Friday, 20 April 2012

Marie V et Le Vin

This April I escaped to the Loire Valley in France. An area well known for its Chateaux and wine. It's a beautiful area, I’ve spent many a holiday in the Loire Valley and a great amount of my childhood there.

The winters are mild usually, although this winter is was surprisingly cold and the Loire froze with huge blocks of ice travelling down stream. This has rarely been seen by locals. In April the weather is usually very warm and sunny and we certainly were blessed with sunshine.

Mr M and I enjoy taking the car and heading towards an area of wine and taking our pick of the local wineries, and having a taste. If you've not experience this, I suggest you have a try when next in France.

Don't be shy, most wineries are open 7 days a week and welcome visitors. They usually allow you to taste around four different wines and will ask you what you are interested in. This can be Red, white, Rose or perhaps you know you like a wine with a deep flavour, or you are looking for something to drink immediately. Your choice. Don't be shy to say to the merchant what you don't like so they can help you taste something you will like.

The Loire is rich in diverse soils and has an amazing amount of vineyards offering various wines with a difference in grape, soil and technical process. Small villages have flourished into pivotal wine regions as wine makers make the most of the land.

We travelled through Bourgeuil, opposite Chinon. This is a small wine region and is situated between the Loire River and a forest. The landscape slopes down towards the river and offers three different types of soils; sandy river banks, gravelly soil and then a limestone rich soil near the forest.

The limestone-rich soil produces a strong, rich dusky red-wine, whereas the grapes grown nearer the river will produce a lighter, floral tasting wine. Usually the floral lighter wines should be drunk within the first 2-5 years whereas the richer wines can be kept from 5-15 years. This region is better known for its red wines, but also offers some Rose and a little white wine.

If you prefer white wine I suggest taking a different route, but this was certainly a wonderful picturesque area for reds!

Interestingly, there is a small area next to Bourgeuil, called Saint Nicholas de Bourgeuil. This tiny area is based on the middle section of the Bourgeuil soil so produces light fruity wines with a little kick and can be kept for several years.

In any case, we spent the afternoon in Bourgeuil and also went to a favourite winery in Chinon and another further in Champigny. These areas are well know for their red wines but they offer a little more white too.

On average a bottle of wine may cost between four and 7 euros. Bargain!

We went a little crazy and as we packed the car on our last day we realised there was little room left for legs, and suitcases! We took 17 cases of wine, plus an additional 5 litre bag in box of wine...we must have been over the limit, but pleased customs didn't catch us!

We have enough wine to last us a few weeks, so you know what I'm doing! Although it's not promising for the Marie V cushions, better not drink and sew!

Marie V

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Marie V and Le Château de Brézé

In the heart of the Loire Valley is a fascinating Chateau, under a Chateau.

The Château de Brézé is one of the most unique castles in the world, as it is just as spacious and glorious under the ground as it is over the ground.

Very close to the Saumur region, the Château de Brézé is situated on a steady slope, today surrounded by vineyards. At a distant glance, this imposing building looks to be a dry-moated castle. But at a closer look in fact the moat is simply a deep dug-out foundation of the castle, almost forty meters down.

The Château de Brézé's first foundations would have been laid around the 12th century. It still has a few medieval features such as a drawbridge, but it was mostly transformed over the 16th and then 19th centuries.

In the 12th century as the foundations were being lain, troglodyte caves were also being built, or dug out. The idea behind these underground caves was for two main reasons. Number one, the limestone was quarried to build the castle, and number two the dug-out holes or caves became protecting homes for the occupiers of the castle and further afield.

The caves and underground basements were so extensive the entire surrounding villages could take refuge during an attack. This is why the Château de Brézé is dubbed a castle under a castle. It is rumoured that there is at least 3 kilometres of troglodyte passages, only 1.5 kilometres have been reached, the other half is too dangerous to currently access and potentially lost after stones have collapsed etc.

One of the unique aspects of the extensive troglodyte caves is the 'well of light'. Hidden from intruders eyes, were several wells dug into the limestone rock. Meters below the surface laid the troglodyte caves, and these dry wells would provide light into the caves for living and more. The well into the caves was carved in a certain way to all light to penetrate, but for any intruders to be unable to enter through the well. 'Murder holes' were carved out of the rock, creating traps which often meant certain death for the intruder. The intruder could drop down into the well, but find themselves trapped in a cage-like hole. By the time he would have dug his way into the cave, the dwellers would have been armed and ready for attack.

Also, rather impressively, is the working kitchen and bakery. Still forty meters underground, a large chamber is dedicated to making bread and preparing simple meals. A chimney above ground leads down to the bread oven where over 100kilos of bread would be made on a daily basis for the castle inhabitants and surround villagers. Today this troglodyte kitchen is used for workshops teaching children how to bake bread, but the bread oven, the yeast chamber and the medieval cabinets are still very much in use.

There was also a 'freezer', deep in the chambers of quarried limestone a freezer was dug deeper below the ground. In the winter months blocks of ice were regularly brought from rivers and snowfields and would keep the pantry cool. Although the troglodyte caves are always a steady chilly 12 degrees all year round.

Lastly and most impressively is the wine making facilities. This castle would have had to produce masses of wine for the occupants, the cardinals, the villagers and further afield. Until the late 1980's the winery was still in use with traditional processes. They would keep the wines in oak barrels of around 2500 litres each.
The Château de Brézé still produces red wine and 'crement' which is a form of sparkling wine. The red wine is very light and slightly fad. It's a wine I would recommend, however they also make 'crement rouge'; sparkling wine made from red grapes, and this is rather good for an aperitif!

I hope you enjoyed this read, it's rather an intriguing one!
Marie V

Monday, 16 April 2012

L'Oeuf De paques

These beauties were just a little too tantalising!

Mr M and myself made our way to France over Easter. Family and friends greeted us with these rather beautiful and very yummy Oeuf de Paques. Chocolate dreams, the Oeuf de Paques, or Easter egg, is something really rather significant in France.

As much as it is in England, Easter eggs are a good way for chocolate companies to promote themselves, however there is still a very huge proportion of the population navigating to the local chocolatier or even patisserie to pick up a variety of Oeuf de Paque to treat friends, family and of course children.

The local baker will offer a selection of hand made and home made chocolate eggs, chocolate hens and potentially some exotic inspiration for this Easter. Some bakers may decide to purchase eggs from a supplier but most bakers will make his own in advance and the village will either place an order or purchase in store the egg that takes their fancy.

Oeuf de Paques are scattered arounf the house and garden for children, and some adults, as part of a traditional Easter egg hunting finishing in a sugar high!

As these delicacies are hand-made, they come wrapped in florists cellophane and lots of beautiful ribbons adorns the hand-made packaging. Usually a little piece of cardboard will stand the egg-up but sometimes the eggs are simply just wrapped and left to roll around precariously. Although it has to be said eggs are very popular in France and so they are not left rolling around for long!

It has to be said that all eggs, hens and more are filled with more chocolaty delights. I was very disappointed by my Marks & Spencer bunny this Easter. Not only was he rather expensive, but he was as empty as our hosepipes...

In France, eggs are filled to the brim with more chocolate, praline, nougat and sugared sweets. Carefully eggs are rattled to listen to this treasure infested egg, and delicately the egg is cracked open and then demolished! Some sweets are beautifully wrapped in coloured foils, but others are simply open to the elements.

What I love about these Oeuf de Paques is the fact that the inside treats are not wrapped in plastic, the egg itself is plainly wrapped in cellophane and there is nothing more. In the UK most of us are buying packaging with a tiny amount of chocolate inside and it's never very satisfying...

The little chocolate hen never saw me coming, had no time for escape. I quite literally demolished, ravished this chocolate supreme in minutes. I must say this was one of the best chocolates I have tasted and I relished the fact that this was made in the local bakery. Friend of the family, and on a daily basis supplying bread and desserts, this chocolate hen was carefully moulded, painted, filled, and wrapped with love, care and joy.

Mr M received a sweet little egg with edible glitter, and in all honesty he better not leave it lying around too long, because I've already eaten half of it and it does not have much longer to see day light!

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and you are still enjoying you chocolates!

Marie V

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Bethnal Green's Affordable Vintage Sale

If you are not already aware, I love vintage. And what can a lady like me love more than vintage, no it's not Mr M, it's shopping for vintage!

Judy's affordable vintage sale is coming to Spitalfields Market in London for another amazing sale. It's over not one, but two days. So if you can't make the Saturday 7th of April, then I suggest you get down on the Monday 9th. It's the Easter Bank Holiday and the perfect excuse to walk off al those chocolate Easter Eggs you will have indulged in over the weekend,

The sale is one of the only vintage sales in London where you are not charged an entry fee, so you can take a stroll free of charge and just admire the pieces on sale. Although I'm highly positive you'll be tempted by something quirky and unique.

Both days will have at least 170 vintage traders with a multitude of goodies up for grabs. Not just womenswear; we're promised lots of menswear to get your men looking and dressed fine. As well as fashions there'll be furniture and bric-à-brac sellers, homewares, haberdashery and collectibles vendors. You''l also find a few craft stalls so there is definitely something for everyone.

This months theme is Get-Set-Go, showcasing the British and International vendors at their stands. Make sure you take in all the international offerings, there's always something different to be found at the international vendor stands!

At little added extra organised by Judy's is the 'Best Dressed Shopper' competition. Make sure you wear your Sunday Best Vintage Special so be in with a chance of winning vouchers and prizes throughout the day. It's definitely worth a visit, just to try to get a prize!

The market opens at 11am and closes at 5.30, barely enough time to get round all 170 stalls, but do your best!

Mr. M and I are unfortunately unable to make this vintage event, I'm rather disappointed, but I have to say I'm looking forward to our break in France.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Tales From The Orient

It's funny how textiles can bring out emotions in people, how fabrics can mean so much to someone, but can also make you feel unhappy. A lot of factors can be considered as to why a fabric can mean something to someone.

It can be a print that the owner has fallen in love with; this often happens to me, or an heirloom, a print designed by a textile artist that one favours. It can also be a fabric from an item that has haunted you. I personally dreaded a certain printed curtain from my childhood that has recently been brought back from the dead, so to speak.

In any case these fabrics bring out emotions in people, and it inspires me to use beautiful fabrics to bring joy and positive emotions into people's lives. Whether it is an item yo use every day or occasionally.

This is why, I adore hearing from someone that they have a prized fabric which they would like refurbished because the item or the print means so much to them.

I have been handed over an oriental inspired blouse. It no longer fits the owner, but she wishes to hold onto the item. It was hand-stitched by the owner with a fabric she fell-in love with in the early 1990's. It would pain her to have to give-it away.

The cotton fabric is a liberty inspired print, a cut-off found in a quilting and patchwork shop. The very intricate detailed floral print in reds and greens is brought-out by the oriental inspired red details including Chinese buttons and red piping.

Step-in Marie V.

My initial thoughts were the focal points of the blouse. The red piping and oriental details. These details needed to be the focal point for a cushion. I also felt the tailored darts were essential to keep as a reminder that this has a hand-made garment.

With these designs in mind I've been working the fabric into a rectangle to fit a cushion.

More to come soon...

Marie V

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Cockerel Glory

Rummaging through florals there came a golden glow from the depths. Marie-Magali was scrunched up and forgotten among dark prints and unloved discarded textiles.

I was speechless at the beauty of this piece of fabric. I loved the detailing of the feathers on the bird's tail and the simplistic illustration of the ferns around. The colour palette was also what drew mew in, the golden yellow background with earthy browns and greens and just a splash of pinky rouge.

In all honesty I'm not sure what kind of bird this is. I'd be keen to know your views. From the tail i'd say it was a cockerel, however it seems too short, with a chunky neck and a flat head. Similarly this also crosses out a pheasant. Perhaps this is an exotic bird not local to Europe.

I'm not sure how to date this fabric at all. I would take a guess at the 1950's or 60's. However, the fabric has already been cut into, cut around so I would have been missing much of the original item. Again at a guess I would say the fabric was originally a circular table cloth, as the print had a central fern. It's just a plain shot in the dark.

In any case, the cockerel's stance and colours are beautiful, there is almost a painted aesthetic quality to the printed illustration. Only a handful of colours have been used but shadows depict his movements and how he is puffing out his neck feathers.

The bottom striped fabric, was also a lucky find. A box of lace and random ribbon came into my possession. Most of the pieces I had no idea what they would have been from and also what I could do with them. My guess would be that it was a wide ribbon for medals as there were similar ribbons with medals on. But it does seem a little too wide. This striped band was very sumptuous but I simply couldn't find a project to include it in.

The Marie-Magali cockerel came along and the colours just merged. I also felt it finished the square cushion well. Added a little something different and interesting. The two were a match made in textile heaven. The creams matched the golden glows of the cotton cockerel background and the pink-rouge also was a match.

The Marie-Magali cushion now looks very much French inspired. I can see it in a rustic French cottage, or perhaps as an outdoor seating cushion, or even in a kitchen, perhaps with similar cockerel prints.

Marie-Magali is looking for a loving home, so be sure to welcome this cushion to your sofa, chair or cushion corner.

Marie-Magali is a cushion cover, but you can also purchase the inner cushion on the Marie V site to fill up Marie-Magali.

If you have any insight on the Marie-Magali fabrics then please leave your comments as I'm keen to know more!

Marie V

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Win! Marie-France Vintage Cushions

Marie-France and twin are two beautiful scatter cushions made from 1930's silk. These two cushions are up for grabs, simply leave a comment on the Marie V facebook page and your name will automatically be entered into the random drawer.

Competition closes on April 21st, so make sure you leave your note before that date.

Marie V will contact the winner and arrange delivery of these twin gorgeous cushions, which will adorn your beautiful home.

Marie- France and twin were originally a men's dinner scarf. This evening men's scarf, in golden yellows and earthy browns was found tucked away in a vintage shop in London. The colours were what attracted me initially but the fine silk in impeccable condition was also a winner!

Unfortunately the edges were rather frayed, and the silk so delicate, it made piecing this cushion rather difficult. The slime scarf also meant that only two small square cushions could be fabricated, but they are rather dazzling and will brighten any chair, sofa or bed as they are scattered!

It's a shame that dinner scarves, or gentlemen's scarves have gone out of fashion as they certainly add colour to men's attire, even though, as Mr M has commented may often dip into soups and more.

In any case there is no risk of dipping these twin scatter cushions in your soup, and they could be yours, just in time for the summer months ahead. So leave a lovely heart warming comment on the Marie V facebook page.

I may just even leave a few messages in return!

Good Luck
Marie V