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.
Mix and match doilies with white burlap, and our lavender print ivory table linens, for one winsome welcome for event guests. We used a French trifold napkin fold and inserted the silverware within the folded napkin, then secured all with tied twine. Fresh cut lavender sprigs can be pushed under the twine or used as we did to also grace the fabric garland. Intersperse clusters of ficus tree berries with preserved madrone leaves and ribbon roses. In keeping with the wedding theme, you have now got something old, something new, something borrowed (doilies from grandma) and something new, right on your tables.
What a lovely idea, to pair our torchons with burlap fabric by the yard, to create a rustic table setting that doubles as grab and go favors for your guests. Whether you are planning a wedding rehearsal dinner, an engagement party, or a special birthday celebration, you might appreciate this inexpensive but affordable ways to add glam to your event. The table setting above was staged in a garage, for an informal approach to an otherwise formal occasion. The table runner was created using a large hand zig zag stich, gathering up canvas muslin. Live madrone leaves were arranged to nest tulle rosette buds, woodland lichen and gypsy moss were strewn across at intervals. Lights and candles added notes of formality and romance. After the meal guests can be invited to take the washable torchons with them as a souvenir of an evening à la française. This works particularly well if you have regaled them with French wines or a French-themed menu during the celebration.
I like the touch of shabby chic, which communicates to guests they are being welcomed as family. This concept draws upon the origins of our company name, A Table Chez Nous, for inspiration. The expression roughly translates as 'come to the table, dinner is served,' at our house.
My friend David joins me in celebrating our recent debut pop up store at a festival in Napa. We showed a representative selection of some of my popular linens, along with demonstrations of napkin folding. We return to the same festival Sunday, Oct. 16 in Napa, at Tew's. It's the Rustic to Refined event, running 9-3.
I couldn't keep the dish towels replenished fast enough as they were very popular. A la prochaine!
In creating this website we have shared images of a number of beautiful napkin folds you might explore for use in your own home. The most universal fold is of course the quadrangle fold, shown in the upper left of the photo. The upper right is a simple French fold. Essentially this is a triangle with the points turned out. Elsewhere on this website i show napkins folded as swans, also fun to do. The art of napkin folding is believed to have evolved in France in the 18th century and while initially enjoyed by the rich, the practice was soon adopted by the bourgeois middle class. as of way of creating inexpensive chic. While in the United states we often don't take the time to set a table as our parents once did, simple napkin folding can tell your family and friends that you really care. And it's fun to do. You can learn more about napkin folding at these urls:
Morgana was born in Les Lilas, France, and is now living in San Diego, California. Her mother lives in San Rafael, CA.