Sunday, 2 June 2013

This World Is But A Cherry Fair

Dear readers,
One of the fascinating paradoxes of being human is that we are inescapably physical beings who yearn for transcendence.  In other words, a well-balanced life should include both reason and a rapturous sense of wonder.  Unfortunately, language really stumbles when emotions surge.  We do not seem to have a precise vocabulary for complex feelings.  How often have I found myself writing, 'words cannot express my gratitude', or, 'I cannot tell you how deeply touched I am'.  It's frustrating.  It's also, perhaps, the reason why many of us choose to create with a paintbrush or needle and thread.  We use our hands to express the raw joy, love, and awe we experience when words fail us.  Yesterday my nine-year old son Tristan performed in a room full of quiet people.  He was playing a contemporary piece by a Breton composer for his guitar exam.  He was serious and calm and his performance was moving.  It is clear to me that Tristan plays music to express his gratitude for the beauty which surrounds him.
Lucky child.
Tristan and I cherish our regular bicycle rides uphill in the vineyards and along the gentle banks of the Loire.  It's not just about getting out in the sunlight, feeling the breeze, and relishing the challenge of flying downhill and climbing up steep roads (he's much better at that than I am).  It's about abandonning ourselves to individual sensations, savouring them until they vanish.  A fortnight ago I took my mother out for an early morning walk during one of her precious visits.  As she buried her nose in a hefty sprig of lilac she told me how much she needed to hold on to such moments: smelling until the nose quits from the abundance of scent.  I understood her, of course.  The ephemeral lilac has turned to rust now but it was beautiful while it lasted.
Suddenly everything seems to be racing away too fast.  We have sprung from spring to summer.  I knew this was coming: this is our fourth year in Touraine.  Abundant displays of wisteria are fading, the wild blue irises with smudges of violet stand tall for the time being, and poppies are everywhere.  The familiar chirp of crickets will soon drown out the fading cuckoo.  It's fast forward from now on and I am determined to go out on my bike and cultivate joy.  Flowers deserve to be mulled over.  Look to them for deeper truths.  Their beauty may be brief but they can offer us a garden of memories.
'Stop Tristan', I shout as I see another elder tree in bloom.  Most times, when he's too far ahead, I just screech to a halt, carefully cut a few luscious heads, and set off again.  I'm on an elderflower mission these days.  They are spilling over the banks of the river and I cannot leave them be.  Our house is filled with their sweet, heady scent and I have dreamed of making elderflower fritters and trifle (both recipes are in Sara Paston-Williams' book Good Old-Fashioned Puddings). 
I'm distracted by scents these days.  All of nature is lush with romance and I simply want to join the party.  The power of scents to evoke vivid memories has long been a favourite device of novelists and poets. Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past opens with the most famous ‘olfactory flashback’ in literature, when the sweet aroma of a simple little cake releases several hundred pages of childhood memories – or what Proust calls ‘the vast structure of recollection’. Vanilla is all about childhood memories, I believe, and they are almost invariably positive – sweet treats and rewards, ice-cream holidays, innocent pleasures. For me vanilla conjures up the exotic locations where its beautiful flower is cultivated under the warm sun. I often split a vanilla pod and add its precious dark seeds to a simple buttery cake. My children love it too.
And so Mademoiselle Vanille came to be:

I simply had to include a saucy picture of her bloomers mainly because I am quite smitten by the lace which trims them: it dates back to 1890!  I was a little sad to see Mademoiselle Vanille go but, lucky girl, she is on her way to Ireland.  I had such fun embroidering those exotic flowers and I had a vanilla pod beside me as I worked which I would occasionally sniff. The pod in question ended up in a pot filled with pudding rice, creamy milk and light brown sugar which lightly simmered for an hour.  I broke three eggs, gently beat them in and then baked the rice pudding in a cake tin for half an hour.  I made a caramel sauce with Breton salted butter.  It's a very simple French recipe which comes from a stunning book of an author's favourite dishes: more on that at a later date!
As Chaucer said, 'This world is but a cherry fair'.  To quote Katherine Swift in The Morville Year:  "Cherry trees have always been synonymous with the brevity of life, not only because of the fleeting nature of their blossom, but because of the short season for their fruit.  The sight of them, like the taste of the wild fruit, can be bitter-sweet."
Tristan has grown to love the wild orchard which is off the well-worn track we favour through the vineyards.  Sometimes we stop to rest there, kicking off our shoes, and even singing occasionally.  Now the green cherries, hanging in abundance, have a rosy tint. In a couple of weeks it will be time to pick them.    I know that when these fruit are ripe I will be off with my basket and children to pick them and savour them. Happy days!
Mademoiselle Cerise
Freshly created to bring in the month of June.  I'm dreaming of making cherry jam and clafoutis dusted with icing sugar.  Mademoiselle Cerise has a handstitched and embroidered bag which she will fill with cherries when the time comes.  And look!  She's wearing bloomers too!  If you would like to take a closer look at her, you may find her here
I am left wondering how long I will continue making these little creatures which offer me so much joy?
I am so grateful for all your generous comments on my last post.  Each and every one of you has given me pleasure.  Thank you!
A bientôt,


  1. Stephanie your blog is a concentrate of sweetness. Glad to be arrived here!

  2. Your blog seems to indicate that you do in fact have a way with words even if you sometimes think you can't find words to express what you feel. I love that photo of elder blossom - a flower which is so delicate and beautiful with each little flower trembling on its dainty stem and hundreds of them making up a single bloom in shades of cream and gold. Your little bunnies are beautiful too and I don't know how you can bear to part with any of them!

  3. Good morning to you Stephanie from this sunny corner of England. You most definitely do find the right words to write your blog because they fill my mind with as much sense of joy and peace and calm as the beautiful scented flowers. Time is very precious but I do hope that you will find enough to keep writing and making your pretty maids. They are a joy to behold. Hope Tristan passed his exam with flying colours.x

    1. Dear Shirley,

      I am so glad the sun is shining for you! Thank you for visiting me today.

      Tristan did pass with flying colours :-) He got a Distinction and he had the joint highest mark of the 38 students taking the exam (all different levels).

      Yes, I'm proud!

  4. Such a beautiful, evocative post, and your wonderful bunny ladies are such a delight.

    We are just hanging on to spring in North Wales. Yesterday in the Welsh hills I saw the last of the daffodils fading in a bank of cow parsley, as though the transition to summer is happening before spring is quite ready to leave. The lilacs are newly out in the valleys but the wisteria is barely budding. I think June will be as beautiful as May this year :)

  5. Beautiful thought moving post......ringing with truths and confirming moments we should appreciate so much more!
    Heady Vanilla and sweet rich exotic cherry...themes that only you can bring out in such wonderful creations.
    Classical guitar music makes me shiver....its more than a delight to hear. Fantastic to hear your son excels in this.

    I am not quite sure how to react to your last comment and I quote:
    "I am left wondering how long I will continue making these little creatures which offer me so much joy?"
    it hurts me to think you might stop making them???

    keep well

    Amanda xx

  6. ...such a pleasure to read your words and to look at your wonderful bunnies!!!
    xxxx Ale

  7. What a beautiful post Stephanie, you have me yearning for France again. Those poppies you mentioned were everywhere!
    I adore vanilla too, it is just a week ago that we crossed the border into Italy and I enjoyed a bowl of vanilla ice cream in a pavement cafe in beautiful sunshine.
    Your new ladies are beautiful and I hope you continue to make them for a very long time to come!
    Congratulations to that beautiful, clever boy of yours, treasure him. :)
    Thanks again for a wonderful post, it's lovely to drop in here and get my little French fix. :)
    V xxx

  8. The photo of the elderflowers is stunning, they look luscious! I made elderflower fritters many years ago, I love the idea of eating flowers, it makes me feel as though I'm back in touch with nature. :)
    Your Mademoiselles are so beautiful, I love the crispness of their fresh cotton dresses and dainty lace bloomers. I don't know how many you've made so far but wouldn't they look incredible if they were all sat together? :)
    I shall have a look at the link to the pudding book, it sounds very interesting, thankyou Stephanie for sharing!xx

  9. I am so excited to be here. After I saw your beautiful comment on my blog last night, I knew I had to wait to come to give you a proper response, and then to find you have a new post.

    You are so right about how we all find a way to express our deepest emotions. For some, it is in music. Look at Chopin, Debussey, and more....I listen to the notes, I even try to play them and I have asked myself, "What moved him/her to create this moving piece?" I watch my painter friends, who can easily move a brush to evoke emotion in me, while I literally paint by following rigid lines. However, language is that medium that I enjoy tackling, to find just the RIGHT WORD or imagery, and Proust was smart to involve the strong sense of smell. Vanilla is indeed synonymous with childhood for me; I wrote in one of my memoir assignments about the scent of vanilla in my home that welcomed me every day after school. My mother would make Mexican vanilla rice pudding. To this day when I smell that scent, I can weep in a corner and revisit my mother.

    Now for YOUR creations here. You know how I feel about little Mademoiselle! VANILLA is perfect for her, as she is sweet, pure, innocent and carries a fragrance of childhood, at least for me. Every detail my friend, is sublime. NOW FOR THAT CAKE??????? It's good I'm not there right now, or your cake would be devoured. teehehee

    It is so special to me that you came to see my post. Our garden is all HAND MADE BY US. We never hired any professionals in the making of our gardens or of the interior of our home; we only had a professional builder add the two rooms in the back that I hope to share one day, but other than that, it was all us, thus making the metaphor of garden and human life even more poignant. So much could be written couldn't it dear friend, about how the inevitable cycle of life in the garden mirrors our existence.

    Be well, take in all the memories and create new ones. SPREAD THE MAGIC! Anita

  10. Mademoiselle Vanilla is simply delicious! Her milk chocolate complexion delightfully complements her creamy vanilla garments...superb.

  11. Well my dear, you really do express what you see, feel and smell through your sewing. You create such beautiful things! It sound like you live in a fantastic, inspirational environment....enjoy your bike rides! :) x

  12. Oh gosh, I love every little word and all the pictures in this post - to say nothing of the joy of the simple things in a lovely life. I'm delighted to hear Tristan passed his exam so well - he obviously loves playing and long may it last.
    I'm very keen to know the recipe for that delicious looking cake - hope it follows soon.

  13. Stephanie, once again you bless us with your beautiful use of words, your glorious pictures and your fantastic creations. I love that you and your son share bike rides together, enjoy this sweet time with him.
    Hugs to you,

  14. Good morning Stephanie, and many thanks for the beauty of this post. You have added something quite unique to my day.

    The atmosphere that you create here appeals to so many senses, and does seem to my eyes to have a particularly charming pace. It is gentle, yet quite reliable in its pursuit of the future and appreciation of the past...and its enjoyment of the Now.

    Congratulations to talented Tristan! I would imagine that your dual bike rides do help feed his artistry as they do yours. Walking and bike riding seem to provide a pace at which we mere mortals can take in what is around us, and perhaps even allow the new inspirations to be welcomed by emotions and thoughts with which we are already comfortable.

    Ahhh, how wonderful life can be! I completely understand your mother's absorbing all the pleasure of the lilacs.

    Your most recent Mademoiselles are enchanting. The vintage lace is perfectly chosen as are your embroideries. They are harmonious companions from differing ages. The little cherry gathering bag is a delightful touch, too.

    Stephanie, I could go on and on, but will not take any more space here just now. Please do know how much I appreciate the opportunity to visit your very particular part of France. It's lovely here.


  15. Beautiful as always Stephanie. Congratulations Tristan! I love the thought of you two riding bikes together, and it's a reminder to me that I need to spend more one on one time with my kids....... Have a lovely week ahead. Mel x

  16. Miss Stephanie! We have many things to talk about today, and by many things, I mean, the food! I think that cookbook you mentioned is something I need to get. Also, that cake thing, was that rice pudding?? It looks sliceable! Is that sort of a firmer type of rice pudding? Recipe PLEASE? Rice pudding is my favorite!

    I was just saying to my husband that I wanted to make a clafouti, I havent made one in ages and I really love them. Guess what. I've been reading Nigel Slater's 'The Kitchen Diaries' and I just adore it. He's always talking about his love for the elderflower. I don't think we have any of those growing around where I live! boo.

    Lilacs. Someday if I go to heaven, or some alien other universe :) ~ there will be nothing but lilacs and peonies. And you bunnies.

    I've asked Julia what kind of creation she would like from you and after much debate between a cat and a doll, she wants a doll. But I've already forgotten what color dress and hat she wants, so I have to ask her again and I'll email you the details. Maybe it can be a Christmas present!!


  17. This was so very, very beautiful. Thank you for spilling such sweet enchantment into my morning from so far away! And Mademoiselle Vanille's bloomers are exquisite.
    Accordion to Kellie

  18. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!! post Stephanie...the scent of flowers, so evocative, full of memories and feelings

    Your special moments with your son are so very special, and you will both remember them for ever..

    Your new creations are exquisite, so very clever, I can see they are made from your heart..
    Summer wishes
    Thea x

  19. Dear Stephanie your posts are so beautiful - they never disappoint and I adore your special bunnies just exquisite.
    Sue x

  20. Dear Stephanie,

    Your post is a joy to read. Your words struck a cord with me. The way you 'experience' is so recognisable. It made me smile too. I can see you and Tristan cycling through the French countryside enjoying nature to the full.

    Your two ladies look enchanting! Hope they will find a loving home.

    Happy new week!

    Madelief x

  21. Lovely ladies that you create and you'll create until whenever! That's the beauty of being completely in control. I love picking what I want to knit whenever I want to knit. Glad you had fun with your son :)

  22. I enjoy being swept up in the flow of your words, Stephanie, and will remember to "cultivate joy" while cultivating my garden.


  23. How beautiful to ride with your son every week. That is a memory he will forever remember. Your post is lovely and so eloquent. Scents can evoke memories. You gave me things to think about. Your creations are so magnificent!

  24. ~ Dear Stephanie, always such a pleasure to come and say hello on here...I found my self 'nodding' away with agreement at so many of your beautiful words...I do believe 'gratitude' is the hearts memory....~ And unless you truly appreciate all that you own, you will never see the beauty all around you.....I could almost smell the sweetness of your wonderful new creations...They are soo special....~ Stephanie I am wishing you many more days to enjoy those special cycling rides with your dear boy.....Treasure these times, because these are the 'little things' that when you look back on life, turn into the most important 'big' things to hold dear to your heart...~ happy new week, lovely YOU! ~ wih kindest thoughts....Maria x

  25. Now the sun has finally deigned to appear in my corner of Norfolk, it is wonderful to step outside and smell the wallflowers and herbs soaking up the sun and sending out gentle fragrance. My poor husband has lost almost all his sense of smell, it gradually started to go after polyps removal surgery many years ago, along with his sense of taste. I am sure he eats and enjoys food from memory, but how sad not to be able to smell a chicken roasting with garlic and lemon and herbs, taste the smooth creaminess of a rice pudding... or even enjoy fully good old chips from paper eaten along the sea front.
    Thanks for popping into the book place x

  26. Good heavens, that cake......WOW!

    I was thinking of your kindness yesterday dear Stephanie, and I was telling my beloved husband about YOU! AND I had remembered that you mentioned your articles having been published and wanting to write a book AND that in all my enthusiasm in coming to comment here, I forgot to discuss that with you!

    OK, you are well on your way to writing for publishing purposes, which is what I WANT TO DO. I will be taking a writing course in about 3 weeks and that means that my blog writing will either come to a temporary halt, or just shaved down to twice a month, rather than every week. But my next phase is to start writing "seriously" for myself, for my own purposes in order to write to publish. And yes, I do want to write a book. I am not quite sure yet what, but here are some ideas I have for my own writing purposes:

    1. My memoirs.
    2. A collection of poetry with some illustrations.
    3. A small tale (not so much "fairy" tale, but an inspirational piece using poetic writing combined with illustrations for ADULTS with a child-like heart.

    I know you will do well. You have the experience already of being published, and my short-term goal is to write and submit articles in magazines that feature homes and art. One in particular comes to mind and I hope that I can at least submit.

    So there you have the other half of the comment I wanted to leave you the other day!

    BEST WISHES on your goals my dear and wonderful friend! Anita

  27. Stephanie, whatever cake that is, with the caramel sauce, it looks extraordinary and I can only dream of it with coffee or tea!
    I've been on a elderberry hunt too. Close by us, along a creekbed, there are dozens and dozens of trees in full bloom. I did a little research and it seems that elderberry water is made with the blooms, and the cordial is made with their berries. I didn't know you could have boquets, I thought maybe the blooms would fade. But today I will snap a few twigs and see what happens. I'll take a picture too, as the ones here seem a bit different from yours.
    lovely post

  28. I do envy your writing ability, I don't think that words fail you at all, although I understand exactly what you mean.
    This post, like all your previous ones is a joy to read. Of course it goes without saying that I adore your fabric creations.

  29. Dearest Stephanie, a gorgeous post as always and so full of insights that seem particularly apt at the moment (time moving too fast yet painfully slow when we need to know something, um, I added that bit!). I am swooning for Madamoiselle Vanille who is the most beautiful shade of brown! I am partial to a brown bunny as you know! Keep pedaling along my friend, C

  30. Stephanie, your posts are excellent. Such treats to be savoured and read through slowly with a cup of tea. I am reminding myself often to savour the moment whenever possible - easier to do in summer than winter I find! Both your creations are exquisite but I think Mlle Vanille is my favourite. Just. That recipe sound AMAZING, please do share it.

    Gillian x

  31. Dear Stephanie,
    Your posts are so full of joy and beauty. Your cycle rides sound so wonderful and something to savour. Things must be ahead of us in the Loire valley. I have only noticed the wisteria out in the last week and there is no sign yet of the elderflower. Sarah x

  32. Dear Stephanie,
    What a pleasure to read your changing spring. Your words capture the beauty of spring so magically. Yes this year, spring was like a sudden burst of flowers. And then here are the poppies, nearly unexpected!
    We've been making elder flowers syrup. Perfect with strawberries.
    Mesdemoiselles Vanille and Cerise are as exquisite as ever.
    Enjoy the last spring days by the Loire. Your promenades with Tristan sound magical. So precious.

  33. Good evening Stephanie...Such a beautiful post...I think this has to be a favourite! Congratulations to your wonderful and very talented Tristan on achieving the highest marks! Time does fly and your bicycle rides are moments to treasure, aren't they? Your latest Mademoiselles are so beautiful (and they have such a look of serenity Stephanie!) I have to agree, the lace on those pretty bloomers is exquisite!
    Happy Tuesday,
    Susan x

  34. What a beautiful post. You are so right, we have to hang onto everything that makes us happy. Congratulations to Tristan for the highest marks. Music moves in times when I need uplifting and so does the beauty of this world we live in.

    Please don't stop making your beautiful Mademoiselles. They are so gorgeous and I enjoy each on better than the last. Unfortunately, I'm not quick enough to grab one in your etsy shop. One day soon, I will have to contact you to have one especially made for me. Mademoiselle Vanilla took my breath away. I love, love, loved her. Soon very soon.


  35. lovely! ^^


  36. First of all I am drooling over that pudding! Secondly, your post is eloquent and uplifting. I find myself experiencing the wafting fragrances you so beautifully describe. What wonderful memories you are creating with your son, Congratulations on your exam Tristan!

    Warmest wishes to you,

  37. Thank you for popping over to visit. I am in awe of your words such beautiful sentiments what a delicious post ... Sarah x

  38. Lovely Stephanie
    I have been wanting to comment for days on your beautiful new ladies but have too busy! Those bloomers are too perfect and all your details never cease to amaze me. Your gift with words and the mood you create in your posts far outweigh my simple words, it is always such a JOY to read your blog Stephanie. Big congrats to your Tristan too! xox Penny
    ps, YES to the Brooklyn Tweed yarn breaking all the time, I must say I was a tad bit disappointed after having spent my precious pennies to try it out :o(

  39. Hello Stephanie, gosh you do write so beautifully I am slightly in awe!! you have a magic way with words....
    The girls are beautiful,.... I used to ride through the orchards as a child, on horse back, rather than bike... so I understand your sons love for them.

    You aren't coming up on my blog feed either, I have this with quite a few blogs lately, I'm sure I have lost people and inadvertently forgotten them :-(
    have a lovely weekend xx

  40. That pudding looks yummy, isn't rice the simplest but most comforting thing?! I do love vanilla too, but my favourite is definitely almond....mmmmm....especially bakewell...oh dear, I'm thinking about food again!

    Your new vanilla girl is so pretty!

  41. The scents of flowers do invoke emotions which cannot be expressed in mere words, although you have just done a spectacular job of it! I know what your mother means. I walk through my gardens knowing that each rose, each clutch of lilac and honeysuckle will be with us but a brief moment, and so I want to inhale the scent as deeply and for as long as possible. As each scented plant blooms,I pluck a bit of it, and keep it on my art table within fingers reach. At this moment, I have a gathering of lavenders and a scented rose to revive my spirits and refresh my nostrils.
    Your bunnies are delightful!

  42. Dear Stephanie,

    Such a delight to come and read your beautiful post.
    Everything about it is true joy, from you and Tristan cycling along the lovely French roads amongst all the beautiful flowers blooming. Big congratulations to Tristan and his music, and you must be very proud of him.
    Your Mademoiselle Bunnies are so very beautiful, from the exquisite needlework, right down to their sweet undergarments and how precious the old lace is.

    Happy weekend and will think of you enjoying the sunshine and your pretty flowers everywhere.

  43. lovely new rabbits like mademoiselle vanilla but cherise is also very cute and pretty have a lovely sunday leon10

  44. How wise you and your mother are to store up such moments and to be so mindful of the memories being made. Small wonder your creations are so special with the inspiration you find around you.
    Flower scents are so evocative, aren't they? I planted a Cecile Brunner rose here because it was a favourite of my aunt's. When it first flowered, I leaned forward to inhale the scent and was quite taken aback by the powerful memory it brought back. I was instantly a small child again, standing next to my aunt holding a basket as she picked the tiny roses to make a posy for her friend. The span of distance and time had melted completely away.
    Thank you for such a wonderful post.

    1. Oh, your comment has touched me beyond words! I'm off to see how Cecile Brunner looks and I wish I too could smell her scent.

      Warmest wishes,


  45. Hello Stephanie! How I understand what you write about emotion surpassing words. Sometimes when I read a blog post that really resonates with me, I hesitate to leave a comment because the words that immediately come to mind don't come close to saying what I feel.

    This is the way I feel today reading this post. Your sentiments about time, the season and flowers could have jumped onto this page straight from my own soul. :)

    And I must order one of your beautiful hares (which I have intended to do for some time) before you stop making them!


  46. What a glorious post this is, chere Stephanie! So beautifully written, and so full of wisdom and truth. "Cultivate Joy"...a perfect mantra for any day....
    It's wonderful to discover more details of your lovely days with family....and indeed, for me as well, the olfactory is where my memory treasure box lies.
    How very special that your dear Tristan can express himself through music...
    This is the very reason I paint and dance...I do not have the gift of words! :)
    Your creations are precious and lovely as always...I adore them...
    And your cake is gorgeous...clafoutis is next? One of my favorites...we just had our first taste of cherries today...wow.
    Thank you so much for brightening the day...
    I wish you a weekend of bliss!
    - Irina

  47. Thank you for sharing this blog post on my FB page - I loved reading it, and also meeting your bunnies! I'm in love!

  48. Great stuff from this part of the internet. Again, thank you for this blog.


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