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Gifts of Provence-Olive Oil, Soap, Lavender

Dear Diva Readers,

Gifts of Provence-Olive Oil, Soap, Lavender Field Provence

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 60px; line-height: 50px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>As Christmas draws near, it’s got me thinking about all kinds of gift ideas in general – little things you can stock in your gift closet to use through out the year. As someone who travels a lot for work and pleasure, I try to pick up little gifts that will fit into my suitcase wherever I go. You never know when you’ll need a hostess gift or a last minute birthday treat to take to a friend! Many clients also enjoy stopping into small shops in between antiquing appointments to purchase locally made goods to take home to friends and family. Provence is a fantastic place to find antiques as well as some regional goodies such as olive oil, handmade soaps, and of course, dried lavender.

Gifts of Provence-Olive Oil, Soap, Lavender Olive trees

Gifts of Provence-Olive Oil, Soap, Lavender French market Olive Oil and Olives

Olive oil has been a staple product of Provence for centuries. Olive trees were planted by the Greeks around 600 BC and continue to thrive in the area around the Mediterranean due to the dry, stony, limestone soil. Most archaeological museums possess large pottery which would have been used to store oil during these ancient times. During the Renaissance, olive trees covered nearly 300,000 acres of land in France, making olive oil production an extremely profitable and important business. But as with any business that depends on nature, olive oil production was dealt a hard blow in 1956 when temperatures dropped below zero degrees fahrenheit, causing 1/3 of the olive trees in Provence to die that year. While that has slowed olive oil production in France, there are still some wonderful places that sell artisan olive oils. In fact, a new generation of oil producers have started small-scale local farms, offering specialty blends, gourmet oils, and other products. The thing to remember is that unlike Italian and Spanish oils, French oils come from limited crops and you won’t find many of them for sale outside the Provence region.

Gifts of Provence-Olive Oil, Soap, Lavender Different Soaps

Another fabulous gift you can find in Provence is savon (soap) de Marseille. Whether you’re in a metropolitan boutique or strolling through a small village market, gorgeous soaps of all shapes and sizes can be found. Another tradition that goes back hundreds of years, soap making in Provence lives on and continues to thrive. Savon de Marseille is only produced around the Marseille region and is made from olive oil and vegetable oils.

Gifts of Provence-Olive Oil, Soap, Lavender Savon de Marseille

The traditional way to make this special soap is by mixing water from the Mediterranean Sea with olive oil, sodium carbonate, and lye. All these elements are mixed in a cauldron and heated for several days while being stirred. After the mixture sits, it is poured into molds. Before it is completely hard, it is cut into bars and stamped, then left to set until hardened. It can take up to one month to complete this entire process. Recommended by dermatologists, this soap is perfect for dry skin during the winter. Of course, it’s been used for centuries in France to clean everything from skin to linens!

Gifts of Provence-Olive Oil, Soap, Lavender

Lastly, and perhaps the gift most synonymous with Provence, is lavender. A visit to the distilleries, farms, and shops can enhance a trip to Provence while also allowing you to pick up several perfectly packable gifts that anyone will enjoy. Sachets filled with lavender are a wonderful gift, and so are lavender scented soaps, lotions, and other bath products such as essential oils that sooth and calm. Don’t forget a lavender scented candle to place near the bath!

There is just something special about giving gifts that are hand made, and infused with local traditions. Provence’s rich history and bountiful natural resources makes it the ideal place to stock up on these wonderful gifts, and that’s why clients love perusing for antiques and regionally made items at the same time. If you would like information on an Antiques Diva Tour in France or any of our 8 tour countries, email us at info@antiquesdiva.com.

Au revoir,

The Antiques Diva®

Christmas Traditons: Mulled Wine

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 100px; line-height: 90px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>Each year on December 25 – before sitting down for our traditional Christmas dinner – mom and I prepare an afternoon snack to keep the hungry mouths at bay.   We pull out some deli favorites, a variety of olives, some deviled eggs and pimento-cheese stuffed celery sticks and we serve these traditional mid-Amercan hor d-oeuvres with a piping cup of mulled wine

Reminiscent of wandering the Weihnachtsmarkts in Germany and France, mulled wine (also known as Glühwein  in Germany or Vin Chaud in French) tastes and smells like Christmas to me and in my house has become a Diva’s Holiday Tradition! 

This year, from my house to yours, I want to share with you my favorite Mulled Wine recipe from Epicurious.com.

The Diva’s Mulled Wine 

  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine such as Côtes du Rhône
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 1 small orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 small lemon, thinly sliced
  • Special equipment: a 6- by 4-inch piece of cheesecloth; kitchen string

Wrap cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, peppercorns, and cloves in cheesecloth and tie with string. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 5-quart heavy pot, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then add spice bag, wine, vanilla bean, and fruit. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes.

Plus, if you’re looking for a Hostess Gift this holiday season, try wrapping all these ingredients up in a pretty package for an ideal present for family and friends!  Don’t forget to include a print out of this recipe! 

Happy Holidays,

The Antiques Diva®
(seen right with Lady Lotus celebrating Santa Style!)

Last Minute Christmas Gifts: New Classic Interiors

Dear Diva Readers,

top:5px;float:left;color:white;background:#781300;border:1px solid darkkhaki;font-size:100px;line-height:90px;padding-top:1px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>After visiting Alessandra Branca’s Chicago Shop last week I’ve got Branca’s Signature Red on my mind…. And nothing says Christmas to me as much as big bold swaths of red!  Living in an Alessandra Branca-designed house would be like having Christmas all year long.  Last year, Branca’s book New Classic Interiors topped my Christmas list and I was delighted when my husband took my multitude of hints and “surprised” me with it.  This book is one of my favorite decorating books and it was definitely a gift that kept on giving all year long! 

If you’re looking for a last minute Christmas gift for a diva decorating lover on your list, Branca’s book New Classic Interiors is ideal for giving oodles of design inspiration.  Ideal for diva decorators!

Happy Reading,

The Antiques Diva ®

Open Door Days – Amsterdam – Johan de Feijter

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top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>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

Where?
Johan de Feijter
Bloemgracht 58
Amsterdam

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

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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™

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