Cee’s Flower of the Day #173

I’m off on holiday (again) and this time my photos are going to feature the fabulous flora we saw on our #adventureusa.

Cee’s FOTD Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Cee’s Flower of the Day #172

For the next week or so, my photos are going to feature the fabulous flora we saw on our #adventureusa.

Cee’s FOTD Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Cee’s Flower of the Day #171

While I’m away (again), y photos are going to feature the fabulous flora we saw on our #adventureusa.

Cee’s FOTD Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Cee’s Flower of the Day #170

While we’re sunning ourselves in southern France and Catalunya, my photos are going to feature the fabulous flora we saw on our #adventureusa.

Cee’s FOTD Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Cee’s Flower of the Day #169

I’m off on holiday (again) and this time, while we’re sunning ourselves in France and Spain, my photos are going to feature the fabulous flora we saw on our #adventureusa .

Cee’s FOTD Challenge rules, why not join in?

1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it.  You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.

2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.

  • Single flowers
  • Buds
  • Multiple flowers
  • Bouquet
  • Flower fields
  • Wildflowers
  • Tree or bush blossoms
  • Autumn leaves
  • Spring leaves
  • Decorative Cabbage
  • Berries
  • Still life
  • Fake or Silk Flowers

Musical Monday: Savage Garden

I’m still running with the theme of artists I’ve seen in concert more than once. Today I shine the spotlight on Savage Garden whose track Truly Madly Deeply I’ve previously featured on Song Lyric Sunday. So let’s have a look at some more of their work.

With album sales of over 25 million around the world, Savage Garden are one of the most successful Australian bands of all time. Of course, the duo only ever released two albums – their eponymous 1997 debut and 1999’s Affirmation. In 2001, the band went out at the top, with singer Hayes confirming their breakup following seven years of existence. Here’s one of their 1999 songs: Crash and Burn.

 

The band returned to the promotional circuit, albeit separately, to promote a new best-of compilation. The pair denied that they would ever reform saying that a band is it really is a marriage. In their case the marriage ended in divorce.

People don’t get married by accident and they don’t get divorced by accident.”

The multi-instrumentalist Jones left the band after finding dissatisfaction with the lifestyle. He’s avoided the limelight ever since he stepped away from it in 2001. He’s now based in Las Vegas with his wife and family, flipping houses for a living.

Hayes, who had a brief but relatively successful solo career, has also left music behind. Now based in Los Angeles with his partner, Hayes has found a new creative outlets though he still sees a future for himself in music.

Both seem to have their futures plotted out for them and they don’t give much thought to the past although they still have a lot of respect for one another.

French Fancies: Astier De Villatte

As you know, I love one of a kind ceramics, pottery, candles and glassware particularly those from so-called carefully curated concept stores. Here’s one I’ve more recently discovered and I can honestly say I covet all of their wares!

Chez Astier de Villatte - MilK Decoration

Benoît Astier de Villatte and Ivan Pericoli met while students at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where their taste for still life clashed with the dogma 
of the day that declared figurative art to be dead.

Everyone was wanting to do contemporary art, and we wanted to paint and draw.

Astier de Villatte, Paris - DORÉ

Astier De Villatte create their charming, one of a kind ceramics, pottery, candles and glassware in an antique Bastille workshop in Paris once used by Napoleon. Best known for their exquisite collections of white tableware – ceramic follies that for the most part seem teleported out of an imagined pre-industrial age, or from the decadent tables of a European aristocracy now falling into ruin.

Ceramics | Astier de Villatte

Drawing inspiration from the history of decorative arts, folk art and abandoned objects their team of Tibetan artisan ceramicists create their charming, one-of-a kind ceramics by hand. Using traditional techniques passed down through the generations, everything in their exquisite range is totally unique. Sculpted out of black terracotta, each ceramic is then finished with a milky glaze to emphasise the character and imperfections of the clay. No two Astier de Villatte products are the same.

ARTISTIC PRELUDE / ASTIER DE VILLATTE - Ahimsa Fund

While the pieces are not replicas, their look is loosely informed by tastes of France’s former ruling class. In designing the ceramics, Mr. Pericoli said:

We are inspired by anything from the past, any period, starting from the Neolithic.

The pair choose to work with black terra cotta, a material more common for sculpture, rather than porcelain. In the style of ancient Romans, the clay is pressed into shapes with plaster moulds, then a bright white glaze is applied. Finished ceramics show the artists’ hand in their uneven forms and the faint glimpses of terra cotta peeking through their smooth finish.

Astier De Villatte | Zoumboulakis Galleries

The brand’s ceramics has grown to include all manner of tableware and other decorative pieces like pendant lamps, which are now made by some 70 artisans. While everything is meant to be used, practicality is not a guiding principle.

We like function, but No. 1 is beauty. And if it works, it works.

Astier de Villatte x John Derian Desk Accessories, 2 – Choosing Keeping

The white, minimalist core offerings have been supplemented with more fanciful pieces from collaborations, including with the French sculptor Serena Carone, who has made cups with handles shaped like cocktail rings; the Japanese painter and ceramist Setsuko Klossowska de Rola, who has created a teapot in the form of a pawing cat; and the American decoupage artist John Derian, who sources antique imagery and drawings that are transferred onto pieces such as those pictured above.

Building a lifestyle brand

Astier de Villatte

Four years after they started their line, Mr. Pericoli and Mr. Astier de Villatte opened a flagship store on Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. A second location in that city opened in 2016, and a third opened in Seoul. In addition, their goods are stocked globally in upmarket department and homewares stores, and in their online store.

Astier de Villatte | Paris - Mister Antonio

From the outset, they wanted to stock the stores with notebooks, candles and ceramics from other makers in addition to their own pieces. The two approached a number of companies including Diptyque and Santa Maria Novella, which declined to wholesale their products. So they began to produce an Astier line of paper goods as well as dish soaps, lotions, scents, incenses and candles.

The company’s headquarters in 13th Arrondissement has also expanded to include a lab where their products are formulated.

The founders see few limits as to where the brand might go. Mr Pericoli said:

We could embrace anything — why wouldn’t we do a hotel or a bicycle tomorrow? But no matter what comes next, I think our backbone will always be ceramics.

All images courtesy of Astier De Villatte

Silent Sunday #105

It’s Sunday and my photo is from ma belle France.

The Musette: Chocolate chip brown butter cookies

Cookies are always a crowd-pleaser but how do you take them to the next level? Read on…….Cookies come in an infinite array of flavours and textures and are sure to put a smile on any guests’ faces. Chocolate chip cookies are a classic drop cookie (cookies dropped onto the pan from a spoon or scoop and then baked). These golden, rich, buttery cookies have the sweet contrast of dark bitter chocolate chips. Everyone should know how to make them. I’ve ramped up the original recipe here by browning the butter to give it an added level of rich, nutty flavour.

Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 360g (3 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt salt
  • 225g (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 115g (1/2 cup) light brown sugar
  • 115g (1/2 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 100g (1/2 cup) golden caster sugar
  • 2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g (1 3/4 cups) 70% cocoa bean dark (semi-sweet) chocolate, chopped 

Method

1.Line two baking sheets with greaseproof (parchment) paper or silicone baking mats.

2. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium-size bowl.

3. Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. (Note: Using a light-coloured pan will help you to more easily see the colour of the butter as it browns.) The butter will begin to foam. Stir the butter consistently and cook until it is a dark amber color (darker browned butter is better for baked goods), about 6 minutes. Transfer the butter immediately to a separate bowl to prevent burning. Let it cool for 15 minutes.

4. In a large bowl, combine all the sugars, eggs, vanilla and browned butter. Add the flour mixture in two parts and mix until just combined. Do not overmix your dough. Fold the chocolate chips in gently.

5. Scoop the dough with an ice cream scoop, large cookie scoop or large spoon and drop onto the prepared baking sheet 5 cm (2″) apart. Press down on the cookies lightly to flatten them a little bit.

6. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour on the cookie sheets. (Chilling the cookie dough before baking helps the cookies retain their shape when baked—no more flat cookies.)

7. You can also freeze the dough at this point and pull it out whenever you want cookies! Allow it to thaw on the cookie sheets for 15 minutes before baking.

8. Preheat the oven to 180°C/ fan160°C)/350°F/gas mark.

9. Remove the baking sheets from the refrigerator and sprinkle the cookies lightly with fleur de sel (optional). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until just cooked through. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool, before diving in!

One from the vaults: Surprise, surprise!

As it’s Father’s Day this weekend, I thought I would look back on the last Father’s Day meal my sisters and I enjoyed with him in June 2013. At the time, we didn’t know it would be his and our last.

I generally don’t enjoy surprises, largely because I have my days mapped out well in advance and discovering something at the nth moment means, horror of horrors, I might miss out or be unable to take advantage. Friday afternoon I noticed my sister had sent me a text – she was staying at her holiday flat down the road. My other sister and my Dad had flown over that very morning – she’d been notified by her husband very late the night before. With plans already made and a full week-end in the offing, I invited them around for lunch on Sunday, Father’s Day, my only available slot!

A very busy week-end mitigated against killing the fatted calf, or in my kid sister’s case, the fatted pig. I did however promise a cake for Father’s Day and duly delivered a lemon souffle sponge served with a compote of fresh cherries. On the basis of “never knowingly undercatered” I also baked some white nectarines with almond cream and set out a small cheese platter. The main course was a variety of salads served with tart Provencal or potato tortilla or both all washed down by our favourite beverage – champagne.

As my youngest sister reminded me it was the first time we’d all been together on Father’s Day for many a year. Sunday lunch on Father’s Day had been a bit of a tradition with us choosing to dine en famille at a number of restaurants within easy reach of both London and the Midlands. I admit our favourite had been Le Manoir aux Quatres Saisons.

This was the first time since our move to France in 2005, largely because of my mother had been suffering from Alzheimers than on account of location. I like to think that, while it wouldn’t have won any Michelin stars, Raymond Blanc himself would have been happy to tuck into my light luncheon.

Sunday morning I’d had an early start to go and watch the Regional age-group Championships held in Le Cannet where my friends’ son was competing. The “minimes” race was won by the home team who, not unnaturally, had probably been practising on the route for weeks. The triumphant youngster in question knows only too well that if he approaches the line with my friends’ son, he’ll get beaten in the sprint for the line. He wisely opted to build  a race-winning advantage on the small drag up to the finish on each of the 19 loops. The facial expression of my friends’ son on the podium says it all. He’ll have learnt from his tactical error and won’t allow it to happen again.

Unaccustomed to being on the 2nd step of the podium, he's not a happy bunny
Unaccustomed to being on the 2nd step of the podium, he’s not a happy bunny!

We’re now rushing headlong towards the Tour de France and mid-year – where has the time gone? I’m hoping to profit while the Tour is in our neck of the woods and am planning accordingly. Thereafter I shall be ignoring the glorious sunshine in the afternoons and will remain glued to the action on the big screen. I’ll hopefully be multi-tasking. There is no ironing mountain this year but those drawers need to be tackled. I have ignored them long enough. One of the advantages  – and disadvantages – of having plenty of storage space is that I can keep everything looking “neat and tidy” but am rumbled as soon as anybody opens a drawer or cupboard.