Friday, January 31, 2014

My Life :: Parisian Treasures

I hope all of you have enjoyed this week's posts on all things Parisian.  Personally, I have loved being able to reminisce on the time I have spent in my favorite city in the world.  Traveling is my absolute favorite way to pick-up special treasures for my closet or the home.  I love seeing a piece and being reminded of the memory associated with it...I still sigh every time I spray my Diptyque and Le Labo perfumes as they bring back the magical experiences of buying them in Paris.  Today I wanted to share with you four of my most treasured goodies from my Parisian travels.

The first is my beloved Chanel brooch.  I have always loved Chanel and have thought about buying a brooch for years.  Last time I was in Paris I was at Le Bon Marché wandering through the Chanel boutique and came across a beautiful stone-encrusted brooch.  I tried it on and contemplated buying it for nearly an hour, but ultimately could not justify the purchase.  The whole day I thought about the brooch and how it would be something I could keep forever and even someday perhaps pass down to my daughter.  I contemplated walking back to the store at least five times but decided because I had over a month more of travel planned I just could not afford it.  Later that night in my flat while Skyping with Ryan I mentioned how much I loved the brooch.  He called me back the next morning and told me that since he was not able to be in Paris with me he wanted to buy it for me.  It was such a thoughtful gesture, and I feel so much joy every time I wear it on the collar of my coat, pinned to a tweed jacket, or fastened to a cashmere looking at it always brings me right back to that magical fall day in Paris.  Thank you Ryan!

The last three were all flea market treasures I found with my mom.  The first are a set of four little purple glasses I got for an absolute steal {I believe they were less than $20 total}.  Although one is smaller than the rest, I think it makes them that much more charming.  They typically sit on our bar cart, but two weeks ago at Ryan's birthday party I found a friend using them as shot glasses.  Needless to say they were quickly washed out and stored for safe keeping :)

The next is a green glass bottle hand painted with tiny gold stars.  The seller told me it was used as a bedside water pitcher in the mid 1800's.  Typically I have this stored on my bookshelf amongst a jumble of books and treasures, but I'm always rearranging my odds and ends so who knows where it will end up next.

Lastly is another treasure that is very close to my antique barometer that my mom and I found together.  I remember we came across it and both thought it was one of the most interesting things we had seen.  The glass was shattered and we had no idea how we would fix it, but we loved it anyways.  The market was actually closing and the seller was packing up her booth so we had to decide which of us {if either} wanted to buy it.  It was very heavy and fairly expensive {especially considering that it was broken}, so neither of us could make up our minds, but at the last minute my mom decided to go ahead and buy it.  Of course, I spent the whole week regretting that I hadn't bought it and lamenting how perfect it would look at my house.  My only consolation was that it was really, really heavy and I wouldn't have to lug it around Europe with me.  So imagine my surprise when on Christmas morning I opened up a box with the exact same barometer, except with a brand new piece of glass, staring straight at me.  My sweet mom once again surprised me {and I must add, somehow managed to bring all of our heavy and incredibly fragile flea market finds home without a scratch} and to this day the barometer sits front and center in our living room. 

I know that wherever I go, my treasures from Paris will come with me, and I hope that one day I will have a home filled with meaningful pieces such as these that bring me so much happiness and joy.  Have a great weekend!

Art :: Flying Houses {Part II}

I know this is probably a huge blogging faux pas...but although I blogged about Laurent Chehere's "Flying Houses" series a year ago, it is just too good not to share again!  When I decided to make this week all about Paris, his beautiful images of Parisian homes and buildings suspended in the air were the first thing that came to my mind for my Friday Art post.  Ever since stumbling upon his work in early 2013 I haven't been able to get it out of my head {his image of the flying circus tent was my desktop background for months}.  So imagine my delight when I went to his website and saw he added even more fantastical images of Parisian homes flying effortlessly through the sky.  I love the picture of the house filled with zoo animals, the image of the crypt floating through the sky {skeleton and all}, and the close-ups of some of the curious little details so easily missed with a simple glance at the screen.  So that technically means I'm not completely "re-blogging"...right?  Regardless, I hope you love his whimsical dreamscapes as much as I do!

Are you as big of a Francophile as me?  If so, see the rest of this week's Paris posts :: Parisian Style // A Day in Paris // Parisian Apartments // A French Chateau // Chocolate Pots de Creme

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Recipe :: Chocolate Pots de Creme

I would have to say that one of my absolute favorite parts of being in Paris is the food.  I could go on for days and days about the unparalleled deliciousness that is French food {in particular the cheese and pastries}.  But, while their food is always elegant and delicious, it is often quite labor-intensive and challenging to reproduce at home.  I bought my mom the Ladurée Cookbook for Mothers Day last year, and although the recipes were incredible and photographed beautifully, many gave me a slight panic attack just reading {often including at least seven different elements that needed to be prepared separately, for one recipe}.  But have no fear, today I will be sharing with you the recipe for one of my absolute favorite French desserts - Chocolate Pots de Creme.  Other than chopping the chocolate {bonus points if you use chips, chunks, or wafers} and allowing time for the custard to set, it quite honestly takes less than ten minutes to prepare this decadent dessert.  Made of essentially chocolate, cream, and egg doesn't even pretend to be healthy, but it is truly a perfect treat for a special occasion {do I hear Valentine's Day anyone?}

Chocolate Pots de Creme {recipe via Food Network
Serves 6-8

9 ounces high-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped {keep a little aside to sprinkle on the whipped cream before serving}
1 1/2 cups whole milk 
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons granulated sugar {add an extra tablespoon if using bitter chocolate}
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Place the chocolate in a blender. Whisk the milk, 1 cup cream, egg yolks, granulated sugar and salt in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the spatula and almost boiling, 5 to 6 minutes.

Immediately pour the milk mixture over the chocolate in the blender. Cover and hold the lid with a thick kitchen towel; blend until combined and smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as needed. Divide the chocolate mixture among ramekins or small cups and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

Whip the remaining 1/2 cup cream and the confectioners' sugar with a mixer or in the blender until soft peaks form. Top the chilled pots de creme with whipped cream.  Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Interiors :: Parisian Apartments

This morning I showed you a beautiful chateau in the Loire Valley, and since I couldn't pick which amazing Parisian apartment I wanted to feature this afternoon, I figured, why not just include both?  I recently stumbled across the fantastical home of French designer Patrice Gruffaz and absolutely fell in love.  Doesn't it seem like it is right out of a fairy tale?  The mushroom table and stools are out of this world cool and I love his unusual choice of color palette and textiles.  It is quirky, witty, and personally I love it!

Images via

The second apartment, home to Danish designer Klavs Rosenfalck, was unoccupied from 1963 until he his purchase in 2008.  The abandonment didn't help it's condition, but it did preserve the original architecture from the horrible design that was the 1970's and 1980's.  I love the contrast Klavs created with the highly modern furniture placed against the ornately guided molding {I mean seriously, some of those walls could easily be mistaken for Versailles}.  And how beautiful is that Venetian Glass Chandelier?  Seriously impressive.

So what do you think?  Do you prefer the first whimsical apartment or the second traditional-meets-modern home?  Personally, I can't resist amazing architecture so I love the second, but the decor of the first is more up my alley.  My dream apartment would combine elements of the two to create an unexpected but enchanting home fit for the wanna-be-Parisian I am.

Images via Elle Decor

Interiors :: A French Chateau

I know this week is all about Paris, but this morning we are going to venture out into the French countryside to visit an insanely gorgeous restored chateau in the Loire Valley.  Giuseppe Laviani and his wife Giacomina purchased the 17th-century 'La Socelière' chateau for $500,000 and invested another $500,000 to restore it to its former glory {while taking great pains to "give dignity back to the house without overdoing it."}  Laviani decorated the home in a mix of high-low French and Italian antiques, adding to it's casual elegance.  The property, nicknamed 'The Barefoot Chateau,' is so relaxed that all four generations of the Laviani family go shoeless when they visit in the summer.  Such a dream!

PS - Stay tuned this afternoon for another tour of a stunning Parisian apartment.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Travel :: A Day in Paris

Oh Paris, how you captured my heart with your grand promenades, stunning museums, effortless elegance, winding alleyways, gorgeous rooftops, and delicious food.  I am very fortunate to have spent nearly a month in Paris {but I will be the first to tell you, it was not nearly enough}, and have become the resident expert of all things Parisian to my friends and family.  I feel like the best decision I made during my three trips to Paris has been to not try to cram it all in.  There are nearly an infinite number of sights, shops, and restaurants, and if you are like most people and only have a fixed amount of time I personally believe just going from one tourist sight to another will leave you feeling tired, irritable, and {like many people I have spoken with} underwhelmed.  I have met many travelers who said they were very disappointed with their trip to Paris and believed that it did not live up to the hype.  I can definitely see how this is possible, for to truly enjoy Paris you must wander down the less beaten path {or in this case, alleyway} and explore what the city truly has to offer.  So inspired by this week's Parisian theme, I have decided to create an itinerary for my perfect day in the City of Light {knowing well that one day isn't nearly enough}.  Enjoy!

8AM: Wake up in your cozy flat {I have rented apartments two out of my three trips in Paris and couldn't say enough good things} to the sun rising over the rooftops of Paris.  Get dressed, and head outside to your local boulangerie.  My favorite breakfast was a simple one of a pastry {one can never go wrong with Pain au Chocolat} and a Café Creme.  Two of my absolute favorite boulangeries are Du Pain et des Idées and the lesser-known but equally amazing Boulangerie des Deux Ponts {do yourself a favor and grab an eclair with raspberries for will change your life}.  If you can't decide which pastry looks most enticing, go ahead and grab two.  I won't judge :)

9AM: After breakfast take a stroll along the Seine {or hop on the metro, depending on where you are} until you reach the Musée d'Orsay.  Although I am all for going off the beaten path, in my opinion this museum is just too good to miss.  It is truly one of my happy places and I often find myself daydreaming about wandering from room to room, admiring the unparalleled collection of Impressionist Art {my favorite}.  Not only does the museum house some of the world's most important works, but the building itself, housed in a restored train station, is worth the price of admission by itself.  You could spend all day here so choose the galleries wisely, I want to make sure you have time to see lots more of Paris.

11AM: Now that you have gotten your share of art & culture it's time for my favorite activity in Paris...getting lost.  There are so many beautiful and unique neighborhoods that make for a perfect stroll, but one of my absolute favorites is Le Marais.  This quaint and chic area is filled with winding medieval streets, tiny courtyards, amazing boutiques {my favorite being Claudie Pierlot}, and the adorable little neighborhood of Saint-Paul.  Stroll into shops and get to know the owners.  Even if you don't know much French, the simple "Bonjour Monsieur/Madame, parlez vous Anglais?" will make a world of difference for the way you are treated.  I remember meeting a man who only sold antique keys, some over 600 years old.  He spent thirty minutes showing me his treasures, not because he was trying to sell them to me {most were far out of my budget}, but because he took such great pride in his work.  Purposely take the wrong turn down a tiny alleyway, you never know what you will find. Make sure to visit the beautiful Place de Vosges for a quiet respite in the middle of the city.  

1:30PM: By this time you will have done quite a bit of walking and worked up a good appetite.  Resist the temptation to stop for a sit-down meal {you will have time to do that later} and instead head to the closest fromagerie to pick-up some cheese for a picnic lunch.  Let the cheesemonger be your guide and be sure to grab a few different varieties {bonus points if it is something you have never seen before}.  Grab a baguette at a boulangerie, some fruit at a market, and, if you're feeling very Parisian, a bottle of red wine.  Head south towards the Seine, and enjoy your picnic lunch along the river.  

3:00PM: Explore the islands of Paris.  Ryan and I rented a flat on Île Saint-Louis which was incredibly quaint and romantic.  There aren't many "sights" on the tiny island, but virtually every square foot is beautiful.  If you're wanting a sweet treat, stop by the famous Berthillon for a scoop of ice cream {this was across the street from our flat and I'm not kidding Ryan ate there at least once a ya Ryan!}  Next, walk to the bigger island of Île de la Cité.  Head straight to the beautiful Marché aux Fleurs {flower market} which every Sunday turns into a Bird Market.  This makes for some great photos, but be careful...I was scolded by a shop owner who didn't like anyone photographing his flowers {who knew?!}  While Notre Dame is the most famous landmark on the island, I would personally skip it and instead visit the smaller but equally {if not more} stunning cathedral of Sainte-Chapelle.  This church also holds candlelight concerts - my mom and I saw an orchestra perform Vivaldi's "Four Seasons"...thinking about it still gives me the goosebumps.  Afterwards, if you're up for it, wander to the right bank to the Palais Royal to see Daniel Buren's whimsical outdoor installation of 252 black & white striped magical.

5:30PM: Assuming you are visiting during warmer months {where it stays light outside quite late}, go ahead and give your feet a rest at a café.  I love sitting outside with a glass of wine just watching the people go by.  Since I am a fan of 1920's literature I am personally partial towards the classic  cafés {Café de Flore being my favorite...the hot chocolate is delicious and you can't beat the fact that the booth you are sitting at may or may not have been frequented by Ernest Hemingway 90 years ago}.  Or, if you're looking for something a bit more upscale visit the beautiful colonial tea house of Mariage Frères {make sure to buy some loose tea to take home, it is amazing}.

7:30PM {Give or take depending on the time of year}: My favorite place to watch the sun set in Paris is from the Pont Alexandre III bridge.  Watch the sky turn pink and orange behind the Eiffel Tower, then as the sky goes dark see the Eiffel Tower light up the night {it still makes me teary-eyed thinking about it}.

8:30PM: There are an unbelievable amount of amazing restaurants in Paris, and choosing just one is nearly impossible.  However, I think I would visit one of my all-time favorites - Le Comptoir du Relais.  Recommended to me by a Parisian friend {and recently featured by Bon Appétit magazine}, this restaurant does not take reservations...but instead follows a democratic "first-come, first-served" mentality.  There is always a wait but trust me, it is worth it!  It is always packed with locals and a few in-the-know tourists {but from my experience, hardly any Americans which is always a bonus in my book}.The food is fresh, seasonal, and innovative without being pretentious.  I loved it so much that I went there twice.  Everything on the menu is spectacular, but my favorites were the Scallops from Normany {never have I ever tasted anything so fresh} and the seared tuna with root vegetables.  For dessert the Chocolate Pot de Creme and classic Apple Tart are a perfect way to finish the meal.

11:00PM: If you still are awake, simply wander the street until you find a bustling café and sit outside with a glass of wine and join in the revelry.  La vie en rose!