Friday, 1 August 2014

Dancing With Summer Flowers

 Dear readers,
What an interesting summer it has been so far!  Almost four weeks after the last of three cases of Scarlet Fever in our family I think it is safe for me to proclaim jubilantly that Tristan and I have trumped this unpleasant and rather vintage illness. The sore throat Héloïse started on the day of her Baccalauréat results was the first symptom of Scarlet Fever, poor child.  All is well now.  Héloïse left, a week behind schedule, to start her first summer job in a splendid hotel on the island of Belle Ile en Mer and the rest of us have been relishing the tough, resilient Paradise of high summer in Touraine.  There is nothing fey or delicate about blooming fists of lavender.  "Yikes!" I say out loud, in a mixture of delight and confusion when I observe our fast-growing garden.  Let us say that weeks of intense sunlight and rainfall have been a boon to all plant life.
I love the way the garden becomes an outside room during the summer months.  Our small house grows bigger.  Evenings spent with special friends, barely able to hear the trilling crickets over our shrill laughter.  Candles in holders casting lacework shadows over our lichen-covered cherry tree.  Another bottle of champagne?  Why not!  It will help us forget the latent threat of voracious mosquitos.  The food we eat is simple and good.  Shortcrust tarts with goat's cheese, tomato and basil.  Greek salad with just enough red onion and a big fistful of dill.  Luscious apricots and peaches are always piled up high in our fruit bowl.  They must be gobbled up fast; the hot, humid weather spoils them quickly.  My current favourite - and Tristan's too - is a tart made with peaches and a few sprigs from our lavender bush.*  The secret is to mix in a few lavender flowers only.
Summer is the song everyone is humming and I, perhaps, more loudly than all. Victoria Finlay's fascinating book, Colour, has inspired me to play with the bright and vibrant this season, even more than usual.  I stayed up far too late last night reading her chapter on Orange (my least favourite colour).  'Dance the orange,' the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in a wonderful waltzing poem about a fruit and a colour that pretend to be sweet but are actually rambunctious and challenging.  Last night's compelling read transported me to the city of Cremona in Italy where, around 1750, the secret of how Antonio Stradivari made the orange varnish for his instruments was lost.  Doubtless, I will be writing about this book again in the future.
In the meantime the pictures below testify to my love affair with summery colours and Liberty fabrics which I always purchase from this, my favourite online shop.
Angélique's dress fabric is Floral Eve, from the Spring & Summer 2013 collection.  The pattern is  Suzanne from the French Citronille pattern and fabric shop.  Amazing, beautiful, easy patterns which can be purchased in English.  I know that Soule Mama and Posie gets Cozy are huge fans too.  And that beautiful floral wreath?  Another success from the talented Michele from Amore Bride.

Summer has also brought a dose of magic.  For those who have not read this little story over on my Madame Millefeuilles page, you will find it here.
Tomorrow is Mickaël's birthday.  Tomorrow we set off for Brittany where the next chapter of our summer begins.  Next week I am hoping to, finally, upgrade my mobile telephone in order to join in with the Instagram fun.
Happy August, dear friends.
* It's easy as pie to make.  The usual shortcrust pastry first, and then slice a few peaches or nectarines which need to me mixed gently with 3 tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot powder, 100 g of sugar, I tablespoon of lavender buds, I teaspoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of sea salt.  Pop the tart into the oven - preheated at 180°C/375°F - for around 30 minutes after having dotted a few nobs of butter onto the peaches.


  1. The tart sounds delicious, Stephanie, and I'm pleased the threat of scarlet fever has passed. It gives a horrendous sore throat, so Heloise is a brave lady for fighting with that while writing her bac. Her success was all the greater for that.
    Enjoy Brittany. We're off to our french house and Biscarosse soon, but we're hoping to make our annual pilgrimage to Vannes in October. X

  2. WHERE do I begin to tell you how delightful your writing is to me. Like you, orange is my least favorite colour, but somehow it worms its way into my heart in the summer months. For our twice a month poetry meeting here in our home, one of the poets came with a gorgeous outfit of navy blue pants and tee shirt, with ORANGE earrings, tote and shoes. The other poet sported a bright orange watch and wristband and I was smitten.

    Your description of the champagne-filled evenings to ward off mosquitos sounds like a great "repellent" to make us forget about the realities of the season, but there are more lovely things to relish about summer that you share. I agree that only a few lavender flowers can add a punch to a recipe, but not too much! Oh Stephanie, your creations are lush and always uplifting, and I am so glad to hear you have escaped the treat of scarlet fever!

    May your August be filled with more enchantment and creativity my dear friend. MUCH LOVE! Anita

  3. Yikes Stephanie, it sounds like you have had a bit of a summer already.
    Glad all ok now and you are able to enjoy sunny days and happy warm evenings.
    The tart sounds delish, and your handiwork as always looks exquisite.
    Hope you have a lovely time in Brittany,
    Liz x

  4. What a beautiful summery post Stephanie, I can hear those crickets and I love the idea of warding off mosquitos with champagne.
    So glad to hear you all are fit and healthy again and ready to enjoy your summer break, a very happy birthday to your hubby too!
    Let me know when you are on Instagram so I can join you!
    V x
    P.S. I need to make that tart!!!

  5. Oh, such beauty all in one post! The little dress (and Angélique!) are so pretty -- I love that fresh fabric. Have a wonderful visit to Brittany!

  6. Your creations are amazing Stephanie! I don't even know what to respond to first, it's all so beautiful here this morning!
    I am so very glad that your family was able to get over scarlet fever alright and safely. I hope everyone will stay healthy the rest of your summer my dear.

  7. I love this summery post. The dress is absolutely beautiful, I love everything about it. The tart looks beautiful and delicious too. I'm so glad to know everyone is feeling better now.

  8. Dear Stephanie,

    Your summer days sounds delightful, despite of the sickness in the family. I am glad you are all well now and enjoying the fine weather and good company.

    The dress you made for Angelique looks enchanting! It may sound odd, but I still love to wear this sort of dresses too. Especially in the garden :-)!

    Your new hare and the pie look really good too!

    Wishing you and your family a good time in Brittany. Good luck to Heloise on her job!

    Madelief x

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  10. Your description of your al fresco summer evenings is so evocative, Stephanie, that I can taste the Champagne and feel the evening summer warmth! Oh, bliss, and that peach tart looks divine, I love the idea of the hint of lavender, a must-try for me this weekend before our lavender blossom is completely spent. The dress is just so beautiful, that fabric, is sheer perfection, an ideal combination with the simple design...and you know I always, always fall in love with whatever doll/hare you are stitching! I look forward to seeing you on IG, I've just started up, too. Chrissie x PS Bunny took her harp and piano exams one hour apart on the same day - merit in the piano, and I'm proud to say a very high distinction for harp! :-)

  11. What beautiful photos. Your summer sounds divine and I can almost imagine myself there! So glad your family is well now and I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer in Brittany.

  12. Beautiful things you've been working on!
    Hope you are all feeling better...
    birthday wishes and bon voyage : )

  13. i'm intrigued by that book!!! must look it up.....your summer (now that the scarlet fever has been abated!) sounds lovely. looking forward to your presence on instagram!!! (i'm there fleetingly.) and thanks for the recipe.....yum.

  14. What lovely pictures you always paint with your words. That tart looks wonderful. What a cute dress. What little girl wouldn't fall in love with that?

  15. Scarlet fever seems to be everywhere this summer. Glad your family has got over it. Have a lovely holiday. Love that dress xx

  16. My goodness, Stephanie, those two words, scarlet fever, are very scary. What a time you all must have gone through. I am so glad that no one else in your family caught this painful illness...and delighted that you three are now recovered.

    Grand to hear more about how summer arrives in your part of France with lots of gusto. The notion of the season adding an outdoors room to your home really adds to the picture!

    Thank you for the link to that amazing fabric shop. I can tell why you like it so much. I am lucky here in NYC to have Purl Soho within a five minute walk from my own workplace. Purl carries quite a good selection of Liberty fabrics in that shop, and also on its website.

    The fabric you chose for that flowery dress suits the design perfectly, and your little model is as adorable as ever. The tart sends a delicious invitation to try my own version. Thank you for the recipe.

    The lavender embroidery on your latest hare sends a lovely message of warm and sunny French days.

    Hoping that you and your family will have a grand, and relaxing, time in Brittany, another beautiful part of the world. xo

  17. It sounds like your summer is glorious, minus the scarlet fever of course. We are battling wisdom teeth removals and tonsillitis. I wish the birthday boy a wonderful day and that all of you have a lovely trip.

  18. Dear Stephanie,

    So glad to hear that your family are all over scarlet fever and what a worrying time for you all.
    Looks like you are having a lovely summer - how sweet the little Liberty print dress is and adore the darling photos of Angelique with her pretty flower garland. The tart looks delicious and I can't wait until it is peach season here again.
    Happy birthday to Mickael for tomorrow and enjoy your time in Brittany.

  19. Such a lovely summery post Stephanie. So please to hear everyone is well again

  20. I remember my eldest son getting Scarlet Fever and how ill he was with it - you do not often hear about it these days - glad that everyone has recovered and the family are now set to enjoy the rest of the summer in Brittany.
    I love the Liberty fabric you have used for Angélique's dress and how pretty she looks wandering around the fields of sunflowers.

  21. Oh, I had Scarlet Fever once and it was not a pleasant thing!
    I love that book by Victoria Finlay, I have a special thing about color, and not everyone understands it!
    You have a lovely blog! I am Georgia Girl With An English Heart...but my first love for the world came from France...I really do need to do a post about it!

  22. Dear Stephanie
    Your lovely writings will keep summer memories alive forever! As a gardner and floral designer, I so love how you incorporate all things floral, as well as your family life in your writings. From the scrumptious tart, champagne and the field of sunflowers evolves a breathtaking story. Of course, my fav is Angelique in your sweet dress, I'm honored you included my flower crown. Sending you best wishes for your glorious summer to continue! Michele at Amore Bride

  23. I am so sorry that you have been suffering with an awful 'vintage' illness like scarlet fever!
    I am also equally happy that everyone is happy and healthy again!
    Your images in this post are stunning as usual. you have a marvelous talent for photography..
    bestest sunny and healthy wishes to you all
    Daisy j x

  24. Your words conjure up a lovely image of summer, and one not too far off summer days and evenings on this island halfway around the world. Now, off to read from the link on your other page.......

  25. I've been eyeing that dress for ages, but i'm not a great seamstress and it seems a bit too complicated for me. Was it hard to make?

    1. Hello Gaby! It's lovely to see you here. I chose this pattern because it is not complicated and has no buttonholes to make as my sewing machine does not have the accessory required to make those. Honestly, it took me about four hours to make from scratch and I am a slow (methodical) worker. The instructions are very clear to follow and use only basic sewing skills.

      Why don't you try it? :-)

  26. So sorry to hear that you have been suffering with illness in the family and that you are all better again now. I hope that the rest of the summer is trouble free and wonderful! xx

  27. Dear Stephanie...
    Such a lovely summery post ...How pretty is Angélique's new dress...she looks beautiful indeed anongst those huge, happy sunflowers!
    Capucine is just wonderful too in her vibrant colours and your embroidery is stunning Stephanie!
    Happy Birthday wishes to Mickaël and wishing you all a wonderful time in Brittany. Very pleased to hear everyone is feeling much better...I didn't realise Scarlet Fever was still around xx
    Susan x
    P.S I agree with Vivienne...champagne does sounds the perfect way to forget those mosquitoes!

  28. Dear Stephanie, if someone is not in the summer mood yet, your beautifully written post will get one there! I love the summer dress that you sowed for your girl. How lucky she is to have a mom, who can do that. Your peach pie looks so yummy, that I immediately feel like I must have desert, even though it is in the morning. Maybe I give your recipe a try. Wishing you a wonderful time in Brittany!

  29. Stephanie, your blog posts are always such a delight to read, in fact they are the only ones I currently devote time to reading. Your way with words are so uplifting and inspiring. I share the dislike of orange with you, although it is my dear nephew's favourite colour (bizarrely). Enjoy the final months of this blissful European summer and I am getting tempted more and more each week to buy one of your wonderful lovely bunnies. Susannah (Verity Hope dolls ) xxx

  30. Hello Stephanie,
    so glad you have fought and won over that nasty sounding scarlet fever.The little liberty print dress is delightful,and the floral crown tops it off majestically. Your tart looks divine, I need to make that. I have made your lovely lemon curd lots of times now and I just adore it, so thank you.
    Enjoy your holiday in Brittany, perhaps you will be inspired to make a hare from Brittany. Much love, Linda x

  31. You don't like orange? but so much of it in your gorgeous photos! The lovely orange flowers in the pretty dress, the simply wonderful looking fruit tart. The embroidery on the toys legs. What is not to love about orange?!

    1. You are absolutey right! And all my favourite fruit and vegetables are orange too.

      Best wishes,


  32. Supercute dress!!!

  33. Hi Stephanie, I'm so pleased to hear that you're all recovered from that horrible illness. I love that fabric! I shall have to look up the website, I know I'll be inspired!
    I hope Mickaël had a good birthday celebration and that you all had a lovely day.
    Good luck with Instagram, I've had a couple of trys but it's the one thing I can't work out how to do! :)
    Jess xx

  34. Hello my sweet friend!
    Happy belated birthday to Mickaël I hope it was a good one and I'm glad to hear that you are all on the mend x
    Ooooooh the tart and ooooooooh the dress and oooooh again the little hare leg wit the sweet bee tattoo!
    Happy weekend
    love Jooles x x x

    P.S thank you for your sweet comments lately x

  35. How happy I am to hear that you are all well again and hopefully are enjoying your summer break. So many beautiful things here that I might comment on, but I will restrict myself to saying that Colour is among my favourite books and will repay a retread or two. Happy holiday my friend x

  36. Dear Stephanie,
    We are just back from a few weeks holiday abroad. It seems that your family had a tough time in the meanwhile. Scarlet fever! That's quite terrible! I'm glad to hear that you've all recovered. And that you enjoyed summer days (and evenings) in the garden... a tart with peache-an-lavender, a bootle of champagne to share with good friends on a warm summer evening, with candllelights. Sounds like paradise!
    Of course, I'm terribly in love with your latest creations, Angelique's dress is just like a summer day, bright, full of joy and colours. And of course, my favourite is your Mademoiselle's leg, with the lavender and bee.
    Enjoy your holidays in Brittany. We'll you go and join Heloïse in Belle Ile?

  37. STEPHANIE! You are back HOME! I bet your holiday was just perfect. Anywhere in France or the UK is a getaway to me, and to be with your beautiful children must have been so relaxing and fun.

    Thank you my friend for coming to visit me. I am a very determined person, that is for sure. I consume life, my husband says. WHY NOT? It's only once that you have this breath, so take advantage of the good opportunities, I say!

    Wishing you relaxation as you settle into your routine. I wish the children much success for la rentrée! BISOUS ! Anita

  38. How interesting that you and I are not overly fond of orange, Stephanie. The book you linked to intrigues me, and I love seeing all of the beautiful things you have been making of late! Blessings to you and yours. xx

  39. I appreciate, cause I found just what I was looking for. You’ve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye


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