For the longest time I didn’t have a sister and now I have three. Growing up with only a little brother, no one ever told me the perks and possibilities that come with having a sibling of the fairer sex. For starters, sharing closets, or at least shoes, and then there’s accessories and finally someone who knows how to do a proper French braid or can polish inside the cuticles. Now there’s someone to talk girl shop with and, if they’ll agree to it, someone to play the Sarah and Mary to my Winifred Sanderson for Halloween. But best of all, I get to throw them parties. First up, a French Kitchen Themed Bridal Shower for the eldest of my newly acquired sisters, Jess. And, if my recent travels to France proved informational, a French Kitchen themed party just wouldn’t be complete without a heavy dose of lavender.
With the help of my other sister-in-law Michelle, their grandmother Sue, and my little sister Amanda, we recreated a bit of the French countryside in our little Texas living room. Sue gathered up vintage kitchen finds and cookbooks from around her house and we found a little bakery downtown that would made French macarons to order. It was an adventure trying to find a shop that sold the correct type of macarons and we’re lucky we didn’t end up with a pile of shredded coconut cookies. A vintage recipe tin from Rifle Paper Co. served as a guest book – an old bridal shower practice popular in the early 19th and 20th centuries that has fallen out of fashion over time – and each lady filled out a recipe card with their favorite dish.
After a few shower games – like “guess the spice” and sur l’apron – we gathered in the dining room for a little DIY en français. Materials were spread out over Sue’s vintage white linens and stored in little glass bowls. A few simple instructions were given and then each guest filled a little jam jar with layers of organic sugar and other flavorful ingredients like vanilla bean, cacao nibs, citrus rind, cinnamon sticks, fresh herbs, and, of course, lots of lavender. A small swatch of fabric, a twist of twine, and a quick scribble on a label, and each guest had their own DIY to take home and use in their own kitchen.
That morning before the shower, my Dad gathered herbs – including mint, sage, thyme, and huge rosemary branches – from his garden and baked up a couple rustic tarts using fresh local berries and peaches. He delivered them just as we all sat down for our first round of shower games, but left before he could steal a taste. Those tarts went fast and by the end of the party there wasn’t a crumb left. So we thanked him with leftover macarons instead. I think it was a fair exchange.
assiette du fromage
cornichons and olives
jam and dijon mustard
mint, strawberry, and vanilla bean macarons
peach and blueberry rustic tarts
pink champagne in gold-glitter rimmed glasses
The traditional bridal shower game where guests dress the bride in a wedding dress made of toilet paper was replaced with a more thematic activity, swapping the bathroom supply for various kitchen materials including cellophane, wax paper, cupcake liners, doilies, and brown paper bags. We decided to dress up the mother of the bride too for a little Paris Fashion Week inspired cat walk.
For this DIY, I used lavender I grew over the summer in containers on my back porch. If you use lavender, or any other herb, be sure to find the varieties specified for culinary use and those that are free of pesticides.
DIY Lavender Vanilla Bean Sugar
organic large crystal sugar (I used Domino organic sugar)
vanilla beans, split and seeded
dried and/or fresh lavender
small jam jar with a lid
labels, twine, pens
additional flavors could include: cacao nibs, fresh or dried citrus rinds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom pods, fresh or dried herbs like mint, sage, and rosemary.
To create, simply alternate between layers of sugar and flavors until the jar is filled. Seal the jar, label it, and set aside for at least one week, preferably two to three weeks. The strength and potency of the flavored sugar will vary depending upon the ingredients used. Fresh ingredients, like citrus rind and fresh lavender will produce a stronger flavored and smelling sugar in a shorter amount of time, whereas the dried varities and the subtle flavors of the vanilla bean will take a bit longer to develop. Store as you would other sugars.
– in a cup of tea, coffee, or steamed milk
– to rim a cocktail glass
– as a natural face or hand scrub
– to sprinkle on top of baked goods like scones or small pies
– to flavor bowls of oatmeal or porridge
– in place of small quantities of sugar in recipes