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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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 today to find our Lily of the Valley 150g soap!

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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!


  • 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


  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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Setting your Table with Délicatesse

Petite Provence Lavender Collection

Petite Provence Lavender Collection

Last week I was contemplating the finesse, or délicatesse in French, of cooking with Julia Child. This week, I’d  like to expand on this topic and consider what it means to set the table with délicatesse. After all, the table is the stage for how the food will be experienced!

Now, I’d like to start by saying that while I agree that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we know we all do, and who can blame us! It’s undeniable that first impressions have a lasting impact,  so whether you are entertaining guests or gathering with your family around the table, become the director of your play and delight them with your attention to detail and artistic inspiration in all aspects of the meal.

Where to start?
Choose a source of inspiration. Often your menu will inspire your table setting, however if you like to work the other way around, you could also allow the season to inspire your table setting, which in turn could inspire a menu based on the harvest of the season. It’s said that Mother Nature provides what is needed in each season to help us stay in balance, so visit your local farmer’s market to start gathering sources of inspiration! Also,  visit the Petite Provence Pinterest board for Table Setting ideas and browse our tablecloth patterns at Remember that your food should play the leading role, so be mindful not to over-decorate!

Now, in addition to the colors, textures, patterns and other decorative elements, there is another important element to consider when designing your set, and that is the étiquette of table setting.  The diagram below displays the correct placement of props (ie. dinnerware, cutlery, napkin and glasses) for an informal and formal occasion. For more details, visit  How to Set Up a Table French Style.



I invite you to create the time to experience the joy in cooking and setting your table with délicatesse!  Feel free to share your ideas and photographs with us by posting a link to a Pinterest board.

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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 金牌喜羊羊.

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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Creamy Fudge Love

“Le prix d’Amour, c’est seulement Amour, …
Il faut aimer si l’on veut être aimé.” 
Honoré d’ Urfé
Translation: “The price of love is only love, … one must love if one desires to be loved.”

Creamy Fudge Hearts

Recipe Courtesy Martha Stewart Living, February 2000

Not good with words? Creamy Fudge Hearts (recipe courtesy Martha Stewart Living) say it all! Add a pinch of French poetry and you have the perfect recipe to romance your sweetie this Valentine’s Day (Not to be confused with your  Heart Soaps from Petite Provence!).

Fudge has always been one of my favorites, and who doesn’t love fudge? This recipe, while producing impressively decadent treats, does not require many ingredients. I’m looking forward to giving it a try, though I would opt for a natural food coloring. You can find one at your local health food store, or if you have extra time on your hands or just like to play in the kitchen like me, you can make your own!
> Here are some ideas

A note from Martha Stewart Living: “When making fudge, follow the instructions to the letter and make sure your candy thermometer works correctly. To check it, put it in a pan of boiling water; it should read exactly 212 degrees. Timing can vary greatly in candy making, depending on the weather and your equipment, so follow your candy thermometer readings, using the times given in the recipe guidelines.”

Prep/Cook Time: Approx. 1 hr 15 min
Cooling/Cutting Time: Approx. 40-50 min
Yield: Makes about 4 dozen 1-inch hearts


Canola oil for the pan and cutters (1/2- to 1 1/2-inch heart cookie cutters)
1 1/4 cups milk
3 1/2 cups sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
Pink gel food coloring (optional)


1. Lightly oil a 9-inch-square pan. (A smaller pan will make the fudge thicker and more difficult to cut.) Place milk in a heavy 12-quart saucepan. Stir in sugar; add butter. Over medium heat, stir constantly, until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Increase heat to medium high, bring to a boil, and cover with lid. Let boil for 2 minutes, and uncover. Do not stir; clip a candy thermometer on side of pan, and let mixture boil, over medium-low heat, until it reaches 240 degrees (the soft-ball stage), 15 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath.

2. Immediately remove pan from heat, and dip the base of the pan in the ice water for 5 seconds. Let the fudge sit at room temperature without stirring, with the thermometer attached, until the thermometer reads 122 degrees and mixture is lukewarm, about 40 minutes. If using food coloring, add 1 drop. Stir the fudge with a wooden spoon until it changes from glossy to opaque and is thick and creamy, 2 to 5 minutes. Quickly pour into prepared pan. Use piece of plastic wrap to smooth fudge into the pan, creating an even surface. Let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours, and cut with 1/2- to 1 1/2-inch heart cookie cutters. (Oil the cutters with the canola oil inside and out before using.) Fudge will keep, well wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container, up to 1 week.

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Poisson d'Avril: Chocolate Easter Fish… yes 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:

More  ideas on our Easter Pinterest Board:

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


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Julia Child – Cooking with Finesse

“Julia turned women on to the beauty of making a wonderful meal for the family, not just scraping something together.” (Bob Spitz, author of Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child)

Julia Child

I was inspired to research the life of Julia Child after reading an article entitled Julia Child Revolutionized the Way Women Saw Cooking written last year in celebration of what would have been her 100th birthday. Julia Child’s debut cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, published in 1961, was well received and she went on to host several popular television cooking shows, including The French Chef, which aired from 1963-1973. In the 1960’s, along with the Women’s Rights Movement, came “the thought that women could have a say in their government, that they could perhaps leave the home without feeling guilty about leaving their children alone, and that they could receive a job and earn wages like men.” (Vintee Sawhney)

Unfortunately, with the rise in women’s rights, came the rise of the convenience food industry and in this regard, the health of our society has suffered. The media encouraged women to buy processed foods that required less preparation time – canned and frozen foods and pre-made mixes. “The whole trend was to make it fast and easy… Julia made the distinction between the home cook just cooking, putting it on the table, and cooking with finesse, tasting and understanding what she was doing. She believed that that’s where the joy came.” (Judith Jones, editor for “Mastering the Art”)

During this time of change to the role women played in society, Child helped to instill the importance of putting loving care into home cooked meals and encouraged women to take pride in this aspect of women’s heritage. Though she influenced many, our culture has continued to rely on convenience foods and most American diets have consisted mainly of processed foods that are quick and easy, but lacking in quality and nutrition. Today we are entering another revolution, where more people are beginning to see the importance of eating fresh foods, making the time for and finding the joy in cooking delicious, wholesome meals for their families, which Child always promoted.

Julia Child lived to be 92 years old. Her last meal was French onion soup and she ended her last book, My Life in France, with “… thinking back on it now reminds that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite – toujours bon appétit!”

This one will make you laugh – Enjoy watching this fun video from PBS: Julia Child Remixed

Highlights from Julia Child’s baking series on PBS:




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Vallauris: Home of our Potter and Picasso

ceramique-poterie-5Vallauris, also known as the Town of Clay, is located in the southeast of France in Provence, and is home to our potter with a rich history in the art of pottery making. Pottery has been made here since the dawn of the Christian era, however Picasso greatly contributed to the renaissance of the Vallauris pottery industry where he lived from 1948 to 1955 and developed his interest in both ceramics and linocuts.

War and Peace, Picasso

War and Peace, Picasso

During his time here, he created a great many sculptures and paintings including War and Peace, which was one of the major artworks of the period.

When visiting Vallauris, be sure to check out The National Picasso Museum, the Ceramic Museum and Pottery Museum. Vallauris is also home to the International Biennale of Contemporary Ceramics – a contemporary exhibition. In addition, Vallauris boasts over 300 sunny days a year and pleasant temperatures year round!

Petite Provence Pottery: Red Poppy Hand-made and Painted Creamer

Petite Provence Pottery: Red Poppy Creamer

Petite Provence, handmade and hand painted pottery is available in our retail store in Capitola, CA and select pieces are available online including our Red Poppy and Lavender Bunch collections.

> More on Picasso
> More on Vallauris

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

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


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:

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

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