Warm Cheese Salad

Salad St. Marcellin

If you can get your hands on some Saint Marcellin cheese, this is a quick and absolutely delicious entrée (meaning first course in French). I discovered this warm cheese salad at a hip little restaurant in Montmartre called Un Zèbre à Montmartre.

The principle is so easy, but one of those things that couldn’t just come to me…and then BAM! How did I ever live without this dish in my rotation?

You just take a round of Saint Marcellin cheese, heat it in the oven until almost completely melting (it’s ok if it leaks a little) and then put it on top of greens in vinaigrette. It’s usually one round per person (if you haven’t seen Saint Marcellin, it’s only about 2 inches or 5 cm in diameter), but it can be a bit much, so we just split one into 2 halves each. Adding extra vinegar to the vinaigrette balances out the strong cheese flavor.

My vinegrific vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

We used mâche leaves (aka cord salad or lamb’s lettuce) in the pictured version. But we’ve also used roquette (arugula). It’s so easy and a great transitional dish, moving from the fresh summer to the chilly weather we’ll have from here on out.

Knit an iPhone

iphone mario 2
Seth can play Mario on his iPhone. Mine will be better!

Seth is already on his second iPhone (long story – he sold the first one then decided he needed one, etc.). But I am still stuck using the brick-sized Zak Morris phone from 1989. Well, that’s what it looks like at least.

So I’m thinking it’s only fair I have an iPhone, too, right?  Well daddytypes has just the answer: a knit one! If you’re too young or too cheap to have a real one, this knit version is waaay cool and sure to turn just as many heads.

Anyone want to give it a go?

Embroidered Monograms

Embroidered W

Back in the day, young girls learned in school how to embroider their sheets, dish cloths, table cloths, and napkins, all of which would make up their trousseau to begin keeping house once they married. The original purpose of a sampler was to practice the skills needed to complete this rite of passage into womanhood. Of course, women also didn’t have the right to vote or even open a bank account, but outside of my dissertation work, I prefer to idealize “the day” by focusing on the beautiful handiwork that made everyday objects so cheerful and personal.

Embroidery Straight StitchI have a wonderful collection of vintage craft magazines, but never underestimating the possibilities of scholarly websites, I’ve found some fun old books without digging through flea market boxes. The Project Gutenberg, for example, which provides online texts of works whose copyright has expired, has on its site this beautiful and extremely detailed Alsacian Encyclopedia of Needlework, translated into English and complete with diagrams (above and at right).

The quintessential object for monogramming, at least in France, is the dish cloth. Oh how cheerful are those ivory linen rectangles with variations on red stripes! I just so happen to have picked up a few of them at a flea market (which had never been monogrammed) and now have a little side project in embroidery.

The question is: which embroidered initial to choose? Which font? Some initials are simply too formal and fancy for a dish cloth. A script “W” or more traditionally, “RW” is perfect for a napkin, but just sad and diminished on a measly dish cloth. I need something cheerful and more 1930 or 1940-esque than Victorian. In my search so far, I am tending towards the “W” above, with it’s reverse embroidery (you embroider the surrounding square and leave space for the “W”). It’s just like carving a statue out of marble, except for the purpose of drying off dishes and glasses. Hmm….sort of…

Torshons Anciens Bottom

Of course, I may just end up with a cross-stitch pattern, which is much less formal and probably just the touch of country charm I’m going for. A simple “RW” in teeny squares… I’ve washed and ironed them, and even found some matching embroidery floss (for over $2 – best to stock up in the States for large projects!) – so I’m off!

*Edit* Do check out the link Olga posted in the comments. It’s a wonderful collection of antique patterns! I’m browsing around now in search of the perfect “W.”

Spell it Out

S U N d A DSCN5504
S U théâtre du monument National D A Y

You must check out this very cool Spell with Flickr site (via The Paris Blog). Just type in a word and corresponding letter images appear. Very exciting! I’m not sure what I’ll use this for, but I love the idea and the resulting collage. In related news, on NPR I heard about a couple who takes pictures of “found” letters, i.e. images that are not supposed to be letters (a leaf in the shape of a W, etc) and then put them into a collage to spell something, like a last name. I’ll have to see if I can find out who that was. Their collages are becoming all the rage, and apparently Opera ordered one as a wedding gift to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

Quilt Ties

Quilt Tie

The backing is on, the batting is in, and now I am on to tying up this quilt!

Monica and Tonya agree that ties are the quickest solution for keeping a quilt in place. It’s better to use wool yarn than cotton or polyester. I learned that cotton will unravel easily and knots will come undone. Polyester is a harsher fiber and so we avoided that Although they may loosen over time, the wool is still the best bet. Besides, this is a fun blanket which should be used and loved, not a perfectly-quilted wall hanging!

I think the bright-red backing fabric is so cheerful and I just love how the little notches of white come through from the ties.

Quilt Backing

Once I finish the ties, I will sew up the last seam (we attached the backing pillowcase-style, without any binding) and ship this thing off. This was a wonderful project, and a very fun introduction to quilting! Thanks again to Monica and Tonya!!

Happy Birthday, Mom

Bath Club BDay Cake
Birthday Cake with Photo of the Bath Club

It’s my mom’s birthday today, and I’m bummed to not be in the States to celebrate! The cake above was from her 50th birthday bash, and has a picture of the old Tides Bath Club on it. The Bath Club was a classic Florida resort in North Redington Beach where from the 1940s to the 1960s all the stars used to  vacation (Miss America, Marilyn Monroe…). It’s also where my mom spent her childhood learning how to be an Olympic swimmer, even jumping off the high-dive for a Fourth of July celebration at the age of 2.

Other birthdays today include authors H.G. Wells (1866), Fannie Flagg (1944), and Stephen King (1947), as well as actor Bill Murray (1950) who in 1991 played in one of our family favorites, What About Bob?

Thinking of you and wishing you a happy day!

Mom Rachel Restaurant MN
At a delicious St. Paul Thai restaurant this summer

DIY Flowers

Rachel & Seth Wedding
My bouquet was made of red, orange, and pink roses, giant white orchids, and red hypercium.

I am currently featured as the guest blogger on Connor’s Blog, where I talk about doing your own wedding flowers! Check it out at Jason Angelini Photography and click on “Connor’s Blog.” It’s a very detailed description of what you need to pull of DIY wedding bouquets, boutonnières, and decor. Added to my description are the amazing photographic works of Jason Angelini, our talented wedding photographer. Enjoy, and of course feel free to ask any questions about this process, if you’re attempting something similar, for any occasion!

As always, you can look to the right under “Projects to Download” and click on “DIYBouquets” or “DIYBoutonnieres” for pdf versions of instructions.

Wedding Bouquets
Beautiful Faces (the flowers aren’t too bad either…)

Wedding Table Decor
Reception Tables

DIY Flowers
Wedding Bouquets, a few days after the event

To the Barricades!

Paris Brise Chaines 1944The rich and tumultuous history of Paris can be told in part by a vast series of photographs, lithographs, and other images now available to anyone with an internet connection. The Paris en Images collection is an excellent database with a search feature which allows the researcher to find images by keyword and date. What’s even better is that they are freely available for private and scholarly use.

The barricade has been almost as much a part of Parisian history as the Seine river. Since the 16th century Parisians have dug up paving stones and piled them into barricades during numerous revolutions, insurrections, and protests. Here, I’ve picked some of my favorite images of barricades, and in places very much recognizable in present-day Paris. We think of Parisian history (and by extension that of France) as being an ever-changing series of radically different regimes. It’s interesting to me, however, to see the continuity in the form of protest, both on the right and left.

1848 Barricade
Revolution of 1848, Remains of a Barricade on rue Royale

1870-71 Barricade
Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871, Barricade at l’?toile

1871 Barricade Hotel de Ville
Paris Commune, 1871, Barricade at Hôtel de Ville

1871 Barricade Vendome
Paris Commune, 1871, Vendôme Column Pulled to the Ground

Barricade 1914
Construction of a Barricade at a Gate of Paris, August 1914

1934 Ligue de droites
1934, Protest of the Ligues de droite (right-wing political organization)

Barricade 1944
Liberation of Paris, Barricade at the Pont Neuf and rue Dauphine, August 1944

1968 Barricade
May 1968, Barricade on the rue Racine

Further reading:

Mark Traugott, “Barricades as Repertoire: Continuities and Discontinuities in the History of French Contention.” Social Science History, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Summer, 1993), pp.309-323.

Jeannene M. Przyblyski, “Revolution at a Standstill: Photography and the Paris Commune of 1871.” Yale French Studies, No. 101, Fragments of Revolution. (2001), pp. 54-78.

Jill Harsin, Barricades: The War of the Streets in Revolutionary Paris, 1830-1848. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

Flea Market Finds

Painted drawer knobs at a big flea market in Montmartre

Parisian flea markets have become quite the attraction, which means that, for example, an old wooden cork screw worth 1? now usually goes for 10. While I love to go to the big market at St. Ouen, the prices are so inflated (I bought an old perfume label for 5? – it’s a piece of paper!) that now I seldom buy a thing.

Place Maubert Flea Market
Place Maubert Flea Market on September 9th

Not so at the brocante on Place Maubert last Sunday. The sellers there were really trying to get their stuff to move. There were books, bags, and housewares for 50 cents or 3 for 1?, glasses for 10 cents, and one seller offered an all-you-can-carry price of 5?.

Tin Boxes

Yellow BagAfter buying a bunch of tins and a useful yellow bag (the whole bunch for 2? ), I found an old photography print of a Parisian street (La rue Cler) in the early 1900s. The print seller also had tons of old books and said I could take all I want for 5?. I filled my bag with anything that looked interesting: an homage to Marie and Pierre Curie when they won the Nobel in 1935, a propaganda-filled Vichy-era agenda (which merits at the very least its own blog post), and a little beat-up book about making your own toys. I also grabbed some pretty hard-cover books, including Renée by Etienne Marcel (for my sister-in-law, Renée), one by Balzac (Les Chouans, the word Chouans meaning French royalists) and another by Zola (L’Argent or Money).

Old Books

It wasn’t until Monday morning that I thought to check the publication dates. The Zola book was a nice surprise: the publication date, 1891, as well as the publication house are the originals. There is a stamp from a library inside, which may mean that the binding is not original (though it looks very old), but it is pretty exciting to have a first edition, in any case! I usually attribute only personal value to the objects I pick up at these things, but for once, I may actually have something valuable to others as well.

Zola l??Argent
1891 edition of L’Argent

The hunt is half the fun, though, and I’m happy to dig through the dust and come away with nothing. There’s just something magical about the possibility of finding a hidden treasure, whether it be a book of historical significance or just a pretty tin box to store sugar cubes!

I <3 NY

New York City was home from August 2001 until September 2006. We are still nostalgic for the city and probably always will be (if we don’t move back, that is!)

Thinking of you today, New York!

110 Houston
Our apartment on Houston Street. 4th floor walk-up.

Sullivan Street
Sullivan Street, our second NYC home. Shade Bar, on the left, is our version of Cheers.

Quantum Leap
Quantum Leap, the best veggie burgers in the world.

VBar was our morning coffee version of Cheers. Such a friendly bunch.

VBar Lamp

Our rooftop at the Houston St. building.

RoofTop Party
The site of many summer BBQ’s, complete with squirt guns.

Pizza Seth Curran
Pizza in the Village

Moondance Diner
Moondance Diner, located in an old car wash. Where they put cinnamon in your coffee and extra grease in your eggs.

Barrow St. Hotel
An empty hotel on Barrow Street, along the West Side Highway

West Side Walk Flower
The west side was our favorite place to walk. This was taken from Battery Park, so you can see Jersey City in the background.

Waverly Diner
The Waverly Diner on 6th Ave.

SoHo Art Scene
There are still some artists left in gentrified SoHo.

Central Park
Central Park

Upper East Side Dog Walker
Upper East Side Dog Walker

Coney Island Beach
Coney Island Beach

Leaving NYC
Leaving NYC (with GW Bridge in the distance)

Saying good-bye for now, from the George Washington Bridge.