Friday, July 31, 2009

Little flowers from my garden...

I couldn't resist asking Michaela if I could borrow her blog title for this post, although I've changed it a bit. It just seemed to be what I wanted to show you, although there's a bit of Vide Grenier creeping in towards the end, amongst the flowers...
These are Morning Glories which Ben planted to climb up his new fence this year. I heard Son 2 bouncing in the pool the other morning and shouting to his brother: 'I can't believe those beautiful flowers only last one morning!' There is something profligate about putting all that effort into something so ephemoral.
A few other photos I've taken over the past few months - my scented garden, which is next to the herb garden. The lavender smells wondeful when you brush against it as you walk up the path to the front door.
Lilies of the Valley (muguet), which our neighbour Nellie shared with me - a mum from the chlidren's judo club she runs had given her more plants than she needed. We may have our own flowers in time for May 1st next year!This one is a current flower, but it's indoors.
It's from my much-loved Pinguicula, which, if you look at the leaves, you will realise is one of my carnivorous plant collection. I think the boys 'donated' that very large fly, actually...
Back outside, the grape pergola has grown some strange 'fruit' this morning. I noticed that the birds were beginning to help themselves, so I tied up some 'bows' of foil which sparkle and rustle in what we have to hope is an alarming way, as far as birds are concerned.
CDs, of course, are the more traditional bird scarer! However, I couldn't find Ben's stash of garden-worthy CDs.
Oops - a Vide Grenier find has wormed its way into this photo of one of my birthday hydrangeas! It's a charming wooden mirror which I have now stripped and waxed - photos of the sweet carving on it once it's on the wall!
And while we're at it, a very old tin from the same Vide Greniers.
It's a Nativity scene (creche), and I want to know the best way to clean it up without destroying more of the paintwork. What do you think? Brush? Soap and water? No hope?
And nestling in among the fucia flowers, my finished stool makeover.
I decided to tell you how I did it in a separate 'tutorial' below. Ooh, a 'tutorial'! I am getting ideas above my station...

Vintage Stool Makeover

This stool dates from sometime after the Second World War, when one of Ben's family decided to cope with a shortage of materials by making a stool out of old crates. Ben's dad told us to use it as long as we wanted and then get rid of it, because it was no value to anyone.

But Emily loved him...

(Sorry, irrelevant quote, but we both loved this stool as soon as we saw it.)The time came, this summer, when I had a great place to put the stool but it looked too stained and grubby to live there (near the utility room door, if you're interested). I sanded it down quite hard, to make a decent surface, primed/undercoated it in about three coats of white, to stop the stain showing through, and then gave it two light coats of 'blue indigo' matte paint - I wanted it to be a bit shabby with perhaps a bit of white showing through, rather than a perfect gloss finish. I left all the chips on the edges - I love them, too.
Yesterday it was time to gather together any vintage ephemera I was willing to use for this project. These vintage tram tickets come from Naples, Malta and somewhere in Spain, I think. I love the way my mum found them in this box she picked up somewhere - a treasured souvenier of someone's latterday Grand Tour, I suppose. I only used the battered ones...
These photographic memorabilia came from one of the lovely Bethany Christian Trust shops in Edinburgh - they seem to have been the collection of someone called Rankin, which is a good, literary Edinburgh name!
I decided to use some of my Catholic collection - mainly First Communion cards. I don't feel much in tune with Marian imagary, or with the style of language used (ovbiously in French), so I took time to find some I liked.
Here was the modern (and oh so unenvironmentally friendly, I suspect) side to the project. It's a clever spray glue which allows you to reposition papers, although some of my tram tickets were too frail for that kind of treatment.
I then spent a happy half hour arranging papers, including three of the reproduction gardening cards that Sam sent me last week - their colours are stronger and really bring the project together.
I used the flimsy tram tickets on the battered edges of the stool, because I wanted something that would mould itself to the shape and really show up all the chips and knocks. Ben thinks I'm mad.
I also used opaque patterns from my collection of French fashion papers, which could mould themselves beautifully to the edges, but could also be cut to fit awkward gaps in the middle. At first I tried to trim the edges with scissors, but I soon discovered it looked much better if I tore them carefully.
Lovely moulding in the dents! Here's some Italian for Michaela...
Finally I had everything arranged and spray-glued on - fairly loosely, some of them, as I hoped that the varnish would give a final 'stick' to everything.
I took the stool out to our well-used painting area near the pool (yes, a problem with splashes, it's true).
I've used four coats of this varnish, as, although no one will be sitting on the stool, I still want to give a really good covering to unite the varied thicknesses and absorbancies of the cards and papers I used.
And here is the finished top! The two First Communion cards proved tricky, as they were some kind of inabsorbent fake-parchment material. My advice would be to make sure everything used is absorbent, or it will be hard to stick down and varnish.
And finally, the whole stool! I will probably give it another coat of varnish, just to be sure, and then I will put it next to the white bookshelf in our corridor, near the utility room, and I suspect that it will often have a book or two on it...
I found the idea that inspired me, and the basic techniques, in Petra Boase's excellent 1999 book, 'Funky Junk'. I think there was a TV programme of the same name at about that time, although I have no memory of it. Too busy with small babies at that time...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Then and Now - Honeymoon and Spot the Difference!

19 years ago, we leapt into our bright yellow beetle and drove up to the Lake District for our honeymoon. We stayed in a holiday flat, rather than in a tent, as we normally do! It was above the Post Office at Rossthwaite, in Borrowdale, our favourite valley.We did a lot of walking, as it's cheap. And yes, OF COURSE I bought that waterproof jacket at a jumble sale! I think this is on top of Skiddaw, looking over Bassenthwaite Lake. Does that sound right? I actually know the Lakes well now, as I ended up the following year at Charlotte Mason College of Education in Ambleside, so Ben and I lived in Windermere for the first nine months of our married life. We didn't know about that when we booked Rose Cottage for our honeymoon!When we got back from honeymoon, we stayed with Ben's parents, and then mine, until our rented student flat above Windermere Library was ready. We spent the time building a bed (Ben) and doing up four mis-matched kitchen chairs from the junk shop in his parents' town (me). My first furniture recup'!So that was then, and this is now. Ben is getting rained on in the UK, for work purposes, and will pop in to see his parents at the weekend. The boys and I are having a week in the rather windy sun at home, and have been trying out their new snorkels, masks and flippers in the pool. The pool isn't big enough, but it will be a while before we get to the sea...

Now, can you Spot the Difference between the two pictures of Floss, below?One is Sarah's pic, one was taken by my boys last night. Well, what's the difference? The string of pearls is identical, the flower in the hair (carefully rearranged by the boys to make sure it was on the right side), the blue patterned dress, the big red button, the apron, even identical lace from Lululiz! OK, I've got it! I forgot my black gingham leggings! Thanks so much, Sarah...
Son 2 decided, probably quite rightly, that he would make a better model than photographer...
There are plenty more photos where that one came from...
Now, I've been tagged by Melanie, proving that blogging is great for the morale- she's still at it even though she's suffering from swine flu, poor girl!
This one is charmingly different and easy:

1-Collect the book that you have most handy

2-Turn to page 161

3-Find the 5th complete sentence

4-Cite the sentence on your blog

5-Pass it on to five other blogger friends

So, on the chair next to the computer is that Vintage Blogger's Favourite, 'I Capture the Castle', by Dodie Smith. I've borrowed it from my mum - this is the first time I've read it!
The sentence is:
'He did a cautious dive - and came up looking a very surprised man.'
As I'm only on page 31, I don't know who we're talking about here, but I'll find out in good time...
I'm going to pass this tag on to the first five commenters on my last post:
The Curious Cat

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Clare of Summerfete asked, the other day, about the meaning of my blog name. It's a good question! Here are some definitions, both from the dictionary, and in terms of what the name means to me.
troc: nom masculin - barter, exchange, swappingSo that's the dictionary definition: 'troc' means swapping or bartering. As you can see above, in modern France it's becoming the word to describe second hand shops - 'deposit... we sell' proclaims one of our favourite winter shopping grounds. I bought Raja's kennel there - you can see it in my first picture.
In the summer, however, most of the second hand shopping goes on out of doors, in the Vide Greniers ('Empty Attics') which are held in each town in turn.
All year round we visit the Charity Shops, which are fewer in number but larger than those in Britian; the Braderies, (below) like over-organised jumble sales, tend to run in spring and autumn to help people offload/stock up on seasonal clothes.
So, in my mind, if not quite in the dictionary, all of these second hand outlets come under the definition of 'troc'. I bought my cake stand in the troc shop near work.
Broc' is a step up from troc!brocante: nom feminin - dealing in antiques, antiques
Vide Greniers often have great brocante stalls - the line between Vide Greniers and Flea Markets is unclear at times, although I think prices might be better at VGs.Some brocante is really over-priced, in my opinion. However, ephemera seems to be undervalued so I buy it up whenever I can!
Who could resist these little mementoes of past lives?
I sent two of these to Sarah in New Zealand!
Sometime I can afford other broc too.
And now to our last definition...
récupérer: verbe - to recover, to make up, to salvage
Récup' has a great history in France - the painting above by Juan Gris (1913) uses 'printed bar room ephemera including labels, packaging and advertising leaflets', which 'were the trademark ingredients of of the Parisian Cubist's collages', or so the book below tells me.
This is the 'Make Do and Mend' side of troc and broc!
Most of my recuperations tend to be fabric-based, like the mended basket above, or this battered trunk recovered in denim from an old skirt.
I like to up-cycle clothes too, as the phrase goes! You can see that récup' is what we variously call recycling, upcycling, repurposing etc... It's fun, cheap and environmentally friendly - what's not to like?
I was brave enough to récup' something non-fabric-based this week, thanks to the inspiration of Sarah from A Beach Cottage. Feeling a lot like her, but less Aussie, I found these battered old shelves by the side of the road a few months ago and brought them home. They were hideously stained, but after a wash of white (very Sarah) and two washes of blue (very Floss) I think they look fun for holding some house plants that desperately needed some summer fresh air on our covered terrace.
So that is it: troc, second hand trading; broc, low-grade antiques and récup', repurposing. Thrifty, vintage, fun and environmentally friendly!