Home Sweet Home

Almost three months since we made it back to France ! Where do I start ?

Well, I intended to post once a month with all the updates of our new life here for all of you who do not follow us on Social Medias but it’s been a real whirlwind figuratively and literately. The Mistral greeted us in Marseille and stayed with us for the first three weeks straight which kept the sky bright blue just like in San Diego .Yes it was cold, freezing temperatures felt like 22F with the windshield but we were prepared for that and to be honest didn’t mind so much because of the bright light and dry air. Surprisingly I haven’t had a sore throat here when I have them all the time in San Diego.

The sweet scent of fresh Mimosa made the house feel like home and the chaos of the first few days melted away…Coming back to a house that has been closed for two years is a challenge but this time around we had heat AND hot water not like January 2020 if you have read the posts about that last trip. So all was fine but the fridge who died a couple of months before with all the freezer content and was thankfully evacuated by my cousin before we arrived.

With the freezing temperatures, the tiny window by the kitchen sink worked as our fridge for the first week. We lived like in the old days , buying what we needed as we needed it. Walking to the farmer’s market and bakery . This is what we had been dreaming about…no more 20 minutes drive to get a good croissant at the French Oven in Scripps Ranch ! The local little supermarket ,the size of a Trader Joes still amazes us by the selection. All this made our daily life much easier despite not having a refrigerator !

My mom’s old car started, we greased the garage door and off we went to the next town where everything is ….we needed a cell phone plan and internet to communicate. As we drove through the countryside we watched a beautiful sunset down on the vineyards. This will be the new normal …

We had gotten our wifi box and needed to prepare before the technician came to hook us up to the fiber which meant drill a hole for the cable. I think a photo will say a thousand words !

Coming into a house absolutely full of my parents things , as well as what we had left before to move , plus my grand parents treasures and junk has its down sides. We have been non stop sorting , cleaning, giving, donating, recycling and trashing 6 to 7 days a week . Our move was set to leave Long Beach on January 7th and arrive in Marseille March 4th . With 6 weeks to go we needed to make room ! Then delays started happening, boat left end of January with new estimated date of arrival for March 12th , then 19 , 23 and as today March 30th we still haven’t received it . That’s when we appreciated arriving in a full house which we can live in. We camp a little but it is comfortable and having more time to get ready was very welcome …a little time to take a breather , do something fun for us , drive around , see some friends , go for hike , research for appliances, bath fixtures, tiles and get Covid the day the container was planned to be delivered . Sometimes I think my mom is watching over us … So as I watch over Pascal and am quarantining, I have time to sit down and write a little …

It is not “Escape to the Chateau” if you have watched that British TV series but “Going back Home” for us. No, my family home is not a Chateau even though it is probably even older than the one in the TV show . It is a Mas de village, a large house where silk worms were raised in the attic at the time . Then my grand parents made it a garage and the facade still bare my name.

No there is no romantic view of rolling hills with lavender fields but this is where I was born and grew up and we will make it work. I have been soaking in all the impressions of these first few days as i am rediscovering my childhood home …here in my bedroom just above my dad’s mechanic shop.

Life as it went down the first months looked like this …

Winter Sunday drive above Nyons where there is no more Mistral !

Opening up the door to the attic …

Lavender field in winter

Back to cleaning up…

And finding my mother’s earrings and dad’s cufflinks in the most unlikely place was unbelievable

Because they went thru wars, our grand parents and parents never trashed anything…plus there were no recycling center or large trash collection like we have now.

When you have to go to Nimes in search of doors and bath fixture….

Love my local flower shop

It starts to feel like spring here too !

Sometimes the most simple things are the best …that ham is seriously The best ! Love my butcher and produce shop across the street !

Le Mont Ventoux from Le Crestet near Vaison la Romaine

Wild violets under a chestnut tree

Lunch with friends in Aix en Provence at Le Grillon

Farmer’s Market beauties

Our door to the garden

Street fair food ! A chichi ( pronounce She-She ) is a French style doughnut , just better 😉 I am a super happy girl !

At the city hall to apply for our French ID card …no more visas, no more immigration paperwork…Going back home is so much easier ! I had a little bit of apprehension, leaving our beautiful life in Southern California, but coming back is just natural, comfortable like I had not though possible…But what makes it so special is that we had left this life so now we appreciate everything like we would never have if we had stayed …

Enjoying Cinema as an Art not just as entertainment .

We loved and enjoyed every minute of our life in San Diego but small village lifestyle is wonderful !

Moving back to France

As the end of the year is fast approaching so is our time to leave …Buying 2 one way tickets to France for January 6th made it very real. This is happening and it is coming up fast . We wanted to thank all of you who were so kind to invite us for a glass of wine or out to dinner; it was very touching but we just never got a minute and are running out of time.

When we closed our business end of September we thought we would have plenty of time to pack and then enjoy a vacation or take a road trip, visit friends in Oregon ….But it took us already 2 weeks to completely empty the shop before we even started at home. As organized as we were, we packed for 2 months straight, until the night before movers came…and then it was the week before Christmas ! This is our very first year not working so we appreciated this time very much … but we miss seeing you all ! Christmas in our shop was always our favorite time ; there were no more boxes to unpack or new displays to move around, just taking care and spending time with our customers. Last Christmas was the most special because we knew it was our last… Covid made it challenging but having only 3 persons maximum allowed us to have real conversations with everyone, no rush handling 12 people at the same time…it was wonderful ! You didn’t know it yet …we could not tell yet but it was a really special Christmas to us . On the night of the 24th ,when I turned the key to the front door and saw people in the street looking at our window lights , decorations and how magical our little place looked like, it hit me like a rock … this had been our last Christmas. I took some chocolates to give to the hard working staff at Cardellino restaurant , they gave me ice-cream and that made me totally melt. I jumped on my bicycle and cried all the way back home my heart full and aching at the same time . Wishing you to have a full heart this Holiday Season 💖🎄✨

Christmas Eve 2020

I will spare you all the details but this move is not just moving from house to house , it is a lot more complicated. Each day was totally overwhelming us. The load of work was huge , so much to consider, to think of, plan …not only before to ship but how we would handle it on the other side when it arrives in France ( and there are still a lot of question marks on that matter ) It was like trying to put together a giant Rubik’s cube which gave us many sleepless nights and anguish mornings. Sorting ,making sure all was well packed, safe from handling, humidity on the long boat ride in winter , possible mice…inventory it all for French customs, file paperwork…. We had saved all the packing material we received for a year, a room full of heavy duty cardboard boxes, bubble wrap in all sizes, foam, heavy crushed paper, rolls of paper…it looked pretty crazy to have that much but 127 Costco boxes later and 30 more cardboard boxes, we had used almost everything!

What ever could not fit in a box would either go in our old VW Bus or in crates we had specifically made. Pascal is rebuilding engines in his spare time… we joked that it would have been much easier if he had been collecting stamps !

Moving day …Friends came to help movers and emptied the storage in 35 minutes !

Max and his guys from San Diego Premium Moving were incredible and we highly recommend them if you ever need movers . They were not only everything we would expect from great professional movers but also upfront, responsive and more than fairly priced. They had come the day before to take care of our furniture, protecting them with cardboard shields, corners we had prepared plus blankets and shrink wrap. But moving those heavy crates was no small task .

Two trucks full later we were heading to the shipper’s warehouse in Long beach…

Looking at Pascal’s mom old bicycle, representing our shop , our reason to move to San Diego , 25 years flash back in a second and an immense feeling of achievement and gratitude filled us up 💖 Our job was done and we felt as light as feathers !

As the guys in LA were helping unload the trucks , Pascal told them it was his stamps collection 😉

I guess we are so organized we fitted a lot in a small 1450sf home with a 2 car garage that had 2 cars in it! But as French, we buy nice things we keep and take away with us so we never had a garage sale. What we would leave behind made many friends happy !

Driving back in LA traffic jam was so different than usual … we felt like we had just landed at LAX and were on vacation in So Cal ! It was incredible and happy . We stopped to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean , hold hands , kiss to a beautiful day and celebrated with a wonderful dinner at Campfire in Carlsbad …Enjoying California life !

You have asked us if we were opening up a store in France. Answer is “not for now “, maybe when we turn 75 and do not want to travel anymore, just open the door of what once was my dad’s car showroom and socialize with clients , have a shop dog to greet people , close when we want to take a few days off , 2 hours for lunch plus 1 more hour for a nap! So we are not sure what we will be doing after renovating our house…maybe write a book “Back in Provence” ( hopefully things have improved since Peter Mayle wrote his story and speaking French should help too ) But if you want to know please follow this blog !

Here is my family home with my grand parents and my dad in the front . Not much has changed

No, it does not have a view of rolling hills but a nice private garden just big enough to enjoy gardening and grow our own vegetables, space to spread , a barn for future projects and best of all a couple of bakeries, farmer’s market at walking distance !

Turning the page on 2021… 2022 Here we come !

Wishing you all the best for this new hopeful year !

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The history of this little house

This corner of Mission Hills will change in a near future, so to close this chapter of history, I wanted to share all the photos and stories we gathered about this little red house we rented and loved for the past 25 years .

Our clients called it “The little French shop” or “The French shop ” some kids “The Red shop ” but in fact it wasn’t always red actually … Here is a stunning photo of how this corner looked like back at the beginning when this house was built in 1920 .

At that time the house was divided into two duplex . One entrance on Fort Stockton and one on Goldfinch . We still had the two addresses and two electric meters. This is why there were also two fireplaces in the shop all open into one large space … just in case you had be wondering !

Mission Hills was a quiet residential neighborhood. We met one of the member of the first family who lived there and she brought us a photo taken in front of the Goldfinch entrance .

Jacqueline and Dorothy Griswold’s grand parents Olive and Perry D Griswold are here in front sitting on the chairs. On the left is Nellie Griswold.

Just about a month ago, I received an incredible email . Jillian had been doing some ancestry research and recently found the address of his family’s home in San Diego . When he put it in google maps, he found out the house still existed and was our store!

Here is Jillian family story : “My Great Great Grandparents Steve and Dollie lived on the Goldfinch side ( here pictured with their 3 youngest children) while my great grandparents Harold and Wilma lived in the other duplex on the Fort Stockton side with my grandfather Bob and his 3 siblings. I’m fairly sure they lived there from the late 30’s to the early 50’s ”

Steve and Dollie lived in Missouri and Iowa in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, where Steve was a farmer and Railroad worker. Family lore says that Dollie and her family traveled in a covered wagon across the west. They were in their 60’s when they moved to San Diego with their son Harold and his wife Wilma. Harold worked as an aircraft welder and served in the Army Air Corps from 1945-1946. Wilma loved to ride her bike around San Diego and Balboa Park.
Their oldest son, my grandfather Bob, met my grandmother on a blind date in San Diego, and after they were married, they moved, along with Harold and Wilma, to Los Gatos CA where they ran a successful Auto Body shop! Our family has lived in ‘Silicon Valley’ since then “

Steve and Dollie with their 3 youngest children on Goldfinch street

That is an amazing picture Harold and Wilma on Fort Stockton Drive ! I wish the palm tree was still there. Thank you Jillian for sharing your family story,making this puzzle complete .

Then the house became a business : A Pet Shop. We heard many stories about it as people remembered a cage with a monkey named Josephine outside at the corner ! We never seen any photos but those would be something .

Our landlords Albert and Carol Regis bought the Pet shop in 1961 when they moved from Milwaukee. They ran it until they finally retired in spring of 1995. Their story was somehow similar to ours . They wanted to change careers, had packed everything they owned and moved to San Diego to start this new life and a business they loved as they were so passionate by animals. They were selling birds, a lot of birds. Our storage room was an entire bird cage and the back yard was totally filled with allow bird seeds . They had fishes ( we found the tank on the fireplace ) , horse meat and were grooming too ! They were living in the back of the shop for a few years when they started before to buy a house in Alpine where they lived until they passed away a few years ago .

When we came to look for a location for our shop back in December of 1995 , we had looked in Solana Beach on Cedros and in Del Mar too but our heart was set on this house . Our concept was to have the shop in a house and this looked just what we had imagined back in France before to even put a foot here . On some mail that was inside the shop we could read the name of the owners and a newly made friend helped us contact the Regis . We met and our story of packing our life to start a new career to do something we loved doing together resonate with them . After keeping this place closed since they had retired , they offered us to rent it , telling us we should live in the back just like they did to save money at the beginning . And just like that we became the new tenants of the old Mission Hills Pet shop.

Thank you Robert for sharing these photos and newspaper articles with us
Our fist Dollar , keys with Mission Hills Pet key chain and an envelop with bird tags in it

Our dear client and local resident Molly use to work at the Pet shop. She shared many stories with us as well . Thanks for being part of our story too !

Molly how came to say good bye on our very last days at the shop .

December 1995 , we did not have a lease yet but we did shake hands and with these folks it was just as good. We had faith , trust and a good feeling that all would be OK …and all went well until we too were retiring closing the story of this little red house at the corner !

Some have stories about the people who lived here or worked at the Pet shop…we hope we have inspired you and filled your memory with stories of when we use to have our little slice of Provence right here at the entrance of Mission Hills .

Last summer 2021 , our hydrangeas really made us proud !

Next post will be more history ; this time about the house we are moving to in Provence …my great grand parent’s home ! Please follow this blog to receive an email when a new post in up !

Our last day …

Sometimes that summer of 2019 , we decided to take the journey back to Provence . We had called San Diego home for the past 25 years but it was time now to go back HOME . Our decision had nothing to do with Covid. Thanks to all the support, we did more than just weather this pandemic through , we did very well and the shop have never done better !

Since we made that news public at the end of July, we received an incredible amount of kind messages and so much love , it really touched us. We had put all our heart and soul into our ” little French shop” and realized just then how deeply it had impacted people and so many of you ! This has been an amazing adventure …not without some tough times but we always made it thru with dedication , hard work and the support from all our loyal customers , become friends , become family . We will miss all of you very much and have fond memories of all the stories we shared . We are forever grateful for this incredible experience, for all that we learned , the people we met , the lifelong friendships we made and everything we accomplished . We’ll never be the same and now can move back to France with a whole new set of eyes and a new appreciation for what we had left . We lived our California dream and now are living the American dream of retiring to Provence. How lucky are we !!!

Saturday September 25th 2021 , we closed the page of a fantastic book. We tried to keep the shop alive but in the end we could not work out the sale of our business and have closed it down now .

Nevertheless, we will still be posting from Provence on this blog , so please enter your email address and follow us ! ( on a phone or tablet : go to “about us” on the menu and scroll down to find the white box and follow button OR on a computer it shows on the right )

In January 2022, we’ll move back to the house where I grew up. The village has now double in size to reach 2400 people !! It will be a big change but we are looking forward to the slower pace of life of a small country town outside of Avignon.

We are going Home but San Diego will always be our home away from home !

Marielle & Pascal Giai

December 1995 …we were renting the old Mission Hills Pet Store
September 25th 2021

For the love of Hydrangeas

We are very proud of our hydrangeas which we started from just a few clippings from our neighbor Bill !

It is no secret that they are the show stopper of Mission Hills …but this year they are going for the world record ! The height of our bush and size of the flowers that already came out predict that in a few days it will be a spectacle ! This mild winter , we didn’t trim them back as usual and they are loving all this gray and gloomy weather we are having here . Don’t miss it and come by before the summer’s heat fry them . Photo from May 19th and June 19th 2021

Blooming explosion about to happen !
That “blue hydrangeas” feed from Mission Hills Nursery made for some really unique colors

July 1st

July 8th

Styling the best Provencal party !

Back when we first opened our shop, we had yet to learn about So Cal life style …and adapt to it which took us years . We had no concept of couch TV dinners , buckets of fried chicken take out , drive through lunches . No matter what day of the week , it would not even cross our mind not to set up a table for dinner …we wouldn’t put up grandma antique silver and fine gold trimmed Limoges china but it would definitely be sit down , with a tablecloth and napkins . Do I have to specify cloth napkins ? Yes cloth not paper napkins …yes every day and actually lunch and dinner !

When we entertained, then we actually made an effort to coordinate the linens , the flowers and the food, all with effortless refined style : it’s what Provence is all about , this country casual elegance and we wanted to share this with our clients by importing the nicest earthenware from Uzes ( not only hand made but dipped in the glaze by hand, giving it this rich thickness and uneven subtle tones ) , exceptional cutlery by master Laguiole craftsman and hand blown glasses from Biot . The latest trend was to use a “boutis ” a thin quilt as a tablecloth for a rustic look . We were hunting flea markets to bring back antique linen napkins which I was dyeing in colors to match our bubbled glasses or tablecloths . It looked romantic , chic yet country . Of course none of these dishes and glasses were dishwasher safe, the linen napkins had to be ironed and these were 2 concepts we realized quickly did not fit SoCal lifestyle too well …

Here , I had layered the quilt over an antique linen sheet and dyed the antique tablecloth in burgundy to match the plates and quilt
Antique linen napkins dyed in pale blue to coordinate with the Biot glasses
Here in mustard yellow just like our traditional Dieulefit plates and wood handle Laguiole cutlery
Sunday table on a beautiful quilted tablecloth from Souleiado topped with a sheer organdi patterned cloth from Blanc d’Ivoire

But to most people in San Diego this was way more formal than their most formal setting…until one day a client came in and just LOVED my table setting . She understood its casual elegance … and nobody had done this here before ! She asked me to style her party and I was ecstatic !

It was going to be a special dinner for special guests and Lynn wanted to give them an authentic Provencal experience . Not only we had to supply all the table setting pieces and style the table but she wanted me to consult with her team of lighting people from Hollywood , the florist and chef to make sure even the flowers and menu would be authentic . This was very intimidating and with my poor English I wasn’t sure I could communicate my ideas properly but nevertheless it happened . It was the most magical evening and I bet memorable for the lucky 12 guests .

Last briefing with master chef Andrew Spurgin , last touch up before guests arrived to the Fairbanks Ranch Country club by hot air balloons …

It was going to be a candle lit dinner; the chandelier was covered with fresh aromatic rosemary and flowers were simple lavender bundles.

It’s show time ! Lynn had asked me to welcome her guests … I guess I was part of the authenticity of the party , but mainly I realize she wanted them to understand how special this dinner was going to be without being over the top opulent in every way . While they were eating , we hung back in the outdoor kitchen tent set up for the occasion . The food was spectacular and this evening will forever be in our memories as our first big gig .

Bread baskets were pieces of art , hand woven earthenware decorated with tiny flowers ; the antique silverware was not as ornate as Lynn’s personal sterling, it just had a little motif on the back as we set them facing down in France . You would normally not display the cutlery on the plates as I did but we wanted to really showcase them , in particular the knives that were special ordered from Laguiole . The solid horn handles were a rare light color not the most common mixed marbled tones . It was more elegant and blended so well with the color palette of Celadon greys . I had hand written the menus scrolls and place cards .

The whole look was to mix : white and cream to show the scalloped edge plates, cream and celadon pieces to accent like the cicadas napkin rings and pitcher . Compared to American standard, everything was a scale down specially the glasses were true French size were you serve ice cold water without a tone of ice cubes.

The fun story behind this event is something personal I never shared before …In France we always were considered to be “Originaux ” original , uncommon, who never do what’s normal or expected, a bit odd in a weird or positive way ?! I guess we kind of are … For example when we moved to San Diego, we needed to buy a car but Pascal had left behind in France his beloved vintage car so instead of buying a regular car he spotted a 1954 Porsche 356 at a great price . He would need to restore it but that is also his passion . Next thing you know he shook hands and we owned it. Obviously the paint was so bad we could step on the roof no problem and the original 1954 interior was pretty shabby ! We nicknamed her “the tomato ” and did everything with her : transformed it into a jungle on nursery trips, bought a lawn mover and made it fit inside , groceries AND business meetings….

That’s when the 2 stories come together . I had to meet with Lynn and all those Hollywood professionals in Rancho Santa Fe . So I dressed for my business meeting and went …in my “Tomato”. Only problem was , she would never start again when it was time to leave and I had to ask the same Hollywood people to push me to jump start my funky car !

Before you knew it , it was July and we wanted to throw a Bastille day Party for all those new friends , neighbors , clients who had helped us during our first few months as San Diegans. I cooked for days : french pâtés, vegetable terrines , quiches, tarts… It was a Sunday afternoon ; we took all the chairs we had in the shop out in the front yard as well as small tables and picnic blankets.

Our friend Chris looking so French with our old bicycle !

What we had not expected was that anybody walking around that day would come inside our little back apartment , checking every room , eating all the food I had prepared thinking this was an other Sunday Open House !

I hope you enjoyed these never before told stories behind our very first year in San Diego ! If you do not follow our blog yet , please click on the follow button so you will be notified when I post a new story .

The beginning

It was 1996 …The year we opened Maison en Provence …The years of Maison Cote Sud , the magazine we were selling which was the biggest influence on our concept . Of course being from Provence we could not have it any other way . Everything had to represent the beautiful craftsmanship, the warm light , bright colors , and wonderful scents that make the South of France . We wanted to bring the best from home here for people to discover, enjoy and appreciate . More than just products it was about sharing the Art de Vivre a la Francaise and be authentic ! Going down memory lane with the following photos of us and some of our favorite displays !

Pottery from the finest ceramists from all over Provence were represented …even the more basic from the Languedoc as well as the striped thick linens from the Basque region . One of my favorite display we did with the knives from Laguiole, Nontron and Opinel was with big loaves of bread from Bread and Cie . I was already doing all my tags by hand to give an old fashion style.

The other side of the concept was about all things that dress up a Bastide ( a large bourgeois Mansion in comparison to a Farm House ) less country rustic and more elegant like these slip covered chairs , Souleiado tablecloths , painted furniture and hand stitched quilts from Blanc d’Ivoire .

During our months of preparation we had met Phyllis Van Doren the Editor of San Diego Home and Garden Magazine where we were going to advertise to get the word out We have been friends ever since . She understood and appreciated everything we were doing and there were nothing like it in San Diego ! This was the first editorial she did on us when we first opened . Merci Phyllis !

But the style wasn’t stopping there …we were living it at home too ! Home then was just at the back of the shop. Some of you may have known that we were living in the back but never actually stepped in our Doll House Apartment. The access door is now actually hidden by the kitchen towel display . It was very convenient specially to work with France early morning making phone calls and faxing orders ; remember the days before this thing called the Internet !? The previous owners of The Pet Shop had also been living in the back and we had planned to do the same . Here are the non staged or styled photos of our little home .

The kitchen is still now our break room …just behind the children section which was our living room

Our bedroom was all about antique embroidered linen sheets …a very romantic look . We were also working with someone local who was making wrought iron lamps and head boards we designed and refinish ourselves to look as old as the antique day beds we were importing from Provence .

My passion for antique linens is still here but I do not have the time anymore to sew aprons using vintage lace , monogrammed linen sheets or make pillows with antique quilts …

We were selling sets of antique monogrammed napkins , sheets and pillow cases that we were scouting at flea markets all over Provence during our trips back home .

I loved dyeing some of them specially the tablecloths that everyone feared to use if white. Dark burgundy here paired with a quilt draped over an antique sheet for what was the trendiest table setting at the time !

Red and Ocre yellow were not just colors we picked out of the blue ! Not only they are the colors of the Provencal flag but the earth colors found and used everywhere from “Tomettes” tiles to house’s facades and just as a good sign to us the Old Pet Shop had always been brick red , a perfect tone that worked with our mustard yellow logo ! With this strong identity we did our first Designer Showcase , introducing San Diegans to our custom made iron pieces , antique sheets transformed in one of a kind drapes …A whole lot of French Laundry and ironing was going on and SoCal laid back life style wasn’t all that ready for it !

At the shop , I was displaying an antique quilted skirt on my 1900 sewing mannequin which I still use today .

On the antique day bed are my pillows as well as lamp shades made from monogrammed antique napkins . This corner was very cozy and what nobody knows is that Pascal’s mum slept there when she was coming to visit us . We put up an antique screen to give her privacy at night and by 10 am everything had been aired up and put together just like this ! One night though , she experienced an earthquake …the daybed being on wheels was rocking back and forth and all the pottery on the shelves were singing . Nothing broke or fall but she had got more than she bargained for that year !

An other showcase house in Coronado done all in grays way beyond the trend .

A few more Editorials helped us put Maison en Provence San Diego on the map !

If you enjoy our stories , follow the blog so you will get a notification . Next I will share our very first Bastille Day and the most amazing private event design we have been involved with .

It has been 25 Years !

2021 will be the Year we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of our shop ! Throughout the year we will share with you some stories and never before seen photos : Our first “Big Gig” , first “Bastille Day”, Special Events … Looking back we should have written a book called “A year in California”, maybe with French people this would have been a hit like “A year in Provence” had been !

December 1995, it’s when we sealed our future …our California dream was about to start, right here in Mission Hills. We were renting the “Old Pet Store” ! (and still use today its original key chain as a matter of fact )

Back in Provence, in our little village of Saint Roman de Malegarde, it was now February 1996. We took a few last photos with Pascal’s mom’s old bicycle. It could not fit in our container but we would still take it with us on the flight to our new life .

You have asked us why did we choose San Diego over Provence ? Yes , for the unbeatable weather, the California sunsets, beaches, laid back lifestyle… but really at that time we needed to change careers. We had been suffering from being apart as I was constantly away to work . I was done with modeling, dieting, traveling and Pascal wasn’t taking well the stress and pressure of being a fashion photographer in the sportswear and jeanswear industry. After 10 years of this life, what we wanted now was to work together, be together 24/7. The idea of having our own shop was starting to germinate .

We had come to San Diego on vacation in February 1992 and had easily fallen in love with this place. It was way bigger than where we were from ( our village of 100 people is 45 minutes from Avignon ) , San Diego had more opportunities for us but was not as scary as other big cities like NY, LA or San Francisco. It had all the conveniences of a large city without the compactness or traffic. Coming from the rolling hills of Provence, it looked like we could adapt here. We could close our shop after a day’s work and drive to Ocean Beach to catch the sunset without thinking of traffic or parking. This was the “Dream” and still is today ! What we didn’t know then was how open and kind people were going to be. We were welcomed like we could never have imagined and the friends we made that first year became our family…

img604.jpg
March 1996…we had just emptied our warehouse in Provence and filled up a 40′ container of goods to ship to San Diego…Taking that big lip of faith that changed our life !
We had dreamed of opening up our own shop in California, prepared for a couple of years and we were actually doing it ! 2021 is a special year as we are looking back at what we have achieved during the past 25 years .

img654.jpgIt is hard to imagine what a 40′ container load looks like  ! We measured everything, made a map of our container “puzzle”,  planned how to load all the palettes and boxes, but with the rest of bulk things it was still hard to figure out if it would all fit in …

img656.jpgPascal closing up our boxes and with some help we got it ready to go just in time…

img655.jpgIt’s the big day… the container is coming this morning . We’ll have only 2 hours to load !!!  Pascal with his mum and childhood friend Michel who is going to give us a big hand.

Pascal and his brother looking at the last pieces being loaded. The truck driver thought it would never fit… but it did !

img605.jpgOnce our container left and only after we had the receipt that it had actually shipped out we could apply for our visas …what a stress ! With our suitcase ready to go, we had to wait… A week later with our brand new investor visas in our passports we were buying flight tickets for San Diego leaving the next day ! Here we are in Marseille airport with Pascal’s mom and the big box containing her old bike. We have been displaying it in front of the shop everyday since !

img607.jpg The neighborhood as it was in 1996

img610.jpgMonet’s Bouquet flower shop across the street with Marty and Betty .

img608.jpg“A la Francaise ” , the French Bakery behind the flower shop…it was a small French corner !

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 We have about a month before we get the big delivery so we are not wasting time !

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img623.jpgWith Erick our painter and friend since

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img626.jpgBy the end of March we were ready

img628.jpgThe second Big Day : April 5th…our container has made it across oceans…. same drill : 2 hours to unload everything ! Our new friends are all here to help us out 🙂

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Erick our painter handling the forkliftimg631.jpg

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Our neighbor Bill checking it all out . Is this the most exciting thing that happened in this corner or what !?!

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The boys : Pascal , Erick , Karl , Keith and Kecho ! What an experience for all of us…

 

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It sounded like a great idea to promote our shop at the “Spring Home and Garden Show” in Del Mar …but we had not been to the show before so we had no idea it would be more of a home improvement show than a decorating show . Nevertheless, we rented a truck and headed to Del Mar ! We set up our booth, gave some business cards and made our very first American Dollar here ! img646.jpg

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img644.jpgThe “Grand Opening” …. What is a Grand Opening ??? We are opening yes …this week yes … so this is just the “soft opening”. That was one of the many cultural differences, concepts that were totally foreign to us a the time …That Tuesday after the Del Mar show we opened our doors !

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img648.jpgIt wasn’t a Grand Opening and we never actually did one… We got so busy !! First clients , neighbors …everybody came ! Our shop was buzzing and we were exhausted but so happy 🙂  We were struggling with our very poor English but it didn’t seam to matter to people.  One thing we will never forget is the warm welcome we got from the entire community. All Mission Hills came in , the neighbors brought us some French wine, Champagne, food …we had never seen that …that’s what we liked so much about the cultural differences !

img649.jpgWe sure are in California ! This is one of my all time favorite photo of  Pascal and neighbor Bill who gave me my very first hydrangea’s clippings and taught me how to grow them …see what happened next ! Now the whole side of the shop is a giant hydrangea bush . I am sure Bill will be happy that I continued his legacy….

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We were wondering why people kept calling us to make a reservation for dinner ….but at that time we were having our lunch on the front porch like true French people : sit down , tablecloth ….

More stories to come …

Macarons just like Angelina’s

I discovered Angelina back in the days when I was modeling and use to spend my days just a couple of yards away from this landmark Parisian Patisserie . You may have heard of their hot chocolate …so creamy and delicious ; Alice and I were lucky to hold a hot cup of this deliciousness just last January (check past travel posts about Paris for all the yummy details ) but what I loved the best was their XL macarons : chocolate , coffee cream , pistachio crunch , caramel … unfortunately they have stopped making this XL size and only offer mini cute one bite macarons just like everybody else . https://angelina-paris.fr/en/

Not only the XL size is way more delicious “en bouche” , a better balance of flavors and texture , crunchiness and smoothness but it is way easier to make at home !!! Making perfect La Duree powdered colored macarons require some experience and a few trials even for a seasoned baker but this is my easy way to seriously delicious , melt in your mouth macarons !

( fun facts : Macarons are gluten free , pronounced mac-a-rohn not macaroon ….macaroons are coconut type of cookies , a totally different thing and not gluten free )

First trick : I only make them in one flavor , Chocolate . Yes because everybody loves chocolate but also because it is much more forgiving if your oven heat circulation color them brown a bit more in the back or sides …no matter what , they will be brown not pink with brownish sides ! I tried the pink , the white …even with my convection oven , I always got into troubles ! So chocolate it is !

For the macarons shells: 1 pound /450 gr of powdered sugar , 2 cups /200 gr of almond meal , 6 tbs /40 gr unsweetened cocoa powder , 3/4 cup / 200 ml egg whites ( about 6 larges ) Measure to be precise , a batter too liquid will not work .

Sift Powder sugar , cocoa and almond flour together to obtain a fine powder . You may have to do it a couple of times or blend in a food processor if you are using a more coarse almond meal . The finer the better . If you only do it once like I did …you will have a slightly less smooth shell but that won’t change the taste or result .

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff . Fold in the flour mix gently little by little making sure to have an even brown mixture . The batter should be pretty thick not to spread thin on the baking sheets . Spoon the batter into a Ziploc bag and refrigerate until ready to pipe .

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and draw 15 circles 2 1/2″ diameter . Cut a corner of the ziploc bag and pipe the batter onto each circles as evenly as possible .

Let rest 5-10 minutes before to put in the oven preheated to 400F

I can bake the 2 sheets at the same time , side by side , but if this do not fit in your oven then bake them one at a time . Do not stack them as this would not make then cook evenly .They should be firm to touch and dry and cracked on top . About 10 minutes in my convection oven . It goes fast and you may have to turn the sheets once to avoid over coloring on one side . Slide parchment on work surface to stop cooking and allow to cool down . Mine are far from picture perfect but once put together and in your mouth , you’ll forget all about that perfect round circle !

While the shells are cooking , prepare the ganache : 3/4 cup /200ml whole milk or half and half or cream , 5 Tbs /70 gr unsalted butter , 8 oz /235 gr semisweet chocolate ( not unsweetened) Using a good dark chocolate is key . I like dark Belgian chocolate from Trader Joes or Valrhona best . Chop the chocolate in small pieces . Bring the milk and butter to a simmer . Remove from the heat and ad the chocolate . Whisk until melted and smooth . Transfer to a small bowl and let cool . I keep mixing once in a while to check the texture . You want it firm enough not to spread on the baked cookies but not too firm and hard already . By the time your shells are cooked and cooled it should be the right texture for the ganache .

Now trick 2 : I spread a layer of jam on each side of the shells …sometimes I also ad some more in a nest at the center of the ganache . To make 2 flavors , I do some with seedless raspberry jam available in our shop ( seedless is important ) and orange which I flavor with some Grand Marnier …because …why not ! Spoon the chocolate ganache and press each side of the shells to allow the cream to spread all the way to the sides .

Trick 3 : That is the most important one ! DO NOT EAT the same day you make them . These would be too dry and crunchy . Allow them the rest and soak up some of the ganache moisture so they will be crunchy on the outside but moist and smooth in the center . Cover with aluminum foil and keep in a cool place but do not refrigerate ( that is too much moisture and will kill the shell ) Next day is heaven ! 3rd day is still good but the shell starts to soften . You can freeze these too . But it does not get better than home made XL second day macarons !

I serve them with fresh raspberries or with a couple of candied orange rind I had made with oranges from our yard

Gift ideas !

This year is a bit different to say the least … To help you check all those on your shopping list , we have put together some gift ideas which of course you can always modify . You are welcome to order any of these by email or text and we can prepare it for you to pick up or ship . This can also give you an idea of what we have right now before you come to shop and minimize your time inside the shop. If you cannot come in person , we offer Facetime video chats too !

Lavender pampering gift box : $124

Olive oil body care from my favorite brand Ode here in Citrus , can be made in rose and lavender as well $139.50

Men’s gift box with his Mistral favorites in Cedarwood marine . Also available in Black amber , bourbon vanilla $ 129.95

Our washable paper bags from Tuscany can be used as a bread basket , cache pot , fruit bowl and make a great gift basket ! from $22 to $32

Natural gift paper bag : Vetiver sage soy candle , citrus hand spray , Olive wood Marseille soap hand wash, set of 4 linen napkins $138.50

Aubergine and lavender paper bag gift : Cypress lavender candle and essential oil , lavender balm , set of 4 linen napkins $148

Pampering paper bag gift : Linen and silk relaxing lavender sachet, bath salts, shower gel , body brush and hand cream $138.50

Specialties from Provence Gift box : Lavender Honey , lavender honey nougat , calissons from Aix en Provence , orange blossom Flavigny candies , Bee kitchen towel , lavender/chamomile herbal tea and box of shortbread cookies $94

Masks from Valentine $25

Set of 4 perfumes soaps from Fragonard $27.50

Coated damask Apron from Garnier Thiebaut $74 and Cook book $37.50

IMG_1891(Edited) (Large)Poppies and coffee : Towel by our friend French artist Valentine , silk screened by hand using  natural dyes 100% cotton $22.50 ,  ” A coffee please ” mug $16.25 , Milk frother by Cookut ( no longer available )  All you need to know to bake your own delicious madeleines at home Book $19.95 , Butter cookies made in Brittany $5.95 each This gift $70 ( without the frother )

IMG_2468 (Large)Romantic picnic set : Make a chocolate fondue on a picnic or at home with a tea light candle $25 . Dip strawberries or marshmallows and have fun ! Melamine plates set of 4  $37.50 ( many patterns available )  . Colored through taper candles from Bougie la Francaise do not drip or smoke . Each candle burn 10 hours , pack of 4 $16 . Use this towel as a tablecloth , made by our friend French artist Valentine , silk screened by hand using  natural dyes 100% cotton $22.50 . Carry it all in one of our net bag made in France since 1860  $ 18.75. Total $119.75

IMG_2424 (Large)Switch for an other towel or bag if you’d like

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Vacances en France : A few things to make you feel like you were in Paris or on the French Riviera right now . Tissages de l’Ouest towels $20 and $18 ( let them soak in cold water over night and wash once before the first use to make sure they become soft and absorbent )  bag $24 , Sticky notes $15 , French Cafe music CD $18.75 , Paris tea ,a blend of black teas with floral and citrus flavors with a hit of vanilla $11 , Butter cookies with caramel $5.95 ,  Comptoir du cacao chocolate 72% dark $7.75 . Mug $16.25 . Total $136.75

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Balade a Paris Gift basket : Fill up a traditional net bag from Filt ( Made in France since 1860 ) $18.75 Towel from Tissage de l’Ouest $20 , set of 4 Bougies la Francaise $16 , St Michel butter cookies in Eiffel Tower tin $19.50 , The New Parisienne book $ 29.95 Ad a card for $5.75  Total this gift $109.95

Market baskets with leather handles : Short round handles $45.50 or long flat shoulder handles $42.50 . Pack them up with goodies for a special celebration . Pick a card from us and let me do the calligraphy note on your behalf making it more personal .

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Making baskets for any celebration and budget . This basket $280
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Flat shoulder straps basket $42.50
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Lavender for foodies : We carry lavender everything but our most special products must be the lavender honey rich in flavor , creamy and the soft nougat also made with lavender honey we both get from Provence ( 8.8 oz $ 17.55  and 3.5oz $10.95 ) I use the lavender honey to sweeten roasted apricots or drizzle over a nectarine tart in summer ( make a search in the recipe tab ) but it also very good with the Camomille /lavender herbal tea from Harney and Sons 20 tea bags in tin jar $11 , Apricot/lavender jam $12 , culinary lavender to sprinkle over cookie frosting  $10 , Lavender syrup $17.95 , Lavender towel $27.50 , Mini hand cream $8.50 , Dried lavender $18.95  This gift $134.00

French Towels  $20 

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Drink like the French ! the new book from David Lebovitz $ 28 , L’apero towel $20 , Bee flute glasses $12.50 each , Bird bottle opener $9.50 , Set of 6 assorted coasters . Gift $97.50

Drinks and appetizers come together …new ideas for a perfect apero or Happy Hours at home $19.99

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Sunday Dinner : Roast a chicken with herbs of Provence ( $16 bag ) . Rub the herbs over the chicken and infuse the inside using the insert you can fill with broth , lemon juice  making a moist chicken $25 , Fleur de sel from Camargue is the most wonderful finishing salt , crunchy but not very salty $14.95 , Melamine cheese platter $33.75  , set of 4 appetizer plates $37.50 , Fig and walnut confit $9.95 , Merlot jelly$9.95 to pair with cheeses , Branches knives spreaders $8 each , Book on cheeses with everything from cheese etiquette to recipes $37.50  ( this book no longer available but we have new great books that came in this season )   This Gift $199.00

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One of my new favorite book of the season ! French with a twist , easy everyday recipes $37.50

IMG_1848 (Large)Bleu Blanc Rouge : “I am missing Paris “ bag ( $18.75 ) filled with dark chocolate Crepes Gavottes $5.95 , Alibabette Journal $11.95 , New Fragonard scent of the year soap Magnolia $11.50 , Provence Hand Cream $8.50  This Filt Bag is $56.65

You can always ad more cookies ! All made in France and delicious $5.95 each

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Ad Cocktail napkins of your choice for $6.50

83852F93-ED34-4345-B1EC-C039AF5A3382IMG_1799 (Large)Gardener’s care gift :  Ode Olive oil Balm is great on dry feet, elbows , cuticle and hands who have been doing some gardening  $22 , pair with a hand brush from Andre Jardin , Ash wood ~ all natural fibers ~ Made in France  $16.25 , Sonoma Hand cream is rich but not oily , perfect day time treatment $ 22.50

IMG_1950 (Large)Lavender ( all natural essential oils ) : linen heart  lavender sachet $22.50 , Shower gel $24 , Hand cream $25 , Bath Salts $18 , Maison Louis Marie Candle $35   This Gift $124.50 IMG_1956 (Large)Natural and Earthy gift set with entirely natural fragrances made with pure essential oils in Vetiver/sage with notes of Bergamote : Room Spray $15 , Soy wax candle $27.50 , Our all time favorite natural liquid hand soap from Marseille in Olive wood scent $22 , Small embroidered pouch $15 , Set of 4 heavy linen napkins  $49  This Gift $128.50IMG_1806 (Large)Lavender Sachets : Linen and silk Pillow insert $33, Drawer liner $38, hanger sachet $22, set of 3 linen sachets $33 , set of 3 silk sachets $23.75 , Sachets by the yard roll $29.75

Mix and Match to your liking Soap dish $13 , Hard milled soaps , natural scent from Panier des sens $10.50 , Mistral $11.50

IMG_1813 (Large)Sets of 2 soaps $15 , glass soap dishes $13 , bird dishes $17.50 , purse size hand creams $8.50 , Tin Box set of 3 $27.50  IMG_1809 (Large)Embroidered lavender sachets $18.75, Heart sachet $22.50IMG_1797 (Large)Make your own Lavender gift ! Mistral lavender is more perfumy , Sonoma Lavender is straight forward lavender oil infused , same for Pre de Provence bath salts  $ 17 , Mistral Bath Salts $17 Shower gel $23 , Bubble bath $23 , Sonoma line  water $16.50 , Soy wax candle $12.50  IMG_1856 (2)Fragonard perfumed soaps come with matching soap dish and beautiful box $29.50  ; 6 fragrances available from light floral to citrusy or woodsy .

Match the soap with the eau de Parfum $59

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For the flower lover : my favorite cherry blossom flavored green tea $11  Steep 1 tea bag in 2,5 cups of cold water over night or at least 4 hours for a refreshing flowery drink . This cold brewing process eliminate any risk for bitterness . I always do my ice teas this way even for black tea . Violet syrup also makes for special drinks and cocktail , or just pour some over fruits and yogurt $17.95 , Rose and Violet candies from Flavigny , Made in France since 1591 $5.95 each , cocktail napkins $6.50 , cotton towel from Valentine ,silk screen by hand right here in San Diego $22.50             This package $69.85

IMG_2198 (Large)Lavender hanger sachet ( linen and silk ) $22, Heart shaped  soap $12.50 , Fragonard Eau de parfum Rose Lavender $59 , Purse size hand cream $8.50 , Natural lip balm $9.50 . This gift $111.00 IMG_1808 (Large)Linen and silk rose bud drawer liner  $38

IMG_1770Boxed set of 3 purse size hand creams from la Chatelaine $27.50 , Natural lip balm $9.50 , Alibabette Journal to draw, write and keep all these ideas together $8.50  Total $45.50 IMG_1772La chatelaine boxed set of 3 hand creams $27.50 and an other favorite to take everywhere and specially when traveling Ode Olive oil Body Balm $22

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Ice cream ready kit : All you need to make special ice cream desserts at home , starting with home made whipped cream . Use the jar and the included silicon balls to whip cream in less than a minute  $18.75 ( no longer available unfortunately )  Bee glass bowl $11.50 each , Chestnut spread is delicious with vanilla ice cream , top with whipped cream and shaved chocolate for a “coupe Mont Blanc ” a classic bistro dessert all over France (17.5 oz  $11) , serve with milk chocolate dipped Gavotte cookies ( the crispiest , lightest cookie ever ) Other option is Vanilla ice cream and Griottines Merlot Cherries in Brandy ( not syrup ) a little whipped cream , shaved chocolate and dark chocolate Gavotte and you are in heaven ! Griottines $28.50 , Chocolate 72% dark $7.75 , Rose syrup to mix with drinks or champagne  $17.95  . This gift  $110 ( without the whipped cream shaker )

IMG_1818 (Large)For those who have everything  , gourmet food and consumable are always best : Fill up a basket with our Herbes de Provence $16 , Any jam $12 ( apricot and lavender , sweet orange and orange blossom , also available wild blueberry, wild blackberry, blackcurrant , white fig, black fig , pear and dried apricot with honey ,seedless raspberry ) , lavender honey $17.55 or Orange blossom Honey $ 15.75  , Fleur de sel from Camargue our favorite finishing salt $ 14.95 , Liquid hand soap from Marseille glass pump 16.9floz $27 , Hand or dish towel $26 IMG_1598Garnier Thiebaut towels $26 , Mistral sets of 2 soaps $15

IMG_1803 (Large)We gift bag , we can gift box to ship and we can ship for you too ! Gifting made easy and unique !