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

Au revoir,

The Antiques Diva®

Treasures on Tuesday – Eat Your Colors

to 10px; WIDTH: 284px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Dear Diva Readers,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>My friend Jill DiGiovanni of “Chef in Berlin” – a Berlin Germany based Caterer and English-language cooking school – loves colorful food! Jill writes, “I really like colorful food ~ vibrant squash, heirloom tomatoes, black garlic, peppers, beans, flavored salts (the list is endless).” But when I told her about the Antique French Barbotine Knife Rests for sale in my online shop “Treasures” by The Antiques Diva™, “Chef in Berlin” said she had the perfect dish to pair with this great turn-of-the-century treasure from the South of France. Chef in Berlin exclaimed, “You MUST try Truffle Potatoes!”

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 364px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />“Chef in Berlin” explains:
“Germans call them truffle potatoes. Upon opening the pack it’s easy to see these are from the ancient Andes culture called Peruvian purple. They have a very long history stretching continents. The skin is dark, almost black and spotted with many eyes. Inside is a vibrant purple flesh. After cooking them the skin becomes almost dark grey and the flesh is an amazing deep purple. These Peruvian purples are the mealiest of all the fingerlings. They are great roasted or fried. Mix them with redskin and white potatoes for a vibrant potato salad. I like mine with a simple vinaigrette tossed with steamed green beans. I recently saw them on a menu at CAFÉ LOFT in Potsdam. They served them boiled with quark (German sort of cottage cheese). However you serve them they’ll make your next meal dazzle with color. Not only that, they taste ummm really much like a normal potato!”

“When purchasing make sure to buy ones that are plump and not shriveled, no sprouting eyes, soft spots or blemishes. Don’t store them in the frig because the starch will turn to sugar and they will become sweet. They’ll keep at room temp or in a cool place for approx 2 weeks. Your extra tip for today is to keep them away from onions and uncooked broccoli because they will decay more quickly from the gas that those veggies give off. That not only goes for potatoes but, in fact, any type of veggie.”

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 300px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Chef in Berlin German Truffle Potato Recipe for 2:

  • 6-8 potatoes (in general they are all small potatoes)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsely (or any mix of fresh washed herbs)
  • salt and pepper fresh ground from the mill
Boil the potatoes or steam for 10 minutes (til done). On draining you will see they dry very quickly. Quarter them and mix with the remaining ingredients. Enjoy! And naturally, serve them up with style using this Set of 4 French “Barbotine” Pottery Vegetable Knife Rests – available at “Treasures” by The Antiques Diva™

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 225px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />$45 (or 35 Euro) – And Remember at “Treasures” by The Antiques Diva™ prices include international shipping!

Until Next Time,

The Antiques Diva™ with a little help from my friend “Chef in Berlin”
(Seen right at La Maison du Chocolate in Potsdam)

Soup’s On: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup Recipe

to 10px; WIDTH: 307px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Vintage Silver Soup Ladle is available
from “Treasures” by The Antiques Diva™

Dear Diva Readers,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Soup is a staple in the Diva Household. After a hard day’s work hitting the flea markets, I love nothing more than to return home and dish up a steaming bowl of Roasted Tomato Soup. Often we serve alongside this dish a modern, diva-inspired twist on the classic American toasted cheese sandwich, substituting Kraft singles with brie or camembert! This substitute was made out of necessity when we first moved to Paris and couldn’t find American cheese – but now it’s one of our favorite comfort foods for casual weekends at home! While tomato soup of any kind is down-right tasty, following is my favorite Tomato Soup recipe courtesy of The Barefoot Contessa!

tomato-basil-soup-recipe/index.html” target=”_blank”>The Barefoot Contessa’s Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup Recipe
• 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
• 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
• 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
• 6 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
• 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
• 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
• 1 quart chicken stock or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.


to 10px; WIDTH: 229px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Located in Berlin? Take Cooking Lessons with Chef in Berlin!
Jill DiGiovanni, a Berlin-based Canadian chef with over 25 years experience, is now offering cooking lessons and promises to share her wisdom, teaching you to “Cook like a Pro, while eating like a Queen!”

BASIC KNIFE SKILLS – Thursday May 6 from 18:00 to 21:00
NO COOK PASTA SAUCES – Wednesday May 12 from 18:00 to 21:00
APPS & SWEETS IN GLASS – Thursday May 20 from 18:00 to 21:00
MAKE AHEAD GOURMET – Wednesday May 26 from 18:00 to 21:00

Price per Class – 35 € per person

Contact”> for class outline, list of tools required or any other questions! No experience required (seriously!), class size limited to 10 participants. Tell your friends and come together – it’s fun!


to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 300px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Soup’s On! Serve up something sensational with this Vintage Silver Plate (marked) Soup Ladle in green felt-lined box. Purchased at the famed French Flea Market – La Foire Nationale a la Brocante et Aux Jambons in the Parisian suburb of ile de Chatou, this ladle originates from the late 19th to early 20th C and is as functional today as it was nearly 100 years ago!

“TREASURES” by The Antiques Diva™
European Antiques, Vintage Finds & Objects of Curiosity!

Bon Appetit!

The Antiques Diva™

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 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 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 . 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