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

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

July 1st

July 8th

See you soon !

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…

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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

A little bit of Japan

November 2019 , almost a year ago …this was our 3rd trip to Japan , the land of my grand parents , a place were I feel like I belong somehow but not quit fit in …literally ! $50 round trip tickets on JAL with our miles , last chance to take a break before the Holiday rush and we were off …Yes this was a time when we could travel freely …

Even the sleeves of my Yukata are way too short on me ! Thankfully because Japanese women have to fold up the kimono at the belt , they are always extra long for that purpose …long enough to cover my legs !

This post is about sharing with you the beautiful work that our friend Yukari makes but since nobody can travel right now , I will give you a little taste of Japan too ! Here in Tokyo on our last day together , Yukari was wearing one of our French scarf with a kimono jacket of her design and I was wearing the vintage Kimono blouse she had just given me … mixing western and Japanese look .

Japan is such a Country of contrast : Ancestral traditions and cutting edge technology , Zen beautiful gardens and organized chaos in the city .

We had been to Kyoto during cherry blossoms season , saw sunrise over Mont Fuji surrounded by red maple trees , visited the mind blowing museum of Itchiku kubota master kimono artist but there is much more to discover , so once again , we rented a car and left Tokyo megalopolis on a rainy late October morning . We just love road trips …the unexpected finds , the local food and with a GPS it really is no trouble at all . Also everybody travel by public transportation so finding parking for a car is super easy everywhere !

Nikko National park was gorgeous and peaceful in the rain

We spent the night in a small Ryokan or traditional Inn near Lake Chuzenji . Kegon Fall was just a short walk away

The next day we drove through the mountains through the most incredible scenery . The narrowest road winding around small lakes, all a wild but perfect Japanese garden .Visions of old traditional drawings were right before our eyes : bamboo forest in the early morning fog , misty waterfalls, autumn colors brightening the rocks . This has been by far our favorite and longest drive in Japan , an amazing 12 hour day . Despite not having photos ( we could not really stop in the middle of this one lane road ) it is the one most vivid in my memory.

Our plan was to drive along the coast of the Sea of Japan .We found similarities with the rugged coast of Oregon and Northern California, but for the food and rice paddies !

The little fishing town of Wajima is actually renowned for its lacquerware . We stroll the morning market to stock up on snacks to eat on the road ( Fuji apples, dried persimmons , roasted chestnuts , dried squid ? ) and go in every single lacquer shop . After looking everywhere in Tokyo , we were searching here for special large ramen bowls which we were lucky to find !

The coast is pounded by strong waves and wind making for a very scenic drive

We drove on the beach and kept going south to Amanohashidate ( I never thought I would remember that name ) a little coastal town just an hour north of Kyoto . In 2018 Amanohashidate bay became sister with Mont St Michel as one of the world’s most beautiful bay ! Amanohashidate ( now you start to remember that name ) roughly translates to “bridge to heaven” and it is said that the sandbar resembles a meandering pathway connecting heaven and earth when it is viewed from the mountains …or a dragon if looking at it upside down from in between your legs 😉

We walked the 3 kilometer sandbar , wrote a wish on the tiny fan , hung it and made a prayer at the temple…

Ine is a traditional fishing village with houses over the water where fisherman can store their boat . Not so many are still actively fishing and the houses are being transformed into inns where people can experience life like in the old days . We wished to have stayed there but this was a Holiday week end and all accommodations had been booked months in advance ( https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-search-results/Ine/ ) Nevertheless we could still experience a special 10 course dinner at Chitose Ryokan’s restaurant. Pascal’s childhood friend Arnaud is a wine broker in Provence and Mr Yamazaki one of his clients . As a lover of France and it’s great wines , Mr Yamazaki’s restaurant offers the best of Japanese local cuisine paired with the best imported French wines …the cuisine has a little fusion as well , mixing Kobe beef with perfect wine sauce , sashimi with olive oil and soy sauce dip …This was a real treat !

Back in Tokyo November 3rd is a public Holiday . It is recognized as a day to celebrate peace and freedom and promote culture. (Although prior to the establishment of this holiday in 1948, November 3 was also a national holiday called Meiji-Setsu commemorating the birthday of Emperor Meij . At the beautiful Meiji Shrine it is a special day to have a wedding and celebrate children age 3, 5 and 7 “Shichigosan” , dressing them up in Kimono ( https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2008/11/11/reference/its-fall-when-kids-in-kimono-fete-7-5-3-rituals/ )

Formal kimonos are black with family crest on each arm and worn for special occasions like weddings . It is so beautiful to see everybody dressed up and makes me want to wear a kimono one day too…but this is a serious big investment even for a Japanese family so I will enjoy looking at all the patterns, accessories and wear my western kimono blouse !

When girls turned 7, parents celebrated the “obitoki” rite, in which their daughters went from using straps to secure their kimono to wearing obi…

That reminded me that in my armoire back in Provence , I have my first kimono with Obi belt as well as books I found when I was cleaning up my teenage bedroom last year …a strange combination of Provence style and Japanese accents . Did I mention my Japanese name is Mariko ?

I had asked my friend Yukari to help me find a Yukata for my mum’s 90th birthday. Yukata are casual cotton kimonos worn during the hot summer months . My mother had wore my grand mother’s one to shreds , it was so special to her and i was determined to find one that she could wear now . But describing it to my friend made me realize it wasn’t going to be that easy , even being in Japan . They do not make that type of very light weight cotton with Shibori tying technique which gives the fabric airiness …we had to look in vintage kimono shops . Third shop , in a bin on the floor were some indigo yukatas. We asked the lady who said they were 80 years old but had never been worn ! This was exactly what my grand mother’s kimono must have looked like brand new … We buy the 2 and have one trimmed guessing the perfect length for her . The joy in my mom’s eyes when she saw her birthday gift was precious…she was over the moon happy ! She knew instantly what it was and what it meant (On the right is my grand mother’s yukata all faded , left the new one at the exact same length )

Shopping for vintage Obi belts with Yukari who makes the clutches we sell in our shop was fantastic ! I could see how difficult it was for her to find ones without defect , stains and she could understand what I was looking for that would appeal to our clients : traditional Japanese yet modern enough that they could use them just to go out to dinner . We picked some obi that she magically transformed into beautiful hand sewn clutches …

You too can have a little bit of Japan as we always have in stock Yukari’s special silk obi clutches. Here is our current selection

Makes a unique gift too !

They can be bright and modern !

Since the day Yukari gave me this beautiful blouse , I had been wanted to bring some in at the shop . I thought of a couple of clients who could be loving these just as much as myself ! Luckily her shipment of clutches and blouses came in just as we could re open our shop in June ! These tunics are made from vintage silk formal kimonos and have the family crest ( the little white sign on each arm ) Yukari undo each kimono and sew the fabric back to match the pattern in order to make the top . It is flattering , light , does not wrinkle ( perfect to travel , have something to dress up if needed ) and fits most body types since you can wear them with or without the belt .

These were the kimonos before the transformation . It is not always easy to imagine the result but you can trust Yukari’s talent and experience to design the outfit featuring the best features of the kimono pattern . Colors that suit you and your style are most important .

Each blouse came with a carefully chosen silk Obijime belt which allow you to wear the tunic with or without it depending on your style . And you do not need to be as tall as me either , you can see how pretty it looks on my friend Hiroko who got one for herself ! I am so happy we sold all 3 blouses already so now we are offering you to choose from Yukari’s kimono collection and have yours made to order !

Length of the tunics is about 29″ . Bust and high hip average size are 40 ” but it can be made up to about 47″ . Below the high hips , the blouse isn’t sewn to give plenty of room around the hips to seat and be comfortable . If you have any question do not hesitate to contact me by email maisonprovence@sbcglobal.net or text message at 619 518 0401 . I will have my own blouse at the shop so you can see how it is made and I am happy to advise and help before you make your decision .

Seeing the whole kimono gives a great idea of what it takes to make the blouse . The ones below do not have the belt option for a looser poncho unique size fit . Even the colorful ones are stunning !

Here are the options !

This is an other of her design I love and wear !

I am most happy to support such talented young women who started making dresses with her mother and love being able to share this with those who appreciate the uniqueness of her work .

Her clothes are timeless !

Lavender wands making

Our early morning drive through the lavender fields last summer seams like far way memories now …

Still I wanted to feel like I was in Provence right now so when I saw fresh lavender for sale , I knew exactly what I was going to do … Lavender wands !

This was the class I wanted to give for many years and was going to do this year since we had planned to be in San Diego in July . We sure have not left but there is no way I can host a class right now with social distancing . So I just did a practice run …I’m rusty …have not made any in years !

These are the last ones my mum had given me and I keep them preciously in between my linens ….they will smell for years to come ! Even last summer , she made a few as this was such a tradition …

My mother taught me how to weave lavender wands as a child …it kept us busy …very busy actually during the hot summer days when we had to stay inside . As a teenager I made some and sold them at my parents gas station . I weaved “bottles” and “baskets” style and now I was going to see if this like riding a bicycle is something you can’t forget !

No I did not bring some baguettes but some fresh lavender …the key ingredient to today’s workshop .

All you need is some rubber bands , thin ribbon, some inspiration and a lot of patience ! Maybe breakfast …and lunch too !! This isn’t a small deal and you have to work while the lavender is pliable or it is a disaster …

First you have to clean and make little bundles , then bend the stems over the flowers without breaking them …the fresher the lavender the better . A day old and you start having troubles !

Now you can start the weaving process making sure your ribbon does not twist, stain, fray …We always made a handle to our bottles these days when my mom’s hands were still agile , twisting 2 color ribbons and sewing a pretty bow .

First one done …two and a half hours later ! But I have not forgotten ! So many memories come back to me of growing up in Provence … Now I want to make a basket . You cannot put this in between your linens but it looks so cute !

Now that my confidence is up , I am going to try something new …2 color ribbons . I need caffeine !! Matcha latte to keep me focused . This is way harder than it looks !

I’m not there yet and my wand is far from the perfection of the ones we buy in Provence and sell at the shop ( left on the picture ) I knew how special they were but now having tried at making one , I have even more appreciation for the work they do .Unfortunately not so many people understand what it is and what it takes to make this; the $35 have been a big issue but it seams so reasonable when you know

 

My last attempt … Christmas in July ! 2 color ribbons is worth the extra work !

Alice and I saw the maker when at the gift show in Paris last January . But I did not place a new order as I have a hard time selling them . It breaks my heart as I want to support this beautiful craftsmanship . We have a few at the shop right now but if you would like to give some as gifts for the Holidays I would consider placing an order if I have enough pre-orders . Send me a message if you do !

Satin, velvet , gold …the options are endless . Weaving the tiny ribbon is crazy long , you go around and it’s like you have not done anything …I cannot imagine how hard it must be to make tiny wands with this . But they do !

I really hope next summer will be the year I finally give that class and that you will be many who want to learn this lost art … they make special gifts !

 

Provence in winter

Dear friends , clients , clients who have known us through all these years , new readers this post is more personal than usual, but this year is not a usual year .  Today we should be flying back from Provence with tons of sunny photos of summer days , lavender fields in bloom and bustling farmers markets loaded with ripe fruits . But this year is not this kind of year . As many of us had to cancel our travels abroad and still have to shelter in place , I will bring you instead the last part of Alice and I trip to France in January …a bit of winter in the middle of summer ! We knew we were lucky to have gone then when Covid 19 hit us …but I did not know yet that this would also be the last time I would be with my mother , celebrating her 90th birthday surrounded by her entire family …the happiest of times … These memories fill my heart with so much love and I am so grateful to have had that time . As France got into a very tight confinement , nursing homes closed down to all visitors and as many other elderly through out the country , my sweet little mom started suffering from the isolation , eat less , lost her grasp on life , lost weight and within an unimaginable 4 weeks she was gone . I cannot lie that not being able to go and be with her hurt a lot until I accepted the circumstances and made the most of the last times I could speak with her and have a beautiful conversation that will stay with me for ever .IMG_0998(Edited) (Large)

Provence was colder than Paris . The Mistral was blowing . We had flown down to Marseille at the end of our day at Maison et Objet Show and by the time we arrived home near Orange it was already 10.30pm …just to realize that the furnace had stopped working some time ago and the radiators were cooling rapidly . We immediately started working to prepare for the next day Birthday Party …Alice decorating , cleaning dishes and glasses while I was hauling wood up to the second floor to feed the fireplace first thing in the morning . We had 20 people coming over !

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Orange Roman Arc de Triomphe at night

 

IMG_0917(Edited) (Large)IMG_1022 (Large)We played Bingo , eat delicious cakes , she opened presents and the 3 of us ended the day by the fire to recover from a busy , exciting day . Tomorrow Monday , I had to find a repair guy for the furnace …Well Monday turned into Tuesday , which turned into Wednesday late afternoon until someone could come and get the heater going again . We survived with an old electric heater , confining ourselves in the kitchen with my mum giving Alice her first cooking classes all in French !  Not only she was learning how to make a proper black truffle omelet but she also was getting a crash course in French ! We laugh , we eat and despite spending most of our time with our wool coats on , we had a great time ….maybe more than Alice was bargaining for but this was real life in Provence , Peter Mayle style more than Patricia Wells style …

Vaison la Romaine is a lovely Roman town as the name say … big enough but not too big   very charming . I took Alice for a little hike up to the castle ruins one afternoon . The cobblestones were slippery , moss was growing everywhere , the light was winter grey just like all the stones …even the local seemed to be hiding !

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Time flies …we drove to Avignon to buy some crepe pans at a big supermarket so i could ship them before to fly back to San Diego and took a quick tour of the city … L’Hotel d’Europe was quiet this time of the year …

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I cooked one last Japanese meal with my mom , packed all the flowers , photos to decorate her room , took the chocolates and cookies left so she could share with her friends at the nursing home , her home away from home . We talked about her next big birthday party when she would turn 100 ; the sky was the limit … One last hug and I was gone once again .  Love you Mom , you’re in my heart , always .

My mom’s favorite legend of the hummingbirds

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Maison & Objet Paris

Can you believe we are on our 8th week of confinement ?!  Things are easing up a bit , our door is open but we still cannot let anybody in and only take orders via phone or text  on my cell ( 619 518 0401 ) Thank you for keeping us alive in this context  ! Mother’s Day was a great day under this new normal ; we are grateful for your support , for having each other  and just being healthy . Taking it a day at a time is all we can do and the best we can do sometimes …

I am taking a break from taking photos of products ( which I will post later to bring you more things that are hiding in here )  so that I can write this post to follow up on our trip to Paris . We thought January was not the best time to go when now looking back we realize how incredibly lucky we’ve been  to have that time , totally unthinkable now …who knows when Maison et Objet will happen again or how ? Well , I am glad I can take you there now !

IMG_3354 (Large)With the strikes going strong , we are lucky to even have a metro to take us to the show…it is packed like rush hour in Tokyo . First day and the world is coming to visit M&O …a scene from the past ?? IMG_3285 (Large)IMG_3287 (Large)IMG_3288 (Large)This show is huge , many gigantic halls well organized in sections and despite not being able to see the end of it , we are planning to see it all in 2 days ! IMG_3441 (Large)

IMG_3431 (Large)We start slow at the Object section where we can find things for our Maison …No matter if we carry the brand already or not , there is always something to discover  . Tissages de l’Ouest is one of the brand we carry and we love to see what’s new !IMG_0943 (Large)

There is a map for “Made in France” and we are following the thread  …

Some ideas are very clever like these drinking straws being actual real straws !IMG_3332 (Large)Some still clever but not for everyone …IMG_3301 (Large)The French stationary line I fell in love with and that we will carry soon …a mix of Rifle paper and “Anthropologie” , a little bohemian “French style” ! IMG_3296 (Large)

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IMG_3295 (Large)Whether we call the trend Bohemian or vintage , prints are everywhere from wall paper to slippers ! We are very tempted to start the trend here too ! IMG_3327 (Edited) (Large)

The new and improved market rolling bag folds so you can carry it easily when on your way to the grocery shop or to store at home or in your car ….and it comes in fun prints bien sur !IMG_3306 (Large)

IMG_3307 (Large)Price was the only issue that was and is still making me hesitate to order some …same for the bow ties ( noeud papillon or “noeud pap” )  that also came in so many prints !

Time for a quick break and for Alice to finally have her first “jambon beurre” sandwich IMG_3329 (Large)Color color color …rich and deep just like we’ve seen at Merci shop the day before ! IMG_0949 (Large)Unfortunately these twin sisters do not want to export yet as they are already too busy with the European market or we would have these already !

 

The original lavender sachet , Made in Provence just like my mom taught me …I use to make and sell mine during the summer at my parent’s gas station . I have been trying to give a class to show how to make these special wands but have a hard time finding enough fresh lavender to buy from the local farms who want to keep their production for their own sales or distillation …maybe this summer ! Let me know if you would like to attend and I will start a list .

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Everything is inspirational …so much creativity ! IMG_0880 (Large)

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Day 2 …we made it again with our suitcases this time as we will fly to Marseille tonight . Air France had a counter at the show where we could check in our bags and avoid hauling them around from the convention center to the airport just 10mns shuttle away . This allowed us to stay at the show until the last minute without stress . IMG_3481 (Large)We are starting with the Metiers d’Art which include artists as well as artisans perpetuating century old traditional crafts like the Anduze vases IMG_3383 (Large)

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Or contemporary expressions of French style

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IMG_3398 (Large)3D frame of Gustave Eiffel in his studio working on a big project …

 

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Taking a quick break before to move to the home section of the show . The trend is very much into 20’s style …small rounded shapes , lots of velvet , brass , funky browns, dusty pinks and copper tones . Every living space has to look like a bar or boudoir , even the contemporary brands like Ligne Roset are showing it . It is not my thing but I can see young hipsters going crazy for it ! IMG_3446 (Large)

On the other side , natural , linen and soft pastels  are still current IMG_3349 (Large)

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Love how creative the displays are …IMG_3434 (Large)Showcasing farm style dishes in matte finish  and muted colors

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Even the traditional cafe chairs are coming in pastels too IMG_3473 (Large)

We cannot resist a little Christian Lacroix inspiration again …IMG_3455 (Large)How cool are these platters !IMG_3457 (Large)

Merci Louis is still for me  THE brand with the most unique style and creativity  keeping a French identity and giving it a twist  “The brand’s concept consists in juggling with the classic style codes of 17th and 18th century France and using them to create contemporary objects ” We carried some of their trompe l’oeil candle holders , whimsical chandeliers , trays, file boxes when they first launched the brand in 2013 IMG_3449 (Large)

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Parchment paper chandelier

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Trompe l’oeil candle holders

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File boxes

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IMG_3423 (Large)Just for Alice … IMG_3420 (Large)IMG_3419 (Large)

IMG_3468 (Large)IMG_3467 (Large)This is the inspiration for a window Alice did after coming back ! It is still up even though the leaves have started to wilt but it reminds me of Paris so I have a hard time giving it up . We might have to do an other fresh one for you to enjoy …soon we hope !IMG_3475 (Large)

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