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Cozy Tablescape for a Christmas S'mores Bar | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva & Co

Cozy Tablescape for a Christmas S’mores Bar

For me, presentation is EVERYTHING. As a little girl growing up in Oklahoma, I never liked s’mores! I don’t know why, but their sticky, chocolatey, gooeyness never appealed to me. As an adult, I began to appreciate the luxury of one simple romantic bite – especially when roasting marshmallows over a candle flame in a mountain chalet. I use a good Nestle dark chocolate (I prefer Nestle Dessert Corse – 65% Pure Cocoa Dark Chocolate,) and French marshmallows, also called guimauves, purchased in a Paris pâtisserie, sandwiched between Lu Petit Beurre biscuits. 

Today in part 2 of our tablescapes series, Mimi is making s’mores on a mohair rug – #DivaStyle. The Christmas s’mores bar Mimi Montgomery of Lolo French Antiques et More shares below is simply divine – both the recipes themselves and the stunning photographs. Perfect for holiday entertaining – or any time you want a simple, elegant dessert that is dramatic, fun and easy! 

Dreaming of a White Christmas S’mores Bar 

Photos by Eric Gray Photography 

Last week, we were all merry and bright for our Wonderful Christmas Time Ladies Brunch. This week, we’re going dark(er) and decadent for a winter picnic like no other. For our second tablescape, Dreaming of a White Christmas S’mores Bar, we’re taking the art of picnicking to a whole new level. Instead of roasting chestnuts on an open fire, we’re toasting marshmallows on an open fire and making s’mores… on a mohair rug.

Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Smores Maker | The Antiques Diva & Co

I don’t know about your weather, but ours has been more than a bit frightful lately. The kind of weather that makes you want to stay inside and snuggle up by the fire. If you have a small home or studio apartment, I’m going to show you (with a little help from my friends at Barri Thompson Interiors) how to get creative and host a fun holiday soiree picnic-style around your coffee table. You’ll definitely have your guests Dreaming of a White Christmas…

Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Coffee Table | The Antiques Diva & Co

A Closer Look

A walk on the wild(er) side. The luxurious look and feel of the natural undyed, mid-century Turkish Angora woven blanket from Paige Albright Orientals that Barri chose to cover the homeowner’s custom-made chunky white coffee table was just what we needed to spice up our picnic, along with a spiced rum cocktail, of course. I know most of you probably don’t have a tiger-striped mohair rug laying around — but if you do… If you don’t, you definitely want to add it to your list! IT’S. THAT. DAMN. FABULOUS!

Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Coffee Table | The Antiques Diva & Co

Let Them Eat Cake

Lolo French Antiques et More | smores tablescape let them eat cake | The Antiques Diva & CoS’mores are the quintessential dessert — they require no baking! You’re free to choose as few or as many ingredients as you like, leaving plenty of time to concentrate on the tablescape and signature cocktail. For this place setting, Barri mixed and matched selections from the homeowner’s collection of modern tableware. She selected a white charger that really stood out against that fabulous mohair rug and anchored the black La Chamba pottery. The salad plate was adorned with fresh cut greenery, while the place card from Target was tied to the “bowl with one handle,”  which was filled with marshmallows, tiny chocolate bits, and pieces of butterscotch. The coating of powdered sugar we added to the marshmallows (to keep them from getting sticky) added a slight shine to them, and we placed a sparkly napkin ring in the center of them for an extra pop of shimmer and shine! Because more is more, and we love shiny finishes, we chose Gold flatware by West Elm. Spiced Rum Old Fashioned cocktails were served in smoky gray rocks glasses from West Elm.

Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Place Setting | The Antiques Diva & Co

Since the S’mores Maker, filled with graham crackers, white chocolate peppermint bark, and marshmallows, had to be in the center of the table, Barri used gold mercury glass votives to magically light up the space. She randomly placed them on the table creating an oh-so romantic atmosphere. Votives give off a soft, beautiful glow, and because they shine the light upward, they make everyone look good. Voila! Who can complain about that? Just for kicks, she grabbed an antique wooden saddle stool that she saw sitting in a bookcase and placed a moss nest with a glitter ornament on it. She then added some vintage sleigh bells… for a very “beautiful sight!” Often, it’s the simplest things that make the biggest impact.

Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Saddle | The Antiques Diva & Co

Barri also threw various pillows from PAO around the room. Incredibly stylish and versatile, they made for perfect party seating and snuggling. The neutral colors of the pillows, as well as the butterfly chair with the taupe Mongolian sheepskin cover, also from PAO, added just the right amount of texture… and had us dreaming of this White Christmas for days!

Zebra balls, zebra pillow, and antique Kurdish rug fragment pillow all from Paige Albright Orientals

Zebra balls, zebra pillow, and antique Kurdish rug fragment pillow all from Paige Albright Orientals

Lolo French Antiques | Tablescape Smores Bar Room | The Antiques Diva & Co

Butterfly chair with Mongolian sheepskin cover backed in cowhide from Paige Albright Orientals

The best thing about s’mores is there’s no wrong way to make them. Here are a few of our favorite combinations that will have your guests asking for s’more.

Mimi’s S’mores Recipes 

Classic S’mores Recipes 

    • Honey Maid Graham Cracker Squares
    • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
    • Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows


    • Honey Maid Graham Cracker Squares
    • Oreo Cookies
    • Creamy Peanut Butter
    • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
    • Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows

Reese’s S’mores 

    • Ritz Crackers
    • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
    • Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows

Sweet and Salty S’mores

    • Ritz Crackers
    • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
    • Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moremallows
    • Cookies and Creme S’mores
    • Honey Maid Graham Cracker Squares
    • Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Crème Candy Bar
    • Kraft’s Jet-Puffed S’moreMallows

What’s your favorite? Let us know!

Our next tablescape is a Holly Jolly Dinner Party. Instead of toasting marshmallows on a mohair rug we’ll be toasting “A day when cheer and gladness blend, When heart meets heart, And friend meets friend.”

À Bientôt! 


How to Create Christmas Tablescapes with Antiques and Vintage Pieces pt 1 | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva & Co

How to Create Christmas Tablescapes with Antiques and Vintage Pieces pt 1

Your home is a reflection of who you are – your travels, your passions, your lifestyle. As The Antiques Diva, I always incorporate antiques and vintage pieces into my home, mixed with modern and far more practical items for everyday living! When I entertain, I enjoy using antiques I’ve collected in new ways that showcase their beauty, but at the same time demonstrate that antiques are anything but old-fashioned and stuffy. Living with antiques is an art and a passion – and I love to share my home and #DivaLifestyle with my guests, especially during the holidays.  

Today we’re starting a series of blog posts by Mimi Montgomery of Lolo French Antiques et More full of #designinspiration and tips on using antiques and vintage pieces for holiday tablescapes, bar carts and entertaining! Mimi is thinking pink! Are these tabletops not the most stunning Christmas shades of pink you’ve ever seen! I’d love to be invited to this ladies brunch! 

Wonderful Christmas Time Ladies Brunch 

Tis the season… to deck the halls, the walls, and the tables! Whether you’re celebrating all that’s merry and bright with an intimate group of friends or hosting a large family gathering on Christmas Eve, you always want to make sure your holiday tabletop shines. This year, I called on a few of my favorite friends for some sparkling inspiration. WOW! Did they ever deliver! You might have seen some sneak peeks if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing with you the three table settings (plus a bar) that we created, along with detailed photos. So… put on your sleigh bells, pour yourself some bubbly, and fa la la la long…

Wonderful Christmastime Ladies Brunch | macarons | The Antiques Diva & Co


When it comes to setting a festive table, especially one in shades of pink, like my Wonderful Christmas Time Ladies Brunch, no one does it better than Barri Thompson Interiors. I met Barri shortly after moving to Birmingham, and we became fast friends. When Laurent and I purchased our home, there was no question who would be our designer. Barri’s love of color and her enthusiasm for design is contagious. I recently asked Barri and her assistant Melinda Musgrove (one of the floral designers on the C. Wayman Floral & Events Team for Cardi B’s baby shower before joining BTI) to design not one, but THREE, holiday tablescapes for a photoshoot. They didn’t hesitate to say yes! Photos by Eric Gray Photography

Wonderful Christmastime Ladies Brunch | Wonderful Christmastime Ladies Brunch | pink tablescape | The Antiques Diva & Co

Barri embraces the romantic appeal entertaining at home has. It’s a well thought out affair for her, where “fancy” doesn’t mean complicated. She brings her signature modern style to each tablescape, yet she has the uncanny ability to mix in vintage and antique pieces — making things that probably shouldn’t work together look enchanting. Non-traditional details help to define her Christmas tablescapes, which are made festive with fresh flowers, boughs and greenery from the yard, signature drinks, and a break from the usual red and green colors associated with Christmas.

Wonderful Christmastime Ladies Brunch | fresh flowers peonies | The Antiques Diva & Co


Wonderful Christmastime Ladies Brunch | Lolo French Antiques A Closer Look | The Antiques Diva & Co


A pink and green color scheme. The green plates used as chargers make the mix and match place settings, in various shades of pink and green, pop when placed directly on my bleached walnut table. The vintage Tulu rug and the bright colors and bold pattern on the antique Louis XVI style chairs also stand out against the wood.



Lolo French Antiques | tablescape tabletop | The Antiques Diva & Co


Lolo French Antiques Let Them Eat Cake. Tablescapes


The table is set à la française — French style, with the tines pointing down. Barri chose to use heirloom silver passed down to me from a great aunt, Pyrex chargers, a gift from my mother, beautifully detailed antique Limoges dishes, and Raynaud Festivite salad plates. As you can see, my love of antiques and vintage is not limited to furniture!



Lolo French Antiques | tablescape placesetting | The Antiques Diva & Co


Barri has such a discerning eye. She took the dainty little Limoges butter pats and placed two yummy macarons in each. What a delightful surprise! She also mixed the stemware, using Parklane by Mikasa and Manhattan Gold by Union Street. Blush pleated metallic napkins and chandelier napkin rings by Deborah Rhodes, were used to add extra shine.

Lolo French Antiques | tablescape butterpats | The Antiques Diva & Co

Melinda placed a 19th century Limoges fruit bowl that is part of my china collection in the center of the table to hold a large glitter bottle brush Christmas tree surrounded by pale pink peonies, silver brunia and gumball pink hypericum berries. She ran a glitter garland down the center of the table and filled in with the live berries and more silver brunia, adding champagne colored bottle brush trees inside glass on each side of the centerpiece for height. Blush colored rope taper candles from Greentree Home in antique silver candle holders add additional height and provide elegant light.


Lolo French Antiques.tablescape.centerpiece | bottlebrush tree | The Antiques Diva & Co


Will any of you be hosting a holiday fête this season? If so, these 5 tips will help make you the hostess with the mostest: 

1. Decide On A Color Scheme Or Theme — Think outside of the box with new color combos to create a fresh tablescape. Consider color combinations other than the traditional red and green. Dishes and glassware, as well as florals, are great ways to bring color to your table.

2. Get Creative — Take a cue from Barri and use things in unexpected ways like she did with the butter pats. We’ve been trained to set forks on the right and knives on the left, but holiday tablescapes give us the freedom to step away from tradition. Play with the napkins. Move them around until you find the perfect spot. And never feel like you have to cover a wooden table! The texture of the wood just creates another layer.

3. Make It Personal — Work with what you have. Don’t think you have to go out and buy everything new. You can’t go wrong with a mix of modern and antique tableware, or high end and low end. If you have a fabulous collection of sterling napkin rings or colored coupes, use them! Mix Limoges with Pyrex like we did! We played around with my china and crystal and swapped plates and glasses and candlesticks in and out many times before we settled on what we used.

4. Keep It Fresh — Go big on fresh flowers, garlands, and greenery. Natural elements are key to making a holiday tablescape memorable. Tuck sprigs of greenery into the tablescape or use them to adorn plates or candle holders.

5. Add Some Sparkle — Metallic finishes just draw people in. Whether its metallic threads in linens or glitter ornaments, everyone loves a little sparkle!

Lolo French Antiques | tablescape Ladies Brunch | The Antiques Diva & Co



Linens: Gold/Blush pleated metallic napkins, $40 each, by Deborah Rhodes, available at Table Matters 205/879-0125.


deborah rhodes chandelier napkin rings

Gold chandelier spray napkin rings, $30 each, by Deborah Rhodes, available at Table Matters 205/879-0125

rope blush candles

Rope blush candles $28/pair, by Greentree Home, available at Table Matters 205/879-0125

*All other table accessories except sterling candlesticks are from Table Matters.

Don’t miss our next tablescape, Dreaming of a White Christmas. We’re roasting marshmallows and making s’mores… on a mohair rug.

A Bientôt!


Presepe Christmas Figures

Dear Diva Readers,

The Christmas season is upon us! Chances are you’ve already started your holiday shopping and decorating and are looking forward to partaking in annual traditions in the coming days. Since our tours are offered in several countries throughout Europe, we are always learning about different cultural traditions and today i want to share a bit about Christmas in Italy. Anyone who has shopped the Tuscan countryside has surely seen nativity scenes for sale, whether they are antique or new. But the tradition of setting up a nativity goes back quite some time.

Presepe Christmas Figures Presepe_napoletano_del_museo_di_arte_sacra_di_San_Paolo_12

In Italian, the nativity scene is called the presepe or presepio, meaning literally “in front of the crib.” For centuries this scene has appeared in churches, piazzas, and in homes beginning on December 8 of each year as that is the day for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Presepi remain up until the Epiphany on January 6, as this is the Feast associated with the Three Magi’s visit to the nativity.

Presepe Christmas Figures Campania

It is thought that the tradition of the presepe originated in 1223 AD in the town of Greccio when St. Francis had a theatrical mass performed, using a live ox and ass, along with a straw-filled crib to bring the story of Jesus’ birth to life. The mass was not held inside the four walls of a church, but was set up outdoors in a wooded grove to make the scene appear more real. Centuries later during the Counter-Reformation of the 1500’s, people began to set up presepi in their private homes as well. It wasn’t until the 18th century however that presepi became extremely popular and were a standard fixture of the Christmas season, as they are today.

Presepe Christmas Figures Photo from Collezione Cassese, Presepe napoletano del Settecento

Photo from Collezione Cassese, Presepe napoletano del Settecento

Presepi can include just a few familiar figures such as Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and the Magi or can be made up of hundreds of figurines, which can occupy entire floors of grand palazzi. A visit to the city of Naples can reveal some of the most elaborate presepi collections as it is known for having workshops that create the nativity sets which have been in operation for centuries. Families all over Italy often set up presepi in their home using figurines that have been passed down for generations. Building the presepe is often quite the feat as it may include a water feature—symbolic of baptism—and a cave or stable where the birth is thought to have taken place. But for many Italians, the presepe is a symbol of their culture, and building it each year connects them to their family’s past and their faith.

As we celebrate this season, I’d love to hear what some of your traditions are. Share them with me in the comments below or on The Antiques Diva & Co Facebook page!

Happy Holidays,

The Antiques Diva®

Treasures on Tuesdays: December 25 to January 6

Dear Diva Readers,

I love the holiday season with the days between Christmas and New Years being my favorite days of the year.  This is when I’m gathered with those closest to me during my annual sejourn to America.  But did you know that December 25 hasn’t always been Chistmas Day?   Even the date of the celebration of the birth of Christ has fluctuated. Until the Roman church adopted December 25 in the 4th century, January 6 was the day of celebration — the day we now celebrate Epiphany or Heilige Drei Könige – the German name for the “3 Wise Men”.  To this day, the initials of the Three Kings — C+M+B (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) — plus the year are inscribed in chalk over doorways in German-speaking countries on the eve of January 6 to protect house and home. Historically, the three letters are supposed to come from the Latin phrase for “Christus mansionem benedicat” (Christ Bless This House) –  few of the people practicing this custom are aware of this fact.

In many parts of Europe, including Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, the Christmas celebration does not end until this date.  How fitting that January 6 is the day I will return home to Europe after spending a month in America.  Today, January 6 is considered the arrival of the three “kings of the orient” in Bethlehem — and the end of the “twelve days of Christmas” between Christmas and January 6.

In Germany, Christmas lasts for 12 days: from Dec 25 to Jan 6. Each of The 12 Days of Christmas has special meaning, with the final day celebrating the gifts of the 3 Wise Men. On this day, people celebrate by lighting incense & placing them in German smokers to mark the end of the Christmas season.

Buy your an antique or vinta German Smoker in our Antiques Diva Online Brocante!

Happy Holidays,

The Antiques Diva

Buy Your German Smoker in our online store

One Minute Diva – Brederode’s Najaarsbrocante 2010

Dear Diva Readers,

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Brederode Kunst & Antiek is back with their Najaarsbrocante the 10th, 11th, and 12th of December with a fabulous private sale in Amsterdam’s Jordaan! Brederode joins together with area antique dealers to make a special weekend of antiques, art and open doors. This year’s sale will feature lanterns, candelabras, mirrors, glasswork and a variety of French brocante items! But Brederode isn’t the only one opening the doors to her private residence for a pre-Christmas sale: visit Brederode to get a map to other vendors participating in this open door weekend in Amsterdam.

Don’t forget to mention The Antiques Diva® sent you!

Dec 10, 11, and 12
from 11am-6pm

Lijnbaangracht 56D
1015 GS Amsterdam

Read past Antiques Diva blog posts on this special weekend to see some sights from former sales!

Happy Shopping,
The Antiques Diva®

P.S. The Antiques Diva® & Company blog was just featured in a list titled “40 Antique Shopping Blogs” to know! Check it out!

A Word from our Sponsor – Auction Hunters!
Tuesdays 10pm/9CSpike TV!

The LA Times says it “should satisfy fans of the Antiques Roadshow”

Open Door Days – Amsterdam – Johan de Feijter

Dear Diva Readers,

Long-term Diva Readers will have heard me dish time and time again about the incredible “Secret Sale” – The Open Door Days at Johan de Feijter’s Amsterdam antiques shop! You’ll want to drop what you’re doing and clear your agenda to make this December’s sale in the Jordaan!

Sensational finds can be found two weekends this December 2009!
11 – 13 December, 2009
18 – 20 December, 2009

Johan de Feijter
Bloemgracht 58

For a sneak peak at the fabulous French inventory available during these Open Door dates, check out these gorgeous pictures of Johan’s shop!

If this isn’t eye candy, I don’t know what is!??! I’m simply drooling…. Buy your Christmas gifts or better yet, buy something for yourself!

While at Johan’s make sure when paying for your many purchases that you ask for directions to the nearby shops participating in the Open Door Days. Johan has some sensational addresses up his sleeve and he’s always happy to share his secrets!
As always, Happy Shopping and Happy Holidays!

The Antiques Diva™

Guest Blog: Roving Reporter La Reine Explores the Hudson Valley

Another Exciting Guest Blog From La Reine!

Since there was not a Notre Dame home game this weekend, my husband The Big Guy (TBG) and I found ourselves at home in New York City instead of jetting off to our alma mater to fill our season ticket holder seats! This meant we had a whole free Sunday to occupy. My husband decided it was a good time to see and photograph the Northeast’s colorful Fall foliage. To see the best foliage in our tri-state area, The Weather Channel was recommending a trip to the Hudson Valley.

TBG asked me to arrange a scenic car trip for Sunday up the Hudson Valley…not more than 2 hours driving time from NYC. SCORE! The NY Times had recently run an article on spending an antiques weekend in the Hudson Valley. Naturally, as every good “antiquing diva” does, I had saved this article which meant we had a great scenic route to follow north. And then we had a different scenic route to follow back to NYC. And even better, I was loaded with shopping recommendations along the way.

We left NYC early after a Starbucks stop, and crossed the Hudson on the George Washington Bridge and went north along the gorgeous Palisades Parkway until we reached route 9W North. From there we took this local road, filled with scenery, restaurants and shops, and shockingly little traffic. After several impromptu pullovers for perfect scenic photo ops, we drove slowly through West Point, the US Military School, to enjoy the beautiful campus. Then we continued north through Hyde Park, home of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), and passed many antique stores and markets (not a very pretty town). Here we also drove past the FDR Home and Library, and the Vanderbilt home… we decided next time we’d spend more time in Hyde Park and enjoy both the antiquing and the cultural stops, but since we had another 60 miles to cover, we kept going.

We continued slowly up 9W until we came to Rhinebeck and Asher House Antiques. My heart started beating faster: this is my kind of store – loaded with French and English antiques, big and small, expensive and very affordable! As I always do, I started picking out things I already own, to get a sense of pricing for what I purchased while living in Europe, and what I’d have to pay to buy them in the US… thankfully I made good purchases while living in Europe! In the end we only purchased a few small items, an aged French terra cotta flower pot being my favorite. But, after we paid and were heading out, the owner said: “It’s almost 11:00, the antiques fair is opening”.

“Antiques Fair? What Antiques Fair?” I asked!

The Rhinebeck Antiques Fair was held October 11th and 12th 2008 at the Duchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck…less than a mile up the road! Several other shoppers at Asher were on their way… they were just waiting until 11am for the Fair to open.

TBG and I were famished. Deciding to bypass the food court at the Fair, we opted instead to brunch at Calico, a cute little restaurant and patisserie located next door to Asher House. Since we were in CIA territory, we were anticipating many of the local restaurants would have CIA graduate chefs, and we were very pleased with Calico. I had smoked salmon and toast points with crème fraiche, onion and capers, TBG enjoyed a steak panini. Prior to being served we were treated with hot homemade yeast rolls. Throughout our meal we watched the locals practically buying out the pastry counter: we were too late to score the very popular chocolate chunk cookies, but we did buy a few oatmeal-with-raisin cookies for the car. The other pastries were tempting…but looked too sticky for a car ride.

Before we made it back to the car, we took a little walk around Rhinebeck: it’s a charming downtown filled with antiques shops, restaurants and boutiques. I stopped in Cesare + Lili, a women’s boutique, and now own a beautiful new cream sweater cape…I was chilled since it was much colder up north than in NYC! TBG found a pair of khakis on sale… a very pretty, walkable little downtown, we’ll be back!

With the back of our SUV rapidly filling up with bags, and not even being halfway along our route, we headed to the Rhinebeck Antiques Fair. Held entirely indoors, the Fair has a good mix of antiques and vintage, everything from furniture to Christmas ornaments to books to jewelry to dishware, leaning towards a country motif, but with plenty of goodies that even the most urban shopper would enjoy…in short, an antiquer’s heaven. And there were plenty of “mantiques” to distract TBG: he found a booth specializing in antique sports equipment, so found a sympathetic ear to discuss the tragic ND v UNC game the day before. We’re on the mailing list for this fair: the next date is sometime in the Spring, probably May. Check the website. That will be the perfect excuse to return to beautiful downtown Rhinebeck! One last stop: the food court. We had 2 very good, but expensive, cappuccinos to go!

Back in the car, continuing up 9W towards Hudson, another 60 miles north. Along the way, a few more Kodak moments and stops at a few garden centers to buy our fall gourds, pumpkins and mums. Finally, we reached Hudson. This main street is filled with antique and vintage stores and restaurants, but this is not a pretty town. It looks like it was a pretty town, and it could again be a pretty town, but the local Chamber of Commerce needs to put some thought and money into making Hudson a destination spot. We ended up buying only a book (Pierre Deux’s French Country: A Style and Source Book, 1984) at Hudson City Books on Warren, the main thoroughfare. We were both disappointed…I doubt we would make Hudson our destination in the future, although if we were in the neighborhood, we’d happily spend some time visiting the shops again.

Back in the car to NYC, this time taking the Taconic Parkway, again very scenic and shockingly car-free. In all, this perfect day of beautiful scenery, leisurely antique browsing, good food, and fabulous company took 11 hours, covering 230 miles. What a pleasant way to spend a gorgeous Sunday!

La Reine

The Antiques Diva Does Rugby!

Perhaps a more unlikely title has never been written in the history of blogging. I’m entering uncharted territory for both myself and my readers as I use an object and subject in the same sentence with polar opposite visual implications. But if you know me very well, then you won’t be too surprised – my life is nothing if not an oxymoron.

By coincidence, WG and The Antiques Diva ™ were in Paris this weekend when France – with the home-field advantage – played England on October 13th for the semi-finals of the World Rugby Cup at the Stade de France. 40,000 English fans had stormed le peripherique and getting either a taxi or dinner reservations in Paris on Saturday was next to impossible. Fortunately for us, good friends Madame A. and Monsieur D. had invited us “chez them” in the 15eme arrondissement for casual dinner “en face de tv”. This is a decisively and shockingly un-French thing to do and can only be done in polite French society with the best of friends. We felt sufficiently honored to be included in such an intimate family setting.

We arrived a quarter after eight Saturday night with a flurry of kisses and a “bouquet de fleurs” purchased en route at my favorite florist on the Rue de Buci. Monsieur D. poured an aperitif and immediately apologized for serving “le vin rouge”. Though the Côtes du Rhône was peppery and a perfect accompaniment for the dried saucisson we were nibbling before dinner, he explained “I would serve the customary champagne to start our evening, but I’m saving the bubbly for our victory toast after the game!”. His partner, Madame A., a Chinese citizen in process of applying for a French passport, tossed our starter together with an ease and casual grace usually displayed only by native French chefs. Madame A. was “almost French”!

As she came out of the kitchen with a large bowl of salad in hand, Monsieur D. gasped, “Mais, non ! Les salade est toujours avec le fromage !” Apparently, Madame A. wasn’t fully French just yet. She had chosen to serve a salad as our starter rather than at the end of the meal with the cheese as is customary. Monsieur D was appalled!

Perhaps now is the right time to interrupt and tell you that, in France, a casual dinner is rarely casual. When invited to a French friend’s house to watch a game, you’ll never receive take-out pizza and hot wings. Cheese dip would be considered an atrocity and an affront to the French national pride. A French dinner is always that – a dinner, served properly with knife and fork, cloth napkin and table cloth and a good bottle (or two) of wine. Madame A.’s salad was casually chic and simply divine – a perfect, internationally-easy entree. She threw together arugula, shrimp cocktail and mixed together olive oil, mustard seeds and balsamic dressing to make an easy homemade vinaigrette. With tongs in hand, she piled our delicate entrée plates with heaping portions. A chilled Sancerre was quickly opened to accompany our starter, while Monsieur D. explained the rules of rugby.

”I love virgins”, Madame A. smiled deliciously as she continued, “New converts are always the most enthusiastic.” Right she was. For when La Marseillaise was played and the French players ran to the field, I stood to attention and pressed my hand to my heart, singing (and humming the parts where I didn’t know the words) the French National Anthem alongside Monsieur D. With a shout, “Viva la France,” Monsieur and Madame assumed I was “gung ho” about Rugby!

What they didn’t realize (just yet anyway) was that I was, in fact, simply ga-ga for the Rugby players who ran onto the field as if the Bay Watch introduction had been re-written and re-oriented for a mostly female viewership. Madame A. caught my eye, “Pretty, non?” as Jonny Wilkinson of the English team filled the screen in all his glory. Monsieur D. picked up where A. had left off, “There is a calendar of the ‘plus beau’ players available each year. The waiting list is a month long before you can pick up a reserved copy from FNAC.” I put my request in immediately and Monsieur D. promised to make sure I had an extra surprise in my Christmas stocking this year. *

The French uniforms fit a tad snugger than the English chaps and when I inquired about this, Madame A. explained with a wink, “A few years ago, rugby viewership was decreasing and so the association tightened the uniform and successfully increased their audience by attracting more female viewers.” Monsieur D. continued to explain that the rugby fans have significantly different demographics than soccer. Soccer, though loved by all, is really a working man’s sport, he said. “Rugby has a higher moral ground. Its followers and fans tend to show more respect towards one another.”

I questioned this as I recalled that the motto for rugby players at my university was “Give Blood. Play Rugby.” I also explained that soccer in the United States was more of an upper-middle class suburban thing, i.e., the so called soccer mom driving her SUV.

The television had been pulled out and placed temporarily on the center of a Directoire Bureau. Behind the television a lovely Gustav Klimt print was positioned perfectly so that I could study it and still look like I was in rapt attention during the boring bits of the game. We’d seen this exact painting earlier this year in Vienna and WG had recently returned from a private tour of The Belvedere where his company had held a function for the management team amidst the Klimt’s and other Secessionist works. This print reminded me that he and I had never really had a chance to chat about that recent business trip. Life was just too busy these days.

As I mused, Monsieur D. and Madame A. scurried about, putting the finishing touches on the main course – Sausage Stuffed Clams served on the Half Shell, accompanied by Poached Pears garnished with bright red snippets of Sun dried Tomatoes. It arrived with steam billowing from the plates in puffy clouds and I was poured a 2nd glass of the white wine while being delighted with my luck at having such good gourmet friends! Even rugby was fun with friends like this!

When the game broke for intermission, France was up by 1 point and we feared that the English could “make a try” and take control of the game – which they eventually did. The second half of the game brought the 3rd course, Le Fromage, and we lingered over it as the room fell to a quiet acceptance. France was losing the game. Wanting to chat with a winner, we decided to call our mutual English friend Q, a British expat living in Cleveland, Ohio. “You can’t catch the bloody game on American TV”, he ranted, but unfortunately he spoke up a little too late and we’d already revealed the outcome of the game which he was intending to download from the internet and watch later the next day. Though he did boast that certainly “les anglais” displayed heroic splendor and efforts, he handled the phone call with the utmost of English decorum. He didn’t rub our faces in the loss and he didn’t complain once when we ruined his surprise by telling the final score!

Though the spirit in the room was dampened, Madame A. shrugged her shoulders and went to the kitchen, pulling out a gorgeous “Tarte au Pomme” with custard filling, and Monsieur D. expertly opened the champagne without spraying a drop around the room. My lovely husband, WG, the philosopher in the room, sighed as he took his first sip of the bubbly and explained, “Everyone knows a good champagne goes down as easily in defeat as it does in victory.”

Gros Bisous, et Au Revoir,

The Antiques Diva ™

* For the record, WG is sufficiently appalled by his wife’s assessment of this premier matchup (and the players…)

October 20th Update – As seen on Chic Shopping Paris:

the ultimate gift for a posh rugby fan, and a special souvenir for those who have been afflicted with rugby-mania…. a limited-edition chanel logo ball, 130 euros.
Posted by Rebecca at 6:36 PM

The Antiques Diva and The Wine Guy’s Travel Planner for September 2007!

We depart this morning for a few weeks driving tour through Eastern Europe – just me, my darling husband and our Volvo packed to the hilt with bubble-wrap for bringing home all the breakables we intend to purchases en route. As I pack my bags, visions of “Crystal, Pottery, and Porcelain Oh My” dance through my head like sugarplum dreams on the night before Christmas! And in the spirit of Father Christmas, I might feel generous and pick up a few beer steins for my father-in-law, although I suspect he’d be happier if these traditional tankards were accompanied by a few bottles of authentic Pilsner Urquelle or Budvar beer.

My husband, “The Wine Guy” (WG), is certain to fill our trunk with wooden crates of Moravian and Tokaji wine which is fine with me as I’ll soon be serving them in my new gilded and hand-painted Bohemian stemware. Of course, I’ll have to lug back some artisanal water from Carlsbad to serve with the wine for we wouldn’t want to break the Eastern European dining theme – although I might have to draw the line at cooking up some authentic cuisines, as I must confess Eastern European food is a little too hearty for my taste buds. As I have a few preconceived notions about what to expect from the food on this trip, I’m making an attempt to contradict the stereotype I’ve formed from other forays east. Should you have any recommendations on places where I must dine, do email them to me, as I value your opinion!

From shopping for peasant blouses to paprika, Zsolnai to Herendi porcelain, Czech chocolates to heel-tapping, gypsy, music cds, The Antiques Diva is going to be one busy gal. I’ve been given a few addresses in Budapest where I can buy some “made to measure” clothes and covert research has already begun on where to find the best antiques across the region. I’ve even been walking around Amsterdam muttering the word “Starozitnosti” over and over again (which perhaps not so surprisingly hasn’t even drawn a raised eyebrow or two). All this in preparation so that, when the time comes, I won’t miss an antique shop sign simply because the language is unfamiliar.

By the time The Wine Guy and The Antiques Diva ™ return in mid-September, we’ll roll back into Holland with our car doors bubble wrapped shut, exhausted by our whirlwind tour through The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary (and need I mention the vast expanse of Germany we’ll need to cross in order to reach our destination). I would give you an itinerary so that you could follow along each day except that I have none.

The consummate planners have planned not. We’ve decided to do “An Experiment in Travel” as we swing by the seat of our pants, waiting to see where the road leads, what hotels we stumble upon and what adventures await. Now you see why I called my shopping research “covert” as research of any kind has been strictly forbidden by WG as defeating the purpose of our experiment. I’ll try to pop in for a quick blog hello should we stumble upon an internet café to at least touch base and keep you abreast of our travels. Of course, this should only serve as an “aperitif” to wet your appetite. Stay tuned next month for our post trip travelogue.
It really doesn’t seem fair that while I’m off having fun you should be here all alone… so to keep you company while I’m away, I’ve organized a few things for your entertainment:

Pack Your Bags….
Slam a ‘Sling and book your Easy Jet tickets to Singapore Sept 1 – 2, 2007! Well, sort of… since you can’t fly to Singapore on Easy Jet, then the land that brings you Europe’s lowest priced airline brings the taste of Singapore to you! London’s Brick Lane is hosting its annual “Tiger Beer Singapore Chili Crab Festival”. If we weren’t already going away, The Wine Guy would be all over this like a fly on… uh…. “chili-crab”.

If spicy Malaysian food isn’t your thing, then how about breezing into Belfast the weekend of Sept 15 & 16 for a Garden Gourmet weekend at Northern Ireland’s largest flower show / food and drink festival. State-side readers still have time to hop on the Chattanooga Choo-Choo to go to Wine Over Water, a festival held on Sept 15 in the Tennessee River Valley where wines from over a 100 different countries are presented for your tasting pleasure.

Speaking of things that tickle your taste buds, who wouldn’t want to spend two weeks Sept 6 – 16 at “Pizzafest” in Naples, where pizza was first created in the 19th C in it’s home, the worlds first pizzeria “Antica Pizzeria Port’ Alba”. During this same time period, you can “drop the cannoli” and pick up paella instead in Valencia at Sueca’s Feista del Arroz during their international paella-making contest.

Safe & Happy Travels (for both you and me!).

The Antiques Diva

Please note: the photo of crystal stemware is courtesy of

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