leaves or twigs of different plant species into the flames. The use of perfume is contemporary, therefore, with the development of the first towns and its purpose was mainly religious, to communicate with the gods and enable the dead to join the hereafter, particularly for the Egyptians.

Egypt: the ancient centre of perfume
Of all the ancient civilizations, Egypt has left the greatest mark on the history of perfume. By the end of the Roman Empire, with Rome’s political and economic powers waning, Alexandria, with its guilds of renowned perfumers and alchemists, still played a key role in the world of perfume. While it is incorrect to state that the ancient Egyptians used perfume solely for religious and funeral rites, perfume was an essential feature of these mystical ceremonies.
The funeral rite of embalming required large quantities of myrrh, balm and perfumed oil. These funeral practices, together with the offering and inhaling of perfume, illustrate the ancient Egyptians desire to move closer to the world of the Gods by escaping the inevitable decay of mortal remains. Similarly, priests also applied some of these balms to the statues of Gods. Most perfume and incense was produced from flowers, particularly blue water lily, marjoram and iris, resins from the terebinth tree (turpentine), balsam tree (myrrh), benjamin tree (benzoin) and rockrose tree (labdanum).
The Egyptians never restricted their use of perfume to purely religious purposes. Although some perfumes were reserved for ritual use, others were used in daily life for healing, adornment and the improvement of home life. Not only were perfumes essential for rituals and medicine, Egyptian men and women also used them extensively for adornment.

Greece: the beginnings of hygiene and the cult of the body
As in many other fields, Egypt and the East passed on their knowledge of perfume to the Greeks via the maritime trade routes of the Cretans and Phoenicians. The Greeks imported the necessary raw materials, from Africa and the East, through their trading posts dotted around the Mediterranean and eventually became experts in preparing perfumed products.
As with the Ancient Egyptians, perfume remained sacred to the Ancient Greeks and Greek mythology even explains the origins of particular fragrances as disputes among the Gods.
However, the Greek’s interest in perfume also included the realm of medicine and personal hygiene. The cult of the body, both male and female, which developed in Ancient Greece, is inextricably intertwined with the world of perfume.

The Middle Ages and barbarian influences
Rome: from austerity to an orgy of the senses
In just over one thousand years, Rome grew from a small farming village to the undisputed world capital. As Rome’s power and influence grew, its morals were also radically altered. The Republic managed to maintain a certain austerity for a while but eventually yielded to luxury with the discovery of oriental refinement and perfumes.
Public baths attracted a large number of Romans and body care was practiced throughout the rich classes of Ancient Rome. Scents, room perfumes, oils and balms for skin and hair, and spicy aromas from refined dishes were all important parts of Roman life. This profusion in fragrance use caused the moralists of the period to condemn the excessive use of perfume.

From The Renaissance to The Enlightenment: the art of concealing embarrassing smells

By the end of the 14th century, liquid perfumes were gradually replacing solid ones. Scented waters, tinctures to be swallowed, were sought after for their medicinal values.
Bathing was considered to be dangerous and unhealthy, and consequently aristocrats used increasing amounts of perfume to conceal the embarrassing odors of their ill-washed bodies. Strong, heady perfumes, such as amber, musk, jasmine and tuberose, persistent enough to cover-up bad odors were en vogue. Similarly, the fragrance used in perfumed gloves brought to France by Queen Catherine de’ Medici from her native Tuscany masked the unpleasant smell of poorly tanned leather.
The association of leather and perfume was so strong that in 1656 the Corporation of Glovemakers and Perfumers was formed in France. Under Louis XIV, nicknamed “sweetest smelling king of all”, this guild was granted the monopoly of perfume distribution, which had previously belonged to apothecaries and druggists.
Strong demand for perfumed products, mainly imported from Italy, encouraged France to develop its own perfume industry. The Grasse region, in the south of France, which enjoyed a favorable climate and local support from the Montpellier faculty of pharmacy, began to specialize in both aromatic raw materials and the actual production of perfume.
The age of Enlightenment saw a major expansion in perfumery products. Scented waters gave way to toilet vinegars and bathing gradually came back into favor. As flasks adapted to these new products, vinaigrettes, handy recipients for sweet-scented vinegars, were produced.
The French court was the undisputed model of refinement and elegance throughout Europe and eventually France became the home of the greatest perfume makers and most innovative perfumes. While Paris was the capital of trade in perfumed products, the town of Grasse, with its extensive fields of jasmine and rose, became the capital of production.
It was during this period that Grasse began to acquire its worldwide reputation for the diversity and quality of its production.

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Recipe: Simplest Brioche

There’s a reason why French bakeries, or pâtisseries, are so famous.  Not only do they create some of the most delicious pastries and sweets imaginable, they also are required to employ a maître pâtissier (master pastry chef) in order to even use the word “pâtisserie” in their names!
One of the most delectable types of bread found in just about every pâtisserie in France is Brioche. This bread has a high egg and butter content, so the result is a rich, tender loaf.  The outer crust is flaky and often brushed with egg yolk prior to baking, creating a delicious dichotomy of textures to munch on.  It is the best of both worlds, combining elements of being both a bread and a pastry at the same time!We looked to one of our favorite blogs, La Tartine Gourmande, for help in bringing you a simple yet sumptuous Brioche recipe.  Check it out below!

Ingredients

  • 1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¾ oz. butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. dry baker’s yeast
  • 2 Tbsp. fine sugar
  • ⅓ cup warm milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 egg yolk for glaze

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix the flour with the yeast, and make a hole in the middle.
  2. Add the warm milk mixing with the tip of your fingers (if using a stand mixer, pour the milk slowly and steadily while mixing, with the hook attachment.)
  3. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt, then add the soft butter, piece after piece, waiting each time that each piece is absorbed.
  4. Then one by one, add the eggs, mixing well between each. Work the dough until it is elastic and detaches from your fingers more easily (or from the bowl of the stand mixer).
  5. Cover and let rest in a warm place, away from drafts, for two hours, until it doubles in size.
  6. Work the dough again for 10 min and divide it in four balls. Place them in a greased rectangular 10” mold or loaf pan and cover. Let rise for an hour again.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  8. Brush the brioche with the egg yolk mixed with a dash of sugar. With a pair of scissors, make small cuts at the top of each ball.
  9. Place in the oven to bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes more.
  10. Remove, unmold and let cool on a rack.

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French Patterns 101: Bargème

One of our newer patterns takes its name from the medieval mountain village of Bargème in Provence, the highest village in the Var at an elevation of 3,599 feet above sea level, boasting breathtaking views of the valley. The population is only 142 during winter months with a village and 8 hamlets, or small settlements, mostly engaged in agriculture – fodder crops (animal feed) and breeding of sheep and goats. The name Bargéme may come from the pre-Celtic “Barr” meaning rocky bar, or rampart or possibly from the Celtic “Barge” or mill wheel.

Visitors will enjoy the natural beauty and backdrop of the Brouis Mountain, the 12th century romanesque St. Nicolas Church, ruins of the medieval castle, a 17th century communal oven, hiking and tourist activities in the village, including art galleries, art classes, musical performances, and traditional holiday celebrations. There is also a hotel, restaurant, café and bakery, so plan on having breakfast or lunch if just coming for a day visit!

The Bargème Jacquard Tablecloth is 100% double woven cotton with a fleur de lys inspired pattern in shades of grays layered over a natural background making a striking impression. This tablecloth can be dressed up or down for a formal dinner or a casual occasion. The nuetral color palette makes it versatile year round, and can easily be transformed seasonly by adding splashes of color with a beautiful floral centerpiece, dinnerware or other tabletop accessories human sphere for sale!

>Shop the Bargème Collection

Sources
http://www.beyond.fr/villages/bargeme.html
http://www.mairie-bargeme.fr/index.php

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Fête des Mères: Happy Mother’s Day

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” Honore de Balzac

Recipe and photo, iambaker.net

Recipe and photo, iambaker.net

Most cultures around the world designate a day honoring mom and France is no exception. This day is about expressing appreciation for mom through allowing her to relax and presenting her with gifts. In France, a special dinner is held in her honor and it often includes a cake that looks like a bouquet of flowers (which reminds me of Petite Provence’s lovely Bouquet Tablecloth Collection!).

Though words and gifts can never fully express our love and gratitude for mom, they can be a beautiful offering from the heart.

Want to celebrate mom in the French style? Try making this beautiful Neopolitan Rose Cake from the blog,  iambaker.net and check out the French gift packages we’ve thoughtfully created especially for Mother’s Day!

banner-mothers-day

For the cake

  • 375g (1 ½ cups) butter
  • 375g (1 ½ cups)  cups caster (or baker’s) sugar
  • 375g (1 ½ cups) self-raising flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150g (1.25 oz) chocolate, melted
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 cups strawberries, washed and hulled
  • red gel colour (optional)

For the icing

  • 375g (1 ½ cups) butter
  • 750g (3 – 3 1/4 cups icing sugar)
  • 4-6 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • melted chocolate and strawberry puree from cake batter

Directions 

Preheat oven to 180C (356 F). Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well. Add in the flour and vanilla extract. Divide batter into 3 equal portions. Place the vanilla batter into a greased cake tin water slide for sale.

Blitz the fresh strawberries in a food processor until it’s pureed. Measure out 1 cup/250mls and add to 1/3 cake batter. You can add a few drops of red food colouring if you wish. Pour into greased cake tin.

Stir in about 100g of the melted chocolate into the final 1/3 cake batter with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and mix well. Pour into greased cake tin.

Bake for approximately 18 – 20 minutes or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the icing by mixing together the butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract in an electric mixer until smooth. Add the milk one tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you need. Beat for at least 5 minutes in an electric mixer until it’s light and fluffy. This is important otherwise it will be difficult to pipe the icing. Divide the icing into 3 portions – you need a smaller portion for the chocolate icing or whichever layer you choose to have on the bottom.

To make the chocolate icing, stir in the remaining 50g of melted chocolate into a small bowl of icing. To make the strawberry icing, stir in the remaining fresh strawberry puree.

Decorate as shown above. Keep in mind that you will need to level out the tops of the cakes before assembling, and chilling them first will make them easier to work with!

Also, see this video tutorial on making the roses: http://iambaker.net/patriotic-rose-cake-video-tutorial/

 

Sources
Recipe directions and ingredient list from: http://themorethanoccasionalbaker.blogspot.com/2012/10/neapolitan-rose-cake.html

Original Recipe and photo from:
http://iambaker.net/neapolitan-rose-cake-rosette-cake/

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Eco-chic: Trash or treasure?

Recycled Can Vases

Recycled Can Vases

Thank goodness so many of us are recycling these days…  however, do you upcycle? 

Yes, of course it’s still great to recycle and reuse, but upcycling takes it to a whole new level! When you upcycle, you take something that would normally end up in the recycle or trash and turn it into an object of value!

With Earth Day just behind us (and thanks to all of you who are using our stylish and reusable French Fabric Tote Bags!), I am inspired to continue to find new ways to reduce my impact on the environment… and why not have fun doing it! Here are some creative and eco-friendly ideas for turning common household items from trash into treasures for the table and around the house.

Painted Can Centerpiece

Painted Can Centerpiece

Household Item 1: Cans
Wrapped in pretty paper or painted, cans can make a beautiful centerpiece! Other ideas include:

  • Wall organizers
  • Night light covers
  • Garden lights
  • Food serving containers
  • and so much more!

View these and other ideas on our Pinterest page!

 

mason jar planters

mason jar planters

 

Household Item 2: Mason Jars

At home, I love to use them for storing grains, legumes and herbs. They look beautiful on the shelf, they make it easy to find what you’re looking for and they aren’t going to leach toxins into your food!

In addition, they can be turned into:

  • Candle holders
  • Solar lights
  • Indoor planters or herb garden
  • and more…

View these and other ideas on our Pinterest!

Household Item 3: Wine Corks

cork coasters

cork coasters

I’ve seen these turned into cork boards before, but I bet you haven’t thought of these ideas:

  • Jewelry Holder
  • Coasters
  • Trivet
  • Planters for succulents
  • Napkins Holders

And just in case you didn’t know, we have some really cool wine themed tablecloths that these would look great with! >View the Wine Collection


Find these and other eco-chic projects
by visiting our Pinterest Board Eco-chic Table & Décor.

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Eco-chic – 3 Other Ways to Use a Cloth Napkin

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Photo by www.merrimentevents.com


In Capitola and Santa Cruz, California, home of Petite Provence, a bag ordinance has been passed to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags (like our charming French Fabric Tote Bags) with a mandatory fee for all paper bags and a ban on all plastic bags. While it may take a little adjustment in our habits, this is a great example of how we are becoming more globally aware as a community and taking responsibility for the ways in which our individual choices create the reality we are living in Inflatable Pools! In addition, these choices help to inspire friends and other communities to shift with us.

In this same spirit, I am inspired to find other ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. At Petite Provence we carry gorgeous French cotton jacquard double woven and printed cotton napkins from the South of France that match our French Tablecloths. By using cloth napkins you are already doing something great for the environment – eliminating paper napkin waste!

In addition, here are 3 other creative ways to maximize use of your napkins:

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Photo by www.blueeyedyonder.com


1) Drawer Liners

Never wash your drawers again or bother with contact paper – Put self-adhesive velcro on the backs of your napkins and adhere them inside your drawers to keep them in place. When dirty, just remove and throw in the wash! Beautiful, resourceful and practical! For drawers with clothes or linens, toss in one of our French Lavender Sachets!

chewing-the-cud-fabric-gift-wrap

Photo by www.merrimentevents.com

2) Gift Wrap
The wrap becomes a gift in itself ~ One can be used to wrap smaller gifts and secured by tying the ends or taping as you would with wrapping paper and finishing with a ribbon. For larger gifts you can tape multiple napkins together or sew multiple napkins to create a pouch that can be secured with ribbon at the top and used again and again!
> More cloth wrapping techniques here

dop_ivory_peacock_valance

Napkin Valance

3) Valance
Sew multiple napkins together side by side, fold the long edge over about 2″ and sew again to make valances for your kitchen or dining room windows that match your tablecloth!

I invite you to think outside the box and find resourceful ways to reuse other items around your home! Please share any of your past or present creative recycling, reusing and reducing ideas here or at www.facebook/PetiteProvence.

> Also, see our special price on select Jacquard Napkin 4-packs!

 

Resources
http://www.ehow.com/way_5757681_ways-use-cloth-napkin.html
http://www.blueeyedyonder.com/diy/diy-drawer-liners.html
http://www.merrimentevents.com/category/blog/parties/

 

 

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Local Artist Utilizes Impressions from France

Marcella-Provence-Art

We have a wonderful local artist, Marcella Evensen, who draws on inspiration from her travels to the South of France and incorporates clay impressions from Paris, Cabrieres d’Avignon, Gordes, Bonnieux, and Arles into her artwork.

While traveling through Paris and Provence, Marcella carries lumps of soft clay with her, taking imprints of treasures she finds along the way. Then, she carefully transports them back home to be bisque-fired for use in her plaques, making the trip back through customs really interesting!

She combines painting with the pique assiette technique (which is the style of mosaic that uses pieces of broken ceramics in the design). Each piece is dynamic, unique and reminiscent of France.

Marcella-Bonjour-Art

Marcella, a California native, after graduating from San Jose State University, spent time traveling in Europe to see the great artwork she had studied. In Perugia, Italy, she attended the Instituto di Belli Arte (the Institute of Beautiful Art), specializing in the intaglio method of printmaking, which is a technique where the image is incised into a surface which then holds ink. Marcella also took classes in painting and drawing, and upon returning home, finished her studies needed for teaching. Marcella, now in retirement, enjoys collecting pieces from her travels and incorporating them into her artwork.

We hope you can come by Petite Provence in Capitola to see more of Marcella’s work!

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Poisson d’Avril: Chocolate Easter Fish… yes Fish!

chocolate-easter-fish

Poisson d’Avril!

The French celebrate Easter, or Pâques, much like Americans, however when it comes to Easter chocolate, there is no comparison.

Kids and adults alike, do not settle for dyed or plastic Easter eggs or mass produced chocolates and candies – they have their pick of the finest handmade chocolate creations, many of which are more akin to elaborate sculptures to admire than something you would eat… not saying I wouldn’t though!

In addition to eggs and bunnies, they also feature fish, bells and chickens! Why fish? Well apparently, while fish and Easter have nothing in common, April Fools day has become synonymous with Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish. The name comes from a several centuries old tradition where kids pin paper fish to the backs of adults as a trick and run away yelling “poisson d’Avril” to which the adults respond by gifting them with chocolates.  Due to the close proximity of these holidays, chocolate fish have become a part of the Easter season. Find out more on the origins of this tradition here.

Too beautiful to eat?

Too beautiful to eat?

As for chocolate bells, these represent the church bells that stop ringing on the day before Good Friday in remembrance of the death of Jesus, and begin ringing again on Easter morning to celebrate his resurrection. Children are told that the bells have flown to visit the Pope and when they return they bring with them all of the chocolate eggs and other treats that the kids wake up to find! There is a feeling of great joy when the bells start ringing again, and in many villages it is customary to exchange kisses and hugs.

yum... chocolate fish!

yum… chocolate fish!

So, why not bring a little piece of French tradition to your Easter celebration, with some handmade chocolate fish that are sure to inspire kisses and hugs! Fish molds are readily available and you can find quite a good selection here: http://www.thefind.com/kitchen/info-fish-chocolate-mold

More  ideas on our Easter Pinterest Board:
http://pinterest.com/petiteprovence/easter/

Happy chocolate fish making!

P.S. If you do decide to make some, we’d love to see your finished masterpiece. Please post this or any other Easter inspiration to our facebook page at: www.facebook/PetiteProvence

Sources:
http://www.frenchfriends.info/culture/easter-paques-traditions
http://www.bonjourparis.com/story/ring-easter-flying-bells-bunnies-and-chocolate-fis/

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Spend a Day in France: The 8th Annual French Fair in Palo Alto

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54UMvkON_wc

Saturday March 23, 2013, 10 am – 6 pm

Petite Provence Jacquard Napkins

Petite Provence Jacquard Napkins

Want to experience the best of France in the Bay Area? The 8th annual Peninsula French Fair boasts a variety of vendors, artists, services and classes that you will only find under one roof once a year! A taste of what you may find includes fine home décor, accessories, designer clothing, handmade jewelry, hard milled soaps, French travel and realty services and original artwork.Australia

croissant

Mmmm… fresh croissants, crepes, pastries, cheese and more!

Don’t forget the kids! Enjoy story telling, parent/child dance classes and a French education workshop. Imagine you are strolling down the streets of France as you listen to live French music and delight in the smells and tastes of the authentic delicatessen, crepes, cheese and pastries as you browse the marketplace. We hope you can make it!Australia

View Program & Vendors: www.frenchfair.org

Free Admission    
Indoor Event at the Lucie Stern Community Center
1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301

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