An estimated crowd of 5000 people descended on the Justin Herman Plaza across from San Francisco's Ferry Building July 14 to celebrate the French National Holiday, Bastille Day. Francophones and francophiles mixed and mingled in enjoying freshly made crêpes, seared saucissons (sausages), and the many products from France on display.
The passersby started flooding in around 10 a.m. and stayed until twilight. We closed the day listening to the crowd sing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, and French language versions of many popular songs. Of course, one of the day's favorites were songs by the late French pop singer Johnny Hallyday, sometimes called the French Elvis.
The clients who came by were searching out a bit of home, or just the right size treasure for their tables to add a pop of color and joy to their home foyer. My daughter Morgana and I had a great time speaking French with our visitors, and shared the day with a dear friend, Katharine, who like us spent many years in France before returning to the USA. Nous serons là l'anneée prochaine, we will return next year, to again join in the fun.
The joie de vivre is back in wine country, after the brutal fires of last fall. While recovery is still underway many fire victims now have insurance money with which to replace their lost possessions. When life is simple and one is counting the blessing of simply being alive, often family time over a meal becomes even more precious. I was very touched to hear the stories of near tragedy as my clients described their escapes with minutes to spare. Now that life is normalizing, their focus is on savoring life one day at a time.
Having a well set table goes a long way toward making otherwise cramped temporary quarters seem cozy and home. Houses are being built to replace the old ones burnt and lost, and only time will fully heal the hurts passed. The colorful tablecloths that I sell do their part to keep everyone's spirits high.
It's cold here in early spring, as we complete the Sonoma County Home Show. Rainstorms have beat some of the crowds away. But the bloom of color at my tablecloth stand in the festival hall has been bringing many smiles to passersby, swept back by nostalgia to memories of brighter days in sunny Provence. Many of my clients have visited southern France at some point in their lives or have briefly lived there. For them a Provencal tablecloth is a way of reliving wonderful meals and lingering conversations at the tables of family or friends, or at a romantic restaurant.
But I also encounter the visitor who has never had these experiences but who is taken there by the joy and color of these linens. Might that be you?
Having lived myself in France for a time I never tire sharing these memories with others. Check out your own reaction to my linens at an upcoming fair, or when you open the box with a new order from us here on the website.
When the weather warms here in Northern California, as it did this past weekend, my thoughts turn to spending time outside. So when the Glen Ellen winery BR Cohn invited me to take some photos on their property in Sonoma County I gladly accepted.
I discovered layers of straw set out as mulch on the vineyard fringes and was inspired to lay out an impromptu picnic with a bottle of cab. It is Valentine's Day as I write this, so perhaps you too will want to take romance to the fields. With a Provencal tablecloth, and an overturned serving tray, you can set a fine table and then pour a fine wine for a memorable moment with your sweetie.
Shown here is our lavender bouquet print folded in quarters, which fits nicely into a picnic basket. Take your shoes off and linger a little. Enjoy life.
My friend Katharine joined me in Redwood City yesterday Dec. 2 for the town's annual Christmas festival. Together we welcomed dozens of passersbys drawn to our stand by the vibrant colors of our linens. Some expressed wonderment and wanted to know who had painted them by hand. Imagine their further wonder when we told them no, they are printed, in France. Or woven using jacquard looms.
One tall aged gentlemen wearing a handknit scarf so long it almost dragged on the pavement came by three times before buying a lavender printed round tablecloth for his adult daughter. Looking at the tablecloths he said brought back memories of happy family gatherings for meals in countries he has long ago left behind, Germany and South Africa.
In recreating his life here he somehow forgot how to reintroduce the family mealtime ritual back into his life he said. The tablecloth is an incentive to do so.
Another customer initiated a purchase for a friend she said, then decided the tablecloth and napkins set was too pretty to give away. I told her to buy two then, one to give, one to keep. Ah she said, that would be for another time. Budget permitting. Enjoy life, and buy one for you too, as you never know what tomorrow will be. Special people are not with us forever.
Like many people I love a good glass of wine. I am lucky to live near one of the worlds' top wine growing regions, in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. Imagine my distress a few weeks ago when this area literally quite fire, with the destruction burning homes and wineries and other businesses to the ground.
However, this is an amen moment. One of my favorite wineries was threatened by the fires, BR Cohn in Glen Ellen. CalFire created a fire line right along the first rows of vines facing off with the live oak woodlands adjacent. The firefighters made a stand on the border, next to the first rows of vines, and fought back the fires with bulldozers, airdrops of retardant, and resolute land clearing. Charred live oaks attest to the destruction.
Yet at the winery, just yards away, everything is normalizing. The November olive festival drew hundreds, including me, where I showed French linens as a weekend vendor. Just on the other side of the winery, the olive groves glow with a new green, after our rains. Time for Thanksgiving. Raise a glass to the courage of our first responders. #SonomaStrong
Thousands of people are coming to Santa Rosa, CA, this weekend to taste wines from this famed region. My Parisian friend Francine and I have been at the annual Harvest Festival, showing our wares. The visitors come from everywhere in the USA and for many people it is the first time they have seen Provencal linens. It is a pleasure to share our love of these colorful tablecloths with so many new clients.
One of the things I love about the designs for these linens is that they integrate the flora and even some of the insect life that one finds in Provence. For instance our Menton green round tablecloth features a design motif with a bee motif, yes bees, as well as the iconic Mediterranean lemons. Of course at this time of year many people appreciate the olive motif, olives in all their glory. What a great way to set a table, with one of our linens, and a bottle of Sonoma County wine. Try the red zinfindels for instance, with a bowl of thymed olives and a wood plank of rosemary chevre cheese. Yum.
There was the Catholic priest who just wanted four citron print napkins, in blue. And the lady with a leg brace perspiring in the heat, who just wanted a matched set of Provencal potholders. And the lady who confessed that she wanted my colorful tablecloths to entertain friends again, to celebrate her recovery from a hip operation.
I am always touched by the stories behind many of my clients' purchases of new Provencal linens. Yesterday as I stood in the 107 F. degree heat in Healdsburg, at the town's antiques fair, I was surprised that so many people came to my stand looking for tablecloths that would help rekindle relationships and sustain cherished memories. And then there were those who bought just to have a dishtowel or potholder or napkins that are emblematic of a different, slower pace of life and of a region where beauty is the landscape.
I am very grateful to my clients for reminding me how precious the simple things of life can be. A shared moment on the patio on a summer's eve with a nice glass of wine. And a fine table linen where to set the glasses down, to subtly express how much one cares.
At the Mill Valley Wedding Fair yesterday, I met dozens of lovestruck brides to be, shopping for inspiration for their special day ahead. Whether they were young, toned and athletic, or already showing gray, these future brides shared a desire to create a collective experience of their love at the upcoming ceremonies.
This made me think how so much of relationship love centers on the nurturing experience of day to day ritual. Eating becomes a bonding experience, and a pleasure one when good food is shared on a set table. In modern life we often forgo this formality except when the special occasions of life remind us to stride forward with more grace. For example, to set a table with welcoming appeal for wedding guests.
I am a bit jealous of these ladies but there is a lesson here. As St. Valentine's Day approaches, think about how to greet your intimate partner, whether you are both hetero or "other", with the endearing invitation of a set table. This becomes your stage for the treats you plan to offer on your menu for this special dinner date. Table linens from France, with all their color and cheer, say "je t'aime cheri," in a way that words alone cannot communicate. Add flowers, candles, napkins and silver, and your evening will become very special indeed. And by the way, why wait for St. Valentine's Day night? Try it whenever your love life needs a little extra spice. Pourquoi pas? Try it.
Morgana was born in Les Lilas, France, and is now living in San Diego, California. Her mother lives in San Rafael, CA.