Vintage French Jam Jars at Brocante Moderne
design, Life, Styling

Brocante Moderne

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I opened my first Etsy shop, Gloaming Designs, in 2007. Looking back at the date just now, that feels both a long time ago and like yesterday! I filled it with special pieces I hand-crafted from vintage and reused materials as well as fun vintage finds. Looking back through the sold listings is a bit like remembering old friends.

Vintage French Butter Papers at Brocante Moderne

Behind the scenes I have been working hard on a new incarnation of that shop: a new space filled with the best of the treasures I love seeking out in the French brocantes (flea markets). So I’m very excited to announce: Brocante Moderne is open!

Vintage French Soup Plates at Brocante Moderne

What you’ll find is a curated selection of vintage French pieces that I adore (seriously, it’s so hard to say goodbye to these!) and that mix perfectly into the modern home.

Vintage French Kitchen Towels at Brocante Moderne

Functional, beautiful, and unique, I believe that every home needs some pieces that tell a story all their own, that have a soul.

Vintage French Etchings at Brocante Moderne

And that’s my design philosophy: that the old, worn, and storied should live alongside the simple and clean-lined modern for a home that isn’t like any other. A home that is you. That is why the shop is named Brocante Moderne – a place to find the world of the brocante curated for your modern life.

Vintage French Marquetry Box at Brocante Moderne

There will be new additions regularly so check back often and sign up for the mailing list here to hear all the latest news and special offers. You can access the shop here or through Etsy (they share the same inventory so you won’t miss anything going to one versus the other). You can even click on any of this post’s pictures to go directly to their listing.

Vintage French Jam Jars at Brocante Moderne

I hope you enjoy and let me know if there is anything you’d like me to keep my eyes open for on my next trip to the brocante!

xo,

A.

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Gallery Wall | egg & dart blog
design, Life, Our Home

Our Home – The Hall and The Bathroom

This is the last in a series to take you on a tour of our home in progress.

You can see other spaces here: Our Bedroom, Élie’s Room, The Living Room, and The Kitchen


One of the best features of our apartment is the long hallway that connects all the rooms. It isn’t very wide, less than 3 feet actually, and has seven doors leading off of it (so. many. doors.) but it is such a great opportunity for storage!

Did I ever tell you about the move? About how we sent Albert away to kitty camp (chez R’s mother and her fantastic garden) so the move wouldn’t stress him and how we left for a three week summer vacation two days after moving in? We did. On the one had, it was fantastic to recover from the stress of the move without looking at boxes and it gave us time and distance to daydream about how we wanted to set things up. On the other hand, coming back to a strange space packed with boxes. Ugh. So here was the scene when we came back from vacation, Albert in tow.

Hall Before | egg & dart blog

He adapts quickly. Ha! But to start with, we only had our former dining table bench to toss our keys and mail on. It was a start but there was so much more that space could do! So we grabbed a shallow Besta unit from Ikea, knowing that we wanted something to maximize storage but also that would float on the wall, keeping the space from feeling too cramped and giving us a spot for shoes underneath. Here was the hall after the unit was installed, but before we bought doors, and we had gone on (yet another) Ikea trip.

Hall Before | egg & dart blog

You can catch a glimpse of another problem we had to tackle, the beautiful electrical board and electricity meter on the end wall. Here’s where this space is today:

Apartment Hall | egg & dart blog Hallway Gallery Wall | egg & dart blog

Right next to the front door, the floating cabinet houses umbrellas, pocket tissues, mittens and hats in the winter, travel and guide books, things for venturing out like refillable water bottles and binoculars, but also extra lightbulbs, candles, shoe polishing supplies – a lot! Deceiving what you can fit in it despite its narrow width.

Above it, the gallery wall of frames has gone through quite a lot of changes and probably still will but for the moment I still love this collect of bits and pieces from our life, pictures from some of our favorite places, the Louvre and a vacation spot, a little Dürer owl that was my parents’, a sketch by my Uncle and found bits like the cork bark and pressed leaves. Even the key bowl is found – people throw out the best things sometimes! This mix of pieces on the wall helps disguise the lovely intercom phone which, believe me, I looked into changing. Farther down the hall, you can see in the first picture a basket that hides the recycling and yet another basket and collection of Élie’s toys. Having pretty baskets everywhere to toss those things into makes clean-up a breeze!

Blue Star Fern (Phlebodium aureum) | egg & dart blog Apartment Hall | egg & dart blog

Under the cabinet we have space for a tray for shoes and I keep a big vintage glass container by the door for wet umbrellas and a basket keeps reusable shopping bags handy. Taking them all out of the basket is also an excellent baby game.

And from this angle you can see our solution to hide the electrical board: we built a simple custom cabinet with a door to mount directly on the wall around it. This gives us even more storage that I haven’t been able to outfit yet but will soon. It was a challenge because these old walls are far from straight but luckily you can only tell when nothing is on the hooks and you stand at a certain angle looking from Élie’s room.

Hallway Gallery Wall | egg & dart blog

We’ve accomplished most everything on our list in the hall but there are still just a couple tweaks on my list. I’m considering finding an old wooden door to replace the modern one we put on the electrical board cabinet, to add a bit more texture to the space. Originally I had wanted to make the whole thing disappear with an all-over wall treatment (that would wrap the cabinet too), in my dreams with the Nuvole paper from Cole & Sons, but I’m reconsidering that. I’d also like to find some runners for the length of the hallway to soften the sound (baby feet!) and insulate the floor in the cold months.


The last space to introduce you to is the bathroom, which, as is typical in French apartments, is two rooms: the actual bathroom and the ‘loo’ as we’ve taken to calling it. Like the hall, these spaces are less than three feet wide and require creative space planning for storage. The sight right before we moved in:

Bathroom Before | egg & dart blog

The gray tile is so clinical looking and a bit wonky and, while you can’t see it here, the enamel on the “tub” is completely gone and there is nothing to be done about the hard water stains and paint drips in there, Lord help us. We’re still hoping the landlord will agree to refinishing it.

The paint was fresh here but sloppily done: they simply painted around existing wall hooks leaving us with interesting paint outlines on the wall and door when we replaced the hooks and towel bar. In such a narrow space, we needed some better towel solutions.

Bathroom Before | egg & dart blog

(Albert for scale.)

For a while we transplanted a little wooden bedside table we inherited with the apartment to the bathroom for storage. Of course, the medicine cabinet had to go too: not only did it barely produce any light in this space with no natural light, I could only see my eyes and above in it, it was mounted so high! I pretty quickly pulled that as well as all the existing hooks and the shower caddy (again, so high!) off the walls and door and started from scratch. After a lot of tweaks, the bathroom looks like this now:

Tiny Apartment Bathroom | egg & dart blog Bathroom Details | egg & dart blog

Tiny Apartment Bathroom | egg & dart blog

Bathroom Details | egg & dart blogBathroom Details | egg & dart blog

Little oak shelves on mat black brackets take the storage all the way up the wall with lots of baskets for texture and little spots for pretties. A vintage mirror has so much more personality then the old plastic box of a medicine cabinet. We replaced the lighting with a double scone giving us double the light without changing electrical. Of course, Albert’s little box has to live somewhere and that spot is here. Keepin’ it real! And for the shower, I used my favorite trick: hanging a real curtain with a plastic liner as high as I could. Such an easy way to make a simple space feel more luxurious!

Tiny Apartment Bathroom | egg & dart blog Driftwood Towel Bar | egg & dart blog

On the opposite wall are a row of simple mat black hooks and two more are on the back of the door giving us space for all of our towels and those of guests if needed. I love the towel rod! It’s a simple piece of driftwood from our walks that I simply screwed two extra long screws through, passing them through long coupling nuts (all painted black) on the back side.

17 Tiny Apartment Bathroom | egg & dart blog

But the biggest improvement of all was the flooring. I found a 14€ remnant of seagrass flooring at the hardware store (I couldn’t believe my luck!) and simply cut it to fit the floor snuggly. The hardware store guy insisted it need to be glued down “in case there is a water leak” but I didn’t want to do that, and it seemed to me it would be easier to be able to pull it up quickly if needed. It has been down for more than a year and not only is it wonderful to walk on, we have had no problems in terms of it coming up or any mold since the seagrass naturally repels water. For such a small investment, it has gone a long way to making a basic, kind of sad space feel a bit luxurious, which all bathrooms should, I think.

Again, most things have been crossed off our list in here. I do want to build a simple solution to create a bench over the litter box to disguise it and, if we can figure it out, the scone needs to be moved up the wall as it is a bit low. Then just some finishing tweaks like oiling the wood shelves to protect them and re-hemming the curtains just a touch longer.

Just next to the bathroom is the “loo”. This is the least glamorous space and not much has been done to it.

Tiny Apartment Bathroom | egg & dart blog

As you can see, I continued the seagrass in here. It has the same chipped gray tile and, at the price I paid for the rug, I thought if putting the seagrass in there doesn’t end up working out, no big deal. But it has been great in there too – insulating the floor so it’s warmer as well as insulating sound. How do you like what I call our “dancing toilet”? I can’t for the life of me figure out why they installed it at that weird angle so far from the wall.

Other than hanging a Monrovian star light fixture and painting the ceiling Farrow & Ball’s Pavilion Blue for a fun little surprise, we haven’t done much in here. Yet. I have a plan for a cabinet to create storage for cleaning supplies and personal items as well as masking the tank. And I can’t wait to properly frame those two little abstract landscapes by Lauren Adams.

Tiny Apartment Bathroom | egg & dart blog

So now you’ve had the whole tour! I’m always hoping that we will finish up the spaces in the near, near future, but I’ll come back with updates when we manage them and some posts about my favorite small space strategies.

xo,

A.

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design, Life, Our Home

Our Home – The Living Room

The living room is literally and figuratively the center of our home. We spend the majority of our time there during the day – eating, playing, using the computer, reading – though our bedrooms find us hanging out together fairly often as well. Small spaces have no wasted space! But this room is in between our two bedrooms and across the narrow hall from the kitchen. This set-up has been perfect for a busy mama because I can be working in the kitchen and see my little love playing in the living room with just a glance.

Like our bedroom, this room has a marble chimney mantle but it also has beautiful molding on the ceiling and paneling on the lower half of the walls. These elements were exactly what we had hoped for when we were looking for our next apartment as the studio was in a building from the 60’s or 70’s and had a very different feeling. We got so lucky finding a space with so much built-in personality! Here was the blank slate moving in (quick iphone snaps):

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From the start, I knew getting the layout of this room right would be critical to efficient use of the space but also our enjoyment of it. One can’t relax in a small space that doesn’t also function well. Maximizing storage and using it in a smart, accessible way has meant that we are encouraged to tidy up because it is easy to do with open storage in pretty baskets and easy to get at sliding drawers. But it has taken us a while to get where we are today because so much of what we needed we had to tweak or build custom to fit the space. The evolution has been slow. We started with a big futon for a couch and a tiny garden table for a dining table. Before the kitchen was workable (no counter, no cabinets, bring your own appliances which is the norm here), I even had our Ikea island set up as a sort of breakfast bar in the corner.

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Here you can see the stove when it arrived and the inspector checked it over (apparently pregnant girls aren’t supposed to move stoves by themselves? Or at all? hmm.) but also the little garden table in the background. It was our first dining table when we lived in a tiny one room apartment together in Grenoble for a few months so there are some sweet memories attached to it.

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This corner has definitely been the focus of our DIY efforts in this room. I knew from the start I wanted to do a banquette in that corner with a pedestal table for easy sliding in and out. We haven’t found our dream pedestal table yet but when I found this old one for 30€ online, I sent R over to get it as a stand-in. It has been actually great for Élie because his little highchair can attach to it and the wood only gets more character with each mark. Here you can see when we first moved the table in and I had taped out the banquette dimensions on the floor to get a feel for them:

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(Rogue cat tail)

Our computer was set up on a little wood desk that belonged to Romain’s grandmother but the mess of cords and other supplies was obviously not working.

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We measured and planned out a continuous computer desk and L-shaped banquette for a unified look but it required custom pieces that we built over time. This first step, though, was a huge one in terms of improving storage and function! Here we installed the first Besta units and the wall of shelving:

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The drawers of the desk unit hold our DVDs and office supplies with the Playstation above on one side and a pull-out tablet for the keyboard and mouse on the other. Below that the printer and other computer gadgets are hidden behind one door and our board games behind the other. The banquette, it probably won’t come as a surprise, is all dishware and ktichenware storage. And here is where we are today with this corner!

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We built two corner boxes to complete the L-banquette and faced them and the side of the banquette with more of the same style doors from the Besta range. Then we raised the bookshelves on a custom built box to make them the same height as the corner shelves on the other side of the door, where the breakfast buffet had been for a time.

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This side of the room is the really ‘living’ part of the living room with the couch and chair. I’m planning a slipcover for the little sofa but just tucked the vintage linen around it for the time being. And the wooden desk was moved to this side of the room for lighting and it now holds the stereo as well.

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We keep Élie’s toys in the baskets under the table and not only are they easy for him to get at, it is quick to scoop the toys into at the end of the day and have it not look like a toy warehouse. The poster above the couch is Fathom’s All Streets map that I gave to Romain a few years ago for his birthday. It is beautiful and a wonderful quality and I can’t wait to get it in a frame (and center it on the couch).

The mantle has been a joy to get to play with! It has evolved countless time already! This past weekend, I brought clippings of branches (here hazelnut) from our trip to Belgium just for this spot. I have been wanting to do this for at least a year!

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And this is the beautiful antique faux bamboo high chair we bought before Élie was born. He’ll use it someday soon (and after I retrofit it with a harness) but for the moment we opted for a clip-on high chair to save precious floor space. It has been a perfect solution (you can see it on the table two images above this one) and traveling with it has been a breeze too! If you need a clip on high chair, this one is the Lobster from Phil & Ted.

There is still so much to do in this room but we love being in here anyway. Some things on our list are installing a toe-kick on the banquette/desk, finding two storage ottomans in place of a coffee table, replacing a little side table on the bookshelf side of the couch, sewing the couch slipcover, making cushions for the banquette, hemming the curtains and putting them on curtain rings, finding a rug that works in this space for in front of the couch, properly framing the collage over the banquette and the poster over the couch, and possibly replacing or refinishing the armchair (another steal of a stand-in at 12€!), among other little tweaks. Ekk, I had better not look at that list for too long.

Next week I’ll be taking a break from the apartment tour for a few other fun posts and then we’ll pick back up with the last, much smaller, rooms: kitchen, bath, and hall/entry. But here’s a sneak peek for next week from instagram!

Hallerbos Bluebells | egg & dart blog

xo,

A.

P.S. I had really wanted to have this post ready for Monday, while we were away, and I worked hard last Thursday to get everything ready but at midnight, when I was transferring my photos, I clicked too fast, thought I had saved but hadn’t, and permanently deleted all my images. Learn from me: back-up all your files! Ugh.

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Life

Making Home & Birthday Plans

Studio apartment couch pillows

It’s Friday! Again! Honestly, things have been so busy with work around here that we find ourselves in awe Thursday night that the following day is the last day of the week. Again. How is it possible? Well, in between all the typing I’ve been doing, I’m dreaming of polishing off the last projects I was hoping to do to finish this apartment. Talks of moving on are long and simmering in our home but the pace of those talks is picking up and, darn it, I just want to see some of these ideas come to life! Here’s some of what I’m hoping to maybe advance on this weekend:

– These green leafy pillows on our couch are new. I ordered the fabric from Spoonflower (depending on your screen, my picture is truer to the color of this cotton/linen blend than on the Spoonflower site) as soon as I saw it! I was planning to make two smaller deep blue velvet pillows to go with them but then I started thinking that would be too contrasty in our small space (um, we live in a studio and this couch is also our bedroom…) so I ordered this gorgeous cotton/silk ikat and I can’t wait for it to arrive! I love that it is the reverse (light on darker) of the leafy fabric (on a white ground).

– We have two lightbulbs still hanging from the ceiling with 5€ “it’ll do” drum shades on them. I’d like to do this one in the main living space but the hallway is still up for grabs. We have a very modern, simple glass globe in the kitchen space, my Moravian star in my “studio”, and huge Japanese paper shade in the bathroom (do you need a floorplan after all that?). I think I’d like something darker and older in the entryway, maybe like this or this?

– We still only have a small mirror in the bathroom. The only way to see how that shirt and that skirt are working together is when i get in the elevator to leave the building. My dream mirror might be like this! Maybe. But big and rectangular. Where to find that for a song in a city that knows the value of antiques? I’ve been playing with lots of different styles in my head.

Also, tomorrow is my birthday! I would like a bit of sunshine and to do the following things:

– Have tea and treats at the Mosquée.

– Shop for gorgeous green plants along les quais.

– Shop this vente ephémère (pop-up shop in French! literally ‘ephemeral sale’)

– And eat lunch at Khun Akorn.

Do you have any weekend plans? I hope it’s a beautiful one!

xo,

A.

 

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Life

A Maine February

Winter in Maine

Paris received a few inches of snow this past week. The panic it caused was a bit comical (and a lot frustrating) to those of us living here who are used to real snowy winters. Buses stop, train schedules get messed up, airports cancel flights … for 3 to 5 inches. It’s a different perspective.

I’ve been back in Paris for a about a week now. I had run home to Maine at the end of January and dove right into helping my parents as much as I could while medical adventures were had. Everyone is fine and this adventure was planned although it came on the heels of another, unplanned, medical adventure which made it that much more of a challenge. But I was so glad I could be there to do as much as I did. And, because, like a lot of women, I have a superwoman complex, I would have liked to have done so much more.

Winter in Maine

Winter in Maine

But my love of real winter satisfied while I was in my beloved Maine! We had no less than two blizzards and it seemed to snow almost every weekend. The first blizzard churned great dunes of snow around the landscape and left other patches bare from the force of the winds. The front and side of our car literally were buried to the roof. We are so lucky to have neighbors who think nothing of snow-blowing your driveway without a word when they know you can use the help.

Before going to bed the night of the biggest blizzard, I quietly called to my parents who were down the hall and already in bed, “I’ll be right back!” The wind was whipping our house on the water so hard that I was literally rocked to sleep in my bed that night. The old wood framed windows rattled. “Where are you going?” my mother asked. Just outside, to see what it’s like. She insisted on following me downstairs to the door. This is what I saw (posted to instagram), an abandoned town.

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The snow continued into the next day but when the sun came out on the third day, I ventured down to “the island”. Next to our house is a small dirt road we call “the lane”. For as long as we’ve lived there, you could often hear me calling upstairs that I was going “down the lane”. It leads to “the island”. Of course, it isn’t an island anymore because it is attached to the mainland by this raised dirt road. But in times of a tempestuous sea, like during the storm, it sometimes becomes an island again as the sea crashes over the road, trying to reach the cove on the other side.

Winter in Maine

Winter in Maine

Winter in Maine

It’s a special place to me, the island. For years it was only inhabited in the summer by people from ‘away’ and the houses, yards, and shores stood empty for me and my parents to explore. We have stories that became our legends like the house with the stone wall that had a bone mortared into it. What kind of bone was it and what could be the mysterious story of its coming to be in that wall? Or the red splatter on the rock in the tiny cove at the end of the island? Lobster blood I decided, it had to be!

Now there are more people that live on the island year round. Granted, it is a relative number, there are only five or six houses. And some of the new inhabitants are more welcoming than other to the casual stroller down the lane. But I still feel a sort of right to the place. To the land. Maine roots dig deep. And I got to see through my childhood eyes being down on the quiet, cold, wild island after a real snow storm. It hasn’t really ever changed.

Winter in Maine

Winter in Maine

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Life, Styling

Home Dreaming

living room

I’ve been so busy plowing ahead on a work project (al.most.done!) that I’ve been missing my time writing here! But i thought I’d share some home dreaming I’ve been doing in little snatches of time here and there.

See, this past weekend our one and a half year old Ikea PS Lövas broke. The thing is we live in a small studio apartment and, while we’ve arranged the space pretty well to make it seem like totally different spaces when the bed is open (master bedroom!) and when it is closed and functions as our couch (living room!), there is just no way we can hide a bed that’s broken and can’t be closed. R. declared that that was it! We need a bedroom with a real bed! (Read: a new apartment) He’s not wrong and this is the second time a bed has broken here in four years, but looking for an apartment in Paris is a full-time, high stress job. It’s too bad, too, because the only thing wrong with the bed is that the hinges had insufficient soldering. We’re trying to think up a solution that doesn’t require torches and sparks.

So, to distract myself from the horror that is apartment hunting, I’ve been dreaming of the much more appealing decorating phase of a new space. This is just a quick idea of what it could look like with all the space, time, and money I can dream of. I don’t know that I wouldn’t drive everyone crazy by playing around with different ideas, but at this moment, this is feeling pretty cosy.

This armchair is at the top of my list. I need a chair I can sit sideways in and I love wing chairs but this modern take has such clean but soft lines. Love. It will need a simple white or linen colored couch to go with it but I’d ditch those pillows real fast and add two big bolsters covered in this Chenonceau fabric. I must have fabric named after my favorite chateau! With all that lightness, I like the idea of a dash of black to ground the space and this coffee table plays into the rug without being heavy while bringing in some natural wood. These zodiac prints do the trick, too, and I’d have them play nicely on the wall with a vintage gilded mirror. Of course, this is dreamland and I can have Moorish doorways if I like and plenty of green with a fiddle-leaf fig. A branch-legged side table with a glass drop lamp next to the armchair would add some more organic lines and I am obsessed with Lauren‘s paisley for the window curtains (floor to ceiling, of course). Then to just plop myself on the couch with some little tealights and a cosy throw (from Maine!) and all that would be missing would be R., the bug, and a cup of tea.

What home dreams do you have running through your head? Please tell me I’m not alone.

xo,

A.

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Life

Weekend Fireworks

 

We lucky ducks get a short week over here in France! Thursday, being All Saints Day, is a national holiday and that means a four day weekend since many companies offer the ‘pont‘ (bridge) and give their employees Friday as well. So with the short week, a lazy Saturday meant to banish the last of R.’s cold, and R.’s mother visiting on Sunday afternoon, we didn’t go to the market this past weekend. But oh look what a treat we were brought from my mother-in-law’s garden! Cosmos, garden roses, and dahlias so vibrant they always remind me of fireworks.  I’ll be back tomorrow with a very easy recipe but until then I’ll be stealing glances at the sunshine on the table. How was your weekend? I’m thinking about all of you on the East Coast sans arret.

xo,

A.

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Food & Recipes

Spiced Apple and Quinoa Muffins for the First Weekend Mornings of Fall

When the air starts to cool down, I start to imagine being able to use the oven again. Our little counter top model throws out a lot of heat and I usually avoid it if I can in the summer. But now, now I want muffins. The perfect weekend breakfast. At least one of them. And I had the perfect excuse when, as often lately, I found myself with just a little bit of cooked quinoa left over after a meal that needed to be used up. (I am starting to think R. may be addicted to quinoa but I’m not going to complain about that!) I thought of those first crisp apples we had sitting on the counter and the idea of the nutty quinoa with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg spiced apple sounded like quintessential autumn.

First I tried a recipe I found online for plain quinoa muffins. I had high hopes and the batter was yummy, but once they were out of the oven and I had patiently let them cool, they were too dense and chewy, even dry. I guess I’m spoiled for muffins, they must be moist and delicate and light. So I scrapped that recipe but I didn’t have to wait too long to have more leftover quinoa from a weekend lunch to try again. This time, I knew there was no need to search far afield and I went right back to our family’s favorite muffins. I played a little here and there and adjusted a bit to add the quinoa and the fragrant spiced apples but the base of a good baking recipe is something you hold onto and don’t mess around with too much.

And they were just what I wanted. They could have come right out of my childhood mornings at the kitchen table eating blueberry muffins and looking out the window at the bright colors of the maple tree that always turned early and the Atlantic beyond that. Except they have a new flavor, maybe one for the fall mornings of our young married life. Mornings where people are rolling their grocery caddies down below, on the way to the market, and Albert is curled up in a crate by the kitchen window, never far from us, and Romain says, “Un peu de classique?” (some classical music?). Maybe these muffins will be part of the flavor of those memories. In any case, they will certainly be a part of the flavor of the coming cooler months.

Spiced Apple & Quinoa Muffins

makes 10 muffins

1 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and diced apple

6 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

1/4 cup milk

1 1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup chopped walnuts or hazelnuts (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Heat 2 tbsp. of the butter over medium low heat in a sauté pan. Add the apples, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and stir to coat the apple pieces. Cook until the apple is softened, about 5 minutes, resisting the urge to stir too often so the pieces don’t break down. Once they are soft but not mushy, remove from the pan and let cool completely.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar using an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add the egg, and beat until very pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, salt, and baking powder to combine.
  3. Fold the apples and quinoa into the butter mixture. Add half the flour and fold until just combined. Do the same with half the milk. Repeat until all the milk and flour has been just worked into the batter. Do not over-mix!
  4. Grease a muffin tin or line it with muffin papers. Divide the batter into the tin filling to just below the rim. Top each muffin with chopped walnuts and bake in the oven until golden and a tester comes out dry when inserted in the center of a muffin, about 25 minutes.
  5. When they are done, let cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then remove the muffins to a cooling rack (or devour them all instantly).

enjoy!

A.

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Food & Recipes, Life

French Toast for Marion

Weekend breakfasts growing up were long, sunny affairs full of possibilities. Mama always made the table pretty, set with flowers, marbles in glass bowls, shells from beach walks, linens, any of our treasures, and always a glass of bright orange juice in the middle of our breakfast plates. The first taste of morning.

We would listen to the radio or put on a favorite morning cd (like above) and my mother and I would putter around in our robes bemoaning my father’s unwillingness to stay in his nightclothes all morning. We would open books, contemplate recipes. Sometimes I would be the first one awake and I would choose something special and bake it as quietly as I could, smiling to myself about what a surprise it would be. (I am using the past tense, here, but the truth is that present day visits home are blissfully not at all different from these memories.)

And we had our classics. The books that held our favorite recipes, the books that felt like weekend mornings just having them out. They are some of the dearest additions to my collection of cookbooks as my parents give me my own copies through the years.

One of our very favorite morning visits was this book: The Breakfast Book by (the extraordinary) Marion Cunningham. So many of our classics came from this book and when I received it as a gift from my parents, I read it almost cover to cover for the first time. It is full of wisdom and delicious things but always in the voice of a good friend and mentor who has just poured you a cup of tea or sent you a letter. It’s not fussy, it’s not grand. It is simple and comforting and, for that, beautiful.

Throughout the book she shares, what I imagine are, her favorite little bits and pieces about breakfast:

Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly arranged and well-provisioned breakfast table. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

As well as her own wisdom:

(from her Breakfast Table Civility and Deportment rules)

7. Because everyone is defenseless at breakfast, there should be no contentiousness or crossness.

13. And don’t answer questions in a saucy manner.

Indeed, as the Frenchman would say.

~

So when I heard last month that she had passed away, I went back once again to her breakfast book. Flipping to the back, she arranged a delightful collection of breakfast menus by season and by event such as “Thanksgiving Breakfast”, “A Day in Bed”, and “A Special Day”. I had contemplated going back to our all-time favorites for a breakfast in her honor, but when I came to the last menu, I know there was no other choice:

A VERY, VERY SPECIAL BREAKFAST

Fresh Orange Juice Ice

Chocolate Walnut Butter Bread French Toast

So I baked the bread and we devoured the rich French Toast and raised our orange juice glasses to Marion. For her recipes, her work to bring appreciation to real home cooking, and her delightful book on breakfast. How lucky we were to have her at our table weekend mornings.

Chocolate Nut Butter Bread

adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

(one medium loaf)

I used whatever nuts I had on hand (hazelnuts and walnuts) but I suspect that any nut or combination of nuts would be just as lovely. Marion advices, since the bread is so rich, dipping the slics only briefly in egg for French Toast so they don’t absorb very much. I made the toast twice and the second time let it soak which I liked even better because, to me, the egg helped balance the richness.

1/4 c warm water (105 – 115°F)

1/2 package dry yeast

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 tbsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

2 eggs, room temp

6 tbsp (87g) butter, softened

1/2 c chopped nuts (large pieces)

3 oz (85g) semisweet chocolate, chopped into large pieces

Stir the yeast into the water and left dissolve and foam for 5 minutes.

In a big bowl, beat yeast mixture, flour, sugar, salt, and eggs until well blended. Add the butter in pieces and beat until batter is smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Gently punch down the dough and fold in the nuts and chocolate pieces until evenly dispersed. Spoon the batter into a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 3-inch loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes. Wait 5 minutes before turning the loaf out onto a cooling rack and remember, there will be melted chocolate so don’t be wearing you white cocktail dress.

To make French Toast, cut loaf into 3/4-inch thick slices. In a soup plate or baking dish, combine 4 eggs and a splash of milk. Soak each side of the slices in the egg until they are moist but not falling apart. Griddle, and devour.

P.S. go easy on the syrup.

xo,

A.

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