French Inspiration

Bonjour, mes amies!

I’m not sure why it is, but once the sun starts coming out a little more and I’m able to open the windows in the house, I start feeling a little more….well, French. Is this weird? No, surely not 😉

It creeps in slowly—- listening to the Madeleine Peyroux channel on Pandora….then they’ve got lavender for sale in charming little pails at Trader Joe’s….then finding some great books at the library….it all culminates into a delightful rabbit hole of music and books and inspiration that I have happily fallen down many times in my life, beginning in Beginning French in junior high.

French language and music and culture just make me happy. I was in the 9th grade when I took my first French class, and as it happened all my French teachers were all amazing and dynamic women who really inspired me– and who I remain friends with to this day.

My ‘French name’ all through school was “Juliette”, and like an alter-ego, Juliette was a much cooler, much more Frenchi-fied version of me who had more confidence, a killer accent, and would declare ‘bonjour!’ at any given moment 😉 Even now, I’ll call up to the kids, “Allons-y!” (let’s go!) to much sighing and eye rolling.

The other day at the bookstore I fed my French habit and indulged in a treat of a couple of French inspired magazines— My French Country Home, which is a new publication out by Sharon Santorini (she’s got a great blog) and also French Cottage Style.

In all honesty, I think the French style I enjoy most is the most rustic and country look, with old embroidered linens, lots of white and red (you’ll just have to look at my kitchen to see that my love for that color combo runs deep!) and old crumbly chateaux. I like the ‘chicken in the courtyard’ type vibe and of course lavender— all the lavender!

Yesterday evening (now fully committed to the French vibe, lol) I decided to use a recipe in the cookbook “French Brasserie” by Daniel Galmiche to make standard, homemade crepes. They turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself, but I have a feeling I made them too thick— a batter that was supposed to make 12-15 crepes made about 5 for me. At least I only needed 4 for all of us!

If I’m not trying out a completely traditional French meal, I’ve been at least trying to create meals with a French spirit— meaning using quality ingredients and taking time to savor each meal. One trick I’ve been using is making a fruit and cheese plate at dinners for the whole family to share. I’ve been surprised with how popular it’s been, especially with my 6 year old! And also wine….read wine!

In my reading pile I’ve also got a lot of French stuff going on, including this really fascinating book about a woman who led France’s largest spy network during WWII called “Made Fourcade’s Secret War” by Lynne Olson.

This is the synopsis from the cover:

In 1941 a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a vast intelligence organization—the only woman to serve as a chef de résistance during the war. Strong-willed, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Her group’s name was Alliance, but the Gestapo dubbed it Noah’s Ark because its agents used the names of animals as their aliases. The name Marie-Madeleine chose for herself was Hedgehog: a tough little animal, unthreatening in appearance, that, as a colleague of hers put it, “even a lion would hesitate to bite.”

No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence—including providing American and British military commanders with a 55-foot-long map of the beaches and roads on which the Allies would land on D-Day—as Alliance. The Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including Fourcade’s own lover and many of her key spies. Although Fourcade, the mother of two young children, moved her headquarters every few weeks, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, she was captured twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape—once by slipping naked through the bars of her jail cell—and continued to hold her network together even as it repeatedly threatened to crumble around her.

Now, in this dramatic account of the war that split France in two and forced its people to live side by side with their hated German occupiers, Lynne Olson tells the fascinating story of a woman who stood up for her nation, her fellow citizens, and herself.

I’m also reading a book by one of my favorite podcasters and bloggers, Shannon Ables from The Simply Luxurious Life.” She’s released two books, but this book is the first one and I’ve enjoyed digging into it. The first book is called “Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life, a Modern Woman’s Guide.”

Here is a bit of a description from this book:

“How can you have a rich and fulfilling life? The choices you make, not your income or financial assets, are the most powerful determining factor for your quality of life. Women have never had so many options. Yet we often experience a kind of paralysis, an unconscious willingness to follow societal dictates rather than become the CEOs of our own lives. When we mindlessly follow the dots, we smother our innate gifts and miss opportunities to fulfill our true potential.

“There is another way—choosing to live a simply luxurious life. This book will show you how to invest your time and what to eliminate from your life. It will enable you to: • Design a life of purpose that is aligned with your passions and talents • Become financially independent • Enjoy cultivating a healthy mind and body • Build and maintain strong, loving relationships • Create a chic, timeless signature style • Design a comfortable home that is a true sanctuary • Travel in comfort and style • Discover simple pleasures that make each day something to look forward to.

You can curate the life of your dreams by being purposeful and selective, no matter where you live, your income, or your relationship status. Luxury and true fulfillment are ours for the having if we know where to look and how to make the right choices.”

So far, these both have been wonderful reads, and as Shannon is also a Francophile, I cannot think of her and not think of France as well! Her podcast has also been a companion of many walks and long drives and she feels like an old friend.

I also love that the spy book is about a woman who was, for the most part, an unsung hero of one of the world’s most harrowing conflicts. I think both books compliment each other well— a book about the past that can inform our thoughts on the world today, and a book about making our present and future the best it can be. Both are really inspiring.

And speaking of being inspired….some painting ideas have been rolling around in my mind and I can’t wait to sit down and get out the brushes! I’ve also got some new prints and notecards ordered at my print shop and once they are in, I cant wait to share them with you!

Anyhow, thank you for coming by to visit today! Hope you are well and that you enjoyed a little ramble through my French obsession at the moment. I’m always glad to have you stop by!

Have a wonderful week!~

Take Joy!
H

2 thoughts on “French Inspiration

  1. Ohh, La, La, la belle vie en France!! Votre crepes sont très bien avec les oeufs frais! Well, I am hoping there are not too many awful grammar errors in that sentence effort! LOL!! That spy novel sounds so awesome and I must read it. You know how I have fallen down this rabbit hole about Europe and WWI -WWII the past 3 years. There is so much to learn and read, I am not sure when I will finally emerge. Maybe never! In France, because of it’s age, there is so much history to explore because there are many remnants still standing. One can visit museums and learn about life during the years from 1914-1945 that tell an incredible story of bravery, determination, patriotism, and love of their beloved state. And that was all after Louis XV and the French Revolution! Speaking of the French history, I saw a documentary on George Washington on Presidents weekend on the National Georgraphic Channel that was written and produced by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. One of the best parts was learning about the important friendship between American and the Marquis de Lafayette and the role he played in winning the American Revolution at the battle of Yorktown. Lafayette was also very close to Thomas Jefferson and came to Monticello to support and help Jefferson with the opening night for his beloved new University of Virginia. When he introduced Jefferson at the dinner, he spoke with such admiration and affection that Jefferson cried and his speech to follow had to be delayed a few minutes until he could compose himself. We have deep roots and connections to the French that go way back.

    These new magazines and books that you found sound just perfect for finding inspiration and information and I can’t wait to see what comes out in paint soon!! It is true that French culture is so rich with honoring the simple things like fresh grown foods, coffee at a cafe that includes long conversations with friends. The Cafes are so plentiful and many are still here from the late 1800s and turn of the 20th Century. To be in one of them feels like a privilege. They are always busy and the street life is part of what people want and seek. No matter how small the town, there is always a cafe with a little table and chairs outside with a couple of people talking over a coffee or afternoon glass of wine or beer. It is a way of life and such a fantastic means of taking time to really be with someone and have conversation. The French are very passionate about their point of view!

    May I also suggest you try the croquet monsieur and/or croquet madame. They are basic menu items in many cafes as well as street food by vendors. Easy, delicious, and most likely popular for your children too. With a side salad, they make a delicious lunch or light dinner.

    And pour me a glass of wine and set an extra place beside Bertie because I want to join for un petit diner francais chez Sleightholm!

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    1. merci beaucoup, winnie!!! I know you’ll fully support my french habit! I think you’d really like the spy book. Ive just started and its already very good. one day I’d love to find myself in a french cafe….having a cafe au lait and people watching! Not sure I’ll ever get there, but a girl can dream! 😀 love that story about Jefferson and Lafayette. Lafayette was such a dynamic character!

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