Posts in Musing
Connaisez-Vous Sharon Santoni?
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I heard distant rumblings about Sharon Santoni from her first book, My Stylish French Girlfriends, then she was featured in the May/June 2018 Victoria Magazine, sharing with us her just-released second book, My French Country Home, and her gracious taste in French country living in Normandy, France, and I was hooked. 

Sharon Santoni grew up in England, fell in love, married a Frenchman, raised their four children in a rural dream home and cultivated garden, and embraced her French life. Soon to be an empty nester, Santoni got the idea to start a blog, My French Country Homesharing her daily life in rural France and all that it offers.

Fast forward, her blog is now read by thousands all over the world, two beautiful books under her belt, and an accidental entrepreneur with her quarterly subscription mail order Stylish French BoxFrom spark to fire, sometimes life is like that! She muses frequently  about reinventing oneself, lessons we can all learn from her.

If that is not enough, Santoni loves to troll nearby brocante flea markets for unique treasures for her home, garden, and entertaining. She is my kind of girlfriend!

 
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Victoria Magazine, May/June 2018

Follow Your Inner Urn-Ing

For some time I have wanted an urn in my garden, an urn that was simple but gave a nice touch to the garden. Urns are easy, as they can be planted, take the weather, moisture, and look great just where they are placed.

So in my mind, I began the hunt for the perfect white urn. Why white, because I have two existing white fountains, white is in my garden color palette, and I have a white stucco home. White is a theme. I have found white urns are a bit harder to find than other colored urns. 

So my journey began to find a white urn that would work well in my garden. In my travels and every day life, I came across fabulous urns and began to have "urn envy."

Recently, I stumbled across an urn that I thought would look great in my garden. I should say "urns" as I found three, and made a little vignette. Where did I placed these urns? In a perfect spot, the olive grove. Interestingly, these urns are almost a collage of the fabulous urns I had seen and been admiring, only better, because they seem perfect for my garden in color, form and size. Their white color draws your eye to their heavenly spot, in a most simple and natural way.

Urns in My Olive Grove

Urns in My Olive Grove

I found urns for my garden, at the most surprising place, HomeGoodsThese urns are very reasonable and beautifully handcrafted in Mexico by local artisans. Suggestions to find urns for sale are nurseries, garden shops, flea markets, and home decor stores. Know what you are looking for, and keep your eyes open!

Find Your Inner Scarecrow
Hip Scarecrow-ette Greets Wine Tasters!

Hip Scarecrow-ette Greets Wine Tasters!

Scarecrow Getting His Bake On!

Scarecrow Getting His Bake On!

A Warm Scarecrow Welcome at Claire's on Cedros Restaurant

A Warm Scarecrow Welcome at Claire's on Cedros Restaurant

Scarecrows are not just in the garden or field these days, they are turning up everywhere to add a little spice to your day this time of year. Dressed to impress, who can resist a photo and a smile. Find your inner scarecrow and have a great fall!

Sending "Warm Greetings" From a School Garden

Sending "Warm Greetings" From a School Garden

Legend, Lunch & Lemon Dressing
Outside Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California

Outside Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California

Last August 2016, I finally found myself outside the hallowed Chez Panisse Restaurant and Cafe in Berkeley, California. Founded in 1971 by Alice Waters and a few other like-minded friends, the food principles that perpetuate this eating establishment have changed our food culture forever in this country.

Alice Waters, food activist and food icon, has taught has us the value and pleasure of eating locally, supporting our artisan farmers, eating seasonally, supporting food sustainability, and igniting the concept of school gardens for our children.

I meet Alice Waters at Chinos Farms, part of their Good Food, Great Chefs events for the celebration of her latest cookbook, The Art of Simple Food II. 

Meeting Alice Waters at Chinos Farm, Rancho Santa Fe, December 2013

Meeting Alice Waters at Chinos Farm, Rancho Santa Fe, December 2013

Over the years, Alice Waters has mentored many talented floral designers, talented chefs, and cookbook authors such as David Liebowitz and Joanne Weir who worked, trained, and enhanced their careers at Chez Panisse.

Alice Waters has influenced me. She has that gift to inspire and motivate others. When I read food books about Paris and Provence, occasionally I run across her name and presence. The week after I visited Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Alice Waters was actually cooking in Thomas Jefferson's kitchen for an event. She has inspired me to grow as much of my own food as possible, be sustainable, and eat seasonally.

Cafe Water Carafe Etched "Chez Panisse"

Cafe Water Carafe Etched "Chez Panisse"

Lunch was delightful and delicious, needless to say. The entire time I kept savoring details of lunch, the table, the clientele, and the setting. I share with you now Alice Water's Creamy Meyer Lemon Dressing I had that special day over bright green billowy bibb lettuce .

Creamy Meyer Lemon Dressing

Makes about 1/2 cup. This is a creamy dressing that coats lettuce in a luscious way. The flavor is light and sprightly filled with lemon juice and zest. Alice Waters especially likes it on sweet lettuces such as butterhead or romaine or a mix of small chicories and radicchio.

Stir together in a large bowl: 1 Tbsp. Meyer lemon juice, 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper.

Taste and adjust as needed. Whisk in: 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, and 3 Tbsp. heavy cream. Taste for salt and acid and adjust as needed.


 

Lunch in Provence Cooking Classes!

I Have a Place Setting for You and Friends!

I Have a Place Setting for You and Friends!

Many thanks for everyone's interest and enthusiasm in the "Lunch in Provence" Cooking Classes. Perfect to treat yourself, a special friend, or loved one for a birthday, milestone, or to just experience a relaxing day in South France.

There are still a few place settings available for the Thursday, October 6, 2016 "Autumn in Provence" cooking class and the Thursday, November 10, 2016 "Que Syrah, Syrah" cooking class, see FALL CLASS SCHEDULE DETAILS.

 

"Flora, Floats, and Fun" Article
Local 92024 Magazine, January/February 2016

Local 92024 Magazine, January/February 2016

Many thanks to my local 92024 Magazine, January/February 2016, for their "Flora, Floats, and Fun" article on page 42. Their recognition highlights how I was chosen to ride Scotts Miracle-Gro float in the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade, with it's special California Grown certification.

I've been a resident of Encinitas for over thirty years, and know how much flower growing has been a rich part of Encinitas history. The sandy soil and temperate climate were ideal for flower and bulb growing. 

I was thinking of my Encinitas community on Rose Parade Day, honored to be representing my community, California home gardening, and symbolically bringing a little bit of Encinitas from my own garden, in the form of olive tree branches, rosemary, and lavender foliage to be on the float along side me.

A Special Invitation
Interview & Photo Shoot in My Garden

Interview & Photo Shoot in My Garden

 

 

Recently, I received a special invitation. I am one of four California gardening connoisseurs selected and invited to join Scotts Miracle-Groer Team for this year's 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade and ride on their float on New Year's Day.

Scotts Miracle-Gro is a proud sponsor of the historic Tournament of Roses Parade for several years now. Their float this year promises to be particularly exciting as it embraces a "California Grown" theme, and is endorsed by the California Cut Flower Commission. This means that 85% or more of the flowers, seeds, and plant materials used in creating this float are grown in California. 

The float's theme of "California Grown" goes further by recognizing others who are important to gardening and growing in California. Two California flower farmers, Mel Resendiz of Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers out of San Diego County, and Harry and Michele Van Wingerden of Myriad Flowers out of Santa Barbara County, will be spotlighted and riding on the float.

Scotts Miracle-Gro recognizes the importance of California home gardeners. As one, I am very honored to be selected, and in a symbolic gesture I will be sharing and providing specific flowers and plant material from my garden for this special float.

We all know how important school gardens are to our children and the community. This is the second year that Scotts Miracle-Gro has supported the Pasadena School Garden Program headed up by Mud Baron, and he will be riding on the float. 

The icing on the cake, is the charismatic HGTV home design guru, Ty Pennington, celebrity spokesperson and part of the Miracle-Groer Team, also riding on the float New Year's Day.

Clipping Plant Material from My Garden

Clipping Plant Material from My Garden

On a recent blustery Tuesday morning, I had the good fortune of a visit from Scotts Miracle-Gro camera crew for a garden interview, glimpse of my garden, and look at some of the plant materials that will be I bringing to Pasadena for the float. 

I invite you all to start your New Year's Day 2016 watching the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Look for Scotts Miracle-Gro float with all of us proudly riding it, and reflect on all that this float represents--our magnificent flower farmers, our school garden programs, the millions of Californians who love to garden, how we care about our homes and gardens, and all of us who care about giving back.

This coming Tuesday, November 24, 2016 is Scotts Miracle-Gro "California Grown" Kick-Off at the John Muir Ranch Pasadena High School in Pasadena. This day will be full of activities, such as helping Ty Pennington make raised garden beds, helping distribute Thanksgiving produce baskets to the community, enjoying a delightful "Garden-to-Table" lunch, and a chance to meet the Scotts Miracle-Groer team in person.

 

VintageGardenGal Turns Seven!

It is hard to believe my blog, VintageGardenGal is celebrating seven years! I started writing VintageGardenGal on September 4, 2008. With over 253 posts under my belt, it has been a wonderful experience to share with all of you. Thank you for your continued interest and support!

How does one celebrate a blog milestone? How about with a celebration "Grape Harvest Cake!" Ever since I read the book, We've Always Had Paris and Provence, A Scrapbook of Our Life in France, by Patricia and Walter Wells, I've always wanted to make Patricia Well's "Grape Harvest Cake" from Chapter 23. She makes this cake often May to September at her Provence Farmhouse, using various seasonal fruit, and grapes from their vineyard in the fall.

My husband, John, and I too, have a vineyard in which we grow Syrah grapes. Well, it is a bit of "lemons to lemonade" story. We did not have a good grape-growing year, low yield, and not even our traditional harvest event. Normally, I am so busy with the harvest, winemaking, family and friends in town that a "Grape Harvest Cake" is nearly out of the question. This year I took our "petite" yield of good fruit, and said, "I am going to make this harvest cake for my blog anniversary, and share it with all of you."

Grape Harvest Cake

Recipe Type:  Dessert
Cuisine: Provence
Author: Patricia Wells
Cook time: 55 mins
Serves: 12

A simple Provence cake that uses seasonal fruit, and grapes in particular in the fall. If you don't grow grapes, use fresh purple grapes such as Champagne grapes. This cake is made with olive oil, typical of Provence, creating a cake that is moist and light. You will need a 9 inch springform pan and an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. Lightly sprinkle powdered sugar over the finished cake as an optional garnish before cutting and serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste ( vanilla extract)
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon, and 1 orange, preferably organic
  • 2 pounds small fresh purple grapes (which have to be carefully seeded if they have seeds)

Instructions

  1. Olive oil and flour a springform cake pan. Tap out an excess flour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the olive oil, milk, vanilla, and mix just to blend.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon and orange zest and toss to coat the zest with flour. Spoon the flour mixture into the egg mixture and stir to blend. Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes, to allow the flour to absorb the liquids. Stir three-fourths of the fruit into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing over the top with a spatula.
  5. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the remaining grapes on top of the cake. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels firm, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes.
  6. Remove to a rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the side of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base. Serve at room temperature, cutting into thin wedges.
Passionate for Provence

DSC_0076Not quite over jet lag and time difference, with my head still drifting back to special moments, my husband and I have just returned from an incredible spring visit to Provence and Paris. Towards the end of our trip on a rainy Sunday in Paris (rain makes Paris even more romantic) I noticed this "larger than life" quote in a Marais pastry shop window.

"La terre est un gateau plein de douceur." --Charles Baudelaire

Translated it means "The earth is a cake full of sweetness." Charles Baudelaire was considered one of the most influential French poets in history, and one of the greatest poets of the 19th Century. He was also a critic, essayist, and a translator.

When I saw the quote I immediately thought of my beloved Provence. That's it, Provence is so full of sweetness, the landscape smiles back at you. Not only is the landscape so utterly breathtaking, everyday life is colorful, food and wine are exceptional, and the unexpected becomes the norm. It is simply the magic of Provence and all of it's sweetness.

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I have so much more to share with you regarding Provence, please stay tuned.