Browsing at Flotsam and Fork

I discovered the couple-owned housewares shop Flotsam and Fork through a Google search for French steak knives, probably the famous and highly-copied Laguiole knife by VERDIER Manufacture. The website is esthetically-pleasing; the products have been photographed against a neutral background and the copy, like the name of the establishment, is well-written. The website’s classic appearance is minimalistic and polished like the European home goods it displays.

I once dreamed of visiting the Flotsam and Fork brick-and-mortar location in Minneapolis, which opened in 2019 but has since closed permanently. The owners, Joe Hasler and Adrianna Fie, started their business in 2013 with the mission of making European brands of quality accessible to the American market.

Many of the items that interest me are sold out but listings for such things are accompanied by a notify me when back in stock option. Nontheless, F+F is an excellent online resource for discovering European brands. Here are some covetable items from my wish list.

Works Sighted

market basket // Iris Hantverk table brush // Papier d’Armenie ceramic burner // Papier d’ Armenie sampler box // Georges Lalo stationery

Inge Glass Champagne ornament // Clairefontaine classic notebook // Filt market tote // Kessy Beldi glasses

VERDIER Manufacture Laguiole cheese knives // olive oil can

copper ladle // VERDIER Manufacture Laguiole steak knives // Inge Glass glass croissant ornament // Charvet Editions dish towel

fruit basket // Charvet Editions table runner // Cereria Intona baguette candle // butter dish

Saint James: An Introduction

Saint James: an historic purveyor of iconic Breton shirts and sweaters (marinières). Located in Normandy in the commune of Saint-James, the brand is superior for its expertly-crafted products.

I acquired my first Saint James marinières in Paris during the 2013-2014 holiday season. Back then, I wasn’t attuned to French cultural codes and entered the store without a proper “bonjour.” The saleswoman wasn’t rude, but she wasn’t exactly welcoming either. There wasn’t anyone else in the small shop at 44 Rue Cler, and the experience was highly transactional. (This location has since been permanently closed.) The result of the trade: two Galathee marinières—one white with navy stripes and the other white with royal blue stripes. My original shirts are long gone (donated to a thrift shop in West Philadelphia), but only because I now prefer a different size.

This past holiday season, I acquired four new Saint James marinières, and I’ve been wearing them constantly with my collections of navy and blue J.Crew Martie pants. Instant winter uniform! (The Martie has been discontinued, and I’m now in the market for a new style of slim black pants, preferably with a hint of stretch.) The Galathee II (in white/navy stripes and ecru/navy stripes) and the Meridame II (in navy/ecru stripes and ecru/navy stripes) turn heads every time I wear them, which has been at least four days out of every week since they were added to my closet.

Saint James originally produced wool sweaters for fishermen and sailors in the French Navy, and, to this day, the functionality of the clothing has been maintained. The fabric (wool for sweaters and cotton for shirts) and stitching are superb. A few months ago, I purchased a striped tee shirt from a startup that will remain nameless (at least for now); I have to put it on gently or else the seams will rip audibly. A Saint James knit (shirt or sweater) will last for years to come if cared for properly. Drying machines are off-limits.

Works Sighted

Meridame II (ecru/navy stripes) // J.Crew Martie pant (black) // Superga 2750 Cotu Classic (navy)

At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance (1890) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Further Reading

I Visited the Saint James Factory in France, and It Gave Me Hope for Ethical Fashion” (EcoCult)

The Breton Shirt” (T.C.E.)

Window Shopping at Dior

A recent visit to the Dior perfume counter at Saks Fifth Avenue inspired me to dream up a wish list. I ran out of time before I could dive into La Collection Privée, but I plan to investigate this lesser-known line of scents in the near future. The last and only Dior scent I’ve ever purchased was the 2012 reformulation of Miss Dior, which I like very much. A few years have passed since then, and I’m in the market for something a bit more mature. In the words of Christian, “A drop of perfume and you are dressed in Dior.”

I got to thinking how else I could potentially dress myself in Dior and surveyed the ready-to-wear and jewelry online. I envisioned both of these skirts paired with a white button-up and black ballet flats. The first is ready-to-wear, and the second is from the autumn-winter 2022-2023 haute couture collection. #pleatsofperfection

Designed by Victoire de Castellane, Creative Director of Jewelry, the diamond and gold earrings seem small enough for everyday wear. (Side note: Victoire’s familial scenes (here and here) on Instgram bring full-fledged cozy vibes.)

I only have one cape but am in need of many more. This one in beige is highly versatile. I imagine it as an elegant substitute for a trench coat.

Works Sighted

Ambre Nuit on a shelf at the Saks boutique (La Collection Privée)

asymmetric long skirt // haute couture skirt // Mimirose earrings // cape

An American in Paris (1951): A Paris Collage

Perfume-seller Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron) and artist Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) see each other for the first time in a bustling cafe in Montparnasse. As I watch them meet, separate, repeat in locations around Paris, I forget that An American in Paris (1951) was filmed on the California sound stages and backlots of MGM. The film sets overload my senses. In addition to the talent, there are many props, movable and stationary, to observe. In the opening scene, my eyes hurry to survey the contents of Jerry’s compact studio apartment. Is his marinière Saint James? What books are those? What type of bread does Jerry eat for breakfast?

This theatrical version of Paris is overly grand, a tad too shiny, too dreamy. Some of the dance scenes are dreams. But, perhaps this is what encourages my thoughts to wander. As a viewer, I am reminded that:

  • artists must create art often; otherwise, they are not truly living
  • every woman has a unique combination of qualities
  • flowers are essential for the table
  • lavender has a calming effect
  • clothing for children was tasteful once upon a time
  • there’s nothing like a good party
  • there’s nothing like a good party dress
  • sherry is for sharing
  • the neighborhood cafe should be visited often 
  • perfume is and isn’t a luxury
  • a white dress paired with black shoes is an eye-catching combination
  • I find vintage posters (and antiques in general) charming
  • a view of the Eiffel Tower never gets old
  • pointe shoes in skin-tone-inclusive shades are a recent invention 
  • choreography is exercise; note to self: consult YouTube for routines

Works Sighted

Breton shirt // lavender // artist palette // paintbrushes // coupe cocktail glasses

silk scarf // gum // children’s coat // sherry // cup and saucer // baguette // dress (ivory)

painting // Champagne Dehu traditional brut // perfume bottle // ballet flats // ice bucket // dress (black) // pointe shoes

Cocktail Books

A week ago, I went to happy hour with a friend. I usually order a glass of wine but decided to order a cocktail this time. The one specially priced for the occasion consisted of (if I remember correctly) vodka, cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup. I requested that the mixologist dispense with the simple syrup. My friend followed suit; American-level sweets are too much for the both of us. The mixologist agreed but warned that the freshly-squeezed lime juice was potent. The color of the drink was a beautifully-subdued shade of pink. Its tartness was pleasing. As we sipped, the mixologist set to work on several concoctions for others. One drink called for a blackberry on a cocktail pick. Another, a blow-torched sprig of pine, the scent of which could only be described as the epitome of the season. I imagined myself behind the bar mixing and blow-touching to my heart’s content. Then, I came down to earth and rounded up some books that might be hepful to the home mixologist.

Works Sighted

Apéritif // I’m Just Here for the Drinks // Good Drinks // Spirits of Latin America

A Woman’s Drink // Cocktail Codex // Batch Cocktails // The Joy of Mixology

Spritz // Keto Happy Hour // Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails // Essential 3-Ingredient Cocktails

Return Address Labels

Writing out Christmas cards and mailing them in time to be delivered before December 25 is an annual tradition. I admit, the process is always rushed; I always seem to wait until the last minute to buy and/or write them. While this year was no exception, the process was sped up significantly due to my attempt at keeping the written text minimal (a card isn’t a book) and the use of return address labels (my husband’s idea).

Labels of this sort that are gifted by nonprofit organizations to encourage donations never measure up to my standards. Like every item I buy, it is imperative that I choose them, not the other way around. We ordered labels for our cards from Shutterfly this year. Peeling the stickers from the glossy release paper and affixing them to the upper left corner of neatly-addressed white envelopes was highly satisfying. For that reason and for the sake of saving time, I will never send Christmas cards without return address labels again.

Today, five days before Christmas, I dropped the last batch of cards in the mail, the timing quite possibly an improvement from years past. All the labels from our first order have been used, and I’m ready to buy more. I’m leaning towards Boldly Wrapped. I like that it explicitly identifies the sender with the word from.

I adopted the custom of placing the return address on the back of the envelope instead of on the front while living in London. But, when I attempted to continue the custom stateside, a postal worker mistook the return address for that of the recipient on one occasion. Thus, I reverted back to the traditional American way of placing the return address on the front of the envelope, making exceptions only for UK-bound mail. A return address label bearing the word from seems like a good idea either way.

Works Sighted

Picture of Love // Love out Loud // Big Letters Wedding

Dazzling Union // Chosen Filmstrip // Novel Photo Wedding

Simply Addressed // Threshold // Dashing Script

Boldly Wrapped // Modern Promise // Big Intro